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Dream a Little Dream of Me – Ch. 2

Finch awoke with an inexplicable sense of happiness and well-being, a feeling that vanished the moment he opened his eyes. Even without his glasses, he could tell he wasn’t in any of his apartments, and he sure as hell wasn’t in the library. The open loft seemed vaguely familiar, and it took only a moment realize why.

Sitting up slowly, Finch looked around for his glasses, finding them on the edge of the bed frame. With the world once more in focus, he shoved the covers back and glanced down at himself, simultaneously relieved and chagrined to discover he was wearing just his boxers and a pale blue T-shirt he didn’t recognize. Better than being naked, but what was he doing in Reese’s apartment, in Reese’s shirt, in Reese’s bed? And where was Reese?

The last question answered itself when he heard the shower shut off. He hadn’t noticed the sound of the water running, but the sudden silence was loud as a gunshot. Finch climbed out of bed, bare feet cold on the hardwood floor. Sitting neatly off to the side were his shoes and socks, and he spotted his overcoat hanging behind the front door, but where were the rest of his clothes?

Finch heard the bathroom door open and a moment of irrational panic gripped him. He glanced around for a place to hide, but the loft was still as sparsely furnished as when he’d turned the key over to Reese. Without an escape, he squared his shoulders and turned to face Reese as he emerged from the bathroom.

He had a towel wrapped around his waist and another draped across his broad shoulders, one hand using the corner of the towel to rough the water from his hair. He caught sight of Finch and there was a momentary catch in his usually fluid gait. Then he smiled.

“Morning, Finch. Sleep well?”

“I…I’m not sure,” Finch said. “Where are my clothes?”

“In the closet. There’s plenty of hot water left if you want to take a shower while I fix breakfast. How does eggs and toast sound?”

“Fine. I- No, I should go,” Finch said, limping over to the closet. His suit was neatly hung up beside Reese’s. He pulled it out, his hands shaking. What the hell was he doing there? “Mr. Reese, I-”

“Please, it’s John. After last night-”

“What happened last night?” Finch demanded. “Why can’t I remember?” What did you do to me? He barely managed to close his mouth before the accusatory question slipped out, but he still thought it. What had Reese done? He wanted to believe he hadn’t done anything, that there was a perfectly innocent explanation to all of this, but he’d not survived for as long as he had by looking for the best in people.

Reese regarded him for a moment, as though he had heard the unspoken question anyway, then he turned away and walked to the kitchen. “You had a migraine and were miserable, so I brought you back here because you wouldn’t let me take you home. You don’t remember because I gave you a couple of pain pills. The pills made you dizzy, so I helped you get undressed and you went to bed. I slept on the couch. The fuzziness should wear off in a couple of hours and you should remember. Now, do you want eggs or not?”

Finch didn’t answer. He took his clothes into the bathroom and locked the door. It was warm and steamy inside, the fan running to clear out the moisture. Finch lay his clothes on the counter and stripped off Reese’s T-shirt, letting it fall to the floor. ‘…I helped you get undressed…’ Finch regarded his reflection in the mirror, condensation fogging the glass, but he could still see his gut, his love handles, his graying chest hair, his pale skin, his scars. How much had Reese seen?

“It doesn’t matter,” he muttered, turning his back to the mirror and dressing quickly. It wasn’t just his looks, or his body, or his injuries that stopped him from telling Reese the truth about how he felt, but they certainly didn’t help. Maybe if he were more handsome, or more fit, or more capable, Reese might overlook the fact that he was an old man, but as it was… What did Finch have to offer?

Dressed but barefoot, Finch emerged, nervously straightening his tie as the smell of fresh toast wafted across the room to him.

“Eggs are almost ready,” Reese called.

Finch limped over to the bed and sat down on the edge, picking up his socks and shoes and determinedly putting them on. “I can’t stay,” he said, pointedly not looking at Reese as he headed for the door.

“If you wait, I could give you a ride,” Reese said.

“I’ll call a cab.”

