No Longer All Alone
Set some time in early Season 2.
Authors Note: So my new obsession with this show is all consuming, and John is so heartbreaking that I just want to pull him into a hug and never let go. So here's a short story of John being heartbreaking and the rest of the gang doing their best to look after him. As always I don't own POI and am making no money from kidnapping and abusing them. Reviews are guaranteed to put a smile on my face, so please do.
For the longest time there had been nothing but darkness and pain. So when the door cracked open and the dim light of the hallway outside flooded into the room it hurt his eyes, caused him to curl in protectively on himself even further and block the painful light with a shaking hand.
He shrunk back against the cold concrete wall, his aching bones screaming at even that small movement, a spring in the damp dilapidated mattress dug into his hip. He had no idea what they wanted now, and was almost too tired to be afraid. Perhaps this time around they'd take it too far and accidentally put him out of his goddamn misery. It took his struggling mind too long to realise that this time was different, no deep growling voice, no rough hands hauling him up to be sat in the chair, or manhandled into the chains, or dragged to his knees in front of the bath ready to be dunked in it head first until his lungs were set to explode and black dots danced before his eyes.
Instead there was a soft and wavering voice uttering his name, that he knew he should remember. "John." The voice sounded distressed, ready to cry maybe, and completely at a loss.
Blinking to adjust his eyes to the light after so much dark, his vision slowly came into focus and he lowered his hand. The owner of the voice was finally revealed to him, stood stock still in the doorway, his body held with a stiffness that came from badly managed pain, a glint of light shining off his glasses.
There was another voice then, female, he knew he should know who these people were but his brain just could not keep up with what was happening. "The house is clear." The female reported, there was a click of a firearm sliding back into it's holster. Names and faces might be escaping him, but he'd always know that sound.
"I've found him Detective." The distressed voice replied.
There was a gasp from the woman, but then she rushed forward into the room.
John flinched back at the sudden movement, she noticed and stopped. Coming at him slower, her hands up in a gesture of peace, whispered gently to him as one would a frightened animal. "It's okay John, it's me Carter and your friend Finch. We're here to get you out of here, you're safe now."
Carter and Finch, of course it was. How could he forget the only people he had left, the only ones who would ever think of coming for him? Why did it take so long? Part of his torture had been to use hallucinatory drugs, what if this was another way of getting to him? Another sneaky trick by his captors? But when she crouched down beside him and placed a warm hand on his cold arm, mindful of the burns that were still healing there, he had to believe it was real.
Another familiar voice sounded in the hall, out of breath like he'd been running. "I saw two of Elias' guys, making off down the street, but I lost them. How we doin', we find hi... holy shit!" Fusco's words died on his lips as he peered through the doorway, like Finch, he appeared to be too afraid to enter.
"Come on." Carter said gently, bringing his attention back to her, "John, we're going to get you out of here."
Carter wondered momentarily if she should be the one driving. Finch had been completely shell shocked by the way they'd found John, striped naked and shivering on that mattress, his pale skin a patchwork of cuts and burns, some deep enough to require stitches, his bones visible where there had once been lean and toned muscle. Finch hadn't said a word since, had needed firm commands from Carter to do anything, but he had followed orders, he'd fetched a blanket when asked, to wrap their near skeletal friend in, had opened doors and cleared the way while Carter and Fusco had lifted John shakily to his feet and walked him out to the car. Carter hadn't asked Finch to shoulder any of the weight himself, she still wasn't sure the extent of his chronic injuries but had been very aware of his elevated pain levels that he'd spent all day trying to hide from her.
Still, when she'd asked him to drive leaving Fusco to secure the house, he had done, and seemed to be quite decided on where he was going, so she left him to it, allowing herself to sit in the back of the sedan with John laid across the back seats shivering in his blanket, his head on her lap.
She stroked her fingers through his short hair, finding a knotted lump of bruise on the back of his head. Her fingers investigated a little further and she came to the conclusion there was no compression injury. Her ministrations must have hurt though but John didn't make a sound, he just stared up at her with a panicked look in his eyes, like he didn't actually believe what was happening and expected some fresh terror at any instant.
They were headed out of town, across the bridge into Jersey, but Carter didn't question it.
"How's he doing?" Finch asked eventually from the front of the car.
