The thing is, Finch hadn't expected Reese to be a superhero.
What he'd expected, was for Reese to have a fail rate similar to that of other ex-CIA agents. He'd found enough ex-agents to have an acceptable statistical sample, from which to infer a fail rate. Not that the government kept statistics on their ex-employees. But finding and interpreting data is what Finch does. He'd known what he was getting into when he found Reese. He'd known how good he could expect him to be at his job, and he'd known the odds on Reese dominating situations of physical violence.
So when Reese turned out to have a comic-book-like ability to best anyone in a fight, Finch was… well at first he congratulated himself on having chosen an excellent asset. And he congratulated himself on the excellent job he was obviously doing assisting Reese. But soon enough, it became obvious that Reese was truly unusually good at his job. He rarely needed assistance in the field and when he did, it wasn't unexpected - it was because he sacrificed himself on purpose. Furthermore, he was bewilderingly confident about his physical abilities. He could disarm opponents so quickly, and be so menacing in the process, that any opponent ceded to his authority. Reese even cowed a US Marshall in the middle of a US Marshall office.
That was when Finch first realized that Reese's abilities provoked a truly inconvenient response in him.
And when Root captured Finch, and Reese came for him, saved him, Finch felt something overwhelming, something that took hold of him and was never going to let go.
Finch tries not to think about it. He's been attracted to colleagues before. He made a really awkward pass at Nathan once. Nathan had not been expecting it, and he'd been confused and probably hadn't meant to make Harold feel humiliated, afterwards. They'd never spoken about it again, but Harold had never been able to shake off the feeling that part of Nathan was laughing at him.
Now, Reese stands too close to Finch sometimes, and Finch feels like all he can see is Reese's overwhelming, terrifying competence, his efficient muscle mass and his calculated, monotone voice, and he would be able to think straight if Reese put enough distance between them, but right now Finch is close enough smell his soap and can't find the words to make Reese step away.
Finch doesn't know how other people handle workplace relationships, but it's not like they can sign up for a sexual harassment workshop anyway, and maybe sometimes Reese seems to expect Finch to speak up about it, judging by the way he gives Finch a look out of the corner of his eye when he moves in close, but it's easier for Finch to just let Reese invade his space.
"What's wrong, Finch? Cat got your tongue?" Reese asks, gentle.
Finch realizes that he's been silent for nearly half a minute.
"My apologies, Mr. Reese." He grasps at his train of thought, catches it. "Directions to the Andrews' residence are here. Please keep me apprised of all further developments" he says, and turns, awkwardly, to see Reese looking down at him. Finch breathes out, slowly.
Reese licks his bottom lip. "Thank you, Harold."
Reese exits, and the mission is… completely civilized, and sorts itself out with a little discussion and paperwork. And Finch is horrified to realize that he's disappointed.
Worse, still, are the next four jobs - all solved with very minimal groundwork. Four jobs for which Reese doesn't even break a sweat. Finch doesn't know what's happening, but when, a week later, he has a choice between quietly finding the location of their target - it would take a few hours, no more - and letting Reese put the fear of god into a group of ex-Blackwater mercenaries (a pleonasm, surely, but how else to describe a group of people who don't care what side they're on?)... Finch finds himself biting back a reply when Reese says:
"Maybe I should go pay them a visit."
Finch doesn't condone senseless violence. He doesn't. But he's just had a vision of Reese being stronger, smarter, and faster than everyone else in the room. He knows that it would be simpler and less messy to just find the location without violence. He would just have to say so. But he holds his tongue.
That's how it starts.
The thing is, Reese hadn't expected Finch to be good at his job.
A bored rich guy. A bored rich guy. A cripple who needed Reese to do his dirty work. Finch couldn't do field work so he bought himself Reese to do it for him. Because Reese knew a little bit about the violence part of clandestine operations. Reese had been so sure that the wealthy Mr. Finch was just in it for the vicarious thrills. And it was fine. Reese had been willing to indulge him. He figured Finch would find out soon enough that clandestine missions/black ops - the real, live kind - weren't any fun.
The shock of finding that Finch was the best operative he'd ever met had completely overwhelmed Reese. Finch wasn't just knowledgeable, resourceful and efficient - he somehow knew just what Reese needed to know, and sometimes, just what he needed to hear.
Once, Reese had been conducting surveillance - on his own - while Finch did some research in the library. Conducting surveillance was pretty monotonous, all by himself. But just as Reese's energy had been faltering, he'd heard Finch's voice in his ear.
"Mr. Reese," he'd asked, "do you believe in luck?"
Bewildered, Reese had answered "...no, Finch, I don't."
