Number Four Hundred Thirty-Seven


“Little trouble picking this lock, Mr. Reese. It's not as easy as it looks.”

Harold Finch



December 21, 2012



He retreated to the shadows of the ceiling-high shelves and waited. Phillips sprinted for the door, dodging the makeshift coffin and the van with its empty cargo hold. He heaved the door up, still holding the gun at an awkward angle, as if it would go off at any second.

When the dark flooded with light, Phillips lurched to the left but didn’t get two feet—a magnified voice cut through the night, “Robert Phillips! This is the NYPD. Put your weapon down and get on the ground!” There was a slight pause and then, “C’mon, Dr. Phillips! We don’t want to shoot you and you don’t want to die.”

John tapped his ear bud, smiling at Carter’s unexpectedly grumpy words. She must be having a bad day. “Finch?”

“How did it go?”

He peered over a stack of printer paper. Phillips was standing there, arms akimbo, backlit like he was on a stage. He looked to the left and then to the right, no doubt trying to figure which way to go. Idiot. Couldn’t he see there was nowhere to run? There were cops in front of him and behind was something worse… “It’s still going. Carter’s out there, trying to get him to see reason.”

“Maybe she should just shoot him in the knee.”

Finch’s words were pointed, dry, and he smiled. “No, she’ll give him a chance. She’s like that.”

“And Jenny?”

“She’s fine. I called Megan before I dropped her off at the hospital.”

“What about the vaccination? Will she be quarantined?”

“Both should already be done.”

“And the virus?”

“Megan has that, too.”

Finch sighed. “Good.”

“You sound worried, Harold. You should’ve had more faith.”

“It wasn’t you I was doubting, Mr. Reese. It was—”

Finch broke off and it was John’s turn to sigh, because, yes, he’d been worried as well. Infecting someone with a genetically-altered smallpox virus was one thing—infecting them with the intent to kill thousands and then millions was completely different. And add insult to injury by making a ten-year old the carrier? He was still furious. Phillips was lucky he ran when he did—John was planning on shooting him and not in the knee. “Did Megan call the CDC?”

“Yes. They’re on the way. And she emailed the doctor’s manifesto and his detailed production notes, just in case. They’ll be quarantining his laboratory and the warehouse you’re standing in, so I’d get moving if I were you.”

“I will,” he murmured. Phillips had finally dropped the gun and shadows broke the swathe of light—Carter and Fusco and whoever they’d brought were moving forward. “Did she ask you where you got the, ‘detailed production notes?’”

“No. She’s a smart woman. She'll figure it out.”

He nodded, then said, “Okay. They’ve got him.” Fusco cuffed Phillips and Carter dragged him to his feet.

“That’s good.”

He frowned at Finch’s absentminded reply. “What’s wrong?”

“I was thinking—”

He knew what was coming, but he asked anyway, “Yes?” Carter handed Phillips to Fusco, then stepped into the warehouse. She peered into the gloom, waved, then stepped back out. He nodded in return even though she couldn’t see him.

“Maybe you should see Dr. Tillman.”

Bingo. “I already told you, Finch. A: I was vaccinated years ago. There’s no chance of contagion. B: You read his notes—Phillips was very careful. The case was double sealed. The last thing he wanted was to infect Americans—he was going to administer the dose as soon as he was close the border.”

“And C?”

A patrolman ran up with something in his hands. It was a roll of yellow tape. Shit. He'd assumed they’d use something a little more serious than the usual, ‘Police Line-Do Not Cross,’ tape. That was a like a red flag to crooks. “C,” he murmured, “is the simple fact that smallpox is only infectious after a couple weeks.”

“Ten to twelve days is what I read.”

“You need to stop visiting Web MD if it’s only going to freak you out.”

“Even so—”

Carter strode up, shaking her head and her finger. She pointed to either side of the door and when the patrolman didn’t move, she put her hands on her hips and got in his face. He backed away, to the right side of the door. She waved and another patrolman came running up, taking position on the left side. She pulled the door down and slammed it shut. He knew he could count on her. “Finch, I’m fine. Ipromise.”

“If you’re sure.”

He straightened up. “I am.” And he was—he’d handled bio-weapons before, he knew the drill. And Finch was nuts if he thought he’d ever take a chance on infecting him.

