In the first seconds, when he's lying in the mud blinded by water and dirt and flashing lights, he thinks what he might do is get Reese arrested. Thrown in the drunk tank for a night, and wouldn't that be great? Try to run away from your problems when you're behind bars, jackass.
Fusco rolls on the ground, feels his elbow sink into mud and gravel, feels his lungs catch and drag because Reese did something really bad to his ribs. He wheezes, hacks once into his fist. Yup. Hell with it. Let him rot.
When he blinks the water out of his eyes, he sees Reese. And he doesn't feel pity, not exactly, 'cause they're past that now. They lapped it. Reese sits there on the ground with his splayed legs and his sodden clothes and rainwater webbing between the wet spikes of his hair and his eyes all sorrowful and unfocused. He looks pathetic, Fusco thinks. And Reese won that fight, so probably Fusco doesn't look too hot himself.
Fusco can hear the wet crunch of approaching footsteps and he pushes himself to his feet. Only wobbles a little as he brushes his filthy, scraped-up hands on the knees of his jeans. He's dirty, he's got blood in his mouth, but he's sober. There's his defense. He stumbles forward, catches Reese under the armpits and pulls up.
Reese doesn't budge.
"C'mon," Fusco mutters, tugging at him. "You can get up. It's not that bad."
Reese leans back, boneless, like a toddler. He's got a mean, dreamy glint in his eye, a look that says "I may be tired of fighting you, but I can still be a pain in your ass."
Fusco digs his heels into the soft mud and wrenches at him. And the thing is that Reese is faster than him and it hurts more when Reese hits him than it does when he hits Reese and Reese is better than him at fighting in general, but Reese doesn't weigh more than Fusco can lift. He yanks Reese to his feet, catches him around the middle, and hangs on bitterly until Reese gets his legs under him, trades in being floppy and useless for repeatedly driving his heel into Fusco's foot. Close enough.
He throws Reese's arm around his shoulder and pins it there, like some kind of weird, backwards headlock, and he turns to face the cop.
"Hey, sorry about that." He hears his voice go warm and friendly, feels his face contort itself into an easy, hard-wearing smile all on its own. "My buddy here had a few too many. Got a little aggressive." He pats Reese's tense wrist where it sits locked over his shoulder. "Seems like it's out of his system now."
The cop squints doubtfully at them from behind the waterfall pouring off the edge of his hat.
Fusco feels his grin spread wider. He has blood between his teeth. He makes himself relax.
In the end, he has to flash his badge, take the cop aside like look, he's a good guy, he's just going through a rough patch, let me get him home to his wife. He imagines poor, worried Finch in a wig and an apron.
They get a warning. It's a win.
He waves off the cop, still smiling, until the blue and red lights turn off and the car pulls out and the headlights are a flickering dot in the dark. When he turns back, Reese is standing all on his own, staring out at nothing. At the horizon, Fusco guesses, though there’s no horizon to see. The world’s gone all close and dark the way it does when it’s night and it’s raining hard. Nothing seems to exist outside of the sodium glow of the parking lot lights.
Maybe, if they could see anything, Reese would be looking at the mountains.
Fusco pulls his jacket around himself, like it's not soaked through, like it's still keeping him warm. He unfixes his smile, rubs at the ache in his cheeks. "C'mon," he says, finally. “Let’s get out of here." He taps the wet sleeve of Reese’s leather jacket.
Reese recoils. He’s got his lip curled, like he’s disgusted but like he’s making fun, too. Like it’s funny Fusco would try to tell him anything. "Did you really think you could make me come back to New York, Lionel?”
Fusco swipes his hand across his brow, squeezes his eyes shut. "I dunno. Look, guy, I don’t care right now. I'm cold, I'm wet, and I just got ten kindsa shit beaten out of me. I'm going to my hotel to get some sleep. If you're smart, you'll come with me."
Reese lets out this small, jagged bark of laughter.
"Oh, what?" Fusco snaps. "You got someplace else to be?"
That shuts his shitty mouth, for a second, anyway. His lips are still drawn back in a sneer, but it's fading, quiet.
"'S what I thought." Fusco jams his hands into his pockets, feels the rocks that snuck in there somehow. He rolls them between his fingertips. "Listen. You got no place to be and even if you did, you’re too drunk to get there. I can’t make you get on a plane back home with me but you can at least wait ‘til you’re sober to turn me down.”
“That won’t change my answer.”
“Fine. Like I said, I don’t care too much right now. I’m saying you can sleep it off at the hotel. Go where you want after that.”
Reese’s head is cocked to one side, watching Fusco. Suspicious. He takes one wobbly, wary step forward and Fusco has to bite down an “’Atta boy.” Be careful of what he says, because he’s not sure what’s in Reese’s head right now, exactly. He can see that in Reese sometimes. Guy’s tough to read ‘cause his face is so smooth and even and flat, but you can pick stuff up, little quirks around the eyes and the mouth. The eyes especially. You can see when they’re full up with sadness, when they have that mean little twinkle in them, but tonight the shadows are too deep and he might as well not have eyes at all.
If Fusco had to imagine, from the way Reese is stalking towards but also around him, like a feral dog trying to decide whether to bolt or lunge for Fusco’s throat, from the way his dirty fists curl and uncurl, Fusco would say his eyes had that crazed, sharkish glimmer to them.
He would say now would be a smart time to leave the parking lot.
“You’re bleeding,” Reese says, so soft Fusco can barely hear.
“Yeah,” he says. He’s not sure where exactly, ‘cause it’s all wet and it’s all raw but he’s sure that’s true. “Yeah, I know.”
Reese goes quiet. They watch each other a while, water splashing off their shoulders, down the backs of their necks. Reese wavers, Fusco notices. He sways like he’s something underwater, seaweed or hair. Then he lurches, catches himself before Fusco has time to do anything other than make a quick, aborted grab for his elbows. He mumbles, “Don’t follow me.”
And he turns, shoulders hunched. He punches his balled-up fists tight into his pockets as he stalks off into the dark on unsteady legs. He moves kind of at a diagonal, drifting. Hard to say where he thinks he’s going. Not towards the bar. Towards the back of the parking lot, or maybe towards the highway.
Fusco stands there, watching his retreating back, dumb mouth open and catching water. There’s a clenched up, angry shout curling, crumbling in his throat and all that comes out, finally, is this trite little thing: “Don’t drive anywhere.”
Reese doesn’t make any sign that he heard.
“I’m serious,” Fusco calls after him. “Thumb a ride with some creep if you have to, but don’t go anywhere on your own while you’re fucked up.”
Reese wobbles a little, like maybe he slips on wet gravel. He keeps going.
Fusco leaves him.
Just turns on his heel and crunches wetly through the dark and the rain towards his car, head down. Water patters down the back of his jacket, rolls through his thinning hair and down his forehead. He lost his hat, somewhere along the line. He doesn't look back.
But he listens.
What he’s afraid of hearing is the sound of an engine starting up. Even outside the drunk driving thing. He never thought he could drag Reese home if he didn’t want to be dragged, but Fusco doesn’t need that moment when there’s no denying he failed.
