Mike's seen pretty much everything, delivering pizza, crackhouses to penthouses. He once delivered a large sausage, bell pepper, extra cheese and garlic to the middle of a domestic dispute. He's delivered to park benches, cars, and hotel rooms. He has been hit on by innumerable people, threatened, tipped in cocaine, and invited in to parties he had no interest in attending.
He's lucky, though. Very few places would hire a pizza guy who delivers by bike. On the other hand, bikes can go where cars can't, and at rush hour Mike is in high demand in the ten square miles where Rollo's Pizza And Ribs delivers.
It wasn't rush hour the first time he delivered to H. Specter; in fact it was midnight, and the streets were eerily empty as he locked his bike and carried his pizza bag into the lobby of the high-rise. The doorman waved him up, and Mike knocked politely on the door at the end of the hall.
There was a thump, and a rustling noise; still, the guy who opened the door seemed normal enough. Hot, in a kind of Mad Men way, but normal.
"Great, thank you," H. Specter said, accepting the medium pepperoni and half-plate of ribs (Mike never forgot an order, which was actually kind of annoying). He was totally going to tell the guy to have a good night and leave, when they both heard a female voice call out, "Baby?"
Beyond H. Specter, an incredibly hot naked woman walked into the room.
Mike, who was accustomed to this kind of thing, kept his eyes on H. Specter. Lucky bastard. H. Specter, however, seemed torn between annoyance and embarrassment.
"You didn't see this," he said, and tipped Mike a fifty.
"See what?" Mike replied, and H. Specter closed the door.
He later learned, crowing over his tip with the rest of Rollo's staff, that H. Specter was new but seemed like he was becoming a regular, usually late at night, usually Shawna's delivery, and while he didn't usually tip fifties he did tip pretty well.
The second time he delivered to H. Specter it was a little earlier, and there was no repeat of the naked lady. In fact, the guy looked harassed, and he had a file folder in one hand.
"You should try the cheese in the crust," Mike said, as H. Specter fumbled for cash. "It'll blow your mind."
"I'm a traditionalist, and also not a child. Tell Rollo he's saving my life," H. Specter said, accepting his small onion and mushroom, side of fries.
"I'm sure she'll appreciate that," Mike replied.
"Rollo's a woman?" H. Specter asked, looking startled. "Is she single?"
"Every woman is a mystery to be solved," Mike intoned.
He got an even more startled look. "Don Juan Demarco? That's what you're giving me here?"
"Well, Top Gun is a little short on quotes about single women," Mike said. "Thanks for the tip, man. Enjoy."
Rollo -- the original Rollo's daughter, known around the kitchen as Junior -- told Mike that for a guy who lived on the fiftieth floor and tipped like H. Specter, she would be willing to pretend to be single. Her girlfriend wasn't amused.
The next time H. Specter ordered, he asked for Mike specifically.
"It's always hotter when you deliver it," he explained, at one in the morning, shirtless and damp, clearly fresh from the shower and apparently oblivious to Mike blatantly checking out his pecs.
"I bike," Mike mumbled.
"Sorry, you what?"
"Bike delivery. You'd think it wouldn't be faster but I know all the shortcuts," Mike said. "You're uh. Dripping on the pizza box." (Onion and Mushroom again.)
"Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia," H. Specter said.
"HG Wells. Still not Top Gun, not actually even a movie, but not bad," Mike replied.
He got a thirty dollar tip for getting HG Wells, which Mike thought was only appropriate.
The fourth time didn't actually happen. Mr. Specter, Mike was informed, had asked for him on his day off, and been annoyed when Mike wasn't available, and cancelled his order for fries because by the time they got there they'd be soggy.
The fifth time, he didn't ask for him specifically, but Mike had just come on shift, so he took the order (large veggie special). He knocked; no answer. He waited, then knocked again.
"Mr. Specter!" he called. "It's Mike, from Rollo's. Your pizza's gonna be cold!"
The door was opened by a very tall, incredibly attractive African-American woman.
"Not Mr. Specter," Mike observed.
"Not by any stretch," she replied. "Harvey's asleep. I'll take that."
"Sure, um, okay," Mike said, unbagging the pizza and passing it over. He stood there awkwardly while she carried it to an island in a really nice kitchen, then returned to count out cash payment. "He's uh. A lucky guy."
"Don't be a smartass," she said. "I'm not his date, I'm his boss."
"Yes ma'am," Mike agreed, hoping that little faux pas wouldn't affect his tip.
"Jessica!" a voice called from another room -- Mr. Specter's voice (Harvey's voice).
"I told you if you got out of bed you were fired!" Jessica called back. Mike wondered if this was something kinky.
"I'm sick, not incompetent," and Harvey came into view, looking like hell -- red eyes, bathrobe, sniffling. He brightened when he saw Mike. "Mike!"
"Hi, Mr. Specter," Mike called.
"Don't encourage him," Jessica ordered Mike.
"What'd you bring me?" Harvey inspected the pizza, then looked up at Jessica. "Veggie? Really?"
"It's better with cheesy crust!" Mike put in.
"Boss pays, boss picks the toppings. Underling she is very graciously bringing files to sits down and eats his pizza," Jessica said.
"I admire your courage, Miss Trench," Mike said.
Jessica's head whipped around.
"He does that," Harvey remarked.
"I admire your luck, Mr. Bond," she answered, and Mike's jaw dropped. Jessica closed the door.
She did tip him well, though. Not like Harvey, but pretty well all the same.
The next time, just in case, Mike lifted the lid of Harvey's sausage-and-pepperoni and scrawled In Sicily, women are more dangerous than shotguns on the inside lid. Junior caught him doing it.
"Stop flirting with the poor little rich boy and make like a porn film," she said. "Pizza Man Delivers. Large Sausage? Why yes sir."
"It's not like that," Mike said, blushing furiously.
The next time Harvey signed the credit receipt, he wrote Try the veal, it's the best in the city.
"You giant dork," Mike muttered to himself, as he got on his bike to head back to Rollo's.
After that, it just kind of became a thing. Mike would scrawl quotes on the inside of the pizza box, or come up with one for him on the spot, depending on the situation. Sometimes Harvey had a woman with him (never Jessica again, though) and sometimes he was alone; usually when he was alone he looked like he'd been burning the midnight oil.
One time he answered in his boxers, and Mike daringly gave him a low wolf-whistle.
"If you saw her, you wouldn't bother putting on pants either," Harvey told him.
"Love is the answer," Mike told him.
"But while you're waiting for the answer sex raises some pretty good questions, and do not ever quote Woody Allen to me while I'm half-naked again," Harvey ordered, and closed the door. But there was a smiley face and a big tip on the receipt next to his signature.
Mike had lost track of the number of times they'd done this (except he hadn't really; he remembered exactly how many times he'd delivered to Harvey, but that felt kind of creepy to admit) when Rollo yelled out "MIKE! PHONE!" one busy Friday night.
"This is Mike," he said, perplexed, hoping it wasn't Gram's nursing home.
"Mike, it's Harvey Specter," Harvey's voice came down the line. "I need a favor."
"I'll do what I can..." Mike said, even more confused.
"I need you to bump me to the top of the order list. I know it's insane because the game's on, but I have a client here for the game and he's betting me Rollo's isn't as good as Pie Pub."
Mike narrowed his eyes. Pie Pub was a rival, and their pizza was shitty.
"What does he get if he wins?" he asked.
"It's more that if I lose he's not going to sign with my firm," Harvey said.
"Are you sure you don't want cheesy crusts?"
"You better tip me big for this," Mike said, and hung up. He tore Harvey's order off the pad, glanced around, and snuck it in at the front of the line.
Two days later, an envelope arrived for Mike at Rollo's. He opened it and pulled out a letter on plain white (expensive plain white) paper, and a check for a thousand dollars.
Client signed. Rollo's honor is unblemished. Thanks. H.S.
"Mike! Your favorite's up!" one of the chefs called. "H. Specter, mushroom and onion."
"Thanks," Mike said faintly, and shoved the check in his pocket.
Harvey answered the door in a suit, which meant a working evening instead of a 'fun' one. He grinned at Mike, quipped a quote from The Exorcist, and signed.
"Mr. Specter," Mike said, as the door was closing, gathering his courage. Harvey paused.
"This check..." Mike took it out of his pocket. "I can't accept it. I mean, believe me, I'd love to, but...a thousand dollars?"
Harvey studied him for a minute, then jerked his head. "Come inside."
Mike warily followed him in as Harvey set the pizza down and turned to face him. "The guy you impressed -- we impressed -- is going to bring my law firm five million dollars a year in billables."
"You're a lawyer?" Mike asked.
"What, you think I got a place like this selling Avon?"
Mike looked around. "I'm studying law."
"Yeah? Classes all day, pizza all night?"
"No, I'm just going straight for the Bar," Mike answered absently.
"Good luck with that."
"Won't be hard. I'm very good at processing information. Photographic memory," Mike said.
"Come on, kid, really?"
"I can tell you every order you've placed with Rollo's and the date you ordered it," Mike told him. "I mean, as long as I delivered it."
Harvey sat down on a stool at his kitchen counter and gestured at him to continue. Mike opened his mouth and let the information pour out -- he got about ten orders back before Harvey cut him off with another gesture.
"And you never once got the cheese in the crust," Mike added. Harvey grinned.
"Impressive," he said. "So take the grand, put it towards your Bar exam fees. Buy yourself a new bike. You earned it. I got a commission on signing him; that's your share."
Mike looked down at the check, wavering. "A commission, huh?"
"Take the money, kid." Harvey grinned at him. "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good."
"The rest is conversation?"
"Something like that." Harvey answered. "Don't let me keep you from your appointed rounds, Mike. I have a date with Rollo's finest."
"Rollo's finest has cheese in the crust!" Mike called, as he left.
It was another week and a half before he saw Harvey again, which wasn't that unusual. Mike put the grand in the bank, paid off some bills, treated himself to new shoes, and thought a lot about Harvey Specter, attorney at law.
The order came in really, really late -- Mike was already about to punch out -- but Junior said it was Harvey, and it wasn't like Mike couldn't deliver on the way home. He took the bag, grabbed his stuff, and booked it for Harvey's place.
"Wow, Mike, you look like the night beat you up," Harvey said, answering the door.
"You don't look much better," Mike answered. Harvey had dark lines under his eyes, and his hair was kind of crazy. "Two in the morning's a little late for pizza. Even Rollo's."
"All-nighter," Harvey replied. "Normally I'd be above this crap by now, but my associate's a useless Harvard groupie and I can't trust him with this."
"My job beats yours, then," Mike said. "I'm off shift."
"Lucky you," Harvey sighed. Mike looked beyond him at the stacks and stacks of paper on his coffee table.
"What's the job?" he asked.
"Fact checking, if you can believe that bullshit," Harvey said. "And checking for discrepancies in two copies of the same document."
"You want some help?"
Harvey laughed. "I'd love some, but you're my pizza guy, Mike."
"I can -- "
"Yeah, I know, big brain, studying for the Bar, but this is sensitive client information. I can't even let you look at it."
"Harvey, I've seen you in your boxers."
"That's not enough to get me disbarred. This is."
"What if I signed a confidentiality agreement?" Mike asked.
Mike took a pen out of his pocket and opened the pizza box. On the inside lid, he wrote I the undersigned know nothing and saw nothing and if I did let me be struck by lightning and signed it with a flourish.
"A confidentiality agreement on a pizza box, invoking the weather," Harvey said. Mike offered him his pen. "Seriously?"
"You want my help or not?"
If it hadn't been two in the morning, it probably wouldn't have worked, but Harvey looked weary and desperate.
"Okay," he said, and signed under Mike's name. "If we finish by eight I'll pay you another commission."
The pizza was gone by four. They finished by seven-thirty.
Mike, yawning, sat back and sank into the gloriously soft couch while Harvey showered. He meant to get up and leave before Harvey came out, but he closed his eyes for just a minute...
When he opened them again, light was streaming through Harvey's enormous window-wall and it was past eleven in the morning. There was a note propped on the empty pizza box (Here's looking at you, kid) and another thousand dollar check, with a memo line saying Don't try to give this one back.
Mike, feeling warm and...oddly useful, pocketed the check and left, whistling cheerfully.
A few days later, they got a catering call: twenty large pizzas, assorted, to Pearson Hardman (Harvey's firm!) at eight pm. Shawna was taking the van, but she needed someone to help her carry, and Mike volunteered before anyone else could. When they walked into a very swanky law library carrying the boxes, they were swarmed by young men and women in severe suits, some still clutching file folders in their hands.
"Mike!" Harvey said, startled, as Mike's face appeared from behind the pizza boxes.
"Hiya," Mike said with a grin. "Really hungry, Harvey?"
"Big push on a case. Apparently we have to feed people, some kind of labor law," Harvey waved a hand. "I never ate when I was an associate, but kids these days."
"Oh sure, Mr. two-a.m.-mushroom-and-onion," Mike grinned.
There was a faint, high-pitched, mocking giggle from nearby; Harvey turned around, and Mike saw a man behind him -- short, balding, jowly.
"What is this, bring your boyfriend to work day?" the man asked. Mike stared at him.
"Why, Louis? Jealous he's prettier than yours?" Harvey answered.
"Pay the pizza boy and let's get back to actually doing our jobs," the man named Louis grumbled, walking away.
"Wow," Mike said.
Harvey snorted. "That's Louis. Sorry about his boyfriend crack."
"You called me pretty," Mike said with a grin.
"You haven't seen Louis's boyfriend."
"You totally think I'm pretty!"
"Don't start picking out china or anything," Harvey warned him. "Although..."
He glanced up at Louis, who was lecturing someone holding a pizza box, and pulled Mike out into the hallway. "When do you get off tonight?"
Mike eyed him.
"I need your brain," Harvey explained. "Forty bucks an hour, and a bonus if you find what we're looking for."
Forty bucks an hour was forty bucks an hour. Mike checked his watch.
"I think I can weasel out by midnight," he said.
"Okay. Here's my number, call me from the lobby when you get back. I'll come down and escort you up."
Which was how Mike found himself in Harvey Specter's office at one in the morning, reading through briefs. Harvey had led him to this quiet place with the huge windows and massive record collection, explaining that he couldn't put him in with the associates, and made him sign a real confidentiality form this time before he dropped a stack of files and one of the remaining pizzas in front of him.
"Thank you," Harvey said sincerely, and disappeared.
Mike plowed his way through the files, taking breaks every once in a while to admire the view or study Harvey's record collection. He'd seen racks of DVDs in Harvey's apartment, but no records; apparently he kept those at work.
"I didn't figure you for a music nut," he said, when Harvey came back to check on him. "I thought movies were your thing."
"I like the classics," Harvey replied. "Doesn't matter where you go for them."
"Nostalgia doesn't seem your speed, that's all."
"One moment we were players of baseball, voters, readers of books, makers of dinner, arguers. And a second later, and for every second since then, we were all just shoppers."
Mike's head snapped up. "Accidental Empires."
Harvey looked at him in surprise, then nodded. "Forgot. Freak brain."
"I prefer the term Unusually Gifted," Mike answered.
"Well, put your Unusually Gifted ass back on the couch and tell me if you found anything yet," Harvey said.
Mike didn't find the loophole that fixed the problem, but he did find the link to the loophole, which Harvey himself found. By the time they realized what they had, day was dawning; Harvey walked off to inform whoever it was that got told these things, and Mike considered falling asleep on his office couch, then stood up to prevent that happening, pacing around the office. He studied Harvey's autographed basketballs, flipped through his albums again, and picked up the signed baseball on Harvey's desk, tossing it up and down.
"Are you totally incapable of not pawing through my things?" Harvey asked from the doorway. Mike grinned at him.
"Probably better for your image than my falling asleep in your office," he pointed out, tossing the ball to Harvey, who caught it effortlessly.
"Your grasp of public relations is shocking," Harvey said, setting the ball down on its base. "You a baseball fan?"
"Yeah, I guess. As much as anyone in the city is."
Harvey nodded. "Options, then. I have dugout seats to the next Yankees-Sox game, or I can cut you a check for five hundred commission plus -- "
"Two eighty, but pretty soon I'm going to have to start declaring all this on my income tax," Mike said. "Ross Legal Consulting has a decent ring to it."
"You want the cash?" Harvey asked.
Mike wavered. Tickets to a Yankees-Red Sox game were well out of his price range, the kind of rare treat he might get once in this lifetime if he was lucky.
But Gram had medical bills, and pizza delivery plus tutoring in the afternoons barely kept him in Cheerios.
"Cash," he said finally. Harvey gave him a knowing look, but wrote the check and handed it to him.
"Now scram, before they find more work for me to make you do," he said. Mike laughed, saluted, and snuck out to the elevator, dodging Louis and a couple of associates on the way.
Two days later it all went momentarily to hell.
It started when a woman showed up at Rollo's, a woman way more well dressed than their usual clientele. Mike knew he'd seen her somewhere before and, after a brief flip through his mental rolodex, he realized he'd seen her in Harvey's apartment. Twice, in fact, which was rare but not unheard-of.
"Mike, if that's your girlfriend, j'approve," Junior said, coming through the door. "I seated her and she asked to speak to you by name."
"Maybe she's ordering him for dinner," one of the chefs called.
"She's a delivery client, kind of," Mike said absently, peering through the door. "H. Specter's friend."
"Friend," Junior repeated, laughing. "Sure. Unto the breach, fair lad," and she shoved him through the kitchen doors.
Mike put on his best Pizza Professional face and approached the table. "Ma'am?"
She smiled at him. "Harvey says your name is Mike."
"Please sit down."
Mike didn't really want to sit down, and he would have delivery calls soon enough, but he slid into the booth opposite her. She folded her hands and regarded him calmly.
"I know in the past some of Harvey's girlfriends have been...amused by your little arrangement," she said.
"Um...arrangement?" Mike asked.
"Some women find that kind of thing cute. And if I weren't serious about Harvey, maybe I would too."
"...you don't find movie quotes cute?" Mike asked, honestly lost.
"I think we both know what I'm talking about," she said. "You've had your fun with Harvey, but I'm not going to let some twink with a pizza box get in the way of what could be a very lucrative relationship for both myself and Harvey. This is a kindness, kid. Back off."
Mike had never heard himself referred to as a twink with a pizza box before. He thought, vaguely, that Junior was going to laugh her ass off at this.
"You don't want me delivering pizza to Harvey anymore," he said slowly.
"I don't want you delivering anything to Harvey anymore," she replied. "Or taking tips. Are we clear?"
"Really, really not," Mike said, "but I um, have to go -- "
"Fair warning. Keep it up and I won't be this polite," she said, and Mike bolted for the safety of the kitchen.
