It's December, 1998. Bill Clinton's in the White House (maybe not for long; impeachment hearings are set for the new year) and Barenaked Ladies are on the radio a lot.
Harvey knows the former, because he's following the legal twists like all the other students. He's sketchy on the latter because at the moment he's in the middle of 2L at Harvard Law and despite giving every impression of never working, working is basically all he does. Learning how to make what he does seem effortless is, he thinks, one more part of the training that started with Jessica plucking him out of juvie and will end --
Well, in a Senior Partner position at Pearson Hardman, but he doesn't know that yet. Right now his dreams are a little simpler: beating Scotty in Moot Court, getting his JD in at least the top five of his class, passing the Bar, and going to work at Pearson Hardman.
So he does things like this, where he goes out with his classmates on a Friday night to a local club and pretends to drink five or six Jack & Cokes while nursing the same one all night, then ditches out with the intimation that he's found a pretty girl. After which he goes to the library and studies for a few hours before heading back to the tiny apartment which is ugly and awful but cheap and all his.
It's just coming up on one in the morning, freezing cold and snowing. His scholarship pays for his books and classes, and for his rent, but he has a few little student loans for things like warm clothes and food. For the first time in a long time his boots are leather, his coat is thick black wool, and he's grateful for both as the wind cuts its way down the street, blowing the edges of the heavy coat around his legs. It's a miserable night, and if he didn't have an image to maintain he might have found a quiet place to sleep in the library instead of walking home. He wouldn't be the first law student to do so.
At first he thinks the shadow in the doorway of the building is a bag of trash. His neighbors have a habit of pulling that bullshit and Harvey gets pissed off about it and then they're good for a month and then they do it again. But it's big for a trash bag, and oddly striped --
His brain finally makes sense of what his eyes are showing him, sorting out the bag's creases into arms, the strange stripes into hands and a face, the corners into feet. There's a man sitting in his doorway, wearing a long-sleeved shirt but no coat or gloves, head slumped over.
It's 1998, and most people don't have cellphones yet, so Harvey thinks detachedly that he's going to have to climb over the dead body in his apartment building's doorway to get to a phone to call the police.
He's standing there, staring at the body, keys jingling lightly in his gloved hand, snow beginning to pile on his shoulders, when the dead body moves.
"Holy fucking -- " Harvey jerks back, startled, as the arms unfold and the tipped head straightens and the eyes open. "Jesus Christ!"
It's not a man, hardly more than a boy, looking up at him in dazed surprise. He has bright blue eyes, and shaggy dark-blond hair rising in a widow's peak over his young face.
They stare at each other for a minute or two, and then the boy scrambles up, out of the doorway and down into the slurry that's beginning to form on the walkway. He's wearing sneakers, no socks, jeans. He tucks the ends of the black shirt's sleeves over his hands.
"Sorry, dude," he says. "I was waiting for someone."
It's 1998, and Harvey Specter is twenty-three years old and not a moron.
"Who?" he asks.
"Jamie," the boy answers promptly.
There's a list of names next to the buzzer box. Jamie Allen used to live in Harvey's apartment, and he knows that because he never bothered to change out the nameplate.
"Bullshit," Harvey says.
He wants to tell the kid to scram, that nobody in this building has anything worth stealing, but the kid shivers and nods and his fingernails are blue from the cold.
"There's a steam vent," the kid says, pointing. Harvey knows this; everyone walking through the door gets a blast of warm, soap-scented air from the basement laundry room as they unlock it. "I was just trying to stay warm."
"How old are you?"
Harvey just gives him a look.
"Sixteen next month," the boy mutters.
Harvey knows better than to ask where the kid's parents are. He also knows better than to ask why he isn't in a shelter. This time of year the shelters are full; for a kid like this they'd call his parents and then CPS and even if they let him stay, pretending to be eighteen, shelters are...not good sometimes.
He was, five minutes ago, contemplating the idea of a dead young man in his doorway. He has no intention of making it a reality, but freezing waifs aren't his problem.
Harvey makes a split-second decision, because he's cold and tired and doesn't want to stand here all night and anyway even if he leaves the kid here he has to go inside to call the police, so.
"What's your name?" he asks, as the boy begins edging away.
"Just Mike to you."
Harvey grins. There's a spark of defiance there he likes. "Look, you only have my word that I'm not a perv, and I only have your word you're not a junkie or a thief," he says, unlocking the door and swinging it open. "But I have to make this offer because even if we were, we'd still be human beings. You want to come inside and warm up?"
Mike looks longingly at the shaft of yellow light from the inside hallway, then suspiciously at Harvey.
"I'm Harvey," Harvey tells him. "I'm a law student. Promise I'm not a serial killer."
"That's exactly what a serial killer would say," Mike points out.
"Suit yourself," Harvey replies, and walks inside. But he leaves the door open as he unlocks his apartment. When it swings shut, there's the creak of cheap sneakers behind him.
