Spies are observers, by training and nature. They get a gut feeling when something isn't right—if they didn't, they' d be dead spies—and there's nothing John pays more attention to than Harold. When he begins acting more mysteriously than usual, with periods of radio silence every few weeks, John notes the pattern. It seems only prudent to check into it.
He keeps an eye on the library in his downtime, and he trails Harold to high-rise condos where he may or may not actually live, to office buildings where he could be the CEO or the copier repairman. If Harold knows he's being followed, he gives no indication. He also doesn't do anything remotely interesting, work and home, briefcase in hand.
John almost considers giving up. Almost.
Their current number is a young woman, Sasha Davis, an editor at a children's publishing house and the heir to a tidy fortune from a great uncle in the timber business. It doesn't take much digging on Harold's part to unearth her husband's gambling debts, and John tracks the botched attempt on Sasha's life to a lowlife with bad luck at the track, who just happens to owe money to the same bookie as Sasha's husband. All John has to do is keep an eye on Sasha and wait for her husband to incriminate himself and call in Carter to slap on the cuffs.
He just takes his time letting Finch know about it, that's all.
"What happened, Mr. Reese?" Finch asks anxiously when John finally calls.
John watches the library from a concealed spot across the street. "Mrs. Davis is going to need a good divorce lawyer."
Finch lets out his breath in relief. "I take it Mr. Davis is on his way to jail then."
"Right where he belongs. So, do you have a new number for me?"
"Not yet. I'll call you when something comes up. In the meantime, get some rest."
"You're spoiling me, Harold," he quips. "Talk to you later."
It doesn't take long after they hang up for Harold to emerge from the library. His car is nowhere to be seen, and he takes off down the block. John follows at a discreet distance, blending into the mid-afternoon Manhattan foot traffic. For a moment, John thinks maybe Harold will head for the subway station on the corner.
Instead, he keeps going, eventually turning down 22nd Street and ducking into a brownstone, which doesn't seem to be a residence, but has no sign out front either. John waits and watches, and half an hour later when Harold comes back out, John goes in.
The lock on the outer door is no challenge, and John treads silently down the hall to another door at the end of it. He steps inside into a sleekly furnished living area or possibly a very fancy waiting room. Three men stop what they're doing to stare, their expressions all equally shocked to find a stranger there. One man is slight, Asian, wearing a silk dressing gown over button-up shirt and impeccably tailored trousers; another is decked out like a well-manicured biker, in leathers, with neatly polished nails; and the last looks like he got off the bus from Wisconsin that morning, blond and wide-eyed and farm-fresh.
So this is Harold's secret. John is surprised, and maybe a little disappointed, that it's so ordinary.
He holds up his hands, to show he means no harm. "Sorry to barge in like this, but the man who just left here is a friend of mine. I'd like to have what he had."
Suspicion hangs in the air, and this makes it grow sharper.
"Don't worry," John tells them. "Do I look like a cop?" He smiles, with just an edge of menace. "So, what my friend had?"
They trade nervous glances among themselves, and it's the one in the dressing gown who gets elected to speak. "You mean Marcus?"
"Yes. Absolutely." John smiles again, to keep them off-balance and cooperative.
"It is customary—before—"
"Of course." John pulls his wallet from his pocket. "Do you take Diner's Club?" It seems only appropriate to pay for Finch's hooker with Finch's money. "
Making payment doesn't make the men look less unnerved.
"Uh, I guess you should follow me?" the man in the dressing gown says.
John makes note of every detail as they head down the hall in case he needs to make a quick escape. The odds are pretty good that they'll give him what he wants just to get rid of him, but there's still a chance they might call in some muscle to deal with him. An operation like this would have intimidation on speed dial.
He's shown into a room, a minimalist's dream in white and black, with a platform bed and a night table that is no doubt filled with condoms and sex toys.
"Um, Marcus will be right with you?"
John smiles, minus the menace. "Thank you."
He listens to footsteps heading away and, after a few moments, another set approaching, a light tread, just one person. Seems like they are just going to give him what he wants. Good choice.
The door opens, and a man, presumably Marcus, steps inside. John—isn't expecting this at all. Marcus is tall, with short, salt-and-pepper hair (au bottle, John suspects), square-jawed, bulkier than John but still—close enough to make this an exercise in narcissism.
"You asked for me?" Marcus says uncertainly.
"Kai said you wanted, you know, the same as your friend?"
Doubt flashes across his face. "Are you sure? I mean, it's—nothing fancy, what I do for him."
"Humor me," John tells him.
Marcus gives him a long look before shrugging. "Sure. Why not?"
