Chapter 1: The End is the Beginning
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
"Come on, Harold. We've got so much to talk about."
A look of absolute terror appeared on Finch's face as he looked at Root's eager expression; the wicked grin on her face.
Swallowing hard, Finch prayed Reese had somehow figured things out and was about to appear through the door, gun in hand to save the day, as he always did. Even though deep down he knew the chances of that happening were low, extremely low.
"We should go now," Root paused, turning her gaze toward Alicia's lifeless body. "Your friend isn't coming with us, though."
Finch's eyes slide toward Alicia's body, guilt and sadness making his chest feel tight. After Nathan's death, Alicia had vanished, erasing any trace of herself and cutting off contact with anyone who knew her, family and friends alike, all in an effort to stay alive, just like he had. And now, now she was dead because of him, because she had come close to him in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Root was about to get out of the car, but then stopped and turned around, her gun pointed straight to Finch's face.
"I suggest you not try anything clever, Harold. I'm pretty good with this thing," Root slightly waved the gun. "And I would hate to have to show you just how good this soon."
Finch watched her get out of the car warily. He had to do something, anything, to get away from her. He should turn on the engine and drive away, or at least open the communication between his phone and Reese's so the other man could hear what was happening but he couldn't move. He was frozen on the spot watching as Root harshly pulled at Alicia's body.
His whole body shaking, Finch averted his gaze, struggling to keep his breath even.
It took Root some effort, but she pulled the body out of the car, throwing it carelessly on the ground. Quickly, she got into the car, slamming the door closed.
"Uff, she was heavier than I thought." Root grunted, tucking a stray of hair behind her ear.
Finch looked at her, an unpleasant look on his face.
Taking the gun out of her pocket, she turned toward Finch. "Okay, let's go,"
"... What?" Finch whispered, brows drawn together.
Root gave him a cold smile, gun subtly pointed at his upper body. "Just drive, Harold."
Hand shaking considerably, Finch reached toward the key ignition, just to be stopped by Root.
"Oh wait, I almost forgot. Give me your cell phone." Gun still pointed at Finch, Root held out her left hand.
Finch hesitated, alarmed to lose his last connection to Reese and wishing he had tried to contact him earlier, when he had the chance. The decision was made when Root pressed the barrel of the gun sharply into his side, making a gasp escape from his mouth as Finch reached shaking fingers to his coat pocket, taking his phone out and slowly handing it to her.
"I can't believe I almost forgot." Root murmured to herself. She pulled the phone open, easily removing the SIM card and throwing it on the floor of the car. Leaving the phone aside, Root turned to Finch again, a bright smile on her face.
"Alright, we can go now."
Finch pressed his eyes shut, hands curled into fists as he forced himself to speak.
"Why don't you just tell me what you want?"
"All in due time, Harold." Smiling, Root patted at Finch's shoulder softly. "I will tell you what I want as soon as we get to a more suitable place to talk. Now drive."
Finch drove for around twenty minutes, following Root's instructions, uneasily eyeing the gun she kept pointed at him. He tried to draw other drivers' attention several times without success, and finally stopped trying when Root caught him doing it, and pressed the barrel of the gun hard into his side.
Finally she ordered him go into a lonely, underground parking lot.
Finch could feel his heart beat faster as he drove further into the closed area. 'This is it,' he thought. She had done her main course of action: get him out of open areas. She could knock him out anytime now and he couldn't do anything to stop her or even call for help, because the place was deserted.
"Okay, park beside that black sedan; the one on your right," Root directed, pointing to one of the few cars parked nearby.
Without a word Finch did as he was told, turning off the car as soon as he got to the place she instructed. Wetting his dry lips, he forced himself to lift his gaze, and look at Root in the face.
"Let's keep things proper, okay? I want you to get out of the car and walk straight to the black one. Plain and simple. I could knock you out and drag you, but I think we can keep things simpler this way, don't you think?"
Finch looked from the car to Root before nodding almost imperceptibly.
"Great! I knew you were a reasonable man, Harold. Come on." Root pulled open the car door, and got out.
Finch watched her, drawing a deep breath. He hesitated, looking at his phone on the empty seat. He doubted he could get it without her noticing, and without the SIM card he did not think it was worth even trying. So forgetting about it, Finch began to get out of the car, deliberately slower than usual.
As soon as his feet were on the ground Root was at his side, a small smile on her face and the gun in her hand.
Standing behind him and pointing the gun at his back, Root nodded toward the car. She led Finch toward the back door of the car, and he stood beside her as she unlocked and opened it.
Resigned, Finch limped the few steps left and started to get into the car. He was about to settle into the seat, being careful of his back and neck, when he felt a strong blow on the back of his head.
Root stood beside him, slowly lowering her gun. "I'm sorry Harold, but it'll be faster this way."
Finch did not hear Root's apology, or anything else, as his body collapsed over the seat and everything went dark around him.
So that's it for now :D I'm gonna try to update at least once a week, but please be aware this is a work in process, and while I'm hoping to finish it before the new season start and I do have a pretty good idea where I'm going with this fic, this is the first time I write a multi-chapter fic, (the longest I've written is of 5 chapters, for another fandom.) so I hope you'll be patient and stay with me on this new adventure :D
Chapter 2: The Reason Behind Everything
Slowly Finch began to regain consciousness. The first thing he noticed was pain. Being in pain was not unusual for him, but somehow this was different: a sharp, throbbing pain in the back of his head. It felt as if someone had hit him on the head. Hard.
Opening his eyes slowly, Finch felt a wave of dizziness and nausea hit him, forcing him to close them again. Eyes tightly closed, Finch's eyebrows drawn together.
"What happened? Where am I?" were the first confused thoughts in Finch's mind. He obliged his mind to focus, trying to remember. They were working a new number, Mr. Reese and himself... Whose number was it? It was a woman. Finch's frown deepened, desperately seeking for information in his disoriented mind. A psychologist. Yes it was a psychologist. Ms. Turing, that was her name; Caroline Turing. One of her clients had paid HR to kill her. But none of that explained his current situation.
"I'll get Ms. Turing to safety, and I'll come back for you, John."
Finch's words to Reese echo in his mind, making his eyes fly open. He was supposed to pick up Ms. Turing and take her somewhere safe. What if the person who threatened her had intercepted them? What if they had hurt her?
Finch looked around, searching for any sign of her, or anything that could tell him what had happened, but only found an empty chair placed directly in front of him. It was a rather small space and the only light on it came from a lonely bulb hanging over him.
This didn't make any sense. If they just wanted to dispose of Ms. Turing and he was on their way, why not just kill him? Why abduct him and bring him here? If that was even what had happened.
Head filled with confused and unfocused thoughts, Finch didn't hear the sound of the door opening, nor the sound of heels echoing behind him; approaching.
"I'm glad you are finally awake, Harold," said a soft, female voice behind him.
Started, Finch turned his head as much as he could, struggling to see the woman still behind him. That voice sounded familiar, but where could he-
"So nice to finally meet you, Harold. You can call me Root."
Finch frozen, feeling as if all the air had been knocked out of him. This was- this couldn't be happening. She couldn't be Caroline Turing: the woman they were supposed to protect, and most certainly couldn't be Root: the skilled hacker that without hesitation had killed Peter Matheson, Congressman Delancey's business partner.
The woman, Root, walked further into the room, looking at Finch with a tender look on her face.
"Sorry I knocked you out. You must be having a pretty bad headache."
Well, that explained his severe headache, Finch thought morosely. Almost instinctively, he tried to lift his hands to the back of his head only to find he couldn't; his hands tightly tied behind his back. He lifted his gaze toward Root's face.
"Ah, the rope is just a precaution. I can't be pointing a gun at you all the time, can I?" Root easily answer Finch's unspoken question, sitting in the empty chair.
Finch drifted his gaze to the floor, shifting uneasily in his chair.
"Where are we?" He asked quitely after a moment, not sure what kind of answer he was expecting, if one at all.
"Well," Root started, crossing her legs slowly and tilting her head slightly to the right. "for starters, we are away from New York; too many cameras on the streets for my taste." Root grinned, giving Finch a significant look. "And this is an old building I've grown quite fond of. It's been empty for so long that I think most people have forgotten it even exists."
Finch ponder this for a moment. While the idea that they were in some deserted place sounded reasonable under the circumstances, he wasn't sure he believed her when she said they were away from New York City. After all this carefully elaborated plan to lure him out, Finch was well aware the woman he was dealing with was exceedingly clever and precise, therefore, telling him they were away from New York could be a strategy to make him feel uncertain and lost, so he'd break and do what she wanted. Though, now that he thought about it, he didn't have the slightest idea what that was.
Mind still hazy, Finch couldn't remember if she already had told him what she wanted. He didn't think she had, though, but considering she had used the way Reese and him operated to find him, Finch was afraid he might have an idea of what that could be.
Wetting his lips, Finch met Root's gaze, which had not left his face even for a moment since she sat down.
"Why did you do all this?" Finch asked her, his eyebrows drawn together. "What do you want from me?"
Root leaned back in her chair, crossing her arms. "A little impatient, aren't we? But I guess the least I can do is tell you why you are here," She said with a grin. "It's... a bit complicated actually. My original intention was to meet you in person. Your skills left me highly impressed, something that is not easy to do, and I wanted to meet the man behind what I saw, but as I keep analyzing the information I got from your system and everything, I found out you have something I've wanted for years, something I need, and I want you to help me. I want access... to the system; the Machine."
"I don't know what you're talking about." Finch answered immediately; a trail of someone whose life and past were sheltered so tightly. He spent his whole life lying to every person who crossed his path, he supposed.
Root leaned forward abruptly, a flick of anger in her eyes. "I'm gonna pretend you did not say that, Harold, because I hate when people lie to me."
Startled by the sudden outburst, Finch watched her. He should be more careful with his words, or the already poor situation he was in could get significantly worse.
Root leaned back in her chair. "You might be surprised to know I've known about that powerful system the government is hiding for some time now." She started, her face relaxed into a smile as if the outburst just seconds ago hadn't happened. "It's quite long story. Perhaps I'll tell you all about it later."
Frowning slightly, Finch struggled to maintain his surprise from showing. How could she knew about the existence of the Machine? That was just not possible.
"Do you want to know how I know you have access?" Root bit her lip, fighting back a smile. "I got it all from your own system, after our first encounter."
Head spinning, Finch tried to make sense of what she had just told him. He thought hard, trying to remember if there had been something, anything, that could have uncovered his connection with the Machine, but he come up blank. He had been extremely careful regarding that matter. He was sure.
"Oh, but don't get me wrong, it was a challenge to sort through all the data I found and make sense of most of it. But, I love challenges," Root said, her voice smooth."Of course I found a vast amount of information on Scott Powell. A very impressive work, if I do say so myself. I admit it was the thoroughness of your research on him what made me be so highly meticulous with the creation of Caroline Turing's identity. Didn't want you to find something wrong and make you suspicious."
Finch felt a whirlwind of emotions inside: panic, anxiety, fear and a dread feeling of what was to come. What she had told him so far did not explain how she knew about the Machine or that he had access to it.
"I found many interesting things, but something that particularly caught my attention were several number sequences; nine digits each one." Root watched his face closely. "Social Security numbers; all of them. It took me some time to figure it out, but when I did, things started to make sense. Your friend's intervention in my work to save Powell made sense."
Finch felt his stomach drop, worry and fear almost making him dizzy. She knew about the numbers; the people they had saved. What if she threatened to hurt them? Could he act like before and stand aside, knowing someone innocent would be hurt again, all for a greater good?
"We didn't build this to save somebody. We built it to save everybody."
He dropped his gaze, feeling ashamed as his own words to Nathan all those years ago echoed in his head. He don't think he could do it again. Not after that disgusting feelings of emptiness and misery had left him. He couldn't go through all of that again.
"Diane Hansen: an important Assistant District Attorney that was exposed as the leader of a group of corrupt police officers. Theresa Whitaker: a teenager who literally came back from the dead, telling everyone the truth about her family's murder and how the same people who killed them, wanted to kill her too." Root stoped for a moment, smiling. "What about Claire Ryan and Matt Duggan? Killed because they took money they shouldn't have. And the police talked about two unknown girls too. I bet they are Wendy McNally and Paula Vazquez, both of their Social Security numbers were there too."
"There were plenty of others Social Security numbers, as you know, but I couldn't link them with similar acts directly, though I'm sure if I dig deeper I could. Oh, and of course Powell's was there too," Root leaned forward, her head resting on her hand. "After that first encounter, I keep looking out for any information on your friend, John. 'A guy in a suit,' that's what the police called him, right? Kind of cliché, but it fits."
"Of course, his highly indiscreet work as vigilante didn't make it harder at all. Adam Saunders, Jordan Hester, Tommy Clay, Karen Garner... Do they ring any bells? Those are some of the names I could link to John, and by extension to you too."
Root was silent fo a long moment, watching him, before she started talking again.
"Saving any kind of people, at any time, from different threats; some that could have been uncovered easily, just by looking at the right place; and some very personal ones, where it was almost impossible someone knew about to stop." Root shook her head, a smile on her lips. "What do you want me to think, Harold? No one can do something like this alone, no matter how good they are. It's just you and John and I know he isn't very good with computers, he just does the legwork, and you are the one behind everything; the information, the planning, everything."
"The system was designed to stop crimes before they happen. That's what you do. The way I see it, knowing about the system and what you and John do, it's only natural to find a connection."
Finch watched her unblinking. This was exactly what he had been fearing would happen since the moment he found Reese they had begun to work together: that someone would realize he had access to the Machine. He just never imagined it would be this way, with a civilian helding him captive and demanding access.
"I am so certain you have access to it that I risked my life, knowing you guys would know and save me. And you did! That just proved I'm right, and if you can't give me a good enough reason as to how you did know all these people were in danger, and why you decided to help them, there's nothing else you can say that can make me think otherwise. Nothing."
Finch held Root's gaze steadily, raising his chin firmly. He wasn't going to submit to her will that easily. It was a battle he knew deep-down he would not win. He would break down and give Root what she wanted, and live with the consequences (if she did not killed him after he told her), or she would get tired of his uncooperative attitude and just kill him. Either way he wasn't going to win, but it was a battle worth fighting, and with any luck, his cavalry would arrive before it was too late.
Chapter 3: A Bittersweet Reverie
"I don't know, Nathan, there are so many things that could go wrong." A younger Harold Finch -Harold Wren then- told the man besides him; a concerned expression on his face.
Nathan chuckled softly, looking at his longtime friend. "Come on, Harold, it's just a couple of hours. What could go wrong?"
Harold turned his head toward his friend, an expression that clearly asked ´Do you really want me to answer that?´on his face.
"Okay, okay, I get it," Nathan started, raising both of his hands up, admitting defeat. "You're right, of course, but it's not like this would be the first time you'll do it anyway."
"No, it wouldn't be, but I've never done it alone; you were with me everytime I did it." Harold pointed out, giving Nathan a stern look.
"Come Harold, it's not like he's some over talkative brainless man who wants to speak with you, he's just a tiny little baby."
Harold just shook his head, looking from the sleeping baby to his friend, still uncertain.
"Okay, let me ask you something: How many books about babies have you read since I told you Harper was pregnant? Twenty? Thirty? At this point you are more prepared to look after Will than I am."
Harold rolled his eyes. "Nathan this serious; this is about your son's safety."
"And that's why I want you to look after him, Harold. There's no one I trust more than you." Nathan told him warmly. "Look, Harper really needs get out the house for a while, and to be honest, so do I, but with her mother back in DC, there's no one we can ask. We didn't call a babysitter because we don't want some strange woman looking after Will, even for a couple of hours, but I understand if you can't do it."
Harold drew his eyes away from Will to meet Nathan's gaze, sighing softly.
"You know I will do it, Nathan, I just... I'm afraid something bad could happen while I'm with him, I suppose," Finch finished awkwardly.
"Harold, nothing is going to happend. At this age he just sleeps most of the time, Harper just fed him a couple minutes ago, so you may no even be here when he needs another bottle, and you already know how to give him one anyway. You'll be fine." Nathan reassured his friend, a small smile on his lips.
Harold drew a deep breath, nodding slowly. "Okay... Yes, of course. I'll be fine. We'll be fine."
"You have nothing to worry about. I will have my cell phone with me the whole time, and if something happens I'll be back here in ten minutes."
Harold arched an eyebrow. "Ten minutes, on a Saturday night in the middle of New York?"
"I have my ways, you know," Nathan teased, winking at him.
Harold's smile widened while shaking his head at his friend's unique sense of humor.
"I need to go hustle Harper or we'll never leave. I'll be right back." Nathan called, before disappearing up the stairs.
Alone, Harold turned his gaze back to Will's sleeping form. He was so fragile, so innocent to the chaotic world he had come into. Harold's smile decreased. It was preposterous to even think that innocence could remain with him forever, and with the way the world worked now, it could harm him instead of doing any good to him. He know it better than anyone.
Suddenly, Harold reached out, caressing Will's small hand with the soft touch of his own.
"We'll be okay." Harold whispered, a tender smile on his lips watching the soft rise and fall of the baby's little chest.
