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Molasses

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They are not the type of people with the type of job that allows for freetime. As far as professions go, theirs is special and demanding and makes for unusual and unsteady work hours. Days off are few and far in between.

Somehow they managed to fit their romantic relationship around the madness that is their life. Take out on stake outs, stolen kisses in the Library that taste of Sencha and donuts and the occasional dinner date or a home cooked meal, when they get a night's respite. If there is time for sleep, they will sometimes retire to John’s flat or one of Harold’s various safehouses, whatever is closer. Still, they hardly ever find time for domestic things and more often than not, Harold falls asleep in the crash room in the Library or worse, hunched over his keyboard, glasses digging into the side of his face. The numbers stop for no one.

But every so often a day comes along, when the Machine stays silent. John lives for those days. When no new number comes in, he and Harold will often use the morning to give Bear some much needed running time in his favorite park. Harold will settle on a bench a little off the main paths with one of his books and John will make the trip to a coffee cart, getting beverages for the both of them. If John has any energy left he’ll play with the dog, throwing sticks or balls with never ending patience. Between chapters, Harold will sneak a tender smile John's way.

Time moves very differently on those days, like molasses. They are usually on such a tight schedule, an imaginary timer running in both of their minds from the moment a number comes in until they have neutralized the thread. So when there is no timeline for them to follow, the days feel so much longer but at the same time not quite long enough.

Whenever Bear is sufficiently tired out, they will go back to John’s loft. And while Harold bustles around and fusses over the dog and the state of the overflowing laundry basket, John fixes lunch. But it’s what follows after, that makes these the best days John has had in years.

As an unspoken rule they hardly ever admit to being tired or worn down. Because, honestly, what difference would it make with a numbers life in the balance. They power through, running on caffeine and 3 hours of sleep, because that’s the job.
The exception to that rule are those days off. After lunch, Harold will often sit down to do some coding or to update his and John’s aliases. But without the pressure of a number, soon his eyes will start to droop and his posture will become slightly slumped and that’s when John makes his move.

“Hey Harold, how about a nap?”

It’s not really a question, more like an invitation and a promise. As always, Harold has a few token objections but in the end he caves without actually protesting all that much. Eventually they will both settle into John’s huge bed, Harold on his good side with an obscene amount of pillows and John right behind him, arm slung around his waist and nose in his neck. Together they will drift off into the thick and slow moving river of an afternoon nap.

They don’t talk about feelings a lot, they are both firmly rooted in the “actions speak louder than words” section. And in this precious moment, lying in bed with his partner, is when John hears Harold's love the most. Because it doesn’t take much courage to lie in the same bed in the dark. It’s simply what people do at night. Exhaustion and the simple need for sleep would make for good excuses. But admitting to weakness, to the need for rest and for closeness in broad daylight, that’s different. It speaks of trust and of a sort of intimacy, that has nothing to do with sex.

John usually wakes from his sleep after an hour, two at most. He won’t get up though. He stays still, holding on and inhaling the scent of cedarwood and bergamot that is so very Harold. He lets himself trickle in and out of consciousness, thoughts and left over dreams floating through his mind slowly. It goes against everything he has ever been trained for. “Alert” has been his default setting for decades now, still is most of the time.
Normally the smallest noise rouses him from sleep, possible dangers always lingering in the back of his mind.
It’s a small luxury he allows himself to let go of that notion for their naps and John is under no illusions: the only way he can possibly let go and actually relax now, is when Harold is in his arms. To know his partner is safe and ideally within reach has become essential to John’s wellbeing long before their relationship took a more personal turn.

Sooner or later Harold will slowly emerge from his nap with a small inquiring noise. This is still new and not yet a real routine and his little bird gets confused shortly after waking up in unfamiliar situations, John has learned. He presses a few soft kisses to Harold’s nape, feeling the metal pins under his lips and the older man turns around under his arm to reciprocate, lazy and close and perfect.

And of course later they will get up again, maybe have a shower, maybe take Bear out again, get dinner or see a movie and it will all be lovely and just the right amount of “domestic” to balance out the rest of their crazy days. But it’s these two or three hours with Harold in their own little cocoon, that give John the strength to start all over again, when the phone starts ringing.