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Damaged — Ch. 28

An hour later, Reese was asleep again and Finch was starting to wish he could join him. Defining hugging, laughing, kindness, and love in terms that a machine could understand had proved exhausting. He sat in his chair, waiting for the next undefined term to appear, but the screen remained blank.

“Is that it?” he asked.

ALL UNDEFINED INTERACTIONS DEFINED

GOODBYE SYS ADMIN FINCH, HAROLD

“Goodbye?” Finch repeated, sitting forward in alarm as the screen returned to the desktop. “Wait – Come back.” But the computer was unresponsive. He dragged the laptop forward, his fingers dancing over the keys as he tried to reestablish communication, but all he got was Access Denied and Command Unknown. Then a terrible thought struck him. What if he’d lost access to the back door? He quickly typed in the command string, breathing a sigh of relief as the Machine returned the typical result for no new Numbers.

Slowly, he closed the laptop and sat back in his chair, staggered by the sudden hole inside him, an emptiness that echoed with every beat of his heart. Rising to his feet, he hobbled over to the bed and sank down on the edge, reaching back to lift the blanket as he lay down. Reese grunted and turned over, wrapping his arm around Finch’s chest and snuggling up against his back.

“Finished already?”

“Yes,” Finch said. He felt Reese raise his head.

“Everything all right?”

“The Machine has returned to its primary operation. It won’t talk to me anymore.”

“Isn’t that a good thing?”

Finch sighed. “Well, yes, but…it was just so amazing, in a scary, cyber-apocalyptic sort of way.”

Reese chuckled. “I think maybe you were right. I might have watched too many sci-fi movies as a kid. There’s no reason why a sentient machine should automatically decide to annihilate the human race.”

“There’s no reason why it should try to protect us, either,” Finch said quietly. There was so much he didn’t understand…He sighed again. “I can’t think about this anymore.” He peeled off his glasses and set them on the nightstand before shifting into a more comfortable position on his back. Reese waited until he’d adjusted the pillows to his liking, then curled up beside him, gingerly drawing up his injured leg and draping it over Finch’s.

“This okay?” Reese asked.

Finch smiled. “Better than okay.”

Finch wasn’t sure if he actually slept. It seemed that every time he started to doze off, Reese would flinch or jerk or make a muffled sound in his sleep. Finch could only imagine what nightmares were troubling his rest, so he felt no rancor at each interruption, just a sick sense of guilt and helplessness. This was his fault, and there was nothing he could do to fix it. He found himself placing his hand over Reese’s, resting in the middle of Finch’s chest, his fingers tracing a network of fine scars on his rough knuckles. How could such well-worn weapons also be so gentle, so tender?

“I’m keeping you awake, aren’t I?” Reese asked suddenly, making Finch jump.

“A little,” Finch said, because he would never again lie to Reese.

“Do you want me to move to the other bed?”

“Absolutely not. I want you within reach at all times. In fact, I fully intend to follow you everywhere, including the bathroom.” Reese laughed, which was the effect Finch had hope to have.

“And here I was afraid I’d be the one smothering you.” He suddenly grimaced as a gurgling sound filled the quiet.

“Was that your stomach?” Finch asked.

“Been a while since I ate anything, I guess,” Reese said.

And he vomited up what little was in his stomach, Finch thought, remembering the bile he’d washed off Reese’s chest. “Want to follow me to the kitchen while I fix some sandwiches?” he asked, nodding to the minifridge across the room.

“I have a better idea,” Reese said, leaning over and nuzzling Finch’s sideburn. “Why don’t you and I…get dressed and walk to this Indian restaurant I noticed a couple of blocks over?”

“Walk?” Finch said with a groan, his body protesting just him saying the word. “I was dreading having to go over to the refrigerator.”

“If you don’t stay active, your muscles with just stiffen up more,” Reese said, but even he couldn’t stifle a grunt of pain as he sat up. “C’mon, a nice, leisurely walk will do you good. Last one dressed buys.”

“Oh, you’re evil,” Finch grumbled, but he did manage to force himself out of bed. When he returned from the bathroom, still wearing just his boxers, he found Reese sitting on the end of one bed, fully dressed with his coat beside him and the motel room key in his hands.

“That’s not fair,” Finch said, gesturing to Reese’s jeans and T-shirt. “You should have to put on real clothes.”

“These are real clothes,” Reese said with a laugh.

“No, those are what you wear when your real clothes are dirty,” Finch said. “I call foul.”

“Fine. Do you want to go Dutch, then?”

“No, I’ll buy,” Finch said, “because you’ll probably have to carry me back to the room after we eat.” He started looking around for his clothes, which he’d removed in a rather hasty manner when they’d arrived, and was surprised to find them all laid out on the bed that Reese wasn’t sitting on. “Thank you.”

