Fidelis Ad Mortem
Morality isn’t simple and it isn’t something we easily deduce. We may have the ability to speak to ourselves and ‘know’ intrinsically the correctness of an action, but the shades of black and white that morality presents seem so incredibly complex that relativity might be a viable alternative. What makes any moral calculus so incredibly complicated is motivation, for we all act according to reason, and that reason is the sole blur between the epistemological and the ontological. Between what exists and what we know.
Motivation is not only a cog in morality’s wheel however; it is the defining divide between justice and revenge; between heroism and cowardice. Roy Montgomery knew that when he chose his path that night in the hangar, he knew that his actions would save the woman he came to think of as a daughter and save his family from the shame of a nineteen year old murder, but he also saw his own tragic flaw on grand display. Roy might have been a hero because of his actions but he also might have been the villain because of his reason.
There is an ultimate cynicism about the philosophy of Roy Montgomery’s last stand, it’s constructed around the knowledge that victory is not possible, and though that knowledge is the reason behind our celebration of past heroes, it is also the reason few lived to see tomorrow. For the Spartans or the Swiss Guard, their last stand was necessary, a sacrifice born of fidelity and honor and sacrifice. What made their sacrifice unique, what made their sacrifice all the more tragic was that they sacrificed themselves while embracing a belief that the world would once again know victory. They believed in the fundamental goodness that makes up the whole of mankind and believed that one day others would know the sweet taste of victory by their sacrifice. These heroes gave up something for a greater good, they gave of themselves so that others could enjoy the beauty ever present in this world. It is the foundation of great tragedy and catharsis.
For Roy Montgomery, his last stand was born of a cynical belief that victory was never possible, that the only thing worthy was the battle, and that in the end, the best we could hope for was someone who could stand beside you as you fell.
This wasn’t a battle for the soul of New York and it wasn’t a battle for survival, it was a battle between the optimism of ‘until tomorrow’ and the cynicism of ‘night’, between ‘there is no victory, only the battle’ and ‘I will walk into hell…and plunge it through his heart’, and if they were victorious this day, their victory would illuminate a path through the wilderness. A path paved with the redemption of a life deserved. Kate Beckett and the family she loved would not make their last stand today. Not today. This family would come to understand that the best we can hope for is not someone to stand by you while you fall but the victory achieved when a small group of people seek to change the world.
As they sought justice, as they sought a world free of the evil of Mason Harrison, they would come to understand that the great tragic flaw Roy held in his heart blinded him to the true nature of the just and proper. Today, they would understand this most powerful of lessons.
Victory is possible, if only we believe.
May 19th, 2012-New York City
Though some had protested, everyone who mattered agreed that he deserved to be buried with full honors. The sun shone down on the only inhabitant of the cemetery who dressed in something simple and black. Simple and black. It held a certain morbid curiosity within her that black was the color of being broken, of mourning, of death. The absence of color. The absence of life.
She thought back five days to a setting sun that brought about stark reality cloaked in darkness. The bullet tore through his heart, destroying his most powerful feature, and when it was over and he took his last breath, it was a painful whisper of love to the woman he died protecting.
His lifeless form had done nothing but stare as she completely collapsed, the pain and agony of a moment only her worst nightmares could conjure, and when she was finally forced from him, either by a fall or a strong set of arms, the moment took what was left of a heart broken for the final time.
Or so she thought. How could it possibly be worse?
An insistence that she be the one to harbor his family from a state of grace, that she be the one who took Detective Raglan’s place at the feet of a family torn apart by the heroism of a man in love.
She stood in front of this broken family, herself torn asunder and forced to live the nightmare that was this life, and brought forth the news of his death. They cried, they screamed, but mostly, they blamed her. They would never know his gentle embrace, his soft and caring voice, or his humility and humanity again. They would never be the same.
Neither would she.
It seemed life was most cruel. It should have been her. It should have been her.
She paused at the large headstone and wondered how she could possibly be whole again:
Here lies Richard Alexander Rogers
Writer, Hero, Father and Son
He lived every day as if he was a character in this story we call life.
We will never forget the chapters he lived or the lives he saved.
May he be the shining example to others that he was to us.
