A/N: It must be a rite of passage for new Forever fanfic writers to tackle Henry's Big Reveal to Jo, so here's my contribution. I make references to events in my previous story, BOTH SIDES NOW, but this one stands alone. I anticipate it will weigh in at around 7 chapters when it's finished, fyi. *note from the future: it got a little longer. ;)
The sweet, sweet nectar of feedback is, of course, always welcome.
Intellectual Property Disclaimer: I do not own Forever. I'm making no money here. This is fanfic: we do it for love.
CHAPTER 1: TRUTH, INTERRUPTED
If you are out to describe the truth, leave elegance to the tailor.
Henry lifted the bottle to Jo, but she declined. "I'm good for now, thanks."
"Sure, I'll take a splash." The three of them sat around the table on the terrace over Henry and Abe's apartment. The remains of Abe's chicken cacciatore with roasted vegetables littered their plates, evidence of an evening well-spent in dinner and conversation.
Jo had been happy to accept Henry's invitation. Spending time with him and Abe was strangely comfortable, and she always felt like a welcome addition to their company rather than an intruder. She wondered yet again about the two men's relationship. Their explanation that Henry's late father was Abe's business partner didn't seem to cover it, even after years of friendship. They didn't act "as close as family"; they acted like actual family. She couldn't pin down the difference exactly, but there was one.
Add it to the list of things about Henry Morgan she was hoping to discover. Unravel.
Well, that was an interesting word choice. She chose to blame the wine. The excellent wine, along with two soulful eyes and an intensely handsome face that lit up like a felonious six-year-old's when its owner was reenacting a crime. No, she had never been tempted by a passing impulse to find out whether his perpetual three-day scruff would feel soft or bristly against her face, or if his hair was as finger-friendly as it looked. Nape.
—NOPE!—She meant nope. That clinched it; no more refills.
She lifted her last inch of wine to the evening's chef. "Abe, that was delicious."
Abe pushed his chair back from the table and stood up, returning the salute. "It's been a pleasure, Detective. And now if you'll excuse me, I'm on dish duty."
"No," Jo protested, "you sit, or let me help. The cook shouldn't have to clean up alone."
"That is a very kind offer, young lady, but it wouldn't be fair to tempt you away with my charming company when Henry has been waiting to get you alone all evening."
Jo crossed her arms and turned to Henry, eyebrows up. "Is that so?"
"Thank you, Abraham," Henry said sarcastically. "But he's right. There is something I would like to speak with you about."
Abe piled the remaining dishes up with his free hand and headed for the doorway. "If you need me, I'll be in the kitchen. Henry, don't dig yourself too deep a hole while I'm gone."
Jo laughed at his comment, taking it as a friendly jab at Henry's bizarre conversational tendencies. Henry, however, saw the knowing glance directed at him, loaded with empathy and a touch of cheerleading. In truth, he was about to dive into some deep and treacherous waters, and he probably would need Abe's help before the night was over. No matter how Jo reacted to the truth about his "condition," it was going to be a difficult conversation for them both.
It had been nearly three weeks since she witnessed his shooting and subsequent fall overboard into the East River, then found him washed up on shore nearly an hour later, in shock and bleeding out from a wound in his shoulder. What she didn't know was that the shot on the boat had been much closer to his heart then he let on—close enough to kill him. The hole through his shoulder was self-inflicted, made to hide his inconvenient recovery.
Abe had urged him to tell her the truth. It was time, he'd said, and past time. He hadn't pushed the matter since, but Henry knew he was right. The time had come.
The more Henry thought about it, the more he realized that he had done his son an injustice all these years. Ever since Abigail left, Abe had been Henry's only "person," the only one Henry could confide in or call when he was in trouble. Abe never complained (well, rarely complained), and Henry hadn't done it intentionally, but that didn't change the fact that it was a huge responsibilty for one person to carry. To him, telling Jo the truth seemed more like saddling her with a burden than demonstrating his friendship, but how many times had she insisted that sharing the load was part of being partners? He was finally willing to take her at her word.
There was yet another reason to tell Jo: Adam. Now that the other immortal was in New York and toying with Henry, having an ally with access to police resources could only help. Henry didn't want any more people, especially the people he cared for most, to become collateral damage in this strange game.
They could trust Jo; he could trust her. At least, he thought he could. There was only one way to find out.
That still left the big question: how does a man tell his partner that he is immortal?
Even though he'd had 200 years to practice, Henry had surprisingly little experience with this. His few personal examples had mostly ended badly. Like being committed or burned in public badly.
In hopes of a happier outcome, he had treated the problem like one of his experiments and methodically developed a plan. In Step One, he would start with the basic facts. As a detective, maybe she would respond to that.
Jo, I may look 34, but I was born in 1779. I was shot protecting a slave, and now I never age or stay dead. Also, I've been married twice. One wife left me without a trace and the other had me committed, and Abe is my 70-year-old adopted son. I'm often found naked in the river because that's where I appear every time I supernaturally come back to life. No idea why. Are you sure you don't want more wine?
