The Problem, first letters capitalized because it is the problem from which all his other subsequent problems stem, is that early on in his new and exciting life as an associate at Pearson Hardman ('lackey' is really more appropriate a word for what he is and does, but Mike thinks 'associate' looks better on the business cards), Mike ends up sleeping with Harvey. It isn't planned, and it's certainly not something he ever dared to imagine would happen (daydreaming aside - very, very far aside), but the fact of the matter is - well. Mike actually has a list of facts that pertain to this matter, and they are, in no particular order except perhaps chronological:
1. Harvey calls him at two in the morning about a break in their most recent case, and although Mike had been awake at the time, he feels like it's within his rights to bitch as much as he wants about this.
2. Harvey makes him bike all the way to the office to pick up some paperwork.
("Really?" Mike asks, incredulous. He checks his alarm clock. "I'm going to be in the office in, like, five hours. It can't wait?"
"Like, no, it can't," Harvey says in falsetto, which Mike assumes is meant to be a mockery of him. He rolls his eyes and hangs up on Harvey then, but still he puts on a pair of jeans and a shirt that smells somewhat clean.)
3. Harvey then insists Mike come over to his condo. (Biking through Manhattan with a box full of briefs and ten-year-old contracts, even at two thirty a.m., is officially Mike's least favorite activity of all, but he didn't have any cash for a cab at the time, so).
4. Harvey, more than a little manic from stress and lack of sleep, tugs him through the door and rattles off all of the minutiae that Mike will have to fact check when he gets into the office later that day.
5. Harvey's hair is delightfully mussed and sticking up in places.
6. Harvey's biceps (Dear christ, Mike thinks, biceps, of all things. This is what my life has come to.) strain against the long sleeves of his t-shirt, and his eyes travel up and down Mike's body as if he's noticing him for the very first time.
7. Harvey looms over him, forcing Mike to sit with the edge of the glass table digging into his back and look up as Harvey kisses him, bites his bottom lip right before he licks a long line up Mike's throat, wraps a hand around the back of his neck and squeezes ever so gently.
Mike is only human, after all. Harvey falls asleep spooned up behind him and holding them so close together that Mike can't move without Harvey grumbling softly into his ear. Harvey's breathing is even and calm, and were he anyone else, Mike would probably find himself descending into sleep right alongside him. He can't, though. He lies there and tries not to shift too much, but his thoughts are racing and his heart is beating so fast. He looks over at the alarm clock on the bedside table. Its face glows, but the analog is still hard to decipher in the dark of Harvey's bedroom. By the time Mike has made out the time (four fifteen a.m., give or take a minute), the arms around him have loosened enough so that he can finally roll away from Harvey and off the bed. The second his feet touch the floor, Mike's mind goes blank, and the next thing he knows, he's dressed and grabbing his keys and bag from the cupboard by the door he'd placed them in earlier.
"Christ," Mike whispers, and he rests his forehead against the door and stands there, trying to remember how to breathe properly. It takes him a moment, but once he regains his senses, he leaves Harvey's condo as quietly as he can and promises himself he won't ever think about Harvey like that (pale and sweating, gaze sparking heat in Mike's chest, mouth set tight as he takes Mike's cock in hand and strokes and twists, holding him down, fucking up against him, slow and purposeful) again.
This resolution works about as well as one might imagine, which is to say it doesn't. Not one little bit. So a few afternoons after he sleeps with Harvey, Mike catches Rachel's arm, drags her into the nearest women's bathroom, and locks the door behind them.
"Mike," Rachel says, "we talked about the bathroom thing, didn't we? How both society and Pearson Hardman regulations say you're only allowed in the restroom of your identified gender?"
"I don't think those rules should apply when I'm under this much stress," Mike replies. "And I am under a lot of that right now. Like, a lot." Rachel does not immediately headbutt him and run away screaming, so he presses on. "Listen, something happened the other night. Harvey called me really late to bring him some old contracts, and we might have -"
"Let me guess," she interrupts him, "you fucked him."
Mike gasps and slaps a hand over her mouth. "You don't have to scream it," he hisses, whipping his head around wildly like Louis might emerge from one of the stalls with a pink slip at the ready at any moment. Rachel scowls and shoves him back.
"I wasn't screaming, but I will in about thirty seconds if you continue being an asshole," she warns him. "What's the problem, anyway? I think we're all under the impression that you and him have been doing it for ages and ages and ages."
"Who's under the - you know what, no, I don't want to know because knowing will just make me sad. The rumor mill in this office leaves a lot to be desired." Rachel shrugs. Mike leans against the counter and hides his face behind his hands. "This is awful," he continues. "So awful. I really wanted to avoid this kind of thing. The firm is supposed to be my new start, not my backslide into - I don't even know what, but into something bad."
Rachel's high heels click-clack across the floor tiles, stopping at the same moment she wraps one arm around his shoulders. Mike rubs at his face before dropping his hands down to rest at his sides. He leans into her a little more, and she nudges back at him with her hip.
"Is this an end of the world sort of situation?" she asks, voice low enough that there's barely any echo.
Mike rests his head against hers and breathes in deeply, then exhales in a slow, steady gust. Rachel allows him to stay like that, in silence, for a few moments before she shakes him off and and lands a warm kiss on his cheek. Then she makes her way to the door.
"I'll take that as a yes," she says over her shoulder. "I can buy you another five minutes of self-pity, Ross. Don't waste them." And then Mike is left to gather his thoughts alone.
He eventually stops thinking about the fact that he knows what Harvey looks like naked every time they're in a room together. And by eventually, Mike means it takes about a month, he thinks, give or take a week for full adjustment. It's the most embarrassing month (five weeks-ish, he corrects himself) of his life, and that even takes into account the six months directly after he got pantsed in front of Lilah Moran in eighth grade. Though at least his Embarrassing Moments have something in common: they both involved inappropriately timed erections in public places. That has to count for something, Mike thinks.