His apartment is almost too warm after the walk from the library, but while he's setting his bag down and hanging up his coat, prying off his boots, Mike gravitates to the hissing radiator on the other side of the room. In the light from the shadeless bulb overhead, he can see the way the shirt hangs on Mike, a combination of damp and skinniness, and the dark wet stains on the cuffs of his jeans where he's trod through snow.
"Were you actually planning to survive outside on a night like this in wet clothing?" Harvey asks, going to the kitchenette and taking a bottle of milk out of the fridge.
"Steam vent," Mike replies.
"Surely you could have found some twenty-four-hour drugstore to loiter in," Harvey says.
"They kicked me out after an hour," Mike answers. Well, he's marginally resourceful, anyway. Harvey goes to the doorless closet that sits in the hall between bedroom and bathroom, taking out a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt.
"Go warm yourself up," he says, tossing them to Mike, who catches them with hands whose fingers don't quite work properly. "Shower's through there."
Mike goes rigid.
"Door locks," Harvey adds casually.
When they were little, his brother used to bring home stray cats -- also dogs, and the occasional squirrel. Harvey learned early that the best way to, say, get a stray cat out from behind the couch was to ignore it until it came out on its own. So he goes about his business, digging in a cupboard for various canisters and bottles, until the soft shuffling noises behind him die off. When he turns around, there's a pair of wet sneakers by the door. Water runs in the bathroom. Harvey finds a tupperware box of leftover chili and dumps it into one pot (microwaves are a luxury he vows one day he will have) while he pours milk into the other.
The trick to really proper hot chocolate is complicated. The chocolate has to melt in the milk, which has to heat slowly, then you add sugar and just a little bit of cinnamon and stir it for a while until it's thick. When Mike emerges, Harvey's still at the stove, which seems to reassure him; he sits down on the threadbare sofa and puts his hands in his lap and is very still.
His fingers have lost that scary white tinge, though, and his cheeks are flushed. He's stolen a pair of Harvey's socks, a good sign, and a little of the wariness has left his eyes.
"How long have you been on your own?" Harvey asks, stirring the chili. It has beef and chopped up kielbasa and lots of beans in it; if nothing else this manchild is going to get one good meal before Harvey turns him over to Child Protective Services.
"Two days," Mike replies.
"Where'd you spend last night?"
"On a bus," Mike replies.
"You left somewhere presumably warmer and came here?"
"Well, I didn't think about checking the weather patterns," Mike replies, and Harvey laughs.
"Yeah, okay, fair enough," he says, pouring the hot chocolate carefully into a Yankees mug for himself and a Harvard-branded mug (given to him at Orientation, a weird gift he's always thought) for Mike. The chili goes into cereal bowls, and voila. Late night dinner.
"It's not fine dining," he warns, as he passes a bowl and the mug to Mike, who sniffs the cocoa suspiciously before sipping.
"Thank you," Mike says. Whoever raised the kid taught him manners, at least. He takes a careful bite of the chili, then sits back on the couch, tucks his legs up so that the bowl is cradled between thigh and chest, and begins to shovel the food into his mouth. Harvey just settles in the chair at his desk, the only other place to sit, and sips his cocoa.
"Yankees," Mike says, nodding at his mug, mouth full of food. "Good choice."
"Thanks. You a New Yorker?"
Mike nods, then looks like he wishes he hadn't. But he keeps eating.
"Why come to Cambridge?" Harvey prods gently.
"First bus leaving New York, furthest I could get on a budget," Mike replies. There's something he wants to add, Harvey can see that, but he doesn't. "You?"
"Harvard," Harvey says.
Mike looks around the little living room slash dining room slash kitchen slash study, then looks back at Harvey like he's wondering what a rich Ivy League boy is doing in a dump like Harvey's.
"I'm on a scholarship," Harvey tells him.
Mike gets a subtly wistful look, like a scholarship is more than he can dream of -- like Harvey just said I'm the prince of Sweden, slumming it.
"Is there anyone I can call for you?" Harvey asks, and Mike shakes his head. "Nobody worrying about you? Girlfriend, boyfriend...?"
Mike laughs. "No. There's nobody."
There is somebody, Harvey can see that, but it's somebody Mike desperately doesn't want him to call. Mike tugs up his sleeve a little, absently, and Harvey can see the unmistakable shape of the bruise around his wrist. Just the crescent of thumb and forefinger, but if Mike rolled it up further he knows he'd see the other three fingers, printed like a brand on his bony arm.
Mike finishes his chili, unaware of Harvey studying the purple-green bruise (about, oh, two days old?) and scrapes the bowl for the last morsels of sauce. Wordlessly, Harvey offers his own uneaten bowl of food.
"No, thank you," Mike says. "That's yours."
"I ate dinner already," Harvey replies, because the bruise is souring any hunger he might have felt. He offers the bowl again, and Mike takes it, eating slower now but still steadily, washing the chili down with cocoa.
"It's good," Mike says, indicating the cocoa.
"Thanks," Harvey says. He gathers up Mike's empty bowl and puts it in the sink with the pans, running water into them. As he's turning back, the radiator clanks, and Mike startles.
