Title: First Aid is in the Dictionary
Summary: When Reese is injured, he reluctantly goes to the Library for help.
Disclaimer: Person of Interest is not mine. I'm just borrowing the concepts and characters for a little while.
Spoilers: 1.10 Number Crunch (very brief mention)
A/N: A half-remembered scene from a 1980s era film helped to inspire this story. It'll probably be obvious once you get to a certain point, but I'm not a medical professional. I just wanted a little bit of angst and h/c – is that so wrong? ;0)
Their exchange of blows was intense. He and his opponent were pretty evenly matched. Unfortunately their fight was in close quarters which gave the heavier, more muscular killer-for-hire a slight advantage. Reese ignored that fact. He had to otherwise he wouldn't be able to save a set of identical twins; Finch had yet to figure out which one (or both) was the intended target.
One misstep, one misreading of the actions his foe was telegraphing and he was down on the ground. In the next second, the strong hands had him trapped and the only way to break the man's grip was to do something drastic. He moved and he heard the sound and felt the pain, but he ignored it. He was free of the other's grasp, and using his opponent's surprise against him was more important in that moment than the cost to himself.
The knife Reese had been able to reach because of his actions went into the other man's body as if it were slicing through air. The many hours observing those he had been sent to protect had left him plenty of time to keep his knives sharpened.
He bent over with a grunt and pulled the knife out of the hit man's body. Wiping the blade on the guy's coat, he knew+ there was no point in checking for life signs. If the man wasn't dead already, he soon would be.
There was a buzzing in his ear, and it took him a couple of seconds to realize that it was not Finch trying to get in contact with him. Instead, it was the pain trying to creep in and remind him of the consequences of his actions, but he pushed it all to the back of his mind. He didn't have time for such distractions right now. Just because he had taken care of one killer, it didn't mean that the two young ladies they were protecting were safe.
With a determined stride, he made his way to his car; only one thought was on his mind – protect. Just as he began to sit in the driver's seat, he heard the buzzing again, but this time it actually was Finch contacting him. Carefully shutting the car door with his left hand, he started to lift his right to reach for his earpiece, but found he couldn't move his arm properly and that his side was definitely not happy with him. Realizing his problem, he stretched his left hand across his body to activate his earpiece.
"Finch," he said in his usual indifferent tone, which he hoped betrayed nothing of the pain that had been ignited by the usually simple movement.
"Mr. Reese, were you able to find Griffiths?" Finch asked.
"He won't be a problem any longer," replied Reese, while trying to keep the hurt he was trying to tamp down from bleeding through into his voice as he awkwardly tried to start the car with his left hand. Knowing he wouldn't be able to hide his injury from Harold if he didn't cease his movements, so he settled against the seat and continued, "He chose not to heed my warning and paid the price."
There was a pause before Harold spoke. "Yes, well…" The sound of a throat clearing came over the line. "Fortunately, with Detective Carter's help, we've found the evidence that links our Numbers' uncle with his plan to murder his nieces and take over the family company. He is now in custody, and I've determined that there are no further threats to our girls' lives."
"Good," he responded at the same time a flash of pain stole through his body which made his voice crack slightly.
Unfortunately his boss – partner? friend? Reese still wasn't sure what kind of relationship he shared with the other man. Unfortunately the computer genius had caught on to the tone of his voice and pointedly asked, "Are you alright, Mr. R—?"
"I'm fine," he interrupted and cut the connection between them.
In truth, he knew he was not fine, and he realized that Finch probably knew that as well. Now that his adrenaline levels were bottoming out, his body was taking great delight in constantly reminding him of his injuries.
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. As he exhaled, he once more forced the discomfort his was feeling to the back of his mind. The ex-CIA operative briefly thought about trying to fix himself up, but then resigned himself to the fact that it would be much easier to fix the one injury with help than without it. As much as he didn't want to appear weak and incapable in front of his employer yet again, he needed Finch and he needed Finch's Library.
