Mike has a number of ways to earn money – some regular, some occasional...some of them more legit or dignified than others. He only knows one way to get his hands on what the nursing home needs on the short notice he's been given.
Maybe for a one-time payment he could swing something else, but that isn't what he's facing. He needs a source for this payment, and then for every one to follow. He can't get it takings tests for stupid spoiled assholes....and dealing drugs with Trevor is too risky. Worse than what he's thinking.
And legal means are few, if not imaginary, with what's at his disposal.
Feeling queasy enough that he leans against the bike rack outside Grammy's home, Mike dials a number he only calls as a last resort...though that's a circumstance that happens way too often.
He takes a breath, because no matter how he feels, he has to makes himself sound rock solid.
"That thing you wanted? I'm in. But I want twenty-five grand up front, non-negotiable."
There's a moment of quiet breathing on the other end of the line. "Mike, don't get me wrong, I'm glad you're ready to step up and really earn. But I can't get you that much as an up-front payout."
Mike knows that, of course – it's triple what he's gotten for any gig before, and asking for advanced pay.... But he needs the money now. It's due by the first. He gives himself a moment for personal calculation, to weigh how much he needs to bargain. His own safety and sanity against fair market value.
"Yeah. How bout this: ten grand for a two-day trial run. If we both choose to continue, I want $15,000 deposited the next day. An advance on future services. I think that's fair for what he's asking, since I'll have to quit my job."
The night job, anyway.
He thinks it is reasonable, but there's silence down the line. Fuck.
He sweetens the deal as much as he can. "No lasting damage. That's my only limit."
"Shit, Mike. What are you into?"
"Nothing," Mike says, because it's not like Louis cares. What he's really asking is if it'll cause him any problems. "Will you check for me, or not?"
"Yeah. I'll have an answer by this time tomorrow."
Mike hangs up and takes a moment to get himself good and steady – the last thing he needs right now is to get hit by a cab. He's not even sure what he hopes the potential client says. He doesn't want to do this – there's a reason he hasn't taken more than one-offs in the past. But if he doesn't (or he can't), then he and Gram are screwed.
He expects a restless night, but by the time he's biked his way back home, he has a missed call from Louis.
"He said no to your terms," Louis begins when Mike returns. Mike's gut plummets before Louis clarifies, "But he's willing to negotiate. Don't let him go below ten grand for the weekend, the rest is up to you. He expects you at his office later on today – just after six. The guy's a shark, and a sanctimonious prick, so wear a suit or I'll never hear the end of it."
There's a click as Louis disconnects on that note.
"Awesome," Mike mutters to himself. "'Good luck, Mike. Hope the lions aren't hungry when you fall into their den.'" But Louis's people skills have always been...lacking.
A six o'clock appointment at the address Louis gave him means he has two hours. One of which he'll lose in traffic, since he'll have to take a cab.
Does he even own a suit?
He does, as it turns out, and just enough cash to pay for the taxi. It would suck to show up sweaty from biking into Manhattan.
He still gets the hairy eyeball from every guard in the lobby, and the receptionists upstairs - by this point in his life, Mike's inured to uptown snobbery. There's only one man in this building whose opinion of him matters.
Mike smooths his tie down for the twelfth time since he sat. Because he's with the man who matters now, and he's being silently judged. He's on the wrong side of an imposing desk in a more imposing office and while his high school principal was much less polished, it's familiar nonetheless.
Mike studies his new client too, though somewhat more covertly. Guys who hire someone to submit for them aren't looking to be challenged.
Harvey Specter's both young and good-looking, which is less relieving than people would think. He's loaded and successful, and – judging by the office – a power player, so he really should be able to get anything for free. Gay and kinky might prove an obstacle elsewhere in the country, but this is New York City.
If this guy has to pay for it, he wants something that people balk to give. Mike's regretting his decision on setting such vague limits – but reversing it now will weaken his position.
And hey, Mike's luck could hold for once.
Yeah, right, that'll happen.
"So. What's your poison?"