Thinking it over later, it seemed fairly obvious what she'd meant by all the talk about taking tips and making deliveries. He couldn't be fully sure, but apparently Harvey's dates thought Mike was his piece on the side. His slice on the side, Mike thought, and laughed to himself. Yeah, maybe he and Harvey did have this...not quite flirting thing going on, and he'd seen Harvey in pretty much everything from a three-piece suit to a birthday suit (not quite, but that one time with the briefs didn't leave much to the imagination).
Apparently Harvey's latest flame wasn't keen on the idea.
Mike thought about calling Harvey and telling him just what his girlfriend had said, but that seemed somehow like whining, and maybe he and Harvey were a little closer than a guy expected to be with his pizza deliveryman.
So he cooled it. Harvey had long since stopped asking for Mike by name, because they always sent Mike when he was on shift, but the next time H. Specter came through the order system, Mike let Shawna have it. The time after, he passed the order to Derek, who was new but had heard about Harvey's tips and was thrilled to get it. The third time, he was out on a delivery already anyway and someone else took it.
The fourth time, Harvey asked Junior if Mike was okay, before even giving his order. When she said she figured he was, since he was on shift, Harvey insisted on Mike delivering his food.
Mike was nervous as he knocked on Harvey's door, but it swung open and Harvey gave him what looked like a relieved smile. He was underdressed, but not drastically so; long-sleeved shirt and jeans. Tough to tell if it was work or fun keeping him up late.
"Come in," Harvey said, leading him into the kitchen. "Cash is in here. I'm glad to see you. Have you been sick?"
"Nope...really busy," Mike said, peering around anxiously. "No girlfriend tonight?"
Harvey gave him an odd look. "No. Just me and some contracts. So busy you couldn't take the time for me? I feel so abandoned."
"Oh, well..." Mike waved a hand, and Harvey turned to lean on the kitchen counter.
"Did I make you uncomfortable somehow?" he asked. "Asking you to freelance for the firm? Because I can knock it off, but I thought -- "
"No, I just thought, you know."
"Uh...no, Mike, I don't."
"Your girlfriend," Mike said desperately.
"My what?" Harvey asked.
"She seemed to think you were sleeping with me so I thought maybe I should back off because she was kind of scary and -- "
Harvey was staring at him in a kind of knowing horror.
"Blonde?" he asked. "Angry? Really long fingernails?"
"You mean my stalker," Harvey said. "Against whom I now have a restraining order."
Mike stood there dumbfounded for a moment; Harvey's lips twitched once, twice, and then he began to laugh.
"It's not funny!" Mike said. "What if she's actually crazy? What if she tries to kill me for being your -- "
"Mistress?" Harvey asked, still laughing. "I knew this was going to bite me on the ass sooner or later."
"You knew?" Mike demanded.
"I'm sorry -- no, Mike, I really am," Harvey said, as Mike scowled. "It's just you're kind of -- "
"Twinky?" Mike asked.
"I was going to say flirty," Harvey said. "The women who see us interact tend to assume..." he gestured with one hand. "Most of them think it's hot."
"I feel objectified," Mike complained.
"Mike, you know I love you for your mind," Harvey said, laughter fading. "I thought it'd make you uncomfortable if you knew."
"It makes me uncomfortable when your stalkers find me and tell me to stop taking tips from you," Mike said.
"Did she really say that?"
"She called me a twink with a pizza box."
"Well, you do have soft features."
"Okay! If you want help filing a restraining order against her as well, I'll do the legwork pro bono."
"I can file my own stupid restraining order," Mike muttered.
"But you're still going to be my pizza guy, right?" Harvey asked. "Because I could start ordering from Pie Pub, but I don't want to die of starvation while waiting for my food."
Mike gave him a sullen, pointed look.
"I'm very sorry I pretended you were sleeping with me in order to land chicks," Harvey recited. "Happy now?"
"Mostly," Mike sniffed.
"Let me make it up to you. Are you on tomorrow?"
"So come over, we'll watch the game on the big screen," Harvey said, tipping his head at the obnoxiously large television mounted on one wall. "I'll tell you the whole gory tale. Take a look, she tried to stab me," he added, and lifted his shirt to reveal a long, shallow red streak around his ribcage.
"Holy crap!" Mike managed, ducking his head for a better look.
"I know, I feel very macho," Harvey said. Mike poked it. "Hey!"
"It's just a flesh wound," Mike said.
"Monty Python? Really?" Harvey asked.
"I thought you liked the classics." Mike leaned back, crossing his arms. "Okay, you're conditionally forgiven. But the next time you date someone out of a thriller flick, warn me, okay?"
"On my honor," Harvey said.
"You're a lawyer."
Harvey clutched his heart as if Mike had shot him, staggering sideways.
"Yeah, yeah. See you tomorrow," Mike said, and left.
It occurred to him, much later in the evening as he was finishing his last delivery, that if the woman who'd come to Rollo's had frightened him just by talking, she might really have scared Harvey. She'd attacked him, after all. Harvey seemed to have shaken it off, but then he shook plenty of things off, and Mike suspected it was more facade than truth.
He found he didn't like that Harvey rarely had the same woman over twice. It wasn't that he didn't approve, exactly, but Harvey should have someone reliable, someone he could trust, someone who knew him.
Oh hell, for all he knew Harvey had tons of friends. And yet...Mike hadn't ever met any of them. Wasn't that what you did with friends? You hung out with them and ordered pizzas. That was what he did with his friends.
Mike put that thought down quickly. Actually he and Shawna didn't do that when they hung out, because pizza had lost its appeal for them. But back when he and Trevor --
No, not thinking about that. Thinking about tomorrow, watching the game with Harvey. He'd check in, really touch base and make sure Harvey was okay. Someone should, after all.
Mike showed up at Harvey's place the next afternoon after spending much, much longer than usual picking out something to wear. Especially since it was just a ball game. He also swung by Rollo's and picked up an order of garlic knots and a full plate of ribs, because he wanted to bring food but was less enthusiastic about pizza than Harvey was. Well, Harvey probably got tired of lawyers sometimes...
Harvey answered the door wearing an apron, which was a first. It was plain, green, no frills, stained, but still. He'd seen Harvey in a lot of things, never an apron.
"Come in," Harvey said, jerking his head. "Hey, you brought food?"
"Garlic knots and ribs," Mike said. "You're, um..."
Harvey raised an eyebrow. "Boxers are okay but the apron puts you off?" he asked. "I do know how to feed myself on a semi-regular basis. I thought I'd cook."
"Oh, in that case -- " Mike reached for the ribs.
"No, it's fine, it'll go well," Harvey said hastily. "Pregame's on, have a seat."
He gestured at the couch facing the TV, in the living room, but Mike slid onto one of the stools at the kitchen bar instead. Half of it was covered in paperwork; the other half had an assortment of knives and some bowls with vegetables in them. There were a lot of vegetables.
"Stir-fry," Harvey said, as Mike eyed all the vegetables. "You look like you could use the vitamins."
"Is there anything you don't do?" Mike asked.
"I'm told I lack the stones to commit to a relationship, but seeing as the woman who said that then tried to stab me..." Harvey shrugged, shaking the pan on the stove.
"Yeah, I meant to ask you about that," Mike said.
"It's a hell of a story," Harvey said, and launched into it before Mike could ask what he really wanted to ask. Harvey was a pretty good storyteller, which Mike guessed you had to be if you were a top lawyer; while he cooked, while he dished out the food and they made their way over to the TV, and throughout the first inning (with interruptions to cheer or call insults at the game).
Meeting at a swanky bar near Pearson Hardman; a date to go driving at Harvey's motor club a few days later, and a censored version of events following. A mild inability to take the You have to go now hint the next morning -- "You do get that's kind of a douchebag move, right?" Mike asked, and Harvey waved him off -- followed by enough phone calls to pester Harvey into a second date.
Third date, unplanned, when she showed up at his condo before he got home, convinced the doorman to let her in, and cooked him dinner.
Fight, and angry sex afterwards. Next morning, when Harvey tried to dump her, he made the mistake of doing it while she was slicing a grapefruit. She swung, he cold-cocked her while bleeding and called the police, and the rest, in Harvey's words, was "tawdry and boring."
By then they were somewhere in the second inning, stuffed on stir-fry and ribs. Mike looked over at Harvey, whose head was just slightly bowed, eyes fixed not on the game but on the wall just below it.
"Are you okay?" Mike asked, once it was obvious Harvey had finished telling his story.
"Yeah, you saw the cut, it didn't even need stitches."
"That wasn't really what I meant," Mike said. "I mean, she scared the hell out of me and all she did was call me names."
"I don't scare easily."
"Not actually answering my question," Mike pointed out.
Harvey's lips pressed together, and Mike could see him consciously keep his posture steady, keep from pulling inward on himself.
"I'm not sleeping well," he admitted finally. "I keep waking up thinking I can hear someone in the kitchen. Otherwise I'm fine."
"So you're not, actually, fine," Mike said.
"Can we just watch the game?" Harvey asked. "This is a thank you, not a therapy session."
"Sure." Mike sat back, propping his feet on the edge of Harvey's coffee table, then dropping them again when Harvey gave him a look.
They were both relatively active game-watchers, yelling out at the TV, cheering, booing, and bickering with each other once enough time had passed for Harvey to get over his prickles about Mike's line of questioning. The beer probably helped; it was some kind of microbrew Mike had never heard of, not that he was any kind of beer expert, and it went well with the food.
Somewhere in the fourth inning, Mike noticed Harvey was quieter; he toned himself down to match, and watched with amusement as Harvey sank deeper and deeper into the couch. By the time the seventh-inning stretch hit, the game was turned down to almost-inaudible and Harvey was getting what looked like some much-needed sleep, head turned, face half-pressed into the back of the couch. Mike gave in to a weird urge to stroke his hair once, briefly, before getting up to poke around a little.
He ended up in front of Harvey's massive DVD collection, tucked inside a black cabinet next to the television. The movies were disproportionately weighted to classics, including what looked like the entire Criterion Collection, but there were some recent action films as well, and a whole slew from the higher end of the horror genre.
There was a soft grunt from the couch, then a creak; he glanced over to see Harvey sitting up, rubbing his face.
"You have all the Star Trek movies," Mike said, turning back to the rack. "Even the really bad ones. And the reboot."
"There are no bad Star Trek movies," Harvey said, his voice a little hoarse from sleep. "There are only good Star Trek movies and better Star Trek movies."
"I'm pretty sure that's totally untrue," Mike answered.
"You're neglecting to require a definition of 'good', which in this case is relative to the 'Star Trek' qualifier," Harvey said.
"Harvey Specter School of Law?"
"You could do worse." Harvey said, getting up stiffly from the couch.
"Yeah, I've seen the second reboot movie, I'm going to have to identify Star Trek as a severe qualifier," Mike said, then stiffened. Harvey paused, watching him.
"It's not opening for four more weeks," Harvey pointed out.
"I mean I've seen the...um, the trailer..."
"Nice try," Harvey said. "Second lesson in the Harvey Specter School of Law, find or generate a poker face before you try to lie that blatantly to me again. Homework," he added, crossing to what Mike supposed was the doorway to his bedroom, possibly the bathroom, "Bring me a copy next time you come over. I assume it's a screener?"
"I can't divulge my sources," Mike called.
"Now you're learning!" Harvey yelled back.
Mike muttered, "Next time?" and went back to the couch. Harvey, once he'd finished in the bathroom, thumped down next to him and stretched, head tipping back against the cushions, the sharp edge of his jaw and the line of his throat silhouetted against the glass, and beyond it the skyline of Manhattan.
"I used to work in the DA's office," Harvey said, apparently paying no attention to Mike watching him. "I prosecuted assault cases. I was damn good at it, too. I got off pretty lightly, I think, with just the sleeping thing. And I got used to never sleeping when I was an associate, so it's not hurting the job at all. It's annoying, more than anything."
Mike cocked his head, wondering how to ask why Harvey was telling him this without sounding like a dick.
"I am, mostly, fine, Mike," Harvey said, turning his head to look at him. "Please don't treat me like I'm not."
Mike stretched his arm along the back of the couch, fingers drifting up to touch Harvey's hair again. Harvey's eyes flicked up, down, back to Mike's face, but he didn't move.
They sat there for a while, the silence oddly content, Harvey's hair stiff and silky under Mike's fingertips.
Until Harvey's phone went off like a siren. Harvey jerked upright, fumbling in his pockets for it. Mike laughed.
"Bette!" Harvey said, rising off the couch. "Hi. No, not a bad time, but I can't talk for long." There was a pause. "Tonight's no good. Not right now either."
Mike frowned, making a shooing gesture; the game would be over soon enough, and he could see himself out. Harvey shook his head.
"Well, why not Sunday? Yeah, but today's just as inconvenient for me. I'm watching the game, Bette. No, not alone, but -- I do have friends," Harvey said, and Mike covered his mouth, laughing silently. Harvey threw a wadded-up ball of paper at him. "I'm not going to...for the love of God." He held the phone up. "Mike, say something."
"HI BETTE!" Mike yelled.
"See? Yes, it's Mike, what does that -- ?" Harvey rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Thank you. Yes. Okay. Call you Monday."
"Man, I hope she's either hot or interesting," Mike said, when Harvey hung up.
"Both, but I think I've sworn off dating," Harvey said. "How do you know it wasn't a client?"
"You wouldn't put off a client to hang out with me," Mike said.
"No," Harvey agreed. "But you wouldn't get annoyed if I had to ditch you for a client."
"Most women aren't crazy," Mike pointed out. "You know what they say, get back on the horse."
Harvey dropped into the couch next to him, studying the phone. Finally he set it down and held out a hand for the remote, turning the game back up.
The Yankees lost, which was an excuse to dissect the game in detail; by the time Mike left it was dark out, though he'd just be going on shift if he were working at Rollo's tonight.
Harvey had sent him down in the private glass elevator, with an invitation to bring the movie over and they'd watch it the next time he had a night off. Mike fell asleep that night smiling.
After that, it became this strange, standing appointment; he'd see Harvey sometimes when he was delivering food, and on his days off he'd go see his grandmother and then drop by Harvey's to watch a movie or a game or, sometimes, help him with briefs for work. Harvey paid him for the work, which came off a little weird, but at least he didn't offer to pay him to hang out, which would just have been creepy (and unnecessary).
About two months after that first baseball game, Harvey came to the door to take a delivery with his shirt unbuttoned. Beyond him, a gorgeous brunette was leaning indolently against the kitchen counter.
"Do, or do not. There is no try," Mike whispered in his ear as Harvey signed the credit slip. Harvey's head jerked up; he laughed, and then gave Mike a gentle shove, taking the pizza and closing the door behind him.
He got a rare text message from Harvey around ten the following morning: Did not get stabbed. Progress.
You have very low standards, Mike texted back.
You'd be surprised. When is your next day off? I just rediscovered mst3k.
Seriously? Mike texted, because...meatloaf?
You'll eat it and like it, Harvey answered.
Mike couldn't deny he probably would. Harvey was a good cook, and even if he wasn't, Mike would have put up with a lot more than bad food to spend an evening watching movies with Harvey.
Going over later meant he could visit his grandmother in the afternoon; once her medication kicked in she tended to be a little more energetic. They played cards for a while, he got the I Love You But Why Are You Still Delivering Pizza speech, and she quizzed him again about Harvey. He wasn't sure if she was just really nosy or wasn't clearly remembering what he'd told her from week to week -- which was kind of frightening, but he had vowed a long time ago when she first went into care to show no fear in front of Gram.
"Are you seeing Harvey tonight?" she asked, as she crushed him at five-card stud.
"Yeah, he's making meatloaf. Apparently it's a thing," Mike said absently, shuffling a new hand.
"Is he nice to you?"
"Well, yeah, I guess. I mean, we're friends," Mike said.
"Sweetheart, I just want to make sure you're happy."
Mike rubbed his forehead. "Gram, we're not dating."
"Just as you say," she said, patting his hand.
Mike had reached a point where he almost wished they were dating just so he'd actually get sex out of everyone's assumption that he was off the market. He suspected Harvey was probably the straightest guy he knew, but a boy could dream a little.
He studied Harvey that night, while the other man was busy watching the movie -- The Horror At Party Beach, a true classic -- and probably wouldn't notice. He'd seen Harvey at work often enough to know he didn't laugh much; he smiled, but only when he was about to demolish someone (usually that creep Litt, who had taken to stalking past Harvey's office and eyeballing Mike whenever Mike came over to help with an all-nighter). When he laughed -- and he did, around Mike -- his whole face changed. He looked younger, less impenetrable, a lot less suave.
He also looked like he was sleeping better. Mike hoped his one-off lady friends were helping.
They took a break, halfway through the film, while Mike got up to make more popcorn (Harvey had some ridiculously expensive organic popcorn only made edible by dumping large amounts of butter on it) and Harvey began shuffling some of his work papers away, preparing for the following day's work. Mike was just fishing the butter out of the microwave when Harvey called out, "Hey, I need to talk to you about something."
Mike looked up. Harvey was standing in the living room, folders in hand, looking down at one of them thoughtfully.
"Sure. Though if we're going to debate the relative merits of the Alien films versus the Terminator films, we need to retread some ground rules -- "
"No," Harvey said, still thoughtful. "How much do you know about accounting?"
Mike shrugged. "How long do I have to read some accounting textbooks?"
That made Harvey smile. "There are going to be tax issues with the payments I've been making for your legal services."
"Yeah, I know," Mike said, pouring butter over the popcorn. "I'm putting aside money for when I file."
"Have you thought about incorporating?"
Mike blinked. "What?"
"Well, you mentioned Ross Legal Consulting," Harvey said. "Look, even if you pass the Bar, nobody's hiring you without a degree, Mike."
"Dude, I'm passing the Bar because this asshole I know bet me fifty bucks I couldn't," Mike said. "I'm not going to actually be a lawyer ever."
Harvey finally looked up, frowning at him. "I thought..."
"Are you...is pizza delivery some kind of life plan?" Harvey asked. "You're a smart guy, Mike. Why aren't you in college? Or out of college by now?"
Mike shrugged. "I work two jobs. Even if I could skate on one class a semester, I need the money. Nobody gives scholarships for guys who take one class a semester."
"If you incorporate, you could hire out as a legal consultant," Harvey said. "Pearson Hardman would contract you."
"It's a nice dream, Harvey, but steady work delivering pizzas is a little more reliable than freelancing as a consultant," Mike said. "Most entrepreneurs fold within two years."
"You can't deliver pizzas on a bike your whole life."
"No, but for now, it's what I have to do," Mike said, carrying the popcorn back into the living room. "Now shut up about it and put the movie back on."
