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Do You Believe Me?

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Richard could have screamed as he desperately tried to get his foot out of the punishing hold of the bulletproof security doors of county lockup. Gerard had already fired five rounds into the glass, and Richard was certain that his exposed limb was next. Scrabbling for purchase with his hands, he tried to pull himself out of the trap, but his fingers slid off the marble to no avail. Hearing thundering footsteps behind him, he started struggling with his entire body, writhing and shaking his leg trying to escape. Grunting with pain as a particular twist nearly wrenched his damaged knee from its socket, he didn’t dare to turn his head to see the Marshals coming closer. Then, suddenly, his entire body went slack as a hand closed around his ankle and a deep voice cut through the haze.

“Richard! Richard, stop, you’re gonna break your leg!” Finally, Richard turned and looked into a pair of eyes he recognised from the dam. “Time to stop running, Richard.”

He slumped to the floor while the other officers were yelling at the guards to open the doors so they could get him out. Gerard crouched down, his hand still holding onto Kimble’s leg. “Get him up, cuff him, he’s coming with us.”

“I’ll alert CPD.”

“No. No, no,” Gerard shook his finger at his team. Just then, the doors finally gave and slid open. Richard hissed as his leg was freed, but then all thought stopped when he felt Gerard support his leg and slowly lower his foot to the floor. “We’re not calling them until we’re at the office.” He snapped his fingers at Newman and Henry, who hurried around to lift Richard to his feet and slap cuffs on him. “Careful with his leg,” Gerard barked before springing back up.

Biggs raised his eyebrows. “Sam?”

“He’s a fugitive, so it’s my job to hunt him down. But as a prisoner, it’s also my job to guard him. Why’s he taking all of these risks? I have questions, I want answers, and, hell, you’ve seen Kelly and Rosetti, they don’t care about answers they don’t already think they have.”

Richard saw Biggs shrug. “Your call, Sam. Just don’t come crying to me when CPD’s hounding your ass,” he added with a grin. Gerard smiled grimly.

“Looking forward to it,” was all he offered before turning to look at Richard where he was standing, flanked by Newman and Henry. “Alright, gentlemen, let’s be on our way.”

*

“D’you need someone to take a look at your knee?” Gerard asked Richard as he slid into the seat across from him after removing the cuffs and throwing them at Biggs. “Or we can get you a thing, an ice pack.”

Richard shook his head. “I’m ok, it’s just a little swollen.” He chanced a glance at Gerard, who was looking at him oddly. “What?”

“Nothing,” Gerard replied, his face now a blank mask. When he continued staring, Richard shifted in his seat. This interrogation room didn’t look much different from the one he had been in last time.

“What’s going to happen now?” he eventually asked, moving his eyes back to Gerard.

“CPD is going to want you back, but we’re not handing you over yet.”

“Why not? Do you believe me?” He edged forward in his chair. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Biggs twitch, but Gerard didn’t move a muscle.

“I don’t believe anything. All I know is, people have lied to me and I’m entitled to the full story after going to all that trouble to bring you in. You’re gonna turn over all the evidence you think you’ve found, and you’re gonna be riding with us on this. But, pay attention,” he echoed his own words at the dam. “You try to run, you get shot. Leads don’t pan out, you’re going back to jail. Got it? Now gimme the rest of that list.”

Gerard had dragged him through the security grid at the Marshal’s Office without having him searched. “He’s unarmed,” was all he’d said, waving the guards away, his team trailing behind them. As a result, no-one had gone through his pockets yet.

“It’s in my coat,” he said, eyes flicking between Gerard and Biggs. Gerard nodded, Biggs watching Richard’s hands like a hawk while he hurried to get the list out of the parka he was still wearing. “Here.” He handed it over, then quickly retracted his hands, laying them on the table, curled into loose fists.

“Relax, Richard.” Gerard murmured without taking his eyes off the scrap of paper. He frowned. “Your list is much shorter than ours.”

“I was able to identify the type of prosthetic the man was wearing, a Type F elbow joint. That narrowed it down.”

“So that’s what you were doing all that reading for, huh?” Richard hesitated, then nodded. Of course, they’d found the place he’d been staying at. Gerard reached the end of the list and cocked his head. “Biggs — Fredrick Sykes. Why does that name ring a bell?”

“Chicago detectives questioned him in the initial investigation, his name’s in the reports.”

“Well, I wanna talk to him myself.”

“Alright, I’ll tell the others to bring him in.” Biggs made for the door, but Gerard stopped him.

“Hang on.” He looked back at Richard. “What would you have done?”

Richard’s eyes widened in surprise. He thought for a moment, going through his options had he managed to get away in time. “I… I would have called to see if he’s home and then I’d have… broken in, looked around, and,” he took a deep breath before continuing, “if I’d found something, I’d have called you.” He raised his chin defiantly, a silent challenge in his expression.

Gerard regarded him for a moment. “Well, what do you know. Biggs, call Sykes. If he answers, hang up, try again later. If no-one’s home, come get me.” Biggs nodded and opened the door the second Newman was about to knock on it. They shuffled past each other, Newman coming to stand before Sam.

“Sam, the boss wants to see you. It’s about Dr Kimble.”

Gerard sighed. “Excuse me a moment, Richard. Noah, keep an eye on him.”

“Sure thing, Sam.” Gerard slid out of his seat, the list of names still in his hand, and left Richard with the younger agent, who took up the space Biggs had just vacated, leaning against the wall next to the door. Richard avoided his gaze, looking down at his hands instead.

*

“Deputy, this is unacceptable! We demand that you release Kimble into our custody right this minute!” An outraged Detective Kelly damn near shouted at him in Miller’s office.

“I don’t think so, Detective,” Sam shot back, squaring his shoulders and towering over the stocky cop.

“Gerard!” Miller interrupted at the same volume. “That’s enough! Give me one good reason why we shouldn’t just hand Kimble over to CPD so he can go back where he belongs.”

“I can give you two, sir,” Gerard retorted, turning to face their department head, but pointing an accusing finger at Kelly and Rosetti. “When I told them that I didn’t get why Kimble should have killed his wife for the money, seeing as he’s already rich all by himself, they said, ‘Yeah, but she was more rich’! That’s the reason why I’ve been re-doing all the interviews with Kimble’s friends and colleagues, and they all told me the same thing: he didn’t do it. Not only do I wonder why all of those testimonies never made it into the courtroom, but I’m also not quite clear on why Kimble dove off a dam into a spillway rather than shoot me and climb over my dead body, and then came back to Chicago to track down a one-armed man nobody believes exists. He saved a boy’s life at Cook County Hospital, risking exposure. Plus, we had word from the injured guard they pulled out of the train wreckage. It wasn’t the other guard who saved lives that night, it was Kimble. I’ve been lied to, sir, and I don’t like being lied to.”

Miller glared at Gerard, then at the detectives, both shaking with barely concealed rage.

“You’re not here to solve puzzles, Gerard.”

“I’m not trying to. But if Kimble’s guilty, I want to see it with my own eyes. I can’t hand him over until I’m sure.”

“You get 24 hours. If you don’t have anything by tomorrow afternoon, 2 o’clock, he belongs to CPD.”

“Yes, sir.” Gerard walked out, the protests of Kelly and Rosetti background noise to his racing thoughts. “Robert! What about that phone call?”

*

“And what exactly are we doing here?” Richard hissed as he rounded the back of the house behind Gerard, Renfro and Newman dogging his heels.

“This was your idea, remember, Richard?” Gerard asked with infuriating nonchalance and then proceeded to break and enter with a speed that was very nearly unbecoming of an officer of the law.

“Sam, I find myself agreeing with the good Doctor,” Cosmo piped up from behind Richard.

“Just get your gloves on and see what you can find. Richard, you too. Sykes is an ex-cop, if he notices any sign of a break-in, we don’t want your prints all over the place.” Gerard handed Kimble an extra pair of gloves out of his coat pocket. “Stick with me. Anything you find, show me.”

Cosmo and Newman went off into the bedroom and kitchen, respectively. Gerard grabbed his radio. “Biggs, you tell me the second you spot Sykes coming home.”

“Got it, Sam.”

Richard had wandered towards the desk, flipping through document folders. The name Devlin MacGregor caught his eye and he tugged at the papers to get a better look. Beside him, Gerard gave a low whistle through his teeth.

“Now that is a big fish.”

Richard looked over and saw the Deputy flipping through a sizeable stack of photographs. He was about to turn back to the papers when something — or, rather, someone — caught his eye. “Lentz,” he breathed.

“Huh? You know this guy, next to Sykes?”

“I do. Hang on.” Richard rifled through the folders. One by one, what he was seeing connected to memories of functions organised by Devlin MacGregor, of being wooed by them, of having patients bleed out on his table who were involved with the drug trials. RDU-90. “Oh my God.”

“What? Richard, what is it? What am I looking at?”

Kimble fixed him with a stare. “Remember what you told me in the tunnel?”

Gerard’s gaze hardened. “I remember you were pointing my gun at me.”

“You said, ‘I don’t care.’”

From the way Kimble was staring at him, Gerard decided that that was probably what he was most pissed off about, aside from the obvious — another entry on the list of things that didn’t add up when chasing a convicted killer. Still, no need to tell him that. “I don’t. I’m not trying to solve a puzzle.”

“Well, trying to or not, but we just found a big piece.”

Gerard was about to give an admittedly rather snide retort when Cosmo’s voice sounded from behind him. “There’s nothing in the bedroom, Sam. Have you checked that dresser over there?” Gerard stepped away from Richard and turned towards Renfro. “No, go ahead.” He was looking around at the rest of Sykes’ living room when Cosmo exclaimed, “Sam! I found an arm!” after a bit of rummaging. Gerard whirled around.

