John returned to the library as Harold was wrapping up the day's work as he always did, pulling the photographs off the glass and clearing away the open windows on his computer to get everything ready for the next time they would be needed. The familiar sound of John's footsteps on the stairs was welcome, if unanticipated and unnecessary.
"I didn't expect to see you back here tonight, Mr. Reese. We don't have another number yet, so you should get some rest. You've certainly earned it."
John smiled softly. "Thank you," he said. He walked toward Harold, watching him. There was tiredness in his face, but also relief and an honest amount of joy, something truly remarkable to see in John Reese. "We earned it. We did good work today, Finch."
Harold smiled back, a bit sheepishly, but it wasn't as if he didn't know that John was quite correct. This had been a true success, something right. An unqualified good. They were heroes today.
There was rarely any feeling of heroism in their work. When they succeeded with a number, it felt like relief, just the relief that the world didn't crumble in this one small way.
This felt different. It was intoxicating in its way. They saved Taylor, both of them together, brought him back and helped his mother put a vicious monster in prison where he belongs. They saved lives. They saved their dear friend's son. He was home with his family right now because John and Harold fought for him.
They were all breathing easier tonight, and the feeling was glorious.
Harold nodded. "You're right. Today was good. We were."
"Not just today." John's voice was low, and he was still approaching. His eyes never left Harold's. "It's always good, working with you."
By then John was close, his gaze relaxed, his stance calm and elegant. He seemed perceptible in the air somehow, like the man was generating an electromagnetic field. Harold's mind seemed to be working in slow motion, but that only heightened his awareness of everything that was going on around them.
The mechanical whir of the nearby computer fan humming. The verdant scent of fresh tea steaming on the desk. The tight weave texture of the fine fabric he was rubbing between his fingers.
Harold looked down and John's eyes followed. He was holding the lapels of John's jacket. John had come close enough for him to touch, and without him ever processing or even noticing, Harold's hands reached out to do it.
Some part of him knew he should consider this situation more, but the rest of him could only consider the warmth of John's body he could feel under his hands. All he could see were the lines of his shoulders, the curve of his neck. When he could, John immediately met his eyes. His gaze was focused, burning, drinking in every detail.
John leaned in, his breath skimming across Harold's cheek, so soft he could barely feel it.
But he could feel it.
"What are we doing?"
"I'm not sure," John said, and he closed the gap.
For a moment, Harold froze. But as John gently trailed his nose and lips along Harold's cheek to his ear and down the side of his neck, he couldn't help but shiver. John was not kissing him, only nuzzling his skin, breathing him in.
John sighed against his shoulder and, God, it would have been less intense if he had just kissed him and gotten it over with.
Spread wide, Harold's hands crept up John's chest to press into his clavicles. His fingertips snuck past John's open collar to the tender skin of his exposed throat, and John groaned softly.
John's fingers brushed up Harold's sides, stroking and pulling him closer. Harold's hands drifted up into John's hair and their bodies melded together, closer and closer still.
It was a strange feeling, all the edges melting away. All that was left was the spark between them, the fire igniting. The feeling of brushing lips, of breath, of hands. Soft hair sifting through fingers, firm muscle shifting under skin.
One moment they were one, and in the next they were two. They pulled back to see each other again, eyes searching, wondering, questioning.
John smiled and Harold felt it to his core. It was a dam breaking, a flood of warmth, wild and heady. It filled him up, made his nerves tingle, prickling and alive.
"This is," Harold breathed. "It's–"
"Yeah," John said, finishing Harold's incoherent thought for him.
Silence stretched between them, and with it, the feeling. Everything was drawing out, slow and languid like dripping honey. One moment expanding into the infinite.
John was capable of words before Harold was. "Let's try this again."
He leaned back in, and their lips met.
Harold felt a crashing wave of relief as their mouths molded together, like they were always meant to do this. He pulled John closer, feeling his warm body against him.
They broke apart and then their lips were together again. They were breathing each other's air, taking and giving back, filling the empty spaces with something living and pulsing.
The feeling of closeness was dizzying, like falling into the sky. John's hands were in his hair and Harold couldn't breathe. He didn't want to. They were pressed chest to chest, hip to hip, breath and sweat and skin.
The room was spinning. No, there was no room, no here and no now. Just a rush of feeling and the noise of blood in his ears.
Breathing hard, they broke apart, and John tilted his head.
"Harold? You all right? Maybe we should sit down."
