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Here at the end of all things

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It's strange to think that he can't remember exactly how or when this started. It was a subtle descent into chaos. Mike does remember the feeling of unease, the knowledge that something terrible and irrevocable was happening, that there was no going back from this. He started reading all he could, from fighting skills to medical texts to surviving in the wild and everything in between. He prepared for the world he knew was coming like an unstoppable locomotive.

He does remember the day everything officially goes to hell. A state of emergency is declared and because he doesn't know what else to do he slings his pre-packed bag over his shoulder (it contains a few changes of clothes, some bottles of water, a couple of non-perishable cans of food and a few photos he couldn’t bear to part with) and bikes into the city. He keeps his eyes forward and tries to ignore the chaos around him. Sirens pierce the air and his bike skirts over broken glass from looted storefronts and whenever he sees people violently fighting over supplies he just keeps his head down and peddles all the faster.

The city feels weird. Entire streets are deserted while others are full of cars packed bumper to bumper as people try and escape the city. When he arrives at the Pearson Hardman building he takes his bike inside with him because right now it's the most important thing he owns. The lobby is quiet and empty. When he makes it up to his floor he leaves his bike by his cubicle and begins searching the floor for signs of life. The lights are dimmed and the floor is deserted. His feet carry him to Harvey's office even though he expects it to be empty. Because Harvey probably fled the city via helicopter or teleporter or sheer force of will. But when he approaches the office he can see that Harvey is there. He has moved the couch so that it now faces the floor to ceiling windows and Mike stands in the doorway for a moment and just stares at the back of Harvey's form. He takes a deep breath before quietly moving into the office. He sits silently beside Harvey, joins him in looking down at the chaos engulfing the city below.

They sit in silence for a long time. Helicopters fly past the windows. Night falls slowly and in the distance Mike can see several fires raging out of control.

"I didn't have anywhere else to go," Mike says eventually.

After a long pause Harvey replies with, "Me neither."

 

 

 

Phones were the first thing to go. It took mere minutes for every single person to try and contact their loved ones and the lines became so jammed they ended up just shutting them down. TV's lasted a few days longer, a never ending news cycle of deaths and disease, of thefts and assaults, of no good news and no cure and no way back, of the total and immediate breakdown of society.

When the TV goes black Mike turns to Harvey and says, "We should get out of the city."

"And go where?" Harvey counters. When Mike has no answer Harvey continues with, "Everyone is getting out of the city. It will probably end up being safer here."

Mike doesn’t think that’s entirely true but he can't really argue with him because he has no other suggestion. They have remained safe and undisturbed in Harvey's apartment for the last week. It seems like tempting fate to venture out into the insanity that awaits on the city streets. From Harvey's window they have seen muggings and rapes and killings and have been unable to do a single thing, lest they want to be killed too. This is the world they live in now and Mike has never been so glad to be an orphan with no living relatives – he has no one to worry about and for the first time he is thankful for his Grammy's passing so she didn't have to see the world descend into this.

All he has now is Harvey. The man who if asked will still say he doesn’t care about Mike or anyone, even though Mike saw him throw a glass across the room when they witnessed a teenage girl fleeing from two men twice her age and size. All he has is Harvey and he is all Harvey has too.

They haven’t seen or heard from anyone since the world broke. Mike thinks about Rachel and Donna and fervently hopes they are okay. He even wonders about Jessica and Louis and Trevor and Jenny and Harold and Benjamin and Kyle. He hopes they are all safe though he knows the odds of that are small. Because the last news report he saw before the TV went dark was that between the disease and unrest it's estimated that the world's population has halved.

Half the world has gone and all Mike has is Harvey and he wants to cry and wail at the complete lunacy of it all but he is too numb to even move.

 

 

 

Harvey has a bag full of guns. Because he saw the signs too and while Mike prepared with books and knowledge Harvey prepared by stocking up on protection and working out to ensure he was at optimal physical condition.

Because it's a new world and they can't make it right by suing it. All they can do is try to survive it.

After a fortnight they venture out of the apartment and into the building. Most of the residents apparently escaped the city as soon as the state of emergency was declared and Mike would feel guilty about breaking and entering into their homes and stealing supplies, only this is the way of the world now and he thinks this is better than the alternative.

They stand outside his next door neighbours front door and Harvey puts a gun into his hands. It's heavy and cool to the touch and Mike doesn't think this is such a good idea because he's never so much as held a gun before let alone fired one and he thinks he would end up doing more damage than good and he tells Harvey so.

"Mike, look at me. We are going to grab what we can and leave as soon as we have gotten what we need. You won't need to fire it, but you might need someone to think that you will. Remember, the threat of sanctions-"

"-is better than filing sanctions. I remember," Mike says, something almost like a smile forming against his lips. Practising the law feels like a lifetime ago but of course Harvey is still using it to teach him more lessons. Some things never change. Mike fervently hopes some things never will.

Harvey nods and then knocks on the door, calling his neighbours name. There is nothing but an answering silence so Harvey throws his body weight onto the door and it crashes open loudly. The condo is dark but mercifully empty and they scrounge for supplies (food, water, clothing, batteries, blankets, candles, weapons, medical supplies, anything they think will be useful). They are in and out in a matter of minutes and when they re-enter Harvey's apartment Mike breathes again.

 

 

 

The thing no one tells you about the end of the world is how boring it can be.

With nothing to fill up the hours the days stretch into forever. There is no TV to watch, no internet to surf, no work to do. Mike paces the apartment, watches the city from the windows, reads every book in Harvey's apartment and then grabs more every time they raid a neighbours place and reads those too. And he's not saying he regrets the lack of excitement or action. Because they have remained safe and unscathed and Mike knows how lucky he is. But none of the zombie or outbreak movies he ever saw prepared him for just how boring life becomes during the end of days.

