"It's a long story…"
"That's okay; I've got time."
Henry stepped out of the way, waving Jo into the antique's shoppe. Abe took a step back and observed them in silence. Then, he placed his hand on Henry's shoulder, giving it a firm squeeze.
"I'm gonna go make some tea," he whispered, then exited in the direction of the kitchen. Henry walked them to the couch that she had slept on, what seemed like eons ago. They sat together on the small settee, Henry fidgeting, toying with his pocket watch for a moment while Jo removed her jacket. Then, when she was settled, he slipped the watch onto the table, setting down the black and white photo with it.
"Jo, this story is very long and… fantastical. I know at first, every instinct will be to call me a liar and to storm out of this building without a backwards glance. I know this story is the stuff science-fiction movies are made of, but I swear to you…" He paused and looked down at the photo on the table. "I swear on both of their lives," he spoke, pointing to the woman and child, "that this story is no figment of my imagination; it is 100% truth and that Abraham can verify every single fact," he finished, looking up just as the older-looking man walked in with a full service, including a non-tradition bottle of brandy, setting it down before them.
"Jo… he's telling you the truth. I will come back and re-verify if you like, but I know this story… since childhood… It's all true," he whispered, then made his way back to the antique's shoppe to pretend to work.
Jo shuffled on the couch and turned to face Henry full-on, doing her best to remain neutral to whatever the doctor was about to tell her, but not fully managing.
"Okay, Henry… Let's hear this fantastical story."
Henry made to stand back up, but decided against it and settled for squirming in his spot. He handed her the photo and pointed to himself.
"For starters, that young man… is me." Jo looked up at him and back down at the snapshot several times, her head shaking a few times, but never saying a word. "I know… this photo is about 60 years old, but I assure you that that is me, the child in her arms is Abraham and the woman… she is my late wife… the remains I was so passionately tracking only weeks ago."
"Henry…" she sighed, standing up from the couch and pacing for an instant before turning sharply on him. "Henry, if you're not going to be straight…"
"Abraham!" Henry called out, the man in question appearing at the door in too short a time to have been in the boutique.
Jo froze and stared at Abe for a moment, who looked between the two, unsure what he should do until Henry motioned for him to come closer and to take a seat with them. Abe pulled a chair towards the couch and, together, they beckoned Jo to return to her seat. She took it, but with a nervous smile.
"This is a joke…" They both shook their head. "No, this can't be true…"
"I'm afraid it is, Jo," Henry whispered.
"Jo," Abe interrupted, leaning in to the detective. "Believe me, I know this sounds absolutely ridiculous, but every ounce is completely true. This man in the picture… he's the same one sitting next to us and that infant is me… This is my adoptive father. They found me after the end of the Second World War and took me in as I'd lost both my biological parents."
They all fell silent and left Jo to process for a moment while Henry began to serve the tea. He'd just reached for the pot when Jo reached past him, opened and tilted the brandy bottle into a cup, almost filling it. She took the cup and drank a healthy swig down, wincing as it evidently stung its way down her esophagus.
"Henry, this is impossible; that would make you over a hundred!" she declared after the burning seemed to subside. At least she wasn't wincing anymore.
"I'm afraid this story is much… much longer than just World War II…"
"What? You're actually two hundred?!" she half shouted, her voice harsh and belligerent.
"Two-thirty-six, to be exact," Abe piped in, taking a sip from his teacup and looking down at the pretty saucer. Henry bit his lower lip as Jo fixed him with a disbelieving glare. He was desperate to avoid her gaze, but knew if he turned away, she would never believe him. Hell, the odds of that happening were already stacked against him.
"I'd say you're delusional, but you can't both be under the same delusion!" she shouted, jumping up from her seated position and pacing in front of them for several minutes. Spinning sharply back on them, startling Henry, she stepped closer and closer. "This is sick, Henry… You're sick!" she declared and made to leave, but Henry jumped up and chased after her.
