Birthday Gifts

Tag to 1.21, Many Happy Returns.

Authors Note: So I have just discovered Person of Interest and am currently obsessed with this awesome show. As with everything I'm late to the party, I know. Anyway, I wrote this story soon after watching the season 1 episode Many Happy Returns. I'm currently mid season 2 and catching up rapidly, but as I have not watched everything yet there may be one or two things in this that are AU. I have a feeling it will be but I hope you enjoy it anyway. As always, I'm making no money and these amazing characters don't belong to me. Please review.

It had been too many long days with not enough sleep. He'd driven all the way down to Mexico in one hit. 32 hours fuelled on coffee alone, window rolled down and classic rock radio on to keep him from drifting into a ditch. Having left his package with the local federales, he'd found a cheap motel, slept for fourteen hours and then done the whole journey back, stopping off along the way a little more but never catching more than a few hours catnap at a time.

He'd arrived back in New York mid-morning, feeling drained and strung out, bags under his eyes and his suit creased from long hours behind the wheel. He wanted nothing more to go back to his cheap hotel and sleep away the rest of the day on that lumpy mattress and hope that the construction in the block opposite wouldn't be too loud today.

But against his better judgement he'd stopped by to see Finch, who'd had given him that address to go with the key and now it was burning a hole in his pocket and it wasn't too far away. He decided he'd just check that out first. After all, just because he was tired didn't mean he had much chance of sleep considering his current disrupted frame of mind.

It wasn't just the sleep deprivation that had him feeling this way, he reflected. This last mission had been tougher on him than he'd like to admit. It had just been way too close to home. He understood why Finch had tried to hide it from him, even though he was still angry about it, the older man had just been trying to protect him. But it had been a long time since John had thought of himself as being someone in need of protection, and being mollycoddled wasn't going to work for him. He'd hoped he'd feel a little catharsis when all was done, he may not have been able to save Jessica, but he had given another woman a chance at a safe future instead. But all it had done was fill his thoughts of a love cut short and of a future that might have been. What good had traveling the world been, saving lives and protecting national security if the one life he'd cared about got hurt because of it?

He stared up at the address he'd been given, entered using the door code and despite his weariness, ignored the elevator in favour of climbing the five flights up to the top of the building. Here there was just one strong door, unadorned with any numbers, nothing to suggest what was behind it. But the key fit in the lock and so he knew he had the right place.

As he entered the room he was met with sunlight streaming in through a vast array of windows, soaking everything in warmth. The space was huge, too huge, and sparsely furnished although there was a huge solid oak bed in one corner that had been made up ready for use as well as a desk, a large leather sofa and a fully fitted kitchen. It was as though Finch wanted him to furnish it his own way and yet was doubtful he'd ever get round to it. He went over to the window and stared out at the park below, his friend Han was sat at one of the chess boards, giving Reese no illusions about the extent of Finch's spying on him.

His mouth curled up in a smile, he was going to enjoy living here. But as soon as he thought it, he was hit with the enormity of what he'd just been given. It was too much; too much space, too much luxury, too much everything. And he had no idea what he'd done to deserve it. A few days ago his employer had been begging him not to kill a man, Finch could clearly see him for the monster he was, so why all of this?

His phone rang then and he picked up without bothering to see who was calling him, "Finch?" He answered, but his voice wavered, suddenly getting choked with fatigue and emotion. He twisted away from the window as he sank to the floor with a sigh, back resting against the wall his legs pulled up half way towards his chest.

"No, it's Carter." A voice came on the other end of the line, softer than usual. "John, what's wrong?"

He took a big shuddering breath and ran a hand over his face as he tried to compose himself. "Nothing, I'm fine."

"Where are you?" She clearly wasn't convinced.

And in a move that went against everything of the last few years, he pulled out the scrap of paper with a shaking hand and read out the address.

He had no idea how long it was before there was a knock at the door, long enough for his ass to go numb on the hard floor. He realised in a moment of panic that the door had shut back against the stiff lock and hadn't latched properly. It was a testament to his tiredness that he hadn't noticed. His hand went instinctively for the weapon on his hip but the door opened to reveal Carter and he relaxed.

He suddenly found he didn't have the energy to move and just stayed sat dumbly on the floor.

"Are you hurt?" Carter asked, jogging over to him across the vast space and crouching beside him.

He shook his head. "No." He said softly, his voice still shaky and out of his control. His eyes had welled up but he was refusing to let the tears fall.

Sensing that he was telling the truth for once, Carter sat beside him so that they were shoulder to shoulder. "I got an interesting phone call from a Mexican prison warden earlier." She told him. She paused and sighed. "Tough few days huh?" She said quietly.

