Happiness Chapter 4

“I know,” Finch answered, his tone calm and even, as though he had come to terms with his fate a long time ago. “Believe me, Mr. Reese, I know…”

Reese ached to hear the unspoken answer to his unasked question: “Do you miss her?” “Yes – just like she misses me…”

Finch continued to stare at the green tops of the trees just visible at the bottom of the windows, his expression schooled blank. Reese leaned slightly closer to him before whispering his next words.

“At least she’s alive… and doing well. She said she must have a ‘guardian angel’ because every time she runs out of work, some magazine or publisher calls…”

Finch allowed himself a small smile, knowing that Reese was too sharp to consider that a mere coincidence, but kept his eyes fixed on the window.

“So your plan worked,” Reese continued. “You succeeded in keeping her safe. And for that, I envy you.”

In shock, Finch’s eyes revealed more sadness than perhaps he intended to. He turned his torso to face Reese, his brilliant mind groping for something appropriate to say but coming up empty.

“I gave up the best part of my life – the right to be with Jessica, even if it was only for the short times I would be back home – but for nothing,” Reese stated, bitterness spilling into his voice. “My own worst enemy wasn’t in Afghanistan or Iraq; he was right here in America. And Jessica walked right into his trap… just like a rookie soldier in a minefield. And I couldn’t stop her…”

The pain in Reese’s eyes was now mirrored in Finch’s as the older man moved closer to him without thinking.

“You did what you thought was best, John – what you thought you had to do. It’s not your fault that the outcome wasn’t what you expected. There was no way for you to know what sort of man he really was, especially if Jessica herself didn’t know!” His brows furrowed in concern, Finch sought to reach Reese with his words. “You let her go so she could live a happy, normal life. You did the right thing – the noble thing. It isn’t your fault that she didn’t find the happily-ever-after that you’d hoped for her.”

Reese had been staring unseeingly at the building across the street for some time, but when Finch stopped, waiting for a response, he turned his gaze back to the other man.

“But what you don’t understand, Finch, is that it is my fault. Even though you know ‘exactly everything’ about me, you probably don’t know what she said to me at the airport, the last time I saw her… or what I said to her. All I had to do was say three little words, and… I couldn’t. I didn’t have the courage to. But if I had, she would be alive today. I might not have been able to give her the happily-ever-after she deserved, but at least… she would be… alive…”

Reese could no longer bear to look at Finch’s heartbroken face; neither could Finch reciprocate. For a long moment, both of them studied the patterns of the area rug which Finch had selected to match the couch.

“She wanted me to… ask her to wait. For me. She wanted to wait for me. But I didn’t let her. I pushed her away… right into the arms of that… monster.”

“Oh, John,” Finch murmured. “Don’t beat yourself up over this. You can’t. Jessica wouldn’t want you to, either. She would want you to be… happy.”

“That’s what I keep telling myself,” Reese replied tonelessly. “It doesn’t really help, though…”

“She would be… so proud of what you’re doing, John. I never met her, but… I think she would be so pleased to know about the work you’re doing now – what you’ve already accomplished. You mustn’t lose sight of that.”

A wry, self-deprecating smile twisted Reese’s mouth.

“Why do you think I keep doing it? It’s not for the money, you know. Even if you paid me ten times as much – or only a tenth – it wouldn’t make any difference.”

“I know.” Finch turned his face back towards the wall of windows. “It’s about… being able to sleep at night.”

“Yeah.”

Reese shifted in his seat. There was a thought on his lips, on the tip of his tongue, and he debated whether he should set it free or entomb it in the dark recesses of his mind. After another pause, which remained unbroken by Finch, Reese drew a deep breath and released it. He had made the mistake of not speaking his mind – his heart – once before, and he was all-too-aware of the consequences of that decision; he would not make the same mistake again.

“Even if we can sleep at night, with a clean conscience… it still means we sleep alone.”

Finch made a startled movement, although he tried to suppress it immediately.

“John,” he began, agonizing over what he felt obligated to say, “if you want to quit – retire to someplace warm and start a new life, maybe even a family… all you have to do is ask. You’ve already done so much, risked so much—”

“No, Finch – that’s not what I meant,” Reese interrupted. “It’s just that… Well, she said she’d lost you two years ago… Was that the last time you had any… ‘human interaction’?”

It was an extremely personal question, and Reese knew he ran the risk of making Finch shut down altogether, but he needed to know – not just the answer to the question, which he already suspected he knew, but whether Finch was ready to discuss such matters with him at all.

Finch struggled with his answer, tempted at first to evade it and lash out with some cutting remark; however, he realized that Reese already had a fair idea as to the truth of the matter, and the effort of avoiding the truth (let alone deceiving Reese, which he had promised to never do) seemed more tedious than simply acknowledging what the other man must have guessed.

“Yes,” Finch finally replied, rather curtly.

“It’s been over ten years for me,” Reese explained, bringing the topic back to his own lonely bed.

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4 Comments

  1. dancingdog

     /  2012/07/10

    Thea, i keep returning to your stories. I hope your plotbunny and muse find some ‘creative interaction’ soon. What can I bring to them to tempt them into returning ?

    Reply
    • Um… chocolate chip cookies? XD
      Sorry, I’ll be working on the Narnia fic next, but I do intend to finish this soon… relatively soon… okay, sometime before the new season starts…

      Reply
  2. This is really good, I hope you can finish sometime. I would like to read the rest.

    Reply

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