The thing torturers don't know, when John brags to them about how long he's previously endured, is that his bragging is simply a ploy calculated to convince them to give up their efforts sooner rather than later, because he demonstrably will not break.

It doesn't usually work.

Another thing torturers don't know – or he hopes that they don't – is that having withstood torture before doesn't in any way make it easier to withstand in the future. In fact it makes it worse; far more excruciating than it was the first time. Or even that third time, which was the marathon session he often references.

John was good at concealing his all-consuming dread of what was to come, of course.

His previous experience only served to make him dread going through it again because he knew exactly how much he could withstand before he would (blessedly) pass out. Unfortunately, his extensive training only meant that he could withstand more pain, which, of course meant, well, more pain. Wishing the CIA had instead taught him how to just pass out at will wasn't very fruitful at this excruciating moment in time.

John was having a very bad day.

Once again, the number that had come up turned out to be a very bad guy, and John, while wary – he was always more wary since helping Elias launch his new career – well, this new baddie wasn't as scrupulous as Elias about seeming "ungrateful" for being saved. Joe Mengels ('Mengele' as John now thought of him) decided that John had a lot more information about a lot more people than John actually did, and Joe was determined to get blood from the stony John Reese. Blood was flowing freely, but the information Joe wanted was not. Reese wasn't laughing at the irony that the only information he could have given up – information about Finch, the Machine and his few cop contacts – wasn't what 'Mengele' wanted to know about, or even thought to ask. So John's bad day continued as he tried to calculate how to get his tormentors to do something which would expedite his passing out; at least then he'd get a reprieve which might give Finch a chance to find him.

On day two, John decided to hell with the stoic, tough guy image and just let the screams and tears flow at will. Really, showing his tormentors how much they were hurting him wasn't his style, but in this case he wasn't working to safeguard vital information; he honestly didn't have the information to give, and he figured that if he made a lot of noise, maybe his torturers would grow a conscience or, barring that unlikely scenario, maybe his screams would make it easier for his rescuers to find him. He HAD to hold onto the hope that there were rescuers coming... where the hell was Finch and what was taking him so long? Reese let out an extra-loud howl and welcomed the tears in his eyes as fresh pain was inflicted.

John was grateful to start to feel the fuzziness behind his eyes that was the usual precursor to his passing out, when abruptly his tormentor paused, cocking his ear at faint sounds of chaos in the background. John sagged as 'Mengele' suddenly rushed from the room. John could now clearly hear the cavalry coming.

"None too soon," he thought as he struggled to hang on to the consciousness he was willingly relinquishing a few moments earlier. A moment later, a half dozen armoured cops rushed into the room, rifles scoping efficiently for lurking baddies before pausing briefly to glance over at him. John sagged some more and couldn't bring himself to particularly care what impression he was making, strung up as he was. He was just glad it was over. Still fighting against unconsciousness, John spotted a familiar set of eyes among the heavily armoured cops and smiled ... well, he smiled to himself; he wasn't sure any of his muscles were under his voluntary control at that moment. But he was very glad to see that Jocelyn Carter had come to save him.

*&()&*

Carter burst into the room with the Strategic Response team without a clue about who she might find or what condition he would be in. The instant she recognized him, she wondered why The Partner, Mr. Finch, hadn't called her with this information. This particular 'anonymous' tip had come through the regular channels, and she'd just had a gut instinct that her Mr. Reese might be involved. Hoped, was more apt. She hadn't seen or heard anything from him, or about him, in more than a week – and usually she was handed at least one minor baddie, or heard about at least one gang bust-up by a man in a suit wielding a rocket launcher, or some such, every week or so. She had dared to hope after her little initiation by Mr. Finch that she would hear more from these guys, but so far she hadn't, and she didn't know how to reach them.

So when the tip came in about the underground drug complex, she had hoped to find evil-doers in already difficult situations, the way she often did these days. When she burst into that room, it took her a moment to recognize the bare body strung-up in the middle of the room, and she was horrified. Her eyes travelled up and down the bruised and scratched limbs with pity, and she got the shock of her life when she met the eyes of the man who had seemed so indestructible. She had once warned him that this was a likely outcome of his actions, but deep down she had prayed that she would never see her prediction come to pass. She certainly never wanted to.

The minute she locked eyes with the dazed man dangling in the middle of the room, she stopped and let the chaos of the capture swirl on without her. Reese looked near to passing out, but he had seen her and recognized her now, and he clearly wasn't going to let his gaze wander. She was his lifeline in that moment, and she couldn't look away.

"Carter, can you take care of him?" asked the Sergeant, jutting a chin at the dangling man, as the rest of the team moved on to clear the other rooms on the floor.