“You what now?”

“Come look!”

Sam and Richard both went over to his colleague and peered into the drawer.

“That’s it. That’s the prosthetic I saw that night,” Richard said with certainty, though his voice went a little unsteady on the last few syllables. “I’m sure of it!”

Gerard took a moment to study the fugitive. Quaking shoulders, wide eyes, shallow breathing. Decided to snap him out of it. “Richard, you just said we found a big piece. Explain it to me.”

“I need to go to the hospital. I need to see Bones, and Kathy. I need to call Chuck!”

“None of that’s going to happen, Richard, and you know it. I went with you on this one, but the rest we’re doing my way. Noah, anything in that kitchen?”

“Nothing, Sam.”

“Then come back here. Cosmo, shut that drawer. Richard, put that folder back where you found it, I’m keeping the photograph, he won’t miss just one. C’mon, we’re hauling ass.” As if on cue, Gerard’s radio crackled.

“Sam, Sykes is coming back. You need to get out.”

“Not a minute too soon,” he growled, herding everyone out. “Move, move! Richard, one step in the wrong direction and you’ll be fish food after all.”

*

In the end, it took a moment’s inattention and Richard was off, stalking towards Nichols where he stood at the podium. Sam swore under his breath. After all the persuading he’d done to convince Richard to let Cosmo collect the samples, to let Noah talk to Wahlund, to let Biggs dig up hospital records and what could be salvaged of Richard’s files, the man was still bent on confronting the man he’d thought his best friend himself. Halfway through their war with paperwork and Richard’s third go of explaining the drug trials, the consequences of his findings, and the way Nichols had buried them, they had been hit by a surprise.

The discovery that Sykes had been called from Richard’s car phone had shocked the entire team into silence. Richard’s head had whipped up, his eyes wide as saucers. “What? No, I didn’t—I didn’t call him! You have to believe me!” He turned to Gerard. “I didn’t.”

Sam had regarded him, his face showing dismay and confusion before he pulled himself together. “Give me that arrest report. 7:30, you say?”

“Yeah, there, 19:30.”

Gerard had read the lines quickly, confirming his hunch. “It wasn’t you, Richard. Nichols borrowed your car, remember?”

Richard had closed his eyes in relief.

*

The ride to the hotel where the conference was taking place was tense. Sam was driving, with Richard right next to him, Cosmo and Poole in the back.

“Richard, I want you to remember something.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. This is our investigation, this is our collar, and you are my responsibility.”

“I’m a grown man, Deputy Gerard.”

“Yes, thanks for the reminder, Arthur Miller, but that, right now, is beside the point. Because, right now, you belong in the custody of the US Marshals Office, and that is how you will conduct yourself. You will not go off on your own, you will not confront Nichols without me or one of my agents right behind you and other law enforcement officers blocking all the exits.”

Sam didn’t have to look at Kimble to know he was doing one of three things: just barely keeping from rolling his eyes, clenching his teeth, or curling the hand Sam couldn’t see into a fist. Or possibly all three.

And now, he was advancing on Nichols with a menace that Sam hadn’t thought he had in him, fugitive and all.

 

Chapter Text

“Dammit,” Sam cursed under his breath when he saw Richard making a beeline for Nichols. “Make sure all exits are closed off. We can’t let either of them get away, or this is gonna get ugly,” he barked down the radio, following Kimble to the podium a dozen or so paces behind. Trust the man to go off the reservation when this could have been such a simple smash-and-grab job, for once in Sam’s life, this could have been so —

“You almost got away with it, didn’t you? I know all about it. I can prove it.”

Oh, crap.

“Ladies and gentlemen, my friend, Richard Kimble, doesn’t feel well, obviously, so, if you just go on with dessert and coffee, and… Richard, do you mind to step aside and… let’s talk. So I’ll be back in just a second.” Watching as the slimy bastard actually tried to maintain decorum in the face of the shit obviously hitting the fan, Sam kept his eyes on Richard as he followed Nichols behind the podium.

“You changed the samples, didn’t you, huh? You switched the samples, after Lentz died.” A murmur went through the room when Richard slapped Nichols’ friendly hand away. Sam sped up his steps, one arm outstretched as if he could hold Richard back even from ten feet away. Softly, he said Richard’s name, hoping his voice would cut through the background noise and the haze in Richard’s head. He would not let his hand twitch towards his gun.

“After Lentz died, you were the only one who had the access. You switched the samples and the pathology reports. You killed Lentz, too, huh? Did you?” Richard shoved Nichols in the back, whose cocky smiling mask was slipping from his face as he stumbled from the force. Distress tore through the room like a wave, unsettling the guests as the chairman called for security. Kimble addressed the crowd as Nichols climbed the steps to the side door, “He falsified his research so RDU-90 could be approved and Devlin MacGregor could give you Provasic.”

“Shit,” Sam hissed as he watched Richard follow Nichols. “Everyone stay where you are!” he bellowed at the crowd, most of whom were only noticing him now, and then took off after Kimble.

He broke through the doors, down a corridor, and just saw Richard turn a corner when he heard a crash, a thud, and Nichols’ taunting voice. Gritting his teeth, he followed the sounds. He entered the Presidential Suite just as he saw Richard knee Nichols in the gut. About to draw his gun, Sam wanted to call out when he realised that Richard was going to push Nichols out the door to the fire escape. “No, Richard, don’t —!” Too late. Sam sighed. “Richard, stop!” he yelled after them ere the door fell shut. He pushed it open a second too late, Nichols had already gone tumbling down the metal stairs, Richard going after him. “Richard, for god’s sake, leave him to me,” Sam thundered as he ran down the steps, dogging Richard’s heels. They both looked up when they heard the telltale roar of rotor blades.

“Newman, get that helicopter out of there! Richard, don’t move!”

“Why?” Newman asked over the radio, with Richard choosing that moment to make a run for it. Sam’s blood ran cold when he heard shots from a sniper rifle. Assholes.

“Because I don’t wanna get shot!”

Running after Richard and Nichols when the helicopter turned away, Sam swore he aged five years in the few seconds it took for the two of them to beat the crap out of each other, smash through a glass roof, and land inside and on top of a service elevator. “Oh, God,” he breathed, helplessly staring down at Richard’s unmoving form. Just then, the elevator started up, when suddenly Cosmo appeared next to him, gun drawn. On instinct, his arm shot up, holding down Cosmo’s arm. “Don’t shoot.”

“Does this guy ever quit?” Sam decided that he would ask himself whether that was exasperation or admiration in Renfro’s voice later.

“Find out where that elevator stops, come on.”

The laundry. Of course.

What followed were some of the worst thirty minutes of Sam’s life. Slowly sneaking through rows and rows of laundry containers and bags suspended from racks built into the ceiling, Sam couldn’t see farther than the next eight feet ahead of him, and he didn’t like it. He had no idea where Richard or Nichols were, but at least he knew that Richard wouldn’t try to kill him if he bumped into him on the next corner.

“Dr Charles Nichols! There’s no way out of here, Nichols. The entire building is locked down. Give it up, Nichols, you don’t have any time. CPD might not, but I will shoot you on sight! And if you’re still trying to frame Richard, you’re talking to the wrong man. I know Richard’s innocent. I know about Fredrick Sykes! You borrowed Richard’s car the night of his wife’s murder. You had the keys, no forced entry. You telephoned Sykes from his car, you bastard!”

*

A few corners down from where Sam was walking, Richard involuntarily slumped against a container. To hear Gerard say it… he would get out of this, and he wasn’t going back to jail. Taking a deep breath, Richard shook himself out of it and pushed on. His leg had taken another hit in the fall, and he had to suppress a pained hiss when he couldn’t put his full weight on it. Resorting to dragging it every step, Richard crept closer to where Sam’s voice was still calling for Chuck to give it up and surrender himself before any more people got hurt.

When Richard saw a metal pipe on the floor, he carefully grabbed it, knowing Nichols had to have circled back towards the voice as well. He knew what Gerard was doing, drawing Nichols away from Richard and towards him. He inched forward, and that’s when he saw a shadow pass by. Nichols.

“Give it up, it’s time to stop running!”

Richard’s eyes widened when he realised that Nichols’ shadow was holding a gun. He tried to walk faster, but in his panic, he put too much pressure on his knee, which gave away under his weight. Clutching the pipe to steady himself, he cried out. He would never reach Gerard in time.

“He’s got a gun!” he shouted, hoping against hope to draw Gerard’s attention before — bang. “No,” he gasped for breath, heaving himself up. He heard footsteps running in the opposite direction. Only one set of footsteps. Rounding the corner, he saw Gerard on the floor, on his side, clutching his shoulder in obvious pain. Richard dragged himself towards him, dropping to his good knee before wrestling the other leg underneath him so he could hover over the marshal.

“Sam,” he addressed him, forcing himself to think like a doctor, think like a surgeon, think like a doctor, save the life. “Sam, I have to see. Let me see.”

Gerard rolled onto his back with a groan, dropping his hand away so Richard could see the wound.

"Son of a bitch got the drop on me," he hissed.

"I'm sorry," Richard avoided Gerard's eyes as he bent over him. "It's my fault."

"Never mind that. We've got a fugitive. Again. Ugh. And Cosmo's gonna be pissed."

Chapter Text

“I’m pissed, Sammy!” Cosmo raved as he stalked down the corridor behind Gerard.

