"I leave you for a few weeks, and you're in a hospital. How do you do that?"
"I don't know? Luck?" he answered lamely.
He tried not to think too much about the bandage around his head, or the fact that he was currently follicle-challenged – at least one patch of his skull was. But Rachel had that kind of effect on him. He always felt like the geeky kid trying to approach the hot cheerleader when it came to her.
Worse, after his dramatic collapse at Pearson Hardman weeks ago, his voice was still not what it should be. It was reedy, weak and shaky. He sounded like an old man. With a frog in his throat. Sitting in his wheelchair, Mike gave Rachel a thin smile as she fluffed his pillows and made his bed.
"They have people to do that, you know."
"I need something to do, okay?"
She gave him a crooked smile as she gingerly placed his pillow on the bed, as if one wrong move would undo her bed-making efforts.
It was funny what nearly dying could do for a shaky relationship. After that drama with Trevor a few months ago – after Rachel found out that he was a total fraud and conman – their relationship had not been the same. Although she had kept his secret, she didn't want to have anything to do with him. Though, eventually their relationship had thawed enough for them to work together without getting into a heated argument every second. But it was during Rollins' case that they were on joking terms again. They were making progress, being friends again. Then, overnight, Rachel went cold again. And when he confronted her about it, she answered by taking two weeks off to sun in the tropics without a word to him. And he only found that out through Donna.
She was just being Rachel. Mercurial, unpredictable … totally hot.
Rachel was one of the faces he thought he saw during the two weeks when he was touch and go – when they didn't know if the operation had saved his life only to maim him for the rest of his life. He remembered seeing her in tears, talking fervently to him about something. He knew that it was really important to understand what she was trying to say, but he couldn't no matter how hard he tried. He vaguely remember her whispering something in his ear and then placing her head next to his as she brushed a hand across his sweaty brow.
"You've got to come back," she had said.
That was the only thing he remembered her saying, and he promised himself that he will do just that so he could get the rest of what she said out of her one day.
After spending weeks flat on his back, they only just allowed him to sit in a wheelchair. He never thought that sitting up could mean so much. The first time he did it, it felt like he just learned how to fly. Now, after a week in the wheelchair he was impatient to start walking again – eventhough he could only stand for a few minutes before his legs gave out.
Rachel placed his bag on his lap. It contained his meagre possessions, which included a surprising number of get-well cards and teddy bears from his Pearson Hardman colleagues. Then, she pushed him down the corridor, chatting to him about what has been happening in the office.
"Remember that woman who kneed Louis in the lobby months ago?"
"How could I forget? We watched it on my terminal," he smiled at the memory.
"Yeah, she returned yesterday with a troop of lawyers. She's suing him for harassment and said that his injunction on her was a 'creative and desperate way to get her attention'," she said.
He chuckled. "I'm missing all the good stuff."
"And Harvey has been driving everyone up the wall, especially Greg who had the dubious honour of being your replacement. Not permanent, mind you," she quickly said. "Harvey made that clear enough from the start."
He felt a little warm glow in his chest from that. "What, he misses me?"
"Like a lost limb."
"Touching. And maybe a tad creepy," he said.
Despite not being able to walk on his own or do pretty damn much anything by himself, the doctors all said that he was making an incredibly speedy recovery. Remarkable, especially since he had two conditions that were tough to beat: MRSA and a brain abscess.
"Someone up there likes you a lot, Mike Ross. One day you need to share his number with me," Rollins said during a visit a few hours ago.
The man looked like a different person. Hobo doc was gone. In his place was a version that stepped out of General Hospital. The nurses were practically drooling around him. Again, funny what nearly dying could do to other people.
The only sucky part of his existence right now – besides having the strength of a newborn kitten and the coordination of a drunken gerbil – was the nausea and dizziness that still attacked him at inappropriate moments. He wondered if he'd ever be over that. Rollins was honest about that, saying that there were cases where the patient suffered that for months. Or never recovered at all. Though Rollins was nice enough to tell him that he doesn't seem to be going down that route.
Still, Mike shuddered at the thought of always having a puke bag at his side and never being able to walk in a straight line again.
"Hey, you cold?" Rachel said. Before he could answer, she placed a throw around his shoulders.
"You missed your true calling," he said wryly as he snuggled into the shawl's welcomed warmth.
When the doors to the hospital opened and he was out in the open air with the sounds of Manhattan's traffic in a distance, he smiled. Then he saw the thick layers of snow around them and realised with startling clarity that the last time he was outdoors, winter was only starting to show itself.
"Shit. I've been out for that long?"
Rachel just patted him on the shoulder.
They waited at the curb for the taxi. Only the taxi ended up being a sleek, black limo. He threw Rachel a startled look, but she only smiled back.
He beamed when he saw who came out of the limo.
