Sometimes Harvey has to remind himself that not every bookseller in Manhattan has passed the New York state bar and that may--may--account for why so many of them are sort of sorry and nebbish and terrible at making money. It may also account for the way Specter Books (established 2004) has kicked their sorry asses to Brooklyn and back. The past tense, though, is important here: the Kindle was released in 2007, and somewhere in there Amazon became a disgusting corporate entity that Harvey would prefer not to discuss, because Specter Books was supposed to become a disgusting corporate entity that other booksellers would prefer not to discuss, an upscale, finely curated used bookseller unlike anything the industry had ever seen.
Not that--it’s not just that. Harvey does care about the books, which was why he didn’t think ereaders would make it off the ground. It was his only miscalculation, but it had proven to be a significant one. Significant enough that he had to be in the shop most days, because no one else was as good at closing a sale as he was. Harvey could read people like the books he sold, and if things were a little tight, well--Harvey was still goddamn good.
Which did not do much good when the store was empty. It was an empty time of day, but Harvey still found himself beating a pen against the counter when he should have been reviewing the accounts. Lately the accounts had gotten a little tighter than was comfortable, which would get Jessica on his back about her investment, like she didn’t trust him or something. And if he brought up that, she’d squint her eyes, tilt her head, and tell him she didn’t trust him further than she could throw him.
“And yet,” he would reply.
It was a conversation they had a little too frequently for comfort. Jessica wouldn’t pull out--she couldn’t, he had too much dirt on her for that--but it usually ended with him trying to sell the copy of the unabridged O.E.D. he kept in the back to one of his old Harvard Law professors. It wasn’t even worth that much in a shop where first editions passed through regularly, but somewhere in Harvey’s head selling that copy of the O.E.D. would solve all his financial woes. The thirteen volume set was like a bad luck talisman.
Not that Harvey Specter is superstitious in the least.
But still, he’d like to sell that damn dictionary. Preferably to a pretentious old fart, and for more than it’s worth.
For now he settles for staring at the door like it’s a pot that will never, ever boil and tapping his pen (Waterman, thank you, even though he is a poor bookseller he is still a poor bookseller in New York City, and he enjoys the finer things in life, &c.) against the counter.
And then someone’s at the door, and someone’s pushing it in, and there he is: a customer, at nine twenty in the morning on a Saturday. Astonishing. Most of the city would still be asleep now. Or at brunch.
Harvey ignores the guy--kid, really--because he seems like the type who wants to be ignored. He’s wearing aviators, a blue baseball cap pulled low on his forehead. Blond, scrawny, with the body language of someone who wants to browse undisturbed. A teenager comes in, after, skulking to the back where the comics are. Potential customer, or thief; either way, it’s enough to send Harvey back to his accounts. Donna will be in in a few hours or whenever she feels like it, and if things aren’t in order she’ll give him hell. Even if, technically, the accounts were what he hired her for.
Well, that and the fact that by the time she finished graduate school, she knew more about the stock than he did. It would’ve been a crime not to hire her.
A hand slides across the counter, interrupting Harvey’s work. It’s the blond--he’s hooked the sunglasses over the collar of his shirt, revealing startling blue eyes.
“Hey,” he says softly. “Incidental piece of information here, but there’s a kid in the back trying to stuff an issue of Aquaman down his pants.”
“Seriously?” Harvey asks, getting to his feet. “Did you see which one?--no, of course you didn’t.”
“Twenty,” the kid interjects.
“Not even worth it,” Harvey sighs. “Crap condition, only bought it because it was part of a good lot. Also, Aquaman?”
“So you’re just going to--?”
“Not worth it to get the book out of his pants, I mean,” Harvey says and heads to the back of the shop as the blond trails after him. He coughs slightly when he comes up behind the teenager, who already looks so guilty that Harvey has a hard time believing he would have been physically capable of leaving the store, even if he hadn’t been spotted.
“So,” he says, and lets the word hang there for a few beats. “I imagine you know how small business owners feel about shoplifters. But I’m a little surprised--and disappointed--that your fellow denizens of the wrong side of the law didn’t tell you why they don’t usually steal from my fine establishment.”
This kid--that’s really what he is, younger than he looked when he first came in--Harvey refuses to feel bad for him, but he kind of looks like he’s going to piss himself.
“Because I can make sure you get fucked six ways to Sunday,” he continues. “Which is something you might want to consider before you try to pull this shit again.”
The kid bolts, and Harvey shrugs his shoulders to crack his back. Intimidating shoplifters makes him more tense than it used to.
“I think that kid pissed himself,” comes a voice from behind him, unimpressed but amused.
“And now that issue of Aquaman is worth even less,” Harvey says, and the blond laughs outright. Some idle, stupid part of Harvey’s mind characterizes it as a nice laugh, like that means something. Like that’s something he’d think. Because he wouldn’t.
“So,” Harvey says. “Should I be checking your pants, too?”
It sounded less dirty in his head, but the other man barely quirks a brow.
“Looking for something specific, actually, and I’m not sure it would fit,” he says. “You wouldn’t happen to have a 1933 Oxford English Dictionary, would you?”
Harvey exhales a breath he didn’t know he was holding, probably because he’s been holding it for the past eight years.
“All thirteen volumes,” he says.
The guy--kid, because he seems younger than he actually is--talks him down, probably further down than Harvey should let him, but the dictionary is off his hands either way. The kid himself seems to enjoy the haggling so much that Harvey can’t quite bring himself to stop. There’s something to be said for arguing with somone who actually enjoys it. When Donna arrives Harvey’s wrapping it up, folding crisp corners in brown paper and tying the whole thing with twine. It’s a Specter Books signature. Might as well send off the damned thing in style. Donna slips in when he’s on volume eleven, pushing the door open with her back so she can balance two coffee cups and an outsize purse.
“Donna,” Harvey says, gesturing to the pile of books. “We made a sale.”
“And quite a sale, at that,” she sighs, meeting his eyes and grinning slightly. “I have coffee.”
“I see that,” Harvey says, and Donna slides behind the counter to join him, setting the cups down. She glances up at the kid--the one who bought the dictionary--and something flickers across her face momentarily, recognition or surprise. Harvey quirks an eyebrow at her, but she doesn’t acknowledge him, just slips one of the coffees in his direction.
“Is there a coffee shop around here you’d recommend?” the kid asks, watching them. “I’m new in town, and--”
“These are just from the cart on the corner, kid,” Harvey says. “There’s a Starfucks, down the street.”
“Harvey doesn’t like franchises,” Donna interjects, almost apologetically, which is very apologetic, for Donna.
“So it would seem,” the kid replies, as Harvey begins to wrap the last volume. “Look, is it okay if I come back here. I--”
He sounds uncomfortable. Harvey looks up at him, slightly exasperated.
“It’s a shop,” he says. “You’re a customer. Come back whenever you want, as long as ‘whenever’ falls within the opening hours listed on the door. Which are--”
“Right,” the kid says, and his voice has suddenly gone uncannily calm, any residual discomfort gone.
Harvey slides the dictionary across the counter, and looks up to meet the kid’s gaze. To inspect him, if Harvey’s honest with himself, because this entire exchange has been a little off kilter and Harvey can’t quite get a handle on what’s happening, and usually he has a handle on everything.
“Thank you for your purchase,” he says evenly. “Come back soon.”
“Do you know who that was?” Donna asks as soon as the door swings shut behind the blond.
“The person who would finally take that godforsaken O.E.D. off my hands?” Harvey asks. “I thought he’d be older.”
“Mike Ross,” Donna says.
“You know his name,” Harvey says. “He paid cash.”
“Mike Ross, Harvey,” Donna says. “You’ve heard of Mike Ross. I know you have. You went to see ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ with me.”
“And it was awful. Salinger was doing cartwheels in his grave.”
“Mike Ross was Holden Caulfield,” Donna hisses.
“Huh,” Harvey says. “Well, he was awful. Skulking around all over the place. Whining about phonies.”
“That’s what Holden Caulfield does,” Donna says. “Honestly, you own a bookshop.”
“This has been enlightening,” Harvey says. “Next time he comes in, I’ll ask him how Phoebe’s been.”
“Please don’t,” Donna says. “He’s a rising star. Please don’t go out of your way to offend him just because you have a bizarre grudge against everyone who is not--”
“Not what, Donna?” Harvey asks. “This is interesting. Please continue.”