Rachel snorts out a laugh when he says as much to her. "It doesn't," she says. "And who pantsed you, Mikey? More importantly, were there any pictures taken at the time?"
"No, there weren't," he grumbles. "It doesn't matter who did it, anyway. I was only using it as an example."
"An example of what?"
He lets his head fall back and stares up at the sky. "How nothing in my life ever changes."
Rachel doesn't reply for a moment, then says, "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose."
He swivels his neck to stare at her. She shrugs and takes a bite from her sandwich.
"Hipster," he says, wagging a finger in her face.
Rachel swallows and says, "Wash your mouth out with soap, mister."
So, the thing is - or, well, this is what Mike thinks is the thing, but he can never really be sure because for all he talks about caring and humanity and the other stuff that usually gets him the side-eye from Harvey, Mike is exceptionally bad at understanding and dealing with his own feelings. So when he says 'here's the thing,' what he means is 'this may or may not be a thing but if it is I should plan ahead so I don't look like a complete idiot.'
(It's not a solid model. There's some tweaking he probably has to do on the - but whatever, he digresses.)
The thing is, Mike has what he's decided to term an unhealthy attachment to his boss, and this attachment has begun to impose on his ability to make good decisions. He's even willing to concede the fact that it started well before he slept with Harvey, and also that the sex might have exacerbated the problem a little. (But only by a little. That's it. Seriously.)
For example, when Harvey calls him into his office first thing on a Wednesday morning and proceeds to saunter around the room in a brand new suit that really does a thing or two for his ass (no small feat, Mike would like to point out, since the aforementioned ass is already high on his list of Perfect Things), well. Mike allows himself to be distracted as a reward for being mostly good the last few weeks. Obviously he couldn't be expected to have the presence of mind to just say no when Harvey tells him that Donna needs someone to parade around in an elephant costume at her niece's birthday party in two weeks and Harvey's volunteered Mike to do it. Mike can't be held to that kind of agreement under the circumstances, and he's fairly certain he could locate some legal precedent or another to support his claim in a heartbeat if only Donna wasn't monitoring the halls and library and copy rooms like a hawk.
(Harvey's new suit is amazing, though. Like. Seriously.)
In an act of desperation, Mike takes to hiding in the men's room for as much of the workday as he can manage without getting into trouble. The furthest stall from the door is surprisingly comfortable, and most of his male coworkers barely bat an eye when he settles down with a handful of highlighters and a stack of briefs for a few hours at a time. Louis only laughs at him once, but no one tries to stop him from doing it. Mostly his behavior is ignored, with a few understandable exceptions, and Mike hasn't felt this much camaraderie with a group of people since his days on the wrestling team in high school.
"You don't think you're being the least bit, I don't know. Ridiculous?" Rachel asks him at lunch one afternoon. "Yes, ridiculous is a good word for this."
"I have to survive somehow," he replies. It's been kind of a hectic week for Mike, between doing his job and avoiding both Donna and Harvey, and he's feeling more than a little manic at this point. "I feel like Spencer and Darwin would be proud, seeing as I am technically not the fittest and still haven't succumbed to an otherwise inevitable doom. So I think I'm doing well, all things considered."
"Doing well - you're hiding. In the bathroom. For at least six hours every day."
"Yesterday I managed seven hours straight," Mike proudly declares. "And Harold says that stranger sights have been seen around here."
Rachel nods. "We did have to witness Louis sobbing hysterically into Jessica's blazer when they switched out the Coke machines for Pepsi," she concedes. "But you're not going to be able to avoid your inevitable doom for much longer. Hence the 'inevitable' part of that statement - it's sort of directly implied that you're going to crash and burn, and badly."
Mike viciously bites into his sandwich. "That's what you think," he mumbles around it. Rachel gives him a look that clearly says 'I can't believe you're considered a functioning adult.' "Besides, I only need to keep this up for another week. If I keep myself busy and fly under the radar, I'll be home free."
"I see," she says, tone indicating she does anything but. "Though I'm interested to see how you fly under the radar. I'm surprised you lasted this long, to be honest."
"I'm sneaky," Mike says. "Like a fox."
"Mmm. Please, tell yourself that five minutes from now." Rachel nods her head to something (or someone, Mike realizes too late) behind him. "I'll try not to laugh too hard at future-you."
Very slowly and with sudden, startling, full knowledge that this might well be his last meal, Mike swallows the bite of sandwich before he turns around to see what's coming towards them. Somewhat irrationally, he finds himself wishing more than ever that he'd never taken Trevor's drug delivery to the hotel that day, if only to save himself from the terrible, horrible, no good fate about to befall him.
"Donna!" he says with as much fake excitement as he can muster through the panic. "You're radiant, as always. You should tell us your secret sometime." Mike shoots a desperate look back to Rachel, who rolls her eyes and leaves the break room, the vile traitor. He doesn't try to latch onto her and beg her to save him as she walks past, but it's a close thing.
"While I appreciate the compliment," Donna begins as she takes a seat across the table from him, "you're pretty much the worst at bullshitting."
Mike swallows hard. "What?" he says. "I'm not - I wasn't bullshitting you, I just thought you should know -"
Donna leans forward, rests her chin on her hands, and stares at him. Mike begins to nervously glance around the room for a quick and easy exit.
"I know I'm beautiful, Mike," she says.
"Yes?" he replies, looking back to her. Donna nods. "Of course you do."
"You want to know what else I know?"
Mike really, really does not. He tries to say as much, but it comes out as an unintelligible squeak, which makes Donna smile in her own, extremely frightening way.
