Title: The Beginning is Now (Don't Turn Around)

Author: Jedi Buttercup

Rating: PG-13/T

Disclaimer: The words are mine; the world belongs to CBS.

Summary: Occasionally, he'll surprise one of those open, considering looks on Finch's face... and he can't help himself. He reads between the lines. 800 words.

Spoilers: Through Person of Interest 1.05 "Judgment"

Notes: Not really a part of my tag sequence; written in response to That Smile. More about recovering from grief than smarm or pre-slash, but probably in that ballpark nonetheless, depending on your preferences. Title from "Another Train" by Pete Morton.

Reese smiles around a bite of his Eggs Benedict and wonders at how swiftly things have changed for him, with Finch.

With, not between him and, because he has no idea what the reclusive billionaire actually thinks of him, or whether it's altered at all since they met. He hadn't exactly made a stellar first impression, and matters since have been a little... hit or miss... as they've negotiated the balance of control in their equation. Finch's behavior has been no less irregular: a hot and cold mixture of self-sacrifice and suspicion, one minute walking open-eyed into a trap and the next walking out of a cover job because Reese had tracked him to it. Finch will make free with his time, his makeshift office, and even his physical well-being as long as it impacts their cause, but talking to him about anything personal is like trying to wring blood from a stone.

The reverse isn't true, which could easily be a source of resentment- if Reese decided he wanted to take it that way. Finch knows everything the government ever knew about John Reese, and then some, more than anyone else has ever put together about him since he left the Rangers. Reese doesn't actually mind that, though; at least, not as much as he likes to pretend.

Let Finch protect his own privacy if it makes him feel secure. Reese takes just as much security from the fact that no matter how much Finch knows, Reese has the skills to escape any trap that could be built with that information. It keeps the power levels equal, for now... though that hasn't really stopped either of them from testing those limits.

Reese has decided to take that as a good sign. Occasionally, he'll surprise one of those open, considering looks on Finch's face... and when he does, he can't help himself. He reads between the lines.

If Finch ever asks- and he might well notice, the paranoia only makes the man more perceptive- Reese will probably blame it on the dream. He'd slept poorly after wrapping up the Megan Tillman case- not that he'd been sleeping that well beforehand, not since he'd stopped drinking himself to sleep, but that week had been more difficult than most- and drifted awake to the soothing drone of Finch's voice, narrating helpful weak points of the opponent featuring in his nightmare. He'd actually touched his ear to make sure it was just his imagination; Finch's voice had been that clear in his head, complete with bone-dry, humorous asides that lit the cold, dreary dreamscape with color and warmth.

Since then, Reese has paid a little more attention to how often they talk on the phone, and how much his inner chastising voice is starting to sound like Finch already. Not very like the Agency at all. The flexible paperwork is one thing, but he'd never generated a call log worthy of a pair of teenage girls with any of his official handlers. Perhaps even stranger is the fact that he can't seem to mind; almost relies on it, in fact, particularly when his mood darkens at slow points in an investigation.

He takes another bite of the Eggs Benedict, savoring the way the flavors unfold on his tongue, and thinks about the way everything had tasted of ash and cardboard for so long: nothing more appealing than simple fuel to keep his body going. He doesn't remember when the last time was that food tasted good to him, before Finch found him.

Finch... energizes him; and Reese is self-aware enough to know he should value the man for that as much as for giving him this job. A job worth doing, at that, something he hadn't been sure still existed after everything that happened. He's felt more satisfaction, smiled more- even wept more in recent weeks than in all the time he'd spent drowning under alcohol and Jessica's loss. Not all of it's been pleasant; some of it's left him painfully raw. But he's alive again. Until Finch, he'd expected he'd just keep drifting through the world like a ghost until something ended him.

He hadn't thought it possible to find more than one person who could connect him to the world in his lifetime. Someone his instincts trusted before he did. Someone he would want to thank, and mean it- and could make him smile like a kid with a crush just by suggesting an item on a menu.

Reese doesn't expect this pigtail pulling phase of amused pleasure to last. Nor does he expect Finch to reciprocate. But it's a spark of brightness his life has been missing for longer than he cares to admit.

He's not going to make the mistake of turning his back on that. Not ever again.