“Aren’t we all, Cosmo,” Gerard called back. “But at least we’ve got someone to take it out on,” he grinned a shark’s smile as he pushed open a door with his good shoulder. “Good morning!” In the conference room, there was an assembly of about two dozen people, including his own team, Richard, his boss, a few other marshals, and half the Chicago Police Department task force. The yelling started before the door had closed behind them. Sam let it wash over him, holding eye contact with Richard for a moment, whose gaze kept flickering to the sling his arm was in. Sam would have to tell him to cut it out. But later.

Finally, Miller managed to make them all shut up. “One after the other, for Pete’s sake.”

Rosetti jumped in. “How the fuck could you let him get away?”

“How did I let him get away?” Sam barked. “Really? There were six of my team spread throughout the entire building, and about half a cohort of yours, and you’re telling me that it should have been my job to cover all the exits so our boy couldn’t slip away? It wasn’t me who let him out of the hotel, Detective, that would have been you!”

“None of this would have happened if you had handed your quack over to us immediately!”

“Yeah, that’s right, because none of you would have bothered to find out the actual truth before sticking him back in jail!”

“How do you know they’re not in it together?”

“What?!”

“Kimble’s a surgeon, he stood to profit from the new drug!”

In his peripheral, Sam saw Richard rolling his eyes.

“How can you even let him sit here in this room, he’s gonna take all of this straight to Nichols!” Det. Kelly chimed in, pointing an accusing finger at Richard.

“Look, gentlemen, if Richard had had his medical license yesterday, I’d have let him operate on me to get the bullet out of my shoulder. Does that answer your question? He’s innocent, he’s in my custody, and he’ll help me catch the bastard who framed him for his wife’s murder. Now if you’ll excuse me. Come on, kids. Richard, coming?”

As one, the team and Kimble got up, following Gerard and Cosmo out the door. Gerard noted that Richard had closed the distance as was walking right behind him, and that he was carrying a small bag.

“What is it, doctor?”

“You got out of surgery a few hours ago, I really need to look at those stitches.”

“Later, Richard.”

“Now, deputy. Or I’ll keep nagging.”

Gerard sighed. “Fine. Kids, bullpen. Richard, restroom.”

“Thank you.”

They took a left as the team took a right, then continued on down the hall in silence. Once they were in the men’s room, Sam undid the sling and put it on one of the sinks. “You just had to bully me, didn’t you.”

“I’m surprised you gave in so quickly.”

“I’ve got first-hand experience with how stubborn you are.” Sam winced as he pulled his shirt off his left shoulder far enough so Richard could help him tug it off his arm. Kimble opened the bag he had with him and pulled out a pair of medical gloves. Then, he peeled the bandages off Sam’s shoulder, carefully inspecting the wound and the surrounding tissue, prodding Sam’s skin lightly.

“You’re insane not to stay in hospital for a few days, at least until some of the tissue damage heals.”

“We’ve got a fugitive, Richard, and I’m the one who’s gonna be catching him, so I need to stay on him from the minute he sets foot outside.”

Kimble was avoiding his eyes again, putting a new dressing on the wound and began winding gauze around Sam’s shoulder. “Lift your arm a few inches, please, if you can.”

It hurt, but he could. “Richard, look at me.” The stubborn bastard kept his eyes on his hands. Fine. “Listen to me, at least, and pay attention, ‘cause I’m only gonna say this once. It’s not your fault he got away, and it’s not your fault he shot me.”

“If I’d just done as you told me, if I’d stayed out of it… I should have been faster in getting to you, I should have… I should have taken the pipe and —”

“Richard, shut up,” Sam interrupted him. In response, Richard secured the bandages. “Say I agree, say we both think you shouldn’t have been there, you know what? I should have cuffed you to a chair in the bullpen to make sure you wouldn’t be there, that’s what I should have done. But I didn’t, I took you with me. So it’s my responsibility you were there. As for me getting shot, that’s no-one’s responsibility but Dr Nichols’. He shot me, not you. And what if he’d spotted you? That would’ve been your life in the balance instead of mine. It’s one thing for me to endanger myself in the line of duty, it’s quite another to drag a civilian with me. Now stop beating yourself up about it and help me catch him before he gets somewhere I can’t have him extradited from.”

*

Back in the bullpen with the team, Sam got everyone together to give him the rundown of what info they had managed to collect while he was at the hospital overnight.

“No credit card movement, no traceable phone calls, no-one at his house or at his apartment close to the hospital. No-one on his boat. All of his immediate family live on the other side of the country, we’ve asked local police to keep an eye on them, but nothing so far. Got an APB out on him, every cop, every train station, airport, car rental has got his photo. He crosses a state border or tries to leave the country, we’re gonna know about it.”

“Unless he travels by sewer,” Sam drawled, feeling more than seeing Richard twitch next to him. “But, nah, he’s not gonna try and leave the country.”

“Why not? Big shot like him, no credit card movements or cash withdrawals, that guy was prepared, he probably had a go-bag or several stashed somewhere, ready to get out.”

“No, see, that’s what he wants us to think. But this is bigger than Nichols, this is Devlin MacGregor. And they’re under fire, too, but they’ve got lawyers and a huge lobby. They’ll offer to take him in, but on one condition: do their dirty work. Destroy evidence before we can get to it, anything we’re gonna find if we follow the money and paper trail. Nah, he’s still here. Maybe even still in Chicago.”

“So what are we saying?”

“We’re saying keep eyes on every single one of the Devlin MacGregor top dogs, their lawyers, their nannies, something is gonna shake out.”

“You got it, Big Dog.”

“He’ll move. And when we see him, we’re gonna stay on him, and we’re gonna get him.”

 

 

Chapter Text

These days, Richard Kimble’s life still consisted of an awful lot of running. He still dreamt about Helen, still dreamt of her calling out to him, still woke up disoriented. He still woke from nightmares, but not in fear of being caught and hauled away in handcuffs. He was still running, but he wasn’t on the run. He was in on the hunt.

When he woke up this morning, they were in Boston, just come in from Seattle the night before, after spending nearly two weeks in Portland, of all places. Richard had never been this uprooted in his entire life, always having preferred to stay settled soon as he found a spot he liked. It had been one of the many privileges of his upbringing and his career. He’d never really understood those who could wander from place to place — from life to life, it always seemed to him — at a moment’s notice. It was why he sometimes looked at the people he was running with, and marvelled. Right up until someone shoved a manila folder with evidence in his face and asked him to explain. Again.

When Nichols went on the run, Gerard had pulled him aside in Chicago, had given him a choice.

“You can stay here, Richard. Hell, I think you should. Anything we find, we send back to you, you help prosecution build the case. We catch him, bring him back, we end it. Here. You will be under armed guard, but at least you can take some time out from running.” Gerard’s face was impassive, but Richard knew how much he just wanted to order Kimble to stay where he was.

“I appreciate you giving me a choice against your better judgement,” Richard said truthfully, and could tell by the slight widening of Gerard’s eyes that the Deputy Marshal had not particularly wanted him to figure that out, much less acknowledge it. “But I’m coming.”

Gerard exhaled noisily through his nose. “Richard…”

“I’m not staying here, I’m coming with you.” Richard confirmed what Gerard must already know. “The police are still out for my blood, I wouldn’t trust the prosecutor as far as I could throw them, and you’re the only one who can catch him. You’re not leaving me here, waiting.”

Gerard sighed. He’d been doing that a lot lately. “Fine. But, Richard.” He fixed him with a look that gave no quarter. “You do as I say, I mean it. I say you duck, you duck, I say stay away from Nichols, you stay away from him. If we do this, I need you to not leave my sight except for sleep and bathroom breaks, got it?”

Kimble stared back, pinpricks running up his spine. “Got it.”

“I’m already regretting this,” Gerard muttered as he turned and walked away down the corridor, back to where the team was busy packing their gear to hit the road.

And now, they were living in hotel rooms, chasing Kimble’s best friend, the man who’d ordered his wife killed and him framed for her murder, across the country, picking up the shreds of evidence he left behind. Aided by Devlin MacGregor, he ducked and weaved out of sight; and Richard had never thought he’d have it in him. Go on the run, live through the harrowing ordeal of not knowing whether the next corner he turned would lead him right into the arms of a U.S. Marshal. Chuck was a smooth talker, a background player, a ruthless, but ultimately comfortable villain. But now, he was running. And as opposed to Richard, who’d been running to save his life and prove his innocence, Nichols was running to save… what? A company? A drug that would now never make it onto the market? His own life, hoping to be tucked away somewhere outside of America’s jurisdiction? Yes, the U.S. Marshals needed Nichols alive to reopen Richard’s case, but it wasn’t as though there was no strategy in place in case he turned up dead, or not at all. Newman had met with Kathy, had gone over the samples Richard had advised him to acquire from Bones with her — they had proof that the study had been manipulated. So why Chuck was still running, Richard couldn’t fathom. Perhaps because anything else was better than death row, he thought with bitter gallows humour.

“Please tell me Devlin MacGregor doesn’t have offices and PO boxes stashed in every damn county,” Poole said as she let herself drop onto one of the chairs across from Richard.

“We have to get out and in front of this,” Cosmo agreed as he added new information to one of the whiteboards the hotel had supplied them with. “This paper trail is a beast, ten years or more in the making. If we don’t start anticipating his movements soon, we’re gonna spend Christmas in Phoenix.”

“What’s wrong with Phoenix?” asked Biggs around a bite of bagel.

“Arizona, Biggs. Arizona.”

*

Two months later, they nearly caught up with Nichols in Denver. Sam spent the following day not speaking to anyone, not even Richard, who usually at least got him to grumble at him about his shoulder.

“You need mobility therapy,” he’d just told him for the umpteenth time. Gerard just ignored him.