"I know that Harvey - you remember Harvey, right? Guy who hired you, who's basically put everything on the line for you since you wandered into the meeting room at the hotel with a briefcase full of you-know-what?" Donna reaches out a hand to him, palm up. Mike glances at it and, when she motions for him to do so, reluctantly puts one of his hands on top of it. Which turns out to be an extremely bad idea when Donna then yanks him forward, twisting his arm around to his back and standing so that she's looming over and trapping him between herself and the table.
"I remember him, yeah," Mike gasps out when he's caught his breath again.
"Oh, good," replies Donna. "Because he told you to do something for me, didn't he? It was a direct order, wasn't it?"
"He framed it more like a request, I think, but - ow ow ow fucking ow, Donna, stop -"
Donna squeezes his arm one last time before letting him go and straightening back up. "The fitting is tomorrow," she says. "Nine o'clock sharp. I'll send the address to your phone, and if you're late, then you better plan on leaving the country, rookie." Mike nods rapidly, still bent over the table and too terrified to move. He lifts his head up to find her still staring at him, head cocked to one side and considering. "That's a good look on you," she tells him. "Kinda wish I had a camera right now. I'm sure Harvey would appreciate the view, too."
Mike has never blushed so much or so quickly in his entire life.
Harvey is on the phone when Mike barges in after his close encounter with Donna in the break room. There's a decided air of frustration emanating from him, and Mike quickly loses steam as he approaches the desk and finds annoyance scrawled all across Harvey's face. The person on the other line is speaking loudly enough that Mike can hear every few words clearly from where he's standing, but there's nothing about the conversation that rings a bell in Mike's mind. It can't be a client, Mike thinks. Maybe another lawyer? Or someone from the Attorney General's office?
Mike turns to leave but stops when Harvey covers the speaker of the phone with one hand and glares at him. "Where do you think you're going?"
"That sounds important, so I'm…going to wait in the hall?" Mike says.
"Stay," Harvey tells him and points to the chair directly in front of his desk before returning his attention to the phone conversation. The other person is still rambling on about something - Mike hears the phrase 'professional conduct' as soon as he sits down, and a feeling of dread washes over him. He doesn't think it's about him, but he can't be sure. They've been in court a few times since the night they slept together, despite Harvey's 'avoid court at all costs' motto, and it's not completely out of the question that someone's noticed Mike drooling over the way Harvey delivers the final (metaphorical) blow to his opponent. He considers running out of the office regardless of what Harvey had told him to do, and he's about to make a break for it when Harvey says, "I'll take all of this under advisement. Thank you for relating your concerns to me personally."
He hangs up the phone while the other person is still speaking and levels a stare at Mike but doesn't say anything. They sit there in silence for long, painful moments. Mike begins to sweat.
"So that was Jessica," Harvey says.
"Oh," replies Mike.
Harvey turns his chair to face the window. "She wants to know why two of her employees, both of whom are aware of the strict no fraternization policy, have been fraternizing on the steps of the building on a regular basis."
The feeling of dread falls away only to be replaced by confusion. "On the - you mean Rachel and me? How is having lunch outside together considered fraternizing?"
"I don't know, Mike, could it be because you're playing footsie with her in public? I thought we talked about that already."
Harvey turns back to face him, something dark but unreadable in his expression. There's an undercurrent in Harvey's tone that sets Mike on edge. Mike knows it could just be a result of being called on something this stupid by Jessica, but he's not sure that that's entirely it. Probably not wise to bring that up now, he thinks. "Look, I don't know where this is coming from, but we're not playing footsie, or flirting, or anything like that. We're eating lunch. Together. On the steps of the firm's building, where anyone who works with us can see."
"Exactly," Harvey begins to say.
"Yes, exactly," Mike interrupts. "If we were fraternizing or whatever, do you really think we'd be dumb enough to do it there?" Harvey raises an eyebrow at him. "Okay, but would Rachel be that dumb?"
"I'm not going to have the talk with you again, Mike," he says. "You know, the one that always ends with you assuring me that you do in fact know that what you do and say and how you look represents me and the firm? I know you hate that one. All I'm saying is, be more discreet in your dabbling, or whatever the kids are calling it these days."
Mike knows he should leave it there, he really does, but he can't help the next thing that comes out of his mouth. "Is this actually what Jessica called you about, or is this just you being a dick to me because you think I'm dabbling with Rachel and not you? I honestly can't tell right now."
Harvey stands up, leans forward, and places his hands palms-down on the top of the desk in a movement so swift and menacing that Mike can't help but sit back hard against the chair. He's suddenly, viscerally aware that he's overstepped a boundary he should have known to avoid at all costs. But he can't take it back now - Harvey's usually congenial facade has been replaced by something terrifyingly dangerous.
"Do you want to run that by me one more time, Mr. Ross?" Harvey asks. Mike swallows hard and shakes his head. "I see."
Only Mike doesn't think he really does see. It's a cheap shot, he can admit that, but he doesn't know that Harvey understands that Mike actually does want to know whether or not they're in this together. For all he's tried to put it out of his mind, Mike hasn't forgotten that night, and he knows it's not just because of his freaky memory.
"I need to know -" Mike starts to say, but Harvey drops his head between his shoulders, sighs, and points to the door with one finger. Mike's not going to hear the answer to his question any time soon.
"Get out," Harvey says.
And Mike goes. On his way out, Donna shoots him a sympathetic look, but he doesn't stop walking until he reaches his desk.
Contrary to popular belief, Mike does value his life, which means he's at the location Donna had programmed into his phone at exactly 8:55 the next morning. She's already there, of course, tapping her foot impatiently against the sidewalk, but the fact that she has a coffee waiting for him says she's probably not all that annoyed with him anymore.
"What happened to being ten minutes early?" Donna asks.
Mike sighs and takes the cup from her. "I don't know why Harvey bothered looking for another him," he says. "He's had you this whole time, and you're scarier than he is."