“No problem, Finch,” Reese said. He seemed to hesitate, the sparkle that had been in his eyes just a moment before fading. “While I was looking for your tie, I found these.” He reached under his coat and pulled out the handcuffs Fusco had given Finch. “Where did they come from?”

“Detective Fusco lent them to me,” Finch said, stepping over and reaching out for them. “I need to return them the next time I see him.” Reese let Finch grab the cold, metal cuffs, but he didn’t let go of them.

“Why?”

“He…He thought you might need to be restrained while you were drugged.”

“He was right,” Reese said, giving Finch a dark, yet remorseful look, his gaze dropping to the marks on Finch’s neck. “Why didn’t you use them?”

“Because,” Finch said, finally pulling the cuffs out of Reese’s hand, “you had been though enough and I didn’t want to compound the damage by handcuffing you.” He turned away, putting the cuffs into the drawer of the nightstand before picking up his trousers. He fished the handcuff keys out of his pocket and dropped them into the drawer as well. “Fusco may have been right, but I wasn’t wrong, either.”

“You were lucky,” Reese murmured. Finch didn’t argue. He’d been very lucky.

Finch finished dressing and they headed out, both of them limping across the parking lot to the sidewalk. Finch was out of breath, his hip aching, before they even reached the corner.

“This is stupid,” he panted. “I’m hailing a taxi.” But it was a quiet street, away from the main thoroughfares, and there were very few passenger cars driving by, let alone taxis. He started to reach into his pocket for his phone, but Reese took him by the arm.

“Here, hang on to me,” he said. “And we’ll go slower.”

Finch had to admit, it was easier to walk if he leaned on Reese, but he couldn’t stop glancing around, worried that someone might see them walking arm in arm. Of course, this was New York – he could probably walk down the street in high heels and feather boa and no one would give him a second look. But that didn’t stop him from worrying that they might draw unwanted attention, and in their present physical condition, he thought it best to just avoid all unnecessary risks.

“What’s the matter, Finch?” Reese asked. “Don’t want to be seen with me?”

“I don’t want to attract trouble,” Finch said, watching a couple of teenage boys walking the opposite direction on the other side of the street. The boys didn’t even glance at them.

“Don’t worry, I can take care of you,” Reese said, tucking Finch’s arm more firmly around his. “Besides, it looks like I’m taking my elderly father for a walk-”

“I do not look old enough to be your father,” Finch hissed, making Reese chuckle. Then Finch groaned. “Well, maybe I do today. I certainly feel old enough.”

“Oh, you look fine,” Reese said, patting his hand where it rested on Reese’s arm. “Just a little tired and bruised. Nothing that a little curry won’t cure,” he added with a laugh.

Finch wasn’t sure how they made it the entire two and a half blocks to the restaurant, but they managed. Reese opened the door for him, helping him out of his coat as they waited to be seated. After only a minute or two, a pretty young woman approached.

“Good afternoon,” she said with a smile. “Two?”

“Yes,” Reese said. “And if it’s all right, we’d like a table near the back, away from the windows.”

“Of course,” she said, as if it wasn’t a strange request. Perhaps it wasn’t. “Right this way, please.” They followed her to a booth against the back wall, near the door to the restrooms. “Will this be all right?”

“Perfect,” Reese said, flashing her one of his most charming smiles. Finch noted the slight flush to the young woman’s cheeks afterward. She left menus and took their drink order. “What was that dish I had the last time we ate Indian?” Reese asked after she’d walked away. “I can’t remember the name.”

“Doesn’t matter,” Finch said, taking his menu from him. “If I’m buying, then I’m ordering.”

Reese leaned back against the seat, a slow smile gracing his lips. “Why not? Could be fun. Or give me gas. I guess we’ll see, won’t we?”

When the waitress returned with their drinks, Finch ordered the chicken pakora appetizer, the shrimp madrasi for Reese, and the lamb bhuna khrahi for himself. “And the gulab jamun for dessert,” he said, handing the menus back.

“All right, I’ll bring your appetizer right out,” she said and walked away.

Reese leaned forward, resting his arms on the table. “That sounds like a lot of food, Finch. You sure we need an appetizer and dessert?”

“It’s been ages since I had gulab jamun,” Finch said. “Besides, we can take the leftovers back to the motel. That way, we won’t have to leave again for a long, long time.”

Reese chuckled. “The walk wasn’t that bad.”

“No, but I think we should lay low until we’re sure that Agent Snow has left the area-”

“I don’t want to talk about him” Reese said, all the light suddenly gone from his face. He had that look, that emptiness, that Finch had seen in him when they first met.

