On a Friday, two months before Mike is thrown into a glass table by an angry client, his head throbs dully, growing with intensity as the day wears on, until he's finally positive there are needles sticking into the back of his eye sockets. He wonders if it's a migraine, though he's not sure what it feels like to have a migraine because he's never had one before. Typical, his luck, and how he's most likely experiencing his first migraine when he has his plate completely full until the end of the work day.
Mike pulls up, in his mind, what he remembers about migraines, knowing he should be sensitive to light and noise, as well as experiencing possible nausea. He's not having trouble with any of those things, though. The headache is just a pounding one but, damn it, it's painful.
Digging through his desk drawers proves fruitless, the empty aspirin bottle nothing but a mocking son of a bitch, so Mike just downs some coffee and hopes the caffeine can keep the ache in his skull at bay for just a little while so he can finish his work. It helps for about an hour, but the stabbing comes back with a vengeance, forcing him to the break room two more times afterward for more coffee.
Just before his third trip, ear-buds softly producing the sounds of "rain on a lake" in an attempt to soothe his fried brain, Donna peeks her head in through the opening to the break room. She catches Mike's eye, urging him over with a stern wave of her hand. His eyes grow a bit wide, unsure of what he has done, exactly, to warrant Harvey's assistant coming in there with such a serious look on her face. Pulling out the ear-buds, he slowly walks toward her like a child whose mother is about to scold him.
"Uh, I've been at my cubicle all day, so I'm pretty sure I haven't—"
Donna holds out a sample packet of advil in between her fingers and looks at Mike expectantly. "You know, you're allowed to ask me for this if you need it. That silent suffering thing you were doing? Stupid." Her eyes are honest, even with the incredulous smirk that curls her bottom lip.
"I know, but it was—"
Cut off again, Donna puts her hand over his mouth. His eyebrows knit together in confusion as she shakes her head.
"No excuses," she says. "Just don't be stupid again, okay?" The words are said with a fondness that Mike would never tell her he hears.
He nods, and she takes her hand away. "Got it," he mutters, but she's already out the door.
Turning the packet over, Mike notices a small post-it note attached to the little plastic packet. Go home, it reads, in Harvey's familiar handwriting. With a smile, Mike swallows the pills and heads back to his desk to gather his things, making a mental note to give Harvey a hard time about, "not caring, my ass".
Two weeks after the pounding headache and six weeks before he's thrown into glass, Mike sits next to Harvey, in the back of his car, going through some papers in his lap. They're on their way to meet with an important client (aren't they always?) but Mike still hasn't had time to organize everything he needs. He's taken a few folders out of his bag and begins sorting.
"Shouldn't that already be done?" Harvey asks coolly, without turning from the window.
Mike keeps himself from glaring and says, "I'll be done in five minutes."
"We'll be there in three," Harvey counters, raising an eyebrow at his associate. Mike scowls.
"Then I'll be done in three," he snaps. Harvey's face shows a hint of amusement, but he chooses to remain silent while Mike continues to put things in order. Three minutes later (exactly, on the dot, and Mike scowls again, shoving papers in folders) the car stops, not quite against the packed curb.
"Whenever you're ready, hot-shot," Harvey says with mock impatience. Mike knows Harvey is just trying to get under his skin, and it's working brilliantly. He scoops up the folders, finally in order, making a face at the back of Harvey's head while he moves to open the door with his free hand.
"Saw that," Harvey mumbles, pointing to the glass window with one hand, while the other types furiously on his cell phone.
Mike sighs, rolling his eyes. He pushes the door open all the way, moving to step out when there's a loud crash on his left and a strong hand wrapped around his elbow on his right, yanking him back into the car, hard. Papers fly everywhere and block Mike's view of whatever the hell just happened.
"Shit," he mutters, breaths coming in unevenly. Mike turns his head and looks at the door of the car, smashed and lying on the ground. Ray jumps out of the front seat with his cell already in his hand, glancing left and right down the street and back at the mangled mess of metal at his feet.
