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Imprimatur

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Imprimatur: From the Latin, "Let it be printed"; a mark of approval or authorization.

Neither of them noticed, because neither of them expected what they got.

Mike had been raised to believe that if you Imprinted, if you were lucky enough to Imprint, it was an event: angelic chorus, birds swooping around, the earth moving. His parents had Imprinted, and they said it was like that.

Harvey had been raised to understand that Imprinting was the result of mental instability and statistically unlikely -- people went to Imprint-events for years trying to find their soulmate, and never succeeded. And anyway, who'd want to Imprint on a smartmouthed little asshole like him?

Harvey's parents had not Imprinted. Harvey's parents could barely have been called parents.

All that was required was a touch. That was why Imprint-events were so popular, even though they were unsanitary and sometimes dangerous. All you had to do was touch, even if you didn't know them, and you'd know, and then you'd live happily ever after. So people would gather and touch hands, thousands lining up to exchange handshakes with thousands of others, risking disease at the least, and even so an Imprint was rarely made.

The truth lay somewhere between Mike's ideals and Harvey's cynicism. Happily ever after wasn't the result of Imprinting, but it happened more than Harvey would have thought. Most people thought it was worth it to try; Imprinted couples had special protection under the law. They could not be separated, denied cohabitation, denied medical visitation and decision rights. To Imprint was to become special. And their children, like Mike, were often unusually gifted.

When Mike and Harvey met, Mike was busy freaking out about the cops and distracted by trying to remember his fake name and figuring out how he was going to fake his way through this interview. There was no angelic chorus. Even if there had been, he might not have noticed.

Harvey felt something, a brief frission of contact, but he assumed it was static electricity. And then he was distracted by the weed pouring out of this kid's briefcase.

They acted on instinct, in those first few minutes, motivated by a subconscious urge not to let the other out of their sight. Harvey impulsively hired someone with no degree at all, let alone one from Harvard; Mike fought tooth and nail and brain for the chance at the job.

Distracted as they both were, if they had gone their separate ways the Imprint might not have held. But after a week in Boston, studying Harvard culture like an anthropologist, Mike came home to New York and started spending eight, ten, twelve hours a day with Harvey.

Harvey, naturally, thought the increased tension, the odd strain of his life, was easily explained. He was Senior Partner now, a high-power and high-stress job, and his new associate was both a thorn in his side and a dangerous secret to be kept. Of course he was tired at the end of the day, of course his energy was low.

Once the dust settled a little, once he got Mike trained to stop screwing up, it would get better.

Mike attributed his twitchiness, his unease when he was alone in his apartment, first to giving up pot and then to the stress of working for Pearson Hardman. He loved his job; loved every minute he got to spend following Harvey and learning from him, even when Harvey was a giant dick about it. But he couldn't deny it was exhausting. That must be the cause of his restlessness, his lack of interest in Jenny's blatant passes (um, his lack of interest in sex in general, but Mike didn't want to bring that up because he refused to believe his sex drive was already dying or that he had smoked that much weed).

When he finished his rookie year, it would get better.

 

Harvey

Harvey didn't usually spare a thought over Imprinting. There were novels and songs about it, romcoms, even tragedies -- Romeo and Juliet, that piece of tripe, being the most famous -- but it was so rare that he felt hoping for it was ridiculous. Much better to enjoy what life brought you, and life brought Harvey feast enough.

So at first he didn't care that Mike always seemed to tag after him even when it wasn't necessary. Who wouldn't want to tag after Harvey Specter? And he didn't notice that he indulged his weird new associate more than he would have another. Mike was talented, after all, and useful.

The first time he couldn't get it up with a woman, he shrugged that off too. These things happened, he'd been drinking, and if his dick wasn't being agreeable there was nothing at all wrong with his tongue. His date certainly had no complaints.

The next time he got hard enough to convince himself it was a fluke, except that she came and didn't really notice that he didn't, just pulled out and rolled away and...

The third time, when he found himself bored in the middle of foreplay, he sealed the deal with his mouth, left her sleeping, and made a semi-urgent appointment with a specialist. This was no time for shame. Things weren't functioning, things Harvey very much desired to function, and it demanded a repair.

The doctor did some blood tests, gave him a weird side-eye, and said there was nothing wrong with him physically. Perhaps it was stress. Had he spoken with a therapist? Had there been some recent trauma -- sexual or otherwise?

Harvey drew the line at therapy. There was nothing emotionally wrong with him. He liked sex, lots of sex. There was no reason to consult a mental health professional about his dick. He asked for a prescription for Viagra, filled it, and managed for a few weeks with that before it stopped working too. Besides, it wasn't good for the blood pressure.

So Harvey gave up on women. He told himself there was going to be an awful lot of extra time to get spare work in, and ignored how empty his condo seemed to always feel, the overwhelming anxiety the sheer space of it sometimes caused.

He reconsidered therapy after coming about two inches from punching Louis Litt in his smug, ugly mouth. He knew he was being irrational and couldn't help it. He'd bet Mike away, never intending to lose, and it was his own fault. At the same time, a creeping territorial anger demanded to know how Louis would dare to take Mike away from him, how anyone would be so audacious. Mike was his associate, and bet or not it was unfair, unjust, cruel to take him away. He barely escaped assault charges by throwing Mike at him as quickly as he could, turning away, and mentally wishing Mike would leave.

Of course as soon as Mike was gone, Harvey wanted him back in a way that made his fingers twitch. Made him feel like some kind of addict.

He chalked it up to how very much he hated to lose.

 

Mike

The ten days Mike spent as Louis's personal slave were almost unbearable. The work was easy enough, mind-numbingly boring, but Mike felt as though he'd been thrown out, banished, and he didn't even dare slink up to Harvey's office after Louis left for the day.

He was afraid, he realized -- fearful that if he did see Harvey, he'd just be thrown out again. He'd done the best he could to win the bet and instead lost himself. He had nobody else to blame. It hadn't been Harvey's fault he lost the bet, but he wanted Harvey's approval so badly, missed Harvey's stupid expensive suits and flashy swagger.

He didn't sleep well. Around six every day, he'd get so anxious he'd be unable to do any more work, but when he went home his apartment felt claustrophobic. Even cycling, which usually calmed him down, seemed overwhelming: too much noise, too many things to be aware of, too much energy expended.

Returning to Harvey on the eleventh day was like a cool wash of relief. Mike was sure it was because Harvey apparently didn't hate him. The low-level anxiety he felt whenever he wasn't at work had become so normal, at that point, that he hardly gave it a second thought. Get up, bike to work, find the peace of mind to eat breakfast, work, Harvey, Harvey, Harvey, bike home, not hungry enough for dinner, try to sleep as soon as possible to escape the closed-in feeling, the sensation of missing something vital.

He lost weight. And he worried about that, he did, and so did Donna when she noticed, but hell, he was drinking like four Red Bulls a day. Anyone would. It was like the Freshman Fifteen in reverse. He'd gain it back.

"You look like Skeletor," Harvey told him one night, and took him out to dinner.

Mike ate ravenously, rapturously -- the food just somehow tasted better than normal. Perhaps because it was a sixty-dollar-an-entree restaurant (which for Harvey was nearly slumming it). Harvey watched with what looked like indulgent amusement as Mike consumed practically his body weight in steak.

"Don't skip meals," Harvey told him. "If you collapse in court it looks bad."

"You're all heart," Mike said, mouth full of the most wonderful mashed potatoes in existence.

Dinner seemed to last a long time. Harvey just didn't bother calling for the check for ages. They sat and talked about cases instead, and Mike felt a keen depression when he finally caught a cab in one direction and Harvey caught a cab in another.

He did eat, after that, conscientiously. Harvey had asked (well, told) him to eat. But even the leftover steak, reheated in his apartment, tasted dry and bland in his mouth.

 

Harvey

Harvey realized, after the third night he spent drinking at least three scotches before bed, he might be drinking too much.

Maybe that was the cause of his problems. He ignored the fact that he hadn't been drinking at all on the Viagra, and the problems had started first. He set the glass down still half-full, washed his face in cold water, and went to bed. The next night, he specifically avoided alcohol.

The evening after that, faced with another bored, anxious night where the rooms seemed too big and the city too distant through the glass, he distracted himself by taking Mike out and feeding him, because the kid looked like he hadn't had a square meal in weeks.

That was fun, surprisingly so. Watching Mike stuff himself carelessly on very expensive food, talking over cases, even the guilty pleasure of delaying the check to extend the evening. And while he wasn't a babysitter, he supposed he did have some responsibility to ensure that his associate didn't subsist on Red Bull and ramen.

Dinner two nights in a row would just look strange, but after another fiasco when he tried bringing a woman home on Friday night, and a long restless weekend where he couldn't seem to get anything done, he ordered Mike to stop work at six-thirty on Monday and come with him to meet a client for dinner.

"Keep your mouth shut and your eyes open," he advised, as they walked into the restaurant. "Listen. Learn."

Mike nodded eagerly. Harvey resisted the urge to steer him physically through the crowd. He didn't like people touching Mike, even bumping him accidentally. The possessive urge to shove them back made him uncomfortable.

"You're not drinking, Harvey?" his client asked, when Harvey covered his wine glass with a hand to prevent the sommelier pouring.

"I thought I'd try living the clean life," Harvey said. "Don't let me stop you."

"Next you know he'll say he's sworn off women," the client said to Mike, who smiled politely, with just a hint of something else, some edge Harvey couldn't identify.

"Living like a monk, that's me," Harvey answered, faking ease. Mike, next to him, was faking it much less convincingly, but Harvey ignored it and got on with the conversation.

 

Mike

Mike didn't like Harvey's client. He didn't like the way he kind of leered at Harvey, or the fact that they seemed to have known each other for a long time. He rebelled at the teasing Harvey took for not drinking, and at the repeated mention of Harvey's habit of picking up women all the time. He didn't like how the man seemed to make Harvey tense, though he couldn't tell why, exactly, Harvey was so tense.

Still, he was here to learn. He tried his best to focus on Harvey, studying the way he responded to the client, the techniques he used for bringing the conversation around to the reason they were there.

He didn't realize he'd been staring until Harvey casually glanced over at him and a spark ran down Mike's spine. He looked away quickly, not even sure what his reaction had been. He just knew he was being...inappropriate. Unprofessional, maybe. They were with a client, after all.

"You did well tonight," Harvey said, once they were in the town car on the way back to Pearson Hardman -- Harvey to get some paperwork from his office, Mike to get his bicycle.

"I...did?" Mike asked, genuinely uncertain. Harvey nodded absently, watching Manhattan pass by. A swell of pleasure rose in him. "Good." He hesitated. "Um, I meant to ask..."

"Oh, God," Harvey mock-groaned.

"About the drinking thing..."

"Mike, your feelings hurt the empty place where my soul used to be. Don't ruin a beautiful evening by caring all over it," Harvey said, but he was smiling at Mike.

"Just, I don't know," Mike finished.

"Succinct." Harvey sat forward. "There's nothing to worry about. I'm not dying, I promise."

"Okay," Mike said. There was a slight pause. "Wait, does that mean there's something wrong?"

"You're getting better," Harvey nodded. "You actually noticed I deflected that time."

"And you still are."

"Yes. I still am. I told you it's nothing to worry about."

Mike spent the rest of the night worrying anyway. At least if he was going to be stuck at home, anxious, he'd have something focused to worry about.

 

Harvey

The last thing in the world Harvey was going to discuss with his associate was his sex life.

He had no problems on a solo basis. He'd have been calling a lot more specialists if taking things in hand wasn't an option, but when he was alone he got by all right -- in the morning, in the shower, some evenings. It was just when he brought someone home that he couldn't...

He felt strangely guilty. There was no reason to feel guilt, he was always clear about what his goals were and he honestly found these women attractive. It wasn't guilt over how he treated his partners, either -- Harvey had good manners in this as in everything.

It was more like he was betraying someone else, though he couldn't think who that might be. Scotty was ancient history, his last steady girlfriend had been over a year ago, and this hadn't started until relatively recently.

He reconsidered therapy for about two seconds before picturing himself telling a stranger about his masturbation habits.

It had been a nice night otherwise, he thought, standing at his bedroom window and looking out at the city, ignoring the scotch he could be drinking right now. Mike's caring all over him in the car had been awkward, and the urge to tell him about the problem unsettling. It had made Harvey maybe a little abrupt, ending the line of questioning before he found himself pouring out his issues to his associate without even a glass of wine as an excuse.

But mostly a nice night.

They should make a habit of it, he thought. Once a week, having dinner together. It gave him time to check in with Mike, gave Mike at least one solid meal a week, and got them both out of the work-and-home ruts they were in. He wouldn't suggest it to Mike, he'd just --

Well, his reward for not drinking this week would be taking Mike out to dinner next...Tuesday. Tuesday was good.

The week was unusually quiet, and strangely tense. There was no reason for it; Mike was keeping his caring to himself and there wasn't any particular rift between them. But with an unusually light workload and not much distract him, Harvey found himself vaguely, baselessly worrying.

He woke around six on Saturday morning absolutely frantic.

He couldn't shake the feeling there was something wrong, something he hadn't done, somewhere he was supposed to be. He did a full inspection of his condo, but nothing was amiss; he checked his email, phone messages, and texts, but there was nothing there to indicate anything had been left undone over the week. He turned on the news, but no apparent disasters were impending. It was a nice day out.

Something was wrong.

On the television, some ad for a new film was running; a woman was giving an impassioned monologue about how Imprinting was a mystical experience, special precisely because science couldn't explain the bond, and he thought -- strangely, sarcastically -- you aren't kiddin', lady, right before his phone rang at 7:45.

He felt like he'd been expecting the call.

 

Mike

Mike knew he was freaking out. And he knew despite Harvey's cool exterior that when he called him, he was probably going to freak out too, if for no other reason than Mike was waking him up with this phone call at this time on a Saturday morning.

"Hello?" Harvey answered on the second ring.

