Despite his irritation at Reese, Finch could not stay angry with him when he came back to the booth and found the great dog lying with its head on its paws, the picture of abject misery. Reese looked up at him, giving him the best, most expressive pair of dog eyes ever known, making Finch sigh aloud.
"All right – you're forgiven. Just mind your manners, please, if you don't want to be relegated to the dog house tonight."
"Ay-ruffyoo, Awr-rowr," Reese responded, suddenly unabashed, his tail thumping against the seat as Finch sat down. "Ay-ruffyoo!"
"So you say," Finch muttered, picking up his silverware.
"Oh, my God!" the waitress exclaimed. She had just come by to check on her customers and, upon hearing Reese, nearly dropped the pot of coffee. "Did he just say 'I love you'?"
"Ah... yes. It's one of his favorite phrases," Finch told her, shooting Reese a testy glance. "His previous owners must have given him treats every time he said it."
"Awr-rowr," Reese put in, thoroughly disregarding Finch's warning. "Ay-ruffyoo, Awr-rowr!"
"What does 'Ar-ror' mean?" the waitress asked, fascinated.
"Uh... that's my name... Harold," Finch grudgingly answered.
"Awww, that's so sweet! What a lover!"
Looking very pleased with himself, Reese grinned and repeated, "Ay-ruffyoo, Awr-rowr!"
"Ay-ruffyoo. Awr-rowr, Ay-ruffyoo."
Finch was chewing on a bite of cold steak, trying to ignore Reese's performance, but he realized that the waitress was looking at him, not the dog.
"Well?" she prodded with a knowing smile. "Aren't you going to say it back?"
"I beg your pardon?" Finch replied, nonplussed.
"He's waiting for you to say it back, isn't he? He's looking at you like he's waiting for something..."
Finch turned to look at Reese and found his big, furry face staring right back at him expectantly. With a heavy sigh, Finch conceded defeat.
"I love you, too, John."
"Owrrr... Awr-rowr... Ayyy ruff yooo!"
The sappy grin and lolling tongue were almost more than Finch could stomach but, now satisfied, Reese lay down and rested his heavy head on Finch's lap.
"Can I warm that up for you?" the waitress asked, indicating Finch's dinner.
"Ah... that would be nice," Finch answered. Once she had removed his plate, however, there was nothing for him to do besides sip his wine.
"Ay-ruffyoo," came a soft, purr-like whisper from below.
"What do you want now?" Finch grumbled. In response, Reese rolled over onto his back until his forepaws were dangling in mid-air, exposing his chest and the underside of his neck and jaw. Finch fixed him with a hard stare although it was difficult to keep his expression stern when Reese's ears were flapped open on his lap, giving his upturned dog face a ridiculous look. "Belly rubs? Really, Mr. Reese?"
Reese made a high-pitched whine, almost a whistling noise through his nose, and gave Finch his best puppy-dog eyes again. With a groan of resignation Finch placed his left hand on the furry chest and began scratching.
"I should take this out of your salary... charge you for services rendered above and beyond the normal call of duty," Finch groused. However, there was a sort of therapeutic satisfaction in finding spots on the dog's body that made Reese whimper and moan in helpless pleasure. Scratching under the chin made those large paws twitch involuntarily, which did bring a wry smile to Finch's face. In fact, he was so engrossed that he didn't realize the waitress had returned until she spoke.
"Awww, he's just a big baby, isn't he? Just a big, furry ball of love... Yes, you are!" she cooed at Reese when he opened his eyes. "I asked the kitchen to give you a fresh serving of vegetables, so if you have any leftovers, I can box it up for you."
"Thank you," Finch said, sincerely surprised at the level of service and mentally increasing the percentage of her tip.
"Fanfyoo," Reese echoed dreamily from Finch's lap.
When they returned to the library, Reese dutifully helped Finch review the videos recorded from the surveillance cameras around Nadege Mawon's neighborhood, but there was no sign that the Voodoo priestess had left the area since visiting her nephew that afternoon.
"Well... I suppose that's that," Finch concluded when they were caught up to the present.
