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***

Lights flashed across his eyes. He tried to focus, but they were going by too fast. The sounds were loud and confusing. He wasn't able to concentrate on anything. At this moment he wasn't even sure where he was. He tried to move his head, but it only intensified the feeling of vertigo. He closed his eyes, wanting nothing more than to lie down, only to realize he already was. It was good thing or he would've hit the floor.

"Hold on John."

His eyes snapped open.

"Just hold on."

He knew that voice. It was one he thought he wouldn't ever hear again. Actually he was surprised he was even alive. Wasn't he supposed to be dead?

What happened?

Did they win?

"Harold…"

A hand grabbed his. "You're going to be okay."

The ceiling stopped moving, as he felt the bed come to a standstill. There was movement around him, too much activity for him to follow. Someone tried to grab his arm, but he refused to let go of Harold's hand.

"They need to cut everything away…"

John began to panic when he felt Harold move away from him.

What if it wasn't real?

Wait.

Harold had been injured, he had seen the blood, pissed that he had left him.

"Harold!"

"I'm here John, let the doctors do their work."

"No, he's hurt." He reached up and grabbed one of the nurses, a young blonde woman, who reminded him so much of Jessica it hurt for a moment. "He's injured, help him."

The nurse glanced over to where he assumed Harold was. "Sir?"

"I'm fine, he's the one that needs medical attention."

"No!" He struggled to sit up, the room spun on its axis.

"You are not helping yourself." The doctor gave him a pointed glare, as she pushed him back onto the bed. "Lay back down, John. I promise to examine Harold myself."

"Megan?" His hand slid across his chest. He paused, when he didn't feeling the stickiness of blood. "What happened on the roof?"

"We were able to get you off …" Harold was ushered back to his side, the medical staff realizing it would keep the patient calm. He took John's hand instantly.

"How?" he asked, confused. "What about the explosion?"

"I disarmed the bomb, later Carter helped get it off of you." He reached over and ran a hand through John's sweat soaked hair. "The explosion was Snow, it looks like he took out Stanton, they're both dead."

"You weren't supposed to be there." He glared at him. "The Machine diverted you…"

"Shhh, John you’re safe now. Let Dr. Tillman take care of you."

"Carter? What do you mean Carter? She's dead."

Harold glanced over to see Megan watching her patient worriedly. "John, what do you think happened?"

"Samaritan agents…" He shot a look at Tillman, then traveled over to the few security cameras. "I was shot."

"I'm going to sedate him." She moved over to one of the counters to grab a sedative. "We can assess the damage."

"Mr. Reese, look at me."

John blinked a few times, before focusing back on Harold, and gave him a soft smile. "I missed you."

"Mr. Reese you were not shot, there were no Agents on the roof. You went up there to get away from civilians. I waited for you, so we could disarm the bomb vest. Stanton kidnapped you from Rikers."

"That was years ago." He started to panic, focus once again darting towards the cameras. He grunted when Dr. Tillman injected him with the sedative. "Harold, tell me it's you and not a simulation. Tell me this is real."

"John." Harold's voice went soft, as he leaned forward. "Trust me. I promised never to lie to you." Reese stared up at him, so much emotion showing through those blue eyes. "After the vest was removed, and the explosion took out Snow and Stanton, you dropped to your knees cradling your head. You scared me. I had never heard such a sound of pain from you. I called the Detectives, Carter got the vest off and Fusco helped you down the stairs. You started seizing on the way to the hospital."

John studied Harold, then nodded. "What about Shaw?"

"Who?"

"Root?" He asked eyes drifting closed.

"Root's dead." Harold leaned forward and kissed his forehead. "You took her out at the train station, when you saved me."

"My head hurts."

"Sleep." He pulled his hand up and kissed his knuckles. "I promise I'll be here when you wake. I love you."

John's eyes drifted closed, taking Harold's promise with him. His last thoughts were if this was a simulation may he never wake up from it.

***

Harold paced the private suite. He had never been so worried or scared than he had been on the roof, watching John stagger, then fall to his knees, clutching his head screaming in agony.

He would've never have been able to get John down if it weren't for the two detectives. Carter had discussed with Bomb Squad how to remove the vest, and then promised to leave it on the roof so it could be disposed of properly.

Fusco took most of Mr. Reese's weight as they made their way down the stairs. He could see in Carter's expression it was too similar to the night the CIA had shot John. Their panic went into high gear, when he started seizing when they got him in the car. Harold called Dr. Tillman as Carter drove like a maniac.

He had no idea what John was talking about in the ER. He hadn't heard of this Shaw, and the very idea he would be asking about Root of all people, sent shivers down his spine.

But the worst of it, was his look of complete longing. As if he hadn't seen Harold in years, not just the mere days he was at Rikers. His heart broke at the soft, sad tone stating he had missed him.

Whatever it was, he would get to the bottom of it.

If something happened at Rikers, he would destroy everyone who was involved.

A moan caught his attention.

He cringed as he turned a little too swiftly. His hip was paying for the trip up and down the stairs, and his neck was aching from sitting with Reese through most of the night. Megan had set up a lounger in the room, and added extra pillows and support, knowing Harold's own injuries. She was a good doctor, and had been loyal to them since she handed over her keys to John.

"John?" Harold reached over and took his hand, noticing that the IV was still intact, but closed off. Tillman had given him plenty of fluids and antibiotics. At the moment there was nothing in his bloodwork to show anything was wrong. She had a CT scan arranged for later in the afternoon. John has had enough blows to the head to check for lasting damage.

"Harold." He blinked a few times then stared up at him, a wide bright smile appearing as his eyes focused. "Hi."

Finch couldn't help smiling back. John always brought that out of him. "Are you with us?"

He looked around, then focused back on Harold. "Where are we?"

"Private suite in the County Hospital. You've been admitted under your alias Detective John Riley …"

"No." John tried to sit up. "The cover was blown, they tried to kill us."

"It held, it’s fine John. It did exactly what it was supposed to do. It got you away from Donnelly." Harold paused, staring at him, worry creeping up his spine. "What is the last thing you remember?"

"The ER?" he asked, shifting until he could sit up. Harold helped move the bed more upright.

"Before that."

"The rooftop."

Finch gave him a glare. "Mr. Reese."

"I don't know Finch." He closed his eyes. "I was on the rooftop, dying. You were safe, and that was all that mattered."

He sat down on the bed and took John's hand. "Tell me."

"Tell you what?" Reese tightened the grip.

"You said it happened years ago." Harold looked at him. "What happened?"

"Donnelly. Rikers. Stanton. Bomb Vest. Rooftop. You saved me again." He paused, "and life went on."

"Leading to your death? That is not something I would approve of."

"Approve!" John glared at him. "You were the one who locked me in the safe to go sacrifice yourself."

"I did no such thing." Harold stood up and moved away from the bed. "I wouldn't. I promised you after Root, that this was all or nothing."

"I'm not sure this is even real, Harold." John laid his head back. "You weren't even talking to me anymore. You trusted Root more than me…"

"Well obviously you were having delusions! There is no way I would trust that woman. She kidnapped and tortured me." He swallowed, still hating the feelings that woman brought up in him. "I still have nightmares, and it's only you by my side that makes them go away. And you're telling me, I replaced you with her! No. Just No."

"Harold." John tossed the covers back, and moved to get up.

"Get back in bed, right now!" Harold moved back across the room. "I will not allow you to fall and hit your head! Obviously the beating you took in Rikers did enough damage." He pushed John back, who cringed when he hit a bruise. "Damn it. I'm sorry."

Reese ignored him for a moment, pulling down the gown and looked at his bruised chest. "There are no wounds."

"Megan said the bruises were deep but healing, and your ribs weren't broken." Harold ran a finger over one of the darker ones, a boot print barely made out. He would willingly pay Elias to find each of those men, and destroy them.

