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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'm sorry?"

"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.

"Grandmother, actually."

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."

"Which is?"

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."

"Even hookers?"

Dark eyes glint. "Even paid submissives who may choose – of their free will – to engage in additional, unpaid activities."

Right. Lawyer.

"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."

Mike swallows.

"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.

Chapter Text

Saturday comes too quickly.

There's nothing Mike can do to prepare for it, really, so all his nervous energy's got no place to go. He spends the whole week high, just to quiet his mind...even though he's working, and that generally breaks his policy. He gives his two weeks at the night gig, but that still means he'll be working til the test results come.

And now he's acting like this is forgone, too. What he didn't say to Harvey, though Harvey probably knows, is that Mike can't afford to back out.

This weekend's mostly forewarned/forearmed.

Harvey's the kind of guy who will dress Mike how he wants him, so Mike just shows up as himself on Saturday. Harvey's building's epic. The doorman knows he's coming, and points him to an elevator...which starts to move without instructions, and only hits one floor.

It opens into Harvey's great room.

He does his best not to gawk. He steps off and hesitates, uncertain what comes next. Most times, he's told exactly what to do, say and expect before he even meets the client. It's unnerving not to have that.

He sees Harvey right away, though, sitting on the couch. He looks different. His hair is loose. He's in a t-shirt and sweatpants. But he's no less intimidating than he was behind his desk.

"Strip," he orders, and Mike thinks of course. There's a voice in his head saying notyetnotyetnotyet, but it's not his first rodeo, so he tries to make it good.

Harvey interrupts him. "Just take them off, no need for a show."

Mike changes tacks without a word.

"Next time you come here, and every time after that, I expect you naked when the doors open. Your clothing and belongings never leave the elevator. Don't start to strip until you reach at least the 8th floor, and you can leave your boxers on until you're almost here."

"Yes, sir," Mike says. His mind flashes back to Donna, but he said it out of habit. It's what clients usually want, after giving him an order. He tosses his clothes back through the double doors.

"Feel free to fold them next time," Harvey drawls, sounding somewhat unimpressed. But he leans back and crooks his finger, reeling Mike in close. He's practically in Harvey's lap before he's told to kneel.

He half-expects Harvey to pull out his cock, but instead, he reaches out with one knuckle to tilt Mike's chin up. Mike meets his scrutiny for as long as he's comfortable – which is a second, two at most.

His eyes slide away, and then close, startled, when Harvey cups his face in both hands. They're warm and oddly careful, cradling from Mike's jawline to the low curve of his skull.

For some reason, unwelcome and unfathomable, Mike starts getting hard.

"Look at me."

It'd be easier if Harvey had simply grabbed his dick. It's harder than it should be to look him in the eye and hold that contact while Harvey looks for something.

"When did you get high?" Mike starts, but Harvey holds him steady. "I read people for a living. When, this morning?"

He feels his cheeks flush against Harvey's thumbs. "Before I came." He knew he really shouldn't have, but he'd been a total wreck.

"I didn't tell you not to," Harvey says mildly. "Did it help calm your nerves?"

Mike's face is hot, his mouth is dry. Whatever buzz he had is leaving pretty fast. "Made me feel sick, actually."

Harvey nods, expression neutral, eyes intent on Mike's face. "How often do you smoke? Don't low-ball it."

"Every couple days?" Harvey doesn't frown, or even raise a brow, but Mike feels the disapproval from him nonetheless. He corrects himself. "More if something's...sometimes, every day."

Harvey nods again, like this was expected. "I'm going to say this once, so listen carefully. You're done smoking til we're through. Not just on-call hours...never, period. If you want this job tomorrow, you'll flush everything you've got. If you get high, I'll know. If I'm suspicious, you'll take a drug test. This is a non-negotiable term of your employment."

Mike wanted to tell him go to hell, but...some jobs do this. Harvey is basically his full-time employer now. It's not completely out of line.

"Is that going to be a dealbreaker for you?"

Mike can't help hesitating, but saying yes will mean he's fired. "No, sir."

Harvey's eyes smile. "Good boy."

It sends a flush of heat from Harvey's hands right to Mike's dick. Harvey's eyes don't leave his face, but he smirks...like he's pleased. It's a different kind of look from the first time that they met. He's a different kind of guy, really. Mike has to wonder why, and which Harvey is real.

"Since I can hear your suspicious mind whirring away already, let's talk expectations before anything else." Harvey breaks contact, sitting back, and Mike feels an unwelcome loss. Harvey's studying his face like each expression is important. "There's beer in the fridge, go get me one."

The random order disconcerts him, but Mike rolls to his feet. He feels mildly ridiculous padding across the hardwood naked, and he can feel that Harvey's watching. This whole thing has Mike off-balance.

At least he loses the erection he was working on.

He pauses once he retrieves the beer bottle from the gargantuan, empty fridge. Harvey doesn't seem like someone who keeps an opener on his person. But Mike isn't sure that he's allowed to speak.

Fuck it. Time to test the softer side of Harvey.

"Should I open this for you?" Mike asks. Then tacks on sir to hedge his bets.

"No, thank you." Harvey's tone is surreally polite, like Mike is just his guest.

Mike hesitates again – will Harvey open it with his teeth? – but turns and makes his way back to the living area.

Harvey takes the bottle, and sets it to the side.

He pats his leg. "Up here, this time."

Mike starts to sit, is corrected into a straddle, and tries to ignore the weird, persistent tightness in his chest. Harvey settles both hands on his hips casually.

His thumbs are curling over the sharp points of Mike's pelvis, barely brushing the outer edges of his groin. So much for getting soft. Mike looks away.

"Eye contact, please."

Mike does it – now he's blushing – and Harvey's smile is very knowing. "Good boy."

Mike inhales sharply, eyes falling shut. It was reflex, but despite his orders, he can't open them again. He's so hard it caused a head rush, and he's just...he doesn't understand.

He's always found this easy, but he never really liked it. He found most things ridiculous, sometimes outright disturbing, but he's also never had a problem acquiescing in the moment. It's why he's good at this.

It's usually not til later that his skin begins to crawl. This isn't that, though, this is...pleasurable, which makes it difficult. He's confused by his own body.

A hand cups his cheek without a word, and he manages to open his eyes. Harvey isn't smirking or looking pleased, but he isn't angry either.

His hand drops back to Mike's hip, and he continues like they never stopped.

"I won't draw blood. I may leave bruises, aches and pains but nothing to prevent your normal range of motion. You just might be a little sore. Most of that's punishment, rather than play. I want nothing to do with your bodily fluids, nor do I have any interest in subjecting you to mine. Except the obvious, which is why we're getting tested." Here, Harvey smirks...it's cool, and Mike relaxes. "I don't want the words 'Master' or 'Daddy' to ever pass your lips. I may leave you in bondage sometime, but I'll remain in the apartment if not in touching distance. I have very little interest in causing pain, shame or fear." The tilt of his lips becomes a little realer. "That would be too much like work." Mike smiles.

Harvey pauses, as if in thought. "Do you cook?"

"Uh," Mike is startled from his role. "I can?"

"Do you like to?" Harvey asks.

As though he cares. Mike tries not to pull a face, but apparently he fails.

There's a small, genuine smile on Harvey's lips. "Ok, never mind, then."

Harvey must read skepticism from his face, because he...doesn't sigh, but leaves the impression of it somehow. His finger taps against Mike's pelvis while his eyes are lost in thought, which is...distracting. Harvey doesn't seem to notice.

"Ok," he says like he's settled on something. He gives Mike a frank look. "I hired you to please me."

"...Uh-huh," Mike says in the silence. He has a split second of worry about the form of address, before Harvey grins.

"Clearly. But it will not please me just to displease you. I'm not hiring a robot, or even a slave. Your role here can be thought of as...a pet. But human, with complex thoughts and needs. It's my job – as an employer, much less a Dom – to meet those when I can; it's your job, in this instance, to be available and affectionate and do just as I say. It's also your job to look for new ways to please me, if they don't go against what I've told you in the past. You won't be punished for initiative – if I dislike something, I'll tell you. Does this make sense?"

"Yes," Mike answers honestly, but his confusion leaks through. He understands what Harvey's saying, but not why Harvey needs it. But that's the kind of thing that he really shouldn't ask.

"That doesn't sound like a real yes. Never just tell me what you think I want to hear. I want the truth, even if I might not like it."

Mike still hesitates. "I understand your expectations. I don't get why I'm here. We met at your office, so you're not deep in the closet, and you don't want something extreme. I just...you could get someone - " Mike doesn't say who wants this, " - who'd play this role for free."

Harvey has gone tight around his eyes and mouth, but his tone of voice stays mild. "I want you to ask questions if you have them. Always. But questions of that nature will not be getting answers."

"Yes, sir," Mike says quietly.

He thinks of his list of duties, and how affection's near the top, and he just...hurts a little. For Harvey, which concerns him. His compassion's never been a problem in the past, because it's hard to feel bad for someone while they're calling you a worm or a nasty little slut.

But for all the intimidation and undisguised condescension in their first meeting, Harvey had treated him as an equal. Well. That's stretching it. But as someone with a brain (whether or not they were using it). As someone who had the right to disagree or re-negotiate. He's still behaving that way, though they're sort of in a scene.

He's often treated as sort of...mindless-slave-meets-disposable-commodity, and that's before things really start. He wishes it weren't refreshing, the way Harvey's respecting him.

He thinks that alone would pose a danger to Mike's emotions, but if Mike is here to basically be Harvey's submissive boyfriend...he's afraid he's kind of fucked. So he has to hope he's wrong there. He wants tough-but-fair asshole Harvey back.

"Problem?" Harvey finally says, watching him.

"No, sir." Not something they can help.

"Ok. Is there anything in what I've said that makes you uncomfortable, that you're unclear on, or that you don't think you can do?"

"No, sir."

Almost a lie, but it seems to get past lie detection. Mike has the impression Harvey's still distracted from Mike poking into his life.

"Is there anything else that you want or need to add?"

"No, sir." Harvey had eliminated his normal no-go's off the bat.

"Alright." Mike is being studied like Harvey's not sure what to do here; then, like a switch is thrown, he jumps tracks and gives Mike a sure, sly smile. "By the way, when I say 'pet,' it's mostly metaphorical. Please don't bark or wag your tail."

Mike lets himself laugh. Cuz yeah, he's done that one before. "No leash and collar?"

"I didn't say that." Harvey softens with real humor. "No rawhides though."

Mike swallows. "Good. No trips to the vet when I chip a tooth, then."

Harvey squeezes his hip, like playtime's over. "A few more terms to cover. I wasn't completely kidding about what I said in the office – sex here is negotiable. I know you're paid to be here, I'm not kidding myself, but I don't need that component if you're straight or unattracted. Don't want it in that case, actually."

"That won't be a problem," Mike says with certainty. Because he walked in reluctant, but attraction isn't a problem. Plus, he's not willing to be completely celibate, and he imagines the 'no others' term would hold, either way.

Harvey smiles. "I didn't think it would be. In that case, I should add that I may sometimes use cock rings or cages, but as a general rule, you're allowed to come. Whenever you want, unless you're told otherwise. Acceptable?"

Mike's dick is hard, and Harvey's smirking. "Acceptable."

He licks his bottom lip – mouth gone suddenly dry – and Harvey's eyes drop to follow. For a moment, Mike is sure that he's about to be kissed.

Harvey's eyes shift back to his, and again, the heat blinks out, expression neutral.

"Have you ever played for fun?"

Mike has a moment where he's not following; he thinks, 'have I played what?'

Before it clicks on its own, Harvey clarifies. "I'm told you've been at this professionally on and off for about three years. Have you ever submitted to someone when you weren't being paid?"

"No," Mike says, uncomfortable with the look on Harvey's face. "I don't...I'm not...."

A glint enters Harvey's eye, mouth quirking just a little. "You know, Mike, you shouldn't lie to me, as a term of your employment...but not lying to yourself is just good practice."

Mike wants to protest, but decides it isn't worth it. If Harvey'd rather think Mike's all about this, well...he hasn't lied. It's part of Harvey's fantasy.

Harvey, who looks smug like he heard that train of thought and disagrees completely, doesn't comment on it.

"As far as I'm concerned, your safe word at any moment is 'no' or 'don't' or 'stop.' Anything like that. To stop this altogether, you just need to say you quit. Does that work for you, or would you like to be free to say 'no' without calling off the scene?"

"That works for me."

"We're having this discussion now, but in the course of day-to-day, there's no negotiation. You'll do what I say, or there will be consequences – none of which will violate anything I've said already. No blood, no severe discomfort, no indefinite orgasm denial. However. If you change your mind about any of these terms or would like to add something, tell me. We'll renegotiate as many times as we need. Sound fair?"

More than. "Yes, sir."

"Ok. I've said my piece. Anything to add?"

Mike thinks. "No, sir."

"Good." Harvey reaches past his now-warm beer, to grab something on the sofa table Mike hadn't even noticed. A digital recorder. He hits stop, then holds it up. "Also non-negotiable that I'm keeping this as a record. We also need to sign hard copies. I can ask Donna to type it up, but you can do it if you'd rather."

Mike's face goes hot as he thinks over their discussion. "I'll do it."

Harvey smirks and hands him the recorder. "My personal laptop – which you may use, by the way – is on the desk in my office. Go get this done now. We'll sign tomorrow night, if you haven't changed your mind. Have you eaten?"

Mike blinks. "Yes."

"Ok. Feel free to do this in the office, but bring the laptop back to me when you're done."

*

Mike feels a little odd sitting bare-assed in the office chair, but Harvey knew that he was naked and didn't ask him to do anything about it. Also, Harvey's desk – more functional than the one at work – faces up against floor-to-ceiling windows.

Mike brings his knees together and is grateful they haven't invented flying cars.

He transcribes from the tape, then, well aware that Harvey's professional instincts are the reason that they're doing this, opens another document and reworks it as a contract, with more structure and formal language.

When he looks at the clock, he's surprised to see how long he's taken, but Harvey doesn't look upset when he goes back into the great room. He doesn't look at all, actually. He's frowning at a stack of papers and scribbling in the margin, a plate littered with bread crumbs sitting at his elbow.

He looks up once he's finished writing. "Ok. Let me see."

Mike left both documents open, but left the transcript out on top. He watches Harvey skim it, then he clicks, reads, and his eyebrows go up. "So you're not a slow typist." He's focused on the contract intently, and Mike starts feeling restless. Maybe he shouldn't have – "Where did you learn to write like this?"

Mike tries to quell the spike of irritation. "I read a lot."

"Legal documents?" Harvey's openly curious.

"Among other things."

Mike studies the coffee table while Harvey continues to look at him.

"Ok. You did very well...better than my associate, actually," he gestures to the print-out beside him on the sofa, covered in blue ink. "I'll look this over before we print it; I'll clarify things if necessary, but you saved me time and effort."

Mike shrugs one shoulder, unsure what to say, or what to think of the scrutiny Harvey's still giving him. He only relaxes when Harvey glances towards the clock. It's ten.

"Unfortunately, I have another hour of work here." Harvey takes a sofa pillow and puts it at his feet. "Settle in for me, for a while."

"Thank you," he says, because he knows how long an hour is on hardwood. Harvey's attention is back on his paperwork, and he just gestures to his feet.

Mike drops onto the pillow, upright and kneeling position.

Harvey doesn't look up. "You can sit if you prefer."

Mike shifts to one side, legs still tucked beneath him but without all his weight. He's about to start a Tolkien novel in his head when a hand lands on his nape. He lets Harvey adjust him, putting Mike's head against his knee. With a squeeze of appreciation, Harvey's hand disappears so he can turn the page.

The posture is relaxed, but Mike feels anything but. His muscles won't untense. Harvey's hand returns to massage his neck and rub his scalp. He pulls his fingers through Mike's hair. It's idle and absent...like he really is a pet.

At first, the touches just make him more self-conscious, but they honestly feel good and eventually they lull him. He's not aware how far he's slumped til the murmured "Good boy" comes. That makes his heart jump, and Harvey squeezes his nape.

Petting resumes once Mike relaxes.

It's kind of peaceful once he lets it be. Just silence and soft touches, broken only by pen on paper, or the flipping of a page. Mike falls into The Hobbit, all his favorite childhood scenes. He skips the dull parts.

Bilbo's safely back in Bag End when Harvey says his name.

He startles out of what feels like a deep sleep, but he thinks he was awake. He's groggy and disoriented, and Harvey's smiling down his way. He has no papers in his hands.

"You done?" Mike slurs.

"Mm." Harvey combs Mike's hair back, watching him closely. Since Mike's just blinking stupidly, he's not really sure why. "You've done so well tonight. With everything."

Warmth blooms in Mike's chest before sense can stop it.

"I think you've earned a treat."

On the tip of Mike's tongue is a joke about rawhides, but it dies as he sees the partial tent in Harvey's sweats.

Ah. Mike hates when clients talk like getting fucked is the grand prize, but who knows...things with Harvey have been surprisingly pleasant.

"I know you don't trust me yet. That's fine." Mike's eyes dart up. Harvey looks like he means that, mostly. But also like he's disappointed by his last read of Mike's mind. Harvey's mouth pulls to one side in a grimace or a smile. "I wouldn't trust me either."

Mike's eyebrows draw together at that, and Harvey reaches out to smooth the space with his thumb.

"C'mon."

Mike thinks the offered hand's for show, until his legs nearly give out. The clock reads half past midnight. Harvey braces him a moment, til he can stand on his own.

"All right?"

"Yeah."

"You can walk?"

He shakes both legs a little, trying to get rid of pins and needles. Of course, that makes it worse. But he can make it. "Yeah."

"Ok. Go lay down on my bed. I'll be there in a second."

Mike nods, feeling a surge of adrenaline. He thinks it's odd...he's not nervous about clients fucking him, not in general, and certainly not Harvey in particular from what he's seen. But just like that, his heart is racing. There's a hollow in his stomach. It's not until he's in bed, getting hard, that he realizes: Not fear. Anticipation.

Harvey steps in just a few minutes later, turning on the bedside lamp and disappearing into the closet. He comes back without his clothes, and Mike gets to watch his ass flex as he goes to flip off the overhead lights.

It's a really nice ass, actually. Harvey kind of has a nice everything.

He pauses by the bed, completely unselfconscious as he pulls open the nightstand drawer. "It's a shame we still need condoms. You've been so good, I'm sorely tempted."

Mike doesn't know if he's looking forward to having come in his ass...he's always played it safe, so he's never done that before. He doesn't think it'll be unpleasant, but he's pretty sure it won't feel like a bonus for a job well done.

He holds his tongue, though.

Harvey looks like a cat with a canary as he rips open the condom wrapper. He kneels in the vee between Mike's legs.

Mike thinks he knows what's happening til the condom's on his dick.

"What...shit!"

Ok, yes, this is a treat because Harvey's going down on him. And now Mike also regrets the use of condoms. Harvey looks smug at his change in attitude, and that look should be illegal with his lips around Mike's dick. Harvey keeps dark eyes on him, and Mike can't look away.

From the way his hips are pinned, Mike thinks hair-pulling's not an option so he makes do with abusing the sheets when temptation is too much.

"That's my good boy," Harvey says, low, gravelly and filthy, and Mike's dick twitches, his hips jerk, and Harvey presses them down harder. Mike's never had someone look so dangerous just before they swallow him down.

Harvey's eyes close as he gets down to Serious Business. He's really, really good at this, and Mike holds out as long as possible, almost biting through his lip. He's kind of grateful for the latex for helping draw it out, but then he thinks of this without it and....

Yeah. He's a goner.

Harvey keeps sucking til it verges in on painful, then he sits up smirking. "Puppy like his treat?"

He disposes of the condom with swift, economical motions. Mike's brain is made of mud. "Thought you didn't want a puppy."

"Mm," Harvey says noncommittally, and leans down to thumb Mike's lip. It stings a little, where his teeth dug in. "Next time, you make noise for me."

"Next time?" Mike's slightly embarrassed by the bright note in his voice. Harvey's eyes are laughing at him.

"When you've earned it."

"That's a good incentive package." He's not quite joking. That might've been the best head of his life.

Harvey just smirks, but his focus has gone hot and he's stroking himself slowly. He's so pretty, Mike's mouth waters. "I can - "

Harvey pushes him back against the bed when he starts to sit up. "No."

It sounds more like No thanks than no, you're in trouble. Mike's at a loss for what to do with himself. He reaches for Harvey's thighs, but Harvey smacks his hand. "Grab the headboard."

O-kay. Mike reaches back behind his head and wraps his fingers around the slats, and Harvey's nostrils flare. His hand starts moving faster. It still looks like a tease, but it's more than idle now.

"You have a terrible poker face, you know."

Um. "Sorry?"

Harvey shrugs, like this isn't bizarre jackoff material. "I'm not complaining. It's stupidly easy to know what you're thinking. For example, you're not thrilled that I want you bareback."

Mike tries to keep his expression neutral, he really does, but something must slip through. Harvey laughs.

"See? There. Every time I bring it up. You just can't help but make a face."

"Well. Sorry. I can pretend to be stoked, but you said not to lie."

"That's right. I don't think it'll be a lie, though, by the time we get down to it." Harvey grins at whatever face Mike makes at that. "I don't mind you thinking otherwise until I prove you wrong."

Mike has a feeling Harvey's this damn sure about everything he does, but he doesn't get why, in this case. Harvey said he should ask questions. "Why are you so sure you can?"

Harvey's eyes caress his face, soft except the arrogance. "You don't want to admit it, but you want so badly to be owned. See? Right there. Just hearing me say it makes you sit up and take notice."

Mike's not sure his reaction to the word is all that pleasant. And even if it were, he wonders why Harvey thinks it should be him. By default, what Harvey's doing is more like renting than owning. Leasing, maybe, since it is long-term.

He doesn't say that, though.

"Don't think so hard. I could be full of it," Harvey says flippantly. But there's no doubt or apology, not the slightest trace in his voice. Just a challenge - I know I'm right, but you can kid yourself if you need to. It does something complicated to Mike's insides.

"In any case, you'd look good sloppy for me, and that's all that really matters." Harvey's hand accelerates to get off speed, and he looks down at Mike's skin like he's imagining it that way.

That look gives Mike a shiver for reasons still unknown. He doesn't get mocked for it; Harvey shudders, grip tightening, eyes going dark and hooded. He's so clearly turned on by the idea and Mike decides that's it. It's not the 'owned' thing; it's not about the come. He's turned on by the fact that he turns Harvey on.

He usually takes it as a given that he'll turn his clients on – that's the point, really – but it doesn't feel that way with Harvey. It's sort of shocking that it's possible at all. Harvey's the kind of guy Mike would never look twice at, if they met somewhere else...he's out of Mike's league.

Mike lays back and watches while Harvey works himself to orgasm. He's never asked to participate. At least, not outside Harvey's mind. The Mike in there seems to be doing something filthy.

Harvey groans and comes all over Mike's chest and...yeah, nope, nada. He is not made whole by Harvey's spunk.

Mostly, he wants it washed off, asap.

Harvey is heaving hard breaths through his nose like a riled-up bull, eyes intense on Mike's face for a few beats.

And then he starts to smile. "Yeah, ok, princess. Your objection's duly noted."

With that, he gets up off the bed and retreats to the bathroom; Mike watches him, bemused. He comes back with a washcloth, gently wipes up all the come, and takes it back to rinse.

He doesn't look angry at being proven wrong. In fact, he doesn't look like he has been. Just like Mike's amusing him with his unwillingness to yield.

It makes Mike itch to argue, but Harvey returns content and in good humor, so Mike decides against it. He straddles Mike's body and leans in very close...any closer, they'd be cross-eyed.

Mike's breath catches. Harvey looks pleased and closes the distance to press a simple kiss against his mouth.

Harvey climbs off towards the empty side of the bed. He settles down to sleep while Mike blinks at the ceiling.

Mike wants to say a lot of things...'I'm not really your lover' and 'who am I replacing' and 'where's the asshole from the office?' Seriously, what is this? He's mildly creeped out despite the warmth in his chest.

Harvey sighs. "If you can't sleep in here, there's a guest bed down the hall. Feel free to lock the door. I could come through with a chainsaw, but the co-op frowns on that."

Mike can't help grinning. "I'll keep that in mind."

A minute later, Harvey drops off to sleep.

Every time Mike thinks the man's delusional, he proves he knows just what this is. And more, that he doesn't expect Mike to be comfortable with this whole situation, even though he clearly is. Is that a money thing? An arrogance thing? Could be a bluff, Mike bets he pulls a great one.

He thinks about the first meeting – public, someone listening in – and their negotiation earlier – recorded, converted to writing – and decides that although hiring someone like Mike is risky on multiple levels, Harvey's made every effort to reduce the chance for future bounce-back.

Which means...well. He's almost certain Harvey ran a background check. Even if he went beyond that, he'd've found nothing alarming. And he would know about Mike's drug use, how he's not into any hard stuff, that he has a penchant for making money less-than-legally, but no violence or theft to speak of in his past.

No wonder he's sleeping like a baby despite the stranger in his bed. Mike would buy that peace of mind, if he had the resources.

Mike wonders if the disbelief over Gram was total bullshit. If he dug at all, he could have found out that Mike pays for her care. For sure, he knew Mike's single with no children. He pretended not to know.

So as nice as Harvey's been, he's also playing mind games. Oddly, that makes Mike feel better. There's a colder side to Harvey, and he shouldn't let himself forget that.

They're playing house, apparently – literally, if Harvey'd had his way - but it's all for Harvey's benefit. It may seem, sometimes, that Harvey's being kind to him, but it's just. Whatever. Some weird fetish to balance out the douchiness of being a corporate lawyer.

The way it makes Mike feel is mostly incidental.

Chapter Text

Mike wakes up Sunday mid-molestation...which he's totally on board for, once he remembers where he is. Contract, trial. Blowjob last night.

Harvey's pressed along his back, erection sliding between Mike's ass cheeks. Teeth sink into his throat, and Mike arches involuntarily. Harvey's got a firm grip on his dick.

"I should probably have asked how you felt about me starting without you." His voice is deep against Mike's ear.

"Um. A-ok, really." Seriously, this? Not objecting.

"Roll over on your stomach."

Harvey moves away, presumably to get lube.

Mike does, and ruts against the bedsheets, because they feel pretty damn good. Harvey works him open while pressing bites onto his back, into the meat over his shoulders. He didn't know he had a Thing, but he's helplessly turned on by that, face buried in the pillow as Harvey rubs his prostate. Harvey bites harder on a fresh patch of skin and Mike whimpers in a good way, grasping at the slats of the headboard in an unthinking attempt to ground himself.

Harvey moans against his flesh. "Good, good boy."

And Mike comes. It shocks him, but he's already so turned on, and there's this thing in Harvey's voice that grabs him by the balls, and...it just happens.

Harvey swears and gets on him while Mike's shuddering uncontrollably, thrusting in, nailing his prostate, and making Mike jerk in pain. The next thrust misses; so do most of the ones that follow.

Mike's getting the breath fucked out of him, literally, but the afterglow makes it really hard to care. He drifts, not even pretending that he's taking part. Harvey doesn't seem to mind.

Mike wonders if he actually likes that. He's sensing a pattern here.

Harvey fucks him just long enough that his interest starts to stir. He's pretty sure he can't come again yet but he's turned on in some simmering, abstract way. If the fingers digging into Mike's skin are any indication, Harvey really likes the lazy roll of his hips. Mike is kept from testing his refractory period when Harvey ruts in and comes.

They lay in a sweaty, sated pile. Until Mike says, "Well. Sex won't be a problem," and Harvey laughs.

"Glad you agree."

He gets up to ditch the condom and Mike rolls over, stretches, and tamps down the perverse need to point out how clean he is. Except for the wet spot that he rolled out of. He feels pleasantly loose-limbed and aware of his body in a way he's always associated with a good hard fuck.

Harvey is smug. "You look like you could purr."

"Shut up," he grumbles without thinking, then pauses, unsure how that'll be received.

Harvey swats his ass, but not too hard. The doorbell rings, and Harvey goes, shrugging into a robe. Mike hears him at the door, then someone's voice inside...he's mildly concerned what that's about but they clearly leave just a moment later.

Mike sits straight up when he smells bacon. And coffee. He follows his nose.

Harvey mocks him non-verbally from the table as he approaches. When Mike starts to pull out his own seat, Harvey snaps his fingers in Mike's face, startling the hell out of him.

"No puppies at the table."

Mike opens his mouth, and Harvey nods at the floor, where there's a throw pillow at his feet like last night. Harvey's attention is back on his newspaper, but he's smirking when Mike settles. A minute later, a hand reaches down with a piece of bacon.

Mike tries to take it.

"No," Harvey says, and Mike stops.

Hoping he's wrong, he opens his mouth. The bacon's popped inside, perfectly bite-sized.

Mike decides Harvey takes the 'pet' thing more seriously than he'd let on. Still, he's been promised no tail, barking, or weird bathroom play, so Mike can live with the rest. Except..."Can I have coffee?"

Harvey reaches for something and pours. Mike hopes he's not being teased. "Sugar? Milk?"

"Two. And some."

A moment later, Harvey extends him a normal coffee mug, but Mike's not sure he's allowed to take it.

"Drink it normally," Harvey supplies. "Too messy otherwise."

It sounds like the voice of experience. Mike wonders what alternatives he'd tried with Mike's predecessors before coming to that conclusion.

He sips the coffee and sighs. Almost exactly how he likes it.

Harvey's hand comes back, this time with a pinch of biscuit. It's hot and fluffy and damn near perfect, til he gets more, with white gravy. He sucks Harvey's fingers clean that time, smirking at the deep, even breath from above him.

Harvey feeds him that way, bits of bacon/biscuit/sausage/toast until Mike is full. Everything goes directly in his mouth from Harvey's hands. There's a newspaper on the table that Mike knows Harvey's browsing, and he's more covetous of that than the eggs Harvey's having, too messy to be hand-fed.

"More coffee?" Harvey asks, and Mike offers up his mug. It's returned full, a bit too bitter, accompanied by the world news.

Mike settles in with them both, happily, and they read together in silence while they both work through their second coffee.

It's...really nice, he thinks, and on impulse rests his head on Harvey's knee.

There's a pause in the turning of a page, but once it's resumed, Harvey starts petting his hair.

They're like that for a while. Mike starts reading on child soldiers and Harvey scritches the base of his skull and the domesticity starts to prickle. It's pleasant in a way he thinks it shouldn't be.

It should be weird. He straightens up and Harvey stops touching him without comment.

*

It's already noon when they finish with breakfast, and Harvey says he has more work, so he tells Mike to find a book. He gets a look of mild surprise when it's a law book, not a novel, but Mike shrugs, and lays down where Harvey tells him. Harvey's sitting on the sofa, and Mike stretches out with his head in Harvey's lap.

He's on his back, so it's easy to sneak looks up at Harvey's face. He forces himself not to think too much about what this is and why.

While Mike reads up on torts, Harvey balances a lap desk on the sofa's arm. Mike wraps tort law up by three.

Harvey looks up from his work. "Finished?"

He sounds surprised but not as much as Mike is used to. He also knew that Mike was done instead of assuming he got bored. He was paying more attention than Mike thought he was.

"Yeah."

Harvey looks down at him thoughtfully. "Ok. Go pick another."

He can feel Harvey's eyes on him as he goes to shelve the book.

*

It's ten minutes til five, two hours left of the trial, and this is what they've done all day. He's been devouring law books, Harvey's been working a case, and their only point of contact is Mike's head on Harvey's thigh. There's a blues record on a turntable, broadcasting through a high-end system, and the sun is shining warmly through the floor-to-ceiling windows.

Mike grows more and more on edge until he can't continue.

"Is this seriously it?" Harvey looks a question. "A little rough sex, a little finger-feeding, some bad-boy-good-boy crap and me just...being here while you work? Is this really all you want?"

Harvey studies him a moment. "No, there will be more." Mike's heart dips. "But you don't trust me much. And I'm still learning what you like."

Mike sits up, frowning. His stomach's twisted up in knots

"You pay me so you don't need me to trust you. So it doesn't matter what I like."

Harvey counters, "I pay you so that I get what I want, exactly how and when I want it. And this is how I want it."

"For now. Until you spring new stuff on me later. You said - "

For the first time, Harvey loses his mild tone. "I said that by tonight, you'd know exactly what was expected. And what to expect in return. I never said there'd be a demonstration of all the outer limits."

He has a feeling he's been lawyered. This has all been really nice – but once he agreed, the rules would change. No way this was the whole deal.

"Mike. You have the contract. I'm not springing anything on you, or planning subterfuge. I'm sorry this is harder for you than being tied to a cross but if you want out, you say so."

Mike's eyes drop, trying to sort things in his head. Harvey stiffens.

"I know you need the twenty-five grand. I don't want that to be what decides you. It's yours now, regardless, for exceeding expectations."

Mike stares at him. Nothing he's done recently is worth twenty-five grand. It could be the best mindfuck ever, but he's pretty sure it isn't. He's pretty sure Harvey just wants consent free from coercion.

"I'll sign the contract." He feels a little queasy as he says it, but he also sort of wants to.

Harvey searches his face, then puts his work aside and reaches for his laptop. "Ok. We should finalize this, then."

Chapter Text

Mike runs himself ragged during their hiatus – when he's not drop-dead exhausted, he can't find sleep at all. He can't really think about much besides Harvey, and the mood swings that inspires are nothing short of epic.

Anger, guilt, extreme apprehension, a stupid sort of daydreaming followed by calling himself stupid for daydreaming of a client, and a few times when he almost calls it off.

And that's just the first day.

Harvey, for some reason, couldn't cut him a check on Sunday night, so Mike has to go back on Monday to pick up his money. He leaves Harvey's feeling better, though he's hard-pressed to figure why. They just talked for a few minutes, Harvey didn't even touch him, and was somewhere in between the man he'd spent the day with and the man he'd met in the office.

Anyway, he's calmer after that, which he chalks up to getting the money, but he still feels unsettled. There are plenty of reasons for that. His night manager's being bitchy like he's killed her cat by giving his notice. He pays the nursing home and then his rent, which leaves $9.26 in checking and a twenty in his pocket. He's not sure how long that needs to last him, and people are being tightwads on both the pizza runs and package deliveries. That's annoying at the best of times, but try doing it hungry.

And there's this tightness in his chest like he's missing something vital. He spends most of his free time hanging out with Gram, and finds himself with the compulsive urge to crawl into her lap. He doesn't, of course. He makes do with hello/goodbye kisses and her holding his hand for short periods of time. It makes him ache.

She's sort of upset and confused at her new room. It's nicer but she thinks something's wrong with it, somehow, and that the staff is trying to sneak poison in her pills. He knows it's just anxiety at the change, because her memory's been bad lately. He jokes off her more paranoid ramblings like he doesn't know she's serious and talks with her doctor about a promising new medication.

He sits at his kitchen table every night and stares at his pot stash. He hasn't flushed it yet. He knows that he can't smoke it but he needs something to make everything just...stop.

He also needs Harvey's money; he can't afford to screw this up before he even starts. He throws everything in his messenger bag and takes it over to Trevor's...times it for when he knows Trevor's gone. He doesn't want to be convinced to stay and smoke a bowl.

Mike tucks all the weed in with Trevor's personal stash, then he tosses his paraphernalia on his way to his apartment.

He spends his last few nights just pacing, back and forth across his studio.

*

Mike hasn't seen Harvey since he picked up his money. He did stop by the office to drop off his test results; Donna winked and gave him Harvey's. Harvey hadn't been there.

Somewhere in the last two weeks, he's become halfway convinced that the man isn't even real.

Mike feels awkward getting naked in the elevator, like this is all going to turn out to have been a joke, or Harvey might have company because he's forgotten about Mike.

So Mike's still wearing his boxers when the elevator stops.

Harvey frowns at him from his place on the sofa.

Mike quickly drops his underwear before stepping into the condo, hoping Harvey thinks that's close enough to the letter of that law. He stands at the threshold like before, head down as he waits.

He sneaks a look. Harvey's still frowning.

"You look like shit."

That...is not what Mike was expecting, and it frays his last intact nerve. "Not all of us can afford a spa weekend, dickhead."

Harvey stands slowly, eyes fixed on him in a thousand-yard stare. "What did you just say to me?"

Mike freezes, heart thumping painfully in his chest. "Sorry. God, sorry, can I get a do-over? I don't know what's wrong with me, I'm just. I didn't mean that. Can you pretend it didn't happen?"

"No."

Shit. Shitshitshit. He's going to get fired. Or punished. Or...fired.

"When's the last time you slept, Mike?"

"What? Um. Last night. For a while, it was good. From like. Letterman to...whatever comes after it now."

Harvey's still watching him with an intensity that doesn't bode well. If Mike weren't so tired, he might know what to do, but instead he just blurts, "Please don't fire me. I just ordered Gram new meds."

Mike thinks it's a bad sign when Harvey rolls his eyes irritably, but he just heaves a sigh through his nose and sits back down, pointing at the pillow already at his feet. "Nobody's getting fired. Sit."

It registers, belatedly, that there are papers strewn all over the table and the record-player's going, and he probably fucked himself out of a nice relaxing evening.

"Sit," Harvey insists, and Mike goes to the pillow. Once he's down where Harvey put him, Harvey leans back. And frowns at Mike some more, like every part of Mike's face offends him. "Why aren't you sleeping?"

"Just...not. Sometimes, it happens. Can't turn it off."

"Has something happened? To keep you up at night? Money, maybe?"

Mike doesn't understand the question. He's swimming through corn syrup and Harvey won't stop frowning. "No, I – I've got everything under control."

"Then you were anxious about this."

Mike blinks. "This, what?"

Harvey sort of smiles, looking very put upon. "This. Working for me."

"Oh. No." Mike thinks. "Yes? I'm not sure."

"Well, that clears it up." Harvey points. "Go fetch that blanket." Mike does.

Harvey pats the sofa. "Lay down." Mike does.

"Ok, close your eyes and listen."

The blanket settles on him, but Harvey's reading...something. On intellectual property, Mike thinks.

He listens for five sentences, and then he's fast asleep.

*

Mike wakes up in Harvey's bed the next morning, with a vague memory of stumbling there in the middle of the night.

Harvey isn't with him. He also isn't in the great room, but there's a paper with MIKE on it propped on the marble-topped island. He unfolds it.

Mike -

Eat breakfast. Be back tonight at 7. Have dinner before you come.

"Well. That's...succinct."

Just behind the note is a heated serving tray...Mike presumes it belongs to whatever magical entity makes the food for Harvey. He takes the lid off, and finds a veritable feast.

He has to be at Speedy's at eight, so he wolfs down as much as he can in ten minutes, then packs the biscuits, and whatever else looks portable. He's pretty stoked to have lunch figured. Dinner...he'll work out later.

He turns off the warmer so Harvey's building won't burn down, and heads off to work.

He nearly chokes to death at noon when his Mint.com app tells him he has $5,000 in checking.

Well. He can afford dinner, now.

*

Mike is nervous on the ride to Harvey's condo, but he makes sure he's naked by the time it stops. Harvey glances up as the glass doors open, gives him a small smile, and points to the pillow at his feet.

"When did you eat?"

"Just before I came."

Harvey nods, and turns back to his work.

"I have a question. Two, actually."

The papers are set aside.

"Why did you deposit money into my account?"

"Do you plan on quitting anytime this week?"

Mike hesitates. But. Well. Precision and thoroughness, right? "I don't plan to, no."

Harvey nods, like he hears the caveat. "Ok then. I never specified when or how you'd be paid."

"How'd you even get my bank account?"

Harvey smiles and picks up his pages. "I don't ask Donna questions."

"I have one more."

Harvey looks up. "You said you had two." There's a smile around his mouth that says it doesn't matter, but that he's naturally inclined to give everyone a hard time.

"The bank account thing was just a follow-up."

Harvey inclines his head like permission, but his work stays in his hands.

Mike licks his bottom lip. "Am I going to be punished? For yesterday?"

Harvey's work goes in his lap. "Do you think you should be?"

Mike shrugs one shoulder, eyes falling to Harvey's chin. "I know I was out of line. Way out."

"And if you ever swear at me again, there'll be consequences." Mike nods. "This time...I'll make you a deal."

Mike meets Harvey's eyes. "What kind of deal?"

Harvey studies him, calculating. Then he gets up and walks away. He rummages in the kitchen while Mike watches, and comes back with two stemless wine glasses. He's filled them with water to two centimeters below the brim.

"Sit Indian-style for this. This first time, anyway."

Curious, Mike shifts his weight to do as asked, and watches as Harvey eyeballs the sofa and coffee table. He moves a cushion onto the glass right by Mike's elbow.

"Ok, prop your arms there and there, palms up."

It's a relatively comfortable position, and one that requires no work to keep. His arms are outstretched, but the furniture's just the right height.

Harvey takes a wine glass in each hand. "I'm going to set these on your hands. You may not grip them – leave your palms open. If you can go an hour without spilling a single drop from either, you won't be punished."

Mike blinks. "That's it?"

Harvey smirks. "Now, listen to me. If you start to feel too tired, you're going to safe-word out. If you safe-word out without spilling a drop before the hour's done, I'll also cancel your punishment. Under no circumstances are you to push yourself to make the hour just to say you could."

Harvey seems very serious. "Ok, but...I mean, that shouldn't be a problem."

"We'll see," Harvey says. He places the water carefully on Mike's hands, grip hovering while Mike finds the balance. The stemless wine glasses remind Mike of Weebles...they wobble, but then they balance out.

This is gonna be simple. No stems to magnify his movements, no need to work against gravity. A kid could do this. "You will see. I'm gonna own this."

Harvey rolls his eyes with an indulgent smile, gathers his papers, and settles in an armchair. Presumably so that he won't ruin the game by rocking the sofa cushions.

"I also expect you to pay attention to this." He starts to read what he's holding out loud – it's a contract. He replaces names with generic things like 'the client,' 'the company,' 'their subsidiary.'

Mike listens.

At first, it's pretty easy. He finds, though, after a while, that his forearms start to burn. He's not holding them up, but keeping the water requires more muscle tension than he initially believed.

Palms-up is a fairly unnatural position...he's not working against gravity, per se, but the supination of his arms. If he lets them rotate even a little, then gravity compounds it by pulling at the water. His hands are on soft surfaces, so it's on him to maintain.

He realizes why Harvey smirked at him when he looks at the clock. It's been eight minutes.

But he can do this.

He started out looking from one side to the other, trying to get a feel for how the glasses balanced, but once he starts to feel the fatigue, even the movement of his head is enough to make the water slop dangerously in both of the glasses.

Harvey pauses to eye him. "You doing ok?"

"I'm great," Mike tell him.

"Uh-huh." Harvey goes back to reading.

Mike is just past the halfway mark when he hits the breaking point. His muscles have started to tremble, and he feels mentally exhausted – which is most surprising of all. He could stick it out, but he'll definitely spill and Harvey said he'd also win by safe-wording.

"I can't – I'm done. Please."

Harvey stands immediately and picks up the glasses. Mike sighs, dragging his hands off the cushions and rubbing the meat of his forearms. "Ok, you weren't kidding."

Harvey's smile is too real to be a smirk, but it's a kissing cousin. "I wasn't."

He sits on the couch. "C'mere."

Mike scrambles up, groaning when he tries to lever his weight on his arms. Harvey takes hold of the closest and works the muscles deep.

God that feels good. Mike moans and melts into the couch. His lower back had also begun to ache from holding his torso so still.

Mike can't see Harvey, but he knows somehow he's smiling in that reluctant way.

"Switch."

Mike flings his other arm across his chest in Harvey's direction. The one that's been worked over is laying like a slab of dead meat at his side.

His brain feels sort of similar.

"Oh. Hey. I think your client's getting screwed."

"I'm sorry?"

"The numbers in the contract don't add up. Check pages uh...fourteen and fifteen. The discrepancy isn't huge, but I think they're being embezzled from within R&D."

Harvey is quiet while he continues the slow, methodical care of Mike's forearms.

"How can you cite me the page numbers?"

"Hmm?" Mike could sleep right now. "Oh, I was um. You turned. I counted."

Harvey finishes with his arm, and moves off the sofa, nudging Mike's shoulder. Mike goes with it. He's not like...drop-dead exhausted, but if Harvey wants him to lay down, far be it from him to complain.

"Roll onto your stomach. How's your back?"

"'S'ok," Mike mumbles into the cushion, but groans a little when Harvey checks for himself. He doesn't spend nearly as long there, though, or nearly as deep. After a minute, he stops and Mike hears him return to the armchair.

He drifts on the flipping of pages and the rapid scribble of a pen.

"Sonuvabitch," Harvey mutters to himself.

Mike's mouth curls itself into a smile. "Told you."

"How did you even...."

"'m good with numbers," he slurs out. "Hey, I think I'm...sleep."

"Yeah, that was the whole point. I'll put you to bed later. Rest."

*

Despite his theoretical 'on call' status, Mike wakes up every morning to find Harvey gone, with instructions to return later that day. The man is getting his money's worth.

Only, not really. Mike reports in Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and it's the same thing every time. Harvey finds some weird trick with household objects to shut his brain off and exhaust him. Then Mike proceeds to sleep through his full twelve hour 'shift.'

He wakes on Friday to a note - Stay here, I'll be back after court - and he's full of restless energy. He wants to go speed through the streets of the city, but he's been told he should stay here, and anyway, 'after court' is kind of vague.

He devours his regular breakfast and makes use of Harvey's home gym. If anything, that just energizes him, and Harvey's master shower is fucking awesome.

By the time Harvey arrives at noon, Mike's thrilled that there will now be Things to Do. He feels perversely like the puppy Harvey calls him, complete with wagging tail.

Unfortunately, Harvey seems like he's completely beat. Like he hasn't slept in a week. Mike's familiar with the look.

Mike has no idea if that's true or not, because he's been too busy being comatose. What the hell was this week about? Harvey never used him, and he clearly had work to do.

Well. Whatever. Time to earn his pay.

Harvey looks tiredly amused as Mike takes his briefcase and strips him of his cufflinks, jacket, vest, and tie. He pushes Harvey into a chair, and it's telling that Harvey goes. "You going to fetch my slippers, too?"

"If I believed for a moment you had any. Your feet wouldn't dare get cold."

Harvey barks a laugh and lays his head back, like he can't do more than that. He stirs a little when Mike drops between his knees and works his slacks open. He cracks an eye open. "What are you doing?"

Mike smirks, pulling his cock out through his fly. "You need me to draw you a diagram?"

"Smartass. I meant - "

"Initiative," Mike answers, then Harvey's cock is in his mouth and the token protests cease.

Harvey really is exhausted. It takes a while to get him hard, and takes forever to actually get him off. Mike figures it's ok though, not unwanted. Harvey's moaning softly and rocking his hips, fingers buried in Mike's hair.

It's good for Harvey. Mike's jaw, not so much. But he's been literally sleeping on the job all week (pre-paid, with more in the bank than he's had at once in years), so he's feeling really magnanimous.

Not quite enough to keep this going forever, though. He's really glad he thought to grab his pillow, because his knees ache, even with it.

Mike decides to take a new initiative.

He unbuckles Harvey's belt but there's no reaction til he tugs on Harvey's pants.

Harvey draws a breath like he's waking up – Mike allows himself a long-suffering moment. Harvey isn't actually sleeping, but Mike's tongue's completely numb. He thinks, so good of you to join us. – and he opens up his eyes.

"What - "

"Initiative," Mike cites, because it worked the first time, and magically, Harvey cooperates. He lets Mike pull his slacks and boxer-briefs to his ankles, and this is how he knows Harvey's out of it, because they're probably getting wrinkled, and they probably cost more than some people's first car.

Initiative or no, Mike tests the waters carefully, not sure of Harvey's personal feelings on a finger in the butt. Well. His own. Fingers in Mike's butt, he recalls Harvey liked just fine.

But Harvey just slumps and tightens in fingers in Mike's hair when he rubs with a spit-slick finger, so Mike believes they're on.

They're really, really on. He estimates he's cutting the rest of the blowjob to a quarter of its projected length. Harvey appreciates his prostate. Enough to be a participant this time, and his reactions arouse the hell out of Mike. It's safe to say Harvey doesn't mind that, rules notwithstanding; it's watching Mike start jacking off that finally makes him come.

Mike gets himself off, observes Harvey's limp-noodle impression, and congratulates himself on a job well done. He sleep-walks Harvey into the bedroom (much like Harvey has done for him all week), and divests him of the rest of his clothes.

"Need a shower," Harvey complains. "Feel dirty, even though I only went to court. Why is that?"

Mike is tempted to make jokes about lawyers and whores, but Harvey's so unguarded, it's almost kind of sweet. More like a cranky two-year-old than Mike's high-powered client.

"Contact with the unwashed masses?" Mike suggests, because he wants to make Harvey laugh but it's a gentler form of teasing.

Harvey only finds a smile, but Mike thinks he can call it good. He tucks Harvey into the covers, and plans to go occupy himself somehow, but Harvey grunts and won't let go of his arm.

He sighs with contentment when Mike submits to being cuddled.

This would be such great blackmail material. He bets Harvey Specter snuggling a hooker would be worth far more in extortion than just fucking one.

If he were the type to blackmail, which, he's really not. And Louis uses non-disclosures.

But the thought of dangling this over Harvey's head. ('You sniffed my hair!' 'I did not') is enough to make him snicker.

Harvey mumbles in his sleep and rolls closer, which is really only possible by rolling on top of him. His face settles into Mike's throat and Mike swallows, thick. He realizes, suddenly, they've hardly touched this week, and now that they are, he feels almost elated.

Mike's chest aches. Harvey's hair gel smells oddly appealing to him.

Post-coital oxytocin. It's not him, it's biology.

Chapter Text

Harvey wakes from his nap Friday evening with a stretch, a lazy smile, and a low, pleased good puppy over Mike's welcome home. Mike scoffs, but he's actually sort of (involuntarily) pleased. Harvey smirks as though he knows it.

After Harvey showers, they adjourn to the great room for dinner, and Harvey's only armor is a thin coating of Smug. If anything, that just makes him more attractive, and Mike ends up nipping at Harvey's fingers as he cleans them after every bite.

Mike's desperately horny before they're even on the sofa. The deep, deep sofa, which Mike appreciates has room for two grown, reclining men.

He's rewarded for his patience by the longest fuck of his life, so...in the end, he's not complaining.

It has no right to be as hot as it is. They're watching Brian Williams, for crying the fuck out loud. (Not that Brian Williams can't be fodder in his own right, but Chinese earthquake victims and rising Middle Eastern conflict should really kill the mood).

But Harvey's wrapped around him, sucking on is his earlobe, and his dick is in Mike's ass but he's hardly even thrusting. They're pressed together completely from their shoulders to their toes and it's like Harvey can't stand the distance it would take to fuck him already.

It should be frustrating and patently annoying. Instead, it's hot as fuck. Mike's temperature ratchets up with each not-breaking-contact roll of his hips. His cock's angry and drooling but he doesn't even touch it because if he touches it, he'll come, and this feels way too good.

Plus his hands are bound at the wrists with one of Harvey's ties. He could make a clumsy go of it, but he's mostly stuck at Harvey's mercy.

The hand currently not trapped beneath Mike's head is only torturing him in a very Harvey way – just stroking up and down his body, missing all erogenous zones. His dick and mouth have that covered, clearly, but the hand's nearly as good.

Mike's been moaning freely for close to an hour. He hasn't been this aroused by touch since the last time he took E. Those same intense lazy waves of pleasure, without the oral fixation.

Well, Mike thinks as he sucks on Harvey's bicep. Maybe not.

"Jesus," Harvey mumbles. "How are you - " His hips arch forward, cutting him off. He pants against Mike's throat without words, then swallows and says, "God, Mike, you're so good for me. You do everything right. Not even like you're trying, you're just...."

Harvey's fingers skirt lightly just around Mike's cock, and fuck prolonging this, Mike's about to start begging. Harvey's heavy breath on his skin has all his nerves on point, and every skimming touch along the hollow of his pelvis is making his hips jerk. After a few more moments of silence, a whine bursts forth from Mike's throat.

"You're such a good boy," Harvey says like it's a secret. Mike's balls squeeze up. Harvey's fingers tease so close, it actually hurts. "Such a good boy, I want to keep you."

Mike grits his teeth and comes all over himself. Probably the sofa and the carpet. It goes on forever, he's completely helpless to it. He dimly feels a deep bite in his shoulder, but it just intensifies the pleasure.

When Mike comes back down, the only thing keeping him off the floor is Harvey. Now he feels the throbbing pain left by Harvey's teeth, but mostly, he just feels fucking giddy. Untethered from his body in a way that's just unreal.

He shares this out loud and Harvey shudders down to his toes, which brings Mike's attention to his ass. Harvey's only still inside because they're pressed together tight. Mike's wet and loose with what he knows must be Harvey's come.

It brings a flush to his cheeks, a distant, useless arousal that makes Mike go, oh shit.

It's nothing. Suggestion, if anything. Not even that. Mike just had the most intense orgasm of his life. A baby seal could probably trigger residual arousal at this point.

Mike's still high enough that this makes him laugh. Harvey's arms tighten and he smiles against Mike's nape. "What's funny."

"Baby seals," Mike answers and it sends him off into a new round of guffaws.

Harvey throws a leg over Mike's, like he's not wrapped around him enough. His dick slips free and Mike's laugh falters just a little. He's leaking and it makes his breath stick.

"I'm not gonna ask." Harvey's voice is full of humor.

"Probably best."

As Harvey idly feels Mike up, his hand slides through cooling come and he shakes it off like a finicky cat. He makes a noise that Mike can only call distress. "Shit. We're probably staining the sofa."

Mike's amused he didn't have forethought on this. "We have definitely stained the sofa. Past tense, no question. I think we've been laying in it half an hour."

Harvey's face ducks between his shoulder blades, soft, slightly-curly hair tickling the side of Mike's face. "Like it here," he mumbles. "D'wanna move."

Mike warms all over. He feels grounded in his body now, in a very intense way. He stretches. He doesn't want to move either. "Well. I don't imagine you're the one that'll be working out the stains, so we probably don't have to."

"Oh my god," Harvey groans with alarm. "Fuck."

"What? What's the matter?" Mike tries to turn, but he's pinioned in place.

"Claudia. I'm gonna owe that woman a Ferrari."

Mike cackles, and Harvey pretends to be annoyed with him, but he's trying not to laugh himself.

*

When Mike goes to visit Gram the next morning, he's told that she's been far more lucid. It seems as though the new drug is working very well.

She's his Gram the whole day. Not that...she doesn't have Alzheimer's, thank God for that, but the transient dementia has made her someone else for weeks. And now she's here with him, sharp and in charge and funny.

Mike is in top form, making her laugh. He's so freaking relieved.

Before he goes, she takes his hand and looks at him in a very knowing way. She's been doing that all day, actually, when she thinks he isn't looking. "Michael, do you want to tell me about someone?"

Mike startles. "What? No."

She studies him patiently. "You're awfully happy today."

"I'm just - " Mike is reluctant to say it, to admit he's glad she's better. That would be acknowledging she'd been worse. "I'm just really glad to see you, Gram. It's been a long time since we had the whole day."

She squeezes his hands. "It has. Maybe I'm wrong about a someone. Did you get a new job? Something's changed."

He hesitates. "Yes. I got a new job. And this pays better, so we can have Saturdays from now on like this."

"Oh, baby." She cups his face and kisses his cheek. "That will be wonderful."

"Yeah," Mike says around the lump in his throat.

"So what is it you're doing?"

Mike freezes for half a second. "I'm like an assistant. To a lawyer." He hates lying to Gram, but that's not strictly a lie. He feels sick at his stomach, though, when her eyes light up for him.

"I'm so proud of you. No wonder you're glowing."

Mike's preoccupied with keeping on a good face, and steering things to another subject before she asks for details. It isn't til he's riding home that he asks himself......he's glowing?

*

He had his phone off in the nursing home, but he missed a text from Harvey.

Don't need you tomorrow. I'll txt this week.

Mike frowns at it. Last night, Harvey said he was taking the weekend, and Mike got the impression they'd spend it much like Friday. But maybe something came up.

Now that he doesn't need to get up in the morning, Mike calls Jenny and Trevor. They ask him just to come hang out, and Mike agrees on reflex. Then he realizes that's not a great idea. The risk of Trevor getting high while Jenny's over is low, but if they're at a bar, it nearly disappears completely.

They go out and have a good time, though Mike doesn't drink like he's used to. They do, so he sort of falls into 'babysitter,' and he leaves them on their doorstep, making out like it's their first date. He rolls his eyes and smiles and says good night (they don't notice).

His apartment feels very empty and quiet but he has trouble falling asleep. He's never begrudged Jenny and Trevor, and he's used to being third wheel. Most times that they hang out, it doesn't even feel that way. He always feels welcome, and he felt welcome tonight.