"You askin' if he needs a hospital?" Carter questioned. At that John shot out his hand and grabbed hers clumsily, shaking his head vehemently. She gave him a pitiful look, "against my better judgement, I can handle it."
"Good." Finch said. "We'll be there in an hour."
They slipped back into silence, the exhaustion of the last few weeks finally getting to the detective. She allowed herself to close her eyes and be lulled by the road, but she made sure she kept a hold of John's hand and periodically continued to smooth back his hair.
Finch had always been concerned about John's readiness to allow Detective Carter into their private little world, for a man who he'd expected to be equally as untrusting as himself, the ex-operative had put an awful lot of faith in the detective and it had almost got him killed. But he'd come to find the woman invaluable, especially tonight.
Finch was aware of his strengths and weaknesses and he knew that fieldwork and the injuries and trauma that came along with it were not his forte. He still woke up in a cold sweat sometimes, having dreamt that his employee, colleague, dare he say friend, had bled out in his backseat after he'd been shot by Snow. And of course it would be his fault, because he was the one who drew the man into the mess in the first place.
And now here he was again, a scenario that was becoming so familiar. He'd frozen when he'd first found him. Had been unable to move and unable to look away from the hollow creature that he barely recognised as John. If Carter hadn't turned up when she did, he would have carried on staring at that broken and abused body until his own body had crumpled with the agony of it.
He'd needed that strong woman to take control, and she had, like it had been another day at the office. How many tortured people had she seen before, he wondered. She'd been a homicide detective for a long time, and the army before that. He realised with horror he'd once read she'd been an interrogator for the army, had she done this to people? He doubted that very much but would be naive to think it didn't happen.
He glanced at them in the rear view mirror, they both seemed to be asleep. He noted the way they gripped each other's hands, it was more intimate than he'd expected from either of them but it reminded him of a mother comforting a child. Carter was a fierce mother, Finch smiled, right now he wanted no one else guarding his friend.
They arrived at a cabin in the Appalachians in the early hours of the morning. Carter had Finch hobble over and unlock the front door while she dealt with John, adjusting the blanket round him for comfort and dignity and then helping him so that he was upright on thin wobbly legs. Finch had pulled the car right up to the porch so that he wouldn't have to traverse the gravel on his bare feet, and the man managed the few steps onto the veranda while leaning heavily on Carter's shoulder.
"There's a bed through to the left." Finch directed, holding the door open for them. He'd kept the lights dim to protect John's sensitive eyes, but even at a glance, Carter could tell this was no ordinary shack of a cabin. She walked John carefully through into the room on the left and Finch scurried in after them, lighting a bedside lamp and with a click of a remote, bringing a gas fire to life in a grand wooden fireplace at the end of the bed.
The room was sparsely but elegantly furnished, with smooth spotless floors leading to a large double bed that had been draped with blankets and throws. There was a comfy looking arm chair by the fire and a rug laid out too. A large wardrobe was in the far corner and the bedside table had a shelf underneath full of books.
"I didn't take you for an outdoorsman." Carter chuckled as she helped John over to the bed.
"I think you can tell," he gestured lamely at the gas remote controlled fire, "I'm not. But we needed a safe house and I thought it best to be out of the city for a change."
"Well it's the nicest safe house I've ever been in." Carter said appreciatively.
"There's a med kit in the bathroom." He said and disappeared quickly.
Carter eased John back against the sheets, "Are you going to talk to me John?" She whispered to him, "Tell me how you're feeling, what I can do to help." Her plea seemed to be in vain, John closed his eyes, a slow blink to show he'd heard, but he clearly wasn't ready to talk.
Finch came back momentarily carrying awkwardly, towels, a large first aid kit and a wooden dining room chair for her to sit at his bedside while she worked.
"Can you get me a bowl of warm water and a cool glass of water for John to drink?" She asked. He nodded and disappeared again.
"I'm going to get you cleaned up and treat your wounds okay?" She spoke softly as she opened up the blanket he had clutched to him, just enough to see his chest. She'd always imagined that she had a pretty good idea of what he was hiding under that suit he seemed so fond of, but it was not this. His chest was thin, ribs sticking out sharply, his stomach concave with starvation. There was the ugly bullet wound scar, still pink and not fully healed, just to the left of his navel, as well as others, older, that dotted his body. She felt a surge of guilt at seeing it, but that wasn't what she was looking for, and the fresh wounds held their own feelings of guilt.
