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your kind of mystery

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All but one of the men have gone. Two, if you count the guy tied to the chair.

“Maybe we should think about this, first,” John murmurs. “We don’t know who the captive is. Given our number’s line of work, this guy might not be any nicer.” 

Not to mention the fact that they found this basement by tracking the encrypted signals emitted by the captive’s subcutaneous transponder. In John’s experience, people who had those were usually not harmless.

“Even mob bosses don’t deserve to be tortured,” Harold says, hard and decisive. “Let him loose, Mr. Reese. We can see that he is safely contained afterwards.”

“I’m going in,” John says.

The guard goes down satisfyingly fast. John busies himself undoing the captive’s shackles. His wrists were going to need medical care. So could the rest of him, really.

The captive is gagged, but he struggles and makes furious noises.

“I’m trying to get you out,” John says, slightly annoyed. Thankfully, the captive subsides at that, but he’s still tense.

John can’t blame him.

“Here we go,” John says, once he’s done unlocking the handcuffs on the guy’s wrists. 

Out of the corner of his eye he catches a glimpse of something black and moving: just before the taser hits him, he sees blonde hair.

~~

The first words John hears on regaining his consciousness are moaned. “Do you have to be so fucking heavy, man?”

The man saying them is shouldering most of John’s weight, so John supposes the guy can’t be blamed.

“I’m just saying, maybe go to the gym a little more.”

“Muscle’s heavier than fat, Hardison.” The other voice is slurred and hoarse. 

John opens his eyes slightly. The guy he’d rescued is lumbering ahead, clumsy and slow but unsupported.

“Maybe you take him if you’re so knowledgeable,” Hardison mumbles. “Or hey, how ‘bout Parker, seeing as you’re the one who tazed his ass.”

“I tazed his shoulder,” Parker says. “I still think we should leave him here.”

“He was trying to help,” the first guy says, testy. “I’m not leaving somebody who tried to help me unconscious in enemy territory.”

John takes the opportunity to clear his throat. “Give me a sec,” he says. “I might be able to walk.”

His comm comes to life, too. “Mr. Reese! I’ve been tracking your location. There’s a vehicle coming for you.” 

Parker and the first guy are looking at John oddly. John considers his expression might be a bit too beatific for the situation, but Harold’s giving instructions in his ear, quick and precise, and every word makes John feel like the world comes a bit into better focus.

“There’s a car coming for me,” John says, getting to his own feet, re-learning balance. “Come on.” 

“This better not be a setup,” the first guy mutters, but he follows John and so do the other two.

~~

There’s an actual limousine picking them up. John knows he’s smiling like a weirdo, and he doesn’t care. Only Harold.

He’s not expecting Harold to be there in person, though, and he tenses up immediately. “Don’t taze him,” he tells Parker, low and threatening.

Parker seems unimpressed. “Don’t give me a reason to.”

Hardison and the first guy (whose name turned out to be Eliot) look wary. “Why do I feel like we just got in a car with Jabba the Hut?” Hardison says.

Harold frowns at him. “Is this a comment about my weight?" He shakes his head. ”I normally don’t meet our, ah, marks, in person. Your team is a special case.”

“Special like special ed?” Parker says, eyes narrowed.

Eliot asks, “Who are you guys, anyway?” 

“A concerned third party,” John says, purely for the annoyed look Harold gets when John beats him to the catchphrase.

“I’m interested in your subcutaneous transponder,” Harold tells Hardison. “Normally I just buy the company, but as it appears you’re not going commercial....”

“What do you want to do with it?” Hardison doesn’t reach for his own collarbone, but John can tell he wants to. Eliot, by the look on his face, caught it too: he’s wincing. John feels a flash of sympathy.

“The same thing you do,” Harold says. “Allow tracking in the event of kidnapping, or similar.” He dips his head a little. John wonders if Eliot noticed that Harold’s breath sped, too, or if the change was too subtle to notice unless one knew him.

John might be breathing faster, too. He doesn’t like to even think of the possibility of losing Harold again. The idea of a homing beacon on Harold is tempting, of course it is. At the same time... does Harold think John couldn’t track him? That he wouldn’t?

Hardison’s brow furrows as he looks at John. “What, you just gonna chip this fellow like a dog?”

“Hardly like a dog,” Harold says. “Dogs can’t give informed consent.” His expression shifts. “Of course, I haven’t asked for it yet, but we can always discuss it-- John?”

“Yes,” John says, dazed. There’s not a lot of room between the seats, but John wants to slip down into it anyway, to go liquid and put himself under Harold’s hands.

“...I’m not sure I’d call it informed consent.” Hardison sounds doubtful. “Guy looks higher than a weather balloon.”

“I’ll discuss it with him later,” Harold says. “At length. But if you’re willing to give me the blueprints, I will be most grateful.”

“And if I don’t?”

Harold sighs. “Then I’ll have to come up with my own design. This will take some time, during which it’s entirely possible Mr. Reese could come to preventable harm. This doesn’t obligate you to share, of course, but I would appreciate it if you did.”

A quiet moment passes, then Hardison says, “Let me give you my email.”

“No need,” Harold says, a little smugger than he needs to be. “Check your inbox, Mr. Hardison. Simply reply to the email without a return address.”

~~

After dropping the trio off, they drive to John’s apartment, where Harold tsks over the tazer burn and runs gentle, cool hands over John’s warm skin.

“Tell me you meant it,” John says. 

“About the transponder? Of course I did.” Harold taps the skin just under John’s nape, and John groans. “Here, perhaps?”

“Anywhere you want.” John turns on his back, spreading his legs. “Harold, please.”

Harold moves to lie over him, still fully dressed, the cloth of his suit smooth against John’s dick. “Of course, John.” He presses a hand to John’s cheek. “What do you want?”

John closes his eyes, tilts his head away. He wants Harold to put the transponder in him, to mark John so Harold will always find him. If he asks for it right now, he might lose his mind.

“Tell me nobody deserves to be tortured,” he says instead. “Tell me that again.”

“Nobody deserves that,” Harold says, immediately. He’s not humoring John. His conviction is palpable; John groans and arches up into Harold’s weight, letting his own mind fall apart, letting the implacable strength of Harold’s mind hold him together.