Fusco creeps his way downstairs, the steps groaning softly beneath his feet. He’s not sure what he’s expecting. Anger, maybe. Embarrassment. Finch doesn’t have a leg to stand on, not after he gave Fusco free run of the house. Not after he gave himself free run of Fusco’s house. Still, Fusco’s brief investigation of the upstairs rooms and the contents of their closets feels invasive. Maybe Finch has a right to be pissed off.
If he is, he’s not exercising it. Finch is waiting for him at the bottom of the stairs. His hand rests on the top of the dark, oaken globe at the end of the banister and his face is upturned, hopeful.
“Hello.” He says it very gently, like a casual touch on the arm.
Fusco clears his throat. “Hey.” He doesn’t quite make it all the way down the stairs. He remains a little ways up because Finch gazing up at him is a sight he could get used to and he’s still a little afraid.
“Learn anything?” Finch asks.
He shakes his head. “Nah. You?”
The crinkles in the corners of his eyes deepen when he smiles. “No discoveries that will turn the world on its head. Apparently, I always think your legs are longer than they really are. But I don’t think you’re being truthful with me,” he says, rounding the end of the banister and rising to the challenge of the first step. “If you have questions, it’s better to ask them right away.”
That’s probably true. He’s just not sure how to phrase it in the form of a question. “You’re sleeping in my bed,” Fusco says.
Finch raises his eyebrows. “How unusually presumptuous of you. I would have said that it was my bed. Given that it’s in my house.”
“Okay.” Fusco takes a deep breath. “So you had me sleep in your bed.”
“Not the whole truth,” Finch says. “I only told you that I intended to sleep in the master bedroom that night. The decision of where you were to sleep was always in your hands. Not that it matters. I never slept at all that night.”
“But it wasn’t true,” Fusco insists, desperately maneuvering around something that’s bothering him about what Finch just said. “You don’t sleep in that big room. Any idiot could tell that.”
“No. Not anymore. I used to. Not often,” he admits. “I think I mentioned once that I’ve never spent much time in this house. I use it for missions where I might need to discard my identity and my house very quickly and without regrets. But the master bedroom was specifically designed for my use and, yes, on those missions, that was where I stayed. And, ah, you’ve ruined that for me, somehow. It’s very empty, isn’t it? That room. Very bare and very cold. I never noticed before you spent the night, but now it’s all I can think about when I try to rest there. It’s unbearable.”
“Well, uh. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Finch says. “You didn’t make it that way. It was always like that.”
There’s another question nagging at Fusco, one that’s been bothering him since last night when they first talked about meeting up. “I thought you were gonna get rid of this place,” he says before he can stop himself. “I thought you said you were going to move out and sell it fast just to get away from me.”
“That was my intention.”
“It didn’t happen,” Finch says simply. “I didn’t, ah.” He trails off, takes a moment to find the words he wants again. “My security is important to me. My identities. I can’t bring you too far into my life, for both our sakes,” he says. He tries a weak smile. “I don’t want you knowing too much about me, I’m afraid. But I couldn’t…I didn’t want to lose the one place that I could bring you back to.”
His heart is fluttering crazily, light and fast and frantic pulses like it’s trying to escape his chest. “Oh,” he says, for lack of a better thing to say.
Finch takes one step up the stairs and Fusco doesn’t back away, not even after Finch holds out his hand. “Just, please. Come with me.”
When Fusco lets his hand rest on Finch’s soft open palm, it closes around him like a promise.
“Okay,” Finch says. His other hand comes to rest on the back of Fusco’s, to cradle it. “Come on. Let’s finish up.”
Fusco lets himself be coaxed down the steps and back into the study. He’s very aware of how tense he is, of how fast his heart is pattering. He’s aware of the grip Finch has on his hand, not painful but very firm, and the look Finch keeps giving him. Like Fusco’s a house of cards and matchsticks and at any wrong, indelicate move on Finch’s part, he might collapse in a heap.
