Fandom:Person of Interest
Rating: Mature for violence and descriptions of injuries
Word Count: ~37K
Warning: violence and descriptions of injuries and treatments
Spoilers: all of season 1
Summary: Following an explosion, Reese loses parts of memory including everything to do with Finch and the Machine. Not sure who to trust, John evades the FBI, CIA and Carter as he attempts to remember who he's become and why he's drawn to this strange man with a limp.
Author's Note: So this fic was originally started as part of pod_together, but then it kept getting longer...and longer...and longer. And then I saw the announcement for PoI Big Bang and decided that would work better. This fic would never have been written without the initial cheerleading from podcath. I'd also like to thank togsos for her awesome, awesome art. She captured the scene exactly as I'd pictured it in my head. Final thanks go to sevencorvus for letting me participate in the Big Bang at the last minute.
An hour later John looked up from his contemplations to discover he'd only made it a half dozen blocks away from the library. He'd thought to find himself clear across town after his reaction to that board. His subconscious had other ideas, it would seem. He'd stopped across the street from a deli and had automatically secreted himself into the shadows between a dry cleaners and a bar that wouldn't open for another four hours.
He evaluated what he thought he knew of the man with the limp. While John knew that any person was capable of any deed, good or evil, something told him that this man wasn't.
“You know how I feel about guns,” he said, his back to John as he walked back toward his computers, his back straight and his limp more pronounced, a sure sign that he was irritated at John.
John tucked his hands in his pockets and leaned his head back against the concrete. Just because someone didn't like guns didn't mean that they couldn't use them or that they weren't deadly without one. He was a case in point: while he would certainly prefer to live in a world where guns were redundant and bad things never happened to good people, he was also realistic. And he'd lost count of how many ways he could kill a man with his bare hands.
He turned toward the deli. Harold had looked exhausted and John knew the smaller man tended to forgo nutrition when he was stressed. For whatever reason, John felt he could trust Harold. He might even go so far as to say that he cared about Harold. It was time he went to the other man, he decided. He could only learn so much from a distance and he was reasonably sure he'd reached that critical point.
His mind made up, he crossed the street with a renewed purpose. He would bring the other man a peace offering and see what he could determine. If things went bad, he was certain he could get out of the library with ease and then he would disappear; find a new home and accept that the memories he'd lost were gone for good.
Twenty minutes later, he set a steaming cup of Sencha green tea down beside the still idling computer and left a wrapped pastrami sandwich next to it. He'd eaten his own club sandwich on the way back and now held a cup of coffee for himself.
Harold had been gone from the library a little over three hours. It was approaching late afternoon and, while for some people that would be time enough to head home, he knew the other man would be back. It was just a matter of time. His eyes flicked to the board, but he looked away quickly, not wanting to trigger the same response as last time.
Instead he began to peruse the bookshelves, paying more attention to the titles than he had on his earlier inspection. As he was wandering, his eyes would focus on one title or another. Trusting himself now, he would open the book and find things stashed within. Most had cash in them and he had a feeling he'd been the one to leave these crumbs. Certainly, he trusted that Harold knew the advantages of cash transactions, but he doubted the other man would have quite so many as he'd found.
He found old photographs in two of the books. One was Harold and another man, both men in their late teens or early twenties. John would hazard to guess they were in college when the pictures were taken. A note on the back said the other man was N.I. with a message that this was the beginning. Of their friendship, he wondered. It was a familiar photo, so John tucked it back inside and continued on. If his memories returned, he was sure he would remember that he'd already investigated the message. The second was a family snap of Harold, N.I. and a young boy. The child looked like the mystery man and, if the balloons in the background were anything to judge by, this appeared to have been taken at a birthday party. John wondered where the mother was, but again let it go.
As he was replacing the book he'd found it tucked into, he heard the grate open as someone entered. There was a moment of silence and then Harold's tentative voice called out.