Harvey gave him a questioning look, but hit play and came back to sit next to him, stealing popcorn out of his bowl.
It took all of ten minutes for Harvey Specter, king of cross-examination, to turn to him and say "How did you even get here?"
"Took my bike," Mike answered, licking a butter-greasy thumb.
"You know what I'm asking."
Mike sighed, tipping his head back. "Look, there aren't any shortcuts in life, okay? I learned that already. You have to work for everything, or it'll backfire on you. I got here by working, and watching other people who took shortcuts fall around me."
Harvey frowned at him, pausing the film. "I touched a nerve," he said, cautiously but with a note of triumph.
"Did I push when you were all cranky at me about the whole stabbing thing?" Mike snapped.
"Which is why I'm the best lawyer in New York," Harvey said. "I press till it hurts."
"Yeah, well, I'm not your client, I'm your friend."
"Same theory applies."
Mike looked at him, stunned. "You really think that?"
Harvey shrugged. "I want to know why you think you don't deserve a legitimate opportunity for advancement. I'm more interested in your wellbeing than your feelings right now."
"Life is risky."
"Yes, thank you for that gem of wisdom," Mike answered, standing up. "I should go."
"Mike, come on," Harvey said.
"Don't close me, Harvey," Mike replied, pulling his messenger bag over his head. Harvey looked -- startled. Hurt. Good. Press till it hurts. "I'll call when I've stopped thinking you're an asshole."
He left without waiting for a response.
For the first time in a long time, Mike considered turning his bike left on the street before his, heading up the row of dark apartment buildings to the one on the end where a buddy of Trevor's -- more like a business partner -- still lived. He didn't even have his pipe anymore, but he could buy rolling papers at the bodega next to his apartment, and...
But the street rushed past, and Mike turned onto his own. He unlocked his building's front door, hefted his bike on his shoulder, and carried it up to his apartment, dumping it inside the door as he toed off his shoes. Then he curled up on his bed in his clothes, thinking for a long time before he fell asleep.
The next morning when he woke up, sore from sleeping tense and in rumpled, smelly clothes, there was a text message on his phone.
Am I still an asshole?
He smiled a little, but he still texted back Yes.
For what it's worth, I agree with you.
Mike ignored it, and went to take a shower.
He got a couple more texts over the next few days; Harvey, checking in with unusual regularity. He sent back single-word replies, and once a reassurance -- Hey, can I have a few days here? I promise it won't last forever -- and after that Harvey stopped texting.
The next week, one of the nurses at Gram's care home pulled him aside and laid it out for him, the thing he and the nurses had both been in denial about. She was getting sicker, and she needed better care. He had two options: the private facility a few blocks over or the state facility across town.
The private facility wanted a deposit, twenty five thousand dollars. Up ahead of the monthly care fee, which was more than Mike could afford, more than he made.
Sometimes he hated his mind, because the options began rushing around him: ask Rollo for a raise, take a third job, get a credit card, apply for state support -- could he maybe take her home, look after her himself, get paid to be an in-home carer?
He stopped outside at the bike racks and clutched his head, trying not to cry with frustration, confusion. Too many options, too many variables, none of them workable. After a few deep breaths, he took his phone out of his pocket.
Harvey answered sounding equal parts amused and hesitant. "So you've stopped thinking I'm an asshole?"
"You're still an asshole but I need a friend more than I need to be mad at you," Mike said. "Can I come over tonight?"
"You're not working?"
Shit. He was.
"Tomorrow night," Mike said, voice cracking.
"Mike, what's going on?"
"My grandmother's sick...and..." he knew he was freaking Harvey out, nobody wanted to deal with someone whose only living relative was dying, and she wasn't even dying, not yet, but he couldn't figure out how to say the rest.
"Come to the firm," Harvey said. "I'll meet you in the lobby. Are you okay to ride?"
"Yeah, I'll -- half an hour?"
"I'll see you then," Harvey said, and Mike hung up without saying goodbye.
Harvey was, almost incredibly, waiting for him in the lobby of the big shiny building he worked in, leaned against the wall, watching people pass. When he saw Mike, he pushed away from the wall and settled a hand in the small of his back, waving his ID at the security desk and guiding Mike into the elevators, up to the floor where his office was. There were other people in the elevator, and Harvey was mercifully silent.
"Donna, I'm not in," Harvey said, hand still on Mike's back, steering him past a desk where a pretty redhead sat in front of a computer. The woman gave Mike an odd look, but nodded at Harvey and went back to her work.
"You look like shit," Harvey said, pushing Mike gently into the couch and walking to the little bar in the corner of his office, pouring out something dark and expensive into a tumbler. "Have a sip or two."
Mike took the drink but just stared at it in his hands, then looked up at Harvey, who had settled himself on the coffee table facing him.
"I need to explain something to you and if you offer to loan me money in the next ten minutes I swear to God I'll punch you in the face," Mike said. Harvey just tilted his head, curious.
"Fair enough," he replied. "Your grandmother...?"
"She's..." Mike set the glass down and pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes. "Old. She needs...they can't do what's best for her anymore at the care home."
"Is she dying?" Harvey asked.
"Wow, way to cut to the chase," Mike replied, not looking up.
"You came to me," Harvey pointed out. "I'm not going to pretend just because you're scared. I want to help, Mike. This is the way I know how."
Mike nodded against his palms. "She needs to be put in a private care facility, or they're going to send her to the state care home."
Harvey tilted his head, listening.
"She raised me, Harvey. I can't put her in a state home."
"But the private home wants money," Harvey surmised.
"Twenty five grand."
"And you don't want a loan?"
"No. When would I pay it back?" Mike asked, looking up. "They want more per month than I make."
"Then why are you here, Mike?"
Mike shook his head. "I just needed someone to tell, okay? I have to figure this out...I need you to be a human being right now and not a lawyer."
"Okay, well, I'm not in practice, but I'll give it a shot," Harvey said, and Mike found a smile somewhere for him. Harvey cupped a hand around his neck, comfortingly. "Talk it out."
"I can try asking Junior for a raise, but she can't pay me enough to cover it. So if I can do that, and she actually gives it to me -- maybe I can get a third job."
"When are you planning on sleeping?"
"People do it. I can tutor in the afternoons, do my deliveries in the evening, maybe get some kind of mail room job in the mornings. I can try and get state aid but I'm paid legit at Rollo's and between that and the money you've paid me, I don't think I qualify. I can try for a bank loan, maybe for like fifty grand...find a roommate to help with rent..."
"Stop," Harvey said. Mike closed his mouth. "This is the problem, right? Not knowing what to do?"
"Does she need to be moved today?"
"No. I have two weeks."
"So you don't need to figure it out right this minute."
"I can't just...not think about it," Mike said. He could hear his voice rising in panic. "I need a plan, I need -- "
"I know," Harvey said. "Take a deep breath. We'll work it out."
There was a click, and then Donna's voice was loud in the room. "Harvey, your eleven o'clock."
"Stall him," Harvey snapped to the air, and then sighed. "Mike, I have to do this right now. Fifteen minutes tops. Stay here." He took a notebook out of his pocket and offered Mike a pen probably worth more than most appliances. "Make a list of your options. Fifteen minutes, I'll come back, okay?"
Mike nodded, fiddling with the pen cap. Harvey released his neck, ran a thumb quickly over his cheek, almost a caress, and then stood up.
The office seemed almost unbearably empty without him, but Mike curled up in a corner of the couch and started writing, hardly paying attention to what, the pen moving smoothly over the paper.
"Can I get you anything?" someone asked, and Mike started, looking up. Donna, the redhead, was standing in the doorway. "While you wait. Coffee? Something to eat?"
"I'm -- I'm not a client," Mike said.
"I know," she answered. He blinked at her. "I know everything, you get used to it."
"I'm okay, thanks," he replied.
She gave him a brief nod and went back to her desk. Mike, distracted, stared out through the glass. People were passing, stopping to talk, carrying files around, laughing with each other in the hall outside. The world was moving around him and Mike felt frozen, paralyzed.
He watched a tall woman walk past -- Jessica, his mind supplied, Harvey's boss, the woman who had been there when Harvey was sick. Veggie special pizza. She stopped just past Donna's desk; she looked up at him, met his eye, and frowned. Mike looked back down hurriedly, scratching at the paper with the pen. The door opened, and Mike kept his head down.
"Can I help you?" Jessica asked, one hand on the door, the other holding a file.
"I'm waiting for Harvey," Mike explained.
A strange look crossed her face. He heard her mutter "Unbelievable," which made no sense, and then she left again.
Fifteen minutes passed, then twenty; twenty-five, thirty, Mike resorting to counting his heartbeats to keep calm. He closed his eyes and let a book he'd once read scroll out behind his eyelids, the words a soothing, nonsense jumble.
Footsteps, and the door opened again; Mike looked up to see Harvey, finally, and a woman in the standard sharp-skirt-and-blouse ensemble. She lingered at the door, letting it close between them, while Harvey sat down in front of him again.
"I needed to get some paperwork," he said. Mike nodded. "I don't think I made myself clear when we talked about risk and advancement, because I forgot you don't actually know anything. So let me make this easy on you," he said, holding out a book. "These are the legal guidelines for incorporation in New York. This is the relevant paperwork," he added, setting a plain yellow folder on top of it. "And this is a check drawn by Pearson Hardman's financial department for fifty thousand dollars."
"I told you if you tried to loan me money -- " Mike started.
"It's not a loan. That's twenty-five thousand contract signing fee, and twenty-five thousand retainer securing your services exclusively for Pearson Hardman," Harvey said. Mike studied the check. It was made out to Ross Legal Consulting, Inc. "That's Rachel," he added, indicating the woman waiting outside. "She's going to walk you through the contract and nondisclosure paperwork. Try not to cry in front of her, she's mean."
Mike just stared at him.
"This is the flip side of pressing until it hurts," Harvey said, less briskly. "When you show where it hurts, Mike, we make the hurt go away."
Mike wasn't sure how to respond; he looked down at the files, back at Harvey, out to where Rachel very carefully wasn't watching them.
"I didn't ask you to fix everything," he said finally.
"You didn't have to," Harvey replied. "But I can. So what reason would you have for not letting me?"
"Why'd you make me do this then?" Mike asked, holding up the pad.
"Kept you busy," Harvey replied.
Mike swallowed, processed this, and nodded. "You are gonna get so much free pizza from Rollo's," he managed.
Harvey's face broke into a smile as he stood up. "Go talk to Rachel. Buy yourself a book on accounting. Maybe a suit, if you don't own one. Go to work tonight. File the paperwork tomorrow and come over tomorrow night. Does this all work for you?"
Mike stood too, the folder almost slipping from nervous fingers.
The book probably caught Harvey right in his ribcage as Mike hugged him, but if it did Harvey ignored it. Mike felt arms close around his shoulders briefly, Harvey warm and sharp-smelling against him, and then Harvey gently untangled them, pushing him towards the door.
The rest of the afternoon was a merciful blur. Rachel treated him like an idiot, but Mike probably acted like one, and at least at the end of it he had everything he needed -- paperwork to file, reading to do, a contract from Pearson Hardman that looked like Harvey had maybe written it on a napkin and then made someone type up.
"I can't say I'm surprised Harvey turned up someone like you," Rachel said, as she walked him to the elevators. "We've been needing a little edge around here, someone who actually knows what they're doing to lend a hand. Um, but maybe not quite this much edge," she added, tugging on the sleeve of Mike's t-shirt. "Do you need a copy of the dress code?"
"No, I think I can figure it out," Mike said. "Skirts below the knee and no tank tops, right?"
Rachel laughed. "Yeah, edge," she said, and pushed him into the opening elevator. "See you soon, Mr. Ross."
Mike realized, with a kind of dazed clarity, that he hadn't eaten. He bought a hot dog from a cart outside the building and ate it without tasting it.
He'd missed his afternoon tutoring session; someone from the study group who underpaid him to help them stop slacking off had left an angry message, but he deleted it. Junior had called, too, asking if he could come on at five instead of eight, because Shawna had to cancel and Derek couldn't handle the dinner rush alone.
He shook himself out of his stupor, stuffing the paperwork and the book Harvey had given him into his bag. He had to pay attention; New York traffic was brutal, and he needed to get to Rollo's.
The front restaurant was already crowded when he arrived. Junior met him with a smacking kiss on the forehead in gratitude, ignoring his silence and shoving him into the kitchen to await his first delivery order.
It was a typical night, made slightly more stressful by the length of his shift. He half-hoped Harvey would call in an order, but on the other hand he wasn't sure if he went to Harvey's tonight he'd be able to just take the money and give him the food and leave. There were families with screaming kids, parties with loud music, lonely people trying to make conversation, professionals working late; Mike drifted through all of it, until finally he found himself at home, exhausted, lying in bed, looking up at his phone. Three text messages.
You're fired from the jerk in his tutoring group.
Sorry about tonight, I will totally cover a shift for you when you need it from Shawna.
Six? Shall we try the meatloaf again? I have Blade Runner. No need to reply, just be there from Harvey.
Mike texted a weary No problem to Shawna, then a brief Six, will be there to Harvey, and fell asleep with the phone still in his hand.
In the morning, when he finally woke -- late, and starving -- the world seemed clearer, sharper, and infinitely more terrifying. The fifty thousand from Pearson Hardman would tide him over, but if they didn't have enough work for him he'd be back to pizza delivery soon enough. And anyway what the hell did Harvey think he could do that was worth twenty-five grand as a retainer? He wasn't even taking the Bar until next week.
But he was committed, now. He'd signed a contract that Rachel had set aside to be filed once his other paperwork went through, and the check was sitting in the folder with his copies of the contract and the nondisclosure agreement.
He made some toast and coffee, burning the toast when he sat down to read the book from Harvey and ended up getting absorbed in it. Corporate law was much more interesting than most people thought, especially when your future depended on it.
After a second, slightly less burned helping of toast, he took a shower, shaved carefully, and went to inspect his closet. Mike had plenty of reasonably nice clothing, but only one suit. It was black, and smelled like it had been hanging in the closet for three years. Jenny had gone with him to buy it to wear to Trevor's funeral.
No way was he wearing that fucking suit again.
He settled on a pair of reasonably clean khakis and a polo shirt; at least he wouldn't look like a child when he went to file the paperwork.
Filing took up most of his morning, and afterwards he got lost in a bookstore for a few hours, not bothering to buy a book on accounting when he could just read a few (though eventually one of the store clerks kept wandering past him and coughing, so he staged a strategic retreat). He wandered into a coffee shop, bought a coffee he didn't drink, then ventured into the menswear section of a big downtown department store until the ties and the lapels and the various cuts of trouser, the shoes and socks and belts all overwhelmed.
It was five o'clock; an hour until his movie night with Harvey. He considered his options, then headed for Rollo's.
"Hello, pretty," Shawna called as he walked through the kitchen door. "You look nice. You're not on tonight, are you?"
"No," he said, smiling. "Making use of my employee discount."
"Sure thing. What's the order?"
"Large mushroom, half with onions, half-plate of ribs, fries," Mike said, and Shawna gave him a look.
"Date with H. Specter?" she asked.
"I owe him a dinner," Mike said. "Don't tell Junior?"
"Oh, Mike," Shawna shook her head. "I'm pretty sure she knows."
Mike loitered on the fringes of the kitchen until the order was ready, strapped the hot bag to the back of his bike, promised Shawna he'd bring it back for his next shift, and took off for Harvey's. The doorman, Tom, waved cheerfully at him; the ride up in the elevator seemed to take forever.
Harvey answered his knock quickly. Mike held up the food and said, "Nothing against your meatloaf, but I did offer you free pizza."
Harvey smiled, warm and fond, and jerked his head, inviting him in. Mike took the food straight to the living room and began unpacking the ribs.
"You file the paperwork today?" Harvey asked, with studied casualness, putting an unopened package of beef back into the fridge, turning off his oven.
"Yeah," Mike answered. "Grab some napkins."
"Got it," Harvey said. "You look like a Young Republican, by the way."
"I don't actually have any suits -- " Mike caught himself, and Harvey caught the hesitation but ignored it, coming to sit next to him, opening the pizza box. Mike held out the container of fries.
"So now you have a plan," Harvey said, scooping up some fries and a slice of pizza, nudging the box of ribs over to Mike. "As soon as your paperwork goes through, you can deposit the check, get your grandmother where she needs to be. We can start you once the check clears, but there are certain things you won't be able to consult on until you pass the Bar. Results are in from your exam two months down the line. By then, you'll probably have billed out your retainer, so we'll renegotiate. I'm going to present this to Jessica tomorrow, and you need to be with me for that. You will work hard, and you will not make me look like an idiot for hiring you. Now," he added, pausing to take a bite of pizza, "does any of this sound like a shortcut to you?"
"Aside from the nepotism that got me into it in the first place?" Mike asked.
"You're good at what you do. I don't pay people who do shoddy work," Harvey said. "You earned it." He paused. "Why are you so afraid of this, Mike? You're not exactly shy most of the time. You sure as hell weren't shy when you offered to help me the first time."
Mike studied the food, rubbed his fingers together, smelled tomato sauce and ribs and salt, fried potatoes, the faint whiff of the beers Harvey had brought with him. He'd thought he didn't even know where to begin, how to spill out the story to Harvey, all the dreadful little details, but he was surprised to find that now, he did know.
"Three years ago, I got clean," he said.
"Clean from what?" Harvey asked, and Mike saw him glance at the beer bottles.
"Not that," Mike shook his head. "Nothing hard, either. Just pot. I had this friend...Trevor. We were friends our whole lives. After high school, when Gram got sick, I had to work, and Trevor got kicked out of college after like, three months -- he wasn't really an academic type. We were best friends, him and me and his girlfriend, Jenny, and back then...we were all we had."
Harvey was chewing, thoughtfully, gesturing for him to continue.
"He started selling. It was easy money and free pot, and...if I hung out with him, we smoked. That was just what we did."
"Did you deal?"
"No. He offered a couple of times, but back then the job at Rollo's was enough to pay the rent, pay for Gram's meds. But yeah, I smoked. A lot," Mike added ruefully.
"You were how old, eighteen? Nineteen?"
Mike nodded, wondering if that was the voice Harvey used taking depositions.
"The meds started getting more expensive. Rent went up. We were twenty-one, Trevor was making really good money, he had this great loft...so one night he said he could cut me in on a huge deal. It was going to make him a lot of money, enough to stop selling if he wanted. Not that he wanted," Mike added bitterly. "But it could really have helped me out. I thought about it, almost went for it. A few days before it was supposed to happen, I told him no. It just wasn't something I could do. It wasn't the legality of it, I never cared about smoking, it was just..."
