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What It Is

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What It Is
(by Erich Fried, transl. by Anna Kallio)

It is nonsense
says reason
It is what it is
says love

It is calamity
says calculation
It is nothing but pain
says fear
It is hopeless
says insight
It is what it is
says love

It is ludicrous
says pride
It is foolish
says caution
It is impossible
says experience
It is what it is
says love

 

----------

Mike arrives in front of Harvey's building at 7:55 pm the following Sunday. A worn out duffle bag is slung over his shoulder, and he locks his bike carefully to a street lantern before he sets the bag down at his side and rubs his hands over his face. Frowning, he looks up.

Harvey lives in the penthouse, Mike knows that of course, and he replays his last ride in the elevator leading up there in his mind. Twenty seconds, give or take. He takes a deep breath and picks up his bag again. It's time to go.

The doorman lets Mike pass and picks up the phone to notify Harvey that his guest is on his way up. Mike hesitatingly steps into the elevator and fidgets with the strap of his bag during the whole ride. He keeps checking his hair in the mirror as well. The thought that most likely he won't be riding this elevator downwards again before Friday morning makes him bite his lips. He shakes his head quickly and straightens when the doors slide open.

Mike drags his feet on the way to Harvey's condo, but the hallway seems much shorter than he remembers it from the last time. He hesitates for a moment before he knocks on Harvey's door. This is his last chance to call the whole thing off.

The wood is hard against his knuckles when he knocks, and he listens to the faint sound of footsteps approaching on the other side of the door. They eventually stop and it takes a couple of seconds after that before the door swings open.

Mike startles when it finally does and nearly drops his bag.

*****

"Mike,” Harvey says and clears his throat. He's wearing casual grey slacks and a black v-neck sweater with matching black loafers. His hair is styled immaculately. There's a hint of surprise in his voice and he raises his eyebrows slightly.

"You thought I wouldn't come,” Mike says quietly and averts his eyes from Harvey's scrutinizing gaze.

"Come in." Harvey opens the door fully and steps aside, allowing Mike to enter. "Here, let me take your bag." He reaches for the strap over Mike's shoulder but withdraws his hand again quickly when Mike reaches for it himself and their fingers nearly touch. He takes a quick step backward and staggers briefly as his back hits the dresser. "Sorry,” he mutters and winces as the bag almost slips from Mike's grip.

Mike sets the bag down next to the door and shoves his hands into the pockets of his trousers, biting his lips nervously.

Harvey opens his mouth and closes it again, eyeing up the other man from head to toe and back. "You're wearing a suit."

Mike stares at Harvey for a second, a blank look on his face. "Yeah,” he says. "Yeah. I am." His hand flies to the knot of his tie and he adjusts it quickly, blushing. "I wanted to-- I thought-- The last time you--" He pauses. "Yeah."

Harvey swallows and nods. "Come in."

They walk along the hallway towards the kitchen area, Mike two steps behind Harvey.

Once they emerge from the hallway, Mike stops in his tracks. It's still light outside and Mike lets his eyes wander across the room.

"Can I have a look around?" he asks hesitantly. He's been here before but he hasn't seen much of the condo yet.

Harvey nods and makes a vague gesture.

"Of course. Make yourself at home."

Mike grins shyly and begins his inspection of Harvey's place: kitchen and dining room area, deck, living room area. He notices a number of cushions and blankets he doesn't remember seeing the last time he was here.

When Harvey opens the fridge to offer him a drink, Mike's standing right next to him, and sneaks a look at the contents of the fridge. There are several small bottles of water and a variety of light snacks – yogurt, fruit, cucumbers and sweet peppers, salted crackers and light cream cheese, granola bars.

Mike blinks. It’s everything he asked for during his last heat in San Francisco. Nothing is missing, not even those grapefruit-and-lime energy drinks the hotel had had a hell of a time finding back then.

Mike hesitates and looks back at Harvey when he arrives at a pair of sliding doors he supposes lead to the master bedroom.

Harvey nods and Mike opens the doors slowly. He takes a deep breath before he steps inside.

The room, like the rest of the flat, is ample and exquisitely furnished. A beautiful duvet covers the bed. The carpet is soft underneath Mike's feet and the curtains are drawn. Mike shivers a little – it's cool in here. A faint hint of elegant cologne lingers in the air, mixed with a distant scent of Harvey.

