Mike: So are we a team now?
Harvey: I wouldn't move my things into Wayne Manor just yet
Josh was the only one there when Mike woke up. He'd warned his brother this would happen, half-heartedly calling after him, "you know he'll wake up as soon as you leave the room!" But Harvey had been in the hospital for two days straight. Josh had woken him up, sent him home to take a shower, get something decent to eat. "He wakes up to you looking like that and you'll scare him."
Harvey had nodded sleepily but had taken a long time to vacate the room. He just kept looking back at Mike, running his hands over the younger man's newly-bald head. Josh knew that Harvey was grateful for him being so sure about Mike's reawakening. The doctors all talked in ifs. Even Donna had slipped up once while rearranging the flowers in his room, "if we wakes up you'll have to be nice to him." Then she'd burst into tears and run from the room.
And Mike slept through all of it. Harvey had recounted bits of their conversation to his younger brother in bursts over the past two days, as if wanting to reassure himself that it had actually happened, that Mike had been lucid enough to quote Han Solo to him. Sometimes he'd run his hands through his hair and tell Josh he could leave if he wanted to. "It's stupid you being here anyway. I just thought...he wanted to meet you. It's one of the last things he said."
"I'm staying, Harv." Not for the kid in the hospital bed, the kid he didn't know, but for his big brother who'd been there for him in all the little and big ways over the years. And who knows? Maybe he'd really get along with this Mike Ross.
Which is why he was in the room alone when Mike's eyes flew open and he made a little noise, like he'd been about to scream and had just barely held it back. Josh, who'd been at the rickety table trying to sketch Mike into Cuckoo's Nest comic form, dropped the pencil and smudged the drawing in his haste to get up. "Hey," he said, wondering how the hell his voice came out so calm, "You're okay man. You're in the hospital. Harv will be glad to see you're awake."
Mike blinked at him, and Josh frowned, remembering the doctors talking about vision loss, memory loss...what if this was like a soap opera, where the young, semi-handsome normal guy ended up with amnesia for the rest of the season? But no, the little lawyer was just trying to get himself under control, trying to fight the urge to scream long enough to blink at him again, "Harvey?"
Josh rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. Someone had once described him as a blurry, younger version of Harvey. He didn't have his brother's innate sense of style or charm, but they had the same face, the same body type. His hair was closer to blond than Harvey's brown, and his eyes were startlingly blue, but they were obviously brothers, even though Harvey would always say, loudly, that he would never be caught wearing Josh's usual blue jeans and button down ensemble. Mostly, it was awkward because Mike didn't know him, he didn't know Mike, and he wasn't the person Mike wanted. "No. Sorry. Joshua Specter. I swear I'm nicer than my brother."
Mike instinctively put his hand out, a reflex born of too many meetings with clients, then winced as the IV tugged in his arm. He dropped the action and settled for a tight smile instead. "Mike Ross."
"I know," Josh was backing out of the room. He so didn't do these situations well. The youngest child through and through, he hated having to be there for someone else to lean on. "I'll just go get the doctors...call Harvey...I'll be right back."
Panic flared in Mike's eyes, and he seemed to be about to ask him not to go. If he'd been Harvey, if he'd been Donna or Rachel or, hell, even Louis, someone Mike knew, he would have asked him to stay, to please not leave him alone anymore. But by the time the words had worked their way out Joshua was speeding away from him.
"You idiot!" Josh looked up and automatically took a step backwards. He'd seen that look on Harvey's face many times, but never directed at him. It was protective, self-righteous anger. "You left him alone? After three days of being alone? What the hell, Joshua?!"
He'd been full-named, and if it were anyone else Josh would have pushed back angrily, but he just looked at the floor. "I panicked."
"Well, whatever you better damn well stop. Mike needs you. He needs as many people as he can get right now." Harvey shook his head, "Come on. You're going to apologize. And then you're going to talk to him like he's a human being. And you will not mention what happened to him unless he brings it up first."
"I'm not an idiot, Harvey." Josh said, full-naming his brother right back, stung at the accusation that he would be so insensitive.
"Well then stop acting like one."
There were so many things Josh could have said here to make the argument escalated further, like well, I never knew him before now. And he could mention how many times Harvey had blown off Josh to do work with Mike Ross. He could mention how many times Harvey mentioned his associate, with a kind of fierce pride that had previously only been there when talking about Josh's own accomplishments. He could say how when Harvey talked like that, Josh would doubt himself, just a little bit, and wonder if Harvey wouldn't like him better as a lawyer than an artist. But he didn't want to fight. He wanted Harvey to forgive him so that he would continue to like Josh more. So he tried to catch Harvey's eye as they walked towards Mike's room, and when he did he said, quietly, "I'm really sorry."
Harvey softened then, like he always did. "I know. This is a crappy situation all around." He walked into the room and Josh lingered in the doorway, wanting to see what Harvey saw in the scrawny young man.