“I would if you didn’t interrupt me,” she gripes. “Everyone who is not suitably intellectual.”
“Don’t say that like it’s a dirty word,” Harvey mutters. “It does make me wonder why he bought the dictionary, though.”
“You’re a snob,” Donna says. “Admit it. You’re worrying that a movie star is going to sully your image.”
“Is he a movie star?” Harvey asks. “Fuck.”
Because he wants more business, but not that kind of business, people who trail after movie stars and stuff issues of Aquaman down their pants, paparazzi and reporters from gossip magazines pawing through his wares with so many unwashed hands.
He forgets about the whole thing once the shop fills up with the usual clientele, and he puts on his sale face and sells things, damnit, and it’s a good day, as far as days go, and he sleeps well and doesn’t worry about the accounts, which puts a bit of a spring in his step when he’s approaching the shop the next morning.
The kid, Mike Ross, is there. He slouches around the corner in worn jeans and a t-shirt. He doesn’t look like a movie star--the jeans look like they were cheap, once, and were worn by time and not be some sort of elaborate chemical wash. The t-shirt is so ugly that it’s not even worth discussing. But his eyes are a sharp, bright blue, technicolor in a black and white world, and objectively Harvey could see why someone might want that color committed to film, if film could even capture it.
“Hey,” Mike Ross says, while Harvey unlocks the door.
“Good morning,” Harvey says. He has a coffee in him, but only the one, which is probably not enough because he’s tempted to call this kid out for being a movie star and refusing to pay sticker price on a dictionary. He was in a good mood. He doesn’t need this.
“Look, I didn’t get a chance, yesterday,” Mike is saying. “I’m in movies, right? And I’m doing this one about a book store--”
“Yes,” Harvey says, when he really means is no.
“So I was wondering if I could shadow you or something--”
“No,” Harvey says, when what he really means is no. “No, I do not need someone to shadow me so they can make the next ‘You’ve Got Mail.’”
“It’s more like ‘Notting Hill,’ actually,” Mike says, and Harvey can’t tell if that’s supposed to be a joke or not, because Mike’s mannerisms are strange, all sharp corners and rough edges, like someone who doesn’t know the shape of his own social limbs.
Not like a movie star at all, really.
Harvey has turned on all the lights and settled behind the register before either of them say anything else, and then Mike suddenly spits out a stream of words.
“It’s sort of ‘Fahrenheit 451’ except not at all, but it takes place in a dystopian future and books are gradually being replaced by computers, and the last bookstore on earth becomes the center of a rebel operation--”
“Dystopias are in vogue right now, aren’t they?” Harvey says. “We don’t carry ‘The Hunger Games,’ if you were looking. Also, that movie sounds terrible.”
“So can I shadow you?” Mike asks, and Harvey looks at him again: young, a little soft around the edges, blue-eyed and blond.
“I do not,” Harvey says. “Think shadowing me would contribute in the slightest to preparing you for that role. Is this some sort of Method thing?”
“I’m not Method,” Mike says. “That’s not even what Method is. Look, I just want to get a feel--”
“And I’m telling you,” Harvey replies. “I don’t think this is what you want.”
Mike looks at him, and sighs a little.
“Do you not see what I see?” Mike says. There’s something undergirding his tone now, something a little harder, but he’s speaking so casually, like they’re good friends, that it’s hard to tell. “Because I have a feeling digital booksellers are doing a bit of a number on you right now, and you’re a little resentful of that, and you imagine your shop as a sort of agent of cultural change, enlightening the masses, if they would only come in the door.”
“Is that so?” Harvey asks. “And where do you get that from?”
“You’re wearing a suit,” Mike says, almost flippant. “Yesterday you sold me a 1933 O.E.D. and were clearly far too excited about that. You had all the volumes of the 1933 O.E.D.”
“What did you buy it for, then? Research?”
Mike rocks on his heels a little.
“You really want to know?” he asks. “Because I think we could make a deal.”
Harvey rubs his temples.
“You just pulled some shit story out of your ass, like you were trying to threaten me--”
“I was just making sure we understood each other,” Mike says, and then adds, a little forlornly: “Most people like me.”
Harvey levels him with a stare, that Mike returns with a perversely honest smile, one that breaks across his face like--something.
An egg, maybe. Harvey would pay to see someone break an egg on Mike’s face, actually.
“And now you want to make the most obvious bargain in the history of bargains,” Harvey continues.
“Something along those lines,” Mike says.
“I’ll pass, thanks.”
Mike looks at him.
“So we’ve reached an impasse,” he says, and then the door slams, and Donna is there, handing Harvey is second coffee.
“You are--,” he mutters into the cup. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” Donna says, then gives Mike a pointed glance. “Hello again.”
“He was just leaving,” Harvey says.
“Was he?” Donna says, glancing between them.
“What?” Mike says. “No. I’m a customer, right?”
“You’re a customer,” Harvey says. “Of course you are.”
“I think I could use a copy of ‘Fahrenheit 451’,” Mike says as he disappears into the warren of shelves. “Would that be anywhere around here?”
“If you break it, you bought it,” Harvey calls after him.
“Harvey,” Donna says. “Is the movie star bothering you?”
“Yes,” Harvey says, and gives Donna a look that is probably not beseeching, but is intended to mean ‘Make him leave.’
“Want me to call the Post?” Donna asks. “That should do it.”
The coffee jolts Harvey awake, a little, slowly.
“Not the Post,” he groans. “Just call his mother or something. Maybe he has a handler. Don’t actors have handlers?”
He calls into the bowels of the store: “Do you have a handler?”
“No,” echoes back momentarily.
“So,” Donna says. “Why don’t we like him? Because I thought he was quite good in that movie where he was a cross-dressing alien--”
“That’s fascinating,” Harvey tells her. “If he doesn’t buy anything, can we kick him out?”
“Probably,” Donna says idly. “You’re the lawyer. And the owner.”
“He wants to shadow me,” Harvey says. “I don’t have time for this.”
Donna nods like she knew he’d answer her question, eventually.
“He offer you money to do this?” she asks, and Harvey looks at her sharply.
“No,” he says, in a tone that’s intended to both answer her and put a stop to that line of questioning.
Donna inspects her nails.
“Well, I’m sure you’re being reasonable, then,” she says. “I’m sure you have a very good reason for not getting a movie star to pay you to work for you.”
“Yes,” Harvey says. “I don’t have time to train some dilettante. And neither do you. And neither does Rachel.”
“And yet,” Donna sighs. “We have time to discuss this in depth.”
“This is not depth,” Harvey says. “This is the kiddie pool of discussions. We’re dabbling.”
“And yet,” Donna repeats, like she knows something Harvey doesn’t. The kid is still somewhere in the shelves. Harvey should probably tail him and make sure he’s not shoplifting.
“I should probably make sure he’s not shoplifting,” Harvey says.
“He’s a movie star,” Donna says. “He shits money.”
“All the more reason--”
“To check out his ass,” Donna interjects, and Harvey tries to look affronted. He tries hard. He’s pretty sure he pulls it off.
“You’ll check out the ass of anything with legs,” Donna says pointedly. “Don’t make that face. You look constipated.”
“I don’t,” Harvey says, because he doesn’t. Harvey Specter doesn’t even look constipated when he is constipated, and he’s never been constipated in his life.
“Okay,” Donna says, in a tone of voice that suggests she’s only agreeing because she’s no longer interested in this particular discussion.
“You think I should go along with it,” Harvey says, downing the last of his coffee and looking directly at her.
Donna nods succinctly.
“I think you should make him pay you to go along with it,” she says. “I do your accounts, you know.”
“We could use the money,” Harvey echoes. “That’s what Jessica would say.”
“It is,” Donna agrees. She’s fiddling with the pen in front of her, and Harvey can tell she’s trying to make him feel like this is his idea. She’s not doing a good job of it, but even Harvey can tell when an idea that’s not his is good. He nods, and Harvey can see Donna’s lips quirk a little like she knows what that means.
But Harvey is going to wait for the kid to come to him. He browses eBay, looking for gold where there almost certainly won’t be any, until Mike Ross returns to the counter. He’s running one hand through his hair, ruffling it ridiculously. Harvey had thought that was some Hollywood thing--styled so as to look like it hadn’t been--but apparently that’s just his hair. It irks Harvey for reasons he would prefer not to examine.
