The first inkling Mike had -- and he could have argued it was an inkling, though really it was more of a pause -- came on Donna's birthday.
Donna's birthday was a delicate matter for many reasons, but primarily because Donna liked to screw with people. It was technically a hobby, but she'd elevated it to an art form. So even Mike wasn't sure whether Donna expected tribute, as befitted a goddess, or whether she'd rather not be reminded and would weep for her lost youth if he gave her a present. Or whether she expected tribute and then would pretend to weep for her lost youth until he reacted in apology at which point she'd laugh.
"Look at it as practice in learning to read people," Harvey said, when polled. "I'll give you a tip for free, though."
"Your free tips always come with a price tag," Mike said.
"This one is genuinely free."
"Fine, what's your tip?"
"Touchy," Harvey observed. "I'd get her a present regardless. The pain of being reminded of her age is nothing compared to the pain you will suffer if you don't."
So Mike had brought her a present, and to his delight she'd smiled and unwrapped it and seemed pleased with the small but tasteful mug-and-cocoa-mix set.
"Got any plans for your birthday evening?" he asked, encouraged into making small talk.
"Harvey always takes me to dinner," she said with a smile. "Somewhere upscale."
"Oh?" Mike waggled his eyebrows. "Hot date, huh?"
"Get your mind out of the gutter, kid, that's disgusting," Harvey interrupted, appearing behind him with the kind of predatory stealth Mike envied and feared in equal measure.
He expected Donna to take offense at this, because being called disgusting as a bedmate is not every woman's dream, but she just made a face at Mike and passed Harvey a file.
"Eight o'clock!" she reminded him.
"Yeah, got it!" he called, walking into his office. Mike, deciding discretion was the better part of remaining employed, hurried back to his cubicle.
It was weird, though. Harvey's reaction and Donna's lack of reaction. It gave him pause.
Harvey learns to read when he's just under two years old, mostly from listening to Donna practice her reading on him. He tears through her hand-me-down kiddie books, then starts stealing her Junior Reader books, and by the time he's started school, he's so far out ahead of the other kids that he seems almost alien to them.
Unlike Donna, however, he's no good with numbers. He frustrates so easily, because they're the only thing that doesn't come easily to him. Donna knows it upsets him, but neither he nor Donna are aware of the way adults look at Harvey, the way they wonder why he gets so angry when he has so much, so young.
He fails at math constantly, but he's bright, so they assume he just isn't trying. And no amount of popularity in school or skill in social studies and history and english can fix those failings.
Even now, three decades and change later, Donna watches him calculate the tip on their lunch and sees the fingers on his left hand twitch, as he unconsciously counts on them.
She hates that he spent so long feeling so stupid for it, but she loves him a little for it too, like she loves each of Harvey's small failings. He'd be insufferable without them.
It was a Saturday when Mike got his second inkling, though Donna didn't notice at the time and neither of them had been expecting Mike at all, let alone Mike with an inkling.
Harvey had offered, a long time ago, to help Donna get a condo in his building -- she could afford the mortgage, but the building association was pretty exclusive, and having an inside man would have helped. Donna liked her place in Brooklyn, so she'd declined, but she also liked Harvey's big-screen TV, so she came over most Saturdays to catch a ball game or watch a movie. She'd sit and relax while Harvey, in jeans and a faded Harvard t-shirt, wandered around doing DIY fix-its on his place or worked on cases.
They hardly had any need to talk about work, but during the week the professional boundaries were pretty clearly drawn. Saturday was time to talk like humans -- about her boyfriends, his dates, what books they were reading. There was dirty work gossip to catch up on; they couldn't discuss it in the office, but Donna knew everything and Harvey was a pretty good source when it came to the senior partners.
Donna was awfully proud of Work Harvey, but she liked Home Harvey a lot more.
On that particular sunny Saturday, with a Mets game on, beer in hand, and Harvey on the other end of the sofa going over briefs for the Lutermann case, Donna felt at peace with the world.
"Hey," she said, nudging him with her foot as the Mets began to choke in the bottom of the ninth.
"What?" he asked, distracted.
"Are you going to come up for air and help me mock our team?"
"I'm on a deadline," he muttered, sifting through yet another file folder.
"Harvey, you're a Senior Partner. Don't you have an associate to do this kind of gruntwork?"
"And he is," Harvey said, still not looking up. "But unless one of us finds something by Monday, we're going to lose a major deal, so we're double-teaming."
"Aw," Donna said, and then Harvey did look up. "Are you racing the Rookie to see who finds it first?"
"I'm not racing anyone!"
"You're adorable. Don't worry, even if he wins I'll still love you best," she said. "Or are you trying to impress him? Girls don't like it when you pull their pigtails, Harvey, schoolyard rumor to the contrary."
"I'm not anything with him. I'm marshalling all available resources."
"You keep telling yourself that," she said, just as someone knocked on the front door. "Are you expecting anyone? Did you order a pizza while I wasn't looking?"
"No," Harvey said, frowning. Another knock, insistent and strident.
"Oh man, I wonder if another door-to-door evangelist got into the building," Donna said. "You keep straining yourself, I'll go run him off."
"You don't -- "
"Don't deny me my fun," Donna told him, and went to answer the door, preparing herself to weep at the slightest provocation of an earnest and religious young person on the other side of the door.
Instead, when she opened it, Mike was standing in the hallway with his hand upraised, about to knock again.
"Donna," he said. "Uh. Hi."
"Rookie," she replied, crossing her arms. "What have you been told about bothering Big Dog in his den?"
"I, uh." Mike's mouth worked slowly. "There's a thing, with the case."
"Let him in," Harvey called from the living room. Donna stepped aside and gestured for Mike to enter. She was impressed; most people who weren't here for a quickie had to earn their way into Harvey's home. Mike looked like he knew this, and walked inside with a certain amount of awe.
"Well?" Harvey said, looking up but not standing up from the couch. "You find something?"
"I..." Mike held up a folder, then waved it vaguely, taking in the beers on the coffee table and the remains of a hot dog lunch for two. He twisted to look at Donna, who just grinned. "I'm interrupting something...?"
"If you were, would I have let you in?" Harvey asked in irritation.
"The Mets choked again, so I was just leaving," Donna said, taking pity and giving Mike a reassuring smile. "You two have fun playing God. Be good," she added and, on autopilot, bent to kiss Harvey's forehead.
"Always am," Harvey replied, and it wasn't until Donna caught Mike's puzzled expression on her way out the door that she realized they'd performed a patently private ritual right in front of Harvey's new chew toy.
Well, it would be fine; Harvey would tell Mike whatever he cared to tell him, or Mike wouldn't ask. Either way, it wasn't her concern. That was the deal: she and Harvey looked out for each other. Harvey had trust issues a mile wide, and hers were possibly wider, if more well-concealed, but they trusted each other. Always had, always would.
If Mike eyed her funny on Monday, he did it subtly enough that Donna could ignore it.
When their brother Johnny is born, Donna is ready to watch Harvey deal with what she had to deal with: no longer being the baby, no longer being special. She didn't count on their father's feudalism (though she won't know that word for another few years).
Harvey is the firstborn son. Their father now has the perfect set of children: the heir, the spare, and the mare. Harvey will always be the favorite.
It doesn't occur to her as a child that her insecurity, the fights to prove her worth, the years spent gothing out with the drama kids, is all to get her father's attention -- and because nobody taught her she didn't have to be a second-class citizen.
The day she realizes this, it changes her life.
So she might be an admin, but she's the best there is, and there's no shame in her profession. She might be her little brother's assistant and sometimes his caretaker, when he needs it, but she is not his subordinate. She is subordinate to nobody. She made that mistake only once, and never again.
Harvey, who has had his own struggles, is utterly unsurprised by this new strength. He is one of the few people, perhaps the only man, who takes it in stride. It takes her many more years to realize that he placidly accepted the change in her because there is not a day in his life he hasn't idolized his big sister, not a day he hasn't believed she could do anything.
Donna's "listening" when they were in the office served a couple of good purposes, which was why Harvey had never forbidden it. For one thing, he couldn't imagine forbidding Donna anything. For another, it meant that when any given meeting was over, she was prepared with whatever he might need as a result.
Plus he liked putting on a show for her once in a while. After all she'd done for him, it seemed only fair to make sure he tried to brighten her day at least a few times a week.
This performance, with Mike as supporting actor, was going brilliantly. One of the best parts of Harvey's job was that, as a specialist in difficult situations, he never lacked for variety. In this case he was meeting to discuss a settlement with a former client of Louis's who had brought a suit against Pearson Hardman for negligence. Harvey knew it was crap, because Louis was a diligent if not a pleasant man, and he knew this guy was a chiseler, and thus after a few hours of research he and Mike had uncovered all they needed to lay their trap.
Their former client had walked in, and Harvey had opened with some remarks about the proposed settlement, and then he'd launched into their performance: explaining just how Louis hadn't been negligent and why their client had lost his last lawsuit.
"Which is why, Mr. Georges, we're not going to settle with you," he'd said, which was Mike's cue to sit up and take notice.
"Excuse me?" Georges had asked, a nasty smile on his face. "You're not going to settle for two mil? Because I think the cost to your firm from my going public with this suit -- "
" -- actually would be significantly less than two million, according to current market research," Mike said. Harvey was going to give him a note about interrupting, later.
"You can't know that," Georges retorted.
"Technically, we can. Car companies do it all the time, and they have some pretty complex formulas for loss of business due to customer opinion versus net loss due to recalls and lawsuits," Mike replied. "It wasn't that tough to work out. Your bad word against this firm is worth about a hundred thousand dollars."
"In lay terms, chump change," Harvey added. He could see Donna's shoulders jerk on the other side of the glass as she suppressed a laugh. He loved the expression chump change.
"Of course, that was before we found this," Mike said, holding up a manila envelope.
"Those are some photos of you with a woman by the name of...what was her name?" Harvey asked Mike.
Mike had lobbied long and hard to get to say this. "Well, her stripper name is Sweet Divine," he said with relish.
"I don't think I've introduced you to Mike," Harvey said. "He's my associate. He runs my errands and twists the knife."
"He lets me watch so I can learn," Mike added.
"So I think we've established that from here," Harvey said, standing and crossing to their former client, who had gone very pale, "the very best option for you is to go straight to hell."
Georges scurried out of the room shortly after. Donna called at his back to ask if he wanted to make another appointment, and when Harvey and Mike emerged from the office she was grinning.
"That was awesome," Mike was saying, bouncing around him like a labrador puppy. "Up top, come on."
"I'm not high-fiving you in public," Harvey said. Mike gave him sad eyes, and he saw Donna jerk her head at him. He supposed Mike had done all right, for a rookie.
He offered his fist for a bump. Mike beamed, bumped it, did the little explodey thing that always gave Harvey cognitive dissonance (how anything could be so immature and yet endearing baffled and unsettled him), and wandered off.
"So?" Harvey asked Donna. "Entertaining?"
"Well, clearly I got the lion's share of theatrical talent in the family, but you didn't do too badly," Donna said, patting his head.
Of course Mike turned around in time to catch that. The kid was going to be insufferable after this.
There are fights, of course, as there would be between any two siblings, particularly those who spend all day together. The lines between big sister and admin, between baby brother and boss, aren't easily drawn. But the fights grow fewer and quieter as the years pass, until they find a balance that's rarely upset.
Jessica knows, of course, because she knew them so long ago. A few of the admins know, because they're Donna's friends, and she's not ashamed of Harvey. None of them seem to associate her stories about her goofy little brother with the crown prince of Pearson Hardman, but then Donna doesn't either, not really. She's become used to the duality of it.
Louis Litt finds out, somehow, but he only makes the mistake once of bringing it up to Harvey, of asking him if big sister is going to fish him out of some mess he's gotten himself into as a junior partner. It's one of the few times Donna has ever seen Harvey utterly floored -- surprised by Louis's knowledge, yes, but also simply without anything to say.
It might have turned out to be his weak spot, and Louis would have known that, but Donna flies into a fury the likes of which, she knows, Harvey hasn't seen since that time in high school when she and Bonita Richardson went at it fingernails and teeth, and had to be pulled off each other by the gym coach.
Donna's torrent of abuse, raining down on Louis's head, puts paid to the idea she couldn't have been a lawyer herself if she wanted to; it drains the blood from Louis's face and sends him running, but it accomplishes its mission.
Louis is an only child. Sometimes, Donna thinks he might be jealous. Not everyone is blessed with a big sister like her.
About a year and a half after Harvey made Senior Partner, he showed up on Donna's doorstep early one cold evening. She opened the door, saw his eyes, and said, "Dad called?"
"I should have been expecting it," he answered.
Donna wrapped an arm around his neck, gave him the best hug she had, and pulled him inside.
"Booze or coffee?" she asked, walking into the kitchen. He followed, settling at the table in her breakfast nook, fingers drifting aimlessly over the neat little salt and pepper shakers, the stack of novels, the row of glass rabbits on the windowsill.
"Coffee," he said. You could never tell with Harvey, after Dad got done with him, whether he'd want a drink to settle his nerves or whether he'd swear off drinking for a while, afraid of becoming like him.
"How'd it go?" she asked, measuring out coffee into the machine. "You want to talk about it?"
"The usual," Harvey said, bowing his head and resting a hand on the back of it, an old childhood habit eight-year-old Donna had found adorable in a frustrated five-year-old who was annoyed he couldn't seem to master subtraction. In an adult, it was heartbreaking. "He's old and sick, he wants to see his firstborn son before he dies, blah blah blah."
"What's he sick with this time?" she asked. Dad had pulled a lot of "old and sick" in the last few years, and miraculously hadn't died yet.
"He muttered something about a hernia. God knows," Harvey replied. Donna got the cream out of the fridge and set the sugar bowl at his elbow.
"You two fight, or did you hang up before it got that far?"
"Same fight we always have."
Donna stroked his hair. "I'm sorry, kid."
"Not your fault."
"Well, technically..." she gestured with her free hand, and Harvey lifted his head.
"It's not your fault," he said. "He's a dick, he's always been a dick, he will always be a dick."
"You didn't have to come down on my side."
"Yeah I did," Harvey replied. Harvey, of the three Specter children, held the worst grudges; as a boy his anger had been epic, particularly when anyone tangled with his family. For all his self-possession now, he had never stopped being angry at their father for not standing with them against an outsider.
With the hindsight of adulthood, Donna could see how difficult their father's position must have been; she'd married the son of a family friend, and when your twenty-two-year-old daughter came to you and said your godson had been cheating on her and knocking her around, well -- it was difficult.
But not that difficult, as Harvey and Johnny had decided, and even with the wisdom of years, Donna couldn't disagree. Dad should have backed her, and he didn't, so the boys had to, and that wasn't right. When Dad told her if she didn't want to get hit she shouldn't piss off her husband, nineteen year old Harvey and sixteen year old Johnny -- both of whom had been raised mostly by her after their mother's death -- had taken her side.
Harvey hadn't let Johnny in on his plans, because Johnny had his whole life ahead of him and Harvey was already kind of a screwup, bless his impatient heart. But both she and Johnny knew that Harvey had planned it -- had sent her and Johnny to the movies, where they'd have a nice clean alibi, and then took her husband for a ride and beat the everloving hell out of him.
Harvey had taken her side against Dad. He'd been the firstborn son, their father's pride and joy who could do no wrong, and Dad never forgave her for ruining that.
Harvey and Donna had always been close. And she didn't work as his admin out of guilt or debt, she did it because she loved the work and someone had to keep Harvey out of trouble, but there was no denying there was an element of them-against-the-world about it.
The coffeemaker beeped and she poured out two mugs, measured cream into both and sugar into Harvey's, and let him sit quietly, sipping and staring at the coffee, until he was ready to talk.
"I thought about not coming over," he said. "I don't want you to feel guilty. I just wanted to see you."
"I don't feel guilty," she said. "I know you can handle Dad."
"You have more faith in that than I do," he said, giving her a rueful look.
"You held you own on the phone, didn't you?"
"Yeah, well, I'm a lawyer. Talking is something I can win at. I hate that he gets to me, that's all." He sipped. "I could get a restraining order. For all of us. An injunction. I don't think it'd do any good, though."
"Did you call Johnny?" she asked.
"Yeah, I let him know he might be next on the list, depending on how much Dad had to drink."
"Does Dad even have his number?"
"Probably not, but I didn't think he had mine, either."
"I'll call tomorrow. He sound okay?"
"Yeah, you know him."
"Sunny John," she said affectionately, because Johnny seemed to have inherited everyone's share of good humor -- Harvey had been a quiet, sulky child, and Donna had been extroverted but not even-tempered. Johnny was just cheerful, a cheerful person, and for all their sibling solidarity Donna sometimes wondered if Johnny hadn't been switched at birth.
"You want to crash here tonight?" she asked, then paused. "Or, wait, no, you have the client reception. Want me to call you in sick?"
"No, I'm going. I just thought I'd stop by first."
