It starts with the little things.
Here's what you're going to do.
Mike writes off his instinct to obey as not wanting to piss off his new boss, and the little thrill of pleasure he gets out of it as nothing more than satisfaction taken in a job well done. He needs Harvey to trust him because he needs to keep this job, not because he needs Harvey.
And when Mike refuses to take it easy on Louis, and Harvey growls,
in a voice that goes straight to Mike's dick, well, Mike is comfortable enough with himself to admit that he's experimented with more than just weed. And liked it.
But it's not until he's standing outside Penn Station, watching his oldest friend pull out of his life for God knows how long, on Harvey's say so—
Not until he feels the tension that's been building unnoticed inside him for months suddenly snap, like a wave breaking against the rocks at Coney Island—
Not until Trevor's bus vanishes into the sea of traffic and he catches himself with his phone in hand, thumb hovering over the only number left on his speed dial, with nothing to say and everything in him screaming that even so he needs to call Harvey now—
—that Mike thinks, and starts to wonder.
-- -- --
The wondering might never have come to anything, however, had Harvey not taken it into his head to drag Mike along to the New York Bar Association's annual city-wide cocktail party.
"You need exposure," he argues, secure in the privacy, or at least the anonymity, of a bustling city street in the middle of lunch hour. "These are people who you should already know, and who you want to notice you."
"No, actually, I don't want anyone to notice me."
"Wrong. The more you become part of this world, the better your cover gets. It'll never occur to anyone that you didn't actually pass the bar if they meet you at a Bar Association cocktail."
"I did so pass the – hey, where are you going?" Mike scrambles to keep up as Harvey suddenly veers off toward the street. He hails a taxi with a raised hand and a sharp whistle, and ushers Mike inside.
"The party is two weeks from today. You have between now and then to figure out how I'm going to close Alan Bradford on the ChinaWorks merger."
"I need something to brag about at the dinner. Oh, and think fast. You have a meeting with him in—" Harvey glances at his watch, "—forty minutes. You know where the ChinaWorks building is, right?" he asks the cabbie. "32nd and Wall Street."
The cabbie nods, Harvey slams the door shut, and Mike is free to start panicking.
-- -- --
"But how on earth did you manage to do it?" The pretty associate in the little black dress and four-inch heels has to be at least three years older than Mike, but she sounds absolutely fascinated. And she has the biggest, most beautiful—
"Eyes," Mike says roughly, then clears his throat. "I mean, his eyes. The whites were yellow – he had jaundice, early stages of liver failure. That was what made me realize that his objection wasn't that ChinaWorks was from China per se, but that the province their main manufacturing operations were in was infamous for factories being shut down for unacceptable levels of lead in their product. Once I showed him their Green Charter and the financials for their corporate donations, and had him take a virtual tour of the factory…he couldn't wait to close."
"That's brilliant," the associate gushes, laying her hand on Mike's lapel – just in time for Harvey, returning with drinks for himself and Mike, to catch her at it. Harvey smiles proudly and pats Mike on the back as she winks and walks away. As soon as she's out of earshot, though, and under cover of handing Mike his T&T (more tonic than Tanqueray, unfortunately), he whispers,
"If I catch you playing footsie again, kid, I'm going to turn you over my knee and spank you until you learn some self-control."
"I—we weren't—you said I should meet people!" Mike splutters.
"Yes, exactly. People. Not grippy little social climbers looking for another rung to dig their stilettos into." Harvey sips his whiskey and nods across the room, to where the girl is cozying up to a white-haired gentleman, maybe fifteen years older than Harvey. "That is John Scadden's plus-one for the evening; word of mouth is divided on whether she's his girlfriend or his granddaughter, but either way, she's not going to be on your side."
"Why? I thought the whole point of this thing was that—"
"Yes, but three months ago I stole Scadden's biggest client out from under his nose," Harvey says, giving a cheeky little wave as the gentleman half-turns and glances in his direction. "And since you're my protégé…the only question is how much useful information she'll be able to suck out of you before you wise up. Or dry up."
Mike glances down at the girl's heels with a new eye, and swallows.
"Maybe I should just stick with you for tonight," he says, edging just a little closer to Harvey. Harvey smiles and clasps a companionable arm around Mike's shoulders.
"Maybe you should."
-- -- --
A week later, Mike is in the copy room, joking around with Rachel as he waits for his latest reading assignment from Harvey to print.
"And then he—"
"No." Rachel claps her hand over her mouth, looking equal parts scandalized and delighted. "But it really was your fault, you have to—"
"Office romance, is it?" Harvey is leaning against the open door, smiling thinly. "I know you read fast, Mike, but I didn't know you could get through six hundred pages of precedent six minutes after they finished printing. Could have saved me a lot of time on the McKernan Motors deal."
Rachel flushes, then pales, and flees, almost knocking into Harvey in her haste. Mike frowns at him.
"That was mean," he says. "You don't even know Rachel."
"I know her well enough to know that I don't want to lose one of the best paralegals in the firm just because she's finally found an asshole who will force her to choose between him and her job."
"How did you—"
"Because I know people, kid." Harvey steps full inside, shutting the door behind him. Aside from him and Mike, and the whirring copiers, the room is empty. "And the Rachel Zanes of this world don't get where they are by hopping into bed with every third coworker who asks for a date. And as for you," he moves forward, forcing Mike to scoot back to accommodate him. "Tell me, is there anywhere in that big brain of yours that remembers what I said to you at the Association cocktail?"
"You said a lot of things to me."
"This one would have been about footsie. And what would happen if I caught you again." Harvey takes one last step forward, and there's nowhere for Mike to go. He's backed up against the copy machine, Harvey's hands planted on it on either side of Mike's waist, Harvey's voice growling low in his ear, "What did I say, kid?"
"That you'd turn me over your knee and…s-spank me until I learned self-control," he whispers, only half believing that the words are coming out of his mouth. Harvey nods, looking pleased, and spins Mike around by the shoulder—
And suddenly Harvey is perched on top of the copier with his fist clamped around the collar of Mike's shirt, hauling Mike facedown over his legs by main force and virtue of the fact that Mike is too startled to resist.
"Self-control," Harvey muses, considering the curve of Mike's ass laid over his knee, muscles taught beneath the gray cotton of his suit trousers. "All right. Don't make a sound."
