Ever since Harold had begun to accept Reese’s presence in his life, the boy had taken to trying to take care of Harold’s each and every need without an ounce of subtlety. Whenever it wasn’t annoying, it was so, terribly annoying.
It came to a point where Harold had sat Reese down and insisted firmly that he was quite capable of taking care of daily procedures by himself, thank you very much, and if Reese wanted to be helpful so much, the only help he would accept was with gardening, when it was his turn to maintain the campus garden. It was hard on his bad leg to keep crouched for so long. After that talk, things had calmed down to a point Harold could be satified with.
It went without saying, of course, that the cuddling at night was to continue, tears or no tears. Reese was even allowed to sleep in what was once Nathan and Harold’s shared bed, even if he wasn’t one of the residents of the room.
On his birthday, Reese had taken him out bird watching. He’d even bought Harold an entire packet of bird food. It was touching until Harold found himself fiddling with the packet, unable to open it. Reese had reached over him to help, but Harold jolted at the unfamiliar sight of an arm descending from the sky to pull at the bag and the opposing forces had finally torn the bag.
Right over Harold’s head.
It had taken not two seconds for birds to come flocking the now yellow colored boy and Reese, for lack of anything useful present at that exact moment, had used his phone to gently bat the birds away as he rushed to Harold’s rescue, lugging him bodily out of the park, all the way back home, and straight into the shower. Harold had been mortified, but it was in the shower that Reese had admitted to him that Mr. Carlin had told him that Harold had had such plans that one fateful day they’d met the man and wanted to make it up to him.
Harold had gone quiet after that, allowing the other boy to bathe with him silently.
And now they were partners- again (was this going to become a permanent thing?)- for the world’s strangest mission ever. Time travel and space couldn’t compare. Well, not really. It was an entirely different spectrum of weirdness.
Fandom. They were going undercover in some anime fandom. Well, fandom convention thingy.
(The outfits they were wearing were from an anime called Puella Magi Madoka Magica, to be exact, but why in the world would Harold ever want to be caught being correct about this?)
Reese needed to get out of the bathroom before Harold was forced to be in this ridiculously girly costume for much longer than he’d ever prefer. It was mercy on his part that out of the light and dark outfits they’d been presented with, Harold had let Reese take the darker one. Or so he pretended, but the light outfit was less risque and fancy beyond the layers and frills, so he didn’t mind looking a little more girly as long as he had some modicum of decency.
Some modicum of decency didn’t stop him from bursting into laughter when Reese finally did step out of the bathroom, tugging anxiously at his dress.
Both dresses were pretty similar in certain aspects. For example, they both extended to the floor in the back and were cut pretty high, considering, at the front. And so the overall shape became the same.
That was, perhaps, where the similarities ended. A pink wig on Harold’s head was partially split into two by two white bows. His dress was cut in the front at mid thigh length, forming a white skirt, which a layer under elongated the back and a bigger pink layer further lengthened the back to make it the dress it was meant to be. So that the length didn’t expose everything, the white heels extensively winged at the sides were accompanied by thigh high pink socks, slanted at the top, descending from outer thigh to inner thigh. The plain white top of the dress was covered by a similarly frilly shrug that connected at the front with a pink jewel. The outfit was topped off by a simple white ribbon choker around Harold’s neck, low enough that it wasn’t uncomfortable.
Reese’s wig was a deep purple, bordering black, around which a red ribbon had been tied into a bow at the corner. His dress had less layers but it was more… feathery. Cut in the area between mid thigh and completely indecent, there was no inital skirt as the dress elongated slimly downwards around the back. Reese’s dark shoes weren’t heels, which was kind on his feet, and he too had thigh high stockings, his being dark purple cut through by large lavender diamond shapes. But that, and perhaps the above-elbow length dark purple gloves were the kindest parts of his outfit. For one, his dress lacked straps, opting for a heart-shaped neckline, and the sides were cut, allowing his toned stomach to show. To top his outfit off, his choker was large and imitated the feathers that dominated the bottom of his dress in a simple pattern, a dark pendant hanging from the middle of it.
