You Should Have Called
It was probably the worst week ever since Mike started working at Pearson Hardman. Before, Mike thought he had seen it all, including lockdowns when nobody who wanted to keep their job for any length of time was allowed to leave the office, but compared to the past week, those instances have been child's play.
Val Minetti is one of the firm's major clients, a real estate mogul who owns a lot more property than Mike could bike through in an entire afternoon, and when suddenly one of his accountants was accused of fraud, all hell broke loose. Countless contracts were called into question, and for days every available person at the office was going through thousands upon thousands of pages of dense print, trying to find out what went wrong and where it did.
It's over now, though. They found it. They found out where someone was siphoning off money out of every transaction, and they found out who laid the false trace to the head of accounting. The guilty party is facing serious charges now, but Minetti and his head of accounting are in the clear and their business transactions are holding up.
Disaster averted. And it only took were about twenty associates and ten partners poring over thousands upon thousands of files for ninety hours straight. Just another day at the office.
But it's over now, and there are no words to describe the relief Mike feels – relief that doesn't come merely from the knowledge of a case well settled.
Normally, Mike has no issues to keep his relationship with Harvey out of the office, but normally they're working for a day, maybe two days straight at the most until they can go home and spend time with one another at just Harvey and Mike, not as Senior Partner and his associate.
But nothing about the past week has been normal, and ever since the moment they figured out their case Mike has been itching with an almost physical need to get out of the office and go somewhere where they can be alone. He missed Harvey, missed kissing him, touching him, missed just being with him without any legal matters taking up their attention. Over the past week, they barely managed to get out of the office once a day for a shower and a change of clothes, and never once at the same time.
It doesn't really surprise Mike that the moment they leave the building and get into the waiting town car, they're all over each other. There's no way to tell who initiates it, whether it's Harvey or him, but for once Mike doesn't care about public decency, or even the basic safety of a seatbelt. He's halfway across the backseat as soon as the door shuts closed behind him and Harvey meets him there, mouth hot against Mike's and his tongue warm and welcome in his mouth as their hands roam over shirts and underneath jackets to re-map lost territory.
Mike hears the sound of the partition sliding up before the car pulls over into traffic, and he can just imagine Ray's indulgent smile in the rear-view mirror, but the movement of Harvey's hands ghosting across his ribs through the fabric of his shirt chases all thoughts of their driver out of his mind. He doesn't even know if he manages to tear himself away from Harvey's lips for long enough to say goodbye to Ray once he deposits them in front of Harvey's building and they climb out of the seat. He hopes he does, or that Ray is understanding if he doesn't.
Once out of the car they prove that it's not a physical impossibility to walk and kiss at the same time, though it probably looks more like an almost drunk stumble through the lobby and towards the elevator. From the corner of his eyes he sees the doorman wave at them, hears him call out Harvey's name, but Harvey waves him off even as he pushes Mike through the open elevator doors. Not the glass elevator that leads into the living room, but the normal elevator leading to the apartment's front door.
Right now Mike is so desperate to feel Harvey against him that he wouldn't have minded making out in the glass elevator for all of New York to see, but this route has its definite advantages. The way to the bedroom is much shorter from the apartment door, and right now Mike doesn't plan on them going anywhere but straight to bed. Maybe a stop in the bathroom first, to wash off that stale feeling that comes from being buried in mountains of paper all day long, but they can be quick about it – take a shower together, save some water, do something good for the planet and all that stuff. As long as he gets Harvey naked as soon as humanly possible, he doesn't care.
They stumble out of the elevator in an uncoordinated moving mess of limbs, finding the apartment door by sense-memory rather than really looking where they're going. Instead of taking out his key though, Mike feels Harvey's grip around his waist tighten, and then his back collides with the solid wood of the condo's front door. His head hits the wood with a dull thud, but the impact is not hard enough to hurt. A moan escapes his lips as Harvey's mouth brushes along his jaw line, tongue tracing the stubble there until his mouth is right next to Mike's ear.
"As soon as we're through that door, I'm gonna tear that suit off you," he growls into Mike's ear, and a shiver of anticipation runs along Mike's spine and pools hot and heavy in his belly and groin. "I'm going to drag you straight to the bedroom, and we're not going to leave the bed for the entire weekend."
Mike's head drops back against the unyielding wood of the door with another dull thud, and as Harvey begins to mouth a line of nibbling, teasing kisses along his throat, he fists his fingers into the fabric of Harvey's suit jacket in an effort to pull him even closer.
"Less talking…" he manages to force out, "more kissing."
Harvey makes a sound that could have been a laugh, but even as Mike tries to pull Harvey up to seal their lips into another kiss, suddenly the door against his back begins to yield.
Mike wonders how Harvey managed to get the key into the lock when one of his hands is still curled around his ribs while the other is inching up Mike's chest. It doesn't seem possible, but the door is definitely moving. Harvey is pressing him against it with almost his full body weight, and the moment Mike registers that he's falling backwards, it's already too late. He tries to take a step back to balance himself out, but Harvey's weight is pushing him back, and there's no direction he can go but down.