“Buying anything?” Harvey asks, and Mike sidles up to the counter.
“I don’t think that’s how you make a sale.”
“It’s not,” Donna says, looking at Harvey like she would reprimand this behaviour. Harvey recognizes his own petulance, but can’t quite bring himself to care.
“Well,” Harvey says, shifting his elbows up to the countertop. “If you were thinking your purchase might depend on what we were selling, I might have an offer.”
Mike’s lips quirk infinitesimally, and one eyebrow goes up.
“You can shadow me,” Harvey says. “You can also pay for the privilege, and keep quite about. I don’t want any paparazzi, or publicity stunts, or shit like that.”
“And I should not go somewhere else because--”
“When I’m on, I’m the best,” Harvey says.
For some reason (probably because it’s true), Mike believes him.
Page Six: Mike Ross was spotted purchasing coffee from a cart at the corner of Park Avenue & 76th St. The ‘From Mars’ star, reportedly in the city to work on a new project, was slumming it in aviators and jeans. - The New York Post
The only thing Mike has going for him is that he shows up on time.
Harvey told Mike to wear a suit to work, if working is what he planned to do. Instead, he shows up in--something.
“That tie,” Harvey says, staring at it pointedly. “My dick is wider than that tie.”
“That’s nice,” Mike says, unruffled. Harvey unlocks the door, and the two of them go in--Mike hangs his messenger back on the coat rack behind the counter and then stands there so silently that Harvey has to rattle onwards.
“Also, is that suit even yours? Did you steal it off a vagrant? Because it doesn’t fit like it belongs to you.”
“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” Mike says. He seems almost blissfully unaware of what Harvey is actually saying which doesn’t bode well for their working relationship, let alone anything resembling friendship.
“Are you high?” Harvey asks. “What did I just say?”
Mike pauses, and suddenly his eyes are on Harvey, canny and sharp.
“Also, is that suit even yours?” Mike mimics back. “Did you steal it off a vagrant? Because it doesn’t fit like it belongs to you.”
“Right,” Harvey says. “The question still stands. Don’t you Hollywood types have stylists?”
“For red carpet appearances,” Mike says. “But I usually just wear whatever someone sends me first.”
“Do you even get them tailored?” Harvey asks, trying not to sound aghast.
“No,” Mike says. “They know my size.”
“You show up for red carpet appearances in off the rack suits?” Harvey asks. “What happened to Clark Gable? Cary Grant?”
“Gable died fifty-two years ago,” Mike says. “Grant was twenty-six years ago.”
“Rhetorical question,” Harvey says. “Which you answered with useless trivia.”
“Okay,” Mike says, then goes back to the counter and runs his hands across the wood, like he did that first day when he told Harvey about the kid, with the Aquaman comic.
“It’s redwood,” Harvey offers, nodding to the counter. They had had the counter brought in specially when they renovated the space, straight from California and then varnished to high gloss, leaving all the whorls of the wood visible. It runs the length of the store, and they keep the real gems, first editions that haven’t been foxed, color plates that haven’t been scribbled on, behind it, on a series of clear glass shelves. It’s a good match of classic and modern, Harvey thinks, and makes the point that even a used bookseller can be new and--dare he say it?--cutting edge.
“It’s beautiful,” Mike says. He lets his fingers trip down the surface again, like he can’t bear to stop touching it, and Harvey just--watches--his hands, for the few blinking moments before Donna comes in the door, carrying a caddy with four cups. It’s Monday, which is not a particularly busy day, but Harvey had scheduled Rachel so she could train Mike, because Harvey Specter does not stoop himself to training.
“Good morning!” she says. “You’re on time.”
Harvey knows she’s talking to Mike, but replies anyway: “As always. And you’re late, as always.”
“The party don’t start until I walk in,” she says, deadpan, as she distributes coffee cups.
“Did you brush your teeth with a bottle of Jack this morning?” Mike asks, and Donna laughs.
“He’s quick,” she says, sliding behind the counter. “I like him. There’s sugar and creamer in the fridge here.”
Harvey doesn’t say ‘well that makes one of us’ because he’s still not entirely certain why he doesn’t like Mike, and he doesn’t want to have that conversation with Donna. Not yet; probably not ever. Mike shakes his head, because apparently he takes his coffee black, which is the way a person should take his coffee.
Harvey should like him.
“Rachel will be in soon,” Harvey says. “She’ll be training you.”
“Why?” MIke asks.
“Because she’s good at training people,” Harvey says.
“Because Harvey was a colicky child,” Donna says, and Mike looks like he’s going to say something, and Harvey is just about to spit out a clever comeback, but then Rachel’s coming through the door, taking her coffee from Donna and dumping a significant volume of milk and sugar into it, introducing herself to Mike in a whirlwind.
“Just so you know,” she says, narrowing her eyes when he holds her hand for a second too long. “I don’t care who you know, I don’t want to get to Hollywood, and I’m not going to sleep with you.”
“Funny, that’s what I said when I met Clooney,” Mike says.
“And no name dropping,” Rachel says. “Do I have to tell you everything?”
Harvey likes Rachel. He should give her a raise.
“Can we give her a raise?” Harvey asks Donna as the pair disappears into the stacks.
“Probably not,” Donna says.
“Take it out of what the kid is paying us,” Harvey says, and Donna arches an eyebrow at him.
“What?” he asks. “Just some of it. It’s only fair, if she has to put up with him. A ‘tolerating movie stars’ bonus.”
“I think you’re getting soft in your old age,” Donna says.
“I think--” Harvey starts, and then he remembers not to finish that sentence, because Donna’s age is off limits if he wants to keep his balls. “You’re a wonderful person,” he concludes, instead.
“I can hurt you,” Donna replies, preening slightly.
They’re good friends, really. It happens.
Harvey has an estate sale to get to and he leaves Donna in charge (not that there’s anyone else he would leave anyone else in charge--maybe Rachel, in a pinch, but not when Donna’s there). Ray is waiting for him, his taxi gleaming as usual, and as soon as Harvey’s in the cab they’re heading to the Bronx.
“So Donna says you’ve got a movie star working for you,” Ray says.
“Donna needs to stop gossiping,” Harvey replies. “But yes, we do.”
Ray hums a little, as if to himself, and Harvey glances at him. They’ve known each other for a long time--since Harvey puked in his cab after getting into a fist fight with a classmate from Harvard Law outside of Hardman & Associates. It’s not a story that bears repeating, but somewhere in there Harvey got Ray’s personal number and started calling him whenever he needed a cab. It’s better than working with a stranger.
“You think you’re going to find anything at this one?” Ray asks, nodding in the general direction of the borough they’re bound for.
“I just hope Louis isn’t there,” Harvey says, but Harvey’s bad luck holds, and Louis is there.
Louis Litt is not Harvey’s rival, because that would imply they were equals. He’s more like a pain in the ass, a fly in the ointment. He buys stock for websites, and Harvey doubts he’d be buying any stock at all if he didn’t outbid Harvey by the barest margin whenever he got the chance. Harvey could, frequently, red herring him into bidding on shit lots, but that didn’t change the fact that if Louis was there, Harvey was probably going to lose something when he’d rather not.
“Louis,” he says, not offering a hand. “Fancy seeing you here.”
Louis nods stiffly at him, because Louis is bad at talking.
“How’s the internet business?” Harvey continues. “Still mostly comprised of looking at porn while you wait for your wife to get home?”
“I don’t have a wife,” Louis says.
“And that,” Harvey replies. “Is why it’s funny.”
Louis, Harvey is fairly certain, is constipated. Harvey is also fairly certain that Louis actually gets constipated, in life--he seems the type.
“Pleasure as always,” Harvey says, and goes to browse the lots.
There’s only one that looks really interesting--a cardboard box of books with some minor water damage that hopefully hasn’t passed the cardboard, but the deceased was a professor of Women’s Studies at Barnard, and Harvey thinks he spies some Virginia Woolf. He doesn’t look long. He can see Louis following him, and just for that he spends an inordinately long time inspecting some Nancy Drew reprints and a dog eared copy of ‘Leaves of Grass.’
