A/N: We've reached the end at last. A big thank you to everyone who has read, reviewed, followed or faved! I haven't attempted a multi-part like this in a few years, and your feedback has kept me motivated.
Previously in Coming to Light:
"Each time you die, you understand one more type of pain, one more human experience, in a way that no one else can. I don't think it's repulsive." She placed a hand over his scar. "I think it's remarkable."
She held her hand there, warm and sure, for one, two, three beats of his heart. Then she turned and walked up the stairs without another word.
CHAPTER 10: TRUTH, IMPROBABLE
Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.
~Arthur Conan Doyle
"The case is far from won, but thanks to your exceptional work, we have the upper hand at last. Well done, all of you." District Attorney Barbara Dunning wrapped up her comments to the officers of the 11th Precinct to a smattering of applause.
Once the rest of the staff began dispersing back to business as usual, Dunning approached Jo. "Detective Martinez, I especially wanted to thank you for everything you've done this week. I know my decision wasn't easy for you."
Jo smiled tightly. The decision to dig up my husband's body, which led to an attempt on my life that got my partner killed, which revealed that my partner can't actually die? That decision, you mean? Out loud she simply said, "You had a tough call to make, and you made it. I respect that."
The DA nodded in acknowledgement. "I had hoped to meet Dr. Morgan and thank him as well," she added.
Jo glanced over Dunning's shoulder at the man exiting the elevator. "You're in luck, then."
As usual, Henry gravitated to his partner. The woman standing next to Jo turned to him and smiled, hand extended.
"Doctor Morgan, I'm Barbara Dunning. I wanted to thank you for your fine work on this case."
"That's very kind of you," he said politely, shaking her hand. "Especially considering that I didn't find the answer you wanted."
"I only wanted the truth, Doctor," she replied with a mild smile and the carefully-chosen words of an elected official and a lawyer.
Henry smiled back. "Of course."
After Dunning moved on to speak with Lt. Reece, he turned to Jo. "Good afternoon, Detective."
"Hi." She smiled a little quizzically at his typically polite greeting. After all, this was the first time they had met since last night, when she'd invaded his space, stripped him half-naked, and finally convinced him she wasn't going to push him away. A little morning-after awkwardness would be natural—their encounter had been more personal, more intimate, than any of her one-night stands. Instead, she was relieved to discover there was no awkwardness. The worry and resignation that had haunted his eyes for the past few days was gone, replaced by his usual blend of manners and enthusiasm, plus something more. He looked happy.
He was happy today, Henry realized, but that word seemed inadequate. What was it you felt when your friends exceeded expectations? When life gave you a win when you expected a draw at best? Gratitude—that was it. He felt grateful.
"Abe tells me you're joining us for dinner," he said.
"Yeah, he called at lunchtime to invite me. I hope that's all right."
"Of course! You are always welcome." He leaned in slightly to add, "Even when you drop by uninvited."
She rose to the challenge and gave him a quick down-and-up glance. "Just be glad you don't have a scar anywhere more private."
He raised his eyebrows. "Who says I don't? You were very lax in your investigation, Detective."
Jo was momentarily speechless at his tease when Hanson joined them. "What investigation?"
She narrowed her eyes at her partner's suddenly innocent expression and replied, "You don't want to know." With that, she picked up her jacket and draped it over one arm. "Well, I'm heading out—see you guys later." She turned and headed for the elevator.
Henry turned to Hanson. "I'm off as well—paperwork awaits me in the morgue. Good afternoon, Detective."
"Later, you two." Hanson watched the M.E. catch up to Jo and walk beside her, and saw her give him a back-handed smack to the shoulder; he responded with a sly, lop-sided grin. As they entered the elevator together and turned, Hanson saw that her irritated look hid a thinly veiled smile of her own.
He shook his head. Together or not, there was a definite vibe.
A few hours later, Jo was walking up the stairs in the back of Abe's Antiques, accompanied by the man himself.
"Glad you could make it on such short notice," Abe said, and accepted the brown paper bag she offered.
"I brought appetizers from the new place down the street," she explained. "I would have brought wine, but…"
"…but you know Henry has very particular tastes," Abe finished. "Good call."
They went into the kitchen, and Abe put the food in the oven to keep warm. Jo glanced around. "Where is Henry?"
"Out buying his very particular wine," Abe said. "May I offer you a bit of what's left while we wait?"
She smiled and accepted a glass, and he poured one for himself before saying, "Come sit with me. There's something I'd like to show you."
He gestured towards the couch, and they both sat down. The coffee table held a pile of what looked like old photo albums. Before opening them, Abe turned to her. "Helluva week you've had."
