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What Freedom Means

Title: What Freedom Means

Author: tkel_paris  , aka KendraC

Rating: Let's go with T for language

Spoilers: Don't read if you haven't seen “Frame.” It'd help to have also seen “Anti-Thesis,” “A Person of Interest,” “Great Barrier,” “Grow,” “Blind Spot” along with most of the Goren & Eames episodes of Season Six, and the big episode with Goren's nephew.

Disclaimer: Let's just say that this latest episode wouldn't have happened if I had anything to do with the show. Oh, and Barek would still be here – and presumably Logan wouldn't have left. (I might've let Wheeler and Falachi in briefly.) And in some way, Carver and Deakins would still be around.

Summary: What happened after the screen went black in “Frame.”

Author's Note: I haven't written a new CI fic in a while because of real life obligations, and I was trying to finish my WIPs. However... Well, there should be a slew of fics after “Frame.” I was speechless at the end, and couldn't rest until this was finished. It's barely edited, so all mistakes are mine. I hope I did Alex and Bobby justice despite my own jumbled feelings.

 

 

 

 

Silence dominated the room. One man shining in his own beliefs, and the other frozen with the implications of what was said – and what it all meant.

 

The door slammed open, jostling Bobby out of a near-catatonic state, and Alex's body strolled in. Each measured step contrasted with the sharp entrance, and some part of Bobby's mind realized that Declan Gage was about to get treated to the Eames temper at its most lethal: when she was holding it all in and breathing in careful measures.

 

Ross came behind her with a pen and a legal pad. If he sensed what might happen, he showed no sign. “We need to know where Wallace's body is.” He placed the items in front of Gage.

 

Gage shrugged. “I left her in unmarked grave.” He quickly scribbled directions. “This'll take you to it, if you really need to see proof.”

 

“From what my detectives told me, the woman collected enough blood to fool any other expert into thinking she died in a river from exposure following blood loss. I'm sure they want to be through.” Ross collected the pen and pad as officers enter to take Gage away.

 

“Well, that's expected,” Gage said as let the officers guide him to his feet and cuff him. “The woman was an expert.”

 

“If all that had happened was you killed Nicole, we might thank you.” Alex's voice drew Bobby's eyes away from his former mentor. “But you don't know him as well as you think you do.” The chill in her voice made Bobby's blood run cold, and he sat straighter. “I admit that you're right that Bobby did more than anyone could possibly expect for his mother and brother, and that he was failed by his family. But Bobby has a heart filled with more compassion and empathy than I've ever imagined possible. His brother's death hurt him, and put him under investigation when he needed it the least.”

 

“He had to be engaged-”

 

“And you thought that the murder of his brother by the woman who has caused him more grief than almost anyone else? By luring her into planting clues for us? See, that's where you're wrong.” Alex stepped forward, her gaze fixing Gage's attention and stopping his mouth in mid-movement. Not a pretty sight, she noted. “He has interests outside of investigation. This is a grim task for him, one that has to be done. He's never happy to be investigating a murder, and any crime. He only takes a measure of satisfaction in stopping the bad guys, and giving the survivors a chance to heal with the knowledge that the *right* person is behind bars. I do know him better than anyone else, and I know that he's interested in the arts, likes to dance, loves to make children happy. Hell, I could go on, but you don't deserve to know those things about him.”

 

Given what Jo Gage had done, neither Bobby nor Ross expected to see Alex step even closer. What they did not know was that anger had given Alex the courage to push past her disgust and drive her to confront someone who was going to hear her – diminished capacity or not. They would never have expected what she said next, or how calm it came out – despite the dripping fury in her undertone.

 

“I remember when we were talking with Jo after her roommate's murder. You weren't concerned for your daughter at all. All you cared about was seeing Bobby again, and the thrill of working to catch who you thought was Sebastain. You didn't see how you bungled the previous investigation, or than you'd created your own version of Sebastain. And when Bobby was concerned over me, I bet you didn't care about his feelings or even noticed them beyond how they... interfered with his mind's functions. See, that's the biggest difference between Bobby and you; he connects with the rest of the world whereas you only connect with things and killers. No wonder you turned killer yourself.”

 

Gage's mouth moved, and Alex snapped, “No, you shut up.”