He gets the box, albeit for a little more than he would’ve liked, and tries not to look smug when Louis pays far more for the Nancy Drews than they’re worth. When the sale is done he takes the subway home, because Ray had refused to wait around in the Bronx when he could be collecting fares for any amount of money.
If Harvey could afford to, he’d just hire a driver. As it is, he doesn’t care if it takes longer: he’ll take the taxi whenever he can, because public transit is unsanitary. On the way back to shop a band of youths comes into his car and does some sort of break dancing--thing. Harvey tries to level them with a withering stare and protect his books from jostling, but mostly he ends up feeling stiff and uncomfortable and wondering if the toddler sitting next to him is going to get chocolate on his jacket.
“Did you pan any gold?” Donna asks when he gets back to the shop. Mike’s still there, sitting behind the counter with Donna like he belongs there.
Which he doesn’t.
“Louis was there,” Harvey says, setting the box on the counter. “But I got the best lot they had, which is not to say it’s any good.”
“You carry that all the way here?” Mike asks, eyeing Harvey--not his face, his shoulders, as near as Harvey can tell. There’s something strange just beneath the expression he’s actually wearing, something Harvey can’t quite place. It occurs to Harvey for the first time that Mike, for all his everything, is actually an actor which means he pretends to be things he’s not for a living.
Harvey files that piece of information away for future consideration.
“From the six train, just a few blocks,” Harvey says. “What, do movie stars not carry things?”
“Harvey’s a real salt of the earth type,” Rachel supplies. “Jus’ folks.”
“How have things been here?” Harvey asks, rather than dignify that with a response.
“Mike sold the first edition ‘The Love of the Last Tycoon,’” Donna says. “For well above market value.”
Harvey quirks an eyebrow.
“How’d you do it?” he asks, turning to Mike, who has the grace to look embarrassed.
“Oh, you know--” he says, which Harvey actually doesn’t, but now he’s curious. Mike had haggled him down when he was first in the shop, but Harvey hadn’t really been paying attention. He was so eager to get the O. E. D. off his hands he probably would’ve taken anything.
Donna gives Harvey a look that suggests they have things to talk about, and Harvey decides that maybe taking Mike on wasn’t the end of the world, especially since there don’t seem to be any paparazzi or teenaged idol stalkers hanging around the store. Instead he just takes the box of books to the back room to sort.
Mike, uninvited, follows him.
“Rachel said she couldn’t train me in appraising,” Mike says.
“That’s because I’m the only one who appraises here,” Harvey says, blocking the door pointedly. “And you really don’t need to be trained in it.”
Mike looks at him. Not beseeching, just patient and even. Harvey does realize he’s being paid for this.
“Come in, then,” he says, after they’ve been standing there for a moment, words passing unsaid between them. “But don’t expect me to let you in here alone.”
Mike turns out to be a freak genius appraiser.
It doesn’t even make sense, but when Harvey’s going through the box and filing titles, publication dates, and publishers, Mike’s peering over his shoulder. They have stools in the back room and a tall, square table made from unfinished wood, but Mike for some unfathomable reason stands behind Harvey, leaning forward so their bodies are just a breath apart, and when Harvey pulls a volume from the box, midway through, Mike says, softly and unexpectedly: “There’s your gold.”
It’s uncanny because he’s right.
It’s not Virginia Woolf but Sylvia Plath, or, more accurately, Victoria Lucas, which is the pseudonym emblazoned on first editions of ‘The Bell Jar.’ And then Mike, without batting an eye, rattles off a price, and when Harvey checks, that is precisely what it’s worth.
They do a few more volumes, bronze more than gold, and a few pyrite. Mike knows their values as well. He hardly even thinks about it: he just says a number, and it’s right.
“You knew,” Harvey says, when the books are sorted and priced. He was relieved to find that he does have to explain pricing to Mike--you can’t just slap market value on a volume, you have to account for damage, or potential external values. You have to measure the book as a whole, look for something beyond the economic worth.
“Knew what?” Mike asks.
“You knew that you had some sort of uncanny number memory,” Harvey says. “And looked up a bunch of books to show off.”
“Eidetic,” Mike says, like it’s no big thing.
“Well,” Harvey replies. “I bet that makes learning lines easy.”
“But not the rest of it,” Mike replies, and Harvey gets it, he almost gets it. It’s not quite liking Mike, but it’s a little closer to seeing him.
He lets Mike ask him questions, after that, and sometimes Harvey even answers them. Maybe because he’s used to being alone in the stockroom, Harvey lets his guard down.
Just a little.
They don’t say much, once they’re done in the back room, and Donna allows that--there’s not much day left to use up, anyway, because it’s almost time to close. Harvey has a small, rent-controlled apartment not far off, and he takes off his jacket to walk home, carries it over his arm. It’s late summer, when the air is clear and heavy with moisture, and things are changing but they aren’t quite there yet.
The next morning when Mike comes in Harvey has made a decision, and that decision is as follows: Harvey is good at delegation and also hates appraising just a little bit, and Mike is good at appraising and faster than anyone has any right to be, so he, Harvey, will delegate the appraising to Mike.
Mike blinks at him momentarily.
“Okay,” he says. He looks both pleased and surprised, which is pleasing and surprising.
By the time Donna gets in, Mike is already installed at the table in the stockroom, and Harvey is in the front (where he belongs) working with the small trickle of early, elderly customers.
“Wonder boy come in this morning?” Donna asks, depositing three coffee cups on the counter. “I brought him a cup.”
“He’s in the back,” Harvey says, jabbing a thumb towards the stockroom door. Surprise flashes across Donna’s face, but then she schools her expression into something else.
“So you trust him?” she asks.
“I’ll check his work,” Harvey says, which is not an answer to the question, precisely. “And do the final pricing.”
“Of course you will,” Donna says.
And Harvey does, when Mike emerges from the stockroom looking a little ruffled and bleary.
“They’re ready for final prices, Harvey,” he says. “And I’m ready for lunch.”
“I think Schnitzel & Things is coming our way today,” Donna says.
“She knows, because she stalks them on twitter,” Harvey corrects.
“Good for you not calling it ‘the twitter,’ old man,” Donna mutters, then turns to Mike. “You want some meat that’s been breaded and fried?”
“Yes,” he breathes. “But I can--ah--stay here.”
Harvey looks at him strangely for a moment before he realizes what’s going on. Mike shows up most mornings early, with sunglasses at the very least; he knows Harvey didn’t want star stalkers, and he’s trying not to attract attention.
“Any allergies?” Donna asks. “Anything you don’t like?”
“No, I’m easy,” Mike says. He says it like--he says it like he knows there’s a joke there, and he wants someone to make it. Harvey looks up at him, and Mike catches his eye and grins.
It’s uncomfortable. Harvey knows a come on when he sees one, but it doesn’t seem right that this is--now, here, from Mike. He’s fairly certain it must be something else.
Mike, he reminds himself, is an actor.
“The veal for me,” Harvey says. “And fries and beet salad.”
And then Harvey goes to the stockroom to price the books. Mike has stacked the new ones neatly, and they all have post-its on the cover with a price scrawled in handwriting that manages to skirt the edge of legible. It’s not until the eighth book that Harvey needs to fetch Mike, who’s sitting in the shelves chatting with a customer.
Harvey can’t help it.
And he finds out that Mike is not just good at appraising.
The customer is an elderly woman, and Mike is talking to her about her grandchildren, initially, and Harvey wants to cut in and tell him to close the damn sale already, but then Mike is talking to her about her grandchildren and what books they might like, and suddenly he’s selling her some comics and a box set of the Chronicles of Narnia, which--it’s a box set. It happens so circuitously that Harvey doesn’t quite see what happens, but when he reviews it in his head he can see: Mike is bright and honest and straightforward, and that’s how he sells. He just puts something out there, suggests it, has a conversation, lets the customer mull. Lets the customer trust him.
It’s not Harvey’s style by a long shot, because Harvey’s always been prone to strong arming customers into things rather than relying on them to reach the right conclusion on their own, but what Mike’s doing works.
Harvey wonders why Mike even thought he needed training, and then, when the books are safely ensconced in brown paper in the woman’s bag, goes to get Mike to tell him whether that’s a seven or a four, there.
When Donna comes back they’re still in the backroom, and Mike’s interrogating Harvey about his pricing philosophy.
