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a dream that's not been shattered (or driven to its knees)

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Perpetrator or victim, it's not often that Harold wants to strangle a number. It's a childish, stupid urge that Harold has no realistic hope of indulging, and knowing that improves nothing.

Repeating to himself that John is a grown man with much better capacity for violence than Harold could ever have, that if John minded Jefferson's insinuations surely he'd make it known in no uncertain terms - that helps, but nowhere near as much as Harold would like.

Currently, Jefferson has left off mentioning his vast properties and riches - left, in fact, all semblance of subtlety in favor of crowding John against the wall and breathing, "I can make you feel things you never imagined."

The security camera that Harold has hacked catches John's startled expression. Harold frowns. Surely John must have known--

A surge of facts comes together to Harold's mind: the brand of suppressants that John uses, a recall order issued recently, the fact that over the last week John has been too busy to pay attention to the news.

Just in case, Harold says into his microphone, "I'm afraid you must be going into heat, Mr. Reese."

John blinks. Then he sighs and sags against the wall.

Harold's fingers dig into the armrests of his chair. He has no right to interfere. He mustn't; he can't.

"Since you're here," John murmurs at Jefferson, trying at levity and arriving at resignation, "I guess you'll have to do."

Jefferson pulls back, indignant. John smirks at him and poses, showing himself off.

Harold's patience snaps like a thread. "Mr. Reese," he says. "Unless you are extremely set on this course of action, please see that Mr. Jefferson isn't a threat and meet me at the safehouse." He doesn't need to specify which: John knows where he is.

For a fraction of a second, John seems conflicted. Then he shrugs and knocks Jefferson unconscious with the butt of his gun. Normally Harold would wince: now he watches Jefferson collapse to the floor with visceral satisfaction, as well as an additional thrill of desire for John's strength and capability.

If Harold must be mocked by his own instincts, he can at least take pride in the object of his attraction.


John may or may not be cursing under his breath the entire duration of the ride to the safehouse.

The thing is, Harold is right. John can't let himself get knotted by a number, especially one who's likelier than not to be a perpetrator. Still, Jefferson probably wouldn't have damaged him.

It's been a long time since John has had an unsuppressed, unassisted heat. He's really not looking forward to the experience.

Harold waits for him at the safehouse, which is a surprise.

"Came to tuck me in?" John bats his eyelashes at him. It's petty, but John feels he's earned it.

"Mm, something similar, but not quite." Harold has an odd intensity in his eyes, his mouth set in a firm line that John eyes for a moment longer than necessary. "Tell me, Mr. Reese - what was it about Mr. Jefferson that made him seem like a viable candidate to assist you with your heat?"

Wow, Finch really isn't soft-pitching. "He's an alpha," John says, intentionally light. "And didn't seem like he'd stab me."

Harold raises his eyebrows. "So any alpha would do, is that it? No matter how old, how infirm," Harold's mouth jumps at the last, an odd tick, "how personally unappealing?"

"Yeah," John says. "I'm easy like that." He tilts his head and smirks, challenging Finch to berate John for that.

What Harold does instead is far less expected. He takes off his jacket and undoes the buttons of his vest with quick, precise movements, and John's mouth begins to water.

It takes him a moment to realize that it's because he's smelling alpha. He's already moving towards Finch when Finch says, "In that case, will I do as well? I promise I won't stab you."

Finch's voice goes acidic over the last words, which doesn't entirely cover the way said voice trembles over asking.

John comes to a stop well within Harold's personal space, close enough to feel the warmth radiating off Harold's skin. He smells like books and ozone and alpha, and John wants him badly enough to beg. "You'll do, Harold," he says instead, and tries to smile. "You'll do just fine."

Harold's hands find him then, gripping John's hips in a hold that shows no doubt or hesitation, firm enough that John's leaking in his pants. "Then let's get you undressed, shall we?"

John's got his shirt off before the sentence finishes leaving Harold's mouth. His heart's beating fast, faster than heat and exertion would justify. He darts his eyes around the safe house, taking quick mental inventory of where the exits are. If Harold tries to leave....

John bites his tongue hard enough to let pain distract him, cut through the haze rapidly taking over his mind. If Harold wants to leave, John will damned well let him.

Of course, John isn't above playing dirty in other ways. Instead, he'll do whatever he can so Harold won't want to leave. He drops to his knees and nuzzles at Harold's rapidly growing erection, breathing him in.

Harold swallows audibly. "John."