"This room is so you,” Mike mutters as he lets his fingertips glide over the surface of the dresser. "Where's your closet?" he asks, looking up with a frown.

"Walk-in,” Harvey answers and opens a door on the right-hand side that Mike hadn't noticed. He turns on the light inside the closet and motions for Mike to enter.

Mike steps into the closet slowly and his eyes widen as he takes in the sight of two rows of suits and shirts and jackets and vests and trousers, all different kinds. There are business suits, tuxes, casual combinations, but also jeans and pullovers, hoodies and sweatpants. At the back hang the coats and parkas, and on the wall on the far end of the closet is a shelf with Harvey's shoes.

Dressers with semi-transparent drawers run along both walls underneath the clothes rails and Mike can see vague shapes and colors through the milky glass. T-shirts probably, and ties and pocket squares, socks, underwear, belts, and velvet-lined boxes for Harvey's cufflinks and tiepins.

He walks the length of the closet back and forth, letting his hands brush against the clothes on each side.

"Well,” he grins when he's back at the door where Harvey is waiting for him. "That is impressive…"

"What can I say,” Harvey smirks. "I'm a vain son of a bitch." He closes the closet again and leads Mike across the bedroom to another door. "Here, let me show you the bathroom."

It's the most beautiful bathroom Mike has ever seen. Luxurious, but tasteful. Clean lines and straight angles, and a shower as big as Mike's whole apartment. A free-standing bathtub is facing windows overlooking the city, and the floor is tiled with dark grey Egyptian granite.

They walk back into the master bedroom, and Harvey leads Mike back into the living room area.

"This is my room,” Harvey says quietly and turns right. "Yours is over here," he adds, leading Mike through a swinging door. He indicates a door on the left hand side of a wide hallway.

Mike raises his eyebrows.

"I thought you might want some space,” Harvey says and scratches the back of his neck. He walks across the floor and opens the door to the guestroom. He holds it open for Mike and inhales deeply when Mike walks past him into the room.

On the dresser in the guestroom Mike finds two stacks of clothes. One stack consists of neatly folded t-shirts. They're all different colors: black, light grey, dark grey, dark and light blue, pale green and white.

Mike runs his palm over the topmost one lightly. He can feel that they are new, but they have been washed at least once. He picks one up, brings it to his nose and inhales. No scent.

The second pile is a pile of boxer shorts. Their cloth is soft and smooth and they've never been worn either. Mike picks one up as well. The elastic band is a little bit less tight than he'd thought it would be. They're all his size – loose, but not too baggy.

He looks at Harvey, who is lingering in the doorway.

"I thought-- The last time you'd--,” Harvey's eyes dart from the piles of clothes to Mike's face and then the floor. "René is very good at what he does."

Mike nods, blushing slightly. "Thank you."

The guestroom has a bathroom, too. It's smaller than the master bath, but still roomy and light. Mike walks over to the sink and picks up a new toothbrush, still wrapped in light blue parchment paper, from the shelf under the mirror.

When he returns to the guestroom, he finds Harvey gone. Mike walks back to the front door and picks up his bag. He carries it into the guestroom, sets it on the bed and unzips it.

He stares at the open bag for a couple of minutes, shoulders slumped. Closing his eyes briefly, he balls his hands into fists. He can do this.

Harvey is in the kitchen when Mike emerges from the guestroom. He is rummaging through one of the cupboards, and a pot filled with water starts to boil on the stove.

"Hey,” he says with a slightly artificial cheerfulness when he looks up and sees Mike. "Have a seat and make yourself at home." He nods towards the dinner table. "Or you could go and watch some TV." He motions for the living room with the pan he's holding in his hand. "I'm just making us some dinner. Will be ready in a sec."

Mike looks over to the dining table. Two opposite places are set, and a breadbasket is between the two plates.

Harvey turns to the fridge and pours two glasses of white wine.