"Hey, Mike. You look like you could take on a herd of WWE wrestlers!" Ray gave him a big grin and gave him a high five, which he awkwardly returned.
"What are you doing here?"
"What? Isn't it obvious? I'm here to take your sorry ass back home."
"Harvey shouldn't have."
"Kid, even if Harvey didn't ask me to – I'd be here in a heartbeat."
Together with Rachel, Ray helped him to his feet and then into the car. That few minutes of activity took more out of him than he'd like to admit. He tried his best to ignore Rachel's concerned looks as he huddled in his corner enduring the flip flopping of his stomach.
He nodded, not daring to speak. He leaned his forehead against the cold, glass window and gazed at the snow-covered lawns.
And then he awoke with a start. He blinked sleepily as Rachel helped him sit up.
"We're here?" he asked blearily.
Ray opened the door for him and Mike was startled to see the shiny entrance of an expensive Manhattan apartment instead of his walk-up apartment in Brooklyn. For a moment he stared at the majestic sight, then he frowned at Rachel in confusion.
"I know I had brain surgery and everything but … I'm pretty sure this isn't my apartment."
"It isn't," Ray said. "It's Harvey's."
"Again. I'm pretty sure this isn't Harvey's place either."
Rachel smiled crookedly at him. "Who says that he only has one place?"
"Oh." Like, duh.
Despite her protests, Mike insisted on standing up. So, resigned, she helped him to his feet and as he took in the lavish surroundings, she wrapped a woollen scarf around his neck.
Traitorously, wave of dizziness assailed him, and he had to grab the door to support himself. He closed his eyes tightly and tried to breathe shallowly to ride out the nausea.
"Okay, your time for heroics is officially over," Rachel muttered as she sat him back down.
"Hey, get him in this," he heard Ray say.
Misreably, he leaned heavily against the door frame, trying to settle his stomach. When his head decided to stop spinning, he finally opened his eyes. Rachel was now looking down at him, her eyes wide with worry. Ray had already come over to his side with a wheelchair.
"Must I? Really?" he said, staring at the thing.
Rachel stared at him in disbelief. Ray just snorted in amusement.
"Do it, or I'll sit you in it myself. And it's really pretty easy for me to do that right now," said Rachel sternly.
Sighing, he allowed them to help him into the chair. It took the two of them to manoeuvre him from the car into the wheelchair, and as he sank into it, he tried to hide how relieved he felt. They wheeled him past the doorman who greeted them cheerfully – clearly, he was expecting them – and then into the lobby.
"Really," he said again. "What am I doing here?"
"Harvey wants you here, isn't it obvious?" Rachel said, smirking.
"You know, for a genius, you're really slow on the uptake," said someone.
Startled, he turned to his left and saw Harvey, dressed in a white shirt and a pair of jeans (didn't even think he had those), waiting for them beside the concierge.
"Come on. I'll take that," he said.
With that, Harvey took the bag from his lap and led them through another set of doors. What lay behind the doors made him stare around him in amazement.
The lobby looked like something out of a design magazine – for the Donald Trumps of the world. It had an indoor waterfall. Waterfall. One of those walls that wept water which disappeared quietly into the floor in near-invisible, carefully-designated holes.
He couldn't help it – he stared at everything in open-mouthed wonder. After a month's stay in a hospital, this place was Shangri-la.
After a brief ride in he mirrored elevator to the 30th floor, they arrived at Harvey's place - a penthouse, of course. He had seen some nice places, but this one …. It had a breathtaking, panoramic view of New York City. The lights of the Empire State building blinked at him from a distance. The hall, bedecked with furniture he probably shouldn't even lean on lest he accidentally stained fabric that cost his year's salary, could sit a sizeable party. And in a corner, was a bar which had its own balcony.
"This is crazy," he said as Racheal rolled him into the place. " This is even nicer than your other place. What is this, your part-time palace?"
Harvey merely shrugged.
"I would hesitate to call this his love nest, but let's just say that he had some spare cash and didn't know what to do with it."
It was Donna. She smiled widely at him as she walked towards him from the back of the penthouse, and then, to his surprise, she planted a kiss on his cheek.
"How are you doing?"
He could feel his face going hot. "Good. Like, fantastic."
"I appreciate the exaggeration," she said wryly.
They all stared at each other awkwardly for a moment then he said, "Really. What am I doing here?"
Harvey sighed. "You really want me to spell it out for you? You're staying here."
His mouth fell open. "Wait – "
"Have you seen your apartment building? It's a safety hazard!" he said.
"Hey. Calling it that is a little – "
Donna lifted a hand and bent one finger after another as she ran down her list of reasons. "Let me see: The lift has not worked since 1996, the wooden stairs should have been replaced a decade ago and the fire escape is more of a fire trap and your door not only gets stuck but your wheelchair could barely roll through it. Should I go on?"
He shrugged. "I can manage."
