Fic: "Lit Up" 2/4, Suits, Harvey/Mike NC-17
Title: Lit Up
Genre: H/C, slash
Word Count: Roughly 10,000 at current count (but later chapters need some editing).
Warnings: Language, overuse of color adjectives, descriptions of a medical issue (epilepsy), graphic sexual content of the slash variety.
Summary: Mike has synesthesia, which turns out to be a blessing, a bit of a curse, and an unconventional way to finally get his boss naked.
A/N: This chapter contains the H/C. Enjoy!
Despite the childhood pain of being different, despite the sometimes added complexity of having synesthesia, Mike has never seen it as a curse, a disorder, or something to fix or eliminate. He can't imagine being without it. It’s another dimension of life, an extra sense that colors the world around him with a depth and a richness most people are blind to. He also knows he owes his incredible recall to the synesthesia – when he reads, the words come alive with color and texture that live in his memory with far more permanence than flat, black lines on a page ever could. The unique shades of individual voices paint pictures in his memory that don't fade. All of the science says that people with synesthesia are also much more likely to have near-photographic memory than the general population, and without his memory Mike would never have made it to Pearson Hardman (and therefore never would have made it to Harvey).
So he's grateful.
There is, however, one aspect of his unique brain that he wishes (desperately) to eradicate. In addition to improved memory, people with synesthesia are also much more likely to suffer from epilepsy. And Mike, being the thorough individual that he is, can check off that box on his list of unique qualifiers as well.
He knows how much worse it could be – he rarely has seizures, maybe four or five times a year at most, and he is able to control his condition with a relatively low dose of medications. He knows the science, the stats – knows how many people are incapacitated by seizures and tremors and the dulling, dry-mouth, shakiness of high-dose meds.
Compared to life-threatening seizures and brain surgery, two pills a day and the inability to drive seem like nothing. Technically speaking, his epilepsy is so well controlled that he could get a license, but he cannot bring himself to risk what might happen if his meds failed him while he was behind the wheel.
He cannot risk taking from someone else what was taken from him.
He lets Harvey believe that he bikes because he's broke, or health conscious, or unwilling to deal with NYC traffic, because this, too, is something he never wants Harvey to know about.
Unfortunately for Mike, in this instance the choice is taken out of his hands.
It's been a long, tiring week. Harvey is snappy and watches him with a look that almost dares Mike to fuck up, just to give Harvey an excuse to tear him down. Mike feels no better, and is almost tempted to pick a fight just so they can both let off steam. There is still an uneasy tension between them, leftover from the mock trial fallout, and while they seem to be moving back into the familiar equilibrium of their strange partnership, there is still hurt and resentment on both sides.
It doesn’t help that neither of them have had much sleep, and Mike’s head has been pounding all afternoon. The colors of his peers' voices are too bright, like lasers shining in his eyes. Later on it'll be easy for him to look back at this as the warning sign it is, but in the moment all he knows is that he's tired and hungry and would rather be anywhere than here in Harvey's office, buried under a metaphorical mountain of paperwork for the Hillshire suit, Harvey’s dissatisfaction like a physical presence in the room.
“Do you have the transcript for the board meeting on the 8th?” Harvey asks him, rubbing at the bridge of his nose. His voice flashes across Mike's vision like a strobe light of red and white, sending a spike of pain straight through his brain.
Mike presses the heel of his hand against his eye socket, grimacing and suddenly pissed off. He feels off-kilter, and his mouth tastes like pennies.
“Mike.” Harvey says, red and bright and excruciating.
“Jesus, Harvey,” Mike snaps, even as he recoils from the electric blue of his own words, “Why does your voice have to be so fucking bright? Will you just – can you please just shut up?”
Mike's brain feels too big for his skull, his lungs too big for his chest, like his muscles are tightening into vices.
“Excuse me?” Harvey's voice is low, confused, angry (red, red, red). “I cannot possibly have heard that right, because it sounded like you told me to shut up, Mike, and unless you want to find yourself out on your ass so fast you-”
“Harvey-” Mike interrupts, because he's looking down at his right hand and his fingers are tapping, tapping against the table in a staccato rhythm that is horrifyingly familiar. His vision is washing out in sickly lime green, the taste of pennies is rising in the back of his throat, and he knows what this means, knows what's coming...
“Shit, Harvey,” he gasps, staggering to his feet. He's gotta get out of here, only there's no time, and he never told Harvey what to do, what this is. “Don't call 911, okay? I'll be fine. Just- just-”
“Mike,” Harvey says, confusion and concern washing the anger from his face, “What are you talking about? Why would I call 911?”
