Warnings on the other parts, but probably none on this one. They still don't belong to me.

And a big OOPS! I thought I'd posted the entire story here, but obviously not. Thank you , Midnight Island, for the heads up.

Secrets

by Melody Wilde

Epilogue -- 18 months later

The book signing was at three, so Mort still had plenty of time to grab lunch before heading over to Border's. He did a quick check—wallet, room key, jacket, jeans zipped up—before closing the door to the hotel room and heading toward the elevator and the excellent restaurant downstairs. Maybe a salad and a sandwich. Or maybe something bigger. I do have to face god-knows-how-many fans this afternoon. I ought to fortify myself.

He grinned at his reflection in the elevator doors. Backward thinking, Mort. I don't really need that anymore. I can deal with people now. Well…okay, not totally, but mostly. I can deal with fans. I've proved that in seven cities so far, seven down and ten to go, not counting today. Smile and look into their eyes, then sign the book and say thank you. It's not like I have to do a reading or give a talk or answer questions.

No, I don't need to fortify myself. But I think I'll have a steak anyway. I'll work it off later tonight in the hotel gym.

He turned left and through the double doors into the dining room. A server smiled and handed him a menu, calling him by name and escorting him to a secluded table where he could dine in privacy. He placed his order, then leaned back and stared out through the tinted glass of the window, watching the people moving by. Watching.

I still haven't stopped watching. Stupid and juvenile, but that's me, good ol' Mort Stupid and Juvenile Rainey. Okay, Mort, remember what your therapist said—this is only because the Bain thing is a major piece of unfinished business in my life, like whatever happened to Amy and Ted. Only when I watch…look…scan the faces…I'm not looking for Amy and Ted.

The past year and a half had been busy—so busy that sometimes he wondered how he'd found time to finish the book he was promoting now and write another. Wait'll Herb finishes reading that one. He's going to shit a brick over my assassin hero The thought made the corners of his mouth twitch.

His shoulder had healed well. Originally, the doctors had thought he might need corrective surgery, but care and physical therapy and, later, exercise, had done the trick.

His decision to sell the cabin had been an easy one. Herb had taken him back there, after he'd been released from the hospital, and he'd walked in and… Couldn't fucking breathe. Sat down on the couch and just fell over to one side and started crying. Scared Herb to death. But it felt so empty. Deserted. Alone. I lived there almost four years by myself and it never ever felt as alone as it did then. He'd managed to hang on for two days…and two terrible nights…before packing up everything he wanted to take away and leaving it forever. It didn't take long. All my books. The laptop and backup discs. The clothes Bain bought for me the day we went shopping. And the quilt he wrapped around me that night…the night we became lovers.

His salad and glass of tea arrived. He thanked the waiter and turned his attention to getting just the right amount of salad dressing in just the right spots.

Herb had found an apartment for him in a quiet part of the city, someplace he could stay while he decided what to do next. He'd written, typing awkwardly with one hand, and read and thought and gone for long walks. He'd refused to let himself go back to the sleeping all day/writer's block pattern of the post-Amy time.

He'd decided to rebuild the house Shooter had destroyed. He'd chosen the houseplan, but he'd left all the details—colors, drapes, kitchen appliances—to the next-door neighbors who'd been…not friends, but people I could talk with across the fence, people who seemed to like me…before all the unpleasantness. He'd been living in the house for just over three months now. It felt good. It felt like home. The neighbors had become real friends during the process, so he no longer felt so totally alone. They were taking care of the house and his dog while he was on the book signing junket.

The letter had come to him, in care of Herb, two months after he'd left Tashmore Lake, while he was still in his apartment. No return address. Postmarked Mississippi. A single sheet of paper, a single handwritten line. "Shooter will never bother you again." No signature. But he knew who it was from, and he knew what it meant. He'd had the letter framed, and it hung over his bed in the new house, where he slept under a quilt that was one of the only remnants of his former life.

He'd begun the other sort of therapy soon after returning to New York, in an attempt to learn why all his relationships failed, sooner or later. I'm still working on that one. I'm not sure I'll ever find the answer. His neighbors had set him up with a couple of dates, and he'd managed himself well enough, but he wasn't anywhere near risking himself in any way again. And I may never be. Maybe…

"Your steak, Mr. Rainey."

"Thank you."

"Would you like steak sauce? More butter or sour cream?"

"No. Thanks. This is fine."