Finch smiled warmly at the memory. Will had been only 5 months old then, and he had been genuinely terrified of not being able to take good care of him by himself, but just as Nathan had anticipated, nothing had gone wrong and Will had slept most of the time.
Will. Finch's smile vanished and his breath caught in his throat as the thought that he might never see him again filled his mind. Finch closed his eyes against the tide of emotions that swept through him.
Drawing a shaking breath, Finch struggled to remember the last time he had spoken with him. It was around five months ago; the same night he and Mr. Reese had handled baby Leila back to her Grandparents. The memories had been so fresh, and regardless of the late hour Finch had called him. They hadn't been able to talk long, though. Will had still been telling him about his 'new job' when he heard sudden noises in the background, followed by Will's muffled directions to whoever was there with him, and Will had returned to the phone only to tell him he had to go.
Finch felt a deep pain in his chest when he remembered the last thing he had told him.
"Alright, I'll call you soon."
Not 'I love you' or 'take care', but a cold and rushed 'I'll call you soon' Those would be the last words Will would remember from him.
Finch didn't even had the time to think it over because the thoughts were snatched away from his mind when the noise of a lock being opened filled the small room, followed just moments later by the unmistakable sound of heels tapping against the concrete floor as Root stepped inside.
Finch tensed, pushing the thoughts of Will away. He needed to stay focused and alert.
"Hey, I'm back." Root started, closing the door behind her. "And, I brought you something."
Finch sat still, waiting for her to stand before him to see what she had ´brought´ him.
She was holding a white paper plate and a bottle of water.
Watching her, Finch wet his dry lips. He hadn't realized how thirsty he was until now. He didn't show it though, or at least tried not to. At this point he wasn't sure if he succeeded or not. Regarding the food... he wasn't really hungry. He always tended to lose his appetite when he was under a considerable amount of stress, and, well, the situation he was in fell into that exact category.
"You must be hungry, right? Here," Root said placing the paper plate over Finch's lap, her hand brushing against his thighs unintentionally, making Finch's whole body tense, a breath catching in his throat.
Root didn't notice or chose not to mention it. Probably the latter, Finch assumed. She pulled back, the bottle of water still on her hand.
"I hope you're not lactose intolerant or something like that."
Finch blinked at her, his expression blank before dropping his gaze to the plate on his lap. In it was a grilled cheese sandwich cut in halves. Cooked; Finch could tell by the golden brown tone of the bread.
"I know you can't eat with your hands tied, so I'm gonna release them for a little bit." Root looked at him in the eye, a warning gleam in her gaze. "Can I trust you wouldn't do anything silly, Harold?"
Finch looked at her for a moment before nodding slowly. Even if he wasn't hungry, he knew he should eat the food she was offering him. He didn't know how much time would pass until she decided to give him more, or if she would even do it again. Deprive someone of food and water was a commonly known strategy to get information out of ´uncooperative´ people. Though perhaps that strategy was one of the less grievous there was, Finch thought soberly. After reading every redacted file he found from Mr. Reese's assignments, he could think of several worse interrogation tactics she could use with him. He shuddered just thinking about it.
Finch was brought out of his thoughts by the sudden soft touch of Root's hands on his own, gently untying the rope around his wrists.
The knot on the rope was tight, so it took her a moment to untied it, letting the rope fall to the floor.
Slowly, Finch moved his arms forward, the pain the small movement caused making him wince. He rubbed the sore skin of his wrists softly, watching the red marks left by the rope.
In an efficient and quick motion, Root yanked his hands forward, placing a pair of handcuffs on his wrists, locking them with an audible click.
Finch drifted his gaze toward her, a confused expression on his face. "I thought you said-"
"You can't expect me to trust you wouldn't try anything, Harold." Root started, an amused glint in her eyes. "You've been working with John for how long? A year maybe? I'm sure you've picked up some of his tricks."
Finch felt the corner of his lips curl up sourly. He really should have allowed Mr. Reese to teach him some self-defense moves when he offered. Somehow he doubted that ´Poke her in the eyes´ would help him in this situation.
Root's smile widened, watching Finch. "Something funny?"
His expression going instantly blank, Finch pressed his lips into a tight line. He really needed to be more careful with his thoughts and reactions. He did not like how easily she was picking them up.
Without further comments, Root took the bottle of water she had left on the empty chair, and sat down.
Uncertain, Finch eyed the the food on the plate. He should eat it, he knew, but there was a nagging thought at the back of his mind: What if she had put something in it?
As if reading his mind, Root smiled, cradling the bottle on her hands. "Don't worry, I didn't put anything in it." At Finch's still uncertain glance, she added. "I know there's no reason for you trust me, but let me put it this way: If I wanted to drug you, I wouldn't have to hide it on the food or the water, I could just stick a needle in you anytime I wanted."
Finch diverted his gaze downwards. She was right and he knew it. She could do anything she wanted to him. Anything, and there was virtually nothing he could do to stop her. Finch drew a deep breath. He truly did not want to follow that line of thought. At least not now.
With Root's gaze still on him, Finch picked up one half of the sandwich and took a bite. It wasn't bad.
She was silent for a moment, watching him. It wasn't until he had finished that half of the sandwich that she spoke.
"Do you want some water?" She asked, removing the screw cap from the bottle and, without waiting for an answer, handed it to him.
Finch took the bottle carefully between his cuffed hands and lifted it to his lips, gulping a large amount of water, almost emptying the bottle. He didn't know how long it had been since he had drank something, but he was so thirsty he could drink another bottle.
Root gave him a sympathetic look, taking the bottle back. "You really were thirsty, huh?"
Finch did not said anything, focusing instead on get his breath steady.
It wasn't until Finch had nearly finished the remaining half of the sandwich that Root spoke again.
"So," Root started, a smile forming on her lips. "have you thought about what I told you? Are you going to admit the truth, Harold? Are you ready to tell me what I want to hear?"
Finch remained silent for a moment, recalling her reaction when he had replied the first time. His answer hadn't changed, nor would change.
She was still waiting for an answer, so Finch drew in a deep breath and forced the words out.
"I cannot talk about something I don't know." Finch said, his voice quiet.
Finch watched a flash of anger in her eyes -just for a brief moment- before her face relaxed back into a smile.
"You are still with that, huh?" Root's voice was amused with a touch of annoyance. "I guess we can play for a little while, if that's what you want."
Finch relaxed slightly. That was not the reaction he had been expecting from her at all.
"You say you don't know anything about the system I'm talking about, right? So, let me ask you something." Root leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees. "How did you know ´Caroline Turing´ was in danger? How did you know I needed your help?"
Chapter 4: A Truthful Deception
How did you know 'Caroline Turing' was in danger? How did you know I needed your help?"
Finch wet his lips and his hands went lax in his lap. That was the only reaction he allowed himself to show, though.
He wasn't surprised at all. In fact, Finch had been waiting for that question perhaps from the moment he had awoke in this place only to find 'Caroline Turing' was not who he thought she was. He had a thoughtful answer already designed in his mind, one that he hoped would prove to be as compelling and believable as he thought it was.
Root arched an eyebrow, giving him an impatient look.
"We-" Finch stopped. He needed to be as honest as possible. He was well aware the best lies were those which weren't actually lies. He drew a sharp breath and started again. "Mr. Reese considered we might need inside assistance with the authorities, so he proceeded to gather evidence of the involvement of a dishonest cop with HR and he… persuaded that cop to be his informant within the organization, in exchange of not provide that evidence to the authorities."
Root tilted her head slightly to the side. "And just what is that cop's name?"
"I can't tell you that." Finch answered immediately, his voice holding a firm tone. He was not about to give her Detective Fusco's name.
Root narrowed her eyes at him, but after a moment she pressed her lips into a thin line and shook her head. The name of some dirty cop wasn't relevant to her, at least not now. She motioned for him to keep going.
Finch allowed himself to relax slightly, almost imperceptibly, before continuing.
"That cop informed us someone had paid HR a large amount of money to murder a woman." Finch had to stop for a moment, feeling sick as he saw a smile appear on Root's face. He took a deep breath before continuing. "He provided us a name and Mr. Reese and I started working. I searched for any data related to you and Mr. Reese started following you, trying to find out where the threat had come from."
Finch shook his head slightly. They should have seen something was off. He should have seen it.
"Due to the profession you chose, we assumed one of 'your clients' was responsible of the threat." Finch gave her a hard look. "You already know the rest."
"Yes, I do." Root grinned, her eyes fixed on Finch's face. "It's rather convenient the story you have here, Harold. So tell me, if I hadn't resorted to HR, if I had gone to another 'organization' to get the job done, you wouldn't have known about it? Is that what you are telling me?"
Finch shifted nervously in his chair, dreading her reaction. "Yes."
Root watched him for a long time as if she were considering her options, her expression giving nothing away.
"Okay, let's pretend I believe you." She started finally, her voice amused. "So, what about Powell? Did you by chance have someone in Matheson's office too? Someone who told you he was planning to kill Delancey and frame someone else?"
Finch pursed his lips, disgusted at her tone and the absurd way in which she was referring to such severe situation. He didn't say anything, though; knowing that her lack of sensitivity was the least of his concerns at the moment.
The question, though not unexpected, was considerably more difficult to answer than the previous one, and even though Finch had been thinking, seeking, for a consistent way to answer it, he still did not have a satisfactory enough explanation.
Finch drew a shaking breath before he started talking. "Our involvement in Mr. Powell's situation was merely incidental."
"Oh really?" Root asked, bemused.
Finch didn't bother to answer her question directly, instead continued his story.
"I had been invited to Congressman Delancey's event and was obligated to attend, and I requested Mr. Reese to join me." Finch paused for a moment, trying to assess Root's reaction but found nothing, watching her bank expression. "Not long after the event started, Mr. Reese pointed out to me what he called 'a suspicious man.' Powell. I dismissed Mr. Reese's concerns without even considering them. It was a huge event; there were security guards everywhere, I never thought..." Finch trailed off, his voice full of regret.
He was thinking of all the lives that had been taken before he found Mr. Reese, before he was able to do something, in an effort to sound sincere. It almost made him sick, use the tragic deaths these people had suffered for his own interest, an interest as futile and contemptible as it was that she believed his lies- but there was no other way.
Root made an impatient noise in the back of her throat, clearly irritated with the emotional tone the conversation had taken.
Finch cleared his throat, forcing himself to continue.
"Thank goodness Mr. Reese followed his instincts, and headed to where Mr. Powell was. That's how he witnessed what happened. Just like everyone else in the place, I thought Mr. Powell was responsible for the shot Congressman Delancey received. It wasn't until Mr. Reese met me outside and told me what he saw that I realized my mistake."
"Then, I looked into everything you had set up to incriminate him: the emails, the rifle license, all the anti-Delancey pages on his browser..." Finch trailed off. "It was the perfect plan to incriminate an innocent man and we couldn't allow that to happen."
When she didn't said anything immediately after he stopped speaking, Finch mustered up the courage to lift his eyes toward her face, only to find her staring at him intently, head cocked to one side as she observed him. Finch could only hear the sound of his own heart beating loudly in his chest, his fists tightening in anticipation.
After what felt like forever, Root finally reacted, a mischievous smile spreading across her face.
"Another coincidence, huh? That's pretty unbelievable, Harold. But I guess it's better that said he was 'the friend of a friend', right?"
Finch drifted his gaze away from her, just for a second. This could very well be his only opportunity to make her doubt, or at the very least consider, even if it was just for a moment, that he could be telling the truth. He needed to use it wisely.
"Someone is murdered in New York every 18 hours." Finch started, reciting the same statistic he had given Reese when they met. "When you put things into perspective, it's not thoroughly unbelievable we could have known about both seemingly unrelated events and be able to intervene."
Root looked at him, a surprised expression on her face, as if she hadn't expected that answer, or any answer at all, and then he saw it; a flicker of doubt in her dark eyes, brief and gone so fast that left him wondering if it really had been there at all. Finch shook himself. It had been there. He had seen it, he was sure of it.
Root recovered quickly, her eyes becoming hard and cold within seconds. "What about the others? All the Social Security numbers I found in your system. Were they coincidences too?"
"No." Finch murmured softly. "We helped... some of them."
"Some of them?" Root asked, one eyebrow delicately arched. Her voice was smooth, a touch of skepticism in it.
She waited for Finch to elaborate, but when he didn't say anything else, she pressed him.
"If you didn't help those people, why did you have their numbers?"
Finch hesitated slightly, before start talking. "I learn about the unfortunate events in these people's life's after they had happened, through the paper and police reports and I... I tried to help them."
Root's eyes narrowed. "How?"
"Some of these people had been affected or had financial issues after the incidents in which they were involved. Therefore, I decided to help them in that regard."
"So you give them money," Root stated her voice flat.
She shook her head, her brow furrowed. "I don't understand you, Harold. I really don't. Why do you give money to people you don't even know?"
Finch paused for a moment, seeking for a way to explain something he wasn't certain he understood himself.
"The money I gave them, it means nothing to me," Finch started quietly. "It was just money, but it did matter to them; it made a difference in those people's lives. It helped them."
"It didn't matter, huh?" Root said as she crossed her arms and pursed her lips. "So what? You're one of those rich men that have so much money they don't know what to do with it, so they look for the most eccentric ways to spend it? That's it?"
Finch watched her, a look of utter disgust on his face.
"At some point in my life, I thought money was the most important thing; that if you had money, you had it all. It was a misapprehension of my part but it wasn't until I realized I was alone, with no one beside me that I really understood."
That moment had been after Nathan's death, and though he had never given money as much significance as some people did, he had -as he told Reese- spent a larger part of his life making himself very rich. The moment when the towers came down made him realize the unimportance of all that money, but it wasn't until his one and only friend was gone, that he stopped caring about money entirely.
"Oh, please tell me you aren't going with the old cliché of how you magically realized money can't buy happiness." Root scoffed. "That's just pathetic! You were alone. So what? You had money and astonishing computer skills. You could have done anything you wanted. Literally. Instead of drowning yourself in self-pity you could have bought people to be with you, if you didn't want to be alone."
Finch stiffened in his chair. "You cannot buy people."
She laughed quietly. "Of course you can, for the right price. But let's not talk about that anymore, it's not really important, and besides, I have another question for you," Root said, leading forward slightly. "Why Social Security numbers? Why didn't you save names, or perhaps a nice photo, so you could see how happy they are now, thanks to your help?"
Outraged, Finch considered not answering the question at all, but finally decided it wasn't worth face another outburst just for not answering a simple enough question. She was trying to make him lose control with her taunts, and he could not let that happen. He had to be clever and keep calm.
"I am well aware what Mr. Reese and I are doing is considered illegal and there are people rightly searching for us." Finch started, quietly. "Certainly, it's only a matter of time before they find us, and I do not want any of the people I helped to become involved."
Root sighed. "That's very considerate of you, Harold. All of it. But I don't believe you. I can't. I learned a long time ago that no one is generous just because; no one does anything for anyone without expecting something in return. That's how the world had always worked, Harold, and honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way."
Finch opened his mouth to say something. What, he didn't know, but Root did not gave him a chance, as she stood up.
"I think we are done for now," She reached out, taking the empty paper plate from Finch's thighs. "I will send one of them to tie you back in a while."
With that she left, leaving Finch bewildered; the little hope he had gained in the last minutes crumbling. Finch drew in a deep breath, trying to clear his head.
There had been doubt in Root's eyes, even if it had been just for a second, which mean that even if she didn't believe him, she would try to verify what he had told her. The deposits he had made in the bank accounts of some of the people they have helped had been made anonymously, but he had no doubt she would be able to trace them back to him, or rather, back to several of his aliases. Those aliases, four at least, would have to be disposed -if he even have the opportunity to do so- but it was definitely a small price to pay.
Dropping his gaze to his wrist, Finch rubbed the red marks absently, waiting for them.
Chapter 5: The Prospect of an Unexpected Ally
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair..."
Finch muttered the words quietly to himself, his eyes closed.
Seeking solace in the wise words of his beloved books was something he had learned a long time ago, almost since he was a child; reading while other children played At times reciting the words he knew by heart, always in an attempt to drift his mind to more pleasant places and away from his distresses.
After his accident, his mind's longing to drift away become stronger, and without Nathan, his only friend, the only way to alleviate his pain, both physical and mental, was turn to his books; those that had always been at his side. He still used to read at night when the pain was so severe he could only lie still in bed, in a generally futile attempt to decrease the aching sensation running through his whole body. He even had done it a few times when he and Reese were working and he couldn't afford the luxury of taking any medication. It did not made the pain to go away entirely, never did, but it helped. Just slightly.
"...we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other wayin short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evi-"
Finch stopped mid-sentence when the sound of the door opening filled the small room. He waited, listening for the sound of Root's heels; a sound that had already become distinctive of her visits, but it didn't came. Instead he heard the soft sound of footsteps.
It was one of them.
By them he was referring to two men with whom he had interacted. And he was using the word 'interacted' just because he did not know how else to describe the brief exchanges he had had with both men. The only words he had heard from them were when they asked him whether he needed to use the bathroom, and they certainly did not paraphrase the question quite as politely as that.
