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All But Memories

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When Mike is born, there are no fireworks. No planets align, no stars fall. There is nothing hugely special about the day of his birth.

Except.

Except that Julie Ross knows—beyond a woman’s intuition—that she is giving birth, hours before her water breaks. When that happens, her husband, Brian, is at her side in an instant, having already been heading to the living room, where she was sitting with her feet propped up. He can’t remember why he was going there, now, but it hardly matters, does it?

Except that there is barely any traffic on the way to the hospital, as if the crowds are parting for them like the Red Sea for Moses, and all the traffic lights are green.

Except that there Julie feels little to no pain, even when she is far into labor. Her breathing is steady and all that she feels is right. The nurses look at her askance, but they don’t complain, because a calm mother is infinitely easier to deliver a baby from than a terrified, pained mother.

Except that Mike comes out with his blue eyes wide and searching, and everyone in the room feels scrutinized. Julie and Brian catch their breaths at his beauty, and he seems to fill the room with an ineffable presence.

So yes, maybe Mike’s birth is ordinary, but only because people choose to make it so.

***

When Mike is a baby, he doesn’t remember much about his past lives. His night terrors are vague ideas of war and flashes of death. His dreams are full of floating feelings of love, and sudden spikes of joy.

His magic works rather in the same way. There are times when his mother and father are terrified of him, terrified of the way that his eyes shine gold when he laughs, and the way his howls sound old when he cries. At those times, the only person who dares go near him is his grandmother, Helena, her blue eyes shining out at him in a way that is all too familiar.

As Mike grows, so does his magic, manifesting more and more strongly, until his toys float when he’s happy, moving around by themselves for hours on end; until the house seems to shake when he screams and throws tantrums. When he is two or three, he starts to remember names and faces. One time he calls out “Mama” and gets Julie instead, her movements wary and hesitant, and he starts to wail. She freezes, handing him to his grandmother, who gathers him close promptly, shushing him, and he quiets. She cradles him, murmuring softly.

“My little boy,” she says, because it’s better than what she wants to say—My son.

***

Nothing really seems to stick properly in Mike’s head until age seven, when his family moves to New York, and he meets Trevor. Until now, his memories of other times have been more dreams than anything, and bits of intuition. The only thing about it all that has seemed real is his magic, which is undeniably not fantasy. As much as Brian likes to rebuke him for storytelling, apprehension in his eyes—as distant as Julie is, retreating more and more as Mike speaks of distant lands—neither of them can say that his magic doesn’t exist. However, they try as much as they can to avoid the truth of it, and Mike can’t bring himself to show off anymore, like he used to.

When he would beam as he froze a dropped glass in place, eyes golden, and say, “Look, Mommy, I’m helping,” Julie would gift him with a strained smile.

“That’s nice, sweetie,” she’d say, with a glance at Brian. “Now let the glass go, all right?”

“But Mommy—”

“Let it fall, Michael,” Julie would say, stern. “That’s what it was supposed to do in the first place.”

No, Mike learned early on not to show off.

This mostly changes when he meets Trevor.

It’s around the same time as when Mike starts dreaming of a sandy-haired boy with a wide grin and reckless spirit. When he meets Trevor in the second grade, there is an instant connection, like a missing piece has fallen into place, and Mike decides he won’t let that go. No matter what.

It isn’t until he’s known Trevor for a month or so—they’re best friends already, of course—that he accidentally calls Trevor “Will”, and puts a name to the sandy-haired boy’s face. “Who’s Will?” asks Trevor curiously, and Mike lies, says that it’s a distant cousin he used to see, before he moved to New York.

He still can't use his magic around Trevor, but that's all right. He has a friend, and that's all that matters.

At this point, his visions have started to filter into his waking life. Outside of daydreams, even.
Sometimes he blinks and sees a haze over his eyes, like light filtered through cloth, and then when he examines it, it’s like a whole different life. The first time that this happens, he gazes around the room, seeing wooden chairs that aren’t there, seeing a door where there is none, everything ghostly and intangible, yet realer than anything he’s seen until now. He looks expectantly at Julie, and sees nothing over her; he turns to Brian, and nothing has changed; he glances at his grandmother’s, afraid nothing will be there, that this new revelation was all in his head—and there is a different face laid over his grandmother’s, smiling back at him. His eyes widen, because this mysterious woman is young, has sable hair with no trace of grey, has clear blue eyes uncolored with age. He grins at her, wide and delighted, and she—she and his grandmother both—winks at him, mouth curved in a secret smile.

Mum he thinks, like he’s found another, bigger missing piece—and if he doesn’t know why, then that’s all right, because by this time he’s learned to trust his instincts.

***

Being Trevor’s friend is easy. Fueled with Mike’s memories of Will, they quickly become inseparable. They are the terror of the school, playing pranks and telling tales, but it’s all—mostly—harmless. All of the staff knows that they are good-hearted boys, not mean-spirited bullies. They play tricks on everyone, including each other. When someone turns to them, looking wide-eyed and offended—or worse, hurt—they don’t hesitate to apologize, reaching out a hand to make amends.

With these types of tactics, Mike and Trevor don’t make friends—they make armies.

Mike’s brain is equipped with a large capacity for detail. Because of his memories of all the years, he has adapted to be able to hold all of them. His mind can quickly turn short-term memory into long-term memory, ensuring that once he learns something, he never forgets it.

This helps quite a bit with his studies; he aces tests left and right, passing classes with flying colors. He is the perfect student—except for how he likes to throw paper airplanes in class, or how he and Trevor hide all of their teachers’ whiteboard markers inside of the bookshelf in the back of the room. Trevor doesn’t look at Mike with envy or resentment, when Mike aces yet another test. He just grins and congratulates him, saying, “Okay, why don’t we do some good with that brain, okay?”

“Good?” laughs Mike. “Is that what we’re calling it now?”

Trevor makes a comically pensive face. “Well, it’s definitely good for our school spirit.”

“Really,” says Mike. “How so.”

“Well, don’t you remember last week?” They had put red food coloring in everything in the lunch line. They had thought it was so brilliant, because to a fifth grader, everything brilliant involves red food coloring. Trevor gives a gleeful laugh. “It was all red. All of it.”

“Except the mashed potatoes,” Mike points out.

“We needed something to be white,” Trevor explains.

“True.”

“I like how the lunch ladies pretended they didn’t see us.” Trevor grins.

“They love us,” declares Mike loftily.

“Of course,” says Trevor.

This is a common occurrence (although their pranks get better) for Mike and Trevor as they grow older. When they get into junior high, nothing much changes, except that Mike joins the Debate Club, and Trevor is recruited by the track team. He makes Mike join too.

“But why,” whines Mike.

“You’re fast,” Trevor says.

“How could you possibly know that?”

“Remember that one time—” Trevor starts, but Mike cuts him off quickly.

“That was a fluke.”

Trevor rolls his eyes. “It was not, you idiot, the same thing happened, like, three times.”

“You know, you calling me an idiot isn’t going to make me join.”

“Come on,” Trevor pleads. “You’ve got to.”

“I didn’t make you join the Debate Club with me,” Mike says reasonably.

“Well yeah, but it’s the Debate Club,” Trevor says.

“And?” Mike crosses his arms.

“Well, it’s—” Trevor sighs, then mutters, “It’s kind of lame.”

“Sorry, I didn’t catch that,” Mike says. Trevor glares at him, and he relents. “Dude, I joined a club that’s all about arguing, I get to regularly wipe the floor with idiots who think they’re smart,” Mike says, as if he’s talking of paradise—which he is, in his mind.

“Whatever, man, do what you want.”

“As long as I join the track team?” Mike asks dryly.

“As long as you join the track team.”

***

When Mike turns thirteen, he starts to remember Camelot. It’s little things at first: the water pump in the town square, the fountain in the courtyard, the wall of books in Gaius’s chambers (though he doesn’t know Gaius yet)—all with an overarching sense of fear.

After that, he remembers Gaius himself, the way both he and his chambers seemed to absorb the scent of herbs and then release it on hot days. He remembers the small room in the back where Merlin used to sleep, and Mike aches for the familiarity of it. Mike remembers the large tome of magic that Gaius had given him, and misses its guidance, though by now he probably knows everything in it to his bones. He remembers how vast the knowledge it contained seemed, and how extraordinary it had been to find out that it was just the tip of the iceberg.

Over the next years, he remembers Morgana, and he remembers Gwen, and he remembers the fresh-faced servant boy avoiding knives in the courtyard, but he doesn’t remember who was throwing the knives. He remembers the sweet servant girl who helped Merlin with his duties, but doesn’t remember who the duties were for.

He remembers Uther and all of the other lords and ladies. He remembers the visiting dignitaries and countries Camelot went to war with—Bayard and Mercia, Cenred and Escetia. He remembers Vivian and Sophia and “Lady Catrina”, and the ubiquitous panic, the sense that he needs to defend, to protect, to save, but he has no idea who he was—is? Mike doesn’t know—supposed to be saving.

It’s as if his memories are dancing around the core of this—this thing, whatever it is. It’s as if Mike’s subconscious doesn’t think he’s ready for it yet. Mike keeps wracking his brain, thinking, thinking, but nothing—no one—comes to mind.

Until.

Until the moment comes—as it eventually has to—when he first remembers Arthur.

***

Except—except, that’s not how it happens at all.

Sometimes, in the wake of Arthur, and his previous lives, and—and Arthur, Mike forgets that people don’t see things like he does.

They need things in chronological order.

So here is what happens before Arthur happens. Here is what Mike loses before he gains anything else.

He loses his last semblance of normality—his parents.

***

“He won’t talk to me!” Julie cries. Brian wraps his arms around her and shoots a look at Helena, who thinks, I wonder why. “He doesn’t trust me, and I—I love him so much, and he doesn’t even—”

“Oh, stop it, Julianne,” says Helena irritably. “You know why he doesn’t trust you.”

Julie huffs. “Just because I tried to tell him to lay low—”

“You didn’t tell him to ‘lay low’,” Helena replies, “you told him to conform!”

“I did not,” Julie says, appalled.

“You did,” Helena says, “every time that you flinched when he showed a sign of magic. He stopped trusting you before he turned five, because you got angry every time he tried to help the only way he knew how.”

“Because it’s the wrong way!” Julie protests. “It’s unnatural, it isn’t the way that God intended—”

“Since when are you religious?” Helena doesn’t intend to let Julie get away with justifying her actions. “Since when have you ever been religious?”

“I’m not, it’s just that—”

“I’ll tell you when,” Helena says, ignoring Julie. “Since you became frightened of your own son, and the only way you could justify that fear was through God.”

“Oh, so now you’re condemning my religion, are you?” Julie shouts, bitter.

“No,” said Helena calmly. “I’m condemning your own cowardice.”

“You just never could accept me, could you, Mom?”

There is a long silence. Brian—who has been looking back and forth between Helena and Julie like he’s a spectator at a tennis game—gapes at Julie in shock. Helena stares at her, too, a multitude of emotions flashing across her face before it seems to settle on a mixture of pity and disgust. “Oh, honey,” she says. “I think you’re confusing me with you.”

Julie hisses in displeasure. “It’s not the same thing!”

“How?” Helena presses. “How isn’t it the same thing?”

“Because I could never please you no matter what I did, but at least I tried,” Julie says. Helena marvels a bit, inwardly, at the way Julie can look so easily past her own faults, her own selfish petulance, like a child.

“I can hear you,” a voice rings around them, amplified by magic.

Julie flinches, and Helena pounces on it. “See? See, that is exactly what’s wrong!” Helena glances at the ceiling. “Not you, sweetheart,” she adds. She turns back to Julie. “You, Julianne, are the issue here. You are too busy being scared of your own child—your own flesh and blood—to love him unconditionally. Have I taught you nothing?”

“Apparently not,” Julie says, laughing hollowly. “And maybe that’s why you can’t be satisfied with my parenting, and you have to butt in, and steal my son away from me!”

“I would never!” gasped Helena. “How dare—I didn’t steal him. He trusted me, he still trusts me, because he has no one else.”

“He has me!” shouts Julie.

“No, he doesn’t,” Helena says sadly. “Not when you don’t love him like you should.”

“Oh, like you love him like you should.” Julie rolls her eyes.

“No,” Helena admits, “I don’t. I love him like you should.”

Julie draws in a sharp breath, and storms out. Helena hears the jingle of keys being taken off the hook, and doesn’t flinch when the door slams. Brian visibly deflates, sighing, defeat written all over him.

“What do we do now?” he asks.

“I don’t know,” Helena responds sadly.

Brian looks at her. “I’ve got to go after her.”

“I know,” Helena says, and leaves it at that.

***

Julie is in her car, driving aimlessly, when the call comes in to her mobile phone.

“Hello?” she answers, her voice thick with tears. She blinks her tears away.

“Julie?” Brian replies, his voice crackling in the feedback-heavy line. Julie glances out the window of her car.

Rain, she thinks.

As if echoing her thoughts, Brian continues, “It’s raining, Julie, honey, it’s not safe for you to be driving like this. Come back home.”

“I’m going to stay in a hotel,” Julie says, stubbornly.

“All right,” Brian agrees hurriedly. “That’s good, that’s—that’s a good idea. Just, just pull over and wait for me, okay? Please. Please, Julie.”

“All right,” Julie says hoarsely. “We can do that.” She ignores how small she sounds, and how small she feels. She’ll wake up in the morning, and everything will be better. She pulls over, and tells her where she is.

“Okay,” Brian says, a few minutes later, “I’m right behind you, we can go.”

Julie pulls back into traffic, briefly checking her rear-view mirror, but she can’t see properly through the rain. She turns around, trying to get a better look, to assure herself that yes, Brian is really there, when she hears—

“Julie, look out!” Her eyes shoot open, and all she can see is blinding light and a screeching noise, loud in her ears, and then—

—a crash, and then—

—another, and then—

—nothing.

***

The aftermath of Julie and Brian’s accident is brief and tumultuous. The police officer who comes to their door, who speaks to a stony-faced Mike and a freely-crying Helena, is apologetic—is more than apologetic—but it’s not any help.

Mike swallows back the sharp pain of loss, and the knowledge of everything is going to be different now, and stands dutifully proud at the funeral, cries like a good son, but not too messily—he has to be composed, he has to be dignified, he has-to be—

It isn’t until later that night that he really lets himself cry. He thinks that he’s quiet enough, but there’s barely a few minutes of tears before Helena is sweeping into his room, enveloping him in her warm embrace, perfumed from the many bunches of lilies they received that day.

“My boy,” she says, sad and choked, “My sweet boy, my brave, brave boy.”

They cry together, and then when the sun rises, they are ready to face the world again.

***

That night, Mike dreams of Arthur.

Years later, he still won’t know why he remembered on that particular night—was it intended to be a distraction? A consolation?

Either way, it serves both purposes.

Merlin started out into the forests surrounding Camelot early this afternoon. Gaius told him to search for an herb that he needs to treat a mild sickness that has been floating through the castle. Merlin has been searching for hours since then, and he only just now found it.

It turns out that he has been walking around that area multiple times—has in fact looked in that very area specifically, but Merlin confused his herbs and didn’t realize he was looking for the wrong thing until now.

When Merlin finally finds the herb, he starts to head back to the castle, only for it to start raining. He curses and runs the rest of the way back. When he arrives inside the castle, winded and dripping all over the cobblestones, two maids take one look at him and rush forward, cooing at him and trying—and failing, of course—not to giggle. They must be coming from the laundry, for their arms are full of clean and dry cloths of all sorts. Merlin tries not to look longingly at a towel in one girl’s pile of clothing. She clucks at him concernedly, and looks around the corridor—empty, thank god, Merlin can’t stand any more humiliation—before surreptitiously passing him the towel. He thanks them profusely and goes off on his way, less sopping wet than before.

When Merlin reaches Arthur’s chambers, he is in slightly less of a bad mood. That is, until he opens the door and sees Arthur inside, scowling at the window. Arthur turns when he hears the door open.

Before Merlin can say anything, Arthur starts, “Where have you been? You’ve been missing all day, I had to get someone else to do your duties, Merlin, you—” He cuts himself off when he notices Merlin’s appearance. “Merlin, what have you been doing, exactly? You look like a drowned rat.”

