It had been one bitch of a day, Harvey decided, as he poured himself a glass of Glenfiddich and glanced at the panorama below his office window. The Beckett-Carson merger hadn’t fallen completely apart, thank God, but he had to restrain himself several times from punching Miles Beckett, heir apparent to The Beckett Group and general pain in the ass. He had to settle for acerbic comments, delivered under Jessica’s perpetual scowl, even though the softness of her eyes betrayed her unspoken commiseration. It hadn’t helped that Mike had screwed up several clauses in the contract wording that would have to be rewritten, and that several key financial reports were missing from the settlement package. He wasn’t sure what kind of karmic payback he was entitled to that ensured that Donna was working late that night, but the copies he needed suddenly appeared out of the blue, and they were able to complete negotiations. Once he convinced Beckett to stop behaving like a petulant toddler, anyway.
Movement caught his eye, and he saw his associate walking briskly past the glass wall of his office.
“Mike! Get in here!” he barked. It was nearly ten o’clock, late even by new associate standards, but they had long ago established that Mike’s time was Harvey’s, and that applied to whatever hour they both happened to be in the office.
He expected Mike to back up and return to the office immediately, but the younger man seemed to have disappeared.
“Ross, get your ass in my office. You’ve wasted enough of my time already,” he said loudly, not bothering to keep is voice down as the only other people to take notice were the nightly cleaning crew.
Mike appeared a minute later, a stack of several folders under his arm. He walked slowly into Harvey’s office, and Harvey noticed that his usual deer-in-the-headlights look was a little more panicked than usual. Damn right, it should be, he thought.
“What part of ‘Get your ass in my office’ did you think meant ‘Feel free to stop by whenever you feel like it’?” growled Harvey. “And you want to tell me what the hell happened to Beckett’s paperwork?”
“What do you want me to say, Harvey? I screwed up.” Mike threw up his hands and slouched against the counter. “I’m sorry.” he said, dejectedly, looking at the floor.
“Stop saying you’re sorry and do your goddamn job,” said Harvey, letting his anger well up through the scotch that had begun to wash it away. “We’re used to closing deals around here because of our associates, not in spite of them. Jesus Christ, “ he said exasperatedly, “there are some days when you remind me that I could have hired a real attorney.” Harvey’s eyes widened imperceptibly and he caught himself a moment, as he saw Mike flinch.
“Why don’t you, Harvey?” he said softly.
“Why don’t I what?” said Harvey, trying to hang onto the anger as a shield against the guilt that was now seeping through his hardened facade.
Mike’s eyes snapped to his, unshed tears forming in blue hollows. “Why don’t you just get rid of me and find someone else? You’re always wondering why you hired me anyway.” He dug into his wallet, took out a business card, and put it very precisely on Harvey’s desk. “We even have a nice commemoration of your ‘mistake’.”
“Mike-“ said Harvey, annoyed. He was about to lecture his associate on the professional perils of becoming a drama queen but didn’t’ get the chance as Mike interrupted.
“The Feldman brief you asked for,” said Mike, putting a folder down on Harvey’s desk. “Devon Mitchell’s police report – she wasn’t read her Miranda rights by the way,” he said as he placed another file on the desk. “Letter to Ray’s insurance company,” he slapped another folder down on the desk, a bit more forcefully. “Precedent for the Juarez case,” <slap> “Settlement memo for Tyson vs. McKenzie” <slap> “Oh and the 90-day associate progress report, but maybe we should just skip that one.” He held the file lightly over the trash can in Harvey’s office and let it fall from his fingers.
“Are you finished?” said Harvey. Mike’s uncharacteristic emotional display had rattled him, and he wasn’t nearly as sarcastic as he meant to be.