Curling his good arm over the steering column, he reached for the ignition, started his car, and awkwardly shifted it into drive. He'd been forced to drive one-handed many times in the past, and he found himself easing into the familiar motions as he made his way back to the Library. Ignoring everything but the actions required to drive, he managed to keep all else at bay and returned to HQ in less time than he had anticipated it would take.
As he made his way up the stairs towards where he knew Finch would still be working he made sure to hold his injured arm as still as possible. The injury in of itself wasn't too severe, but it was damned inconvenient and the nature of it felt like a multitude of jabs from a red-hot knife up and down his neck, back, and right arm with only the slightest movements. He may have an extremely high pain tolerance, but after very little sleep or food for the past week, John was basically running on fumes and having an increasingly difficult time keeping the lid on his body's reactions.
If he'd learned anything about Harold over the months, he knew that the guy had probably kept track of his route the entire time and was aware that Reese was in the building. Guessing the cameras were watching his every move, he tried to keep up the façade that nothing was wrong with him even though he knew it was a lost cause.
As he entered Finch's lair, the man himself turned to face him with look of concern on his face. "John—?"
Still uncomfortable with having someone once again care about his well-being, he interrupted the genius even though he was only holding off the inevitable for a few more moments. "How are the girls?"
Harold turned towards his bank of monitors and hit a key on his keyboard. Reese didn't approach, staying back away from the table, but the small section of the display that he could see from his vantage point changed to a feed from a video camera.
"They are safe, and being escorted back home by Detective Carter as we speak." Finch hit another key and turned his keen gaze back on him. "Do you need a doctor?"
"No," he answered truthfully. His employer gave him an incredulous look in return. He responded by rolling his eyes having recalled just in time that moving his upper body was currently a bad idea. "Does the Library have any large dictionaries?"
His question was obviously not what Finch was expecting. Reese was about to repeat his question when Harold queried. "A dictionary? Why—?"
John held up his left hand and said, "Just answer the question, Harold."
"There are several," Finch declared as he stood. "One of them is a rare example from—."
"Could you bring me the heaviest one you have?" He smirked and briefly wondered at how that could make his headache worse. "I promise to give it right back."
"Harold, please. Can you just…" he stopped and gestured with his good arm towards the Library's stacks. The movement caused him to involuntarily wince when his back muscles and side strongly protested.
When he was able to lock eyes with Finch, he noticed the older man had gone towards him but had stopped several feet away. Despite the evident concern in his eyes, Harold simply nodded.
"Of course, John. I'll be back as soon as I can." The book lover moved passed him and, with a brief last look backward, he limped out of the room to get the requested item.
Once Finch left the room, Reese let his posture sag a little in order to try and find some amount of relief, but it was no use. Knowing what he was about to do would be easier without his jacket and overcoat, John began to carefully take them off. He grabbed his coats with his good arm and started to peel them off, but no matter how he moved, it sent a fiery hot poker of discomfort down along his injured arm. He only got as far as removing both coats off his good shoulder before he simply had to stop. Breathing in and out slowly, his bowed his head slightly not able to prevent a groan from escaping his lips.
With his eyes closed and with trying to stuff everything back into the place in his mind where he was normally able to contain it, he failed to notice that he was no longer alone. Hands touched his coats – touched him – and he reacted without thinking nearly elbowing Finch in his face. Unfortunately, his reaction thoroughly destroyed the fragile balance he'd been maintaining over his body's reactions to his injuries and his body's demands for sleep and sustenance. He stumbled nearly falling into the bank of computer screens on Finch's desk, but managed to catch himself in time. Those actions cost him; his control was essentially gone and he found it hard to keep standing on his now shaky legs.
The buzzing was back in his ears, but eventually it resolved itself into a familiar voice. "John? Are you alright? Can you hear me? John—?"
