Absence ~ Chapter 3

Finch was rushed out of the train station by Reese to avoid the police that were converging on the report of shots fired. He stumbled a few times, his legs still unsteady from the lingering effects of the tranquilizer, but each time Reese managed to catch him before he lost his balance entirely. Finch was out of breath from the nerve-wracking excitement as well as the sudden physical activity, and when he felt the taller man’s strong arms wrapped around him, it took his breath away for a totally different reason: Reese was here, he was real, he had somehow managed – against all odds – to find him and rescue him, and Finch realized that he was going to live to see another day. Possibly many days. And he fervently hoped that most if not all of those days would include this amazing man, whom he had discovered out of the seven billion people populating the planet.

Reese helped him into the passenger seat of the rental car before maneuvering it through traffic. Only when they were on the highway headed towards New York did he relax and unclench his jaw.

“I’m sorry I let her get away,” he finally said after drawing a deep breath. “I just couldn’t risk us getting caught by law enforcement.”

“No apology necessary, Mr. Reese,” Finch replied. “After what you managed to pull off… Frankly, I don’t know how you did it.”

“First things first: are you all right?”

“Yes. She’d drugged me with a tranquilizer before leaving for the station, but it’s almost worn off and, thankfully, I have rather a high tolerance for drugs.”

Reese hazarded a glance in his direction. “You look like you’ve lost weight. And what happened to your hand?”

“Oh, this is nothing – she cut it to distract a pharmacist long enough to steal the drugs. At least I got it treated right away… And yes, I suppose I have lost some weight. It’s not like I couldn’t afford to… I simply didn’t feel the need to eat when I was certain that I would meet my demise the moment she tired of me or got what she wanted from me… I was hoping it would be the former rather than the latter.”

Reese clenched his jaw again and, after the briefest of hesitations, set his right hand on Finch’s knee to give it a gentle squeeze. “We’ll get some food in a bit. We’ll need more gas, too, to make it back. Meanwhile, here’s some chocolate.”

Finch took the offered sweet, but before he could eat any of it, there was a burning question he had to ask.

“How on earth did you find us?”

“The Machine gave me a Number,” Reese said, his mouth quirking for a moment. “The first Number was just another case – some guy who’d stolen from the Aryan Brotherhood and was about to pay the price. I saved his sorry ass but told the Machine I wouldn’t help any more Numbers unless it helped me find you. Then it gave me the Number of a girl who’d disappeared back in the Nineties that I thought for sure was Root, but—”

“Wait – you gave the Machine an ultimatum?

“Yeah. And it worked. That missing girl was Root’s friend…”

Reese continued to fill in a flabbergasted Finch on how Carter had pieced together what the cold case had to do with Root (“You dragged Detective Carter halfway across the country?”) and how he had managed to follow the money trail to Root’s last credit card transaction.

“Fusco did his part, too,” he grudgingly concluded. “I showed him how to bluejack a cell phone, and he figured out who was tampering with the evidence on Alicia Corwin’s case. That led me to that house, where I found your cufflink and the code. And you know the rest.”

“Very impressive,” Finch murmured, the sentiment no less heartfelt for being spoken around a mouthful of chocolate. “But I’m still at a loss that… the Machine helped you find me. I specifically programmed it to not give me preferential treatment—”

“‘Preferential treatment’?” Reese echoed in disbelief. “You made it to protect people, didn’t you? And you’re a human being, aren’t you?”

“Well, yes, but…” Finch hedged, then started over. “In the beginning, the Machine tried to save me from an accident that it saw was about to happen, but I couldn’t let it try to save me. Don’t you see? That’s not what it was for. Its purpose is, first and foremost, to detect terrorist threats. It can’t start trying to save everybody who’s in a bad situation – that would require much more sophisticated programming, and anyhow, that’s not what I built it to do. Alicia accused me of creating God, but that was exactly what I made sure I didn’t do. I just wanted to create an alert mechanism, something to monitor what was happening and alert the authorities to serious threats – a machine to invade our privacy rather than human beings hired by the government, who could and would use such power for their own personal gain.” Finch licked his lips before continuing, “The fact that the Machine saw the irrelevant list was a… an unexpected side effect. I’m not saying it’s not useful, of course, just that it wasn’t its primary purpose.”

Reese moved into the right lane and slowed down, preparing to exit the highway.

“Still, there’s no reason to exclude yourself from the irrelevant list. Unless you’re deliberately trying to make my job harder than it has to be.”