“I think maybe I am,” whispered Mike, his voice breaking. His face was a mask of grief now, tears still threatening to fall. “Twenty-two hour days, working my ass off, hoping maybe one of these days you might actually decide hiring me was a good idea.” The tears were flowing freely now. Harvey inwardly winced at the despair on the younger man’s face. “ I can’t work any harder, Harvey. I can’t do any more, and if that isn’t good enough…” Mike’s face went blank and all he added was, “Well…” before he turned and walked out of the office.
“Mike, wait-“ said Harvey. He was about to chase after Mike when his phone rang. Fucking Miles Beckett, he thought, as he took the call.
He sighed, slightly relieved, a few minutes later to realize that Mike’s cubicle light was on and his messenger bag was still at his desk. He was surprised to see another light on further down the hall.
“Where is he?” he said to Rachel, who jumped at the sudden intrusion. He was surprised when she scowled at him. Rachel never scowled at him.
“He’s been working his ass off for you, you know.” She said simply. “And you treat him like crap.”
“Oh yes, because all of the other Senior Partners around here are so warm and fuzzy,” he shot back. It took him a moment to realize that Rachel was actually, and very uncharacteristically, telling him off.
“You don’t have to be warm and fuzzy but some basic human decency would go a long way,” she said, still engrossed in a case law volume.
“You sound like I’m handcuffing him to his desk at night,” said Harvey, a trace of amusement creeping back into his voice.
“You didn’t even give him time off after the funeral,” she said acidly. “I wouldn’t call that warm and fuzzy, I’d call that being a world class asshole.”
“What funeral?” said Harvey, ignoring the pit that had just formed in the pit of his stomach.
“What do you mean ‘What funeral’? Mike's grandmother, who else?” said Rachel, who read Harvey’s face as easily as the book in her hands the minute she glanced up. “Oh my God. He didn’t tell you,” she said softly.
“No he didn’t.” Harvey whispered. He couldn’t tell if the pain he was feeling at that moment was from Mike’s lack of trust in him or instinctual sympathy for his loss.
“When did it happen?” he said earnestly.
Rachel looked like she wasn’t going to answer for a minute and then said, “Two weeks ago. I’m sorry, Harvey, I thought you knew. She passed away in her sleep.”
He knew he should find out more from Rachel but all he wanted at that moment was to find Mike. “Where is he?"
She was silent for a moment and he thought she wasn’t going to answer at all. She studied him in the interim and must have given him the benefit of the doubt. “He’s on the roof. He says its quieter and less claustrophobic than the women’s bathroom."
“Thanks,” he said. As he turned to go she added, “Harvey?”
“He won’t admit it, but he needs you.”
Harvey gave her a small smile and said, “On my way.”
* o * o * o * o * o *
He found Mike a few minutes later, sitting on the ground next to an intake vent and staring at nothing.
Ignoring the mess he was making of his $500 trousers, he sat down next to the younger man.
“Why didn’t you tell me about your grandmother?” he said softly, trying to keep his voice even.
Mike chuffed and shook his head, an incredulous smile on his face that died before it reached his eyes.
“Really, Harvey? I don’t need you to tell me to suck it up and focus on my work. I got that covered already. It’s the only thing that I apparently can do all by myself.”
Harvey tried to keep a neutral expression but Mike’s casual dismissal of his concern shook him deeply. He had never seen the younger man like this, and he realized he was deeply hurt by the fact that Mike thought so little of him. Didn’t exactly give him reason to think anything else, he thought to himself.
“Mike-“ he reached out to put a hand on Mike’s arm but winced as Mike jerked away. “Leave me alone, Harvey.”
He was a Harvard-trained attorney, one of the most brilliant in the field, and every now and then the skills he picked up in the courtroom gave him the tools he needed to turn even desperate situations to his advantage. Mike didn’t stand a chance.
He let the silence linger for a minute, watching Mike sulk, the younger man’s angry gaze directed at a nearby skyscraper.
Then he said, simply and with genuine affection, “I always wanted to meet your grandmother.”