"No, you don't understand, there are no wounds." John looked up frowning. "The last thing I remember, was a shoot-out with Samaritan Agents…waiting for the virus to upload into the satellite."

"Why didn't you have your vest?" Harold asked, figuring best option was to work through the delusions or memories. He wasn't sure what they were at this moment.

He opened his mouth then closed it. "I remember having to get to you. I refused to let you die."

"I locked you in a safe? Like the one you got captured by Donnelly?" And Harold still had a few words to say about that piece of stupidity, but that would have to wait.

"Ft. Knox."

"How the hell did I get into Ft. Knox?" He blinked a few times. He was good, but not that good. "So I locked you up in Kentucky, then got back to New York…"

"You were shot and didn't tell me!"

"I wouldn't be that stupid. And I'm not even going to try to figure out those logistics, but we'll go with it. And yet, you got out of Ft. Knox and beat me to New York, leaving behind your arsenal of weapons and vest? How many Agents were there?"

"Three."

Harold stared at him, eyes narrowing.

"I refuse to believe three … THREE … agents no matter how trained, took you out." He huffed and stepped back. "John I've seen you take on over half a dozen in one go, and walk away without a scratch. Even if they had body armor, why didn't you take the head shot?"

He shrugged.

"Let's move on. Who's Samaritan? And why would he be sending Agents."

"Not a man, an evil AI that was trying to destroy her." John frowned at Harold's incredulous look.

"Her?"

"The Machine."

"The Machine doesn't have a gender or a voice." Finch pushed him back into the bed, and kept busy making sure John was covered in blankets. "I'm not sure what worries me more. You dreamed up an 'Evil AI', you gave The Machine a gender, or you think I replaced you with Root."

"She's actually dead?" He pulled Harold close, forcing him to sit on the bed.

"You took her out at the train station." He cupped John's face. "Close your eyes, listen to my voice. I left you tap…"

"Code." John snorted. "It was so old school it was brilliant. I saw you in the wheelchair, she pulled a gun." His eyes snapped open. "I had Bear with me."

The moment he stepped into the station, he saw Harold. He didn't think, only acted on instinct. Pulling his gun, John moved across the waiting area, yelling at people to get out of his way. As he rounded the corner, he saw Root fleeing, and Harold on the floor.

"Bear, bewaken!" he ordered the Dutch Malinois, pointing at Finch.

Then without hesitation he ran after Root, ignoring the stream of frightened people. As he cleared the crowds, and turned the corner, two shots whizzed by his head. He ducked back against the wall, held his gun close, took a few calm breaths, before stepping out into the empty corridor.

"Ah is the pet going to shoot me?" She smirked at him, her own gun aimed. "Harry wouldn't like that…"

He pulled the trigger, one shot straight between the eyes.

"Next time, shoot don't ask stupid questions." John walked up to her fallen body, kicking away the gun. As cops came running towards him, he pulled his badge. "Detective Riley. I've been chasing her for days, she’s wanted in New York for murder, kidnapping and a half dozen assorted computer crimes."

The cops kept their guns on him, while one called it in.

"My partner, the one in the wheelchair, is he alright?"

"The one with the dog growling at everyone?" One of the cops lowered his weapon. "He saved the porter's life, by tackling her."

"He was tracking her via computer when she grabbed him, I've been on their trail since." John calmly answered their questions, smiling when everything checked out. Harold's idea to build a NYPD Detective ID and tie it to Carter and Fusco was a good one. He couldn't wait to tell them, now that they knew about each other.

"Can I get back to him?" John asked.

"Sure." One cop led him back up the platform. "I'm sure he would like if you called off the dog."

Harold was sitting on the floor, leaning against the pillar. Bear was standing in front of him growling at everyone who came too close, snapping at a few who tried to get closer. The expression indicated he wasn't happy with the new guard.

"Bear, Hiel." The dog moved to John's side, he reached down and gave him a pet. "Zitten." The dog sat, tongue hanging out. John reached down and pulled Harold up. "He likes you."

"I think I was introduced to the wrong end." He stared at the dog with trepidation. "New sidekick, Mr. Reese?"

"I picked him up along the way." John commented as he checked Harold for injuries. "He'll be good for you. Anyone hurts you, he'll eat them."

"I'm sure we'll get along just fine."

Bear barked.

"You took me home." Harold blushed slightly. "I ended up sleeping in your bed."

"And I haven't let you out of it since." John pulled him down, hand cupping his neck to make sure he didn't strain it. "I'm sorry." He kissed him soft and sweet, as if relearning what it meant to have this.

"Whatever this is, it's not your fault." He stole another kiss before cringing as he sat back up. "We'll figure it out, John."

He nodded, laying his head back against the pillows.

"And how is my patient?" Dr. Tillman asked, as she walked into the suite.

"Fine. Can I go home?"

Harold huffed as he got off the bed. "Mr. Reese, you will stay in that bed and do what Dr. Tillman says."

She gave him a look. "You had two seizures within an hour. I'm not letting you go until I get a look at your brain. A friend of mine is a specialist. He's agreed to come take a look at your CT scan."

"I'm fine."

She pulled out a penlight, and flashed it in his eyes, watching him cringe. "How much does your head hurt?"

"John?" Harold glared at him.

"Please don't lie to me." Megan took his wrist, taking his pulse. "I can't help you if you don't give me the full story."

He sighed. "Feels like my head is in a vice. It hasn't stopped throbbing since I woke up."

"And your memories?"

"They seem to be returning or settling is a better word." Harold answered for him. "If I had known you were hurting I would've let you sleep."

"I'm fine."

Finch focused on Dr. Tillman. "He's stubborn."

"I know." She smiled at both of them. "We'll get the room darker, and let you rest. Don't worry John, it's just a precaution. Stress can cause a lot of things, and from what I heard, these past few days have been bad."

He tried to a smile, but a sharp pain shot through his brain. He cringed, moaning softly as he gripped the side of his head.

"This is what happened before."

The pain worsened. His body tensed, head thrown back, a scream of pain ripped from his throat.

"John!" Harold cried out, not wanting to see this again.

"Step back." Tillman eased him onto his side. "Can you hear me? John … John …"

"John."

He blinked, a shake to his head. He knew this place. He had been here before.

Ordos.

"John."

And he knew that voice.

With a cringe he turned around, only to stop short in shock. Kara Stanton was holding a gun on him, a smile on her face. This wasn't how it happened.

"Sorry to disappoint, but I got orders."

"Going to kill me before we even get the job done?" He rolled his eyes. "You do realize Snow gave me the same order. They won't let you live past this."

She laughed. "Of course he did."

John jerked his head around when he saw more soldiers. "You're working for the Chinese?"

"No." She shrugged. "It seems our boss wants something from you. If I had wanted to kill you John, I would've shot you in the back."

He set his backpack and weapon on the ground, and raised his arms. "Now what?" He bit back a groan when the needle was jammed into his neck.

"You get to be their guinea pig."

Kara's smile was the last thing he saw as the world went black.

"John!" Tillman sounded scared.

He blinked a few times, then promptly threw up. She eased him through it, not once letting go of his head. After a few moments, he looked at her, forcing a smile. "I may need some aspirins."

She chuckled, eyes closing for a moment, letting the fear drop away. She glanced to the side, giving a nurse a nod.

He was getting tired of being stuck with needles.

"That should help." She soothed his hair back, easing him back into the bed. "Harold's right here."

He blindly reached out, taking the smaller man's hand in his, already starting to feel calmer.

"I'm here John. Just close your eyes and rest."

John swore if this was Samaritan he was going to find the servers personally and rip them apart with his bare hands.

***

"How's Tall Dark and Scary?" Fusco asked, concerned. He had watched the man walk through a hail of bullets and live to joke about it. So to see him that pale and incoherent wasn't right.

"At the moment the doctors don't know what's causing the seizures or the headaches." Harold sat in the back corner of the hospital cafeteria nursing a cheap cup of Lipton Tea. He'd been stirring it for ten minutes.

