"You own a watch," Harvey said.
"Okay," Mike said, "obviously this is just the prelude to some giant lecture—"
"And you know how to tell time," Harvey said, ignoring him. "I'm assuming that you can remember that the big hand goes around and then the little hand goes around—"
"Okay, now you're just being condescending."
"Explain to me why I shouldn't be," Harvey said. Now he was actually talking to Mike, not just stagily addressing the middle distance somewhere, and Mike wished he had just shut up and taken the sarcastic speech about punctuality without complaint: before, he'd been dealing with irritated-Harvey, but now he had actually-angry-Harvey, and that was no fun at all. You could see it in his eyes—he had locked Mike out.
Mike inhaled. "Look, I'm sorry I'm late, and it won't happen again—" All right, the rolled eyes at that were a bit much, he wasn't congenitally late. "And I'll stay late if you want, and—wait." He frowned. Something was off about Harvey, about his office, about the whole day. Things felt—patchy. "Why was I late?" He glanced at the row of baseballs on Harvey's desk. "That's one more than normal. How did that get there? This isn't right."
"Feigning insanity to mitigate tardiness," Harvey said. "Not a tactic I would recommend."
"No." It felt like he could barely get the words out. "No, I know what this is. This is that dream again. Okay, stop it. Waking up now." He looked up expectantly at the ceiling.
Something cleared in Harvey's eyes. "Think about," he said in an undertone. "How did you get here?"
"No, I'm not doing Inception, I'm actually—wait, why am I explaining myself to you? You're not even Real Harvey!"
"Harvey Specter?" The voice came in from the hallway.
This was the part of the dream that Mike hated.
"Wake up," he said. "Wake up, wake up," but he was past the point where the dream paid any attention to him. Harvey couldn't see him anymore. It always happened this way, every fucking time. He came in late, Harvey got mad, he scrambled to apologize, and then there came the man in the door—a man he could never completely see, a man who was a ragged hole in the dream, a man with all his details missing. He was dragged down to the bottom now, as if everything else—his lateness, Harvey's lecture, everything—was just the thin grass laid overtop the quicksand that always came, in the end, to smother him.
Donna wasn't at her desk. That was another thing that was the same.
"Harvey," he said. "Harvey, don't open the door." Talking hurt, like he'd swallowed a jagged chunk of ice and had to talk around that sharp, unbreakable chill in his throat. He reached out to grab Harvey's arm, but his hand skipped straight through. He was a ghost here now. He flattened his palms against his eyes and saw through them anyway as Harvey went to the door and swung it open. The same way he always did.
And when the gunshot shattered the quiet and Harvey staggered back into the office, his hand up at his chest but still not enough to cover the spreading stain—that was what always happened, too. But normally that was when the dream stopped. This time, as if in punishment for trying to wake up before everything went pear-shaped, it went on a little longer. Harvey, still miraculously on his feet, turned slowly and looked at him. His eyes were dark with pain and shock. He held out his hand, the one not gloved in his own blood, and said, "Mike, get down. Somebody's shooting."
Mike blinked. His face felt funny—all hot and wet. "I'm sorry," he said. "I'm sorry. I couldn't stop it. I never stop it."
Harvey stumbled and this time both hands went out to break his fall. A bloody smudge of a handprint appeared on the floor.
"Waking up," Mike said. "Waking up now," and then he was rolling over in his bed and Jenny's hand was wrapped around his arm, shaking him, saying in a voice still thick with sleep that he was talking, and shh. The red glow of the clock on his face—and you know how to tell time—told him that it was five-fourteen in the morning, which meant it was as good a time as any to get up. If he got up at five every morning for the rest of his life, he wouldn't be late to work, and then Harvey wouldn't die.
With a sigh, he kicked the covers off and went to go make coffee.
He was at work by six-thirty every morning for a week. By Friday, though, he was wondering why he bothered, since nothing seemed to knock the dream off its course.
He propped his chin up on his hand and looked down at his EVIL DREAM notes.