"Harvey, it's Mike. Did I wake you up?" Mike asked.

"No, I was awake," Harvey answered, which was a little relief, at least. "Surprised you are, though. If your ass is already at work on a Saturday, something's wrong, right?"

Harvey sounded like he was almost eager to hear what could possibly be wrong. Mike worried about Harvey's priorities sometimes.

"Okay, I need you not to wig out," Mike said.

There was a brief pause. "Am I someone you know to frequently wig out?" Harvey asked.

Mike resettled himself on the bench next to the hospital's courtesy phone. "I'm just letting you know ahead of time that I'm fine and everything's okay."

"And by everything, you mean except...?"

"I'm kind of in the emergency room."

"...kind of," Harvey repeated.

"It's not a big deal," Mike said. "I got a little bit hit by a car."

He could practically see Harvey pinching the bridge of his nose. "Kind of in the emergency room from a little bit hit by a car, Mike? Really?"

"It's not serious. Nothing's broken, I'm totally okay," Mike said. "But they get really uptight about concussions. They want someone to come pick me up and sign me out."

He hadn't really expected Harvey to do it. It was just that Harvey's number was first in his mental speed-dial, and he figured Harvey would be able to suggest someone more appropriate (like, oh, anyone).

"What hospital are you in?" Harvey asked with a sigh.

 

Harvey

When Harvey got to the emergency room, Mike was on a bed just past the admissions desk; he bypassed admissions entirely, ignoring the nurse, and went straight to Mike. Mike lit up when he saw him, and Harvey couldn't help raising his hands, pressing them to either side of his head to tilt his face up, study his eyes, slide his fingers around to feel for bumps or fractures in his skull. Also it hid the fact his hands were shaking. Adrenaline, that was all it was.

"Prognosis?" Mike asked, grinning, and Harvey let his hands drop. "Seriously, I'm okay. I've had worse. My bike's totalled, though," he added, and laughed softly.

"You find this funny?" Harvey asked.

"I was just thinking about how I could sue for a new bike but my billable hours would cost more than the bike would," Mike said.

"Yes, you sound completely rational right now," Harvey replied, his voice steadying out. "What happened? Why were you on your bike at Hell A.M. on a Saturday?"

"I was trying to clear my head," Mike replied. "Nobody's out but health nuts and crazy people, I thought I'd be okay. Normally crazy people aren't driving cars."

"You've lived in Manhattan how long? Don't answer that," Harvey added. "How do I sign you out of here?"

"Excuse me, Mr. Specter?" a doctor called.

"Stay," Harvey ordered, and walked over. "How is he?"

"He's fine -- mild concussion, and he'll be stiff tomorrow. No signs of internal bleeding," the doctor said. "Honestly, I just wanted to apologize. We'd have called you sooner if we'd known."

Harvey tilted his head, curious.

"You must have been out of your mind when he got hit. We have a directive to call Imprinted partners as soon as we know, but there's no documentation in his file. Is this -- recent? Are you not documented yet?"

"I'm not Imprinted," Harvey said. "I'm his boss."

"His -- oh -- " the doctor looked embarrassed. "I thought -- really?"

"It's too early on a Saturday for this," Harvey muttered.

"I'm sorry, I assumed when I saw..." the doctor gestured at Mike. "Well. That would explain the lack of documentation. You are here to take him home, though, right?"

"Quickly. Please," Harvey said.

Mike was graciously docile as they loaded Harvey down with printouts on concussions, as Harvey took responsibility for him by signing a million forms, and as they walked to the car. It took him until after he was belted in and Harvey was climbing into the driver's seat to say, "Whoa, you drive?"

"Don't feel special. The car service is a business expense," Harvey said, backing out of the parking spot and heading for the exit of the garage. "This isn't business."

"Technically it's preservation of an asset," Mike pointed out.

"You can't be all that concussed."

"I'm really not. You can take me home, I'll be fine."

"Not so much happening," Harvey informed him.

"Are you gonna like...drop me off somewhere?" Mike asked.

"So you can wander the city in a daze? No. You're staying with me," Harvey said. He wasn't really aware that had been the plan (though clearly it had) until he said it.

"Aw, sweet!" Mike said. "Your place is awesome."

Harvey expected to regret the decision almost immediately, but once he had Mike set up on the couch, with a change of clothes and some hastily-assembled breakfast, he realized he felt...settled. Relaxed. Perhaps more so than he had in his own home in weeks.

 

Mike

Harvey made really good bacon. Mike was impressed. He knew from experience how hard it was to make it just the right kind of crispy.

The fact that he was zeroed in on the texture of the bacon Harvey had cooked for him was a good reminder that he was, in fact, concussed, and shouldn't voice these things out loud.

It was just such a relief to be somewhere other than his apartment, to find some food that didn't taste like crap, to know that someone (Harvey!) was looking after him. Mike could feel a tension in his shoulders fade off in a way that had nothing to do with muscle relaxants.

Harvey was sitting crosslegged on the chair next to the sofa, eating scrambled eggs and watching CNN idly. Mike couldn't bring himself to focus on the news anchors, but the commercials were way more entertaining than usual. He felt warm and satisfied, like comfort was coming off Harvey in waves, when really all Harvey had done was make some crispy bacon and not burn the toast.

Mike found himself eyeing the scrambled eggs on Harvey's plate. It took Harvey approximately no time at all to notice, but instead of glaring, he just scooped some onto a slice of toast and handed it over. Mike took it in the spirit of we're not talking about this in which it was offered, and ate it quietly.

"What were you clearing your head from?" Harvey asked out of nowhere, once Mike had finished eating.

"Nothing in particular," Mike said. "I just felt jumpy. Obviously it didn't work very well."

"Nothing going on in the office? Trevor bugging you again?"

Mike could hear how much Harvey loathed Trevor. The strength of it startled him; he knew Harvey hated the guy but normally he also didn't let it show to this extent.

"While I acknowledge I am a monumental fuck-up," he said, "no. I'm not in trouble. Work or home."

"Then for a monumental fuck-up you're doing okay," Harvey said, and actually smiled as he returned from putting their plates in the sink. "News is about to cycle around again. TV on or off?"

"Can I read?" Mike asked. Harvey shook his head. "DVDs?"

"Pick something without any explosions or strobe lighting," Harvey said, gesturing at his DVD shelf. Mike got up slowly, creakily, and began scanning them.

"If you have stuff to do today, I'm seriously fine," he said, as he squinted at the slightly blurry titles.

"Catch-up work, nothing important," Harvey replied, dropping back into the chair. "I was going to sleep in, go to the building gym later."

"Your building has a gym?"

"All the modern conveniences," he heard Harvey drawl. "Hey, when did you get hit this morning?"

"I don't know," Mike replied. "I wasn't tracking the time. Sixish? Maybe six thirty. No, wait..." he held up a hand. He'd left his place at five twenty-three. He ran through the playlist he'd listened to in his mind, adding up the times on each. "Six oh four. And thirty seconds, give or take."

"Don't you ever worry your head's going to fill up?" Harvey asked, after a pause.

"I don't think memory works that way," Mike said. He started to twist around, then thought better of it and turned his whole body.

"Why not?" Harvey asked, slouched in the chair.

"Because if I did, then I'd have nightmares," Mike said, turning back, wincing a little. "Imagine waking up one day and remembering everything up to a point, and nothing after."

"There was a documentary about memory and brain damage -- "

"Don't tell me about it," Mike said, cutting him off.

"Why?" Harvey asked.

Mike paused. "Because then I'd have nightmares." He held up a DVD case. "The Petrified Forest?"

"I'll allow it," Harvey agreed, and Mike went to put the DVD into Harvey's ridiculously complicated media center.

 

Harvey

Harvey didn't really know much about Imprinteds from a social standpoint. He knew in detail how the law saw them. As an associate he'd taken a pro bono case where an Imprinted couple claimed a hospital hadn't recognized their status and provided suitable accommodation. But the rest hadn't mattered, so he'd focused on the law, and naturally he'd won.

He knew what anyone knew, that Imprint was for life and that extended or distant separation could cause serious anxiety, in some cases death. Imprinted partners could work apart, even live apart, but not with any real degree of comfort. Most had no desire to.

Wikipedia probably wasn't the best place to start, but it was the one closest to hand. Mike had fallen asleep about three minutes into the movie, and Harvey had seen it before, so he quietly opened his laptop and brought up the page on Imprinting. He was curious as to why the doctor had thought he had Imprinted on Mike, of all people.

While there are valid questions as to the methodology of these tests, experiments have been performed where Imprinted partners were separated and one was asked to describe various media the other was experiencing. The accuracy of their abilities suggests some extrasensory connection, though no evidence of direct telepathy exists. Imprints claim to be able to sense moods and communicate wordlessly, and documented cases exist in a larger-than-anecdotal number where an Imprinted was aware of their partner's trauma before being informed of it. Two theories exist about this phenomenon:

1. That Imprinted partners are so similar in personality and thought pattern that they are able to share a two-person "collective unconscious"
2. That Imprinted partners are highly sensitive to unconscious cues, in their partners but also in those around them.

The second theory may explain why children of Imprinted pairs often display unusual abilities in pattern recognition, recall, and interpersonal skills. Many children of Imprinted pairs have enjoyed successful careers in advanced mathematics, physics, medicine, and politics.

That explained a few things.

Mike wasn't in the habit of confiding in Harvey, and that was the way they both liked it, Harvey thought. But Mike had seen Donna reading a romance novel from the "Sensuous Imprint" Harlequin series, and he'd mentioned in an offhanded way that his parents had been Imprints. She'd mentioned it in a less than offhanded way to Harvey, who had mostly ignored it because he couldn't think of anything less relevant to anything than Mike's parentage.

But it explained how Mike had lost both parents at once -- even if one had survived whatever killed the other, partners sometimes died of Imprint shock at the loss. And it explained Mike's unusual brain, though perhaps not his total inability to act like a normal person in public.


Imprint Awareness

It is extremely unusual for Imprinted partners to be unaware of their condition. Sensitivity to mood (and anxiety when separated) usually indicate Imprinting even when what has been described as the "A-ha!" moment does not occur. Only two known exceptions exist (see Murray-Robertson Test).

Cases of unconscious Imprint may not be documented if partners never become aware of Imprint. Imprinted partners who work or live closely together may not realize Imprint has occurred. Statistical modeling in this case is difficult.

He glanced over at the train wreck sleeping -- sprawling -- all over his couch. He could believe Mike would Imprint without knowing it, because Mike cared about everyone, indiscriminately, and he'd probably think it was just another person he had to look after.

Harvey, on the other hand, was rational about these things. He didn't care about anyone. So if he did care about someone, he'd notice, and he'd damn well do something about it. Preferably involving separation as soon as possible so that Imprint wouldn't take.

Christ, what a thought. Living in someone's pocket all the time, having to get the state to document that you were hopelessly and endlessly in love, dying when they died...

Who would want that?

 

Mike

Mike couldn't figure out why Harvey had brought him home, and in the first few concussed hours didn't really care. Harvey had a sweet place and a great DVD collection. He'd fed him breakfast and lounged around with him like he'd been looking for an excuse to goof off from being Harvey Specter, Infamous Lawyer. His couch was comfortable and the sunlight washing over it through the windows warmed him while he slept.

When he woke, slowly and languidly, Harvey was gone from the chair. Mike pushed himself up with a twinge of stiff pain, then slid his legs around and stood, scanning the room. No Harvey. He'd mentioned something about a gym; he was probably gone for his workout.

Mike stumbled to the kitchen, where prescription painkillers sat on the counter like a beacon of joy. He dry-swallowed one and wondered what to do now. Instinctively he felt like he should find the gym and go see Harvey, but that was absurd even to his rattled brain.

No, what he should do was wash, because he felt sticky with sweat from the ride that morning, sleep-sweat from just now, road grit from when he'd fallen (though they'd washed most of that off at the hospital). Harvey probably had the coolest bathroom ever.

When he finally found it, after discovering Harvey's coat closet, walk-in private closet -- so many suits! -- and linen closet, it was even cooler than he'd imagined. One wall, like the living room, was floor-to-ceiling glass. There was a shower at one end of the bathroom and a jacuzzi-tub at the other, in front of the glass.

Experimentally, he pushed a button above the tub. Immediately the glass fogged over, turning opaque. Mike had to stagger out to the bedroom to see if that part had gone opaque too. It hadn't, but he saw another button there that would probably do the same thing.

He ducked back into the bathroom, pushed the button a few times just to amuse himself, then left it opaque and considered his odds of standing upright in the shower. He turned back to the tub and spun the tap on. Immediate hot water.

Figuring out the plug mechanism took longer than it probably should have, but once he got the jets off and the plug on the tub started to fill and Mike shed the shirt and pants Harvey had loaned him, sinking into the steaming water with a groan. It was almost uncomfortably hot but after a minute or two he got used to it, sliding down further to soak the bruises along his ribcage and arms. He flicked the tap off and let himself go limp, happily, ducking under for a moment to wet his hair.

He heard a door slam somewhere, and then Harvey call out, "Mike!"

"BATHTUB!" Mike yelled, without opening his eyes. There was another noise, and then Harvey's voice, way too close.

"I see you found the modesty button."

Mike jolted upright, eyes flying open. Harvey, sweaty in a t-shirt and track pants, barefoot, was leaning in the doorway.

"Relax, rookie, you don't have anything I haven't seen," Harvey said, crossing to the sink (back, thankfully, to Mike) and splashing cold water on his face, rubbing it through his hair. "Hustle it up, I want a shower."

"So shower. You don't have anything I haven't seen," Mike mirrored back at him. "I want to stay here forever."

"Was that a dare?" Harvey asked, looking at him in the mirror. "Because I will strip down right here, but I don't want to make you feel inadequate."

"I'm pretty sure I'd survive," Mike informed him. "My brain's not my only impressive feature."