It’s an ego thing, maybe, but he wants to be the one to bring Reese back. Fusco’d like to know for sure that he helped somebody. It’d be good if something went right.
He brushes that away. It’s not going right, not right now. Reese doesn’t feel like coming back and Fusco doesn’t think he can force him. So what’s next?
Fusco turns up the collar on his jacket, shakes his wet head. He doesn’t look back.
He jogs in the dark to where he parked the car and he practically dives in the driver’s side. Fusco slams the car door shut and is immediately shocked at how fucking soaked he is. He might as well have gone swimming. His clothes weigh a thousand pounds and they scratch, cold and clammy, against his skin. When Fusco puts the keys in the ignition, a thick drizzle of water slides out of his sleeve. Fusco flicks on the hi-beams and windshield wipers, cranks the heat. It's a rental and he hopes he doesn't ruin the upholstery. Not that he's paying.
He presses his palms to his forehead and slides them back through his hair, squeezing out water. He groans.
Well, he’ll have to follow Reese. Because if he loses him, he’ll have to call Finch and Finch is going to tut and murmur that he’s got a lot to do at the moment but if Fusco can’t keep track of one man, he’ll help locate Mister Reese again but really, Detective and Fusco can’t swallow that pill. Not tonight.
Reese has a head start. It’s dark out and the weather sucks. That kind of thing would worry Fusco if they were at home, but it’s so empty out here. It’s not like Reese can disappear in a crowd or down an alley. There isn’t even a cow to hide behind. It’s miles and miles of flat and windswept or jagged and rocky nothing. And Reese isn’t moving so fast. He won’t hit jagged and rocky for a long time. Fusco speeds up the wipers, squints between sheets of water looking for the shape of him, wishing he wasn’t so arrogant about not looking back.
Only he didn’t want Reese to know he cared to look, and that’s important too. Not as important as keeping tabs on him, but…
There’s a sharp rap of knuckles on the passenger side window that makes Fusco’s heart leap in his chest.
Without waiting for an OK, Reese yanks the door open and slumps hard into the seat next to Fusco. He wheezes a little, like he’s surprised too, like he didn’t know how heavy his jacket was until the rain stopped beating up on him. He’s ashy, bedraggled, his long right leg still hanging out the door in case he needs to make a quick getaway. In the dim glow of the car’s interior lights, Fusco can see Reese’s eyes for the first time, glazed and dopey and anxious.
“You said thumb a ride with some creep,” he murmurs.
Fusco scoffs. “You’re hysterical. Shut the door; you’re letting the rain in.”
He draws his mile-long leg in and slams the door and holy shit, holy shit, mission accomplished. Fusco presses his hands on the steering wheel to stop his fingers shaking.
“You have a place?” Reese asks, like they’re making small-talk at an airport bar or something.
“Yeah,” Fusco says. “Nothin’ fancy but it’s dry.”
Reese sinks back against the seat, boneless and tired. “Works.”
As they’re pulling out of the parking lot onto a perfectly empty road, not marred by a single pair of headlights, Fusco sneaks another look at Reese
He’s got his brow pressed to the window, eyes shut. He could be dead, except there's a halo of fog on the glass by his mouth. He could be asleep, but Fusco doesn't really believe Reese sleeps.
Without a word, Fusco reaches across Reese's body and buckles his seat belt for him.
Reese's hand snaps tight around Fusco's wrist before he can draw it back. He opens his heavy-lidded eyes just a black slit.
"What?" Fusco says as the bones in his wrist grind against each other. "It's bad out there."
The rain hammers on the roof of the car, continuous, pounding proof. Reese lets him go.
The place he picked out is a real Bates Motel situation. Low-slung, derelict buildings, buzzing red vacancy sign. No word on whether the kid working the front desk is a serial killer. Probably not, but fuck it, Fusco doesn't know Colorado. He doesn't know mountains and wide-open spaces. He bets it makes people crazy, to be so far apart from each other.
He wonders if that’s what happened to Reese. Or, if that’s one of the things that happened to Reese. Because he bets a lot happened, over time.
His hands shake as he fiddles their room key in the lock. One of those things where you’re trying to do something simple but you’re so cold, so tired, so close to the end of your rope that your motor functions crap out and you’re scratching up the lock, wishing you were drunk enough to justify it. Wishing you were drunk at all.
Reese isn’t helping. His grip on personal space is real loose right now and he’s practically resting against Fusco’s back, like he’s a wall or a street lamp to lean on. His breath is damp and hot and it tumbles down the back of Fusco’s neck in thick, whiskey-smelling curls. He squints up at Reese, who’s still trying to crowd him against the door. “You mind breathing someplace else?”
Reese blinks at him, slow.
The lock clicks free.
The room itself is more of a Twin Peaks situation. Lots of plaid and fake-wood paneling. Not reassuring. Fusco wipes his feet on the rubber welcome mat and kicks off his shoes.
Reese slides past him into the room, dripping, tracking mud. He stands there for a moment, absorbing the space, before turning back to Fusco.
“One bed,” he murmurs.
It’s true. Double bed, plaid comforter. The mattress squeaks and groans, or Fusco doesn’t know his shitty hotels. “Yeah,” he says. “Didn’t think I’d have you to deal with tonight.”
Reese nods. “I...’m gonna sleep in the bathtub.” He totters, swaying, into the bathroom.
Fusco drops his bag to the floor, rolls his shoulder. He’s bruised, he thinks. Maybe when Reese slammed him on the picnic table, that’s when it happened. He squeezes hard at the muscle through his jacket but there’s not much he can really feel. His nose and fingertips all have that burning feeling, like when you come in from the snow too fast and you defrost, painfully.
Reese leans around the frame of the bathroom door and peers at him balefully. “Stall shower,” he says, in accusing tones.
Fusco shrugs. “Whatever, we’ll work something out. Go take a shower. You’re a mess.”
“Mmhm,” Reese acknowledges dully. He awkwardly shrugs his way out of his leather jacket, clumsily tugs up his shirt. Fusco catches a quick glimpse of puffy, broken flesh, haphazardly bandaged, before he averts his eyes.
‘Cause Reese is gut-shot still, of course. How could he forget? Fusco should never have hit him. It was stupid, reckless. He squeezes at his own fingers until he hits the edge of pain, trying to get feeling back.
He gets this itchy, pinprick feeling at the base of his skull until he turns and sees Reese watching him, his head doggishly cocked. His shirt is off, belt undone and dangling. His skin has an unhealthy, fishy whiteness except where it’s angrily red. “Yeah?” Fusco asks.
Reese says, “You cold?”
Reese looks…not confused, but like he maybe forgot how his face works. A few expressions, each of them only partway formed, slide over his face in quick succession, like how played-out ocean waves gently wear away at the sand. Something mean. Something like an almost-laugh. Something plaintive.
Fusco doesn’t know what to do about the way Reese is staring at him. “Think there’s towels in there,” he says, uselessly.
Reese blinks at him. And then, fiddling ungracefully with his fly, he turns back toward the shower, leaving the door wide open. Fusco follows him just enough to close it for him. Most of the way. He leaves a crack.