"Apparently when they operated on you you weighed less than Jennifer Aniston," Harvey said breezily, drawing a chair up to the side of the bed. "Have you been working on your figure for me or for someone special?"
"It never occurred to you that not eating or drinking anything for three days can do that?"
"Nah." Harvey's eyes drifted up to the bandage on Mike's head and he cocked an eyebrow. "They decide you look better bald?"
"I know!" Mike said, the words coming out a piteous moan. "It'll be two weeks before I can go out in public!"
"You're in luck then," Harvey said, "That's exactly the same amount of time the doctors said you're not allowed to work. Two weeks at least. Jessica's all ready to give you a month off."
"Please tell me you talked her out of it," Mike said, his voice nearing a whine. "I'd be ready to go right now if I didn't see three of you when you walked in."
That made Harvey stand up, suddenly serious. "Your vision is off?"
"I got hit on the head with a frying pan." Mike said, annoyed. "Yeah, I'm a little dizzy Harvey."
"Did you tell the doctors?"
"They'll just make me stay here longer!" Mike coughed. And coughed and coughed. Harvey grabbed some water from the side table and Mike waved it away, his face red. "I'm not staying here Harvey. I don't even want to stay in this bed. I want out."
"Hey..." Harvey put a hand on Mike's arm and pretended not to notice that the younger man leaned into the warmth of it. Poor kid was touch-starved. "No one's keeping you here, okay? You're not trapped. They're trying to help. You can walk out at any time." Harvey leaned close to Mike, "We got you out. You're okay now."
Mike stared at him, blinking. It was the motion of a man trying desperately hard not to cry. He turned his head away from Harvey, towards the door, and caught sight of Josh. When he spoke, his voice was thick and strained, but strong. "There are two of you. Told you I was seeing double, Harv." Joshua flinched at the use of the nickname and shifted his weight awkwardly. Harvey bit the head off of anyone who tried to call him Harv. Usually.
"And we're so going to get that checked out," Harvey said, shaking his head. "How you can think this idiot looks like me...Mike Ross, Josh Specter. My stupid little brother. He tells me you met and he flaked out on you."
"Sorry," Josh said, hating how his voice sounded, flippant and annoyed, just like a petulant little brother. He didn't need Harvey's look to clear his throat and try again. "I'm sorry Mike. It's just...this is kind of a weird situation."
"Yeah. I kind of stole your brother." He glanced at Harvey with a look that Josh recognized instantly. How often had he himself looked at Harvey like that? Like he was the sun and the moon, his savior? When he saw that look, he felt like he'd been punched in the kidney. He'd never had to share Harvey before, not really. Not with another brother. Mike looked back at him, "Sorry. I can't believe we haven't met before now."
"I didn't want you two to tear each other apart." Harvey said, shrugging, tactfully ignoring the way these two younger men were trying to argue over him. "Now you'll have to play nice. Josh, come over here with those burgers. Mike's been hungry for too long."
So they sat and they ate and Harvey carried most of the conversation. Josh knew that his dislike was irrational. Mike was funny, and he made fun of Harvey, and above all he was hurt in the hospital after nearly being killed. So he softened up and took out his sketchpad just as his editor texted him. He was supposed to be at a meeting in Midtown. Fifteen minutes ago. "Oh God, I'm so late." He looked up at Harvey, "I have to duck out Harv. Paul will kill me dead if I miss another meeting. I'll be back with cookies later!" He stood up, grabbing things and shoving them in his bag haphazardly.
He got to the book he'd just taken out, paused, and flipped open to a certain page. "I thought you'd like this. I'm not bringing it to Paul until you read through it, but if you okay everything it'll be in the papers in three weeks." Being so flustered made Josh tactile, normal, like he was around Harvey and like he hadn't been around the guy stealing Harvey away. He rubbed a hand over Mike's shaved head very, very gently. "Glad you woke up man. You like chocolate chip cookies, right?"
"Has anyone ever said 'no' to that question?" Mike asked, bemused and amused at the situation. Josh shrugged, tapped the open sketch book, and flew from the room.
Harvey laughed quietly, "So that's Josh. He's not usually so withdrawn. It's like being around you. I can't figure out how to get either of you to shut up."
Mike smiled tightly. He was sure that if he and Josh met under other circumstances he would feel like this - angry and protective and confrontational, like Harvey was a toy they were fighting over. He chalked it up to head wounds and hunger. He glanced at the sketch book, then snatched it up, staring at the pictures disbelievingly. The Cuckoo's Nest, Josh's comic that was in every paper in America, was about a pair of brothers: Happy, the eldest, putting himself through school with a job at the diner, and Jake, the younger still in middle school, doing odd jobs and antagonizing Happy. It was a cute strip, always good for a laugh, but it was a cartoon, the figures drawn in goofy ways.