“It’s about the whole book,” Harvey is saying. “The entirety of it. Some books have a certain mystique. And you can sell them for above market value, because people will just want them, even if they’re foxed or not quite right. You just need to wait for the right person, then.”
“And other books?” Mike asks.
“Other books can be the same,” he says. “But you have to wait longer. It’s about weighing how long you’ll have to wait against everything else.”
“Harvey,” Donna says. “There’s no one up front.”
“Oh, shit,” Mike mutters. “I should’ve--”
Harvey tries not to look too uncomfortable, but it makes him feel uncomfortable. He should probably be angrier than he is, but he did realize that bringing Mike to the stockroom would mean that no one was in the front of the shop, and he hadn’t heard anyone come in, so--
“I know,” he says after a moment.
Donna arches an eyebrow, then hands him a box.
“Here’s your schnitzel,” she says. “Mike, I got the same for you.”
Mike eats up front with Donna while Harvey finishes pricing the books, trying to balance everything against everything else. He suspects he’s being too nice. He is pretty sure he was meaner than this as recently as yesterday. It makes him feel soft and uncertain. Mike Ross, he reminds himself, is an actor. And he could be any number of things in addition to that, but it’s not like Harvey knows what those are.
That maybe explains why Harvey finds a RedBox and rents ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ even though Donna claims he’s already seen it. He probably has, he vaguely remembers seeing it and hating it, but he just doesn’t always pay much attention to movies.
This time he pays attention. Holden Caulfield is Mike, or maybe it’s the other way around. The internet claims it was Mike Ross’s breakout role, and he is the throbbing center of the movie: present in every scene, only slightly obscured by the character he’s playing. He was younger, then, than he is now: young and soft-faced with eyes that are sometimes hooded and sometimes flashing intelligence.
It’s strange, because it is such a different Mike from the one Harvey has interacted with, even though they share something, and, furthermore, it’s strange to have Mike’s face sprawled across the television while Harvey unselfconsciously watches it--him. He moves differently as Holden Caulfield, but not quite differently enough.
It doesn’t really answer any of Harvey questions, and once the DVD is back in its case, Harvey doesn’t know what to do with it--with the experience as a whole. He returns the DVD the next morning, goes to the store and tries not to think too hard about anything, really. Except about Mike’s clothes.
“Seriously, though,” he says, because this is the third day Mike has shown up in a different, ill-fitting suit. “Where do you get these? Can you not see the difference between what I’m wearing and what you’re wearing?”
Mike looks down at his body like he’d forgotten it was attached to his head.
“I think it’s Prada,” he says, then looks at Harvey. “Your suits wouldn’t fit me, either.”
“No,” Harvey says. “They fit me, which is the point. A suit should fit the man it belongs to.”
“I don’t see what the big deal is,” Mike says. “It’s just clothes.”
“The clothes,” Harvey breathes. “Make the man. And I can’t believe you’re making Prada look like that.”
“It might not be,” Mike says. “I’m not sure.”
Harvey is not even going to dignify that with a reply, which is why it’s a good thing that that’s when Donna appears, with coffee.
“Donna,” he says. “Thank you.”
“I only bring you coffee because you’re so grateful,” she says. “It’s sweet.”
“I don’t care why, as long as you do,” Harvey mutters as Donna passes another cup to Mike. “One cup in the morning is not enough.”
“Harvey likes to pretend I get to work late but we actually space out our arrival so that he can have his coffee fix at the appropriate interval,” Donna says to Mike. “He’s like a child.”
“That explains some of his behaviour,” Mike says speculatively.
“Get thee to the stock room,” Harvey mutters, and Mike laughs and goes, bringing his coffee with him.
Donna sidles over to Harvey’s side as Mike disappears, and there’s a moment where they’re both watching him like--something.
“You know someone’s going to figure out that Mike Ross is working here sooner or later,” she says. “And probably sooner.”
“Our clientele doesn’t overlap with the sort of person who sells gossip to tabloids,” Harvey says.
“I’m just saying,” Donna says. “You can’t keep him in the stockroom forever, and some shutterbug is going to follow him here, or see him coming in, and then it’s going to be news, at least for Page Six. They already caught him at one of the food carts a few blocks away.”
“You read Page Six,” Harvey says.
“Of course I read Page Six,” Donna says.
“You get the Post and you read Page Six,” Harvey says, just to clarify.
“And they had a picture of Mike Ross buying coffee from the cart that Priya’s new boyfriend runs, and I really have to tell him not to go there.”
“You need to stop being intimately involved in the lives of street vendors,” Harvey says, finally.
“You need to remember that your new pet appraiser is a movie star,” Donna says, and that’s the end of that, really.
Harvey goes out on the floor to sell some people some fucking books, because that’s his job, really.
It is not his fault when Rachel spills her orange juice on Mike twenty-three minutes later, but he has to say that if it ruins that suit he doesn’t really mind. Mike doesn’t look like he minds terribly, either. Rachel is as close as she gets to apologetic, and Mike keeps telling her it doesn’t matter, it’s just a stupid suit that he’s pretty sure isn’t Prada.
“It’s Prada?” Rachel says, shooting a glance in Harvey’s direction.
“It’s awful,” he mouths at her, and she nods incrementally.
“It’s probably not,” Mike says. “I don’t know. Harvey says it doesn’t fit.”
“It doesn’t,” Harvey and Rachel say simultaneously.
“You can’t wear that for the rest of the day,” Harvey says, finally.
“I can just--I’m renting a place in Red Hook.”
“In Brooklyn?” Harvey says.
“It’s where I got my start,” Mike says, shrugging slightly. “In a theater there.”
Harvey studies Mike for a moment, because Harvey’s pretty sure Brooklyn wasn’t cool when Mike got his start.
“Okay,” he says. “Come with me. Rachel, you and Donna can take care of the store?”
Rachel salutes him, and it’s only about forty-five percent sarcastic, which isn’t half bad.
“We’ll be back soon,” Harvey says. “Or soon enough. Donna, call Rene. And Ray.”
“Rene,” Mike echoes, sounding a little dazed. Harvey realizes that he’s holding Mike by the elbow like he expects him to collapse, and drops his elbow, mostly in surprise.
“We’re going to get you a clean shirt,” Harvey says. “And then we’re going to get you at least one suit that fits.”
“It’s like you planned this,” Mike says.
“This is part of your training,” Harvey says.
“Since now,” Harvey concludes, and he dares Mike to contradict him.
Which Mike doesn’t.
Harvey’s apartment is close, and he feels like he’s smuggling Mike in, even though no one looks twice at them in the street. It is, after all, New York, and they’re north of the most touristed areas. Even if someone recognized Mike, it wouldn’t do to show it.
“You live here?” Mike asks, when they get to the foyer. Harvey would say it’s only a little intimidating, but he doesn’t actually look around that often.
“Rent controlled,” Harvey says, and Mike mutters something that sounds like ‘lucky bastard.’ Harvey resist the urge to remind Mike how much money the imdb forums claim he was paid for his last movie, the one where he was a cross-dressing alien.
But only just. Only because telling Mike would mean letting Mike know he looked him up on, not just Wikipedia, but also imdb. In the forums, which are a cesspool of humanity if there wever was one.
Harvey’s apartment isn’t large, but it has the Window, which is--large. It’s in the bedroom, almost an entire wall of glass, and while Harvey rifles through the closet Mike goes up and puts his hands to it, peering out.
“Fingerprints,” Harvey says, and Mike pulls back.
“People can’t see you?” he asks.
“Do you remember how long we were in the elevator?” Harvey asks. He knows he was something from Harvard here, and he was smaller, then.
“Speaking of, I can just wear whatever,” Mike says. “So we can get back.”
“We aren’t going back, we’re going to Rene’s,” Harvey says, and throws a wadded up Harvard Law t-shirt across the room. “Put that on.”
Mike ducks and catches it neatly, then peels off his own shirt right there. It’s not a big deal. Harvey’s seen another man’s chest before, at the gym and here. But it’s somehow worse because they are here, Mike’s in Harvey’s bedroom, and usually if Harvey sees another man’s chest there they are going to have sex. If Harvey sees anyone’s chest there they are going to have sex, really.
It’s just a fact.
Mike doesn’t seem to notice, and Harvey tries to look past his chest to the window, or at least to look like he’s looking past Mike’s chest to the window. Mike is lean, but his chest is defined, and he looks--flexible.