"Shoot me!" he demanded suddenly. Jo spun on him, her eyes wide with shock and a modicum of worry, but it got disguised in an instant.
"I can't shoot you, Henry! Are you insane?!"
"Pops!" Abe shouted, chiming in, deciding he had been silent for long enough. "Don't! You haven't come close to death since Adam shot you with the flintlock…"
"Yes, and I came back again, Abe, meaning it didn't work either!" he growled, but Abe took a step towards him.
"But, Pops… what if it broke the curse… and now… next time… you don't come back?"
"What do you mean, come back?" Jo bellowed, looking between them again.
"Jo, please sit down," Henry begged, trying to turn her by the shoulders, but she shrugged him off and stared into his eyes, barely inches away.
"Tell… me… now…"
Henry swung his gaze to Abe who reached out to touch his shoulder again and nod. Taking a deep breath, Henry locked eyes with Jo.
"I am an immortal, Jo Martinez. I literally cannot die. When I am killed, I am returned immediately after." Her eyes creased in the corner and she looked ready to cry, but he put his hands to her shoulders and continued on. "You've read my police file; you know I've been found numerous times naked stepping out of the river, not far from the base of the bridge."
"I'm immortal! Each time one of those instances occurred, I had just been killed only moments ago!"
"Henry, you're positively insane!"
"Think, Jo! Think of every time I've put myself in harm's way without a thought to my own life! Think of every time I've jumped into a dangerous situation to protect you! Think, damn it!"
Now, tears did stream down Jo's face, but none of them – not even Jo, herself – knew what they were for or why. Henry's anger seeped out of his body as he stared into her eyes and felt physically ill. He released her shoulders and walked back to his spot on the couch. Plopping into the seat in an uncharacteristic way, he stared up at Jo, tears now in his own eyes.
"The last time I saw that look in someone's eyes was when I told my first wife this story and she made the decision to have me put away." He let his head loll back onto the headrest and took a deep breath. "She didn't believe me either and… it hurt so. I wanted to prove it to her. I… I tried to kill myself, but Nora panicked, thinking I'd truly die and… she claimed to believe me. I was so desperate that I instantly took her reassurances at face value… until a wagon arrived the following day with doctors armed with a straight jacket. They came and took me away."
Jo stood frozen in place, unable to move or think or feel anything. She was rooted to the spot, staring at Henry in utter disbelief.
"That was the second time I died… hanging myself in my cell so I'd return outside of the asylum. Oh, I forgot to mention," he added, sitting up with a half smirk as he poured himself a shot of brandy. "When I die, I always return in water, not too far away… It has to be connected to my first death, to be sure!" he announced, downing the entire shot of brandy with even a twitch. "I was a doctor on a slave ship and tried to defend a man whom the crew believed to be contagious with plague. When I refused to stand aside, one of the crew shot me with a flintlock pistol, which, as Abe mentioned, was recently used on me in the belief that using my first manner of death on me would break the curse. Well, all that aside, the point is that my body was thrown overboard after I was shot."
Tears were now pouring down Jo's face, unchecked and unguarded. She wept in silence as she continued to stare at her partner, her face as plain as day; she didn't believe a word and thought he was insane. Henry took another long swig from his second serving of brandy and, as he stared at Jo, tears began to streak down his own cheeks.
"I'm sorry, Det. Martinez… I can see that this isn't the story you were prepared to hear and that you obviously don't believe it even one little bit!" he barked out, making Jo flinch. Henry stared into his cup. "I… I never thought that anything… anything would ever hurt as much as Abigail's abandonment or Nora's betrayal… but this… this is absolute agony… to see that look on your face, Jo…" Henry took yet another drink and closed his eyes. "Abe, do you have any guns in the antique shoppe?" Henry asked, Abe shaking his head.
"No… no way, Pops! Not now when we're not sure!"
