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In Another Life

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“It’d be nice to have a child-children. Think that will ever happen?”-Reese to Finch, Baby Blue.

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John met Harold on a job when he was just fresh out of the army.  A buddy of his had set up a private security company, and when John had finally gotten out of the service only to realize that the life he’d been looking for had met the perfect guy in the interim and was now the mother of a bouncing baby boy, he’d taken the job without many complainants.  Great pay to watch some nerdy rich guy whose business partner was worried about him because he’d been involved in a suspicious car accident and left by his fiancé while he was recuperating in the hospital-apparently she and the physiotherapist were soulmates-with little to no chance of getting shot? No brainer.

And then, of course, he’d actually met one Harold Finch, nerdy and yet entirely adorable rich guy in a three-piece suit likely worth more than John’s car, who had taken one look at John and declared, with all of the prissiness of a wet cat, “I am a very private person Mr. Reese, and I do not need a babysitter. So if you stay out of my way, I shall endeavor to do the same.”

And then he had limped for the door, not once looking back and well, that was it for John.

He’d never been able to resist a challenge like that.

Especially one with such a pleasing ass.

Still, he never really expected it to lead to here though.

“Daddy,” Nate whines, in that way that is more of a demand for attention than anything else. John just bites back a smile.

“What is it champ?” he asks, taking a good look at his son to see if he can detect the reason for the tone.  Sweater, jeans and sneakers seem to be all in the right place-hopefully a sign that his nudist phase is finally over-before he moves up to his face.  Hair forever mussed, cowlick that just won’t quit, all check and…ah, there it is.

“I don’t want to wear my glasses,” Nate says, folding his arms over his little chest and drawing up a pout that would make Harold proud.  John just raises his one eyebrow, and continues to try and feed Leila her bottle.  Leila, all of six months, gives him what he is pretty sure is a dismissive look, before continuing to chomp merrily on one of Harold’s ridiculously expensive ties. 

“Well champ,” he replies, turning his head towards Nate, “You know you can’t see the blackboard without them, so you’re going to have to wear them.”

“But glasses are lame,” Nate explains, like John might be 40 and a former green beret, but he’s obviously missing a few crucial brain cells.  John just shrugs. 

“Papa wears glasses-is he lame?” John asks, as Leila finally takes mercy on him and wraps her little rosebud lips around the bottle, though Harold’s tie is still firmly ensconced in her fat little baby fist. 

“No, but…” Nate protests, losing steam, slightly horrified at the idea, because Nate is so much a Papa’s boy, a little carbon copy of Harold that sometimes it makes John’s heart swell almost too full.

“Well then, go get your glasses; otherwise you’re going to make you and Papa late.” John says, as Harold limps into the kitchen right on cue.

“John have you seen-“ Harold starts, looking absolutely too well put together for this hour of the morning in his three piece Armani suit with matching tie and pocket square.  John has to tamp down a wave of love, so strong at his ridiculously adorable husband, who manages to co-own a Fortune 500 company but can’t remember where he keeps his laptop bag.

Instead, he just points to the corner of the kitchen table where Harold’s insanely expensive patent leather laptop bag is waiting, John having rescued it from under the couch, of all places.  Harold shoots him a grateful look before limping over to pick it up, and limps over to kiss John quickly in thanks.

Nate makes a sound that is somewhere between “disgusted” and “offended.”

“Papa, come on, we’re going to be late,” he insists long-sufferingly, like Harold is the one that is holding up progress.  Harold takes one look at him, and frowns.

“Nate, go get your glasses,” Harold says, which, after a betrayed look Nate turns and does, and then absently, to Nate’s little retreating back, “And your coat, it’s cool outside.”

And then, with a startled double take at Leila, somewhere between bemused and horrified, “Is that one of my ties?

John is thankfully saved from having answer that one by Nate’s return, glasses and coat in their rightful places, and then, with the minimum amount of fussing-“Daddy!” Nate protests loudly at his goodbye kiss to the cheek, because he’s six and kisses from parents are tragically uncool-John manages to get his son and his husband out the door, where, with any luck, Frick and Frack-who he knows are waiting downstairs patiently beside the towncar-will manage to get them to their destinations of time.  

Naturally, Leila picks that exact moment to spill the remainder of her bottle all over the highchair and herself, and smiles at him like she is entirely satisfied with her efforts.

