Finch eased the woman down on the step. He didn't know if he should get her to lie back, and she didn't seem inclined to do so. He sat down beside her and wiggled out of his overcoat, put it around her shoulders, and then kept his arm around her back. She nestled against him sweetly. Her face was very pale, and her skin was cool and damp, but remarkably, she didn't seem to be in any pain.
He heard Reese's voice over her earwig, though she didn't know he could hear it. "Julie?"
"If I put the gun back in Kemp's hand and you tell the right story, he can die a hero. It's your call."
She didn't hesitate. "He's a southpaw."
"Thank you. For everything."
"You need to get rid of the earwig. Give it to the guy with you. Ask him to dump it somewhere."
Julie leaned away from Finch, reached for her ear.
"Hey, Julie?" Reese continued, before she could remove it.
"An Agency op would have stuck that landing."
She started to laugh, but it turned into a gasping cough. She took out the earpiece and very gently folded it into Finch's hand. "What is this?" he asked.
"I need you to throw it away for me. When you get home."
"Who were you talking to?"
"But I heard you …"
"I wasn't talking to anyone." She put her hand flat on the front of his jacket. "Please."
Finch put his own hand over hers. "All right."
She smiled, and then frowned. "What are you doing here?"
"You called me," he said. "You asked me to come and get Will. You told me to stay in the car until the police got here."
"No, I didn't."
Finch patted her hand again. "You did," he said firmly. "Please."
Julie blinked. "Oh." Then she sighed and settled closer to his shoulder. "You know, someday we're going to have to stop lying to him."
"I know," Finch answered. "But not today."
"No. Not today." She looked down at her other hand, where it was cradled in her lap. "I broke my nails," she said.
Finch followed her gaze. "And your fingers," he added.
"And my wrist, I think." None of it seemed to bother her at all. Her voice was wispy, and her eyes took on a vague, gauzy expression.
"And you dislocated your shoulder."
"I did?" She turned her head to look, mildly surprised. "Oh. That explains why I can see the back of it."
"This is really going to hurt, isn't it?"
"I'm afraid so."
Will burst out the back door of the building and ran toward them. "Julie! Oh my God, Julie, are you …" He skidded to a stop and dropped to his knees in front of her. "Oh, my God. Jules …"
He didn't seem to know if he should be her lover or her doctor. He reached up to touch her cheek gently, but his hand immediately trailed down to check the pulse on her neck. "You are really shocky," he said.
"I know," Julie answered simply. "It's lovely."
He glanced at Harold. "Can we lay her down? Elevate her feet?"
"Will," she countered, "listen." She reached across her body to take his hand in her unbroken fingers. "Listen. Right now I am in shock and it's like a big puffy white cloud of not hurting. Let's not do anything to screw that up until somebody gets here with some morphine, okay?"
He hesitated, then nodded. "Okay. Okay. Can you move your toes?"
"Some of them." She looked at Finch again. "My sister broke sixteen bones once," she said. Her voice was lighter, lilting. "She got dragged by a horse. It's the family record."
"I think you might have a good shot at it."
"I think so, too."
"Is it a competition?" Will asked.
"Everything's a competition in my family."
He slipped off her right shoe and ran his fingers along the bottom of it. Her toes crunched in reaction. "Good." He let his hand hover over her shattered left leg, but didn't touch it. Then he sat forward on his knees and looked at her broken hand. He touched her fingertips lightly. "Can you feel that?"
He glanced at Harold again. "No C-spine, I don't think. I don't even want to think about internal injuries." Then he frowned. "What are you doing here?"
"Ms. Essex called me. She thought you'd need a ride home."
"I told you to stay in the car," she said.
"I know, I know. But I heard the gunshots …"
"So naturally you ran towards them."
"Well … yes."
"Did somebody call an ambulance?" Will asked.
"They're on their way," Finch promised. "And the police." He'd remembered to call for help and to unlock the stairway doors. Beyond that, he had to hope he hadn't overlooked anything. It had been a hectic moment.
Julie reached her good hand out again, touched Will's shoulder. "Will, listen to me. This is important. The man I was talking to, right before you got shot. He's … he was …"
"He was at the airport," Ingram remembered.
"He was here to help me," Julie said.
"No he wasn't. You said he sold you out …"
"Will. He's dead. He has a wife with cancer and two little kids. He was here to help me."
He blinked up at her. "You want me to lie to the police?"
"Just … don't tell them what you heard. I showed up, I said I had help with me, you never saw or heard anybody else. Please."
"You want me to lie …"
"He almost got us both killed."