"Well, thank you," she said, and smiled. "But I'm fine, and you're a grown man who is more than a match for him any day, and if you want to be only fashionably late to the reception you should go home and change."
"Why? This is a nice suit," Harvey said.
"Mmhm. Is Mike going to be there?"
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"You know he likes it when you wear that red shirt with the waistcoat," she said, grinning and forming a suit with her hands, the shape of his waistcoat, the spread of his collar.
"And I'm letting my puppy dictate my fashion choices since when?" he asked, looking irritated.
"Since you developed a great big crush on him?" she suggested.
"I don't -- "
"Okay, kid," she agreed, amused. Harvey gave her a suspicious look, but he finished his coffee and stood up, looking determined.
"I don't," he insisted.
Donna stood too, straightening his lapels. "Of course not. Now go strut around for a few hours and impress all the rich people."
He grumbled, but he bent for his forehead-kiss and promised to be good.
Donna had played with Harvey when he was a baby and she was little more than a toddler herself. She'd read stories to him as a child and watched him grow up. She'd seen him go through the same awkward stage everyone went through. She'd seen Johnny go through it too, a few years later, but as protective as they both were of Johnny and as much as they loved him, she and Harvey had a particular bond.
She'd spent a long time getting over what happened when she was twenty-two, but she'd come out the other side pretty strong. Harvey had never really gotten over it, so it was her job when this kind of thing happened to take him out of himself.
Mike's Facebook, the following morning, showed several pictures taken at the client dinner, including one of Harvey in the red shirt Donna knew Mike liked.
Harvey is not what Donna would call an aficionado of the arts. He always attends her amateur theatricals, and he does the theatre and the opera and the ballet often enough to satisfy convention, but sports are his thing, sports and cars and classic films, and other macho pastimes their father instilled in him as particularly manly.
He reads incessantly, though: if not for work then novels and nonfiction books and magazines, constantly and ravenously.
Poetry isn't really his style. Still, he knows a few off from memory, and she knows his favorite poet is Philip Larkin. Not least because of Larkin's immortal This Be The Verse.
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do...
Donna prefers Shakespeare's sonnets, herself.
Mike had been working for Pearson Hardman for two years, and he was beginning to hear murmurings trickling down about his candidacy for a partner fast-track, when Donna stopped by his cubicle and tapped on the computer screen to get his attention. He pulled out his earphones and looked up.
"I know I didn't miss a meeting," he said. "And you never come down here to get me if an email will work. Did someone die? Did Harvey finally throw Louis through a window?"
"Lunch," she said without preamble. "You and me, one o'clock."
Mike just stared at her. He and Donna didn't do lunch. He brought her sandwiches sometimes, but they didn't really do the socializing-outside-of-work thing. He barely did that with Harvey, and he and Harvey had actual obligations to go to parties and dinners.
"You're paying," she added, and walked away.
Mike wondered if he'd done something wrong. He couldn't think of anything. Harvey had been moody and irritable lately, and it was really starting to wear on him, but he felt he'd been a model of patience. Maybe Donna would know why Harvey was being a dick all the time, instead of just most of the time.
He must be getting better at reading people, because when they sat down and ordered drinks, Donna put the lunch menu aside and said, "So, Harvey."
"It's not just me, then," Mike said.
"Well, it is and it isn't, but this is going to be a mess and since he's too emotionally repressed to fix this, it falls to me," she said.
"What did I do?" Mike asked, indignant.
Donna sighed. "You grew up."
"Listen, this isn't news to either of us, but you're drawing attention in the firm, real attention now," Donna said. Mike ducked his head. "Harvey knows it too, and he knows pretty soon either he has to let you go or you're going to kick free on your own."
"So? Half the time I think he'd be happy to ditch me," Mike said.
"You don't really believe that."
"Lately, I do."
Donna sat back. "Harvey's never been in this position before. You know what happened with Cameron. Aside from Jessica, that's his only experience with mentorship, and that was all on the other side."
Mike considered this. "He'd been with Cameron Dennis about two years when he found out, huh?"
"About, yes. I think he sees a crash coming, because that's really all he's known."
"But I'm not going to do that. I mean, he's not Cameron." Mike glanced at her. "What am I supposed to do? Prove my loyalty? I've spent the last two years doing that."
"I don't know. That's why I wanted to talk to you."
"So this is really about..." Mike chewed his lip. "Not hurting Harvey."
"Man, you two are dense," Donna said. Mike felt this was pretty unfair. He only had one side; she had both. "Harvey cares about you. And I think you care about him. Somehow you're going to have to work this out."
"So why not tell him instead of me?" Mike cut her off before she could respond, which he knew would at any other time earn him a severe punishment. "He's not that emotionally repressed. He's not dumb."
"Because you're not repressed at all," she said. "It's easier for you."
He tilted his head. There was something else going on here, and Mike was confident enough now that he wanted to know what it was.
"Why are you protecting him?" he asked. "And don't give me that good-admin crap. This is way above and beyond that."
Donna seemed to be weighing his worth against the secret, and Mike kept a level gaze -- the way Harvey had taught him, confident and just the right side of cocky.
Finally, she looked away, and Mike glanced up too to find their drinks arriving. He fumbled for his menu while she unhesitatingly ordered the club sandwich, and then just shook his head and said "Make it two."
"Good choice. The club's great here," she said.
"Donna," Mike warned. She stared at him, and he caved. "What?"
"You sound so much like Harvey sometimes," she said, and then took a sip of her lemonade. "Okay. This is not something we talk about at work. You'll understand why."
Mike leaned forward, listening interestedly.
"When Harvey was nineteen, he was arrested for assault," she said. "That's how he met Jessica, but that's not the point."
"Assault? Harvey? Seriously?" Mike asked, genuinely surprised. He knew Harvey had a temper, but...
"He put a man in the hospital. His sister's husband."
"Harvey has a sister?"
"Am I going to tell you this or are you just going to repeat everything I say?"
"Sorry, go ahead," Mike said, genuinely worried that now was when she was going to stop.
"There was a lot of family drama. His sister thought she was marrying for love. The husband thought he was getting a live-in maid. He didn't like her talking to other men, he didn't want her to finish college, and he had a nasty drinking problem," she said. "When she told their father, their father took the husband's side."
Mike stared at her, because he was getting a very bad feeling about this.
"So Harvey and his little brother Johnny helped their sister get away, and Harvey made sure this went smoothly by taking his brother-in-law out to a country road and beating him unconscious. It was premeditated and very, very violent. The only reason he's not doing time for assault is that he testified that the other guy threw the first punch, and he had Jessica for his defense lawyer."
"You're incriminating me, you realize this," Mike said, horrified at the idea of Harvey planning and cold-bloodedly executing an assault at the age of nineteen.
"Are you going to call the cops?" Donna asked.
"What? No! But -- did he tell you that you could tell me this?"
"It's my story as much as it is his," Donna said.
Mike had been suspecting it, but the reality of it put him silent for a good minute, staring at her.
"Life took a lot of twists and turns," Donna said quietly. "I finished college and got a job as a legal secretary, took our mother's maiden name. When Harvey went to the DA's office, I'd already been there a few months. When we went to Pearson Hardman, we didn't talk about it -- "
"Office politics," Mike said, understanding dawning. Nothing would have made their lives easier by announcing to all and sundry that they were related.
"Harvey and I are very close," she said. "I protect him. He protects me. Maybe that's dysfunctional, but we had to. It's just..."
"He's not going to take kindly to big sister telling him to stop kicking his puppy," Mike said.
"The only fights we've ever had are of the 'stop running my life' kind," she said. "Which are a lot more complicated when I do, in fact, run his professional life. I learned a long time ago not to butt in, but...right now he needs to know you're moving up but sticking around."
Mike nodded thoughtfully. Their food arrived, and he waited until they were alone again before continuing, picking at his sandwich. "Not that your assumption is wrong, but you're assuming I'm really not going anywhere."
"You care about him."
"True and evident, I'm not trying to hide that. I just..." Mike studied his food. "I wish I had your confidence he's not just being a dick as a way of shoving me out of the nest."
"You need more than the word of his own blood?" she asked. "I know Harvey. I taught him to read. I fixed his lunches for school even when he had that weird phase where he decided he didn't like sandwiches. He patched me up after fights."
"You got in -- nevermind," Mike said hurriedly, when Donna fixed him with a look.
"When Jessica tried to help him, I talked him into taking it. He got me out of the DA's office just as much as I got him out. And now, I keep his calendar, I take his messages, I run his career. Until you took over, I was the one reminding him that lunch is a vital daily meal and shouldn't consist entirely of hot dogs."
Mike nodded. "Okay, I get it. How do I fix it?"
"That's your problem, kiddo, not mine. But fix it. You know what I'm like when I'm disappointed."
Mike swallowed. He certainly did.
Harvey's first court appearance, working for the DA's office, is very much a burden on Donna. She's the one who has to watch him pace, muttering his opening argument, the one who has to endure Harvey's nerves, which are grating at best. (By the time Harvey is a Senior Partner, he's calmed down considerably. Donna attributes this to years of neckties preventing enough oxygen from reaching his brain.)
It would be hard enough to be his friend or his admin and watch him drowning in anxiety and stage fright, but to be his sister and see it is unbearable.
So she stops him, mid-pace, and sits him down and gives him every piece of advice she has garnered in years of drama classes and community theatre.
But he isn't listening.
And she sighs, and goes to the staff kitchen and digs out a can opener, because Harvey is calmed by routine and ritual, and it's time to invent one.
And thus a legend is born.
It had been a year before Harvey had let Mike get more than a glimpse of his condo. Harvey liked to keep his work life and his personal life (such as it was) separate, and Mike hadn't earned that level of familiarity.
Harvey was very good at denial.
But, the previous winter, Mike's heat had gone out during a particularly nasty freeze. Harvey had told him to get a better apartment, but Mike was still just getting his feet under him financially, and anyway it was hard to pack boxes with fingers frozen stiff. He could have gotten a hotel room but he wouldn't, so Harvey, after finding Mike asleep on his office couch one morning, had graciously (gracelessly) told Mike he had a nicer couch with a shower in the immediate vicinity, and dragged him home to stay until his building's heat was fixed.
Mike was a messy person but an excellent guest -- tidy and quiet, pitching in with the cooking, and if he'd taken some liberties with Harvey's television, well, Harvey hardly watched it anyway. Mike's taste ran to documentaries, which were soothing in a way.
At any rate it had broken the seal, and after that Harvey was less reluctant to summon Mike home for an evening of work, or in the summer the occasional weekend ball game on the big screen.
So when Mike leaned into his office one afternoon and asked if they could talk, somewhere away from Pearson Hardman, Harvey just said "My place?"
It was unsettling the way Mike nodded, with none of his usual prevaricating or chatter. Harvey wasn't going to say he enjoyed Mike's blithering, but he'd come to expect it. He also knew to appreciate it for what it was: a technique to fill silence, meaningless verbage to drown out the sound of Mike's gears turning. The more he talked, the more time he had to think, and the more off-guard he threw his opponents.
Mike was going to be a very different sort of lawyer from Harvey, it seemed, in style if not in substance.
When they got to the condo, as ever, Mike beelined for the windows. Harvey poured himself a drink and joined him, patiently. If there was anything he'd learned in the last two years, it was patience.
"Never get tired of the view," Mike said finally.
"Yes, I'm aware," Harvey answered. Mike shot him a smile. "You wanted to talk."
"I had a talk with Donna the other day," Mike said.
"That sounds dire."
"No, it was good, it cleared up some stuff. Listen," Mike continued, turning to him. Harvey kept his gaze fixed on the skyline. "We both know things have been weird lately. And I know why."
Harvey went still, then carefully raised his glass and sipped. "You do," he said.
"She told me to fix it, so I'm fixing it."
"How helpful of her," Harvey muttered.
"I just think you should know I'm not going anywhere," Mike said. Harvey wet his lips, sipped again, glad to have something to do with his hands. "It's not going to be any different, I mean. I know...things are changing, I get that, but I still need your help."
Harvey looked sidelong at him. "What's changing, exactly, in your opinion?"
"Come on, Harvey," Mike said, in that disarming way he had where you couldn't quite formulate an answer. "We both know how you've been acting. I'm saying you don't need to -- distance yourself or whatever."
"I'm not -- "
Mike was good. Some of it was raw talent, but Harvey could see his imprint in Mike's speech, in the way Mike was letting him down easy. So slick you almost didn't see it happening at all.
No wonder he was hot talk among the other Senior Partners. Harvey wondered how much of their discussions Mike was privy to through the admins and paralegals.
Harvey exhaled. "It's not deliberate."
"Donna said that too. It's just frustrating, because I do need guidance. I know I'm not perfect yet, but I'm trying and you're...not."
Harvey turned and set his glass down on the end table, leaning against the back of the couch. "You've never been shy about calling me on my bullshit."
"Yeah, well, it's a skill," Mike answered. "So...are we okay?"
Harvey glanced at him, made sure to make eye contact. "We're good."
"Okay then," Mike said uncertainly. "So, I'm gonna go."
"See you tomorrow."
"Yeah, see you." With a final glance at the skyline, Mike left, and Harvey counted back from fifteen carefully before he took his phone out of his pocket. As expected -- Donna treasured her dinner hour -- the call rang through to voicemail.
"It's Harvey," he said, keeping his voice carefully even. He wasn't going to flip his shit like he had over the Cameron thing, because he had no intention of apologizing this time. "I know you think you're looking out for me, but the next time you decide to have a talk with Mike and tell him to fix my problems, I want you to remember that you don't, actually, run my personal life and you don't get to talk about my personal issues to my subordinates. So thanks for telling Mike to go easy, but next time stay the hell out of it."
When Harvey is seventeen, they have the biggest fight of their lives.
Donna genuinely just wants to help. When Harvey comes to her and says Tamara might be pregnant, and wants to know if he can borrow the money off her to get an abortion if necessary, Donna isn't -- well, of course she's thinking about Harvey, because she loves her little brother. But she's also thinking about how scared she'd be if she were sixteen and facing motherhood.
So she goes to his girlfriend, just wanting to lend a sympathetic ear, and to ask if the abortion is her idea or Harvey's. She thinks it's sensible, but it's not Harvey's decision to make, it's Tamara's, and Donna wants to be a guiding hand. Tamara seems adamant about the abortion; Donna can see she's scared and grateful for a friend, but Harvey has always been attracted to the headstrong, the stubborn, and this young woman knows her own mind. Donna goes away feeling satisfied, and with a promise of money if needed.
(It isn't; false alarm, thank God.)
But of course Harvey hears about it, and the shouting is epic, about how Harvey doesn't need someone else running his life, how he told her in confidence, how if he wanted someone to condescend to his girlfriend he'd damn well ask for it. She rages right back, about how Harvey isn't the only person involved in this, and if Donna is going to pay for an abortion it isn't going to be one he strongarmed his girlfriend into.
They fight, hard and long, about how their lives intersect, and where the boundaries are to be.
It lasts a week, off and on, and Donna doesn't even remember now how they patched it up, only that they did, and that as a result she knows better than to interfere in his personal life in any significant way.
That isn't what this thing with Mike was about, and when Donna gets Harvey's voicemail, she's both confused and annoyed. They've had this fight. She'd prefer not to have it again.
"What the hell did you say to him?"
Mike looked up at her like a bunny caught by a cobra, and while normally Donna relished that expression, today she was in no mood for stunned-and-fumbling Mike. She wanted answering-me-right-now Mike.
"What?" he asked, pulling out his headphones.
"Harvey! What the hell did you say?" she demanded.
"Puppy," Donna said warningly.
"What, I didn't say anything. I mean okay, I did, but only because you told me to!"
"And you said?" Donna prompted.
"I told him I understood what was going on but I still needed his help and I didn't want him to...do what he was doing," Mike said, looking baffled now. "I solid fixed it, I talked about emotions and everything! Problem fixed!"
"Did you tell him I told you to?"
"Well, yeah! I don't know if you've noticed but -- " Mike paused as Seth walked by, eyeballing them suspciously. "I don't know if you've noticed but your opinion carries a little more weight with him than mine!" he hissed.
"Do you think maybe that might have had something to do with him chewing me out on the phone?" Donna asked.
She thrust the phone in his face. Mike took it warily and pressed the playback on her voicemail. He listened, frowning, to Harvey's clearly angry message.
"But it's not his personal life," he said finally, handing her the phone. "We didn't talk about that at all. Is he -- was he pissed at you today?"
Donna rubbed her forehead. "No, he seems fine. Sullen, but fine."
"I swear, Donna, I didn't say anything about -- you know, the...family thing, even," Mike said. "He said we were good! He was fine when I left."
"Obviously he wasn't."
"Well, he's a good liar. What do you want me to do about it? I fixed this once already!"
"You didn't fix anything!"
Mike squared his jaw, and Donna had to respect him for that. "I did what you asked, and if Harvey's having shit fits it's his own stupid fault. I wash my hands of the affair."
