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This Covenant

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There are three types of people born into this world. The most common is the average variety human with few redeeming qualities whatsoever. The other two are considered special by society: the Gifted and the Shifters. Harvey Specter was born of the latter variety. At ten years of age the mark of a Shifter will appear on the body; Harvey’s mark happens to be directly over his heart. It appeared later than the average Shifter child but when it did show, black and vibrant against his tanned skin, he was ecstatic, disappointed, and outraged.

For as long as he could remember people had been telling him stories of how incredible shifting was, and how liberating it would feel to be immune to manlike insecurities while one takes animal form. Of course that is only one opinion of the Shifter population. The other is based solely on bitterness because of the limitations put on Shifters the day they are marked. The day a child is labeled as a Shifter is the day that that boy or girl is bonded to a newborn babe of the Gifted.

Unlike the Shifters, people born Gifted are known to be so immediately after birth by the mark that appears as a scar. The bond is also immediate even though both parties don’t even know what the other looks like. In the old days it used to take a while to find the Shifter belonging to each newborn Gifted. Even without the help of computers and special software to identify and locate each child there was still the matter of physics. A pair was never separated by more than 20 miles. Any further apart and their marks would begin to burn and the pain would intensify unless proximity was reduced considerably. This never happened to Harvey even though he was a little over 200 miles away from his bond-mate when he went away to Harvard, but that’s another thing entirely.

The day Harvey was marked as a Shifter was the day he was bonded to a blonde haired blue eyed baby born on January 19th, 1983. When his parents first took a young Harvey to meet his bond-mate he sulked the whole way, completely against the very notion of bonding to another person let alone a snot nosed baby. When they walked inside the hospital however, his mood began to lighten like a giant weight had been lifted off his tiny shoulders. He could feel the bond growing stronger and with each step closer to the nursery Harvey began to feel needed.

There is a reason bonds only happen between a 10-year-old Shifter and a newborn Gifted. Although people of the Gifted population are special and talented, they tend to get themselves into trouble; too much strain on their brilliancy and they become easily susceptible to the dangers of the world. Older and more mature Shifters are bonded to young Gifted because with their animal half they’re better equipped to guide and protect them.

When he finally reached the windows of the nursery Harvey had his nose pushed against the glass peering at all the babies with curious eyes. His dad scooped him up hitching him comfortably against his hip and gestured at the colorful blankets littering the room.

“Do you know which one is yours?” His dad had asked.

There were at least 30 babies each looking the same: small, pink, and squishy. Even so, Harvey didn’t hesitate to point to the third row eighth baby on the left wearing yellow booties. “That one,” he said confidently.

His mom had come up behind her two favorite boys holding onto them tightly, and laughed along with his father. Apparently their son had changed his mind about the whole bond business.

That was decades ago and even if he isn’t blessed with a memory like his associate’s, Harvey will never forget the moment he met his bond-mate and the (mostly) wonderful times after that. Too bad his other half forgot about him only 11 years, 8 months, and 23 days after that fateful evening in the hospital.

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When Mike was younger he used to get teased a lot. A good portion of the mockery had to do with the fact that he was physically weak, smaller than the other children, and easy to push around. Despite this, he always had his bond-mate to back him up despite said bond-mate being a decade older than him. Even so, his Shifter couldn’t always be around and when Mike had to shoulder the abuse alone he did it with his chin held high because he was better than them. Although the fact that he was a part of the Gifted population in a human school had increased the teasing tenfold.

The bullying never would have happened had he gone to a Gifted Academy. Instead he was sent to a public school where his parents claimed he got the same education for less money. That may be so but Mike certainly would have been treated better had he gone someplace where he would be accepted for who and what he was: special, unique, Gifted.

On the night of the accident Mike was at the ripe old age of 11. They were driving home from Hell’s Kitchen where his Grammy lived when it happened. A truck sped past their car and cut them off; he can remember hearing his dad cursing and his mom scolding both men. There was only a few seconds of peace before one of the tires on the truck blew and it began swerving wildly. He noticed too late just as his parents did and then there were only the sounds of screeching tires, crunching metal and horrific screams.

Mike is proud to be Gifted, he truly is, but he has a hard time forgiving himself when it comes to the convenient forgetfulness of really important events in his life. The accident did something to him besides the obvious psychological trauma of hearing his parents burn to death. No, the accident took something vital away from him: his other half. It is common knowledge that every Gifted person is bonded with a Shifter at birth (unless you’re the latter), and that person is with you for the rest of your life. See, Mike doesn’t have a Shifter; not anymore, not after the accident. When he woke up in the hospital two weeks after the car wreck he couldn’t remember anything about his bond-mate not even what he or she looked like. The strong pulsating link he had felt for his entire life just vanished. He felt not only the loss of his parents, but the loss of someone so dear to him that he wasn’t expected to survive without his Shifter half. Now one would think that with all the technology the world has to offer that finding a person’s match would be easy, but it wasn’t. There was no point in finding his other half if he couldn’t remember and if the bond was broken...well then the relationship wouldn’t stick anyway. The doctors said that it had happened before–the broken bond not the amnesia– and if he survived then loneliness would be the only lingering effect. He had reluctantly agreed with his Grammy. He didn’t want his Shifter to suffer along with him so Mike chose not to search him or her out regardless of the broken link. His bond-mate didn’t seem to want to find him either.

