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Although Harold certainly had a home of his own, nothing made him feel safe quite like the library did. It was secluded, off the grid, and it was the one place he knew John would always look for him. As much as Harold would wish otherwise, he knew that John would always come find him; the ex operative was very much like the loyal dog he had adopted in that way. And if Harold was being honest with himself, he would always reciprocate; he had tried to keep his distance from John, but the there was something about the man which Harold had identified with, had bonded with. The night Mark Snow had caught up with John had been the first time he’d felt worry for a friend since Nathan. It was then Harold knew that John had become more than an employee to him. 

That first time leaving the library after he’d returned had been..difficult to say the least. He had felt guilty for leaving John with Detective Fusco for backup, but he hadn’t been able to be so exposed at the time. Indeed, even with John right beside him, Harold hadn’t been able to be among others for more than an hour before he’d felt the overwhelming need to be hidden within the protective walls of the library. Spending his evenings sleeping on the cot wasn’t the best idea, but it was far better than having a mild panic attack whilst on his way home. 

“Morning, Finch.” 

Harold did his best to stifle his reaction, but he still jumped in spite of himself. On some level he had known that John had entered the building, but he had gotten so lost in his own thoughts that it had quite escaped him until the ex operative had spoken. Pain, intense and drowning, engulfed him. Sleeping within the safety of the library had its advantages, but it also had one major downside - it aggravated Harold’s neck. 

Biting back a sound of pain, Harold closed his eyes to allow it to diminish, taking care to breathe deeply and let it wash over him as best he could. “Good morning, Mr. Reese,” he greeted, pivoting so he could face John. Not surprisingly, the man was watching him, his expression and body language unchanged from the norm. Harold knew that John was worried about him, though, so he forestalled any questioning by asking one of his own. “How are you feeling?” 

“I’m fine, Finch,” John answered with a mild note of surprise in his voice. 

“Need I remind you, Mr. Reese, that you were shot just yesterday?” 

Harold still had a small heart attack when he thought of the moment when Riley, their latest number, had shot John. One would assume that after doing this for over a year, Harold would be used to John being shot at or beat up. But the fact of the matter was that Harold would never, could never, get used to that; he worried about John when he was out, tailing after the bad guys and jumping into dangerous situations. He had wanted John to abandon the hitman, but it hadn’t been solely because Harold believed the man was getting what he’d deserved; it was also because Riley had been a danger to John and Harold didn’t trust him not to try to shoot his friend a second time. 

“It’s not the first time I’ve been shot,” John said with nonchalance. 

“Thank you for that reminder,” Harold quipped. “While I realize it has become normal for you to be injured while working a number, it is certainly not expected for you to ignore your injuries.” 

“The same could be said for you, Finch.” 

“We’re not talking about me,” Harold dismissed. Turning away, he went over to the science section of the library, trying to look busy as he did so. More often than not, John would take the hint and drop the subject if he did that and Harold hoped today would be no exception. 

“Maybe you’re not,” John persisted, making Harold sigh. “But I am.” 

“I’m perfectly fine, Mr. Reese,” Harold tried again, adding a bit of sharpness to his tone. The lie was proved seconds later when he reached for a book just above his head and he gasped in pain. Closing his eyes again, Harold breathed through it once more. When he reopened them, the book was being held out to him and John was a lot closer. 

“You’re not fine, Harold,” John said, his tone soft. “And no one expects you to be.” John was gentle as he laid his left hand on Harold’s shoulder, his long fingers spreading across Harold’s aching neck whilst applying minimal pressure. Harold winced when John minutely tightened his grip. “Were you injured when Root took you?” he asked with concern in his voice. A quick glimpse showed John’s blue eyes scanning Harold, no doubt searching for sign of injury.

“You mean besides when she sliced my palm open with a box cutter, I suppose?” John smirked, taking no offense with Harold’s tone. Harold softened a little. While they had formed a bond over the past year, he still found it difficult to allow anyone to get close to him, John included. He had been making an effort not to be so guarded, of course, but habits born out of years of practice were hard to break. “No, Mr. Reese, Ms. Groves didn’t hurt me.” 

At the mention of her name, John’s demeanor went from that of a carer to a defender. Indeed, one would have thought she was in the room with how quickly he changed. A quick, paranoid, look around the room assured Harold she was no where in sight, but even so, John’s posture remained the same. His mouth thinned then he stepped back, giving Harold space. His gaze, not quite as cold as it had been not two seconds earlier, swept over Harold once more. “Do we have a new number?” 

As that wasn’t quite what Harold had suspected John to say, it took him longer than normal to actually hear the question. “Surprisingly, no.” At the other man’s expression of disbelief, Harold added, “This time, I am not keeping one from you, John.” 

“Perhaps your machine knows you need to rest as much as I do, Harold.” His tone may have been light, but Harold knew a command when he heard one. 

Harold’s first instinct was to fight the idea. He knew they had a number, no matter how much The Machine didn’t want to give it to him. But, he also knew that John was right. The overall experience of his abduction had been bad enough, the stress he’d been under at the time adding to the pain he experienced naturally, but the tension he’d been feeling ever since coming back was only making the whole ordeal worse. 

“Shall we introduce Bear to my apartment or yours?” 

“I thought you said your apartment had strict rules regarding dogs,” Harold pointed out as they both made their way to the main work area. 

“It does. But when has that ever stopped us before?” 

“Yes,” Harold said as John helped him slip his coat on. “You know, John, if I didn’t know any better, I would say that you want Bear to stay here to keep an eye on me.” 

“Would that really be such a bad idea?” 

Harold smirked, hiding it by walking just ahead of John. “No,” he admitted, now thinking that it was more than just Bear who was keeping an eye on him. “No, I suppose it wouldn’t be.” 

 

Finis