Reese followed Angela Powell to a non-descript building in an out of the way business park in the Hudson neighborhood of Manhattan. She parked her car and walked quite a distance before entering a building with just a number above the door. John tried to pair her phone but she appeared to have it turned off. When he attempted to get inside the building, he found the door was locked and that you’d need a key code to get inside or be buzzed in. When he pressed the bell, they didn’t like what he said when he tried to talk his way in.
At some point, he knew he could manage to break in, but that wasn’t what he wanted to do unless he had to. So he resorted to climbing to the roof of a building across the street, hunting until he found a decent vantage point where he could at least look through the windows and take a few pictures. He found Angela’s office in a corner of the fourth floor and spent a few hours watching as she went about her day.
She spoke with various employees of the company and John couldn’t help noticing that they were all women. The only men she talked with were apparently customers… or he supposed they were more likely to be called donors. Once an hour or so, a man would be ushered into Angela’s office where she would proceed to speak with him for nearly an hour, referring to her computer screen frequently. After some time, they would both rise from their chairs and she would take him down the hall to where there were four blue doors. The young men would go inside for a little while and eventually emerge with a brown paper bag in hand. John figured out what was most likely happening beyond the blue doors. The prospective donors would then leave their bag on a counter and leave the building.
He caught up with one young man down on the street. “Hey, how you doin’?” he asked the guy casually.
The dark haired man looked up, smiling. He couldn’t be more than twenty or twenty-two, dressed in jeans and a Perdue sweat shirt. His face was a bit flushed and his eyes were bright. “Good,” he answered, looking John over. “Something I can help you with?”
“Just wondering what that building was,” John responded easily. “I work across the street… and heard a few things…”
The guy chuckled. “Oh, yeah. It’s the sperm bank, if that’s what you’ve heard.”
“You’re doing that?” John tried to act as if he thought it sounded like fun.
“Well, trying to,” the young guy admitted. “I could really use the dough, but they sure make you jump through hoops to get in.”
“Hmmm,” John replied, non-commital.
“First, you apply online. Then, they might call you for an interview. That’s what I had today.”
“Just an interview?” John asked, though he suspected the answer already.
“Well…” Grinning, the guy trailed off. “You have to leave a deposit too. For them to check out.”
“But I know my baby gravy will pass all their tests!” he declared. “I’ll be bringing down five hundred smackers a pop, twice a week!”
The younger man appeared confident. “That’s what they said. I’ll hear for sure next week, but then it’s all uphill from then.” He noticed a bus pulling up to a stop across the street. “Well, that’s my ride, man. Catch ya later.”
John smothered a smile, trying to remember if he’d ever been that sure of anything in life.
“Mr. Reese,” Finch said in his ear. “I think perhaps you should come back to the library at this point.”
“Be there in twenty,” he replied.
“I think you’re going to have to get inside,” Finch said as soon as John walked into their workroom. He was staring at his computer screen as usual and didn’t look up but sounded as though he and John had been in the middle of a conversation.
“That’s what I was thinking,” John agreed. “Any thoughts on how I can do that?”
“You could apply to be a donor.”
Before Finch said it right out like that, it really hadn’t crossed John’s mind. He’d gone undercover to get in to other types of businesses before but for some reason, pretending to want to donate sperm was so implausible that it hadn’t occurred to him at all.
He glanced at Finch’s screen and noted that it contained the guidelines for prospective donors.
“I see one problem, Finch,” he said, pointing. “I’m not between the ages of eighteen and thirty-nine.”
Finch glanced up at him, and John realized he’d not counted on the way Finch had a habit of thinking of literally everything. “On your application, you are. John.”
Companies like Hudson wanted you to fill out copious amounts of paperwork before being accepted as a donor. They wanted medical information going back three generations. For someone like Harold Finch of course, who had invented a background for John Warren on the fly that had passed investigation by the FBI, coming up with three generations worth of family medical history was a piece of cake.
John spent a few minutes looking over the list of other things they would want before accepting someone as a donor. “They do blood tests,” he said skeptically. “For diseases. They take DNA. It’s not like I can fake that.” They also apparently did sperm counts and tested motility and froze donations and thawed them to see if they would be viable after being frozen.
“I’m not asking you to be accepted,” Finch pointed out. “Just that you get in the door. I haven’t been able to find anyone who could be threatening Ms. Powell, therefore, the most likely scenario is that someone from her workplace is the threat.”
“Or she’s threatening someone there,” John nodded. He was still looking over the information on the website. “It says it can take weeks from the time you submit your application before you’re called in for an interview. If you’re called in.”
“Really, John?” Finch asked, sounding as if he hardly considered this an obstacle. This was the man who’d set up a page for John on a dating website and spent an afternoon exchanging flirtatious texts with Maxine Angelis. It would probably be nothing for him to hack into the company database and make them think they’d been considering John’s application for weeks.
