On nights when both Reese and Finch were away, Mark got antsy. There were new protocols in place, for his benefit, but Mark didn't care for them at all. If both of John and Harold died somewhere, Mark would be informed immediately. A safe in the loft would open automatically, containing all the documents Mark would need to start over somewhere else. Mark had seen the package, had read through the alias' life. He even had a copy of Bear's papers.
He'd be able to start a new life without them.
It didn't matter.
Mark and John had both decided to let Harold believe that there was a point to the protocol. The contingency plan. As if either of them wouldn't eat his own gun should Harold ever die.
But still, it gave Harold comfort to have the protocol in place, and that was paramount.
Over the past few months, Mark had been allowed more and more freedom. No more harness for him, and his knife had been replaced by a small caliber Glock, which he preferred to Reese's own choice of Sig Saur. Mark had even been outside a few times, to guard Finch when John couldn’t. Not often, which was for the best. Mark preferred being in the loft, his safe place, and the building’s small garden terrace where Bear could do his business.
Today, Mark awoke by himself early in the loft. The dawn was overcast, with dark clouds in the distance. Mark spent a productive time cleaning, keeping the loft up to Reese's exacting standards. By midmorning, he was getting anxious, but not enough to call his masters yet. If they were not coming today, which happened sometimes, Finch would call. In fact, Finch will call anyway, if only to chat and make sure that Mark ate.
Mark did some exercises instead. His mind blanked, and he went to a place where there were no thoughts, where there was nothing but the push and pull of his own muscles, and the movement they created.
Harold and John arrived long after lunch (Mark had skipped it, too stressed out by half to think about food just yet.) Mark knelt on the floor in front of the door as soon as he’d heard them coming in. It was closer to dinner time, the afternoon sunlight fading away. The dark clouds that had been in the distance had arrived, and the rain made a soft pitter-patter against the loft windows.
Harold was conspicuously happy, John less so, but that was more likely to be the alpha's own more serious nature, than anything being wrong. Bear's tail wagged as he caught sight of Mark. There was contentment coming off of them in waves. Mark basked in it, as he did in the sunlight that sometimes came in through the loft's enormous windows.
Mark had not bothered to put his shirt back on after his workout. He felt a bit self-conscious, clad only in his pants, but Harold and John seemed to not mind one way or the other, as long as the omega was comfortable.
Harold visibly brightened up when he saw Mark, and the happiness that the omega felt at their arrival became an acute thing, like the prick of a needle, sharp and intense.
"We have a gift for you, Mark. Happy birthday," Harold said by way of greeting. He began to pull something out from a cloth bag Reese was carrying.
"Oh. Thank you." Mark replied, because Harold liked it when he was polite.
Mark was still happy, but more confused than anything when Harold handed him a box. He didn’t know what to do with it.
He knew what a gift was, of course. But as Mark considered his life, his home, his pack...
"Don’t you like it?" Harold's broke in, smile faltering a bit.
"I’m sure I’ll love it, Harold," Mark was quick to reassure, "I'm just..."
Mark made a helpless gesture.
"What more could I ask for?" Mark wondered out loud.
Harold was speechless. John put an arm around Harold’s shoulders, giving them a quick rub.
"Just open it, Mark."
Mark did as he was told.
Inside the box was a collar, lovely, and lovingly made. Soft and supple. No name, of course not, Mark Snow was about as real as Harold Finch and John Reese. But inside the collar was a single word.
Tears prickled in his eyes.
John gave Harold's shoulders a final squeeze before walking away. He'd taken Harold’s coat with him, to hang with his own. John moved in the loft behind Mark, giving Bear food and water, commanding the canine to his doggy bed.
Harold moved to kneel in front of Mark, with difficulty.
"Of course it’s for you. You’re part of the pack, right?"
Mark looked helplessly at Harold, and then back down at the box, and what it contained.
John came back to help Harold up, Mark was still too busy being stunned to do it himself.
To an outsider, they may have looked like they were ignoring Mark. But the truth was that they were just giving him space to process.
When dinner was ready, Mark found himself, found his bearings, and crawled over to his masters, leaving the box where he'd put it down ('careful, careful'), leaving it where he'd been kneeling. It was too much, too much. Holding it felt like staring into the sun.
Mark crawled over and leaned his body against Harold’s leg as he usually did, while Reese served them all. No more MREs for Mark; he ate what Harold and John ate, had his own plate on the floor and everything. In Mark’s hands, silver utensils gleamed in the light.
All of a sudden, Mark found that he couldn't breathe. He remembered his time at the CIA, how all he'd had was the promise of a black hood at the end of his service. He remembered how recalcitrant he had been when John had first brought him here. They’ve been so patient with him. Even Reese. Especially Reese.
In hindsight, Mark could appreciate how hard John had worked to get him this far. How much time he’d spent, molding Mark into something different. Something better. Something that would fit into this perfect pack that John had made for himself.
Before Mark made the decision to, Mark was already crawling forward blindly, to kiss the tops of John’s shoes. But as he did, he got tears on them, which was unacceptable. Not because he was afraid of John's anger; John hadn't been angry, truly angry, with Mark in a long time. In fact, Mark struggled to remember the last time John had struck him in violence. In play, of course, when Mark begged just right, but not with force. Not to hurt.
Mark bent his head in earnest, to rub away the moisture with his cheek, but that only made it worse. He always made things worse.
Mark began to whine in distress.
All of a sudden, Harold was beside him, shushing him, gently bringing Mark’s head to his lap.
“Dear, are you quite all right?”
And Mark wanted to nod yes, wanted to shake his head no, but he couldn’t do anything but keep trying to breathe. He went limp on the floor, trying very hard not think of anything at all.
“John?” Harold’s questioning tone was thick with worry.
Harold's voice pulled him back, though. Mark struggled to say something, say anything, but before he could, John was there. His alpha lifted him up with little effort, carrying Mark back to his bed.
Yes, bed. The luxurious one that had replaced Mark's thin pallet long ago.
"It wreaks havoc upon the interior design of this place," Harold had said when it had first arrived (Mark had bit back a smile, thoroughly charmed), not even looking at the instructions as he assisted Mark in assembling it. And to be fair, Harold had been the one to order it, and the beta hadn’t commented further.
John laid Mark down on the bed. The rough cloth of the alpha's suit against Mark’s chest was a contrast to the soft sheets beneath the him. Harold was the one to tuck Mark in, soothing a hand over Mark’s brow.
"Rest for now. We’ll speak in the morning."
And then they went back to their meal, and Mark fell asleep to the sound of utensils hitting plates, to the sound of rain, and muted conversation.
To the sound of pack.