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They hunker down for the night in a motel. It's right on the interstate and the headlights bleed in through the thin curtains in a constant sweeping cadence. It's a double room, one bed, and John takes the side by the door. He pulls the drawer out the nightstand, drops a gun in, and shoves it at hip height under the bed.

Finch says, "Well at least it's not under the pillow." He's taking off his shoes. He's sitting on a chair and he's bracing his feet against the wall so he can reach the laces. John has a sudden urge to go help him but instead he just watches. He watches too long and Finch notices. Finch says, defensively, "Something interesting, Mr Reese?"

He's gotten the wrong idea but John doesn't correct it. He pushes off the bed and goes and splashes his face instead. The faucet splutters; the water has a chemical taint that makes him queasy but he keeps scooping it over his face, rubbing the gel out of his hair and the sweat off his neck. When he lifts his face from the towel, he looks at himself in the mirror a while, composes his face deliberately.

Back in the bedroom, Finch has turned out the light already. John takes off his coat but he keeps his boots on. He can't run so good across the kind of run down broken up concrete that covers the parking lots around the motel and he's still amped, still thinking there might be a comeback from this number. John doesn't count a number done until they get back home; it's a habit long entrenched with him. He sits on the bed heavily.

Finch has gotten under the comforter and is lying with his back to John and the door. He's taken off his glasses and they sit on the nightstand on top of a flyer from a laundry service. He's in his undershirt. His suit is folded neatly over the bedside chair, the pants laid carefully so the creases stay sharp.

He looks shelled, John thinks: pink and undefended. John flips back the covers and stretches out on his back next to Finch, who stirs and mutters irritably, "Are you wearing shoes, Mr Reese?" He doesn't mention the pants and the shirt, John observes, before he replies, "I'm not running down mobsters in my underwear and bare feet again, Finch." He grins. "Last time I got a gravel graze right across my a—"

Finch coughs. "Yes," he says quickly. "I recall."

John closes his eyes. There's no way he can sleep but he closes his eyes and he slows down his breathing so his heart rate drops a little. He is profoundly aware of Finch at his side. He focuses on his own body instead, concentrating his mind onto his one hand, feeling it grow warm and heavy, pushing that sensation up his arm until his shoulders slowly relax, until he can slacken, a little, the tightness in his chest.

It's when he's sunk into the bed, zoned, that Finch touches him. Finch always touches him first; that's understood between them though they've never discussed it. They've never discussed this at all, in fact.

Finch scoots himself backwards, until his back is pressed against the full length of John's side. John shifts, and then lazily rolls over, throwing one arm over Finch so he fits snugly, ass to groin. Finch is silent. John holds his breath. The comforter is some kind of cheap polyester quilt, peach colored and shiny on the underside; it rustles loudly when they move.

John presses his face into the curve of Finch's neck, into the turn where his neck meets his shoulder. Finch has a ridged white scar line here and John fits his mouth to it, swirls his tongue over it until Finch makes a stifled sound and pushes his ass back against John's hardening cock. Finch pushes insistently, demanding without words, and John grinds back, picking up a rhythm that sends a throb through his balls that drives him crazy. Finch moves his hand backward, fumbling under the covers, until he finds John's zipper and he jerks it down clumsily. He can't get the angle and John takes in a shuddery breath and helps him, takes his cock out with sure and practiced ease and then thrusts up against the fine silk of Finch's boxers. He's grinding up and pulling Finch down onto him, his palm flat against Finch's cotton-covered chest. He's moving faster now and loving the way Finch is panting, the tiny soft sounds he is making. John drags the boxers down with an urgent hand; his other arm, wedged under them, is going numb but he doesn't care. He just wants to feel—yes—he puts his hand on Finch's cock and it's hard; it's hot; it's wet at the tip. John jerks him off as he thrusts his own cock up against the curve of Finch's ass, and Finch closes his hand over John's and guides him. Finch's hand controls their rhythm and he goes faster and faster, winding John into a kind of frenzy until he's juddering, shaking, coming apart, coming everywhere.

