He can still feel Mike’s hand on his back. The briefest, most fleeting contact yet it has left an indelible impression, a searing mark of touch between Harvey’s shoulder blades. A brand.
Harvey is marked now, branded, and nothing will ever be able to undo that.
The whispering remains, the lingering reminders of Mike’s palm and fingers weigh down on him heavily but their weight gradually lifts as Harvey tries to hold on to it for as long as possible while his heartbeat slowly settles back into its normal rhythm. He still feels numb and dizzy and nauseous and he thinks that he really should get himself to the bathroom, just in case, before it is too late, but once the level of adrenaline coursing through his body falls, exhaustion washes over him and he feels as dense and as heavy as lead.
His ears ring and there is a pressure against his forehead and temples, a pressure from within, and he prays that Gretchen will guard the door and let nobody into his office right now.
He thinks that he might actually have dodged Soloff for the time being, might have fooled him enough – into thinking that he’s worried about the money, his billable hours, his position in the firm, whatever. He thinks that maybe Soloff hasn’t noticed, hasn’t caught on what was really going on over there at his desk just a couple of minutes ago.
He doesn’t remember much of what Soloff has said to him and he doesn’t remember much of his reply. All he knows is that he has probably averted the worst just by an inch of his life and all he remembers is Mike.
Mike’s eyes on him, filled with worry, concern, a hint of helplessness and something else. Mike at his side, crouching on the floor next to him, handing him a glass of water. Mike’s breath brushing over the back of his hand, his shaking hand, for fuck’s sake. Mike’s hand on his back, his fingertips lingering a little longer than the palm, warm and steady, leaving that goddamn burning mark on the skin beneath his suit.
He doesn’t know that almost an hour as passed already since Mike has left and that Gretchen has closed the door behind Mike and sent away all the people that have come to see him in the meantime. A lot of people, but he doesn’t know that.
All he knows is that Mike isn’t here anymore and that he would have wanted him to stay. Needed, really, if he is perfectly honest, and he doesn’t see any reason anymore not to be. He knows that he should have asked Mike to stay but instead he has sent him away. He shouldn’t have done that.
He shakes his head, slowly, again, and again. He doesn’t want to be alone, for the first time in his life, and he has sent the one person he wants to be with, the one person who knows, the one person who makes him feel safe, away. He wishes Mike would come back, hopes that he has forgotten something, but it is a hope against hope, and Harvey knows that. He even knows that Mike wishes for that himself, that he’s racking his brain for a reason, any reason to come back here and be with him but he won’t let himself find a reason strong enough because he thinks that Harvey doesn’t want that, that Harvey wants to be alone. That Harvey has sent him away, because Harvey wants to be alone now.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Come back, he wants to say. Stay. Please, stay with me. But the room is empty and Gretchen has closed the door anyway so it doesn’t matter that he doesn’t trust his voice at the moment.
No. No, he’s not okay. Not by far, and Mike knows that now. Harvey has told him and Mike has seen and now that he knows Harvey wants him gone and longs to be with him at the same time.
His head hurts and his eyes burn. He feels sick. There is a fiery fucking mark on his back and he needs someone to touch it, again, now, but he is alone.
When Harvey asks him if he wants to go grab a bite or something, Mike says yes. And when Harvey tells him that he is okay, that he is fine, he almost believes him.
They go to a steak house near Harvey’s place and they spend their dinner chatting about baseball and movies, they even touch one or two of their cases during dessert, but when Harvey pays the bill because it is his turn, they fall silent.
Harvey’s eyes look tired. There is a wreath of shadows surrounding them and the lids seem to be incredibly heavy.
“I’ll walk with you,” Mike says when they collect their coats and they walk through the busy streets of Manhattan until they reach Harvey’s building.
“Do you,” Harvey starts to speak but then he shoves his hands into the pockets of his coat and purses his lips. It takes him a couple of seconds before he speaks again. “Do you want to come up? Have a drink?”
Mike glances at his watch and furrows his brow. “I really should be heading home—“ he interrupts himself when he looks up and Harvey is staring at the tips of his shoes. “You know what? Why not?” He grins and when Harvey raises his head and their eyes meet, a small smile forms on Harvey’s lips as well. “Your scotch is exceptional after all.”
Now fully grinning, too, Harvey turns around and leads Mike through the lobby, up the elevator and to his door. He holds the door open and lets Mike step into his home as if it is the most normal thing in the world.