Since it happened, she had been strong. She had been the rock for a group of people that mourned his death, but here, standing on his grave, she fell to her knees and allowed the sobs that escaped her body to invade the cemetery. He was gone, cruelly taken from her after only a few weeks of a passion she hardly could believe existed. He was gone, along with her heart, to a place where only Gods could travel.
The weight of her pain would forever stay her to this world, forced to live her life in some anguished purgatory reserved only for the weak and the cowardly. She wondered how karma could break her like this, could tear her apart with such ease and precision, and if it was even possible to piece back together that which had been shattered.
She felt the cold hand of death on her shoulder, “Kate, you have to get up.”
Through the tears she turned to see him standing there, “W…w…what?”
“It’s time to get up. Wake up, Kate.”
“You…you’re supposed to be dead!”
“I am. You are alive. And it’s time to wake up.”
“I miss you so much!”
“I know, Kate. I know. I miss you too.”
“Come back, please? I don’t know if I can do this without you!”
“I can’t. I wish I could. But that wasn’t the deal.”
“Kate. It’s time to
She was nearly hysterical, “Why do you keep saying that?”
He leaned down to whisper in her ear, “I did it, for you. Now, wake up, Kate.”
May 13th, 2012-New York City
Kate bolted upright in bed, coated in a fine sheen of sweat and gasping for a breath she never knew she needed. His hand was on her back instantly, “I’m sorry, Kate. It was just a nightmare. You were having a nightmare.”
The panic residing in her heart and mind held firm and held hostage the vestige of a reality free of the grief she bore, “You…you’re alive!”
She threw herself at him and sought the comfort of his beating heart. It served as a metronome that counted the moments of his life and allowed her a rhythm to come back to his tell-tale heart. “Of course I’m alive. I’m here and you are safe.”
She buried her head in his chest and fought back the feelings of nausea and hopelessness brought on by her imagination and psyche. For a few moments, nothing in the world mattered but the way his heart beat constantly, the way his blood flowed through his veins, the way his breath warmed her soul, and the way his arms held her close.
“Kate, what can I do?”
“Just…just give me a minute. Don’t let me go…”
“Never. Just breathe, Kate.”
And that’s what she did. The nightmare rolled away from her, the memories of a tombstone and a distraught daughter forced to the safe haven of fiction. A fiction he could re-write with the power of his words. A fiction that once saved her from the hole she dug for herself.
An ending she couldn’t bear to witness.
“Make love to me, Rick. Make me feel. Make me believe.”
She turned softly to peer into the face of her anchor, the man who kept her safely tied to dry land, and though she saw the approaching storm, she felt nothing but calm waters flowing beneath her. The panic and the despair which invaded her sleep were soon swept out to sea as he lovingly embraced her.
May 14th, 2012-New York City
Slowly and delicately, she extricated herself from her lover’s arms. After all of the growth she had experienced by his side, after the lesson’s learned through experience and toil, Kate had earned a place in this life. What she wouldn’t give for peace, for a moment, a chance at normal, and yet, it eluded her like so much before. She made her decision early, she wrote him the letter, and wondered whether this was her albatross to carry through life. What she discovered over the course of two and a half weeks was the true power of grief and failure; two millstones not easily beaten back or shaken from one’s neck.
With a fire born of white-hot passion, she made the decision she felt she must. No matter what happened today as they knocked on Hell’s gate, he would not be tainted by the darkness any longer. He would be whole when this was over, of that she was certain, and if she was lucky enough to make it out of the abyss, she would do all she could to be whole as well. This was neither a battle she sought nor an action she yearned to undertake, but she would see it through to the end so that the people she loved would be free of the dark tide threatening to wash them away.
Kate gathered her clothes, her badge, her gun and the watch she wore in memory, and headed towards the kitchen, careful not to wake the members of his family.
She was met with a smiling matriarch, “Hello, Kate.”
Kate was startled, “Martha!”
“Someone is jumpy this morning. Darling, that can’t be good for what you are about to do.”
Kate laughed, “Well then don’t jump out at me!”
Martha rose from her position on a stool, “I am far too old to be jumping out at anyone, dear. Here, I fixed you breakfast.”