She had to switch off and think methodically, the same she would for any other victim of abuse. The knife wounds across his chest were long but shallow, designed to cause pain more than debilitation, save for one, which looked like it had been pressed harder in anger, dried blood had left a stain down his chest from it but moving him had caused it to well up again. It would need stitching. There was bruising across his ribs but a quick feel determined they were likely cracked but not broken. She rolled him gently to see his back, there too, the marks were deeper. He'd been whipped with what she assumed had been a belt as the buckle had taken gouges out of his pale skin. There were burns there too, the skin blackened with some kind of brand.
She wrapped his upper half back up and checked each arm and leg separately, careful to keep the rest of him covered for warmth and dignity. There were defensive wounds on his forearms and marks at his wrists where chains had obviously bitten into the skin, bruised it and rubbed it raw. She realised with horror that his left shoulder was dislocated and that three fingers on his right had had been broken. His legs were mostly unscathed, although they were, like the rest of his body, too skinny, but the soles of his feet were burnt raw and bleeding. She wondered how he'd managed to walk himself into the cabin, let alone on the much rougher journey out of his cell and into the car.
"I don't think anything is life threatening," she told him, "but I'm going to need to clean you up, set your shoulder and your fingers and put in a few stitches. It's all going to hurt, more than you do right now."
She'd known there wouldn't be a protest. He'd curled in on himself again, clutching the blanket so that only his head and feet were visible, he gave her a steady resigned nod.
Finch appeared behind her, carrying his bowl of water and the glass for John. Finch's eyes were drawn to the raw feet stuck out from the blanket. "Lucky for you, pain relief is something I have quite the collection of." Finch said sadly. He opened the first aid kit and quickly found what he was looking for, offering over two pills and the glass of water. "Tramadol and diazepam." He explained.
John looked for a moment like he was going to refuse, but then he struggled to prop himself up on his elbow. With his injuries, Carter realised he'd never be able to take them for himself so she brought the glass to his lips, placed the pills in his mouth and let him sip again until they were down. His fragile stomach almost rebelled but he fought the urge to vomit and eventually settled back down into the blanket.
"Mr Finch," Carter addressed him once the fast acting drugs seemed to be taking effect. "I'm going to need your help to relocate his arm."
For a moment she'd thought Finch would pass out before John did, as they worked together to fix him. Mostly Finch just held him down, to the best of his ability, while she set, cleaned and sutured. A few times, John's fight or flight responses had kicked in but mostly he bore it stoically with only a few grunts of pain. His feet seemed to hurt the worst and he had to struggle not to instinctively pull them out of her grip as she cleaned the blood and dirt out with a damp cloth. Once he was clean and his wounds bound, Finch presented him with a pair of dark grey cotton pyjamas and they helped him into them and then under the sheets.
"There's only two rooms. You can have the other one, I'll sleep on the couch." He offered.
"Like hell you will." Carter smiled at him, looking at how stiffly he was holding himself. "You take the other room, I'll keep an eye on him here."
"Okay," he said resigned, relieved, "I've left you some pyjamas of your own and a toothbrush in the bathroom. Sorry, they probably won't fit very well."
"Thank you." She smiled at him, she had little intention of getting so relaxed here that she started strutting around in a pair of borrowed pjs.
"Well," Finch said awkwardly, "good night then. And... thanks for your help."
She smiled at the man as he turned stiffly and left. Setting the dining chair aside, she dragged the comfy arm chair into its place by John's bedside and settled herself into it. She stared at the fire for a moment before realising a pair of piercing blue-grey eyes were boring into her.
"How long?" The question was whispered, his voice hoarse, from disuse she guessed, but more morbidly it could have been from screaming in pain. She put that thought out of her head, none of his injuries were that recent, the damage had been done some time ago.
"Twenty two days." She said sadly, speaking low so Finch in the other room couldn't hear them.
"What took you so long?" His voice sounded cracked and raw. It wasn't accusatory, in fact Carter believed it was an attempt at his usual sarcastic humour, but even still, the words hurt.