"I thought about having dinner on the deck, but it's too cold outside already at this time, I think, so I… Yeah, well. Want some?" He offers one of the glasses to Mike, who hasn't moved since he came in, and tilts his head a little. "It's good. It's from the southern part of Italy, Calabria, I--"

"Harvey,” Mike interrupts, closing the distance between them and taking the glass from Harvey's outstretched hand. "You don't have to do all this." He clears his throat, blushing. "I'm pretty much the definition of 'a sure thing' and there really is no need for you to--"

He takes a sip from his glass and looks up. Harvey is avoiding Mike's gaze and clenching his jaw. Mike can see the muscles in Harvey's cheeks flexing. "Shit." He takes another sip. "This is good."

Harvey nods and fires up the front part of the stove. He sets the pan down and reaches for a bottle of olive oil.

"I'll be on the deck, okay?" Mike leaves Harvey to his cooking and steps outside. The view is breathtaking. He walks to the railing and sets his glass down on a small table at his side. He leans forward, bracing himself on the railing, and takes a couple of deep, slow breaths.

He zones out a bit, letting his eyes drink in the pulsing lights of the city and his thoughts run their course. He's shaken, yes, but he also feels strangely apprehensive. He checks his body for any signs of the early stages of his heat and he maybe feels a bit flushed. Plus, he's hungry, but he hasn't had anything to eat since breakfast.

"Dinner is ready."

Mike startles a little at Harvey's words. He must have been out here for longer than he thought. Harvey is standing next to him, hands on the railing.

"So this is your Xanadu,” Mike says, opening his eyes again and staring into the distance. He leans down and reaches for his wine glass.

Harvey chuckles. "Come on then. Give it to me."

"In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile--"

"Okay,” Harvey interrupts, grinning. "Okay, I get it. Come on in. Let's have dinner."

They return inside and sit down at the table. Harvey helps them both to pasta and salad.

"Hmmm,” Mike murmurs around his first bite and swallows. "This is quite good, actually. I didn't know you cooked."

"It's one of the few things I can make,” Harvey admits. "I usually order in."

Mike takes another bite. "Thank you for this, Harvey. And for--"

"Yeah, don't mention it, okay?" Harvey interrupts. "Tell me some gossip from the bullpen."

They talk casually through dinner, and when Harvey gets up and carries their empty plates to the kitchen, Mike loosens his tie and shifts in his chair. He's feeling a little restless and his skin prickles slightly.

Harvey sits down again and pours them some more wine.

"May I ask you something?" Harvey's voice is cautious. "About your-- About what it’s like for you?"

Mike nods.

"Has it started yet?" Harvey takes a sip from his glass.

Mike nods again. "Just the early stages, though. It's only very faint. I'm still pretty early in, so…" His voice trails away.

"I thought so. I-- I can smell you now,” Harvey says. "How-- What-- What do you need at this stage?" He asks quietly and takes another sip.

Mike blushes and fumbles with his napkin. "I-- Mostly I-- Mostly I just want to be held,” he murmurs. "When I was younger, Grammy used to hold me when I-- It didn't really work, though, 'cause-- Yeah."

Harvey sets down his glass and straightens. "Do you want me to hold you now?"

Mike folds his napkin and places it on the table in front of him. He shifts in his chair uncomfortably and reaches for his glass. He sets it down again and nods. "Yes." Reaching for his glass again, he pauses.

Harvey moves to rise from his chair, but Mike looks up and raises his hand to stop him.

"Yes, I want that." He takes another sip of wine. "But I can't. I-- Not yet." Taking another swallow of his drink, he winces. "It's-- It would be too private."

A questioning look on his face, Harvey sits back once more. He considers something for a moment and gets up. Mike tenses but relaxes again when Harvey walks over to the sofa and picks up a heavy wool blanket. He unfolds it and comes over to where Mike is sitting. He shakes the blanket carefully once and lays it over Mike's shoulders.

"How's that?"

Mike sighs and grabs the hems of the blanket, wrapping it around himself. "Good. That is good. Thank you."

Harvey smoothes his hands over Mike's shoulders and arms, bringing as much of the wool in contact with other man's body as he can. He wraps his arms around Mike from behind, but releases him again immediately when Mike's body tightens.

"Sorry,” he mutters.

Mike shoves his chair back, almost hitting Harvey's shins and groin with it, and rises quickly.

