The Weight of Darkness
It's back to school! New binder, new kit, new pens, and new story! A small explanation of the text concerning the title. No, this is not a way to deceive English-speaking readers (even if it will happen), it's just the title of a work by Icelandic artist Olafur Arnalds (who also composed the soundtrack of the Broadchurch series) whom I love. Moreover if you listen to this music on Youtube (long version, minutes 12 to 18), you will find what will be the general mood of my fic! (Do not trust this rather quiet chapter ^^)
"Where are you, Mr. Reese?" Finch sighed, rubbing his eyes under his glasses, tired and anxious of waiting for news from his partner on a mission.
But only the ominous echo of his own voice resonating in the disused subway station answered him. Sitting in front of his computer screens, the computer specialist had tried, for a few minutes already, to contact his agent. But the phone rang desperately in the void which was not reassuring to him, because it was not John's habit not to answer his calls. In general, he picked up on the first ring. This silence did not augur well. The longer it went on, the more Finch's anxiety grew. And as always, the genius could not stop his brain from running at full speed to try to find a reason for this abnormal muteness.
One was supposed to find a myriad of logical and rational explanations to the fact that Reese did not answer: his cellphone could've been damaged during a fall or a fight, he had perhaps lost it while pursuing their Number, or John was just too busy to answer... Anyway, all those assumptions were highly probable, but that wasn't counting on Finch's fertile and overflowing imagination that could not help but fear the worst. He imagined his partner hurt, dying in an alley, or worse, dead, his phone ringing in the void...
And recent discoveries about their target worried him. Finch had just noticed that Sarah O'Mara, the nurse whose number had appeared the day before, was not as kind and professional as it seemed. When Harold had hacked her apartment's wifi password, he had access to her personal computer that she had negligently left on standby. After the tedious analysis of its contents, the computer scientist had spotted a hidden file that had turned out to be her diary. Reading it, Finch realized that they had gone astray: she was not a victim but a dangerous psychopath who had decided, "for the sake of the community", to shorten the lives of the most affected patients at her leisure in order to "save money", as she had so coldly written.
Luckily the girl is not a fan of notebooks and pens, Harold had thought before dialing John's number to warn him of the danger.
Beginning that morning, Reese had started surveillance on her. Pretending to visit a hospitalized relative, he was easily able to approach the girl. At first glance, she seemed totally harmless: kind, attentive, gentle towards her patients. Using his charm, John had managed to invite her to have a coffee in the hospital restaurant in order to extract from her, casually, some information. Unfortunately for Finch, Mount Sinai Hospital, like many hospitals, had cellphone jammers so the signals did not interfere with the highly sensitive state-of-the-art medical machinery.
It had been several minutes now that he had desperately tried to contact his partner without any results. Finch was starting to be more and more worried. It was all the more so since the empty ringtones had now given way to his voicemail. Why had his phone suddenly shut down? Was it discharged? Off? Broken?
The questions were jostling in the genius's mind, from the most reasonable to the most irrational. At the end of his nerves, he got up from his chair and went to the little kitchen set up in a corner of the abandoned station to prepare a hot drink. He filled the kettle with water and heated it. He grabbed a cup from a cupboard above the sink and then chose his favorite tea from one of the small metal boxes on the worktop. He filled the little tea-strainer with dried leaves and placed it in his cup.
He waited patiently for the kettle to warm up, while keeping an eye on his cellphone in front of him. He felt so useless, alone, here in his dark, dusty lair that he could have cried from spite. It was in this kind of situation that he felt like a dead weight, a disabled person unable to act, just waiting feverishly for his agent to return from the field. Besides his helplessness, the other feeling that tormented him was fear. The visceral fear of losing his partner during one of the missions that he had entrusted to him.
Yet he knew the danger that was inherent in their work. From the beginning of their partnership, he had warned Reese. But now, and against all odds, it was he who was suffering the most from the situation.
Sooner or later, we'll probably end up dead, for real this time.