John gave a little half-hearted laugh, "yeah, you could say that."

"Yeah, I get that. No matter how much this job throws at you, something will always knock you for six."

Reese pursed his lips and nodded in agreement.

Sensing that she was going to struggle to get much out of him this way, she looked around the huge open plan room. "So, where are we?"

John just handed over the box that the key had come in along with the note that had meant to come with it. "I think it's my new home."

"Harold?" Carter said, a little in awe.

"It was my birthday." He said in explanation.

"Wow." Carter replied. "Your birthday was a few days ago right?"

John froze, how did she know? Had Finch told her?

"I have something to tell you." Carter started. It didn't ease Reese's tension.

"I know why this last case got to you. The FBI has been sniffing around New Rochelle all week."

Reese's jaw tensed up. She'd mentioned New Rochelle when she'd stopped him out on that highway and it had been bothering him for days now.

"I went with them. They didn't find anything. I did though." She reached into the inside pocket of her jacket and drew out a photograph which she handed to him. "Happy Birthday! Or housewarming. Whichever suits you best."

John took the photograph with shaking hands and stared at it. He failed to bite back a sob and the tears that had been threatening to spill since he'd entered the loft suddenly rolled down his cheeks. He ran a thumb over Jessica's face and then furiously wiped at his eyes. He couldn't remember the last time he'd cried, certainly it had been years ago, he hadn't been sure he was capable of it anymore. Carter placed a hand on his knee and sat quietly while he struggled to compose himself. But it was like being hit with a bus, all the years of pain, everything that he'd ignored or compartmentalised away had come back to hit him with full force. And every time he tried to stop crying, more tears would flow.

Carter reached over and wrapped her arm across his heaving shoulders and pulled him close to her. They sat there for a long time before Reese was finally able to run a trembling hand across his face and take a deep breath. "I'm sorry. I don't..."

"Hey," Carter admonished, "you're allowed to feel things. It keeps you human."

Reese nodded. "For a long time I forgot how. Or didn't want to remember how."

"When my husband was..." she drifted off as she tried to put her thoughts into words. "Well, it's not the same but for a while I wanted to forget how too. But I couldn't, I had a baby to take care of. You can't just shut everyone out John, it's okay to speak to someone about all this."

"I've been keeping secrets for so long." He admitted. "And someone like Finch, he..." he faltered.

"He's not like us." Carter pointed out. "People who haven't done what we've done will never understand. I know I don't get it all, but I'll try."

"How much do you know about Jessica?" Reese asked anxiously.

"I think I got the whole story. Most of it, at least."

"You know she called me? A week before it happened." He'd managed to control his voice and now spoke with his usual careful tone. Carter stayed quiet and let him talk. "I was out of the country, I promised her I'd come and get her. But I was refused leave, sent on a mission that I was never supposed to return from, and by the time I got home she was gone. She knew. She knew what was coming and I promised I'd save her."

"Don't put that on yourself." Carter said firmly. "This is not your fault. It's his. It's only his."

Reese looked her in the eye for the first time since she'd entered the room but he couldn't bring himself to respond to that last statement.

"When was the last time you slept?"

"Mexico." He admitted.

"Okay then." She stood up and brushed down her pants before offering her hand and helping haul him to his feet. "You are going to switch your phone off, I am going to call Finch and tell him you'll be unavailable for at least twelve hours and you are going to get some rest. When you next speak to Finch I will expect you to be able to tell him how comfy that bed is over there."

Reese gave her a thin lipped smile, "Yes Ma'am." He said, snapping to attention and giving her a perfect salute. They knew now, they'd read each other's military files, it connected them a little bit more in a way they could only guess at before.

"Damn straight." Carter smiled. "At ease Sergeant. Rest easy."

John showed her out and locked the door behind her. As he turned from the door, his eyes settled on the huge bed. He shuffled over to it and sat down on the edge to unlace his shoes. It was so soft that he nearly just sank back into it and slept where he fell, but he persevered, stripping to his boxers and leaving his shoes neatly beside the bed, his suit, the only thing he had until he could get back to the hotel, folded on the bedside table. He crawled under the sheets, his body aching with still healing bruises and minor wounds a result of too many missions and not enough time to heal between them. The bed enveloped him and he gave a half smile, it felt like the most comfortable place he'd ever laid down. Staring up at the ceiling he noticed an air vent and his half smile turned into a smirk. Speaking up to the vent he said, "You know I'm going to find the bugs and cameras Harold. But thank you anyway."

Halfway across town, Harold Finch sipped his Sencha green tea and leaned his head on his hand as he watched the computer display. "You're welcome John, sleep well." He muttered at the screen.