His pants are too big, and sit low on his hips. There’s a sharp jut of bones pointing down, and that’s what catches Harvey’s eye now: the angle of the bones, the sprinkling of hair between. It’s--nice. It’s something. Harvey suspects that there are shirtless scenes in Mike Ross’s more recent movies.
The movie thing is what stops Harvey from thinking about it any more. Mike Ross probably has legions of teenage fans. Harvey is pretty sure he does have legions of teenage fans, and they run a website and draw Mike’s face in hearts. Mike Ross is the kind of person people lust after, and Harvey Specter is too old to have a crush on a movie star.
He’s too old to have a crush, period, end of discussion.
“I guess it fits,” Mike says, and that interrupts Harvey’s thoughts further.
Mike Ross in Harvey’s shirt is, in many ways, worse than Mike Ross in no shirt at all. The shirt belongs to Harvey. It’s something he’s had for ages, thin from Harvey sleeping in it and just tight enough--
“Harvard Law?” Mike asks.
“Yeah,” Harvey says, and if his voice is a little husky, it’s not. “I went there.”
“I wanted to study law, once,” Mike says mildly.
“What happened?” Harvey asks, fixing his eyes on Mike’s face.
“Life,” Mike says in a way that discourages further questioning, and Harvey realizes there are a lot of things about Mike that he doesn’t know. They only met a few days ago. This shouldn’t be as surprising as it it; as it is, it serves as a reminder that Harvey doesn’t know Mike well enough to have a crush on him, either.
“Come on,” he says, and they take the elevator down in silence, and when they get outside Ray is waiting for them.
“Ray, this is--”
“Mike Ross,” Ray interrupts. “I know. Pleasure to meet you, wife’s a big fan.”
Mike takes it well, and offers to sign something, an offer Ray refuses.
“She’ll be happy just to know you were in the cab,” he says. “Besides, what would we do with a piece of paper with your name on it?”
“I don’t actually know,” Mike says, and then laughs in surprise. “I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of people put them in some drawer until they forget about it and then throw it out. Except when I sign boobs--”
He laughs uncomfortably and shifts a little on the bench. Harvey remembers that Mike’s probably straight--though, honestly, around Harvey is anyone really straight?--and even if he isn’t, he probably plays straight for Hollywood. That’s what you do, isn’t it? Unless you’re Neil Patrick Harris. But if you’re Neil Patrick Harris you’re married and have two children.
But that entire line of reasoning began with something Harvey is not supposed to think about.
By then they’re at Rene’s, anyway, and Mike is looking at Harvey skeptically.
“I can’t believe you’ve never been to a tailor,” Harvey says. “Seriously.”
Harvey looks at ties while Rene takes Mike’s measurements, and when Mike comes out he distinctly uncomfortable.
“That was--an experience,” he says.
“Now you can do a movie about properly fitting clothes,” Harvey replies. “Doesn’t the costume department measure you?”
“Not quite so--intimately,” Mike says. “Also without such a large price tag.”
“I’ll pay for it, if you don’t want to,” Harvey says. “But you need to buy something.”
“In case you haven't heard, I'm in the talkies,” Mike says. “I make a little money. I can afford some new togs.”
“Okay, historically inaccurate Jay Gatsby,” Harvey says, and Mike laughs.
“Keep me away from girls named Daisy, and swimming pools,” he says, then glances at Harvey. “Nothing will actually be ready until tomorrow, you know.”
“Sure,” Harvey says, because that’s about what he expected, and then Ray drives them back uptown, and they slip into the bookstore and Donna takes one look at Mike’s shirt and gives Harvey a look, and that's how they finish the day.
“Where’d you get that?” Rachel asks when she sees him, but she’s looking at Harvey.
“Harvey lent it to me,” Mike says. “Thanks, by the way.”
“You can keep it,” Harvey replies without thinking. He probably shouldn’t offer--this whole thing is a bundle of things he shouldn’t be doing, though.
‘Thanks,” Mike says after a moment, looking at Harvey with a strange expression on his face.
The rest of the day passes uneventfully, and Mike mostly sticks to the backroom, and after everyone leaves Harvey locks the shop and walks home, whistling.
And that’s how Harvey Specter winds up on Page Six. Not the whistling. Before that.
Page Six: Mike Ross was seen emerging from an uptown apartment building with a dapperly dressed older man--was Holden Caulfield slipping out for a nooner with a New York City businessman? More on this story as it develops. - The New York Post
At least they called him a ‘dapperly dressed.’
And you can’t see his face.
It’s only after Donna calls Harvey, and Harvey goes to the kiosk three blocks south of his apartment and picks up a copy of the Post that Harvey realizes he doesn’t have Mike’s number. There’s no way to contact him, to ask if this is going to be a problem, if he has some sort of publicity person managing this. Mike’s never given any indication of having a celebrity entourage--he clearly doesn’t have a stylist--but this is the sort of thing that Harvey suspects might matter. Mike’s career hasn’t yet reached its zenith. It might not. Harvey doesn’t know enough about Hollywood to know what matters and what doesn’t, but, well, it’s a pretty big picture. Bigger than the one of Mike buying coffee, anyway. Harvey went to Donna’s to check the back issues of the Post, for comparison. In exchange, he had told her what happened, which was nothing, really.
He figures all he has to do is go to the shop the next morning and wait to see what happens, but that means--waiting. It’s not something Harvey’s good at.
Donna comes in and hands him a cup of coffee.
“Nothing happened,” he says. “That should make it easier to spin.”
“You’re right,” Donna says. “It should. But not if it’s already spun.”
“Are they going to figure out who I am?” Harvey asks.
“I’m not telling them,” Donna replies, sipping her coffee. “And Mike’s not, either. It wasn’t a good picture of you.”
“I looked a little paunchy, I think,” Harvey says, and Donna gives him a glare.
“That’s what you’re going to worry about, now?” she asks. “You liked the kid.”
It might be an understatement, but Harvey doesn’t want to delve into that.
“Was there anyone outside your building?” Donna asks suddenly. “This morning. Photographers or anything.”
Harvey looks at her, now.
“Fuck,” he whispers. “I hope not. I should’ve thought of that.”
“You probably should have,” Donna agrees, and Harvey pushes his fingers up to his forehead, rubbing his temples like that will resolve the issue.
“A lot of people live in that building,” he says. “A lot of them dress like me. As long as Mike’s not there--”
“Probably,” Donna says, but she sounds more like she’s trying to placate Harvey than like she’s entirely certain.
Mike doesn’t come in that day. Harvey might not be a surprised, but--it still feels a little like he’s sleepwalking through the day, waiting to wake up.
What surprises him more is how quickly Mike had come to seem important, maybe even vital. Without him it feels like something’s missing from the entire operation, when nothing felt like it was missing before. Now the store is too quiet, and appraising is too slow (“It’s not like he was going to be your permanent appraiser, you dumbass,” Donna mutters. “Don’t look so depressed.”) and everything’s a bit empty.
They get a call from Mike’s agent, a woman named Jennifer Griffiths, but not until the next day. She calls immediately after Harvey opens the door, and Harvey almost wonders if Mike told her the precise time to call to catch Harvey before anyone else arrived.
Harvey’s not sure why Mike would do that, though.
“Mr. Specter,” she begins. “My client would just like to apologize--”
“I’m not going to tell anyone anything,” Harvey interjects. “You can spin it any way you want.”
“Mike just wanted to apologize,” Jennifer continues, her voice a little strained. “If the recent press brought your establishment any unwanted attention.”
“No,” Harvey says. “Thank you.”
And then he hangs up. He doesn’t know what there’s left to say.
“You hung up,” Donna says when she gets in.
Harvey turns to look at her.
“You hung up,” she repeats. “You didn’t ask to talk to Mike.”
“You think Mike was there?”
“Harvey,” she says. “Harvey.”
“I hadn’t had my second coffee yet. If Mike was there he would’ve known that.”
“That’s what you’re going to go with?” Donna says. “I hate to break it to you, but I don’t think you would’ve cut it as a lawyer.”
“I would’ve if I had coffee in an IV,” Harvey mumbles, clutching at his cup and swallowing two hot gulps.
“I’m going to star sixty-nine it,” she says.