“All right,” Finch said softly. Unsure what Reese did want to talk about, they lapsed into an uncomfortable silence.

“So how compromised is the library?” Reese asked finally.

“Very,” Finch replied, taking a sip of his drink. Both Snow and Evans had been inside, had seen their work, though he doubted either one of them had any idea just what they had seen. Maybe Evans. He’d been surprisingly intelligent for a lackey. “We’ll need to completely overhaul the security measures, move all the equipment to a different floor-”

“Wouldn’t it be easier to find a new lair?” Reese asked, trying to inject some humor back into the conversation. Finch didn’t find it particularly amusing, but he smiled anyway.

“Setting aside the fact that I can’t abandon my books, there is too much equipment in the library, equipment that cannot be replaced, and I’m afraid trying to move it all would attract too much notice.”

“That’s right, you have a central computer squirreled away in there somewhere,” Reese said, glancing around the room. “Ever going to tell me where it is?”

“I said I’d show you,” Finch replied. “Perhaps in a couple of days, after we’ve rested a bit – assuming there is no new number, of course. If one comes in, we may have to return sooner.” He paused, licking his lips as he searched for the right words. “John, I know that you’re more than capable of taking on any threat that comes your way, but if a number does come in, just this once, do you think maybe we could turn the majority of the field work over to Carter and Fusco? They’ve both proven themselves quite capable.”

“I suppose,” Reese said grudgingly. “As long as it’s not too dangerous. They’ve both got kids, after all.”

“Agreed,” Finch said, relieved to get even that much of a concession out of him. He remembered how difficult it had been to keep him in that wheelchair after he’d been shot. Finch had honestly considered using duct tape to make sure he stayed put.

“Speaking of Fusco,” Reese said after a moment, “there’s something I wanted to discuss with you.”

“Oh?”

“I think it’s time to get him out of HR,” Reese said. “We know who all the major players are, we know their connections in the mayor’s office, we know who they’ve got in their pocket. Keeping him in there is just putting his life at risk for no reason.”

“Do you have a plan to extricate him?” Finch asked. “I doubt he’d be willing to be relocated; he’d have to leave his son behind.”

“Not an option,” Reese said with a quick shake of his head. “I don’t want to give him a new life, I want to give him his back. He needs to bear the consequences of his poor choices, and hopefully make better ones in the future. And I don’t want to lose a valuable asset.”

“So what do you have in mind?”

“We send all the information we have to IAB – let them clean up most of the mess. If anyone manages to slip through the cracks, I’ll take care of them. Fusco will have to be arrested and charged just like everyone else or HR will think he turned snitch.”

“So your plan to get him out of HR is to send him to jail?”

They fell silent as the waitress brought them their appetizer, the golden brown chicken pieces setting Finch’s mouth to watering even before he caught a whiff of the ginger and chili pepper. He was starving! The chickpea batter was light and crisp as he bit into the first piece, steam burning the roof of his mouth, but he hardly noticed. He moaned appreciatively and licked the flaky batter crumbs from his fingers before reaching for his napkin. Across the table, Reese was nibbling on a piece.

“Too hot?” Finch asked.

“Not a big fan of chicken,” Reese said, a clattering of plates from the direction of the kitchen making his head jerk around.

“Oh, sorry,” Finch said, reviewing his mental file about Reese’s tastes and preferences. He knew Reese was allergic to tomatoes and didn’t like asparagus, blue cheese, barbecue ribs, or cantaloupe, but somehow chicken had never made the list.

“No problem,” Reese said, taking a bite and setting the rest of the piece on the edge of his plate. “And no, we’ll keep him out of jail. I figured you could do some computer voodoo and get the charges dropped on a technicality. And if we have to, we could try calling in a favor from Judge Gates.”

Finch made a face and picked up another piece of chicken. “I doubt he’d like that.”

“We saved his kid’s life,” Reese said. “He owes us.”

Finch hadn’t been aware that they were keeping score. He postponed having to respond by taking a bite of the pakora. Reese’s plan seemed a rather brutish approach to a delicate problem. Rather than try to get him out of jail, wouldn’t it be better to simply keep him out? Finch swallowed and wiped his mouth on his napkin.

“That leaves an awful lot to chance,” he said. “I’m sure we can think of a more reliable solution-”

“Okay, fine,” Reese said, leaning back in his seat and crossing his arms over his chest, his gaze darting around the nearly empty restaurant. “Let me know when you think of something.”

Finch regarded him for a long, silent moment. He felt like asking what was wrong, but the answer was painfully obvious, and just as well, since Reese would never admit that there was a problem anyway. Finch knew this erratic, antagonistic behavior needed to be addressed, and while he doubted that a restaurant was the best place to discuss it, he also cared too much for Reese to allow it to continue. He cleared his throat and mentally braced himself for a battle.

