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Finch looked up as the door opened. He had stopped keeping track of the days since the CIA had kidnapped him, but his mind still registered that he had been trapped in the dark room for a long time. He had come to dread the mocking voice that would come to harshly interrogate him about Reese's whereabouts every day. But this time, something was different. For one, the man didn't turn on the painfully bright light shining into his eyes. Instead, he carried a flashlight and scanned the room with an urgency Finch had never seen in his interrogator.
Reese had been combing through the building for what felt like hours, checking every corner for any sign of Finch. He was quickly getting desperate. John was close to the last room on the top floor of the building, and there had been no sign of Harold. Reese cleared every room until he reached the last room at the end of the hall. Bracing himself for what he might or might not find, he opened the door. He looked around the dark room with his flashlight, finally finding Finch tied up in the corner. He looked up.
"Finch?" He tried to hide the desperation in his voice as he called out to his friend.
"Mr. Reese?" Finch's voice was a hoarse whisper.
Reese let out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding.
"I'm right here. You're going to be okay."
Reese knelt beside his friend and looked him over. Finch was shivering, and his breaths were still shallow and uneven. John pulled his own coat off and wrapped it around Finch, making sure to be as gentle as possible. He shuddered at the sudden warmth. Reese untied him and helped him sit up.
"Finch, can you walk right now?"
"I'm not sure."
"Are you hurt?"
"No, but I'm a bit stiff."
Reese breathed a sigh of relief. At least Finch wasn't hurt.
" I'm so sorry, but we have to get out of here. I need you to put your arm on my shoulders so I can help you out of here. It might hurt your back. I would prefer to give you some time to stretch out first, but it's going to get a lot harder to get out of here when the sun sets. Is that okay?"
Finch turned away from his friend in embarrassment. Even after all the times Reese had been injured or shot, he could still count on one hand the number of times John had needed his help to get to safety. And here was Finch, completely uninjured, in need of assistance with the simple task of walking.
"Mr. Reese, given the options, I'd rather try to walk by myself."
"Finch, that's not a good idea. You shouldn't push yourself."
His words were drowned out as Harold grunted, pushing against the wall to prop himself up. He was able to stand for a second before his legs gave out. He felt himself falling for a moment before he felt Reese firmly but gently grab hold of him and lower him to the floor.
"Are you okay?"
"Yes, Mr. Reese, I'm alright. But perhaps I will put off walking for a bit."
"We can wait for five minutes before we should really get out of here."
Finch nodded slowly. He knew that now was a bad time to ask Reese any questions about how long he had been there, where was this place, etc. However, he couldn't resist his curiosity about one thing.
"Mr. Reese, how did you find me?"
Harold waited for him to continue, but Reese did not elaborate. Instead, he quietly stood guard at the door.
After five minutes of extremely awkward silence, John left to do a quick sweep of the top floor and returned to the room. He found Finch sitting as he was before, and he offered an arm to help him up. Harold accepted it and allowed Reese to gently pull him up and place his arm over his own shoulders, taking most of his weight. They continued at a slow pace until they got to the stairs. Then, John gave a strange instruction.
"Finch, close your eyes. I'll guide you down the stairs." His voice wavered slightly.
"John, what's the matter?"
"Trust me. Just close your eyes."
Finch closed his eyes and began to walk down the stairs, tightening his grip on John's shoulder as he stumbled slightly. They continued in silence until the second floor when Finch slipped on a particularly uneven stair. He opened his eyes reflexively and gasped. The stairway was covered in blood.
"Finch, I-I..." He stumbled over the words. "The building was guarded when I arrived."
Harold turned to face his friend. Reese looked up at Finch, who simply tightened his grip on John's shoulder and ushered to Reese to continue.
"Are you sure you're okay, Harold?"
"Yes, Mr. Reese, I'm alright."
They continued down the stairs until they reached the parking garage. Reese held the door and lowered Finch into the car as gently as he could. The inside was freezing, but John blasted the heat as he drove to a safe house. He would've gone straight to the library, but he wanted to make sure Harold got some rest as soon as possible.
They drove in silence for about fifteen minutes, when Reese noticed that Finch was fidgeting in his seat.
"Everything okay, Finch?"
"It's nothing, really, but it's quite hot in here."