His twelfth birthday came and went with little fanfare. He didn’t want any and he certainly didn’t deserve any. He was officially a freak: a Gifted boy with no Shifter. This was the special hell that he lived in for another 16 lonely years.

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In a sick twisted way Mike owed his new life to Trevor. The man may be human and very ordinary, but he was all Mike had besides his Grammy. They had met in the seventh grade and became instant friends the moment Trevor stood up for Mike when their peers resumed their mocking. It was worse after his parents died, but Trevor was always there to knock some sense into them even if Mike’s Shifter wasn’t. Trevor didn’t seem to mind that he was a freak and they seemed to be perfect for each other until that fateful day at the Chilton.

To make a long story short, Mike is sort of grateful to his ex-best friend for essentially introducing him to Harvey. He now has a great job (with long brutal hours) and a fantastic boss (who has an ice cube for a heart) and he doesn’t have to worry about Grammy’s future (her financial one anyway). All in all things are going well until Kyle decides to be a bigger dick than he normally is.

“Are you sure your Shifter didn’t just die along with your parents?”

Kyle was laughing outright at him and in front of all the other associates of Pearson Hardman. The ordinary humans are laughing with him but two remain silent. Her name is Julie; she is a recent hire and a Shifter at that. When Mike met her he had no idea that she was Ben’s bond-mate. They’ve become tentative friends over the two weeks she’s been with the firm but now she was leaving him out to dry. The other is Aaron who happens to have a Gifted sister. He’s generally a quiet guy so Mike doesn’t see a reason for him to change now.

“I mean seriously, who would want to be stuck with you forever? Your Shifter bitch was probably tired of you and decided to kill itself.”

Mike is getting angry. He’s the one who’s tired. He’s sick of listening to Kyle belittle him in front of the associates let alone mock his parents and his nonexistent bond-mate. He stands up and readies himself for a fight he knows he shouldn’t be engaging in. Harvey will be mad, he thinks distantly.

Both associates open their mouths to speak their mind, but suddenly Mike feels a presence behind him and he watches with amusement as Kyle’s eyes widen in what can only be described as horror. There are few people who can provoke that sort of reaction from Kyle Durant and Mike has a sneaky suspicion of who it might be looming over him.

“Gentlemen,” Harvey carefully steps around Mike, deliberately placing himself between his associate and the trembling coward. “I believe playtime is over.”

Kyle’s mouth opens and closes like a fish before he blurts out, “Of course Mr. Specter.”

He turns away to go back to his desk but Harvey’s voice stops him. “I wasn’t finished. Mr. Durant I believe you will be much more comfortable in the file room where you will be remaining for the rest of the week. I’m sure you can find better things to do than harass Mr. Ross. If you find yourself lacking in social stimuli, then perhaps you’d better find another job.”

It was all said so conversationally and by the blind terror on Kyle’s face was anything to go by, the underlying threats in Harvey’s tone wasn’t lost on the associate. Everyone watches Kyle grab his things and practically run to the universally hated file room. Mike is the only one who keeps his eyes on Harvey as the senior partner takes a cursory glance around the bullpen.

“And for the rest of you,” Harvey calls out. All eyes seem to look up at the authoritative tone while still looking down at their desks. “Any comments made in jest or not regarding the nature of the Gifted and Shifters will be severely punished. Now get back to work.”

They did.

Harvey motions for him to follow and Mike does so warily. He hadn’t actually said anything during the one-sided argument with Kyle but that doesn’t mean Harvey isn’t willing to put all the blame on him. Even so, Mike follows like the good little puppy he is with his head down and his metaphorical tail tucked between his legs.

When they pass Donna’s desk Mike tries to smile at her but it probably comes out like a grimace. The redhead rolls her eyes most likely already aware of the incident in the bullpen. He follows close behind Harvey into the senior partner’s office and doesn’t see her cross her fingers as he shuts the glass door behind him.

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Harvey doesn’t say anything at first; he’s too wound up. It’s only two in the afternoon but he pours himself a stiff drink anyway. He’d heard everything Kyle had said to Mike, each word a punch in the gut. It took every ounce of his self-control to calmly enter the situation and appear collected when he was everything but. He wanted to punch that snot-nosed little brat right on the mouth before he shifted into his animal form and proceeded to rip his throat out. As much as he wanted to however, Harvey knew that he handled the incident properly as a supervisor should.

He turns around from the city skyline and watches curiously as his associate studies the floor with great intent. It appears that Mike thinks he’s in trouble or about to be fired which is so far from the case that Harvey almost laughed aloud. Trouble or not, the kid needed to be reprimanded.

“What were you thinking, kid?” he asks. “Were you just going to stand there and let that douche insult you like that?”

Mike finally looks up from the floor. Anger clouds his blue eyes. “Hell no! If you would’ve stayed out if it then I would’ve beat his ass.”

Harvey allows a fond smirk at that. “Unfortunately I’m not as sure of your ass-kicking abilities as you seem to be.”

His associate actually growls before plopping down on the couch. He scrubs his face with his hands trying to dispel the ire coursing through him. “I could’ve taken him Harvey. I don’t need you to fight my battles for me.”

But you do, Harvey thinks somberly. “Listen Mike,” he waits until he has the kid’s attention. “As much as I’d love to see you two trying to kill each other with highlighters, this isn’t junior high and you need to stay focused on your work.”

“I don’t get it.” Mike looks thoroughly confused. “Either you’re proud of me for sticking up to that dick or you’re scolding me for almost fighting in the office.”