"Mm?" John looks up at Harold through lowered lashes. He tilts his head aside, exposing his neck.

Harold's mouth thins into a straight line. "You seem entirely too pleased with yourself," he says. His hand grabs John's hair, tight and perfect.

John smirks at him. "What are you going to do about it?"

Harold's nostrils briefly flare. His eyes darken, taken over with John's scent. "I have some ideas," Harold says, voice clipped and tight. "Perhaps you need to be taught a lesson." Harold's hands yank at his own pants, getting his cock out.

Perhaps I do, John doesn't say, because he's got Harold's dick in his mouth and Harold is not going easy on him.

Having an alpha's cock in his mouth, at this point of heat, straddles the thin line between exquisite turn-on and torture. That's not where John wants Harold's dick, but by God, if that's what on offer John will take it and be glad.

John has a hand pressing on his own cock, desperate for stimulus. Like this, smelling and touching an alpha, John could probably come. It won't give him much of a relief, but this early in heat it would still feel good.

Fuck, John wants to come.

"Hands behind your back," Harold snaps. He pulls away.

John chokes down a whimper in favor of re-composing the smirking mask that has served him so well thus far. The idea of goading Harold into fucking John hard is appealing. The idea of Harold giving him a pity assist is not.

Harold takes a few steps and sits down in a chair. His open fly bunches obscenely around his cock. "As you were," Harold says.

The chair has wheels, and John snags and pulls it over, grinning at Harold's indignant squawk. If Harold wanted him to come over, Harold could have been more specific. Then he puts his hands behind his back once more and his mouth on Harold's dick, as ordered.

Maybe Harold is mollified by this. His grip on John's head is unwavering but not punishing. He guides John's movement, but John gets plenty of time to catch his breath between thrusts.

At the pressure of Harold's foot against John's cock, though, John can't hold back a whine.

"Can you come without biting down?" Harold pulls John off his cock.

"Yes." John's voice is hoarser than it should be. Harold hasn't even fucked his throat. He tries for humor: "Are you questioning my skills, Harold?"

Without replying, Harold pushes John's head back into cocksucking position. John toys with him, licking at the glans, until Harold pushes his foot harder on John's cock.

It's not fair. Harold has no business knowing John is even capable of getting off like that; but as soon as the thought goes through John's mind, he realizes it's not true.

Everything about John is Harold's business, down to the way he can't tell pain from pleasure when he's in heat. It's that knowledge that has him groaning and moving up against the unrelenting pressure of Harold's foot, messing up his pants.

Harold keeps John in place for a few moments longer before coming down John's throat. John swallows and, when Harold finally lets him up, licks his lips.

"Get up." Harold's voice is flat, devoid of inflection. "You never even finished undressing." He doesn't out and say, You giant slut, but John takes it as read, and also as a compliment.

John gets to his feet and slides out of his pants. "Yeah," he says, agreeably. "What's up with that?"


Harold's dizzy, John's scent so thick that Harold can taste him in the air.

He wants to kiss John badly; barring that, he'll do what he can to wipe that wretched smirk off John's face.

John seems unruffled by Harold's demonstrated intimate knowledge of him, not to mention Harold's... admittedly clumsy attempts at showing himself in charge. He's grimacing at his own deeds even as he plans the next thing going on, his sense of propriety locked away and screaming at the rest of him.

It's not heat that has Harold like this, or base instincts. He won't lie to himself about that. It's that some foolish part of him believed - wanted to believe - that he had some right to John that others didn't, and having been proven wrong, he lashes out.

Seeing John cheerfully unhumbled by Harold's pathetic attempts at control is the least Harold deserves.

He takes off the rest of his clothes as quickly as he can without making his haste evident. John is naked already, unselfconscious, and Harold's mouth waters with wanting him.

"Get on the bed," Harold says, clipped and tight.

John manages to make the prompt fulfilling of this order seem insouciant, as though Harold just happened to ask for what John was going to do anyway.

Harold seats himself beside John, weighing options. "Eyes shut," he says, and John closes them.

There is still a little time for Harold to change his mind, as much as it takes to raise his hand as high up as it goes, and to hit John's ass with his palm with all the combined force his muscles and gravity can muster.

John jumps. Harold is gratified, and a nanosecond later, horrified: if he'd hurt John seriously--

"That all you got?" John says, lazy and insufferable, and Harold has his hand raised again before he can think better of it.

Infuriatingly, the harder Harold hits, the louder John moans; with every strike John's hips writhe sinuously against the sheets. Too soon, Harold's hand is smarting too much to go on. John's ass is reddened, but his face is nothing like chastened.