The EVIL DREAM had started last Saturday night, when he'd thought it was nothing more than weird momentary stress from having wrapped up the Kline/Wattfield merger—a Harvey-orchestrated affair that had netted the firm millions—and had gone on every night since, waking him up in a cold sweat with words stuck in his throat. The small details of the dream flexed from time to time, particularly if he got lucid enough for his niggling déjà vu to coalesce into the realization that he was really asleep—and even then he never could manage to wake himself up before Harvey got shot—but the big picture never changed. He always showed up late—last night, when it had clicked that he was dreaming, he had raged over the injustice of this, since he'd been early four days in a row by that point—Harvey always lectured him, there was always one more baseball lined along the side of the desk, Donna was always gone, there was always the faceless man in the door, and Harvey always answered. And then Harvey always died. Every time.
Six times now. It was really starting to wear on him.
"Not to look a gift associate in the mouth," Harvey said, leaning suddenly over the wall of his cubicle, "but this new punctuality of yours is—disconcerting."
Mike quickly covered up his notes with his hand. "Yeah. Ha. Just trying to be, you know, the best associate ever!"
Harvey raised his eyebrows. "Evil dream?"
"Do you just—"
"Yes," Harvey said.
"You don't even know what I was going to—"
"Yes," Harvey said, smirking.
"Fine," Mike said, torn between God, Harvey is irritating! and Yay, Harvey is alive! "Be that way."
Harvey, still looking smugly amused, leaned further over the partition and said, in a lowered voice, "What's the evil dream?"
"You know, it's a dream and it's evil, I don't really want to talk about it." Still covering the paper with his hand, he slid it under the desk, balled it up, and threw it in the trash. Even putting his head down for that second made him dizzy, like he could slip and fall out of his chair and be asleep before he hit the ground. He braced himself against his desk. "Whoa." The room spun lazily about. When Harvey's face came back into focus, the laughter had drained out of it.
"Okay, Keanu," Harvey said. He snapped his fingers. "You with me?"
"Yeah. Yeah. You know, low blood sugar."
"Right," Harvey said. "How much sleep have you gotten lately?"
"I don't know. Some?"
Harvey glanced around, apparently verifying that there was no one nearby who could verify that Harvey Specter was—gasp!—caring about someone, and said brusquely, "Go home. Sleep."
"You know what fine people can do? Not faint."
"I didn't faint."
"You almost fainted."
"I feigned almost fainting. See, that was wordplay, and that proves—"
"It proves," Harvey said, overriding him, "that you are so tired that you actually thought that was funny, which means you definitely need to get some sleep."
Well, he was already on time. If he didn't come back today at all, he wouldn't really be late, and so the dream couldn't come true today, anyway.
"All right," he said, standing up carefully. "You win. Damn your—ah, cleverness and wisdom, etc." He managed to make it all the way around his cubicle without falling down, since he could keep his hand tight on the partition, but then there was a wide expanse of hallway, elevator, lobby, and, well, outside in front of him. Not to mention the thought of biking home like this made his legs feel like jelly. "Okay," he said, standing there contemplating the big emptiness in front of him. "This isn't intimidating at all."
Harvey glanced around the room again and then grabbed Mike's shoulder tightly and started steering him towards the door.
"Caring," Mike whispered.
Somehow Harvey got him out onto the street, but by the time they were there, Mike's vision was too fuzzy to make much sense of the view. He assumed the streaks of yellow were taxis, and he broke out from underneath Harvey's clamped hand to stumble towards one of them, only to get hauled back as something roared past him, bleating. Honking. Street. Okay, street. Probably shouldn't walk out into the street. Bad idea. Bad, bad idea.
"Saved my life," he said, addressing the words to Harvey's white-knuckled hand that was now locked in a death grip on his upper arm. "You do that."
"Stay," Harvey said.
"Right." Mike blinked. "'Cause I'm a puppy." Blinking was so much fun that he kept doing it, making big, exaggerated blinks where the darkness went on longer and longer between the flashes of light.
"You look ridiculous." Harvey's voice, from very far away. "Don't fall asleep. I'm getting you a cab."
"Don't want to sleep," Mike said. "Evil dream." He struggled back to some remnant of consciousness, aware that his chin was down on his chest in a deep nod and his knees were sagging and threatening to take all of him down to the pavement in a heap. He kept his eyes open this time long enough to process where they were and what they were doing—standing on a street, Harvey mostly holding him up, Harvey's spare hand free so he could hail any taxi that looked like it would slow down for him. Mike looked at him. Batman.
