"Mr. Reese, the police has just been alerted to shots fired at your location. You need to get out of there."
Harold had been following his and John's plan for saving their latest number from being murdered by an assassin slowly falling apart. As it turned out it hadn't been an assassin sent to kill 25-year old Catharine Moser for having been at the wrong place at the wrong time. No, it had been an entire team.
Having wrecked their escape car John and Ms. Moser had been forced to try their luck escaping on foot. They had sought refuge in an abandoned warehouse building, with their pursuers close on their heels. It hadn't taken long for the first reports of gunfire to come in over the police scanner. And judging by the racket composed of gunfire and ricochets whirling through the air audible on John's side of the connection the fight wasn't about to ease up.
"Getting out is proving to be a little difficult at the moment, Finch." John's voice was tense, and Harold could hear Catharine Moser crying in the background. Finch checked the progress of the NYPD cruisers that had been dispatched to John's location. "The police will be there in 6 minutes." he informed John, not expecting an answer, since he clearly had his hands full at the moment.
It was time to call in for reinforcement of their own. The phone he'd called seemed to go on ringing for hours until finally it was picked up by a gruff Detective Fusco. "What is it now?"
"Our mutual friend needs help, Detective." Finch tried to inflict as much urgency into his that statement as possible, finding it not that difficult to achieve under the current circumstances. "He's pinned down at an abandoned warehouse building."
Harold listened to Detective Fusco relaying the information to his partner. As luck would have it they were already traveling in their police cruiser, not that far away from John's location. At least something that went their way that day. “That 'shots fired' call? Wonderboy is at the middle of it.” Carter's curse was drowned out by the car's engine revving up. Talking to Harold again, Fusco informed him that they were on their way.
"Thank you, Detectives." Finch turned his attention back to the sounds of the battle still waging in the warehouse, transmitted via the microphone in John's phone.
Over the din Harold had trouble making out what was being said between John and his current charge, but a momentary lull in the fight enabled him to listen to John, as he assured the young woman with a calm certainty, that she was not going to die. “I won't let anything happen to you.” he promised, leaving no doubt that he would do anything to keep his word.
“Who are you?” an astounded Ms. Moser asked. They all eventually did. Two gunshots went off in close proximity to the microphone and Harold could only assume that they had originated from John's gun. He held his breath until John's smooth baritone was back in his ear. “Just someone who strongly believes that today is not your day to die.”
The fight picked up again, drowning out anything Ms. Moser might have replied. Even to his untrained ears the battle sounded fierce and Harold forced down a feeling of uneasiness as he forced himself to listen. As fast as he could Harold made his way to one of his cars, intending to be there to offer John and their number a ride to safety as soon as they had managed to get out and away from their pursuers.
John's calm, despite the obvious mayhem going on around him, never ceased to amaze Finch. His nerves were all over the place and he wasn't the one facing a number of low lives bent on killing him.
Limping down the library's stairwell felt even more of a struggle than usual and not for the first time Harold quietly cursed his inability to move faster. Finally reaching the bottom of the stairs he picked up speed and left the library in a hurry. The car was parked just around the corner, but he faltered in his steps when he heard a shriek from Ms. Moser, followed by John grunting in pain.
This time he couldn't stop himself as his right hand automatically shot to his ear, tapping his ear-piece. “John? Are you okay?”
Harold waited for John to reply, but the – by now all too familiar – sounds of close combat dominated the connection for the next 20 – 30 seconds. Fists hitting flesh accompanied by grunts of exertion and pain prompted Harold to get a move on again. Having almost reached the car he once more stopped in his tracks as suddenly the connection between the phones broke off. He grubbed for his cell in his pocket, trying to reconnect to John's phone but it was of no use. The device had most likely fallen victim to the struggle, like so many before. Cursing softly under his breath, Harold got into the car and took off.