"A shortcut," Harvey said quietly. Mike felt a hand on his shoulder, a tug; he went with the motion and leaned back against the couch, against Harvey's shoulder, under his arm. Harvey's hand came up to hold his head there gently.
"The night it was supposed to happen, some cops showed up at my door. They said there'd been a drug-related shooting and my name was in the victim's phone as an emergency contact. Jenny was at the police station when I got there. They had us identify the body."
"I'm so sorry, Mike," Harvey said, face tucked against the side of Mike's head.
"Yeah, I blame you," Mike replied. Harvey laughed, breath ruffling his hair. "No, it's...it's been three years. And I miss him, but I'm okay. Jenny's okay, I guess. She moved away after, I hear from her once in a while. But I haven't smoked since, and I just. I don't want to take something that isn't mine. I don't want anything I didn't earn. I don't want to end up like Trevor."
"You didn't even know him."
"I know you are pathologically incapable of accepting good fortune," Harvey replied, but his tone was still quiet, almost gentle. "I know you're honest and you work hard and have that giant brain going to waste in a pizza delivery job. However much you might like it."
"Well, someone has to make sure your fries stay crispy."
Harvey laughed again and let him go.
"I only have one suit, and it's a funeral suit," Mike added. "I tried to buy one today, but I didn't know how. Some of them cost like two hundred dollars."
Harvey gave him a pitying look, sitting forward to help himself to another slice of pizza, folding it in half and biting into it. Mike picked at the fries.
"We can get you a suit, slightly nicer than some off-the-rack department store job," Harvey said. "But you need one for tomorrow, and early. What's your inseam?"
Mike frowned. "Medium, probably?"
"Wow, you really are a blank slate."
"Large?" Mike looked down at his legs.
"Try not to think too hard about it," Harvey advised. "You're about as tall as me, little on the skinny side...no shoulders..."
"Unvarnished truth, you'd think you'd be used to it by now." Harvey wiped his hands. "Put Blade Runner on, eat your ribs."
"Where are you going?"
"To find you something you won't swim in," Harvey called, from the bedroom.
Mike ate quickly, trying to be as neat as possible, but they were ribs, after all. He was just washing the molasses sauce off his hands when Harvey emerged with what looked like all the clothing in the world draped over his arms.
"Strip," Harvey commanded.
"What, no music?"
"Think of it as payback for all those times I answered the door in my boxers," Harvey told him, and Mike had to admit that was a pretty good point.
They spent the entire length of Blade Runner (newest director's cut) trying to dress Mike appropriately in Harvey's old suits. Harvey apparently had some agenda he wasn't planning to announce, because if the brown pants fit then brown wasn't Mike's color, if the pinstripe suit had wide lapels Mike needed narrow, and if the blue jacket was too loose the whole thing, tie included, had to be thrown out and they'd start over...
"Harvey, all of these jackets are going to be too loose. Did you wear football pads under them or something?" Mike asked, as Harvey discarded another tie and disappeared down the hallway. He returned carrying a stapler.
"Whoa there," Mike said, holding up his hands.
"Quick and dirty fix," Harvey said, helping him (really, stuffing him) into another jacket. He circled around; Mike closed his eyes and felt the collar of the jacket being pulled back. There were two sharp clicks, and then it settled perfectly over his shoulders.
"Don't do any calisthenics in it and you should be fine," Harvey said, coming around front again.
"But what about my thousand morning crunches?"
"Skip a day, Christian Bale," Harvey said. "Huh. Dark grey is a good color on you."
"All this stuff really matters?" Mike asked, studying the sleeves. Harvey dug a pair of matching pants out of the pile.
"We are, very wrongly, judged on how we look," Harvey said. "Just the way it is."
"In this world," Mike said. "Not where I come from."
"Only because in the world you come from, nobody noticed the pizza boy."
Harvey was comparing ties, holding them up to, Mike guessed, see if they coordinated with Mike's face. "Exceptional talent will always stand out, for those who have eyes to see it. For the rest of the blinded, boring world, this is your signifier."
Mike frowned. "What movie is that from?"
"The Life of Harvey. It's a work in progress." He offered one of the ties to Mike. "The white shirt with the microstripes, this tie, the black belt, there are cufflinks on my dresser. Shoes...well, they're black," he sighed, looking at Mike's Converse high-tops. "It'll be very Doctor Who."
"I'm going to pretend you're not that big a geek," Mike said, retreating with the shreds of his dignity in the direction Harvey pointed.
It turned out to be Harvey's bedroom, much mythologized, never before seen. It looked mostly like his living room, only with a big bed instead of a couch. Mike laid the suit on the bed, looking around; eyed the original art on the walls, curled his toes against the thick carpet, let his fingers drift over the watches and cufflinks, the spare change, the Harvard ring, the bottles of cologne on the dresser.
"The silver cufflinks!" Harvey yelled.
"You're enjoying this!"
"Of course I am!"
Mike picked up the only silver pair of cufflinks on the dresser and set about putting on the suit.
When he walked out, Harvey looked up from folding a shirt and there was just a second of reaction on his face, a second of something stranger, darker than Mike was used to, before he smiled.
"I am good," he said.
"I'm wearing it!"
"Yeah, okay," Mike conceded. "Pants are a little long. Stapler?"
"Let them be long. A touch of zoot." Harvey nodded. "Okay. Hang it up. Once we get past tomorrow, you can buy some suits, or you can have some of these and get them tailored. I know a guy."
"You want me to meet you here tomorrow?" Mike asked, shrugging carefully out of the jacket.
"Stay tonight," Harvey said carelessly. "There's a bed in my office. That way I can make sure your hair doesn't look like it was styled by blender tomorrow morning. Plus..." he reached over to the coffee table and held up a DVD case. "Late night movie."
Strangers on a Train was not an easy film to fall asleep to, but Mike somehow managed. He woke up to a faceful of Harvey's shirt, his nose mashed against his shoulder, and sat up to find the credits rolling and Harvey asleep too, head tipped back on the couch. He nudged him, gently.
"Mm?" Harvey's eyes opened and he tipped his head up too fast; Mike winced sympathetically at the crack his vertebrae made. Harvey rubbed his neck, shooting Mike a sheepish look.
"Pizza coma," Mike said.
"Long day," Harvey answered. "Big one tomorrow, too. Come on. You need pajamas?" he asked, standing up.
"I think you've dressed me enough," Mike said. "Just point me to this alleged bed."
"Through there," Harvey said, nodding at a doorway opposite the hall leading to Harvey's room. "Up at six tomorrow. If you're up first, have some breakfast. Not leftover pizza," he added. "Hog the shower and you'll live to regret it."
Harvey's office, like every room, was dominated by floor-to-ceiling glass. There was a desk, far too neat to be used very often, a dock for a laptop, and a bed pushed into the corner, the sheets musty but clean. The art in here was framed posters rather than original, and the room had the lonely look of a place not much used by its owner.
Mike undressed back down to his underwear and crawled into the bed, but the utter silence of the room and its weird emptiness bugged him. Even with the lights of Manhattan shining through the glass, he felt like he was alone in the world. He heard a door shut somewhere, Harvey's bedroom probably, and then the quiet was so oppressive it was almost a sound on its own.
After another few minutes, Mike got up, dragging the blanket and pillow with him, and crept silently (thinking of Harvey's insomnia, his paranoia that someone was in his home) into the living room, settling himself on the couch, pillow at one end, blanket over him.
That was better. The fridge in the kitchen hummed softly, and somewhere a clock was ticking. The couch smelled familiar, like pizza and paper and Harvey's cologne, undercut with leather. If he opened his eyes, he could see files, DVD cases, paperwork littering the coffee table, and a stray tie that had escaped the cleanup draped over the armrest of the chair. If it got too quiet again, he could put the TV on with low volu...
Mike fell asleep.
Mike woke, the morning after his confession about Trevor and Harvey's clothing attack, to the sound of Harvey humming aimlessly in the kitchen, clattering glasses and pans around, apparently assembling breakfast.
"Bed too comfortable for you?" Harvey asked. The bastard was already washed, shaved, and dressed. Mike sat up, yawning blearily.
"I like your couch better," he said, too sleepy to be witty, and kicked the blanket back. "Shower?"
"Go," Harvey said, pointing. "Coffee and eggs when you get out."
Mike ate breakfast in his undershirt -- more properly, one of Harvey's undershirts -- because Harvey didn't trust him not to get egg on his new suit. He didn't want to say Harvey fussed over him, but then again he couldn't think of another word for it. Once he was dressed Harvey dusted down his sleeves, made him brush back his hair ("But don't slick it down -- you're my new consultant, not my new me"), and double-checked his tie.
Mike felt vaguely glad he wasn't riding his bike that morning. It was locked securely in the bike cage in Harvey's building's parking garage, where a 24-hour security feed made sure nobody stole the $5000 composite super-light clip-pedal mountain bikes or Mike's $100 ten-speed.
There was a young man waiting for Harvey when they arrived at quarter to eight, one of the vast number of associates that Mike had encountered delivering pizza or seen briefly whenever he came to work with Harvey and was guided quickly past the crowd. He sometimes forgot that most people didn't have a memory like his (ironic) but it was a relief when the man glanced at him, didn't recognize him, and stopped mid-greeting.
"I...see you're with a client," he said, backing away. "Please let me know as soon as you need me, Mr. Specter -- "
"He's not a client," Harvey said, and the man's brow creased. "This is Mike Ross. He's going to be doing some consulting for us. Mike, this is..." Harvey audibly sighed, "Kyle. He's my associate."
"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Ross," said Kyle, who had to be at least two years older than Mike. "Can I get you anything? Coffee, tea?"
"I'm good thanks," Mike said, taking his cue from Harvey.
"In that case, Mr. Specter, do you have time to go over some -- "
"Kyle, I told you, Mock Trial? Don't go to trial," Harvey said, walking as he talked. Kyle tagged after them like a puppy.
"But I'm Mock Trial champion!"
"Mike, consult with my associate here. Why is it a good idea not to go to trial during a mock trial?" Harvey said, stopping next to Donna's desk (Donna, for the moment, absent). Mike considered it, considered Kyle.
"You shouldn't go to trial just because your ego tells you to," he said. "Trials are uncertain. Juries can be swayed. Settle out of court and everyone wins. Also, I'm guessing very few people think of settling when they're supposed to be engaging in a mock trial? Makes you unique."
Kyle stared at him.
"Just a guess," Mike said, and followed Harvey into his office.
"And you just earned your first billable," Harvey said. "Don't sit down, you'll wrinkle your suit."
"That's your associate, huh?" Mike asked, peering through the glass as Kyle walked away. "The useless one?"
"He's very clever, in his own way," Harvey said, opening his laptop. "He'll make a good courtroom litigator, but that's just one genre of lawyer. He'll never be brilliant. Too paper-trained. He sees a goal and goes for it."
"How is that different from you?"
"I see a goal and wonder what other goal the referee is hiding from me," Harvey replied. "So do you. You just don't know it yet."
"This is weird," Mike announced. "I mean...in theory, you're going to be my boss, right?"
"But we're friends. So how does that work?"
Harvey glanced up at him and grinned. "Just remember, every minute that you're in this office, you're getting paid to put up with me. And at the end of the day, nobody's paying you once you leave. So you can choose my company, or choose to go home, or even choose to tell me to go to hell. Also, you'll be doing some floating -- working with other lawyers, learning the ropes. Rachel's already asked if she can have you for a few hours a week to help her out."
"Good morning," Donna said, leaning in the doorway. "Hi again. Sharp suit."
"Thanks," Mike said.
"Nice staple job in the back. Barely visible," Donna told Harvey, and Mike winced. "You have a nine o'clock, a brunch with Denison at ten, and Marguerite at eleven-thirty."
"Is she bringing the dog?" Harvey asked tiredly.
"Of course she's bringing the dog. I already have the carpet cleaners scheduled for this afternoon."
"Thank you. See what you can do to get me in to see Jessica before nine. Bribe someone if you have to."
"Not a problem. She wants to see you."
Harvey looked up. "That sounds ominous. When?"
"Now," Donna said.
"Oh, it's like that," Harvey sighed. "Okay, come on. I'm going to go take my licks for whatever it is I did, and then blow her away with you," he told Mike, leading him out of the office and down a long hallway already filling with people. Mike, who'd been working the night shift for years, stared around him at all these people who voluntarily got up every day to be in by eight am.
Jessica's office, like Harvey's, was glassed-in, and Jessica herself was leaning against her desk, watching the hallway. Harvey knocked briefly, more of a warning, and then opened the door.
"Donna says you want to see me," he began. "Which is good, because I -- "
"Are you serious?" Jessica asked him.
"Deadly. Always," Harvey deadpanned. "Why?"
"Send the kid out."
"The kid stays with me," Harvey said. "He's kind of necessary to the conversation we're about to have."
"Harvey, how dumb do you think I am?"
"Smarter than me, and I have a very high opinion of myself."
"Sit," Jessica said, pointing to a chair. Harvey stayed in the doorway.
"He comes too, or you can find me in my office," he answered.
Jessica glowered, but she waved them both inside. "You, sit there," she told Mike, pointing to a chair near Harvey's. Mike sat, and for a crazy second worried about wrinkling his suit. Jessica studied them both, then picked up a slip of paper from her desk.
"Two days ago a check was written to a company called Ross Legal Consulting for fifty thousand dollars, out of your discretionary fund," she told Harvey. She turned to Mike, who fought a flinch. "Mr. Ross, are you blackmailing my Senior Partner?"
"What?" Mike blurted. Harvey raised a hand to quiet him.
"I don't know what he has on you, Harvey, whether he has photos or just threatened to talk to the media, and frankly I don't care," she continued. Mike gaped.
"Jessica, I think you have the wrong idea," Harvey said calmly.
"Do I?" She held up a stack of paper. "On five prior occasions, checks were cut to Mike Ross for between five hundred and a thousand dollars, out of your expense account. Louis tells me he comes to the building late at night and waits in your office. Now, I'm given to understand this kind of transaction is generally done in cash. And, more importantly, not paid for by the firm."
"Are you finished?" Harvey asked.
"How stupid are you, Harvey? Bringing him here in the middle of the day? Are you even eighteen?" she asked Mike. Mike gave Harvey a nervous look, and caught the little headshake, so he kept quiet.
Harvey opened the folder he was holding, taking out the contract Mike had signed. "This is an agreement between Pearson Hardman and Ross Legal Consulting, drawn up by me, for consultant services. Signing fee and retainer. You can talk to Rachel, it was signed two days ago when the check was cut."
"Do not lie to me, Harvey, I won't stand for -- "
"The fees paid to Mike Ross were for work performed for Pearson Hardman, again, arranged through me," Harvey interrupted. "All the proper tax laws were followed, and a nondisclosure was signed each time. They're on file in my office."
Mike stifled hysterical laughter, thinking of the pizza box he'd signed.
"I put him in my office to keep him from being a distraction to the associates," Harvey continued. "And if Louis tells you he saw anything illegal, sexual, or untoward happening between me and Mr. Ross, he's having wet dreams again."
Jessica crossed her arms. "You seriously expect me to believe this manchild is a lawyer? Because the last time I saw him, he was delivering your pizza."
"No," Harvey said, holding up a hand again to silence Mike's exclamation of insulted outrage -- though points to Jessica Pearson for remembering him. "He's not a lawyer. But he's not on the Pearson Hardman payroll as one. He's a contractor. There's no issue of indemnity here."
"Bullshit. Where's your J.D.?" she asked Mike. "Do you know anything about the law?"
"Jessica -- "
"Shut up, Harvey."
Harvey subsided, not looking at Mike; clearly he was on his own.
Sink or swim time.
Mike glanced at the small shelf of books behind her desk. "That's a Barbri Legal Handbook on your bookshelf."
She raised an eyebrow. "And?"
"Take it down. Read me something," Mike said. "Anything."
"Is he for real?" Jessica asked Harvey.
"Try him and find out," Harvey said. Maybe not a hundred percent on his own, then.
She hesitated, but eventually took the book down and opened it. "Civil liability associated with agency is based on several factors including -- "
" -- including the deviation of the agent from his path, the reasonable inference of agency on behalf of the plaintiff, and the...nature of the damages themselves," Mike recited.
Jessica stared at him.
"And how did you know that, Mike?" Harvey asked.
"I learned it," Mike said. "When I studied for the Bar."
"You've passed the Bar," Jessica said.
"I'm taking it next week."
"For Christ's sake, Harvey."
Harvey didn't respond directly, just cast her a smile and started talking. "Stock option backdating. Although backdating options is legal, violations arise related to disclosures, under IRC section 409(a)."
"You forgot about Sarbanes-Oxley," Mike said, doing a pretty good job of pretending to remind him, because he thought he was catching onto the game now.
"The statute of limitations renders Sarbanes-Oxley moot post-2007."
"Not if you can find actions to cover up the violation as established in the sixth circuit, May 2008," Mike countered. He looked up at Jessica, who was staring hard at him. "I know I'm pretty, but I'm not a thousand dollars pretty. Once I read something, I understand it. Once I understand it, I never forget it. I believe Harvey loves me for my mind."
She looked unamused. "Fifty thousand dollars is a lot to pay for a parrot who hasn't passed the Bar yet, Harvey."
"I'm not aware we were auditing my discretionary fund so soon," Harvey said. "Or that Louis Litt got a say in the audit. Jessica, why do you think I brought him in today? You think I just couldn't wait until tonight for a hummer under the desk? I was bringing you the contract. Although if you don't want him, I'm sure Sloane, Blake, and Sloane would be happy to have him, especially with the letter of recommendation I could write."
"You, out," she told Mike. "Harvey, stay."
Mike gave Harvey a regretful look before he stood up. He nodded to Jessica, turned (very conscious of Harvey's staple-job), and left as fast as he could without looking like he was running for his life.
Outside, a small crowd had gathered -- a few associates, some people he didn't know, and the creep, Litt.
"So how much do you charge for your services, Mr. Ross?" Litt asked, apparently emboldened by the asskicking it looked like Harvey was getting.
"At the moment I'm on a twenty-five thousand dollar retainer," Mike said. "You can't afford me. Even if you could, you couldn't convince me."
The associates looked confused. Mike guessed they were taking the conversation at face value.
"You might be a...special friend of Harvey Specter, but this is Pearson Hardman," Litt answered. "We hire from Harvard, and only Harvard." He stepped in close, lowering his voice. Mike realized he didn't want the associates to know that he thought he knew what Mike was. "And no call boy, however shiny his suit, is going to sully the name of the firm. Not on my watch."
Mike bent his head close to Louis's ear. "Good thing I'm a legal consultant and not a prostitute, I guess. By the way, your tie's crooked."