When he feels like he is about to go out of his skin he asks Harvey to play chess or quiz him on the law or do anything to distract him from his thoughts. Harvey usually rolls his eyes but acquiesces, beating him in chess or poker or whatever they do to pass the time.

The power goes out during one such game and Mike's gaze instantly flies to Harvey's when the lights flick off. It's dusk, so there is still enough light to dig out some candles and matches with ease and soon enough the apartment is bathed in soft candlelight.

Harvey joins Mike at the window and hands him a burning candle. The city feels suddenly silent, as though everyone else out there has had that same moment of panic at this latest step closer into the mouth of hell.

"It's never going to be over, is it?" Mike asks.

Harvey doesn’t reply.

 

 

 

Every few days they venture out to the next apartment and slowly make their way through the building. They never hear any voices, never see any other living souls. Mike becomes used to the feel of the gun in his hands, no longer feels any guilt over raiding people's homes. Because they have gone and they sure as hell aren't coming back anytime soon and he thinks that if they knew that their leftover possessions were helping him and Harvey survive they would probably be okay with it.

They get complacent. In the beginning they would stay within sight of each other at all times but weeks have passed and nothing has happened. So Mike doesn't think twice about letting Harvey sleep and he heads downstairs by himself. They have cleared out five floors so far and Harvey's apartment is starting to look like a charity dumping grounds but it's kept them alive so he hasn't complained about the mess too much.

Mike reaches the next apartment on their list and finds the door unlocked so he strides right in and starts looking around. He can't see anything of use in the stuffy and dusty room but even that doesn’t send the alarm bells off. He just keeps looking and when he reaches the kitchen there is already someone there. He is so surprised he doesn’t even think to pull his gun; he just freezes on the spot. The stranger is in soiled and rippled clothes and is rooting around in the cupboards and Mike tries to back away unnoticed but instead reverses straight into the kitchen bench, knocking a plate onto the floor where it breaks with a loud bang.

Before he can even process it the stranger has turned and attacked Mike, stabbing him in the side. Mike collapses onto the floor with a cry and the stranger flees without a word. The pain is unbearable but he presses a hand into the wound, tries to staunch the flow of blood. He feels lightheaded and he needs help but Harvey doesn’t even know where he is and he can't call out for help and God everything fucking hurts.

He crawls along the floor. It's slow going but he just keeps going, using every ounce of his rapidly depleting strength to get out of the apartment. He makes it to the stairwell, a trail of blood behind him, but he doesn’t have it in him to climb the stairs.

His last thought is that Harvey is going to be pissed at him for not using his genius memory to remember he had a gun.

 

 

 

Later, Harvey tells him what happened.

Apparently Harvey woke to an empty apartment and when Mike wasn't sleeping on the couch like normal or sitting by the window he calmly did a room by room search of the condo. When it became clear that Mike wasn't there he absolutely did not panic and fly out of the room in a daze. He also didn’t have a quickly beating heart as he ran downstairs in search of Mike. He did however let a litany of expletives fall from his lips when he discovered Mike unconscious in the stairwell.

He managed to get him up and got Mike conscious enough that together they made it back up to the relative safety of their apartment. Mike babbled the whole way about how sorry he was, how stupid he was, and how deep the wound felt and how it would need to be stitched. He started reciting from a medical text he had read, mumbling the basics on how to sew up a deep cut. He passed out again when Harvey sat him on the couch but luckily they had snagged enough first aid supplies that Harvey managed to stop the rush of blood and stitch him back up.

He absolutely did not stay by his side for the following thirteen hours.

 

 

 

Mike wakes feeling groggy and thirsty and sore but all that pales into insignificance when he sees Harvey.

Harvey is sitting on the couch beside him, elbows to his knees and his head in his hands. He's still in the same clothes and Mike can see a few drops of his own blood on Harvey's shirt. His breath is low and even but apart from that he's completely still.

Mike feels something in his chest tighten at the sight, but before he can dwell on that too long he sits up, slowly and gingerly. He gently places a hand to the back of Harvey's neck and he can feel the older man tremble slightly at the touch. And then Harvey moves a hand through his hair and it meets Mike's, their fingers tangling together.

Harvey doesn’t say anything and Mike thinks he probably doesn’t want Mike to say anything either. But he has never conceded to Harvey's implied demands before so why bother starting now.

"Thank you," he says, and his voice is hoarse and his throat hurts and it feels so stupid and insignificant so he also squeezes Harvey's fingers tighter for emphasis.

Harvey nods but doesn’t look up. They stay like that for a while, sitting there in silence, and when Harvey eventually says, "As soon as you're up to it we're leaving the city," all Mike can do is nod.

 

 

 

Harvey has everything packed and ready to go by the time Mike is up to leaving. All the supplies they have gathered the last few months have been packed into bags and sits by the front door. They haven’t added anything to their stockpiling since Mike's injury and Mike thinks maybe they should just check the rest of the apartments before they leave but Harvey doesn’t want to hear it.

"No, no more, we're leaving this building and getting out of the city and that’s final."

Mike really wants to point out that Harvey isn’t his boss anymore and can't order him around but given he just saved his life that seems a bit petulant so he lets it go. "And where exactly are we going?" Mike asks.

Harvey pauses and if Mike didn’t know better he would think Harvey was trying to come up with an answer on the spot because he didn’t have a plan. Turns out the opposite is true: he did have a plan but he was just anxious about sharing it with Mike.

"I have a place upstate. We're going there. But first we need to swing past the Village."

"To get supplies?" Mike guesses.

"Something like that," Harvey says, and the reply is vague enough to worry Mike but he trusts Harvey so doesn't question it.

When they make it outside and feel fresh air for the first time in months Mike is struck by how quiet everything is. Rubbish floats by on the wind and the street is mercifully empty but then somewhere in the distance Mike can hear a scream and his whole body tenses.

