I do not own any of this! This is my first fanfiction, so please leave a review! Any comments or suggestions will be appreciated!
Please note that this story is not medically accurate!
Set sometime in winter, Reese is after a number who is about to be killed by a gang to cover up their tracks. But John gets hurt himself and Harold has to come to his rescue instead.
John was standing near the Brooklyn Bridge, waiting for the number, Timothy Smith, to show up. He was about to sell weapons to a gang, which had no intention of letting him go and was planning to kill him to ensure his silence. It was quite a simple case. Normally, he'd leave it to Carter or Fusco, but they were both tied up with paperwork. Reese shivered, wishing he had dressed for the weather. The sun was setting, the wind had picked up to 40 mph, and it was 25 degrees outside. Finch was starting to regret allowing John to leave the safety of the library without a proper coat, but he knew his friend would have brushed off his concerns. John was rarely interested in his own health and safety.
"Mr. Reese, can you hear me?" came Finch's voice through his earpiece.
"Loud and clear," came the reply, "There's going to be an exchange for the smuggled guns on the bridge."
"Please be careful, John," Finch cautioned anxiously, "I don't want you getting hurt. Are you sure you're going to be okay in this weather?"
"I'll be fine, Finch. This should be simple enough."
Finch listened and watched on camera as John pulled Smith down before the leader of the gang could fire his gun. Shooting back at the pursuing gang, Reese dragged Smith as far as he could. They were halfway across the bridge when Finch heard the thud of the back of a gun on someone's head followed by a humorless laugh.
"You didn't think you could get away from us that easy, did you."
Finch heard a grunt of pain as John hopelessly tried to get up.
"Mr. Reese," he called, "Mr. Reese!"
John woke up in a cold and dark maintenance room, wearing only his shirt and pants. His hands were chained together, and he was tied to the chair. He shivered as the door opened, letting in the freezing winter air. A dark figure stepped out, turning on the light. He sat down across from John, a cruel smirk on his face.
"I thought someone smart like you would know better than to stand in my way. Fortunately, you won't be bothering me for long. But first, tell me something: how did you know that we were going to have the exchange, and how did you know we were going to kill Smith?"
John looked back at him, giving him a piercing stare.
"It was Smith's lucky day, apparently. I noticed he escaped before you managed to put me here," he replied, taunting the gang leader for his oversight.
"It won't be yours," came the aggravated reply, "you're going to follow me, and I'm going to make sure that you will never live to speak of this. A few minutes in that water and you'll be gone for good. Smith can be dealt with by my men."
John groaned as he was roughly untied from the chair and pulled up, his hands still chained. He tried to pull away, but a gunshot hit him in his leg and he fell, straining his arms as his weight landed on his wrists. He gasped, unable to breathe for a moment. Taking advantage of John's surprise, the gang leader dragged him out to the edge of the bridge, overlooking the icy river. He shivered uncontrollably, feeling every blow of the freezing wind through his thin shirt. Suddenly, Finch's panicked voice came in through the earpiece.
"Mr. Reese, are you alright?
"Mr. Reese, I'm coming. Can you hold them off until I can get you out of there?"
"N-no, Harold! Don't r-risk c-coming after me, it'll b-be okay."
"How exactly do you plan to get away from them?"
"I d-don't. I'm t-tied up, there's n-no way f-for me to g-get away from h-him without g-getting surrounded by the r-rest of the gang."
"John, just hold on until I can get there."
"Thank y-you Harold, for e-everything."
His words were drowned out as John was unchained and thrown unceremoniously into the icy river. Gasping for air and shaking, he tried to avoid panicking and began to swim as hard as he could to shore. The night was dark, and he saw nothing but the distant lights of the city as he swam through the piercingly cold water. His injured leg was virtually useless, and after ten minutes he was starting to lose control of his arms and legs. He could feel his muscles locking as he fought the freezing water, making it just a few feet from the edge before collapsing, completely exhausted. He had been in the river for fifteen minutes. The water was shallow, but he didn't try to pull himself out of the icy current.