- & -
By the time his phone rang Harold had almost made it to the warehouse. He had driven like a maniac, displaying the kind of reckless driving for which Mr. Reese would have been extremely proud of him. However he hardly remembered the details of the drive. But he was sure that it had been a slight miracle that he hadn't been followed and stopped by the police. The ringing of his cell snapped him out of his worried daze and he eagerly tapped his ear-piece to answer it, hoping – no, expecting – to hear from John, telling him that the Detectives had saved the day. Again. “Mr. Reese?”
But it wasn't John calling.
“It's Carter.” Harold didn't like the way the Detective sounded. Something was wrong. A feeling of dread turned his mouth dry. Swallowing, he tried force all the unwanted emotion aside.
“Is John okay? Did they make it out?” he asked, unable to keep the desperation out of his voice. Harold had never intended on letting the relationship between himself and John evolve into anything else than one of employer and employee. But somehow he'd learned to trust John. Even more than he had ever trusted Nathan. John was the only one who understood. Understood the reason for his dedication to the machine and the numbers. He had allowed John to know more about him than anybody before, and the funny thing about it, Harold actually felt relieved that he was not alone with his secrets anymore. Right there, he realized that he needed John to be okay.
“Finch ...” Carter sounded choked, her tone betraying deep regret as she said the words Harold hadn't wanted her to say. They filled him with an irrational anger towards the Detective, even though he knew it wasn't her fault. “He didn't make it.” She exhaled a shaky breath. “John's dead.”
“I see.” Harold's brain automatically compartmentalized the feelings of loss and anger that wanted to take over his decision process. He needed to be Finch – the reclusive now or he wouldn't be able to see this through. “What about Ms. Moser?” Even to his own ears he sounded like a distant, emotionless jerk. He pictured Carter doing a double-take at his callousness.
“She's okay. John kept her save.”
Harold briefly closed his eyes, the first fissures appearing in his mental blockade. Of course, John had kept her save. Like he had promised he would. Guns blazing to his last breath.
"Where you able to get her out of there before her presence was noted, Detective?"
Carter sighed. "Yeah. Fusco is taking her out the back as we speak."
"Good. I'll be there to pick her up momentarily."
"Finch," the Detective hesitated. "What about John?"
Yes, what about John? The warehouse was most certainly swarmed with the police by now, if the chatter on his scanner was any indication. The rumor of the Man in a Suit having gone down in a gunfight with an unknown party already buzzing like mad over the air.
Harold had considerably slowed down as he was about to reach his destination. There was no need for attracting unwanted attention at this point. Turning a corner he spotted Fusco herding a very distraught looking Catharine Moser away from all the commotion a few hundred yards down the road.
"Finch?" Carter started to sound worried after the prolonged silence. He tightened his grip on the steering wheel. So far, Harold had deliberately avoided to think about what happened to John. Talking about it would turn it into harsh reality. He had to fight hard to keep up his mental barriers and was surprised himself at the steadiness and calm of his voice.
"The Man in a Suit is dead, Detective. Make the call." he stated, not waiting for her reply.
Pulling the car alongside Fusco and Ms. Moser he told her to get in. Fusco looked like he wanted to say something, but thankfully chose to keep his mouth shut. Harold barely waited for him to close the car door before taking off again to take the young woman far away and to safety. Just like John had promised her.
- & -
Harold returned to the warehouse after he had dropped off Ms. Moser at one of his safe houses. Taking up position in a close, yet safe distance Harold noted that in the meantime the FBI and some men wearing nondescript dark suits that practically screamed 'secret government agent' had joined the party, most likely already engaged with the NYPD in bickering over who'd gotten jurisdiction over the "Man in a Suit"-case.