Still. Not having single friends sucks. He always comes home like this at the end of an otherwise great night, feeling weirdly hurt and jealous. A bowl used to put him right. Or at least put him to sleep.

It's interesting that Gram thought there was someone. There won't be for a long time, he guesses. He might regret that clause. It doesn't just rule out sex...Mike agreed not to date, which...they go hand in hand. Mike doesn't know anyone his age that wouldn't want sex to enter in eventually.

Not a great hardship, though. He hasn't seriously dated anyone in...fuck. A depressing length of time. Mike's good at picking people up. He's never wanted for sex. And it's not like he's lame avoids-commitment guy, but things just never really pan out.

A girl will give him the run-around or a guy just wants to fuck or whoever he's seeing will get bored of Mike or he'll get bored of them. It hasn't clicked. It will eventually. It's not like he's a leper. He's young and hot and awesome, even though his jobs are lame.

He really needs to come up with a cover story for what he does now – for the money and weird hours. Gram won't be the last to ask. Trevor's gonna wonder soon. Mike's never told him about this kind of gig; he'd be...it's hard to say. He'll either think it's gross or hilarious, but either way's unpleasant, and either way will end with him offering to cut Mike in.

Like dealing pot's a better life choice.

He probably needs new friends. With jobs. Who won't ask him where he goes at night.

This sets him on a track of feeling generally pathetic and crappy about how he's making money and how he actually likes it and how this pays great but it's the deadest end ever and eventually Harvey will fire him and Louis will pressure him to take a new thing with a fat guy who wants to pee on him.

He's torn whether this means he should enjoy Harvey while he can, or whether it's better to just keep his eye on the ball. His track record thus far doesn't make the latter feel like a legitimate option, so. Enjoy this, it is.

He doesn't work on Sunday, either job, so he catches up on the sleep he didn't get during the night. It feels nice to switch his brain off, so he just doesn't let it reboot until his alarm rings Monday morning.

By the time he gets off shift at Speedy's, Harvey's texted that he's off that night. This happens again on Tuesday, as well, and Mike tries not to be worried. Their contract's open-ended. Either one can terminate at any time without penalty. Mike was willing to trade job security for that kind of escape hatch before he knew Harvey wasn't evil.

When Harvey summons him on Wednesday after work, Mike's less worried about whether to enjoy it, and more glad there's something to enjoy-or-not at all.

Harvey's...different. Still very Harvey but with an extra layer of distance than he'd had when they last met. Less spontaneous joking or praise, just a bit more calculation. He still feeds Mike and fucks him and pets him from the couch. It's still all good.

Mike feels vaguely like he's lost something, but if he has, he didn't have it very long.

Story of his life, really.

Chapter Text

It's Mike's second Sunday, and this time Harvey calls him in at noon. He hardly saw him last week, just Wednesday and Thursday evenings.

Strangely, Mike thinks Harvey's nervous when the elevator stops. He's sitting on the sofa in clear view of Mike's arrival. That's normal, but there's something off about him.

Mike blinks and then it's gone.

Before Mike can kneel in place, Harvey stops him. "Up here."

He climbs astride the sprawl of Harvey's lap and waits.

Nothing happens. Harvey's hands are on his thighs, slowly stroking up and down, and that's enough to get Mike hard but that doesn't seem to be Harvey's intent. He's studying Mike's face as though they're in a conversation – not a particularly disagreeable one, but Harvey shakes his head at the end, so subtly it's barely there, then reaches one hand out behind him.

The box he has in hand hinges open to reveal a collar, wide and leather with a buckle, though it's not cliché black. Deep blue, too light to be navy. It looks and smells brand-new.

Harvey's fingers work the buckle but his eyes are on Mike's face. He hasn't spoken since Mike got here, except to indicate his lap, and it feels like this is...something. Harvey's face is too impassive for Mike to say exactly what.

He buckles the collar around Mike's throat with practiced ease, sliding two fingers between leather and skin to make sure he's chosen the right notch. He's still watching like he wants Mike's reaction, but Mike isn't sure what that's supposed to be. He can't say thanks because it wasn't offered – not as a gift, not as an option. And Mike has no feelings on the matter. He's worn collars before, with one client or another. It's something he's asked to do. Part of his job.

When Mike's face reveals nothing, Harvey's eyes drop eventually to study the collar. Mike can feel him stroke the leather. "How's the fit?"

"Very comfortable. Thank you."

It's true. Probably the best one that he's worn; it's soft like butter. Which is great since he'll be wearing it a lot...he assumes.

"Good." Harvey pulls Mike's upper body close, so he leans into Harvey's slouch. It puts his breath right on Mike's neck, ghosting where skin meets leather. "When you leave, you can put it in the drawer of the side table, closest to the elevator. That's the first thing you do from now on when the doors open. You may need a mirror to put it on at first. I'll make sure one's there by tomorrow."

"Yes, sir."

As little as the collar does for Mike's libido, he can't help reacting to what it does to Harvey. The easy glide of his hands has gone hungry and grasping, squeezing at Mike's ass although his words are instructional. He presses Mike's hips to him on each pass. His breath is uneven, inhale-heavy as he takes in the taste of leather.

Mike hisses when Harvey's teeth sink in between the collar and his earlobe. He'll have a black bruise there tomorrow where Harvey follows with hard suction. A hand closes on Mike's cock, giving rhythm to the restless movement of their hips.

Harvey cranes his neck back, eyes flitting over Mike's face and his throat.

"You look good in my collar. Even though you don't want it."

Mike thinks about denying that, but Harvey supposedly wants honesty. The best he can do in those bounds is, "I don't not want it."

Harvey nods, eyes already focused in on leather. He cups Mike's skull and pulls him forward to work his vampire magic on a new spot on Mike's throat. Mike's hips jerk.

"You want me to jerk you off, Mike?" Mike pushes into Harvey's hand, hard and involuntary at that. "Maybe you want me to fuck you?"

Mike's tongue darts out to lick his lips, on board with either plan. "Whatever you want. Please."

"Whatever I want." Harvey's eyes are almost black with the expansion of his pupils. "What if I don't want either of those? What if I want you on the floor - "

"I'll suck you off," Mike blurts out.

It earns him a sharp smile. "Not what I had in mind, but it's sweet of you to offer."

Harvey's hand abandons Mike abruptly, and he chokes back a protest.

"Such a good boy," Harvey purrs. Mike feels a flush of heat and Harvey thumbs his lip til he sucks the pre-come off it. "But even good boys, when they're desperate, sometimes do filthy things."

Mike's dick twitches for attention. "Like what?"

"Like hump their master's leg."

Mike's cheeks flare so hot so suddenly that it actually makes him dizzy.

"Wanna watch you ride my shin, so horny you can't stand it."

A small part of Mike is skeptical but the rest of him's already there. Already that horny, pushed to the sharp edge. It should turn him off. But Harvey's voice is warm with the idea, and Mike has to rein himself in to keep from scrambling to the floor.

"I can do that," he finally manages.

"That would make me very happy," Harvey murmurs, and Mike backs off his lap onto the pillow by his left foot.

He ducks his head self-consciously as he settles his knees on either side of Harvey's leg, then loses his nerve for a moment.

Harvey's fingers thread into Mike's hair to angle his head back up. Mike opens his eyes at the unspoken order and feels a bolt of embarrassed arousal hit him at the look on Harvey's face. Tentatively, he moves his hips against the leg of Harvey's lounge pants and moans at the softness of the fabric. He wonders if Harvey put this on knowing Mike would be here, doing this.

He did. He planned this. Mike shudders and presses his head to Harvey's knee, thrusting forward a few more times.

Harvey only adjusts the angle so he can still see Mike's face, and Mike obediently opens his eyes, though it's a struggle. He fists one hand in the fabric against Harvey's thigh, hips moving steadily now, faster when Harvey releases his hold on Mike's hair and starts stroking it gently.

"Look at you."

Harvey's so approving, it goes straight to his aching balls. He makes a sound too undignified to even call a whimper, and Harvey's free hand disappears into his pants, fishing out his cock.

Mike starts to push up on his knees so he can blow him, but Harvey holds him steady. "Stay."

Mike shudders and settles. He can smell Harvey's arousal, so close by. Harvey's stroking himself slowly.

"You're staring at it like you're hungry," Harvey says, and Mike's eyes flick guiltily away. "Believe me, I don't mind." Mike wants so badly to reach down and stroke himself, but he thinks it's not allowed. He tucks his free hand under Harvey's thigh to minimize temptation. He humps a little faster, sure his face can't get any hotter before Harvey proves him wrong.

"Such a pretty slut." Mike's suddenly on fire, burning inside out and half of it's embarrassment. Half of it is...not. It's not the first time he's been referred to that way, but usually he's insulted. In Harvey's mouth, it's not a slur...at least, it doesn't feel that way. "I'm going to enjoy how needy you are, Mike. You have no idea."

He really doesn't. Mike has no idea how that statement mortifies him and at the same time, makes him.... If Harvey didn't sound so pleased.

Mike squeezes his eyes shut and thrusts himself to orgasm, unable to handle the look on Harvey's face.

He pants against the bend of Harvey's knee until his hips have stopped their jerking. Harvey strokes his sweaty face.

"You do so well, for me. Even when it's difficult. You're so good for me, Mike."

He twists the fabric in his hand until he realizes these lounge pants are probably hand-sewn by Ralph Lauren's grandma or something.

On the other hand – he looks down – he got his jizz all over them. Little late to worry about it now.

"I'm gonna fuck you," Harvey tells him. "Go wait in my bed."

"Is this some kind of...fetish?" Mike asks without thinking. It's not the first time it's occurred to him, and his inhibitions are in tatters. He feels warm and taken care of...which is funny in this case, since Harvey hasn't done a thing.

"Is what a fetish?" Harvey doesn't seem angry.

"You – " Mike hesitates. But ultimately, soldiers ahead. "You like to fuck me after I've come."

Harvey tips his head, like he has to think about it. "I wouldn't call it a fetish. That implies that it's necessary for my enjoyment of the act. But I do like it, yes."

"Why?" Mike has to ask.

Harvey's fingers trace his features. "It makes you loose and malleable. It strips you down to raw reactions. And on the basest level, I like knowing that you're getting nothing out of it. That I'm fucking you for my pleasure. It makes your body...mine. In a way it can't be otherwise."

Mike swallows thickly; it should be creepy. "So you'd like seeing me soft? I mean, actually seeing that I'm not hard?"

Harvey stares at him frankly, unblinking. "Probably."

"You can fuck me on my back," Mike offers.

Harvey beckons with his finger, and Mike's worried he said the wrong thing. He gets to his feet and lets Harvey pull him forward. He doesn't get in trouble. He gets a lingering, open-eyed kiss. "My perfect boy." Mike blushes. "Go, I'll be right in."

*

"So, when do I get to meet the new girl?"

Mike startles from his place on the couch next to Trevor. "What?"

Trevor waits a beat – perfect recall means Mike can often rewind a few seconds if he hadn't been paying attention. Trevor knows it – feigning ignorance never works with him.

"No girl. I mean, no one in particular, anyway."

Trevor pins him with a look. "Dude, you think I can't tell when you're getting laid well? And as soon as you're in a relationship, you go all weird and domestic. This is definitely both. You've been hard to get ahold of."

If he can hide the sudden influx of cash from Trevor, then this actually is a great cover for what's happening. It won't hold forever, but it buys him some time. "Yeah, ok. It's just...new. And I wasn't lying about no girl – it's a guy, actually."

"Whatever, same deal." Trevor's face goes through a complex set of emotions, where Mike can tell he's wondering if it is the same deal, and if he wants to meet a guy like he'd want to meet a girlfriend, and probably wondering when Mike started dating guys instead of the occasional, easily-ignored hookup. In the end, because Trevor's not a total asshole, he doesn't express any of this aloud.

"Anyway, it's new," Mike says, in case Trevor decides to try being enlightened. "It's not there yet."

"Yeah, ok. I get that."

For a highly amusing moment, Trevor's poised to ask more questions, or even say something weird like this guy better treat him right, but thank God, he doesn't. The subject drops.

If Mike is lucky, Trevor's discomfort will prolong the inevitable indefinitely.

Chapter Text

By the fourth week, Mike definitely starts to get the rhythm of how this job is going to work. It's rare that Harvey gives him the night off when he's 'on call.'

It happens – early on at the beginning, there was that cluster of three days, and since then, there have been one or two, scattered. But for the most part, Mike receives a message in the afternoon, or gets instructions for the evening with his breakfast.

Mike wonders if the 'on call' schtick was deliberate deception, or if Harvey really thought he'd use Mike less often. He really isn't sure.

Harvey does work most evenings – but he brings it home with him most of the time. And when he has a client dinner or some other kind of schmooze, he wants Mike there when he gets back. Mike isn't sure what circumstances would cause him to leave Mike's night free, but he's getting the impression it's the last resort.

Mike's not sure how he feels about this, really. It isn't how he thought it would be, but it's no great burden either. He doesn't hate his nights with Harvey. At worst, they can be a bit boring, when Mike is restless – but even that's not often. Mike's mental library keeps him occupied, and when Harvey doesn't need quiet, he lets Mike watch tv.

And when Mike's lucky, Harvey talks about his cases, generalizing details where he needs to. Mike enjoys learning, regardless of the topic, but the law's always been special. For a while, when he was young, he really thought.... It doesn't matter. He knows Harvey doesn't need his help, but sometimes he makes an observation or two.

Harvey's effusive with his praise for Mike's submission, but his passing approval when Mike finds new angles on his cases...Mike wouldn't say it's better, but it's nearly an equal thrill. Its rarity and mildness make it more precious, somehow, but he tries not to expect it; it isn't why he's here.

So, nights with Harvey are good, for the most part. The truth is, Mike sometimes wonders what he did with his time, before this. Sure, he had Trevor and Jenny, and Gram when he could make it out to see her, but he didn't see them all the time. He worked a lot, he guesses.

These days, not so much. Or at least, it doesn't feel like he does. Working for Harvey is easy, almost natural – too natural, Mike thinks sometimes – and he hasn't worked as much at Speedy's during days as he expected. With the economic slow-down, they're cutting all the messengers' hours. He works two days a week, at most.

It's not a problem. He doesn't need the money from that job at all. It's going into savings – most of Harvey's paycheck, too, once rent and Gram are covered. Mike got rid of his cable and internet service, and he only buys one meal a day – he gets that stuff at Harvey's.

His bank account is growing for the next rough patch he hits, and he gets two days with Gram now. He spends some afternoons at Trevor's, mornings running errands...he does a lot of reading.

He never thought this gig would feel like being a kept boy. That's how it is, when you get down to it. It's not just better than expected, it's actually kind of...good.

Mike doesn't have a lot of experience with good. It makes him kind of nervous.

It's his fault that he gets punished.

*

Mike knows that he's in trouble before he even sets eyes on Harvey.

He knows before he's even in the lobby. If he's honest, Mike knew damn well he'd be in a big trouble the moment he ignored Harvey's call.

He's not sure why he did it. He was hanging out with Trevor, playing Call of Duty 3. He had no reason he couldn't leave. He saw the text that followed, saying be here at 7.

It's now 7:45.

He's not sure why he did it. But he regrets it on the elevator all the way to Harvey's floor. There hadn't been a call or a text when he was late, but he knows that doesn't matter. He knows that he's in trouble, but he's not sure what that means.

His stomach churns as he thinks about how Harvey never gotten specific. No lasting marks, that's all he knows. Mike has enough experience to imagine many options from there, but Harvey's never hurt him. Not even in a good way.

Harvey doesn't look up from his papers when the car stops. He raises his head, though, when Mike steps out. He makes no secret of how pissed off he is, just from that look.

Mike hesitates. He'd normally get his collar, but he's not sure what Harvey wants.

"Get it, and come here."

Mike's fingers are clumsy as he buckles it in place. He tries to go to his knees, but Harvey stops him.

"Stand." Harvey doesn't. Mike feels like a child being called before his teacher. Harvey, by his posture, is perfectly relaxed, if you don't see his face. "I assume you have a reason for being late?"

For a split second, Mike considers lying. But Harvey would call him on it and he'd be in bigger trouble. Besides that, it feels wrong, by this point, to lie to Harvey's face. "No."

Harvey's nostrils flare, and Mike thinks, shit. "So you broke a condition of your employment for no reason whatsoever."

There isn't a question, but Harvey's looking for something. "I...I don't know why I did it."

He cringes once it's out of his mouth, because it sounds so fucking stupid – way way more than it did in his head. He sounds like a kid, a stupid kid with no impulse control.

Harvey's face is immovable at this little confession. If he has a reaction, Mike doesn't see it. His voice, though, loses a bit of its edge. "Did you want to piss me off?"

"No," Mike says quickly.

"Did you want to get in trouble?"

"No," Mike repeats, but he doesn't sound convinced.

"Were you trying to get yourself fired?" Harvey's tone is just the same as it was the first two times, but Mike feels the words like a punch.

"No! Harvey, please, I swear I didn't want that."

Harvey doesn't blink, but his shoulders relax. Mike didn't see the tension til it went away. "You nearly succeeded on all three counts. Do this again, and you are fired. Are we clear?"

"We're clear. I won't," Mike vows, because he really hadn't thought he'd come close to getting fired. Punished, yes, but fired, no.

Mike's standing close enough that Harvey can reach out and tug his hand...it becomes clear what his punishment is when he ends up face-down across Harvey's lap.

He has time to internally sigh with relief that it's this before Harvey strikes him. The breadth of the alternatives Mike imagined prevents him from even feeling embarrassed, but once Harvey's hand lands, Mike tenses right back up, sucking air in through his teeth.

Because Harvey? Doesn't start out soft-pitching.

Mike has to force himself to relax after the tense jumpy way he takes the first few hits. He didn't know a man could actually strike that hard with his bare hand, but clenching up just makes it worse. He knows that and makes himself let go, teeth gritted tight against the pain.

It doesn't come close to approaching the worst thing Mike's felt, in or out of a scene. But it hurts far worse than he expected from a spanking.

And it goes on forever. Mike thinks, early on, how Harvey's hand must also hurt. He must be setting it on fire, because his palm takes the same strikes he spreads around Mike's butt, and Mike's skin is burning.

Mike's always been uncharacteristically stoic when he gets hurt in a scene. Out of a scene, out in the world, he'll bitch and moan, but since the start, pain-play or punishment has rendered him almost mute. Something about it seems to throw him back in time, to...to some of his worst moments. Not the intensity of the pain, but the helplessness of it, perhaps.

He's starting to feel himself come untethered, like he always does – in the past it's felt like shock, like just another throwback, muggy and unpleasant with the terror shining through, but this feels not so bad. It's not the dreamspace he falls into when he kneels down for Harvey, but there's a kinship to it in how reassured he feels.

There's always been a little fear with clients, even the relatively okay ones, that never goes away; when he's untethered, that kernel of fear grows exponentially. But he's not afraid of Harvey, not for the same reasons...it's nice to feel sure for once that the pain will stop eventually. Because Harvey's the one that will stop it.

He barely registers the pained sounds he's making by the time the spanking stops. What he does feel is the nudging that turns him, that has him gravitating towards the steady thump of Harvey's heartbeat.

His ass burns in contact with denim, but he makes a fist in Harvey's shirt when Harvey tries to move him, sounds of protest that even he can tell are completely incoherent.

"Okay," Harvey murmurs. "Suit yourself." There's a soft humor in it that makes Mike press even closer.

Mike feels distantly ridiculous, clinging like a baby monkey to a client that just spanked him, but he's incapable of caring. Harvey smells good, and he's warm...he's breathing, his heart's beating, and he's letting Mike curl into him. In fact, he's holding him in place.

Mike lets himself cling, and enjoy all that as long as he can.

"'m sorry," he mumbles eventually, because he almost fucked this up.

"Accepted," Harvey tells him, and Mike feels terribly relieved. "You went somewhere else, for just a little while."

Mike breathes Harvey in, greedy. He's feeling too split open to bother to deny it. "Bad memories."

"Did...." Harvey pauses, and Mike realizes it's hesitation. Rare, for Harvey. "Is there anything I did that you need me not to do again?"

Mike tries to sit up, blinking the fog back in his brain, but Harvey keeps him in place. "No. It's...no. It wasn't as bad as I had imagined, actually."

"Are you telling me to spank you harder?" There's a smirk in Harvey's voice, and Mike snorts out a laugh.

"No. Actually - " Now that he's grounded in his body, he realizes his seat is throbbing. He's not sure how he stood it for this long. "Christ. Can we...."

Harvey pushes Mike off, and settles lengthwise on the couch, propped back into the corner. He leaves a space with Mike's name on it between his legs and the couch back, and Mike happily wedges himself in.

He settles on his stomach, legs tangled with Harvey's, ear returning to Harvey's chest. Harvey settles too, carding his fingers through Mike's hair.

"You've been so good to me," Mike says without decision. "I think...I mean...it wasn't on purpose, but I think I needed to know. What would happen. What you'd do."

Harvey's rib cage rises high and falls with control. Mike wonders if he's angry, but he's still being petted. He's afraid to look at Harvey, and it's a while before Harvey speaks.

"I think that's understandable. And now you know. Don't test me that way again."

"I won't," Mike manages. He didn't mean to, in the first place. Or maybe he did. This thing confuses him, but he doesn't want to think about it. It's easier to focus on how bad his ass hurts, now. "God, how do you hit that hard? I'm lucky I don't have a shift tomorrow. I bet I can't ride my bike for a week."

"Deterrent against stupidity," Harvey says. "If you can't leave the apartment, you can't get in trouble." There's a smile in his voice. Mike pinches him. He knows full well by now that Harvey doesn't mean it when he says shit like that. "Speaking of, tomorrow's Friday. I'm going to work remotely...I want you here all day."

"Ok. You have me," Mike says.

Harvey's fingers curl around Mike's wrist, possessive. "I know. That's how I like it."

Chapter Text

Mike wakes up unable to see.

It's not like he thinks he's blind or anything...from the first blink of his eyelids, he can feel something pushing back. He reaches up and touches his face; it's not some strip of fabric, or one of Harvey's ties. It's designed for this, and well. There is no light coming through the edges. And it's comfortable.

He leaves it in place. There's only one way that it got there, so obviously Harvey wants it.

He feels the man in question shifting to his right and he reaches out, encountering legs. Harvey's sitting against the headboard, with papers in his lap. Mike can smell his coffee.

"Good morning," Harvey says.

"Morning."

Mike waits for some kind of explanation, but Harvey's silent long enough that he thinks that he won't get one. Then Harvey cups his chin and rubs his thumb over Mike's lip.

"I'd like it if you kept this on all day. Would that cause you any problems?"

The pause was Harvey watching his reaction. He does this, sometimes, when there's an element that's new. Executes without explaining, watches Mike for a reaction, and if there's not one, then he asks. Mike knows by now that his perceptiveness is excellent, but he asks just to be sure. Mike loves that about him.

"I can't speak for my shins, but it shouldn't be a problem."

He can almost see the smile. "You can risk your shins...the safe bet, though, would be to crawl on all fours."

"I get it. You just want me on my knees." Mike's smiling as he says it, and he knows now without doubt that Harvey's smiling back.

"As if I need a scheme to make that happen."

Some men have said things along those lines to put Mike in his place, to remind him he's being paid for this, will do what they want and shut up about it. When Harvey says it, it feels like they're lovers, and the reason Mike's so easy is because he wants this, too.

That's not inaccurate. And that worries Mike, almost as much as the fact that Harvey knows it.

"Hungry?"

"Starving," Mike says, and lets the worry go.

Harvey doesn't wait for him. He slides out of the bed and Mike hears him leave the room. Mike goes to slide out after, and the light friction from the top-sheet sets his ass on fire. Mike could only sleep on his stomach – every time he rolled in his sleep, the aftermath of his spanking woke him up abruptly.

Gingerly, he gets out of bed. He hears Harvey in the kitchen...Mike quickly realizes that walking around with his hands stretched out is going to get old fast. He bumps into the bed and the weird bench at the end, and the wall by the door, to boot.

Mike gives up walking upright and gets down on all fours. He'll still bump into things, but he won't feel like a zombie out hunting for brains.

Mike fumbles his way to the dining table, feeling relieved and oddly accomplished when he finally reaches Harvey. It took longer than he thought it would, and felt twice as long as that. He's guided in the last few feet by Harvey's voice and a hand in his hair.

His cushion is just where it should be. Harvey bought half a dozen, after that first weekend, strategically placed around the house, just for Mike to sit on. Mike tries to kneel in such a way that keeps his bottom out of contact with anything but air.

Even that feels like too much.

Mike startles when ceramic touches his bottom lip. The smell of coffee makes his mouth water. He reaches up to take the mug, but Harvey tells him no. "Trust me," he tells Mike.

Mike nods and wonders if this is all some kind of extra punishment for pushing Harvey last night.

The mug tilts, and Mike opens his lips because before there's time to blow, the coffee's in his mouth. It's not too hot though, just hot enough.

It's routine to share the paper when Harvey has time to eat breakfast with him, but this morning, that's obviously out. He's in the middle of enjoying a surprise bite of bacon when Harvey starts reading aloud.

It's not the Times or even the Journal. Mike thinks it's the Economist from the syntax and diction. Harvey has a pleasant reading voice, like he's trying to sway a jury. He times his own eggs and coffee for natural break points, and gives Mike a steady supply of things off his plate. Mike doesn't know they're coming until they touch his mouth.

It doesn't feel like punishment. It feels like just the opposite. For a while, Mike forgets that his eyes are even necessary. Harvey's taking care of everything – feeding Mike's body and his mind, wiping his mouth clean and asking Mike's opinions on the state of current affairs.

*

Of course, Harvey needs to work. He's not taking the day off – as far as Mike can tell, he never does. He works seven days a week, even if it's just a few hours.

So after breakfast, he follows Harvey's voice to settle on the couch. Mike hasn't found a pattern to when Harvey has him kneel, or when he can stretch out with his head in Harvey's lap, but it's the latter, for today. Either way, Mike usually reads from the library in his mind. Sometimes he falls so deep inside it that he's groggy, coming out.

Not today, though. Something about the blindfold keeps him grounded in the present. Mike's worn blindfolds before, so the heightened senses are familiar. What's different here is the lack of dread. Mike will wear a blindfold, but he usually charges extra – and he spends the whole session wondering if he'll regret it.

This time, he isn't listening for the sounds of something sinister. Maybe it's that his hands are free – the blindfold isn't complicated, and he could rip it off if he had to. Maybe it's because he knows Harvey wouldn't hurt him.

Whatever the difference, he's aware but not watchful. He hears the unsynced ticking of all four clocks in Harvey's house, he hears the pen and Harvey's skin moving over bond-weight paper. He hears the click of a mouse and the clack of the keyboard. He smells Harvey's fabric softener, body soap and aftershave, and whenever Harvey sighs, there's the scent of coffee with toothpaste.

Not all the input's pleasant. Mike's butt is hot and throbbing (a phrase that normally implies "in a fun way," but is off the mark in this case). His blindness makes him aware of the pain to a degree he wishes he wasn't. The blindfold's not punishment, he's sure of that now, but Harvey probably wouldn't mind that his spanking's being reinforced.

Harvey's hands are mostly busy, but there are occasional, casual touches, like a reminder that Mike's still there. And sometimes when a new song starts, Harvey will quiz him on the whos, wheres and whens.

Mike prefers music produced after he hit puberty, but Harvey's stuff has grown on him. It's child's play to memorize the associated trivia, and the fact that he bothers makes Harvey smile. It's a familiar game by now, even if Mike can't see the fruit of his labor. Whenever he misses or just doesn't know, he takes Harvey's answer and writes it on his eyelids, laying names and dates over the texture of the music. Mixed media helps him retain things more easily.

Harvey takes a break at what Mike assumes is lunch. He hand-feeds Mike those baked non-potato chips, but lets him self-serve when it comes to the sandwich.

It's an amazing fucking sandwich. It's possible Mike moans, and he hears Harvey lick his lips.

They talk. He asks Mike's opinion on a specific legal matter with the same casual interest he showed on world events. Mike thinks it's what he's working on, and he's dying to ask questions but he tries not to do that. He only gives his mind to Harvey as much as it's requested.

The day goes on like that. By the time they're eating dinner, Mike realizes how quiet his mind has been. He feels clear-headed and focused in a way he forgot he could be. And he's never felt quite like this when he wasn't nose-first in a book.

They have take-out delivery and Harvey feeds him with his chopsticks. It's a little disconcerting but Harvey's good at letting Mike take the noodles, instead of shoving them in his mouth. As thanks, Mike fellates the wood and wonders about the look on Harvey's face.

It's either the best kung pao he's ever had, or he's so sense-starved his taste buds are lying.

Mike licks his mouth clean, feeling very satisfied. "More work?"

"Nah. I'll go in tomorrow. Nothing that can't wait." The backlash from a noodle must have left sauce on Mike's chin. Harvey's thumb wipes it, and then Mike hears him suck it clean. "Why, you have better ideas?"

"As a matter of fact, I do."

Mike is feeling very oral - blame it on the blindfold, or the chopsticks or both, but he wants Harvey's dick in his mouth, bad. It doesn't happen very often, funnily enough. Usually when Mike starts it. He knows that Harvey likes it, just not as much as fucking Mike.

That's Mike's conclusion, anyway.

Or maybe he just prefers this: to have it when Mike's starving for it. That's gotta be an ego-booster...not that Harvey's needs a lift.

Mike's intentions are plain enough when he bends forward and noses blindly towards Harvey's crotch, but he doesn't get a yea or nay – unless you count Harvey's hard-on, which Mike actually does.

When Mike reaches for his jeans fly, though, Harvey grabs his wrists. He guides them gently to the small of Mike's back, and holds them criss-crossed with one hand.

The other comes back to Mike's skull, encouraging him with a touch.

Mike teases him through denim for longer than he wants to, thinking whenever Harvey's ready (or just uncomfortable enough), he'll either release Mike's hands or take his dick out for him. If Harvey were wearing sweatpants, Mike would be throat-deep in cock already.

Tugging at elastic waists with your mouth is one thing...but whatever clients think, opening a fly with your teeth is not a pleasant task.

Harvey's jeans are clean because he hardly ever wears them, but they aren't what Mike is hoping to get his mouth around. He realizes two things, eventually: Harvey's waiting on him to take initiative, and he's not getting his hands back. Harvey's breath is ragged and Mike feels impatient.

Harvey's throat clicks wetly when Mike goes for the rivet.

It takes him a while to work the metal free. In addition to being clean, the rare use of the denim means the buttonhole is stiff. Mike pushes with his tongue and tugs with his teeth way longer than is sexy, using every trick he can think of until his mouth is actually sore.

He sits up for a moment, tongue bitter from the metal, and Harvey yanks him forward to tongue-fuck his numb lips. He groans as he virtually assaults Mike's face, and Mike thinks, ok...turns out that it's sexy. For Harvey, at least, if not for him.

That gives him the motivation he needs to work the rivet til he's done.

He noses the denim flap out of his way and tongues at the zipper to get the tab between his teeth. Harvey's hips are rolling towards him and he's pulling on Mike's hair. Mike wishes sincerely that he could see the man's face.

There's something very hot, though, about the fact he can't. Knowing Harvey's desperate and Mike can't even see it.

Harvey's wearing boxers – as rare an occurrence as the jeans – and it only takes a little nuzzling, maneuvering the cotton, before the tip of his eager dick is poking through the fly. Just a bit more work than that, and Mike has got his mouth full.

It's hard to say, actually, which of them moans the loudest. Though Mike's noise is muffled, for very obvious reasons.

Harvey's so worked up, Mike thinks he won't last long, but it turns out that's not true. Eventually Mike finds being folded in half from kneeling on the couch to be pretty damn back-breaking. When he sits up, he feels Harvey take the opportunity to push his pants and underwear away.

"C'mon," Harvey murmurs, helping Mike get on his stomach – he doesn't think to use his own hands. When Harvey let them go, he grabbed one hand with the other, a thoughtless action that's rewarded effusively.

Sprawled out on his stomach, hauled up on Harvey's lap with his hands behind his back, craning his neck to find Harvey's dick – once again, this feels unsexy. Once again, Harvey clearly approves.

"God," Harvey murmurs, and grabs Mike by the scruff to change the angle for him. He feeds his cock into Mike's wide-open mouth. Supports Mike's head while he struggles to make it good, despite the awkward circumstances.

Mike switches tactics to just sucking and drooling, while Harvey holds him up and slowly fucks his face. Mike's dick is hard against the sofa, and his eyes roll back under the blindfold when Harvey cups his balls. Mike spreads his legs to grant him access.

"My good boy...fuck..." Harvey breathes, no thought there at all. That hasn't gotten old. Mike could hear those words in just that tone – it will never stop sending warmth and heat racing each other down his spine. Harvey says it like it's fact, like it's inherent to Mike's being; it pleases Mike so deeply it's discomfiting.

Harvey fucks his mouth so long, it's all Mike can do to provide the hole. His jaw is sore and his lips are numb, and when Harvey pulls him off without coming, Mike's head falls against his thigh, boneless. Still, he can feel himself strain upward towards the cock he knows is bobbing just above his face.

"Jesus, kid." There's a gentle squeeze on Mike's forearm til he lets go of his own wrist. He'd been gripping it so hard, he'll probably have a bruise. "C'mon, let's sit you up. C'mere, that's it."

Once Mike is astride Harvey's lap, the aching skin of his ass is nothing next to the drive to just...ride him.

"Hang on there, cowboy," Harvey says, and Mike doesn't get why til the blindfold comes free.

He'd nearly forgotten its existence.

Just the light through his eyelids is unbelievably bright, so Mike expects it when he can't do more than blink rapidly, naked eyeballs too sensitive for any more than that. Harvey's petting Mike, the way he does, and Mike stops trying to open them, letting his eyes adjust to the pink of his lids before he pushes further.

Harvey pulls him in and kisses him, which removes what urgency was left. They make out for a while, like that's all they intend to do. Like they're not both hard enough to cut diamonds. Mike isn't this patient, but he's following Harvey's lead. When Harvey finally draws away, Mike's eyes blink open naturally, although the light still stings, and it's like....

Mike doesn't know what happens.

Well. He does; he knows enough biology, neurochemistry, and psychology to understand, intellectually, exactly what happens next. Why here, why now, why Harvey...he can answer all those questions. It doesn't soften the blow that Mike feels to his underbelly when he opens his eyes for the first time in nearly a day and he sees Harvey's face and thinks:

Fuck. I'm in love with him.

Harvey's eyes are soft and possessive, and he doesn't even know, he doesn't know how screwed Mike is, and Mike's too shocked to show it. Although it feels like he should. It feels like Mike should just flay himself open, give Harvey access to everything. It feels like he already has. It feels impossible Harvey can't look at him and know, which makes him paranoid that Harvey does, that he's play-acting for some reason that everything is fine.

Mike wants to flee, it's an animal instinct, but Harvey's focused on him, so he finds that he can't move.

Harvey pulls him in to kiss him, wraps his hand around their dicks and Mike's chest wants to explode. It hurts. Not what Harvey's doing, but this new knowledge he didn't want.

Harvey gets them off – it's fantastic – but Mike feels shocky and dazed. He can't snap himself out of it for the rest of the evening.

"You ok?" Harvey asks later. He's being unusually quiet, he realizes. They're in bed, and Harvey looks concerned.

"Yeah, I'm fine. I'm just...." Mike trails off, unable to finish that sentence with anything true but unrevealing.

Harvey lays a hand on Mike's face, thumb swiping along his cheekbone. "You might be experiencing a little bit of sub-drop. Being blindfolded that long can be pretty intense. I should've eased you into it."

Mike says nothing, doesn't nod or shrug or do anything but stare. He still feels like it's the first time he's seen Harvey. Despite his personal revelation, he doesn't understand this man, or why he's treating Mike like this. And knowing how he feels just makes that so much scarier.

Harvey pulls him close and Mike's heart swells, even as he wonders what the hell he's going to do.

Chapter Text

"Gram, did you ever...I mean, you and Grampy were married forever, but did you ever...."

Mike used to get flack as a kid for how much he told his Grammy. He always shielded her from the troubling stuff – more and more as he got older – but he had no pride about what he shared if he knew it wouldn't worry her. He's always been someone who needed to talk about things, and Gram was who he went to.

But now that he's trying to talk about this, he finds the words sticking in his throat.

"...love someone else?" she finishes for him. Mike nods, because it's a start. "Several times. I was always less careful about it than I should have been. You got that from me."

She strokes his cheek, and Mike hurts a little. She's always made him feel like even his bad qualities were good.

"Did you ever fall for someone who was wrong for you?" Well, that's not right. "Or, I mean, who you shouldn't have?"

"Everyone does, Michael, or they're just not trying hard enough."

Mike laughs; she's so much better these days – sharp and with him when he visits. Her doctor says it's a combination of factors...the meds, the upgrade in her care, Mike's frequent visits, now that he's able. She's been well for weeks now, but it still makes his chest ache when she gives him that fond look.

"It isn't Trevor, is it?" she asks with resignation.

Mike rolls his eyes, barely holding in a sigh. "For the last time, no."

"Don't take that tone with me, you boys are awful close," she says, and Mike admits defeat. When he was fifteen, she'd asked point-blank if Mike was gay, and her reasoning had been exactly the same. You and that Evans boy are getting awfully 'close.'

"It's not Trevor, Gram."

"Thank God for small favors."

Mike smiles and kisses her hand, where her knuckles are swollen with age. She says things like that, but there's affection in her voice. She had a hand in raising Trevor. In fact, he thinks she blames herself a little; it was after she got sick that Trevor went from causing mischief to getting in real trouble.

She told Mike, before he got kicked out of college, that childhood friends couldn't be forever, and he should let Trevor go. But he knows she wasn't surprised when he couldn't do that.

After all, that's not how she raised him.

"So. Who is this ill-advised man my grandson has fallen in love with?"

Mike sighs and ducks his head. "You know that lawyer I told you I worked for?"

Gram clucks her tongue, and Mike has to laugh.

"Yeah, I know. I'm so very screwed."

"Language."

She swears in front of him on a semi-regular basis now that he's grown up, but Mike's still not allowed. He thinks that's kind of hilarious. "Yes, ma'am."

She reaches out and strokes one hand through his hair – it's something she's done to him ten thousand times, but now it just makes him think about Harvey. Her hand feels too small; her touch feels too light. "You never did anything the easy way, did you?"

"Runs in the family," he says and she laughs.

For all of Mike's friends, grandparents are just people that they visit during the holidays – flat caricatures that only become relevant when they hand out presents. Mike knows Gram's story, including her checkered past. She likes to say she has her secrets, but in the last few years, she's told him quite a lot.

"And to answer your question – yes, I did. He was quite inappropriate, though not for any reason that would matter now."

He wonders if this is the man she went to Russia with, before she met Grandpa Jimmy. He'd sort of gotten the impression that guy had been black, which would've been a big deal back then.

"What happened?"

"It's not the same situation, Michael." She rubs his back a little when his shoulders slump.

"Yeah." Mike feels so much like a little kid, hoping she'll tell him what to do. He already knew she wouldn't let him off that easy, though. "I didn't expect him to be a good person. It'd be easier if he wasn't."

Gram makes a sound that could mean almost anything.

She lets him steer the conversation elsewhere, but before he leaves, she grabs his hand. "Don't rush this, Michael. You'll know when you know. In the meantime, don't think so much."

Mike kisses her cheek and grins. "Got it – no thinking with the upstairs brain."

"That's not what I meant and you know it," she calls after him. "Use condoms!"

Mike flushes as all the nurses heads turn at that, and sketches a wave at them before he hurries for the door.

*

He accepts Trevor's invitation to come over that night without realizing it's a party.

Mike's glad though, once Trevor's place is packed full. It's a really good distraction, and he hasn't seen all their friends in a while. Some of them are from college, or even from back in high school, some friends he, Trevor and Jenny have made since.

It's a really weird mix – everything from young Wall Street douches to total stoner dropouts (a few of whom are living on Wall Street, occupying and getting high off their faces). He meets Jenny's friend Becky who does Teach for America in East Harlem, and tells her she's too good a person to be there. She laughs, but he sort of means it.

Mike spends the evening playing to the crowd and tailoring the version of what he's doing now to whoever he's with at the moment.

He drinks more than is strictly advisable. His lies begin to strain credulity, but everyone else is drunk enough not to care. One chick's so trashed that she actually believes he's the bass player for The Black Keys. She takes a bunch of pictures with her camera phone. Mike ducks away after she propositions him.

He escapes onto the balcony, standing apart from all the smokers. He's thumbing through his phone, hovering over Harvey's number. He's kind of over the party. A couple months ago, he would've been all about drinking until dawn, but he's just not anymore. Or, not tonight at least.

"What kind of name is Harvey?" Trevor says from over his shoulder, and Mike almost fumbles his phone over the railing. He doesn't though, thank god. "Oh man, are you banging a guy named Harvey? You're cooler than that, Mike. Barely, but still."

"Trust me, no one's cooler than Harvey."

Trevor makes a gagging sound. Mike rolls his eyes and turns to face him. "You gonna ditch me for that loser?" Trevor says, and Mike shrugs.

"I'm thinking about it."

"It's still early," Trevor argues. It's half-past one. Not really late for them, but it's not early either. Mike wonders if Harvey's already asleep, or if he's up late working or...something else. He's not sure what Harvey does on Saturdays when Mike's off.

Shit. Right. Mike's off. Harvey's not expecting him.

"Aw, Jesus. If you're gonna get all maudlin, you can go cry on your boyfriend. Smoke a bowl with me first."

Mike shakes his head and frowns at his phone. He can't decide if he's allowed to go over there if he's not working. "He asked me to move in," he reasons to himself.

"Woah, shit, seriously?" Mike whips his head up and feels the balcony spin. He's drunker than he thought. Trevor looks gobsmacked. "You said it wasn't serious."

"It's...I'm...." Mike teeters on the edge of telling Trevor everything. He knows he decided that's a bad idea, but he can't remember why. He decides to trust his sober judgment. "I don't know what it is."

Trevor scowls and Mike blinks. He forgot how badly Trevor takes it whenever Mike gets serious with someone. "I'm not - " Mike closes his mouth before he can say working. "He's not expecting me tonight."

Trevor's brow clears. "Good. Just crash here, then. He sees you all the time."

Immediately, all Mike's indecision vanishes, like he just needed to hear his options before he knew where he wanted to be. "No, I'm gonna go."

"C'mon, Mikey - "

"We'll hang out Monday, alright?" He leaves before Trevor can argue his point.

*

He leaves his bike at Trevor's...he's way too drunk for it to be safe. But Trevor lives in Manhattan, only a dozen blocks from Harvey, so Mike just walks instead. It's just long enough that his head starts to clear, and by the time he's reached his destination, he's not sure he'll be welcome.

He loiters outside the building for a few minutes, undecided, but...sometime while he was walking or drinking or making up shit for random acquaintances, he decided he's going to take Gram's advice. Not to think so much.

Well. Mike would prefer to think of it as a choice, but the truth is, he's kind of stuck. He needs to work for Harvey, and he can't just turn his feelings off. So the only thing that makes sense is to go with it, and hope for the best. He's choosing not to worry about it.

And at the moment, he's choosing to go upstairs. Harvey never said he couldn't, and worst case, he gets kicked out. It's where he wants to be.

The door man doesn't stop him, so he heads straight for the private elevator. Before he has time to worry that he doesn't know how to start it when Harvey's not expecting him, the doors are closing on their own.

Mike sheds most of his clothing before he realizes he shouldn't, maybe. If he's not working, is he supposed to follow the same rules? It's too much to sort out still half-drunk, and besides, he's not worrying.

He leaves his boxers on when he steps off the elevator though. If he's going to get kicked out, it's better he's not naked.

"Did something happen?"

Mike's startled to see Harvey's silhouette in the living room; the doorman must have called up.

"Mike. Is something wrong?"

The tone of Harvey's voice gooses him from his stupor. "No. I just. I was with friends, nearby, and I wanted to be...here."

There's no response from Harvey, and Mike can't see his face. He's standing too far back for the light from the windows to reach him.

"Or maybe I should go?"

"No. You're welcome here whenever you want." He's quiet for a beat, until Mike turns towards the drawer that holds his collar. "Leave that til tomorrow. You don't have to wear it when you're not working."

Mike hesitates, surprised to find that he kind of wants it. But Harvey said no.

"C'mon. You can sleep in the guest room."

Mike follows Harvey, but he grabs Harvey's arm before they pass the master bedroom. "I came here to sleep with you. I don't want the guest room." He'd rather leave. The thought of being in another room hollows his chest right out.

"Mike, you're drunk. I don't think it's good to blur the boundaries this way."

"Please."

He still can't see Harvey's face. Harvey exhales through his nose. "Just to sleep."

"I promise not to molest you." Mike doesn't hide the smirk in his voice, now that he's won. It's funny because of how often Harvey does it to him.

"Smartass." Harvey steers him into the bedroom with one hand on his nape. "Leave your boxers on."

Mike can see now, from the light through the bedroom windows, that Harvey's actually dressed, in sweats and a wifebeater (Harvey calls them undershirts, and huffs when Mike persists in using the name that he hates). He leaves them on when he gets under the covers, even though he usually sleeps naked.

He's also weird and stiff when Mike scoots across the bed and tucks himself up against Harvey like always.

After a few minutes, he relaxes enough that it seems like he might sleep. Mike is already drifting.

Harvey's voice, quiet but threaded through with steel, yanks him back to alertness. "Why do you smell like pot?"

Mike's heart skips a beat. "People were smoking at the party. I didn't, though, I swear."

Harvey sits up and turns on the bedside lamp, studying his face with a frown. He must not be convinced by whatever it is he sees. "Breathe on me."

"What?"

Harvey's face tightens, all hesitancy forgotten. Mike asked more from surprise than actual defiance, so he quickly opens his mouth and exhales in Harvey's direction.

Harvey makes a face. "You stink."

"It wasn't my idea to breathe in your face."

"Go brush your teeth. And take a shower, while you're at it."

Harvey's mad. Mike's stomach twists, but he didn't break the rules. "I didn't smoke. You never said I couldn't be around it."

"I thought that part was common sense."

"You can't be mad at me when I didn't do anything wrong."

Harvey gives him a flat, stoney look. "Wrong. I can't punish you when you didn't break the rules. But I can be disappointed when you make bad choices. And I can change the rules to keep you from making them again. Stay away from it, Mike. That's an order now, and a term of your employment."

Mike's ribs are tight. "I didn't - "

Harvey softens, just a little. "You didn't. That was good. But you're asking for trouble if you keep temptation close. So don't."

"I wouldn't have come here if I'd known - "

"I'm glad you did," Harvey interrupts him, and Mike feels slightly mollified.

The light clicks off, plunging them into as much darkness as the city ever allows. He feels Harvey turn his back on Mike.

"Go wash up."

Yes, sir, is on the tip of his tongue. But it's pretty clear Harvey's his boss right now, not his Dom. Mike wishes that didn't make him feel anchorless.

So instead, he just says "Okay."

Chapter Text

Mike's worked for Harvey for a few months now and they have a good routine – ever since they established Mike is welcome off-duty, part of that routine is him hanging out at Harvey's place when he's not working. Harvey has cable and a DVR, the most expensive television known to man and God, and a far more comfortable sofa than Mike's third-hand couch.

So Mike's usually there when Harvey gets home. Harvey mostly pretends as though Mike isn't there – aside from a polite hello – until the clock strikes seven and Mike turns into a pumpkin his sub.

So he's there when Harvey comes home after six a few months in and says, "Can I ask you a question?" Mike says, "Duh," and Harvey says, "You're not on the clock."

Mike's willingness to answer the question wasn't predicated upon his paid submission. He's pretty sure Harvey knows that, and was just reminding Mike that he can refuse to answer.

But Harvey sits, loosens his tie, and stares at Mike so long that Mike says, "Yeah, ask away," in case he's actually waiting.

That's apparently not it. Harvey examines him like a bug under a microscope for so long he gets uncomfortable. And Mike is inured to Harvey's scrutiny by now.

"You wait any longer, we will be on the clock," he finally jokes, and Harvey shakes himself back from wherever he was.

"Sorry, I was just... You absolutely are not obligated to answer this question."

Harvey's always crystal clear about what Mike is obligated to. Precise and Thorough, Mike thinks with a smile. It could be their theme song. "Ok."

"You're brilliant," Harvey says, and that compliment hits him with a sinking heart.

Harvey's always been effusive with praise over Mike's performance as a sub. On the occasion where Mike's stepped beyond that, Harvey's been inscrutable. Mike knows for a fact that he's helped solve some of Harvey's stymied cases – he makes an observation, and Harvey comes home the next day looking very pleased with himself.

Harvey has never acknowledged that this happens, and that has been fine.

A relief of sorts, really. He was always afraid if Harvey named the elephant, they'd have the conversation that they're having. Or. Are about to have.

Harvey lets that statement hang like Mike will pick up the ball from there, but Mike won't take that ball til it's been shoved down his throat. So he looks impassively back.

Harvey finally relents. "How did you end up - "

"Being a loser?" Mike fills in, because experience has taught him that it hurts him less to say it than it does to have it said.

Harvey winces. "Not what I was going to say."

He doesn't elaborate though, so clearly Mike was close enough. And that wince said loud and clear that it had entered Harvey's thoughts.

"I figured you already knew," Mike says honestly, another elephant in the corner neither of them have ever acknowledged.

Harvey gives it a nod. "I have facts but not explanations."

"I don't owe you any."

"True," Harvey says, his gaze level.

Mike looks away. "I don't know, ok? A lot of bad decisions. My life got knocked off track a long time ago, and I always thought I'd put it back. But then, I just didn't."

"You didn't try to," Harvey says, and that hurts because it's true.

He takes a deep breath. He's working in a little while, so he can't just walk out. "I had reasons."

Harvey looks dissatisfied with that, but that's just too damn bad. Gram had been acting strange, and he'd needed to money to live on. And no one would've given him admission much less a full ride anyway, not after what he did.

"What if I could give you a way to get it back?"

Mike's head snaps up. "What are you...no. You can't just hand me shit because I'm good in bed. No way."

Harvey gives him a censuring look. "First of all, nobody would hand you anything. It would be a lot of hard work. Second, it would have nothing to do with you being good in bed, and everything to do with fact that I'm sick of working with idiots when I know I've got someone better wasting his goddamn life."

Mike breathes. "You don't seem to mind when I'm wasting it here with you."

"Wrong. I always mind that. But there's also more to you than your high IQ. And I like that part of you, too."

"Your logic's faulty anyway. You can't have me work for you and also pay to bang my brains out. Even a hooker knows that's a serious breech of ethics."

"Stop calling - " Harvey cuts himself off and Mike raises an eyebrow. "I know there are ethical problems, but we've already burned that bridge. You'd have to trust me to keep the two jobs separate. If you don't trust that, you can choose. This job or that one."

This isn't fair. Harvey couldn't just – "What kind of job are we talking about, specifically."

"To start off with? Paralegal."

"I don't have the degree."

"We both know you can test out of it. Try again."

Mike looks at the clock. "It's time to work, now."

"You're not on yet. Try again, Mike."

"I'm not Julia Roberts, dammit."

Harvey tips his head, as if considering. "To be fair, you have the legs."

Mike barks a laugh and closes his eyes. Too much could go wrong.

"Ok," Harvey says, tone changing. "Take your clothes off, puppy."

Thank God.

When Mike is naked at Harvey's feet, nails scritching through the short hair on his neck, he realizes, "I swore at you."

"No you didn't," Harvey says easily. "My paralegal did. And he gets one free pass, just like my sub, so he's used up his quota now."

At that moment, Mike caves in. He's going to take the job. "You're an overbearing - " he swallows 'asshole' just in time, because he's apparently out of curse passes on all planes of existence.

"Good boy," Harvey says. Mike leans his weight against Harvey's leg and lets it go for a while.

*

It takes a month before Mike's employed by Pearson Hardman. There are credentials to earn and papers to fill in and a background check that's thankfully not as extensive as Harvey's.

But it seems to move so quickly, and in no time, it's the night before. He's been riding on edge, battling insomnia all week.

So Mike's laugh has an edge of hysteria when Harvey asks how he feels about tomorrow – Harvey damn well knows. The look he gets in return manages to be impassive, fond and exasperated, all at the same time. Mike will never understand how Harvey's face can do that.

But when he takes Mike's hand and pulls him up into his lap, Mike starts calming down immediately. By now, talking face-to-face with Harvey while straddling his thighs is so closely associated with comfort that Mike feels better just for being in the position. And when Harvey cradles his head in both hands, Mike feels himself go ragdoll-limp, eyes closing in relief.

Harvey's thumbs sweep his cheekbones. "There's a learning curve to everything, but you're gonna be great at this. It's my job to know these things. You just have to want it."

"I do," Mike whispers. "That's kind of the problem."

"I know."

They've never actually discussed how Mike wanted to be a lawyer. Harvey's picked it up, apparently – from the books he reads, the things he knows, Mike's interest when he talks about his job. But Harvey has no idea how much this actually means to him, and Mike's scared to give it voice, to jinx it.

"If you can't trust yourself, trust me," Harvey says. He's quiet but so steady, and Mike's suddenly filled with...something. More than one thing. Complete faith, and terror for feeling it; love and apprehension and hope and fear of failure, and so many other things that are too difficult to name. It stops up his breath. Mike grips Harvey's forearms.

And it strikes him anew, how much Harvey will have over him. He already reads Mike so well that he regularly sees what Mike wouldn't want him to. He gives Mike all the things he never dared to ask for, which is scarier somehow than if he'd asked in the first place.

And now he'll have all that, and be the gatekeeper to Mike's dream career. Harvey's made it clear that paralegal's just a stepping stone. He expects Mike will go further.

The phrase all your eggs in one basket is definitely coming to mind. And the scariest thing of all is how Mike is doing this anyway, how he trusts Harvey to not fuck him over. That trust is bone-deep and paradoxically terrifying.

"Mike. Eyes on me."

Mike's eyes pop open and he tries to calm his breathing. Harvey's studying his face, probably gleaning every doubt. "Do you trust me?"

"Too much," Mike admits. There's a flicker of something on Harvey's face at that, too complex and rapid for Mike to possibly interpret.

"Scary, huh?" Just the way that he says it is somehow reassuring. Mike nods. "It's going to make this easier in some ways; it's going to make it much harder in others."

Harvey's hands slide from Mike's face, breaking Mike's too-hard grip on his forearms. The firm full-body stroke ends at Mike's hips, and makes him want more. More affection, more reassurance.

But he can tell that Harvey's thinking, so he waits, still and silent.

"You're a smart boy. So I know you know that corporate law is cutthroat. The way I behave with you here is an indulgence that I can't afford in the rest of my life. And if you want to get where I am, the same will be true for the way you behave."

Mike feels a pang that Harvey thought he needed to point that out. Mike's not stupid. "I know that."

"I know that you do. But knowing and feeling are sometimes different things. You're used to getting certain things from me that I won't be able to give you in my capacity as your boss. That I shouldn't give you, if I'm going to prepare you for your career. Sometimes – most times – I'm going to be hard on you, expect more than you think you can give, criticize more than compliment, and while I'm doing all that, I can't afford to worry about your feelings."

"I can take it." Anger and insult are building in Mike's chest. Along with a hurt that he's trying his best to hide; it wouldn't exactly prove his point. "I'm not weak, Harvey. I don't need to be coddled. I don't even want to be."

"We both know that's a lie." It's so matter-of-fact that Mike feels heat rush to his cheeks. He tries to pull away, but Harvey holds him fast. "Mike, listen to me. Stop being insulted and actually listen. You need that, you want that, but that doesn't make you weak. And it doesn't mean that you can't take the heat that you're going to feel in this job. That's not what I'm saying. Are you listening to me?"

Mike tries to shake off the stupid feeling of betrayal, but it clings on tenaciously. "I don't understand why you're bringing it up, then."

"Think about the way you're feeling right at this moment. I didn't want the first time you feel this to come when I couldn't afford to talk it through."

This stills Mike, and simultaneously embarrasses him further. "How I feel is my own problem."

"It's not." Mike starts to object, but Harvey cuts him off. "It's not, because I've consciously cultivated an environment here where you're emotionally vulnerable. I made that happen on purpose, Mike, because it's what both of us needed. But the consequences of that calculation are my responsibility. Twice over, since it's my idea to bring you on at the firm."

It jolts him a little to hear it put that way. Mike knows the principles of this type of relationship, and he knows he feels more open to Harvey than he's sometimes really comfortable with. To hear Harvey talk about how purposefully he's been guided there, though, hits his solar plexus.

It doesn't surprise him in the least, now that he's thinking about it. It might be the puzzle piece he's been missing to reconcile what he'd expected Harvey to want, and what Harvey has actually demanded from him. Harvey's split him open as effectively as any whip. Mike should've noticed he was doing it on purpose.