Saving his last bit of energy, John rested against the freezing riverbed. He stayed there for what felt like an eternity, but he knew it was little use to try to get to shore. He was sure that nobody was coming to help him, and getting to the dry shore would needlessly prolong his inevitable death. He would have no cover from the brutal wind, and no cars would see him in the darkness anyway. Looking up at the bridge, he smiled as he remembered how far he had come from the man who was ready to end his life. He was grateful he had been given a second chance.
Out of the darkness of the night, a car drove up dangerously quickly and a man limped out. John was unsure if it was his friend, but he breathed a sigh of relief when he recognized Finch's panicked voice calling his name. He tried to move, but his body was too cold to respond.
"John! John, hold on, I'm coming!"
"You'll be okay! Just hold on, I'm coming in to get you!"
"N-no, Harold, it's t-too c-cold. Stay n-near the c-car."
Pulling his coat off, Finch waded into the water up to his knees, shocked at the sudden cold. The water current was pushing him, and he almost fell into the icy river. Shivering, he got to John, pulled him out, and helped him to shore. Reese was shaking so hard he almost collapsed, but Finch held him up as firmly as he could. John used his last strength to make it to the car, shivering convulsively in the freezing wind. Finch pulled the door open, pushed him inside and rushed to turn the heater to full.
Harold pulled John's soaked shirt and pants off and felt how cold his skin was. Grabbing a towel from the emergency supplies he kept in the back, he rubbed it over John's shaking body, trying to dry him off. John tried to protest, saying that Harold needed it more. Finch continued, ignoring his friend's protests, making sure he was fully dry before covering him with his own coat. He then drove to the closest safe house he had, checking on John periodically to make sure he was still breathing.
Forty minutes later, they arrived at the safe house. Finch was struggling to help John along the walkway, but Reese was too exhausted to try to take any of his own weight. When they finally made it inside, Finch turned the heat up as much as possible, and helped John into a bed. Looking closely, he noticed that John's skin and lips were blue, and the bullet wound in his leg was quite severe. Furious at himself for not realizing how serious his friend's condition was, Harold cleaned the blood off his leg, wrapped the wound tightly, and disinfected it. John hardly noticed the pain, too cold to feel anything else. Harold grabbed a thermometer, checking Reese's temperature. The screen read a dangerous 92.5 degrees. Feeling his pulse, he noticed that it was there, but not nearly strong enough.
Finch, realizing that John wasn't going to warm up on his own, dug some chemical warmers out of a first aid kit. He activated them and, pulling John's blankets down from his torso, pressed them against his icy skin. He made sure they stayed in place and quickly pulled the blankets back up to his friend's chin. Reese shuddered, feeling the warmth spreading through his chest. It wasn't a particularly comfortable feeling, but it was enough to slowly help him sleep.
Almost six hours later, John woke up and tensed instinctively. The cold hit him in a rush, and he started shivering again. Harold, who had been creating a cover identity for John to go to the hospital if necessary, looked up at the sudden noise. Finch rushed to the chair beside John's bed, holding his hand as he started shaking uncontrollably.
"Mr. Reese! Mr. Reese, are you alright?"
"H-Harold?" John relaxed, seeing the concerned face of his friend.
"W-what happened t-to me?" John asked, struggling to sit up.
"Don't worry about that, you need to lay down. You're hypothermic, you should stay in the bed where it's warm."
John stayed sitting. His head hurt where he had been hit, but he didn't want to add to Harold's worries. Slowly the memories of the night before came back to him, including how Finch had walked into the freezing water to get him out. He appreciated what his friend did for him, but it bothered him that Finch had risked his own life to help him out of the river. He wondered how much time his friend had spent taking care of him instead of working on the numbers. He was also furious with himself for not making sure Harold was alright when he left the cold water.
Harold checked John's temperature, which had improved slightly to 93.8 degrees. It occurred to him that John would need more than a few chemical warmers to get his core temperature up. He walked into the bathroom, turning the shower to the warm setting. Walking back to John's bed, he began to help him up.
"John, you're going to need to stay in some warm water for a while. Can you walk?"
"I'm f-fine. Don't w-worry about me."
"Mr. Reese! You almost froze to death and you've been shot, you are most certainly not fine."
"W-why did you come a-after me?"
"What are you talking about?"
"In t-the river. You could've g-gotten hypothermia too. Why d-did you leave the c-car?"