So they did what they’d been doing. Picking up the evidence that Nichols hadn’t managed to get at, hadn’t managed to properly destroy, obtaining warrants for the local offices of Devlin MacGregor to seize their files — or, in most cases, the absence thereof. The prosecution in Chicago was moving as swiftly as they could, finding judges that were willing to help them in this mad quest of theirs to clear a convicted murderer and bring down one of the biggest pharmaceutical companies in the country. How the D.A. on the case, Sarah McMillan, had even agreed to help them, Richard would never know. She’d walked in one morning after her office had received the call from Gerard, had parked her briefcase on Cosmo’s usual chair, and asked to see “the shouty nutcase.”

They were lucky that their efforts were, by now, supported by some of the voices in the media. Experienced reporters asking questions and chasing evidence themselves were usually what Gerard called ‘a giant pain in my ass and a danger to everyone else,’ but when Richard read a piece by Lester Holt, drawing up a timeline of events and closing his argument with, “Unless Dr Richard Kimble is one of the most devious liars and best actors that ever worked at Chicago Memorial Hospital, there can be no doubt that grave mistakes have been made. Mistakes that are now being investigated, possibly rectified, by the U.S. Marshal’s Office,” he had to sit himself down and press a hand to his mouth. Gerard stopped complaining about the Tribune sticking its nose into their business after that.

Eventually, they had to go back to Chicago. Nichols hadn’t resurfaced anywhere in two weeks, had gone to ground, and they had no way of knowing if they’d ever catch sight of him again. So they went back, going over the material they’d sent back, creating timelines and paper trails on whiteboards that spanned the entire length of the bullpen and Sam’s office by then. They went home, back to their own homes, sleeping in their own beds. Well, the team did. Richard went back to the nondescript motel they’d put him in.

Holding on to a cup of coffee, Richard watched the team as they puzzled over every single lead they had, shifting between facts and theories as fast as only seasoned investigators could.

“We’re not giving up,” a deep voice caught him off guard. Turning his head, he found himself level with Gerard’s chin, since the Marshal had come to stand behind his chair, hands on the backrest, leaning down so he could talk to Richard without being overheard. “We’re not stopping until we have him, or until we can guarantee your rehabilitation.”

Richard swallowed past the lump in his throat, his mouth uncomfortably dry. “It’s been three months.”

“I know. I chased you for two.”

Richard had nothing to say to that.

It’s another three weeks before they get a frantic call from the Delaware field office. Nichols had been seen near the state border, driving a car registered to one of Devlin MacGregor’s board members’ son.

“They’ve made a mistake,” Gerard sing-songed on his way past Richard, who fought a smile.

The occasions when Richard got to come along into the field, as it were, speaking to Devlin MacGregor personnel (never without the supervision of Gerard or another of his team, for technically Richard shouldn’t even be here) or security guards or pharma-technicians were few and far between. Mostly, he got the evidence left behind, the witness testimonies, the paper trail faxed from Chicago while the others were out; leaving him to draw everything together from his perspective. It was almost as if he could pretend that this wasn’t all about him, that he was just… a consultant, a medical expert necessary to tell the investigators what the hell half of this crap even meant.

But he couldn’t pretend.

They still needed him to make sense of it, though.

That was why he was sitting at the large table tucked into the corner of the hotel room they’d squeezed themselves into when Sam, Cosmo, and Newman returned just past midnight. Biggs, Henry, and Poole were out coordinating with the local leos and wouldn’t be back until morning.

Gerard dumped his coat over the back of the couch. “Why’re you still up, Richard?” He wordlessly accepted the sprinkled donut half-wrapped in a napkin Kimble thrust at him without taking his eyes off the paperwork he had in front of him.

“Chicago faxed more of the clinical trial files they salvaged from Chuck’s smashed hard drive,” Richard replied before pausing to scribble a note into the margins of a chart sheet that, to Gerard, looked pretty much exactly like the hundreds of chart sheets he’d seen Richard scan before. “I’m taking more notes for the glossary.” McMillan had asked him to draw up a collection of terms and procedures relating precisely to the drug trial so that everyone involved with the investigation had something to go back to when they got stuck on paperwork. Anything Richard wrote would have to be reevaluated and approved by a court-appointed expert, of course, but it gave him something to do and the agents involved something to read.

“Anything interesting?” Gerard pulled over a chair and settled down at an angle.

“Plenty. They finally recovered and decrypted some of the data that we can use to prove that the data was falsified by Chuck himself, not Lentz.” His eyes roving over the chart sheet, Richard didn’t catch the wince.

“You have to keep calling him ‘Chuck’?” Gerard eventually asked, his voice stuck somewhere between irritated with Richard’s stubbornness and pained by his naiveté. Behind them, Cosmo and Newman stopped in their tracks, exchanging a look. This was nothing if not a sore point between the two men, and it was too late for another shouting match to be taken lightly by their neighbours.

“It’s what I call him.” Kimble didn’t even look up, obviously being similarly unimpressed with this line of conversation.

“He had your wife murdered and your ass thrown in jail.”

“Your point, Deputy?” If Gerard bristled at being addressed by his rank, Kimble was none the wiser.

“My point is that you have to stop punishing yourself.” In Gerard’s blind spot, Newman arched a brow. That one was new.

Richard looked up from his work, jumping a little when he realised how close Gerard was sitting. “Punish myself?”

“He was your best friend, he betrayed you, he’s responsible for your wife’s death, and now you keep calling him by the nickname you gave him in med school. He’s not Chuck anymore, Richard, he’s Charles Nichols, the asshole who nearly put you on death row for the rest of your life and who shot me in an oversized laundromat; and yet you keep reminding yourself of who you thought he was before.”

The anger was plain to see on Kimble’s face as he turned his upper body more towards Gerard. “You don’t get it, do you? Yes, when I call him Chuck, I see the gangly idiot who I practised stitches with, I see my best friend, I see the best man at my wedding. But when I think about Charles Nichols, the man he became right next to me, and I never knew… when I call him Chuck, he frightens me less. My inability to see him for who he was frightens me less. Dr Charles Nichols scares me, Sam. Chuck, I know how to handle.”

Sam nodded. He nodded, took a bite of his donut, and put a hand on Richard’s shoulder. “Take me through it.”

Later, before they all tried to get some sleep, Gerard stopped by Richard’s room, next to his. “Just wanted to make sure you knew it’s not your fault.”

“I know.” Richard closed the door in his face and Sam stood, breathing slowly, letting his shoulders drop.

So many ghosts.

*

“Explain it to me,” Sam said for what felt like the hundredth time, sitting opposite Richard in another hotel room, this time in Michigan. They were waiting, waiting for Nichols to come here. For the first time, they weren’t chasing. They were waiting.With a few hours to kill and Richard as jumpy as a meerkat, the distraction would serve them well. “Explain the drug to me again.” He knew more about cardiovascular surgery now than he ever thought he would, but watching Richard find ever new ways of describing to a layman —a lawman — the particulars of a drug that was supposed to prevent arteries from clotting up was unexpectedly entertaining. Richard figured that, at the end of this, he might actually find out what had been wrong with RDU-90 in the first place. Sam thought that something good may as well come of all this.

The night before, they’d all sat together, taking a break, talking. Sam watched as Newman included Richard in his quest for room service orders as he would anyone else on the team, watched as Biggs pointed an accusing finger at the doctor for laughing at one of Biggs’ horrible puns despite his protests.

“See, I told you! An educated man like you not appreciating a good pun? That’s just hinky.”

“And there’s that word again!” Sam interrupted before Richard could defend himself. “What does that even mean, hinky? And don’t think I didn't hear what you said to my back at the county jail.”

“Bullshit. How about bullshit, Sam?” Biggs picked up immediately, grinning as he repeated his comment. Sam waved his hand in exasperation.

“At county jail?” Richard asked, a frown taking over his expression. “You mean..?”

“Oh, uh, yeah,” Biggs replied before Sam could. “Guess I was wrong,” he added with a shrug.

Henry snorted. “You guess! Yeah, I remember, you said it right before we arrested Kimble, and look where we are now.”

Poole rolled her eyes as Sam grinned that shark’s grin Richard never quite knew what to do with. He turned back towards the others, something picking at his mind that he hadn’t had the courage to ask, before. “How could any of you be so sure as to follow me there?”

“We weren’t sure,” Henry answered with a pointed look.

“Yeah, only Sam was sure,” Biggs continued, “and Sam doesn’t count, because Sam refers to himself in dog metaphors.”

Again, Sam watched as his team laughed, then he turned and saw the mirth on Richard’s face as he laughed, too, for the first time in what might have been days, and Sam couldn’t help but smile at that, not at the joke.

Trouble was, he liked him. Of course he did. He was a likeable guy. That’s what he told himself.

The next day, Richard stared at the bulletproof vest Sam was holding out towards him. “Here, put this on.” Without a word, Richard did, having seen the others do it enough times to know how even before Gerard had shown him properly, but his mind was reeling. Of course he would be getting a vest, he had insisted on coming along this time, on being there when they laid the trap for Chuck. Sam wouldn’t hear of it at first, but Richard had worn him down over the week they’d had to prepare. He wasn’t going to wait at the hotel, wait until the team got back, whether the team got back, maybe plus another few bullet holes. He’d refused to be left behind in Chicago, he refused to be left behind now. And yet, the thought of himself getting hurt had somehow disappeared among the rest, his worry for the kids, for Sam, about the arrest going wrong; just as it had when he’d gone on the run. Richard looked back at Gerard as he was done, wondering what on earth he’d been thinking. Richard was fully aware of his nerves and determination to finish this making him shake. But he looked at Sam and he knew why he was here. Because Sam would keep him safe.