“I’m great at multi-tasking.” Harvey deadpans. The kid’s right though.

His associate smiles but it’s gone in a second. “I understand that fighting is unbecoming of an attorney working for Pearson Hardman, but I won’t allow Kyle to disrespect my family or my Shifter like that, and if you fire me well then…”

He trails off and Harvey’s already rolling his eyes at the ridiculousness of the suggestion. “I would never fire you for sticking up for your bond-mate.”

“Or lack thereof,” Mike adds quietly.

Harvey notes the dejected look on that boyish face and the liquid welling up in those blue eyes aren’t missed. He downs the rest of his scotch, carefully tossing the now empty glass on his desk, and walks over to his associate. Mike’s gaze has returned to the floor as he refuses to look at his mentor with tears threatening to fall. Harvey understands more than he could possibly say at this time so he does what he can. He puts his hand on Mike’s head, running his fingers soothingly over the scalp before ruffling the blonde hair playfully. It works; Mike leans into the touch and begins to smile at the unexpected gentleness from Harvey but the contented look disappears almost instantly.

“You just...” Mike’s eyes are wide but distant as if he’s trying to search through his impressive memory bank.

Harvey restrains his nervous fidgeting as Mike’s gaze now rests on him. Wasn’t that what he wanted in the first place? He takes his hand away none too abruptly and shoves his clenched fists into his pockets. “Too awkward?”

Mike reaches out for him but gives up halfway, his hand falling uselessly into his lap. “No, definitely not! It just…” his shoulders slump in a different sort of defeated. “It just felt so familiar to me.”

He has so much he wants to say, so much he wants to do, but Harvey laughs the situation away as he walks back to his desk. “You sound like you don’t remember.”

He’s testing the waters here because he doesn’t know how aware Mike is about his situation. He barely catches Mike’s whispered answer and when he turns around to reply with something witty the kid is gone.

I don’t.

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With Kyle sent to the dungeon (as Mike so fondly put it) all was quiet in the bullpen. Harvey’s threat hovered over the associates’ heads like a dark thunder cloud, rumbling ominously at the smallest hint of a joke or snide remark. The angel on Mike’s shoulder was telling him to warn the others that lightning does indeed strike twice. He had listened to that voice before but it tended to bring pain and misery. He simply turned on his iPod and worked quietly, ignoring the looks of awe and fear in his coworkers’ eyes whenever he looked up.

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The sun has been sleeping for hours when Ray finally stops the car outside of the mansion belonging to their latest client. Richard Mason, made a wealthy millionaire upon his father’s death, became a billionaire in his own right. The man owns some of the nicest resorts on earth that cater exclusively to the Gifted and Shifters; the resorts include clubs, restaurants, and remote islands flown to by private jets.

Personally, Mike thinks Richard Mason just took the Sandals idea and ran with it. He would never say anything to anyone however simply allowing the thoughts to stew in the privacy of his own head.

“I still don’t see why I had to come with you,” Mike whines as he and Harvey exit the town car.

"I thought you wanted credit where credit is due pup.”

Harvey is right of course, isn’t he always? Even so, when Mike said he wouldn’t mind being appreciated for his ingenious ideas that saved the client’s ass that did not mean he wanted to go to said client’s celebration party. It didn’t help that they had changed out of their business attire and wore expensive casual clothes. At least Harvey’s clothes were expensive when really Mike’s were just casual. Painfully so in fact as he resumed the nervous fidgeting that consisted of picking his shirt sleeves.

“This was not what I meant and you know it Harvey!” he hisses quietly while trying to dodge Harvey’s larger hands as the man tries to stop his anxious twiddling with violence.

The giant double wooden doors eventually open to reveal–believe it or not– an actual butler. Mike has to bite his lip to stifle a very unmanly giggle threatening to escape as the elderly man introduces himself as Walter. He had always known Richard Mason to be an eccentric man but this was ridiculous.

He nudges Harvey with his elbow, grinning childishly as they are led by Walter the Butler through the massive house. Harvey doesn’t answer his previous words or rather his totally legit panic attack; his playful gesture also goes unanswered but the older man’s lips are slightly quirked in amusement.

When they reach the backyard where the party is in full swing Walter had stepped away as quiet as a ghost. They had been dumped because apparently Walter’s “master” was busy elsewhere. Mike expected to be left by Harvey as well but the older man stood by his side sipping at the red wine he procured from a wandering waiter.

He was too nervous to get anything for himself even though the little cheese cubes looked appetizing on the silver platter carried by a gorgeous woman. He remained still, taking in the sights and sounds that were a given when surrounded by beautiful rich people. Normally he’d make a joke to Harvey asking if this is what the senior partner’s usual Saturday night looks like. When he opened his mouth to do so however, something clicked. Instead of a gentle light bulb going off in his head there were sirens. Piercing alarm bells ringing in Mike’s ears. His casual gaze turns frantic, desperately searching for someone–anyone human. Upon scrupulous inspection he’s unbelievably disappointed that there isn’t any (not including Walter and the staff).

Like his resorts and the islands that house them, Richard Mason’s party consisted entirely of Gifted and Shifters.

Mike’s heart sinks.

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His earlier panic attack about coming to a house full of rich people in less than rich clothes is completely inconsequential to the anxiety Mike can feel building in his gut. He’s glad he decided to forego any food or drink because he might just very well throw up.