For the first time tears glittered in the woman's eyes. "I know. I'm sorry. I know."
"Don't. Don't cry." He reached up and brushed her tears away. Then he moved up and sat on the steps next to her, opposite Finch. "Can you look this way? That way? Now keep your head still and follow my finger with just your eyes."
"I didn't hit my head, Will."
"I think it's the only part she didn't hit," Finch offered.
"Let's get this vest off," Will said. He reached for the straps.
Julie stopped him. "I think that's probably holding my ribs in place."
Will sighed. He touched her shoulder, but didn't try to move it. Put his hand very lightly on her broken wrist. "Oh, baby. Oh, my poor baby."
"Doesn't hurt yet," Julie offered cheerfully, by way of comfort.
"Yet." He stroked her hair – and checked for head injuries at the same time. Her eyes grew cloudy and her head rolled back a little. "Julie, stay awake," Will said sharply. "Come on, stay with me." She straightened a little and her eyes cleared. "Good girl. I'm going to stay right here with you, Jules. Don't worry about anything. I'll be right beside you, in the ambulance, at the hospital …"
She shook her head, shook away from his hand. "No. Listen to me. You're not riding in the ambulance. You're not coming to the hospital. You're not going to visit me, or call me, or send flowers, or any of that. You're going to stay with me until they get here, and then you're going to forget about me and get on with your life."
"I can't. Please don't … I love you, Julie."
"Why? Because you just saved my life. Because …" he stopped. "Shit. That was exactly the wrong answer, wasn't it?"
She nodded sadly. There were tears in her eyes again. "Will, please. Don't make me fight you about this. I can't. Not now."
"Then don't. Let me stay with you."
"I can't. Nothing's changed. It wouldn't ever be right."
"It might be …"
"It wouldn't, Will, please …"
There were tears in his eyes, too. Finch found himself blinking back his own. They were so close, the two of them, wrapped carefully in each other's arms, wrapped in his, and he could feel their hearts breaking. He cleared his throat. "Can I suggest a compromise?" he said.
They both looked at him. He could tell they'd forgotten he was there. "A what?" Will said.
"You can't …" Julie began.
"Just hear me out." Finally, finally he heard sirens in the distance. He looked at Julie. "You think this is transference, and counter-transference, and you're probably right. And the only way to tell what's real and what isn't is hindsight, correct? Time?"
"If Will does what you ask, if he stays away from the hospital, if he doesn't try to contact you in any way – no candy, no telegrams, no smoke signals, nothing – if he makes an honest attempt to get on with his life and forget about you …"
"I'm not going to do that, Uncle Harold."
"Listen. Just listen. If he does that, and six months from now he finds that in spite of everything, in spite of all that time that's passed, he still has feelings for you – would you agree to have dinner with him? No promises, no expectations, just dinner?"
Julie seemed confused. Her eyes began to cloud again. "Just …"
"Just dinner," Harold repeated.
"I … yes. In six months, yes."
"So, roughly Christmas, then?"
She nodded, but her head started to roll back again. Will took her face between his hands. "Julie, wake up, stay with me here. Come on. Stay with me."
She straightened, shook her head. "I fell out a window, Will."
"I broke my leg."
"Yeah, you did."
"Where the hell do you think I'm going to go?"
He chuckled, a little. Grimly. "Dinner, then? At Christmas?"
Julie shook her head. "Boxing Day."
"It's the day after Christmas," Finch offered. "A holiday celebrated by …" Will looked at him and he stopped talking.
"Boxing Day," Julie said again. "Aspen. We're easy to find. We rent a hotel."
"A hotel? You mean you rent a suite, or a floor?"
"A hotel," she repeated. She turned her head to look at Finch. "You know, don't you?"
"I know," he said. "I've met some of your relatives. The family resemblance is very strong."
"That's because my parents are first cousins."
"No. They're clones."
Will said, "What are you talking about?"
The sirens were closer. "I'll explain it to him," Finch promised.
She nodded. "Thank you. You should …" she began to fade out again "… show him a picture. He needs a visual to grasp the … full horror …"
"Julie!" Will snapped. "Come on, wake up."
She rallied one more time, though it was clearly a huge struggle. She brought her good hand up and scratched it lightly through Will's scant beard. "I like this," she said dreamily.
"I know you do." He turned his head, pressed his lips against her palm.
"Mummy will not approve." She shook her head again, grew more conscious. "If you come to Aspen, for the love of God don't use your own name."
"If she finds out who you are … all the SEALs and Marines and … Rangers and Boy Scouts … Mounties … in the world … won't be able to get you out of her clutches."