“Thank you for that, sire,” Merlin says. “I really needed that.” But the truth is, it helps. After an awful day, Arthur’s insults are surprisingly…warm.

“Whatever,” Arthur says dismissively. “Just—go clean yourself up, or something. You smell.”

Merlin rolls his eyes, fighting a smile. “Again, thank you, sire. Really.”

“You’re welcome,” Arthur says primly. “You’re lucky you have such a kind master, though—”

Merlin snorts.

“—because anyone else would have made you dry yourself off by working until midnight.”

“I appreciate it, sire,” Merlin says, not even bothering to hide his grin anymore.

“What’s so funny, Merlin?” Arthur asks indignantly. “I’m trying to be nice.”

“I’m sure you are,” Merlin says, suddenly sincere. “I assure you, I appreciate it.”

There is a long pause. Then Arthur clears his throat, and looks away. “Whatever,” he says again. “You may go, now.”

“Thank you, sire.” Merlin bows.

“And take the rest of the day off,” Arthur adds brusquely.

“Arthur?” Merlin asks, surprised.

“I can see that you’re going to be useless for what’s left of the day. I can get someone else to do your work.”

“But—your dinner—” Merlin protests half-heartedly.

“Can be taken care of by someone else, just like everything else today has been. Go, Merlin,” Arthur orders, and it sounds just as gruff and uncaring as before, but Merlin knows better. “Get some rest. I’ll need you up bright and early in the morning.”

“All right,” Merlin acquiesces, and then smiles, slow and pleased. “Thank you, Arthur.”

Arthur waves a hand in a shooing motion and, Merlin goes.

When Merlin is almost out the door, he hears—just barely—Arthur say, softly and uncomfortably, “Sleep well.”

When Mike wakes up in the morning, he feels a little better.

***

The next night, Mike dreams of Balinor. Balinor, the last Dragonlord, Merlin’s father, who Merlin didn’t even know existed until his childhood was over.

Once Merlin finally found his long-lost father—had someone to call “Dad” who would, in return, call him “son”—Balinor died. He died, and Merlin lost him all over again.

It is a quick dream, just a half-remembered fuzziness that occasionally sharpened into images—a cave, a wooden dragon, Balinor run through with a sword trying to protect Merlin, Arthur shouting hopelessly, and through it all, Merlin’s own tears.

And the fact that after that, he became the last Dragonlord, and saved Camelot by himself.

Mike wakes up, and wonders why his subconscious chose that particular memory to share. It isn’t until later that he realizes what it means:

Take power of your own life, the memory reprimands, and don’t just wallow in your own grief.

***

The night after that, he dreams of Hunith. He’s dreamt of her many times before, but this time feels different. This has a sense of urgency, of fear, of tightly held secrets.

“Tell him,” Hunith whispers, and Merlin shakes his head.

“I can’t,” he pleads. “Mum, you have to understand why I can’t.”

“He’s your friend,” Hunith replies, “and if he’s a good one, he’ll be there for you anyway.”

“I don’t think it works like that,” Merlin protests, but broods on it anyway.

This time, Mike wakes up asking his subconscious, But how do I tell her?

***

When Mike finally gathers up the courage to approach Helena with the topic of his past lives, she is chopping vegetables for dinner. She takes one look at him and says, “Stop right there.”

Mike stares at her. “What—”

“I don’t know what it is you’ve got to confess to me,” she says, “but whatever it is, it’ll be fine, I promise you that.”

“It’s not exactly…” Mike hesitates. He thinks of an appropriate word to sum up everything. “Normal,” he finally settles on.

Helena sets the knife down carefully on the cutting board, and says, “Oh. So it’s that kind of confession.”

Mike bites his lip.

“Sweetheart,” Helena says, then stops. She starts again. “Mike, honey, I think I already know what you want to say to me.”

“I doubt it,” Mike mutters sullenly.

Helena bites back a smile. She crooks her finger at him, and he steps in closer. Helena cups Mike’s face in one weathered hand. “I remember the first time you did magic,” she whispers, and Mike feels something stir in the air. “You were so tiny, and your eyes flashed the most beautiful gold, and suddenly—suddenly I had all these emotions that felt odd, displaced, and all of these memories that weren’t mine.”

Mike’s eyes widen. His mouth works soundlessly for a few moments, before he finally says, “You knew?”

Helena grins at him. “I’m your mother, Merlin. Of course I knew.”

***

After that day, it is Arthur, Arthur, Arthur—only Arthur, all the time.

There are dreams of irritation and anger and fury, but there are also dreams of affection and lust and love.

On one memorable occasion, Mike wakes up sweating and sticky, feeling like his voice is hoarse even though he hasn’t said anything. He stares into the thin sunlit area of his room, stunned, yet not at all surprised. He cleans himself up, hands still trembling with the enormity of the memory.

He goes down the stairs flushed all the way down to his neck, and Helena takes one look at him before cackling delightedly.

“Grammy,” Mike whines.

“Oh, honey, you should see yourself,” Helena says between peals of laughter. She stops, coughing, and Mike gets her a glass of water.

“Okay?” Mike asks.

“I’m fine,” Helena dismisses.

There is an awkward silence where Mike tries really hard not to look at where Helena is rubbing her throat with the back of her hand, grimacing, and Helena pointedly pushes the still-half-full water glass away.

“Anyway,” Helena continues as if nothing has happened, “you look very sweet, coming down here with that blush.” She grins. “You think I don’t know what’s behind that?”

Mike flushes again. “Come on, Grammy, can we please not talk about this?”

“My little boy is growing up,” Helena sniffles, wiping at her—totally dry—eyes.

Mike makes a sound somewhere near “gah” and throws his hands up in the air, going to get a glass of milk, Helena’s laughter following him into the kitchen.

This starts a delightful—on Helena’s part; on Mike’s, it is positively horrifying—set of instances where Mike’s dreams bleed into reality and make him stutter and fumble and blush.

Trevor thinks he’s come down with something.

Helena thinks it’s hilarious.

Mike just wants the earth to swallow him whole, please, God.

***

After a while, the dreams settle. Mike starts dreaming things he’s already dreamt before. He doesn’t get it—is he missing something? He hopes his subconscious isn’t trying to make him have a big epiphany or something, because he’s definitely not getting any sparks of realization.

It takes a few months for him to realize that he’s just remembered everything he can remember.

Or at least, that’s what he thinks.

After remembering his life as Merlin, he starts remember all of his other lives in between—Mark and Molly and Mary and Mac and so many others that sometimes Mike can’t breathe with the weight of it all.

Through it all there is Arthur, who becomes Martin and Harper and Carlton and Parker and Mike doesn’t know who he is this time around, but he’s begging Fate to bring him closer quick, because Mike doesn’t want to have to wait any longer.

For a while, Mike wanders around looking miserable and lonely, and Helena hugs him in sympathy, and Trevor frowns in confusion but organizes bigger pranks to make Mike feel better.

Mike gets over it, and learns to shove the longing to the back of his mind and power through. He gets so good at it that he almost forgets.

Okay, no, he doesn’t forget, he never forgets, he doesn’t even come close to forgetting—but he doesn’t bother to dwell on it, and that’s enough.

It works, for a while, and sometime during, Mike decides that no, he’s not going to look for Arthur in this lifetime, Arthur can very well come to him, let Destiny send Arthur Mike’s way if it really wants them to be together.

It works, but only because Mike is stubborn. As soon as Mike consciously makes this decision, he starts dreaming more and more of Arthur, of heat and warmth and rough embraces, and cool, dry lips on his own—like his subconscious is tempting him. Like it’s taunting him.

Mike ignores it, and Helena looks worriedly at the dark circles that appear under his eyes, and Trevor kisses Mike to distract him and Mike is so desperate by this point that he lets him.

It’s a small comfort, but it’s enough.

***

Over the course of the years, with all the dreams and everything, Mike has learned to expect familiar faces—even when they’re contained within supposed strangers. He finds himself examining people on the street in the same way he looks at relatives, searching for that spark of “I know you”.

He learns two things along the way:

1. Not all people who are important to him now were important to him then.

And

2. Not all people who were important to him then are important to him now.

For example, his parents—and it still hurts to think of them, but maybe not as much as it’s supposed to—never existed in Merlin’s time. Or at least, Merlin never knew them. They could have been farmers or nobles, knights or ladies or peasants or kings. Mike doesn’t know.

On the other hand, people who he doesn’t really see now were Merlin’s former friends, enemies, companions, lovers. Freya is the head librarian in the public library that is a few blocks from where Mike lives, and Mike smiles and strikes up a conversation, but she’s really just an acquaintance. Nimueh was Mike’s fifth grade teacher, and Mike had loved her, but had moved on and never seen her again. Gaius has yet to be seen—same as Gwen, Morgana, and, of course, Arthur—but Mike doesn’t bother having expectations.

So when Jenny shows up, Mike tries to find a glimpse of something in her, but he doesn’t see anything. It’s almost a little refreshing, if also a little disappointing.

He gives Jenny and Trevor his blessing and sends them on their way, and there is an aura of comfortableness all around.

Years later, after Mike has been kicked out school and his grandmother is in a nursing home, Mike shows up on Trevor and Jenny’s doorstep, and they roll their eyes and take him to bed.

It’s supposed to be a one time thing. Then again, Arthur is supposed to be there for Mike, so Mike supposes anything goes.

And that’s enough, and Mike puts Arthur out of his mind—or tries to—and tells Destiny to go to hell.

Yeah.

That’s a big success.

***
Because, honestly, it’s not that easy. These things accumulate, and suddenly Mike doesn’t know how to deal with it anymore.

All of the years—all of the visions, dreams, memories—build up to the morning when Mike looks at himself in the mirror and, for a moment, doesn't recognize himself. He flutters his fingers over his face, trailing over the side of it, waiting for the feeling of prominent, too-sharp cheekbones. He runs a hand through his hair, mussing it up, feeling like it's completely the wrong color, thickness, style. At least the eyes are all right, he thinks wildly, tinged with desperation. He feel split between two people—between two lives, between hundreds of lives—and feels a sudden breathless ache where something or someone should be, and he can't, he can't—

Mike isn't sure he can survive like this for much longer. He knows he's felt this disconnect before (a lifetime ago, and that's the first time Mike has heard that used literally), but it's never been this bad. And he knows why—it's because there's no Arthur. He's not actively looking for his Arthur in this life, content—well not really content, but stubborn enough to pretend—to let Arthur come to him, or just be without.

And it’s getting harder, but Mike remains firm and gets reckless and sells pot for Trevor, and tries not to feel the ache in his chest.

It's ridiculous, and it's driving Mike insane, but it's the best he can do against destiny.

***

Mike has always wondered if his memory has anything to do with his magic. He has learnt over the years that it probably has something to do with the whole reincarnation thing. Normal people probably aren’t able to remember two lifetimes, let alone hundreds, so Destiny probably bestowed Mike with a bit more capacity for memory.

Destiny overshot a bit, this time.

So now Mike has some semblance of an eidetic memory, and sure, it gets him out of trouble, but his destiny has given him more trouble than the eidetic memory can make up for.

Still, it helps him get out of trying to deal drugs to undercover cops, so that’s a plus.

Mike smooth talks the men trying—and failing—to get into a hotel room. That’s really bad stalling, Mike thinks, and walks away. He can feel their eyes following him, and as soon as he’s in the stairwell and out of sight, he breaks into a run.

***

When Mike runs into the room, he freezes. There is an air of tension, of anticipation, as if something big is about to happen. Mike can almost taste it in the air.

“Rick Sorkin?”

A woman’s voice pulls him from his reverie. Mike jolts. “Excuse me, Mr. Sorkin, you are five minutes late. Is there a reason why I should let you in?

Mike looks at her, and frowns. She seems so familiar…

He stutters, thrown off enough to speak the truth. “I—” He looks around, only now registering the other people in the room, waiting for something. “Look, I’m just trying to ditch the cops, okay? I-I don’t really care if you let me in or not.”

She gives him a look, a little surprised, a little impressed, and he tries even harder to remember who she’s supposed to be, who she was to Merlin. He doesn’t really register her offer of water or her assurances that “Mr. Specter will be right with you”, he’s thinking so hard.

He does turn when the door opens, though, and freezes in shock, inhaling sharply and getting no oxygen. He feels like the breath has been sucker-punched out of him, and he’s ashamed to say that his knees wobble under his weight, for a moment, because that—that’s Arthur standing in the doorway to his right, that’s his Arthur, and he’s so close, and Mike just wants to reach out and touch him, see if he’s real, but he’s scared because he’s waited so long, and he can’t remember his reaction ever being this strong, before.

He exhales quietly, shakily, and follows Arthur—or whatever his name is this time around—into the next room. He looks over his shoulder and sees the woman wink showily at Arthur, and realizes just who she reminded him of, and sees Arthur tilt his head in acknowledgement.

In that moment, Mike runs his eyes over the curved lines of Arthur’s back, his gelled hair, his tailored suit, the breadth of his shoulders and the confidence exuding from his every pore.

Arthur turns around, and Mike schools his features blank.

His hair and eyes are both dark brown, not the fair blond and blue of before. He’s leaner, lither and more polished. He seems like nothing can touch him.

He seems to be around the same height as before, Mike notes as Arthur introduces himself. Arthur—Harvey, Mike corrects—radiates power and smugness with all of his body, just like before. Some things never change, Mike thinks wildly, heart beating too rapidly.

Mike is so caught up in Arthur—Harvey, dammit—that he doesn’t notice his briefcase’s latch loosening in his hand until it’s too late. The briefcase falls open, and the weed comes spilling out.

Harvey cocks a brow and looks mildly surprised, but largely unruffled. Mike marvels at that, even as he starts stuttering and trying to explain.

Harvey waves a hand. “Don’t make excuses. I hate that,” he says, commanding. Mike straightens, mouth falling shut immediately. Harvey pauses at that, a considering look flashing across his face. “Just tell me the truth,” he adds.

So Mike does.

***

Harvey stares at him for a moment after Mike finishes his tale, and then starts chuckling. Mike goes hot all over at the sound.

When his chuckles die down, Harvey asks, “How the hell did you know that they were the police?”

Mike laughs, a little self-deprecatingly. “ I read this novel in elementary school and it was the exact same thing.”

Harvey raises a brow. “You read a novel. In elementary school,” he repeats, disbelief etched on his face.

“What? I like to read,” Mike says, even though he knows that’s not what Harvey was focusing on.

“And why did you ask them what time it was?” Harvey asks, looking only slightly curious.

Mike shrugs. “Throw 'em off. I mean, what kind of drug dealer asks a cop what time it is when he's got a briefcase full of pot, right?”

Harvey smirks, and Mike’s heart stutters. After twenty-five years, this little bit of Arthur is enough to make him ache.

The next minutes are a blur for Mike. He remembers mentioning something about “consuming knowledge like no one you’ve ever met”, and thinks in this lifetime. He remembers Harvey being impressed and leaning back in his chair and testing him, and he remembers Harvey offering a job jokingly and then staring intently and offering it again, this time for real. Mike remembers all of these things vaguely, because he is giddy from feeling Harvey’s undivided attention after so long without his Arthur, basking in the glow of something that feels like a mix of sunshine on his skin—after a lifetime of rain—and the finest high.

It’s addictive, a dangerous rush. Mike wants to feel it again and again and again; and maybe he takes the job partially because he needs the money—and partially because he actually really wants to be a lawyer—but mostly because Mike wants to be as near to Harvey as possible, to get that rush again.

Mike walks out with adrenaline thrumming through his veins, and a smile fixed on his face, his magic humming in excitement and delight.

That night Mike dreams of telling Arthur his secret, that he’s magic, but really, Merlin’s saved Arthur’s life so many times, please, Arthur, please.

There is a flash of anger and hurt across Arthur’s face, and then Mike wakes up.

Mike knows what comes next. What comes next is Arthur punching Merlin in the face and then kissing him breathless, saying “why would you hide this from me” and “you could’ve been killed” and “thank you, thank you” and “I love you” while Merlin gasps and rides it out.

Mike knows this, objectively, but he still feels more than a small bit of fear when he goes to Harvard to find out everything he needs to know; and even more later, when he walks into Pearson Hardman for the first time.