Mike yelps as Harvey's hand comes down hard and fast, and gives him a sharp smack on his left cheek. He doesn't get a chance to recover, either – the next blow follows right on its heels, and the next, the swift paddling eliciting a stream of cries from Mike. Finally, Harvey gives Mike a particularly hard slap right on the tender underside where his ass meets his thighs and demands, exasperated,
"What did I just say about self-control?"
Mike twists his head up to face Harvey, flushed equally from embarrassment and exertion, and opens his mouth to reply—but something in Harvey's expression stops him cold.
"Sorry," he whispers, and clamps his bottom lip between his teeth.
Mike makes it through the next five swats without so much as a whimper, his eyes locked on Harvey the entire time.
"There, now," Harvey says softly, gently massaging Mike's stinging flesh through his trousers. "That wasn't so hard, was it?"
Mike shakes his head.
"Good. Remember that." He tips Mike back up onto his feet, stepping down from his seat on the copier and holding out a hand to steady him when Mike's knees waver. "Now, go clean yourself up. You've still got that precedent reading to get through before you go home."
-- -- --
It's not until Harvey makes it back to his office that the shakes hit him. He's reaching for Blind Lemon Jefferson's Match Box Blues when he fumbles and drops the sleeve, sending the record clattering to the ground. He starts to crouch to pick it up – and ends up sitting down, hard, on the black leather sofa, staring at his trembling hands and trying to remember how to keep breathing.
Donna finds him there when she comes back from her late lunch, a full ten minutes later. One look at him is all it takes to have her pulling the floor-to-ceiling blinds down over the glass front wall of his office, and clearing his schedule for the afternoon with a few brisk taps on her Blackberry. Harvey barely even registers her, though, until she sits down beside him and says quietly,
"Do I need to go kick a rookie ass, boss?"
(The last time she called him 'boss' was the day his father died.)
"I – you may have to kick my ass," Harvey says thickly. He swallows. "I think I may have just sexually abused my rookie."
"I spanked him. In the copy room. To teach him self control."
"Is this going to be like the time with you and Louis and the kid who Louis thought was his boyfriend? Because that's okay, I just need to know in advance."
"Well, I'm sorry, but when you say things like sexual abuse—"
"I was being serious!" Harvey jerks to his feet and strides over to the window, pressing his burning forehead against the cool glass. After a few moments, Donna joins him. She rests one hand over his wrist, pinning it lightly to the window; the other is a fist, digging small, hard knuckles into the space between his shoulder blades.
"Was it safe?" she asks. Harvey starts to jerk away, but stops himself before she has to exert any force to keep him in place.
Slowly, almost hesitantly, Harvey nods.
"Was it sane?"
Another slow nod.
"Was it consensual?"
This time, the pause stretches out – ten seconds, then fifteen, until finally, after a full minute of silence, Harvey's shoulders roll up and down in a slow shrug that ripples through his entire posture. Donna lets out a long breath.
"Then you need to—"
"I know." The steel is back in Harvey's voice. And in his spine, as he straightens and turns to look down at Donna with a crooked half-smile on his face. "Thank you."
"Hey," she smiles back, punches him lightly in the chest. "What kind of idiot thinks Doms can't need aftercare, too?"
"Oh, and Harvey?" Donna adds, as Harvey is about to walk out. "Before you go talk to Mike, you might want to do something about the giant wet spot he left on your pants."
Harvey glances down, and – even though he knows it's completely inappropriate – can't help the absolutely delighted smirk from spreading over his face.
-- -- --
Oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck… is all that's running through Mike's head as he flees the copy room, awkwardly shielding the front of his pants with his thick stack of case reading (which, oh god, is still warm from the copier). He dodges past the pack of his fellow associates on their way back from lunch, ignoring the incredibly clever calls of, "Careful, Speedbump, don't trip!" Fortunately, the men's room on this floor is nearby. Mike darts inside—
And runs straight into Louis, nearly losing his grip on the papers as he zigzags frantically to avoid bowling over the Junior Associate. Louis's eyes sweep up and down Mike's frame, taking in his flushed face and skewed collar, his awkward stance as he tries to scoot past Louis without being too obvious about it.
"In a hurry, Mike?" Louis's lips curl around in a thin little smirk. He leans against the door, oh-so-casually blocking Mike's escape. "What's wrong, did you get a little 'thirsty' and drink the cooler dry again?"
"What the hell," Mike says, and shoves past him, darting into the furthest stall and slamming the bolt home behind him. He waits, breathless, through a few moments of disgruntled silence, until Louis finally leaves, grumbling.
The case reading flutters to the pristine, white-tile floor and scatters, as Mike drops onto the closed lid of the toilet seat with a moan and finally looks at his pants to assess the damage. It's as bad as he'd feared; the whole fly is one enormous wet spot, the outline of his erection clearly visible, straining against the darkened fabric. There's no way Harvey could have missed it. It would have been pressed up against his thigh the entire time he was—
And afterwards, the way his hand curled over Mike's hip to steady him, the heel of his palm not half an inch away from the head of Mike' cock—
And the harshness in his voice, low and rough and simmering with promise—
("Go clean yourself up," Christ, like Mike was filthy and Harvey loved it.)
Mike groans and fumbles his belt open, yanking his zipper down and shoving a hand into his boxers to wrap around the thick swell of his cock. He strokes himself quickly, already too far gone for finesse; his other hand wraps around the handicapped bar, bracing him as his hips buck upward in a frantic rhythm, driving his cock into the tight clench of his fist. Mike can still feel the burn of Harvey's palm striking his ass over and over, incredibly, impossibly arousing. He bites his lip, remembering how he'd tried to stifle his cries and the warm flush of pride in Harvey's voice when he'd succeeded – the utterly unexpected thrill of pleasure that had run through him at obeying Harvey's orders only, precisely, because it was Harvey giving them—
The door to the bathroom bangs open. Mike freezes – at least as much as he's able, his hand still squeezing lightly, rhythmically around his shaft, thumb swiping over his slit and smearing precome around the flushed dome of his head.
"Mike?" Harvey calls. "Louis said he saw you run in here. Are you—"
Mike can't help it. A whimper slips out as his knuckle rubs up against his frenulum – it seems he's used up all his goddamned self control for the day – and instantly, Harvey is darting across the bathroom, palm landing against the door of Mike's stall with an echoing slap.
"Are you all right?" There's a hoarse urgency in Harvey's voice that should set off alarms in the back of Mike's head, but he's too busy biting the back of his wrist and trying desperately not to come with Harvey not two feet away, to pay any attention. "Mike?"