“John?” he asked. Another pause and then he took a few limping steps into the room. “John, are you here?”
He wondered briefly what Harold would do if he turned the corner and said, 'boo' but decided not to test it. Instead, he waited quietly where he was, a new book in hand as he leafed through the pages. He would learn more from Harold if he remained silent and forced the other man to respond based on his own expectations of John then if he gave Harold any clue about his state of mind.
He heard the sound of plastic as Harold handled the sandwich. He wasn't opening it, but he had found it. There was a chuff of sound that might have been an aborted attempt at laughter and then the cup was set back down.
“John?” Harold called again, this time sounding hopeful.
John closed the book and held it loosely in front of him as Harold appeared at the end of the row, a small smile touching his features. John let his gaze take everything in: Harold's posture was open and welcoming. There was a small wariness just behind his eyes, like he wanted to believe that everything was back to normal, but he was realistic enough to know that might not be the case.
“John,” Harold said again, addressing him directly and taking a single step forward. “Do you know who I am?”
John let a small half-smile touch his lips and tipped his head slightly. Had he ever known exactly who Harold was? He replaced the book he'd been holding and pointedly touched the one with the photograph, bringing the spine just slightly out from the rest of the books before turning and continuing his inspection of the row.
Harold followed carefully, pushing the book back in as he passed it. “I've been worried about you,” continued the other man. John turned slightly at that and raised an eyebrow. Harold rolled his shoulders in an odd imitation of a shrug that was likely all he could do with his injury. “You disappeared from the hospital ward without a backward glance. You'd been unconscious for four days before that. Of course I was worried.”
John continued on, taking in the information. He hadn't known exactly how long he'd been unconscious, but that certainly explained why his muscles had been so sore after his crosstown trek. He stopped and pulled a book from a high shelf, glancing at Harold as he did so.
Harold frowned at it, apparently not familiar with this one. One of John's stashes, then.
“I know the pharmacy was your work,” Harold continued. “How are your injuries?”
John's ribs twinged at the reminder, but he kept the wince from his face. He opened the book and found the interior hollowed out to hold four passports and matching New York driver's licenses and a bundle of cash. Harold frowned harder at it, no doubt disapproving of how John had treated the book. John opened the passports and found two for each of them, under different names. Harold had continued to approach and now stood next to him, looking over his arm to inspect the documents.
“When did you hide those?” he asked, reaching for one and inspecting it for quality.
A kung fu movie played in the background while John bent over the desk, tilting the lamp this way and that as he adjusted the pictures on the passports. While he was certainly not a master forger, his work would and had passed customs inspection in this country and abroad. He'd also had a few spares made by someone whose work he absolutely trusted, but he always liked to have the option of a few identities that no one had seen. These he would stash in the library for immediate emergencies and the others he would place in one of his buried stashes for use if they needed absolute certainty that the documents would get them out of the country.
Harold's gentle touch on his arm startled him out of the memory and he moved abruptly away. He only just managed to keep from grabbing the other man by the throat and pushing him against the shelf, an automatic response to a perceived threat. Harold stood completely still, apparently aware that a barely contained animal lay right beneath the surface.
They stood in tense silence for several heartbeats before John forced himself to relax. He plucked the passport Harold still held from limp fingers and tucked it back into its spot and replaced the book. Harold didn't speak again until after John had turned his back on the other man and continued down the row. He was approaching the end now.
“You're still getting your memories back, aren't you? John, what do you remember?”
John glanced at Harold as he reached the corner and turned to look at a smaller shelf on the end. There were three rifles and a grenade launcher set neatly on the middle shelf and magazines and extra ammunition took the top shelf. Harold sighed quietly, his eyes darting between the back of the shelf and John's face. Clearly, he knew what was stored here.
“I may not like you storing your arsenal here, but I'm coming to realize you prefer to have things at easy reach. At least here you don't have to worry about someone else finding them.”
