Mike doesn't say a word, but he remembers.
He remembered the day he had the interview, but he said nothing. He remembers each and every day, and every time Harvey talks to him or teaches him something, every time Harvey shows a little faith in him, he thinks maybe now, maybe he'll remember. But even if he never does, Mike will keep hoping. It's not whether Harvey remembers that's important. It's that Mike does, and that memory gets him through a million long nights.
Once, he saved Harvey the way Harvey saved him. And if Harvey ever asked, he'd do it again in a second.
* * *
Harvey and his dad used to laugh at the confusion they caused. The bar was the only one close by that had the kind of whiskey they both liked, and they'd sit at a low table in the back and knock back a bottle. The curious eyes would hit Harvey, and the whispers would say May-December relationship or high-priced call boy, and only the bartender knew that they were father and son, indulging in a bit of rare liquor and a good laugh at the expense of the rest of Manhattan's highest-class gay bar.
Late at night, the bar's lights went down so it was hard to see your way through the throng of people who abandoned their tables and drinks to dance in the middle of the floor. The Specter boys always beat a retreat when that started; Gordon's eyesight was failing and it was hard enough to navigate him around under the brightest of lights. Occasionally Harvey would look back, see the genteel space of the bar deteriorate into movements and noise he associated with less exclusive places, and wonder what it would be like to come back after his father had been seen safely home. Wondering was permissible. There were some lines of curiosity that couldn't be safely crossed, though. Not by him. Not at this point in his career. And it wasn't as though he lacked for female attention. Still, the niggling what-if stuck in his craw for a a few minutes after each drinking session. That was all right. Not every urge in life needed to be acted on.
He hadn't seen his father in several weeks . He'd been busy, even by his standards – cases and clients called him, and Jessica had been acting strangely lately, cautious at just the time he was starting to hope she'd be bold. Harvey's billables had shot up past Louis's briefly last month, and it was just about time for him to start thinking about making partner himself. But he couldn't ask now, not when Jessica had withdrawn in a way he hadn't seen her do in a long time. Something was going on.
So he'd let contact with his dad lapse, but that wasn't anything new. It happened from time to time in the life of a busy lawyer. And if the silence dragged on a bit too long, that was because abruptly Jessica let him into her confidence, and they ended up in a high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse with Daniel Hardman caught, dramatically, in the mousetrap at the end of it. It was a terrifying but heady time, and Harvey was reeling from its implications. The leadership shakeup at the firm. Zoe leaving. His own long-delayed and richly deserved promotion.
And then Donna had come into the office with her face a mask of shock.
Which all led Harvey back to that low table in the back of the bar. The bartender knew what had happened in a single glance at Harvey's face, and handed him the whole bottle without a word. Harvey, his bottle and his shot glass sat alone in the back, not caring when the lights went down, looking across the table at a drinking partner who'd never be there again.
He couldn't see a damn thing, and the darkness was a respite. Maybe he could disappear into it and never emerge again, at least not until the sting stopped. There didn't seem any point in maintaining barriers, or a strong front, not now. The pain was curling in the pit of his stomach, chomping at him like a caged animal, and he only wanted it to eat him alive so he wouldn't be able to feel anymore.
The mass of bodies moving in the darkness swelled and undulated like waves on an ocean, and a body came reeling out of it,, spit out onto the shore that was the row of sparsely populated tables in the back. Whoever it was, he was slight, and the feature that caught Harvey's attention was his fingerless gloves, like a wrestler's hand guards. He stared at them, at the odd rectangular lumps they made in the young man's hands. His face was indistinct, and there was no way Harvey could see what he was wearing beyond the irregular shape of the padded gloves.
“Ignore me,” the young man said. Not even a young man -- from his voice, he was barely more than a kid.
“OK,” Harvey said, and proceeded to do just that, taking another drink and willing himself once more to disappear into the darkness. This time it wouldn't take. No matter how he tried, he couldn't divorce himself from the here and now. The kid's presence was depriving him of his desire to be alone in a crowd. He cleared his throat.
“What?” the kid said.
Harvey waved his hand. “Nothing. I was just coughing.”
“If you want me to ignore you,” Harvey said crossly, “you should ignore me, too.”
“I don't want you to ignore me,” the kid said. “I just don't want you to think I'm trying to pick you up. That's not why I come here.”
“No?” The kid might have smiled. A bit of dim light caught quirking lips. “Why for you, then?”
Harvey had thought it would be horrible to have to pay attention to reality, but as it turned out, focusing on something outside his own head was a relief. “I like the drinks they serve.”
“Yeah, me too. Sometimes it's good to drink without always being aware of the ladies, you know? You have to be on. It's good to just kick back with a friend. Or even alone.”
Harvey's heart twinged. “It's good alone, too?” he said with a soft, bitter laugh. “I don't know about that.”
“It is.” The kid paused. “You lonely?”
Any other time in his life, and in front of anyone he knew, Harvey would scoff at the very idea.
“Very,” he said.
