Like most situations, Mike stumbles into this one by sheer virtue of being in a certain place at a certain time.
It's late, very late, late to the point where no one should be anywhere near a building that houses their work office, and he should be at home. He certainly wants to be at home, but he forgot his coat somewhere at work and it's the only really warm one he has, so Mike grits his teeth and takes the flight up to the New York Times offices and hopes that at the very least the office is abandoned enough that no one's going to make fun of him for leaving his jacket and only remembering it several hours later. He'll never live it down.
It is pretty close to abandoned, hallways and the vast majority of cubicles and offices dark. Mike winces at any sounds, from the ding of the elevator to the simple sound of his feet on the floor. He checks his desk first, and then Conference Room B, where he was waved in for a meeting on some kind of Manafort angle, because the guy cannot hide his ten thousand shady ties to save his life.
Mark's there, bent over many different papers, the one point of life in an otherwise deserted office. That makes sense, that everything else is deserted but there's still Mark, in shirtsleeves, digging in his heels and holding up the fort, protecting the good name of the New York Times and journalism as a whole even as the circles under his eyes get darker each passing day. If he wasn't facing away, Mike would probably be able to notice them from a good distance.
Mike gives a perfunctory knock before entering, not really waiting. It startles Mark, who straightens his spine and swipes a quick, open palmed hand over his face with a shuddery inhale.
"Hey." It sounds breathy and false. "What're you doing back so late?"
"You're here late too," Mike says lamely. He's not looking at Mark; Mark isn't looking at him. "And I just - I left my jacket so I thought."
"It's over there." Mark sort of flings his arm out in a general direction, but Mike does actually spot his jacket, draped over the back of a chair, no doubt giving that chair all the warmth he'd been denied as he wandered D.C., jacket-less.
"Thanks." Mike doesn't go get it though. He's not sure what the proper protocol is for when you stumble in on your friend crying at work in the dead of night. He's treating it like he would an encounter with a frightened animal. Soft voice, slow movements, avoidance of direct eye contact. "Why're you here late?" Mark sighs wearily, glancing at a table strewn with papers and his phone and his laptop, screen forty fived. It sounds heavy. His shoulders slump with the weight of it.
"Working," is his answer, and when he does look at Mike, propping his chin in his hand like he can't support his own weight, his eyes are bleary and red ringed. "It's been many days of being the first one in and the last to leave."
If he thinks about it, Mark has been a near constant presence in the office for the last few days. He's already hard at work when Mike stumbles in, not sufficiently caffeinated and irritated and having to be awake. He's still hard at work when Mike ducks out, giving him that same genial two fingered wave he gives everyone who wishes him a good night. Mike hasn't actually seen Mark outside the office all week.
He moves now, but not to grab his jacket and go home as was the original intention. He takes the chair next to Mark's and sits in it, swivels so that their knees are almost touching. Mark sighs and shifts away, eyes back down on the paper covered table again. If Mike looks closely, he can see tear smudges on the ink in some places. He doesn't want to look closely. He also doesn't quite know what to say. But he wants to try.
"Do you wanna talk?" Mike says it all in a rush, half mumbled under his breath. He's very not good at this. Mark huffs out some kind of a rough sounding exhale. It wobbles a little bit.
"I just." He passes a hand through his hair. "It's Lindsay's birthday. It's Lindsay's birthday and we were supposed to be together and I'm supposed to be at home but I'm here and I'm dealing with some new Paul Manafort nonsense and ten different things to fucking fact check and I can't even get out of here before midnight -" There might be more, but Mark's voice finally cracks and his shoulders start shaking again and he presses his palms against his eyes.
It feels weird to think about a grown man as delicate, but that's how it works in Mike's head. Mark wears a watch sometimes, wearing it now, some silver thing on his left hand and it makes his fingers look longer and his wrists look more fragile. Mark fiddles with his wedding ring, carefully and almost reverently. Mark handles his baseball bat on occasion, absentmindedly but still very gentle, like it's made of porcelain.
Even now, with his head buried in his hands, he still looks like he's holding fine china, the way Mike used to handle his mom's crystal champagne flutes she got as a wedding gift. Mike doesn't like that analogy. He broke the champagne flutes when he was eight.
Mark's not made of glass but the foolish, monkey brain part of Mike's mind keeps drawing comparisons, and he doesn't want to crack anything. That's why when he raises his hand and places it in between Mark's shoulder blades, he does so very gently. He knows Mark is tactile, much more than he is, finds more of a comfort in physical touch than he does - if anyone touches him when he's in a mood, Mike may actually bite - but maybe things are different when it's the dead of night and Mark is crying because he's stressed and scared and sad. Maybe he doesn't want to be touched.
But he hasn't batted his hand away or jerked out of Mike's grasp or done anything to show that he doesn't like the course of action Mike is taking. So Mike just lets him cry it out, rubbing small circles on his back. They stay like that for a while, in total silence, Mike with his hands on his friend and Mark getting his moment to let it all out.
