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the_machine_mod ([personal profile] the_machine_mod) wrote in [community profile] meme_of_interest2013-03-28 06:03 pm

Prompt Post 01

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Reese suspects past Finch/Nathan Ingram

(Anonymous) 2013-04-29 11:51 am (UTC)(link)
Reese doesn't have hard evidence, but he's pretty sure.

Could be unrequited Finch/Ingram -- up to the author. Reese/Finch preslash or first time is an added bonus!

Re: Reese suspects past Finch/Nathan Ingram

(Anonymous) 2013-04-29 02:10 pm (UTC)(link)
o__o I really shouldn't. But I might try this. No promises but we'll see. o__o
orockthro: George with glasses and "NERD" written on her forehead (Default)

Fill: Not State Secrets (Gen, no warnings, Finch and Reese, minor char)

[personal profile] orockthro 2013-04-30 11:16 pm (UTC)(link)
(Might have been a little too subtle. XD Sorry! Hope it's what you were looking for!)


It started with the photograph. He felt no guilt pulling it from the book (a paperback copy Ghost in the Machine from the seventies, of all things) and handing it to Zoe. Finch had clearly left it for him, and investigating his employer was more of a hobby than alphabetizing his arms collection.

“What’s this?” Zoe, on a park bench in the rain with a classic black umbrella, looked up at him with a quirked eyebrow. She held the photograph between gloved fingers. Two faces, Finch and Ingram, stared up in sepia tones.

He sat down and let the rain pelt him. He avoided umbrellas when possible. The loss of peripheral vision wasn’t worth the hindrance of getting wet. It wasn’t hard rain, just the soft drizzle that had plagued the city for the last week; a symptom of impending summer weather.

“Thought you might want a job.”

Zoe winked at him from under her black canopy, and John let himself slip into the old pattern of flirtation. It was easy between them, comfortable. “I’m not cheap, you know,” she said, half teasing, half warning.

“I can afford it. I’m paid pretty well.”

She tucked the photo into her purse with care before looking back up at him. “Does your friend know you’re looking into his past?” He was surprised she’d recognised Finch so quickly. Zoe beat him at poker, but he was fairly sure she cheated, and at the time he hadn’t been inclined to win. This time they were playing for more than cigars.

John smiled and rose from the park bench. “I’m pretty sure Harold knows just about everything.”


John walked through the IFT cubicle farm until he passed Harold’s old station. Memories of Theresa Whitaker and a gash on his hand that was now a faded scar floated to the surface, and he blinked to quash them down. Harold’s old cubicle was now occupied by a young kid, fresh from college judging from the styrofoam cup full of ramen noodles, and the packs of gum that littered the desk.

“Hi,” he said. He used his best non-threatening voice and only let a few teeth show when he smiled.

The kid twitched away from the computer monitor to squint up at him from under a floppy mass of bangs. “Hey. Can I help you?”

“Yeah, actually. I’m looking for a woman who works here. She’s tall, blonde, and-”

“Oh, yeah, Susan. Three rows down and hang a right.” The kid hunched back to the computer and began to type again, effectively dismissing John.

Susan took one look at him from her well decorated cube, grinned, and grabbed his elbow. “Hey there. Didn’t expect to see you back. It’s been a year.” She pulled him into the hallway. “I never forget a face,” she said with a coy lilt. “Especially not a handsome one like yours.”

He tilted his head, and slid back into the role he’d practiced frequently in the months since Harold: disarming and charming. His life fell into neat sections, punctuated by people. Before Jessica he was one person, after Jessica he was another. And now, with Finch, he was someone new entirely.

Susan winked at him before he could slip into his ‘calm the mark and make your interests relevant to them’ routine.

“Let me guess- still looking for Harold?”

“Yes, actually.” Her memory of him was unexpected, and her acuteness even more so. He shook it off. “I know he worked here for seventeen years. I was hoping you might tell me a little more about him.”

“Step into my office,” she said, and led him to the ladies room.

John had been in several women’s restrooms in his time, but almost always while hunting someone down, and never to idly lean against the sink and listen to a woman talk. Susan nodded at him, and then up to the blinking fire detector above their heads. “Pull out the battery in that thing, would you? I want a smoke.”

He did, using the courtesy chair propped in the corner by the paper town dispenser, and she pulled a cigarette out of her purse and lit it with a semi-transparent pink lighter. “I always figured he was in witness protection, myself.”