Finch assumed it was all part of Root's plan: a silent warning that even if he somehow managed to free himself from his restrictions, he would not be able to escape having the knowledge there were at least two armed man keeping guard behind the door.
The first man was tall, nearly as tall as Mr. Reese, Finch thought, though he couldn't be certain. He was muscular in build and had short, straight dark blonde hair. His dark green eyes were hard, and his attitude almost indifferent toward him and what was happening.
Finch still remembered the first time he had asked for the man's name. The only answer he had received was a mild shove and grunted. "Shut up" But even so, Finch did not believe he was involved in this because he wanted to be. No, Finch was under the impression the man was doing it because he had to, and his reaction to that simple question was due to his fervent desire to have the slightest interaction with him, in an attempt to keep the guilt and remorse tucked deep inside himself, just waiting for this to end.
The other man, Javier he had said was his name, was very similar to the first one, but entirely different at once. He was slightly smaller, both in height and build, but the man was still imposing. With his light brown skin and dark eyes and hair, Finch could tell he was Hispanic. Colombian or perhaps Mexican, he wasn't sure.
The physical differences were not the only ones there was between the two men, though. While the former was cold and seemingly uncaring, Javier was kind and thoughtful; as much as he could be in this situation, of course.
He was cautious of his injuries and always tried to give him the humble, yet meaningful, sign of privacy by turning around every time he needed to use the bathroom. That small gesture meant more to Finch than he could ever articulate; allowing him to have back just a small, yet essential part of the dignity that had been viciously wrested from him from the very first moment Root's gaze had met his own.
It was a more than complex situation, because while he was deeply grateful it wasn't her who had to 'escort' him to the bathroom, it was still highly uncomfortable having the other man inside the bathroom with him.
However, the most pronounced difference, what made him feel slightly less anxious and afraid whenever he was near the man who had introduced himself as Javier -because Finch couldn't be sure that was the man's true name- was that he could feel the men's distress; the deep regret that flashed on his dark eyes every time he looked at him. He was deeply disgruntled with what was happening to Finch, and was ashamed to be taking part in it.
Finch had attempted to obtain answers to what he considered to be simple enough questions, and had received somewhat fragmentary and not quite helpful answers in exchange.
That was certainly better than nothing, though.
Dropping his gaze to the floor, Finch waited to see who was in the room with him this time. Either of the men was significantly better than Root without a doubt, but that of course did not equal both possibilities.
Finch felt himself relax instinctively when he realized it was Javier this time, as the Hispanic man stood in front of him.
"You gotta go?" The man asked quietly, avoiding Finch's eyes.
Finch could feel the color rising in his cheeks, as it always did. For someone as reserved as him, being questioned straight about something so private was highly disgraceful, and even though he had heard it several times already, it still made him feel ashamed.
"Yes. Yes, please." Finch murmured, his lips barely moving.
Javier nodded, walking behind him to work on the rope.
Finch bit his lip, uneasily. This was it. If he didn't do it now, he may not get another opportunity further on. He drew a deep breath, holding it for a moment.
This was what he was good at: words; work with the knowledge he had and letting the rest take its place.
Finch was still struggling to decide how to start when he heard a soft voice in his head, one that sounded uncannily like Mr. Reese's saying 'You need to start, Harold. Now.'
Without wasting more time, Finch said what was in his head at that moment.
"Did she blackmailed you?"
Finch felt the other man's hands go still, but Javier didn't respond. Finch took the lack of response as a good sign, and continued.
"You don't have to answer. I know that's what she does to achieve her goal: she searches for sensitive information on people and then uses it for her own benefit; forcing them to do as she pleases."
Only silence met Finch's words, and after a beat, the work on the rope tying his hands together was resumed.
Finch's stomach clenched. 'What if he had read things wrong? What if he had read too much into the man's behavior? If he had perceived only what he had wanted to?' He closed his eyes.
A couple of seconds passed in utter silence and then, suddenly, Javier's quiet voice was heard.
"She knows I'm here illegally; I have no papers, She said she would tell the cops."
Finch blinked at the sudden revelation, a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. It shouldn't matter to him, that would be just a waste of energy since it wouldn't help the complicated situation he was in, but he did. Somewhere deep down he had hoped both men were involved in this due to something significant; because something truly priceless was in jeopardy, not for something as mundane and frivolous as it was not being deported back to his country.
"I cannot let that happen. I cannot leave mis princesas alone."
Finch's eyebrows drew together as he slowly moved his now free hands forward and let them rest on his lap.
Having finished his work on release Finch's hands, Javier returned to his line of sight, holding the rope between his hands.
"My daughters," the man whispered.
Finch looked up at the man, his frown sinking deeper. "I... I don't understand."
Javier hesitated for a moment, his eyes darting toward the door behind Finch briefly, before finally focusing on Finch's gaze. "My daughters, they... they were born here, in the United States. She- she knows it, she knows everything! Yo... I'm sorry, but I can't leave them here alone. I can't."
Finch felt himself choke a little, an immense guilt washing over him. This was exactly what he had wished for just seconds ago: 'something priceless in jeopardy,' and here was this man, giving him exactly that; the deep distress on his words making Finch's heart clench painfully in his chest.
"I'm deeply sorry."
Javier offered him a sad smile. "Should be me saying that."
Finch shook his head, or tried to, wincing as pain shot through his neck.
"You don't have to. I understand you are on an impossible position Mr...?"
Javier arched an eyebrow at Finch. "Martínez. Are you a professor or something? 'cause you speak kind of weird, dude."
The corner of Finch's lips curled up slightly. "No, I am not, but that specific piece of information has been referred to me several times, Mr. Martínez."
Javier give him a confused look and a half-smile. "I should uh, go on." His voice was uncertain, almost embarrassed as he nodded toward Finch's still tied feet.
Without waiting for an answer he knelt down and began to untie Finch's left foot.
Watching the top of the man's head as he worked on the rope, Finch cleared his throat. "Have you perceived any indication that perhaps the man outside with you is going through the same misfortune?"
Javier stopped working with the rope, his head cocked to the side. "I don't know. He doesn't really talk to me, ya' know? At least not about important stuff. I showed him a picture of my daughters the other day, he watched it for a second and give it back to me without saying anything." He resumed his work on the rope, and added after a moment, "I asked him once if he had any family, but he didn't answer me, so I didn't asked again."
Finch mused about that. It definitely suited his own impression of the man, even though he was aware it could be erroneous. Rubbing his wrist absently, Finch started planning his next move. While he was fairly certain what Javier had told him was true, he wasn't entirely sure he could trust the man just yet. The safety of one's family was perhaps the most powerful reason to commit a crime or a wicked action, and that was exactly with what he was grappling here.
He had to consider his next move thoroughly; consider every angle and potential outcome. This could very well be his first and only possibility to get out of here, or at the very least help Reese to find him.
Just as Javier was finishing untying the rope around Finch's feet there was a knock on the door, causing both men to jump, startled.
Javier stood up quickly, throwing aside the ropes. "We have to go out now."
Absently Finch complied, standing up. He had plenty to think about and the sooner he could be left alone, the fast he could concentrate on it.
Chapter 6: What Lies Behind
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Finch looked at the woman before him, his expression sober. Root's clothes were immaculate and with her black hair neatly fixed, she contrasted greatly with his own appearance. His usually impeccable suit was wrinkled and covered with dust, the knot of his tie loosed and skewed to one side. Furthermore, without having been able to take a proper bath for a pronounced amount of time, and with his growing beard visible, he could only dread what kind of disheveled appearance he presented at the moment.
Head cocked to the side, Root smiled faintly. "I understand you're a little bit... apprehensive about consenting to what I'm asking you. Maybe you even see it as a failure. But it's not, Harold, I assure you."
'Here we go again,' Finch thought tiredly to himself as he barely held back a sigh. He was sure she wouldn't have appreciated it.
"I know that fooling and kidnapping someone was not a very nice way to introduce myself, but what else was I supposed to do? You are very hard to find, Harold," she said softly, a trace of awe in her voice. "Besides, I don't think your friend John would have let me get close enough to talk to you. He's... well, he seems very protective and paranoid. I guess that's why you chose him, isn't it?"
Finch regarded her with a blank expression, giving nothing away.
Root shook her head softly, her smile widening. "Anyway, I know you don't trust me, and I can't blame you; this whole situation is just crazy, but you need to understand I'm not the villain here; I'm just a stubborn, skilled woman, capable of doing whatever it takes to get what I want. That's not a crime, is it?"
"It is if you hurt or kill innocent people to achieve it."
Root watched him for a long time, a strange mixture of disbelief and pity in her expression. "Not a single one of the people I hurt were innocent. Not one."
Finch shifted in his chair nervously, a chill running down his spine at the cold, sharp tone of her voice. She truly believed the people she had killed deserved it, and they were disposable.
"I know this might make you even more uncertain," Root started after a moment. "but I see no reason to lie to you, Harold. I believe you're one of the few people who truly get it; who understand nothing is ever just black and white, right or wrong. If you didn't, you wouldn't have looked for John; you wouldn't assist him in what he does. You understand sometimes you have to do things that are frowned upon in order to accomplish something."
Finch struggled not to look away, knowing that was exactly the kind of reaction she was expecting from him. He couldn't deny that even with everything he had learned about Mr. Reese, after having worked with him for a significant amount of time, he was still uncomfortable and not entirely pleased with Mr. Reese's methods, even if he knew Reese always attempted to hurt someone as a last resource.
In any case, there was no way Mr. Reese was in the slightest similar to her. The mere idea was just ludicrous.
"Surely the idea that I will kill you once I get what I want from you has crossed your mind, but Harold, that's not going to happen," Root said firmly, emphasizing each word. "I could never kill someone with your knowledge; your skills. I couldn't do it. Furthermore, I would love if you'd accept us to work together."
Finch's head snapped up painfully, his eyes wide open.
Root smiled broadly. "I know this comes out of the blue for you, it could even sound absurd, but the more I've thought about it, the more I am convinced we could do great things together. You could continue saving irrelevant people if you wanted, I could even help you sometimes, or we could bring your friend John if you wanted."
Finch looked at her, a look of disbelief and anger evident on his face. There was definitely something wrong with her mental health, otherwise he couldn't explain how could she even suggest they work together after everything she had done.
Root's smile had vanished, an expression of disappointment on her face. "If you don't want to stay with me, I'm not going to force you to. That would never work. As soon as you tell me everything you know about the system, you can go back to your life."
Root paused for a moment, moistening her lips. "You have no reason to trust me, I know, but to show you I'm being honest with you I'm gonna tell you something no one else knows; at least no one else alive: I'm going to share with you how I learned about the system."
Heart beating faster in his chest, Finch kept a carefully blank expression on his face as he waited for her to start.
Root leaned back in her chair. "I guess I should start for the beginning, right?" She started, her face relaxed into a smile. "Some time ago, I worked for the government." She paused, wrinkling her nose. "Well, kind of. I was more like an outside consultant they called when needed; I got the job done, and they gave me a very generous payment. It was a win win situation, though allowing a civilian to access information and official records wasn't exactly legal, so everything was handled discreetly."
The government's less than legal enlisting of hackers wasn't a secret, no to someone who spent his life immersed in data, like him. Nevertheless, Finch listened attentively to every word she said, hoping for anything that could help him understand with whom he was dealing.
"Anyway, one night I was called by some guy who worked for the NSA. I knew him, I had helped him before, but that time was different; I could tell just by looking at him. He told me about this powerful system being built for the government; a system that was supposed to prevent any attack to the United States. The task had been entrusted to a company: IFT. The owner was this rich guy, Nathan Ingram, I'm sure you've heard of him."
It took Finch all he had not to react when he heard Nathan's name. He took a deep breath, struggling to keep his emotions under control. He did not try to hide his recognition, though. Nathan had been a very public man, so it wouldn't be suspicious he knew of him.
Within seconds, he felt the fear starting to rise: this was exceedingly larger and more severe than what he had first thought. One of the other six people who knew about the Machine -excluding himself and Nathan- had told her about it, and not just the fact it was being built, she had been given far more sensitive information about it. This couldn't be good.
Amid all the panic he was feeling, Finch took a moment to be relieved, because even with all her information she did not knew he had in fact build the machine. That, at least gave Finch some hope of be able to handle things in his favor.
"Apparently," Root continued. "you couldn't control the system. It pointed where to look or what to look into, but you couldn't use it against someone in particular. Weeks wasn't very happy about it, that's why he called me; he wanted me to get into the system and find a way to change that."
Denton Weeks. Alicia Corwin's supervisor. The same man the Machine had designated as a threat to the system during that visit they had done to IFT, after Nathan had given Corwin the fist Social Security Number.
Finch felt like a fool. He should have known someone as hungry for power as Weeks wouldn't settle just with trying to hack into the Machine only via the NSA feeds, but would use other not so honorable methods to do so. People like him always thought they could get whatever they wanted for a price.
"I wasn't sure I really believed him, or even care enough to help him, but it made me curious, so I said yes." Root rubbed a hand over her face. "God, he was so annoying, you wouldn't believe it. He called all the time, wanting to know "how the work was going" and to say he wouldn't give me any money until I "fixed" his problem." She tilted her head, a smile playing on her lips. "I was a little bit more... sympathetic back then, so I just ignored him. It's not as if it was that hard to do."
Root took a deep breath, running a hand over her hair. Her gaze never leaving Finch's face.
"He gave me access to the official feeds, which, though not necessary, made the process quicker. I knew Ingram was very good at his job, but even so, I was highly impressed when I started looking around his system. All of his work was... flawless; the complex coding, the unbreakable firewall... It was the most elaborate and complex system I had ever seen. It truly was a masterpiece."
Root paused and looked at Finch with an almost shy smile. "I'm sorry. It's just that I had never had someone to talk to about all of this before, someone who really understood. It's so exciting, but that can wait, we have plenty of time."
Finch swallowed hard, forcing his mind not to wander into the possibilities of what that could mean for him.
"At the end I couldn't hack into the system, and Weeks went crazy, insulting and threatening me. He told me I was of not use to him anymore and he would ensure I never work with the government." A broad smile slowly spread over her face. "I played my role perfectly, looking like a poor and scared ingénue woman, begging him, telling him I will try harder next time. He said he would give me another chance, just because he liked me, but as soon as he left the place he made a call, telling whoever was on the other line that the issue was finished, and they had to take care of the loose ends."
Watching the pleased and cold look on her face, Finch was certain he knew what had happened then. He swallowed hard.
"He had given me information that only a handful of people were to have, and free access to hack what was the government's more secure and secret system. I knew from the start he wasn't gonna just let me walk away, regardless of whether I managed to hack into it or not, so I was prepared." She started with her voice smooth and dark. "I did a very intensive research on him and found some very interesting and illegal stuff, but more importantly, I found evidence of contact between him and the Chinese government, talking about the exchange of some software. I'm pretty sure it was the system."
Finch disguise his shock behind a carefully designed mask of confusion. He had never heard anything regarding that. Objectively, there was no reason why he would have. The Machine was still being improved and Weeks had already detected as a threat.
"It wasn't hard at all putting into the government's radar all the incriminating information I found on Weeks and they acted quickly and efficiently according to it. He 'disappeared' within a matter of days, and the men he had sent to 'deal' with me stopped looking. I guess they didn't want to get involved in Weeks' mess. " She shrugged indifferently and then added, "After that, I continued working on my own, trying to gain access to system, but with no luck. I considered approach Ingram, and you know, talk to him but I'm sure you heard what happened to him. It's a shame that someone with his skills had died with virtually nobody knowing about his powerful creation."
Finch's heart clench painfully at the thought of her kidnapping Nathan, demanding access to the machine which Nathan could never give her, even if he wanted to.
After hearing all the information Root possessed, Finch watched her; watched the smile on her face and that small spark of insanity always present in her brown eyes, Finch made a decision. He couldn't just stay here, moving carefully around everything she said hoping for the best, or waiting for Reese to appear and save him. He had to start playing his cards; it was time to realize his next move.
This chapter was written before the season premiere, so as you all surely noticed, there are some significant differences with what happened in the episode (which was just AMAZING!, if I might add) As I had said from the beginning, I have fairly clear in my mind where I am going with this fic, and while I may or may not add some details of what will be happening on canon, I'll be following the storyline I had first thought for this fic : )
Chapter 7: A Shining Light of Hope
Finch shifted nervously in his chair as the strong impulse of adjust his glasses, as he always did when he was nervous, filled his head. He wished he could do it, but with his hands tied behind his back, it was impossible.
Ever since his last encounter with Root, and his complete understanding of the larger magnitude of the matter, he had been thinking thoroughly about what he was going to do now; even more thoroughly than he had before.
Undoubtedly, the unique opportunity he have was through Mr. Martinez; Javier, one of the men guarding him in this place.
There was no other way.
He had used every trick, every possible and compelling argument he could think of, all in an attempt to lead Root to believe he didn't know about the Machine; to make her believe his and John's involvement in both situations had been purely incidental.
Finch never, not even for a second, deemed the possibility she might believe what he was telling her and would just let him go. That had never been a realistic possibility, just wishful thinking, but he had hoped to gain time before she reached her breaking point and decided to use more harmful methods to make him confess.