John didn't think it was hot at all, he was actually cold, but he still turned the heater off. The continued silence concerned him. Conversation had always come easily to them, but now, the shadow of the events of the last two weeks hung over them. Finch had said almost nothing the entire time.
"Harold, you know it's okay to talk to me if you-"
"I'm quite alright, Mr. Reese, there's no need for your concern."
Finch cringed internally. The words had come out much harsher than he had planned. He knew it must have hurt John for Harold to dismiss him like that, but he couldn't apologize. If he did, it would have sounded like acknowledging that Reese was right. And that was the last thing he wanted to do.
John had been so caught up in his thoughts that he began to drive on autopilot, something that years of training had taught him not to do. He was pulled back to the present by the sharp throbbing in his shoulder, where he had been shot. Driving didn't exactly help, but he knew that the faster they arrived at the safe house, the quicker he could take care of it. The casual silence at the beginning of the drive had become extremely awkward. It had hurt to have Finch dismiss him that quickly, but he maintained his mask of indifference. Keeping his eyes fixed firmly on the road helped him stay in the moment until they arrived.
"Finch, we're here."
Harold's head shot up painfully quickly. He had been so distracted that he didn't notice half the drive. John had opened the car door for him and offered a hand up.
"Thank you, Mr. Reese. I believe I will be fine on my own this time."
He stood up on his own, ignoring the pain in his back, and he took a step towards the door. John stepped back, but he stayed close to Finch. After just three steps, his legs were shaking with the effort, and Reese's hand steadied him before he fell on the pavement. Finch thought he saw John grimace in pain, but it was gone the next second. Once again, Reese pulled Finch's arm over his shoulder and walked him inside. He led him to a bedroom and helped him sit on the bed.
"Will you be okay here?"
"Of course, Mr. Reese."
Harold observed John as he left the room, then stumbled to the doorway to watch what he would do next. As soon as Reese thought he was out of Finch's sight, he sat on the couch and began to slowly pull his jacket off. His friend gasped at the sight of John's white shirt stained with blood. Harold realized with horror that it was coming from the same shoulder that had been holding his weight all the way out of the building and into the safe house. Reese brought his hands up to undo the buttons on his shirt, but the simple movement with his arm made him wince. The trip out of the car had made his wound come back with a vengeance. When he finally brought his hands to his shirt, they were shaking. He struggled to undo them, each slight movement causing a fresh jolt of pain. Finch felt a pang of guilt - it was his fault John was hurt this badly in the first place.
Harold realized that it was time to step in and help. He knew how high his friend's pain tolerance was, so if something was making him that weak, it was serious. He walked over to Reese as quickly as his legs would allow him. John tried to hide the agony in his face when Finch approached, but the wound in his shoulder throbbed again and he couldn't stifle a groan.
"John, let me help you with that."
Reese didn't even try to protest. Instead, he simply allowed Finch to start undoing the buttons on his shirt. Harold carefully pulled it off and frowned at the amount of blood on his skin. He wet a towel, making sure it was warm, and cleaned the blood away. Harold had treated John's injuries before, and he was quite sure that this wasn't too bad comparatively. However, when he got a good look at the injury itself, his confidence in his ability to help quickly slipped away. The bullet had gone right through John's shoulder.
Finch made Reese lie down on the couch and place his arm on the table to keep it elevated. He then grabbed a first aid kit and offered some painkillers, which were stubbornly refused. Harold, dreading the painful but necessary next step, opened up the bottle of disinfectant. He poured some on a cloth and held it up.
"Mr. Reese, this will hurt."
John only nodded and braced himself for the sting. Finch wiped it over the wound and cringed as Reese gripped the table to avoid crying out. It felt like fire was coursing through his entire body. His breaths came out as harsh gasps and it took every last ounce of strength not to scream.
"John! Are you alright?"
He tried to force the words out, to say he was fine, but they came out as pained moans.
"Shh, don't worry, it's okay."
Reese's grip on the table loosened as the pain began to subside. But he was still shaking when Harold grabbed the bandages. He had already used up all of his energy, and he couldn't stand the thought of more pain at that moment.
"S-sorry, Finch. Can y-you please give m-me a second."
"Of course, Mr. Reese. Just relax."