He held up an unsteady hand, and with a gravelly voice stated, "It's okay, Harold. I'm okay. Just…" Straightening up, he paused and turned towards Finch. "I need your help. First, help me with these," he said indicating his coats with a slight movement of his left hand. "Then I'll tell you what I need the dictionary for."
The computer programmer stepped up Reese's side. "What happened?"
"Watch the shoulder," he ordered with a slight nod of his head towards his injured extremity. "Griffiths briefly had the advantage and I had to take it back – forcefully."
"Dislocated shoulder?" Finch inquired as he slowly slid Reese's coats off of his bad arm.
With the last final tug of a sleeve and a sharp intake of breath, he was freed of his coats. "Yes."
"Anything else?" the older man asked as he hung up the jackets.
"Nothing that matters."
With a tilt of the head and a narrowing of the eyes, Finch repeated his question.
John let out a frustrated sigh. "Bruised ribs. A hard hit to the head. Headache, but no concussion."
He decided to forgo mentioning that one of the bruised ribs might actually be cracked or that his headache was getting to be as bad as any of the worst migraines he'd ever experienced.
John was met with a gaze that made him pretty confident that his employer was well aware that he was holding back on the severity of his injuries.
Ignoring the look, he asked, "Where's the dictionary?" He had no doubt that Finch had retrieved one from somewhere among the many stacks of books, but hadn't seen it yet and figured it had been set aside when his employer had seen him struggling just a few minutes ago.
As the older man moved to get the requested item, Reese turned towards the table and leaned against its edge; he needed the support as much for balance on his unsteady legs as he did to help fix his arm.
When Finch approached him, dictionary in hand, he said, "In this situation, the easiest way to reduce this particular dislocation is to carefully slip the book into my hand; the weight of the dictionary should move my arm back into joint."
"Should?" Harold took a step backward. "Mr. Reese, I really think a doctor—."
"No," he broke in. "There's no need. I've done this before."
"That hardly reassures me, Mr. Reese." The sarcasm was obvious in the dry tone of his voice.
He stretched out a hand and with a heavy sigh of frustration. "Then give it to me, and I'll do it, Finch. I need to get this done; my fingers have gone numb."
"Numb!" The exclamation apparently pushed the older man into action. "John…" There was a brief flicker of uncertainty before his sort-of friend gathered himself together. "What do you need me to do?"
Reese shifted so that he could hitch his left hip up onto Finch's worktable which allowed better access to his right side. "Place the dictionary, spine down, into my hand. Don't be alarmed if you hear…" He shook his head, deciding he wouldn't be able to describe the sound about to permeate the room. "Just do it. Please."
There was a brief hesitation from the man standing next to him before Harold lightly grasped his right wrist with one hand. Then, with the other hand, he started to slip the thick tome into his hand. As his hand bore more and more of the weight of the dictionary, John could feel the bones in his shoulder begin to move and grind together.
The sound, when it finally came, was loud. It was a horrifying combination of sounds – grindpopcrack – that would've sent shivers down his spine if he wasn't so busy trying not to bite through his lip at the pain that briefly erupted as his shoulder was put back in place. His vision whited out for some undefinable amount of time, but when he came back to himself it was to Harold's near panicked voice trying to get his attention.
He breathed in through his nose and slowly exhaled through his mouth. The dictionary was gone from his right hand and Finch's was on his uninjured shoulder keeping him steady.
Reese looked the other man in the eyes and said, "You did good, Harold."
"Are you alright, John? Are your fingers still numb?" The older man let go of him and took a step back, apparently to gauge if he was capable of standing without assistance.
He wiggled his fingers as he responded, "Pins and needles but getting better."
Finch grabbed his good arm at the elbow and ordered, "Come with me."
Reluctantly, he followed the older man who was leading him to a small room whose entrance was almost completely hidden by a tall, fully-packed bookshelf. He'd previously noted its odd placement in his explorations of the Library, but he was ashamed to admit to himself that, with everything else going on, he'd never before bothered to check it out.