Root had put her own life in jeopardy just to find him and drag him out. She was sure he possessed the information she wanted and could give her access to the Machine, and even if she was right only about the former, she wasn't going to accept that; she wasn't going to accept anything less than what she was asking for, and she would never believe him even if he were telling the truth.
The only reason why he hadn't taken the decision to seek Javier's help until now -what had made him hesitate- was that even after having observed the man closely, even more closely after he had learned about his misfortune and the threat to his daughters made by Root, was that Finch still wasn't quite sure he could trust him. There was something far too important in peril for Javier; significant enough that he might not want to take the risk of being caught by Root, all just for trying to help a man he didn't even knew.
Furthermore, there was a thought lingering in the back of his mind; the kind of thoughts he always wished to dismiss but couldn't, knowing that regarding such thoughts had saved his life more than once. He was afraid that perhaps Javier coming closer to him, being kind and thoughtful, was all some kind of twisted plan devised by Root, all in an attempt to make him feel compassion or perhaps even guilty toward the man's difficult situation and surrender, giving her what she wanted, hoping she would leave him and his daughters alone.
But even with that thought in his head, he still believe that the possibility of success -if the Hispanic man did what Finch asked him- would overcome the risk a failure represented. Besides, he wasn't going to say or ask something that could give Root information or details that would be new to her, or even unexpected, so if Javier informed her about Finch's request Root wouldn't have anything new; only the confirmation that Finch would use any opportunity he had to get out of here.
Taking a deep breath, Finch tried to calm his rising nerves. It shouldn't be so difficult. He just needed to be himself, or as much as he could be; be direct but not raw and be positive but without providing empty promises. He had to make sure Javier fully understand the situation and its possible outcomes and repercussions before he could make a final decision.
The option of asking Javier to help him escape had been dismissed from the beginning. For starters, as much as he had tried, Finch still hadn't managed to get more than two words out of the man that was with Javier at the other side of the door, so the likelihood of a possible cooperation on his part seemed unlikely, if not impossible, assuming those two men were the only ones watching the place and him, which Finch thought was the case, but he couldn't be absolutely sure.
Finch shook himself mentally. The important thing now was what he would say and how he would say it. It wouldn't do any good if he was extremely anxious when he spoke to Javier about this. That would only make the Hispanic man nervous.
In an attempt to relax his stiff posture, caused by both having been sitting in this odd and uncomfortable position for a long time and by his nervousness, Finch closed his eyes, loosening up his shoulders slowly, causing a grimace to appear on his face at the pain the small and controlled motion caused.
Without opening his eyes, Finch took a deep breath, holding it for a moment. He could tell it had worked when he started to feel how the strain on his shoulders was lowered. The strain was still there of course, but it felt better.
In an attempt to stay that way and almost without realizing, Finch started to quote Shakespeare, his voice soft, barely above a whisper, just as he had done before.
He wasn't sure how much time had passed, immersed in the wise, beautiful words in his mind, when the door was finally opened and someone stepped inside; someone he immediately recognized as Javier.
Finch's sense of hearing had always been good, probably to compensate for his poor sight, he supposed. In addition to that, his hearing had developed even further after months working with a man with an odd fascination for lurking and 'sneaking up' on people. Who would have thought all of those annoying times in which Mr. Reese followed him or came out of nowhere trying to catch him by surprise might prove to be useful?
The corner of Finch's lips curled up. That was something he would never repeat out loud, let alone to Mr. Reese.
Unintentionally, that thought helped put Finch more on ease, allowing him to stay calm as Javier came closer.
Without a word, Javier started working on the rope tying Finch's hands, making the billionaire's eyebrows draw together. Something was wrong; something else was wrong. Javier always let Finch know it was him. Whether it was by getting in his line of sight or speaking; it was some kind of a routine the man had adopted.
The rope slipped off Finch's hands, and only a couple of seconds later Javier walked to stand before Finch.
Finch blinked, looking up at the man. He opened his mouth to say something, to ask him what had happened, but then closed it again, watching as the Hispanic man reached inside his jacket pocket.
Heart beating faster, Finch watched as Javier took something round wrapped in a white napkin out of his pocket and handed it to him. He reached out with trembling fingers, took it and cradled it between his hands.
After a moment's hesitation, Finch unwrapped it, finding an appealing shiny red apple. Finch looked back at Javier, a puzzled look on his face.
"I've seen what she gives you to eat," Javier shrugged nonchalantly, "thought you might be hungry."
Finch blinked again, astonished by the man's attempt to appear indifferent at such an action and his attention to detail, as Finch had already assumed Root was feeding him just enough to keep him somewhat 'healthy' physically.
His gaze dropped to the apple in his hand. He truly couldn't remember the last time he had eaten one. Between working with the numbers, and all the work involved in have and maintaining more than enough aliases to not draw any unnecessary attention, he usually ate take-out food, or at some luxurious restaurant if he had to, or if he had the time.
"Thank you." Finch murmured after a moment, realizing he hadn't thanked the man yet. He was about to take a bit but then stopped, remembering there was more pressing matters to attend. Placing the apple carefully over the napkin on his lap, Finch turned back to Javier.
"Were you able to bring what I asked you, Mr. Martinez?"
Javier regarded Finch for a moment, carefully considering his answer, because though what Finch had asked him wasn't something really significant, it still could have a major impact for him in the long term.
After what felt like hours to Finch, Javier finally nodded slightly while reaching into the pocket of his pants and retrieving a small, black notepad and a pencil. After a moment of hesitation, he handed both to Finch, a torn look on his face.
Finch took them between his hands with great care, as if they were the most cherished items for him, and perhaps they were at the moment, representing his greatest opportunity to get out of here.
No having somewhere else to lean, Finch supported the small notebook in the palm of his hand and immediately began to scribble on it.
After reading several times, to be certain he hadn't made any mistakes (that was the last thing he needed) Finch handed it back to Javier.
With a touch of uncertainty, Javier took the notepad back and looked over what Finch had written on it. Eyebrows furrowed deeply, he lifted his gaze back to Finch's.
"Is the phone number, of a friend of mine. He-"
"No." Javier cut him off before Finch could finish. He wasn't yelling, but his voice had raisen notably.
"I can't do that. If she finds out..." Javier trailed off, shaking his head. "I can't take any chances; I cannot risk the safety of my daughters. I'm sorry."
"Mr. Martinez, please," Finch leaned forward, almost unconsciously. "I can't force you to do anything, and quite frankly, is not something I'd be comfortable doing. All I'm asking is for you to hear me out, that's all. Please."
Finch could hear the sound of his heartbeat fast and irregular in his ears as he waited, his gaze not sliding away from Javier's face, not even for a second.
"Okay," Javier said barely above a whisper, nodding ever so slightly.
Finch let out the breath he had been holding, unable to keep hidden the immense relief he was feeling. "Thank you." He murmured, his voice barely covering his immense gratitude. He had to clear his throat to speak.
"That's the number of my friend; his name is John, John Reese. He's a very... skilled and qualified man, but above all, he's a good person. He can help you."
"John can help you. He can protect you and your daughters, perhaps place you somewhere safe."
Javier gave Finch a wary look. "Is he a cop? Cuz I don't wanna mess with cops."
"No, no, he's not, but he can help you. You just need to call and tell him what's happening; tell him that Caroline Turing is blackmailing you."
"Is that her name?"
"No, I don't think it is, but that's the name by which John knows her."
Javier regarded Finch for a long time, his expression sober. "You're telling me that if I help him find you, if I tell him where you are, he's gonna protect us from her?"
"I wouldn't deny it would be extremely helpful and certainly invaluable if you could tell him where to find me, Mr. Martinez, but that's not a condition. Once you are certain that both you and your daughters are safe you may choose to tell John or not, it would be entirely your decision."
Finch notice that Javier did not seem to believe him, at least not entirely, not that he blamed him, of course. All of this was too uncommon to say the least, but even so, Finch continued, not knowing how much longer they had.
"If you decide to call him you have to make sure it's not from your own phone, but rather from a payphone. The farther away from here the better." Watching as the Hispanic man opened his mouth, probably to question him about it, Finch explained it. "I'm almost certain she would be monitoring your phone, listening to any call you realize, to make sure you don't tell anyone about what is happening."
Javier shook his head. "Who are you? And if you know that much about her, why don't you just give her what she wants?"
"Because I can't give her what he wants, to her or anyone else, because she wants something I don't have."
It wasn't a complete lie. She wanted access to the machine, which Finch himself did not have, or could give her even if he wanted to. Not that he ever would, but that was beside the point.
Finch cleared his throat. "I realize that what I'm asking you to do is extremely dangerous, Mr. Martinez, and believe me that if there was any other way I wouldn't even suggest this to you, but there isn't. She's absolutely certain I have what she wants, and wouldn't change her mind no matter how many times I tell her I don't."
"I can't promise you anything," Javier said after a moment.
"I don't expect you to," Finch said quickly, focusing on the fact the man hadn't give him an emphatic no yet. That simple fact gave him hope; hope he hadn't allowed himself to reach. "All I am asking is for you to think about it, that's all."
Watching Javier nod ever so slightly after a moment's hesitation, Finch felt the corner of his lips curl up. Now all he had to do was wait; wait and pray Javier would make the right decision, and something deep down told him he would.
Chapter 8: An Unpleasant Turn of Events
"You know Harold," Root began, slowly circling around him; "I'm getting tired of your lack ofcooperation. I've been nice to you, I've given you the opportunity to be honest with me and you just sit there and keep lying to me."
Finch looked at her out of the corner of his eye as she crouched beside him, almost whispering in his ear.
"That's not very clever of you, Harold."
Finch shuddered. He could hear the smile in her voice.
"I don't have the time to keep playing with you, Harold; and if you can't make the smart decision here, I'm not sure you're as bright as I first thought you were." Root got to her feet and started walking. "I hope they will help you change your mind."
Finch blinked, confused and then- then he saw them. Finch's breath caught in his throat.
Two people, tied to chairs in front of him; a woman and a man, both with black hoods over their heads.
Black suit, white shirt, muscular build, tall... even without seeing his face, Finch was sure it was Reese.
Finch couldn't help but feel a spark of hope, because with Reese here, he was sure that together they could get out of here. They could devise some kind of plan and trick or defeat Root. Together they could do it. He felt a wave of guilty at the thought almost immediately at the thought.
Still stunned, Finch slipped his gaze toward the woman. She was thin and of average height, as far as he could tell. Finch looked at her carefully. The only woman that came to mind related to Mr. Reese and himself was Miss Morgan, but somehow he didn't think it was her; the body shape wasn't right and besides, the women's clothes did not seem like something Miss Morgan would wear; a pair of dark jeans, a simple light green shirt and comfortable dark flat shoes.
The only idea he had was that the woman was a random target; an unknown woman Root had kidnapped and brought here to force them to cooperate with her. Finch's stomach clench at the thought.
Root stood behind them, a broad smile on her face as she watched him.
"I bet you're eager to know who they are, right?" Without waiting for an answer, Root pulled the black hood off the man's head, confirming Finch's suspicions. It was Reese.
Finch winced in sympathy, watching Reese's face. He could see a considerably large bruise starting to appear on his right cheek, the skin there turning a pale purple tone. But that wasn't the only wound Reese's face showed; his left eye was almost completely closed due to the abundant amount of blood that had poured over it from a cut over his eyebrow. The cut did not seemed too big -two inches, maybe three- but the amount of blood still emanating from it was disturbing.
He was gagged, and his piercing gaze was totally focused on Finch's face.
After a moment, Finch had to look away; overwhelmed by the intensity, the almost remorseful look in Reese's eyes.
Root rested her hand over Reese's shoulder, her eyes on Finch's face.
"Your friend here was a little bit too opposite to the idea of come met with you, as I'm sure you've noticed. What do you think that means, Harold?"
Finch returned his gaze to Reese's face. No, he was sure things hadn't been like that. Reese was a fighter; he would have fought against anyone who tried to hurt or capture him, not because he didn't care to find him, but because that's who he was.
Root's smile deflated slightly at Finch's lack of reaction, but reappeared only moments later, even wider.
"But let's leave your friend, John for a moment; I'm sure he wouldn't mind. Right, John?" Root gave Reese's shoulder a little squeeze, getting a muffled growl in response.
Letting out a quiet laugh, Root moved to stand behind the woman and rest both hands on her shoulders, an action that made the woman jump. "Now, Harold, I'm sure you'll be very pleased when you see who she is. You may even thank me for this."
Heart beating faster against his chest, a sickening feeling suddenly emerging in the pit of his stomach, Finch watched as Root reached over to take the hood off.
As soon as Finch saw the first strand of red hair from under the hood, he felt every piece of his world crumble into pieces. He felt as if his heart had stopped abruptly and he couldn't breathe, like he didn't know how to anymore.
Then the hood was removed completely, and Finch met the tearful, terrified eyes of Grace.
Finch watched her face; watched her shock, her pure and utter terror at coming face to face with his dead fiancé.
The tears started falling from her wide green eyes, which in spite of her shock were glued to Finch's face, as if she was afraid he would disappear if she so much as blinked.
Finch started to felt lightheaded, sweat pouring down his forehead.
"Make your fiancée believe you're dead," Root made a disapproving noise. "There easiest and less cruel ways to take someone off the way, Harold. I thought you cared about people."
Finch watched the devastated look that crossed Grace's face; hear the muffled, choked sound that escaped from her mouth as she squeezed her eyes closed.
He felt a painful stab in the heart watching Grace fall apart before his eyes. He wanted to scream, wanted to deny Root's words, tell Grace he had done it to protect her, just to keep her safe. But no words came out, not a single sound as Grace's heartbreaking sobs filled the room.
Frozen, hearing the almost deafening sound of his heartbeats, Finch watched as Root took out her gun and pointed it at Grace's head, a wicked grin lighting her face.
"What are your last words to your beloved fiancé, Harold? Perhaps "I'm sorry I made you believe I was dead all this time while I was playing the hero around New York with a killer?" I think that's rather appropriate, don't you?"
Horrified, Finch watched as Root began to pull the trigger; absently listening to the sound of grunts and heavy breathing as Reese struggle against his restraints.
At the last moment Finch met Grace's eyes, trying to convey all his love, all his regret and his grief at what was happening, trying to beg for forgiveness as he sat here watching how she was going to be killed without doing anything to help her, to save her...
Finch was startled by a noise, but not the sound of a gunshot, or at least it hadn't sounded like one to him.
Eyes flying open, Finch immediately looked around, dreading to find Grace's lifeless body, but he didn't. He didn't find Grace or John, only the same empty chair that had been there from the first time he had woken up.
Finch let out a shaking breath. It had been a dream, just that. A terrifying, dark dream. He closed his eyes, noticing for the first time how fast his heart was beating and the frightening feeling he didn't have enough air to breathe. It wasn't strange, considering how real and horrifying his dream had felt.
He struggled to take deep, calming breaths, attempting to convince himself over and over that it hadn't been real, that Grace was safe, and John was... God only knew if John was safe, but at least he wasn't here.
Finch missed the sound of heels hitting against the concrete floor, and wasn't made aware of Root's presence until she spoke, standing beside him.
"Good morning, Harold," Root paused for a moment, perceiving his agitated state. Head tilted to to the side, Root watched him. "You had a nightmare. I know the signs when I see them. Do you want to talk about it?"
Finch couldn't stop himself from lifting his gaze; too angry and disgusted to cover the glare he was giving her.
Root shrugged nonchalantly, ignoring Finch's reaction. "Your choice."
She stood before him, just a couple of inches away from touching Finch's knees with hers, a bright smile on her face.
"I hope you were able to get some sleep, Harold, because we have a big day ahead." As soon as she finished speaking, Root pulled out a small pocket knife and flicked it open, holding it before Finch, but without making any threatening moves.
Eyes widening at the sight before him, Finch tried instinctively, but uselessly, to pull back; to get away from her. The back of the chair against his back was making it impossible.
"I'm not planning to hurt you, Harold. I've told you before, that's not why I brought you here."
Finch didn't answer or acknowledge what she said. Even if she was telling the truth (which Finch didn't believe) he had noticed the wicked glint that appeared in her eyes at his reaction. She had anticipated he would react that way and even so had pulled the knife suddenly. That could only meant she had been, to some extent, awaiting for that reaction.
Root rested her free hand on Finch's knee, using it as a support as she crouched down slowly. In a matter of seconds, she cut the rope tying Finch's feet and stood up quickly, walking behind him without a word.
"I'm getting a little bored of this place. I think we need a nicer one, don't you think?"
Finch stomach dropped as his mind filled with worried thoughts. He didn't believe in coincidences, never had, and he was certain Root's suddenly idea to take him someplace else, just days after he had provided Mr. Reese's phone number to Javier wasn't one.
Considering this, it was possible to assume Javier had made the call and made contact with Mr. Reese. So either Reese had been able to get the Hispanic man and his daughters to safety or Root had found out what Javier had done and... Finch closed his eyes. He wasn't sure if he could ever forgive himself if something bad had happened to them.