John nodded in affirmation. John would do without heavy artillery before running the risk of innocent people getting hurt because they happened across his collection. John continued back down the next aisle, this time not stopping as he went. He knew where things were hidden now. No need in letting Harold know about all of his stashes.
They walked in easy silence until they returned to the computer area and John approached the smaller glass board again, rubbing absently at his ear. Something about the pictures was still bothering him but the answer wouldn't come. Unfortunately, it had nothing to do with his memories and everything to do with him simply not seeing something he knew he should be.
Harold grabbed the cup of tea and came to stand with John making him realize that he'd set his coffee cup down somewhere and he wasn't sure where. Harold would be upset with him if he stained the books with coffee. He'd find it later, he decided, watching Harold sip the tea. The other man needed sustenance as well, John knew.
“Her name is Tara Spencer,” said Harold, falling into the briefing easily. They did this often, John knew. But why Tara Spencer? What had she done to bring herself to Harold's attention? With an effort, John kept himself from turning to the other board—the one with numbers and articles and needless death.
John listened with one ear as Harold explained what John had already deduced, that she hadn't known where else to turn when bills started stacking up following her husband's death and now she had a loan shark threatening bodily harm if she didn't pay up. John nodded along with the explanation as Harold gave him the complete timeline and described what Detective Fusco had found in his own research.
“He's a...friend.” John just barely managed to keep from choking on the word.
John rubbed at his ear then moved his hand up to kneed at his aching temples.
The IA detective held a gun to Lionel as he demanded the heavyset cop kneel in the dirt, explaining that no one was coming to save him. John smiled darkly to himself. If the man only knew who was coming to save Lionel, he wouldn't be too quick to judge the other man. Their relationship may have begun at odds, but Lionel had taken to honest police work like a fish to water and even seemed to be enjoying working with Carter now, straight laced and by the book though she was.
“John?” asked Harold, wisely choosing not to touch him as John pulled himself from the memory.
John took a deep breath, steadying himself from the images in his mind. He stared at one of the photographs of Tara before suddenly grabbing a black marker from the desk and circling the blur of a figure in the background.
Harold considered him for several long moments and John let the silence stretch. He still wasn't ready to give anything of himself away, despite knowing that this was where he was supposed to be, that this is what he did now. He needn't have worried that he had become a killer for hire, rather should have trusted his gut instinct in this man.
His inspection complete, Harold turned to his computer and pulled up the file with the surveillance photos. Lionel had taken a good series in those moments as Tara entered a grocery store and the background blur sharpened two frames later into a man sitting at a coffee shop next door, a paper in front of him, but his focus was above it on the woman.
John watched as Harold began typing, capturing the man's image and running it through his facial recognition program against known associates of the loan shark. There was no match. John looked again at the photos while Harold tried other means of identifying the man. He was well dressed, good looking but blended easily with the other background faces. There was something about his eyes, though, that John recognized. Even on film, they were lifeless and cold. If John had to hazard a guess, he would assume the man to be a stranger stalking the woman with an intent to rape or murder her.
A map suddenly appeared on the screen, placing Tara at the bar where she worked. John glanced at the time—she'd probably just started her shift and was stocking the bar before it opened. A dot showed Fusco across town in his old stomping grounds.
“Endearing himself to HR?” asked Harold, looking up to John who simply nodded.
Harold typed again and a camera feed showed Detective Carter at her desk, filling out reports.
“Happy birthday, Lionel,” he said, laughing quietly to himself as he watched the detective's amused smile at the fat doll Harold had found god knew where and altered for their purposes.
He leaned heavily on the desk and Harold looked up with concern etching his features, his hand hovering above the keyboard. The ache behind his temples was becoming a constant sharpness, a reminder that too many memories were as problematic as not enough.
“Is there anything I can do to help?” Harold asked softly, reaching out to lay a hand over John's, but stopping just before he made contact.