"I can take care of myself." He says it as much to reassure himself as he does to put off Harvey. It feels too much like a lie, and that really scares him.

Mike's gaze has fallen a little off-center, not able to take the full weight of Harvey's eyes, but when Harvey touches his chin, he makes himself drag them back.

"I know you can." Harvey sounds so sure. "And in the office, you'll have to. But it would be remiss of me not to prepare you for things you might start feeling. Because, as you've so aptly illustrated just now, you'll be liable to believe they're a fault or a shortcoming, when in reality they're an unavoidable consequence of the roles that we'll be balancing. Do you believe that I would lie to you in saying it's a normal response?"

Harvey's been kind to him, but he's never fed him bullshit. That loosens the emotion that's coiled tight in Mike's chest, a little. "No."

Harvey nods, and seems to relax as well. "Given the way I'll be treating you in the office, I have to anticipate that you'll probably experience sub-drop; I've seen very little evidence that you've had problems with it lately. Have you?"

"I never have."

Harvey pauses, small lines appearing between his eyebrows. "Mike, do you understand what sub-drop means?"

Mike has read up on anything and everything, particularly if it applies to an activity he's engaged in. "A physical condition, often with cold- or flu-like symptoms, experienced by a submissive after intense BDSM play. This can last for as long as a week, and is best prevented by proper aftercare."

Harvey blinks at him, bemused. "Did you just quote the dictionary?"

"Wikipedia, actually. The term has yet to gain enough popular usage to be included in non-specialized dictionaries."

Harvey stares at him for a beat. "Okay. I'm glad I asked. It's more complicated than that, and if that's the knowledge you're working from, it's not that surprising you've never applied it to yourself."

Mike's always assumed the phenomenon didn't apply to him because submitting was his job rather than something he needed or liked or chose. But then, the last few months with Harvey have made him realize that's not quite true.

"I know for a fact you've had sub-drop, because I've seen it – while we were waiting for your test results, you experienced a fairly bad case. You probably put it down to the other stressors in your life, and they undoubtedly had a compounding effect, but sub-drop was the primary problem."

Mike frowns, but holds his objections when Harvey gives him a quelling look.

"The physical symptoms of sub-drop are important, but to my way of thinking, not as dangerous as the emotional. People don't blame themselves for being tired or sore the way they do for feeling needy or on edge, or depressed for no clear reason. Mood swings are common. For someone like you, who's still exploring their submissiveness, it can also bring up feelings of guilt and shame for enjoying what you've done. You can convince yourself that wanting what you do is an inherent flaw. Insecurity or paranoia in relation to your dom can also be a natural byproduct, so I can only guess scening with someone you didn't trust complicated all these feelings further."

Harvey pauses, studying his face. Mike imagines he looks stunned. It's a struggle to hear Harvey say, basically, that all that was biological. But it's also hard to not believe it, in part. Mike's studied neurochemistry; he knows that when the balance of neurotransmitters is tipped in a certain direction, emotions and thoughts can follow surprisingly predictable patterns.

He can't bring himself to believe all his worry wasn't real, or even that it was irrational, but he has to admit sub-drop would have made it worse.

He's a little annoyed he didn't recognize it himself.

"I should have had this conversation earlier." Harvey looks grim now. "At the time I elected to give you what you needed without talking about it; you clearly didn't see yourself as submissive and I didn't want to push you on the subject before you were ready. You've only experienced a few minor bumps since, so it hadn't come to mind. But that was an error in judgment on my part."

"I wouldn't have believed you."

"But you would've had the knowledge to recognize it once you were ready."

"It's ok," Mike says, because the guy's not actually a mind reader, but Harvey just shrugs it off.

"The thing is, Mike, understanding sub-drop doesn't keep it from occurring, or make it feel less real. It might be hard to convince yourself it's normal, even knowing that it is. Just like knowing I'm treating you fairly as a boss won't mitigate sometimes feeling betrayed as a sub. But if we both keep that in mind, then we can deal with it. That's why I'm telling you. Not because I think you're weak. I've known that you weren't since the first time I met you. I wouldn't have hired you otherwise. For either job."

Mike takes a breath, feeling kind of overwhelmed. "Okay. So how do we deal with it?"

"You're going to be tempted to deal with it alone. When we're at the office, I'll need you to do just that – to remind yourself that it's normal, and focus on the task at hand. But once we're home, you need to tell me so I can help. That's a rule, Mike; it's not optional if we're going to have these dual roles."

He doesn't remember Harvey doing anything particular the last time. He's not sure how one person can fix another's chemical imbalance, if they're saying that's what it is. "How do you help?"

Harvey's mouth tips up. "I coddle you, and you let me."

That makes Mike prickle, but they've already gone a round that amounted to needy's ok. Mike doesn't want to do it again. His eyes drop from Harvey's.

"Not just an open book, but the large print edition," Harvey murmurs. "We'll need to work on that, or they'll eat you alive in court."

Mike shoves down most of the irritation he's feeling. "I just don't like that you think I need that."

Harvey's silent, and Mike studies both their hands. He's surprised Harvey hasn't called him on eye contact yet.

"Sometimes I don't like that I need it either, but regardless of our preferences, this is who we are."

Mike's head jerks upright. Harvey isn't making fun of him, and Mike knows he wouldn't claim a weakness just to make Mike feel better. "You - "

"I spend most of my time making others do what I want. I like it, I excel at it, but with most people, it isn't easy. I spend all day pushing, pulling, dragging, shoving, and cornering powerful people with chips on their shoulders. And once I succeed, I have to hide how accomplished I feel and pretend it was a foregone conclusion. Anything less, and they'll dig their heels in next time."

Harvey settles his hand on the nape of Mike's neck and gives a little squeeze.

"It's a relief to have someone do as I say because they want to. Because they trust my judgment – in certain things – better than their own. And it's a relief to be able to show my gratitude to that person, for giving me that much faith."

Mike swallows and it feels too thick. He doesn't think he's ever seen Harvey look this earnest. Before he can think of something to say, the moment passes and Harvey's face gradually returns to its default authority.

"I can't have that from you, though, when we're working cases. I need your mind. I need you to push back at me when we disagree. I need you to make me listen to something if you think it's important. My judgment will be better than yours in this area, for a long damn time. But I'm hiring you because you can give me new angles, so I need you to challenge me anyway."

"I can do that," Mike says quietly.

"I know you can." Harvey strokes his fingers once through Mike's hair, before returning his hand to the back of Mike's collar. His thumb plucks at the edge, making Mike acutely aware of it. "I just also need you to remind yourself that when I push back, when I reject what you're saying, when I give you the same amount of acknowledgment for hard work as I would give anyone else – which isn't much – you shouldn't take it personally."

Mike wants to say he wouldn't, that he knows how to deal with criticism, but he's feeling so on-edge and defensive right now that he'd have a hard time believing it himself. Harvey has reason to be concerned. Mike has never felt so fucking thin-skinned with anyone before; once again this knowledge surges up and threatens to just...choke him. "I want...."

He thinks better of it, and cuts himself off.

When Mike doesn't continue, Harvey softly prompts, "What?"

It's Sunday; Mike's on call. His suit for tomorrow is here. He's stuck, but the compulsion is strong to leave – to breathe, to build up his defenses. "Nothing. It's...just...." Mike doesn't know what to do.

"Mike. Tell me what you need."

"I want to go home." Mike exhales, eyes closing. "I'm sorry. I know I can't. I just...this is a lot. And I don't know if I can be what you need tomorrow without some room to think."

Harvey is quiet for a long, long time.

"I know I can't go," Mike finally repeats.

"No, you can. Tonight, you can. I'm just concerned; I don't want you twisting yourself up all night."

Mike opens his eyes, and for some reason, argues. "I'm on call tonight."

"I can make an exception. So long as you promise to come back if you decide you need me."

"My suit and stuff is here." He knows that's not a real problem; he isn't sure why he's bringing it up.

"We'll catch you a cab, so you can take your suit and your bike and whatever else you need."

The tightness in Mike's chest finally releases. "Thank you, Harvey."

"Call if you need me. No matter what time."

"Thanks."

Harvey shrugs it off, and taps his mouth, prompting Mike to lean in and kiss him.

Chapter Text

Mike ends up getting less sleep that night than he probably would've at Harvey's. Harvey would've kept him in and made him go to bed early, but instead Mike pays the cab driver, deposits his suit upstairs, then rides aimlessly around Brooklyn for hours on his bike.

He wakes up the next morning, and as he goes through his old routine, he feels like he's regained a layer of skin. He feels good, actually, like he might be able to do this. He knows he made the right decision, stepping away for a night.

But he smiles when Harvey texts him at 6:58, just as he's getting out of the shower.

Everything ok?

Let's do this, he shoots back.

The response, timestamped 7am on the dot, gives Mike the last push he needs to start his day right.

That's my boy.

*

Mike is shown around the office first thing by the (awesomely sassy) Queen Bee paralegal before he's given his place in the hive; he's two floors down from where he knows Harvey's office is. Mike's never worked in a cubicle before. He never thought he wouldn't, but he never thought that he would.

Cubicles are one of those things that happen to other people. Or at least, he was apparently operating under that assumption.

He can't stop touching his tie while he fills out more HR paperwork and IT sets him up with various log-ins. This suit is more expensive than anything he's ever owned – hell, the tie alone cost more than anything else in his wardrobe.

He knows he fits in, on the surface. His new suits were purchased with his own money (which, admittedly, he earned from screwing Harvey), but Harvey helped him pick them out (in between more screwing). He's glad now that Harvey talked him around to spending as much as he did. Even the paralegals are shockingly well-dressed.

He's treated with varying degrees of disinterest and condescension like a regular New Guy would be. He just can't help the feeling that everyone can see on his face, how exactly he got hired. All that screwing has to leave a mark. He's relieved that so far he's garnering minimal notice.

That changes, though, around ten A.M., when Mike's desk phone rings and he starts locking up his things.

"It's not lunch yet, New Guy," somebody calls out.

"Mr. Specter needs to see me," Mike says, trying to find his cell, just in case. When he looks up from his search, everyone is staring. You could hear a fricking pin drop, none of the busy background noise.

Mike tries not to color, wondering if they'll draw the conclusion he hopes no one does. "I think he needs some research."

"And he actually wants to see you?" someone behind him asks. There's shock and accusation, and too late, Mike realizes how unusual this is. Harvey's a senior partner. Mike's a first-day paralegal.

"Maybe I'm already getting the ax?" Mike jokes. He gets no friendly reaction.

"Don't keep him waiting, moron," some guy says, and Mike figures that's good (if ill-tempered) advice.

Donna's the first person that day who actually looks knowing, because she actually knows, and mostly looks amused with him. She nods him into Harvey's office.

"I think all the paralegals hate me now." It's not something he would normally tell a new boss, but it would be ridiculous to pretend that they're strangers when they're alone.

"Good," Harvey says absently, still focused on his computer. "Don't make friends, you won't be there for long."

Mike thinks that's a weird thing to say, or even think, but Harvey strikes him that way sometimes. It's the kind of opinion he keeps to himself. "Maybe you shouldn't call me up here. They all seemed suspicious about why you did."

When Harvey looks up, his gaze is strangely opaque. Sharp but impenetrable, and it gives Mike a jolt; he's used to seeing something warm and approving. But Harvey basically told him to expect this. "Jealous, more likely. That's inevitable, as soon as they find out you were hired directly by me. I've never had a dedicated paralegal before. You should drop the paranoia, it's more of a giveaway than anything."

"I just think - "

"Mike, I don't have time for this." Harvey's looking at him in a way Mike normally interprets as anger, and it pulls him up short, stomach dipping a little. "Put it aside and focus."

For all Mike knows, this is Harvey's happy face while he's being a lawyer. "Okay. What do you need me to do?"

There's a minute relaxation of Harvey's facial muscles that Mike chooses to see as approval. "Normally, Donna will send work down to you, but something's come up and I thought you'd need context."

"Okay."

"The original plan for today was that you proof this and this, plus these two if you have time, draft a contract from these, and file a patent claim for this." Mike eyes the growing stack of paper.

"And instead, I'm going to...."

"Still do all that," Harvey says, amused. "But I also need precedent for a case, by tomorrow."

"No problem," Mike tells him – precedent, he can do. He might even know what they need already.

"You say that now, but it won't be easy. We filed a subpoena for HR documents, and the opposition's balking. The motion hearing's in the morning, and right now, it weighs firmly on their side: we're asking to look at private files without evidence of wrong-doing. But the only way to get any evidence is if we can get those files. I need you to find a way for me to break the catch-22."

"What are we looking for?"

"It's a sexual harassment / wrongful termination suit. A guy like this won't have pulled this just once; we want to find additional complainants."

"Okay. I'll get right on it."

"After everything else gets done."

Mike frowns. "I thought you said this was urgent."

"It is; it's also pro bono. Everyone else in the queue is actually paying me. Pro bono goes to the bottom of the pile."

"I thought the whole idea of pro bono was to even the playing field. Shouldn't they be given equal priority as the rest of your clients?"

Harvey smiles, and Mike flashes back to the day they met. That's the last time he experienced this kind of condescension from him. "Cute. But no. There's also no Santa Claus."

"But - "

"If you care about it that much, then you'd better get to work."

Mike tries to see the Harvey he knows anywhere in this man's expression; it's a perfectly mild look, but it's so...flat. Guarded. It's weird to see. "Right."

He stands and hefts the tower of paper up into his arms. He took the stairs up, but he'll be taking the elevator down.

"Has the digital age just passed you guys by?" he asks as he makes his way to the door. He doesn't expect an answer, but when he looks, Harvey's got a little smile.

Mike hides one of his own, reassured disproportionately.

*

Pulling an all-nighter on his very first day turns out to be predictive of how his week goes. Not once does he make it home before eight o'clock. Harvey is usually out by six, though Mike knows he's probably just working at home.

It is hard work. It's damn hard work, just like Harvey promised. By the end of the week, Mike is mentally exhausted, which is a first for him, actually. The work itself is challenging, but the sheer volume is probably the biggest contributor to his fatigue. It didn't take long before people noticed how quickly Mike can proof, so he's been getting additional work on top of what comes from Harvey.

He's had no trouble sleeping by the time he gets to the condo. Actually, he's had a hard time staying awake. Mike passes out every night at Harvey's feet, about five minutes after he settles in there. Harvey says he'll adjust, and Mike knows that he will, but he still feels bad that he's useless in the evenings.

He's almost giddy by the weekend, hustling out by 6:35 on Friday. He can't wait to hear how things turned out for Nancy, and he hasn't gotten laid in a week.

He stops at a corner store and slams back some 5-Hour Energy. His body's so acclimated to caffeine at this point that all it's going to do is keep him conscious, but that's really all he wants.

Harvey looks amused by the way he tears through the living room, loosening his tie on his way to the shower. Suits, he learned the hard way, are not to be left on the floor of the elevator. Besides that, it's still 6:55.

By 7:01, he's skidding to his knees in front of Harvey, naked and still damp. Harvey is trying very hard not to laugh.

"Really, Mike, I'm not sure I can put up with you dragging your feet this way."

"What did you get her?" Belatedly, Mike realizes he forgot to fetch his collar, and he crawls over to get it, eyes on Harvey while he fumbles the buckle.

"Are you hungry? I'm feeling kind of hungry."

"Harvey."

Harvey's eyes are dancing. "Admission of guilt and a treatment program for the gentleman; reinstatement with back-pay and a 15% raise for the lady. Plus a quarter mil settlement, just because I could."

Mike's breath sticks. He never met the client, but he feels like he knows her; he knows people like her, and Harvey might not realize, but that's – "God, that's amazing. That's gonna change her life, you don't even know...."

"I know," Harvey says. His voice and smile are soft, like Mike's done something pleasing.

Mike bites his tongue to keep from saying more, holding in this pent-up energy that didn't come from a bottle of B12 and caffeine.

He's not sure Harvey actually gets it – maybe academically, but this is a guy who dropped the same small fortune on a human sex toy, basically. Harvey is not at all the jerk Mike thought he was, but he likes his extravagances, and isn't always aware of how ridiculous some of it is.

Plus, he spends most of his time with the kind of people who say stuff like 'a million isn't what it used to be.'

Mike's own head is still swimming from how much money he has in the bank. The bills that used to cripple him are now no worry at all, and he's not sure Harvey gets what a relief that can be. Nancy, if she's smart, can send her kid to college and start a healthy retirement fund. She can plan for the future instead of worrying about food.

But there's really no way for Mike to impress his excitement upon Harvey without sounding insulting, so Mike throttles it back. "I wish I could've been there. What did you say? Did he crap his pants as soon as you said 'prison'?"

"He thought I was bluffing til I told him I was Best Man at the wedding of New York's current US Attorney."

Mike grins. Oh, man. "What about - "

"If I promise to give you the blow-by-blow, will you go towel off your hair, already? Every time you move, it's like a wet dog shaking off in my living room."

They eat dinner while Harvey tells him everything.

Chapter Text

Mike crashes hard that night, exhausted by his first week as a paralegal. In fact, caffeine be damned, he passes out before there's sex. Which he finds disappointing but not that problematic, until he wakes up and realizes he's due to visit his gram. He's not Harvey's sub today, which means Harvey won't touch him. Which means no sex for Mike until Sunday at noon.

Mike stands in the doorway, watching a half-dressed Harvey read the paper over breakfast, and finds this to be unacceptable to him.

He retreats and thinks about it while he gets dressed – for the first time this week, not in a suit, thank God. By now, he stashes some casual clothes here, to wear when he's 'off-duty.'

Harvey looks up and says good morning, as Mike puts his collar in the drawer where they keep it. Mike hovers at the breakfast table, unaccustomed to taking a chair. He's never had breakfast with Harvey when he wasn't at his feet.

Harvey looks up and raises an eyebrow in question, and Mike seats himself quickly, pouring his coffee. He feels a sharp pang, all of a sudden, over doing this himself, over scooping eggs onto his plate and using the fork Harvey left out for him. Abruptly, he feels swamped by unwanted feelings.

Harvey's worry over sub-drop had felt anticlimactic – he'd been fine all week, aside from twinges here and there. He thought he was fine, right up til this moment; now he's lonely and feeling oddly neglected, like Harvey's ignoring him, even though he knows he isn't.

It's bearable, and Mike could probably get by, but he doesn't want to.

"Hey so, I was thinking," he starts, and Harvey looks up from the paper. "I know I was...I mean I kinda slacked off on my job here, so I thought, after I visit Gram, I could come by and make up the hours?"

Harvey lowers the newspaper and takes a sip of coffee, studying him. "You don't have to do that."

"I know...." His face burns a little; he had already planned to fib just a bit, but now that it's true, it's harder to say. He was hoping he wouldn't have to, actually. That's why he tried to frame it the way he did. "But you said that I should tell you if I needed...something? I mean, it's not a big deal, I'm fine mostly. It's ok if you have plans."

"Mike," Harvey prompts, waiting until he looks up. "I'll be here whenever you're ready. I was planning on taking it easy, today."

"Right. Well. Okay. I'll be back after Gram."

Harvey nods and goes back to reading. Mike rushes through breakfast before biking out to Brooklyn.

*

It's good to see Grammy – he missed her during the week. For a while, he could come in on Tuesday and Thursday as well. Obviously, that's not going to be possible anymore.

He explains the change in schedule, and the sudden surge in things to say about his job, by telling her he's getting more directly involved with cases. Like before, it's not a lie, but close enough to make him feel guilty. He makes up for it a little by telling her all about the pro bono case. By telling her what they did for Nancy.

"You're a good boy," she tells him, looking so damn proud. Mike smiles and ducks his head, though that's only partially modesty. He's also realizing Harvey's completely ruined that phrase for him.

Ok, not ruined. But feeling a pulse of arousal when he's spending time with Gram is something Mike would prefer not happen...ever.

It also makes him realize that, forget having sex, he hasn't so much as jacked off this week. He's been that tired. Mike excuses himself somewhat hastily.

It's possible he bends some traffic laws as he bikes back into Manhattan.

*

It's not fair for Harvey to look peaceful while Mike's so incredibly horny. Mike wants to be charmed by Harvey spending an afternoon napping; he kind of is charmed, despite his annoyance. Harvey rarely spends time doing nothing – watching tv and napping are apparently beneath him. Mike's never seen him lay down on the sofa, except for when they were about to have sex.

Mike is looking at evidence that Harvey's three for three, today. There's Star Trek on the television, and Harvey is sprawled loosely, remote clutched possessively to his chest with one fist. He's twitching a little like he's having a dream.

Mike sighs. He is kind of sweaty from biking, so he leaves Harvey be. He's hoping the sound of him taking a shower will rouse Harvey for him. Save him from feeling mean about waking him up.

It doesn't, of course. By then, though, Mike has cooled down enough and figures he can wait semi-patiently. He's careful not to jar Harvey as he stretches out on the couch. Harvey does stir a little as Mike slots himself up close, but only so far as to turn his head and mumble.

He expects it to be impossible to make himself relax, but now that he's here – nothing urgent, bare except his collar against Harvey's worn-soft house clothes – it's surprisingly easy to turn his mind off. He watches the tv idly and breathes against Harvey's skin. It's nice. It warms Mike from the inside, like this is something real.

Mike ends up dozing off a bit, himself, so he misses the moment when Harvey finally wakes up. It's a gradual realization. Harvey's prone to being grabby, even when he's asleep, but the hand kneading Mike's ass is a little too purposeful for him to be unconscious.

Mike's worked back up to a nice state of sexual frustration when he he realizes Harvey's not going to do more than grope him. "It would be really mean to tease, right now, if you're not prepared to follow through," he says. The words are slightly muffled against the cotton of Harvey's shirt.

That gets his ass smacked, but not hard enough to be seen as a deterrent. "Pushy puppies don't get what they want."

Harvey's voice is still deep and blurry with sleep.

"Not pushing," Mike says, "Just...advising you of my needs."

Harvey snorts. "Not necessary – I can feel your 'needs' poking my hip."

Mike hums and presses forward a little. "Wanna get off."

"Clearly."

Harvey's hand has stopped moving by now, altogether. It's resting inertly, and Mike fights the urge to sulk. "Is that what you want?" he lilts. Hint. Hint, hint.

Harvey's watching him with a smile on his face. His fingers trail lightly up, then down, Mike's spine. "Not particularly, no. I think I like you like this."

Even the light touch that he's getting is making Mike's dick twitch; he bites down firmly on a swear word. And tries not to sound as petulant as he feels. "I thought you said I could get off when I wanted."

Harvey considers this. "I did. Close the bathroom door if you're going to jerk yourself off."

"You – " Mike's whole face is strained, trying to control the depth of his annoyance. Waiting's a lot harder when Harvey's just trying to fuck with him. He takes a deep breath, and can't quite sound solicitous. "What do you want me to do, before you'll let me come?"

There are deep crow's feet framing Harvey's eyes. "Nothing, really. Just not in the mood."

Mike knows better than to give further ammunition, but the strangled noise his throat produces is completely involuntary.

Harvey shows his teeth. "You could, if you wanted, try to nudge me towards the right frame of mind. I wouldn't stop you."

Harvey quickly grabs Mike's wrist as Mike reaches for his crotch.

"Only rule: no heavy friction below the waist. For either one of us, hot shot."

Mike sighs out heavily through his nose. "Your face is stupid."

"Not the tactic I'd take," Harvey tells him, "but points for novelty, I suppose."

Harvey's dimples are on the verge of popping out. Mike thinks about what's worked on him quickly in the past.

This leads to fellating his fingers, until he sees Harvey face: supremely unmoved. "That's the kind of thing that only seems sexy if you're there already. I'm not."

He's tempted to point out that Harvey's a lying bastard; wearing sweats with no underwear makes it fairly obvious he's a little aroused, at least. Obviously, though, that isn't the point.

"You suck," he says anyway.

"Only if you get to work soon, you brat."

Mike freezes. "Wait, really?" Harvey's only done that once.

Harvey makes a face full of smug faux-ambiguity. "You did do very well this week. I enjoy having toys that makes others jealous."

Mike's tempted to point out that trading blowjobs for good work isn't exactly keeping things separate. But it's been roughly three months since his dick last got sucked...this is the kind of boundary smudging he can really get behind.

"I can literally see the temptation to push me face-down in your lap." Harvey eyes him. "That's appalling, Mike – I'm not that kind of girl."

"Can you blame me?"

"No, not really."

"So, um." Harvey's fucking sexy when he smiles that way. Mike's ability to read between the lines is rapidly being impaired. "What kind of girl are you?"

Harvey appears to think about this. "The kind requiring a lot of gentle persuasion."

Mike snorts. "Right." He thinks about it. "Wait. Is this your way of telling me you want a prolonged make-out session?"

Harvey purses his lips, fingers drumming lightly against Mike's hipbone. "To be honest, I thought you'd work it out on your own, but it seems that your brain is being severely deprived of oxygen."

It must be, because he actually argues. "Seriously? We can't just - " Harvey's expression, still mostly amused, darkens with the hint of a warning. Mike shuts up. "Right. Just kidding."

Between the law firm and his feelings, he'll have to be careful not to forget this isn't just for fun. Harvey gives him a lot of leeway; Mike doesn't want to abuse it.

It's not like kissing Harvey is any kind of hardship. Mike just needed the reminder to get his dick in check.

Mike props himself up on one arm and smiles down at Harvey. Because he can't resist: "I won't pressure you again, baby. We won't do anything you're not ready for, promise."

Harvey apparently gives up on Mike initiating; he rolls his eyes and pulls Mike towards him to slide their lips together. Once Mike's engaged, though, he actually cedes control – responsive but passive under Mike's mouth.

It's unexpected. But hot. He basically ordered Mike to seduce him.

Which is. Yeah, Jesus. He tries not rub his erection on Harvey, since Harvey's apparently a delicate flower today.

That brings forth an image and a laugh bubbles out. Harvey's mouth curves against his. "Something funny?"

Mike shakes his head, not wanting to get sidetracked now.

He and Harvey kiss all the time, but not usually as an end unto itself. Even when you ignore the getting paid angle, they're two grown men who can have sex whenever they want. Kissing's always foreplay, or in passing, or post-coital.

After a few minutes though, Mike starts thinking there's something to be said for necking like teenagers. To lay here on the couch, not allowed to try for more...just open eyes and mostly-closed-mouthed kisses, and hands that wander – not to grope, so much as touch. Every so often they forget the goal of going slow, and it becomes tongues and groaning and bodies pressed tight, before Mike reins it back in.

It's during one such breather that he realizes the DVD's gone back to menu, Star Trek theme on a short repeating loop. He finds the remote, wedged half-under Harvey's back, and shuts it off.

Harvey has one hand tucked behind his head, watching Mike with sleepy eyes. His mouth is kiss-swollen and he's gonna have a little beard-burn, because Mike didn't shave this morning. The angle of his arm pulls his shirt tight across his chest, and it also calls attention to the small swell of his bicep.

"Oh my God, it's just unreal how hot you are." Mike feels like he should be embarrassed that he said that without thinking, but, no, fuck that, it's like saying the sky is blue. Harvey isn't chiseled, but for his age he's in great shape. "I mean seriously, it's just wrong."

Harvey stretches near-imperceptibly – preening is what he's doing now, really – expression supremely pleased with himself. He's fucking full of himself, almost without exception, but there's something soft about him right now that says he likes hearing the compliment. Mike is overcome with this ridiculous affection that he knows must be there on his face.

His hand is sneaking up under the hem of Harvey's shirt, fingers stroking the stupid-soft skin. There's no muscle definition there – he's not quite vain enough for what it takes to get a six-pack – but it's nice and flat and Mike kind of wants to bite it. He's pretty sure that's not on the menu today, for a while, since Harvey's on this chastity trip, but he slips his hand up further and rucks the shirt up with it.

"Can we get rid of this, yet?"

Harvey purses against a smile. "Is this all it took to get girls to second when you were that age? I remember having to work a little harder."

Mike has a high-def mental image of Harvey at sixteen, young and cocky and oozing obnoxious charm. He bets it wasn't as difficult to pull off as Harvey's making it out to be.

Either Harvey was asking rhetorically, or he took Mike's mental detour as sulky silence, because he pulls his shirt off inside-out and tosses it away.

"Well," Mike says. "You're obviously not a nice girl, or you'd be wearing something additional under your shirt." He pauses, considering. Sometimes a well-developed visual imagination is more of a curse than a blessing. "Okay, I know we've got a bit going, but I really don't want to think of you in women's undergarments. I retract my previous statement."

Harvey's grinning. "Glad we're on the same page with that one."

"Seriously, I just...." Mike shakes his head to dislodge the image. Though, now he's thinking about Harvey's nipple, and he ducks his head to take it between his teeth. Harvey pulls him away like a puppy by the scruff. Only, Mike has no scruff, so Harvey's pulling his hair. "Ow-ow-ow."

"That doesn't hurt, you baby. Eyes up here. Stay above the collarbone."

Mike looks at him forlornly. "That wasn't in the rules. You said above the waist."

Harvey just lifts an eyebrow and stares at him.

Mike adapts. "Okay, above the collarbone, so...I can do stuff like this?" He bites into the skin of Harvey's throat, and Harvey doesn't stop him.

But after a moment, his vocal cords vibrate. "You should think twice about leaving a hickey there for Monday. I have a cock cage that you haven't made acquaintance with yet."

Mike's attention to Harvey's throat becomes significantly gentler. Harvey turns his head to align their mouths without making contact, just looking at him close up and hauling at Mike's weight. Mike gets the hint and shifts til he's on top. He hadn't noticed that laying to the side was straining his neck, but once it's fixed, he can tell.

His knees fall to either side of Harvey's thighs. It brings more attention to them both being hard, but Mike tries not to grind them together. It's not allowed. It's not easy to resist, though; his abs keep tensing up in strong, reflexive waves. He breathes against Harvey's mouth for a minute, and gets this sweet, contented hum when he initiates a kiss.

Mike's arms are occupied propping himself up, but Harvey's hands take up this soothing sort of rhythm, smoothing down Mike's back to the narrow of his waist, then retracing slowly to the rounding of his shoulders. Over and over, too firm to be a tease, to light to be a come-on; it keeps Mike in check, cools him down and brings him back to that lazy state of mind.

It's actually ridiculous how much time must pass from there. It's only marked by the shifting of their bodies, accommodating as one position gets uncomfortable and they move into another. By the time Harvey's settled on top of Mike, Harvey's rules are apparently slipping – Mike's wandering hands are considerably less PG, and he hasn't gotten called on it.

Harvey even cooperates by rolling his hips when Mike pushes under his sweats and grabs his ass in both hands.

There's a lot more heavy breathing from there. Harvey gives up on kissing, face pressed against Mike's throat, when Mike's fingers slide down Harvey's crack. It's a triumph when Harvey actually starts dry-humping him in response to Mike toying with his ass.

"Harvey," Mike breathes, and it's not actually calculated to get his attention...it just happens to come out at the same time he gets a thought. "Fuck, can I...."

"What?" Harvey pants absently. But he stops moving when Mike doesn't answer. He pulls away and looks down at him. Clearly now: "What?"

Harvey's been pretty open to anything Mike wanted to do, but Mike hasn't pressed the envelope with assplay since the first time. When it comes down to it, Harvey is a control freak, and Mike being here at all means problems with intimacy are a given.

Mike's kind of had this fantasy, but he doesn't want it unless Harvey really does too; he wasn't gonna bring it up, but right now actually seems ideal. Not only does Harvey's mood seem right, but every time Mike presses against the resistance of Harvey's sphincter, Harvey's breath catches harshly in his throat.

"Ever since that first week when I blew you and fingered you, I've wanted.... Well, you were so fucking into it, you know? But in a way that made me think it didn't happen often enough, made me want to lick you out and get you off with my fingers, just...play with you til you were a fucking mess. Do you think...? I mean, would you like that?"

Harvey's staring at him, expression indecipherable but intense. Mike is worried for a second when he gets up, but he pulls Mike with him and starts towards the bedroom.

He watches dumbly while Harvey spreads himself out on the bed, pillow tucked beneath his hips to cant his ass up in a way that's a frank invitation.

Mike's frozen there a moment. A victory dance would be uncouth.

Harvey folds his arms in front of him and looks over his shoulder at Mike, who scrambles up onto the bed, not wanting to keep him waiting. If Harvey's feeling shy right now, he doesn't show it in any way; he gives the overall impression he's impatient to be serviced.

The view from within the sprawl of Harvey's legs really does make his mouth go dry. It's one he's never had the chance to appreciate. Harvey's body doesn't get sun, ever, but he's naturally a little more olive-toned than Mike, and from the back he's just this gorgeous orgy of skin and muscle; it's pleasing on such a base level, Mike has to use his hands instead of his words.

With his hands, he can feel the muscle definition that the thin layer of fat makes less readily apparent. Jesus, even his fat deposits are gorgeous. He has fleshy padding right over his kidneys – little love handles – that Mike finds oddly endearing. He's so fucking gone for this man it's stupid.

He swallows the lump in his throat that comes with that thought, and concentrates on the task of feeling Harvey up, body following his hands up Harvey's spine.

There are twin moles straddling Harvey's left shoulder blade that Mike's never noticed before; they demand oral worship. But then, so does the rest of his shoulder, and his spine, and the nape of his neck....

Harvey twists his head to look at Mike and Mike settles against his back so he can kiss him. It's an awkward angle, so they don't keep it up for long. Mike follows Harvey's jaw back towards the joint – no matter how often he's been stealing Harvey's aftershave, it still says Harvey to him and turns him on like crazy – and tenderizes his earlobe for a minute.

"Thank you for letting me do this."

There's a sensitive shudder at Mike's voice against his ear that's at odds with the arch way Harvey says, "You haven't done much, yet."

Mike pushes up to make a joke and catches the flicker of something barely there on Harvey's face as his dick slides in the crease of Harvey's ass. Mike breathes against the curve of his shoulder and tries not to show how very hot it is that Harvey feels vulnerable, after all. "I'd better get to work then, huh?"

He retreats in much the same way he arrived, hands stroking either side of Harvey's spine. Harvey has done a good job of spreading himself – knees sprawled wide and hips tilted up – but Mike holds his cheeks apart anyway, letting his thumb brush lightly over his hole.

With the tilt of Harvey's body, he can only see the partial profile of his face – the slice of his cheekbone, the curve of his eyebrow. He wants to ask if anyone's ever rimmed him before, but he doesn't because he thinks this is far harder for Harvey than he's letting on.

It's only confirmed by the slight tension in his back when Mike stretches up to grab lube out of the drawer. He sets the bottle aside and kisses Harvey's flank on his way back down.

He bites the meat of Harvey's ass – he really can't resist. Then he gets straight to the point, figuring it's probably the only way to make Harvey forget he's freaked out.

There's a sharp breath at the first long stroke of Mike's tongue, though Harvey doesn't move a muscle. Mike pulls his cheeks as far apart as they'll go and starts to really bathe Harvey's asshole, a few firm wetting motions before he starts to tease, quick, light and fluttering. Harvey makes a noise at the back of his throat and subtly presses up towards Mike's face.

It starts out as just the impression of movement, getting more and more restless and obvious as Mike goes. Eventually he loses inhibition and it's hopelessly hot, his whole body flexing in a way that's too demanding to call slutty, despite the way he spreads his knees further apart and humps the pillow like he just can't help himself.

Mike hasn't even penetrated Harvey yet, aside from the testing press of his tongue. Harvey's too tight to make much progress there, and he's always found that kind tiring anyway. Instead he uses his fingertip and the spit he's already worked up to breach Harvey open – it's probably too dry, but he thinks Harvey will like that a little, that small burn as Mike gets his fingertip inside.

Harvey arches his back and stops breathing for a second, then relaxes back down with this deep-throated groan that makes Mike feel smug. Though his dick, at this point, is almost painfully hard.

He sits up to coat two fingers with lube, but starts with just the middle one, easing his way with the tip...then less careful once he's already in. He saws in and out with a couple slow motions, twisting as he goes to maximize friction at the sphincter. Harvey's face is against his folded arms and the bedspread, moaning in time with Mike, breath occasionally hitching.

His hips keep shifting around like he's trying to make Mike hit his prostate but he isn't demanding (yet), just taking what Mike gives him.

If he thought Harvey would be at all ok with it, he'd probably be thinking about fucking him right now. He knows, though, in the way he's starting to see Harvey, that that's not on the table any time in the near future.

Mike tries to not be greedy and appreciate what he's getting because this...yeah. Not bad.

Two fingers is a tight fit, but Harvey seems to enjoy the edge of discomfort; Mike lets himself fuck Harvey's hole for real, alternating between prostate massage and fast, hard, deep strokes that produce these amazingly helpless sounds. He's starting to think he can make Harvey come like this – that he's about to, actually, just from being fucked with Mike's fingers and rubbing himself against his ungodly expensive pillowcase.

Mike decides that sounds like a plan and starts doing his best to make it happen – Harvey's noise level approaches crescendo before he abruptly pushes up, saying, "Wait, waitwaitwaitwait."

Mike pulls away immediately and backs off, startled by the sudden change til Harvey rolls away and drags Mike with him, pulling Mike on top of him, face to face. Harvey looks flushed and completely unwound in the split second Mike is allowed to see him before his mouth gets mauled.

It only takes another beat of lips and teeth and tongue, of Harvey's hands clutching Mike's ass while he thrusts up into Mike's stomach, for Mike to get completely on board. From there, it's pretty much a messy, desperate race, dicks sliding together and panting into each other's mouths. Harvey swears a couple times like they're the only words he knows, and when one dry fingertip presses into Mike's asshole, it doesn't seem like turnabout, just...like Harvey needs to get something inside him.

That thought, combined with the near-perfect almost-pain, is what has Mike losing it in between their stomachs. He tries to keep thrusting to make Harvey come but it ends up being more like Harvey holding him still with both hands on his ass while using him to get himself off.

"Jesus Christ," Mike gets out eventually. Harvey grunts in agreement. And because it's the first thought that pops up: "You still owe me a blowjob."

Harvey starts laughing underneath him, apparently unoffended. "Raincheck. Though this was all your fault."

"Damn straight, I'll take that credit."

"I'd like to breathe," Harvey eventually says, rolling enough to dump Mike to the side. He turns into him, so they're still pressed flush. Mike's face is buried against Harvey's sweaty throat and they're radiating heat, but neither of them moves.

Harvey's hand is trailing lightly up and down Mike's side, and Mike isn't really sleepy, just...deeply content and relaxed. He could drift like this forever.

Until...he pulls away a little, to look at Harvey's face. "Did you just...." Mike thinks about it. "Was this whole thing you, reverse-psych coddling me?"

Harvey's eyes are closed, but his mouth curves into a smile. It was. "That's catchy. You should trademark that and write a book."

"That was incredibly under-handed," Mike says, but to his own ear he's more impressed than out of joint. Harvey looks a hairsbreadth from grinning. He doesn't bother to even open his eyes. "Oh my God, you are a - "

Harvey opens one eye and cuts him off before he says sneaky asshole. He should probably be glad Harvey uses this power for good.

"You loved it." Harvey shuts his eyes again, oozing smugness.

"Well, yeah."

He thinks about it some more, how good he feels now, and pushes his nose back into the hollow of Harvey's throat.

Chapter Text

Mike disappoints Harvey as a paralegal for the first time three weeks into the job.

Like the first time he fucked up in his role as a sub, it's been just long enough that they've almost got a rhythm. But unlike the incident that resulted in his first spanking, Mike doesn't intend to do it. On any level.

That's worse in a way, actually. Mike lets Harvey down not because he's testing the limits, but because he simply forgets something. By this point in his life, he has the volume equivalent of the Library of Congress in his head, but he's still as fallible as everyone else when it comes to his to-do list.

Things do slip his mind.

So when Harvey catches him outside the building one morning and asks him about some paperwork – Mike late and on his way in after locking up his bike, Harvey early and on his way out to meet Ray at the curb – Mike draws a blank for one terrifying second, before he remembers the thing, the thing Harvey gave him yesterday.

The patent form thing that, Mike realizes, stomach freefalling, he never got around to.

"The fact that you don't know what I'm talking about already concerns me," Harvey tells him, sounding for all the world like he's amused. But Harvey's moods are deceptive when they're talking business. Mike figured that one out during his very first week.

The bad feeling is confirmed just a few beats later by the near-imperceptible edge to Harvey's tone when he tells Mike, "That patent is the only thing holding up a multimillion dollar deal."

So Mike, in that moment, does something he's never done with Harvey: he lies.

*

It seems like a near miss at first...one of those could've-been-a-disaster moments that makes you extra careful to do something right the next time. Mike has already developed a distinct dislike for the ten thousand forms he's expected to file. This isn't the first time he's put one of them off in favor of something in his wheelhouse, like proofing or research.

But it's not rocket science – an hour after he sits down to fill things out, he's rushing the confirmation up to Donna's desk and trying (unsuccessfully) to haggle with her so that Harvey won't know he's bringing it late.

Then he puts it out of his mind. He returns to his cubby and the Sisyphean pile of legal briefs that permanently hogs the corner of his desk. He plugs in his earbuds and starts pushing that boulder up a never-ending hill.

*

Mike grabs a quick lunch at a corner deli at noon, and returns to find Harvey lounging in his cubicle. Immediately, all of Mike's nerves are on point. Harvey's never shown up here at Mike's desk before. Mike was half sure this floor didn't exist for Senior Partners.

"I just heard from Wyatt. We got a response from the patent office." Mike is looking for the warning under Harvey's careless demeanor, and that's the only reason he notices the slight flatness to his tone. But it's not like Harvey would normally update Mike for no reason, so that's a warning in itself. Still, he doesn't expect to hear "It's been denied."

"What?" Mike feels the room telescope away as Harvey's displeasure becomes clear in his expression, his whole body language subtly agitated.

"Evidently there was a similar claim."

Mike knows it's not a reprieve, but he hopes. "Someone beat him to it?"

"No, someone beat you to it. They filed less than 24 hours ago, which means you filed a day later than you said you had."

Mike averts his eyes from the hard stare Harvey's giving him. His mouth is dry. "I forgot, until - "

"You lied to my face this morning."

Mike has to lean back against the wall of his cubicle. Standing here in front of Harvey's sprawl is disconcertingly similar to the last time he was in this much trouble, but this time the onus is on him to find a way to make things right.

"What's going to happen now?" Mike can't stand the look on Harvey's face.

"I suggest you call the patent office and find out who beat us to it, for starters. Then you're gonna have Donna find any judge who will listen so we can get an injunction and stop whoever it is from launching their product first."

"Ok. Got it."

Harvey gets up and buttons his suit coat. "Now I've got to call Wyatt and calm him down, you think that's gonna be a walk in the park?"

Mike hasn't met the guy, but Harvey told him stories the other night. They all had the tone of 'the things I put up with,' but he could tell that Harvey had a personal investment, beyond the usual drive to succeed.

"You could tell him your new paralegal screwed up."

When Harvey, already heading for the elevator, swings around to look at him, Mike wonders why he said that. And realizes, cringing internally, he wanted some kind of reassurance.

It's not coming.

"Why would I do that? You're no one to him." Mike tries not to flinch or attribute greater meaning. Wyatt's never met him, and that's all that Harvey means. But the flatness of his voice and the dismissal in his stare makes it difficult to believe that's all he's actually saying. "You're my responsibility. This is on me."

Mike watches him walk away, grateful the paralegal farm is still abandoned for lunch. Harvey was right in predicting their jealousy, and too many of his colleagues would've enjoyed that scene too much.

Mike falls into his chair, still warm from Harvey's body, and leans forward against his knees, feeling a sudden, sharp panic at Harvey being angry. Aside from Harvey, no one likes him here, except possibly Rachel.

He breathes through it for a moment and tells himself that it's not personal. He pushes himself upright and makes himself pick up the phone. He has too much to do to feel sorry for himself.

Mike cuts through the bullshit the patent office tries to feed him, passes the name Velocity Data Solutions to Donna, and serves a billion-dollar company with notice of the hearing – and then he waits, picking his way through other cases, while Harvey goes to court.

*

Mike is waiting in Harvey's office when he gets back from the injunction hearing. It's not just his anxiousness to find out how it went, although that's what initially drove him away from his desk. Harvey's a lot later than Donna said he would be; the work day is over and Mike wasn't sure where to go.

Back to the condo to get ready to be Harvey's sub? Or assume he has the night off and go back to his apartment? Wait here indefinitely for Harvey to send word?

Something has gone wrong, Mike knows that much. If he couldn't tell from Donna's lack of bite all afternoon, he'd gotten a call from her a few hours ago, with instructions to file a patent interference claim. Which could only mean the judge had ruled against them on the injunction.

That was four hours and four thousand frustrating phone calls to the patent office ago, and Harvey still isn't back. Donna won't tell Mike where he is, though he's pretty sure she's spoken to him several times since Mike got up here.

Harvey strides back into the office at a quarter to seven. Mike gets to his feet but doesn't bother asking how it went. He already knows; it's all over Harvey's face. He looks like he could spit bullets right now.

Harvey doesn't look at him. He sets his briefcase by his desk and looks down at his messages. "The interference claim is filed?"

"Yes," Mike says quickly. "Before close of business. They - "

"Okay," Harvey cuts him off. "Go wait for me at home."

Mike falters, watching Harvey stroll over to his bookcase and flip through his records before pulling one out. He has the posture of a cornered alley cat, but he's browsing his blues section like he has nothing better to do.

"If you need me to - "

"I don't," Harvey says, with just a bit of a bite. Mike takes a stutter-step back, and Harvey finally looks up, face tense and angry. He takes a visible breath and then lets it out slowly. "I need some time. Go home and we'll talk in a bit."

"Okay," Mike says quietly. He's almost to the door when Harvey calls out his name; he stops and turns.

"Don't change." Harvey's eyes are veiled. It takes a beat for Mike to find meaning in the two words, and when he does, he feels impossibly worse. He nods and retreats. When he's alone in the elevator, he closes his eyes and recites the preamble of the Constitution in his head, to keep from wondering what Harvey's going to say.

To keep from wondering if he's fired from one of his jobs, or both.

He runs out of amendments just as he reaches Harvey's building. Then he rides another elevator, sits on the couch and waits. Again.

*

Harvey walks through the door an hour later, looking considerably calmer than he did at the office. This doesn't relieve Mike's mind one bit. He's been mentally rehearsing his side of things for the entire afternoon, ranging from defensiveness to blatant groveling.

Now that he has the opportunity to present things, he finds himself coming up completely blank.

Harvey nods at him without saying a word and makes a beeline for the bedroom. Mike remains on the sofa for all of thirteen seconds before trailing uncertainly behind. Harvey has his back to the door, absorbed in the now-familiar routine of setting his suit jacket to air on the antique valet stand tucked in the corner by the closet.

Mike watches quietly for a moment as Harvey does all the fussy maintenance he enjoys – inspecting the coat and wiping it down and singling out any stains that, as far as Mike can tell, are visible only to Harvey. He slips out of his vest and repeats the same process, with just as much patience and attention to detail.

He knows that Harvey's aware of his presence, though he's acting for all the world as if he's completely alone. It isn't a new thing for Mike to watch Harvey do this, but usually he's talking – explaining what he's doing, or what his day consisted of, or what he wants to do that evening.

Before Mike began to work at the office, this was a domestic and slightly amusing scene that he observed frequently, and came to enjoy. Since purchasing his own sinfully expensive suits, it's taken on an educational dimension that fascinates him, and often, exasperates him as well.

It's always been pleasant. Right now, it's torture. Harvey is completely ignoring him, shoulders squared like a wall beneath his less-than-crisp dress shirt. It's slightly damp and wrinkled from a day's wear buried underneath so many layers.

Mike has no idea how to broach this conversation. He assumed that Harvey would be the one to do it. At a loss but unable to leave, Mike sinks down onto the stupid little bench Harvey keeps at the foot of the bed and never uses.

"So," Harvey starts, firm and clear. The impression of solitude he's been doing was so thorough that his voice is unexpected and startles the hell out of Mike. "Walk me through exactly how you turned a straightforward, lucrative product launch into a no-win intellectual property dispute that seems poised to consume the rest of my week."

His tone is even, but the words themselves are damning, and Mike's throat catches. All the ways he rehearsed this, and all he has is "I'm sorry."

Harvey finally turns to look at him, hands methodically reversing his tie knot by rote. His expression is one that belongs in his office, not in his home. Not in his bedroom. "I believe we covered that already. Or at least, it was sufficiently implied. I'm not looking for apologies, I'm looking for an explanation."

Mike watches Harvey draw his tie over his head. He's not really sure what he's supposed to say. "I don't have an explanation. At least, not one that's useful. I forgot. I just...I forgot. Harvey, I'm really sorry I lied, I just didn't want to disa - "

"What were you doing instead?" Harvey asks.

Mike blinks, derailed. "I was.... Proofing. I was working, Harvey, I wasn't screwing - "

"You finished most of my proofing before the investor's meeting yesterday, and I was clear that the Johnson contract didn't need to be reviewed before tomorrow."

Harvey looks at him steadily, wrapping his tie around the breadth of his fingers to smooth away the wrinkles. He sets the resulting coil neatly on the valet's tray.

The implied question, or accusation, has Mike's chest going tight. "The Bain-Bridge briefs. They said it had to be done by - "

"Who said?" Harvey asks casually. "Certainly not me. And I know it wasn't Donna."

It occurs to Mike, for the first time, really, that maybe he's not supposed to accept work from the other partners. Mike just assumed he could or should, but Harvey's never said anything about it. Except, he sees belatedly, that Harvey said on that first day that Mike was his dedicated paralegal.

"Harvey, I'm sorry, I should have asked you - "

Harvey waves it off. "I already knew you were taking work from other partners, Mike. I just didn't feel the need to address it. I was ok with it, for several reasons." Mike wants to feel relief at that, but Harvey undoes his cufflinks without looking at him, and begins to unbutton his dress shirt with his cadence firmly in lecture mode. "One, your capacity for processing information means you're capable of comfortably handling far more work than I could give you. Two, you're impressing people up the chain from me, and that in turn makes me look good. Three," Harvey pauses at the final button and looks directly at him. "Mike, you're a second-week paralegal, and you've already gained the attention of some very powerful people. It's good for your career. I want you to keep that up."

Mike's caught between being pleased and feeling even worse, somehow. It's only compounded when Harvey peels off his shirt and continues.

"My understanding is that the Bain-Bridge briefs weren't an emergency request. Why were they given priority over the patent claim?"

He's starting to wish he could get out of his own suit, but Harvey said to stay in it. He wonders if the point of that is to make him uncomfortable. "Look, I've already said I'm sorry, I'm not sure what - "

"Stop it." Harvey tosses his shirt in the hamper and sits down in the wing chair by his closet. He looks Mike in the eye, face tight. "Stop. The purpose of this conversation is to find out what went wrong, not some protracted form of psychological torture. Just tell me: why were they given priority over the claim."

"Um." Mike tries to think, watching Harvey take off his wingtips. "They're massive. They have their own room. And Ms. Pearson's assistant asked if I could get them done by tomorrow. I meant to just start on them and come back to the patent claim, but I got in the zone and I just...." Mike hesitates, not wanting to just say that he forgot again. And it's not like he'd been slacking off. "You never told me that this was such a big deal. Was I supposed to read your mind?"

There's just a little too much force behind Harvey's insertion of the shoe trees. He says nothing as he peels off his dress socks and stands to remove his slacks.

Mike watches him hang and groom his suit pants in thick, tense silence. Sarcasm might not have been the way to go. He's pretty sure saying anything else would be a very bad idea, so he keeps his mouth shut.

Harvey disappears into the closet wearing boxers and an undershirt, and emerges in a t-shirt and jeans. He leaves the bedroom without a word or a look, gesturing for Mike to follow just before he clears the door frame.

Harvey sits on the sofa and points at an armchair when Mike tries to join him. He leans his elbows on his knees and stares at his clasped hands for a moment. Then he takes a breath and looks at Mike, speaking slowly and deliberately.

"I gave the patent claim to you, rather than my associate, because I trusted you to get it done and it was something you needed to learn. But this wouldn't have happened if I'd given it to him, and that makes me...." Harvey's face takes on a new intensity. "I like Wyatt. I'd be pissed about this anyway, but I like him and he trusts me and I hadn't planned to let him down. And the fact that I might not be able to help it because this slipped your mind makes me... The man's life work might be fucked, Mike. Do you get that?"

Mike can't speak, so he just nods his head.

Harvey stares at him for a really long time, and Mike's not sure what to say or do to even start to fix this. He feels sick. He can't believe he messed this up so bad.

Abruptly, Harvey breaks eye contact and wipes his hand over his face, looking exhausted. "It's not completely your fault, ok? Don't.... I find myself taking this more personally than I'd like. Which is why we're having this conversation here, not at the office."

The admission catches Mike off-balance. Before he can even think how to address it, Harvey continues.

"The truth is, I expected this to be fairly easily fixed. Any reasonable judge would've granted the injunction, but I drew a judge who had a personal agenda against me, and now the whole thing's gotten more complicated. It wouldn't be a problem if you'd done your job, but this shouldn't have been insurmountable."

Harvey stands up; Mike starts to follow, but Harvey touches his shoulder to keep him in place. Mike settles when he sees that Harvey isn't leaving, just thinking on his feet.

Mike's really curious about the grudge this guy has against him...but clearly, not the time to ask.

"So here's what we're going to do. You're going to hit the books and try to find a way for us to get leverage over Velocity. You filed the interference claim, but I don't want this to get dragged out into a years-long patent dispute; the judge screwed us, and our only other shot of getting this fixed quickly is to deal directly with them. Meanwhile, I'm going to see if I can find a way to get the injunction after all. One way or another, we have to get this done, and we're not going to stop trying until we do. I'm freeing up your evenings until we make it happen."

Harvey stops pacing and looks directly at him.

"This isn't me punishing my sub, this is me needing my paralegal to fix the mistake he made at the office. Got it?"

Mike nods, says "I understand" for good measure.

Harvey looks poised to say something else on that subject, but then clearly changes his mind.

"And so that we're clear: take work from other partners, but mine gets priority, always. If someone asks you to put a rush on something and you're not sure what to do, ask Donna – she'll know. This doesn't happen again."

"It won't." Mike hesitates. "I really thought the patent form was just a technicality, Harvey. I didn't realize - "

"I know." This time Harvey doesn't look ready to chew glass. He even softens, just a little. "It was a small mistake that just happened to cause...difficulties. And I should have been clearer. Eat something, then get back to the office. Find me a way to make this right for Wyatt."

*

Mike spends the night scouring the law library and every case history database he has access to, but it's actually a random brain misfire that yields their solution.

The sun is almost up. He's mainlining Red Bull and trying to install some shareware while he waits for the caffeine to give him the second (fifth) wind he'll need to keep going. Only the stupid firewall is name-brand biased and won't let the shareware install on his drive. Mike is considering a workaround using his thumb drive when he thinks, you know, as a last ditch thing, sharing the sat phone plans on the web would at least get Wyatt credit.

There's a beat where he thinks about how Harvey would shit his pants at the suggestion, and then everything snaps into focus and he realizes he's found their leverage.

He speed-dials Harvey from his cell, and in his haste just blurts out "Blackmail!" to the groggy voice on the other end of the line.

That wakes Harvey up in a hurry, at least. "How did...wait. What?"

"Okay, not blackmail, you could make a case for extortion but for the most part it's just an underhanded coercive tactic that I think is ethically sound, especially considering Velocity tried to - "

"Mike!"

He takes a breath. "I think the Red Bull just kicked in," he says.

He can almost see Harvey take a fortifying breath. "What have you got?"

Mike lays it out, from the threat to post the plans for free to the way Wyatt could reincorporate and profit if they do end up carrying out the threat. He rebuts all the counter-arguments until Harvey lets out a long breath.

"This is good." He pauses for a moment. "This is really good. Ok, I'm on my way in. I want to have a site with the plans ready to go live immediately if they call our bluff, so - "

"I can do that," Mike says quickly. "I can do that right now. I already have all the schematics from the patent claim."

"You sure you can put it together quickly?"

"Yeah."

"Okay. Leave your research on my desk and get to work on that. Let me know as soon as it's done."

*

Harvey schedules his ambush of Velocity at three in the afternoon, but as soon as Mike is done setting the trap, Harvey sends him back to the condo.

His reasoning being, 'it's bad for the firm when our paralegals look like death.'

Mike's plan to finish the Bain-Bridge briefs is looking like rank ambition by that point anyway. When he tries to say he'll stay and get them done, he calls them the Brain-Bidge beefs...and then starts to giggle somewhat uncontrollably.

Harvey's mouth tucks in at the corners, the way that it does when he's trying not to laugh. He nudges Mike bodily towards his office door with orders to hail a cab – as if Mike would try to bike home like this – and a joke about pinning the address to his shirt, which is slightly more valid in his exhaustion.

He passes out at Harvey's: naked, face-first, on top of the bedspread.