"WE'LL NEVER BE SURE!" Henry yelled, jumping up and throwing the teacup against the wall, the crash of the breaking china making Abe and Jo flinch, but Henry was positively livid, his face bright red with anger. "We'll never know until the next time I die! And that needs to be right now, Abe! Don't you understand?" he bellowed. "This can only end one of two ways: Jo believes this – finally – or I die and I don't have to see that look on her face, too! Just like Nora! I can't go through that again!" he yelled, his anger draining and his anguish pouring through until he finally blurted it out. "I can't watch another woman I love leave me!" he moaned, ever so slowly crumpling to his knees, landing on them with a thud, his hand slamming onto the table, making the china jump and clatter against their respective saucers.
Jo gasped, her mouth hanging open, staring at Henry in stunned silence. Abe's face continued to bounce back and forth between a wide, toothy smile and a grimace of worry and despair. His father was still crouched on the floor, leaning against the couch and crying into the cushion. Abe went to his father's side and got down on one knee, pulling Henry in for a hug, which he accepted, crying even harder for a moment before forcing deep, heavy breaths in and out of his lungs, gasping for air and struggling to fight down even more tears.
"You… I…" Jo stammered in the distance and it took father and son several minutes to realize that she was finally making sounds of life again. Henry looked at her, his jaw grinding as he took in her frowning eyes and confused smile. "You love me?" she sobbed, putting her hand to her head and stumbling. In a flash of speed, Henry was by her side, leading her back to the couch. "Why? How?" she asked. "I should be calling to have you locked up and you choose now to admit you love me? Why? To sway me? To make me believe you?" she asked, anger mounting. "WHY?!"
Henry stared at Jo for a long time, unable to make any kind of sound, his eyes fluttering as if he was about to start crying again, but he squared his jaw and stood up, never taking his eyes of Jo.
"Abraham… get my bag," he said.
"Do it! I'm doing this with or without either you!" he bellowed, Abe darting away, having never seen his father so mad. When he returned, he had with him a small overnight bag packed with Henry's standard emergency kit: a fresh change of clothes and shoes.
"Henry, what are you doing?" Jo whispered, her voice suddenly hoarse after screaming. "What…"
"Jo, we're going for a drive. Abe knows the spot. And bring your gun," he commanded. She shook her head. "Yes, Jo… your gun. We're doing this right now and, one way or the other, it will be easier on all of us."
"Henry, please, don't do this," Jo begged with tears streaming down her cheeks. Abe, too, had tears in his eyes as they stood on the dock when Henry always surfaced and where Abe always waited for him to reappear.
"Pops, please… listen to Jo; she's right. You don't have to do this."
"Yes, Abraham, I do. Now," he said, stepping towards his son and taking his shoulders in his hands. He took a deep breath before speaking again. "I couldn't be more proud of you, Abe. And so is your mother, I wager."
"Abe… I'm no fool," he said. "I know this might not work and… well, I may not return this time." He swallowed hard and pulled Abe into a tight embrace, hugging him as deeply as possible. "I love you, Abe," he whispered. Abe choked on his tears and held his father's head in his hand.
"I love you, too, Pops!" he croaked out between tears, giving one final squeeze before releasing his father. Henry sighed and stepped back, turning slowly towards Jo. Her face was drenched in tears and she was gripping at the neck of her coat and scarf with whitened knuckles, her head shaking just barely side to side, hoping she could convince him in time.
"Jo… my dear, darling Jo… This is not your fault. It never was and never will be, no matter the outcome. I need to know."
"Henry, please! Please! Don't do this!" she cried, her voice little, squeaky and pathetic and she continued to shake her head. "Please, don't… I promise I believe you! I know Nora said the same thing, but I swear to you, I won't betray you!" she pleaded, but Henry just placed his finger to her lips.
"Shh… it's alright, Jo. It'll be fine. No matter what happens… I'll always love you… Forever." He swallowed and was about to release her but she wouldn't let go. She kept shaking her head and begging him to reconsider. "Jo… I can't not do this. I think you know that… deep down. I need to do this… for me… for us… if there is an us…" he added in a hush. In that moment, Jo's tears ceased, she let her eyes wander to his lips and back a few times before surging her lips against his, catching him off guard for a fraction of a second.
