John is currently putting their new number under surveillance. The weather is lovely, with spring in full bloom. Finch leaves the Library with Bear in tow for a quick afternoon walk in the park and a strange feeling moves in his chest. Upon further examination he decides he is feeling content, maybe even happy?
Things have been going well. After Root and the kidnapping, his and John’s partnership has grown infinitely more comfortable. Over the first year of working together (and after saving each other's lives on multiple occasions) they had managed to build trust and easy companionship. For two men who have spent a long time of their lives alone and isolated, that was really quite extraordinary.
At the thought of John, something else, something more stirs in the back of his mind. Most days he is able to ignore it, a taste of inappropriateness lingering on his tongue. But some evenings, in the safety of one of his safe houses the thought finds his way back and Harold falls asleep thinking of steely blue eyes and a smile hidden behind a hand.
In the park he lets Bear off the leash for some laps with the other dogs, confident in the knowledge that he will return when called. On one of the paths he spies his favorite tea cart and makes his way over. As always he is observing the other visitors of the park and when he has almost reached the cart, his gaze slides over a tall figure in a black suit and crisp white shirt with dark hair. Finch does a double take. Before he has a chance to really look, the man has left the park and turned a corner, ducking out of his sight. Could that have been John? If so, why had he been carrying a big cardboard box? And who was currently surveilling Mr. Roberts?
It takes him a while to fumble his phone out of his pocket but then with a few keystrokes he is checking Mr. Reese’s GPS data. It puts John’s phone less then a block from his location in the park. Tea completely forgotten, he goes to collect Bear and returns to the Library with hurried steps.
Back at his computer station he grants himself access to the cameras of the park and lets facial recognition software do the rest. A couple of minutes later he watches security footage from 45 minute ago in which John walks up to the tea cart, talks to the guys behind the counter, hands over a 50$ bill and leaves with a cardboard box. Before he has time to make any sense of that, the line over the coms crackles to life and John is requesting assistance in regards to their number.
The rest of the afternoon flies by in a hurry, when the perpetrator reveals herself and John gets into a fist fight with a bike courier. At 7pm the perp is safely stowed in Detective Fuscos cruiser and Finch is just wrapping up sending the collected evidence to his email address, when John opens their line again.
“You hungry, Finch? I was thinking maybe Thai?”
He contemplates for a second. “That won’t be necessary, Mr. Reese. I will be leaving shortly. I believe you could also do with some rest time.”
He winces silently at his cold and detached tone.
“Alright Harold. See you tomorrow then”, John says. Is he imagining the disappointed note in his voice?
“Good night, Mr. Reese.”
When he leaves, on a whim, he fishes out his tea cup from the morning out of the trash and takes it home with him.
Later, tucked into the armchair of his favorite safehouse, he is balancing the laptop on his knees. Bear is settled down in his doggy bed and he has already dimmed the lights. A cup of steaming tea sits next to him on a small round table. Time to get to the bottom of the mysterious box.
First he searches for other camera angles of John and the box. It takes him about 2 minutes to find a better view, that allows him to see the front of the box more up close. The label is not very big, but he is able to read it after some enhancement: “coffee cups to go - 100pcs”.
So John is buying empty cups from his favorite tea vendor? Whatever for.
Next he is taking out the cup from today in the morning. It’s from a little diner that is on John’s way to the library. It takes him considerably more time but after some digging, Harold is able to find at least 2 more establishments, where John has purchased boxes of to go cups over the last 3 months, paying cash every time.
What the Hell is John going to do with at least 300 to go cups? Briefly Harold is wondering if this might be for one of the charitable projects that John involves himself in frequently.
He feels only a very tiny sting of guilt for invading John’s privacy, when he checks on his credit cards. At first glance, everything looks perfectly normal. He has to scroll quite a while for an anomaly. John rarely orders online, so the two rather big orders from a niche online shop for japanese tea are very much out of place. The first order dates a little over 3 months back and contains a variety of different brands and types of sencha tea and a traditional japanese tea pot. The second order is from 2 months ago and consists of several packages of the same high end Fukamushi Sencha.
By the time he is done snooping through John’s online purchases, his facial recognition software makes a soft ding and when he opens the program to check, he finds footage from John in a dingy little tea shop in Brooklyn from 3 months ago. He seems to be spending about an hour in the shop, having a vivid talk with the old asian looking owner and ends up buying a sifter.
And while Harold has been completely confused for the better part of the last hour, a thought springs into the frontline of his consciousness that has been sitting with him since this afternoon in the park. So he goes to perform the final step of his research.
Usually he refrains from checking on the cameras in John’s apartment. It’s supposed to be a secure place for John and he put them there more for safety reasons than anything else.
But he convinces himself that this constitutes extraordinary circumstances. He opens up the footage from this morning.
John has his morning routine down to a science. When he gets up, he has a glass of tap water, does some stretches and then, depending on his physical constitution, either goes for a morning run or through a vinyasa yoga routine. After that, he takes a shower, eats breakfast and gets dressed in one of his black suits to go to work. Only recently he has been adding a step to that routine that has nothing to do with him and everything to do with the job he is now working.
