The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it. - Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám
Richard thought he had known fear before this day but now he knew that was nothing compared to the ice running through his veins and making the hair on the nape of his neck stand on end. Before him was a long drop to the bottom of the dam and behind him was the relentless Marshal who would as soon shoot him as take him alive--or so it seemed. He had made the mistake of picking up the dropped gun, turning himself into an armed and dangerous fugitive. Still frozen on the lip of the spillway he turned sharply at the shout behind him, dropped the gun and raised his hands above his head in the hope that Gerard didn't shoot him anyway.
When he thought about it much later, it was not the fear of the long drop or the fear of being shot that had chilled his heart. It was the thought of dying without seeing Helen's killer brought to justice. It was dying with everyone believing that he had killed the most beautiful person in his life--for money. That particular fear overcame all others, giving him the strength and the courage to jump into the abyss both figuratively and, in the case of the dam, literally.
Now it was all over. The shock of realizing that his long standing friend and one-time lover had orchestrated Helen's murder had left him feeling numb inside. Charles had sent Sykes, the one-armed man, to kill him, with Helen being little more than collateral damage, but no one could have foreseen the call requesting Richard's assistance in surgery as he and Helen drove home after the fund-raising event. Instead of taking both of them by surprise, Sykes had found only Helen and he had not had time to revise his murderous plan before he, in turn, was surprised by Richard.
Sykes was in custody now along with Charles. Gerard was already convinced of his innocence and had released him from the handcuffs and yet nothing felt real. The fog of the past year was still hanging over him, perhaps surrounding him more densely now that he had reached the end of his quest. All that was left was seeing Charles Nichols and Frederick Sykes tried for their part in the murder of Helen and a pathologist, Lentz, and the cover up of human testing on Devlin-McGregor's brand new multi-million dollar drug.
Richard knew he had done more than find Helen's killer--he had saved countless lives that would have been put at risk by taking Provasic. The problem facing him now though, was what did he have to live for now that he had solved Helen's murder? His life had revolved around his work at Cook County Hospital--and Helen. It had been the perfect balance and now he felt off-kilter, unsure if he could return even to his work without the safety net of Helen's laughter and her love of life to balance out the blood and, sometimes, death on the operating table.
"I know what you're thinking?"
Richard tore his eyes away from the passing street lights and glanced at Gerard, who was watching him intently as if waiting for Richard to respond. Gerard waited a beat longer before continuing.
"You're thinking...where do I go from here? You caught the bad guys but it doesn't change the most important thing."
"She's still dead," Richard added low and flat, feeling nothing inside.
"Baby steps, Kimble. Just take baby steps."
Baby steps. They had never discussed having kids and Richard just assumed it would happen one day without warning or fanfare. A missed period, a positive on a home-test pregnancy kit, and months later he would be in a hospital room welcoming the miracle of new life rather than facing the loss of another. More likely it would never have happened as neither of them had room in their lives for more than what they already shared--work and each other. Yet, it came as another blow now, another loss that he had not considered before this moment. Another reason to mourn Helen.
Gerard remained true to his word. He got a judge to release Richard into Gerard's custody rather than have him incarcerated in County lock-up until the new evidence could be examined. Eventually the judge would exonerate him from the former charge of murdering his wife and he would walk away as a free man. But not yet.
The next stop was a hotel that was several steps up from the cramped bed sit that Richard had rented while hunting down Helen's killer. Two generously sized beds, a reasonably spacious bathroom with a large shower stall dominating the room, and a modern television. The sheer normality of it almost overwhelmed Richard but Gerard made it easy for him by making no demands or even suggestions. He simply let him be, let him wander around touching things without making any comments. Gerard even let him turn on the television to the news channel, though he switched it off the moment Richard's face appeared on the screen.
"Think we've seen enough of the real thing today," Gerard stated solemnly. Instead he grabbed the room service menu and handed it to Richard, adding to the surreal feeling that had crept over Richard since the end of the fight. "Just remember who's picking up the tab." Gerard gave a wry twist of his lips before grinning and deciding on an expensive steak, revealing that playful streak that had almost caught Richard off guard earlier.
"Make that two," Richard added.
After Gerard put down the phone, he picked up the movie guide, snorting at its usual content of cop and medical dramas before settling on something that was neither. Stopping only to eat and strip down into boxers and t-shirts, they watched one movie followed by another for the rest of the evening, sitting shoulder to shoulder on one bed until Richard fell asleep.
He awoke slowly in the early hours of the morning.
As the sensation of another body partially draped over him, bled warmth through the thin cotton of his t-shirt, Richard thought for a moment that the whole of last year had been a vivid nightmare. God help him but he didn't want to know the truth. He wanted to just believe for a little longer that it was Helen pillowed on his shoulder, and he draped an arm over his sleeping companion. Touch memory warned him immediately that it wasn't her. The year of horror played out in fast forward in his mind, leading him back to yesterday evening, but suddenly he didn't care that it was a man instead of a woman, Gerard instead of Helen. The warmth grounded him after a year of impersonal touches from the guards, or violent shoves and punches from fellow prisoner who abhorred a wife killer. For the first time since he heard a thump coming from upstairs in his home a year ago, he felt safe in someone's arms, and he wanted to hold on to that feeling.