"I have the perfect place already set for us, Harold." Root started, efficiently releasing Finch's hands. "We'll have to take a small road trip but I'm sure you'll like it, and if you act nicely I can give you a much more comfortable place to stay."
After pocketing the knife, Root walked to stand in front of him, the gun in her hand.
"I'm sure that chair is not very comfortable for you, Harold. Your back must be killing you. I can make it better, but only if you don't cause me any troubles."
Without waiting for an answer, Root just waved the gun in her hand at him. "Okay, let's go."
After a moment's hesitation Finch did as he was told, holding back a groan as he took the first step; the pain in his leg too strong to be overlooked. He made his way slowly and Root thankfully did not forced him to walk faster. Taking advantage of it, Finch looked around, finding no signs indicating Javier or the other man were in the place.
As the panic about the welfare of both men rose, Finch took a deep breath and tried to think straight. If Javier had contacted Mr. Reese and told him about this place, the ex-CIA agent would surely be on his way here. Root was extremely clever and cautious, so Reese most likely would miss them, and was highly unlikely he would find anything that could indicate Root and him had been here.
Finch pursed his lips, too deep in thought to notice the gun pressed against his back. He had to let Reese know he had been here; that he was going in the right direction, and not just chasing shadows, but how...?
Finch made a quick mental note of what he could use. It had to be something big, otherwise it would be difficult to find, even for Reese, with the floor covered with dirt and all kind of garbage. His phone would have been the first choice, but who knows where it was. His watch was ideal, too, but touching his wrist he verified he didn't have it with him anymore.
He began to panic and a feeling of helplessness consumed him as they approached to the door. He was running out of time.
Then his eyes fell to his red pocket square in his jacket.
Finch barely kept a sigh of relief, the corner of his lips curling up. It was perfect. The color would make it easy for Reese to find it and it was so insignificant Root probably wouldn't notice that it was missing. And even if she did, it wouldn't seem as something important.
Quietly putting his hands in front of himself, Finch waited a moment and then slid his left hand across his chest, toward his jacket pocket. Once he reached it, Finch started pulling at the soft fabric, catching it securely between his fingers. The pocket square clutched tightly in his hand, Finch slowly and quitely slid his hand down.
Finch closed his eyes in relief, using his free hand to hide the pocket square fully in his left hand. Finch confirmed it was just as they reached the door.
Root walked to stand beside him, opening the door and nodding for him to step out. "You go first."
Finch squeezed his left hand a second before opening it, dropping the red pocket square without looking down, not wanting to attract Root's attention to it.
The bright sunlight made Finch blink, and it took him a couple of seconds to adjust his eyes to it. Hearing the door being pulled closed just seconds later, and without receive any complaint or threat from Root, Finch let out the breath he had been holding.
"Alright, let's go to our new home, Harold."
Chapter 9: The Long and Winding Road
Blurrily, Finch watched as Root pulled off the road beside what looked like a small diner, though in his current condition Finch couldn't be sure.
He had tried to keep a mental count of how long they had been on the road, which had proved to be challenging with Root talking spontaneously every now and then (especially when she had mentioned Nathan and IFT) but even so, Finch could tell they had been on the road for about two hours, and thanks to the position of the sun he could tell they were traveling East.
That information wasn't really helpful since he had no idea where he had been before, but it was something.
Root parked beside one of the only two cars in the place, turning off the engine before turning to face Finch.
"I don't know about you, Harold, but I'm starving."
Finch swallowed. He was very hungry. The last thing he had eaten had been a piece of baguette with cheese and ham what felt almost like a whole day ago, but even so, Finch did not acknowledge Root's words or even turned to met her gaze; not that he would have been able to really look at her without his glasses on anyway.
As soon as both got inside the car she had "asked" him to remove his glasses and give them to her. He hadn't wanted to, of course; knowing without them he wouldn't be able to see anything, but he had not really had a choice in the matter and as soon as Root had told him he would have to go in the trunk if he didn't do what she said, Finch had complied; handing her his glasses apprehensively. That had been yet another piece of proof of just how helpless he was.
It was sufficiently undesirable knowing that even if he had a chance to get away it was very likely he wouldn't make it because of his limp, but now he was too aware of the fact all she had to do to keep him in place was take off his glasses, leaving him in a blurry, almost dazed state.
Of course, thinking about his own shortcomings led him to think of Mr. Reese and how if the situation were opposite, the other man wouldn't have any problem getting himself out of it and away from Root's clutches.
It was strange, because he never -not even once- had longed or wished for Reese's life. It could seem preposterous, since Reese was everything he was not; he was tall, strong, skillful, charming, of good appearance and with an enviable self-confidence; he was able to get out of any situation, using physical force or just his natural charm. Of course behind all that was another side, the dark and painful one, that had left Reese feeling he was not worth saving; was not worthy of anything but misery and grief.
He was brought out of his thoughts by Root's voice.
"You have been too quiet, Harold. Perhaps having breakfast will change that."
"Here," Root said after a moment, reaching inside her jacket pocket, pulling Finch's glasses out and handing them to him. "You are going to need your glasses back for this."
Finch turned right away, clumsily snatching the glasses out Root's hands and placing them back on his face, letting out a sigh of relief as the blurry world around him came back into focus. The lenses were a little dirty -fingerprints all over them- but as long as he could see again, that was unimportant.
"Thank you," Finch murmured after a moment, without meeting Root's gaze. Thanking her for give him his glasses back after she herself had taken them away left him with a sickening feeling in the pit of his stomach, but he truly was grateful to have them back.
A wide smile spread across Root's face; a spark in her eyes. "You're welcome, Harold. And, if you act nicely, I might consider letting you keep them."
Finch eyed her out the corner of his eye, without saying anything.
"Of course you need to know what you can't do first, right?" Root tilted her head to the side. "You're a smart man, so I guess 'don't try to escape or tell anyone what is happening' is clear enough, right? So let's move to the next point; You're gonna go along with anything I say or do, because if someone in there starts to get suspicious I will have to kill him and, of course, killing someone will attract other people's attention, so I will have to kill them all."
Finch's eyes widened behind his glasses while watching her with a horrified expression on his face.
"It's all up to you, Harold. I don't plan to kill anyone unless I have to, and that depends on how good you are at performing and going along with me. It's rather simple, actually."
Finch pressed his lips into a tight line, suddenly losing his appetite. None of this was simple. None.
Root smiled. "I think we are good to go. Right?"
Finch nodded slightly. He would try to comply with her request, but if he came across a major opportunity to escape or obtain help, he would take it. There was no question about that.
"Great! Wait here."
Root get out of the car and rushed to the other side, opening the door for Finch.
Finch slowly climbed out the car. Looking around he found the site was deserted. Apart from the diner and the cars outside he couldn't see anything else, just the road.
Head tilted, Root eyed him thoughtfully.
"Take off your jacket."
Finch eyes snapped back at her, his expression puzzled. "What?"
Root ginned. "Don't look at me like that, Harold. I'm not trying to strip you or anything. Your jacket is covered in dust and would draw attention, that's all."
Relaxing immediately with her explanation, Finch proceeded to take off his jacket and hand it over to Root, who took it without a word, looking him over.
"Hmm, your pants are dirty too, but taking them off is not an option, so I think you are ready."
Root threw Finch's jacket on the seat and then closed the door, turning to look at Finch. "Okay, let's go."
As they walked toward the door Root took Finch by the arm, startling him; his steps faltering slightly as he struggled not to try to get away from her touch.
Root learned in, almost whispering in his ear. "Play along, remember? I hope you are better inside, for their sake."
They reached the door and stepped inside, walking shoulder to shoulder.
Finch quickly scanned the place; it was virtually empty, as he had expected, considering how desolate the location was. Besides the two waitresses Finch could see standing behind the counter and the cook Finch assumed had to be back there too, there were only two people in the place, a young couple sitting near the entrance, chatting quietly among themselves. Travelers, Finch assumed, for their appearance and carefree attitude.
Root led them both to one of the tables at the back of the place where they sat opposite to each other.
Glad to have something to do, one of the waitress walked toward them, a friendly smile on her face. "Good morning, here are your menus," She handed them both menus, receiving a wide smile from Root and a quite thank you from Finch. "Can I get you something to drink?"
"I'll have coffee, thank you." Root replied gently, smile still on place.
"And you, sir?"
Finch blinked at her, watching Root's smile take a wicked turn, just for a second, out of the corner of his eye.
"Remember what the doctor said, honey; no more coffee for you," Root turned to the waitress, her voice friendly. "My husband is addicted to coffee. If I weren't around, he would drink coffee all day."
The waitress gave Root a polite smile, clearly not interested in hearing what she was saying.
Finch's eyes widened; his mouth hanging open for a moment before he remembered Root's warning. He cleared his throat, forcing a smile on his face.
"I... of course, of course I remember. I-"
"We have orange juice," The waitress provide him after a beat, sensing his discomfort. "I think we have carrot and cranberry juice too, but since most people order coffee I'm not sure. Sorry."
Finch sighed in relief, giving the waitress -Juliet, according to her tag name- a grateful look. "Orange juice is okay. Thank you."
Juliet nodded, giving Fincha genuine smile, before walking away from the table.
"I see you are not very good improvising, Harold." Root murmured as soon as the waitress was far enough away. "I guess that's your friend John's task; fooling people, pretending to be someone else, all while you hide behind a screen somewhere."
Finch licked his dry lips, avoiding Root's gaze. That had been too close. The image of Root taking out her gun and shooting the young woman had flashed before his eyes, leaving him paralyzed. He wouldn't let that happen.
Before Root could say anything else the waitress returned with their drinks. She placed the coffee cup in front Root and the glass of juice in front of Finch in one quick motion.
"Are you two ready to order or would you like more time?"
Root laughed quietly, turning toward her. "I think we might need a little more time."
Juliet nodded. "I'll be just over there. Call me when you are ready to order."
Root reached for her cup, taking a sip of her coffee. "She's nice, don't you think?" Absently, she opened her menu.
Finch slowly followed suit without really looking the menu before him.
Root lifted an eyebrow. "Well, the food doesn't sound as bad as I thought. Llet's hope it's at least edible."
After a moment Root called for the waitress, who came to the table within seconds.
"Are you ready to order?" She asked, her pad and pen ready.
"Yes we are. I'll have French toast, please."
The girl nodded, scribbling on her pad. After a moment the waitress looked at Finch, waiting for his order. "And you, sir?"
Startled, Finch looked at her, his brow furrowed. He recovered quickly this time though, giving her a tight smile. "I'll have the same, thank you."
"I'll bring your food shortly." Juliet said after doing a little note on her pad, and then walking away.
Root rested her elbows on the table, leaning forward. "You are doing it better. That's good."
Finch looked at her out of the corner of his eye, then lifted his glass after a moment and brought it to his lips.
"I think we should have done this before; a change of scenery. I don't like being in the same place for a long time, you know? It becomes tedious and boring." Root's voice was smooth; her expression relaxed, as if she were talking about something ordinary, mundane even.
Finch was silent for a moment, watching toward the counter to make sure the waitress wasn't coming at the moment, before turning his gaze back at Root, his expression sober.
"What did you do to them?" Finch voice was low, his tone hard.
Root arched an eyebrow, her head tilted. "Who?"
"The men at that place; those who held guard behind the door."
Finch tried to keep a blank mask over his face, not wanting to give anything away in case Root truly didn't know about Javier and what Finch had asked him.
There was a flick of something flashing over Root's face, but was gone too soon, leaving Finch unable to recognize what it was: Anger, satisfaction, surprise? Finch was not sure, and it frustrated him, having lost what he's certain was an important clue. But before he has time to beat himself over it, Root spoke again, her tone smooth, almost predatory.
"They served their purpose and were no longer of use to me anymore. They were loose ends. Disposable."
Chapter 10: Standing Against the Flood
" They served their purpose and frankly were no longer of use to me anymore. They were loose ends. Disposable."
Finch's stomach dropped, and it took him a moment to be able to speak and ask the question he was dreading the answer to.
"Did you... did you kill them?"
Root didn't answer; at least not immediately. Head tilted slightly, she looked thoughtfully at him, a flicker of surprise crossing her face for a second.
"You're worried about them." It was a statement, not a question. "You're worried about the people working for me; the men who helped me keep you locked up."
Finch remained silent, allowing her to draw her own conclusions, his gaze never wavering from her face.
Root rested her face on her hand, looking at him almost appreciatively.
To anyone who looked, there would be nothing wrong or even unusual. Root was extremely gifted at pretending; leading people to see or think what she want them to. Of course, they weren't seeing that insane glint in her eyes or that wicked smile on her face; the same she had used when she had threatened everyone in this place.
"How your mind works is truly a mystery to me, Harold. I knew from the moment I first knew about you that you were different; special, I just never imagined how much." Root wetted her lips, flicking her gaze toward the counter. "For me, people have always been boring, predictable, flawed. It's no one's fault, I guess; we are all flawed from the start by design. It doesn't matter who or what you are, everyone always falls into the same category. Always. No one is innocent in this world anymore, no one is pure."
Finch watched her intensely, feeling that for the first time since the day she had kidnapped him he was seeing the real person behind the façade; who Root truly was.
Root leaned back on her seat, reaching for her cup and taking a sip of her coffee.
"People are weak, easy to manipulate, and everyone is capable of hurting someone, even family or friends, if there is some kind of reward for them." She paused, looking through the window of the diner. "Something I learned a long time ago is that there's no one to trust; there are no friends, only people who want the opportunity to see your weaknesses and find out how to use them for their own benefit."
A smile slowly came over her face as she turned her gaze back to Finch's.
"But you, Harold, you don't fit in the same category, do you? Or at least, you are trying to make me think you don't. Why? Why do you even bother asking me what happened to them? You don't know who they were, they could have been criminals, murderers, thieves, rapists..."
Root trailed off and even if Finch had wanted to answer he couldn't, because the waitress chosee that exact moment to bring over their food, entirely oblivious of the tense conversation she had just interrupted.
Finch and Root thanked her as she quickly placed the plates in front of them, along with cutlery, a bottle of maple syrup, and butter. He took advantage of that moment to consider Root's wording carefully. She had referred to them in past tense, but had not outright confessed to killing them. That did not give him a definitive answer, but at least allowed him to keep the hope they were alive, at least until he had a stronger inkling otherwise.
"Enjoy your meal," Juliet said smiling politely before walking away.
As the delicious scent of food filled his nostrils, Finch's mouth watered and his stomach growled, his appetite returning with a vengeance. Finch eyed the food, but did not touch anything, even though he wanted to.
Root put the white napkin on her lap, reaching for the fork. "Let's see if this food is any good." She cut a piece of French toast with the fork and brought it to her lips. She swallowed it and grabbed a napkin to wipe her mouth. "Not bad."
Finch watched her without moving for a moment, astonished she could just forget entirely the conversation they were having and enjoy the food. It sickened him.
Root raised her gaze, finding her dinner companion wasn't eating. She arched an eyebrow. "You are not going to make me eat alone, are you? That's not very polite, Harold."
After a second, Finch tentatively took and placed the napkin on his lap, hesitating before taking his fork.
Once he took the first bite his hunger took care of any hesitation left, making him almost mechanically cut and put pieces of French toast in his mouth. Finch couldn't help but acknowledge how good it felt to eat like this again: sitting at a table and using utensils instead of his bare hands.
"It shouldn't surprise me, I suppose," she started after a while, "since you seem to have a soft spot for criminals."
Finch stopped chewing, his eyes flying to Root's face.
"John," Root simply stated, her voice calm.
Finch barely stopped himself from blinking at the mention of Reese.
"If someone knew who your friend really is, what he's done..." Root trailed off, shaking her head. "I doubt any average person would endure even being near him, but you, Harold, you surprise me. Again. You know the kind of monster he is -you can't not know- and yet you not only are near him, but you trust him. How can someone with your knowledge, your intelligence, trust such unpredictable and deadly person?"
Root's inquisitive gaze on his face demanded an answer, as she subconsciously leaned forward.
Finch had to force himself to loosen his tight grip on the fork in his hand, struggling not to react to her words. He wanted nothing more than to deny her accusations, tell her she doesn't know anything, not a single thing, about John and who he truly is, but he doesn't.
Hastening to John's defense, though, seemed the proper thing to do, like something he had to do, would also let Root know he cares for the other man, or confirm it if she already thought so, and that's something Finch don't want to risk happening. So he just sat there, an almost uninterested look on his face, waiting for Root's next move.
The look on Root's face is bewildered and Finch feels a swell of smugness, because just like he thought, she had been waiting for a more severe reaction.
Root looks at him for a long time, but if she's angry or frustrated she don't show it; the calm and steady expression never leaving her face.
"Aren't you afraid, Harold? Of what he could do to you, of what he's capable of? I read about the unfortunate fate his old partner in the CIA had at John's hands. If he did that to a trained CIA agent, what makes you think he wouldn't do something similar to you? Anyone in their right mind would be terrified of him," Root paused and if Finch did not knew better, he would say she was actually concerned about him. "The question is: Why aren't you?"
