Imprimatur: From the Latin, "Let it be printed"; a mark of approval or authorization.
Neither of them noticed, because neither of them expected what they got.
Mike had been raised to believe that if you Imprinted, if you were lucky enough to Imprint, it was an event: angelic chorus, birds swooping around, the earth moving. His parents had Imprinted, and they said it was like that.
Harvey had been raised to understand that Imprinting was the result of mental instability and statistically unlikely -- people went to Imprint-events for years trying to find their soulmate, and never succeeded. And anyway, who'd want to Imprint on a smartmouthed little asshole like him?
Harvey's parents had not Imprinted. Harvey's parents could barely have been called parents.
All that was required was a touch. That was why Imprint-events were so popular, even though they were unsanitary and sometimes dangerous. All you had to do was touch, even if you didn't know them, and you'd know, and then you'd live happily ever after. So people would gather and touch hands, thousands lining up to exchange handshakes with thousands of others, risking disease at the least, and even so an Imprint was rarely made.
The truth lay somewhere between Mike's ideals and Harvey's cynicism. Happily ever after wasn't the result of Imprinting, but it happened more than Harvey would have thought. Most people thought it was worth it to try; Imprinted couples had special protection under the law. They could not be separated, denied cohabitation, denied medical visitation and decision rights. To Imprint was to become special. And their children, like Mike, were often unusually gifted.
When Mike and Harvey met, Mike was busy freaking out about the cops and distracted by trying to remember his fake name and figuring out how he was going to fake his way through this interview. There was no angelic chorus. Even if there had been, he might not have noticed.
Harvey felt something, a brief frission of contact, but he assumed it was static electricity. And then he was distracted by the weed pouring out of this kid's briefcase.
They acted on instinct, in those first few minutes, motivated by a subconscious urge not to let the other out of their sight. Harvey impulsively hired someone with no degree at all, let alone one from Harvard; Mike fought tooth and nail and brain for the chance at the job.
Distracted as they both were, if they had gone their separate ways the Imprint might not have held. But after a week in Boston, studying Harvard culture like an anthropologist, Mike came home to New York and started spending eight, ten, twelve hours a day with Harvey.
Harvey, naturally, thought the increased tension, the odd strain of his life, was easily explained. He was Senior Partner now, a high-power and high-stress job, and his new associate was both a thorn in his side and a dangerous secret to be kept. Of course he was tired at the end of the day, of course his energy was low.
Once the dust settled a little, once he got Mike trained to stop screwing up, it would get better.
Mike attributed his twitchiness, his unease when he was alone in his apartment, first to giving up pot and then to the stress of working for Pearson Hardman. He loved his job; loved every minute he got to spend following Harvey and learning from him, even when Harvey was a giant dick about it. But he couldn't deny it was exhausting. That must be the cause of his restlessness, his lack of interest in Jenny's blatant passes (um, his lack of interest in sex in general, but Mike didn't want to bring that up because he refused to believe his sex drive was already dying or that he had smoked that much weed).
When he finished his rookie year, it would get better.
Harvey didn't usually spare a thought over Imprinting. There were novels and songs about it, romcoms, even tragedies -- Romeo and Juliet, that piece of tripe, being the most famous -- but it was so rare that he felt hoping for it was ridiculous. Much better to enjoy what life brought you, and life brought Harvey feast enough.
So at first he didn't care that Mike always seemed to tag after him even when it wasn't necessary. Who wouldn't want to tag after Harvey Specter? And he didn't notice that he indulged his weird new associate more than he would have another. Mike was talented, after all, and useful.
The first time he couldn't get it up with a woman, he shrugged that off too. These things happened, he'd been drinking, and if his dick wasn't being agreeable there was nothing at all wrong with his tongue. His date certainly had no complaints.
The next time he got hard enough to convince himself it was a fluke, except that she came and didn't really notice that he didn't, just pulled out and rolled away and...
The third time, when he found himself bored in the middle of foreplay, he sealed the deal with his mouth, left her sleeping, and made a semi-urgent appointment with a specialist. This was no time for shame. Things weren't functioning, things Harvey very much desired to function, and it demanded a repair.
The doctor did some blood tests, gave him a weird side-eye, and said there was nothing wrong with him physically. Perhaps it was stress. Had he spoken with a therapist? Had there been some recent trauma -- sexual or otherwise?
Harvey drew the line at therapy. There was nothing emotionally wrong with him. He liked sex, lots of sex. There was no reason to consult a mental health professional about his dick. He asked for a prescription for Viagra, filled it, and managed for a few weeks with that before it stopped working too. Besides, it wasn't good for the blood pressure.
