Waking up is a fight, and John struggles through layers of grogginess and headache that are profoundly unfair, seeing as he’d managed to get to bed only a little after midnight the night before. Maybe Hendricks had put sleeping pills in his drink. Or switched him to decaf again. He had been making his monthly noises about the benefits of a full eight hours.
When he finally opens his eyes, part of his brain must still be asleep, because first he notices the soft morning light coming in through the windows, and wonders how deeply he overslept for the sun to be that high in January, and then he notices the pillow case, which is a dark navy unlike that in any of his bedrooms, and then he notices that his head is not on the pillow itself, that the pillow is past a shoulder that is not his own, and that he is instead resting on a hairy, bony chest.
He goes tense, and Dresden must notice, because he makes a grumbly little sound and his arms tighten.
John’s mind begins to work very, very fast.
The mundane, first: he has been drugged.
-A blackmail attempt-
-An attempt to get him to do or say something incriminating-
-A murder attempt via enraged Dresden-
-He is amnesiac in a safehouse, Dresden drugged or drunk as well-
And ramping into the supernatural, which is the same basic list albeit with ‘drugged’ replaced by ‘mental invasion.’
His beclavicled pillow shifts underneath him, with a snort and a deep breath that lifts his head. He flexes slowly, tries to push up from the mattress-- the arms tighten that much more, surprisingly strong, and he’s pulled back down to lie sprawled against Dresden.
This is ridiculous, and because it is Dresden the irritation rises over the urgency of the situation, grabs childish by the hand and brings it along on the way up, and he’s debating the merits of fingers in the ribs over committing fully to the wet willy when Dresden makes that grumbly sound again and folds over to kiss him.
It is rather like being assaulted by a halibut, albeit without the smell. But wet, slack lips descending on his face, pressed onto his cheek and chin and forehead and mouth with a smacking sound at each withdrawal.
He must have still been more asleep than he realized (or drugged, or mentally invaded) because he stares for moment before the hand that had been going for Dresden’s ear (or ribs) detours sharply and smushes against his face, pushing back his lips and nose. “Nooo,” John says, and it drags out, becomes a grumpy slur.
“Myersh,” Harry says happily against his hand and kisses that.
“Mister Dresden!” It’s a bit more slurred than snappish, but he gets it out in one try, intelligibly enough to count.
“Mmmm.” Dresden stops his piscine assault, cracking one eye and giving him a bleary look. “Me or the cat?” he says, voice grating with morning. Or at least that’s what John thinks he says, because the bed dips dangerously before he can ask, pitching him firmly into Dresden’s arms, and a mountain of fur he hadn’t noticed sleeping behind him thumps its way out of the room. He hears it plod away, maybe stairs, then a sound, distant, like a file cabinet being dragged along a tile floor.
“Mnng. You woke Mouse up,” Harry says, and flops back with a groan, pulling John down with him. “You have to feed him.” He doesn’t let go, however, big clumsy hands patting down John’s back, big mobile mouth slack and happy, and John scrambles up onto his knees, breaking his hold. “Then you should come back.”
That mouth curls into an open, honest smile, and John nearly falls off the bed getting away.
His mind races as he walks out into a hall he doesn’t know: wide, high ceilings, a hardwood floor that must be tougher than it looks to not be entirely made of up claw marks from the mammoth-sized dog. There are hangings on the walls, dark soothing colors, pattern and illustration. The styles are appealing-- inasmuch as he has a taste in tapestries these are to it.
He pushes open the first door he comes to; it swings in easily. Dark. Small. He pats down the wall inside the door and eventually finds a lightswitch. It doesn’t work, but there’s a flashlight on top of the towel rack underneath it, and he flicks it on for a cursory inspection. A bathroom. A shower and tub in the corner. A toilet. A sink. Nothing that tells him much, save that it looks tidy. Perhaps a little too tidy. Closer to a guest bathroom than a personal one. Although, if they had woken up in the master bedroom, he would expect an ensuite.
