John doesn’t have any particular facility for cooking. He’s been in the service for too long—an endless stream of mess halls and the occasional bleary, blinking free weekends where the only respite was another anonymous motel with another anonymous Denny’s serving breakfast next door. His skills run toward the utilitarian. He can cook well enough not to starve, but this—
Harold stands at the stove, shirtsleeves rolled up to the elbows and a neat white apron covering his clothes. The rich scent of onions and aromatics wafts through his loft in a cloud of steam, the high ceiling seeming only to amplify it somehow, and it’s all John can do to bury his nose in his wine glass and drink.
He feels sweetly overwhelmed.
“What’s cooking, Finch?” he asks.
“Broccoli cheddar soup,” Finch answers. He slides a bowl of neatly chopped florets into the heavy-bottomed pot, whisking, whisking.
Harold doesn’t cook like anyone else John has ever known. Instead of the hastily chopped, crowded cutting boards of his youth, Harold has neatly diced and portioned ingredients all in bowls. The shredded cheddar looks so starkly yellow in its neat glass dish, and John is struck by how elegant it all is.
He wonders if any part of Harold expected John to use this—the large, spacious kitchen; the little glass dishes; the heavy-bottomed, stainless steel pots. He must have known that John wouldn’t. Harold is a smart man. He’s seen John’s service records, and he would have made the necessary connections, even if he hadn’t hacked into more personal surveillance feeds, which John finds doubtful. He wonders, with a flush of warmth that feels elicit, whether Harold knew he’d one day be standing here, cooking for John.
John sits on the firm suede couch, shoulders pulled at attention through force of habit, and slowly, by degrees, finally starts to relax.
“It smells delicious,” he says honestly, because it does.
Harold hums, pleased. He sets about gathering the dishes while the pot on the stove simmers, and now John protests. The sight of Harold cleaning, let alone in his house, fills him with a kind of vague, unnamed panic.
“Just leave it, Harold. I can take care of it later.”
“It’s much easier to enjoy a good meal with a clean kitchen, Mr. Reese.”
Harold piles things in the sink, turning on both taps and adjusting them until he’s pleased with the temperature of the water, and now John starts to get up. “Let me take care of it, then.”
Harold waves him off. “Drink your wine, John.”
The command pulls him up short—of course it does, in a body trained to obey.
John fetches his wine from the low coffee table but comes back to the kitchen because Finch didn’t order him to sit down. The sound of running water fills his usually silent apartment, and John looks over Finch’s shoulder, watching him work. His fine, thin fingers seem elegant as they work a soapy sponge around the blade of a knife. It’s a pleasure to see him absorbed in his task, an echo of the same concentration he wears when working in the library or pulling up yet another stolen file on yet another unknown number.
Finch washes dishes the way he does everything else—with the utmost efficiency and attention to detail. When he turns around, his hands are faintly reddened from the sink, and there are speckles of water on his glasses. He dries his hands on a dish towel before returning to his bubbling pot. John steps neatly out of the way and leans against the opposite counter, watching Harold whisk the soup.
“This can’t be very interesting,” Harold says.
With anyone else, John would make an effort to blend. He’d shrug or smile, wide and disarming—put the subject at ease. He might even flirt a little, depending. But Harold isn’t anyone else, which is why he’s in John’s apartment at 10 at night, cooking them both broccoli cheddar soup.
Which is why John reacts exactly the way he wants to react—by standing very still, his hip braced against the counter, just taking everything in.
“On the contrary, I find you very interesting,” John says.
Harold smiles into the soup as he tosses in the grated cheese, and John smiles at feeling it gives him as much as the picture it makes—something warm and fragile.
“Dinner’s ready,” Harold announces, and John weaves around him to get the paper towels and spoons.
He goes to set the table, grabbing their half-gone bottle of wine on a whim, and this time Harold doesn’t stop him. John sets the table, and Harold ladles portions of soup into white bone china bowls, and it turns out they fit together here as well as they do in the field, anticipating the other’s movements, working around each other like they do it all the time—and of course, they do.