John arrived back at the library one midnight in late spring, with no gun, no phone, and no energy left to climb the staircase and find Finch. All he had was a pounding headache and knowledge of his employer's uncanny sense of paranoia-paranoia he was currently counting on.
A barely-controlled collapse landed him on the lobby floor, and there he stayed: carefully positioned in direct line-of-sight of the cameras and just to one side but with an unobstructed view of the door. The latter would do him no good, for if someone had managed to follow him here he was no longer in any shape to fight them off. His exhausted body agreed with that assessment, for his eyes slid closed, even though his inner voice warned that sleep wasn't an option, not yet. It proved too powerful a temptation, though, and he dozed, only to suddenly jerk awake at some sound that his subconscious had registered but not held onto.
In the lukewarm puddle of his own blood, Reese trembled, fear-frozen. His eyes darted back and forth, cataloguing possible threats. The library foyer was empty and silent, just like it should have been. He'd locked the door behind him when he'd entered and it remained so. Despite the absence of an immediate threat, his heart still raced, making his aching head swim. He'd been on his own, hiding, evading, for the past 36 hours and that wasn't something that could just be turned off, even for someone with his training. The best he could do was attempt to relax and hope that Finch wasn't napping on the job.
Luck was with him. Reese hadn't even had time to slow his ragged breathing when he heard it: the echo of uneven footsteps far above, followed by the creak of a door hinge. The asymmetrical stride quickened, slowed out of necessity on the stairs, and in the next instant Reese sensed a presence beside him. He flinched involuntarily-no way should Finch have been able to reach him that fast, and yet he had. "Harold..."
"John, thank God. It's been nearly two days. Where were you?"
"Harold, stop breaching the space-time continuum."
"What?" Finch frowned in concern, completely missing Reese's joke as he took a good look at his disheveled employee. His eyes widened when he noticed the blood pooling on the floor near Reese's right hip, and he traced the source to the shredded sleeve of John's jacket and shirt. "My word, what happened to you?"
"Attacked, held hostage...Snow's understudy preferred knives to guns."
Harold winced. "I'm so sorry, John. I had no idea our number was former CIA. His cover was exceptionally well-crafted."
"He was deep-cover. I never had any dealings with him during my time at the Agency. You couldn't have known either," Reese said with a faint shrug, his head lolling to one side as sleep tugged at him.
Finch tugged back, literally, his hands on Reese's neck and face, keeping him partially upright. "John! You have to stay awake."
"How badly are you hurt? Do I need to call a doctor?"
"It's not safe...I don't know if I was followed here," Reese mumbled, but it was the most adamant mumble Finch had ever heard and it was accompanied by Reese attempting to rise. Luckily, he seemed to abandon the effort partway through and wound up half-sitting, half-lying against the wall.
Finch sighed. "All right, all right, just...stay still. We need to get this bleeding stopped."
Reese nodded minutely. "I had it stopped once, but I needed a garrote more than a tourniquet," he said with a grimace.
Not knowing what to do with that information, Harold let it pass: conversation for another, less-urgent time. Or, preferably, never. "I need to go get some supplies, Mr. Reese. I won't be a minute. Try to stay awake, but don't get up."
Again Reese nodded. He didn't think he could move if he tried. Tremors of fatigue rippled through his muscles and the haze in his head was gaining ground. After a while he raised his eyes to look for Finch. It had to have been at least two minutes by now. Where was he? Harold was always punctual. Reese turned to check the door again and squinted until his double-vision coalesced into a solid image. The door was still closed, and no one had entered because he was still breathing, but that didn't explain Finch's absence.
Just then, a dull thud sounded from a short distance away. Reese's head snapped around so fast that his equilibrium didn't stand a chance. His vision grayed at the edges and even squinting didn't help to bring his surroundings back into focus. His training told him not to panic, to calmly assess the situation, and logic told him that he had made it to the library and was safe now. None of it was enough, though, not tonight. Not after the beating, the interrogation. Not after being hunted, after what he'd had to do to that street thug to ensure escape before word reached Snow about where he was. Not until...
"Easy, John." Finch's warm hand grasped his arm, reassured. "I just dropped a roll of tape." Finch kept talking to him, presumably to keep him alert, but it had the opposite effect as John latched onto the familiar sound of his friend's voice and let it calm his frayed nerves to the extent that the actual words being said held no meaning. Already drifting on the edge from pain and exhaustion, he faded out fast when Finch wrapped some sort of band around his injured arm and drew it tight.
Mongren spat blood onto the concrete floor and looked up at Reese through scraggly bangs. "Snow's going to love getting his hands on you, though you may not be much fun by the time I'm done."
Reese said nothing, still seeing stars. Zip-tied to a straight-backed chair wasn't exactly the optimal position for head-butting someone, and this wasn't Mongren's first rodeo. He'd stayed far enough back that even with a lunge that had nearly tipped his chair over, Reese only managed enough of an impact to piss him off. Now Mongren slowly stalked toward him, making sure he saw the knife, then around behind him, making doubly sure he felt the knife.