Donna narrowed her eyes. "If you weren't Harvey's favorite I'd rend you limb from limb for that."
"Yeah, well, it's a good thing that I am, then, isn't it?" Mike asked. He looked like he was trying to be defiant and ignore the very sensible little voice in his head that was telling him how close she was to ending his life.
He also looked surprised when she shook her head and sighed, leaning on his cubicle. "Maybe you're right," she admitted.
"If he's pissed off about me interfering, he's only going to get more pissed if you try to re-fix it. But I'm warning you," she added, pointing a finger at him, "find Harvey some distractions or I will be back to make your life hell as only I know how."
Mike nodded. "Deal."
"And don't tell him I was here."
"Yeah, not making that mistake twice."
Fortunately, Donna was not above giving Mike a little help in the keeping-Harvey-busy department. She stole a pro bono that should have been routed to Louis, allowed in a couple of clients she really could have pre-screened and dealt with herself, and subtly tipped Mike off to an error in a merger (not written by Harvey; Harvey didn't make errors except in his personal life) that meant Mike and Harvey had to spend most of an evening reworking the contract and contacting the concerned parties.
The next morning, when she arrived, Harvey was sulking in his office and Mike was very scarce. Finally Donna groaned to herself and emailed him, wondering when he'd gone from "Harvey's annoying sidekick" to her own personal partner in crime.
What did you do to him? she asked.
The reply came back quick enough that Mike must have been expecting her email. I think his buttons get a lot easier to push after he's been at the office for eighteen hours.
Which button did you push?
I'm totally not sure but I think maybe whatever he was pissed about earlier? Do they offer lessons in upwards management? I think I need some.
Only at the school of hard knocks. I'll deal with it.
Donna, you are the wind beneath my wings.
That wrung a grin out of her, which she carefully schooled into an impassive expression before knocking on Harvey's door and walking in without waiting for a reply.
"Okay, we don't usually do the knock-down, drag-out sibling fights in the office," she announced, "but I think the time has come. Boxing gloves on."
"Get lost," Harvey muttered.
"Oh, you did not just," she retorted.
"I mean it, Donna, let it go."
"Are we, as family, good at doing that? No we're not. And since you won't let it go, I'm honor bound not to either," she said. "You're going to tell me what's screwing you up or I'm going to drag you out of here by your ear and make you sit in a corner in the lobby and think about what you've done."
He gave her a weary smile. "That didn't work when I was four and it's not going to work now."
It didn't, either. If Donna put Harvey in a time-out when he was four, he'd simply wait until she wasn't looking and then go get a book to read, and she'd find him there hours later, contentedly reading a book in the corner.
She leaned on his desk, and he tipped back in his chair to gaze up at her.
"Yes, okay," she said. "I told Mike you were my brother -- "
" -- and I told him you were being weird and that he should fix it. And we both know that sometimes Mike thinks he's fixed something when he hasn't. So do I need to go get the story out of him of exactly how he botched fixing this, or -- "
"No!" Harvey said sharply. "Look, it's fine, whatever, it's between me and him. There's just going to be a -- an adjustment period and it's my problem, so leave it."
Donna tilted her head, studying him.
"Why don't you want me to talk to Mike?" she asked.
"You don't think the humiliation of my sister telling my associate I have..." Harvey waved a hand, "...a...a thing for him was sufficient? You want to grind it in now?"
Donna stared at him. Harvey stared back.
"What the hell orifice did you pull that out of?" she finally asked.
"Are you saying you didn't?" Harvey demanded.
"No! Jesus, Harvey," Donna said, sinking into a chair. "I was teasing you all those times. I wouldn't tell Mike that even if I thought it was serious."
"Then what was that whole thing? The heart to heart? Harvey, I'm not going anywhere, I still need your help, things won't change? He said you talked to him!"
"Yeah, about what a douchebag you were being to him!" Donna answered. "He was trying to get you to stop being an asshole because he's about to get tracked for partner!"
There was a long silence.
"That was about his career?" Harvey asked, his voice subdued.
"Well, mostly it was about what a huge jerk you were being, but yeah, both of us thought that was because of his career. Are you saying it's not?"
Harvey slumped into his chair and leaned forward, lacing his hands behind his neck, head bowed.
"I was trying to put some distance between us before I got slapped with a sexual harrassment suit," he said. "I was trying to be a god damned professional about it. I thought you told Mike to let me down easy."
"Oh, kid," she said, sympathetic now that she understood the depth of the problem. "I wouldn't do that to you."
"Yeah, should have realized that when I couldn't hear Mike laughing from here," he replied, head still bowed.
"You really think Mike would find it funny?"
"I would, in his shoes."
"Well, that's because you're evil, Harvey," she replied. She could see him smile again, and finally he unlaced his fingers and sat back, though he still looked...tired.
"So he doesn't know," he said.
"If he does he didn't hear it from me, and he's pretty oblivious sometimes, so probably not," Donna said. "But if you ask me I think you should tell him."
"Didn't we just have the this would be very humiliating moment?" Harvey asked.
"Mike idolizes you. He'd jump out a window if you told him to."
"No he wouldn't," Harvey said. "He'd bitch about it for ten minutes and then do exactly what he wanted."
Donna grinned. "Is that so bad?"
"No. It's..." Harvey groaned. "It's one of his most redeeming features, that he consistently fails to kiss my ass. But it's not a great indicator of affection. I'm his boss. That's all."
"Not for much longer. In about a month he's moving out of the Associate program. Then he'll just be a guy who works at Pearson Hardman," Donna said. "I'm not going to sit here and blow sunshine up your ass -- "
"Top Gun? Really?"
" -- but if you don't cheer the hell up and at least act normal, I will pull out the artillery. I control your bank accounts. Now. Tell me what happened last night."
Harvey exhaled. "He got all excited when we finally finished and tried to hug me."
"And I said no."
"Did you say no, or did you say No! like you thought he might have cooties?"
Harvey rubbed his face with his hands. "If I promise not to be an asshole will you please leave?"
"Not a promise you can keep, but I have work to do anyway," she said, standing and dusting down her skirt unnecessarily.
Later that day she got a text message from Mike. Did you fix him? I think he's fixed.
It's a band-aid, she typed back. Let's time how long it lasts.
Donna knows Harvey sometimes sleeps with men. It isn't anything they've ever formally talked about, they've never had any kind of coming-out moment, but she suspected he was more than just "best friends" with the first-baseman on his high school team. Over the years she's occasionally met guys Harvey is obviously seeing in some less than platonic capacity. Once he even introduced one of them as his boyfriend, a status few people of either gender achieve, and which lasted all of five weeks before falling apart.
So it isn't a secret, at least not between them, and it isn't anything Donna feels she has reason to be awkward about. She's teased him about having a crush on Mike often enough. Who wouldn't have a crush on Mike? The kid's adorable. (Donna has a firm no-dating-at-work policy, and a firm no-dating-anyone-born-after-1980 policy, or she might have tried her luck herself.)
But she didn't think it was serious, she just thought Harvey was being Harvey, pretending not to care even though he did. Teasing him about caring is kind of off-limits, so she teased him about sex instead.
She honestly doesn't know what Mike thinks of Harvey, whether Mike is ever attracted to men. She knows Mike is fond of him, would do anything for him, respects him even when he doesn't always agree with him. Beyond that, she doesn't know.
And she can't even threaten him with violence if he hurts her brother. Mike's a sweet man who might do it honestly but would never do it deliberately, maliciously.
Which somehow just makes it worse.
Maybe it is time to call in the big guns.
Why yes, I did mentally cast Matt Bomer as Johnny Specter...
Johnny was never a fixed-abode kind of guy, which Harvey, settled into Manhattan like an immovable rock, never really understood. But at least he found a job that let him travel.
If Harvey specialized in closing, Johnny's genius was in opening, in beginnings. In the past five years he'd started three separate and very successful charitable campaigns, but once the ball got rolling he'd get bored and move on. Last Harvey heard he was moving on from his stint in California, so it wasn't entirely surprising when Johnny turned up at Pearson Hardman about a week after Harvey's blowout with Donna.
Not surprising, and not entirely innocent, either.
Donna greeted Johnny with a shriek and a hug, which gave Harvey enough time to put on his "I'm so glad to see you and totally don't suspect you of ulterior motives" smile before Johnny came bounding in.
"I'm in town for a few days before I head to Atlanta," Johnny said, once greetings and how-are-yous had been exchanged. "I thought I'd look in and see how my dysfunctionally codependent siblings are doing. Man, this is a snazzy office."
"I'm not writing you a check for anything," Harvey informed him. Johnny laughed.
"Don't worry, I'm not here to hit you up for a donation. But I am totally going to make you take me out on the town tonight. Donna's not invited," he added over his shoulder to Donna, who was per usual eavesdropping. "Donna-Johnny bonding is tomorrow -- you're giving her a day off, by the way -- Harvey-Johnny bonding is tonight. And then we can all have dinner tomorrow evening! Where's Jessica? I am totally buzzing her for a donation in about a month, I want to soften her up for it now."
"Harvey," Mike announced, walking into the office with impeccable timing and his head buried in a contract. "I thought you said you wanted these at one, but Donna said eleven, so they're -- "
He looked up, caught sight of Johnny in his suit -- easily as expensive as Harvey's, if less formal -- and stopped.
" -- finished early!" he said brightly, covering well, and came forward. "Mike Ross, I'm Harvey's associate."
"John Specter," Johnny said solemnly. "I'm Harvey's brother."
A year or two ago, Mike would have gaped and fallen silent; now, with barely a flick of his eyes at Harvey, he smiled and said "Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Specter."
Johnny grinned at Harvey. "Listen, I need to go check into the hotel, and it looks like Donna's pushing you around as usual. Tonight, okay?"
"See you then," Harvey said, clapping him on the shoulder and steering him out. Johnny wandered off in the direction of Jessica's office, making him her problem now.
"He's not staying with you?" Mike asked, when Harvey turned around.
"This isn't college, and he's a billion-dollar fundraiser. He doesn't couch-surf," Harvey replied, going to his desk. Mike was still peering in the direction Johnny had gone.
"He looks like you," Mike said.
"And there the sibling resemblance ends. Give," Harvey said, holding out his hand for the contracts.
"No kidding. He seems nice," Mike continued, handing him the contracts.
"He's paid to smile," Harvey said.
"So I guess the resemblance doesn't entirely end with looks."
Harvey grinned at him. "Kid, when are you gonna learn? I'm paid to bite. What's your afternoon look like?"
"Meeting with some sports-drink people about an endorsement negotiation for Tom Keller," Mike said. "Otherwise light. Got anything for me?"
"No, go have fun with your ad reps," Harvey replied. "Donna's off tomorrow, so get my calendar from her before you leave today and book yourself into anything that looks like it needs it."
"On it," Mike said, and left smartly.
The art of raising money, Johnny has told Donna, is not unlike combining the tact and skill of her job with the perception and sharklike stealth of Harvey's. All three of the Specter siblings are good at reading people, at manipulation, at getting it as Harvey puts it, but Donna and Harvey go for the throat. Johnny isn't a ball-buster and wouldn't want to be -- can't afford to be anyway, in his line of work.
Which is why Donna calls him, because if anyone can get Harvey and Mike to sort out their screwed-up relationship, it's Johnny. Donna's too aggressive to get it right, but Johnny will smile, and charm, and fix things. It's what he's always done. She hasn't told him what the problem is yet, but he'll figure it out.
When Donna was sixteen, she tried to fix the boys who were bullying Johnny by beating them up, but they just came back and took it out on Johnny again. They liked fighting and they liked fighting with Donna because it got them attention and the chance to grab her boobs. She told Harvey she was handling it, so Harvey let her, until it became clear that wasn't working.
Looking back, she wonders that none of them thought to go to an adult, but perhaps it's not so strange. They've always handled their own problems.
Harvey, the second time she fought with the bullies, dabbed iodine on her eyebrow and put band-aids on the cuts on her arms and said, "They'll just keep doing it."
"You got a better idea?" she asked.
"Let me handle them," he replied. His dark eyes, older than they should have been, took on that look of thoughtfulness that she generally associates, even now, with Harvey at his meanest.
Harvey confronted the father of the ringleader about his son's actions; walked up to him and his wife in the middle of the supermarket and announced their son was bullying his brother, shamed them as only a defiant adolescent can. Harvey knew the man was a thug, the parents of bullies so often are bullies themselves, and he knew what awaited the boy for this public shame. Harvey was unrepentant. Nobody bothered Johnny again.
Donna jokes that Harvey is evil, but the truth is Harvey is a nice guy, civilized, civic-minded, someone who works hard not to care because otherwise he'd never stop. It's just that, because he cares so rarely, he is mindlessly, brutally vengeful when his own are hurt.
Johnny is gentler. He'll fix this, somehow.
When Johnny emerged from Jessica's office, after what he felt was a pretty good if brief meeting, he ran into Harvey's associate Mike -- literally.
"Oof! Sorry," he said, grabbing Mike by the shoulder to steady them both. He hadn't intended the collision, but it wasn't entirely a bad thing; he'd wanted the chance to talk to Mike, away from his brother's hovering presence.
"Wasn't looking where I was going," Johnny continued, not letting go of Mike's shoulder. "It's Mike, right?"
"That's right, Mr. Specter," Mike said. Aw. Manners. Adorable.
"I'm Johnny, everyone calls me that," he replied. "Can you show me how to get out of here?"
Mike gave him a brief look that said he suspected Johnny knew perfectly well how to get out of the building, but he smiled and led the way.
"I've heard a lot about you from Harvey," Johnny continued, as they walked.
"By which you mean Donna's mentioned me," Mike replied.
Johnny laughed. "So you know, then. They must trust you, they don't tell many people."
"Donna told me. I don't know if she asked Harvey."
"Well, she's a good judge of character. As a matter of fact she did mention you before Harvey, but he's spoken of you too. I think the phrase 'idiot savant' was used." And a lot of other words, over the last few months; some insulting, but all said with an odd fondness Johnny hadn't seen in Harvey in a long time. This young man intrigued him, not least because he seemed to have charmed both Donna and Harvey, and lord knew few enough people made it into that elite little circle.
"Harvey doesn't believe in praise," Mike said, smiling.
"I dunno, he managed the savant part. This is me, right?" Johnny said, as they reached the elevators. "Good to meet you, Mike. I'm sure I'll see you again before I leave town."
He shook his hand -- good grip, eye contact, Harvey had clearly taught him well -- and got into the elevator as it opened. On the ride down, he took out his phone and called Donna.
"I see what you need me for," he said, when she answered.
"Oh you do, do you?"
"Well, more or less. I like this Ross kid."
"You're a bright boy, Johnny."
"Thanks, I can't think where I got it from. So what's my mission, Mama Donna? Am I helping Harvey get over a broken heart, or into the savant's pants?"
"That depends on your opinion of the savant's feelings."
Johnny made a thoughtful noise. "I'll let you know. See you tomorrow."
"Don't keep Harvey out past bedtime."
"Yes, Donna," Johnny said dutifully, and hung up.
Harvey, as ever, was right on time that evening, walking through the door of the bar just as Johnny was settling in with a beer. He dropped into the booth and loosened his tie, signaling for the waiter and ordering a vodka martini.
"Long day?" Johnny asked, raising an eyebrow.
"I suspect it's about to be," Harvey said, settling back.
"Nuts to that. How are you? How's Senior Partner treating you?"
"Are we really going to do small talk?" Harvey asked.
"Harvey," Johnny said seriously. Sometimes he wondered if one of them was adopted. "I never get to just sit in a bar and have a drink with my brother. Relax. The heavy stuff can wait."
"Until tomorrow night?"
"When Donna and I will tag team you, yes. Tuck it up in that tidy mind of yours and let go for an evening. You look like it's been a while."
Harvey sighed and ran a hand over his hair, nodding his thanks when the martini was delivered. "Sorry."
"I know you lawyers," Johnny said tolerantly. "It's all fight, and none of you are properly socialized. I'm not opposing counsel."
"Yet." Harvey sipped his drink. "So. We'll do the small talk. Seeing Rene while you're in town?"
"Oh yeah. He'd sulk if I didn't, and I'm going to be in Georgia for a while. I need some light linen."
They fell into easy conversation after that -- clothing, and then Harvey's car club, and Johnny's adventures in California. And more serious things: the economy, their investments, the woman Johnny had been seeing long-distance who ended the relationship by cheating on him.
"That sucks, Johnny," Harvey said.
"Yeah, but you know. I mean, I can't blame her, long-distance is tough. Anyway, free man now, I might find someone in Atlanta. Plus the hostess is hot," Johnny added, nodding at the good-looking woman near the front of the bar. "Think she'd enjoy a night with a man who makes his living asking people for money?"
Harvey laughed. "Good luck. New York is a tougher crowd than California."
"Clearly you've never tried your luck in California." Johnny cocked his head. "But if you're interested, I'll back off..."
"Nah." Harvey fingered the stem of his third martini, looking away. "I haven't been out much lately. It gets old."