Harvey senses that something is wrong because one minute they’re by the doors where Walter had left them and the next they are standing by the pool. Mike is swaying a bit with all the emotions threatening to overwhelm him. Harvey’s gentle hand comes up to his shoulder steadying him. The senior partner casts a cautious glance around to assure no one is listening. They aren’t; too busy drinking and laughing to notice a young man close to hysterics for no apparent reason.

“What’s the matter with you?”

The words sound harsh and Mike has heard those very words before, but from Harvey they sound so careful and concerned. If he wasn’t about to pass out he’d make fun of the older man for caring.

“I…Harvey there aren’t any…” Mike can’t even begin to finish his sentence. In a rare moment of failure, his words cease to flow from his giant brain and out of his mouth. His heart has apparently taken over and he feels so damn broken. To be reminded of his situation, to be without a bond-mate at a party like this, was downright humiliating. He’s pissed at Harvey for taking him here but he’s angrier at himself for saying anything at all.

Harvey looks like he’s about to speak, probably to tell him to buck up and behave like a Specter-clone ought to, when Richard Mason finally graces them with his almighty presence.

“I’m so glad you could make it Harvey!” Richard and the senior partner shake hands amiably.

Harvey smiles charmingly despite the fact that the case was over. “We wouldn’t have missed it Richard.”

The billionaire smiles genuinely. He’s one of the very few clients that Mike and Harvey actually like. That megawatt smile is turned to him next as well as a firm handshake. “Mike, it’s good to see you.”

“It’s good to see you too Mr. Mason,” Mike replies. His worries ease somewhat at the prospect of getting down to business, and hopefully getting the hell out of there. It helps that Richard is alone bond-mate seemingly non-existent. “You have a very beautiful home,” he adds politely.

Richard preens under the attention to his property. One of the few things the man before them can appreciate is a handsome place to call home. “Thank you; it’s very important you know. To have a place you can always return to after long weeks of tedious travel and staying at second-rate hotels.”

He winks as he says this and they all share a laugh.

Mike isn’t sure how long they talk or when his anxiety starts to dwindle. Richard takes his leave eventually the need to greet every guest at his party making him a gracious host. After that Mike is mostly left to his own devices. He watches out of the corner of his eye as Harvey flirts shamelessly with a bodacious blonde and her bubbly brunette (presumably her bond-mate) several feet away to his right. He tries to remain non-judgmental even as the women get closer and closer to his boss. Apparently a threesome was being propositioned albeit discreetly.

Mike snorts delicately and shakes his head only to be surprised when Harvey glances up at him immediately after. He’s quick to avert his eyes back to the champagne glass in his shaky hand. He had snagged the flute of gold liquid what seemed like hours earlier though he’d only taken one sip in just as much time. Drinking in large unfamiliar crowds wasn’t exactly his thing but he was trying for Harvey’s sake.

He’s about to go on a hunting trip for the bathroom, simply for something to do as well as leave the heavy gaze of his boss for a little while when a hand claps him on the shoulder.

“Are you having a good time?” Richard asks jovially as he stops in front of Mike. He is also drinking champagne and he takes a delicate swallow as he waits for an answer.

“Yes, thanks again for inviting me,” Mike replies immediately. He can’t have the client seeing his reluctance at being here. It would only spell trouble and that is the last thing he needs.

Richard begins to speak only to be stopped short by a stunning redhead appearing at his side. Her eyes are like sparkling emeralds and her midnight blue dress is stunning as the gown clings to every available curve. Her long silky hair is gathered on one side of her neck rolling down in flaming waves across her chest. She’s gorgeous and Mike has forgotten how to breathe. It’s purely the aesthetic beauty that appeals to him because a woman hasn’t occupied his bed in years.

“Ah, Anna darling, there you are. I’d like to introduce you to Michael Ross. This party wouldn’t have happened without this young man. He belongs to Harvey.”

“Anna Mason. How do you do Mike?” she holds out a dainty hand for Mike to shake which he does so very gently.

Mike prides himself on not stammering like an idiot in the presence of a bombshell like Anna Mason. “I’m well Mrs. Mason. Your husband’s words are generous. I’m just an associate doing the job I was hired to do. Harvey’s the real hero.”

Anna hums delicately. “So you are not Harvey’s bond-mate?”

He does splutter this time. “N-no, Harvey is just m-my boss.”

“Ah, I see. I just assumed since you are Gifted…” she blushes a very pretty shade of pink.

Richard wraps his arm around her shoulders with a gentle squeeze. The effect the gesture has on her is immediate to Mike’s eyes since Anna Mason is also Gifted. Once embarrassed at her mistake, now at peace in the comforting embrace of her Shifter husband. Mike distantly wonders what her Gift is but asking would be awkward given the situation at hand.

Mike clears his throat. “Harvey is a Shifter yes, and I’m Gifted but we just work together. Maybe that’s what makes us such a good team.”

Anna and Richard smile but it’s the latter who speaks. “Your bond-mates must be very jealous. Did you bring your Shifter? We would love to meet them.”

“Oh yes! Is she here? Or is your Shifter a man?” Anna asks excitedly.

Mike can see now why the Masons are perfect for each other. Both so genuine that it’s a little hard to swallow or maybe that’s his throat closing in another panic attack. How does he begin to explain that his bond was broken over a decade ago and he has no idea if his Shifter is a man or woman? That certainly wouldn’t look good to his fellow kind let alone an important client and his wife. It would reflect poorly on him therefore Harvey and the firm. He can’t let that happen.