When Mike turns around in the middle of the living room, Harvey is standing next to the kitchen island, his fingers still wrapped around his suit jacket, and stares at him.
Once Mike clears his throat he snaps back into motion. He places his jacket on the counter top and walks over to the trolley to fix them both drinks.
They sit down at the coffee table, Mike on the chair opposite of Harvey, and they sip their drinks quietly for a while. This is not uncomfortable, Mike thinks, slightly bewildered, not really, and his eyes wander over Harvey’s face. Harvey’s eyes are closed and apparently he’s listening closely to something only he can hear.
Afraid to be caught staring, Mike tears his gaze away from the man on the other side of the table and fixes it on the glass in his hands instead.
“So,” Harvey breaks the silence just a few moments later.
“So,” Mike echoes and shifts in his chair, leaning forward ever so slightly.
Harvey inhales deeply and takes another sip from his drink.
Both men fall silent and break into an awkward chuckle after a second.
“You first,” Mike says and makes an inviting gesture with his free hand, nodding at Harvey reassuringly.
“It’s just that I—“ Harvey clears his throat and takes another deep breath.
Mike is at a loss. A Harvey searching for words, lost for words, puts Mike at a loss. He waits.
“You don’t have to say anything, Harvey. I—“
“Yes, I do.” Harvey drains his glass and sets it down onto the table in front of him. “I need you to understand what it was that you saw in my office yesterday.”
“No, Mike,” Harvey cuts in and Mike immediately shuts his mouth. “I want to talk about it. I need—I want to tell you.”
“Okay,” Mike replies. “I’m listening. I’m here.”
Harvey nods and picks up his empty glass again. Slowly turning it around in his hands he starts to speak.
“I’m not good with—loss.” He clears his throat and keeps looking at the glass in his hands. “Never have been. Never. Ever since I was a kid I—“ He bites his lips and looks up for a short moment and Mike tries to appear as calm and composed as possible.
“Remember when you came here and asked me about how I did it? How I separated work and—“ Harvey pauses again and Mike nods.
“That’s why I—That’s why I usually—I don’t.” Harvey casts his eyes down once more and Mike has to strain his ears to catch Harvey’s next words. “Love. Be—become attached, I mean. Let someone—”
“Oh,” Mike breathes and Harvey looks up and frowns.
“Okay,” Mike says, bringing his glass to his mouth without really taking a sip. The golden liquid just touches his lips and he runs his tongue over them before he lowers the glass completely.
“I’m seeing someone,” Harvey says and averts his eyes again. “About—about this, about—it. It won’t happen again.”
The words are out of his mouth before Mike can even think.
Harvey’s head shoots up and Mike’s stomach drops.
“I mean, I was scared to death,” he hurries to say. “I was terrified out of my mind. I thought you were having a heart attack and—I was so fucking scared… I’m sorry, Harvey, I—“
“No,” Harvey interrupts, nodding. “I am sorry. It’s okay. It won’t happen again.”
For the second time this evening Mike doesn’t know what to say. “Harvey—“
“It’s okay,” Harvey repeats, pinching the bridge of his nose. “You can go and work for Robert Zane if that’s what you want. It’s okay.”
Mike draws a total blank. He just sits back a little and stares at Harvey who is squeezing his eyes shut for a fraction of a second and then blinks rapidly a couple of times.
“I am not weak, Mike. Just because you saw— I—“
“Whoa, whoa, wait. Wait a second,” Mike interrupts and to his utter surprise Harvey immediately shuts up. “Who said—Holy fuck, Harvey.” He inhales sharply and shakes his head. “You have to be the strongest person I have ever met. Ever. I can’t even begin to grasp how you managed to send Soloff packing in the middle of—And why on earth would you think—Robert Zane? That doesn’t even make any sense.” He rises from his chair and walks around the table. When he is next to Harvey he crouches down and tilts his head, silently begging for Harvey to turn his head and look at him.
“I am glad I was there. I am glad that you trusted me enough to—I’m glad you admitted that you were not alright. I’m glad you let me be there, that you let me help you, Harvey. And I’m glad you asked me up here tonight. So fucking glad. I—“
He wants to say so much, so much more, he wants to say everything, but he doesn’t know how. So after a moment’s hesitation he simply reaches out and places his hand on Harvey’s upper thigh, a little above his knee. He can feel Harvey tense under his tentative touch but after a breath or two Harvey’s muscles relax again, even if just a little.