Harold shuddered as he remembered the words he had uttered so coldly. That warning had been mere rhetoric, to make sure his new agent knew exactly what he was getting into. At that time, John was just a new agent recruited to replace Dillinger. Moreover, to be quite honest, Finch would never have believed that their partnership would have lasted so long. Four years. It had been four years now that the two men had worked together, helped recently by a new duo formed by Shaw and Root.
Initially, this choice had been made by the Machine. It was she who had spotted the potential of this lost man, an expert in weapons, trained in close combat, grounded in interrogation techniques, knowing well how to blend into the crowd that shone in society. Oh yes, John was perfect for the missions.
But this purely rational and objective observation had been posed by the AI with the scientific coldness typical of machines. She had not seen behind the data and statistics the man he was in reality. Harold had seen him. After four years at his side, he had seen the man behind the cold killer in the service of the Numbers. If for the Machine, John remained a field agent, an asset; for its creator, he was much more. He liked to believe that he had become his partner and maybe, even his friend.
Although deep in his heart, he knew he was much more. But he was not yet ready to put a word on the feelings he awakened in him. He was dying to see him but feared him too. He wanted to touch him without allowing himself permission. He felt a guilty pleasure in contemplating him... No, he was not ready yet...
The hissing of the kettle saved him from his too-disturbing introspection. He poured boiling water into his cup, and while he was steeping his tea, glanced at his phone again. Still nothing.
With his steaming cup of tea in his hand, his cellphone in the other, Finch went back to his desk. Once seated, he tried to contact John again. Voicemail. New sigh. He rubbed the bridge of his nose underneath his glasses while reflecting. Where the hell was he? He decided to locate his agent through the GPS of his phone. He doubted he'd succeed, but hey, as the saying went: whoever tries nothing, has nothing!
With a pounding heart, Finch activated the geolocation of Reese's phone. The loading time of the gauge seemed endless. Oscillating between hope and anguish, he nervously followed the progress of the bar. Once at 100%, the computer scientist held his breath and exhaled loudly in disappointment. No Match.
Enough was enough. He decided to inform Fusco to warn him of the problem. He grabbed his cellphone to dial the criminal detective's number when he heard heavy footsteps echoing in the distance. He slowly swiveled his chair to have a view of the entrance to the subway station and his heart leapt into his chest when he saw Reese slowly approaching him.
"Relax, Finch, no need to call the army, my phone just broke as it fell during the fight," announced the man, waving his cellphone's broken screen as to prove his words.
But Finch did not listen to him, as the look of his agent grabbed all his attention. John was in a bad state. Her hair was shaggy, his suit torn, his lacerated shirt was stained with blood. As he approached, Harold spotted a bruise on his cheekbone and a cut on his lower lip.
"Mr Reese?!" he exclaimed, literally jumping from his seat to take a quick step towards him.
"Calm down, I have nothing serious. I just had to deal with a lovely nurse who turned into a harpy from the moment I started asking her about the suspicious deaths in the hospital. I had a hard time controlling her after she was unleashed, but the problem is now resolved."
As he spoke, the agent moved to his usual place, a bench next to Finch's office. He sighed loudly as he sat down, leaning back against the chair, his head resting against the subway car's window behind him.
"After handcuffing the fury, I asked the restaurant owner to contact Fusco to take her to the station," continued the former operative, eyes closed, giving himself a few minutes of a well deserved rest.
Still standing in the middle of the huge abandoned room, Harold looked at Reese, at once reassured of his general condition but worried about his wounds, especially that to his abdomen. Without a word, he made his way to the small bathroom between the kitchen and Root's small room. He took the little white first aid kit and went back to his agent. At his approach, John slowly opened his eyes to watch him limp towards him, a slight smile floating on his injured lips, as if he was amused to see him so worried.
"I already told you, these are just a few scratches. After a shower, I'll be like new," he murmured, straightening slightly.
Without a word but looking serious, Harold sat down beside him and put the little box on his lap. He turned to John before announcing curtly, "Let me be the judge of that."
"Harold..." sighed the agent, determined not to move.
The computer scientist said nothing, just glancing at him over his glasses. He knew why Reese used his name: it was a way to soften him, to play the sensitive chord, maybe even to charm him so that he would leave him alone. But he did not intend to give in and waited patiently for his agent to comply.