Harvey leaves him to finish the food, going about his nightly routine -- checking the locks, setting out his clothing for tomorrow in the bedroom, sorting through his homework and books and making everything tidy. He can feel Mike's eyes on him, sometimes, but he ignores it until Mike stands and, carefully following Harvey's example, puts the bowl into one of the pots in the sink, already filled with water. Then he returns to the sofa and sits quietly again, still and oddly obedient-looking. Harvey sets his books down and returns, this time sitting on the opposite end of the sofa from Mike.
"So," he says. "Here's the problem."
Mike looks wary.
"I can't send you back out into that," Harvey jerks his head at the window, where snow is falling harder now. "But you're a kid, and keeping you here could get me into some pretty deep trouble if anyone is looking for you."
Mike just watches him.
"So I'm going to find you a jacket and some decent shoes, and call the po -- "
He doesn't even get the word police out before Mike is standing, hurrying to where his shoes sit by the door.
"No, that's cool," Mike says, shoes squelching as he pulls them on.
"Hey, kid -- "
"You don't have to call the cops, I don't want to get you in trouble," Mike says, stammering and stuttering, his hands shaking as he tries to lace up his shoes. Harvey stays where he is.
"Mike, calm down."
"No, I'm fine, I'll just go -- I mean I can walk to the train, get it back into Boston, there's a shelter that'll be serving breakfast soon," Mike says, and one of the laces snaps on his shoes. "Fuck!"
"Okay, I won't call the cops," Harvey says. "Just stop putting your shoes on."
Mike is still struggling, but Harvey thinks he probably has about five minutes before Mike can actually get the damn things on his feet.
"Are you in trouble?" Harvey asks. "With the cops?"
"Because if you are, I know a lawyer -- "
"I'm not -- " Mike is struggling to knot the one shoe he's managed to get on. He crouches to get closer, one knee on the ground, but the lace is too short now to tie.
"It's not like people think it is," Harvey says carefully. "I interned with a social services advocacy group last summer. CPS isn't like on TV, most kids get a good home -- "
"If they make it to CPS," Mike says, pulling the lace out to try and get enough length to tie it.
"Why wouldn't you make it into the system?" Harvey asks quietly.
Mike bows his head, gives up on tying the shoelace, and just shakes for a while. He's not sobbing, but Harvey can see the tears rolling down his face. He had, for a little while, forgotten that he wasn't speaking to an adult, but to a scared teenager who apparently doesn't have a single friend in the world.
He stands up, and Mike is standing in a heartbeat. Harvey holds up his hands.
"Not gonna touch you," he says.
"My dad's a cop," Mike blurts.
Harvey, two years ago, would have looked involuntarily at the wrist, now covered in sleeve, where the bruise is. Instead, he keeps his eyes on Mike's.
"He isn't so nice to me," Mike adds, looking down.
"Okay, I'm not calling the cops," Harvey says. He glances at the cordless phone sitting on the kitchen counter. Mike follows his gaze. "Go ahead. That's the only phone. Take it."
Mike slowly slides his foot out of the wet shoe, keeping his eyes on Harvey as he crosses to the phone and takes it out of its cradle, holding it against his chest.
"Now, let's sit down, okay?"
Mike nods. He returns to the sofa slowly, and Harvey sits on the chair again.
"Where's your mom?" Harvey asks.
"Dead," Mike says, into his lap, like he's talking to the phone.
"And your dad's a New York cop?"
"They're all fucking buddies, you know," Mike says bitterly. "They run my name, they'll know who my dad is. What he is, anyway. They'd send me back. Probably in handcuffs."
"And you'd get the shit kicked out of you," Harvey surmises. Mike sniffles, wiping his nose carefully not on his sleeve (the sleeve of Harvey's shirt) but on his wrist. "That's why you had to get out of New York."
"My buddy Trevor got arrested for dealing," Mike said. "Somehow that meant I got my ass beat."
Harvey sees, in a crystallising instant, Mike's whole simple teenaged life: a best friend who can't be trusted and a dad who beats him.
He runs a hand over his face, feeling suddenly tired and way too young for this.
"Okay, it's late," he says. "Obviously neither of us are making good decisions. Here's the deal. I don't call the cops, you sleep on my sofa tonight."
Mike frowns at him. "What's in it for you?"
"No headline tomorrow reading Teen runaway found frozen to death," Harvey replies. "I have exams coming up, I don't need the guilt."
Mike narrows his eyes. "I keep the phone."
"I keep your shoes."
He can see Mike considering the counteroffer. Finally, he nods jerkily. Harvey gets up and walks to the bedroom, pulling his spare blanket down from a shelf. He offers it to Mike, who takes it and unfolds it, curling up under it but still watching him closely. Harvey picks up the shoes, waggles them -- Mike waggles the phone back, almost smiling -- and then Harvey goes to his bedroom, shuts the door, and tosses the shoes in a wastebasket. Then he lies down and, to his surprise, sleeps remarkably well.