Finch had spent months searching.
He had to find the perfect apartment in the perfect location for Mr. Reese. He’d seen where John was living – well – he hadn’t actually seen it, but he knew where it was. He knew what kind of place it was. And he knew that John saw no reason to look for anything else.
He also knew that John’s birthday was approaching. What a perfect gift!
Finch understood what had been taken from John. He’d been deprived of so called creature comforts until he no longer saw any use for them. He had a roof over his head and a place to sleep. That was really all he needed.
But finding something suitable was difficult.
Then he found it. It was prefect. A loft – excellent security, clean, newly refurbished, open plan, open sight lines... And the location? Not too close to nor too far from the library, and Finch could not believe that it overlooked the park where John occasionally played XiangQi with Mr. Han.
The only problem was that it was occupied. A middle-aged Wall Street lawyer lived there.
But it wasn’t a big problem. Not for Finch. And not for the gentleman who valued cash over his living quarters. Finch offered him enough so that he could afford to relocate to the apartment on Central Park that he’d been eyeing for almost a year.
Sometimes, Finch smiled to himself, everybody wins.
Interior design was next on his list. He searched and found the pieces that he felt fit Mr. Reese: solid, functional, the highest quality, but not flashy. He worked at creating the perfect balance of modern, industrial, and rustic that would give the almost sterile loft a warmth that made it feel like a home. He knew Mr. Reese probably wouldn’t even notice the quality hard woods used in the bespoke furniture or the 600 thread count percale sheets and pillowcases, but Finch wouldn’t settle.
Next, he found a service that specialized in discretion. They would come and clean, with an option to do general shopping and even cooking if it was desired, but John would never see them unless he wanted to.
His final step was the most grave. He made sure that the large closet off the master bath was stocked almost as well as a front-line emergency hospital. And he arranged for someone to come in monthly and restock any supplies that had been depleted, although he sincerely hoped that the restocking would never be needed.
As he went through these steps, over the months leading up to Mr. Reese’s birthday, he couldn’t help but imagine the actual giving of the gift. He planned just how he would like that to unfold. On the day he would give Mr. Reese the key with no other explanation. Reese would, most likely, thank him and leave. But eventually, his curiosity would get the better of him. He would have to ask – what did the key open? Then the fun would begin. Finch would get to be involved in the ‘unwrapping.’ He would direct Mr. Reese to the location and follow him to the door. He would get to give the grand tour and he secretly couldn’t wait to see Mr. Reese’s face when he looked out the window and fully appreciated the view of the park.
It didn’t happen that way.
Sarah Jennings happened instead. Marshall Jennings happened instead. The shadow of New Rochelle rose out of the past and obscured all the potential pleasure John’s birthday had promised.
Finch was disappointed.
But he also knew that the gift was not about the pleasure of the giver.
This was for Mr. Reese. Maybe it was better – in the end – for him to unwrap his gift alone.
The next morning, Reese walked into the library with a little more spring in his step.
Finch looked up.
Reese smiled a little and simply and sincerely said, “Thank-you.”
When Finch smiled in return and nodded, John continued, a hint of teasing in his voice, “You know… I’d forgotten what percale feels like on a pillow top, memory foam mattress…”
Finch turned back to his computers, ignoring him. But the smile didn’t quite leave his features.
John held his hint of a smirk. “I’d forgotten – and I definitely prefer Brazilian Mahogany to Teak. How did you know?”
Finch’s smile almost faltered as he considered. He had debated between those two materials in the construction of the bed. He really needed to remind himself that John had once been an international spy. He knew this stuff and could appreciate it. The fact that he believed there was no need for such things did not prevent him from enjoying them.
“I must have you over for dinner sometime. It’d be a shame to let all that excellent cookware go to waste.”
“I didn’t know you cooked, Mr. Reese.”
To that, John did not respond. He merely raised an eyebrow to say, ‘Really? Why else would you furnish the kitchen as carefully as you did?’ Obviously Finch knew he quite liked to cook, although where he’d picked up that information was anybody’s guess.
In the end, both men were quite happy with the birthday present. Finch was extra gratified to know that not only did John like the apartment, but he appreciated its furnishings as well.
Finch never did go over for dinner, there was never time for that sort of thing.
But both men liked to think it could happen…