He's woken sometime later by a familiar hand on his shoulder. "Muh."

"Well put," Harvey says. His voice is hushed and the room is dark. "Come eat something, and you can go back to sleep."

Mike lifts his head and sniffs the air, waking up a little. "Pizza?"

"Mm-hmmm."

Mike pushes himself up, taking in Harvey, who's already changed out of his suit. There's naked hope in his voice when he asks, "Cheese crust?"

Harvey rolls his eyes, but he's smiling. "Yes."

He stumbles back a little with a grunt when Mike launches at him for a full-body hug. Mike means it to be a little joke of sorts, but once he's there, with Harvey's arms around him, it's tempting to push in closer and stay.

"I'm guessing this means things went well?" he mumbles.

"I'll need you to start a settlement memorandum first thing tomorrow."

Mike wonders if Harvey is aware that they're swaying just a little into the hug. His voice is reverberating pleasantly against Mike's body, but Mike makes himself step back before it's weird. "How much?"

"Four hundred million."

There's a satisfied glow to Harvey's face that tells Mike that's good, more than the number does. For the first time since yesterday, he finds himself relaxing.

"Plus," Harvey adds with a mischievous smile, "I got to tell Jack Salinger to shove it up his ass. Wanted to tell him that for years."

"Opposing counsel?" Mike guesses.

"Smug asshole."

"Well. I assume the two aren't mutually exclusive."

"Point." Harvey studies him for a minute. "Put something on and come eat."

Mike swallows; he doesn't want to get dressed. He wants to be with Harvey, after a long week of being his associate. But Harvey's usually the one to draw those lines and Mike's not sure if the phrasing was deliberate. "Can that 'something' be my collar?"

Harvey smiles softly. "Sure thing, kid."

Chapter Text

Sleeping all day after fixing the Wyatt clusterfuck makes for an early-morning wake-up on Friday. As in, Mike goes back to sleep for a while after pizza, and ding! wakes up at 3am, fully refreshed and insanely restless.

Harvey, as usual, is lying half on top of him, and he didn't get the benefit of sleeping all afternoon. So Mike stays put and picks through his mental bookshelf for something to keep himself occupied. Nothing appeals, particularly. His thoughts won't settle on one single topic, jumping all over the place, but after a while he realizes there's a common denominator: Harvey. Around and around the topic of Harvey.

It isn't surprising, really. Over the course of the month, working at Pearson Hardman has consumed his entire life, even more so than subbing full-time had already. The rigors of the job are compounded by the fact that Harvey's everywhere he looks. He works for Harvey by day, subs for Harvey by night, and sleeps next to Harvey in between. There's no let-up.

Mike doesn't mind, the way he should. The way that should be natural, for any two people spending all their time together. And maybe that should concern him, that he's so content to have all his time owned by one man who's so demanding on all fronts.

But Harvey's so different at the office than he is when they're at home. Like Harvey is two people. He's colder, a little meaner, far stingier with his praise. He's far less accessible, and despite how well Mike knows him, he finds himself intimidated or awed on occasion, like Harvey's a stranger.

Both are demanding – exacting. But at home, Harvey the Dom tends to be long on leeway. Harvey the Lawyer is detached and unforgiving. Capricious. Strangely omniscient, or good at making it appear that way. It's funny how, when Mike puts all that together, Harvey's work persona sounds like a god. It makes Mike feel like he should invent complex superstitions for pleasing Harvey and thereby securing his favor.

Jesus, yeah. It's really not normal to see someone that way. But even now that he's thinking about it, he can't revise his opinion on the matter. He always knew Harvey was smart and charismatic. Clever. A power player. All that. But it was one thing to know it in the academic sense, another to see it first-hand, full-on, in its milieu. Mike doesn't get to see Harvey with clients often – first-year paralegals being neither seen nor heard – but Harvey's arranged it once or twice, and there's something very...dazzling about it that Mike can't explain.

Lawyer Harvey is shiny. He's brilliant on his feet. Mike is pretty sure if he weren't already sleeping with Harvey, he'd have a giant throbbing man-crush of embarrassingly epic proportions. So just like Harvey is divided in Mike's mind, so (oddly enough) is he.

And Paralegal Mike wants to be Harvey when he grows up. The weird thing is, Harvey wants that too. He drops the words 'law school' into their conversation on an almost-daily basis.

Mike can't think about that yet. Keeping his head above water as a paralegal at this firm is challenging enough.

He'd learned pretty quickly that although Sub Mike has a rigid schedule including time off, Paralegal Mike is on call all the time. He works, all the time. He hasn't seen Gram in over two weeks. He calls her every day, while he's on his lunch break, but whole days with her are becoming a distant memory.

He hasn't even managed that much with Trevor – his first two weeks at Pearson Hardman, Mike missed two dozen calls from him and Jenny, because he was working or subbing or sleeping and that's it. And now that he's thinking about it, he never called them back. Which is probably the reason they stopped calling at all.

Mike feels a spike of panic at that realization. At how close he is to having Harvey be his world.

By the time their alarm goes off, Mike has made a series of decisions. He reaches over to silence the incessant buzzer before the body against him can stir.

But as soon as Harvey's eyes open, Mike says, "I need to renegotiate my contract."

There is one sleepy blink, and then Harvey goes still like he's holding his breath, alert like he's been startled. It was probably not cool to ambush him with that immediately upon his return to consciousness, but Mike couldn't wait any longer than that.

After a frozen beat, Harvey extracts himself and sits up, swinging his feet to the floor on the opposite side of the bed. "Okay," he says, and his voice is oddly toneless. "I'm going to the bathroom. Can you make us some coffee?"

Mike doesn't need coffee, but Harvey must be half-asleep. Which explains the set of his shoulders as he closes the bathroom door.

By the time Harvey emerges, Mike's on the sofa with one mug, made just how Harvey likes it. He hands off the coffee and Harvey takes a sip and nods, but doesn't sit down. "Let's do this at the table."

That's when Mike realizes he's actually very hungry; they can multitask with breakfast. He goes to kneel down, but Harvey points to a chair, even though Mike is still wearing his collar. Mike sits, a little out of sorts, and doesn't touch the breakfast tray when Harvey ignores it completely.

"So," Harvey prompts, after looking at him in silence. Mike realizes Harvey was waiting for him to start. "What do we need to talk about?"

Three hours of having the words stuck in his head, and they all tumble out, on top of themselves. "The hours at the firm are killing me. I haven't seen Gram or anyone else in weeks. But I know," Mike says quickly as Harvey opens his mouth. "I know that if I want to work there, I take the hours. I know that. So really, the only thing that can give at all is this."

Harvey is still, and he doesn't say anything. His face is carefully expressionless, in a way that weirds Mike out. Mike backtracks a little, and immediately kicks himself.

"I'm not quitting, Harvey; I don't even want to cut back, really, I just need us to set new ground rules for my hours. To accommodate our new circumstances."

There's a subtle shift in Harvey's body and face, the only tell that he's relieved. Mike feels something well up in him, that Harvey would be upset if he tried to quit.

"I'm sorry to make you think - "

"Mike, it would be fine even if you needed to end this. I don't expect for you to continue doing this forever. Our arrangement will end, eventually."

Harvey sounds painfully matter-of-fact, all business, and Mike kicks himself for thinking he felt any differently, even as he mentally shies away from the idea that this will end.

He matches Harvey's tone with effort. "That's not what I want right now."

Harvey leans back, nodding for Mike to lay out his starting position.

"Okay, so. When we started out, you gave me Saturdays off for Gram because that was when you were likely to work. But now that I'm working with you, that doesn't really...I mean, I've worked the last two Saturdays in a row, and the week before that, I rushed through my visit because I was coming back to be with you. Which was at my request, so it's not like I'm complaining, but that's another thing. I think it's better when we can wind down from the week together. The two weeks that we waited til Sunday, I didn't...I mean, I was fine, but - "

Harvey nods without making him finish that sentence. "Okay, so it sounds like you want to switch your day off to Sunday. Is that it, or is there something else?"

"Actually, I just think we'd do better with more flexibility in general. Like, if I've had to work a couple late nights in a row and then am able to leave the office early, waiting until seven just because we said so is kind of a drag. But especially when it comes to weekends. If we have to work all day Saturday, it only makes sense to spend Sunday with you, unwinding, and then maybe sometime that next week, you give me the night off to go spend time with Gram. We just decide as things come. Or, I mean, you decide, based on a few agreed-upon rules. Doesn't that make more sense?"

For reasons that suddenly elude him, Mike was expecting ready agreement. He feels antsy when Harvey just looks like he's considering it. Harvey gets up without a word to pour more coffee, and Mike eyes the covered dish that he knows is hiding biscuits and bacon and paradise.

Harvey looks decided by the time he sits back down. "I don't want to leave things too up in the air. I think it's easier for you to juggle the different expectations if we define things clearly – that's mostly taken care of by having separate spaces for your roles, but I think that time is important, too. I don't want you to feel like you're always on, or like you can't reasonably predict when you can just...be."

Mike's gotten pretty comfortable 'being' when he's kneeling down for Harvey, but there isn't a way to say that without making it too obvious he's in love with the man. And he really thinks Harvey would let him go on the spot for demolishing all those boundaries he's fond of.

"Thanks," he settles on, finally. Because Harvey's concerns are unfounded, in his opinion, but...it's the thought that counts, and so on and so forth. "So, where does that leave us?"

"Let's try this: we set Sunday as your day off. If you or I work all day on Saturday, then, if you'd like, we can spend Sunday morning together and you'll go do what you like in the afternoon and evening. But that will be your choice, on a case by case basis. Same goes for days when you'd like to start before seven. Your choice, every time."

Mike slumps back in his chair. "That would be great. Thank you."

Harvey looks amused. "We switched your day off, and I gave you permission to work more."

"Still," Mike says, and hesitates, not knowing how to explain why he'd thank someone for that.

"You're welcome," Harvey says eventually. "Work up an amendment for the contract tonight, and we'll start the new schedule this weekend."

"Okay."

Harvey smiles. "Now get off the furniture so we can eat breakfast."

Mike huffs but slides quickly to his knees.

*

That day's a (relatively) easy day at the office – meaning Mike works a full eight hours at a blissfully moderate pace and knocks off at a reasonable hour. He's home before Harvey, actually. Donna said he'd left the office on business but wouldn't say what or where.

But she winked when she told him to have a good evening, so Mike is assuming Harvey won't be gone all night.

He writes up their new terms and when Harvey gets home, they both sign. Mike's in his collar kneeling by eight.

They have nothing to do for the next twenty-four hours but this.

Harvey is reading for pleasure, for once – some dog-eared sci-fi paperback – and Mike relaxes, bit by bit, into the fingers carding his hair.

The first record on the player runs its course, and Harvey gets up to replace it; when he sits back down, he takes hold of Mike's chin before Mike can settle back where he belongs.

"How are you?" Harvey asks quietly. Somehow Mike knows he means the patent dispute, and the resulting...not 'argument,' but whatever the hell you'd call it, not twenty-four hours before. But he says it so casually, without apology or blame, that Mike wonders (not for the first time) how Harvey is able to separate things so completely. He sounds like he's asking about a dispute with a third party.

So while the answer is Mike's over it and the patent thing itself was already out of mind, this...the way Harvey's asking about it...the way he keeps his emotions in discrete little boxes –

He's a passionate person, and Mike believes he's genuine, but it's startling how easily he detaches himself. There are times that Mike thinks Harvey loves him back, and there are times he thinks Harvey could cut Mike loose tomorrow and refuse to think of him ever again.

"Mike?" Harvey prompts. It yanks him back from the brink of that thought.

Mike wonders if the sudden melancholy, when he was happy a minute ago, is down to sub-drop, or just the reality of putting his heart in a no-win situation.

It's exhausting to even try to sort that out – what he's feeling, what he's feeling about what he's feeling, and why he's feeling what he's feeling.... God.

"I'm not sure," he finally says. That's honestly the best he can do at the moment.

Harvey nods at him like it actually means something and puts his book down on the end table. He appears to make a decision with a certain amount of resignation. "Put on that thing you've been wanting me to try."

For a second, Mike's mind takes that to a gutter-shaped place, but honestly, Harvey'd be more explicit if that's what he actually meant. The only thing he's ever obfuscated over is -

"Oh." Mike sits up straight, mood swinging back the other way. Because honestly, he gave up on this after Harvey waved him off half a dozen times. "You serious?"

"Before I change my mind," Harvey adds.

Mike scrambles to his feet. "You won't regret this."

"We'll see." Harvey sounds grim. "I maintain that I'm honor-bound not to like something that can be described to me by the phrase you used. It's unnatural."

Mike rues the day that 'space cowboys' had passed through his lips. "Okay. It's better than it sounds. And it makes sense, once you see it. I promise."

"Space cowboys," Harvey says. "I don't think so."

Mike carefully lifts the needle off Harvey's record and digs up the DVDs he brought from his apartment. Harvey's put this off so long that they have a substantial layer of dust. "Look, I know you don't believe in science fiction produced after 1980, but it's good. Really good. You're gonna love Mal. And Kaylee. And – oh man – Zoe, I take it all back, you're gonna love Zoe more than anyone."

When he stands up from putting Disc 1 in, Harvey's smiling at him quietly. He's stretched out on the couch, head cradled on one arm. "You'll like it," Mike repeats, like the 55th time's the charm.

"We'll see." Harvey shifts to make room as Mike climbs over him. Mike sighs when he finds the sweet spot where they fit. He hits play.

"What in God's name is this song," Harvey grumbles. Mike feels it more than hears it, underneath his cheek. Harvey's fingers are massaging Mike's scalp, and Mike is becoming a puddle of goo.

"It grows on you," he murmurs.

"So can fungus."

Mike grins into Harvey's t-shirt as Harvey quiets down, not missing the way his lips twitch when Mal decrees himself too pretty to die.

*

Mike's always up earlier during the week, but Harvey gets up at the same time every day. That makes him an early bird on the weekends, by default. Mike generally prefers to immerse himself in sloth, making up for the sleep debt he builds on weekdays.

So when he wakes up the next morning, the sun is high enough to shine in his face; Harvey doesn't believe in anything coming between him and his view. Mike grunts and rolls over, trying to shield his eyes even though he knows it's a losing battle.

Because more sensory input starts to filter its way through. Like the smell of breakfast and the cascade of the shower as Harvey scrubs off his morning workout.

After an extended period of denial, Mike drags himself out of bed and goes to take a leak. Harvey's a blurry outline through the translucent shower door.

"Flush it and you won't sit comfortably all weekend." It sounds too pleasant to be a warning, but Harvey's warnings usually do, and Mike freezes with his fingers on the lever.

He's tempted, for just a moment – it's not like he wants a warm ass, but he's perverse that way.

In the end, his better angels win. He's brushing his teeth when the shower cuts off. He watches Harvey towel off, behind his own reflection.

Harvey takes the ogling as his due and ignores him completely as he flushes the toilet and hangs up his towel. But he smacks Mike's ass lightly on his way out the door, when Mike bends over to rinse out the toothpaste.

Harvey returns in sweatpants, to fuss with his hair. He's such a girl sometimes. Mike hops up on the counter and watches Harvey shave, thinking how little his routine differs between the week and the weekend.

"Don't you ever want to say 'fuck it' and not shave when you don't have to?"

Harvey's eyes stay on his own reflection. "Some of us like to be considerate and not give others beard-burn."

"Are you saying you don't like my manly stubble, Harvey?"

There's a snort. "When you don't shave, Mike, there's nothing manly about it. You look like Shaggy."

"That hurts," Mike says with feeling, and Harvey's eyes slide toward him, making clear in one look how lacking his sympathy is. "Well. If you want me clean-shaven, you're gonna have to do it yourself. I'm not shaving on my day off, no matter what you say."

Harvey's eyebrow arches a little bit at that, but he's watching his own reflection again and doesn't comment. He doesn't need to. Mike's got his collar on, and they both know full well that he'd do it if Harvey made him.

They lapse into silence, for a little while, just the sound of the blades scraping over Harvey's flesh and the occasional splashing of water in the sink.

"Hey, you know, I meant to ask...what was the deal with that judge this week?"

Harvey doesn't say anything or even register the question as he pulls his upper lip taut, and then flattens his chin out just a moment later. He takes an inordinate amount of time shaving around his mouth – so long that Mike figures it's his way of saying 'none of your business.'

Harvey rinses his face and pats himself dry. It's not until he's applying aftershave that he finally speaks. "He was under the impression I'd been sleeping with his wife."

Mike's back is to the mirror, but he knows his eyes bug out. "Wait, what?"

Harvey smiles a little. "Yeah, that's exactly how I felt."

"So...but...." Mike is speechless for a second. It's probably the last thing he expected to hear. Jesus. No wonder the incident had put Harvey in a foul mood. "He didn't believe you when you told him that you weren't?"

"He wouldn't have, so I didn't bother."

Mike blinks dumbly at that, not for the first time wondering how 'out' Harvey is. Everyone at the office is preoccupied with his professional reputation; Mike's never heard speculation of any kind about his personal life.

"So...what...."

Harvey steps away from the sink and gestures. "C'mon, get your face-fuzz wet." When Mike doesn't move, he raises his eyebrows. "If I want you clean-shaven, I have to do it myself, right? I'm waiting."

Leave it to Harvey to actually take him up on that. "But - "

Harvey looks at him.

Mike pushes himself off the counter, splashes water on his face, and hops back up.

Considering what Harvey does to and for him regularly, it's funny how intimate it feels for Harvey to step between Mike's knees and apply the shaving cream.

Mike wants to know more, wants to ask, but he holds very still so Harvey doesn't nick him.

"He tried to blackmail me," Harvey says dispassionately. Mike's jaw goes slack, til Harvey says "No movement," with his eyes fixed on the blade. "He said he'd grant the injunction if I signed an affidavit swearing his wife had been unfaithful."

Mike waits until Harvey lifts the razor long enough to turn his face the other way, and gets in, "So she'd get nothing in the divorce?"

"Yup," Harvey says crisply. He's acting for all the world like this happened to somebody else, a client maybe, but Mike can tell he's pissed off just thinking about it.

"So what did you do?"

"Tilt your head," Harvey instructs. "I don't commit perjury. And I don't sleep with married women."

As if Mike had been confused about that part. Though, the qualifier throws him, now that Harvey's made it. Mike's been working under the assumption that Harvey only likes men. The wording, the whole story, makes him wonder if that's not the case.

Harvey concludes, "He's now under investigation by the Attorney General's office."

"Damn."

"Yeah, well. A judge who's willing to leverage his power on the bench for personal gain – probably not the first time he's done it. Sterling reputation or not."

"True," Mike says, just in time for Harvey to scrape him.

Harvey tsks. "Do the words 'don't move' mean anything at all?"

He finishes the shave, wipes Mike's face clean, and hands Mike his aftershave.

Mike's learned his lesson about inquiring into Harvey's past, but he's just too curious. "You don't sleep with married women?"

Harvey makes a face. "What do you think?"

That...answers nothing. But Mike doesn't press the subject.

Chapter Text

Harvey doesn't cook. He subsists entirely on takeout and personal catering; it was strange to Mike at first, since that kind of lifestyle's expensive. It's not like they have Kobe beef for dinner every night – the menus in the kitchen drawer reflect a pretty wide price bracket – but still, Mike's never known anyone who could afford to eat out three times a day.

He said this to Harvey once, and was reminded that his time bills at a thousand bucks an hour, so he's actually losing money by spending time in his kitchen.

His state-of-the-art appliances and top-of-the-line cookware are still quite shiny, as a result.

But every once in a while, Harvey decides to make pancakes. Aside from condiments to use on the takeout, Bisquick's the only thing that resides in his cupboard.

This is only the third time Mike has seen it happen, but he's a quick learner, and twice was enough. He watches Harvey stir an ungodly amount of batter, knowing this will end in a sad stack of pancake-shaped objects...half-burnt, half-raw, and completely unsalvageable, even when drowned in all the world's syrup.

"Hey, you know what would be great? Bacon. I can call down."

"Your confidence bolsters my self-esteem, Mike." Harvey fails to consent to the order of bacon, but they'll have it anyway – when the pancakes are inedible, they'll order down for breakfast. By then, they'll both be starving but there's no way around it, as far as Mike can see. "I can hear your lack of faith. It'll be different this time. I bought a thing."

"You bought a thing," Mike parrots.

Harvey waves one finger at the bottom corner cabinet. "A thing that makes pancakes."

"You bought a pancake maker?"

Mike opens the cabinet Harvey indicated, and pulls out an unopened box. Their likelihood of pancake-eating just went up about 5%. The only way Mike's banking on it is if Harvey has a personal chef hidden down here.

He hands it off to Harvey, sticking his head back into a veritable treasure trove of unopened, task-specific appliances. Dozens of boxes bearing high-gloss images of the ice cream maker, wine uncorker, or panini press inside. It's kind of astounding. Most of them carry a layer of dust, and some of them still have gift receipts attached. Which makes sense, because he can't imagine Harvey buying any of this for himself. He also can't imagine why he'd keep them even as gifts, but he's sure if he asked, there'd be a lecture on manners and 'getting it.'

Mike's about to close the cabinet when something catches his eye. There's a wooden box tucked in the very back corner, conspicuous enough amongst all the commercial packaging

But that's not the only reason the box draws his attention. The shape is familiar: square but shallow, with a clasp. It looks hand-made and almost one-of-a-kind.

'Almost' being the key word, here.

Mike looks over his shoulder at Harvey, who is washing his brand-new appliance, then reaches for the box with his heart in his throat. He already knows what he's going to find inside, and the jealous pang it gives him to see a collar that looks like his own is...stupid. Inappropriate. Unprofessional. It's the color of good chocolate and slightly more delicate in width, but other than that, it's nearly identical.

He runs his finger over it, hardly breathing. The wear pattern around the buckle is more pronounced, as if someone had worn it daily for a span of years. But it's still in good shape...not just because it's made of quality leather. It's obvious it's been taken care of.

The box, when he closes it again, is not as dusty as everything else. He can't tell if the fingerprints smudged through it are all his, or whether some of them are Harvey's. Whether Harvey's revisited the contents of it lately.

"Put it away."

Mike jolts at the soft statement and looks up. Harvey's standing right over him with a look on his face Mike can't read upside-down. He tries to twist and get a better view, but Harvey's hand comes down on his shoulder.

"Put it away." It's not angry or sad or defensive or anything. It's as quiet and sure as it sounded the first time, but it skitters down Mike's spine like he's in trouble. He shoves the box back in the cabinet without looking and shuts the door, eyes still on Harvey.

Harvey offers him a hand up, and pins him to the counter with both hands and one long, intense look. He says nothing. But there's a readiness about him, like he's getting ready to speak. It takes Mike a moment to realize he doesn't actually want to, but he's expecting Mike to ask. And he's poised to shut him down.

So Mike doesn't.

After a beat, Harvey's features relax minutely. He cups Mike's face and kisses him. Soft. It's so soft and grateful that Mike's chest aches. As soon as Mike lets himself sink in, it changes. It becomes harsher. Greedy.

And when Mike yields to that, too, Harvey's weight shifts. He pushes forward hard, pressing Mike against the counter. A drawer handle digs sharply right at Mike's tailbone, and he makes a sound of protest, squirming sideways to escape it. Harvey follows doggedly, like Mike's trying to get away.

The fingers that had threaded themselves into his hair grip and pull. Harvey buries his nose and mouth against Mike's bared throat. He licks and sucks and just sort of wallows, breathing Mike in. Mike holds in a joke about beard-burn while panting at the ceiling. Harvey's grip on his waist is actually painful, but Mike can't stifle the forward tick of his hips. For all that he used to doubt his submissiveness, this has always hit a button. Someone getting good and rough. Harvey doesn't, very often.

He's already hard and he's rubbing against Harvey's pants, and he can't hold in the needy gasp when Harvey takes Mike's throat in his teeth. He starts a deliberate pattern of abuse that will surely be visible Monday.

"Harvey...." Mike thinks about reminding him that he might regret this later, but then decides he doesn't want to. He cups his hand over the nape of Harvey's neck, and Harvey takes a handful of Mike's ass and squeezes. "Shit...."

Mike goes lax at the dig of Harvey's teeth, and Harvey lets go of his hair, gets both hands on his ass and grinds them together almost frantically. His mouth unlatches from Mike's skin, and he breathes against leather, harsh but eerily quiet. He doesn't groan or speak as he bites at Mike's shoulder and nips at his arm, hands leaving bruises wherever they go.

For the first time since he met him, Mike's not sure how much control Harvey actually has. But he's along for the ride, willing and stupidly eager, until the distinct taste of smoke hits the back of his throat.

He looks to his right, mildly alarmed by what he sees. "Shit. Harvey. Pancakes."

Harvey swears and abandons him, yanking the cord out of the wall, and pulling the griddle open to reveal two severely charred discs. He stares at them for a moment, with almost comic consternation, but they're still billowing smoke. The alarm will go off soon.

Since Harvey's apparently at a loss, Mike flips the stove fan on, takes the pancake maker from him and places it under the hood. It's the best they can do til the thing cools off. Harvey nods, still looking dazed and breathless.

Mike watches him. He's leaning his weight on both hands against the counter, breathing slowly and evenly, looking one step shy of flustered. He's far enough away that Mike can't reach him, and he's deliberately not looking back. He hasn't said a word since Mike put that collar away, and Mike should probably be worried about that. But honestly, right now he's more concerned with the fate of his hard-on.

He ducks under Harvey's arm, directly into his line of sight. It works, sort of. Harvey's eyes fall on his throat, and he winces. He brushes a thumb gently over the skin he mauled – it's tender enough that even that light a touch has Mike sucking in through his teeth.

Harvey grimaces. "Sorry."

"Don't be," Mike tells him. If Harvey'd done it a little longer, he might've gotten off from that. But now he's got other plans. He slips his left hand into the pocket of Harvey's sweats, where Harvey keeps lube whenever they're at home. It's not an accident that Mike's knuckles brush his cock as he extracts his hand. "Unless you're not going to fuck me, in which case, I cry foul."

Harvey's mouth tips up, more darkly amused than happy, and he wraps his hand around Mike's dick. His grip's hard enough to hurt, especially considering Mike's a little sore from the friction he built up against Harvey's pants. Coarse-weave cotton's a bitch. "And you think that'll change anything, you crying foul?"

Mike swallows, and makes an effort to pitch his voice casual. "I just like to make my complaints heard."

The curve of Harvey's lips is just a shade more genuine than it was a moment before.

It fades, but Harvey doesn't move. From this angle, backlit by the midday sun, his eyes look almost black. Fathomless.

Then he lets go of Mike and steps away. Mike's about to make good on his threat to complain, but he's preempted by the twirl of Harvey's finger, prompting him to turn around.

He assumes the position while trying to hide his glee, but from the shake of Harvey's head, he fails miserably at the last part. Mike watches over his shoulder as Harvey drops his sweatpants and puts a dime's worth of lube in the palm of his hand. He strokes it over his own cock before tossing the tube out of reach.

Then he wipes his hand off on Mike's inner thigh. He never touches Mike's ass.

Harvey looks at him with both eyebrows raised, like he's gotten something wrong that he should've correct five minutes ago. Mike's too stupid with anticipation to understand what he wants.

"Bend over."

Mike's cheekbones heat; it isn't embarrassment. He bends, but not far enough for Harvey's liking, apparently. He's grabbed by the nape and put down with force, cheek firmly pinned to the immaculate counter-top.

Claudia does her deep-clean on Fridays. The lemon scent's fresh enough to sting Mike's nose.

It fades to irrelevancy as Harvey's dick bumps his hole, then slides away again. When Mike pushes his hips back, Harvey digs his thumb into the soft point behind his jaw. It fucking hurts. And Harvey lets up as soon as Mike holds still.

Ok, then.

He submits to the torture of Harvey teasing him like a bastard, dragging the head of his cock against Mike's asshole for what feels like forever. An interminable length of time. Probably ten whole seconds. Then Mike takes a chance he suspects is doomed to failure, and reaches down to stroke his dick.

"No," Harvey tells him, like he's a particularly slow child – not to blame for his own shortcomings. "Knuckles against the wall, and leave them there."

Mike makes two fists and presses them against the marble back-splash. The "good boy" is so quiet, it's borderline inaudible. It gets buried under the inhuman sound Mike makes when Harvey thrusts forward and buries himself.

No prep, just enough lube: it burns. Mike groans and flexes his fists when Harvey doesn't pause but starts pounding his ass with the same kind of brutality he'd unleashed on Mike's throat. It's only a hairsbreadth from being more than Mike can handle, and he can't conceal that fact; the groans pouring from his throat echo against the high ceiling, along with heartfelt pleas to Harvey and multiple deities.

This isn't going to take very long, on his part.

He's already feeling that weightless climb of toohigh when Harvey slams into him and pauses, hauling Mike's upper body towards him and shifting his grip over his Adam's apple. He doesn't squeeze. There isn't even the hint of a threat. But there's something about the desperate huff of Harvey's breath where his shoulder meets his neck that says he sort of wants to. He rolls his hips through a few easier thrusts, and Mike nearly yelps; Harvey's dick is angled right at his prostate, and it's too too much. Harvey's other hand finds Mike's stomach and keeps him from moving away.

Mike swallows, conscious of the pressure against the bob of his throat. "Harvey – "

Harvey's answer is to bear his weight forward and thrust sharply. It punches Mike's breath from him like a sob. And then Harvey does it again. Mike's bracing his hands against the counter for dear life, and the back of Harvey's hand is brushing his dick incidentally. He doesn't seem inclined to do anything about that, hand flattened against Mike's lower belly acting in counterpoint to the power of each thrust. The edge of the counter is digging hard into his stomach and Mike just...doesn't...give a fuck, because it's nothing in comparison to the slow but accelerating strikes Harvey's making to his prostate.

There comes a point where it's all he can do to swear at the room at large, rather than Harvey, and when Harvey catapults him even farther than that, Mike brings his palm down hard against the counter, cursing. Apparently he says the magic word because finally, finally, Harvey grabs his cock. He only gives it a few too-loose strokes before Mike is whiting out.

He doesn't actually lose consciousness, but it feels like his brains painted the inside of his skull. They're slumped against the counter by the time he regains some semblance of awareness.

His mouth is dry, and he feels slightly out-of-body. "Feel better?"

Harvey's laugh has a slightly hysterical edge. Mike starts laughing with him, fucking high off his gourd on the wave of endorphins. Helpless to it. He laughs even harder when Harvey says, "Marginally."

It takes him too long to finally wind down. Harvey's long since stopped, but Mike can feel him smiling against the swell of his shoulder, and every so often he begins to chuckle at Mike. Mike's completely unable to deadpan when he says, "Ouch. Way to bruise a man's ego."

"Somehow I think you'll survive," Harvey drawls, and pushes himself upright, peeling Mike off the counter. His dick slips out though he's still plastered against Mike from knee to chin. His hands run over Mike's body, taking stock. Mike just lets him, head lolling back onto Harvey's shoulder.

"How're you feeling?" Harvey's fingers are lingering on the indent the counter left below his ribs.

"Amazing," Mike answers honestly, because he knows there's gonna be hell to pay later, but right now his body's pumping the good stuff into his veins. "I might walk crooked for a couple days."

Harvey makes a small humming sound that's little more than acknowledgment, and a few moments later, unglues himself from Mike's back, keeping a steadying hand on his hip for probably longer than he needs it. When he finally lets go, Mike turns and leans his weight against the cabinets, watching as Harvey pulls up his sweats and grimaces at the state of them.

"Okay, new pants." He looks Mike over, lingering on his throat and stomach before zeroing in on his inner thighs. "And you need a shower."

Mike squirms and clenches. The worst thing about skipping the condom is finding a way to walk to the bathroom afterwards in a semi-dignified manner. "Whose fault is that?"

There's a flicker of unseemly smugness on Harvey's face, and even once it passes, he can't help but look pleased with himself. Mike tries to pull a face but he can't stop smiling.

They clean up and Mike emerges from the shower to find Harvey frowning at the pancake griddle like it just personally insulted him.

Mike tries not to laugh. "So. What do you say now? Bacon?"

Harvey broods. "You suck at gloating."

"I wasn't even going to say it," he swears.

"Liar."

Harvey leaves the offending item on the stove and places the call for their usual order. He hangs up and his eyes linger on the epicenter of Mike's blooming hickey, attentive enough that Mike's stomach lurches. When he was in the bathroom, he studied it himself – it's going to get worse, but it already looks impressive. The problem, though, is that against the mottled purple there's a tiny spot of pink where Harvey broke the skin.

It's technically a breach of contract. Mike had planned to keep Harvey from noticing that if he could manage, but he already knew that was a losing proposition.

He submits to it when Harvey turns his head to the side and tilts it back, gently exposing his throat to the light. He studies the broken capillaries for a moment, and Mike tries to think of a way to mitigate whatever is going on in his head.

Harvey's quiet as he guides Mike's chin back around and carefully searches his face. Mike tries to make it plain how very okay he is, and when Harvey still looks unhappy, leans forward and kisses him. "Really."

Harvey nods, apparently accepting that. "Okay."

*

The following Tuesday, Mike's at the condo by himself. Harvey's out wooing a client over sushi, and Mike isn't the least bit sad he has to miss that.

He hasn't been able to stop thinking about the collar since he saw it. About Harvey's reaction, and the story that might be behind it. It doesn't help that he's been getting shit all week about the Hickey from Hell. He's glad he rarely deals with clients, because he's definitely not fit for public. No one comes to the paralegal floor except Pearson Hardman employees, so really, aside from the ribbing, Mike only has the Walk of Sheepishness through the lobby twice a day.

And every time someone mentions the damn thing, Mike thinks about what started it. He feels cheated. Like he got this huge look behind the curtain, but in reality, he didn't learn much he didn't know before. He'd already figured out that Harvey had been burned. Hell, he'd have to be stupid not to. And it was also fairly obvious that relationship had involved BDSM. So what else did he get from the incident?

Nothing. And he knows he won't get anything further from touching the collar again, but he can't help himself...even knowing that Harvey wouldn't want him to. He gets so few of the pieces to this man's puzzle. If Harvey is good at compartmentalizing the current areas of his life, his personal past seems to be in permanent storage. The only thing he mentions occasionally is his history at Pearson Hardman.

So for the past three days, Mike's been waiting for the chance to take a closer look alone.

He goes to the cabinet, opens it up and stares.

It's gone. Not just the collar in its box. Everything. The stacks of unopened crap and the ruined pancake griddle too. The space is empty and clean, like Harvey just moved in.

He's not sure why he's surprised, and he's doubly unsure why he's feeling a bit sucker-punched. Harvey must have cleaned the cabinet out when Mike was visiting Gram. Or he had someone do it for him, while they were at work.

He's pretty sure the collar isn't gone. It's probably just hiding elsewhere in the apartment, but Mike won't look for it. For one, Harvey would know. For two, it was apparently so private that he didn't want Mike to lay eyes on it again.

Mike's really not sure where small appliances fit in. It's odd that they're gone too, but maybe it's just one of those things. Maybe when Harvey chucked the pancake maker, he realized he didn't have use for the rest. It's the only logical thing Mike can think of.

But he can only guess. He should be used to that, with Harvey.

Chapter Text

It isn't until Mike's been working at Pearson Hardman for about four months that he stops feeling like a toddler let loose in a kid-unfriendly home – running gleefully full-tilt until he faceplants into walls, breaking priceless objects and nearly putting his eye out.

Okay, so it's not that bad. It mostly just feels it to him, though he does his best to project the air of someone who actually knows what he's doing. Harvey sees through it even when nobody else does; when Mike trips over his own feet, Harvey makes sure Mike knows he saw it. He's come to hate that look, amused and patronizing, and he'd give his left nut for Harvey not to catch his every fuck-up.

Mike suspects at least half of the reason he does is Donna. The woman's a menace. And possibly a ninja.

The flip-side of Harvey always knowing when Mike steps in it is the knowledge that he can't actually fuck up too badly. Harvey's there. He knows when Mike gets in over his head, and although it stings Mike's pride and should be avoided at all costs, it's good knowing Harvey has his back if he needs it.

Thank God, though, that Mike has no contact with clients, because he's watched Harvey's associate bungle that spectacularly. It makes him grateful that his own faux pas are limited to legal professionals.

The general culture of everyone below partner revolves around schadenfreude – elation that somebody fucked up, and this time it wasn't you. Mike tries not to participate in it – for example, the time everyone called Devon 'Speedbump' for weeks. But he’s probably just a little too gleeful when Harvey calls Mike in to tell him about the mock trials.

"Oh, dude, I know, I'm on it! It's gonna be like Shark Week. Shark Week, filmed in a piranha tank. I'll make the popcorn, you bring the six-pack?"

His first clue that something's wrong is that Harvey's giving him the Look. The one that, if Harvey were Trevor, would mean someone's drawn a penis in marker prominently on Mike's face. "You're gonna be a little too occupied to enjoy the light refreshments. Seeing as you're participating."

This is what an aneurysm feels like. "...What?"

"You heard me."

"I thought it was for associates only."

"Normally it is. Jessica's making an exception."

"Why?"

Harvey lifts both eyebrows. "Because I asked her to."

Mike stares at him for a moment. "You know, Harvey, if you're getting tired of me, just fire me. There's no need to resort to blood sport."

The corners of Harvey's mouth tuck in like they do when he refuses to laugh. "Take the drama down a notch, Juliet. It'll be good practice for you. Trust me when I say, you do not want your first mock trial to be when you get to Harvard."

Mike opens his mouth and no sound comes out. He tries to refrain from telling Harvey he's not going to Harvard, ever. Not that Mike isn't planning on going to law school. But why go to Boston when there are plenty of good schools here?

He's pretty sure Harvey would say he's going and that's final. And he'd believe it was, too. Sometimes lately, Mike feels sympathetic to all the kids who used to bitch about their parents' Life Plan for them. He never had that because Gram had bigger worries, and in a way he was glad, but it still made him want to punch them. You have parents, they give a shit, and they have time to worry. Shut the fuck up.

It's sort of amusing and horrifying that he's experiencing the phenomenon now, ten years later. And that the 'parent' in this scenario is actually the guy that he's fucking.

Of course, Harvey takes his stupification for reluctance, and throws down the proverbial gauntlet. "You're not scared of them, are you?"

"Of course not, they're associates," Mike tells him. Between the other paralegals and Harvey, there's one thing that Mike knows for sure: associates are to be mocked, pitied, and tolerated, in that order. They are nothing to be feared.

Harvey grins. "Then it won't be a problem."

Mike is grasping at straws. "What about...I heard Jessica gives the associates a pass from real work, won't you need me to pick up the slack for Devon?"

"As if Devon does enough around here for there to be any slack for you to pick up. Besides, you can handle the mock trial and my caseload, right?" Mike does not nod. "Good. That reminds me, I need you to work up an assessment of Daniel Vega's hotels – annual earnings, property value. Jones has this idiot idea about a merger, and they did a handshake deal, so I need it by the end of the day." Harvey stops and checks his watch. "You'd better go; they'll be handing out cases in...three minutes. Law library."

Mike gapes. "That's on the fifth floor!"

They're on the 50th right now.

Harvey grins. "You better get going then, huh?"

No way he won't be late. He has to take the express elevator back down to the lobby, then another up to Research. "Speaking as someone who knows better, Harvey, you do a dead-on impression of being a sadist."

Harvey only lifts an eyebrow, but the intercom snorts out a laugh.

"You know who is a sadist? Jessica. I'll feed you to her if you don't leave right now."

Mike's pretty sure he's kidding. He's 99.2% certain. But it never pays to be too careful. Jessica Pearson terrifies him enough already.

*

Mike's luck has historically been abominable. He's pretty sure his lifetime allotment of good fortune was cashed out on Harvey. So the fact that he's up against Kyle is unsurprising.

Mike hasn't run afoul of the guy himself, but he's heard stories. As he listens to Kyle brag about winning mock trials since high school, Mike realizes the stories couldn't approach his true obnoxiousness.

While all the associates are rushing back to their cubicles, Mike takes a breather and goes out to get a cup of coffee. He's not in the habit of wandering off at this time of the morning, but Harvey can wait a little longer on the Vega thing. Seeing as it's his fault Mike needs to clear his head.

Harvey wouldn't've done this if he didn't think Mike could win. So he will. Mike's pretty sure Harvey will give him advice, but Harvey sprang this on him with absolutely no notice...it's like Mike has to do it on his own at this point.

And honestly, Harvey's been giving him tips for months. He's like a tip-dispensing machine (to the point where Mike sometimes wishes he'd shut up) so Mike has plenty of Harvey's particular wisdom to mine while he waits in line to get his cup of coffee.

By the time he gets to the register, he's already got a plan. The thing Harvey's most fond of saying is 'never go to court.' That's way out of the box, considering it's a mock trial, but Mike's participation is unusual itself, so...out of the box might not be a bad thing.

But he springs for Donn'a frou-frou skim milk sugary concoction along with his black Italian roast. It never hurts to have a backup plan.

*

Mike's pretty sure Donna has a homing beacon for fancy coffee - without looking up from her monitor and halfway through informing Mike that Harvey is too important and busy for him, she abruptly hones in on the plastic cup in Mike's hand and snatches it.

"I knew he'd teach you to fetch sooner or later." She gives him a small wicked smile when his face heats up a little. There are days when Mike hates her as much as he loves her, but as long as she knows all his dirty secrets anyway, he's sure as hell grateful she's firmly on his side (though it was a close call for a while). "So, you want something. What is it, and make it snappy."

"I want you to be my backup witness." Her eyes narrow, and Mike reviews the words that just came from his mouth. "Not - not a backup to anyone else, just, a backup in the sense that I'm hoping not to need one."

Her eyes sweep over as much of him as she can see, given he's leaning against her wall. She makes a show of being unimpressed by what she sees, but he recognizes the spark of intrigue underneath that. She and Harvey are cut from the exact same freakin cloth. "You have a plan."

"I have a plan. And it's a good one." Mike looks through the glass door to Harvey's office. "Don't tell him though, ok?"

"You do know he and I don't sit around gossiping about how dreamy you are when you're gone, don't you?" Mike winks, and she licks some foam off her lip to hide her smile. "I accept. I'll be your first choice of a witness for the mock trial."

He grins at her. "You're the best."

She shrugs it off, glowing with pleasure. "Stating the obvious is for lesser minds, Mike."

*

Donna would've been his first choice regardless, but what he doesn't say is that right now, she's his only choice. Rachel is majorly pissed off at him.

It's only a little bit about Mike cheating the LSATs for people. It's mostly about the way he's been sidestepping her flirtation in the nicest, most discreet way possible since they met.

He knows exactly how mad at him she is, because she's made a point to show him on a regular basis. Still, it shocks him the next morning when she tells him she's Kyle's witness.

After that reveal, all Mike can think is how much she hates Kyle, how the only reason she would help him is to twist the knife in Mike, and how he wishes he could explain to her exactly why he isn't interested. Without triggering questions than he can't possibly answer.

He never once wonders why Kyle brought a witness. He's so distracted by Rachel's show of ire that when Kyle double-crosses him, he gapes like an idiot before he recovers.

All told, he thinks he turns things around well – the stalling tactic and the counter-suit were slick, for being thought up on the spot – but the way Jessica looks at him while calling him naïve....

Mike knows how much respect Harvey has for Jessica, so it feels just as bad as disappointing Harvey. Worse, maybe, because if – as Harvey's fond of saying – he reflects on Harvey, making Harvey a disappointment is far worse than being one himself.

Now, more than ever, Mike doesn't want to go to Harvey for help. Luckily, Harvey's still out on that hotel merger, and going to Donna is the next best thing. Not that he'll tell her that.

"So, Plan A crashed and burned," she says as he approaches her desk. It's not a question. He doesn't bother asking how she knows. The grapevine at Pearson Hardman is extensive and full-bodied, and Donna is its vintner. She doesn't pass along any gossip herself, just cultivates the network and reaps all the intel. "Counter-suit was a nice save, though."

"Yeah, and now I need a plaintiff – will you be my Lina Lunders?" She hands him a legal pad without looking up. "What's this?"

"Notes on my character." She'd underlined the word Reputation three times. In parenthesis to the side, she'd written 'beat you to it.' Mike grins. "You'll need another witness. I heard Rachel is playing Sydney Thompson."

There's a world of knowledge in that casual statement. "Yeah."

Donna finally graces him with her attention, lowering her voice to tell him, "You really should've just told her you were seeing someone."

"We're friends. Eventually she would've asked for details. Maybe even to meet this imaginary person. And then she'd just be mad at me for an entirely different reason."

Donna tips her head in concession to that, and pushes her chair back. "C'mon, we can talk in Harvey's office; he'll be a while." They're no sooner through the door than she says, "Why not tell her you're gay?"

Like he hadn't thought of that. "Not that it's your business - " he ignores Donna's smirk and sits down beside her. " - but I'm not. I've dated women."

"C'mon, it's not even a lie. You could use practice telling half-truths anyway."

"It's not about that. It's about Harvey."

There's a flicker of surprise, quickly hidden. "How so?"

He's reluctant to explain himself to her, for some reason. But he knows she won't move on until he has. "People already think it's strange that Harvey hired me out of nowhere, and that we work so closely together. It hasn't been much of a problem, because everyone seems to assume we're both straight."

Mike glances at her; he sees that she gets it. He's never had to worry about what people he works with will think of his sexuality. All his jobs have been temporary in nature, low-key. If he got hassled, he moved on. He's never gone around announcing himself at work, but he's never really thought about concealing things either.

He's met a couple people who are out at Pearson Hardman. That's not the problem. The problem is, Harvey seems to be...private. Whether he's purposefully discreet or not, it's obvious he doesn't shine a light on his personal life. Because in the world of law firm gossip, nobody even talks about it. It's like they've been bullied not to – which, now that Mike thinks about it, is a distinct possibility. (Donna.) However it happened, Mike refuses to undo that by shining a light on his own.

He knows how people are...if people know that Mike likes dick, then Harvey's attention will be seen as suspect.

"Mm. Yeah, I see what you mean," Donna says after a while. "So. We're going to need someone to play Nora Jiness."

"Everyone's already taken, though."

"So go to an outside source. You need someone pretty, sympathetic...someone willing to go above and beyond for you."

When she put it like that, someone obvious springs to mind. In fact....

"I think I can solve both my problems, actually."

*

Jenny has never said no to him in their entire decade of friendship. So when he pops the question about being his witness/beard, it takes him a moment to compute her immediate answer. Even when he gets it, he doesn't know how to respond.

"I'm...I don't...what?"

She pats his cheek and stirs the spaghetti sauce. "I said no, Mike. You have a job I barely know about and a boyfriend you've only ever mentioned to Trevor, and we have no idea what's going on with you these days. So if you're asking me for help, then...Lucy, you have some essplaining to do."

"It's complicated."

She makes a face. "No shit. If it wasn't complicated, you would've told us all about it already."

"I'm...." Mike looks around the apartment that Jenny shares with Trevor; he's not sure why, since he knows that they're alone. "I don't want to tell Trevor. It's not that I don't trust him, exactly, it's just - "

"He's worryingly possessive, and terrified you're going to move on and leave him behind forever?"

Mike laughs. "Yeah, that."

"I know. He's a delicate flower, and he does dumb things when he's scared. I get that. I won't promise to lie to him, but it's doubtful he's going to ask. So just tell me."

Mike has this intense sudden affection for her; he can't imagine why he hasn't told her already. She'll get it. He hugs her so hard from behind that it actually lifts her up on her toes. It makes her laugh.

They sit down to dinner and he tells her everything. Except for the kink, and the fact that Harvey pays him. So in all, he's still hiding a lot, but it feels so good to get what he can off his chest. He's in love with Harvey and Harvey's an enigma and he got this job through Harvey and now Harvey's his boss and nobody can know that he's been sleeping with Harvey since before he even got the job, and it's not only stressful, it's causing actual problems.

When he finally winds down, she starts asking questions about her role in the mock trial, like helping him out was a foregone conclusion.

"So you'll do it?"

"Help you conceal your torrid affair while kicking elitist Harvard ass? Absolutely. I'm in."

*

Mike hadn't seen Harvey at the office all day, and he hadn't gotten a response to his text that he'd be late. By the time he gets home from Jenny's, it's obvious Harvey's turned in. Mike doesn't bother fetching his collar. He gets ready for bed without turning on the lights, and slides in under the covers.

He feels lighter, from being more or less honest about his life all evening. He props himself up on his elbow and studies Harvey's face in the city lights. He's frowning. His jaw is clenched, so hard Mike can see the stark relief of a tightly flexed tendon in his cheek. The merger must be going badly. Mike feels a pang and makes note to look into it tomorrow.

In the meantime, he reaches out and tries to smooth the tension across Harvey's brow – Harvey's normally a heavy sleeper and Mike can do things like that without him stirring. Tonight, though, he jolts and lurches up like he's ready to defend himself, and Mike yanks back just in case he comes up swinging. For a moment, it seems like a distinct possibility.

They stare at each other for a beat in surprise, and then Harvey swears, "Jesus!" and falls back against the pillows. One hand's against his heart; it's probably racing. Mike's is. "Scared the shit out of me."

"Likewise," Mike says. He hesitates. He's never seen Harvey this...this. "Harvey...is everything ok?"

Harvey's practically grinding his teeth at this point, but he gives a jerky nod. It's the least convincing lie he's ever seen Harvey tell.

"Is something wrong with the merger?"

"Everything's fine. Other than you waking me up at one in the goddamn morning." Mike's eyebrows shoot up. Harvey doesn't talk to him that way. Certainly not here, but not at the office either. That kind of venom has no place anywhere. It seems to occur to Harvey at the exact same time. "Sorry. That was.... I'm just...."

At a loss for words, which is absolutely unheard of. It's actually starting to wig Mike out, how he's acting.

He reaches out and touches Harvey. "Hey. Whatever it is, we'll figure it out."

Harvey doesn't answer him or really even look at him. But he pulls Mike in tight and holds him there as if Mike's going to have an objection.

He nearly falls asleep, in spite of the tension in Harvey's body; he's tired. He's skating along the blurry edge of it when Harvey says, "How's the mock trial going?"

He sounds wide awake and somehow...off, so Mike drags himself back towards consciousness. "Um. I have it under control now, but I kind of screwed up this morning." Mike hesitates. They're in a no-man's land of roles, but regardless, he feels compelled to admit, "Jessica called me naïve."

"Ouch." He seems surprisingly unbothered. Even a little sympathetic. It makes Mike wonder what happened to him today. "What happened?"

Mike can still feel the sting of shock from that morning. "I thought I'd talked Kyle into settling, but I was stupid. I didn't get it in writing."

"Ah. Put you on the spot?"

"Yeah." He doesn't elaborate. He doesn't want to admit to that moment of panic, the mortification when he drew a total blank. Harvey's fingertips find the soft points at the base of Mike's skull and apply gentle pressure.

"What did you do?"

"I bought myself a few minutes with Bonemaster v. Whitely, and then I filed a counter-suit." He can't see Harvey smile without turning his head, but he can feel it, and that soothes some of the shame that's been lingering since it happened. Mike pulls away and props himself up on his side with a growing grin. "Kyle actually questioned her judgment when she said she'd allow it."

Harvey raises an eyebrow and mirrors him, propping his head on his fist. "Does he still have his balls?"

"Unfortunately."

"You'll have to take care of that tomorrow." Harvey's looking more like himself as he watches Mike snicker. "You ready for him?"

"Totally." Mike hadn't felt that confident earlier, but he's feeling better about it now. "I just have to remember that I can't trust him."

"Always a good lesson to learn. Do you know why he double-crossed you?"

"Because he's a douchebag?"

"Well, there's that. But proximal cause: you had him running scared."

"What? No, he was bragging about how hard he was gonna beat my ass."

"Because he was scared," Harvey reiterates slowly. "He's worried he can't take you on an even playing field, so he took the first opportunity he saw to skew things in his favor."

"Huh." Mike can see that, now that he's thinking about it. "I hadn't considered that. I just thought he was an asshole."

"He is. But it's a common tactic for a seasoned lawyer, which is what he imagines himself to be. He's gonna play you as much as the facts of the case, so you play him right back. You feel solid on your case?" Mike nods. "Alright. So don't stop there. Think about how you can put him off his game, because you can be damn sure he's already found other ways to throw you off yours."

"Ok. So. Like...what?"

"When you flustered him, he forgot about playing up to Jessica. You can use that. He's cocky. You can use that, too." Mike prefers to avoid mind games when he can, but someone like Kyle? Now that Harvey's brought it up, he could seriously enjoy this. "I'm sure there's more. Pay attention tomorrow. The better you know how he thinks, the easier it is to - "

Harvey's speech cuts off abruptly. His eyes go distant and a moment later, his face falls. "The easier it is to...Harvey?"

"She...." He bolts upright. "Fuck!"

Mike sits up too. "Harvey? What's going on?"

Harvey holds up his hand for Mike to give him room to think. Then he abruptly throws the duvet off and gets out of bed. "I need you to access the last week's stock activity for Debeque International."

"...Right now?"

"Right now. And after you do that, I want to know which of his hotels are the most valuable, and how soon we can get them on the market."

"Wait, what...Harvey what are you talking about? It's late and my trial's tomorrow, can't this - "

"No, Mike, this can't wait. My merger is actually a hostile takeover. Real problems trump fake ones. God, I fucked this up."

Mike wants to point out that the trial, while fake, has real consequences for his life, but Harvey sounds freaked out and just freely admitted an error. So. Desperate times. "What am I actually looking for?"

"This was never about a merger. They wanted access to our private books; she pretended she didn't want to hand hers over, so I wouldn't notice when I handed over ours. She made me think it was my idea."

Laying out the strategy seems to calm Harvey down, but Mike can tell he's pissed at himself. What he isn't clear on is the reason why. "How did you even figure that out?"

"She learned how to do it from me."

Mike thinks back to what Harvey was saying when this hit him, and avoids the phrase 'she played you.' "So uh. You and opposing counsel know each other, then?"

Harvey looks up at him blankly for a moment. "Yeah. We went to Harvard together." He scrubs his face. "We don't have time for this. On second thought, I'll get the confirmation that Vega's been buying up stock, because I'm already sure I'm right. You pull the information on Debeque's highest-grossing assets. If we unload the crown jewels, we make ourselves undesirable."

"Do we actually want to do that? I mean, will the client even go for it?"

"Losing what you value most is still preferable to losing everything. He knows that. Get dressed and grab a suit bag, we're taking a cab to the office."

*

All told, Mike ends up getting two and a half hours of sleep on the floor of Harvey's office. It's actually more comfortable than anything else – on the floor, he can stretch out, at least.

Harvey doesn't sleep. He's still working when he tells Mike to lay down, and he wakes Mike up at half-past six, already changed out of his casual clothes into a three-piece suit. His voice is quiet, and he's creasing his slacks by crouching down. "Hey, it's time to wake up. I've got to go."

Mike pushes himself upright, and tries to rub his eyes clear. "You got everything you needed?"

"I'm set. Thank you." Harvey doesn't touch him, but his expression is more personal than professional. "I might not be back in time, so good luck, ok? Remember what we talked about, and kick his ass."

"You too."

Harvey nods, and then he's gone.

Chapter Text

Mike is no stranger to running on no sleep, but it does lend the morning a surreal sort of quality.

Jenny meets him in the law library by eight with a toothbrush and what will be his fourth cup of coffee, and without even thinking, he kisses her on the mouth. It's simple gratitude and a long habit of affection, and it isn't until she winks that he remembers they're supposed to be dating.

So when Kyle follows him into the bathroom with some bullshit about the winner getting the girl, Mike just stares at him in the mirror while he scrubs the long night out of his mouth. He hits upon a way to use Kyle's raging chauvinism against him, then he spits out his toothpaste and leaves without a word.

Mike cannot lose to that tool. Seriously.

*

The morning goes in Mike's favor. Donna's...enthusiastic performance notwithstanding, they play Kyle perfectly with the 'woman in power' bit. He can tell that Jessica's hooked enough by the speech – she's too smart not to know she's being manipulated, but the jury is roughly half female partners, and one glance shows they've got them in the palm of their hands as well.

Even if they didn't, the naked disdain in Kyle's voice at the idea that it's hard to be a woman in business would've tipped the scales all by itself. It's bad enough that even the men on the jury (some of which aren't peaches) cringe in horror at the massive faux pas.

Jenny's examination goes well; he's glad that he took her advice on his style, and she's so incredibly sympathetic that she's the perfect choice for Nora. Unfortunately that works against them when it comes to cross; Kyle rips her to pieces. He was too much of a coward to try that shit with Donna, but Mike can tell he looks at Jenny and all he sees is easy prey.

Jenny isn't a pushover. But she's out of her comfort zone and she's nervous, and Kyle's a pit bull. In a matter of seconds, he's rendered her testimony moot.