Harold finds himself thinking of other things he could hit John with: the silver-backed hairbrush that lives in the bathroom, John's own belt, one of their shoes. He dismisses the thought as soon as it's realized; people with a far stronger stomach for pain than he have tried hurting John into submission. That's not a path likely to be fruitful.

There's a better way, Harold knows this, but his mind is fogged up with passion and anger and refuses to think of anything but the lewd humiliations he wants to visit on John.

Fine. Let them revel in lewdness, then.


Harold's fingers at his entrance have John clenching and coming again, helplessly. It doesn't help that Harold's touch is, despite everything, gentle.

"That all you got?" John says once more, even as his cock still twitches and drips.

"You'll see what I have soon enough," Harold says, and then John is being spread wide, wide open.

Harold's cock is thick, stretching John brutally. John moans, high and urgent, trying to squirm back onto it, his body greedy to have more of Harold. Harold smacks John's already sensitive ass again, but at this point that's just incentive.

"I could pull out," Harold muses, "finish in your mouth instead and leave you to sort yourself out."

"Please." It's more whimper than word. The thought of Harold moving away from him, moving out is painful.

Harold, damn him, stops moving entirely. "Please what?"

John closes his eyes. "Please keep fucking me."

That, thank fuck, jolts Harold into action. He thrusts hard, burying himself in John, his knot beginning to inflate almost immediately.

John groans like he's dying. It burns, the stretch too hard and too fast.

It's perfect.

His groan stretches as his body does the same, rising in pitch. God, Harold is in him, deep and thick and relentless, a delicious pain.

The sounds John is making edge into a yelp when he realizes the continuous stretch isn't just because Harold is that big, but because Harold is pulling out.

"Please." The word comes easy now, rolling desperately off his tongue. "Keep fucking me, please, please."

"Oh, I intend to," Harold says over John's whimpers, his knot too wide; then John cries out as Harold exits him, and before John can beg him again, Harold begins shoving the knot back in.

This is like the worst kind of porn, the kind John always felt guilty masturbating to, because the omegas on screen couldn't all be as fucked up as he is. Probably most of their tears were genuine, not like him, whining because he wants more.

Harold gives him more. Harold is ruthless, fucking John's tightness open until John's greedy body accepts Harold's knot without protest. It feels unnatural and obscene and John fucking loves it.

"Come in me," John says. He can't ask, won't ask Harold to lick him clean after that; can't risk asking for something Harold isn't almost certain to want.

Harold pauses, just long enough to send anxiety pulsing through John, but then he shoves in and does, moaning in satisfaction.

Even if it weren't for Harold's knot pulsing in him, John would've recognized his climax by the way it took the edge off John's own desperate need. Granted, he still wanted Harold, but that was usually the case. John is used to wanting what he can't have.

Except he can have Harold, demonstrably: maybe just this once, but John is determined to get the most out of this.

He squeezes around Harold's cock, shuddering at the feeling of the knot swollen in him. "Want my mouth now?" he says. "Bet I can get you hard again in less than ten minutes."


If it were at all possible - if time and physics and every factor of Harold's body weren't working against it - Harold would surely have become erect right at hearing John's shaky voice make the offer.

At the same time, something about it tears at him - perhaps it's John's slightly vacant gaze, surely an effect of the heat, and yet Harold is uncomfortable: John did beg Harold not to use his mouth, to fuck him instead.

Perhaps circumstances changed, but all the same, the notion feels degrading to an extent that makes Harold's pent up anger shrivel away. (Perhaps it's also that he's climaxed, and his arousal-fueled possessiveness has that much less to excuse it.)

John is still under him, beautiful and needing release; and Harold can do his level best to care for John in the circumstances. He tests his knot against John's hole: reasonably secure, despite the abuse that Harold visited on it. He asks, "Is this enough for you?"

John squeezes around him, making Harold have to choke back a groan. "What are you going to do if I say no?"

Harold narrows his eyes. A hint of his earlier fury flares, then dies down. John is sheened with sweat under him, breathing hard. Not from exertion, Harold would guess. He runs a hand down John's back.

John flinches in a way he didn't when Harold was hitting him. "Please." He sounds shaky.

Please, what? The words are on the tip of Harold's tongue, and he swallows them, irritated by the potential ambiguity: he wants John to give him information, not beg pornographically.

Admittedly, Harold's cock twitches at the memory of John pleading. John senses this and rears back onto him. "Please," he says again. "More."