So Harvey gave up on women. He told himself there was going to be an awful lot of extra time to get spare work in, and ignored how empty his condo seemed to always feel, the overwhelming anxiety the sheer space of it sometimes caused.
He reconsidered therapy after coming about two inches from punching Louis Litt in his smug, ugly mouth. He knew he was being irrational and couldn't help it. He'd bet Mike away, never intending to lose, and it was his own fault. At the same time, a creeping territorial anger demanded to know how Louis would dare to take Mike away from him, how anyone would be so audacious. Mike was his associate, and bet or not it was unfair, unjust, cruel to take him away. He barely escaped assault charges by throwing Mike at him as quickly as he could, turning away, and mentally wishing Mike would leave.
Of course as soon as Mike was gone, Harvey wanted him back in a way that made his fingers twitch. Made him feel like some kind of addict.
He chalked it up to how very much he hated to lose.
The ten days Mike spent as Louis's personal slave were almost unbearable. The work was easy enough, mind-numbingly boring, but Mike felt as though he'd been thrown out, banished, and he didn't even dare slink up to Harvey's office after Louis left for the day.
He was afraid, he realized -- fearful that if he did see Harvey, he'd just be thrown out again. He'd done the best he could to win the bet and instead lost himself. He had nobody else to blame. It hadn't been Harvey's fault he lost the bet, but he wanted Harvey's approval so badly, missed Harvey's stupid expensive suits and flashy swagger.
He didn't sleep well. Around six every day, he'd get so anxious he'd be unable to do any more work, but when he went home his apartment felt claustrophobic. Even cycling, which usually calmed him down, seemed overwhelming: too much noise, too many things to be aware of, too much energy expended.
Returning to Harvey on the eleventh day was like a cool wash of relief. Mike was sure it was because Harvey apparently didn't hate him. The low-level anxiety he felt whenever he wasn't at work had become so normal, at that point, that he hardly gave it a second thought. Get up, bike to work, find the peace of mind to eat breakfast, work, Harvey, Harvey, Harvey, bike home, not hungry enough for dinner, try to sleep as soon as possible to escape the closed-in feeling, the sensation of missing something vital.
He lost weight. And he worried about that, he did, and so did Donna when she noticed, but hell, he was drinking like four Red Bulls a day. Anyone would. It was like the Freshman Fifteen in reverse. He'd gain it back.
"You look like Skeletor," Harvey told him one night, and took him out to dinner.
Mike ate ravenously, rapturously -- the food just somehow tasted better than normal. Perhaps because it was a sixty-dollar-an-entree restaurant (which for Harvey was nearly slumming it). Harvey watched with what looked like indulgent amusement as Mike consumed practically his body weight in steak.
"Don't skip meals," Harvey told him. "If you collapse in court it looks bad."
"You're all heart," Mike said, mouth full of the most wonderful mashed potatoes in existence.
Dinner seemed to last a long time. Harvey just didn't bother calling for the check for ages. They sat and talked about cases instead, and Mike felt a keen depression when he finally caught a cab in one direction and Harvey caught a cab in another.
He did eat, after that, conscientiously. Harvey had asked (well, told) him to eat. But even the leftover steak, reheated in his apartment, tasted dry and bland in his mouth.
Harvey realized, after the third night he spent drinking at least three scotches before bed, he might be drinking too much.
Maybe that was the cause of his problems. He ignored the fact that he hadn't been drinking at all on the Viagra, and the problems had started first. He set the glass down still half-full, washed his face in cold water, and went to bed. The next night, he specifically avoided alcohol.
The evening after that, faced with another bored, anxious night where the rooms seemed too big and the city too distant through the glass, he distracted himself by taking Mike out and feeding him, because the kid looked like he hadn't had a square meal in weeks.
That was fun, surprisingly so. Watching Mike stuff himself carelessly on very expensive food, talking over cases, even the guilty pleasure of delaying the check to extend the evening. And while he wasn't a babysitter, he supposed he did have some responsibility to ensure that his associate didn't subsist on Red Bull and ramen.
Dinner two nights in a row would just look strange, but after another fiasco when he tried bringing a woman home on Friday night, and a long restless weekend where he couldn't seem to get anything done, he ordered Mike to stop work at six-thirty on Monday and come with him to meet a client for dinner.
"Keep your mouth shut and your eyes open," he advised, as they walked into the restaurant. "Listen. Learn."
Mike nodded eagerly. Harvey resisted the urge to steer him physically through the crowd. He didn't like people touching Mike, even bumping him accidentally. The possessive urge to shove them back made him uncomfortable.
"You're not drinking, Harvey?" his client asked, when Harvey covered his wine glass with a hand to prevent the sommelier pouring.