"I got him; go ahead, Stan" Carter replied efficiently as she pulled her eyes from Reese and went to the ropes on the wall to lower John down. Setting aside her firearm, she realized her hands were trembling slightly as she undid the knots to allow the pulley to release. She realized belatedly that she should have had someone stay behind and help her, as she couldn't both release the pulley and cushion John's landing on the cold, cement floor; there was no way he was going to be able to stand.

She finally got John lowered, and she went over to him to untie his hands. She worked the knots loose, at first attempting not to touch him very much – he was stark naked and covered in cuts, small burns and bruises, and she didn't really know him after all. As she worked the knots loose, his arms relaxed extended uncomfortably above his head on the concrete; he didn't actually bring them down beside his body. Crumpled partly on his side on the cold cement floor, it couldn't have been very comfortable, but she suspected he didn't have the ability to move his arms at that moment. As she was contemplating helping him move his arms, she noticed that he had started shivering... damn, what was she going to do? A naked body on a cold cement floor, finally able to relax after who knows how long under the physical stress of being strung up like a side of beef? Jeez, she hoped that the scumbag who did this had a REAL nice roommate in lockup. The man must be horribly cold.

Carter looked around the room for something she could use to make Reese more comfortable while they waited for the building to be cleared so the paramedics could come in and take care of him. She spotted an old mattress – she didn't even want to think what that had been used for – over in the corner of the room, maybe 10 feet away. She didn't have anything to cover Reese with, other than her suit jacket that was inconveniently under her body armour, and anyway, lying on a concrete floor as he was, a light covering wasn't going to do him much good. She figured if she could get him up and onto the mattress, he would at least be insulated from the floor and she could extricate her jacket from under her body armour to cover him up a bit.

Although she had training both in the Army and the police academy moving injured men and 'dead-weight' bodies, usually they had clothes on. She had never before attempted to move an injured naked body. He was heavy – she expected that – and there was no way he was going to be able to support much of his own weight ... but that wasn't the issue; she was used to having clothing to grab on to to get a person up off the floor, and to grab onto when supporting their weight and helping them manoeuvre.

"John, you're shivering. I need to move you over to that mattress over there so you'll be warmer."

Reese just kept looking at her – was he even hearing her? He still looked close to passing out. A slight smile started to play over his lips though, and she knew he was still in there. "Okay."

"I'll help you over there, but I need you to help me get you off the floor. Do you think you can support yourself at all?" she asked as she started to move his arms down to his sides.

"Detective Carter, are you asking to carry me to bed?" the man managed with, unbelievably, a twinkle in his eye.

Damn, he wasn't going to make this any easier, was he? Carter smiled and shook her head. She couldn't believe he had the energy for innuendo...although the kind of compromising position the poor man was in, she supposed being flippant was his only armour - he sure wasn't in a position to hide anything else. She supposed the least she could do was downplay the embarrassment and be as matter-of-fact as possible.

So, she bent down, got John's arm around her shoulder, and leaned back to ease him up to a sitting position. From there, she let go of his arm, kept one arm around his back to keep him from falling back over, and pulled up on each of his thighs in turn to bend his legs, putting his feet flat on the ground. Then she grabbed him around the middle, locked her fingers behind his back, and squatting in front of him, leaned back until she could lever his weight was onto his feet. She could see the wince he was trying to hide as his feet and legs took his weight, but he bit down, and she could see he wasn't going to let himself buckle, through sheer determination. Once his weight was over his legs, she scooched around to his side, positioning herself under his shoulder, stood up slowly, leaning his weight onto her and lifting him to his feet. Damn, but it was hard keeping a hold of him! She was sure she must be hurting him – he was covered in bruises – but thankfully he wasn't showing her that pain.

"Do you think you can move your legs? I can support most of your weight but I don't think I can drag you that far."

"I'll manage it, thanks Joss," he said quietly. Carter could feel his warm breath on her neck; his head was hanging down and nearly all his weight was on her. To his credit though, he did manage to shuffle one foot in front of the other.

Eventually, they made it across the room to the small, single mattress against the wall. As Carter was figuring out how to best manoeuvre Reese down onto the mattress, his knees buckled and down he went. Instead of just letting him go and letting the mattress cushion his fall, Carter's instinct was to try to stop his fall, or at least to cushion it. So, she didn't let him go, as would have been logical. Instead she held on to him, trying to slow his descent. As a result, down she went right along with him, and within a split second there was a mess of limbs all mixed up together, with Carter half trapped under the dead weight of a nude John Reese.