Harold breathes slowly, deliberately, trying to think past the onslaught of sensation as John tightens around him again. He brings his fingers to John's rim, gently touches the delicate skin, checking for - his heart clenches at the thought - rips.

Not only does John appear uninjured, though, he hisses and pushes closer at the touch. Harold circles his rim again, fascinated. "Do you want my fingers?"

John emits a sob. "Yes." He makes a raw noise when Harold tries to pull out, and Harold stops. "Please, please, give me." He clenches around Harold's knot, which is beginning to soften.

It takes Harold a moment to parse what John is saying. "You want my fingers while I'm--?"

"Yes." John bucks back on Harold, his want completely unambiguous.

"Oh," Harold says, softly. John's rim is very wet with both their fluids, smoothed enough that Harold doesn't feel the need for additional lubrication. John's body is copious with his emissions, generously slicking the way for Harold's entrance.

Every bit of help is needed: even in heat, John is only human. Opening for a knot is difficult enough for a body, and accepting fingers in addition to that is no mean feat. Harold has to exert some effort to push inside John, muscle resisting him, Harold's heart beating in fear that he may do harm.

If John is also afraid, he shows no sign of it, instead moaning long and low. On the second finger Harold adds, John is sobbing unabashedly, begging still for more.

"Oh, John," Harold murmurs, pushing a third finger. John is so hot inside, his rim whiting when he clenches around the added finger, then reddening again as it relaxes.

Even with this, even with Harold's knot and the additional fingers, John's cock still bobs stiff and leaking beneath them. Harold aches with wanting to give him relief. He touches his free hand to John's cock, tentative; John grunts and shudders, spilling white and sticky over Harold's hand, then resuming his attempt to take as much of Harold into him as he can.

"You need more?" Harold isn't taunting, now, but asking honestly. He isn't sure if the difference isn't lost on John.

"Yes." John's tone is stark with desperation, now, devoid of mockery: as humbled as Harold might have wanted earlier, and more.

Be careful what you wish for, Harold thinks, and says, "I'm going to withdraw, just for a little while. I'll come back in in another moment. All right?"

A long moment passes, enough that Harold wonders if John is still capable of complex thought. Then John says, strained, "All right."

Harold withdraws, John's rim bulging obscenely around his knot, which has swelled again with John's feverish movements. A little bit of come spills out of John, in its wake. Harold takes a deep breath, which winds up counterproductive, as inhaling only fills his lungs with John's heat, the mingled scents of them together.

He wraps his hand around his knot, heart pounding with the enormity of what he intends. He's nearly certain it won't work, that John's body will balk at this last indignity.

John's entrance allows the head of Harold's cock with no effort at all, practically sucking him in. Harold shudders and presses forward. Under him, John is silent and trembling, awaiting. Trusting enough to break Harold's heart.

Harold's knuckles are at John's opening, the tip of his cock inside, and it can't possibly go in, it can't.

But then it does.

John opens and opens for him, taking, breath hitching. The pressure on Harold's fingers and his knot is painful; he can't imagine what it must feel like for John.

John. John has gone still and limp at last, allowing Harold to sink into him, taking him to the root, to the wrist. Harold can see John's profile, see tears pooling in the corner of John's eyes.

Then John's eyes open, and he says, "Yes," mouth curving up even as the tears spill down his face. "Yes, please, yes," with an ecstasy Harold has never heard from him - or from anyone that he can recall. He thrusts so sudden, so hard that it seems like he's seizing, spasming around Harold once, twice.

Abruptly, John goes limp, collapsing into a veritable puddle under Harold, still twitching weakly around him.

Harold extricates himself with utmost care. For the reaction John is giving him, though, John might as well be anesthetized.

"Are you all right?" Harold asks, once he's fully out. He tries not to look at John's entrance, still open: just the knowledge of it fills him with an uncomfortable mixture of arousal and guilt. I did this to him. He can't tell whether the thought is a boast or a recrimination.

John's reply is a wordless mumble. He's smiling, an expression Harold finds he has no difficulty focusing on.

Harold should apologize, not to mention make amends. But John is warm, radiating a satisfaction that Harold feels a guilty sort of pride for, and Harold is tired.

What's one more temptation? He yields to the urge to crowd against John's back and close his eyes, gratified when John wriggles slightly closer.


Tomorrow John is probably going to regret everything they just did in so many ways. For now, though, he's better than all right: he's floating, sated. He's probably still leaking come - his own and Harold's - and he can't bring himself to give a single, solitary fuck.

