For my sister, who couldn't stop complaining about the number of times Mike gets hit by a car.
Mike had selected the bicycle from hundreds of others. He didn't bother giving it a name; he was fond of it, to be sure, but not the type to get overly sentimental about his possessions. And besides, Trevor had snickered when Mike suggested it.
The Bike, as it came to be known, was a rickety thing. It had been secondhand when he bought it, and the coming years had not been any kinder. Patches of rust had long since blossomed across the frame, threatening to overtake what little color there was left. The mass of duct tape that had once been the seat had started to wage a hostile takeover and spread its infection down to the chain guard. By some unholy magic, the left pedal had been threaded the wrong direction, and so had a tendency to work its way free and fall off at inopportune moments; and if occasionally the derailleur got stuck in a higher gear that forced him to pedal harder just to get anywhere on time, well, the exercise was probably good for him.
As long as the handlebars didn't fall off again, it worked just fine.
It hadn't started that way, of course. It had started well-worn but comfortable, a sturdy thing of metal and plastic that Mike took with him everywhere. It had originally been intended as nothing more than a convenience, a plaything designed to carry him from place to place, but as they spent more time together, a bond inevitably began to form. After all, he saw more of the Bike than he did of Trevor, or even his Gram; how could he not feel a certain fondness for it each time he carried it across the threshold of his apartment, or chained it lovingly to the bike rack and gently brushed away the cobwebs that appeared every night across its spokes?
So it hurt, really hurt, when Harvey's reaction to the Bike had not been one of awe and reverence (as it rightly should be), but disdain and scorn and, worst of all, incredulity. Sure, the man had just been rambling on about the importance of not caring and being a cold-hearted bastard, but this was the Bike. Even the mighty Harvey Specter must surely fall before it, as Goliath had to David.
"What are you doing? Don't touch that!"
Maybe Mike hadn't heard right. Maybe Harvey just didn't realize that the Bike belonged to his (truly blessed) associate, and in his own selfish way he was just trying to express concern for the Bike's welfare.
"Just checking my lock," Mike said with a gesture that clearly indicated Mine, and I don't like to brag, but… and maybe a little bit of Don't you wish you were this cool?
"You ride your bike to—?" Harvey stared, appalled. Appalled! "It's locked, okay? Come on."
Mike gave the bike lock a half-hearted rattle and ran after him, wondering exactly what he had gotten himself into.
Clearly, there was something very wrong with Harvey Specter.
In truth, it shook Mike that Harvey could be so blasé about this.
"It's just a bike," Harvey said dismissively. "Why are you still talking?"
Mike, never one to back down from a challenge, refused to be silenced. "It's not just a bike," he insisted, "It's my Bike."
"And those are probably your skinny ties, too, but that doesn't mean you have any class," Harvey said without looking up from his desk. "If you bring that bike up one more time I will do the world a favor and personally run over it with my car. And then I'd sue you for scratching the paint job. And I would win. So get out of my office, and get back to work."
And he refused to discuss it further.
Mike had once fantasized about getting high and riding his Bike down the side of the Empire State Building. He had looked it up once, and he was pretty certain that was the definition of euphoria.
But then Mike found something he loved more than getting high, and suddenly his definition had shifted to encompass his newfound devotion to the law, and he couldn't stop fantasizing about taking the Bike on a spin through the stacks, highlighter cap clenched firmly between his teeth as he wheeled past the shelves and pored through book after book, seeking loopholes and righting wrongs.
There had been a time, however brief, when Rachel had joined him in his little fantasy, sitting on the handlebars and laughing as he wheeled around between the desks; but she'd declined his offer before he'd even had a chance to make it, and well, that was her loss, because it would have been awesome, but that didn't mean he didn't feel just the tiniest twinge of regret as he resigned himself to his lonely existence of man and Bike.
And then there was Jenny.
