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Damaged – Ch. 4

It took less than an hour to find the address, break in, and collect the box. Most of that was spent driving. With the cache of items sitting in the passenger’s seat, Reese headed for his hotel again, seeming to hit every red light on the way. Each time the traffic stopped, Reese couldn’t help but glance over at the box, curiosity gnawing away at him. He didn’t want to look, mostly because Finch had assumed he would and had, in fact, given him tacit permission, but even if he managed to resist, Finch would still assume he had. So why fight it?

Keeping one eye on the light, Reese reached over and began fishing items out of the container, making a neat pile beside the box. Book, book, book, framed photo of a young man, another of a girl with a dog, a small metal canister of loose leaf green tea, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, razor, a folded pair of black socks, an antique glass paperweight, and down in the very bottom, a blue ceramic dish with black paw prints around the outside and the word Meow written in the bottom.

“What the hell?” Reese muttered. Behind him, someone honked and he quickly set the dish down and put the car into drive. Finch had a cat? How could he? He was always at the library. Did it live in the library? Reese had never seen any evidence of a cat, but then, he hadn’t really been looking. Cats were notoriously independent and some could be rather shy around strangers. It would explain why there were no mice in the library.

Pulling into an empty space in the hotel parking garage, Reese shut off the car, unbuckled his seatbelt, and turned toward the passenger’s seat, taking his time and placing each object carefully back into the box. He considered leaving the box in car, but that would be inviting some punk to break his window. Plus, he hated to leave anything inside a vehicle in case he had to abandon it. Grabbing the box, he climbed out, closed the door, and pressed the button to set the alarm, the car chirping as the lights flashed.

Tired and hungry, Reese slid into observation mode as he made his way through the quiet parking structure to the elevator, not thinking about anything, just looking and listening, letting his instincts control his actions. He rode alone up to the third floor, then made his way down the long hall to his room, pulling his key card out of his pocket and sliding it through the reader. The door unlocked and he pushed it open, every muscle in his body tensing as his instincts sent a flash of adrenaline through his system – something wasn’t right.

The lights in his room were on. He never left lights on. The room smelled like cooked meat, pepper, onions. He never ate in his room. Setting the box on the floor, Reese eased the door closed, the lock making just the faintest click as it latched. He reached back and drew his weapon, thumbing the safety into the off position as he took a slow step forward. He glanced into the bathroom, but it was dark and empty. Quietly, he pulled the door closed.

He paused as a rhythmic squeaking filled the silence, followed by a hollow pop, like a bottle being uncorked. He crept forward, his eyes watching the shadow that moved back and forth across the wall, his hands shifting on his weapon once, then growing still, the gun becoming just an extension of his own body. Reese stepped out of the hall, pivoting on his right foot as he aimed at the intruder-

Finch turned, his pale eyes wide, and Reese quickly lowered the pistol. For a moment, they just stared at each other.

“I could have shot you,” Reese said finally, tucking the gun back into his waistband.

“Yes…Yes, you could have,” Finch replied, sounding slightly winded as he turned back to what he’d been doing. He was standing beside a room service trolley, meticulously setting the table. Reese licked suddenly dry lips.

“What are you doing here?”

“I thought…after the last few days, you could use a decent meal, not one of those dry, unpalatable protein bars you insist on buying by the case.”

“And it’s your job to look after me now?” Reese quipped, a harmless comment under any other circumstances, but after what had happened in the library, it felt barbed and left a sour taste in Reese’s mouth.

Finch gave him a sideways glance. “Just returning the favor, Mr. Reese.” He placed one of the wine glasses and one set of silverware on the table before stepping away. “I wasn’t sure what you would prefer, so I ordered chicken with brown rice and asparagus, and steak with red potatoes and green beans. The wine will go well with either of them. It’s not as strong as the stuff you’re used to, but try not to drink the whole bottle anyway.”

And then he headed for the door.

“You’re not staying?” Reese asked.

Finch paused. “I wasn’t planning on it.”

“There are two glasses.” He nodded toward the table.

“I ordered two meals and a bottle of wine; it’s not an unreasonable assumption that two would be dining. I could take one away if it bothers you.”