Mike is still breathing unevenly.
"Are you all right?" Turning back to the inside of the car, Mike sees Harvey's hand gripped tightly around his arm.
"Mike?" his boss' face is an odd expression of anger and concern, and Mike isn't sure what to say. He turns his head instead. Ray is outside the car, barking into his cell phone about the car door and a cab that took off after smashing into it. Mike squints at him as Ray gives a questioning thumbs up.
"Mike, answer my goddamn question!"
Harvey's hands feel like they're burning through his jacket as he tugs just a little harder to get Mike's attention. Still dazed, Mike nods. "The papers, I'll get—"
"Were you hit?"
"Was I—no, no, I think I'm intact," Mike stammers, still staring at Harvey's hold on him. "Yeah, I'm okay."
Harvey lets go, and Mike doesn't pay attention to how reluctant he is to do it.
One week and four days after the almost fatal, severed car door fiasco, and just about four weeks before he's feeling the sting of glass in his skin, Mike hurries up the steps to the firm with Harvey close behind him.
"Grab the folder off my desk, I have to make a phone call," Harvey calls from a few feet away, already immersed in his phone's screen. Mike rolls his eyes and punches the elevator's button. It's 6:30 p.m. so the firm isn't buzzing, but one of Harvey's clients needs to see him right away, it's important! Resigning himself to another lost evening, Mike watches the glowing numbers creep up slowly with his back pressed against the cool walls of the elevator. He closes his eyes, then opens them when the light flickers, suddenly dimming and, with a jolt, the elevator stops completely.
"Are you kidding me?" Mike groans loudly. The number is stuck on 13 (seriously, why wouldn't it be?) and doesn't seem to want to continue moving. It's not his fault, he thinks, and yet there's a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach that flares up whenever something goes wrong, even when it's beyond his control.
There's a buzzing sound that makes Mike jump, and, realizing his phone is vibrating, he fishes it out of his pocket. Thankfully there's a bar of service, and he can see Harvey's name flashing on it. He presses accept and immediately goes on the defensive.
"It's not my fault," he practically yells, and he could almost imagine Harvey's wince of surprise.
"You're an idiot, you realize that?" is the response he receives. "I know it's not your fault. The whole block is out of power."
Mike rubs his hand down the side of his face. "Seriously? How long am I stuck in here for?" The elevator is starting to heat up from the lack of air conditioning.
"It just happened a minute ago, genius. Do I look like the electric company?"
Mike rolls his eyes. "So what now? Has this ever happened before? Aren't there backup generators or something? Isn't there some kind of emergency plan in case something like this happens?" There's a hint of panic in his voice, and he's not sure why or where it came from. But it's getting hotter, causing little beads of sweat to break out on his forehead. He tugs at the tie around his neck and pulls off his suit jacket, dropping it unceremoniously to the floor.
"Whoa, slow down." Harvey's voice is actually calming, in a weird way, and Mike takes a deep breath. "Are you seriously claustrophobic?"
With a shrug no one can see, Mike answers, "Apparently, I am." He closes his eyes and starts to pace.
A beat, then, "Since when?" It's said with an annoying amount of humor.
"Since right the hell now!" Mike replies, agitated. "What if the elevator falls? Sixty stories, Harvey! Sixty!" Then it hits him, and he gulps loudly. "Oh God, I'm gonna die." It's getting hotter and harder to breathe.
"You're delusional. You're on the 13th floor, that's, what? A few broken bones?"
"I prefer my bones to be unbroken!" Mike declares indignantly.
"And I prefer a level headed associate," Harvey says. His voice is cool, forceful. But Mike's nerves are frayed, which makes him think.
"What is known is that about 27 people are killed in elevator accidents each year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the CPSC, which does report on injury and death associated with elevators. Injuries from elevators affect about 10,200 people per year—"
"Wait, is this panic induced statistic vomiting or something?" Harvey asks.
Mike pinches the bridge of his nose. "Now isn't the time to be funny, okay? Panicking is justified!"