"Harvey—" Mike chokes out, trying to warn him off, but his voice is thick and clumsy with need, and he trails off into a strangled whine.
"Oh, the hell with this," Harvey snarls, sending a sudden spike of want straight down Mike's spine. There's the sound of him groping in his suit pocket, a sudden clack of metal against the stall door, and the flat, nickel-plated bolt slides back with barely a whisper.
The door slams open. Harvey stares at him, his gaze sweeping over the long sprawl of Mike's limbs, taking in his flushed face and bitten lips and the shameless, glistening jut of his erection in his fist.
"Mike—" he breathes.
And with a strangled sob, Mike comes. His eyes are locked on Harvey's the entire time, watching confusion and shock and (maybe, just a little, oh God please) arousal flit over his face as Mike's orgasm undoes him, both of them shaking with every pulse of come that spills over Mike's fingers and onto the starched, white cotton of his shirt.
When it's over, Harvey just stares, one rebellious lock of hair fallen loose and hanging into his eyes. A dark flush of shame starts to creep up Mike's neck, and he moves to tuck himself away, already wondering why he hasn't yet done so – until Harvey clears his throat, stopping him.
"I think," Harvey says, very carefully, "that we need to talk."
-- -- --
Harvey takes them to a little diner just a few blocks away from Pearson Hardman, the kind of place Mike wouldn't even have expected him to know about – complete with vinyl seat covers, terrible coffee, and the best apple pie Mike has tasted since his grandmother stopped baking. He's polishing off his second piece (ice cream and all), swathed in Harvey's spare suit after ruining his own again, when Harvey stops chatting and finally speaks.
"How much do you know about BDSM?" he asks, hands cupped tightly around the coffee he's been nursing, now long gone cold. Mike is taken aback by the question, but dredges up an answer nonetheless.
"It's a compound acronym, standing for Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism, though in practice not all of these elements need to be present for people to have a BDSM-type relationship. Most simply put, it’s a type of sexual and romantic relationship founded on a voluntary imbalance of power between—"
"No." Harvey cuts him off, fixing Mike with a hard look. "I didn't ask what you've read. I asked, what do you know."
Harvey nods and – deliberately, almost pointedly – drops his gaze, staring into the depths of his cheap ceramic mug.
"You're close," he admits, speaking low but not soft. "The relationship between a Dom and sub is expressed through power – the power to order, the power to touch, the power to restrain or hurt – but it's founded on trust. My sub has to trust me to respect the boundaries we set together, no matter how deep into a scene we are. I have to trust him to be always, completely, absolutely honest with me about where those boundaries are but, at the same time, to not abuse my obligation to put his safety first in everything we do.
"When I beat you—" he holds up a hand, forestalling Mike's protest. "Yes, beat – there was no scene, no negotiation between us – it was an assault in the traditional sense, but it was also a violation of that fundamental trust—"
"That's what's—" Mike starts out half shouting, but drops his voice at Harvey's reproachful head-tilt. "That's what's bothering you?" he hisses. "Not the bit where I got so turned on you caught me—" he flaps his hands, unable to get the words out "—in the men's room?"
"That's a normal reaction," Harvey says, fierce enough to startle Mike. "A lot of people would have liked it, it doesn't mean you're different, or strange, and it doesn't necessarily mean you want…that kind of relationship with anyone."
"Fine." Mike growls and stuffs the last bite of pie in his mouth, glaring right back at Harvey as he chews and swallows. "But what if I do? I'm twenty-five, not fifteen – I don't have first hand experience, but I've done a hell of a lot of reading. And," Mike swallows again, around a sudden lump in his throat, "I've…been wondering. For a while, now."
Harvey looks up.
"If you and I…if we could…" Mike trails off, silent for a long moment while Harvey just watches. Waits. Then—
"You tell me to stay," he says, "and I stay. You look at me, and I know whether you want me to shut up or say something, and what I should say. You steal my coffee and make me change my clothes and point out all the ways being a genius doesn't necessarily make me smart, and I let you because I just—
"I want you to say, 'Good boy,' to me and mean it for real."
Mike stares at Harvey, his color a little higher, his breath coming a little faster, and wills him to understand what Mike himself doesn't, entirely, yet. Harvey stares right back, that calculating look he gets when someone has said something very, very interesting – or very, very stupid.
"If we do this," he says finally, "we're going to have ground rules. A lot of them, at first. And rule one is that when you go home tonight, you read. You read everything. You learn exactly what 'doing this' means. And then you come back next week and you ask me every question you have, everything you're unsure or worried or frightened about. And you don't leave anything out because you think it's stupid, or that it'll make me turn you away, or whatever other excuse that big brain of yours cooks up, because if you do, forget the scene, I will feed your skinny ass to Jessica. Understand?"
Mike starts to smile. Then he falters. Drops his gaze.
"Can – can I ask you something now?"
"Of course." For the first time in their conversation, Harvey actually looks nervous. "Anything."
"…can I have another piece of pie?"
Harvey's jaw drops. His gaze flicks from Mike's blinding grin to his empty plate and back.
"But you've already had—"
"Yeah, but it's so good," Mike wheedles. "And I didn't get to have lunch today!"
Harvey rolls his eyes, and smiles, and orders the goddamn pie.
-- -- --
It's almost a month before Harvey finally decides they can have their first scene. Mike has been on edge, halfway to insomniac with excitement, since they chose the day: a Friday, late, after hours at Pearson Hardman because Harvey insisted they use a space familiar to Mike and Mike flat-out refused to have it in the dingy apartment he still hasn't moved out of. However, when Mike turns up at the door to Harvey's office – fifteen minutes after general closing, as instructed, and already aching with anticipation – Harvey barely looks up from his work.
"Take off your jacket and sit down," he says instead, waving at the sofa by his record collection. When Mike does, Harvey stands and wanders over, holding out a slim Pearson Hardman folder. "Look at this."
Mike takes the folder, trying to keep the disappointment off his face. He's expecting a short brief, maybe a contract Harvey wants him to review – but when he opens it, all that's inside is a large, black-and-white photograph.
Two men, in profile to the camera. The one on the left is seated, his face and torso in shadow; he's reclining on a stark, wrought iron chair, looking as though it's as comfortable as a leather wingback. There's a riding crop trailing from one hand, and a flat-brimmed cap hanging lazily from the chair's arm. One ankle is crossed over his knee, dark, close-cut pants leading down to wicked-looking boots with buckles and straps running from his calf to the arch of his foot.