To put is simply, Harold may have looked princessy, but Reese looked scandalous .
The boy in question glowered. “Shut up.”
“Okay, okay, let’s get goi- pfft!”
“I said stop laughing!”
“I’m not, I- I’m just- I’m just breathing. Heavily, Heavily breathing.”
“You’re clearly laughing.”
“Yes, well,” Harold snorted, “if it’s so clear, I don’t think there’s anything I can do to change that.” Nonetheless, he started controlling his laughter to an occasional flare of hilarity.
“Wait.” Reese spoke up before he could start heading out. Harold turned back to him, curious. “I- have something for you.”
He raised an eyebrow. “You have something for me?”
Reese colored. “Y- Yeah. We only got these dresses, but I looked them up online-” seeing Harold’s amused look at that, he rushed to defend himself, “to see how to wear it! But yeah, I was looking online and the girls had wings on them? And I know you like birds, so I figured I‘d make the wings for you…”
It was moments like these Harold was touched by Reese’s inexplicable need to be useful to him. He softened instantly, humor dying out.
“Oh? Well then put them on me.”
Reese’s face seemed to glow briefly before turning away- the dress didn’t billow, but there was a dramatic flair present in the feathers that somehow seemed regal- and returning with what Harols could only describe as the most beautiful sets of wings he had ever seen in his life.
One was a translucent pink, plain in structure and design, but shimmery and reminiscent of a stardusted sky. The other was thinner in comparison and completely different, thick black wire covered by a layer of white down from which black feathers with elongated quills extended.
It was clear which pair belonged to which person.
Reese gingerly slid the translucent wings onto a dumbstruck Harold before doing the same to himself.
Harold? With the wings on, Harold felt pretty, but Reese - Reese looked stunning. Something about the wings made the dress, which had once been so ridiculous on his lanky body work, suddenly modelesque and elegant.
The sight had him breathless.
Even as he absentmindedly complimented Reese- who blushed and mumbled an explanation about being interested in Do-It-Yourself projects in his spare time that was riddled in denial- on his handiwork, he couldn’t keep his eyes off of the way the wings framed his large body in a way bordering ethereal.
“That lovely couple over there!” A lady called somewhere in the distance. Harold paid no attention, lost in the art of trying not to get caught gazing at Reese while absentmindedly reaching up to fiddle with the wings behind him. If he hadn’t been so stunned by the existence of the two pairs of wings, he would have realized 2 things: one, his arm was starting to get tired by the strain it put on him to keep it bent to reach his upper back for that long, and two, the lady was talking to them. “You, couple in the Ultimate Madoka and Homura costumes!”
Harold jolted at the names, recognizing them from the preliminary research he’d conducted regarding their disguise. (Reese wasn’t the only one who’d looked things up. Harold was just less interested in how they looked as compared to the storyline. It was pretty interesting, actually. He was very seriously considering starting to watch it.)
Around them, the crowd turned to face them, those closest to them fishing out their phones and turning their flashlights on so as to create some sort of incredibly blinding spotlight, as if by unspoken rule. Harold flinched at the sudden brightness and attention.
“That’s right!” The woman shouted victoriously. Harold tried his best to squint through the barrage of pointed lights to see the woman, who was on a stage and waving vigorously at them, as if her voice wasn’t vigorous enough for them to recognize she was talking to them.
She would have been partially right, had she truly made such a supposition.
“You two lovebirds can come on up here and receive this prize, ‘cause I noticed your costumes instantly from the crowd and the way you keep looking at each other when you think the other isn’t looking is the cutest thing ever! So come on up here, our lucky random winners of the day!”
The crowd’s cheer covered Harold’s embarrassed spluttering, who eventually gave up on his denial- no, they were not a couple, thank you very much, and they most certainly were not looking at each other like a couple- and refused to look in Reese’s direction as they made their way towards and onto the stage.
