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Chance Meetings
by Sailor Chronos

Chapter 8: Closure

Irene stood watching the gulls wheeling in the clear sky above the East River, at the same place where she had first met Harold. The time seemed to have passed so quickly; had it really been almost three months ago?

The plan that Harold had come up with to lure her ex-husband out had been crazy to say the least, but he had told her it was the best he could do given his limited resources. Anything could have gone wrong: Alan could somehow have procured another gun, he could have lashed out in his fury — he had almost taken her hostage but for her quick thinking — or he might have discovered Harold in her apartment which would have given him more fodder for his plot to ruin her. It was sheer luck that everything went as well as it did. More amazing was that Harold somehow had influence within the police department and could get the restraining order put through so quickly.

After Alan had been arrested the second time, she had spent several hours giving her statement to the police and filling out paperwork. They were confident that no amount of influence or legal trickery would be able to help him get out of his just punishment this time, regardless of his mental state. She still didn't understand why he had behaved in such a fashion but in the end it wasn't her concern. It was his family that she pitied, in that they would have to deal with the consequences of his folly.

As she had half-expected, Harold wasn't at her apartment when she got home. To her surprise the place had been meticulously cleaned up, to appear that nobody had ever been present.

Except for a half-full bottle of wine on the kitchen counter.

Both Harold and Mr. Reese disappeared after that night. Even though she knew why, and that it was very unlikely that she would ever see either of them again, she returned to this spot on a semi-regular basis in hope that one day a man in a three-piece suit would be waiting.

She wasn't a fool to believe herself to be in love with him. That afternoon they had shared had forged a bond between them but they both had known that would happen from the start. Despite continual attempts to put the events behind her, she couldn't help but miss him: the discussions of literature, the deadpanned jokes, all of it. It would have given her closure if he had at least reiterated his feelings on the matter.

A clue had arrived in the form of a parcel that came in the mail a week following her ex's pre-trial court hearing. The contents were simply a key and a small piece of paper on which was written, in Harold's handwriting, an address that turned out to be the same as the one he had given on his information sheet during his first visit to the clinic. The affable landlord told her when she spoke with him that the previous tenant had to move suddenly for work-related reasons and had recommended her to take over the lease. One look at the spacious place was all she needed to make up her mind, and it didn't take her long to finalize the documents and make plans to move in.

She heard a rustle of fabric as someone moved to her side, and a familiar mellow voice said, "Some birds are not meant to be caged, that's all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you."

Suffused with delight, she completed his apt Stephen King quote. "And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure." She turned to see Harold regarding her with interest. "I knew that I shouldn't expect to see you, but I couldn't help wishing it."

"To be truthful Ms. Ashby, Bear and I—" he indicated a nearby bench, next to which a large brown and black dog was sitting obediently, "—have walked past here occasionally because I had hoped to speak to you." He was the picture of stoicism as he had been when they had first met. "Please understand that I'm unable to make further appointments with your clinic for the time being. The difficulties I face are still very real, and I don't want you to become involved."

Although his words were sincere she wasn't deceived by his attitude: he too wanted a resolution but he couldn't say it publicly. So she played along. "You're much improved since you began therapy, so it's not necessary for you to continue unless the condition worsens." Her throat closed up; this was more difficult that she thought it would be. She swallowed hard and went on, "On behalf of the clinic, thank you for your generosity. It has been a real pleasure getting to know you, and I hope that someday we'll meet again."

His guise melted for a moment as he reached out and clasped her hand firmly in a handshake. "A friend of mine once said: when you find someone who connects you to the world, you become someone different, someone better. Purely by chance, by some unknown serendipitous chance, you found me. And you helped make me better." Reluctantly he released her hand, and lowered his voice. "I shall miss you."

Irene had an almost overwhelming desire to pull him into her arms one more time. Instead she stepped closer and clasped his shoulder in a friendly manner. "As I shall also miss you, my dear Mr. Finch," she whispered.

Harold pursed his lips before murmuring into her ear, "Even that's not my real name."

She slowly backed away. "It doesn't matter," she averred, and his eyes widened in astonishment. "To me, you are the man who owns the world but is so very apart from it. The man whom I greatly respect and hold in my heart. If there comes a time when you find yourself needing to connect to the world once again, you know where to find me."

The corner of his mouth rose ever so slightly and he nodded.

They both turned and went their separate ways. On a nearby lamp post, almost obscured from their viewpoint by the leafy branches of a tree, a security camera watched.

THE END

Sailor Chronos
July 2014

I would like to thank the following people:

My husband, as always, for his support.

The Person of Interest community on FanFiction dot Net for the inspiration to write this story and for pushing me to continue.