"Come on," Harvey says, and they walk around to the back of the building. The garage was chained and locked but a few shots from Harvey has the chain broken and they pull back the gate. Only there are no cars inside and Harvey groans.

"Guess we're stealing something then," Mike says and Harvey reluctantly nods.

"What do you think the odds are of a 2013 Merc being parked out the front of the building?" Harvey asks and it's such a Harvey thing to say, to be more worried about the type of car they are going to get rather than the possibility of someone coming and murdering them and stealing from their dead bodies, that Mike can't help but laugh. The movement pulls on his wound, which he automatically cups with his right hand. Harvey glances at him, his features twisted into something like concern.

"I'm okay," Mike tells him. "Come on, let's go car shopping."

 

 

 

Turns out there are no late model luxury cars of any kind and Harvey has to settle for a decade old mid-range car that smells slightly of something unidentifiable but it runs well and that is all that really matters.

They drive as fast as they are able, swerving around stationary cars and piles of rubbish and debris. They make it down to the Village in record time (possibly the only good thing to come out of an apocalypse: no commuting problems) but instead of pulling up outside a shop like Mike expected they are parked outside an old brownstone.

"Harvey?" Mike asks tentatively.

"Donna lives here," Harvey says.

Mike gets it. He really does. Donna was the closest thing he had to family after his brother was killed by the disease and he doesn’t begrudge him wanting to make sure she is okay. But honestly, there are really only three ways this could go: Donna could be there safe and sound, they could discover an empty apartment, or the unthinkable could occur and they could find her body alone in the apartment. And for all Harvey's pretence about having no emotions he could never leave while the first option was a possibility. But the odds of this ending happily are small, and Mike wants to prepare Harvey for that.

"Are you sure about this?" Mike asks, and in lieu of replying Harvey gets out of the car but keeps the engine running.

"I'll be back in two minutes."

Mike watches him go, the loaded gun secure in his right hand, and he holds his breath and sends a silent prayer up to a God he knows can't possibly exist and just hopes Harvey returns soon with their favourite redhead in tow.

The time feels like it's going twice as slow as normal but Harvey eventually returns. Alone. He doesn’t say a word, just gets in the car and drives them out of the city.

 

 

 

Mike has gotten used to long stretches of silence in Harvey's presence but that doesn’t mean he isn’t worried still. He wants to ask what he saw, what he knows, but he sees the white knuckles as Harvey grips hard onto the steering wheel and decides it’s a conversation that can wait until later.

They drive all day. He keeps waiting for the surrealism to end but it never does. Because there are bodies in the streets and cars on fire and rubble and mess everywhere. Even once they leave the city it doesn’t get any better. The highways are eerily quiet, just a few cars speeding along and avoiding the abandoned vehicles and trucks on the long stretch of road.

They stop only once, to fill the car with gas. Harvey stands watch while Mike syphons the petrol from an abandoned car. It feels like an eternity as the liquid flows between the cars and Mike feels tense, exposed, just wants to get back in the car and keep going. A stranger stumbles from the bushes and they both turn at the noise, Harvey with a raised gun.

The stranger looks young, maybe twenty years old at best, and he is injured, a clearly dislocated shoulder and blood pouring from a wound on his bicep. In a quiet word he asks, "Help."

Mike automatically moves to go forward but Harvey holds out an arm and blocks his path. "Sorry, kid, but we can't help you," Harvey tells him, and Mike wants to object, to push out of Harvey's grasp and go and help, because what is the point of still being here, of making it through to this if they can't help someone who clearly needs it.

But then another stranger appears and strides forward, gun pointing at them, and Harvey shifts the aim of his weapon and Mike pulls his gun from his pocket, flicking the safety off. The kid pulls a gun from behind him and the four of them hold there in a tense stand-off.

"Drop your weapons and keep walking," the older man demands.

Mike can feel Harvey's grip on him tighten as he says, "Yeah, not so much happening. You need to back off and we can all go our separate ways."

"We need those supplies, friend," the stranger drawls, tilting his head at their clearly stocked up car.

"Walk away," Harvey says, voice hard. "I will shoot."

Both the strangers laugh at that, and Harvey takes advantage of the momentary distraction. He shoots, twice, at the ground near their feet, and they stumble back in a panic. Mike and Harvey jump in the car and speed away.

 

 

 

It takes all day to get to Harvey's place. Night is falling and in any other circumstances Mike would admire how beautiful the garden looks, how inviting the house appears, but all he can feel is relief that they made it here safe and sound and that they didn’t drive all day to discover the house had been destroyed or pillaged in the chaos. But due to Harvey's long absences from the building it was like it was made to withstand the end of the world with its boarded up windows and multiple locks and non-perishable food.

They carry everything inside in as few trips as possible and Harvey lights a fire to take the chill from the air. There are three bedrooms and Mike takes the one closest to the master, dumping his bag with all his worldly possessions onto the crisp bed.

Harvey's nearest neighbour looks after the house in his absence and Harvey resolves to go and check on them in the morning. It's been a long day and after doing a quick and final check of the house (everything is closed and locked and they are alone) they both retire.

Turns out Harvey's neighbours (Kelly and Damien, a married couple in their 50's) are both alive and well. They tell Harvey and Mike that they have had little trouble with looters or strangers needing help. They keep quiet and stay inside as much as possible and just hope to go unnoticed.

"We should check on them, just pop by every few days and make sure they are okay," Harvey says on the walk back to the house.

"Absolutely," Mike agrees with a nod.

 

 

 

It takes a few weeks for Mike to realise.