“And say what?” Harvey asks.
“That Mike can come back if he wants to,” Donna says. “Which is what you should’ve said.”
“He obviously doesn’t want to come back.”
“Obviously,” Donna says. “Whatever intelligence you had has fled. Aren’t you supposed to be suave and confident?”
“Would you like me to go out and seduce someone?” Harvey asks. “I’ve been trying to cut back on liquor expenditures.”
“Of course you have, dear,” Donna says, and then she takes the phone off the hook and jabs quickly at the three keys.
“Hello,” she says. “Is this--? I’m calling from Spectre Books, and we’d just like to say--Mike’s welcome back any time.”
“And Rene’s wondering when he’ll pick up his suits,” Harvey adds.
“And Rene’s wondering when he’ll pick up his suits,” Donna adds. “If you could pass that along. Thank you.”
And then Donna hangs up, shrugs a little.
“At least that’s taken care now,” she says, looking at Harvey. “Good job putting your foot in it, there. He probably thought you were pissed about your getting caught Candid camera.”
“They didn’t even name me,” Harvey says.
“But they might, eventually,” Donna says. “If he keeps coming. And you told him that you didn’t want any paparazzi, didn’t you?”
“I don’t want any paparazzi,” Harvey says.
“They’ll come,” Donna says. “Build it, and they will come. Is that okay? Are you going to be okay with that, if he comes back?”
Harvey looks at her.
“Weigh it,” Donna says. “I know you like him, at least a little. This is part and parcel.”
Harvey looks at her, and Donna just looks back. She knows everything.
“I have an auction to get to,” Harvey says, and goes.
When he gets back he retreats again to the stockroom, goes through his own, slow, appraisal process while simultaneously trying to appraise the situation at hand, or maybe not at hand. Maybe it will all slip away.
It’s about the whole of the book, he thinks, flipping through a small volume with a soft brown cover. The story, the sentimental value, the stains. The way everything fits together.
Maybe Mike will come back, maybe he won’t, but Harvey will cross that bridge when he comes to it. If they come to it.
Mike is there the next morning.
“I’m afraid I did some appraising while you were gone,” Harvey says, and Mike grins until Harvey thinks his face is going to break.
“Rene says hello,” Mike says, doing a little twirl on the sidewalk. Harvey stops and looks at him, then.
His suit fits. His ass is perfect.
Harvey doesn’t look at it.
“Your suit fits,” Harvey says. “But your tie is still too damn skinny.”
It has been some time since Harvey had sex.
“Look, sorry I disappeared,” Mike says. “I just thought--I know you didn’t want the paps lurking around here.”
Harvey should tell Mike that it’s okay, that it doesn’t matter, that Mike’s been good for the store and he can stay as long as he likes. It’s just a little much, right now.
“Don’t worry about it,” he says, instead.
And just like that, Mike’s back.
“You can do a press release, if you want,” Donna tells Mike when she arrives. Mike glances at Harvey.
“We wouldn’t need to release the particular store,” he says. “Though the intrepid would still find it.”
“Would that be good?” Harvey asks, looking at Mike. “I mean--was the first picture a scandal?”
“Minor,” Mike says, grinning a little. “They weren’t exactly the first pictures if you know what I mean.”
“They weren’t--” Harvey starts.
“The others were a little more scandalous.”
“I think I remember that,” Donna says suddenly. “Were they the ones--”
“With my friend Trevor,” Mike says. “Someone got them off Myspace, we were about sixteen. It was a shitty thing, all around, but the facts were there from the start. And then I dated Jen for a little, and--we don’t need to lay my dating history out, here. Let’s talk about Harvey’s.”
“Harvey doesn’t date,” Donna says. “So much as he--you know.”
“I have dated,” Harvey protests. “But that was a graceless segue, Mike, and I’m not going to humor you.”
“Can I come with you to a sale?” Mike asks suddenly.
And Harvey says: “Sure.”
There’s an estate sale two days later. Ray picks them up and glances at Mike for about half a second before reverting to normal.
“So what do we do, at estate sales?” Mike asks.
“We hope Louis isn’t there,” Harvey replies. “And we find something good.”
Louis is there.
They find something good. It’s part of a lot--Harvey sees it first, and he elbows Mike, and then Louis appears, peering between them.
“Who is this, Harvey?”
“New appraiser, we’re working with,” Harvey says, nodding between them. “Mike, Louis.”
Mike offers a hand, and Louis takes it and holds it for a moment too long, studying his face.
“I’ve seen you somewhere,” he says.
“Have you?” Mike asks.
“New York’s a big city,” Harvey says, and they move on.
They’re halfway through the sale before someone else says it.
“Mike Ross,” says a middle-aged woman. “My granddaughter loves you. Can I--may I--?”
“Yes,” Mike says, producing a pen and paper himself. “Of course. And what’s her name?”
Louis is staring. He must have heard--he was stalking Harvey, as he does, and now his eyes are narrowed.
“Mike Ross,” he echoes, but he’s looking at Harvey, not Mike.
They get the lot, and take the subway home, which is the way of it.
“You going to carry that box all the way back?” Mike asks, when they’re on the sidewalk. He slides sideways a little, and bumps his shoulder into Harvey’s.
“So you put out for little old women,” Harvey says, and Mike laughs a little, halfway between light and strained.
“Oh, you know,” he says. “For a while, it was just my gram and me.”
“For a while?” Harvey asks.
“Still, really,” Mike says. “The dictionary was for her.”
“Oh,” Harvey says, and he’s not sure what else to ask. There was a time when he would’ve said something, just to keep the conversation moving. He’s not sure why that time isn’t now.
They walk the rest of the block to the subway in silence. It’s midday and empty, so they find two seats, shoulder to shoulder, with space for the box by Harvey’s side.
It’s Mike, on his other side, that makes Harvey feel a little stiff and uncomfortable. Travelling with a box of books he’s used to, even though every box might--may--could--contain gold. Travelling with Mike, who slowly falls into a slump of sleep against Harvey’s shoulder--that’s something unusual.
Mike already contains gold.
Harvey jostles Mike awake when they get to their stop, and Mike blinks up at him blearily.
“Sorry,” he says.
“I’ll carry the box,” Mike adds.
Harvey lets Mike carry the box for half a block before he takes it.
Page Six: An anonymous tip tells us that Mike Ross has been working as an appraiser with a certain bookseller at the corner of 76th & Lexington. Is the actor trying to become the next James Franco? - The New York Post
The world doesn’t end, surprisingly, though Donna makes Harvey call Mike’s agent and get his number, so he can tell him that.
“You can come in today, if you want,” is what Harvey ends up telling Mike, and Mike says, “Okay.”
The bookstore does get busier, and Harvey has to call in Rachel even though it’s technically her day off, but it’s New York. No one salivates--nothing breaks. There are the obvious lurkers, and Mike handles most of those himself, and the rest seem to be more along the lines of--curious bystanders. Who can be persuaded to buy books. It’s really, stupidly, not a big deal. Sometime around lunch Mike catches Harvey’s eye from across the store, looking uncomfortable, and nods quickly at him. He hopes it conveys what he wants it to convey--that this is okay, that they’re okay, that Louis is a shithead who got them more customers.
It looks like Mike gets it. And so they move forward, into another day.
“Meeting with a seller today,” Harvey says the next morning, once the coffee is downed and the world is beginning to look a bit more manageable, even with their increased customer base.
“You going to get me something good?” Mike asks, and something about the way he says it--it startles Harvey.
It startles him a lot, actually. It makes his stomach drop like a promise, more overt than anything that’s come before.
“Of course,” Harvey says, because that’s the only thing there is to say.
The object--the book--is an autographed first edition of ‘Infinite Jest.’ It’s the sort of thing you take risks for; something everyone knows is worth something, but also with the potential to increase in value dramatically. It is, after all, David Foster Wallace. Harvey tries not to salivate. The situation is as complex and delicate as one of Wallace’s sentences.
The woman selling the book is a graduate student who looks like she would rather not. What Harvey has going for him, more than anything, is that he’s a reputable bookseller--the sort of person who will care for the book, treat it kindly, and sell it to a good home. He tells the girl as much, puts a little purr in his words, leans forward and sets a hand on his knee. It’s been a long time since he’s had the chance to do this; to seduce a seller, really.