Finch shifted his gaze away from Root's face for a moment. He knew he couldn't keep ignoring Root's questions any longer. He was even a little surprised she had allowed him to do it in the first place, but he did not wanted to risk angering her, especially in this place where she could take out her anger on these people.
Taking a deep breath he slid his gaze back to Root's face, resigned.
"I was afraid of him when I first met him," Finch watched the thrilled gleam in Root's eyes as he started. "I was afraid of who I thought he was, of what the data, the CIA, had made me believe he was."
Root arched an eyebrow. "People lie, Harold, data doesn't."
Finch shook his head. "Data can lie if it had been altered by people."
"You may have a point there, Harold, but does that make your friend John an honest, good person? Can you honestly say he hasn't hurt someone since he's with you? Killed someone? Or do you think that, just because he's helping you save people, that magically erases all the terrible things he has done?"
To make her understand, Finch would have tell her things he could not say; and even if he did, he did not think she would. Her lugubrious view of the world and the people in it would make it impossible.
"No, I do not," he starts after a moment. "but Mr. Reese has given me more than enough reason to trust him."
Root gave him an intriguing look; like she wanted to question him further on it, but was not really motivated to do so, or did not consider it worth the effort. Either way, Finch was relieved when Root let go of the issue and went back to eating her breakfast.
They finished breakfast without any more inquiries from Root, and once there were only crumbs on his plate, Finch took the napkin and wiped his mouth with it.
Finch was about to reach for his glass when he watched Root take out her phone. She looked at the screen for a moment and Finch did not miss the way her grip on the phone tightened, and the frankly furious expression that flickered over her face.
She sent a quick reply to whatever the message was, and then put the phone away, reaching for her refilled coffee cup.
Finch quitely leaned back on his seat. It seemed something wasn't going according to the plan. Finch's heart give a little jump in his chest at the idea that maybe Reese had something to do with it. He didn't know- he couldn't know for certain, unless... Out of the corner of aneye Finch watched as the cook left the kitchen, exchanging a few words with the waitresses at the counter before walking away to where Finch assumed was the bathroom.
Finch flickered his gaze back to Root and was positively surprised, because she did not seem to have noticed the movement, her gaze glued to the screen of her phone again.
The billionaire adjusted his glasses, nervously clearing his throat. "I, uh, I need to use the restroom," Finch mumbles awkwardly, heart beating fast in the chest.
Root arched her eyebrows, a wide smile on her face. "Of course you do, Harold. Just remember what will happened if you try something," She threw a meaningful glance toward the pocket of her jacked where Finch knew she kept her gun.
A shiver ran through his whole body, but Finch forced himself to nod and rise from the table before he could change his mind, and limped toward the bathroom.
Just as Finch stepped inside, the short, slightly corpulent man is about to leave, and Finch stood before him.
"Uh, excuse me."
The man took a step to the right, seeing Finch was not about to move, but the billionaire stopped him.
"I need to borrow your cell phone for a moment. It's an emergency."
The man eyed him warily, as if he was trying to decide if it was some kind of joke or if he should just shove him aside and be over with it.
"Sure pal, whatever you say."
Finch got in the way of the man again as he tried to leave.
"Look, man, ain't gonna help you, so you better get outta my way."
Hopeless, Finch tried to think of something to give in exchange to the man, since he didn't seem to have the slightest interest in helping him. Almost without realizing it, Finch shoves his hands in his pants' pockets, and is surprised to find what feels like paper in one of them, but he's almost certain is not. Could it be...?
Finch pulled it out. Money.
Without hesitation, Finch handed the money to the man without even looking at how much it was. "I only need to make a call. You can take this money. Please."
The man looked from him to the money. "Are you serious? There's like a hundred dollars there."
"Yes, you can keep it, I just need to make a call. Please." Finch didn't even try to hide his despair. He knew all too well he was losing valuable time right now trying to convince this man. He could not fail.
"Man, for that money you can keep it if you want," The man finally replied, pulling out a small, old cell phone from his pocket and handing it to Finch.
Finch almost snatched it out the man's hands, and shoved the bills in his hand, without taking his eyes away from the phone.
Without even counting the money, the man shoved it into his pocket, as if he was afraid Finch would change his mind, and immediately started walking toward the door.
"Thank you," Finch murmured as the man reached the door and he heard it close behind him.
With trembling fingers, Finch dials the familiar number, raising the phone to his ear. He held his breath as the dial tone sounded sone, twice, three times. Then he heard a familiar breathing on the other side of the line.
"John," Finch whispered, barely audible; his voice caught in his throat.
Chapter 11: A Voice in the Dark
"John," Finch whispers barely audible, his voice caught in his throat.
Finch could hear him inhale a surprised, sharp breath at the other end of the line.
"Finch," Reese murmured, a touch of relief evident in his voice.
Finch thought he heard a muffled voice in the background talking. Reese didn't reply to whoever it was and when he spoke again he sounded more like himself.
"Are you okay, Finch? Where are you?"
"I'm... I'm not hurt," Finch settled for an answer after a moment, knowing that was the essential thing for Reese to know. He knew the ex-operative would notice the clear avoidance in his words, but he frankly couldn't force himself to say he was okay.
Finch's brow furrowed as soon as his lethargic brain took into consideration the second question. He had no idea where he was, but he could have asked the cook before he left. Why didn't he? What was the point of calling Reese if he couldn't even tell him where he was?
The billionaire shook his head, trying to clear his mind. "I'm here, I... I don't know where I am." Finch rubbed his forehead in frustration. "I'm at a diner at the side of the road, but I don't know where. She, uh, she took my glasses and I- I couldn't see where she was driving. I'm sorry."
"That's okay, Harold," Reese's smooth voice reassured him, and Finch heard what he thought were rushed footsteps in the background. "Where is she?"
Finch's eyes immediately shot back to the door, alert. After he was sure there was no one there, he let out a relieved sigh.
"She's outside. I'm in the bathroom."
Reese didn't say anything for a second, and Finch could almost picture him; his brows into a frown of deep thought, eyes hard, thinking, considering every option.
"Do you have any idea how long you traveled?"
"About two hours, I think. East." Finch answered immediately, knowing he couldn't afford to waste even a second.
Finch hear Reese repeat East muffled, before the man's voice returned to the phone. "Harold... I found your pocket square."
Finch squeezed his eyes shut, tightening his grip on the phone. He didn't know what to say, what to think. While he had hoped, wished, Reese found the place, even after Root took him out of there, it was entirely different knowing he did it as a fact.
The tumult of emotions raging inside made him feel light-headed, and he could feel his heart beating almost painfully fast against his chest.
Finch was pleased, because now he's fully certain Reese was looking for him, and in the right place. But then there was a feeling of bitterness clouding it, because if he had delayed their departure, if he had done something, anything, that would have retained them more time in that place, he would have allowed Reese the time for get there, and he would have found them.
He would be safe- safe and away from her. Free.
Finch bit his lip, trying to stop a sound threatening to escape from his throat. A cry? A gasp? He was not sure. The only thing he knew was that he was not going to let it out.
There was a small part of his brain whispering that if Root knew there was a possibility Reese could find them, it wouldn't have mattered. Anything he tried would have failed. She would have gotten him out of there, anyway. But Finch plainly ignored that at the moment.
Finch heard Reese distantly calling his name, so he took a shaking breath and forced his eyes open.
"I knew you would find it." He whispered softly.
There were a dozen questions hovering in his head. He wanted nothing more than to ask Reese each one of them, and not stop until he knew everything, but he didn't have the time. He had to get out of there and back to Root before she suspected something, if she doesn't suspect it already.
"I have to go."
Subconsciously his grip on the phone tightened. That was the last thing he wanted to do: break the fragile connection he had been able to establish with Reese after all this time; taking away the reassuring, calming sound of Reese's voice in his ear.
Dimly, Finch wondered if Reese had ever felt that way too. Maybe.
"Wait." Reese called with an almost commanding tone, distracting Finch from his current line of thought. "I'm going to find you, Finch."
There wasn't even the slightest wave in Reese's smooth, deep voice. Finch knows that voice. It was the same one Reese used with the people they tried to help -the Numbers- when he promised he would protect them, that they would be okay, except... Finch was not sure if he's imagining it or its really there, but he perceived a warmer touch in his words; his promise.
Finch swallowed hard. "Goodbye, John."
Without waiting for an answer, Finch ended the call, cradling the phone between his hands. He only allowed himself a couple of seconds to calm down, drawing deep calming breaths.
Once his mind was at least partially centered, Finch focused on what he was going to do now. The billionaire looked at the phone in his hand with extreme attention. The cook said he could keep it, and he knew that if he did, it might help Reese find him. Tracking the Wi-Fi spots stored on the phone's memory, though, could prove challenging without a system like his, Finch had no doubt Reese could do it, or he could even seek the Detectives' help. That would give the other man a fairly concrete indication of where he was being held. Of course it all depended on his ability to keep the phone with him without Root noticing.
He concluded it was worth the risk.
After placing the cell phone on silent mode, Finch slowly crouched down, pulling at his pant leg and holding it up with one hand, while he carefully dropped the phone into his sock with the other one. The phone in place, he pulled the sock up his calf far as he could.
That was the best place to hide it he could think of, and he was most certain it would be quite difficult, if not impossible, for Root to find it there.
Letting go of the pant leg, Finch made sure it was straight, without anything that could suggest he had moved it, before he strated walking back to the door.
As he was about to step out, a frightening thought runs through his mind. What if Root already knows what he did? While he don't think he's been in there for too long, he didn't exactly asked the cook to be discreet about it. Though he assumed being asked privately would have been a tremendous hint.
Finch's gaze remained fixed to the door. There's a possibility -a significant possibility- that Root was waiting for him come out to start shooting everyone; wanting him to watch it all.
He took a deep breath, fists clenched at his side. In any case he can't stay in here anymore. He lifted his chin, level and steady, before stepping out.
The first thing he did is shoot his gaze to where Root was. She sat quietly drinking her coffee, but as soon as he came into her line of sight she looked at him, a smile quickly spreading across her face.
As limped back to the table. he looked around out of the corner of his eye, without noticing anything significantly different.
The other waitress, a woman in her early forties with brown hair and warm hazel eyes, stood at the table of the traveling couple, speaking amiably with them.
Finch quietly looked toward the counter. The waitress who served them was there, absently flipping through a magazine. She looked up and give him a friendly smile as he walked past her, and Finch couldn't help but offer her one of his own, quickly, before he reached to were Root was.
Without a word, Finch sat with his hands folded on the table.
Root arched an eyebrow. "You took a little bit too long in there, don't you think? I was afraid you would try something... interesting."
"The conditions of the bathroom were frankly distasteful," Finch said in response, wrinkling his nose slightly. The truth is, he hadn't even taken a look around the bathroom, but he hoped that answer would be good enough for her.
Root tilted her head to the side and didn't say anything for a moment. Finally, the corners of her mouth curled up.
"I guess this is a good time to apologize for the poor conditions of that warehouse. I suppose you're not used to being in such ungraceful places."
Finch looked at her, but was unable to cast the glare he would have liked to give her; the relief at her apparent lack of acknowledgment, or at least suspect of what he just did, making it impossible.
Much to Finch's nervousness and fear, they did not leave the diner immediately. It wasn't until around fifteen minutes later that Root finally called the waitress over and asked for the bill. By the time she did so, the travelling couple had already left, leaving them alone in the place, aside from the staff.
Absently, Finch heard as Root praised the food of the place and promised the waitress they would be back the next time they traveled around the area again. It was almost frightening the way she could hide her true self behind a warm smile and her innocent eyes, just like she had done with Mr. Reese.
Finch risked a glance toward the waitress and was surprised by what he found. There was an almost imperceptible touch of coldness in her light blue eyes, and her expression was one of mild politeness.
It was almost as if she could see behind the façade Root had created for herself; as if she could perceive the malice, the insanity, barely scratching the surface.
Finch wasn't naïve as to exclude entirely the idea that perhaps he was reading too much into those small details, that perhaps he was only seeing what he wanted to see -someone else whom could see what he could- all in an attempt to reassure himself that the woman he was seeing, the hidden one, the woman that only showed small gleams of insanity to him, was real.
The next words that came out the waitress mouth, soft and friendly, were addressed to him, taking him by surprise.
"What about you, sir? Were you pleased with your food too?"
Finch blinked a couple of times, his brow furrowed slightly for a moment.
"I- Yes, of course. It was delicious; thank you."
Juliet offered him a bright smile. "I will let the cook know you both enjoyed the food." She turned to Root, nodding shortly. "I'll get your change immediately."
Finch watched as the waitress walked away, puzzled at just what exactly had happened.
"Well, look at that," Root started, her voice full of amusement. "It seems you have an admirer, Harold. That's so sweet."
They left the diner short after, thankfully without incidents regarding the people in the place or the cell phone he was hiding.
Root rushed him back to the car, and within minutes they were back on the road.
"I'm going to find you, Finch."
The words echoed in his head and he closed his eyes, feeling the gentle breeze from the open window hitting against his face.
Mr. Reese was going to find him. He didn't have the slightest doubt about it now.
Chapter 12: The Blinding Lights That Lead Us
After Finch casted one last apprehensive glance to the bed -or rather; to the unconscious man on it- he sat at the small desk in the room, a laptop already turned on atop it.
Finch had debated with himself whether he should give Mr. Reese some privacy back and work in the room just across the hall. In the end he had decided to stay here, in case Mr. Reese regained consciousness long enough to need some kind of assistance. He really did not think the ex-operative would call out to him if he needed something, and moreover; he hoped his presence and quick reaction would prevent Mr. Reese from having a particularly rough reaction after waking up from his drug-induced sleep.
He could only imagine what kind of horrific things would cross Mr. Reese's mind waking up in pain and in an unfamiliar place. He was hoping to avoid that.
Finch adjusted his glasses before he started working, efficiently running his skilled fingers over the keyboard.
Early this morning he had received a new number from the Machine belonging to a woman in his early thirties named Claire Pace.
Finch quickly pulled up the woman's accounts on several social networks while searches on any relevant activity of the women in the last years were slowly running on the background. Since he was using a laptop instead of his system the research would take longer, but he was not about to leave Mr. Reese alone in his current state.
Besides, his next move would sorely depend on what he found on her.
Even before he reached out to Mr. Reese he had foreseen the possibility that the ex-operative could be injured in the line of duty, so to speak. Therefore, just like with the medical assistance, Finch had several contingency plans all set up. Just in case.
He could contact the police and leave an anonymous tip. Of course, the likelihood that it would be followed up was very low; whether it was due to officers inside the force just to get a paycheck, or by the large number of false allegations made anonymously. Whatever the reason was, there were more than enough 'real cases' needing to be solved, so most officers chose to work on them instead of chasing shadows from an unknown source.
The best option would be to hire a private security team to watch over Mrs. Pace. Of course it would be better if he could tell them whether they should look after her or protect someone from her. That if he did not want to draw too much attention to himself, or Mrs. Pace, for that matter.
The thought that he could seek assistance from Mr. Reese's 'friend' Detective Fusco, crossed Finch's mind, but he brushed the thought away almost immediately. He did not trust the Detective. You couldn't trust fully someone who had been threatened into working for you, especially when the person responsible of such threat was in no shape to intervene. The Detective surely would have heard about what happened already. No, that was not an option... unless he had dismissed everything else.
Finch hesitated, thinking that perhaps he was being unfair with Detective Fusco. True, the man had made some highly questionable decisions in the past, but so had Mr. Reese and himself. Perhaps he should give the Detective the benefit of the doubt and seek his assistance, perhaps-
"I thought I told you to stay away,"
The voice was hoarse, barely above a whisper, but audible in the otherwise quiet room.
Startled, Finch turned his upper body toward the voice. Reese's eyes were open and somewhat focused oh him; or as much as they could, lying in bed. Who knows how long he'd been awake.
He stood stiffly with a grimace and slowly limped toward the bed. All the effort he had been forced to perform had left him tired and sore.
"Well, Mr. Reese, I'm afraid that was a request I could not fulfill."
Finch stopped in front of the bedside table and reached for the jar on it. He poured some water into a small glass, a plastic straw already on it.
"You should have; it was too risky." Reese rasped softly, eyes half closed.
Finch hesitated, standing next to the bed with the glass in his hand. Should he bring the straw to Mr. Reese's mouth, or hand him the glass so he could drink himself? Any move would be highly uncomfortable and painful for him at the moment, but he seemed more aware than the previous times he had woken, and Finch did not think the ex-operative would appreciate being 'fussed over'.
In the end, Reese solved the billionaire's dilemma by himself, reaching for the glass in Finch's hands.
From the slight trembling of his hand -and the hard lines around his eyes and mouth- Finch could tell the simple movement was highly painful, but he made no comment about it, replying to Mr. Reese's last comment instead.
"It may be hard for you to believe, Mr. Reese, but I can assure you there was no way I would have just turned around; leaving you at the mercy of your old 'friends' with the CIA." Finch hesitated for a moment before adding, "Especially when it was my fault you were there in the first place."
Reese blinked at him, handing the glass back. "Last time I checked it had been me who called Carter to tell her where I would be."