"I thought I'd try living the clean life," Harvey said. "Don't let me stop you."
"Next you know he'll say he's sworn off women," the client said to Mike, who smiled politely, with just a hint of something else, some edge Harvey couldn't identify.
"Living like a monk, that's me," Harvey answered, faking ease. Mike, next to him, was faking it much less convincingly, but Harvey ignored it and got on with the conversation.
Mike didn't like Harvey's client. He didn't like the way he kind of leered at Harvey, or the fact that they seemed to have known each other for a long time. He rebelled at the teasing Harvey took for not drinking, and at the repeated mention of Harvey's habit of picking up women all the time. He didn't like how the man seemed to make Harvey tense, though he couldn't tell why, exactly, Harvey was so tense.
Still, he was here to learn. He tried his best to focus on Harvey, studying the way he responded to the client, the techniques he used for bringing the conversation around to the reason they were there.
He didn't realize he'd been staring until Harvey casually glanced over at him and a spark ran down Mike's spine. He looked away quickly, not even sure what his reaction had been. He just knew he was being...inappropriate. Unprofessional, maybe. They were with a client, after all.
"You did well tonight," Harvey said, once they were in the town car on the way back to Pearson Hardman -- Harvey to get some paperwork from his office, Mike to get his bicycle.
"I...did?" Mike asked, genuinely uncertain. Harvey nodded absently, watching Manhattan pass by. A swell of pleasure rose in him. "Good." He hesitated. "Um, I meant to ask..."
"Oh, God," Harvey mock-groaned.
"About the drinking thing..."
"Mike, your feelings hurt the empty place where my soul used to be. Don't ruin a beautiful evening by caring all over it," Harvey said, but he was smiling at Mike.
"Just, I don't know," Mike finished.
"Succinct." Harvey sat forward. "There's nothing to worry about. I'm not dying, I promise."
"Okay," Mike said. There was a slight pause. "Wait, does that mean there's something wrong?"
"You're getting better," Harvey nodded. "You actually noticed I deflected that time."
"And you still are."
"Yes. I still am. I told you it's nothing to worry about."
Mike spent the rest of the night worrying anyway. At least if he was going to be stuck at home, anxious, he'd have something focused to worry about.
The last thing in the world Harvey was going to discuss with his associate was his sex life.
He had no problems on a solo basis. He'd have been calling a lot more specialists if taking things in hand wasn't an option, but when he was alone he got by all right -- in the morning, in the shower, some evenings. It was just when he brought someone home that he couldn't...
He felt strangely guilty. There was no reason to feel guilt, he was always clear about what his goals were and he honestly found these women attractive. It wasn't guilt over how he treated his partners, either -- Harvey had good manners in this as in everything.
It was more like he was betraying someone else, though he couldn't think who that might be. Scotty was ancient history, his last steady girlfriend had been over a year ago, and this hadn't started until relatively recently.
He reconsidered therapy for about two seconds before picturing himself telling a stranger about his masturbation habits.
It had been a nice night otherwise, he thought, standing at his bedroom window and looking out at the city, ignoring the scotch he could be drinking right now. Mike's caring all over him in the car had been awkward, and the urge to tell him about the problem unsettling. It had made Harvey maybe a little abrupt, ending the line of questioning before he found himself pouring out his issues to his associate without even a glass of wine as an excuse.
But mostly a nice night.
They should make a habit of it, he thought. Once a week, having dinner together. It gave him time to check in with Mike, gave Mike at least one solid meal a week, and got them both out of the work-and-home ruts they were in. He wouldn't suggest it to Mike, he'd just --
Well, his reward for not drinking this week would be taking Mike out to dinner next...Tuesday. Tuesday was good.
The week was unusually quiet, and strangely tense. There was no reason for it; Mike was keeping his caring to himself and there wasn't any particular rift between them. But with an unusually light workload and not much distract him, Harvey found himself vaguely, baselessly worrying.
He woke around six on Saturday morning absolutely frantic.
He couldn't shake the feeling there was something wrong, something he hadn't done, somewhere he was supposed to be. He did a full inspection of his condo, but nothing was amiss; he checked his email, phone messages, and texts, but there was nothing there to indicate anything had been left undone over the week. He turned on the news, but no apparent disasters were impending. It was a nice day out.
Something was wrong.
On the television, some ad for a new film was running; a woman was giving an impassioned monologue about how Imprinting was a mystical experience, special precisely because science couldn't explain the bond, and he thought -- strangely, sarcastically -- you aren't kiddin', lady, right before his phone rang at 7:45.
He felt like he'd been expecting the call.
Mike knew he was freaking out. And he knew despite Harvey's cool exterior that when he called him, he was probably going to freak out too, if for no other reason than Mike was waking him up with this phone call at this time on a Saturday morning.