 

Chapter Text

The infinite advantage of running with the marshals instead of from them was that he got to do it in a fast car this time. It was a mad chase through Dearborn, Michigan, following the trail pieced together from patrol cars calling in a sighting and official buildings’ video surveillance feeds whenever they could get them. Chuck was reckless now, darting to and fro to try and find a way out of the state, probably the country; Devlin MacGregor’s efforts to keep him somewhere hidden obviously falling on deaf ears. Richard was in the car with Sam, Poole, and Renfro; Biggs, Henry, and Newman following in another unmarked vehicle they’d borrowed from the local Marshal’s Office. Sam hadn’t spoken much in the past few hours, instead driving steadily over the speed limit, all his attention focused on the road ahead of them and any sign of their quarry. Poole was in the backseat, barking orders into her radio and relating any info she got on to Sam, giving him directions. Richard had not much to do, then, beyond keeping his eyes open and doing his best to stop himself from crying out whenever he spotted a man in the crowds who had Chuck’s hair cut, build, or profile. In its monotony — driving for hours, staring out the passenger window — it was almost anticlimactic, this chase, but Richard’s body was coiled with indomitable tension. His nerves frayed at the prospect that they could catch up with him any moment, that they’d leap out of the car, continue the hunt on foot, that it could lead them anywhere. Where Chuck was concerned, not even the laundry floor of a hotel was safe, God knew what might happen out on open ground.

The almost lighthearted mood from the evening before was all but forgotten in this moment, Richard was back to feeling caged, trapped for the first time in months; and somehow, he was afraid. He’d slept fitfully, in short intervals that left him far too exhausted when dawn finally came and he simply got up to drink a glass of water, get dressed, and wait for Sam to knock. All night, he’d tried not to get lost in what-ifs, in possible scenarios, in fear that Chuck could turn it all around on him even now. For the first time in months, Richard felt that his future was not in his own hands anymore, and might never be again.

The team believed him, so did the DA, so did the majority of the public, at this point. Sam believed in him. If Richard were to stand trial before a jury of his peers tomorrow, he’d be acquitted. That was what Gerard believed, so he had told Richard in no uncertain terms; and Richard had believed it, too. But now the reckoning he had waited for so long was in his grasp, and the cold was reaching for him. Last night, he found himself back under a heap of fallen leaves, shaking miserably in his clothes wet from the river. Then it was dark all around him, he couldn’t move his hands, sharp metal edges digging into his wrists, holding him down. The third time he closed his eyes, water was pooling around his feet, Sam’s gun in his hand and trained on the Deputy, Chuck whispering in his ear to shoot him… shoot him, Richard, or he’ll never let you live. After that, Richard hadn’t tried to go back to sleep.

He had to focus, he told himself, back in the car, and shook himself out of the images that had haunted him at night. Chuck was dangerous, and not only to him. If Richard let himself be led and blinded by his own irrational fear that all of this was just a hoax, just an illusion, then he’d put the entire team in danger. Put Sam in danger, just like he had back in Chicago, by acting rashly and thinking only of his own suffering and desperate need for freedom, for justice. In that dream, he’d had a gun to Sam’s head, with murderous aim instead of a shaking hand, and Sam had been half-kneeling before him, staring at him with his face unreadable, his dark eyes boring through Richard as if he’d known that, deep down, Richard was never anything more than a fugitive.

“I see him,” Biggs’ deep voice crackling over the radio cut through the dream images dancing before Richard’s eyes. He shot up straight in his seat.

“Where?” Gerard barked into the receiver.

“Half a block up ahead, heading west.” They all craned their necks, and Richard’s heart all but stopped when, yes, that was undoubtedly the back of the bastard’s head.

“There’s only so far we can follow him in the car. If he turns into one of the alleys, we’ll lose him again. Follow him up to the junction and then get moving on foot. We’re right behind you.”

“Copy that.”

Gerard dropped the radio in his lap at Biggs’ confirmation. His fingers were drumming on the steering wheel for a moment, before he half-turned to look at Richard. “We doing this?” was all he asked.

“You bet,” he retorted, barely recognising his own voice. Grim was an understatement, and Gerard heard it, too. He looked out on the street, checking their distance from the junction and, briefly, Chuck’s position. Another 50 feet, at most, in slow-moving traffic. With one last glance at Richard, he nodded. There was nothing left to say.

Once they were out of the car, Richard was forcefully reminded of wearing a bulletproof vest underneath his coat by the way that the wind, picking up along with the grey clouds blocking out the morning sun, seemed to bend around him, the unfamiliar bulk making him walk a little straighter, unsure if the vest would allow him to curl in on himself the way he wanted to. He hadn’t had much time to test the constriction the kevlar put on his movements back at the hotel, but now he felt it acutely. Hunching his shoulders as best he could, he fell into step with Gerard, Poole and Renfro right behind him. Biggs, Henry, and Newman were on the other side of the street, hanging back a little as Chuck was moving ahead. He knew all of their faces and they weren’t exactly ducking behind newsstands whenever he checked his periperhal, so by the time he had to inevitably spot them, they had to be ready to move quickly.

About two minutes later, they got their wish. They’d moved up maybe half a block when Nichols suddenly broke into a run.

“He’s got us. Move!” Sam ordered and took off after him. Hot on his heels, Richard checked to see the others scrambling, Biggs clutching his radio and yelling instructions of his own. The trap was laid.

Sam decided not to yell the customary welcome message, “US Marshals, freeze, you scumbag!” normally reserved for fugitives. The crowd wouldn’t part any more quickly for his trouble, and Nichols knew full well who he was running from. He waved a hand at his side, motioning for one of the others to make sure Nichols turned right at the next intersection. Newman took the hint and sent tires screeching and drivers cursing as he cut across the road at breakneck speed, drawing up on Nichol’s seven o’clock. Nichols reacted as they’d hoped and took the first right down, heading north. To get to Devlin MacGregor’s Dearborn field office, he’d have had to go south.

The chase continued like this for four more blocks, with Newman and Poole taking turns forcing Nichols to go where they wanted him. He had to have a good idea of what they were doing by now, and the looks he was casting over his shoulders were increasingly panicked. He wasn’t going anywhere except where they wanted him to.

They had advised local police that Nichols wasn’t to be arrested right there on the sidewalk. He was likely armed, and none of them would risk any more civilians’ lives by trying to corner him with hundreds of people around. As long as they were only chasing him, so Gerard hoped, he wouldn’t turn around and open fire on the crowd. The abandoned office building complex a block further east would do the trick nicely, however. Local law enforcement was already stationed there, waiting. Nichols wouldn’t get away this time.

When they made a left and successfully funneled Nichols into a parking lot driveway that led up to the complex, Richard felt his pulse kick up a near paralysing notch. How had this worked? How? For a moment, he looked at Sam at his side, his mouth in a thin line from what Richard was guessing his shoulder giving him trouble at the exercise the same way Richard’s own knee was, and felt betrayed that he could have been tricked into having his life torn apart by his best friend, while this man could predict his fugitives’ movements so accurately without ever having spoken more than 50 words to them altogether.

There were no uniforms visible from the outside of the building, all of them being stationed inside in case the fugitive tried to push his luck, but when Chuck saw what he was running towards, his steps finally faltered. He had to know that this was it. He stopped. So did Richard, Gerard coming to a halt to his left, the kids flanking them on either side. He turned. Richard nearly gaped at the ugly mask the man was wearing, his best friend. He’d seen blurry photos of Chuck when they could be procured from where he’d been spotted, so he knew the change he’d gone through, externally. He’d become much thinner, his hair inexplicably grayer. There were dark circles under his eyes. But the worst was the expression on his face, the snarl that pulled his lips apart and revealed the row of pearly white teeth that had once made his grin so irresistible to fellow med students and patients alike. His eyes were dull, and dark, but they were not tired. Instead, they trained on Richard with a beady kind of hatred in them. He nearly reared back at the ostentatious contempt.

“You!” Chuck made but one step towards him, and the Marshals all drew their weapons as if they were one, Sam stepping right and half in front of Richard without missing a beat.

“Stay where you are, Nichols,” Sam’s voice seemed to come from very far away. “Do not take another step.”

“Or what?” Chuck hissed, his eyes flitting towards Gerard. “What will you do if I get too close to your little pet?” Richard felt confusion rise inside him. It must have shown on his face, because Chuck was addressing him next. “Do you think I don’t know what you’ve been doing? Helping them with the evidence, following them around like a puppy!”

“That’s enough,” Gerard cut him off, drawing his attention back to him. “Whatever weapon you have, put it on the ground, slowly, and kick it over. Then get on your knees with your hands behind your head. And I’d do it soon, pal, because my patience with your theatrics is just about running out.”

“I could say the same to you,” Chuck retorted, but his hand went to his coat pocket. Richard felt more than saw the Marshals to either side of him tense, but his eyes were flitting back and forth between Chuck’s hand and the broad, stiff line of Sam’s shoulders. He couldn’t see his face from where he was standing half behind him, and for an irrational moment he was annoyed at the Marshal for covering him so he couldn’t see what he was thinking.

Slowly, Chuck drew a Sig Sauer from his pocket, holding it between his right index finger and thumb.

“That’s right. Slowly now,” Sam warned him. As Chuck bent at the knees to lay down the weapon, Richard’s eyes were caught by the movement of his left hand. It was moving behind his back… and it wasn’t to keep his balance. In the matter of a second, between Chuck putting the gun on the ground and Sam setting one foot forward to advance on him, Richard fisted his hand into the back of Sam’s coat to keep him from moving. Sam immediately stopped as he realised what Chuck was doing. “Don’t even think about it,” he bellowed just as Chuck had curled his hand around whatever he’d been hiding behind his back.

