John continued to fight as his knees hit the roof, still pulling the trigger until even his fingers were getting weak and he'd run out of bullets. He had gotten Harold to safety and The Machine's code sent into orbit. Nothing else mattered anymore.
As his eyes closed one last time, he thought he heard a helicopter in the distance.
Harold had managed to get John into a private clinic. It didn't surprise him. Almost nothing Harold did surprised him anymore.
What did surprise him was the fact that ten days into his stay, after multiple surgeries to put him back together, he hadn't seen or heard from his good friend. He was beginning to suspect he hadn't gotten Harold to a safe place after all, and had lost his friend's life. This must have been Harold's last ace up his sleeve in order to rescue John if the vault hadn't been able to hold him.
The other option was that Harold had abandoned John, and that was something he refused to believe. Harold would not have left him by choice. So Harold was gone, and John was on his own.
John, having nothing with him except the clothing he'd been donated from the thrift shop down the street, made his way out of the clinic's rehab unit and into the strong heat of summer, much to the protestations of the staff who had figured out he would end up on the street that night and for every night thereafter.
There was nothing else he could do, no other options he could take. No one would hire him without identification, which he didn't have. He'd only been allowed to have the surgeries and stay at the clinic until he could successfully walk on his own because of an anonymous donation specifically for his care.
He'd been told to rest up as much as possible, so he kept walking past parks and benches, bus stops, train stations, grocery stores, pharmacies, restaurants, rundown apartment buildings, condos, and plenty of buildings under renovation, until he found the safe house he and Harold had used the most. There was a light on inside, and he could see a man in the kitchen window. He appeared to be washing dishes at the sink. John watched as he turned to his side and bent toward the floor. When he came back up, he was holding a young girl, and for a moment, John's heart lurched and stuttered. Leila! But no. This young girl was too old to be Leila, wasn't she? He couldn't see too clearly from across the street. And then a woman appeared at the man's side with another child on her hip.
No. Clearly that condo had been repossessed and sold to a new family.
John stumbled on. When his legs nearly gave out on him, he stopped to rest on a park bench, unsure where in the great big city of New York he was. It had been a long time since he'd last had to sleep on a bench, but he'd slept on worse. Not having anything worth stealing on him, he didn't worry about pickpockets, or other homeless stealing his things. If they took his shoes, he would walk barefoot until he found Harold. If he found him at all.
He fell asleep quickly, though his dreams were fraught with images of Harold getting shot and bleeding out alone, somewhere no one would find him, or know who he was.
"Harold!" he called out to his friend. "Harold!" But Harold couldn't hear him, didn't know he was there, and it seemed there was nothing John could do but watch from a distance as his friend slowly died an agonizingly painful death.
John woke up, groggy and upset. Realistically, he knew Harold had to be dead, no matter how much he'd tried to save the man's life. But he couldn't help his need to keep searching all of their favorite haunts, no pun intended.
He made his way to the Lyric Diner just as they were opening, and sat across the street on a bench until mid morning when he was sure Harold wouldn't be arriving for a late breakfast. Harold had always preferred to eat early, as did John.
He made his way toward the loft Harold had purchased for him several years ago as the sun climbed higher in the sky and tried to scorch the pavement. For sure Detective Riley's dump of an apartment had already been rented out the moment he was late with the rent.
Looking up into the livingroom window of his much nicer loft, John thought he could see a man he didn't recognize pacing the length of the window, a phone to his ear. His heart clenched a little tighter. He would find no home here.
His stomach growled, letting him know in no uncertain terms that he needed to eat. He walked to a park where he knew an organization would be handing out free sandwiches to the homeless. He kept his head down, and didn't talk to anyone as he stood in line.
"Hey, you're new here, aren't you? What's your name?" asked the woman on the other side of the table.
John just shook his head, took the peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a water bottle and left the park to find a free bench a few blocks away. The painted metal was hot to the touch but with few options left to him, John endured it while he unwrapped the sandwich and ate it.
Were there still Samaritan agents around? Who had won: The Machine? Or Samaritan? How would he even know?
The only thing was to keep to himself and make sure he was unmemorable to others when he had to interact with them, and he would, if he wanted to eat.
When he was finished eating, he headed toward Chinatown and the secret entrance to the abandoned subway station they'd used for their headquarters after the raid on the library.
What he found there was decidedly unreassuring. The passenger car was gone, clearly in a rush, as the cables had been yanked and torn, leaving the inner wires exposed. The table where Harold had set up his office outside of the car had been overturned, the laptops gone, taken in a raid, or stolen by looters.
Everything was coated in a layer of dust. No one had been down there in a long time. No one was there now.
It was true. He'd failed in his mission to protect Harold. The knowledge of that admission weighed on him. His shoulders slumped and he stared at the pavement as he headed back up the stairs, and started walking, not really caring where his feet took him.
He'd failed. His last purpose. His last mission.