Donna flashes a quick, genuine smile at him. "That's the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me," she gushes.
"That is - I don't even know how to respond to that," Mike says. Donna hums (either in agreement or in perverse happiness, Mike isn't sure, but he can't really be sure about anything in his life right now, so he rolls with it) as she ushers him into the building with a wave of her hand. He squares his shoulders and follows close behind her.
The store is, for lack of a better word, pastel. Everything from the wall colors to the products to the employees' uniforms and aprons is decked out in softer shades of primary colors. Boxes of toys that are made of half-plush, half-metallic crinkly material line the foam pathway (a cheerful, sunshine yellow) that leads through the store and up to the register. The overall effect blinds Mike for a moment, and when he regains his sight, he glares at Donna. She smiles at him and takes a sip from her coffee as she strolls over to where three smiling clerks are apparently waiting for them.
"I'm here to pick up a costume for a party," she's telling one when Mike finally catches up to her. "The inner straps need to get fitted to this one, though." Donna jerks her thumb over her shoulder to indicate him. They turn and stare at him simultaneously. Mike briefly considers begging them to distract her while he runs as fast and as far away as he possibly can, but this plan is shot when one clerk snatches the coffee from his hand and the other two shove him into a dimly-lit room behind the register.
The next hour passes in a flurry of metal hooks and plastic straps and a few near misses with his virtue, but Mike is eventually set free by the clerks (though he's long since upgraded them from 'children's party emporium employees' to 'sadistic terror monkeys') and returned to Donna more or less in the same condition he was taken.
"Why?" Mike asks once she's paid the store and handed off the costume to him.
"Because it's fun for me to torture you, and also Harvey said so," she replies as she hails a cab.
"No, I get that Harvey thinks I'm his indentured servant. Why didn't you just ask me yourself?"
"Like you would have agreed," she scoffs.
"I would have," Mike protests. "I don't mind helping a friend out here and there, you know. Just because Harvey made me get rid of Trevor -"
"He made you dump Trevor because Trevor was an anchor chained to your neck," Donna interrupts him. A cab screeches to a halt right in front of them. "Look, you're a good guy, but you tend to keep your time away from the firm sacrosanct. Everyone knows it, and far be it from me to cut into that."
"Okay." Mike struggles to fit the costume into the trunk but manages it. He slams the door shut and slides into the cab next to her. "That is completely fair, I'll give you that. And I'll even concede that I would've been even less inclined to help after finding out what exactly it is you want me to do. I still would've said yes."
Donna rattles off her address to the cab driver. "Fine, I believe you," she says.
"That still doesn't answer my next question."
"Can't answer a question that hasn't been asked, rookie."
"Uh, right. Well. Why did you get Harvey to ask me and not any of the other associates?" Donna turns her head and raises an eyebrow at him. "What? What'd I say?"
"Mike," she says, patting his knee, "despite what I just said about understanding how much you value your time away from Pearson Hardman, you are probably the only person at the firm who wouldn't have run screaming from the prospect of having to help out an admin in his or her free time." Donna smiles at him. "You're also the only person there who I know, other than me, who would be distracted enough by Harvey's newest addition to his closet to agree without actually knowing what you were agreeing to."
Mike flushes, thinking back to the clean lines of Harvey's body and his hands - "I, uh - well." He pauses, then wipes his sweating palms on his jeans. Donna taps a finger on his knee. "Oh, come on, you said it yourself."
"That's what I thought," she said. She pats his knee once more before crossing her arms. "Don't worry. I've got your back on this one."
And it's totally not that Mike doubts that she has his back. He's just not entirely sure what 'I've got your back' means in Donna-talk exactly. Is she going to set them up somehow? Is she going to nudge and push and maneuver both of them until Harvey asks him out, or Mike breaks and throws himself at Harvey in the middle of Pearson Hardman? That doesn't seem at all likely, based on Mike's knowledge of her, nor do any of the fifteen other possible scenarios that run through Mike's head during a given day.
(Especially not the one involving falsified marriage documents and sworn statements from "wedding guests" and photoshopped pictures of them on the happy occasion, though Mike will admit he spent more time imagining that one than he probably should have.)
Mike is certain Donna could arrange something to that effect, actually. She has resources and ways, only - Donna has, historically, not been Mike's biggest fan. To say she was displeased when Harvey first brought him into the firm and revealed that he had no degree of any kind (let alone from Harvard Law) is putting it lightly. Mike understands, of course; Donna protects Harvey like a snarling guard dog would a junkyard, and any threat, potential or otherwise, is met with vicious and thorough vengeance. He's seen the full force of her power unleashed on several people since starting at the firm - clients, associates, and partners alike. Mike’s deep and abiding fear of Donna, developed early on, has served him well over the last few months.
So Mike feels he should be excused his wary skepticism. It's a fundamental part of his survival tactics, after all, and completely not juvenile, shut up, Donna, no one asked you.
"I'm getting a little sick of being called ridiculous," Mike grumbles over the checkerboard. He moves one of the chips a square over, and his grandmother sighs.
"That's all well and good," she says, "but you're going to hear it a lot more from me if you keep playing the game like that."
Mike rubs at his eyes and sits back on the sofa. "Sorry, I'm preoccupied. Also I was sort of hoping I'd have the time to take my bike into the shop next weekend, so I don't really want to have to go to Donna's niece's party and wear the stupid costume."
"I saw a picture of the fittings. Not sure I blame you for that one."
"Wait, what?" Mike says. "How did - you saw a picture of it? When? How?"
She pulls out an Android phone from her sweater pocket and waves it at him. "Donna brought this to me the first time she came to visit. She kept me updated in real time throughout the whole experience. Did you really switch to boxer briefs, Michael? When did that happen?"
Mike sinks a little deeper into the sofa and prays for death to come for him.