He returns the flashlight, able to make out the shapes now. Tries the flush and it works. Tries to figure out the implications of pissing in this place, can’t map all the permutations and combinations, and just holds it.
He goes to the sink; tries the tap. A rattle of pipes and a dribble of cold water. Then a rumbling flickum biccus and candles on the counter and in sconces mounted to the walls burst to life. Dresden looms up behind him, a presence he feels before he notices the curtain drawn over what must be the bathroom mirror.
“Got lost on the way?” Harry mumbles, voice clearer than before but still morning rough, and passes close enough to press a kiss to the back of John’s head, before turning to the toilet and pulling out his dick. He’s wearing boxers, just like John, and nothing else, long hairy body lined with red pressure marks from the bed.
He pisses, relaxed, and John stares at the curtain covering where the mirror would be in a standard bathroom before firming his jaw and pushing it aside.
It is still his face. He hadn’t realized that he was afraid it wouldn’t be until it is. His eyes, still. Even in the dim light, he can see that his hair is lighter, shot through with more gray.
‘The Future.’ That’s the game. ‘The Future’ in which Harry kisses him and shares a bathroom with him casually.
“You okay?” Harry asks, coming up behind him again and reaching around him to the sink, trapping him in a backwards hug. He presses his whole skinny length up John’s back, washes his hands while he kisses down John’s temple and jaw. It’s decidedly less fish-like this time. Pleasant. Quite so. Harry lingers on the bitten ear, his lips gentle and familiar. The ear’s still missing a chunk, but the scar is smooth, rounded out, the bite mark not as clearly defined. It looks worn in and well healed. That’s not age; simply wish fulfillment. “You got home so late. I didn’t think you’d be up this early.”
“Stop that,” he snaps, and pulls away from the kisses.
“Did something happen?” Harry says. Lines appear in his forehead, soft creases that all but shout ‘worried!’, which is as impossible as the entire morning so far. John wonders, distantly, if this Dresden is a simulacrum, as part of the game-trappings as the bed, the bathroom; or perhaps he is his captor, or another of those working against him, disguised. He had thought, at first, that this place, his captors, the unknown who, may have been pulling from his own thoughts, letting his expectations craft this future-cage around him, but he’s never had cause to see Harry look like this, not at him. Never near him. Could never imagine it. He has seen nothing from this Dresden-construct, whatever, whoever it may be, that the real Harry Dresden would ever show him.
John drops the curtain and it swings back over the mirror, the little swoosh of air making the candles closest flicker.
“John?” Harry asks, and his hold breaks easily when John turns and pushes against it, striding out the door and down the long hall, past other doors he doesn’t open, and down the flight of stairs the hallway ends in.
He comes out in a kitchen. Airy. Well lit. Big open windows streaming sunlight. A door to a deck and whatever’s outside. It’s so bright it’s hard to see, but there’s the vague impression of green and woodland and a dark blue smear on the horizon beyond. The file cabinet sound starts up again, and he looks to see the massive dog (Newfoundlander? Chow chow? Mastiff of some kind? Fuck. Lion?) nosing a metal basin across the floor, looking as pathetic as it can manage.
John ignores it. Walks through the kitchen, around the giant wood table, the island in the middle. Opens one cupboard to find plates, bowls. Another that is jammed full of mugs. The one above the stove is full of food, the kind it takes years to go bad, cans and boxes and plastic packages. Walks through a dining room, into a large living room, past the front foyer and then a home office, down a hallway with more doors that open at his touch. Another bathroom. A small guest bedroom. A room full of books. Something like a workshop but full of beakers and plastic bottles and old books and shelves piled high and canisters of things and what looks like a human skull tucked between stacks of more books and magazines.
It moves. John’s heart stops. Orange lights flick on in its eye sockets, and it rises up on its jawbone. “Holy Slaughterhouse Five, studmuffin!”