"Hello?" Harvey answered on the second ring.
"Harvey, it's Mike. Did I wake you up?" Mike asked.
"No, I was awake," Harvey answered, which was a little relief, at least. "Surprised you are, though. If your ass is already at work on a Saturday, something's wrong, right?"
Harvey sounded like he was almost eager to hear what could possibly be wrong. Mike worried about Harvey's priorities sometimes.
"Okay, I need you not to wig out," Mike said.
There was a brief pause. "Am I someone you know to frequently wig out?" Harvey asked.
Mike resettled himself on the bench next to the hospital's courtesy phone. "I'm just letting you know ahead of time that I'm fine and everything's okay."
"And by everything, you mean except...?"
"I'm kind of in the emergency room."
"...kind of," Harvey repeated.
"It's not a big deal," Mike said. "I got a little bit hit by a car."
He could practically see Harvey pinching the bridge of his nose. "Kind of in the emergency room from a little bit hit by a car, Mike? Really?"
"It's not serious. Nothing's broken, I'm totally okay," Mike said. "But they get really uptight about concussions. They want someone to come pick me up and sign me out."
He hadn't really expected Harvey to do it. It was just that Harvey's number was first in his mental speed-dial, and he figured Harvey would be able to suggest someone more appropriate (like, oh, anyone).
"What hospital are you in?" Harvey asked with a sigh.
When Harvey got to the emergency room, Mike was on a bed just past the admissions desk; he bypassed admissions entirely, ignoring the nurse, and went straight to Mike. Mike lit up when he saw him, and Harvey couldn't help raising his hands, pressing them to either side of his head to tilt his face up, study his eyes, slide his fingers around to feel for bumps or fractures in his skull. Also it hid the fact his hands were shaking. Adrenaline, that was all it was.
"Prognosis?" Mike asked, grinning, and Harvey let his hands drop. "Seriously, I'm okay. I've had worse. My bike's totalled, though," he added, and laughed softly.
"You find this funny?" Harvey asked.
"I was just thinking about how I could sue for a new bike but my billable hours would cost more than the bike would," Mike said.
"Yes, you sound completely rational right now," Harvey replied, his voice steadying out. "What happened? Why were you on your bike at Hell A.M. on a Saturday?"
"I was trying to clear my head," Mike replied. "Nobody's out but health nuts and crazy people, I thought I'd be okay. Normally crazy people aren't driving cars."
"You've lived in Manhattan how long? Don't answer that," Harvey added. "How do I sign you out of here?"
"Excuse me, Mr. Specter?" a doctor called.
"Stay," Harvey ordered, and walked over. "How is he?"
"He's fine -- mild concussion, and he'll be stiff tomorrow. No signs of internal bleeding," the doctor said. "Honestly, I just wanted to apologize. We'd have called you sooner if we'd known."
Harvey tilted his head, curious.
"You must have been out of your mind when he got hit. We have a directive to call Imprinted partners as soon as we know, but there's no documentation in his file. Is this -- recent? Are you not documented yet?"
"I'm not Imprinted," Harvey said. "I'm his boss."
"His -- oh -- " the doctor looked embarrassed. "I thought -- really?"
"It's too early on a Saturday for this," Harvey muttered.
"I'm sorry, I assumed when I saw..." the doctor gestured at Mike. "Well. That would explain the lack of documentation. You are here to take him home, though, right?"
"Quickly. Please," Harvey said.
Mike was graciously docile as they loaded Harvey down with printouts on concussions, as Harvey took responsibility for him by signing a million forms, and as they walked to the car. It took him until after he was belted in and Harvey was climbing into the driver's seat to say, "Whoa, you drive?"
"Don't feel special. The car service is a business expense," Harvey said, backing out of the parking spot and heading for the exit of the garage. "This isn't business."
"Technically it's preservation of an asset," Mike pointed out.
"You can't be all that concussed."
"I'm really not. You can take me home, I'll be fine."
"Not so much happening," Harvey informed him.
"Are you gonna like...drop me off somewhere?" Mike asked.
"So you can wander the city in a daze? No. You're staying with me," Harvey said. He wasn't really aware that had been the plan (though clearly it had) until he said it.
"Aw, sweet!" Mike said. "Your place is awesome."
Harvey expected to regret the decision almost immediately, but once he had Mike set up on the couch, with a change of clothes and some hastily-assembled breakfast, he realized he felt...settled. Relaxed. Perhaps more so than he had in his own home in weeks.
Harvey made really good bacon. Mike was impressed. He knew from experience how hard it was to make it just the right kind of crispy.