He could feel Louis stifle the urge to reach for it. He had to respect a man with that much self control, even if he was -- for no reason Mike could discern -- out for Mike's blood. Mike leaned back, gave Louis a smile, and shoved his hands in his pockets.
"I'm looking forward to working with everyone," he said, louder now. Behind him, he heard a door open and close. "This is going to be fun, I can tell."
"Making friends, Mike?" Harvey asked, joining him in front of Louis.
"Mr. Litt and I were just discussing my fee," Mike said, as the associates drifted away, self-preservation overcoming curiosity.
"Get in line, Louis, I have him on retainer," Harvey said, casually draping an arm over Mike's shoulders. "But you should come to lunch with us sometime," he added. "Get to know Mike better. Since you seem to be making some pretty intimate assumptions about him already."
"I'm protecting the firm," Louis replied.
"That makes two of us. Isn't it nice when people get along?" Harvey asked Mike. "Come on. Jessica was mildly impressed by your genius, and there's about ten pages of additional CYA you now have to sign."
They walked away, Harvey's arm effectively concealing the staple job, and when they were a decent distance down the hallway Mike asked, "Is he still watching us?"
"No, he slunk back to his office," Harvey said. "Fifth or sixth circle of hell, I can never recall."
"Jesus Christ." Mike sagged against Harvey briefly. "That was horrifying. The entire company thinks I'm servicing you."
"Not quite true." Harvey released him, steadied him for a second, and then kept walking. "Though I did just get a reaming from Jessica on the subject of how the appearance of impropriety is as damaging as actual impropriety. It's just as well we're bringing you in on a contract. But Louis meant what he said -- he genuinely cares about the reputation of this firm, and a sex scandal involving a Senior Partner and a male prostitute would be a big deal. So he wouldn't spread it around -- "
" -- because the appearance of impropriety..." Mike nodded.
"Exactly. Louis poked around, found the checks I'd cut you, and went running to Jessica. She no longer thinks we're on intimate terms, thanks to your performance in there, and Louis has nobody else to tell. Of course I'd have to have completely lost the plot to actually bring someone here for sex, especially when I have a stunning view from my bedroom, but Louis has a little mind." He considered it. "Plus, writing a check for sex? Like I'd pay for it at all."
"Yeah, I've seen your success rate," Mike said. Outside of the office, that would have earned him a laugh; here, Harvey just smiled sidelong.
"Donna," he said, as they reached her desk. "Light of my life."
"Coffee," Donna said, not looking up from her computer and handing him a cup. "You're both still breathing, so I guess it went well."
"Reasonably," Harvey replied. "If I don't dominate Louis before nine am, the day just doesn't feel right. Can you -- "
"Already done." Donna looked up from her computer and took some paper from the printer, passing the stack to Mike.
"And he'll need -- "
"Operations is adding him to the secure server as we speak."
"Is my afternoon -- "
"Appointment with Rene at two."
"Took care of that too, we've been married for the last seven years."
"Huh, no wonder my taxes are so low." Harvey sipped the coffee while Mike just stared in awe at Donna. "Mike, get those papers signed and notarized. It's standard HR crap. Then fly free, little bird, and meet me -- " Harvey nodded at Donna, who gave Mike a business card, " -- there at two."
"My first consult?" Mike asked, excitement welling in him.
"Not quite. Suit guy," Harvey said, leading the way into his office. "Jessica doesn't want you on until you're familiar with the company. You'll officially start after your Bar exam next week, which gives us time to dress you. You talk to -- " he paused very, very briefly, just long enough for Mike to realize he was being discreet, "your previous employers yet?"
"Oh -- oh crap, no." Mike's eyes widened. "I'm on shift tonight!"
"Relax. Go in, give your notice. You're not irreplaceable, you know," Harvey added with a grin. "Even if it means I'm going to have to stop ordering fries from Rollo's."
"Oh my God," Donna's voice over the intercom, like she was having a revelation. "You're the pizza guy!"
"Not now, Donna," Harvey called.
"You know I listen!"
"There are no secrets from Donna," Harvey said drily. "So, are you set? Are you good?"
Mike nodded, feeling only mildly overwhelmed -- certainly less so than the last time he'd been in Harvey's office, when it felt like the world was crumbling around him. There was elation at the prospect of the work, awe of all these sharp-looking, fast-talking people who were nonetheless deferring to him, a residual tinge of humiliation at Jessica's assumptions, anger at Louis's.
"Okay. Donna will have some background on the firm for you. I'll see you at two," Harvey said, and touched his shoulder lightly, as if in reassurance.
Outside Harvey's office, Donna offered him a binder and a smile.
"What did you mean when you said I was the pizza guy?" Mike asked. It hadn't sounded disdainful, exactly. More like she was putting him into a slot, assembling two and two to get Pizza.
Donna leaned an elbow on her desk, chin in her hand. "I knew you weren't a client because Harvey's not that familiar with clients, at least not in the office," she said, smiling. "Harvey doesn't really have friends, so I thought you must be his little brother. It makes sense now, though. You don't look anything like him. So you're the Pizza Guy."
"I'm not -- "
"What Louis thought you were? Please. If you were you'd dress better."
"Thanks," Mike said. Donna laughed.
"We're gonna have fun," she said with a smile. "I can tell. No, you're..."
She glanced over her shoulder at Harvey's office; Harvey was on a phone call already, focused on his laptop.
"Harvey doesn't have friends, he has you," she said. "A month ago he actually blew off a client dinner because you were coming over. He doesn't really talk about you a lot, but I pick things up here and there."
"You ride your bike, you deliver pizzas for a living, you have a scary brain," she said. "And you've put up with Harvey for a lot longer than most people will."
"Maybe for a lot longer than he'll let most people," Donna added. "Now go. Oh, and Mike?"
He paused, turning around.
"Hurt him or let him down and I'll eat your liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti."
Mike stared at her, recovered, and replied, "People will say we're in love."
Donna laughed loud enough to make Harvey look up briefly from his work. Mike gave her a salute and walked --
Well, as it turned out, in exactly the opposite direction from the elevators, but he got there eventually.
It was strange, having leisure time. Not that he hadn't had free time before, but usually it was spent...looking for a quick buck, freelance proofreading work, job-searching. Harvey might have thought he was unmotivated, but he was just so tired, constantly tired.
He found a quiet alley, leaned against the wall, and called Gram.
"Michael! This is a nice surprise," she said, sounding pleased. "Nothing's wrong, I hope?"
"No, everything's great," he said, realizing he hadn't told her, either. "I -- I got a new job."
"Really? No more tutoring?"
"No more pizza, either," he said. "My...friend, Harvey?"
"Ah, the lawyer," she said, knowingly.
"He got me a consulting job with his firm. It's huge, Gram, I'm on a retainer. I got a signing bonus and everything."
There was a long silence.
"Gram?" he asked worriedly.
"Honey, I would never think you would get into...bad things," she said, slowly. "But this...isn't a bad thing, is it?"
"A bad thing?"
"This isn't Trevor over again?" she sounded honestly worried now.
"No! No, it's a real legit job, I swear," he said. "I'll have more time to see you, I think, and I'm gonna have them move you to the really nice private place, Arbormed?"
"You work so hard," she murmured.
"Look, I'll come see you tomorrow, I'll tell you everything."
"I'm very proud of you, Mike."
He smiled. "I love you too, Gram. Tomorrow, okay?"
Jeez, even his grandmother was worried he was into bad things. It seemed like Harvey was the only guy in town who actually thought Mike was capable of earning his way.
Which...maybe meant he wasn't.
He put the thought out of his head, and went to find a peaceful place to read up on the history and business dealings of Pearson Hardman.
By the time two o'clock rolled around Mike felt like his brain was swimming with knowledge -- an old sensation, growing more familiar again -- and he was standing outside an unassuming storefront down a side street, wondering if the cabdriver had taken him to the right address. At least, he wondered until a sleek black towncar pulled up, and Harvey got out.
"You have a driver," Mike said.
"You have a knack for the obvious," Harvey replied.
"Well, it's all in the details," Mike told him. Harvey gestured for him to lead the way up the steps to the door.
Inside, the store -- more of a...shop? A showroom? -- was cool and elegant, filled with the sharp clean smell of new fabric. They were met by a sleek-looking woman who offered them each a glass of scotch.
"Harvey!" a voice cried, as an equally sleek-looking man eased off his stool at the -- was that a bar? "So good to see you. When your assistant called, I...oh dear," he said, studying Mike. "I see the problem."
Mike held carefully still as the man circled him.
"Staples, Harvey? Really?"
"It's an old suit," Harvey said. "Rene, this is Mike Ross, my consultant. Mike, this is Rene. You should probably do what he tells you."
"I thought you might be bringing the Odious Kyle," Rene said. "I should have known better. A pleasure, Mike. Always a pleasure to open a new account for one of Harvey's recommendations. Now, are we looking for a spring wardrobe today, or just a brush up?"
"Ground up," Harvey said, but there was no censure in it. "That's his only suit."
Mike shot him a grateful look.
"Hm. Do you have any preferences?" Rene asked Mike.
Mike floundered, trying to explain. "I went to -- I looked," he said. "But there were so many lapels."
Rene smiled. "I see. A true blank slate. Harvey, I'm very grateful, but run along now and talk to Veronica about ties."
Harvey leaned in, whispered, "Enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun," and retreated to the bar.
The sheer number of details and considerations regarding "our new wardrobe" were overwhelming, but Mike listened carefully and nodded along, treating it like one of Harvey's legal assignments. The difference between chalk and pin stripes, fabric weight and weave, considerations of shoulder and hip, of shine, of pattern. Once he felt he had a grasp on the basics, it was fun; arguing about vests with Rene ("You look like a professional gambler, child." "But the other one makes me look like a waiter!" "Are you impugning the good name of waiters?") and calling across the shop for Harvey and Veronica's opinions.
He left with two new suits in bags, three more promised once they were tailored properly, and two pairs of wing-tips (black and brown) Rene procured by taking his measurement and sending Veronica next door to an upscale shoe store. Mike was about to ask if they took Mastercard when Rene discreetly informed him he'd be invoiced when the rest of the suits arrived.
Harvey seemed pleased. "We can run these to your place, then take you back to mine for your bike," he said. "Give Junior my regards when you give notice, huh?"
A dual twist of anxiety hit Mike in the stomach as the car took off: he'd have to tell Junior he was quitting, leaving her without a delivery rider, and Harvey would see his building. Not that he was ashamed of where he lived; it was clean, safe, and cheap. Still, after the last few days spent in a world of expensive suits, expensive offices, penthouses in the clouds...
Oh, screw it. He'd been hired for his brain, hadn't he? He didn't get the job because he had a ten thousand dollar couch.
"Do you want some help?" Harvey asked with unusual hesitation, when they pulled up in front of Mike's building.
"Um." On the one hand, his apartment was probably a mess. On the other...it was a lot to carry.
"I promise not to steal anything," Harvey drawled.
"I could use the help," Mike said, flushing slightly, and dug his keys out of his pocket.
It was three floors up to his apartment, Harvey trailing behind him, deftly avoiding the two bicycles chained up on the second-floor landing. Mike unlocked his door, stepped inside, and went to hang the garment bags up. Harvey, carrying the shoes, came in cautiously, like a cat exploring a new place, looking around with unashamed curiosity.
"Home sweet home," Mike said, hastily clearing some dirty dishes into the sink.
"It's nice," Harvey said, still barely inside. "It's..."
"Small?" Mike offered.
"Comfortable," Harvey replied, and Mike saw what he'd mistaken for disdain was badly-hidden fascination. He thought about Harvey's huge condo, the empty office, the way the living room and bedroom looked more or less the same, the way the kitchen was always painfully clean but the paperwork piled in drifts sometimes on the counter. It struck him how lonely Harvey's home would seem with only one person there.
"With the unpredictable hot water and inexplicable hallway smells." Mike grinned. "But...yeah. It is. I like it," he added, looking around his home with Harvey's eyes, not the ones that would see the dents in the coffee table or the sagging bookshelf, but the ones that would see the books on the shelf, the expert patching on the couch arm -- the ones that saw potential.
God, he was so confused.
"So," Harvey said, setting the shoes down on Mike's desk. "We should get your bike. I have to be back at the office for a client meeting."
"Right, okay," Mike said. "Just let me change?"
He left Harvey to poke around the living room (after all, he'd done it often enough to Harvey's) and went to dig out a decent pair of jeans.
"It reminds me of my parents' place," Harvey called.
"What?" Mike asked, leaning out as he pulled a shirt on. Harvey's eyes flicked to him, then back to the bookshelf.
"I grew up in a building like this," Harvey said. He glanced at Mike again. "I didn't come from money."
"Oh." Mike found a pair of socks and started pulling them on. "I always assumed..."
"Most people do."
"The blinded, boring world?" Mike asked.
"Something like that. Ready?"
"Yep. Oh boy, pizza!" Mike said, laughing. "You want me to stop by after my shift, bring you some ribs?"
Harvey gave him a small smile. "Just tell me tomorrow that you gave your notice, okay?"
"Sure," Mike said, more easily than he felt.
Harvey left him in the parking garage, unlocking his bike; Mike leaned in the window, bike propped against the cage, and said, "Seriously. Thank you. You don't know how much I appreciate -- all of this."
"You earned it," Harvey told him. "Let me know how it goes."
Mike nodded and thumped the roof of the car, watching as it pulled away.
Then he got on his bike and made for Rollo's, trying to work up a speech for Junior about how grateful he was for the job and how awesome she'd been and how much of a dick he felt for leaving with only a week's notice.
Junior was taking what sounded like a complicated order when he arrived, so he hung his bag up on the kitchen coatrack and waited unobtrusively for her to finish. When she was done, she passed the order to the chefs and beamed at him.
"You look like someone just ran over your cat," she said, patting him on the shoulder. "Bad day?"
"Uh..." the speech went out of Mike's head. He stammered at her. "I...I kind of got a new job."
Junior looked at him curiously. "Well, that's good, isn't it? I don't know when you'll sleep, but you seem to do well without it..."
"No, I -- it's a day job," Mike said. "Full time. I'm really sorry, Junior," he added, without actually telling her why he was sorry.
"Oh, sweetie," she said with a grin. "You're giving notice?"
Mike nodded miserably. Junior hugged him, which was unexpected but nice.
"Good job?" she asked, stepping back.
"Yeah, really...I mean I hope so...pay's really good, anyway," Mike said. "I don't want to screw you, I can't give more than a week's notice -- "
She waved a hand. "It's pizza delivery, Mike, it's not like qualified candidates are hard to come by. You'll still stop in though, right?"
"Yeah! I mean of course," Mike said.
"H. Specter's going to be heartbroken, you know," Junior added, checking an order that was slid across the counter.
"He, um. Kinda got me the job," Mike said slowly.
Junior pivoted, one eyebrow cocked. "This is an actual job, right? It's not like...housekeeping with grabass privileges or something?"
"Houseke...what? No! I'm signed as a legal consultant for his firm."
She looked faintly relieved, and placed two pizza boxes in his hands.
"Go thou and deliver," she said, kissing his forehead. "And congratulations!" she added, while Mike loaded them into the hot bag, strapped on his helmet, and took off.
Harvey didn't actually wait to be told Mike had given notice; at the end of his shift, his phone buzzed.
How'd it go?
You're a pushy dickhead sometimes. It went fine.
I'm a pushy dickhead all the time. Glad to hear. Good luck on the Bar, Harvey replied, and Mike smiled. The one thing in his life he wasn't anxious about was the Bar.
The next week was strange, time passing at once quickly and slowly. Getting his grandmother moved to the private care home proved surprisingly complex, plus he had to get all her stuff moved over as well, but it still only took two days. Mike found himself uncertain what to do when he wasn't studying or working. It felt unreal to be anticipating a new job, to have time off before it started; doubly so to see Junior interviewing delivery drivers as he picked up orders or came back for more. He'd seen the process before -- he'd been working for Rollo's for almost six years, and when he started Junior's dad still managed the kitchen. He'd seen the entire delivery staff come and go a few times now; it was a high-turnover job. It was just weird to see her talking to people about taking his job. He wondered if any of them rode a bike.
He wondered if he could actually do this day-job thing, and if Junior would take him back if he couldn't. Maybe he should stay on, do like two nights a week.
He thought this over lunch, the day before the first day of the Bar, law books spread out on the table of a booth at Rollo's, the lunch rush just beginning to wane. He'd started camping out in the booth during the day to study, because they'd bring him a Coke and leave him alone, and the noise helped him think.
"I can hear your wheels grinding," Shawna said as she passed, picking up his cup for a refill.
"Can you hear my soul suffering?" he called after her, and she shot him the bird.
Junior let him off at midnight so that he could get some rest, and also because he was starting to get twitchy with all of the stuff in his head. It was his last night working, but he left quietly, unobtrusively, giving Shawna a hug in passing and fist-bumping the chefs. Gram was comfortable in the new place; tomorrow he'd take the Bar; everything was happening at once, and --
There was a photomessage from Harvey on his phone. He opened it, perplexed.
Even you can't be totally calm about the Bar. So when you freak out, remember this and laugh.
The image was clearly taken when Harvey was younger, when he was a student at Harvard, probably at a football game. Mike choked on his laughter at Harvey's terrible hair and boyish face and the giant red-and-white H painted on it -- the parallels running from temple to jaw, the bar crossing the bridge of his nose.
He could do this.
Still, taking the Bar was weird. He showed up in the most comfortable clothes he owned, presentable but not fancy. Everyone else seemed to be in suits. They all seemed so nervous, too, some visibly exhausted, others covering their anxiety with overt confidence. Mike kept his mind clear, went in, sat down --
And drew a total blank.
He panicked for a good thirty seconds before a single piece of information drew up in his mind: the photo of Harvey with the stupid giant H painted over his face. Then he choked down a laugh before it got out, and remembered the first brief Harvey had made him read, and suddenly his world was full of knowledge, full of law.
He barely had the energy after the exam to get on his bike and get home, where he swallowed a handful of potato chips for dinner and fell asleep.
The second day of the Bar was more grueling, after having spent the first day already puking up everything he knew. He was honestly worried when he stumbled out of the exam, not that he hadn't passed but that he'd taken a cab this morning and might actually forget his own address before he could flag down a cab to get home. It took him a second to focus in the glare of the late afternoon sun --
There was a car, a fancy white car, a Tesla, sitting in the loading zone outside the building, its blinkers on. Harvey was leaning against it in one of his sharp suits, wearing ridiculously cool sunglasses, looking for all the world like he just happened to pull up and get out of the car for a few minutes of casual posing for others to admire.
"Done?" Harvey asked, taking off his sunglasses. "I remember my -- "
Harvey broke off with a huff of expelled air as Mike threw body and soul into the hug that followed.
