Title: Don't take any wooden nickels
Fandom: Boardwalk Empire
Pairing/Characters: Julia Sagorsky/Richard Harrow
Rating: PG
Word Count: 1,800
Spoilers: All three seasons.
Disclaimer: Not mine!

Summary: He comes back on a Thursday. Post-finale. Richard Harrow/Julia Sagorsky.

He comes back on a Thursday.

It's late in the afternoon and Julia's taking down the bed sheets that have been on the line all day. Her dad's down at the playground with Tommy playing cowboys and Indians. She hasn't once been surprised with the way her dad has taken to Tommy, playing with him, helping with his schoolwork, getting him to eat. Her dad's always been good with kids; it's the adults he has trouble with. But, he hasn't touched a drop of alcohol since the night Richard appeared with Tommy in his arms.

She once allowed herself to feel stirrings of envy over the fact her dad seems to be able to change for a little boy that's not even his flesh and blood instead of for her. But the feeling didn't last long. She's too relieved to feel bitter towards him.

She has a better target for those feelings.

And as she pulls down the last sheet off the line, that target is standing right in front of her.

She sucks in a breath and clutches the sheet to her. He looks steadily back at her and then down at the ground.

"Sorry. Didn't mean to scare you," he says, his voice rough and familiar she's so happy, so relieved to see him she has to remind herself that she's angry at him.

"You should have thought of that before you turned up to my house in the middle of the night looking the way you did," she says briskly, covering up her shaking hands by folding the sheet. It's too big and she can't get the corners to match up.

She glances at him and sees him stealing little glances at her. Julia huffs out a sigh and says, "Well, don't just stand there. Grab a corner."

His eye darts up at her and then with his customary care, he delicately takes a corner of the sheet.

Julia steps back and spreads her arms to shake the sheet out and he mimics her. Silently, they fold it in half, then again. She steps towards him to match her corners to his and he holds them as she grabs the bottom corners. She pauses and looks at him, then says, "It wasn't as though I didn't know about you."

He freezes. His lips part a little and he seems to have trouble swallowing. Julia's angry enough to allow herself to feel a little proud at startling him.

She steps away, ends of the sheet in her hands.

"The fellas at the Legion Hall like to talk and I do read the papers, you know. 'Masked man kills butcher'," she says. "Plus the little things you said. Then everything that happened at the Artemis Club. Tommy filled in a few blanks." – she holds up her hand to forestall any comments, dropping a corner of the sheet – "All on his own. We didn't press." She picks up the sheet and continues, "It wasn't difficult to put the pieces together. Besides, this is Atlantic City. Every other person is doing something they shouldn't. I'm fairly sure Mr. Givens down the road sells his own brand of moonshine to a few restaurants in town."

They fold the sheet in half, his eye wide and fixed on her face. She stares back determinedly.

"You…didn't say anything," he finally says.

She shrugged. "What's there to say? I don't approve. At all. But..."

Here she falters and her hands drop, still limply holding the sheet. Because this is the part that she can't get past. It does bother her. All of it. What he did. What, she assumes, he still does. She can explain it away as being a holdover from the war and realizes that he must have felt that there were no other options left to him. But, it's still so very wrong.

And yet.

She looks at him sharply, needing to know. "Why are you here?"

"I wanted to see you," he says. "To see Tommy. I shouldn't have come. But I couldn't stop myself."

Well.

That's the answer, isn't it? She shouldn't care. She really shouldn't. But she can't seem to stop herself.

She stares back at him, standing back there in her backyard, hat slouched low on his head, his eye steady as he watches her, and he's still holding the other half of her sheet.

"Oh, just hell," she mutters, picking up her own half and walking towards him. "Tommy's playing with Dad at the playground. They've been good for each other."

"I'm glad. He's been…okay?" he asks.

"He's had some nightmares, but not as many lately," she says. She stops right in front of him, holding her end of the folded sheet next to his hands, but not quite touching. "He asks about you every day."

The corner of his mouth jerks a bit and he has to work to swallow. "I've thought about him every day. And about you. I'm sorry."

"For thinking about me? Or for what you did?" she asks.

"I'm not sorry for what I did." His voice is sure and his eye is steady. "I'm sorry I left…without explaining. I'm sorry…that I scared you." He slips his hands over hers and presses them to his chest, the sheet tangles in their hands. "I could never be sorry…for thinking about you."

Julia breathes out and grasps his hands. "Oh, what am I going to do with you?" she asks a little helplessly.

"Whatever…you want," he says his thumb unconsciously rubbing the side of her hand.

