Care:

Disclaimer: I still own nothing.

Authors note: So no outings in this one. I had one planned actually but we kind of hit a detour, but it does sort of lead up to the next event planned. I'm still on the lookout for any good date ideas for our two clueless boys to go on.

Harold limped painfully into their hidden subway base. The stairs down being the final nail in his coffin for the day. All he wanted now was a hot cup of tea and his warm bed, neither of which he would receive any time soon. The numbers always came first.

One of the worst parts about his cover was the long hours standing at a podium. Sitting down was fine and walking allowed for easy movement at worked his muscles without undue strain. Just standing still without moving was hell on his aching body.

He supposed it might have been tolerable if he had even a few students that were genuinely interested in the subject however that didn't appear to be the case. On top of that, the head of the department apparently took great joy in cutting him off any way he could. Harold didn't quite understand what he (or the Machine) did to piss the man off when setting up this identity, but he was suffering for it now.

Why couldn't the Machine give him a cover as a librarian?

John was already down below playing fetch with the very eager Bear in the open space that allowed it. Thanks to his and John's new 'jobs' the poor dog didn't set out as much as he used to. They still took him out on walks and Shaw helped herself to him every second she could but it wasn't really enough for the normally very active canine.

"We really need to do something about Bear." Harold said as he approached John trying to hide his increased limp "It isn't healthy for him to be cooped up like this."

"Couldn't agree more." John stated in that dry way of his.

Harold could literally feel John's gaze go over him with laser-like focus as he walked past him to his station. Bear immediately taking his place at his side. There really was no use in trying to hide the signs of his additional suffering from his observant friend. John simply knew him too well at this point in their lives.

"Why aren't you taking him with you to class?" John asked casually as he wandered into Miss Shaw's domain. She had an entire car dedicated to her weapons and medical supplies.

"Because, as the head of my department so helpfully pointed out on my first day, there is a precedent of not allowing dogs on campus." The sarcasm dripping off his tongue.

"Interesting." John said blandly.

It usually meant trouble in the form of high explosives when John used that particular tone, but right now John could bomb the whole school and Harold wouldn't care…provided it was after hours of course.

John came back and handed him a bottle of water. Harold took it reluctantly then glared balefully up at him as he held out two pills for him to take. He recognized them immediately, they were only to be used in emergencies. He hated the heavy narcotic almost more than he hated the pain he'd grown accustomed to. However, John wasn't taking no for an answer. John never took no for an answer in these situations that were becoming distressingly familiar.

"It doesn't do you any good in a bottle Harold." John said mildly "I checked and we have no numbers and no place we need to go. It's pointless to suffer needlessly."

Harold accepted the dilaudid but didn't take them yet. Once he did he would be completely useless in a matter of minutes. He didn't handle vulnerability well. He had planned on waiting until he was safe in the isolation of his little apartment that belonged to Whistler. Too many people had access here to rest safely.

"I'll be right here Harold; you'll be perfectly safe." John assured, reading his mind…again.

Since John wasn't willing to back down and his body was screaming for the promised relief, Harold yielded gracelessly to the pressure and swallowed the pills dry before drinking the entire water bottle. He noticed some of the tension John always carried dispersed the moment he did so. It saddened him that his pain was causing John so much stress. It was an enemy John couldn't fight and he didn't handle those well.

John wasn't much of a mother hen (he didn't have the instincts for it), but he could be very protective of those he cared about and Harold noticed that mostly it revolved around him. Harold didn't deny how pleased he was by that. To have earned the loyalty of such a man was a near impossible task. One Harold never took for granted.

"I have about half an hour left to work." Harold said primly as he started typing away "If that."

"I understand Harold." John said sitting down nearby to clean his gun with Harold in his line of sight.

Harold knew John's circle was incredibly small. He looked after Detective Fusco to a point and somewhat reluctantly helped Leon when he found trouble. John's friendship with Miss Shaw surprised Harold at first. From the beginning John treated the former ISA agent almost like a little sister. Part protector, part instructor, and part just going out and having explosive fun together. They were so strikingly similar that Harold often had a difficult time not comparing them to each other much to John's amusement and Miss Shaw's disgust.

The only member not in John's circle was Miss Groves. Harold didn't necessarily blame John for it after all Miss Groves did to them when they first met her. Still, John tolerated her for the most part. John once told him that he didn't need to like or trust someone to work well with them, and that held most true with the hacker. John will work with her during this crisis but Harold was under no illusion that the second Miss Groves became truly expendable John would cut her out of their lives, with a bullet if he had to.

The codes that Harold was working on started to make less sense the further he went. The numbers kept jumping around on him instead of staying where he wanted them to. At this rate he would need to completely debug the system and nail them in their spot. Nathen needed these figures by Tuesday.

"Come on, let's get you laying down." A voice cut through his musings.

Harold started slightly. He blinked down at the small clock at the corner of the monitor and slowly realized he'd been staring blankly at the screen for the last twenty minutes. A blink added two more. Another transported him from his computer to the small cot. He felt strong arms wrap around him and carefully pull him out of his chair.

"Wha'?" Harold asked dazedly.

The strong arms seemed to magically melt his outer clothing away as he drifted onto the cot. Settling him down. When he came to, he would remember how much he hated this feeling but right now all he could do was ride it out and let it soothe everything away. He whined softly at the chill until a warm blanket covered him and a wonderful heat pressed against his sore hip and back.

Finally, for the first time in a long time he was safe, relaxed, and pain free.

