This is a story that has been rambling around in my head for a while and I finally decided to write it down so maybe it will leave me in peace. VERY AU so be warned. I'm not sure of timelines with the series so there will be errors (all my own), please don't kill the author!
Disclaimer: I don't own, nor do I have any say in Person of Interest (although I wish I did) and I make absolutely no money on these flights of fancy into the world of fiction.
"We have another number, John."
John Reese, who had just walked through the door of the library the two men worked from, lifted an eyebrow at his friend and partner, "When don't we, Harold?"
His answer was a slightly sardonic smirk as Harold Finch turned back to the computer that occupied so much of his time and began tapping rapidly on the keyboard. Within a few moments, a picture popped up on one of the many screens and both men blinked in surprise.
The tall handsome man lowered himself to sit in a chair beside the computer genius, deep blue eyes focused on the photo, "She can't be older than, what? Fourteen? Fifteen?"
"Fifteen, according to the machine. Her name is Ashlyn Ar…oh, dear lord," Finch's voice trailed off into a whisper as the girl's information and more pictures appeared on the screen. Unable to turn his head to look at the former military man he'd hire to help, the billionaire was forced to shift his entire body, "John…?"
As usual, Reese's face didn't betray any emotions other than a tightening in his jaw, but his very presence seemed to suddenly swell as shock, followed by grief and rage enveloped him. Without taking his eyes from the screen, his growled, "Pull up her information and do a side by side, or whatever you call it."
Swiveling back around to his keyboard, the brown haired man entered another name and brought up a second set of pictures and bio information. A couple of clicks set it next to the original and both men studied the screen in disbelief. Finally, Harold maneuvered back around to face his friend, "I'm assuming since your shock mirrors my own that you had no idea?"
Hard eyes narrowed and fixated on Finch as the normally quiet, gravelly voice raised in barely suppressed fury, "Of course I didn't know anything, do you honestly think that if I did the machine would be spitting her number out at us? If I'd known, you and I wouldn't be sitting here right now because I would never have left either of them!"
Despite knowing the other man would never actually hurt him, Harold couldn't help the automatic reaction that had him scooting his chair back several inches, "I truly figured as much, John, and I certainly did not know. When I did the background investigation before approaching you for this job, nothing came up about this."
"I didn't think that you had kept this hidden from me, Harold," Reese hooked one foot in the base of the other man's chair as he lowered his voice back into normal range with effort and tugged him back to his original position. "What I want to know is how Jessica kept the fact I had a child secret for so many years."
While Harold planted himself at the computer and furiously typed, trying to find out where and how this girl had been hidden, John took copies of the photos to the kitchen where the light was best to study them closer. The face of his former lover was engraved into his mind forever but he still compared her picture to that of their daughter. He was still in shock that he had a child and hoped that the man pounding away on the keyboard would find some things out for him.
Ashlyn Arndt, aged fifteen, was a stunning teenager whose features gave hint to the absolute beauty she would be as an adult. She was of average height for her age, around five foot six, but delicately built. She was slender almost to the point of thinness and he sincerely hoped that she wasn't one of those girls who ate like a bird because they were afraid they would look healthy. He, himself, was very fit because of all the exercise he got chasing people around and fighting goons off. The girl's face was somewhat oval in shape and dominated by piercing ice green eyes that seemed to be filled with a haunting fearfulness he desperately wanted to erase. Her hair tumbled in thick waves and curls down to her hips and was coal black, like his had been before the grey flecks began appearing at the temples.
There was only one reason he could think of that the machine would give them her number; the same reason her mother had died. The man Jessica had married, apparently while pregnant with this girl, had been an abusive beast that had eventually killed her and who came from a family of monsters. Several of them had been investigated for different things ranging from child abuse to assault with a deadly weapon.
And one of them had his daughter.
Digging deep into the past of the family Jessica had married into was no easy feat due to their wealth, but Harold had an arsenal at his disposal that he made lavish use of. He would not disappoint his friend by coming up empty in this search.
After nearly twenty minutes of hunting, he found something. Which turned out to be a good thing, since about that time John's voice came roaring through the building as he charged back into the computer area demanding to know if Finch had gotten lucky?
Facing the angry man, he nodded, "I finally did find something; sit down." When his partner collapsed into the chair beside him again, Harold opened different screens, explaining as he went, "Apparently, Ashlyn was not born in a hospital but at home with a private doctor in attendance, at her parent's insistence. Jessica married Arndt before the child was even a year old. Her step-father…" he trailed off as John growled softly, "very well…Arndt…kept her at home and she was rarely allowed to leave the house, much as Jessica was."
"How could he do that? She had to go to school, see doctors for regular health care, go outside to play, something."
"I'm sure you'll be delighted to know that not only has she had proper schooling since he brought in private tutors, but she is extremely intelligent. Ashlyn, at the age of thirteen, finished high school and has been taking college level courses in a number of subjects. According to one of her teachers, I quote, 'Ashlyn is an extraordinary child to work with. Never have I come across someone with an eidetic memory before. She only needs to see, hear, or experience something once and it stays with her forever. I often find myself hard-pressed to keep up with her, let alone try to stay ahead. However, her family life seems to be fraught with tension and anxiety, and she and her mother rarely leave the home, even to go sit outside.' So it sounds like your daughter challenges even high-priced professors."
"That sounds more like a child of yours rather than mine, Harold; I'm not exactly known for my intelligence."
Finch snorted, "You like to think you don't, or play yourself up as the brawn without a brain, but I have observed your intelligence myself and know better."
Lips quirking slightly in acknowledgement of the truth, Reese asked, "What else did you find?"
"Shortly after she finished her high school classes, Jessica…passed away…" he spotted the faint wince his friend displayed unknowingly. "Ashlyn stayed with her step-fa…Arndt…for only a couple of months after that, then was removed from his care and placed in a home for a while until they finally released her to an uncle and his wife where she has been for the last couple of months. When the state put her in one of their homes, they discovered she didn't have a Social Security number and quickly rectified that. Her aunt and uncle have apparently continued her education with the state's encouragement." Finch glowered a bit at his computer, "What I can't figure out is why the machine has pulled her number. It's not that I'm ungrateful since it led us to this discovery, but why?"
"I may have the answer to that," John replied as he handed the picture of the girl to his partner. "Look at the right side of her face; do you see how it's slightly swollen and there's a faint shadow under her eye and along the jaw line?" Harold nodded. "Classic signs of someone who's been struck and trying to hide it with make-up. And look there, just at the neckline of her shirt you can see what looks like finger-shaped bruising on her shoulder." His eyes were dark and cold, "Someone has been abusing my daughter and the machine discovered it."
The billionaire tapped key and the printer sprang to life, "Here is all the information I could get on the uncle and his wife where Ashlyn has been living. Shall I come with you, or would you perhaps like to take Detective Carter with you?"
Taking the offered paper, Reese stared steadily into his friend's eyes, "What's wrong, Harold? Don't you trust me to do this alone?"
"In a word, John? No."
He placed a hand over his heart and tried to assume a hurt expression, "Harold, you wound me."
"Wounds are exactly what I'd like to prevent, if you please. I don't think that you should try to start a relationship with your new-found daughter by killing her aunt and uncle in front of her. Perhaps if I accompany you, things won't get too far out of hand."
"Do you really think you, or Carter, could stop me if I find out one of them has been hurting her?"
Finch rose slowly to his feet as he studied the other man, "Of course not, John. I have a feeling that the only person who could stop you if that's the case is Ashlyn herself."