Spoilers: Through Firewall
Disclaimer: Not it.
AN: Sequel to Backup. Read that one first.
He opened his eyes slowly, having experienced the irrepressible light of morning shining through the floor to ceiling windows of his loft many, many times. He suspected that facing the sunlight would only be worsened by the fact that he'd drunk himself to sleep the night before.
He sat up, wincing in anticipation, amazed as always at the lack of a hangover. No matter how much he drank, he only ever faced one of two consequences: either he woke up in an alley somewhere with broken ribs and fresh bruises or he simply had a blackout, a complete blank, no idea whatsoever where he'd been or what he'd done. He generally preferred the former, as at least the location would give him some idea what trouble he'd gone looking for.
But usually, as was the case this time, it was the latter. The morning sun that blinded him every day was mercifully absent, the sky dark, the room filled with the soft, painless moonlight.
Shit. He'd drunk himself stupid in the middle of the day. Not a good sign.
He looked around for the whiskey bottle, his drink of choice, and wondered why he hadn't carried it to bed. When he drank, it was like everything else - he did it all the way, generally waking up with his hand wrapped around the bottle that he'd wound up spilling all over himself when he passed out.
The only thing he spied out of place in his loft was the beer bottle on the table, which gave him pause. A ghost of a memory skittered through his confused, still half-asleep mind, making him think of Carter quite suddenly. It made him smile, even as he dismissed it as a drunken hallucination. Carter hadn't been there. Carter hadn't brought him home from wherever he'd been and put him to bed. He'd like to call her a friend, sincerely wished that were the case, but he knew, despite how much he liked her, despite how obvious it was to the entire world that he liked her, she only barely tolerated him.
And that tolerance was based one hundred percent on her belief that he was some sort of twisted Robinhood or something, out to right the wrongs and defeat evil.
Even if he'd been drunk enough to forget that calling her for no legitimate reason would be stupid and pathetic and result in her giving him a patronizing lecture about boundaries, she wouldn't have left her job to take him home.
He stood up and contemplated a shower for a millisecond. Finch was missing. His boss. His friend. The only person who would give a shit if he showed up at the library and stank the place up. So he forgot about the shower and aimed for getting back to work as soon as possible. Once Finch was back, Reese could get back to worrying about showering and shaving. He stepped into his shoes and looked around for his jacket, surprised he'd even bothered to take it off, finding it lying on the far side of the bed. He reached for it, another foggy thought striking him, again of Carter, but he pushed it away.
The fact was, whether he liked to admit it or not, he thought of Carter far too damn often for his own good, so imagining that she was there when he was drunk out of his skull wasn't really much of a stretch. He did, however, make a mental note that it was probably a bad sign that the only thing he even almost remembered had been a figment of his imagination.
The only nod to polite society that he made at all was to brush his teeth quickly, dry toothbrush and no sink, telling himself that it was purely for the benefit of whoever would be giving him his coffee and not for his own comfort, such promises were important whenever he indulged such a weakness, such a diversion from finding Finch.
He felt almost proud when he walked past the liquor store on the corner and didn't even think about going in. He made only one stop on his way to the library - to buy a cup of coffee. Finch had bought him a coffee maker for the library, once he'd figured out that Reese pretty much lived on coffee alone, but Reese refused to use it until his boss was there to look at him disapprovingly and inform him that he ought to eat something healthy every once in a while.
Not only did Finch not approve of Reese's coffee habit, but he also didn't indulge it. So while the older man had gone so far as to buy the machine for him, Reese had never once walked into the library and smelled the aroma of an almost painfully strong dark brew that kept him standing long after human limits would have given out.
It was more than a little alarming then to pull open the library door and find the delicious scent of coffee wafting down the stairs. Though it teased his senses and made him want to smile, Reese frowned, drawing the gun from his hip. He feared it was the start of another assault by that bitch who'd stolen Finch, a little calling card to say she'd been there and she was better than him and that she'd never let him find his friend.
It wasn't quite the assumption most people would jump to when they smelled coffee in their workplace. And though Reese was the last person to consider himself "most people," he recognized that he probably needed more therapy now than he had a few weeks earlier, and that was saying a hell of a lot.
He took the stairs two at a time, silently examining each bit of the second floor as it came into view, preparing himself for whatever he would find at the end of the book stacks.