Reese rolled his eyes like a teenager and then complied, not without sighing loudly to signal his dissatisfaction. Finch smiled internally at this puerile attitude but savored his small victory.
John got up, took off his jacket and his now unrecoverable shirt. He raised his arm to allow his boss to assess the damage.
"But what is this?" exclaimed Finch, opening his eyes wide.
Three large, deep, parallel cuts tore at the agent's tanned skin. They started from the top of his ribs and ended on his belly. With a trembling hand, the computer scientist touched the wound.
"A fork," Reese said as if nothing had happened, while clenching his muscles in pain but also embarrassed by this soft and unexpected caress. Seeing that Finch did not seem to understand, the agent explained with a shrug. "She took the first thing that came to hand."
Finch's body stiffened with a contained rage in front of so much nonchalance. Was Reese not aware that people were fond of him and suffered to see him hurt? He said angrily, "And you call that some scratches?!"
If John was surprised by this very unusual burst from his boss, he did not let it show. He just shrugged, answering, "These are the risks of the job. I knew what to expect when I accepted it."
Finch tensed at the mention of his warning as he had tried to convince him to follow him on his crusade four years ago. With brusque and nervous gestures indicating his anger, he opened the emergency bag and withdrew what was needed to care for his partner. He soaked a sterile compress with alcohol and began to clean the wounds.
But as he passed the cotton over the lacerations, he noticed his companion tense and groan in pain. He inwardly cursed his brutality. It was not because he was unhappy that he had to make his agent pay the price. He therefore endeavored to put aside his rancor, and resumed his care more gently.
"You take your life so lightly," murmured the computer scientist, removing the excess blood around the wounds.
Reese chuckled before answering with cunning, clumsily trying to relax the atmosphere. "I don't need to worry, you do enough for two."
Finch kept silent while swallowing the sharp remark he had on the tip of his tongue. Once clean, he placed a small amount of antiseptic ointment on the wounds and gently massaged the bruised skin to allow it to penetrate.
With a closed expression, frowning, mouth pinched, Finch was upset. Displeased that his agent cared so little about his injuries and his life as a rule. Displeased to see that his own gaze drifted inexorably on this beautiful torso, that his hands were occupied a little too much with his flat stomach. Displeased to take pleasure in the cure.
For the necessity of the care, Harold had his face several inches from his agent. It would be so easy for him to get close enough to put his lips on his skin, just to taste the flavor. As if hypnotized by the disturbing sight of his pale hand on that tanned skin and intoxicated by his characteristic masculine scent, a mixture of powder and coffee, Finch once again brought his face closer to Reese's belly. While he was busy dressing his wounds, the computer scientist was fighting against the irrepressible urge that he wanted to kiss this skin, as much to satisfy his own desire as to erase the pain that his partner had to experience, a bit like a mother kissing the scratch of her child to comfort him.
But the thoughts of the recluse were much less innocent. He wanted a lot more than kissing the bruised skin of his agent. He wanted to protect him, to cherish him, to love him. Letting his thoughts gently drift into a world where he could give free rein to his fantasies, Finch imperceptibly let his lips approach but his gesture was abruptly interrupted by an unexpected reaction from Reese that gave him the effect of a cold shower. The latter tensed and put a hand on his boss's to repel him unceremoniously. The computer specialist threw himself back abruptly as if he had just been burned.
"Leave it, Finch, I'll take a shower and change clothes. I'll finish the treatment myself, " the agent announced sharply, lowering his arm, ending the treatment.
Without waiting for his boss's response, the agent took his torn clothes and made his way quickly to the bathroom. Cheeks red with confusion, the computer specialist remained frozen a moment, as troubled by his attitude as by that of his partner. He put the ointment tube and compresses back in the case with mechanical gestures. Once finished, Finch closed his eyes and leaned his head on the glass of the subway car, trying to slow down the frantic beat of his heart.
What's wrong with me?! he thought bitterly.
But the ringing of the phone put an end to his thoughts. Finch jumped up and limped toward the station's wall to pick up the handset of the old phone that was embedded in it.