"And my answer is no," Harvey said. "Because what I need is for you to get back on your feet as soon as possible, not for you to fall down the stairs and break your neck. Got it?"
He blinked. "But – "
"Let me put it to you this way," Donna said, crossing her legs as she sat in a sleek, leather sofa. "This is a $10 million penthouse. This is a rare opportunity to milk Harvey for what he's worth."
Harvey shot her an incredulous look. She merely threw him a sly smile.
"Good point," Mike said, grinning.
"Glad we got that settled," Harvey said dryly. He then gestured to Ray who proceeded to push him around the apartment. Harvey explained what was what, and where his room would be, but Mike couldn't tear his eyes away from the vision of the Manhattan skyline through the apartment's wide, seemingly never-ending windows.
He was definitely going to milk this for what it's worth.
After a mere 20 minutes of this, he felt tired again. Rachel took note of how he was blinking lazily and slumping in his chair and told him that it was time for him to head to his bedroom.
"And I'll be here first thing tomorrow morning, okay?" Rachel said.
Before he could protest, she kissed him long and deep. And when they parted – just in time for him to draw in some air – she smiled and slowly rubbed her lipstick off his lips with a finger. She tossed her hair and sashayed past a stunned Ray.
"Sorry, kid," said Donna. "My goodbye is going to be less interesting." Smiling, she patted him on the shoulder. Ray followed soon after, muttering, "Lucky kid."
And then there was just him and Harvey.
"So," he said, shifting uneasily in the wheelchair.
"So," Harvey returned, rocking on his heels.
"Harvey ..." he cleared his throat. "Thanks. Not just for this but … I heard what you did for Grammy. I promise I'll pay you back – "
"It's time to get your things in your bedroom and then sleep."
"What, you're my nurse now?"
"No, merely obeying Rollins' instructions."
And embarrassingly, Harvey began rolling him to his bedroom. When he was finally there – it was a swanky room, filled with leather-covered furniture and bedsheets with thread count so high that he'd probably be spoiled for life – Harvey left him next to the bed as he proceeded to take his clothes from his small bag to place it in the closet.
Harvey merely turned to him and gave him a wry smile.
"What I'm saying is … this all seems a tad excessive for a fired associate."
At that, Harvey frowned.
"You're not fired, Mike."
He laughed wryly, but he couldn't hide how relieved he felt. He had wondered quietly to himself for days about the status of his job. All clues seem to point that his job was safe, but he had fucked up too much – apparently he had defaced Jessica's office – to logically survive. And then there's also the case of him probably going to be out of commission for a few more weeks.
"Are you telling me that a microscopic bug saved my job?"
Harvey sighed, sat at the edge of the bed and grabbed his wheelchair and turned it around so that he faced him. The movement made him gulp in surprise, but he fixed his gaze determinedly on Harvey's dark eyes.
"What I'm saying is that I made a mistake." He clenched his jaw. "And I'm sorry."
So. He wasn't imagining that apology that he heard … Harvey was sorry and … he wasn't actually sure how to deal with that.
"I wouldn't lie to you. Not about pot anyway," he finally said. He lowered his gaze to his hands.
"I know," Harvey said and sighed heavily. "I realised that almost too late."
He dared to sneak a look at Harvey. And for the first time he realised that the man looked tired, exhausted even. To think that he could possibly be the cause of that stunned him. But then, he quickly reasoned, perhaps there was another Leah Johnson to dog his steps these days. Yeah, that was probably it.
"Uhm ... you really don't have to feel sorry because – "
He stared at Harvey mutely.
"I'm going to say this only once. And you'll probably never hear this again. Got it?"
Mike nodded to show that he understood.
Harvey took a deep breath.
"You've always had my back. And you can be damn sure that I have yours. Understood?"
He nodded again. If he had said anything, it would've probably been something totally embarrassing.
Harvey nodded, seemingly satisfied. "You're going to have all the leave that you need. Jessica has already made sure of it. You're not going to be replaced – they'd have to answer to me." He paused, giving him a small smile. "So trust me on this. Everything's going to be fine, kid."
Again, he could only nod.
Thankfully, Harvey only helped him out of the wheelchair, but left him alone to get ready for bed. As he stared at the Manhattan skyline outside the floor-to-ceiling windows, he wondered how life can be so strange sometimes – how he'd evaded capture by the cops, only to stumble on a whole new life with Harvey Specter.
Only, he was pretty sure back then that Harvey Specter only cared for No.1, and that he, Mike Ross, was the strange amusement of a bored, overpaid, legal fat cat.
Apparently, he was wrong on all counts.
He wasn't sure what to think of that.
But oddly, there was one thing that Harvey said that he truly believed.
Harvey got his back.
"Thanks," he said softly.
Note: Thank you for reading this far, my dear readers! It has been an enjoyable ride. So sorry for the delay. Moving can really do you in!