Here, at last, is the end. I probably should've ended on the last chapter. This has no relation to the events of the current season.

Chapter 22

Olivia didn't remember shutting her phone or saying goodbye to Elliott. She still clutched the phone when she rushed into the living room. Bobby stood in the middle of the room. He held his cell phone and stared at it as if it were a strange and terrible beast.

"Bobby," she said softly. "This wasn't your fault."

He didn't acknowledge her presence, but continued to stare at the phone. He trembled.

"Bobby," she said again, desperately trying to control her voice. "Please…Listen to me…You are not responsible for this…"

He didn't turn to face her. "Eames…Told me…Bertelli…Left a note…I need to get there…To find out…"

Olivia stepped closer to him. "Bobby…You are not responsible for this…Bertelli was an evil man who refused to deal with the consequences of his actions. You are not responsible for what he did."

She stood directly behind him. Only a few inches separated them, but she didn't dare touch him. Olivia had rarely felt so helpless.

"Bobby," she said. "I'm here…I'm here and I love you."

For a moment, it seemed he hadn't heard her. His body shook, and the phone slid from his hand to clatter on the floor. He spun to face her, and it took every bit of Olivia's will not to shrink away from the pain and fear she saw in his eyes. She braced herself and tentatively placed a hand on his shoulder.

"I'm here," she said again. "I'm here and I love you and I want to help you."

He blinked. "You…you shouldn't have to…"

She placed her other hand on his other shoulder. "I love you…You help the people you love…"

He trembled beneath her touch. "I…I know…I know that's how it's supposed to be…But it never has for me…The people who were supposed to love me…They didn't help me…Maybe they never loved me…"

"I love you," Olivia insisted. "And I won't leave you."

He wavered for several moments, and she held her breath. She tightened her grip on his shoulders. "Bobby…please…please believe me…I love you…And I'll take care of you…I'll help you…Please let me help you…"

Bobby shivered and fell into her arms. The force sent Olivia back against the couch, and she fell on it. Bobby dropped heavily to his knees in front of her.

"I'm sorry…I'm sorry," he mumbled as she held his head.

"It's all right," she said softly. "I'm here. You don't have to be alone." In spite of her pain at Bobby's terrors, triumph rose in her as Olivia realized he trusted her. Another thought filtered into her mind. "And I don't have to be alone."

Bobby raised his head to look at her. "You mean…me…I…"

"Yes." She brushed her lips across his forehead.

For several moments they held each other.

"You know," Olivia finally said. "That can't be good for your knees."

Bobby pulled reluctantly away from her. "Yea," he agreed and moved awkwardly to his feet. "You ok?"

"Yes…You know we don't have to go in," she said cautiously.

"I know…but I…I have to…"

"Well, if you're going in, so am I," Olivia declared.

The ride to the SVU squad was quiet, but when Olivia reached for Bobby's hand, he didn't pull away. He wrapped his long, elegant fingers around hers. When they arrived outside the building that housed the SVU, Bobby hesitated on the sidewalk. Olivia touched him on the arm.

"This shouldn't be hard, Bobby," she said. "No one will mourn Bertelli…He saved the taxpayers a lot of money…No one will blame you…"

Bobby glanced at her. "I…I thought you…you understood…" He pushed past her towards the entrance.

"Bobby." Olivia rushed after him and caught his arm before he opened the door. He stopped, but didn't look at her. She pushed him to a corner where they were shielded from curious eyes and ears.

"I don't understand everything," she said quietly. "I don't understand why you feel you have to save the Bertellis of the world."

Bobby stared at the ground.

"But I do understand…or at least think I do…why you feel like you have to try to understand them."

He looked at her, and a glimmer of hope appeared in his eyes.

She placed a hand on his chest. "You want to try to understand them so that you can stop them from being created…So that you can stop them from hurting people…"

He released a ragged breath. "Yes…Yes…That's it…I don't want to make excuses for them…I want them punished…I…I'm not like them…" The last thought hit Bobby with great force, and he shook. "I'm not like them."