"We..." and then her voice cracked too, "I'm so sorry." Her body shook with all the emotion of the night, finding him there in that awful place, the way he'd looked so fragile and broken, the way he'd trembled under her touch as she'd tended his wounds, and all the sleepless nights before that searching for him. "We tried, we searched everywhere, we..."
"Shh." He reached out from his nest of blankets and grabbed her hand. It was his right hand, his last three fingers splinted and taped together so that he could only really hold her palm between his thumb and forefinger, the others stuck out awkwardly, but one look at it and it was enough to pull her together.
She laughed and wiped her eyes with her free hand. "Look at me, getting all upset while you're laying there looking like you've been mauled by a bear."
"Carter, I didn't know you cared." He whispered, with a hint of a smile.
"Me neither, but I kinda owe you a life debt by now."
"I think we're even." He said. Talking hurt, she realised, and his last word descended into a weak but hacking cough. She rubbed his back as it subsided and tucked the blankets closer around him.
She thought back to her son, just recently rescued by the man in front of her and smiled. "Not even close. That cough sounds nasty. We need to get you some antibiotics." She crouched down to the first aid kit and started hunting through the numerous pills. It didn't surprise her in the slightest when she found some extra strength prescription amoxicillin. She shook one into her hand and helped him take it with a sip of water.
"Thank you." He whispered, his eyes sliding closed, coughing again into his blanket. She got up to close the door and turn the fire down just a little, but his eyes shot open in panic as the latch clicked closed. "I'm sorry," he croaked, his voice barely a whisper, "could we leave the door open?" Carter studied his face for a second, opened the door all the way for him and watched as the panic left his features. It could have been he wanted to listen out for intruders, she supposed, but judging by the fear there, it seemed more likely he didn't want to feel confined to the room. She settled back into her chair and watched him drift off, the pained frown lines on his face smoothing out as he gave in to sleep.
John could feel the thick metal chain links biting into his wrists with every swinging movement. If he strained his bare feet he could just about touch the floor with his tiptoes but as soon as the belt lashed across his back again, his balance slipped and his full body weight came crashing down on his arms again. The man who was thrashing him laughed and did it again. John kept expecting him to ask questions, but just like before, his captors had been silent.
The other man in the room's phone rang, he picked it up and without saying a word strode over to John and put the phone to his ear.
"Hello John." A familiar voice was on the other end, John could hear him smiling with that smug self-satisfied grin.
"You know most interrogations aren't very useful if your captive doesn't know what you want." John growled, his voice filled with sarcasm and hatred. The man with the belt whipped him again, the metal belt buckle slamming into already cracked ribs causing John to grunt in pain.
"Oh dear John," Elias continued. John wanted to punch that smile right off his face. "This isn't an interrogation. This is a punishment. You've been getting in the way of my business enterprises again."
Of course, John realised, their last case, the rescue of a DA from a team of low-level but quite competent hitmen smacked of organised crime. They'd found the man who had ordered the hit, but never worked out the motive. Clearly it was because he'd been acting on orders from higher up.
"By the time my men are done with you, you and your little friends will know better than to ever cross me again. I like you John, but if I continue to let you interfere some people might start to question my resolve. I know you don't question my resolve, do you?" Behind him John could hear the sound of a blow torch being lit up. When the searing hot flame touched his back, his skin burned, his muscles tensed in pain and the frenzied lurch away was enough to wrench his left arm from it's socket, he was unable to bite back the scream.
He sat bolt upright in a panic, desperate to get away he flung himself from the bed, landing hard on the floor, his broken right hand taking the brunt of his fall. He twisted away and scooted backwards until his back hit the wooden wardrobe, giving him nowhere else to go.
He gasped huge hyperventilating breaths, telling himself he wouldn't give Elias' men the satisfaction of seeing him cry. But it was Carter who knelt beside him not them.
"John, it's me, you're safe now." She was saying but John couldn't take it all in, those men had been right there, he could still feel the heat of the blowtorch on his back, the pain of torn muscle in his shoulder.
"John you had a nightmare." Carter was saying in a soothing voice. Of course he had, his whole life had turned into one long waking nightmare. But it slowly dawned on him that he wasn't there anymore. This room was different, warm, he was dressed and his wounds were bandaged. Was Carter real? He wanted so much for her to be, but he'd been disappointed before, perhaps this was the dream and when he woke he'd still be in that place, chained to the ceiling.
