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.
John let the regular movement of the needle passing into and out of his skin wash over him, the tiny pricks barely registering in his mind as pain after the agony of cleaning his wounds. He hadn't intended for Harold to see the extent of his injuries, but feeling what a simple touch had done to the torn nerves, John had known he was perhaps a week from dying from the trauma if they weren't treated and he certainly wasn't in any condition to take care of it himself.
Sitting here now, letting Harold's presence wash over him, he found his entire body felt devoid of a burden he hadn't realised he was carrying and he couldn't say why. He was used to coping on his own, knowing that any day could be his last, but the thought of dying alone in the homeless camp had truly terrified him. In front of Harold, he didn't have to be strong or steadfast. He simply was.
As Harold's needle came closer to the burn, even the wave of endorphins he was riding wasn't enough to completely block out the renewed pain. Honestly, he'd been hoping that the amount of damage might have killed the nerves in the area, but he wasn't that lucky. It wasn't until Harold placed a steadying hand on his good shoulder that John even realised he'd made a sound.
He knew they'd never been the most tactile of partners, though they certainly hadn't avoided touching each other. He even remembered Harold helping him dress and undress for the first day or so after his first run in with Mark. But he couldn't help but think that something had changed in the casual touches. Harold seemed to be reassuring himself as much as John that he was actually there and not just a figment of his imagination. With anyone else, John would have felt the touches becoming invasive and he would have begun to brush them off. With Harold, he found he wanted the touches, as much for their presence as to reassure himself that he had found where he was supposed to be.
When he was finished with the sutures, Harold changed his gloves and brought over a large tube of ointment. John couldn't read the label, but assumed it to be antiseptic of some sort. He remained still as Harold liberally applied the gel, smiling softly to himself when it wasn't even cool, telling him that Harold had held it in his hand long enough to warm it.
He paused once he was finished, appraising John. John turned and raised an eyebrow, amused at the way his friend's brows were furrowed together in concentration.
“What's wrong?” he asked and noted that his voice was closer to normal now that he'd gotten down most of a bottle of water. He would need more, he knew, but he was content for now.
Harold glanced at him sheepishly, and John watched his ears turn slightly pink. It was an interesting reaction that John held on to while he continued to observe.
“I'm formulating a plan,” said Harold, waving in the general direction of John's ragged back and side. “I don't want to tape over anything that's still healing, but the gash and the burn are the same injury just over your shoulder blade.”
John pushed himself upright to approach Harold's supplies and smiled indulgently when Harold began flitting around him like a mother hen, tutting at his disturbing the wounds and checking to make sure nothing had reopened. John waved him off easily, pulling out a few bandages and a number of rolls of gauze.
“This across my back,” he said, holding out a large bandage that he folded into a thinner strip. The extra layer would give him some padding if he attempted to lay down. He opened a second kit that contained large pads and pulled a few out. “Layer these as you need to get full coverage.” He placed a smaller pad on top. “This over my shoulder, but without taping.” He pointed to the six rolls of gauze. “And finish with those.”
Harold looked between the supplies and John, considering. He'd probably been thinking about trying to bandage each injury separately, but there was too much overlap. John's method kept everything loosely linked but with enough delineation that Harold wouldn't have to try to wrap a single roll around the entire thing.
“Got it?” asked John when Harold looked like he might try to argue something, though there wasn't really much he could argue.
Harold flapped his hand at John, indicating the stool. “Yes, yes. I can do this.”
John pulled his stool closer and let random images of Harold making the same gesture and speaking in the same tone wash over himself. There had been a number of times when he'd put Harold out of his comfort zone and the smaller man always resorted to that tone when John inquired if he understood his instructions. He remembered purposefully inciting the man more than once just to hear the exasperation in his voice.
“You're smiling,” noted Harold as he touched John's shoulder to get him to turn slightly for a better angle.
John thought about brushing off the comment, giving some flippant remark about Harold's observation skills, but quickly rejected the thought. Harold was being surprisingly open with him right now and he didn't want to close the book on the other man's feelings.
“I was just remembering,” he said.
Harold paused in his ministrations and John expected him to ask what he was remembering. Instead, he simply placed the first bandage in place and began pulling bit of surgical tape off the roll to hold the pad in place. He worked quickly, tapping John's good arm at intervals to get him to turn on the stool so Harold could reach the next place that needed a bandage.
When they reached his side, John turned to look down at the damage. While it certainly wasn't the worst thing he'd suffered, this was by far the most visibly extensive. Harold had asked him to lift his arm while he finished the taping around his torso and John rested the appendage against Harold's bicep while deft fingers tickled across his chest. He felt a sudden rush of desire for Harold's hands to move in a more intimate caress.