"Woof," Reese agreed, then plodded off to another room, returning a minute later with one of the blankets Finch kept in a closet. Before Finch could ask him what it was for, Reese dropped it onto the floor by the window, right by the heater outlet, and began spreading it out carefully with his paws. Finch realized that he was making a bed of sorts – a doggie bed.
"John... you're not planning on... staying here overnight, are you?" Finch asked, although he already knew the answer.
"Wherr elf-fan-Ay-fay?" ["Where else can I stay?"] Reese said rather pointedly.
Finch contemplated the large beast before him with a sinking feeling. While he wasn't worried that Reese might damage things like a normal canine might when left alone for a long time, he wasn't thrilled at the thought of leaving him to snoop around for hours on end, either. At least, that was what he told himself, although he also realized (though he hardly wanted to admit it, even to himself) that he would have a hard time resting in the comforts of his own home, knowing that Reese was lying on a blanket on a cold, hard floor. Heaving a deep sigh, Finch decided on a compromise of sorts.
"All right... We can stay in one of the safe houses. There's one in particular that I'm thinking of – one you haven't been to yet. I believe the building allows pets so it shouldn't be a problem..."
While Finch double-checked on the computer to make sure, Reese finished arranging the blanket and lay down, gnawing on his new chew toy as Finch called his driver and informed him that he had a canine companion tonight.
"An old friend's request – I couldn't bear to tell him no," Finch explained. "It's quite a large dog, but he's assured me that it's well behaved," he added, raising his eyebrows for Reese's benefit. Reese looked back at him innocently. "Thank you, yes. We'll be there in about ten minutes as well."
The spacious interior of the limousine felt somewhat crowded, in a way that it hadn't when Reese (in his human form) had been sandwiched between Finch's two bodyguards, as Reese (in his dog form) tried to find a comfortable position. He ended up half-sitting on the floor, half-sprawled across Finch's lap on the seat. Once the vehicle pulled away from the curb, Finch placed his hand without thinking on Reese's flank.
"Ay-ruffyoo," Reese declared, smiling.
"Oh... hush!" Finch said, struggling to scowl.
"Ay-reery roo," Reese insisted. "Iff-fifferen, reein-ah-roff. Effryfin iff mowr... infenf." ["I really do. It's different, being a dog. Everything is more... intense."]
"I see," Finch replied dryly, scratching behind Reese's ears. "Just don't start... piddling for joy, every time you see me."
"Awr-rye-roo reffreyn rye-felf," ["I'll try to restrain myself."] Reese murmured with a happy sigh.
After getting out of the car at a busy intersection, Finch led Reese to an older but well-kept apartment building, where the doorman seemed to recognize Finch but was clearly astonished to see a dog of such stature accompanying him. However, he opened the door for them without question. Finch entered the elevator and pressed the button for the basement, which came as a surprise to Reese.
"Rof-fa-fen-fawf?" ["Not the penthouse?"] he asked.
"No. Not in this particular case," was all Finch said, allowing a slightly mysterious smile to play on his lips.
They went through several narrow corridors in the basement until they came to a battered door that looked as though it led to a utility room. Reese saw immediately that it had an electronic lock system with deadbolts hidden in the jamb, which Finch released by inserting a key card. Inside, it looked like an ordinary storage room, piled high with dusty boxes, but Finch led him around the maze of boxes to a hidden section of the wall where there was another elevator. Reese's doggy jaw dropped a bit as they entered it, for there were over a dozen more buttons, all lower than their current floor.
"This was built as a bomb shelter back in the 1940s by a very wealthy man," Finch explained after punching the button that was second from the bottom. "I do hope you're not claustrophobic, since we will be quite deep underground – lower than the subway system, in fact – but I think you'll find the rooms spacious enough to relax in. Apparently, the gentleman was concerned about the effects of a nuclear fallout and had the construction workers dig all the way to the bedrock. The bottommost floor is actually on the exposed bedrock, but I only use it for storing wines and such."
When the elevator finally came to a halt, Reese cast a glance up at Finch before watching the doors slide open.