He'd always been told you should pinch yourself to see if you were dreaming, but how was that any good when the feel of the blowtorch was just as real as the feel of Carter's hands as she helped him back into bed? He had no way to determine which place was real, but he knew which one he wanted to stay in, so as he settled back down into the luxurious bedsheets he resolved to concentrate on Carter's face in an attempt to stay in the reality he'd chosen.
"Ah, good morning." Finch greeted with a smile, "or should I say afternoon?" He was stood at the kitchen counter, glad the smell of frying bacon and scrambled eggs had drawn Carter into the open plan living space of the main area of the cabin. There was a kitchen with a sturdy oak dining table big enough for six and a couple of huge leather sofas that were situated round another fireplace, the walls lined with books. She hadn't taken him up on the offer of nightwear but had kicked off her boots at some point and was now dressed in the jeans she'd been wearing the night before and a burgundy hooded sweater that was far too big for her. Finch recognised it as one of the hoodies that he'd bought for John and stored in the wardrobe. Hardly the man's usual attire but he had seen him go jogging in one once.
"I didn't want to disturb you, but I went into town to get some supplies this morning and thought it would do you some good to get some food in you." He carried on in what he hoped would pass for bright and cheerful. Dappled sunlight streamed in through the trees beyond the large windows and warmed up the room. The sunlight stretched all the way across the wooden floor to the open door of John's bedroom, where the man still appeared to be sleeping despite the cough that had seemed to be getting worse overnight, curled in on himself the way he'd been when they'd found him.
Last night's events was still burned into his retinas. Since the moment that John had gone missing he'd been in a constant state of terror for his partner, but nothing had prepared him for the visual confirmation of what had actually happened.
He watched Carter survey the room, seemingly impressed and then her gaze came to lay on him. He looked down at himself, a pair of brand new jeans, a checkered button down shirt and a thin knit sweater pulled over it. "Guess it's dress down day at the office." She commented.
"Well I could hardly go and collect supplies for my cabin while looking like I was dressed for tea at The Waldorf could I?"
"I hope you weren't planning on looking like a seasoned outdoorsman." She smiled.
"I'll settle for 'Man with too much money playing at being an outdoorsman for the weekend while really having no idea what he's doing.'"
She laughed out loud then, a quick bark, stifled so as not to wake the man in the other room. "That one, you're nailing." She sat down at the dining table while he dished up the bacon and eggs onto two plates, leaving some in the pan.
Carter raised an eyebrow, "You know John won't be able to eat that don't you? I don't think he's had anything to eat in twenty two days."
The number made them both cringe, upset that he'd been left to suffer for that long, when he'd been held by Root it had only been two days, and he'd lived every moment in fear, and the mental repercussions were still with him. "Of course," Finch stuttered, "how could I be so silly, I just..."
"Hey," Carter reached across the table and laid a hand on his. "You wanted to help a friend that's all. But maybe some soup would be better."
He nodded, it upset him more than he wanted her to know, but he felt that ship had sailed already. He felt so useless, he wished he'd found out where he was being held sooner, wished he could have jumped into action the night before the way Carter had done, even now he was near useless, he had no idea how to look after the man in the other room, much less begin to fix the damage that had been done to him.
"He's more vulnerable than he lets people see." He found himself saying quietly.
Carter squeezed his hand gently, "I'd noticed."
Of course she had, like him, she'd met Mr Reese when he was at rock bottom, and even after he'd been cleaned up, put in a nice suit and given a purpose, he couldn't be the only one to notice that haunted look had never really left him.
"I don't really know how to handle this." He admitted.
"Few do, the trick is just not to give up on him." Carter smiled at him and started tucking into her breakfast. "Can I ask you a question? You know his history right?"
"Most of it. There's some CIA stuff that has been redacted at such a high level that even I can't read it."
She nodded, reading between the lines that John had never actually told him any of it. Everything he knew was down to his spying, now that subject had turned into a friend he felt incredibly guilty about that knowledge.
"Has he ever been tortured before?"
He nodded, "Sadly, I don't even think this is the first time since being in my employ, but during his service most definitely. I don't think I should... you'll have to ask him..."
"It'll help us help him."