The fact that he was zeroed in on the texture of the bacon Harvey had cooked for him was a good reminder that he was, in fact, concussed, and shouldn't voice these things out loud.
It was just such a relief to be somewhere other than his apartment, to find some food that didn't taste like crap, to know that someone (Harvey!) was looking after him. Mike could feel a tension in his shoulders fade off in a way that had nothing to do with muscle relaxants.
Harvey was sitting crosslegged on the chair next to the sofa, eating scrambled eggs and watching CNN idly. Mike couldn't bring himself to focus on the news anchors, but the commercials were way more entertaining than usual. He felt warm and satisfied, like comfort was coming off Harvey in waves, when really all Harvey had done was make some crispy bacon and not burn the toast.
Mike found himself eyeing the scrambled eggs on Harvey's plate. It took Harvey approximately no time at all to notice, but instead of glaring, he just scooped some onto a slice of toast and handed it over. Mike took it in the spirit of we're not talking about this in which it was offered, and ate it quietly.
"What were you clearing your head from?" Harvey asked out of nowhere, once Mike had finished eating.
"Nothing in particular," Mike said. "I just felt jumpy. Obviously it didn't work very well."
"Nothing going on in the office? Trevor bugging you again?"
Mike could hear how much Harvey loathed Trevor. The strength of it startled him; he knew Harvey hated the guy but normally he also didn't let it show to this extent.
"While I acknowledge I am a monumental fuck-up," he said, "no. I'm not in trouble. Work or home."
"Then for a monumental fuck-up you're doing okay," Harvey said, and actually smiled as he returned from putting their plates in the sink. "News is about to cycle around again. TV on or off?"
"Can I read?" Mike asked. Harvey shook his head. "DVDs?"
"Pick something without any explosions or strobe lighting," Harvey said, gesturing at his DVD shelf. Mike got up slowly, creakily, and began scanning them.
"If you have stuff to do today, I'm seriously fine," he said, as he squinted at the slightly blurry titles.
"Catch-up work, nothing important," Harvey replied, dropping back into the chair. "I was going to sleep in, go to the building gym later."
"Your building has a gym?"
"All the modern conveniences," he heard Harvey drawl. "Hey, when did you get hit this morning?"
"I don't know," Mike replied. "I wasn't tracking the time. Sixish? Maybe six thirty. No, wait..." he held up a hand. He'd left his place at five twenty-three. He ran through the playlist he'd listened to in his mind, adding up the times on each. "Six oh four. And thirty seconds, give or take."
"Don't you ever worry your head's going to fill up?" Harvey asked, after a pause.
"I don't think memory works that way," Mike said. He started to twist around, then thought better of it and turned his whole body.
"Why not?" Harvey asked, slouched in the chair.
"Because if I did, then I'd have nightmares," Mike said, turning back, wincing a little. "Imagine waking up one day and remembering everything up to a point, and nothing after."
"There was a documentary about memory and brain damage -- "
"Don't tell me about it," Mike said, cutting him off.
"Why?" Harvey asked.
Mike paused. "Because then I'd have nightmares." He held up a DVD case. "The Petrified Forest?"
"I'll allow it," Harvey agreed, and Mike went to put the DVD into Harvey's ridiculously complicated media center.
Harvey didn't really know much about Imprinteds from a social standpoint. He knew in detail how the law saw them. As an associate he'd taken a pro bono case where an Imprinted couple claimed a hospital hadn't recognized their status and provided suitable accommodation. But the rest hadn't mattered, so he'd focused on the law, and naturally he'd won.
He knew what anyone knew, that Imprint was for life and that extended or distant separation could cause serious anxiety, in some cases death. Imprinted partners could work apart, even live apart, but not with any real degree of comfort. Most had no desire to.
Wikipedia probably wasn't the best place to start, but it was the one closest to hand. Mike had fallen asleep about three minutes into the movie, and Harvey had seen it before, so he quietly opened his laptop and brought up the page on Imprinting. He was curious as to why the doctor had thought he had Imprinted on Mike, of all people.
While there are valid questions as to the methodology of these tests, experiments have been performed where Imprinted partners were separated and one was asked to describe various media the other was experiencing. The accuracy of their abilities suggests some extrasensory connection, though no evidence of direct telepathy exists. Imprints claim to be able to sense moods and communicate wordlessly, and documented cases exist in a larger-than-anecdotal number where an Imprinted was aware of their partner's trauma before being informed of it. Two theories exist about this phenomenon:
1. That Imprinted partners are so similar in personality and thought pattern that they are able to share a two-person "collective unconscious"
2. That Imprinted partners are highly sensitive to unconscious cues, in their partners but also in those around them.
The second theory may explain why children of Imprinted pairs often display unusual abilities in pattern recognition, recall, and interpersonal skills. Many children of Imprinted pairs have enjoyed successful careers in advanced mathematics, physics, medicine, and politics.