"Shit, Harvey. I said not yet!" He nearly knocks over his chair when he moves away from the table.

Harvey steps backward to avoid the collision, and now holds his hands up as if in surrender. "Sorry,” he says again, placing his hands on the back of Mike's empty chair and leaning forward, exhaling.

Mike wraps the blanket around himself tightly and nods towards the door. "I'll be outside for a minute,” he says and goes out onto the deck.

*****

Harvey finds Mike sitting on the edge of the sun lounger when he follows him outside a quarter of an hour later. Mike has drawn up his feet and is hugging his knees, the blanket still wrapped tightly around his shoulders. He's rocking back and forth slightly, staring into the distance with wide eyes.

Harvey lingers in the door for a couple of seconds before he slowly walks towards Mike. He stops a few steps short of the lounger, looking down on the younger man with a frown. He lifts his arms a little, but drops them again immediately when Mike stops moving and clenches his jaws.

Mike locks eyes with him and tightens the hold on his legs.

"Mike. For god's sake,” Harvey snaps and takes a few breaths to calm himself. "Let me hold you now." He takes a tentative step forward.

Mike tenses again and shakes his head. "This won't work,” he whispers.

"Please."

Harvey never says please.

Mike grits his teeth and closes his eyes, but after a moment he nods hesitantly. "Okay."

Harvey sits down behind Mike. He swings one leg over so he can lean back against the upper part later. He slowly raises one hand and touches Mike's shoulder, feeling the other man stiffen under his touch. Exhaling, he begins to stroke Mike lightly and leans a little closer.

"I'm going to put my arms around you now.”

"Okay,” Mike whispers.

Harvey lifts his arms and carefully wraps them around Mike's torso. He feels a shiver run through Mike's body, and stills. "Just my arms, Mike, I promise."

Mike nods again, and Harvey adjusts his arms to a full embrace. He keeps it light and loose, but shifts a bit closer, carefully maneuvering Mike a little to the right. "Lean back a bit,” he encourages, gently tightening his arms around Mike.

Mike hesitates, tensing again, but after a couple of moments he touches his back to Harvey's chest and relaxes a little.

"See?" Harvey murmurs. "That's not so bad, is it?"

Mike exhales shakily and leans back a bit further. He's still rather tense and Harvey breaks the embrace to lift his hand and run his fingers through Mike's hair lightly.

"Just let me do this for you,” Harvey whispers into Mike's ear. "It's what we both need. Okay?" He closes his arms around the other man again and waits.

Mike leans back against Harvey and unlocks the hold on his legs. He straightens his knees bit by bit and turns at the same time, and when his legs are stretched out over the whole length of the lounger, he exhales.

"Okay,” he whispers and unclenches his fists. "Okay."

He pulls the blanket tighter around himself and shifts a little until he's nestled comfortably between Harvey's legs and against his chest. "I'm sorry,” he mutters, closing his eyes. "I forgot how irritable I get when it starts."

Harvey tightens his embrace for a second and nuzzles Mike's hair. "It's okay,” he mutters and closes his eyes as well.

"Aren't you cold?" Mike asks and Harvey shakes his head.

"No, I'm good,” he answers. "Now stop thinking."

They breathe together for a while and Harvey can feel Mike relaxing more and more with every minute that passes. He inhales Mike's scent and he knows Mike's heat is progressing.

"I don't want you to take your supps tonight,” Mike says a couple of minutes later, his voice already a little drowsy.

"I won't,” Harvey promises, muttering against Mike's hair. "I've been off them since Friday."

"That's why you were able to smell me earlier,” Mike suddenly sounds awake again. "So early in."

He shifts in Harvey's arms and tries to look at the man behind him, but Harvey keeps his hold on Mike.

"I didn't know,” Mike adds some seconds later.

Harvey starts running the fingers of his right hand over the blanket covering Mike. He knows that Mike can barely feel his light caresses but he also knows that Mike still needs that cloth between them to keep his distance. He feels his dick stir a little and winces, letting out a grateful breath when he doesn't get hard.

Mike's breathing evens out and Harvey can feel the other man has fallen asleep, his body a warm weight against Harvey's chest and abdomen. He keeps caressing Mike carefully until his eyelids begin to droop as well.