Finch sighed in defeat, "Er, the CIA stuff is from reading between the lines, he was on mission in Turkey, disappears, was found a week later in Iran and shipped home for R and R, that sort of thing. It happened a couple of times. But when he was in the Rangers, his whole unit in Afghanistan got taken. They were held for four months and he was the only one recovered alive. The report details malnutrition, dysentery and severe electrical burns. According to the army he never talked, got awarded with a medal and a promotion, not long after that the CIA came calling."
"You know what? I think I remember that! While I was out there, there were some rumours floating round the base that some tough son of a bitch had survived the impossible in some cave somewhere. Not only that but he'd escaped himself and was found wandering through the mountains half dead on his way back to camp. Can't remember the name though."
"You're all alone and no one's coming to save you." Finch muttered under his breath.
"Nothing, sorry. Just something I heard John say once."
"Look, I know you think you've told me too much, but it's important, if he's having flashbacks then they could equally come from there as much as this time around."
"Thank you." Finch said gently. "For being there for him. And me."
Carter smiled. "Don't mention it." She looked at the watch on her wrist. "God! I've got to phone Taylor, he'll be out of his mind with worry." She stood up in panic.
"I took the liberty of texting him first thing this morning. I told him you were fine but that you were caught up on a case and that you'd call him as soon as you could."
She sighed, "thank you. I'll call work too, it's been a long time since I used any sick leave, I'm owed a few days."
Finch watched her leave to take the call outside. All this talk of torture had put him right off the rest of his breakfast and he found he didn't really want to be alone, so he stood and shuffled stiffly into John's room, taking a seat in the armchair the detective had slept in.
He watched the ex-soldier sleep for a while. He could hear Carter sat on the porch not too far from the window, "I'm sorry baby, it's just been a crazy night. Do you remember my friend, the badass? Well he's really sick and he's going to need me to look after him for a few days so I want you to stay at your grandma's for a little while okay?" A pause, and a chuckle, "yeah well even badasses get sick sometimes."
When the conversation turned more light hearted and Finch was sure there wasn't going to be a problem, his mind turned back to John, who hadn't moved.
"I once overheard a conversation between you and your homeless friend Joan, where you thanked her for looking after you, and implied I was looking after you now. Well," he sighed, "I haven't been doing a very good job of that have I? The numbers... I knew that chasing them would be dangerous, but Snow, Elias...? I never meant for it to go this far. You were right when you said there were some numbers we shouldn't touch. I should have listened to you, it's always you who gets hurt."
He stopped when he realised John had opened his eyes and was watching him from the nest of blankets he had wrapped around himself. Finch waited for the other man to say something, but he didn't, just stared at him with the same broken look he'd had when he was rescued the night before. When he did open his mouth it was a harsh cough that came out instead.
Finch put a hand on the man's forehead and felt the heat emanating from there, his short hair was damp and stuck to his skin. "You're burning up." He said, alarmed, although he was pretty sure the other man knew that. He answered with another pain-wracked cough, which left him gasping for air when it subsided.
"That's getting a lot worse." Carter said, appearing beside him. "He needs a hospital and some intravenous antibiotics."
"I can get the medication, but we'll need to find a doctor we can trust to come here and set it up." Finch said.
"I can do it." John said hoarsely.
"Do what?" Carter said with a raised eyebrow, it wasn't a genuine question, it was a challenge.
"I can find a vein, insert an IV, I've done it before." John said breathlessly, too tired to argue.
John just nodded. Carter rolled her eyes, Finch would have found her admonishment of him amusing were it not for the dire situation they were in.
"Okay." Finch nodded, striding to the hall and grabbing his coat. "I'll be back with what we need in a few hours."
Finch drove round to get the items he needed in a frenzy and was back as quick as he could be. He entered the cabin again to the sound of more pathetic coughing. He thought of John's cracked ribs and could only imagine how much it must hurt. He remembered how painful his own cracked ribs had been after the accident, at the time they had been the least of his worries and the only injury that had healed without some form of permanent damage, but every laboured breath had hurt to the point where he'd spent a great deal of time trying to barely breathe at all.
He found John exactly how he'd left him, drifting in and out of sleep and Carter back in the armchair at his bedside, sound asleep, an open book discarded on her lap. Finch hated to see books treated that way, it was a cheap paperback but nevertheless it would be a shame to get the spine all bent. He picked it up gently and laid it on the bedside table. Steinbeck, a good choice he mused, but it looked like Carter had only made it through a few pages before nodding off.
