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December Acts Selflessly

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Harold Finch, avid reader, once bought fifteen libraries rather than see those grand old buildings go to waste. Back when he was three, his parents had caught him sounding out words from a copy of Better Homes and Gardens; in the five decades since then, he’s managed to cover all the literary greats: Gilgamesh and Don Quixote, The Trial and Siddhartha, Metamorphoses and One Thousand and One Nights, and beyond.

With such a body of work in his head, he’s picked up on a lot of tropes. For example, the countless variations on the damsel in distress, a helpless young woman awaiting her death -- a trope that ranges all the way back to at least Iphigenia, sacrificed by her own father to appease the gods. And yet, the inversion isn’t particularly rare: In folk tales, women often saved their own menfolk, whether husband or brothers, and there are plenty of examples of Action Girls (a term he learned just a few months ago) whose male sidekicks are often in need of rescuing.

No, what makes Harold rare isn’t his gender. It’s that usually, when a guy gets kidnapped in literature, it’s to highlight some connection to a female character. Or, at minimum, to show how impressive he is while escaping on his own. Neither of which will ever apply to Harold Finch.

He contemplates this disparity, as a way to distract himself from the pain of his arms being wrenched behind his back, a zip tie cinched tight around his wrists before he’s marched downstairs, the dark hood leaving him utterly at the mercy of his captors. His second set of captors, in fact; he’s spent the past few hours in the hands of Decima, and now it’s Vigilance that gets to tug at his metaphorical leash.

For Grace, he thinks, trying to quell the fear and panic rising up inside him. Because, just as he’d told Reese, this day has always been looking for him. A day when he can’t run anymore; a day when his carefully constructed house of cards comes tumbling down around his ears and there is nothing for it but, like Iphigenia, to face his death with whatever dignity he can still muster.

Two years ago, he’d been kidnapped for the first time. A year after that, the same woman had come for him again, and he’d gone along with her rather than risk any harm to Grace. In between the two, he’d been (briefly) kidnapped by a serial killer, and, later, captured while trying to bust a crooked casino; each time, he’d been sure that it would be the end for him.

That kind of fatalism should’ve been a one-time occurrence: one way or the other, over and done. But not for Harold Finch.

Reese had once been kidnapped, too, and captured any number of times -- by the mob, the cops, the feds; it wasn’t as though Harold’s experience was unique. Of course, Reese probably didn’t feel this pounding fear every time it happened, and he certainly didn’t default to “freeze” any time a gun got pointed in his general direction. Hell, Reese has been through drug-resistance training and outright torture; Harold has gotten drugged precisely once, so far, and it had been his own damn fault, and he still goes into cold sweats at the thought of it happening again.

Well, he thinks, as they pull his unresisting body up into some sort of van, either I live through this, or I don’t. Maybe Reese will track him down in time -- after making sure that Grace is safely out of the country, still not aware that her fiancé is even alive. Because the awareness itself would put her in even greater danger. And he’d rather be a damsel in distress a thousand times than to ever see her in that role again.

So maybe he was wrong. Maybe his captivity does reveal a connection to a woman. Not that she’s rescuing him, like in the folk tales, but that it’s the thought of her that makes him brave enough to turn himself over to their enemies, to walk into the lion’s den and face whatever fate awaits him, one more time.

For Grace.