The other man is naked, kneeling and bent over, his forehead resting on the toe of his master's boot. His pale skin shines in the photo's soft illumination: the long, bowed line of his back, the taught stretch of his arms behind him. His wrists are crossed and held tightly together, but unbound; all he's wearing is a thin black collar, almost lost amongst the stark shadows at the foot of the chair.
Mike's hands start to shake, just a little. He glances up, toward Harvey.
"Did I tell you to stop?" Harvey scrawls a note in the margin of his paper and reaches for the next, never breaking stride. "Look at the photograph, boy."
Mike looks. And looks, and can't look away. His eyes are glued to the kneeling man – to the half-smile on his lips, the expression of utter peace and contentment, like he knows he'll never again be alone with his fears. Mike is so bound up in his contemplation that when Harvey finally calls his name, his starts violently and nearly drops it.
"Too busy with your thinking to play?" he asks, his expression cool, but his voice full of warm amusement. Mike starts to speak; then he stops, shakes his head instead. Harvey nods.
"Come here." His arm drops lazily off the desk, fingers crooked in Mike's direction. And Mike – amazingly, perfectly, like always – knows exactly what Harvey wants him to do. He toes off his shoes and socks and slips down from the sofa, onto his hands and knees, crawling toward Harvey with his eyes on that beckoning hand. When he gets there, Harvey rewards him with a light brush of his knuckles over the crown of Mike's head. Then he rolls his chair back a little and draws Mike under his desk, so that Mike is kneeling in the hollow well with his head between Harvey's knees. His fingers slip into the knot of Mike's tie; he tugs it loose, draws it up over Mike's head, and dumps it on the desk.
"Unbutton your shirt and take your cock out of your pants." Harvey's voice is as casual as if he were telling Mike to get him a coffee (more so, actually; in the past few months, Mike has learned just how seriously Harvey takes his coffee). Mike tries to look away and finds he's trapped by Harvey's gaze. His skin warms and flushes under the weight of Harvey's regard, watching him expose himself button by button. When he's done, Harvey smiles, looking pleased, and nudges at him, coaxing him to lean against Harvey's calf with his head resting on Harvey's knee.
Harvey's hand strokes over Mike's head, from his rough-cut bangs to the back of his neck under his loosened collar. Mike shivers, leaning into the touch. After a few minutes, his eyes slip shut; after a few more, he's drifting, his senses filled to overflowing. On his skin, the warmth of Harvey's hand, seducing him deeper and deeper into this strange blend of unaware/hyperaware. In his ears, the scratch of Harvey's pen, the rustle of paper, and the slowly synchronizing rhythm of their breathing. In his mouth and nose, the strengthening scent of Harvey's arousal and his own welling-up precome, thick and musky and unashamed.
Mike's awareness of time fades into the background. He has no idea – and no interest in – how long he's been kneeling there, wrapped up in his own head, in Harvey, in this new us that is him and Harvey. All Mike knows is, he wants to stay.
Suddenly, there's a new sound: the shriek of police sirens outside the office window, loud and close by, wailing disaster into the still city night. Mike snaps back into awareness all at once. His legs are cramped and sore; his knees and back ache from the unfamiliar posture; the pins and needles in his feet have turned to sharpened spikes; and his cock—
His cock is the worst of all, throbbing with a painful, agonizing arousal like he's never felt before; untouched, hypersensitive, it feels as though every eddy of air is a caress, every dust mote that brushes over him a vicious tease. He chokes out a helpless moan into the fabric of Harvey's pants, making Harvey look down sharply.
Suddenly, Harvey is sliding back, away from him. Mike whimpers, tries to shuffle forward on his knees and falls, but before he hits the floor Harvey's hands are there, Harvey's arms wrapping around his shoulders and drawing him gently into Harvey's lap.
"Shhh," he whispers, cradling Mike's head against his chest. He wraps one large, warm hand around Mike's cock and starts to stroke him, the sudden rush of stimulation after being so long untouched almost too much to bear. It's still not enough, though, and Mike bucks wildly, trying to fuck upwards into Harvey's fist. The movement redoubles the ache in his hips, though, and he freezes with a cry, torn between the burn in his muscles and the fever of his desire. Harvey notices and strokes him faster, hand flying over Mike's twitching cock as he whispers soothing and encouragement into Mike's ear.
A moment later, Mike comes. It's almost more relief than pleasure, leaving him trembling in its aftermath. Harvey just holds him until he comes down from it, not moving to touch; somehow, he seems to know that right now it would topple Mike straight over the edge.
"Are you okay?" he asks at last. Mike looks up at him, eyes red but dry. He smiles.
"Yeah," he says roughly, feeling the words rasp against the hoarseness of his throat. Harvey reaches around him and comes up with a bottle of water, already opened and with a straw. Mike sips gratefully and rubs his cheek against the soft wool of Harvey's jacket.
"You did so well," Harvey rumbles, wrapping his arm a little tighter around Mike. "I'm so proud of you, Mike."
"Awesome," Mike mumbles happily.
-- -- --
After that, it's amazing. Harvey teaches Mike things about himself he'd bet the kid never even thought of – and not all of them sexual. It's amazing, for instance, how much Mike loves to be finger-fed; now, he bullies him into doing it at least once a week, much to Harvey's chagrin as the former God of the Hot-Dog-Cart Working-Lunch. He loves giving back rubs, too, when Harvey is freshly showered and splayed out on his bed, his ungelled hair a loose, damp tangle curling around his ears and falling into his eyes. Of course, Harvey loves it, too; feeling the tension drain out of him under Mike's hands, feeling his muscles come loose and pliant and soft in a way he'd half forgotten was possible…it's downright addictive, and Harvey's not ashamed to admit it.
He's definitely requisitioning one of those back rubs tonight, Harvey decides, rubbing his temple as he flips through the new files for the Rothburgh case. Divorce. Good Christ. He thought he'd left this stuff behind when Jessica became Managing Partner and started steering Pearson Hardman firmly along the course of corporate consultation. But Maximilian Rothburgh's hedge fund is one of their best, fastest-growing accounts, and when Rothburgh – unlike, say, John Dockery – decided to completely disregard Harvey's advice and take his secretary to bed, of course he came running straight to Jessica.