He brought the coat stand through from the hall and hung the bags of IV from it, tying them up there with small strips of bandage. He had a bag of fluids and another of antibiotics plus extras in a cool box in case this wasn't enough. He started unraveling tubes and connected them together, setting everything up before having to wake the younger man.
It turns out he didn't have to, John had woken and was watching him with that same haunted expression. Eventually Finch finished, he was far from being a medic but he'd had enough IVs in the last few years to know what he was doing in that regard at least. All that was left was to cannulate and for that he placed a couple of needles in different sizes on the bed beside John. John seemed to be eying them somewhat suspiciously.
"Do you want me to try?" Finch asked, perching on the edge of the bed since Carter had the chair.
John closed his eyes for a moment, as though he was psyching himself up, and when he opened them again he had his usual calm expression. He shook his head gently, "belt?" He asked hoarsely.
Finch undid the slim leather he had round his waist and held it out to John who took it with surprisingly steady hands. John's left side was more dominant but had been left completely immobile by the heavy bruising and damaged ligaments caused by the dislocation. It didn't seem to bother him though as he slipped the belt round his left bicep and pulled it tight, his right thumb and forefinger the only digits he had working but still as nimble as you'd expect considering their many hours of conditioning on a weapon. Finch had always wondered whether John had been ambidextrous from birth or whether it had taken years of practice, perhaps just in case of a scenario such as this.
John put the end of the belt between his teeth and pulled it tighter, engorging his forearm with blood. He picked up a middle gauge cannula and allowed Finch to take the cap off for him before running his thumb along the crook of his elbow, searchingly. He found what he was looking for and without so much as a flinch he slid the needle into his skin. Finch winced as he watched him feeling around with the needle, sliding it back a bit, adjusting the trajectory slightly before he found what he was looking for and blood filled the plastic connection. Finch was ready with the tape and secured it down before removing the needle from inside the device, leaving the tube in place.
"I don't know whether to be impressed or horrified." Carter said, clearly having woken up some time during the proceedings. Finch attached the line and opened the valves while John gave him his belt back.
"A little of both should probably hit the right mark." Finch commented. "Much like I was with the way you set his shoulder last night."
"Yeah well, I used to watch a lot of ER." Carter replied.
They both looked down at John who, now the line was in and secure, had tucked the blankets round him again. The fire was still on and it was warm in the room and considering the fever he was unlikely to be cold. It was for protection, Finch realised, after long days naked and cold, his body vulnerable to the whims of his captors, no wonder he wanted to cover up as much as possible.
It still worried him that the had barely said anything since they'd found him. He was starting to realise that the ex-spy wasn't sleeping all that much either, despite his obvious exhaustion, instead he did a lot of staring, either at Finch and Carter or at the door he'd insisted on keeping open, as though he was expecting someone dangerous to turn up. Finch wondered if he should perhaps have taken John back to the more familiar settings of his apartment, but he'd hoped some time out of the city and away from people might've done him some good.
"His fever is down, I took the IV out." Carter told Finch as she collapsed on the sofa that was at right angles to his own. Finch looked up from his book, he'd brought a bottle of red wine and a pair of glasses to the coffee table and he poured it now and handed her a glass which she accepted gratefully. She brought her sock clad feet up onto the sofa and snuggled into it, outside the evening was chilly, but inside the cabin was warm and cozy.
It had been three days now since his rescue, and except to hobble to the bathroom, John had remained tucked in his blankets, barely saying a word. It worried his mismatched pair of caregivers even more now. Carter had expected him to start to come round once his fever had lessened but so far there had been little improvement.
"I changed his dressings, there's no infection and I got him to eat some soup." She said, "but I'm still worried he should be eating more than that."
Finch nodded quietly. The one thing this had done was bring the two of them closer. Carter had never expected to bond with the eccentric little man, they were just too different, but the one thing they did have in common was the care they had for the man in the other room, and that had developed into an easy companionship.
"Give him time Detective." Finch said sagely. "He's exhausted and still in a lot of pain."
"Yeah, but he's not going to get un-exhausted unless he can get some proper sleep and eat something." She sighed. "I don't know what else to try."