John just sighs fondly, even as he mops up the milk, and then carts his adorable, soggy daughter off to the bath.  Leila, thankfully loves the bath; she slaps the water, little face thrilled as the flotilla of boats fall under the resulting wave, and John is pathetically grateful they don’t have to bathe her in that baby tub in the sink anymore.

He doesn’t care what anyone says, that thing is structurally unsound, and any moment his daughter doesn’t have to spend in that horrendous blue death trap is a good one.

He’s not overprotective, he’s just…aware of the dangers in this world.

But getting Leila clean is a pretty straight forward process, and so after he’s scrubbed her down and towel dried her little tuff of strawberry blond hair, and she’s dressed and all rosy cheeked in his arms he looks down at her and asks, in a lighter facsimile of his usual half-rasp, “So, who wants to go to the park today?”

He’s not actually expecting her to answer him, given that she’s only six months old, but he knows that she loves the park, and although it’s a cool day, it’s also a nice and sunny one, and some time outside would be good for both of them.  Still, she bubbles cheerfully while he gathers the stuff up that they’ll need into the diaper bag, once again chomping on the tie that he’s given her; her favorite thing out of the roughly half a million stuffed animals they have. Frankly, he doesn’t question it; Nate still gets more joy out of the box than the present so he figures it’s just a kid thing, and Harold’s got ties to spare anyways.

Once he’s got everything-diapers and the assorted like, a few toys, a blanket, a bottle and a jar of pureed prunes and chicken-and it’s gross, yeah, but she loves it and his so that’s what his little girl gets-John folds Leila into her ridiculously cute winter onsie-it has ears and a face and John absolutely refused to buy one like it for Nate when he was a baby because he may be a self-confident bi male, but there are some things you just don’t do to your male children-but his princess is adorable in it.  He then pulls on his own coat, a long black thing that Harold got him for last Christmas which likely means that the price tag would give him heart-failure, before he straps Leila into the equally ridiculous baby carrier that Harold had insisted they buy-ridiculous because John is 6’1 and there is no way that wearing a papoose doesn’t look stupid.

Leila, of course, picks that moment to look up at him and coo angelically, making it all worth it. 

The walk to the park is a short one; Harold and his owning a Fortune 500 company means that living in a massive Park Avenue penthouse/whole top floor is now a reality instead of some bizarre twilight-zone dream and it really is a nice day, so John enjoys it immensely.  Leila does too, if her happy burbling is any indication, and so once they actually get into the park, John and his baby girl are all smiles.

Naturally, it’s at that moment that they’re swarmed by women.

Because John may be a modest and humble guy, but he’s self-aware enough to admit that he’s also a pretty good looking one.  Add his truly adorable daughter to the mix, who absolutely plays it up by curling adorably into him and fluttering her baby blues at her adoring masses, and John suddenly becomes a babe magnet for every single woman under fifty.

Really, if he wasn’t so deliriously in love with Harold, this kid would be a better way to get laid than the line, ‘I’m in the military and it’s classified.’

But of course he is, and so he lets the woman coo over his little angel and deftly fields elegant refusals for the numbers-and invitations for lunch-in favor of heading over to their bench so that Leila can ‘feed the pigeons.’ It mostly amounts to Leila trying to sneak bird seed into her own mouth or throwing it randomly at John and everywhere, but its good fun and the pigeons get enough out of it that John can’t complain. 

After that it’s lunch time, so John spreads out the blanket under a nice shady tree, and then grabs a hot dog for himself from a vendor while he feeds Leila her chicken and prunes.  He can almost hear Harold’s horrified protestations-‘a hot dog, John, really. Do you know what’s in those things!’-but hey, Leila’s thing is worse and what Harold doesn’t know can’t hurt him.

After that John cleans up after their little picnic, and then they head to the pond so that Leila can ‘feed the ducks.’ It’s basically the same story as the pigeons; Leila basically makes a mess and tries to eat bread, but she loves watching them swarm, and John gets a kick out of watching the little ones following the mother around, so even he throws some in.

It’s when they’ve finished with the ducks that the phone rings, and John knows who it is even without checking the caller ID.

“How’s your day going, honey?” He drawls, tone firmly in the realm of gentle teasing, a smile firmly on his face.

“What do you want for dinner tonight?” Harold asks instead, ignoring his question, voice tightly controlled, a sure sign that Harold is embarrassed but trying not to show it-a tone that John loves to bring out in him-but John knows he’s mostly only calling because he’s worried about Reese’s upcoming job.

John doesn’t have to work for money-thanks to Harold, will never have to work for money as long as he lives-but he likes to do it.  The security work is a good balance for his life with the kids as Mr. Mom, because he loves his kids more than anything, but sometimes he needs some time with his guns and grenades and people who haven’t seen Finding Nemo.

That he gets to protect people while doing it is just an added bonus.

But it’s not the safest business out there, and ever since that one job in China where John came back with a knife wound and about forty assorted stiches-and it’s a cliché but really, you should have seen the other guy, because he wasn’t going anywhere, period-Harold always gets a little nervous beforehand.

And this job especially isn’t doing anything to sooth his mood.  The job’s not actually that dangerous; three days in Istanbul making sure some Sihk oil baron doesn’t get whacked sounds pretty bad, but it’s actually an unlikely occurrence of anything happening, because this guy has a lot of money but surprisingly few enemies.  Still, Harold, in that entirely Harold way of his-namely not saying a thing about it and hiding all of his feelings except from John, who knows him too well-is pretty unsettled about the whole thing.

Still, John can’t have his husband stewing in his own worry, and so short of canceling the trip-which he won’t do and Harold would never ask him to do-he settles for the next best thing; distraction.  “Stop reminding Nathan that you’re happy and married-it makes his smirk unbearable,” he announces, projecting his naturally low rasp into the phone, knowing that Harold probably has him on speaker and that Nathan can hear him.

Sure enough there’s a snicker, announcing Nathan’s presence; Nathan, predictably, as Harold’s best friend and the person who hired John, likes to take full credit for them getting together.  John thinks he actually has a point, but he likes to needle him about it, because usually ends up with Nathan pretending to flirt with him in some way. And then Harold, who despite being the love of John’s life-and Nathan being a ridiculous womanizer-harbors some strange paranoia that John is going to leave him for someone younger and better looking man or woman-which is never going to happen, because there is no such person-gets possessive and well…

Can’t beat possessive, slightly jealous sex.

“You named your first born after me, John,” Nathan says into the speakerphone, right on cue, and the tone of his voice means the flirting is about to follow, which sure enough it does, “It’s a very telling sign that you want my body, but I didn’t want to mention it.”

John snorts; beyond the ridiculousness of the idea, it’s an old joke-they adopted Nate at the 8 week mark and by then he’d already had the name and they hadn’t seen any reason to change it, but Nathan likes to say that they named him after him.  John likes to humor him about it.

“Yes well that is quite enough of that,” Harold says, voice tighter than usual, and John can just see the slightly suspicious look that Harold is sending Nathan; the if-you-ever-even-think-of-trying-anything-I-will-empty-your-bank-accounts-and-destroy-your-empire-faster-than-you-can-even-blink look.

It’s a good look on him.

“Ah Harold,” he says, letting up on him, because he never lets it go too far, tone entirely serious, “you know I only love you, right?”

“Yes, well-“ Harold starts, and then cuts off, entirely flustered for another reason, and yeah, there is so sex happening tonight.

“Why don’t you come and pick Leila and I up at the park, and we’ll go get Nate from school, and then we can all decide on dinner,” John says, in a fairly deft change of subject, finally answering Harold’s original question, and despite the dryness of his tone, John can hear Harold’s smile in his voice when he replies, “I’ll be at the west entrance in fifteen minutes.”

“Love you too Harold,” is all John drawls in reply-because that’s what Harold really said and they both know it-before he ends the call and looks down at Leila, still safely tucked into his chest, and asks softly, “So, want to see papa?”

Leila burbles happily; John takes it for a yes.

By the time they amble over to the west entrance the towncar is already there, Harold standing beside the car, entirely too dapper in his three piece suit, and his whole face lights up when he catches sight of John and Leila.  Really, it’s entirely not John’s fault that after he’s handed Leila to her papa and let him fuss over her before putting her safety in her car seat that John crowds Harold up against the side of the car, bracketing the smaller man’s body with his own as he rasps into his ear, “Mr. Finch, looking very good today. Wanna fool around?”

Harold, because he is so fucking adorable, turns bright red, almost stuttering as he replies, some of that wet cat prissiness that had John falling in love with him in the first place in his tone, “Only if you want to get arrested for indecent exposure, Mr. Reese!”

“That sounds like fun, Mr. Finch,” John purrs, sneaking a quick kiss before he lets up on him, “Rain check, for when we’re in a more…private setting.”

Harold escapes into the car with more speed than a man with his injuries should be able to achieve, but John knows that the becoming red flush on his means he secretly enjoyed it, it’s just that his nature as a very private person won’t let him admit it.  John steps into the car at a much more sedate pace, a self-satisfied look on his face, and he charitably ignores Frick’s half hidden smile. 

Once inside, Harold busies himself with playing with Leila, and John lets him have his space to cool down.  Marriage, he’s found, is more a partnership than anything he’s ever experienced in the army, though it has many of the same elements.  The having each other’s back, the trust are the same, but the give and take, the being one half of a whole-of being parents, responsible for the well-being of these little perfect people, who depend on you for everything is unlike anything he’s ever done before.

He wouldn’t give it up for the world.

This-this he would kill to protect.

Sometimes he wonders if all parents feel this way. He can remember how much fear they had both felt when they’d finally gotten Nate-how in those first weeks every cry had been a cause for alarm because they’d been so worried about messing this little perfect person up, and how when he’d started to crawl every second out of their sight had inspired a height of fear in them, like they were going to find Nate chewing on a grenade somewhere.  But he also remembers the love, so visceral and real, for these two perfect little people-the promise that as their parents they’d do everything in their power to make sure they grew up happy and healthy and well adjusted.

And between Harold and John, everything includes quite a lot.

By that time they’ve reached Nate’s school, and even before Nate dives into the car, John can feel his previously good mood disappearing, because he knows his kid, and right now, there’s something the matter with him.  Harold notices it as well-the withdrawnness in their usually outgoing son a pretty clear clue, but he stays back and lets John lean in, try first, because somehow, out of the two of them, John has the better people skills.

“What happened to your glasses, champ?” John starts with, voice nothing but kind and non-judgemental, noting the red eyes, too dry from crying and forcing his hands not to curl into fists, because he knows where this is going.

“I lost them,” Nate says to his navel, unable to meet his either of their eyes, and even if John didn’t have advanced training in interrogation, he’d still know it was a lie.

“Nate, buddy, you know you can tell us the truth and we won’t be mad,” he says, gently tilting his son’s forehead up so he can see his eyes, and after a look at Harold, who nods as encouraging as he can, given his limited range of neck movement, Nate turns his gaze back to John, and his little lip quivers as he finally gives in.

“Mason called me four-eyes and then he broke them! I tried to stop him, I did, Daddy!” Nate exclaims, tears in his eyes, so heartbreakingly earnest that John just wants to kill everyone who ever put that look on his face, and everyone who ever will in the future.

John counts to ten, and reminds himself that he isn’t allowed to kill six year olds, not even ones that bully his kid.

Besides, he knows a lot about the particular kid in question, and he can even feel for him. Background checks on his son’s schoolmates and their parents might be unethical, but what, John wasn’t about to let his kid go to school without doing it.  Harold even less so, given that he’d already had most of them done before John even asked.

They might be crazy, but at least they’re crazy together.

But that’s how he knows that Mason Jones has an alcoholic father and a passive, enabling mother, and that his home life is like a breeding pool for bullies. From the look in Harold’s eyes John knows that after today, child services is going to get an anonymous tip and is going to pay a visit to the Jones household, and if that doesn’t work then John will pay a little visit to Mr. Jones.

That will certainly work.

But that isn’t the kind of thing he can say to his kid, who is currently crying and needs his daddy, and so instead John gathers his son into his arms and takes the pocket square that Harold is offering, handing it to Nate so he can wipe his eyes.  Once his son is more composed and can meet his eyes, John asks, voice soft and soothing, “What did I say about bullies?”

“Stick out my fingers and poke them in the eye?” Nate says, aiming a wary look at Harold, because yeah, that might have been one of those don’t-tell-Papa-conversations.

Harold looks appropriately betrayed, and John can feel his chances of getting laid tonight dwindle by the second.

“The other talk about bullies, champ,” he says with a tiny smile, because no matter what Harold thinks, he still sticks by what he said-John may know that violence isn’t always the best solution, but he also knows too much to say that it doesn’t solve anything.

Nate, after a brief gaging of the moods of both of his parents repeats the rest of the talk dutifully, “That bullies are only mean because they want to make themselves feel better, and that I shouldn’t listen to what they say.”

Harold’s eyes soften a bit at that, but John knows that wasn’t the end of it, and so he prompts his son gently again, “And…”

“And that I should tell you guys and Miss Kelly if it ever happens, so that it won’t happen again.” Nate says, voice growing in confidence, and John’s smiling, so proud of his kid as he says, “Very good-so what are you going do tomorrow?”

“Tell Miss Kelly,” Nate promises, most of that horrible misery gone from his face, and at that, John feels that knot in his heart loosen a little bit as he hands his son the spare pair of glasses he always has on him.

“That’s why you’re the best, champ,” he says, and as Nate curls into his side, nestling his head into the crook of John’s neck, Harold shoots him this look-so soft and full of love that John’s heart can barely contain it all.

His chances of getting laid definitely just went up again.

Still, that’s definitely not a thought he’s going to share with Nate, and so instead he says, to the whole population of the car-minus Frick and Frack-voice more cheerful, “Alright, how about this-we go home and order Chinese from your favorite place, and then we’ll all have ice cream for dessert. That sound good to you?”

 “Yeah,” Nate announces, and then shoots his papa a pleading look that has Harold, who has ruined men in the past, crumbling like a poorly constructed wall.

Approval all around, they order from the car-they might not have a menu, but the Finch-Reese family order from that place a lot, and so they hardly need one.

The hostess knows them by name, and the delivery boy bought his motorcycle on Harold’s tips.

Consequently, by the time they pull into their building and make it to the top floor, the delivery guy is already waiting for them, and so John makes with getting the kids inside and out of their outdoor clothes while Harold takes the food and gives his customarily ridiculous over-tip.

That dealt with, they divvy up the food, where Harold and Nate both load up on those ridiculous noodles they like, while John steals the kung pao and feeds Leila her bottle and some applesauce, which seems to make her pretty happy.

When they’re finally finished dinner-because Harold and Nate both insist on eating said noodles with chopsticks, which is adorable but slow-Harold deals with the dishes while John goes to the freezer and gets the ice cream and three bowls.  It’s Haagen Dazs, Dulce de Leche-a favorite of Harold’s that’s become the family favorite-and John scoops a reasonable-given that he’d actually like his son to sleep at some point so he can ravish his husband-amount into the dishes. 

Nate takes the bowl with the enthusiasm that it deserves, and then, because he’s also their kid and realizes that he can push the envelope a little tonight asks, ask innocent as can be, “Movie?”

John just smiles and nods, and so Nate, ice cream still in hand rushes off to set up the DVD in the impossibly large TV they have in the family room.  Harold, touting both of their ice creams and John, touting Leila follow at a more sedate pace, and so they sit down right as the all too familiar credits of Finding Nemo-Nate’s favorite movie at the moment-start.

John, who can recite the movie off by heart by now, hardly pays any attention to it. Instead, he lays Leila on his chest and feeds Harold, who’s reclining beside him on the couch spoonful’s of ice cream, and just basks in the simple pleasure of his family.

Leila doesn’t make it a half hour in before her little head nods off on his chest, and Nate manages to last until the part with the turtles before he too succumbs to the lure of sleep, which is the universal parent code for turning off the movie and getting all tired little children into bed.  By unspoken rules Harold takes Leila off to her crib and John picks up Nate-whose finally gotten too heavy for Harold to carry with his back-off of his pillow on the floor and carries him to the bathroom for a half-asleep brushing of his teeth and quick change into his Nemo pajama’s, before laying him down in his bed where the little guy dozes off to sleep like he’d never been awake.

After a moment of just taking in the picture his sleeping son makes, John heads back to the kitchen where sure enough he finds Harold tiding up the ice cream bowls, all while still wearing that vest and that tie.  And so really, it’s almost John’s civic duty to curl into the back of his husband, wrap his arms around him and press a kiss to the tiny silver of skin not hidden by his shirt collar.

“Hey,” he says, just for the pleasure of saying it-of the pleasure of having a husband; of having Harold to do this too-and Harold turns himself around in John’s arms as he replies, bemused at John’s little ritual, “Hello.”

After that, it’s pretty much inevitable that John reels him in by that ridiculously expensive tie, fitting the planes of his body into John’s own until they’re flush, and rasps into his ear, “So, how about that rain check; wanna fool around now Mr. Finch?”

“No Mr. Reese-I’d like to do much more than fool around,” Harold asserts, that lovely voice of his teasing as his hands slide down the solid planes of John’s abdomen and find a home right under his belt.

Well, well, Mr. Finch,” John purrs, moving so as to crowd Harold back into their bedroom, loving as he always does this side of Finch-the teasing, fun, all too sexy side. “I think that can be arranged,” he says, as they pass through the doorway and his hands hit the lights, plunging the room into darkness, before migrating to somewhere a little more…fun.

Best way to end any day.

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FIN

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