She sees right through him.
“Mr. Specter,” she says. “Not that I don’t appreciate the attention, but I have a girlfriend.”
“She’s a lucky woman,” Harvey says, because that’s what you say when you’re trying to seduce someone who has a significant other. You don’t say: “But it’s okay, because I just want the book.”
Which is what Harvey addends, this time.
“Do you?” the woman--Elizabeth, her name is Elizabeth, and she doesn’t like nicknames--says. “And why is that?”
She’s not stupid--even if she weren’t doing grad studies at Columbia, that would be apparent. But Harvey’s not stupid, either, despite appearances to the contrary, so he just shrugs slightly.
“I promised someone,” he says, shunting his eyes away from Elizabeth’s. “I’d rather not say.”
She looks interested, but not entirely trusting, like she knows a liar when she sees one.
“Is that so?” she says, instead of something else.
“I promised my appraiser I’d bring back something good,” he says, and Elizabeth peers at him. She wears plain, wire-rimmed glasses, and after a moment there’s something in her grey eyes.
“And this appraiser, what’s she like?” she asks.
“He--” Harvey corrects, and she peers at him again.
“You’re the one--” she says. “You’re the one with the movie star appraiser.”
“True,” Harvey says.
“I’m sure he could pay,” Elizabeth says, glancing at the book. It’s pristine, laid out on the coffee table in front of Harvey like it’s waiting for him.
“You let your girlfriend pay for her presents?” Harvey asks, and Elizabeth laughs.
The sale is his.
The rest of it isn’t, yet.
Harvey goes back to the shop and puts the book of the stockroom table, even though he’s not entirely sure how they’ll price it--if they’ll price it at all. Mike is there, perched on one of the stools.
“Oh,” he says. “Get me anything good?”
And Harvey says, “Yes. Though I’m not sure if it’s appraisable, exactly.”
“Seven hundred,” Mike says, looking at the autographed cover plate and then up at Harvey. The stockroom is still and quiet. “Seven twenty-five, maybe.”
“But it will appreciate value,” Harvey says. “It’s the sort of thing you keep around.”
“So what are you going to do with it?” Mike asks.
“Keep it around,” Harvey says. “If you’ll let me.”
Mike blinks at him, slow and liquid.
“You--” Harvey says. “You told me to get you something good. It’s yours.”
“Harvey,” Mike says. “How much did you pay for this? I can’t--”
“You can,” Harvey says. “It’s already yours.”
And then Harvey leaves. It was just five hundred dollars. He’s spent more on people he liked less, but he’s not sure how to say that, because while Harvey’s always been good at quick, easy seductions, this both complex and delicate. Mike could dissolve at any moment, back to Hollywood and movies and a life that’s well outside of Harvey’s realm of dusty books and estate sales. Harvey likes his life, but he knows its bounds. Sometimes it seems like they were drawn around him the day he got into fisticuffs outside Hardman & Associates and convinced the law firms of New York and himself that Harvey Specter didn’t play well with others. Now he’s a big fish in a pond that’s small and shrinking.
Harvey shakes it off, though, goes up to the front counter. Donna looks up at him.
“You look like someone just kicked your puppy,” she says. “Or your balls.”
“I’m just thinking,” Harvey says, and Donna pulls a face.
“You think?” she asks. “And here I thought you ran on blood and instinct.”
“I do that, too,” Harvey says.
“You got the book,” Donna says.
“I gave it to Mike,” Harvey replies, and Donna’s mouth forms a silent ‘O.’ There’s a sound from the back that could only be Mike leaving the stockroom, and then they get a customer.
“Hello--” Harvey says, and then Donna jumps up. “Can I help you?”
Donna rarely helps the customers with anything beyond ringing them up, and Harvey twists to look at her. She stares pointedly to the stacks, where Mike is standing, holding ‘Infinite Jest’ and looking--looking--
“Donna will help you,” Harvey tells the customer, staring at Mike. He doesn’t know--he doesn’t know. He goes to him.
“So,” Mike says. “I, shit, look--I think I know where you were going with the whole book thing, but, you know, apologies if I misinterpreted. It might be pretty awkward, but I just wanted to try something.”
And then Mike grabs Harvey’s tie, reels him in, and kisses him.
Mike kisses--Mike kisses like he’s been lost in the desert without water and Harvey is not an oasis but a mirage, something on the edge of hope. Mike kisses like he doesn’t know what he wants and also knows it exactly, sloppy around the edges and also completely focused.
Mike kisses perfectly, and too soon Harvey’s pressing him up against the shelves and rutting against him like a teenager, which is something Harvey hasn’t been in a long time. But Mike--Mike.
“Oh, good,” Mike says when they pull apart. “I was right.”
He sounds so cavalier that Harvey has to make a rebuttal, dipping his mouth to Mike’s jawline, to the soft spot where his neck meets his ear, and sucking until the only sounds coming out of Mike’s mouth are pleased whimperings. Mike’s grip on Harvey’s hips tightens and his breath shudders a little and--
“Well,” Donna says. “This will be good for publicity.”
Harvey would turn to look at her, but Mike’s cheeks are pink and his pupils are blown, and there’s a pink spot on his jaw that almost--almost--means he belongs to Harvey, and that’s something that needs to be finish.
“Donna,” Harvey says, trying to school his voice into something that doesn’t sound like what he’s thinking about. “Can you mind the store?”
“You owe me, Specter,” she says.
And then Harvey and Mike slip out for an actual nooner, and the Post can say whatever the hell it wants.
epilogue: 6801 hollywood boulevard
Harvey is preening in the limo, and Mike’s not sure if it’s hot or insufferable. It’s probably some combination of the two that is uniquely Harvey, who is kind of a ridiculous peacock.
“You do realize they want to see me, right?” Mike says. “I’m the movie star. You’re the one who didn’t want any press.”
“That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t look good if I get it,” Harvey says. “I’m the one who taught you that, plebe.”
His eyes do an admiring trawl up Mike’s body, and then he reaches for Mike’s tie. Mike probably should be paying Rene better.
“Mmm,” Mike says. “Not right now. We’re almost there.”
“I’m just fixing it,” Harvey says, and Mike lets him. Harvey’s fingers against his neck are familiar, scuffed with the fine lines of papercuts.
“Now, are you sure you’re ready for this?” Mike asks.
“Ready?” Harvey scoffs. “You’re the one who’s going to win or lose an Oscar.”
“There will be flashbulbs,” he says.
Harvey had, once, punched a paparazzo who followed them through Chinatown in the face.
“And I will be on my best behavior,” Harvey says. “Because I know after you win I’ll be the one debauching you. And only me.”
“You don’t think we could get Brad and Angie in on this action?” Mike asks. “Or--ah--who’s someone hot? Clooney? Zoe Saldana? I think Knightley has a nom.”
“Only if Brad shaves his face,” Harvey says, leaning forward a little. “But really, I don’t like sharing.”
His voice is low and husky and sends a small thrill running up Mike’s spine. Because, really, this is his, he’ll be the one debauching Harvey Specter tonight, whether as an Oscar winner or not.
“You really think I’ll win?” he asks, because they don’t really do the thing where they talk about what they mean to one another or whatever. Mostly they just leave hickeys on patches of exposed skin.
“You’re playing a bookseller,” Harvey says. “And you learned from the best. If you don’t win the Academy has their collective heads up their collective asses.”
“Which they might,” Mike says, and Harvey hushes him with a glance, and then with his mouth.
“We’re almost there,” Ray calls from the front. “We actually are there.”
And Mike holds up one hand, like that will do any good at all, but he wants to acknowledge that he heard, and it will just be a moment until he disentangles himself from Harvey. Or maybe the other way around. Harvey tastes like himself, and smells faintly of the cologne Donna told Mike to get him for Christmas, and really, this is good, this is right, this is what Mike needs to tumble out of the limo and not feel like an upstart or a freak, but like a person who deserves to be here and does, after all, have the best bookseller in New York (possibly the world) on his arm. And afterwards, they’ll go home together, no questions asked. The media already had that frenzy.
Harvey pulls away, and then reaches forward to adjust Mike’s tie again.
“There,” he says. “Perfect.”
They stumble out. There are flashbulbs and people with microphones, but mostly there’s Harvey’s hand on the small of Mike’s back, guiding him forward.