The following Monday morning brings with it a lawsuit roughly the size of Montana against one of Pearson Hardman's premiere clients, and Harvey, prideful, arrogant man that he is, tells Jessica that he and Mike will lead the fight without Louis and his army of cookie-cutter associates mucking everything up. Mike follows Harvey out of Jessica's office feeling vaguely like he's been hit by a Mack truck and then scraped off the road and put into a blender on high speed. He'd say as much to Harvey, but he knows very well that he'll only be mocked and told he's being overly dramatic.
"This is easy," Harvey declares once they're back in his office. "This is nothing compared to some cases I've cleared. Singlehandedly, mind you."
"Yes, yes, you're perfect at everything, blah blah blah," Mike says. He's still wary of saying the wrong thing to Harvey, but the air between them has cleared ever so slightly in the few days since their tense encounter. "Did you see the room full of accounting records they brought over? This company's been doing this for over thirty years. There's no way I can manage that much paperwork in the short time frame you so generously allocated to us. Not by myself, anyway."
"Oh?" Harvey smirks at him, and Mike tries very hard not to melt at the sight. "Are you admitting defeat, Mike? Is that what I'm hearing?"
"One day I am going to beat you at your own game, Specter."
"You let me know when that day comes," replies Harvey. "Run along now - I hear you have thirty years worth of accounting records to sort through by Wednesday."
"I hate you so much," Mike reminds him as he storms over to the door.
"Get a new line," Harvey says, already distracted by some other task. Mike wishes that Harvey's office had one of those heavy wood doors. Trying to slam a glass door behind oneself isn't nearly as satisfying as one would want in this situation.
Despite being one of the better researchers in the firm, as well as someone who doesn't mind the long hours of meticulous notating for the most part, Mike spends the majority of the first two hours of his assignment staring blankly at the boxes stacked five high and two deep all around him. It doesn't help that the room is both windowless and gray. He speculates that this is what it feels like to be in prison. Good practice, he thinks. I should come down here to work more often, just to get a feel for it.
Just as he's about to cut open the first box of records (the one covered with the most dust and February 1979 scrawled across each and every side in wide, looping cursive), Donna slides into the room and shuts and locks the door behind her.
"Uh," Mike says. He steps away from the table and takes the box cutter with him, hoping to avoid another incident like the one in the associates' break room (or worse). "Do you need something?"
"Yes," Donna replies. "I need for you to convince Harvey to let you free long enough to go to my niece's party on Saturday."
He groans. "I don't think that's going to happen. I mean, Harvey did tell you about the case he just took, right? He's going to expect me to be here 24/7 until the depositions start on Monday, and possibly after that, too."
She waves a hand at him. "That's all fine and dandy," she says, "but you absolutely need to be at the party. Make it happen, or I'm going to make you watch a video of my niece crying when I tell her that her favorite television character couldn't make it to her party like I'd promised. Make Harvey come along if you have to. There's plenty of space in the costume for you to carry a couple briefs with you. Bribe him with all the blackmail material he's going to get from showing up and watching everything go down."
"Why can't you make that happen?" Mike asks. "You're his assistant, you could just schedule it into his calendar. Wait - you're not going to, I don't know, shove us both in a pool and make him save me and then we kiss and run off to live happily ever after, are you?" Donna stares at him. Mike belatedly realizes that he should maybe keep certain things to himself. "I mean. Not that I would want you to do that or anything. That would just be -"
"Bup bup bup! Save your rookie daydreams for someone who cares," Donna interrupts him. "And just for the record, your imagination kind of sucks for someone with as much smarts as you. My plans to get you two together would be so much better than that, or anything else your brain could come up with, I'm sure."
"So you're not trying to get us together with this whole party thing?"
Donna sighs. "Yes, Ross, I planned my niece's birthday party just so I could talk my boss into breaking company policies for a second time in as many months and get you laid," she says. "That's exactly it. Well spotted."
"I get the feeling you're frustrated with me," Mike says.
"Right now I'm thinking you're kind of an idiot, which I suppose goes hand in hand with being frustrated with you," says Donna. "Now I know how Harvey feels on a daily basis. But listen to me - when I told you I had your back, I didn't mean I was going to start up some wacky office hijinks to get you two together."
"That's not even where my mind was going with this, I swear."
Donna levels a hard glare at Mike, and he clutches at the table behind him even more tightly. She stares at him, and just as he's about to make a play for the door, she grins and punches his arm. "It's going to be okay, kid," she says. "Luckily for you, I think you and Harvey together could be a good thing. Don't make me regret that."
Mike rubs at his injured arm. "I don't know whether to thank or run away from you."
"That's as it should be," she tells him.
So Mike dutifully follows her back to her desk, where they find Harvey in his office with a woman. She's beautiful, Mike immediately notices, and while her perfectly coiffed hair and tailored clothing practically scream a life of wealth and leisure, she doesn't have the usual ostentatious demeanor he's come to expect from the vast majority of Pearson Hardman's clientele. Harvey looks comfortable with her, like they're old friends or old lovers, and one look at Donna confirms that there's some history here that Mike is unaware of and will probably never know.
"So I'm guessing Jessica was yelling at him about professional conduct the other day," Mike says.
"Got it in one, kid," replies Donna. She pats him on the shoulder. "Maybe you should ask about Saturday some other time."
"Yeah, I'll just, you know. Go."
He escapes back to his desk and wonders if this fleeing from Harvey's office routine is going to become a habit.
She gives him the address the night before the party, and though he'd expected a certain level of class from the neighborhood, he's not sure he really prepared himself completely for the experience. Mike arrives at Donna's brother's house in Park Slope and has to take a moment to remember how to breathe before he can find the courage to walk up the front steps. The house is old and Victorian and absolutely stunning, the stone facade weather-beaten to a dirty cream and the wrought iron rusted just enough to be rough under Mike's hands. He stares down at his sneakers and scrapes the bottoms on the bottom step before ascending and ringing the doorbell. He fiddles with the strap of his messenger bag as he waits. A woman answers a moment later, her face a mask of polite inquiry.