He slams the door. Turns. Back to the kitchen.
The dog sneezes at him; tips its head comically; sneezes again and pants.
“What?” he asks it.
It stands and shakes-- John takes a step back at the size of it-- and leads him to the pantry. The floor is taken up by the largest bag of dog food John has ever seen, with an empty ice cream bucket as a scoop. The generic, sold-by-the-gallon, basic flavors kind. He raises his eyebrows disbelievingly at the dog, who just lolls its tongue and noses the bowl a little closer.
John shrugs and fills the bowl almost to the brim with kibble. It’s big enough for a toddler to take a bath in. “Do they have stock in the company?” he wonders, dropping the bucket back into the bag, closing the door. His back goes cold. His stomach drops. He grits his teeth.
He will not believe in this.
This is not true.
A sound like a rampaging baboon, and Harry appears at the foot of the stairs, dressed in worn jeans and an even more worn t-shirt, the vague outlines of Darth Vader’s helmet barely discernible on the front. He’s holding a terrycloth robe and shoves it at John. “It’s not that warm yet. I can feel you getting cold.”
John frowns at that before he can help it-- this place has put him firmly off his game. No doubt its purpose. Harry rolls his eyes.
“I’m not checking all the time; I just don’t like it when you’re uncomfortable. I know. You know that.”
That is unnecessarily oblique, even for a magically-constructed con, and John just lets his frown deepen and takes the robe.
He is already wearing the boxers. If this is real, and not just projected into his brain, if this is some carved out space in the Nevernever, he could already be seen to have accepted the gift of clothing by dint of not fighting them off. And he is cold. The terrycloth is cool, too, and he shivers.
Harry gives him that worried face again, is going to say something, neck swelling like a bullfrog with the preparation, then turns and sighs and starts rummaging in cupboards. John’s surprised when the rummage produces two cereal boxes-- a shredded wheat of some variety and the garish packaging of Lucky Charms, that he hadn’t imagined anyone over the age of ten ate voluntarily. He’s not without his comfort foods from times gone by, the glaring orange ramen packs he caught a glimpse of in the cupboard over the stove sent a nostalgic pang through him, but nothing with colored marshmallows really counts as a food.
Harry passes him a bowl, and then pulls out a percolator, fetching out coffee grounds and a filter after it. He bustles around, pouring the water, lighting the wood stove-- it’s not until the coffee’s brewing and he glances over to the table that he sees John still standing where he was, holding the bowl.
“John--” He presses his lips together, the faded scar there going pale. “Are you all right? Is this about last night?”
John’s saved from answering when the giant dog turns from its bowl and rears up, paws the size of dinner plates coming to rest lightly on his shoulders. The dog gets one kibble-scented slurp up John’s face before John’s reflexes kick in and he lurches back, coming up smack against the heavy wooden table. He’ll have bruises there in the morning.
If this weren’t a dream. If this weren’t a specially-engineered cage somewhere in the Nevernever where tomorrow might never happen. If this were something real.
“Mouse!” Harry says, but the dog’s already landing back on all fours, big tail wagging slowly, mouth stretched wide in a doggy smile. “Don’t you start too,” he says, gesturing with a coffee spoon. Then he shoves a coffee cup into John’s hands and takes the bowl from him, putting it down just a little more forcefully than necessary on the table with his own. The boxes of cereal follow, and then milk and cream from the fridge, placed a little more carefully next to the sugar bowl already there.
John takes a step back, eyeing the spread. Harry reaches into the Lucky Charms box and shoves a handful of cereal into his mouth, crunching it while he fills his own coffee mug. Three sugars, one long cream, the moves well practiced. John places his cup on the table before he can add cream and take a drink, because it smells delicious, promising to chase away the last of the headache in his temples, and he may already be caught, having slept here, wearing the clothes, but he doesn’t need to tangle himself any further.
Harry’s forehead creases again. “Are you feeling sick?” One of those big hands goes for his forehead; he bats it away before it can make contact.