The thought comes to him at the end of the day, just an ordinary day in which the time was filled with the types of tasks that have become part of everyday life. In the morning he had gone to check on their neighbours, bringing them some vegetables he had plucked from the vegetable patch behind an abandoned house a few blocks away the day before. He had sat and chatted with them for a while before heading back to the house. Harvey had prepared lunch in his absence and they ate at the breakfast bar. In the afternoon Harvey had taken him for target practice at the bottom of his acre of land, shooting empty tin cans. Mike still wasn’t as good as Harvey but he was improving so that was the main thing. In the early evening Mike hand-scrubbed clean a load of laundry and hung the clothes on the back porch to dry.

After the sun had set they moved easily around the kitchen making dinner, and the thought came to him unbidden and he froze in his movements. He and Harvey were living together. It sounds simple and obvious, but in the beginning it was more about surviving together, safety in numbers, a stubborn refusal to abandon each other because they didn't want to completely surrender to this bold new world. But now, everything felt so natural and easy between them, and Mike can barely remember what it was like before - when he would live alone and see Harvey only in three piece suits and they would work and argue and banter. But more than anything, it was the thought that he liked this, that he enjoyed being with Harvey all day, that he preferred him in jeans and t-shirts, with loose and unslicked hair, his hands preparing food rather than million dollar contracts.

And it's not that he likes the world they live in now. Who would? He sleeps with a gun beside his bed and there is no power or hot water and half the world has died and everyone that remains is desperate and lost. But the one upside, the only good thing to come out of this, is Harvey and the life they have somehow managed to create for themselves.

"What is it?" Harvey asks anxiously, and he is instantly on guard as he looks outside through the kitchen window, taking Mike's stillness for panic.

Mike shakes his head, tries to dislodge the thought from his brain. "Nothing. Everything's fine."

It's a lie of course. Nothing will ever be fine again. But just for that one moment, he wants to believe that one day it will be.

 

 

 

Mike misses music, but not as much as Harvey does.

He catches Harvey looking forlornly at his record collection lining the shelves and Mike can't help but remember all the songs he had never heard until he met Harvey. There was Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis and Duke Ellington. He was always more of an alternative kind of guy but he couldn’t deny that the classics that Harvey inflicted on him were beautiful.

He wishes he could give that back to him, but he can't carry a tune to save his life and they agreed the generator was only to be used for emergencies and as much as they miss it music doesn’t count.

Mike has never been more grateful for his eidetic memory because at least it helps stave off the boredom. He can remember verbatim every book he has ever read, every movie he has ever watched, every play he has ever seen. So he sits on the couch, closes his eyes and picks a book off the bookshelf in his mind and starts reading.

"What are you doing?" Harvey asks, coming into the room to see Mike sitting in what looks like a meditation pose, legs crossed and eyes closed.

Mike opens his eyes and looks at Harvey. "Reading."

Harvey furrows his brow for a moment before he realises. "Of course. Genius brain. Got it. What are you 'reading'?" And he actually makes quote marks with his fingers and Mike can't help but smile at that.

Mike shrugs. "Just a book I like. You'd probably hate it."

And of course that is the one thing that would pique his interest. "What makes you say that?"

"Call it a hunch."

Harvey stares at him for a moment, challengingly. But then he asks, "Will you read it to me?"

The request is tentative, from embarrassment or uncertainty Mike can't tell. But he feels like he has so little he can give to Harvey, to pay him back. Harvey was the one whose place they have stayed in and it was his neighbours they stole supplies from and he was the one that drove them from New York and had the weapons and has kept him safe. So he can't refuse him this, even if it feels a little strange, because if it helps entertain Harvey and keep him occupied even just for a little while then all the better.

So Mike nods and starts reciting. "In the time it takes for her to walk from the bathhouse at the seawall of Fortune's Rocks, where she has left her boots and discreetly pulled off her stockings, to the waterline along which the sea continually licks the pink and silver sand, she learns about desire..."

They spend a few hours each evening, sitting in the lounge room with the fire burning, and Mike talks until his voice goes dry. Harvey listens rapturously, never questions or interrupts or mocks, not even with the story gets slightly risqué.

It takes over a week to get through the whole thing. The story ends happily, as all of Mike's favourites do, and when all is said and done Harvey's first question is, "Why do you like that story?"

Mike slinks back into the couch slightly. "You didn't like it?" he asks, regretful that the one thing that has occupied so much of their time wasn't as enjoyable to Harvey as it was to him.

"That's not what I said. Did I say that? I just asked why you like it so much."

Mike has never really thought about it before. Certainly the language the author used was beautiful and evocative, and Mike likes the history that comes with the time period it was set in. But really what it boiled down to was, "Because it's about a love that defies everything: convention, expectation, circumstance, society, time, logic. How can anyone not like or appreciate that."

Harvey nods, and they sit together in silence for the rest of the evening.

 

 

 

They have running water but it's cold. Harvey grumbles about it every day when he has to shower in cold water so one day Mike decides to remedy this.

He sends Harvey to their neighbours for the usual check-in and exchange of goods and information. Harvey usually spends a few hours with them, so as soon as he leaves the house Mike starts putting pots of water on the fire to boil. When the water warms he lugs them to the upstairs bathroom and pours the water into the bath. He has several pots on the go at once and while it won't be the warmest bath Harvey has ever had it will be better than the cold showers he's been enduring.

After a few hours Mike starts keeping watch through the front windows. Finally he sees a figure approach and he bursts through the front door, unable to contain his excitement about his surprise. But it's not Harvey who greets him. The smile on Mike's face falls as he is greeted with the sight of two men, both in their early 30's, approaching the house with raised guns in their hands.

Mike stops short, heart beating hard in his chest. His immediately pulls his own gun from his pocket and points it at them, flicking the safety off.

They have stopped their approach a few metres from the porch. No one says anything, moves a muscle. Mike swallows, tries to stop his hand from shaking, not wanting to betray any weakness.

"You need to leave," Mike says, tries to make his voice as hard as he can.

"Can't do that. We need supplies. And from the looks of you I'd say you have plenty of them." The stranger is wearing a stained plaid shirt and ripped jeans, greasy hair tucked into a trucker cap.