Reporters, like vultures, had descended down on the scene and Harold watched in disgust as they scrambled to get a shot of the body bag carrying the remains of the alleged 'Man in a Suit' being loaded into a coroner's van. He caught Detective Carter's eyes, who stood with her face an unreadable, stony mask as the gurney was carried passed her. Just for a split second she allowed the regret he'd heard in her voice earlier to wash across her face, morphing it back into the countenance of a professional police officer just in time to being pestered by an FBI agent. Harold dropped his gaze, unseeingly staring at the blacktop of the street separating him from the warehouse. Movement, caught in the corner of his eyes, drew his attention back to the van carrying John's body. He tracked its progress until it weaved into the traffic at the next intersection and as soon as he lost sight of it, Harold turned around and disappeared into the crowd of onlookers.
- & -
John's body never made it to the M. E.'s office, having been diverted somewhere along the route. For his collaboration with Mr. Reese on their little venture Harold Finch had been prepared for many scenarios. Even for the worst. Theoretically. In reality he hadn't been prepared at all.
Now Harold stood completely still. His eyes not wavering from the sight in front of him, his heavy breathing in stark contrast to the overall quietness of the cold, sterile room. The employees of the funeral home he'd paid off for not asking questions about the acute lead poisoning that had clearly led to the demise of the man lying - still dressed - on the preparation table had told him to take his time and had left him alone. Alone with the shell of the man who used to first be merely his employee. Then his partner. And eventually his friend.
Harold was mesmerized by John's face. Even with the still bloody cuts, abrasions and bruises left on his face from the brawl he must have been in prior to his death, John looked like he was at peace. With his usually sober, bordering on stoic, expression relaxed he could have passed for just being asleep, if it hadn't been for the bloody mess that used to be one of his white dress shirts.
The only solace Harold could think of was that John died doing something he'd always wanted to do. He died doing something good and honorable. He died protecting people and Harold was glad that he'd been able to have given that to John. Given him a purpose. A reason to be able to look at himself in the mirror again. He knew John had been grateful for that. He'd told Harold so more than once.
Looking at John's face, never to scowl, smirk nor smile again the cracks and fissures in the mental wall Finch had erected to keep his emotions at bay multiplied dramatically until it crumbled, exposing him to an intense onslaught of pain. The pain of having lost yet another friend.
His eyebrows twitched and the lines around his mouth deepened. John hadn't gotten a chance to say goodbye this time. Not that Harold would have let him, but it hit him hard that, at the time it would have mattered the most, Harold hadn't been there for John.
Blinking furiously, Harold fought hard to keep his composure. Tears stunk his eyes, wanting to fall. Wanting to fall for a man most of the rest of the world considered a criminal. A terrorist. A monster.
John himself would have agreed on being at least one of those things and it hurt Harold deep within his soul that he had not been able to convince him otherwise. Even though John could not hear him anymore Harold felt compelled to express to him what he himself had first only assumed, when he'd picked John to work for him but had soon been proven right.
"You are a good man, John. I hope you've come to accept that now. You are NOT a monster. You never were." Harold's voice cracked and he pressed his lips together. He knew it was time to say goodbye. After taking several quavering breaths he found the strength to speak again. "Thank you, John. For everything."
Harold didn't quite know yet how to go on from here, but the numbers never stopped coming. He'd just have to manage somehow. He was painfully aware of how much he'd become dependent on John working the numbers with him. And ever since their run in with Root he'd learned to appreciate having John looking out for him, as well. He shuddered at the thought of ending up in the clutches of that mad woman again, knowing that next time there would be no one there to come after him as tenaciously as John had.
Harold hesitantly turned his back on the body of his friend, slowly moving to the door. While his brain was already busy carefully rebuilding his mental wall he remembered the day he and John had stood in a cemetery in front of a grave of a man whose real name had not matched the name written on the simple name plate marking his grave. John had nonchalantly told him then that he'd always expected he'd die in a place that didn't know his name.
A sad smile tugged at Harold's lips as he left the funeral home. He knew all of John's names. And he would make sure, that the good man, John had been forced to leave behind in his quest for serving his country, would be brought home and buried with all the honors he deserved.
- Fin -