“Harold-”

“I have to go,” Finch said, cutting off whatever he’d been about to say. He grabbed his overcoat and fled into the hall, hobbling to the elevator without a backward glance.

He took a cab to one of his apartments, showered, changed his clothes, and grabbed tea and a bagel on his way to the library. The old building was still and silent as he made his way up the stairs and through the long corridors. Sinking into his chair with a sigh, he booted up his system and logged in, wishing he’d gotten around to installing surveillance devices in Reese’s apartment. He’d known better than to try it before Reese had a chance to scour the apartment inch by inch. If Reese had found anything, it would have been a gross violation of the tense trust that existed between them – a violation that their relationship might not have survived, as the incident on Reese’s birthday had proven.

So without clear footage to view, Finch went looking for every traffic and security camera within a block of the apartment. All he got were some shadows in the dark, Reese leaving off all the lights in the loft. Was it to keep from being watched? Had he anticipated Finch doing this very thing? What was he trying to hide?

Finch pushed his chair back from the table and forced himself to take a slow, deep breath. He was letting his imagination and paranoia run away with him. There was no evidence that Reese had done anything, and Finch had no reason to doubt his employee’s honesty. If only he could remember…

Closing his eyes, Finch thought back to when he’d woken up. He’d been calm, safe, even happy, an unusual way for him to wake up. Most mornings he was jerked awake by a screaming alarm clock, if he wasn’t roused by the throbbing ache in his neck and hip. He must have been dreaming, also an unusual occurrence. His dreams were typically closer to nightmares, filled with frustration and fear and hopelessness.

Letting his mind wander farther back, he was careful not to force it, the memories rising to the surface in their own time. He remembered being at the library, and yes – he remembered the migraine. Bad tea. Reese had been telling the truth. The relief was like having a thousand pounds lifted off his shoulders, a tightness in his chest relaxing and letting him breathe.

Finch felt a small smile tug at the corners of his mouth as he remembered Reese ‘kidnapping’ him, driving him through the dark city back to the loft, where Reese had given him a couple of pills. He remembered being uneasy, but the pain had been so bad… Things became a little muddled after that, and try as he might, the memories refused to settle down. They flitted about like drunken moths. Perhaps it was the pills. Perhaps it was a dream. He was a little disturbed to realize that he couldn’t tell which it was.

Reese had sat beside him on the sofa, talking in that low, rumbling voice of his, and then somehow they were by the bed, Finch sitting on the edge with Reese kneeling in front of him, touching his feet. That had to be part of the dream. Finch didn’t find feet particularly arousing, but it caused a strange flutter in the pit of his stomach as he remembered the touch of Reese’s fingers against the bottom of his foot. Actually, the thought of Reese touching him anywhere made his mouth dry and his heart race.

Finch remembered rising to his feet – he’d felt like he was floating, the room spinning slowly around him. Reese had held him to keep from drifting away, and then- Finch swallowed hard. Then Reese had unbuckled Finch’s belt, had slid Finch’s pants down… Finch opened his eyes, breathing hard as he glanced around the room. This was all consistent with Reese’s story, if a bit drug-addled. Finch remembered saying something, or trying to say something as he stood, half-naked and clinging to Reese…

‘Touch me, John, please…’

Finch brought a hand up to cover his mouth, feeling faintly sick to his stomach. Had he really said those words? Or had he just dreamed it? If he had said it, it was hard to believe that Reese would have passed up the opportunity to tease him about it, to watch him squirm with embarrassment. That was the ex-op’s favorite past-time, it seemed. So perhaps his words had been too slurred to make out. One could hope.

Reese had lain him down in bed and covered him up before walking away. He remembered hearing water running, and feeling his glasses be taken from his face. He thought he’d tried to tell Reese to be careful with them, but then a warm hand had smoothed back through his hair and something touched his forehead – a kiss. Reese’s soft voice drifted through the haze in his mind, a low, murmured, ‘I love you’. Definitely a dream.