"Maybe," Harold panted, feeling dizzy, half-drunk. They stumbled to the couch and fell into it.
They sat there, bodies touching, and were quiet for a long moment.
"So," Harold finally said, breaking the silence. "We did that."
"Yeah. Guess we did."
"I'm really not sure what this means."
The corner of John's mouth quirked up. "Me either. But I like it."
And Harold couldn't deny that he liked it too. The feeling, the quiet comfort, the closeness. The knowledge that they were sharing this with each other. It was wonderful and heady and almost overwhelming.
"Can we maybe do it again?"
Again, the quirk of John's lips.
Silence. Breathing. Stillness.
John stood and offered a hand to Harold, pulling him up to his feet.
"Come on, it's been a long day and I want a good shower. The rooms at the Crescent have these showerheads that actually come out of the wall horizontally, like a human carwash. It's ridiculous. You'll love it."
Harold followed him, just wanting to be close. It felt like a lucid dream until they were walking through the lobby. Only then did he finally absorb the full reality of what was happening.
He was at a hotel. With John. He was going to spend the night. With John. Maybe more than one night? It was possible. At this point, anything was possible. Harold's head was buzzing.
They reached the elevator and stepped in alone. The doors closed and they were enclosed in silence again. Time stretched and bent and warped around them as they stood perfectly still and flew upward.
They were inches apart.
So terribly close.
The elevator doors opened and they walked down the hallway wordlessly, both of them focused on their destination. At the door, John held the keycard to the sensor, and the light blinked red.
He paused and tried again. Red.
Above Harold, John swallowed uncomfortably. This moment was awkward enough as it was. There was always something uniquely exposing in being trapped out in a hotel hallway. And right then... the two of them... if it didn't work, what–
Harold whispered thanks to the god of fickle technology and followed John inside.
Unsurprisingly, it was a nice room – John wouldn't have brought him to anything less – but Harold barely noticed anything about it beyond what he needed to navigate through it without tripping.
He was too busy watching John, as John simply settled in and made himself comfortable, choosing the far side of the bed and casually undressing to get in the shower.
Harold felt it then, this moment. This strange, building thing, not exactly a feeling like anxiety or nervousness, not quite the same as pure excitement. It was a combination of all three, colored with an undercurrent of something else, something vastly more complicated, but at the same time, much simpler.
John leaned his head and bare shoulders out of the bathroom. "You coming?"
Yes. No. Probably? He still was not sure.
The sound of his name pulled him from his daze.
"Are you okay?" John asked as he stepped fully back into the bedroom, a towel wrapped tightly around his waist.
This was John. The same man who Harold saw every day. The same man who began as his reliable employee, became his trusted partner, and grew into his dedicated friend. The same man who helped Harold help so many others simply because it needed to be done. They'd saved lives, others and each other's. Through everything, they'd kept each other going.
This was John, and he wanted to shower, and that was all he was asking: whether Harold would join him or not.
"Yes," he said finally. "Yes, I'm coming."
John tried to be completely nonchalant but Harold could see the thrill of anticipation ripple through him as that answer hit him.
"Okay, I'll get the water started."
He disappeared into the bathroom and Harold took a steadying breath. He took his time taking off his clothes, folding them neatly and draping them with care so they wouldn't wrinkle, and it was definitely because he was worried about damaging the fabric and absolutely not because he was trying to delay the now inevitable.
Once inside the bathroom, he stopped short and his eyes widened at the sight of the large walk-in shower with room for at least six people.
"Told you," John said with a smile behind the blur of the steamed up glass divider. "It's like a carwash. If it had rollers and a conveyer belt, it would be the whole package."
Harold laughed a little to himself and stepped into the shower with John. The water was hot and soothing against his skin, but he barely noticed that either.
It was the sight of John, so close. John, whose naked body he had seen a number of times before, but never like this. Those were always moments fraught with pain and fear, when John was badly injured and requiring delicate care, clinging to life as Harold stood by his bedside.
This was different.
He had never seen John like this. Never seen him standing naked under a stream of water, face upturned and eyes closed as he let the water pour down over his face and body.
He was beautiful.
John opened his eyes and smiled at Harold. "See? Doesn't it feel great?"
Harold's mouth went a little dry as he nodded. "Mmmhmm," was the best he could do.