Then he sits himself down at the foot of the bed, gathered at the very corner so he won’t soak the comforter too bad. He fishes his phone out of his pocket, wipes a rainbow smear of wet across the screen. And he takes care of a couple of business items, real quick.
First, he texts Finch the good news: he got Reese to come back to the hotel. Not the biggest accomplishment, not scaling Mount Everest or anything, but it’s better than nothing at all. He texts, optimistically, that he’s going to try to get Reese to get on a plane with him in the morning.
He waits. No answer.
Second, he books them coach seats on the earliest flight he can find because he wants to get back soon and because he thinks the less time Reese has to think this through – sober up, really – the more likely it is that Reese will just go with it. Fusco uses the company card, the one Finch gave him before he left, so he figures he could've gotten them first class seats. If he thought it'd matter to Reese, he would've.
Fusco tilts his head back, blinks at the fluffy popcorn ceiling. He could've gotten a better hotel room too, probably. Fuckin' Holiday Inn, at least. Something.
But he's used to saving a little wherever he can. By the time he realized he could probably stay someplace nice, someplace better, he had already booked the room.
At that point, why go out of your way?
Fusco checks his phone again. No answer.
He doesn't know. He hopes Finch is just busy. That's the point, isn't it? That's why Finch is there and not here, talking Reese into coming home. Because Finch is a busy guy, and because Fusco is on mandatory leave. Nothing to miss this week but his grief counseling session.
Kinda fine with missing that, if this trip runs long, but it might be more trouble than it’s worth.
Fusco wrestles his way out of his cold, rubbery jacket and lets it drop on the floor. He shudders.
Third, he texts his ex. Out of town trip is still dicey, he says, but he should be back in time to do his weekend with Lee. Don’t write him off yet. Please.
Fusco peels off his wet socks and little shiny, pointy black rocks spill out. How’d they get in there? he wonders, dully, as they glint up at him from the mottled carpet. How’d they do that?
A quick, lazy search of the room reveals a stack of thin white towels on the top shelf of the closet and he pulls them down, jostling wire hangers as they go.
He pats dry his face, his hair, his neck. Then he figures, might as well, and starts peeling off his shirt, trying to figure out how to escape from wet jeans. He leaves the whole business in a pile by the closet, wraps a towel around his waist, and gets himself dry enough, warm enough.
The sound of the shower blends into the sound of the rain on the roof and Fusco tries to remember, in a sudden, gut-wrenching jolt, if there was a window in the bathroom. Because that's a Reese move, isn't it? Leave the shower running and escape out the window, leaving Fusco with his thumb up his ass.
There isn't a window. He's pretty sure. All the same he peeks through the crack he left in the door. There is a window, just above the toilet, but it’s small, too small for Reese to fit through. Probably.
Fusco pushes it out of his mind and goes to unzip his bag. He picks out a spare t-shirt, a pair of sweatpants he's pretty sure is clean. He holds them gingerly between his fingertips, cause there’s dirt on his hands, on his arms.
He knocks on the partly open bathroom door. No change, just the patter of water, the roll of steam. “Hey,” he says.
There’s the squelch of wet feet on the shower floor, and there’s his confirmation.
“I’m leaving clothes for you. OK?”
Only the sound of water, now.
“…So you don’t have to wear your wet things,” Fusco explains.
Nothing. He steps over the flat, rain-dark jeans, the crumpled boxers, and sets the dry clothes on top of the toilet lid. He makes sure to shut the door loudly when he goes.
There’s a notification on his phone when he comes back. Confirmation email for the tickets. That’s fine. He drops onto the foot of the bed, less delicately this time. What he wants to do is lie back, sprawl flat, let all the air out of his lungs until he’s warm and deflated. He wants to climb under the covers and sleep for 15 hours. But he can’t, ‘cause he’s drenched and speckled with mud. And ‘cause he thinks what he’ll have to do is let Reese take the bed and sit up all night watching him. Making sure if he tries to leave at least Fusco will be there to...to stop him. To argue about it, anyway.
He stares down his stoic, black-screened phone, waiting for something, anything from Finch. Still nothing.
He wishes, with a sudden, vicious pang, that he could talk to Carter. It’s, uh – he checks his phone – around 2:00 AM Mountain Time, which means it’s – let’s see here, two hours difference, so – 4:00 AM back in New York. So she wouldn’t be awake yet, probably. But maybe. Maybe if Finch had her running around on some errand. Or maybe she always got up real early, 4:00 AM early, jogging in her neighborhood before her shift started, getting her kid’s lunch together. She seemed like that kind, that together, morning-person type. Maybe she’d be awake.
She’d have something to say, definitely. Some advice about how to handle Reese, some question about a case to take his mind off the whole thing. A story, maybe. Didn’t she have to share a room with Reese once, that time they went to Texas when Finch got himself kidnapped? He thinks he remembers her telling him that, that he’d been a pain to live with, that she’d had some story. But he can’t remember the details, the words she used. And Reese wouldn’t remember it the way she did. He wouldn’t use the same words to tell it. So that’s all lost, now.
He hunches, rests his forearms on his knees. The thing is, if Carter was alive, he wouldn’t even be out here in Colorado. Because that’s another thing that happened to Reese. Carter died and he couldn’t do shit about it.
He wishes he got to talk to her more in those last couple months of her life. They got to talk, god, it must have been hours before it happened and it was good, it was a weight off his chest. But in the weeks and months before then it was all a struggle, all pulling teeth. And he knew in the back of his head that they were both in real trouble, that any talking they did might be their last, but he never forced the issue. He should’ve. If he’d known, he would’ve.
He just guesses he always thought it’d be him who bit the bullet. He was the one who deserved it most, the one who courted it most, the one who played too many angles. He really thought he was going to, really believed it, but…well, he didn’t. He didn’t, so no use dwelling on that.
Fusco takes his thumbnail between his teeth and worries at it, just a little. He guesses he misses her, already.
The bathroom door creaks open and a puff of steam escapes.
Reese emerges gingerly, lost in a t-shirt that flaps around his middle and sweatpants that are too wide and a little too short for his long legs. His ears are flushed from the heat. Reese has big fuckin’ ears, Fusco notices for the first time. So that’s an upside.
“OK?” he asks.
Reese nods. He’s got a towel over his shoulder and he’s twisting the end in one hand.
“OK,” he says, clapping his hands on his knees, standing up with a soft groan. “I’m gonna get a shower real quick. Take the bed, try to grab some sleep.”
Reese blinks at him. “I can…on the floor. ‘F you want the bed.”
Fusco shakes his head. “I’m taking the floor. I’m not the one who’s gut-shot.”
Reese looks down very deliberately and Fusco follows his gaze down to his own gut, down to mostly-healed surgical scars, to a pink and mottled pockmark in his side.
“…It wasn’t that bad,” Fusco says.
Reese shrugs helplessly, drunkenly. He twists his towel.
Fusco takes a risk and claps him hard on the upper arm as he pushes past him into the bathroom. “Get some shut-eye,” he says. “You’ll feel better.”
Reese looks doubtful.