The voice startles him, breaking five minutes of dead silence. The man's expression is pleasant but opaque.
"I would hope so. Your offer made your desperation obvious, for a specific sum of cash. I want to know exactly what you need it for."
"I'm not - "
"If you're about to lie, you walk out now."
So much for denying there's a problem. Mike's jaw flexes down against a none of your business. He can't afford to have an attitude...anyway, assuming they'll proceed, the question actually is Specter's business. If Mike had a heavy drug habit, his dom would need to know it.
He tries to keep it simple. No one wants a sob story. "Medical bills."
Specter's face shows nothing, but intent eyes survey his person. "Are you sick?"
"I'm fine. It's family."
"Kid? Wife?" There's a ghost of an opinion in his tone over that. Mike doesn't care much what he thinks, but again, he needs to answer. For what he's asking, Specter will need to know Mike's outside obligations – in the very least, the outline.
There's a flash of amusement across the man's face – the first real emotion, though it's laced with condescension. "You're doing this for your sick old granny? You expect me to believe that?"
Mike shrugs, smothering his annoyance. "Believe it or not. That's not up to me."
Specter swivels in his chair, gaze calculating. "That's the problem isn't it? Nothing will be up to you. You're an idiot, by the way. Offering cart blanche to someone, sight unseen. At least demand more money if you're gambling with your life."
"I'm touched by your concern," Mike drawls. Although, he sort of is – not touched, but he feels a little relieved. The general tone of Specter's critique implies he won't abuse the leeway like some other client could have. Or this might just be a mind game. "I didn't say no limits. I said no lasting damage."
"I could break you into pieces without leaving any scars, and claim I met my obligation." Yeah, ok. Goodbye, relief. "You should learn to be precise and thorough in your language. Especially when dealing with a lawyer."
Mike says nothing. He owes Specter information, but he doesn't have to justify his actions. He's not stupid; he's a grown man who's doing what he has to.
No need to explain that to an asshole in a suit. He feels even less inclined given what this guy is hiring him for.
"Counter-proposal," Specter says, when it's clear they're at a stalemate. "Ten grand for a trial run sounds reasonable to me, but I work for a living and I don't get weekends off. Let's make it twenty-four hours instead. I'm also willing, after that, to give you fifteen right away if we decide that we'll continue. But not as an advance. It would be for extra services."
Since the other terms are more generous than Mike's initial offer, he's afraid he's found the catch. "What services, exactly?"
"You get tested. After the trial run; while we wait for the results, you'll have time to get your life in order. And you see no one else, either personal or professional, from now until one of us terminates the contract."
Mike's mouth goes dry. It occurs, all of a sudden, that when he set his only limit, he didn't specify safe play. If he needs to, Mike can argue that 'no lasting harm' includes protection against STIs.
"If I demand the same of you?"
"Then you might not be as dumb as I thought. Or quite as desperate." It's said with an assurance that he still thinks Mike is plenty both.
Mike weighs his options, and finds he has none. "With that concession, I'll agree."
"Now that we've taken care of dear Grandmother, I'd like to settle practical terms for the rest of the contract ."
Mike's stomach flips. "If we proceed."
"If," Specter concedes, but Mike gets a weird feeling.
"Mr. Specter - "
"Harvey, for now."
"Harvey." Mike wets his bottom lip. "I get the feeling you think the trial's a formality."
"It is, for me...for the most part. But I know it's not, for you." Mike frowns. "I've done my homework," Harvey adds.
"What does that mean?"
"I haven't gone through your garbage, if that's what you're thinking."
It's awesome that Harvey finds all of this so funny.
"I want to add a term."
Mike flounders for a moment, not sure how to phrase it in the least offending manner. "Given what you've said, I'm afraid you'll use the trial to create false expectations."
Harvey actually smiles at that. And it seems genuine, like Mike's performed some surprising new trick. "While I'm not above manipulation in my work, I prefer to be straightforward with people that I sleep with."