"Don't die," Mike said. It seemed important that he get that out there.
Harvey barely glanced at him. "Right." Finally, a taxi slowed down and Harvey maneuvered Mike into it. He snuggled down into the seat—ooh, comfy—and his awareness started slipping away from him again. From very far away, he heard Harvey passing money through the window. His fare. Fair's fair. Farewell—no, not Harvey dying. Just going home for the day. His fare plus extra, so Mike would—something. Get him inside. Harvey caring, with the fare. Harvey caring how he was faring?
"Wordplay," Mike mumbled.
When the dream went on long enough, Harvey always tried to warn him. Get down, somebody's shooting. That was always the last thing he said before he fell down and left that awful bloody handprint on the floor.
Which reminded him. He forced himself upright, his cheek rubbing raw against the seat. "Harvey!"
Still mid-turn to leave, Harvey stopped.
Mike said, slowly enough that Harvey would hopefully grasp how important it was—"Don't get any more baseballs."
From the look on Harvey's face, he'd have to say that yeah, probably that wasn't the dramatic warning he'd hoped it would be.
As soon as he got into Harvey's office, he counted the baseballs—three along the edge of the desk and one on the table by the couch. Four was the right number. He collapsed on the couch with relief.
"Don't fall asleep on that," Harvey said, pointing at him.
Yeah, right. Sleep was the last thing on his mind. He'd managed to scrape together six thin, broken-up hours yesterday after Harvey had sent him home, and even those tiny bits of shut-eye were distorted by the dream. It cracked apart like a puzzle and fit little pieces of itself wherever it could. He'd fall asleep—and Harvey would say, You own a watch. Asleep again, and he would say, Don't open the door. Over and over again, until finally he'd gotten enough rest to pull his body back from the brink of exhaustion, and it had agreed to stop falling asleep and plunging him into hell.
"I'm awake," he said, even as one of his hands betrayed him and reached up to rub at his eyes. "Let's do something lawyerly."
Harvey crossed his arms. "Anything you want to tell me?"
"Oh, yeah. Thanks for getting me that cab yesterday."
"I meant something more related to your don't die, Harvey, and no more baseballs issue."
"My voice doesn't sound like that."
"It does. You have a naturally high-pitched voice."
"Like Snow White singing to chipmunks. Why do you think I'm going to die?"
"I don't know, people die. It happens." He counted the baseballs again.
"Stop it. There's the exact same number as when you walked in, leave them alone and answer my question."
There was a limit to how much he could evade Harvey's general, Donna-provided omniscience—hell, he was lucky that Harvey hadn't gone through his trash yesterday and pulled out the EVIL DREAM notes. "Okay," he said. "But just so you know, I know that it's ridiculous. I know that I'm losing my mind or something, so I don't need you to point it out."
"All right," Harvey said quietly.
"I've been having this dream lately. Every night since—" He counted back. "Last Saturday, when we wrapped up the Kline/Wattfield merger. And in the dream, you—you die." He fixed his eyes on his shoes, not wanting to see Harvey's expression when it would undoubtedly have been some awful combination of pity and contempt. "Someone shoots you. And there are things that happen before that, like me being late, and Donna being gone, and you having an extra baseball, and I thought if—"
Wow, this was just a remarkably interesting patch of floor. He'd never thought about it before, but it was really fascinating. He couldn't tear his eyes away from it.
"So you've been coming in early," Harvey said, his voice neutral. "And counting baseballs."
"I know it's stupid," he said to his shoes and that incredibly awesome section of floor. "I know I'm not psychic."
"Is the floor different in your dream? Carpet?"
"You know, I don't know, I never thought about it, I should—"
"Look at me," Harvey said.
Reluctantly, Mike did.
"I don't think you're crazy," Harvey said. "I don't think you're psychic, I'm not going to go get a spoon for you to bend, but I don't think you're crazy, either."
"Yeah, well, that's nice of you to say."
"The alternative to believing me," Harvey said, still amazingly perfectly straight-faced, "is believing that I'm lying."
"Not exactly far-fetched. Lawyer."