Harold gazed at him pointedly. “Your appointment is tomorrow afternoon at one.”
“Great,” John said unenthusiastically. He’d been asked to do many things while working for the CIA, many more even stranger ones since meeting Finch, but this… he hardly knew how to categorize the idea.
“I’ve emailed you a copy of your application so you can familiarize yourself with it before the interview,” Finch went on. “Plus a copy of the information they send applicants before their appointments.” He glanced away, then back at John, his expression changing to one of concern. “I realize this is a lot to ask, that what you may be expected to do is rather personal…”
John shrugged. “I’ve been in weird spots before,” he noted. It was late and he decided he’d better head home. “Besides, this could be one of those that as soon as I meet the number, the threat will show up too and I might be able to handle it without much trouble.” He patted Bear and told Finch good-night.
On the way home, it finally started sinking in. He was going to go to a sperm bank and be interviewed to be a donor. The interview would end with his furnishing a sample for testing. A lump the size of Texas settled in John’s stomach.
What he really wanted to do, he thought as he sat alone in the blue painted room that Angela had led him to, was to slink around the building and try to figure out what was happening there that could be a threat. He’d passed various rooms on his way to reception area, even seen the vault, peeking into stare at the huge silver tanks that housed millions of sperm for paying couples to buy, wondering at the computer system that organized it all and thinking about what Finch would think of whatever program they used and whether the Machine could tell if any of the future children would be under threat someday.
He’d eventually been taken to Angela’s office where she’d smiled at him like a model and begun going over the eighteen-page application with him line by line after checking his driver’s license, or rather John Reardon’s license. It had been rather like a job interview and John had reflected that apparently that was what the men who came here were really doing, the excitement of the young man he’d spoken with yesterday notwithstanding, this was a job with responsibilities to go along with the payments. Those who thought of it as getting paid to masturbate probably soon realized that it wasn’t quite the dream job they thought it was.
He answered Angela’s questions about his medical history, family background and college degree all the while trying to figure out who would want to mess with the system and how they could profit from that. Angela didn’t make it easy; she leaned across her desk at him, smiling and laughing at any weak joke he made, as if he were the most fascinating man she’d ever met. He suspected that was the plan. He’d seen only female workers here, all of them attractive and that was probably on purpose.
On their way to the blue room, which John had realized was the sperm banks’ little joke title for it, they had passed a lab where four women technicians were looking into microscopes, presumably checking sperm for motility or whatever. The whole thing seemed so business-like and tedious, John wondered how any man could make a donation after all the preliminaries.
Before leaving him alone, Angela had pointed out the shelf containing porn magazines and dvds, handed him some packets of KY which she’d cautioned he not get on the ‘sample’ as she called it and told him to wash his hands and dry them thoroughly first. Then she’d left, locking the door from the outside. John didn’t think the lock would prove to be much trouble to him, but he couldn’t think of a way to slip out and wander the halls without producing what he’d been put in here to produce. Angela had given him a plastic cup, a pen to label it and he’d been instructed to put it in the incubator located on counter where the lab techs were working.
He supposed he could just put an empty container in the incubator and then proceed to slink around the premises for awhile until he was caught and shown the way out. But if he needed a way back in, he should probably actually go through with it.
Unkown to Finch, he had gone to a pharmacy last night and obtained some pills that he hoped would help him out. He’d swallowed one before his interview, as the directions stated they should be taken at least a half hour before a man wanted to perform, but the only thing John noticed was that he was beginning to feel a bit queasy. The possible side effects listed hadn’t really concerned him but he did wonder how the pills could aid in lovemaking if a man felt more like throwing up than having sex.
Resolutely, John pushed that thought away and went to look through the available porn. The magazines were all dog-eared, as if many men had riffled through them to help them with going about their business here. The images were pretty ordinary, he reflected, nothing too kinky or fetishistic. He dismissed the dvds, even though Angela had switched on a fan that was emitting a low hum that apparently blocked sound, and went to sit on the couch with a magazine, feeling helpless. In the service of his country, he’d had occasion to seduce a few assets. This, however, was in no way the same thing.
If he hadn’t been able to masturbate at home or have sex with a willing partner, he wasn’t sure even with medicinal help that he would be capable. What was he going to do? Tell Angela that he hadn’t been in the mood? Tell Finch? Despite their conversation at the hotel after his unfortunate evening with Zoe, Finch really didn’t know what had gone wrong.
Or did he? Though John had believed him when he said he hadn’t been listening, he had talked to John about the emotional backlash from recent events. John had been willing to believe that Finch had thought that he’d had some difference with Zoe, that the events of Rikers and Kara’s bomb vest had stressed him out, rather than realizing that Finch might just have figured out exactly what was responsible for John’s low mood after Zoe had left. But what didn’t Finch know about him? Even if he hadn’t heard anything specific, he certainly was more than capable of putting two and two together.