She made a sound of agreement. "Yeah, you could say that."
"How are you doing with everything?"
A lot of people had asked her that question since Sunday, and she had given them all the standard answer of "fine, thanks." Abe was the only person who really knew what he was asking, and she honored that with a real answer.
"Everything has been…a lot to process." She gazed into her wine glass. "Having someone you care about taken away is bad enough. But then having them come back, then taken away again… between Sean and Henry, it's been a yo-yo week. I mean, I know Sean isn't actually coming back," she clarified. "It's more about…"
"His presence?" Abe finished. She nodded.
"If it makes you feel any better, you're not the only one with ghosts," he said. "Henry drags so many around he barely has room for the living anymore." Abe paused to regard her. "He made room for you, though."
"Did he? He tried to push me out again once already," she commented, thinking of his letter.
"You pushed right back, from what I hear—and good for you! That's exactly what he needs: someone with a little fight in them to remind him that he's still alive." She raised an eyebrow and Abe answered, "I know, he's immortal— the irony is not lost on me."
Jo ventured, "Is this about Abigail?"
Abe took a moment to choose his words. "Everybody has times in life when the people they love let them down. Because of the way he is, when that happens to Henry the results are much more…dramatic. He's also had time to build up quite a list of examples.
"Abigail is part of why he shuts himself away," Abe acknowledged, "but Henry has 200 years' worth of other reasons, too." He leaned forward. "I'm not gonna lie: his baggage is a special kind of crazy. But he's also the best man I know. He's worth the effort."
Jo looked at the older man thoughtfully. "Who are you, Abe? To Henry, I mean?"
Abe smiled, pleased that she was ready to know. He chose one of the albums in front of them and flipped through until he came to the page he was looking for and handed it to the detective. In the photo, a pretty blonde in a Word War II nurse's uniform was holding a round-faced baby and standing next to a familiar man. Both of them were smiling. "I'm the baby he and Abigail rescued and adopted after the war. I'm his son."
Jo had seen and heard some unbelievable things in the last few days, but this one made perfect sense. The misaligned pieces she knew of Henry and Abe's relationship snapped into place with a satisfying click, and she smiled. "Abraham Morgan." He nodded. "It's nice to meet you."
"Thank you." He reached out to squeeze her hand. "It's nice to hear that name once in a while. Legally, I dropped 'Morgan' a few decades ago. Once I started looking as old as my father, and then older, it got too hard to keep changing the story."
Jo looked back at the photo. Henry's clothes and hair style may have been different, and he was shaven to a military standard she never saw on his face now, but otherwise he looked exactly the same. He truly had not aged a day since 1945, and apparently since far earlier than that. How strange it must be, she thought, to watch everyone around him grow old, even his own son, while he was left behind. Her eyes travelled to the other person in the photo. It was the first time she had seen Abigail's image, and her curiosity about what had happened between them was piqued.
Abe read the direction of her thoughts and said, "The rest of that story is Henry's to tell, when he's ready. Now, before he gets back and stops me, I'll show you the really juicy ones." He flipped through another book until he pointed and said, "There! Take a look at that!"
Jo squinted at the fading color photo and grinned. "Wow, those are some serious bell bottoms."
Henry walked in to the sound of laughter. He could see Jo and Abe sitting on the couch. The photo albums were open on the table in front of them, but Jo's attention was on the embarrassing story—embarrassing to Henry, of course— that Abe was currently embellishing.
"He did not say that!" Jo protested.
"He did!" said Abe. "To which the nice officer replied, 'That may be what it's called in Latin, sir, but you still can't do it in public.'" She burst out laughing, and Henry felt sympathetic vibrations in his own heart at the sound.
He crossed the apartment and set two bottles on the table.
"Henry, finally!" said Abe, as he and Jo stood up. "Did you harvest the grapes yourself?"
"George was out of the '94 and I had to try another shop," he explained. "Besides, it sounds like you kept Jo well-entertained in my absence, and at my expense."
"Yes, and I'm glad he did," Jo said. "Kids' stories about their parents always make the best blackmail material. Great for getting favors later."
Henry smiled at her way of acknowledging who Abe was and replied, "I think he was less trouble as a toddler."
"That may be," said Abe as he pulled a dish out of the warm oven and moved it to the table, "but I'm much cuter now. Also, I didn't cook as well back then. Have a seat, you two; dinner is served."
