Henry had been found skinny dipping in the East River….again. Since this was not the first time that that had happened and all in quick succession, it had become the subject of laughing and snickering among Jo's colleges. Under the circumstances, Jo wasn't laughing; she was racing to the room where Reece was currently interrogating Henry on why he was caught, yet again, naked in the river.
Henry had been missing for five days. Jo was the only one that had known. Abe had confided in her that Henry had not come home for several days and if she could possibly keep an eye out for him he would be grateful. Abe had tried to downplay his worry but it was obvious to Jo that he was worried sick. Henry didn't just disappear like this but for some reason, Abe didn't think he needed to report Henry as missing. To his credit, Henry had been through a lot lately. It was plausible that after being stalked and having to kill a man in his own home that he might go off the grid for a while. Plausible but not likely for Henry; even if it was likely it wasn't healthy and Jo had been worried sick since he had come up missing.
Not even remotely caring why Henry had been skinny dipping (again), Jo burst into the room. This had gone from being a funny Henry quirk to alarming; Jo felt he must be crying for help in some way even if he didn't know it.
The second that Jo saw him, she knew her suspicions were correct. Henry not only looked troubled but unwell; extremely unwell.
Reece was rubbing her forehead in frustration. "Good….maybe you can get him to talk" she said, noticing Jo walking into the room. "He seems to not only have forgotten that he promised this wouldn't be a problem anymore but he seems to have given up any ability to speak as well."
Jo had to swallow down her alarm so neither Reece nor Henry would see how truly worried she was. "I'll talk to him" Jo said, giving Reece a smile that she didn't feel and could barely manage.
Reece looked more tired than annoyed but she gave Henry a scowl. "I expect some answers the next time I see you" she said firmly before walking out of the room, leaving Jo and Henry alone.
Henry was so unwell that it shook Jo to her core just to look at him. He sat in the chair, slumped over in police issued clothes, his hair still sopping wet, dripping down his face completely unnoticed by Henry. His eyes were blood shot, hands clenched in his lap, looking so pale she wondered if he might just not fall over. He barely acknowledged that Jo was even there.
"Henry…what's going on?" Jo asked. Her voice was gentle but it made Henry flinch as if she struck him. His eyes flickered to her but looked down at the floor again.
"Henry….you've been gone for days. Abe's been worried…I've been worried" Jo said softly. Henry's hands were wrenched in his lap, nervously twitching. He still didn't answer her or even look at her fully. If Jo didn't know better, she might think that he was under the influence of something. But she did know better; something very bad had happened to him.
"How about we get out of here? I'll take you home" Jo said, forcing her voice to be much more cheerful than she felt for his sake. There was no reason to keep him here; she would get no answers from him. Better to take him home and see what she and Abe could do for him.
Finally, something about this seemed to get Henry's attention. He looked up at her with empty, glassy eyes. "Abe?" he asked. It sounded hopeful but raw and aching at the same time.
Jo forced a smile. "Yeah, let's get you home to Abe, alright?" she encouraged.
Henry nodded, looking numb. He gripped the arms of the chair, as if trying to will himself to get up. His face turned white as sheet one second before he leaned over vomited profusely. He was shaking and had all of three seconds to look embarrassed before he was retching again. When he was done, he slumped back on the chair like a rag down looking as if he would pass out any second.
Jo's own stomach turned with worry; this was not okay at all. Her mind flashed through a dozen terrible ideas into her head about what might have happened to Henry but other than looking ill, he seemed physically untouched. "Maybe we should take you to the hospital" Jo suggested. She was frankly afraid if she tried to move him he would either be sick again or pass out.
Henry finally seemed inspired to some action. He shook his head violently, making himself even greener looking. "No…need Abe" he said. He sounded so pitiful Jo went against her better judgement.
"Okay…..I'll just take you home" she agreed.
Jo didn't know how she got Henry out to the cab but it was nothing short of a miracle. She didn't want to take him the easiest way out of the station; the last thing that he needed right now was to be heckled by the whole station about being found naked. He was still shaky on his feet and dry heaved a couple of times but Jo managed to get him into a cab.
Now, as she sat next to him in the cab, she felt completely at a loss. Henry was curled up, leaning against the door. He was shaking, pain crossing his face. Jo wanted to help him but she knew she couldn't even provide him the most meager help until they got to his house.
It felt like an eternity to get to Abe and Henry's home. She had called Abe ahead of time to let him know they were coming; when the cab pulled up, Abe was looking out the window of the antique shop, waiting for them.
"Henry…..we're home" Jo said, giving Henry a gentle shake. He had fallen asleep on the ride and he jumped reflexively when Jo touched him. His head shot around, eyes darting around like a caged animal before they came to rest on Jo; seeing her, he relaxed considerably.
"Abe?" Henry asked. His tone with was eager and hopeful but there were tears gathering in his eyes.
Jo smiled even though her heart was breaking inside; oh Henry…what happened to you? "Yeah, we're here with Abe."