He did look his way when they got their free reward though. It was a painting of what Harold just realized was the same pair of girls they were dressed up as, but…
“Isn’t this what Principal Morgan sent us here to get in the first place?” He asked once they were free from the crowd and far from the stage. Reese stared at the painting with a similarly confused expression.
“I think so…”
The painting was pretty, sure, masterfully done, fully equipped with elegant strokes and a starry backdrop that seemed to rise off of the canvas.
Nonetheless, it was nothing worth sending two high class spies to obtain.
Had it actually been of any immesurable value, it would not have been given off so freely in a crowd where the winner was chosen randomly.
So why were Harold and Reese here?
It seemed as if all the missions- granted ther had only been two, this even being the second- Harold had been getting after Nathan’s death were- wait.
Harold hadn’t thought about Nathan this whole day. He’d spent his time laughing jovially- with Reese of all people- and-
Harold knew exactly why the Principal had sent them to an anime convention to find a common- beautiful, but common- painting. Why, for Harold’s first mission after the funeral, Principal Morgan had sent him all the way to outer space with a bunch of people that had also experienced the loss of loved ones. With Reese.
What a cunning, cunning fellow. And Harold had been just caught up enough in the death of his soulmate enough not to notice.
At least, until now.
“It could be a fake?” Reese offered. “It can’t be that easy, after all. We should go check with the Mini-Machine.”
Harold turned a scrutinizing gaze to Reese as he thought, all at once finding his face- framed by a wig of straight, purple hair, and a red ribbon- dumb and infuriating. And then stopped himself. Reese hadn’t known, couldn’t have, if Harold knew the dramatics of his Principal well- and he did.
The Doctor had set something up to help his- emotional, but healing nonetheless- healing process without him knowing and had- Harold was loathe to admit- succeeded brilliantly.
He was probably laughing in delight his office right now.
Harold sighed. “Never mind, this is the right one. Let’s just go back.”
Reese’s eyebrows scrunched up. “What? How can you be sure?”
He ignored him, slightly irritated and stalked off, leaving Reese rushing to catch up with him.
“Just- shut up for a second, will you?”
Harold regretted his harsh words instantly. A glance back showed Reese wearing a chastised face and guilt welled up instantly within him. The poor boy had been nothing but helpful and here was Harold being rude for something that wasn’t even his fault. Exactly as he’d been acting after Nathan’s death.
Like an absolute jerk.
Outside was raining, reflecting the mood between the two of them. They walked through the dreary weather regardless, slowly and absolutely ruining their carefully put together outfits.
Harold could only take watching the wings on Reese’s back droop for so long before stopping. Reese, the precious boy he was, didn’t take long to notice, turning to him when he did.
The light from a nearby lamppost lit up the rain around his silhouette and for one long instant, all Harold could see was a fallen angel.
It took his breath away for the millionth time that day.
“I’m sorry.” The words tumbled out of his lips, unbidden, and suddenly, there was a downpour of things he wanted to say. “I was being stupid about something- about many things- and I took it out on you, and I shouldn’t have. I’m sorry.”
Reese remained silent. Harold bit his lip. Yeah. He deserved that. Reese had been nothing but nice to him and he, well, he’d never returned the favor.
He was such a terrible person.
“I don’t really talk much.” Reese said suddenly, and Harold’s head whipped up to look at him. “That’s why I don’t really have many friends. Nathan… He was my only, actually.”
Harold never knew that. Reese was in the top ranks of The Academy, Harold would have supposed such a person was always surrounded by a person or two. But… In all the time he;s spent with Reese, he could tell it was true. Reese may not have been a big talker at all, but when he put his mind to something, his intentions were always very clear.
Like taking care of Harold.
The guilt grew.
“He used to talk about you a lot, you know? When he did… his eyes glowed. It was like you were the center of his life, like nothing more mattered to him. Like… like you were his blue.”