Dinner was a lively and light-hearted affair. Without the restraints of their vague cover story, Abe had a great many stories to tell, and Henry jumped in frequently to correct a detail or defend himself. Jo even offered a few of her own colorful family moments, growing up with two brothers and a father who was sometimes less than law-abiding. Even if they didn't dig deep, there was a new openness at the table that all three of them enjoyed.
After dinner and the dishes were done, Abe suggested, "It's a beautiful night—why don't you two take a walk?" They both looked ready to protest, but he pointed to each in turn. "You're armed, and you're immortal; what are you afraid of? Go, talk; maybe find some trouble to get into." He shooed them down the stairs and out the front entrance.
They looked back at the abruptly closed door, then at each other, and laughed.
"Shall we?" Henry asked. "It is a lovely night."
He gestured down the sidewalk, and they fell into step together, sharing a companionable silence.
After a block or two, Jo ventured, "So. Here we are."
"Yes, here we are."
She hesitated a moment, then said, "This may sound kind of weird, but you should be proud of Abe. He's a great guy."
Henry's smile was deep and genuine. "Thank you, I am proud. He's been the best part of my life."
"And that covers a lot of ground, old man," she teased, then went quiet. They waited at a crosswalk; the signal turned white, and they continued on.
"Penny for your thoughts," he offered.
"You were right the other day," she began, "when you told me not to let Sean's death steal my joy in how he lived."
"That does sound rather profound," he said, and she rolled her eyes. "Are you starting to find those moments of joy?"
"Here and there," she said. "At least I can see how it might be possible someday—moving on." She looked over at him. "What about you? Can you see past what you've lost to what you have? "
He nodded a little. "I try to. On good days I do. Having someone I can trust goes a long way in reminding me." He looked at her. "Thank you for that."
He felt it again, washing over him in a wave: gratitude. Gratitude to whatever force governed the universe, but especially to the woman walking beside him, for invading his space and stripping away the layer he had begun forming yet again to seal up every entrance to his heart.
Her answer was far more practical. "Hey, what are partners for?"
"I'm fairly certain this goes above and beyond the NYPD guidelines."
She shrugged. "Well, we're not officially partners anyway. And unofficially, you still haven't told me much about yourself—besides the 'immortality' thing." She turned her head as they walked to examine his profile. "So, Henry Morgan: what's your story?"
He smiled at the call-back to their first drink together. Back then he told her he wouldn't bore her with the details. He still hoped not to bore her, but a few details seemed in order. "Well, I was born in 1779 in Surrey, south of London. My father owned a shipping company…"
They continued to walk together, down city blocks flowing with light traffic, and sometimes up quieter side streets. She asked questions, he answered, and she began to piece together the skeleton of his life. His father; his first wife, Nora, and what she did; his new life in New York; Abigail and Abe and their time as a family. He wasn't ready yet to talk about how she left, and Jo didn't push.
He asked questions too: her family; how she became a cop; how she and Sean met. She wasn't ready yet to talk about finding someone new, and he didn't push.
When they had both said enough for the evening, she asked, "So where does all of this leave us?"
He thought for a moment, then replied, "Einstein once said, 'Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.'"
"He was a smart guy, he ought to know," Jo said.
"He was brilliant. He also never wore socks, which I found a bit distracting, especially in the summer."
"You knew Albert Einstein." It was a question, a statement, and a challenge all rolled into one.
"Who can really 'know' a man like that?" he answered philosophically. "But I did meet him once. His feet were quite fragrant."
She was about to demand details when they came to a slightly shabby marquee and a chalkboard sign on the sidewalk advertising the evening's entertainment, and she stopped.
"Starlite bowling!" Jo exclaimed. "I used to do this all the time when I was a kid. They turn off the lights and turn on the disco ball."
"I never understood the appeal," Henry said.
"Well, it's more fun when you can't—wait a minute." She turned to face him fully. "You've never been bowling at all, have you?"
"Why would I pay money to wear someone else's shoes, sit in plastic chairs, stick my fingers inside a germ-ridden ball and fling it across the floor?" He practically shuddered at the thought.
"You're 235 years old and you've never been bowling? This I've got to see."
He was starting to sense danger. "No, thank you—Jo, let's just walk back to the shop and finish the evening with a nice glass of wine."
His partner ignored his protests. She pulled open the door to Memory Lanes with one hand. Strains of an 80's rock ballad and the smell of cheap nachos drifted out. "Come on, Henry," she said, and held out her other hand towards him. "Live a little."
He took in the challenge written lightly on her face, took one final breath of fresh air, and took hold of her hand.
Thanks for reading, everyone! I would love to know what you thought.
I've got a few ideas kicking around in my head for future stories, once I recover from this one :), so keep your eyes peeled or follow me if you're interested.