There was a long pause and then Finch sighed again, “Okay. You better go.”

“Already gone.” He disconnected and turned, about to head to the back of the storage facility where his window waited, when he stopped. He got out his flashlight then went to stand before the crate. He stared down into the interior with its nest of blankets, pillows and food.

Phillips was very smart. He’d been patient and thorough, from the design of the virus to choosing his victim.

He was also very, very crazy. His grand plan of taking out as many Mexicans as possible by infecting them with his souped-up virus—would it have worked?

Finch seemed to think so although John wasn’t so sure. The map they’d found on Phillips’ computer showed an entry point so isolated, the nearest town was fifty miles away. By the time he would have gotten to Chihuahua and released Jenny to the authorities under the guise of a rescued American girl who’d been kidnapped the week before, she would have long since showed signs of the disease. There was a slim chance the locals wouldn’t recognize the symptoms, but…

Best-case scenario for Phillips? He’d manage to kill a few thousand and then the Mexican government and WHO would step in. They’d isolate the area and the victims, then begin the vaccination process. That would include Phillips most likely—his manifesto made it clear he expected to die before full contagion had taken place.

But it would never have worked—Phillips had to have known that. The delivery was overly complicated, dependent on too many factors. A simple breakdown on the highway would have ruined everything.

So what was the point?

Maybe there was no point. Hate had been driving Phillips for so long—maybe in the end it wasn’t the results but the act itself. Doing for the sake of doing.

Whatever. He was going away for the rest of his life, the girl was going to be okay and millions of people would live.

John holstered his gun, made his way to the far end of the building and pointed the flashlight up at the broken window. He’d climbed a drainpipe to get up to it, and used the shelves to get down. He could make himself scarce, find some hidey-hole until the van and the crate were picked up. But it would be stupid, taking a chance on discovery just because he didn’t want to exert himself.

He pocketed the flashlight, then reached for a strut and began to climb.


He waited until he was in the car, two miles from the scene, to call. “Finch?”

“Yes, Mr. Reese?”

“Are you hungry?”

There was a slight pause and he pictured it, Finch’s small, pleased smile. “Yes. I am.”

“I’ll pick something up.” He hung up, then turned on the radio.


Luck and the time of day was with him. This late at night, the parkway was a breeze and he was out of the city in fifteen minutes. As soon as he cleared the bridge, he called the Ginger Grill and ordered the usual and then it was a quick stop to pick up the food. Like clockwork; he’d be there by nine-thirty.

When he turned on Sycamore, however, his luck ran out. One of Finch’s neighbors was having a party—there were cars parked everywhere, clogging the narrow street. He slowed down and was absently tapping his thumbs on the steering wheel in time to the beat of the music, analyzing the path he’d need to take, when a red-vested valet ran towards him. He gestured to John, wait, then got in a black limo and started her up.

But the limo was wedged in tight and after a few false starts, the kid got out and ran to the front, then to the back, examining the available space. Then he got back in and tried again.

John hummed under his breath. If he were in a van or truck, he’d simply plow through the line of cars, gleefully scraping as many as he could. But he was driving Finch’s car and the last time he’d gotten a scratch—all for a good cause, of course—Finch had given him the look. A deadly combination of disappointment and reproach. So the fact that he was in a hurry, that he and Finch hadn’t seen each other in three days what with one thing and another, couldn’t matter. He was going to have to be patient for just a little while longer.

So he waited while the kid backed up, then drove forward, then backed up again, trying to get the limo out without damaging the other cars. It was almost funny, only not, and he was just opening the door with an idea to take over when the kid managed to swing free. He glared at John like it was his fault and turned into the neighbor’s drive.

John followed sedately, rubbernecking as he passed by. The yellow house on the hill practically glowed with lights and he could just imagine the scene inside—the mass of over-dressed socialites drinking too much, laughing too much.

He shook his head and kept going.


The gates opened smoothly as he approached, then closed again as he drove through. Finch always did that, tracked his path so he knew the exact second John was arriving. It had annoyed him at first, that Finch had to control even this. But after his annoyance had worn away, he’d realized that Finch was probably just trying to be nice. And a little paranoia wasn’t such a bad thing, no matter how much he’d teased him about it in the beginning.

