Title: Learning to Ride
Author: Athar Riordan (RiordanHawk)
Fandom: Person of Interest
Series: The Road to Perdition
As things begin to once again settle down for Team Machine, Harold Finch gives Melissa Reese a personal project to keep her occupied while she recovers from the showdown with Jacob Sweeney and while John Reese returns to work. However, what was first a personal project turns into bonding time between the three library occupants – as Reese gets a taste of parent/child bonding, and Harold gets to grips with being godfather to a second friends child.
Okay, so It can't be a POI story without some angst – and this rather long chapter, has quite a bit of it: especially between our two Reese's (John and Melissa).
But I promise there is a reason for the angst here. Both John and Melissa have been alone for so long, that having someone new to:
a) Be responsible for (John) & b) Have someone who wants you in their life (Melissa)
- Is something both parties have to get used to; and so there are bound to be bumps in the road.
This chapter also gives you some information as to who Melissa's mother is.
Thank you to those who have reviewed (Evesgreenleaf, Joe90, Issyrocks1383, Bethanlovesoned), Favorited, and Followed this story – it means alot.
Here is the next chapter.
Chapter Two: Teenage Angst, Parental Regret and Good Night Wishes
"He's got you doing what?"
Melissa rolled her eyes at her childhood friend's reaction. Holding her phone with her shoulder, the teenager was currently sorting out the cables and chain links on the library study desk she had vacated a few hours before, as she glanced at the open manual in front of her. Along with buying the basic frame, Harold had also purchased all the necessary parts she would require to construct the bike of her choice in its most basic form – and so Melissa had been spending the last couple of hours sorting the various parts out so that she could begin the construction of the mountain bike's major parts; before delving into the small parts such as chain construction and brake cabling.
"Harold thought that it would be a better use of my time, if I had – and I quote: a project I would hopefully find both productive and fun." Melissa sighed. "We went out to get the parts earlier and now... I just need to... piece it all together... I guess..."
"And what are you going to do with it after you've finished it?" Tasha Reynolds asked, as she sat on the bed in the guestroom of the Carter's apartment that was slowly taking on some more personal touches.
The teenager had been grateful to Detective Joss Carter for initially offering to put her up temporarily after the incident that had led to John Reese saving her; but with the detective and her son, Taylor, agreeing to let her stay on a more permanent basis – Tasha was beginning to finally feel at home for the first time in years.
It also felt good to know that both she and Melissa were safe and would be taken care of by the adults they had been entrusted to; it made a change to the pairs previous placements where the girls had been far less certain of such things as 'safety' and 'trust' when it came to the families only wanting the money given for their upkeep, or those who used the kids as punching bags.
"Um, I'm going to... learn how to ride it..." Melissa admitted shyly, while feeling colour creep into her warm cheeks, as she took the phone in hand now the links were all neatly placed to her left hand side. Her damaged knee was now resting on a chair in its brace, while Harold's voice drifted down the corridor from where he was speaking to Reese about their current case involving a young man who had gotten himself linked with the Irish mafia in a bad way.
It had been leading to Reese only dropping by the Library when he needed to drop the teenager off at their apartment and leaving again until dawn – something Melissa could see, was taking its toll on the older man.
Tasha felt her eyebrows rise at the shy admittance. While her sister-in-all-but-blood had shown a keen interest in motorbikes following her temporary placement with the Reeds; Melissa had confessed that the only reason she had declined Jason Reed's offer to teach her how to ride even a bicycle was because he would have to give some physical aid in the process – something that, until a few months ago, Melissa would never allow to happen.
"But that's great... isn't it?" Tasha asked gently, with a hint of concern that did not go unnoticed by her friend.
"Yeah, it is..." Melissa answered slowly. "It's just – I don't know, I'm just beginning to feel like a burden to him, Tasha," she admitted.
"Who? ... John?" Tasha asked with slight incredulity. "Why would you think that, Mels? Reese is the most over-protective guy I've ever met," she commented with a smile, as she thought about the man who had saved not only her life – but also Melissa's in more ways than either of them truly realised. "And he cares about you-"
"Exactly," Melissa nodded. "He's got a case to take care of... and yet he's been chauffeuring me back and forth to the apartment religiously for the past week! He looks like he hasn't slept in days... and the time he could use for that, he uses on Me." she exclaimed, with an absentminded flourish of her hand.
