Authors Note: OMG, this is not helping me get any work done! I'm hoping that by writing these things I can purge the ideas from my mind and get back to what I should be working on, but then my mind says, 'hey, now you've done this, how do you think Team Machine would cope in a zombie apocalypse?' The answer of course, is by being BAMFs. No zombies in this, just good old fashioned hurt/comfort. As always, I don't own these characters and I'm not making money. I try to give them back in a similar state to how I found them, but let's be honest no one is as rough with them as the show's creators, so quite frankly how can you tell?
This is now the 'director's cut' version after Edith Boden made some valid points about the rushed ending. This is why reviews are important to us writers, not just for little ego boosts but in order to make our writing better.
Enjoy and as always, I appreciate hearing what you thought of it.
Does It Have To Be Beer?
"It's time we took that beer."
Harold Finch knew that his partner would only take no for an answer for so long. And the innocuous sounding 'drink', had been weighing on him since the moment it was offered. It sounded so harmless, didn't it? Work colleagues, friends, went for drinks all the time. And John Reese had definitely proved himself to be a friend in the last few weeks, flying all over the country in a desperate attempt to get him back. Not many people could claim to have a friend so dedicated. Nathan would have done the same and after he'd gone, Harold had never expected to get another. The ex-agent has chipped away at the programmer's carefully constructed walls, but what he wanted now, well Harold would rather take to the grave.
Since his embarrassing panic attack though, Harold knew that any further brush off would not work. "Does it have to be beer?" he'd asked instead, as they stepped out into the street, trying to distract Mr Reese from seeing his grip on Bear's leash was causing his knuckles to whiten.
But Reese noticed the grip, hell, the dog had noticed the grip too and was walking slowly and steadily, his warm body brushing against the man's leg, staring up at him with an intense concentration, in 'protect' mode without even having to be asked. Both Reese and Bear were eyeing him critically. The thought caused Harold to snort with laughter, how had he acquired two guard dogs?
"I'm sure they serve more than just beer." Reese conceded with a smile. "But it has to have alcohol in it," he stipulated.
"There's a lovely little Italian place not too far..." he tried to suggest. If he could pick the venue for this little 'drink', then it would be a way of claiming back control over the situation.
"Gino's?" Reese asked. "Too fussy."
Harold felt rather affronted at John's dismissal of the small bistro. Fussy? That was probably how Reese saw everything about him.
"Besides," the taller man continued, "I don't think Bear would be welcome. Don't worry Finch, I found just the place."
Harold was skeptical, he'd seen the places that Reese liked to frequent, "If the intention was to get me to relax then I hardly think that rock music and live sports followed by a bar fight is going to achieve that."
Reese turned to look at him and gave him an amused little frown accompanied by a trademark smirk. Harold sighed, they'd walked a considerable way, he could think of a dozen places nearer The Library that should have sufficed. They were now practically in The Village.
He was about to express his exasperation when Reese strode up to a place that had lead lined windows and a wooden board hanging over the door proclaiming it's name to be The Admiral Benbow.
Of course Finch got the reference immediately, Treasure Island had been one of his favourite books as a child. He was about to comment on it, but Reese held the door open for him and ushered him and Bear through. Harold stepped inside and looked around, keenly aware that Reese's smirk had widened, as he took in the place. It had been decorated in the style of an Old English pub, complete with dark wooden bar, flagstone floor and comfortable leather furniture. But the piece de resistance was the walls, which were full of old books on mahogany shelves. The place was half full, mostly of hipsters of varying ages, there was music but it wasn't overwhelming.
Reese indicated that Harold should take a seat, and pointed out that there was a pair of unoccupied leather armchairs next to a roaring wood fire. Harold went to settle himself down and Bear collapsed down on top his feet, while John went to the bar. While John was getting served, a member of staff came over with a metal dog bowl full of water and laid it at Bear's head. The dog sat up eagerly and started lapping the cool water up enthusiastically.
"He's gorgeous," the woman commented and gave his ears a fondle. "How long have you had him?"
"Actually, he's my friend's dog, and he adopted him a week ago," he said, indicating Reese who was coming back from the bar with a glass of red wine and a pint of ale.
"Well, he's very well behaved. He's welcome here any time."
"Thank you." Harold smiled as the woman got back to work.
"Making friends Finch?" John asked, handing over the glass of wine.
"Not me, Bear." Harold said with a wan smile, taking a sip of his wine. It was a Pinot Noir, Harold surmised, and a good one. Mr Reese had taste.
Reese slumped down the chair opposite and propped his ankle up on his opposite knee. Harold eyed him suspiciously. He had to admit, the younger man had done well, with the pub and the wine so far, but that didn't mean that he wasn't still dreading what would happen next.
"You know it's okay to talk Finch." Reese said, watching him carefully.
Harold shrank under the other man's gaze. How silly the man in front of him must think he was. The man who took life without blinking. Who he'd seen take a punch, even a bullet without a cry out. Things could literally explode in front of Reese and he would not so much as flinch. When Harold had told him that he knew everything about him, it hadn't quite been true but it had been close enough. There were things that Finch had read that he'd found hard to believe until he'd met the ex-soldier in real life. His employee's inner strength and his ability to shrug off life-threatening moments like they were nothing, was precisely why he didn't want to have this conversation.
"I'll be fine Mr Reese." Harold said after a minute of thought. "I'm just tired and I've been working hard. Once I get a few good nights sleep then I'll be back to my old self again."
"You're not going to get a good nights sleep at The Library," Reese pointed out.
"Yes, you're right." Harold huffed. "I promise I shall go home tonight."