“But I am,” Chuck bringing his free hand forward. Richard was certain he’d stopped breathing, because he felt suspiciously lightheaded, wishing against everything he had ever comfortably believed in that the Marshals would just shoot. But it wasn’t a gun in Chuck’s hand, it wasn’t even a knife. It was… a microfiche box. Richard let go of Sam’s coat reluctantly.

“What’s that?” Sam demanded.

“It’s everything,” Chuck replied smugly from where he was half-kneeling on the ground. “All the evidence they had me find and destroy, I’m sure you know about all of that. But what you didn’t know is that I made photographed everything I shredded and burnt. It took me hours at a time, but it’s all there. They’re stupid, you know, they should have had me turn it all in to them, but they just wanted rid of it. And they trusted me. Trusted me to destroy it instead of making sure I had a way out.”

“There’s no way out for you, Nichols.”

“Don’t you think so? All of this, it will make your case better than watertight. And in return…,” he let the sentence trail off and gave an exaggerated shrug.

“There won’t be a deal for you, Doctor Nichols,” Sam shot back, putting mocking emphasis on the title. “You’re going down for conspiracy to commit murder and accessory after the fact, no matter what you’re holding in your hand there. And I’ll make sure that you’ll get the exact same punishment you were setting your friend up for.” Behind him, Richard swallowed.

“Tsk, so vindictive, Deputy,” Chuck tutted. “Feeling a little protective, are we?” Richard really wanted Gerard to shoot him.

“Give it up, Nichols.” Outwardly, Sam was unfazed, but Richard recognised the note of finality in his voice for what it was. Give up now, or get yourself shot. “Step away from the gun, hand over the film, and put your hands on your head.”

Richard was half expecting something ridiculous like Chuck demanding that he would only hand over the box to Richard himself, or any other last-ditch attempt to get at him; but Chuck just smiled morbidly. “As you wish, Deputy.” He stepped aside, and Renfro, catching a nod from Sam, holstered his gun and moved forward to take the microfiche from his hand. He moved behind Chuck, who had dutifully moved his hands to his head. As Renfro pulled his arms back and cuffed him, Richard felt like sinking to his knees himself. Gerard holstered his own piece and stepped forward to help Cosmo haul Chuck to his feet. Chuck trained his eyes back on Richard.

“You know, I am truly sorry Helen had to die. But Devlin MacGregor, they left me no choice.” Faced with the slithering insincerity in his best friend’s voice, Richard moved close enough to hiss at him before the others could react.

“You had a choice, you two-faced son of a bitch,” he retorted. “You could have just killed me, just like you killed Lentz. But he had no family, did he? No. You had Helen killed because you wanted to, not because you wanted me out of your way. You didn’t just want me silent, you wanted me to lose everything. But here we are, and you’re about to put on the ball and chain before the needle. So you see, Chuck, you overreached. You should have killed me.”

“Yes, I should have,” Chuck hissed back, suddenly enraged at Richard’s defiance, and even though he was cuffed, he threw himself forward, dislodging Cosmo and Sam’s hands from his elbows with the momentum. He drew his head back as he lunged forward, and Richard recognised his intent a second too late, too late to bring up his hands to shield his face. Before Chuck’s skull could connect with Richard’s nose, however, he was yanked back, with force, by Sam, who’d thrown himself forward after him.

“I don’t think so,” he growled. Still spitting and hissing, Dr Charles Nichols was dragged towards the patrol units waiting half a block away.

*

Since the Feds had kindly offered to help shipping Nichols back to Chicago, Sam and the team were free to go back to the hotel to pack up their things. They were going back the next morning — he wasn’t going to put a rush on it now and foul up the chain of custody. The Feds had Nichols overnight, and they’d hand him back over once they arrived in Chicago. That way, the CPD couldn’t muscle their way in. They had to be kept in the loop as to what the Marshal’s Office knew, but where the FBI was keeping Nichols was none of Sam’s business. Cosmo knew, but he wouldn’t be telling anybody that.

Once he sat down on the bed in his room, he let his eyes close for just a moment, waiting for some of the tension to recede. They had him. The hunt was over. This hunt, at least. The next would come, but for now Sam could let himself take satisfaction in knowing that the next thing he had to worry about was picking up the trial and making sure Richard was exonerated. Grudgingly, he admitted that, with Nichols’ collected evidence, so far as it was genuine and real and of actual use, it would be even easier.

Opening his eyes again, he realised that he had something else he had to worry about first. Pain was radiating from his shoulder down his sides and up to his neck. In his desperate grab for Nichols as he’d lunged for Richard, he’d overstepped his limits. Peeling off his coat, he braced himself for the vest to come off next. Before he could loosen the straps, however, a knock sounded on the door.

“Yes?” he asked simply, fully prepared to send his kids on their way. It couldn’t be that important.

“It’s me, Richard. Can I come in?”

Sam wavered for a moment. Richard would know he was in pain the second he got a good look at him, and he knew the man could nag with the best of them. At the same time, now was not the time to say no to him. Not that Sam had been very good at that the past few weeks.

“The door’s unlocked,” was all he said, and went back to the straps on his vest.

Richard stepped in and closed the door behind him with a soft click. “How’s your shoulder?” he wasted no time in asking. Against his will, Sam’s eyes snapped up to look at him. Richard nearly smirked. “Don’t look so surprise, I saw the way you held your arm on the way back. You shouldn’t have insisted on driving.”

Sam could only stare at him. They had just caught and arrested the man responsible for this entire nightmare, the man who’d damn near destroyed his life, and yet, Richard was standing in his room going at him about his busted shoulder, looking at him with all the disapproval a surgeon could muster. Which was a lot, apparently, even now. He didn’t know what to say, so he did the smart thing and remained silent. Richard appeared to interpret this as mute agreement, so he nodded towards the bed.

“Go on, sit down. We have to get the vest off and I have to get a look at your shoulder.”

Sam didn’t protest when Richard didn’t wait for a reply before he started helping him with the gear. Loosening the straps on top and on the side, he slid his hands underneath the vest and tugged carefully, pulling the fabric away from Sam’s back and chest.

“Alright, lift your arm as far as you can so I can get you out of this thing,” Richard instructed quietly. Gritting his jaw against the pain, Sam lifted his left shoulder enough for Richard to pull the vest away and up, then down first his right arm, then the left. Again, Sam had to close his eyes briefly to fight the nausea. Immediately, he felt the back of a hand press against his forehead, then the side of his neck, over his pulse. “Are you going to be sick?”

He shook his head no carefully.

“OK. Let me know if that changes.” Richard sighed, and a rush of air brushed Sam’s left cheek. “Sweater next.” Thankfully, Sam had opted for his lucky red sleeveless slip-over that morning, that would make this next part easier.

Working quietly, Richard’s hand went to his waist to help him pull up the fabric, then Sam slipped his right arm out first. Bringing the garment over his head, Richard slid it off his left without jarring his shoulder too much. Still, Sam kept his eyes closed.

“Shirt.” Richard’s voice was still quiet, but self-assured and steady. It almost made it easier to be so close, especially when Richard’s fingers started on the buttons of his shirt, pausing halfway to pull the tails free of his trousers. After that, the shirt went much in the same way the sweater had.

“Last hurdle, t-shirt.” Richard paused. “Why do you insist on wearing so many layers?” Sam cracked an eye open when Richard’s tone showed a little too much amusement for his taste.

“Why does Michigan decide that 53 degrees in May is in any way sensible?” Above him, Richard smiled. Then he bent down again, and Sam quickly closed his eye, hoping that Richard wouldn’t interpret it as a flinch.

Pulling the undershirt off was excruciating in its own right simply because it was tighter than the other clothes, and Sam breathed a sigh of relief when they were done, bravely ignoring that he was topless in front of Richard Kimble. The few times that Richard had gotten a look at his shoulder while it was healing, he’d simply yanked his shirt down far enough for the wound to show, or taken off the sleeve to let Richard change the bandage. He had no visible scars on his left side, most of the traces of nicks from a knife or bullet grazes on his left were so faded by now that only he knew where they’d once been when he was a rookie. But, for some reason, criminals had at one point begun to favour his right side as a target, and as a consequence, there were scars from a bullet lodged deep in his gut, a serrated butcher’s knife that sliced up his hip, and a nasty burn scar from a red hot poker on his back. And now, there was nothing covering them, and he felt that, if Richard wasn’t studying them right now, he didn’t know Richard at all. Reluctantly opening his eyes, he found he was right. The surgeon’s eyes were glued to the scar on his hip. Sam wondered whether he should clear his throat or say something, but the doctor had better manners than that.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to stare. It’s just… I’ve always lived a very comfortable life, and I was… blind to some of its realities. I had victims of gunshot wounds and stabbings on my operating table, law enforcement, too, but I never… I took care of them, and I worried and contributed to causes fighting for better gun control, but I never knew any of their stories as well as I do yours, and I barely know you, either,” he added with a lopsided grin. “I’m sorry.”

Richard’s hands hung at his sides, and Sam wished he could reach out with his own. Instead, he shoved his right hand under his thigh and held his left arm stiff at his side. “Don’t be, there’s no need. You were never supposed to be here, you were supposed to keep living that comfortable life.”

“You don’t much like people like me,” Richard replied, and it wasn’t a question.

“Only when they don’t know how to look beyond their own little world and refuse to help me in an investigation. Only when they get in my way.”

“Only when they run away from you.”

Sam suppressed a frustrated sigh. “Richard. I may growl and bark at people who sometimes happen to be from a similar social circle as yours,” he caught Richard’s gaze, raising his own eyebrow at the complicated phrasing. “But believe it or not, I do this job so that most of the rest of the world can keep living that life. It’s a shit trade-off, sometimes, but it’s the career I chose, and I’d choose it again knowing what was coming. Now, don’t tell the kids I said that or they’ll accuse me of being an idealist,” he added with a sardonic smile, hoping it would shake Richard out of his glum mood.