Harvey laughed over the sink, tossing him the towel he'd left there after stealing it from the linen closet. "Okay, kiddo, time to be a grownup and not get the tape measures out. Dry off and find something to wear, I'm not giving you sexual harassment material for future lawsuits."

Mike, with what he hoped was a sufficient amount of dignity, climbed out of the bathtub and wrapped the towel around his waist. He didn't even look to see if Harvey was watching in the mirror.

 

Harvey

When Mike was gone, pointedly turning the glass clear again on his way out, Harvey unclenched his death grip on the bathroom counter and closed the door. He tossed his shirt on top of Mike's on the floor, adjusted himself gingerly before peeling off his track pants, and turned the shower on.

Cold.

Clearly he wasn't getting laid often enough. Well, at all.

He washed quickly, checked the bedroom to make sure Mike wasn't lying in wait in a towel or something, then dressed in clean clothes and wandered out into the kitchen. Mike was back on the couch, and he had Harvey's laptop propped on his legs.

It occurred to Harvey for the first time in months that there was something off about the way the two of them interacted. A computer was a reasonably private thing -- one might have bookmarks on there one didn't want other people to see, and emails shouldn't be read by anyone but their intended recipient. Sometime during Mike's first few weeks on the job, though, they'd taken to swapping out, using whichever machine was closest and passing them to each other to make points or share information. Harvey continued to be astounded at Mike's lack of curiosity in that regard, but he returned it respectfully, not reading open browser windows or opening minimized files in the task bar.

When he brought over a glass of juice for Mike (juice and a splash of vodka, for himself) he saw Mike had minimized his wikipedia window and was shopping for a new bike, multiple windows open while he read forum discussions about urban riding and compared the merits of a few higher-end road cycles.

"You should get a motorcycle, if you're going for continued peril to life and limb," Harvey said, settling down next to him, studying the bikes over his shoulder.

"Defeats the point," Mike answered. He smelled like Harvey's shampoo. "It's all the disadvantages and none of the perks."

"What perks?" Harvey asked.

"It's green, it's a good workout, and you don't get arrested for riding it on the sidewalk," Mike said absently. "You don't get any of that with a motorcycle but you still get the danger in traffic and the high theft potential. Not to mention the gas and insurance."

"Speaking of insurance," Harvey said. "This guy who hit you."

Mike shrugged, then winced. "Hit and run. One minute I was riding, the next I was flat on my back. Didn't see him. The cops'll put the word around to local body shops, probably won't find anything. Won't be the first time."

Harvey looked at him, questioning. Mike smiled.

"Least this time I have money to buy a new one. I don't think I've ever bought a brand-new bike before," he added thoughtfully.

"What happened when you didn't?"

Mike studied the screen. "That was only once. Trevor found me one. I think he swapped a bong for it."

"Classy," Harvey remarked, voice dripping with sarcasm.

"I paid him back when I had the cash."

"I wasn't referring to you." Harvey leaned forward before Mike could reply. "That one," he said, pointing to a sleek black model, the most expensive of the four open on the screen.

"All sex, no substance," Mike said, shaking his head gingerly. "That's not like you, Harvey."

"No, I'm sex and substance," Harvey agreed, and Mike snorted. "Not like me?"

"Just to jump for the most expensive. The point is quality, right?" Mike asked, turning to look at him. "See? I'm getting it."

Harvey sat back, because for a moment their heads had been very close together. "Maybe you are," he allowed.

 

Mike

That afternoon it occurred to Mike that he should call people.

He called his grandmother first, guiltily, and told her he probably wouldn't be in to visit tomorrow, downplaying the severity of the accident so she wouldn't worry. She was still fretful and anxious until he told her he wasn't alone, that Harvey was looking after him, and then she calmed down.

"Well, if it's Harvey," she said finally. "He's probably very responsible."

"Totally," he said. "I'll call you tomorrow and I'll come by on Tuesday, okay?"

"Love you, Michael. Feel better."

"Love you too," he said, and hung up, still feeling faintly guilty that when he'd thought to call anyone from the hospital, he'd called Harvey first, unhesitating. He glanced over at Harvey, who was settled on the other end of the sofa, going through paperwork for Monday. "I should call Trevor," he said hesitantly.

Harvey gave him a look that somehow managed to be both totally impassive and completely disapproving. He got up, walking into the bedroom. Mike sighed.

He hadn't really seen much of Trevor since he'd come back from whatever it was he did in Montana. While he'd been gone, Mike had seen Jenny a few times, and she'd sent some pretty unmistakable signals, but she was Trevor's girlfriend, and even if she'd dumped him...well, there was one night he thought it might happen, but he'd backed off. Since then he hadn't seen either of them very often, except for the few days Trevor had stayed with him and somehow managed to increase Mike's nightly restlessness.

Still, they should probably know.

The call went more smoothly than the one with his grandmother. Trevor had wigged the hell out the first time Mike took a car-induced spill on his bike, back when they were teenagers, but he and Jenny had both been through the process several times since then, and he was pretty blase about the whole thing.

"You need me to come over?" he asked. "I got Yankees tickets, but we can scalp them and skip it."

"No, I'm not at my place right now anyway," Mike said, as Harvey drifted back into the living room. "I mean, there's nothing really to do, I'm just going to hang out and admire my bruises. Go to the ball game, have a good time."

"Thanks, man. Jenny says feel better."

"Tell her thanks. Catch a foul ball for me. Call you in a couple of days," Mike said, and hung up. Harvey was sorting through the shelf of records he kept at home, studiously Not Listening.

"Well, that's the sick calls taken care of," Mike said, tossing the phone down.

"Are you going to be fit to work on Monday? Otherwise you might want to call Louis, too," Harvey said, not looking up from his records.

"I'll be fine. Stiff, that's all."

"You probably shouldn't sleep on a sofa tonight," Harvey said. "I can have the car service take you home if you want."

Mike was opening his mouth to reply when Harvey looked up and added, as if on impulse, "But you're welcome to stay here."

The implication was, Mike thought, that he could stay in Harvey's bed, that Harvey would let him do that, and that was weird and unnecessary. Totally unnecessary. But the thought of going home to his claustrophobic apartment where the food never tasted good and he was sometimes just suffused with loneliness...

"Thanks," Mike said. "If that's okay."

"I'd rather keep an eye on you anyway," Harvey replied, and took a record out of its sleeve, handling it by the edges as he put it on the turntable nearby.

Harvey wouldn't let him help with the work, but he stayed nearby for the rest of the afternoon, first working with the music on and then, after Mike dozed off and woke again, turning the record off to put in another movie.

Mike took pills when Harvey gave them to him, ate food when it was put in front of him -- first popcorn in the afternoon, then some kind of soup much later, when the sky outside was darkening, though he'd lost the thread of time at that point a little. He remembered thinking Harvey hadn't wanted him to sleep on the sofa, but he was so tired. He had faint, faint memories of pressure and dizziness and fabric under his hands, movement and then the shock of cold sheets, but only for a moment, and then he was dead to the world again.

When he woke the next morning, he was conscious of two things: that he was in Harvey's bed, and that everything hurt.

It was a soreness he was accustomed to after a fall, especially the day after, but it was still a shock. Trying to move made him feel old and stiff and miserable, but he wanted a drink of water, wanted to pee and take a shower and eat some food. Getting out of bed would be difficult, but once he was upright he could shuffle at least into the kitchen for water and a pain pill.

He was sitting on the edge of the bed, trying to stretch out his sore spine, when he realized what he'd thought was a pile of clothes on a chair (as if Harvey would ever be that careless) was actually Harvey, slumped down, head tilted back, sleeping.

He knew he should feel guilt or shame or something at the fact that Harvey had obviously walked him to the bed and given the bed itself up in favor of sleeping uncomfortably in a chair (well, mostly uncomfortably, the chair looked pretty plush). But all he could summon was a warm sense of rightness, of fondness even, the kind of tolerant affection he'd seen in his mother's face when he was young and his father had done something monumentally goofball -- like the time Dad had given Mike a facepaint Yankees logo on his cheek but used permanent marker instead of facepaint. (Mike had been the world's most visible Yankees fan for three weeks.)

He laughed a little at the memory, and Harvey stirred; yawned and stretched, shoulders shifting, and slumped further down in the chair, opening his eyes.

"Morning," he said sleepily. "Need anything?"

"I'm good," Mike said, pushing himself to his feet with the aid of the headboard. Harvey stretched again and stood up.

"Let me -- "

"No, I got it," Mike said. "More I move around, better I'll feel."

"Is that medical advice or stoner logic?" Harvey asked, wandering past him and out into the other room.

"The voice of experience," Mike said, taking a few shuffling steps forward. His hips hurt, and his calves felt charley-horsed.

"I'm ordering breakfast in," Harvey called. "Pancakes okay?"

"Please," Mike agreed, taking another hesitant step or two. Harvey reappeared in the doorway with a pill in one hand and a glass in the other. Mike took them, downed the pill gratefully and drank, then reoriented himself towards the bathroom.

Chapter Text

Harvey

Harvey had his doubts about Mike on Sunday, but by evening he was moving around enough to go home, and seemed to want to be in to work on Monday, for which he'd need access to his own clothing. So Harvey let him go, with a promise he'd take a cab to work.

He wouldn't admit to anyone that he was going easy on Mike, but the kid had recently gone face to face, or at least ass to bumper, with a car. He certainly wasn't going to tell Louis that; instead on Monday he leaned into Louis's office and said, "Mike's all yours today and tomorrow."

Louis, as Harvey figured he would, assumed Mike was being punished. Always one to pile misery on misery, he ignored Mike, which suited Harvey fine and let Mike get on with the work Harvey emailed him.

The week was worse than usual, and they both knew it. Naturally, it was hard on Mike; he was recuperating. For Harvey, it wasn't even about work. The anxiety he felt when he got home every night seemed intensified, stronger than it had ever been, the space overwhelming him without someone else to fill it -- but he knew how that went, and he knew better by now than to try and find someone. So he paced or went to the gym and worked out, slept early but fitfully, trying to distract himself.

Mike was still a little stiff and cautious but clearly recovering -- in early to work, not leaving until Harvey did or after. Tuesday afternoon he got a call from some shop near his place that the bike he'd ordered would be in on Thursday, and he could pick it up that night. He spent all of Thursday like a kid on Christmas eve, casually working the new bike into conversation whenever he could. By the time he left, there wasn't an associate in the firm who didn't know Mike was going to get his brand-new top-of-the-line bicycle that night.

Harvey spent the drive to work on Friday morning feeling restless. Not the same intense something-is-missing feeling he'd had earlier, or the nightly anxiety, just...vague, pointless worry. Mike had been riding in New York traffic for years, and he had a new bike that would handle a lot better than any second-hand junker. He'd be fine.

And he was fine, just locking the new bike securely to the rack when Harvey got out of the car, chatting with a couple of bike messengers who'd crowded around to admire it. Harvey gave the sweaty, smelly messengers a narrow look and Mike a sharp gesture; without a pause Mike said goodbye and hurried, only a little gingerly, to catch up.

The whole day felt like that, like wires slightly crossed, like things were out of sync. Harvey was exhausted, and Mike was working at half his usual pace. Louis, who had apparently figured out Harvey's gambit from earlier in the week, was riding Mike hard to make up for it -- hard enough that when Harvey lurked his way down to the bullpen around six-thirty, an unusual occurrence, he saw Mike wearily nodding along with some harangue Louis was giving him, and he snapped. He pulled rank, which he'd been trying for Jessica's sake not to do, but what was the point of being Senior Partner if you couldn't give orders once in a while?

"Louis," he said sharply, and Louis looked up. "My office."

Mike looked relieved, but he also looked hopelessly at the stack of folders sitting on the corner of his cubicle.

"Mike, you too," Harvey said. Heads began to pop up from other cubicles, which was a major tactical error. "You," Harvey said to a blond boy who looked like he was about twelve. "These are yours now," he commanded, picking up the stack and dropping it on his desk.

"Those are for Mike," Louis said.

"I'm sorry, I can't hear you, because you're not in my office," Harvey snapped. Mike looked back and forth between the two men, then got up carefully, shouldering his bag, and began walking towards the office. He bent briefly to whisper Sorry, Harold, I'll make it up to you to the cherub-faced boy.

Louis launched into an extended grievance as they walked to Harvey's office, whining that Mike was doing half the work of the other associates and not keeping up, that Harvey was being soft on him, that it was for Mike's own good. Harvey ignored him, winking at Donna as he passed, and walked into his office, turning when he'd reached the center of his little domain, the visible seat of his power. Mike was standing near his desk, looking anxious.

He should have realized something was going to happen when Mike kept totally silent. Normally, when they were arguing about Mike -- and they did with reasonable regularity -- he'd interject comments, interrupt, remind him that he was there, complain about them treating him like a belonging. This time, even when the argument grew heated and Donna stood up from her desk to watch, Mike just stayed quiet.

He was quiet right up until the moment Louis said, "He doesn't belong to you. You don't pay his salary. The associates belong to the firm first, and he's not pulling his weight. You don't pay him, you don't get exclusive rights on his time and you don't get -- "

He'd jabbed a finger at Harvey, first on belong to you, then on you don't pay him, and finally on you don't get.

But at that point he broke off, because his arm had been arrested mid-movement. Harvey looked incredulously at Mike, who had darted forward and now stood half in front of Harvey, Louis's wrist in one slim-fingered hand, the skin whitening under his grip, his whole body whip-tense.

 

Mike

Mike didn't know what had happened or how he'd found himself in this situation, and for a moment when Louis fell silent he panicked.

Louis had been shouting at Harvey, and granted Harvey had been growling back and Mike knew from experience he was perfectly capable of holding his own. Harvey didn't need protecting, but Mike saw that finger jab at his boss, his mentor -- the one who was trying to teach him not to get emotional -- and the control he'd been working to strengthen because of Harvey just shattered.

He didn't know how he got from the desk to where he now stood, between the two men. His legs twinged with the distant memory of the accident, and his hand actually hurt, it was gripping Louis so hard.