Henry knew he was being kissed, but the idea that Jo was the one kissing him is what kept him from responding instantly. He knew it was stress or nerves or fear, but in that second, he didn't care. After pulling himself together, his arms wrapped around Jo's shoulders and he returned her kiss with every ounce of love, passion and sincerity he had in him, hoping – praying – that he could convey every single thing he felt… should he not return.
When they parted, both were short of breath and Henry's heart was racing a mile a minute. He looked at her as she rested her forehead against his, her eyes closed as she took deep breaths, tears still seeping down her cheeks. She pressed two or three more kisses to his lips and cheeks before opening her eyes to lock her gaze with his.
"Come back to me…" she whispered, her lips pressing together and her eyes welling. "I love you, Henry Morgan," she hushed out before pulling her gun from her holster, pressing a kiss to it and handing it to Henry. He nodded once and took five steps back, facing the water before, his stomach in knots as he wondered if he would come back or not.
But he knew he couldn't spend the rest of his life wondering. He needed to know; they all needed to know. Henry cocked the gun and Jo sobbed. Abe rushed to her side and pulled her against him. Jo hugged her sides as Henry raised the gun to his temple.
"You two take care of each other while I'm gone…" he said with a smile before taking a deep breath. "Three… two… one…"
There was a scream torn from Jo's lungs that echoed across the water and beyond as Henry's body began to slump to the ground. His knees collided with concrete and Abe winced at the thud of bone versus cement. Gently, his body listed forward and, just as his body was about to lie flat, he vanished completely!
Abe began to smile and laugh and jump up and down as Jo sank to her knees, staring at where the doctor's body had just been only nano-seconds ago. Her mouth opened and closed a dozen times before she finally looked up to where Abe was doing an outright happy dance.
"I… I don't… what just…"
"Just watch the water, Jo!" Abe declared, smiling as he wiped away tears from his cheeks. "It won't be long now!" he announced, his grin widening.
Jo tried to turn, but only when she attempted to move did she recall having dropped to the ground. Not able to force her legs to work properly, she turned on them slowly, a little at a time and stared out to the area that Abe was pointing to. Her eyes tried to focus, but she didn't even know what she was staring at or what she was looking for.
They both continued to stare for long, agonizing minutes and, although the body had disappeared, Jo only had to look at Abe's face to know his excitement was slowly giving way to worry. The water had never seemed so still, despite being quite choppy in spots, and nothing broke the surface: not debris, fish or anything remotely resembling life.
Then, there was a splash and movement and… skin! Bare skin! In the middle of the river. Her heart thudded in her chest so hard it was painful. She watched as someone splashed in the water for a moment before their eyes focused on the shore, on the spot they were standing, on her. Even at the distance, her eyes locked with Henry's as he began the short swim to shore.
Jo's legs initially didn't want to work as she stared down the bank of stones that disappeared into the water. She tried to stand, but her knees were gelatin. Her heart pounded harder and she felt strength return to her legs, making it to standing as Henry neared, only 15 meters out. Jo's eyes filled with tears anew. Henry was alive! He'd made it! And his incredible story was true! Unable to wait any longer, Jo sprinted to the water's edge and jumped right in, swimming out to meet Henry who smiled and laughed.
The water was cold; New York hadn't been warm for very long yet and so neither was the river, but Jo didn't care. Her clothes were wet and clinging and she felt the texture against her skin, keeping her arm and cold at the same time. But none of that was important; Henry was getting closer and closer to her. She continued to swim as hard as she could, the current a little bit stronger out here than it had been nearer the shore.