Finch was glad to have a reason to stop. He hated seeing his friend in pain. Looking over John, he noticed that he was shivering slightly. Harold grabbed a light blanket and draped it over Reese, who subconsciously pulled it closer to himself. Then Finch realized that he still had John's coat around himself from earlier. He felt guilty again- on top of everything else, Reese had probably been quite cold. He turned on the heater in the room and returned to his friend's side.
"Are you ready now?"
Finch answered with a sharp look. Reese merely held out his arm.
"You know, it's okay to scream if you need to."
Under different circumstances, John might have laughed. Harold knew quite well that he would never allow himself to lose control like that. Still, he looked away, wincing as Finch wrapped the bandage painfully tightly. He knew that was the best way to stop the bleeding, and he was grateful that Harold had already known exactly what to do.
"Is that better?"
Reese moved to get up, but Harold pushed him back down.
"Now, do you want to tell me what on earth you were thinking when you decided to hide a gunshot wound in your shoulder for over an hour?"
"Finch, can we do this another time? You should be resting."
"I'll rest when I know you won't pull another stunt like this again."
"What are you talking about?"
"You could've told me at any point during the last hour that you needed a hospital, but you still insisted on doing everything alone. You could have mentioned that I was putting too much weight on your arm, or that you were cold. You have no right to be angry with me for refusing to talk to you about what happened when you continue to hide life-threatening issues from me."
"There was no life-threatening-"
"Yes, there was! Mr. Reese, do you honestly think I wouldn't notice how much blood you lost? Any more and you likely would have gone into shock."
Finch was yelling at that point, and it took a moment to calm himself down.
"Mr. Reese, just promise me that next time you find yourself in a situation like this you'll tell me so I can help you."
John was about to make some sarcastic remark, but he looked at Finch closely and saw that he was genuinely upset. His protective side took over and he bit back the comment.
"Harold, what's wrong?"
Finch noticed the change in John's demeanor and knew that Reese wouldn't stop until he found out what was bothering him.
"I just hate seeing you hurt."
"Finch, I'm fine. Don't worry."
"John, I know you've had worse. That doesn't make it any better. I should take better care of you than your previous employers did."
"I don't need you to take care of me, Finch."
"You might wish you don't, but you need someone to look out for you."
Finch looked closely at John and noticed with annoyance that his friend was still shivering. He got him a heavier blanket and prepared to continue his lecture, as it clearly had not gotten to Reese. He stopped himself before he spoke- it didn't make sense that John was still cold. The room was quite warm and he was mostly covered.
"John, are you still cold?"
"I think it's just the blood loss. I'll be fine."
Finch considered John's analysis of his condition. An otherwise healthy person should not have had significant issues with the blood loss Reese experienced. Unless they weren't very healthy to begin with.
"Mr. Reese, how much sleep did you get while I was missing?"
"How much sleep did you get while I was missing?"
"You were gone for almost two weeks. I got maybe… twelve hours? Why are you asking?"
"Twelve hours. You got a total of twelve hours of sleep over nearly two weeks… why in the world would you do that to yourself?"
"I was looking for you!"
"You wouldn't have been much help to me if you were dead!"
John glowered. Finch didn't understand that the last two weeks had been a nightmare. That he had spent every waking moment interrogating every gangster and criminal in the city. Even Elias sent his men to look for Finch, and it was through his help that Reese had eventually found him.
Finch seemed to read his thoughts, and he softened his voice.
"I know that this has been torture for you. I worry when I don't hear from you for a few hours. I understand how hard this must have been, knowing that I was in danger and not being able to do anything about it for weeks."
"You could never understand. I knew the CIA had you a week ago. I just didn't know where. But I've seen what they can do. And that worst-case scenario has been playing in my head over and over again for a week."
"John, I'm fine. You can see for yourself that the worst-case scenario didn't happen."
"Harold, be honest about one thing: did it have something to do with me?"
Finch had been dreading this question from the moment he saw Reese walk through that door, but he had promised never to lie to the ex-operative.
"John, if I tell you, you must promise that you will not do anything reckless."
He nodded, but Harold wasn't having it.
"You must verbally promise me that you will not do anything to endanger yourself or anyone around you."
"Okay, I promise."
Finch paused for a moment to gather his courage.
"John, they were looking for you."