“You’re just saying that,” said Mike. His eyes met Harvey’s for the briefest second, and in them Harvey could see a completely different reply . One that said “Don’t do this” because it was the surest way to crumble Mike’s already-shaky resolve.
“Mike, I know she’s the reason you’re here,” said Harvey softly. “You could have royally screwed up your life, but you didn’t. Something kept you from joining Trevor in his spiral of self-destruction, and I’m betting she had more than a little to do with that. She was a great influence on you.”
To Harvey’s surprise and chagrin, his protégé gave a ragged sigh and shook his head as the tears began to fall once again.
“You’re right, she was.” Mike took a deep breath and then added brokenly, “But that’s not-“ He changed his mind midsentence and swallowed the rest of his words.
“That’s not what?” said Harvey. “Come on, Mike. Talk to me here.”
Mike continued to gaze at the skyscraper, and his answer was partially muffled by the hand wiping away tears on his face. “There was a time I thought she might not be the only person who gave a damn about me.”
Such a simple statement, softly delivered, was a sledgehammer blow delivered to Harvey’s gut. There it is, he thought. For a smart guy, I can be such a fucking idiot sometimes. It explained a lot about the last two weeks. Mike’s recently-developed tacit silence and marked lack of enthusiasm, Harvey’s perception that Mike was taking their usual barb and banter far more personally than usual, and of course there was the unusually sloppy work performance. The kid had just lost the only support he’d ever had in his life, and not only did he feel he had to deal with it on his own, Harvey was unintentionally doing his damnedest to make sure that he himself wasn’t going to be the one to fill the void.
“When Jessica took me on, she questioned everything I did and made me prove myself every hour of the day until I became a Junior Partner. It wasn’t pleasant, but it’s what made me such a damn good attorney. “ He thought about his next words carefully and added, “I want the same for you.”
“You’re making my life miserable because you care. Thank you, Harvey, that clears everything up,” said Mike acidly.
“I do care,” said Harvey. “Mike, stop staring at the damn building and look at me.”
The gaze that turned towards him was a thin veneer of calm over a bottomless pit of despair that, as Mike had commented earlier, would have broken Harvey’s heart if he had admitted to having one.
“I don’t know what you want,” said Mike in a bare whisper.
“What do you mean?” said Harvey. Mike took a ragged breath and Harvey put a hand on his shoulder. “Come on, something is very wrong and I want to know what it is.”
“When I started working for you, I wanted you to trust me. I wanted to be the best associate you’ve ever had. The job was amazing. And it was fun, even with the long hours and occasional screw ups.”
“And now?” said Harvey.
Mike’s eyes fell to the ground as he answered. “Now I’m terrified all the time.”
“Of what?” said Harvey incredulously. If this was because of one more stunt of Louis Litt’s, he decided he would finally be taking steps to get the man ousted from the firm. “What are you so afraid of?” he said with gentle sympathy.
“You,” said Mike, his eyes boring holes into the rooftop below them.
Harvey’s head spun as he tried to wrap his brain around the notion that he was the primary cause of Mike’s distress. This was a new one, even for him.
“Care to elaborate on that?” asked Harvey.
“First I want to say that I’m not one of those people that needs a blue ribbon every time I spell my name right.” Harvey smirked at the idea and gave thanks he hadn’t ended up with one of the Harvard clones that surely would have fit said profile.
“But I can’t keep walking into your office wondering what kind of excuse you’re going to find to yell at me or remind me yet again that I’m one phone call away from being escorted off the premises.”
“I’ve never said that!” said Harvey defensively.
“But it’s there, Harvey,” said Mike seriously. “It’s there every second of the day when you aren’t congratulating me for something, which is, let’s face it, only about one percent of the time.” Mike collected his thoughts and then added in a choked voice, “I don’t know how to be around you anymore. One minute I think you’re my friend and the next you’re wondering out loud why you don’t just throw me back out on the street.”
“You’re grandmother, she cared about you a lot didn’t she?” said Harvey, his mind spinning in the same manner as when he was structuring a closing argument.