Reese narrowed his gaze at him, obviously unconvinced. Harold didn't blame him. Even though he said it, and even meant it, he knew it wasn't going to happen. He'd tried the night before, had gotten as far as the door to the outside world and then changed his mind and returned to the safety of his computer. He could distract himself in front of it, work took his mind away from everything else, and he knew if he went home he would just end up laying in the dark waiting for the door to open and for someone to burst in and whisk him away.
"What if I crashed on your couch?" Reese asked suddenly. Harold was unable to keep the horror from his face. Emotion flashed across the ex-spy's face before it was controlled again, buried under a mask of pleasant indifference. It had taken Harold a little while to notice these slips of his carefully constructed mask, and sometimes he needed a moment to decipher them. Reese was clearly upset, but why? Because Harold was about to turn down his offer of help? No, it was because even after everything, he still couldn't trust the man enough to tell him where he lived.
"Or we could use a safe house, or my place isn't far. My interior decorator has good taste in beds, and the couch isn't half bad either. I'll find you some fresh sheets I promise," Reese joked, trying to pretend the slight hadn't bothered him.
Although it was different, not least because Harold had bought Reese his place, it was still an offer filled with a deeper meaning. Harold knew that Reese valued his privacy almost as much, and yet here he was inviting the smaller man into his personal space, showing him the trust that he was unwilling to give back. But it was only a marginally better solution, for if Reese ever caught him in one of the nightmares that had been plaguing him since his capture, them he felt sure that he would lose whatever scant respect the man still had for him.
"I assure you, I will be quite alright at home," Harold assured firmly.
"You know, it's normal to be upset, to have nightmares..." John started hesitantly. "You've been through a trauma, you're mind is just trying to work out what to do with the new information. Eventually it will realise it doesn't have to be in 'fight or flight' mode all the time."
"Yes, yes," he said haughtily, "I'm aware of the effects such incidents have on the brain... but..." He drifted off, Reese just waited patiently for him to continue.
When he didn't, Reese continued, "It will get better, but it helps to talk about it." His words were met with silence. "It doesn't have to be with me..."
"Good." Harold said a little too hurriedly, "because quite frankly you're the last person I would want to talk to about it."
Reese visibly flinched at the emphatic statement. Harold immediately felt guilty about it but before he could explain what he meant, did he even want to explain it?, Reese drained the rest of his pint and stood up, "Fine. You know it's been a long week, I've not slept, I've been shot at a little, so if you don't need me, Boss, I think I'm going to head home." He slung his coat on and strode out, "Let me know when there's a new number."
Harold watched the other man leave and let out a sigh. Bear looked up at him and whined his displeasure, "I know," he said to the dog. "That was unfair of me." Bear didn't say anything else, but he seemed to agree. He supposed he should call Mr Reese back and apologise but he really didn't want to have to explain himself so he decided against it. John was right, he decided, it had been a long week and making the other man deal with his issues wasn't fair. He finished the glass of wine, savouring it and reading the titles of the books on the nearest case before getting up and leaving.
He stood outside with Bear sat alert by his leg and thought about what he was going to do now. It had started to rain a little, despite the day having been too hot. It matched his mood though. He scanned the street for a cab, trying to decide whether to go home or back to The Library. He could walk to either but his current fatigue meant his neck and hip hurt worse than usual. If he mentioned it to Reese, the other man would point out it was the price he was paying for so many nights hunched over the computer and he would be right, but it just made Harold more determined not to mention it at all.
Just as he spotted a cab turn into the road and head towards him, the payphone on the corner rang. Harold sighed and hobbled over to it, it looked like that decision would be made for him. He picked up the receiver and fished a little notebook out of his pocket, jotting down the code that the electronic voice gave him. "Thank you," he muttered to it and hung up when it was done, before replacing the rain-dampened notebook in his pocket and retrieving his phone, "Mr Reese, I'm sorry. I know you're tired but we've just been given a new number."
They spent the next few hours together at The Library as they went over the details of their next number, before Reese was dispatched to go and follow him. Their conversation was strictly work-related, their earlier disagreement hanging awkwardly between them. Harold could tell that Reese was relieved to be sent out into the field, despite his tiredness, just so he could get away from on the oppressive atmosphere. Even Bear could feel it and just laid on his doggy bed with a paw thrown over his eyes like he was pretending that no one could see him.
This next number appeared to be fairly simple, his name was Freddy Hills and he was a fifteen year old from East Tremont in the Bronx. Finding what was about to happen to him wasn't too difficult either. A quick search of his social media showed that he'd been calling a school mate out to a fight. It was clear that to get the whole picture, Reese would need to blue jack his phone, or he could just trail the kid until the inevitable happened, after all, if they were prepared to threaten each other on an open forum then neither party was likely to be a criminal mastermind.
Harold made himself a cup of tea and took a tramadol for his neck, preparing to settle in for another long night at his desk. While he was still waiting to be updated by Reese, another number came in, it was going to be a long night.
This new number was perhaps predictably in the opposite end of the city to Reese's teenage tearaway. It belonged to a security guard at a warehouse on the docks in Red Hook, Brooklyn. At first glance Janus Petrowski seemed like a normal family man; wife, two kids, no sign of enemies. This just meant the investigation would take a little longer, but Harold was sure that they would get there eventually. He found himself grateful that he had something to occupy his mind with and then was horrified at his own thoughts, this was after all someone's life, how had he become so blasé about it?