But it also felt right, felt perfectly justified, and his panic only lasted a second before he pushed forward a few inches, shoving Louis back by his arm, a growl in his throat.

"Mike!" Harvey called, and Mike felt fingers on his shoulders pulling him back, then on his hand, squeezing to uncurl his fingers from Louis's wrist. Louis jerked his hand away, holding it down and in front of him, seething in pain and anger.

"Get out. Now," Harvey said to him, and Louis backed away. His wrist was visibly reddening in the shape of Mike's hand

"You're done here," he snarled at Mike.

"Go fuck yourself," Mike said, surging forward, and Harvey caught him around the chest to hold him back. Louis bolted.

Mike felt his breaths coming in heaves, saw Donna staring wide-eyed and reaching for her phone, heard Harvey say No to her and then, "Mike, calm down. Whatever's going on, you have to calm down first."

Mike allowed Harvey to tug him back and push him into a chair, but he kept his eyes on the door in case Louis decided to come back for a second round. Donna came to the doorway, a question on her face.

"Should I make sure he doesn't call security?" she asked.

"He won't," Harvey said, but he was crouching in front of Mike, not looking at her.

"He's a lawyer, Harvey, he's going to document -- "

"He's not going to let everyone in the building know an associate assaulted him. He'll take it up with Jessica. Give me a minute," Harvey said. "Mike, eyes here."

Mike looked down at him, meeting his gaze. He felt protests welling on his lips, irrational protests that Louis had been threatening him (he hadn't, not really), that nobody got to talk to Harvey like that, that what he'd done was the right thing to do, was justified because it was Harvey.

But there weren't actually special rules only for Harvey, and in the sane part of his mind, he knew that.

"Slow breaths," Harvey said. Mike consciously slowed his breathing. "Did you take anything today?"

"Take...?" Mike asked, confused.

"Any pain medication. Anything for your injuries."

"Not since Tuesday," Mike said. "I didn't want to have that junk in me when I got on the new bike..."

"Okay. Well, that's good and bad. Are you seeing okay? No tunnel vision?" Harvey asked. Mike shook his head. "What did you have for lunch? Did you eat lunch?"

"Chips and a granola bar from the vending machine, and a pear from that fruit basket Wunderson sent you," Mike recited. Annoyance was beginning to well past confusion; why shouldn't he have done what he did? He wasn't insane. "And before you ask, Barack Obama's the president and it's 2011."

Harvey exhaled, nodding. "You know what you did."

"I assaulted Louis," Mike said. And there was the panic again. "Oh my God, I told him to go fuck himself."

"Do you know why?" Harvey asked.

Mike took a breath. "I overreacted."

Harvey nodded. "Yeah. You did." He twisted to look up at Donna, still watching them. "Call Ray for the car. Then you can go, we're done here for today."

"I'll bring Louis an ice pack," Donna said. "See if I can smooth things over."

"Good. Thank you."

"But if you ask me, he got what was coming to -- "

"Please, Donna," Harvey said. Donna nodded and left them. Harvey turned back to him. "Can you walk?"

Mike stood when Harvey did, Harvey's hands hovering over his arms but not touching, and tested his weight on his feet. "Yeah. I'm okay."

"All right. We're going to calmly walk around to the elevator and go home. You feel faint, you feel anything strange, stop and tell me."

Everything felt strange, but Mike just nodded.

 

Harvey

To give Mike credit, he didn't cling or stagger as they walked to the elevators, rode them down, and walked out across the plaza to where Ray was waiting for them with the car. His back was ramrod straight, every inch the professional young lawyer, and it wasn't until they were in the car that Mike's composure seemed to break down. He bent forward, hands cradling his head, and breathed deep but slow. Harvey rested a hand on the back of his neck, trying to anchor him for what it was worth.

"Everything okay?" Ray asked, looking at them in the rearview as he pulled into traffic.

"Mike, do you need the hospital?" Harvey asked quietly. Mike shook his head. "My place, Ray."

"Sure thing," Ray said, still looking worried.

"Ohh, I just destroyed my career," Mike groaned, fingers flexing in his hair. "I'm so fired, I'm so going to get sued -- "

"Relax. We'll figure this out. I'm not going to let you go down for telling Louis something everyone knows he needed to hear for a long time," Harvey said. "If nothing else, you were hit by a car six days ago, that's a major extenuating circumstance."

Which wasn't really true -- Mike's work that week would bear out the fact that he was in his right mind, but Harvey could spin it. Psychological trauma was different from physical trauma, and plenty of people with serious emotional triggers functioned just fine until you flipped the wrong switch. He wasn't one of the best lawyers in New York for nothing, and he wasn't going to let anyone take Mike away from him.

"I'll protect you," he added, when Mike didn't move. "You trust me?"

"Yes," Mike said, sounding broken and confused.

"Good. Take a breath, let it go. We'll get to my place, have some dinner, talk this through."

Mike nodded into his hands, slowly leaning back. Harvey released his neck.

They were silent the rest of the way home.

Walking into his place felt like a flashback to the previous Saturday. He put Mike on the couch, told him to stay there, and went into the kitchen to get food. There was miso soup still in the fridge; he tossed the container into the microwave, heated it to steaming, and carried two bowls back into the living room. Mike started to eat on autopilot, careful and neat as usual, while Harvey went to the bar and poured them each a stiff glass of brandy.

"This is gross," Mike said, sipping it.

"Drink it," Harvey ordered. Mike finished the glass in two gulps, made a face, and went back to eating.

"I can't believe I did that," he muttered. "I'm an idiot."

"Okay, stop," Harvey said. "Let's go through this. You remember the conversation? You have to, you're you."

"Yeah."

"So Louis and I were arguing. He pointed at me -- "

"Three times," Mike said. "He kept pointing at you."

"Did it look from your angle like he was threatening me?"

Mike shook his head. "Rationally, no. There was no way I could mistake that for a threat."

"You've seen us fight before, and you never had any issue with anything physical he did. You didn't think he was going to hurt me."

"No. I just...reacted like he was," Mike said, sounding confused. Harvey stifled the urge to reach out and ruffle his hair.

"Was this a reaction to Louis, not to the situation? Were you angry at him before the argument?"

"I wasn't angry. I was just tired." Mike took another mouthful of soup.

"Tired of Louis?"

"Just tired. In general."

"Are you not sleeping?"

Mike seemed to consider this, which made Harvey wonder. "It's been a while since I really slept well. Since before the accident. But I've been tired...er? Tireder than that and just put up with his crap."

"Do you feel he's been harassing you?"

Mike made a droll face. "No more than he does everyone. It wasn't a stress reaction, Harvey. I just saw him do that and I thought -- I didn't think he was threatening you, I thought he was a threat. I didn't like what he was doing. It didn't have anything to do with me. It was what he was doing to you."

"That's not gonna be a great defense," Harvey pointed out.

"It's all the defense I have," Mike said with a shrug. "It's not going to look great for you either. You took my side. You're...doing all this," he added, indicating the soup, the couch he was sitting on, the empty glass. "I'm the one who jumped Louis. You're a senior partner. You should have had security escort me out."

"Are you offering to fall on your sword for me?" Harvey asked, amused.

"Well, better one of us go down than both of us."

"That's assuming either of us have to," Harvey replied. "Look, you might not think he's been harassing you, but it wouldn't be hard to get reasonable evidence that he fosters a hostile work environment. Between the accident and Louis's behavior, there's grounds for an argument that you were emotionally disturbed."

Mike's look was perhaps the driest Harvey had ever seen on him. "I don't think Pearson Hardman is going to look any more kindly on an emotionally disturbed associate than a violently aggressive one, Harvey."

"It's not like you broke his nose. You saw two people having a heated argument, and you intervened to prevent escalation." Harvey spread his hands. "I'm reasonably confident there's a defense here, Mike, even if Jessica won't hear it. Wrongful termination -- "

"I'm not a case," Mike said, looking down at his soup. "I just wanted him to stop. I don't even think I was wrong."

Harvey tensed. "But you get that you were."

"But I don't feel like it. I feel like it was right. Why shouldn't I?" Mike blurted. "Why shouldn't I defend you if I see that happening? You're my -- my boss, it's my right to protect what's mine -- "

"Whoa, whoa," Harvey interrupted. "Where's this coming from?"

"I don't know," Mike replied, bending his head, lacing his fingers across the back of his neck. "I don't know, I know it's not rational. You don't belong to me, nobody would say I have that obligation, but I had to." His voice was agonized. "He was shouting at you. I didn't want him to touch you."

Harvey stared at him, silently, for a long time.

 

Mike

From anyone else -- to anyone else, to a casual observer -- Harvey's silence might have felt disapproving, even angry. It might even have been those things, but Mike couldn't feel any of that. He read surprise into it, surprise and contemplation, and a loss for anything to say. He felt like he might be going crazy, instincts at odds with his rational mind. His fingers ached from where they'd held Louis's wrist, where they'd squeezed so tightly he was still worried he might have broken some of Louis's bones.

After a while he heard Harvey move, heard the soft rustle of his suit as he shifted around the coffee table and the creak of leather as he sat next to Mike, hand resting warm and solid on his back.

"Mike, lift your head," Harvey said, in the gentlest tone Mike had ever heard him use. He raised it, turning to look at Harvey, who seemed troubled, like Mike's turmoil was his.

"I'm going to try something," Harvey continued. "And I want you to know ahead of time that if this doesn't work, I don't mean anything personal or cruel by it."

"What -- " Mike started, and Harvey leaned forward quickly and kissed him.

Mike's parents had told him about Imprinting. How his mom had gone into a second-hand bookstore to kill some time before class, and his dad had rung her up and taken a couple of crumpled dollar bills and offered her change, fingers brushing her palm as he put thirty-five cents into it. Their whole world had shifted in an instant with that touch. It was like colors were brighter, like falling in love in fast-forward, and she'd grabbed his hand and held on until the wave passed. Dad had always claimed he'd heard music.

It wasn't like that, it wasn't even close. Mike felt like sparks were crackling in his ears and his skin was too hot, like his mind wasn't his own, like every fading, yellowing bruise on his body suddenly throbbed with awareness.

He tried to swear, tried to say something, but he couldn't find words. Everything was shifting and clicking into place -- and jubilantly he thought he had been right, that he couldn't be punished for what he'd done, because Harvey was his Imprint. It was his right to defend what was his.

Harvey's hand had slid up from his back to cradle his head, keeping him there, and Mike managed to find his own hands and curl them in the lapels of Harvey's suit. He didn't even need skin, just the heat of his body, the solid weight of his chest under Mike's knuckles.

He didn't break the kiss, would for preference never have broken it, but Harvey pulled back just enough to press their foreheads together.

"What the hell," he heard Harvey say. "Nobody told me it would be like that."

"Did you know?" Mike asked, because why else would Harvey do that? "Did you know we Imprinted? You were reading -- "

"No, I -- no, I didn't know," Harvey answered, sounding as undone as Mike felt. "When you were hit, that morning...the doctor thought...but I thought I'd have known. I wouldn't even want it. I've never wanted it."

Mike's heart plummeted. "But it's always -- "

" -- mutual, I know, I didn't mean that, I didn't know it was like this," Harvey finished his sentence for him, which was so like his parents that Mike laughed. "It's not funny!"

"No, I know it's not, that's not it," Mike babbled, pulling at Harvey's lapels, trying to worm closer but the angle was wrong. "That's why I grabbed Louis, isn't it? Why I haven't slept well?"

"You are the cause of so many failed dates it's mind-boggling," Harvey answered. "I can't believe your skinny ass is the reason I haven't been getting laid."

As if it were some kind of subconscious signal, Mike realized they could be having sex right now, could have been having it for months if they'd noticed (something he was going to meditate on in-depth later, how he could possibly have missed this, how Harvey could have missed it). He scrabbled at Harvey's coat, pushing at it now, trying to shove Harvey back so he could crawl up over him.

"We need to get the test," Harvey was saying, even as Mike pushed him backwards, tugging off his tie. "We have to document it for -- Mike -- "

"Tomorrow," Mike insisted, kissing him quiet.

"Oh, God, we have to register with the state," Harvey groaned, but his hands were already tugging Mike's shirt out of his pants, apparently uncaring that Mike still had his jacket on too. "Do you know what an embarrassing, time-consuming chore that is?"

"Naked now, paperwork later," Mike informed him. "Harvey, Harvey," he added, working his hands up to cradle his face. "We Imprinted. Do you know the odds on that? We Imprinted."

"Yes yes, soulmates for life, never to be parted, pain in my ass holy christ don't stop doing that," Harvey said, hips bucking up as Mike got his thigh between his legs. "I haven't had sex in months."

"I'm covered in bruises, we all have our crosses to bear," Mike informed him.

"These are very expensive pants and I don't want to come in them," Harvey retorted, and twisted just enough to push Mike back and off, to get them both off the couch. Mike was barely upright before Harvey surged forward, keeping him off-balance, one arm around his waist to hold him up. They kissed all the way to the bedroom, shedding clothing haphazardly.

"I should have known you'd be a dick even when you Imprinted," Mike managed, before Harvey unceremoniously dumped him, naked, on the bed.

"I don't know why you didn't expect that, you Imprinted on me," Harvey answered, struggling out of his boxers. Then, suddenly, a comical expression of dismay crossed his face. "Oh my God..."

He dropped to the bed, not on top of Mike as Mike had fervently been hoping for but rather sitting on the edge, face in his hands. His shoulders shook.

Mike crawled up to him carefully -- he didn't seem sad, he felt...Jesus, he could feel him...he felt amused, rueful even.

He was laughing.

"We shook hands," Harvey said, as Mike pressed his face against the nape of his neck. "When we met, we shook hands."

"And?" Mike asked softly.

"I thought it was static electricity!"

Mike burst out laughing into his skin. "Yeah, and I was busy worrying about all the weed."