"No," Olivia said fiercely. "You've not like them."

Bobby looked at her with amazement and gratitude. "Thank you," he whispered. "Thank you."

When they entered the SVU squad room they encountered Munch just inside the door.

"Major meeting," he said, nodding his head in the direction of Cragen's office. "Ross, Cragen and our dear friend the Chief of D's."

Bobby sighed. "I guess I have to face him now."

Cragen and Ross, looking nearly as weary as Bobby looked and sounded, emerged from the office, followed by the Chief, who bore the disappointed face of a child who hadn't received the toy he wanted at Christmas. The three men saw Bobby. The two captains moved in front of the Chief as the trio moved towards Bobby.

"Goren," the Chief barked. "What did you say to Bertelli?"

Bobby fumbled with his binder.

"We wanted a confession," the Chief continued. "Not for you to make him off himself."

Olivia was too stunned to respond to the Chief. She was nearly as stunned to hear Elliott Stable leap to Bobby's defense.

"He got your confession," Elliott said angrily. "And he didn't do anything that would make Bertelli off himself…I was there."

The Chief glared at Elliott. "Your record with suspects doesn't make you…"

"We were all there, Chief," Ross said. "Goren did nothing…said nothing…to make Bertelli suicide. Bertelli killed himself because he was a coward he couldn't face his own evil and punishment."

Cragen, white faced with anger, didn't speak—Olivia suspected he didn't trust his voice—but moved to stand next to Bobby and Olivia.

"The problem here, Chief," Ross said. "Is that you're upset that you've lost your chance at parading Bertelli in front of the press…And you're turning on Goren because he wouldn't get in front of the cameras with you…He's a convenient target…Remember, Chief…Yesterday you couldn't say enough good things about him…And he's the same great detective today that he was then."

The Chief stared at Ross for several seconds. Finally, he pushed past Ross and the other detectives. He stopped abruptly when Alex Eames, standing several feet higher than her actual height, planted her body in front of him.

"I think, Chief," she said coldly. "You owe an apology to Detective Goren."

"Eames," Ross warned.

The Chief, too shocked to react, stared at Alex.

"Eames." Bobby spoke for the first time since he'd entered the squad room. "It's all right…The Chief is under a lot of pressure…and not just because of this case."

The Chief, in even greater shock, spun to stare at Bobby, who stood placidly between Cragen and Olivia. The other detectives viewed him with almost as much surprise as the Chief.

Bobby moved towards his temporary desk. "I'd like to see the report on Bertelli's death," he said softly as he laid his binder on the desk.

Alex pushed past the Chief and walked to Bobby. "What are you doing?"

"Please, Eames," Bobby said. "I just want to do my job."

The Chief wordlessly skulked away. Ross and Cragen shared uneasy looks and carefully approached Bobby.

"That man," Stabler said as he watched the Chief retreat. "Is a complete and utter ass."

"Not completely," Munch said dryly. "The ass is a useful beast of burden. The Chief is scarcely useful."

A smile tugged at the corners of Bobby's mouth but he concentrated on the few bits of paper on his desk.

"Goren," Ross said kindly. "I meant what I said."

"Thank you, Captain," Bobby said. Olivia and Alex heard the tension in his voice. "I…I appreciate it."

"Ross is right, Detective," Cragen said. "Bertelli's death wasn't the result of anything you said or dis."

"I understand, Sir," Bobby replied. "But I'd like to work on the cleanup." He studied one of the papers on his desk.

Olivia felt helpless. Bobby had raised his defenses, and she had no idea of how to breach them. She turned to Alex, who at least had some experience in dealing with her partner.

"Bobby," Alex said gently. "There's not that much to clean up."

"When will the ME report on Bertelli be ready?" Bobby ignored Alex's comment.

"Won't be ready until tomorrow sometime," Alex answered. "But it's clearly a suicide."

"Gregory Veneer…" Bobby began.