He opens the nightstand drawer, which is filled with tools of the trade just as John imagined, and he takes out a pump bottle of lubricant. Marcus doesn't undress or try to undress John. These are Harold's preferences, after all. Marcus takes a step closer, lays his hand against John's chest, and then hesitates. "Is this all right?"
Marcus strokes his hand up and down over John's shirt, a little perfunctorily. "He likes to get right down to it."
John half-smiles. "That's not a surprise."
Marcus nods, taking this as permission to proceed, and he rubs John's cock through his pants before sliding down the zipper. Once he's pulled John free from his briefs, he slicks his palm and gets to work. There's nothing especially arousing about this mechanical touch, but John is only human, and it's a hand on his dick. It helps him get hard to think that this same hand has also touched Harold.
Marcus tightens his grip and speeds up, and then looks apologetic. "He likes it kind of rough."
John lurches his hips forward, startled by the sudden heat arcing through him. Does Harold imagine John touching him? Is that how he thinks John would do it?
"So I guess this works for you too," Marcus says, smiling a little.
"Tell me what else he likes," John says, his breath starting to come heavier.
Marcus bites his lip, as if he's just realized he should be more careful with his client's privacy.
"Marcus," John prompts.
"This. Sometimes." He cups John's balls and pulls down, hard enough that it's the kind of pleasure that borders on pain, and John moans out loud. Now he's the one with the pictures in his head, imagining himself doing this to Harold, wondering how Harold would respond.
He pants harder. "What does he say?"
Marcus shakes his head. "Nothing much. Honestly, he doesn't really seem to want to be here, just tries to get it over with. But sometimes—" He hesitates. "Sometimes when he comes, he says a name."
John's hips stutter, and his breath quickens. "What name?"
Marcus works him even harder, and he whispers, "John."
John shudders all over, and squeezes his eyes closed, and comes in Marcus's hand, picturing someone else entirely.
There are advantages to dealing with a professional. Marcus produces a wet wipe and takes charge of clean up. John is zipped up and presentable in little more than a minute.
"Thanks. That was very instructive," he tells Marcus, pulling a wad of cash from his wallet and handing it over as he heads for the door.
"You're John, aren't you?" Marcus calls after him.
"Have a nice day," John says without looking back.
Saving information to use at the right moment, that's second nature to John, and when Finch calls with the next number, he goes. He works the case, the way he always does, no mention of his trip to 22nd Street. Darren Gold is a baggage handler at LaGuardia, and it doesn't take long to piece together that he's taking payoffs to let smuggled artifacts in the country. A day's worth of trailing him around Queens, including a furtive stop at a fence who deals in art objects, tells John that Gold helped himself to one of those smuggled artifacts, and now his business partners want him dead.
By the time he's finished dealing with the situation, Carter has credit for busting the smuggling ring and Darren Gold has a second chance at freedom in exchange for his testimony. John can only hope he's not such an idiot that he screws it up.
"All the loose ends are taken care of," he tells Harold, once he's back at the library.
"I suppose that's it for now then. I'll call you when we get a new number."
John gives a terse nod and heads for the stairs.
"Mr. Reese," Harold calls after him, and John turns. "I've felt that things have been a little off lately. Is something wrong?"
Maybe he's seen the charges on the credit card, and he's playing a game. Maybe he's honestly perplexed. John has no way of knowing.
He slips on a smile. "What could be wrong, Harold?"
The February air has turned brutal, and John turns up his collar as he heads into the wind. He's two blocks away before he decides. This is it, time to use that information.
Harold looks up in surprise when John makes his reappearance at the library. "Did you forget something?"
"Yes." John strides up to him. "I forgot to tell you that I met some friends of yours over on 22nd Street."
Harold goes as absolutely still as if he were that proverbial deer in the headlights, and color rushes into his face. Not playing a game then.
"That's none of your business," Harold says indignantly, his lips pressed into a thin, displeased line.
"Oh, I think it's very much my business, Harold, when you're hiring someone who looks like me to give you orgasms."
John takes another step closer, and Finch gets up from his chair, takes a step back.
"My research didn't reveal that you were a homophobe, Mr. Reese." There's a little hint of fear in Finch's eyes, but he lifts his chin defiantly. It's moments like this that make John certain Harold is the bravest man he knows.
"I'm not." His voice is low and thick, seductive. "But I am territorial."
Finch's eyes go wide, startled and confused.
John takes another step toward him. "You're letting someone else have what should belong to me, and I'm not okay with that." He catches Harold by the arm and reels him in and presses his mouth to Harold's neck. "If you're getting off to thoughts of me, you should be getting off with me. That's only fair, don’t you think?" He brushes his lips against Harold's ear and smiles when Harold trembles.