He only half listened when Reese called to tell him he was watching Freddy's block and that he was unable to get close enough to jack his phone. Harold was busy checking in with Petrowski and finding out that he had just started the night shift down at the docks. Realising that if the man was likely in danger due to his job, then he was already all alone and therefore at risk.
He clicked a few keys and dialled from his computer. The phone rang a few times before a gruff voice said, "Which one of you is it this time?"
"Good evening to you too Detective," Harold said coolly. "I need you to do me a favour..."
"Yeah?" There was a muffled sound like the burly detective had his phone pinned to his ear with his shoulder, "And I need a week in the Bahamas. You're gonna haveta find someone else to do your bidding tonight, I'm swamped. Where's Wonderboy?"
"Dealing with something else. It appears we're all a little swamped tonight."
"Yeah, must be a full moon," Fusco grumbled. "Look, Carter n' I are caught up. We're short staffed n' have a domestic triple homicide, two gangland shootings and some nonsense over a spilled drink at a bar to deal with. Can you believe the shit people get killed over? I'll still be filling the paperwork a month from now."
"Okay Detective, point taken. Good luck."
"Yeah, you too Professor."
Harold hung up and stared at the screen and then down at the dog. "What am I going to do Bear?" he asked worriedly, although he knew the answer. He dialled a different number, which picked up on the first ring. "How are you doing Mr Reese?"
"Hold on a minute Finch, I think our boy has some company."
"Of course he does," Harold muttered. "Mr Reese, we have another number, a security guard in Red Hook. He's on shift now, I'm going to check it out. I'll text you the details just in case you become available."
The sound on the other line included heavy breathing, Reese was obviously running somewhere, "Wait, what? Are you sure?"
"Trust me Mr Reese, there is no one else. I'll be fine."
The breathing got more laboured, goodness only knew what the other man was doing. "Take Bear," he urged.
"I shall. Call me when you're done." The line disconnected and Harold picked up his things. He felt physically sick but breathed through the rising panic and grabbed Bear's leash. The dog, who had been dozing in his bed, leapt up, instantly awake and eager for adventure.
Harold let the Royal Opera House recording of Carmen fill the space of the town car as he sat and watched the small security hut from across the street. He doubted Bear appreciated the music, in fact, the dog had found a blanket on the back seat and had buried his head in it, but focusing on the music was keeping the panic somewhat at bay. It didn't stop him from jumping out of his skin though when the passenger door opened and Reese collapsed into the seat beside him.
The taller man looked at him with distaste and then turned the volume down, "You should really be paying better attention Finch," he admonished. "And keep the doors locked at all times."
"I'm sorry," he replied, feeling like an admonished child. "The music was keeping me awake." 'And drowning out some of the fear of being there in the first place', he thought but didn't say.
"Well I'm here now, so you can go home." Reese said.
Harold twisted awkwardly in his seat and scrutinised his employee. He had his jaw set with tension, something that always made him look a lot older, and there was blood smeared on his white shirt and glistening on his torn sleeve. When he'd left The Library he'd ditched the suit jacket for his motorcycle one, so the fact that something had torn through the tough leather was a little disturbing. "You're hurt," he pointed out. His mind finished the sentence for him, 'hurt and tired and still offering to take my place just because I'm scared. Must you always be so self-sacrificing? How on Earth can anyone ever keep up?'
"It's just a scratch." Reese dismissed, "I've taken care of it already." And he had, if Harold looked closely in the dim light, he could see that the flash of white beneath the gash in the leather jacket that he'd thought was a shirt sleeve, was in fact a bandage.
"I wish you'd be more careful." It was Harold's turn to admonish.
"I was being careful not to shoot a fifteen year old boy." Reese said.
Ah, of course. They both stared out at the warehouse that they were supposed to be watching. In fact, Reese's eyes hadn't left it from the second he'd got in the car. The building was small, with the only other building on the property the small security shack at the chain-link gate. There was a jetty at the back, lit with a street lamp, that had a small fishing boat moored there. On the rental agreement, it said that the warehouse was used by a small group of independent fishermen and Harold saw nothing to suggest otherwise.
"I'm fine. You should take Bear home." Reese insisted, "I brought the bike but I'd get a better view from up on this rooftop anyway so you can take the car."
"Mr Reese, if you think I..."
But Reese held up his hand to silence him. Harold could hear it now, the sound of a boat motor. He scanned out towards the jetty and the river beyond it. He couldn't see anything, so it was likely a small boat hidden behind the other warehouses in the area. It was unlikely that he would have heard it with the music still turned up, just another point to make him feel inferior to the man sat beside him, who was even now bolting out of the car with a whispered command of "Stay here." Harold watched as the ex-spy dashed into the dark out of sight of the security guard and then nimbly climbed over the fence.
Harold sat in silence, his heart hammering. He watched Reese slip around the corner of the building, a barely visible shadow. He always hated it when his employee ran off into dangerous situations, especially when he always seemed to do it without thought of the consequences. At least when he was in The Library, Harold could be at the computer and feel he was some use as 'tech support', despite his distaste of Reese's simplification of his job description, here, so close to the action he felt less than useless. Part of him wanted to go and help, but a larger part was terrified about just getting out of the car.
Not knowing what was going on was definitely worse, so he activated the comm link and his ear was filled with the sound of Reese's strained but steady breathing.
"What's happening Mr Reese?" There was movement in the back seat as Bear poked his head out from under the blanket, sensing from the tone in his voice that something was causing his human worry.
"Shh," Reese replied, barely audibly, like you would to soothe a child who was making you lose concentration.