John cried out as he crashed through the warehouse window and landed on the pavement below. Somehow, his bindings were gone, Mongren's knife was no longer slowly dissecting his arm, and Mongren himself was nowhere to be seen, so Reese ran. He ran through blocks and blocks of empty streets and buildings before he rounded a corner into an alley that should have been empty but wasn't. There was Mongren, with Evans and three gangsters for backup, all of whom let him pass by without a word, then attacked him from behind. Fists, boots, gun barrels, and the blade of Mongren's knife rained down on him, but somehow Reese ended up alone in that alleyway, alive, his tie triple-knotted around Mongren's neck in a strangle-hold.
He tore his eyes from the ex-operative's death-mottled skin when he heard a wet gasp to his left. Mongren's knife stuck out of the throat of one of the gangsters, a kid who couldn't have been more than sixteen, though he was as big as a house. The kid's eyes grew dull and his body fell still as Reese looked on. Glancing down at the palm of his own hand, Reese saw the distinct imprint of the knife handle etched in blood. He howled in anger...
...and woke up gasping, feeling as though he were the one being strangled by the weight of the fading dream and more so by those details that hadn't been exaggerated by his subconscious. He bolted upright and squinted in confusion at surroundings that starkly contrasted the filthy alleyway. Sunlight, deep-gold in late afternoon, streamed through the partially-open blinds, illuminating the room just enough that he could make out its prominent features. Finch had brought him here before, when he'd been shot trying to prevent the kidnapping of Judge Gates' son. The worn leather sofa was familiar beneath him, as was the grey blanket tucked around his legs. Reese shivered, the cool air of the room seeping through the thin fabric of his t-shirt. What had happened to the white button-down he'd been wearing? Reaching for the blanket, he was stopped short by a pinching sensation on his forearm. He frowned, his right hand soon locating the source of the discomfort: several strips of tape that held an IV line in place.
"Leave that alone, Mr. Reese. It's there for a reason."
John craned his neck to the side and blinked dazedly at Finch, who sat in a chair next to the sofa. He gave up pulling at the tape and asked groggily, "What...how did I get here?" He shook his head slowly, trying to clear the cobwebs from his mind, but only managed to aggravate the dull throbbing behind his eyes. Resting his head in his hands for a moment, Reese stiffened in surprise when something invaded his ear and beeped. With an effort, he focused on Finch and raised an eyebrow in question.
"You're still running a fever. Here, take these and then I want you to lie back down," Finch said, producing a glass of water and two white pills.
A deep, lingering weariness prompted Reese to do as he was told, and from his pillow he watched curiously through half-lidded eyes while Finch hung a new bag of saline on the metal coat tree that stood behind the sofa, serving as an IV pole. An empty bag of blood and two empty saline bags were already present, he noticed, as Finch skillfully connected the new bag to the line running into his arm. "Did you get a medical degree while I was away, Harold?" Reese quipped softly.
"No. Dr. Tillman had already worked a double shift before I...requested her services. Once she had you stitched up and stable, there was really no reason for her to stay simply to administer fluids, so I had her instruct me on what to do and sent her home. Speaking of which, how are you feeling, John?"
Reese just blinked in response. "You brought Dr. Tillman here?"
"There wasn't much choice when I couldn't get the bleeding stopped," Finch said, gesturing to the thick gauze dressings that now covered the entire inside of Reese's right arm. "Of course I took precautions. The library is still very much secure, and you'll be glad to know that there's no sign you were followed last night." He paused briefly, noting the relief on the other man's face as his words sank in. "Now, answer my question, Mr. Reese."
John shrugged. "As well as can be expected, I suppose."
Finch gave him a long, scrutinizing look and then walked stiffly to a cabinet across the room. He returned with another blanket which he shook out and laid over Reese's shivering body. "According to the good doctor, what can be expected is a fever, chills, and headache for the next few hours. Given that, I suppose you're telling the truth," Finch replied dryly, his tone making it clear that Reese wasn't fooling anyone.
"Transfusion reaction?" John asked tiredly, giving up on pretenses and closing his eyes as he reached to massage his temples.
Finch nodded. "Non-hemolytic, she assured me. You should be feeling better by late this evening. In the meantime, are you hungry? I've ordered some soup from that deli down the street."
Eating didn't sound like a bad idea, but finding the energy to do so was another story, and the throbbing in Reese's head worsened at the thought. It must have shown on his face because Finch's footsteps crossed the room again and a short time later John found his hand being gently pulled away from his face to be replaced by a cold cloth. "Thanks, Harold," he sighed.
Finch smoothed out the compress on Reese's forehead and let his hand linger there just a moment longer than necessary. "Sleep, John. I can re-heat your soup later."
"Are you sure?"
Finch's brow furrowed slightly, "Quite, Mr. Reese, unless you've managed to break the microwave again."
"No, are you sure I wasn't followed last night?" Reese clarified, opening worried eyes to look at Finch. "It took me twelve hours to lose the first tail and...creativity...for the second. Snow won't just give up."
"Perhaps not, but he'll have to find you first and I told you, I took precautions. You weren't followed." It was said with finality, and Finch sat back down in the chair beside the sofa, picked up his laptop, and took a sip of tea from a steaming mug that had appeared out of nowhere. He was like a guard dog in a pinstriped suit.
Reese smiled to himself at the thought, and finally allowed sleep to reclaim him. The hell night was over.