Reese regarded him for a moment, trying to decide if he was being snide, or just Finch. A bit of both, perhaps. Reese considered the table, the two meals, the two glasses, the two place settings…and the two of them. Was it just an honest mistake of the room service staff, or was this Finch constructing an elaborate setup to make a fool of him, to remind him of where he belonged? If Reese surrendered to the longing within him, would Finch reciprocate, or respond with scorn?

Reese didn’t like being made a fool, and he didn’t want to risk their working relationship, especially for something so weak and stupid. He didn’t mind eating alone – he preferred it, actually, as he was sure Finch did as well. Neither of them needed companionship, friendship, solidarity. They were better off on their own, solitary islands in the dark, vast sea. They didn’t need anyone…

“Is there something else, Mr. Reese?” Finch asked, his tone guarded.

Reese shook his head. “No, nothing,” he said. “Good night, Finch.”

Finch nodded and turned away, but not quickly enough for Reese to miss the disappointment that darkened his features. Disappointment that Reese had not fallen for his ruse, or that Reese had not invited him to stay? What was Finch playing at? Reese took a step after him.

“Harold?”

“Yes…” He was guarded again, cautious, uncertain. That made two of them.

“If you want to have dinner with me, all you have to do is ask.” He tried to play cheeky and flirty, but it felt about as lighthearted as having a gun to his head.

“I see…” Finch said. “Well, the same applies if you want me to stay.”

Reese licked suddenly dry lips, the silence tense and echoing as neither of them spoke. Finally, Finch began hobbling toward the door again.

“I wouldn’t mind the company,” Reese said.

“Neither would I.” But he still didn’t stop, and Reese realized that Finch was trying to force his hand, to make him admit his weakness, his want of human contact. Reese had been trained far too well for that. He recognized manipulation when he saw it, and he’d gone without food, without water, without sleep and light and basic human dignity, and he’d never broken. His strength was his shield, his guile was his armor, and if he let Finch get too close, the man could slip a knife between his ribs. Not literally, of course. Finch would never harm him, but if Reese wasn’t careful, Finch could certainly hurt him.

Silently, Reese watched Finch near the door, and he pressed his lips into a thin, resolute line. As Finch bent down to pick up his box, Reese turned away, his gaze falling upon the table – dinner for two, but set for one.

“That would take real courage, wouldn’t it?” Reese closed his eyes, his chest tight as Jessica’s words echoed in his head. He’d had no choice, he’d had to let her go, but that didn’t stop it from eating him alive, wondering what might have happened, what could have been, if he’d just spoken up a little sooner.

“Wait,” Reese said, his voice loud in the quiet room. Behind him, he heard the door close. Too late. Again, he was too late.

“Yes, Mr. Reese?”

Reese’s eyes snapped open and he drew a sharp breath. He turned, staring at Finch, standing in front of the door with his box in his arms. Reese opened his mouth, closed it again, and took a deep breath.

“I would like it if you stayed,” Reese said, and when that was too close to the truth, he had to add, “Unless you have somewhere you’d rather be, of course.”

“Current circumstances taken into consideration, I can’t think of anywhere,” Finch said, placing the box back on the floor and straightening slowly, his steps noticeably stiffer as he limped back into the room. “Days like today were far too frequent before we began this suicidal crusade, and after much trial and error, I found an efficient means of dealing with the aftermath, usually involving equal parts crying, yelling, and drinking. If you’d like to shout at me a bit, you’ll be caught up and we can get started on that bottle of wine.”

“Maybe later,” Reese said. He never walked down blind alleys, he never got in over his head, he always knew what he was doing, and he always knew when to get out. Until now. His brain stalled for a moment as Finch casually slipped out of his suit jacket and neatly draped it over the back of one of the chairs at the table, but Reese had been trained too well be to stuck in neutral for long. Finch was up to something – that was the only explanation – and Reese smoothly shifted into operative mode as he set about discovering exactly what sort of game the man was playing.

“So which would you prefer, the chicken or the steak?” Reese asked, shrugging out of his coat and tossing it onto the bed, followed by his own blazer. He picked up the extra wine glass and napkin full of silverware off the trolley and placed them in front of Finch.

“Ever play room service roulette?” Finch asked and Reese paused, arching an eyebrow at him. “Choose a plate,” Finch said, nodding at the two covered dishes.