She lets out a sound that's part gasp, part laugh and takes the sheet in her hands and turns away, too overwhelmed to look at him anymore. Her head is spinning and she's a swirling mess of relief at seeing him, happiness that he still cares, anger that she still doesn't quite know what's going on, and completely uncertain as to what's going to happen next.

She's always liked plans, so she latches on to that last feeling.

"So, what happens now?" she asks. "Are people looking for you?"

"Probably. But I'm not high…on their list." He doesn't move from the spot where she left him.

"I see." She frowns at the laundry. "Actually, no, I don't see." She turns around. "Help me see, Richard. I know what you do. I don't know why."

His brow furrows. "I don't know either…sometimes."

"That's not good enough," she warns, crossing her arms over her chest.

"I know." His hands twitch at his sides and she wonders how many there have been. "I don't think…I'm good for much else. That's how it started. Then it was…to make things right. Then…to protect. Now…" He looks up at her. "I don't want to scare you. I'm afraid…I'll hurt you more…by being here."

She lets out a sad laugh. "Well, that's kinda inevitable. The people you love always hurt you the most, so don't worry about that. I think it'd hurt more if you weren't here."

He blinks and his whole body jerks as though he's been shot. "You…love me?"

Julia rolls her eyes. "Of course, I do. Why do you think I'm so—"

She doesn't get a chance to finish her sentence because he's there, holding her, his mouth on hers. She kisses him back instantly. Her arms are trapped against his chest and she grabs at his waistcoat, her nails digging into the fabric. His mask bites into her cheek and lip, but she doesn't care. She's swept up in the feel of him pressed against her, his mouth moving on top of hers, the warmth of him, the smell of him. Wildly, she wishes for him to just take her, right there, in the backyard, under the old sycamore while her neighbors drink their afternoon cup of coffee.

She wants it so badly, she shivers and that makes him stop.

He pulls away and his brow furrows. He opens his mouth but she cuts him off.

"If that's another apology, I'm going to punch you in the face," she says.

He closes his mouth, then says, "Aim for the right side. I don't want you…to dint the tin."

She laughs for real this time. "You're teasing me again."

"Yes," he says. "I love you. I can't...seem to stop."

"Can't stop teasing me or can't stop loving me?" she asks.

"Both."

She rises up on her tiptoes to press her lips to his. She feels giddy and light-headed and she's all too aware that reality is going to come crashing back down on her, but he's here and he's warm and solid and he loves her and his hands are sure as they caress her back and neck and she's not going to give up this moment until she absolutely has to.

Several minutes pass and when she comes back to herself, she realizes that they've managed to sit down on the back step. She's comfortably situated on his lap and he's leaning against the porch railing. She traces the line of his mask, then his ear and asks, "Can you stay?"

"I'm…not sure." He swallows. "I want to."

"Well, that's good to know," she says pressing her forehead to his. "Please stay."

His mouth twitches. "Okay. But…if I think…you're in danger…I'll leave."

"You'll talk to me first, is what you'll do."

"Yes...ma'am."

"It can start now actually," she tells him, resting her head against his shoulder.

"What…do you mean?"

"You said it started because you thought it was all you were good for," she says. "Start there."

His throat clicks as he swallows and she's afraid that she's pushed too far and he's going to go silent, but then he says, "I met…James Darmody at a hospital…in Chicago."

She sits there quietly listening as he tells her his past and she keeps one hand wrapped around his and he never loosens his hold on her.

The sun is low in the sky by the time he finishes by telling her about the night at the Artemis Club and she can't figure out how she feels, so she settles on just grateful that he got Tommy out of there.

She breathes deep and he asks, his voice rougher than usual after speaking for so long, "Are you… What do…you want me to do? I'll do…whatever you want me to."

She lifts her head and just looks at him. Truthfully, she doesn't know what she wants him to do. She only knows that she doesn't want him to go. A part of her wonders if there's something wrong with her. The rest of her doesn't seem to care.

"What am I going to do with you?" she says again, not only referring to him, but to herself as well.

He lifts his hand and pauses. Then he lightly trails his fingers down the line of her jaw and across her lips. She crosses the small distance between them and leans in to press her lips to his and he pulls her so close.

Her fingers are soon plucking at his shirt buttons and his are edging towards her own buttons when the front door opens and the sounds of her dad and Tommy fills up the house.

"Your dad…" he says, sitting upright.

"It'll be okay," she says reluctantly letting go of him and getting to her feet. "Just please. Stay. The rest will work itself out."

She's not sure how much she believes her own words, but she still holds out her hand and he looks at it.

"Okay," he says simply.

He takes her hand and they go into the house.