Harold strained to hear a couple of deep voices, too far away for him to hear what they were saying. If he'd been in in front of his computer he would be able to play with the audio so he could decipher what was being said. As it was, he just had to hope that Reese could hear it.
"It's about shipment of something," Reese explained in a whisper.
"Of what Mr Reese?"
"Not sure," but they had the last night's one stolen, they think the security guard has been bought."
"I'll get him, explain he's in danger, meet you at a safe house," he said, grateful to be of some use after all.
There was a pause as Reese thought it through, "Take Bear with you, if he's caught up in this he might be expecting to be ambushed."
Harold sighed heavily, trying to control his racing heart. Reese must have heard his hesitation, because his voice came through softer and more encouraging than Harold would have ever expected for a government hitman, "Bear will protect you and I'm right here, but if you're going to do this you should do it now."
It was the push that he needed, getting out of the car and then opening the back door. Bear wriggled out of the blanket and leapt out to stand at attention beside him. The dog's presence helped and he found himself wondering what he did without him, although a sardonic voice in his head reminded him that was before he'd been kidnapped by a crazy lady. He patted Bear's head and then approached the security office.
As he got nearer, the guard stepped out, hand resting on his handgun at his hip, clearly nervous. "What are you doing here?" the guard, their number challenged, just itching to draw his weapon.
Harold held his hands up in a non-threatening gesture, "Mr Petrowski, I have reason to believe you may be in danger." His voice held steady, he sounded like his usual self, which surprised himself, but there was no time to be self-congratulatory.
"What are you talking about?" Petrowski asked gruffly, "Who are you?"
"The men who just arrived on the boat, they lost a shipment and think you may have tipped someone off."
"What?" Petrowski glanced down nervously at Bear. "No I didn't."
"Right now I don't care whether you did or not, I'm trying to stop them from killing you. Come on, we need to leave."
"No!" Petrowski pulled his gun and aimed it at Harold. Bear shifted his weight and bared his teeth, stepping between Harold and the threat. "It wasn't me and I need this job. They'll see it wasn't when they find you've been sneaking around."
Petrowski stepped towards Harold but was intercepted by Bear who leapt up at him. Bear sank his teeth into Petrowski's right forearm and clamped his jaw tight, pulling the man's gun arm down. Petrowski let out a howl and the gun went off, echoing around the buildings but the bullet fired harmlessly into the concrete and skidded away until it came to a stop inside the front tyre of Harold's town car.
The noise alerted the other men and Harold could hear shouts from down by the water.
"Finch!" Reese gasped in his ear, "I'm coming to you!"
Bear was still wrestling the guy's arm. There was blood soaking into his sleeve and he was howling in pain. The gun clattered to the floor and Petrowski sank to his knees in agony. He snatched the gun back up and slammed it down on Bear's head to try to get him to let go. Harold heard himself yelp but Bear just made a throaty growl of pain and held on.
Harold had been momentarily frozen in fear, but the guard's attack on Bear caused him to lunge at the man and try to wrestle the gun away. Petrowski has snatched it up with his hand over the barrel and was trying to use it to club Bear, too frantic to adjust his hold so he could shoot it. Harold grabbed it with both hands and tried to tear it out of his grip.
"Bear, go!" Harold pleaded, his fear greater for his new furry friend than himself. There was blood running down into the dog's eyes but it was difficult to tell if it belonged to man or beast. Harold found himself praying to a God he wasn't sure existed for Reese to hurry.
He could hear someone running towards him and then there was the sound of a shot fired. Harold found himself having enough time to be thankful for Reese's marksmanship but then realised that Petrowski hadn't loosened his grip and it was Bear that had howled in pain.
"No!" Harold wailed, finding some extra strength from somewhere. He couldn't see where Bear had been hurt, but amazingly he was still fighting.
More men had arrived, he was too preoccupied to count and then there was a flash of white shirt in the dark as Reese appeared, shooting one of the men with a perfect headshot. The attention of everyone turned to the newest threat and Harold used the distraction to wrench the gun from Petrowski's hand and throw himself over Bear. There was a grunt that sounded in his earpiece as well as across the yard and Harold looked up to watch Reese collapse to the floor, a man with a crow bar stood over him.
"Call your dog off or I'll kill him," the man with the crow bar yelled.
"Bear, stop!" Harold commanded in a panic. He knew he should be using the Dutch commands that Reese had taught him, but in his fear he had forgotten them all. Luckily, Bear seemed to understand anyway.
Bear did as he was told and released his grip with a whine. The dog moved away with a limp, taking a few steps towards Reese's downed body, but then looking to Harold for confirmation.
"Stay," Harold said, grabbing his collar and keeping him beside him. He appreciated the Malinois' internal conflict, he wanted to rush to John too. The ex-operative was sprawled on the floor, unmoving. His hair glistened in the street light, a smear of blood.
"Who are you?" The man with the crowbar growled. "Did Elias send you?"
Harold stared at him dumbly, he should have known that the gangster was involved. It seemed prison hadn't put a dent in his influence or productivity. He had no idea what to say about their reasons for being there, so he chose to say nothing.
"Get up," the man ordered. "Control your dog or I shall shoot him and your friend."
Harold scrambled to his feet, holding tightly to Bear's collar and whispering to him gently. The dog had a deep gash on his hind leg from a bullet, a graze. He was lucky it hadn't been worse but it was still raw and painful and likely to get infected. Reese still hadn't moved, a man crouched down and searched him, throwing out two guns, a multi tool, wallet and phone, which he smashed with his heel. Then two of the men picked him up by the arms and dragged him.