He’s about to explain the best he can without lying too much when he feels a warm presence at his side. He knows without turning that it’s Harvey beside him, strong and confident as ever. If Mike closes his eyes he can almost pretend that it was his Shifter that had come to his rescue.

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Harvey had been sipping at some brandy while (ironically enough) talking to a beautiful woman named Brandi; with an ‘I’ she had assured him. He appeared deep into the conversation making sure to answer questions directed at him and inject comments whenever he felt it necessary. The truth was that he’d had one eye on Mike the whole evening. He would be lying if he said he wasn’t concerned about his associate. After all the kid was damn near shaking with fear when they first arrived but now he appeared fine.

Of course Harvey never should’ve assumed that Mike could stay out of trouble for at least five minutes at any given time. He had turned his gaze back to Brandi while keeping his sensitive hearing honed in on his associate. A few minutes passed before the kid began talking to Richard Mason, the client’s wife arriving soon after. Harvey didn’t fail to notice the way Mike’s heart rate increased when the stunning redhead appeared. It was natural; Anna Mason was striking and if she wasn’t married to one of the wealthiest men belonging to the firm then Harvey definitely would’ve propositioned her at one time or another.

-- “Harvey’s the real hero.” He couldn’t help but puff up in pride at his associate’s words whilst feeling a little guilty. He knows that he didn’t praise Mike enough during the initial find that saved their client as well as any other case incident during their time together. Oh well, no need to dwell in the past when there is the future to think about.

Harvey listens harder.

-- “So you are not Harvey’s bond-mate?” Harvey has to hide his smirk in his glass as Mike stutters at Anna’s honest question. It’s a perfectly natural thing to assume but apparently not to Mike.

-- “N-no, Harvey is just m-my boss.” The senior partner bites back a sigh at the kid’s stumbling response. If only, he thinks wearily.

He doesn’t have an eye on the situation but he can hear the awkwardness settle in the lull of conversation. He hastily makes his excuses to his female companion and begins making his way over to the trio. With his associate visible Harvey can see the toll the party has taken on Mike. As much as he pretended otherwise the senior partner noticed almost immediately when they arrived. The abundance of Gifted and Shifters was staggering even to Harvey; he can only imagine what if felt like to Mike. Still, he had to remain cool and keep up his calm façade and hope that the kid would do the same.

One minute Mike is talking about how he and Harvey are such a good team (even Harvey isn’t strong enough to resist rolling his eyes at the irony) and the next the proverbial ball is dropped.

“Your bond-mates must be very jealous,” Richard says. “Did you bring your Shifter? We would love to meet them.”

Normally the way Mike’s mouth resembles a fish out of water would amuse him, but now Harvey only feels nausea at the heartbreak he sees in the young man’s big blue eyes. He’s certainly proud of his associate’s ability to keep the emotions off his face even though they still dance in his eyes plain as day. Emotions are at war; he sees fear, sadness, determination, and ultimately gratitude as Harvey finally arrives after what seems like a mile long trek across the backyard.

The senior partner wastes no time insinuating himself into the conversation as seamlessly as ever. “Unfortunately Richard I told Mike that this was business, and to leave the pleasure at home.”

He raises his glass to Anna with a charming smile and takes a sip. Neither client nor wife notices when he casually brushes his arm against Mike’s when he does so. His touch won’t have the same earlier effect as Richard’s had had on Anna, but Mike’s relieved smile and deep exhale has him feeling hopeful.

Richard chuckles. “Ah, but what’s your excuse Harvey? Surely a senior partner can afford to bring his significant other.”

Mike looks at him from the corner of his eye. Harvey smirks and swallows the rest of his drink. “I simply don’t like to share.”

The deflection works and the four of them share a laugh. Harvey is quick to move onto other innocuous topics such as cars, houses, and vacations. All the expensive things that first year associates can’t even dream about let alone discuss with three other wealthy people.

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They stay long enough to make an impression but not so long as to invite more conversation about bond-mates. He and Harvey say their goodbyes and try to leave inconspicuously out the front door where Ray is waiting with the car.

Harvey is two steps ahead (isn’t he always?) and Mike is trying to think of something to say that could properly express his gratitude for the distraction his boss provided earlier.

Two long strides and he’s side-by-side with the man he admires and respects far more than is normal for a protégé. “Um Harvey,” he begins awkwardly. “You didn’t have to do that.”

Harvey looks at him sideways with a perfectly manicured brow raised as if to question his sanity. Mike doesn’t blame him; in fact he’s beginning to wonder himself.

“But I’m really glad you did.” Mike finishes with a small smile. “So I just wanted to say thanks.”

He gets a friendly elbow bump for his awkward efforts and Mike can tell that’s as much acknowledgement as he’s going to get out of the senior partner.

“A butler named Walter.” Harvey says out of the blue.

Mike laughs from the other side of the car and they climb inside in unison. He tries not to think about how the doors shut with an eerie similarity. “I know right! I hope I’m cool enough to have my own butler someday. I think I’ll name him Alfred.”

Harvey looks at him incredulously. “First of all, you can’t name a person; they’re not pets. Secondly, Batman? That’s what you’re going with?”

“What?” he asks innocently. “I could totally be Bruce Wayne.”

