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Boardwalk

Standing in the meager shelter of a striped awning, Reese shoved his hands deeper into his coat pockets, his collar turned up against the gusting wind and the stinging rain. Leave it to Finch to insist upon a meeting in this weather. Reese had to assume it was important, some vital information in the case they were working, but why meet at the Boardwalk? It was practically deserted, only a handful of fishermen dangling their lines over the rail of the dock and a few hardy tourists snapping pictures of the churning gray Atlantic pounding the empty beach, but the library would have been just as secluded, and a whole lot warmer.

An approaching figure caught Reese’s attention, the relentlessly dapper Finch wrapped in a long brown coat, a black umbrella clutched tight in his hand as the wind fought to tear it from his grasp. He looked vaguely annoyed as he limped across the gray, weathered planks, perhaps regretting his choice of venue.

Reese stepped out from under the awning and ducked beneath the edge of the umbrella as Finch walked by, matching pace as they strode down the empty Boardwalk. “What have you got?” Reese asked, his voice low.

“You need to take the ferry to Staten Island,” Finch said. “I’ve arranged a meeting with Mr. Richards; he thinks you’re a hitman and I believe he wants you to kill his wife. He wouldn’t go into specifics over the phone. I took the liberty of preparing a fake ID and putting together a portfolio of your work, if you will.” He reached into his inside coat pocket for a small manila envelope, his attention wavering from the unruly umbrella, and the wind jerked it sideways, poking one of the metal ribs into the side of Reese’s head.

Reese reached out, steadying the umbrella. “Why don’t you let me hold this,” he said.

“I’ve got it,” Finch replied tersely as he held out the envelope. Reese took it, ducking just in time to avoid another collision with the umbrella.

“You’re going to put an eye out with that thing,” Reese teased, trying to take it out of Finch’s hand.

“I said I’ve got it,” Finch said, resisting. “Mr. Reese-” The wind gusted, blowing the rain sideways into their faces and ripping the umbrella from their hands. “Perfect,” Finch grumbled as the umbrella went bouncing and wheeling down the Boardwalk. Reese hesitated only a second before taking off after it, wind and rain stinging his face, his shoes slapping against the wet wood, his coat flapping about his legs. The umbrella caught for a moment on a light pole before leaping free, up and over the railing. Reese lunged, arm outstretched, and fell heavily against the wooden rail, out of breath but victorious, the umbrella clutched tight in his fist.

A smattering of applause sounded from down the Boardwalk, a handful of people witnessing his rescue, and Reese couldn’t stop himself from smiling and giving a theatrical bow before turning and jogging back to Finch, the umbrella over his shoulder. Finch stood, hands shoved deep in his coat pockets, wind teasing his hair and raindrops clinging to his glasses, giving Reese a look that was simultaneously annoyed, long-suffering, and disapproving, but it couldn’t mask the slight drawing in of his lips, one of the few tells Reese had been able to decipher. It was what he did when he was fighting not to smile.

Reese’s gaze swept the empty Boardwalk behind Finch, then searched the empty beach, before darting to the empty windows of the nearby buildings. Except for the people behind him, they were alone. Stopping in front of Finch, Reese raised the umbrella, holding it over both of them.

“You have rain on your glasses,” Reese said as Finch reached for it.

Finch stopped, a slight frown creasing his brow, but Reese just waited innocently; he had no tells. After a moment, Finch slipped one hand inside his coat for a handkerchief as he drew off his glasses, looking down at them as he wiped away the moisture.

“Finch?” Reese said, taking half a step toward him.

“Yes?” Finch raised his head, squinting myopically at Reese, as Reese let the umbrella fall back to his shoulder, blocking the view of any curious spectators at the far end of the Boardwalk. Before Finch could react, Reese leaned in and stole a kiss, a thrill racing through him at the touch of Finch’s startled lips against his.

Finch jerked back, his eyes wide, his face turning red as he sputtered incoherently before seizing the umbrella and yanking it out of Reese’s hand. “Mr. Reese, are you drunk?” he demanded.

Reese laughed. “Just keeping you on your toes, Finch,” he said with a wink. “I’ll call you when I get to Staten Island.”

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