"Come!" The man said to Harold. He started to shuffle forward. Bear whimpered as he limped along beside him, so Harold reached down and scooped the dog up into his arms. He was heavy and it had been a long time since Harold had done any weight training, but his gratitude at the dog's sacrifice was enough to give him the strength to carry him.
They followed the men as they led them at gunpoint down towards the jetty, dragging Reese by his arms with them. His legs dragged along the ground, scuffing up his slacks and his shoes, his head drooped down between his well-muscled shoulders. They got down to the little fishing boat and were forced on board. At the rear of the boat was a chest freezer and one of the men opened the lid and they hauled Reese up and dumped him inside.
Harold was stopped and someone searched him roughly, finding his phone and his own multi tool that Reese had bought him when he'd flat out refused to carry anything else to defend himself. Once they were satisfied that they had found everything, he was given a shove towards the freezer, "Get in!"
Harold really needed both hands to clamber awkwardly in, but he refused to let go of Bear. In the end the men grabbed him by his arms and shoved him into the freezer. He landed inelegantly on top of Reese's limp body, clutching Bear protectively to his chest. Before he even had time to scramble out of Reese's lap, the lid slammed shut and they were left in darkness to the ominous sound of bolts and padlocks clicking locked. Still clinging Bear to him, Harold shuffled round in the dark to try to get to his friend. The engine started up and the boat began to move.
Harold leaned over Reese and placed a tentative hand at his neck at his pulse. The gentle touch was enough to startle the ex-operative awake and he came round swinging. Reese shot out a hand and snatched a fist into Harold's shirt while the other swung a wild punch connecting with the side of his head and dislodging his glasses. Harold doubted he would ever have seen it coming even if they hadn't been in pitch darkness and yet the blow had landed perfectly and made him see stars.
"John!" Harold gasped. Confused by the threat his two master's were causing each other, Bear began to bark loudly. But John wasn't listening, his fist had slammed into Harold's head and carried on until it impacted with the side of the fridge with bone-crunching force. He tried to sit up straight and bashed his head on the lid, flung his arms out to the side and met with walls on both sides. He scrambled backwards and hit the wall with his back.
Harold retreated to the other end of the freezer out of the way, wrapping his arms snuggly around Bear and stroking his head to calm him. Reese was in a full-blown panic, gasping loudly and thrashing around as he searched frantically for an escape.
"John!" Harold said, wanting to touch him but scared that he'd get hurt again. His ear was ringing from the impact of the punch and it had jarred his neck horribly. An errant leg snapped out and caught him in the thigh, the programmer tucked Bear away to protect him. "John! It's me, it's Harold. Please calm down." Wherever Reese was, his words weren't getting through as the man started to slam his hands against the lid, but the locks held fast. "Please John!"
Harold hated how pathetic his voice sounded, but something in it seemed to get through to the other man. He halted his thrashing and the assault on the freezer. His breathing sounded too fast and shallow as it filled the dark space. His leg was resting against Harold's and he could feel it trembling. "Harold?" His voice was breathy and strained and Harold felt a pang in his heart.
"You need to breathe slower, deeper," he told the ex-spy, using words he'd been telling himself only a few days ago. He'd never thought he'd have to say them to the man in front of him.
"Are you alright?" the larger man asked, clearly making an effort to control his breathing. He sounded better already, although Harold could still feel his leg trembling with adrenaline.
"I'm fine." Harold said. Reese's punch had left him in agony but he knew to reveal that would be unwise.
"They hit him on the head and a bullet grazed his flank," Harold reported, "It's bleeding but there didn't appear to be bone damage."
"Where are we?" Although better than he'd been a few seconds ago, Reese's voice still held a modicum of fear. Harold didn't think he'd ever hear that coming from the man, the closest he'd come was when he'd been bleeding out in a stairwell after being shot by the CIA and Harold had always thought that had been more accurately pain, tinged with relief at imminent death. That thought made a lump stick in his throat, what had he done to this man? Had he just cruelly prolonged his obvious misery?
"We're on the boat, in a freezer. I don't know where they're taking us."
There was another bout of frantic movement and the rustling of clothes. Harold guessed what he was doing, "They took our phones and your weapons."
"Do you still have your glasses?" he asked in a low voice.
"They've taken a knock," he admitted, "but yes."
Reese let out a shaky breath. "Good."
Harold frowned, "They're not doing me a whole amount of good in here."
"They are because I've put a tracker on them. I sent Carter the app to track you. Let's hope they didn't take too much of a knock, wait... you mean me? Finch, I'm so sorry. Are you sure you're okay?"
"I'll live. I should have known better than to touch an unconscious spy."
"I'm sorry, it's..." Reese's explanation faltered.
"Understandable." Harold said.
Harold could hear Reese moving around in the dark as he tested the strength of the lid of the freezer. His foot caught on Harold again but this time it was clumsy, not vicious. His breathing was still harsh in the darkness, like he was still struggling to contain his fear.
"Are you okay?" Harold asked.
"Fine, Finch. But this freezer is on so we shouldn't just sit here and wait for our detectives to check their phones," he replied tersely.
"I owe you an apology," Harold said, Bear made a little snuffing noise in agreement. "When I said I didn't want to talk to you earlier, it's not because I don't trust you."
"Can we not talk about this now?" Reese snarled, his hands were getting more frantic against the lid again and he gave it a smack with his palm in frustration.
"It's because I thought you wouldn't understand because I was under the impression you never felt fear."
Reese paused what he was doing, "Of course I do. I've just had a lot of practice and learned to control it. Being trapped in small spaces though is..." his sentence drifted off as he searched for the ending to his confession, "it's one of my least favourite things, okay?"