He peered left and right as he drove down the long drive. Everything seemed as it should be. The strategically-placed spotlights exposed the once-dark areas underneath the trees and the sections of the perimeter wall that had been a breach waiting to happen. And—surprise, surprise—the gardeners had cleared away the line of bushes that had bordered the north side of the house. Guess Finch had finally given way to reason. Or maybe he was just as tired of the, ‘safety vs. privacy’ argument as John was.


He was taking the last turn to the garage when he spied something out of place on the south side of the house. He braked and rolled the window down.

A pyramid of wood rested on sawhorses and beyond stood a large, tarp-covered mass. Hmm. He’d been waiting weeks for the contractor to make good on the promise that the addition would get underway by the end of the year. The last he'd heard was that they wouldn’t break ground until the middle of January due to, ‘unforeseen circumstances.’ It hadn't made him happy, the blackmail, but he hadn't gotten around to dealing with the problem. Finch must have stepped in with cash. And easier—and safer—solution in the long run. No sense getting a bad reputation this early in the game.

He grinned—he’d return the favor in the best possible way.

When he got to the garage, the sliding doors were already open. He pulled in neatly beside the limo, then got out. The air smelled of wax—even though the day had been cold again, Frack must have detailed the car. He did that when he was bored or anxious. As if washing and waxing gave him some sort of high.

He snorted at Frack’s unwitting expense, grabbed the food from the front seat, his gear from the trunk. As he edged by the limo and the Austin Healey, the garage lights flashed and the wide doors slid closed. He glanced up at the camera in the corner of the room and winked.

The house was a high-tech wonder, built with Finch’s first millions and had the best of everything, including state-of-the art alarms on all the windows and doors. Finch had made the codes overly complicated but that was Finch for you. John had every expectation that one day he’d return to find a retinal scanner installed next to the, ‘No solicitors or junk mail!’ sign that Finch had nailed to the mailbox by the gate.

But not a bad idea, really, he thought as he tapped the code into the keypad by the door and waited for the light to change. It couldn't be placed on the street—it would be a dead giveaway. But maybe at the main door? He'd ask Finch about it, later. The sensor flashed a double green and the door opened.

The lights were all off but that was SOP for this late at night. Generally, Finch was up in his workroom by eight and who knew what Frick and Frack did after that. When they weren't with Finch, he never saw them after seven. He knew they alternated perimeter sweeps between one and two, but he had no idea how they spent their evening hours. Frack liked to wash the cars—what did Frick like to do? One of these days he'd investigate. When Finch wasn't waiting.

Upstairs was dark as well except for the thin line of light at the bottom of Frick’s door, but it didn’t matter. He knew it intimately, this long corridor that led to the big, north-facing room. He strode down the hall, picking up speed, the anticipation he’d been ignoring for three days and seventeen hours ramping up, crowding his chest, his throat. Not long now; just another keypad, another green light, another door swinging open.

The room had startled him when he'd first seen it. He’d expected the usual—a bedroom with an attached bathroom, and maybe a study or den. But Finch had designed the space for work—it was the length of the house and about twenty-feet deep. It contained two load-bearing columns, but that was it—a big, open room. It matched the modern lines of the house and was as secure but he didn’t like it—it was too open, with no place to hide. If he had built it, he would have included a couple closets, definitely a safe room.

"It's about time." Finch called out. He was at his desk, at the very end of the room, hunched over a pile of circuit boards.

He closed the door and slowed his steps to a stroll.

“What took you so long?” Finch added without looking up.

He was about thirty feet away and he felt as if he were on the job, stalking someone. “Traffic jam.”

Finch paused, then went back to what he was doing. “Are the Williams having another party?”


“That’s the fourth this week. How many celebrations is that family going to have?”

He sat the food on the table and the duffle bag on a chair. The guns made a soft clanking sound, but still, Finch didn’t look up.

“Their daughter just graduated from Princeton,” he said mildly. “And it is the holiday season.”

“How do you know that?”

“That it’s the holiday season? Christmas always falls on the same day, Finch.”

Finch’s shoulders twitched. “Not that. How do you know the daughter just graduated?”

He edged nearer until he was a foot away. “You forget who you’re talking to,” he said absently. Finch had just been to the barber; his hair was trimmed, coming to a blunt point at the back. John wanted to run his tongue along the point to see if it was as soft as it looked. “The question is, why didn't you know that the Williams' second daughter just graduated?”