"Mels, the guy knows what he's doing," Tasha reassured, noting that Melissa probably didn't even realise the amount of volumes that one small rant had spoken in regards to how close she had allowed her birth father to become. "He's been doing this kind of thing since before we met him."
"But what if – through not taking care of himself – he gets hurt, because he had to help me because I can't friggin' walk very far by myself," she grouched, her blue eyes narrowing on the offending ligament that was stretched out before her.
Tasha sighed. "Have you spoken to John about it? I'm sure if you're that worried the two of you can figure something out so that he can get the rest you think he needs, without worrying about having to come take you home."
Melissa bit her lip. "I don't want him to take the idea the wrong way – I'm not exactly good at the whole 'care and share your emotions' type thing. I never needed to be..." Except, when I was able to let my guard down with you back at the home.
"How can he take it the wrong way?" Tasha chuckled. "You're worried about him. How can that be misunderstood?"
Melissa shrugged. "I don't know..."
"Exactly, there is no harm in suggesting it." Tasha nodded decisively before Taylor's loud voice carried down the hall about dinner being ready, as Joss had finished earlier today and so had decided on a home cooked meal instead of the recent bout of takeaways. "Look, I have to go – but I'll talk to you tomorrow, okay Mels?"
"Okay," Melissa whispered. "Miss you, T,"
"Miss you more," Tasha smiled warmly. "Good Night."
"G'Night," Melissa murmured, as she ended the call and put the phone back on the table top with small shake of her head and a sigh.
Harold Finch removed his glasses in order to rub a hand over his tired eyes. After a successful afternoon in which he and Melissa had managed to pick up all the parts required for her Bike project, the reclusive billionaire was now trying to understand the complex threads surrounding the number he had John Reese following – with not much luck.
David Reeves didn't have much of a digital print outside of law enforcement records and social service files. Put into care following the death of his mother, and with no trace of a father, Reeves had never found a permanent placement and so had spent most of his life in Foster Homes across the state. Upon his emancipation from the system, Reeves had disappeared off the radar until his prints came up on a mob hit a couple of years later. The pattern had continued until his number came up a few days ago – coinciding with a hit of the head of a rival Irish mafia family; Reese had been following every possible lead on both sides, but as yet the situation was not looking good for the younger man – as both gangs were closing in.
"We're running out of time, Finch." Came Reese's voice over the loudspeaker; sounding wearier than it had in weeks.
"I understand, John. But I think we're missing something," Harold admitted. "These two families have been a united front for some time now – their strength growing particularly in the face of Elias taking over the remaining Don territories. It would make no sense in sending Mr. Reeves to deal with a partnering family's head when both families are now out for his blood."
"Then we're back with the idea that someone in one of the families has set him up to take the fall, Harold, and I haven't found anyone who isn't gunning for him at the moment – no one is standing out on either party; minus O'Keefe's daughter, but that's only because she's in the hospital on suicide watch."
Finch shook his head, as the sound of Melissa's own conversation with Tasha drifted through from the study. "Either family could have set Mr. Reeves up – but that could easily be covered up with the witch hunt in progress. Is he safe for now?"
Reese looked around at the four men lying in various states of consciousness around him; the trickle of blood running down beside his eye and slightly torn shirt the only evidence of the scuffle that led to the former Ex-Op being the last man standing. This had been the second fray today, and the unknown aspects of the case were starting to grate on Reese's patience.
"I've taken care of a few problems for now – but I can't hold off two Irish mafia families, Finch. We need to get to the bottom of this fast. I don't think Reeves is going to make it out of this situation alive if we haven't figured this out in the next twenty-four hours."
"Understood, Mr. Reese." Harold affirmed, as the sound of his fingers flying over various keys sounded and screens flashed up information.
Reese began walking out of the parking lot the latest altercation had taken place. "I'll be back soon to take Melissa home, Harold. Try and have something for me by then." He added, after a few moments.
"Of course," Harold nodded. "Oh, and John?"
"Yes Harold?" Reese prompted as he found himself on one of the main sidewalks that would allow him a swifter journey back to the library.