John pulled his hand from the almost-touch and turned away. He wrapped an arm around his middle and carefully dug a finger into the burn on his side, using the immediate pain to pull him back to the present. He took a few carefully measured breaths, making sure he really was back before returning to stand behind Harold.
The other man took that as a sign that he had things under control and pressed a button that called Detective Carter. On screen, she glanced at her phone absently before doing a quick check of her surroundings and answering.
“Did you find John?” she asked, turning away from her desk to lean closer to the wall.
Harold looked at him in the reflection of the screen, considering his words. “I'm not sure,” he said, before turning the conversation away. “We need your help identifying someone,” he continued and sent the best image as an email attachment.
She turned back to her computer as the machine beeped that she had a new message. She tucked the phone between shoulder and ear and pulled it up. “I thought you always knew the players in your little mysteries.”
“Not always. He seems to be following Miss Spencer. While I could certainly gain access to the police facial recognition database, I know how much you frown on my methods.”
Carter smiled to herself as she continued to type, starting the image running through the software. “They upgraded the security and it's harder for you to hack the firewall,” she commented dryly.
“It's faster for you to run the image,” said Harold, ignoring the hacking comment.
“Wait, 'we?'” asked Carter, her brain finally catching up to what Harold had said. “Is John back?”
Harold sighed to himself. “Turn of phrase, Detective,” he said, choosing not to look at John and the exhaustion he'd seen earlier was suddenly back, even more obvious this close to the man. “Call me when you have something,” he said and ended the call.
John leaned over the chair and carefully pushed the sandwich closer to Harold, silently telling him to eat before he passed out.
Harold blew a breath of laughter before reaching to unwrap it. “Thank you,” he said, turning his body in the chair to look back at John who looked down, aware in that moment of just how close he was to Harold. “Are you? Back?” he asked, eyes searching John's face.
John ducked his eyes and pulled away, moving to stand a few feet away, crossing his arms in a defensive posture as he tried to find the answer to that question. Harold watched the uncertainty before looking down and opening a drawer. He pulled a phone and earwig out and laid them down on the table between the two men.
He opened his mouth to say something before shutting it with a click. He took a bite of pastrami and chewed as he navigated through various screens. John's attention was drawn to the board full of numbers and he stared at it, frowning. While the pain didn't return, neither did the memories of just what that list was for. Fed up with it, he turned for the door, grabbing the phone on his way out.
He didn't see the relieved smile on Harold's face as he left the room. But he also didn't need to see it to know it was there.
Harold's attention stayed focused on the GPS coordinates to John's new phone as the dot made its way across the city to where Tara Spencer worked. The smile that had appeared as John had taken the device still hadn't left his face. He knew John still wasn't back to normal yet—he hadn't said a single word to Harold the entire time he'd been there—but he was certainly making progress.
He'd been worried about John's marked silence at first, especially when he seemed to be in pain of some kind. While the man was soft spoken at the best of times and had chosen to remain silent around Harold on more than one occasion, this was different. He was intentionally not speaking.
Harold chewed thoughtfully as the marker moved quickly through the streets, cutting through alleys and avoiding the major access points. He had to put a napkin to his mouth as he started chuckling softly. Of course, just as a simple question about what was good at a restaurant was a subtle interrogation technique, so too was silence. Harold had done all the talking. John had been aware of every movement he made, every facial expression and every pause. John had been playing him for information.
“Very clever, Mr. Reese,” he said to himself, making sure that the microphone was muted so John didn't actually hear it.
John made good time getting to the bar and Harold pulled up the available cameras so that he could keep an eye on John. While he hadn't seemed to have any trouble moving around the library, Harold knew how bad his injuries had been and, based on the strength of the oral antibiotics he'd grabbed at the pharmacy, Harold was willing to bet that John had developed at least a minor infection in the time he'd been away from professional medical care.
His friend arrived and then situated himself in a cafe across the street. He had a book in his hands that he pretended to read and Harold wondered idly which one he'd chosen. Through discussions they'd had, Harold knew John tended to read the books for real once he was done with the job and his opinions were always interesting. John may not be the avid speed reader that Harold was, but he was certainly no slouch.