This picture was not like that. It was Mike sleeping int he bed, Donna curled up next to him talking to Harvey, who was standing by the window, eyes fixed on his protege. It was like a photograph in the way that every detail was crystal-clear, from the worry lines in Donna's face to Harvey's tight-lipped smile. But it was more than that - it was a feeling put into picture on paper. And it was the most beautiful thing Mike had ever seen in black-and-white.
Harvey glanced at it and smiled proudly. "Most of the comic is biographical, you know. I really did put myself through Harvard by working at that diner, and every night Josh would make a couple extra bucks drawing the people who came in..."
Mike turned the page and glared at Harvey, who'd thrown back his head in laughter. "Did you put him up to this?"
"No," Harvey said, when he could get his breath back. He was smiling widely, like he'd recently forgotten how to and had only just remembered the trick to it, "I wish I had."
The whole page was pictures of puppies, an evolution of rag-tag mutts that culminated in a tiny lab-like creature that was circled with arrows pointed to it and words that read: MIKE!
"This cannot be a coincidence. He made me an actual puppy." But Mike was smiling. It was like finding out you'd been written into your favorite author's new novel, even if you'd been cast int he role of evil step-sister.
Harvey thumbed over to the next page and stared at it, "I guess this is what he wanted to run by you." He cast a quick look at Mike, then turned the book towards him.
It was panels of the cartoon, a story sketched out. 'Happy' had found a dog in a locked in a closet at the diner. It had been there all weekend, and the first show of him and the puppy together had the puppy on his lap, and 'Happy' was petting it, promising food and a warm place to live.
Mike felt goosebumps and looked away, feeling another surge of anger towards Josh for reducing his experience to a cartoon level. He'd nearly died. He'd ruined his hands, lost his memories, and he had a comic strip to remember it by. He felt his face turn red and Harvey put a hand on his arm. Mike wished he could say how much that touch helped him, wished he could grab Harvey's hand in his own...but his own hands were still twisted, mangled.
"He won't run it if you don't okay everything." Harvey said, looking down at the next couple of panels, where 'Happy' brings the puppy home and 'Jake' is pleased at first, then gets jealous and moody when 'Happy's' attention is divided between Jake and the new puppy. Josh had always worked out his emotions through drawings. For some reason, though, Harvey really wanted Mike to say it was okay. He wanted Mike to be a part of this little comic family, wanted 'Jake' to get closer to the dog. And maybe that would translate into life, and Josh and Mike and him could be...they could really be something. "He doesn't mean any harm."
"It just took me by surprise," Mike said, his clumsy, bandaged hand touching the first panel, where there was a gaping closet door and a black abyss. His eyes shuttered closed and he seemed to collapse in on himself...then his eyes flicked to where 'Happy' was rocking the puppy in his arms, promising him a life, a place in his family. It was a good story, would be a good arc, would be a great way to introduce a new character. The story of Jake coming to terms with a new family member. The story of the puppy learning how to be a puppy again. Who didn't like things like that? "It's cute," he said. And smiled. Just a twitch of the lips, but it was a real smile.
"Well, I guess art does imitate life -" Harvey said.
"I thought it was the other way around?" Mike interrupted, the smile turning cheeky.
"Art imitates life." Harvey said firmly, "I didn't tell Josh I was commandeering you for Wayne Manor."
"What?" Mike said, his voice cracking over the word. "You're going to kidnap me? Harvey...I already did that this week."
Harvey rolled his eyes as Mike laughed, then coughed, then laughed. And more coughing. "Die quieter please," Harvey said over the hacking coughs, pretending to be annoyed. That made Mike laugh harder.
When he pulled himself together, he said, "No, but really Harv. I'm not playing Robin. I have my own place."
"You are not Robin. You're Lois Lane. I seem to remember you being a damsel in distress just in time to ruin my Valentine's Day..." Even though he said the words lightly, teasing, Mike's face started to fall at the memory of darkness and no escape. "Which is why I need to keep an eye on you. As a bonus you get out of the hospital faster. As soon as the doctors put casts on your hands you get to stay with me. If you insist on independence they'll keep you in the hospital for the whole two weeks."
"They would. I told them to."
"I'll sign myself out AMA."
"You will not." Harvey said calmly. Then, relenting, "Come on Mike. I have the room. You know you don't want to be by yourself."
That was close as they got to having a conversation about the basement, about Mike freaking out in Harvey's arms and trying very hard to convince Harvey's he'd died in his lap on Valentine's Day. Mike looked at the comic strip, flipped a few pages to the end where Jake had his arms around the puppy and Harvey had his arms around both of them. A little family.
"Yeah, okay," Mike said, trying hard not to smile.
He didn't succeed, and when Harvey put his arms around him he grinned into Harvey's shirt, leaning into the embrace. He wasn't alone.
since more than half of our wonderful reviews asked for an epilogue...here it is. way less angst, way more brotherly love.
and our version of harvey's brother. josh and his comics also appear in our other suits stories. (hint hint cough cough go read them)
thanks to everyone who reviewed. you're the reason this chapter is up.