"What are you talking about?"
Julie rolled her head to look to Finch again. "I'll take care of it," he promised.
She twisted to touch his face. "I like you, too. You remind me of Gram."
She closed her eyes.
"Julie!" Will shouted. It was harder to call her back this time, and Finch could see the near-panic in the young man. "Jules, stay with me!"
She blinked her eyes open reluctantly. "Will. I'm not going to die."
"Of course you're not. You're going to be fine. Just stay with me. Please, they're almost here, just stay awake. Come on, Jules."
"Not going to die," she repeated faintly. "Gotta stick around and see how this turns out."
They could see the flashing lights now, just outside the yard. A vehicle door slammed. "I'll get them," Finch said. But Julie was leaning heavily on him, and when he tried to slide away she groaned in real pain for the first time.
"I'll go." Will stood up. "Be right back. Keep her awake." He ran to the gate and pushed it fully open. "Over here. Hurry up!"
"Julie," Finch said gently, "wake up. They're here. Wake up."
Her head slumped against his shoulder, but she rolled it back a little to look up at him. "I like you," she said again.
Finch smiled at her fondly. She was barely conscious and deep in shock, and still she was loving and sweet. "I like you, too."
"You're like Gram," she continued. "You know stuff. Will thinks … you know … everything. I think he's … right. But it's okay. You're very kind about it."
Quite clearly, she said, "I miss her." And she began to cry in earnest.
Finch blinked back his own tears again. He bent his head, though his neck screamed, and kissed forehead lightly. Then he rested his cheek against the top of her head and rocked her, very gently. She murmured, not in pain.
At the gate, he heard Will bark orders at the paramedics. Oxygen, he wanted, and IV lines, stat, and pain meds, backboard, collar, splints. One of the paramedics barked back at him, demanded to know who he thought he was.
And for the first time ever, Finch heard the boy – the young man – use his father's Voice of Power. "I'm a Doctor," Will pronounced, and the force in his tone brought everyone within hearing distance under his command.
Finch looked up. He'd heard Nathan use that voice, rarely, and it always had the same effect. Everyone who heard it jumped into line, immediately and without question. It was the voice of Absolutely Authority. He'd never thought Will would possess it, much less use it. But he did and he had, and the various city employees scampered to do his bidding.
"He's coming into his own, Nathan," Finch whispered. "God help us all."
The girl stirred in his arms. He shifted, longing to keep her next to him for one more moment. She was warm, sweet, and absolutely content to be there beside him. It had been a very long time since he'd felt human contact.
Then the paramedics were there and Will was back. Someone took Harold's arm, helped him up gently, moved him aside as they swarmed over the young woman. It didn't matter now that they moved her; she'd slipped out of consciousness. But that was all right, Finch thought. Merciful. She would not die. He was sure of that.
He stepped back, further out of the way, and looked at the young woman again. Her face was white, almost luminescent under the neon lights, and her eyes were closed. She looked like a marble statue, like an angel. But she would not die. She would go away and she would heal. She was strong. And on Boxing Day she would return to Will Ingram's life. Finch didn't have any doubt about any of it. His instincts, where matters of human interaction were concerned, were not strong, although he'd always been much more intuitive about other people's relationships than his own. But he was absolutely certain about this one. As unreasonably certain as he'd been the first time he saw Grace painting in the park. This was right. This was meant to be.
He watched Nathan Ingram's son move through the sudden chaos, in full charge of the situation, seizing control in the aid of his wounded lady. He was calm, competent, confident. He was everything his father had hoped he'd be.
Finch glanced upward, cocked one eyebrow. "Are you seeing this, Nathan?" He chuckled to himself. "I told you so."
The young man was staring at the river, but Harold could tell he wasn't seeing it. Everything about Will's posture told him that the boy was miserable. Finch's heart ached for him.
He sat down on the bench next to him. "How are your ribs?"
Will winced, reached around to rub his side. "Really, really sore. Did you find her?"
"Yes. Well, my assistant did, of course." He held out the paper bag he'd carried. "I brought you a breakfast sandwich."
Will looked at it, but didn't take it. Finch put it on the bench next to him.
"Where is she?"
Harold looked toward the river and did not answer.
"Uncle Harold," the boy insisted, "where's Julie?"
"She's in good hands," Harold finally said. "She'll be fine."
"You're not going to tell me."
"If you knew where she was, Will, would you stay away from her, as you promised?"
"She broke a dozen bones, Uncle Harold. I need to make sure she's okay."
"Eighteen," Finch corrected.