He can’t be completely certain that won’t happen.
In the study, Finch pulls him in front of the mirrors, grabs Fusco by the shoulders and turns him this way and that so he’s posed exactly how Finch wants him. “There,” Finch says. “There now.” When he speaks to him, it’s in low, gentle tones like you might use on a scared animal. His hands find the topmost button on Fusco’s shirt and ease it open. “Could you shut your eyes, please?” he asks.
Fusco swallows hard.
The next button down comes open and Finch’s fingertips brush incidentally at the space just above where his undershirt begins, as low on Fusco’s chest as he can get. He pauses. “You don’t have to,” Finch reassures him. “I don’t have to. I’m sorry, I should step outside and let you get ready yourself.”
Fusco’s eyelids drop shut.
Finch’s gasp is very small, barely a true sound in the scheme of things. “Oh,” he says. “Oh, you’re sure?”
Fusco nods once.
“Alright.” He feels his shirt open further. “If you’re certain.” Finch pushes the collar of his shirt open wide, brushes at the tops of Fusco’s broad shoulders so the shirt slides free and leaves them bare. He can hear his shirt fall to the floor with a gentle rustle. “Maybe this is overcautious of me,” Finch says, “and it’s entirely possible that it would be best if I just…stopped talking, but.” His fingers curl in the hem of Fusco’s undershirt. He begins to tug upward, haltingly. “I only want to be very clear that if anything I do makes you uncomfortable, I’d like to know about it.”
“Finch?” He grabs blindly at the front of the undershirt and feels Finch’s hands slip weakly away.
He drags the shirt off over his head, crumples it in one hand and lets it drop. “Stop talking.”
He hears the click in Finch’s throat when he swallows. “If you say so,” he murmurs. Fusco feels his hand before it truly lands; its heat touches him first, roams incorporeally and haltingly across his chest until skin follows. The touch is curious and fearful, the slightest pressure of fingertips. He thinks of a waterstrider skimming on the surface of a lake with only lightness and surface tension preventing it from plunging through. Finch doesn’t plunge through. His fingertips wander from the solid, lightly ridged plane of his breastbone down to the soft rise of his stomach and gradually the five points of touch stretch out and expand to one flat palm on his belly.
Finch is smooth there. Fusco always thinks his hands are so soft because Finch is all comfy at his desk and doesn’t seem like the type to labor, but it’s not true, not exactly. His fingers are strong like wire and calloused from precise and repetitive work on the insides of his knuckles and the pads of his fingers. Flat and still like this, Fusco almost thinks he can feel each individual line and whorl of his fingerprints. But his palm seems untouched and smooth as cream. He wants to make a grab for it. He wants to know what Finch is going to do next if Fusco does nothing. Curiosity wins out.
Finch’s hand moves up an inch, down an inch, a tentative rub, a stab at familiarity. He squeezes just a little, lets his fingers pinch into the rise at the bottom of Fusco’s belly. His hand drops further, to the button on Fusco’s pants, and starts to fumble it open.
In retrospect, kind of predictable.
Now that he knows a little more about the direction they’re heading in, it’s an easy thing for Fusco to jump in, to let his hands mingle with Finch’s as they strip him down together. He kicks the pants off from around his ankles, gets them under one foot and shoves them away along the carpet. It seems like Finch’s confidence is bolstered by Fusco’s help (his endorsement, he guesses) and he can hear him shuffling along like he does, fussing around with new energy. Fusco barely has a moment to zero in on where Finch is exactly before there’s a crisp, cool, factory-smooth shirt pressed up to his back and Finch is nudging at his arms.
“No undershirt?” he asks as his wrists get lost in the sleeves.