What was he going to do with himself now that he was back where he'd been planning to end things when he'd first met Harold?
Eventually the sun met the horizon and sunk beneath its dark velvety folds, taking with it everything that had been keeping John going.
Exhausted and hungry, he let his weight drop him to the curb, as he cursed the clinic for working so hard to keep him alive.
"Fuck you too, Harold Finch," John whispered. "I wasn't supposed to still be here; You were. How could you let this happen?"
John was unaware of the passage of time, of whether or not he closed his eyes and slept. Maybe it was the dark hoodie he wore and the dark jeans, but no one noticed him, or said anything. No one asked if he was okay or if he needed any help. Maybe they just thought he was one of the thousands of homeless roaming around the city and ignored him just like they ignored the others. Then again, he reminded himself, he was homeless and roaming around the city.
When dawn arrived, John's whole body felt as if someone had taken a jackhammer to it. He'd been sitting hunched over the curb all night long. Now, he stretched out his muscles and uncricked his neck and back. Then he bothered to look at his surroundings.
The library was just across the street, the scaffolding still surrounding it, with the blue tarps keeping everything hidden from the prying eyes of the world. His breath catching in his throat, John rushed across the street at the first parting of traffic and darted down the dark passage to the hidden back door.
The alarm system was just as he remembered it. Harold had told him the override code not long after they'd first started working together. He used it now, and the door swung open for him into the old staff break room. Everything was dark, cool, and quiet with a deep musty scent hanging in the air. John crept inside and closed the door softly behind him. He stepped carefully in the pitch black, remembering that they'd moved all of the furniture and some of the appliances upstairs to be more convenient, but that had been before the raid. Things had likely changed since then.
Emerging into the circulation work room, John tripped on something and nearly went sprawling before he could regain his balance. Putting his hands out, he felt a wheel, then a metal leg and something that might have been a shelf if it were facing another way. An overturned book cart, if he was guessing right.
He made his way even more carefully and managed not to bump into anything else in the workroom. Next came the large round circulation desk where the public could check out their books and other library materials before they left the building. Shafts of sunlight reached this part of the main floor from the high windows, enough that John could easily see the place had been trashed and then left to grow a huge forest of dust over everything. Dust motes danced in the pale light. Granted, it wasn't like he or Harold had ever kept up dusting duties down here, though Harold had kept the second floor almost spotless.
In one shaft of light, he could just barely make out smudged boot prints that had startled the initial layer of dust during the raid and then been covered over later. The more dust John found, the more he relaxed. Clearly no one had been in the building in a long time. Perhaps not even since that day he and Harold had unceremoniously left in a rush to their new identities.
In a way, he was relieved. This was the only place he had ever truly been happy and comfortable in his life, aside from a few places in his childhood. It was bad enough knowing that other people were living in his loft and in their primary safe house. It would have been one thousand times worse if he'd found the library in use by anyone at all. Unless, of course, the New York Public Library had taken it back and was using it as a functioning library again. That would have made Harold happy, he was sure.
He only let himself relax a fraction at the thought that no one had been using the library in all these years. One never knew if a vagrant had wandered in off the street and made it their home. Or if the government had put in security cameras to catch any of the team members returning. He kept an eye out for intruders and spy cameras in each room as he went through them, but found neither.
The stairs were also covered in a thick layer of dust that had not been disturbed. Up on the second floor, the computers had all been taken away and the generator was laying on it's side. There was broken glass everywhere amongst the books littering the floor.
Maybe it was better that Harold hadn't survived. He would have been devastated to see his beloved books tossed so carelessly on the floor. Whole shelves had been lifted away from the wall and dumped. Books had been kicked or thrown across the room or had their pages torn out.
John cringed. Before Harold had brought him on to help with the numbers, he'd been attempting to help them himself and there had been no time to organize the books. Once John was helping, however, he'd often return to the library to find Harold with a book cart somewhere among the stacks returning books to their proper shelves, and over time, the library had begun to look like an actual library again. He could see the pride Harold took in his work, no matter how simple it was, and the sight of Harold's sparkling eyes, always made John happy.
John hadn't had much of an appreciation for reading before he'd met Harold, but Harold's love of books had rubbed off on him just a little, and now he was horrified on Harold's behalf. Recognizing a cover, he picked up a book that was half under the arm chair he'd brought into Harold's workspace: The Ghost in the Machine by Arthur Koestler. After The Machine had led him to the book he'd eventually found the time to read it. He remembered leaving it on the chair, intending to return to it, when they'd had to evacuate in a hurry. There'd been no time to debate taking a book along with him. He brushed the broken glass off the seat of the stuffed chair and put the book back where he'd originally left it. Maybe he'd pick it up again some day. If only to pass the time he had left in the world.
The one place he'd felt comfortable, and it had been destroyed just for the fuck of it. This was deliberate, but also random. If they were looking for something, they'd done a pretty bad job of it.