He'd partially closed his eyes as Harold worked and now took the chance to watch Harold's reactions somewhat surreptitiously. The pink he'd observed around Harold's ears earlier had spread to his cheeks and down his neck and he realized the other man was breathing slightly heavier than he normally did. Interesting.
Harold moved John's arm back down so he could finish the bicep, forcing John to look down or give himself away. When he was done, he moved John's arm back down and inspected his handy work. John could tell that everything was secure, so let Harold have his moment. His eyes opened fully as he sensed Harold moving to touch his other side where there were still yellow bruises.
“How do your ribs feel?”
The touch was gentle, barely a whisper across the marred skin, conscious that the injury could be anywhere.
“Better.” John took a deeper breath, noting the twinge and letting Harold see it for what it was. “They'll be fine in another few weeks.”
“Do you need me to wrap them?”
John shook his head no. “Not unless I hit them again,” said John and Harold pulled away. John tried not to let the disappointment show on his face.
Harold turned and began cleaning the table he'd been working from, letting John stand on his own with only a mild glance of disapproval that faded when he realized John was looking for another bottle of water to sip at.
John allowed his mind to wander again, mentally evaluating how dehydrated he was and how bad the infection felt. He knew they had IV bags in here and he would need to set up a drip before long to try to forestall further dehydration and additional infection. In the back of his mind, he considered his next words to Harold. While he certainly appreciated that Harold had returned to the library, it bothered him that Harold hadn't moved on in the day since he'd suggested he blamed his friend for what had happened.
After a few minutes, the sounds from behind him stilled and Harold came around to stand in front of him, watching his face for any clue as to what was going through John's head. John had been staring blindly at the wall but turned to face Harold. Harold frowned, seeing the gravity in John's features.
“What is it?”
“You shouldn't have still been here,” he said and Harold frowned harder, not understanding. “When I came back, it should be have been to an empty building,” he continued.
Harold ducked his head, but not before John saw the grief in his eyes. “I know. There are half a dozen other places I could set up, all ready for the installation.”
“Not the ones I know about.”
“No. Other places. I haven't told you everything,” he admitted, looking back up and meeting John's eyes, daring him to get angry.
“Good. You need to have places like that. Just in case. Not just in case I lose my memory, but if I'm taken into custody. I'll do everything I can to keep from giving you up, but everyone has a breaking point and Mark knows what does and doesn't work against me.”
“I know,” said Harold, turning and walking a few steps away, but stopping when the wall kept him from going any further. When he turned back to face John again, the grief had been replaced with concern, confusion and something John couldn't identify. “But I couldn't just abandon you out of hand.”
John sighed quietly to himself. He sometimes forgot that, for all Harold was willing to pack up and quit a menial job because John had found it, what attachments he did form were enduring and nearly impossible to break. He'd proved that much the first time he'd saved John all those months ago.
John took the same steps Harold had taken, bringing himself back into Harold's space and forcing the other man to look up at him. “Yes, you can. If it comes to it, I know you can make that decision.”
“What if I don't want to?” whispered Harold, the question telling John more than a blanket statement could.
“Sometimes we have to do things we don't want,” began John, knowing the words would sound trite but barreling on before Harold could interrupt. “I'm expendable, Harold. There are other down and out spies that can do this job just as well as I can. And you have Carter and Fusco now. You're not alone anymore.”
“But they're not you.”
The words hung in the air between them and John wasn't sure Harold had realized he'd spoken them until he started to pull away, disappointment beginning to cloud his eyes. John stopped him to the only way he knew how: he brought a hand up to cup Harold's cheek, startling Harold into looking back at him.
“Promise me you won't be as reckless if something happens to me,” he said and found his own voice had faded to a hoarse whisper. “Promise me you'll do what needs to be done.” Harold started to shake his head no, but John inched forward, letting his eyes show how determined he was in this. “Promise me, Harold.”
Harold closed his eyes, leaning back against the wall in defeat and nodding his acquiescence. “I promise.”
John waited for Harold to open his eyes, searching the blue depths for any sign that Harold was holding back. When he was satisfied with what he saw, he took a split second to make a decision that had been building since he remembered words he was now sure Harold had spoken while he was in the hospital.
He leaned forward and kissed Harold gently, letting his eyes drift closed as he took the moment to simply feel. Harold remained still for a long moment and John started pull away when Harold's hand came up to rest tentatively on his left side, the other dancing along the bandages, wanting to settle, but not wanting to hurt.
Harold kissed him back, his own movements careful not to spook John away. John moved his hand to cradle Harold's neck, keeping it from tilting back at a painful angle as he shuffled a few inches closer, bringing their bodies closer without quite touching. They deepened the kiss in silent agreement and John wasn't surprised to taste green tea on the edges of Harold's tongue.