He let the steady in and out of Gerard's warm breaths lull him back to sleep, only waking again when he felt Gerard stirring against him. Gerard tensed.
"Well...this is a little embarrassing," Gerard murmured while still plastered against Richard. He tried to push away but Richard tightened his hold a fraction, not enough to make Gerard stop moving and yet he stopped anyway.
With a trembling hand, Richard reached up and brushed fingers through Gerard's short hair, across his ear and down until his palm cupped Gerard's slightly bristled cheek and jaw. It wasn't a new sensation but an old one resurfacing from the distant past--from before Helen, from when he and Charles would fool around in med school. Richard turned towards Gerard, knowing the other man would stop this if he didn't want it to go any further. Gerard sighed as Richard kissed him, relaxing as Richard moved into the kiss more deeply, slowly pushing Gerard onto his back until Richard was half sprawled over him. He could feel the hardness of Gerard's morning erection pushing against his thigh and it only made Richard want even more of this snarky, intriguingly complex man.
T-shirts were pushed up and boxers down in a desire to touch skin on skin, and Richard swallowed Gerard's audible groan when his hand wrapped around the hard column and stroked firmly, thumb sliding over the already slippery head. His own gasp was captured as Gerard slid a hand around him, adding perfect friction as they rocked together, still locked in a hungry kiss as they found release only moments apart. The intensity of the kiss lessened until they were simply breathing into each other. His lips were still tingling where they brushed Gerard's, until Richard broke contact only to slide his cheek against Gerard's uncaring of the rasp from unshaven faces.
They remained that way for several minutes, with Richard soaking up the warmth and security of Gerard's strong body, before the stickiness and a need to use the bathroom become too insistent. Gerard stripped off his t-shirt and boxers before following him in and it seemed only natural to slide into the large shower behind him and luxuriate in the hot water cascading over his sweaty and sticky body. As he spread suds over Gerard's body, enjoying the way his hands slid over the slippery skin, Richard wondered why he had never shared a shower with Helen. It brought a pang of regret that he forced down by focusing on the man--on Sam--who was now soaping him down in turn. They shared kisses and caresses as they sluiced off, aware that neither of them was up to more so soon, eventually ending up back on the bed, clean but still damp.
The high profile of Richard's case in the media worked in his favor. His case was seen immediately and by the end of that day he walked away from the court a free man. Sam accompanied him back to the home Richard had shared with Helen, and he was grateful after he walked in to find everything gone, stripped almost bare.
"Hell if I know what they did with all the furniture," Sam sighed but Richard had his own memories of Helen's family baying for his blood as the guards led him from the court.
The Judge had sentenced him to death so he knew her family would have taken everything that belonged to Helen, and destroyed everything that belonged to him, selling anything else. In truth, he was surprised that they had not sold the apartment too, wondering if they had been forced to wait until after his execution. Richard had always protested his innocence, even as her brother spat in his face, but he doubted that he would gain an apology, and was even more certain that he didn't care.
He backed out slowly, knowing there was nothing left here but bad memories clouding the happier times. Though part of him was afraid to admit it, he knew that part of his life was over.
Although he would have been welcome back at Cook County, Richard decided that he needed to move on completely, not wanting to face people who had known Helen and who could feel only pity for him now. He needed to leave Chicago behind and start afresh where there were no memories of what he had lost so he could focus on what he had gained.
Boston had seemed the perfect choice after Massachusetts General Hospital offered him a position as their chief vascular surgeon. Scouring the real estate pages, he found a nice house in the suburbs that was only a 30 minute drive from the hospital, which in turn, was situated not far from the local US Marshal's office based at the court house. When Richard brought the subject up with Sam, he half expected him to try to talk him out of it but, instead, Sam grinned and gave him that open handed shrug that said he really didn't care where they lived--as long as they were together.
Almost another year had passed since then, and today was the anniversary of Helen's murder.
Sam was on a manhunt, supported by some of the same people who had helped him track down Richard, so Richard didn't expect him back for several days at least. With that terrible hour approaching, the sound of the key in the door brought Richard's head up from where he slumped on the couch nursing a bourbon. He listened intently to the soft footsteps in the hall and found his melancholy lifting as the now familiar silhouette was framed in the doorway.
"You caught her?" Richard asked, aware that the team had been tracking a woman who had managed to escape from an open prison three days earlier.
Richard frowned because Sam was tenacious, unwilling to leave a case until he had the escaped criminal back behind bars.
"Cosmo can handle it for one day. Had something far more important to do here."
Richard let Sam take the glass from his hand and pull him to his feet, drawing him in and kissing him slowly before holding him tight. It was exactly what Richard needed as his last memories of Helen played through his mind, letting him grieve for the woman he had loved even as he was held tight in the arms of a man he had come to love just as much.
Later, as they rested in a tangle of sated limbs, with breathing gradually slowing, Richard tightened his hold on Sam. He had loved Helen with all his heart, and nothing would ever change that. Yet, if her death had taught him only one important lesson, it was to treat every moment that he had with Sam in his arms as if it could be the last. And if Sam had any objections then he never voiced them. Instead, he exorcised his own demons and held onto Richard just as tight.