"Mr. Reese, have you forgotten that you were so cold you were unable to move? If I hadn't come, you likely would have been trapped in the river until you froze to death completely."
"Why d-does that m-matter, Finch?"
Harold sighed. He assumed that it was simply the hypothermia that made John confused. After everything John had done for him… He didn't even want to imagine that John had truly doubted if he cared about him. With Reese leaning on him, they walked into the bathroom, where Finch guided him into the warm shower stream. At first, he started shaking even more than before, and he was forced to put more of his weight on Harold to avoid collapsing on the floor. After five minutes in the warm water, John's shivering began to slow down, and he started to take more of his own weight. Harold was getting drenched, but he stayed still, holding his friend up. Feeling John's skin warm up, Finch increased the heat of the shower until his friend stopped shivering completely. Realizing his friend was taking his own weight, Finch gradually stopped supporting him and stepped out of the shower to give John space, hanging a towel for him and laying clean clothes on his bed. Before Harold left the bathroom, John called his name.
"John, are you feeling better now?"
"Harold, don't worry about me," John turned the shower off and wrapped himself with the towel, trying to hide the pain in his leg as he put too much pressure on it, "You should sit down, you probably hurt your back carrying me this whole time."
"Mr. Reese, that's not a priority at the moment, considering your recent condition. Can you dry yourself off?
"Finch, I'm fine. How long was I out?"
"Approximately six hours," Finch said, concerned, "You really should dry off and get back to bed. I need to check your temperature and get you some food."
"Don't mother hen me. Rest for a bit, I'll go get dressed and get some soup. Then I'll go check on Smith."
"The number, Finch. Timothy Smith. He got away, but the gang is still out looking for him."
"John, that can wait. I don't want you to leave until I'm sure you've completely recovered, and your leg is still too weak to hold your weight properly. I would never forgive myself if you were hurt because I rushed you to continue working before you were ready."
John paused, then shrugged and said, "Go dry off before you get cold."
Finch sighed, exasperated. He left the bathroom and went to his own room to dry himself off and change. Within ten minutes he was wearing a new, dry suit. However, he didn't leave yet. In the privacy of his room, he felt a rush of tears. He thought back to what John had said earlier, asking why Harold had gone into the river to help him, as though he didn't know that he was the most important person in Harold's life. He had quickly dismissed it as confusion due to his hypothermic state, but it was clear that Reese had truly meant what he said. Thinking back to when he employed Mr. Dillinger, he remembered how Dillinger had treated him like he was nothing more than a convenient source of money. He was nothing like Reese, who would never hesitate to jump in front of a bullet to protect Finch. He never wanted John to think that Harold would ever treat him like the CIA had, leaving him to die as soon as it was convenient. Holding back tears, he collected himself and walked out, determined to ensure that John understood his value as his closest friend, not merely an employee.
When he came out, John was already dressed, getting a coat from the closet and heading for the door. He stopped short when he saw Harold's face; while he seemed expressionless, John knew from experience that Finch was upset, even disappointed. Reese, suddenly feeling incredibly remorseful for ignoring his friend's concern for him, sat on the couch near the door, looking down. Harold looked at his friend and came to sit next to him. Suddenly, the flood of emotion he had tried to bury came rushing out, and he began to cry. John looked at him, feeling helpless and confused as his friend broke down, unsure of how to comfort him. Finally, Reese put his arms around Harold, holding him as he sobbed into John's shoulder.
They stayed there for almost ten minutes while Harold slowly got control of himself. Looking away, he pulled his handkerchief from his pocket and began to wipe his face. He looked up and saw that John was looking away from him. Harold stopped short. He had never seen his friend look as confused and helpless as he did then. He hated himself for hurting Reese like that. He wanted to hug him, tell him that he was sorry for worrying him, that everything was going to be okay as long as he was safe.
John had never seen Harold cry. He knew it must have been the emotional toll of having to leave the library and rush to John's aid, then having to risk his own life to save him and help him recover, only for his friend to try to leave at the first available opportunity. He felt disgusted with himself. Finch had to walk into the freezing river to help him only because John hadn't left the water when he could have. It was his own fault that he had been slowly dying when Finch found him. Even after all that, he hadn't listened to Harold and he had hurt his only friend. Finch moved to say something, but John spoke first.