When he came upon the filing cabinet, his breath caught in his throat again. The actual files had been taken, but several photos remained scattered along the floor, with boot prints on them. Carter smiled up at him, marred by a bit of dirt. Beneath her photo he found Jessica, also smiling up at him. His heart ached the harder it pounded. He needed to forget the past. It was over and there was no going back.
He squatted down and gathered up all the photos and placed them in the empty top drawer of the cabinet, to be forgotten again. As the drawer shut with a loud bang, John was faced with the silence of the building. Nothing stirred, nothing moved. Harold wasn't sitting behind him typing code, or explaining that he collected rare books, 180 gram vinyl, and Xerox Altos.
John's heart stopped beating for a moment. He missed Harold's voice, and the sound of his keyboard as he searched for information on their latest number. Exhausted, John kept going, his legs feeling heavy, his head hanging down in defeat. There were still a few more rooms and hallways he needed to check to ensure the safety of himself and the building. His innate need ensured he made it happen, even when he knew his end was near and the point was moot.
The hallways appeared clear of bugs that he would be able to detect visually. More books had been pulled off the shelves, but what else was new?
Inside their makeshift break room, the microwave door had been left open, the light long since burned out. The minifridge door was closed, but its contents had been pulled out and left to rot on the floor. The ramen noodle packages that had lined the shelf had been torn open, the noodles dumped on the floor, and crushed beneath heavy work boots. John thought he recognized Harold's tea leaves and bits of his own instant coffee amongst the noodles, the tins for both strewn on the floor next to a container that had once held milk.
Harold's favorite green mug lay smashed in a corner. John's hands turned to fists. He couldn't pretend the sight of this needless destruction didn't bother him.
Taking a deep breath, he moved on.
He checked the third floor with just as much care, only to see more of the same: rooms trashed, no vagrants, and no bugs that he could see. He then made his way back down to the first floor, this time checking to make sure no one had followed him into the building undetected. When he found no one, he locked the back door, which he'd left closed but unlocked in the event he needed to make a hasty exit, and reset the override code on the security system.
Up on the second floor again, he found the couch in the history section a few rooms away from Harold's workstation. He picked up a dark red fleece blanket from the floor, dusted it off, and lay down on the couch. John had bought the blanket for Harold years ago and it still smelled vaguely of his friend, a testament to the number of times Harold had used it to take naps or spend the night during an important case.
Looking around him, John felt something dark filling his heart. He shuddered. This would be a good place to die, surrounded by the books that Harold loved, that he had saved from destruction the way he'd saved John all those years ago.
Eventually his thoughts calmed and he fell asleep in Harold's warm embrace.
John woke up early the following day, his mind already thinking about Harold, the abandoned library, the train station, the woman at the sandwich table in the park, John's bleak future. He closed his eyes and tried to go back to sleep. Bear. He opened his eyes again. It was probably stupid for a grown man to miss the sound of the dog's nails clicking on hardwood, or the feel of his cold wet nose bumping into John, greeting him at the top of the stairs after returning from a mission for Harold and The Machine.
He didn't want to be awake. John wanted to sleep until his life force was depleted. The clinic had put so much hard work into rescuing him and ensuring that he survived, and yet, it had all been for nothing, now that Harold was gone, now that John's purpose was gone. For a man like him, death wouldn't come easy. It couldn't. He knew that.
His stomach rumbled. It had been a long time since he'd eaten that sandwich and there was no edible food in the library. That said, he didn't want to leave the relative safety and comfort of this place. Instead, he got up, made his way back to their makeshift break room on the second floor, found a plastic tumbler that was still intact, and took it to the bathroom to wash it out and fill it with water. Then he remembered the raid. What if the water had been shut off?
Maybe dying of starvation and dehydration was the way to go then. No one would ever find him and he could be at peace, perhaps, amongst Harold's beloved books, if someone like him could be at peace in death. Harold would want him to be. Harold had always wanted the best for him. Thinking about it made his heart ache all over again.
Surprisingly, there was water in the taps. It came out brown for quite a long time, but John had nothing but time, so he waited it out and eventually it ran clear. He drank the water, then drank some more. He wouldn't die of dehydration then.
Before he could think about what he was doing, he had grabbed a broom and was sweeping up what was left of the glass board near Harold's ergonomic office chair. The board had been central to their work. That it was broken was a sign that that work was over and would never resume again.
He moved the frame downstairs to the circulation work room, trying not to remember the time he'd dreamt of kissing Harold in front of that board before asking him out to dinner at the end of a case. They'd had dim sum at one of their favorite restaurants a few blocks away. Conversation had been light, the company comfortable. It was more than John had ever asked for and it had only been a dream.
Cleaning up the broken glass was enough work for one day. Why bother when he wouldn't be around that much longer anyway?
He went back to bed on the couch, and snuggled into the fleece that still smelled like Harold and long nights at the computer with multiple cups of tea to keep him awake and typing. John closed his eyes, and this time, he was able to fall back asleep with relative ease.