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The rain sheeted down for the third straight day in a row, drumming on Finch’s umbrella and nearly drowning out the cacophony of early-morning rush hour traffic around him. He paused on the street corner, glancing around to make sure Detective Fusco wasn’t following him again while he waited for the light to change. The first time he’d spotted the not-so-good detective, he’d thought it possible that it was just a coincidence – there was a hot dog stand just a block over, but the second time erased all doubt; Fusco was following him, and there was only one reason why he’d do that. Reese had sent him.

At first, he’d been angry, but after talking to Reese, it became evident that Reese was actually worried, not just curious. After what Reese had been though with the CIA, a certain amount of doubt and suspicion was to be expected, and to be honest, the man had shown him far more trust than Finch felt he had earned. But there were just some things that no one – especially Reese – could know.

Finch was startled from his thoughts as a taxi came zipping around the corner, trying to beat the yellow light before it turned red. It hit a ragged, rain-filled pothole, the cold, gray water splashing up and drenching Finch from the eyebrows down. He stood in shock for a moment, soaked to the skin beneath his umbrella, barely able to see past the water beaded up on his glasses. Then the light changed and the flow of traffic shifted. His lips pressed into a thin line, he limped across the street, ignoring the looks from his fellow pedestrians. Luckily, he was only a couple of blocks from the library.

Once inside, he dumped his dripping umbrella into the small metal trash can standing beside the door, placed there for just that purpose, and struggled out of his wet coat as he made him way up the stairs. At least it was too early for Reese to be there, especially if the operative stopped for coffee and tea, or to grab a box of donuts or muffins, as had been his habit of late. He really needed to stop doing that. Finch’s waistline did not appreciate it, or perhaps appreciated it too much.

Hanging the coat on the coat rack, Finch peeled off his jacket and hung it on a different peg, pulling his handkerchief out of his pocket and drying his glasses as he headed for the bathroom. He removed his dripping tie and tossed it in the sink, then closed the lid of the toilet, taking a seat to remove his shoes and socks, where the majority of the water had puddled. Wringing out the thin dress socks, he hung them over the towel bar to dry, then unbuckled his belt and slipped out of his trousers. After emptying his pockets onto the counter, he pulled the clean towels off the bar to make room and hung up the pants, followed by his waistcoat and dress shirt.

Clad in only his damp undershirt and boxers, he hobbled down the hall to the office that he’d converted into a bedroom, complete with a tall, antique armoire containing several changes of clothing, including the various disguises he’d used – sweaters, windbreakers, jeans – and his workout clothes. He ignored those and pulled out another suit, charcoal gray slacks, waistcoat, and jacket and a white dress shirt with burgundy pin-striping. He selected a burgundy tie with a black paisley pattern on it, laying out his clothes on the bed to consider the ensemble. Deeming it satisfactory, he picked up the trousers and sat on the foot of the bed to pull them on.

“Good morning, Finch,” said a low, rumbling, and clearly amused voice. Startled, Finch lurched to his feet, one leg half in his trousers. He lost his balance, his foot tangled in his pants as he pitched forward, his body tensing as he braced for a hard impact on the cement floor.

A strong arm wrapped around his chest, halting his fall and returning him to an upright position. Gasping for breath, Finch looked up at Reese. “Thank you.”

“It was the least I could do,” Reese replied, his hands lingering on Finch’s shoulders as he took a small, hesitant step back, only to lean close a moment later, a dance of indecision. Something in his eyes made Finch’s heart beat a little quicker, and with a start he realized what was about to happen, realized it and made the conscious decision not to stop it. Reese bowed his head, his breath warm on Finch’s face, and Finch lifted his chin, his lips parting as Reese kissed him.

It lasted only a moment, but then, lightning didn’t linger, either. Finch stood, silent, hardly daring to breathe, waiting on the thunder, but Reese just drew back slowly, not saying anything. Finch glanced up, startled to find something akin to panic in his operative’s eyes, and he reached out, his fingertips brushing against Reese’s shirt. Reese froze.

Slowly, Finch slid his hand up Reese’s chest, feeling the patter of Reese’s heart against his fingertips. Finch never imagined that Reese would be the one who needed reassurance, and he’d spent quite a bit of time contemplating just such a scenario. Reese always seemed so sure, so confident. It was unnerving to see him behaving otherwise, but also comforting, evidence that the man was only human, and for someone who was constantly reminded of his failings and frailties, human was a quality he needed.

Licking suddenly dry lips, Finch hooked his fingers over the edge of Reese’s unbuttoned collar, a gentle pull drawing Reese to him again. Finch kissed him, just a brush of lips at first, but when Reese didn’t pull away, Finch grew more confident, coaxing Reese’s mouth open, sweeping his tongue across Reese’s and making him shiver. He repeated the motion, his fingers working on the buttons of Reese’s shirt, exposing that smooth, tanned skin, and with a low groan he slipped one hand inside Reese’s shirt, lightly dragging his blunt nails down Reese’s chest.

Reese gasped and jerked back, his face flushed. “This is payback, isn’t it? Revenge for all the teasing.”

“And if it’s not?”

Reese’s gaze shifted to the bed against the far wall, a weighty and meaningful look in his eye. Finch hesitated but a moment before grasping the bottom of his undershirt and peeling it off over his head, one hand adjusting his glasses as he let the shirt fall to the floor.

“I assure you, Mr. Reese, payback is the farthest thing from my mind.”

Reese just stared at him for the longest time, and Finch studied him right back, surprised and relieved to find no trace of pity or revulsion in his face. Instead, there was a hunger, a need that would have been frightening if not for the warmth that filled Reese’s eyes. Reese stepped toward him.

“Wait,” Finch said, and Reese stopped, a look of betrayal on his handsome face. “No, no- I haven’t changed my mind,” Finch assured him, limping over to the bedside. “I just need to pick up my clothes so they don’t get wrinkled.”

“I think wrinkles would be the least of your worries,” Reese said, back to his usual, confident self as he stepped up behind Finch, wrapping his arms around the smaller man, one hand combing through the soft nest of graying hair on Finch’s chest, the other sliding down the front of his boxers. Finch groaned, his eyes sliding shut as he leaned back against Reese.

“Oh, hell,” he muttered, and swept his suit off onto the floor.

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