Fusco shuts the door behind him, drops his towel, wonders if he isn’t making a huge mistake. If Reese won’t make a break for it while he’s in here. Fusco left his jacket on the floor with the car keys in it; Reese could snatch them and be long gone before Fusco’s washed off the last of the mud. He’d say he should’ve brought the keys in with him somehow, but Fusco knows Reese doesn’t need keys to steal a car. He’s got to trust him, at least a little bit. He can’t do anything else.
Reese left his wet clothes scattered on the floor. Fusco picks through the pockets of Reese’s leather jacket. Housekeys. Wallet. A small knife. A wad of soaked receipts. A bottle of antacids. Maybe nothing somebody like Reese wouldn’t be able to do without, but not something he’d necessarily abandon either. So there’s that. Fusco shoves the shower curtain aside.
The shower is maybe the best of his life, the kind where the heat goes straight to your bones and you feel like you’re washing off everything, every stray molecule, leaving you shiny and new and clean on like a chemical level. Probably it’s not that great. Probably it’s not all that warm and the water pressure sucks. But it feels pretty good, right in that moment.
For a long while, he braces his hands on the wall and lets it pound onto the back of his neck, run down between his shoulder blades and over his bowed head. It’s OK. It’s pretty OK.
He checks himself. Bruised on the shoulder, like he thought, and all down his side. The inside of his cheek feels ragged when he runs his tongue across it. It’s all cosmetic shit. He’s had worse. They’ve both had worse. They have worse right now.
He washes mud out of his hair with that bad shampoo you get at hotels, the kind that leaves a film, and he watches stuff he had no idea was on him spiral lazily, darkly down the drain. He spits, and for a second the spiral runs pink. He ignores the question in his head, the fearful one.
If Reese wants to go, really wants to get out of here, he will. Doesn’t matter if Fusco’s there in the room or not.
He twists the squeaky temperature knobs, brushes the sticky plastic curtain aside. He washes his mouth out at the sink, lazily dries himself with a towel, and all the time he’s listening.
Eventually, a creak of bedsprings, the whine of a zipper. Reese is still out there.
Probably fucking with Fusco’s stuff, if the sounds are any indication, but Fusco’s willing to swallow that. He pushes the door open.
The sight of Reese sitting on the bed with his knees drawn up makes Fusco choke a little. The air knots up in his throat, and he isn’t even sure why. Maybe because he looks real underfed for a second, not just because of the oversized clothes but the sharpness of his cheekbones, the way his eyes sink back. His skin’s an unhealthy color. Fusco wonders for a second if he’s on any painkillers and if they might not be getting along with the bourbon so well.
He thinks it’s more Reeselike to go without painkillers, to grit your teeth and pound whiskey and bear the throb of being gutshot stonefaced. He guesses that would make you pale too.
“Doin’ OK?” Fusco asks him.
Reese’s brow furrows, mouth turns bitter. Something changed while Fusco was in the shower, went cold. Not that any of it was really warm, but he thought the hostilities were over by now.
Fusco kneels to his duffel bag – unzipped and tossed, thank you very much Mr. Sunshine – and rummages for underwear. He’s aware of Reese’s eyes on him, boring into the back of his neck with distant, foggy petulance. Not important. He’s been looked at with hatred before and it’s just looks.
He’s got the elastic waistband of a pair of boxers over his knees and is hiking them up under his towel very discreet when Reese says, “You’re flying back tomorrow.”
Not a question. Not an order, either. Just making the facts plain. Fusco isn’t quite dumb enough to take his easy, airport bar tone at face value, so he keeps his head down, tugs his underwear the rest of the way up.
“Two tickets,” Reese continues, voice dull and thick. “Hope you don’t think I’m coming back with you.”
Fusco stands up, starts to lift his head, but he can’t quite stomach the idea of looking at Reese again, of seeing his eyes. He gets kinda stuck on Reese’s legs, the white ankles that Fusco’s borrowed sweatpants don’t quite cover. Fusco’s phone glows cheery and traitorous where it sits on the bed next to Reese’s long, bony foot. He should’ve thought about that. Too late.
“You sleeping tonight or what?” Fusco tries hard to sound as unimpressed as Reese does, but he’s never been able to get it right. He doesn’t get it right today.
Reese stretches his legs out. “Dirty trick, Lionel.”
“Wasn’t a trick.” Fusco feels exposed, wonders if it’s OK to put a shirt on while he’s standing trial for whatever it is Reese thinks he did today, whatever lie Reese has decided he told. He wishes he had pockets to put his hands in. As it is, it’s the boxers, the redundant towel over them, and Lionel crosses his arms and winces at how defensive it must make him look. “You had to know I was gonna try.”
“Couldn’t just…” He staggers, slides a little as he stands. His first step sinks, yielding, like his knee wasn’t ready to take the weight, but at the last second, he catches himself. “Couldn’t just let me be.”
Fusco shakes his head. “Nah. Not this time. Look,” he says, and he finally lets himself look Reese in the face. He doesn’t quite recoil at the sight of his waxy skin, the heavy drunken glow to his eyes. “Maybe you don’t feel up to saving anybody right now. Believe it or not, I know the feeling.”
Reese snorts hard. His next step is surer.
“But if you break with this now,” Fusco tells him, “you’re gonna regret it. And people are gonna die. I know you people think I don’t know anything, and, uh, you’re right, but I’m not so dumb I don’t know something is going on right now. Something big.”
With each step, Reese’s drunken stride changes into something a little more confident. An unsteady, predator’s stalk around the end of the bed. A mean look in his eye. He’s looking, Fusco realizes, to hurt somebody. “Something big is always happening, Lionel,” he says. “And people are always dying. Whether I’m in New York or Colorado. Go home.”
“Can’t.” He rubs his hands together nervously, keeping his sore knuckles warm and worked up, watching Reese’s steps very carefully. “You brought me into this thing, man. You know the trick.”
Reese tilts his head like some dumb little animal, eyes struggling and dim.
“The trick is,” Fusco explains, real gently, “that you start – and maybe you don’t want to; maybe you’re not sure this is what you want to do or maybe you’re dragged into it like I was – but you do start, and you do it for a while. You stick with it long enough you get to like it, and then long enough you get to be really afraid of what you’ll do, how far you’ll go. And then long enough again that you realize it doesn’t matter how far you go, you just have to go as far as you can. When the time comes where you could make a break for it, you realize you can’t. ‘Cause you’d be letting people down. That’s why I’m still in this, even though I’m pretty sure it’s gonna kill me. It’s why you’re gonna come back with me. You might be kind of a prick, but you’re too good a guy to drink yourself to death in the sticks when there are people dying at home.”
Reese blinks at him, wet-eyed. His next step sends him teetering, tilting to the left, too far, and Fusco kinda wants to let it happen. Wants to see his stupid drunk face slam into the carpet. Serve him right. But seeing him drop that way, all confused, is sad in a way Lionel doesn’t quite understand. Like if he saw a three-legged wolf struggling along the highway. Some powerful thing all fucked up and weak.