***

Mike looks around, nervous and eager and overwhelmed, all at once. It reminds him of walking into Camelot for the first time, fearful and anticipatory. Mike just hopes that this time he doesn’t have to witness an execution.

Mike walks to the front desk, starting to ask the receptionist where to go, when she interrupts him.

“Have a seat,” she says, obviously preoccupied. She points to the waiting area next to the desk. Mike frowns.

“I—”

She waves at him impatiently. Mike turns to go, when she points in the other direction. Mike sighs and turns around, taking the time to say “thank you”, pointedly.

He moves into the waiting area, looking out the window at the view of the city. It’s incredible, but Mike has seen Camelot and dragons and magic, and not much can really fill him with awe anymore. Still, the Mike Ross who hasn’t had multiple lives would be awed, so Mike continues to stare, anyway.

“Mike Ross?”

Mike turns around and stops dead.

“I’m Rachel Zane,” the woman says. “I’ll be showing you around today.”

Mike blinks. “Wow, you’re—” Gwen, he thinks, but finishes easily with “—pretty.”

Rachel Zane rolls her eyes. “Good, you've hit on me. We can get it out of the way that I'm not interested.”

Mike blinks again, then realizes he should probably respond to that. “No, I'm sorry, I wasn't hitting on you.”

Rachel smirks at him. “Trust me, I've given dozens of these and, without fail, whenever a new hotshot it is who thinks that because I just a paralegal. That I will somehow be blown away by his dazzling degree. Let me assure you, I won't.”

Mike thinks back to Gwen, and his sorry attempt at flirting, and the awkwardness that followed, and has to struggle not to grin. “I was, I was hitting on you.”

“You were,” Rachel says, smiling. “Take notes, I’m not going to repeat myself,” she says, handing him a notepad.

Mike takes it, and waits till she’s out of earshot before whispering “I love you” in as a ridiculous a fashion as he can. Oh, how Mike had missed Gwen.

Rachel keeps talking as they walk, explaining things to him. Mike stores them in his memory even as he looks around. When they reach his cubicle, Rachel calls him on the fact that he hasn’t used the notepad.

Mike grins, and repeats everything she said back word for word.

Rachel narrows her eyes at him, and says “Nobody likes a show-off,” before leaving.

Mike can’t find it in himself to be bothered by it.

***

Mike doesn’t get to see Harvey for a little while after that. He goes to wait in Harvey’s office, passing his assistant—whose name happens to be Donna, but Mike looks at her as Morgana—who waves him in after giving him the side-eye. Mike grins at her, and she looks away, a smile tugging at her lips.

When Harvey comes in, Mike looks up from fiddling with Harvey’s stuff, a grin forming on his face.

“I’m going to have to let you go,” Harvey says, face stony.

“What?” Mike says, smile falling.

Harvey explains the situation, and Mike winces inwardly. The last thing he wants is to put Harvey in danger, vocationally or otherwise.

On the other hand, Mike isn’t about to let Harvey get away so easily.>

So he blackmails Harvey, and feels a little guilty, but not much, because Harvey’s kind of being an ass, and Mike just wants to stay with him.

Harvey frowns, and strides out the door, and Mike shakes his head, not even trying to understand him.

When he comes back, he springs Mike’s first case on him. He briefly explains it, then hands it off.

Mike beams happily, and accepts the challenge.

***

“You’re a kid!” the client says, incredulous.

Mike protests, “No, I-I’m a grown man.” He leaves off the ‘goddamn’, because he doesn’t want to sound too much like Harvey.

The client is sweet and harmless, and in an unfortunate spot of bad luck. Mike feels for her, is furious on her behalf, and promises her he’ll get her out of this mess.

***

Harvey tells him not to care so much. Mike frowns, because that’s not how he remembers Arthur. Arthur always cared a little too much. Arthur always cared, and never had trouble showing it—except to Merlin. To Merlin, Arthur had to express his feelings through banter and double-talk, but Merlin loved it anyway.

Harvey, however, is apparently different. Harvey doesn’t care at all, about anyone or anything. Harvey says feelings get in the way.

Mike doesn’t buy it one bit. He decides then and there that he’s going to prove Harvey wrong. He’s going to make Harvey care, and about Mike, too.

***

Donna is incredible, Mike figures out early on. Donna is fearsome and beautiful and wicked smart, and Mike loves her just as much as he loved Morgana.

Unfortunately, Donna doesn’t seem to quite like him just yet. It’s almost as if she resolutely doesn’t want to be charmed.

Still, Mike wants to be close to her like he couldn’t be before. He doesn’t want Donna to hate him like Morgana began to after so many years of bitterness.

Mike feels more guilty about hiding things fromm her than he does from anyone else. He’s used to Morgana being the one to know everything first. With her precognition, she saw danger coming before Merlin ever could. He feels like he’s tricking her, lying to her, blinding her by keeping the truth from her.

Then there’s the magic. Mike remembers Morgana being all alone with it, because Merlin was too afraid to share his secret. They had a common fear, and they could never speak of it. In other lives, they made things work, they were friends, they shared things no one else did. Mike misses having someone to talk to about magic, and knowing things others don’t. Mike wonders if she has magic this time around—sometimes she does, sometimes she doesn’t. That would be interesting.

Mike resolves to watch Donna closely for any spark of knowledge or recognition. With her visions, there’s a chance that she already knows. Mike would welcome that with every fiber of his being.

***

Mike gets to know Rachel better, over sushi and books on law. They are able to laugh and joke and smile at each other, flirting sweetly and harmlessly. Mike has missed her, so, so much.

Rachel is whip-smart, quirky, beautiful, wicked, and fun. She is polished and put together and uses chopsticks like a pro, and is so perfectly, cleverly competent that he’s giddy with it.

Mike can feel himself getting more than a little infatuated with her, just like always.

Even back in Camelot, Merlin was a little in love with Gwen. (He was also a little in love with Morgana, Gwaine, and Lancelot, and wholly in love with Arthur, because Arthur is his everything, but he somehow still has room to spare.)

***

When Joanna Webster flees from the conference room, dread washes over of Mike. It’s his first case, he can’t lose, he’s not allowed to lose; he can’t disappoint Harvey like that.

Then Harvey sends him after Joanna and all Mike wants to do is drag her back to Pearson Hardman, just to see the pride on Harvey’s face, because Mike may care about the clients, but he cares infinitely more about Harvey.

Unfortunately, that would probably cause some problems—for everyone involved—so he lets her go. He has no choice.

And then he quits, running away like the coward he is, cursing himself because he should’ve known better. This opportunity was just too great, too perfect. There’s no conceivable way it could have worked.

Maybe Mike wanted, the entire time, for Harvey to come after him. Like it mattered to him that Mike had left, like he wanted him to come back.

And he does.

Maybe it’s not for those reasons. Maybe Harvey just wants to get his trouble’s worth. Maybe he thinks that he took the time and effort to hire Mike, and Mike had better work himself to the bone.

Either way, Harvey comes after Mike, and Mike is still skeptical, and Mike is still sure that this is never, ever going to work, but Harvey has gone a long way toward ensuring that Mike stays as long as he can.

Mike leaves the building late at night, after watching Harvey turn around and go back the way he came, knowing all the while that he’s coming back in the morning.

***

Mike sees the Harvey smile when Mike comes through his door. He barely looks up, but he seems pleased nonetheless, a little quirk of the lips appearing on his face.

Mike has to look away, has to move to the wall of glass, throat a little choked with all of his feelings, with being so very close, but not nearly close enough, never close enough.

Harvey comes and stands next to him, uncomfortably comforting. Mike smiles, can’t help himself because Harvey is trying he really is, which means that he cares.

Then Harvey hands him the file, tells him Joanna’s secret, and Mike smirks and says “Press until it hurts.”

He’s going to make Harvey proud, goddamnit, see if he doesn’t.

***

They win the case.

They win the case, and Harvey cares, and Mike is flying, high off success.

Of course, Harvey denies that he cares. Mike doesn’t believe one word of it, and tells him so.

Then Mike follows him out, but it feels like sailing off into the sunset.

Maybe Harvey doesn’t know him, and maybe this is dangerous, and maybe Trevor is gone, but Mike is so happy, so fucking happy anyway. Mike finally dares to let himself hope that this will work out.

***

Mike hasn’t had a dream in a while. His nights have been quiet and empty—or peaceful, some would call it—and Mike is pretty okay with that. The only note-worthy dream occurred in the early morning of the day that Mike met Harvey, though he didn’t know it at the time.

Tonight, he dreams again. It’s of the first time Merlin ever saw the Round Table, the original, with its ancient symbols and beautiful history. He remembers Arthur’s near-breathless pride. He remembers his own happiness and anticipation. But—most importantly for this night, it seems—he remembers the knights.

There is Percival, the newest, barely knowing Arthur, but willing to pledge his life for his reign.

Elyan, with his love and compassion, so sincere in every word he speaks.

Lancelot, who should be Arthur’s rival by all rights, but instead loves him more than any of the other knights, saw the king in Arthur before anyone else.

And Gwaine, dear Gwaine, with his charm and his grin and his wicked humor, teasing in the most serious of times, but so very loyal.

They speak, and Gaius swears fealty, and Gwen declares her love, and Arthur beams at all of them.

And then, then there is Merlin, who is waiting, waiting for Arthur to ask, when everyone else just gave it to him. And Arthur says “Merlin?” and Merlin responds flippantly, even while his heart is singing Yes.

***

Harvey is kind of an ass, is the thing. He expects Mike to know these things, except Mike doesn’t, because he didn’t go to law school. Sometimes Mike thinks Harvey forgets.

So Mike goes and begs help from people who won’t help him, and finally thinks he’s caught a break when Gregory offers a deal.

It stands to reason that Mike gets screwed.

So then Louis does his little show of “generosity”, with his snapping and finger-pointing and tennis-club outings. Honestly, Mike would rather do the work, but whatever.

***

The moment Tom Keller grins at him, with the same charm and humor that Mike has been missing, Mike sees it. It’s what makes him smirk back, what makes him banter and flirt harmlessly, what makes him throw in the offhand remark of “getting high.”

It’s supposed to be safe, to be completely without risk—who would ever find out?—but of course Mike gets completely addled and stupid when he’s high, and doesn’t think twice about going back to work. While he’s high.

Honestly. Of all the stupid things.

Of course, Mike could just waggle his fingers and murmur a few words, and maybe accelerate the drug’s path out of his system, but that takes quite a bit of energy and concentration, things that Mike doesn’t really have when he’s stoned.

So yeah, he goes to work, and Harvey takes one look at him and knows.

“Look at me,” he cuts in, and Mike pauses, before rambling again, faster and more desperate. “Look at me,” Harvey commands, and Mike has no choice but to stop, shut his mouth with an audible click, and struggle to stand up straighter—because that tone, that voice, carries the power of all the kings in its past.

“You’re high,” Harvey says, and sounds so disappointed and cold, and also like he expected nothing different.

***

Rachel catches him, later, in the ladies’ restroom.

“Why are your eyes so red?” she asks, casually.

Mike freezes. “I—” he begins, and then sighs.

“Do you want to take a walk?”

***

They walk past an infinite amount of hot dog carts and passersby, but Mike doesn’t see any of it. Rachel listens to his story attentively, wincing or shaking her head at some parts, and holding her response at others.

“You should have seen his face,” Mike says, voice breaking, and then, idiotically, “We had a deal.”

Rachel looks at him askance, and Mike gives her a carefully vague answer, and he thinks, miserably, That’s the end of that.

But then she says, “Sounds to me like he let you down,” and everything becomes clear again.

***

As they walk back to Pearson Hardman, Rachel is kind enough not to comment on Mike’s silence.

I can fix this, he thinks desperately. I can fix this, I can fix this.

Rachel shoots him a concerned look, but says nothing.

There is a reason why he always loved Gwen.

***

“Is he free?” Mike asks, already moving past Donna’s desk.

“Not for you,” Donna says coolly, and it stops Mike like a wall, sends a shiver down his spine from its hard tone.

“He told you,” he says.

“He didn’t need to,” she says. She looks up, finally. “You hurt him.”

Mike swallows, but stands firm. “Yeah, well, maybe he did the same to me.”

Donna holds his gaze for a moment, then sighs. “Go on,” she says, and Mike rushes forward. “And, Mike?” He pauses. “Be careful.”

Mike nods, and goes in.

***

Mike doesn’t remember much of what happens next. What he remembers is—

“I want you to—I need you to trust me.”

—and—

“So if you’re talking about loyalty, you better goddamn earn it.”

—and the incongruous sound of jazz in the background as Harvey stares out of his glass doors, and Mike can only see the stiff curve of his back, the tense line of his shoulders, and can imagine the tightness near his eyes and mouth; and it makes Mike ache to make it better, to smooth out all the strain and stress and awful hurt, since it’s his fault anyway.

And he’s so close to doing it, he’s so close, but then an offhand remark of his triggers something in Harvey’s brain, and they have to leave the conflict there.

But it’s all right, because Mike knows they’ll come back to it later.

Just like they always have.

***

In the file room, Mike stares unseeingly at the folder in his hand, occasionally setting it down and picking up another, doing his work on autopilot. It would make sense for him to be dead to the world, too lost in his thoughts.

It’s pretty much the opposite. His mind is so tuned to Harvey that he stiffens at every rush of air, nearly turns around at every creak of the door.

He knows immediately when Harvey steps in.

“I always heard about this place. Which room is Hoffa buried in?” Harvey says, smooth as anything.

Mike turns slightly, a half-smile already in place on his face. “I'm not sure, but the Ark of the Covenant is just down the hall on the left.”

Harvey shifts behind him. “When you're finished down here I'd like you to come upstairs, and start putting together a settlement memorandum.”

Mike turns fully, startled. “They went for it?”

Harvey nodded. “Thanks to your idea.”

Mike ducked his head. “Well, I mean, it wasn’t really my idea.”

“They’re settling for 400 million.”

“Okay, yeah, that was my idea.” Mike laughs.

There is an awkward silence, and then Harvey says. “We need to talk about what happened—”

“Look, Harvey—” Mike tries.

“Do we need to have a conversation about you interrupting me?” Harvey says, and Mike is halfway through an apology before he realizes that that look, that look on Harvey’s face? It’s fond, and Mike really, really missed that look.

“Look, sometimes, when someone pulls a gun on you—instead of bullets, it’s filled with blanks.”

Harvey hands Mike a file, and Mike flips through it, realization dawning on him.

“What’s this?” he asks.

“It’s a copy of your drug test results.”

“But—this says I passed.”

“You did,” Harvey says, as if waiting for Mike to get it. Mike already gets it.

Louis set him up. Louis set him up.

That bastard.

“Louis showed me a fake?”

“I’m going to go have a talk with him,” Harvey says, voice dangerous again, and as much as Mike loves Harvey standing up for him, that’s not really what he wants right now.

“You know what, why don’t you let me do it?” Mike puts the paper carefully back into the file, face grim.

“You think you’re ready for the adults’ table?” Harvey asks, smiles growing on his face.

“What, didn’t you hear? I just landed my first client.” And got you one of your knights, Mike doesn’t say. He hands Harvey the file.

“Why do you think I'm showing you this now, and not going straight to Louis?” Harvey asks, and Mike smiles, pleased. Mike walks past him, striding with intent. “Go easy on him,” Harvey adds.

“Nope,” Mike says with satisfaction, grinning.

“Good boy,” Harvey says, and heat rushes through Mike.

Damn straight, he thinks, as he leaves the room.

***

Mike hides a smile as Louis hands him the cup. That’s good, that’s a good try, he thinks. He schools his face into frustration, and sighs. “And now you know I’d fail.”

Louis does a little ranting about “gratitude” and “running to mommy” and whatnot, and Mike—he just can’t hold it in any longer.

He laughs. “You know I actually did some reading of the Pearson-Hardman drug policy as well. Turns out you have to wait three months before you can request another drug test—you see, it's a little detail you might have missed.” Mike pours Louis’s juice-drink thing into the cup, and leaves it on the desk. “So drink up.”

He started to leave, and then paused in the doorway. “Oh, and I spoke to Tom Keller,” he says—as if he forgot, which he hadn’t, he was just waiting for the right time for shock factor— “and he says he'd be best served with the combination of me and Harvey. Think you'll get that call in the morning.”