Harvey turned and shifted and Mike leaned back into the bed, the two of them moving awkwardly but with purpose, and Mike felt a generous lack of jealousy for all the people Harvey had dated before they met, because Harvey could kiss. He was like Olympic-level at it. A ten for endurance at the least.

 

Harvey

"Whatever you're thinking," Harvey said, as Mike twined a leg around his thigh and pulled them closer together, "Whatever you're thinking -- ah, fuck! -- it's immature and fatuous. I can tell."

He heard Mike laugh, and it was so strange. With all the walls down now, with Imprint acknowledged between them, it was like he could tell Mike's moods, gauge his reactions and thoughts. Not so much a sensing, more...he just knew.

No wonder they wrote books and made films about this, no wonder people actively worked to find their Imprint. It was nothing like he'd expected, nothing like he'd feared. He felt comfortable in his own skin for the first time in months, unguarded in a way he'd never felt before, not even around Jessica.

"And you're thinking too much," Mike told him, fingers tweaking a nipple. Harvey grunted, mostly to cover a gasp, but Mike caught it and tightened his fingers, drawing a low moan out of him. He heard Mike hum in appreciation.

"Can't lie to me," Mike sing-songed, and Harvey thudded his forehead against Mike's shoulder. "It's okay. Watch this," he said, and effortlessly flipped them both, rolling over on top of Harvey and grinning down. Harvey gazed up at him, wondering what he should do, if he should --

That little sadist bent his head and fixed his teeth around his left nipple, and Harvey arched off the bed. God damn Imprint, Mike would find every single sexual button he had and mercilessly use them.

Head tipped back, panting for breath, he suddenly wondered why he assumed this was a bad thing.

Mike didn't linger, lifting his head up for kisses again, hips rolling as he rubbed their cocks together. Harvey desperately wanted to fuck him, and he could feel Mike's body shudder as that desperation became apparent, but Mike murmured "Later, we have time, later," into his skin.

They did have time, they had their entire lives together, and the thought was both triumphant and terrifying. He dugs his fingers into Mike's hips, sliding them up to the small of his back, the urge to mark him up only stifled by the memory that Mike was already bruised, that he needed to take care.

"It's okay," Mike groaned, hips thrusting harder, whining and moaning. "Yeah, it's okay -- "

Harvey dug his fingernails into Mike's skin, felt Mike's teeth in his neck, and rode through his orgasm on a knife's-edge of pain that hit a sharp point and rolled over into pleasure.

Mike collapsed on top of him, breathing heavy, body going lax as he curled a hand up into Harvey's hair and tucked his face into Harvey's throat. Harvey could almost taste his smug satisfaction, it was so evident.

Well, after all, why shouldn't he be smug? If you were going to Imprint you could do a lot worse than Harvey Specter.

"All considerations of eternal romance aside," Harvey said, when Mike evidently wasn't planning on moving anytime soon, "This is a little sticky."

Mike acknowledged him with a huff, and allowed Harvey to roll him off, mindful of his bruises. Harvey padded to the bathroom, feeling remarkably debauched considering he'd done much kinkier things with much more shameless people, wet a washcloth, cleaned himself, and then came back, swiping down Mike's skin while Mike stared up at him with unabashed adulation in his eyes.

When he came back to the bedroom again, Mike had burrowed into the blankets and was making some kind of nest or something, disarraying the pillows, a visible gap on the right side for Harvey. He tilted an eyebrow, but he slid into the gap and felt Mike curl up next to him, sleepy and content.

"You don't find this strange," Harvey observed. Mike shook his head. "Not even a little?"

"Do you? Honestly?" Mike asked.

Harvey knew he should, he knew this was insane and could only complicate their lives, but after a while he said, "No."

"There you go, then," Mike said. "Go to sleep, I'm tired."

Harvey nodded, but he kept his eyes open, watching Mike as he dozed. There was too much to consider, too much to think about for sleep to come easily. This would complicate things at work, and after Mike's performance earlier in the evening there was no way they could keep this from Jessica or Louis, which meant the whole firm would know by lunchtime.

Though he found himself surprised to discover he didn't want to keep it from anyone. Why should he be ashamed of his Imprint? There was nothing wrong with Mike -- he was a genius, good-looking, on his way to being a rich professional, and he was kind to people (kinder than Harvey, certainly). True, he was only an associate, but when you reached Senior Partner there weren't a lot more places to go from there, and Harvey had no need to worry about his status taking a hit just because he'd Imprinted on a younger man. Imprints were protected by law, and more importantly by social convention. Nobody would judge him for his Imprint; they'd just envy him that he had one.

Still, he couldn't sleep. He was sure he could fake his way through a relationship to a point, but he had no real experience in them, at least not ones he'd like to replicate. Given the misery of the last few months, the constant anxiety when Mike wasn't near, he couldn't imagine what would happen if he did something...irrevocable, something that made him undeserving. He'd come close, he suspected, when he'd bet Mike away. Mike hadn't even come to see him for the full ten days.

Mike stirred, as if he was picking up on Harvey's unease, and opened his eyes.

 

Mike

Mike knew he hadn't been asleep long, because waking was easy; he surfaced out of oblivion to the knowledge that something was out of sync, something small but important was wrong, like a pebble in a shoe, except in his brain.

Ow, that metaphor sort of hurt.

He opened his eyes to find Harvey lying next to him, watching him; he was awake too, tension in his body, eyes dark. Mike didn't need to be an Imprint to see he was troubled by something.

"What?" he asked, scooting forward, pressing his face into the pillow so he could burrow into Harvey's shoulder. Harvey's chin came to rest against his temple. They lay silently for a while, Mike waiting, Harvey gathering his thoughts. Mike gave him time, let him sift everything together. It was a shock, he knew, and more of one to someone who didn't expect to Imprint, hadn't even wanted it.

"Your parents Imprinted," Harvey said finally. "You grew up with this."

"Until they died," Mike agreed. "But yeah. I can't remember a time I didn't know what Imprint was. My parents were crazy about each other."

"Mine weren't. I don't think they even liked each other."

Mike nodded a little, kissing what skin he could find.

"My father was a biochemist," Harvey continued. "He thought Imprint was rare because it was a mental illness, and that was why science couldn't quantify it but could test for it. When we learned about it in school I asked him what he thought. He said Imprints were crazy, they were all overpossessive maniacs, and he said, besides, who'd Imprint on a smartmouthed little asshole like you?"

"Well, that shows him," Mike said, trying to ease what was obviously an old, painful memory.

"I was eight."

Mike shifted back to look at him, raised a hand to his neck to keep a point of contact. "What about your mom?"

"Ever seen Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolfe?" Harvey asked.

"No wonder you're such an exemplar for healthy relationships," Mike said, smiling a little. Harvey rolled onto his back, rubbing his face with one hand.

"I never told anyone that before. About my dad. Not even Jessica."

"Well, now you have me," Mike said reasonably.

"Whether I want you or not."

"Oh, you want me," Mike tugged on his arm, pulling him close again. "That's part of Imprinting, you know."

"Embarrassing personal confessions? I don't really do pillow talk, Mike."

"Apparently you do, but that wasn't what I meant. Part of the deal is getting someone you can't run off. You can't fuck this up," Mike said. Harvey seemed like he was barely breathing. "It's hard to even want to mess it up. That's why your dates didn't work out."

"Don't get mystical on me. It's a chemical thing. I do believe that."

Mike shrugged. "Maybe. Think about this. Would you ever hit me?"

Harvey gave him a horrified look.

"That's instinct," Mike pointed out. "You can't even handle the idea of it. The reason Imprint isn't the hellish shit your dad taught you about is because somewhere, on some level, human beings want to be decent to each other. Imprint or not, I wouldn't stay if you hurt me. But you never would. You'd suffer too if you did. You know what to do, Harvey, you know how to do this. Otherwise you wouldn't be an Imprint." He paused. "You're my Imprint and I love you, and it's okay if that feels creepy and too fast for you to say yourself. I don't have to hear it. I just know."

Harvey seemed to relax, fear and tension bleeding away. Mike crawled over him and rested his head on his chest, over his heart, and Harvey's hand held it there firmly.

"Big day tomorrow," Mike said. "We should sleep. Hey, do you want a ceremony?"

"No," Harvey's voice was a rumble under Mike's ear. "Bad enough we'll have to tell Jessica in front of Louis on Monday. It's an unusual case -- you can't be expected to control impulses you're not aware of." He paused. "It's not going to make life any easier for you."

"Can't possibly make it harder. At least I'll be getting regular sex and sleep," Mike yawned. "Can I move in? Your place is way nicer than mine."

Harvey opened his mouth, probably to say No, of course not, are you crazy? but instead, gratifyingly, he just said, "I won't even make you sleep on the couch."

Mike curled closer into his skin and fell asleep for a second time while making an elaborate plan for moving into Harvey's place without ever having to spend another night at his own.

 

Harvey


Proof of Imprint

Laws regarding Imprint can be found in most ancient religious texts, as well as the Code of Hammurabi and secular papyri from the Ramessid period of Ancient Egypt. Texts from the Nara period in Japan reference aristocrats who actively searched for their Imprint partners, and West African oral history mentions couples with specific descriptions that indicate Imprint.

Prior to the rise of advanced medical technology, proof of Imprint was difficult to provide but generally deemed unnecessary. Pre-industrialized Imprint partners rarely separated and have usually been considered across cultures to be good-luck omens. (For one notable exception, see Puritan Religion And Imprinting.)

Test A14.2, more commonly known as the Murray-Robertson test, was developed by Canadian scientists in the 1930s and remains the most accurate way to "prove" Imprint. Since its inception the process has been refined and is now a quick, mainly painless procedure. It is approved for use in most developed nations, although the state of Kansas has recently introduced legislation to ban it under the Love Equality campaign which seeks to end special legal rights for Imprints.

Harvey woke on Saturday morning to the exact opposite of the previous week: he had an absolute certainty that something fantastic had happened in the night, that there was something to look forward to, like maybe he had a booking at the car club today or he was about to go win a big case or --

Mike snorted, rolled over, and butted his head into Harvey's shoulder.

Oh right. That.

He gave Mike a fond smile he was going to have to work on suppressing when they were in public, kissed his forehead, and slid carefully out of bed, leaving Mike to sleep. They both could use it, but it was almost eight, and he had calls to make.

There was a discreet clinic downtown that specialized in legal proof of Imprint; their reputation was ironclad and if the test was positive, it was difficult to question its validity. He knew both Jessica and Louis had used the clinic's results as foundations for Imprint rights suits before. He called and made an appointment for nine-thirty while he was printing out the documentation paperwork they'd need to file.

He couldn't actually remember the date he and Mike had met, which was the first thing the form demanded, but Mike would. Their sworn statements would be a little more complicated than most, and he was already anticipating what an annoyance that would be, but there was nothing for it -- they had to be documented by Monday.

The filing office was only open until three on Saturdays, so they'd have to go straight from the clinic. He optimistically made a one o'clock reservation for lunch, then called the car service and requested a driver for the day, with a vehicle with extra cargo space so they could pick up Mike's bike at some point.

That was unusually thoughtful of him. This Imprint thing might work to his advantage after all. Certainly it meant he could prevent Louis from bothering Mike, if they survived what was sure to be an epic battle in Jessica's office on Monday.

He heard Mike moving around in the bedroom, and then the sound of water running; eventually Mike staggered out, damp, wearing some of Harvey's clothes, and gave him a beatific smile. Harvey, on the phone with a pal of his who'd gone into Imprint law (and who was currently laughing his ass off that Harvey had Imprinted) offered him half the orange he was eating.

"Okay, Paolo, it's very funny," Harvey sighed. "Can you please just make sure you email me the precedent citations?"

"Oh man, I am going to dine out on this for weeks," Paolo said down the line. "Harvey Specter calls me in a flat panic on a Saturday morning because he Imprinted and didn't have the native wit to notice."

"I'm not panicking. Nobody's panicking," Harvey said, and Mike's brow furrowed. "My Imprint partner assaulted a colleague, it's kind of a big deal that I get the citations."

"Sure, sure. Hey, we should do dinner sometime, me and Angela and you and -- what's his name?"

"Mike," Harvey said through gritted teeth. Mike preened. "Look, I don't see why -- "

"I know you don't now, but you will," Paolo said. "Trust me, Harvey. It's different when you're Imprinted. Other people don't get it sometimes. We've been Imprinted for ten years, we can help you out. I'll look through my calendar and see when I'm free."

"Okay. I want those citations, Paolo."

"Calm down, you'll get them. Later, Harvey."

"Thanks," Harvey said, and hung up. Mike was laughing at him. "What?"

Mike shook his head. "You discover you're Imprinted and the first person you call is a lawyer."

"Well, the first call I made was a clinic. We have an appointment for nine-thirty."

Mike shoved an entire wedge of orange into his mouth and then smiled, the wedge clenched between his teeth. Harvey rolled his eyes.

"Make sure you bring your phone with you, we'll be out most of the day," he said, walking into the bedroom and going to his closet for something decent to wear. Something that said more than "guy in a t-shirt" but not the full on "lawyer-in-a-suit", he decided.

"Hey yeah, can we stop and visit my grandma?" Mike called.

Oh God, that was right. They had to get family involved now. Harvey was going to have to call James and tell him. Thank Christ their parents were dead.

"I'd like to meet her," he said, and once again was startled to find it was the truth.

 

Mike

Saturday was intense. The people at the Imprint test clinic had been nice and kind of adorable, warning both of them whenever they had to touch anyone, amused at Harvey's narrow-eyed, defensive reaction when they drew Mike's blood. Harvey had ordered a copy sent express to Jessica's office at the firm and one to the filing office, and then they'd gone there themselves to register.

That was terrible. Mike had to sit in a room alone for like half an hour, writing a report on The Day I Imprinted (or something to that effect), and then he had to explain first to a counselor and then to an administrator AND the counselor, again, that he hadn't noticed Imprint. The time it took to convince them that no, he really hadn't noticed Imprint and yes, Harvey hadn't noticed either totally killed their lunch reservation, so Harvey bought them hot dogs while Mike unlocked his bike and loaded it into the car.