"Eighteen bones. Well, sixteen bones, eighteen breaks. Her tibia and fibula were both broken in two places. Fortunately many of the other breaks are in fingers and toes. And ribs, of course." Will stared at him. "And she is under the care of the best orthopedic doctors in the world."
"But they're not …"
"Will. She's a Carson. She is receiving, quite literally, the best care the money can buy." Her parents, he did not add, had added a whole new dimension to the phrase 'helicopter parents' in their rush to help the girl. Their smallest bird had long since left the nest, but the minute she hit the ground they'd been there to catch her up in their talons and carry her to safety.
She was in more danger of familial suffocation than she was from her multiple injuries.
"And you won't tell me where."
Harold sighed. "No."
"You don't understand. You just don't get it." Will waved his hands angrily. "I love her, Uncle Harold. I know you don't believe that, I know you think it's just this transference or another stupid phase or whatever, you think I don't know what I'm talking about, you think it will just go away. But it's not true. I love her. And I'm not going to let her go like this." He stood up, paced in a short line, in full rant. "I know you're really smart, I know you think you know everything, but you don't know this. You've never loved somebody and just had to let them go like this. You never …"
He stopped dead. Harold held his breath. The boy had turned at just the wrong moment. He tried to compose his expression, but the boy's words had cut straight to his heart.
And Will had seen it. "Uncle Harold?" he said, suddenly quiet, full of regret. "I … you …" He sat back down beside him. "I'm sorry."
"It's nothing, Will," Harold said, with as much warmth as he could force. He felt like he was drowning in ice water again. The boy always found a way under his guard.
"No, it's not." Will touched his shoulder. "You never told me. Who was she? He? She?"
"It doesn't matter." Harold resisted the urge to shrug away from the physical contact. He took a deep breath, tried to bury his own pain. Chose his words carefully. "But believe me, Will, I do understand. And I know that it's perhaps the hardest thing in the world."
"Then why won't you tell me …"
"If I told you, if you went to her right now, what would you say? How would you convince her that what you feel for her is really love and not transference or a phase or anything else that her experience tells her it really is?"
"I'd just … I don't know, Uncle Harold." He drew his hand back, rubbed his forehead. By old habit, he brushed his fingertips across the tiny scar at his hairline. Harold wondered if he even remembered where he'd gotten it. "I just …" He dropped his hand. "Damn it."
"This woman that I lost," Finch continued carefully, though the words felt raw in this throat, "there was never any chance that we could be reunited. The circumstances were … insurmountable. But you have a chance, Will. You just have to be patient. Do what you said you'd do. Give it until Christmas. And think about is. Really think about it."
"I won't change my mind. I love her."
"Will you love her any less in December, then?"
The boy looked toward the river again. "But what if … "
"If she doesn't love you then?"
"Yeah." Will's voice was very small.
"That's the chance you take," Harold agreed, "and it's a frightening one. But if you go to her now, today, will she see you? Will she let you stay? I don't know the young lady very well, but she seemed to have a bit of a stubborn streak. So when will your odds be better, Will? Today, or on Boxing Day, when you've both had some time to think? And when you've given her the time that she asked for?"
He could tell that Will saw the logic. He just didn't like it. "But what if she meets somebody else between now and then?"
"With eighteen broken bones? I find it unlikely that she'll be particularly interested in dating for some time." Harold nodded, half to himself. "And there's that to consider, too, Will. These injuries will change her life, even after she recovers. She needs some time to deal with that."
He could see in the boy's eyes that he knew he was speaking from experience. "She loves to run," he began. And then, "I could help her …"
"If she were your patient, Will, what would you say to her? If she came to you with these critical, life-changing injuries and said that she was getting seriously involved with a brand new boyfriend, what would you tell her?"
Will sat back, chewed on his bottom lip. "I'd tell her to wait," he finally admitted, grudgingly. "I'd tell her to deal with one thing at a time. I'd tell her she was in no emotional condition to make that kind of decision." He shook his head. "I know you're right. I hate it, but I know you're right. It's just … it's so hard. If I just had some idea what she was thinking, if she felt anything at all or if she was just blowing me off …"
"She agreed to meet you, didn't she?"
"Yeah. But she could just call and say she changed her mind."
"She could," Harold agreed. "And heaven knows I'm no expert in such things. But I would think that if a woman risks her life to save yours, it's probably an indication of at least some affection."
"Or maybe it was just her job," Will answered morosely.
"As I understand it, her job ended the moment your plane touched down in New York. Everything after that was about you, and how she feels about you."
