Harvey has a feeling something is about to go wrong.
It has been an ordinary day. Well, not ordinary, but typical: being a badass lawyer, mocking Louis at every available opportunity, trading barbs with Donna that left them both smiling, taking Mike home and fucking him through the mattress. So all in all, business as usual.
But afterwards, when they are lying in bed together, Mike is looking at him with a lazy smile, satiated and pliant. He looks content, reaching over and touching Harvey's cheek, fingertips light over his stubble. But then, as if some dark thought has stolen into his mind, his smile fades, his brow crinkles, and in one swift movement he withdraws his hand and sits up, legs swung over the side of the bed with his back to him, shoulders hunched.
When this thing between them started they had very clear rules and definitions. It wasn’t to be spoken of to anyone. It wasn’t to be brought into the four walls of Pearson Hardman. They weren't in a relationship, didn’t have feelings for each other, just enjoyed the time they spent together and then went their separate ways. And they were both totally fine with that. At the end of a particularly bad case, or in celebration of a victory, minor or small, they would share a heady glance and just know the night would end in Harvey's bed. And when it was over they might talk about work or sports or the state of the world, or maybe they'd grab a quick bite to eat and watch a movie, the same as any friends would, and then Mike would get up and leave.
If Harvey is honest the time between them getting dressed and Mike actually leaving has been getting longer as the months have passed. But he writes it off; it's just them hanging out as friends, it doesn’t mean anything, even if it sounds like a lie. It feels like they've been building up to something, and Harvey knows that whatever it is, good or bad, it's about to happen right here and now.
"I can't do this anymore, Harvey," Mike tells him, voice low, almost broken.
Even with the feeling of dread that had been forming in his stomach the words still come as a shock. He sits up, is tempted to reach over and touch Mike, maybe place a hand on his shoulder, trail his fingertips lightly down the spine of his back, but he keeps his hands to himself.
"Why not?" Harvey asks, even though he really shouldn’t. He should just nod and accept this and be grateful that things never got too messy.
"Because I broke our rules," Mike says.
Harvey thinks he knows to which rule Mike is referring, but the lawyer in him needs to know more, would never make an assumption on something this big. So he folds his hands in his lap and takes a deep breath before asking, "Which rules?"
Mike finally turns to look at him, body half angled around to face him. He is brave, looks Harvey right in the eye when he confesses, "The 'no feelings' rule." But then he looks down, averts his eyes, as though he has already lost all his courage, and says, "I can feel myself falling for you, Harvey. And I can't be with you like this when I know you don't feel the same."
While the words are still rolling around in his mind, struggling to make to sense, Mike is up off the bed and getting dressed, a never-ending chatter spilling from his mouth. Harvey catches a few fragments here and there (I didn't mean for this to happen … this isn't what you signed up for … I swear I won't let this get in the way of our work relationship … it isn't fair to either of us … I'm so sorry …) but for the most part he can't concentrate on anything over the blanket of white noise that has engulfed his brain.
This wasn't part of the plan. Their relationship had clearly defined lines and boundaries that were meant to protect them from this very situation. He is overwhelmed by the feeling of his heart pounding against his ribs, threatening to break free.
A very small part of Harvey is screaming at him to stop Mike and pull him back to the bed and kiss him and tell him that he's not alone, that Harvey maybe possibly might return his feelings. But he can't move, terror holding him still. Because he's honestly not sure what his feelings for Mike are. He can admit to the occasional surge of affection, the rare desire for something more, but the thoughts are always fleeting and he returns to being completely content in their relationship as it stands.
Maybe it's denial, because God knows if he ever did develop real life feelings for his idiot savant of an associate then it would complicate every single aspect of his life and denial would be a completely logical response. Because he likes his life the way it is, has worked hard to arrive at this point, and is genuinely alarmed by the idea of something coming in and upsetting the balance in his life.
That pesky little voice returns, this time gently reminding him that maybe if he wanted to keep his life balanced and uncomplicated he never would’ve hired Mike in the first place. Mike complicated his well ordered life from the moment they met and maybe this was just the next step, the logical conclusion.
Harvey realises that Mike is putting on his shoes and that any moment now he will stand up and walk out the door. His fingers twitch with the need to touch Mike one last time. Mike stands, picks up his messenger bag from the floor and throws it over his shoulder. He stands there, looking expectantly at Harvey, maybe hoping Harvey will stop him.
Harvey opens his mouth to speak, but nothing comes out. The words get stuck in his throat. He looks at Mike and sees so many things, but all he can focus on is that Mike has somehow managed to become the most important person in his life. He would struggle to picture his life without Mike in it. Mike is a great lawyer and he'll go far at Pearson Hardman, and when they are here together the sex is amazing and when they are just hanging out he feels relaxed and content in a way he never feels with anyone else. But it's too big, too much. There is a reason he has subsisted on one night stands and 'friends with benefits' relationships. He learnt long ago that he was just no good at genuine, committed relationships. And he was okay with that, it wasn't something that he needed or even really wanted. But for the first time in as long as he could remember, for a fleeting moment, he wishes things could be different.
But they're not. He likes Mike, more than he probably should and definitely more than is wise, but it's still not enough. Because Harvey cannot risk the work relationship they have on feelings he isn't sure he has. The gamble is too high.
And Mike deserves better. He deserves someone who is certain, who knows what he wants, who will return Mike's feelings with reckless abandon, who will tell the world that Mike is his and he is Mike's and don't they wish they were so damn lucky. In short, Mike deserves someone better than Harvey.
The silence of the room is thick between them and when Harvey doesn't speak, doesn’t try and make him stay with some third act declaration of love, Mike nods sadly, like he knew this was what was always going to happen. Mike turns to leave but that small part inside him, the little corner of his brain that has been screaming in protest this whole time, the small part of his heart that will always belong to Mike, it's screaming in protest and a strangled, "Mike, wait," escapes from his lips.
Mike turns to face Harvey, somehow looking wearied and hopeful all at once. Harvey crawls along the bed until he reaches Mike, placing his hands on the younger man's sides as he leans up and kisses him. It's soft, almost reverent; the mere pressing of lips that Harvey vainly hopes will tell Mike all that he can't say. It's their goodbye.
They slowly break away. Mike looks pained and Harvey wonders if he is wearing a matching expression. He drops his hands from Mike's body, nothing but empty space between them.
"See you tomorrow, Harvey," Mike says, voice flat, and this time he doesn't hesitate, doesn’t look back, just turns and walks through the door.
"Yeah. Bye," Harvey murmurs to the empty room.