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Cuts Shaped Like Distant Seagulls

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Finch swears by straight razors. Finch is like that about a lot of things, convinced that the old ways, the ways that require more skill and inconvenience, are the best. He surrounds himself with dusty books, listens to his music on vinyl, and cooks from scratch whenever convenience allows, and while Reese, being an old fashioned sort in his own way, can understand sometimes, that doesn't mean Finch doesn't baffle him.

Reese can appreciate the heft of a book or the authenticity of vinyl or the taste of home cooking but, all too conscious of what a slit throat looks and sounds like, he won't give in about the razors.

They're getting ready together this morning, which is unusual. Not that they aren't fond of each other, and not that Finch doesn't occasionally spend a night at Reese's apartment and Reese doesn't keep an overnight bag in the Library out of what began as a faint hope but eventually became necessity, but it's not something they do often. When they choose to speak about it, which is rarer than either one of them staying the night, Finch says they spend too much time together. This is probably true, to the point where Reese sometimes talks to himself and asks questions of empty air and is bothered by the empty feeling in the shell of his ear when he removes the earpiece. Cohabitation would transform them into two people living a single, tensely ordered life, and neither of them quite wants that. They love their secrets, after all, and as Finch once told him, perfectly deadpan, "If I told you that, Mr. Reese, I'd have to kill you."

Reese hopes it was only deadpan. He'd hate to think Finch was serious. Not that he hasn't revisited that scenario from time to time, on restless nights when he needs something theoretical to occupy his thoughts. Reese genuinely wonders who would be the victor in that particular development.

But they're in Reese's bathroom, Reese getting ready at the mirror with his hair damp and his towel knotted secure around his hips, Finch behind the frosted shower door where Reese is not allowed to join him. Reese brushes his teeth and listens to the forceful patter of hot water and the soft, nearly inaudible strains of Finch whistling what Reese thinks he recognizes as Rossini. Surprising, maybe, that Reese knows it at all. He spits into the sink.

When Finch emerges from the shower, scrubbing at his hair with a fluffy towel until it sticks out spiky at peculiar angles, Reese allows himself to be bullied one side to let Finch share the mirror. Finch opens the cabinet, removes his careful little shaving kit, maybe his second or third best shaving kit since Reese knows he must have others, and lays out the long, shiny blade. While he gives the edge of the blade a critical stroke with the pad of his thumb, he asks "Would you like me to do you as well?"

"Thanks for the offer, Harold, but I think I'll pass," he nearly says, except he catches Finch's sly, momentary glance in the corner of his eye and it makes him be quiet. Finch is never the kind to say what he wants in plain language. Reese assumes it's because asking forces vulnerability, opens him up for rejection, while if he merely insinuates, he can pretend to have never asked for anything. Reese assumes this because he does something similar from time to time. "I've been shaving myself for a long time," Reese says finally.

"Really?" Finch, seemingly satisfied with the sharpness of his razor, glances up. "I'd never have guessed."

"Well, if you think you can do better..." and there's the opening. That's what Finch likes. Skill over convenience. Finch's pale, overlarge eyes flash dark satisfaction as he borrows Reese's shaving cream without asking. He takes Reese's face in one hand, tsking as his fingertips catch on the sharp prickle of growing hair. Reese closes his eyes, tilts his head, listens to the rasp of Finch's palm against his rough cheek. The cool, wet slide of shaving cream over his face and the feel of Finch's fingers tangled up in it, tracing out his angles, makes him shiver. He opens his eyes in time to see Finch raise the blade.

He must tense. He must go tense or wince or something because Finch pauses, quirks an eyebrow as if to say, "Really, Mr. Reese? After all this time?"

Forever, probably. But he says, "What are you waiting for?"

He feels the line of the blade press through lather, straight and purposeful, and Reese can't shut his eyes anymore so he watches the mirror as Finch draws the razor down his jaw, exposing smooth skin. All he can do, really, is watch. Because sudden movement puts him in danger and announced, carefully telegraphed movement feels like defeat. Because he's not always watching the mirror.

Finch's face, always so strange and naked without the glasses, his eyes like turtles without shells, is set in stern concentration as he draws the blade down Reese's face over and over. Reese wonders if it's because Finch is unused to shaving someone else or because he's unused to shaving Reese specifically or both. He also wonders how Finch began to do this, if it's a learned affectation, an attempt to seem older or more sophisticated or more like a person who has affectations and preferences, or if it's genuine, if there was someone around in Finch's formative years, someone fussy and careful and deliberate and old-fashioned who taught him.

Reese wishes he could ask but "If I told you, Mr. Reese, I'd have to kill you."

The blade is very close to his throat now and right on cue Finch says "Lift your chin, please."

Very slowly, he obliges, stretching out his crackling neck and staring too hard into the pendant light dangling from his bathroom ceiling. He's never really noticed it before (metal in a cold line sharp against his throat dragging slowly down) and it's a funny shape, all white layers and folds, like an origami flower. He wonders if Finch picked it out. He wonders why Finch picked it out for him. ( The blade lifts away, is replaced at the tip of his chin, drags down his throat again. "If I told you, Mr. Reese...") The light is soft, soothingly vague, but after a minute or two, it starts to burn his eyes.

He hears Finch's gasp before he feels pain, but it only takes the gasp to know what's happened and then the razor falls into the sink with a clatter and Finch is going at his neck with a hastily ripped off piece of toilet paper. "Just a nick," he says, voice high and faintly panicked, "no need for alarm."

Now that the razor is gone, Reese lowers his chin to stare in the mirror. A thin trickle of very bright blood is wending its way through the water and lather, starting from a spot high on his neck and ending, for now, at his collarbone. There are still streaks of shaving cream on his face, but the spots he can see look smooth and clean. "And you said you were good," Reese teases.

"Generally I am," Finch snaps as he wipes Reese's face clean, dabs a little piece of toilet paper over the cut to seal away the blood, "but I'll concede to your considerable experience as to the contours of your own face. In this instance."

Reese captures Finch's fast and twitching hands to lower them, to roll against his palms. "I'm sure you'll improve with time."

The corner of his mouth jerks up once, mad and sharp, and Reese thinks this may be as honest as they'll get.