"John—" It's probably supposed to be a protest, but it comes out soft and breathy, and Harold instinctively angles his neck, offering John better access.
It's an opportunity, and John is trained to make the most of openings like this. He strings kisses along Harold's neck, sucking, using his teeth, leaving his mark. Harold trembles harder.
"I would give you what you're paying for." He strokes his hand over Harold's hair and lets it come to rest on the back of his neck, gentle where Harold is fragile. "I would let you do anything you want. I would want it too. Is that the problem, Harold? Would that make it too real?"
Harold doesn't answer, and John knows he might be ruining their partnership, but now that he has his hands on Harold, he doesn't want to stop. He strokes his hand up and down Harold's chest, the way Marcus had done, but that's not enough. He keeps going, rubbing over the fly of Harold's immaculately tailored trousers.
"Or maybe it's not such a problem." He squeezes Harold's hard cock through the fabric.
Harold lets out an urgent noise, and then he's unleashed, grabbing handfuls of John's jacket, pushing their mouths together. John murmurs against Harold's lips and strokes his hands over his back. Harold licks at John's mouth and deepens the kiss, and, God, he's good at that.
It's Harold who finally breaks the kiss, as abruptly as he began it. "This probably isn't a good idea," he says, already breathing heavily.
John brushes his lips to Harold's temple, smiling. "Unlike the rest of what we do."
"I suppose you do have a point there," Harold says, after a moment. "But—"
"Harold." John kisses his throat. "Let me." He doesn't say please, but he knows that Harold can hear it.
There's no answer, but no protest either, not even when John sinks to his knees. Harold stares down at him, and after a moment's hesitation, he settles his hands onto John's shoulders, lightly, as if he might pull away at any moment. John smiles up at him and reaches for his belt.
He could push Harold's briefs down and just do it, put his mouth on him—Harold likes to get right down to it, after all—but it's better when it's slow, when it builds. John brushes Harold's shirttail out of the way and covers Harold's belly in soft little kisses.
Harold tightens his grip on John's shoulders, pressing his thumbs in until he's probably leaving bruises, and John smiles against his bare skin. He pushes his face against the cotton of Harold's briefs and breathes in. Harold's cock is hot and urgent against his cheek, and John rubs his face against it, triumphant and incredibly turned on when this pulls a moan out of Harold.
"John—" Harold doesn't say please, but John knows.
He eases Harold's briefs down and draws his tongue along Harold's length. Harold sucks in an audible breath, and John closes his mouth around his cock. He wasn't kidding about being territorial. What's his is his, and Harold is more his than anyone or anything else, and he wants to make Harold shake, wants to make this so good Harold never thinks of anyone else, never lets anyone else.
"Oh God," Harold says, as if the words are dragged out of him.
John squeezes his hands on Harold's hips, and rubs his thighs, and relaxes his throat. He's so hard it's as if he's the one who's being touched.
"John," Harold says, as frantic as John will likely ever hear him. "John, I—"
Come in my mouth. John wants it. He slips his hand into Harold's briefs and cups his balls and pulls down.
A strangled noise escapes Harold, and he grips John's hair so tightly that John has to shut his eyes, and he swallows down mouthfuls of bitter salt.
Afterward, Harold works on breathing again, and John tucks his cock back into his trousers. Planning the next step and the next and the next after that—that's what his training has taught him—but he has no idea what happens now.
It's Harold who answers that question, gripping John's arm, pulling him to his feet. John thinks this it. Harold is going to throw him out of the library and tell him never to come back and the find the place will be emptied out, no trace that Harold was ever here. Regret knifes him between the ribs, just for a moment, and then Harold is scrabbling at John's belt, pushing his hand into his underwear.
"Harold." His lungs empty, and he shoves into Harold's grip.
Harold gives it the way he likes to get it, fast and rough, and John has been ready to come since he first got to his knees. He presses his face against Harold's neck, and it only takes a few pulls before he's spilling into Harold's palm.
Harold is not one to be outdone by professionals, John is amused to see. He pulls wet wipes from a desk drawer, hands one to John, and cleans up himself. Once that's done, though, he lapses into awkwardness.
"We need to talk about this habit you've developed of spying on me," he says at last, without much bite to the words.
John smiles. "I'd rather talk about when we're going to do this next."
"Next—" Harold stares, as if the definition of the word has slipped right out of his head.
John lays his hand against Harold's cheek and kisses him. "We've already established that it's probably not a good idea, and we're going to do it again anyway."
Harold doesn't say anything. That's not "no."
"Call me when we have a number."
This time when John leaves the library, he doesn't mind the wind.