“She's still inside,” Harold said, speaking through the ear wig for the first time in over a week and finding the simple words more of a comfort than he might have thought possible. “There's a camera on the back entrance that I've been monitoring,” he added and waited to see if John would respond.
Instead of speaking, the image of John looked dead at the camera Harold was using and tapped a finger against the side of his head. Harold considered calling John on the technique, but decided that could wait until Tara was safe from her stalker. He was, however, irritated to note that John had no trouble placing an order for coffee with the waitress who approached him and thanking her when the beverage arrived. Then he was irritated with himself for feeling jealous of a waitress just because John was talking to her. At this point, he wasn't sure John wasn't doing it simply to irritate him.
They waited in silence for an hour before John moved locations. The building next to the cafe housed offices on the second and third floors and John found one that had closed for the day. Bored of the wait, he'd turned his attention to Fusco's other surveillance photos to try and determine how many other times the man appeared around their number and wondering that they had missed something so obvious when he appeared in 27 more frames and Harold found an additional 89 blurry forms that could be the man. Surely he and Detective Fusco weren't so helpless without John's assistance as this. Harold told himself that they had simply allowed themselves to be blinded by the woman's criminal associations and hadn't considered the possibility that something else might be happening.
His phone beeped at Carter's incoming call and he considered whether to include John in the conversation. He was reasonably certain that John wouldn't say anything even to Carter, but he also didn't know what the detective would say.
“You need to show him that he hasn't misplaced his trust,” he told himself and pressed the button that would simultaneously answer the call and let John hear what was said.
“Detective Carter,” he greeted and saw John's image look up a bit.
“Any word on John?” she asked, forgoing small talk. An amused smile appeared on the man's face and Harold took that as a sign that he could tell the woman that John was at least partially back in the game.
“He's monitoring Miss Spencer at work,” he said.
“What? Is he okay? Did he say where he's been?”
“No. Did you have something on our suspect?”
Carter sighed and Harold watched her consider if she wanted to argue with him more or let the matter drop for now. There was no doubt in his mind that she would interrogate him further. She rubbed at her forehead, frowning at the phone.
“His name is Raymond Casey. I found a driver's license with an address in the Bronx, but nothing else. He hasn't had so much as a parking ticket.”
Harold typed the name into his own system, checking IRS records to see if the man was currently employed anywhere. It took a few seconds to return results, but the blank page wasn't a huge surprise.
“I'm not showing any employment records either. Ever. Either he's never had a job or everything he's done has been under the table. Nothing for social security, welfare or taxes.”
Carter did her own bit of typing and John checked the street again, standing from where he'd been crouched out of sight. “Well, the address is an actual place. I can see if he's there at least.”
Harold considered having Carter and John switch jobs, aware that John would pick the lock and enter without any qualms while Carter was limited by the law against search and seizure, but held off for now. They didn't actually know anything about the man yet except that he seemed to be following Miss Spencer. While it seemed unlikely he was a private investigator as they had to be licensed, there were other possibilities as well. Harold just couldn't think of any at the moment.
They agreed to check in again when Carter reached the address and Harold was left with John's silence again.
“You never said how your injuries were doing,” said Harold, hoping to strike up a conversation. When had he become the talkative type, he wondered. They'd sat in companionable silence for hours through these surveillance missions countless times before and Harold had never batted an eyelash. But then he'd known that John was okay.
He heard John chuckle softly and decided that he had turned it into a game and Harold had just admitted defeat. Normally, Harold might move to other stations he had set up in the library and work on other projects, but he found he couldn't bring himself to move away from John's image on the screen. Sighing, he pulled up the camera inside the bar and watched Tara move through the establishment, cleaning tables and serving the few guests who sat at the bar. He was getting a crash course in the waiting game and he would persevere.