“Five minutes,” Mike says past his thick tongue, trying to make Harvey understand, trying to draw the line between don't panic and panic. “Less than five minutes, don't c-c-c-c-”
He feels his toes curl violently, the muscles in his legs going painfully taut, and then he's falling.
He hears Harvey shout “Jesus, Mike-” and the color of his voice explodes through Mike's vision, too much, too much, a blinding spectrum that bleeds into pure white.
And then there's no color at all.
Eighteen years ago, a pickup truck plowed into Gregory and Lisa Ross’s sedan and crumpled it like it was made of tin.
Gregory’s head bounced off the door frame hard enough to fracture his skull, breaking his neck and killing him instantly.
Lisa lived for twenty minutes after the crash. She was awake for ten of those minutes. Then her lungs filled with blood and she died quietly, leaving her nine year old son, Michael, an orphan.
Mike remembers only pieces of that night. He remembers more than he wants to.
When he woke up four days later in the pediatric ward of the hospital, he could see sounds. His own voice rippled out before him in desperate, white-hot waves when he cried out for his mother. The nurses’ tones were all pastel with sympathy and sadness when they talked to him. It felt like his senses were raw, overwrought, and Mike hated it.
But two weeks later (after they let him go home with Gran, after his parents had been put into boxes and buried), Mike sat in the closet in his new room, hugging his parent’s answering machine to his skinny chest. Over and over, he pressed play and listened to his parents’ voices, the cheesy recording, the mundane little messages they left for each other, the way his mom always said I love you boys, be good when she called to say she was running late. He watched awestruck as their voices unfurled into the dark around him, full of color and so alive, and all he could feel was grateful for the chance to see it.
Mike wakes up gradually, like floating on the surface of long, gentle waves.
Awareness builds, snatches of color and sound and sensation, then fades back into indistinct darkness. Each swell of consciousness brings him closer to the surface, and eventually he can understand the words behind the colors that are swirling inside his skull.
“Mike, wake up,” the voice says.
It's red, smooth, familiar. Safe.
“Come on, Mike. Right the fuck now. Wake up, or I don't give a shit what you want, I'm calling 911.”
Mike doesn't want 911. He can't remember why, but he knows he doesn't want it. He makes an annoyed little humming sound deep in his throat and musters the energy to crack open his eyes.
“Thank god,” someone says. Their voice has an orangey tint of worry. Mike can tell, even though all the colors are muted and blurry. “Mike, can you hear me?”
God, he's tired. Why the fuck is he so tired?
“No, keep your eyes open. Stay awake for me.”
Someone taps his cheek and he moans, trying to shift away, but that only awakens a thousand aching hurts in his body. His muscles burn and his head throbs in time to his heartbeat. There's something familiar about all of it, but he can't place it. He just wants to go back to sleep, but the voice is bouncing color off the back of his eyelids again.
“Open your eyes and talk to me, Mike. Come on.”
Mike heaves a giant sigh of consternation and blinks blearily up at the face above him, trying to make the blurry pieces focus into something recognizable. Gradually a pair of worried brown eyes coalesce, as well as a purple silk tie and slicked back hair. He knows those eyes, that tie. That hair.
“Harvey?” he says, or tries to, at least. It comes out more like a mangled slur, a huffy H sound and a drawn out veeeee.
“Yeah, kid. It's me. You with me now?”
Mike's sleepy brain fumbles its way through the question, bewildered and unable to figure out why Harvey is waking him up in the middle of the night asking him stupid things.
“Why're you...” he mumbles, and loses his train of thought. “Harvey?”
Harvey sighs and drags a hand over his face.
“Mike,” he says with an uncommon amount of patience, “Do you know what happened?”
“Y'woke me up,” Mike says, and even he's unsure if it's an answer or a complaint.
“You had a seizure,” Harvey says slowly, pointedly.
Oh. No wonder Harvey looks worried.
“You're damn right I'm worried,” Harvey says, and Mike spends a befuddled few seconds terrified that Harvey has gained mind-reading abilities before he realizes he's spoken his thoughts aloud. “You told me not to call 911, but I need to know if you need an ambulance, Mike. Do I need to call for help?”
“No,” Mike slurs, grabbing clumsily at Harvey's sleeve. He blinks heavily at Harvey, fighting against the sleepiness that blankets him. He misses Harvey's sleeve twice before Harvey clasps his wrist in his hand and anchors him.
“Do you have medication I need to get?” Harvey asks, and his voice is like crimson velvet, fluttering and swirling like a ribbon in wind. Mike follows the color as it fades, spirals deeper, going down, down, down into darkness like-
Mike jerks back into awareness, Harvey's hand like a vice around his wrist.
“Stay awake, damn it. I swear, if you pass out again I'm calling an ambulance. Now, do you have any meds you need?”
“No,” Mike sighs, watching the blue of the word float between them like a bubble. “Wanna sleep.”
“No you're not going to stay awake, or no you don't have meds you need?”
“Okay,” Harvey says, dragging his hand over his mouth again. He looks more flustered than Mike has ever seen him. “Okay. Let's sit you up. We’re going to get you coherent again, and then you’re going to tell me what the hell just happened.”
Harvey slips an arm behind Mike's shoulders and heaves him upright, and all the colors around them bleed like bad dye. Mike feels the soft fabric of Harvey's office sofa against the back of his neck when Harvey leans him against it, Harvey's hands hard like stone where they grip his shoulders to steady him.
The world won't stop slipping and spinning, and Mike feels suddenly, overwhelmingly sick.
“Harvey,” he manages to moan, swallowing convulsively around the sound, “M'gonna...”
A metal trash can is thrust into his hands, and Mike grips it desperately as he curls forward and gags. He vomits weakly, each heave sending spikes of pain through his eyes and brain. He wants it to stop, doesn't understand why this is happening, doesn't understand what is happening. His brain is slipping sluggishly from thought to thought, chaotic, fluttering around the edges of a dark, blank space where there is no color, no memory of what happened to make him hurt like this.
He moans, a string of bloody drool dangling from his lips. Harvey pulls a crisp white handkerchief from his breast pocket and folds it, carefully wiping the blood and puke and spit from Mike's mouth. Later, Mike will be humiliated by this, but right now he's confused and tired and achy and so, so grateful for the gentle way Harvey is touching him.
“I think you bit the inside of your cheek,” Harvey tells him. “Your mouth is bleeding a little. Does it hurt?”
Mike doesn't understand why Harvey thinks he would do something like that. Why would he bite himself? None of this makes sense.
Frustrated tears well up in his eyes but don't fall. His mouth tastes awful, like blood and puke and metal, and he tries to remember what he said that invoked such a terrible flavor so he can remember to never, ever say that word again.
“Harvey,” he says instead, because Harvey's name tastes clean and chocolately and full of spice that covers the awfulness. “Harvey, Harvey.”
Harvey turns to sit next to Mike, snaking an arm around Mike's shoulders and pulling him against his warm, solid side. Mike's head flops to rest on Harvey's shoulder, his breath puffing out erratically against the smooth merino of the older man's suit.
“We're at the office,” Harvey says slowly, voice a soothing cinnamon red from just above Mike's scalp. “It's Friday, about eleven o'clock. You had a seizure about fifteen minutes ago, and that's why you feel confused. But you're okay, kid, I've got you. You're going to be okay.”
Mike’s brain follows the words sluggishly, struggling to put meaning to them. Singular words drift into his awareness – office, seizure, okay – and he starts to get a picture of what happened.
Oh, shit – he had a seizure in the office. And did he tell Harvey to shut up? Shit. Shit.
“Sorry,” he mumbles against Harvey’s wide lapel, “Harvey, I’m sorry.”
I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, I’m sorry I puked in your trash can, I’m sorry I let you down. Again.
Harvey cups a warm hand around the back of Mike’s head, thumb brushing over the top of Mike’s ear.
“Don’t be,” he says gently. “Just – I need to know what happened, alright? You scared the shit out of me, rookie, and you know me well enough by now to know how much I dislike being caught off guard. I’m assuming this has happened before. I need you to be honest with me - are you an epileptic, Mike?”
“Synesthete,” Mike tells him. He feels the confused way Harvey twists to look at him, probably trying to decide if Mike is speaking gibberish or not. To be honest, Mike didn’t mean to say that in the first place. But he’s always thought of the seizures as simply a part of his synethesisa, and his brain is always scattered and awkwardly lacking in filters after a seizure. He nods shakily against Harvey’s shoulder in lieu of trying to clarify, feeling the hand on his head brush over his hair as he moves under it. He shivers, and Harvey presses him almost imperceptibly closer.
“Okay,” Harvey sighs. “What do you need? How can I help?”
There are so many layers of answers that Mike wants to give him, so many things he wants desperately to ask for, but he bites down on them and struggles to sit up.
“I gotta – I just need to sleep for a while, I’ll be okay,” he assures Harvey, head nodding on his neck as he struggles to keep his eyes open. “Can I – can I have a ride home, maybe?”
“You’re not going home,” Harvey tells him sternly, disentangling himself from Mike and standing. He hooks his hands under Mike’s arms and pulls him up onto the couch, where Mike wobbles and blinks stupidly at him.
“No, Harvey, I don’t need a hospital,” he insists, yawning and rubbing at his eyes clumsily, “Please? I hate the hospital.”
“I’m not going to take you to the hospital unless you have another seizure,” Harvey explains, moving away to gather up his briefcase. “But I’m not leaving you alone tonight, not while you’re so out of it.”
“I’m taking you to my place, genius.”
“Oh,” Mike says, trying to wrap his head around the idea of Harvey taking him home with him. It makes his head hurt and his chest tighten and his belly pool with warm fondness and something else he can’t think about right now. “I am a genius, technically speaking,” he tells Harvey, just to try to regain some normalcy in the situation.
“Of course you are,” Harvey says wryly, looping his free arm around Mike’s waist and easing him to a standing position. “You’re a special, special snowflake. Now, do you think you can walk?”
Mike feels his forehead crease with mild offense. “Of course I can walk,” he mutters. “I’m not fucking helpless. And I’m not a fucking snowflake, either.”
And here is the post-seizure crankiness, right on schedule. Seizures make his moods swing wildly between confused neediness, weary depression, and a touchy sort of irritation that tends to lash out at whoever is helping him.
Harvey is quirking an eyebrow at him.
“I’m sorry,” Mike says again. “I get moody after these things. So I’m sorry if I’m being bitchy. But you really should try not to be a condescending prick right now, too. That would be helpful.”
Yup, still firmly in the “PMS” phase of his post-seizure brain chemistry rollercoaster ride.
“Well,” Harvey says with a surprising amount of amusement in his tone (cherry red), “I suppose I’ll just have to work on that, won’t I? You just focus on staying on your feet and calling me out on any further incidents of prick-like behavior, and I’ll make sure we get home in one piece, alright?”
“Yeah,” Mike sighs, “Okay.”
It’s a slow, laborious process to get from Harvey’s office to the street. Mike’s legs feel heavy and exhausted, as though he’s been running all day. His back aches, his head throbs, and he can’t decide if he wants to cry, scream, pass out, or ask Harvey for a hug. Possibly all of the above, in that order.
By the time they manage to hail a cab and Harvey has maneuvered Mike into its back seat, Mike is nodding off again, moving restlessly on the seat even as his eyelids dip shut. He feels anxious, unsettled. Confused.
When Harvey slides in next to him on a wake of Clive Christian scented air, Mike can’t help but curl his body toward the reassuring warmth and mars-red rumble of Harvey’s voice. His fingers come to rest on the vinyl of the seat just beside Harvey’s sleeve, curling against the bare edge of the hem. His brief swell of irritation is receding, leaving an exhausted sense of hopelessness in its stead. This is the part of his seizures he likes least (less than the embarrassment, less than the danger) – the weighted-soul sensation of despair that seeps into his core. It elicits memories of long, confusing nights after past seizures, full of regrets and an overwhelming awareness of his myriad failures as a person, a son, a grandson, and a friend.
God, he hates this. He hates the confusion and the helplessness and the fact that Harvey, of all people, is witnessing him in this state of disarray and pitiable weakness.
He turns his face into the seatback, eyes clenched shut as Harvey relays his address to the cabbie.
“Hey, Mike?” Harvey says a moment later, “Are you alright?”
The worry in his voice makes Mike’s heart constrict in ways far too complex to analyze in his current state. He is horrified to feel hot, fat tears leak from the corners of his eyes. Biting back a breathy sob, he nods and tries to cover his face with a trembling hand. Even his fingernails hurt.
“Alright,” Harvey says softly. Gentle fingers wrap around Mike’s wrist and pull his hand away. “Come on, kid – you’re alright.”
There is a muted rustling from beside him, then Harvey is draping his obscenely expensive suit jacket over Mike’s shoulders. Mike feels his fingers trace over the lapels, tugging the jacket more snugly around Mike’s frame. It’s still warm with Harvey’s body heat - the mingled scent of expensive cologne and Harvey’s clean, natural smell wash over his senses and warm him almost as much as the jacket itself.
Mike sighs deeply, wraps his fingers in Harvey’s shirt, and let his head drop against Harvey’s bicep.
He’s asleep within moments.