He and Donna successfully established that the impression Sydney did was damaging. But that doesn't prove defamation unless he shows that she knew that it was, and that she did it with malice. By the time he's up for cross, the only way Mike has left to win this thing is to prove what he knows would be true, if this case were real: there's a lot of pent-up anger and resentment under Sydney's carefree demeanor.

He needs to force her to show her hand.

It's working. Mike can feel it. Play the man and press where it hurts, it's working and he doesn't even look like an asshole. He's gonna win, and graciously not rub Kyle's face in it. Much. Okay, a little.

And then Rachel's voice cracks, and her eyes are slightly damp, and Mike realizes it's working because this is hitting too close to home for her.

Fuck. He can win this, but Rachel's done so much for him. Showing him the ropes, helping him fit in. And he's already hurt her, with things he can't control. This, at least, he can.

He throws the trial. He throws it and ignores the gratitude on her face, the sneering disbelief on everybody else's, and takes his lumps from Jessica, because yeah, he can't be the asshole he needs to be for this job. He can't. Maybe that means he shouldn't be here.

Jessica's criticism is easier to swallow than everyone else's – it hurts more, but he'll take it. Then he turns and sees Harvey. Because of course he made it back in time to see Mike crash and burn. By choice. His expression is completely unreadable but he doesn't even bother to point out Mike's failure. He just turns and leaves.

The remainder of the afternoon is a hellscape of being mocked by his peers, and he knows that tomorrow will be much of the same. At least then he'll have the weekend to wallow and regroup.

Mike waits until the last possible minute to go upstairs – Harvey deserves the chance to yell at him in private before they go home, but Mike waits until the associate pen is likely to be empty. Just because Harvey deserves to yell doesn't mean they deserve to watch.

He looks pissed, too, as Mike approaches the office. He's not even putting up the pretense of working.

"How much trouble am I in?" he asks Donna...and she hesitates.

"I'm proud of you," she says, and Mike takes a moment because, wow, wait. What?

But he hears what she's not saying, and he smiles. "That bad, huh?"

There's something in her expression that makes him feel like he's missing something, but she gestures him in.

Harvey doesn't look up as he walks into the office; in fact, he doesn't look at Mike, even when he's sitting in front of him. And Mike, for his part, doesn't know what to say – he's sorry he lost, but he's not sorry why, and he's not really sure how he could've done anything differently.

So there's a long, awkward silence before Mike finally breaks. "Okay, can you just get it over with? Please?"

Harvey pulls in a breath and looks up like a man coming out of a trance. "What?"

"Just, tell me how I made you look bad with my gutless loss in fake court, so we can go home and forget it."

When Harvey shakes his head, Mike's stomach plummets. But then he says, "I'm not mad that you lost the trial."

Mike's honestly speechless for a moment. "I'm sorry, what?"

"Look, you're never going to hear me say this again, but it doesn't matter that you didn't win this thing. It was a learning exercise. From what I heard, you gave a good showing up until you didn't. You almost beat an associate, having never gone to law school. You made an impression and they didn't expect you to win. I thought you would, but...." Harvey shrugs. Shrugs. "Everybody falls flat on their face a couple times...better here than where there are consequences. Do better next time. The loss doesn't matter, in this case."

It's...a perfectly reasonable and completely uncharacteristic viewpoint for Harvey to express. Mike should be grateful that he's showing his soul within these four walls, but somehow he feels more betrayed than if he had actually ripped him a new one.

"Are you kidding me right now? It doesn't matter? Jessica called me soft and I'm going to be taking shit from everyone for the next decade or so. Everyone resented me already, and you put me up for this thing and now they're all taking way to much pleasure in my failure. They're never gonna let me forget it, Harvey. I looked like an idiot in front of everyone. All the partners, all the associates and paralegals...everyone."

Harvey closes his eyes and rubs at his forehead for a long, quiet moment. "I don't know what you want me to say, Mike. You made your choice and now you've got to live with it."

For the first time since he came in, Mike realizes he looks...defeated. Not angry. "What happened with Debeque? Did we lose?"

"No. It went exactly the way we wanted it to." He makes that sound grim, somehow.

"Then what the hell is your problem?"

Harvey looks directly at him for the first time since Mike came in. "Excuse me?"

"You hung me out to dry, and you just don't give a shit. You won your case, so what the hell is wrong with you?"

Harvey's face hardens. "I'm going to give you a pass, but don't push me."

Mike stands up. "No, you know what? You can take your pass and - "

"I'm not doing this right now. Go out tonight, celebrate with the associates."

Mike gapes at him. "Celebrate what?"

"Fine, don't celebrate. Go practice keeping your head up high. If you don't show up, it'll only make things worse."

He looks completely removed from the entire situation. It's all Mike can do not to tell him to go fuck himself.

He blows past Donna's desk and is halfway to the elevator before he hears her call his name. He stops and has to wait for her to reach him – she runs for no man.

"What the hell is wrong with him?" Mike demands. He doesn't bother to be quiet about it, and he ignores the look of censure.

She doesn't speak until they're alone on the elevator. "Give him the night. He cares, he just. He had a really bad day." She's facing the doors and not looking at him. She looks like she has a lot more to say, and like she wishes she hadn't said that much already.

"Am I just supposed nod my head and leave him to brood whenever he feels like having a fucking mood? I'm getting really sick of not knowing what's going on."

She throws him a look, but frankly, Mike doesn't give a shit. It isn't something he'd normally bring up with Donna, but he's too ticked off right now to care. "That isn't him, and you know it. He keeps things close."

"Well that's just great for him."

Donna tips her head like she privately agrees with him, and that cools a bit of the fire in Mike's belly. They descend in silence.

"Does this have to do with the fact that he knew opposing counsel?" It's the only thing Mike can think, and he's not going to get an answer from Harvey. His best shot is Donna, and only right now because she's feeling sympathetic. Or maybe this is her stepping in for Harvey, so Mike won't be pissed.

She turns and looks at him, a little surprised. There's something underneath it that Mike can't quite access. "How did you know that?"

"Harvey told me. He knew them at Harvard or something. He was a little weird about it."

After a moment of scrutiny, Donna nods. "They have history, it's.... Nobody can get to Harvey like Scotty can. So just - "

The doors open with a ding, and Mike lets himself out ahead of her. "Yeah, don't worry. I won't poke the dragon. I've gotta go humiliate myself some more, thanks."

"Mike." There are a few too-quick clicks of her heels behind him, then she grabs his arm and pulls him around. Studies him for just a couple beats. "I'm proud of you. Harvey threw you in the deep end, and you did really well." She starts squaring the knot in his tie, which he'd pulled loose in frustration. "And I know it feels like Jessica was telling you you couldn't cut it. But I've known her almost as long as I've known Harvey. You impressed her today." She looks him in the eye and lets that sink in, before fussing with his lapels and brushing at his shoulders. "That was just her way of telling you she expects improvement. What mistakes not to repeat next time. Okay?"

Mike nods, a little stunned.

She brushes a kiss at his cheek. He grins. "You like me."

She rolls her eyes and smacks his cheek lightly, a smile on her lips. "You'll do. Now off with you. And if Kyle calls me 'mommy' again, I'll make his life hell, so please report back."

"Yes, ma’am."

Mike watches her walk off, feeling warm and a little bit better about life.

"Quit staring at my ass," she calls back. He laughs.

"I can't help myself."

She gives it a shake before she walks out the door.

*

Mike really doesn't want to go to the bar where the associates are having their self-congratulatory douchefest. It's probably the last place in the city where he wants to be right now. But Harvey's right – if he doesn't go, it's just another thing they'll mock him about, tomorrow.

It's a little easier to deal with all their bullshit gracefully, after what Donna said about Jessica. He didn't fuck anything up where it counts, so. He can put up with their petty, small-minded, insecure crap.

Not that it's fun. But he smirks and gives back as good as he's getting, until he feels like he's made his point. Then he finds Rachel.

"You didn't have to do that, you know."

He takes a seat and signals for another drink. "I know."

"I could've handled it."

"I know." She's a professional. But it still would've hurt her.

"That was a thank you. If you couldn't tell."

He smiles at her, and she smiles back, and he knows that he's forgiven. "I could tell."

"So um." She tucks her hair behind her ear. "Jenny made a great witness. Very likeable. And pretty."

Mike had forgotten, again, the ruse that they were playing. It looks like it worked whether he remembered it or not. The funny thing is, they did nothing out of the ordinary. People see what they will. "Yeah. She is."

"How long have you two been together."

Mike smiles. Jenny was actually his first kiss – she was already dating Trevor at the time, but she'd been defending his honor against typical schoolyard bullshit.

The three of them have never had a normal sense of boundaries.

"We've known each other since we were kids," he says truthfully. "Our first kiss was - " he does that math and laughs. "Fifteen years ago."

"Wow," she says. "Lucky girl."

He just smiles and shrugs, relieved that he can see her putting the notion of the two of them away. If she ever finds out, she'll still be angry at him, but somehow Mike feels better knowing he hasn't had to lie.

A few half-truths and tricks of perception. Maybe he'll be a real lawyer, yet.

He ducks out not long after that. He took a cab from the office, but he walks home. By the time he gets there, he's feeling pretty good. Tomorrow's gonna suck, but big picture, he's ok.

When he gets home, Harvey pretends to be asleep. He isn't. Mike can tell. It's childish and off...really not like him at all.

Mike thinks about calling him on it, but doesn't.

Chapter Text

Mike and Harvey rarely speak on weekday mornings anymore, having long ago coordinated their routines. And frankly, neither one of them are morning people. But Mike recognizes the intentional effort when Harvey hands over the coffee and says, "Let's go over your trial tonight. We can talk things over, see what you could have done differently."

"Sounds good." Mike takes a sip and burns his tongue a little. Harvey's already moved on, assuming the conversation’s over, but it isn't. "Then will we talk about whatever's eating you?"

Harvey flicks him a look. "No."

Mike fights the familiar well of frustration. "No, huh? Just like that?"

"Just like that."

"You know - "

"Please."

It's said very quietly, but it stops Mike in his tracks. He didn't know that Harvey was acquainted with the word, outside of sarcasm.

He sighs. "You know you can tell me, right?"

"I choose not to."

...Alrighty then. Can't get much clearer than that.

Right now, Mike's not wearing his collar or a tie, so he feels pretty comfortable announcing, "Just for the record, I think the desperado act's bullshit."

"Noted," Harvey says, and lapses into silence.

Awesome.

*

The day contains precisely as much suckage as Mike had expected. He picks up work from a bunch of other partners, because Harvey is out of the office all day. Donna tells him he's working on a licensing deal with a client.

When Mike looks up from his computer at half-past four and sees Harvey at his cubicle with an honest-to-God shiner, he gapes. "Oh my God, what happened to your face?"

Harvey laughs and touches the bruise. His body language is loose and more relaxed than he's been in days. "You make it sound like I need plastic surgery or something. It's no big deal."

Harvey's right – it isn't as bad as it could be. The bruising doesn't extend into the eye socket itself. There's just a crescent along the outer edge. It looks badass, actually, but it's still a shock to see. "So I shouldn't be worried about you hitting your face on someone else's fist?"

Harvey's grinning. "See, it's funny, because that's exactly how it happened." He rolls his eyes at Mike's disbelief, and gestures for him to pack up. "C'mon, business dinner. I'll tell you the story and we'll talk about the thing."

Mike gets his stuff together and shuts down for the weekend. After a moment, Harvey says, "What's everyone looking at?"

Mike looks around to catch the duck of all remaining heads. He knows exactly what they were looking at – all day long, he'd been getting shit about how Harvey should fire him, and now Harvey's here, laughing and offering a working dinner.

Mike allows himself the satisfaction of thinking choke on that. But to Harvey, he says, "A senior partner with a black eye."

Harvey seems to consider this a valid reason for staring. "Well. It was incurred in the line of duty." They fall in step on their way to the elevators. "Have I ever told you we represent Lennox Lewis in all his commercial ventures? Stateside, anyway."

Mike stops in his tracks. "You're shitting me, right?"

"Nope. Wanna see his number?" Harvey pulls out his phone.

"Who are you? You spent the afternoon boxing The Lion?" Harvey's grinning like a little boy. Mike trails him into the elevator. "Never mind the eye, I guess we should be glad you're standing."

"He usually knows better than to hit me in the face, but this really was my fault. He pulled the punch but I moved at the wrong time."

"Usually? How often do you box with him?"

Harvey shrugs vaguely, still smiling, and Mike laughs. "You're insane."

It's official, he's sleeping with the coolest guy in Manhattan.

*

Usually when Harvey takes him out, it's to an upmarket place in the name of 'teaching him how to not look like an idiot.' Tonight, though, they're slumming it with pub food and beer.

Whether it's because they both had a crappy week, or because Harvey has a black eye, or something else entirely, Mike's just grateful that he can relax.

Getting beat up by a heavyweight champion has apparently done wonders for Harvey's disposition; if Mike hadn't seen him this morning (and the last two days), he'd never have guessed there was anything wrong. Harvey talks about Lewis and boxing in general while they wait for their food, in perfectly good humor.

They don't talk about the mock trial til they've both finished their burgers and Harvey's letting Mike pick over his fries.

For all his apparent indifference yesterday, he seems to know exactly what happened at the trial. He makes Mike take him through it with all his reasoning. He throws in suggestions and advice from time to time.

"So you had it," Harvey observes after they order another beer. "Why'd you back off?"

Mike gives him a self-conscious smile, knowing this is a piece of reasoning that Harvey isn't going to agree with. He explains himself the best he can, but he knows it boils down to 'I didn't want to hurt her feelings.'

Harvey listens without indicating his thoughts one way or another.

"It's not what you would've done," Mike adds, after a beat or two where they're both quiet.

"No, it's not," Harvey says. There's still no judgment. "What would you have done if this had been a real case? If the person on the stand really had defamed your client? Keep in mind, she's just as dewy-eyed and stricken, because she's realizing she's in real trouble."

Mike's been thinking about that. "I think I would've done it. It just didn't seem right to expose Rachel's feelings over a game."

Harvey makes a half-conceding noise, but clearly still disagrees. "Ok. What if it were real, but you liked the person on the stand. Maybe even better than your own client."

Mike can't answer that, or maybe doesn't want to.

"Yeah. It's hard. What you have to understand is, on our level, you're going to end up screwing a lot of people you like. People that don't deserve it. Even if you draw a hard line for yourself, it's gonna happen. Because they're technically in the wrong, or because your client's in the right too and they're the ones that are paying you, or because there's no reasonable way to avoid it without more harm. It'll happen. I guarantee it."

"So...what. I give up my ethics or I pack my things and go home."

Harvey rolls his eyes. "I'm saying become a better chess player, see the whole board, and a lot of times, you can avoid ending up in that position. If you make it a priority. But not all the time. And the times you can't avoid it, you've gotta remember that if you back down, you might still be screwing somebody. You screwed your client over yesterday." He takes in Mike's face. "Yeah, Lina Lunders, remember her? She lost the defamation suit, and now she's still being sued for wrongful termination. Without a leg to stand on."

"Shit."

"Exactly. You're gonna get your hands dirty one way or another, kid. You're gonna have to figure out how to deal with that."

"How do you?"

"Well, not having a soul makes it easy."

"Come on."

Harvey relents eventually to his stare with a huff. "I keep my methods within the accepted standards of legal ethics, I try to make the end result fair to everyone – not always possible – and I don't give a shit if I hurt feelings in the process. That's me. It might not be you. But you can't just do what feels good and pat yourself on the back. That's just a different kind of arrogance."

Mike grins. "Look at you, sentimental when you're drunk."

"I'm not drunk." Harvey looks affronted, and Mike laughs at him. He really isn't...Mike doubts he's even buzzed. But he's definitely loosening up just a little, if he's admitting to thinking about things like fairness. "See if I bestow any more wisdom on you."

They lapse into silence. Mike tries not to laugh when just a moment later, Harvey goes back on his vow. No matter how much he bitches, he really loves to expound on his personal version of How The World Works.

"And on the flip side, people you like are going to screw you. Not just somebody like Kyle, who you can count on to double-cross you. I'm talking about someone you think you can trust. And it'll just be business. You can't take it personally."

It's pretty clear to Mike that Harvey's talking about himself, about the past few days, and he wants to press the point until Harvey explains what happened. But he figures they've already gone ten rounds on this one, and Harvey's a stubborn bastard who isn't about to change.

They're having a good night. So he lets it go.

*

Harvey actually is a little drunk by the time they leave the bar – both of them are. It's the first time Mike's ever seen Harvey have more than a drink, and for a while, he's worried that Harvey's mood will backslide with whatever happened earlier in the week.

Instead, the alcohol just seems to make him horny.

Mike's skin prickles the entire cab ride home with the way that Harvey's watching him. He's half-turned towards Mike, leaning against the door and eyeing him up like he wants to eat him alive. At one point, the cab driver checks the rearview, catches sight of how Harvey's staring, and turns to smirk at Mike.

Mike shoves some money at him as soon as they pull up to the curb, and Harvey I-Don't-Scoot Specter follows him across the seat and out the door.

He sticks close the whole way to the private elevator, and cages Mike against the railing as the car begins to rise.

Mike's mouth is dry; he licks his bottom lip, and Harvey follows the motion with his eyes. Mike expects a kiss – instead, Harvey gets down on his knees.

"Oh god, seriously?" Mike blurts. "I'm pretty sure I did nothing to deserve this."

Harvey lifts an eyebrow, but he's smiling like he can't help it. Mike laughs. Don't argue yourself out of a blowjob – check. Harvey looks down at his belt buckle like it offends him, and Mike knows that it does; he's gotten countless lectures on how he shouldn't need a belt, but he's pretty sure that's not the point in this instance.

Harvey looks back at him - waiting - and Mike scrambles to drop his pants.

It takes approximately five seconds of staring down at Harvey – in a suit, on his knees, with Mike's dick in his mouth – before Mike has to look away so he doesn't embarrass himself. Harvey isn't stingy with blowjobs, per se, but they don't come very frequently, and he sure as hell has never gotten on his knees. Mike's really not sure if that's a deliberate power thing, or if it's due to the old knee injury Mike's noticed he favors sometimes.

Either way, the effect is the same, and Mike can't believe Harvey's kneeling before him.

So he gives himself a moment to look up and away, but that's when he remembers Harvey's blowing him in the elevator, the glass elevator that was hardly off the ground before Harvey went down on him. And that's when Mike gives up on any sense of dignity he might have. It's hopeless.

He stares down at Harvey, open-mouthed, and swears when Harvey looks amused and swallows around Mike's dick. He braces one hand on Mike's stomach to compensate for him going totally boneless, and doesn't scold Mike when he buries both hands in Harvey's hair.

That's really only possible because they ran out of gel that morning. Mike takes a little too much joy in destroying whatever hold was still remaining.

The car bobs gently to a stop and the doors slide open, but Harvey doesn't stop sucking his dick like it's candy. It's genuinely obscene how much he appears to be enjoying this. His hand slides further up under Mike's shirt to play with his nipple. Mike's hips jerk and Harvey actually hums.

He can feel the orgasm building right behind his eyes, so of course, that's when Harvey takes his mouth away.

"Off."

Mike stares down at him, dumbly. Harvey's face is flushed, his lips are a little swollen and his eyes are dark. Mike's not processing information.

Harvey yanks sharply, once, on his tie. Repeats "Off," and Mike gets with the program, stripping down with clumsy fingers. Apparently this is one case where a good suit does belong crumpled on the elevator floor.

Harvey sits back on his heels and watches, smirking a little as Mike nearly falls, trying to take off his shoes with his pants around his ankles. When Mike's down to his socks, Harvey jerks his head towards the condo, eyes on Mike's.

"Go get your asshole ready for me."

The way he says it is so fucking filthy that Mike just stares for a beat, not breathing. Then Harvey's eyebrows flick upwards, and Mike startles, and goes.

He does what is probably the hastiest job of prep in the history of the world, and then Harvey's there. Mike withdraws his fingers and goes to flip over, and Harvey stops him, stepping close between Mike's legs and stroking himself slowly.

"Show me."

He draws his knees up and slides two fingers back in his hole. Mike is ready to get on with things, but Harvey's so intensely fixated on Mike fucking himself, it's distracting.

"Faster."

His voice is shot from scotch and deep-throating, and when Mike obeys, Harvey groans, "Fuck," and stops stroking himself in order to stroke Mike. Not anywhere helpful, just sliding his hands along the back of Mike's thighs, from the crook of his knee to his ass and then back. He's making the satisfied sound that usually doesn't show up until he's actually inside.

Mike is on the verge of asking Harvey to fuck him when Harvey says "Guide me in," without lifting his eyes away from Mike's ass. Harvey bears his weight forward just enough to let Mike take the head of his dick. After a few shallow thrusts, he pulls away again.

Harvey's a cocktease, but Mike already knew this. "Scoot back, away from the edge a little bit. Yeah." He follows, using his weight to pin Mike's legs to his chest. Mike's hamstrings are lodging a protest, but Harvey nods and says, "Again." Mike reaches down and positions Harvey to thrust in, watching him stare between their bodies like he's mesmerized.

His face is slack when he finally looks up. "Look at you." Harvey is fucking him with a slow and easy rhythm, looking for all the world like he could do this all damn night. "Such a good boy."

He rubs a thumb over Mike's lip and smiles when Mike sucks it in, like it's cute that Mike is trying to get what he wants. He's acting a little like he's stoned, but Mike just thinks he's happy. He's tracing his fingertips over Mike's features, smoothing over his eyebrows, brushing his knuckles along Mike's cheekbones.

"So amazing," he murmurs. His facial expression's complex, and heavy with all of the things that Mike doesn't know. "God, you don't know. You have no idea...."

Mike's last breath burns in his lungs, completely unable to draw a new one in. Because that, right there, was Harvey's love confession.

Mike's face must give him away, because Harvey's eyes shutter a little, like he realizes he showed just a little too much, and he starts to fuck Mike faster, distraction translated to motion.

"Touch yourself," Harvey says after a moment, and then turns his eyes down to Mike stroking his dick. Harvey pulls away a little, re-angling his thrusts, picking up leverage, and Mike lets his eyes roll back, close. Lets himself get lost in it – because it's really good, and it's easier for Harvey.

He sees that look on Harvey's face behind his eyelids, and jacks his dick faster, and says please, and gets himself off while Harvey's working towards it. He lets himself go lax while Harvey fucks him faster, and opens his eyes and watches Harvey come.

It becomes apparent, eventually, that Harvey's content to fall asleep here. On top of the covers, cross-ways on the bed, and all his weight on Mike. Mike laughs a little with helpless affection and pokes him in the ribs until he shifts to the side. But he's still draped heavily on top of Mike, and when Mike tries to extract himself, Harvey makes a sound of protest.

"I need to shower," Mike says, and this time Harvey snorts out a laugh, rolling away and smiling and waving him off indulgently.

Mike looks back before he closes the bathroom door to see that Harvey has wormed his way towards the pillows.

His shower is really more like a rinsing off, so he can sleep comfortably without a crust of come on his stomach, on his thighs, in his ass, and wherever else they've managed to get it. He gets Harvey's kink, and even returns it a little, but only until things start to...dry.

Mike does not enjoy waking up stuck to the sheets. Harvey, who is fussy in most everything else, finds this hilarious. And eminently mockable.

Mike is smiling when he gets out of the shower. He towels off and brushes his teeth, realizing that Harvey forgot to do his, and they had beer. He's gonna be bitchy in the morning about that. But he'll be bitchier about it if Mike wakes him up.

He rinses his mouth and is about to flip the light when he catches sight of his bare throat in the mirror, as the steam clears.

No collar.

Mike turns the light out and eases the bathroom door open. Harvey's out cold. So he quietly retraces their steps into the living room, carefully slides his drawer open, and puts his collar on.

It takes approximately thirty seconds after he crawls into bed for Harvey to station himself half on top of Mike.

He tries to remember the last time he thought of this as a job. He tries to remember the last time they spoke like it was one. Months. They both treat this like a relationship. A real one. And Harvey's in love with him. And he's in love with Harvey.

Mike doesn't really need the money from subbing at this point. Including Gram's expenses, his bills probably exceed what he makes at Pearson Hardman, but he's got plenty in savings, now. He doesn't need to be paid for this.

He's pretty sure Harvey needs to pay him, though. He turns and breathes in the comforting mixture of Harvey's ten zillion hair products.

He needs to wait a little longer. Mike's been all-in here for a while, but that's what comes naturally for him. Harvey's...getting there. Mike thinks some day, eventually, they can give up on this pretense.

*

It's just a few short weeks later that everything goes to hell.

Chapter Text

In one way or another, Mike has been poised for disaster ever since he met Harvey. Actually, since the first disaster, the Big Disaster, of losing his parents – but Harvey in particular was too good to be true.

So once he'd accepted that the man wasn't a psychopath, he'd been holding his breath for the day he'd fuck up bad enough to get fired.

But nothing...happens. Mike doesn't fuck up, so he doesn't see it coming. They've been good. At work, at home, everywhere in between. They click, everywhere, even when they're sort of fighting, and Mike's life is completely awesome for the first time...ever.

He stops remembering to expect the worst.

*

Mike is pulling an all-nighter, researching a case – an occurrence that happens with unfortunate regularity. He's used to it. He functions well without sleep, and if he loses too much – a couple nights in a row – then Harvey sends him home.

The official reasoning runs along the lines of productivity and hourly pay. But Harvey told Mike once that he already has an associate to run into the ground without remorse, and besides, he likes it better when Mike is well-rested.

That night, Mike figures he'll be at the office til dawn. It's what Harvey figures too – it was implicit in his phrasing that Mike wouldn't be subbing or even coming home tonight. But Mike finds what they need, far earlier than expected.

It's 1am and Mike is free. He wants nothing but sleep, but still. Free. He hops on his bike and starts towards the condo, but in a fit of late-night logic, he has the random urge to see if his apartment still exists. Someone would've called him if it had flooded or burned down, surely, but it's actually been months since he laid his own eyes on it.

The round-trip commute will cost him almost two hours of an already short night's sleep, but he's punchy enough that it sounds like a good idea. He goes.

It does exist. But it smells a little funny and the bed is actually dusty and wow. He should've really cleaned out his fridge.

Going back to Harvey's will only delay some badly needed sleep, so he shucks off his suit and falls face-down on his pillow. Sneezes. Passes out.

He arrives at the office expecting a good day. He got the goods. He's totally gonna be Harvey's hero.

Donna gives him a look before she waves him in. "He's been looking for you," she says, the way someone else would say end-stage melanoma.

"Okay," Mike says, not sure what's going on. He closes the door at Harvey's impatient gesture and takes one of the seats opposite the desk.

"Where were you last night?" is not the question Mike had been expecting.

"Um. We said I'd be working here."

"Exactly," Harvey says, "Working here. But you weren't here and you weren't at home, so where exactly were you?"

It becomes apparent, suddenly, that he's not merely annoyed. It's like a stereoscopic overlay of both Mike's Harveys in front of him at once, and they're both supremely pissed.

It's alarming and disorienting.

"I'm...I...I found what we needed and you'd given me the night off, so I went home. To my apartment." Mike hesitates, caught between his roles. "Was that wrong?"

Harvey freezes.

He's suddenly breathing in and out very carefully, with this look on his face that Mike has never seen before. Then just as quickly, the moment passes.

"No," he says calmly. "No, that wasn't wrong."

His face and his voice are abruptly free of anger, but there's something else there. And he's tense. Mike is strangely scared. "Harvey - "

"Tell me what you found." The illusion of two Harveys has broken; this is the lawyer speaking.

Mike runs through his research for him. Harvey nods in all the right places, but when Mike gets to the kicker, he just says, "Right. Good."

He piles a week's worth of work in front of Mike, and waves him away with an air of distraction.

Donna doesn't look at him when he passes by her desk.

*

At 6:45, Harvey's still in his office. Mike is ready to go home for once, but he's not sure what he's doing – whether he's going home with Harvey or if Harvey's actually mad at him.

Obviously going to his apartment last night had been a mistake. Mike keeps going back to how Harvey called his condo 'home.' As in, Mike's home. As in, their home. There'd been a flicker of confusion when Mike mentioned his apartment. And then the shock, that he'd forgotten.

Mike thinks that Harvey is finally getting it – what they are to each other. That this is something real. His initial reaction's disheartening, but once Mike thinks about it, unsurprising. For Harvey, that realization's probably pretty scary. It's not surprising that he'd shut down or get pissed, especially at work.

He just needs time. Mike's ok with that. Although, in the short term, he's not looking forward to dealing with Harvey's misplaced anger.

It's seven o'clock, and Mike's officially stalling, so he gathers his things and goes upstairs to Harvey's office. Donna's packing up for the evening.

She gives him a subdued smile before walking away, Sphinx-like.

Mike knocks on the glass wall. "Can I come in?"

He never asks permission, but right now he feels like he needs to. Harvey looks up, sits back in his chair. "Yeah. I was about to come get you, actually."

He doesn't look mad at all. Mike relaxes. "Meet you at home?"

"I need to talk to you. Come, sit."

Mike does, apprehensive; the feeling only builds when he's seated. Harvey's looking at the skyline, fingers drumming on the glass desktop. Mike has never seen Harvey fidget. Ever.

"Pearson Hardman's about to give you a pay raise. Six months on board, it's standard."

Mike waits. "...Thanks? That's good news. Right?"

Harvey looks at him finally, fingers lacing over his vest. He looks calm and unbothered, but Mike feels something's wrong. "I think it's time you started working on your bachelor's degree. Since you'll only be able to take a few classes per semester and stay on working here, it's going to take you a while. If you're going to go to law school, you need to get a jump on it now."

A bit of a non sequitur, but again, nobody's dying. He's not sure where the problem lies. Though, "I can't affo - "

"The firm will pay."

Mike blinks. "It...I thought I needed a full year before I got that benefit."

"I pulled a couple strings. You're a very good investment."

"Harvey, that's still good news. Thank you, seriously, by the way. But you're acting like somebody died. Could you please tell me what's going on?"

Harvey looks down. "Mike. With school and work, you'll be pretty busy. I know Pearson Hardman's not paying the way I did, but I think with the raise, you'll be comfortable. Right?"

Mike's stomach cramps up, and not because he'll have to dip into savings. "Yes."

"That's good. Because it's time that we end our contract, now."

He saw it coming – the questions, the past tense – but the punch still knocks the wind from his lungs. This is not what's supposed to happen. "Harvey - " He sounds unsteady.

"Mike, it's time."

Harvey's not looking at him.

"I don't get it. Is it because I went home? I didn't know you'd be mad. I swear, I wouldn't have done it."

It's strange. Part of him's outside himself, wondering what the hell he's talking about. He didn't do anything wrong. And subbing was really a job going nowhere – not even a job, not really, anymore. The part of him still in control is telling him not to assume they're finished completely.

But the other part, the bigger part, is drowning that part out in a total state of panic. Because that's exactly what Harvey means.

This isn't Harvey's way of asking him to go steady.

Harvey's eyes go soft...Dom Harvey on his best day. "Kid.... You did nothing wrong. It's just time. It's time for you to move on."

"Shouldn't I get to decide that?" His voice is watery and stupid, but he isn't even embarrassed. He doesn't understand what the hell is happening in this room right now.

"It's time for me to move on, too," Harvey says. Smooth as glass, and it's hurting Mike to breathe.

This isn't the way Harvey's supposed to be reacting. He can't mask the pleading when he asks, "Why are you doing this?"

Harvey looks away. "It was coming," he says simply, like that makes any sense at all. He sounds so sure of it.

Nothing Mike is saying appears to even touch him. In the face of that, Mike is losing the ability to argue his case. He feels small, and sick. Maybe...he needs a little air. Strategic retreat. Go home and rally and fix this thing tomorrow. "Ok, I'll...shit, my suits - "

"Don't worry about it. I had them delivered to your apartment." Harvey smiles but it looks sick and wan. "I figured I'd save you the thousand bike trips it would take to carry your stuff back, yourself."

Mike opens his mouth, but he can't actually speak. He's in physical pain, like someone attacked him with a rib spreader, and they didn't show the mercy of administering anesthesia.

He grabs his bag and walks out the door.

He doesn't take his bike home. It's a safety issue.

*

The next day Mike arrives at work two hours late. He has a crick in his neck from sleeping on his couch, and his eyes are so bloodshot Harvey's going to think he's high. But despite his massive tardiness, there's a lack of angry messages. His desk is as he left it. After sitting for a minute and wondering what to do, he figures he'll face the music directly.

He can tell on approach Harvey's not in his office. For once, Donna doesn't pretend to ignore him.

"He's out for the day," she tells him immediately.

"...Okay. What does he want me to do?"

"He didn't leave anything." Donna's expression is openly sympathetic, and that's how Mike really knows this is real. Even in a nightmare, Donna would say something cutting. "Listen, why don't you take a long weekend, since it's quiet. I'll cover for you, if he asks."

"But he won't," Mike says. Donna gives nothing away in response.

Mike stares at her a moment, formulating about a dozen questions before he gives up. He can't bring himself to actually voice any of them, and he can already tell Donna can't or won't mediate this time.

"Yeah. Long weekend. That sounds great. Thanks."

*

Mike doesn't head straight home. Without conscious thought, he ends up at Trevor's. He hasn't been here in, shit. A couple months, at this point. But he and Trevor have been friends a long time; Trevor only looks mildly surprised at his sudden reappearance.

"Thought you'd be at work."

He steps aside and lets Mike through. Jenny's at work, so naturally, it smells like pot. "Day off."

"Didn't think they gave you any of those."

"Yeah," Mike laughs bitterly. "They don't."

Trevor takes a seat next to Mike on the couch, watching silently as Mike packs a fresh bowl from what's spread out on the table.

He doesn't ask or comment until they've each had a couple of hits. Trevor's been eyeing him, though, too sober for Mike's liking. Mike isn't having that problem; it's been close to a year since he last smoked up. It goes straight to his head.

He's mid-hit when Trevor finally asks, "Were you fired?"

Mike feels a pang, then gets that Trevor means the law firm; half Harvey's bullshit reasoning lay on the assumption that Mike would stay at Pearson Hardman. "Doesn't seem like it."

He doesn't sound like he cares too much.

Trevor hands him the pipe, watching as he draws smoke into his lungs. Mike is acutely aware of Trevor's hesitation; he must look worse off than he thought. "I thought you were done with smoking. You know, since 'Harvey doesn't like it.'"

Mike closes his eyes and melts into the couch. "Fuck Harvey."

There's a beat, and then Trevor says, "Right on," but honestly, even he doesn't sound like he means that.

Mike basically doesn't move from that spot til the next night.

*

If Trevor's become tolerant of Harvey over time, then Jenny is probably his number one fan. She's never met him, even with the mock trial, but she's made it pretty clear she credits him with Mike's whole life makeover. She isn't wrong, so Mike's never corrected her. But she doesn't know the whole story, either.

On some unconscious level, Mike knows he came here for the both of them. To bask in Trevor's passive acceptance (and stash), and to get pep-talked by Jenny into fixing this.

Or, as Jenny puts it, 'presenting the opportunity for him to stop being a dumbass.'

She speaks from experience. Exhibits A-Z, Trevor.

"He's always been kind of trigger-shy, you know? I just thought we were finally getting somewhere."

It's been a few hours since Trevor left them to this, and Jenny is politely overlooking the fact that Mike's still high. Just another indication that he must be fucking pathetic right now. Jenny reaches out to comb his hair back, and Mike flinches away, unable to take that kindness right now.

Jenny's hands fold back into her lap as she turns to face him more fully.

"I don't understand how this happened."

He's like a broken record. That has to be the twentieth time that he's said that. And again, Jenny answers, "Then you need to go ask him."

He's been going back and forth between agreement and denial. "He sounded so sure, like his mind was made up. There's no point. Except to make a fool of myself."

There's nothing she can say that she hasn't said already, so she doesn't. Mike looks up. The pot's the only reason why his eyes sting at her sympathy. She's been so fucking patient with him today; she's a saint.

He scrubs a hand over his face, trying to force some focus, and a bit of dignity while he's at it. "Okay. You're right."

Jenny stands when he does, and grabs his elbow. "I'm right, but. Maybe you should wait. Until the morning. When you're...feeling better."

He shakes his head and tries a smile. "Now or never. Unless you want me to change my mind a couple dozen more times."

She kisses his cheek and shoves him gently towards the door.

*

He and Harvey have always had fantastic timing. It's always worked in their favor, but this time, it's more of a curse.

Because if they didn't have great timing, Mike never would've had to see this.

He's only been loitering in front of Harvey's building because he'd lost the nerve again somewhere on his way from Trevor's, and he was trying to plan his approach before he goes up. He assumes Harvey's upstairs, because it's nearly midnight on Saturday. Barring a client dinner, Harvey prefers to spend time at home.

So the sound of Harvey's voice brings Mike's whole body to attention, particularly when he identifies his tone.

He's coming towards Mike. With a woman.

Harvey hasn't seen him yet, so Mike has time to confirm what he's seeing. She's blond and classy and completely into Harvey, hanging on his arm and his every word. And Harvey is.... It's a look, a routine, Mike has seen many times – been on the receiving end of, always – but at the same time, it's...not. There's something strange and foreign about him.

But that could just be the pounding of Mike's head. Everything seems surreal, even his own pulse.

Harvey's demeanor instantly changes when he looks up and sees Mike, but it's not...regret or guilt. It's a mask of professionalism dropping into place. He turns and says something in the woman's ear, and Mike can't breathe as she disappears into the lobby.

He watches her go, and all he can think is that Harvey didn't send her away.

"Mike?" Mike turns back. Harvey's watching him and it's...it's some bastard child of the coolness of the lawyer and the watchfulness of the dom. None of the warmth or concern, and he's tense, and unhappy, but at this point Mike can't presume the cause of that.

When Mike just gapes at Harvey like a fish, Harvey asks, in a tone familiar from the office, "Did you need something?"

And Mike feels this upwell of blinding rage. He opens his mouth, feels his throat go tight, and realizes there's no way he can speak without his voice cracking.

He shakes his head, and walks away. He wants to turn back and see if Harvey's watching him go. But he's kind of scared he won't be.

Chapter Text

Mike is grateful that he has an entire Sunday to adjust to the idea that Harvey is really done with him. So done with him that he's already begun fucking other people.

Plus side, Mike finally has a definitive answer on Harvey's orientation. He spends a lot of time Saturday night dwelling on that. Maybe Harvey missed pussy too much. Maybe that's why. Is that better or worse than the problem being Mike?

He wallows in his own filth for the rest of the weekend. His apartment's still a wreck – he avoids the refrigerator, and there's a pile of old laundry in his closet that has been marinating steadily in his absence. Even the non-perishables in the cupboard are stale, but it's fine, because he has no appetite anyway.

He stares at the snow on his tv for several blank minutes before he remembers he had his cable disconnected.

All the righteous anger that followed him from Harvey's turns out to have been just a flash in the pan; it fled sometime in the early morning hours, and Mike doesn't have the energy now to do jack. He wants to get high, but his stash tin's been empty for almost a year, and besides that, he got rid of his bowl.

He thinks about calling Trevor to bring some stuff over. Even picking up the phone seems like too much trouble.

He rolls over on the couch and sleeps the day away.

*

He gives serious thought to not showing up on Monday.

In fact, the only reason he does is that he needs the money. Mike is sitting on almost $150,000 – more than he ever dreamed of having at once, before he met Harvey. It's a number that still makes his head spin, but he's not so naïve that he sees it as bottomless. Keeping Gram well, with the care she deserves, is expensive. If he's lucky, it's enough to cover her needs for at least a year, but realistically, probably somewhat less than two – he could stretch it by moving her to a different facility, but she's happy where she is, and Mike can't bear to do it.

So his savings are for Gram. He still needs something to live on, and if he stays at Pearson Hardman, he'll be more comfortable than he's ever been before.

Thank God he kept his old apartment.

This is the chain of logic that pulls him off the couch, makes him confront the pile of his stuff by the door. Harvey's errand boy had been kind enough to hang a few suits where Mike's bike usually goes, so they aren't even wrinkled.

Mike's bike. Fuck. It's safe enough at Trevor and Jenny's, but he'll have to take a cab to work, and he's going to be late.

It turns out that's ok, because no one gives a shit.

*

For the first time, Mike appreciates working on a different floor from Harvey. When he gets to his cubicle, there's a stack of work. It's blissfully normal, though the instructions are written in Donna's hand, not Harvey's.

Mike plugs away at what he's been given, feeling sluggish, on autopilot. He chucks everything into inter-office mail instead of running finished work upstairs himself. Work goes out, work comes in, and it's wonderfully rote, until someone flicks his forehead.

Mike hisses and looks up, cranky; Rachel's playful smile slides right off her face.

"Hey. I wanted to see if you were up for grabbing lunch."

Mike looks around the room. He's the only person here. When did that happen? "Um." He thinks for a moment. "You know what? I'm not hungry. Thanks, though. Next time."

He turns his eyes back towards the brief he's proofing, and waits for her to go away, distracted by the fact that she hasn't moved. Crap. He doesn't want to deal with this right now. Just go away, Rachel. Just go away. Just -

"Mike, are you ok? Did you and Jenny...."

Mike puts his pen down and rubs his eyes, taking a moment to weigh his options – which possible answer will explain the most without creating any holes in his story. It's hard for him to focus, especially since it's near a topic he doesn't want to think about at all.

He doesn't want to pretend like he's fine. At least, not to Rachel. Not to a friend. Saying yes will explain why he has a broken heart...and he's not kidding himself, that's exactly what this is. But he also doesn't want to hide his friendship with Jenny from now on. So.

"Yeah. We're...we've known each other since we were just kids, you know? We're better off friends."

Not a lie. Explains everything. Now go away, Rachel. Leave me be. Please.

Her face is sympathetic. "I'm sorry. It must be hard, even amicable like that."

Mike can't contain a bitter laugh. "Yeah. You could say that."

She studies him. "When did it happen?"

"Um." Mike takes a deep breath and can't actually remember. Days have blended together. "Thursday night? But kind of really, not til Saturday." She's lingering, and he doesn't want to see her face. "I just want to work, okay? Can we...."

"When's the last time you ate?"

"Um." God. Not since Jenny made him dinner, before he saw Harvey.... "It's been a while. But I don't want - "

"If I bring you back something, you'll eat it?"

Mike's eyes sting at that simple, caring gesture. It occurs to him abruptly that for once, he's sure he's experiencing subdrop. He laughs, which must confuse her but he really can't help it. "Yeah. Thanks, Rach."

She reaches out and ruffles his hair as she goes. Mike has to bow his head and just breathe.

*

Mike doesn't self-destruct.

He thinks that's worth repeating. He does not self-destruct.

He thinks about it, for the rest of that week. He leaves work on Monday – at five because no one's there to tell him not to. He visits a head shop on his way back to Brooklyn, drops by Trevor's for some product (best friend discount, he's a prince among men), and gets so high he's too numb to care. About much of anything.

He smokes and he thinks, this is the part where I quit Pearson Hardman and stay high for days, and I go back to Speedy's where they never expected jack shit from me, and that never ever hurt at all.

And then he thinks.... Wow. Dipshit move. Did I really used to be that stupid?

Yes, he did. But he's not anymore and anyway, fuck Harvey.

That rapidly becomes his mantra over the next several days, but he doesn't really feel it til he checks his mail on Wednesday. There's a fat manilla envelope with Columbia University on the corner, filled with material explaining how to enroll for his classes.

Mike hasn't applied for admission to Columbia. At least, not in a decade. He's taking a wild guess that Harvey pulled more strings.

Instead of feeling grateful, Mike just feels infuriated.

Thursday morning, he goes in, still pissed off, and rides the elevator up an extra two floors. He's deliberately late, so he knows Harvey's in his office. He also times it too early for Harvey to be in a meeting. So he sees fucking red when Donna says that he's busy.

"I'm looking at him, Donna. He's doing absolutely nothing."

"He's not taking visitors." Donna says. Her eyes are fixed on her computer screen, but she isn't multitasking. She's just clutching the mouse and avoiding eye contact.

"Are you fucking kidding me?" Mike says – too loud, and he feels all heads swivel in their direction.

Donna looks up at him. "Mike," she says quietly, and he has to steel himself against the urge to curse her out. It's the thought that she might let him, that she might allow him to do it, that jerks him away from the edge of following through.

He tosses the packet from Columbia on her desk, hard, with a slap. "Tell him I don't need his goddamn help." He pitches it low, and knows it's stupid as soon as he's said it, but he turns on his heel and takes a long lunch. Even though he only just arrived at the office.

*

He walks around, stops in at a greasy spoon, and calms down enough to admit to himself that he needs to stop daring Harvey to fire him. Regardless of the circumstances, he won't ignore it forever.

Either he quits, or gets a grip on himself. And the idea of quitting, of not seeing Harvey, ever, is just painful enough to turn Mike's anger inward.

He goes back to his cubicle. It's equal parts relieving and maddening to see the Columbia packet sitting on his desk. No note, just sitting pointedly on top a stack of unproofed briefs.

Mike takes a deep breath and sits down. Slides the enrollment pack into his bag. Shuffles all of Harvey's work to the bottom of the pile, beneath requests from other partners. He'll get it done today, but he'll take his time about it.

If Harvey has a problem with that, he'll have to tell Mike himself.

*

"Okay," Rachel says the following Friday. It's four and Mike is trying to wrap things up so he can go. He comes in at eight, he leaves again at five, and takes an hour for lunch. No power in the universe can make him work beyond that.

He's also been keeping his head down at work, less man than machine, and this is the first time Rachel's spoken to him since she brought him food nearly two weeks ago. She's been wonderfully accommodating of him blowing her off.

He looks up now, more surprised than anything to have someone interrupting his flow.

"I think you've used up your allotment of moping," she says. "Let's go out tonight. Pick out a cute girl to get Jenny off your mind."

Mike looks at her closely. He can tell what she's thinking, and he's treated to a sudden high-def fantasy of rebound sex with Rachel. There's an ugly little part of him that really likes the idea. That really likes the idea for more than the actual sex; that likes to think of it getting back to Harvey. Or making sure that it does.

Wow. Jesus, yeah, no. That was dark.

He's not that guy, and really doesn't want to be.

He takes a breath.

"You're a good friend." He says it as lightly as he can while conveying his actual meaning. He knows that she gets it by the blush staining her cheeks, and feels bad for causing that embarrassment, but it's still miles better than making Rachel into collateral damage.

But he takes her up on it – they do go out that night. Mike waits til after Rachel goes home before getting serious about picking up a girl. He's not like Harvey; he can't rub someone's face in it without any remorse.

Chapter Text

Anger has never actually been a motivating force for Mike. He's felt it, sure, but usually in passing. It's never been the kind of thing that carried him along, before.

Mike's had plenty to be angry about...but it had never stuck. It always seemed better to move on, pick up. Let go and do what he had to.

So it's strange, now, to feel constantly alight with it. It's oddly energizing. As far as motivation goes, Mike's historically had two modes: on, driven by knowledge for its own sake, and off, without giving a fuck that it's gone.

Anger, he finds, is a whole new thing. Every time Harvey pisses him off, it's like twelve shots of espresso. He gets a phenomenal amount of work done the first month, though mostly for partners other than Harvey.

Harvey gives him no shortage of fuel for the fire. At first, it's the avoidance. Truthfully, it's the way he should've been treated all along: beneath notice, just a cog in the machine. No first-year paralegal in his right mind expects access to Harvey Specter. Mike sees the incongruity, and doesn't give a shit.

He decides that if Harvey's going to treat him like he's nothing special, then Mike is going to treat him exactly the same in return. Harvey's work gets no priority – if anything, Mike consistently puts him last. And if he doesn't get to it before five o'clock, Harvey's work waits over night.

The most unbelievable thing is, Harvey lets him. He doesn't storm Mike's cubicle demanding faster work or better quality, though he must realize Mike's been slow-playing him and that he's been...if not careless, then not putting his best effort in.

The lack of anger on Harvey's part just pisses Mike off more. He's getting accolades from everyone else, but it barely even registers. The silence from Harvey is driving him slowly out of his mind.

He doesn't even recognize what a douche-nozzle he's being to everyone around him until he nearly picks a fist-fight with Trevor. Over...he doesn't even know. Over absolutely nothing. Trevor hasn't fucked up above his baseline failing in longer than Mike can recall.

In fact, he's given up dealing – for real this time, or so he says.

He just happens to say something that touches a nerve, and Mike goes off like a Roman fucking candle. They go from chilling on the couch to on the verge of coming to blows so quickly that Mike isn't sure how it happens.

Trevor's looking at Mike like he's grown three heads. "Woahwoahwoah, dude. Mike. What the fuck. I know you're not getting laid any more, but don't take it out on the rest of us, alright? Jesus Christ."

It pulls Mike up short.

Trevor's never been the voice of reason in his life. A couple times, he's done a compelling impression, but. Jesus. If Trevor's telling him throttle it back, he's in trouble. Mike drops onto the couch like his puppet strings are cut.

"I'm still getting laid," he tells him blankly. It's true. He's been on a freaking roll of one-night stands. Celebrating his freedom. Just because he can.

Trevor eyes him, wary, then sits down beside him. "Well then you're doing it wrong, because you've been acting like that angry Care Bear. And that's been your good mood. I'm about done with it, and I know that Jenny is."

"Shit." Mike massages his own neck, which is tightly knotted with tension, and has been for a month. Jenny's never around anymore, but he didn't realize...it's been deliberate. She's been avoiding him. "Sorry, man."

Trevor finally relaxes. He stretches out, expansive in his forgiveness. "Ts'ok. I know how I get when the one-eyed snake is hungry."

Mike can't hold in a helpless laugh, which was totally the point. "Oh my god, you're like, twelve. And now I'm imagining your penis swallowing whole mice."

"Ok, one, we agreed you'd never think about my dick again after that time we were fifteen. Two..."

He bullshits on at Mike for a while, just to make him laugh, and Mike bullshits back, to make up for being lame, and they smoke a bowl together because that's an apology, to Trevor.

*

Mike figures the first step in not being an asshole is to end the awesome cycle of passive-aggressive cold-shouldering that he and Harvey are caught in. So the next morning, he takes an assignment up by hand and tells Donna, "I need to see him."

She waves him in without looking away from her computer, as if she hasn't barred all his recent attempts to enter.

Mike leads with his chin. "This needs to stop, Harvey. It's ridiculous and we both know it."

Harvey doesn't look up from his work. "You barging into my office like I know what you're talking about? You're right, it really does."

For a moment, Mike blinks, disoriented by how...them this is. "Harvey." Harvey looks up, eyebrow arched in his direction. "You know what I mean."

He puts down his pen and settles back in his chair. "Pretend that I don't."

Mike can't read his face well enough to discern whether it's genuine uncertainty or an effort to be difficult. He thinks he would've known, a month ago, but he's spent four weeks trying to forget him. "I'll stop being a shitty paralegal if you stop pretending like I don't exist."

Harvey watches him passively. Like this was all about Mike. Like Harvey's just been waiting for him to get over it. "Alright."

Mike presses back the swell of rage he feels, and sits down. "Alright. I found something useful in the arbitration clause...."

*

Reestablishing communication with Harvey doesn't actually make his anger management any easier. If anything, it's harder, because when Mike was angry at Harvey for ignoring him, he could rage to himself righteously about how it was a dick move. He also had no need to conceal exactly how he felt from him.

Now he's screwed. Because Harvey's so even-handed it's laughable, leaving Mike with the choice of swallowing his feelings or being the one who looks like a jackass.

Harvey was never unprofessional before, but now, he's...a pod person. Fair and polite, like he studied a handbook on how to achieve unremarkable middle-management. It gives Mike the heebee-jeebees to be around him.

Because Harvey's not Harvey. Not his client or his boss. He thanks Mike for work that's mediocre on purpose and he doesn't get pissed if Mike won't stay all night at work and he does not grin or fist-bump, or strut around giving Mike lectures that are vaguely patronizing.

He hardly looks at him, and never expects too much.

So Mike lets his anger carry him a little longer. He chokes it back, but that only makes it stronger somehow. He channels it into being a paralegal, but also into school. The education that Harvey arranged, and never mentions any more.

Before he ever sets foot on campus, Mike has read up for both classes – learned everything he needs to know for his entire summer session. So then he looks into testing out of basic subjects. He's not sure that's a practical notion at first – clearly it's doable academically speaking, but the law firm's tuition contribution maxes out at six credit-hours. Testing out costs just as much as the course, so if they won't shell out, he shouldn't even bother.

Mike figures it can't hurt to ask, and he's right – Human Resources acts like they'd expected this request. Harvey's handiwork, most likely. Master friggin puppeteer.

However it happens, Mike walks into his first day at Columbia with 32 credit-hours. He could've had more, but they'd capped the number of tests he could take.

All this, on top of his workload, is driven by too much rage and too little sleep, so. Anger's productive. But it eats at him, now that he's minding his manners. Chews him up from the inside, any time he stops long enough to let his thoughts catch up.

He thinks he's hiding that part from everyone else. He thinks he's successful til the day Jenny asks him to quit at Pearson Hardman.

She's been his biggest career cheerleader since things went south with Harvey, so it knocks him back on his heels. "I can't. It's my chance, you know that."

"We'll find you another one." Her arms are folded over her chest, but it doesn't look like anger. It's more like she's hugging herself. She looks so upset. "You're scaring me, Mike. It's too much for you, working with him all the time. You can find another law firm."

"I can't, Jenny." He can. He's experienced, certified, and Harvey would probably help him, if he really asked to go. But he can't. Things have to get better between them at some point. "I don't wanna work with anyone but him."

Jenny doesn't like that answer. But she hasn't tried to speak ill of Harvey since the time that Mike threw Trevor's flaws back in her face. He apologized. They moved on. He still wishes he could take it back – everything he said was true, but it was not his finest hour. He's lucky she forgave him for that.

"Something needs to change," she finally says. "You can't keep pretending you're fine. Because you're not."

By now, the surge of outrage triggered by someone telling him what to do is familiar. As is the process of tamping it down. She's not his enemy. She loves him. "Okay. I'll think about it. I'm sorry to worry you."

"Idiot," she mutters, and pulls him into a hug.

*

Mike came to terms a long time ago with his enjoyment of what Harvey did to him. Of what he did with Harvey.

He just hadn't thought of it as a need. He's starting to think he might've been wrong. Starting to hope that he was – if it's submission he needs, then that can be fixed. If it's Harvey....

It can't be Harvey.

There's this club he used to go to. It's how he met Louis in the first place – Mike dated a guy who was into the scene, and took Mike there. Mostly they just watched, and when they did more, Mike didn't get anything out of it, really.

But he learned that he didn't hate it, that he was somewhat of a natural, and by the time things ended with...whatever his name was, Mike had found a new way to make easy money.

He'd been back in a professional capacity since then – when he'd been looking for work and Louis hadn't had anything particular lined up.

It's the natural choice now, to find what he's looking for. He still has a membership there, paid by Louis. He's just hoping he doesn't run into the man himself – which of course, with Mike's luck, means he's ambushed as soon as he gets through the door.

"Thought you weren't working any more," Louis says, after materializing from nowhere. His tone is halfway between smug and accusatory. They've spoken several times since Harvey let him go, each conversation more uncomfortable than the last.

"I'm not."

Louis stares at him and then grabs his shoulder. "Oh, no, Mike. No. Do not tell me you're giving it away for free. How am I supposed to market you when they can just pick you up at the club?"

Mike shrugs off his hand. "You're not, because I don't need marketing any more. But if it makes you feel better, they pay me so that I'll let them be selfish, and I promise you I won't be doing that for free. Problem solved."

"You're going to regret this."

"Go away or I'll get the bouncer."

Mike half-expects Louis to vanish at the threat, but he stands his ground and stares Mike down. "If you're not working any more, I'm revoking your membership. So I'm not the one in danger of getting hauled out the door, here."

Mike has to bite down hard against the frustration and panicked rage at the thought of being denied this outlet. He pulls out his wallet and grabs a wad of cash, pushing it into Louis' hand.

"That should be enough to cover me for the rest of the month. I'll get my own membership if I decide to come back after that."

Louis's jaw flexes, and for a moment, it seems like he's going to press the issue, but then he gives a curt nod, says "Fine," and walks away.

Mike takes a few deep breaths, then heads to the bar. He orders a Coke, sans the Jack. As much as he'd love to have something to take the edge off, club policy is to administer breathalyzers before anyone is authorized to use a play space. It's something they enforce, stringently.

Mike isn't here to socialize, but it's not a bad idea to start off mingling with people who are. He never bothered getting to know anyone that wasn't interested in paying him, before.

The good thing about this is that Mike knows what he's doing. He may be brand new at doing this for pleasure, and he's going to have to be clear he's no longer for sale. But he's comfortable here. He understands the language. It's easy to read who he can trust and who he can't, and Mike has already sampled a little of everything there is. He knows what he likes, what he hates, and what he needs to try again before forming a real opinion.