Dear, sweet, lovely Jenny! She understood why the Bike was something to treasure. After all, she'd been the one to come to his rescue during that harrowing ordeal so long ago when some unscrupulous rogue had stolen it away from him. Confronted with an empty bike rack and a broken lock, Mike had broken down, falling to his knees in the agony of grief. It had been the lowest point in his life since he'd gotten kicked out of college (and that had been pretty low—he hadn't had a Bike then either), and Jenny was the one who'd gotten him through it, the one who'd held his hand and gently rubbed his back while she'd said in sympathetic tones that the Bike must mean something very special to Mike—quite unlike Trevor, who'd had the gall to suggest that maybe Mike should just get a new bike. And then Jenny had been the one to wheel it back to him, smiling so sweetly as she told him that she'd had a hunch the thief might injure himself trying to ride it, and gone to check if it hadn't been abandoned in the alley behind the pizzeria.
Mike had fallen a little bit in love with her that day, and over time those feelings had swelled and grown and now he and his Bike and Jenny could ride happily off into the sunset, and everything would be perfect.
And everything was perfect.
Despite all the work that had started to pile up, and Mike's growing fear that his secret would be discovered and destroy everything he'd fought so hard for, and even Rachel's sudden not-unwelcome-but-horrifyingly-confusing reemergence in his fantasies, Mike couldn't be happier. Because terrifying as his days were, he was a lawyer, buried in paperwork and loving every second of it. And whatever worries his working hours might bring, any number of stressful days was worth a single night with Jenny, when he could stop being a lawyer and just be Mike, be the man who'd made mistakes and spent his life barely scraping by just trying to clean up the mess. Mike had always looked forward to going home before, because those had been the times when he could set upon his Bike and revel in the joys of life; it was the journey, not the destination, that made life worth living after all.
Only now the destination had someone waiting for him when he got there, and the journey was starting to become a chore.
He began taking shortcuts just so he could get there faster, because life was too short to be wasting time on a bike when he could be home with the Best Girlfriend Ever. It was nice with Jenny—wonderful, actually—because she was friend and girlfriend and confidante all rolled into one, and since his Bike had always kind of failed in the girlfriend category, he never felt much regret about trading away his Bike time for some Jenny time, a commodity which had been growing increasingly scarce since Harvey had declared a monopoly on all the rest.
(Harvey was also a potential candidate for the position of confidante, but he wasn't exactly supportive when it came to any of Mike's insecurities, and in any case he only liked playing at being a friend when it suited his own scary-awesome ends. And he definitely failed at the girlfriend part, so Mike hadn't exactly been motivated to reduce his Bike time for him.)
Though come to think of it, Harvey seemed to have softened considerably of late. At least, he made fewer jabs at the Bike (which had done wonders for the friendship part of their relationship), though that might be because Mike had been making a conscious effort to use it less. Since he'd cut back (for Jenny, certainly not for the Mighty Mister Specter), he'd started to understand what Harvey had been saying about image, and how important it was not to appear too attached to things, inanimate or not. For all that he hated him sometimes, Mike did admire Harvey; and sometimes that admiration turned to emulation.
Maybe Harvey had been right all along.
It was a terrifying realization.
But not, he was dismayed to note, a terribly surprising one.
So Mike, eyes fixed firmly on the future, resolved to leave behind the pedals of his youth, and move forward on his own two feet. He was going to live the dream, after all; and his Bike—his bike—could never be a part of that.
It was time to say goodbye.
It wasn't supposed to be like this.
He'd taken it out for one last spin, one last glory ride through the city streets, one last chance to make some memories (though really, he had more than enough already). It was supposed to be a sweet night, one last hurrah before the bike was finally retired, as it should have been so long ago.
Mike never expected to get hit by a car.
He was all right, because he'd been wearing his helmet. But the bike?
"No," Mike whispered.
