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Damaged – Ch. 6

Head still throbbing, Finch closed and locked the door of one of his apartments, dropping his waistcoat and jacket on the sofa as he headed for the kitchen. First things first. He drew himself a glass of water and fished two aspirin out of the bottle, swallowing them down as he turned and headed for the bathroom. Laying his glasses on the counter, he stripped off his clothes and climbed into the shower, letting the hot water pound down on the back of his neck, easing the tightness in his scarred muscles.

A million thoughts vied for attention inside his head, but the most insistent ones centered on Reese. Finch knew from his extensive research on the man that Reese had had a wide range of sexual encounters over the years, with both male and female partners. However, the vast majority of his male lovers had been assets, people he needed to get close to during the course of his work for the CIA. The instances that fell outside this range were inconsequential, moments of convenience.

Was that what last night had been? Convenient? They were drunk, Finch was there – what other reason did they need? And that was fine. They were both rational, mature adults. Finch couldn’t imagine that Reese had taken advantage of him, or had forced him into anything. Honestly, Finch wouldn’t have been surprised if he had been the one to start it. He’d been attracted to Reese for months before they ever met face to face, just from the pictures Finch had found of Reese with his unit in Afghanistan. He was a damn fine looking man.

What bothered Finch was that he couldn’t remember it. A night with a man like John Reese should have been unforgettable, but from the empty wine bottle on, it was just a blur. He remembered drinking, but not how much; he remembered talking, but not about what; he thought he remembered thinking about leaving, and there was a possibility that Reese had kissed him somewhere in there, but he wasn’t sure.

Finch drew a shuddering breath and ran his hands back through his wet hair. Had they kissed? He closed his eyes, imagining Reese’s warm lips against his own, those big hands pushing at his clothes, unbuttoning his shirt-

He gasped, his body responding with far more enthusiasm than it had in recent years, more than it would from an empty fantasy. Did that mean there was some truth to his imaginings? Had Reese stripped him of his clothes, had he taken him to bed, had he touched him in the dark, under the covers? Finch swallowed hard, his mouth dry, unable to stop thinking about those hands; long, elegant fingers, callused skin, always bearing the scent of gunpowder and coffee, two things that Finch couldn’t stand, but on Reese it was like cologne.

His body aching, Finch let his hand slide over slick skin, fingers tracing the deep scars on his hip and thigh, seams where the surgeons had pieced him back together. Had Reese seen them, touched them? Reese had scars of his own. Finch thought – he hoped – that the ugly marks wouldn’t matter to a man like Reese, but sometimes it was better to not know than to get the wrong answer.

Groaning low in his throat, Finch wrapped a hand around his stiff shaft. God, how long had it been since he’d even bothered to touch himself? He could think of only a handful of times since his injury, lonely, dissatisfying moments, stained by the bitterness of knowing no one would else would ever want to touch him again. As he stroked himself, he wondered if Reese had touched him, if those big hands had slipped into his boxers, the skill Reese was sure to possess making Finch whimper and moan. Had he begged? Had he come? Had he called Reese’s name? Had Reese let him return the favor?

Finch shuddered, resting his shoulder against the tiled wall to take the weight off his damaged leg as he pictured Reese, dark skin bare and glistening with sweat, blue eyes hooded, pupils blown, lips parted as he panted-

“Oh, shit- John!” Finch came hard, his cry loud and hollow in the enclosed space, his entire body shaking as he stroked himself through the intense climax. For a moment he just stood there, savoring the euphoria, the combination of heat and endorphins easing the constant, dull throbbing at the base of his neck, but he was wasting water and time. The aspirin were starting to kick in and he was slowly regaining functionality.

Half an hour later, he was dried and dressed, a cup of hot tea in his hand as he headed down to the street and his waiting town car. He had his driver drop him off a few blocks from the library, the walk a necessary evil; his hip ached by the time he finally was able to lower himself into his chair, but he needed the exercise. Too many greasy take-out meals behind the computer were starting to take their toll, and packing around a few extra pounds would just make his leg hurt that much more.

He checked the Machine first and found a new number waiting for him. While the search program he’d written scoured the internet and various secured databases he shouldn’t have had access to, Finch accessed the data storage locker that hosted the recordings from all the hidden cameras he maintained. Most watched his residences, several kept an eye on the library, there was the doll cam that spied on Carter, and there was the one in Reese’s room. Finch stared at the file from the previous night, his heartbeat quickening at the thought of what he might find.

“Good morning, Finch.”

Finch jumped, glancing up from the monitor as Reese came sauntering up the corridor, doing his best to appear like it was just any other day, but Finch could see the apprehension in his walk, his normally fluid and confident stride just a little off, and Finch suddenly realized just how much attention he paid to the way the man moved.

“I need to put a bell on you,” Finch said evenly, closing the window to the storage locker and turning to one of his other monitors. “We have a new number.” The search was still running – sometimes it took hours to comb through all the available data – but it had supplied him the basic information. “Her name is Margaret Wallace, thirty-eight years old, divorced mother of two, works at PS 20 teaching third grade. I only just got the number, so I don’t have much more than that, I’m afraid, but I’ll text you her home address and let you know what else I find.”