"I, uh, I'm Mike," he says. "Donna asked me to be -"
All at once her demeanor shifts, and Mike finds himself engulfed in a tight hug.
"You're a lifesaver," she says. "Come in, come in. I'm Marie, Donna's sister-in-law. The kids are in the playroom right now, so we'd best get you dressed in the costume and outside before they notice anything."
She says all of this so quickly and with no breaks for breath that Mike wonders, Android? before being tugged down the hall and into the kitchen. Donna and a man who is presumably her brother are chatting with another woman at the island. When Marie pulls him fully into the room, Donna gives him an evil grin and takes hold of his other hand.
"Mike, this is Bradley and Vera," she says, "Bradley, Vera, this is Mike, soon to be a giant fuzzy elephant for your children's entertainment."
Bradley and Vera both raise their glasses to salute Mike, but before he can return the greeting, he's shoved into a room just off the kitchen. The costume is draped over a chaise lounge, looking for all intents and purposes like the skin of a dead animal. He tries to stifle the involuntary groan but doesn't quite succeed. Luckily, Marie seems to find this hilarious rather than offensive.
"I understand your pain," she tells him. "I used to work in the children's section of a bookstore. We'd have to dress up as characters all the time. I hated it."
"Besides," says Donna, "I'm feeling charitable today. I'll let you have a favor. Next time you have a paperwork problem, I'll help you figure it out."
Mike opens his mouth to ask whether he could have that in writing, but she holds up the harness to him. He sighs and puts it on without a word. I'm not going to get that favor, am I.
The costume goes on much faster than it had in the rental store, and soon enough Mike is waddling down the ramp on the porch to the small patio that serves as Marie and Bradley's backyard. He only gets a few minutes to acclimatize himself to the way the costume moves around him and how he needs to balance so he can actually go through the briefs he'd brought with him before ten little girls and boys come tearing outside and attack him.
The children seem to get tired of him after thirty minutes or so, and Mike breathes a sigh of relief as the other entertainment (a balloon artist of some kind) commands their attention shortly thereafter. He's made it through a quarter of the first brief, a terrible record for him, but he figures he has about another thirty or forty minutes of free time before the kids decide to come after him again. He picks the file up and picks a highlighter out of his pocket and settles himself into the familiar legal and financial jargon of his work.
He manages about fifteen minutes before someone knocks on his costume and clears their throat. It's annoyingly familiar. "I didn't think little kids' birthday parties were your scene," Mike says.
"They're not," Harvey replies, "but my associate in an elephant costume entertaining said little girls and boys? Definitely my scene. There's no way I was missing this."
Mike sighs and flips the folder he's finished going through shut. "Don't worry, I'm also working the court case. You might want to make sure the CEO is legally the CEO, by the way, because the contracts definitely don't indicate that she is."
"I'm not talking corporate law with a guy wearing an elephant costume," says Harvey.
Mike thanks whatever deity might be listening at that moment that Harvey can't see him roll his eyes. "Fine, fine," he says. "What are we going to talk about then? Sports? Because I'd really like to hear all about how you're friends with all the best players in every single league ever."
"I don't actually know anyone in the New York Red Bulls, so what you just said is hyperbole." Mike hears him swallow something, and he curses himself for not asking for a beer to keep in the costume with him. "There has to be something else we could talk about. Books? Pop culture? Oh no, wait, that would detract from the banter we have between meetings."
"Very funny," Mike says.
Harvey chuckles. "We could always talk about how we had sex that one time," he says.
Mike goes very still. "I thought we weren't acknowledging that."
"I was joking, Mike."
"Really? Were you?" Harvey doesn't say anything. Mike hears him taking another pull from whatever he's drinking, and then he sighs heavily. I shouldn't have said anything, I shouldn't have said anything, I shouldn't have said anything, Mike thinks, a sinking feeling growing in his stomach.
"I wasn't going to acknowledge it," Harvey finally says. "I didn't even mean for it to happen in the first place."
Mike doesn't know what he was expecting, but he'd be lying to himself if hearing Harvey say it out loud doesn't feel like a punch to the gut. "So why bring it up at all?" he asks, angry all of a sudden. "I know you get your kicks from watching me trip all over myself, but this is pretty low, even for you."
"Yes, I really should make a note of how naive you are. I keep forgetting. My bad," Harvey says, vicious sarcasm in every word.
Mike bites his tongue in an effort to stop himself from spewing every hateful word he knows at Harvey. They might be out of the office at the moment, but he knows Harvey - there's no way he wouldn't find a way to punish Mike at work for what he says in the off hours. The kids start shrieking about the elephant again, and he's reminded of exactly where he is. "You know what? This isn't the time or the place. Go back to seducing waitresses and socialites, Harvey. I have six-year-olds to entertain."
He waddles away towards the children and spends the rest of the afternoon letting them climb all over him. He assumes Harvey doesn't stick around to watch the spectacle.
Much later, after the children have been collected by their parents and he's permitted to get changed, Mike leaves the elephant costume in Donna's car, then goes back inside the house to find her to say goodbye. Along the way, he finds Bradley and Marie putting away leftover food into tupperware containers. Bradley stops him and presses four boxes of fruits and vegetables and deli meat into Mike's hands.
"I'm sorry Donna made you do this," he says, "but we appreciate it, and you were really fantastic with the kids. Thanks."
Mike considers declining the food but remembers that he hasn't managed to go food shopping in two weeks. He takes them from Bradley's hand eagerly and smiles at him and Marie. "My pleasure," he tells them. "I'm glad Alyssa and her friends had a good time today." He says goodbye to them and wanders off to where Donna is clearing dirty paper plates from a table on the balcony of the apartment. She looks up and raises an eyebrow at him.