The kid sat silent for a moment. “You need a hug or something?”
That wasn't a question Harvey was asked every day. He sat silent, unsure how to answer, but strangely unable to say no.
“Or we could dance. That's like hugging, but nobody would pay attention.”
“I don't dance with men,” Harvey said, but the thought was in his head now. What if he just leaned on a stranger, just for a few seconds out of his life? This was a safe place; he knew that after years of coming here. The thought tantalized him, and his arms ached.
“I don't, either,” the kid said. “But you really, really seem like you need a hug.”
“That's--” Harvey shook his head.
“One minute,” the guy said. He reached out one hand.
Harvey was too curious about the feel of the padded gloves under his own hands. “Thirty seconds,” he said as he reached out.
“Start counting,” the kid replied. He got up, led Harvey to the edge of the throng, and put his arms around him.
Harvey closed his eyes. The arms of a stranger enveloped him, a dark room surrounded him, and with the whiskey sitting in his system he felt like he'd been drawn into a dream. His hands found the kid's waist and cinched there, thumb and fingers pressing into the soft cotton of a T-shirt. The kid felt real, but Harvey himself was fading into nothing. Just a part of the void that had swallowed up so many of these mindlessly moving people, part of the circle of love and death that had moved him to come here, that had taken his father from him at what should be a bright point in his life. That was the natural order of things, and it was a painful one. He fought back a hitched breath that threatened to approach a sob.
“Look, whatever happened,” the kid whispered against his ear, “it's cool. You're gonna be okay.”
“You don't know that.” Harvey pressed closer, the kid's cheek now against his own. Thirty seconds had to be long since up, but they were just holding each other tighter. “You don't know anything about me.”
“You're right,” the kid said. “But you have enough balls to get up and dance with a stranger even when you're going through hell. If anyone can get through whatever it is, you can.”
Harvey thought at that point that this kid knew him better than anyone else in the world.
He didn't mean for his lips to move across the back of the kid's neck. It just happened, an accident of proximity and rhythm, and the kid stiffened, his hands tightening on the nape of Harvey's neck.
“Sorry,” Harvey managed.
“Don't be.” His voice was tightly drawn, like a taut wire. He shifted, his hips bumping Harvey's, Harvey realized he'd gotten aroused. The kid, first, but now Harvey too, responding to him, heat seeking out heat. As natural and human a response as any. Harvey could feel something warm with this kid pressed to him, and he wasn't going to be abandoned, he didn't have to hold it in or temper it. He held onto it instead, sucking in a breath and hissing it out slowly, to the beat of the deep, low rumbling bass that vibrated through his body.
He wasn't alone right now. He had something to hold onto.
“But you don't,” he protested, feebly.
“I haven't,” the kid said. “That's a difference.”
“Yeah.” Harvey's mouth was suddenly, strangely dry. “Me neither. I have... I have lines I don't cross.”
For his reputation. For his career. For his own sense of propriety. None of it seemed to make much difference now. The world had ceased to glow.
“Lines you haven't crossed,” the kid corrected.
“Are you saying I should?”
“No.” The kid's mouth was whispering against the corner of Harvey's own. “I'm saying you can.”
Harvey hesitated a moment. It would be so easy right now to take that simple, physical comfort. But he didn't know this kid, and it hardly seemed the right time.
It was just, every time he started thinking about wrong or right, a desperate, angry part of him wanted to throw it all back in his face. He was so exhausted, so turned upside down, and he couldn't remember what meant anything anymore. His world was hollow and cold and empty, except for this one nameless, faceless boy warming it. A boy who was keeping him solid and whole.
He tasted salt on the boy's mouth, and only when he swallowed did he realize they were his own tears.
One kiss, and then they were dancing again, pressed in tight to each other.
“I just lost my father,” Harvey said, and then more tears came. The kid held him until they were gone.
They didn't say another word, didn't kiss before they parted. They could have. In another universe, Harvey could have taken another path, could have taken this kid home. But that would require seeing him, and Harvey didn't want to. The young man had just appeared, broken down the wall that needed breaking, and vanished into the night again. Who he was and where he came from were irrelevant. If Harvey were the sort, he might have suspected a guardian angel had touched down for him.
But there were no such things as angels. Men had to do the right thing in this world, because it was the only chance they had. Harvey's dad wasn't in heaven or hell. He was gone, and now it was Harvey's turn to make things right.
* * *
Mike's early to their meeting at Grand Central. Mike knows why Harvey's headed out of town for the day, but he doesn't say anything. It would give too much away. He's satisfied with just knowing.
Harvey tells him the story and the stakes. Mike gets nervous. “We're gonna cross a line here,” he says, and the words echo in the terminal, strangely resonant, as though time is folding back on itself to amplify the sound.
“We've been crossing lines long before we met,” Harvey replies.
Mike thinks of replying. But there are too many questions, and the stakes are too high right now. Maybe later. Maybe when it's all settled down. He nods and heads out to do what needs to be done.
Meanwhile, Harvey sits on the train and remembers.