Well, preparing himself for whatever he would find besides the one thing he found.
What the fuck.
He stood there for a long moment trying to wrap his brain around the idea of Carter in his library.
If he'd ever thought of her being there in any capacity, it would have been with a look of annoyance and confusion on her face as she stumbled upon him and Finch in their lair.
Instead, she was sitting in Finch's chair, tapping away happily at that infernal computer not even looking up at the man who was still, in his confusion, pointing a gun at her. He figured that was a shame, really, because she'd probably get a hell of a kick out of the dumbfounded expression he knew was on his face.
The coffee maker clicked off, drawing Carter's attention, and she stood up, only then realizing Reese was even there. She gave a start when she saw him, putting a hand to her chest and closing her eyes for a moment.
"Jeez, John, you scared the crap out of me." She poured herself a cup of the hot coffee, then turned back to the computer. "You skulking around in the middle of the night shouldn't surprise me, but I was hoping you'd get some real sleep. You still look like hell."
He continued to stand there and stare, though the gun had dropped to his side.
She sat back in Finch's chair, motioning at the computer. "I think it likes me. It's been showing me all sorts of things. It's like personalized TV."
He shook his head gently so as not to draw attention while hoping the motion would jump start his brain. Carter obviously hadn't just happened upon the place. She was talking like he should have expected to find her there.
She glanced up again, sizing him up for a long moment before shaking her head. "You're a black out drunk, aren't you?" She rolled her eyes and muttered at the computer, "Of course he is. Typical."
It was then, watching the way her lips pursed unhappily, that he got another flash, this one far more detailed than the gossamer ones he'd already had. It was damn near tangible, so real, the feeling of her mouth on his, the taste of her tongue, the warmth of her breath, the sight of her body leaning over his… so fucking real that he staggered backwards until he slammed into a bookshelf, his precious coffee tumbling from his hand and spilling at his feet.
Finally the computer lost some of its hold over her, his semi-collapse causing her to cross the room and put her hand on his arm. "Are you still drunk?" She was trying to make eye contact, turning and leaning as he tried to avoid the intimacy as desperately as she was trying to find it. He couldn't think straight, not as the ideas rolled through his head, not when he remembered her tongue in his mouth, not when he suddenly recalled so vividly the way it felt as he tried to pull her down on top of him. Definitely not while her hand was on his arm, which might as well have been on his bare skin for how her palm seemed to burn through his clothes.
He shook his head, calling on his training to pull himself together until he could think things over without Carter leaning into his personal space out of concern for his welfare, although, if the scattered pieces of thoughts that being with her were drawing to the surface were true, it was her being in his personal space out of concern for his welfare that was to blame for whatever he'd done.
His instinct was to backup, to break the contact, anything that would allow his brain to regain its normal function. The presence of a few hundred books stacked on the steel shelves behind him cut off that option. His next thought was to do everything in his power to prolong the contact, to do whatever he'd done earlier that had resulted in her being willing to allow his hands, his mouth, his god-only-knew-what-else to be on her.
The rather familiar urge to kiss her until she begged for mercy rose up, which he was prepared to fight on a regular basis, but he had never had to deal with her touching him. And he was quickly discovering that when Carter touched him, she had full control of him. His body didn't respond to his commands to move away. He remained where he was, frozen except for the molten heat where her hands had moved to his chest, his eyes dropping from hers and finding her mouth.
Maybe she noticed, maybe she didn't. He couldn't tell by looking at her mouth and he couldn't seem to drag his gaze away. He saw the way her mouth turned as she leaned her head from side to side, sizing him up on her own.
"I'm not sure I believe that you're sober, John."
Slowly his eyes moved up to hers, realizing as he did so that his mouth was hanging open. He forced his jaw closed and swallowed hard, his panicked expression drawing a lilting laugh from her.
"Or maybe it just wasn't a complete blackout?" She shook her head as she laughed, withdrawing her hands and moving back to the computer. Grabbing a tissue from the box, she held it out toward him. "You've still got lipstick on your face."