“Yes she did.”
“Mike, I am too young, thank God, to do the ‘sage advice from the elder’ thing. You want to know why I pressed you about things like phone calls in the middle of client meetings, ripped pockets and associate dinners? That’s my version of the ‘sage advice from the elder’. “ He put a hand on one side of Mike’s face and added, “I’m not trying to trip you up, I’m trying to look out for you.” Harvey winced inwardly at Mike’s reaction, as it was very apparent that he had never considered this notion before.
“And yes, I do give you shit about hiring you. Truth is, you’re so damn good that there is very little I can give you shit about. You think one of those Harvard drones would have done what you have in this short amount of time?” He wasn’t going to say it, but under the circumstances he felt he didn’t have a choice if he was going to make sure Mike came back to the building tomorrow. “I don’t regret hiring you, okay? Jessica is impressed as hell with you, and so am I.”
“Harvey…” Mike’s words choked in his throat as the emotion of the past two weeks finally caught up with him.
“Come here,” said Harvey, pulling Mike into a hug while at the same time being eminently glad they were on a rooftop and not in his office. He did, after all, have a reputation to maintain. He held Mike as the younger man sobbed softly in his arms, and the realization suddenly hit him. He never grieved over her. Other than a Saturday afternoon two weeks ago, Mike hadn’t taken a day off or even asked for one.
He rubbed light circles over the back of Mike’s dress shirt and said gently “It’s okay.”
Mike pulled away after a moment, wiped his eyes and said with chagrin, “Sorry about that.”
“Don’t apologize,” said Harvey with a gentle smile. His gazed at Mike with sadness and added genuinely, “I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for you.”
“I didn’t ask you to be,” said Mike. He suddenly realized that his words may have sounded much harsher than intended and added, “It’s okay. I appreciate the apology, though.”
“Is there anything you still need to take care of?” asked Harvey.
“There are some issues with her will and the trust she set up for me. I also have to go to the care facility and clean out her things. I- I just haven’t been able to.” Harvey knew it wasn’t because of the twenty-two hour workdays.
“I’m going to ask Donna to help you with that, and to get me copies of all the paperwork.” He looked at Mike with affection and said sympathetically, “We’ll do this right. And if you want company when you do feel like going through everything…”
“Really?” said Mike, with a gratefulness that melted whatever was left of Harvey’s resolve. “Rachel had volunteered but-“
“Oh if you’d rather go with Rachel, that’s fine,” said Harvey, wondering why he was so disappointed all of a sudden.
“No,” said Mike, “I’d rather go with you. You didn’t get to meet her, but maybe in some small way, you sort of can.”
Harvey smiled at the younger man and said, “When you’re ready, you tell Donna and she’ll clear my calendar for the day.”
“Okay,” said Mike, still obviously reeling from surprise. “It’s getting late,” he said looking at his watch. “even for us. Probably should get going.”
“Come on.” Harvey stood up, brushed off his pants and added, “Let’s go back to the condo. Bring whatever work you were going to do and we can order Chinese.”
“Really?” said Mike. “But my bike is just downstairs.”
“I don’t want you riding around your neighborhood at one in the morning. I’ll have Tom call for a car.” It was a flimsy excuse at best, as Mike typically biked home during even later hours of the morning. It was unworthy of a Harvard-trained hotshot attorney, but they both let it go, taking comfort in the clear air that was now between them.
“Harvey,” said Mike, taking the Senior Partner’s hand as he hoisted himself up. “Thanks. Not just for tonight, but, you know.”
“I know,” said Harvey smugly. “Just don’t expect me to make a habit of it.” The gruffness of his voice wasn’t quite enough to hide the affection underneath. Mike was amused to see the Great Harvey Specter actually fidget in response to his gratitude.
“You’re cute when you’re flustered,” said Mike. He grinned as Harvey slugged in the arm and headed towards the stairs.