Or at least, so Harvey had thought.
"You didn't sleep with her," he says flatly, crossing his arms and leaning back against his desk. He fixes Rothburg with a skeptical look. "Really? That's what you came down here to tell me?"
"I didn't," Rothburgh protests. He's tall, almost imposing – but his muscle is starting to run to fat, and his bulbous, reddened nose is a testament to just how he's been coping with the stress of his position.
"Then why did you tell me from the outset that you did? And why have I wasted three weeks of my time on damage control, instead of trying to impeach your wife's evidence?" Harvey demands. There's nothing he hates more than wasted time. Rothburgh's whole face flushes with fury.
"That's none of your concern!" he snarls, stepping forward, trying to invade Harvey's space. "I'm telling you now, this is how it is – so you just get your ass back behind that desk, mister, and make me win!"
"We should never have taken this case," Harvey growls, and starts to step around him.
Rothburgh shoves him back.
"You're not thinking of going to Jessica, are you?" he says, and now he's smiling in a way that makes the short hairs on the back of Harvey's neck stand on end. "There's a reason she took my case, Harvey. Your boss owes me, and I'm not about to let her back out—"
Harvey doesn't hit him. He very carefully, very deliberately does not hit him, because an assault charge could get him disbarred and also because it would make Jessica unhappy. Instead he pushes off from the desk and looms over Rothburgh. The guy's got a few inches on him, it's true – but that hardly matters, when Harvey is already deep into that headspace he gets, the one where it's inconceivable that the world would go any way but the way he wants, and doubly so that anyone would try to thwart him. Triply so, that that someone could be this idiot in front of him, not even worth the time it would take to teach him his place.
"Sit. Down." Harvey growls.
Rothburgh's knees buckle – and so do Mike's, right there in the doorway where he's just arrived, casually barging into Harvey's office as usual.
Harvey darts forward, catching him under the arms and hauling him upright while Rothburgh is still staggering over to the sofa. Mike's eyes are a little glazed, but they clear as he shakes his head and looks up at Harvey, his color high.
"That. That was—" he starts, halfway to grinning. Harvey grimaces.
"You," he says, glaring at Rothburgh. "Stay there." Rothburgh squeaks and nods, so Harvey hauls Mike back out of his office, jerking his head at Donna so she knows to make sure Rothburgh does, in fact, stay. She frowns, but nods her acknowledgement.
Halfway down the hall, however, Harvey realizes he has no idea where he's going. Rothburgh is in his office, Mike only has a cubicle, he can't exactly drag the kid into a storage closet…there's only one thing for it. Harvey sighs, and dials the number.
"Ray? It's Harvey. I need a pick up."
-- -- --
"Hey. Hey, why are we at my place?" Mike sounds genuinely confused.
"The fact that you're just asking me now? Already worries me." Harvey rummages in the fridge and pours Mike a glass of juice, starts to order him to drink up. Then he catches himself, winces, and puts it down on the counter instead. "Have some juice. If you want."
"Uh…yeah, okay." Mike gives him a strange look, but drinks the juice. "Come on, Harvey what's wrong? I thought you were dragging me back to yours; you know I love the Growly Voice of Doom." He grins, that cheeky, cocky grin that got him this job in the first place – the one that used to make Harvey's heart skip a beat, and now makes his pants get a little tighter, too.
The one he might never see again, after this.
"Harvey? Dude, just spit it out." Of course, of course Mike cuts right to the chase, the one time Harvey doesn't want him to. He sucks in a deep breath through his nose, and forces himself to meet Mike's gaze.
"I can't be your Dom anymore."
He watches as that takes a few seconds to sink in. Then—
"Oh. I – okay." Mike looks away, his mouth twisted just a little with disappointment. Harvey frowns.
This was not the reaction he was expecting. He shouldn't prod, he knows; should just take the win and walk away, instead of negotiating himself out of a deal, but he can't help it.
"I had a feeling when we started – doing this," he says. "That it was different from how you usually were. That I wasn't exactly your usual type." Harvey resists the urge to snort; Mike has no idea how true that is. "I figured it was only a matter of time before you didn’t want me anymore."
"Not want you?!" Harvey can't help the outburst, which is just a sign of how poor his control has become, recently. How important it is to break this off now, before he does something unforgivable. Bad enough, that he started to slip into his headspace at work; worse, that Mike reacted. Harvey's just grateful that he hasn't slid far enough down that slippery slope to actually treat Mike like his sub outside a scene – yet. "Kid, no, it’s not that, it'd never be that—"
Mike looks up sharply. To Harvey's astonishment, he's practically glowing.
"You still—" he starts, then stutters and tries again. "Then can we still—even if we don't—" He's speaking in fits and starts, so pathetically hopeful that Harvey can't bear to leave him hanging. Even if he's not entirely sure what he's about to agree to (and oh, wouldn't Jessica laugh her pretty little Christian Loboutin heels off to hear that).
"Yeah." He gives Mike a crooked smile, and hopes it's not too bittersweet. "Sure we can."
Mike launches himself at Harvey, arms curving under Harvey's and around his back, face buried in Harvey's neck. He inhales deeply, like it's the last breath he'll ever take, and whispers, "I'll be good. I'll be so good. I promise."
Harvey just holds him – but not too tight – and doesn't wrap his palm around the back of Mike's neck, and doesn't drag him into a kiss that'll leave goddamn bruises on his lips. Instead, he lets himself whisper, this one last time,
"You already are, boy."
-- -- --
It works. For a while, and for a given value of "working," anyway. Harvey still sees Mike at the office, and on weekends. Sometimes they even stay late and order dinner, when no one else has a big case on, curled up on Harvey's sofa with Mannish Boy on the record player and stealing kisses in between bites of sashimi and shumai. They still have sex, though Harvey is careful almost to the point of paranoia to make sure Mike is always, absolutely the one in control.
Harvey still loves Mike a little more, every day. Still wonders, more than ever, if it will actually kill him when they break up – because he's given Mike just a taste of what he could have, what part of him craves. What Harvey is now denying him, completely.
It's a late, lazy Saturday morning, when everything falls apart. They're both at Harvey's apartment, after a long night out with Jessica celebrating Mike's first real closing. Watell Lipton Klein and Pearson Hardman had been scrapping over Emmaline Figueroa for months; getting one over on them was extremely satisfying, as well as a damn big feather in Mike's cap. Harvey hadn't wanted to send Mike home alone, afterwards. And, to be fair, Mike would probably have flat-out refused to go.
