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in your garden where the nettle met the rose

Chapter Text

Of course Harold pretends that nothing’s happened.

He’s all buttoned up, hidden away beneath layers of wool and starched cotton, but John knows what’s underneath now. He knows about the soft skin on Harold’s stomach, lightly furred and padded with the fat of middle age. He knows about the way Harold’s hips spread gently, flesh to grip beneath his hands. He knows the exact shape and color of Harold’s cock, the way his knot looks when it swells, the way it curls between his thighs, soft and sticky and quiescent in the aftermath.

He knows exactly everything about Harold—everything there is that matters—and the thought fills him with a kind of illicit thrill.

This is a morning just like any other. His coffee is cooling on the table, and the crumbs of their breakfast are getting nosed off the floor by Bear. John wears the same clothes as always, the uniform he’s chosen for himself, white shirt open at the collar under an immaculate suit.

He feels absolutely filthy beneath it, teeming with memories. It feels like a secret, how much he wants it. He’s half-hard in his pants, and he feels wet and open. Full of a tidal, blood moon longing. Gagging for it, a few of the soldiers he’d worked with would say about omegas they found in the places they visited.

Gagging for it. He would. Wants to get Harold’s cock down his throat and let him knot his mouth so they’re tied together, John breathing slow and even through his nose to fight down the panic. Wants Harold’s dick in his ass, plugging him up, bodies swaying in time until Harold fills John full of his seed. His babies. The thought sets off a red flush across John’s chest, up his throat where it’s exposed beneath his shirt. It sends a rush of slick between his legs, and he doesn’t miss the slight widening of Harold’s eyes or the flare of his nostrils.

“You’d better go, Mr. Reese,” Harold says, and John doesn’t think he imagines the edge in Harold’s voice.

John does as he’s told and doesn’t bother to repress the shiver he gets at following Harold’s orders. He gets to work, sitting in the damp mess of his own slick the whole day, squirming uncomfortably against cold boxer-briefs, hoping nothing is showing through.

Harold keeps finding excuses to keep him out all day and into the night. Every time John thinks he’s done, his earpiece crackles to life with a polite, “By the way, Mr. Reese,” and some new task.

By the end of the day, it’s transparent busy-work. John’s irritated and turned on in equal measure, and his pants would be dry by now if he didn’t like it so much.

“One more thing, Mr. Reese,” Harold says as John checks the security in a safehouse that looks like it hasn’t been used in months—that knowing Harold and his proclivity for keeping secrets from John will probably never be used—

“Harold,” John growls.

There’s a pointed pause on the other end of the line, and John grows silent, chastened. His dick grows hard in his pants, and he’s soaked.

Harold continues like John hasn’t said a thing.

“Please pick up a new bag of Science Diet on your way back to the library. I’m afraid it slipped my mind, and Bear is nearly out.”

Harold’s end of the line clicks off, but John knows he’s still listening. He thinks of taking care of himself here, shoving his hand down his pants or better yet, his pants around his ankles, getting his fingers inside his ass as deep as they’ll go. It won’t be enough, but it’ll take the edge off. He could be quiet, so quiet. It’s not like Harold’s told him not to.

But of course Harold would know. Even if he ended the call and took the battery out of his phone, Harold has the place wired. He’s just checked it himself. He knows where all the cameras are, all the microphones, all the speakers. He could use that to his advantage. He could tuck himself away, find a blindspot to fuck himself senseless, but even then—

Even then, he doesn’t put it past Harold to have a few more cameras besides. He’s never met anyone as paranoid as Harold, or as thorough. Harold is probably watching him right now.

The thought makes his breath catch in his throat, his heart rate quicken. The idea of Harold watching him, of Harold seeing what a predicament he’s in, makes him want to spread his legs. Makes him want to stick out his ass and present for Harold, to beg to be filled.

His cheeks are burning, and the fantasy alone drives a high, thin whine from his throat, there and then gone as he cuts himself off. He snakes his hand down the front of his body, skimming it over his stomach and further south. He touches the edge of his pubic mound just above where his cock is screaming for attention.