Dark eyes glint. "Even paid submissives who may choose – of their free will – to engage in additional, unpaid activities."
"But. To set your mind at ease, we'll add that by the trial's end, you'll have a clear sense of exactly what I will or will not want."
He could be lying through his teeth, but there's no way Mike can know. It sure as hell can't hurt to have more information. "Alright. The contract. Go."
"Louis has probably told you that I expect you nights and weekends. That's true, but while I'd like to have you available, my hours are irregular. I can't predict when I'll work late, and I don't think it's fair that you wait around for me to use you.
"The arrangement I have with my driver solves a similar problem – he has regular duties that are all but guaranteed, on-call periods where he's free unless I call him, and off-duty periods where he's free of obligation – I won't call even if I do need him. The only way this works is if he's willing to drop everything immediately when he's on call – and that he keeps in mind when he schedules plans that he needs to stay nearby.
"Obviously, your situation's different – your on-call periods would outweigh everything else. But I think the basic principle's sound."
Mike's being used for sex, not transportation. But, well. Minor detail.
He lets the silence sit, to make sure Harvey's done soliloquizing. The gist is better than expected. "Exactly when would I be on call?"
"Weekdays...7pm through the next morning. 7am makes it nice and round. Weekends, straight through: Friday night through Monday morning.
In other words, all the time, with no days off. Since he plans to keep his day job just in case this doesn't work, he'd have no time to visit Gram, much less his friends. "I want Sunday. From Sunday morning – seven – til we resume on Monday night."
Harvey rocks his chair back without visible upset. "Done, but I get daytime Friday instead."
Which means Mike will lose a shift at work, but it's not worth a fight. "Okay. ...Wait, no."
Harvey's eyes narrow.
"Um. I said seven on Sunday, but I want to count as off from whenever you're finished Saturday night." Mike can just see the nightmare scenario of having a freshly paddled ass while he plays cards with Gram. Harvey looks about to deny him, so Mike mitigates a little. "Which may include early morning Sunday, no later than 4am."
That appeases, from how Harvey settles in his chair. "Fine. But now that I've thought about it, let's shift your day off to Saturday. I'm more likely to work then, anyway."
Mike chews his bottom lip, but stops when Harvey smirks a little.
They were at twelve hours Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday overnight, from seven Thursday evening through Saturday early morning, and.... "I was going to have Monday off until seven. Same goes Sunday, if we move it?"
Though the only fair answer could be yes, Harvey thinks about it.
"Monday, I'd've been working. I want you back at noon on Sunday."
Mike's pretty sure he lost free time in all of this, and Harvey's smug grin says he knows it. This guy is a shark.
Something else occurs to Mike. "I'm on call every night. What about sleep?"
Harvey's eyebrows go up. "Well, you're off during the day."
"I'll be working."
That makes Harvey darken. "We said - "
"My real job, where I pay taxes. Not...someone else."
Thought lines appear between Harvey's eyebrows, but he looks less pissed off. "We haven't gotten there yet, but you'll pull twenty grand a month. After Louis's cut. You don't need another income."
Mike nearly chokes on that piece of information. He's getting ten grand for a weekend, but he hadn't reasoned out from there. He's been so focused on the present, keeping Gram out of the state home. "Two hundred grand a year?"
Now Harvey looks amused. "Are you committing for that long?"
Mike freezes, and Harvey's smile goes a little stiff.
"In any case – I'm glad to see you made it through fourth grade. Twenty thousand dollars a month would be $240,000 a year, yes."
"Problem solved," Harvey concludes. "You'll have plenty of time to sleep. Or even get your nails done."
"You're hilarious," Mike manages. "But I'll be keeping my real job."
Harvey sits forward. "Exactly what is this 'real job' you're determined to hang onto."
Mike flushes but keeps his chin up. "Bike messenger." Harvey laughs. "It's my time. Not up to you."
Harvey rolls his eyes. "Fine. Anyway, here's a secret – I'm not twenty anymore. I need to sleep at night, and so can you."