Everything is Harold and nothing hurts. Harold is behind him, pressed close and firm; John is still open from, fuck, Harold's wrist. He'd probably blush from the thought if he still had shame.

Probably shouldn't have thought of that. John's capable of shame, and in spades, if usually not of embarrassment. If John isn't careful, he'll wind up wondering what Harold must think of him, after John defied him, provoked him, then begged for the filthiest things he could think of.

Cold settles over John's skin, and it takes him a moment to register that it's not just in his mind: Harold is sitting up.

"Are you awake?" Harold's voice is soft. John keeps his eyes shut. "I suppose this will do as practice if you're not. I'm sorry."

John has practice hiding his responses. He doesn't open his eyes even as his heartbeat speeds up, adrenaline shooting through him. Harold has nothing to apologize for, certainly not to John, but he wants to know what Harold thinks he's sorry for before replying.

"I had absolutely no right to behave as I did," Harold says, voice low and steady. "If you are angry with me, or upset in any way, you have every right to be, and I'll do whatever I can to make amends. If you find you can't stand the sight of me--"

That, John can't let go unchallenged. He sits up and faces Harold. "Trying to get rid of me?" He's trying for an ironic rasp, but his voice is still shaky in the aftermath of heat.

Harold blinks at him. There's a line on Harold's chin, imprint from a crease in the pillow. His hair is standing up in tufts. "Of course not. Still, I can't expect you to be comfortable--"

"It's not my job to be comfortable," John snaps.

"--with an alpha employer who-- well, it's not your job to warm my bed, either."

Despite the sinking sensation in his belly, the phrase almost makes John want to smile. It's terribly Harold. It's also much too easy to imagine: getting between Harold's sheets, sprawling, chasing off the chill before Harold climbs in with him.

Better kill the notion before it takes root. "Yeah, I get it, I'm not qualified for that." Harold blinks at him some more. He looks almost offensively adorable. "Look, Harold, I'm not a virgin and I'm not looking for you to make me an honest omega or to respect me in the morning. Heat's done, nobody stabbed me, I'm fine."

Harold looks stunned. "Of course I respect you. What does that have to do with sex?"

John raises his eyebrows. "You're telling me you're not going to look at me and think, I've had my entire hand up his ass?"

Harold flushes. It's an unfairly appealing sight. "I still don't see what that has to do with respect," he says, dogged. "You're a good man, and excellent at your job, and I don't see how the particulars of sex acts I've pressured you into signify."

"Pressured me?" John says, incredulous. "Do you need a reminder that I begged?"

"After I subjected you to significant emotional pressure, under duress," Harold says.

Right. That's about as much as John can take of this particular line of reasoning. He moves, and in a flash he has Harold pinned to the bed beneath him. "You really think you can make me do anything I don't want to do?"

Harold gives him a disbelieving look, clearly unafraid. "Yes."

Okay, he has a point. John changes tack. "Trust me," he purrs, "anything you could've suggested, I've probably done worse."

For a moment, John thinks he's won. It's a shitty victory, with Harold's face ashen under him, but John will take it. Then Harold says, "Please let me look at you and see if I've done lasting harm," in a carefully controlled voice, and John doesn't even have that anymore.

He climbs off Harold, lies on his stomach, tries not to think as Harold inspects him. Harold's thumbs pull him open gently, and John shivers before he can stop himself, thinking of Harold seeing him, maybe even wanting him.

Of course, as soon as he moves, Harold pulls away. "John? Did I hurt you?"

John closes his eyes. This is too much. "Not enough," he grits out.

There's a pause, then a shuffle of fabric as Harold moves up the bed. "I don't understand."

Better to get it all out. In a dull voice, John says, "I like getting hurt. I like it rough. I'm sorry if I don't meet some standard of what you think an omega ought to be, but I liked everything we did. I'd do it again right now if you wanted." His body, shamefully, is responding: excited tingles running down his spine at the thought of Harold doing that, deciding John was good enough for another round after all.

He's not surprised when Harold is silent. He is, though, when Harold speaks and rather than repulsed, his voice is thoughtful. "Given that you told me that, would you indulge my curiosity a bit further?"

Nothing to lose is a terrible lie. John still has everything to lose. He still says, "Ask away," because Harold was right, and John really will do anything Harold asks.

"If you could have anything at all right now," Harold says, "what would it be?"

The answer comes to John, electrifying and undeniable. And yet. "Paradox," he says. "If I want you to want something, then it's no good asking."