"But in this case," Harvey said, "I would be lying to make you feel better." He raised his eyebrows.
"My God," Mike said.
"What was I thinking? You're obviously not capable of that level of niceness."
Harvey tapped his shoulder lightly, in what might have been some gesture of affirmation learned from a baseball movie, and which actually sort of hurt—not that Mike was admitting to anything—and grinned at him. Mike's throat tightened. See, he thought, this is why I have to keep you alive.
"What if I throw out a baseball?"
"Like out the window?"
Harvey stared at him, and then said, "No, Mike. Not out the window. These are collectibles. You notice the ink on them, where people have written their names? Well, those people are important, even, believe it or not, associated with the game of baseball itself, and—"
"Don't be sarcastic at me," Mike said, putting his head down in his hands. "I'm really tired."
Harvey shut up for a second. "I could take one of them home," he said finally. "If that would make you feel better."
Somewhere, the universe paused to register that Harvey Specter had just offered to do something to make someone feel better, and then things started rolling along again. Mike lifted his head up and tried to make coherent thoughts not only appear but actually appear in the correct sequence in his brain, which was sort of tricky these days. Hypothetically, if there were only three baseballs in the office, even the unexpected arrival of a new one couldn't bounce it up to the five he remembered from the EVIL DREAM, but he didn't know whether that would be enough to keep Harvey alive. Hell, he didn't even know how to factor the dream into the logic of his everyday life, which involved trying to please Harvey and dodge Louis, and nothing much supernatural at all.
"We could try," he said reluctantly. It couldn't be that easy.
Harvey tossed him a baseball. "Here."
Mike was surprised enough that it bounced off his chest.
"You were picked last for every single sport in high school, weren't you," Harvey said. He didn't even have the courtesy to make it a question.
"Ha. No." He picked the baseball up and chafed the stitches against his fingers to wake himself up. "I'll have you know that I have the honed reflexes of a well-trained—" he couldn't think of anything, "—puma. I didn't say that. I said—something else, more appropriate and funnier."
"Like anything else?"
He thumped his head back against Harvey's couch.
"Are you sure I can't fall asleep here?" His eyes were already closed. He held the baseball against his chest, like a stuffed animal, which was another metaphor he probably shouldn't vocalize.
There was a pause.
Harvey said, "This never happened," and then put on some jazz, very soft. It painted the insides of Mike's eyelids blue and purple, like night and smoke, like 1920s New York, and he fell out of the world.
It was the first time in over a week that he slept soundly.
Sleeping soundly would have been nicer if he hadn't woken up to someone saying, "I heard you collected these."
Mike snapped up. There was a perfectly non-descript man holding out an autographed basketball to Harvey.
"This is my associate, Mike Ross," Harvey said, although he was obviously torn about introducing "skittish sleep-deprived guy on the couch" as anyone even tangentially connected to him and the firm. Loyalty apparently won out, which Mike might have appreciated if a swift glance out of the office hadn't shown him that Donna had stepped away from her desk. "He's been working some long hours lately—well, you'd know about that." He set the basketball down on the windowsill next to the others and carefully balanced it so that it wouldn't roll off.
Mike looked at the man again, the man in the ordinary suit, the man who wasn't a hole in the world at all, and recognized him: one of the more minor players in the Kline/Wattfield merger. One of the ones whose position had been—
"Harvey," he said, rocketing to his feet. "Harvey, he didn't make it. He—"
The man pulled out a gun.
"Well, shit," Mike said.
"I lost my job," the man said. He only had eyes for Harvey. His hands were shaking so badly that the gun kept shivering in midair. Mike wished he could believe that that meant that he would miss, but no, they were all too close for that. He could see the drops of sweat against the man's hairline. "I lost everything. Because of you. You could have told them to keep everyone."
"It wasn't my decision," Harvey said, calmly enough that Mike wanted to pull him aside and make sure he knew that there was actually a gun pointed at him. "I provided a framework. If you want to shoot me for that, be my guest, but you should know that you're aiming that gun at someone who never had a single goddamned thing to do with your life."
"You had everything to do with my life!" the man screamed. He was crying now. "You ruined me."
"He's not the one," Mike said.