The front wheel had twisted itself into a grotesque mockery of something round, and the back had freed itself at last of its loathsome axle and rolled away to greener pastures. The seat had finally collapsed into the black hole of duct tape that it had always longed to be, while the chain had snapped and somehow managed to embed itself in the concrete.
At least the handlebars hadn't fallen off.
"My bike…" he said, as the reckless driver sauntered out to check the damage. "My Bike!"
"You okay, buddy?" the driver asked.
"My Bike!" Mike wailed, clutching the left pedal to his chest, and oh, he never thought anything could hurt this much.
"…Should I call an ambulance?" the driver asked uncertainly.
"Nooooooo!" Mike was crying. He couldn't help it; this was worse than Trevor's betrayal, worse than getting kicked out of school, worse than anything bad that had ever happened to him in all his life. This was his Bike, his friend, his love, his confidante! How could he have ever thought of abandoning it?
This was the absolute worst pain he had ever felt.
"Yeah, some guy lost control of his bike in front of my car and I think he hit his head or something," the driver was saying into his cell phone. "Also, I think his leg is broken." He glanced at Mike, still weeping over the loss of his dearest friend. "Yeah, an ambulance would be great. Uh, what street am I on?"
"What have I done?" Mike whispered. "I should have realized, I should have known, but I let myself forget… What have I done? What have I done?"
"I hope you've had your tetanus shots, kid," the driver said warily, eyeing the rusty metal frame as he pocketed his phone.
There were spots of red all over the concrete—rust, Mike realized, the life's blood of his beloved Bike. And now it mingled with his own blood where it had spattered across the ground, shed in penance for his thoughtless neglect of his truest companion.
"Don't worry, ambulance will be here soon," the driver helpfully supplied.
"What's the use?" Mike whispered. "They can't fix this."
"I'm pretty sure they can," the driver said. "It's just a broken leg."
"I'm fine!" shouted Mike. "I'm wearing a helmet! But how will they fix my heart?"
The driver paused before answering. "Okay, a broken leg and a concussion."
Mike stifled a sob. He was a broken man, as twisted and bent as his shattered fibula. He lay in pieces on the ground, never to be whole again.
"Geeze, buddy," the murderous driver muttered. "It's just a bike."
It was too much. Mike took the only option left to him: he blacked out.
"I thought I told you to get rid of that thing," Harvey was saying.
"It's a good thing it only broke your leg," Harvey went on. "God forbid you break your arm and lose your way with a highlighter."
Harvey blithely continued. "You didn't feel your brain getting damaged when you fainted, did you?"
"Passed out," Mike mumbled.
"Passed out," Harvey repeated scornfully.
"…From manly grief."
"Right, I'd like to think that was the concussion talking, but I've seen the way you act when you don't get your beauty sleep, so I think that's my cue." Harvey stood and and gestured to the pile of papers he'd left on Mike's nightstand. "Finish going over those briefs and I'll swing by for them tomorrow afternoon. And go easy on the morphine. I know what you're like when you get high, and I do not want a drugged-out associate handling my casework."
Mike only shrugged. Harvey clearly expected some sort of scathing retort but, finding none forthcoming, he gathered his coat and took his leave.
Mike didn't see any use in the banter; what was the point of it all? What was the point in anything? His Bike was gone, and not even obscene amounts of morphine, or searing leg pain, or battles of wits or infuriatingly itchy casts, not any of that could distract him from the pain of losing his dearest friend. At best it could only detract from the hollowness inside, the empty place in his heart where his Bike had made its home.
And he was alone. Alone, alone, alone, alone, alone, alone, alonealone alonealone alonealonealone.
Oh look, the morphine was kicking in.
"I'm worried about him," he could hear Jenny saying in the hallway outside his apartment. "I thought coming home might cheer him up, but it's just made things worse."
"Not really my problem," Harvey said. He was hidden by the door, but Mike could see his shadow on the sliver of Jenny's face that was visible to him from his position on the couch where he wasn't even bothering to pretend to be asleep. "I'm just here to make sure my associate doesn't do something stupid, like not proof those contracts I gave him yesterday."