Trying not to hurt him further, or push him off the mattress – naturally Carter had landed on the side next to the wall - she started to extricate herself as quickly and efficiently as she could. As she pushed at John's limbs, they seemed heavier than they should be...was John intentionally holding her down? In a flash of insight, Carter was struck by what it must have been like for this stoic man who seemed to spend his days alone, caring for strangers, often without their knowledge. What must it have been like for him to be alone in this room, tortured for hours on end, never knowing if help would arrive? He wasn't a cop; he didn't have a department full of comrades who would get his back. He was all alone, in pain, and despite his seemingly never-ending strength, he must have been just terrified. As this thought hit her, with the crash of accompanying empathy, she stopped struggling to extricate herself for a moment, and just tightened her arms around him. Her hand went to the back of his neck, his face to her armoured shoulder, and she let him have a moment of human contact, letting him know without words that he wasn't alone anymore. She had come to get him, to save him, the same way he had once done for her, when she thought she was all alone.

The moment passed, and she felt John start to shiver again. For all her good intentions, she thought wryly, the body armour she was wearing wasn't the most conducive to cuddling, or to warming someone up. She got up and removed the top layer of her body armour to get at the jacket she had on underneath. Extricating the jacket and laying the armoured vest aside, Carter moved back beside Reese to cover him up. She started to turn him over, but he resisted.

"John," she laid her warm hand on his back, feeling the chill of his skin, "let me turn you over and get you covered up."

She felt him tense and resist for a second more, then shudder and give in to her pressure on his shoulder, letting her roll him.

It was at then that she noticed that he had tears in his eyes, a slight smile (probably a mix of chagrin and mischievousness) and a tall, proud, erect penis.

As she noticed this last, she pulled her hand away for a moment, but was unable to pull her eyes away from the surprising sight. It flitted through her brain that men probably got ... reactions ... in inappropriate situations all the time, but with the advent of, you know, clothing, they were mostly able to hide them. John was currently unable to hide a darn thing. Not only did he not have a stitch of clothing, but he also didn't have the muscular strength left to even turn over without a lot of effort. So, she had to admit, she stared.

When Carter was able to drag her eyes up to meet Reese's, his slight smile had morphed into a full-fledged smirk. Carter decided she needed to pull this whole situation back into the realm of jovial banter right quickly.

She tried for flippant, "Why, John, I had no idea combat armour did it for you," she croaked. Okay, that didn't go exactly to plan, she thought.

"It's not the armour, it's more the whole 'being saved by a beautiful woman' thing," Reese replied, not sounding at all as casual as he was probably going for, and as she met his eyes again, the smirk had transformed into such tenderness and gratitude that it felt like a punch in the gut.

In that moment, it occurred to her that the only spot on Reese's body (and she had pretty much seen every part of it now) that was not covered in injuries, was that erect penis, bobbing in the corner of her eye, no matter where she chose to look.

Reese started shifting a bit, and Carter realized that he was working up to turning over, to shield himself from her. He'd gone from cocky to sentimental to embarrassed in a moment. She could relate. In that moment, before her brain had a chance to catch up, she found herself wrapping her hand around the base of his penis and giving a gentle squeeze. She watched the tenderness in Reese's eyes turn to surprise, and then to pure arousal. It flitted through her brain how surreal this situation was – Detective Jocelyn Carter just didn't DO things like give a hand-job to a battered near-stranger on the concrete floor of a drug den... but here she was. Since the day she met the bum with the compelling eyes who had thrashed young thugs in a subway car, nothing had seemed simple and straightforward again. Her every interaction with this man seemed to take her further and further outside her comfort zone; from her clear black-or-white, right-or-wrong, duty-and-honour existence, to a world of grey, murky ethics and even murkier legality.

But all that was, as always, in the back of her mind. In this moment, she couldn't look away from John's now desperate face. She moved her hand lightly up and down a few times, and already cum leaked from the tip. The glazed eyes glanced quickly at the door, which effectively brought Carter back into the room, and she too remembered that others from the Strategic Response team or the paramedics would likely be coming in any time.

'Well,' she thought, 'it's a little too late to go back now.' She smoothed her hand over the tip of John's penis to lubricate her hand a bit, and he arched slightly up off the mattress with a soft groan. She squeezed again and gave a few more strokes, and in short order, those magnetic eyes were squeezed closed in ecstasy as his tension was released: back arching, hands clenching, a loud grunt punctuating the moment.

Lazy, satiated eyes now studied her with wonder. A moment later though, John's eyelids started to droop as the most relaxed smile of the day spread across his face. He didn't try to say anything – she'd already learned that he was a man who used words efficiently, sparingly. He gave something between a shiver and a shudder, and suddenly Carter remembered the jacket that she had removed with the intention of covering him, and she finally did just that.

As John Reese fell into a more relaxed sleep than should have been possible right then, Jocelyn Carter sat next to the grimy mattress, held his hand, caressed his battered shoulder and cheek, and waited for the paramedics to make their way to them.