"Has the best lawyers money can buy," Stabler said quietly. He had stepped behind Alex.

Bobby rubbed the back of his neck. "Do you have a copy of Bertelli's note?"

"Detective," Cragen said. "Bertelli's death was not your fault…There's nothing here for you to solve."

Ross had joined the others at Bobby's desk. "Goren…You can't be responsible for everyone and everything, but especially what a seriously disturbed killer does. Your work on this case has been exemplary…You can help with the paperwork, but I don't think anyone would mind if you took some time…"

"No," Bobby said hastily. "I…I'll help."

Ross beat a strategic retreat. "All right…I'll expect you and Eames back at Major Case tomorrow. You've done a terrific job in working with SVU, but I'm not going to let you work with them forever."

"Yes, Captain," Alex said. Bobby nodded.

The rest of the day was the sort of quiet, uneventful, comfortable day NYPD detectives dream of. For Alex and Olivia, the time was marred by their shared worries about Bobby. They tried to watch him closely without hovering over him. For his part, Bobby moved relentlessly through the paperwork. When he finished his, he turned to help Alex with hers. Everyone wanted to be free of the case, and the piles of paperwork disappeared quickly. Bobby signed a last form and scanned the room for more work. Stabler approached him.

"There isn't any more, Goren," he said. "C'mon…We all deserve a break…Let's go get a drink…or two…"

"Yea, Bobby," Alex said. "You owe me a margarita at least."

Bobby rubbed the back of his neck and looked at Olivia.

"C'mon, Bobby," she said, her voice a gentle echo of Stabler's. "Let's relax a bit."

Fin tossed Munch's black coat across his desk. "Yea…And you and your partner don't have to buy, Goren…We all owe you two…"

Munch scowled. "What's this "we" business?" he grumbled.

Bobby looked again at Olivia. Part of him desperately wanted to be with her; part of him desperately wanted to run away. "Ok," he said softly. "But I gotta warn you…I may not be the easiest guy to get along with tonight…"

The detectives were almost out the door when Cragen appeared from his office. "Red Alert…George Flynn is headed in…Followed by the media…"

Bobby looked as if someone had hit him in the stomach. Olivia and Alex moved closer to him, followed by the others, who formed a protective phalanx around Bobby.

"The back door," Stabler said.

"Sorry, Cap," Fin said. "But we're off the clock."

Cragen thought for a moment. "You know what? So am I." He grabbed his coat and followed his detectives.

Bobby was silent during the short walk to the bar, but he hesitated when the group arrived at its door. "Thank you," he said softly. "I…I don't think I could have…"

"I don't think any of us could," Fin said as they moved to a large table. "I can't think what would be worse. Flynn if he hasn't changed, or Flynn if he has."

"He'll probably write a book about all this," Munch grumbled. "And make a lot of money off it."

Bobby sat between Olivia and Alex. It was a comfortable place, but he had the unhappily familiar sensation of being in a group of people but not a part of them.

"Don't worry," Olivia whispered to him. "You've with friends…" She gently squeezed his arm.

He looked in her eyes, and he knew that she didn't just understand. She knew. Olivia knew what he was feeling because she had felt it too. Alex, as wonderful and good as she was, hadn't known from since she could remember what it was like to feel isolated and alone, to feel as if social conversation was a language you had to study and learn, to feel as if any slip in word or action would mark you forever as the alien, the weirdo, the outsider. Bobby feared that Alex had learned those feelings, and that much of her education came from her association with him. But Olivia knew those feelings, and, like him, known them for a very long time.

He reached for Olivia's hand under the table and gripped it tenderly. Her thumb began to make soft, soothing circles on the back of his hand.

"This is going to cost you guys," Alex grinned. "Bobby and I have expensive tastes."

"We'll spread it out," Stabler grinned back. "Even Munch'll pay up."