 

He did, and Bobby's eyes widened in awe of his partner's control over her own emotions when his own were jumbled inside.

 

Alex continued, “That compassionate heart I said Bobby has? Well, that's how he managed to stick with taking care of his mother, and why he always held hope that his brother might become clean. He believes that few are completely evil, and that we can pull through anything if we seek the right help. Now, he's terrible about asking for help for himself since, as you noted, so many have failed him.” Several examples came to mind, but Alex pushed them aside to finish dealing with the demented person in front of her. “All he needed was support and the right prodding to get his life together. What you – and Nicole – have done may have thrown back his progress. You would have done better by him if you'd helped us set a trap for Nicole and left his brother alone, because you had Bobby in fear for his nephew's life. If you even remotely care about Bobby as much as you claim to, then you'll submit yourself to whatever prison mental hospital the judge sends you to, and leave Bobby alone.”

 

Ross sensed that it was best to end this travesty, and he signaled the officers to get Gage out of the room. They moved immediately with him, and Alex's glare seemed to keep him quiet. Until just before he left with the officers, he said, “Remember, Bobby, you're free.”

 

His words haunted the room. Bobby remained still, unable to fully process what happened. Alex stood still, fuming over the whole situation. Ross took charge by doing the only thing he could for both of them. He went to the door to make sure that Gage was on his way to the special holding cells downstairs – he did not want the man on the eleventh floor any longer than necessary – and then turned back from the door. “Eames, you have a lot of leave accumulated. Goren, you are still owed some compassionate leave. Take the rest of the day along with the next three. I don't want to see either of you in here until Monday.” He walked out, knowing it was all in Eames' court.

 

Alex took a deep breath, and prayed for some relief for Bobby. An idea came quickly. “Come on, Bobby. You're coming with me.” She looked to him to see if he heard.

 

His eyes moved at the sound of her voice, but his body and face were still. He slowly found his mouth muscles again. “Actually-”

 

“Bobby,” she said, voice bordering on harsh, “you're coming with me.”

 

Even dazed, Bobby recognized when to not argue with his partner. Although he hardly noticed getting up, going to their desks and collecting a few things, including his binder.

 

Only once they were away from One Police Plaza did he recover his voice. “I don't understand...”

 

“Don't try,” Alex said. “Your head doesn't need the extra pressure. What he did was wrong.” She spoke with finality to shake the tiny relief at knowing Nicole Wallace was finally dead.

 

“But what he said... I feel like there's some truth in it, and...”

 

Alex knew she had to tread carefully, and took several breaths to collect herself. Admitting that anything Gage said was true was a bitter pill to swallow, but she would endure many of them to help her partner. “You spent most of your life taking care of your mother, living with the knowledge of what mental illness does to its victims and their families. It was a burden, and you created all sorts of ways to cope. But she was a constant, and you did know that – no matter what she said in her delusions – she loved you. You could never walk away from her. Hell, you went above and beyond when she had cancer. Anyone would be lucky to have you in their corner. You also don't like change in your life, even though you... feel that everyone leaves you somehow. You wanted your mom's ordeal to end, but you still wanted her in your life – and both were because you love her. When she died, you were torn between relief for both of you, and guilt for feeling that way and because you thought there was something else you could have done.”

 

She took another breath, not taking her eyes off the road. If she did, she was concerned that she'd have to pull over, and she wanted to reach their destination in one go. “You had the burden of keeping your and your mother's worlds together for so long that I think you took that to your job. You think that you should have seen this or that coming, but no one can see everything, Bobby! You're working yourself into the ground with that belief.”

 

Bobby interrupted. “So why didn't my life get crappy until recently?”

 

This Alex knew the answer to. “Because you felt hope that you could make a difference. Because there was always a chance that some medication could help your mother recover something of a life. With the cancer, you let that hope diminish and kept pushing yourself. The biggest thing is that you went through it all alone. You didn't have to.”

 

“I've done it all my life.”

 

“Well, that has to stop! Because I don't know when you last looked in a mirror, but you look like hell. You're not taking care of your body, mind, or emotions. You used to keep those in good shape, but once things started going wrong in your life, you forgot to keep those up. I'm afraid that I'm going to get a call that you've died of a heart attack, and you're too young for that! I don't want to break in another partner!”