At least, he feels like he understands what he's about, until a woman he's chatting with asks exactly what he's looking for tonight.

He draws a total blank. For a painful moment, everything he comes up with is not the sort of thing you ask of a stranger at a club. 'I just want to be petted, fed and told I'm a good boy.'

Yeah. Not happening.

The familiar bitterness that realization brings is what finally causes an answer to float up to the surface. "Pain."

"Okay." Mike has already been kind of charmed by Tessa – who is, in her way, an X-rated version of Donna – but he doesn't actually love her until she sucks on her lip ring and looks around in thought, and he realizes she's actually planning to play matchmaker. Mike didn't know he was anxious about figuring this out on his own until he realizes she's going to help.

The flood of relief kind of makes him want to hug her.

"Well." Her eyes return to him, sizing him up. "It depends on what you're looking for. You got any particular flavor in mind? Impact, medical, wax play, piercing play...."

"Impact."

She beams at him. "I've got just the thing. Matt!" She's a little thing, but she's apparently got healthy lungs. Over top of the conversation and music, she belts out "MATT-Y. C'MERE."

When 'Matty' turns around and heads towards them, Mike starts to doubt her matchmaking skills. He doesn't seem very...authoritative. Actually, he's built a lot like Mike, and once they start talking, he doesn't give off the vibe, either.

He's sort of the opposite of imposing.

Mike likes him, though, and he feels an affinity almost immediately. And it occurs to him that erring on the side of 'not enough' might be better. He's always had Louis screening people for safety. By the time they've hashed out the pertinents, he feels confident that Matt can be trusted to at least respect his boundaries.

Mike's withholding judgment that he'll actually know what he's doing. But Tessa seemed pretty plugged in around here, so Mike's first impression might be wrong.

And in fact, before they head off to get a room (literally), she leans in and presses dark lipstick to Mike's cheek before speaking against his ear. "Trust me, he's the best."

"If you say so," Mike jokes.

"I do." Her expression is knowing, and Mike's smile feels thin; it reminds him of Harvey teasing him about how obvious his thoughts are. "You can show your gratitude properly by letting me tie you up sometime."

There's a gleam in her eye that makes Mike flush, and laugh. "It's a deal. If he delivers."

"Then I'm marking it down in pen." She smacks his butt. "Go play."

*

Mike has no interest in putting on a public show, though the first floor of the club has plenty of space for just that. There are also private play spaces once you leave the ground floor, and he and Matt go dutch on the cost. Mike doesn't understand how this place stays in business, honestly – it always seems to be busy, but the overhead alone of an entire building in Manhattan is astronomical, and definitely not reflected in the pricing. It's high but still doable for someone on his salary.

Once the formalities of securing a space are behind them, Matt pulls him aside with a hand on the back of his neck. "I need to go get my things, but you should go on up. Strip down for me and kneel on the floor beside the spanking bench. I'll join you in a few, okay?"

"Okay."

Matt gives him a light squeeze, prompting "'Yes, sir.'"

Mike is surprised to feel his breath catch a little. To feel an almost-desperate slide into a headspace he's been missing. "Yes, sir."

Matt studies his face for a beat longer, before letting him go. "Good. I'll be right up."

Trepidation settles in once Mike lets himself into their room – they'd requested one that was set up for impact play, and some of the equipment carries less-than-fond associations for him.

But this is different, and he reminds himself why. It's consensual, beyond the value of a transaction. He won't be restrained in any way. He'd chosen the type of instrument, how much pain he's willing to take, what he isn't willing to have done to him, and he can change his mind at any time.

This is his. He's not just putting up with it for money.

That list calms him considerably as he changes out of his clothes.

He's also drawn a line against sexual contact, for this session. Officially, sex on premises is against club policy for legal reasons, but there's a tacit understanding that in private rooms, people do what they wish. What Mike wishes, right now, is not to test the theory that Harvey's the only one that can get him off with domination. He's terrified of being proven right.

So the nudity today is just for the flogging.

Mike settles on his knees on the padded playroom floor, closes his eyes and tries to find the headspace he needs. He's too nervous, though, and his thoughts won't slow down. He actually jumps in his skin when the door opens behind him.

He can feel himself being watched for one long moment before Matt starts moving things around. A chair gets placed in front of Mike, in his lowered line of sight. Matt sits.

"Keep your eyes down," he orders quietly, while tilting Mike's face upwards just a little. The single index finger underneath Mike's chin is simultaneously too much and too little, and his hands ball into fists against his thighs.

"You're nervous."

"Yes, sir."

"During our negotiations downstairs, I got the impression you had experience. Was I wrong about that?"

"No, sir."

"Have you changed your mind about doing this?"

"No, sir."

"Okay," Matt says evenly. "I'd like to know what has you so wound up."

It isn't an order, which Mike sincerely appreciates. It feels like he earned the right to ask, on that basis alone.

"I used to work for Louis Litt." Mike pauses, eyes flicking up to confirm understanding. He's going against orders, but he isn't reprimanded. "Louis enforces boundaries but – "

"It's not the same as choosing. Okay. Do you have any experience outside of that?"

The parallel between this and his first conversation with Harvey causes Mike a moment of near-physical pain. He swallows. "Until recently, I was in a consensual relationship that included submission. But we never used floggers. Or anything like that. No pain play."

"Okay. Are you reconsidering any of what we discussed downstairs?"

Matt seems utterly nonplussed, which is a relief in itself. "No, sir. Just...nerves."

"Understandable." He's silent for a few beats. "Do you need to talk this out, before we start?"

Mike smiles at the floor. "No. But thank you."

"Anything you need me to be careful not to say? Or do?"

"Just what we discussed before, sir." He'd laid out a pretty extensive list of 'don't's downstairs. Everything from verbal humiliation to CBT to Mike's need to sit at a desk by Monday morning.

As soon as he says that, though, Mike hesitates. It isn't a don't, but there's one thing he'd like. Problem is, he's embarrassed to say out loud.

Matt must pick up on his tension, because then he says, "Okay. Anything additional you need me to do? In order to help you differentiate?"

It stings Mike's pride and makes his throat tight, but he admits, "You can touch me. Not sex, just. Touching."

When Matt reaches out to stroke his hair, it shudders down his spine, forcing him to close his eyes. Mike's closed-mouthed exhale carries a sound that's borderline pathetic.

"You're in a bad way, aren't you?" Matt murmurs. It could sound cruel, it could sound humiliating, but it doesn't. There's just understanding, colored with enough sympathy to soothe Mike's embarrassment. He strokes Mike's cheekbone with his thumb. "You ready for us to get started?"

Mike nods. He can't quite trust his voice.

"Okay. C'mon, stand up for me."

They agreed on ass-only, because he wasn't sure he could trust Matt enough with his back – too easy to cause kidney damage. So the spanking bench is ideal; Mike will be exposed in an on-all-fours position, but he won't have to worry about holding his weight up.

The club has nice equipment. This bench is easily the most comfortable one Mike's used. Matt helps him get settled; instead of moving behind him and starting, as expected, he comes around Mike's side, running one hand over his back.

"Slide back just a little – exactly. Like that. Is it comfortable?" Mike nods. "Good. I'm accurate, but better safe than sorry. Nobody likes being whacked in the balls on accident."

Mike laughs, and catches Matt smiling out of the corner of his eye.

"Try and relax for me, okay?"

It's funny, because Mike wasn't wrong about him, downstairs. Even now that they're in a scene, Matt isn't...traditionally dominant. Everything's posed as a question, a request for agreement. But he's steady and sure of himself, and it's making Mike feel...cared for. It works. Especially when paired with the kind but somewhat impersonal stroking of Matt's hand along his flank. "There you go. Loosen up your spine a little. That's good."

The touch and tone are so hypnotic, Mike jumps when a hard smack lands on his ass.

"You're okay." One hand cards up into Mike's hair, the other rubbing away the sting on his ass. "I'm just warming you up a bit. Relax for me. Good."

It becomes a pattern without rhythm: firm petting and hard smacks, soothing nonsense and touches to override the pain. Eventually those fall away as Mike relaxes. More spanking, less soothing, until his ass starts to feel warm.

"I'm going to switch to the flogger now, okay? Color?"

"Green."

"Good. Stay nice and loose for me. We'll start slow."

He's good on his word – he dials back from a steady rain of skin-on-skin blows to something more like thud-sooth, thud-sooth, thud-thud-sooth. Mike falls into it, a long slow warm slide, deep enough that the first time solid thudding gives way to a stroke with more sting, he barely jumps.

"Color?" Matt asks, like he's sure but just checking. A firm rub of his hand dampens the pain just a bit. It's good.

"Green."

"Now we're talking."

Things escalate from there, til Mike can't do more than take it, breathing harsh and unsteady in the middle of an onslaught. Matt takes breaks regularly, though with decreasing frequency, to offer a touch and check in with Mike. It's all green, green, green, though the word starts feeling soft and unwieldy in his mouth.

Mike's skin is so warm that it's probably glowing and he's feeling the dimmest connection to reality when Matt comes around and strokes at his cheek. Mike's too uninhibited to feel bad about pushing into the touch. Through the fringe of his lashes, he can see Matt smile.

"I can wind down if you'd rather, but I think you can take more for me. I want to try two floggers at once. Strokes about as hard as what we've been doing, but fast. For as long as I think you can take it. How does that sound to you?"

"Green," Mike slurs. "Green, green green-green."

He can see Matt shake in a silent laugh. "Okay. You're doing so well, Mike. I'm really proud of you."

Those words settle, heavy and necessary, on Mike's shoulders, as Matt walks away after one last squeeze at his nape. Proud. It hurts and soothes in equal measure, almost too much. He's grateful when the actual pain comes back – it's so simple and straightforward. Predictable, blissfully so. Matt starts out one beat faster than their most recent pace, and it builds and builds into what feels like a solid wall of blows.

One constant, unending moment of pain, so uninterrupted, Mike can't catch his breath. When his breath starts to hitch, Matt asks for his color and he barely croaks out "green" before he starts sobbing. Like that single vocalization is all that it took to break him. He chokes back the sound but he can't calm his breathing, the big gasping heaving of breath, as wet as his eyes. His hand comes up on instinct like he can press the tears back inside, partly standing outside of himself, going What the HELL?

He's asked again, "Okay?" and he is, it's fine...except he's lost control of his emotions and his body, but that's no reason to stop, it's reason not to, maybe, so he nods, and makes a sound that's almost the right word, though it's broken in the middle and totally undignified.

He's barely aware of the flogging winding down, of the slowing of the strikes until they completely stop. He is aware of Matt's hand on his ass, and the way it makes him flinch, too much too much toomuch. And he's also aware when Matt walks around to his head, making nonsense noises and stroking his shoulders. Mike starts crying almost violently, more mortified than ever, because a few hours ago, this guy was a stranger, still is, but now he's letting Mike snot on his shirt, and Mike can't help himself and it's awful. He's never been this kind of person. Last time that he cried was when his parents....

It's interminable. He cries until it's almost physically painful to do so, until he's so very exhausted his eyes feel sealed shut. At some point, Matt brought the chair over close enough to sit down, fingers stroking through Mike's hair.

Even when he's wrung out, he can't completely stop, little afterquakes rocking him until his throat is completely raw. It takes far too long to finally fall still.

When he starts to come back to himself, he shrugs Matt's touch away, starting to experience the faintest inkling of how deeply he's going to regret that display tomorrow. "Oh God, I'm so sorry." And he sounds like a 50-year-old smoker. Awesome.

"Don't be," Matt says quietly. When Mike pushes himself upright, he reaches out to help. He stops short of making contact when Mike actively avoids it.

"That's not...I don't do that." His eyeballs hurt, like they've been scraped dry by sandpaper. He has a massive headache and his nose is stopped up with snot. And he still feels shuddery and emotional.

His ass makes contact with the leather and he hisses, climbing off of the table and letting Matt touch him when it becomes crystal clear he has the legs of a newborn foal.

"Well," Matt says eventually. "It isn't unusual, especially with people who don't normally give themselves an outlet. I'd say you needed it."

Mike huffs out a laugh without a single ounce of humor. He reaches for his clothes as soon as he has his legs beneath him. The cotton of his boxer-briefs feels coarse going on, and burns like hell even when it's simply touching his skin.

Matt doesn't stop him from putting his clothes on, but Mike's hyper-aware that he's being closely watched. Considering he was sobbing in his arms thirty seconds ago, this feels remarkably awkward. "Um. Thanks. For that."

"You're welcome," Matt says simply – Mike resents him a little for how comfortable he seems. Then again, he's not the one that just made a fool of himself. "Do you have a roommate, by any chance?"

"Um." Confused, Mike turns and looks at him while he finishes pulling his shirt over his head. "No. Why?"

"Do you have a friend, or any family, that you're comfortable seeing like this, right now?"

"No," Mike answers warily. "Why?"

"That was really intense for you. I don't think you should be alone right now. You're gonna come down hard."

Mike is firmly in the grips of the instinct to flee, at the moment, but he thinks about going home alone to his apartment, of waking up tomorrow by himself. With no one. The idea makes him ill. But that's his problem. "I'll be fine." He tries to sound like he means it. Matt looks unconvinced.

He also looks incredibly conflicted. "Look, I don't.... There's really no one?"

Mike knows it isn't meant to feel like a twisted knife, but it does. "I'm fine."

"No," Matt says flat-out. "Look, we just met, and I'm not bullshitting you when I say this isn't standard for me. But I can't in good conscience let you be alone right now. So if you can't go to family or whatever, then...let's go grab a late meal, or. I was going to say you can come over to my place, but you'd probably be better off on your own turf right now. I'll leave you be as soon as you start feeling steadier. Whether that's the middle of the night, or tomorrow."

There's a tight tangle of resentment and gratitude in his chest. Half of Mike wants to latch on to the offer and not let go, and the other half of him is bristling against it.

"I know it's kinda crazy. If it helps, it's not a come-on. There was no point in getting into it earlier, but I'm straight. We can arrange some sort of check-in with a friend of yours, or Tessa if you trust her. Or you can take her home with you, I'm sure she'd be ok with that. I'll talk to her. I just don't want you coming down from this alone."

Mike's eyes burn, but they're dry. He's probably too dehydrated to produce any more tears. He grinds the heels of his hands in, to make the feeling stop. He comes to the depressing conclusion that he's too tired to care that Matt might be a serial killer.

And hey, that faith worked out with Harvey. Mike chokes back a laugh.

"I just want to go home. Come with me if you have to, but I want to go home. But my couch sucks, and I'm not sharing my bed."

Matt grins. "Fair enough. Gimme a minute to pack up."

Mike nods, leans against the wall, and closes his eyes.

Chapter Text

It turns out that slobbering your sorrow all over a dude you just met then spending the next day ignoring him is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Mike's fairly certain it wouldn't work with anyone other than Matt, though. The guy seems to have an endless supply of patience, and Mike starts to wonder if he actually can be offended. He stops testing that theory by Saturday afternoon though, because being cranky at someone who doesn't deserve it and doesn't retaliate just ends up making him feel like a tool.

When he apologizes for being a little testy, Matt just tells him it's normal with a shrugging kind of nonchalance.

Mike doesn't kick Matt out when he starts feeling better, and Matt doesn't seem particularly eager to leave. They talk about kink – what Mike wants and what he doesn't, how Matt got into the scene and discovered what he liked, who else at the club might be a good match for Mike. What Mike should try.

They order a pizza. Mike tries to light up while they wait for it to come, and Matt actually takes the bowl out of his hands. Tells him he doesn't need to mess with his brain chemistry, more than they already have. Mike lets him, bemused. It's probably the first flat-out order Matt has given him since they met.

They eat. They play Xbox. They talk about nothing important at all.

By nine, Mike is falling asleep sitting up, despite getting a solid ten hours the night before. When Matt declares that's normal as well, Mike's perversely tempted to make outrageous statements just to find out at what point Matt will call him a freak.

Instead, he says, "Not to sound ungrateful or anything, but don't you have a life you need to be getting back to? I'm okay now, if you want to go."

Matt shrugs and looks at him. "I have stuff, but it can wait a little longer. Do you want me to leave?"

"No," he admits. He feels weird about that. But Matt stays.

*

In fact, Matt hangs out on his couch for the rest of the weekend. It should be strange, but it isn't at all, and Mike finds that he's grateful Matt stays without being asked.

Asking him to go would be far easier than asking a near-stranger to stay. He wouldn't. Couldn't. Even though Matt seems amenable to wasting a weekend on someone he just met.

By Sunday evening, Mike knows it's getting weird. He's thinking about the best way to release him when Matt stretches and yawns out, "Alright, man. I got papers to grade."

Mike blinks. They hadn't really gotten into what they do and stuff. "Wait, you're a teacher?"

Matt gives an easy grin. "What did you think I do for a living?"

"Honestly, I didn't think about it." But now that he is, it makes a lot of sense. The unshakeable thing probably comes in handy with kids. "What grade?"

"Depends on the class, but. History. Sixth and seventh."

"Jesus." Yeah. Long fuse, highly necessary. "Better you than me."

"I know, right? They're little hormone bombs. It's highly amusing. How bout you?"

"Me? Oh, uh. Paralegal." Still feels kind of weird to say that. "Working towards law school, actually."

"Better you than me," Matt echoes. They laugh. Mike follows Matt's lead when he stands up. "Alright. Thanks for putting me up all weekend."

Which is a generous interpretation of the sequence of events. "Uh, yeah. Thanks for - "

"No worries," Matt says and pulls him into a bear hug.

It's awkward on Mike's part for approximately two and a half seconds. They haven't really touched since leaving the club. Then Matt rubs his back and there's this...inexplicable shift where Matt goes from being the dude on Mike's couch to the Dom that made him bawl like a baby.

Mike melts in a way that is vaguely embarrassing. They're swaying just a little. Matt's cupping the back of his neck, and Mike is experiencing an unfortunate thrum of arousal.

"You sure you're straight? Not gonna lie, you're freaking me out a little bit. This would make a lot more sense if you were at least a little bent."

He can feel Matt laugh. "Now you sound like my ex."

"Well, that wasn't really an answer," Mike teases. When he breathes in, it smells nothing like Harvey. He feels a distant pang of loss.

"I solemnly swear my only interest in your ass is how long it's going to be until you'll let me beat it again. You gonna come by the club on Friday?"

"Yeah, probably." Mike hesitates, not sure if he's ready for a repeat of the other night, so soon. "I dunno if – "

"Naw, it's cool. I was actually going to say that you should try topping."

Huh. "Maybe." It's funny how that had never occurred to him.

"Think about it." Matt pulls back and looks him over. "Text if you need to talk before then?"

Mike's pretty sure he won't, even if he needs to. He's already imposed a lot. "I will, Mom."

Matt's mouth twitches. "You'd fit right in with my students. Be proud."

*

On Monday, Mike's still a little ginger sitting down in Harvey's office. He thinks he's hiding it exceptionally well, til he catches Harvey watching him shift around on the couch.

His cheeks heat, which only makes him belligerent. "What?"

Harvey's face reveals nothing, though it gets a little darker. It's nearly imperceptible when he shakes his head – more tension than movement, and Mike only notices because he spent nearly a year just studying him. He not only catches it, he knows what it means: it's something Harvey only does when his own thoughts annoy him in some way.

Now Mike's curiosity's piqued. He's about to ask again when Harvey says, "I have a meeting soon. You can do this at your desk."

It's not the first time Harvey's banished him from the office; the two of them are on speaking terms now, but sometimes it seems like Harvey can't send him away fast enough. But it stuns him to realize that this time, Harvey's lying. Mike's seen the calendar – there's no meeting.

It stings.

Not as badly as it would have before, though. So, score one for embarrassing catharsis. Is there any point to calling Harvey on it? Harvey clearly has no interest in having any kind of relationship. Mike wouldn't call any other boss a liar.

He gathers his things. "I should have the due diligence wrapped up for you tonight."

"Don't skip class," Harvey says without looking up. "Tomorrow is fine. The meeting's not til two."

Right. Monday – class. This weekend screwed up his perception of time. But –

Mike stops in his tracks. He turns and looks at Harvey. "I have class."

Harvey looks up, eyebrow cocked. "You forgot?"

"Why do you know I have class?"

Harvey's smirking in a way he only does when he's covering something. "My paralegal's useless to me four nights of the week. I noticed."

Mike hasn't been working evenings for months. Class doesn't change that.

Harvey doesn't move a muscle as Mike stares at him, posture and expression stuck in a studied, casual amusement. But Mike sees it – the tension underneath that.

Harvey's been keeping tabs on him this whole time. Donna's got someone in HR, maybe, or...actually, more likely, Harvey's using whoever he pulled strings with at Columbia to get Mike admitted in the first place.

A painful kind of hope starts to bloom inside his chest.

He squashes it as best he can. If Harvey's taken such great pains to hide his interest, he doesn't see how reading deeper meaning into it can lead to anything but more heartache.

"I can probably finish the diligence before I knock off for class. But if not, by noon tomorrow?"

Harvey's relief manifests in a barely perceptible shift. "That should be fine."

Mike turns away.

*

A few days later, Harvey pulls Mike into a meeting, supposedly so he's on hand to spout numbers from the licensing deal they've been working on. Their client is a doll empire, of all things, and Mike kind of wants to know how they're Harvey's client.

From what Mike has gathered, Harvey's spent his effort cultivating a relatively butch clientele. How Joy ended up on that list is somewhat of a mystery. These days, their relationship is such that Mike doesn't care to ask him.

The real reason Mike's in the meeting, he's pretty sure, is for Harvey to trot him out in front of Jessica. He's been doing that at semi-regular intervals ever since Mike blew the mock trial. Before and after the Great Month of Silence, anyway. Mike almost wishes that he'd stop – his attendance as a paralegal feels gratuitous and out of place, more often than not.

So it's probably a big faux pas that Mike's cell goes off as the meeting starts to wind down. Harvey doesn't make any secret of his annoyance. Mike knows he should care that he's once again fumbling the ball in front of Jessica, but instead he's somewhat arrested by what he sees on Caller ID.

City area code. Municipal prefix. The last four numbers are different, but the first six are burned in his brain from childhood.

As the phone number that took his parents away.

So he's not even listening to the hard time they're giving him as his heart resumes its beating and he steps into the hall.

It's not a cop on the other end, but Trevor's voice. Once he understands what his friend's saying, he's too flooded with relief to even feel annoyed.

Alive. Safe. Whole. In need of bailing out.

"I'll be right there," he says, and takes a moment to steady his knees.

*

It takes him a couple of hours to spring Trevor, all told. By the time he does, they might as well get lunch. He fully expects that Harvey's gonna rip him a new asshole either way.

Trevor's annoyingly evasive about the charges against him. Of all the things Trevor could get arrested for, hopping a bus at Port Authority – one headed out of town – is one that wouldn't've even entered Mike's mind.

Trevor tries to blow it off, say he was 'wasted,' but it's obvious he's lying. Which worries Mike. Up until now, Mike would've said that Trevor's out of the drug game. Mike believed it because he and Jenny moved out of the loft and into a shithole.

The mailroom pays him jack, and Jenny's folks cut the purse strings a while back in an attempt to encourage her to 'do something more with her life.' Trevor had been paying the lion's share of their rent with drug money.

He's been buckling down long enough that Mike is reasonably sure he means business. Mike thinks the days of dealing with Trevor's drama are over.

But maybe Trevor's tired of being short on money, of showing up at 8am for a regular boring job. Mike asks him point-blank if he's dealing again, and Trevor swears he's not, but Mike thinks he's hiding something.

He tells Trevor that if he's lying, if he's gone back, Mike's gonna cut him off; he can't get dragged into that. Trevor swears it's not a problem.

*

"What was that," Harvey demands when Mike gets back to the office. Mike's braced for his anger, and honestly, he deserves it. He left the building in the middle of the day for several hours. With no warning. No explanation.

He's expecting the anger, but to be honest, he'd been banking on one of Harvey's I don't care why you fucked up, I'm just going to tell you why it shouldn't ever happen again speeches. Being asked to account for his behavior throws him for a loop.

"I... A friend. It was an emergency."

Harvey's eyes narrow. "The kind of emergency that comes with bail? I read people, Mike," he's reminded when he flounders. "Why were they arrested?"

"Why is that your business?"

Harvey draws up in height. "Excuse me?"

"The reason I left is completely irrelevant."

Harvey's giving him the hard stare. "You're right in thinking no reason was good enough. But the details are relevant, and I'm going to tell you why: if I saw what was happening, I guarantee Jessica did as well. Is that the impression you want to make on her?"

Shit. It was bad enough that he got up for a phone call in the first place. "I'm sorry. It won't happen again."

He keeps that promise for two hours and eighteen minutes.

*

Mike is safely at his desk when the second call comes through. It's Trevor's cell this time, but Mike is due a break. He ducks into the kitchen where he can get some relative privacy.

"You ready to answer my questions now, asshole?"

"Good to know your boy is flaky with everyone, I was taking it personal."

Mike's gut turns to ice. It's not a voice he knows, but there's no way this is good. "Who is this?"

"A former employer of his. And he owes me $50,000."

One part of him's relieved at the 'former' qualifier, but most of him is chanting Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. "He doesn't have that."

"So he's said. Repeatedly, and under duress. But someone paid his bail, and that someone turns out to be you.”

"I don't have - "

"You have an hour to get down here with the money before we start taking it out on Trevor."

Mike can hear Trevor yelling in the background before the line goes dead.

Fifty thousand dollars. After the knee-jerk denial, Mike realizes he does have $50,000. It's a thought that propels him on shaky legs past his desk, down the elevator, through the lobby to the street.

Mike's never withdrawn more than a couple hundred bucks at once, but he knows you can't withdraw that much from an ATM. Or through a teller. He's going to have to speak with a bank manager, who is probably going to have questions. Mike's suit is nice but not that nice; he isn't known to them and never makes large purchases. It's a suspicious transaction, $50,000 in cash. Mike needs a story.

Fuck, they're only giving him an hour. Where do they think he keeps his money, under his friggin mattress?

"Hey! Hey, where do you think you're going?" His fucking luck that Harvey just got back from court. Mike doesn't stop until Harvey forcibly stops him. "I must be losing my mind, because I could swear we just had a conversation about you not doing this. So what is it? Two friends get thrown in jail today, or did the one manage to get arrested twice?"

Panic and irritation press in with equal force. "Neither. I don't have time for this, Harvey."

"You have time for whatever I say you do. I'm your goddamn boss."

It's getting hard to breathe. "I'm serious, Harvey – "

"So am I – "

"Then I quit." He takes a stuttering step backwards at the words, but he's wasting precious minutes. He'll fix it later, or he won't. Whatever.

Harvey grabs his arm before he can flee. He looks pissed as hell, but he's looking at Mike, actually looking right at him, for the first time in months. "Don't be an idiot. Tell me what's happening. Now."

Mike stares at him. The implicit offer's so very tempting – to hand this over to Harvey, give over this problem – and his help is sorely necessary, but Mike doesn't have time and isn't sure that he trusts him. To solve the problem, yes. To do it in a way Mike can live with, he's not so sure.

As always, Harvey's instincts are impeccable when someone's wavering on the line; he eases the iron grip but doesn't pull away, the brush of his fingers as sympathetic as his face. "You know what I am in addition to your boss? I'm your lawyer. Tell me where it hurts, Mike. I'll fix it."

Mike's seen him put on the 'I'm the guy you tell' facade more times than he can count. You'd think he'd be immune by this point, but he finds that he wants to believe the ruse. Badly.

He takes a deep breath.

"My best friend was arrested this morning trying to hop a bus out of town because apparently, he owes fifty grand to the drug traffickers he used to work for. And if I don't pay off his debt in the next hour, they're going to.... Actually, I don't even know. I don't want to find out."

Harvey stares at him so intensely that Mike thinks he's about to be skewered over his taste in friends. If he didn't approve of Mike hanging around with potheads, a dealer's probably off the list by a mile.

But he doesn't. Instead, he says, "Okay. Here's what we do..." and lays out a plan to save Trevor's ass.

*

Harvey's plan involves Mike keeping all his money, except for the cost of a Greyhound ticket to Outer Mongolia. But no matter how skeptical Harvey is when Mike says it, Trevor's turning his life around here – and frankly, Harvey doesn't have the right to make that call.

The bit about offering a down-payment-turned-retainer, though - that will get Trevor through the day with all his skin intact. And it'll buy Mike the time to get the cash to pay off his debt.

Harvey balks at that part til Mike agrees to draw up a contract making it a personal loan. With interest. He also insists that Mike print it with the retainer agreement and get Trevor to sign as soon as he's safe.

It's quicker to agree than to argue it's hardly the time.

The papers are in order within twenty minutes, thanks largely to Donna, and Ray gets the two of them to the warehouse in a little under another twenty. All told, they cut it close – even closer due to the argument that ensues when Mike wants to go in with him, and Harvey won't allow it.

Ray could easily be the one to call the police. It's bullshit, but Harvey won't back down. Mike does when it dawns on him that Harvey doesn't have any qualms about walking away and leaving Trevor to his fate.

Mike waits in the car, and watches Harvey stroll inside the warehouse like he's on his way to a late lunch meeting.

Jesus, he's gonna go in all swagger, and get both of them killed.

This is dangerous.

It's funny how that little fact didn't occur to him while they made this brilliant plan. Harvey'd laid everything out as though he'd be dealing with rational self-interest, outcome guaranteed, but that might not be the case.

Now two people Mike loves are at the mercy of assholes with guns. Awesome.

Harvey practices corporate law. How many drug traffickers does he know? Does he have any idea what he's doing in there? Mike flashes back to a bullshit lecture on the 146 ways around a gun to your head that makes him incredibly skeptical Harvey's equipped to deal with the reality of it.

Mike reaches for the door handle, and Ray eyeballs him in the rearview. It's too late to follow. The last thing he wants is to make things more dangerous.

It's only been three minutes, though it feels like forever. Mike lays his head back against the seat and breathes, staring at the fuzzy ceiling and the back side of the brake light. He occupies himself by replaying the morning. He can see, in retrospect, how scared Trevor had been at lunch, beneath the bravado, and his mind leaps immediately to Harvey's expression on the street.

Harvey had been worried. He'd missed it, at the time, distracted by his own fear and Harvey's well-practiced patter, but Harvey had been...almost scared.

And now he's inside, facing armed criminals for the well-being of someone he could care less about.

God, you utter asshole. Harvey still loves him. God, he does...which makes him such a dick. He'd have to be, to put them both through this.

Mike ruthlessly stomps back the hope from this morning, now that it's been fed. Because what's he supposed to do with that, really? Harvey could have him if he wanted him. He doesn't. End of story.

Mike realizes what a good distraction his interpersonal angst has been when he catches motion from the corner of his eye. Harvey and Trevor, whole and unharmed, are coming down the alley. They're several feet apart and they're not speaking or looking at one another, but Mike feels nothing but giddy relief.

Harvey spares him a look as he gets out of the car, already on a business call, and holds up two fingers – Mike assumes that's the number of minutes he's allowed to acknowledge the fact that his friend is still alive.

It takes somewhat less than that, because Trevor's not a hugger. He's also not someone who talks about his problems, so Mike gets a shoulder-bump of gratitude when Mike falls into step with him, then they move on to other things.

Like, "So that's Harvey, huh? I thought he'd be taller."

Mike rolls his eyes. "Stop."

"No, seriously. I could take him."

"You really couldn't. Plus, he just saved your ass, so you shouldn't."

"C'mon, he'd be scared to break a nail."

"He boxes Lennox Lewis for fun."

"For real?"

"Yeah."

"Huh." Trevor watches Harvey get in the car, looking far less impressed than he probably should be. "Whatever."

Mike bumps his shoulder again, hiding a smile. He's an idiot, but he's a really loyal idiot; apparently not even saving his life makes up for the fact that Harvey hurt Mike.

They don't hug or linger when they hit the sidewalk. A few ritualized punches and Trevor says, "Come to dinner tonight?" and Mike tells him, like always, "Only if your girlfriend's cooking," and the only concession to the day's events is that when Trevor starts walking away, Mike calls out, "Hey, try not to get arrested or kidnapped before then."

Trevor laughs over his shoulder and gives him the finger.

*

Harvey seems equally determined to avoid the topic and any expression of thanks that would normally be owed. But somewhere on the way back to Pearson Hardman, Mike slides in his two cents.

"You know, there's a word for someone who offers up their legal services at no cost, just because they like the person."

"Sucker?" Harvey guesses, busy scrolling through his email.

"That too," Mike agrees, just to see Harvey give him a look. They've been out of rhythm for a long time. Even when they do talk, it feels hopelessly stiff and fake. Successfully procuring The Look makes him warm. "But I was thinking of 'friend.'"

Harvey grunts and makes a show of being absorbed in the business on his phone, but Mike doesn't miss the twitch at the corner of his mouth.

That shouldn't be enough for Mike. And it's not.

But it's something.

Chapter Text

In the months following Trevor's near-miss with being a stat from Freakonomics, things settle into place and Mike is...happy. It isn't what he had before, but it's almost good enough. He and Harvey are in a good place, these days – they joke, they banter, they kick ass, wash, rinse, repeat.

They're a great team. There's a rhythm, and it's finally easy enough that Mike feels he can breathe. If he occasionally finds himself wanting more than what he's got...that's natural. He's made peace with the fact (mostly) that he'll always want that a little.

But he can't have it. And it's not...Mike isn't playing some stubborn game of waiting for Harvey to blink first. Maybe he was, but he's not, anymore. Mike would blink, if it would fix things. He'd set his pride aside in a heartbeat.

But he really can't give every piece of himself to Harvey, knowing that Harvey will only give Mike the parts of himself that he thinks are worth having. That's an imbalance he's not cool with. He wants all of Harvey.

Mike's greedy that way. He really always has been.

*

Despite their good rhythm, things aren't like they were Before. Harvey's more acerbic and hands-off, for one thing, and it's not that unusual for him to be moody. Mike learned to adapt to the new management style. He rolls with it, and it's working well for them.

But what Mike is seeing now isn't Harvey's new capriciousness. Over the course of a week, Harvey grows listless – distracted and humorless to a degree that is alarming. And Charles Bradley & the Menahan Street Band have been playing on a loop. The first night Mike notices, he doesn't think much of it, but then it happens again, and again, and again.

Something's wrong. Something is really, seriously wrong.

Mike is worried. He can't tell, at first, whether it's professional or personal, so he hesitates to ask. He and Harvey are good, but there are some lines Mike just can't cross any more. He strategically prods at Donna, but she gives him nothing; in fact, she clams up so tightly, it ratchets his anxiety. Is Harvey sick, or on the verge of getting fired? He doesn't think it's either of those things. He just can't imagine anything else that would cause this level of tension with both of them.

The closed-door meetings with Jessica are the first indicator that it's professional in nature. Then again, the job is personal for Harvey, more often than not. Regardless of what he pretends. The other woman Mike sees with them frequently isn't a client or another corporate lawyer – her suits are nice, but not nice enough.

Maybe some other type of lawyer, though. Public servant. Prosecutor, maybe? That doesn't make much sense to Mike. He'd know if one of their clients was in this kind of trouble. Harvey would tell him. He'd have him doing research.

Mike discards that possibility for certain when the woman leaves, and Jessica and Harvey argue. They argue to the point where Harvey actually raises his voice.

Later, Mike interrupts a stand-off with Donna in Harvey's office. He pretends not to notice, because the moment feels tense and private, and Mike has a sickening suspicion that Donna's unshed tears are genuine.

*

By Friday evening, Harvey's lost all pretense of interest in their case – an estate settlement involving a pair of sisters and a whole lot of money. Mike's in the middle of summarizing his findings, and Harvey's barely listening.

Mike isn't surprised that he interrupts before Mike's done. "I'm handing this over to Devon – I'll need you to help him find a resolution."

"Right," Mike says. He hesitates for a moment, and watches the absent but telling way that Harvey's stroking his tie. "Harvey. Is something wrong?"

He gets brief, flat eye contact. "Nothing that concerns you. Keep the Price sisters on track, and leave the rest to me."

"That's not what I...." Mike trails off when Harvey gives him a look politely demanding he drop it. And he will, in a minute, but, "I know something's wrong. What I'm asking is, are you in trouble?"

Harvey doesn't look as annoyed as Mike would expect that he's pushing for answers. Which makes it really hard to believe the certainty of his "No."

Mike thinks about digging in a little harder, but it doesn't seem like the time. Quite yet. "I'll help Devon wrap up the Price dispute for you."

"Good," Harvey says, which sounds a lot like thank you. "It'll keep til Monday."

It's a dismissal, no question about it, and Mike's already late for his evening plans. He, of all people, knows better than to try out-stubborning Harvey.

But he stops by Donna's desk, and keeps his voice low. He doesn't even try to be subtle this time. "Okay seriously...is he in trouble?"

She doesn't look up, but her cheer is heavily strained. "No more than usual."

"Yeah. Because someone would tell me if it was more than usual. No way you'd shut me out where I can be helpful. Right?"

Donna doesn't slap back at the snark in his tone; she doesn't even answer. She's a better liar than this, which means she wants to tell him. But she can't. Goddammit.

"Have a good weekend," she says after a long silence.

"Yeah. You've got my number."

*

Mike's evening plans are not a coincidence. He'd seen the writing on the wall by his lunch break on Thursday, and knew that by week's end he'd feel exactly as he does: helpless, frustrated and half-sick with concern.

So the fact that Mike is headed right where he needs to be is the result of smart planning, and a little good fortune that his friends were available.

The last couple months haven't only settled things in at work. The majority of his experimentation at the club is behind him. He blew through his list of kinks and soft limits at an almost ridiculous rate; he's not nearly done learning, but he's honed in on what he likes.

What he likes, to a surprising degree actually, is topping. He doesn't call himself a Dom, can't wrap his head around that, even, but it's surprisingly...freeing, to be the one in charge. On the one hand, it's kind of ridiculously textbook, in a pop psych way – there are too many things in his life he can't control now, and topping helps to ease that stress. But it's more than that. It requires attentiveness, empathy and...benevolence, and leaves no room for the temper that still surges up, from time to time.

It smooths out a lot of jagged edges Harvey left.

That isn't what tonight's about, though. On a practical level, he tops a lot more often because it's hard for him to trust a Dom completely. That isn't about Harvey – that kind of faith has always been hard to give, for him. Only now, he knows how good that can feel, wants that again and refuses to settle for anything less.

There are exactly two people Mike can trust that much: Matt and Tessa. They come with a constellation of awesome people that Mike genuinely likes, but they're the ones that fit him. They're the ones that make him feel safe, and loved. With Matt, it's mostly pain play; with Tessa, almost exclusively bondage. It's funny to him sometimes that he's known them such a short while, but he feels comfortable giving over to them what he used to fear the most.

It's like he's known them forever, in all the ways that count, and he doesn't want to think about what the last few months would've been like without them.

He feels some of his tension ease, just from crossing the threshold of Tessa's apartment in SoHo, a bottle of Chardonnay in hand. She hates Chardonnay, but her husband really loves it so he always brings a bottle to these things – she won't drink a drop while she's scening. At least this way, she isn't missing out on good wine.

Not that anyone waits on him for booze when he's running late. Mike gets some handsy, affectionate proof of that nearly bowling him over as soon as he's inside – Jesus, Matt is sloshed.

"He started with vodka at 4pm," Tessa says, laughing at Mike as he tries to keep them upright.

"Rough week?"

"They're back, man. They're everywhere. Like locusts. Locusts with backpacks and obnoxious fashion sense."

Mike cracks up. "That sounds terrible, seriously."

"It is. Hey, aren't you s'posed to be tied up and stuff?"

"I just got here," Mike reminds him. Matt blinks.

"Oh. Right. I was gonna split Mike-sitting duties with Tessa, but I w's tired of being a responsible adult."

"No worries, man."

"I'll still pet you though." To Mike's amusement, Matt illustrates by patting his head like a kitten. "So don't worry."

"I won't." Matt loses interest and wanders off to talk to other guests. "Wow."

"I know. To hear him talk, you'd think he's a war veteran."

Right now, Matt's recounting a fist fight he broke up after school by the buses – Mike's not sure he remembers so much scratching and hair-pulling when he was eleven. Mike shakes his head, grinning.

"You mind if I grab a shower before you truss me up?" he asks Tessa.

"Go for it. You know where the towels are?"

He does.

Mike doesn't normally make himself at home here like he does at Trevor and Jenny's, or the way he's beginning to do at Matt's. But this place has amazingly awesome water pressure. Plus, Mike's always coming straight from the office, and Tessa says she prefers when he scrubs the Lawyer off him first.

Joking. Mostly.

He takes his time today, letting the hot water clear his head. When he steps out, Tessa's actually in the bathroom, which startles him for a second. It's new. Mike has a knee-jerk fear of her husband misunderstanding – the man's built like an ox, and from what Mike's seen, a brutal top.

It's instinctive, and stupid – Paul's a nice guy, non-violent outside of a scene, and the whole plan for the night involved Mike's nudity anyhow.

But really, the discomfort isn't entirely about that. There's a layer of domestic intimacy to this context that jerks at Mike's guts, just before he gives into it. Sometimes she's so maternal with him it's embarrassing...primarily because she's smoking hot, and Mike's not that into the mommy thing, seriously.

But it's also the way she is, and Mike honestly adores her, so there's warmth warring with amusement in his chest when she holds a towel out, like Mike is five years old. "Seriously?"

She shakes the towel a little in lieu of an answer, and Mike is kind of laughing while he goes with it. He thinks he's just going to stand there and humor her, as she towels off his hair and dries him with soft, efficient strokes. But he finds himself melting. He shouldn't be surprised; Tessa is good at what she does – she knows people, and Mike swears if she and Harvey met they could probably rule the world.

Harvey.

Mike lets that thought slip away in favor of giving into the pull of subspace. Already, and he'd been concerned he couldn't get there – he takes it as an indication of how badly he needs this.

"Bad week, huh?" She pulls the towel around his shoulders like he's not a full-grown man, and hugs him. She gives great hugs. Mike sighs and sinks in shamelessly.

He nods. She doesn't ask, though he thinks he's on borrowed time with that one.

Tessa eases back and looks him over before hanging up the towel. She secures a blindfold over his eyes and takes his hand to lead him to the living room.

The blindfold is a necessity that it took them a while to hit on. Mike's not body-shy, really, at all, but he found it really difficult to be anything but self-conscious when they did this at first. Once he's actually bound, it's no longer a problem, but having a small crowd of people watching the process ended up seriously messing with Mike's zen.

It's not even him they're watching, but what she's doing to him. His body's just the canvas, or more accurately, the clay. But it's easier to find the headspace he wants to occupy if he can't see what's happening.

That doesn't mean he's unaware of their presence. He's acutely aware of where everyone's located and what they're probably doing as Tessa leads him into the living room. Paul's on the fire escape sneaking a cigarette while Matt tries to start a rehash of their argument on domination theory. Alyssa and Karen are finishing things up in the kitchen – or more accurately, Karen's finishing up, and Alyssa's probably wrapped around her from behind, impeding her progress instead of doing dishes like she's supposed to.

Mike knows that's what they're doing because it happens every time, and Karen will act annoyed when really, they're too deep into honeymoon territory for her to actually care.

Kat's by the door, having an argument over the phone - she's having an argument with her boyfriend again. Shocker.

Everyone quiets down a bit as Tessa starts building the foundational harness from cotton rope. Mike tunes out the room and focuses on the predictable pattern Tessa's weaving around his torso. He's not sure how she plans to bind him tonight, but this part is routine. It's soothing. By the time she's done, he's swaying on his feet a little, and then she backs him up to sit on the plush behemoth of an ottoman.

It's part of the obscenely comfortable living room set she's always had, but she likes to call it his now, which is mildly embarrassing.

He knows what she does for him is different than her usual. She's an artist at this, in more ways than one – somewhere she has photos of Mike on his knees, bound up in blue and face carefully framed out – so he knows that the props in her studio are designed for aesthetics, rather than comfort. She also does floor shows at the club, and while discomfort is incidental to her art – minimized when possible – at the club, it's the name of the game. Her demonstrations revolve around predicament and controlled distress.

For Mike, on the other hand, comfort is the goal, and the platform she gives him is only a small part of that. She's great at coming up with new ways to render him...snugly immobile, which Mike suspects takes more talent than any of her other work. It starts with securing Mike's arms at comfortable angles against his torso. Tonight, she settles one in the small of his back, while the other gets crossed diagonally over his chest – the angles aren't really natural, but they're not unnatural, either. She takes her time, using soft rope to pin them gently in place, and he isn't entirely sure what it looks like, but he's sure that it's beautiful.

After that, she eases him down on his side. The ottoman could seriously stand in as a bed for a very small person, but Mike, not being small, has to curl in on himself to get his limbs on board. Tessa slips a pillow, for now, under his head; he's supported from shoulder to elbow by the way his arm is angled behind his back,. The overstuffed style of the ottoman feels like heaven.

Tessa's still working the rope, binding his legs so they're tucked against his body, but Mike quickly loses track. His cooperation's no longer required, and it's easy to slip out of touch with the details of what's happening around him. It all blurs together until he's more aware of the mood of the room. Friendship, affection, people enjoying one another just for the sake of it.

The only thing that makes an impact is Tessa cradling his head, so she can remove the pillow and replace it with her leg. Mike feels the final tether to all his stress break as she starts smoothing his hair and stroking his neck.

She touches the corner of his mouth, and tells him quietly, "You're smiling." He can hear her own smile in her voice.

Everyone migrates to the living room, shortly after, and then it's not just Tessa's hands on him; lots of people are in contact, over the course of the evening. It's aimless and warm and affectionate and Mike is buoyed on it to ridiculous heights. Some he can identify easily, but for the most part, everyone blends together. It should be disconcerting, but it's oddly comforting to receive.

The volume of the conversation's muted – partly for Mike's benefit, and partly because they're eating at first. Tessa feeds Mike shish, piece by piece til he's full. They're laughing and talking around him while he soaks it in. Multiple threads of conversation that overlap, diverge, convalesce and split again. It's beautiful; he doesn't need the words. He lets them slip through his fingers without trying to grasp them.

People wander away to clear their plates and come back, disembodied voices and disembodied hands. Warmth. Scent. There are six people here, seven including himself; that never sounds like a lot til he's in it. Here and now, it feels like a thousand hands – all loving, safe, gentle. Approving. He's not even doing anything to earn it, but they give.

*

He feels fuzzy-headed the next day, but mellow. His plans include wallowing in the afterglow of the party, and maybe going shopping so he can eat. That part sounds ambitious.

When he gets the text from Donna – Harvey needs you at the office – he's dressed and out the door in twenty minutes, flat. Mike crosses paths with Donna in the lobby, on her way out.

She steals the cup from his right hand – his coffee – then puts it back with a grimace when she tastes it. "On second thought, you're gonna need that. Fix this," she demands. Like he has any idea what she's talking about. "Don't let him pull his crap this time. You stick like glue, or I'll be forced to take drastic action."

She marches off and Mike blinks, not wanting to know what that would mean. He chugs a significant amount of his coffee as the elevator carries him up to Harvey's floor.

He sees what needs to be fixed pretty quickly as he approaches the glass wall. At least, in the broad sense; Harvey clearly hasn't left the office since Mike saw him. He'd grown increasingly zombie-esque during the week, but now he looks like actual death – he's almost oatmeal colored, with purple bruises of exhaustion under his eyes.

He's a disheveled mess, which Mike didn't know was possible, and it's not just his suit – jacket shed, sleeves rolled up, shirt limp. Harvey himself is looking frayed around the edges.

And he's surrounded by boxes. Stacked everywhere. An overwhelming number of boxes, piled around him, like a grown-up lawyer fort.

"Um."

Harvey doesn't even notice Mike is there until that brilliant but perfectly legitimate introductory line. He's at the stage of exhaustion where you lose your startle reflex, though, so Mike just gets a death glare before he's dismissed. "If Donna said I want you, she lied."

Mike takes a minute to contemplate the phrasing but isn't bothered. It's dumb to take the ravings of a lunatic personally. "Actually, what she said was that you need me. I don't think you can argue that point, at the moment."

Naturally, Harvey's solution to being wrong is to ignore him, so Mike sets his stuff down (on a box) and moves more boxes to the floor so he can use a chair. "Okay. What are we working on?"

"Clifford Danner. Wrongly imprisoned for murder, twelve years ago. I've got to get him out."

Well. That's...different. Mike doesn't bother to ask what they're doing or why. "On what grounds?"

"Buried evidence."

He's not sure what they're looking for. "You already have the evidence that got buried?"

"Not really."

O-kay.... "But you're sure it's there."

"Yes, Mike."

He doesn't think Harvey even knows how little sense he's making, right now. "Give me what I need to catch up."

A file gets passed over.

"You should rest."

"I'm fine."

Mike doesn't bother arguing.

He breezes through the file and ends up with more questions than answers – the big one, Mike doesn't see anything jump out immediately from the evidence that proclaims the kid's innocence.

The one answer he does get is why Harvey even cares; he's the prosecutor of record on this case.

Mike looks up from the paperwork and finds Harvey passed out, neck craned at an awful angle. He's tense and fitful, even now, and he's going to be in serious pain when he wakes up. But Mike's pretty sure he'll startle awake if touched and he badly needs the rest.

Harvey was an ADA. Mike thought he'd known everything about Harvey's career – that his personal life was the only thing he'd been holding back – but apparently, he was wrong.

He reaches for Harvey's laptop, telling himself that he can't really help if he doesn't understand the problem. A quick Google search reveals an old Harvard newsletter snippet on Harvey from back in the day; he's hilariously baby-faced next to the trumpeting of his achievements. His clearance rate as an ADA was astonishing, and the article strongly insinuated that Harvey was on track to succeed Cameron Dennis as District Attorney.

It's not until Mike sees the name in print that several things click sharply into focus.

Recently, he read that Cameron Dennis is stepping down from his position – ostensibly to spend more time with his family, but the whole article had revolved around a whiff of scandal. Not hookers or interns, but actual prosecutorial misconduct.

Recently. As in, this morning.

Mike backtracks to the online version of article, to the name Alexandra Leeds. He finds her profile on the AG's website, unsurprised to recognize her as the one who'd been lurking around all week.

Harvey's been caught in the middle of an ethics investigation. Mike knows he wouldn't have been an active participant, but his history with Cameron, his prominent position, and his sheer pig-headed stubbornness probably brought him very close to being charged himself.

Jesus Christ.

Okay. Well. If Cameron's stepping down, the shitstorm is probably over. Harvey's clear. But of course he'd feel responsible for anyone wrongly convicted with Cameron's 'help'.

Mike mentally reviews the Clifford Danner case with a fresh outlook, and still finds nothing that yells 'innocent' to him. Most likely, something jumped out at Harvey that comes from his familiarity with the case, rather than what's on paper.

Mike spends the day and evening going through every last box. He reads all of it. And by the time Harvey wakes, he has what they need for Danner.

And six others. The worst part: these boxes only cover a single month of Harvey's tenure.

Chapter Text

Even after his bout of unconsciousness, Harvey looks like hell. Mike orders up some Chinese and makes him eat while he catches him up on his findings.

The third-party DNA on the victim's camisole should be enough for Harvey to take to the new DA. It should be enough to get him out of prison, with the leverage of the scandal, but Harvey asks Mike to secure a more concrete backup plan: he'll be spending his Sunday looking for evidence of misconduct on cases that were handled by Dennis, personally.

"Something that'll be an embarrassment to the office if it ever comes to light." Harvey pauses. "Aim for defendants less likely to recidivate, if you can. Or better yet, the ones already out of prison."

It's ten o'clock on a Saturday night. "I won't be able to access county records til Monday."

Harvey runs a hand through his unshellacked hair. "First thing, then. I'd like to talk to the DA by mid-afternoon. In the meantime, I need you to comb through the rest of these cases. On Monday, order the rest. This is only a fraction." Mike is quiet, and Harvey looks up. "You've already been through these, haven't you?"

"I think we should get through one thing at a time, Harvey."

"How many are there?" Harvey's voice is tight.

No point stalling. "Seven in this batch, including Clifford Danner."

There's a beat of utter stillness, then Harvey's shooting to his feet with a "Goddamnit" and whipping his latest 'thinking' baseball across the room, so hard that it hits the wood paneling, rebounds and cracks the plaster behind their heads.

After the dust literally settles, the room is quiet. Harvey appears to teeter on the edge of further violence before his knees go, and he lands on the couch, elbows on his knees, head in his hands.

Mike's at a loss for a moment – which doesn't stop him from noting, "Wow. You've got an arm."

Harvey lets out a strangled laugh, swears and rubs at his shoulder like some pain has caught up through his temper. "I used to pitch in high school."

"Really?" Mike's surprise is less about the fact than Harvey's sharing of it.

"Blew out my shoulder senior year. Lost my scholarship." There's something maudlin in his voice that's frankly horrifying in its utter lack of Harvitude. He doubts Harvey'll appreciate this moment once he's back to himself.

So Mike drops it. "The good news is, the other six aren't like Danner. As far as I can tell, they were all career criminals. And four of the six may have done what they were convicted of – their cases are just less clear-cut."

Harvey comes out of his hunch, relaxing at this news. "The other two?"

"I'm pretty sure they didn't do what they were accused of. But neither one of them were choir boys, and their sentences have probably already been completed."

Harvey breathes. "Okay. Okay, that's.... Put those two aside, I'll take a look at them later. I'll see about vacating the conviction from their record."

"What are we doing with the others?"

Harvey's mouth is a flat line. "Triage. Separate pile. But if it looks like they're actually guilty, we can't afford to spend the time on them."

*

Harvey's game face is firmly in place by the time he leaves to see the new District Attorney. It stays in place when Plan A fails, when Plan B fails, and it's still there when Wolf says he's seeking the maximum sentence. He exudes his usual confidence while convincing Clifford to proceed.

When Jason Black perjures himself, that doesn't shake him either.

They lose the camisole. That's when Harvey's facade starts to crack. And then Terrence Wolf blows off the DNA results proving Matt Bailey and Jason Black did it.

That's when Harvey actually loses it.

Mike watches with sick fascination as Harvey goads Danner into punching him. And for all that it serves a tactical purpose, Mike knows that Harvey wants to get hit. He thinks that he deserves it – for convicting him in the first place, and failing him at every turn.

For the first time, it occurs to Mike that Harvey's not okay. That he hasn't been okay since he shoved Mike out the door. He's not truly alarmed, though, until Harvey announces he's going to commit assault in order to clear Danner's name.

And he's serious. That's when Mike knows everything is truly fucked.

It's the way he says "What's stopping me?" when Mike begins to protest. Like there's no real problem with being sent to jail. Or failing that, the professional ramifications. They both know some rich boy's mommy and daddy won't let Harvey's misconduct go. He's acting like it doesn't matter if he's disbarred.

"Harvey, stop!" Mike grabs his arm and jerks him to a halt. "I've got another idea."

"What?"

Mike breathes easier immediately at Harvey's willingness to grab a lifeline. And he lays out his plan.

*

Harvey warms to the idea right away. It's still outside the law, still coercion, but they'll have deniability and cover. The detective's on board once they show him the lab results, and Trevor gets off on the idea of playing muscle.

Finally, something goes off without a hitch. Harvey says Terrence Wolf isn't happy, but he's getting Danner released and expunging his record.

On the day Danner gets out, they go pick him up together. While they wait outside the gates, Harvey turns to Mike and says, "I couldn't have done this without you," so plainly and sincerely that Mike can't breathe for a second. Harvey's not bothered by his lack of response; he just looks away and shakes his head. "This is why I don't get involved. I almost blew this by getting invested."

"Yeah, it's not like you had a reason, or anything."

That gets a smile, a sideways glance and an eye-roll. "Shut up."

"Can I ask you something?"

Mike takes the miniscule shrug of Harvey's shoulder as reluctant permission.

"How come you never told me you used to be an ADA?"

Harvey shifts against the bumper of the car, squinting off into the distance. "I didn't see it for a long time. I picked up on a few things here and there, but Cameron's a real smooth talker when he wants to be. I didn't want to believe it, until Donna showed me he'd been burying evidence."

"Donna was there?"

"It's how we met."

It seems like Harvey's content to leave the story there. Mike's not. "So you left. And took Donna with you. Why didn't you turn him in?"

"He put a lot of very bad people away, Mike. It would've opened the floodgates, every conviction in question. Leaving quietly seemed like the lesser of two evils."

"Okay. I get that. Why would you hide that whole part of your career?"

Harvey's quiet. "It's one of the biggest mistakes I've ever made. Look, anything I ever did, an unbiased judge would let me walk away clean. That doesn't mean I'm proud of it."

Harvey uses the timing of Clifford's release to shut the door on that topic for good.

*

It takes another couple weeks for Harvey to right the worst of Cameron's wrongs. None of them are as taxing as the first, but they still have other cases, so they're pretty much handling it all in their free time.