"Ah, glad to hear it. I suppose the concept of luck is soothing to some people, but skills, patience, and diligence are so much more reliable."
Somehow, that had just... been exactly the right thing to say. Having Finch's voice in his ear during missions was the most amazing thing that had ever happened to Reese.
Finch's diminutive, unremarkable appearance had been another odd thing. The first time he'd seen him, Reese had catalogued Finch's glasses, his limp, his clothes, and then hadn't given them another thought... Until one day, Reese was shot, and Finch came to rescue him in the parking garage.
"Let me help you, John," Finch had said, as he'd manoeuvered him towards the car. So Reese had let Finch carry some of his weight, just a little of it. And all of a sudden, Reese had felt Finch's hands, how careful they were, and his arms, holding him, and had thought that he would like to rest his head on Finch's shoulder.
"You know, Finch," John had said then, "sometimes, it's almost like you know what you're doing."
Finch had laughed, and John had felt the vibrations against his chest.
After that, Reese found himself leaning in towards Finch sometimes, just a bit, and looking at him. Found himself wondering what Finch wore when he was alone, and whether his clothes were clothes he really liked, or were they part of the persona, the cover story Finch gave himself?
Reese had figured out at some point that "Harold Finch" wasn't just an assumed name - it was an assumed identity. Now… he doesn't know if Finch knows, but he keeps a kind of virtual catalogue of the things that don't quite fit. The things that are probably counterfeit. Like Finch's glasses (Reese is 70% sure he doesn't need them), or Finch's supernatural ability to keep Reese from finding out where he lives which - ok, Reese doesn't dwell on it too much but holy cow, that is out of character. Like Finch can manipulate computers, data, and virtual information, fine, but that does not fit in with the ability to lose a tail every. single. time. Reese has tried to tail Finch all the way to his home dozens of times now and still he has never seen it. Like, who is this guy? And… wait a minute, why has he been silent for nearly half a minute?
Reese decides to ask: "What's wrong, Finch? Cat got your tongue?"
Later, when Reese leaves the library, Finch seems genuinely distracted, and Reese feels… something. All Reese knows is, ever since the parking garage, he's become aware of Finch in a way that he wasn't, before. He thinks about his hands, and the way Finch's eyes flick up towards him sometimes, and why did "Harold Finch" choose tweed and glasses, what is he hiding, and would he look good in a sweater?
He's not likely to know anytime soon, the way their current job is going. He could practically solve this without ever interacting with the victim. Which would be easier, come to think of it. She is a young, talkative barista who favours a low-cut neckline, and tends to lean over the counter a lot. Reese itches to tell her to cover it up, but in the field, it's better to just play the game. Finch, however, seems to disagree.
"I'm getting information, Finch."
"That's a way to get information."
"Ms. Rostenkowski would tell you everything you needed to know - whether you wanted to or not. Flirting is pointless here, Mr. Reese."
"My entire presence here is useless, Finch. I'm good at violence, not talking."
A beat. "I cede the point, Mr. Reese."
And the next four jobs are also surprisingly quiet. No shooting, no running, no punching. It's nice, at first. But Reese is starting to get stir-crazy.
Which is how he ends up practically running out the door to beat some information out of a group of professional mercenaries when he knows Finch could probably find everything they need to know without even breaking a sweat.
That's how it starts.
Mercenary #3 is the first one to snap. "She's in Williamsburg! This stupid oyster bar, the Maison Premiere. They have her in the basement."
Finch types it in, carefully. On the other end of the line, Reese is only slightly out of breath. "Hey Finch. Did you get that?"
"I did, Mr. Reese. Detective Carter is being notified as we speak."
Reese went to the hangar and, as expected, gave the mercenaries something that had been lacking in their lives for too long: fear. And Finch… watched. And watched. And Reese reported back and asked Finch what to do. As though - as though despite already being the best at what he does, Reese still wants Finch's input, he wants Finch to tell him what to do and where to do it, and Reese will just… be docile. Be a terrifying, brutal human weapon who… obeys Finch. And suddenly Finch wants. Reese is competent and damaged and his eyes light up when he sees Finch, and Finch wants him, wants him, wants him.
It takes a full minute before the flashbacks hit. The flashbacks of the times he watched Nathan, and Nathan caught him. He still feels the embarrassment, and the loneliness, as though it were yesterday.
Reese returns soon enough, and he seems flushed, and full of energy. He rolls around on the floor with Bear, almost giddy, until Finch clears his throat and suggests that Bear might enjoy a walk.
"And might you enjoy a walk, Harold?" Reese asks, impertinent.
"I might, Mr. Reese."
