John didn’t know if it was allowed.
What they had was too new, too different; and yet, in some ways it wasn’t any different at all. The warmth he felt for Harold in his heart remained the same. The need to take care of him, to protect him, to serve him, was nothing new either. What was new was the ways he was allowed to express it: by pressing a his lips to Harold’s forehead, by digging his fingers into the sore spot on Harold’s back until it unwound, by curling around Harold’s body at night.
So, the desire to reach for Harold’s hand, to hold it, to intertwine their fingers together, was not a novel feeling for John. It had been present for months, longer still if he was honest to himself, longer than he had been aware. His fingers itched with the need for the contact, just like they always had.
But he didn’t know if he was allowed.
Harold was, after all, a very private person, and they were currently not in the privacy of the library or the safe house.
“Mr. Reese, are you listening?” Harold’s voice cut through his internal musing.
“Hmm…” John wasn’t going to lie to him, but neither would he admit he hadn’t been paying attention.
Harold stopped walking, glancing at him exasperatedly. “Did you hear anything I said since we left the restaurant?”
The restaurant where they ate a three course meal; where Harold had a spot of cream left on the corner of his lip that John had wanted to lick away. Where Harold had been the perfect gentleman and John had fallen for him even more deeply. It had been a date. You are allowed to hold your date’s hand on the way back home… right?
But Harold and John were not a usual couple, they didn’t follow the same social norms. It wasn’t the first time they had gone for dinner together. It wasn’t even the tenth time. John didn’t know what the rules were.
“Mr. Reese?” Harold sounded incredulous now, almost concerned.
John shook his head, a self-deprecating smile on his lips. He was being ridiculous. “Sorry,” he murmured, taking a step forward so that Harold would follow. “I’ve been a little preoccupied.”
“So I’ve noticed,” Harold huffed, stepping beside him. He walked close to John, so that their shoulders brushed. John would take it as a clue, but that had not been an uncommon occurrence for them even before the change in their relationship. “Anything I should be concerned about?”
The way Harold said that, offhand and casual, would’ve fooled most people. But John knew the cadence of Harold’s voice by now, could read it as easily as breathing. Harold sounded vulnerable, and maybe a little worried.
That’s what made up John’s mind. The reminder that John wasn’t the only one torn between the conflicting emotions caused by newness of this whole situation, and the almost painful familiarity of it all. That Harold was just as confused and affected by it.
He took a deep breath, and without looking at Harold lest his resolve cracks, reached out and found Harold’s hand. His heart beat loud in his throat as he grabbed it, curling his fingers around Harold’s hand.
Harold stopped in his track. Again.
“Mr. Reese?” Harold asked, his voice trembling.
“Harold,” John gulped loudly, looking straight ahead. And then, because he needed to ask despite the ache in his chest at the fear of rejection. “Is this a problem?”
He didn’t see it, but he could still feel Harold shake his head. Then, Harold’s fingers squeezed John’s hand, and John let out the breath he hadn’t even realized he was holding.
Harold’s smile was obvious in his voice. “No. No problem at all.”
He felt a blush rise to his cheek, despite chastising himself for acting like a teenager. But he couldn’t help the smile that stretched his lips.
“Good,” John nodded, trying to maintain a semblance of decorum, of not showing how much it meant to him that Harold allowed this. It was just holding hands, and yet, to John it felt like everything.
John didn’t dare turn around and look at Harold, afraid of what he would do if he did. Holding hands might be alright with Harold, but he was sure being kissed senseless in public would not be. If John saw the fond look on Harold’s face, he might not be able to help himself.
He cleared his throat loudly, trying to will away the lump in it. “So,” he started, his voice breaking embarrassingly. “You were saying something?”
Harold didn’t reply for a moment. Self-conscious, John took a step forward, hoping to resume their walk. He didn’t loosen his grip on Harold’s hand, and Harold didn’t try to pull away. Instead, he joined him again, the shoulder brush a familiar comfort.
“Oh, yes. Right. About that…”
What they had now was new and exciting, but deep down, it was familiar and easy. It was only as complicated as John made it. That’s what John reminded himself of as he tried to pay attention to what Harold was saying about the malfunctioning security cameras, and tried not to smile too widely at the steady pulse thrumming under his fingertips.