That explained a few things.
Mike wasn't in the habit of confiding in Harvey, and that was the way they both liked it, Harvey thought. But Mike had seen Donna reading a romance novel from the "Sensuous Imprint" Harlequin series, and he'd mentioned in an offhanded way that his parents had been Imprints. She'd mentioned it in a less than offhanded way to Harvey, who had mostly ignored it because he couldn't think of anything less relevant to anything than Mike's parentage.
But it explained how Mike had lost both parents at once -- even if one had survived whatever killed the other, partners sometimes died of Imprint shock at the loss. And it explained Mike's unusual brain, though perhaps not his total inability to act like a normal person in public.
It is extremely unusual for Imprinted partners to be unaware of their condition. Sensitivity to mood (and anxiety when separated) usually indicate Imprinting even when what has been described as the "A-ha!" moment does not occur. Only two known exceptions exist (see Murray-Robertson Test).
Cases of unconscious Imprint may not be documented if partners never become aware of Imprint. Imprinted partners who work or live closely together may not realize Imprint has occurred. Statistical modeling in this case is difficult.
He glanced over at the train wreck sleeping -- sprawling -- all over his couch. He could believe Mike would Imprint without knowing it, because Mike cared about everyone, indiscriminately, and he'd probably think it was just another person he had to look after.
Harvey, on the other hand, was rational about these things. He didn't care about anyone. So if he did care about someone, he'd notice, and he'd damn well do something about it. Preferably involving separation as soon as possible so that Imprint wouldn't take.
Christ, what a thought. Living in someone's pocket all the time, having to get the state to document that you were hopelessly and endlessly in love, dying when they died...
Who would want that?
Mike couldn't figure out why Harvey had brought him home, and in the first few concussed hours didn't really care. Harvey had a sweet place and a great DVD collection. He'd fed him breakfast and lounged around with him like he'd been looking for an excuse to goof off from being Harvey Specter, Infamous Lawyer. His couch was comfortable and the sunlight washing over it through the windows warmed him while he slept.
When he woke, slowly and languidly, Harvey was gone from the chair. Mike pushed himself up with a twinge of stiff pain, then slid his legs around and stood, scanning the room. No Harvey. He'd mentioned something about a gym; he was probably gone for his workout.
Mike stumbled to the kitchen, where prescription painkillers sat on the counter like a beacon of joy. He dry-swallowed one and wondered what to do now. Instinctively he felt like he should find the gym and go see Harvey, but that was absurd even to his rattled brain.
No, what he should do was wash, because he felt sticky with sweat from the ride that morning, sleep-sweat from just now, road grit from when he'd fallen (though they'd washed most of that off at the hospital). Harvey probably had the coolest bathroom ever.
When he finally found it, after discovering Harvey's coat closet, walk-in private closet -- so many suits! -- and linen closet, it was even cooler than he'd imagined. One wall, like the living room, was floor-to-ceiling glass. There was a shower at one end of the bathroom and a jacuzzi-tub at the other, in front of the glass.
Experimentally, he pushed a button above the tub. Immediately the glass fogged over, turning opaque. Mike had to stagger out to the bedroom to see if that part had gone opaque too. It hadn't, but he saw another button there that would probably do the same thing.
He ducked back into the bathroom, pushed the button a few times just to amuse himself, then left it opaque and considered his odds of standing upright in the shower. He turned back to the tub and spun the tap on. Immediate hot water.
Figuring out the plug mechanism took longer than it probably should have, but once he got the jets off and the plug on the tub started to fill and Mike shed the shirt and pants Harvey had loaned him, sinking into the steaming water with a groan. It was almost uncomfortably hot but after a minute or two he got used to it, sliding down further to soak the bruises along his ribcage and arms. He flicked the tap off and let himself go limp, happily, ducking under for a moment to wet his hair.
He heard a door slam somewhere, and then Harvey call out, "Mike!"
"BATHTUB!" Mike yelled, without opening his eyes. There was another noise, and then Harvey's voice, way too close.
"I see you found the modesty button."
Mike jolted upright, eyes flying open. Harvey, sweaty in a t-shirt and track pants, barefoot, was leaning in the doorway.
"Relax, rookie, you don't have anything I haven't seen," Harvey said, crossing to the sink (back, thankfully, to Mike) and splashing cold water on his face, rubbing it through his hair. "Hustle it up, I want a shower."
"So shower. You don't have anything I haven't seen," Mike mirrored back at him. "I want to stay here forever."