“I’m not here to indulge your Florence Nightingale fantasies, Mister Dresden.”
“You don’t think I have the legs for a nurse’s outfit?” There’s a marshmallow stuck to the corner of his mouth. Yellow. A bit of a pot of gold.
“I don’t think you have the ass for a set of scrubs.”
“I knew you liked my legs.”
“This is quickly ceasing to be at all amusing,” John notes, casually.
Harry jerks his mouth into a sharp line, eyes hurt. He swipes the back of his hand across his mouth, marshmallow disappearing. “The Laws don’t actually allow for me to be a mind reader, John. If something’s wrong, you have to tell me.”
John considers for a moment, simply explaining in great detail what is wrong with all of this, and thinks better of it. He smiles, cooly.
He sees fire flare in Harry’s eyes and thinks: yes. This is no illusion. Because no entity would dare try to duplicate that fire. A stupid thing to think but he has a strange faith in it, in recognizing the brand of destruction that only the wizard can muster. They’ve seen each other’s souls, and that was Dresden’s. Fire and shadows and a desperation to do the right thing despite himself. That had to count for something.
It is impractical. Dangerous. Foolish to trust a hunch like this.
But maybe. Maybe he’s not alone here.
“I’m going to feed the girls.” Whatever that means. Harry jams his feet into a pair of old shoes waiting at the back door and doesn’t quite stomp outside, but his movements are jerky, his back tense. He leaves the door partway open, and a moment later something the size of a badger and shaped like a house cat streaks inside.
The thing-- a battle-scarred tom in size-and-a-half scale-- gives him an arch look and sits down to wash itself, right at the base of its missing tail, leg sticking straight in the air. It has tracked in a surprising amount of mud for something John suspects to be an illusion.
Time to talk to the other player in this scenario. He stalks resolutely back to the door to the workroom. The skull’s eyes light and it immediately says: “Hey boss, I think something’s wrong with-- oh, it’s you.”
“You wanted to talk Vonnegut?” John says, in a voice that strains around the edges.
“Absolutely not.” The skull rocks back. “I’m not getting in trouble for aiding and abetting your Sixth Law B&E. Out. Shoo!”
“Dresden may be part of this charade, but you aren’t,” he says coldly. “Why am I here?”
“Philosophically or legally speaking?”
“What do you want from me? Who do you work for?”
“Oh, you’re not even-- oh.” The lights in its eyes go dead.
There is a tempting toolbox just visible in the light from the kitchen, and the impulse to find a hammer and smash the fucking thing is strong. John closes the door very, very lightly, and goes and stands in the kitchen again, fists clenched.
The dog is still eating. The cat has gone somewhere else. The pawprints are drying on the tile.
The mud makes him wonder where exactly the hell he is-- this isn’t his estate or any of the safe-houses he owns, tucked discreetly into residential areas that might sport a lawn. There’s been too much physicality for him to believe he’s trapped in a dream, and Dresden’s presence largely disproves that theory anyway. But he must be somewhere where water boils with heat, where one moment proceeds linearly into the next, where it is something like summer instead of the dead of winter.
He drifts to the door and out it, onto the deck, the boards wet and cool with dew or perhaps the remains of a nighttime rainshower, peering out at Harry and the aforementioned ‘girls’, who turn out to be a small flock of chickens, pecking at the corn Harry is scattering from an old plastic coffee tub.
The lay of the land is familiar, in his hindbrain somewhere, intertwined with something that makes his stomach clench and his hands go into fists. If he had needed any proof that something was wrong, that he was in hostile territory, that he was under threat.
He knows where he is. He knows where he is and he can feel the sudden chill as blood drains from his face, nausea suddenly bending him double. He fights not to go to his knees. They’re here. They might already be moving in.
A hand touches his shoulder and he lashes out, shoving his attacker into the yard.
