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 They had ended up at John's minimalist apartment right after the ordeal. 

 Fusco, once he'd understood John wasn't going to explode on the rooftop, had helped them escape the building and get away before anyone could spot them.

 John had been driving on autopilot. He'd been the one to break into the car on the driver's side. He'd refused to let Harold drive and they'd ended up at his apartment before he noticed the direction he was going. By then, he didn't really care. 

 Neither said a word as Harold followed him up the stairs. He reached for the keys in his pocket outside his apartment door and saw Harold's hand clasped in his. He hadn't even remembered taking it and was quick to let it go. 

 "Find Carter," he'd said. "She has experience... with these."

 He didn't remember actually finding her, but he vaguely recalled Fusco's worried voice calling her name. She cornered him in a deep, dark side street and went to work dismantling the vest.

 Up in the apartment, Harold's fingers were trembling as he worked the buttons on John's shirt and peeled it off him. 

 "Arms up."

 He let Harold take his undershirt too.

 Fusco held a flashlight so Carter could see what she was doing. Harold held John's hand. John wondered if his grip was too hard, but Harold wasn't complaining.

 His torso now bare, Harold stood back to look at him, or more accurately, at the bruises on his chest, and abdomen.

 "Riker's, I presume?" Harold asked, his voice so soft it was almost a whisper.

 John nodded. 

 "Does anything else hurt? Ribs, maybe?"

 "Just a bit. Nothing's broken."

 Harold sighed. "I'm grateful for that at least. Go sit down. I'll be right back." 

 John sat on the edge of his bed. "Where are you going?" 

 "To get you a glass of water. Take your shoes off."

 "I'm not thirsty."

 "You've been under a lot of stress lately. You need to rehydrate whether you think you do or not."

 Harold disappeared into the kitchen and John slowly moved to do as he'd been instructed. First his shoes. Then his dress pants.

 Mark was dead. He doubted his former boss had had time to get his vest off. Who would have helped him with it? No one John could think of. Where was Kara now? That was the real question. She was probably trying to find him if she knew his vest hadn't gone off like it should have. If she truly thought he was dead then she was long gone and he hoped he'd never see her again.

 John blinked and Harold was standing in front of him with a glass of water. He hadn't even heard his uneven gate crossing the hardwood floor. 

 "Drink up." 

 He took the water and found that he was thirstier than he'd thought. He downed the glass in a matter of moments. 

 "Now let's get you into the bathroom for a quick shower and then you need to get some sleep."

 John let Harold guide him, still partially on autopilot, into the white tiled room. Harold turned the water on hot. When he turned back, he glanced up and down John's body and raised an eyebrow at him. 


 "Your underwear, John."

 John could have sworn he felt his face heat up. "Um, but, you've never, well..."

 Harold grunted. "Just take them off and get in the shower, will you? This is nothing new and the faster you move, the faster you can be warm and relaxed in your big bed."

 John did as he was told. "But what if I don't want to be in that big bed all alone?" he asked, some of his sly humor coming back to him, as the hot water prickled at his back, waking him up. 

 "I have to dump the car and pick up Bear from the library."

 "Will you come back?"

 "Of course."

The relief nearly overwhelmed him and John fell against the tile wall, before he could right himself. 

 "Are you all right in there?"

 "Fine. I'm fine." His voice was hoarse. 

 "I promise, I'll be back as soon as I can," Harold said, meeting him outside of the shower with a big fluffy towel. 

 John moved to take it, but Harold began to gently rub his skin dry, then handed him a pair of fresh underwear and hustled him back out to his bed.

 "You're not going to dress me up in pajamas?"

 "You don't own any pajamas. Get in bed. As I said, I'll be back as soon as I can."

 When Harold had gone, shutting and locking the door behind him, John lay back and stared at the ceiling in the dark. He wasn't sure he could close his eyes. If he did, would he see Harold in a bomb vest? Would he see Harold failing to unlock the phone on his? Would he lose Harold? He kept his eyes wide open just in case. 

 An hour and a half later, the door opened again and Bear bounded up onto the bed, sniffing John and howling with excitement. 

 "Bear! Get off the bed!" Harold's voice admonished in the darkness. 

 "Let him stay." John wrestled a little with Bear, before giving him the order to settle. 

 "I'm sorry he woke you."

 "He didn't."


 There was a long pause where neither said anything. 

 "Will you stay with me?" John had been unable to ask this of Jessica and it had cost him her life.

 "I'm here."

 But he wasn't. He was halfway across the room, somewhere between the front door and the livingroom, John guessed. 

 "...The bed will be better for your back than the couch... it's big enough..." 

 There was an ache in his chest, a pain much sharper than when he'd denied Jessica, an insistence that he do the right thing this time, even if Harold turned him down.

 He felt the edge of the bed dip on the other side as Harold's weight sank into the mattress. Now that he was closer, John could make out his outline in the darkness, the way his shoulders slumped, and his head hung forward as much as his neck would allow, his hands resting on his knees. 

 "Harold?" He reached a hand out from under the covers toward him, found his hip. 

 Harold jerked upright with a quiet gasp. "John?"

 "I'm here."

 Harold took his hand between both of his and the knot in John's chest began to uncoil. 

 "Stay." The word came out wobbly. "Please."

 Harold's grip tightened and then he let go and bent forward. He heaved a frustrated sigh after a moment. 

 "Do you need some help?" John asked, forcing his emotions back under control. "Or a light?"

 "A light, if you would, please."

 John flicked on his bedside lamp and flooded the corner of the room with a warm yellow light. He saw the set of Harold's shoulders relax. He bent back to his task again and John heard him carefully place his shoes together beside the bed before he stood up and undressed down to his boxers and undershirt. 

 John turned over to face him when he crawled into bed and they lay staring at each other. Harold reached a tentative hand out, gentle fingers brushing against the stubble on John's chin, his cheeks. 

 "Four months ago I..."

 "You what?" 

 "I was scared and I wanted to ask this of you, but I couldn't. You're a braver man than I, John."

 John thought back. Four months ago he'd rescued Harold from Root's clutches. They'd spent the night in several motels along the way back to New York, Harold distant and shivering in his bed. John had wanted to comfort him, but hadn't known how or if it would be accepted, so he'd kept to himself, just thankful he'd managed to get Harold back at all and hoping she hadn't done any irreparable damage to his friend.

 "No, I'm not."

 "You have to know by now, that despite my shortcomings, I would do anything for you for I have no desire to lose you, at any cost."

 John bowed his head. Harold took his hand again and placed it against his chest where John could feel his heart beating fast. Hot tears slipped quietly down his face as he buried himself against Harold, his shoulders shaking. Harold's arms came around him and he gave in to the thing he'd wanted most.

 The phone on his bedside table woke John early the next morning. The lamp was still on from the previous night and he felt achy and exhausted.

 "Just had a visit from the FBI," Carter told him when he answered. "They claim The Man in the Suit was Agent Snow and he'd been working with Agent Stanton. The CIA is not saying anything about the situation, though both agents are dead. The FBI is calling the case closed. So, congratulations, John, you're officially cleared."

 John released a sigh of relief. "Thank you, Joss." His voice was trembling and the phone shook in his hands as he hung up and set it back on the table. 

 "Is everything okay?"

 John turned to face Harold, still processing the news: Kara Stanton was dead. Mark Snow was dead. He was still alive.

 John told him what she'd said. 

 Harold closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and let it out. "I don't wish death on anyone, not these days, but for your sake... I think I'm glad they're gone."


 "That's a story for another day. Right now, I would suggest you turn out that light and let us get some more sleep."