“That was never my intention, Mr. Reese, as you’re well aware. I didn’t intend for you to try to rescue me at all.”

“So you expected me to just give you up for dead, or worse, to be tortured by a madwoman, and go on saving Numbers like nothing happened?” There was a dangerous undertone of anger in Reese’s words, although he continued to drive efficiently and safely off the highway towards a twenty-four-hour truck stop.

“Frankly, yes,” Finch answered, his voice quiet and subdued. “I don’t mean to sound melodramatic, but I’m… quite ready to die, Mr. Reese, if it means keeping the Machine out of the wrong hands. After all, I’m already dead.” His attempt at humor fell flat against Reese’s stony silence. “I didn’t want you risking your life to rescue me when… you’re the last person who can do anything about the Numbers.”

Finch could not bring himself to state the other reason: that he could not bear to put Reese in danger over his own wellbeing. He had been struggling more and more in recent months with having Reese in jeopardy every time he worked a case, even though that was the very purpose for which he had hired him. But with every passing day, he had grown more attached to the handsome former operative; and with every injury the man incurred, Finch had grown to dread the inevitable day when he might be shot, stabbed, or beaten beyond recovery. It was a very real fear that caused him to clench his hands in his lap even now, as Reese pulled the car into a parking space in front of the diner.

Reese cut off the engine and took the keys out of the ignition, but did not move to exit the car.

“You may be ready to die, Finch… but I’m not ready to let you.” He turned to fix the older man with a piercing gaze. “Promise me that you’ll never give up. That no matter how bad the situation, you’ll hang on until I come get you.” He swallowed hard and repeated, “Promise me.”

“I… I will, John,” Finch promised, touched by the genuine concern in the other man’s eyes. “I won’t give up as long as… I know you’re out there, trying.”

Reese nodded once in acknowledgement before getting out of the car. Finch followed suit more slowly, his legs stiff from the extended inactivity, so that by the time he stood up Reese was at his side, offering his arm and assistance. Wordlessly, Finch took hold of that strong arm and allowed Reese to close the car door for him. He felt somewhat self-conscious when Reese opened the door to the diner as well, especially since there were several truck drivers inside watching their approach, but he could not deny the warm fluttering in his heart as of a thousand butterflies at Reese’s gallant gesture.


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14 Comments

  1. Plink 42

     /  2012/10/06

    Never, ever give up, Finch. Reese cares too much about you to just leave you to the wolves. You should’ve realized that before. I wonder what happened to him that gave him such a low opinion of himself. 😦

    Will there be more? Please say yes. 🙂

    Reply
    • I think he must be feeling guilty over Nathan’s death… poor baby. But Reese needs to show him exactly how much he cares about him… 😉
      Oh… yeeesssss… XD

      Reply
  2. rainiejanie

     /  2012/10/06

    Awww, these two! I want to hug them both so much!

    So frustrating that Root got away. And how can she not be intimated by Reese? She MUST be crazy. And calling him Finch’s “knuckle-dragging friend”? Hold me back while I pummel this bitch. *end of rant*

    Loving the story. Can’t wait for more!

    Reply
    • IKR?!? Who could ever thing of Reese as “knuckle-dragging”?!? She just has this preconceived notion that only Finch is as smart as she thinks she is, so everybody else is a lower life-form or something. LOVED it when Finch said “he proves you’re wrong” about Reese, though!!

      Thanks so much! 😀

      Reply
  3. kmmerc

     /  2012/10/06

    Reese is the BEST code!

    Reply
  4. Another great chapter. And now we’re getting to the AU part?

    Reply
    • I guess this chapter is still within the realm of canon conjecture, isn’t it? ^_^;
      We’ll get to the *good stuff* soon, I promise!

      Reply
  5. managerie

     /  2012/10/06

    YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  6. Mamahub

     /  2012/10/07

    Finch is so flabbergasted by Reese negotiating with the Machine – LOVE it!

    And Reese making Finch PROMISE him that he will never give up and will “hang on until I come get you.” *sigh* 🙂

    Reply
    • I do hope they’re going to go over that in the next new episode — I can’t imagine Finch *not* having a cow over that!

      Yes, of course: “No matter what occurs, I will find you!” 😀

      Reply
  7. lol, Reese’s way of fixing everything= chocolate. ^.^ Does this mean he thinks of Finch as a woman? 😉 Just kidding. CK
    Good chapter. 😀

    Reply

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