They stare at each other for a hair’s breadth before bursting into laughter. Their usual banter comes effortlessly as Richard Mason’s mansion and his butler Walter disappear in the rear view.

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It’s a Friday night and Mike is actually home at a reasonable hour. He has every intention of making the downtime worth every precious minute. Except he hasn’t had any weekend plans in a very long time–his grandmother notwithstanding– and now that a perfect opportunity has presented itself, he has nowhere to go. Living in New York City does have its perks but with no one to accompany him he may as well be working. It’s a lonely and desolate thought but undoubtedly true.

He’s determined not to ruin the weekend with anything downer related so he gathers a few of his favorite movies and sets up the couch with blankets and pillows. He saves the popcorn for last, cold popcorn is the worst, only to search his cupboards and find nothing. He must have eaten the last package weeks ago seeing as how he hasn’t had a day off to enjoy the buttery goodness until tonight.

He picks up his wallet and keys and walks out the door, down the steps and out into the cool summer night.

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Mike is glad he left his bike back at the apartment. It’s such a nice night and he isn’t on a schedule so the walk to the nearest convenient store is hardly a hassle. He’s on his way back, hands full with groceries when he’s stopped by a noise to his left. Common sense dictates that he walks on with an even brisker pace but he does the stupid thing and calls out. “Hello?”

The dark alley responds with the scuff of shoes barely heard over his rapidly beating heart. Four men appear wearing baggy jeans and heavy jackets despite the summer season. Mike knows what’s about to happen before the tallest one opens his mouth.

“Where you headed kid?”

Mike bristles at the name; it sounds dirty coming from this man’s mouth. The word lacks the fondness it usually holds when spoken from Harvey’s lips.

“I’m meeting a couple friends,” he lies smoothly. Better for these guys to think that there are people waiting for him. He wishes that were true.

The guy gestures at his friends and all too suddenly Mike is surrounded. Surprisingly he doesn’t feel scared at what is inevitably about to happen, strangely at peace with relinquishing his hard-earned cash and maybe getting a few punches to his boyish face.

Tall guy smirks. “Hand over your wallet and we’ll let you get back to those friends in one piece.”

There are laughs all around before the men reach into their pockets for whatever weapon they see fit to punish Mike. He always seems to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. The thought would be amusing if not painfully ironic now. He drops the groceries and reaches into his front pocket for his wallet; never in the back because Grammy always warned him of easy marks to pickpockets. His eyes never stray from the apple rolling away from the paper bag as he relinquishes the worn leather.

Tall Guy makes a disappointed noise and throws the now empty wallet back at him. Mike fumbles to catch it desperate in his attempt to avoid getting the pictures inside wet by the surrounding gutter.

“You dress like a rich kid but you’re actually broke.” Tall guy looks confused.

Mike is too until he glances down. He’s still wearing his work clothes sans the jacket and he admits this is one of his nicer suits. “It’s New York,” he replies dumbly.

The looks he receives in return clearly question his intelligence and maybe even a bit of his sanity. “And?”

“Nobody in their right mind would carry a lot of cash on them in case they get mugged. Like right now.”

Mike flinches at his own stupidity. The punch to his ribs comes from his left, his attacker chuckling as Tall Guy smirks at Mike’s pained gasp. “You think this is a mugging? You see kid that would imply that we’re stealing something, but really we’re doing you a favor.”

There are 146 other ways to deal with a gun pointed to your head but he can’t help it. He shouldn’t rise to the bait; it’ll only bring more trouble. Still, there might be a part of him that’s a little masochistic as he grits out a response to a clearly rhetorical statement. “Oh yeah? And how’s that?”

Tall Guy doesn’t bother answering. He makes a gesture to his goon squad and they reach into their pockets to pull out various types of blades. At this point Mike is about to plead for his life, for the sake of Grammy and his soul that still belongs to Pearson Hardman and ultimately Harvey until the day he keels over from exhaustion. It doesn’t look like he stands a chance when a snarl erupts from the dark alley.

“Holy shit!” A chorus of artistic expletives echo around the small circle of muggers surrounding him.

He looks around, hoping beyond hope that a police cruiser happened to be driving by and saw what was happening to him. Unfortunately there’s no one in sight except for Mike and his four attackers until one of the men points to the darkness belonging to the alley. Mike distantly notes that the man’s finger is quivering in what seems like fear. It’s strange but he feels no more afraid of the sound than he does around Louis.

Tall Guy glares at his panicky men. “What the hell are you guys yelling about?”

Nobody answers so he turns around. Everyone is now facing the dark alley, Mike awkwardly peering to the right of Tall Guy’s shoulder in an attempt to see what they see. His intelligent mind and rapidly beating heart is screaming at him to run while the mug squad is preoccupied. The irrational side of his brain however is urging him to stay and observe what is so frightening to a gang of muggers.

The three men surrounding him begin to back up; their looming presence dissipating like fog on the coast. Mike feels their retreat to the depth of his bones as the air is no longer wrought with tension.

“Where are you pieces of shit going?!” Tall Guy yells after his crew but his eyes never leave from the apparent danger ahead.

His view no longer incapacitated Mike shrinks back at the sight of pale golden orbs shimmering in the dark. Fearsome eyes lock with his for just a brief moment before the creature’s gaze returns to Tall Guy. The connection had been fleeting but Mike is frozen to the core by what he saw in those eyes.