“Living a little dangerously, aren’t we, Finch?” Reese teased, reaching out and picking up one of the plates, his gaze never leaving Finch’s face. If Finch knew what was under each cover and cared which meal he received, he didn’t let it show. Reese handed him the first and took the second for himself. Together, they lifted the covers, aromatic steam wafting up into the air. Reese got the chicken, Finch the steak.

“Disappointed with what fate has given you, Mr. Reese?” Finch asked, placing his napkin in his lap before picking up his knife and fork.

“I don’t believe in fate,” Reese said, mirroring the other man’s actions. “My choices, however blind or misled, are my own doing. Besides, food is food; as long as it nourishes the body, who cares what it tastes like?”

“That explains your ability to stomach those protein bars. They look like fiberboard.”

“Taste like it, too,” Reese said, straight-faced. Finch glanced up at him and there was a heavy, awkward moment as Reese debated whether or not it was okay to laugh. After what Finch had been though, he didn’t think so. They turned to their meals, silence settling around them, broken only by the click of silverware.

“Some say that good food, like good conversation and good wine, can nourish the spirit,” Finch said after a moment.

Reese reached over, picked up the bottle of wine, and poured each of them a full glass. “Well, two out of three isn’t bad,” he said.

Finch took a sip. “I find it hard to believe that you’re suddenly at a loss for words.”

“You said good conversation,” Reese reminded him, “not empty small-talk and smart-ass comments.”

“I’m sure if we tried we could think of something profound and socially relevant to discuss.”

“Yes, but after the day we’ve had, that would take too much effort.”

“True,” Finch consented. Then he sighed. “That wasn’t the first time I listened to someone being killed. Remember the tape I played for you, the woman murdered by her husband in that hotel room?”

“How could I forget?”

“I heard it happen. And then after- About a year later, a young woman who had been in the wrong place at the wrong time – witnessed members of one gang taking out a group of their rivals – she was going to testify, but a dirty cop leaked the location of her safe house to the gang leader. I tried to warn her, I was on the phone with her when they kicked in the door. I heard the shots, the screams, I heard her begging for her life, begging me for help…”

“You tried,” Reese said softly. He wasn’t the one with the gun in his hand. Finch seemed to think they had so much in common, that their regrets made them the same, but to Reese it was the biggest difference of all. Finch regretted being unable to help people, while Reese regretted hurting them.

“It wasn’t enough,” Finch replied, picking up his glass and leaning back in his chair, his gaze distant as he slowly but determinedly emptied the glass. “It was never enough.”

“Now, that’s not completely true, now is it?” Reese asked, refilling Finch’s glass and topping off his own. “I’ve spent some time studying your List, that bulletin board of failure you insist on keeping in the library, and not all of those people are dead. You saved some of them before you ever met me.”

“A few,” Finch admitted. “Mostly through dumb luck and random chance. It’s…not surprising, perhaps, but certainly disheartening, how many people choose to ignore a warning from a stranger, especially when I could rarely be certain what the nature of the problem was. ‘Hello, you don’t know me, but you could be in danger, so be careful, and on the off chance you’re planning to hurt someone, don’t do it.’ Yeah, right. And leaving an anonymous tip with the police was like shooting in the dark. I could never know if the cops were in on the crime or not. So yes, I had some marginal success, but it was nothing compared to what you and I have been able to accomplish. Mostly because of you, I’m not too proud to admit.”

Reese shook his head. “We’re a team, Finch, and the way I see it, it doesn’t matter that you can’t do what I do, because I can’t do what you do, and what’s more, without you, I wouldn’t even be trying, I’d be drunk and homeless, hiding from the world and from myself. Without you, I’d be-” Reese realized what he was about to say just in time to not say it, picking up his glass of wine instead and taking a long drink.

“Two halves of a whole,” Finch said, his voice quiet, his gaze distant. They finished their meal in relative silence, and when the food was gone, they sat and finished off the wine. As Reese shook the last few drops into Finch’s glass, Finch gave an unexpected chuckle, a dry sound. “Should I have room service send up another bottle?” he asked.

“Do you ever drink anything stronger?”

“Occasionally. What do you have in mind?”

Reese drained his glass and rose from the table, the sudden change in elevation making the room wobble, but just for a moment. He wasn’t drunk. Making his way over to the bed, he lifted the mattress, revealing an assortment of weapons and ammunition, several rolls of cash, and an unopened bottle of whiskey. He carried the bottle over and set it on the table in front of Finch.

