Disclaimer: I don't own them.
Earlier that morning Harold Finch would have not believed that the grey and unfriendly world greeting him outside would morph into an actually quite lovely, warm spring day by noon. Today's number had also not really been posing a challenge to him and Mr. Reese, nevertheless Harold was far from complaining. Bear and he had met up with the ex-CIA operative after the number's issue had efficiently been resolved and, as he realized what a nice day it had turned out to be, had requested that they walked at least part of the way back to the Library.
A request he immediately regretted as a high pitched grating, yet familiar, sound penetrated the comfortable silence between Mr. Reese and him, causing Harold to visibly cringe. "Harold?" The high pitched voice chimed from behind, stopping them in their tracks.
Finch and Reese turned around simultaneously and even though Reese looked like he couldn't hurt a fly at that moment, Harold knew that he was ready to take on and dispose of anything that could pose a threat to them. It briefly crossed his mind to cry wolf, just so he wouldn't have to deal with the person, who was excitedly trying to close the gap between them.
Harold schooled his features into a surprised, yet amicable expression, cueing John in to the fact that he didn't have to pull out his gun just yet. After all, even a blind man would have easily figured that the portly, middle-aged woman waddling up to them was posing no threat. Except maybe to Harold's sense of style. While her clothes and hair-do practically screamed of money, she somehow still managed to exude an acute air of tackiness.
John Reese watched Finch out of the corner of his eyes, quickly detecting that the smile on his friend's lips was definitely forced and maybe even slightly bordering on being pained. It went seemingly unnoticed by the woman, who had finally come to a stop in front of them.
"It is you!" She exclaimed, the pitch of her voice even more grating up close than from afar. She looked genuinely happy to see them. Well, Harold, anyway. Deciding to stay out of the conversation, Reese let his eyes roam over the afternoon crowd on the sidewalk, only half listening in. "At first, I wasn't sure, but then I saw Bear and it just had to be you." The words left her mouth a mile a minute, clearly making the most of each breath.
Using the pause in the flow of words, as she eventually had to draw a breath, Harold managed to interject a polite greeting. "Hello, Bernadette. Nice to meet you on such a beautiful day."
"It is, isn't it?" Bernadette excitement levels lopped just a tad higher. "I was thinking about taking Ms. Fluffles for a nice walk in the park later, but I see Bear and you have already had the same thought."
"Yes, we -"
"And you must be John?" Bernadette interrupted what Harold had been about to say as her attention fell on John Reese, who, so far, had excelled at his role of the invisible man keeping watch. At the mention of his name, John's head pivoted toward the smaller woman, his eyes darting briefly over to Finch, who uncomfortably cleared his throat.
"I'm sorry. How very rude of me. Bernadette", he said, turning his body in John's direction, "this is John. John", facing forward again, he indicated the woman with a slight nod, "this is Bernadette."
John pulled his lips into a friendly smile, intending on complying with the standards of the meet-and-greet protocol, but never got as far as opening his mouth.
"I'm so excited to finally meet you!" Bernadette bubbled with exuberance and at the words John threw a puzzled look at Finch, who intriguingly did his best to avoid eye contact with him. Oblivious to the exchange between the two men, Bernadette's torrent of words continued unabashed. "Harold has told us so little about you. Look at you two! You're so cute! You know, you really should take a break from work every once in a while, so your poor man doesn't have to take care of Bear all by himself. Isn't that right, Bear?"
Bernadette bent down to dote on the Malinois, missing the look of total confusion travelling across Reese's face as he turned to Harold for answers, only to find Finch still avoiding to look at him.
John covered his confusion with an uncomfortable smile - charm level: low - as Bernadette refocused her attention back on the humans in front of her. Mistaking John's confused discomfort as shyness, she practically squealed in delight. "Oh my, you weren't kidding, Harold. He really is shy, isn't he?"
Harold made a strangled sound beside John and John would have found it highly amusing to see his friend, usually so eloquent with words, literally at a loss, if he wasn't just so damned confused about what was just happening. John was pretty sure that he had missed something really important, that would explain what the hell that loud, tacky woman was talking about.
Still oblivious to the various stages of bewilderment, or in Harold's case, horror, Bernadette sighed. "It's a shame, really." She said, dreamily looking at John. "The nice ones really are always already taken, or ..."