A knife cut into Harold’s heart. Nathan’s blue… He ’d been Nathan’s blue?
“I wanted something like that. But then… Then the attack happened. And I didn’t have a best friend anymore and you- You lost your soulmate.”
He was losing breaths, he couldn’t breathe, Harold’s breaths were getting too fast, much too rapidly-
“Rufus told me what you guys were doing there that day. That some organization called Rittenhouse was trying to kill me, but I wasn’t supposed to die. And that you guys were there to save me. Nathan died trying to save me.”
Harold was left spluttering, trying for something, anything coherent to leave his mouth, but it was as if it refused to be productive. He cursed it in his mind.
“After he died, I don’t know, I just- floundered, I guess. I had no idea what I was doing, but then I got the news that you were alive, that Nathan’s body has shielded you from the majority of the blast and it suddenly just hit me, you know? Nathan would have died for me, but he did die for you. And if the only person who had ever shown me any real kindness- aside from Principal Morgan and Secretary Wahl, but they’re always exceptions- was going to die protecting someone, well. I figured I would give my life up for that person as well.”
Everything- the rain, time- came to a stop.
“And then the space mission happened and you couldn’t stop crying and I- I got it, you know? I couldn’t stop crying either, it hurt, it hurt so bad and then you started to let me hug you at night, to comfort you and I- I’ve never had anything like that. I’ve never had someone find comfort in my arms and I never found comfort in anyone else’s arms either, not even with Nathan. And then we started to sleep together every night and it was like I suddenly couldn’t live without it, you know? Like I needed your touch, like I depended on it to be able to sleep peacefully anymore- it was like this dam broke inside of me and suddenly I was starving for touch.”
And suddenly, so was Harold.
He rushed forward, startling Reese from his stupor, yet unable to control himelf. It was some sort of primal instinct that caused him to grab the taller boy by the junction where his wings rested just below his shoulder blades and pull down. Reese bent over nearly halfway before Harold got what he wanted.
Their lips collided in the rain, cold, completely unprepared, and suspiciously salty. Reese’s back spasmed in surprise under Harold’s fingers, but he continued to press, unrelenting until, unsure, Reese gave in. And like another dam Reese wasn’t aware he built within himself broke, suddenly Harold was gathered up in his arms, the boy clutching at him like he was his last lifeline and Reese so desperately did not want to sink.
It felt natural, after all those nights of comfort Reese had offered to run his hands around the area his wings occupied on his back, calming, soothing, reassuring. There was salt between their frigid lips that couldn’t have possibly come from the rain, but that was as far as Harold’s discernment could detect.
When they finally broke apart, Reese stayed bent over, letting his forehead fall against Harold’s. For his part, Harold continued to stroke his back gently, offering the unceasing comfort he’d never taken the time to realize Reese had needed.
“You won’t need to die for me.” He said quietly, as his eyes slipped shut. Nathan and his blue dorm room came into view, but the sight of it no longer hurt. “If you truly want to honor Nathan’s memory, if you truly want a reason to exist, then live. Live for me. That is the most difficult and most rewarding thing I could ever ask of you. Live.”
Reese’s breath hitched. Harold kissed his cheek.
“I know I haven’t been acting the best towards you and for that, I apologize. Like you, I only ever cared about Nathan. Not because I didn’t have anyone else, bt I didn’t want anyone else. Why would I, if I had Nathan? If I was always going to have him?” He took a deep, grounding breath and Reese remained silent in anticipation. “You will never be Nathan, never be blue, but that’s okay. You’re indigo and I’m the memory of blue and I think Nathan would be happy to see both of his best friends finally getting along. I won’t leave you, John. Do you promise the same?”
Harold could follow the bob of his Adam’s apple as he gulped. His eyes trailed up to meet Reese’s and they looked, finally, not as lost anymore. Harold smiled encouraginly, although he wasn’t sure who needed the encouragement more. Reese opened his mouth.
“I promise. I won’t leave you either.”