"Melissa is worried about you," Harold informed the former CIA operative, after catching some of the later parts of the conversation taking place down the hall. "She thinks you are not taking care of yourself – both due to the case and ... because you're taking care of her."
Reese closed his eyes briefly at Finch's admittance. He had seen the teenager's glances over the past few days, but with Harold's vocalized concern, Reese knew he would have to speak to the teenager sooner than he thought. Melissa knew next-to-nothing about Reese's past; other than his relationship to her mother, and the reasons why he had no knowledge of her. And, while she knew small titbits about his army service in Delta Force, and hints of his stint with the CIA, he hadn't gone into detail about anything.
In truth, Reese hadn't wanted to scare the teenager, who had been having a hard time dealing with her own demons for some time now. After years of burying things – in a similar way to Reese's own actions following Jessica's death (minus the alcohol) – Melissa had begun to feel safe enough to deal with what had happened over the years. It had taken a lot for her to trust him after years of being pushed around the system and dealing with adults who had been less than kind – Tasha had been the only person Melissa had chosen to rely on, but even then Melissa hadn't told her everything – but over the past two months his daughter had finally started to take small steps in letting him and Harold in; as they were the two adults she spent most of her time with.
"I know, Harold." Reese answered heavily. "It's just... going to take some time... for her to get used to this lifestyle. It's been a while since she's trusted people enough to let them in as she's done with Tasha – And our job doesn't exactly follow the normal 9-5 routine."
"I can make sure she gets home, if you need to recuperate for a few hours." Harold offered, just as he had been offering since the number came up. "You're not alone in this, John." You have people willing to help you if you're still adjusting.
Reese shook his head. "I'll be fine, Finch." He said, clicking off the comlink and continuing on his way back to the library. I can take care of her.
Finch sighed as he heard the comlink click off, effectively ending the conversation. Turning his gaze down the corridor where the teenager had grown silent, Harold shook his head. Parenthood was difficult at the best of times; but here was a man who had come into fatherhood fourteen years late, who had no idea how to raise a child – let alone a teenager with emotional baggage. Reese still had trouble dealing with some of his own history, and yet he had taken on his estranged daughter who he knew next to nothing about.
Harold was the last person to wish the recently reunited parent and child to be separated – indeed, he had seen the changes brought on by Melissa's arrival.
But the recluse couldn't help but worry that if something happened to the teenager under Reese's watch; not even he would be able to save John from himself – it had been a close call when Finch had first found him after Jessica. He also had a feeling, that Melissa held some of the same thoughts – only that she was worried that he would be putting himself in danger by worrying about her. Father and daughter were more alike than either of them realised or cared to admit, Harold mused.
It was late by the time Reese arrived back.
Looking up from his computer screen, Harold's eyes landed on the now dried cut above the former Ex-Op's eye, as well as the slightly torn shirt that was revealed when John's long coat trailed behind in his wake; they did not seem to be the only injuries sustained, but they seemed to be the most recent.
"They are getting close," Harold surmised, as Reese took his coat off and hung it beside Harold's and Melissa's on the nearby coat stand.
"There aren't many places Reeves has left to hide," Reese nodded, "Which is why we need to hurry."
Harold nodded while he brought up a newer screen, as Reese moved over to the board and looked over the pictures displayed there; his fingers deftly beginning to open his shirt buttons as he reminded himself of some details to see if anything he'd learnt during the day could make any new connections.
"Did you find anything else that could make sense of this?" Reese asked, turning back toward Finch- whose eyes narrowed as the Machine's correlations and other intelligence gathering began to bring up new windows.
"It seems that Mr. Reeves spent some time in a foster home both Melissa and Tasha have had placements in." Finch frowned. "Why the machine would bring that up, I'll never know – but there was a fire in the same Home about two years ago. The only damage that was done had been to some old newspaper and children's records."
"You think something in the home's records could help?" Reese asked, as he came around to find his daughter, her friend, and a younger looking David Reeves staring back at the two.
"I'm not sure – not all of their information was fully digitized. For what reasons, I'm not sure." Finch murmured with a frown.
Reese's eyes browsed over the three windows showing the youngsters.
"This says Tasha, Melissa and Reeves were at the group home at the same time for a period of a week or so. After that, Reeves records drop," John analyzed.
"Do you think Melissa and Tasha knew him? I don't see how..." Finch spoke, looking up.