It was more of an alcove than actual room, and he surmised that was where the Library's copiers and other equipment for public use had been kept. But now the recess' prominent feature was a full-sized bed with a table next to it and cabinet on the other end of the space. The room was plain with no decoration, and was probably used only when the older man couldn't be gone from the Library for very long or perhaps when his neck and leg were giving Harold too much trouble.
Flipping a light switch, which illuminated the room with a soft, yellow glow, Finch guided him to the bed. "Stay here. I'll be right back."
"Finch," he started then sighed, "I'm fine. I don't need—."
With a stern look on his face, his employer interrupted him. "You're injured, and don't even try to convince me that you're not exhausted." He pointed to the bed. "Sit. I'll be back as soon as I can."
"But—," he tried, but the other man was out the door before he could even mount an argument.
He exhaled noisily and admitted to himself that he was indeed exhausted – maybe even beyond that at this point given the events of this night. While his shoulder may be properly realigned again, it and several other parts of his body were still blanketed by discomfort.
He sat down and tried to rest his elbows on his knees, but soon discovered that his shoulder and ribs thought it was not the best way for him to relax. Reese straightened and carefully scooted back on the bed until the middle of his back was almost against the wall. Then, leaning forward, he grabbed the two pillows and shoved them behind him trying to find a comfortable position but didn't succeed. He let out a low growl of frustration as he continued trying, his weary brain no longer able to cope with so difficult a problem.
By his fifth attempt, Finch had come back into the small room, his arms loaded with multiple items. Setting them down at the foot of the bed, the bespectacled man went over to the cabinet and pulled out two more pillows.
"Here. Let me help. Sit forward."
Setting the extra pillows down, he lifted up a dark blue sling from amongst the items he'd brought into the room. "I know you won't wear this for long, but please humor me tonight. Your shoulder needs the support right now."
It was on the tip of his tongue to refuse, but instead he found himself giving in. "Fine."
Then, for the next few minutes, he found himself giving into many of Finch's orders, demands, and requests to the point where he was resting comfortably on the bed with a sling for support, an icepack for the swelling, strong painkillers for his collection of discomforts, and pillows comfortably supporting his back and injured arm. It had been a long time since anyone had fussed over him this much, or rather, that he had allowed them to fuss over him. His military and government training had pretty much broken him of the habit of expecting anyone to do anything like that. Even now he didn't really allow much of it, but his defenses were down and he was letting Harold help him even more this time than after the time he'd been shot and more severely wounded by Snow's partner. It'd been a long time since anyone besides the computer genius had even offered when it came to something like this.
He couldn't help but be reminded of a time in Eastern Europe when he'd been hurt out in the field with only Stanton to aid him. She'd done nothing but sketchily patch him up; there'd been no effort to be gentle or even in any way sympathetic despite the fact that their mission was over and they had a long wait until extraction. In contrast, many years ago Jessica had not only been worried about a relatively new scar on his shoulder but also by the most trivial of paper cuts. To have someone to mother hen him again was a nice, if slightly unwelcome at times, change.
With all the attention and effort to make him comfortable, Reese was losing the battle to stay awake. For a moment he considered arguing that he should go to his apartment instead of inconveniencing Finch, but his sluggish mind didn't refused to even follow up on that thought.
His employer turned out the light to the alcove, but the room was still faintly lit by the lights from outside. "If you need anything, call me; your phone is on the table beside the bed."
Just as the older man was about to step out of the room, he quietly said, "Thank you, Harold."
Reese hoped the computer programmer could hear in his voice that he was thankful for more than just the dictionary.
Finch kept walking out of the room and did not turn around. As Reese drifted off to a much needed sleep, he thought his dual message had not been received, until a voice suffused with warmth floated back towards him.
"You're welcome, John."
A/N: My first POI story. Please be gentle…
Beta extraordinaire, ncismom, read this through for me. Remaining mistakes are my fault.
Thanks for reading!