When they parted, John moved his head to bring gentle lips to Harold's temple, warding off the harshness of his earlier words with easy comfort. After a moment, he did pull slowly away, letting Harold regain his composure as his hands fell away from soft skin. Whatever this was between them, he knew he didn't want to rush into anything, even if his condition kept him from doing much beyond this anyway.
He was happy to see that Harold was as reluctant to part as he was, though he saw the understanding to why.
“You should,” started Harold, but stopping as his voice croaked out. He cleared his throat and started again. “You should get some rest. Do you need anything for the pain?”
“No.” John stepped back, letting his hands rest at his sides and drinking in the sight of Harold's care and mild arousal before turning back to find IV bags. “Thank you.”
He shivered as the cool air hit his heated skin and Harold immediately offered to bring him new clothes. John was suddenly alone as Harold left to another side room where they kept extra clothes and busied himself by crossing the room and pulling out two IV bags, one of saline and the other antibiotics and an administration line. There was a stand tucked into a corner of the room that he pulled over to the couch and began hanging the bags and prepping the line. The movements were easy and gave him a chance to calm his mind of all the possibilities suddenly rushing through it now that he knew there was something deeper between the two of them.
Harold frowned at the new set up until he read the bags, nodding to himself when he realized what they were for. He held out sweatpants and a knit button down shirt, both designed for comfort and not fashion.
“Do you need help?” asked Harold, averting his eyes as a flush bloomed up his face.
“I can manage,” he said, taking the garments and retreating to the bathroom to take care of other matters while he changed.
He could hear Harold moving around the library outside the closed door while he toed off his shoes removed the ruined trousers and folded them neatly on the edge of the tub. He relieved his bladder and sat on the closed seat to peel off socks and then pull the soft fabric of the pants up his legs, not trusting himself to bend down yet. He'd already worn this pair a few times after the last shooting and knew they fit perfectly, not too tight but not too loose they were falling down. He let warm water wash over his hands for several seconds before soaping them and rinsing then splashing water on his face to wipe some of the accumulated grime from his cheeks and chin.
He would need a proper shower before long, but he already felt better than he had since he'd last been to the library. He looked considerately at the shirt and tested the pull of his arm, wincing when the damaged skin told him exactly how much was too much movement. He'd need Harold's help getting that on after all.
Picking up the garment, he finally exited the bathroom and found Harold setting a mug of soup and a plate of crackers on a tray table near the couch, another bottle of water already there. The mother hen was back in force, it would seem.
“You didn't need to do that,” said John, smiling despite himself.
Harold levelled a dubious glare. “When was the last time you ate?”
John had the decency to look sheepish, at least. His mind had been more on escape than sustenance as he made his mad dash through the city away from Mark and before then...he couldn't remember if he'd eaten anything while watching the last number.
“Exactly,” said Harold, rounding the couch and holding out a hand for the shirt without John needing to ask.
They managed the task with minimal wincing then Harold insisted John sit and eat before he let him near the IV line. With only one good hand, it was probably a good thing. He kept himself at a moderate pace, despite suddenly feeling ravenous after he took the first bite of cracker. Harold hovered nearby, making sure John ate everything and noting the exhaustion begin to creep back into John's frame.
John rolled up his left sleeve as Harold took the small table and brought the IV stand back to the couch. He barely contained what would probably have sounded suspiciously like a whine when Harold insisted on starting the line for John, though John was willing to admit it might have taken him more than one try to get the needle positioned and that would have been one more bruise to add to the collection.
Harold had surprised him the last time he'd been laid up by demonstrating a deftness with needles, though he wasn't sure why that should surprise him. For someone as adverse to violence as Harold tended to be, he was remarkably capable of dealing with the fallout. John wondered, not for the first time, if his aversion was more from experience with such fallout.
As John finally laid back against the extra pillows Harold had found and piled up, he was content and exhausted enough to let Harold continue his fussing. John's eyes began drifting closed and Harold took that as a sign to settle down and watch him ease into the cushions.
“Thank you,” mumbled John, bringing Harold's attention suddenly back to him. “For not giving up.”
For all of John's words of bravado, for all he wanted Harold to be ready to abandon him, he did appreciate that the man had stayed. He knew he'd have died on the street without Harold's quiet strength and support. And he wasn't quite ready to give up on their mission yet. They still had too many people to save, including each other.
For Harold, he'd fight hell, high water and amnesia. It was all worth it, in the end. For moments seeing Harold look at him with the kind of easy care and understanding like he was now, it was all worth it.