He makes himself stop. He puts his hand down.

Harold wants him back in the library, he thinks. Harold will want him. His heart pounds in his chest, blood fed with adrenaline and diverted lust, limbs straight and strong. He’s glad for the evening shadows, the way they help him hide the sizable bulge in his pants. He winces with every step, sensitive and sore after a day of deferred arousal.

He doesn’t even remember heat being this bad.

One more job, he tells himself. The last one, and then he gets to see Harold.

Of course, Harold isn’t there when he gets back.

John can’t believe it at first. He tastes the bitter bile of disappointment, the feeling of foolishness chasing its heels. Of course Harold isn’t here. John doesn’t know why he thought he would be. It’s late, and they’re both usually home by now, unless they’re working a number.

He thought Harold would wait for him, he realizes with a shamed flush. He’d thought they had an understanding.

Harold touches the tower of Harold’s computer, the face of the generator, both of them already long cold.

* * *

John wakes to a weight on his bed and something pressing against his mouth.

It’s a dangerous thing to do, sneaking up on a man like him, but his body recognizes Harold even in his sleep. It must do, because Harold is sinking his fingers into John’s mouth, and John isn’t reaching for his gun, isn’t hurting him.

His gag reflex is obliterated by sleep, his higher functions confused and muzzy, and John is letting Harold, opening his mouth to let him in, sighing softly as Harold pets over his tongue and then further back. Harold sticks three fingers down the back of John’s throat, probing and opening him, and all John can think is yes.

“Oh, John,” Harold says, and John makes a noise that’s very nearly embarrassing.

“You’ve been teasing me,” he chides, strict and prim as a schoolmarm while fucking his fingers in and out of John’s throat.

He slides his hand down John’s sensitive stomach to cup his erection and squeeze, proprietary. John keens. He’s been so pent up all day that the sudden contact is bright and shocking. He pushes his hips up, seeking more pressure, more friction, but Harold only tsks and pulls his hand away. John had forgotten Harold could be so cruel.

“I’m sorry,” he says, trying to apologize around Harold’s fingers, his voice coming out muffled and strange. Harold only pushes back against John’s soft palate, making him choke as his gag reflex wakes up, but he tries anyway, determined. “Sorry,” he moans, frantic. “Sorry, I’m sorry.”

Drool leaks out the side of his mouth. He’s sloppy. He can smell himself, the scent of slick rising in the air, and surely Harold can smell him too. The thought feels somehow illicit, as though it’s a secret. As though Harold weren’t fucking his mouth with his fingers as they speak.

And he is. He can’t remember trying to tease Harold, but he must have, and he’s sorry, frantic with it. He wants to nuzzle up to Harold, make up for it, show Harold how sorry he really is with his lips and tongue and cock. He wants to get closer, but Harold keeps him neatly pinned to the bed with a hand spread across his chest, a featherlight touch that nevertheless feels as heavy as a brand.

Harold pulls his fingers free of John’s mouth and wipes them on the sheet.

“Oh, John.”

“Whatever you want,” John gasps. His voice sounds rough, abused, but not nearly as wrecked as he wants. “Anything you want,” he says, trying to sit up before Harold’s light touch pushes him back down.

He wants Harold to ruin him.

“Take off your underwear,” Harold says, “And spread your legs.”

John rushes to obey, his body somehow finding blood to heat his cheeks when most of it is running south, his dick standing at attention, painfully hard. Harold groans softly as the scent of him fills the air, sweet and pungent as soon as John peels his soaked underwear off his skin. He spreads his legs like Harold said, knees wide and feet planted on the mattress.

“Beautiful,” Harold breathes in approval.

He touches John, just skimming his hand over the sensitive skin between his legs, the untouched place where ass meets thigh. His face flickers in the dark, the first sign of anything but proprietary control.

“John, if you don’t want this, you only need to say the word. You know that, don’t you?”

He reaches up to touch John’s face, the cool flat of his palm blissful against John’s overheated skin. John nuzzles into Harold’s hand, too lost in sensation for words.