Harold turned away from Reese, bracing himself for his reaction. But he could never have prepared himself for what John said next.
"Why didn't you just tell them?"
Finch turned around so quickly his neck hurt, but that was the last thing on his mind.
"Mr. Reese, you can't be serious. You can't actually think I would ever give you up to the CIA."
"You should have. It's not your job to protect me."
"Nor is it your job to protect me. But you do it anyway."
John was furious. He was furious at himself, at Finch, at the CIA, and the world as a whole. The whole mess had been his fault, but he couldn't reasonably be blamed for any of it.
Finch watched as his friend spiraled. He knew he had to stop Reese before he did something he would regret.
"John, I think we could both use some rest. There's another bedroom down that hallway."
Reese pulled himself off the couch before Finch could offer him any help. He walked into the other bedroom and found some pajamas. He was so exhausted that he barely managed to change and turn the light off. He was asleep the second he landed on the bed, not having even bothered to climb under the covers.
Finch was completely drained as he walked into his room and shut the door. He couldn't believe that it had been mere hours since he was rescued by John. He changed as quickly as he could and turned the light off before crawling into bed and tucking the blankets around himself.
A few hours later, John woke up feeling cold, hungry, and very nauseous. He had just enough time to get off the bed and bend over the wastebasket before he started dry heaving. It wasn't too bad at first, he'd had far worse. But the retching continued until he doubled over with each new wave. Reese knew that it was likely the result of sleeping uncovered, and he cursed his carelessness. Eventually, his insides calmed down, and he managed to catch his breath. Then it started all over again, and he could only gasp in pain as his body attempted to expel the contents of his stomach.
Finch woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of Reese retching from across the hall. He was out the door before he realized what he was doing, and he entered John's room to find him bending over the wastebasket. Reese managed to look up for a moment before his stomach rebelled again, forcing him to grab the basket again.
Then he threw up. It wasn't much- he hadn't eaten in days, but he still slumped back in relief as the retching stopped. Finch managed to pull John up and support him back to the mostly undisturbed bed.
"Either you managed to make the bed before that happened or you never got under the covers. I seem to believe the latter, given that the cold air would have made your stomach more sensitive."
John chuckled weakly and crawled into the bed, tucking the blankets around himself properly this time.
"Yeah. Sorry for waking you up, Finch."
"Don't worry about it."
Harold turned to exit the room when he heard a rather loud grumble coming from John's stomach. He wasn't surprised that John was hungry- his stomach seemed to have been quite empty even before it had expelled its minimal contents into the wastebasket. He turned around to see that Reese was still trying to go back to sleep.
"John, aren't you going to eat something?"
"Aren't you hungry?"
"It can wait."
"When was the last time you ate anything?"
Finch's jaw dropped. John hadn't eaten in three days.
"Mr. Reese, it's Friday."
"Finch, I'm fine."
Finch stared at his friend as guilt washed over him for the third time that day. Of course Reese wouldn't even take a break to eat when he was looking for his friend. Carter and Fusco were probably forced to intervene before he ended up in the hospital.
"Oh, John. I'm so sorry." His voice was barely a whisper, but somehow his friend heard him. Reese sat up to see Harold with tears in his eyes.
"Harold, what's wrong?"
"Just please come eat something."
He climbed out of bed and followed Harold to the kitchen, where Finch handed him a bag of chips.
"Finch, what's going on?"
"John, I know you were worried. But I need you to promise that you won't do this again if a similar situation happens in the future, whether it's me, Carter, or Fusco.
"Ignore your health until it becomes a life-threatening issue. And will you please eat those chips, you look like you're about to pass out."
Reese saw himself in the mirror and realized that Finch had a point. He was pale and sweaty, and his clothes were a rumpled mess. He opened the bag and finished them in less than a minute. He didn't realize he'd been that hungry. Harold forced himself not to laugh, but he let it out at John's incredulous look.
"Are you okay?"
"I apologize, Mr. Reese, that was quite rude of me."
"Not really, I deserved it."
"You should go back to bed, you must be exhausted."
"You worry too much."
"Only because you don't worry enough. Goodnight, Mr. Reese."
He began to walk out of the kitchen, but he stopped and turned around when he heard John's voice.
"Finch- I promise."