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Damaged – Ch. 15

It took some well-timed use of the toggle on his earpiece to give the cab driver the address of a corner within walking distance of the library without Reese overhearing, but luckily getting two young children ready for school was a noisy affair and Reese was fairly preoccupied anyway. Stepping out into the early morning sunshine in what amounted to work-out clothes, Finch felt as self-conscious as if he were wearing a clown costume. The suit had always felt like a disguise, like camouflage in the urban jungle, and walking down the street in sweats felt like venturing into the underbrush with a pork chop hanging around his neck. To make matters worse, he knew there were wolves on the prowl.

He couldn’t see any CIA agents, or anyone loitering in the area, as he approached the old, deserted building, but he could feel their eyes, like an itch between his shoulder blades. He told himself he was imagining things. He hoped so, anyway. Slipping in through the side entrance, he locked the door behind him, moving slowly and quietly up the dusty stairs, on the lookout for anything out of place.

Once in the main room, he allowed himself a quiet sigh of relief. Everything was just as he’d left it, with the exception of the dark, silent computers and disabled generator. Stifling a grunt of pain, he knelt down on the cold floor beside the computer tower and pulled the hard-drive out of the bag, carefully sliding it back into place and connecting the appropriate cables. Next came the motherboard, but he’d been building and repairing computers since college. In less time than Reese had needed to take it apart, Finch had everything put back together. Unfortunately, the generator was going to take a bit more time.

Using wire strippers, he removed the plastic coating from the wires, soldered the ends back together, and wrapped each one in black electrical tape. It was a quick, temporary fix, but he’d only need a few hours worth of electricity, and after this whole thing blew over, he’d get a new generator. He’d had his eye on a smaller, more efficient model for a few months, but hadn’t had the time or reason to upgrade. Now he did.

He turned it on, holding his breath for a moment as the machine began to hum, waiting to see if the repair held. It did.

“Finch, what’s that sound?” Reese asked, making him jump. In the silence of the library, he’d almost tuned out the background noise in his ear.

“A generator,” Finch said, unwilling to lie in the face of a direct question. “Any new developments on your end?”

“Not unless having scrambled eggs and toaster waffles counts,” Reese said. “Why do I hear a generator? Did the power go out at the clothing store?”

Finch grimaced. From the edge in Reese’s tone, he could tell that the operative suspected exactly where he was and was preparing to go on the offensive. Finch’s gut reaction was to be evasive and uncooperative, but he held himself in check.

“I’m at the library,” Finch said, limping over and taking a seat at the workstation, “and before you lecture me, I was careful. I wasn’t seen or followed, and we need this equipment to find Mr. Roberts before something terrible happens. I told you, the numbers come first.”

“You also said you wouldn’t lie to me.”

“I didn’t. I said I needed a change of clothes and I do. I said the CIA wouldn’t be looking for me in a clothing store and they won’t. You inferred the rest.”

Reese sighed, a frustrated sound. “How am I supposed to protect you when you go sneaking around behind my back?”

“You don’t need to protect me-”

“Yes, I do,” Reese said forcefully. “That’s why you hired me, remember? Because all I ever wanted to do was protect people, and that includes you. Especially you.”

Finch smiled at the unexpected warmth in his chest. “I appreciate it, but I’m safe here. You don’t need to worry.” The computers finished booting up and he quickly logged in, opening up a search window and doing a broad sweep for Mr. Roberts. “This search is going to take a while, so I’m going to go shower and change while it runs. I’ll call you back when I’m done.”

“Will you be all right?”

Finch hesitated, fighting the urge to give a generalized answer. “I think so. That’s another reason why I came here. It really is the only place I truly feel safe.” God, he hated being forthcoming. Honest was one thing, but volunteering information – it felt so foreign. Nathan was the only person he’d ever felt comfortable being open with, and even then, he’d still kept secrets.

“You don’t have to hang up, you know,” Reese said, a hint of mischief in his voice. “You could leave the phone and earpiece on the counter. Are you prone to singing in the shower?”

“No, but I do masturbate occasionally,” Finch replied with a smirk as he rose from his chair, “and since a rather handsome and charming cocktease left me with blue-balls last night, I feel the urge to indulge.” His grin broadened at the resulting silence on the other end of the line. “Mr. Reese, are you still there?”

“I- Yeah, Finch, I just…I’m not sure which is more shocking, you saying cocktease and blue-balls, or the thought of you jerking off in the shower.”

“And what is so shocking about me masturbating?” Finch asked, thoroughly enjoying being on the giving end of the teasing for once. “Do you think I’m too old?”

“No!”

“Too proper?”

“Maybe…”

“Well, I’ll have you know I have a healthy and moderately adventurous sexual appetite, which I’ll be happy to prove at your earliest convenience.” He reached the bathroom and stepped inside, his voice echoing from the tile walls, the hollowness filling him with a vague sense of unease, but it wasn’t anything he couldn’t deal with. “Do you still want to eavesdrop?”

“I think I better not,” Reese said, a slight strain in his voice. “The last thing I need right now is a distraction of that magnitude. Call me back when you’re…finished.”

“Suit yourself,” Finch said and hung up, pulling the earpiece out, his ear sore. The headset was much more comfortable. He pulled towels out of the linen cupboard and set them on the counter, then peeled off his borrowed clothes, dropping them in a pile by the door. He turned on the water in the shower stall, the sound making his heart pound, but he was able to step inside, the hot water beating on his skin. His breathing was fast and shallow, and he flinched whenever water splashed on his face, but he managed to shampoo his hair without having a panic attack.

He briefly considered jerking off, but he wasn’t really as worked up as he’d insinuated to Reese, and his lingering memories of being tortured made the shower a less than arousing location. After a moment, he shut off the water and stepped out, quickly drying himself before wrapping a towel around his waist and making his way across the hall to where he kept a few spare changes of clothing.

Clean and dressed in his own clothes, he felt like a new man as he returned to the main work area. As he headed for the corner where he kept his kettle and hotplate, he glanced at the computer monitors, surprised to see a blinking red box on one of the screens. Frowning, he walked over, noting the words Danger: Critical written below in red letters.

Sinking down into his chair, he pulled the keyboard close, calling up the results of the search, and his skin went cold as a cascade of images and data filled the screens, pictures of Mr. Roberts outside of a pawn shop two days ago, one that was known to sell weapons illegally; camera footage from an hour ago of Mr. Roberts shooting a janitor in a nearly empty parking lot, stuffing the body into the back of the man’s van, and taking his uniform and ID. Finch’s fingers pounded the keys as he looked up the location of the camera.

“Oh, shit,” he whispered. He grabbed his phone and the earpiece off the table, but his ear canal was still sore. He tossed it back down and put the cell on speakerphone as he dialed Reese.

“Finished already?” Reese asked.

“Not now, John,” Finch said. “We have a serious problem.”

“You have no idea,” said a familiar voice, and Finch glanced up from his monitors as Agent Snow stepped out of the shadows, one arm in a sling, a bandage on his cheek, and his weapon pointed at Finch.

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