"Please say you're here to take me somewhere I can sleep," he said, letting go of Harvey and slouching against the car. "Do you own this?"
"Car club," Harvey replied. "I'm here to take you somewhere you can get a hot meal."
"My brain feels empty," Mike complained, slumping into the incredibly comfortable leather passenger's seat. Harvey slid into the driver's seat and then pulled into traffic like a god damned maniac. Mike gripped the dashboard briefly until it looked like they weren't actually going to die.
"I'm a safe driver," Harvey said. Mike was expecting more noise, given the speed and the open top, but the car seemed to be engineered to create a pocket of quiet, something he was grateful for.
"You're a fast driver," he replied.
"I can be both." Harvey executed a sharp turn. "Listen to me, Mike, before you pass out."
"I'm really awake now," Mike told him.
"You are going make me, and by extension Pearson Hardman, very successful," Harvey said, navigating deftly around cars, seemingly trying to outpace them all. "And in return, this job is going to make you disgustingly wealthy."
Mike nodded, relaxing a little.
"And when one day you realize you're disgustingly wealthy -- are you listening?"
"Mmhm," Mike said. The car handled well; it was actually relaxing if he closed his eyes.
" -- I want you to think about this, right now. All the exhaustion and worry and fear. Even if you didn't feel it, the terror of failure you could smell in that exam room. Remember where you come from."
Mike turned his head, rubbing his face against the seat's soft headrest. "Who gave you this speech? After your Bar?"
Harvey chuckled. "Jessica."
"Jessica hates me."
"Jessica likes winning. She'll warm up to you."
"Can I go home?" Mike asked quietly.
There was a pause; he felt Harvey's hand on his head, and worried sleepily that he didn't have both on the wheel.
"Yeah. We just have to make a quick stop first."
Mike fell asleep a little guiltily. This was a really nice car, and he should be enjoying it, but it was also really comfortable. He drifted mostly; at some point they stopped and there was the slam of a door, and he heard Harvey speaking.
"Picking up for H. Specter," Harvey said. It smelled like they were in the alley behind Rollo's, where the kitchen entrance was.
"So you're Mr. Specter," Junior's voice. "You're shorter than I thought you'd be."
"Well, I look taller in heels. You must be Junior."
Mike heard Junior laugh, and smiled in his sleep.
"Got your order here," Junior continued. "Going to be picking up now that your number one delivery boy quit?"
"Just this once. Mike's in the car. And you can drop the thousand yard stare, I'm taking him home and feeding him. His home."
Mike shifted, wanting to open his eyes, because something wasn't quite right; but it was nice here, familiar, and Junior and Harvey were both close by.
"If you're toying with him -- "
"Mike is special to us. To me. He's part of our family."
"Look, I appreciate that you took him in and helped him out. I do. But I can give him a shot at the big time, and with all due respect...you can't. So let me give the kid a hot meal and take it from here. I'm not the big bad wolf."
"You're not his big brother, either."
There was a soft laugh, Harvey's, sounding almost rueful. "No. But that doesn't mean he's not important to me, too."
Mike slipped away again, and woke only when Harvey pulled up to his building. He fumbled, dropped his keys, managed to get the front door open and stumble up the stairs. The world blurred pleasantly until he was sitting at his crappy little table, a plate of Rollo's ravioli in front of him, Harvey devouring a small mushroom-and-onions in the rickety chair across from his. Harvey was talking, but Mike paid no attention; just ate and nodded at what he hoped were appropriate intervals.
"Okay, you're done," Harvey said, the second time a ravioli slipped off Mike's fork. "Are you going to be coherent tomorrow?"
"What time is it?"
"Close to seven."
"Should be fine." Mike set his fork down, then picked it back up again, confused. Harvey was fitting the pizza box into his fridge. "Wait...what?"
"Bed," Harvey ordered. He ruffled Mike's hair as he passed. "I'm going to go see if the Tesla's been stolen from this battleground you call a neighborhood. See you tomorrow. Seven-thirty, wear the chalk-stripe."
Mike was unconscious on the bed before he even heard the door shut.
Except apparently at some point Harvey briefly stole and reprogrammed his phone, because he woke the next morning to the loudest alarm known to man and his phone flashing the words Chalk stripe.
It was five am.
Still, as he rolled out of bed he felt better than he had the day before. He'd had all that knowledge sloshing around in his brain, and then he'd spent two days putting it together in ways that made sense, and now he felt...clear. Ready.
So he put on the chalk-stripe, tucked the leg into his sock to protect it from the bike, strapped his bag to his back and his helmet on his head, and rode to work.
There was so much to know. So much to learn, so many people he had to meet. He barely did any work at all the first morning, just followed Rachel around as she introduced him to associates, mid-levels, junior partners. He sat in on a meeting in the afternoon, simultaneously listening to Louis talk to them about "The Stable Shelters Case" and googling on his phone for what the hell Louis was talking about. By the time Louis finished, he thought he had a reasonable grip on the case: Anthony Maslow stole a shit-ton of money from a charity, and it was Pearson Hardman's job as Stable Shelters' law firm to find out where the money went and make the asshole give it back. Which, for the associates, meant spending the next few days, all-hands, going over Maslow's financials.
Are you in the Maslow briefing? Harvey texted.
This Maslow guy is a dick, Mike texted back.
You want to go after Maslow, stick with Louis. Show him what you can do. Also tell Kyle I want to see him.
Mike frowned; being loaned out on his first day wasn't really what he expected. Still, Harvey wasn't wrong. Maybe if Louis saw that he was useful, he'd stop being such a tool.
He caught up with Kyle as the associates began to file out, heading towards the law library. "Harvey wants to see you."
"It's all-hands," Kyle said, frowning.
"Hey, I'm just the messenger." He saw Kyle glance back at Louis. "I'll cover for you. Might be nothing."
"Thanks, man," Kyle said, and drifted casually away from the crowd. Mike darted back before Louis could see.
"Harvey said I'm all yours," he said.
"Truly gracious of him," Louis answered. Okay, maybe the guy was a born tool.
"Look, I just go where I'm told. How can I help?"
"How much did Anthony Maslow embezzle from Stable Shelters?" Louis asked, crossing his arms.
"One hundred and fifty two million, three hundred seventy five thousand, two hundred and forty two dollars. And eighteen cents."
"That information has only been made available in printed briefs."
"And the news. I googled. I'm good at multitasking," Mike added. "You know. Hands and mouth at the same time..."
Louis almost, almost cracked a smile. "So what do you suggest I do with you? Do you know anything about the law?"
"Everyone's going over the financials, right? How do you make sure everyone knows what the rest know?"
Louis stared at him. Dude had a stare to rival Junior's.
"Make me a floorwalker," Mike suggested.
"Sure. I worked in a bookstore in high school, same theory. I talk to everyone, make sure we're all on the same page. If someone finds something weird, I make sure the rest of them know, so that they're all thinking about it as they read."
"A bookstore. In high school." Louis snorted.
"If it works..." Mike shrugged.
"Fine. Go 'walk the floor'," Louis said, and he actually used airquotes. "And when that proves totally fruitless, you can go back and sit in Harvey's office and look pretty."
Well, at least he'd successfully kept him busy while Kyle vanished.
Actually, floorwalking was kind of a genius idea, Mike decided, after the next few hours. It kept him on his feet, and it meant not only did he get all the financial information, he got to meet everyone. There were fifty-three associates working the case plus four paralegals, including Rachel, who was unbearably hot and seemed nice despite Harvey's considered opinion that she was really mean.
He started to wonder a little when quitting time was, around five o'clock; around seven, he started to wonder if they got a quitting time. At seven-thirty, Kyle appeared outside the library, obviously hiding from Louis and beckoning him to come out. Mike waited until Louis started harassing one of the associates and then slid through the door silently.
"What's going on?" he asked.
"Harvey has me running ID checks," Kyle complained.
"One of our clients has a daughter who dropped a fake ID."
"Ohhh, man," Mike groaned. "How young is she?"
"That's the thing. She's twenty-eight."
Mike frowned. "Why would a twenty-eight-year-old woman need a fake ID?"
"The name and address belong to a staff member for her dad's company. She's been funnelling money out of it to a fake company."
"What'd Harvey say?"
Kyle sighed. "He said take care of it."
"Our client's daughter," Kyle repeated. "He doesn't mean report her to the cops, dumbass."
"Have you talked to her yet?"
"Why...?" Kyle frowned.
"Seriously, you're calling me the dumbass?" Mike asked. "Go talk to her tomorrow, make her give the money back."
"You're mock-trial champion, right? Talk her into it. You gonna come work on the Maslow case, or you gonna ditch out?"
Kyle looked through the glass, weighing his options -- gruntwork with no chance of glory, or a good night's sleep with the possibility of getting busted in the morning.
"Listen," Mike said. "You're Harvey's associate. He clearly doesn't like you. I don't know you, but first impressons have not so far been promising. So this is a one-time offer to be someone who is not a douchebag. I'm going to walk you in there and tell Louis you're taking over for me as floorwalker so that I can ditch out and you can get more glory than reading a billion pages of financials is going to get you. Or you can dick off. Up to you."
Kyle gave him another few seconds of consideration, and then raised a hand. "Up high."
"So not happening."
"Okay." Kyle dropped his hand and followed Mike into the library.
"Guys, Kyle's taking over for me," Mike announced.
"Whoa, whoa, wait -- " Louis began, but Mike rolled on over him.
"See you all tomorrow. Hey, everybody watch Maslow's futures trading, there's something freaky going on there."
He heard a couple of people mutter Something freaky? disbelievingly, but he just gave Louis a thumbs-up and an asshole grin as he walked out the door.
Harvey was still in his office when Mike arrived. He had his jacket off and his sleeves rolled up, and a few strands of hair had come loose, hanging across his forehead. He was reading, concentrating intently. Mike took a moment to place Harvey alongside Rachel on a hotness scale and came up with a revised almost unbearably hot for her, reserving champion title for Harvey.
If he was going to be working with him, he should probably stop doing that.
He knocked on the open door, leaning in.
"Solve world hunger yet?" Harvey asked, looking up.
"I feel I'm contributing meaningfully to society," Mike replied. "What are you doing?"
"Prepping. I'm deposing Maslow's second-in-command tomorrow."
"I love the smell of napalm in the morning," Mike remarked.
"You can't fight in here! This is the War Room!"
"Oooh, Kubrick against Coppola, well done," Mike said.
"Louis let you guys go? It's early still."
"I swapped out with Kyle. I'm going home to try and adjust to this whole 'day job' thing. You want me back with Louis tomorrow?"
"Not in the morning. Come along to the deposition, it'll be good experience. Eight am, meet Elliot Perkins and show him into the conference room. Leave him there. We're going to let him sweat. Should be fun," Harvey finished. "Got it?"
"I'm good. Hey, I found a copy of the new not-yet-released James Bond film on my doorstep. No idea how it got there. Movie night?"
"We should get through the Maslow case first. Hold onto it?"
"Only for you would I wait," Mike said. "See you tomorrow."
The next morning was hell on toast. Mike knew Harvey had said to wait and let Perkins sweat, and he tried to explain that to Louis, but Louis was still pissed he'd let Harvey's associate take over for him (man, being Kyle must really suck sometimes) and he steamrollered his way in. Mike signaled to Donna to get Harvey from wherever the hell he was, then followed; then he watched in awed horror as Louis bullied Perkins into a collapse.
It was magnificent, in its own way. Louis knew all the buttons to push and it was a little like watching a police interrogation on TV. But after about eight minutes, Perkins was visibly distressed and his lawyer wasn't kicking nearly enough ass to get him out of there.
Perkins asked for water, and Mike took his chance; even as Louis was saying they didn't have any, Mike got out of the room on the pretext and called 911.
Harvey showed up as they were wheeling Perkins out, one EMT sitting on the gurney and giving him CPR.
"What the hell happened?" Harvey asked, and then he and Louis got into it, and Mike was just glad to avoid getting called into Jessica's office with them. News eventually filtered out that Perkins was in a medically-induced coma while they tried to stabilize his pulmonary embolism. If Mike hadn't called the EMTs when he had, Perkins would be dead.
Kyle showed up, looking tired, and went straight to Mike, complaining that there was no point, the woman was not giving that money back. Mike sent him to Harvey, who apparently gave him a lecture on dysfunctional families and sent him off.
Then Maslow the embezzler visited in person and really pissed Harvey off.
Holy crap, for real.
"Is it always this insane?" Mike asked around lunchtime, catching up to Rachel in the breakroom.
"Well, usually Louis doesn't kill anyone before noon," she answered. "Otherwise, pretty much. Hey, I hear you're the hero of the hour."
"Pretty sure stopping Louis from deposing him into a coma would have made me the hero of the hour."
"Sidekick of the hour?"
"Not in Harvey's opinion."
"Aww. Come on, it's time for another thrilling afternoon in the law library. Louis is totally going to do his Tommy Lee Jones. It's not about the crime! It's about the cover up!"
"What I want from each and every one of you is a hard-target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse," Mike quipped, which earned him a laugh.
When Louis actually said, word for word, It's not about the crime, it's about the cover up! Mike covered his mouth to keep from showing his smile. He was leaning against the wall, waiting for people to get started so he could circulate, and he felt a weird sense of authority. A...sense of separateness. The deference of the associates and the cordial treatment by the paralegals didn't help.
He didn't have much time to ponder the feeling, that week. Kyle was failing in an epic kind of way on the case Harvey had given him, and Harvey was in hot pursuit of Maslow, not to mention how he and Louis were constantly at each others' throats. By the time the case wrapped, the following Tuesday, Mike felt like he should be doing a triumphant strut, but he was just too tired. Harvey, emerging from the meeting with Jessica and the Stable Shelters people, looked equally weary.
"Now can we have movie night?" Mike asked. "Oh, wait, no, I have to see Gram first."
"My place?" Harvey offered. "Come over after."
"Bring ribs," Mike ordered, walking down the hall.
"Who's the boss here?" Harvey inquired, amused.
Mike liked visiting Arbormed. He liked visiting his grandmother, of course he did, but now she was living somewhere really nice, which helped him feel like he was actually repaying her for raising him. All the chairs were comfortable, and the rooms didn't smell like bleach. Gram had made friends, and she and her friend Ida and Mike played super-competitive blackjack while they filled him in on all the gossip.
"He's a lawyer, you know," Gram said to Ida, when Mike contested what he considered an illegal play.
"Legal consultant, Gram," he replied.
"He works for a very important law firm, which is why he hasn't been to see me in a week," she said, grinning at him.
"Promise that won't happen again. It was my first week!"
She patted his shoulder. "I was teasing, Michael. You know I was very worried about this job, but..."
"I swear it's legit."
"Yes, I had one of the nurses do that...google thing." She waved a hand expressively. "Are you enjoying it, at least?"
He ducked his head. He was, he supposed, but the sensation of alien-ness, of not quite fitting, hadn't really gone away.
"Yeah," he said, smiling. "It's great. Annnnd, I have to go."
"Oh? Hot date?" Ida asked. Mike laughed.
"No. Movies and hanging out with Harvey."
"Who's Harvey?" Ida asked Gram. "Is he your son?"
"He's a friend," Mike said, before Gram could launch into her theories on who, exactly, Harvey was to Mike. "A really good friend."
"Sex friend," Gram whispered to Ida, who looked intrigued and only mildly scandalized.
"He's not my -- oh my God." Mike bent and kissed her on the forehead. "I'm going now. I'll see you soon. Call me if you need me to kick any ass for you, Gram, okay?"
"I can kick ass myself just fine, thank you," she replied. "Shoo."
Tom, the evening doorman, stopped Mike in the lobby of Harvey's building as he arrived. "Hey, Mike!"
"Hi, Tom," Mike said, leaning on Tom's desk. "How's life?"
"Getting along. Sharp outfit."
"Thanks. New job. No more pizza delivery."
"Yeah, it's all right. What's up?"
"Mr. Specter called and left a message for you. He's delayed with clients, but you can take the private elevator up."
"He say how late he'd be?"
"Just that you should eat, if you're hungry."
"Thanks, Tom," Mike said, and Tom buzzed open the door to the private elevator.
When he got to Harvey's condo, he dumped his bag on the floor, pulled off his jacket and tie, and settled into the couch, back against the armrest, feet tucked up on the cushions. He tipped his head back and relaxed for what felt like the first time in weeks.
They'd had to call in Louis on the Maslow case, and he'd had to convince Kyle personally to bring in his identity thief to do a little poking around in Lichtenstein's banks. Louis had been, legitimately, a genius at the financial stuff; Kyle really was a smooth-talker, and while they were finally, finally breaking the case Mike had felt...not useless or superfluous, exactly, just...
Like he was lagging. Playing in the big leagues, and working hard to keep up for the first time in -- well, ever. High school had been a breeze, and with the objectivity of distance, Trevor had never been his equal, intellectually or in any other sense. Pizza delivery wasn't exactly rocket science.
It had been such a relief to meet someone like Harvey, someone who could keep up with him and challenge him. And it was a strange relief too to be working at Pearson Hardman, where everyone could keep up with him. At the same time, he didn't know where he fit. The associates treated him like a junior partner and grew quiet when he walked by. Even Kyle still called him Mr. Ross. The partners had no clue what to do with him, including Louis; he'd been writing his own ticket since he started, going where Harvey sent him and working out what the hell he was supposed to do from there. Harvey at work was not like Harvey his friend. Mike wasn't sure he was cutting it, and didn't know how to measure himself against anyone else, since there wasn't anyone else like him at the firm.
Everyone he'd met, outside of the firm, assumed he was sleeping with Harvey; even Louis had thought he was. And Mike was beginning to wonder if Harvey had given him this job, this incredible gift, because Mike was his friend and in trouble, not because he deserved it. Harvey knew Mike wanted to earn his way, and he'd seen enough now to know that Harvey might not perjure himself but he didn't always tell people the whole truth.
What if he was about to fail? Donna had threatened to eat his liver if he let Harvey down. And he never would, not consciously, but he wasn't a lawyer. He had no degree. He was confident he'd passed the Bar, but...Jessica had called him a parrot. Maybe that was all he was.
He sat like that for a long time, trying not to worry and failing, looking out over the night cityscape.
There was a click, finally, and the sound of Harvey's front door opening. Mike looked up and waved.
"I know I'm late," Harvey announced, going to the kitchen and digging in the fridge for a bottle of water. "Lucille wanted to take us out to celebrate. Ain't no party like a charitable foundation party. Couldn't weasel out of it."
"No problem. Gram sends her regards," Mike answered, as Harvey moved towards the bedroom, undoing his tie. "Are you drunk?"
"Very probably," Harvey called from the bedroom. "Lucille bought me several shots."