"Harold, I'm so sorry. I never meant to hurt you. I wish I had never dragged you out there in the cold that night, and I shouldn't have tried to leave, especially after you spent so much time taking care of me. I'm so sorry."
Finch looked at him, horrified. John couldn't believe that it was his own fault that Harold was upset. After everything John had done for him, he couldn't even keep him safe in return. Reese was sorry? Finch stood up and, to his friend's surprise, put a comforting arm around him. Reese seemed to withdraw at his friend's touch, but eventually he relaxed, his shoulders dropping as he allowed his friend to pull him closer. Harold guided John back to his bed, where they sat side by side. He silently checked Reese's temperature, which read a relatively safe 95.5 degrees, and wrapped him in a blanket just to be sure. Then, Harold said what he was thinking the whole time.
"John, please don't apologize. I never should have let you go out in that awful weather in the first place. But I was careless and I hurt you. I'm so sorry. Please, whatever you do, don't think that it's your fault I'm upset. It's just that when I saw you there, in the water... "
He paused, the rush of tears coming back as he remembered seeing his friend nearly frozen to death in that river. He had been shivering after less than a minute when he walked in to help Reese out of the icy water, but John had been in the current, fighting for his life, with a severely injured leg, for nearly twenty minutes. Harold remembered how badly his friend had been shaking, and the dark color of his blood against his pale, almost blue skin. Finally, he took a deep breath and continued.
"When I saw you in the water, that was the moment when I realized how much I truly care about you. I wanted to kill those people who had hurt you. You're the closest friend I've ever had. But later, I realized that it was my fault that you suffered that horrible ordeal. If I had been there with you, instead of staying back in the library while you risked your life, I could've warned you before you were caught in the first place. I've always considered myself your friend, but it's a title I probably don't deserve now."
Reese looked down, then spoke in a voice so shaky Finch barely heard him.
"Please don't blame yourself. I just wish that I could have protected you, that you wouldn't have needed to come in after me. And after that, after you saved my life, I repaid you by making you cry."
Finch looked at his friend, watching him try to conceal a shiver. The room was poorly insulated from the outside, and it was significantly colder than the rest of the house. Knowing that John would never admit that he was cold or tired, Harold decided it would be best to intervene before his friend's health declined again.
"John, it wasn't your fault I was upset. But right now, you're cold and probably still exhausted. Rest for some time, then we can get some lunch together."
Reese tried to protest as Finch insisted he lay down in the bed and tucked the blankets around him. But he was so tired he fell asleep almost instantly. His friend sat in the chair beside the bed, and soon he too fell asleep.
A few hours later, Finch woke up to John moving restlessly in the bed. Assuming he was having a nightmare, Harold gently shook his friend's shoulder until he woke up.
John was sure this was only a nightmare. He was in a prison cell in Afghanistan, where insurgents had been torturing him for days. He couldn't remember exactly how long he had been in there, but he panicked as the voice of his torturer rang through his ears. They had used a hot metal bar against his skin, trying to get him to reveal the location of the CIA safe house. He could feel them bring it closer, and he fought the chains he was bound with, trying to escape. It didn't work. Just as it was about to touch him, he woke up with a start.
He sat up as fast as he could, gasping and sweating. He could still feel them bringing it closer, but it didn't seem like he was still there. He could still hear their voices, laughing as he struggled against the chains tied around his hands. He was shaking and he put his head in his hands as he begged his torturer not to do it again. He couldn't take any more.
"No, please. Please just let me go. Please, not again. I'll do anything, not again."
Finch sat, frozen in place as he watched his friend relive some horrible torture. He wanted to hold him, to tell him he was safe now, but he didn't know if Reese realized where he was and that Finch himself wasn't a threat. Finally, John seemed to calm down, but he was still sweating and shaking. Finch could usually read his friend's voice, but the only thing he heard was what he could only describe as pure terror.
"W-where am I?"
"John, you're in New York."
Reese seemed to visibly relax, but he was still sweating profusely and gasping.
"Mr. Reese, it's okay, you're safe now. It's me, Harold."
"John, what happened?"