“All right,” Reese said, standing in the mouth of the hallway. Just standing there. Finch could feel his gaze, the weight of his unspoken words, like a storm drawing near, and rather than wait for whatever might come out of Reese’s mouth, Finch decided on a preemptive strike.

“Mr. Reese,” he said, his eyes on his monitors as he spoke, “I hope you’re not feeling uncomfortable about what happened last night. Honestly, I don’t remember much after we finished the wine, but whatever happened, we’re both adults and I’m sure we can find a way to move past it.”

“Nothing happened,” Reese said quietly. “We just fell asleep. Sorry I wasn’t there when you woke up; Carter needed more information on the Prescott case so I met her for coffee. I hope it wasn’t too disorientating, waking up with a hangover in a strange place.”

“It wasn’t the first time,” Finch replied, not sure which thought made him feel more disappointed, that Reese was lying to him about last night’s events, or that he was telling the truth. He regarded the younger man for a moment. “Was there something else?”

Reese shook his head. “No, I just…” He gave a small, crooked smile and a one-shoulder shrug. “Just wanted to make sure you were okay.”

“I’m fine, Mr. Reese,” Finch said dryly. “I’m not the one in imminent peril, Margaret Wallace is.”

“All right, I can take a hint,” Reese said, turning on his heel and striding down the hall. “I’ll call you when I get to her place.”

“I’m sending the address now.”

Reese acknowledged him with a wave over his shoulder. Finch watched him disappear from sight, then pulled out his phone, thumb tapping the keys as he input the message and sent it. Setting the phone down on the table, he cast a stiff look toward the hall before opening the data-storage locker again. He had to look; he had to see for himself. He clicked on the file, the distorted image from the fish-eye camera filling the screen, and fast forwarded until a figure entered the frame. His lips pressed into a thin line as he watched himself limp across the room, then he advanced the recording again, past the arrival of room service, past Reese storming in, gun drawn, past all the drinking.

He returned the footage to normal speed, watching himself remove his shoes and socks before heading to the bathroom. On the screen, Reese ran a hand back through his hair, looking mildly distraught. He tidied up a bit, hanging up his jackets, and then stood in the middle of the room, waiting.

Finch found himself leaning forward in his chair, struggling to remember what happened next. It was all a blank. On the screen, he returned from the bathroom, there was a conversation between him and Reese, and then Reese lunged across the room at him. Finch tensed, drawing a sharp breath, as he watched Reese grab the front of his shirt and pull him close, kissing him hard. So it wasn’t just a fantasy.

They kissed and talked a little, then kissed some more, Reese working his clothes off. Finch watched, breathless, as his alter-ego fumbled with the buttons on Reese’s shirt. Then Reese pulled away. They talked a bit more, then the Finch on the screen headed for the bed and Reese disappeared into the bathroom. Finch watched himself undress, stripping down to his boxers and undershirt before climbing into bed, arranging the pillows, and gingerly laying his broken body down.

Finch waited, his gaze riveted to the corner of the screen where Reese would reappear, and after what seemed like forever, Reese returned. He walked over to the bed, looking down at the prone form of his employer, his expression unreadable. Finch paused the recording, studying that chiseled face, and he would have given every cent he had to know what Reese was thinking in that moment.

Finch resumed playback, watching as Reese’s lips moved, forming a single word. Finch rewound and let it play again, a slight frown creasing his brow. What was he saying? He had to watch it several more times before he finally recognized his own name. Harold. Letting it play on, Finch arched his eyebrows, shocked to see Reese step close, trail his fingers through the sleeping Finch’s hair, and then carefully remove his glasses.

It had been evident from the detailed file Finch had compiled that at one time, Reese had been a very kind and gentle man. He had statements from past lovers and old friends, pictures, articles praising his bravery and compassion on the battlefield…and then the CIA had gotten a hold of him, bleeding every trace of humanity out of him, ridding him of such ‘weakness’, turning him into their trained dog, a cold, heartless assassin. In the months since Finch had found him, he’d watched the life slowly return to Reese’s eyes, the softness to his smile, but he’d never expected to see such tenderness, and certainly not directed at him. What had he ever done to deserve such an honor?

On the video, Reese turned out the lights, but the camera was equipped with night-vision, the image shifting to shades of blue-green. Reese undressed, stripping down to his boxer-briefs, then walked around to the far side of the bed and climbed in. Finch waited, but Reese just lay there. Finally, Finch let out a long sigh. Reese had been telling the truth; nothing happened. He knew he should have been relieved, but he wasn’t. He let it play for another minute, then reached up to stop the recording, but froze as a movement on the screen caught his eye. Reese raised his head, looking across the wide, king-sized bed, and Finch bit the inside of his lip as Reese began to inch toward the sleeping man on the screen.

Moving almost hesitantly, Reese slid up against Finch, lying on his side, his head on Finch’s pillow and his arm resting on Finch’s chest. And Reese considered that nothing? Finch sat back in his chair, one hand absently adjusting his glasses. Why had Reese lied? Embarrassment? Morning-after regret? Or had he thought Finch would be uncomfortable around him if he knew? He watched the footage for a few moments more, then hit fast forward again.