"I read a couple of articles once on PTSD,..."
Carter frowned at him as she sipped her wine and for once the searching look worked and he elaborated, perhaps in an attempt to stop her worrying about his own difficulties with capture.
"I was about to employ an alcohol-soaked ex-spy, I thought they might come in useful. Anyway my point is that I have an idea, and he should be here shortly."
Carter smiled, "Always so cryptic. I wish sometimes you'd just tell me what you were thinking."
There was a noise outside of a vehicle on gravel, Carter shot up and searched for her service weapon but noticed that Finch was smiling. "Excellent timing."
Elias was stood in the corner of the room, by the fireplace, John knew this was wrong, the man was in prison, yet somehow he was also there, staring down at him with sneering pity. John understood that, he was pathetic after all. He barely had the strength to lift his head to look at the man. Even breathing hurt. Who was he kidding, just existing hurt. If Elias had offered him a gun now, he would have taken it, but no matter how much he wanted it, he doubted he'd have the energy to point it and put himself out of his misery. He'd have to ask Elias to do it for him, and wouldn't that be the final kick in the teeth?
"What do you think John?" Elias said, and although John knew that the gangster being in the cabin wasn't real, the conversation had been. "Are you done yet? Shall we let your friends find you now?"
John screwed his eyes shut. It wasn't real, it wasn't real, he kept telling himself. He was safe, Carter had just been there and promised him so.
It was a soft woof that made him open his eyes again. He stared over at the doorway and suddenly a furry head appeared, tongue lolling out in excitement. The Belgian Malinois padded over to him quietly and brought his front paws up onto the bed. He cocked his head as he surveyed his human and then with a gentleness the dog had never displayed before, he climbed onto the bed and lay down, his body flush against John's, his head resting in the crook of his arm.
"Hey Bear." John whispered, wrapping his good arm round him tightly and burying his face into the dog's shoulder. Bear laid a gentle paw on John's chest and gave him a lick, before settling down to rest against his master.
"So, you think it's helped?" Fusco was saying as he Carter and Finch sat on the sofas drinking their morning coffee and tea. By the time the portly detective had arrived the night before with his charge, it had been late and he'd opted to spend the night on one of the sofas.
"I once read an article about the rehabilitation of prisoners." Finch said. "A prison had a project running where inmates would train service dogs. These men had spent their whole lives being told not to show emotion, get upset or sad. And it had manifested in anger in the majority of them. But with the dogs, it's okay to feel, they could sit on the floor and play with them, they could feel sad with them, or happy or cry if they needed to. It was socially acceptable to bond with a dog in a way it hadn't been acceptable for them to bond with humans and it got them on the right track to becoming better, more connected people. It occurred to me that our friend in there has also had a lifetime of being told not to feel, and that maybe what he needed was something we couldn't give him."
Carter smiled sadly at the thought as she sipped her coffee. Of all the things he'd been through, was the most debilitating really the macho military culture that had shaped his entire service? She'd seen it for herself in the military, it was there in the police force too, she liked to think she could brush off trauma, the same as any guy, but whenever things had gotten too much she'd always allowed herself to come home and have a cry. It had let it out, she'd always felt better for it, and it had given her the strength to get up and go back into work the next day. And she'd always found the ones who ended up struggling the most were the ones you'd least expect, the ones who appeared to be able to ignore whatever life threw at them. How much trauma could you ignore before it broke you?
Just then there was a gentle woof as Bear announced his presence, his paws pattering on the hardwood as he entered the living room, he leapt up into the middle of the sofa that Finch was sitting on and sat waiting, alert and patient, staring back at where he'd come from. There was a second set of paws pattering across the floor, and they all looked up to see John limping over, his pyjamas rumpled and hair sticking out all over. He sank down into the sofa, careful not to jostle his arm, and Bear promptly lay down with his paws and his head across John's lap. The ex-spy tucked his arm around the animal and gave him a scratch behind the ear.
"How'd you sleep?" Fusco asked conversationally, but with a hint of concern.
John smiled and tugged his dog closer to him. "Better. Thank you."
Carter smiled at the pair of them, and if she quietly shed a tear of relief, well she knew no one there would judge her. Somehow, this strange group of misfits had become a little family, and they'd always look after each other.