And comes back to the present, sees what is really there, not a painful memory; Harry, flat on his ass, chickens milling unconcernedly around him.
“John? Babe?” Harry pulls himself to his feet and approaches, more cautiously. “Stars, you look awful, your heart rate is hammering, what’s--”
“The island,” John hisses. His blood pressure is spiking, he can feel it, pressure in his fingertips, his ears.
“He’s not doing anything. I’d know if he was doing anything. John--” Harry reaches out and lays a hand on clenched hand. Calloused, dry, ragged cuticles. Imperfect to the last detail.
John grounds himself in that and tries to shake free of the memories-- it was cold, freezing, the rope they bound him in, the assaults and the faint hallucinations as he started on his second day without sleep, the little girl, his ear, the constant fight to survive and stay sane.
He is holding Dresden’s hand now, so tight that it must hurt-- Harry is wincing.
“Nicodemus,” he says.
“He’s not here. I’d know if he were here. You know that.”
John stares at him, uncomprehending, angry, this sudden panic and physical reaction to remembered pains making it hard to think.
Dresden’s voice softens. “I’m connected to Demonreach. The genius loci. I know everything that happens on this island. I feel every inch of this place. They aren’t here.”
“That must be a tactical advantage,” John says, and hears the calm perfection in his voice even as he keeps his death-grip on Dresden’s hand.
It’s a fascinating touch, he tells himself, forcing analysis and not reaction. The one detail that would make it plausible that he would ever come back here. Perfect surveillance.
“They’re not here, John,” Harry murmurs, worried and urgent, and John lets himself be drawn into the long, bony arms, panting, and when he finally unclenches his fingers they have left white bands across Harry’s wrists. “Oh Stars. Oh John. What happened last night?”
“I don’t know,” he whispers. He feels numb and cold. Harry lays their cheeks together and then pulls back sharply.
“Hell’s bells, you’re freezing.” A hot hand, almost burning, cups his face. Harry is solid and warm against him, although holding him tightly enough to be uncomfortable, a wrist digging in here, John’s shoulder smashed against that sharp collarbone. “Let me make you some tea. Did you have nightmares, is that why you woke up so early?”
“No nightmares,” he murmurs.
“Okay. Do you think you can sleep? You’re so pale. I don’t know what just happened--” Dresden worries out loud.
“I’ll sleep. No tea.” Don’t drink. Don’t eat. Don’t sleep. But he already has slept, and taken clothing. He won’t be adding any debts. Only compounding them.
“I’ll come up with you,” Dresden says, and draws him inside, shutting the door. “Come on.”
“I need a shower,” he murmurs. He stinks of fear and sweat. There’s mud on his hands from somewhere, down his robe. He looks at Harry, the mud all over him, his pants and arms and every bit of exposed skin. That was one mystery solved.
Of course. He should have thought of that before.
“A bath would be warmer,” Harry says, toeing off the old shoes, adding to the mud the giant cat had tracked in. “You’re already so cold.”
Dresden doesn’t let go of him, whatever his reluctance, a solid weight at his side, one arm wrapped around his waist as they go up the stairs together.
There is an ensuite after all. A tub big enough for two, surrounded by a faded plastic curtain. The showerhead was installed non-professionally, he notes-- solidly put in, but the tile work is very do-it-yourself and there is visible caulking, just a bit. He undresses and steps in, not looking at Harry, pulling the curtain closed.
He turns the tap and waits, convinced for a terrible, triumphant second that this scenario will not allow for this much running water-- and then hears water gurgling through the pipes, from above. Private well. There wouldn't be running water on The Island. It bursts on him cold and with the mineral scent of rain, and he shivers and curls on himself as he stands full under the spray. He wonders if it will wash away the illusion of his aging.
Harry says something that it takes a moment to understand as "Knock knock."
"Certainly," he says, shivering. Now. Will the water wash away whatever enchantment has taken over Dresden? If the running water isn’t enough, the shock of the cold should be. It’s practically frigid.
