Disclaimer: Person of Interest is not mine. I'm just borrowing the concepts and characters for a little while.

Spoilers: Blink-and-miss-it references to multiple episodes all the way through to the end of the second season. Let me know if you want the list.

A/N: This story takes place sometime around post-2.13 'Dead Reckoning' and pre-2.20 'In Extremis', though I do incorporate knowledge the audience learns from all episodes through to the end of season two.

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Chapter One: Wrong Place

The explosion shook the building, causing him to stumble on the stairs and almost lose his flashlight. He was too late; he had failed to protect their Number.

If he'd been smarter, faster, younger, then maybe…

Emergency lights briefly tried to come on, but they flickered on and off a few times before staying off. The brightness of the sudden, but brief flare of light interrupted his negative thoughts, and as he changed direction on the stairwell and started running up the stairs, he rebuked himself for wasting some of the precious seconds he had left to get out of the building.

Reese continued heading up back towards the ground level using the flashlight to guide him and trying not to kill himself in his haste. He knew that an enclosed stairwell was one of the worst places in the building he could be right now since it would be an easy conduit for the fire to pass through to the surface. It may already be too late for him, but he had to try. Knowing Finch often listened in while he was on a job, he spared a thought as to why there was no guiding voice from his partner in his ear. Only one explanation came to mind—the explosion had interfered with the transmission.

As he barreled through the stairwell door and started running towards the exit, he could hear another explosion followed immediately by the concussive force rippling through the building. The ambient temperature had definitely increased and he would be surprised if the destructive force that was chasing him wasn't actually nipping right at his heels, but he didn't dare glance behind him. John ran full-tilt towards the exit even though he was pretty confident that he didn't have enough time to get out of the building; his survival seemed unlikely.

But he had to attempt to get out alive; Finch would never forgive him if he didn't. Back at the beginning of their partnership, when he'd finally committed himself to their Number Crusade, he had promised himself that he would never again allow himself to go down without a fight. With Jessica's death and the betrayal by the CIA, he'd let his life continually spiral downward until death had nearly become his best option of escape. No more would he allow defeat to come so easily.

He wished for a moment that he could say something to his friend, but knew that he was wishing in vain. The older man would in no way have remained silent for so long in a situation like this, so he had to assume his theory was correct; that their communications had been completely cut off due to the explosion.

Briefly, he felt regret that unlike the other times he'd been in extreme danger, they wouldn't be able to have any last words, but that regret quickly morphed into relief that his friend wouldn't have to listen to the sounds leading up to his death. He wouldn't wish that kind of torture on anyone, and Harold did not deserve it no matter what the other man might think. They had done the best they could with the information they'd had; it was his fault alone that he hadn't been able to prevent their current Number from being killed.

Up ahead he saw a weak shaft of red light which signaled the exit. How the electricity for that one sign was still on, he had no idea. He was almost there, maybe, just maybe, he hd a chance to make it out of there alive.

He should have known better than to have had that thought, because in the next instant he could feel the heat begin to enfold him like a blanket and the oxygen being sucked from the room.

Reese put on a last burst of speed even though he knew he was out of time. Perhaps he could at least make it to the corridor which housed the exit. Maybe the stone wall would mitigate some of the damage his body was going to take from the blast. He just had to make it around that corner.

The exit corridor was so close. He had a very small chance, but at this point he would take anything he could get.

Two meters.

He had just two more meters to go and he would be able to avoid some of the encroaching explosive force that was threatening to completely engulf him. He estimated that right now he had a fifty-fifty chance he would make it around the corner in time.

In those last seconds, thoughts of the people that had managed to become part of his life in the last two years flashed through his mind.

And, as he reached the short brick corridor which led to the exit, he thought perhaps the odds had started to tip towards his favor, but he was wrong.

Reese was just beginning to round the corner when the force of the blast caught up with him and picked him up, throwing him at the opposite wall.

Fleetingly, he felt the right side of his body brutally connect with the wall, followed by intense pain, and finally the heat from the fire.

And then he felt nothing at all.

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To be continued…

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A/N: Thanks to ncismom for the beta! All remaining mistakes are my fault.

Obviously I'm not an explosives expert, so I hope you'll pardon any errors.

Thanks for reading!