“No,” Finch says as his arms sneak around Fusco’s middle. Somehow, half-naked in another man’s home office with his eyes shut tight as the other guy dresses him up, this is the daring move. The drape of Finch’s arms across his stomach, the press of Finch’s odd, stiff body behind him, the push of one cheek as it rests against the back of Fusco’s head. He can feel the movements of Finch’s jaw when he speaks again. “Not for now.” He pulls the shirt closed across Fusco’s chest and gets to work on buttoning it up. Fusco, at a loss, tries to help him out only to have his hands brushed away. “You’re buttoning unevenly. Stop that.”
“Okay.” Fusco swallows. “You’re the professional.”
The fit’s good, he thinks desperately as Finch straightens him up. He thinks this shirt might fit even better than the others Finch got him. It’s hard to tell at this point. He’s so used to wearing shirts made to fit somebody else, some kind of standard-sized, standard-shaped guy who hasn’t gone off the rails like he has. Anything that’s even kind of made for him feels foreign and amazing. He couldn’t possibly get into specifics or subtle differences. Not now. Finch’s breath is tickling Fusco’s scalp through his thin hair.
Then he’s gone again. Fussing around with the mannequin, maybe. Trying to decide what to drape on Fusco next.
When he reappears, it’s as a pair of hands guiding him into trousers. “Come on,” Finch murmurs, soft and coaxing. He reaches up to take Fusco’s wrist, to guide his palm down onto Finch’s bony shoulder. “So you have something to lean on,” he explains.
Fusco tries not to. He imagines Finch bending, creaking like an old tree in a strong wind, and then snapping neatly in two with a dry, crispy sound. It’s too easy to imagine. He thinks he can feel the faint hum of a groan that is not yet voiced in the bones of Finch’s shoulder, just vibrating there, waiting for the moment when Fusco screws up and destroys him.
Finch isn’t thinking about these things. Finch has trousers pulled up around Fusco’s calves while his fingertips are lost in the space behind his knee, where it’s tender and vulnerable and ticklish. His fingers go from soft, curious rubbing to the lightest scrape of nail.
A muscle in his leg twitches hard and he asks, “Can you lay off? My knees are gonna buckle if you keep ticklin’ me like that.”
“Would that be so bad?” Finch asks him, but he does stop. He pulls up the pants and tucks the shirt all in and buttons and zips him up. Finch let him do this part himself before. He doesn’t seem willing to do that now.
“Y’know, I know how to dress myself,” he comments.
“I assumed as much,” Finch says from somewhere down around his knees. “As far as I can tell, you do it almost…” There’s a soft grunt, a creak of stiff bones. “…Every day,” Finch finishes from his full height, somewhere right in front of Fusco’s face.
“But you’re doing it anyway.”
“You let me,” Finch points out.
He did. Because Finch wanted to touch him and Fusco wanted to let him. He feels sick and nervous.
“Do you want me to stop?” Finch asks.
Why does he keep making me say it? Fusco wonders, anxious and miserable. Why can’t he just let it alone? “No,” he says. Jesus, he sounds sad and weak. “No, I don’t.”
Finch pops up his shirt collar, stiff and neat, and slips a tie around his neck like a soft, silky noose. “Are you alright?”
Finch’s fingers tighten the tie busily. His breaths puff unsteadily against one of Fusco’s cheeks. “You don’t sound alright.”
One of Finch’s fingertips wanders out of its jurisdiction and brushes against the line of Fusco’s jaw. “You don’t look alright,” he says.
“I don’t know about that,” Fusco says. “My eyes are closed.”
Finch sighs, long and slow. “Do you want to open them? Would that make you more comfortable?”
“It’s easier for you, isn’t it?” Finch says. He lets his whole hand wander up Fusco’s neck and cradle the curve of his cheek and jaw. “If I’m doing this to you. You don’t have to take an active part.”
He says nothing.
“You were earlier,” Finch says. “What happened?”
“Could you just…just tie the damn tie. Please?”
Finch’s hand slips away, fingertips catching on the faint late afternoon growth of stubble like they don’t want to let go. He feels the tie settle secure around his neck.