The sound of a switchblade flicking open catches his attention. His wide-eyed gaze goes from Tall Guy to the creature and back again, wondering who’ll make the first move and who will ultimately come out on top.

The creature hisses a wild and deadly sound before stepping out of the alleyway and into the light provided by a nearby streetlamp. It’s a big cat, seemingly all black except for the interesting pattern he can barely make out as the large feline body moves this way and that. The golden eyes never stray far from the blade held by Tall Guy so Mike takes the opportunity to shuffle to the left and away from the deadly duo.

“Come on pussycat, I’m not afraid of you,” Tall Guy taunts.

The cat roars. That’s the only way to describe the ferocious sound that echoes along the empty streets as the animal leaps into the air. Mike holds back an unmanly scream as Tall Guy falls to the ground with a thud, the giant cat plunging its teeth into the wrist holding the knife. The man lets go of the weapon with a shriek and cradles his injured wrist with his free hand. Now defenseless, Tall Guy shakes with fear as he stares up from the ground into the golden eyes of his feline attacker.

“P-p-please, d-don’t kill m-me,” Tall Guy pleads.

The cat shakes its head hopping off the man with a grunt. The fight– if one could call it that to begin with– is over. The giant black cat is the obvious victor and the loser, Tall Guy, scurries away from the battle as quick as his cronies had left him.

Mike tries not to stare at the creature but it’s difficult. The cat is so beautiful with its coal colored fur, not completely black because with the creature at a standstill he can clearly make out a rosette pattern on the animal’s skin. A quick mental search has his memory banks providing pictures of leopards and jaguars; the cat in front of him is most definitely a member of the genus Panthera. He’s willing to bet the cat is a jaguar because even a male leopard doesn’t compare to the size of a female jaguar. And this cat is huge.

He should be running away from this deadly creature of the night but he can’t coordinate his limbs. It’s as if he’s rooted to the spot simply by the animal’s golden eyed gaze. The jaguar is no longer in a threatening stance and Mike certainly doesn’t feel threatened, rather he feels protected and safe, no longer in danger of getting stabbed or beaten by a bunch of thugs.

“Um,” he splutters awkwardly.

This creature is obviously a Shifter, a man (or woman) in a feline body, because the jaguar is certainly not an animal native to New York. This being said, it should understand what Mike is trying to say if only he could get his tongue to work.

He’s struggling with the proper words all the while watching the cat angle its body closer. “W-what are you..?”

He can’t finish his question; he honestly has no idea what he was about to say as the cat takes the necessary steps to be within five feet from Mike. Surely the creature wouldn’t come forward if Mike is to be considered a threat. The Shifter, no, the person inside has to be somewhat friendly if it saved him from muggers.

His heart hammers wildly in his chest even as he stretches out a hand, palm up, towards the jaguar. It’s a very stupid idea and when the giant cat crouches, Mike closes his eyes.

Chapter Text

He expects to feel pain. Scorching searing agony from where the jaguar’s teeth sink into his delicate skin, ripping him to shreds and crunching the bones in his hand with its powerful jaws.

The pain never comes. In fact, where Mike expects to feel razor sharp teeth imbedded into his flesh there’s the weight of a round object, smooth and waxy to the touch resting in his palm. He opens his eyes to see the apple that had escaped from one of the long forgotten grocery bags. His gaze wanders from the red fruit and into the golden eyes of the Shifter sitting languidly in front of him. The big cat is definitely amused as its tail swishes back and forth like an inverted pendulum wearing what Mike would call smugness personified.

“Thanks for the apple,” he replies awkwardly. “And the douche bag brigade that almost sliced and diced me.”

The jaguar licks its lips slowly. To anyone else the gesture might appear sinister and undeniably foreboding but Mike prefers it to mean “you’re welcome”.

Mike finally takes stock of his surroundings to see his groceries mostly intact around him. The four bags he was carrying only managed to spill some of the contents for which he is incredibly grateful as he stoops down to gather the goods. A quick glance through his lashes shows the Shifter still sitting there, watching him carefully from a meager distance. There is silence where there should be idle chatter; Mike is no longer used to the awkward one-sided conversations a person has with a Shifter in animal form. He obviously doesn’t remember what it was like with his own bond-mate but he has met other Shifters before although they’re usually with their Gifted mates.

Speaking of, “Hey where’s your bond-mate?” he asks rather loudly.

Mike doesn’t expect a worded reply but the quiet is a little much even with the rustling of paper bags. He stands up fallen groceries now secure and is met with air. The jaguar is gone; no longer seated in front of him with its fearsome gaze.

“…hello?” he calls out to the city around him. No answer.

The sigh he lets out is a big one. He doesn’t know why he’s so disappointed that the Shifter didn’t stick around. Mike was going to offer him/her a beer for possibly saving his life but it looks like he won’t have the chance. Perhaps the big cat was done with pleasantries; after all, it seemed to be on a nightly stroll not on a mission to save unsuspecting (fake) lawyers from muggers.

He hazards a glance down the alley where his savior first appeared. It’s just as dark as before except there are no more snarls or glowing eyes to alert anyone to its deadly presence. The giant cat has well and truly vanished, and with one last shake of his head Mike makes his way home.

ꕻꕻꕻ

The following week passes with thoughts of the mysterious jaguar Shifter. Mike hasn’t been able to stop wondering about the black cat even as Harvey berates him about not listening.

“Have you heard a word I’ve said?” his boss asks.