"Mmhm. That bad, huh?" Johnny asked, gently prodding.
"I'll get over it."
"We're straying into territory you didn't want to talk about."
"Yeah, I know," Harvey said. "It's just...he's just different. From me, from everyone. His mind, Johnny..."
"I get it," Johnny said. "I do. You've always liked a challenge."
Harvey gave him a dry look. "That doesn't mean I want a permanent commitment to one."
"Sounds like you've already got that. Look, it's getting late, and Donna said I had to send you home for your beauty rest."
"Yeah," Harvey sighed, signaling for the check. "My treat."
"Fine by me. I think I'm going to try my luck with the hostess. You get a cab okay?"
"Sure. Don't misbehave too much. Donna'll kick both our asses if you show up hung over for your bonding tomorrow."
Johnny grinned. "I'll be a lamb. G'night, Harvey. Remember, Specter family dinner tomorrow."
Sometimes Donna thinks about their father. He's always calling Harvey or Johnny to say he's dying, but he never really is. One day, though, he will be, and she wonders if any of them will feel guilty for not listening. He is their father, after all, however cold and distant he might have been when they were children, however cruel to her he was.
But she doesn't...she doesn't miss him. Harvey and Johnny are her family, Harvey especially, and she couldn't ask for better brothers. She thinks Harvey doesn't miss him either, and if Johnny had any parent at all it was her who kissed his scrapes better, her who talked to him about girls and helped him get into college.
People always look at her a little aghast when she says she doesn't want children, but she already basically raised two. Johnny, she can see, is tiring a little of moving around all the time; someday he'll find his place and settle, probably meet a nice woman and have kids -- Johnny loves kids -- and she can be Cool Aunt Donna.
Harvey she's less sure of. They've never talked about it, and it's hard for Harvey to form strong personal bonds. It's not something he does naturally and his job encourages him to use relationships rather than simply have them. Maybe he's afraid he'll turn out like Dad, and there's no denying she can see their father in him sometimes, but Harvey's not like Dad in any way that really matters. Maybe he wants someone, maybe he even wants kids. She thinks Harvey would make a good dad.
But they don't talk about it.
"So, I'm just gonna come right out and say it," Johnny said, halfway through a really great dinner at Donna's favorite steakhouse. "You guys both have totally broken gaydar. It's embarrassing, I know, but that's why you have me."
Donna glanced at Harvey, who looked a little like a deer in the headlights. Only she and Johnny ever evoked that expression, and she treasured it just a little.
"Well, o wise and learned straight boy, enlighten us," she said, because Harvey was obviously fumbling for a comeback.
"You're as hetero as I am, that's no excuse," Johnny pointed at her with his fork. "Harvey, you might just be broken as a human being, I don't know. I still love you, bro."
"Don't call me bro," Harvey grumbled.
"The fundamental fact remains that if I can see in thirty seconds alone with your little crush that he's into you, and the two of you can't in two years, you're flawed people," Johnny continued, taking a bite of steak.
"For the record, I totally did see that and told Harvey to take a swing at that pitch," Donna said.
"And here's the tag team," Harvey sighed.
"Yeah, but you needed outside confirmation," Johnny replied, ignoring Harvey.
"Does it occur to you you're just overconfident?" Donna asked.
"Or projecting?" Harvey added.
"I'm not projecting. I'm an impartial observer. I don't know him, I have no stake in this other than the happiness of my kin, and Harvey, your happiness is not so vital to me I lie to myself to ensure it," Johnny said.
"I feel loved," Harvey remarked to Donna.
"Would we go through all this if we didn't love you?" Donna asked. "You don't pay me that well."
"It's a thing. It's barely a thing. I don't think it merits this level of insanity," Harvey persisted.
"What I'm saying to you is that you've apparently found someone who puts up with you, who may even enjoy putting up with you, and someone you've tolerated for more than a week," Johnny said, and Donna could hear the subtle shift in his voice that signalled he was pitching an idea, selling a concept -- it was the same voice Harvey used when he was closing a deal. "Now I know that a working relationship and a personal relationship are two vastly different things, but I think I also know enough to judge that you started blurring those lines with him a long time ago. Besides, Donna likes him," he added, and took another bite of steak.
"Let me suggest something to you," Harvey replied, and there was Harvey's Closing Voice too. Donna watched, fascinated. "Even if he were, which I'm not willing to concede, we work together. It's outside regulations and I know," he added, when he saw Johnny opening his mouth, "that isn't necessarily something I normally consider, but he isn't me. This is bad judgment talking, I think we're both aware of that, and personal gratification being valued over professional conduct."
"Which isn't what got you where you are today," Johnny agreed. "But Harvey, you can't put your job over your life for the rest of your life."
"We're not talking about one shot at happiness. Hell, I might pick up someone tonight and find she's the woman of my dreams."
"Except you won't," Johnny replied.
"That's a temporary situation."
Donna had watched, and enjoyed, a lot of negotiations in her time as Harvey's assistant, but watching her brothers lock horns made legal negotiations look like a shoving match on a playground.
"Is it the gay thing?" Johnny asked. "Because I know it's still not easy, but this is 2011 and you live in Manhattan."
"What -- " Harvey gave him an incredulous look. "Did you just seriously ask me that?"
"Who knows what goes on in your head? Anyway, if it's not about being out, and it's not about whether Mike is into you, which I assure you he is, then what's it about, Harvey? What exactly do you lose from giving it a try?"
"Mike's not the kind of person to make things awkward," Donna put in. "Not intentionally, anyway," she added thoughtfully. Johnny gave her a did you have to add that part? look.
I don't know if you've noticed, but we aren't people who do relationships really well," Johnny continued.
"I'm sorry, did you just imply I can't find a man?" Donna asked.
"Not one who's worthy of you," Johnny replied.
"Okay, that's fair," she conceded.
"As a family we suck at it, is what I'm saying, and you've got this like...built-in one you're not taking advantage of, who could be really good for you. Unless he's secret-crazy. Is he secret-crazy?" Johnny asked Donna.
"Not that I've noticed. No stalkery tendencies, no hair-sniffing. Don't get me wrong, he's just as bad at relationships as Harvey, but in a complimentary way."
Johnny spread his hands. "So there you go. That's my opinion. You're really going to miss out if you don't take this opportunity."
"Are you done selling me on my own interpersonal relationships now?" Harvey asked.
"Yes. My steak's going to get cold if I don't stop talking," Johnny said, and started eating again.
"Then I'm going to close this discussion," Harvey said. "Because I'm pretty sure you know I'm a grown man who can handle his own affairs."
He glanced at Donna. She pointed to her mouth, which was full, and managed "Me? I'm just eating."
"That's what I thought."
"So!" Johnny said brightly. "Who have you sued lately? Tell me all the details."
Donna sighed inwardly. It might be fun, watching Johnny and Harvey battle it out, but Harvey's infamous brick-wall maneuver tended to stop even their little brother cold.
When Donna leaves her husband, her life is a total shitshow for four months. She's leaving her husband, who is in the hospital, and most of her friends are really his friends, and her brother is arrested and tried for assaulting him, and her dad hates her because Harvey repudiates him (which is so, so unfair to her), and poor Johnny is only sixteen and doesn't know what to do, and she aches to see him put in the middle of this.
Jessica Pearson is the only person who is there for her. Jessica will always be there for her and Harvey, but it's different this first time. Jessica gives her the card of a therapist who does pro bono work and the number of a shelter that can find her temporary housing; she pushes Donna's divorce through and on two occasions gives Donna kleenex while she cries because she's afraid, for herself and for Harvey, and she can't do anything to help him.
Jessica's philosophy of trial is different from Harvey's; she knows a jury can be swayed, but unlike Harvey she's not wary of that -- she embraces it. When Harvey is acquitted it's because the jury knows he beat the shit out of someone but that the person in question deserved it, and they're not willing to punish him for it. Each and every one of them knows Harvey did something violent and illegal. Jessica ensured that they simply don't care. Donna thinks that kind of power must be very heady.
Jessica gets Harvey acquitted and then gets him a job, and Donna has been in therapy for a month, and slowly, slowly, things start to level out again. Donna has never forgotten it, though.
She sees Jessica move through Pearson Hardman's politics every day, being tough and hard because she has to be, her even more than most, but she knows the understanding and empathy Jessica is capable of. If Jessica chose to be hard on Mike when he was starting at the firm, Donna knows she had her reasons. And if she chooses to take an interest in him as well, Donna knows Mike is safe in her hands.
Mike was prepping for a court date later in the week -- his second time ever in housing court, though he'd been in what Harvey referred to as "real big kid court" since, and he was fairly sure housing court would not defeat him this time -- when there was a rap of knuckles on the rim of his cubicle. He looked up into the weirdly familiar-not-familiar face of Harvey and Donna's brother, and smiled.
"Hey, what're you doing slumming down here?" he asked.
"Oh, you know, I hear it's fashionable now," Johnny replied. "I figure I'll go hang out in the Associate lunchroom and talk about how street I am."
"Nothing but gangstas," Mike said, tipping his head across the hall at Kyle, and Johnny's face did a complicated not-laughing-not-laughing thing. It was weird, like seeing what would happen if Harvey had his sense of dignity surgically removed.
"Anyway, I'm heading out, I just stopped in to say bye to Donna and Harvey," Johnny said, leaning on Mike's cubicle wall. "I thought I'd swing around before I left."
"I'm sure they liked having you here," Mike said.
"I'm not quite as positive. I stir up trouble," Johnny said, but he was smiling. Then again, Mike noticed, Johnny smiled a lot. "Listen, can I tell you something about Harvey?"
"Is he going to be pissed if you do?"
"Not if you don't tell him."
Mike leaned back. "In that case, fire away."
"He had a tough time growing up. We all did."
"Donna told me. Some."
"Harvey's a middle kid. He wants to be perfect, and if he can't be perfect, he won't take the chance."
"Don't go to court unless you can win," Mike answered. Johnny grimaced.
"That...person I won't stoop to calling by name taught him how to say it, but it wasn't anything Harvey didn't already know. If the outcome is uncertain, he'd rather let it pass him by. So if he doesn't get a sign...if he doesn't know, he's not going to go first. You get me?"
Mike looked up at him, curious. "I'm...not sure I do."
"Well, you're a smart man, you'll figure it out," Johnny said. "Listen, here's my card. You see either of them getting in over their head, call me, okay?"
"Aren't you the youngest child?" Mike asked.
"Yeah, but I'm the coolest," Johnny said, winking at him. "See you around, Mike."
"Good to meet you," Mike said. Johnny gave him a nod and walked away. Mike stared down at his business card for about two minutes, then shook his head and put it away. The Specters, as a family, were beyond weird.
Around two the following morning, he woke up, turned on a light, sat up in bed, and said, "Oh my God!"
He was positive Harvey hadn't asked Johnny to tell Mike to tell Harvey he liked him -- and what was this, junior high? Should he compose an interoffice memo? TO: Harvey Specter FROM: Mike Ross RE: Feelings. Dear Harvey, do you like me? Y / N (Circle one), Sincerely, Mike Ross -- but he was very sure Johnny had just told Mike that if he didn't make the first move Harvey was going to wait it out.
Of course he was. Even without the constraints Johnny had talked about, they worked together, Mike worked for him, and Harvey was nothing if not a professional amongst colleagues.
Mike spent the hours between two and six AM sitting in bed, considering his options and trying to tamp down the feeling of warm satisfaction in the pit of his stomach, because only teenagers were allowed to be like that. Then, finally, he got up and made breakfast, took a shower and put on his best suit, went to court and dominated.
It was what Harvey had taught him to do.
He felt like he should go share his triumph with Harvey and maybe -- maybe do something, he wasn't sure what, but Harvey had taught him to do this, too: to tamp down his enthusiasm and bide his time, wait for the right moment. He should wait out the rest of the week, he should take the weekend even, and make sure he had a plan. And also because Harvey would assemble the facts pretty quickly if Mike made a blatant move on him the day after Johnny left town.
A plan would be good. Mike had a lot of fantasies and a few daydreams about Harvey; they'd crept up on him gradually in that first year, when he couldn't decide whether he hated Harvey's guts or just wanted Harvey to smile at him. But he'd long ago made peace with his crush on his boss and he tried not to let it interfere in his life. Now, Johnny seemed to have said, if he let it interfere, he might reap great rewards.
So part A of the plan was to wait until he'd figured out part B, and that was a great plan right up until Friday morning.
Because on Friday morning, Louis grabbed him as he walked in -- literally grabbed him, and Mike really needed to see about getting that Tazer -- and said, "I knew I picked the right pony."
Oh God. The pony thing.
"What?" Mike asked, trying to struggle out of Louis's grip, but Louis just slung one arm around him and began walking him down the hallway.
"I'm telling you, I always pick the right one," he said, as they walked. "And I know you'll find, Mike, that if you think back, I've tried to give you every advantage."
They passed Harvey, walking in the other direction. Mike mouthed help me at him; Harvey just grinned and kept going. Cruel traitor.
"Louis, if this is some kind of pep talk..." Mike began.
"No pep required," Louis said, and gave him a proud look. "Jessica wants to see you."
Mike tensed up and tried to stop walking, but Louis's momentum carried him forward.
"What about?" Mike asked, trying to keep his voice level. Louis chucked him under the chin and let him go, just outside Jessica's office.
"Like you don't know," he said, beaming. "See you when you get out."
He left Mike there, standing in front of Jessica's assistant. Mike squared his shoulders, swallowed, and looked at her.
"Ms. Pearson wanted to see me?" he asked, hoping it was a mistake.
Her assistant just nodded at the office, where Jessica was seated.
Mike let himself in, sat when she gestured, and waited for her to finish reading something on her screen. It didn't take long, and then he had the full weight of Jessica Pearson's attention on him, at once flattering and terrifying.
"Mr. Ross," she said with a small smile. "Did I see Louis manhandling you down the hallway?"
"He's a very tactile person," Mike said.
"No matter how many times we send him to sensitivity training," she agreed. "Do you know why you're here?"
Dangerous question. Half a dozen suggestions rose in his mind; the whole didn't-go-to-Harvard thing among them, yes, but by no means the only reason she might want to speak to him. There'd been that thing with the not-purely-authorized use of a company car, and that one time Harvey bailed him out of being arrested for corporate espionage, and the incident with the dog...but probably she'd have Harvey fire him for any of those.
He finally decided on, "No, ma'am," with his best poker face.
"I've been reviewing your work with the firm for the past two years. Quite the MVP sophomore you're turning out to be," she said. "Harvey speaks highly of you, for Harvey, and while Louis doesn't, he keeps trying to steal you from Harvey, which speaks volumes in itself."
"Thank you," he said.
"You're welcome. As you may have heard, we have a position opening up outside of our associate program, below the junior-partner level. It seems to all concerned that you'd be a good fit to move up. However," she added, as Mike opened his mouth to accept, "I have some concerns about our attrition rate. This sort of position is a popular stepping-stone to a Partner position...at other firms. And the Senior Partners and myself are very tired of training great lawyers only to lose their loyalty the minute someone dangles a contract in front of their faces. So I'd like to know what your plans are within Pearson Hardman. Your ambitions."
Mike considered this. "With an introduction like that, would you expect anyone to give you an answer that didn't imply their loyalty to the firm?"
"Do you think I couldn't tell if you were lying?" she asked.
"Harvey's offer to me was the opportunity of a lifetime. I'm not interested in being a rich lawyer, I'm interested in being a good one. Ethically and qualitatively," he added. "Personal connections matter more to me. I won't say salary isn't important, because it is, it's very important, but I live on what I make now; higher pay isn't going to lure me off from this firm. I don't need to die with the most toys."
That earned him another smile. "I see."
"I owe where I am to Pearson Hardman. Just like Harvey did when he was my age," Mike added, and saw the shot land home -- because Harvey owed where he was to her, and now she knew he knew that.
"I think we can expect interesting things from you," she said finally. "Possibly not good things, but interesting nonetheless. Clean out your cubicle; you'll be assigned to a new office space. Donna will give you the details and the paperwork."
"Thank you, Ms. Pearson," Mike said.
"Don't let me down on the interesting," she called, as he left.
When Mike got back to his cubicle, there was a box sitting on his chair, with a note reading "Congratulations" in Donna's neat handwriting. Inside were two files: Tom Keller's, and one of Harvey's lower-maintenance corporate clients, Marcus Pohl. Mike took them for the gifts they were, congratulations from Harvey, and began packing the rest of his paperwork in on top of them.
Kyle passed his cubicle, on his way somewhere probably less important than he thought it was, and then stopped about two feet past and came back. He looked at Mike, then at the box Mike was now packing his photos and pens into, and then back at Mike.
"Did Harvey finally fire you?" he asked, in a voice somewhere between shock and glee.
"Even after I'm gone, he's not going to want you, Kyle," Mike said evenly, because this was fun.
"God, seriously, did he?"