Roughly an hour later found Bobby sipping his third Scotch. It wasn't the most expensive brand the bar carried—Bobby decided to take some pity on the SVU detectives, and he preferred one of the slightly less pricy brands. He'd never felt so comfortable in a group of cops, maybe in any group. He understood the language, the jokes, and he even joined in the talk. He added details to the stories Fin related from their shared days in Narcotics. Olivia held his hand off and on through the evening, and Bobby knew the warmth he felt came not only from the alcohol he drank. He glanced at Olivia.

"I…I'm happy," he thought. "I'm happy…More than that…I'm in love…I love someone…A really wonderful someone…And she loves me."

Bobby leaned forward. He was on the point of refuting one of Munch's theories when he became aware of a disturbance near the bar. Alex and Stabler had headed to the bar to pick up another round of drinks, and Bobby realized that the two were in the center of several men Bobby vaguely recognized as cops.

"Problem," Olivia said quietly. "Elliott doesn't always live up to his last name."

"And Alex has a temper…particularly around some cops." Bobby stood and walked quickly towards the group. Olivia and the other SVU detectives followed him. As he got close to the cops, Bobby heard the words "whack job", and he nearly lurched to a stop. Silence descended over the group. Bobby wasn't sure if the quiet was the result of his presence or that of Captain Cragen.

"Oh, God," Bobby thought. "I'm the problem."

He took a deep breath. "Anything wrong?" he asked Alex.

Olivia watched as Bobby drew himself up to his full height. It was an impressive sight, made more so by the fact Bobby seemed to spend a lot of time trying to hide his size and presence. But when he chose to employ them, as he had in the interrogation room and as he did now, the results could be frightening. Olivia didn't blame the cops for shutting up.

"Nothing wrong, Goren," Ales said evenly, although a minute earlier she had seriously contemplated breaking a bottle and using it to perform surgery on certain parts of the other cops' anatomies.

"Yea," Stabler said quietly, although he fixed his cold blue eyes on one of the cops. "Just a discussion."

"About the department's resident nut case?" Bobby asked.

His voice was almost genial, but Alex heard the tension in it and the not quite hidden pain in his eyes. Behind him, Olivia felt the anger and hurt rise from his body.

A couple of the cops' eyes widened. "We didn't mean anything…" one began lamely.

"Of course you meant it," Bobby said. "If you were just joking, if you didn't mean it, Detectives Stabler and Eames wouldn't be upset by it."

Alex and Stabler couldn't look at Bobby. Cragen stood quietly amazed at Bobby's control.

"You know, I'll grant you my methods are unorthodox," Bobby continued calmly. "But I get the job done. I'm a pretty good detective. I try to use my brain."

"Yea," Alex said. She'd recovered and was terribly proud of Bobby. "Some of you might want to try that last thing."

"We…" one of the cops started.

"Oh, save it for when Goren and Eames show up to save your butts," Munch said angrily. "C'mon," he said to his colleague. "These brainless wonders are cutting into our time."

"Sorry about that," Stabler said as they returned to their table.

"Jerks," Fin said darkly. "You're a better man than me, Goren. I would've gone after them."

"Which wouldn't have been too bright," Munch commented. "Seeing there's a lot of them and some of them outrank you."

"It's ok," Bobby shrugged. "I've dealt with worse."

"You shouldn't have to," Stabler said. He struggled to control his temper.

"I appreciate the defense," Bobby said softly. "I really do…Especially when it comes from a good cop."

Stabler reddened. "That means a lot coming from you, Goren."

"Oh, gee," Munch said. "Is this turning into some sort of mutual admiration society?"

Alex tipped her glass towards Munch. "And we all love you, too."

In the middle of the laughter at the table, Bobby turned to Olivia. She smiled at him and took his hand in hers.

Bobby looked around the table, and then again at Olivia.

"I belong here," he thought. "I have work I do well and enjoy doing. It matters. I love someone, and she loves me. I have a good life. I am a good man."

"Hey," Olivia whispered to him. "All good?"

He smiled. "It's very good."


And I have a possible idea for another Olivia/Bobby pairing, if anyone's interested...