But a good dream. Finch leaned back in his chair, his eyes unfocused and a small smile quirking his lips. It had been too long since he’d heard those words spoken. This was his subconscious mind’s way of trying to ease his loneliness, trying to make him feel like he used to, before he lost Grace and Nathan. That’s all it was, nothing more. And it couldn’t ever be anything more. And he could live with that. He didn’t have a choice.

Sitting forward, he pulled the keyboard closer and got to work. There was another Number waiting, a young woman, and by the time Finch realized that Reese still hadn’t shown up, he already had a pretty good idea of what sort of trouble she was in. He called Reese, annoyed when it went to voicemail.

“Mr. Reese, we have a new Number. Call me at your earliest convenience.”

Less than a minute passed before the phone rang. “Morning, Finch,” Reese said, apparently deciding that last night never happened. For some reason, that just irritated Finch more. “Who’s the Number?”

“Rachel Hinks, twenty-four, works as a receptionist at Mayfair Medical Clinic,” Finch reported.

“I know the place,” Reese said. “They offer free medical care to the poor and homeless. What did she do?”

“Fell in love with someone she shouldn’t have,” Finch said, instantly regretting his choice of words and tone. He needed to stay objective, professional. “Her boyfriend owed quite a sum of money to a local bookie, around fifteen thousand dollars. Seems betting on the ponies didn’t turn out to be the safe investment he’d thought. Three months ago he was killed in a car accident – and I checked, it was really an accident – and now they’re going after her for the money.”

“Sounds like we have options, then,” Reese said. “Easiest thing to do would be to pay them off. You can afford it, right?”

“I can afford to buy Manhattan, Mr. Reese,” Finch said dryly. He already owned almost nine percent of the real estate on the island. “What’s our other option?”

“Bookmaking is illegal. I could try to get an account with them, place a few bets, find out where they operate from, who’s involved, and then hand them over to the police.”

Finch considered it, but underground gambling, while certainly criminal, wasn’t quite the violent crime they were supposed to be stopping. “Pay the bookie. If you want to go after the operation, do it on your own time.”

“Understood,” Reese said and the line went silent. He didn’t hang up, though. After a minute, his low voice was back. “How’s your headache this morning?”

“Fine.”

“Really? It hasn’t come back?”

‘No, Mr. Reese.”

“Oh. Do you have the cash to cover Miss Hinks’ inherited debt, or should I start hitting the ATMs?”

“I have it.”

“All right. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

“Fine.” Finch hung up and rose from his chair, limping down the hall to his office and counting out fifteen, thousand dollar stacks of cash. Then he added an extra five, just in case. Lowlife bookies often charged ‘fees and interest’. After placing the money in a bag, he returned to the main room to find Reese already there. The sight of him sparked a memory and for an instant, Finch could feel warm lips against his forehead. Stupid dream.

He handed the bag to Reese and turned away. “There’s twenty in there, in case you need it.”

“Thanks,” Reese said, but he didn’t leave. Finch waited, willing him to just go, but his presence lingered, like a gathering storm, the silence heavy, almost painful. “Do you…do you think that I did something to you last night?” Reese asked finally.

“No,” Finch said quickly, decisively. “I know you didn’t. I remembered what happened. You were a perfect gentlemen,” he added, trying for humor and failing. He still couldn’t look at him, though.

“Then why are you angry at me?”

“I’m not angry at you, Mr. Reese.”

“Are you sure? Because you’ve been very short with me ever since you woke up this morning.”

“I’m not angry,” Finch said, his tone sharp. “I just- I’m not- I don’t like waking up in a strange bed with no memory of how I got there. I’m a little out of sorts. I’ll get over it. Now go take care of Miss Hinks’ problem.”

“Understood,” Reese said and Finch listened to footsteps retreat. That was all it was – he was out of sorts. He most certainly wasn’t angry that some foolish dream was only a dream. Finch closed his eyes and sighed. It had seemed so real. But it wasn’t, and he needed to forget about it.

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