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we make hope from every small disaster

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John has become an avid reader. There are always times when he is at the library with nothing to do: waiting for Harold to finish retrieving some kind of information, waiting for him to wrap up a case. The problem with waiting is that it leaves John free to think about things. Things like the fact that Harold is right there, in his desk chair, and that John isn't on his knees in front of him, sucking his cock. This reality is unacceptable. So he reads.

Today's novel is “The Idiot”, which was a poor choice because all the Russian names blur together in John's mind, Ardalyonovna and Rogozhin and Myshkin. Harold types and sips his tea. There is a smear of jam in the corner of his mouth from a donut he ate earlier. John turns a page. Harold's pants are too fancy to have zippers, he thinks. Buttons, probably, that he would undo one after the other. He wonders what kind of underwear Harold wears: boxers, maybe. Not something tacky, but soft and comfortable, in blue or black or a dark green, a soft fabric John could rub his cheek against.

He doesn't remember when he started fantasizing about going down on Harold. It's not the only thing he thinks about doing for him: getting him tea and his favorite takeout, holding up the umbrella when they're walking in the rain. It's the only thing John doesn't get to do, though. John doesn't know if it is because Harold doesn't like sex or because Harold doesn't want sex with John: he kisses John, cuddles him, lets John sleep in his bed when he stays over, spooned up against Harold's back. My dear, Harold says. My dearest. John should be glad: Harold loves him, he knows; he can feel it in the way Harold runs his fingers over John's wrists, strokes his hands with his thumb like a palm reader.

It's not about the sex, really. John can go without, has, really, apart from a few ill-advised one night stands with strangers. Even when he was with Jessica, he didn't get laid that much: Jess liked cuddling and napping and staying in bed all day. The sex was an afterthought, warm and comfortable and unhurried, her arms around his neck, her hair fanned out on the pillow behind her. John finds everything that he needs when he is around Harold: the gentle, unthinking touch of his hand, the way Harold drapes a blanket over him to make sure that John won't get cold. Being with Harold makes John feel like a cat who gets to take naps in the sun all day: precious, and wanted, and safe.

What he wants to do for Harold is about something else entirely: John wants to be good, to please. He wants to get down to his knees and stay there, surrendering. He wants to take his time and make Harold feel good, make him feel pleasure. John wants to make Harold feel for a brief moment like Harold makes him feel all the time. John has thought about asking – please, will you let me? –, has considered that most guys would not say no to the offer. Then again, Harold definitely isn't most guys. There is an equilibrium between them, like a scale perfectly balanced, and John is scared to damage it: he has no right to ask for anything more than this.

The worst moments are in the morning. John wakes up right away, a startling, sudden flash of consciousness like flicking on a light switch: a soldier's habit. Harold is hazy in the morning, soft sounds and his eyes shut even when he's slowly shaking off sleep. Sometimes, Harold is still pressed against him: warm under the covers, sleep-soft limbs and his hair all mussed up, his face naked without his glasses. John thinks about sliding his hand between Harold's legs, crawling under the covers and putting his mouth to warm skin. He could wake Harold up like this, have him sigh and squirm beneath John, still drowsy with sleep.

John usually gets up to have a very long, very cold shower then. He tried jerking off once, but it just felt hollow, and somewhat pathetic. John just wants to stop thinking about it; he just wants to be happy. Maybe that's the real problem: he hasn't been happy for so long that he has forgotten the basic principles involved.

“Are you ready to go, then?” Harold asks, shutting down his computer.

John closes his novel.

It's a surprise, later, when Harold leans in next to him on the couch and says: “I've been meaning to tell you something. It's a question, really.” He puts his wineglass on the coffee table.

John is sprawled on the couch and has to sit up a little. Harold turns to face him, his cheeks pink from the wine, or maybe the warmth they created between them, cuddling up closely like that.

“Okay,” John says, a little amused.

“You've been very patient with me,” Harold says, reaching out to touch John's wrist.

John frowns. “What do you mean?”

“Well, the first time I asked you to spend the night with me, I doubt that this is what you had in mind,” Harold says. He smiles, but it covers uncertainty, apprehension.

John sits up straighter on the couch. “I'm really okay with how things are,” he says.

Harold tilts his head a little. “You really are, aren't you?” He sounds amused. “Well, what I wanted to say is that I – it's been a while since I have been physically intimate with anyone, and that was before everything that has happened. I am not on the best terms with my body on the best of days, really.”

The last sentence comes out in a rush, and John feels like he needs to do something, to let Harold know that it's alright. The first thing that comes to mind is taking Harold's hands in his own, pressing kisses against Harold's knuckles. “We don't need to have sex if you don't want to,” John says, and then: “I just want you to be happy, Harold.”

Harold gives him a smile. “I know,” he says, easily, like he really does. “Which is why I am suggesting it.” He runs his fingers over a scar on John's arm: not CIA-related; a biking accident when he was a kid. “I trust you.”

John bows his head, and Harold pulls him closer so they can kiss. Thank you for giving me time, Harold says later, close to John's ear, and I really want yout to touch me, and John shivers happily in his arms, remembering that this, this is how you do it; this is how you are happy.