So he goes for Reese. He catches him roughly by his elbows and hangs on while Reese sags and crumples into his chest. Sounds too low to hear rumble through Reese’s shoulders, his back, and sometimes the noise jumps in pitch and becomes ragged keening. Broken, drunken, miserable sounds. Fusco, sore-fingered and scared shitless, adjusts his grip on Reese’s arms. “S’OK, guy. You’re gonna be OK. I know it’s, uh…” Fusco tugs at Reese, tries to pull the weight of him onto his shoulder. He’ll be easier to support from there. “I know it’s bad now, but…”
Reese laughs, raw and wheezing. The sickly drunk smell of his breath puffs against Fusco’s cheek and when Fusco turns to look at him, his eyes are narrow and fucking mean.
Then Reese lunges and in the second before his head slams against the wall, he knows, he knows he’s a fucking sap.
He loses about one second and when he comes back, blinking something like a camera’s flash out of his eyes, Reese is talking in his ear. He tries to turn away, to do something about the crick in his neck, and Reese’s fist tightens in his hair. He gives Fusco’s head a warning knock against the fake wood paneling on the wall.
“Thought you could fix it with a hug,” Reese remarks.
Fusco spits, “I thought you were losing it. Guess I wasn’t wrong.”
“You thought,” and Reese leans hard against him, twisting Fusco’s neck, “you could make me come back to New York by telling me what I’m too good to do. Tell me about...about letting people down. Is that a joke?” Reese pulls on his hair for leverage as he leans on him hard, as he hisses in Lionel’s ear, “What do you know about good, you corrupt piece of shit? What do you know about duty?”
Fusco jerks away from him but Reese pinches him at the nape of his neck, holds him still. “I know why you’re still in this, Lionel,” he’s whispering, “and it has nothing to do with how principled you are or how fucking good you’ve been. It’s because when I killed your best friend in the world and said that you could work for me or die, you went and hid his body for me. You’re a coward. That’s why you’re here. That’s who you are.”
The elbow Fusco sends back into Reese’s side is smooth and straight and vicious. Feeling Reese buckle around it is goddamn incredible. But that mean little pop of joy is a short-lived thing, because Reese grabs that arm, straightens it out, and he twists 'til Fusco can't even swear anymore. 'Til the only reason Reese has to pin Fusco's head to the wall is so he doesn't drop.
"We done?" Reese asks.
The skin on Fusco's forehead is kinda pinched in the sharp gap between two planks of the fake wood paneling but he keeps pressing his head there because the wall is so cool on his skin. He swallows hard.
Reese makes this odd, tutting, soothing sound. He loosens his grip just a little and lets Fusco’s forearm rotate in his hand until it’s almost back in place. “This wasn’t a good job for you,” he murmurs. “Finch never understood what you were good for. He thinks you’re smarter than you are.”
“’S OK with me,” Fusco says, words awkward and misshapen from how his cheek is pressed to the wall. “He thinks you’re a dangerous, unstable drunk who needs to be babysat.”
There’s that thick growl against his ear and then Reese’s foot slams into the back of his knee and Fusco really does drop. Reese just lets him, uses his hand to guide Fusco’s head as it skids down the wall.
He loses another second or two, somewhere after he hits the rough hotel carpet. His next impression is being dragged and then slammed against the mattress. Fusco lies there, flat on his back, watching with weird, detached interest as Reese follows him down.
He doesn't know why he's here. He thought he was made of more than this.
His knee draws up, jamming a sliver of distance between them, sinking hard into Reese's gut. Reese's breath washes over his face, swampy and hot. One hand comes to rest on the pillow next to Fusco’s head. The other one sits high on his chest, just under his throat.
"Wish I..." Reese pants, "...wish I shot you for real. That day. Who'd miss you?"
There's that weird thing that happens, when he's so angry and he's so scared that the world flexes and for a second, all he can hear is his own heart rabbiting, the white noise of blood in his ears. Fusco takes a breath. He pretends Reese doesn't have a hand on his chest and Reese doesn't already know he's afraid. "Back then?” he asks, casual. “Not a ton of people would miss me. Today? A few might." He eyes Reese. "I haven't seen a gun, but I guess that doesn't mean you don't have one."
"I don't need a gun to kill you, Lionel." Which Fusco guesses is true. He's never seen it happen, but he knows how strong Reese is, how fast. The wiry, tight-wound pressure that's bearing down on his chest, too close to his throat: yeah, that could kill him. He thinks about Reese's hand pressing his head to the wall, how easily he was pinned like that, how easy it would've been for Reese to twist his neck just a hair too far. OK.
Reese is remembering that too, Fusco thinks. He's all wide-eyed, thumb moving a little against the hollow of Fusco's throat. "Why'd you fight me?" he asks, voice wheezy, constricted by the jab of Fusco's knee. "You know that. I wouldn't even have to try. It could have been an accident."
"I know." He shifts a little to relieve the weight on his bent leg. "But, man, I don't waste my time worrying about what you might do to me. I can't."
"Wouldn't even drink with me," Reese murmurs. His eyes are unfocused. Not listening, Fusco thinks. He's someplace else. "Think you're too good to..."
The laugh that bursts out of Fusco is so loud, so sudden, he kind of scares himself. It’s too big a noise for this, too bold. But it makes him feel a little more confident, which is what he needs. "Sure. That’s it." Sitting up seems like a good idea, but he barely gets an inch off the bed before Reese forces him back down. So he sprawls, lets his head crane back against the pillow and stares past Reese up at the popcorn ceiling. "You figured it out, Sherlock. I'm too fuckin’ high and mighty to drink with you. Because I can't even grab a beer like a person without thinking about what a piece of shit I used to be. That make you happy? Huh? Jesus." He jabs up a little with his knee, knocks at the curve of Reese’s ribs. It only makes him grunt once, real soft. “You think that wasn’t hard, turning down a real drink? You think I wanna deal with your bullshit sober?”
“Go home, Lionel.”
“I want to,” he says. His voice crackles, bends. “I want to. But I’m not going home without you. That’s just how it’s going to be.”
“Finch will understand. Don’t worry about me.”
He cranes his head back further with this groan that seems to come from deep down inside of him, something pure and organic and hateful. His eyes slip shut, so tired. “I never worry about you, John. Really, I don’t. I worried about her, and I know you did too, so maybe that’s our common ground. I dunno. Jesus. She was my friend too. You think you’re the only one who wishes they could’ve saved her, the only one who’s fucked up she’s gone? I’m missing therapy to be here for you, you…” His voice shudders, crumbles, falls quiet. Fusco swallows, collects. “My son,” he says. “He’s back in New York, lying to his mother about why he can't go to sleep at night, and I have to be here with you. Let's be clear: I’m not worried about you. Right now, I'm having trouble giving a fuck about you.”
All quiet. When he risks looking again, Reese is peering down at him. Mean and distant, like Fusco’s something he found stuck to the bottom of his shoe.
“I did save her, Lionel. Once. Back when I was first getting to know her. She was…she wasn’t afraid of me. But she was going to try to stop me. And you said let her die.” The look Reese gives him is acidic, like Fusco might as well have been the one to pull the trigger. And Fusco feels his insides twist and flinch because he knows it’s true. He said that. He remembers. Shame burns in his throat.