“John?”

John nods. And because Harold looks so uncertain, he finds the words.

“Yes,” he rasps. “I don’t want to stop. Harold.”

“Okay,” Harold says, soft and to himself. And then, “Okay.”

He slides the hand on John’s thigh lower, finding the tender skin beneath John’s balls and pressing. John gasps, clutching at Harold, the sheets, anything. Harold rubs, firm, maddening little strokes against his perineum, and it’s so much and so close to what he needs but not quite, and if Harold could only—

“Don’t tease,” John breathes, and Harold doesn’t apologize. Doesn’t even look remorseful, but he sinks his thumb into John up to the first knuckle, breaching the tight ring of muscle. It slides in easily, and John groans with satisfaction.

“More,” John says. His stomach is tight and quivering, legs shaking with the effort of keeping his feet on the bed, of keeping from grabbing Harold and tossing him down, putting him right where he wants him and taking more.

Harold obliges, pulling out his thumb and leaving John with a sudden, aching emptiness until he plunges three fingers in at once, the sudden fullness tearing a cry from John’s throat. John shudders and clenches and comes with a shocked sound, the suddenness of it surprising them both.

“Magnificent,” Harold breathes with genuine wonder, like he actually believes it’s true. John hides his face in the pillow, suddenly overcome. Harold pulses his fingers in John, gentle but insistent, rocking them against John’s prostate. “Look at me,” Harold says, but John can’t.

He can’t, but then Harold says, “Please,” and oh.

John looks, and Harold is so close, face intent, watching him. Watching him like one of his instruments.

John can feel all the places where Harold touches him, the way his rim feels stretched perilously tight around his hand, the touch somehow more intimate now that orgasm has taken the edge off. John looks, and he can’t look away from the expression on Harold’s face, at once tender and hungry.

He wants to meet that hunger, feels an answering need rising in him, recently fed but already wanting more. Wanting Harold in him, around him, on top of him. All of it. Everything.

He thinks he’ll have to beg, and he will, he will, but oh. He forgot that Harold is kind, too. Harold pulls his fingers out but only for long enough to shuck his pants, pulling down his zipper and stepping out of his clothes with neat efficiency. John plunges his fingers into himself, shameless. Hungry and open and begging to be filled. He scrabbles for a good angle, frustrated that he can’t get them as deep as he needs.

Harold’s breath catches as he looks at John, gunshot-loud in the quiet room, and even with the lights down, John can make out the thin flush covering Harold’s face. Harold with his bottle-brush hair and distinctive, jerky movements. Harold with his hawkish gaze, all of it so impossibly dear that John’s chest feels perilously close to bursting.

Harold doesn’t bother to take off his shirt, just kneels on the bed between John’s legs. John scoots down to meet him, and then Harold is pushing in without preamble, thick and hard and good, and it’s perfect. They groan, resting together when Harold is fully seated. John tenses around him, squeezing him with his internal muscles, feeling darkly pleased when it makes Harold falter.

There’s something in him that wants to ruffle Harold’s feathers, that longs to see him undone, as dirty and base as the rest of humanity. Something that longs to take him off his perch and turn him into something touchable— someone John could touch.

“John,” Harold sighs.

They fuck for a while before anyone has an objection.

“This isn’t a good idea,” Harold gasps. “We should get—protection. We should— oh.”

And Harold isn’t wrong. Harold is almost never wrong; Harold is so smart, but John—John is caught in the blood tide, in the pounding in his veins and balls, and he just wants and wants. If this is what he’s like during a fallow time, he doesn’t even want to know what he’ll be like in heat.

He clenches around Harold, and Harold grabs his hips reflexively, pinning him in place and driving his cock deeper even as Harold protests. The last of John’s higher thought flies directly out the window.

“You were saying?” John asks, unbearably smug.

Harold’s eyes are dark and hungry. He growls, and it thrills John straight down to his toes.

“You’re incorrigible,” Harold chides, but he fucks John into the mattress, so John doesn’t think it can really be so bad.