Mike's place was on the way to his grandmother's, so they stopped and Mike madly packed up his toiletries and some of his more precious belongings while Harvey packed his suits into a garment bag, criticizing all of them the entire time and attempting, twice, to "lose" the skinnier of Mike's ties. The car was beginning to look a little like someone was either living there or moving to college by the time they disembarked in front of the care facility.

It was worth it, though, for the smile that lit his grandmother's face when he told her he'd Imprinted, and for the shy way Harvey lurked outside the door until Mike came and got him so they could meet. Harvey was pretty quiet; Grandma spent most of the time reminiscing about Mike's parents, the day they'd met and their Imprint ceremony.

"See, told you he's responsible," Mike said, getting ready to leave -- Harvey had already said goodbye and gone to call their driver to bring the car around.

"I'm so happy for you," she said, kissing his cheek. "Now don't mess it up!"

Mike grinned. "Love you too, Grandma. I'll be back in a couple of days."

"Bring Harvey!" she called as he left.

And after that finally, finally they could go back to Harvey's place -- to their place, Mike supposed. Harvey looked tired.

"It's like domesticity with no waiting period," he said in the car, when he saw Mike's expression. "Your parents got married four days after Imprinting."

"I'm moving in," Mike pointed out, then hesitated. "Unless you don't -- "

"No. I want," Harvey said. "It feels...empty when you're not there. See? Why am I saying crap like that? I mean it's true, but it's stupid."

"It's just different," Mike soothed, wanting to scoot over next to him, constricted by his seatbelt. "Dude, you think I'm not a little freaked out?"

"Don't -- "

"Call you dude," Mike said, grinning. Harvey glanced at him.

"I see what you did there," he said.

"You were meant to."

So they got home, and Harvey put Ann Peebles on the turntable and collapsed in a chair, and Mike very wisely got his phone out and ordered delivery for dinner while Harvey was busy having his twenty minutes of existential crisis.

He hadn't thought about this part -- about being the one to reassure, the one who had experience. At work, the balance of power was all on Harvey's side, and rightly so; Harvey was supposed to be teaching him. Here, outside of it, Harvey had actively avoided the very concept of Imprint, as much as anyone could. He hadn't read novels about it or seen the classic films about it, and as his Wikipedia page from last week proved, he knew next to nothing about its history, just what he'd learned in school as a kid.

Well, Mike had Netflix, and could fix that.

 

Harvey

They spent most of Sunday in bed.

Harvey liked the sound of that, but it was really more sleeping than anything. Saturday had drained them both, even the good parts, and Saturday night Harvey kept trying to sort out what he was feeling, the authentic reactions from the socialized ones. He'd stop, surprised when Mike just knew something, like when he'd ordered Chinese food, hot greasy comfort food, and it was perfect -- and then he'd realize of course Mike knew. They were Imprinted.

Mike, apparently determined to confuse him further, pulled up half a dozen movies on his laptop, hooked it into the television with only a minor struggle, and inundated him with Imprint films. Harvey knew vaguely about the classics, because they tended to infiltrate pop culture, but he'd never actually seen Casablanca (woman Imprinted on French freedom fighter nevertheless falls for American expat) or Bonnie And Clyde (Imprinted couple on crime spree) or anything by Woody Allen, who apparently had spent his entire career musing on the neurotic side of Imprint.

There were weird ones too, strange side-trips, like the clips Mike showed him from Singin In The Rain. Harvey didn't even know threesomes could Imprint, but according to the internet there was one right there in New York, an Imprinted married couple who had double-Imprinted on the husband's work colleague.

Fatal Attraction sent Harvey nervously back to Wikipedia, while Mike laughed his ass off and made bunny-boiling jokes.

While one-sided Imprinting remains a strong trope in fiction, there has never been a documented case of a partner who did not mutually Imprint. Imprint Psychosis has been known to mimic the effect in obsessive personalities (see: Erotomania) but this condition has been successfully treated with therapy and drug regimens.

Or with death, according to Fatal Attraction.

He fell asleep during A Room With A View, an exceptionally boring movie which Mike had still insisted was one of the finest films about Imprint ever made. He would have felt badly about it, except that Mike had already fallen asleep during the opening credits, head in Harvey's lap, sprawled out over the rest of the couch.

Mike woke him around two in the morning and they stumbled creakily to bed, and when Harvey's alarm went off at eight in the morning he muttered "Fuck the gym" and silenced it.

He heard Mike get up once or twice, in the dark zone between sleep and consciousness. When he woke again around eleven, Mike was back in the bed, snoring quietly, faceplanted into a pillow. Harvey got up, unplugged his phone, and wandered into the living room.

"Bonjour," James answered after a couple of rings, though Harvey was pretty sure he knew who it was.

"Bonjour, James, c'est l'American," Harvey replied. James laughed.

"Hi, Harvey. How are you?"

"I'm good," Harvey said. "How's Paris treating you?"

"Well, as usual. Hm, a phone call from Harvey instead of an e-mail. Who died?"

"I call you!"

"You call me when you get promoted, when I get promoted, or when someone dies," James said, sounding tolerant. "And you just got promoted, and I know I haven't, so..."

"I've Imprinted," Harvey said.

There was a pause.

"Seriously?" James asked.

"Seriously. I thought it might warrant long-distance."

"Wow," James said, and fell silent again. "I -- really?"

"What, is it shocking I could Imprint?" Harvey asked, just as Mike wandered into the living room.

Who? Mike mouthed.

"No, it's just...wow, Harvey, you have genuinely knocked me on my ass with this," James said, as Harvey mouthed brother back at him. Mike looked startled. "What's her name?"

"His name is Michael," Harvey said. "He works at Pearson Hardman."

Mike gave him a cheerful thumbs up. Harvey threw him the bird.

"You -- " James stopped, then started to laugh. "Oh my God, you Imprinted a lawyer, of course you did. What is he, Junior Partner? One of the other Senior Partners?"

"He's an associate. It's a long story."

"So very long," Mike called.

"God, is that him? He sounds like a teenager. Harvey, are you Imprint-robbing the cradle?" James asked.

"Can I talk to him?" Mike said.

"No," Harvey replied patiently, answering them both.

"He wants to talk to me, doesn't he?" James asked. "Come on, Harvey, put him on. I'll behave."

"It's not you I'm worried about," Harvey said, glaring at Mike. "I'll send you an email with the details. If you're very good, I'll send you his email address too."

"Harvey," James whined, in the exact same tone of voice he had when he was ten and wanted his big brother to take him to the movies.

"Email tomorrow. Love you, bye now," Harvey said, and hung up before James could get a verbal foot in the door.

"I didn't know you had a brother," Mike said, picking through the fridge.

"The number of things you don't know about me could fill a book," Harvey sighed.

"I'm guessing you're not calling your parents about this one, though?"

"They're both dead."

"Sorry."

"Don't be, I'm not," Harvey replied.

"Didn't sound like it. Is your brother in New York?"

Harvey smiled a little. "France."

"Oh. That's far to go."

"Yeah, well. I ran away from home. James ran away from America."

"You ran away from home?"

Harvey rubbed his face. He just kept blurting these things out like an idiot. Hopefully this wouldn't happen when other people were around. Mike abandoned his hunt for food and came up next to him, resting his chin on Harvey's shoulder.

"Relax. Can't fuck it up, remember?" he said. "What exactly are you afraid of?"

Harvey glanced sidelong at him, uncertain how to say it.

"Listen, life sometimes sucks hard, and I get that, so I'm not going to use your messed-up family against you," Mike said. "His name is James? Is he...um, cool? You guys get along?"

"Yeah. He's younger than me. Accounts manager for an ad agency in Paris." Harvey turned his head, eyes closing. "I want to go back to sleep."

"I'm going to start chewing a pillow if I don't get food soon," Mike said. "Go, I'll bring it in."

"No toast in bed," Harvey warned, but he let Mike steer him back towards the bedroom. The bed felt like the best thing ever, and he was almost asleep again when Mike flopped down next to him.

"I found your peanut butter," Mike informed him, waving a piece of apple smeared with it under his nose. "I have two questions for you. Don't worry, they're non-invasive."

"This should be good," Harvey groaned.

"One, do you have condoms?"

Harvey turned to look up at him. "That's your idea of a non-invasive question?"

"Well, I suppose it's less invasive than 'Do you have any STIs'," Mike said thoughtfully. "Oh also, lube, and that doesn't count as my second question."

"No lube. Condoms in the nightstand drawer, check the expiration date," Harvey said. Mike rifled through it and made a disappointed noise.

"Second question, then: where's the nearest drugstore?"

Harvey pushed his face into the pillow. "Block and a half east. If you're going, get some milk."

"Harvey! That was domestic. I'm so proud." Mike kissed him. Harvey wiped a trace of peanut-butter off his cheek.

 

Mike

Harvey was asleep when Mike returned from what he and Trevor used to term the "Booty Call Run" -- the kind of supply run that made the cashier at the drugstore give you a very pokerfaced look. He put the milk in the fridge and quietly stocked the nightstand with an optimistically large amount of supplies. Sex could wait; not that he didn't want to have a lot of it and preferably soon, but they were Imprinted. They had their whole lives. They were catching up on months of bad rest, months of tension and anxiety, and at some point they were probably going to have to prepare a brief for Jessica on their Imprint.

Actually, that wouldn't be a bad thing to start on. Harvey had kept copies of their sworn statements and filing reciepts, and Mike could augment it with case law.

When he settled into the bed, sitting up with Harvey's laptop propped on his bent legs, Harvey murmured and rolled over, face nuzzling into Mike's hip. His hand came to rest on Mike's ankle, a loose but secure grip.

Normally he wouldn't open Harvey's email -- some things were private even from Imprint partners -- but he knew Harvey was expecting citations from someone named Paolo, and when he opened the laptop the bolded New Email From: Paolo Monteverde caught his eye.

Harvey,

Don't say I never gave you nothin'. Links to the citations below. My regards to your Imprint. Dinner on the 26th?

P

Mike smiled warmly, opened the links, and conscientiously closed Harvey's email.

It wasn't a bad brief, though he said it himself. It was difficult to find actual legal defense for what he'd done, but they could patchwork something together. There were documented cases, even famous ones, of unconscious Imprint; the test itself was named for Murray and Robertson, who had gone for years not knowing they'd Imprinted.

PFC Jason Murray and Lt. Charles Robertson: Canadian soldiers who served in the same unit in WWI and consequently, on demobilization, found it impossible to live apart. Murray claimed that he believed it to be the result of trauma incurred by the war; Robertson was more reticent, insisting that his attachment to Murray was not a matter for public discussion. Murray and Robertson were some of the first Imprinted partners to be tested in 1932 and are recorded as expressing extreme surprise at the positive result.

He had always thought it was sort of a nice love story. Most of the biopics and history books portrayed Robertson as a fiercely defensive, intensely private man who protected Murray from pestering by journalists at best and harassment at worst.

Mike knew, at least intellectually, that what he'd done was wrong, wasn't justified even by the bond of Imprint. But there were one or two cases where Imprints had successfully defended assaults in court, claiming Imprint protection because their partner had been threatened. Louis hadn't threatened Harvey, but between those cases and the unusual circumstances, he felt he wasn't entirely in the wrong, either. If he'd been aware of Imprint -- and here he could cite their statements to the Imprint registration office -- he would have been more conscious that his instinct to attack Louis was deriving from that, and he could have controlled it.

He hadn't told Harvey, and didn't really want anyone to know, that grabbing Louis like he had was still a disciplined act. What he'd wanted to do was choke the son of a bitch. His wrist was a compromise.

That couldn't happen again. Harvey might be afraid of the impulsive trust he was feeling, but Mike was much more afraid of the instinctive violence he could commit. If his parents had ever felt the urge to shove back anyone who got too far up in their partner's face, they'd hidden it well. Then again, Harvey tended to elicit that response in people a lot more often than a bookstore owner or a high-school teacher ever would.

While the draft was printing, Mike gently removed Harvey's hand from his ankle and slid out of the bed, walking over to the small box of stuff he'd packed from his apartment the day before. In a shoebox, under some old report cards and photos, there was a small, oblong jeweler's box with his parents' Imprint rings in it. He thought he'd use them as wedding rings, maybe, if he met someone he loved but never Imprinted.

He sat on the bed with the loose papers for the brief in one hand, the box in the other. Behind him, Harvey stirred, sat up and leaned over his shoulder sleepily.

"'Zat?" he asked.

"Brief for tomorrow," Mike said, holding it up. "Break out the red pen and tell me what I did wrong."

"I live for that, you know that," Harvey answered, taking the paperwork out of his hand. "What's in the box?"

"Nosy," Mike chided, but he opened it anyway. Inside, his parents' Imprint rings were propped on the cheap velour lining. They weren't particularly fancy; some people had diamonds or sapphires inlaid, but they were just plain low-grade silver, slim and elegant for all that. Two mobius strips, the twist meant to sit at the top of the finger, one larger than the other. Harvey would probably want fancier, want to buy a set for them himself, but -- maybe not.

"They belonged to my parents," Mike said. "I don't know if you want to wear them. We don't have to, but I thought you might like to."

Harvey took the larger of the pair, dangling it skeptically. "Have to get them sized first," he said.

"Try my mom's. You have thin fingers, it might fit," Mike answered, offering him the smaller ring. Harvey gave him back his father's ring and slipped the other one over the tip of his left index finger. It settled easily behind the knuckle.

His father's ring spun loose on his own index finger, and Mike whirled it around, grinning. "So? Want to?"

Harvey slid his left hand across Mike's waist, sighing into his neck.

"I feel like I shouldn't," he said. "No, that's imprecise. I feel like I should. I think like I shouldn't. Old habits. This is going to take a while."

"So it takes a while," Mike shrugged. Then he turned around, enough for Harvey to see his grin. "You so totally care about me."