John buries his face into Finch's shoulder and holds him close, too close. Finch chokes out, "I can't breathe," and John springs away, releasing him. He's glad it's dark in here.

Finch's breathing is steady now. He's curled on his side still, in the same position, and he looks so neat, so decorous. John waits, and waits, until he's sure Finch is asleep. And then he strokes one hand gently, carefully, down Finch's cheek.

He can't keep doing this.


They lost this one. These are the worst nights, when John feels all the rage and the helplessness, all the fragility and the horror of people. He beat a guy half to death tonight and it didn't help a thing. His hands are battered; they're bloody. He stares down at them as they clench and unclench on their own. He's getting blood on the good carpet in Finch's safe house. Good, he thinks, savagely. Somewhere in the world at least, there will be proof that Ray Fisher existed, mattered.

Finch is in the kitchen. John can hear him moving around in there, clinking plates. Usually John is the one to feed them but tonight Finch brings him Pop Tarts and a bowl of SpaghettiOs, steam curling up from the nuked edges. Finch sets them down on the coffee table and when John looks up, surprised, Finch shrugs and says, "They don't go bad. I don't think it even counts as food but will you eat it anyway?"

He nods, dumbly. He reaches for the Pop Tart and hears Finch's intake of breath. Finch says, "I'm getting gauze. Be right back," and then he's gone again into some other room. John eats the food. It's not really food but it's better than ration packs. He chews mechanically. There's a rusty taste in his mouth and he runs his tongue around his teeth until he finds the cut, and then worries it with his tongue until the sharpness of the sensation there drowns out the ache in his fists.

He doesn't pay attention to Finch cleaning his hands. He's still angry, revved, and he thinks he might tip over if he tries to speak, might punch the wall or maybe just puke up the food that's rolling in his gut like a snake. He focuses on the wall; it's just a beige wall in a house so anonymous John honestly can't tell if he's been here before.

He hears the sounds: the slosh of water in a bowl, the pat pat of gauze, the tutting noises Finch makes as he works. He's coming down from it now, he guesses; letting in a little more. Yeah. Finch is sitting on an office chair— he must've rolled it over from the desk— and it turns with him as he reaches from the bowl on the coffee table to John's hands. Finch has a scrape across his brow, cutting down fiercely toward one eye, and he's smeared it with something pink that smells of the hospital. John really hates that smell. He closes his eyes and knocks his head back against the recliner. And then he feels Finch drop his hands, hears the soft clunk of the lid on the tub.

There's a pause between them.

Finch scoots his chair closer; John hears the little wheels squeaking against the carpet. He stays still, with his eyes closed, as Finch slides a cool hand over John's chest, slipping in under his shirt where it's open at the top. It's only when John feels the tremor of what—anxiety? pain?— in that hand that he responds. He drops his head back further, exposing his throat to Finch, who lets out a quiet thrilled huff like he knew he would. Finch likes his throat for some reason, and John likes the sounds he makes, that he can't seem to help making, when he likes something. Finch leans in and kisses him, slow and deep. John opens his mouth eagerly. They haven't done this before. Finch has never kissed him before; Finch has barely looked him in the eye.

He keeps his eyes closed. The kiss goes on, deeper and deeper, until heat, pulsing heat, gathers inside him. Finch has a clever mouth; he pulls back and nips John's lip; he presses close and slides his tongue in dirtily, swirling and thrusting, tongue fucking him until his head is filled with dazed visions of Finch fucking him for real, of him riding Finch's cock while Finch looks him straight in the eye and tells him— He's so turned on. He's so lost in this moment, in the fantasy and in the kiss, that he is shocked when Finch pulls away, sits back on his swivel chair. John opens his eyes and cocks his head to one side, inquiring.

Finch is flushed; sweat is beading around his pristine collar. He doesn't say anything but he drops his eyes to his crotch, leans back in the chair.

And John is there, he takes one step out of his recliner and sinks to his knees in front of Finch. His hands aren't so busted really but he looks up at Finch anyway; he'll say it if he has to, but Finch nods and unbuttons himself. Finch's cock is thick, not too long; it bends a little, a very little, to one side. John thinks if he'd had to design the perfect thing to be fucked with, it would be this.