Will looked at him for a long moment. There was resignation in his eyes, finally, and pain. "It hurts, Uncle Harold."
This time Finch reached for him, put his hand gently on the young man's shoulder. "I know it does, Will. I wish I could take that away. But you have a chance, a good chance, that this could end very well. You just have to be patient."
"You know I'm not good at that."
"I know, yes."
"How do I do this, Uncle Harold? I can't stand one day. How do I get through six months?"
"You could finish your residency," Finch suggested gently.
"It was worth a try."
"How did you get through it? When you … um …" He stopped, clearly afraid that he was causing more pain.
Harold squeezed his shoulder calmly. "I started something new. And learned something new. A great many things, actually."
"You've always told me that, haven't you? That learning something new crowded the pain out." Will smiled, just a little. "I was looking. There are these Indian reservations in Minnesota … I don't know. Maybe something else." He shook his head. "A couple days ago I was furious that I couldn't leave the country, and now I can even imagine being that far from her."
Finch nodded. Whatever else, it would be nice to have Will a little closer to home for a while. "You'll find something. And then, you might take some time to find out a bit about the Carson family. Discretely, of course. From a distance." He drew out his tablet, handed it to the boy. "Seriously consider what you might be getting into."
Will looked at the picture on the screen. He glanced up at Harold. "That's a lot of people."
"You always said you didn't like being an only child."
"Yeah, but … that's a lot of people."
The young man considered again. "It might be fun."
"It might be awful," Harold countered. "But maybe that's just me."
"You never did like crowds. Or most people."
"Your father used to say that I was born without a social gene."
"And that he had two, to make up for it," Will finished for him. "I remember." He sobered for a minute. "I wonder …"
"What he'd think of Julie Carson?" Finch finished quietly. "I think he would love anyone that you truly loved. But I also think …" he considered, nodded, "… I think he would outright adore her for herself."
Will chuckled. "The first time she told him to cowboy up about something."
"That would do it, yes."
They sat for a moment in reflective silence. Finally Will gave the tablet back and stood up. "Uncle Harold … I'm sorry. I know I can be a big pain in the ass."
"Once in a while," Harold answered gently. "But most of the time, Will, you are one of the best parts of my life." He clambered to his own feet.
"Thank you. For talking me through this, for … being the voice of reason. I don't know what I would have done … when she fell, I was so … and after Dad … if you hadn't been here."
Harold pulled the boy into a tight hug. "I hope I can always be here for you. And eventually for your young lady." He couldn't resist a small smile. "And then for your growing herd of children."
Will actually shuddered in his arms and then pulled away, smiling himself. "She's the youngest of …"
"Fourteen. I wonder if she wants that many kids. She's good with babies." He sighed. "That's probably one of those things we should discuss, isn't it?"
"Oh, yes," Finch confirmed warmly. "Very definitely."
Will rubbed the scar on his forehead again. "Fourteen. Yeesh." He pulled his hand away. "You know something weird, Uncle Harold? This little scar I have up here, I only ever touch it when I'm with you. I don't even remember how I got it."
"Every time you touch it, do you have a sudden craving for ice cream?"
"How did you know that?"
Harold chuckled. "Forget breakfast. Come with me."
"To the ice cream shop. And I'll tell you how they go together."
Will frowned at him, perplexed. "It's ten o'clock in the morning."
"So … ice cream for breakfast?"
"Nothing wrong with that, on rare occasions. I sometimes eat ice cream in the winter, too." Harold let the memory warm him for a moment. "Good things can happen when you break arbitrary rules."
After a long moment, Will nodded. "You know, Uncle Harold, somehow in my head you're very conservative, very straight-laced. I think it might be the suits. But really, when it comes down to it, you're really kind of a wild man, aren't you?"
Harold considered. "I'm flexible in my thinking. Is that a problem?"
"No. No." Will nodded to himself. "Just … something I need to remember before I turn you lose with my future herd of children."
"That's probably wise," Harold agreed. "I am already planning to spoil them outrageously. There will be giant Pixie Sticks. And puppies. And possibly ponies."
Will laughed warily. "Terrific."
They turned and walked together toward the nearest source of dairy confections.
Behind them, a short, non-descript man in an unmemorable suit followed casually. Finch saw him, but only because he was looking for him. Will Ingram didn't notice him at all.
Beyond him, somewhere invisible, a much taller and more memorable man, also in a suit, watched him. That arrangement was only temporary, until they were satisfied that the short man and his co-workers were adequate to the task they were being well-paid for.
Finch nodded to himself in satisfaction. He was sure Julie Carson would approve.