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Damaged – Ch. 10

Reese had never felt more frustrated in his life. He sped down the crowded New York City streets in his newly-stolen car, weaving in and out of traffic, running lights, cutting people off, ignoring the cacophony of blaring horns that he left in his wake. He almost dared a traffic cop to try to pull him over, but none did, and he arrived at his destination in one piece and in no better of a mood.

He knew Finch was private, secretive, paranoid, but he would have thought, after all they had been through, that he’d earned just a little of the recluse’s trust, just enough for Finch to take a chance on him. Finch had taken a chance when he’d offered him a job, when he’d told him about the Machine, when he’d risked his own life to rescue Reese after he’d been shot. Why was this so much harder? Because it was personal? Finch’s life meant nothing to him, but his heart…?

Reese supposed he could understand that. He’d dodged bullets a hundred times more often than he’d ever confessed his feelings for another person. Didn’t Finch have that fact written in some file somewhere? Did he realize what it had taken for Reese to admit that he cared? No, of course not. Finch thought it was all a game or a ploy to earn his trust. Damn it, why couldn’t he see that he was more than just an asset?

Reese wasn’t sure when he had stopped being one, but he knew the exact moment when he realized it, that night in the parking garage, bleeding out in the stairwell, when he’d heard Finch’s voice like a lifeline on the other end of the earpiece, and he felt fear for the first time that night, not because he was dying, but because Finch was putting himself in danger to rescue him. It had been so long since he’d had anyone he could count on, he’d forgotten what it felt like.

And now…Finch would probably want to sweep it all under the rug, to forget it ever happened. That sounded worse than hell. How could everything be business as usual when he had finally realized what he wanted, the one thing in his life that made him feel alive and whole again? If he’d even thought that Finch might not share his feelings, he’d have let it go, he’d have done what he was best at – lie through his teeth until he started to believe it – but Finch had kissed him back without reservation. Reese didn’t know if Finch was gay or straight, a virgin or a manwhore, but it didn’t matter. Not since Jessica had it felt it that good to just hold someone.

Reese put the car into park and shut off the engine, climbing out into the late afternoon sun. He was a few blocks from the library, the last place he ought to be, but Finch needed his glasses and laptop. He was probably driving himself crazy being unable to do anything.

Knowing Mark as well as he did had its advantages, even if it meant that Mark knew far more about him than he’d have liked. Reese had surprised him, though. Mark was not expecting Reese to launch a rescue. That worked in Reese’s favor at that moment, but now Mark knew that Finch was much more than just an asset. That put him in even graver danger.

Standing beneath the awning of a bodega, Reese let his gaze sweep the nearby rooftops. At this angle, it was nearly impossible to see – which was why he spent so much time up there – but he knew Mark would have at least one man covering the high ground, a sniper with orders to shoot to kill. He’d have the street covered, too. In fact, Reese could see one operative loitering on a front stoop across from the library, and where there was one, there would be others.

His training said to back off, to avoid the hot zone, but Reese had never been one to shy away from a fight, even when he was outnumbered. And Mark knew that. He’d be around somewhere, in a surveillance van probably, or inside the library, assuming they even realized its significance. Since he didn’t see a large, unmarked truck parked in front of the abandoned building, or a dozen tier one agents carrying out everything that wasn’t nailed down, it wasn’t unreasonable to think that Mark only knew that Finch had been seen frequently in the area, but not his actual destination. At least the man’s paranoia was good for something.

Reese didn’t feel like playing the ‘he knows that I know that he knows…’ game anymore. Instead, he picked out a nearby apartment building, turned up his collar against the wind, and headed over, resisting the urge to hunch his shoulders as the phantom itch of a sniper’s scope weighed on the back of his neck. He made it to the front doors with his head still on his shoulders and quickly picked the lock. Once inside, he headed upstairs, deciding the eighth floor would be high enough. He picked an apartment with windows facing the library, near the middle of the building, and knocked on the door.

“Who is it?” asked a female voice.

“NYPD, ma’am,” Reese answered, pulling Stills’ badge out of his inside coat pocket and holding it up. “May I have a word with you?”

The security chain rattled and the door opened, a young brunette with pale green eyes peering out at him. “Is there a problem?” she asked.

“I need to look out of your windows for a few minutes,” Reese said.

“Excuse me?”

“A possible suspect in a string of recent identity thefts may be hiding in one of the nearby buildings. I just need to take a look out the window.”

“Oh…okay…” she said, stepping back to allow him in. He put the badge away and made his way over to the living room windows, peering out through the sheer curtains, his sharp eyes scouring all the rooftops in sight. He was a little disappointed to pick out the first sniper so easily, hunkered down on the roof of the building across the street. The second took a bit more effort. From his vantage point, Reese could pick out three agents on the street, but saw no sign of the surveillance van or Mark.

“Would you like something to drink? Coffee? Water?”

Reese turned to the woman with a smile. “Thank you, but no. I’ve seen what I needed to see. Thanks for your cooperation.” As he headed back downstairs, Reese considered his options. He’d only brought the one gun and one extra magazine, so he’d be in a disadvantage in a shootout. Logic said to sneak into the library and avoid confrontation. He wanted a third option.

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