He said let her die, but he didn’t know her then. Not like he knows her now she’s dead.
“But I protected her, that day. From everything. It seemed like the whole city wanted her dead, even you. Because she was an agitator and because she was going to the right thing in spite of the cost. She was someone the world couldn’t do without. And I saved her. And it didn’t matter.”
This thick, muddy chuckle rises in Fusco’s throat, mean and uncontrolled. "You're so stupid.” There’s a tickle in the back of his throat, hot and tasting of iron, and he swallows, swallows. “You think she saw it that way? She knew she was going to die someday 'cause she was a fucking person and that's what people do, you asshole. You won her three more years of living. You think that didn't matter? That she didn't do anything worth doing with that time? She didn't help anybody, save any lives, spend any time with her fucking kid? Where the fuck do you get off? Why don't you just spit on her grave, you selfish piece of -"
It's the kind of slap where, just for a second, you feel your soul leave your body. A real tooth-rattler. And because the first one catches him so off-guard, he doesn't have time to brace for the second one. The third one, though, that's a wild swing with Reese's closed fist and at that point Fusco's had about enough so he blocks with his forearm and goes for Reese's throat. He strikes with his middle knuckle stuck out, jagged, and Reese recoils, wheezing.
It’s all he needs, that little sliver of breathing room. He props himself up on one elbow, uses that leverage to dig his knee deep into Reese’s gut and shove. Reese drops to the side and Fusco chases, pins his wrists, slams Reese’s head against the headboard because fuck it, fuck you, let’s see how you like it.
He doesn’t like it.
Fusco leans hard on Reese’s wrists, staring into his woozy, hateful eyes. He feels some kind of magnificent waterfall of blood running over his mouth and he knows that his nose is bleeding again, so great. There’s something hot, something wet pressed up against his hip and Fusco’s not ready to think about it.
It’s an untenable position.
Reese scowls up at him, teeth bared, waiting.
“I know you’re hurting,” Fusco says to him, feeling stupid as he does it, like he’s throwing a shot glass on a house fire, knowing it’s not going to do a damn thing except maybe make it worse. “I might even forgive you for acting like an asshole; that’s how much I get it. But us killing each other isn’t gonna bring her back. It’s not even gonna make you feel better.”
And Reese cranes up against him, bloody-lipped and bedraggled, and snarls right in his face: “It should’ve been you.”
And Fusco, who’s been working on himself, who hasn’t had a drink in two years, who likes to think he’s really better as a person than he used to be, almost chokes on hate. He hasn’t even decided what to do when realizes what that hot, wet thing against his hip is.
“Oh, god,” he mumbles and he pushes off Reese to see the blood on his skin, on his underwear. To see where it pools on Reese’s gut, dark and bright all at once through the borrowed shirt. “You ripped a stitch.” He rolls off the bed, rubber-legged, and goes for his bag.
In the moment before he looks away, Reese is sitting propped up on the bed, confused and abandoned.
Fusco picks through the wreckage of his tossed suitcase until he finds another t-shirt. He jerks it over his head so hard he hears the elastic in the neck snap but he doesn't have time for that right now. Scrambles for his jacket, wrestles the keys out of the pocket by their big, plastic rental tag, and he's already out the door when he remembers about shoes. Fuck it, fuck it, he thinks as he runs out into the howling rain. No time.
In seconds, it's like he jumped in a lake. His shirt and boxer shorts soak straight through and he's spitting water as gravel pinches the soles of his bare feet. The first aid kit is in the trunk where he thinks it will be. He grabs the rattling white plastic box, shoves it under one arm, immediately distrusts its lightness. He slams the trunk. Fuck it, he thinks again as he runs back towards their room. He barely remembers to hit the clicker, has a vague impression of the car's lights flashing as he shuts the door behind him.
Reese has moved to the edge of the bed and he’s sitting there, watching his own blood spread beneath his t-shirt like it's a fucking lava lamp. When Fusco comes at him, he tries to stand.
"Sit down," Fusco snaps, grabbing him by the shoulders and pushing him back down. Maybe a little too rough for somebody whose side is ripped open. Fuck it, Reese deserves rough. Fusco kneels on the floor by Reese's feet and tries to wrestle the first-aid kit open. Should be easy, but his fingers shake a little on the latch.
He snaps it open and right away he's taking inventory. He shoves the big compress at Reese, tells him "Open it, hold it against your side," starts laying out the rest of what he needs. Gauze. Medical tape. Two of those little antiseptic towelettes.
"Lionel," Reese whispers.
"Shut up." Gloves. Where are gloves? He scoops out a wad of band-aids, a plastic-wrapped pair of tweezers, and throws them aside. There they are, off-white and smushed in a plastic bag. They crinkle and snap around his hands as he yanks them on, but they don't rip.
Reese still hasn't negotiated the plastic on the compress so Fusco snatches it from his hands, rips the plastic off, shoves the bottom of Reese's shirt up and the compress against that mess on his stomach and he holds.
Then, for a few seconds, quiet. Reese shuts his mouth and Fusco can't think of anything he wants to say to him, so it's just rain pattering on the roof, him dripping on the carpet, Reese's pulse, steady but lazy. His own breath is the loudest thing.
When he glances up, Reese is watching him. Vaguely interested, the way you might look if you were watching a show you didn't care about so much. Fusco's not sure what to tell him, so he just says, "I'm gonna hold this here until the bleeding dies down."
Reese breathes, thick and rattling. The skin around one eye is swelling, darkening. Maybe he’ll have a shiner. Good. Good. Fusco takes a deep breath, leans harder on the compress.
“After that,” he continues, because he needs to hear something even if it’s just his own voice, “we’ll see how bad it is.”
“You been to a hospital for this at all?”
“She studied to be a doctor,” he says softly.
“Yeah. But she isn’t one.”
“Neither are you.”
“Buddy,” Fusco says as he peels back the compress, cringing and curious, “if I had my way, I wouldn’t be doing this right now.”
It bleeds. Not nearly as much as it did earlier. Maybe this won’t be so bad.
“’Buddy,’” Reese repeats to himself, turning the word over and over in his mouth. Like he can’t quite believe Fusco said it.
Fusco wishes he couldn’t believe it either, except he’s used to this sap shit from himself right now. He thinks at first it helped to treat Reese like a shitty, deadbeat friend instead of what he was because it kept him from thinking too hard about how fast Reese might turn on him if he did the wrong thing. Now it’s sincere, probably, which might be worse.
He peels back the compress again. It’s red and angry and it oozes threateningly, but it’s not that bad. He sets the compress aside and starts fiddling with the tearaway notch in the first antiseptic wipe.
Reese keens sharply when Fusco first wipes it over the puffy wound, tries to twist away but Fusco grabs him by the hip and eventually, he relaxes.
The wound that emerges as Fusco wipes it clean is angry, bleeding, but shallower than he thought it was. Just a ripped stitch, he tells himself. Just a little bit of blood. It looks worse than it is. He shivers.
“You think we’re friends, Lionel?”
“I think you’re a pain in my ass,” he says, “and I don’t want you to die. I dunno if that means I qualify as a friend from where you’re standing.”