"I won't be working directly for Harvey anymore," Mike continued. Heads began popping out of the surrounding cubicles.
"What exactly does that mean?" Kyle asked, because a douchebag he might be, but there was no denying he had lawyer in his blood.
"There's an opening outside the Associate program," Mike said calmly. At some point in the last two years he'd ended up with two staplers; he offered one to Kyle. "Hey, you need a stapler?"
"Wait -- you're moving up?" Kyle asked. "Mid-level? That's Partner track!"
Mike shrugged. "I just go where I'm told."
"That's huge!" Harold said, from behind him. Mike offered Harold his fist to bump, and Harold even did the little explodey noise afterward.
"You've been here two years. You've barely learned where the copy paper is!" Kyle protested.
"I don't make the decisions," Mike said, closing the box. Kyle made a disgusted noise and wandered off, while the other associates spoke in low murmurs around him rather than to him.
He set the box aside and sat down, unlocking his computer and starting the transfer of files on the desktop to his server space. Two emails popped up: one a congratulations from Ben, who probably noticed the transfer (creepy, in that way Ben had where you knew he meant well) and one from Donna.
Donna's email said that his new office was number 5230, one floor up, and before he got all excited he should know he had the pleasure of sharing it with another mid-level who would probably push him around and be mean to him and if he needed to cry and have his hair petted, he should find a therapist and not try to get her to do it. Mike recognized in the email a certain fondness underlying the offhanded sarcasm.
Transfer complete, he shut down the computer, lifted his box, and walked away -- head up, back straight, just like Harvey had taught him. As he left, he heard Kyle say to Seth, "But I beat him!"
It is true that Kyle beat Mike in their first year mock trials. This past year, Mike was spoiling for a rematch, but Louis gave him Harold instead, and Mike of course wiped the floor with him, something Harold didn't even seem to mind. (Harold is narrowly cunning as a legal writer, and will probably end up in contract law, where his amiable disposition, baby face, and sly way with words will make him very successful.)
Donna knows it's Harvey's fault Mike lost that first year, because Harvey wasn't there for him, wasn't helping or guiding him. He was distracted by Scotty, but Donna can't bring herself to regret that part much. Scotty is good for Harvey, as insane as their relationship is -- or rather, was. She's a constant, and Donna likes her because she doesn't take Harvey's shit.
It's been a while since Scotty's come around.
The weekend after Scotty came into town, last time, Harvey and Donna were having a Saturday at his place, and the whole story poured out in the afternoon, with no prompting from her -- just a rare unguarded moment for Harvey, who needed his sister to listen and make sympathetic noises.
Harvey's sense of betrayal, she knows, doesn't come from Scotty trying to cheat him; it comes from Scotty, who knows Harvey's relatively strict ethical code about extramarital affairs, sleeping with him before going back to the man who would become her fiancee. That's not okay in Harvey's book -- and maybe he did love her a little, enough to regret losing her for good. More, Donna thinks, Harvey regrets that Scotty is no longer someone he's comfortable with, someone he can be safely human around. Those are few and far between for him.
For a while, Mike was one of them too. But you can't be safe around someone when you're keeping a secret so big from them.
Harvey, like Mike, enjoyed the view from on high. And, unusually, probably for the same reason.
Lots of people would be willing to theorize -- long and loud, in some cases -- that Harvey liked to look down on people, but Harvey felt you should only do that when someone deserved it. He didn't feel big, looking down on strangers who were just going about their day.
From up here he could see so much of the city, and the chaos of the skyline was still a clean disorder. From his office window, the city was laid out before him in uneven lines but straight ones, right angles, slopes and squares. The greys and blacks of the high-rises were broken by the green of Central Park or the red of older brick buildings. He liked it. He liked his city.
It was quiet, too, the hurry of the morning gone past, most people out at lunch, the only noise the soft mumble of an Albert King B-side on the turntable. (If you sign my contract babe, all your worries is over for you...)
He heard Mike coming, heard Donna call out a greeting probably louder than necessary, warning him Mike was on the way. It wasn't like he needed it, but their relationship worked because sometimes he needed Donna's help and sometimes he pretended he did.
Mike had bought new shoes that he hadn't broken in yet; the leather creaked as he walked in, and Harvey stayed still, looking out at the cityscape below.
"You get my present?" he asked, and heard Mike's footsteps stop, a few feet away.
"Yeah," Mike said. And then, because damn if he hadn't become a professional while Harvey wasn't looking, "Are they going to be okay with the demotion?"
Harvey smiled a little. "I spoke to Keller. He specifically asked if he could stay with you. Marcus was glad to take the fee reduction. He got you cheap at the price," he added, not entirely bitterly, he hoped.
"My new office is nice. Only sharing a room with one asshole instead of fifteen."
"You're a gunslinger now. Single combat is preferred."
He could just barely see Mike's reflection in the glass; that curious head-tilt, a frown saying he didn't understood.
"Gunslinger?" Mike asked.
"It's what Jessica said to me when I moved up. Shoot from the hip. You're out on your own now. Good news is that you might get a full night's sleep once in a while. You should start building a client base. Work on Keller, harder than we have been, he'll bring you some business."
"Oh." Mike hesitated. Harvey would chastise him for it, but he knew Mike well enough to know that this wasn't the way he acted with clients, not anymore -- and it wasn't Harvey's place now, anyway.
"Harvey," Mike began, and then paused a second time. "Look, I meant what I said. I still need -- "
" -- my help," Harvey interrupted. "I know. You'll have it."
"Well, yeah, but that wasn't what I was going to say."
He heard Mike draw a breath, could see him in the reflection of the glass, straightening his shoulders.
"You -- it isn't just gratitude, you know. Not anymore. I was going to say I need you. You matter to me."
Harvey snorted. "Do we sing kum-ba-ya now?"
"You can make fun of it all you like, but someone had to say it."
Harvey was silent.
"Look, you want to get some dinner tonight?" Mike asked finally. "My treat. Celebrating. Promise to take you somewhere expensive."
Harvey shoved his hands in his pockets, thoughtfully. Albert King's guitar whined soothingly. There is nothing I can do if you leave me here to cry...
"Sure," he said, turning around. "Tonight. Now get out of here, you have work to do."
"Great," Mike said, beaming. "After work? Seven? Meet you at the elevators," he added, and he was gone, bounding out of the office like Harvey had just given him a map to the holy grail, before Harvey could even get out the smart retort he was forming about bringing a corsage.
When Mike was gone, Harvey lifted his head slightly and asked the air, "How'd I do?"
Donna's voice clicked over the intercom. "You're inadequate on any number of levels, baby brother."
"Albert King says that if it wasn't for bad luck we'd have no luck at all," he replied.
"Albert King is a punk."
"Bite your tongue!"
"Turn off the blues and go back to work."
"Yes, ma'am," Harvey said, because he knew when he was beat.
Dinner that night was surprisingly nice -- easy, somehow, in a way their conversations hadn't been in some time. Mike alternated between plans for building his client base, expressive descriptions of the guy he was going to be sharing his new office with, and questions about Harvey's time before he became a junior partner. Harvey was content to listen, answering briefly when questioned; he enjoyed the wine, and to an extent he enjoyed seeing Mike this...animated.
It wasn't the frantic, immature mania Mike used to show when he was excited, but a sort of adult enthusiasm that made him seem older. For the first time, Harvey didn't feel the twitch of concern in the back of his mind over unleashing Mike on Pearson Hardman without his own guiding hand to protect him. He wondered if Cameron had felt that worry when Harvey left the DA's office, though he suspected that subtextually bitter parting had left no room in either of them for concern about the other.
"Have you told your grandmother yet?" he asked, as Mike pushed the last of his dinner around his plate.
"I'm going to see her tomorrow. I wanted to tell her in person," Mike said.
"She'll be proud of you."
"Yeah. She brags on me all the time to her friends. I think...maybe you appreciate it more when you know what could have been."
Harvey tilted his head curiously.
"She backed me when I was a screwup. It's only fair she gets to brag when I'm not. But I think...it wouldn't mean as much to her if I hadn't been a screwup first. Anyway, if I hadn't I wouldn't have any of this."
"I didn't hire you because you were a screwup."
"No, but I was. Objectively. So I'm glad I can make her proud now." Mike looked down at his plate, as if he expected scorn for the admission.
"You should be. Not everyone gets that chance," Harvey said, the words tumbling out of him before he could stop them -- from the wine, from the aching familiarity of sentiment, and from the loss, as well. He liked Mike, and he took pride in him, but envying him was new. "Not everyone is capable of recognizing when they should be proud of their children."
Mike's head lifted, his gaze sharp and curious.
"She should be proud of you. You deserve that."
Mike flushed, bowed his head again. "Do we sing kum-ba-ya now?" he murmured. Harvey laughed.
"No. You pay the check, and we get out of here. Maudlin doesn't suit either one of us."
When Harvey leaves the DA's office, it takes a while to set everything in motion. Donna begins reading the want-ads, trying to find somewhere she can work that isn't the slow descent into corruption that Cameron Dennis's office has become. She contacts a recruiter who specializes in legal secretaries, but jobs are thin on the ground. She desperately doesn't want to quit without another one lined up.
And then one morning, Jessica Pearson calls her at home.
"Well, if you want a character reference, I'm good for it," Donna jokes.
"Actually, I'm calling because Harvey has a condition for his hire with the firm," Jessica says.
"Typical Harvey. He says he won't sign with the firm until you have."
Donna sits down abruptly on her bed. "Are you offering me a job?"
"It's more that I'm letting Harvey win one, because he's not going to be doing a lot of that with me in the near future," Jessica says.
"You're all heart," Donna tells her.
"I know you'll be great here," Jessica says, more candidly now. "It's a little worrying that Harvey wants to drag you along with him, but I trust if you've worked together this long, there won't be any problems."
"He just doesn't handle change well," Donna replies, laughing now, because Jessica has saved her again.
"I've noticed," Jessica says drily. "You start two weeks from today."
"I'll pack up my desk," Donna replies, and after they've hung up, she laughs aloud in the silence of her bedroom.
"Baby," she says to her reflection in the mirror, "you are moving up in the world."
And she has, they have, until they have come to this point, successful professionals who are the best at what they do. Harvey has her to thank just as much as she has him to thank, but it's different for him -- because as cruel and vicious as Harvey can be to outsiders, his kindness is as thoughtless and as instinctive. Harvey's unwillingness to leave if he couldn't pull her out with him, that's just Harvey's nature; he didn't expect gratitude then, and he doesn't now, would be baffled by it if he saw it. Not everyone finds that kind of unconscious generosity easy to accept, especially those who've never encountered it in him before.
She wonders if Mike would understand even if she explained it to him. She hopes he will, in time.
It wasn't that Mike was unwilling to make the first move. He totally was, and it was something he could theoretically hold over Harvey for the rest of their lives, if things went well. He'd pretty much have to make the first move, Johnny had implied, if anything was going to happen at all.
But even at dinner, while they were relaxing, while part of him was plotting just how to accomplish this, most of him was wondering frantically what he was doing. He'd spent so long convincing himself this would go away, that this stupid crush on his stupid boss would fade -- and then when it didn't, convincing himself it was a really bad idea. He knew all the reasons: fraternization rules, the chances of it going badly, the power Harvey had over him, the rumors that would fly about him sleeping his way into his new position, and the fact that having a personal relationship with an asshole like Harvey was a lot different from having a professional relationship with him.
And Harvey could be such a dick sometimes. Mike was used to it, understood that it wasn't personal, understood that half the time it was a mentoring thing, driven by reasoning he couldn't immediately see but would eventually. And it wasn't like Mike had particularly good taste in people or anything (Exhibit A: Trevor) but he'd been burned often enough to wonder if it was worth it.
The thing was...when Harvey wasn't around, he missed him. And yeah, he wanted to please Harvey, that was part of their professional relationship, but it wasn't all of it. He wanted the glimpses of Harvey he rarely saw: the funny, slightly dorky guy who talked with his mouth full and seemed to like the things Mike liked and seemed to like Mike.
The question was, when it came down to it, how much was Mike willing to risk to get that? And he didn't know the answer.
So they walked out of the restaurant, and instead of hailing a cab immediately, Mike shoved his hands in his pockets and raised his head, looking up at the skyscrapers that surrounded them, lit up in the night.
"I love this place," he said. Harvey joined him, craning his neck, perhaps trying to see what Mike saw.
"Well, that's good, I guess," he said, sounding puzzled.
That was when Mike should have kissed him, should have asked "Hey, you do get I just took you on a date, right?"
But he froze up. He thought about the dangers of this -- he thought about whether maybe Harvey was just acting insane (for him) because Mike was moving up, thought about how he had a lot of changes going already in his life, about how he didn't really need to be pegged as the guy who fucked a Senior Partner to get a promotion, which was what people would say.
And so he didn't kiss him.
Harvey hailed a cab, then leaned out above the door to ask if Mike wanted to share, and Mike waved him off. He caught the next one that pulled up and sat in the back, looking at his phone, wondering if he should text Johnny about his epic failure. He decided that would be dumb; Johnny would be nice about it, he was sure, but it wasn't like the failure was definitive yet.
The next morning was Saturday, Visiting Grammy Day, and Mike showed up right at nine, when visiting hours started. The nurse on the desk, Julie, saw him coming and said, "Mike! I'm glad you're here."
"Me too," he said amiably. "Any particular reason?"
"Well, these just came for Mrs. Ross," Julie said, setting a large flower arrangement on the counter. "I was going to call someone to take them back to her, but I'm sure she'd love if you'd do it."
Mike studied the flowers -- irises, deep purple and in full blossom. Expensive.
"Who sent them?" he asked, curious.
"I don't know. There's a card," Julie said, pointing to a half-concealed card in the foliage. "Don't go reading your grandmother's mail now," she added playfully. "Maybe she has a secret admirer."
"Maybe," Mike said, lifting the flowers. "Buzz me in, I'll take them through."
Grammy was sitting in the sun room when he arrived, and her face lit up the way it always did. "Michael!"
"Hi, Grammy," he said, bending to kiss her cheek and setting the flowers on a windowsill.
"Those are lovely, thank you," she said, bending to sniff one. "What's the occasion?"
"Well, that's a weird thing," he replied. "I mean, there is an occasion, but they're not from me."
He drew out the card and passed it to her. She opened it, read it, smiled and tucked it away.
"So?" he prompted.
"So a woman never shares personal correspondence," she said. "You said there's an occasion?"
Mike beamed. "I got a promotion. I'm out of the Associate program. I'm a regular lawyer now."
"Oh, my baby," she said, her smile widening. "That's good news!"
"Yeah! I just found out yesterday," Mike said. "Jessica Pearson -- "
"The Dragon Lady?"
"Well, that's how you make her sound, Michael."
"She's a very powerful woman!"
"So what did she do?"
Mike re-enacted the entire morning for her, complete with Louis and his terrifying pony remarks, down to Seth and Kyle's seething jealousy. Grammy's smile just got wider and wider.
"I'm very proud of you," she told him, patting his knee. "But don't go getting above yourself. Those bastards you left behind could still bring you down."
"I won't, I promise. I'm making you my official strategic advisor," Mike said.
"Well, I do school you in Risk all the time," she said.
"Was that a challenge?" Mike asked.
It was a good day; he and Grammy played Risk, stopped for Lunch And Medication Time, then got up a poker tournament in the afternoon with some of Grammy's friends. Around two he had to leave; he put the flowers in her bedroom for her, kissed her goodbye, and left her to brag to the rest of the table about how her grandson was a very important lawyer in Manhattan.
He would have stayed the day, but on Friday afternoon he'd received an email from Donna with two attachments. One was his formal offer letter for the new job, with an eyebrow-raising salary attached, and the other was an appointment confirmation for three o'clock on Saturday, at Rene's.
"Mr. Ross," Rene said warmly, when Mike walked in. "Skinny jeans for you today?"
"Haha," Mike answered. "Do you sell wash-and-wear?"
"Well, our new line of band t-shirts has come in, they're very popular," Rene said, leading him towards the fitting room. "Donna mentioned your good news. I think it's splendid."
"You think it means a whole new wardrobe."
"Child, it's only time," Rene remarked, stepping back to examine him. "Now, as befits your slightly exalted station, are we prepared to try three-piece suits yet?"
"Maybe," Mike said.
"But you need something elegant, certainly. Several somethings. Agreed?"
"Yeah, but..." Mike resisted the urge to glance around and make sure nobody was listening. "I want something special, too."
Rene made a small, excited noise. "A tuxedo?"
"To impress the young ladies?" Rene asked knowingly.
Mike leaned in. "There's a...gentleman."
"Aha," Rene nodded. "I have just the thing."
Donna has a picture in her apartment, taken when Johnny graduated college, of her and Harvey and Johnny together, smiling, proud and pleased. (They're in a bar, and while Johnny isn't visibly drunk in the photo he definitely was when it was taken; you can just barely see where Harvey's arm is holding him upright.)