"Was that a dare?" Harvey asked, looking at him in the mirror. "Because I will strip down right here, but I don't want to make you feel inadequate."
"I'm pretty sure I'd survive," Mike informed him. "My brain's not my only impressive feature."
Harvey laughed over the sink, tossing him the towel he'd left there after stealing it from the linen closet. "Okay, kiddo, time to be a grownup and not get the tape measures out. Dry off and find something to wear, I'm not giving you sexual harassment material for future lawsuits."
Mike, with what he hoped was a sufficient amount of dignity, climbed out of the bathtub and wrapped the towel around his waist. He didn't even look to see if Harvey was watching in the mirror.
When Mike was gone, pointedly turning the glass clear again on his way out, Harvey unclenched his death grip on the bathroom counter and closed the door. He tossed his shirt on top of Mike's on the floor, adjusted himself gingerly before peeling off his track pants, and turned the shower on.
Clearly he wasn't getting laid often enough. Well, at all.
He washed quickly, checked the bedroom to make sure Mike wasn't lying in wait in a towel or something, then dressed in clean clothes and wandered out into the kitchen. Mike was back on the couch, and he had Harvey's laptop propped on his legs.
It occurred to Harvey for the first time in months that there was something off about the way the two of them interacted. A computer was a reasonably private thing -- one might have bookmarks on there one didn't want other people to see, and emails shouldn't be read by anyone but their intended recipient. Sometime during Mike's first few weeks on the job, though, they'd taken to swapping out, using whichever machine was closest and passing them to each other to make points or share information. Harvey continued to be astounded at Mike's lack of curiosity in that regard, but he returned it respectfully, not reading open browser windows or opening minimized files in the task bar.
When he brought over a glass of juice for Mike (juice and a splash of vodka, for himself) he saw Mike had minimized his wikipedia window and was shopping for a new bike, multiple windows open while he read forum discussions about urban riding and compared the merits of a few higher-end road cycles.
"You should get a motorcycle, if you're going for continued peril to life and limb," Harvey said, settling down next to him, studying the bikes over his shoulder.
"Defeats the point," Mike answered. He smelled like Harvey's shampoo. "It's all the disadvantages and none of the perks."
"What perks?" Harvey asked.
"It's green, it's a good workout, and you don't get arrested for riding it on the sidewalk," Mike said absently. "You don't get any of that with a motorcycle but you still get the danger in traffic and the high theft potential. Not to mention the gas and insurance."
"Speaking of insurance," Harvey said. "This guy who hit you."
Mike shrugged, then winced. "Hit and run. One minute I was riding, the next I was flat on my back. Didn't see him. The cops'll put the word around to local body shops, probably won't find anything. Won't be the first time."
Harvey looked at him, questioning. Mike smiled.
"Least this time I have money to buy a new one. I don't think I've ever bought a brand-new bike before," he added thoughtfully.
"What happened when you didn't?"
Mike studied the screen. "That was only once. Trevor found me one. I think he swapped a bong for it."
"Classy," Harvey remarked, voice dripping with sarcasm.
"I paid him back when I had the cash."
"I wasn't referring to you." Harvey leaned forward before Mike could reply. "That one," he said, pointing to a sleek black model, the most expensive of the four open on the screen.
"All sex, no substance," Mike said, shaking his head gingerly. "That's not like you, Harvey."
"No, I'm sex and substance," Harvey agreed, and Mike snorted. "Not like me?"
"Just to jump for the most expensive. The point is quality, right?" Mike asked, turning to look at him. "See? I'm getting it."
Harvey sat back, because for a moment their heads had been very close together. "Maybe you are," he allowed.
That afternoon it occurred to Mike that he should call people.
He called his grandmother first, guiltily, and told her he probably wouldn't be in to visit tomorrow, downplaying the severity of the accident so she wouldn't worry. She was still fretful and anxious until he told her he wasn't alone, that Harvey was looking after him, and then she calmed down.
"Well, if it's Harvey," she said finally. "He's probably very responsible."
"Totally," he said. "I'll call you tomorrow and I'll come by on Tuesday, okay?"
"Love you, Michael. Feel better."
"Love you too," he said, and hung up, still feeling faintly guilty that when he'd thought to call anyone from the hospital, he'd called Harvey first, unhesitating. He glanced over at Harvey, who was settled on the other end of the sofa, going through paperwork for Monday. "I should call Trevor," he said hesitantly.
Harvey gave him a look that somehow managed to be both totally impassive and completely disapproving. He got up, walking into the bedroom. Mike sighed.