Out of absolutely nowhere, Reese abruptly asks: "Will you ever tell me your real name, Harold?" He is still on the floor, scratching Bear's ears.
Finch hears himself answer: "You know several of my real names, John."
And Reese looks up at him, with a look that seems to say: I know you're not dumb, why are you like this?
And Finch looks away, suddenly angry - angry about Nathan all over again, angry that Nathan had looked at him the way he did until Finch had come to care for him, while Nathan had never… Nathan had leaned into him and talked in that low, confidential voice just to him, just to Harold, like Nathan and Harold were in their own little world together and no one else mattered, and he only did that when he needed Harold to do something for him. And then he went off and got himself killed, and for what? To prove that he cared about people? But he didn't. He only cared about how people could make him feel.
And that's the first time Finch sees it in Reese's eyes: and odd, conflicted glance. Just in passing. Nearly imperceptible.
Finch just can't do this. He doesn't know why Reese is looking up at him like he is right now, he doesn't know what Reese wants Finch to do for him, and he prefers to eschew curiosity for now.
"On second thought, Mr. Reese, perhaps you'll walk Bear without me. I have some work to do."
It happens three more times. Three little tiny crossroads, where Reese might have held back and let Finch do the work with computers and harmless paperwork, but instead went ahead and did the work with his fists.
It's all fine until today, when Reese spontaneously accepts their target's offer of a drink; except the glass contains whiskey and aconite and Reese swallows about half of it before Finch's warning comes through.
He has about twenty minutes to make it to a hospital before the first symptoms appear. Twenty minutes in which he has to avoid their target's hired muscle. Their target's small army of hired muscle.
Finch's voice is eerily calm. "Door to your right. Go!"
Reese hurtles himself at the door, and takes off running.
"Down two floors. As quickly as you can."
Reese hears people in the stairwell above him. His heart surges a bit. He loves the chase.
"You should be at level three now. Open the trap door to your right."
Reese doesn't even think about it, he opens the door. Finch says: "there should be a disused elevator. Use the ladder built into the wall, and tell me when you hit the floor." Reese climbs down the ladder; he feels exhilarated. Finch is so good at this. How did Finch even know?
"On your left. Pull on the lever near the door."
The door opens onto a parking garage. "Convenient," said Reese, just as a guard comes up behind him. Reese, driven by momentum, knocks him out without even looking in his direction.
Finch makes an odd noise in his ear.
They don't speak again until much later. Reese has hotwired a motorcycle, and been to the hospital and back. He is fine, and he is jubilant. The case ended with zero deaths and a chase scene straight out of James Bond. The perfect day. But when he walks back to the library, Finch hardly acknowledges him.
"What's wrong, Finch?" Reese drawls. "New number?"
"No, Mr. Reese, your adrenaline will not be required again today." Finch's tone is unreadable.
"What is it, Finch? You're saying that like there's something wrong."
Finch shifts in his chair. "I… simply wish it were possible to achieve things without violence."
"Well, Finch, if it were possible to achieve things without violence, you wouldn't need me, would you?"
Finch stares at the desk. Reese walks up to him, and leans. "Finch?" A moment passes. "Finch?" Reese repeats, voice soft. "That was a joke. I don't think…" Reese places a hand on his shoulder. "Harold?"
Abruptly, Finch grabs Reese's forearm, pushes Reese's hand away. Reese, shocked, doesn't move. Watches as Finch stands and, still gripping Reese's arm, twists it.
Reese resists at first - of course he does, he has no idea what's going on - but then, without knowing why, turns pliant, and Finch pins him between the desk and himself. Finch finally looks up into Reese's eyes. "What were you thinking?", he asks.
Reese, disconcerted, says: "Your eyes are blue."
Finch grabs Reese's shirt, holds it in his fists, and pulls. "You don't just drink anything people give you! How could you do that? How could you possibly do that?"
Finch's strength is surprising. Reese sways down towards him. This is what he wanted, and he didn't even know.
But Finch steps away. He turns around, heads towards the door, and leaves.
Finch's control snaps the next time he sees Reese.
He doesn't plan it. He doesn't know it's going to happen. Reese has come back from the veterinarian - Bear is spending the night there - and they've been alone in the library, in a sort of heavy, stifling silence, all afternoon.
Reese breaks the silence: "It's the fighting, isn't it."
"I beg your pardon?"
"That's why you hired me, isn't it. Violence. It's… it's unseemly to you, isn't it. That's why you needed someone else to do it for you. You don't want to carry the ethical burden of what we do."
Reese... apparently thinks that he's been the one choosing violence all this time, when really Finch has been letting him… manipulating him, really, into fighting. And Reese somehow has concluded that Finch's outburst was due to a distaste for physical violence in general. Rather than a distaste for Reese getting hurt.