“If they leave me alone, I’ll leave them alone.”

A rote answer that John had heard more than a few times. “Well, I know everything about your neighbors.” The daughter’s name was Sharon. She was dark haired and tall and fairly pretty. She and her friends liked to eat at the cafe in town.

Finch didn’t drop the circuit board, but his fingers stopped moving. “Such as?”

“Mr. Carson, three houses down, just lost a bundle when he gambled that Intel’s new chip would ship on the fourteenth and not twentieth. The Babcocks just took delivery on a new Mercedes, black with grey leather interior. And Mrs. O’Reilly over on Independence just had her hair done. I’ve heard it’s a becoming shade of blue.”

By now Finch had dropped all pretense of working. He sat there, hands still, head cocked. “Is that true? About Mrs. O’Reilly?”

Got you. “I have no idea. Imade it up.”

Finch shrugged irritably and pushed the electronics away. “That’s not funny, Mr. Reese.”

He took another step and now he was standing so close to Finch he could smell his very expensive aftershave, the clean scent of his cotton shirt and wool sweater.

He took a shallow breath—go slow—then leaned over, his hands on the back of Finch’s chair. “I wasn’t trying to be funny, Harold. I was just curious as to why we’re talking about your boring neighbors when we could be doing something…” He rested one hand on the table, then the other, making his body into an arch, pressing against Finch’s back and shoulders. “…else.”

“What about dinner?”

“Dinner can wait.”

Like approaching a wary dog, never knowing if it would bite or lick, usually it took a while to seduce Finch into bed. Usually it took a couple hours, maybe longer, a ritual of sidestepping Finch’s boundaries and issues, gauging each moment, each reaction.


But not tonight. For whatever reason, Finch was ready and as soon as John kissed his ear, he shuddered and tipped his head, making his neck available to John’s mouth.

“Harold?” he murmured, because even after a year of working together and eight months of sleeping together, it was somehow important to ask. Maybe because it still felt so new and he remembered that first time, almost the same scene, definitely the same feeling, of walking a knife’s edge of intrigued lust and caution.

He no longer wondered, though, if he was making a big mistake.

“Harold,” he said again, this time brushing Finch’s cheek with his own.

Finch didn’t answer. He swiveled and took John’s hand, using it for leverage, awkwardly standing so he could not awkwardly lead him to the door where the bedroom waited.

The room was as dark as the rest of the house, but John knew better by now. He left the the lights off. He never told Finch, though, that he didn’t need light to see and as he began to undress Finch with careful fingers, he saw. The smooth line of Finch’s shoulders, bulkier now that he’d been working out daily. The convex curve of his chest, the concave of his stomach when he sucked in his breath at the touch of John’s fingers.

When he got Finch down to his shorts, it was his turn, another ritual made perfect by practice, and he stood still, hands out as Finch removed coat, tie, shirt.

“When did this happen?” Finch asked, fingers skating over the three-inch bruise on John’s left pectoral.

So much for knowing better—it seemed that Finch saw in the dark as well as he. He shrugged. “On Friday. During the Cheung case.”

“John,” Finch rebuked sadly.

“It wasn’t a big deal, Harold. It’s what I do.”

Finch’s lips tightened, but he didn’t say anything more. He just kissed the edge of the bruise, lightly, and tugged John to the bed.

The mattress gave way and he hummed in pleasure as he toed off his shoes, then again, when Finch slipped his hand under the waistband of his trousers.

“Did you miss this,” Finch asked, pressing his palm against John’s belly.

“No,” he lied, because this was also part of the ritual, the denial that what had begun as just a job had turned into something more.

“Good,” Finch muttered, clearly lying as well.

They started out on their sides, face to face, still following the set pattern. But when he licked the inside of Finch’s elbow, Finch moaned and shoved him, pushing him on his back. He smiled, surprised, then chuckled low in his throat at Finch’s own look of mild shock.

Finch muttered something about, “…time,” and, “John,” then spread John’s legs apart with his knee and slid on top.


When they were finished, he gently pushed Finch off and rolled to his feet. He padded to the bathroom and got a washcloth. He rinsed it with warm water, then went back to bed and methodically washed Finch. Finch didn’t move, accepting the attention passively. When John was done, he leaned down and kissed the corner of Finch’s mouth. “I’m going to shower. Be right back.”