Harold's hand comes down on his back, soft and exploratory. If John had a proper sense of self preservation he'd move away from the touch. He doesn't.

"So what is it you'd like me to want?" Harold's tone is familiar: talking himself through a difficult problem. John listens, curious despite himself to know where Harold wants to take this. "I've been rather selfish today, so I'm guessing it's not anything that we did already, or you'd already know I want it."

John did know, but even so hearing that spoken admission does things to him. His legs twitch.

"There were also," Harold says, "some acts in which you did manage to express your interest, or willingness. Particularly, ah, less mainstream ones." He pauses. "Is it that you'd like me to kiss you? Because I'd love to, if you wanted that. I think saying so won't matter much, given other liberties I've taken."

John's breath hitches. Kissing. He hasn't even thought of that, and now he can't get the idea out of his mind. Harold putting his mouth to John's, forcefully, taking....

Or - John just barely dares imagine - sweetly. Giving.

"I don't think that was it," Harold muses. "You reacted..." he ghosts his hand down John's back, sending sparks up his spine. "It seemed like you wanted some kind of penetration. I think we've done most kinds..." he pauses, then says, "is that you'd like me to taste you?"

The whimper wrings itself from John's throat, low and humiliated. "You don't have to," he says, a desperate grab for something like self-respect. "If you don't want to."

"Why wouldn't I want to?" Harold sounds so honestly surprised. He's also still touching John, in repetitive patterns, and John still has enough of heat's pheromones floating in his system to make him want to lie down and take everything Harold gives.

Though if he's honest, that might not be the heat's fault at all.

"I would like to taste you." Harold doesn't stop touching John, and he's moving, repositioning himself. He still sounds like he's talking to himself, but now it sounds more decisive, like forming a plan. "I'm slightly torn - on one hand, I feel like I'm compounding my sins by not consulting you, but at the same time, it almost seems like you prefer it that way...?"

John is still trying to form an answer when Harold spreads him open again, and then it's all lost in a high moan.

Harold takes his time. It occurs to John belatedly that Harold might be inspecting him for damage when Harold apparently decrees him sound enough to take more, and he feels the ticklish touch of Harold's tongue.

It makes him squirm, face feeling overheated. He can't quite believe Harold wants to, is still half terrified Harold is just feeling guilty and trying to compensate. But then Harold makes an appreciative noise and laps at him, and John can stop thinking.


The only problem with allowing himself to realize how good John smells and tastes is that Harold is worried he may never be able to think of anything else.

He might, perhaps, be distracted by how good John sounds, vocal and responsive even though Harold aims to experience more than to arouse. It's coming to Harold's attention that John's bar for these encounters is almost painfully low.

Perhaps Harold ought to be a better man than he is, set aside his fondness for John until such time as John's gotten over the frightful tangle of wrongheaded ideas he's been harboring.

If this encounter proves anything, it's that Harold isn't nearly as good as he'd like to be where John is concerned; and he's not about to set himself up to fail by pretending otherwise. He'll simply have to do his level best to make sure everything he does is as pleasing to John as it is to himself.

He should ask, perhaps: but so far, action has steered them better than words, and John is making such urgent sounds - and becoming so wonderfully wet for him again - that Harold is loathe to let go of him. Instead, he gropes for John's cock, finding it plump and still slick with earlier's spill.

But John is saying, "Please," and rutting into Harold's hand, and into his mouth. Harold knows exactly what he will do, with a cool satisfaction that will probably terrify him in the cold light of day.

He will bring John off, as many times as it takes until John is as dazed and pliant as he was before. Then he will tell John in no uncertain terms that John is beautiful, and desirable, and worthy, and every other possible description he will think up: doubtless many more will come to mind, all of them positive and all of them true. And he will continue saying so until John starts showing discomfort, and then they will clean up and Harold will check again that John is physically sound, and they will eat and sleep.

The question of John's bruised self-worth will definitely come up again, and sooner rather than later: but John has evidently been laboring under the misapprehension that he was somehow not good enough for Harold, as mind-boggling as the thought is. The least Harold can do is look for John's misery from this new, closer vantage point, and do his level best to banish it.

He fucks John with his tongue until John shakes and comes, still half soft in his hand. Harold runs a cherishing, covetous hand over John's skin. "If you'd like to object to me claiming you," Harold says, "I'd say it's rather too late, but you could still make your complaints heard."

John's hand closes over his, squeezing hard. "Who's complaining?"