It was instinct, he decided, that he reached out and took the tissue. What to do with it, though - shit, had she really just indicated that he had remnants of her lipstick on his mouth? She didn't look at him as she sat down and her expression was lacking the jovial quality it usually had when she was with him. Another, far more upsetting, idea struck him then. Maybe it hadn't been Carter. Maybe it had been some random woman, some nameless, faceless nobody that he'd convinced himself was Carter and he was facing the subject of his little fantasy with the evidence quite literally all over his face.
Rather than dealing with that entirely unpleasant thought, he squatted down, attempting to soak up an entire cup of coffee with a single tissue. It seemed he was only making more of a mess, something that was obvious to Carter as well, since she approached a minute later with some paper towels.
She batted his hands out of the way. "Go lie down, John. You're still drunk and I'm here to watch things." She looked at him, staring until his eyes reluctantly met hers. Then she inclined her head toward the hallway. "There's a couch, I saw it. Go, sleep, come back later." When he didn't move, she pulled another towel from the roll, gently wiping at his mouth. "Really, John, you're kind of annoying like this."
He watched as she withdrew the towel, recognizing the lipstick was an exact match to the shade she wore. It made him feel a little better. "Jos, I-"
She shook her head. "I'd take you there myself, but we've already established that you have a problem keeping your hands to yourself."
She was grinning as she grabbed the paper towels and dumped them in the trash can. Feeling better, he stood as well, stepping around the table toward the coffee maker. No sooner had he lifted the pot, though, she was back in his personal space, pulling the handle from his grasp.
"No caffeine for you. Go away." She looked up at him, the familiar playfulness in her eyes. "Now."
He looked toward the hallway, thinking of the fancy, uncomfortable couch Finch had, the very same one Reese had slept on more than once. He had enough trouble arguing with Carter on a good day and he was still tired as hell. A few hours hadn't touched the deficit of sleep he'd built up since Finch's disappearance. His eyes darted toward the computer. He was tired, but Finch needed him.
"I've got it, John. You're right here. I'll call you if anything happens."
One thing he'd learned long ago was how to resist those human urges, like eating when he was hungry and sleeping when he was tired. A little coffee and he'd be good as new. He smirked at Carter as he reached past her, snagging the coffee pot again. "I'm fine, Carter."
She glared at him, surprisingly not backing away from the way he'd crowded into her personal space. Her head leaned back to size him up, her scrutiny more intense at that distance. "Are you sure you're sober?"
His eyes held hers, resisting the temptation of having her so close. He gripped his coffee cup tighter to remind himself not to touch her. Just because he was sober didn't mean he couldn't have some fun, especially since she'd already brought it up and seemingly harbored no bad feelings about him touching her. He watched her, letting his eyes drift to her mouth, clinging to the memory of when it had been pressed against his. He smirked as his eyes moved back to hers. "I'm sober." Taking one more obvious glance at her mouth, he shrugged. "Unfortunately."
She shook her head, pretending as usual that she wasn't amused, though her wide smile said otherwise. Turning away, she grabbed the coffee pot from his hand and poured him a cup. Then she set it in front of the computer, next to hers. For a brief moment, Reese thought of the stroke Finch would have if he saw two cups of coffee near his precious computer equipment, but his attention was back on Carter when she moved in front of him.
"Ok, then, since you're sober…" Her eyes were twinkling as she looked up at him, but that was all he had time to notice before she made her move. Her hands reached up, tucking behind his head, gripping tightly and tugging him down. She leaned in, her whole body following her mouth as she made contact. Her lips pressed into his, her body doing the same, leaving him no doubt that she meant it.
It was all the encouragement he needed as he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her even closer, rewarding her for taking the chance. Any memories he had of that drunken kiss faded away in the presence of the real thing. He couldn't think of anything besides her, a very real, very active, very eager participant. She fought for control, her nails digging into his scalp when his tongue tasted her lips. Rather than letting him explore her mouth, she took charge, slipping her tongue against his, invading his mouth first. Her body wasn't still either, her breasts pushing into his chest, her hips grinding into his. His hands lowered, settling around her ass to anchor her to him.
The sensation alone was overwhelming.
The fact that she was sober and thinking straight and had instigated it…
Hell, it was too much. Way too much.
The moment he caught himself seriously considering shoving the computer onto the floor and using the table for other, more interactive pursuits, he knew he needed to get control of himself. Finch was still missing after all. And Finch being Finch, well, Reese knew there were bound to be a hundred cameras in the room that he'd never spotted. Though he didn't actually care if Finch found out or watched at some point, Carter would feel differently. And she deserved more.