In the same frame, in the corner, is a smaller photo of the three of them as children on Halloween. Donna, thirteen, is Queen Elizabeth, NOT a princess! in a green dress and lots of costume jewelery. Harvey, eleven, is a punk rocker with his short hair in a gelled fauxhawk and one of her clip-on earrings on his nose. Johnny, seven, is a robot but he's wearing Donna's crown because he insisted it was really a robot helmet and Donna was amused by the idea of a crown shooting lasers. Wouldn't Queen Elizabeth have liked that. Each of the boys is holding one of her hands.
As children, the sibling resemblance is easier to see, their round childish faces very alike, and Johnny's hair had a brassy red hue to it until it went brown as he got older. Harvey takes most strongly after their father; Donna got Mom's hair and Johnny got her blue eyes, but there's little of their mother in Harvey -- save, if their uncle Aaron is to be believed, for her intractable stubbornness.
"Why do you keep this ridiculous thing?" Harvey asked her once, nodding at the Halloween photograph. Harvey isn't much one for sentimentality.
"Blackmail material," Donna replied.
If you're interested in the style of Mike's suit from this chapter, this is the cut of his jacket.
Mike's first few weeks must have been hectic, Donna knew; she remembered when Harvey moved up from Senior Associate to Junior Partner. He worked his ass off for two months solid just getting his feet under him, and she rarely saw him. She was in the middle of a transition herself, from office-pool admin to Executive Assistant, and training a new sucker -- er -- Partner to obey her laws was always a trial.
But Mike had an advantage, of course, that insane mind of his, which didn't cut down on work per se but did cut down on the time he had to spend working. He seemed to make a lot of excuses to come up and talk to her. For instance, Mike knew perfectly well where the courier envelopes were kept and anyway the office manager for his wing should have been doing that for him, but Donna understood and only gave him minimal shit about it.
Sometimes he'd look up and wave at Harvey before running off; sometimes he'd lean in the door and they'd exchange a few words, or Harvey would decide that it was a good time to get a cup of coffee and Mike would tag along.
Donna wasn't sure what was going on, but she resolved that she'd be the first to figure it out. And at any rate Harvey seemed happier now that the transition was done -- now that he had firm proof that not every professional parting of the ways ended painful and messy.
"Do you miss him?" Donna asked one Sunday, settled in on Harvey's couch. She'd come over to watch the Giants game, but Harvey had promised her a late brunch first, so he was in the kitchen, making omelettes.
"Miss who?" he asked, not looking up from the pan.
"That was almost convincing," Donna said.
"Why would I miss him? We work in the same building. I see him all the time."
"Not like you used to."
"No, and I relish the blessed silence when he's not around."
Donna got up and went to the kitchen bar, leaning on it. "Not even a little bit?"
Harvey expertly flipped the omelette. "It's better this way."
"You really think that?"
Harvey was about to reply, she could see, when there was a knock on the door. The knob turned before Donna could ask Harvey who that was, and Mike put his head in the doorway.
"You're early, Rookie," Harvey called, still focused intently on the pan. Probably, Donna thought, to hide the slight flush of embarrassment in his cheeks.
"Yeah, sorry. I brought beer -- hey, omelettes!" Mike said, coming into the kitchen. "Hi Donna!"
"Hi, Mike," she said, grinning wide. "Harvey, make Mike an omelette, would you?"
"You, quiet," Harvey said, pointing at her with his spatula. "You," and the spatula rotated to point at Mike, "put the beer in the fridge and sit quietly until spoken to."
Mike saluted, put the beer in the fridge, settled down next to Donna, and immediately started talking, rambling about his week and the stats on the likelihood of the Giants winning and how his Grammy, with his help, was cleaning up in the care home's football pool, where she was the only woman and the others had made the drastic mistake of underestimating her.
"Admit it," Donna said in an undertone, as Mike eagerly took the omelette Harvey grudgingly put in front of him and retreated to the windows to take in the view while he ate. "You missed the unending chatter."
"White noise," Harvey replied, putting a second one in front of her and pouring her a mimosa. He took his own, gave her a shut up look, and joined Mike at the windows.
Donna studied them from her seat at the bar, her brother and this man who had burst into their lives, both of them, and upset Harvey's balance so badly. They'd found some kind of equilibrium, whatever Johnny had done to help, and she liked that. It just wasn't all it could be, and it made her a little sad.
Harvey wasn't really a sit-and-watch-TV kind of guy, even with the game on, and she knew he'd scheduled his Saturday to clean out his bookshelf, weed his music library and do a little rearranging. Mike watched the game, keeping up a running commentary that was better than any professional announcer, and Donna watched Mike, who stole glances at Harvey every once in a while as he worked. There was a lot of stretching involved, stretching and crouching, and it made Donna smile to see Harvey showing off, to see Mike trying to take this in and process it.
At one point Harvey left the room to call his "vinyl guy" about bringing in some records, and Mike glanced at Donna.
"Is this weird?" he asked.
"Watching a football game? No," she said, just to screw with him.
"Watching it here. You know, with you guys."
"You're not the puppy anymore," she said. "Now you're a colleague."
"I bet he doesn't invite Louis over to watch the game."
"I hope not, I didn't disinfect the couch before I sat down."
"Donna, you know what I mean."
"You're a colleague," she repeated. "And you're a friend. So no, it's not weird. Just...new."
"Do you mind?"
"That you're here?" she asked, surprised now. "Why would I care?"
"You know. Family time. I get that, I mean I don't have siblings but I get it."
"You're cute, but Harvey and I spend all day together. Trust me, you're not interrupting some sacred sibling bonding," she said. Then, without looking, she called out, "How's vinyl guy?"
"He's good," Harvey said, coming back into the room as he hung up his phone. Mike made his usual how does Donna know everything? face. "He thinks he has a lead on a rare Charlie Patton pressing."
"Think you'll go for it?"
"It probably sounds like crap, but it might be interesting," Harvey said, dropping down on the couch next to Mike. "How's the game?"
"Pretty much like I thought it would go," Mike said absently, eyes raking down Harvey's tight white t-shirt. "I should have been a bookie."
"And give up the glamorous life of a Pearson Hardman lawyer?" Donna asked. Mike turned to her with a grin, then back to the game.
She left when the game was over and Mike went with her, offering to share a cab. She kissed Harvey, told him to be good, and caught up with Mike at the door. Downstairs, in the cab, with the silence stretching out between them, she looked at Mike and said, "Scaredy-cat."
Mike didn't even bother pretending to be surprised, just ran a hand over his face and said, "I know. I have my reasons."
"They're probably dumb."
"No, they're actually pretty smart," Mike replied. It was strange -- it had all been strange for a while now -- but Mike had been a kid, someone to push around and educate and tease for so long. Sitting there in the cab, listening to the easy way he admitted his flaws and contradicted her in the same breath, he looked like a grown man, like the young lawyer he was. There was a self-assurance in him that reminded her of Harvey. Which was only natural, really, but it caught her a little off-guard.
"I'm thinking of both our reputations," Mike added, looking out the window. "Mostly mine, true, but Harvey's always telling me I have to look out for number one."
"Harvey's full of bullshit sometimes."
"Not news," Mike said, and if there was bitterness there it was masked well with amusement. "Things are crazy now. Give it a little time."
"It's not me you have to worry about."
"Not news either," Mike sighed.
Donna has watched many interoffice relationships blossom over the years, and she likes to think she's something of a collector when it comes to dysfunctional romances. She could write a book about Harvey's.
Mike's have been fraught too. There's Jenny, who Donna's never met, and she knows better than to take Rachel at her word about Jenny. From various sources, though, she's picked up that Jenny was probably burned at least as bad as Mike was by Trevor, and couldn't trust Mike enough to make their relationship function.
Rachel, of course. Rachel doesn't like easy things, she complicates her own life seemingly for the sheer joy of drama, and she only wants Mike when Mike's not easy to get. When Mike's free, single, and amiable to the idea, Rachel gives him the cold shoulder. Mike's not drawn to drama, so he's stopped even trying with her. Which of course makes Rachel interested, and it's a whole cycle that really could have been solved by Rachel actually sticking to her "don't date at work" rule. Mike's not innocent, but his efforts have been in good faith, and Donna thinks Rachel's...haven't, always.
There was a lawyer, a while ago, a woman older than Mike -- old enough to be just a little scandalous -- but she apparently adhered to the age old May/December rule: leave 'em better than you found 'em. Mike was a toy to her but he knew he was a toy, he had fun, and as far as Donna knows, that parting was friendly. Just as well. Harvey quietly seethed the entire time they were together.
Neither Mike nor Harvey have great track records. They've learned how to function with one another and they're slowly learning how to be friends, almost-equals, so it could work. They could be great together.
Or they could self-destruct.
Either way, and with all respect for the feelings of her little brother...could be fun to watch.
Donna had a very specific vocal tone, one Harvey had known since childhood, which meant that both of them were in trouble.
It wasn't that it heralded her own anger. It was more that when she was about to do something that would plunge both of them and sometimes Johnny too into chaos, her voice took on this specific, indefinable tone.
"Look at you!" she said in that tone, and Harvey heard her through the open door of his office and glanced up.
"You like?" Mike was asking, arms spread, turning around in a circle. "I picked it up from Rene last night."
"Very elegant," Donna said approvingly.
Harvey couldn't argue; Rene always did good work. But elegant wasn't the word he would have used.
Oh, the suit itself was a work of art. Charcoal wool, three-button but high, modern and almost European, with narrow notched lapels and a white shirt with dove-gray stripes. Light blue tie. French cuffs on the shirt, with just a hint of cufflink glinting underneath.
It was more the way it sat on Mike's lean frame, the narrow collar making his shoulders seem broader, the cuffs accentuating his wrists, the perfect tailoring along the leg-line. It was like sex, in wool and silk.
"Hey," Mike said, leaning in the doorway. "What do you think? Rene's latest."
"Remember what I said to you about not sucking at gloating?" Harvey asked, sitting back. Mike swaggered in, preening.
"This isn't gloating. This is one hundred percent showing off," he announced. "Come on. I look good."
"You look like a grownup, finally," Harvey answered. "Mostly. Do you even own a hairbrush?"
"My hair is fine. You should have seen the jaw-drops I got on the walk up here." Mike shot one of his sleeves back, showing off the plain blue round at his wrist. "Vintage cufflinks. Bakelite. They belonged to my granddad."
"And I'm sure he'd be proud you're flashing them like an Amish hooker," Harvey said.
"Well, they are awfully sexy," Mike replied. "Come on, I'm taking the suit out on the town. You can join us if you want."
"Are you sure you don't want some alone time with your new friend?" Harvey asked.
"Aw, are you jealous?"
"Excuse me?" Harvey asked incredulously.
"Bakelite," Mike replied, pointing to his cufflink again. And, admittedly, retro was very in right now and it gave Mike a hipster edge that was unique, but Harvey would not be defeated when it came to fashion.
"Platinum," he answered, holding up his own wrist. "Oh, is that the time on my Submariner watch? I should get to the car club for my appointment with the new Koenigsegg."
Mike burst into laughter. "You are what's wrong with America."
"It's a hobby."
"See you at six, then. You can take me out in the Koenigsegg."
He left, and it took Harvey a full two minutes to realize Mike had just set them up for drinks without Harvey actually saying yes.
Damn. Maybe he'd taught him too well.
Still, never let it be said Harvey wasn't willing to play the one-upmanship game.
"Donna?" he said, picking up the intercom phone.
"On it," she answered, and turned to grin at him. "Mike looked cute," she added casually.
"Because cute is what we're going for, as lawyers," he replied, but she'd already hung up.
He came by Mike's new office at six, to find Mike and his office-mate Don tossing a hacky-sack back and forth, arguing the finer points of a contested will Mike was handling. Don shot to his feet and said, "Mr. Specter!" and Mike said "Hi Harvey!" and caught the hacky-sack, tucking it into a desk drawer.
"Are you ready, or should I come back when you're done primping?" Harvey asked. Mike shot Don a grin and locked up his desk.
They were quiet on the walk to the elevator, but when Mike reached out to push the lobby-level button, Harvey pushed the parking-garage button first. Mike shot him a curious look, and Harvey held up his car keys.
"Oh my God, did you actually go get the Koenigsegg?" Mike asked, eyes going wide.
"It doesn't have a bike rack, so I hope you took a cab to work today."
"Are you kidding? I'm not going to bike in this," Mike said, pointing to his sartorial glory. "But I was going to suggest Bungalow 8, and not to sound like an afterschool special, but I have a thing about drinking and driving."
"You don't down a scotch and then get behind the wheel of a Swedish sports car," Harvey replied. "The valet garage can keep it overnight. How's Don working out, by the way?"
"He's fine," Mike said. "Less annoying than I thought."
"He's lulling you into a false sense of security."
"I know that!" Mike said indignantly, as they reached the parking garage under the building.
"What do you think I'm doing to him?"
"Atta boy," Harvey said, and then Mike saw their ride, and was struck pleasantly speechless.
Henry Specter may not have got a son for his oldest child, but he did get a very stubborn daughter.
Donna can remember being barely old enough to see over the hood of a car with the help of a wooden crate, staring into the mysterious machinery of the engine and watching her father tinker with it. She can remember pestering him until finally he stopped telling her to go make cookies with her mother and started teaching her the parts of the engine. She remembers, too, holding Harvey steady on the wooden crate, both of them peering into the car's depths while their father (less reluctant, now that he had a son to teach) inducted them into the mysteries of internal combustion.
She remembers their mother dying, when Johnny was about a year old, and how Daddy stopped working on cars after that. Donna, if she has car trouble, puts on old grease-stained clothes and kicks some ass. Johnny, if he has car trouble, calls a mechanic.
Harvey doesn't have car trouble; cars wouldn't dare.
It's not that Donna was ever that interested in cars, but she liked knowing things other people didn't -- still does. Harvey loves cars, loves speed and power, but she doesn't know if he remembers their father teaching them the catechism: radiator, alternator, battery, fuel injection, oil reservoir, brake fluid, fan belt, front suspension, disc brake. Her arm around his waist to steady him, his hands on the edge of the housing, his round face peering curiously into the inner workings of power.
Since Johnny's departure and Mike's sudden promotion, Mike had thought about things a lot. Like, a lot. It was Mike's nature to skim the surface of everything he came into contact with, because he could process it all that way, but law had taught him that for the important stuff you had to dig deep, and Harvey had taught him how to figure out what the important stuff was.
But if it was at the point where Harvey's sister was telling him to grow a pair, probably the time for thinking had passed.
He almost flipped a coin before realizing what a super-douche move that was.
He'd bought the charcoal suit from Rene for the express purpose of pushing Harvey's buttons, but the tailoring took a while. When it finally arrived, Mike set it aside for about a week. But...he'd spent all this money and all this time and the more he saw of the other Harvey -- the one he really liked -- the more he thought it was worth it.
So he had a plan. It was a careful plan involving just the right amount of low-lit bar, alcohol, and coaxing.
Of course that was before Harvey said, "Drinks later -- fun first," drove them out of Manhattan, and opened the car up on a back-country rode, hitting a hundred and thirty without batting an eye. They blew past trees and fields, occasional buildings, and a couple of shell-shocked fellow drivers; eventually Harvey slowed to a decent pace (for Harvey) and turned them back towards Manhattan.
"I don't think I've ever gone that fast outside of an airplane," Mike said, excitement and terror battling it out for supremacy. "I think they'd skip the speeding ticket and send you straight to public-menace citations."
"Worth it, though, right?" Harvey asked.
"Yeah," Mike said, as they edged onto the turnpike and the northern tip of Manhattan began to loom in the distance.
"Speechless for once?" Harvey said, turning a little to look at him.
"My vocal cords are about a mile back. They'll catch up eventually," Mike replied.
"Look at that," Harvey said, as they crossed the George Washington Bridge. Harlem was lit up before them, and the Upper West Side beyond it to the south.
"And now look at them," Harvey added, a few minutes later.
As they zipped through the city, Harvey weaving in and out of traffic like he had a personal grudge against it, Mike saw what he meant. Pedestrians, partiers, other drivers -- heads turned when the Koenigsegg passed.
They pulled up to a red light, on a street crowded with bars and their patrons, and a trio of women wolf-whistled Harvey and his car. Harvey leaned past Mike and grinned at them, and Mike acted without a thought. He grabbed Harvey by the collar, pulled him up a little, and kissed him -- hard and possessive, awkward because of the angle. Harvey leaned into it, adjusting the tilt of his head, and caught Mike's lip between his teeth.
Horns blew behind them as the light changed. Harvey leaned back, tugging his collar out of Mike's grip. The car jumped forward, leaving behind shrieking, cat-calling women.
There was about ten seconds of the most awkward silence known to man, and then Harvey said, "You have one chance to tell me that was a joke to mess with those women."
"And if I don't?" Mike asked.
Harvey's fingers flexed on the steering wheel.
He made a sudden move, swerving across two lanes of traffic without signalling, pulled a right and then a left, taking them onto Riverside Drive. Dark, reflective water stretched away on Mike's side, past the highway.