Finch pursed his lips, putting the glass back on the bedside table before turning back to Reese. "Yes, yes you did; and I must say I didn't quite understand what led you to make that call. Would you care to tell me the reason behind such endangering action, Mr. Reese?"
Reese sighed and lifted a hand, rubbing it over his tired face. He clenched his jaw as the muscles in his stomach protested the small movement; sharp pain shoting over his abdomen.
He let out a gust of air before answering; his voice tight with pain. "Fusco told me she was having troubles because of me. I thought I should help her."
Finch huffed and crossed his arms against his chest. He already knew it, of course, but hearing the injured man say he was trying to help Detective Carter -in addition to having saved the Detective's life just days prior, all the while she was selling him to the CIA- made his anger rise once again to the surface, making his comment even more bitter and maliciousof what he had attempted to.
"Well, it seemed she was doing quite well for herself, assisting Agent Snow in his hectic search for you."
Reese sighed, struggling almost imperceptibly to stay focused and answer Finch.
"It wasn't Carter's fault. I'm a fugitive and she did what she thought was right: Handing me over to the CIA. She had no idea Mark and his partner just wanted to finish me." Reese paused for a moment, dragging in a deep breath. "Besides, she let us go."
Finch shook his head slightly, giving up at discussing this particular issue with Mr. Reese, especially right now. To Finch's perplexity, the ex-operative had always had a soft spot for Detective Carter, and it seemed that hadn't changed even now. It was pointless discuss over it. He nedded to focus on the highest priority right now, and that was help Mr. Reese get better.
"You should eat something. Do you think you can?"
The man lying in the bed did not reply, but the look on his face was answer enough for Finch.
"I realize the prospect of eating does not sound appealing at the moment, Mr. Reese; but as I'm sure you know, you must be well nourished to ensure a speedy recovery."
Reese grunted slightly in acknowledgement, which Finch chose to take as a concession.
"I'l prepare a quick breakfast for you. Try to stay awake, if you please." Finch added dryly before he turned and started limping away.
"Harold..." Reese called, his voice rough.
The billionaire turned back promptly, a questioning look on his face.
"Thank you... for coming for me."
Finch blinked. Reese's head was turned to the side facing him, his dark, piercing, expressive eyes focused on his face. Finch shifted his gaze for a moment, and swallowed.
"You are welcome."
"Don't do it again," Reese added in a low, hard voice.
The corners of Finch's lips curled up abruptly, in despite of Reese's serious tone.
"I hope so too, Mr. Reese, but that would depend solemnly on your ability to remain uninjured and without need of a rescue."
Without another word Finch limped out of the room, leaving Reese behind, eyes closed and the ghost of a smile on his lips.
Finch brushed the memory away as Root pulled the car off the road into the woods.
Root flicked her eyes toward him, a smile playing on her lips. "I hope you like nature, Harold. We may be staying here for a long time."
Finch swallowed, watching the road disappear among a sea of green.
It wasn't until around another twenty minutes of driving that Root stopped the car in front of a cabin. It was a rather large two-story cabin, and the outside was fairly well maintained for the quite, desolate area in which it was.
Root switched off the engine, turning to look at Finch. "What do you think, Harold? It's a lot nicer than the warehouse, isn't it? And since you behaved so well, I will keep my promise of give you a more comfortable place to stay."
Finch flickered his eyes toward her for a moment without really caring for what she was telling him. Instead, his mind was filled with thoughts about Reese and the hope that the last Wi-Fi signal hadn't been too far away from here; because if it was, he did not think Reese would be able to find him. At least not anytime soon.
Brow furrowed, Finch looked through the window. There was no one she could hurt here, only himself, and that was the only reason why he hasn't even tried to get away from her. Shouldn't he at least try now that they were alone?
If there was the slightest indication it could work, he would do it without hesitation, but the rational part of his brain told him that trying to escape -especially here- was pointless, and he had better focus on staying alive. But was that enough? Somehow it did not feel like it was.
He hadn't been enduring anything highly difficult or threatening. Besides the knowledge of other lives threatened by her, he had only undergone poor nutritional health and isolation, since Root's questioning was not exactly violent or severe. At least until now. It was mostly just stressful and worrisome.
"Stay here, okay?" Root told him, the gun already in her hand again. "It will only take a minute."
Finch watched as Root got out the car and walked to the cabin door, darting glances back at him. She took out the keys and worked on opening the door.
Clever. That way, it would be easier for her to stop him if he tried to escape. It would have been relatively easy attacking her while she was distracted opening the door, but this way she would notice the moment he opened the door, giving her time to come and stop him.
Finch rubbed a hand over his face. He wished she was not so clever and thorough, but then again, if she weren't he wouldn't be here in the first place.
Suddenly, Finch's thoughts went back to the cell phone. Should he keep it or dispose it? He had no doubt Root could find it, but beyond the consequences that could represent for him, there was the possibility Root could decide to take him to another location, since this one could have been compromised.
Finch bent forward with a grimace, struggling to reach the cell phone. As soon as he got it in his hands, he tossed it under the seat. The billionaire let out a shaky breath, straightening up at once. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Root making her way back to the car.
Root opened the passenger door, looking down at him with an eyebrow arched. "Everything okay?"
Finch give her a wary sideway look, keeping a hand over his knee.
"My, uh, my leg is slightly stiff and aching, that's all."
It was not a complete lie after all. His leg did feel stiff, and frankly, his whole body was aching; especially his back and neck.
Root tilted her head to the side, giving Finch a sympathetic look. "I'm sorry you are in pain, Harold, and I promise I will help you change that, but we need to get inside first."
Finch was just relieved she did not offer him any kind of assistance to get out the car or walk to the cabin. He might have been tempted to snap at her. That certainly wouldn't have been a wise move. Of course Root's lingering presence at his side the whole time had been more than enough.
Finch stepped inside, and as soon as he heard the door close he felt a prick at the back of his neck. He immediately lifted his hand to his neck, turning the upper body toward Root who was standing beside him.
"You... " Finch trailed off, blinking in confusion. "What did you give me?"
Root smiled at him reassuring. "Just something to keep you quiet. It's just you and me now, so I need to use other methods to make sure you will remain complacent with me."
Finch blinked again, trying to stay alert and pay attention to her words, but he was having a hard time even piecing together what she was telling him.
"I would suggest that you walked over to the couch and sit before they take full effect."
He started to feel lethargic and drowsy, and it was not until he was a couple of steps from the couch that he noticed Root had taken him by the elbow and had led him there.
By the time Finch sat down, he was struggling to keep his eyes open. He felt Root's hand on his forehead, but there was nothing he could do about it. His mind was so troubled he couldn't even form a thought of repulsion or discomfort.
"You can sleep, Harold. I'm going to take care of everything." Root's smooth voice assured him.
Finch lost the battle to stay awake just secons later, sliding into the welcoming embrace of unconsciousness.
Chapter 13: Falling Into the Endless Night
Slowly, Finch blinked his eyes open several times. It seemed it did not matter how many times he blinked, his vision was still blurry and unfocused.
Brows drawn together, he slowly clenched his fists against the firm and cold surface under them. He struggled against the urge to just close his eyes and slip back into blissful unconsciousness, the throbbing pain he was just starting to perceive in his head making that option even more appealing.
"Ah, you're finally awake." Root's smooth and deceiving voice filled the room as she closed the book in her hands.
She was sitting in a chair facing Finch, just a few inches away, the now closed book on her lap.
Confusion clouding his head, Finch forced his mind to focus on the voice of the woman whose outline he could barely make out.
It took a couple of minutes, blinking and squinting his eyes all in an attempt to focus his gaze, but he was finally able to see her face.
For a moment -just for a moment- Finch wished he hadn't struggled so much on staying conscious if it meant having to talk with Root and see her again.
"Oh, I'm glad you are awake, Harold. I was afraid I had used more than necessary." Root leaned forward, her hands over the cover of the book. "Do you feel okay? There are some side effects but nothing serious. They should be gone soon."
While she talked, Finch took the opportunity to look around.
He was in a bedroom this time; a seemingly comfortable queen size bed with a deep green bed cover fully visible behind Root told him that much. The room was nice, perhaps even cozy, with wooden walls and a wide window to his left. It was covered by a curtain in the same tone as the bed cover, but even so, Finch could see the night still hadn't come; a soft light remarkable even through the fabric of the closed curtain.
Next, he took notice of the chair he was sitting on. It wasn't rigid and uncomfortable like the one in the warehouse. This chair had a soft, tight back and a seat cushion. Undoubtedly better for his back, but of course, the ropes were still there tying his hands to the arms of the chair and his feet together.
Standing, Root walked toward him, the book in one hand and a bottle of water he hadn't noticed until now in the other. She moved the bottle to his lips, but Finch made no move to drink from i,t looking at Root sideways.
"You should drink it, Harold. I don't want you to become dehydrated." Root give him a smile that did not reach her eyes. "I could untie your hands and give you the bottle, but I don't think you can drink for yourself. A side effect of the drugs. Don't worry, it will pass."
After a moment's hesitation, Finch nodded almost imperceptibly, and drank with Root's help.
Almost half of the water in the bottle was gone when Root pulled it away and walked back to her seat.
"So," she started, sitting back in her chair; "are you ready to talk to me about the Machine now, Harold?"
Finch averted his gaze, the pounding in his head even more significant than before.
"You don't want to talk about that now, huh? That's okay, there's something else I wanted to tell you." She leaned forward, her elbows resting on her knees and her smile widening. "Your friend John is looking for you."
Finch's eyebrows drew together. Even before the call, he had just assumed without a second thought that John would be looking for him. It had been a logical assumption- a comfortable and disturbing one for someone like him, whose trust issues were tremendously huge, but... why was she telling him this?
Cradling her face between her hands, Root smirked.
"Oh, you don't have to worry about it, he won't be interrupting us soon." Root bit her lip almost shyly. "I knew he would be looking for you. I mean, the man risks his life for people he doesn't know, so of course he would do it for you, too, you know? So I left him a few more surprises. Nothing serious, just something that will keep him busy for a while: Chasing ghosts."
Finch tried to keep his confusion -his disbelief- from showing. Was this part of her plan, or something else had happened after he spoke with Reese? After all, he couldn't be sure how long it had been. The fact it wasn't dark yet didn't mean it was even the same day. Besides, he really did not think someone as careful and clever like her wouldn't know already Reese had found the warehouse. That wouldn't make sense.
True or not, Finch couldn't stop the feeling of anger that rose inside him hearing that as his thoughts drifted further toward John and all the frustration he surely would have felt -or was feeling- following lead after lead and gaining hope at the thought of finally having something, only to end up in a dead-end each time.
Suddenly, Finch was brought out of his unpleasant thoughts by Root's soft voice.
"My informants told me he's doing a very nice job so far."
"Don't you mean the people you blackmailed into helping you?" Finch growled, struggling to keep his anger repressed.
Root beamed with excitement. "You know about that? Oh, of course you do; you are you."
She stared at Finch's face as if waiting for him to say something, but then shook herself visibly and continued.
"My informants told me he's been looking into places and people he thinks are connected with me," Root remarked as she opened the book on her lap, going through the pages absently until she stopped and pulled out something and held it in front of Finch.
It was a photo; a photo of Reese. For most people it would be just a photo of a man walking down a busy street, but Finch was not most people. Even though the quality of the photo wasn't very good, and seemed to have been taken from a long distance, Finch noticed the way Reese held his shoulders, that determined, almost furious look on his face. He was searching; hunting. Just like with the call, Finch felt a little flicker of hope inside seeing the photo. It was as if just by seeing it -him- he was a step closer to getting out of here; a step closer to freedom.
Finch closed his eyes for a second, trying to keep his emotions under control and then opened them, looking at the photo again, urging his brain to focus on Reese's surrounding, trying to make out where he was. But the approach was too unfit to be able to see the surrounding area fully and his brain wasn't totally back to normal yet.
"He is a very capable man, Harold, I must admit. You sure know how to pick people, don't you?" Root spoke, taking the photo back. "I'm honestly amazed by the "progress" he has made in so little time; he's moving faster than I had anticipated. I guess having a significant motivation is part of it."
Finch looked at her for a moment. It was no doubt to him now: She was trying to hiding the fact Reese had found the warehouse and was closer to find them. But why? He couldn't ask her that, so he voiced the other question circling around his hazy brain.
"Why are you telling me all this?" Finch asked her, genuinely intrigued and too tired to pretend otherwise.
Root gave Finch an easy smile, crossing her legs. "I thought you would like to know how your friend is doing without you Harold; that it would be a relief to hear he's doing okay on his own..." she trailed off, running a hand through her hair. "Except he's not alone, you know."
Going through what Finch assumed were more photos, Root continued speaking, a hint of excitement in her voice.
"John has been seen several times with an attractive woman." Root lifted up the photo, placing it in front of Finch. "This woman."
Even though the quality of the photo was the same as the previous one, Finch had no trouble identifying the woman next to John as Miss Morgan.
It did not surprise him, really, that without him Reese had sought Miss Morgan's help. It hadn't crossed Finch's mind before, but her assistance was the logical, easier way for Reese to get Intel without access to Finch's computers and equipment. After all, Miss Morgan had been working with them on "Caroline Turing's" case.
"She's cute, don't you think?" Root took the photo back and threw it on the others. "Hmm, what was her name? Oh, I remember it. She's Zoe Morgan; a well-known woman in the political sphere, I must add. She helps people in exchange of a generous payment, just like me."
Right, except she doesn't kidnap and murder people, Finch thought sardonically, but didn't say anything.
Root pursed her lips, annoyed at Finch's lack of reaction, but her smile returned almost immediately. This wasn't over. Not even close.
"Of course, John is a very charming man, isn't he? Capable of persuade anyone to help him."
Smirk firmly in place, Root lifted two more photos. "Let me introduce you to Detectives Jocelyn Carter and Lionel Fusco."
Carter's photo on the right seemed to have been taken outside the precinct. She stood beside the stairs at the front of the building, cell phone in hand, and seeming oblivious to the fact someone was watching her.
Fusco's photo, on the other hand, was taken on the street outside of what looked like a large building that Finch couldn't identify. The detective was just standing there, looking... well, unamusing was perhaps the best way to describe him.
Finch tried to keep his reaction from showing while looking at the photographs of the detectives, but the broad grin on Root's face confirmed he hadn't done a very good job at it.
"Oh, wait. You already know them, don't you? They are part of your little team of heroes." Root looked straight at Finch, an eyebrow arched. "I am highly impressed, Harold. Being allied with the people who are supposed to be chasing you guys is a very clever move, especially with Detective Carter. I did a little digging about her and she is exactly the kind of person no one would suspect. I'm curious at how you guys got her into this."
Finch struggled to keep a blank expression on his face as his head was filled with thoughts of what Root could or would do, knowing about the people who could be helping Reese, and having the means to find any information on them. And worst of all: having the means to do anything, to hurt them, if she chose to.
"Alright, you know about them. So, what now? Are you going to threaten to hurt them if I don't agree to what you want?" Finch finished, grateful his voice hadn't broken mid-sentence.
Leaning back in her chair, Root watched him for a long time, her expression sober.
"No, Harold, I'm not going to do that. This is just a warning." Watching Finch's confused expression, Root smiled. "I'm telling you this because you have a large and competent group of people looking for you, lead by a very determined and skilled man. I think there's a possibility they'll come too close to finding us. And I can't allow that."
Finch felt his heart clench painfully in his chest and his breathing quickened. The only thought that had given him comfort: Hope, was now shattered; the hope of being found and rescued soon had become a frightening thought, knowing that not only Reese's life would be in danger, but also the detectives and Miss Morgan's lives would be put in jeopardy. It seemed Root had won again, after all.
"It's all up to you, Harold. If they come too close and you haven't told me what I need to know, I'm going to have to take care of them. You know I don't have a problem with getting my hands dirty if I have to."
Root got up from her chair and stood before Finch, taking a needle from her pocket. "How's it going to be, Harold? Are you going to keep being stubborn about this, or are you going to do what's best for everyone?"
Finch closed his eyes, and for a long time didn't answer. I'm so sorry, he thought pained.
"I... I can't do it. I don't have what you want."
Root sighed, and without warning stuck the needle into Finch's arm. "I have a couple of thing to take care of, but we'll try again later, Harold."
In a matter of seconds, everything went blurry and bright around Finch as the drug went into his system, making it hard for him to keep his eyes open. After a couple of minutes, everything went dark.
Chapter 14: The Brittle Glimmer of Hope
Finch was pulled awake by a sudden noise in the otherwise silence room. As soon as his eyes focused they came to rest upon the familiar lone figure before him. Finch froze.
"What... John? What are you doing here? Did she-" Finch swallowed, wide eyes glued to Reese's face. "Did she kidnap you too?"
Reese lifted his gaze to Finch's face, his lips curled into a wry smile.
"Well, Finch, looks like all it takes for you to get into first name basis is get kidnapped and tied to a chair. Should have known sooner."
Finch eyebrows drew together, a puzzled look on his face at the other man's words. It made no sense at all.
Reese's blue, piercing gaze did not leave Finch's face, but the ex-operative didn't say another word.