He pulled back, once again fighting every human instinct he had. Carter stiffened when she realized he was breaking the kiss, probably embarrassed and mistaking his action for rejection. Not about to allow her to second guess herself, he tightened his arms around her, pulling her into a hug, resting his chin on her head as she relaxed into him.
"Not here, Jos." One of his hands stroked her back, the other snaked up into her hair, holding her head against his chest.
She nodded without pulling away, her arms resting lightly around his waist. "He's got surveillance equipment all over the place, doesn't he?"
"Yes." Confident that she was on the same page, he backed up but couldn't resist cupping her face in his hands. "We'll get back to this later?"
"After we find Finch."
Allowing himself a small, happy smile, he nodded toward the computer. "You said it likes you. Why?"
"I just came in and moved the mouse," she sat down in Finch's chair and did the same thing, bring the screen back to life. "You didn't exactly give me anything besides the address, so I wasn't sure what to do. But as soon as I sat down, it started showing me stuff. Videos, pictures…" she motioned at the screen, showing Reese exactly that. A screen filled with various windows, information the machine had on her personally, her son, cases she'd worked.
Reese sat beside her and glared at the computer. "It usually just asks me for a password that I don't have. Sometimes it calls me and sends me somewhere." He didn't understand it, but he'd been right about the computer being alive. It had a personality. It tolerated him. It had selected him to help Finch. But it didn't like him. Feeling personally insulted, he crossed his arms over his chest.
Carter laughed. "You have a checkered past, John. It's slow to trust you. Now me, on the other hand-" she nodded at the screen, indicating a picture of her as a child, receiving a plaque from the mayor. "When I was eleven I grabbed a little kid who was about to run in front of a school bus."
Reese laughed. "You're so damn good it rubbed off on me." It was true - Carter's brand of doing the right thing was contagious. He certainly hadn't ever cared how many bodies he left in his wake before he'd met her.
"You're good too, John. You were already working with Finch before I caught up with you." She leaned over and bumped him with her shoulder. "You're just easily led."
He turned toward her, running his eyes over her appreciatively. "Who wouldn't be?"
A blush darkened her cheeks, but she started to smile anyway. "I meant by other people."
"I was trained to be unpredictable and loyal only to myself, Carter. Accept the compliment." He hadn't intended for the conversation to turn serious, but Reese rarely had light-hearted moments, let alone whole conversations.
"You thought you were doing the right thing, John. I know that. I know you." She leaned over, looping her arm around his and leaning her head on his shoulder. "You're a good person."
It amazed him to hear that, even though he knew it wasn't true. It was enough for him that she thought it. "I'm not, Carter. I've done things…" He couldn't think about the things he'd done. He didn't want to go back there. He wanted to live in the present where he had a couple friends and a good goal and something to live for and Carter. As long as he had her, he could keep trying to redeem himself.
"Doing the wrong thing for the right reason doesn't make you evil. It makes you a good soldier. Believe me, I know." She straightened back up and shrugged. "I wasn't a good soldier."
"No, of course not, they only give Purple Hearts to the bad soldiers."
"I wouldn't have gotten shot if my unit hadn't run off and abandoned me. They didn't like me or my 'moral compass.'" She grinned as she reminded him of his own words.
He smiled, wondering if remembered everything he said to her. "I'm not going to run off and abandon you and I think we've already established that I like your moral compass."
With a laugh, she shook her head. "Oh, and here I thought that was my ass you were grabbing."
"A moral compass and a nice ass. I think I'm in over my head here."
"Conveniently, I'm good backup." She didn't wait for a response; she already knew he agreed. Her attention turned back to the computer screen.
Reese's hand moved up, threading into her hair, pulling her attention back to him. "Yes, you are." He held her eyes for a long moment, trying to convey everything he felt without a word. She must have understood, because she nodded slowly.
Her hand slipped into his and she squeezed it gently. "Let's hurry up and catch this bitch so we can take a night off."
"I like the way you think, Carter."
With a little bit of rest, Carter's help, and a reward waiting for him, Reese knew he'd make quick work of finding Finch.