Harvey groaned and fell back into the blankets.

"You caaaare, you want to wear my riiiing," Mike teased. "Speaking of things you want to do, I went to the drugstore."

Harvey looked up at him. "Did you buy me a red pen with which to proof your undoubtedly incompetent brief?"

Mike offered him one somberly. Harvey settled in with the brief, already making notes in the margins, and Mike sat and watched for a while, twiddling his father's ring loosely around his finger.

"We're going to have to give a performance if we want to sell either of them on this," Harvey said eventually. Mike looked at him and grinned.

Chapter Text

Harvey

When Harvey came in on Monday morning, Mike practically bouncing with excitement next to him, Donna looked up with a grim expression and said, "Jessica wants to see you both."

"It's okay," Harvey told her. "I got this -- "

"We're Imprinted!" Mike blurted. Harvey rubbed his forehead. Too late he realized the ring on his left hand was catching the light.

"I knew it!" Donna said, pointing at him. "I totally win the bet!"

"You knew?" Harvey demanded, letting his hand drop.

"Well, I 'knew'," Donna said, when she saw him glowering. "You were keeping it quiet, right?"

"No."

"Wait -- you didn't know?" Donna asked.

"You didn't think to mention this? Ever?" Harvey said. This was going to be a long day. "You ask me about everything. You didn't ask about this?"

"I was being discreet!"

"Since when?"

"You seriously did not know?" Donna asked, looking back and forth between them. "Because if so, I've read this romance novel before."

"Not this one, you haven't," Harvey said, leaving his briefcase behind her desk, extracting the folder with the amended brief in it. "Try to keep it quiet until Mike and I find out if we're fired, okay?"

Donna zipped her lips and smiled at them. Harvey, sighing, turned and led the way towards Jessica's office. Louis was already there, pacing, his arm in a sling. Oh, the drama.

"Harvey," Jessica said, leaning against her desk. "Michael. Come in. I can't believe I'm actually having to mediate this discussion, but Louis tells me on Friday night your associate assaulted him. I've had Louis's side. Can you explain to me what the hell is going on?"

Harvey glanced at Mike, who turned to Louis, just like they'd rehearsed the night before.

"Louis, I'm sorry I grabbed you," he said, with admirably non-sarcastic sincerity. "It was out of line -- inexcusable, even -- and I'm sorry I did it. And for shouting at you."

Louis opened his mouth angrily, but Harvey stepped in.

"And I'm sorry I didn't manage the situation better," he said. "Your safety should have been a priority."

Louis stopped, blinked. "Did you just apologize to me?"

"Yes," Harvey said. Louis looked almost mollified by Harvey's self-abasement.

Jessica, however, was eyeing them both. "So you don't deny what happened."

"No, ma'am," Mike said.

"Harvey?"

"I'm sure Louis was reasonably accurate," Harvey said. "Mike's genuinely sorry."

Jessica glanced at Louis. "Acceptable?"

Louis seemed to shake himself, squaring his shoulders. "Absolutely not," he said. "Him, I want fired," he continued, jabbing a finger of his good hand at Mike. Harvey fought down the urge to grab his other wrist just to fuck with him. "And I want Harvey written up for gross negligence in allowing it to happen."

Jessica sighed. "Harvey, I assume you have some kind of defense?"

"Some kind," Harvey agreed, passing her the brief. He made sure his left index finger was visible as he did so. Jessica caught the ring, stared at it, and then looked up at Harvey with wide, surprised eyes.

"Read the cover," Harvey said, tipping his head at the brief. She opened the folder and skimmed it, while Louis seethed in silence.

"This is an Imprint documentation," she said slowly.

"What?" Louis asked. Harvey offered him a copy.

"Harvey, the documentation is from Saturday. You can't seriously expect I'll accept this as an excuse," Jessica said, lifting the cover page. "I know you've covered for him in the past, but this -- "

"You should have test results in your inbox now," Harvey said. "If you read the statements in section two -- "

"Unconscious Imprint?" Louis demanded. "Are you kidding me with this crap?"

Jessica was rifling through her inbox, tugging out a brown envelope.

"You can't take this seriously," Louis said, turning to her. She held up a hand to silence him, reading over the medical paperwork.

"It's unfortunate," Harvey said smoothly. "Mike would never have done what he did if he'd been aware of Imprint at the time, and when I reacted I was reacting to genuine distress from my Imprint partner. The assault isn't justified, but I think you'll find we have a pretty strong case."

"You don't need to make a case, Harvey, this isn't a lawsuit," Jessica said, setting the paperwork aside and opening the folder again.

"If you fire Mike, it will be," Harvey replied. "And if you don't fire him, I want to cut Louis off at the pass before he sues."

"Are you playing hardball with me?" Jessica asked, while Louis sputtered. She sounded almost amused.

"I'm representing an Imprinted partnership," Harvey said. "What happened shouldn't have happened, but there were extenuating circumstances. We've both apologized. And we'll be paying his medical bills, naturally."

"You'd better," Louis threatened.

"I've just said we will," Harvey replied mildly. "Louis, take the sling off, we're not in small claims court here. He's not the Hulk, he didn't break anything."

"I have tendon damage!"

"Enough," Jessica said, closing the folder with a snap. "I'm going to review this and make a decision, but I don't think termination is appropriate in this case. Louis, sue him and you're fired, because I'm not going to have partners within a firm filing lawsuits against each other or against associates. Michael."

"Yes, ma'am," Mike said.

"Control yourself. Imprint is no excuse for this kind of behavior. You assault anyone else and Imprint or not, you're done here."

Mike nodded.

"I'm sure you have work to do," she added, as a dismissal. Mike turned and walked out of the room, and Harvey saw him pick up his pace substantially once he was through the door. He turned back to Jessica, who was studying them both.

"I'm going to look at this very carefully," she said, holding up the folder. "If I find any evidence of fraud or malfeasance, we're going to be revisiting this discussion in detail. In the meantime, taking this Imprint as read and taking into account what happened on Friday, we're going to need to make a few adjustments. Louis, if you can't be civil, leave him alone. I have eyes everywhere and if you try to mess with the kid, I'll know. Harvey, keep a tight leash on him. I'm not kidding -- one more outburst from either of you and you're both gone, and you can sue us all you like. This case isn't that strong. Now I'd like to be done playing kindergarten teacher, so you can both go back to work."

"Jessica -- " Louis began.

"Louis?" she asked sweetly.

Louis hesitated, then dropped his gaze. He turned to Harvey and made the face he made when he had decided to do the right thing even though he thought it was stupid.

"Congratulations on your Imprint," he said to Harvey, and walked out without another word. Harvey, deciding discretion was the better part of not getting his ass kicked twice, followed at a distance.

"Oh, and Harvey," Jessica called, as he was leaving. He stopped and turned, questioning. "My congratulations as well. You and I should schedule a night for drinks, so I can make fun of you really properly."

"Thank you," Harvey said, only a hint of sarcasm in his voice, and left.

He already had a text from Mike. Did she feed your liver to Louis raw?

She said congratulations. Be in my office at ten with the acquisition contracts from Friday, he texted back.

 

Mike

Mike was pretty sure the second Donna found out he wasn't fired, she'd told everyone she knew about the Imprint. He was positive of it when he found out that all the associates knew he'd Imprinted, but they didn't know who he'd Imprinted on.

He made a mental note to buy her flowers. Half the pleasure of this part, after all, was getting to tell everyone who it was.

"Is it true?" Rachel asked, stopping at his cube, and he could see the nearby associates straining their ears. "Donna said you Imprinted."

Mike nodded, grinning.

"Well? Who is she?" Rachel asked. "What does she do? How did it happen? Seriously, a nod is all I get?"

"It's Harvey," he said.

From across the corridor, someone coughed bullshit!

"Harvey...Specter?" Rachel asked, looking shocked. "You -- but you've been working together for months."

"Unconscious Imprint," Mike said. "We just figured it out on Friday. Got the test on Saturday, filed registration papers."

"Ohhhh," Rachel said suddenly, eyes going distant. "Oh, that explains so much."

"What?" Mike asked.

"Nothing," she said, and gave him a smile and a hair-flip as she walked away.

"Did you really Imprint on Harvey?" Harold asked, leaning over the edge of their shared cubicle wall.

"He totally didn't. He just wants to look like a special snowflake," Kyle called, without moving from his desk.

"He's jealous," Mike said to Harold, who nodded knowingly. "Hey, Kyle, I got something for you," he added, holding up a sheet of paper. Kyle, unable to resist a mystery, came to Mike's cube and took it out of his hand.

"That's a list of dates and locations for Imprint events in New York. I want you to find your soulmate, Kyle," Mike said solemnly. "Everyone should be as happy as Harvey and I are."

Kyle crumpled the paper and threw it over his shoulder. It landed in Harold's coffee.

"So what, you think you're getting special treatment because you're Imprinted on a Partner?" Kyle asked.

"Under the law, yes," Mike replied evenly. Kyle, who had clearly been about to launch into a brilliant demolition of Mike's protests, opened his mouth and then checked himself.

"Get lost, Kyle," Harold said.

"Shut up, Harold. You're the one bitching about doing Mike's busywork," Kyle said, and retreated to his cubicle.

"Sorry about that," Mike told him.

"My fault. Didn't duck fast enough on Friday," Harold answered with a grin.

"Listen, as soon as I get this crap done for Harvey, I'll take some back."

"Felicitates Inuros et Imprimatur," Harold replied. Mike looked at him in surprise; most people didn't know the formal congratulation phrase. Harold beamed. "My aunt's Imprinted."

"Okay, girls, sleepover's cancelled, time to stop braiding each others' hair and go back to being lawyers," Louis announced, arriving in the bullpen. Mike noticed he still had a brace on his wrist, but he'd taken the sling off.

Following in his wake was a young man in an ill-fitting suit, and Mike wondered for a minute whether Louis had pre-emptively hired a new associate. But his smile was a little too shiny, and he didn't look quite downtrodden enough to have recently gone through an interview process with Louis Litt.

He stopped at the door and spoke to someone, who gestured in Mike's direction. Mike leaned back at him as he approached.

"Mike Ross?" the man said. Mike nodded. "I'm John Wittgard, I'm new. Did Harvey tell you to expect me?"

"No," Mike said.

"You're supposed to give me an orientation?" Wittgard said tentatively. Mike looked him up and down.

"Sure, okay," he said, standing. "Follow me."

He led him out of the bullpen and down to the file room; Wittgard kept trying to make conversation, and Mike replied mostly in grunts. He opened the file room door, shoved Wittgard inside, and closed it behind them both.

"Okay, you're not a lawyer," he said, crossing his arms. Wittgard deflated. "Which paper do you work for?"

"Manhattan Update," Wittgard said. "It's a newsblog."

"You're here about the unconscious Imprint?"

Wittgard nodded.

"Someone from the firm call you?"

"I can't reveal my sources."

"Well, it was either Pearson Hardman or a snitch in the registration office," Mike said. "So we can have them investigated -- "

"No! Look, I just want a story," Wittgard said. "This is news, you're only the third documented case since the thirties. Exclusive interview?" he asked, without much hope. Mike sighed.

"I don't have time for this today, because I have actual work to do, so let's make this quick," he said. "Option one, I can punch you in the face, but I'll probably get fired and that's really only cathartic on a personal level."

"Wow," Wittgard said, clearly awed. "You're like Robertson."

"Thanks. Option two, I can call security and have them drag you out, you can write a story based on speculation, and we can sue you, investigate the registration office, find your source, get them fired, probably get your host to take your blog down, and make life as miserable for you as it'll be for us. I mean, you do get that we're both lawyers, right?"

"I really hope there's an option three."

"Option three is that you write a blind article with no names attached, and I'll provide you with copies of our statements to the registry office. They're pretty detailed," Mike said. "Everyone we know is gonna know anyway, and anyone who doesn't know who we are doesn't need to."

Wittgard gaped at him.

"Look, I get it, I'm a young guy trying to keep my job too," Mike said. "I know we're news. But if we're the wrong kind of news, we can really cause you some trouble. So I'm going to give you the statements, you're going to quote them without names -- that includes the firm, we don't need that kind of publicity -- and I'm going to trust you not to screw us. And if you do, it's back to option two."

The other man ran a hand through his hair. "Jeez, you guys don't play around, do you?"

"I realize not noticing I Imprinted makes me sound like an idiot, but I'm actually kind of a genius," Mike said. "And if you think I'm mean, you should meet my Imprint."

"Could you set tha -- "

"Don't push your luck," Mike said darkly.

"Right, right." Wittgard nodded. He offered his hand. "Deal?"

"Ugh, Grandma always told me never to trust journalists," Mike sighed.

"Mine told me not to trust lawyers," Wittgard offered. Mike shook his hand. "Thanks for not punching me in the face."

"I reserve the right to do that if you mess this up," Mike warned him, and opened the file room door. "Come on, I'll get you those copies. Then I'm going to have security escort you out."

 

Harvey

"Late!" Harvey called, waggling his watch, when Mike walked into his office at ten past ten.

"Gimme a break, I just declared myself our PR rep," Mike replied, placing a stack of folders on his desk. "Acquisitions contracts. There's a blog that's going to be quoting our Imprint statements probably later today."

"What?" Harvey demanded, a sinking feeling in his stomach.

"Relax, I made a deal. No names, no specifics, and I blacked out the more embarrassing parts. You write very romantically, for a lawyer," Mike added, flopping down in a chair. "I told him if he screwed us we'd take him to the cleaners."

"I might anyway. I wasn't in on this little deal. Did you get it in wri -- of course you didn't," Harvey groaned, when Mike shook his head. "You know, a mark of human intelligence is someone who learns from his mistakes."

"You really want that contract in writing? We agree to suppress information concerning Harvey Specter and Mike Ross on the condition Mike not punch anyone in the face?" Mike waved a hand. "The internet will gossip about it for a couple of days and then nobody will care."