"There goes the endowment."
Harvey's laughter was good to hear. "Not that many."
He walked back out wearing pajama pants and a long-sleeved shirt, looking steady on his feet, at least. Mike scooted his legs up and Harvey collapsed into the couch.
"So, that was fun, my first consultation," Mike said, after a while. Harvey groaned. "I hear Perkins woke up from his deposition-induced embolism coma thing. You think I'll be subpoena'd if he sues Louis?"
"That twenty million he socked away wasn't a hundred percent legit. He's not suing Louis." Harvey rubbed his face with his hands. "He should send you a fruit basket for saving his life, though."
"I'm not that big a fan of fruit," Mike remarked. Harvey laughed again. "Hey, are you okay?"
"Just very tired," Harvey answered. "You eat yet? Sorry I forgot to bring back ribs."
"Nah, not that hungry. I had a snack with Gram."
"Mm, prune cake."
"Sugarless chocolate chip cookies, if you must know."
"Oh God..." Harvey kept rubbing his face.
"There was this chocolate martini thing...never drink martinis with Jessica Pearson," Harvey said.
"I don't think that's an opportunity I'm likely to get. Are you gonna hurl?"
Harvey spared him a glare through one eye. "No. It's the shame of drinking a chocolatini, it's just now hitting me."
"I'm sure we have some very manly scotch around here..." Mike teased, thumping him in the leg with the heel of his foot.
"Yes. Scotch is a good idea," Harvey said, pushing himself off the couch.
"I don't know that it is," Mike called after him, but Harvey was already taking a bottle down from the cupboard where he kept the stupidly expensive liquor, pouring out two glasses. He returned, handed one to Mike, and sat down again, sipping his.
"Can I ask you something?" Mike said, as the first of the alcohol burned its way down.
"No shop talk," Harvey moaned.
"Not directly. Just...all this, and you know I'm grateful for it, for the job and the suits and everything...you meant it when you said I earned it, right? That wasn't a lie?"
Harvey turned to him, frowning. "Of course."
"I'm not sure I'm fitting in."
"It's been ten days, Mike."
"I know, but...I want to be sure. There's no benchmark for me, Harvey. I need to know that you helped me because you really believe I can do this. I don't know if I can right now, but I trust your judgement. So if you think I can, I'll keep going. But if you don't, you need to tell me now." He considered things. "Well, actually you needed to tell me like two weeks ago, but I'll settle for now."
Harvey finished his scotch and leaned forward, setting the glass down. He rested his elbows on his knees, hands clasped between them.
"I know your friend's death must have scared the hell out of you," he said. "And I know this is a lot harder than the jobs you used to have. Yeah, okay, I set this up for you, and not everyone gets the help you got from me -- " He broke off, shaking his head. "You remember that night you stayed up with me to help finish the fact-check? When you stood in my kitchen and recited my orders back to me like a smartass?"
"Sure," Mike said carefully.
"Until then I just thought you were a nice kid looking for a big tip. You were easy to talk to, and I appreciated that. I knew you had to be a hard worker, given you delivered pizzas on a bicycle. Then all of a sudden you were also a god damned genius. An actual genius, delivering my food. Albert Einstein in the patent office."
"Harvey..." Mike trailed off, embarrassed.
"You've earned the right to my respect. And with it you earned the right to ask me for help. After a while, when you didn't, I though, I'm gonna have to ram an opportunity down his throat before he figures it out. And you still haven't. So I guess the real question -- " Harvey looked up at him, tired and drunk and kind of...almost agonized, " -- the real question is, who taught you that you couldn't do it, Mike? That minimum wage plus tips was the best you could do? Because I know it wasn't your grandmother."
Mike studied his drink. It had been such a given, for such a long time. He couldn't remember thinking it. Just believing it.
"It was Trevor, I think," Harvey said, turning away again.
"You don't know anything about -- "
"I know he wanted to walk you into a drug deal where he ended up dead. I know he blew an opportunity at college you would probably have killed for, and I'm guessing he didn't want you doing well. Too much of a reminder that he was a screwup."
Mike fell silent. Harvey didn't know Trevor, didn't know what it had been like, had no idea how hard life had been.
But he remembered the tense envy, the anger, when Trevor had decided hey, getting kicked out of school was no big deal, time to sell pot. And all the times he'd said "Nah, I'm good" and Trevor had said "Come on, man, I hate to smoke alone" and every god damned time Trevor had told him there was no point in taking one stupid college class a semester, he was better off working.
"Yeah. That's what I thought," Harvey said finally.
"He was all I had," Mike muttered.
"Well, now you have me." Harvey bowed his head. "Louis bitched at me about you handling Kyle this week, by the way. But he couldn't really argue with your results."
"That's a weird change of subject."
Mike nudged him with his heel again. "So you want to watch the movie? Or should I let you pass out in peace, and we can continue my existential crisis tomorrow?"
Harvey blew out a breath, standing. "I should sober up a little before I try to sleep. You want a refill?"
"I'm good," Mike said, as Harvey took his glass into the kitchen and returned, thankfully, with the bottle of water. Mike dug in his bag for the flashdrive with the movie on it, tossing it to Harvey; Harvey plugged it into his super-fancy television and switched it on. Mike was still leaning forward, stuffing back some papers that had spilled out of the bag, when Harvey dropped behind him, one arm on the armrest. His hip nudged Mike's ass over so that when Mike sat back, there he was.
It felt good to be leaning on someone for a change.
Harvey settled an arm around Mike's shoulders, across his chest, and secured him there with an almost entitled arrogance. Mike slid down a little, so that Harvey's shoulder propped up his head, as the familiar strains of the Bond credits theme played.
"Do you think James Bond drinks chocolatinis?" he asked.
"Don't be a dick," Harvey told him.
"I'm just saying, if they're delicious enough to tempt Harvey Specter..."
"Jessica ordered without asking me."
"A likely story."
Then there was an awesome explosion, and Mike got distracted by Bond.
It had been a long day and he was very comfortable, but he didn't feel like he could sleep. For one thing, he needed to get up when the movie was over and go home, because they still had work tomorrow. And even though he was tired, it wasn't the same kind as he'd felt for so long -- not the fatigue of nightly bike deliveries or the exhaustion that came from trying to keep his head above water. It was almost pleasant. Satisfying.
"You are where you belong," Harvey said at one point, quietly. Mike nodded, acknowledging the truth of it.
It got better after that. Maybe it was what Harvey had told him, or maybe it was that people finally got used to him wandering around, rummaging in everything, generally being awesome at them. Kyle was weirdly defensive, like he had to stake some claim on being Harvey's associate, but Mike relentlessly called him on being an asshole and, having dealt with assholes many times on his delivery runs, started trying to show him there were non-asshole options, ways to behave that made him a decent lawyer without being a towering douchebag. (This did not work on Louis, but ignoring Louis worked to some extent, so Mike ran with it.)
Another week, and it was hard to remember he'd ever worked anywhere else. Another week after that and Harvey defeated Travis Tanner, The Dickhead Of Boston, in epic legal combat. Which called for celebration.
"I say we have a Two Million Dollar Settlement Party," Mike suggested, as Harvey got back into the town car after delivering the news to their lead client. "Do we get bonuses for this kind of thing?"
"I do. Contractors don't get bonuses."
"Man, I really need to talk to the guy who drew up my contract," Mike said. "Though really it just means you're paying."
"No I'm not."
"Yeah you are. Come on, let's go to Rollo's, I want to tell Junior how awesome I am. We can bring Kyle, he can learn what it's like to drink somewhere they don't serve amuse bouche."
"What is he now, your project?"
"He has no experience in not being offensive. I'm trying to expand his horizons. I'd like to have more than one friend at the firm, and it might be nice for him to find out what it's like to have friends at all."
Harvey seemed vaguely dissatisfied by this, but he let Mike call Kyle and give him the address.
Kyle was already there when they arrived, trying to make time with one of the waitresses, Deb, who was looking at him like he might make a semi-interesting snack.
"Hey!" he said, when he saw them. "I wasn't sure I had the right place."
"Slum it," Mike said, clapping him on the back, feeling at ease with the world.
Junior, peering over the service counter, yelled "Mike!" and then came through the kitchen doors, hugging him. "Hey, you look great. Mr. Specter," she added, narrowing her eyes.
"Junior," Harvey replied, equally suspicious, but there was a hint of a smile around his mouth.
"Junior, you've met Harvey, be nice, and this is Kyle," Mike said. "He's Harvey's associate. We're celebrating, we just epic owned this total -- "
" -- lawyer who shall remain nameless," Harvey interjected.
"So -- pitcher of beer, ribs, fries, large mushroom and -- uh, Kyle?" Mike turned to him.
"Um. Pepperoni?" Kyle said, clearly out of his element. Mike glanced at Harvey, who made a magnanimous gesture.
"Large mushroom and pepperoni. On H. Specter's card," Mike finished. Harvey sighed.
"Coming up. Grab a table. Good to see you, kid," she said, and went off to place his order.
"So there's this place in Cambridge," Kyle said, as they ate. "Pinnochio's."
"The square pizza," Harvey agreed, nodding. Mike gave them a mystified look. "It's legendary at Harvard."
"This is almost as good. Hey, you should come up with me next time there's an alumni event," Kyle told Mike. "Have a look around, see where everyone you work with got their JD."
God, it was so hard not to smack him sometimes.
"Kyle," Harvey said, nudging the empty beer pitcher at him.
"Why do I have to get it?" Kyle asked.
"Because you're the associate, I'm the senior partner, and as a contractor Mike can bill me if I make him get it."
Kyle rolled his eyes and sulked, but he went off to get them a refill. Mike, sitting next to Harvey, nudged him in the ribs.
"What?" Harvey asked. "It's like training a dog. I make him do something boring or mildly humiliating every time he gets out of line, he'll stop doing it."
"If you did that to me I would never have loaned you the second reboot movie."
"You never gave me reason to," Harvey informed him.
Eventually, when Kyle started hitting on Deb in earnest, Harvey made Mike pour him into a cab and send him home. When he came back in, Harvey was sipping the last of the beer quietly.
"Bill's paid up," he said. "We can take off too."
"Yeah, I'm hitting a wall of tired," Mike agreed, taking a final sip from Harvey's glass. "Split a cab?"
Harvey nodded and slid out, following him; Mike waved at Junior and Shawna through the service window, then stepped out into the cool evening, letting Harvey whistle sharply for a ride.
They were both quiet most of the way to Harvey's place, but about a block away Harvey leaned over and said, "Come up?"
Mike looked at him, confused.
"Nightcap, get the taste of beer out of your mouth. No work tomorrow. You can have the couch if you want it."
The thought of a long, cold cab ride back to his place seemed less enticing than a drink in the clouds and a night on Harvey's couch.
When they arrived, Harvey made scotch-and-sodas, heavy on the soda, and passed one to Mike.
"Are you annoyed I invited Kyle along tonight?" Mike asked, because it had been mildly bugging him all evening, the look of dissatisfaction on Harvey's face when he suggested it.
"I tend to think he's not worth your time," Harvey said. "I got saddled with him, so I have to put up with him. You don't. On the other hand," he said, as if the admission cost him something, "he wasn't nearly as annoying as usual tonight. And you're entitled to like who you like."
"I don't like him. I feel bad for him, because he's emotionally stunted and has all the maturity of a labrador retriever," Mike said. Harvey snorted.
"It's dangerous to care about people," he said, amused. "You should watch out for that, Mike."
"Yeah, I hear your no-emotions bullshit all day at work, but I'm not buying that sale," Mike replied. "It's cool though, gets the job done, doesn't matter that it's a massive lie."
"A massive -- !" Harvey looked offended.
"You care all the time. I wouldn't be here if you didn't."
Harvey actually looked around, like someone might be eavesdropping from a corner, and leaned in close; Mike did a quick calculation and realized that while he and Kyle had definitely done their part, Harvey had been drinking more than either of them.
"Don't tell anyone," Harvey said in his ear, voice low and amused. "I have a reputation to maintain."
"Your secret's safe with me," Mike answered. Harvey's lips brushed his ear, his body a warm column close enough to feel -- and then he moved, arm sliding around Mike's waist, turning them both.
Harvey's hips hit the kitchen counter -- Mike felt the jolt through his own body, pressed thigh-to-chest with Harvey's, and just stared in surprise at his face. Harvey inclined his head, paused, then curled the rest of the way and tucked one hand behind Mike's head and kissed him.
Oh God, oh God, oh God --
"Oh God!" Mike blurted against his lips, jerking back. Harvey released him, eyes wary. They watched each other for what felt like forever before Harvey licked his lips, an unconscious movement that jerked Mike's gaze to his mouth.
"I'm not sorry I did that," he said slowly, pushing himself off the counter. "I'm just sorry it didn't go the way I'd hoped. Won't happen again, don't worry," he added. "You wouldn't believe how much I had to drink to get this far."
He looked bereft, but clearly he'd thought this out as a possible scenario. Mike stepped forward, raised a hand as if to touch his chest, then let it fall again.
"I think you probably should have done that when we both weren't half-dead," he said. "So I'm going to put you to bed, and sleep on your couch tonight, and tomorrow we -- " he caught Harvey's frustrated eyeroll, " -- no, Harvey, we are going to talk about this. Perfect hangover conversation," he added.
"Screw you, Mike," Harvey said. "You need to be sober to let me down easy?"
"Hey, I'm not the one who's always saying nothing needs to be decided in the moment," Mike replied. "What, are you going to regret you did that in the morning?"
"Probably," Harvey admitted, drily amused. "Not for the reasons you think."
Mike moved another step forward, pulled Harvey into a hug, felt Harvey's face press into the top of his shoulder.
"I'll be here in the morning," Mike said. "Right now, it's time to sleep."
Harvey nodded and Mike let go, but Mike kept one hand between Harvey's shoulderblades, steering him into the bedroom. He left him to change, stole a shirt to sleep in, and fetched the blankets out of the office, making a nest of sorts on the couch.
He lay down, but he couldn't sleep; too many things circling in his mind. He had to take the time to smooth each one down, straighten it out.
Had Harvey done all this just to get him into -- no, that was ridiculous, wasn't it? Harvey had moves. If he wanted to sleep with him it could have happened long before now and without all this effort.
He'd never delivered when Harvey had a man over, at least not that he'd ever seen, so was Harvey even attracted to men?
Well, obviously he was, but maybe he'd never acted on it before. Mike had women and men in his past, but it wasn't like he hadn't taken the path of least social resistance either, once in a while. There'd been that one guy who stuck around for weeks -- what was his name, Joe? Jim? -- and Mike had known instinctively not to introduce him to Trevor, because Trevor ignored Mike's occasional one-night-gay-stands but a boyfriend would have wigged him out.
Jesus Christ, why had he ever listened to anything Trevor said? Had he been that stupid when he was twenty?
Did Donna know about Harvey? Was that why she was like...the only person in his life who didn't assume they were sleeping together already, because she knew Harvey wanted them to be?
Oh, shit, had Harvey been jealous of Kyle tonight?
The thought made him laugh in the darkness, softly. Harvey's statements had been ambiguous, but could easily have been taken as some kind of...acceptance that Mike would rather be with someone his own age, his own status, even if that person was Kyle. As if Mike were gently rejecting him, somehow.
He'd seen Harvey sick, seen him worried, seen him triumphant; seen him naked (well, essentially) more than once. And, being honest, back when he hadn't known Harvey that well, he'd had a few...fantasies, of Junior's "make like a porn film" variety. Harvey was built but not ripped, muscles smooth and elegant, proportionate. It wasn't like he'd been the only person Mike had ever spent a private moment considering (the stunning woman who always ordered extra sauce on her pizza, the young couple who rarely separated even while they were paying for their food) but Harvey had featured large, after he started asking for Mike specifically.
Okay, being totally honest, those hadn't stopped when they'd started hanging out, just -- changed. It wouldn't start with him bringing Harvey a delivery and being let inside. It would start with them watching a movie, curled up together like they sometimes were, and there wouldn't be any talking, just awesome making out, didn't matter who started it. Mike would be shy, and Harvey would have to convince him this was a great idea, that he wanted Mike.
God, how long had it been for him since he'd been with someone? How long had it been for Harvey? He couldn't recall them having much downtime since he'd started at Pearson Hardman, and what there was had been spent hanging out together. Before that...the woman called Bette, maybe? The one Harvey blew off for Mike. Harvey had women over all the time, so maybe Mike hadn't known about some, but...no.
He would have known. So it had been, well, a while. For both of them.
He has so many questions. Maybe they shouldn't have waited.
An hour passed, an hour and a half; Mike lay still, feeling the buzz of the beer and his few sips of scotch wear off slowly.
At first he thought what he heard in the other room was just Harvey shifting in his bed, but then there were soft footsteps on Harvey's thick carpet. When he turned slightly to look, Harvey was standing just outside the doorway, watching him.
"Couldn't sleep either?" Mike asked, pushing himself up. Harvey shook his head, and Mike moved over, making space for him on the couch. The cautious way in which Harvey sat down could have broken his heart.
"I keep wanting to explain it to you, like it's going to convince you somehow," Harvey said. Mike moved so that they were sitting, shoulders touching, and Harvey didn't pull away. "I don't want to do that. I'm not going to close you, Mike, I swear. I just want you to understand."
"I think I got the message," Mike said carefully.
Harvey gave a rueful laugh. "Only part of it. Trust me."
"Okay. So we're doing this now, then. Tell me the rest."
Harvey rubbed his forehead. "I don't -- you aren't -- I see you with clarity," he finally managed. "I'm not blinded by our...friendship. I see your skills and flaws. I am very, very good at what I do. This job, the help I've offered, that was because of who you are and what you could do. Do not believe less of me, it doesn't do either of us any favors."
"You didn't do this to get into my pants," Mike translated. "I figured that part out."
"Good. I also mean...I didn't help you because I cared about you. I made an assessment of your skills, and I got you a job I knew you could do."
"But the truth is also that I fell for you a long time ago," Harvey finished. "I care more than is wise. It won't affect our working relationship -- it hasn't, up to now. I should have thought this out more carefully, I should have known you were straight."
"I've been with guys before," Mike said quietly.
"In that case, just...not into me?"
It was endearing, the way he asked, as if he didn't really believe it was possible for someone not to be into him. He was looking away, like he suspected Mike didn't even want to see his face right now.
"Harvey," he said quietly. "Harvey, please look at me."
Harvey turned, looking like he might speak, might give some other disclaimer, but Mike leaned forward and kissed him. Harvey barely responded, but he did make a small, pained noise when Mike pulled back.