Harvey wakes first, on his back with Mike sprawled over his chest like a bony-elbowed octopus, Mike's bangs tickling his nose until he has to sit up and sneeze. Mike snuffles as he's dislodged and slides down so that his head is cradled in Harvey's lap. His eyes blink blearily halfway open, and he smiles, nosing forward until he can press open-mouthed kisses against the base of Harvey's cock. When he starts to get hard – and, Christ, how could he not? – Harvey risks slipping a hand into Mike's hair, not directing but just encouraging him as he mouths his way along the shaft until he can wrap his lips around the darkening head.
Harvey's head tips back against the headboard, a low moan slipping out as Mike sucks and sucks at him. His mouth is still sleep-slack, loose with the hour and the softness of Harvey's bed, so the blowjob he gives is messy, sloppy: spit and precome slipping out the side of his mouth as he tucks the head of Harvey's cock up against the soft skin inside his cheek, making his lips and chin glisten wetly.
It's filthy, and delicious, and Harvey can't resist tightening his grip on Mike's hair – not when it makes Mike moan like Harvey's cock is the best thing he's ever tasted and shift his hips, rutting his own cock against Harvey's calf. So Harvey tugs a little harder, chasing after that burn of pleasure; rolls his hips, pushing his shaft down Mike's throat, and nearly chokes on the rush of desire that floods him when Mike just whimpers and takes it. His hand is a fist now, viciously clenched, holding Mike in place as Harvey fucks his mouth—
As Harvey fucks his boy, his sweet, good boy—
And with a groan, Harvey comes, grinding his hips upward and flooding Mike's throat and mouth with it, letting the aftershocks shudder through him as Mike continues to suck at the twitching, almost hypersensitive shaft.
"Swallow it," he growls, and feels a shiver of lust run up his spine as Mike obeys, throat working and eyes fixed on Harvey's face under heavy, sated lids. Dimly, Harvey is aware of a spurt of wet warmth along his lower leg; then Mike lets out a contented moan and slides up, his own softening, come-slick cock dragging over Harvey's hip, to nip a handful of kisses along Harvey's lower jaw.
"Why the fuck did we ever stop doing that?" His voice is soft, plaintive. Pleading. Harvey shakes his head, disappointed to be pulled back into reality so soon.
"I can't have you acting like my sub at the office," he says, scrubbing his fingertips affectionately over Mike's scalp. "You know that."
To his surprise, Mike shifts and sits up, frowning. Harvey recognizes that frown – it's the one Mike gets when he's four hundred fifty pages into a six hundred page brief, the one that says, I have just noticed something that no one else on this planet would, and it's going to fuck up someone's business but good.
"I do that anyway," he says. "I've always done that. You gave me the Look when I was talking to Emmaline's lawyer yesterday!"
"I needed you to be quiet!" Harvey shoots back, then registers what he just said and falters. "And that was…different."
"How?" Mike is fully upright now, arms crossed and combative. "No, really, explain to me—"
"I'm going to take a shower," Harvey growls, swinging his legs out of bed. "Just wait here for a minute, all right?"
Not surprisingly, Mike isn't waiting when he gets back.
-- -- --
Harvey, Mike decides, is the most oblivious idiot ever to be called "brilliant" by three different magazines and a national newspaper. And Mike is going to show him exactly what it looks like to have an associate who's insubordinate. Oh, he's not going to risk his job (he's not completely stupid), but he's going to do everything in his power to suppress that actually-rather-large part of himself that's constantly begging for Harvey to
spank him in the copy room again approve of him.
It starts with the little things. The next time Harvey tries to steal his coffee, Mike makes himself hang on tight, instead of just relinquishing. Harvey just shrugs and makes Mike wait while he buys his own. The next time Harvey won't let him check his bike lock, Mike checks it anyway – and not just a little flick, a proper look to see if anyone's been tampering with it. Harvey walks off without him – and Mike doesn't scramble to catch up. Harvey tells him to finish this before you go home – and Mike takes off at the first opportunity (though he does come in early, so he can still get it onto Harvey's desk in time).
Harvey throws him these little looks, makes these little gestures, brushes these little touches against his wrist, or his shoulder, or the small of his back – and Mike makes himself ignore all but the most obvious, waiting for Harvey to tell him outright what he wants. It's hard, makes him feel miserable and drained and listless, but Mike tells him himself that he only has to keep it up a little while longer. That Harvey is bound to catch on.
-- -- --
"Something's going on with Ross."
Harvey looks up from his computer and frowns.
"I'm sorry, why are you in my office?" he asks. Louis just rolls his eyes.
"Can't even be bothered to pay attention to your colleagues, now?" he asks. "Not that anyone's surprised."
"What do you want, Louis?"
"I told you, I want to know what's wrong with Mike Ross." He slaps a thick folder down on Harvey's desk. "Do you know what that is?"
Harvey takes a cursory glance.
"Those are my Gibbs briefs. All eight hundred eighty-seven pages. Ross proofed them."
"Ross proofed them before he finished working on the Winthrope-Giles merger. Harvey, last time I wanted him to do something he practically begged me to let him finish his work for you, first. What's the deal?"
"Nothing." Harvey can't help cutting his eyes away, but he tells himself it's just because he doesn't want to look at Louis's stupid face any more. Louis shakes his head.
"That kid is starving for a mentor, twice as badly as any of the Harvard associates – and he's stuck with the most self-centered peacock in New York. Poor bastard."
Harvey looks up sharply.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Oh, I'm sorry was that supposed to be a secret?" Louis straightens, crosses his arms. "Come on. I don't know what third-tier school you fished him out of, but it's painfully obvious that Mike Ross didn't go to Harvard."
"Then why don't you go talk to Jessica?" Harvey wets his lips, and tries not to panic, but Louis is frowning at him like the answer should be obvious.
"Because he's good. I just need to get him away from you." He pauses, then adds, "Aaaand now I figure you owe me one. For real."
He looks insufferably smug – and Harvey has no choice but to swallow his pride and nod.
"You're a real bastard, you know that?"
"I learned from the best."
Louis gives him that wicked little smile, murine and self-satisfied. As he wanders out of Harvey's office, he calls back over his shoulder,
"Keep up the good work; I'm sure he'll be ready for me any day now. Try not to be too jealous when he is."