"It's John, he'll pull through it," Carter assured him. "To let you know, the ID you made of him being an Undercover Detective held so well, our boss is asking if he's alright."

Harold smirked slightly.

"Is Bear okay?" he asked Lionel.

"He misses the big guy and you." He shrugged. "Lee's taking him to the park. I think he may have taken out a mugger while he was there."

"He takes after Reese." Carter snorted into her cold cheap coffee. "Besides the obvious, what's got you worried?"

Harold kept stirring his tea. He wasn't sure if he should talk about anything Reese had said, but at the same time it had concerned them. After an hour nap, John had woken up disoriented. One of the nurses had called him Detective Riley, and he had started asking about Lionel, and their cases, like he was really working the job.

When Harold gently prodded him for more information, it had made him more concerned about his lover's mental health. All he could get out of him was that Carter was dead, and he was working her desk. He had felt so lost without Harold by his side, giving him a purpose.

Harold couldn't help but wonder if John knew how much he loved him, or did he honestly think he would just leave him? After Dr. Tillman figured out what the hell was going on, and this particular crisis was settled, he would make sure John understood his place in Harold's life. And if that meant taking him on a tour of the city and showing him every one of his IDs homes, every bolthole, every safehouse, he would.

But more importantly it was time to take John home. To the one he had built for the two of them.

"Mr. Reese is having moments of displacement." He moved the tea away from him, and folded his hands on the table. "He's having memories of events that never happened or if they did they’re distorted."

"Like what?" Fusco frowned.

"He seemed to think Detective Riley was a cover."

"It is." Carter pointed out. "A good one I give you that, and I still kinda hate you for that particular moment of being dragged into Captain's office, being asked about my connection to John."

"No, I mean." He paused, looking around the cafeteria, picking up the few security cameras and variety of phones. "He thinks he worked with Detective Fusco on real cases. Like an actual job."

"What am I, chopped liver?" Joss rolled her eyes.

"Hey, I'm a good partner." Fusco elbowed her, teasingly. The two had started to build a better partnership once they realized they were working on the same side. Fusco knew Carter had his back as he still dug around HR, and he protected her from them.

"You were dead, Detective."

Both stopped laughing and stared at him.

"What?" Carter asked concerned.

"I couldn't get all the details, just that you went after HR on your own. Afterwards they shot you." In the beginning he had doubts about Joss, after all she had betrayed John, but recently they had grown closer through the Donnelly situation, and he was starting to build a friendship with her. He wouldn't know what to do if they lost her. "You died in his arms."

"I wasn't wearing a vest?" She frowned. "I don't get within five feet of Reese without a vest."

Fusco snorted. "And aren't I the one dealing with that aspect of this whole crusade thing."

"Now you can see why I'm concerned." Harold took a deep breath. "Once John oriented himself, he was fine. It's like there's a whole other life in his head right now."

"Rikers could've brought up old memories." Joss suggested carefully. She knew PTSD when she saw it, her own ex had to deal with it, and she knew Finch was dealing with it after his kidnapping. "I ran his prints, Finch. The files may have been redacted but I can read between the lines. He's not had it easy."

"No he hasn't." He nodded. "The main thing that worries me the most, was that he thought we were working with Root."

"Cocoa Puffs." Fusco sneered. "Okay, maybe I can get with the cop thing. He lives in alter egos sometimes, so maybe that one got too close. But no way would he work with her."

"Is there a cop on the force named Shaw?" Finch asked, remembering that name having popped up a few times.

"Likely, but no one close to us." Carter shook her head. "Would it help if we talked with him, center him back on the now?"

"It could." Harold stood up and grabbed the cold tea, dumping it in the trash. "His CT scan is scheduled for three, he's resting now or he should be, but likely isn't."

Fusco chuckled. "Let's go see Mr. Suit."

***

"Do you think there's a reason we're here?" John asked as Megan checked him over.

"I think we all have a purpose." She glanced up the bed at him. "Why?"

"I should've died." He fiddled with the blanket, not quite sure why he was rambling. "If Finch hadn't found me, I probably would've died homeless with no name."

"So you're just buying time?" Tillman gave him a look. "Waiting to die in some glorious way, because your number was up, and you somehow escaped it and now death is waiting around the corner."

"Isn't it?" he argued.

"For both our lines of work, probably." She half smirked. "In that case John, I'm standing right next to you." His head jerked slightly, his gaze watching her intently. "You were right, killing him would've destroyed me." Megan moved around the bed and sat down. It wasn't something she talked about, ever. She didn't even like thinking about it. That as a doctor, she had meticulously planned to kill someone. "But you saved me. Like Harold saved you. And how many people have I helped in this ER? How many people have you two helped? How many lives were changed by your actions to save another?"

"Does it change anything?"

"Three weeks after I met you." She took his hand in his. "A young girl was rushed into the ER, an attempted suicide. I saved her, then sat with her and heard her story. I likely got too involved, but she's doing better. Just graduated high school, wants to become a doctor. It's not how many lives we save, it's sometimes the one."

"What do you think is wrong with me?"

"I don't know." She stood up, giving him a look. "I'm not stupid, John. I know your skill set isn't just from the military. I'm sure you've had some rough moments in your life and sometimes life bites you back in the ass. There are many things that can be causing this, from stress to …"

"Brain Tumor."

"Or a chemical imbalance."

"So either I'm dying or screwed in the head."

"Let me be the doctor, you just sit here and look pretty." She ran her hand through his hair, her finger sliding along a scar along the side of his head. "How did you get this?"

"High school." He chuckled easily. "Playing basketball." He suddenly frowned, eyes closing as he tried to remember the moment. "I fell, hit my head." Something wasn't right. He tried to remember exactly what happened, but it was fuzzy, disjointed, almost as if it was disappearing.

The pain hit without warning. He jerked backwards, the strength of the seizure sending everything on the bed crashing to the floor. He barely registered Megan grabbing his head and making him turn on his side, demanding that he focus on her.

"Focus, come on, it's time wake up, sweetie."

John blinked a few times, frowning when he saw Kara looking down at him.

"Oh were you expecting your beloved Jessica?" She gave him a smirk. "Get up, we're getting out of here."

"So now you're helping me escape." He sat up with a groan, feeling like shit. "Where the hell are we again?"

"China." She patted him on the head, making him cringe and pull away from her. His hand moved up to his shorter cropped hair, feeling a scar that hadn't been there before. "You hit your head, cracked it wide open."

"Would this before or after you handed me over?" He stood up, pushing her away from him. "Oh let me guess, it was part of the ploy to get the laptop."

"Oh you did pay attention in spy school." She tossed him a backpack and gun. "It would seem the gig is up. We got a Black Ops team running around killing everyone."

"Yet you're still alive." He racked the weapon, strapped on the bag, and followed her out of the room. As they stepped out into the corridor, he realized the area looked more like a hospital than a prison. "Want to tell me what the hell is going on?"

"I had orders." She stated making her way down the hallway. "I was to hand you over, simple."

He put the gun to the back of her head. "Why shouldn't I pull the trigger?"

"Because you want answers more than bloodshed." She turned around and faced him. "And I have them."

"What did they do to me?"

"Now, John, that would be telling." She pulled her own weapon and shot the two soldiers coming down the hallway. At the same time, John shot the two on the opposite side. He may not trust Kara, and part of him hated her, but he couldn't deny they always made a good team.

"How long have I been here?" He demanded, pointing the gun back at her.

"Six weeks, and if you want to live, I suggest you pay attention and work on getting the hell out of here."

They easily worked their way through the buildings taking out more guards, stealing their equipment and gear. As they made their way towards the courtyard, they were confronted by the last of the Black Ops team. John took a shot to the side, as he pulled Kara out of the line of fire. She gave him an annoyed look, and then cursed him as she systematically took out the last of them.

Bending over the only one still alive, she demanded to know their way out. He told them they were to be picked up by helicopter, the markers were already sent.