He’d never managed to lure Finch into the bathroom after sex, never managed to convince him that the sight of the fading scars wouldn’t bother him. Sometimes he felt like grabbing Finch and dragging him to the bathroom to show him how good it would feel.

Of course, if he did that, Finch would never forgive him. So, no.

He washed thoroughly, scrubbing away the last forty-eight hours, cataloging his various aches. Not too bad, considering. The bruise on his chest would be gone in a week, the one on his right thigh was just getting started, so maybe another ten days? His shoulder was the only concern—it hurt when he raised his arm over his head. Arthritis or bursitis? If it kept up, he’d ask Megan about it.

There was one more small sting in the crook of his neck and he was rubbing it, trying to remember how it had happened, when he realized it was a bite mark, shallow and minor, but still, a bite mark. He touched it one last time, then tilted his face to the spray, smiling. Oh, Harold.

When he returned to the bedroom, still drying off, the lights were on. Finch was sitting on the bed in his pajamas, eating a dumpling. At his knee was a tray with their dinner, a bottle of beer and a Perrier. Their clothes were gone and the room was neat once again.

“Hmm,”John said. “That looks good.” He rubbed his hair once more for good measure and hung the towel on the doorknob, ignoring Finch’s tiny glare. He got his robe from the hook on the door and went to the bed.

Finch nudged the General Tso’s. “It is. Here.”

He hadn’t been hungry. But the scent of chicken and spices was a trigger and he was suddenly that, suddenly starving. He pulled the robe on, then stretched out on the bed and opened the container. Finch had already gotten the chopsticks ready and he dug in. So good.

“Did you see the building materials?” Finch asked around a bite of dumpling.

He nodded.

“They’ll have the foundation laid by Tuesday and the walls up by Friday. They should be finished by the end of January.”

“Thanks, by the way.”

“For expediting the process? No thanks needed. You just paid me, handsomely.”

John snorted softly. He could say the same thing. He felt loose and relaxed, like he’d just spent a week in a sauna. Good sex would do that to a person. “Did the package arrive from Germany?”

“No.” Finch shook his head. “There was some problem with the delivery truck. Henry will go to the city on Friday and pick it up at the FedEx facility.”


“Is that glass really that important?”

“It is if you want the workroom to be completely secure.” He unscrewed the cap on the beer and took a long sip.

“Wouldn’t it be better to just leave off the windows?”



He looked up. “Because I want to see out.”


They stared at each other for a long moment. Finch had taken off his glasses and his face looked naked and exposed. He was watching John carefully, as if waiting for additional questions or comments, but John had learned to leave certain things alone. Like what had made Finch so gun shy about relationships, why he always seemed to be waiting for the other shoe to drop.

He had a clue, of course, but as with all things Finch, a clue didn’t necessary lead to an answer.

So he just stroked Finch’s foot with his own, reminding him that it was okay that they saw things from different angles, that they had different wants and needs and that wasn't a bad thing.

Finch blinked. And then opened up his soup as if to brush the moment away. “As I was saying, by January, you’ll have your own facility and you won’t have make do with what I can give you.”

“Sorry about that. The bullet holes, I mean.” He finished his dinner and closed the flaps on the container. He was starting to get sleepy.

“No.” Finch waved his spoon. “I’m not bothered by those. I know you need to practice. It’s just the noise.”

“I know.”

“And it will be good for you to have the space to do your martial arts or whatever you call it.”


“John?” Finch said, staring down at his soup.


“If you want to refit the library, we can do that. The first floor is almost entirely unused, and then there’s the basement. It’s dark, but we can fix that as well.”

He gazed at Finch, trying to see past the words. “Is it a problem, the addition? We don’t have—”

“No,” Finch interrupted quickly, shaking his head and the spoon at the same time. “No, I already said—” He took another quick breath, then laid the spoon down and covered the soup back up. “I just want to know if you have everything you require. Here, I mean. If you’d rather be there…”

“It won’t be that much, right? We said we’d spend most of the time in the city with occasional nights out here.” ‘When the numbers allow,’ had been Finch’s actual words.

“Yes, that’s what we said.”

“You wanted a place to work on the new machine. Somewhere more secure than the library, right?”