“Still self-medicating?” Finch asked, what might have been a trace of worry in those pale blue eyes.

“I bought that two days after I met you,” Reese said, sitting back down in his chair. “I didn’t want to, but I needed to have it, just in case.”

“In case of what?”

“In case this all fell apart. In case you weren’t what I thought you were. In case I had to go back to what I was.”

“And if we drink this,” Finch asked, picking up the bottle, “will you need to buy another?”

Reese considered the whiskey, then shook his head. “No. I may not know exactly everything about you yet, but I do know that you are a good man, you’re honest and brave, and I would trust you with my life any day of the week. As long as I have that, why would I need to drink?”

“Careful there, Mr. Reese,” Finch said, looking distinctly uncomfortable. “I don’t know if I’m the right man to be entrusted with your future happiness and wellbeing. I’ve let people down before.”

“Who hasn’t?” Reese replied. “So, are you going to open that bottle, or just hold it?”

“Do you have glasses, or shall we pass the bottle hobo-style?”

“What’s wrong with these?” Reese picked up his empty wine glass and held it out toward Finch.

Finch gave it a sideways look and opened his mouth, but apparently a lecture on the proper usage of glasses, tumblers, snifters, and flutes was too much effort. He cracked the seal, twisted off the cap, and poured a neat inch into Reese’s glass. He finished off the wine in his own glass before pouring himself a stiff drink. Reese downed half of his in one gulp and finished it in another. Finch, on the other hand, took a small swallow and made a face.

“How can you drink this stuff?”

“Same way I can eat those protein bars; as long as it serves its purpose, I try not to taste it.”

“The purpose here being…?”

“To dull the pain and make the screaming stop,” Reese replied, reaching over and taking the bottle. He poured himself another glass and leaned back in his chair with a sigh.

“I can drink to that,” Finch said, and he tipped back the rest of his drink.

“Easy there, Harold,” Reese said with a crooked smirk as he poured Finch another one. “I’ve had months of practice, but if you try to drink like me, you’re going to wind up passed out on the floor.”

“Haven’t done that in a while,” Finch said, sounding unconcerned and more than a little intoxicated. Reese was aware of his own inebriation as well, but he was too drunk to care or to stop the thoughts in his head from turning to words coming out of his mouth.

“I thought you didn’t trust me,” he said.

“Who said I did?”

“You don’t seem worried about losing consciousness in my presence.”

“Should I be?” Finch arched an eyebrow at him.

“I could do just about anything and you wouldn’t be able to do a thing to stop me.”

Finch regarded him for a moment. “Do you really think there would be anything I could do to stop you if you decided to do something to me fully conscious? I can’t run, I can’t fight, I don’t like guns…” He took another drink. “So I suppose you’re right, when it comes to my physical safety, I do trust you.”

Reese picked up the bottle and refilled both their glasses. “Why? I’ve killed. I’ve maimed and tortured. I’ve murdered people, people I knew, people I worked with, people I cared about. What makes you safe?”

“I read your file,” Finch said, holding up his wine glass and gently swirling the amber liquid in the bottom, “and while I don’t know the truth of what happened in Ordos, I know you would not have killed Stanton or the others without a very good reason. As long as I don’t give you a reason, I’m safe.”

“You know who I am,” Reese said, something at the back of his mind telling him that this probably wasn’t the best topic of conversation, but he didn’t feel like listening. “You know that I’m alive. Under the right circumstances, that would be reason enough.”

“And you’d kill me?”

Reese nodded.

“You could do that?” Finch asked, but he still didn’t sound worried. He just sounded curious. “You could just kill me?”

Sitting forward, Reese reached back and pulled his pistol out of his waistband. He let the gun settle comfortably into his hand, more familiar than an old pair of shoes, and then he glanced across the table at Finch. Finch was staring at the gun with obvious disease. Not fear, just dislike, just like any time he was around firearms.

After a moment, Reese set the pistol down on the table and picked his glass back up. “No, I don’t suppose I could kill you.”

“I knew I was right about you,” Finch said, and emptied his glass. Reese reached to fill it again, but Finch shook his head. “I better not. It’s getting late and my driver’s wife hates it when I call after midnight.”

Reese glanced at his watch. “It’s already half past twelve.”

“Well, I’ll just call a cab, then.”