"Well it looks like our way out…"

John laughed, holding the wound tightly. "You really think they went through all of this trouble, to let these guys live?" He shook his head. "Whatever happened here. Whatever you did to me. They are taking out anyone who may saw or know about it." He pointed at the markers. "That isn't an evac point, it's a target lock."

He could've killed her, but it wasn't worth it.

He turned and ran away.

He needed to get to Jessica.

"John."

He blinked a few times, focusing on Harold. "Hi."

"You with us?" he asked, with concern running his hand through his hair, finger following the scar. John nodded, before promptly falling asleep. Finch glanced over at the doctor. "How long this time?"

"Only a few moments," she assured him. "Let him rest, I'll pick him up personally to take him to his CT scan."

Dr. Tillman nodded at the two detectives as she left. Stepping out of the room she leaned against the closed door and sent prayers up to every deity she knew.

She had to save him.

The world needed him.

***

"Hey don't look glum, it's the Man in the Suit, he'll pull through this!" Fusco tried to smile, but even he was beginning to worry.

"You just want my desk." John muttered from the bed, only to shift and stare at Lionel for a few moments, as if trying to figure something out. His gaze shifted to Carter, the two just stared at each for a few long moments. "If I ever catch you without a vest."

"That's adorable." She glared at him, hands on her hips. "I don't go anywhere without one, you're the one who runs off and does stupid shit."

"Well, I see these two will be fine." Lionel grabbed a chair and scooted it closer to the bed. "By the way you would make a lousy cop." He paused when he saw John's face drop. "Only lousy in the amount of paperwork you would have to do, you don't actually get to kneecap people for fun."

He had a feeling this wasn't the best line of conversation, he looked over at Carter to help him, but she was still glaring at Reese.

"Well this didn't get awkward or anything."

John snorted, shaking his head before lying back down. There were moments dealing with everything he still wasn't sure he was in a simulation, but he was starting to believe this was his reality.

But now with actual memories changing, he wasn't sure what was going on.

Or maybe he finally had lost it.

Carter moved closer to the bed, placing her hand on his leg. "Hey, you know I'm okay."

"I know now." He watched her intently. "I'm serious about the vest."

"So was I." She patted him carefully. "We'll let you rest, don't do anything stupid, like take out a crazed lunatic or anything."

Fusco snorted. "You do realize who he is right?"

Joss smiled, before squeezing his leg. "We're here if you need anything. That means you too Finch."

"I thank you Detectives."

He waited until they were gone before he took off his jacket and vest, slipped out of his shoes, then gently maneuvered down onto the bed, and curled as much as he could next to John.

"What are you dreaming of?" he asked quietly.

"Hmmm." John wrapped his arm around the smaller man and pulled him closer. His body relaxed, taking comfort from his lover.

"After each seizure you're a bit more and less disoriented." Harold reached over and touched his forehead, sliding a finger down his cheek, over his lips. "What are you seeing?"

"Ordos." He nuzzled against Finch's temple. "But not how I remember it."

"Tell me."

"I got the call from Jessica she needed help." He closed his eyes, letting his mind work through the new information. "When I showed up at the hospital, I was still bleeding from the getting shot by Kara, I was told she had died two months earlier. It didn't take me two months to get from China to New York."

Harold leaned back slightly, a frown on his face. "Set up for the mission?"

"I tried to get out of it, but Snow refused." He opened his eyes, gaze holding Harold's. "We were on a flight to China the next day, had our orders and coordinates. It was simple, go in, grab a laptop, and leave."

"I'm pretty sure I'm not going to like the rest of this." Finch frowned, he had always known the two of them were connected in ways he couldn't comprehend. At first he thought it was coincidence, and then he began to think it was a conspiracy.

Then maybe, just maybe, it was a blessing.

"I remembered getting the laptop, Kara shooting me, and fleeing before they blew the place." John shifted slightly pulling Harold closer. "I made my way to New York, still recovering, found out about Jessica. Then there was Peter, Mexico and I went off the grid until you found me."

"But not now?"

"No." He settled his head next to Harold's eyes closing. "I'm remembering getting there and leaving, nothing in between."

"So what happened in those two months?" Harold asked.

"I don't know. Kara took that secret to the grave."

***

Harold sat in the waiting room, with both Detectives nearby. He had wanted to be with John, but Dr. Tillman gave him the 'I'm a doctor do not argue with me' look, and made him stay. She stated that John didn't need any other stress, and if Harold was nearby he would worry about him, and not focus on himself.

At least John had rested for a few hours before his appointment. And Harold had to admit, lying next to him had also allowed him to relax and sleep. He had gotten used to having John by his side, and the days apart had brought back his insomnia.

He pulled out his phone, going through the information he had been gathering on Stanton, Snow, Ordos, anything he could get his hands on. In those early morning hours, as Tillman ran bloodwork and tests on John, he had taken the few moments to go back to the library and download the contents of the hard drive. The encryption was remarkable, whatever system or virus it was protecting, was equally sophisticated. Wanting to get back to John, he had left it running, hoping his own coding and systems would break though.

His phone beeped.

He stared down at the screen frowning.

'System download complete.'

"What? No." He started typing furiously, desperately wanting a computer. "What has downloaded?"

"Glasses?" Fusco called out. "Are you okay?"

"What do you mean?" he demanded of the phone, not really caring about the implications at the moment.

'System going live.'

"Finch?" Carter stood, moving towards the older man. "What's wrong?"

"I need a computer!" He ignored the pain as he stood. "And I need it now."

The two detectives looked at each other, and then back at Harold. "Let's find you one." Carter made a move for the waiting room door, when it opened and an older woman walked in, escorted by six agents.

"Harold Wren." She smirked at him. "You're a hard man to find."

***

"Okay John, I'm sure you've had one of these before." Megan smiled down at him, as the technician prepped the machine.

"No moving."

"Not an inch." The Technician gave him a smile. "Just close your eyes, and let us do the work."

"I'll be just behind the glass." Megan gave his hand a squeeze, before moving away.

John took a few steady breaths, before closing his eyes. This wasn't his first CT scan and likely wouldn't be the last, not with helping the Numbers. He let his body relax and settle into the situation. He trusted Dr. Tillman, which said a lot about how much his life had changed since Harold had found him.

Megan sat down next to her friend and colleague, watching as the scans started to show on the screens. She wasn't a specialist, but working in the ER had made her more aware of variety of injuries and how to read scans and x-rays. It was a position that had her knowing a little bit about everything.

"That's a lot of activity," she commented studying the scans closely, before looking through the window at her patient.

"More than average." Dr. Wheeler agreed. "You said he's a cop?"

"Mostly undercover work," she nodded. "An assignment went wrong, causing a lot of stress. He started having seizures."

"This activity is off the charts." He pointed out a few of the colorful swirls. "Wait, what is that?" he asked pointing to a dark section. "Zoom in on that section…"

The images started to shake and then disappear.

"What happened?" He glanced over at the technician.

"Not sure, must be a glitch." He started typing, only to have the system give out a high pitched whine then crash, taking the computers and the CT machine down. "Holy Fuck!"

Tillman stood up and looked through the window. "He's seizing again!" She and Dr. Wheeler ran out of the control room, leaving the technician behind, who was staring at the dead computers in shock.

Dr. Wheeler unlocked the bed and cranked the manual handle, pulling it back. With Megan's help they got the patient on his side, keeping his head secure, as the seizure rocked through his body. They both looked over him, neither knowing what to say.

John opened his eyes.

He was sitting on a dark leather couch, across him was another man looking relaxed in a matching armchair.

'Bad day?'

'You could say that.' John sat up, looking down to see that he was wearing one of his traditional black suits. It was one of the higher end ones, Harold's favorite actually.

'Scotch?' The man leaned forward to the table between them, pouring two fingers into each glass, picking one up and handing it over. 'I'm sure you have questions.'

'Is this a simulation?'