Reese asks the question: “Why are you alive when she’s dead?”
It does sting, just like he thought it would. Just like he hoped it wouldn’t. He hoped anything else Reese said to him tonight would be a dead horse situation. No more hurt to bring. And maybe that’s the case because it does hurt, but it’s a clean, earnest kind of hurt, and he doesn’t feel one way or the other about it. “I dunno,” he says, very tired. “It just happened that way.”
“She was better than you.”
“You don’t even care.”
Fusco kinda digs in with the antiseptic wipe, leans into Reese’s hiss of pain. It’s easier to do that then be mad. “Lots of people are better than me. If I broke down every time I thought about that, I’d be fuckin’ dead.” He sighs, drops the wipe off to one side, tears the second one open with his teeth. “Of course I care. I’m just gonna have to try, you know? Do what I can to help people. She was better than you too, so, you know, just try to be a fucking adult about it.”
“It would’ve been better,” Reese murmurs, “if it’d been-”
“Do you want me to hit you?” Fusco interrupts.
He sneers. “That a threat, Lionel?”
“No, man,” he says. “I’m just asking. Not like I don’t know when you’re digging at me.”
Reese is quiet.
“If you’re wondering,” Fusco continues, “I’m pretty sick of it. It’s not even making me feel better anymore, it’s just…” He sighs. “I dunno, man. I’m worried about you.”
Reese says, “It was making me feel better.”
“It was good to not…think about things.”
Fusco nods. “I get that.”
Reese’s breathing is slow now, even. He shifts back a little on the bed and when Fusco tries to stop him Reese swats his hands away and shushes him. He comes back with Fusco’s towel, lost during the fight, and drapes it over Fusco’s shoulders. Casually, lazily, he starts to dry off Fusco’s hair.
Fusco looks up at him but Reese is sort of dreamy and unreadable. Not angry, though. Not anymore. Maybe he’s tired too. Fusco swallows up his questions. “I’m just gonna…tape you up.”
So Fusco tears off strips of medical adhesive and unwraps gauze while Reese gently blots at his face and hair. And it’s better, he thinks, to let Reese have something to do, even if it’s a little thing. He feels better. Not so cold. He could do without the towel in his face, but at least there’s no water in his eyes.
"You're bleeding," Reese remarks for the second time that night.
"Yeah." He presses the gauze pack to Reese's side with one hand, swipes the warm, sticky trickle of blood sideways across his brow with the back of his hand. "Great. You noticed."
Reese takes the corner of his towel and starts flaking the blood away. He stops a moment to get his bearings, tongue screwed into his cheek like a...like a sculptor thinking about where to chisel next. "That me?" Reese asks, pressing his thumb to the cut.
"Ow." He shakes his head, shakes off Reese's hand. "Who else would it be?"
Them. Them is a memory now. The bullet hole in his gut is cautiously knitting itself back together. The bones in his hand are sturdy, even if they're a little crooked and there's still yellow-greenish bruises in the space between his fingers. Even the one he left alive is gone. But he guesses that for Reese, that day is still basically yesterday. "Nah," he says, as he tapes down the edges of the pad. "That's all you."
"'M sorry," Reese says, and he sounds like he really is, like he’s just sick about it. "I would've come for you, but I was...I was busy."
"Don't worry about it. I can take care of…” Reese’s hand settles on his head again. “…myself.” Fusco does his best to ignore Reese’s fingers scratching against his scalp as he checks the gauze one last time. “OK. I think we’re done. You better lie down."
"I should've," Reese murmurs. "You're my problem."
"Aw." He shoves Reese’s shoulders. "Lie down, jackass."
Reese flops back against the mattress in a directionless kind of way. Lying there with his legs hanging off the edge of the bed, with his hair dark and still damp, he looks really pathetic.
As Fusco picks Reese’s legs up and puts them into bed so he’s kind of in there, curled along the edge, Reese asks, "Is your son OK?"
"Yeah," he says, automatically. “He’s fine. Little…little shaken up, maybe. He’s, um…” Fusco looks away from Reese’s face, concentrates on tugging the covers out from under him. “Shaw’s the one who saved him. Kinda hard to explain to the cops. Or to his mom. So we decided to keep it quiet. And, uh, I’m thinking that might not have been the best choice.” He gives the comforter one last yank and it slips out from under Reese’s legs. Fusco throws it over him. “We’ll figure it out. He’ll be fine. Get some sleep.”
“What’d they do to you, Lionel?”
He stiffens, scowls at Reese, but it’s hard to hate him too much, all banged up and drawing the covers up to his chin. “You don’t know?”
“There was a lot going on that night.”
“Yeah. ‘S true.” He takes a deep breath, holds up his right hand and spreads out the fingers. “They broke these,” he says, pointing. “I broke my thumb. Knocked me around a little. Shot me, uh, here,” he says, tapping his stomach where he knows Reese saw the scar. “And they threatened my son.”
Reese curls under the comforter, watching him.
“OK.” He slaps Reese’s knee under the blanket. “There’s your bedtime story. Sleep.”
He shakes his head. “I’m staying up a while. I got things to do.”
From the way his brows furrow, Fusco can tell Reese knows what that means. “I’m not coming with you.”
Fusco shrugs. “Then I guess I’m staying here.”
He picks his phone up and sits down at the edge of the bed with his back to Reese. He can feel him shifting around behind him. An early morning text from his ex-wife – “ok” – no capitalization or punctuation. Probably she rolled over and went right back to sleep after she hit send.
Reese’s fingers are curling in the back of his shirt. He tries not to move.
Still nothing from Finch. That feels wrong.
“Lionel.” Reese tugs at him.
“You should go home. And be with your son. ‘M gonna stay here.”
“Oh, yeah?” he murmurs, checking to see if maybe he missed the notification. “What are you gonna do out here?”
No, definitely nothing. That’s weird.
“I was thinking I’d…live in the mountains a while. Be by myself. Live in a cabin and…hunt. And sleep. And be alone.”
“Then I guess I’m learning to camp, ‘cause one thing I’m not doing is leaving you alone out here. That’s pretty much a bad idea by definition.”
Reese’s fingers tighten in the back of Fusco’s shirt.
“Anyway,” he says, peering over his shoulder at Reese, “I don’t see you surviving without takeout.”
Reese’s mouth quirks, sharp. “I don’t see you surviving in the wilderness, Lionel.”
“Yeah, well,” he says, returning to his phone, flipping anxiously through his emails just in case there’s something, “you try it, and we’ll see who drops dead first.”
Nothing. Still nothing.
“Lionel,” Reese says again. Fusco can feel his fingers scratching gently at his lower back through the thin fabric.
He shivers, arches, doesn’t hate it. “Yeah?”
“’M sorry about your shirt.”
“I got blood on it.”
“Oh.” He shrugs. “No big deal. I can get the stain out.”
And Reese pulls at the back of his shirt, gentle but demanding. And for a few reasons – because he’s cold and the bed is warm, because he’s too tired to argue and too worried to go to sleep, because he doesn’t want to fight Reese anymore tonight – Fusco lets himself be pulled.