There was a slight waver that undercut what had supposedly been an attempt at a brush-off statement. Harold released his hold on Bear and instinctively the dog got up and limped across the confined space. The programmer heard a little expulsion of air as Reese had 65 pounds of Malinois flop down in his lap. Reese's frantic pawing stopped as he settled down, calmed by the dog's presence.
"How long have you been claustrophobic?" Harold asked cautiously, not sure he wouldn't be snapped at for the diagnosis.
"When I was with the agency, I spent some time in an Iranian prison. Every day I was hauled out of my little cell with a hood over my head and made to kneel while they spoke to me. I was convinced that one day they'd chop my head off like they kept threatening to do. When I wouldn't talk, they kept me in a sweat box with no food or water for three days. It's a metal box out in the sun. It heats up until it feels like you're in an oven, the dehydration causes headaches, hallucinations, you can go into shock. Anyway, that didn't help, but I wouldn't have considered myself claustrophobic, not until a few months ago when I woke up in the trunk of a car that had been set on fire."
"The undercover cop? Oh John, why didn't you say anything?" Harold felt a pang of guilt for having sent him into that mess.
"Because I..." He took a steadying breath. "Because I thought I could deal with it. I can deal with it," he corrected. He didn't sound sure.
"I sometimes wonder, with everything I put you through, if it's fair, what I ask of you."
"I think you made the risks perfectly clear when I started. We're both supposed to die doing this, remember?"
"Mmm," Harold started thoughtfully, "I was well aware of the risks, but I don't think anything would have prepared me for the reality. I did not intend for you to hurl yourself in front of every bullet, nor did I intend to care so much when you do."
Reese's hand reached out in the dark and patted at Harold's outstretched leg but didn't say anything. Rarely did either man express their emotions and Harold knew it was likely to leave Reese feeling as awkward as himself.
"It's getting cold in here," Reese commented, desperate to change the subject, despite the fact the cold had been sleeping through their jackets for some time already. "You should take Bear back, he'll keep you warm."
Harold let out a frustrated huff, "Mr Reese, for once in your life, can you not be so self-sacrificing? I'll manage." He was determined to do so, hating the fact that the other man coddled him as though he was fragile, but his teeth were chattering loudly by now and his face and neck were agony.
"I have my jacket on," Reese pointed out, although he was shivering too.
"He's injured, let him settle," Harold said.
"Okay, then take my jacket..."
"John, stop!" Harold snapped. "Stop acting like you don't matter."
"I'm sorry Finch," his voice sounded truly sorry, not a tone that the ex-agent used often. Even when he'd been shot, he'd never sounded so vulnerable.
"You're always so quick to sacrifice yourself, it's as though you think how you feel doesn't matter," Harold said, more controlled now he had the other man's attention. "You're busy throwing yourself in front of bullets and getting yourself locked in burning cars and I have to listen to it all, meanwhile I'm too scared to even go home for some real sleep. It's enough to make any man feel somewhat inferior." Harold cringed at his confession, dreading to think how the ex-soldier would see him now. If they were about to freeze to death anyway, then perhaps he should have kept him mouth shut and died with whatever shred of dignity he had left but at the same time he didn't regret it.
"Finch..." Reese's voice sounded truly broken, "Harold, you don't want to be like me. But if it's fear we're talking about, look at you. You're not hiding behind your computer, you're out here, in the field trying to do the right thing despite it." He collected himself and let out a little laugh, "Besides, we're locked up and about to get dumped in the ocean, so your paranoia about getting abducted is not entirely unfounded."
It was absurd, but Reese did have a point. Harold found himself smiling in spite of their dire situation, "I suppose... Mr Reese do you hear that?"
There were shouts over the sound of the engine and perhaps the noise of another boat too. Suddenly they accelerated, the ride becoming rougher and throwing them around in the freezer. It made Harold feel a little queasy and he fought the urge to throw up, made so much worse when someone else did and the smell of vomit added to the smell of old fish and boat fuel.
"Mr Reese?" he asked when the retching sound stopped.
"Not me, Bear," he groaned. He sounded like he was struggling to control his stomach too though. 'Keep this pace up and we'll all drown in our collective vomit,' Harold thought bitterly.
The shouting got louder and suddenly the boat lurched to a stop. It rocked as a group of heavy-booted people piled on and the shouting got louder and more aggressive, but cutting above all that was a familiar voice yelling, "Hey, we got any keys fer this thing? We need t' get it open!"
There was the sound of someone jogging up to them and then a couple of clicks as padlocks opened. As the lid lifted, Harold gasped for fresh air and looked up to see Detectives Carter and Fusco holding the lid open and staring down, Carter relieved, Fusco disgusted. They were lit in harsh white and flashing blue that dazzled them in the dark.
"Evening Detectives," Reese said with his trademark swagger, "nice of you to join us." The words did not suit the picture, Reese was braced in his little corner of the freezer, legs sprawled. He had zipped Bear into his motorcycle jacket to keep him warm but the dog's head was stuck out and drooping forlornly, just above the telltale splatter of vomit that had ended up all down the side of Reese's jacket and soaking his thigh. There was blood in Reese's hair a rapidly swelling bump on the side of his head.
"Jesus Christ, ain't you a sight fer sore eyes!" Fusco exclaimed, "him I get, anyone who's met John has wanted to thump him, but they've really done a number on you too Professor. That's gonna be one hell of a shiner come morning. Tell you what, tell me which of them did it n' I'll make sure they trip on the way to the precinct."
