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Big spoilers for season 2 episode 1 - "The Contingency"

Harold has never slept well. In his younger days there didn't seem quite enough room in his brain for all the ideas that seemed to multiply within it. Although he didn't have many friends at school one of the few he did – a fellow outcast due to unfortunate acne but with better social skills than he had, compared him to a bottle rocket. "The top of your head is going to blow clean off one of these days," Toby had said wisely. "You've got to stop thinking so much." He'd tried to interest Harold in a purloined and very well thumbed Playboy magazine to no avail. While the women were certainly pretty, Harold acknowledged, Nikola Tesla's biography was a lot more interesting.

At MIT he and Nathan stayed up until the early hours debating and occasionally arguing. The sparks that they struck off each other became brief, bright hypotheses that quickly fizzled and died or debates which had them both planning. In later years Finch acknowledged that the seeds from which The Machine grew were planted in those years. Heady days when they were both a little drunk and sat in the grubby little apartment they shared. Back then it felt like they were putting the world to rights and only needed the money to put it into practice. They thought that they could change the world, and, he thinks ruefully perhaps they did.

The Machine kept him awake at night while it was in its early stages. Such a beautiful, complex, impossible dream of a thing. In the beginning Harold is now self aware enough to acknowledge that the "could we?" far outweighed the "should we?" Nathan had the money, he had the vision, and really legalities and privacy laws aside The Machine was made with the best of intentions. It was supposed to save lives. And it did. After all he had trained what had started out as a lot of wiring and ended up becoming so much more. You don't train machines, you order them to do things with a click of a mouse or a simple key-stroke. His creation apparently hadn't read that particular handbook. But it was glorious. A marvel. Sitting at a casino table while his creation watched him, advised him on his play and afterwards saved his life – perhaps that was what God felt like when he saw Adam take his first steps in the garden of Eden.

When the numbers started coming that was when the nightmares started. All those people that didn't matter in the grand scheme of things according to the government. If he hadn't clicked upon one of the numbers out of curiosity and seen the murdered woman's face in the newspaper the next day perhaps he could have kept them separate. Just numbers not people. It turned out he wasn't wired that way. Too late now. Doctor Frankenstein turned his creation loose, he at least had the chance to keep a part of it for himself and the greater good.

After both he and Nathan died, on paper at least, Harold hobbled out of the ashes of what they had done; a fragile phoenix with only one wing and a thirst for flight. Recruiting John Reese was both easy and difficult. The man was a gun-dog. He needed salvation, needed a cause and needed to be needed. John could do what he could not both physically and ethically. Harold had not anticipated actually growing to care for the man however. When he was shot he didn't even question the lunacy of racing to rescue his friend despite the fact that if he too was killed the machine would continue to churn of the numbers of victims with no-one to even acknowledge them.

And then there was Zoe.

Beautiful, clever, devious Zoe.

Zoe who took him to breakfast once, stole his every morning since then and kept him awake because sometimes it was nice just to wake up and make sure that she was real.

Harold blinks dry eyes and concentrates on Root. He's already seen her kill two people; he can only guess at the true body count in her wake. The house that she has essentially stolen from the woman in the restaurant is really rather beautiful. If he hadn't been sharing it with a mad woman and there wasn't a dead man in the hallway he might have enjoyed the view. His hand throbs where she had cut him but its nothing compared to the pain in his neck and back. The psychopath formally known as Caroline Turing is faster than him at the best of times. There is no way that he's going to get the drop on her without divine intervention, and even though he knows that she won't kill him he's fairly certain that she'd take a page out of Reese's handbook when it came to incapacitating him. Since he likes his kneecaps in one piece Harold looks out of the window and lets his mind wander for a moment.

Zoe has a dress a few shades lighter than the sea below, he thinks. She wore it on the first time they went out in public as a proper couple together. Of course it wasn't really "public" per se. A dark little Italian restaurant followed by a comedy club meant that not many people noticed them. Zoe was definitely overdressed but he told her truthfully that she was beautiful and her eyes shone. When she laughed out loud at the female comedienne in the grubby theatre it was hard not to stop smiling himself even though he thought the jokes were terrible.

Zoe is a fixer – that was the reason that he first let her take him to breakfast. Let her pay whatever debt she thought she owed and she'd be less likely to keep digging around in an effort to find him. The last thing he needed was her uncovering something she shouldn't; it was difficult enough juggling Carter and Fusco. Meeting Zoe Morgan in the flesh was a lot different from seeing a grainy image on a computer screen though. It wasn't that she was beautiful, it was the way in which she tried to get a handle on him. He watched her try flirtation and a tiny furrow appear between her brows when he feigned indifference. With every angle she tried he remained stoically impassive until she obviously just gave up any pretence and was just herself. When he offered to take her for a walk she looked a little dubious, and why wouldn't she have been? She turned heads, he barely merited a second glance.

They were both ambivalent about the art gallery. She argued passionately in defence of Rossetti's art and the poetry of William Blake when Harold was dismissive of them both of being overly dramatic. After seeing the way her cheeks coloured and her eyes flashed he made up arguments against them just to rile her up further. When she invited him to go home with her he almost asked her if she was mad.

Sex had been the last thing on his mind when he had joined her for breakfast, and had he known it was on the menu then he wouldn't have gone. After dinner Zoe had asked him to stay and led him out of the kitchen and up the stairs. In her beautiful bedroom with its cherry wood sleigh bed and simple furnishings Harold sat upon the bed and fumbled with his waistcoat. The lighting was dim, but even so he could see his reflection on the big mirror by the door. When Zoe stepped beside him clad only in peach lingerie, her skin glowing opalescent in the faint light, all long sleek lines and dark eyes he couldn't help thinking of "Beauty and the Beast". She didn't say anything, stripped him of his clothing and climbed on top of him. He didn't last long the first time. It had been too long and she was so sweet, hot and tight. Zoe didn't seem to mind; she yawned contentedly and went to sleep beside him for a couple of hours. When Harold woke her later she was eager enough, curling one leg around his hip and letting him inside her. This time he waited until she was close, pulled her up until her body was flush against the headboard and made her come with his mouth before letting her back down. When she clenched around his cock he knew that she wasn't faking anything. That was the first night. Harold remembered the last when after a long day he'd run Zoe a bath and she'd practically dragged him into the tub with her after he'd spent a sinfully long time washing her.

No not last. That would imply that they would never see each other again.

He's going to see her cry at that stupid advertisement with the kitten in it again, he's going to feel her cuddle up to him at night and try to cheat at scrabble. He's going to watch her go out to some ridiculously over the top party while on the job and do it with style, out foxing those that underestimate her and then come back to him because she wants to not because he asks her to.

He's also not going to make the same mistake he did with Grace. He's not going to die before Zoe knows that he loves her.

He looks over at Root. She's humming away while tapping on her laptop. How could such potential have been led so terribly astray? Harold wonders. The knowledge that there are some that would say the exact same thing about him doesn't go unrecognised.

A/N: Thanks very much to everyone reading and reviewing – thanks guests who I can't reply to. I always appreciate everyone's input good or bad.