He can't stop thinking about Finch fucking him, so he doesn't try: he lets the fantasy fill his mind as he licks a broad stripe up Finch's cock, base to tip, and his own cock jerks in answer. He thinks of Finch laying back on a huge bed, all the lights on, no, it's day time and the sun is streaming through the windows, dust motes dancing in the warmth. He thinks of himself sinking onto Finch's cock, on his knees over him, riding him while Finch grips his forearms and tells him how fucking good this is, how good they are together like this, how John makes him—

And then he's gone, he's sucking Finch into his mouth, feeling the velveted heat turn to a slick and rigid pleasure on his tongue. There's salt, a sharp bright taste that he wants to lick up every part of, that he wants to fill his throat with. Finch groans; he's so into it, John can tell, and that makes him hotter. John's cock is caged in his pants and he slips his hand down and works himself a little, just a few fierce pulls: any more and he'll just totally lose it. He rocks on his knees. Finch twines his hands into John's hair and tugs him closer, so Finch is as deep as John can take him, so John's forehead is slapping against Finch's belly where his shirt tails are bunched up. He's moving his mouth up and down Finch's cock and he's getting sloppy; his mouth is filling up; he's getting tired but it's such a good kind of tired, such a wrung out and boneless langor, that he relaxes into it, pushes a lazy hand into his pants and jerks himself off as Finch comes down his throat with a strangled, choked-off yell.

He's so fucked.


They don't talk about it. Ever.

John brings Finch tea, brings him breakfast most mornings in the library. They eat lunch together and they both just assume that one will order dinner when it rolls around. When they have downtime, free from numbers or showing up for their cover identities, they spend it together. They go see movies; they walk the dog; they hang out in John's stupid glass box of an apartment: Finch sitting upright on an orthopaedic monstrosity, tapping away on a laptop while John sits crosslegged in perfect happiness on the floor, cleaning his guns one after the other after the other.

But they don't fuck outside of those shimmering, intense hours after a job. John thinks about it all the damn time.

He's pretty sure the second he mentions the sex Finch will just spring, take off, close it down and he'll never—he'll never have that again. John tells himself that he's really okay with this deal they have. He'd be crazy to spoil it. He's really okay. John tells himself it doesn't mean anything. A lot of guys work off some steam after being in the field. This isn't his first rodeo.

He tells himself this but he knows it's a lie. He's been in love before and he knows what this is. Only love hurts like this.

After Poughkeepsie, he comes just watching Finch jerk off. He's kneeling with his hands around Finch's thighs, thumbs digging into the muscle. He's massaging Finch's thighs, his ass, as Finch strokes himself above him. He turns his face up to see Finch come; see the familiar flush on his skin, the rapid breaths and the noises he always makes. Finch looks down and holds his gaze, his eyes wide and very bright blue, and John loses it right there, comes harder than he could have believed, without a single touch.

He decides then it has to stop.


He doesn't tell Finch. He just puts himself elsewhere. He's pretty sure Finch doesn't even notice and he holds up pretty well until they get a number working in a fancy spa uptown. They check in under Harold Crane's identity and John works out in the gym, eyes on the guy, while Finch lurks in a sauna, bitching the whole time about the steam frazzling his gear.

"I'll buy you a new—what is it, anyway?" John says, hiding a grin as he goes hand to hand with the target, a thick slab of a man who'd failed out of the military for a whole different set of reasons.

"It's a pineapple," Finch replies with irritation. "And it's been boiled quite to death." Finch's voice crackles and the line goes dead. John feels a wave of panic rush through him and he pins the guy, breaks his arm with a sickening crack, and disarms him, unloading the gun and and tossing it into the pool as he runs.

When he gets to the sauna, Finch is gone. He's just about to tear the place apart when his earpiece pips. Finch says casually, like nothing's happened, "I'm back at the suite; I brought a couple spares. Do you need me to come back down?"