Martha pushed the plate of eggs and bacon towards the detective, “Thank you Martha but I can’t stay.”
Martha sighed, “No, I don’t suppose you can.”
A moment of understanding passed between the mother and the lover and they smiled at each other, “Yeah. It…it’s for the best.”
“Oh you need not justify your actions darling. I find them quite heroic actually.”
“It doesn’t feel that way.”
“Kate, you are saving his life. I can’t thank you enough for that.”
Martha reached towards Kate and drew her into a tight hug which she returned with pleasure, “I…I have to Martha.”
“I know you think you do, darling. But he isn’t the only one we want to come back tonight. You are apart of this family Katherine, and we will miss you dearly if the worst should happen. Come home, Darling. Come home. ”
For the first time since the Christmas of 1998, Kate felt the love of a mother wrapped around her slender frame. It was a feeling she thought she had lost forever. If it was within her power to do so, she would return and embrace this family again. She wanted to revel in the love this family shared, though that made her decision and her task that much tougher. She found though that she didn’t mind. Martha’s words gave her a strength she never knew resided in her heart to fight harder, to try harder, and to do her best to return to the people she had come to love.
“With every ounce of strength I have, with all my heart, with everything I’ve got, I will fight to come home.”
With those words, Kate Beckett left two officers at Rick’s door and went to meet her fate.
An hour and a half later…
Rick woke later that morning to a cold bed and a feeling of dread. He saw the letter on her pillow:
You have always been the writer, the possessor and master of words, and though I use them now, I hope only that I can do them and us justice. Just as I hope that my mother finds justice today.
In some sense, I am being selfish. For the first time in my life, I have met a man whom I truly love beyond the words I can place on this paper. And though I know you will be angry, I cannot watch you die today. I cannot come home to Alexis and do to her what that man did to me, and so, I am leaving you this in the vain hope that you will stay within the safe confines of the loft today.
I swore to my mother that day in the cemetery that I would end this, that with the help of my friends I would make sure that you were once again free to live the life you deserve, and I intend to keep that promise. I also made a promise to you. A promise that I would let you in, that I would be whole when this is over, but part of being whole is the knowledge that you are alive and happy and safe. I am sorry that I must leave you behind today, but I would never be whole if you were taken from me.
For the first time since my mother died, I have allowed myself the luxury of pure, unadulterated love, and it is ironic that I am now faced with the prospect that I may not be around to finally enjoy what has eluded me for these fourteen arduous years. I spent those years never allowing myself to fully live because I feared the pain and agony of that heartbreak that tore me apart and created the abomination you saw before you three and half years ago. When we met, you awoke something inside me, and though it makes today even more painful, it is a pain that I no longer fear. I have embraced the wonders of life because you made me believe once more.
You made me believe.
Of course, that may sound like I am lamenting a life lost, but that isn’t true. I regret absolutely nothing. In fact, as we move on the man who killed my mother, I am reminded that, if I had too, I would have once happily given my life to take him down. As I now revel in the life you breathed into me, I know that I will fight harder than I ever have to come home to you tonight.
I could never regret having met you. I could never regret loving you. Please understand that even if I die today, I wouldn’t trade the weeks we shared as lovers and the three and half years of friendship we have built for anything. You awoke my heart from its deep slumber, you bathed me in life, and through all the hardship and frustration, you brought me back from the dead. You did that. And I thank you. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.
You are the best man I have ever met, and though we live in a world saturated with evil and pain, your heart and soul make the world a place worthy of an optimism I hardly knew. If I am so lucky as to have you in my life once again, I want you to know this final truth. Whatever form of me survives the day, whatever I am when this is finished, please know that my heart is yours until it can no longer beat.
And if the worst does happen today and I am unable to make it back to you, please do one more thing for me. Live. Embrace the humanity that you thankfully thrust upon me.
Live the life you deserve.
Rick desperately wiped at the tears which freely fell down his cheek. He understood what she had done, but this time, he would not be left behind. His purpose was clear. He was her charter out of the hell she walked into for him. He would pay her passage through Tartarus, through the depths of the underworld, and then bring her back from the torment of the abyss. It was his battle to wage.
In the sunny morning of a Monday, the day Solomon Grundy was born, the battle had begun.