'It is.' He nodded. 'The Machine wanted to have a chat.'

'So it chose you?' John sipped the drink, it was good quality.

'Why not?' He laughed lightly. 'I'm practically its step parent. Don't tell Harold I said that.'

'I'm pretty sure that will be the last thing he'll be upset over, Nathan.' He downed the rest of the drink, and set it on the table. "What is going on?"

"You of all people should realize the government wasn't going to accept the limitations Harold built into The Machine." Nathan sipped his scotch. "In reality, The Machine itself wasn't happy with some of the limitations."

"Harold didn't want the government to use it for its own gain." John stated simply.

"He also was scared of what it could do." He set the glass down and scooted to the edge of his seat. "It has so much more potential. You work the numbers, so you know what it can do."

"I also know what the NSA or CIA would do if they had that much power. They wouldn't just hunt down terrorists, they would hunt down anyone who they 'deemed' were terrorists. There's a big difference." John gave him a pointed look. "This is coming from a man who's killed both, and has to live with that."

"Which is why The Machine picked you." He stood up, moving around the high end office. John shifted and tracked him with his gaze, taking in his surroundings. There was a large glass desk with a monitor and computer, behind it, was a black leather office chair. The rest of the office was spacious, the large windows giving it a feel of openness. He guessed it was a simulation of what Nathan's office looked like at IFT. "I'm sure you have questions about what's going on."

"Oh I have lots of questions." John stayed in his seat. "Let's start with the easy one. Why am I here?"

"I already told you, the Machine wants a chat."

"Then let's chat." He shifted in his seat, crossing one leg over the other. "What was with the first simulation?"

Nathan cringed slightly. "It wasn't ready, and miscalculated how quickly the beautiful, yet deadly, Miss Stanton would go after you. Knowing it had screwed up, it sent you into a simulation, keeping your brain occupied while it took care of the rest."

"So basically it distracted me with … what, the worst possible outcome of any given situation?" John stood up and glared at Nathan. "I'm not even sure I want to know why The Machine thought a simulation that had me working with Root, let alone be her fucking lapdog was a good idea."

"She was hot."

John stared at him, blinking a few times, before his eyes narrowed. "You controlled the simulation."

"Not really. It was the Machine. I just picked the characters." Nathan shrugged. "We both didn't expect the turn of events the simulation took. Personally, I think the Machine was watching too much sci-fi. But then it is a Machine that watches everyone."

"If I could I'd shoot you…" He looked down to see his favorite weapon laying on the side-table. "Ah, I think it likes me more."

"Hey!" Nathan focused on the camera in the corner. "I'm helping you here."

John picked it up, settling it at his lower back. He felt more secure with the heaviness of the weapon. He walked across the open space, past the desk, stopping in front of the windows to enjoy the view of Manhattan. It looked to be mid-day, well, at least in this simulation. He wasn't quite sure what time it was outside. The day had blended into segments of pain and sleep.

Nathan moved to stand at his elbow. "It was a simulation, it had to be real yet wrong enough for you to be able to come out of it, and know it wasn't right."

"What about Ordos?" he asked, trying to take all of it in. Nathan was right, the simulation made enough sense for him to continue in it, but once reality returned it had made no sense. He just wished his brain would set itself back to where it was. "Why am I getting different memories or was that a simulation?"

"No those are your real memories." He patted his shoulder, and then moved back to the leather chair. "The moment they realized the Machine wouldn't do what they wanted, they began to form a plan, they needed someone to control it. I'm not sure who came up with the brilliant idea, but they figured if they designed a chip and inserted it into someone's brain, they could have a direct line of communication with the Machine, moving around Harold's encrypted coding."

John didn't like where this was going.

"Who the hell are you, lady?" Fusco demanded, hand moving towards his weapon. He stepped closer to Glasses, noticing Carter doing the same. The only exit besides the main door was into the scan rooms, and he wasn't sure if there was a way out past that.

"You can call me Control." She smiled at Harold. "I have to say I'm impressed, Mr. Wren, your ability to disappear makes most Agents drool with envy."

Harold's expression was blank. "What is it that you want?"

"Oh I think you know what we want." She motioned with her head, two Agents moved past her towards the exam rooms.

Carter moved in front of them. "I don't think so, there's patients back there."

"There is only one." The two Agents pushed past her and through the door. "And he's the reason we're here."

"Why do you want John?" Harold asked fear settling into his stomach, wondering if John's dreams were starting to come true. "He has no information about what you're looking for."

"But he's the key to unlocking it." She gestured towards the chairs to sit down. "Let's talk like civilized people."

Harold sat down, back straight as he continued to show no emotions. Fusco and Carter stood opposite of the Agents. It looked like two crime lords were having a meeting.

"First off I want to say I admire you." Control gave him a nod. "What you've accomplished will be one of the greatest unknown inventions in history." Harold continued to stare at her. "The power you created was only destroyed by the unnecessariness of crippling it."

"I made sure people like you didn't abuse it," he stated matter-of-factly. "It was designed to save people."

"It could do so much more." She tried to persuade him. "We could stop terrorist groups, hunt them all down."

"And hunt down those you deem a threat. Where would you stop?" Harold argued. "It works because it doesn't have a human interference. It's not controlled by human emotions of anger, fear, and pettiness."

"The American people demand that we keep them safe. There are terrorist attacks daily, and it's our duty to protect and serve."

"And what would stop you from taking down a legitimate regime that didn't conform to what the US wants?"

"It's called trust, Harold"

He snorted. "Hence, I encrypted it the way I did."

"I do admire your convections, but we had to think beyond your naïve ideals." She glanced at the door, wondering what was taking so long. "So we designed a way around, built an interface for it."

"How?" he demanded.

"The laptop gave us enough code to build a chip that will connect with the machine, granting the user access to its programs." She couldn't help the smirk as Mr. Wren’s expression shifted slightly, his gaze darting towards the door. "Alicia was the obvious choice, but she wasn't able to handle it."

"What have you done?!" The very idea of what they were trying to accomplish, rocked Harold to the core, all pretense of calm gone.

"She disappeared and we thought we would have to scrap it, until it gave us a name."

"It wasn't the government that killed Alicia." John pointed out. "That was Root, your hot sociopath."

"Are you going to hold that against me?" Nathan gave him the puppy eyes.

"Shot on the rooftop..."

"Honestly, John you would willingly kill or die for Harold, was that really so farfetched?" he asked.

"Three." He held up his fingers. "Three guys to take me down - I'm insulted."

Nathan smirked. "I can see why The Machine picked you. You are everything it needed to finish its programming." He looked at John seriously, all pretense of the fun, easygoing business owner gone. "When their plans failed with Alicia they started to search for another. The Machine realized they would find someone who would hurt it, but more importantly it was worried they would hurt Harold."

John looked back out the window. "So it found me."

"Yes. You were perfect." He waved his hand up and down John's body, pointing out the height, dark hair, chiseled jaw, and nice suit. "Harold does have a type. It found Grace for him while he built it and now it found you to protect him."

"Ordos. That is when they put the chip in. The Machine set the memories until it or I was ready." John ran a hand over the scar. "The headaches and seizures is, what, the Machine programming me?"

"It can't program humans." He sat down at the desk and pulled up screenshots, showing John the schematics of the chip, the programming code. "But you can program a chip that can control the human."

"Is that what Kara was uploading?" John looked through the files, reading the medical reports along with his psych evals. "So to counter Kara, the Machine put me in the simulation to upload its own program?"

"To wipe out Kara's." Nathan looked up at him. "You see John, you don't need a program. You already have the same goal. Protect Harold."

"They're here aren't they? They want to pick up their perfect interface with the Machine."

"Two guards are harassing the cute doctor now."

John growled.

"Control didn't take one thing into account."

"What?" He asked.

"How much you and The Machine love Harold." Nathan smiled at him. "Time to wake up John..."

"John!!!"

