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Walk Through the Fire

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John watched the flames rise higher and higher, lighting up his block in grotesque shades of orange and red. He could already tell that the long jets of water streaming impotently at the blaze wouldn't be leaving him anything worth going back to.

The oppressively hot, soot-filled air licked at the back of his neck. He sighed and absently tugged off the blanket some well-meaning paramedic had slung around his shoulders. At least everyone had gotten out safely.

Out of the din of distraught residents and harried emergency personnel, a lone voice gradually pierced through. "Mr. Reese? Mr. Reese?" The worry in it was palpable.

Harold. John instinctively sought higher ground via the bumper of the nearest fire truck and began to scan the crowd for some sign of his partner. Though the figures silhouetted against the light of the fading blaze were difficult to distinguish, only one was heading toward the fire, with a rushed, halting gait he knew all too well.

"Harold!" Smoke burned his throat, mangling his shout into a hoarse whisper. He jumped down and frantically began shoving people out of the way; if Harold was distraught enough to be heading straight for a burning building, there was no telling what else he might do.

He swallowed hard and repeated, "Harold!" This time it was loud enough to give Harold slight pause, allowing John just enough time to spill out of the other side of the crowd in front of him.

"John!" The film of water in Harold's eyes shone in the firelight. He reached out trembling fingers and brushed them, feather light, over the sleeve of John's jacket. "The alert came on the screen, and I couldn't reach you on the comm. I thought..." His voice broke a little as he trailed off again. "I thought..."

Without thinking, John launched himself at Harold, scraped-up fingers finding refuge in the soft wool of his overcoat. He buried his face in Harold's neck and inhaled the clean, mint scent of his aftershave. At that point, he wasn't sure which of them he was most trying to comfort.

"I'm fine," he whispered into Harold's neck, surely convincing neither of them. "I'll live."

Though he had stiffened initially, Harold's arms now crept around his frame. His fingers traveled methodically over John's back, tracing muscle and bone alike, as if to assure himself everything was still in its proper place.

When the words came, they were so quiet against the cacophony of the scene that John almost didn't catch them: "You should stay with me."

It took John an embarrassingly long time to process that they were discussing his tenuous living situation. "Oh." He reluctantly disentangled himself. "Thanks. I won't impose for long, I-"

"No," Harold interjected, more forceful this time. John looked at him in confusion until he said, "I apologize. I was unclear. John, I want you to stay with me...permanently."

John could only stare, stupefied. It was a straightforward request, he recognized that, but somehow his mind was having trouble making the pieces fit together. Maybe he should have kept the shock blanket, after all.

He was only broken from the stupor by Harold murmuring, "Naturally, if this would be unacceptable to you..." and looking so damn hurt that John felt obliged to pick him up in a kiss that was decidedly inappropriate for two people standing in front of a burning building. But at that moment, with every cell in his body humming with sheer, undiluted vitality, John Reese did not give a single, solitary fuck.

When forced by a coughing fit to break the kiss, John rasped out, "Yes. God yes, hell yes."

Harold touched a hand to the side of John's face and smiled, before reaching out with the other to clasp John's fingers in his. "I think you could use a good night's sleep, Mr. Reese. Let's go home."

On the fringes of the crowd, two figures turned their backs on the scene and exchanged a quiet fist bump. It was Carter who wryly observed, "About damn time."