After a while, Mark glances up at him, raw and vulnerable and open because he's not good at hiding what he feels on his face, never has been. For a moment, he thinks Mark might kiss him.
Mike wonders what it would feel like. Not Mark kissing him, he knows what Mark kissing him would feel like. They've done it a few times, done more than kiss more than a few times. Mark kisses like he lives, like he acts, methodically and with such gentle care and attention to detail, that same attention he brings to anything that matters to him. He kisses with single minded focus, like kissing Mike is the only thing on his mind. He likes that, it makes him feel wanted.
Kissing Mark when he's like this would probably be the same. Mostly. Probably saltier, more wet than usual. But even though he's giving Mike this look, not entirely dissimilar to the one he gets when he pulls away and then gets on his knees, Mike doesn't want to kiss him. He thinks.
Truth be told, there's generally a part of his mind that always wants to kiss Mark. But not now. It would be like kissing someone who's drunk or otherwise incapacitated. Not real. And it wouldn't be right, to take advantage like that, it would be the exact same thing as kissing someone who's drunk or on drugs or about to pass out. To kiss Mark in the midst of his crying jag would be all manners of wrong in Mike's brain, like he's taking advantage or otherwise acting far more inappropriately than he should.
He's been so worried about the ethics of kissing Mark when he's like this that he's failed to even noticed the fact that he hasn't actually been kissed yet. Instead, Mark sighs very heavily and drops his forehead on Mike's shoulder. Mike's just wearing a dress shirt, which isn't necessarily waterproof because he bought it at JCPenney, so he knows that Mark's face is still damp with tears and he has no clue what to do about it.
But Mike has to do something, and so something is done.
His hand isn't just sitting lamely on Mark's back now, it's in his hair, his really soft hair, just kind of resting there. Mike isn't good at this. Because Mark needs someone who's good at this, and Rosenberg isn't in the office. There's no one in the office except him, and he's so thoroughly inadequate. He doesn't want to be, but he is, and yet Mark seems to steady himself, breathing in his space, calming himself down. Mike keeps quiet until Mark pushes off of him and wipes his eyes. He does him the courtesy of looking away.
"So-" Whatever would have come out of Mark's mouth would have been stupid, probably, so Mike doesn't feel too bad about interrupting.
"You should go home," he blurts out. Mark blinks at him. "I can work on all this stuff, and you can - you should go home." Mark blinks again. Mike would really like it if he said something. "Seriously Mark," because they know each other well enough that the man's probably already guilt tripping himself over the mere idea of saddling Mike with more work than was previously scheduled. But it's not like Mike has someone to come home to, like a wife or a significant other or even a dog. He was going to order pizza and then pass out. At least now he's being productive.
"Thanks." Mark stands, grabs his jacket, shuffles some stuff into his briefcase. "Do you need me to explain anything?" Mike shakes his head, and things seem relatively back to normal, even though Mark's eyes are still a little red and puffy, and he kind of brushes his hand along Mike's spine as he leaves with another thank you. It's soft, and it sends goosebumps to his arms.
He ends up staying the entire night, only shifting at around 4 a.m. to go to his cubicle rather than continue to commandeer public space, this time at least remembering to bring his jacket with him. Mike's used to long hours, always has been, and he only nods off briefly once people start trickling in, filling the office with the ambient noise that makes him the most relaxed, the sounds of journalists doing their jobs.
When he wakes up it's to Mark gently shaking his shoulder.
"Did you get any sleep?" He sounds worried as he glances him over. Mike blinks himself awake and notices that the bags under his eyes are less prominent, that he even looks healthier, that there's less of a slump in his shoulders. He also notices that Mark is holding an extra brown paper bag and an extra cup of coffee, and Mark notices his eyes on it. "Just thought I'd get you some coffee as a thank you." He hands it over, and Mike grabs at it eagerly, takes a large gulp and burns off half his taste buds.
"Is that a muffin?" he asks, eyeing the bag. Mike's grateful that he doesn't actually have to answer the sleep question. He doesn't want to send Mark into another spiral.
"Slice of birthday cake, actually." Mark hands that over too and huffs out a laugh when Mike immediately peers in to see if the flavor's acceptable. Chocolate, so yes. The Mazzettis clearly have no flaws then. "It was mostly Lindsay's idea."
"Yeah. Something something poor you and your work load something something I'm a good baker." Mark is a good baker, a good cook on the whole. Sometimes he brings in extra food, which somehow manages to always coincide with the days Mike can't even spare a second to grab a croissant from Starbucks or snag a quick something at McDonald's. Like Mark always knows what he needs, when he needs it, without Mike even having to ask. Even now, giving him a kind smile before he ambles over to his desk, like he knew it would brighten up Mike's definitely exhausting to be day.
(he knows it sounds cliché, but it's true)