"I don't want to be a one-night stand, and that seems like it's pretty much all you do," he said. "Which is fine, maybe that works for you, but it doesn't work for me...um," he added, because Harvey was smiling -- not his mean smile or his sarcastic smile but a sort of fond, warm smile.
"Don't you think it's a little late for a one-night stand?" he asked.
"Do you?" Mike asked.
"Much too late." Harvey smoothed his hair back, eyes dropping to Mike's mouth. "This isn't going to be that. And thank God, because it's lonely. After a while, it feels a little pathetic."
Mike leaned in and kissed him again, and this time it was dirtier, less hesitant -- Harvey bit down on his lower lip, only let it go when Mike pulled back again.
"I stopped you because I'm not good at taking leaps," Mike said. "Not because I wanted to."
"Please, Mike," Harvey said, nuzzling against his cheek. "Take a chance. Just this once."
Mike grinned. "Hey."
"Mm?" Harvey asked, lips drifting along his jawline.
"You had me at hello."
Harvey froze; Mike waited.
Then Harvey started laughing, deep full laughs against Mike's skin, mouth drifting down, forehead against Mike's neck, laughing and laughing.
"Oh, God," Harvey managed, still laughing. Mike pulled his face up, kissing him again, leaning back to let Harvey crawl up over him until they were settled on the couch, Harvey's arms braced on either side of him, hands framing his head as they kissed.
"All those times you answered the door in your underwear," Mike managed, shifting to get more comfortable, enjoying the quiet pleased hum Harvey made when he did that. "Did you not notice me blatantly checking you out?"
"I was hungry," Harvey replied, as Mike tugged at his shirt, reached up under it to slide fingers over his skin. Harvey let one hand fall to Mike's hip, his thigh, pulling it up, pinning him in place. "You and your movie quotes," he said, ducking to kiss down Mike's throat, twisting when Mike thumbed over one of his nipples. "And your flawless fucking proofing, total lack of fashion sense, smartass mouth -- "
"Yeah, yeah," Mike agreed, not really paying a whole lot of attention.
" -- perfect ass, stupid hair, terrifying insecurity complex, your mind..." Harvey had managed to push up his shirt and was resting his face on Mike's chest, just where his ribcage ended, breathing hard. He stopped there, and Mike lifted a hand to stroke his hair, fingertips drifting along it the way he had the one night, the night Harvey said I'm not sleeping well.
They stayed like that for a while, Harvey burying his face in Mike's skin, Mike's finger in his hair.
"Have you ever been with a guy before?" Mike asked.
"Not since I was sixteen. Even then it never got very far," Harvey said. "But I think you'll find that I'm a quick study."
"I'm sure." Mike let go when Harvey lifted his head. "Look, we're both exhausted. You want to stay here? We can sleep."
"Couch is a little small." Harvey pushed himself up, kissing him again, gentler. "Come to bed?"
Mike nodded and Harvey rolled away, helping him up. He walked Mike backwards towards the bedroom, still kissing him, confident and affectionate now that he'd won his prize. Mike tumbled back onto the bed and Harvey followed, and they lay there together, touching lazily, until Mike felt his eyelids drooping, his hands clumsy against Harvey's shoulders.
"Sleep, it's okay," Harvey said against his throat. Mike nodded, stroking Harvey's hair one last time, and slipped away.
Mike woke, feeling as though he'd slept a million years, to light striping across the bed, warm wherever it landed on his skin. Harvey was warm too, a solid weight on his chest, head tucked up against his collarbone. He wasn't sure how he was managing to breathe with Harvey on top of him.
"At some point," he told the top of Harvey's head, "We are actually going to have sex."
Harvey mumbled something unintelligible, but at Mike's gentle prodding he rolled over onto his back. At some point in the night, possibly even while they were making out, Harvey had lost his shirt. His skin looked soft, fragile. Mike straddled just above his hips and studied him, laid out in the sunlight. This was all his. This life: the money he was making, the job he couldn't now imagine abandoning, and Harvey.
He spread his hands along Harvey's ribcage and kissed the soft lines of muscle; when he inched back, he felt something warm nudge his ass, and grinned. Scooting back a little more, he nuzzled against Harvey's stomach and felt it tense, then relax.
"Hmm?" Harvey managed, and Mike saw his eyes flick open. "Mike?"
"No, it's Bette," Mike said, laughing into his hip.
"Knew it was you," Harvey mumbled, his hand landing with very little coordination on Mike's head. "What's..."
"Relax," Mike said, butting into Harvey's hand.
"You're gonna kill me," Harvey said, hips already bucking a little, erection thickening against the soft fabric of his pants. "Please -- "
"Least I can do," Mike replied.
He felt Harvey's legs tense, and saw him push himself up onto his elbows, alarm in his face.
"This isn't..." Harvey started, hair falling in his eyes. "Mike, I don't want repayment -- "
"That's not what this is," Mike promised, pressing a kiss to his hip. "Well," he added, "maybe that too. But that's not why I'm doing it."
He pushed on Harvey's chest, urging him back down. Harvey went reluctantly, but when Mike pulled on the waistband of his pajamas, he lifted his hips and helped kick them away.
"This part's easy," Mike said, and Harvey laughed, choking off into a moan when Mike sucked gently on the head of his cock. He eased down, a little sloppy, out of practice, but Harvey didn't seem to care; he was making soft moans in the back of his throat, tense as he tried not to move too much. Mike worked consciously to memorize every groan, every twitch of muscle.
When Harvey's hand began to tighten in his hair, Mike leaned back and sat up, watching Harvey's chest heave. He shoved his underwear down and slid back up Harvey's body, skin to skin, and untangled Harvey's hand.
"Quick study, huh?" he asked, rolling his hips against Harvey's, and then kissed him before Harvey could say anything in reply. He brought their hands down together, slid to the side a little so Harvey could touch -- fingers hesitant at first, then tighter, finding a rhythm on Mike's cock while Mike stroked Harvey's.
"Oh fuck," Harvey muttered, and rolled them both, propping himself over Mike and thrusting into his hand, his own hand rough and perfect. Mike buried his nose in Harvey's skin, inhaled to smell him, sleep and warm cotton sheets, the faint remaining traces of cologne. Harvey was silent except for gasping breaths, too far gone or not quite awake enough to say anything at all.
He had, on the other hand, found just the right spot, his thumb brushing up against the underside of Mike's dick with every stroke, and Mike didn't himself have the breath to even tell him before he bucked, finding just the right hard pressure, felt Harvey tense and cry out against his jaw --
Harvey was shaking when Mike came down from his orgasm, one arm too-tight around him, but Mike petted his hair and soothed him through it, trying slowly to untangle their bodies. Harvey shifted, easing back, and let go.
"Do you know," Harvey said, after a minute, "how long I've been thinking about this?"
Mike rolled onto his side, careless of the mess he was making of Harvey's sheets.
"I was planning on being a lot more suave than drunk makeouts and morning handjobs," Harvey continued.
"Well, we all have our dreams," Mike said, licking his collarbone, tasting his skin. Harvey twitched, but he smiled.
"I'll make it up to you," he said, hooking his pajamas with a foot. He propped himself on an elbow and did a reasonable job of cleaning them up, tossing the cloth aside when he was done.
"Two hundred dollar pajamas," Mike teased.
"I'm disgustingly rich, I can buy more," Harvey answered, pulling him over so that they lay curled together in the middle of what Mike was realizing was a kind of gigantic bed.
"Work's going to be a problem," Harvey said eventually, and Mike groaned.
"Can we at least have two conscious hours of actual relationship before we talk about it?" he asked.
"I like to have a plan."
"What, your plan only got as far as seduce the pizza boy?"
"You're not the pizza boy anymore."
"I am, and always shall be, the pizza boy," Mike told him gravely.
"Did you just quote The Wrath Of Khan at me?" he demanded, sitting up. Mike laughed and threw him the Vulcan salute. "I'm serious, Mike. This is an issue."
"Everyone already thinks I got the job because I'm fucking you," Mike pointed out. "I have no reputation to lose, here. I get it, we can't be out at the office. I don't want to be out at the office. This is a non-problem. Unless it's a problem for you, but you don't seem like you want to bring your personal life to work with you."
Harvey sighed, slumping down. "I brought you there."
"For, as you pointed out, very good reasons."
Harvey curled an arm around Mike's shoulders, pulling him in again.
"I'm not well-practiced in relationships," he said.
"What do you think we've been doing for the last six months, playing checkers?" Mike asked. "You said it yourself. We work differently. God, I just..." he turned into Harvey, uncertain how to say it.
"What?" Harvey asked, coaxingly -- concerned but not worried.
"Do you know what it's like to be so totally lost inside your own life that when you finally, finally find one thing to hold onto, one island of sanity, you don't even know if you deserve it?" Mike asked.
"You still don't believe me," Harvey said gently.
"No, I do. I just don't...it's not about the job. It's about you, Harvey, it's always been about you. For once in my life I feel like someone picked me. On purpose. I can't go back now, you can't un-pick me, so don't be a douchebag and try."
"No," Harvey said, one hand rubbing his hair. "Okay."
"Sorry I'm being a drama queen," Mike muttered.
"Yeah, you kind of are," Harvey agreed.
"You're such an asshole!"
"If it makes any difference to you, I'm unapologetically your asshole."
Mike huffed, but he didn't pull away.
"We will make it work," Harvey said. "We're smart guys. We'll figure it out."
"You're a smart guy. I'm Albert Einstein."
"Yeah, don't get above yourself," Harvey warned. He settled deeper in the blankets, dragging Mike with him. "Sleep or breakfast?"
"Sleep," Mike insisted. "Rollo's opens at eleven."
"Ohh, ribs," Harvey said, anticipation lighting his face. "Hey, what do you like on your pizza?"
"I don't actually like pizza that much."
"Of course you don't," Harvey sighed, but he didn't let go of Mike, kept rubbing his fingers through his hair until they fell asleep again.
Ugh, forty-plus chapters and the only porn you guys get are hand jobs. I am deeply sorry.
Somebody, Mike suspected, was fucking with him.
Pearson Hardman, after the initial "Hooray you passed the Bar now get back to work" contract renegotiation, had renewed his contract with little fuss every year since. They'd even been willing to give him an office with Senior Consultant on the door, though that was admittedly only after Ross Legal Consulting hired someone he could call a junior consultant to handle the increasing workload.
Now, three years in, they were dicking him around: HR was 'demanding' a serious accounting of his work, back records, invoices for billable hours, reports on his management skills from his two current junior consultants. They were reviewing his old case files like he was some kind of hack who wandered the halls of Pearson Hardman harassing people. He half-thought they were trying to get him fired, except Jessica had known for a year about him and Harvey, and could have released him during the last renewal.
Plus they kind of needed him. He knew where a couple of bodies were buried now.
So when Jessica asked, or rather ordered, him and Harvey to have late dinner with her at Bonfino, which had a six-month waiting period for a table, his first instinct was to drag Kyle and Rachel along so that if they did fire him, he'd have witnesses. Devious witnesses.
"Just you and Harvey," Jessica had said, as if she'd read his mind. "There's someone I'd like you to meet."
"Someone" turned out to be a woman, Mike saw as they approached the table where Jessica was sitting. She had shoulder-length grey hair, a faint smile, and a certain air that screamed very badass lawyer.
"Harvey, Michael," Jessica said with a smile. "Right on time."
"You know I hate to be early," Harvey said, settling in. "Lisa, it's a pleasure."
"Michael, this is Lisa Warren," Jessica said. "Dean of Students at Harvard Law."
Mike shook hands, thoroughly confused, and sat down.
"Also the best Civil Procedure professor in the country," Harvey added. "I still remember you tearing me a...old history," he finished, when Jessica coughed discreetly.
"And I remember a cocky young man out to find every loophole," Dean Warren said. "But I understand we're here tonight to discuss Mike's future, not Harvey's checkered past."
"Not that checkered," Harvey said in Mike's ear.
"Not compared to your present," Mike agreed.
"I've heard a great deal about you from various sources," Dean Warren said. "I understand you're known as something of a fixer."
"I fix problems," Mike said. "It sounds like I'm some kind of Mafia don when you put it like that, though."
"The fixer and the closer. How very interesting," Dean Warren observed.
"This should be considered a confidential meeting," Jessica said, redirecting the conversation as a sommelier poured four glasses of wine. "Louis Litt is buying in as senior partner in the next six months."
Mike blinked. "Well. Good for Louis."
"Aw, crap." Harvey groaned. "Now I have to pretend to treat him like an equal when Jessica's watching."
"Which means," Jessica said, giving him a look, "that we have an opening within the firm for a junior partner. Now we'd like to bring Mike in -- "
"I'll take it," Mike said, staring at her.
" -- but, as you are no doubt aware, Pearson Hardman hires exclusively from Harvard."
"A reciprocal agreement that has benefited both institutions," Dean Warren added.
"I've been taking classes at Fordham," Mike said. "I'm a semester away from my JD. We seriously can't bend the rules for someone who's already worked there for three and a half years?"
"Does he always do this?" Dean Warren asked Harvey. "This interrupting his elders thing?"
"I've learned to see it as an asset when properly applied," Harvey said, while Mike blushed. "Mr. Ross, as your legal counsel, I advise you not to respond until prompted."
"Noted," Mike mumbled.
"Our timing is very good," Dean Warren continued. "Pearson Hardman wants a Harvard graduate for the position. Harvard would very much like to supply a candidate, but lawyers with that amount of experience are not commonly lured out of their positions, and obviously a fresh graduate is out of the question. But you, Mr. Ross, are a little different."
Mike opened his mouth to say In that I didn't actually go to Harvard? but Harvey nudged him under the table, and he closed it again.
"Harvard appreciates innovators," Dean Warren continued. "People who stand out in their field. Young men who have managed a legal consulting business for several years without the benefit of a Juris Doctor, for example. Adding someone with your unique experience to the ranks of Harvard alumni would enhance this year's graduating class considerably."
Mike heard the unspoken words: Someone who makes as much as you do should be paying into the Alumni Annual Giving Fund.
"Your credits from Fordham all transfer," Jessica said, offering Mike a transcript of his own damn class load. "You could do your final semester at Harvard -- five months, give or take -- and return to Pearson Hardman with a degree we can use to hire you directly into the position."
"This is the opportunity of a lifetime," Dean Warren said. "We'd like you to consider it, Mr. Ross."
Mike looked down at the transcript, brow furrowing.
"Now, you talk," Harvey prompted.
"Five months in Cambridge," Mike murmured, mostly to himself, and then looked up. "And what kind of donation is Harvard University expecting from me as an alumnus?"
Dean Warren and Jessica both stared at him, and then the Dean burst out laughing.
"I told you he was clever," Jessica said.
"You've been reviewing my work to see if I'm a junior partner candidate," Mike said, still studying the folder in front of him, flipping through to a letter of recommendation from Jessica to the board of admissions at Harvard. "You knew I'd want this. Clearly Harvard wants something more out of it than my name on their alumni list."
"We begin solicitation after graduation," Dean Warren said. "I'm sure we can negotiate a planned giving arrangement."
"Uh-huh." Mike closed the folder. "So. Where do I sign?"
"Here," Jessica said, passing him an admissions form.
Mike took the pen Harvey offered him, signed it, and then passed the form to Dean Warren.
"Welcome to Harvard," she said with a smile. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a late flight back to Logan. Harvey, always nice to see you. Jessica, be good," she said, and airkissed Jessica before standing. "I'll be seeing you in January, Michael."
"Ohh, she is going to kick your ass," Jessica said, watching her leave. "She's going to make you suffer."
"Gee, that'd be a change," Mike replied. Jessica grinned at him.
"I think I'll leave you boys to discuss matters," she said, rising as well. "I'm sure Harvey has lots of advice for you, Mike. Don't stay out too late, you both have work in the morning."
Harvey acknowledged her with a wave, settling his arm around Mike's shoulders.
"You just got headhunted," he said. "You should have asked Jessica for a copy of the partnership contract. Sloppy, Mike, very sloppy."
"I'm sure Harvard will set me right," Mike said, and they both broke down laughing. "Five months, though. That's a long time to be gone."
"It's not too far away. I'll come up on the weekends."
"Yeah you will," Mike replied, scowling.
"I just said I would!"
"Good, you better."
Harvey groaned and leaned back, shoulders settling. "So. We can have dinner at this very exclusive, very expensive restaurant."
"Or we can grab some ribs from Rollo's and go home and have You just got headhunted sex all over the condo."
Mike pretended to consider it. "Is that better than the regular kind?"
"Yes," Harvey said in his ear, and bit his earlobe. "Michael Ross, Harvard JD, Junior Partner, Pearson Hardman."
"Oh man, I want that on a business card."
"Mmhm." Harvey nuzzled his cheek. "Rollo's?"
"Rollo's," Mike agreed. "Let's get out of here."
According to Trivial Pursuit, "Let's get out of here" is the second-most-common line in films after "I love you".
Chapter 16: Story Notes - Movie Quotes
Mike and Harvey quote a lot of crap at each other over the course of the story, and sometimes others get in on the action too. Here is a list of the quotes from the story and where they came from. Thanks for reading along, everyone!
Every woman is a mystery to be solved.
-- Don Juan Demarco
Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia.
-- HG Wells (not in a film)
Bond: I admire your courage, Miss...
Trench: Trench...Sylvia Trench. I admire your luck, Mr...
Bond: Bond...James Bond.
-- Dr. No
In Sicily, women are more dangerous than shotguns.
-- The Godfather
Try the veal, it's the best in the city.
-- The Godfather
Love is the answer, but while you're waiting for the answer sex raises some pretty good questions.
-- Woody Allen (not in a film)
Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.
-- Wall Street
It's all about bucks, kid. The rest is conversation.
-- Wall Street
Here's looking at you, kid.
One moment we were players of baseball, voters, readers of books, makers of dinner, arguers. And a second later, and for every second since then, we were all just shoppers.
-- Accidental Empires (a book, not a film)
King Arthur: You've got no arms left.
Black Knight: Yes I have.
King Arthur: Look!
Black Knight: It's just a flesh wound.
-- Monty Python and the Holy Grail
In the morning, if my face is a little puffy, I'll put on an ice pack while doing my stomach crunches. I can do a thousand now.
-- American Psycho
A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.
-- Silence Of The Lambs
Lecter: Or did Crawford send you here for one last wheedle...before you're both booted off the case?
Clarice: Nobody sent me. I came on my own.
Lecter: People will say we're in love.
-- Silence of the Lambs
I love the smell of napalm in the morning.
-- Apocalypse Now
Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!
-- Dr. Strangelove
-- The Fugitive
Jerry: You... you complete me. And I just...
Dorothy: Shut up, just shut up. You had me at "hello".
-- Jerry Maguire
I am, and always shall be, your friend.
-- Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan