It's been a week since John kissed Harold. Or rather, truth be told, it's been a week since Mr. Reese kissed Mr. Finch. Because while John is allowed his joking or affectionate usage of Finch's (supposedly) first name, Finch never seems to be able to do the same in return unless there's some kind of life or death situation happening.
In hindsight, John knows that he went about it wrong. He should have given Finch time to prepare, and perhaps he should have waited until he was assured of his welcome. But emotions tend to not care if now is a good time or not, and in John's defense, he did just escape death by a couple of scant inches. Adrenaline was high, Finch was right there, calling him John in that urgent voice, checking him for injuries with shaking hands. And he was warm and close and it took nothing at all to pull him in and silence his worries with the press of lips and soothing hands up his stiff back. Unusually stiff, in fact.
Because Finch was a steel pillar in John's arms and as soon as he was released, Finch took flight like the birds he was so fond of hiding behind. John had to admit it hurt when Finch limped away, his terse “I'm glad to see you're all right, Mr. Reese,” echoing in the dark alley.
John looked up at the security camera on the wall and saw the light blink. “Did I just ruin everything?” he asked the Machine. As usual, there was no answer. So he went home to the apartment Harold bought him, went to sleep in sheets Harold picked out and cursed himself for letting his good sense and hard-won emotional detachment fly out the window every time Harold was in the room.
It's been a week. Bear knows something is up, because he keeps looking at the two men, one after the other, obviously trying to figure out why the air is suddenly changed between them. Finch's tone is clipped and John doesn't push him. Finch has every right to feel uncomfortable or even offended, and John gives him space. It's all he can do.
John eats a lot of Eggs Benedict and he's self aware enough to admit that he's feeling sorry for himself. And perhaps also sorry for Finch. After all, John may well have destroyed the only relationship Finch has been able to have since whatever happened to him made him push everyone away.
It's been a week... and then one morning Finch sits down in the booth opposite John, orders his own plate of Eggs Benedict and gives John a meaningful look. Let's not talk about this now, it says. John listens. They eat their eggs in comfortable silence.
* * *
It's been three weeks and one day since they shared eggs in a sunlit diner. Three weeks and a day of numbers, lives saved and emotional issues ignored. John isn't looking the gift horse in the mouth, and in return Finch smiles at him, and starts joking with John again in his dry, cutting way. Bear stops pacing between them and grows fatter from the treats Finch keeps sneaking him and John pretends not to see.
They could have talked about it. There are always numbers, but there are also always lengthy stake-outs and research sessions with Finch's voice in John's ear, or occasionally in front of him, only a laptop between them. They could have talked. But Finch's eyes are still guarded and John leaves it be.
It's three weeks and one day later when Finch kisses John back.
It's brief, chaste and out of nowhere. Just a quick brush of lips, the bend of Finch's waist almost mechanically rigid as he leans down into John's space where he's sitting, and then immediately leaves, coat flapping like wings behind him with every uneven step.
Although there is no doubt in John's mind that he was just kissed by Mr. Finch, at least now there is hope that not everything is ruined. That maybe, with time, Harold will kiss him too. John smiles and rubs Bear's ears.
* * *
It's been two and a half months since Mr. Reese first kissed Mr. Finch in a dark alley, riding high on adrenaline and changing both their lives in one small gesture. Only a handful of times since then have they come together, the touch of their lips awkward but warm, always chaste, but more than John had dared to hope for.
Finch seems softer around John these days, the hard line of his pained spine bending smoother and the flash of his smile easier to bring out. John is more than happy to give it time, even though he knows that time is something they may not have a lot of. Even if this is all Finch will ever be able to give, then John will gladly take it.
He kills as swiftly and efficiently as he ever did, but every so often he'll see horror in the face of the people he saves, and then realize that he's been smiling and they no doubt assume he's insane. Which he probably is. But every time he returns to the library there is a chance, however slight, that Finch will welcome him with a soft peck on mouth or cheek, slide a dry palm across his neck or just be there with smiling eyes. John thinks that's certainly worth an inane grin or two.
Two and a half months of cautious courting later, John gets shot and Finch yells at him for being careless before yanking him in for a desperate open-mouthed kiss. John has been shot far too many times in his life, and he knows the sensation well. Well enough to determine with a fair amount of certainty that the bullet went right through his upper arm and that there's no serious damage. But Finch only sees the blood and kisses John with terrified urgency, and John feels only slightly guilty for letting him.
“I'm okay,” he whispers when Finch finally lets him go and starts helping him out of his jacket with trembling hands. “Harold,” he urges, when there's no reply, but Finch shakes his head and tends to the wound, so John leaves him be.
It's two and a half months of kisses from Finch, and John finds himself still hoping for Harold.
* * *
Six months go by. John's arm heals and Finch goes back to kissing with closed lips and tense neck, unwilling to open up again yet. John yearns for the return of that all too short-lived moment of passion, but he respects Finch's need for equilibrium and doesn't push.
Finch thanks him by letting him touch. In the past John was always enormously careful with his touches, keeping them light and brief both for the sake of Finch's unspecified injuries and his need for distance. But as John rests a gentle hand on Finch's back the day after getting shot, Finch leans into it and they stay like that, connected, for a long quiet moment.
After that he's less careful, and Finch welcomes every slide of hands on shoulders, every careful nuzzle through the hairs on the back of his neck, and every press of John's body against his, their flesh warm to the touch even through several layers of clothing. John revels in it and doesn't hesitate to show Finch that even though things are progressing brutally slowly, he's more than content to be where he is.
Six months. That is apparently how long it takes to coax a finch out of its nest. And as if taking the bird analogy to its most extreme, Finch doesn't hesitate to fling himself into thin air once he's made up his mind that his wings are strong enough.
It's dark in John's apartment when Finch slowly takes off his glasses, folds them and places them on the coffee table before kneeling on the couch next to John, tilting his head up and licking his mouth open.
It's six months before Harold kisses John. Half a year of something. But the man kissing John now is not Finch, and he's giving John everything.
* * *
Six months and nine hours later John wakes up to Harold snoring against his side and Bear's tail thumping the covers at the foot of his bed. Late morning sunlight is streaming in through the windows because no one had the presence of mind to close the blinds the night before. Harold is sweating under the warm covers. His hair is flattened on one side and sticking up on the other and John's arm is asleep under him. But he looks peaceful and relaxed, and doesn't even wake when John nuzzles him. So he lets Harold sleep, and even Bear seems agreeable to let John stay in the moment, because even though he can plainly see that John is awake he doesn't start begging for his morning walk as he usually would.
As a thank you, John pats the bed on his other side and Bear shuffles up to him with a pleased whimper and settles down again.
Six months and nine hours to get to this. And all things considered, John doesn't think he could ever have it better.