"Thought you would have been miles away by now," Donna says. Mike offers her a grim smile.
"All things considered, it wasn't too bad," he replies. "The kids were cute, at least. I'm glad tomorrow's Sunday, though. Gives me an extra day to talk myself out of punching Harvey in the face when I see him at work on Monday."
She tosses the stack of plates she'd collected into a trash bin and strips the plastic tablecloth off and balls it up before throwing it away as well. "I'm sorry," she says after a moment. "I didn't think he'd show up out of the blue like that."
"I know," says Mike. "I didn't really expect to see him either." He gestures at the sky with the tupperware in his hands. "I'd better get going. I'd rather not be riding around the city with this stuff after dark and risk losing any of it."
"Yeah, that's, what - four lunches for you right there?"
"Five, if I'm lucky." Mike grins, a genuine one this time. "I'll see you at work."
Donna smiles and waves goodbye to him, and he stops in the kitchen and thanks Marie and Bradley for the leftovers once more before heading out to his bike.
The ride home is mostly uneventful. He has a surprising amount of energy, despite the long day. Mike considers visiting his grandmother, but by the time he finishes putting away the leftovers and tidying up his living room, it's already past 8, and chances are she's already sleeping or busy partying it up with the other nursing home residents. He smiles, remembering the last time he dropped by unannounced, and decides to give Rachel a call instead.
"What are you wearing?" she asks when she picks up.
"Gym shorts and a sweaty t-shirt," Mike replies, grinning when she ews at him. "Ask and you shall receive, biker smell and all."
"That's disgusting. Remind me why I put up with you."
"I'm the kind of adorable you can't resist," he says. "You should stop trying."
"I suppose so. What's up?"
Mike looks at his watch again. It's 8:25, still early by weekend standards, and practically mid-afternoon by New York City reckoning. "Uh, want to grab a drink with me?"
There's a pause, and then Rachel says, "Yeah, why not. Give me an hour and I'll meet you in midtown. Text me when you find a place."
An hour and a half later, Rachel slides onto the stool next to him looking only slightly less immaculate that she usually does. She raises an eyebrow at his obvious once-over of her and says, "What, I can't dress down once in a while? I can't be on every second of every day. Even I'm not that good."
"If this is your idea of dressing down, I have to wonder what your definition of casual is. Do you even own a pair of sweatpants?" Mike ducks out of the way to avoid getting a punch to the arm and pushes the drink he'd ordered her across the bar in her direction. "Cheers."
She taps her glass against his. "So," she says, "what happened today that we had to have an emergency meeting of the drinks club?"
Mike groans and rests his head against the edge of the bar. "Harvey showed up at Donna's niece's birthday party. He brought up the sex, we had words, I showed great restraint in not calling him a dick, and then he left while I got trampled on by kindergarteners."
Rachel stares at him. "Well, someone had an eventful day."
"You could say that." Mike sits back up and takes a long pull from his beer. Rachel says nothing, just watches him swallow with an unreadable look on her face. He sighs and sets the bottle back on the bar. "I know, okay? You can stop with that now."
"I didn't say anything."
"You were thinking it, though. That I need to get over this, that it's dumb to be this off-kilter because of one night."
She rests a hand over one of his and squeezes his fingers. "Stop me if this is too much for you," she says, "but they're your feelings and you're allowed to have them."
He hesitates for a moment, then turns his hand over and squeezes hers back. "I am simultaneously appreciative of the fact that we're having this conversation and horrified that you're telling me it's okay to have feelings." Rachel bursts out laughing, and Mike can't help but grin widely in response. "I'm serious, though," he says, "I'm glad I have you around to say things like that to me."
Rachel smiles and takes her hand back. "You can be pretty dumb sometimes," she says. "Luckily for you, I have a soft spot for pretty and dumb." She picks up her drink and knocks the rest of it back, then calls over to the bartender for another one. "We don't need to hug this out, do we?"
"Nah, I'm good," Mike replies. "Well, not good, but good enough to go on."
"Oh yeah? Good enough for shots?"
Mike grins again. "You're on, Zane."
Rachel, Mike shouldn't be surprised to find out, drinks like a fish. He has to call it off after the fifth round of shots, and despite the fact that she heckles him for it, he can see she's relieved that he's not interested in getting completely blitzed. Mike sees her to a cab and promises not to annoy her before noon the next day. He's about to signal to another for himself when a hand takes hold of his upper arm and pulls him away from the curb. He stumbles over an uneven patch of sidewalk and curses and turns to tell the person off, and then he stops. It's Harvey, and through the alcohol-induced haze, Mike immediately notices that he's angry.
"You," he says.
"Me," replies Harvey. "Finished fraternizing with Ms. Zane for the evening already?"
"I told you, we're not - what are you even doing here?" Mike asks. "Are you spying on me now?"
"No. Well, yes. I was already out, and I saw you go inside," says Harvey. "And then I saw Rachel, and then I -"
"Decided to spy on us." Mike congratulates himself for not laughing when Harvey's expression shifts into something angry and annoyed. It's more than a little gratifying, Mike must admit, to see him this way, off his game for once and perfectly aware of having been caught sinking to a level of conduct well below his usual standards. "Ah, Harvey Specter. You're jealous."
"You know what? I'm not having this conversation on a sidewalk in the middle of Manhattan." Harvey grabs his arm again and tugs him along behind him despite Mike protesting all the way. There's a car from the service Harvey likes to use for special clients about a block away. Harvey pushes Mike into the passenger seat, and just moments later they're speeding through traffic.
The drive to Harvey's loft is silent. The pleasant buzz that had settled over Mike in the bar dissipates almost completely, leaving him feeling tired and uneasy. The buildings descend from skyscrapers to apartment blocks, and Mike begins to wonder how this is going to play out. That they're headed for another argument he has no doubt, but he's not sure if he really wants to find out what Harvey's thinking.