They take a few moments to rearrange. Fusco stays on top of the covers, sprawled on his back, hands to himself. Reese rolls onto his side and rests his forehead against the rounded point of Fusco’s shoulder. One hand is trapped beneath Fusco in the center of his back. The other curls in his sleeve.
“Your gut OK like that?” Fusco asks.
“Don’t fuckin’ bleed to death.”
He can feel Reese’s voice buzzing against him when he speaks. He’s not sure how he feels about that.
“I’m getting sick of that.”
“You didn’t kill him,” Reese asks, “did you?”
He tightens up a little. “Simmons, you mean?”
Reese nods. Fusco feels this rather than seeing it.
“No. I arrested him.” He rolls his shoulders against the mattress. “He is dead, though.”
“Somebody killed him in the hospital.”
“Not me,” Reese says.
“I know,” Fusco says. “You were unconscious. You woulda been my first suspect.”
“Wish it could’ve been me.” Reese lifts his head just slightly. “You wish that?”
“Me? I don’t know.” He breathes deep. “Probably I would’ve killed him, yeah. If it wasn’t for her.”
Reese goes still beside him, breathing rhythmically.
“But, uh. Didn’t seem right. Doing that for Carter, in her name. She wasn’t about that. She woulda wanted him to go to trial. See justice served or whatever.” He clears his throat. “Probably for the best he’s dead. He woulda done OK in prison. Still,” he says, “I’m actually kinda pissed he’s dead. Like on her account. Is that weird?”
He takes his first glance at Reese since he lay down and Reese is looking at him with watery eyes. Shoulda brought him a razor, Fusco thinks, dazedly. This guy needs a shave.
Reese buries his face in Fusco’s shoulder. “You miss her?” he asks. It’s muffled.
“Yeah,” Fusco says. “‘Course I do. She was my partner. When I’m at work now, I don’t know what to do with myself. I just got that empty chair across the desk from me and I keep thinking I’ll look up and she’ll be there. And then I realize she won’t be there, not ever, and then I start to think about how they’re gonna fill that spot with somebody else and I don’t…I’m gonna hate that person for not being her. For trying to fill that chair. That’s not fair. I’m already mad at myself and I haven’t even done it yet. I…” He takes a deep breath. “I keep wanting to talk to her, just…about stuff. Work. This whole thing. You, even. I haven’t told anybody…you know I texted her? A couple days ago. Like, it was early and I wasn’t thinking and I just did it. Something stupid, I think I asked if she wanted coffee. I don’t even know where her phone is now. I just hope her ex doesn’t get that stupid text.” He thumps the mattress with his open palm, accidentally catches Reese’s thigh with his second two fingers. He curls his fingers in the covers. “What about you, man? You miss her?”
Reese just says, “Yes.” His voice is tight. The space where his face meets Fusco’s shoulder is hot.
Fusco waits a while, to see if he wants to talk about it. He doesn’t seem to, not anymore. That’s kind of a relief. It’s already the most Fusco’s said about it to anybody.
“She was your friend?” Reese murmurs, making him jump.
Fusco takes a deep breath and tells it to the water-stained popcorn ceiling. “Yeah. Best friend I had, maybe. We weren’t all that much alike, but, uh. When you’re in something like this, it changes shit, you know? Bridges gaps. You need somebody to talk to about all this insane crap and we were the only ones we had for that. I don’t know who I have for that now. You, maybe.” He grins, impossibly sad. “I don’t have all that many friends.”
Reese whines against his shoulder and automatically, before he has a shot at thinking about how weird this is, he puts his hand on the back of Reese’s head and scratches, lazy and deep. Like he’s comforting his kid. He has an odd, close smell about him, sweat and damp and cheap shampoo.
Slowly, sleepily, Reese slides an arm over Fusco’s chest and Fusco lets him. “Lionel?” he says for the last time, his voice fading.
His warm hand plucks at Lionel’s chest. “You’re wet.”
“Yeah,” he says. “I know. I was in the rain.”
Reese is already snoring.
At the airport, Fusco buys a bottle of club soda, Tylenol – maximum strength – and a pair of cheap sunglasses. He is glancing over his shoulder the whole time.
The whole time, Reese stays hunched in his seat near their gate. Still, Fusco isn’t quite ready to let Reese out of his sight. Probably he won’t be until the plane is in the air.
“Here,” he says, holding the sunglasses out. Reese takes them, puts them on. The sun isn’t even up yet but they both know what he’s in for. He opens the club soda for Reese, forces it into his unresponsive hand, and gets to work on the child safety stuff for the Tylenol. “You should drink that,” he says when Reese doesn’t move. “It’ll make you feel better.”
Reese chugs half the bottle joylessly. He swallows hard, gathers himself a moment. “I’m just putting you on the plane,” he insists.
“Sure, whatever.” He punches his thumb through the foil and taps two pills into his palm. He offers them up and Reese swallows them dry. “You can’t drink for like 8 hours after this. If you start hurting, let me know. I’ll give you more.”
“Shut up. Either you’re getting on that plane with me or we’re both going camping or whatever the fuck. You’re not getting rid of me. That’s it.”
Reese stews behind his shitty knock-off Ray Bans. Finally, he holds out his hand and Fusco shakes two more pills into his palm. He swallows, chases them with another sip of club soda.
“Listen,” Fusco says, as he digs his phone out of his still-wet pockets, “I wanna show you something. See this? This is my texts to Glasses from yesterday. I let him know when I landed in Colorado, I let him know when I made you, I let him know when we made contact and when I brought you back to the hotel. The last time I heard back from him? On the plane on my way here. And maybe some of that early shit, I could wave away, say he didn’t care to say anything. But it’s been 12 hours and he hasn’t said shit. Hasn’t asked if you’re OK, hasn’t asked to talk to you. Nothing. This isn’t like him, and you know it. Maybe you don’t give a shit if I need you back home, but somebody does.”
Reese leans back in his chair. He holds out his hand again and this time Fusco gives him one Tylenol.
“I’m cutting you off for now,” he says.
Reese cracks the pill between his teeth.
All through boarding, all through the safety talk, even through takeoff, Fusco can barely stay seated. He’s too fucking nervous, too sure Reese is gonna elbow him in the face and make a break for it and he – exhausted, hurt, trapped in a tight fucking plane, and bleeding from the nose – will never catch up with him. But Reese stays by him, buckles up when he’s asked, and takes periodic sips of fizzy water. Fusco, feeling optimistic, texts Finch to know they’re both on the plane and they’re coming back. No answer before he has to turn his phone off. Maybe there will be when he turns it on again. Maybe it’s for nothing, the worry.
When the plane takes off, it pushes Fusco back into his seat and he’s so fucking relieved he could almost pass out right there. But it takes him a while for his ears to pop, for the plane to settle, for his eyes to start drifting shut. He doesn’t even know he’s falling asleep until Reese puts a hand on his face and guides Fusco’s head onto his shoulder.
“You don’t need me,” Reese says, softly, suddenly. His eyes are still hidden, but his mouth is strange, soft and half-sad.
“Don’t be stupid,” Fusco tells him. And his eyes slip shut.
The next time he sees Reese, they are on the ground and things are serious.