John sighed and leaned his head back against the wall. He’d long since stopped thinking of Finch’s near constant surveillance as anything that bothered him. He even welcomed knowing that he valued John’s welfare far more than his previous employers had and if any assistance was ever needed, he would be instantly aware of John’s status. But the realization that Finch probably knew that John hadn’t been able to have sex…
Still, if he knew about that night with Zoe, it didn’t mean Finch had figured out that John was having a serious problem. It wasn’t something that John even had been thinking about all that much. His libido had been pretty dormant for a couple of years now, and even though he’d tried to jerk off a few mornings and hadn’t been able to finish it really wasn’t something he’d been actively worrying about. Not very much anyway. It wasn’t as though he had possible partners beating down his door every night.
It wasn’t as though he were looking for possible partners.
Yes, Zoe had made it clear that she was available and wouldn’t mind being friends with benefits. But otherwise, with the exception of Maxine Angelis who he’d only dated as part of his cover anyway, John wasn’t exactly in a position to be going out and meeting women. In their line of work, there was neither time nor opportunity. He and Finch both lived pretty much like monks. They’d had conversations about men like them not being able to have families and children; having someone in their lives to love was pretty much not in the cards either.
Aside from having to bed a few assets in the line of duty, John had always needed to care about someone before he had sex with them. He supposed he was unusual that way. Most of the men he’d known in school or the army hadn’t needed to fall deeply in love to feel like taking an attractive, or even not so attractive, woman to bed. John had always really needed an emotional connection before he could get physical with someone.
Perhaps that had been at the root of his issue with Zoe, John thought. Though he liked her immensely and enjoyed her company, he wasn’t in love with her, any more than she was in love with him. That knowledge, combined with the after effects of his stay in Rikers and the stress of Kara putting that bomb vest on him probably did account for his trouble when he took Zoe up to the penthouse suite.
The revelation made John feel a lot better. He just didn’t have that kind of a connection with Zoe, or with any woman. There were friends like Zoe and Carter, but his deep respect for Carter and her morals precluded him ever having romantic feelings for her.
There was only one person in his life with whom John had a deep, emotional connection.
It wasn’t as though he hadn’t considered Finch that way before this moment. He’d wondered, early on in their association, about a man of his age who apparently had never been married. Then, John had discovered Grace, and he’d revised his opinion of Harold. Given up on his half formed thoughts about the two of them.
Yet his feelings for Harold were as strong as ever. There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for the man, nothing he would sacrifice to keep him safe. He wasn’t something he categorized or put into words; John just accepted that Harold was more important to him than anyone. That if he were to try to put a label on how he felt, he knew only one word would come to mind: love.
Sighing, John closed his eyes and let images of Harold come to him. That little smirk he had when he was making some intellectual, dry joke. The tone of his voice when he asked over their link if John was all right. The way he’d felt under John’s hands when he’d checked for injuries when he’d found him in the train station.
A flush began to spread through John, centering in his groin. Harold was so proper, so primly dressed as he sat at his computer working with the weight of the world on his shoulders. John wanted to undo all those buttons that kept Harold locked away in loneliness, open his waistcoats and shirts like a present and find out what was inside, wanted to hold him, touch him, feel the warmth of his skin, learn the taste of his mouth….
John shuddered, realizing he was getting hard. His hands went to his belt, undoing it and bringing down his zipper. He reached in and brought out his cock, already swelling with blood. He handled himself, enjoying the tingle of anticipation, spreading his legs for greater access. He began to stroke himself, slowly, releasing the feelings for Harold that he usually kept deep in his heart to fill him.
It was only the two of them against the world, working in secret to try to save lives, risky themselves on a daily basis. No one else really knew or could understand. But when he looked at Harold and Harold looked at him, they both knew. Harold had needed someone with John’s skills. John had needed a purpose. At first, helping the numbers had filled that need. But somehow, his purpose had shifted, from the numbers to Harold. He believed in his cause, in his Machine, but even knowing that Harold had expected him to keep working the numbers when Root had taken him hadn’t stopped John from needing to find and save him. He wouldn’t do it without him. The Machine knew that.
And Harold had done everything in his power to get John back when he was in Rikers. He’d come all the way up to the roof of that building, even when John had told him to stay away, mocking John’s half hearted attempt to draw his gun on him to force him to leave him there to die. The man who’d never defused a bomb vest in his life had walked over and unbuttoned John’s shirt and risked his own life to save him.
John thought now of how gentle Harold’s fingers had been when he’d undone his buttons that night. How he wished he could feel Harold unbuttoning his shirt now, when there was no danger. When he could show the man how deeply he felt for him….
John gasped, his hips flexing. Blindly, he reached for the open specimen cup and came, spending his semen into the sterile receptacle with heated thoughts of Harold filling his mind.