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Perchance

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There are a lot of things that Harold and John don’t talk about. Chief subjects that are off the table by mutual unspoken agreement are: hobbies, relationships, the past, and the future as it relates to them personally.

Most of those subjects are taboo because they’re things that normal people share without thinking but Harold and John just don’t have. The one remaining subject, the past, is so full of minefields for both of them that it has become The Past. The subject comes up occasionally on an as-needed basis, such as “Why do they still want to kill you?” or “I’m not going to ask how you know that,” but in general it remains off the table.

Sometimes one or the other will make a casual foray into the Forbidden Lands. John usually goes for the direct approach, via surveillance and patient detective work. Harold goes another way: he hacks into everything he wants to know, and then scrupulously fails to ever bring up what he’s learned unless it becomes relevant.

There’s a comfort in that, Harold decides one night as he sits in his library and listens to the peaceful sound of computers whirring and Bear having happy doggy dreams on the floor. Harold can be sure - doubly sure, now - that if anything ever happens it will take a significant amount of force and guile to deter John from finding out what he really wants to know, but that he won’t push too far beyond the boundaries he and Harold have agreed upon unless it becomes necessary. John can be sure that Harold is watching out for him, and over him, always, but that he won’t abuse the power he has. John allows Harold his mystery, and Harold allows John his privacy.

Well, most of time. Almost all the time. More often than not, anyway, and if neither of them ever actually says anything about it then it doesn’t really matter, right?

Harold sighs and begins cycling idly through some of his favorite security feeds. His hands are almost steady again now; soon the tremors will have passed and his adrenaline will ebb and he’ll be able to face going back to bed and maybe even closing his eyes. To sleep, perchance to dream; aye, there’s the rub. Carter has nightmares sometimes too, although she’s sleeping soundly now. It isn’t hard to guess what they’re about; more often than not, when she wakes up she checks on Taylor first. Those dreams came a little more frequently after Elias took Taylor, but they’ve eased some now. Harold likes to think that sometimes John shows up in Carter’s dreams just as they’re starting to get bad and kneecaps all the bogeymen. He wouldn’t put it past John, frankly.

Fusco has nightmares sometimes too. He wakes up swearing, which Harold has found to be mildly educational. He usually goes right back to sleep afterwards, though, which Harold is grudgingly starting to think might be due more to Fusco’s deep-set if resigned pragmatism rather than his practiced ability to disregard his own conscience. Sometimes Harold hears Fusco’s son come into his room at night, worried by sounds or strange shadows but too grown-up to admit to it. Fusco is always very kind. Harold finds it to be strangely soothing to overhear.

On the ground, Bear whimpers and thrashes a little. Harold glances over at him with a frown, but it’s just a chasing dream. Even as he watches, Bear’s tail starts to wag happily. The dream rabbit has been successfully caught, apparently.

John has the most nightmares, of course, but he’s too well-trained to let it show. Sometimes if it’s particularly bad he’ll wake up gasping a little, or with one hand reaching out to the empty side of the bed. Those are the worst, because Harold has them too. Most of the time, though, Harold can only tell John’s had a nightmare because he’s so attuned to John’s body language that seeing him tense up is like a neon sign warning of danger. The angle of John’s hands, the set of his shoulders, whether or not he gets up to walk around the apartment afterwards tells Harold volumes about fighting and captivity. Occasionally, when the dream has been particularly bad, John will look at each of Harold’s hidden cameras in turn as he passes them. Those are the nights when Harold pulls an item at random out of a triple-encoded file he has whimsically labeled ‘Hamlet’ and uses it as an excuse to text John a question.

The questions are always important enough to justify a midnight interruption, but not so urgent that John will feel uneasy. Sending a text rather than making a phone call allows them both the illusion that Harold doesn’t know whether John is awake or not and is attempting to be courteous. Afterwards Harold watches the rigid lines of John’s back relax and his movements go from tightly controlled to loose, and feels the breath ease correspondingly in his own chest.

In his apartment, John has woken up. Harold watches as he rolls towards the bedside table and picks up his phone. He checks automatically: John’s respiration is normal, he doesn’t seem overly alert, and his posture is careless and still heavy with sleep. No reason for alarm, then.

Harold’s phone beeps quietly. John has sent him a text.

Go to sleep, Harold.

Harold smiles, closes down his security feeds, and heads back to bed.