"Yeah, well, I don't. But I do have three friends upstairs who right at this moment are pointing their weapons at you, so do yourself a favour and walk away."

The silent one of the pair raises his eyes to the first floor but Plaid just keeps his eyes locked on Mike's. "I don't believe that," he says, inching closer.

Mike cocks the gun, which causes him to halt. "Believe it."

They stare at each other for a few beats. Mike fervently hopes he can't see the sweat forming on his brow. But then Plaid smirks and starts inching forward again. "No, I think you're all alone, and you've never fired a gun in your life. So step aside or I will make you."

Mike takes a step closer to him, grits out a, "Try it."

No one moves, no one breathes, but then Plaid rushes forward and Mike squeezes the trigger. He still isn’t used to the noise or the kickback but he recovers quickly. Plaid is lying on the ground, a gunshot to the chest and blood is everywhere. His friend turns and runs as quick as his stubby legs will carry him while Plaid bleeds onto the grass. Mike feels numb, is frozen for a few moments in blinding panic. Plaid splutters and coughs and there is so much blood. Mike drops his gun and stumbles down the steps and kicks his gun out of his reach before falling to his knees beside him. He presses his hands to the wound and it's warm and wet and he tries to remember all the medical books he has read but his mind is taken over by a blanket of white noise and he can't concentrate. All he can do is repeatedly babble, "Sorry, sorry, I'm so sorry…"

 

 

 

When Harvey finds him he is sitting on the porch steps, wringing his blood-stained hands and staring straight ahead. It doesn't take long for Harvey to see Mike and Plaid lying dead on the ground for him to work out what happened and he is rushing forward, pulling Mike to his feet and dragging him inside, locking the door behind him.

Mike can hear Harvey's instructions ("Sit down" "Wait there" "Breathe, Mike") and he has enough brain power to follow them but beyond that there is nothing. His head feels stuffy and he can't move, feels like he is going to pass out or throw up. Harvey presses a glass of water to his lips and Mike drinks, on instinct if nothing else.

He can feel Harvey pull the stained shirt over his head, sees the flare of the fire as he throws the material into the fireplace. Harvey has a bowl of water and a washcloth and he takes Mike's hands in his own as he wipes them clean. Harvey's hands are gentle as they work, and Mike can hear the soft hum of Harvey's voice as he tells Mike it wasn't his fault, that he did what he had to do, that he protected himself and protected Harvey. Harvey tells him that he would have done the same thing, that anyone would, that he couldn’t bear to loose Mike too. The words penetrate his ears but he can't process them. It's all white noise.

Then he feels Harvey's thumb swiping across his cheek, wiping a tear that fell from his unblinking eye, and Harvey's touch and the comfort it brings is the only thing to penetrate the walls. He reaches up and grips tightly onto Harvey's hand and he doesn’t let go.

 

 

 

He doesn’t eat and he doesn’t sleep and he doesn’t move. The next morning Harvey brings Kelly over because he doesn’t know what else to do and she gives Mike a quick once over and tells Harvey to just leave him be for a bit. So Kelly sits with him while Harvey and Damien get rid of the body.

Kelly tells Mike about the last day they went into town, when a man grabbed her from behind and she fought and kicked but his grip was too tight and he dragged her into a restroom and threw her onto the floor and God knows what would have happened if Damien hadn't found her. Damien grabbed him and pushed him into the wall, threw his head against the mirror over and over until he stopped moving. Kelly tells him that he needs to do whatever it takes to protect him and Harvey, that that's all that matters now. She pats his hand gently and sits with him in silence until Harvey and Damien return.

Damien says they can stay if he wants and Harvey nods, sets them up in the unused bedroom. All day Mike can hear the three of them bustling around the house, talking and eating and working on securing the house. Once in a while Harvey will sit beside him or grip his shoulder when he walks past or puts food down in front of him. But it's all Mike can do to just keep breathing, to not succumb to the wave of guilt he feels crashing on him.

There is a distant corner of his mind that says he was right, he was justified. But he still took a life, he still killed someone. He has become one of those, the men he used to look at with disgust and pity. And he hates the idea that Harvey could possibly look at him like that. Because Harvey is a good man, always has been, would never perjure himself just to get ahead, went to the ends of the earth to fix his mistakes, took care of Mike when no one else did, and Mike, well, now Mike is tainted. He is ruined and he would do anything to not infect Harvey with this.

Harvey walks by and Mike reaches out and grasps at his arm. Harvey stops instantly, crouches down in front of him, squeezes his knee. "Mike?"

"I can leave if you want," Mike says, voice small and broken.

"What? What are you talking about?" Harvey asks, confused and only slightly terrified.

"If you don't want me here … after what I did … I can leave."

Harvey sighs, a deep breath escaping his lungs and his whole body sags. But then he leans forward, grips at Mike's arms as he says into his ear, "You aren't going anywhere. You and me, we are in this together. We're a team, right? Always have been, always will be."

He squeezes the back of Mike's neck quickly before standing. Mike lifts his head to follow the movement, and it's the most he has moved all day.

 

 

 

Mike wakes screaming.

His chest feels like there is something heavy on it, keeping him pressed to the bed. The nightmare slowly slips from the tip of his mind but the feeling still remains, the terror and guilt and panic.

Harvey bursts into the room, sitting on the bed beside him and pressing a hand to his forehead, whispering soothing words. Damien and Kelly appear in the doorway not long later but Mike has started to calm so with a grimace Harvey sends them back to bed.

Harvey runs his hand through Mike's hair, wipes the damp skin dry. Mike reaches over and grips at Harvey's t-shirt, bunches the material in his fingers, grips so tight it hurts.