"Actually, clever and witty banter is always justified when timed correctly and executed with conversational class," Harvey points out. Mike takes a few seconds to think it over.
"Are you using annoyingly ridiculous vocabulary to try and tell me something?" he asks quietly, staring hard at the numbers on the elevator door and willing them to glow.
There's a huff on the other side of the phone. "That you're talking out of your ass and you need to calm down? I'm going with yes."
Of course, he's right. Damn it.
Mike pulls in another deep breath, letting it out slowly. "Okay," he mumbles, sinking down the wall with his legs outstretched. "Okay."
"Good. That's better."
They don't speak for a few minutes, Mike concentrating on breathing evenly. It's strange how it's not an awkward silence.
"How're you holding up?" Harvey finally asks. It sounds sincere, which makes Mike chuckle into the phone.
Harvey questions again. "What the hell is so funny?"
"You," Mike answers. "It sounds like you actually give a damn."
"Yeah, well, I figured that's something someone with feelings would ask." He sounds so casually unaffected, which makes Mike snort again.
"You're a regular bleeding heart," Mike playfully adds, and he can picture Harvey's smirk. Just then, the lights come on, and the elevator jolts again. It's rising, blissfully cool air hitting his face, and Mike's tension suddenly melts away, leaving him lightheaded.
He's grateful when he comes out of the stairwell ten minutes later and Harvey doesn't mock him for it.
On the morning his body is used to shatter one of Pearson-Hardman's finest glass conference tables, Mike comes into the office exactly twenty-seven minutes late. It is an important day, though Mike realizes that every day seems to be an extremely important one when you work for Harvey Specter, so he doesn't even try to make up an excuse as he walks to his cubicle to set his bag down. He was supposed to be in Harvey's office twelve minutes ago and was completely unsurprised by the note (quite angrily written, he expects) on his computer monitor that reads, "Conference room 2, now." Sighing, he grabs a handful of papers out of his desk drawer and hurries toward the conference room.
Head low, Mike walks down the hallway with his figurative tail between his legs, sadly realizing that he's going to receive one of Harvey's patented "Are you sure you want to work here?" speeches once the client meeting comes to a close. Donna slips out of the room just as Mike approaches and relief washes over her face.
"Don't worry." She waves her hand back and forth. "He seems a little preoccupied today. I think he has the 'On time means early' speech planned for you. That one's just under twelve minutes long." Her face brightens when Mike smiles.
"That's good, cause I was figuring on the, 'You almost cost us a valuable client' one. 34 minutes, so I was gonna try and pee before he started it."
"Well, just be glad it's not the 'I can give you more busy work if you have that much extra time' speech," Donna says knowingly. They both shudder and point to each other, saying, "Open ended questions!" in unison.
"I didn't realize they were rhetorical," Mike whines, shrugging his shoulders. Donna pats his arm and nods her head at the door. Holding a deep breath, Mike nods back and walks in to see Harvey and their client (a very big, muscular client) in the middle of a heated discussion.
Harvey turns his head and glares the, "I hope my eyes are burning holes into your skin" glare. Seeing this, Mike comes to the fast conclusion that he's going to receive all three of those speeches once the meeting is over, and he really should have gone to pee before he walked in.
He lets out the breath he was holding and sits at the end of the table dejectedly, putting the papers down.
"Mr. Davis, you remember my associate, Mike Ross?" Harvey has walked over to him and claps Mike on the shoulder, squeezing extremely tight. Mike arches his back and puts on his best fake smile.
"No, and I don't give a shit," the older man snarls, also getting up and walking over toward Mike. His face is red and he's clenching his fists at his sides.
"All I need you to do is fix this. That's what I hired you for, to fix it."
Harvey is on Mike's right with his head cocked to the side. "Carl, all I need you to do is sign the goddamn contract." Mike realizes the meeting hasn't gone as planned, wondering if it was his fault for being late. The tension in the room gets thicker with Carl on Mike's left, and he suddenly finds himself in the middle of a Specter-Client showdown. It's horribly uncomfortable, but he refuses move.
