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gold dust

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"You are a good man, Finch," John says from somewhere in the stacks. It's loud enough for Harold to hear, uncharacteristic of the soft-spoken man in the suit. "I just wish you would believe it."

"That is awfully rich coming from you, Mister Reese." And yet, it warmed his heart to hear it. He hadn't been sure how far he could trust the man at first, until he realized how instinctively he had trusted him to protect the baby Laila, and his remaining worries slid by the wayside. "It's not your fault our last number went missing."

Harold saved his document and turned slowly around in his chair, eagle-eyes searching for John. He could see his silhouette and, standing as quietly as he could, he started over toward him. He greatly missed the days before his injury, when he could be more stealthy; he could barely dream of sneaking up on John, anyway, but he wished he could, just once, surprise the man.

John looked at Harold as he approached, slightly perplexed, and raised a brow. Reese obviously hadn't slept in days, and his hair was a wild mess. The last few numbers had been fairly devastating, and he had more than a few bullet grazes healing. Worst of all was the black eye their last number had given him, punching John in the face before tearing away on a motorcycle. Harold had apologized over and over to John while he'd patched him up, and perhaps said too much indicating his own feelings of guilt. Every time John was hurt, Harold felt as though he had been too. Perhaps he had even cried a little, just some tears escaping, but he didn't think anyone had noticed - except, John noticed everything. He had been trained to, but Harold couldn't help but think it was innate.

"I know you are aware part of the objective of our enterprise is trying to make up for what I did," Harold said with a slight huff. "The quality of my character is not part of this equation, Mr. Reese. I created the Machine, and I bear the responsibility."

"Without the Machine, none of these 'irrelevants' would have made it, Finch. Even the ones we couldn't save had a chance, thanks to you."

"Thanks to us."

The midday sun filtered through the skylights, illuminating the slow clouds of dust wafting through the library. Harold filed away a mental note to order some air purifiers. But the effect of the haze was heavy, rich like honey, the kind that lulls you into drowsiness. The sun filtered through it, and it seemed like he was watching John through a layer of gold dust.

John was no longer studying the book he was holding. His eyes had fallen from where he'd been holding Harold's gaze down to Harold's lips, making Harold shudder slightly, but Reese's face betrayed nothing as he looked away to reshelve the first edition of Moby Dick. John was tired.

Still, Harold's mouth felt dry.

He took a step forward, closing the distance between them. He could feel John both relax and tense as he moved closer. Unsure of what to do, or why he was doing it, he put his hand on John's shoulder and smiled up at him.

"This job requires a good man, with a good heart, Mr. Reese. No one's more qualified than you."

He smoothed the man's hair, and could swear John was leaning into his hand as he did. John beamed at him. The sight sent warmth throughout Harold, even as he pretended to simply be fussing over his asset's looks again, smoothing the rumpled hair.

"I have some code to finish," Harold said, "but you're always welcome to stay. I put some coffee on. And later, I'll trim your hair. It's not befitting any of your covers like this."

"Don't mind a little R&R, myself" John said, clearing his throat, picking up a copy of The Day of the Triffids, and following Harold instinctively. "Even if we have no number, I can handle an afternoon of reading."

Except... Harold pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose before pinching it and sighing. A new social security number on the screen of his cell.

However, John had already settled in on the couch with his book, looking blissful for the first time in days in the hazy afternoon light. The sight was simply too perfect to interrupt.

And after all, Harold thought, he could do his preliminary work on the number quite easily before telling John about it. So for the next hour, he did what he could in terms of recon on the computer terminal and let John rest.