“Yes, that’s correct.”

“Harold…” He stretched a long arm and set the container and chopsticks on the tray. “Say what you’re not saying.”

Finch sighed and put the soup down. “It’s nothing.”

He hesitated. There was clearly something wrong, but trying to pry it out of Finch when he didn’t want to talk? He’d rather go another round with someone like Kohl. “Okay, it’s nothing. Are you done?” He gestured to the soup, the dumplings.

Silently, Finch nodded.

He rose and padded around the bed. He held his hand out for the tray, then carried it to the workroom. He put it on the table where Frick or Frack would see it. Let them deal with it in the morning.

He went back to the bedroom and locked the door.

Finch was already under the covers, book in hand and when John took the robe off and threw it on the chair, he didn’t look up. But he wasn’t reading, he was just staring at the book, rubbing the cover with his thumbs.

After a moment of this, John sighed and turned on his side. “It’s not the virus, is it?”

Finch shook his head.

“Harold. You know Ihave ways of making you talk.”

Finch jerked his head around. “You wouldn’t dare.”

He grinned. “No, Iwouldn’t. I’m also not going to sleep until you tell me what’s bugging you. I’ll stay up all night if I have to.”

Finch glared at him a moment more then said flatly, “I just want to make sure you really want this. Staying here with me, Imean. That’s all.”

Said as if his answer didn’t matter in the slightest and he just didn’t get it. Finch could be imperious, demanding and frank to the point of rudeness. Why did he save his insecurities for the times John was least prepared? If it weren’t so oddly charming, it would be exasperating. “Do you really think you could make me do anything Idon’t want to do?”

Finch met his gaze. “No,” he said slowly. “I don’t suppose I could.”

“Then there’s your answer.”

“All right.”

Outside, a piercing series of bangs shook the night and John stiffened, pushing up in alarm. Before realizing it was just the Williams, shooting off fireworks like they'd done during Sharon’s graduation party. He relaxed and lay back down.

“Those people,” Finch muttered. “I should call the authorities.”

“You want me to get my badge and go over there and rough them up?”

Finch slanted him a long look. “You mean Stills’ badge? No, leave them alone. They’ll be done soon.”

He yawned, a sharp, sudden movement that actually made his jaw hurt and his eyes water. He stuffed his arm under the pillow. “Are we good, Harold?”

Instead of answering, Finch murmured, “Here…” He laid the book on the nightstand next to the tracer he’d been working on, then turned off the lamp.

The darkness was like a balm. John drew a contented breath and reached out. Finch slid down, slid under his hand, right where he wanted him. He petted, finding silk and buttons. “Have you been practicing?”



Finch shifted impatiently. “I can’t seem to get that last tumbler. Are you sure the safe I’m using is actually capable of being broken in to?

He smiled. “I can crack it in under eight seconds.”

“Well, I can’t.”

“Maybe that’s because you’re watching all those YouTube videos. Just try it like I showed you.” He slipped his fingers between fabric until he found warm skin. “Close your eyes and feel the tumblers.”

It had been sexy, last week when he’d suggested that Finch could use some experience on a safe. He'd picked the one in the first floor study and had turned off the lights. Finch had objected until John showed him what to do. Guiding his fingers as they both turned the dial, listening and feeling for that very subtle click. It had been even sexier, of course, when they’d finished by making love. On the sofa, in the middle of the day. A first and all the more erotic for having to wait. “You’ll get it. Just feel what you’re doing and don’t think.”

“Next you’ll be telling me to listen to the Force.”

“Does that make me Yoda?”

Finch actually humphed. Which was another kind of sexy, not that John would ever tell him that. “You’ll get it,” he repeated. “It just takes practice. We can try tomorrow.”

“If there’s no new number.”

“Yes,” he agreed sleepily. “If there's no new number.” There would be, of course, but that was the job. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

He fell asleep thinking about locks and viruses and numbers, with Finch, warm under his hand.







Story notes: 

John Reese, Harold Finch, Carter, Fusco
Person of Interest
5,200+ words 
Episodes referenced: All, but mostly from The Fix.
In The Fix, we see Finch breaking into Zoe Morgan's house and it got me wondering, how did Finch learn how to pick locks? This story is a result of that.
All characters belong to people and organizations that are not me