"We're here," Harvey announces. "Get out of the car before you puke all over it."
Mike looks around him to find they've stopped in the parking garage underneath the building where Harvey lives. He winces, wondering how long they've been sitting there without him realizing it. "Not going to puke," he says. "I haven't done that since the day after I got kicked out of college."
"I'm glad your track record is solid. Now get out of the car and come upstairs. You and I are going to have a little chat." Harvey pats his knee. Apprehension grows inside Mike, and he stays frozen in his seat until Harvey comes around to the door and pulls him out of the car.
Harvey doesn't drag him up the stairs and into his condo by his hair, but it's a near thing. Mike takes a moment to be more turned on by this than he probably has any right to before the dread and misgiving returns. He rips his arm out of Harvey's grasp and rubs at his elbow, where he knows a bruise will appear later - another thought that sends a bolt of lust shooting down his spine, and isn't that just fan-freaking-tastic. Mike scowls at Harvey, who glares right back at him, breathing hard like he's just run a marathon.
"Don't look at me like that," says Harvey.
"You're a dick," Mike says, still clutching his arm close to his chest.
"And you're a goddamn child," is the reply. Harvey stalks through his living room and into the kitchen, Mike following close behind. "You're a toddler who's had a toy taken away from him, so he goes after something infinitely more dangerous because he's having a tantrum and can't see or think straight."
Mike scoffs. "I see your ego's as intact and oversized as ever. Why can't you leave me alone for one fucking night?" he asks. "It's none of your business where I go and what I do when I'm not at work."
"You mean 'who' you do," Harvey grates out. He takes a crystal tumbler out from a cabinet and moves back into the living room, shoving past Mike in the process. Mike falls back against the wall and grunts upon impact but recovers and trails after him.
"It's especially none of your business if I happen to be out with Rachel, who happens to be my friend and nothing else," Mike says, seething. White hot rage boils up inside him, and he has to ball his fists up at his sides to avoid swinging them at Harvey. He watches as Harvey pours himself a glass of scotch, knocks it back, and then pours another. There's a twitch in Harvey's jaw as the liquor goes down his throat, a tiny, nearly imperceptible flinch at the taste that throws Mike off for just a moment. The second glass goes down just as quickly as the first, and then Harvey's swinging back around to face him, all traces of hesitance gone now.
"It might not have been my business before we fucked," Harvey says, voice low and rough and thick, "but I'm sure as hell making it my business now."
"That doesn't even make any sense," Mike replies. "You know it doesn't. You don't have the right to tell me what to do with my free time, not ever. I don't know if you've actually realized that or not, but I imagine you're just ignoring it at this point."
"This isn't about that," says Harvey. "This is about the mixed signals you've been sending me."
Mike stares at him. "Mixed signals. From me. You're serious."
"You were pretty up front about wanting to sleep with me that night, I will give you that," continues Harvey. "But you ran away after that, and you acted like you couldn't stand to be anywhere near me for weeks. What was I supposed to think?"
"I didn't see you trying to talk to me about it," replies Mike. He considers pouring himself a glass of scotch, but there's a headache brewing behind his eyes, and he's tired, both because of all the drinks from earlier in the evening and because, well - "If anything, you were hiding from me, too. All those paperwork-heavy mergers and contract disputes, and you made sure I was tucked away and out of sight." He laughs and digs the heels of his palms into his eyes. "No wonder I was able to get so much work done in the bathroom. You didn't even bother looking for me, did you."
"I thought I was helping you out," says Harvey. "I thought you were ashamed of what we'd done."
That's it. I'm done, Mike thinks.
He lunges forward and pulls Harvey close to him. He sees Harvey's eyes widen, and he'd laugh at him only he's in the middle of kissing him instead. Mike tastes the liquor on his lips, and he groans, licking his way past that and into Harvey's mouth. Harvey stands completely still for a moment, and Mike begins to think that he's made yet another tactical error when Harvey lets out a low moan and puts a hand on either side of Mike's torso. He pushes Mike back without stopping the kiss until he's got him against the window. Mike grins into the kiss, victorious, lets Harvey arrange them so their bodies are pressed together from chest to hips. Mike reaches both hands down between them and works at Harvey's belt and zipper until he's able to reach inside and stroke upwards. Harvey's hips stutter forward, and there's a gasp into Mike's mouth that Mike bites and licks his way into.
"Easy," Harvey says. He takes hold of Mike's wrist and pulls it away from his cock. "Too dry. Bedroom."
Mike nods and allows himself to be pulled down the hallway and into the next room. Once inside, Harvey pushes him down on the bed and opens Mike's pants before reaching over to the nightstand and retrieving a corked bottle. Mike opens his mouth to tease him about the fancy lube, but Harvey kisses him breathless and quiet.
He loses time after that. It's all slick skin and toes curling and hands holding him down even as he shakes into orgasm and feels Harvey come apart on top of him. This isn't at all what Mike had expected would happen, but he's not sure he cares right then.
Mike lets out a gust of air as Harvey collapses against him. There's a trickle of sweat running down his neck, and he shivers when it hits the dip in his back between his shoulder blades. He takes a moment to savor the residual heat and sparks of pleasure all over his body, relishing it in a way he hadn't been able to the first time they'd slept together. He wraps his arms around Harvey and noses at the collar of his shirt to press his lips against bare skin. Harvey's arms tighten around him in turn, and Mike decides in that moment that regardless of what happens next, everything will turn out alright.
"I don't know what you want from me," Harvey murmurs into Mike's neck. His breaths warm Mike's skin suddenly, sending more shivers down his spine.
Mike closes his eyes. "That's okay," he says. "We'll figure it out later."