Hmm. The delivery needed some wordsmithing.
As a cop, she would also need evidence, which he would provide in Step Two. Abe was on call with the family documents they usually kept locked away in a hidden safe, including photos of Henry dating back to the birth of photography. She would probably claim it was his father/grandfather/great-grandfather, as he himself had often done in a pinch, but he was building his case.
Brick by brick, she'd told him once. And that's what he would do.
Step Three: he had also prepared for tonight's dinner by dying two days earlier. Jo saw his bullet wound firsthand less than a month ago. Showing her his now-undamaged shoulder should at least make her pause before calling in the psych unit, and give him more time to explain.
As a last resort, if all else failed, Step Four was a small syringe of pentobarbital in his jacket pocket. Henry could administer his own lethal injection. He hoped she would believe him without that ultimate proof—or at least give him the benefit of the doubt for now—but he would understand if she didn't. If she really needed to see, he would show her, and he had chosen the most straightforward, least violent option he could.
He really hoped she wouldn't need to see tonight. There were a lot more riverside patrols on Saturday nights, looking for drunk, disorderly, or naked citizens just like him.
Jo could see that Henry was miles away. She didn't know what was making him retreat into that brain of his, but he'd been there all night. At least this time, it sounded like he wanted to tell her why.
Once Abe was gone, she turned to him. "So what's on your mind, Henry?"
He looked up with a start like he'd momentarily forgotten she was there, then smiled. "I'm sorry. I haven't been very good company tonight, have I?"
"You have seemed pretty distracted, even for you. Do you want to tell me about it?"
He caught her gaze with an intensity that surprised her. "Yes, I do."
The way he said it carried such weight that she waited silently, not wanting to break the connection that seemed loaded with a meaning she didn't yet understand.
Finally he continued. "I do want to tell you about it. The thing is, "it" is rather a big It, so I need to beg a favor first."
"Sure, name it."
"No matter how mad, how insane I sound, please hear me out."
"Henry, of course I'll hear you out. Just tell me." Good grief, what could he possibly need to tell her that warranted this kind of build-up?
He nodded and seemed to let go of his final reservations. "It has to do with something I started telling you months ago, about my scar."
Her eyes flicked down to the spot where she would see a large, puckered scar on his chest if he weren't wearing a shirt. It was not a bad view when he wasn't wearing a shirt, scar and all.
"You said you were shot."
"Yes. It was the leader of a band of...human traffickers, you could say. I was treating one of his victims, and he believed the man would be less trouble dead. I objected, and he shot me."
He paused, frowning, and seemed unsure how to continue. Her interview skills kicked in and she prompted, "So how did you get caught up in all this? Where did it happen?"
"It's not so much about the where as the when," he said carefully.
"Okay then, when did it happen?"
"A long time ago. Jo, it was—"
Her phone rang, startling them both out of the moment.
"Sorry," she said, checking the caller ID. DA's office. She frowned slightly and tried to ignore the dip she still felt in her stomach every time she saw those words. She silenced the ringer and let it roll to voicemail. She had no open cases at the moment, a rare lull, so whatever they wanted could wait for tomorrow.
She looked back at Henry. "Sorry, nothing urgent. You were about to tell me when you were shot. The first time. Or maybe not the first time." She smiled, trying to lighten the mood. Henry looked more nervous than she'd ever seen him, and her curiosity was piqued. Whatever had happened, he was more than just hesitant to tell her; he was afraid. She couldn't imagine what could be so bad, but he was ready to tell her about it, and she was determined to justify his trust.
"Yes," he continued, "when. It was...many years ago. In some ways, I was much younger back then, but in other ways," he caught her gaze again, "I was exactly the same." From the look on his face, that meant something important to him.
Jo's eyebrows knit in confusion. "Henry, what are you trying to—" Her phone rang again, and she swore as she reached into her pocket.
He leaned back slightly in defeat. The moment was gone. "It seems that it is urgent after all. You'd better get that."
She gave him an apologetic grimace as she answered. "Martinez. Hi, David, what's up?" As she listened to the caller, Henry watched her face turn from curious to ashen, and all thought of how to salvage his own plan disappeared. At last she replied flatly, "Thanks for telling me. Yeah. Okay. Bye." She hung up.
Now it was his turn to prompt her out of silence. "Who is David?"
She kept staring at the blank screen of her phone as she answered. "He's an attorney with the DA's office, part of the team working on a major corruption case. He wasn't even supposed to tell me about this, but he and Sean were friends, so..." She took an unsteady breath.
Henry knelt in front of her, gently moving her phone to the table and taking her hands. He'd never seen her this shaken. "What's happened?"
"New evidence has come to light in the case he was working when he— They think he might—" She stopped. Took another breath. He squeezed her hands. She looked up, and tried again.
"They think Sean might have been murdered. They want to exhume his body."
So...do you trust me?
So long 'til next time, and thanks for reading!