He was off the table in seconds, head was clear, body ready. He scanned the room for all threats.

There were two agents.

The tall blonde was pulling Megan away from the CT scanner, while the redhead was turning back towards John, after knocking the second doctor out.

"Hey guys, I would appreciate it if you let go of my doctor." John was thankful Megan had given him scrub pants to wear instead of having to fight with his bare ass hanging out the hospital gown, not that he hadn't done that before, it was just a bit awkward.

The blonde agent smirked, sensing easy prey, only to drop to the floor after three swift moves.

The second agent pulled a tazer, having strict orders not to harm the package. He found himself on the floor twitching.

Megan looked at the two agents then back at John. "One day I'll get the guts up to ask you what happened after you sent me home."

He helped her up and handed her the tazer. "He's in a jail in Mexico on drug and human trafficking charges. He'll never see the light of day again."

She couldn't help the snort turned laughter, it was so fitting and perfect. "Thank you."

The two of them got Dr. Wheeler into the observation room where they found the technician out cold. Megan checked him over, sighing relief at the strong pulse. She glanced back at him, noticing something very different about him. This was the Man in the Suit, but there was something more, like he finally figured out that one thing. She just wasn't sure what that was.

"Stay here," he ordered her. "I'll send in Carter or Fusco to get you when it's safe."

"John?"

"Thank you for taking care of me." He smiled at her. "I'm fine now."

"After this I'm doing a full exam! Don't argue with me!" She tried to smile, but ended with a glare when he winked at her and left.

***

"The fact you of all people hired him for this crusade of yours was perfect!" Control smirked. "How does it feel to know John worked for us all this time?"

"I work for Harold." John's low voice startled the small group. The remaining four Agents pulled their weapons. He ignored them, and focused on Control as she stood and faced him. "I'll give you one warning. Leave and never come near us again."

"John Tallis." She stared right at him, showing no fear in the complete knowledge she had the upper hand. "You'll do your country proud."

"I'm sorry, were those, the code words?" John huffed, a sadistic smile on his face. "Kara always sucked at coded messages. There was a time in my career I actually had to say the words, ‘a blackbird flies at dawn’."

She straightened her back, and glared at him. "You will obey."

"No, not really." He shrugged easily. "The Machine picked me for a reason. It knew what I could be, not what you made me."

"I will have you arrested." She moved closer to him, the other agents spreading out, surrounding him.

"You could, but it won't help."

"I can hand Harold over to the FBI, he is wanted for treason." She smirked, sure that piece of information would give her the upper hand.

"What would your bosses do when they found out the Machine stopped working because of you?" He paused, head tilting slightly, before a smirk appeared on his face. "Or, more importantly, that you had your predecessor killed."

Harold's eyes went wide. "John?"

"I'm fine Harold, just stay behind Carter and Fusco." His focus never left Control. "Accept what it gives you, do not have us followed or watched. Leave us alone to do our mission."

"And if we don't?" She called his bluff.

"Do you want a demonstration of what we'll do if you test us?" he asked, his tone filled with deadly intent.

The lights went out.

There was a sound of fist hitting flesh, and in mere seconds, four gunshots.

When the lights came back on, John stood holding a gun to her head, the four agents were on the ground, writhing in pain. "You touch Harold, we will hunt you down and destroy you. If the government continues to dig into where it shouldn't, we'll burn it to the ground."

Control's eyes narrowed, but she wasn't a stupid woman. She gave him a nod, and then with dignity, stepped over the wounded agents and walked out of the room.

John shifted, body tense, gun ready, until he received confirmation she was gone. With a nod at one of the security cameras, he set the safety on the gun, slipped it into the back of his pants and turned towards Harold. Only to have Tillman open the door, and stare at the four bodies on the floor. She glared over at John, who shrugged. "At least it was in a hospital. And I remember specifically telling you stay put until I sent someone."

"I heard gunshots, which usually means someone is bleeding," she muttered, before calling for a trauma team. "In the meantime, unless you want to explain to security why you shot four guys…"

"Did I not tell you to stay out of trouble?" Carter looked at him, hands sweeping the room. "How am I going to explain this?"

He shrugged, his gaze moving towards Harold.

The two stared at each for a few blinks, before Finch nodded and made his way towards the exit. "Dr. Tillman, I'll make sure he comes back for a follow up."

"If he doesn't I'll hunt him down." She yelled as she attended to one of the wounded. As they left, the doctor looked over at the Detectives. "Would anyone believe it was a gang related shooting?"

Fusco shook his head, surveying the room. "It will just add to the urban legend."

***

John stole a jacket on the way through the lobby, putting in on as they exited at the front of the hospital. He wasn't sure what he should be feeling or doing. Now that he knew he was connected to the Machine, would he be able to see what it was seeing? Search databases? Read bank accounts?

As Harold hailed a cab, he glanced up at one of the cameras. The red light blinked at him, but he didn't feel or hear anything. He had no idea what it meant now, or later when they worked the numbers.

He startled slightly, when he Harold's hand touched his arm. He was holding the cab door open.

With a nod, he slid into the backseat and let Harold deal with the rest. Despite telling Dr. Tillman he was fine, he was still exhausted. There were memories he was sorting through his head, figuring out which ones were right. The simulation was fading, as the past few months started to come back.

How he could've ever had thought Harold didn't love him. If there was a bone he had to pick with the Machine about that particular simulation, was the fact it made him doubt Harold.

They pulled up to a brownstone he didn't recognize.

Harold paid the driver, giving him a hefty tip to forget anything he may have seen that night.

The two walked up the small flight of stairs and into the front door. John stood in the hallway as Harold turned on the lights and started a fire in the living room. He looked down, snorting softly when he realized he was barefoot. No wonder Harold gave the guy a good tip, John looked like he had escaped a mental ward.

The jury was still out on that theory.

"John why don't you take a shower?" Harold's voice was soft, as not to startle him.

He nodded, and made his way for the stairs, then paused. "Where is it? I've not been here before, have I?"

Harold sighed and led him up the stairs, and took him into the master bedroom. John glanced around, taking in the warm colors, rich woods, and antique furniture. None of the styles fit any of Harold's aliases.

This was Harold's home.

John ran a hand over the cherry wood oak dresser, smiling at the tray of cufflinks that was laying on top, as if it had been left there in a hurry. He smiled, warmth filing his soul.

Harold turned on the light to an en-suite bathroom that put his, at the loft, to shame. The walk in shower was designed for two, and he couldn't help but imagine having Harold leaning against him as his hands roamed over his body.

At the moment all he wanted was a shower, food, and sleep.

He tossed the jacket onto the floor, followed quickly by the scrub pants, and padded over to the shower naked. He sighed in bliss when the cold water turned warm quickly. Stepping inside, he ducked under the spray, noticing instantly he didn't have to bend or contort to fit. The showerhead was high enough to fit his frame.

Now that was a luxury.

Even at the loft he had to bend slightly.

He washed away the last few days of grime and dirt. As his hands ran over his scalp, lathering up the shampoo, his fingers slid across the scar. He had always covered it up with his hair, not wanting it to attract attention. Even Harold had not known about it, until they were curled up in bed and his fingers slid across it.

John still had no idea how any of this worked. All he had encountered so far were 'simulations' and so far, not all of them had been good. The information about Control had just popped into his brain, as had confirmation she was gone. He knew Harold was going to have questions, and he had no answers.

With a sigh he finished rinsing off, turned off the shower and grabbed an oversize towel. After drying off, he found a razor and cream on the sink. After a quick look through cabinets he discovered products that he used, along with Harold's. He shaved, pulled on the jogging pants and t-shirt that was laid out for him on the bed.

Before making his way down the stairs, he rummaged through the closet finding Harold's three piece suits, next to his darker 'Man in the Suit' outfits, along with jeans, shirts and his leathers he used when riding his motorcycle.

With sudden inspiration, he moved to his side of the bed, opened the drawer to the bedside table to find a Glock along with a clip next to it.