Free time, literally, since it's not remotely billable.

Harvey's mood doesn't lift though, even after the last of that mess is sorted. It's subtle, but he's quicker to anger. He always looks a bit tired, and his musical tastes are still tipping towards blues.

Donna keeps giving Mike looks, so he knows he's not imagining things. Mike prods at Harvey with jokes and pointed comments, but it's not like he actually expects the man to talk about his feelings. Or admit to having any in the first place.

Mike searches for a point of ingress to the problem fruitlessly. And then Harvey hands one to him on a silver platter.

Well. More accurately, Harvey pulls some bullshit so outrageous that Mike doesn't care about humoring his man-pain anymore.

*

It's a Thursday. He had plans with Matt that night – nothing serious, going out for a beer – but he cancels because Harvey's on a rampage about his associate's latest fuck-up. Devon said something really stupid to a client and managed to screw up some deal.

Which...is, honestly, the plotline of any Thursday in the history of having an associate. You'd think Harvey would stop being incensed by now.

Mike would rather be anywhere but here, playing dodge-the-collateral-damage from Harvey's wrath. He must sound bummed when he calls to cancel, because Matt stops by to surprise him with dinner.

He's only there for five minutes. Mike takes a break to do the small talk thing because well...the guy just brought him dinner and that was very awesome of him. It's in that window where business hours are over, but mostly everyone's still here. It's dinnertime. He's entitled to a break. He isn't doing anything wrong.

Unfortunately, these five minutes coincide with one of the rare occasions Harvey comes down to Mike's cubicle.

He's laughing at something that Matt just said, but that ends fast when he hears a barked-out "Mike."

There's this look on Harvey's face that makes Mike utterly forget his place on the space-time continuum. Every cell goes on alert with oh shit, I'm gonna get spanked.

Then time speeds up again, and he realizes A) Harvey's not allowed to do that now, and B) Harvey is actually glaring to Mike's left.

The Look of Doom is aimed at Matt. And Matt is looking right back, startled.

Harvey's eyes break away and land on Mike, proving he's got plenty of pissed-off to go around. "In my office. Now."

He turns on his heel and strides away. Mike swears under his breath, trying to gather up all the papers he might want for whatever needs doing. Once, of course, Harvey's through reaming him out.

He forgets Matt's even there until he nearly runs over him in his hurry to get to the stairs. They'll be faster than waiting for the elevator.

Matt looks amused. And like a couple things are clicking into place. "I didn't know that you knew Harvey."

"Yeah, he's my boss."

"Huh," Matt remarks, and studies Mike a little longer.

"Seriously, he's my boss, and apparently he's pissed. I gotta go, thanks for dinner."

Although it's sure to get cold now.

"I'll let you go. But I think it's my fault you're in trouble, so let me apologize."

"What? Why?" Mike is disconcerted by the mere suggestion.

More so when Matt hesitates. "Long story. He doesn't like me much."

Mike honestly isn't sure what to do with that. It seems incongruous that they know one another at all, much less have history. Matt's very middle class, and about as into materialism as Mike was before he had to be.

It's a sign of how curious he is that he's still standing here, when every passing second puts his ass in a sling. "The kind of story you can tell me sometime?"

"That depends. Is he really just your boss?"

Mike almost laughs, because that's a loaded question. "Kind of, not really...it's complicated."

Matt smiles wryly. "Yeah, I get that. Come over tomorrow? I can tell you about it, or you can just recharge your batteries."

Mike ducks his head at that. Matt is really good to him. "Thanks. I'll see you then."

*

Harvey's expression is downright murderous by the time Mike not-runs into his office.

"Was 'now' not clear enough for you?"

Mike feels, rather than sees, Donna close the door behind him. Batten down the hatches, it's gonna be a bad one. "I had to get the stuff you wanted."

"No, you had to flirt with your goddamn boyfriend."

Mike forces himself to calm, something that's easier these days. He puts the stack of documents he's carrying down on Harvey's desk. "Are you pissed because you think I wasn't working hard enough, or are you pissed because I have the nerve to have a personal life?"

"Are you sleeping with him?"

Mike's eyebrows shoot up. "Excuse me?"

Harvey's jaw flexes. "You heard me."

"I did. I'm just counting all the employee regulations that you've violated just by asking. But, been there, done that, right?" Harvey looks slightly chastised at that, or as chastised as Harvey is capable of being. He probably would have backed down, but Mike can't stop there. It's possible he has residual anger. "And not that it's any of your business, Harvey, but I've been sleeping with a lot of people. I'm free to do that now."

Mike's never waved a red flag at a bull, but he thinks this might be what it feels like. It's actually kind of fascinating, watching Harvey lose all his composure. That's never happened before at the office. Mike's never seen him lose it this way, at all.

Obviously he and Matt haven't actually slept together. Mike chose his words for maximum impact, but also as a careful concealment for the truth. Precision and thoroughness, Harvey. Where's yours now?

"Is he topping you?" Harvey asks. His cheeks are splotched, he's so angry. It's fascinating.

"Well," Mike says, because he doesn't know when to quit, "You know how much I like it up the - "

"You know what I mean."

"Of course I do. And the answer's yes."

He expects Harvey's rage to come to boil, but instead it blinks right out, like it's been doused. Mike can't make out what replaces it before Harvey turns towards the windows, but Harvey's voice is sure and steady when he speaks a moment later.

"I want to negotiate a new contract. I want to keep you on retainer. Five grand a month for exclusivity, not including use of any of your services."

Mike's jaw actually drops. He feels like all the air has been sucked out of the room. It's a painfully long time before he can bring himself to speak, but they're both frozen in place until he does.

"I don't whore myself out anymore, Harvey. I don't have to; thanks for that, by the way. But I'll make a counter-offer. In about six years, you can put me on retainer. I promise to screw you plenty, but at no point in time will I ever suck your dick."

Harvey doesn't move, and he doesn't speak. And Mike's just...done. "You can find everything I've already got in the papers on your desk. I'm going home. Good fucking luck with your deposition, and I swear to God, if you try and stop me, I'm reporting you to Jessica."

It's physically impossible to slam the doors at Pearson Hardman, which Mike sincerely regrets. It would feel really good, at the moment.

Chapter Text

After Mike storms out of the office, he goes home, gets baked and watches Cartoon Network. He's incapable of doing anything else. He feels sick and shaken up. He needs out of his head, asap; he needs to feel anything other than what he feels.

Pot's no longer his favorite stress relief. He'd rather have a good hard flogging, but he doesn't want to explain to Matt why he's free all of a sudden. Matt could probably guess, and the last thing Mike wants to do is talk about what happened.

He doesn't want to think about what just happened at all.

So Mike gets high and feels, if not better, then some blissful brand of nothing. It's what he needs right now. Even-keel.

Except, of course, that Harvey shows up.

The man has comically bad timing these days.

Mike opens his door and starts to close it in Harvey's face immediately, but Harvey looks guilty. Like, super guilty. The pot's making Mike feel magnanimous, but if he's getting an apology, he wants to sit back and enjoy it.

"I'm not sure showing up at your subordinate's home is a top-notch plan after being threatened with harassment charges, but you've always been a special snowflake. So please, come in."

Mike collapses on the sofa and retrieves his half-smoked joint.

"You're high," Harvey says. He looks...hilariously disapproving.

Mike laughs. "You're very observation...nate? Observational. Observationate. ...You ever have that thing where words stop sounding right?"

"I thought we had a deal."

"You suck at apologies, seriously. Also, we had a deal as a term of my employment, and that employment ended some time back."

"Pearson Hardman drug tests - "

"Yeah. Peed in the cup just yesterday. You know, I think they go with that just to make it as unpleasant as possible. You know, really twist the old knife. Not only do we think you're not adult enough to decide what goes in your body, we're also going to need you to hand us your fresh piss. It's psychological warfare, I tell you." Mike rolls his head to look at Harvey, who seems unenlightened by his insight. "I'm a big boy, Harvey, and this is none of your business. But I guess you're on a roll today."

"Maybe if you weren't making such terrible life choices - "

"Please let the door hit your ass on the way out. Better yet, wedge my boot up there first. Save me the trouble of getting off this couch."

Mike turns away from Harvey and listens to him not leave.

"I came here to apologize - "

"No shit."

"- and to say that I'm putting the paperwork in tomorrow for you to be transferred to another partner's purview. I hope my behavior doesn't prevent you from staying at Pearson Hardman, but if it does, Jessica will give you excellent references. I'll make sure of it."

Mike's a little slow to understand what's just been said. When it hits him, his heart thuds. He sits up and stares at Harvey. "You fucking...what?"

Harvey's avoiding his eyes. It's as strange to see him ashamed of himself as it was to see him lose control. "You shouldn't have to work with me, not after what I - "

"Fuck's sake, Harvey, I'm not traumatized, I'm pissed."

"I've broken - "

Mike shoots to his feet. "No, fuck you. You don't get to do this. You don't get to decide for me again and pawn me off. You don't get to fire me from another job I like. I'm not gonna lie, you fucking hurt my feelings, but I get that you're an emotionally stunted dickwad and we got past that well enough before. So get the hell out, and I'll see you on Monday. I think I need a break from your bullshit tomorrow."

"A job you liked?"

Mike blinks. "What?" He kind of thought Harvey would tuck tail after that, but he actually looks less like a whipped dog than he did before.

"I fired you from a job that you liked?"

"God, are you kidding me?" Mike feels a laugh bubble up, almost hysterical. "Now you want to talk about this?"

Harvey isn't listening. He's studying Mike with a look he hasn't worn in a very long time. Seeing it again burns the air in Mike's lungs.

"Is he giving you what you need?"

Every time Mike thinks he's prepared for a sucker punch, Harvey manages to get past his defenses.

"Please go."

Harvey nods and backs off, literally. "Yeah, I'm. I shouldn't...I'm going. But I want you to know, I really am sorry. I've handled everything...badly." Mike snorts at the massive understatement and fiddles with his lighter. His chest is crammed tight with too many emotions. "Really badly. But that was. I was. I'm ashamed of myself for even thinking I could do that."

Hearing Harvey admit his own fuckery, even as stilted and minimal as this, makes Mike actually hurt. The pain's not entirely bad; it's good, actually. It's what he's been needing, so in a way, it's really good. Except Harvey sounds so hopeless, and that makes it...hard.

Harvey shifts off to his right, and Mike realizes how long it's been silent. "I know. And I'll forgive you, eventually. Just." Not right now. It's still stuck in his throat. "I'll see you Monday."

Harvey nods and goes.

Mike drags air into his lungs. One thing's sure: his fucking buzz is gone.

*

He shows up the next evening, exhausted and wrung out on Matt's doorstep. He barely slept after Harvey left and worked almost manically for all the other partners, trying to keep from thinking too much.

Mike can only imagine what kind of warmed-over shit he looks like, so when Matt opens his door and grimaces, he figures that it's fair.

When they're settled on the couch, Matt gives him a look that makes him groan. He forgets, sometimes...Matt's a really smart guy – not a genius, but he's fucking perceptive.

"I was surprised about you and Harvey because I thought he'd left the scene." Mike knows where it's going despite the casual tone. "But then I realized, he's not in the scene, not really. That's not how you know him."

Matt, as far as he knows, doesn't have a Look of Doom like Harvey. Just one of Infinite Patience, and Mike finds it almost as scary. He resists for roughly ten seconds before sighing. "Matt."

"I know, you can't tell me. But...am I wrong that it stopped being just business? Or, I mean, if he's harassing you - "

Mike barks out a laugh. "No, okay? It's not that kind of problem."

"I didn't think so. I just wanted to be sure."

"Yeah. I appreciate it. Look, I just. I need you to tell me what the hell happened. Harvey was...." There isn't a strong enough word. "...livid, at the thought of me subbing for you."

"Yeah, I'm not surprised. I probably could have prepared you better." Matt rubs at his eye, looking uncharacteristically tired. "Look, the thing is, I don't know the whole story. Only from the outside."

Mike frowns. "I thought you were involved?"

"Kind of. Only after, and mostly in Harvey's mind. I mean, I never took it personal. He was still in love with Dana, so he needed to be pissed at someone, you know?"

He's trying to. "Dana. Wait...Dana Scott?"

"Yeah. She and Harvey were an item. Actually, they almost got married. As in, she left him five days before the wedding."

Mike sits up. "What?"

It's such a strange thing to reconcile that Mike struggles for a minute. For one, he balks at the idea of Harvey being married. That's just his personal feelings getting in the way, though, and once he gets past them...ok, Mike knows Dana – not as well as he could, maybe, since she spends most of her time in London, but – he just can't see it. She and her fiancé – husband now – are so right together, they're one person in his mind. Obviously they weren't born married, but. Dana and Steve (Steve'n'Dana) are into serious pain play. Serious, as in, don't-try-this-at-home, no-amount-of-love-or-money shit that Mike will never try. With Harvey, pain had mostly been about punishment, and relatively mild for being that.

Plus, now that he's thinking about it, they'd probably end up killing each other. They're of a type, prickly and driven. Dana's husband is so mellow he makes Matt look high-strung.

"Yeah, I know," Matt says at his bafflement. "They don't seem very suited...and they weren't, I don't think. That was the problem. But they were college sweethearts or something, came into the scene together, and he'd collared her already. Then he gave her the ring. I never knew him that well but I think in his mind, that was it, you know? The wedding was formality for him."

Ouch. Jesus. That thought isn't entirely empathy for Harvey. Imagining him being all-in for someone (else) is...Mike doesn't realize he's rubbing over his sternum til he sees that Matt is watching.

He hastily drops his hand. "Where do you factor in, exactly?"

"She wanted to experiment more with pain. Obviously she worked up to where she's at now, but even then, she'd hit a point where Harvey wasn't having it. She wanted someone safe to play with; she'd already ended it with him...I wasn't gonna say no. We actually didn't work together all that long, but Harvey'd already stopped coming to the club by then."

There's another thought that boggles Mike's mind. "He used to go to the club?"

"Yeah. I'm pretty sure that was more her doing, but either way, he stopped not long after they broke up. Things got ugly. He came to talk to her one night, trying to get her back, and that pretty much ended with Scotty screaming that he didn't want a sub, he wanted a cross between a pet and a Stepford wife. This was like, on the floor, when the place was packed. People laughed."

Mike pulls in a breath. "Oh, shit."

"Yeah, not cool. But you know how people are. Plenty of people had been saying that behind his back for a long time."

Mike nods absently. He's always known that Harvey was...unusual, but now Mike's familiar enough with the culture to know how he'd be perceived. He can't imagine Harvey would react well at all to being thought soft or 'playing at it,' or whatever. And to actually be laughed at, by someone he loved....

Something notches into place and Mike's heart stops. "Did you say 'Scotty'? Scotty screamed at him on the floor?"

"Oh. Uh. Yeah, I guess I did. She doesn't go by that anymore, but back then...actually, I think it's what Harvey called her. That's probably why she ditched it."

Oh, shit. Shit. He'd known that Dana was a lawyer, in that vague osmotic way, but. She's Scotty. They went to Harvard Law together. That week...that week that Mike lost the mock trial, Harvey was distracted because he'd seen her. Worked against her. Almost gotten double-crossed, because she knew him so well. A fucking understatement – they almost got married.

No wonder he'd been acting so strange.

"Hey." A hand squeezes the back of his neck, and Mike opens his eyes. He hadn't even known he'd shut them. Matt is watching him. "You need some time tonight?"

Mike's head is fucking spinning. The worst part is...what does he do with this information? It doesn't change anything. It shouldn't, anyway. It doesn't excuse the bullshit that Harvey....

Mike can't be mad at him. He wants to be. But he can't. Which makes him mad at himself. And tired.

"Yeah. Please. I'm sorry."

Mike knows damn well that Matt gets nothing out of this. He does it as a friend. And possibly some sense of obligation, not wanting Mike to go without.

"No worries. Guess I know who I stand in for now."

His smile's crooked but not forced. Mike feels drained, and unbearably sad. He slides off the couch and presses his head to one of Matt's knees; Matt turns on the tv, carding his fingers against Mike's scalp.

It always brings a little relief...that's why he does it. But at the same time, it also hollows him out. Guts him. Because it isn't the same. It'll never be Harvey. And he doesn't understand how he needs this so much.

He doesn't understand how he still loves Harvey so much. Hearing a story of relatively mundane heartbreak wouldn't break his own heart all over again if he didn't.

It's bullshit. Serious bullshit. He doesn't want to feel this way anymore.

Matt sighs, five minutes into his fidgeting. Mike's been getting more agitated, the more he tries to let go.

"What are we gonna do with you, Mike?" It's that same quiet sadness that Harvey had the day he kicked him out. Oh, kid. You didn't do anything wrong. Mike turns his face harder into Matt's leg, with a breathless fuck. "Okay," Matt says, like a question's been answered. "You want a flogging?"

Mike thinks about it for a minute; he needs contact too badly. He wants a lap. He wants... "Paddle, actually. Please."

"Okay." He doesn't move though; Mike tries to calm his breathing. "You're gonna be just fine."

Mike laughs. "Fucking liar."

"Okay," Matt says easily. "You're not gonna be fine. You're going to die alone and unloved, with a shriveled raisin where your heart should be. Sound better?"

"God, fuck you," Mike groans out. "You're supposed to be on my side."

Matt huffs out a laugh and says nothing, which translates roughly to 'stop being a thirteen-year-old drama queen, Mike, I get enough of that shit at work.'

"He's supposed to be on my side," Mike mutters. Matt's hand is simply resting on his neck, at this point, and it's almost.... Fucking Harvey. He is on Mike's side. Fucking jackass. "I'm so pissed at him."

"Yeah," Matt says. "You should probably try to get over that."

"Why?" Mike shoots back. He's unsurprised when the heavily implied 'fuck that' rolls right off Matt.

"Because it's completely pointless to go back unless you do."

Something breaks loose in Mike's chest at the assumption that he wants to, that he will. That's the thought he hasn't had the nerve to voice in his own head, and Matt's tacit approval floods his mind with relief. It's not a permission thing – Matt's been playing Dom for him, but that's what it's been: playing. A temporary exercise where his authority has very specific boundaries. It's never been like Harvey, where things tended to bleed over. And Mike liked it when they did.

He doesn't need Matt's permission, on any level, really. It's comforting, though, that he's not against the idea. He and Matt are alike in so many ways, only Matt got his shit together at a much younger age – sometimes it seems possible he was born with a life plan. It's occasionally annoying, but he's an excellent balance for Trevor.

He trusts Matt's judgment. Not that he'll say that. "You know what nobody likes? A know-it-all."

"Tell that to the mirror."

"I've tried. I end up just staring at my own reflection."

Matt snorts out a laugh. "Ugh, I'll be so glad when you're not my problem anymore."

He's full of shit, so Mike smiles. "You'll cry yourself to sleep every night, don't lie."

"Yeah, I'm gonna sob like a little girl that I might finally have a chance to get laid."

"Hey man, I offered, you're the one - " He cracks up when Matt smacks the back of his head. Any attraction he might've felt early on has long since faded into something worn and comfortable. He just likes giving Matt shit about it. It distracts nicely from the pit forming in his stomach "I'm not sure I can fix this, though. With Harvey. He's stubborn."

"You'll figure something out," Matt says, like it's foregone. He squeezes Mike's shoulder. "Go get that paddle."

*

Mike does figure something out, overnight. Literally, in his sleep. It's probably not a solution that would get Matt's approval, but it's one that will work.

It's all he can do not to rush straight to Harvey's. Not even just in eagerness to put the plan in action, but simply to share. Harvey's the only one that would get it, and not think Mike was fucked in the head.

Mike isn't feeling like he's fucked in the head. He feels amazing, and sure of himself, like he's found the buried lynchpin for a huge, intractable case.

But by now, he has enough experience with that kind of high to rein himself in and build on it properly. Harvey stopped entertaining his unsupported ideas months ago, and the stakes this time are higher than some random lawsuit.

Mike spends the rest of the weekend getting the details pinned down and refining his approach for closing Harvey. But he feels it in his bones from the beginning: it's a lock.

Chapter Text

Within 48 hours, Mike has everything he needs to put his plan in motion. But he waits. He waits because there's no way that he's closing Harvey Specter while Harvey's guard is up – or, more up than usual. On Monday, Harvey's obviously wary of fallout; now is not the time to essentially reverse Thursday's 'fuck you.'

Which...is another thing. Harvey doesn't need to know he's forgiven, quite yet. It's not as if he deserves it. It's not as if what Mike has learned absolves Harvey of being an asshole – it doesn't. But the forgiveness happened anyway, entirely without Mike's permission. He's apparently just that generous.

In reality, Mike suspects it has more to do with his probably-unhealthy willingness to overlook emotional stunting in his loved ones. See: Trevor, 1988-present.

The real point is, waiting it out is a tactical advantage. Mike doesn't do as well at pretending everything is fine, but Harvey seems to attribute the awkwardness to their recent butting of heads. He thinks Mike's holding a grudge, and he's taking that like he deserves it. The guilt will soften him up some, and give Mike the element of surprise. Which is good. He anticipates a certain amount of balking on Harvey's part.

There may actually be a Plan B in Mike's pocket involving a blackmail, the benevolent kind that would be for Harvey's own good. Mike has to admit it's all sounding Machiavellian, but – this is probably Harvey's influence – he's just fine with that. Once the dust settles, he knows Harvey will be, too.

Mike is perfectly fine with his plan, right until he's standing outside Harvey's door. Because that's the best time to experience a fit of nerves.

There are so many ways this could go wrong. Harvey might refuse to let him into the condo. He might be entertaining someone else right now. He might refuse Mike's proposal. He might accept, only for them to find out it's too late. What if everything's different, in a bad way? What if things are too weird or Harvey's too guarded or Mike can't fully trust him or. What if everything is perfect, and Mike thinks it's forever, and then Harvey freaks the fuck out again and shuts down and leaves him....

Mike clamps down hard on the panic spiral and breathes. He rolls his shoulders and shakes it off. He puts his game-face on, and then he knocks on Harvey's door.

There's a blip of surprise when Harvey opens up and sees him. Mike hasn't been here since...well. The last time Mike was actually here, he thought everything between them was fine; Mike looks over Harvey's shoulder and realizes the apartment exists in a bubble for him, untouched by the last few months entirely. It's both reassuring and surreal. Banal time-travel.

"Mike," Harvey says sharply; then he spaces out his question like he's asked it more than once. "Why are you here?"

"I'm here to go over a contract."

Mike buries a smirk when Harvey relaxes. "If you finished the thing for Ludeman already, you could've left it on my desk. It wasn't time-sensitive."

"Not for Ludeman."

Harvey frowns, visibly reviewing their caseload. "Who?"

"Specter and Ross."

If he's going to shut the door in Mike's face, it would be now. Mike gets a hard stare, and where most people would see an attempt at intimidation, Mike knows it's Harvey's stalling face, that his little ambush was successful. Harvey's trying to cover what he's feeling – Mike can only guess it's some mixture of disbelief, shock, and confusion, but any one of those things could make him retreat. So when Harvey's expression becomes more calculating, Mike preempts it before he can rally.

"You're gonna listen to everything I have to say. Before you speak."

"Why should I?"

"Because you owe me. You owe me the consideration of hearing me out."

Harvey's expression is tight, but he steps aside to let Mike in. He settles on the sofa, but not until after Mike takes an armchair.

Mike's put a lot of thought into the best way to approach this. He's leveraged everything he's learned – both from Harvey and about him – to construct a proposal Harvey won't say no to. Part of that is fronting like he's not shit-scared right now. But he is. His heart is pounding and his palms are sweaty and he's shaking just a little with adrenalin. Because Harvey could say no. And maybe Mike forgot something. Maybe there's some flaw he's not seeing that will cause his plan to fail. There was no one he trusted to help him with the details. No one that would get it.

He's been silent too long, and it's actually making Harvey restless; he appears completely at ease, but Mike can see the discomfort in the way he holds himself. Having the upper hand gives Mike a boost, and he sounds completely steady when he begins.

"An interesting thing happened when I told Human Resources I wanted to go back to school full-time," Mike begins. The beat of silence that follows is longer than he intended for effect, because Harvey stiffens, and Mike feels utterly dizzy with relief. Everything rested on this first bluff. "Yeah. I talked to HR. It was a new girl, and I'm guessing that's the only reason I found out what you'd done. Janice wasn't there to cover with the story Donna gave her. Right?"

"Mike - "

"You didn't pull strings with Jessica to get my educational benefits early. You paid everything yourself. I thought it was weird when they didn't mind shelling out for additional credits, I just didn't want to question it. And I was so pissed off at you at the time."

"Look, they will cover it, starting in January. It was temporary - "

"I want to start going full-time," Mike repeats. Because really, Harvey's just confirming what he suspected. "I want to get my Bachelor's knocked out. And they're not going to cover anything if I give notice. Right?"

"No. But I will. We can make it a loan - "

"What if I don't want that kind of debt?" Mike interrupts. "It's a lot of money, Harvey. At least two more years at Columbia, including summer sessions, that's, what...$150,000 easy, just tuition and books. Then Harvard Law for three years – at least another two hundred. Add on living expenses and tuition hikes. And on top of all that, I'll have Gram's expenses. If I'm lucky, she'll live long enough to see me get my JD. What if I don't want to owe you, or anyone, over half a million dollars when it's all said and done?"

To tell the truth, he doesn't give a rat's ass about a personal loan from Harvey – he knows what kind of salary he'll earn at the end of it, and he imagines Harvey would give him a criminally low interest rate. If he charges one at all.

But as an excuse, it's apparently plausible. By the time Mike's done speaking, Harvey's sitting forward in his seat, eyes intense. Mike's breathing easier. "You'll be able to pay it back. I know it sounds impossible right now, but you will. Faster than you'd expect. I know how scary those numbers are. But it's worth it."

Mike scratches his neck like he's less than convinced. "Maybe for somebody whose parents can afford it. Or someone who's only responsible for themselves. But I have a dependent."

"And she'll be taken care of. We'll find terms that you can live with."

"What if I don't want that, though? I've thought about this a lot; there aren't any terms for a loan that would work for me. What if I want something else instead?"

Harvey doesn't pretend to misunderstand where Mike is going with this. "No. Absolutely not. It's a bad idea, not to mention completely unnecessary. Hell, Mike, you're gonna make the firm so much money, I'll pay for your BA - "

"Harvey,” Mike interrupts. "Listen to me. That's not what I want."

Harvey falters. Mike never thought the money angle would yield an agreement; whatever drove Harvey to hire him in the first place, he's not the kind of man that's going to pick this back up just because of financial need. Now that he knows Mike. Now that he loves him. Mike personally has no qualms about taking Harvey's money – he'll pay Harvey back, one way or another. He's a damn good investment, because no one wants this more. But the money, the contract, is secondary. A means to an end, on multiple levels.

The first one being a way to jump-start this conversation; Mike suspects at this point, Harvey would only entertain the idea long enough to argue against it. Mike dangled an option that Harvey could balk at, and he took the bait beautifully. Now it's time for the switch.

"What do you want, Mike?"

He takes the contract out of his bag. "This."

Mike could almost laugh at the look Harvey gives the alligator-clipped bundle. He takes it only after Mike gives it an impatient shake.

It's difficult to remain still and silent with electric near-success in his veins, but Mike bears down as Harvey reviews the terms. He can't blow this now.

Harvey's expression has reverted to his legal poker face, but Mike can tell from careful study when Harvey comes across each of the salient details. He'd largely used their original contract, but there are a number of deliberate and significant departures.

...agrees to be available to the Dom at all times, on the condition that it doesn't interfere with academic and familial obligations...
...for a term of three years...
...shall provide room and board...
...not subject to termination by either party, outside of the emergency provisions in Section C...

"This is what you want," Harvey says, long after he's finished reading it over. He's been staring at it, thinking, and Mike has been careful to let him. It's not phrased like a question, but once he looks up, it's painfully clear by his face that it is one.

"Yes."

Mike restrains himself from saying any more. He's done everything he could think of to show he's all-in, with that contract. The allowances for termination are limited to abuse; even those exist only because Harvey would insist on it. Mike's giving up his place, he's moving in with Harvey, putting no restrictions whatsoever on their time together. There are provisions for mutual power of attorney, including medical proxy. There are provisions for mutual access to finances. In practical terms, Mike's all but married them for three years.

And the only reason the contract comes up for renewal that soon is because he didn't think Harvey would agree to anything longer. Yet.

It is, without a doubt, completely batshit crazy, going from zero to warp speed at the flick of a switch. And it's absolutely what he wants.

The contract ended up becoming something of an ouroboros – primarily constructed to reassure Harvey, hidden under the guise of providing protection for Mike. It wasn't until he was proofing the final version that he realized that part's not a total ruse.

Mike needs concrete proof that Harvey's committed. For now.

And while it's not exactly healthy to contractually obligate one another to stay, Mike thinks it works for them as a stop-gap. It'll get them out of this horrible lose-lose standoff.

Harvey's gone back to staring at the contract. "Mike, you don't need - "

"That contract's exactly what I want, exactly how I want it," he says deliberately. "And it's what you want, too. I think you'll find I extended the disclosure agreement to apply to both of us this time. Not just me."

"Yes, I saw that." There's almost a smile. Mike had stooped to the legalese equivalent of bitch-slapping on that point. The gist is that when Mike asks a question, Harvey has to answer him...eventually. It's only fair, and Mike can't do this without it.

But Harvey falls silent so long that Mike starts getting nervous. "That doesn't mean...look, I'm not going to push you to tell me things you're not ready to. I just can't have the answer continue being it's none of my business. It is my business, and I need to know that you'll try." Mike is building up steam when Harvey cuts in.

"That's not the...I can't sign this without serious changes to the termination clause."

Mike's organs go through a sickening lurch at that sentence: a free-fall at 'I can't sign this,' only to rebound at the implication that Harvey's signing with revisions...and then he registers the totality of Harvey's statement and everything in him plummets. The termination clause welds the escape hatch closed for both of them. And they both need that. "Non-negotiable. It stays."

Harvey is visibly frustrated. "Mike. I'm not going to sign something that stops you from leaving when you want to."

Oh, for fuck's sake. You try to do something nice for a guy. "Maybe it isn't about you, Harvey. Maybe I need to know you can't yank the rug out from under me. Again. You gave me all that shit about how you were responsible for me and then I was out of your life in the space of a business day. Literally. It gave me fucking whip-lash."

"I..panicked. That won't happen again."

Harvey Specter, admitting to panic; if only they were recording this conversation. "So you shouldn't mind putting it in writing for me, then."

"I'm fine with that. It doesn't need to be mutually binding, is what I'm saying. I'm uncomfortable - "

And ok, Mike's starting to find this amusing. "You realize it's not enforceable? I mean, you realize that one of us would have to bring it before a judge, or at the very least an arbitrator, and neither of us would ever do that? Do you think I believe that you'll drag me to court?"

"You should know better than to sign anything in the hopes that you won't be held liable - "

Harvey's mouth is pressed into a thin, endearing line, and Mike can't help it. He bursts out laughing. The relief that Harvey's on board, combined with the utter ridiculousness on the detail he's arguing, brings the joy bubbling out . Once he starts, Mike can't stop. This is the start of a relationship, and it's so fucking typical that he's getting lectured on liability. And the look on Harvey's face once realizes what he's doing – once he realizes he's in Mentor Mode over a document that provisions for collars and cock cages...it's too fucking much.

Mike is wiping tears from his eyes by the time he winds down, and Harvey's trying his best to muster the indignation of a wet cat. But he's too happy to pull that off, and it's obvious. "God, Harvey, just sign the fucking contract," Mike orders, still choking.

Harvey smiles a little, then picks up a pen and signs with a flourish; the last of Mike's laughter dies – his chest is too tight. Harvey's face is soft as he sets the papers aside.

They look at one another across the space that separates them.

Mike would've thought the hardest part was out of the way already – Harvey signed, he agreed, and honestly, Mike didn't lean as hard as he thought he'd have to. Harvey wants this. He wants it, and he grabbed it as soon as he knew it was mutual.

It shouldn't be hard, after that, to go over there and touch him. To climb in Harvey's lap. But it is. It's scarier than it really ought to be.

So instead, Mike gets up, and settles next to Harvey, twisted towards him so he can use the sofa table to cosign.

Harvey stops his hand. "Don't sign it, yet."

Mike checks Harvey's signature. "You did."

"You needed it. You deserve to get that from me. But if we're going to leave the termination clause the way it is, just...stay this weekend. Then sign."

It sends a little thrill down his spine, hearing Harvey ask him to stay. It's momentarily distracting, though the timing of this at the week's end was deliberate.

Warmer, he forces himself to focus on the rest. "You think I need a second trial period?"

"Something like that."

Mike studies him. "You think I'm going to change my mind?"

Harvey shrugs. Because he apparently can't bring himself to say 'yes' or 'maybe,' even though that's what he means. It's all over his face.

Mike takes a breath, and puts down the pen. It's ludicrous, but the point of this exercise was to give Harvey reassurance. "I won't change my mind. But I'll wait."

"Thank you." Harvey seems to realize that he's still holding Mike's wrist, and lets go. "Have you eaten?"

"No." He'd been too nervous for lunch, much less dinner.

"Me either. Mediterranean? There's a new place."

"What happened to - "

"Closed down."

Mike called that. "God, please tell me it wasn't health code violations."

Harvey shrugs. "This place is better. Except the hummus, so I skip it."

It's like they've fallen six months back in time. It's surreal. "Ok. Mind if I grab a beer while you order?"

Harvey's already pulling out his phone. "Usual?"

"Yeah. You want one?"

"Sure, thanks."

Mike doesn't want a beer, so much as he wants...a moment. This is both weird and not-weird. Too easy and simultaneously, painfully awkward. He takes his time scoping the contents of Harvey's fridge, which are typical, then pops the top off both longnecks before he makes his way back.

Harvey's finished with the phone call when Mike returns to his spot. Mike's acutely aware of their body language in the silence, angled towards one another but lined with uneasiness. He wonders how long until they're back in step.

Harvey's hand moves from the sofa back to settle on Mike's nape, and it takes a few seconds for them to relax into it.

Harvey studies him as he pulls on his beer, and Mike realizes that the space he took allowed Harvey to regroup as well. All traces of hesitance and guilt are gone, like he's packed them away...but there's something about his expression that makes Mike uncomfortable.

Harvey seems ready to take control of this conversation, but Mike isn't certain he's ready to relinquish it.

"I've got to be honest, Mike, I thought you'd moved on." Harvey's voice is soft, but the hurt Mike knows he would've felt over that is firmly tucked away. It's a deliberately neutral statement, an invitation to a topic that Mike would rather put off, because there's no good outcome that he can foresee. Either Harvey shows his jealousy and they end up having an argument, or Harvey behaves reasonably and Mike gets frustrated and paranoid that he doesn't care. It's too soon to do this. If they can just wait til they're on firmer ground.... "Mike."

No waiting, then. He keeps his voice light. "Well. Since he and I are friends, I should probably mention: I never slept with Matt. I pretty much said that to piss you off."

Harvey's mouth forms a small but genuine smile. "It worked. A little too well." Mike laughs, and Harvey's mouth curves a little bit more. He shakes his head. "Anyway, that's not what I meant. Long before that, I heard you were becoming a regular at the club."

"You heard?"

Harvey's eyes flick away. "Not on purpose. School was one thing, but I wouldn't have invaded your privacy that way."

Mike's not sure it would've bothered him if he had. Which is fucked, in a way, but what's new? "So how...."

Harvey pulls a face. "Louis called to bitch me out."

Mike is mildly horrified. "Are you serious? What a tool."

"He always has been."

Mike latches onto the sidebar with both hands. "How do you know him, anyway?"

Harvey slides him a look that makes it plain he's onto Mike. But he indulges the subject change for now, smiling. "I never told you? You're gonna love this."

"Then quit milking it and tell me."

"We were associates together."

Mike straightens. No. "At Pearson Hardman?"

Harvey's teeth flash white, almost laughing. "Yeah."

"You're putting me on. You're totally fucking with me!"

"Hand to God." Harvey takes his hand off of Mike to swear in a little vow. He's grinning. Mike warms all over when Harvey can't keep his hand off him, running it through Mike's hair. "He tried to depose a key witness by himself and the guy had an aneurysm. An actual aneurysm. He died."

"Oh my God, Harvey! That's not funny." But Mike is laughing with him. They're both terrible people.

"I know, it isn't, but still. Only Louis."

"So he was fired."

"Damn right, he was fired. He was a first year. Jessica nearly had an aneurysm herself. She'd been Managing Partner for maybe a month, and her associate killed a guy."

"Oh my God, that's totally unreal." Mike feels lit up from the inside and it has nothing to do with Louis. "So how'd he end up...."

Harvey makes a gesture of disinterest. "I don't know, it triggered some kind of quarter-life crisis. His whole family's full of lawyers."

"He couldn't just work at another firm?"

"He probably could have, with his connections, but he didn't. Actually, I have no idea what he told his family.”

"Right, I guess that's kind of a difficult career change to explain." Mike isn't half as interested in Louis' story as he is in sharing something easy with Harvey. He thinks that Harvey feels the same. A silent agreement to indulge in small talk. They've never bothered before, and it occurs to Mike that it's making this feel like a first date, which is both appropriate and ridiculous. "But how did he actually end up...."

"God only knows. As far as I can tell, his inability to find a voluntary sub destroyed what little was left of his sanity. Pretty sure he bought the place expecting everyone to trip over themselves for him."

Mike gets a mental image of Louis topping that makes him recoil. Even if he were attractive, the personality kind of kills it. "God, who'd sub for Louis?"

"Exactly. And thus, a niche was born. He wouldn't shut up for weeks about how outrageous it was that Doms could be hired but he was shit out of luck, and then next thing I know, he's running an escort service out of the club."

"Wait, back up, he owns that place?" Mike had been so distracted by thoughts of Louis in a leather harness that he'd missed that part entirely.

Harvey gives him a look. "His business is based there. You didn't know he owned it?"

"I never thought about it." But now that he is.... "I always wondered how the prices were so reasonable."

"It breaks even if he's lucky; he makes a profit from the sideline. Not that he needs it, the man's loaded."

"How do you know all this?"

"I represent him from time to time."

Mike feels like he's wandered into the Twilight Zone. This is so fucking bizarre. "You represent...for the club, I'm assuming. Because the other thing - " Mike thinks about it for a minute. "No wonder all his contracts were so air-tight. Did he write those, or...?"

"He did. He's never needed me for the escort business, though I could, theoretically, if he wanted. It runs above board. Or at least, well enough that he's insulated from prosecution. That I did verify, before I'd consult on the club."

"It's funny because I always thought his contracts and his business model were...admirable's the wrong word, but they are, in a weird way. It's one of the reasons I actually took the gig."

Harvey looks supremely amused as he tips back the last of his beer. "Yeah, Louis really found his calling, there."

They both fall quiet for a moment; Mike finishes up his beer. "Okay, let's not talk about Louis any more."

Harvey smirks. "You started it."

His phone rings – the door man, calling to say the delivery's there. Harvey meets the guy at the door while Mike gets forks – Harvey loathes the little plastic ones. He doesn't bother with dishes; he grabs two more beers. By the time they're back on the sofa, eating out of Styrofoam and stealing one another's food, Mike's realizes how well the Louis thing broke the ice. The silence is comfortable as they gorge on kebab and schawarma.

"So," Harvey says as they're finishing up dinner. "What did you learn, subbing for other people?"

Mike's on the verge of making a smartass comment around a mouthful of rice and chickpeas when Harvey tips his chin up so Mike meets his eyes. He looks intent and determined; the reprieve is apparently over.

Harvey doesn't object when Mike looks back down at his fork picking its way through his remaining food. Eventually, he settles on, "I actually topped more than anything."

"Did you?" Mike looks up at Harvey's tone, somehow both surprised and not. Apparently deciding that he's done, Harvey sets his food aside, settling in and turning his full focus on Mike. He smiles a little, tracing Mike's jaw with his thumb. "How was that?"

"I enjoyed it."

Harvey studies his face. "I bet you're good at it."

"I kinda am, actually."

Harvey doesn't seem nearly as surprised as Mike himself was. His hand falls away as Mike bends to put his carton on the coffee table.

"Did you like it more than subbing? Is that why you did it more?"

"No." It's calming in some ways, how open Harvey sounds to whatever Mike's answer is, but Mike sees what he's doing. He's making sure they're still compatible. It's reassuring in its necessity, but just a little bit painful, and even knowing that they still are, Mike doesn't want to discuss it. "It was just...easier. I didn't miss you as much. I missed you all the time, but especially...."

"C'mere," Harvey murmurs after a moment. He pulls Mike into his lap, shifting so that they're reclining back against the couch, and Mike's throat gets tight with how much he missed this. He tucks his face into Harvey's throat and Harvey smells exactly the same, wrapped around him, running his hand up and down Mike's back.

"I missed you too," Harvey tells him a few moments later; there's hardly any breath behind it, like it hurts to say it too loud.

Mike looks up, and pushes in for a kiss.

It's just a simple press of mouths, eyes open and too close, long enough to feel a puff of air from Harvey's nose on his cheek as he exhales. And then Harvey makes this sound in his throat – cups Mike's face in both hands and mumbles, "I really did," and there's enough of a desperate edge to his voice that Mike feels the need to sooth him a little, touch his chest and nod as Harvey kisses him back.

It's frenetic, a bit restless like Harvey's cramming six months in at once, and Mike's frustrated but not surprised when he feels Harvey decide to reel himself in.

Because...this is Harvey, who hates showing weakness. And Mike feels a perverse swell of affection, because he'll probably never bare his belly often or for long, but when he does, it's for Mike. He's the one that gets this part of Harvey. The only one.

Mike's not sure that's a good thing – but right now, it feels pretty awesome.

"You're smiling," Harvey says through a smile. He's cupping Mike's face, holding him just outside of kissing range. His eyes are warm and greedy.

"Mm. Just congratulating myself on the best game plan ever."

"You suck at gloating," Harvey tells him, but misses unimpressed by a mile. The rawness may be gone, packed away for safe-keeping, but he's wide open with affection, face soft as he takes Mike in.

He seems content to stay that way forever, too, which is...nice. It's quiet in the condo, just night sounds and the two of them breathing; Mike's awash with relief and Harvey's closeness is comforting. Eventually Mike feels his eyelids growing heavy – but he totally sees Harvey's laughing at him.

"Sorry, I was nervous...I didn't sleep much this week."

"'Sok. I'm used to it by now. Let's go to bed."

Mike makes a complaining noise as Harvey eases him off of his lap, a little put out that Harvey's not put out. "I want sex."

Harvey's definitely laughing at him now. Stupid face. "You'll get sex. Later, when I'm sure you won't start snoring in the middle."

He's deposited at the bathroom door with instructions not to pass out standing up, and then Harvey disappears to do Harvey things. Mike's so punch-drunk while he brushes his teeth that the joke doesn't feel like that much of a stretch.

He finds himself staring blankly at the counter – specifically, two boxes, stacked one on top of the other. He reaches out, blinking, to open the top one: his collar. Fumbles it on, sheds all his clothes, and stumbles his way into Harvey's bed, by memory.

Five fuzzy minutes or blurry hours later, Harvey's slotting in against him with a long exhale and a kiss against his shoulder. Fingers trace the edge of his collar, Mike twitches – ticklish – and Harvey murmurs, "Sleep."

It's an order. So he does.

Chapter Text

There have been a number of mornings, since Harvey made him leave, where Mike has woken up believing they're still together. Woken up believing that the breakup had been a nightmare, or that last night's pleasant dream had actually been reality. Discovering the truth was always a cudgel to the skull.

So here's the funny thing: there's a moment, when Mike wakes up, that he thinks it's the other way around. He wakes up with the memory of Harvey wrapped around him, Harvey pulling him to the surface all night with contact that Mike's no longer used to, and for once, he's sure that it's wishful thinking. Then the bed dips and an arm curls over his waist.

His insides go weightless and he blinks his eyes open. Harvey's there.

Mike doesn't even know he's smiling til Harvey reaches out and traces his lip. "Morning."

"G'morning."

The light is weak, so it's probably stupid o'clock early. Mike's wide awake now, though, and Harvey just got back in bed. Mike doesn't think he went far. His features are sleep-soft, and his hair's a total rat's nest. Mike can tell before they kiss that he's already brushed his teeth.

Weirdo.

Mike's unable to stop grinning into the little greeting. Harvey, on the other hand, looks distinctly serious when he draws away. And not particularly well-rested. He looks like he slept fitfully, and not much at all. "You okay?"

Harvey nods, solemn and intent in a way that gives Mike a flutter of nerves. He can't pin Harvey's mood, but he doesn't think it's...bad. Not angry or sad or locked down, but there's something. Something kind of unsettling. Mike's not sure he wants to find out what it is. When Harvey's tongue slides out to wet his bottom lip, Mike pushes forward to interrupt the odd tension with another kiss.

Harvey holds him back with a light hand circling his throat, alongside the collar. There's a space of three breaths – a long time, three breaths feels like a very long time – before Harvey speaks. "I love you."

Mike stares at him; Harvey, for his part, is looking anywhere but Mike's eyes. Mike replays it in his head: Harvey's almost-pained expression; the complete lack of spontaneity in his tone.

Before he knows it, he's grinning ear-to-ear, because Harvey is...so bad at this it's funny; he's kind of staggeringly fucked in the head, but it's sweet. Mike draws in the breath that he needs to say the words back, and Harvey presses on his Adam's apple with a small shake of his head. A laugh tickles his throat because he's not allowed to reciprocate. Naturally. What the fuck.

In lieu of saying what he wants to, Mike kisses Harvey's nose, and laughs when Harvey rolls his eyes, wearing an expression of poorly-concealed joy.

Hard to say who kisses who next, but Harvey takes control with a contented hum, rolling Mike beneath him and biting down on his lip. Their legs get tangled together and Mike arches up to get even closer.

Harvey's thumb digs into the soft flesh behind his jaw, and Mike gives into the pressure to change the angle of his head. The new one's a little uncomfortable, but Mike doesn't care. He's too caught up in the way Harvey's devouring his mouth. He's too conscious of the grip Harvey has on his left wrist, and way too focused on the press of Harvey's thigh against his morning wood. Mike's naked, but Harvey apparently came to bed in boxer-briefs.

Mike wants them off, wants to feel Harvey's dick slide against his, but he's willing to wait for a while. This is good. Even when Harvey breaks the kiss and pants against his mouth, eyes sex-heavy at the lazy roll of their hips.

"Christ, I wanna fuck you."

"Please." Because Jesus, he wants that, wants Harvey to pound him so hard he'll hurt for days.

Harvey groans and nips at Mike's lip, and when he kneels up, Mike has to clutch a fist-full of sheets to keep from touching his own cock. Harvey's eyes are on Mike, approving, as his hand slides into his briefs....

Mike's first clue that something is wrong is the fact that Harvey doesn't stroke himself or get his dick out. He just adjusts the position of his cock and pulls his hand back out, which.... He's flushed and he has sex hair but his eyes are starting to focus, and Mike really hopes that he's wrong about – "Breakfast?"

Mike's jaw goes slack, even though he saw this coming. "Are you fucking with me?"

Harvey grins, sharp and bright. "Yes and no." He crawls over Mike without making any contact, holding himself just inches above. "Just think, if we'd had the conversation I tried to start last night – several times – then you'd be getting fucked open right now."

Oh. Oh goddamn motherfucking cocktease; Mike is positive Harvey did this on purpose. He certainly looks amused enough with himself. Mike figures he knows all the names Mike's calling him in his head.

"And you chose to put your collar on – so watch your mouth."

Harvey's eyes are crinkled, and Mike finds he's not really mad. Well, he is, but he isn't. He'd known that Harvey wanted to discuss things last night, and he ignored it, not used to listening anymore. If they're going to do this, Mike can't have it both ways. He makes himself relax and accept the situation, but he can't help putting in, "You're a really terrible person."

He ruins it by smiling – his face is starting to ache, it's seriously ridiculous – but Harvey looks so pleased with life, and it's been way too long since Mike saw that. There's a warm glow under Mike's breastbone of a well-made decision.

Harvey drops a kiss on Mike's mouth and sits up. "Good boy. You want me to call for breakfast, or you want to sleep a little longer?"

Mike communicates the likelihood of sleeping after that tease with a Look, and Harvey smirks. "Breakfast, please."

"You should grab a shower while I call down." He gives Mike's knee a little squeeze. "Put the collar back on if you want to kneel at breakfast. Or we can just eat at the table together, if you'd prefer. Up to you."

And then he's gone.

*

Mike takes his sweet time in Harvey's shower. Good God, he missed this wet dream of a bathroom. Mike's place gets two minutes of hot water if he's lucky, and the water pressure doesn't even come close.

He leans against the wall and just stands there for a while. He considers jerking off – Harvey didn't say he couldn't – but it feels like being cheated to settle for his hand. And it feels a little like cheating when Harvey clearly wants him to wait. So he does.

He tortures himself instead by stroking his dick and thinking of Harvey. It's an exercise in frustration, but a pleasurable one at least.

Eventually he sighs and reaches for a washcloth.

He's nearly coherent – and his dick is nearly soft – by the time he steps out of the shower and towels off.

He brushes his teeth, listening to breakfast being delivered, and considers his collar. Last night, it felt perfectly natural to wear it. Now that he's alert, it's just a little more daunting. He's not sure he's ready to kneel for Harvey. If he'd gotten fucked this morning, that would've made it easier.

He suspects that's the real reason Harvey wouldn't touch him. Everything's a test, whether Harvey's doing it consciously or not. But Mike didn't show up here with the intention of holding back. He's gotta take the leap.

He reaches for the collar and puts it on; his fingers still know the buckle, so it's rote.

His eyes fall on the box he had retrieved it from last night. And the other one, beneath it.

Scotty's.

When he lived here before, they'd both been tucked away – one for practicality, the other out of pain. Now they're stacked in plain view on Harvey's bathroom counter.

It didn't occur to him last night to think that it was odd. It is though, isn't it? Really odd.

Mike touches them and wonders how long they've been there. He suspects, for a while. If this were any other bathroom, he thinks their footprint would be outlined in grime. He imagines Claudia cleaning around and under them, not really knowing what they are, or what it means for them to be out in plain sight.

It means Harvey's been looking at those boxes when he wakes up and when he goes to bed – deliberately, for God knows how long. They're the evil twin of all his memorabilia at the office. A visual display of...well. Failure.

A sympathetic ache wars with Mike's frustration. It's probably not constructive to brain Harvey with one of these boxes, but. God. What the fuck?

Mike takes a deep breath, gathers them up, and stows them in one of the cabinets.

Harvey looks up from the paper when Mike clears the door to the great room, clearly pleased when he sees the collar on Mike's throat. The sun is just cresting the shorter buildings to the east, and it's actually kind of stupid how good Harvey looks in the young light, rumpled and happy and gorgeous as Mike approaches. Mike's riding the emotion from the boxes, so it's not hard to kneel at Harvey's feet and rest his cheek on Harvey's thigh.

It's just right. This stupid, brilliant...idiot of a man is so much better at accommodating Mike's needs than he'll ever be dealing with his own.

Harvey combs through his hair, massaging his scalp a little. "You alright?"

Mike means to just nod, but the words form on their own. "Were you trying to hurt yourself, leaving those out where you'd see them?"

Harvey doesn't need clarification; Mike hasn't looked up, but the audible stutter in his breathing is a tip-off. It takes him a while to answer. "I hurt you."

It's either the best answer he has, or an attempt to shrug it off. Mike can't decide, but it doesn't really matter. He turns his head a little so he can see Harvey's face. "So what's your excuse with Scotty's? You didn't hurt her; it was the other way around."

Harvey's staring out the window instead of down at Mike. When he shakes his head, it's a refusal to speak more than a response. He's clenching his jaw.

Mike's an asshole. They're supposed to be talking, but this isn't the right way.

Mike kisses Harvey's knee in apology. "We don't have to talk about her anytime soon. But I figure you need to know that I'm aware of the broad strokes."

"Let me guess: Matt?" There's a tinge of bitterness there that Mike can't abide.

"Yes. Someone had to tell me, because you wouldn't. Don't hold it against him, Harvey. He's the one who helped me realize just how badly I wanted to come back."

Harvey looks down at him, almost comically grudging when he says, "I guess I owe him."

"You don't have to go that far. I'll settle for not hating his guts." He pushes his head into Harvey's hand a little, until his fingers start ruffling through his hair. He melts. "So. You gonna feed me, or does evoking the Ex mean no biscuits?"

The corner of Harvey's mouth twitches. "You're a brat."

"You love me," Mike teases, ridiculously happy to throw the L-word in gratuitously, even in this context.

Harvey smiles and rolls his eyes before shoving a big chunk of buttermilk biscuit in Mike's mouth.

*

They take their time with breakfast, talking about nothing important at all and reading the paper and touching. There's lots of touching, most of it simple affection that Mike soaks up like sunshine.

They linger for more than an hour, but it's still barely past seven when they move into the living room. Harvey stretches out on the sofa and pulls Mike down; his stomach is uncomfortably full, so he slides to the side and wedges himself in.

"So. Given how well you've been dodging my questions, I'm wondering why you think I'm asking what you tried."

Mike buries his face against Harvey's shoulder and breathes him in. Harvey doesn't prod him for a response. He just lets the silence spool out, pointed all on its own, while he plays with Mike's hair.

It's not something Mike wants to say out loud, but Harvey will wait – and deny them sex – until he does. "I think...you're afraid that we won't want the same things anymore, and it'll be like Scotty all over again. You want to find out now, so it doesn't hurt either of us more than it has to."

Harvey hums, considering, as he trails his fingers up and down Mike's back. "Well, you're...thirty percent correct. Maybe more like twenty-seven. That's 73% wrong, for anyone who's keeping track."

"Which you are," Mike mumbles.

"Always," Harvey deadpans. "Look, she and I... There were many reasons...." He huffs out a laugh. "A whole shitload of reasons why it didn't work. The kink was the least of our problems. We didn't really fit. But she understood me in a way I thought no one else would. She understood me because she's just like me, and I thought that was the best shot I'd get with someone. But it was never gonna work. The funny thing is, I didn't get that, not for years, until - "

Harvey cuts himself off and Mike shifts up to look at him. He's acutely embarrassed, and Mike bites his cheek to keep from grinning. "Until you met me?" he supplies.

Harvey huffs and makes one of his snotty little faces, but that's totally a yes. There's no way Mike can even try to hold the grin in, now.

"Stop gloating, you little shit," Harvey grumbles.

Mike laughs. "No, I don't think I will. You have feeeeeelings. Squishy warm ones. You think I'm perfect for you. It's adorable. Did you write poems about me?"

Harvey looks torn between amusement and the urge to maim. But it's not like he denies it; Mike figures teasing's his only shot at ever acknowledging this confession again.

But he doesn't push his luck; when Harvey tugs, Mike collapses against him.

"Point is, if I thought for a second we were headed the same way, you wouldn't be here now. Maybe what you want has changed a little, and you're right, I need to know sooner than later. But not so I can kick you out the door. I won't do that again, I promise."

Mike breathes against Harvey's shirt. "Then what happens if you don't want what I want?"

It's a foolish question, one that Harvey can't answer to any kind of honest satisfaction. Even so, Mike is warmed and annoyed in equal measure when Harvey's answer is "Not gonna happen, okay? Don't worry about that."

"Way to avoid the answer."

"It's not avoidance. Look, we never had time to get past the basics together. It wasn't necessary; I've never seen anyone get as much out of simple submission as you do. But I have flexible limits, as long as I'm getting you where we need you to be. There's a whole hell of a lot of room to negotiate. Okay? We'll figure it out."

"Okay," Mike says, and it is. That's apparently all that he needed to hear. "Where do we start?"

"Mm. Was there anything you enjoyed that you wished you could do with me?"

Many things, but Mike wants them to move forward, not dwell on how much this whole mess sucked. So he tells Harvey all about Tessa, and being bound. The things they had tried before finding what worked for him. How he'd hated isolation enough they only tried it once, immobilization was even worse, and any kind of predicament she put him in left him...frustrated, tired and a little defeated. Suspension had actually worked for him under selective conditions – if she stayed close by, if she paid him attention, if he had all his senses.

Harvey listens quietly with very little comment as Mike talks about positions and equipment; Tessa favored rope, but not exclusively, and she'd wanted him to learn what he liked. He talks about things they had done in conjunction with the bondage; Mike enjoyed wax play and boot worship, but honestly couldn't imagine either one with Harvey, especially the...well. He's pretty sure that Harvey would never deign to wear those, even for him.

Harvey's quiet, but there's an ease in all his casual touching and he breaks in every so often with questions about specifics or how things made Mike feel. He's a lot more relaxed with the topic than Mike expected, considering the blowup over Mike subbing for Matt.