He hadn't really seen much of Trevor since he'd come back from whatever it was he did in Montana. While he'd been gone, Mike had seen Jenny a few times, and she'd sent some pretty unmistakable signals, but she was Trevor's girlfriend, and even if she'd dumped him...well, there was one night he thought it might happen, but he'd backed off. Since then he hadn't seen either of them very often, except for the few days Trevor had stayed with him and somehow managed to increase Mike's nightly restlessness.
Still, they should probably know.
The call went more smoothly than the one with his grandmother. Trevor had wigged the hell out the first time Mike took a car-induced spill on his bike, back when they were teenagers, but he and Jenny had both been through the process several times since then, and he was pretty blase about the whole thing.
"You need me to come over?" he asked. "I got Yankees tickets, but we can scalp them and skip it."
"No, I'm not at my place right now anyway," Mike said, as Harvey drifted back into the living room. "I mean, there's nothing really to do, I'm just going to hang out and admire my bruises. Go to the ball game, have a good time."
"Thanks, man. Jenny says feel better."
"Tell her thanks. Catch a foul ball for me. Call you in a couple of days," Mike said, and hung up. Harvey was sorting through the shelf of records he kept at home, studiously Not Listening.
"Well, that's the sick calls taken care of," Mike said, tossing the phone down.
"Are you going to be fit to work on Monday? Otherwise you might want to call Louis, too," Harvey said, not looking up from his records.
"I'll be fine. Stiff, that's all."
"You probably shouldn't sleep on a sofa tonight," Harvey said. "I can have the car service take you home if you want."
Mike was opening his mouth to reply when Harvey looked up and added, as if on impulse, "But you're welcome to stay here."
The implication was, Mike thought, that he could stay in Harvey's bed, that Harvey would let him do that, and that was weird and unnecessary. Totally unnecessary. But the thought of going home to his claustrophobic apartment where the food never tasted good and he was sometimes just suffused with loneliness...
"Thanks," Mike said. "If that's okay."
"I'd rather keep an eye on you anyway," Harvey replied, and took a record out of its sleeve, handling it by the edges as he put it on the turntable nearby.
Harvey wouldn't let him help with the work, but he stayed nearby for the rest of the afternoon, first working with the music on and then, after Mike dozed off and woke again, turning the record off to put in another movie.
Mike took pills when Harvey gave them to him, ate food when it was put in front of him -- first popcorn in the afternoon, then some kind of soup much later, when the sky outside was darkening, though he'd lost the thread of time at that point a little. He remembered thinking Harvey hadn't wanted him to sleep on the sofa, but he was so tired. He had faint, faint memories of pressure and dizziness and fabric under his hands, movement and then the shock of cold sheets, but only for a moment, and then he was dead to the world again.
When he woke the next morning, he was conscious of two things: that he was in Harvey's bed, and that everything hurt.
It was a soreness he was accustomed to after a fall, especially the day after, but it was still a shock. Trying to move made him feel old and stiff and miserable, but he wanted a drink of water, wanted to pee and take a shower and eat some food. Getting out of bed would be difficult, but once he was upright he could shuffle at least into the kitchen for water and a pain pill.
He was sitting on the edge of the bed, trying to stretch out his sore spine, when he realized what he'd thought was a pile of clothes on a chair (as if Harvey would ever be that careless) was actually Harvey, slumped down, head tilted back, sleeping.
He knew he should feel guilt or shame or something at the fact that Harvey had obviously walked him to the bed and given the bed itself up in favor of sleeping uncomfortably in a chair (well, mostly uncomfortably, the chair looked pretty plush). But all he could summon was a warm sense of rightness, of fondness even, the kind of tolerant affection he'd seen in his mother's face when he was young and his father had done something monumentally goofball -- like the time Dad had given Mike a facepaint Yankees logo on his cheek but used permanent marker instead of facepaint. (Mike had been the world's most visible Yankees fan for three weeks.)
He laughed a little at the memory, and Harvey stirred; yawned and stretched, shoulders shifting, and slumped further down in the chair, opening his eyes.
"Morning," he said sleepily. "Need anything?"
"I'm good," Mike said, pushing himself to his feet with the aid of the headboard. Harvey stretched again and stood up.
"Let me -- "
"No, I got it," Mike said. "More I move around, better I'll feel."
"Is that medical advice or stoner logic?" Harvey asked, wandering past him and out into the other room.
"The voice of experience," Mike said, taking a few shuffling steps forward. His hips hurt, and his calves felt charley-horsed.
"I'm ordering breakfast in," Harvey called. "Pancakes okay?"
"Please," Mike agreed, taking another hesitant step or two. Harvey reappeared in the doorway with a pill in one hand and a glass in the other. Mike took them, downed the pill gratefully and drank, then reoriented himself towards the bathroom.