Harry climbs in awkwardly and takes an unnoticed rag, making a few passes over John, sloughing off the mud, scraping him clean. And then he looms in and sets his back to the low-pressure spray, taking some of it for himself.
Dresden does not dissolve, or change. He does not spring into sudden awareness. He nestles John against him, and they stand in the spray until their teeth start to chatter audibly.
He needs to reassess. Obviously.
He is silent as they towel down-- huge, thick towels that he had actually heard Dresden retrieve. Luxurious but faintly stained, bleached out from much use. The illusion of years spent in this house, by them specifically, is nearly perfect.
He breaks away, Dresden trailing behind him like a seven-foot puppy, goes to the double vanity at the other end of the bathroom. The mirror there is covered too, but he twitches the fabric away. The light is better here. A skylight overhead, not the flickering three-star Michelin restaurant dimness of the candles in the other bathroom. His hair is grey all the way through. Salt and peppered. His temples silver. They didn’t give him much of his father’s hairline. The crowsfeet around his eyes are deeper. A few laugh lines at his mouth where there weren’t before.
"I'm going to take a nap," he says. Whatever the next phase of this game is, he wants to get to it. He woke up to this; it's as good a guess as any that sleep will continue the plot.
"Do you want me there?" Harry asks uncertainly.
Dresden-- if he is Dresden, and John is as certain that he is as he can be certain of anything-- was his companion waking to this round, in this place. Maybe they’re meant to move on together. It wouldn’t be unlike Nicodemus, like what he’s heard and observed of other supernatural powers, to think it amusing to tie him and the wizard together so explicitly.
And he’s the only touchstone to home John has. Even if the idiot firestarter hasn’t shaken loose the chains of mental invasion yet and still believed them lovers. Hell, if anything, he’ll owe John for bringing him along. “Yes.”
Harry softens a little at that, his ridiculously telling eyes going practically dewy. He closes his hands over John’s arms and John can’t help the way he sags into the grip, just a little, Dresden’s hands are warm like the goddamned summer sun even after that ice cold shower.
“A moment,” he says, tugging the towel a little tighter around his shoulders. He turns, squares himself. He has to fucking pee.
There is no other recourse for this. Whatever this is-- this place, this illusion, this arena-- his body can’t handle the strain anymore. He does not want to leave any of himself here, in this place. But he has no choice-- he can do this voluntarily now or involuntarily and humiliatingly later. And waste, he remembers, doesn’t remain a viable link to a person for long. Particularly with the added dilution of the toilet water. He can only hope.
Dresden stands around and waits for him-- of course he does-- and John forces himself to relax, and then wonders what he’s conceded when he’s done. His face is drawn tight, and he can feel the headache starting up again, the tension that he can’t relax away making him ache.
“Are you okay?” the wizard asks quietly. He didn’t know that there was an enchantment out there strong enough to make Dresden exhibit tact.
“Let’s just go to bed.”
It’s still unmade from earlier, the sheets in disarray, the duvet lopsided and falling off the end. Harry gets out of bed the same way he does everything, it seems. Like a teenager. John pulls and orders things into something good enough, and folds his towel over the back of a desk chair close by. He hadn’t looked at the room, before. He can’t help but let his gaze dart around it now.
Two dressers. A door to what he suspects must be a closet. Soft throw rugs layered over the hardwood. A few bookshelves. A large window with a padded ledge wide enough to sit on. Two well-cushioned, comfortable looking chairs, the little desk by the bed, a book and a few papers on top of it. Some chew toys and a rawhide on the floor. A cold fireplace. Assorted knickknacks and pictures on the mantle that he doesn’t dare go look at.
Homey. Cozy. Well lived in. He knows immediately which dresser is meant to be his. This game is well played.
Harry crouches by the fireplace, murmurs something soft and low. Flames spring up. John wonders if it’s a test, or just a torment. That the wizard has his magic here, but only John knows they’re trapped.