Finch regretted the words as soon as he said them. Reese probably did not want to have to think about whatever horrors he was remembering. He quickly apologized.
"Nevermind. Go back to sleep. You need to rest."
Harold waited for John's reply, holding his breath. But what his friend said shocked him.
"Wait, Finch. Do you mind just talking to me for a bit?" Reese stammered, embarrassed. He could still feel the heat of the metal coming closer, but he knew that it was just a nightmare. He hoped that his friend wouldn't think any less of him for needing something to distract him from the memory, but it still felt shameful to ask. "I know you're probably really tired right now, and I'm so sorry I scared you. But it still feels real, and I just need to know that it isn't."
Finch looked at his friend. John looked ashamed, as though it wasn't completely normal for him to need to talk to someone after having a nightmare about whatever traumatic experience he was remembering. He hoped that Reese wouldn't think that Harold would judge him for it. He had experienced traumatic events in his life himself, although nothing close to what had happened to John.
He remembered when Reese had come back to the library after stopping Ulrich Kohl from killing his wife. He had been tortured with needles just hours before, but he hadn't mentioned it until Finch saw the blood leak through his shirt. Even then, it had taken a Herculean effort to convince Reese to allow Finch to see his arm to make sure there was no serious damage. He recalled how he had nearly passed out after simply looking at his friend's elbow. There were needle holes that went nearly all the way into his arm. Finch had cleaned, disinfected, and bandaged the area, but he hadn't realized exactly what had happened until he reviewed the camera footage of the apartment. He had almost screamed watching the needle go into John's arm, and seeing his friend's eyes fill with tears made Harold sick. But Reese had hardly made a sound. He had seen the ex-operative in a whole new way after that. Harold went out of his way to make sure that John knew it was okay to show pain or fear around him, knowing that he had probably spent years being pressured to always hide his own feelings and emotions.
John's breathing slowed down, bringing Finch back from his own memories. He looked back at his friend.
"Anything you want to talk about in particular?"
Reese heard the compassion in Harold's voice, and he could still feel the metal bar coming closer, but the embarrassment of needing to talk about his issues had won out. "Finch, it's ok. Forget I asked."
"John, look at me."
Surprised at Finch's commanding tone, John turned around to face his friend. Harold didn't look disgusted or unimpressed.
"Mr. Reese, I know you might think it's wrong to have feelings, or to be afraid. But it isn't wrong. It's normal, and I hope you know that I would never think less of you for it, or for needing to talk."
John's face changed from his carefully constructed, emotionless mask to a small smile as he sighed in relief. He wasn't relieved that Finch understood his feelings, but he also knew that he could talk to him if he needed to.
"You wanted to know what happened."
"No, John, please don't force yourself to talk about it."
"It's ok. I want to."
"Are you sure?"
Then, to Finch's astonishment, John pulled a stress ball from his bag and began to squeeze it therapeutically, not even trying to hide that he needed the comfort it gave. He also pulled the blankets closer to himself. Showing his weaknesses was a gesture of complete trust, one that was extremely difficult for him. Harold recognized it and gave John a reassuring touch.
Reese took a deep breath and began the story.
"I had been working with the CIA in Afghanistan. We were supposed to infiltrate a group of insurgents and get intel on them. There was a mole, but only my cover was blown. They dragged me out of bed in the middle of the night, tazed me, pulled a bag over my head, and locked me in a cell that was so small I couldn't stand up. They chained me to the walls and they chained my feet together so I couldn't move. They made me kneel on the ground and then they started…"
John broke off. The memory of his torture began to overwhelm him, but he felt Finch's comforting arm around him and he was able to stay in the present.
"John, if it's too hard for you to talk about this, it's ok. It's completely understandable. I'm right here if you need me."
"Thank you, Harold. I'm okay."
John continued, and his voice gained a little strength.