"Where is Melissa?" Reese asked then, looking around for any sign of the teenager.
"In the study, where she's taken up residence of late," Harold answered, with a slight twitch of his lips. "She's probably still sorting out the array of equipment we purchased earlier for her project."
"Project?" Reese asked, as he removed his jacket and shirt- leaving only his undershirt on, with the small scrapes in the fabric leaving skin showing through.
"Something productive to keep her occupied while she recuperates – I felt the books were no longing staving off her claustrophobia, and so I felt something new was in order." Finch explained non-committedly.
"What type of project?" Reese inquired, as he went into the small room just off the Hub, where he kept the first aid box handy, and brought it back through so that he could clean himself up until he could get a change of clothes at the apartment,
"She's constructing a bicycle." Finch answered, "And after the initial confusion, she's quite looking forward to it."
"Is she now?" Reese mused, with a raised eyebrow. "I didn't have her pegged for a bike person." He admitted.
"She was never taught to ride one, Mr. Reese." Finch informed his employee.
John's blue eyes narrowed. "When did she tell you that?"
"When I gave her the bike manual earlier today – she asked me why she needed the book and then admitting that she wouldn't be able to ride it because she didn't know how to." Finch said softly, avoiding Reese's piercing look as he spoke. "I'm sure if the topic of conversation had arisen, she would have told you the same thing."
Reese didn't respond, while he took care of the scrapes and cut above his eyebrow. It was stupid to feel the slight twinge of jealousy niggling at him, after hearing such a trivial thing from Finch.
Only it wasn't trivial, Reese thought, every kid learns how to ride a bike – it was one of the unspoken rules of growing up, learning to ride a bike.
But Melissa was not every kid; she hadn't had the stable childhood he and Finch had growing up – sure their parents may not have been perfect, but at least a younger John had known he had something to return to when things went wrong. His kid hadn't had that luxury so many other had taken for granted. The feeling was like being shot by Kara back in Ordos – or by Mark's partner on the top of the parking structure - all over again.
Finch looked away from the computer screen and to Reese at the man's silence.
The former operative seemed lost in thought, and Finch could see the flash of emotions spark across the man's face. The only other times Finch had seen such a display was after his kidnapping; when Jessica was mentioned; and after John, himself, had been shot. It was a powerful onslaught that only lasted moments – but moments were enough for the man to project his normally well controlled emotions.
"John, don't blame yourself – you couldn't have known." Harold offered gently.
"I should have been there, Harold – for the both of them," John murmured, as he came out of his thoughts, and replaced the box lid; the cut didn't require stitches, and the scrapes were not deep.
"Whatever Jessica's reasons were for giving Melissa away, John – I'm sure it was to give her, her best chance." Harold offered, as his eyes fell to the picture of a much younger Melissa. "It kept her safe from Peter – it kept her safe from your old friends at the CIA. If Jessica had kept her, both she and Melissa would have undoubtedly been used as a way to find you."
John turned away from the screen, with a shake of his head, at the mention of Jessica.
When he had first read 'Jessica N' listed as Melissa's mother – he had thought it was a mistake. But seeing his own Initials listed as the teenager's father – and after the extra confirmation of a DNA test – the soldier had felt a new wave of grief come over him at the knowledge that he and Jessica had helped create a new person; and he had not known.
That knowledge alone – that Jessica had hidden Melissa from him – had left him both angry and confused with a woman who, despite having died several years before, he still loved even now.
Harold sighed, as he watched John turn away. He knew his friend had been trying to work through the news Jessica had had his child, and had given her away. But it would be something John would have to deal with in order to move forward and be the father Harold knew he was more than capable of being, if given the chance – both by those who knew Reese, but also John himself.
Reese owed it to himself, and Melissa; they had both been given second chances – it was up to Reese to take the same risk Melissa had begun to take when she had hesitantly agreed to stay with him.
"Take your daughter home, John." Harold suggested. "And get a few hours sleep – I'll keep an eye on Reeves." He promised.
Reese nodded stiffly, after pulling his shirt and suit jacket back on.
"I'll be back in an hour, Finch" he said, dismissing the latter part of Finch's suggestion. "I can sleep when we get to the bottom of this."