He climbs into the bed, pulling the sheets up under his armpits. Closes his eyes and refuses to open them when the bed moves and Harry tucks in beside him.
“You’re still so cold,” Harry says, soft, mouth pressed to one of his shoulders, trailing stubbly kisses. “I wish you could tell me what happened.”
“And you’ll ride to my rescue?”
He’s more tired than he thought; already the soft mattress and cool sheets are making him sleepy, making it harder to think. His tone isn’t as biting as he wanted.
Dresden certainly doesn’t think so, going by the grin he can feel stretching out against his bicep. “I’ll put my spurs on and everything,” he says dopily, and starts kissing behind John’s ear.
Perhaps in the next leg of this game-- whatever it is-- Dresden will have his mind back. Perhaps he will even remember the ferocity with which he is determined to cuddle, and John sighs and lets his body go as slack as it wants to, lets Harry roll him onto his side and pull him into his arms, one of those long legs sliding over his hip, those big hands rubbing circles on his back, that mouth brushing against his.
He tucks his face into the hollow of Harry’s neck, soft chest hair just tickling at his nose, and sleeps. He’ll need his energy for whatever he wakes to.
John wakes up, in his own bed, not the office chair he fell asleep in, and stretches. The bed is warmed through with body heat and summer heat and the smoldering remains of a fire, and the sun is almost directly above, streaming down through the skylight. Harry sighs into his hair, mumbles something, and he intercepts the slack-mouthed kisses coming for him with a well practiced finger and turns them so he’s kissing Harry’s neck and collarbone instead. He loves the man, but he kisses like a mackerel first thing. Wet kisses smack against his forehead and in his hair.
“I have to get up, babe,” he pulls back, and long arms twine around him, a protesting mutter ruffling his hair.
“Nuhm. Uh-uh.” Harry gets it together enough to find an earlobe and suck on it.
“I have to tell Bob I’m back,” he says, and Harry turns a look of bleary incomprehension on him.
It will be hard to explain. Waking up in the past, the jolt of an old memory come new again. He did what he knew he would have to do; moved quietly, touched nothing sensitive, left no note, no message because there had been none for him, although he had searched. Was searching-- no. The past got the past tense. He had not understood, when he'd returned to his time, he had been frightened and angry; there was the battery of tests he’d had Gard run, the probing visit from the Gatekeeper of the wizards’ White Council. Hendricks' questions because Hendricks had noticed. Of course. Hendricks is too bright to fall for his bullshit, now or then.
He remembers with fresh clarity-- the smell of his old office, oddly, brought it back-- the gnawing hunger that had haunted him for weeks after. The ache for the easy affection he’d had a glimpse of. For Harry, a minor fascination given teeth by his vision of the future. He feels a pang of companionship for himself, years ago, hacking through that. And for Hendricks, who always bore the brunt of his upset. But thinking through this sort of temporal snarl isn’t one of his strengths-- he has always worked best dealing with only one reality at a time, only one time in a reality-- and he’ll leave the past back where it is. Now. Again.
He can assure Bob that the time-line is back in working order later. He snuggles into his lover’s arms and starts to kiss down Harry’s furry chest and stomach.
“Nm.” Harry pats at his head, fingers going unerringly to John’s temples. “You feeling better?”
Awake enough now to start remembering. “Yes.” He stretches up to kiss the bottom of Harry’s chin, his mouth. “Promise. Tell you about it later.” Then back down to nuzzle his belly. He has the agenda from the meeting last night. There are some names there he’ll have his people look into. He never found out who sent him through time, then-- he must, now, because Vonnegut aside, that isn’t the sort of thing that happens.
But he has a resource now that he didn’t, then. Hard-won through compromise and heartache. He has Harry now, and vice versa. Together, they can do anything.
He resumes his journey down Harry’s stomach, sucking a messy hickey under his navel and making them both snort and snicker. First, they will do this.