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Pick a winner, Harold

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“Will you just let me-” Harold took a step towards John, who pulled a gun on him. The situation was so surreal that Harold had half a mind to laugh; not because they were on a rooftop with two minutes left to live, they had started their partnership with this kind of ending in both of their minds, but John pointing a gun at him. John would never hurt him and they both knew that. “What are you going to do? Shoot me?” Harold waved his hands defiantly, hoping hearing the words shoot me would make John realize the absurdity of his attempt to keep Harold away by an empty threat.

“This is my past catching up with me. It doesn’t concern you.” John took a step back, gun still in hand, face so unnaturally blank that the effort he put in not showing any emotion was obvious. In his mind, he was pleading for Harold to not come any closer, to please, please, go back inside and get the hell out of there. He had done enough damage; he deserved this, he deserved to die, Harold didn’t.

The panic creeping into Harold’s chest was making him exasperated. They didn’t have time for this - John might have been willing to die but Harold was not willing to let him. “This moment does.” He half-snapped at the man wearing a bomb vest. “I’m not leaving you, John, so can we please stop wasting time?”

John’s defense fell. His face melted from expressionless to scared as he understood that Harold was not going anywhere and if he died now, he’d take the only friend he had with him. Harold’s voice, I’m not leaving you, was ringing in his ears while Harold hurried over to inspect the bomb and stated, quite nervously: “Let’s see what we’ve got here.”

John forced himself to focus on the situation at hand instead of thinking about how quick death by explosion would be. He looked at Harold to help him stay grounded. “Have you ever defused a bomb vest before?”

“Can’t say that I have, but I believe I grasp the basic principles.” Harold admitted, trying to convince John, and himself, that he could do it, as he fumbled with the cell phone attached to the bomb.

John swallowed. “That’s encouraging.”

Harold began to mumble, trying to make sense of how the bomb worked. John’s chest swelled with affection; as much as he admired the hacker’s intelligence, it was the little, human things, like mumbling to himself when he was nervous - which was an exceptionally rare occurrence -, that John loved about him.

“Finch.” John said softly, lovingly, with little frustration in his voice, trying to get Harold out of his head.

Harold came back to reality and glanced quickly at John’s face; too quickly to notice the love shining in John’s glistening eyes. “Sorry, this is how I process.”

“Can you shut off the timer?” John asked, increasingly distressed as he listened to the possibly last minute of their lives tick away on his chest.

“Can’t get at the battery, which means I have to hack the phone’s lock code…” Harold begun to mumble again, but John cut him off. Stay with me. “Can you do it?”

“I have built some of the most complex computer systems that exist. I can certainly unlock a phone.” Harold huffed in a tone that suggested that a simple cell phone threatening their lives was outrageous and an insult to his intelligence. “The code is one of five combinations.”

“That’s good.” John held his breath, tip-toeing around a premature sigh of relief.

“Problem is, we only get three attempts before the phone locks us out.” Harold stared intently at the five number combinations on his phone screen. Their fate was in his hands now and he wished that it wasn’t, that maybe the wrong combinations would just disappear from the screen if he stared at it long enough.

John swallowed nervously again. “That’s not.”

Harold tried the first one. The phone beeped disapprovingly; wrong code.

“I take it that one didn’t do it.” John commented and got a dirty look from Harold. Tense as real panic started to take over him, he blurted: “Sorry.”

Harold tried another code. John was afraid to look down. Another angry beep.

The last attempt. John looked directly at Harold, eyes gleaming with tears held back, full of the love that was futile to hide at this point. Harold looked back at him, still horrified, allowing them a moment of possible last words before punching in the last combination. “What?”

“Something you said once. That sooner or later we’d both end up dead.“ John was almost smiling as he said it. Harold had been right, as usual, and the time had come. But he wasn’t alone like he had always thought he would be.

“I prefer later.” Harold said dryly and looked back at his phone as he tried to make the decision. He had not hired John just to let him die. And who would save all the people that needed it after they were gone? It was only the two of them, alone together. All those people would have no one coming to save them. “After all, I’m the one that got you into this in the first place.”

“I’m pretty sure I’d be dead already if you hadn’t found me.” John looked up at the sky and for the first time in years, he was happy to be alive, even if only for thirty more seconds. He had been ready to die for a long time; suddenly he felt ready to live again. All because of Harold.

“It’s hard to say.” Harold replied absentmindedly, busy staring at the numbers that might end their life in a few seconds, his life beginning to flash before his eyes. If Harold had had time to think about what John was saying, he would’ve found his words much too sentimental to be true, just a dying man’s gesture. Harold didn’t understand that John was being literal until he replied, with the most genuine, affectionate smile;

“Not really.”

Harold looked up, astonished, surprised by John’s confession. The numbers ticked away on John’s chest as he lifted his hands to cup Harold’s face carefully, slowly enough for Harold to stop them. But he didn’t; he forgot about his life flashing before his eyes, the beautiful feeling of realization, relief and love taking over him as John leaned down and kissed him, gently, without hurry, like they had all the time in the world.

A sense of calmness dawned upon them as their lips parted, leaving them five seconds to live. Harold bit his lip, making the final decision, John’s hands on his shoulders, gripping them tightly as he flashed a final smile.

“Pick a winner, Harold.”