Harvey doesn’t sound mad, curious in Mike’s opinion, but there is no way he can tell the senior partner about being mugged and his subsequent rescue.

“Linton’s board of directors is trying to sabotage the company in order to screw over the shareholders. Basically, they’re trying to manage a hostile takeover and you want me to go over the bi-laws and see if you can get them dethroned.”

“I did not use the word dethroned. Despite your exaggerations you did seem to understand the gist of the one-sided conversation.” Mike rolls his eyes. “What’s got you so keyed up anyway? And so help me God if you mention Trevor, Jenny, or Rachel, I am going to kick your ass.”

Mike chuckles before standing, readying the files in front of him for a very long night of reading. “You don’t want to know Harvey, trust me.”

Harvey opens his mouth for some witty reply but Mike hustles out of the glass office before being subjected to the brutality of the older man’s honesty.

ꕻꕻꕻ

It’s a beautiful sunny afternoon in New York and Mike is heading to Central Park for a pleasant and legal-free bout of reading. Along with his favorite book his messenger bag contains a blanket, water bottle, and Tupperware full of fresh fruit. Okay so he only has one apple plus a bag of crunchy Cheetos and a can of Red Bull. There’s only so much healthy eating on a Sunday he can handle though if Harvey were here the man would surely disagree.

Mike picks a tree casting a decent shadow with lush grass surrounding it which provides a supple cushion beneath the worn blanket he brought. He settles down with his back against the trunk and his feet stretched out before him. He takes out the leather bound book that once belonged to his father and starts reading.

He flips through the pages scanning the words faster than the average person for twenty minutes or so before he sets the book down. It’s so peaceful outside that he can’t bring himself to waste the time reading–despite the intellectual activity being one of his favorites– in order to enjoy the crisp air and children’s laughter floating along the gentle breeze. His head rests against the bark with eyes closed and the blessed calm that washes over him is a relief to the constant stress he seems to be under during the week.

He is enjoying the relative quiet and the general outdoors when the rustling of leaves sounds somewhere near. He opens his eyes when something cool lands on his bare arm; there on his pale skin is a bright green leaf. A common thing he supposes while sitting beneath a well-endowed tree except another falls beside its sister soon thereafter. The summer season is still in full swing according to just about everyone in the state of New York so why is it snowing? Leaves of every shape and size are floating down around him, showering him with their beauty and grace. He would laugh at his own romantic notions if not for the scowl settling sure over his features.

"This is getting ridiculous.” Mike mutters to himself.

He risks a glance up, hoping beyond hope that birds haven’t settled in the branches in preparation to shit on him. There are no birds, in fact, there doesn’t seem to be anything in the tree at all except for a shadowed figure. The sun is peering between the leaves, winking at him and leaving him a bit blind as he tries to make out what the ruckus is all about. Another rustle of leaves and a creak of branches have Mike bracing himself for whatever’s about to fall out of the tree.

Thump.

Mike opens his eyes–not knowing he’d closed them– to see a familiar face peering at him. Familiar may be a bit strong to describe the black spotted face of his savior. The jaguar is standing before him perhaps five feet away with its tail swishing back and forth much like the last time Mike saw it. The black cat seems to be amused yet again, tilting its head like a tease while its golden eyes remain somewhat curious.

“Are you stalking me or something?” Mike blurts out. That isn’t exactly the thing he had prepared to say if he ever saw the Shifter again.

The Shifter, unable to reply unless communicating with its bond-mate, merely rolls its shoulders in what Mike would call a lazy shrug. He’s not sure what to make of the gesture, whether it is a confirmation or strict denial only the large feline knows. He’d ask about the animal’s bond-mate but he fears the cat would only leave again.

“So…you were the one sitting in the tree, huh? That’s pretty cool. The last time I tried to climb a tree I got stung by fire ants and broke my arm.”

The jaguar laughs. Mike can’t exactly hear the chuckles coming from the animal’s mouth but its body shakes, huffing out stilted breaths with a twinkle lurking in its eyes.

He doesn’t know why he’s telling this animal a seemingly random incident from his childhood but it feels natural. He’s more at ease talking with this creature than he is with anyone at work that’s for certain.

“It’d be easier to talk in person you know.” Mike hints not so subtly. “My name is Mike by the way.”

The jaguar lifts its head once, twice, three times before letting out a grumble. Mike doesn’t exactly know what to make of the head bashing or rumbling sound, although it’s obvious the cat is trying to communicate.

“Okay um…are you male or female? I only ask because it’d be really nice not to refer to you in my head as ‘it’.” The cat laughs again, its golden gaze very pointedly landing on Mike’s crotch. “Ah, well it is very nice to meet you sir.”

The jaguar shakes his large head and very nearly manages to roll his eyes. Mike is impressed at the facial expressions he sees amid the dark fur and large spots. He’s about to strike up conversation, one-sided of course, when the Shifter begins walking towards him. He knows that if this giant cat wanted to eat him he’d already be face down on the ground with blood spurting out his jugular. Mike stays absolutely still despite the horrid images plaguing his brain as the animal takes that last step which brings him directly parallel to Mike’s left hip and thigh. The cat sniffs at his jeans before curling in a circle and plopping down on the blanket with a contented huff.

Mike peeks down at the jaguar and smiles at the shut eyes. “A nap sounds pretty good to me too.”

He doesn’t get an answer but then again he no longer expects one from his new friend.