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Panzo con un Amico

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After agreeing to lunch, John glanced down at what he wore and realized, belatedly, that he probably was not dressed appropriately for where ever Harold wanted to go for their meal. Since there wasn’t a number he’d decided on a pair of dark wash jeans and a comfortable black button down shirt. After all, he wanted to blend in with the other walkers and joggers at the park. To be really honest, he wanted to feel average for once, and therefore dressed the part.

“What do you think, Bear? Can I get away with jeans?” He directed his question to the dog who just woofed softly in response, tail pounding against the floor.

Since John wouldn’t be able to make it back to his apartment to change into something nicer, he decided he would have to settle with what he’d chosen for the day. Maybe it would even encourage Harold to choose somewhere a little less typical for a man of his financial status. If he were lucky, perhaps Harold could be convinced to grab a hot dog at the stand on a nearby corner and sit outside. Probably not, but it was certainly a pleasant thought.

He bent down and let Bear off his leash, watching as the dog sniffed around the library.

“Mr. Reese.” Harold greeted from behind him and came to stand at his side. John glanced at his friend, looked away, and then did a double take.

“You get a haircut, Finch?” He asked and turned toward the other man, blue eyes raking over Harold’s face. His hair was definitely shorter and appeared to be a little less grey than John remembered it to be. John drank in the sight and inhaled slightly, catching the warm scent of high quality aftershave.

“Certainly, Mr. Reese. Quite a few hairs cut, actually.” Harold was in a good mood, if the slight curve of his lips up into a smile was any indication.

“It, uh, looks good.” John internally winced because his words didn’t come out the way he had intended them to. He glanced away immediately, suddenly very interested in Bear’s exploration of the library.

“Thank you, Mr. Reese. Were you still interested in accompanying me to lunch?” The question soothed John’s nerves over his earlier blunder and he nodded his head.

“Yeah. If you don’t mind the fact I’m wearing jeans. I didn’t think to dress up today.” John finally looked back to Harold who was already turning to leave.

“Quite alright, Mr. Reese. I don’t mind the jeans in the least.” He stated casually and walked toward the stairs. John thought he heard something in Harold’s tone and it made him feel strangely warm. Shaking off the thought, he bid farewell to Bear and followed after Harold.

Outside on the street they walked side by side, Harold seeming perfectly at ease as John carefully observed their surroundings. Even on a day off he remained vigilant and ever protective of his employer and friend. It was second nature to him. John followed Harold’s lead and allowed the comfortable silence to rest between them as the sounds of the city wrapped around the pair. He inhaled deeply, the air crisp and cold from an overnight rain shower.

When they made a turn onto a familiar street which happened to take them away from the closest strip of restaurants, John glanced questioningly in Harold’s direction. He didn’t ask where they were going but tried for a moment to read Harold’s mind, rather unsuccessfully. They weren’t going to any of their usual haunts, the places they would go either together on the rare occasion, or apart.

They turned another corner and John laughed because in the parking lot of a small neighborhood park there were a few food trucks with lines of people in front of them. Maybe the jeans really worked.

“I didn’t take you for a food truck kind of guy, Finch.” John pointed out good naturedly as his stomach rumbled in response to the aromas drifting from the food trucks ahead.

“I’m not, typically.” Harold answered rather carefully as they approached and John watched as the other man’s eyes drifted over each truck thoughtfully. “But that one, there,” he motioned toward a food truck with the words ‘Shorty’s on Wheels’ on the side, “has the best cheesesteak you can get outside of Philadelphia. I thought it was something you might enjoy.”

For some reason John felt affection for his friend swell within him and he smiled as a result.

“You thought right. How about you order and I spot you for mine?” John reached into his back pocket for his wallet but Harold was already walking away to get in line. With his wallet in hand, John jogged to catch up and stood beside him, offering a ten dollar bill that was kindly refused.

“It is my treat, Mr. Reese. Consider it a bonus to a lovely day free of work.” Harold fussed for a moment with his coat before he pulled his own wallet out and John tucked the ten dollar bill back into his pocket.

Harold ordered a cheesesteak for them both, asking for provolone instead of the classic cheese wiz the man behind the counter offered. When everything was paid for and they both had a sandwich in hand, John took the lead and walked toward the neighborhood park. More specifically, he made a beeline for the surprisingly vacant swing set and dropped down carelessly onto the swing. He kicked off and swung gently, finally taking a bite of his sandwich as Harold stood close by and stared.

“Come on, Harold. There is a swing for you, too.” John pointed out and motioned to the empty swing beside him before taking another bite. He watched Harold hesitate, saw the war he was fighting within himself in his eyes, and then smiled as the smaller man stiffly settled into the swing.

John was dignified enough to hold back a teasing remark and decided instead to focus his energy on devouring the sandwich in his hands. It was undeniably good. He glanced at Harold who was barely moving on the swing, watching with amusement as his prim and proper friend took a bite of a sandwich that was packed so full, meat and onion fell unceremoniously off of it.

Then he watched as Harold delicately picked up a fallen bit of onion and popped it into his mouth. John swallowed hard for some reason and immediately turned back to his own sandwich. When they were both finished John took their plates to the garbage and then returned to the swing, pushing off again. He enjoyed the cold air rushing through his hair and against his face and as he slowed, looked back to Harold who was watching him with a strange look on his face.

The look made John blush as he brought the swing to a stop and glanced down at the bark chips beneath his feet.

“Thank you for lunch, Harold.” He murmured and glanced toward his friend.

“Think nothing of it, John. Your company is worth it.” Harold answered.

Then, in an act John found surprising, he watched as Harold kicked off and began to swing.