It takes a few minutes but Harvey's presence is actually more reassuring than he could ever say and Mike's breathing slowly evens out. He looks up at Harvey and even in the darkness of the room it's like he is seeing him clearly for the first time since he sent him off to Damien and Kelly's two days before.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Harvey asks.

Mike shakes his head, because talking about it, telling Harvey he dreamt of Plaid shooting and killing Harvey, would somehow make it feel more real, even though Harvey is right there, real and alive and breathing before him.

Harvey nods, doesn't press the point. He goes to stand but Mike grabs at his wrist, and asks him to stay. And for whatever reason, maybe because of how broken and desperate he sounds, Harvey nods. He lies down in the bed and Mike rolls onto his side, taking the hand he still holds with him so Harvey is spooned behind him.

Mike manages to finally get back to sleep, where his sleep remains dream-free.

 

 

 

Mike will never be okay with it, but he will learn to live with it.

It takes a few weeks, during which time he barely eats and sleeps only a few hours at a time and flinches at every noise, but slowly he begins to get back to his old self.

And the whole time, Harvey is there. Harvey puts food in front of him and deposits him into his bed at night and he keeps him safe. He is a reassuring presence, his lifeline, the only sane thing in a world that is the personification of insanity.

Mike doesn’t know what he would do without him. He never wants to find out.

 

 

 

Mike can feel Harvey's eyes on him. He ignores it for a long time, just continues washing and cutting the vegetables, moving easily around the kitchen.

But when Harvey continues to stare at him Mike finally stops, turns to him and says, "What is it?"

Harvey lifts his eyes to meet Mike's and says, "Come here."

Mike isn't sure what is going on but he obeys, crossing the kitchen and standing in front of Harvey. Harvey is looking down at his body. He lifts his hands, slowly, and slides them underneath Mike's t-shirt. His hands are warm, gripping at his waist, and Mike can feel the pad of every finger as it presses into his skin. The breath goes from his body and he stares over Harvey's shoulder, doesn’t look at Harvey's face which is screwed up in concentration.

"You're too skinny," Harvey says at last. He withdraws his right hand and uses it to lift Mike's shirt. His left hand traces lightly over the scar Mike has from when he was stabbed.

"I could say the same to you," Mike replies, and he means to sound defiant and certain but it comes out breathless because he is hyper-aware of Harvey's finger idling over his skin and that's all he can concentrate on at the moment.

Mike rests his hands on Harvey's arms, the bridge it is making between their two bodies. Harvey is still looking at his scar, scrutinising his midsection and how much smaller it's gotten, and Mike can't help but think he's now purposely avoiding his gaze. He takes in a deep breath and slowly drags his hands up Harvey's arms and shoulder before cupping his face in his hands, Harvey's beard rough under his fingertips.

This finally gets Harvey's attention and his eyes fly up to Mike's. He withdraws his hands, smooths Mike shirt back down before reaching up and gently wrapping his hands around Mike's wrists, removing them from his skin. The movement is gentle but firm and Mike complies, lets Harvey push him away. Harvey drops his hands and turns and walks out of the kitchen without another word.

 

 

 

One morning they are sitting in the lounge. They are at opposite ends of the couch and Mike is reciting The Cat in the Hat, just to make Harvey laugh.

But Mike can hear something. There is some kind of background noise, imperceptible but definitely there. "Can you hear that?" Mike asks.

Harvey shakes his head. Mike thinks he doesn’t believe him, because he still jumps at every little thing and it always turns out to be nothing. But Mike remains silent and then the noise emerges again and Mike can tell by the quirk of Harvey's face that this time he has heard it too.

They get up and slowly head in the direction of the noise, of the voice. They are silent as they move, and Harvey readies his gun. They follow the noise into the kitchen and are greeted by the sight of an alarm clock with the green numbers flashing with life. The radio is crackling with sound and they haven’t turned on the generator so it must mean the whole house has power. They break out in grins and Mike flies back to the lounge and tries the TV but all the channels are still dark. Harvey brings the radio back into the lounge and they sit on the couch and listen.

News reports are sketchy but there is word of government run camps being set up in capital cities around the country. Armed forces are mobilising and bringing citizens into the safety of the camps. The death toll is unfathomable and the damage widespread but the unrest is slowing.

It only lasts a few minutes before they lose power again but it's enough to get Mike's skin tingling. They sit in silence as each considers what they have heard and eventually Mike asks, "Do you think it's true?"

Harvey turns to him. "I certainly hope so."

"How can you think that? After everything we have seen, everything we have been through?"

"Because I refuse to believe we have made it this far for no discernable reason. Things have to get better; we have to survive."

Mike just stares at him, warmth flooding his body. He grins. "You're an optimist," he says, surprised.

Harvey however looks like he has just called him the worst name imaginable. "No, absolutely not, I-"

"Yes, you are," Mike says, laughing. He starts crawling along the couch towards Harvey. "You're an optimist and you care and have real feelings and you are amazing and…"

Mike kisses him, presses their mouths together and licks at his lips and Harvey opens his mouth for him. Mike moans at the first touch of their tongues. And then everything speeds up; Mike cups his face in his hands and Harvey shifts his body down the couch so he is lying flat and Mike presses his body into his.

Mike grinds his hips into Harvey's and Harvey's hands slip under his shirt, fingers lightly tracing the skin at his back. But then Mike breaks away. He sits up, legs on either side of Harvey's and he quickly undoes the button and fly of Harvey's pants.

"Mike-" Harvey starts but one look from Mike cuts him off.

"No, I don’t want to hear it, Harvey. Let's not do the token protest because we both want this and we both know it."

And to prove it Mike pulls the pants down Harvey's legs and Harvey's hips rise of the couch to help, the action completely giving him away. Harvey nods in concession and reaches over and undoes Mike's pants.

