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At the time, it just seemed like the situation. Third number in thirty-six hours and they'd lost the guy in the middle, sure he'd been perp and not the victim, and John was tired—tired and already aching—and as he taken a quick shower and headed out the door with Harold's voice in his ear, all he could think was that he wanted to be touched by something that didn't hurt.

The third number was difficult to find, hiding under an alias, the target of a drug cartel—

(and why did drug dealers have to make things so goddamn complicated anyway, Reese muttered under his breath while he'd worked his way out of the cuffs and ropes and zip ties. "You just start with your basic business model—"

This isn't Harvard Business School, Harold said sternly in his ear.

"Well it isn't the goddamned Matrix either," he shot back, swearing as he ripped a nail almost down to the cuticle.)

Later he added "fond of knives" to his mental list of "things he didn't like about drug dealers," hissing as the blade slid along his rib, slicing him open deep enough to give him pause, and by the time he limped back to the library he felt like one giant bruise, everything hurting.

Bear greeted him anxiously, sniffing out the blood immediately, and he went to one knee, burying his face in the dog's warm fur, closing his eyes. He was suddenly close to tears and he didn't really know why, except he hurt more than physically, had been hurting for some time, he realized, and he didn't know what it was or how to fix it.

"Mr. Reese." Harold came around his desk. "You're hurt."

John rose to his feet and walked past him into the stacks without speaking, to the bar. He could hear Harold limping behind him, following him, and the lump in his throat grew. Something inside him was breaking up. He shrugged off his jacket and reached for the bottle of whiskey.

"You're bleeding." Harold's voice had that shocked tone in it, the way it always did when John came home injured, as though it was something beyond his comprehension.

"Yes, Harold. That's what happens when four drug dealers have a disagreement with you and carry plenty of sharp knives." He filled a tumbler with about five fingers of the whiskey and tossed it back in one swallow.

"That is very expensive whiskey."

"Sorry." He filled the glass again.

"You're not—I should call a doctor."

"And let someone into your precious library?" The hell with it. He tossed the second glass back and refilled it again. "Other than us hired help, of course. Not that we get to know anything else about you," he added snidely.

Harold's head tilted. "You seem more upset than usual after a job."

"I'm more than usually bloody." He used one hand to unbutton his shirt and pulled it away gingerly from his ribs. He winced. It was kind of a mess.

"That needs stitches. We can go over to Gouverneur. I know a gentleman in their emergency services—he can be very discrete."

"Tape it." He took another healthy swallow.

"Mr. Reese, I really do think—"

"I said tape it. Or are you really that afraid of touching me?"

Silence. Harold's mouth flattened but he didn't say a word, turning awkwardly on his heel and walking away. John closed his eyes and leaned his forehead against the nearest shelf. The alcohol was sitting uneasily in his belly and between that and his injuries, he was dizzy. He listened, suddenly panicked, for the door to close as Harold left him; instead, he heard his uneven shuffle in another part of the library, the quiet click of the cabinet door as he retrieved the first aid kit, and then his measured footsteps coming back.

"You'll have to tell me how to do this," Harold said stiffly, coming into view again. "I'm afraid first aid isn't my among my list of accomplishments."

"Harold, I'm—I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said—"

"I have some painkillers as well, although I'm not sure you would take them given the amount of alcohol you've had."

"Look, I didn't mean to—"

"I understand. Take your shirt off please."

John mutely followed his instructions as Harold sorted through the packages of first aid supplies.

"We'll need to clean that." Harold surveyed the options in the kit. "The alcohol will hurt more but I think it's the most effective."

John nodded. He turned and leaned to the side slightly, giving Harold better access to the wound. He heard the tearing sound of the package of gauze being opened, and smelled the alcohol as soon as Harold opened the bottle. He remained perfectly still, however, as the wound was cleaned. He talked Harold through improvising butterfly stitches with the medical tape, and then through the application of a thick layer of antibiotic cream and another gauze bandage.

"I still think you should see a doctor," Harold said firmly, once the bloody shirt was replaced with a spare and the first aid kit was properly packed up again.

"Tomorrow, maybe," John said. "Tonight I just want some sleep." He hesitated on his way to the door. Harold was already sitting stiffly at his desk, typing. "Harold, I am sorry. About earlier. I don't know why I—"

"Apology accepted."

"So I'll—see you in the morning?"

"Of course." Harold continued typing.

John watched him for a few seconds, then leaned down to scratch Bear behind the ear before turning again to leave. "Night, Bear," he said whispered.

"Although why," John heard Harold's hands come crashing down on his keyboard, "why you would conclude that I find touching you in any way abhorrent is difficult to comprehend."

"Harold?" Aching. Wanting.

"Particularly when I expend a great deal of energy each day ensuring that I don't— My problem is not that I don't want to touch you, John. My problem is—"


"My problem is that I want to touch you too much. In ways that are entirely," he flapped his hands in a very un-Finch-like gesture, "inappropriate.

"And I don't see why you were so angry tonight either. You're not the one who has to sit here, listening, while you go out—and you never take the easy way, Mr. Reese, never. I know the shortest distance between two points is straight through but occasionally there are other ways around a problem that involve less—well, mayhem and fighting and guns and knives and blood and—"

"Harold. Harold," John said, and it wasn't the alcohol that was making him dizzy anymore. He crossed the room and sank to his knees in front of Harold, reached out and saw that Harold was reaching back and then they were touching, and kissing, and somewhere Bear was barking his approval.