Which gets Mike back on track. "Sorry, I meant where I'll be sleeping, not when."
Harvey's just full of humor, all at Mike's expense. "I have a bed. A guest bed, too. I can invest in a dog bed, if you'd like one."
"Not what I... If I'm on call every night, I'll never see my own apartment."
Harvey studies Mike a moment, like this, he hadn't thought of. Mike wonders if he forgot Mike exists outside his presence.
"Maybe not. But 'on call' may not mean 'working,' as I've already explained. On the other hand, when you are working, I expect you'll stay the night, so in all likelihood, your rent will be an waste of money. Since I assume wasting money isn't something you enjoy, I have unused storage space in my building for your things."
Once he sorts out what Harvey's saying, Mike is speechless for a moment. "Did you just ask me to move in with you?"
"I offered to add room and board to the terms of your employment."
Mike stares at Harvey, who doesn't seem to know he's crazy.
"Ok, wait, seriously. Does this end with you wearing a shirt made from my skin?"
Mike is actually perfectly serious, but Harvey belts a laugh. A real laugh, this time though, like Mike caught him by surprise. Mike just got his breath back, but now it's gone again. Up til now, Harvey's been handsome, in a disapproving way, but this real, wide smile completely knocks Mike's air out.
"I can assure you, I have no interest wearing anything you own," Harvey says, still smiling, but he gives Mike's suit the eye.
Mike must look unconvinced. Harvey sighs.
"Look, as much as I hate to compliment Louis, he does due diligence when it comes to his business. And he's not a risk taker. He'd know if I were inclined to kill you, and he'd never send you here. If you die, he loses money."
"Oh ok, when you put it like that..." Mike says dryly, and it earns him a new grin. "Anyway, no offense – I'll keep my job and my apartment."
Harvey shrugs. "Fine by me. Anything else?"
Mike doesn't know. It's starting to sink in, how much more this is than usual. He's got to be a out of his freaking mind.
"Well. Let me know if you think of something else. I assume you need to start as soon as possible."
Mike's stomach dips. He'd like to put it off, but the clock is really ticking. "Yeah, I guess I do."
"Alright. This weekend. Saturday – seven in the evening, until the same time on Sunday." Harvey's eyes wander away, like he's talking to the room. "Get all that, Donna?"
"Yes, sir, every word." The intercom speaks. So does the redhead just beyond the glass. She winks at Mike, who's mildly horrified. "Ooh, you know...you didn't cover what he should call you. Or kinks he should expect. I have room here in the contract if you'd like to specify - "
Harvey stabs the off button with a small trace of a smile. It's gone before Mike's even sure he saw it. "There are some things she doesn't need to know. If you'd like a copy of what we have so far, pick it up on the way out."
Harvey starts sifting through some paperwork once he cuts the intercom off, and there's a beat when he's done speaking where he play-acts as though Mike isn't there. Then he looks up, almost theatrical in the way he tilts his head. Like he's busy and important, and not sure why Mike's sitting there.
"I have work. I'll see you Saturday."
Mike tries to look steady when he pushes to his feet and lets himself out the door. His knees have turned to water.
He asks the redhead – Donna – for his copy of the paperwork and leans his weight against the desk while he waits for it to print.
Donna smirks and studies him; Mike tries to ignore her. He called himself a hooker just to dig at Harvey, but he regrets that choice right now.
"He likes to think that I don't know things, but you'll want to call him 'sir.'" Mike feels his face heat at her knowing look, avoiding eye-contact studiously. He thinks she's done, until she adds, "And don't be frightened of the can opener. Not as kinky as it sounds."
Mike grabs the paperwork as soon as it's offered and flees towards the elevator.
It's well past eight but the office is half full, and a woman leers at him as he's escaping down the hall. Like she knows what he's here for, and she wants a go herself.
Jesus, this place is terrifying. He's pretty sure his incomprehensible asshole quota is maxed out for the future, so he hopes he won't be coming back.
He's glad to take a cab home. The ride passes in a daze.