Carter glared at her partner for the bad-taste joke, Reese looked incredibly guilty and Harold just looked down at his feet. It took a beat but both detectives figured what had really happened to Harold's face with one look at Reese's expression.
Fusco was about to say something else but Carter interrupted him, "Come on, let's get you out of here. Are you hurt anywhere else?"
Reese shook his head but Harold snitched on him, "John was knocked out for some time and Bear needs a vet," Harold said as he took the hand that Carter offered him and hauled himself up. He clambered out awkwardly and then looked around at the scene. They'd come quite a distance, the city lights looked a long way off beyond the black, churning water.
The detectives had brought the Harbour Unit with them, or rather the Unit had taken the detectives with them as it was their boat. The uniformed officers were in the bow of the boat, busy cuffing up the three men they detained on their knees. Another officer came out from the small cabin carrying a large duffel bag and a smirk. The bag looked heavy, the officer carrying it showed the contents to his colleague and they both smiled. Whatever it was, finding it had made the excursion worth their time.
It was going to be difficult to explain Harold and Reese's presence and subsequent disappearance when it came to the ongoing investigation but Harold was sure they'd be able to come up with something, even if it meant burning a couple of identities. He already started running through the list of aliases that would suit the situation, problem solving like this always focussed his mind.
Reese was unsteady on his feet as he climbed out, still cradling Bear in his jacket and Fusco had to grab his shoulder to stop him from pitching over as the boat rocked a little. Both man and dog looked truly pathetic. "Hey buddy, I think you're concussed. How many fingers am I holding up?" Fusco said, flipping him his middle finger.
"Very amusing Detective," Harold frowned, "but might we find somewhere to sit down before he falls down?"
"I'm fine," John muttered but was ignored by everyone.
"Come on," Carter said, "we can wait over here." She led them both over to the NYPD boat and into the small cabin. It had a florescent light in it and it was easier to see without the deep shadows cast by the spotlights and blue emergency lights. Harold sat down heavily on the bench seat, John sat cross-legged on the floor with Bear in his lap and shedded his soiled jacket.
Carter fetched some blankets and handed them out and then hauled a large first aid kit out and knelt beside him. Together they inspected the wound on Bear's leg and the gash on his forehead. The leg would definitely need stitches, the head wound probably would too. Bear whimpered as John wrapped the still bleeding leg with a bandage. While his head was down and he was concentrating, Carter used the opportunity to inspect the laceration from the crowbar in his hair.
Fusco joined them, grumbling at having to clamber between the two boats, "Well, you made these boat boys' day," he said. "We'll tow it back for full forensication but the deck comes up and there's a ton of firearms hidden in there."
Reese looked up and he met Harold's eyes. They didn't need to say anything to each other, in fact they were both too tired to talk, but it was heartening to know that they'd done some good after all.
It didn't take long until the little fishing boat was rigged up to be towed and they were all taken back to dry land. The whole way back, Reese kept staring at the rapidly swelling bruise on the side of Harold's face. It made Harold feel awkward and self-conscious but he knew that was likely nothing compared to the feelings of guilt that would be threatening to stow his friend. He wanted to say something, to make it better somehow, but now they'd left the confined darkness of the freezer, it was harder to articulate these things. The presence of half a dozen police officers didn't help either, so he held his tongue.
Carter and Fusco had a car each parked outside the NYPD docks. By the time they got back, the sky was beginning to lighten. "Come on," Fusco said to Reese, "There's a 24 hour vet clinic I took my boy's Labrador to once. It's not too far, we can get Rin Tin Tin here patched up and maybe you too if you're lucky."
"Thanks Fusco," Reese said wearily.
"What about you, Finch?" Carter asked quietly, aware the question would incite even more feelings of guilt from John. "Do you want to go get your face checked out?"
Harold sighed, "No, I'm just going to go home. I think I'm due a good night's sleep."
Reese nodded and gave him a hint of a smile, "Good night Finch, I'll call you tomorrow."
Reese and Fusco got into the car with Bear and he watched them drive away. Carter gave Harold a gentle nudge, "Bear will be fine," she smiled, "he's tough like his new daddy."
Harold gave her a wan smile in return. "I know, but his new dad is not always as tough as he'd like us to believe he is."
Carter smiled at that, "None of us are."
Harold had allowed Carter to drop him off a couple of blocks from his modest brownstone and he'd shuffled, exhaustedly the rest of the way. He'd arrived just as most people were heading out to work. He knew he looked a mess but his neighbours had long since become used to the odd hours he kept and paid him no attention, all no doubt assuming he'd just pulled another all-nighter at the office.
He'd collapsed into bed face first, and had only barely enough energy to undress. Had his clothes not smelt of fish and dog vomit it was unlikely he would have bothered at all. He was asleep before his head even touched the pillow.
He awoke later to the sound of one of his burner phones buzzing with a new message. His glasses had been smashed by Reese's fist but he had a spare pair in his bedside drawer. He pulled them on and grabbed his phone, the one he used to speak to Will Ingram. Will was back in Africa and he had no idea that anyone else had the number but he wasn't surprised to see a new number and the briefest of text messages, 'You okay Harold?' Mr Reese did not like to text.
Harold was about to type back a brief affirmative when his phone buzzed again and a picture appeared on his screen. It had been taken close up, so most of the screen was filled with big wet nose, soulful dark eyes, part of an ear. Just at the edge of the screen, a bit of translucent plastic could be seen, Bear was wearing a cone. Harold smiled sadly at the animal's bravery, knowing he would be hating the consequences of his injuries. Adding to his brief message, he sent an address.
