3. Camaraderie

Finch awoke with a start, somewhat disoriented to find himself in water, and grabbed the first thing that came to hand. It turned out to be Reese’s arm, and he realized that Reese was speaking into his ear.

“Relax, it’s all right – but we’ve got company.”

Squinting, he saw (and heard) several women in bright-colored swimming suits entering the pool area, chattering with excitement. He turned to retrieve his glasses, not because he wanted to see the women, particularly, but because he considered any stranger a threat and preferred to have all of his faculties sharp and ready for action should it become necessary. However, his glasses fogged up from the steam again, rendering them useless.

“Here, Harold,” Reese offered with only a hint of amusement, taking them from him. “Let me help you with that.”

Dunking them unceremoniously in the water, he brought them up after a moment and shook them dry, then placed them back on Finch’s face with a tender stroke of his cheek for good measure. Finch swallowed, realizing that Reese had donned his gay persona again – no doubt for the benefit of their new companions.

“Hello,” said the first of the women, a forty-something blonde with pink lipstick, who approached the Jacuzzi with a friendly smile. “Does that feel as good as it looks?”

“Even better,” Reese smiled back. “Harold actually fell asleep for a while – didn’t you, Harold?”

Finch could barely nod, his startled mind trying to digest the fact that with only a slight change in intonation, Reese had managed to turn an innocent sentence into a sultry purr. The woman’s mouth formed a momentary moue as she also realized that the two men were together, but she rallied quickly and stepped into the Jacuzzi.

“Oh, you’re right – it’s heavenly!” she sighed.

They were soon surrounded by the women, most of whom chose to lie on the lounge chairs in the sun or swim in the pool, but like bees to honey, a good number of them buzzed around the Jacuzzi simply to find out more about the good-looking one of the two men. Finch opted to remain silent, leaving the chit-chat to Reese, and listened with growing amazement as his partner deftly navigated the situation in his self-appointed role.

“You’re having a Mary Kay convention here? Oh, how nice!” Reese exclaimed. “So you girls must be tops in sales, right?”

The “girls” – most of them mothers with grown children – giggled with pleasure at the compliment. One of them politely asked Reese if they were here on vacation.

“Well, actually,” Reese responded with a drawl, somehow managing to call up a blush to his cheeks, “it’s our nine-year anniversary…” There was a round of appreciative coos. “Next year is the big one, you know, but we thought it would be nice to get a little pampering for a change. Harold works so hard all the time – I keep telling him to slow down, but you know how it is! We have a small security company on the south end of town – installing video cameras for stores and gas stations, you know, little things like that – but when you’re self-employed…!” He inserted a dramatic shrug. “You have to put your life and soul into it just to compete with the big guys!”

Every so often Reese would turn to Finch for confirmation, and Finch (figuring that the easiest course of action was to play along) would nod. He noticed that when Reese turned to talk to one of the women sitting outside of the Jacuzzi, his hand had very naturally landed around his shoulders, and when he wasn’t gesticulating with the other, it often came to rest upon his (Finch’s) knee.

“What? Oh, no – Harold is the brains of the outfit!” Reese laughed. “I just try to help out with installation – I don’t like him getting up on ladders, you know. But just last week I plugged in the wrong wire to the wrong socket, and see what a burn I got!”

This remark was made with a wave of his hand to the bullet wound in his shoulder. Finch hoped that none of the women were ER nurses who could identify what had really caused such an injury. Apparently not, as Reese was met with only sympathetic remarks.

“Well, I’m such a klutz when it comes to technical things – I wouldn’t know how to wire a toaster to save my life!” Reese continued, much to the merriment of their company. “I don’t know what I would do without Harold watching out for me, and that’s the honest truth. He’s such a sweetheart to have put up with me all these years…”

At this, Reese turned to Finch with such an adoring, adulating gaze that Finch nearly snorted. Masking this by clearing his throat, Finch twisted his mouth into a smile and spoke for the first time.

“O-Only because you’re such a good cook, darling.”