“Or you could stay.” Reese honestly didn’t realize he had spoken the words aloud until he realized Finch was staring at him. Caught in the crosshairs, he fumbled for an escape. “Never mind, you probably need to feed you cat.”

“What cat?”

Reese glanced toward the box in the hall and Finch turned stiffly, following his gaze.

“Ah, the bowl.” Surprisingly, Finch chuckled. “I knew you wouldn’t be able to resist.”

“Would you have believed me if I’d said I didn’t look?”

“Probably not,” Finch said.

“That’s what I thought, so I looked. Figured if you were going to get pissed at me, I might as well have done the crime.”

“I’m not pissed – unless you’re speaking in the British vernacular, where I believe the word means drunk. But I’m not upset about the box. I left it there in case I needed to distract you for a while, and those things are just props I use to flesh out different aliases, to make my residences look lived in. You’d be surprised what a stray sock and bowl of cat food can do.”

“So…that was a fool’s errand to give you time to break into my room and order dinner? And you don’t have a cat?”

“Yes. And no; I’m allergic to most forms of animal dander.”

Reese regarded the box again. That was a lot of trouble to go to just to make sure he’d eat. Finch could have called room service from anywhere, could have had them leave the food in his room, could have called him and told him to eat – not that he’d have been likely to listen. And why waste such a carefully constructed errand on this? Surely, Finch could have found a much better use of the time-

“Your room has only one bed,” Finch said suddenly, interrupting Reese’s thoughts.

Reese glanced over at the king-sized bed. “Yeah. So?”

“So you invited me to stay when you only have one bed.”

“Yes…”

“So…were you serious, or was that just your unique sense of humor?”

Reese hesitated. He wasn’t drunk enough to have lost all his inhibitions, all his caution, and deep down, he knew this could end very badly, but he couldn’t concentrate, fresh emotional wounds raw and screaming at the surface, wounds he knew Finch carried as well, wounds that they could soothe together.

“I was serious,” he said softly, “but I shouldn’t have said it and I don’t expect you to-”

“I’ll stay.”

Reese stopped, certain he was hearing things. “What?”

“I’ll stay, just please don’t be offended if I fall asleep or pass out in the middle of whatever we’re doing. I’m exhausted and more than a little drunk.”

“I just want to sleep, if that’s all right with you,” Reese said, still not entirely certain he wasn’t already asleep and in the middle of some surreal dream.

“Probably for the best,” Finch agreed, toeing off his shoes and laboriously leaning down to peel off his socks. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to make use of your facilities.”

Reese watched him totter off to the bathroom, his limp and the alcohol making him stagger terribly. Once the door had closed behind Finch, Reese rose to his own unsteady feet and ran a hand back though his hair. What the hell had just happened?

In a daze, he removed his shoes and socks, unbuttoned his cuffs, and picked up his coat and blazer from off the bed and hung them in the closet. He kept glancing toward the bathroom door, listening to the faint sound of running water. Finch was in there. Finch was going to stay, to sleep in his bed, to sleep with him…just to sleep. And that had been Reese’s idea, not Finch’s. Finch had made no such restrictions.

‘…don’t be offended if I fall asleep or pass out in the middle of whatever we’re doing…’ he’d said. He’d expected them to doing something, and Reese had, without realizing it, rejected him. Finch hid his feelings well, most of the time, but Reese imagined that the quiet man must have some issues with his self-confidence when it came to his age, appearance, and injuries, and Reese had basically slapped him with an unspoken ‘let’s just be friends’. And while Reese wanted them to be friends, that emptiness inside him that he typically ignored echoed with cries of longing for something more.

Finally, the bathroom door opened and Finch came out, his waistcoat unbuttoned and his tie in one hand. He stopped short at the sight of Reese, standing in the middle of the room, staring at him. “What?”

“I, uh…I was thinking, and…”

“You want me to leave?”

“No! That’s not- I want you, Harold, as much as I have ever wanted any man or woman. I just…I didn’t want you to think that I didn’t.”

“Mr. Reese,” Finch said, and Reese cringed inwardly at the placating tone in his voice, “I appreciate the gesture, but I am not so drunk that I actually thought you might be attracted to me. It’s okay.”

But it wasn’t okay. Because it wasn’t true. Reese closed the distance between them, fast enough to make Finch take a startled step back. Grabbing the front of his shirt, Reese pulled Finch up against his chest and captured his mouth in a fiercely desperate kiss. Finch didn’t move. After a moment, Reese drew back, breathless and, if he was honest, a little frightened. He needed this job, he needed this purpose, as much as he needed Finch to believe him.