She took a long drag off the smoke and grinned. “We’re gossiping. You don’t have to play dumb. I’ve only been here nine years, but this place was already going down when I got here.” She waved a hand and the smoke wafted through the bathroom and settled near the mirror at the ceiling. “It’s financially stable, of course, but nothing interesting happens anymore. Harold was here for the interesting parts that I missed. Used to talk about them sometimes.” Another puff of smoke. “He was almost never here; worked odd hours and such. The work always got done, always mediocre, but not bad enough to fire him. But he only put in face time once or twice a week. Then the CEO died, Nathan Ingram. It was all over the news, I’m sure you saw it. Harold suddenly disappeared completely. I’m a busy body so I start paying attention. ”

John blinked slowly. “And you’re just telling me all this?” John had never had a hard time getting marks to talk. This was something else: a woman who wanted to talk about Harold, because he was a mystery she would never really know.

“It’s not state secrets, sweetie. Besides, you’re the only one who ever came here looking for him.” She puffed again. “I liked him. He was always kind to me, and not in that fake way, you know? He respected me.”

John smiled. He could see why.


Zoe called him the next day. John liked it when she called, even if it was just to report in. He liked to pretend, just for a second, that he was a normal person walking in the park on a call with someone who wanted to share a conversation with him. He didn’t really want to be normal, knew it was never a possibility (even before Jessica, especially after), but it was nice to let the lie float in between heartbeats.

“They went to MIT together, although Ingram didn’t graduate.” Zoe said. She spoke calmly and directly. In a strange way she was like Finch. “Took a number of the same classes, lived in the same dorm. It was awhile ago, but I tracked down a few people. Seems like the two of them were close friends. No one could really figure out why - they came from different backgrounds, and Ingram was much more popular.” She paused for a long moment. “What exactly are you hoping to find, John?”

John breathed deep and remembered the smell of cigarette smoke and potpourri from the IFT women’s bathroom. “Not state secrets.”


He took Susan out to lunch, to a place just fancy enough that she felt special, not bribed. She ordered a salmon salad, and he chose a chicken wrap. He forced himself to eat it. Not eating on the job was a difficult pattern to break.

She laughed into a pink lemonade. “You know, I should feel bad telling you all this. I mean, for all I know you’re a spook, or a crazy ex-boyfriend.”
Bite, chew, swallow. “Nothing so complicated.”

“So what do you want to know today?”

John knew she didn’t believe him, not fully. But she didn’t care, and that’s all he needed. So he took her out to lunch a few times a week and her co-workers thought she had a fun fling. She enjoyed the attention, so he made sure to be seen at the office. Harold didn’t say anything, but John knew he watched, because Harold watched everything.

He took a swig from the water glass. “Just whatever you want to tell me, Susan.” Repeat the asset's name often, Kara said in his head, half a memory, and half a wish. It makes them feel special.

“Back before Ingram died,” Susan said between delicate bites of lemon-topped lettuce and shredded salmon, “they used to disappear together. No one really noticed but me; I love stuff like that. The CEO and some mid level programer didn’t really run in the same circles. But I run the expense receipts for the accounting department so payroll can figure out per diems. Ingram would go off on a business trip, and Harold would put in sick days or vacation time.”

She paused and took a long sip of her drink, and she looked at him, hard, for awhile. “Then Ingram died, and Harold put in for three months of unpaid leave.”

John raised an eyebrow and Susan rolled her eyes. “I have a very good memory. They knew each other and pretended not to. Tell me that doesn’t make you wonder.”



“John. Got time to chat?”

“Always.” The thug in the trunk of his car could wait.

“I found out something interesting,” Zoe purred into his ear. She was pleased with herself. John liked that sound in her voice, the high lilt of a job well done, and the confident pause that came after. Before Harold, he’d forgotten the sound of someone else saying his name without derision. After Harold, he coveted it. It wasn’t his real name, but that didn’t matter.
He locked the car, patted the trunk with a gang thug in it, and stepped onto the sidewalk. He used the phone instead of the earpiece.

“Not long after MIT, Ingram married his childhood sweetheart. They had a son, William Ingram, but experienced constant marital problems and divorced.” This wasn’t new information. John had done basic research on the Ingrams when Will appeared not too long ago, and he’d charged Fusco with following Finch. The days of conspicuous observation were over, but the more subtle craft of watching Harold never ended.

“Well, I bribed a few lawyers and learned that Harold Wren retained god-parent status to Will. The son received half of everything, but so did Harold. He never turned up for the will reading and gave it all to Olivia, in trust for her son, anyhow. And then he pretty much disappeared.”

“Huh.” He turned a corner and somehow ended up in front of the glass exterior of the IFT branch Harold had used as a cover identity.

“In my experience, people don’t write their wills lightly, John.”


“If you’re done with the photo, I wouldn’t mind it returned to me.”

They were in the library, and Bear was on the floor with his tongue out. The dog needed another bath soon. It was midday, and Finch was puttering around a back shelf. His voice carried through the room, delicate and enunciated.

John paused in his study of a 1950’s map of Manhattan. “Of course, Harold.”