"I thought we were going for drinks," Harvey said finally.
"You have drinks at your place," Mike replied, adrenaline making him brave.
Harvey risked a brief glance at him. "So...alcohol and flirting? Was that your plan?"
Mike scowled. "It was a good plan. It would have worked."
"I just put you in the passenger's seat of a car worth three quarters of a million dollars and got it up to over twice the legal speed limit," Harvey said.
"So I aced you without even trying. Without even knowing."
"And yet you didn't have the guts to make the first move," Mike pointed out.
"Kid, I've been moving on you for four months."
"Funny, I thought you were acting like a teenager waiting for someone to ask him to the dance."
He saw a muscle twitch in Harvey's jaw. "Don't -- "
" -- go to court unless you can win," Mike finished for him. He sat back and stared out at the water. "Hint for you, asshole: you can win."
"I'm getting that," Harvey said quietly. He pulled another abrupt left.
"Turn signals, turn signals are good!" Mike yelped.
"Nobody was coming," Harvey replied. "So what was your endgame?"
"There was no endgame, this isn't a competition."
"I'm not sure if I should be insulted you think I'm that easy, or that you didn't put any work into this plan."
"Okay, one, I've watched you pick up women for almost two and a half years, and you are that easy. Two, you have no idea how much thought has gone into what a stupid plan of action this is, and three, I'm not on a quest for the ultimate one night stand," Mike said, even as part of him was screaming stop talking now. "You know what the plan was? I was going to kiss you. That's all. Enough to let you know I'm into you. Because I foolishly assumed you might want more than a quick fuck. But if you'll see the subclause relative to Harvey Specter being easy, I should have expected this."
Wow, said his little mental voice. You just had a whole fight with him all by yourself. Well done.
Harvey was silent, but he did use his turn signal as he changed lanes.
"If I wanted sex, it wouldn't be you," Harvey said finally.
"You're not an idiot, don't deliberately misinterpret me. If I wanted sex, I wouldn't waste a functional professional relationship -- a friendship -- for that. It would have to be more."
"And?" Mike prompted.
Harvey stopped the car. Mike glanced out and saw the glass-walled lobby of his building.
"Coming up?" Harvey asked.
Inside the lobby, Harvey tossed the car keys to a bored-looking valet, nodding at the Koenigsegg double-parked outside. The guy gave Harvey the biggest grin ever.
"Gas her up if you take the long way to the parking garage," Harvey called.
An elevator slid open as they approached the big bank of gold-and-chrome doors; Mike was about to shove Harvey inside, up against a wall, and teach him a thing or two about being an arrogant prick, when he realized someone was following in after them.
"Marissa," Harvey said pleasantly.
"Harvey," the woman replied. She was fiftyish, maybe; sleek black hair, fine laugh lines around her eyes, and a poised air of confidence that Mike had come to associate with very wealthy, very dangerous women. "Haven't seen you in a while."
"Mike, this is Marissa Blake, we're on the steering committee for the New York Theatre Ballet together," Harvey said, resting a hand on Mike's back. "Marissa, my colleague, Mike Ross."
Mike heard the slight pause before colleague; he wondered if Harvey had almost said associate.
"Pleased to meet you," Marissa said, shaking his hand, at the exact same time Harvey's palm slid down over Mike's ass. Mike fought a smile. "You two burning the midnight oil?"
"Briefs," Harvey said, and Mike suppressed a snort of laughter. This couldn't be good for his internal organs.
"Don't work too hard," Marissa said, then added, "And this is me!" as the elevator began to slow. "Nice meeting you, Mike. Bring him to the next fundraiser, Harvey. Might be a good way to make you show up."
"You know I'm always there in spirit," Harvey said. The door closed on Marissa's sardonic look of disbelief.
"The ballet?" Mike asked, not looking at Harvey. The elevator began its ascent again. "You hate ballet."
"I do hate ballet," Harvey agreed. The doors dinged and opened.
"Then why -- never mind," Mike corrected, as he followed Harvey down the hall. "Getting it."
"Yep." Harvey unlocked the door, held it and followed Mike in, caught him in the foyer and pulled him around into a kiss.
It wasn't what Mike had expected, which was half for Harvey to burst into laughter and tell Mike he was joking, half for Harvey to shove him against a wall and pull off his clothes. Instead it was -- just a kiss, two points of contact, their mouths and Harvey's hand on his cheek, steadying him.
Harvey's mouth was soft, lips a little roughened from the cold of New York in winter. There wasn't any hesitation in the kiss -- well, it was Harvey -- and it seemed like it took all the air out of Mike's lungs, made his thoughts loop and whirl in disorientation. Harvey's tongue traced over his, fingers tightening against Mike's jaw, and Mike heard a soft, satisfied noise, huh, like he'd hit expectations dead center.
It was approximately the same feeling as going a hundred and thirty miles an hour in a sports car.
"How about that drink?" Harvey asked, backing off just a little. His thumb swept up and over Mike's cheekbone.
"Can we skip the drink?" Mike replied.
"You really have no good opinion of my virtue," Harvey said, but his gaze drifted over Mike's shoulder, to the stairs that led to his bedroom. He kissed Mike again, inhaling like he was bracing for something. Mike hooked his fingers in the slick satin pockets of Harvey's vest, tugging him along until they both almost tumbled onto the stairs.
Harvey steadied him with an arm around his waist, then grasped Mike's shirt to pull him down as Mike backed up the stairs, still kissing him.
"New shirt," Mike murmured.
"Don't even pretend," Harvey growled.
"That it wasn't made for the sole purpose of ending up on my floor."
"Caught that, did you?"
"I'm very observant," Harvey said, and Mike laughed; let Harvey kiss down his throat, let him strip off his clothes, worked at Harvey's until they tumbled onto the bed in a mess -- Mike in his underwear, Harvey in unbuttoned pants with his shirt hanging off his shoulders. Harvey squirmed up over him, bent his head and nipped at Mike's earlobe.
"You realize," Harvey said, as Mike shoved the shirt off his shoulders, fingers dancing along warm skin, "we could have been doing this months ago."
"Not my fault," Mike replied, digging his hands in as Harvey moved down, trying and failing to keep him where he was. Harvey shrugged off his grip, nuzzling against his stomach. "Are you saying if we started months ago we still would be?"
Harvey lifted his face, looking up at Mike with a curious expression. He looked like he was trying hard to keep some emotion from showing. Then, without a word, he tugged Mike's boxers down and off, and the world narrowed to a few dizzy impressions that even Mike's tidy memory had trouble sorting out later: Harvey's mouth, the slick glide of his tongue, the weight of his hands when Mike tried to move.
Harvey's hair, soft under his palms, and the catlike shift of his shoulders as he crawled back up his body, pulling Mike over on top of him. Rutting and gasping in the cradle of Harvey's thighs, salt skin under his mouth. Harvey's head tipped back and his throat working as he shouted. The almost physical press of quiet in the aftermath.
Eventually, Mike pushed himself up on an elbow, leaning over Harvey, studying the loose relaxation in his face. Harvey shifted to look up at him, dragging his knuckles down Mike's chest affectionately.
"Good?" Mike asked, bending to kiss the pads of his fingers.
Harvey nodded, eyes closing. "Good."
"Suit worked, then."
Harvey laughed, a quick bark, and opened his eyes again. "Yes, it did. Car worked?"
"Yes," Mike agreed, but concern was creeping in, worry now that they'd gone irrevocably forward. He looked up and away, out the darkened windows at the blurred lights of the city.
"How much trouble is this going to cause us at work?" he asked.
"More for you than me," Harvey replied, turning his hand, exploring the shallow lines of Mike's muscles with his fingers. "If it gets out."
"When it gets out."
Harvey shrugged, acknowledging the inevitability. "People are going to think it's the reason you got promoted so fast. Doesn't matter how much later it is."
"I thought about that. I decided anyone who would think I didn't deserve the promotion isn't going to be someone who calls the shots. But..." Mike hesitated. "What about fraternization?"
Harvey grinned, pulling back, tilting his head to look up at Mike amusedly. "Come on, really? You're not my subordinate anymore."
"There are still rules."
"Reminders, at most. Nobody pays any attention. The rules are just there to make sure people aren't blatant about it," Harvey said. "All the Associates are horny and stressed and screwing each other -- "
"What?" Mike asked.
"Come on, you didn't know that?"
"No! I never slept with any of them!" Mike gave him a discontented look. "I could have, too. Ericka Patterson was all over me at the holiday party last year. I was needlessly virtuous!"
"Just as well. It's not like it stops there, anyway. The Junior Partners are one big meat market, looking for future spouses so they can be the good, ideal successful couples. Maybe they don't sleep with each other as much, but they do with the opposition, which is potentially worse."
A shadow flitted over Harvey's face. Mike didn't say Scotty, but he thought it.
"And the Senior Partners are all bored with their spouses and looking for a little fun, and usually get trouble instead," Harvey finished. "One reason I never married. Wasn't for lack of candidates. I saw what happens when you marry a good fuck for political expediency. Wasn't interested. I made Senior Partner anyway."
"Sounds lonely, though."
"If I wanted sex I could pick someone up. If I wanted something more, I wouldn't have gotten it anyway from someone who was using me for their career. We give things up for the job, and I love this job. You have to weigh for yourself whether it's worth it. I think it is."
Mike settled back down in the blankets, curling into Harvey's shoulder. "You talk a lot after sex," he said, expecting a smart remark, but Harvey was silent. "Fair warning, I'm a cuddler," Mike added.
"Yeah, that's unexpected," Harvey replied. "Go to sleep."
"Mmhm." Mike nosed against his skin, threw an arm over his chest, and drifted off.
Their dad gave Harvey and Johnny the sex talk. Donna had to get the sex talk from Uncle Aaron's wife, who was nice enough but believed in the doctrine of abstinence, and didn't give her a sex talk so much as a box of pads and a wish of good luck. Donna had to get her information from health class and the most traditional of all teachers: school gossip.
Apparently Dad left some information out of Harvey and Johnny's education too, though this being Dad, that isn't terribly surprising. Which is why Donna maintains her composure when Harvey, all of fifteen and a half, hitches himself up to sit on the kitchen counter and asks her one afternoon, "How do you know if you're gay?"
Donna, who is making herself a sandwich, stops and frowns. "Why ask me?"
Harvey shrugs, looking down at his hands. "You know everything."
"You're cute," she replies, patting his knee. "I don't know. If you're attracted to women, you're straight. If you're attracted to men, you're gay. If you like both, you're bi." Since then, time and New York have taught her it's not quite that simple, but in the moment, she does the best she can.
Harvey looks thoughtful. "In the movies, when a guy's gay, he's always..." and he flops his hand over, limp-wristed.
"Harvey Specter, your manners are better than that."
"But he is!" Harvey protests.
"In the movies, aliens sometimes land and blow up America. Do you think that happens in real life too?" Donna asks.
"No." Harvey gives her a sullen scowl, looks away. "If I were gay, would you still love me?"
Donna sets down the knife and hugs him, and Harvey shrugs out of it because hugs are gross, apparently.
"Yes, I would," Donna says, poking him in the ribs. "Dad would have kittens, but I wouldn't care. Are you?"
"Don't know. I like girls. Guess not," Harvey replies, and hops off the counter. "Thanks Donna!" he calls, as he leaves the kitchen. Donna stares after him for a moment, frowning, and then goes back to her sandwich.
And that's the last they talk about it for years, until the one time Harvey introduces this gorgeous dark-haired guy as "Alex, my boyfriend," with a weird look, like he's remembering the conversation they had in the kitchen.
"Nice to meet you," Donna says to Alex, and shakes his hand. And that's that.
Donna's cellphone rang at six in the morning on a Saturday, and she vowed vengeance. But it was too early to be Mean Donna, so when she answered, it was with a muffled "What?"
"This is your fault," Harvey said down the line.
"Baby boy, I should have drowned you as a child. What's my fault?" she asked, brushing hair out of her face.
"Remember yesterday? Mike, nice suit, drinks after work, the car?" Harvey asked.
"Ugh, I hate you. What happened?"
"We didn't make it to drinks. And now I have to make him breakfast."
Harvey sounded almost panicked, which was too funny to resist.
"Well, I can email you a pancake recipe, or you could dig out the emergency box of Pop Tarts -- "
"You know what I mean," Harvey said.
"If you mean a boy you like took you out on a date and you were you and took him home and debauched him, yes, I do know what you mean. You do realize it's creepy and weird to be telling your sister about your sex life, right? I mean, even for us, that's creepy and weird."
"Harvey, what are you actually expecting of me at this hour? Go back to bed. There's a cute man in it and he's chronically malnourished so he probably needs all the body heat he can get."
"This isn't..." she heard Harvey exhale. "This isn't good. This is stupid, we're both being stupid, and he's going to realize that. I've never been on the receiving end of the It Meant Nothing speech."
"Okay, listen to me, because after this I'm hanging up and going back to sleep," Donna said. "Mike Ross happens to adore you, and he asked you out because he likes you and you're not his boss anymore and some men, believe it or not, are emotionally available enough to form relationships. You are not about to receive the It Meant Nothing speech. He's probably going to propose marriage, knowing Mike, and I can think of worse men I'd like for a brother-in-law. I don't know where this sudden streak of debilitatingly bad self-esteem came from, but man up and cope with the fact that someone you are deeply unworthy of actually enjoys your company. If you call me back I will come through the phone and smack you. Goodbye, Harvey," she said, and hung up.
God, brothers. She wondered if normal peoples' siblings were this much work.
About a minute later, a textmessage came through. What did you mean, deeply unworthy?
If you textmessage or call me again before nine I'm disowning you, she replied.
The phone was gratifyingly silent. At least, for about ninety minutes, when it beeped again. Donna picked it up, ready to inform Harvey that he was a freak of nature and probably adopted, but she stopped when she saw the notification: Photo Message From: MIKE ROSS.
The photo was taken in Harvey's kitchen, covertly, and among the glasses of orange juice, the bottle of maple syrup and the butter dish, she could see Harvey at the stove, in a t-shirt and pajama pants, cooking. The text read, Thought you should be the first to know. Hope this isn't creepy.
Totally creepy, she texted back. Now tell Johnny!
Already on it.
Donna spent about half her morning expecting another panicked call from Harvey, and the other half trading electronic high-fives with Johnny.
You're next, she told him.
Why do I have to be next? You're on a roll. Get yourself a man.
Don't be a troglodyte, she texted back. Fine a nice southern belle and start providing me with nieces.
The insults and political incorrectness just mounted from there, until finally Donna got another text from Harvey, ordering her to play nice with Johnny and stop making Johnny interrupt his pleasant afternoon to tattle on her.
Can I come over and torment Mike? she asked.
No. If you're nice to me you can have lunch with us tomorrow.
Can I torment him then?
Mike is prepared to accept your challenge, Harvey said. Now leave me alone, I have important business to attend to.
Donna laughed. Oh Donna! What if he doesn't like me? What if he dumps me? Donna, I really like him!
I say this with all the brotherly love in the world: shut up, Harvey wrote.
The day Harvey lands McKernon Motors, the first client of his career, he and Donna go out to the swankiest, most overblown lounge in town and have a drink. They toast Mr. McKernon, who likes "that slick kid in his cheap suit" because Harvey is the first lawyer he's ever met who actually understands how his engines work. They endure the stink-eye of the maitre'd and the superior looks of the other patrons and the expensive drinks for a few minutes, and then Donna leans over and says, "This sucks. Let's get a burger."
So they go to the trashy diner near her place and have burgers and fries and watery Cokes, and it's great.
The day Mr. McKernon dies, Harvey gets the call around four in the afternoon. Donna puts the call through, because when a VP from McKernon calls, Harvey takes it. But she watches through the glass as Harvey answers, and then goes so still, and then bows his head. She knows what it means. Mr. McKernon has been sick for a while. But it's still a shock.
Mr. McKernon used to take Harvey out for drinks at the end of a good contract negotiation; he used to send Donna a little box of expensive coffee every Christmas. He used to beg Donna, jokingly, to ditch Harvey and come work for him. He adored Harvey, from his ever-more-expensive suits to his devious mind to his real passion for the McKernon Motors engines. He once took Donna driving in one of his new test vehicles, and he was always a gentleman; even in front of a high-performance racing coupe, he held the door for her. He also introduced her to Dominic Barrone, who she dated for six months and she suspects would have married her if he weren't already married to his job.
Harvey doesn't cry or get upset, just gets out McKernon's file, makes the necessary calls, and sets a date for the will to be read. He sits there for a long time, though, one hand flat on the will, the other clasping the back of his head, fingers threading in the short hair.
Finally, around six, Donna leans into his office.
"This sucks," she says. "Let's get a burger."
If Harvey grieves Avery McKernon, he does it in private. He's sympathetic and soft-spoken with the family, but he's everything a lawer should be. The only time Donna sees that grief is sitting in an uncomfortable plastic booth, over burgers and fries and watery Cokes, watching Harvey's lips press together tightly, watching him try to keep the control he's worked so hard to build.