It seemed to help, if just a little. Sam decided to give it one more shot. “Why did you become a doctor?”

“To help people,” came the immediate answer. Richard looked slightly uncomfortable, as if certain Sam would deem it a cliché answer, and perhaps it was. But he could tell Richard meant it.

“Then you do know what it’s like. And now, if you don’t mind… some help would be appreciated.”

A slight smile on his lips, Richard went to work.

*

It was late afternoon by the time they’d packed up. Sam was sitting in the room they’d kept all their paperwork and gear in, waiting for room service. Richard had excused himself after examining him. Sam would go knock on his door when the food arrived. The kids were out, wrapping up paperwork with local PD and the Feds on the other side of town. His shoulder still hurt like hell, but Richard had given him a few light painkillers to go with the food. Technically, Richard didn’t have his license and couldn’t make prescriptions, but they’d simply taken medical supplies on hand at the Chicago office so that Richard could lend first aid if, God forbid, ever necessary. It turned out, Sam’s shoulder had been the only thing giving them grief.

A page knocked and brought in the food. Sam gave him a tip on his way out the door. Two doors down the hall, he stopped in front of Richard’s room.

“Richard? Food’s here.”

“I’ll be right out,” came the reply, and Sam was surprised. He’d have thought Richard would be deep asleep, finally. When the door opened, he was greeted with the sight of a slightly dishevelled doctor. Letting his amusement show on his face, he looked Richard up and down.

“I tried to sleep, but… couldn’t. Just tossed and turned for a while.”

“Pity, I was fully prepared to let you sleep through dinner.” Sam led the way back towards the other room, Richard trailing behind him.

“Not a chance, I’m starving.”

*

Sam had decided to let the kids get a good night’s sleep before going back to Chicago because the last few months had been hell on everyone, including himself, not to mention Richard. He could tell the man felt uprooted to his core, and he was glad that they hadn’t been moving with the frequency and haste some cases demanded. So, frankly, he felt betrayed by his own body when, at 2am that night, he still hadn’t slept a wink. Much as Richard had that afternoon, he tossed and turned, wincing when he put too much pressure on his left side. There was nothing for him to do, no case files for him to go through for the hundredth time, no evidence to cross-reference. He just had to lie there and take it. He hated it.

Just when he’d curled up on his right side, he heard something just outside his door. There were footsteps, but they stopped, and then nothing. Straining to hear, he could hear a soft creak of the floorboards, not quite swallowed by the thick carpeting. Another creak, as if someone was shuffling their feet.

Determined to put them out of their misery, Sam got up and walked to the door. Before he could hesitate for too long himself, he pulled it open, to reveal…

“Richard.” A part of him had known that it couldn’t be anyone else, but he had no idea why. “What is it?”

Richard looked down at his feet, sheepish. “I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t mean to wake you, I thought maybe… maybe you were still awake, too, so I was listening for any noise.”

“Come on,” Sam stepped aside and motioned for Richard to come in.

“No, no, I shouldn’t have disturbed you. Please, go back to sleep,” he waved a hand at Sam’s flannel pyjamas and moved to leave.

“I wasn’t asleep, which is why I heard you. Now come on, we look ridiculous.”

Fifteen minutes later, Sam regretted that decision. Not because Richard was terrible company, but because he’d noticed the way Sam held his shoulder and had instantly started in on the lecture the kids had interrupted earlier that day.

“I keep telling you, you need mobility therapy,” he repeated as he gently rotated Sam’s arm, making a note of how far he could move it before flinching.

“Richard, please.” Sam was worn out, by everything. By the events of the day, by knowing that this case was finally solved, by having Richard in his room in the middle of the night berating him about his recovery. By having Richard this close, too, but he wouldn’t admit it to himself without a lawyer present.

“I mean it, Sam. If you don’t start soon, you’re looking at early retirement in ten years.”

“I’ll be fine. I just need the rest.”

“Muscles need movement to heal, not rest,” Richard shot back, visibly exasperated. “I swear, if I’d ever had you as a patient, I’d have strapped you to your bed!”

Sam swallowed as his mouth went dry. Cautiously, he looked up at Richard to see if he showed any signs of embarrassment over what he’d said, but either Richard was too wired to give a damn or this was just the more sardonic side of him Sam had slowly discovered over the past month or so.

“Is that your usual bedside manner?” he managed to ask.

“No, that’s the one reserved for especially stubborn blockheads,” Richard replied sternly, but with a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth to soften his words. “I’m serious, Sam.” He lowered Sam’s arm, but kept a gentle hold on his wrist and leaned down further so they were eye to eye. “Please, promise me.” His eyes were earnest in a way that Sam had no right to be seeing. He felt something inside himself tear. “Promise me you’ll let me refer you to someone at County who can help—”

Richard didn’t get any further in extracting his promise, because Sam had leaned up the few remaining inches between them. Softly pressing his lips against Richard’s, he let his eyes slip closed for just a second. When he opened them again, he pulled back, watching as Richard drew breath to speak, then stopped, looking at him with wide eyes. Sam knew he probably should apologise, but he refused to because he felt that would only make it worse. Instead, he said, “I promise. Now shut up, it’s 3am and I’m grumpy.”

Miraculously, that seemed to have been the right thing to say. Softly, Richard smiled. “Just as long as you do as I say,” he teased, and Sam relaxed.

In the morning, they were going home.

Chapter Text

A week after the arrest.

It was strange.

All of it.

Being back in Chicago, being back to a rather more stationary existence. It had been a week since Chuck was arrested, and between flying back home and preparing for the indictment and the trial prosecuting Chuck and Devlin MacGregor as well as re-opening Richard’s own case… He was finally home, but he was fading fast. It had taken them nigh on half a year to find Chuck, to finish it. Now, they’d been back in Chicago for about a week and already, it all felt so far away. Like it was barely real. Richard felt out of it, when one would expect him to be the most focused. Everything he’d done – everything they’d done – was coming down to this, and he felt as though he wasn’t even properly awake for it.

Around him, the kids were busy writing reports and cataloguing evidence, the DA, Sarah McMillan, spent more time at the marshals’ office than her own, it seemed, and Chicago PD were still scratching at the door for another grab at him. (That, perhaps, was the most surreal thing out of all of them.) Everyone seemed content to be back at the homestead, of course – the marshals had families to come home to, and travelling for six months with only the odd week of leave to return to Illinois had taken their toll. Richard did not envy them their job one bit; and he knew he was indebted to the team for what they’d done. As he was sitting in the bullpen, making idle corrections in the glossary the DA had asked him to compile, and letting his thoughts drift to the team’s efforts, he remembered with a sting that it had been his life put on hold for all that time, too; it has been his for far longer than that.

But he had no-one to come home to anymore, not for two years. His life… hadn’t been his own.

A door to his left opened, and Richard looked up to find Sam striding into the bullpen, his expression closed off. Well. Richard might have found it a consolation that Sam seemed to be having the same trouble adjusting as he did, at least at first, but after the fifth day of Sam looking like that, Richard had lost his appreciation and begun to worry. He had once thought of Sam as a bloodhound – perhaps still did, in his stubborn moments – who was never content unless he had a scent to chase, but over time he had learnt that Sam did like his cases to have a beginning and an ending.

So now his case was ending, but something was wrong. Richard wondered whether it was the chase not entirely leaving Sam – who had not taken any time off during the whole thing – or something else entirely. But what, then, Richard could not fathom. How could he have? Having spent six months at his side, chasing a man he’d thought his best friend across the country and all the while finding someone he could actually call friend among his own pursuers… he did not know Samuel Gerard at all.

That stung, too. Not just because… Richard took an anxious look around the bullpen, as if anyone could sense his thoughts and take him to task for them. Not just because of the kiss, then, although that was part of it. At the time, he’d been too wired and confused to really think much on it. His tired and adrenaline-addled mind had been pleased, that much he recalled, and that was where things became thorny.

He had been with Helen for a long time, and during their courtship and marriage had never had the desire to look at anyone else, either male or female, but he certainly had before. Sam’s kiss had demanded nothing, had mostly served to shut him up and partially to reassure him. A kiss between friends, perhaps unusual in this society, but welcome nonetheless; not least Richard was tangentially aware of how starved for touch he truly was. But was it welcome for that reason alone?

Richard would have liked to be able to say he did not know. It would have made everything so much easier.

 


 

A MONTH LATER

The evening before Chuck’s indictment hearing, Richard was tying his tie in a somewhat foggy mirror in one of the marshals’ safe houses. He hadn’t stayed in one prior to their leaving Chicago to hunt Chuck, Sam’s team sticking to near-abandoned motels instead. Questioned about why, Cosmo had mumbled something about Sam and dogs never forgetting a bad experience, and that was all Richard knew about it – it wasn’t something that came up in conversation. Now, however, the director had overruled Sam’s objections, and here he was, in a tiny condo on the outskirts, maintained by the government. Two marshals he knew from around the office were downstairs, having relieved a team of two other deputies at 7pm (Sam had ordered him out of the office that morning, ostensibly to “get some rest!”).