He leaves with a smirk and a bounce in his step, with Louis’s jaw hitting the floor behind him.

***

Later, Harvey stares at him in disbelief. “You got me a client?”

“Us,” Mike corrects, but he’s grinning.

“I hope you know that I don’t need your clients,” Harvey says. “I’m doing well without them.”

“Well,” Mike says, “I just thought that you’d be happy you stole a client out from under Louis’s nose, but if you’re not—”

“Whoa, whoa,” Harvey says, and now he’s grinning too, “I never said anything of the sort.”

“All right,” Mike says. “So we’re good, then?”

“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Harvey waves him off.

Mike grins wider, and smiles at Donna on the way out.

She smiles back. “What, are you wooing him, now?” she says.

Mike laughs. “Something like that.”

***

Mike’s known awhile—on some level, at least—who Ray is supposed to be.

It’s the loyalty and the compassion—the kind words and the sweet smiles. It makes it kind of hard not to see who exactly he is.

But it isn’t until Ray save his life that it really hits him.

It’s on a day when Mike has to go meet with a client, and Harvey is busy arguing with someone else on the phone. He tells Mike to go ahead without him, and to just take the car, since Harvey’s going to be stuck on a phone for a while, anyway.

So Ray drives Mike to the client’s office, and Mike sits uncomfortably in the back, quiet, because he doesn’t really know Ray that well, yet, and this is really weird without Harvey.

When they reach the office, Mike gets out the side closer to the road, absent-minded; and Ray—who had been off to the side, attempting to open the door for him—hurriedly pulls him in by the sleeve, out of the way of a car.

Mike freezes, wide-eyed.

Ray exhales in a rush. “Are you all right?” he asks.

“Shit,” Mike says, stunned, “that almost hit me.”

He hears, rather than sees, the amusement in Ray’s voice when he says, “Yes.”

“I don’t know how I can possibly thank you,” Mike says, still catching his breath.

Ray leads him by the elbow around the back of the car, to the sidewalk. Smiling, he says, “Well, I guess you’ll just have to owe me one.”

Mike grins.

Ray grins back, then says, “We’ve got to stop having our first meetings like this.”

Mike frowns, because that didn’t make any sense, how—

Oh. Oh.

He gapes at Ray, who winks and says, “And you didn’t even use your magic this time.”

Mike laughs breathlessly, then laughs some more.

They end up not telling Harvey. Merlin and Lancelot never told Arthur the half of it anyway.

***

Later, Mike asks Ray, “Why do you remember? How do you remember?”

Ray just smirks, and says, “You didn’t think he’d be left defenseless, did you?”

***

One time, when Rachel is poring over books with Mike, she lets something slip about her cousin—a paralegal as well.

“Oh?” says Mike distractedly. “Does he work in New York?”

“Actually,” Rachel says, “he works in Pearson Hardman. He’s just not known to Harvey, so you don’t really know him.”

“Oh,” Mike says, and they drop the subject.

***

A few days later, Rachel says something about growing up with a cousin who was practically her brother.

“Is this the same cousin who works here?” Mike asks casually, a thought forming in his mind.

“Yeah,” Rachel says. “His name’s Elliot.”

“Ah,” says Mike, and very carefully does not grin.

He asks the associates about Elliot the Paralegal, and they point him in the right direction.

He walks into his office, and says, “Hi, I’m Mike Ross.”

Elliot looks up and smiles. “No, you’re not.”

Mike blinks, then grins a slow grin.

He starts going to Elliot for help, after that, and drops his name whenever Harvey asks.

One day, Harvey asks, “So this Elliot kid, is he any good?” and starts telling Mike to ask Elliot for help when he needs it.

Mike smiles.

***

Of course, they don’t all remember, Mike thinks sometimes, when he’s feeling more morose. Tom Keller didn’t remember. Mike has no idea where the hell Percy and Leon are, and they very well may not know anything.

But Mike waits for them to show up, and hopes for the best.

***

After Mike and Harvey work with McKernon Motors, Dominic courteously offers to take Harvey and Mike out for drinks. Mike is pleased that he’s making an effort to get along with Harvey.

Harvey, however, declines, and Mike can’t help but notice that Dominic looks a little relieved. Harvey doesn’t give a reason, but looks pleased and anticipatory enough that Mike has to fight down the jealousy that rises through him.

Needless to say, Mike accepts.

In the easy, comfortable period of time that follows, they switch between conversation and friendly silence. Dominic seems to loosen up, shoulders unhunching and smile easier. He still isn’t talkative by any means, but Mike doesn’t feel awkward and apprehensive around him anymore.

He does, however, get careless.

At some point, late in the evening, he calls Dominic “Percy”, then winces, hoping Dominic didn’t notice.

Dominic just laughs, a distant, bittersweet look in his eyes, and says, “Nobody’s called me that in years.”

Mike glances at him sharply, searching for that glint of recognition but sees nothing. He nods, pretending he knows what Dominic’s talking about.

When he goes home, though, he looks over the copies he has of the files on McKernon Motors. He leafs through the pages before he gets to Dominic’s employee file.

Dominic Percival Barone.

“Huh,” Mike says aloud, and goes to bed.

It isn’t until the morning, when his head is clearer, that the realization catches up with him.

***

Saturday, Mike is sick, and it is awful.

His nose is runny, the skin around it is raw, his eyes are red, and his head aches.

Of course, then someone shows up at his door.

He hears the knocking, and considers yelling “I’m not home, go away,” but figures that’s probably not polite.

He trudges wearily over, and opens the door to Donna’s smirking face.

“What—”

“Oh, honey,” she says, smirk still firmly in place, “you look awful.”

“Thanks for that,” Mike says, and lets her in.

“I brought you some tea,” Donna says, and hands him a box. “It’s good for you.”

Mike reads the label. “Earl Grey,” he says. “My grandma used to keep this at home.” He looks up at Donna. “Thanks.”

“No problem,” Donna says. “I know it’s not your favorite, but I didn’t know what all was in the kind you used to drink. Way back when.”

Mike tilts his head at her. “What?”

Donna grins at him. “Have I never told you that my middle name is Morgan?”

Mike raises his eyebrows. “No,” he says, a smile starting to form on his face.

“No?” Donna says. “Well, I thought you should know.”

Mike smiles.

***

A few days later, Mike asks Donna, "Why do you think the knights are all showing up? I don't know—did this happen before? It seems like so soon, I don’t—”

Donna laughs, interrupting. “Honey,” she says, “it’s not Destiny this time around. This is all you. Haven’t you realized?”

“What?” Mike asks, perplexed.

“You’re gathering the knights,” Donna says, and beams.

***

The thing to understand, the most important thing, is that Merlin always took care of his own.

Now, “his own” was a very broad, inclusive area, that contained the knights, Gaius, Gwen and Morgana, Arthur, and most—if not all—of the entire peoples of both Ealdor and Camelot.

It was a lot of people to protect and take care of, but Merlin was always up to the job. He wouldn’t have wanted it any other way, and when someone he loved needed him, he was always there, ready to help, and damn the consequences.

Merlin was used to that.

Mike is still used to that.

So when the town car crashes into a cab, and Ray is standing in the street, furious and frustrated, Mike wants nothing more than to defend him with his entire soul.

But Mike doesn’t know Ray, not according to this universe—not well enough to really want to save him. And so, Mike leaves to chat up their client, and Harvey is left to defend Ray like Mike so wants to.

***

And when Trevor comes back, Mike is so ready to hang up the phone in the middle of a sentence, to slam the metaphorical door and never look back, but then—well, then, Trevor is so unexpectedly sweet, and he really seems to have changed, and.

And he’s Mike’s best friend, and Mike can’t just let him go.

But then, Trevor goes and gets himself into trouble again, again, and Mike doesn’t want him to be hurt, can’t let him die.

So when Mike gets the call from the drug dealers, it takes a lot of effort not to let the color drain from his face. For a moment, he is back in Camelot, and his mother is there, pleading for help, and then he’s in Ealdor and Kanen is menacing the village.

Trevor tells him not to come, but Mike knows that means they’ll kill him, and even if Mike were somehow going to let that happen (which he isn’t, thank you very much), Merlin sure as hell isn’t going to. Merlin isn’t going to let Will die again, not if he can help it.

So Mike has no choice but to go, because just like that one time in Ealdor, Mike can’t not help. Of course, back then, Merlin had had Arthur on his side, and Morgana and Gwen, but this time he doesn’t, this time he is all by himself, and—

Harvey stops him outside the courthouse. He asks—no, he demands—that Mike let him help, holding Mike in place with his hands on Mike’s chest. Mike freezes in shock, because a) Harvey’s hands are on his chest, and b) Harvey is offering his help with Mike’s drug dealer best friend, instead of just saying “clean your own shit up”, or worse, “figure it out”. Mike is heady with the moment of disbelief and the thought of he does care, before his mind snaps back into action.

Mike explains the situation.

Harvey tells him the plan.

***

Jenny is one of his, now, and Mike has to protect her, too. Which is why he feels awful for treating her like this, for not being able to love her like she deserves to be loved.

She sees him growing distant, sometimes, and smiles sadly, and he knows she thinks it’s Rachel, just like Rachel thinks it’s Jenny she’s up against, and he lets them both think it’s the other they have to be worried about.

But he can’t love either of them fully—he can’t ever love them more than he loves Harvey, if only because Harvey is Arthur, and Arthur is everything.

***

And when Cameron Dennis shows up, and Harvey looks suddenly vulnerable and young, it’s all Mike can do not to grab Harvey by the wrist and—and do the same, and take care of him, which he knows Harvey would never stand for.

(After everything is over and done with, Mike will ask Harvey, “Was he ever your friend?”

And Harvey, in a voice imbued with both melancholy and victory, will say, “I thought so.”

“And now?” Mike prods.

“Now,” Harvey says. “Now, I’d say he’s more of a wayward father.”

“Yeah,” Mike says, and thinks, sounds about right.)

Mike sees how hard Harvey tries to push him away from this case, to keep Mike separate and closed off, because Harvey is vulnerable, and knows it, and hates it.

Mike understands that. It just makes him want to help Harvey all the more.

Mike is good with things that are a little less on the legal side of things, and Harvey knows that. Mike suspects that the only reason Harvey listens to him, though, is that he’s desperate.

Harvey wants to win. Harvey needs to win.

Mike wants to win, too, for Harvey, to help Harvey get his own back, because seeing him like this—even thought it makes him seem infinitely realer—makes something hurt sharply and viciously inside of him.

***

Mike walks past Harvey’s office, and sees him standing at his wall of glass, staring at the view outside, and can’t help but notice the stiffness of his shoulders. When Harvey turns around, Mike sees, in the moment before he leaves so Harvey doesn’t see him, that Harvey’s face is drawn, and it looks like he hasn’t been getting enough sleep.

Donna shoots him a look as he walks by, and it’s worried and helpless, and Mike just wants to break something with frustration at how broken Harvey must be feeling, to make Donna look like that.

Mike just wants this to be over.

“We’re helping him,” Donna says to him. “We really are.”

“Not enough,” Mike says.

“Maybe not,” Donna allows, “but we’re doing the best we can.”

***

When Trevor comes back, Mike is so weary of it, because he really, really doesn’t need this right now—but Trevor really seems to have steadied himself, leveled out, taken care of himself.

Mike appreciates that. And he has missed Trevor, really, because Trevor was always a constant, even when he was being an asshole.

But then Trevor says something about maybe getting Jenny back, and Mike grits his teeth against the anxiety that churns in his stomach. Mike wants them to be happy, he really does, but Jenny is too good for Trevor, and Trevor is too wild for Jenny, and Mike knows that if they go back together, both of them will fall into their patterns of before.

And Mike doesn’t want that, because even if Jenny would be loved more fully with Trevor than with Mike, she obviously doesn’t want him anymore, and that’s the really important thing. She’s not a prize, not something that Mike stole from Trevor, not a cause for war between them.

And besides, Jenny’s right. Trevor really, really isn’t cut out to handle them right now, and so as wrong as it feels, they decide to hide it from him. For the best.

For the best.

So why doesn’t it feel like it’s for the best?

***

When the whole Clifford Danner fiasco is finally over and done with, it’s with mixed feelings that Mike goes home.

On the one hand, it’s over, they won, and they did the right thing—they got an innocent man out of jail, and that’s fantastic, it is.

On the other hand, Mike—and he feels awful about this, honestly—kind of misses the feeling of being Harvey’s partner more than anything else; of helping Harvey because Harvey was angry and emotional and too, too invested to think straight; of taking care of Harvey.

He misses that warmth Merlin used to feel, when he healed a battle wound of Arthur’s. When Arthur fought things both seen and unseen, Merlin stood by him and fought, too, and Arthur would smile at him with a gratefulness he could never really speak of. And when Uther died, Merlin tried to save him, for Arthur, and eventually, eventually the sadness fell from Arthur's countenance, and from the ashes arose a new, infinitely greater king.

Mike misses that.

He just hopes that, in time, Harvey will trust him enough to let him have that feeling again.

***

He dreams, that night.

Merlin hears the door open behind him. He sits on the stone floor, head leaned against the wall, eyes open and unseeing.

He feels numb.

“Merlin,” he hears, and lifts his head, turns it to see Arthur standing in the doorway. Merlin doesn’t say anything, but he stands up clumsily, meeting Arthur’s eyes.

Arthur looks at him inscrutably. “Did you stay here all night?”

“I didn’t want you to feel,” Merlin says hoarsely, “like you were alone in this.”

Arthur smiles at him, then, and looks like together, they can conquer the world.

Merlin smiles back at him helplessly, and feels like maybe, maybe they can.

***

When Mike goes to work the next day, he sees Harvey sitting in his cubicle. “What do you need?” he asks.

“Come with me,” Harvey orders, brushing past Mike. Mike frowns, but follows him to his office.

“Yes?” Mike asks. He looks again at Harvey’s face, the tightness around his eyes and his clenched jaw, and asks, “What’s wrong?”

Harvey sighs. “Shut the door.”

Mike does so, then comes back.

“Sit down,” Harvey says, gesturing to the couch. Mike sits.

“Harvey,” he says, worried now, “what’s going on?”

“I stopped by Jessica’s office this morning,” Harvey starts mildly.

Mike leans back, waiting.

“To thank her for, you know, the whole Clifford Danner business.” Harvey waves a hand in the air.

Mike makes an affirmative noise.

“And she gives me this look,” Harvey continues, “and I say, ‘Jessica, what’s wrong?’”

Mike sits up straight.

“And she says, ‘Harvey, what the hell is so important about this kid?’” Harvey’s voice grows abruptly harder.

Mike feels himself pale. “What—” he starts.

“And I say ‘Why Jessica, whatever do you mean,’ and she says, ‘Why would you put yourself on the line for a screw-up pothead with no law degree?’” Harvey stops.

Mike stares, mouth half open in shock.

“Well?” Harvey gestures impatiently.

Mike closes his mouth, swallows. “I—well shit, I don’t—how?”

Harvey sighs. “I don’t know,” he says. “But she wants to see you, so I’m assuming she’s going to tell you.”

Mike drops his head into his hands. “Oh god,” he says, voice breaking.

“Yeah, kid, I know,” Harvey says, and turns away.

***

“Mike,” says Jessica when Mike knocks hesitantly on her door. “Come in, sit down.”

Mike sits gingerly, and his nervousness is palpable. Jessica leans forward, folding her hands on the desk, and decides to let him stew for a moment.

“I’m guessing Harvey has filled you in on the recent events?” she asks pleasantly.

“Yeah,” Mike croaks, then clears his throat. “Yeah,” he says again.

“Mm-hm,” Jessica says, stifling amusement at his apprehension. “You probably want to know what it is I know, don’t you?”

“I—yes,” Mike says.

“Well,” Jessica says. “For starters, I know that you used to smoke pot.”

Mike winces.

“I know that you were only at the hotel where Harvey was hiring associates because you were there for a drug deal, and that you were running from the cops,” Jessica continues. “Am I right so far?”

Mike sighs. “Yes, ma’am,” he says.

“I also happen to know that you don’t actually have a law degree from Harvard. In fact, you don’t even have a law degree—at all.”

Mike flinches, looking down at his knees.