He checked the time and then had to double check it. It was nearly eight in the evening, he'd slept all day. He tried to get up but the movement was painful. His neck flared in agony, whiplash from his employee's violent attack, or should that be defence? He found a couple of pain pills by his bedside and dry swallowed them, waiting for them to take effect before he moved again.
When the sharp stabbing pain dulled to a satisfactory level, he got up and shuffled to the bathroom. He looked at himself in the mirror, horrified by the deep black eye he had, the bruising spreading over his nose, the skin around the eye so swollen he could barely see out. He regretted sending the address now, but it was too late to take it back.
He'd had a long hot shower to ease some of his neck pain and was just getting dressed when there was a knock at the door. He sighed, that was quicker than expected. Looking at his array of clothes he decided propriety be damned and threw on a pair of comfortable silk pyjamas and a thick bathrobe, hoping that his neighbours wouldn't notice him answering his door to strange men while in his sleepwear.
Reese was stood on his doorstep casually dressed in a pair of dark jeans and a faded grey tee, crisp white bandage on his forearm. He was holding a plastic shopping bag and had Bear sat beside him who was currently trying to nose his way into the bag but failing miserably, hampered by the big plastic cone he wore.
"Good evening Finch," Reese smiled, his face looked slightly pinched, like he was doing his best to ignore pain, a headache most likely. "So I finally get to see the mastermind's lair. Did you get any sleep?"
"All day actually," Harold admitted, stepping back and gesturing for Reese and Bear to enter. The ex-agent stepped inside, taking in the modest decor, all good quality but not ostentatious, the house had been restored to still contain many of it's original features which always gave Harold the impression of stepping back in time.
"I spoke to Carter this morning." Reese said as the door was shut and they were shielded from the prying eyes and ears of the world. "Turns out Petrowski was just being paid to turn a blind eye to what was happening, he'd never even heard of Elias."
"But the Machine is never wrong so..."
"Oh, they were still going to kill him. The guy who actually sold the shipment information to our incarcerated friend was the first one to suggest that he might be the leak. Petrowski was just a convenient patsy. They had half a million dollars worth of guns on board when they were raided, so I'd guess the stolen shipment was a big one."
"And now it's scattered across the city, ready to be used for goodness knows what." Harold said glumly.
"And we'll deal with that when it comes up. We can only do so much. You should appreciate this for the victory it is." Reese counselled.
"You're right," Harold took off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose, a habit he had when in discomfort, only this time he caught the bruises causing him to wince, "I suppose I'm still just feeling a little wrung out."
"I'm sorry about your face," Reese said guiltily. He knelt down and unclipped the leash and Bear trotted into the lounge with only a slight limp from his injury. "Have you iced it?"
"No," Harold showed him through to the open plan kitchen and living space. Bear had already found his spot on the sofa and had settled there, legs stretched out lazily. "I'm afraid sleep took priority."
Reese looked around approvingly of the immaculately kept place. Harold felt like he was being scrutinised, knowing that the other man would be taking everything in, committing it to memory and inferring things about his character from the way he kept his house. "Well, I think you should do that, after you show me where your bottle opener is." He drew a bottle of wine out of the plastic bag. "Have you eaten? I'm assuming that this kitchen is more than just decorative."
"Excuse me? Err, no I haven't."
Reese just smiled at him, "Bear deserves steak after what he did for us last night and then I decided that you deserved it too." He waved the bag at him.
"Mr Reese, you don't have to..."
"Maybe I want to. It always seems a waste just cooking for one and besides it'll make me feel a little better about having thumped you."
And so Harold resigned himself to sitting on the sofa with a bag of peas on his face and Bear's head in his lap while Reese pottered in his kitchen. He hadn't thought he was hungry until the smell of roasted potatoes and balsamic glazed root vegetables started wafting from his kitchen. Reese served them up with thick and tender cuts of medium-rare steak drizzled with a homemade Stilton sauce and they sat at one end of the oak dining table to eat.
As Harold ate, he let out a groan of pleasure that was quite unlike him, but then so was hosting a two-person dinner party in his pyjamas. "You know, if this 'irrelevant list' thing doesn't work out, you'd have an illustrious career in the restaurant business," he commented.
"My mom taught me," Reese said, "I like to cook, it reminds me of her."
Harold stopped a moment and looked at the man sat on the opposite side of the table to him. He was weary and now that Harold looked closer he could see a number of fine stitches in his head disguised in his dark hair, but he looked content, more so than Harold thought he'd ever seen him. The terror that the man had experienced the night before was gone, dealt with by way of a good night's sleep and the act of cooking for a friend, or if not gone, at least buried until next time.
Harold was suddenly struck by how much he didn't want to be like the man in front of him, so used to death and danger that he was numbed to it. The problem with numbness was that you couldn't feel when you were hurting yourself until it was too late, couldn't feel when you were being used or manipulated until you were broken. Harold had spent every terrified minute since his abduction wishing that he could just shrug it off like Reese would have done, but suddenly he realised he was glad he couldn't. He was glad that his life, although he'd certainly had more than his share, had not been so full of trauma that he no longer felt it. He was glad that he cared enough about his life to still be afraid for it. And with that revelation, he stopped berating himself for his reactions and suddenly a weight was lifted.
He realised he hadn't wanted to talk about his emotions, for fear of looking weak, but what if by talking he could help ease the other man too. He swallowed a bite of delicious steak, took a deep breath and began, "You know, I've been having these dreams..."
Reese, John, his friend, just looked at him and smiled.