"They wanted to know who else was an agent, and where our safe house was. They started with verbal interrogations, questioning me for days on end. When I didn't tell them anything, they tortured me. They used hot metal bars and brought them close to me whenever they would ask a question. When I didn't answer, they would press them into me. It kept going for weeks. At first, I didn't even make a sound. But later, I just let myself scream. I just wanted it to be over. When I didn't break for a month, they drove me to a mountain and left me to die. I was in too much pain to even move off the ground. Somehow, someone at the CIA had gotten intel on where I was, and my partner came to get me. I was almost dead when she got there. After two months in the hospital, I was okay. But I knew the other agents had seen me being tortured, so I asked why they never tried to get me out. Apparently, the CIA had known exactly what was happening the whole time, but they were busy with other things and they didn't even want to risk trying to get me out. They knew I would never break, so they just left me for dead. They said I knew the risks when I joined and left it at that."
John finished. Tears began to well up in his eyes as he finished the last part of the story. He looked at Harold, almost expecting him to say that they were right not to take the risk. Instead, Finch came to sit next to him on the bed and pulled out a clean handkerchief. He began to gently wipe the tears off of John's face, but he said nothing.
Finch had listened to the entire story, his blood boiling when he heard what had happened to Reese. But what his friend said at the end nearly made his heart stop. The CIA had abandoned John to be tortured to death, then told him to get used to it. It broke his heart to see his friend cry, and before he knew what he was doing, he was sitting next to John, wiping his tears. The ex-operative's face was expressionless, his emotions revealed only through his steadily falling tears. Finally, Reese broke the silence.
"I once made a promise to myself never to tell that story to anyone. I mostly believed the CIA was right. The reason I didn't want anyone to know was because part of me still didn't believe them. That small part of me didn't want to risk finding out that it was wrong. That part of me is the last shred of humanity I have left. This is the first time I've told it to anyone."
Finch recognized the unspoken significance of what John had said. Reese had just entrusted Harold with what he felt was his last connection to his own humanity. He understood that it was now up to him to make sure that he didn't make that connection fall apart.
"Mr. Reese, thank you."
"For trusting me enough to let me tell you that the CIA was wrong."
John knew what Harold was going to say before he said it, but he still felt relieved to hear the words out loud. But he now felt the need to get another burden off his chest.
"Harold, I need to tell you something." His voice had returned to its usual calm, but Finch could tell he felt guilty about something.
"John, you can tell me anything."
"When I reached the edge of the river, at first I could've made it the extra few feet to the dry shore. I didn't though, because I didn't even think you were going to come."
Finch had been expecting that John was going to confess to something unspeakable he had once done, or had done to him, but this confession shook him to the core. After all this time, did John still believe that to Harold, he was expendable?
"Mr. Reese, that was just confusion from hypothermia, right?"
"No, Finch. It wasn't." His voice was quiet. He couldn't tell if Harold was angry or disappointed.
"John, I-" He paused, not knowing what to say to him. So he simply asked the first thing on his mind. His voice was barely a whisper. "Do you still believe I don't care about you?"
"Not anymore. I used to think my partner in the CIA cared about me, but then she tried to kill me without a second thought. But she never would've walked in after me in that river like you did. She never would have spent a whole day taking care of me. She never would've sat and listened to me talk like you just did." His voice dropped down to a whisper. "Thank you."
"Anything for you, John."
John lied back down in bed. He pulled the blankets back up and smiled. Finch pulled him into a tight embrace and they stayed there for a minute, enjoying the physical contact they rarely received.
"Good night, Mr. Reese."
The next morning, Finch awoke to the sound of eggs frying in a pan. He went to the kitchen to find Reese flipping eggs over easy. He didn't notice Harold's presence in the room until he turned around from the stove. Finch sat down at the table and John put two eggs on his plate with some toast. Putting the final touches on the other eggs, Reese turned off the stove and sat down next to Finch with his own plate. They ate in pleasant silence, taking their time to enjoy their breakfast. When he finished his plate, Harold turned around to look at John.
"Mr. Reese, that was excellent."
"It's not much."
"Still, I appreciate the effort."
John gave his friend a quick smile. Harold returned it.
"I really should make sure Smith is okay."
"I already sent Fusco to take care of that."
"Do we have a new number?"
"Yes. His name is Steve Robin. He works at the docks."
"If it's alright with you, I'll go right now."
"You should be ok. But Mr. Reese?"
"Please do wear a real coat this time."
John chuckled as he grabbed a gun, put on his earpiece, and, at Finch's insistence, put on a proper coat. He walked out the door, straight into the freezing wind, and smiled.