He set down the map and reached into his pocket. He’d been keeping the photo in a small manilla envelope to protect it from damage. By the time Harold finished his meanderings around the back half of the library, John had slipped the photo free and draped it across the keyboard.

Finch limped to his desk and stopped short.

“You had it on your person?” There was a reverence in his voice that John tried to memorize. Soft surprise that lit up his face. Usually when Finch sounded like that it was over the ear pieces, while John was in the field and too busy to pay it the attention he wanted to. John watched the lines around Harold’s mouth soften. He hesitated, just slightly, before picking the photo up and holding it with both hands.

“Thank you, John.” The reverence in his voice was gone, replaced by something closer to grief. “You know--” he let the sentence drop off for a heartbeat. John knew by now to quietly wait in those moments. “When I told you that I was a very private person, I meant it.”

John didn’t answer. It was a lie, perhaps the biggest lie Harold had ever told him. Despite a few misdirections here and there, Harold truly had been honest with him. Except in that. Harold wanted, desperately, to be discovered again. He didn’t make it easy, but he left clues that were meant to be followed.

“But--” he trailed off again. John watched as Harold ran his fingers over the edge of the photograph, and remembered the feeling of the soft edge against his own thumb. “We were both different people then.” He was talking about himself and John, but his eyes were locked on Ingram’s, preserved forever in ink. “Thank you. I’d forgotten what it felt like.”

John swallowed.

Harold put the photo down gently. “To be appreciated.”

Re: Fill: Not State Secrets (Gen, no warnings, Finch and Reese, minor char)

(Anonymous) 2013-05-01 05:41 am (UTC)(link)
This is so beautiful. Susan is vivid and real and awesome, I like how you nailed a voice for her and filled it out. I particularly like the 'let the lie float between heartbeats' line. Unusual image but it really works. And John's observations about waiting patiently for Harold to speak, and finally the honest feel of Harold's words, all very fine.
orockthro: George with glasses and "NERD" written on her forehead (Default)

Re: Fill: Not State Secrets (Gen, no warnings, Finch and Reese, minor char)

[personal profile] orockthro 2013-05-01 03:22 pm (UTC)(link)
^_^ Thanks! I'm happy you enjoyed it. I loved that woman from 1x02 and have been trying to find an excuse to write her for ages now. XD
(The between heartbeats thing is actually from precision shooting [which I know very little about], where to get the best accuracy you squeeze the trigger between heartbeats. I figured John would be used to that sort of thinking, spysassin that he is.)
sarcasticsra: A picture of a rat snuggling a teeny teddy bear. (Default)

Re: Fill: Not State Secrets (Gen, no warnings, Finch and Reese, minor char)

[personal profile] sarcasticsra 2013-05-01 08:38 pm (UTC)(link)
Ohhh, this is so good and so well-written. I love Susan! And John and Zoe's playful relationship, and the depth of emotion you manage to convey between Harold and John even though they only directly interact at the very wend. Wonderfully done. <3
orockthro: George with glasses and "NERD" written on her forehead (Default)

Re: Fill: Not State Secrets (Gen, no warnings, Finch and Reese, minor char)

[personal profile] orockthro 2013-05-01 10:06 pm (UTC)(link)
*blushes* Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it. ^__^

Re: Fill: Not State Secrets (Gen, no warnings, Finch and Reese, minor char)

(Anonymous) 2013-05-03 11:48 am (UTC)(link)
OP here -- I absolutely love this, how understated it is... perfect.

My favorite thing of all is -- it's still not definitive. Anyone who noticed Finch and Ingram had a secret relationship might conclude they were seeing each other, instead of, you know, conspiring to build the mothership of all surveillance systems. What John really uncovered was that Finch had a real partnership with Ingram, the way he does with John now. <3

Thank you sooo much for filling this!
orockthro: George with glasses and "NERD" written on her forehead (Default)

Re: Fill: Not State Secrets (Gen, no warnings, Finch and Reese, minor char)

[personal profile] orockthro 2013-05-03 01:03 pm (UTC)(link)
Aw, yay! I'm so happy you liked it! ^__^
I hope it wasn't TOO understated, ahaha. ;)
Thanks for such a compelling prompt. :D
emef: daisy passed out at the typewriter (Default)

Re: Fill: Not State Secrets (Gen, no warnings, Finch and Reese, minor char)

[personal profile] emef 2013-05-07 03:31 pm (UTC)(link)
really enjoyed this <3
orockthro: George with glasses and "NERD" written on her forehead (Default)

Re: Fill: Not State Secrets (Gen, no warnings, Finch and Reese, minor char)

[personal profile] orockthro 2013-05-07 05:26 pm (UTC)(link)
:D I'm happy you liked it!