Now after getting dressed he follows another very meticulous set of steps. First, he filters some tap water. He will then pour it into his kettle, bringing it to a boil. In the meantime, he takes a traditional japanese tea pot out of his cupboard and puts in a spoon full of Fukamushi Sencha. Once the water has boiled, he checks his watch, letting the water cool down for a bit. Then he pours the water over the tea in the pot and lets it sit for exactly 1 minute and 35 seconds. While the tea is steeping in the pot, he takes a to go cup out of a different cupboard and sets it ready on the counter with a little plastic cover. Once the timer goes off, he pours the tea through a sifter into the cup, adds one teaspoon of sugar and stirs carefully. Then he places the lid on the cup and takes off to the library as fast as he can. Because the perfect cup of tea will not taste perfect anymore once it's lukewarm.
When John started this little ritual of his almost 3 months ago, he went through a very time consuming process. First he went to a little shop and spent an hour talking to the owner to find out what it takes to make the perfect cup of tea. Then he ordered several different types of Sencha and had Finch unknowingly taste test them over the course of 2 weeks. After finding a favorite, he experimented another 2 weeks with steeping time until he found the optimum.
Since then he has been bringing Harold tea in to go cups that he in fact had brewed on his own. He doesn’t let himself examine too closely, why it is so important, that the other man gets a perfect cup of tea every morning without exceptions. He has convinced himself that good tea would lead to a much more content boss, who is much easier to work with. John had soon noticed how the quality of the cups he used to bring with him before seemed to vary and how that little crease in Harold’s forehead, while a perfectly lovely detail of the man's face, would appear whenever something was not quite to his taste.
For reasons yet to be acknowledged, John did not want to be the source of that crease even if just by buying that cup of tea. So he had started to make Harolds tea himself, bypassing the issue elegantly. And when one of his cups of tea coaxed an appreciative little moan out of the man for the first time, he knew he could not go back to buying tea.
While going through the motions of making Harolds tea the next morning, John can’t help but think back to the day before. Finch had seemed somewhat distant throughout the whole afternoon and evening. When he had refused dinner, John had felt a little sting in his chest. He really had thought they’d had gotten closer over the last few months.
Shoving the memory to the back of his mind, he closes the plastic lid and makes his way to the Library. On his way up the stairs, his thoughts have long found other topics. Bear comes trotting his way, wagging his tail. Finchs workstation is empty, when he sets the tea down carefully. After he gives the dog some well deserved attention, he begins to wonder where the hell his boss is.
“Finch? You there?”
“Finch? Are you alright?” Concern is coloring his voice now. This was not like Finch at all.
He makes his way up the corridor to the back room, where John has set up a little kitchenette a couple months ago. Suddenly he hears a hiss, like hot water from a pipe and a muffled cry of pain followed by a curse he did not think he’d ever hear out of the geniuses mouth.
“Finch? Harold, is everything ok?”, he yells as he sprints toward the room.
When he rounds the corner, he sees Harold standing next to a nice looking bialetti espresso maker, holding his hand with a pained look on his face.
Grabbing the first aid kit, he ushers Finch into a seat at the nearby table and kneels in front of him. Gently, he takes Harold’s hand to examine the damage. The burn is not too serious, but he cleans it anyway, puts on some wound healing ointment and wraps it in a soft dressing.
“There, should be good as new in a day or two. Keep it clean and change the dressing regularly” he says, still holding the hand. “What were you doing anyway?”
Harold looks down on their joined hands. The air seems a little stuffy now, as John actually takes time to observe the scene. A suspicion creeps up to him.
“Well, seeing as you seem to have a head start on preparing my favorite beverage, I thought I might return the favor”, Harold mutters. When he looks up, there is a wistfulness in his eyes, that John has not yet seen. It closes his throat and all he can say is a strangled “Harold..”
Resigning to the fact that no more words seem to be leaving his mouth for now, he decides on a different strategy. He moves a few inches closer and lifts his hand to Harold's cheek. His breath hitches slightly when John moves even closer, projecting his intentions, giving Harold time to intervene. He gives him the tiniest nod and John leans in for a kiss. It’s completely different from what he had imagined. It’s heaven, soft and sweet. Harold smells like books and a very expensive leathery cologne. His cheek feels exquisite in his hand and he feels the urge to touch much more than just that cheek. He deepens the kiss and the sound that escapes Harold sounds almost like when he is drinking that perfect cup of tea.
That is apparently the thought that brings John back into the present. He gently pulls back from the kiss. “Do we have a number, Harold?”
“A number that needs our help, did we get one today?”
The words seem to slowly make their way into Harold’s brain. “No, so far nothing, Mr… John”, he manages.
“Huh. Well I’m pretty sure, the tea I brought you has gone cold by now. How about you come back to my place with me, I make you a nice new cup and later I can show you how I like my coffee, what do you think?” He places a small peck on Harold’s lips, that are still a lovely pink.
“Yes certainly. I’d like that, John.” And the smile that spreads on his face at the words might just be the most beautiful thing John has ever seen.