Finch opened his mouth to ask the question again, but then closed it again, taking a closer look at Reese.
The first thing Finch noticed was the gun in Reese's right hand. That and the fact he wasn't restricted in any way led Finch to believe he wasn't being held captive too.
Reese's posture was relaxed. His facial expression one of total calm, similar to the one he adopted on the few occasions when they didn't have a new number and Reese stayed in the library with him, sometimes even with a book in his hands.
Unlike his previous nightmares, Reese's whole appearance was impeccable; there was not even a wrinkle or stain in his black suit or white shirt.
Finch wet his lips. "You are not really here."
It wasn't a question, but Reese answered it anyway, his lips twitching. "No, I'm not."
Finch looked at whatever it that looked like John Reese for a long time, eyes narrowed. "What are you then?"
Reese leaned further back into his chair, the gun held loosely in his hand.
"What do you think?"
Even against his better judgment, Finch considered the question.
Somehow this did not feel like a dream (of course they rarely did), but what made him believe it wasn't was the absence of Root. She had been present on every dream he remember having since she found him, committing all kind of hideous acts. He had watched her kill so many people several times in his nightmares; Reese, Grace, Will, Javier, even Juliet (the woman from the diner) and the Numbers too; the people Reese had helped him save.
Finch shuddered. The image of Root holding a gun to the head of young Theresa Whitaker and pulling the trigger was still too fresh. Not to mention the ever-present image of Alicia Corwin being murdered in front of him. He did not think a single day of half-awareness had passed without him seeing that awful image in his head.
Finch sucked in a bracing breath, forcing himself to go back to his previous line of thought.
Of course even with all of that it could still be a nightmare, with the possibility Root could appear at any moment and Finch would be forced to see her kill Reese. Again.
Finch shook the thought away. The only other explanation he could think of was that whatever drugs Root was giving him were causing him hallucinations, which wasn't exactly an improvement. His mind was -and had always been- his greatest weapon, his only weapon, and if this really was a hallucination, it mean Root was taking that away from him too.
Finch drew a shaking breath, trying to stop the rising sense of panic that was threatening to overtake him. It was then that he noticed Resse's gaze was still aimed at him.
He shifted uncomfortably in his chair, feeling a warm and unexpectedly flickering of relief in his chest seeing Reese was still there.
It was stupid, because Reese was not really there, and feeling relieved about something created by his own mind was insane and risky, but he couldn't do anything about it.
After a moment Finch drifted his gaze away, determined to ignore whatever it was that was happening until it ended.
There was total silence for a couple of minutes, but then Finch heard the soft sound of rustling fabric as Reese shifted in his seat.
"You don't want to talk, Finch? I promise I wouldn't try to make you reveal your deepest secrets."
Finch bit his lip, struggling to keep his eyes away from the man. This was so real he could hear Reese's teasing tone in the words; could almost see his blue eyes twinkling as they always did when he teased him; something he had disliked and had made him feel uncomfortable at the beginning but he had grown quite fond of. He even had reached the point where he in fact enjoyed their exchanges, especially the moments where he outsmarted Reese in his own game, leaving the other man in a stunned silence, something that was relatively difficult to achieve.
Finally, Finch lifted his eyes to meet Reese's questioning ones. He pressed his lips into a tight line, keeping a carefully black mask on his face.
"You're nothing more than a projection of my mind, so excuse me if I do not wish to have a conversation with myself."
"You already are, Finch." Reese replied dryly, a bemused expression on his face.
Finch pursed his lips, but didn't say anything, feeling annoyed with the fact his own mind was playing with him.
"Come on Finch. What's wrong with having a little chat? It's not like you have anything else to do and I'm not going anywhere, so let's take advantage of it." The corner of Reese's lips curled up slightly. "It might even be fun."
Finch barely stopped himself from letting out a snort at the prospect of him considering anything "fun" in his current situation, but then he caught the twitching on Reese's lips and he supposed that had been an intentional movement on his part. Even against his will the corner of Finch's lip curled up slightly.
Reese leaned forward, an eyebrow arched. "Is that a yes?"
Finch glared at him for moment, but among the relief and sense of familiarity from speaking with Reese again -even in this way- there was no real heat in the glare. He let out a sigh.
"You know Finch, you never told me your favorite color." Reese said after a moment, out of the blue.
Finch's gaze snapped back at Reese, his expression puzzled.
"Right, I did said no deep secret revealing, didn't I?"
Eyebrows knitted together, Finch watched him for a long time. Well, that had been certainly unexpected. Was his brain trying to put him on ease, making him relax with dry jokes? To Finch's surprise it was working.
Before Finch could relax further, Reese's posture and expression took a serious turn, and his blue eyes darkened.
"Do you want to talk about what's going on?" Reese's whispery and smooth voice asked him.
Finch's whole posture become stiff as he questioned himself on why he was even talking with a person that wasn't really there. He clenched his jaw.
"What is there to say?"
Reese give him an unreadable look. "Maybe you could tell me why she is doing this."
Finch blinked a couple of times, opening his mouth to answer before he closed it again.
"You know as much as I do at the moment."
Reese cocked his head. "Not really. Has anyone ever told you you have an annoyingly meticulous brain, Finch?"
Finch glared at him, but before he had a chance to answer him, Reese went on.
"Here's the thing: If there's something you haven't told "the real me," or something you are not sure I know, then I don't."
Finch's eyes narrowed in annoyance, looking at Reese.
"Don't look at me like that, it's your brain." Reese started, giving him a lopsided smile. "I'm just a projection of your mind, remember?"
Finch rolled his eyes. Of course he was going to bring that up. He didn't said anything though, and neither did Reese.
After a moment he let out a sigh. "She knows about the Machine."
Any trace of amusement faded from Reese's face and his expression darkened. "How?"
"One of the people from the Government who knew about the Machine told her. She wants access."
Reese's expression darkened even more -if that was even possible- and looked thoughtful for a moment. "What do you think she would do if she had access?"
Finch paused briefly before answering. That was a question that had been turning around in his head since the moment Root told him she knew about the Machine, but she had not outrightly mentioned what she planned to do once she gained access. If she gained access. And Finch hadn't asked, hoping his lack of interest would support his arguments of not knowing about the Machine.
"I don't- I don't know." Finch's brows knitted together. "Some hackers enjoy just the mere fact of challenge their skills and be able to gain access they are not supposed to have, especially government-related,"
"But?" Reese prompted gently after a moment of silence.
"But," Finch sighed. "that's not why she is doing this. Root is way pass the point of challenging herself or wanting to show off her skills to me. She want access to the Machine, plain and simple. She does not care the way she does as long as she succeeds."
Finch tensed as soon as the words left his mouth. The thought had been in his head almost from the beginning, but it was as if saying it out loud made it more real, which was just absurd. Not that anything of what was happening was real but-
"What are you going to do?"
Reese's question interrupted Finch's thoughts, making him narrow his eyes.
Reese looked him straight in the eye, expression unreadable. "What are you going to do with her?"
Finch's eyes narrowed further at the question, his expression hard. "I'm not planning to help her obtain access to the Machine, if that's what you are asking. That's not even an option. I made sure to encrypt the Machine's system so complexly that not even I could access to it after the process was completed. And even if I could give it to her, I wouldn't. I may not know what she's planning to do with it, but I know for a fact it wouldn't be anything good."
Reese nodded, the corner of his lips curled up into a smirk that made Finch scowl.
"You are not going to give her anything, I know that, but..." Reese trailed off, any traces of humor slipping away. "She's dangerous, Finch. She could kill you if you don't."
"I know," Finch answered softly. Somehow, the thought wasn't as worrisome anymore.
Reese learned forward, his sharp blue eyes locked with Finch's. "I'm not going to let that happen, Finch."
Finch pursed his lips in annoyance. "I was just starting to think you were not going to do that."
Reese blinked at him. "Do what?"
"Comfort me with false hopes. Promising me something you do not have the slightest control over because you don't even exist. You are nothing more than a hallucination."
"They are not false hopes, Finch. You know me, the real me. You know I'm not going to stop until I find you."
Finch didn't answered, his eyes lowered to the ground. Reese sighed softly.
"Do you know why I am here?"
"Why I am here and not someone else?"
Finch's brow furrowed in thought. With everything else going on the thought hadn't crossed his mind. He immediately knew why Grace wasn't here. He hadn't wanted to bring her into any of this, even just as a hallucination. But that did not explain why Reese was here and not someone else, like Nathan.
"I'm here," Reese started, breaking the silence between them. "because I have to give you something you need. Something you have let slip away from you in the time you've been here."
Reese waited until Finch's eyes meet his own to say the word. "Hope."
Finch opened his mouth to speak, but no words came out. His pale eyes fixed on Reese's face.
"Hope is a dangerous thing to lose, Finch. You know that better than anyone. It doesn't matter what happens, you cannot lose it. Hope is all you have. At least for now..."
Chapter 15: Without Innocence Granted
Root stood with her back to Finch leaning against the window frame. Her brown hair loose in waves around her shoulders was shining in the golden light of the sun.
The dark green curtain was open this time, allowing Finch to see the soft light of dawn creeping through the window and the lovely sea of green filling the view, accompanied by the nearly imperceptible soft trill of birds outside. The colorful and gentle scene almost succeeded on putting a smile on Finch's face. Almost.
A few moments early Root had feed him a rather tasty potato soup -not that he had any intention of telling her that, of course- and a bottle of water he had drained entirely. Finch had feared she would continue her 'questioning' while he ate, but she hadn't, leaving him to eat in relative peace. Now it was only a matter of time before she started, he was sure, and while he wasn't looking forward to it, he was hoping to get this over with.
He was tired and still felt a bit drowsy from whatever it was she was drugging him with. He just wanted her to get out and leave him alone.
"Do you believe in fate, Harold?" Root's gentle voice asked him without turn around.
Finch darted his gaze toward Root's figure, surprised at the unexpected question, but didn't answer it.
He was a man of science, had always been. Finch had never believed in God and miracles, or some other "Supreme Being" watching over humanity. He was not against people who believe in it, he just didn't. But it had been his odd partnership with John that had made him consider more widely the concept of destiny or fate. He did not believe it fully, but he couldn't dismiss it so easily anymore.
The way things had fallen into place after he had found John, almost like they had been meant to happen, could not be overlooked for him. The fact Jessica Arndt's number had been one of the first Finch had looked upon -even if he had been unable to do anything to help her- and then, two months later, the Machine had given him John's number. It hadn't been difficult to put the pieces together, knowing the history of violence Mrs. Arndt had suffered at the hands of her husband. Finch hadn't known what happened to Peter Arndt -and still didn't- but after his first encounter with John, Finch had made a point to keep surveillance on the man, which had been nearly impossible with John's outstanding abilities to hide among the shadows. Reese had been off his radar for two weeks when the incident on the subway happened.
Every now and then, Finch still wondered what would have happened if things had taken a different course; if John hadn't joined the CIA, if Jessica hadn't married Peter Arndt and had waited for John instead. Or even if Finch had been able to save her. Would John be happy with her, unawarely leaving him alone, haunted by the numbers? Would he have found someone else instead of John, someone as dedicated and competent?
Even when their paths seemed firmly designed to cross -to lead them to each other- there were so many variables, so many small events that had they not happened, or happened with the slightest of changes, might have diverted them from the path that seemed so firmly mapped out for them now.
The fact things had turned out this way felt so natural, but at the same time astonishing. It was as if fate had conspired, allowing them to find and save each other. The thought was almost overwhelming.
Finch shook himself, displeased with his lack of focus. This was most certainly not the time to be distracted by such thoughts. Being distracted was the last thing he needed right now.
"I didn't," Root continued, as if she hadn't been expecting an answer from him. "I always thought the concept of fate was nothing but an attempt to explain people's flaws and mistakes without taking responsibility for them- and perhaps it is, for the most part, but it's not just that way, I don't think."
Root turned around slowly, smiling warmly at Finch. "It was you who changed that, Harold."
Eyebrows knitted together, Finch slowly shifted his gaze away from her eyes.
Root stepped away from the window and started walking toward him.
"Do you have any idea how hard I tried to find a way into the Machine, Harold? All the frustration I felt every time I failed?" Root crouched before him, looking at him straight to the eye. "With Nathan, the only person who ever had access to it death, I truly considered the possibility that there just wasn't a way to break into it. I was so tired of trying without accomplish anything, and then you and your friend John came along..."
Finch barely refrained from flinching at Root's last words. He had a fairly good idea of what she was about to say, and knew it was far from good.
"I didn't know you had any connection to the Machine, then, of course, but you intrigued me, Harold. All that mystery around you and your friend, and what you did helped me take a breath and put on hold everything else for a while."
Root tilted her head slightly to the side, a smile playing on her lips. "It was just like people say; you need to stop looking for something to find it. And here we are now, Harold, just a step away from the next level. Together."
Stomach clenched, Finch fought the urge to be sick as the brief thought that perhaps if they hadn't helped Mr. Powell she wouldn't have found him crossed his mind. They had saved a good man's life, keeping his family largely unaffected and together. He would do it again, even knowing the consequences that would bring for him.
Root smiled at him before standing up. "There's something I want to show you. I'd be right back."
Finch watched her go warily, trying not to think about what was about to happen. 'Trying' being the key word.
It wasn't long before she returned, holding a thin manila folder her right hand.
Finch's eyes followed every step she took, heart pounding hard against his chest. Just what new plan to break him was inside that small folder?
Root sat down in a chair facing him, hands resting atop the folder. "Years ago, I reached the point where I was... well, I was stuck after several sadly unsuccessfully attempts to gain access to the system. It was then that I decided to try... something else. I thought it was worth looking into the possibility that someone else had access, or at least knew about it. That's when I started a rather extensiveresearch on any person connected to Nathan Ingram, within IFT or his personal life, if what he had could even be called a personal life. Not that there was anything wrong with that, of course. Nathan knew how to live his life, doing whatever he wanted when he wanted. The best way to live, if you ask me."
Finch curled his hands into fists as the sudden wave of fury washed over him, listening to her talk about Nathan as if she had known him. Nathan had been his best friend -his only friend- but he couldn't deny there was some truth to her words. Nathan had always been a player; all charm and smiles at any moment, never saying no to a pretty woman. The divorce had just allowed him to be less discrete and frequent about his 'affairs.'
That had always been Nathan's personality. And Root knew about it.
"It didn't exactly turned out the way I wanted. There were too many people and no one who stood out at the time." Root tilted her head. "But now there's you, Harold. I didn't have to look for a needle in a haystack anymore. Now I knewwhat to look for."
Finch held Root's gaze steadily, watching the broad smile that spread across her face. He was determined not to show his fear or anxiety, knowing that was the reaction she was expecting from him. He was not going to give her that.
"I bet you already know what I found, Harold," Root said softly as she opened the folder, her gaze flickering to the papers neatly placed inside.
From his position a few steps away from her, Finch couldn't make out just what papers were there precisely, but he thought he saw IFT logo on the upper-right side of the paper sheet placed atop.
"This time I found "Harold Grouse" working in a rather poor and inadequate position given his skills, I think." Root arched an eyebrow at him. "Do you have anything to say, Harold, or do I have to spell it out?"
Finch's head was spinning, pondering just how much more this new revelation could aggravate his current situation. Alright, Finch thought. She knows about Harold Grouse and his work at IFT. I can find a way to go along with that. It was not something good, of course, but not the worst secret she could have uncovered looking into the company, either.
"Yes," Finch strated, licking his lips. "I worked at IFT."
Root's eyes twinkled, her smile widening. "Now that wasn't so hard, was it, Harry? I think we are finally getting somewhere here."
Shuddering, Finch decided to stay quiet and keep his mouth shut, waiting for her to lead the conversation wherever she wanted it to go. It was obvious for her posture she already had a good idea of what path she wanted this to take.
"What I am wondering now is why you didn't considered relevant mention this before, when we talked about Nathan." Root pursed her lips, her brow furrowed slightly. "I was aware of your little "employment" in IFT then, and was very disappointed you didn't tell me about it."
The first reply that crossed Finch's mind was "You never asked," but he knew better than to say that out loud. Better to try and keep things as calm as they were right now for as long as he could.
"I did not think it would matter to you. I was just an IT guy, one of so many in that company. I had contact with Nathan Ingram just a handful of times, and every time it happened our interaction was brief and strictly professional."
"If you say so, Harry..." Root answered sweetly.
There was a mischievous glint in her eyes that made Finch shudder again, and he felt a sudden sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach, but before his thoughts could take a darker turn, Root continued talking.
"Now, can you tell me why you decided to take such an ordinary and lame job when you could have aimed a lot higher with your skills, Harold?"
Looking at Root, Finch considered lying to her, just for a moment, but decided against it. Though he was notgoing to give her the whole story either.
"All I wanted then was a common job; one where I was just one more worker among the rest."
Root tilted her head, watching him intensely for a long time.
"Okay, I can understand that, I guess." She strated slowly, without sounding fully convinced. "But what I don't understand, and I hope you can explain to me, is why "Harold Grouse" died in a car accident exactly three days after Nathan Ingram did."