“Well, Mike, this is quite the problem, isn’t it?” Jessica asks dryly. Mike doesn’t say anything. “You seem...nervous,” Jessica says calmly.

Mike stares. “I—yes, I’d think that would be obvious.”

“And understandable,” Jessica says. “What do you think I’m going to do?”

“I couldn’t say,” Mike says.

Jessica smiles. “Fine, then. Let me rephrase: what do you think I should do?”

“I—” Mike starts, then stops.

“Go on,” Jessica prompts.

“Well, if I were you,” Mike says haltingly, “I would probably fire me.”

“Yeah,” Jessica says, “that would probably be the smartest choice.”

Mike swallows. “So, that’s it, then?”

“Now hold on,” Jessica says, smirking. “That’s not what I said, is it?”

“No,” Mike says, frowning, “I just assumed—”

“Don’t assume,” Jessica says. “Never assume anything.”

“So you aren’t firing me?” Mike says, confused and reluctantly hopeful.

“No,” Jessica says. “Pearson Hardman has definitely benefited from your work.”

“Really?” Mike asks, eyes wide. “I—thank you, I—”

“In fact,” Jessica says, over him, with the sense of pulling out a trump card, “I might even go so far as to say that you’re destined to be here.”

Mike stops dead.

“I’m sorry?” he says, and Jessica can practically see his brain working.

Jessica sits back in her chair and grins. “Just now picked up on it, did you, Merlin?”

“You—how—”

“—am I human?” Jessica examines her nails with a disinterested eye. “Because I can. And I was curious.”

Mike exhales slowly. “Curious about what?”

“Curious about how it felt to be part of Destiny, for a change.” Jessica smiles. “So far, it pleases me immensely. I don’t know why you all are always complaining about it.”

Mike sighs and puts his head in his hands. “Just when I thought I knew how this Destiny thing worked, you go and change it up again.”

“Oh, Mike,” Jessica says. “That’s my job.”

Mike lifts his head. “If you don’t mind me asking, how did you find out?” He obviously means about the drug dealing and missing degree, which Jessica really couldn’t care less about.

Jessica waves a hand dismissively in the air. “Friend of yours,” she says, and watches in fascination as Mike’s eyes narrow. He gets up, and storms out her office without a word.

She sits back, smiles, and lets him go.

***

When Mike goes to Jenny’s apartment, Trevor is there, sitting at the counter with his head in his hands.

Mike drops his briefcase.

It thuds loudly against the floor, and Trevor’s head jerks up.

“Mike,” he says casually, “how are you?”

“How am I?” Mike says, and is suddenly so furious that he can’t even breathe. “How am I—you—” he stops, presses the heels of his hands to his eyes. “How dare you?”

To Trevor’s credit, he doesn’t try to deflect. “Look, man,” he says, “I’m sorry.”

“Oh?” Mike says, walking toward him now. Trevor jerks to his feet. “You’re sorry? Oh, well, then I guess it’s all okay, right?”

“I just—I was just so angry—”

“So you sold me out?” Mike yells. “How are you even justifying this?”

“You’re sleeping with my girlfriend!” Trevor shouts back.

“Your ex-girlfriend,” Mike says, “You know that if you were still dating her, I would never have done anything with her. I would never, ever betray you like that!”

“And yet you didn’t tell me?” Trevor replies. “Why not, if you weren’t feeling guilty?”

“Because you came to me,” Mike says, “and you were really messed up, let me tell you, and Jenny and I were just waiting for you to get your shit together before we told you.”

Trevor scoffs. “And you just decided that for me? I bet it was your idea, wasn’t it, to keep it from me, because you were too scared to tell me—”

“I wanted to tell you!” Mike says, and Trevor falls silent. “I wanted to, believe me, I did.”

“Then why didn’t you?” Trevor says.

Mike pinches the bridge of his nose. “I don’t know,” he says, finally. “But you shouldn’t have gone to Jessica. Didn’t you think I might get fired? Or were you counting on it?”

“You got fired?” Trevor says, eyes widening. “Shit, Mike, I—”

“What did you think would happen?”

“I don’t know,” Trevor says, “I—”

“I didn’t.” Mike cuts in. “Get fired, that is.”

Trevor sighs. “Don’t scare me like that.”

“But no, seriously,” Mike says, “what did you really think would happen when you told my boss that I don’t have a law degree, and that I used to smoke and occasionally sell pot?”

“I wasn’t thinking,” Trevor says.

“Yeah,” Mike says. “I can see that.”

“Can we just—” Trevor starts, then stops. He waits a beat, then tries again. “Can we just pretend this didn’t—”

Mike doesn’t let him finish that sentence, anger returning full force. He doesn’t feel his eyes flash gold, but can see by the expression on Trevor’s face that they do. He holds out a hand, and Trevor goes flying back against the counter, arms pinned to his side, immobilized.

“Mike,” he says, breathlessly. “What the hell is going on?”

Mike doesn’t answer, but steps forward until he looms in front of Trevor. He puts his hands on the sides of Trevor’s head, pressing his fingertips into Trevor’s temples.

Remember,” he hisses, and magic flows through him.

Trevor gasps, eyes rolling back in his head as memories return to him in a flood. His body jerks and stiffens, then falls limp.

Mike waits, eyes still golden.

Trevor opens his eyes, slowly, and his gaze is distant and weary when it meets Mike’s. In them, Mike sees something he hasn’t seen since his last lifetime.

Will’s eyes widen. “Merlin,” he says. “Merlin, please, please forgive me, I don’t know what—”

“Enough,” Merlin commands. “I believe you. I just wanted you to know just how horrible your betrayal was. You’re my best friend,” he says. “You should know better.”

“I should, I should,” Will cries, “I’m so sorry.”

Mike sighs, eyes turning back to blue. He sees Will retreat a little, and Trevor collapses against the counter, breathing harshly. “It’s all right,” Mike says. “I know you know better, now.”

“Yes,” Trevor says vehemently. “I promise, I’ll be better.”

“I know you will.” Mike smiles. “Will was always good to me.”

“It was only Trevor who screwed you over, huh?” Trevor laughs, self-deprecating.

Mike releases him from his magical bonds. “Something like that,” he says, but his smile is fond.

***

When Mike next goes to Jenny’s place, Trevor is there with her. They’re sitting on the couch, talking quietly, and they stop abruptly when they see him.

They look guilty, as if they’re afraid he’s going to jump all over them and accuse them of something. He just smiles at them warmly, because he is so glad that the three of them can be friends again.

Then he remembers the reason he came here, and he sighs.

Jenny squints at him. “What’s wrong?” she asks.

“I—” Mike says, but can’t finish.

Jenny bites her lip. “Trevor,” she says, and her voice is steadier than Mike’s could be, “could you give us a minute?”

Trevor glances between them, but goes.

“Sit down,” Jenny says, patting the a space beside her on the couch.

Mike sits.

“I’m so sorry,” Mike says, voice choked, and he is, he is so, so sorry for this.

Jenny closes her eyes, shuts them tight. “Is it Rachel?” she asks wearily.

“No,” Mike says vehemently. “I promise.”

“Then who?” Jenny says, her voice cracking on who.

“No one,” Mike says.

“Don’t bullshit me, Mike,” she snaps. “You owe that to me, at the very least.”

“It’s no one,” Mike says. “Honestly. At least—it’s not because I’ve done anything with anyone else, I haven’t, I—”

“I know that,” Jenny says dismissively. “You wouldn’t do that.”

“No,” Mike agrees.

“But there is someone else,” Jenny says. It’s not a question.

“It’s—complicated,” Mike says, wincing.

Jenny sighs. “I guess this is it, then.”

Mike rubs his face with a hand. “I am sorry,” he offers.

“I know,” Jenny says. “I just wish that we could’ve made it work.”

“It wasn’t your fault,” Mike says.

Jenny looks at him. “Well, yeah,” she says, “it wasn’t really anyone’s fault, but I still wish it could’ve worked.”

“Yeah,” Mike says.

After that there really isn’t anything to say, and Mike leaves, both relieved and melancholy.

***

Later that night, there’s a knock at his door.

Mike opens it, and Jenny is there.

“Look,” she says, pushing past him into the apartment. “I’ve seen you pulling away for a while. I thought it was Rachel, but if it’s not, then—” She sighs, coming to face him. “I don’t want to keep you in a loveless relationship.”

Mike nods, waiting.

“The truth is,” Jenny continues, “it’s not just you.”

“It’s not?” Mike says.

“No,” Jenny says. “I think this has been coming for a while.”

Mike snorts. “You didn’t really look very surprised.”

“Yeah,” Jenny says, “I wasn’t.” She pushes him on the shoulder. “I just like giving you a hard time.”

“I know you do,” Mike says, and rubs his shoulder.

He waits a moment, the awkwardness ratcheting up by the second.

“As trite as this is going to sound,” he finally says, “I hope we can still be friends.”

Jenny laughs, throws back her head and laughs, and it’s not really that funny, but it’s a relief to laugh, so Mike joins in.

“Oh, Mike,” Jenny says, when they calm down. “Were you actually worried about that?”

“No, not really,” Mike says, and grins. “Though I didn’t think it would be this easy,” he says.

“I’m just a lot smarter than you,” Jenny says.

“That you are,” Mike agrees solemnly.

“And we’re too cool for melodrama,” she adds.

“Yep,” Mike laughs.

***

The next day is nice, peaceful. Mike and Jenny go out to lunch, and talk about little things, and Trevor, and life in general, just like they used to. It’s...nice, to be able to have that comfortable relationship again.

They sit in comfortable silence while they eat, until Jenny fidgets with her fork, brow furrowed.

“What’s up?” Mike asks.

“I—” Jenny says. “When it comes down to it, I just want you to be happy. You know that, right?”

“Yes,” Mike says slowly. “Where is this going?”

“And if there were someone else,” she continues, “which I’m 99.9% sure there is, I wouldn’t hold it against you if you decided to...go for it.” She waves a hand in the air. “I wouldn’t go all psycho-ex-girlfriend on you, I swear.”

“I believe you,” Mike says, grinning.

“Who is it?” Jenny asks.

Mike smiles. “Not ‘who is she’?”

Jenny laughs. “I know you better than to assume that.”

“Yeah,” Mike says. His smile fades. “You do.”

“So,” Jenny says. “A he, then. Who is he? Do I know him?”

“A little, yeah,” Mike says.

“Is it Harvey?” Jenny asks dryly.

Mike sputters. “What—why would you—”

“I knew it!” Jenny crows.

“How did you know?” Mike says incredulously, not bothering to deny it.

“You’re devoted to him,” Jenny says. “It’s obviously more than just gratefulness.”

Mike groaned. “And here I was, thinking I was being subtle.”

“Maybe to someone who doesn’t know you as well as I do.” Jenny smiles. “Think anything will come of it?”

“I don’t know,” Mike says honestly. “Maybe. It’ll take a while, though.” He grins. “He’s kind of an idiot when it comes to emotions.”

Jenny laughs loudly. “Oh, sounds like you’re made for each other.”

Mike sighs. “Yeah.” There’s a pause, and then he says, “So, does this make us girlfriends, now, or something?”

Jenny snorts. “Oh, yeah,” she says. “He’s, like, totally into you. Girlfriend.”

***

He doesn’t feel the void that Jenny had filled until he goes to work on Monday.

He sees Harvey, and he aches, but he doesn’t feel guilt anymore, because he has been honest with Jenny. You’d think that would make him feel better, but instead it makes the actual ache more pronounced.

There’s no one to distract him, now. There’s no Jenny, and there’s no Trevor, and Rachel just isn’t an option (he has too much pride and too much common sense to get into that).

Not that he needs to be with anybody.

It just—it makes it easier, when he remembers Arthur, and what he and Merlin shared, and then sees Harvey throwing up his walls every time anyone gets too close.

Donna gives him a look when he walks by her, and he summons a smile.

“Hi, Donna,” he says. “You’re looking particularly lovely today.”

“Thank you,” Donna says. “I wish I could say the same for you.”

Mike smiles again, this time genuine. “Thanks, Donna,” he says.

“Don’t mention it,” Donna replies. She lays a hand gently on his arm. “Jenny not work out?”

“It didn’t feel right,” Mike says. “She was awesome about it.”

“I bet,” Donna says, and grins. “Back to lonely pining, then?”

“Mm-hm,” Mike says flippantly. “Somehow I think I’ll survive.”

Donna snorts and mutters something that sounds suspiciously like “two halves of the same whole.”

“Hey,” Mike says half-heartedly.

“Go on in,” Donna says, “he’s waiting for you.”

Mike grins. “Guess we’re even, then.”

It helps when Donna does that, when she makes it light-hearted—because otherwise, Mike has a tendency to take both himself and Destiny too seriously.

***

Mike stays late that night, poring over files with Harvey in his office, because they’re working for a big client who has a habit of getting themselves into trouble. A lot.

At one point, Harvey attempts to send Mike home.

“Go,” he says, waving a hand at the door. “It’s 9:00 pm, go home to your girlfriend.”

“What girlfriend?” Mike says, and Harvey looks up at him.

“Not that I really care,” he drawls, “but what happened?”

“Nothing really,” Mike says. “Just—drifted apart, I guess.”

“I see,” Harvey says. “Another girl, hmm?”

“No,” Mike says. “No one else.” He hopes he doesn’t sound too pointed.

“Oh,” Harvey says, and goes back to his files, and they drop it.

***

But it’s not always that easy.

There are days when Mike doesn’t recognize himself; where he wakes up disoriented by the sounds of the city (traffic means a different thing here than in Camelot); where he stares blankly at his appliances and his apartment and his clothes before they starts to make sense; where the only things that seem real are his memories, and the rest all feels like some sort of fever-dream.

Those days are always the hardest.

On those days, Merlin is more powerful than Mike, the past more prominent than the present, like he’s being reminded of Destiny and all that. Names come out normally for this time, but taste wrong on Mike’s tongue, and there’s a hesitation before every interaction.

People call his name, and Mike doesn’t answer, doesn’t recognize it, thinks they must be calling someone else since that’s not his name. They have to call three or four times, have to wave their hands in front of his face, have to tap him on the shoulder and roll their eyes when he jerks, surprised.

Harvey comes and finds him at his desk, yells at him when he does something wrong, and is the same as he always is; and yet Mike stares at him more than normal, finds it hard not to reach out and touch, has to look away when Harvey smiles.

Harvey looks at him piercingly, when Mike stiffens at Harvey’s slight touch to his shoulder, but says nothing.

Mike exhales slowly, and presses his forehead to his desk.

It’s usually then that Donna has Elliot pay him a visit.

“Mike,” Elliot says, not unkindly, “you’ve got to come back to us, Mike.”

“I’m not dreaming,” Mike says, though he knows he may as well be. “You don’t need to wake me up.”

“Don’t I?” Elliot says. “What’s my name, then.”

“Elliot,” Mike says with a little laugh at how ridiculous it is, but there is a slight falter before the last syllable, even he has to admit.

“Come back to us,” Elliot says again, and leaves. “Oh yeah,” he calls over his shoulder, “Harvey wants to see you.”

“Right,” Mike says. “All right.”

When he walks past Donna on his way in, a few minutes later, she stops him with a hand on his arm.

“All right?” she murmurs, never looking away from her computer screen.

“Yeah,” Mike says, and smiles.

He walks in, sits down, and lets Harvey’s voice wash over him. He listens, and manages to think of himself as Mike, and of Harvey as Harvey—and Merlin fades, amicably, into the background once more.

***

Months after the Clifford Danner case, Mike walks into Harvey’s office on a Monday night, to see him in a chair, hunched over a pile of papers. His jacket is off and his sleeves rolled up, and Mike can see the tan skin of his forearms, and how they contrast against the stark white of his shirt.

Mike shifts in the doorway.

Harvey looks up, eyes unfocused. After a moment, they sharpen. “Mike,” he says. “Sit down.” He gestures with a hand toward the other chair, then waves the same hand to include the papers on the table. “I was just—” He cuts off, rubs a hand over his face.

Mike sits, and picks up one of the papers. He frowns, then picks up another. He shuffles through them all, eyes flicking rapidly over names and details.

“These are all court cases you worked while you were at the DA’s office,” he says.