* * *

They come up for air once, twice, three times before it finally sticks, both of them blowing like lathered horses. John is sticky and sweaty and deliciously sore. He feels boneless and fucked out and finally, finally sated.

He’s about a second from passing out when he dimly registers the sudden shift in weight that results from Harold getting out of bed. He makes a weak noise of protest and an uncoordinated, lazy grab at Harold, which Harold side-steps easily, even with his limp.

“Water, Mr. Reese. You’re going to drink some before you fall asleep.”

“Nngh,” John protests, but his lips quirk up in a smile at the familiar Mr. Reese. Of all the things to do it for him.

Harold comes back with a full, cool glass of water, as promised. Despite John’s protests, it really is good—exactly what he needs—and he drains the whole glass almost as soon as it’s in his hand. Harold takes it and refills it, and John watches, feeling strangely touched by Harold’s care.

It’s not like Harold’s never taken care of him before. This apartment is John’s, but it was bought with Harold’s money, same as the clothes he wears and the food he eats. Harold is always taking care of him. This form of care just seems more… intimate.

He drains the second glass of water more slowly than the first, setting it on the nightstand when it’s still half full.

He lays back down, sprawling over the bed, and Harold sits stiffly beside him. He wonders if Harold regrets it. He can see something in the stiff line of his shoulders, different from the normal rigidity of his spine. It’d be an easy mistake to think there was no change, but what Harold lacks in range of motion, he makes up for in nuance, and John has learned to read the signs.

John is too tired to talk much, so he holds out an arm instead—an undemanding invitation. He has the latitude to be undemanding now. He waits, comfortable and boneless. He waits to see what Harold will do.

* * *

It doesn’t take long for John to feel the changes in his body, all things considered. It starts as a certain kind of low ache twinging at the base of his spine. There’s a new heaviness in his chest, a swaying to his skin that he notices for the first time when brushing his teeth in front of a mirror.

He knows his body very, very well. It’s a weapon, a tool. He knows even before he’s late, even before he picks up a pregnancy test at Duane Reade. He leaves the white stick on the porcelain of his bathroom sink, leaves the analog screen to blur, its answer becoming unreliable with time.

He goes back to bed, arms pillowed beneath his head, gazing placidly up at the ceiling. He brings one hand down experimentally to rest on the flat skin of his belly.

He doesn’t call Harold. He doesn’t have to.

Harold shows up at John’s apartment, and it’s nothing like the first time. The stinging spell of lust and desire and bodies against bodies has evaporated, and in its place is rank fear. Harold peers down at John anxiously.

John opens his eyes to look at him. He hasn’t moved in about an hour, but he hadn’t fallen asleep.

“Mr. Reese—” Harold tries, then scowls at the way it comes out. “John.”

“Harold,” John says, blinking slowly up at him.

“Are you alright?”

John considers this. Nods.

Harold breathes out a sigh that sounds a lot like relief. “Then I must apologize. I’m afraid I’ve behaved unforgivably unprofessionally.”

He puts his hand on top of John’s, resting right above where John can feel the thump of his pulse in his belly. At the first touch of skin on skin, Harold blanches, looking at his hand like it’s betrayed him. He tries to take it back, and John grabs him with his other hand, putting Harold back into place, touching him, skin against skin. He was wrong because here it is, the steady tide of lust coming back.

“Stay,” John says, low and dangerous, half growl and half purr

It’s a plea or a threat. It’s him tugging forward, forward, Harold leaning over until he loses his balance entirely. John catches him, using his body to make up for what Harold’s lacks, lowering him down onto the bed until they’re laying side by side, John still undressed, Harold done up in a three-piece suit, and John thinks it’s just like old times.

He wonders that this has become his life, that this is what’s familiar.

It’s impossible not to look at each other from this vantage point. He holds Harold to him, predator, prey. It’s a long time before anybody speaks.

Harold clears his throat.

“Of course I’ll support you in anything you decide to do,” he says, lips pursed.

Something about the way he says it just makes John angry.

They’ll talk it through later, maybe, probably.