Finch knew he was usually a light sleeper, shifting almost constantly to try to relieve the pain in his back and leg, except on the rare occasions when he succumbed to the sweet oblivion promised him by the powerful narcotics he hated taking. Looked like he could add whiskey to his list of sleep aids. He hardly moved all night, not until almost dawn when he rolled onto his side, facing away from Reese.

Reese, on the other hand, tossed and turned all night, the sheet tangling around his legs as he moved back across the bed to his own side, pulling the covers partly off of Finch. Dawn came and the darkness lifted, the night vision switching off. It was almost six when Reese began to stir, pushing back the covers, and Finch slowed the video to normal speed, watching Reese swing his legs out of bed and slowly sit up, cradling his head in his hands in a passable impression of how Finch had felt when he’d woken up that morning.

After a minute, Reese raised his head and looked back over his shoulder. He just sat there, staring at the sleeping man in his bed, for so long that once again, Finch would have given anything to know what he was thinking. When Reese finally turned away, Finch expected him to get up and disappear into the bathroom, but again Reese surprised him. The man slipped his long legs back into bed and scooted over behind the still soundly sleeping Finch on the screen, pulling the blankets back over both of them as Reese spooned him.

Finch swallowed hard, shifting in his chair as he tried not to think about Reese’s morning wood pressed against his ass. He wasn’t even sure his body could tolerate the stress of sex anymore, but if he’d been conscious, he was fairly certain he’d have pushed his pain threshold to its limits trying to find out. It had been so long…

But before he could get physically worked up again, a small, innocent movement on the screen caught his eye. Reese, lying there staring at the back of Finch’s head, brought one hand up and slowly trailed the tip of his index finger down the back of the sleeping man’s neck. Finch, sitting in his chair in the empty library, felt the touch in the long scar over his fused vertebrae, a warm, tingling sensation in the knotted ridge of tissue. He reached up, rubbing gingerly through the collar of his shirt.

Reese wrapped his arms around Finch and appeared to be nuzzling or kissing the back of his neck – Finch couldn’t tell which from the angle of the camera. On the screen, the sleeping man began to stir and Finch leaned forward in his chair, his tongue darting out to moisten dry lips. He certainly didn’t remember this happening.

Suddenly, Reese raised his head, looking toward the far side of the room, then he carefully drew away, the Finch on the screen settling back into peaceful slumber. Reese got out of bed and crossed the room, moving out of view, but returning a moment later with his phone in hand. Apparently, he hadn’t been lying about Carter wanting more information. He headed into the bathroom and Finch advanced until he reappeared, a towel wrapped around his waist.

Finch knew he was staring, but he couldn’t tear his eyes away from the bare, muscular arms, the broad shoulders, the slight softness around his middle, the towel riding low on his hips, showing the still pink scar on his abdomen but hiding the one on his thigh. There were others that Finch could make out – a fading bullet wound high on his shoulder, the long, thin streak of an old knife wound on his back, faint silver flecks down his side from shrapnel, what looked like a burn on one forearm – but those marks were earned through combat, they were the scars of a survivor, a warrior. They weren’t a constant reminder of how helpless and fragile he was, how his own blind arrogance had cost him everything that ever mattered to him.

As Finch watched, Reese crouched beside the bed and pulled a black duffel bag out from underneath, retrieving clean socks and underwear. After shoving the bag back under the bed, he straightened up and his towel slipped. He made a reflexive grab for it, then finished pulling it off and let it drop to the foot of the bed, nearly giving Finch a coronary as a glorious and unobstructed view of Reese’s ass appeared on screen. Reese stood there for a moment, completely naked, his attention on the sleeping Finch in the bed, then he pulled on his underwear and proceeded to finish dressing.

Out of breath, Finch sat back in his chair, but Reese wasn’t finished yet. He slipped into his coat, grabbed his pistol off the table, and headed for the door, but stopped at the foot of the bed. He hesitated a moment, then walked around to the side where Finch was sleeping, smoothed the tousled hair back from Finch’s brow, and then leaned down, placing a light kiss on Finch’s temple before leaving.

Finch stared at the screen, a slow frown drawing his eyebrows together. He was not by nature a trusting man, but neither was he unreasonably skeptical; he tended to believe his own eyes, but this was going too far. A lonely and drunken Reese kissing him was not that unbelievable. Reese cuddling up to him in bed did not quite push the boundaries of reality. Reese kissing the scar on the back of his neck was the stuff of his fantasies, but it still wasn’t completely implausible. But all three taken together, plus that last kiss on the forehead, could only mean one thing – Reese knew about the camera.

The man was former CIA – of course he had found it – but why hadn’t he said anything, why not disable it? Then again, setting Finch up and putting on this elaborate display was much more in character with Reese’s often quirky sense of humor. Yes, that had to be it. Reese would not do anything deliberately malicious, but he had made his point in no uncertain terms. With a sigh, Finch turned off the recording and went back to checking the information on Margaret Wallace.

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