"I'm really sorry, Bernadette", before she had a chance to continue, Harold, who had suddenly found his voice again, hastened to interject, "but we must get going now. John and I, we have ... a ... thing ... to get to."
Harold mentally cringed at his terrible attempt at extricating John and himself out of Bernadette's gossipy clutches and he could feel Reese's eyes on the side of his head. He also had no trouble picturing the confused, yet slightly amused expression that Harold was sure was adorning Mr. Reese's features right now.
Bernadette flashed them a bright smile, showing artificially white teeth framed by her garish choice of red lipstick. "Of course, I have to scurry along, as well." She threw a pointed look at Reese. "I am going to see you all at the park sometime?"
Caught like a deer in the headlights, John's eyes widened slightly and he started to stammer. "Eh, uhm -"
"Of course", Harold cut in smoothly, saving Reese from putting his foot in his mouth. "We're looking forward to it."
"Great!" And with a little wave, that Reese somehow found himself dumbly reciprocating, Bernadette turned and vanished within the crowd. Finch spun around, seemingly trying to get as much distance as possible between them and the woman, leaving a dumbstruck John Reese staring after Bernadette, wondering what that was all about.
Reese blinked, turned about and with no difficulties caught up to Finch's uneven steps, shortening his long strides to fall in beside his employer. They walked a couple of feet in silence, although Harold could literally hear the cogs and gears in John's brain rattling as he, no doubt, went over every word that had been said, analysing the bizarre conversation.
Harold glanced at Reese in his peripheral vision. John's face looked like it always did. Impassive, yet strangely highly alert at the same time. Only a slight crease in his brows gave away his state of confusion and Finch expected the questions to start any second now.
"Who was that, Harold?" John asked, beginning with the most obvious question. Finch awkwardly half turned his body while continuing to walk. "That was Bernadette." He replied, facing front again.
"I had gathered that much." John said dryly, frowning at Harold's evasive answer. He looked down at Finch, waiting for him to elaborate. Harold sighed. There really was no way around this conversation now.
"She's one of a group of dog owners that regularly meet down at the park Bear and I like to frequent. Bear and her dog -"
"Ms. Fluffles?" Reese provided, proving that he had been more attentively listening in than he had let on, earning him a quick stare from Finch.
"Yes, Ms. Fluffles." Harold repeated dryly, the dog's name having been the first of many things that had struck him as rather eccentric about that woman. Well, it wasn't the dog's fault. "They get along well."
They continued to walk side by side and after a couple of seconds Reese realized that Finch wasn't about to volunteer anything else. John now knew how Bernadette had to come to know Finch, but there was one thing she'd mentioned that intrigued and confused him. "Harold", he began, keeping his voice neutral, "what exactly did she mean by 'your man'?" Judging by the color that was starting to tinge Harold's cheeks the answer to that question was going to be interesting.
Harold refused to look at John and he could feel his ears and cheeks burn in embarrassment. He cleared his throat, obviously playing for time. "I may have mentioned that you were my partner." Finch stole a quick sheepish sideway glance at Mr. Reese, who apparently still wasn't getting it. "And she may have misunderstood it as in a -" Harold hesitated. Sighing he decided to just get it over with. "- a romantic relationship kind of partner."
Finally, comprehension dawned on Reese's face, his eyebrows climbing his forehead as the bizarre conversation from earlier started to make sense. "And you didn't think to set her straight?" he asked, a smirk starting to form around his lips.
Harold suddenly stopped in his tracks, facing Mr. Reese. "God no! That woman had pestered me for weeks. She practically interrogated me about my private life. Wanting to know where I live. If I had any significant people in my life ... like a dog with a bone." Harold exclaimed, annoyance seeping into his voice. Turning, Finch started to walk again, and almost to himself he muttered, "She finally leaves me alone."
John once more fell in step beside Harold, an amused smirk on his face. "Harold", he said, "I'm touched that you consider me a significant person in your life." Finch threw him a dark look, but chose to say nothing. Battling to keep the smirk to a minimum, Reese gasped in mock consternation. "I missed our anniversary, didn't I?"
Finch halted and turned to Reese with a less than amused look. "Shut up, Mr. Reese."
- Fin -
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