And it's such a ridiculous idea, such an ironically wrong interpretation of events, that it would be comical, if it wasn't for the fact that now, Finch will either have to explain away the confusion or risk Reese asking more unanswerable questions. Then things between them will have to change. All Finch can see, all that goes through his mind, is a parade of past relationships, glances and touches and broken trust, and Finch suddenly finds himself to be inexplicably, blindingly angry.
"I beg your pardon, Mr. Reese?"
Reese's voice rises. "It's the only thing that makes sense, Finch. You have me do all the fighting, but you can barely look me in the eye afterwards."
Finch cannot bear to look in Reese's direction. "Surely you cannot believe that I am as sanctimonious and prudish as that," he says, derisive.
"What should I believe, Finch? That you're comfortable with the use of force and brutality? Because I'm not seeing any evidence of that." Reese moves towards Finch, near the spot when Finch grabbed him the day before. "Look at me. Look at me, Finch, look at me."
Reese is probably about to say that Finch should be the one to rough up a perp in interrogation one of these days. That maybe then he'd understand how difficult it is. How it's not so simple as right versus wrong. But Finch suddenly feels as though he's become someone else, and before Reese can say anything, Finch pulls himself up to his full height and slaps Reese, backhanded, his knuckles painfully hitting Reese's cheekbone.
"You idiot," Finch says, his voice quickly rising. "Of course I have you do all the fighting. You are A STATISTICAL FREAK who NEVER LOSES A FIGHT. ERGO, OF THE TWO OF US, YOU ARE THE FIGHTER. I don't find violence unseemly. What I find unseemly is irresponsible stupidity that nearly gets you killed. You. You -"
Reese hasn't moved for several seconds, his eyes shut tight, his hands gripping the side of the desk. Finch is holding back a yell of pain - what on earth has he just done? - and he's barely refraining from cradling his knuckles in his other hand. He looks at Reese. Reese opens his eyes.
Reese's eyes are glazed over, and his breathing is becoming laboured, ragged, and Finch, guided by an instinct he didn't know he had, grips Reese's hair and pulls.
Reese lets out a guttural sound, his eyes flutter closed, and, pulled down by Finch, he stumbles to his knees. Finch feels as though something he was clutching tight has just fallen out and come free from his grasp. Reese would let him do anything he wanted, and he… He can't… He takes Reese's chin in his hand, grips it. Reese's eyes, barely focused, move up, sliding over the whole length of Finch's body. "Harder," he says.
Finch hand tightens on Reese's chin, gripping it hard. Hurting. Reese gasps, and Finch needs to know: "Are you ready?"
Reese lets out another guttural sound.
"Are you ready?" Finch repeats. "For what I'm about to do to you?"
Reese whispers, "Yes".
Finch swipes his thumb up the side of Reese's face, and runs it over his mouth. Reese lets his mouth loll open, and Finch thrusts his thumb into it, gripping Reese's jaw. He pulls Reese this way, towards the chair.
Finch sits down, Reese kneeling in front of him.
Finch lets go of his jaw. "You wanted this. You've wanted me to see you like this, how much you like it. You'll do anything I tell you, won't you, John?"
"Then show me. Show me what you want."
And Reese reaches out, pulls at Finch's fly until he gets his trousers open, rubs his face into Finch's lap and swallows Finch down. The sounds he makes are obscene and Finch closes his eyes, lost. His hands are on Reese's head and neck and he feels the hard thump of Reese's heart, hears the yearning, helpless noises coming from him, and it's enough to drown out his thoughts.
Finch can feel his movements become more erratic. Reese's hands clutch at him. But he wants - he wants -
"Stop," he whispers, prying Reese off himself. "Stand up."
They stand together, oddly, awkwardly, and Finch reaches up, blindly, to cup Reese's face. Finch has everything to lose; his anger has disappeared, but he can feel and smell Reese and he won't be able to bear it if Reese doesn't love him back, he won't, he'll -
Reese leans down, and their lips touch.
Finch scrabbles to pull his trousers open, and he tries to move forward, to grind their cocks together. He is desperate for it, as though the contact of his skin will tell Reese everything Finch needs him to know. And Reese, following his lead, reaches down to take both their erections in his hand, pushing them against each other and stroking them, until they both start shuddering. Reese's stubble scrapes at Finch's skin, he moans "Oh my god" into Finch's mouth. They come all over each other.
Reese's skin is hot, and Finch runs a hand up his hip, tracing the faint scars. "Mr. Reese?"
"John," Finch whispers, "my name is…"