John sags. "Stay there," he tells Finch as he begins to jog up the stairs. "I'm coming to you."

He pushes through the adjoining door into Finch's room. Finch looks up from where he's perched on the bed, wearing a hotel robe, a laptop by him and a stack of black boxes with aerials sticking out of them haphazardly resting in his lap. Finch says, "Are you clear? Is Miss Gonzales safe?" and John nods. John just goes over to the bed and pushes all the computers onto the floor. Finch squawks; he begins to protest but John shuts him up with the hardest, most desperate kiss he can muster.

Finch cards his hands through John's hair, running his fingers through it, scraping his short blunt nails over John's scalp as John presses kisses to his mouth, his jaw, licks the pulse in his throat and then thrusts his tongue back into Finch's mouth, trying for that filthy rhythm Finch can build so deftly. He gets it, Finch; he slides his tongue hard into John's mouth, rasping against John's tongue, and John gasps, eager, bucking his hips.

John says, "Can you—is there stuff in the drawer?" He's wary of speaking, of breaking the spell, but he wants this so damn much. He'd beg, if he thought it would help. But Finch just nods quickly, his eyes wide, and John stands up—he's been standing by the bed with one knee up on the comforter. Finch looks mussed: his glasses are a little askew and his hair is standing up at the back where John pushed him against the deep buttoned cushions of the headboard.

John walks to the door and locks it. He locks the balcony windows too, and when he turns back to the bed Finch is pulling the knot out of his robe. John realizes with a rush of heat that Finch is bare ass naked under there. This is new. He wants—John kicks off his shoes and unzips the track top. He's wearing his own white dress shirt underneath—he hadn't wanted to lose the guy by taking too long in the locker room—and he reaches behind to quickly pull it over his head when Finch coughs. It's a command. He stills. Finch says, in a quiet voice that sends a shiver down his hamstrings, "Slower."

John raises his eyes. He unbuttons his shirt one agonizing button at a time. Finch holds his gaze, his eyes steady as he strokes himself, his hand disappearing under the robe. Finch likes his body; John has always known that, but he's never really seen the effect before now, never seen how Finch's breath hitches with every inch of skin he reveals, how he flushes when John trails a finger down his belly. He likes it. John likes it. His cock hardens, throbs. He's tenting his pants like a teenager. He really doesn't think he can stand to wait much longer; he wants this now. He pulls open his shirt and lets it fall to the floor, and then Finch nods almost imperceptibly and John scrabbles himself out of his pants and crawls onto the bed.

Finch leans forward, just as he gets to him, and runs his hand down John's face. It's a curiously chaste, gentle movement and John can't stand it. It goes straight to his gut and twists.

He turns his head. He can't face that now. And they talk so well with their bodies John just wants to sink into the intimacy he knows they can have. Finch so instinctively responds to him, is so in sympathy with his urges; he mirrors John's desires with his own. He can tell Finch is hungry now, hungry to fuck him; Finch's cock is curving up through the white towelling robe and it's dark, heavy with arousal. It's such a crazy turn on for John, to have Finch be so into this the way he's into this. John sits back on his haunches. He picks up the plain white tub Finch has set down on the bed next to them and scoops out—huh, coconut oil. It melts on his fingers. He wonders if it tastes good. He's opening his mouth, putting a curious finger in, when Finch makes a low growl, an almost animal sound, and pulls John's hand to his cock. John smears Finch's cock with the oil, grips it firmly, and then gasps with pleasure as it slides out of his fist. There's something so dirty, so hot about the slide and the mess of it. Finch smells of sex and coconut and he wants to be all over covered with the smell and the taste of Finch's body; he wants it inside him; he wants Finch inside him, possessing him, totally owning him.