"Henry!" she screamed as she swam harder to close the last few meters of distance between them. "Oh, God, Henry!" she exclaimed again, her laughter and tears mingling as she threw her arms about his neck and nearly drown him all over, kissing him right then and there, unable to contain herself. Henry's arms curled around her body, holding her as near as humanly possible with one of them still clothed. Neither cared. Henry's hand slid down her side for a moment and when his hand moved back up her hip, momentarily moving the coat and shirt aside, she felt his warm touch for the first time.
"I love you, Jo," he mumbled against her lips, trembling as he continued to kiss her, needing her kiss like he needed oxygen. She seemed not to mind and met his embrace, the fingers of one hand threading through his hair and massaging his scalp while the other ran its way down his chest, loving the feel of his muscles flexing beneath her touch and, more importantly, feeling the pounding rhythm of his heart.
"I love you, Henry!" she gasped. "Oh, God, I'm sorry! I should have believed you!" she muttered when she finally released his lips for more than a second at a time.
"It's alright, Jo. I'm… I'm alright…" he whispered, cupping her cheek in his hand and resting his forehead against hers. "Jo… it's over…" he said, smiling widely. Fear and panic wrapped around her throat, choking her as she listened to him. It had only just begun…
"What? Wait! What's over? What do you mean?"
"I'm… I'm free…" he said in a hushed voice. "Killing myself in order to expose myself? It… it freed me! Whatever did this to me… whatever caused this bizarre situation, it's… it's over," he explained, pressing a soft kiss to each cheek. Her eyes slipped closed and he kissed them, too.
"I don't understand…" Jo whispered back, truly not comprehending. What on earth was he talking about? And if they were over, then why was he still kissing her like that?
"This time, something was different. I didn't come straight back. Something… someone interrupted my return. Jo… I saw Abigail! I spoke to Abigail!" That was far from the answer Jo had been expecting. She stilled under his ministrations and squared her shoulders slightly, but her eyes betrayed her true emotions.
"Your wife?" she hushed out, her face a mask of confusion. Henry nodded and what he was trying to say began to sink in. "So… you're cured?" she asked with a smile as slow as Henry's nodding head. "As in you are no longer immortal?" she clarified, needing to be sure. His sigh came out a chuckle.
"I will finally be able to grow old and, at the end of my life, die, just like nature intended… and Jo Martinez…" he added, pausing to look her directly in the eye. The pools of warmth she stared in to spoke to her very soul. "I hope to do so with you by my side!" he declared, pulling her in for another kiss. She responded and wrapped her arms back around his neck. "I love you, Jo!"
"I love you, too, Henry! And… and I'm freezing my butt off," she said, grinning as he noticed her bluing lips for the first time. "And you're cold, too!" she said, running her fingers over his lips. He groaned, his eyes turned a dark, chocolatey brown and his flesh warming under her fingertips.
"Touch my mouth like that again and I'll warm us up right here and now, Detective."
"Hmm… the non-cop part of me likes the sound of that…" she murmured into his ear, kissing the lobe while her hand trailed dangerously low. He held his breath just a moment before a low growl rumbled in the back of his throat. Then, with a wide, teasing grin, she dodged out of his arms and began the swim back to shore, Henry right behind her.
The climb out of the water was a little less romantic, Abe rushing to cover up his father with a large wool blanket and Jo feeling like a drowned cat. Henry climbed into the backseat of the car and made room for Jo to get in beside him. She looked down at herself and her sopping wet clothes before grinning. Her eyes never leaving Henry, she shucked out of her coat, top, jeans and shoes, standing there in her lacy underwear, watching Henry grind his teeth and rearrange the blanket, before sliding in and joining him under the warm blanket.
"You, Jo Martinez, will be the death of me," he crooned into her ear as he nuzzled her neck while Abe began the drive back to the shoppe. She wrapped her arm around his waist, loving the feeling of his bare abdomen against her skin. Her fingers walked up his chest before she toyed with his lower lip, making him purr. She smiled.
"And you, me… forever," she whispered. He smiled warm and sincere and took her chin in his thumb and curled index finger, lifting her face up to his, pausing a breath away before smiling.