Finch glanced away, one hand reaching up to adjust his glasses as his tongue darted out to wet his lips. “You didn’t have to do that,” he whispered.

“I wanted to,” Reese replied. His hands slid up, fingertips grazing the slight stubble on Finch’s cheeks, and he leaned down again, slower this time, letting his lips play across Finch’s. This time, it was Finch who pulled away.

“I knew you had varied tastes, but I wasn’t aware that old, crippled computer geeks were among them.”

“Don’t,” Reese said, shaking his head. “Don’t do that to yourself. You are so much more than that, so much more than a man like me deserves.”

“Silver-tongued devil,” Finch muttered, but when Reese leaned down again, Finch met him halfway, his lips parting, allowing Reese to explore his mouth. With a low groan, Reese slid his hands beneath Finch’s vest, working it off his shoulders before starting on the buttons of his shirt. Tugging the tail of Finch’s shirt out of his trousers, Reese let his hands wander up Finch’s chest, savoring the warmth of his skin beneath his thin, white T-shirt.

Trembling hands, so deft upon a keyboard, fumbled with the buttons on Reese’s shirt and were like a stiff slap upside his head. Finch was too drunk for this; they were both too drunk for this. Reluctantly, he drew back.

“Do you believe me now?” he asked.

Finch glanced away, over at the dark television. “I believe you want me to believe you,” he said. “I believe you’d do almost anything to convince me. I believe that we’re both very intoxicated, and I believe you might actually believe what you’re saying, but I also believe that you’re lonely and I’m here, and that’s as deep as your professed attraction goes. But I don’t care, because I’m lonely, too, and if we’re lucky, tomorrow neither of us will even remember this.” His gaze shifted to the TV again.

“Are you missing Letterman or something?” Reese asked, frowning.

“No, I just…I need to lie down. I’m feeling very light-headed all of a sudden.” He shuffled over to the bed, working off his waistcoat and dress shirt before turning down the covers. “Do you have a preference to which side you sleep on?” he asked as he unbuckled his belt.

“No. I’m going to go brush my teeth.” Because if he stayed out there and watched Finch finish undressing, he wasn’t sure he could keep from doing something they both would regret. Closing the bathroom door behind him, he leaned on the counter and scowled at his reflection in the mirror. “You’re fucking it all up,” he told himself, but his reflection just scowled back at him and was no help at all.

He took his time brushing his teeth and washing up, hoping that a solution to his dilemma would miraculously appear, but when he finally turned out the light and opened the door, he was just as screwed as before. This was why he drank alone.

Emerging into the hotel room, Reese stopped at the foot of the bed and regarded Finch, lying on his back with pillows supporting his neck and shoulders, the covers drawn up to his chest, still wearing his undershirt and glasses, and fast asleep.

Walking around to Finch’s side of the bed, Reese stared down at him for a long moment, trying to memorize the soft lines of his face. He looked younger. “Harold?” Reese asked, just to be sure, but Finch’s face was too peaceful, too relaxed for him to be faking it. Reaching down, Reese trailed his fingers through the soft brown hair, then gently lifted off Finch’s glasses and set them on the nightstand.

Turning out the lights, Reese finished undressing in the dark and slid under the covers on the far side of the bed in just his boxer-briefs, the sheets cold against his skin. He stared up at the ceiling, listening to the quiet rhythm of Finch’s deep, slow breathing. If not for that sound, Reese might as well have been alone.

Reese resisted for several minutes, but finally gave in, slowly easing his body across the vast expanse of cool, crisp hotel sheet that separated them. He felt the warmth of Finch’s body before he even touched his skin, pressing a bare leg up against the other man’s. Reese stopped, listening, waiting, but Finch didn’t wake. Settling himself against Finch’s side, Reese lightly draped an arm over Finch’s chest, his head sinking into the pillow beside Finch’s. He held his breath as Finch shifted, his eyes closing as a warm hand moved to cover his own. Finch made a soft sound somewhere between a grunt and a sigh before growing still again.

Reese smiled to himself and let his body relax. “Goodnight, Harold,” he whispered, warm and safe and happy for the first time in longer than he could remember.

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