"I don't think he should be working right now."
"Now's the perfect time for him to be working. He broke his leg, not his brain—though I've had my doubts about that from the beginning—and I sincerely doubt he's got anything better to do."
Jenny mumbled something that he couldn't quite catch, and Mike could hear Harvey rolling his eyes in response as he said, "It's just a bike!" The crack in the door widened as Harvey pushed his head inside to fix Mike with the sternest of gazes. "Get that paperwork done, or next time I'm going to send Louis to keep you company."
"Screw you," Mike muttered.
"I'd have to count that towards my billable hours, you know," Harvey said. "But judging by the squalor you seem to be living in, I doubt you could afford to keep me on retainer. Now stop moping about that damn bike and finish your work." Then he was gone, and Jenny emerged from the hallway, annoyed and flustered and trying as hard as she could not to take Harvey's side.
"It's okay," she said, resigned, as she added some folders to the ever-growing stack of paperwork Mike was letting fester in front of the TV. "You just take as long as you need to." When he didn't respond, she sighed and brought out an oddly-shaped bundle. "I, um, I got you this," she said, holding it out to him. "I thought it might help."
Mike gingerly took the unusual package from her outstretched hands; it was a shapeless mass wrapped in a piece of white cloth flecked with brown.
"Sorry about that," Jenny said, "I think some of your blood got on the towel." She frowned. "Or it's started to rust through."
His breath caught, and he forced himself to unwrap it slowly, with as much reverence as he could muster given his condition, peeling the cloth back to reveal a slightly curved piece of metal, red with rust and blood, and Mike could only stare at the shoddy handlebars his beloved Bike had been reduced to, stare and stare and stare, and remember everything they had shared together, every happy moment, every bump on every road, every time he had pedaled furiously just so he could feel the wind in his hair, every time he had ever wanted nothing more in life than to ride his Bike forever.
He looked up at Jenny with tears in his eyes, and smiled.
The stack of paperwork kept growing larger, and it was getting harder for Mike to ignore. For one thing, it was blocking the TV. He'd tried storing some of the papers inside his fridge, where there was plenty of room, but one hungry night later he decided that as much as he hated Harvey right now, the temptation to eat his paperwork was not worth incurring the wrath of the best closer in the city.
Maybe he could burn it instead.
Yeah, that seemed like a good idea, actually. He had just started to drag himself to the stove when his phone rang.
He ignored it.
It rang again.
He ignored it.
Someone else's phone rang.
He scanned the apartment frantically, wondering if he had to add ghosts to his list of things to worry about, before he spotted the prepaid phone resting atop the latest stack of paperwork that Harvey had brought him.
Well, now he had to answer it.
"…Hello?" he said tentatively.
"Don't even think about burning those papers," Harvey said, and hung up.
Mike stared dully at it for two whole minutes before his own phone began to beep with an incoming text message.
Donna warned me. Now stop gawking and get to work.
Oh, that was it.
Mike grabbed the nearest sheaf of papers, fished a highlighter from his back pocket, flung himself across the couch, and read with a ferocity that would have inspired even Harvey. He read until his head began to ache, but didn't stop. He read until his vision began to blur, and still he didn't stop. He read and read and read, until he had (metaphorically) devoured every paper Harvey had given him, and when he was done he collapsed to the floor in righteous fury, because for all that Harvey was an uncaring, smug, selfish, arrogant, cocky, conceited bastard, he was also, most definitely and without a shadow of a doubt, a genius.
Mike stood and stretched, wincing a little at the pain in his leg, but he limped across the apartment with a renewed vigor and a restored sense of purpose in his life. He picked up the handlebars from their sacred resting place beside his doppelganger doll, and smiled as he let his mind scroll back through the thirty-some bicycle repair manuals Harvey had been stockpiling in his apartment.
It was time to get to work.