A downside of Imprint, Harvey was noticing, was his tendency to let Mike off lightly whenever he was being a naive dipshit.

"You'd better hope that's true," he said. "You're still skating pretty close to being fired."

"If I were," Mike asked, looking over at him, "would -- "

"Of course I would. I can get a job anywhere. I'd threaten, anyway. Probably wouldn't have to follow through."

Mike smiled. "That finishing my thoughts thing, it's adorable."

Harvey waited for a surge of annoyance, and when none came, he looked away, fiddling with his pen.

"Anyway, can I go? I promised Harold I'd help him finish the stuff Louis dumped on me and you re-dumped on him on Friday," Mike said.

"Go," Harvey told him. "Pillage and burn. Be back at one for the client meeting."

"Adult Table?"

"Consider it an Imprint gift. Scram," Harvey said.

Mike scrammed, but as he left he called back over his shoulder, "Love you!"

Harvey could hear Donna's snicker. He picked up his phone and saw her pick up hers.

"So when's the ceremony?" she asked, spinning around in her chair to smile at him through the glass wall.

"We're not having a ceremony, ceremonies are for dorks," he told her.

"Harvey. Search your fast-melting heart and locate, deep down, your shreds of humanity."

Harvey scowled at her.

"Sweetie, you know you want one. It's what you do. You show off your things," she said, gesturing at the signed basketballs, at the shelf of LPs.

"He's not a thing."

"He's your thing. Metaphorically. I'll plan it for you if you want. I've always wanted to throw an Imprint reception."

"Let's just survive the week first."

"I'll book you somewhere nice for dinner," she said, and hung up.

Harvey set the phone in its cradle, tapped the end of his pen against his desk blotter, thought about Mike, and smiled to himself. Then he told himself to get the hell over it, and started work.

 

Mike

Mike would just as soon have gone home that night and crashed onto the couch with Harvey and a bowl of cold cereal for dinner.

Louis hadn't been any more intolerable than usual, which was a nice surprise, but it was a long, mostly-grueling day of reading briefs and meeting with insanely boring clients. Adult Table wasn't any fun if the adults were stuffy assholes, even if they'd complimented Harvey's Imprint ring. Plus he'd spent the afternoon suffering jokes, both well-meaning and ill-intentioned, from the other associates when the Manhattan Update article came out.

At least Wittgard had held up his end of the bargain. The article couldn't have been more generic if it was censored by Harvey personally. The third documented case of unconscious Imprint since the Murray-Robertson test was instituted occurred in Manhattan this week when two co-workers filed for Imprint registration on Saturday, months after meeting each other. Manhattan Update has an exclusive peek at their registration statements behind the jump!

So he could happily have gone home and spent the evening using up some of the condoms in the nightstand drawer.

On the other hand, eight o'clock found him drinking champagne after an insanely expensive dinner in a corner booth at one of midtown's hippest restaurants, with a view of the room and Harvey's arm resting around his shoulders, so life could be worse. Harvey's left hand dangled off his shoulder, ring on display to the room; they'd left Mike's ring with a gushing, starry-eyed sales clerk at Tiffany's to be sized.

The waitstaff weren't quite as enthusiastic as the Tiffany's clerk, but Donna had clearly told someone when she made the reservation that they were celebrating their Imprint. The number of fond, indulgent smiles and awestruck looks was becoming a little unnerving.

"Are you showing me off?" he asked Harvey, who was on his fourth glass of champagne and emanating smugness.

"Do you mind?" Harvey asked.

"Well, I'm quite a catch, so I see why you would," Mike said.

"Part of it's showing off," Harvey allowed. Mike glanced at him, curious. "Part of it is staking claim."

"Ah," Mike said. "See the shiny, isn't it shiny? Don't touch my shiny."

"You certainly have a gift with words," Harvey replied. He turned his face, nose brushing Mike's temple, and Mike felt a tongue wetly trace the curve of his earlobe. "Want to get out of here?" he asked, when he was done making sure Mike couldn't stand up without embarrassing himself.

"The bill -- "

"Paid in advance," Harvey said, which shouldn't sound as hot as it did. "Home?"

"Yeah," Mike said, squirming out of the booth, buttoning his jacket. Harvey followed, still looking like the smuggest bastard on Earth, and Mike felt the eyes of half the room on them as they left. Vaguely, he remembered the sensation from childhood -- the way people watched his parents, the way people would tell him what a lucky boy he was to have them. He glanced at Harvey, to make sure he wasn't freaking out, but he shouldn't have worried. Harvey might not be used to attention from this, but he was used to being the center of attention in any room anyway.

He'd been in Harvey's private elevator before, but the novelty hadn't worn off yet. Mike stood at the glass, watching the world fall away below them, while Harvey wrapped his arms around his waist and mouthed at the base of his neck, teeth scraping gently over his skin.

"You shouldn't have had so much champagne," Mike said, amused.

"I'll be fine," Harvey replied.

"Oh? How fine?"

Harvey snugged his hips up against Mike, erection pressing hot into his ass. "Very fine."

"Okay, I'm sold," Mike said, as the elevator stopped.

"Are you sure?" Harvey asked, not letting him go. "Because I'm very good at convincing."

"In the elevator? Really?" Mike asked.

"Sustained," Harvey said, and released him long enough for Mike to turn.

There'd been an urgency to last time, a driving need to confirm the bond, and since then they'd done little more than sleep tangled in each other, too tired or too concerned with defending themselves. Now there was time -- time for Mike to lead him across the living room, kissing, through the bedroom door as they shed ties and shoes and clothing.

"Okay, for information's sake," Harvey said into his mouth, walking him backwards to the bed. "Brief sexual history with men. Go."

"What romance," Mike answered, fumbling with Harvey's fly. "Bottoming and blowjobs. Open to other suggestions. You?"

"Top and bottom, oral, not anytime recently," Harvey replied, getting in the way as he tried to help him. He finally let Mike see to it, running his hands up his arms to cup his shoulders, kissing him again.

"Professional closet?" Mike asked.

"Not really necessary," Harvey said. "Most men don't interest me."

"No men better interest you now." Mike tumbled onto the bed, pulling him along. Harvey propped himself over him on his elbows, looking down, head tilted to one side.

"Only you," he said, looking like he was fighting every trained-in instinct to say it. Mike raised a hand and rubbed his thumb across Harvey's cheek.

"Love you too," he replied.

 

Harvey

Mike had been right, he shouldn't have had quite so much champagne, because it was difficult to stay in control -- difficult not to just give in and be dragged under the surge of emotion Mike's acceptance caused. Desire, of course, and a desperate affection, an almost panicked love. It made Harvey feel vulnerable, stripped bare, and he tried to suppress it.

And then, suddenly, he realized he didn't have to.

This was Mike, this was his Imprint, and it wasn't weakness. Even if it had been, Mike would never use it against him, never hurt him for it. He shuddered and dropped down, kissing him, letting the last vestige of wariness crack off and drift away. Mike took the frantic kiss like it was his due, hands tightening in Harvey's hair.

"Feel better now?" Mike asked, when the rush of emotion had passed and Harvey broke the kiss to press his face to Mike's neck, breathing deeply. He nodded, not lifting his head. "I think you should know, by the way, that I was a wrestler in high school."

Harvey was about to ask how that was at all relevant to their situation when, with only that as warning, Mike flipped him effortlessly onto his back, straddled him, and pinned him down with one arm. He leaned over the edge of the bed and, with his free hand, opened the nightstand drawer. Harvey watched, amused, as Mike fumbled the cap open, eyed it, and then groaned.

"Are they kidding me?" he asked Harvey, unscrewing the cap to break the seal, ripping little bits out of it when it didn't come away cleanly, and Harvey started to laugh.

"You do it," Mike said, dropping it onto his chest. He leaned over again to pop the box of condoms open, and that was all the distraction Harvey needed.

"Oh -- Jesus, warn a man," Mike groaned, as Harvey ran a slick finger down his ass. He inched up a little to give Harvey better leverage, though, and his eyes drifted shut as Harvey slid a finger inside him. He toppled onto Harvey's chest, hands flexing in the sheets, nibbling at his jaw.

"That's good?" Harvey asked into his ear, crooking his finger a little. "You like that?"

"Very much," Mike groaned, hips twitching as he tried to take more. Harvey graciously added a second finger, and Mike shuddered.

He could tell, in the strange just-knowing way he could tell sometimes what Mike was feeling or thinking, that Mike would like it rough -- would like to just give in and be taken hard and desperate -- but not tonight. So he eased back a little, even though Mike whined, and moved slowly, gently.

Just as well. He felt uncoordinated, loose-limbed in a way that had nothing to do with the alcohol, wanting to touch everywhere at once. He skated his other hand up Mike's ribs, over his shoulder to his neck, and rubbed his thumb gently into the muscle there. Mike went loose and relaxed, like a string had been cut. His cock pressed against Harvey's abdomen, moving in little jerks whenever Mike's hips bucked.

"Oh, that's good, that's good, Harvey," Mike mumbled against his skin, and one of his hands fumbled up Harvey's ribcage, palm scraping roughly over his nipple, making Harvey tense and arch for a moment. He could feel Mike's smile against his skin. "More, you can do more."

"Easy," Harvey warned, hand clamping around the back of his neck. "It's gonna be good, promise."

"I know, I know," Mike panted. "I just -- oh, shit, yes," he hissed, when Harvey spread his fingers, adding a third. "Just a little, a little deeper, please, Harvey, please...oh you asshole," he added, when Harvey pulled his fingers out completely.

"Condom," Harvey grunted, but Mike was still collapsed on top of him, thrusting minutely against his skin. "Michael."

Mike shivered and raised his head. Harvey waggled his slick fingers. "Condom, please."

"Gonna get tested," Mike muttered as he fumbled around in the sheet for the condom. "Gonna take you home and fuck you bareback -- "

Harvey laughed, a little delighted; he wasn't aware Mike had such a dirty mouth in bed, and his whole body enjoyed the idea. Mike finally produced the little packet with a triumphant noise, tore it open and scooted back. The drag of his ass over Harvey's cock made Harvey grunt in surprise.

Mike, who had to make a production out of everything, gave him a smile, bent and nuzzled against his dick before sucking warm and wet around the head, eyes raised to catch Harvey's reaction. He leaned back, rolling the condom over him, and then took Harvey's still-messy hand, using the last of the lube to slick him up.

"Like this?" he asked, looking down at Harvey, still straddling his thighs. "Because I'm good like this."

"Well, I've never been a wrestler," Harvey said, and saw Mike's face go puzzled and then alarmed for the split second before he rolled Mike off into the blankets and climbed on top of him, "but I do know a few things about physics."

"This, this is good too," Mike agreed, legs spreading, knees hooking up around Harvey's ribs, ass arching off the bed. Harvey got a hand under his hip, and Mike let out a long, slow exhalation as he pressed against his hole. He rested his left hand on Mike's stomach, fingers rubbing soothingly, and slowly pushed in.

Mike gasped and twisted a little, but he said "Oh god please" so Harvey just held on and let Mike's hands rake down his arms, one coming to rest over his left hand, twining into it. When he moved again, Mike groaned.

"Okay?" he asked, quietly, leaning forward, driving in a little more, and Mike nodded. "You're sure?"

"Holy shit please," Mike said, sounding almost annoyed. Harvey grinned, kissed him, and pushed the rest of the way in a long, slow slide. Mike was tight, hips making little circular motions, insanely good.

"You're -- right there," Mike groaned, "Jesus, you're -- I could come, you wouldn't even need to -- oh, fuck, Harvey -- fuck," he added, as Harvey pulled back and slid home again. Harvey leaned forward as much as he could, kissing Mike's collarbone when he couldn't quite reach his mouth.

"It's true," he said, finding a slow, deep rhythm, "that you're very shiny, Mike -- ah," he broke off as Mike bucked hard. "And handsome and clever -- "

"And?" Mike asked, tightening his knees a little, head thrown back against the pillows.

"Mine," Harvey growled, biting down, and Mike shouted as he came, writhing, his hand so tight around Harvey's that it hurt. It caught him by surprise, the filthy noises Mike made and the shudder around his cock. He had a sharp, clear, still moment where he swore he could feel their pulses align, and then he followed Mike over into orgasm, hips snapping in little, hard bucks as he came.

He'd been holding Mike practically off the bed, almost doubled over him while they fucked, and now he let go slowly, eased Mike down and pulled out, Mike whimpering softly.

"Okay, that was amazing," Mike announced, as Harvey stripped off the condom and used Mike's discarded shirt to clean him up. "Hey, is that my shirt?"

"Remember the amazing," Harvey told him, falling back into the bed. He curled around Mike's side, a leg tangling possessively with his, and Mike turned his head, bright blue eyes hazy and satisfied.

"You just want to be told what an incredible lay you are," he said, as Harvey wrapped an arm over him as well, left hand coming to rest just below the livid bitemark on his collarbone.

"You can't deny my technique for convincing people of it is pretty airtight," Harvey replied. "And under exclusive contract to you, now."

"Ohh, I'm gonna be sore tomorrow," Mike said, raising a hand to the welt on his skin, pressing on it experimentally. "Worth it."

"I'd hope so." Harvey nosed into Mike's shoulder and took a breath. "You're my Imprint," he said slowly. "And I love you."

Mike turned to him, face lit up. "I know," he said, and licked Harvey's nose.

"Gah! Don't do that! Ruin the moment," Harvey grumbled, lifting his hand to swipe at his nose. Mike caught it in his own, lowering both their hands to his chest.

Tomorrow they had to get up and go to work, be lawyers, be amazing. He'd have to put up with Donna's smug looks all day after he told her she could plan an Imprint ceremony. Mike would have to deal with Louis, and be on best behavior for Jessica for a while. There was a lot to do, but he wouldn't be coming home to empty anxiety ever again, and nobody could ever take Mike away from him. For now, time to rest.

He fell asleep to the soft, even rub of Mike's thumb over his index finger, over the twist of his Imprint ring.

END