When Harvey turns his head in the other direction, away from Mike, Mike gives Harvey’s leg a gentle squeeze and nods. He shifts his weight a little more to the balls of his feet, getting ready to stand up, when Harvey’s hand comes to rest on top of his for a short moment, squeezing back.
“Yeah,” Harvey whispers and turns to lock eyes with Mike once more and Mike thinks that he has never seen anyone look so exhausted. “Me too.”
Harvey lets go of Mike’s hand and Mike rises to his feet. Harvey gets up as well and Mike pulls his lower lip between his teeth.
“I could stay. Tonight, I mean,” he offers, searching Harvey’s eyes. “I could stay here tonight, with you, so you won’t be alone. If—If that’s what you want.”
“I’d like that,” Harvey says, still avoiding Mike’s gaze. “I’d like that but—“ He swallows thickly and finally meets Mike’s eyes. “But I think you should go home.”
Mike just looks into Harvey’s eyes, searching for something, anything, but all he can see is bone-deep fatigue. Slowly, very, very slowly the corners of Harvey’s mouth curl upwards and a faint smile spreads on Harvey’s lips.
“I’m okay, Mike,” Harvey says and nods. “I promise.”
“Okay,” Mike mutters and nods in return. “Okay.”
Harvey breaks eye contact and turns his head to the side, taking a short breath through his nose.
When Harvey looks at Mike again, there is something else in his eyes, something Mike can’t quite touch. Harvey opens his mouth to speak but before he can say anything, Mike takes a short step towards him and pulls him into his arms.
For a second or two Harvey doesn’t move. He doesn’t move at all, he doesn’t even tense or push Mike away.
Those two or three seconds before Harvey’s arms come up and wrap around Mike’s body are the longest of Mike’s life. But then they do and Harvey hugs him back and for an even longer two or three seconds they stand like that, holding on to each other, holding their breaths.
And when Mike’s hands move up Harvey’s spine, when his palms come to rest between Harvey’s shoulder blades, Harvey exhales shakily into the crook of Mike’s neck and his embrace tightens and his fingers dig into the muscles of Mike’s back.
This is when Mike knows that nothing will ever be the same again after this. This is when he knows that he’d do anything for this man, that he’d give anything, that he’d be anything if only Harvey lets him. This is when Mike knows that he’s going to break up with Rachel the moment he returns to their apartment. This is when he knows that there is no way, no way on earth around this.
Harvey huffs against the fabric of Mike’s jacket, a sound somewhere between a gasp and a sob, and when he breaks the embrace and pushes Mike away a little bit, just a little bit, there’s something else in his eyes, something Mike recognizes, something that he has seen before but never truly acknowledged. Something new, yet something so familiar it makes Mike’s eyes prickle and his knees go weak.
“There’s a mark on my back now,” Harvey murmurs, running his hands down Mike’s arms. “I’m a marked man, I—“
He shakes his head and cups Mike’s face with one hand.
His thumb brushes over Mike’s lower lip and Mike closes his eyes.
Harvey’s finger is warm, much warmer than Mike would have expected had he ever thought of imagining something like this.
Harvey lets go of him and takes a step backwards. “I’ll be okay,” he says and when Mike opens his eyes again, Harvey’s face looks soft and open in the dim light of his living room.
“I’m not going to work for Robert Zane,” Mike says and Harvey nods.
“Yeah,” Mike smiles and reaches out to run his knuckles gently over Harvey’s cheek. “Good.”
Harvey leans into Mike’s touch just the tiniest bit and only for the shortest of moments but Mike notices.
“You gonna get some sleep now?” He asks and watches Harvey run his fingers through his hair.
“Yeah,” Harvey mutters. “I’ll try.”
“Good,” Mike smiles and turns to leave. Harvey doesn’t follow him so Mike lets himself out. Before he closes the door, though, he pauses for a little while and listens carefully.
He hears the clink of glass on glass and a moment later he hears a sliding door being slowly pulled open. Some faint rustling and coughing, then the lights inside the condo are switched off.
He listens into the silence for some more minutes before he closes the door and summons the elevator.
He knows that he will be back here soon, tomorrow maybe or the day after or in a week or in a month.
He will be back here and then he will pull those sliding doors shut, closing them behind himself and Harvey, and he will get to hold Harvey for as long as he desires. For as long as they both desire.
All through the night and into the morning of the next day.
While the elevator makes his way up to Harvey’s floor, Mike crosses the hallway again and rests his palm against Harvey’s door.