His lawyer—working in tandem with Amy's lawyer—was trying to finalize the divorce. Mort wasn't sure how that was going, or what the legalities of the whole thing were, with Amy missing for so long. He didn't think about it very often. That's what I'm paying the lawyers big bucks to do, so I don't have to worry my pretty little head. I'll worry about it if I ever get serious about anybody and want to remarry. Fat chance of that.

He checked his watch—12:30; plenty of time—and cut into the steak.

"Mort Rainey."

Mort froze. From somewhere in front of him, he could see his server moving quickly toward the table, frowning that someone had disturbed his lunch. He took a deep breath and lay his fork down.

"I know it is you. Your hair is dark now and your glasses are different and your beard is gone, but…"

"Sir, I'm sorry, but you can't—"

"It's all right. He's…" Mort managed to turn in his seat, looking up into the smiling black eyes. "A friend."

"My apologies." The server faded away as quickly as he'd come.

"Am I? Ah. I am glad to hear that. Hello, my friend. You look very well."

Bain. My god. Oh my god. I don't believe it. I want to…to jump up and hug him and make a scene that would get me headlines in the National Enquirer and…

"Have you no words for me?"

Oh what the fuck. I don't care.

"Jesus God, Miguel!" He was out the chair, flinging his arms around Bain, feeling the hug returned with a force that lifted his off his feet. "Where…how…"

Bain laughed and released him. "May I join you?"

"You'd better."

Bain seated himself across from Mort. "It is good to see you again."

"No shit." Seeing him is like… "What are you doing here? I mean…"

"I know what you mean. I came looking for you. I saw that you would be in the city signing your books, and so I came. To see you. To talk. It was easy to find out where you are staying." He gave an embarrassed half-shrug. "Old habits die hard. You cannot unlearn what you have learned."

Mort bit the inside of his lip. There are so many things I want to say to him, to ask, to…where should I start? What if…

"I see that your busy mind is still thinking." Bain reached across the table to lay a hand on Mort's. "Could you…perhaps…ask it to listen to the things I have come to say to you?"

"Yes."

"I know that you have changed—not just your appearance, but other things. I could not help still…" He shrugged again. "Following your career. I want to tell you that I, also, have changed."

He leaned forward. "I am…retired now, as I told you I would. I have lived in New York City for the past year, but I have made myself stay away from you. I did not want to interfere with your life again…to ask if I could be your friend…until I felt I was worthy."

"Miguel…"

"No. Let me finish. I have spent a good deal of money on psychiatrists, who have worked with me and helped me find the source of all my anger and my…evil demon. Who have helped me to rid myself of him forever."

"How?"

"Much talk. Some medication. Believe me, Mort Rainey, if that part of me were not gone, I would not be here speaking with you now."

I do believe him. And I know what seeing him is like. Joy. Sunshine. God, I feel like some stupid teenager… Completion. Life.

"Mort? Do you think…can we be friends now?"

He had to take a quick sip of tea to clear the lump in his throat. "I don't know."

Bain's eyes widened.

"I don't think we can be…just friends. I think I want more. I want what we had…" Son of a bitch, I believe I'm actually blushing. I didn't know I had it in me. "I want to see if we can go beyond what we had."

Bain's lips curled upward in a slow smile. "My friend, we can do that."

They were standing. Mort fumbled in his pocket for his wallet, pulled out a hundred dollar bill, and dropped it on the table beside his uneaten steak.

"I have a room and two hours before I have to be anywhere. Let's go talk."

Bain moved closer and lowered his voice. "For you, Mort Rainey, I have the rest of my life."

Yeah. Yeah, I think we do.

The End

Author's Notes: When I began to write this, I had only the vaguest idea of how it would end. Despite the fact that I, personally, am a sucker for a happy ending, I never thought Mort and Bain would find one. Various endings that occurred to me along the way include: Bain killing Mort; Mort killing Bain; them killing each other; and Mort waking up alone with copies of the videos of "Assassins" and "Tie Me Up, Tie Me Down." Somewhere near the end, the guys demanded as happy a resolution as possible, and since Bain has a gun, I nodded and said okay but they had to help me out. And they did. It meant some extensive rewrites to make the earlier parts "fit" with the later ones, but I was glad to do it for them. I hope you all think it was worth the effort.

Thanks to everyone who's written me and/or commented on this story. I love you all. Special thanks to the amazing Miss Becky for beta efforts, for encouragement, and for being a good friend. I love you bunches!