“Ross, what are you staring at?” Harvey demanded, making Mike startle.
It was a Friday. The Friday evening before the 10th Anniversary of September 11th. Mike was in Harvey’s office, standing at the windows.
Mike had never told anyone, but his parents had died on 9-11. He’d let everyone believe it had been a car wreck because he hadn’t wanted to be one of ~those~ kids, the poor pitiful orphans that everyone kept reading about. What had happened was that the North World Trade Tower had collapsed on top of the car when they were still inside. He’d been lucky, if you could call it that. He’d had remains to actually bury-a lot of families didn’t even have that small comfort.
“Nothing?” Harvey asked, moving up beside him to look out of the windows. You could see the new building that stood at Ground Zero, the windows it did have gleaming in the reflected sunlight. The view of Ground Zero was the one thing that Mike hated about working at Pearson Hardman.
“Yeah, what’s up Harvey? The briefs are all on your desk.” Mike didn’t even glance around at the older man, still staring out the window. He could feel Harvey’s eyes boring into the side of his head.
“Hmm,” Harvey said. “Come in on Sunday so we can prepare for the Mornington Trial.”
“No,” Mike replied evenly.
“No? You don’t tell me no, rookie,” Harvey said, his voice indignant.
Turning, Mike pinned the surprised Harvey with a glare. “I said, ‘No’, Harvey. I’m not coming in on Sunday to go over the briefs for Mornington. I have a prior commitment that I can’t break.”
“Can’t or won’t,” Harvey sneered.
“For Christ’s sake, Harvey,” Mike said, throwing up his hands. “I can’t, okay? Let it go,” he bit out and stalked out of the office.
Donna watched in surprise as Mike strode passed her, not even acknowledging her presence. That, and the unexpected tears on his face was so unusual that she turned to stare at Harvey in surprise. His own look of surprise made her realize that he didn’t know what the hell was going on with his associate either.
Harvey was even more unpleasantly surprised when he went looking for Mike later and found the younger man was elbow deep in work for Louis. Louis had been surprised too because Mike had actually ‘volunteered’ to help.
At her desk, Donna had been thinking furiously as she typed. She’d known that something was off with Mike, had been for most of the week but today seemed exponentially worse. Abruptly she thought about his grandmother and wondered if something had happened. She immediately dialed the nursing home because when the puppy was unhappy, Harvey was unhappy.
Saturday morning came but Mike was still awake, nursing his fortieth cup of coffee while he flipped through old photo albums of his family. He hadn’t been able to sleep. Usually this time of year he’d kept himself in a chemical haze, thanks to Trevor, the only one of his friends who’d understood how Mike had felt. Being high had taken the edge off of his grief. He’d never watched the ceremonies that happened each year, unable to watch his loss every time. Now, everything seemed to be hitting at once and Mike didn’t know how to deal with it.
A brisk knock at his door made him sigh. He recognized the arrogant sound of it right away. “Go away, Harvey,” he called tiredly.
“Not gonna happen, kid. You may as well let me in.”
Mike carefully closed the album and walked over to the door, opening it reluctantly.
Harvey looked him over. “You look like shit.”
Unwillingly amused, Mike leaned in his doorway and chuckled. “Thanks. Now what do you want?”
He watched as Harvey actually fidgeted. “Harvey?”
“Donna spoke with your grandmother. Why didn’t you tell me?”
Sighing, Mike moved out of the way to let Harvey in. He closed the door, turned around and found Harvey on his couch, looking at the photo album.
“Privacy much?” he snarked but sat down beside his boss.
Harvey ignored him. “You look like your mother.”
“Grammy says so,” Mike agreed.
Leaning back, Harvey looked at Mike, his eyes soft. “So, let’s talk about why you didn’t tell me.”
“I don’t tell you everything,” Mike protested.
“Please,” Harvey scoffed. “I know about Trevor and Jenny and Rachel. I know about the pot, the tests you took for others and your Grandmother. But this? This is what you choose not to tell me?”
Mike slumped back against his lumpy couch and closed his eyes. “I didn’t want to be famous for losing my parents. It was so bad afterward, you have no idea. I was ‘special’ because I lost both parents, a real live ‘9-11 orphan’. Then the media became really bad, so bad that Grammy moved me to a school closer to her. I could pretend to be just a regular kid living with his grandmother.”
Harvey leaned into Mike a bit, a warm presence up and down his right side. “So, I guess that you’re going to be at the memorial on Sunday?”
“Yeah, I’m going to be on the podium reading off names.” Mike swallowed back unexpected tears, fiercely blinking them away.
“Next time,” Harvey said, his voice low, “just tell me why. I’m not so much of a bastard that I won’t understand, okay?”
Mike opened his eyes to grin at Harvey. “Oh, busted. You’re showing your feelings, Harvey.”
“Yeah, yeah, don’t tell anyone,” Harvey said with an eyeroll. “C’mon. Let’s get a beer.”
They both stood and Mike went to get his jacket. “Harvey, did you know anyone there?”
“No, I think I was one of the fortunate few,” Harvey replied soberly. “C’mon, rookie. We can talk about the Mornington case.”
“Oh joy,” Mike said in long-suffering tones.
On Sunday Mike slowly read out names, the younger boy at his side barely maintaining his composure. At the end of his list of names, he raised his head and looked straight at Harvey.
“And my mom and dad, Elizabeth Kelly Ross and Michael Ross Sr. Grammy and I miss you both so much but I know that you’re watching over us. We love you.”
Mike walked the younger boy down to his waiting family and went straight to Harvey. He sat down and leaned, letting Harvey’s arm come around his shoulder. It was as if a great weight had been lifted, something half self inflicted and half related to losing his parents so tragically, that had been keeping him from truly being successful and happy. Now he could move on, and that was a relief in itself. He could truly say good-bye.
“You did them proud, rookie,” Harvey whispered.
Mike realized that Harvey was right.