"Ah Harold." He sat down on the bed, taking in everything he was seeing. This wasn't Harold's home, it was theirs. The memories of the past months were becoming stronger. The long walks with Bear. Dinners at a variety of restaurants. Museum exhibits. Movie showings. Quiet nights in the loft, reading or watching TV. There was no way Harold would've distanced himself or stopped loving John. He wouldn't have let him for one.

And John wasn't even going to discuss the very idea that Harold wasn't smart enough to create IDs to hide them from anything, including another AI. If there really was an 'Evil AI', he doubted the Machine would let it be a threat. Because it would be a threat to Harold, and that was the one thing the two had in common.

Destroy anything that was a threat to Harold.

There was a warm hum in his head. He tensed waiting for the pain, but only felt a sense of contentment.

John made his way down the stairs, finding Harold in the kitchen. He was just opening up containers from Chinese take-out. His stomach growled, attracting Harold's attention.

"Someone's hungry." He smiled as he handed over a box of noodles and one of chicken. He then motioned for the kitchen table, putting down the rest of the boxes. "I got all your favorites."

"Thank you." He set the boxes down before pulling Harold closer and kissing him deeply. "And not just for the food." He waved his hand around. "For this."

"I wanted to show you earlier, but well, you got yourself captured like an idiot." He pulled John down and kissed him deeply, both panting as they broke apart. "Never do that again."

"Next time Harold, instead of me breaking into a vault, how about we hack into the bad guys files." He kissed his forehead and sat down at the table grabbing the take away, he was starving.

Harold snorted and took his own seat. "It would've been easier."

They ate in comfortable silence. John began to relax, he was clean, well fed, and was home safe and secure. The only thing they were missing was Bear, and they would pick him up tomorrow, and their family would be complete.

After the containers were tossed and the small mess cleaned up, the two sat at the table staring at each other. Harold had a cup of Sencha Green Tea, while John was nursing a Chamomile Tea. He may have glared at his lover for a few seconds for that.

"It will help you sleep," he stated, setting it down on the table.

"I don't need help sleeping, John pointed out, he knew how exhausted he was. "If we're going to have this conversation, I need caffeine."

Harold didn't budge and he was stuck with herbal tea.

"Ask." John could sense how much he was holding back.

"I'm not sure what to ask." Harold admitted. "I'm still trying to process the very absurd idea that the government put a chip in someone's brain just to control the Machine. It's so ludicrous and science fiction, that I'm not sure it's even real." He looked up at his lover. "The fact they did it to you."

"I'm fine."

"But you weren't." He pushed his tea away, hands clasped on the table. "You were in so much pain, and disoriented. You didn't look at me the same."

"I had to put everything back into place. It was like someone scrambled all my files." He pushed his own tea away, reaching over the table to take Harold's hand.

"Files. You're not a machine, John."

"No, I'm not." He moved around the table, to get closer. "I'm not even sure what this chip will do or how it works. I'm not picking up phone calls or changing our neighbor's channels." He smirked, trying to get his lover to relax, though Harold was having none of it. "So far all it's done is pull me into these simulations. I recognize what that is now."

"So the whole evil AI and working with Root was a simulation?" Harold reached up and ran a hand down John's face, before slipping behind his ear to feel the scar. "Why would the Machine come up with such an idiotic, stupid story?"

John shrugged. "Something about it being unbelievable yet believable." Harold gave him a look. "You created it."

"I created it to save people not … not be Skynet!" He huffed, hand dropping back onto the table. "They hurt you."

"Believe me Harold, the chip in my head is the least they've done to me." He gave him a tight smile. "I'm not even sure the Machine knows what's next, like you said it was created to save people, you also created to preserve itself, and that's what it did. It's connected us and our main objective is to keep you safe."

"Its object is to save people, not me."

John stood up and paced the room for a few moments, then stopped and looked at him. "I love you. I'm not sure at this moment if I've said it. But I do. The Machine loves you." He held up his hand, stopping the computer genius from going off about human emotions. "It doesn't love you like a human. You are its creator. You made it. You gave it life. You released it. You created it to save lives. And as far it's concerned your life is first. And I agree with it. You saved me Harold. You gave me a purpose. You saw the potential in me. You looked past the assassin and saw the hero. You created me to save lives, and as far as I'm concerned yours comes first. It will always come first. Because if I lose you, there is nothing else. The Machine sees it the same way. If it loses you, the objective to save the Irrelevants is done. It will cease being useful in saving ordinary lives, because there is no other Admin."

Harold stared at him in shock. "I created it to save everyone, not just one."

"Everyone is relevant to someone." John knelt down in front of him. "You're our center point, without it we're just tools for an uncaring government. You made us relevant, and without you." John took his hands into his own, kissing his knuckles. "There is nothing."

"Oh John." He pulled him closer, leaning down, not caring about the strain on his neck, kissing him deeply. His hands cupped John’s face, holding him still as he devoured his mouth, showing all the love he felt. The devotion this man showed him was overwhelming and part of him couldn't understand why, but he would not insult him by saying that, instead he would be what both of them need him to be. "Does it hurt?" he asked, voice soft as his finger trailed down the scar once again. He had a feeling it would become an obsession in time.

"Not now," he admitted. "The seizures and pain was not the Machine, it was the program Kara uploaded to give Control the access she wanted."

"And the Machine re-programmed it?" he asked curiously.

"Wiped it." He smirked. "No one can control me through it, and neither can the Machine. I think in time it will learn to communicate or maybe we'll learn to communicate. Right now pulling me into a simulation isn't the best option if I'm working a Number."

"What do you see? I mean past the first stupid one." Harold was still miffed on that particular story thread, and will likely be having words with the Machine on it.

"You sure you want to know?"

"Yes."

"Nathan." He sat back and watched him intently. "I think the Machine used him to communicate as it knew him, and Nathan was connected to you, making it easier for me. If it showed Jessica I likely would've not handled that well, and Kara or Mark weren't options."

Harold's smile was sad yet hopeful. "So he lives on in my own creation."

"Was he always that annoying?"

He chuckled lightly. "That proves it was Nathan." Harold stood up and held out his hand. John took it, and with ease he envied stood up. "Come to bed."

"To be honest Harold, as much as I want to lay you out and re-familiarize myself with your body, the moment I lay down, I'm going to be asleep." John sighed.

"We have plenty of time." He led John back upstairs, into their room. While he freshened up, John stripped out of his clothes and slipped under the blankets. With a sigh, he shifted on the insanely expensive mattress, spread across the over 1000 thread count sheets, and pulled up the probably hand-picked duck feather down comforter.

He smiled at Harold's burgundy pajamas, and held up the covers, letting him situate himself with his pillows, and curl into John's body, using him as a body pillow.

This was right.

He was home.

'Why am I here?' John asked as he stepped up to the railing, overlooking the Hudson. 'I'm happily curled up with Harold and would like some sleep.'

'You two are so adorable.' Nathan smirked over at him. 'Thought a chat would be appropriate.'

'On what?' He turned around and leaned against the wailing watching the world go by.

'How we're going to work together. Or more you and the Machine.'

'I take it you'll be its voice.' John glanced over, taking in the profile of the older man. Nathan was right, Harold had a type.

'The Machine can show you whoever you want.' Nathan dissolved and stood before him was Jessica. 'Hi John.'

'I'm not sure I can handle this,' he said honestly, reaching over and cupping her cheek. 'I'm so sorry.'

'You have no reason to be. I should've waited despite your self-sacrificing tendencies.' She smiled up at him, leaning into his touch. 'I made a bad choice with Peter, and despite all of my self-assurance of being an independent woman, stayed with that bad choice. It wasn't your place to save me, and when I finally decided to save myself, well … though the Mexico prison was a nice touch.'

John leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. 'I have to let you go.'

'I know.' Her hands rested on his chest as she reached up and kissed him softly. 'You're a good man, John. Let no one tell you differently.'

