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stained glass and a steeple

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first.

he touches you and you light on fire.
your wrist blazes where his fingers meet your skin.
the burns don’t show, but it’s hard to breathe with ash in your lungs.
it’s hard to breathe. you’re suffocating daily.


 

Even in his urgency, he is careful; he handles you the way he handles his weapons: with confidence, with precision.

With self-assured possession.

The warehouse continues to crash all around you, fire licking through every corner like poisonous tongues of tempestuous beasts.  He shoulders his way through, shielding you with his body, refusing to let any of the flames touch you.

He risks burning for you, not knowing that you’re already burning for him.

You shudder a gasp, and he looks at you in alarm; he tears off a piece of his sleeve—that’s a very expensive shirt I just bought him, you muse sadly—and quickly runs it through water before thrusting it to you.

“Breathe,” he tells you, and you may be the boss in this relationship, but you know a soldier giving an order when you hear it.

Shakily, you grasp the wet fabric and hold it up to your nose, letting his scent chase away the smoke filling your lungs, and dimly you think, he’s the air I breathe. 

“Stay with me, Harold,” he murmurs, fingers clasping around your wrist.

Your pulse beats against his fingertips, the way your soul beats only for him.

 


second.

it hurts to watch him. he shines. he’s brighter than the sun.
he’s too beautiful for your eyes. it’s hard to look at him.
it’s even harder to look away from him. you’re going blind.


 

You watch the way he dances with her, the way all eyes in the ballroom are attuned to the perfect couple in the middle of the dance floor.

It hurts to look at how perfectly they belong together.

His palm is splayed on her lower back, the gesture proprietary on the bare skin revealed by the dip of the dress clinging to her and accentuating all her curves, and though intellectually you’re aware that it’s a gesture meant both as a charade and as a warning for others to not get too close—this is an undercover job after all—your wandering mind betrays you as you wonder how many intimate touches they’ve already shared.

You try very hard to ignore the ease in which they move together, the way they look into each other’s eyes so convincingly that you wonder if there’s something more lurking beneath those playful gazes, if there’s something more to the nights they spend together that you never question.

You wonder how long you can hold on to him, before he realises he deserves a better life than the one you can offer.  

Better than the one he already has with you.

You look away, knowing that there’s a limit even to your martyrdom, and you lift the glass of champagne to your lips and let the liquid courage burn down your throat, before you give in to your cowardice and beg him to never, ever leave you.

The hairs at the back of your neck prickle.  The feeling is familiar.

You are being watched.

 


third.

your ears are tuned to his voice.
you could pick him out in a sea of thousands.
his voice makes pretty singers who sing pretty songs sound dull.
his voice makes everything else sound ugly.


 

It frightens you, the ease with which he trusts you unflinchingly, unconditionally.

You distinctly feel like a scientist leading a lab rat through an impossible maze as he keeps calmly asking you where to turn, and you desperately try to keep your voice from shaking as gunfire keeps exploding in the background; you can hear the muttered cursing of the team as they fire back.

You wonder if he hears how your heart explodes every time the silence on his end goes on too long, if he hears how the way you whisper John is an incantation of prayer.

You’ve never been a follower of religion, but his name is one you beseech to be saved.

You’ve created the god that’s currently trying to save them through her analog interface, and yet it’s you he listens to, it’s your directions he patiently, stubbornly waits for.

He doesn’t believe in gods; he only believes in you.  And you pray, desperately, that you will never, ever lead him astray.

His religion is you.

 


fourth.

the color of his eyes is blue enough to drown in.
he is turning you into a cliched love-wrecked being.
you’re drowning. always sinking.
down. down. down.


 

His eyes flutter open, lashes flitting like a sparrow’s wings, and you breathe the first true breath you’ve inhaled in days.

He’s the one emerging from a coma, but you’re the one who breaks through the surface, gasping.

You fall stiffly, ungracefully, onto the chair by the hospital bed as your knees finally give out; your hip twinges painfully as your leg spasms in protest of your prolonged mistreatment of your own body after days of silent vigil by his side, willing him to come back, come back, please, I can’t do this without you.

You surrender him to Ms. Shaw’s expert care even as you take heaving breaths, watching her check his oxygen intake and vaguely feeling like it’s you who’s drowning, awash in both dripping relief that you haven’t lost him, and soaking despair at the realisation that he has come to matter too much, too dangerously.

Because with a flash of blinding clarity, you suddenly realise just how much you’re willing to sacrifice for the sake of protecting him.

The answer is—absolutely everything.

For your love of him, you will flood the world.

 


fifth.

you know him. you love him.
through a thousand lifetimes, across millions of stars, you’d find him.
you’d never leave him. you love him. till death do you part.


 

“Nathan,” you breathe, and the crinkles in the corners of his eyes are so dearly familiar, you feel like your heart will burst with it.

“Harold,” he says simply, and when he opens his arms, it seems only natural that he catches you. He chuckles, and you want to cry at the feeling of it reverberating through you as you clutch him tightly.

“I’ve missed you,” you whisper, and you feel him smile against your temple as he answers in kind, “I missed you too, you old dog.”

He squeezes your arms affectionately, but then he steps back, brows furrowing in that achingly familiar way when he isn’t quite on your same wavelength just yet, and he tilts his head as he curiously asks, “What are you doing here?”

You blink at him, unsure how to answer, when another voice chimes in, amused and dry: “You’re not supposed to be here just yet.”

Your eyes widen, your chest suddenly constricting with all the things you terribly need to say, I’m sorry I failed to save you on the tip of your tongue and yet what instead escapes your throat with a gut-wrenching gasp is “Joss.

She quirks a smile, as if hearing all the words you can’t say, and waves it all away.  “You need to go back, Finch.” 

The words are echoing hollowly as you realise they’re kicking you out of heaven, and the bitter feeling sinking at the pit of your stomach is the heavy acceptance that you deserve nothing less, when she rolls her eyes and clarifies: “You need to go back to him.”

“Please,” a voice speaks up softly from behind you, and the words of protest die on your lips.  “He needs you.”

You swallow, hardly daring to even breathe as you slowly turn around to face her.  “How do you know?”

“Because,” Jessica answers gently, “he asked you to wait for him.”

 


sixth.

he loves you, too.


 

You wake up to his tears on your cheeks and his mouth against yours as he desperately tries to breathe life back into you.

“Breathe for me, Harold,” he begs; tremblingly, you reach up to press your bloodstained fingers against his lips as you tenderly admonish, “I will never let you beg for anything, Mr. Reese, not if it’s within my power to give.”

He bursts out laughing then, watery and hysterical, and crushes his mouth to yours.

“Stay with me, Harold,” he fiercely commands. “Stay with me.”

And despite the haze of searing pain, your arms come up to wrap yourself around him, because this—this, you can give.

“Always.”