Or he is, until Mike starts talking about the dinner parties. That's when he tenses up, slowly and subtly enough that Mike doesn't notice right away.

When he does, he props himself up to look at Harvey, but Harvey's fine. "What's wrong?"

"I don't like the thought of people seeing you that way," Harvey says, enough detachment that it's obvious he means to discourage further discussion. Mike wonders if there's a difference to him between Mike subbing for a woman, and it being a man or a group or....

"Well. It took all of them to make up for one of you," Mike tells him, because he's incapable of leaving a topic alone. He's mildly embarrassed by the admission once he's made it, but Harvey looks pleased and it's true, so. Whatever. "You're so not allowed to make me eat those words later."

Harvey smiles, and yeah, Mike's gonna be haunted by that one for a while. He figures for them, mocking softer sentiments is practically love poetry.

"Okay, that was Tessa," Harvey says, and for a minute, Mike thinks he's letting it go. He's wrong. "Let's talk about Matt – who is only a fraction the Dom that I am, apparently."

"Not what I said."

"Hmm, let's review - "

"Let's not."

"Hey, don't blame me if your language lacks precision."

"You know, repeating yourself is the first sign of senility."

Harvey steers them back to the topic at hand. "You did sub for him."

When Mike says nothing, he gets the arch of an eyebrow. "Oh, I'm sorry, was that a question? Your punctuation left room for interpretation. You should work on that."

Harvey's serious face takes on the delighted edge that it always does when Mike turns his own game back on him, but his 'you know damn well what I want' also comes through. Loud and clear.

"Yes, I subbed for him. Probably more than anyone else."

"Why?"

A simple question, except for all the hidden landmines. Tired of propping himself up, Mike pulls at Harvey til they're both on their sides. He needs to see Harvey's face. "Because we clicked, right away. We like each other. He gave up a lot of what he needed from the experience when he topped me though; he was willing to do that while I needed him, but in the long run...well. There couldn't have been a long run."

"And what was he giving up?"

"Heavier pain play. Some sessions, any pain play at all. I mean, we weren't exclusive, but we spent a lot of time together and I know that he had to dial things back for me. I also wasn't...." Mike takes a minute to think how to explain it. "I got something out of the pain, but I didn't ever enjoy it, which was kind of a drag for him."

Harvey pulls a hand through Mike's hair. "What did you get out of it?"

Mike hesitates, but Harvey's face is soft and open and Mike thinks he already knows. "I was hurting. And I couldn't do anything about it. Except for that."

Harvey nods and presses a simple, careful kiss to his mouth. He stays close afterwards, close enough that their breath is all tangled together and Harvey's eyes are awkwardly near. It's nice.

They stay that close as Mike tells him what he and Matt had tried. Impact most often, because it's what they found worked for him best; Mike is able to be pretty granular about it, because Matt possesses a formidable number of tools – whole categories of which were outside Mike's limits.

He didn't come close to trying everything within them, but he tried enough to develop pretty solid opinions on what he liked. Paddles for close contact, over-the-lap play – bare or padded, either was fine, as long as they didn't have studs or holes. He'd liked just about every type of flogger they'd ever tried, and for that, he preferred to be strapped down or somehow constrained. Straps played at the edge of what he was willing to handle; canes and single-tailed anything were beyond his comfort level.

"And crops just make me feel like I'm shooting cheesy porn."

A smile tugs at Harvey's mouth. "That's what I've always said."

Impact play is actually the only kind of pain Mike has the remotest interest in bringing with him back to Harvey. There are other things he'd tried – and even some that he had enjoyed – but for the most part, that enjoyment had been knowing he was doing what Matt needed. There was nothing intrinsic about clamps or temporary piercing that excited him.

After Mike winds his personal history lesson down, he gives Harvey's thoughtful silence a beat – three at most – before he prompts "So?"

Harvey doesn't give him a hard time about the one-word question. "It sounds like pain works for both of us as punishment. Hand or paddle – maybe a flogger, but I'm rusty, so we're going to leave that off the list, for now. Until I'm back in practice. Outside of punishment, I won't hurt you any more than I did before. Would that work for you?"

"Yes." Mike enjoys being flogged more than any of the alternatives, but he understands Harvey's reasoning. And it's probably a bad idea to suggest Matt could give Harvey tips on technique. "What about - "

"Did I ever tell you that I had this custom made?" Harvey interrupts. His eyes are warm as his fingers play over the collar. The rest of Mike's sentence sticks in his throat. Harvey props himself up on his elbow and traces his thumb against Mike's jaw.

Mike licks his bottom lip. "No."

It's not that surprising though. Mike doesn't have a clue where one goes to get these things hand-crafted, but of course Harvey does. And of course Harvey did.

Harvey's mouth tips a little. "Then I probably never told you about the accessories that go with it."

"...Accessories?"

"Mm. A couple sets of leather cuffs – wrist, thigh, ankle. Along with various clips, straps and spreader bars."

An embarrassing amount of saliva is pooling in Mike's mouth. "Really?"

"I thought about how much I'd enjoy strapping you down before you'd even set foot in this apartment."

Now Mike's imagining Harvey leaving the office after their initial meeting and placing an order for things to restrain him with. "Please say we're done talking now."

Harvey grins. "Not by a long shot. Why, did you have something in mind?"

Much as Harvey likes to rake his fingers through it, Mike's hair is too short to pull out. "Are you kidding me?"

"I'm willing to take suggestions." Smug, unfairly attractive asshole. "Or we can go with my current plan, which includes binding you to the headboard and rimming you til you cry."

Harvey's teeth flash at the strangled noise that Mike lets out, and hauls Mike forward so that they're pressed flush, chest to knees. "Is that an objection I hear?"

"You're such a dick. What else do we need to cover?"

Most of what Harvey wants to cover, apparently, is whether any of their previous routines or agreements need changing, and which will carry over. As far as Mike's concerned, everything worked except for the defensive, secretive bullshit, but Harvey won't accept his attempt at 'blah blah blah, sex now?'

They go through everything point by point. Which he's kind of grateful for when they arrive on the subject of cock cages. It's something Harvey's brought up several times, and that Mike had agreed to in their initial contract - he was never thrilled about it. But at the time, he felt like he had very little leverage, and it wasn't a big Don't, so he was willing to go with it.

That was then; this is now.

"Yeah, I dunno Harvey. That's...I'm not a fan."

It's the closest Mike's come to saying no to anything they've revisited, so Harvey's on it, eyes sharp and interested. "Have you worn one?"

Mike shrugs like it wasn't one of the most humiliating experiences of his life. "Yeah, once. With a client. He paid me to wear it for a couple days and I hated it; it chafed and I had to use the stalls instead of urinals because it was so embarrassing."

And hadn't the guy loved that part. He knows Harvey wouldn't purposefully degrade him that way. He just can't see how he'd enjoy it.

Harvey's frowning a little at the story, which somehow helps. "I wouldn't make you leave the house with it on. It wouldn't be for days at a time, and we'd make sure it was comfortable." Harvey brushes his knuckles over Mike's cheek. "Look. If you don't want to, you don't want to. But that wasn't consensual. Would you be willing to give it another try, with me? Or even just revisit the topic later."

Mike wavers. There are plenty of things he's come to enjoy that he hated getting paid for. If it would work with anyone he thinks it would be Harvey. On the other hand, it's his penis. "What do you like about it?"

"I've never done it."

Mike is both horrified and fascinated. "What do you mean, you've never done it?"

Harvey gives him an incredulous look he's more familiar with from work. "Mike. The only person I've really done any of this with was a woman."

Oh. "Right. So, did you...do anything like it with her?"

"No."

"Why?"

Harvey shrugs. "Never wanted to."

Mike actually has no clue what sorts of chastity options exist for women, so maybe that factors in; he doesn't think it's a pragmatic thing, though. He thinks Harvey's not elaborating because that's all there is to it.

Which amuses him. "Ah. So it's just the penis that you want to control. That's very Freudian of you."

Harvey looks amused, and simultaneously a little unsettled, since that obviously never occurred to him.

Oddly enough, to be Harvey's actual first at something – to help him explore something new about himself – kind of seals it. "Okay. We can try it."

Harvey smiles a little. "Thank you."

"Don't thank me until I let you do it a second time," Mike teases. "Anything else?"

Harvey nods. "There are things that I dictated as terms of your employment that we need to discuss now that things are different."

Mike is so thrilled at the distinction Harvey's drawing that he feels compelled to pull Harvey's pigtails.

"Well. Technically speaking, you're still going to pay me." Harvey frowns. "I mean, what do you call tuition?"

"It's not the same. I told you, I would have - "

"But you're also covering Gram."

"Of course. You won't have an income."

"And I mean, I sure as hell can't afford half the rent for this place, or all the cash you throw down the drain on takeout."

Harvey's mouth curves. "And I'm sure as hell not downsizing my lifestyle for you. Yes, you brat, I'm covering all of it."

"So...it's kind of like you're paying me, right?" A muscle in Harvey's jaw jumps, and Mike bites back on a grin. "I guess it's more like a sugar daddy. Is that what you are now? Like one of those guys off Craigslist?"

"Mike."

"Oh come on," Mike says, just to make Harvey's eye tick. "It's like the dictionary definition. You're my sugar daddy."

Harvey looks pained. "Call me that again, and I'm giving you up for adoption."

Mike cracks up a little. "God, your face."

"Yeah, laugh while you can. Don't forget, you've given me permission to beat you."

Mike grins unrepentantly at Harvey – who's struggling to look disapproving himself. "Let's face it, if mouthing off were grounds for punishment, I would've been in trouble more often."

"As opposed to avoiding my question."

Mike shrugs it off. "Not avoiding, just taking an entertaining detour. Okay, so we're talking about the drug testing and stuff."

"And stuff," Harvey agrees. "We need to decide how far my sphere of control extends into your life."

"How much of a control freak you get to be," Mike translates. He thinks about it for a minute, but he honestly can't remember really minding Harvey trying to run his life. He didn't do it all that often. "I mean, how far would you want it to extend? What would you want a say in?"

"Everything."

Mike studies him, taken aback. He's serious. "Um. Everything?"

Harvey rolls his eyes. "I'm not going to tell you when you can take a piss, Mike, but if you want the truth, then yes. I'd want to retain veto power over everything."

Put that way, it's not surprising. With life outside the apartment, Harvey never had told him what to do, just what he couldn't. There never seemed to be a limit to what Harvey thought he could forbid, but he hadn't done it often, so it was fine. He did like to explain in great detail how his way was best, but he let Mike ignore it. That was more like advice.

Now that this will be his life, not a job, Mike can see two (rather large) problem areas. "Yeah, that's not gonna work for me at all."

"Which is why we're talking about it," Harvey says like he's particularly slow. Mike grins and kisses him on the mouth. Harvey rolls his eyes.

"Okay, so, two things you get no say in: my social life, and my career."

Harvey narrows his eyes and considers that for a beat. "I have one exception to that."

Of course he does. "What's that?"

"You're not going back to the club."

"Not to play," Mike agrees. Their contract's still exclusive; he wouldn't want anything less. "But I have friends there."

"Keep whatever friends you want to keep. Just don't go to the club, or any place like it. You need to start thinking about your professional reputation. Right or wrong, it can be very damaging to be seen there."

Oh. That's...a really good point. "Okay, you're right. But you don't get to make that decision."

"Mike."

"It's not your call. But I never said we couldn't argue over those things. We like arguing. It keeps life interesting."

"My life is interesting enough without it, thank you." Harvey doesn't sound remotely like he means that.

"Are we done now?" Mike asks again after a beat, and Harvey lets out a very put-upon sigh.

There's a smile playing around his mouth. "Yes, Mike, we're done now. Though I want you to formalize what we discussed into the contract."

"Later, though, right?"

Harvey narrows his eyes. "You're going to be a pushy little shit now, aren't you?" Mike opens his mouth but Harvey cuts him off. "We haven't discussed gags."

It's ominous enough to send a little thrill down his spine; he's always found gags to be uncomfortable, annoying and obnoxious, but Harvey wouldn't warn Mike off from speaking unless they were finally getting to the best part of the program. Mike shakes his head, dumb.

"I'd rather not have to discuss them," Harvey says. "No more talking."

Biting his lip against a smile, Mike gets the last word in, the only way he Harvey will allow: "Yes, sir."

"Cute," Harvey notes, and takes hold of his chin. "Say it like it's a joke again, and you won't enjoy what happens."

Mike's breath sticks a little. "Yes, sir."

"Better," Harvey says, and kisses him. "Much better."

Chapter Text

"In a minute, you're going to go kneel by the bed until I come for you. Quietly. When I join you, you're not going to speak unless asked a direct question or you want to safeword out. Anything else, and I'm not going to fuck you." Mike nods, parting his mouth a little as Harvey thumbs his bottom lip. "The gag order won't be a permanent fixture, but you seem to be having trouble remembering where the edges are. This isn't the office, Mike. I like you a little bit lippy, but you don't get to mock me."

Mike nods, the words 'yes, sir' on his tongue, but he keeps it pressed against the roof of his mouth. He's not sure the no talking rule is really in effect yet, but the last thing he wants right now is to push his luck.

Because...he had. He had been mocking what Harvey wanted, a little.

Harvey's authority has never been one he's strained very hard against, but Mike guesses it's not surprising that he's testing the boundaries right now. It's not surprising, but he's not doing himself any favors, this way.

"Good boy," Harvey murmurs, and the rush down Mike's spine is instant gratification and positive reinforcement. Harvey's eyes get a little bit darker. "I'm going to restrain you on your back, bind your arms and legs. Then I'm going to do whatever the hell I want to you. You're allowed to come whenever, but don't touch yourself while you're waiting for me. Any problems?"

Mike swallows, and shakes his head.

"Any questions?"

"Will you fuck me?" Mike asks immediately. Harvey purses his mouth against a smile.

"Yes, Mike. Safe to say I'll fuck you. Now go wait for me by the bed."

Mike climbs over him, off the couch, without teasing – though he's half-hard and he really wants to rub up against Harvey's body. He forgot how much like foreplay it is, just being reprimanded or listening to Harvey lay out what he's planning.

Mike detours to the bathroom, because it's been a while since coffee, and then he sinks to his knees on the pillow by the bed. He knows damn well that Harvey's just as eager, so when Harvey doesn't join him immediately, he suspects a mind game; a long wait is coming.

It's bright in the bedroom from the midday sun, and Mike's impatient, so he closes his eyes and makes himself relax.

Only a few seconds later, he hears Harvey enter the room (and it feels like a victory). Mike straightens, though his posture was already fine, buzzing a little in anticipation of a touch.

There's nothing.

Mike opens his eyes, but Harvey isn't in front of him, or anywhere in his peripheral vision, near the bed. The bulk of the room is behind Mike, and although he hasn't been told, he's pretty sure turning his head would displease Harvey.

Mike hears him sink into the chair in the corner, by the valet, and forces himself to ignore the impatience that he's feeling – closes his eyes and draws himself up, spreading his knees a little wider. From the corner, he can hear the distinctive sound of ice cubes being tipped, and he realizes what's happening.

Harvey's looking him over and having a scotch. It's barely noon, they haven't fucked in months, and he's is in the corner having a nightcap, because he's a perverse fucking bastard.

It's on the tip of Mike's tongue to say something about daytime boozing, but he loosens his shoulders and breathes.

It's hardly meditative; underneath his own breath and the dry click of his throat, he hears Harvey. Tipping scotch into his mouth. Harvey swallowing. Harvey staring at Mike's body, and while logically that's silent, Mike could swear it's deafening.

He flexes the small of his back just a bit to tilt his hips, because fuck, he's turned on. Harvey's eyes are crawling over him, when what he wants are hands.

He hears the sound of fabric moving over skin, and it takes a few moments for Mike to realize what's happening behind him. There's no rhythm to the movement, just a slow, constant shifting, but then Harvey's breath gets heavier, and it clicks. His hand is down his sweatpants. He's fondling himself on a Saturday afternoon to the sight of Mike kneeling. While enjoying a glass of scotch.

Mike's not sure whether to laugh or scream or cry or come.

Mike bites his lip against expressing his exasperation. That would be a great way to spectacularly fail this test.

If he can't have Harvey, he wishes he could see him. Not because he strictly needs to: he can draw on half a dozen picture-perfect memories in his head. Harvey's limbs in that lazy sprawl that only ever appears at home, his hair a little mussed from a day of lazing around on the couch with Mike.

Mike knows very well what Harvey looks like when he wants him. Mike can picture his sex eyes and the barely-there flush of his face. The way his expression goes hard and soft at the same time, and he knows what it looks like when Harvey plays with himself. He isn't even jacking it, just palming his cock almost idly.

Mike is desperately grateful there's no order not to move, because he can't help shifting in place a little. The thrust of his hips doesn't actually relieve him at all, but it's difficult to stop it, that's how bad off he's becoming. And maybe it'll spur Harvey into getting a move on.

He ought to know better. All that happens is the movement of Harvey's hand gains shape – a slow up-and-down stroke that makes his mouth water to listen to. He's still drinking his fucking scotch, though Mike can tell he's nearing the end of his glass, and the sheer Harveyness of jacking off while drinking single malt hits Mike hard and low in his belly.

He tightens the grip of his hands behind his back. Christ. He really needs to touch his dick.

Eventually, Mike can hear the shhhink of ice as Harvey tries to get to the last dregs, then the sound of the tumbler being set carefully aside. Harvey still doesn't stand up. There isn't even the tell-tale sound of fabric any more – the room is so quiet that Mike holds his breath, and strains to catch some sort of clue.

Everything is utterly still for the space of several heartbeats, then he hears Harvey pull his hand out of his sweats and shift in his chair.

Then another pause, and finally, finally, the creak of Harvey's chair as he rises and the feel of him crossing the room.

He stops behind Mike by less than a foot, just behind him to his right – almost at the edge of his peripheral vision, but maddeningly not. Mike finds his whole body straining up and back without permission, like he can will Harvey to touch him, then a final step is taken and Harvey's sweatpants brush his ribs. Mike shudders. Fingers rub messily through Mike's hair and he arches into them; his chin sinks down towards his chest as they move down to squeeze the base of his skull.

Harvey's been touching him all day, and the deprivation couldn't have even been an hour, but it feels electric, knowing Harvey's about to really scene with him. The reality of that becomes something substantial as Harvey steps around so Mike can finally see him.

The pillow Mike is kneeling on is inches from the bedframe – Harvey has to ease into place to sit in front of him. He perches right on the edge of the mattress with his legs sprawled wide around Mike; the line of Harvey's cock in his sweats is so close by that Mike would hardly need to lean forward to rub his face against it.

Harvey's fingers tip his chin up. The look on his face...does not calm Mike down.

"God, you belong right here, don't you?" There's a complicated kind of discomfort under the affection in his voice, and it's hard for Mike to keep his mouth shut. He wets his lip and leans into the stroke of Harvey's knuckles.

After a moment, Harvey reaches out towards the bench at the foot of the bed; it hinges open, which is new. Or, well, obviously not new, but new to Mike, who always assumed it was the decorative flourish of an overpaid interior designer. Instead, it's...Harvey pulls out a bundle of leather and metal, and Mike strains his neck to see what else is in there.

Harvey smirks and drops the lid closed, lays the set of cuffs on top and picks one of the smaller ones off of the pile. Mike offers up his wrists before he's asked.

There's a darkly pleased smile on Harvey as he buckles the cuff in place and checks the fit, aligning the D-ring towards Mike's thumb. It's comfortable, more well-padded than his collar so that Mike can struggle, and Mike shifts in place restlessly as Harvey fastens the other one.

Harvey digs out a double-ended clip and snaps the D-rings together, then he hooks his finger around it and tugs. "C'mere."

There's nothing dignified about the scramble to his feet, but it pleases Harvey, so Mike doesn't care. He lets himself be reeled forward and stooped for a kiss; Harvey's teeth dig and pull at Mike's bottom lip.

Just when his neck starts to ache at the angle, Harvey stands up, turns them, and pushes Mike down on the mattress. "Scoot up towards the headboard."

There's no dignified way to manage that with his hands bound in front, wiggling and elbow-walking backwards, propelling himself with his feet. His cheeks warm a little at the smirk on Harvey's face, but he can't be embarrassed long because Harvey crawls after him and straddles his hips.

He's a warm, solid weight on Mike's dick, and Mike arches up to get a little friction. He's so desperate, it's hardly a decision. Harvey lifts an eyebrow but doesn't comment, and Mike bites his lip, taking advantage of the free rein to rub against Harvey's ass. He cries out (just a sound, no talking, no talking, ok?) when Harvey takes his creeping hands and pins them, grinding down obscenely.

Mike clenches his jaw when Harvey stops and stretches back to get the stuff that he left at the foot of the bed.

He sets everything in easy reach and pulls out a short leather strap. Mike always considered Harvey's headboard Modern Fugly, but its charms become more obvious as Harvey threads the leather through it, snapping the terminal clips onto the ring of each cuff.

It forms a short triangle binding Mike's wrists to the headboard that – Mike tests it – leaves very little range of motion.

Harvey trails down the underside of Mike's forearms and Mike jerks, somewhere between ticklish and aroused. "How's that?"

"Good."

"Good," Harvey echoes, and shifts his weight as if to kiss him.

He stops just shy of their lips meeting, and pulls back when Mike cranes his neck up. Mike understands the game, knows exactly what Harvey's doing, but can't help himself; he strains up further, fingers twitching. His leash is far too short to allow him to reach Harvey, but his elbows rotate up and in, a futile attempt to grab what he wants.

Harvey's pupils are huge. He stays just out of reach, close enough to brush Mike's lips but not there.

The 'please' in Mike's throat almost chokes him.

"Good boy." It's rough and thick, and has Mike collapsing back. Harvey follows him down. They're so close that Harvey's tongue licks Mike's lip as he wets his own. "You're so good for me."

The rush of pleasure that gives Mike is bigger than the words, and bigger than the kiss that Harvey finally lays on him, hands supporting the weight of Mike's head when Mike pushes up for more. He goes a little light-headed when Harvey's weight settles on top of him, legs stretching out and slotting in with his own.

Harvey's solid, and warm and affectionate and the only way this could get better is if he'd gotten naked first. Instead, his skin is a layer away. Harvey doesn't seem to want anything more than to kiss the hell out of him and slide his hands over Mike's body, and Mike gives into it, gladly. He's been craving this kind of contact for months, and now that he's getting it, his impatience fades back like white noise. Harvey's eagerness to linger, just making out like (kinky) teenagers, makes the payoff incredible.

When he wraps his legs around Harvey, Mike isn't consciously trying to move things along. It's just instinct. He just wants to keep him as close as humanly possible. Harvey looks more rueful than displeased when he pulls back. "Thought I forgot something."

Mike allows him to untangle himself, stretching and twisting his spine once Harvey's clear of him; the movements are just outside his control. His cock is red and stiff and after the warmth of Harvey's body, having nothing is almost unbearable. He's just...and the look on Harvey's face as he watches makes it worse.

Harvey waits til Mike forces himself to still before touching his calf. "Bend your knee a bit." Harvey reaches back for one of the largest cuffs and buckles it around Mike's thigh; it's just far enough from his knee that when Harvey flexes and extends his leg, it doesn't chafe or dig with the movement. "Okay?"

"Okay," Mike breathes, hips flexing as his other thigh is buckled in.

The cuffs each have four separate D-rings: inner thigh, outer thigh, front of his body and back; when Harvey twists around and comes back with a spreader bar, Mike gasps out so hard it's a little embarrassing. He plants his feet on the bed and spreads his knees, dick throbbing as Harvey clips it in.

Harvey's palms are warm and dry as they slide up the inside of his thighs towards Mike's groin, and his knees try to fall even further apart, but they can't. They're clipped at shoulder-width; Mike can't give more or less.

Harvey traces light fingertips back towards his knees, and it thrills up his spine. He strains against the bar, so turned on it hurts.

"Should've known you'd try to spread them wider," Harvey murmurs. A flush prickles down Mike's neck to his chest. "You always want to give me more."

There's a stage of arousal where Harvey starts to just look angry, and they've reached it. Like he's horny and pissed off about it, and lays the blame on Mike. It's an expression that never fails to confuse Mike's body. When Harvey crawls over the spreader bar, up his torso, with that look, it gives him fever chills.

Instead of the biting kiss he expects, Harvey eases the pillow out from under Mike's head, grabs a second from beside him, and sits back on his heels.

He smacks Mike's rump, hard enough to sting. "Lift up."

Mike sees where this is going, and he's so fully on board. He winds his grip around the leather strap and curls his hips up so the pillows can slide underneath them.

Harvey studies the angle of his body, and adjusts things; it's unnatural and awkward, not to mention exposed, but when he's asked if it's too much, Mike quickly shakes his head.

Keeping his legs curled to his chest would become exhausting eventually, but Harvey's already reaching for the remaining cuffs – the smallest. They're fastened around Mike's ankles and then Harvey winds a longer leather strap around the top of the headboard, clipping him in.

There's more leeway than his hands, and Harvey watches as he tests the range of motion. It isn't comfortable and Mike wouldn't want to spend hours like this, but he's really banking on the idea that he won't have to.

"Alright?"

"Yes." Harvey doesn't move and doesn't touch him. Mike's trussed up like Thanksgiving and his patience has finally run dry; he flexes his hips, trying not to whine. His hands are practically white-knuckled around his restraints by now. "Yes. Harvey...."

"Jesus, Mike." Harvey nips his outer thigh and Mike jerks in the restraints; Harvey's tongue slides across the back of his leg to nip sharply at a tender spot...then finds somewhere meaty and just sinks his teeth in. Hard. Mike moans too loud and thrashes.

The bite throbs hard when Harvey releases his jaw; Harvey turns his head and bites again, close to the groin and painful around a tendon. It isn't as deep but Mike can't drag in air because it hurts and he's rapidly hurtling towards an orgasm.

When Harvey lets go, Mike collapses, sweaty and shaking.

"God," Harvey says. His face is pressed to Mike's leg, and when Mike can finally stand to look, he sees Harvey's hand down his pants, jacking frantically. He looks like he's drugged.

He shudders and closes his eyes and stops moving abruptly, though Mike's sure he hasn't come. Mike can't hold his head up anymore, and lets it fall.

Mike's body spasms at the friction when Harvey drags himself up between Mike's thighs, under the spreader bar; he needs to come or wrap Harvey close, but he can't do either. The kiss Harvey plants on his mouth isn't chaste or dirty – it's too short, but the way he moves his tongue is just.... He sets his teeth against Mike's collarbone, which hurts and makes his dick twitch.

Harvey works Mike's nipples damn near raw. He lets Mike rub up against his sweatpants at first, until Mike starts sounding desperate and Harvey pulls away.

"Stay still or I'll stop," he says, and Mike's only solace is that Harvey sounds wrecked.

Mike can't be still – it's physically impossible once Harvey's teeth are worrying his nipple again – but Harvey doesn't stop. Maybe he gives Mike points for trying because Mike's arching his ass into the pillows to keep himself clear of rubbing against Harvey.

Harvey keeps at it so long that Mike's willing to beg him to stop – choking back all but the first two letters of Harvey's name, again and again because it's not allowed. When his chest is finally abandoned, Mike sobs out in relief. Even the air feels too harsh on his skin at this point.

"Mike," Harvey says, and he can't quite grasp the tone; he jolts when a kiss is brushed against his ribs.

Then Harvey's breath is on his dick and his toes curl, spine going tight like a bow string. Harvey teases the very tip of his tongue up Mike's shaft, pinning Mike's hips with both hands when Mike shoves up towards his face. Then he does it again, a wet tease that's barely there, and Mike fights him for a moment, struggling against Harvey's hands. He has to turn his face against his arm to keep from yelling. He's so desperate, so fucking desperate at the trace of Harvey's tongue that it's not even a choice. It's an imperative.

Harvey holds him down fast and Mike's muscles all lock up, and for a second, Mike thinks he can will himself over the edge but he can't, goddammit, and he feels Harvey straining to keep him still, then

Everything...cuts free. All at once, but not – like strands of a frayed thread finally breaking. Pop: he gives up on what every cell is straining for, because he knows he's not gonna get it til Harvey is good and ready; pop: suddenly he feels like it's not a chore to wait, because Harvey wants him to and he wants Harvey, and pop: he's unmoored from his body and his needs, and everything is Harvey and absolutely nothing hurts. He feels all that but it's fast, like a thread giving way under too much: pop-pop-pop.

Mike goes loose to his bones. The sudden lack of resistance makes Harvey's hold feel bruising-rough, and a sound leaves his throat before Harvey's grip eases.

The bed dips beside his waist and Harvey's fingers touch his chin; Mike drags his eyes open, feeling...stoned, thinking, Jesus, this is really excellent bud. He focuses in on Harvey and reaches out to touch his hair, which looks soft like a bunny, but his hands won't move.

Right. No touching.

He's vaguely aware that he's grinning like an idiot but doesn't care to stop. After a beat, he realizes Harvey's waiting for something like he asked a question but Mike missed it; he seems to give up on an answer before Mike can let that bother him. His expression is so fond that Mike feels it all over – Harvey doesn't say 'I love you,' but Mike feels it, Mike feels the words all over his skin regardless, like they're smothering him and it leaves him gasping for air. He opens up to Harvey's kiss, which this time does start out chaste but goes filthy – so fucking dirty that it almost seems possible to roll around in it until it’s all over him.

"Such a good boy." The wave of pleasure Mike's feeling intensifies. "You deserve to have your cock sucked." Mike arches and moans, feeling almost like this isn't his body. Harvey's lips feel frantic against his own. "You want my mouth? You want that?"

There are no words for yes, but Harvey doesn't need them; Mike's subverbal pleas must do the trick because he's gone in an instant and then, there's his mouth. Mike feels boneless, barely held up by leather and metal, and frankly, like he might ooze out of that any second. It's the most surreal blowjob that he has ever gotten; there's a mouth on his cock and the suction, the pressure, the wet-hot mess of it is almost beside the point. The reason he's actually losing is his mind is just Harvey, all Harvey with his attention and approval and mind-numbing enthusiasm.

The noise that he's choking out doesn't embarrass him. Harvey noses behind his balls and begins licking him out, sloppy, slobbery and perfect. Mike can barely twitch, he feels so good, but he can't stop groaning out incoherently. Harvey is stroking Mike's dick; Mike can feel it coming, he's gonna come hesgonnacome but he doesn't feel desperate, he just has to let it happen and it does – it washes through him and it feels so fucking nice.

He feels utterly pliable and putty-shaped when Harvey fucks him, thrusting in and riding rough. Mike peels his eyes open and watches Harvey love it, with his intense scary sex face on. Mike feels incredible and precious and like Harvey really loves him – he loves Harvey, he likes making Harvey laugh or melt or come and it's hard to say what's better, though the coming is his favorite because that's what's happening right now and Harvey's face is amazing.

Mike drifts on the attention as Harvey kisses him and strokes him and brings him down off his high and out of his bonds, rubbing the amazing prickling feeling out of his arms and hands and calves and pressing the tense cramp of his hips til it pops free.

Then he gathers Mike up in his arms and Mike feels great, a fact he shares with Harvey, and while he's at it, he tells Harvey he really loves him because he wants to, and Harvey just smiles and tells him, "so you said. Repeatedly."

Mike's not too sure what that's about, but he doesn't really care, because he's sleepy and stupidly comfortable, so he's unconscious not long after.

*

He wakes up with his face smushed against skin, incredibly groggy and feeling hungover. It takes a while to get his bearings – the skin smells like Harvey, his muscles are vaguely sore, his ass feels really well-used and his nipples hurt.

Right.

"Woah. That was really fucking trippy."

Harvey shakes with a laugh and rubs up and down Mike's back. "I bet. How do you feel?"

Mike takes a few minutes to properly assess himself for an answer. "Good. A little achy. A little fuzzy-headed. And like...I don't want you to...go...anywhere."

The last part is an enormous understatement. Mike feels like he'd burrow under Harvey's skin if he were able. He feels an undignified wave of relief when Harvey murmurs, "I'm not," somewhat cut short as he continues, "But I do want to get you something to drink, and order food – it's dinnertime, and your blood sugar probably tanked."

Mike clings on tighter, even though the rational part of him knows it's childish, and that Harvey isn't going very far. He feels a little less ridiculous when Harvey doesn't scold him, but instead pulls him even closer. He doesn't let go right away when Mike finally says "okay" and loosens his own grip.

When he does pull away, it's to give Mike the type of warm, fond look that most people wouldn't think Harvey's capable of. Mike feels it to his toes and it makes him grin.

"I'm gonna tell Donna you're a sap," he says, and laughs at Harvey's look.

"She knows. She's been giving me hell about you since Day One. The last few months, she's made my life as unpleasant as possible."

"Which is saying something," Mike grins.

"Which...is saying something," Harvey confirms. He drops a kiss on Mike's mouth and says, "I'll be back in just a minute," but he doesn't get out of bed. He watches Mike stretch and groan, and reaches out to stroke his hair. "Stiff?"

Mike pushes into the touch. "Yeah, a little."

"'kay. We'll grab a hot shower while we wait for delivery. Might be a little low on electrolytes, too."

Mike buries his smile in the pillow when Harvey absently gropes his ass like he can't help himself; obviously he doesn't hide his amusement well enough, because Harvey smacks it before rolling out of bed.

Mike falls into a half-doze, listening to the muted sounds of Harvey moving around the kitchen and ordering finger food.

*

By the time they go back to sleep that evening, Mike is hydrated and fed and roughly the consistency of taffy from the attention Harvey has given him. He's still groggy – far more wrung out than any scene has ever left him before, even though, objectively, it wasn't nearly as intense. Not in the conventional sense; not in terms of pain or deprivation or pushing his limits.

He's not surprised by it exactly; he's never submitted that deeply for anyone before. His own reaction to that scene is sort of fascinating to him. He doesn't think too much about it until the lull of their Sunday afternoon: on Saturday night, he's still coming down from it, and the next morning he's busy basking in how badly Harvey is spoiling him. He gluts himself completely on breakfast and the news being read to him, and the near-embarrassing amount of verbal and physical praise.

He spends the early afternoon trying to spoil Harvey back with the world's longest, sloppiest blowjob, while he rubs himself off against Harvey's leg. Harvey loves that as much as he seemed to the first time; the filthy things he calls Mike can't be mistaken for insults.

It's after that, when Mike is curled up half in Harvey's lap while he works that Mike has the chance to think about how deep into subspace he'd gone.

It makes sense; he'd come to trust Harvey so immensely before the breakup, and on some level he'd never stopped. Instead, he'd been fighting that instinct tooth and claw to protect himself. It's logical that it didn't take something extreme to make him stop fighting it. He just needed the right push.

And it's logical that no one else could get him there no matter how hard they worked him; he never could've trusted them the way he trusts Harvey.

When Mike shares this thought aloud, he expects it to make Harvey happy, or smug. He doesn't expect the tick of discomfort before his expression goes shuttered, or the way Harvey looks away with indecision and takes a deep breath.

"Harvey?"

When he gets no acknowledgment, Mike sits up.

"I think I should tell you why I hired you. Before you sign that contract."

Mike doesn't like the sound of that. On a visceral level, he doesn't like the sound of it. "Harvey, I already know enough. You don't have to - "

"Not just why I hired you. Why I hired you. Louis presented you with that offer months before you took it. You never wondered why I didn't go with someone else?"

Mike stares at him. He'd never really thought about it, honestly. The first time it was offered, he'd turned it down flat, and then forgot about it – it was never an actual option in his mind. In the months that had followed, Louis would bring it up periodically, but he'd never really pushed it – or, he had, but only in a casual way that, for Louis, was hardly a push at all. Mike had been mildly annoyed, but it had never actually occurred to him that the opportunity was exclusive. If he had thought about it at all, he would've guessed that other boys had been interviewed and then rejected for the position, or that everyone else was too tied up with regulars to take something full-time like that.

And when he finally took it, he'd been so desperate and nervous that he hadn't given thought to any of that at all.

"The offer was only for me?"

"I wasn't interested in any other sub."

Okay, that’s...simultaneously complimentary and…chilling. But this is Harvey. It can't actually be as disturbing as it sounds.

"You'd never met me," Mike says with certainty. He'd have remembered, barring Harvey undergoing major reconstructive surgery or something. Score one for possessing an eidetic memory. In fact, Mike was confident he'd never seen Harvey's face before that first meeting – no New York style six degrees of frequenting the same dry cleaners, or anything like that.

"I'd never met you. But I'd seen you."

Harvey's wearing his frank, no-bullshitting-you, I'm-a-straight-talker face, which Mike knows can hide bullshit, but in this case, he's pretty sure it's not. It's not, because he doesn't think Harvey wants to tell him this story.

"Okay, seriously, don't start beating around the bush at this point in your life, because you're starting to freak me out."

Harvey takes a deep breath. "Yeah, okay. Here's the deal...."

Chapter Text

"There's...a tradition at Pearson Hardman – probably at a lot of big law firms – of a mentor 'gifting' their new junior partner with their most annoying or high-maintenance client. Normally, it's someone small potatoes – you're not going to hand a big account over to someone who was an associate five minutes ago. But there was a high-profile CEO that Jessica had been itching to get rid of ever since he was given to her by Daniel Hardman, and she knew I could handle it. It was a back-handed compliment and I was actually pretty excited because the guy was big money. Until I met him face-to-face and realized I sort of knew him."

When Harvey pauses a beat, Mike says, "I assume that this is relevant to me, somehow."

"Very relevant." Harvey's tone of voice makes his stomach dip nervously, but he motions for Harvey to go on. "I'm fairly certain Jessica didn't know that I knew him. It was just shitty luck. I had never known his full name, but I'd seen him around. At the club."

"Oh." Well. That's one reason to stop going. Mike can imagine how awkward that had to be, though not as uncomfortable as it being opposition or something.

"Yeah. It was no coincidence that I didn't know him better; I'd seen enough of his behavior to want nothing to do with him. He was...." Harvey pauses to gather his thoughts. "As far as I knew, he was always safe and consensual, and I'm pretty confident that was true – Louis may be...Louis, but even in the early days, he knew what went on in his club, and he had zero tolerance for abuse. And by then, he'd come close enough to a lawsuit that he had a system for people to report off-site infractions. Those could and would get you banned."

Harvey's self-justification is slightly worrying, considering Mike doesn't know what he's justifying yet. "Okay, I get it. He was on the up and up."

Harvey made a face. "I wouldn't say that. He skirted the right side of the line, but he was.... Look, he made Louis look like the paragon of trustworthiness. He had a thing for fresh meat. A lot of people do, but for him, it was. He liked humiliation, but he didn't want someone who wanted to be humiliated. By topping people who were young and new to the scene, he got what he wanted, with consent, because they didn't understand how they were going to end up feeling."

Mike shies away from remembering some of his first experiences working for Louis. "He was predatory."

"Yes. He was also a braggart, and I'm sure everyone he slept with knew just how stinking rich he was. He was covered well enough from legal action – though not entirely, because there are so many misconceptions about consent in BDSM – but certainly, he'd left himself wide open for blackmail and bad press."

All at once, it hits Mike exactly what Harvey's feeling guilty about. "You had him start using Louis' side business."

Harvey looks away. "Yes. It was a condition of keeping him on at the firm – if he didn't agree to use Louis' service exclusively, then I'd cut him loose. He was too big a liability." Harvey's eyes return to Mike's. "It wasn't just for the non-disclosures, Mike. I knew Louis would be able to keep him in tighter check, and that at least this way, his subs would be...better equipped. I was minimizing the damage he could do."

"I've subbed for him." Mike's already certain of where this is going, but the downward flick of Harvey's eyes confirms it.

"Yes."

"More than once."

Harvey's face tightens. "I don't know, but I think so."

Mike feels a little ill. "I don't...is he still a client? At Pearson Hardman, I mean. Have I worked on his account?"

"No. No. I wouldn't...he was gone by the time you started on. I referred him off to another firm."

Mike bores a hole between Harvey's eyes, since Harvey's gaze is down a little, to the right of actually meeting his. "How long before?"

"...Right before. I couldn't dump him before that. Jessica was pissed about his billables until I explained why I was letting him go."

Mike's mouth drops open. "You explained - "

"About him, Mike. Not you. I left you out of it. Once I explained the liability he presented and why I refused to deal with him anymore personally, she was a little more understanding about losing his money. I never told her – or anyone – about you. I wouldn't. And I didn't need to."

"Why didn't you ever tell me about this?"

Harvey's still not looking at him. "I didn't see the point in upsetting you."

Mike can't sit down anymore. He's too agitated to even pace – he starts to turn away, but he doesn't get very far. "Bullshit, you were protecting him."

"It wasn't about protecting him. I could have kept him on as a client. Mike, I could've introduced you to him, and you never would've known. It was about protecting you. I didn't want him anywhere near you."

Mike stares at him. "I wouldn't have recognized him."

"No."

"Oh my God." Mike falls back a step; he knows who Harvey's talking about. He'd rarely known any of his clients' real names, but there was only one he'd never even seen. Mike had always been blindfolded. He had always come away from those sessions feeling like utter shit, knowing that had been exactly what the guy was getting off on. He had subbed for this guy multiple times; he hated every minute, but the money was too good to turn down when things got bad. "Harvey, this guy...this is the guy that fucked with my head, ok? Just about anything I have a hangup with.... Jesus. Jesus, the cock cages, did you know? Did you know that was him?"

The amount of shock and horror on Harvey's face as he gets to his feet is immediately satisfying. "No. I had no idea. I never would have – no wonder you hate them. We'll take them out of the contract, okay? Assuming you're going to sign at all, which. I honestly don't expect you to."

Mike is still trying to get his breath. He feels almost sick with relief that he's able to believe him. Harvey's telling the truth – he didn't know about the connection.

But his last statement, once it sinks in, is a whole new punch to the gut. "Oh my fucking God, are you trying to get rid of me again? Are you kidding me right now?"

A note of disbelief enters Harvey's face. "Mike.... Am I trying to...? No, I am not trying to get rid of you. I want you to stay, but most people would be more likely to get a restraining order."

"You're so full of shit. If this isn't your last-ditch effort at pushing me away, why the hell would you tell me now?"

Harvey is looking at him like he's crazy. "How could I not tell you now?"

"But you weren't planning to tell me before this, ever. Right?"

Harvey visibly retreats into himself, and the reasonable look on his stupid face just agitates Mike further. "It was...there was no point. You were never going to see him again."

"No, but I was going to see you. By the time you started steering me towards law school, you knew that much, right? You knew I wasn't going anywhere. So what gave you the right to withhold that?"

"There was no point in hurting you that way," Harvey says again.

Mike is in love with an emotionally retarded jackass. The frustrated fondness that comes with that thought knocks the anger out from under him, and he drops into his chair.

"And what if I had found out? What if...I don't even know, Harvey, what if Louis told me? What if I ran into our mutual client on the street? What if.... You were just going to leave me to get blindsided?"

"You wouldn't have found out."

The stupid part is, Mike thinks he really believes that. Incredible. Mike rubs at his forehead. "So, you didn't tell me before this because it would hurt me to know, and I wouldn't have found out anyway. Genius. So again. Why are you telling me this now?"

Harvey's the picture of frustration. "Because you deserve to know, if we're going to do this."

"I didn't deserve to know before," Mike notes calmly.

"Not at all what I said. You just.... I didn't want you to hate me."

"So...this was an attempt to push me away."

Harvey looks a little crazed. "How the hell is it possible that you're fixated on this and not what I'm actually telling you?"

That's...a really good question, actually. Because it's easier? Because this, at least, is an aspect of Harvey's fuckitude he can deal with? Because the other thing's too upsetting? Because he's so gone for Harvey that the possibility of him leaving again feels far worse than anything else? The possibilities actually get less flattering from there, so Mike doesn't dwell on them.

He's not entirely sure what he'd be mad at Harvey for anyway. Objectively, he understands Harvey's reasoning over sending his client to Louis. And it's not like Harvey requested him specifically; even if he had, Mike could have said no. He sure as hell could have said no to a repeat with that asshole. He just hadn't.

Wait.

"How long ago was this? That you sent him to Louis?"

"Five...." Harvey settles tentatively on the edge of the couch. "Six years ago."

Harvey couldn't have requested him specifically, because he wasn't working there yet. "You never answered your own question. On why you hired me." Mike narrows his eyes as Harvey gets a little shifty again. "What does your client have to do with you hiring me? Actually, how did you even find out about me? The contracts cover my confidentiality too. And that loser sure as hell never knew my name."

Harvey looks him in the eye. "He was videotaping you, Mike."

"He was.... He can't! That goes against – he was prohibited from doing that!"

"I know. That's standard to all Louis' contracts, to cover everybody. But he was. You were blindfolded. He apparently broke that clause with everyone in Louis' employ. He knew there was no way you could know."

"Fuck." Mike feels frozen, locked up. "Fuck, does Louis know? Does he still have all those recordings? They need to be destroyed, Harvey, I have a life now – "

He's not cognizant of Harvey getting up until his hands are on Mike, kneeling in front of him and cupping his face to direct his attention. "It's done. They're wiped. Louis scrubbed every copy."

"You're sure?"

"I'm sure. We went over everything together. And it won't happen again. Louis is keeping him on but doubling his rate, because his sessions now have to be supervised." Harvey looks disgusted. "He liked that."

Jesus, Mike had no clue. He never would have known. He almost wishes he still didn't. Which brings him back around to Harvey's justifications and Mike suddenly can't stand to be touched. He pulls away and Harvey drops his hands onto the arm rests, and then retreats further, sitting back on his heels, hands in his lap.

He looks resigned, like he expected the reaction and knows it's his own fault. He expects Mike to leave, now, and maybe Mike should, but he doesn't want to. It isn't even worth considering, and it's frustrating that Harvey still thinks it's inevitable.

And Mike is, once again, letting himself get sidetracked by things that are easier to swallow.

Harvey's last statement catches up to him, finally.

"So he just...there aren't even consequences." It's not remotely surprising; money covers all sin, it's a concept he's already well-versed in. That doesn't make this less upsetting, in a numb way. Numb is good, quite frankly.

Harvey shakes his head. He moves as if he's about to reach out and touch Mike but changes his mind. "I'm sorry. There was no way to stop him from picking up naive kids if Louis let him go." He's quiet; Mike doesn't think he's ever heard Harvey sound this way before. There's no hint of humor or bragging when he adds, "I did manage to make his face less pretty for a while."

"You hit him?" As far as Mike knows, Harvey's never hit anyone outside of a ring.

A hint of a smile dawns on Harvey's face. "I broke his nose."

He looks like a naughty boy who can't quite hide his delight even though he's still in trouble. It's infectious, and Mike finds himself grinning reluctantly.

"Harvey. He could've charged you with assault!"

The smile falls away slowly. "No, he couldn't have, Mike. I would've gone public with everything. I would've ruined him. I almost did anyway."

Which was sweet, in a Harvey way, but not practical. They're talking about something related to a fundamentally illegal business. "C'mon, you couldn't - "

"I could. None of the subs ever had sexual contact with him. Everything was technically legal except for his breach of contract. Nobody would've cared about that, but they would've crucified him for everything else. I wanted to do it. But it would've put Louis in a tight spot, put his business under scrutiny. If he hadn't been so pissed off, I would've happily screwed him too, but he was."

Mike studies him. Harvey's obviously still pissed off at himself over having to back down; he's barely contained, like a horse at the gate. Mike warms. "You need to stop with the evidence that Louis is a decent human being."

Harvey relaxes a little, recognizing Mike's intention. "I know, it gives me indigestion to think about."

He shifts his weight with a grimace, and it draws Mike's attention to the fact that he's been kneeling all this time. "Your knees must be killing you; you didn't even use the pillow." He reaches out and tugs at Harvey's elbow.

"I'm fine," he grumbles, but his joints pop with a painful sound as he leverages himself off the floor. He starts to go back to the sofa, but Mike pulls him towards the chair, sliding down onto the floor. His anger has faded and now he just feels...sick, trying not to remember what all those scenes had felt like. He wants to be at Harvey's feet – needs the immediate comfort of his hand.

He can tell that Harvey needs it, too. Mike turns his face into Harvey's leg and lets the ruff of his fingers push everything else away.

He's half-dazed when something occurs to him and he realizes he still doesn't have the whole story. He looks up, careful not to pull away or discourage Harvey from touching him. "He showed you one of mine. That's how you found out about the videos. And about me."

Harvey's hand stills, and starts to retract, but Mike won't let it. "Yes." Mike doesn't prompt him for more information; he finds it distantly amusing that Harvey's tactic can be used against him. Eventually he continues, "I think he was dying to show someone, and I already knew his habits, so I won that lottery." He sounds bitter.

Mike's quiet for a moment, but he knows Harvey won't say any more than that unless he has to. And Mike needs to know this part. "What was he doing to me? In the tape you saw."

Harvey's expression is tight. "Mike. I didn't...see much. Once I realized what I was seeing, I - "

"I want to know."

There are a few unhappy beats before Harvey actually answers. "He was grinding your face into the tile with his shoe, and insulting you."

Mike's heart jerks, but he needs it all. "Was I crying yet?"

"You were blindfolded."

"Was I crying?"

"Yes."

Mike studies Harvey's face. "I was sobbing?"

"Yes, Mike." Harvey looks like he'd rather talk about anything else. But Mike needs this.

"Did you watch anything else before you and Louis scrubbed the files?"

Harvey's eyes flick away and back. "A few seconds of each. Just to be sure we had the right files."

"So you saw him with others."

"Yeah."

Mike's heart is pounding. "Why me and not them?"

Harvey tips his head in an irritated plea that Mike not push the issue. But he started this.

Why did Harvey choose Mike?

"Is it because I was crying?"

It's hard to parse Harvey's facial expression but there's something false when he firmly says, "No."

Mike sits up, determined. "Why me, then? You saw me like that, then told Louis you wanted to hire me?"

"No."

"C'mon, Harvey - "

"I wasn't going to hire you. And because Louis already knew that, he wouldn't tell me anything about you."

"But you asked him to."

"Look, what that guy did was psychological abuse, and he did it to all of you, but everyone else.... It was clear from what we saw that you took it the worst. He was breaking you, which is what I tried to prevent in the first place by sending him to Louis. Louis was supposed to - "

"Louis told me that client was bad for me. But he wasn't going to keep me from taking his appointments if I wanted them."

Harvey studies him, inscrutable. "Why did you?"

"Because the money was good. I only did it when I had to, but he paid extra for me. He liked how I reacted." Harvey looks pissed. And he's not pissed at Mike. This is all for the client, and something about that doesn't sit right with him. The whole thing had been fucked, true, but Mike wasn't helpless, and he needs them to get this straight. He had a choice, and he made it. He doesn't want to be seen as a victim, least of all by Harvey. "Look, you know I was fine, right? I mean, it wasn't ideal, but I didn't...it's not like he traumatized me. He was just an asshole, worse than all the other assholes, but I did choose to be there."

If anything, that only seems to anger Harvey more. "Knowing you the way I do now, do you honestly expect me to believe he wasn't breaking your heart every time you went to see him?"

That knocks the breath out of Mike for a minute. Those words. Because God, that's exactly how it was. And Mike had felt so very stupid at the time, for feeling desperately...broken over some douchebag's kinks. He'd been angry at himself that he couldn't just brush it off. So sure he should be laughing all the way to the bank.

He gets it now, after Harvey. After Matt, after Tessa. He gets why it tore him up. It's done, though. He doesn't want to think on it more than he has to.

He wants to be happy now. And he wants Harvey off of this subject.

"Technically, I never saw him," Mike jokes. He knows it's weak.

"Mike - "

"Did you just feel that sorry for me?" Harvey looks thrown, but at least Mike derailed him. And they still haven't gotten to how and why, exactly, Harvey hired him. "You said you hadn't planned to hire me, so. What changed your mind?"

"You did."

"Because you pitied me." That's an idea that sticks in his craw, but doesn't quite fit. He needs Harvey to tell him it's not true.

"You interested me." Mike raises his eyebrows and waits. "I wanted to top you. That hadn't happened to me in a long time."

"I think I'm missing something. Knowing you as I do, you expect me to believe that you saw me getting ground down and humiliated, and thought, yeah, that guy. That's the one that I want." He makes the leap, based on the abashed tinge Harvey's face takes on. "It wasn't just that. Louis wouldn't tell you anything about me, so you, what? Had me investigated?"

Harvey looks away, this guilty-rueful-amused expression coming over his face that makes Mike laugh out loud.

"Oh my god, I knew Vanessa looked familiar. I just couldn't quite place her; she must blend in pretty well."

"She's the best," Harvey says. Mike's really warming to this topic: it's better than the old one, and Harvey looks terribly embarrassed by it. It's reassuring; Mike still needs to know why he was hired, but right now it's difficult to imagine he'll dislike what he finds.

"This is interesting, Harvey, this white knight complex you've been hiding."

Harvey gives him a look. "I don't have a white knight complex."

"Really? What do you call stalking a hooker because you're worried about him? Though you're right, maybe I'm whitewashing your intentions. Because put like that, you sound pretty creepy."

There's a ghost of a smile around Harvey's mouth. "I didn't stalk you. Technically, I paid someone to stalk you."

"You're right, that's so much better. So. At what point did it go from 'make sure this kid won't slit his wrists' guilt to 'I should get him naked and do filthy things to him'?"

Harvey looks torn between amusement and exasperation, and suddenly Mike is too far away. He crawls into Harvey's lap, and lets himself be settled there, Harvey's hands on his hips.

"It wasn't creepy," Harvey says suddenly, like he needs to dispel some idea Mike's got in his head. Mike laughs.

"It's plenty creepy, let's not kid ourselves. You still haven't said why you hired me though. Once you saw that I was fine, you should've been done, right?" At this point, Mike's shamelessly digging for the admission he knows is lurking. It's so hilariously absurd. Mike needs to hear it.

"You weren't fine," Harvey says, because of course that's what he's focused on.

"Okay, I was a mess. But I wasn't a danger to myself or others, and I was just some guy that you didn't even know. So...?"

Harvey slides his thumb over Mike's chin. "I knew that we'd fit."

"And how could you know that?" Mike can barely contain his own amusement, but he tries his best to – love is a place where Harvey's touchy, and he apparently has delusions that he'd acted reasonably at the time. "You hadn't followed me yourself, right?"

"No." Mike does laugh now, because Harvey says it like that would've been beyond the pale.

"Okay, so you had the original footage, which you saw...parts of once?" Harvey nods, and Mike goes on before he provides further detail because Mike doesn't want to think about that too hard. "And you probably had a few photos Vanessa took, and. What else? She would've gotten you my parents' accident, and Grammy, that I was a college dropout. How long I'd been working for Louis. Some job history, which I imagine you only skimmed long enough to judge me. What, in all that, made you sure we'd be compatible?"

Harvey looks maddeningly sure of himself, like he can't consider that he was wrong. "I read people for a living, Mike. And I'm good at it."

Mike knows that it's love because Harvey's bullshit is so endearing. "Yeah. It was professional judgment that had you hiring a hooker and offering to let him move in the first time that you met him. Are you kidding me? Just admit that you're a hopeless romantic."

Harvey's fond look is mixed liberally with irritation. "I'm not."

"You're right, it really goes beyond that. This actually creeps into 'love at first sight' territory. Emphasis on 'creeps.'"

The utter horror on Harvey's face is even better than Mike hoped for. "You are completely delusional."

Mike laughs. "Takes one to know one."

Harvey's face contorts hilariously, and for a second, he looks poised to argue. Mike can spot the exact instant Harvey chooses to ignore Mike's accusation.

"So you're staying."

It puts a lump in Mike's throat to hear the cautious happiness – to know that Harvey's letting him hear it. "I think you're kind of stuck with me."

It's true. Mike can't imagine walking out right now; that very well might make him crazy. However they ended up here, they're lucky. Mike is lucky that something about him woke up this part of Harvey. Even if the circumstances had been.... Ghoulish.

He understands Harvey's motivations well enough to be sure that once he drags all the details out of him, they'll add up to something...well. Entirely dysfunctional.

But sweet.

Harvey resists letting him go a little when Mike tries to pop to his feet, but then he does. Mike's only going as far as the sofa to retrieve the contract and the pen that have been sitting out since Friday. He returns to Harvey's lap and tilts his head as Harvey kisses his ear and his throat, and Mike lays the paper on the armrest so he can jot down his signature and get on to more interesting things.

Then suddenly Harvey's mouth is gone. "Woah woah woah – that pen is going to go straight through the paper and gouge the leather, go sign it at the table."

Mike turns and stares at him. "Are you serious right now?"

Harvey looks equally aghast. "Yes. It's Italian."

Mike considers his options for a hard writing surface, and props the contract on Harvey's forehead.

"You're not as cute as you think you are," Harvey says. He's glaring up at Mike from under the paper margin and Mike is pretty sure that as soon as the pen is capped, he's gonna get it.

Possibly for the next three years straight. He's looking forward to it. So he signs on the line.