There were outbursts of laughter at this, while Reese patted Finch’s chest affectionately.

“Aww… you do say the sweetest things!”

After asking about the new products that the women were selling (out of common courtesy, Finch presumed), Reese inquired which convention hall they were meeting in and promised to stop by later that day to look over their wares.

“You know, I really ought to write to Mary Kay headquarters and ask for a special line, just for men,” Reese began, but was interrupted by two of the women assuring him that they had men’s products as well. “But that’s just colognes and lotions, right? I’m talking about a full line of cosmetics for men – they could call it Mary Gay!

That nearly brought down the house, and even Finch couldn’t help but grimace in amusement. Reese went on to declare, in all seriousness, that he would like to try their lotions.

“Harold’s back gets so dry and itchy in the winter,” he confided, much to Finch’s embarrassment. “I can’t always be there to scratch it for him, and it simply drives him crazy. Your products are hypo-allergenic, though, right? He has such sensitive skin… and speaking of that, we should probably get this chlorine rinsed off of you, shouldn’t we, Harold?”

Finch nodded his assent, eager to get out of this increasingly uncomfortable situation. Reese helped him to stand up and hovered beside him very attentively as he made his way out of the Jacuzzi. Even when he was on the level and mostly-dry floor, Reese tucked one arm around his shoulder in a protective gesture. The women, some of them noticing Finch’s injuries for the first time, let out a collective moan of sympathy.

“If you don’t mind my asking… what happened?” an older one asked.

“He was in a car accident – swerved to avoid a squirrel that ran out into the street,” Reese answered smoothly. “He ended up hitting a telephone pole, and it broke and fell on the car. Isn’t it just awful? You just never know when something like that can happen! But Harold is such a sweet soul, he wouldn’t hurt a fly – and that’s what makes him so special.”

This was paired with another fawning gaze at said “Harold,” who began limping as quickly as he could towards the locker room.

“Bye, girls! I’ll see you later!” Reese called out over his shoulder as they left to a chorus of goodbyes.


Finch was relieved to find the locker room deserted, for he wasn’t sure how much longer he could have kept up the farce.

“I must say, Mr. Reese,” he remarked blandly, “I’m impressed with your acting skills. You should add that to your resume, should you ever need to seek alternate employment.”

“I’m glad you enjoyed it, Harold,” he replied with a coy smile. “I’ve found that sometimes, it can be… liberating, to become someone else. And really, since it’s not like we’ll ever see these people again, we’re free to be as outrageous or as crazy as we want.”

“I certainly hope that we won’t cross paths with any of those ladies again,” Finch said as he allowed Reese to lead him to the showers. “If one of their numbers came up, it would be rather difficult to explain to them what we really do.”

“Oh, I don’t think it would be difficult, necessarily,” Reese countered, leaning against the door of Finch’s stall. “Getting them to believe it – now that might not be so easy.”

Finch conceded the point with a nod and turned on the shower. His fingers and toes now resembled prunes, he noticed.

“Do you need any help, Harold?” came Reese’s amused voice from the next stall.

“I’m quite all right, darling,” Finch shot back, and was rewarded with a genuine laugh from the other man.

Camaraderie – the word hit Finch almost like an electric shock. As he stood there, paralyzed, under the spray of water, his analytical mind sought out the myriad meanings latent in that concept and drew them together to form a cohesive whole.

Brotherhood… brothers-in-arms… us against them… us against the world…

The mental imagery swirled in his head.

It really is us against the world, but he’s making it into something… humorous, nonsensical, entertaining… Unlike spycraft, where mistakes are paid for in blood and innocent lives, he’s making it into a game, something fun… a private joke, a secret story, a shared history… something that even the Machine wouldn’t know or can even begin to comprehend…

Suddenly, like the tumblers of a lock or the pieces of a puzzle, it all fell into place.