Abe had seen Henry through many deaths; there were too many to count. He'd found out his father's secret young in life and though he thought he understood what it meant to be immortal. It wasn't until his mother had walked out on them and it became his responsibility to pick Henry up from the river and look after him after a death that he really understood Henry's curse. It wasn't simply that he couldn't die. Henry could and did die; he felt the pain and fear of death as his life was ripped from him he just didn't stay dead. It was a terrible thing for someone to have to face over and over again. Henry responded to it differently and Abe supported him as best as he could. Sometimes Henry appeared completely unaffected by his death. Sometimes he would fall into a deep depression. Sometimes he would want to talk about it; other times Henry wanted no comfort at all. It was always different and yet Abe felt he could sense after a death what Henry needed most intuitively, having been his carer in this way for 30 years.
But as Abe watched Jo climb out of the cab with Henry, heavily supporting him, he knew something was wrong. Henry looked like he could barely lift his legs; he was pale and unfocused. He looked like a grotesque puppet, being more dragged by Jo than actually walking. Abe knew Henry had died; Jo had said they had found him 'skinny dipping' again. Even though Henry physically died, when he was reborn again, the physical injuries that killed him were gone. But right now Henry still looked like he was on death's doorstep. Something was very, very wrong.
Abe opened the door to the shop wide as Jo helped Henry into the shop. Abe closed and locked the door behind them. "What happened?" Abe asked, noticing the fear even on Jo's face.
Jo glanced at Henry out of the corner of her eye as if she didn't want to say too much around Henry; even so, he looked completely dazed and out of it. "I don't know" Jo admitted. "He was found by the police by the river….apparently skinny dipping again" She looked embarrassed on Henry's behalf. Henry just leaned against her as if completely unware of his surroundings, his face pale as a corpse. "He's obviously sick but he insisted on me taking him home; he wouldn't go to the doctor. It's about the only thing he would say."
Henry was leaning heavily on Jo, who was obviously struggling to keep him from falling. Abe came forward to support Henry's other side, hoping to get him out of the daze he was in. He'd never seen Henry look so poor physically after a death and he was concerned. He was worried the physical symptoms might actually be emotional issues screaming for help. "Henry…..hey" Abe said, giving Henry's arm a gentle shake as if to wake him from a sleep. "Talk to me Henry. Tell me what's going on"
Henry seemed to grow much more aware at the sound of Abe's voice. His head snapped up, his bloodshot eyes came to rest on Abe and the glimmer of a desperate smile flashed across his face. "Abe…." He said, his voice rusty and unused sounding. Abe's alarm increased exponentially when Henry let go of his hold on Jo and wrapped both of his arms around Abe in a bone crushing bear hug.
Henry could be affectionate but it was rare after a death; he was more likely to push Abe away than lean on him. A hug was one thing but this was far from a hug; Henry was clinging to him desperately as if he was afraid he might go somewhere. Or, rather, Henry was afraid he himself might go somewhere. Abe could sense the loss and anguish in the exchange and it frightened him.
Abe hugged Henry back until he released the painful grip he had on him. Pulling back, Henry's eyes shown with deep emotion as he looked at Abe as if he had never seen him before. "My Abe…..my beautiful, sweet Abe" Henry gushed with words that sound half way to a sob. "I love you so much"
Henry grabbed Abe in another tight hug. "I love you too, Henry" Abe said embarrassed after a pause, feeling Jo's eyes keenly on the pair. Abe was afraid of where Henry's affectionate dialog might be going. Abe was fairly sure that Jo already thought that Henry and Abe were more than simply roommates and if he continued in this vein she was sure to think that. He didn't need Henry to get sentimental over the past and start spilling his secrets right now. While Jo would most likely put off Henry's dialog as post traumatic ramblings, there was no guarantee and Abe knew when Henry was in his right mind again he would be upset if Abe didn't try to stop him from saying something he'd regret.
"Come on, Henry, let's get you up stairs" Abe urged Henry kindly as he could, smiling at him calmly even though his heart was breaking. He led Henry up the stairs by the hand like a confused child, making him sit on the couch. Jo followed them, looking upset and pained herself.
"Maybe I should go" she said cautiously, watching Henry try and cling to Abe as he sat him down on the couch. She looked like she wanted to help but like Abe she was at a loss as how to help.
"No…..please stay" Abe insisted. He wanted to get Jo on her own and see if she could tell him more about what had happened to Henry without Henry in ear shot. Jo looked sadly at Henry and gave a small nod.
Abe crouched down on the floor, creaking joints and all, so that he could look Henry in the eye. Henry was looking around the room, his arms around himself as if growing uncomfortable. Abe put his hands on Henry's to draw his attention back to him.
"Hey" Abe said in a carefree voice, as if this was just a normal day and not the strange dangerous one that it was. "I'm going to go make some tea to get you nice and warmed up, okay? Is that alright?"
Henry nodded numbly but Abe wasn't sure he really understood what Abe was saying. He looked completely lost. Abe got up and motioned for Jo to follow him to the kitchen. Abe started a pot of tea with expert quickness and then turned to Jo.