“John, we need to talk-”

“Food’s here,” Reese said, uncrossing his arms as the waitress approached. Finch silently cursed the interruption; no longer could he catch Reese off-guard – if such a thing were even possible.

“All right, here is the lamb bhuna khrahi for you,” she said, setting the plate down in front of Finch, “and the shrimp madrasi for you. Is there anything else I can get you? A refill on your drinks?”

“No, thank you,” Finch said before Reese could respond. “We’re fine for now.” He didn’t want any more interruptions.

“All right, you gentlemen enjoy your meal,” she said with a smile and hurried away. Finch tried to start again before Reese could change the subject, but he wasn’t quite quick enough.

“Does this have coconut in it?” Reese asked, poking at the curry-gold shrimp with his fork.

“Yes.”

Reese put his fork down. “I can’t stand coconut.”

A small, affronted sound escaped Finch as he sat there, blinking at Reese. Finally, he said, “I’m sorry, I guess my files on you aren’t as complete as I thought.”

“I’m not a fucking file, Finch!” Reese hissed through his teeth, dropping his napkin on the table and shoving himself up out of the booth. For a moment, Finch was afraid he was going to storm out of the restaurant, and even with the injury to Reese’s leg, Finch knew he could never catch the man on foot, but instead of leaving, Reese walked past the booth and shoved through the door to the men’s restroom.

With a sigh, Finch peeled off his glasses and let them clatter to the table, beside his plate. God, he was so tired. he wasn’t sure he could do this right now. He rested his elbows on the table and buried his face in his hands, until a loud crash emanated from the restroom.

<– Prev   ~*~   Next –>

14 Comments
  1. managerie permalink

    Oh very good.
    Aftermath.
    Issues.
    Plot development
    Nice.

  2. Fuck you John… just eat! =_=”

  3. Plink42 permalink

    I don’t like it when they’re mad at each other, and this kind of came from left field. What’s up with John? And what’s he doing in there? I have to wait a week? I don’t think I can.

  4. farmgirl1964 permalink

    Super job! I can’t wait for more….please, hurry up Friday!

  5. What in the world is going on?

  6. deliacerrano permalink

    Oh new developments & not ones I’m going to like I bet! What was the crash? Is John hurt worse than he seemed or is he mad about something? He’s a pretty picky eater! Surprises me somehow…I thought as a super spy he would have gotten used to eating all manner of food.
    Can’t wait for next chapter!!! Love Reese taking care`of Finch & Finch starting to believe that Reese cares.

  7. rainiejanie permalink

    Well that was an abrupt about-face from Reese. And I have to wait a week to find out what’s up?! Sometimes you’re the one that’s evil. Grrr.

  8. ““Absolutely not. I want you within reach at all times. In fact, I fully intend to follow you everywhere, including the bathroom.” Reese laughed, which was the effect Finch had hope to have.” D’aws. ^.^ So cute. 😀 Aw, the mental image of Reese carrying Finch back is just adorable. 😀 “he could probably walk down the street in high heels and feather boa and no one would give him a second look.” And this mental image is just amazing. XDD lol, I wish Finch would have ductaped Reese to the wheelchair. XD Reese and a temper-tantrum. I’m not surprised. XD Poor man. 😦 Nice lil cliffhanger at the end. ^.^

  9. kmmerc permalink

    I think John’s angry attitude makes sense. My sister used to take care of foster kids who had been abused. A lot of times they were well behaved until they finally felt secure enough to let the anger out!

  10. kmmerc permalink

    Has anyone ever seen Walk Hard, with John C. Reilly? He spends about 1/4 of the movie getting angry and ripping sinks out of walls!

  11. E-Kite permalink

    Uhhh…we all know what’s up. Man got raped numerous times and tortured on top of it. Honestly, what do you THINK happens after someone goes through that much agony? In real life, Abrupt transitions in personalities and habits are only the beginning of this heartache.

    I commend you for portraying this; life goes on no matter what happens, but everyone needs a pause now and then for a bit of recuperation.

    I can’t wait until life let’s you update more of this, I wait on the edge of my seat for the continuation. For now, I’m predicting either Reese was attacked by someone or went into attacking something. 😛

  12. Awwww, poor Reese… and just when I thought he was laughing and smiling a lot more than usual, too! I’m guessing he took out his own frustrations on the dryer…

    “your muscles with just stiffen up more” = “will”
    You missed capitalizing a “he” right near the end.

    I also loved the “high heels and feather boa” look on Finch!
    Can’t wait for more!! 😀

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