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co-ownership

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“I’ll walk you home.”

Harold looks up from locking the gate of the library and quirks an amused smile. “I realise that you miss your nightly rituals with Bear, Mr. Reese, but Ms. Shaw has been adamant that it’s her turn to keep Bear for tonight.”

John arches an eyebrow as he falls into step beside Harold. “You sound like divorced parents having shared custody of their child.”

Harold rolls his eyes. “Hardly. More like a child insisting that it’s her turn for a sleepover.”

I’m not your kid, Finch!

Harold sighs as John bursts out laughing. “Goodnight, Ms. Shaw,” he enunciates pointedly before switching off his comm; grinning, John reaches up and taps his own ear to do the same.

“So you’re a single parent, I take it?” John teases as he steps closer, his sleeve brushing with Harold’s. 

Harold very carefully doesn’t move away. “Bear’s your dog, Mr. Reese,” he reminds John.

“Ah, so you and I share custody,” John drawls as he points a finger between them. “So does that mean we’re coparenting?”

Harold twists his body to look at John with an exasperated blush feathering his cheeks. John being his innocently flirtatious self when he’s in a good mood isn’t anything new, except he usually isn’t this, well, blatant. “Are you suggesting that you and I are Bear’s divorced parents?”

“Well,” John muses with an offhand shrug of his shoulders, “we can’t be divorced if we aren’t actually married yet. Careful.”

Harold quickly straightens himself after tripping on his own feet in surprise at John’s casual statement. “Th-Thank you,” he stammers, glancing at John’s hand on his elbow steadying him. 

He feels his eyebrows raise to his hairline when instead of retracting his hand, John instead slips his arm through Harold’s, anchoring him to his side.

John smiles, looking straight ahead as they pause at a pedestrian lane. “Red light,” he says simply, gesturing with a tilt of his head.

Harold stares. “Even though I am a cripple, Mr. Reese, I can walk on my own.”

John glances at him, his gaze equal parts tender and mischievous. “Well, I can’t. Come on,” he urges as the light turns green.

Whatever Harold’s going to say dies on his lips when John pulls him gently forward by holding his hand.

“I feel as if I’m being led by a very large dog,” Harold mutters dazedly as they reach the other side of the street, passers-by smiling indulgently at them as they glance at his and John’s entwined hands.

“Not much different from Bear, then,” John observes with a wry smile as he takes the hint and slows his steps, matching his pace with Harold’s. “Maybe you’re the one who’s missing him.”

Harold glances at him. “Is this your way of taking his place?”

John catches his gaze. “Is this your way of saying you want me to be your pet?”

Harold stops in his tracks; his hand is still in John’s, so John is forced to halt his steps, too.

“Do you want to be?” Harold blurts out before his mind abruptly catches up with his mouth, and he feels his cheeks flood heatedly with embarrassment.

The lights of the stores around them add an electric shine to the blue of John’s eyes, highlighting the way they seem to inexplicably darken. “Didn’t know you had such a kink, Harold,” he murmurs lowly, making Harold shiver from something more than the evening chill.

“Hardly,” Harold can’t seem to control the way he sounds so damnably breathless, “just anticipating needs that may be in my purview to provide.”

John steps closer then, his coat falling on either side of Harold’s, cocooning them from the rest of the busy street and forming their own private island amidst the stream of people muttering at them to get a room.

“Is this your way of saying you want to be my master?” he rasps.

“Only—” Harold’s breath catches, “only if you want me to be.”

“Not really,” John answers coolly, and Harold has barely swallowed the bitter disappointment coating his tongue before his eyes widen beneath his glasses when John tilts his chin up towards him.

“I don’t want you to be my master, Harold,” John declares softly, heatedly. “I just want you to be mine.