Mike quickly jumps off the couch and divests himself of every stich of clothing below the waist before returning to lying on top of Harvey. He presses his body into his, their cocks hardening with every movement of friction. Mike rocks quickly, capturing his mouth in a desperate kiss. He braces himself with a hand to the couch on either side of Harvey's shoulders as he moves.

"God, I want you so badly," Mike groans into Harvey's ear.

Harvey slips a hand under his shirt and runs the pad of his fingers up and down the length of his torso. But Mike won't be distracted, no matter how ticklish the touch is.

"Fuck, Mike," Harvey gasps when Mike tilts his hips slightly, changes the angle.

It's been so long, for both of them, and Mike is desperate but he wants more, needs to touch and taste. So he crawls down Harvey's body, doesn’t hesitate, runs his tongue along the length of Harvey's cock before sinking his mouth down. He rolls his tongue around the head and Harvey gasps and squirms, pushing up for more. Mike places a hand on his stomach to keep him in place as he shifts up and down. He sucks hard, runs his teeth lightly along the shaft. He can feel Harvey writhe beneath him and he is so turned on he feels like he could come without so much as a touch to his own dick.

"Mike, Mike, Mike," Harvey says, and he grips his hair not to keep him in place but to bring his lips back up to his own. Mike kisses him urgently and Harvey wraps an arm around him as he presses their bodies together. They rock together, the saliva on Harvey's dick slickening their movements and Mike comes without warning, Harvey following soon after.

Mike collapses onto him and Harvey runs a hand up and down his back and they lie together like that for a long time.

 

 

 

"So, are we going to talk about the beard situation or what?" Mike asks, a slight smirk playing at his lips.

"You don't like it?"

"I liked it back when it was shorter, more stubble than beard. That was hot. Now it's looking less 'male model' and more 'homeless beggar'. Plus, if I'm honest, I kinda miss seeing the old you."

Harvey tugs thoughtfully on his beard. "I've never really done the facial hair thing before. With work it was never really appropriate. Thought I would give it a try."

"Do you like it?"

Harvey shrugs, noncommittally. "At this point it's probably just laziness keeping it there."

"Well in that case let's go."

Harvey's forehead crinkles in confusion but Mike has put down his book and crossed the room to him with an outstretched hand. Harvey puts his hand in his and Mike pulls him to his feet, marches him upstairs, keeps hold of his hand the whole time.

They enter the bathroom and after a tip of the head from Mike Harvey hops up onto the counter. Mike readies all the necessary implements before standing in the space between Harvey's legs and smearing shaving cream across his face. Once he is completely lathered up Harvey leans over and quickly kisses Mike, rubbing their faces together and getting shaving cream all over Mike, who eventually manages to pull away, laughing.

After that Harvey is relatively well behaved, remains still as Mike removes the beard, one long stroke of the razer at a time. Once the task is complete Mike wipes away the occasional dab of excess cream and then leans in to kiss him. Harvey is damp and smooth against him and he smiles against his lips.

A loud crash breaks them apart. It's the unmistakable sound of glass being broken. Mike feels the cold rush of fear flood his body. Harvey is already up off the counter and heading out of the room.

"Lock the door behind me," he says, and then he's gone.

Mike can do nothing but obey, shutting and locking the door before backing as far away from it as possible. He strains to hear what is happening but is greeted with nothing but silence. He closes his eyes and silently chants to himself: please let Harvey be okay, please let Harvey be okay, please let Harvey be okay…

The wait is excruciating but eventually Harvey returns, tapping on the door and saying Mike's name. Mike opens the door to see him standing there, slightly out of breath and there is a small tear in his shirt, but he is alive and whole and Mike breathes with relief. He rushes forward, throwing his arms around Harvey's neck and asking, "Are you okay?"

Harvey nods, pressing a kiss into his shoulder. "I'm fine," he murmurs reassuringly.

Mike steps back and gives Harvey a thorough once over. He looks mostly okay except for the bruised and bleeding knuckles on his right hand. Mike reaches out and gingerly takes his hand, lifting it to closer inspect the damage. He immediately goes to the first aid kit and rummages for supplies as he asks, "What happened?"

"Someone found us. Thought the house was empty, or so he claimed. I didn’t have my gun so I had to use other means to warn him off."

"You didn't kill him?" Mike asks, even though it feels more like a statement than a question because he is pretty sure he already knows the answer.

Harvey shakes his head, winces as Mike applies a strong liquid to his wounds. "I would have, if he had gotten anywhere near you. But he realised pretty quickly that it was in his best interest to leave and never come back. I was very convincing."

Mike nods. He doesn’t press for more information and Harvey doesn’t offer it. They just stand there silently as Mike does his best to clean Harvey up.

His relief is almost palpable. He's so grateful, not only that Harvey is okay but that the intruder is too, if for no other reason than it means Harvey doesn’t have to carry the burden of taking someone's life.

Once Mike is done he puts the supplies away and looks up at Harvey. "Are you sure he's gone?"

Harvey nods solemnly. "We're safe. We'll be okay. I promise."

Mike's initial thought is that Harvey shouldn’t make promises he can't keep. But Harvey has kept him safe so far, and he trusts Harvey more than anyone else, always has, so despite his better judgement Mike believes him.

 

 

 

Harvey's fingers dig into his hip. Mike gasps at the small movement, the tiny change in friction. Harvey's breath is hot in his ear and he leans back into his chest. His whole body is flushed, skin glassy with sweat. Harvey removes his hand from Mike's hip and trails it across his chest, fingertips idling across his nipple.

Harvey pushes in just that little bit further, the movement torturously slow. "Fuck, you feel incredible."

Mike can do nothing but groan in reply. He reaches his arm back and rests a hand to the back of Harvey's head. Harvey mouths at his shoulder blade, grazes his teeth along Mike's skin as he rolls his hips slowly.

"Oh God, never stop," Mike begs, and Harvey can do nothing but indulge him.