A cold, mechanical voice announced a series of words. Harold pulled out his notebook and pen from his pocket to note down the Machine's directions. Once the message was noted, he hung up and went to his office. He pursed his lips, annoyed at the thought of having to send John back to the field again when he had just returned from a mission, as injured as he was.
But hey, a life was at stake. Finch sat down in front of his screens and entered the directions into his computer. After a few seconds of research, a photograph appeared and the identity of their new Number: Livia Edwood. The computer scientist took a sip of his tea, now cold, and began to collect as much information about their new target.
As the recluse gradually regained his composure in his routine, John strove to regain composure. He carefully closed the bathroom door and leaned against it for a long time. With panting breath, a hand still clenched on the handle, he struggled to recover his spirits. His skin was burning but it was not because of his injuries but rather because of his partner.
That was exactly what he feared, which led him to refuse to let Harold look at his wounds. To put his bare chest before him, to feel his eyes examine him, his hands on his body, his face a few inches from his skin, his breath caressing him... It was too much. His body had reacted without him being able to control it. To his torment, John, who could withstand the most painful and perverse tortures, had only managed to hold out a few minutes against the delicate care dealt by his partner. Unable to bear it, he had decided to leave before his discomfort became too visible.
Now, alone in the bathroom, John was trying to calm down by breathing deeply to slow the heavy beats of his heart. After a few minutes, he found a semblance of serenity and could not help but laugh at the situation. What irony! He, the agent who was always sure of himself and in control, the cold blooded killer, was totally helpless against the marks of innocent attention from his boss. He was so helpless against Finch that he found his salvation only in flight. Tragic for a former soldier.
He finished undressing, tossed his last clothes into a corner of the room and entered the shower. His skin and his nerves were always overheated by the too-intimate contact of his boss, so he opted for a cold shower. Turning the tap towards the blue side, the agent was instantly seized by the icy water that poured over him. After a minute of this radical treatment to extinguish the fire of desire that his companion had unconsciously ignited in him, he soon began to shiver with cold. He cut the jet, took one of the hanging towels nearby, and left the shower. He quickly dried himself and tied the towel around his hips.
"Damn it, my clothes," he swore between his teeth, realizing that in his confusion he had failed to take spares.
He opened the door carefully and noticed on the floor there was a suit, a shirt, and clean underwear, neatly folded.
The agent smiled tenderly.
How to not love him?
Everything about him was remarkable: his intelligence, his culture, his humour, his generosity, his sensitivity, his strength, his weaknesses. Reese leaned over to pick up his belongings and then went back to the bathroom. Wiping the condensation off the mirror, he began to dress, gradually regaining the assurance, calm and nonchalance appropriate for the Man in the Suit.
A few minutes later, the agent left the bathroom fresh and available. Passing his hand carelessly through his damp hair, he stumbled across the station and headed for the train car where Finch, sitting at his computer, was apparently working. He entered the car and noticed a new photograph taped on the glass above the monitors.
"A new number, Finch?" he asked formally while examining the portrait of the blonde girl.
"Yes, Mr. Reese," said the computer scientist without taking his eyes off his screens, "it's Livia Edwood, a twenty-eight-year-old woman who has been living in New York since the end of her studies three years ago. After graduation, she was hired by Gamesoft, a video game company, as a programmer. She has only her mother who lives in Colorado, and seems to have very few friends. In fact, she's not present on social networks, so for the moment I haven't had access to any other personal information."
The more John listened to his boss, the more nervous he felt. Once the explanations were finished, he asked in a tone a little too abrupt, "You plan to go to the field?"
"It's clear that this environment would have suited me perfectly, but the company fears industrial espionage and has locked its workforce. However, they are looking for a new security agent today. I have already sent your resume. Detective Riley needs to make some extra money. I will not be surprised if you are contacted during the day. Try to be up for your job interview," warned the computer scientist, a mischievous smile on the lips.
Reese had suddenly relaxed when he learned that his boss was going to stay safe in their lair. Since Samaritan had come into service, the agent was very anxious every time Finch had to go out, either to live under the identity of Professor Whistler or for the purposes of a mission. Reassured, he returned his smile, his heart overflowing with tenderness. God, he loved him! For him, he would be able to pick up the moon.