"What's wrong with him?" Abe asked Jo. He didn't want it to sound as desperate as it did but he couldn't help it. All of this was a little too familiar; flashbacks of Henry after Abigail had left flowed into his mind. He had been broken then for a long time. He was obviously broken now too but in a different way. The idea of anything similar to that scared him; he wasn't sure he could do that again.
"I don't know" Jo said, her voice strained and sounding like she wanted to cry too. She shook her head and looked down at the floor. "I knew something was wrong with him. I knew he wasn't okay after what happened. All that business with being stalked and then having to kill that guy…. I should have made him talk to someone."
"Don't blame yourself" Abe said quickly. "It wasn't your fault. Something bad has obviously happened to him to make him this way. God only knows what….."
Jo looked up with worried eyes and looked at Abe. "Doesn't his skinny dipping bother you?" she asked in a concerned tone. Almost too concerned…as if she knew it was more than it appeared.
Abe felt like he'd been punched in the stomach. "It bothers me very much" he admitted.
Jo looked as if she was about to say something when the sound of a strangled cry in the living room sent her in that direction, closely followed by Abe. When Abe saw Henry again, his heart broke inside him so much he felt tears coming to his eyes; he forced himself to keep it together just for Henry's sake.
Henry was sitting on the couch, head in his hands sobbing harder than Abe had ever seen him do. Henry more often hid his feelings than expressed them and tears were rare from him. Even after Abigail left and he cried nearly all of the time, none of his cries were like this. This wasn't loss or sorrow at his position that caused this crying. This was fear, total and complete fear and despair.
"Henry" Jo said, tears in her own eyes as she rushed forward and came to sit next to him on the couch. She was already putting her arm around Henry while Abe was still frozen with not knowing what to do.
Forcing himself to move, Abe came to sit on Henry's other side. Jo held Henry close to her, his head on her shoulder as his sobs continued to shake so hard they could all feel it. Abe took Henry's hand in his own; he didn't even care what Henry might say now to incriminate himself. He just wanted him to say something, to do anything other than sob like his heart was breaking.
"Henry…it's alright. You're okay. You're safe" Abe tried to console him, giving him a tight squeeze of the hand. Jo had both of her arms around Henry now, who seemed to gladly accept the hug but kept a death grip on Abe's hand as well.
Henry's sobs calmed a bit but as he turned toward Abe, Abe could see it wasn't because he was really calm. There was a wild, panicked look in his eyes. "It was Adam" he said, his voice trembling with fear.
A rush of cold fear ran down Abe's back and made him shudder for a moment. Adam…it was probably the worst thing that could have happened. Adam didn't have any interest in killing Henry; what would be the point? But something he had done to Henry had caused his death or he wouldn't have been found in the river. Henry wouldn't have gone willingly so Abe could only assume that Adam had kidnapped him somehow. But for what? Abe didn't even want to know. But Henry had to know and it was obviously terrible to put him in this state.
Before Abe could speak, Henry was plowing on, squeezing his hand so tightly that Abe thought the bones in his hand might break. "It was Adam and I thought I might never get away from him. He threatened…told me things. What he would do to you…..what he would do to Jo. I was so worried about you two…..I…."Henry dissolved into a new, fresh round of sobs. Jo held him tighter and looked at Abe questioningly. She wanted to know what Henry was talking about; Abe mouthed 'his stalker' silently to her and a look of horror crossed her face.
Though Jo held him close, Abe put his arms around the two of them, making a safe Henry-sandwich in the middle. He could only image what Henry might have had to suffer in Adam's psychotic hands; a terror that had only ended in death. He held onto Henry now not only for Henry's assurance but his own longing. His worry of the past five days came rushing back to him and hit him full force.
"Well, none of those things are going to happen" Abe assured him, speaking around the lump in his throat. "You are away from him and you're safe. And hey…Jo and I are right here too. We are all safe."
He felt Jo's hold tighten on Henry as she spoke. "Abe's right" she said. "We're all alright. And you've got the whole of the New York police force behind you too." Abe could see the silent tears that were running down her face, quickly wiped away.
Abe didn't know what else to do or what else they could do; it was obvious that Jo didn't either. So, they did the only thing that they could do; the only thing that made sense. They just stayed close by Henry.
It was dangerous, it was all wrong. It had been like this before but never quite this bad. Other people thought death was the worst that they could do; how much worse was it when the person in question knew that death wasn't the end for him.
Jo…..Abe…the only things that mattered in the world. They were in danger; maybe they were being hurt at that very moment. It broke something in his mind. Taking his life was the only way out. Dying couldn't be that bad when it was meant for someone that he cared about.
Only it was bad; so terrible. He didn't take his own life; death was painful and scaring enough without bringing it on himself. And so much worse when done in that way…
But he was free. Free but broken…..maybe he wouldn't always be so but right now he felt like he was splintering apart.
He was in danger…..they all were. So much fear…..
But they said he was safe; they were safe. Henry couldn't quite believe them. But now, nestled between the two of them, bundled in a blanket that was soft and warmed by their heat while they slept, maybe he could just believe they were all safe.