"Mike, shut up," Harvey said, and for a second, he actually looked like he understood that there was a gun, that someone could die.
"No, I mean it," Mike said. "He doesn't make those kinds of decisions. He doesn't care about that. He doesn't care about you. He probably doesn't even know your name! And why should he? I mean, really? Nobody knows your name. You know what? I have a photographic memory, and I still don't know how you are. Maybe you got fired because your boss didn't know, either."
The gun was pointed at him now.
"He's going to know now," the man said. His hand had finally steadied. "He's going to know now."
Mike closed his eyes.
He listened for the gunshot.
Instead, he head a thump and then a lot of cursing.
Leave it to Harvey Specter to tackle the guy with the gun. Mike kicked it out into the hallway and yelled for security.
"You know what you don't do?" Harvey said. Aside from a frantic rush of "Are you okay, are you okay, are you okay" that made no sense to Mike at all, because the gun had never even gone off, though Harvey was clearly under the impression that it had, at least for a few awful seconds—aside from that, this was the first thing Harvey had said to him since security, the paramedics, Donna, and all the rubberneckers had cleared out of the office. He looked—really, really pissed.
"You know what you never, under any circumstances at all, do? You don't antagonize a crazy person with a gun. I understand that isn't something they covered in fake law school—"
"Do they cover that in real law school?"
"They cover it in common sense," Harvey said. It was almost a growl. He took the gauze pad the paramedics had given him away from his head, looked at the bloodstain on it, scowled, and pressed it back to his forehead again. He'd done a header into the couch leg during what everyone seemed determined to describe as his Heroic, Lifesaving Move, conveniently overlooking the fact that only Mike's Heroic, Lifesaving Distraction had allowed him to do it. And now Harvey was mad at him. "They cover it in basic life preservation skills. Why the hell would you—"
"Because he was pointing a gun at you," Mike said quietly, "and I was getting really sick of you dying."
Harvey sighed, but at least he no longer looked like he wanted to kill Mike with his bare hands.
"It was a basketball, not a baseball," he said.
"Yeah, sorry my psychic premonition was a little off on the sports paraphernalia. I know how hard that must be for you."
"It wasn't a psychic premonition," Harvey said. "It was just you. Being you. You must have noticed him sometimes during the negotiations and realized that he wasn't going to land on his feet, and that he was going to be pissed about it."
Which sort of made sense, but—"Donna being gone? Him bringing you an extra ball?"
"Random visitors without appointments aren't getting past Donna no matter what Trojan horse they have," Harvey said. "You know that. And he had to have a way of getting it, some excuse. You just picked the wrong collection."
"Me being late?"
"That was wrong," Harvey said, "so it doesn't really support your argument, and besides, you're always late." He smirked.
"Wow," Mike said. "You're like the end of an episode of Scooby Doo."
"Yeah, no one can tell that you smoked a lot of pot."
"You know what? He would have gotten away with shooting you, if it weren't for this meddling kid. Like it or not, I provided a key distraction—"
"That's not what you were doing," Harvey said, and now he looked pissed again. He tore the gauze away and this time tossed it in the trash. Harvey Specter bloodied was a really, really weird thing to be looking at, since Mike could count on one hand the number of times he had seen Harvey look anything but perfectly composed. "Look me in the eye and tell me that the actual thought that you would distract him from me and give me the chance to do something actually went through your head, and I'll believe you."
"You have eyes like—like a snake charmer," he said, giving up. "Fine. Okay. Fine. I didn't really think it through."
There was a long silence.
"If you save my life again," Harvey said, "I'll fire you."
"You saved my life," Mike said.
"That's entirely different," Harvey said, in a tone of voice that indicated that he actually thought that made sense. All of this seemed like something that Mike might have understood if he hadn't still been ridiculously tired from a week of nightmares, paranoia, insomnia, and death-defying acts of self-sacrifice, so he decided to just let it go for now.
He closed his eyes. "I had a psychic premonition for you," he said.
"You're not psychic," Harvey said.
"I saved your life."
"In a feat of dazzling stupidity."
"Can I sleep on your couch?"
"If you absolutely promise not to dream."
"Okay, done," Mike said.
Harvey put on the jazz record again.