Suit jacket comes next and that’s good; that’s another, thicker layer between the two of them, shielding the raw spots they just uncovered. It slips around him like a hard shell, like armor. Protection from Finch and the world. It’s snug in a way that still affords movement, like a hug that’s loose enough to not be smothering and tight enough to never let go. He tries to focus on Finch, on the distance he’s putting between them. We’re not too close, he repeats to himself. We’re not too close and this is normal and I don’t get a sick thrill out of being petted and worried over and dressed up by him and I don’t miss it when he’s not sneaking little touches and he’s not sneaking little touches and this is normal.
Finch is pinning little cuff links to his wrists.
Finch is putting something in his breast pocket.
Finch is tightening the thick, cold band of a watch.
Finch is dropping down (down to his knees, maybe) and putting guiding hands on Fusco’s calves as he slides his feet into brand new shoes.
Finch is up and looking for something, rattling things around on the sewing table. He comes back and Fusco gets a noseful of some strong, masculine scent with a chemical edge. It’s not one of Finch’s colognes; Fusco knows those scents and this isn’t one of them. He feels cool alcohol dabs at the backs of his ears. He inhales deeply. The scent is subtle and straight-edged and clean. Not one of Finch’s, but one that Finch would like.
“You finally did it,” he says.
“You finally found a way to make me smell like plaid.”
It’s weird how he can hear Finch smile, crooked and tentative. “Glen check, Detective. You smell like glen check.” He tugs at the hem of the jacket, pulls the wrinkles out. He pinches the shoulders and drags outward.
“Can I look?” he asks.
“Not yet,” Finch says. He’s on the move again, walking a tight circle around Fusco, examining and tugging and once reaching out to play around with Fusco’s hair. “Just a little bit longer.”
“What else is there to do?”
“Nothing,” Finch admits. “A little straightening up. I want it to look right. I want you to see what I see.”
“What the hell do you see?”
“It’s difficult to explain.” Finch settles off to one side with a hand on Fusco’s shoulder and Fusco turns blindly to face him. “You…perhaps you’d better just look.”
For the first time in what feels like too long, he opens his eyes. The study is blinding and tinted green and he blinks until his eyes adjust.
The first thing he sees is Finch. Finch, with his hand still resting numbly on Fusco’s shoulder and his eyes all wide and pale and his lips mutely parted, is just staring. Fusco can see his throat working, just over the knot of his deep red tie.
“Oh,” Finch whispers, so soft it’s almost not an actual vocalization so much as a sigh that came out with a little bit of voice hanging on to it.
Finch tilts his head wordlessly in the direction of the mirror.
He knows why Finch won’t speak now because he can’t find any words himself. He almost doesn’t recognize the person in the mirror. That guy looks good. That guy looks distinguished, like he’s got taste and money. That guy looks like he might own reading glasses made by Porsche and not understand why that’s fucking ridiculous. That guy, in his dark blue suit with coppery pinstripes running through it like veins of gold, in his burnt orange tie with a neat half-Windsor knot, in his shoes that shine like glass, in his watch that costs more than his car, with his fucking pocket square, is not a dirty cop.
That guy is somebody. And he’s not sure how it is that Finch, who sees everything, is so blind that he can even begin to see Fusco like that.
He sneaks a glance at Finch in the mirror, so Finch doesn’t know he’s looking. Finch hasn’t moved from his position at Fusco’s side with his hand on Fusco’s shoulder. He hasn’t even moved his head. Finch is still staring at him, not at the suit or how he’s wearing it, but him. His face. He’s just watching Fusco’s profile, looking really hard for something. Approval, maybe, or acceptance. A smile. Finch has this edge to his expression, like it could tip over to happiness or despair at any second. His eyes are so damn sad, so worried, and Jesus, nobody should ever get that worked up over Fusco. Nobody. Especially not Finch, who is cool and calculating and knows what the hell’s going on. He should relax. He shouldn’t be bothering.