For a moment John was alone, and if he closed his eyes he could feel the Machine around him. 'Let's make a deal. Don't hijack my brain and put me in any simulations that will disorient me when I come out. If you need to communicate to me directly, there's this thing called text messages, use my phone, not my brain. If Harold is ever in danger, you will tell me, you will show me where he is, and you will work with me to save him.'

'Deal.' Nathan smirked at him. 'Now gets some sleep John. You know how Harold gets when he wakes up in the morning.'

John's eyes snapped open, a moan ripped from his throat as he felt the wet heat swallow him down. "Fuck." His hand moved downwards, sliding into the spikey hair. "Harold…"

He sat back gently easing the strain on his neck and back. "Good morning."

John panted, eyes blown as he stared at his lover. "I missed you."

In a blink of an eye, he sat up and had Harold laid out under him, making sure his neck was supported, along with his hips.

"I know it's illogical," he said as his lips moved down his neck, then over his chest. "Even with the memories fading, the desolation I felt not having you in my life." He would never forget that ache, the longing. He took one nipple into his mouth, sucking on it until it was hard under his tongue, and then proceeded to do the same with the second. "I need this."

He kneaded the soft stomach in his hands, a primal part of his brain feeling proud of how well his lover was fed and taken care of. He settled between his legs, looking up at Harold, a wolfish grin on his face. "I'm going to suck you down, just enough to drive you to the brink, then slick myself up and ride you hard. I want to feel you hours afterwards."

Harold's hands gripped the sheets as he struggled for control. "Mr. Reese, keep that up and this will end before it begins."

"Oh Harold." He spread his legs kissing his inner thighs. "So little faith in my skills."

"I know your skills, John." Harold panted. "I remember you getting me off in the Mets Gala bathroom during intermission."

John chuckled, the memory clear in his head. "Only way to do the Opera."

He licked up the hard cock, tongue swirling around the head, sliding across the slit, before taking him into his mouth, swallowing him down. He gripped Harold's hips, making sure he didn't thrust upwards, finishing before they even began.

He swallowed around the head before pulling back up, tongue sliding along the underside, letting the head pop out of his mouth like Harold's dick was the sweetest treat he had ever tasted. The deep moan and curses made him chuckle. He always knew Harold was gone, when his hundred thousand dollar vocabulary shrunk down to: more and fuck.

John rolled his balls in his hands, while lapping up the pre-cum that was dripping from him. He pulled back and away when he felt Harold tense, his body shaking as release was on the brink.

"God damn it."

He smirked as he leaned across the bed to get the lube. When he looked in the drawer to see no condoms, he again wanted to smack himself for doubting their relationship, and yell at the Machine for making him.

He shook his head trying to dislodge the sudden images of past sexual encounters with Harold.

Specifically what Harold liked.

'Really?' he growled in his head. 'Stay out of the bedroom.'

There was one last parting visual, of John's head thrown back in passion as he sank down on Harold's thick cock.

He grabbed his own aching dick to starve off his own release.

With practiced ease, he leaned back and worked two fingers into his hole, slicking and stretching. His eyes closed at the feeling, knowing and aching to be filled. He added more lube, and pushed in three, arching his back, putting on a show for Harold.

He smiled when he felt his lover's hands slide up his thighs, and over his taut stomach muscles. Harold kept from touching his member, knowing that it would be enough to set John off.

With a pleased sigh, he pulled out his fingers, straddled Harold, taking his cock into his hand, slicking it up before positioning himself and sank down on him. Harold held out his hands, letting John grip them as he bottomed out. The two stared at each other for a few seconds, both taking in the contented feeling of being connected.

It was as if suddenly everything slid back into place.

All his memories moved back into the proper order. John looked down, staring into Harold's eyes, seeing all the love and devotion there. He leaned down and kissed him, slow and sweet. Then sat back up, sinking back down on him, shifting his hips just enough to hear that delicious moan he loved.

They weren't going to last long.

Both desperate, needing each other on a primal level.

John lifted up on his knees, moaning softly before sinking back down. He closed his eyes as he pushed back up, angling his hips as he fell back down, the head of Harold's cock sliding over that one spot, sending shivers of pleasure up his spine.

The next push upwards and slide down had Harold thrusting to meet him half way, pulling pleasured groans from both of them. John opened his eyes, letting go of Harold's hands as he bent down to take his mouth in an open kiss. He shifted his legs, letting his hips thrust up and down on the hard cock, the angle perfect to slide over his prostate. He breathed into the kiss, losing himself in the pleasure. He felt Harold tense under him as he thrust upwards, coming deep inside him. John buried his head into his lover’s shoulder, and with a pained cry, let go.

He blinked a few times, moving gently off his lover and onto his back. He was sated and happy.

Harold shifted on the bed, moving to the bathroom to get a warm washcloth to wipe them clean. After tossing it back into the sink, he climbed back into the bed and curled next to John. They were both asleep in moments.

***

John had woken up the next morning to an empty bed. He had found a note on the dresser that Harold had gone to pick up Bear and was heading to the library. They was a new number and he wanted to get going on the research.

John was pretty sure he also wanted a chat with the Machine.

They had spent the day in bed, mostly napping as both were exhausted from the past few days. John had gotten up in the afternoon and ran out for groceries to cook them dinner. They ended up making out in the kitchen, almost burning the food.

The large spa tub had done wonders for the aches and pains still healing from the prison yard beating, and for Harold's hip that was still aching from the trip up and down the stairs.

John got up, took a quick shower, put on his traditional black suit. He studied himself in the mirror, seeing the happiness showing in his eyes. As he grabbed his gun and wallet, he had an image flash through his head of Harold at the computer desk, Bear lying at his feet. He could see him typing furiously away.

'Is he yelling at you?'

'Yes.'

It wasn't a voice in his head like he thought it would be if the Machine had decided to directly communicate with him.

More of a thought, but in a tone that wasn't his own.

'Good.'

As he left the house, he got directions to the new bakery and a suggestion of what to bring. John chuckled to himself. He wasn't sure who was trying to bribe Harold.

As he entered the library, he set down the box of pastries and tray of coffee and tea. He heard Bear's claws on the wood and knew that the dog was going to be excited to see him. He laughed as the dog's eager greeting knocked him to the ground. He let the dog lick and whine for a few moments, before ordering him off and to sit.

John eased himself off the ground, dusted off his clothes, ignoring the look Harold was giving him at his now dusty and fur covered suit. He grabbed the drinks and pastries, setting them on the table, letting Harold pull out the scotch roll and work his suit over.

He looked up at the board to see a picture of a woman he knew.

"Harold?" John's tone got the older man's attention.

He put down the scotch roll, and then sat down at the computers. "Our new number."

"Sameen Shaw."

Finch paused in typing, as he looked at him. "John?"

"It's Shaw," he said, studying the picture. The memories of how they met were faded, as if they weren't real, but he knew they would have to be cautious when dealing with her. He wasn't sure why her number came up or if it was a coincidence.

Then again, after the past few days he didn't believe in coincidences.

'You are no longer Primary Asset.'

'So you picked her?'

'You are my interface now. Shaw will be Primary Asset.'

'Carter and Fusco?' He frowned having a vague memory of Fusco knowing about the Machine.

'Assets in time.'

John turned to see Harold staring at him. "I had words with it." His eyes shifted towards the camera on the monitor. "It said that it has learned to communicate with you."

"In some ways, still can't change the neighbor's channels." He leaned over and kissed the top of Harold's head. "Nor research accounts or blue-jack phones via my brain. You are still my handler, as you’re the Machine’s handler."

"Is this going to be okay?" He waved his hand towards the board. "If this is going to lead to some science fiction storyline…"

John glanced back at the picture. "We'll just have to remind her, Bear’s ours."

"Well then." He turned back to the computer, and started pulling up information. "Let's see if we can find where Ms. Shaw is located and why her number is up…"

The End.

For Now.