^(*.*)^

John sat patiently next to the cot in Harold's chair reading one of the books laying around. Bear was laying as close to Harold as he could without jumping onto the cot with him. Harold was still somewhat awake but he was completely out of it. He didn't even last fifteen minutes after taking those pills. It was a bit of a handful getting him comfortable and settled down. Harold would be quite happy that there were no cameras in their little hideaway.

"Don't let Shaw feed Bear the bomb." Harold mumbled.

"Alright."

It was always like this when Harold was on Dilaudid. Constantly spouting off nonsense. It reminded him a little of that time he was spiked with ecstasy, only without being hyper. It was endearing, but he understood why Harold didn't want anyone to see him like that. Harold valued not only his privacy, but also his appearance. Being seen out of control like that was hell on his friend. He had to promise Harold that he had threatened Fusco with a slow and painful death if he ever breathed a word to anyone about that little episode. Then he went ahead and threatened Fusco.

The hot water bottle fell away as Harold shifted around as he slowly relaxed. John carefully put it back where it could help the most. He hated to see his friend like this but it was becoming an all too familiar sight these days. The changes they were forced to accept were far harder on the recluse than they were on any of them. Even Shaw was settling down now that she had her side job as a getaway driver.

"No I need EXTRA mustard!" Harold shouted while waving his hand and accidentally smacking Bear.

"Whatever you say." John said as the poor dog curled up between his legs in confusion.

The book had lost his interest next to the fascination that was Harold's strange rants. He never knew what was going through the genius's head when he let out his outbursts. They were something that he guarded closely though.

There was only one real way John knew would work to keep the hacker away. He didn't like using it but desperate times and all that.

"Can you hear me?" John called out softly.

…:YES:

"Good. Make sure Root stays away until Harold is aware again."

…:ACKNOWLEDGE:

A quick text to Shaw was all he needed to do to stop her from coming. Shaw understood orders. Even with her blind obedience, Root still struggled with working in a team without trying to dominate it.

With all that, Harold was as safe as John could make him and that was what was important.

"Tell Nathen to go through with the merger."

John smiled softly down at his dear friend. There was nothing he wouldn't do for the man.

"Are you sure?" he asked.

"Of course I want crème."

Harold settled down for the most part, seeming to drift in and out of sleep. John didn't think he full REM but what he got appeared to be very restful. Harold could certainly use it. He did far too much to try and protect all of them. It wasn't right. It should be HIS job to protect them, not Harold's. He hated having Harold in so much danger. He wanted to kill every single person out there hunting them who knew his face. He wanted to wipe them all out. It was only Harold's will that held him back.

All of a sudden, his phone started vibrating a text alert jarring him out of his dark thought.

'I want the dog -Shaw'

'Where are you? -JR'

'Outside, NOT breaking ur rules -Shaw'

'B right up -JR'

John gathered Bear's leash and called him over. Bear whined not wanting to leave Harold alone but came right over. John could understand the sentiment. He didn't want to leave Harold by himself for the few minutes he would be gone, but he didn't want Shaw to see him like that more.

"Harold? I'm just taking Bear to Shaw outside. I'll be back in a couple of minutes." John told him.

"Not the merlot." Was Harold's reply as he turned to snuggle deeper into the blanket.

John quickly made his way to the subway's entrance with Bear. Shaw was waiting still dressed up in her day job attire. She was clearly annoyed with him as he handed her the leash.

"I took him out earlier but he could probably use a good run later." John told her as a greeting.

"Great. So why am I being exiled." Shaw's tone left no room for evasion. She didn't take well to being kept out of the loop. It was a sore spot for her.

"Harold took Dilaudid." Was all John said.

That was more than enough of an answer for the former operative. Shaw was the same as John. She sought out enough information to understand the situation but details were unnecessary. It was only when they were denied needed intel that things usually blew up in other people's faces.

"Got it." She said in the same steady monotone "Make sure he drinks a lot of water when he comes out of it, and try to get him to eat. If he's nauseated there's something for that in my kit. Call me if there are any complications."

"Will do Shaw, Thanks."

"I'm keeping the dog for the night. And possibly tomorrow. It's not good for him being left like that."

John smiled at Shaw's unique way of showing concern. She may not technically have the feelings for it, but her heart was the biggest of all of them.

"I have an idea or two to fix that, I just need to put it in play."

"Don't wait too long."

With that, Shaw took off with Bear at her side. Her spiked heels echoing off the concrete in a symphony with Bear's claws. John could honestly say he was glad that Shaw decided to stick around with them. It was rough going at first as she was figuring out her place but there was no denying that she was a real asset to the team.

John hurried back down to Harold's side. In the short time he was gone Harold had become restless, throwing his blanket off and struggling blindly to get up. John rushed over and gently pushed him back down with Harold fighting him the whole way.

"Come on Harold, back in bed with you." John soothed.

"I have to find John!" Harold panted in panic.

"I'm right here."

"I have to…"

John grabbed Harold's hands and pressed them to his face letting them touch him. He leaned forward enough so that Harold could see him without his glasses. It was an extremely uncomfortable position to be in, leaning half twisted over Harold as the man stroked and petted his face and hair. It was working though; Harold was slowly calming down.

"I thought I lost you." Harold whispered.

"You found me."

They stayed like that for who knows how long, with Harold touching every part of him he could reach and John whispering whatever assurances Harold needed until Harold finally fell completely asleep. His grip shifting from John's face to around one of his hands. John spent the rest the evening and into the night sitting on the edge of the cot, a silent guard as his friend slept.