Melissa's head rested on her folded arms, as they lay on top of the study desk. Her blonde hair was like a blanket over her shoulder, as her nose wrinkled for a moment before settling again – as the warmth of the old library slowly sent her to sleep.
After finishing off her conversation with Tasha, Melissa had allowed the task of sorting through the various oddments needed for the mountain bike to give her a chance to also sort through what the two girls had talked about.
It was a new concept, to have a guardian – no, a parent – who actually gave a damn about her. For years she had wondered about her biological parents, who they were and what they did – but those questions did nothing to quash the bigger question of why they had given her up; if they had even wanted her at all. So many kids she knew had the same questions – and when they had been much younger, they had made up stories as to why they had been left behind.
But after meeting John Reese - after he had stopped her from getting herself killed in the hopes of getting Tasha back – and finding out who he was; Melissa hadn't known what to think. The man had been so far away from what she had imagined a parent could be. Yet here she was, a few months later, living with her estranged birth father and worrying about him just as much as she worried about Tasha. The thought terrified her, as she hadn't realized just how easily the man had been able to get through the walls she had built.
But the fact he hadn't given up – even after she had tried to push him away - had showed her just how much he wanted a chance. It was why she had gone against her instincts and had taken a risk on him, and his unconventional lifestyle, by agreeing to stay with him- even if, initially, it had been temporary. It was why she had begun to let herself relax enough to start facing fears she had only let Tasha know of; even if she didn't know them all.
The thoughts had taken her through the remainders of her task, and upon finishing – not wanting to bother Harold – she had decided to try and read some more of the book she had been reading earlier on. However, she had given up after reading the same page several times, and had decided to relax and wait for John. That had been several hours ago, and relaxing had turned into the teenager beginning to be lulled to sleep by the warmth.
This was how John found her, upon leaving Harold and putting the first aid kit away.
Stopping in the doorway, the former soldier paused upon seeing the relaxed expression on his daughter's face. While the teenager had been sleeping better than when she had first moved into the apartment, she wasn't sleeping as much as Megan Tillman had suggested upon treating the teenager. It was part of the reason he took the time to drive her back to the apartment, as that was where she was able to sleep the best – her stay at Carter's had resulted in the detective calling when Tasha was unable to sooth the teenager; and Harold's attempts to help the teen when Reese had to leave on an errand had resulted in a black eye.
A ghost of a smile formed on John's tired features, as he began to move across the room. Immediately, the Ex-Op noticed the array of bike components spread around the teenager, while the frame, wheels and other oddments were on the floor; splayed on a large work mat that Reese found similar to the mats found in gyms.
"Melissa," he spoke softly, placing a large hand on the girl's shoulder to alert the teenager to his presence. "It's time to go."
The teenager blinked her heavy eyelids, as the room came back into focus – her gaze immediately focused on the figure bending over her slightly, with one hand on her shoulder, and the other splayed out on the table top near her. She stilled, until she heard John speak again, and she turned her gaze to the older man as she slowly sat up straighter. Rubbing her eyes, she felt john's hand remain on her shoulder as her gaze zeroed in on the dry blood on the collar of his shirt, and the cut above his eye.
"Are you alright?" she asked in a slightly hoarse voice, as met her birth father's similar pair of blue eyes. "You've got blood on your shirt."
John looked down at his collar before turning back to the teenager, whose brow had furrowed.
"I had a disagreement with a few Irish gangsters – It's nothing I couldn't handle," he said, offering her what he hoped was reassuring grin – which the teenager took no notice of.
"Gangsters? Your case is linked with the mafia?" she asked with slightly widened eyes. The Irish gangs were known for picking up the system's strays; particular the coarcasion boys who got noticed by some of the creeps.
"It's nothing you need to worry about, Melissa." Reese assured. "Now, are you ready to go home?"
Melissa shrugged. "Yeah, i guess so." She said.
"Alright then, it's time to go." he said, offering her a hand while he reached for the crutch. "Have you taken your meds today?"
Melissa nodded, as she used the table to steady herself, after her legs had fallen asleep due to their inactivity. "Um, yeah, I think I took them all today. I just need to take one before I hit the sack."
"Good," Reese nodded approvingly as he used the hand still on his daughter's shoulder to gently guide her toward the Hub. "I see Harold has given you a new project to keep you busy," he added, knowing the pair were now in earshot of the man.