“Yes,” Harvey affirms. “I want to make sure that there wasn’t another mistake, that I didn’t—”

“No,” Mike says. “No, Harvey you can’t.”

“I’d appreciate it if you didn’t tell me what I can and cannot do,” Harvey says stiffly.

Mike stiffens. “Please don’t do this to yourself,” he says, tries not to sound too much like he’s begging. “You can’t save them all.”

“I can try,” Harvey says. He unrolls his sleeves, buttons them up, and slips his jacket back on. Mike stifles a flinch, because he can see all to clearly what Harvey is doing—he’s shielding himself, distancing himself from Mike. His suits are his armor, and he’s protecting himself.

Mike hates that Harvey thinks that he has to.

***

“I can’t stand to see him like this,” Mike says to Donna, one day.

“I don’t like it, either,” Donna says, “but I’m not sure that we can really stop him.”

“He can’t do this forever,” Mike says, “but if he gets too caught up in it, he’ll try to. I can’t let that happen, I can’t let this ruin him.”

“Were you really expecting him to let this go?” Donna asks. “Cameron was like a father to him.”

“Cameron is his father,” Mike points out.

“Not in this life,” Donna corrects.

“Thank god,” Mike agrees.

***

Friday, late at night, Mike calls Harvey.

“Yes?” Harvey answers, his voice muddled.

“Oh, god, were you asleep?” Mike says. “Sorry.”

“No, it’s fine,” Harvey says. “What did you need?” There’s the sound of papers rustling over the line, and Mike frowns at his empty apartment.

“Harvey, are you still at work?”

“Hmm?” Harvey says absently. “Oh—yeah.”

“Harvey,” Mike says, “it’s 11:00.”

“Yes?” Harvey asks. “And?”

Go home,” Mike says.

“Yes, yes, whatever,” Harvey says. “Did you need something?”

“Never mind,” Mike says, “it doesn’t matter,” because he doesn’t know how to say that he just felt anxious—that he knew something wasn’t right, that he had the urge to call Harvey, and tried to shake it off, but ended up calling him anyway. “Go home,” he says. “Get some sleep.”

Mike hears Harvey sigh, and can picture him so clearly—sleeves rolled up, tie tossed over the back of his chair, shirt unbuttoned at the top, hair ungelled.

“All right,” Harvey says.

“Yeah,” Mike says. “Good.”

Goodbye Mike,” Harvey says pointedly, and Mike grins like an idiot, because Harvey sounds more normal than he has for days, and no one can see Mike right now, anyway.

“Night, Harvey.”

***

Monday morning, Mike comes in to see a coffee waiting for him on his desk. A muffin lies unassumingly next to it on a napkin. Mike takes a bite. Blueberry.

He’s surprised that the others haven’t stolen it—or the coffee.

When he sees Donna a few minutes later, he smiles broadly at her. “Thanks!” he says. “What did I do to deserve a muffin, too?”

“Uh-uh,” Donna says. “Wasn’t me.”

Mike frowns. “Elliot?”

“He’s out sick, today.”

“Huh,” Mike says.

“In other, unrelated news,” Donna says, “Harvey seems quite a bit better today, so.”

Mike grins at the half-finished coffee in his hand. “Maybe not so unrelated, then,” he says.

“You think?” Donna says innocently.

***

The next week, Mike is late to work. He wakes up fifteen minutes before he needs to be at Pearson Hardman, hunched up on the couch, still in his suit.

He swears, and stands up hurriedly. He brushes ineffectually at his clothing, runs a hand through his hair, and tries to straighten himself up, before he just stops.

“Goddammit,” he says, and springs into action.

Five minutes later, he’s out the door, hair still mussed, and suit wrinkled but at least clean.

That’s how he shows up at the office, ten minutes after that, only now he looks even more rumpled from the bike ride over, and his cheeks are red from the wind.

When he walks in the door, Kyle glances at him and laughs. “Nice night, Speed Bump?”

Harvey takes one look at him before looking away, a muscle jumping in his jaw.

Mike frowns, and says, “I’m sorry I’m late, I just got delayed this morning—”

“Yeah, I can see that,” Harvey says shortly.

Mike knows what he’s thinking, since he knows how he looks (hair ruffled, clothes wrinkled, cheeks red), and can see his reflection in the way Harvey’s lips are compressed into a thin line.

Mike doesn’t bother to correct his assumption.

When he leaves to go to his desk, Donna leans over and smirks. “Looks like somebody got lucky this morning.”

“Oh my god,” Mike says, a little mortified. “I just woke up late, christ.”

Harvey is terse with him for the rest of the day, and doesn’t look directly at him for more than a few moments at a time.

It’s driving Mike more than a little insane.

Every time Harvey says something to him without a glance, Mike has to grit his teeth to keep from just shouting at him to look at me, just look at me, can’t you even—

Maybe he’s lost control of this situation.

***

“You haven’t been in to see me for a little while,” Helena admonishes when Mike goes to visit her the next week.

Mike winces, because yes, it’s been a few weeks, which is longer than he’s gone before, and he already feels pretty bad about it. Helena’s casual remark just makes him feel guiltier. “I know, Grammy,” he says quietly. “I’m sorry.”

Helena sighs. “Sit down,” she says, reaching out as if to pat the bed next to her—but finding herself gesturing aimlessly at the side of bed. “Pull up a chair,” she amends.

Mike smiles and finds a chair over the opposite wall. He pulls it over to Helena’s bedside and sits down in a heap. “So,” he says. “What’s new?”

Helena gives him a dry look, and an expressive glance at the sparse room.

“Right,” Mike laughs, “I guess that means nothing, then?”

“Actually,” Helena says, “Jenny came to visit me on Monday.”

“Really?” Mike says, blinking. “That’s nice.” He actually doesn’t know what to think.

“It was,” Helena says. “And she mentioned something.”

Mike winces.

“She said that the two of you had...broken up?” Helena looks piercingly at Mike.

Mike grimaces. “Yeah.”

“You broke up before you had even told me you were dating?”

“Yeah,” Mike says again, uselessly.

“You can’t have been dating for long, then,” Helena purses her lips.

“About a few months, actually,” Mike says hesitantly.

Helena sighs. “What happened? Trevor again?”

“Not Trevor, actually,” Mike says. “It was Harvey.”

“Harvey,” Helena says, frowning. “Why—” her eyes narrow. “He found out, didn’t he.”

“What—no,” Mike says. “I wouldn’t keep that from you!”

Helena gives him a look, and Mike sighs. “I know, but I just—couldn’t figure out how to bring this up. But that—I would never hide that from you.”

“Then why didn’t it work out?” Helena asks.

“It didn’t feel right,” Mike says. “It’s not even the whole Destiny thing—it’s that I’ve really fallen in love with him. With him, not just Arthur.”

“Isn’t that how it should be?”

“Yes,” Mike says. “Exactly as it should be. Which is why I couldn’t stay with Jenny. I couldn’t—I couldn’t lie to her like that.”

“So you told her,” Helena says.

“Just about Harvey,” Mike says, “and now. Not about all the times before. That would—she wouldn’t believe me anyway.”

“No,” Helena agrees, “probably not.” She sighs, and struggles to sit up farther in her bed. Mike swoops in and places a few pillows carefully behind her back, so she isn’t lying down. “So,” she says, starting to smile wickedly, “you love him.”

“Yeah,” Mike says, blushing and ducking his head as he sits back down.

“Does he love you back?” Helena asks.

“I don’t know,” Mike says honestly. “I really can’t tell. He...could? I think there’s some attraction there, but—” He stops, shrugs.

“But?” Helena prompts.

“I just don’t want to chance it,” Mike says, “if he only feels attraction right now. If that’s it, I don’t—I don’t want to take the risk.”

“All right,” Helena says. “So you’re waiting for him.”

“I guess,” Mike says, smiling. “I kind of always am, aren’t I? He’s driving me crazy.”

“You should drive him crazy back,” Helena says wisely.

Mike’s smile starts to grow a little broader. “I should, shouldn’t I?”

“That’s my boy,” Helena says proudly.

***

On Monday, when Harvey comes and stands behind Mike’s chair, Mike leans back a slight amount, just forceful enough that his back presses against Harvey’s arm, but light enough that it could be an accident. It’s not an accident.

Harvey stiffens, then leans forward a little more, and Mike smiles.

***

“What are you doing,” Donna whispers conspiratorially to Mike that evening. “He’s going insane.”

“Sorry?” Mike offers, struggling not to laugh as he spies Harvey pacing back and forth inside his office, speaking sharply and quickly into his phone.

“Don’t be,” Donna says, sounding very smug. “It’s hilarious.”

“I’m glad I amuse you,” Mike says dryly.

“I’m glad you amuse me, too,” Donna says. “There’s very little that does so nowadays.”

“That’s sad,” Mike says.

“Good thing you’re around,” Donna replies.

“So, is he busy?” Mike asks, watching Harvey clench his jaw and pinch the bridge of his nose.

“Yeah,” Donna says, “he’s been on the phone for an hour. Some client isn’t listening to him—wants to do things ‘their way’. I think Harvey’s going to hang up any minute now.”

“Mm-hmm,” Mike says, snorting. “Is he tense?”

“Uh-huh,” Donna says. “I think he did something to his shoulder, too, he’s been shifting it all day.”

As if on cue, Harvey rolls his right shoulder back, a faint furrow of discomfort appearing on his forehead.

“Ah,” Mike says, grinning. “Thanks.”

“And that’s my cue to go home,” Donna says, grinning back. She grabs her coat and her bag and walks out. Mike waves at her and turns back to the office.

He slips in as Harvey firmly hangs up the cell, walking up to him with a quiet, “Everything all right?”

“Yeah,” Harvey says, flickering a small glance at him. “Just people being idiots.”

“Ah,” Mike says. “I see.” Harvey winces almost imperceptibly, and Mike asks, “Headache?”

Harvey shakes his head. “Shoulder.”

“Sprained it?” Mike asks, stepping a little more into Harvey’s space and planting a hand on his shoulder.

“Yeah,” Harvey says, after a second too long of a hesitation.

“Mm,” Mike says. He presses down with the hand, digging his thumb into the back of Harvey’s shoulder and moving it. Harvey tenses and then relaxes. “I would offer to give you a massage,” Mike says.

There’s a pause, and then Harvey asks softly, “But?”

“Hmm?” Mike asks as he loosens the knots in Harvey’s shoulder.

“You said that you would. There was an implied ‘but’. But?” Harvey sighs, and Mike can’t see his face, but can imagine it all too well with his eyes closed and his mouth slack and slightly parted.

Mike steps back, hands falling back to his sides, useless. “But I’m not very good at it,” he finishes lamely. “You should go see someone about that shoulder if it keeps hurting.”

“It’s fine,” Harvey says inscrutably, sitting back down at his desk. “Thanks.”

“Any time,” Mike says, looking away. He swallows. “I’m going to go home now, unless there’s anything you need me for—”

“No, no, it’s all right,” Harvey says. “I’m pretty much done here anyway.”

***

Mike looks around, bemused. The office is uncharacteristically quiet, but also busier than normal. None of the associates even glance at him (not even a sneer—he thinks he should be insulted) as he sticks his briefcase underneath his desk. He frowns, and walks over to Harvey’s office.

Harvey isn’t in, and Mike turns to Donna. “What’s going on?” he asks.

“The elusive Mr. Hardman is coming for his semiannual visit,” Donna says dryly, typing away at her computer.

“Semiannual?” Mike asks.

“Pretty much, yeah,” Donna says. “He’ll walk around a little, talk to the partners, quietly observe the associates, and then leave for another six months.”

“Ah,” Mike says. “That sounds...methodical.”

“It is kind of routine, at this point,” Donna says.

It’s at that moment that Harvey comes striding back, disappearing into his office with a careless “Jessica wants to see you” thrown at Mike.

Mike raises his eyebrows at Donna, who shrugs expressively.

***

“You wanted to see me, Ms. Pearson?” Mike asks politely, stepping into Jessica’s office.

“Mike, come here,” Jessica says, standing up. There’s a man sitting in the chair in front of her desk, and he stands up too. He’s older, perhaps in his mid-sixties, and Mike gets the feeling, as he walks over to the desk, that this is the mysterious Mr. Hardman. “I’d like you to meet Gary Hardman,” Jessica says, gesturing at the man.

Mr. Hardman holds out his hand, and Mike shakes it, saying, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir.”

“Please,” Mr. Hardman says, “call me Gary.” He pauses, hesitating. “I’m sorry,” he says, sharing an indecipherable look with Jessica, “but you wouldn’t happen to be related to Helena Ross, would you?”

Mike blinks. “I—yes, I’m her grandson,” he says.

“Oh,” Gary says, smiling widely, as if he knows something Mike doesn’t. “You have her eyes, that’s why I thought you might be.”

“Yes,” Mike says, flickering a glance at Jessica, who stares impassively back at him, seated now, the slight upturn of the corner of her mouth suggesting amusement. “May I ask how you know her?”

“Distant cousin,” Gary says, waving a hand. “Although I haven’t heard from her in years. How is dear Helena?”

“Pretty well,” Mike says softly. “She’s in a nursing home nearby.”

“Oh,” Gary says, seeming to deflate a little. He turns back to Jessica, who clears her throat.

“I thought, perhaps, that you two had some...important things to discuss,” Jessica says pointedly, and Mike’s eyes widen.

“Oh,” he says. “Oh.”

“Oh good,” Gaius says in Gary’s voice, sounding immensely relieved, “you do remember, then.”

“Of course,” Mike says, sitting down heavily in one of the chairs. No need for courtesy now, he figures. “I just—I’ve been looking for you, Gaius. All my life.”

“Yes,” Gary says, sitting down as well. “As have I.” His speech sounds oddly formal—or it would, to someone who hadn’t spent a lifetime listening to and speaking the same type of language.

Mike laughs happily. “This is—this is incredible, I—” He closes his eyes tightly, feeling suddenly choked up with emotion. “I missed you,” he whispers, feeling suddenly years younger.

There is the sound of Gary standing up, then a warm hand lands reassuringly on Mike’s arm, drawing him up into a rough hug. “I know, dear boy,” Gary says, sounding older than their time.

***

Mike comes back from Jessica’s office a few minutes later smiling broadly, ignoring the looks that other people send him. He stops by Donna’s desk, and she looks at him once before pulling off her headset and saying, “Okay, what happened?”

“Did you know?” Mike asks quietly, leaning forward. “Did you know who he was?”

“Who who was?” Donna asks.

“Mr. Hardman, did you know who he was?” Mike says impatiently.

“What do you mean who he was?” Donna asks. When Mike just stares at her, she says, comprehending, “Oh. Yes, yes I did.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Mike asks.

“Well, I thought you’d want to figure it out for yourself, like you always do,” Donna says.

“Oh. Well,” Mike says. “I know now.”

“I can see that,” Donna says. Mike grins, unable to hold it in. “He’s free,” she adds, motioning to Harvey’s office.

“Does he need anything?” Mike asks.

“I don’t know, go ask him,” Donna says exasperatedly, but with a smile of her own.

Mike does so, making an effort to tone down the smile as he walks into Harvey’s office and over to his desk. “Hey, Harvey, did you need anything?”

“Yeah,” Harvey says, looking up. “What did Jessica want?”

“She wanted me to meet Mr. Hardman,” Mike says, tamping down his excitement a notch.

“Oh,” Harvey says, blinking. “Did she say why?”

“No,” Mike lies.

“Oh,” Harvey says again, looking back at his desk. “I need you to look at this file,” he says, changing the subject and holding up a file. Mike reaches out and takes it, brushing fingers with Harvey on the way. Harvey very carefully and visibly does not jerk back. Harvey clears his throat. “Find out what you can about that person.”

“All right,” Mike says, going back to his desk.

***

Mike goes to visit Helena right after work that day. “Hi Grammy,” he says, smiling fiercely.

“Hi,” Helena says, sitting up. “Did something happen?”

“I met someone today,” Mike says, placing a few pillows under her back.

“Oh?” Helena says, raising her eyebrows. “Who?”

“Does the name ‘Gary Hardman’ mean anything to you?” Mike asks, and watches in delight as Helena’s eyes widen.

“Gaius?” she breathes. “You found him?” Mike nods, and her face breaks out into a smile. “Oh,” she says. “Oh. Did you tell him to come see me?”

