“Rog, it’s okay. It’s okay.”
Murtaugh despised the tone that Riggs uttered those words with a level of hatred he previously thought himself incapable. The tone was a mix of heartbroken sorrow and calm relief. A man about to commit suicide by criminal and finally be freed from the enormous effort of living every second in emotional agony, whilst at the same time attempting to reassure Murtaugh that it was an acceptable outcome.
Except it wasn’t. Not to Murtaugh.
The drug runners that Riggs had inadvertently pissed off weren’t that far behind them, they’d already put a bullet into the crazy son of a bitch. Unfortunately, pain and blood loss had slowed Riggs down until his grief-stricken mind had come up with, to Riggs at least, a viable plan that would save Murtaugh and allow Riggs to be reunited with his beloved Miranda. Murtaugh crouched down next to Riggs who was looking at him as if the matter was settled.
Riggs sat with his back against the rotting wooden wall of a condemned and long forgotten warehouse. Thankfully the warehouse was like a maze, with enough cover that the drug runners wouldn’t be able to easily find them, but if they were discovered the cover wouldn't be sufficient for either man to last ten minutes in a shootout. But it gave Murtaugh a chance to let Riggs rest for a moment or two, and to come up with a better and more secure place to hide. Riggs left hand was clamped against his side, knees curl in on himself to help alleviate some of the pain. His right hand firmly held his gun resting on his thigh. He smiled, if it could be called that, eyes brimmed with tears and were clouded with a pain that had nothing to do with the bullet imbedded in his side. Murtaugh knew that Riggs was about to repeat those treacherous, appalling words again.
As Riggs opened his mouth to speak, Murtaugh reached out and grabbed him firmly by the chin. Riggs expression turned to one of shocked bewilderment.
“Don’t,” Murtaugh warned. “That’s the third time you’ve said that to me. Three times you expected me to let you die. Right in front of me!” He let go of Riggs' chin and slapped himself in the chest to emphasize his point. “Damn it, Riggs, the last time you almost killed me too! If it wasn’t for that tree we’d both be dead you selfish bastard. I want to go home at the end of the day. I want to go home to Trish and my kids.” Murtaugh took a deep steadying breath. Chastising Riggs wasn’t his intent. It was getting the other man to understand that what he asked was beyond Murtaugh to bestow. That something that appeared a rational solution to such situations to Riggs was a horrifying and inconceivable consideration for someone who wasn’t bat shit crazy.
“I get it. I do.” Murtaugh continued sombrely. “You miss your wife and life is too painful without her. I don’t understand how agonizing that is, because I can’t.” He confessed. “I don’t dare try and imagine what my life would be like without Trish, or if I lost RJ, Riana or Harper. I just can’t go there, man. It’s ... I just can’t. But I get it. I get that you want to die and you won’t shame your wife by doing it yourself. But you’ll take every other opportunity you can.” Murtaugh paused as Riggs gave a slow nod, lips twisting into a self-deprecating smile. He moved to sit next to Riggs being careful not to jostle the other man.
“I know you’re suffering, Riggs and I wish I could help take some of that pain from you. You said once that Miranda was your guardian angel. That’s why you didn’t snap after you left the SEALs. After you said that I had this thought that Miranda’s love for you seeped into all those cracks and stopped them from growing larger. She probably even healed a few and when she got taken away from you…” Murtaugh stopped as Riggs ducked his head, and wiped the back of his right hand over his eyes, his gun left nestled between his hip and thigh. After a moment's hesitation Murtaugh lifted his hand and squeezed the distraught man’s shoulder in a self-conscious display of comfort. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean...”
“It’s okay, Roger.” Riggs raised his head and looked at Murtaugh, his eyes red-rimmed. He smiled sadly. “I’m the one that should apologize.” His voice rough with emotion. “I know I’ve not been easy to work with, I appreciate that you’ve stuck with me, but I can’t let go of Miranda. That’s something I’m never gonna be able to do.”
“I get that, Riggs. I truly do. But letting her go isn’t the same as forgetting her.” Murtaugh promised. “It’s about moving forward, so you remember her love, and not the pain of her passing.” Murtaugh said as he attempted to offer some comfort to the other man. Riggs shook his head, his gaze downcast. Murtaugh rubbed a hand over his head cursing himself for causing his partner more pain. He knew full well that Riggs couldn’t see past the heartache of his loss, that his whole being was geared towards ending his life, even though Murtuagh guessed that Riggs was finding it harder getting himself killed than he thought it would be, considering that the man was still currently breathing. But wasn’t that the point of this whole awkward conversation after all? Talking about Miranda however, was only going to make the younger man shut down. Riggs could be very forthcoming about her on occasion, but only on his terms. Miranda was a subject that had to be handled very carefully, and preferably in the company of Doctor Cahill.
“The thing is, Riggs,” Murtaugh began again, trying to get back to his intended point, “what you’ve got to get, is that I can’t ever leave you to die. We’re partners and I can’t just walk away. I can’t leave you, no matter how many times you say it’s okay. I can’t. And you’ve got to stop saying it. You’ve got to stop doing it. Because I’m going to keep trying to save you.” He looked at Riggs, holding his gaze. “If you want to get your crazy ass killed, fine, but you’re going to have to do it when I’m not around.”
“No,” Murtaugh raised his index finger and tapped it against Riggs nose, causing him to stare at Murtaugh in astonishment. “I’m talking. You’re listening.” Murtaugh continued firmly. “You know how this will end, Riggs. It will be me that dies. The crazy one always lives. You’re the one that’s going to have to tell Trish, stand next to her when she insists on going to the morgue to see me one last time. It’ll be you that’s going to have to watch over my kids. And as much as you want to die right now, you’re just going to have to live. You’re going to have to live for my family, because they’ll need you.” Murtaugh stood up, brushing dirt and dust from his backside. He looked down at Riggs.
“You can go to the Captain and request another partner. But you know none of them will last more than a few days with you. You’ll go through every detective in the department within weeks and end up with no one wanting to work with you. Whatever hold you have over the City Attorney won’t matter, because even he won’t be able to stop Avery from grounding your ass and putting you behind a desk because you can’t be out in the field on your own.” Murtaugh paused for a moment, watching as Riggs constantly ran his fingers through his hair, tugging at it every few seconds, making it even more unruly than it usually was. He looked up at Murtaugh with such a focused look that Murtaugh was cautiously optimistic that the man was truly taking everything in.
“Now, as the senior detective of this partnership, this is what we’re going to do,” Murtaugh said in a lighter tone. “We’re going to head up those stairs,” he pointed to a rickety staircase that lead to a mezzanine floor that had at some point in the warehouse’s history had held an office or control room, “so that we’ve got a better chance of defending ourselves until back-up gets here, okay?”
Murtaugh took a step back and held out his hand. For a moment Riggs just looked at the offered hand then looked up at Murtaugh, his expression unreadable. Murtaugh stood unwavering, keeping his expression as blank as Riggs’ even as despair and worry gnawed at his gut as the seconds ticked by.
Then Riggs reached up, and grasped Murtaugh’s hand firmly.