He turns his head to tell Finch so and finds that he can’t, finds that he’s caught in that stare because it’s not just sad, it’s terribly hopeful and it’s wanting. It’s wanting him and he can’t remember being looked at like that before, ever.
That’s what makes him do it. That’s what makes him lean inward and upward, bounce up just the slightest bit on his toes, and press a soft little brush of a kiss to Finch’s slightly open mouth. Because Finch looked like he wanted him so much and Fusco didn’t understand.
It only takes a moment. Just a quick brush of lips and the tips of their noses and then Fusco’s rocking back on his heels, safe and smooth. A clean break. As clean a break as he can manage, under the circumstances. He rocks back, he settles, and he watches Finch’s still face, waiting for a reaction.
For what feels like a long while, there is no reaction. Finch breathes unsteadily with his eyes cast down and his lower lip trembling almost imperceptibly. He doesn’t make a sound. He doesn’t move. His hand doesn’t even tighten or slacken its grip on Fusco’s shoulder.
“Sorry,” Fusco says after a while. He feels heat rising in his face, reality seeping back in. “Sorry, you just looked like maybe…I don’t know. I shouldn’t have done that. I’m sorry.”
Finch takes a very shaky deep breath.
“That was, uh, kind of a leap I made there, huh?” Fusco continues. He tries a smile. “I didn’t mean to. We can forget all about it if you want - ” but that’s all he gets out before Finch’s hands are on his face and his fingers are curled tight around the back of Fusco’s head and their faces are dragged close and Finch’s mouth is pressed demandingly, determinedly, to his.
He freezes. Just freezes up all of a sudden because no matter how hard he walked into it, it seems wrong that Finch should be taking hold of him now, that Finch should be scratching at the backs of his ears in an effort to pull him closer, that Finch should be sinking sharp possessive teeth into his lower lip with a moan like something sick and dying.
Fusco realizes that his hands are up, palms flat and arms drawn close to the body like he’s bracing for a fall but there’s no fall coming. Slowly, he lets his arms drop. They settle in a gentle, cautious kind of way around Finch, hands gathering at the small of Finch’s back. The push of Finch’s mouth lets up just enough for Finch to sigh, let out this sweet, pained, happy little noise. He relaxes just a little, lets himself lean against Fusco. His hands uncurl from their claws behind Fusco’s ears.
He should say something, now, while their lips aren’t crushed together and they’re just resting together. Something like, “I’ve been thinking about this for a while without knowing it,” or “Thank God, I’m not crazy,” or “Are you okay?” because even though he’s not being scratched anymore, Fusco can still feel Finch’s palms where they press at his jaw and his arms where they latch over his shoulders, tight and hard and ferocious and trembling. Fusco guides him a little closer so they’re not just joined at the head and shoulders, so their feet are like the teeth in a zipper and their chests are flush together and Finch is sort of curved over the swell of Fusco’s stomach. Fusco wonders if his back’s going to be okay with that.
He guesses Finch doesn’t care so much whether his back hurts or not because he bends to kiss Fusco again and it’s less of a collision, more of a knock at the door.
Let me in.
Fusco parts his lips and he feels Finch hum. He feels Finch’s mouth coax his open and Finch’s tongue slip in and he lets it happen. Just accepts and lets Finch in because whatever’s about to happen, he doesn’t want to miss it.
Finch keeps bending him. He seems reassured that Fusco isn’t going to pull away now so he’s not clinging on so hard anymore. He lets one hand drop to skim down his neck, his shoulder, his back, and stop on his hip and during that whole slow journey downward, he rounds out Fusco’s back into an arc tilting backwards and Finch leans into it.
Fusco, who is adjusting his stance, who is letting one of his hands creep up the forbidden highway of Finch’s spine, who is feeling like they can’t stay upright, like they have to hold tight enough to fuse flesh and bone together or they are going to fall, thinks to himself in a dim kind of way Is this what it’s like being dipped? as the two of them gradually tip off-balance.