“I did,” Mike confirms. “He says he’ll be by tomorrow.”

Oh,” Helena says again, clasping her hands tightly on her lap. “I take it he knows?”

“Yes,” Mike says. “I can’t stop smiling,” he says quietly, leaning forward so his arms are braced on her bed.

Helena reaches an arm down and strokes his hair back from his face. “My boy,” she says, voice a little choked, and swipes at her eyes with the other hand.

“I know, Mum,” Mike says quietly, because times like these require a different sort of acknowledgement. “I know.”

***

The thing is, riling Harvey up is fun, it really is. But after more than a couple weeks of it, Mike himself is holding his breath at every touch, hands shaking from a brush of shoulders, chest clenching when their eyes meet for too long.

It’s more than a little painful.

It gets to be so that Harvey clenches his jaw and stiffens whenever Mike walks into the room, and speaks to him in shorter and shorter sentences, until the banter is gone, and the only words left are terse and uncomfortable.

“Maybe you should make a move,” Donna suggests at one point, uncharacteristically hesitant.

“But I can’t,” Mike says, voice cracking. He drops his head into his hands with a muffled groan. “It’s got to be him.”

“You could be waiting for a long time,” Donna warns.

“It’s been twenty-five years,” Mike says, lifting his head. “A little longer isn’t that much.”

“Yeah,” Donna says, but she sounds unconvinced.

Mike grimaces and doesn’t respond.

***

Mike sighs, closing his eyes and dropping his head into one hand.

“Mike,” Harvey says from behind him, touching him lightly on the shoulder, making him jump. Mike straightens, blinking his eyes open. He turns around in his chair, gazing calmly up at Harvey.

“Hmm?” he says fuzzily.

“Not falling asleep, were you?” Harvey asks casually, looking at him with an indecipherable expression on his face.

“No,” Mike says, waving a hand. “No, just—it’s just been one of those days, y’know?”

Harvey huffs out something between a laugh and a sigh. “Yeah, kid, I know.” He passes a hand over his face. “It’s late,” he says.

“I know,” Mike replies. “Did you need something?”

“No,” Harvey says. “It’s not busy here. You can—go home, if you like.”

Mike tilts his head at him. “All right,” he says slowly. “Thanks.”

“Yeah,” Harvey says awkwardly, and walks away. Mike stares after him for a long time, even after he’s gone.

***

They barely have a chance to tell Merlin that Arthur’s been hurt (“grievously injured”, they say solemnly, and he goes cold with fear) before he’s gone, running through the corridors, feet skidding on the stone floors until he reaches Arthur’s chambers.

He hesitates at the door, then pushes it open. “Arthur?” he calls out, softly.

Gaius, sitting at his bedside, looks up. “He’s sleeping,” he says. “I’ll go now.” He gestures to a small vial on the table by Arthur’s bed and says, “Give him all of that when he wakes up.” He stands up, starts to walk past Merlin to the door, but Merlin grabs him by the arm.

“Will he be all right?” Merlin asks.

Gaius’s mouth thins. “It’s a bit hard to tell now, Merlin,” he says, and leaves.

Merlin sits down heavily in the chair Gaius vacated. “Oh, Arthur,” he says, voice cracking. “Why do you do this to me?”

That’s the first dream of the night, the first one Mike has had in a few months. It’s extraordinarily painful, shockingly so. He almost lost Arthur that day, Merlin did. He was so close to losing him.

It’s the first dream of the night, but not the only one.

“You’re a sorcerer,” Arthur says flatly. His eyes are unreadable as he stares at Merlin, and Merlin knows that his own eyes are still gold.

“Arthur,” he says numbly.

“You’re a sorcerer, all this time—everything, it’s all been a lie. All of it!” Arthur tosses his sword to the ground with a clatter, running a hand through his hair agitatedly. Merlin steps forward to help him with his armor, but Arthur whirls on him, pushing him away with a firm hand. “Don’t touch me.”

Arthur,” Merlin pleads, though he doesn’t even know what he’s pleading for at this point. What had he expected, if not this—this violent reaction?

“Don’t, Merlin,” Arthur snaps. “You lied to me.”

“I know,” Merlin says desperately, “but you’ve got to understand, I—I would never do anything to harm you, never. Everything I did, everything I ever did was for you.”

“How am I supposed to believe you?” Arthur shouts. “Is there anything you could tell me to make this right?”

Merlin opens his mouth, then closes it. He sags. “No,” he whispers. “There’s nothing I can tell you—nothing I can do to make this right.”

“Then what do you want from me?”

Merlin can’t say anything.

Arthur curses, strides forward, and punches him square on the jaw. Merlin staggers, hand flying to his face, but he doesn’t make a sound. There’s only silence in the room, silence and the sound of Arthur’s labored breathing.

After a long moment, Arthur deflates, stepping back. “I know you wouldn’t hurt me,” he says slowly.

Merlin, who has been staring at the floor until now, looks up sharply, hope growing in his chest.

“I know that,” Arthur says, coming forward again. “But you lied to me.”

“I know,” Merlin says. “I’m so—so sorry, Arthur.”

“Yeah,” Arthur says softly, and kisses him.

Mike jerks awake at that, sitting upright and breathing hard. “Arthur,” he breathes, closing his eyes tightly.

***

Mike is off-balance when he walks into work the next morning, and he knows it’s plainly there for anyone to see.

Donna walks past him on his way to his desk, and her eyes widen dramatically. “Whoa,” she says. “What happened to you?” Her eyes flicker over him, taking in the not-ironed shirt, the crooked tie, the messed up hair, the shadowed eyes.

Mike sighs. “Didn’t get much sleep,” he says. “I had—dreams.”

“Ah,” Donna says with comprehension. She looks harried, like she has somewhere to be, and sure enough, she asks, “You’ll be all right?”

“Yeah, no, I’m fine,” Mike assures, waving a hand and smiling. He knows it must sound weak, because Donna shoots him an unconvinced look, before leaving anyway. Mike sighs and goes to sit at his desk.

Thirty minutes later, Harvey walks past. He claps a hand on Mike’s shoulder and pulls him out of his seat. Mike catches his breath, because after the previous night, he feels more than a little raw. “Come with me, rookie,” Harvey says, and Mike swallows.

***

Later, Mike makes a break in their case. He sits at his computer, pointing something out to Harvey. Harvey leans over him, looking over his shoulder, his hand pressed to the middle of Mike’s back, and the skin around it seems to burn, even through Mike’s suit. He can feel the heat radiating from Harvey behind him.

Mike has to close his eyes for a moment.

“All right,” Harvey says, finally. “That’s good, that’s—good.” The hand on Mike’s back slides up to grasp the back of his neck. Mike shivers. “Good boy,” Harvey says, and walks away.

Mike stares at his hands, and clasps them together tightly, trying to stop them from shaking.

***

Mike knows he’s not doing a good job of hiding what he’s feeling. To be honest, he’s never been very good at it—but usually he’s better than this. Every time Harvey looks at him, Mike knows everything he’s thinking is etched clearly on his face.

It’s nine o’clock, and Harvey has his suit jacket off and his sleeves rolled up, and Mike’s sitting on the couch staring at him, and the sound of jazz fills the air incongruously, something Mike has come to associate closely with Harvey. He feels like something’s suffocating him slowly, and thanks god that Harvey isn’t looking at him.

And then Harvey starts to say “Mike, can you—” and looks up. Mike isn’t fast enough.

He thinks that Harvey can see everything, can see the want and the naked longing on his face—and Harvey must see it, because he stops speaking abruptly, the breath leaving him in a rush.

Mike stops breathing.

Harvey stands up slowly—or it feels slow, it feels achingly slow—and comes forward. When he stands in front of Mike, he pulls him up by the arm, and Mike has to fight not to close his eyes.

“Harvey,” he says, if only to break the silence.

Harvey draws in a sharp breath and seals his mouth over Mike’s own.

Mike gasps and goes still for a brief, brief moment, before instinct (and a lifetime of waiting) kicks in, and he presses against Harvey, kissing back desperately. One of Harvey’s arms goes around his waist, pulling him in closer, and Mike gives in and closes his eyes.

Harvey breaks away after what feels like years of them kissing, though it’s only been moments. “Mike,” he says, sounding breathless for the first time Mike can remember.

“Harvey,” Mike returns, resting his forehead against Harvey’s shoulder.

“Come home with me,” Harvey says.

“Yeah,” Mike says, smiling.

***

When Mike wakes up the next morning, he smells bacon. That’s the first conscious thought that he has. The second is that he’s more comfortable than he’s ever been.

Granted, Harvey’s bed is considerably softer than Mike’s own, but Mike doubts that’s all of it. He thinks—he thinks that this is the first true good night’s sleep he’s had since—well, since a while back.

It’s warm, and it’s Saturday, and Mike could stay in bed. But Harvey made him breakfast.

Mike smiles, and gets up.

He pads over to the kitchen in just socks and pajama pants, yawning and stretching. “Morning,” he says to Harvey, who smiles at him softly and hands him a cup of coffee. Their fingers brush, and Mike leans forward to press a kiss to the corner of Harvey’s mouth. Harvey hums, turning back to the stove.

“Breakfast’s almost done,” he says.

“Mm,” Mike says. “Bacon and eggs, yum.” He sips at his coffee—black, cream, no sugar, just how he likes it. He smiles.

“Sleep well?” Harvey asks.

“Better than I have in ages,” Mike replies.

“Must be the bed,” Harvey says.

“Could be the company.” Mike sips at his coffee again. Harvey puts the eggs and bacon on two plates and hands Mike his. “Thanks,” Mike says, and starts to eat.

Harvey watches him for a moment, a familiar look of fondness on his face, before he starts to eat, too. They eat in companionable silence for a moment, before Harvey sets down his fork with a clatter. He exhales, not quite a sigh, but almost there.

Mike puts down his fork more gently, swallows, and waits.

Sure enough, Harvey says, “Look, Mike—” but then cuts himself off. It’s an ominous start, but somehow, Mike isn’t worried. Harvey continues, “I don’t—I don’t want you to think that—” Mike wonders where Harvey’s smoothness has gone.

When it seems like he might not continue, Mike prompts, “That?”

“This isn’t just a one-time thing,” Harvey says. “At least, not for me.”

“I didn’t think it was,” Mike says honestly.

Harvey looks startled at that, but recovers quickly. He smirks. “Presumptuous.”

“No, I just know you,” Mike says seriously. “There’s a certain way you flirt with people. You know what you want, and they know what you want, and there are no complications. It was different with me—you didn’t just move in, like you might do for someone else. It mattered—matters—to you.”

Harvey tilts his head. “You noticed all that?”

“Yeah,” Mike says.

“Then why didn’t you just make the move first?” Harvey asks, a little bit of impatience creeping into his voice.

Mike mulls that over for a moment, because he can’t really tell Harvey the truth (because being with you would hurt too much, when I wanted Arthur too). Finally, he settles for saying, “I didn’t know how.” There’s a silence, and then Mike says, sipping his coffee innocently, “So—are we going steady now?”

Harvey snorts, and picks up his fork again. “Yeah, rookie, something like that.”

***

But it’s still not right, everything’s not falling into place—something’s still missing, and, momentary relief aside, being with Harvey only removes a little of the ache in Mike’s heart.

He still doesn’t remember. Mike can see that with every second that passes by, with every glance at Harvey’s eyes, so sharp and yet so dull compared to what they could look like. What they should look like.

It’s not getting better, but what else can Mike do but wait?

***

It’s a week later, and they’re at a hot dog stand getting lunch, when some guy looks them over (Mike’s hand on Harvey’s arm, Harvey’s hand placed at the small of Mike’s back) and makes a nasty remark. Mike rolls his eyes and opens his mouth to tell the guy to kindly fuck off, but Harvey narrows his eyes and steps away from Mike, toward the guy. Mike stops, confused.

Harvey stands over the man, drawn up to his full height, menacing, until the guy backs down, says insincerely, “I’m sorry, all right?” and walks quickly away. Harvey snorts and buys the hot dogs.

Later that night, when they’re back at Harvey’s apartment, he pins Mike to the wall and kisses him firmly, until Mike is dizzy.

“What was that for?” Mike asks dazedly.

“Nothing,” Harvey says, but then he murmurs, “I love you.”

Mike blinks, eyes widening. It’s not that he didn’t know, because he did, he does—it’s just that he didn’t expect Harvey to say it this soon.

“I love you too,” Mike says softly, kissing him again, and it tastes a little sweeter than it ever has before.

Harvey relaxes, and lets Mike step away from the wall. Mike kisses his cheek again, and goes to order pizza.

***

“Any sign of him remembering?” Donna asks him casually one day.

“No,” Mike sighs. “But it’s all right.”

“Is it any easier now?” Donna asks.

“No,” Mike says again. Donna nods and clasps his hand comfortingly.

“He’ll remember,” she reassures.

“I know,” Mike says, but he’s still waiting, isn’t he?

***

Monday morning, a man strolls into Harvey’s office. He’s about Mike’s age, maybe a few years older, with brown hair and brown eyes, and he seems weirdly familiar. He greets Donna with familiarity and affection, and Mike finds his curiosity piqued.

As the man walks through the door and shuts it behind him, Mike walks up to Donna, head tilted speculatively. “Who’s he?” he asks casually.

Donna seems to hesitate, but turns and catches Harvey’s eye through the glass wall, and he nods. She turns back and says, “Harvey’s little brother.”

“William,” Mike says, remembering Harvey mentioning him.

“Yes,” Donna says. “He’s in town for the week, so he dropped by to visit.”

“Is he a lawyer, too?” Mike asks.

“No,” Donna replies. “He’s a journalist.”

“Oh,” Mike says. “That’s nice.”

“He’s good, too,” Donna says proudly, and Mike wonders if she’s known William as long as she has Harvey. He really wants to meet this man.

Donna’s gaze sharpens, for a moment, as if she’s listening to something, and then she says, “You can go in.”

“Harvey wants me?” Mike asks.

“Yes,” Donna says, and waves him in.

“Mike,” Harvey says warmly. “I’d like you to meet my brother, William.”

William turns and looks at Mike, and his eyes widen nearly—nearly—imperceptibly. Mike considers that carefully, as he reaches out a hand to shake his. “Mike Ross,” he says.

“Liam Specter,” William—Liam, and doesn’t that seem to fit better—says, and smiles. “I’ve heard a lot about you,” he adds mischievously, flickering a glance at Harvey.

“All good things, I hope?” Mike grins.

“I don’t think he’s capable of saying bad things about you,” Liam says conspiratorially.

“Hey,” Harvey says, and Mike pats him on the shoulder.

“I’m sure you insult me enough to my face, Harvey,” he says.

“Well,” Harvey says consideringly. “Yes.”

“Harvey,” Liam says, “can I talk to Mike for a bit?”

“This is my office,” Harvey says dryly, “where am I supposed to go?”

“I don’t know, go talk to Donna or something,” Liam says.

Harvey rolls his eyes, but goes obediently. Mike smiles after him, then turns back to Liam, who switches off the intercom.

“So,” he says to Liam, purposely obtuse, “is this the part where you tell me that you’ll kill me if I hurt your brother?”

Liam smiles in a way that reads “fond”, and says, “There’s no point in pretending, I know you recognize me.”

Mike shrugs. “Actually, no, but I noticed that you recognized me, so I’m pretty sure you’re someone important.”

“Something like that,” Liam says dryly. “Come on, really? Think, Mer—Mike.” He makes a face, as if the name will take him a while to get used to. Mike knows the feeling. He thinks.

“You wouldn’t happen to be Leon, would you?” Mike asks, after a second.

There it is,” Liam says, grinning and slapping Mike on the shoulder. “Took you long enough.”

“Sorry,” Mike says, “it’s just that you—well, you’re his brother. Which, um, actually makes sense, doesn’t it.”

“Yes,” Liam says.

“I’m just a bit off my game,” Mike says. “So, how long have you known?”

“Since I was—” Liam visibly thinks back, “—probably about nine.”

“Ah,” Mike says, surprised. “That long?”

“Yeah,” Liam says matter-of-factly. “The first time I came to visit Harvey at work was kind of a relief. I met Donna, and she was the only person so far who knew, you know?”