"To Avery," she suggests, holding up her paper cola cup. "He was good to us."
"To Avery," Harvey agrees.
Harvey woke on Sunday to movement -- Mike, shifting around in the bed, sitting up and running his fingers through his hair. It couldn't be too early, because light was edging its way in through the windows, but still he sensed too early for moving.
He wrapped an arm around Mike's waist when he started to move to the edge of the bed, pulling him back down, and Mike yelped in surprise.
"Quiet," Harvey ordered, pinning him down firmly. Mike wriggled and twisted around to face him, but apparently his escape from the blankets was thwarted. He leaned into Harvey's body like it had been too long since anyone touched him enough, which it probably had.
"At some point I have to get dressed and walk-of-shame my way home," Mike said, making no attempt to move.
"Sunday. Day of rest," Harvey murmured.
"We spent all of yesterday resting," Mike pointed out. They had, too -- a slow breakfast, watching clouds drift over Manhattan, and a quiet day spent together. Talking, not much, not really anything more than they'd established Friday night; Mike curled up against him on the couch, reading contracts for Monday on Harvey's laptop, while Harvey listened to music and made occasional comments over his shoulder. It had been...reassuring, the way Mike so calmly accepted this new thing. They'd gone out to dinner, Mike in his only slightly rumpled suit, and when Harvey had offered to take him home, like a gentleman, Mike had looked reluctant.
And so here they were.
"We have to go to work tomorrow," Mike continued. "I have to stop at Gram's to see her, go home and get all my stuff together for Monday, put out a suit that hasn't spend the last two days being roughed up by you, charge my phone, do my dishes -- Harvey -- "
Harvey, who knew that the best way to shut Mike up was to ignore his babbling, had started working his way down Mike's throat and into the dip of his collarbone, teeth just barely dug into the skin, his hands firmly holding Mike's hips.
It occurred to him that together they were one big mess of character flaws, ceaseless talk and stunted emotion, repression and lack of tact, bad manners and defensiveness. He hadn't counted on Mike's total misunderstanding of personal boundaries, though, and it was like Mike had just ducked under the fence and up into Harvey's space. He hadn't counted on his own intensity to match it once he was there. It wasn't like he was new to the concept of relationships. He'd had more than a few, and more than a few different kinds. Mike just...blew all the rules away.
"I have to buy groceries," Mike said, but it came out more like a groan. Harvey pressed a thumb into the line of his thigh, slid his hand over and cupped Mike's cock.
"This afternoon," Harvey said, stroking lightly. "We have lunch with Donna and I have to prove to her that I'm capable of showing human emotion."
"You have to prove to me first," Mike managed, arching his back. "Don't talk about your sister right now."
"Then stop reciting your to-do list," Harvey answered. "What should I talk about?"
The thing about Mike was that he was always in motion (even in sleep, restless little blankets-stealer), but when something got under his skin, there was a moment of stillness, a surprised instinct reaction to stop moving, stop talking.
Harvey grinned against his skin, shifting up a little to fit their hips together. "What do you want to hear?" he asked in Mike's ear, not much more than a whisper, and Mike turned his head away, flushing. There was a certain charm to it, as there always was with uncovering someone's hidden kinks, no matter how tame this was in comparison to some.
And it made sense. After all, this was Mike, who had practically screamed a need for approval when they'd first met. He was better now -- more confident, more self-assured -- but needs like that never completely went away, not when they were so deeply held.
"You want me to tell you how much I want this?" he continued, as Mike twisted under his hands but made no effort to get free. "Michael, do you want me to tell you how much I like your body? Because I do. Very much." He nipped the skin behind Mike's ear. "I like your hands, I like your ass -- "
"H - Harvey!"
" -- like your dick -- and your mind," Harvey continued, as Mike began to buck into his touch instead of twist away from it. "I like your mouth," he added, and leaned over Mike's body to kiss him.
"Dirty talk's not a problem for me," he said against Mike's mouth. Mike made a soft, desperate noise and his fingers dug into Harvey's back. "Good boy," Harvey growled.
There was an art to this, saying filthy things without sounding like an idiot, keeping Mike listening even when his voice and his hands were pushing him towards the edge. He kept up a quiet, constant litany while he slicked and stretched him slowly, voice a low reassuring murmur as he urged Mike over onto his stomach, pulled up his hips and pressed a palm flat on his back to reassure him. Neither of them were new to this, but Harvey -- well, he suspected Trevor had played a part in Mike's education, and that mess of a human being was the kind to go roughshod, and Mike was always so desperate for affection that it wasn't like any other man would necessarily care...
He meant to keep it up, to keep Mike if not distracted then at least entertained, but his voice abruptly left him when he slid in -- "...tight, and I want..." and he was done talking, couldn't have formed words if he'd wanted to. There was a way they fit which had nothing to do with bodies, but here together it was skin and sweat, the bow of Mike's back, the tension in his own muscles unfurling and falling away.
This was going to get him into trouble, this was going to complicate Mike's life and play havoc with Harvey's careful if vague plans, the never-really-considered wife and children and nanny and the McMansion in the suburbs and --
And he didn't care, wanted this so badly it didn't matter, pushing and fighting and tipping over the edge when Mike keened in desperation, collapsing messily into the sheets.
When he could think clearly again, he pulled Mike against him, pressed his face into his neck, and wondered how long he'd have to wait before Mike wouldn't freak out if Harvey asked him if he hated the suburbs as much as Harvey did.
After a few minutes, Mike shifted, snuffled a little and said, "I've decided your argument has merit."
"Of course it does," Harvey answered, muffled, into his shoulderblade.
"But I'm feeling kind of damp."
Harvey groaned, but he let Mike go this time when he moved to get out of bed.
"At least I know how to shut you up now," he remarked, as Mike stretched and padded to the bathroom. He could see faint marks on his hips, lines that would fit the stretch of his fingers if he pressed them there. Mike looked at him over his shoulder, then down at his hips, and made a face.
"There's no need to be so smug," he said, disappearing into the bathroom.
"There's no need, it's just fun," Harvey called back, and rolled out of bed to see about breakfast and whether he had enough of anything in the kitchen for a decent lunch.
By the time Donna arrived, they were washed and dressed and proper; Mike was answering email on his phone at the kitchen bar and Harvey was working on a kind of mutant pasta salad for lunch. She walked in, set down her purse, wrapped an arm around Mike's shoulders, and said, "If you hurt him, I'll kill you. I know how to bury a body."
"She does," Harvey added, mouth full of pasta. "And she owes me one."
"I'm the innocent here!" Mike protested, giving her his best wide-eyed bambi gaze, the one that hadn't fooled either sibling in years, though Mike probably didn't know that. "Besides, it's two against one."
"Three, technically," Harvey said.
"Johnny might come down on Mike's side, he's always been weird," Donna pointed out. Harvey grinned at her.
"Just you wait," Mike said. "I have Gram on my side and you're no match for an angry Brooklyn septugenarian."
"Okay, treaty," Donna said, kissing Mike's temple and sitting down. "I just wanted to get that out of the way. Also you should wear one of your high collared shirts tomorrow."
Mike slapped his hand to his neck, where absolutely no hickey was visible, and Donna started laughing. Harvey smiled indulgently and went back to his cooking.
Donna watches. She's done a lot of watching, over the years; she has her own life and her own concerns, her own romances, but she's looked after Harvey in one way or another since he was four years old, and it's become habit.
Harvey is hesitant with Mike in a way she hasn't seen since he was very young. Even she wouldn't have thought Mike would be the one to lead, but she sees how Harvey waits, how he looks to Mike for cues. At work everything's mostly the same, though they have lunch together more often, leave together more often. At home, when she's over for a Saturday or an evening dinner and Mike's there, she can see it.
And, slowly, she watches as Mike takes over duties she should long ago have given up: Mike is the one to reassure now, the one to taunt Harvey when he's being intractable and kick his ass a little when he needs it. There's a parting and a growing distance for her and her brother which isn't entirely pleasant, but in the long run this will be better. They can be just brother and sister, instead of two people fighting the whole damn world together.
She watches Mike, too, sees the way he glows when Harvey is affectionate, the way he unfolds around people he trusts, because it's not like Mike has had an easy life either. She envies his ability to throw himself into something, not knowing the outcome, especially because of his past. She can't do that nearly as well, and neither can Harvey, but Mike has a certain fearlessness -- like a core he knows will always be his no matter how many times he gets hurt.
"If you want my advice," she says one spring weekend, sitting on the couch with Harvey while Mike is across the room on the phone to his grandmother, promising he'll be there that afternoon, "this one's a keeper."
"I don't think it's up to me," Harvey replies, looking vaguely pensive.
"Well, then my advice is not to be an asshole to him and hope for the best," she says.
"Page one of the Specter playbook," Harvey agrees. "It's working so far."
"Okay, all done," Mike announces, returning. "But I have to go in like, half an hour if I want to get to Grammy's on time," he adds, and then pauses. "Um, unless I...take a cab. Or, or if you want to come, we could drive," he says, turning the phone over and over in one hand, nervously. Donna glances at Harvey, telegraphing don't be an asshole with perfect clarity.
"I'll drive you," Harvey says. "Sit, stop fidgeting."
When he went to Jessica, it felt like his first few days at Pearson Hardman all over again. Harvey had to remind himself of rules he hadn't needed to even think about in years: confidence, swagger, calm. He had to remember to own it, and that was something he hadn't thought about consciously since Harvard.
"Got a minute?" he asked, leaning into Jessica's office.
"I have exactly nine," she said, setting aside her e-reader and gesturing him into the chair across from her desk. He settled into it, leaned back and crossed his legs, and reminded himself: own it.
"I'm seeing Mike Ross," he said.
Jessica tilted her head. "I assume you don't mean you're seeing him in visions."
"No." Harvey rested his hands in his lap. "And this is a courtesy, not a confession."
"Mmhm." Jessica gave him a look that said she'd decide what exactly this was. "How long?"
"About five months. I thought we should be sure it was serious before we brought it up."
"Did you two flip a coin for who had to come here and tell me?"
"No, oddly enough he gave me this one," Harvey said with a slight grin.
"I imagine so." Jessica stood up and came around the desk, leaning against it. "I'm not going to stoke your ego by talking about your value here, so let's put it this way: Mike is our top billing attorney of anyone below the junior partner level. He is ripping through this firm like a comet and nobody is more surprised than me, but I took a chance on him -- several chances -- because you told me it would be worth it. People are jealous. People are petty and vindictive and ambitious. You know what they're going to say."
"I'm not sending engraved announcements," Harvey said.
"Mike says he doesn't care. That's his decision. If and when this becomes public, despite it being nobody's damn business, he's willing to put up with what people will say."
"His feelings aren't my concern, Harvey. He's an asset and if that asset is damaged by gossip, that affects the firm. And if that asset leaves -- "
"Hey, whoa," Harvey said, holding up a hand. "Let's not put the car crash before the horse here."
"Your track record isn't stellar."
"They weren't him."
Jessica crossed her arms. "Mike told me it wasn't his intention to leave the firm. You had better make it clear I'm holding him to that verbal contract regardless of your personal relationship."
"Your faith in me is inspiring."
"Do you really want me to count up the number of times you made fake-wife jokes to Louis?"
"Aw, you kept track? I'm flattered," Harvey said, and uncurled, sitting forward. "Five months, Jessica. Two and a half years before that. He's not going anywhere as long as I have anything to say about it."
Jessica let her arms fall, propping them on the edge of the desk. "That bad, huh?"
Harvey glanced away. "I wouldn't be putting you in this position if I didn't think this was it for me. He doesn't know that yet."
"What does Donna think?"
"She approves. She pushed for it to happen."
"Well, far be it from me to argue with sisterly goodwill," Jessica sighed. "Don't make me regret giving you my blessing."
"I wasn't asking for your blessing."
"I know. You have it anyway." She checked her watch. "I now have three minutes. Go make a mess somewhere else. Harvey," she added, as he stood and made his way to the door. He stopped on the threshold, turning expectantly. "Bring him along to the next partner dinner. I love it when their jaws drop so far the cigars fall out of their mouths."
Donna remembers her mother, though she suspects down the years her mental design of her has been idealized. She's okay with that, mostly. After all, who does it hurt?
Harvey barely remembers her, and doesn't talk about it; Johnny never knew her, which in some ways, Donna thinks, would be preferable.
She had good role models, growing up. Uncle Aaron's wife and her tenth grade drama teacher, women who mentored her in school and at work, and of course Jessica. But there's something about Mike's grandmother that carries more weight. The first time they meet, long after Harvey has become a fixture at Mike's Saturday Gram-visits, Donna understands why Harvey sometimes looks envious when he talks about her.
Gram is kind of crazy and hardcore and clearly has spent her whole life not taking shit from anyone, but when Donna bends to hug her, she puts her hands on Donna's cheeks and affectionately announces, "I knew Harvey's sister would be beautiful," and there's a surge of desperate homesickness Donna can't explain. She's used to finding family where she can, but she's never found someone who could stand in her mother's shoes.
"Sit, talk with me while Michael yells at the doctors," Gram says, because Mike isn't happy with some medication or other and he and Harvey have already left to go intimidate the medical staff. Donna doesn't know what to say, but they find some kind of common ground -- Donna helped Harvey send her those flowers, when Mike got promoted -- and by the time Mike and Harvey return, they've been talking for half an hour. When they leave, later that day, Gram grasps Donna's hand and says, "Come back soon?" and Donna gets now why Harvey, stiff unemotional Harvey, comes with Mike every week to see her now.
"So?" Mike asks, when they're on their way to dinner, after saying their goodbyes. "Looks like you got along with her okay."
"I told you," Harvey says, steering through traffic.
"She's great, Mike," Donna assures him, and holds onto the happy, settled feeling for days.
The wedding was small. Only vows, really. Nobody walked anyone down the aisle (which didn't exist anyway) and nobody gave anyone away.
They held it in the conservatory of Mike's grandmother's care home: Mike and his grandmother, Harvey and Donna and Johnny, and the chaplain to marry them. Mike wanted his grandmother to be there, and Harvey didn't want to stand up in front of a million people and recite vows, so it worked for them.
The reception afterwards, at a downtown hotel that evening, was huge. Harvey might not like people intruding on the private moments of his life, but he definitely liked showing off his accomplishments. And he liked a good party.
More than that, though, the reception was an event. Half of Harvey's clients and probably most of Mike's were there. New York politicians, stockbrokers and sports stars, the wealthy and willing of Manhattan. Anyone at Pearson Hardman who was worth knowing by name was there. Donna had an Armani gown for it. Johnny bounced around like he'd suffer if he didn't talk to absolutely everyone.
It was gorgeous and glittering, with champagne and expensive snacks. If Mike was a little shy of all the attention, Harvey drew enough of it (basked in enough of it) that nobody noticed how quiet and still Mike was. Well, Donna noticed, but he seemed okay, so she didn't bug him.
As the party wound down, Harvey and Mike disappeared without fanfare or goodbyes. Donna didn't think anything of it -- assumed they were circulating around the room or maybe stealing a kiss in the kitchen -- until she got the picture message. It was from Mike, and the subject read The honeymoon begins.
The picture showed Harvey, tie undone, cuffs loose, out cold asleep on the couch in their condo like a toddler after a birthday party. He was still in his tux, one arm stretched over his head, jacket riding up and wrinkling. The room was dark, lit mainly by the glow of Manhattan through the glass, and half of Mike's face was visible in the edge of the image, grinning at her.
Don't look at me. He's your problem now, she texted back.
"Hey!" Johnny said, coming up to her with a glass of champagne. "Have you seen Harvey? I can't find him or Mike."
"Oh, they're probably on the plane to Borneo by now," Donna replied.
"Borneo? I thought they were going to Venice."
Donna smiled. "Who knows where they went? They probably wanted somewhere they wouldn't be disturbed."
Her phone buzzed with a return text from Mike.
Don't worry, it read. I promise not to break him.
"Who's that?" Johnny asked.
"Nobody. Come on, let's close the party down," she said, tucking her phone away, and went off to find some good-looking millionaire investment banker to dance with.
Donna likes to take credit for all of it.
If she hadn't given Harvey the wink that day 'Rick Sorkin' barged in five minutes late for his interview, she claims, none of this would have happened. Mike wouldn't have been hired, and Harvey would have got some boring Harvard Clone, ending up a bitter old bachelor taking out his frustration on his subordinates.
Harvey blows it off, or if he's feeling expansive he chalks it up to his own magnetic charisma. Johnny points out that he had a hand in it too, thanks very much. Mike just grins and butts his head against Harvey's shoulder, but she can tell he's thinking it was all him.
Donna knows the truth. Someday, if they have kids, when she's Cool Aunt Donna and they're old enough, she'll tell them how their daddies really met.
After all, she's still Harvey's big sister. She has to do something to keep him humble.