They fuck slowly. Every nerve in Mike's body comes alive with each miniscule movement, the slow and shallow thrust in and out. He's desperate to come but there is something delicious about prolonging it for as long as he can. He runs his fingers along Harvey's arm and twines their fingers together.

Harvey pushes in, deep. Mike's breath hitches. He never wants this to end but he needs more. He presses his body back into Harvey's and brings their joined hands down to his cock. All it takes is a quick pump of Harvey's hand and he comes, Harvey's name repeatedly spilling from his lips. Harvey pulls back and pushes in a few more times before he comes, his mouth at Mike's ear.

They remain together, joined but still, for a few moments as they get their breath back. Harvey gently pulls out, collapses back onto the bed, an arm thrown over his eyes as his chest rises and falls in quick succession.

Mike quickly grabs at some tissues and wipes himself down before turning and settling himself on Harvey. He lies in the cradle of his hips, chin resting on his folded arms, light on Harvey's stomach. Harvey looks down at him and smiles, runs a hand through Mike's shaggy hair, traces the curves of his face with light fingertips.

"Do you think we still would have ended up here if it wasn’t for ... you know ...?"

"The world falling apart," Harvey supplies, and Mike nods.

"If it was just an ordinary Thursday and we were due in at work in an hours' time and normal life was still happening around us, would we still have ended up here?"

"Well, first of all, today is Monday. And as for the rest of it…" Harvey shrugs and says, "Who knows. Probably not."

Mike makes a noise like a buzzer going off. "I'm sorry, that was the wrong answer. You were supposed to say 'of course we still would've ended up together, Mike'."

"Of course we still would've ended up together, Mike," Harvey repeats indifferently.

Mike stares him down until Harvey gives himself away with a small smile. Mike leans up and kisses him softly, a mere pressing of lips. "Thought so," Mike says triumphantly, before kissing him again.

 

 

 

They are actually over at Kelly and Damien's when it happens. The four of them are sitting in the living room when there is a sudden and loud knock at the door.

They immediately tense, pulling out an array of weapons and spreading out to different corners of the house. Harvey takes the front door and flings it open, pointing his gun at the intruder. Said intruder turns out to be an army Lieutenant with a much bigger gun than Harvey has.

Mike never expected to be rescued. He never expected to survive. The eternal pessimist he always anticipated a death via starvation or disease or by some random stranger who cared more about the supplies they could steal than the life that guarded it. And now that the moment has come he doesn’t know how to feel.

Relief would be the obvious choice. He sits beside Harvey in the back of the truck and Kelly and Damien are sitting opposite them and smiling brightly and Harvey takes his hand but he doesn’t feel relief or happiness, he just feels numb. Like he is waiting for the other shoe to drop, because as much as he wants to he can't believe this nightmare could possibly be over.

They pick up over a dozen people on the way back to the base. Everyone looks kind of the same: thin, dull hair and scruffy faces, faded and stained clothes. They have all gone through hell, but have made it through to the other side.

They are put onto a larger truck. Mike holds tight to Harvey with one hand and grips his backpack with the other. There must be nearly a hundred people here and the drive to Albany is long and crowded but surprisingly silent. Everyone else is in shock too, too numb to say or do anything. The driver, who must be used to this by now, puts on a CD and the sound of Jamie Callum floats gently through the belly of the truck. Mike turns to Harvey, who grins at him, squeezes his hand tightly, the joy so palpable Mike can't help but smile in return.

The camp is massive and there are people everywhere and the noise and bustle is a shock to the system after so long alone in the quiet of their house. They are given a hot meal and assigned a room and checked over by a doctor and Mike walks around in a daze. Their quarters are smaller than Mike's old apartment, but it's warm and bright and, most importantly, safe. The first thing Mike does is have a hot shower for the first time in nearly ten months and when Harvey steps under the spray with him, runs his hands softly over his skin, presses a kiss to the nape of his neck, Mike can't help but breathe free and easy and think that just maybe this is what freedom feels like.

 

 

 

"What are we supposed to do?" Mike asks.

Harvey opens his eyes and looks at him. "What do you mean?"

"Just what I said. What are we supposed to do? With our time, with our lives? On our own we had a purpose, you know, we collected food and supplies and kept each other safe and sane, but all that is taken care of here. What do we do?"

"Maybe we could see if they need some lawyers," Harvey says, his tone light and teasing, but Mike sits up, the idea latching onto his brain and not letting go.

"That's a good idea," he says, sitting and reaching for his clothes.

"I was joking," Harvey says, reaching for Mike and trying to pull him back down to the bed but Mike is already out of his grasp, getting dressed.

"Think about it," Mike says, and Harvey sits back and listens. "Think about how horrible and lawless it was out there. Think about how we have come to a place of rules and order. They must have some kind of law and order system here, and if not then with more people arriving every day they will need to create one and fast. Maybe we can help with that."

The more Mike thinks about it, the more right it sounds. They are rebuilding a society here, from the ground up, a whole new world is being created around them and who better to help with that than the best lawyer in New York and his trusty associate.

"Mike-"

"Come on, Harvey, let's go see O'Brien," he says, gesturing wildly.

"I don't think-"

"What, you don't think it's a good idea?"

"Did I say that?" Harvey asks with a slight smirk and head tilt and it's such classic Harvey that Mike can't help but smile. "What I was going to suggest was that before you go rushing off to save the world maybe you should look at the time first."

Mike looks at the clock on the bedside table and grins sheepishly. It's nearly eleven, so it's probably too late to go barging into headquarters with this.

"Come back to bed," Harvey suggests, and Mike obeys like he always has, shedding his recently added clothes and crawling into the bed beside Harvey. He settles, burrowing into the pillow and throwing an arm over Harvey's stomach. "We can change the world tomorrow," Harvey whispers into Mike's hair and Mike nods, pressing a kiss into Harvey's skin and pulling him that much closer.