“I know exactly what you mean,” Mike says. “I mean, my grandma is one thing, but she didn’t really—well, she never really knew Arthur. Not well.”

“Yes,” Liam agrees. He grimaces for a moment, and says, “Look, I know it’s not going to happen, but I feel like I should say that if you hurt my brother, I’ll make your life miserable.” He looks slightly apologetic, but altogether sincere. Mike smiles.

“You don’t have to worry about that,” Mike says, “but I’m glad, anyway.”

“Oh, and,” Liam says, “if he hurts you, I’ll make his life miserable.”

Mike laughs delightedly. “Thanks,” he says. He jerks his head at the door. “Shall we?”

“Sure,” Liam says. He walks over to the desk and pushes the button on Harvey’s phone to turn the intercom back on. “Donna, he can come in now.”

“You didn’t intimidate him too much, did you?” Harvey asks as he comes back in.

“Harvey,” Liam says, “give the kid some credit. He’s a lot stronger than you’d think.”

Harvey smiles. “I know,” he says, and Mike jostles his shoulder with his own.

***

“Rachel and I are having a girls’ night out,” Donna says one day. “You should come.”

“Wouldn’t that kind of defeat the purpose of a girls’ night out?” Mike asks.

“Hmm,” Donna says, smirking. “Your soft features get you a free pass.”

“I’m flattered,” Mike says dryly. “I could put on some makeup, get all dolled up.”

“Oh, no, honey,” Donna says, eyes wide, “I don’t think we could handle it.”

“Probably not,” Mike admits, grinning.

“You should bring Jenny along,” Donna adds, startling Mike.

“Really, you think so?” Mike frowns in thought. He wouldn’t have thought to do it, but he knows by now to trust Donna when she suggests something.

“It was Rachel’s idea,” Donna says. “And yes, I think so.”

“Okay,” Mike says, and goes back to work.

***

“Pizza and movie, tonight?” Harvey suggests later that day, and Mike is about to open his mouth to reply, when Donna beats him to it.

“Sorry, boss,” she says, “no can do.”

Harvey narrows his eyes. “Why not,” he says, and Mike stifles a laugh, because Harvey is very, very obviously trying hard not to pout. And then Mike has to stifle another, more sobering urge to kiss him on the cheek and call him a prat.

Mike doesn’t let his smile falter, though, and says, “Girls’ night out, Harvey. Sorry.”

“I feel like there’s something I’m missing,” Harvey says, deadpan.

“I have soft features,” Mike says, by way of explanation.

***

Before he leaves for the night (“Yes, Harvey, Jenny’s picking me up, I’m not dumb enough to bike to a restaurant on a night out.”), Harvey kisses him slowly and says, “Any chance I could make you stay?”

“Mm,” Mike says. “No. But I’ll be home later.”

Harvey sighs, and looks slightly disappointed. Mike smiles fondly and shakes his head.

“You’ll miss me,” he says. It’s not a question. “You care.”

Harvey rolls his eyes, and pushes him out the door, with a careless, “Don’t be such a girl, Mike.”

Mike laughs and makes it all the way to the ground floor before he realizes why that sounded so familiar, and he almost trips on his way out of the elevator. He stops dead, heart beating frantically, because that—well, that was something Arthur would say.

***

It’s a nice restaurant, well-lit and just noisy enough to be comfortable. Rachel waves at them from a table close by, and Jenny and Mike head toward her.

“Hey,” she says cheerfully as they sit down. “Donna’s going to be here in five.” She smiles genuinely at Jenny, and gives a little awkward-but-friendly one-armed hug to Mike. Mike grins.

“That’s cool,” he says, “I’m sure we can manage for five minutes.”

And sure enough, when Donna arrives, they are happily chatting, sipping at the wine they’ve ordered, waiting for the appetizers. Jenny is laughing at something disparaging Rachel is saying about “the idiots we work with, god, you have no idea,” when Mike looks over, and waves at Donna.

She sits down, an eyebrow raised amusedly. She looks like Harvey, Mike thinks, grinning. “Having fun, she says?”

“Yes,” Mike says. “But we missed you.”

“Mm, of course you did,” Donna says loftily. She grabs the glass of wine they’d got for her, and sips delicately. She waves a hand at Rachel. “You were saying?”

“All the associates are stupid,” Rachel says bluntly.

“Hey,” Mike says.

“Not you,” Rachel admits. “Most of the time. But you always get Elliot to do your work instead of me, so I don’t really get to be exposed to your genius.” It sounds a lot less sardonic than Mike expects, and he blinks, then smiles.

“I’ll have to amend that, maybe balance my time between the two of you. There’s enough of me to go around.” His smile turns into a grin, even as he feels realizes how much he’s missed Rachel.

“Tell that to Harvey,” Jenny mutters, and Mike hits her on the arm, even as Rachel chokes, spluttering.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” Jenny says to Mike, “did she not know? Did you not know?” she asks Rachel.

“Oh, no, I knew,” Rachel says, still laughing. “He just didn’t know that I knew.”

“Wait—wait, how did you know?” Mike asks.

“You’re not very subtle, honey,” Donna says sympathetically.

“Gah,” Mike says. “Can we change the subject?”

“Okay,” Donna says promptly. “I saw this book, today.”

“Uh-huh?” Rachel says, as their appetizers arrive. She picks up a piece of fried shrimp and bites down, making the universal motion for “go on”.

“And it was talking about how to ‘dress for success’, you know, make people see you as ‘feminine but professional’, like there’s some kind of style everybody should have, which is total bullshit—” Donna continues, “—and anyway I flipped through it in the bookstore out of some kind of morbid curiosity...”

***

“That was fun,” Jenny says, as she drives him back to Harvey’s place. “Donna and Rachel are awesome.”

“I’m glad,” Mike says, still grinning a little. “I thought you’d like them.”

“Why’s that?” Jenny asks, glancing at him.

“Because you’re all awesome,” he says, looking at her. “You’re a lot alike.”

Jenny smiles at him. “You’re sweet,” she says, as they pull up at Harvey’s building. “Go home to your boyfriend.”

Mike leans over and kisses her on the cheek. “Thank you.”

“For the ride? No problem.”

“No, for—for putting up with me. When I was still—” he winces, “—pining.”

“No problem,” Jenny says again, squeezing his hand. “Now go.”

Mike goes, feeling warm inside.

When he gets up to the top floor, Harvey is asleep on the couch, head pillowed on his arms, a movie playing forgotten in the background.

Mike smiles and shuts the movie off, then shakes Harvey’s gently.

“Mm?” Harvey says, blinking. “Mike. I take it the girls’ night out was a success?” he murmurs sleepily, lifting his head.

“Yeah,” Mike says, kissing him softly and pulling him to his feet. “C’mon, it’s time for bed.”

***

“You know,” Donna says, mock-appalled, “he actually snapped at me yesterday. Snapped. It’s like he thinks he can get away with it or something.”

Mike snorts, a little preoccupied. “Sibling rivalry,” he says without thinking. Then he stares at her, eyes wide, when he realizes—

Yes,” Donna says. “Exactly. But he doesn’t know that.”

***

Mike catches Harvey looking at him thoughtfully, and smiles, a little self-conscious. “What?” he asks, laughing.

“Nothing,” Harvey says. “It’s just—there’s just something about you.”

Mike very, very carefully does not tense, even as he hears, as an echo, the exasperatedly fond There’s something about you, Merlin that he used to hear so often.

***

“Mike,” Rachel says, a faint flicker of apprehension crossing her features, “I think we need to talk.”

Mike frowns in concern, but follows her to the empty file room. “Yeah, sure, what’s up?”

“I accidentally referred to Elliot as my brother, today,” Rachel says, and Mike looks sharply at her. “I mean, I’ve always thought of him as like my brother, but I’ve never—it’s never slipped out, like that.” She looks up at Mike with eyes that are suddenly glinting with knowledge. “You wouldn’t happen to know why that is, would you?”

Mike grins. “Hi, Gwen, I’ve missed you, how’s it going?”

Rachel hits him on the shoulder and rolls her eyes. “How do you think? I suddenly have a whole other lifetime to remember. It’s a little unnerving,” she says, but she’s grinning, too.

“Yeah, I can imagine,” Mike says, laughing. “You’re being kind of chill about all this.”

“Well, how am I supposed to act?” Rachel asks. “It’s not like it hasn’t happened before. How did everybody else act? I kind of figured out who they were supposed to be. Well, most of them, anyway.”

“I don’t know,” Mike says honestly. “Elliot and Donna and Ray had already remembered when I met them, and I think Jessica always knew. Oh, and Liam.”

“Harvey’s little brother?” Rachel asks. “Huh.”

“Leon,” Mike says by way of explanation.

“Oh,” Rachel says. “Well, that makes sense. And Harvey?”

Mike stiffens, flinching the tiniest bit. It’s a good question, he should have expected it. “He hasn’t, um, yet.”

Rachel frowns. “Still? I could have sworn—” She cuts herself off, shakes her head. “Never mind.”

“No, what?” Mike asks.

“It’s just—he barely even talks to me normally, you know, but today we had—well, we had an actual conversation. It was out of the blue, but it looked like he might be, somehow, remembering?” She looks at Mike then, who is sure his eyes are wide, stupidly hopeful.

“Do you think,” he starts.

“I don’t know,” Rachel says hastily. “It was just a thought.”

“Yeah,” Mike says, shaking his head to snap himself out of his thoughts. “I’m so glad you remember,” he says, smiling. “I—I really missed you.”

Rachel smiles and hugs him tightly. “I missed you too,” she says, then steps away, clearing her throat. “Come on, time to get back to work.”

Mike laughs and follows her out.

***

Damn, Harvey walks fast.

Mike catches sight of him in the afternoon, over by the hot dog stand he frequents, and tries to catch up to him, because he really, really needs to talk to Harvey—but Harvey’s on the phone, and evidently doesn’t hear Mike yelling for him, because he keeps walking.

Harvey,” Mike shouts, when he sees him hang up, and Harvey—reacts. He doesn’t turn slowly, he doesn’t keep walking, he doesn’t roll his eyes and tap his foot impatiently. He stops dead, and whirls in the blink of an eye, handing reaching to his side for something that isn’t there.

Mike recognizes that move perfectly. It’s what Arthur used to do after a few years of being king, after commanding the armies. People knew better than to startle him, after a while, because loud noises and shouts and surprises made him reach on instinct for his sword, even when it wasn’t there.

Like now.

Mike jogs up to Harvey, and hopes Harvey doesn’t notice the way his hands are trembling. “You okay?” he says.

“Yeah,” Harvey says, shaking his head as if to clear it. “You just—startled me.” His hand flexes and clenches at his side, and he says, “So, you called?”

***

“He still doesn’t remember, does he?” Helena asks as Mike sits down next to her bedside.

“No,” Mike says.

“Even though he loves you?” Helena sits up a little, and Mike places a pillow under her back.

Mike smiles. “No,” he says, “but I think he’s starting to.”

“How do you mean?” Helena frowns in thought.

“Little things,” Mike says. “Things he says, ways he acts, gestures—they’re things Arthur used to do, and they weren’t there before.”

“So he’s almost there.” Helena says. She doesn’t seem surprised, as if she’s been expecting this since Mike told her Harvey said he loved him.

“Maybe,” Mike says, still smiling.

***

It happens more and more. Over the next couple of weeks, details start popping out, things Mike hasn’t seen in a lifetime.

Harvey forgets to slick his hair back in the mornings, and even if he remembers, he runs his hand through it when he’s frustrated, something that he never used to before. By the end of the day, it’s softer, a little haphazard (as haphazard as Harvey can ever be).

He rubs at the back of his neck when he’s uncomfortable and with people he trusts, a little gesture that opens him up more than normal.

He throws back his head when he laughs, really laughs, open-mouthed and bright.

He puts a hand on Mike’s cheek when he kisses him, rubs a thumb over a cheekbone that isn’t as sharp as he’s used to, and Mike leans into it every time.

It’s the little things that Mike sees.

***

But after all that, it’s something ridiculously simple that does it.

“Come on, let’s head out,” Harvey says, dropping his hand down onto Mike’s shoulder. It’s Friday, and the office is almost empty, but it’s still only 8:00.

Mike tilts his head back to look up at him. “Already?”

Harvey makes an affirmative noise. “We’re going out for dinner.”

“Ooh,” says Mike, standing up, “what’s the occasion?”

“No occasion,” Harvey says. “But I got cheated when you went on your girls’ night out, so I figured I should get a dinner, too.”

“All right,” Mike says, grinning and putting on his coat.

He glances down and swears. “I got something on my pants, one second.” He drops to one knee and brushes futilely at his pant leg, which has some sort of unrecognizable dirt on it. After a moment, he sighs. “I don’t think it’s going to come off Harvey, you’re just going to have to—” He breaks off when he looks up.

Harvey stands there, staring at him, looking shell-shocked. He closes his eyes as Mike watches, and sways where he stands, like he’s being buffeted by wind. Mike very slowly stands up. He waits. He doesn’t realize he’s stopped breathing until Harvey takes in a deep, shuddering breath, and Mike finds himself doing the same.

Harvey opens his eyes.

They’re distant for a moment, foggy with memory, but then they clear, sharp and bright with new knowledge, and Mike has to close his own eyes for a moment.

Even with his eyes closed, though, he knows the minute Harvey comes toward him, feels the warmth curling inside of him in an instinctive response. Harvey pulls him forward, and Mike opens his eyes.

Harvey kisses him, deep and all-consuming, and Mike grabs onto his shoulders. “Merlin,” Harvey gasps into his mouth, and Mike shudders and collapses against him. “Merlin.”

“Arthur,” Mike says back, desperate, like an answer to a question. He shuts his eyes, gathering his bearings, then opens them again, straightening. “Not here,” he says breathlessly.

Harvey nods, still breathing harshly. “Home,” he says.

“Home,” Mike confirms, and grabs him by the hand firmly as they walk out, as much of an anchor for himself as for Harvey.

***

“Ray,” Mike says, as he pushes Harvey into the backseat of the car.

It’s all he needs to say, since Ray takes one look at Harvey and says, “Oh—yeah, I’ll take you guys home, now.”

“Thanks,” Mike says, because Harvey has his eyes closed and his head resting against the seat. His jaw is clenched. Mike hasn’t let go of his hand yet, and he doesn’t, rubbing circles on the back with his thumb.

***

Mike sits next to Harvey on the couch, hands itching to touch him, but he holds back. He knows how overwhelming this can be. Mike’s had years, but Harvey—Harvey’s had less than an hour.

He’s staring at his lap, but his thoughts are obviously far away. After a few moments, he drops his head into his hands and says, choked, “God.”

Mike does reach out, then, and places a cool hand on the side of Harvey’s face, cupping his cheek. “Headache?” he inquires.

“No,” Harvey says, looking up. “Don’t do that.”

“Do what?” Mike snatches his hand back.

“No, not—” Harvey exhales sharply. “You’re taking care of me, when you’ve been waiting longer than I have.”

“It’s okay,” Mike says, “I know how hard this can be.”

“It’s not hard,” Harvey says exasperatedly, “not with you.”

“No,” Mike says, “it’s fine, I understand, you need time to—”

“The hell I do,” Harvey says, and pulls him in by the arm. He kisses him again, and Mike feels steady, warm, and he puts his hand on the back of Harvey’s neck, pulling him closer still.

“All right,” he says, pulling back as he works on the knot of Harvey’s tie. “We can do this instead.”

***

Later—when they’ve made it to the bedroom and are lying down, sated, legs tangled together—Mike lifts his head from Harvey’s shoulder and asks, “What was it that did it?”

Harvey looks down at him drowsily. “You, kneeling.”

“Why this in particular?” Mike says, then adds, with as close to a lascivious grin as he has the energy for, “I do a lot of kneeling.”

Harvey snorts, then sobers. “It was—you were on one knee, and I looked down at you, and you had your eyes on the ground, and then you just—you looked up at me, and—” He breaks off helplessly.

“It reminded you of something.” Mike says, putting his head back down.

“Yeah,” Harvey says, and then, “Coronation.” It’s his only explanation, but it’s all Mike needs, and he smiles, remembering.

“My king,” he mumbles, and feels Harvey kiss his temple softly before he drifts off to sleep.

End.