"You know, Specter, I'm sick of this shit. I'm so sick of it, and I'm sick of talk about contracts and what to sign and what not to say." Carl's hands continue to clench at his sides, muscles flexing through his white, button-down shirt. "Fix the damn problem," he says through clenched teeth.
"The damn problem, Carl," Harvey counters, emphasizing their client's name, "is that you lied through your pretty white teeth, and this right here?" He points to the papers on the table, "this right here is the best deal you're going to get. Anywhere. So sign the goddamn contract, or find another lawyer who can get you out of the giant pile of shit you've so generously piled onto yourself!"
Mike didn't realize Carl's face could change colors from red to purple in a matter of five seconds, but it had, and he finally brings up one of his clenched fists. "You sorry—!" He aims a swing right at Harvey's jaw.
Without thinking, Mike jumps up, crying, "Hey!", then reaches out and takes hold of Carl's arm. It's the wrong move, he instantly realizes. The punch misses Harvey, who ducks, but before Mike can clear himself from the line of fire, their client rounds on him and lets out a strangled sound from somewhere deep in his throat.
Seconds later, fireworks erupt in his vision, and the only sound he hears is an extremely loud buzzing noise. He groans (his back hurts) and tries to move (his hands sting) and blinks once, twice, three times too many in order to clear his sight, which just makes him even more dizzy.
Then he tries to breathe (and fails miserably).
Vision still blurry, Mike starts to panic. He tries to grip his chest, but his hands and arms protest that movement achingly. Air has either vanished completely from conference room two, or Mike's lungs are being ruthlessly compressed.
"Mike! Mike, breathe slow. Breathe, do it slowly!"
There are hands wrapped around his shoulders, gentle, firm, but they're crushing him, goddamnit, they're crippling him. He can't breathe. It hurts, son of a bitch, and he can't breathe.
"Listen to me, Mike. Calm down. Easy."
It's Harvey's voice in his ear, Harvey's face next to him, Harvey's slightly unsteady hands on his shoulders. Mike does as he's told and slowly evens out his breaths.
"Good boy," Harvey whispers with the hint of a smile. Mike wants to say he's not a boy, damn it, but a sudden rush of, "shit, pain!" hits and it's all he can do not to scream.
"Son of a bitch!" he swears.
Glass covers almost the entire floor of the conference room with Mike in the very middle of it all. His body feels the sting of it everywhere; his back, his legs, arms, hands, neck. Droplets of blood litter the floor and the scattered paper of the contract that had been sitting on the table just moments ago. Near the doorway is Carl Davis being manhandled by Pearson-Hardman's hired security, and just outside the clear glass doorway is Donna, horrified, yet level-headed enough to keep nosy onlookers from trying to poke their noses in.
"Don't try to move," Harvey advises, shifting his position on his feet. Shards of glass snap and pop under his weight. "You with me?"
Mike wants to swat him away but even the thought of the effort makes him cringe. "Yeah," is all he says.
Harvey looks as if he's aged ten years, then. There's a vulnerability in his eyes for a fraction of a second, gone when he mutters, "You know, you really need to come up with better ways to get out of my 'Why did I hire you?' speeches. This whole brush-with-death thing you're doing? Not gonna lie, it's starting to piss me off."
Mike snorts, and it hurts. "It is the one thing I'm best at. Pissing you off."
"Damn right it is," Harvey says, except there's an affection behind it that only Mike would pick up on. "There's an ambulance coming," he adds. "Should be here in a few minutes."
"I'll try not to move," Mike says, wincing.
"An actual good idea," Harvey quips, still holding Mike upright by his shoulders.
With a grimace, Mike glances quickly at Harvey's face, so damn close and not-concerned. Before he can say what he truly wants to say, Harvey shakes his head.
"Don't mention it," he says.
Mike just smiles because he knows and, right now, it's good enough.