When he's gone, Harvey puts his head in his hands and just tries not to break something.
-- -- --
The final straw, however, comes when Mike is over at his place that Friday night, nibbling at the last onion bhaji and chattering happily about some case he unraveled during the week. It takes Harvey a moment to register that the case not only isn't one of his, it's one of Louis's.
Harvey, quite literally, sees red. He'll never doubt a temperamental client again. The next thing he knows, he's dragged Mike down the hall and got him flat on his back on the bed, pinned down with Harvey's hand around his wrists and his other hand fisted in his tie, Harvey's knee resting threateningly between his legs.
"You do not answer to him," he hisses, over Mike's choked-off whimper. "You answer to me. You do what I say, when I say it, because you. Are. Mine." The last word is a snarl, harsh against the shell of Mike's ear.
"Please," Mike pants. His eyes are shut tight, his chest arched up as he pulls against Harvey's grip. "Please, please, please—"
Harvey yanks his hands away like he's been bitten. He starts to scramble off Mike, let him up – but Mike's hand shoots out and now it's him who's holding onto Harvey, him with his hand wrapped in Harvey's tie, keeping him in place.
"Don't stop," he says. He doesn't need to beg; Harvey's already wrecked, and he knows it. But somehow, Harvey finds him in it to whisper,
"I'm sorry. I have to."
"No, you don't!" Mike clutches at him, nails digging painfully into Harvey's wrist. "Harvey, I want you to tr—I need you. To trust me. To trust that I know what I want, and I know what you want from me, and that I will always, always tell you if you're doing something that I don't want.
"We can't take much more of this."
Harvey is silent for a long, long time.
Then he reaches up, and gently pries Mike's hands off him. Mike makes a sobbing, hopeless sound – which turns into a moan as Harvey places them firmly by his sides and places one hand lightly over Mike's throat.
"What's your safe word?" he rasps, just like he used to, every time.
"Red Sox, sir."
Harvey shudders and, for the first time in what feels like forever, stops fighting the sweet, possessive ache that wells up in him every time he so much as thinks about Mike.
"Red Sox," he repeats, and leans down to sink his teeth into Mike's earlobe. "Don't forget it, boy."
-- -- --
Harvey is flying.
His vanilla spell with Mike was the longest he's gone without scening since the first time he solo'd as a Dom. Add in the fact that his scenes with Mike are quite possibly the most intense he's ever felt and, well—
He may have lost it, just a little.
Not that Mike seems to object. At the moment he's stripped naked and on his knees in front of the headboard, gripping the black wood like his life depends on it. And in a way, it does – Harvey's first rule had been that the scene ended the moment he let go of it without an explicit order from Harvey. So far, Harvey's let him do so twice. Once, to stroke himself to the brink of orgasm, running feather-light fingers over his shaft in a desperate effort not to come, while he waited for Harvey to give him permission to stop. Once, to hold his stretched, slippery hole open for Harvey's consideration, while Harvey loosened his tie and decided how many beads he deserved in him tonight.
He'd decided on four, since it's been a while and also because he's a little stunned Mike's managed to hold back for so long without a cock ring. It would be a shame to ruin it now. That leaves two to dangle out of Mike, red and translucent and obscene. Harvey checks Mike's blindfold again – that damn skinny tie, thoroughly smeared with Harvey's precome and wound twice over Mike's eyes, the knotted ends trailing over his shoulder – and bends over, licking wetly down the small of Mike's back and into the musky crevice between his cheeks. Mike makes a startled noise and tries to jerk away, but Harvey holds him firmly in place, pulling his cheeks further apart so he can trace his tongue around the soft rim of Mike's hole.
"Give them back," he orders, tugging lightly on the remaining two beads.
"W-wha—?" Mike is too strung out to ask properly, but his bewilderment is plain. Harvey chuckles.
"You heard me." Harvey tugs again, and is pleased when shivery realization ripples down Mike's spine. He presses forward again, just in time to feel Mike's hole start to stretch under his tongue, as the first wide bead starts to slip out. Before it reaches the halfway point, however, Mike loses it under the onslaught of Harvey's teasing licks and clenches, pulling it back inside. Harvey grunts, displeased, and reaches around to give Mike's cock a stinging smack.
This time, Mike manages to get the first bead out, and – with a little more open-palmed "encouragement" – the second, as well. By the time he makes it to the third, he's shaking hard, red-faced and gasping as he forces his hole to open wide around the large, silicone sphere. Harvey rewards him with a bit of penetration for that, pushing his tongue into Mike's hole and letting Mike work himself on it, shoving frantically backwards as he tries to fuck himself on only that slim, flexible muscle.
When Harvey decides it's time for the last bead, however, Mike apparently can't hold back his sob – and when Harvey looks closer, there's the track of a tear winding it's way down Mike's cheek, almost lost against the sheen of sweat.
"Please, sir," Mike moans. "Please help me."
Harvey sits back on his heels and considers it, toying with his cufflinks. They're silver; he really should take them off if he doesn't want them to tarnish. So he does, leaning over to place them carefully on the nightstand and rolling his sleeves up to his elbows. With that done, and with his cock jutting obscenely out of his pants, below his still-buttoned waistcoat, he knows he looks the very picture of wealthy decadence. He can't wait to see what effect it has on Mike.
Mike, who is still waiting patiently, trembling as he awaits Harvey's verdict.
"What will you give me in exchange?" Harvey asks at last, hooking his chin over Mike's shoulder and letting Mike feel the rough scratch of starched, pressed fabric against his bare skin.
"Mmm, damn right you will. And why is that?"
"Because I belong to you, sir."
Harvey can't be too upset, not when Mike has caught on so quickly. Just like he always does.
"The blindfold," he decides, lifting Mike's fingers – they must be cramping, by now – off the headboard and turning him around to sit against it, propped up with his feet planted flat on the bed. Mike fumbles at it obediently, though he has no chance of unpicking the knot; eventually he just yanks it up and off by the long ends, tearing the fabric in the process. Harvey smiles.
That's one of the abominable things done for, at least.
While Mike is still blinking blearily, trying to get his bearings, Harvey takes the tie from him and tosses it over the edge of the bed. Then he crawls forward, wraps one hand around Mike's thigh and the other around the string of beads, and pulls.
Mike, as expected, screams. His hips jerk upward, trying to follow the motion, but he can only go so far with Harvey holding him in place. The last bead pops out of him with a wet, sucking sound and Mike collapses, gasping in great, heaving lungfuls of air.
"Thank you," he manages in between, clutching at Harvey's wrist and making a warm thrill bubble up in his chest. Harvey sits up and pulls Mike into his lap, lets Mike tuck his head into the curve of Harvey's shoulder.
"You're doing so well," Harvey murmurs, thumbing the head of Mike's cock and lifting the resulting smear of precome to Mike's lips. "Such a well-behaved boy. Would you like me to fuck you, now? Would that make you come?" The slow, bone-deep shudder that runs through Mike is utterly delicious – and all the answer Harvey needs.
"Come on, then." He starts to lift Mike up, getting his hole into position over Harvey's cock, when Mike's hand suddenly clenches in the collar of Harvey's shirt.
"Off," he begs, and it doesn't matter that that's all the coherency he can muster because he's staring at Harvey with those sweet, desperate eyes, the same as the very first time they scened together.
"Do you really think you've earned that, boy?" he chides. Mike wilts.
Oh, the hell with it. What's the point of being a Dom if you can't do exactly as you please with your sub?
"I'll make you a deal," he says. "The suit stays on, and I fuck you until you come – or it comes off, and you ride me until I come. Your choice. Understand?"
Mike doesn’t even hesitate.
Harvey nods and nudges Mike off his lap, sliding off the bed to strip out of his vest, and tie, and shirt, and undershirt, and belt, and pants, and boxers – every layer that he'd left between himself and Mike, every square inch of fabric into which he'd bound his self-control.
Yeah, because he's always done such a great job controlling himself, when Mike is around.
Mike watches him the entire time, cock jutting up red and brazen between his legs. He starts to turn over when Harvey crawls back onto the bed, but Harvey stops him and pulls him back onto his lap, leaning back against the headboard.
"I said 'ride me,' " he reminds Mike, and loves the way comprehension dawns with a sudden flush that spreads down Mike's neck and over his pale, bitten collarbones.
"Yes, sir," Mike breathes, halfway to reverence. He hikes up on his knees, dropping his eyes and glancing at Harvey for confirmation before reaching back and taking Harvey's cock in hand. A shift, and a shuddering sigh, and Harvey is inside him, Mike biting his lip as he works to make his stretched-out hole clench tight around him. Harvey lays an encouraging hand on his hip and grips the headboard with the other, using it as leverage to make that first, fractional thrust in and out of Mike's body.
He's dead on; Mike moans, his cock twitching hard, and Harvey smiles.
"Just like that," he says, and Mike just lays his hands on Harvey's shoulders and does it, fucking himself down on Harvey's cock and hitting his prostate with almost every stroke. It takes a clear toll on him, as Harvey groans and squeezes his hip tighter, urging Mike to move faster, thrust harder.
After a few minutes, Mike's thighs start to shake, and he topples forward, slumped against Harvey's chest as his hips drive helplessly, wildly, stuffing his body full of Harvey's cock over and over. Harvey takes pity on him and reaches down, squeezing his fingers tightly around the base of Mike's cock.
"Are you close?"
Mike can only whine, soft and high and incoherent.
"Sorry, what was that?"
"Close," Mike manages, after his mouth works silently for a few moments. "I—I'm…I'm go—"
"All right," Harvey soothes, one hand rubbing circles over Mike's back, the other roughly stroking his leaking cock. "Shhhh, that's it…go ahead…go ahead, boy…my sweet, good boy…"
"Harvey," Mike sobs, and comes all over himself.
He still moves over Harvey's cock however; jerkily, erratically, shaking with every shallow, boneless thrust, because Harvey told him, ride me until I come – and that's all it takes to tip Harvey over the edge after him, spilling himself endlessly into Mike's trembling body.
Harvey's not exactly on top of things, after that. He's dimly aware of Mike slipping off him, pressing a kiss to each of his eyelids. He hears the hiss of running water; the swipe of tissues and the flush of the toilet; and then there's a warm, damp washcloth pressed against him, gently cleaning off the mess of come and lube smeared over his cock and thighs. When he blinks his eyes open again, Mike is climbing back into bed with him and pulling Harvey down onto their nest of pillows, curling himself up contentedly in Harvey's arms and giving him an affectionate nuzzle.
"Y'know," he rumbles, when he's got some semblance of coherency back, "usually aftercare works the other way around." Mike snorts; Harvey doesn't need to see him roll his eyes to know he's doing it right now.
"Yeah, because being blindfolded, stretched, and thoroughly fucked is totally the most taxing emotional ordeal that someone in this bed has gone through tonight."
"Shut up," Harvey grouses.
And Mike laughs, and reaches over to turn off the light – and happily shuts up.
-- -- --
It's only a month before Harvey starts to let himself think about collaring Mike; it's finding a jeweler who can make it, and then waiting, interminably, for him to actually do it that nearly has Harvey clawing the walls with impatience. In the end, it's a year and a little more after the day Mike first dumped open a briefcase of pot at Harvey's feet when Harvey is finally able to turn to Mike in the morning, after he's finished dressing for work, and say,
"Hey. You forget something?"
Mike frowns and glances down at himself; even after all this time, he does still occasionally forget his belt, or tie his tie oddly, or any one of a hundred forty-six other things that could make him stumble, just a fraction, in their cutthroat little world.
"No, I didn't."
"Yeah, you did." Harvey walks over and taps Mike under the chin. "Lift up."
Mike obediently tilts his head back. Harvey holds the unscrewed the end of the collar bar in one hand, slipping the slim, platinum column through the first custom-made eyelet in Mike's shirt collar, guiding it under his tie and back out the other side. Then he screws it in place, glad he's close enough to hear Mike's breath catch when he feels his shirt collar pull tight across his adam's apple, feels the weight of the collar bar pull down and settle against the hollow of his throat. He looks up at Harvey with a little, confused frown forming between his eyebrows, so Harvey takes him by the shoulders and turns him to face the mirror.
"You can't wear a collar at the office," he explains, then smiles a slight, affectionate smile. "Except when you can."
Mike ignores the joke. His hand comes up, fingers brushing lightly – reverently – over the collar bar. He meets Harvey's gaze in the mirror.
"I love it," he says, so softly it's almost a whisper.
Harvey wraps his arms around Mike's waist and leans in, eyelashes flickering butterfly's kisses against Mike's temple.
"Yeah," he says. "Me, too."