 

“Why, Alex?” The snapped tone surprised them both, but not as much as the rare use of her first name. “Why do you care?”

 

She felt his eyes on her, but luckily they were nearly there. Waiting until she parked and turned off her car, she finally faced him for the first time since she ordered him to follow her. “Because knowing you has made me a better person and a better detective,” she said softly, tears in her eyes. “I think it's time you had some joy in your life, and I want to see you living again. I want you to get past all those times when someone failed you – including me-”

 

“Wait, you never-”

 

“I could have pulled more weight among the Blue Wall when Donny was in trouble. I could've asked what they would've done had it been my nephew, or the nephew of any cop who wasn't called names because he's so different. Then you might've avoided that time in Tates, and that divide between us over how you got back wouldn't have happened because you never would have been suspended without pay. Do you know how many times I wondered if I could've done more to help someone? Lots. I thought about it a lot after... *she* was acquitted, and after each of her escapes.”

 

Bobby's eyes couldn't focus. He found tears coming from the brunt of her forwardness and honesty. “You did?”

 

“Yeah,” she whispered. “I hated seeing you hurt over what she did, and I hated it every time you would dwell on something a perp did. It took you so long to bounce back each time, but you never had to deal with so much at one time before. I know you're not used to being taken care of, but it's time that changed, Bobby. I want to see my quirky partner enjoy his life again, and start healing.”

 

He swallowed. “You don't think any differently after the... test results?”

 

“If I did, would I have brought you here?”

 

Bobby looked at the house they're in front of, and recognized it. “Your nephew-”

 

“He's safe with you. I've seen you with children, and with my family. Let us help you start letting go. And before you think about that test again, remember how many times you've argued that genetics is not destiny? Remember that poor young man who saw that photo of his father's first victim? You had to help him see that he was nothing like the man whose genes he shared. You are nothing like Brady, *nothing*.”

 

Nothing... The word rang through his head. All those things he thought he had in common, they really could be mostly explained by stress. The rest were coincidences. “But then... why don't I feel that freedom that Gage thinks I should?”

 

Alex thought, searching for a way to reach him. “Because the only person who can give you freedom is yourself. You have to decide to let go, to move on with your life. Choosing to dwell keeps the wounds open. Maybe plowing through grief through work, which is what I did, isn't the best way to go, but I know that having people there to depend on helps. Remember how you took care of me almost two years ago?”

 

As painful as the memory was, Bobby nodded.

 

“Well, I want to do the same for you. I think you're owed a lot of care, and I know no better place to get it than from my family. Let my nephew give you hugs and babble about what he's learned lately. Talk cars with my dad and brothers. Listen to the rest of the kids, even when they think you're a jungle gym for them to play with. Just live. We can help you find Donny, and do everything we possibly can for him. Live life in honor of your mom, at least until you find it enjoyable again. Or if nothing else, will you do it for someone who wants to be there for you?”

 

Her. Alex. Bobby's eyes waters until he couldn't see. He heard the front door open in the distance, and a shouted “Aunt Alex!” She wasn't saying it would be easy, but she was asking him to make a start.

 

Maybe, he thought, this is a challenge that I'll be happy – one day – to engage in. Alex is right. I have to make myself free.

 

THE END

 

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
doctorsgirl26
Feb. 12th, 2012 09:57 pm (UTC)
Wow! I can't even begin to describe how much I love this. I love how Alex is trying to show Bobby that it's ok to actually feel something. I also love how she takes him to visit her family. I think I just love it all!
tkel_paris
Feb. 13th, 2012 03:28 am (UTC)
Then I guess I'm cross-posting more CI fics now! :D Thank you!
brontefanatic
Feb. 13th, 2012 12:14 am (UTC)
What a wonderful follow-up to "Frame". I think I'll incorporate this as my head!canon from now on.

I want to just hug Alex, and bringing Bobby home to share time with her family seems just so right.

Thanks for sharing this.

tkel_paris
Feb. 13th, 2012 03:27 am (UTC)
Thank you! Bobby so needed support right then, and this OUGHT to be canon.

I hadn't written much CI in a while before "Frame" aired, and when it did, this insisted on being written that night. It prodded me to post to fanfiction.net, and now I'm slowly adding stories to LJ.

My pleasure. :)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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