John turned his back on Harold to find the shower gel and Harold's hands moved of their own accord, reaching out to touch John's shoulders, just at that tender place where they met his neck. As Harold's hands closed over his skin, John held his breath and for a moment, held perfectly still.
But it was only a moment, and then he was leaning into Harold's touch. And so Harold took advantage of the opportunity, rubbing the soap into John's skin, sliding his hands across the man's shoulders, down his arms, along his back, and then up again.
It was impossible for Harold to prevent the small gasp that escaped him when John turned around to face him. John's hands ghosted over Harold's hips and up over his chest and shoulders.
They stood there for a time, hands exploring each other while the water rained down on them both. Harold closed his eyes as John's hands slid down his back to his waist to pull him into a kiss, wet and messy and hungry.
Heat was spreading through him, from his chest all the way down to his groin. He was half hard already, pressed up against John's hip. He slid his hand over John's side, along the contours of his stomach, and then down, down.
John sucked in a sharp breath as Harold closed his hand around him. He began to stroke, slow and steady.
"F-Finch," John said, stuttering as Harold's hand moved up and down. He closed his eyes and bucked his hips forward as Harold tightened his grip a little. "Kiss me."
Harold leaned in and did as he was told. It didn't take long.
"Finch," John said again. This one was a warning, unnecessary.
"Do it. I want to feel you, John. I want–"
He cut himself off by closing his lips around John's again as he quickened the pace of his hand.
John let out a muffled groan into Harold's mouth as he came, pulsing in Harold's hand, his knees buckling slightly. Harold broke the kiss as John's head dropped to his shoulder and he squeezed his eyes shut, panting.
John didn't have the breath to finish the sentence. He tightened his grip on Harold as they stood there, letting the hot water pour over them. His voice was low and dusky by Harold's ear.
"I want to feel you too."
And John began kissing a burning line down Harold's neck, along his collarbone, and down his chest. He knelt in front of Harold and looked up at him through his wet hair.
The question seemed absurd and it was hard to coagulate the answer to syllables. "Y-yes," was the best he could manage with his racing heart, his racing thoughts, and his tightened breath.
When John slid Harold into his mouth, he nearly came straight away, then and there. "Oh– Oh, God," he said, half-choked, as John moved up and down his length. He reached down to cup John's soft cheek, murmuring, incoherent.
John held him steady and worked him over slowly, expertly, taking him in and out of his mouth. His lips slid against Harold's skin, and Harold's stomach clenched every time he took Harold into his throat.
With eyes as dark as pitch, John watched him, looking up as he leaned in to run his tongue along the underside of Harold's cock to the head.
And Harold was undone. He came with a strangled gasp, trembling, his hands reaching out to brace himself against the wall.
Afterwards, as Harold tried mightily to remember how to breathe properly, John pulled away and stood up, looking as content as the cat that caught the canary.
"Very nice," he said, kissing the corner of Harold's open mouth. "Let's get out of here, what do you say? I'm getting all pruney."
Harold hummed his dazed assent, and John turned off the shower before reaching for two fluffy towels from the shelf. He wrapped one around his waist and the other he handed to Harold. Blinking the water out of his eyes, Harold stepped out of the shower. The bathroom was full of steam.
"You all right?"
Harold blinked. "As right as I can be, I think."
That elicited a grin. "Good enough for me," John said. "Come on, the beds here are almost as fancy as the showers."
In bed, John pulled him close and kissed the top of his head. Harold let his arm slip around John's waist, clinging to him with a need he could not give voice to.
There were things to talk about, so many and so complicated, but other things felt more important then. John was warm and solid and alive against him, his chest rising and falling with his breath.
John was in mortal danger nearly every day of his life, and it felt so exquisite to simply lie there with him for a time, to just be close to him in peace and quiet. Before long, John dozed off, and Harold took some time to watch him sleep.
He was so beautiful, this compassionate, passionate man chiseled out of marble and sheer determination. Harold's eyes traveled the curve of his jaw, the slant of his brows, the strong lines of his face. John was lying on his back, and the sheets pooled around him. One muscular arm bent behind his head, and one nimble leg lay thrown over Harold's thigh.
Everything about John was strong.
Everything except for his fragile heart, of course, shattered and mended, riddled with cracks that would never fully close.
Harold settled his hand on John's chest to cover it, if not protect it. He knew that he had no power to do that.
But as he felt sleep falling over him like a soft blanket of snow, he hoped that in some small way, he could take some of the weight off of it.
He could love him.
He did. He had.