A Valid Excuse

Disclaimer: I own nothing. Not even the flowers John was looking up they can be found at Telaflora under flowers for him.

"Hey wonder boy, what are lookin' at?"

John ignored Fusco as he clicked between the two images indecisively. He felt his 'partner' lean over the back of his chair to stare at the screen. It didn't matter. He narrowed it down to peaceful zen garden, fantasy found, and grand gesture.

"Flowers?" Fusco asked surprised.

"They are a traditional romantic gesture Lionel." John said dryly as he 'X-ed' out fantasy found. It wouldn't do for what he needed it to.

"Who are you tryin' to romance?" Fusco pressed.

"Is it any of your business Lionel?"

John quickly minimized the order form for the flower shop when he saw Dr. Campbell walk determinedly towards him. The pretty shrink had been pestering him lately to have more sessions with her. He knew the woman was attracted to him and he had no problem using it to get the all clear he needed to get back to work, but now he had her dogging his heels to get back on her couch so she could crack open his skull and 'fix' him.

"Personally, I think you should go with the lilies." Fusco offered then took off away from the area. Fusco's love of head doctors was about equal to his own.

"Detective Riley" Dr. Campbell said professionally if somewhat breathlessly "I was hoping I could convince you to schedule a few more sessions with me. I still think there is a lot of things you need to work out. Preferably in a safe and non-violent method."

"I'm sure I do. I'll consider it Doctor." John told her smiling insincerely from his chair.

"That all I ask for Detective." Dr. Campbell said with her own smile and left to track down her other lost souls.

He actually would consider it if his plan actually worked. His current cover could use it. He misjudged the permanence when he became Detective Riley and now was paying for it. He thought like so many of his other covers, this one would only be temporary and then he could shed it. Now playing fast and loose in the beginning was coming back to bite him in the ass. But that was the secondary problem and easily fixed by playing the good boy and working the precinct. His primary problem was still unresolved.

Fortunately, He had a plan for that and Fusco was right, the grand gesture bouquet was perfect.

(._.)

"I have a Delivery for Professor Whistler."

Harold paused in the middle of his lecture as the courier waited just inside his classroom. His lackluster students suddenly taking an interest in their surroundings at the intrusion.

"I'm Professor Whistler." Harold stated "But I didn't order anything."

"I should hope not." The bored young man said as he moved to his desk and sat down a rather long box.

The courier unlatched the bottom and lifted the box up to reveal a bouquet. It was simple and elegant with two white calla lilies in a bed of foliage placed in a small bamboo box. It was understated yet very beautiful. He had no idea who they could be from. Root perhaps?

"Awwww!" his entire group of female students cooed in unison.

"What does the card say Professor?" one of them asked pointing at the small envelope pinned near the bottom. Harold plucked it and read it silently.

'Thank you for giving me a chance yesterday. Coffee tomorrow? John Riley'

Harold blushed and quickly pocketed the card. What game was John playing now?

"Well? What did it say?" the same girl asked smirking a bit.

"None of your business. Now, where were we?"

(*u*)

Later that night John walked calmly into the subway base with a bag of take out that he knew Harold favored. The plan was already in motion but he needed Harold on board with it in order for it to work. It was such a simple plan really. A way to keep Harold close in public as well as in hiding.

Harold was in his usual place in front of the batch of monitors and Bear was asleep in his custom bed Shaw found for him somewhere. John smiled to himself as he spied the bouquet sitting on the table nearby. They really were perfect for the stuffy yet eloquent man. Although maybe they were a bit too much to give before he explained his idea.

"I bought dinner." John said as he came up to his friend.

"You bought more than that Mr. Reese." Harold sniffed.

"Will you hear me out before you completely shut me down?" John asked shaking the bag slightly. Harold sighed before getting painfully up and leading them to the small 'dining' area. John followed behind and set out the various containers for him and Harold to share.

They ate mostly in silence keeping to small talk and feeding Bear scraps as he woke up to the sound of lids being popped open. John fully intended Harold to start the important conversation.

"Why did you do it Mr. Reese?" Harold finally asked.

John pushed the food away and sat back.

"You told me in the beginning that with these new identities we had to be careful not to rupture them. That we had to fully embrace them. I did that but I didn't understand that these covers were meant to be permanent. That Detective Riley and Professor Whistler couldn't have a connection out in the world."

John paused to catch Harold's eyes.

"I can't handle that Harold. You are more than my boss. More than my coworker. More than my friend. You are my connection to this world and I need that."

"We have that John! Right here working the numbers like you wanted. Fighting against Samaritan. Just because it's not out there doesn't mean it doesn't exist!"

"That's not good enough!" John almost snarled.

"John…"

"Look, I've actually thought about this long and hard. There IS a way for Riley and Whistler to interact without drawing Samaritan's eye."

"What's that John?"

"We start dating."

Harold started at him for a moment in disbelief then got up and limped over to his desk chair. John followed him and snagged another chair to sit at his side. Harold was staring thoughtfully at the flowers he had bought earlier.

"We need an excuse to see each other socially. This is a valid one. Samaritan isn't going to care about two middle-aged men dating each other in New York City. I may take some heat as a supposedly gay cop but it won't be anything I can't handle and the school has a strict non-discrimination policy with precedent."

"But you're not gay are you." Harold stated turning to face him.

"No I'm not but it wouldn't be the first time I've played one for a job and this is so much more than any job I've done in the past. This is keeping you close and safe. This is keeping our partnership alive." John was all but pleading at this point.

"What if one of our covers is blown?" Harold asked.

"If that happens to one of us chances are it'll happen to both of us."

John knew that if his cover shattered he would either die or just go to ground. He did it before, he could do it again. If Harold lost his cover then John's wouldn't matter as he would burn the world to protect his friend. Harold was his friend, he loved and trusted him as much as he was able to and he already proved just how far he was willing to go for Harold.

"Let me think on it John, please." Harold finally said after a long moment of silence.

"Alright Harold. Good night." John said and left the subway for his apartment.

(^-^)

The next morning Detective John Riley strolled into the precinct ignoring the whispers going on around him. He turned the corner and sitting on his desk were two dozen yellow and red roses with bright yellow orchids circling them in a glass vase. John smiled and plucked the card from its holder.

'Sorry I missed coffee. How about dinner?' Harold Whistler

"Those are…lovely. Who are they from?" Dr. Campbell asked coming up behind him.

"Do you promise to keep it a secret?" John asked

"Of course." She said smiling up at him.

John grinned widely at her "They're from my boyfriend."