"Yeah, it looks pretty cool." She nodded. "I'm going to properly start it tomorrow." She said, as her crutch made a small thumping noise on the hard wooden flooring.
"I'm glad you looking forward to it, " Harold said without looking up, as the parent and child re-entered the Hub.
"Aspiring Mechanic, remember?" Melissa reminded the shorter man with a weak smile.
"Yes indeed," Harold nodded, with a small twitch of his lips. "Perhaps you should tell your father about your mechanic aspirations – he may let you take a look at his Ducati."
Melissa looked up at Reese with childlike awe displayed on her face, which elicited a chuckle from Harold, who had first witnessed the expression when they had first entered the bike store.
"You own a Ducati?" Melissa asked. "Can I take a look at it sometime?"
The look on the girl's face was too much for Reese. It was not often the man was surprised, but since joining the ranks of parenthood – even if the circumstances were unconventional – it had begun to happen more often as he invested interest in his wayward offspring, who was more than happy to sit on a rooftop for hours on end without a care in the world. The initial discovery of this hobby, however, had left much to be desired as Finch had nearly suffered a coronary, and Reese felt more panic than he had in quite some time (possibly since Root had taken Finch).
Finch couldn't help the small chuckle that passed his lips at the look on Reese's face, but he wisely chose not to look the former soldier in the eye, as the taller man found Melissa still looking at him as she waited for an answer to her rather enthusiastic question.
"I-I don't see why not." Reese answered after a pause, his eyes showing a mix of bewilderment and amusement, as Melissa's tired features lifted and he was awarded a genuine smile from the girl.
"Thanks," she nodded, before looking down at Harold still focused on the workstation.
Bending down slightly, the teenager planted a very hesitant, kiss on the man's cheek. "Good night, Harold.. And thank you," she whispered as a spark of red ran up her cheeks.
It had been the first time she had initiated such contact with someone other than John, and the teenager was understandably hesitant. When Melissa had done the same to John, the older man had seemed surprised – his whole body had appeared to tense at the contact – but that disappeared after a few moments, and he had given the teenager a smile and returned the gesture with the same hesitance she had displayed. The fact that she had the confidence to make such a bold gesture alerted both men to the improvement over the past weeks.
Harold turned away from the screen at feeling the teenagers rushed brush of lips on his cheek. Melissa didn't initiate hugs with anyone but Tasha or Reese – it was a boundary she was still testing with the two people she had herself trust – but such an invocation with the kiss on the cheek, brought a smile to the shorter man's face.
"Good Night, Melissa," he said, giving her a nod in both acknowledgement of her action, and understanding in what she had just shown. "Make sure your father eats something when you get home, won't you?"
Melissa nodded, as she relaxed upon seeing Harold's reaction – her shoulder been given a gentle squeeze in reassurance by Reese who had been watching the whole thing to ensure the teenager was alright.
"I will," she agreed, as she leant her cheek against John's hand absentmindedly in acknowledgement.
"I'll see you soon, Harold," John said softly, giving the shorter man a small nod and small smile following another baby step being taken.
He knew he had made the right choice in making Harold Finch a god father to the teenager; even if it had initially been meant as a way to annoy the reclusive billionaire – not that he would ever tell Finch that. He was also pleased, that Melissa had begun to trust Finch; John needed to know there would be someone there for Melissa should something go wrong: things with Carter were complicated at the best of times, but she had taken in Tasha and with Taylor's blessing, had made the position permanent; Fusco and teenagers had never been a great mix, and though the NYPD detective probably meant well, Reese didn't trust him not to lose track of Melissa (as he had done once before when she, Tasha and Taylor had gone out). No, Harold Finch had earned Reese's trust, and so the Ex-Op knew that he could trust him with what was most precious to the former operative in the world.
"Take care of yourself, John," Harold nodded slowly. "And you too...Mels."
End of Chapter Two – a much bigger one, it is.
And despite initially saying this fic was going to be light – you can't really have a good POI fic, without a bit of Angst.
I won't be able to begin writing the next chapter until at least Tuesday, but if you wish to check the progress of things, feel free to follow me on twitter (username: RiordanHawk).
Thank you again for reading and let me know what you think