This is his way of coping… of dealing with the stress of our isolation, Finch realized. We have been forced to live undercover, but by turning it into a game of whimsy, he can escape the harsh brutality… pretend we’re doing it because we want to, not because we have to… It’s how he keeps himself sane

The epiphany quite took his breath away; so much so that he failed to notice when Reese’s shower was turned off.

“Finch?”

Startled, he turned around to find Reese looking at him with a somewhat concerned expression.

“Are you sure you don’t need any help?”

“I’m sorry, my mind seems to have wandered off for a bit… I’ll just be a minute.”

“All right. I’ll grab you a towel.”


Once back in their rooms, Reese ordered a light lunch from room service. Finch only wanted a salad, but Reese insisted that he eat a half sandwich, too, stating that he needed the protein to withstand what he was about to endure.

Finch was also prepared to don his shirt and trousers again, but found Reese regarding him with incredulity in his eyes.

“Whatever for?” Reese asked pointedly. “Isn’t the bathrobe comfortable?”

“It’s comfortable enough, Mr. Reese, but it’s the middle of the day.”

“So? We’re on vacation, Finch. There’s no need to get all dressed up on my account.”

“Yes, well, I’m not accustomed to eating lunch wearing nothing but… a bathrobe.”

He had almost said “underwear” but stopped himself in time.

Reese smiled indulgently and remarked, “Well, if it bothers you that much, you could wear the new pajamas I got you…”

“I suppose so. It would at least be an improvement over… this.”

“But it wouldn’t do you any good, you know,” Reese apprised him.

“Oh? Why not?”

“Because I’ll just make you take it off later.”

The suggestiveness with which the taller man informed him of his intentions made Finch’s heart falter momentarily.

What have I gotten myself into? he wondered.

At that moment there was a knock on their door and Reese jumped up to answer it, snatching the bills he had counted out for the tip. He returned with the cart before Finch could even think of changing his attire, so he resigned himself to eating lunch as he was. He figured that since Reese was dressed similarly, it wasn’t so bad.

“So. What shall we talk about?” Reese began abruptly after setting out their plates and taking a sip of his bottled water.

“I beg your pardon?” Finch asked in return, one eyebrow shooting up in unfeigned surprise.

“Well, when we’re working on a case, we have that to talk about,” Reese reasoned. “Since we don’t have a case to discuss, we need to pick something else. So what’ll it be? Favorite movies? Or perhaps, for you, favorite books?”

“I don’t see why we need to have a topic at all, Mr. Reese.” Finch took a bite of his salad.

“If we don’t set one out, though, I might make the mistake of asking you something… too personal.” Reese also took a bite of his sandwich and regarded his employer. “You did promise that you wouldn’t lie to me, so if I ask the wrong question…”

“I would simply tell you that I am not comfortable answering it,” Finch replied.

They ate in silence for a few moments as Reese considered the possibilities this opened up. He was a good judge of character, and prided himself on reading people; and although Finch could certainly decline answering, the manner in which he declined could be telling. With the right sorts of questions he might be able to infer a great deal…

But that wouldn’t be fair to Finch, he finally concluded. There was a line, somewhere, and he did not want to cross it.

“All right then,” he began anew, gesturing with the pickle that had come with his sandwich, “favorite novel.”

The Brothers Karamazov,” Finch replied without hesitation. “Yours?”

Catch-22.”

“Yes, of course.”

“Favorite movie?”

“Will you promise not to laugh?”

“Yes.”

The Sound of Music.”

There was a pause as Reese restrained himself from so much as smiling. It took a monumental effort, but he knew that it was necessary, and that Finch would appreciate it.

“Yours?” Finch asked when he considered it safe.

Life Is Beautiful.”

“Ah! Good choice.”

And so it continued on through their peaceful lunch.

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2 Comments

  1. gay!Reese is keeping my sunday very very funny ^^

    “O-Only because you’re such a good cook, darling.” Finch went along -best line ever lol

    ““Because I’ll just make you take it off later.” – Reese, you sassy man!!

    I loved their talk about books and movies.. and Finch’s fav movie was the best!!

    Reply

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