He idled away the time by fiddling with his cufflinks, trying to ignore the stab of unwelcome memories. For his own court hearings years ago, he had dressed modestly, at the behest of his attorney, in a simple suit – off the rack, Walter’s secretary had procured it for him, and a far cry from the tailored tuxedo he had worn when he had found his wife murdered and himself in an interrogation room, accused of the deed. So this was the first time since putting on the orange jumpsuit that he had really actually cared about his appearance – had a reason to care. While they were on the road, he had dressed far more casually and from a small set of clothes the marshals’ office had bought for him, since he couldn’t access his own money. He still couldn’t, was still dependent on the marshals’ resources and, thanks to Gerard’s infinite stubbornness, at least slightly less finite patience. So this suit, too, was not one of his own (he doubted that any of his old clothes would fit him now, even after being included in every single one of the marshals’ fast food runs and pizza orders for the past six months), but it wasn’t as drab, and of a nicer fabric, and the tie actually matched. (For a moment, he had feared Newman would present him with something out of his own wardrobe.) Richard was determined to look presentable, even if Chuck would surely strive to dress in his own Sunday best and present a very different image of himself than Richard had. Whereas Richard had been cautioned not to “look too rich,” Chuck would emphasise it, making sure that everyone knew which way was ‘up.’

But all of that might change tomorrow. If Chuck were indicted and the charges against Devlin MacGregor upheld, the prosecution would set in motion the overturning of Richard’s conviction. He wouldn’t be acquitted until Chuck was found guilty, but there would, at least, be hope. And considering that he was still working with the marshals, fugitive-turned-informant, special circumstances might grant him leave to start rebuilding his life a little earlier than that.

Not wanting to get ahead of himself, Richard shook his head and focused on the present. True freedom was still a long way off, and today was only the first step. He would have to play his part to make it happen – testify, be cross-examined, endure testimony from Chicago’s Finest, no doubt. Chuck’s lawyer would use everything that had happened during the original trial and Richard’s escape against him, and that included the two idiot cops who had put him away. Although his anger at Chuck eclipsed pretty much anything else, those two were up high on the list of people who Richard, who had never used violence in his entire life before that night, would gladly punch in the face. He doubted it would actually make him feel better, but the thought gave him comfort. It then made him laugh, because as his confrontation with Chuck had shown, he had no idea how to throw a punch and would probably break his hand.

So now here he was, practising his double Windsor like he was going to a job interview. Or on a date. Or the way he’d bound his own bow tie over and over the days before his wedding. Helen had teased him that she’d never marry a man with a crooked tie, and so he had done his damn best not to disappoint her. The knot in his chest tightened, as it always did, as it had done for two years, but he was smiling, too. Smiling at the memory of her standing at the other end of the aisle, of her eyes flitting to his bow tie approvingly, and of his own heart nearly beating out of his chest for happiness.

Thus lost in thought, he hadn’t noticed the sounds from the hallway, but eventually he realised there were steps on the landing. Quickly loosening the knot of the tie and pulling it over his head as to avoid looking foolish, he went to the door to meet whichever one of the marshals it was at the door to his room. Hopefully, no bad news tonight.

Opening the door abruptly, he found himself face to face with Sam. He blinked.

“Sam? What are you doing here, is everything alright?”

Sam raised his hand in a pacifying gesture. “Everything’s fine, Richard. I just wanted to check up on you. Tinns and Larsson are downstairs, there’s a car outside.”

He narrowed his eyes. “I didn’t know you’d sent a car with us this morning.”

“They arrived with the shift change,” Sam smirked at his reaction. He knew as well as anyone how Richard hated to be ‘minded,’ even – especially – after everything.

“Hmm,” Richard refrained from saying anything else. “Are you staying? If you’re here, you might as well send Tinns and Larsson home.”

“And what happens when I leave, Richard?”

“There’s a car outside.” Now it was his turn to smirk, and after weeks of non-reactions from Sam, it was good to see him galled, even for a second.

“I know I threw procedure out the window when I let you come along, Richard, but we’re doing this by the book. On the road, I vouched for your safety because it was me and my team, out here I’m not feeding you to the wolves.”

Richard knew when Sam’s final word really was final. “Fine.” Then, he surprised Sam by stepping aside. “Come in.”

It was rare to see Sam hesitate, but now he did. “I thought we could sit in the living room downstairs.”

Seeing no reasonable way to justify his wanting to be alone with Sam, Richard used the best excuse he could think of. “Tinns are Larsson are nice enough, but I don’t know them.”

Richard knew Sam well enough to see the hackles rise, on instinct, at someone expressing distrust towards someone from the marshal service – any agent, even if they weren’t Sam’s own. But the expected outburst never came and instead, Sam nodded and moved past him into “his” room.

Chapter Text

Once Richard had closed the door behind them, he watched as Sam looked around for a moment, taking stock of the room and probably wondering where the hell he should sit down.

“Here,” Richard gestured at the chair by the small writing desk in the corner, “have a seat.” He immediately (and internally) rolled his eyes at himself for expressing himself so formally, but with the sudden onset of nerves, there was little he could do. Why was he nervous? This was hardly the first time he was alone with Sam. The answer, of course, was that this was the first time he’d been alone with Sam since Michigan; a thought that Richard pushed away resolutely. That was not why Sam was here, he chastised himself, and it wasn’t why he had asked him to stay upstairs.

Sam, oblivious to all his woolgathering, seemed grateful to be offered the chair and sat, angling it so as to be able to look at Richard when he settled down on top of the comforter on the bed.

Once they were both comfortable, neither of them spoke, and Richard had the kind of niggling feeling that had befallen everyone who had ever 'had a boy in their room,' much to the more or less whispered amusement of parents and siblings. Then, it occurred to him that the marshals downstairs were neither his parents, nor his siblings, and that this wasn't a boy, but Deputy Marshal Sam Gerard, and they were alone. In his room. Belatedly, Richard realised that the officers downstairs would wonder, at some point. A frisson of panic went through him when Richard's thoughts caught up with him and he found that, asking Sam inside had seemed a good idea at a time, and was now more and more likely to land them in hot water. His eyes slightly widened, he glanced up at Sam.


 

Across from Richard, Sam was spending precious seconds mentally kicking himself - what was it he said, "by the book"? And then he'd gone and tossed the book out the window, smooth as you like. The unpleasant sensation that he'd planned exactly this far and then run out of road crawled up Sam's spine.

Before the silence in the room could become even more uncomfortable, Sam cleared his throat.

"Are you ready for tomorrow?" Good, that was good, a reasonable question someone in this situation might ask. (Oh, god.)

Richard looked down at his hands, then. With a sheepish smile, he raised his left after a few seconds, and only now did Sam notice the tie crumpled in his grasp. "I'm practising my double Windsor," Richard informed him drily. "So that's about as well as it's going."

"Need any help?" Sam teased before he could stop himself and what was wrong with him?

As if asking himself the same question, Richard fussed with the fabric for a moment, evading Sam's gaze. "Can't go into court if I can't tie my own tie, can I?" Richard opted for deflection, and Sam couldn't have been more grateful. He didn't dare imagine what would have happened if Richard had said yes.

That thought catapulted Sam right back into the debate he'd been having with himself for over a month now: Richard knew. Didn't he? He had to know. Ever since they'd returned to Chicago, Sam had done his best to put that moment behind him, to forget the tension that had thrummed through him. It felt so far away now, and surely that was for the best. He'd been lucky enough that Richard hadn't been angry at him, much as Sam himself had struggled to rationalise kissing him in the middle of the night. In Michigan. He always picked the most romantic spots.

So he'd distanced himself, because it was the right thing to do, and in doing so had given Richard no more cause to suspect anything was going - or so he'd thought. As it seemed, the more dully professional Sam behaved, the more interested Richard became. Or, rather, worried.

"Sam," Richard interrupted his jumbled thoughts. "Is everything alright?"


Sam had testified in court many times over the course of his career, and he was well aware that he'd been a pain in the ass of more than one DA's, homicide and robbery department. For the most part, he was the consummate professional at hearings: he came prepared, he had his facts straight, and he knew who the guiltiest person in the room was. Most of the time, his case didn't go to court for the simple reason that they already had. He hunted fugitives, he protected federal witnesses; and he really only had to show up before a jury if something went wrong during either of those operations.

Today, though, he sat on the bench next to Richard as the court moved to indict Charles Nichols, charged with conspiracy to commit murder, obstruction of justice, attempted murder on multiple counts, and conspiracy to commit fraud as part of a drug trial; this last in cooperation with Devlin MacGregor. The Attorney General was preparing to bring charges against the company itself, but the proceedings would depend at least in part on whether Nichols was put on trial.

In any case, a plea bargain was not an option - neither to Sam nor to Nichols, it seemed, as the man's attorney had the nerve to stand before the judge and declare that his client would plead not guilty on all charges. Next to Sam, Richard tensed, and he had to fight not to reach out to put a hand on his arm. Richard didn't need coddling, and neither of them needed the undue attention such an obvious maneouvre might garner them.

Hearing the prosecution's case, the jury had no choice but to indict, and to sanction the relitigation of Richard's case.

Outside, the reporters scrambled for their attention as they pushed past.

"Deputy Gerard, you spent six months chasing this man. How personal is this case for you?"

"No comment," Sam barked, signalling to Newman on Richard's other side to get him to the car.

"Dr Kimble, how does it feel when the man who hunted you is now your best chance at freedom?"

Sam ground his teeth as the so-called journalists continued to mob Richard, who waved a hand to indicate 'no comment' and said nothing.

Once they'd reached the car, Sam made sure Richard was safely inside before hauling ass after him. Noah closed the door behind him and got into the passenger seat. Moments later, they were peeling away from the curb.

"There you have it, Richard," Sam murmured quietly, his ears still ringing after the clamour outside the courthouse. "He's indicted. Your case is going to trial, against him and Devlin MacGregor."

Beside him, Richard let his head thud against the back of the seat. "I almost didn't believe it."

"Well," Sam said, leaning back as well. "You'd better. The fun is just starting."