Finch catches his eye and he won't let go. Finch is gazing straight into him and John just gives up, just for this moment, and gazes back. He stares deep, drinking in this unexpected gift, and as he does he preps himself deliberately, two rough and wholehearted fingers in his ass while Finch watches. He straddles Finch's lap. Their erections butt up against each other, sending almost unbearable thrills, electric and overwhelming, through John's balls and John clasps both hands around them, holds them together and grinds forward, pressing himself against Finch's belly, pushing away the robe to get as much skin as he can, pressing his face into Finch's neck. Finch's head thuds against the headboard and then he pulls John into a kiss that goes on and on and on; it's so sweet, so hot, that John feels drugged. He's stupid with lust, and just as Finch breaks off John raises himself up, puts one hand back and impales himself, sinks himself onto Finch's perfect cock.

They pause there, shocked at how good it feels. John can see the thrill on Finch's face, in his reddened cheeks; his mouth is slack and rosy. It's better than the fantasy John has nurtured for so long. This is surround sound reality: John can hear Finch's sex sounds, his jagged breathing, smell their sweat, their bodies working together to make these astounding sensations. The hotel sheets are thick and crisp and John can feel the snap of them under his knees as he slowly works himself onto Finch's cock, as he feels the stretch of it inside him.

Finch whispers, "Oh, God. John," and it's stupid, but John suddenly needs that from him the most.

"Say my name," John mumbles. He knows Finch will give him what he needs in this moment.

And he does. Finch whispers and moans it, chants, "John, John, John," and John rides him faster and faster, rising up and them plunging down, until he's slamming himself wildly against Finch's lap, feeling the burn and the glide inside him, riding until his thighs feel like they are tearing, until he's coming in thick spurts onto Finch's chest, on the robe, coming everywhere.

He just can't do this any more.


It doesn't come up for a while anyway. John works the next few numbers alone, Finch a bossy little presence in his earpiece. Then some nothing, some lowlife fuck grabs Finch off of the street like he's some bystander, and John drives a garbage truck into a building.

Finch he retrieves unharmed. The hapless target he sends in handcuffs to the hospital, passing the dead weight of his unconscious body into Carter's custody with barely a backward glance.

Carter says, "Hey, John. John" And you know, Carter is smart; he makes a point of listening to her, so he turns on his heel and looks back. Carter is shaking her head at the mess she's calling in and she beckons him with her free hand. She says in an undertone, "You need to breathe. You need to get a hold of yourself. You coulda killed this guy, John."

John shakes his head. I could kill anyone, he thinks. He says, "And I didn't." Then: "He put a gun on Finch, Carter. A gun to his head." And then he's got to get out of there before Carter puts cuffs on him too. She's smart; she'd do it.

In the car, Finch's head droops and bangs against the glass. They both jerk up and Finch says, "Ah, a little tired. Long day."

John nods. He drives them to his apartment instead of the library. There's a parking garage in the basement and when he pulls up he sees Finch's eyes darting nervously into the dark corners, beyond the pools of fluorescent light that flicker flicker flicker overhead. John jumps out and goes around, opens the door and pulls Finch gently to his feet. He lets Finch feel the power in his arms, puts his body deliberately between Finch and the dark, and is rewarded when he sees Finch relax a little, walk a little easier to the elevator.

In his apartment, Finch stands in the vast blank space between the bed and the couch. He's deciding something, John can see, and John looks away, lets him do it on his own. John fills the teakettle with water, slow as he can.

When the tea is ready, he comes out to find Finch sitting on the couch, stiffly on one side. He's got his palms flat against his thighs and he's looking down at the backs of his hands intently.

John sets down the tea on the low table that holds his chess set. He's clumsy for some reason—he's never clumsy—and he knocks his hand into the pieces. The clatter breaks the silence and Finch looks up, straight up into John's face and says brokenly, "I can't do this any more."

There's something in the way he says it, something so familiar and so goddamn heartbroken, and suddenly John sees, and he's taking Finch's face in his hands, he's kissing him and whispering to him, "I'm sorry" and "I didn't know" and "I love you". Finch is—Harold is saying the exact same goddamn things to him and now they're laughing, grinning, stunned by each other and the happiness that has exploded between them. He drops to his knees in front of Harold and they touch their foreheads together. He says, helplessly, "I was protecting you." And Harold just kisses him. He's laughing and tears are running down his face and Harold is kissing him back with all the intensity, all the focus, all the love in the world.