He sees Harvey's eyes widen as he loses his balance, and his hands tighten into the fabric of Harvey's jacket as he falls back. It's just a second, less probably, during which he sees the doorway and the ceiling of Harvey's hallway rush past, then he hits the ground. This time it does hurt as the back of his head collides against the hardwood floor, and though Harvey tries to brace himself with one arm, the weight of his body landing atop of him forces the air out of Mike's lungs.
For a long moment, Mike doesn't move as his brain tries to come up with a possible reason why they just tumbled through the door. But Harvey is still lying on top of him, and while Mike was all for such a scenario just a minute ago, his lungs remind him painfully that breathing is not an optional activity. He slaps his hand against Harvey's shoulder to get his attention, but Harvey is staring fixedly at something behind them, eyes wide and a dumbstruck expression on his face.
"Harvey," Mike rasps out with another slap against the other man's shoulder, but not even that is enough to gather Harvey's attention. His eyes are wide and Mike can see how his Adam's apple shifts as he swallows convulsively. There's steps approaching them, and on the edge of his vision Mike sees two shapes lean over him. Harvey raises up slightly, but Mike can't fully appreciate the feeling of being able to draw air into his lungs as Harvey's next words stop him short.
"Mom? Dad? What are you doing here?"
Mom? Dad? Harvey's parents? Mike cranes his neck farther back and the two shapes morph into two upturned faces looking down at him.
"Good evening, Harvey." The voice is deep and sonorous, and after a few long seconds of a near perfect deer-in-the-headlights expression, Harvey suddenly can't seem to move fast enough. He scrambles to his feet with a lot less grace than Mike knows he's capable of. Now that Harvey's weight is gone Mike can breathe easily again, but during his half-mad dash back into an upright position, Harvey's foot collides painfully with Mike's inner thigh, and he can't quite stop the yelp of pain from escaping.
Harvey seems completely befuddled, but at least Mike's cry of pain seems to have reminded him of his presence. A hand is clasped around his wrist and Harvey pulls him to his feet, where he hobbles around rather ungracefully for a moment, one hand rubbing his aching thigh and the other the back of his head where it collided against the floor.
He stops the movement the moment he realizes that three pairs of eyes are resting on him, and though his thigh hurts like bitch – stupid Italian leather shoes – he tries to straighten up as much as he can. Truth be told, Mike doesn't quite know what to do next, but when he looks at Harvey for some possible pointers, the only thing he sees is just how disheveled Harvey looks. His hair is mussed where Mike ran his hands through it, his tie is askew and the top two buttons of his shirt are undone – Mike distantly remembers the absolute need he felt to nuzzle the base of Harvey's throat back in the car. Harvey's lips are red and swollen from kissing and moving against the day's worth of stubble on Mike's face, and Mike knows that he himself looks no better.
Even if they'd be able to come up with a somewhat convincing story to explain their tumble through the door, nobody with functioning eyes would believe it.
Apparently, both Harvey's parents seem to have perfectly functioning eyesight, because they're both standing just a few feet away, unmoving, the surprise written clearly on their faces. Mike is still too stunned himself to look closely and try to judge what they're thinking from their faces, but at that moment Harvey's father deliberately clears his throat, and that seems to be enough to snap Harvey out of his own stupor and make him remember his manners.
"Erm…Mom, Dad, this is Mike, my…"
"If the next word out of your mouth is associate, I think the two of us need to have a serious conversation about proper behaviour in the workplace," Harvey's father interrupts, and Mike nearly chokes on his own tongue before his thoughts go into overdrive. Does that mean Harvey's parents know who he is? Why the hell didn't Harvey tell him about that? Harvey fumbles for a second, too, but he's a lot quicker to recover than Mike is.
"Michael Ross," Harvey finishes, and for some inexplicable reason Mike is glad that Harvey didn't introduce him as his boyfriend. They don't do this labelling thing where they need to put a name to what they are to each other, and besides, Mike would feel weird being introduced as the boyfriend of someone nearly ten years his senior, and to his parents on top of that. Harvey's arm is wrapped firmly around his waist in a way that speaks for itself, and they already established that there's nothing wrong with the eyesight of either of Harvey's parents. Mike is pretty sure that the nature of their relationship is not so much the issue here as the way they almost literally threw it at them.
"Mike, meet my parents. Helen and Benedict Specter."
They're a bit too far apart for a handshake, but his parents and his grandmother drilled manners into Mike from an early age on, and there's no way he's meeting Harvey's parents without a polite and proper handshake, so he takes a step towards them, away from Harvey's reassuring hold around his waist, and stretches out his hand.
"Good to meet you, Ma'am, Sir."
He shakes their hands in turn, and receives two firm handshakes back, but even that attempt at normalcy feels stale. It doesn't feel like enough. Not that Mike's parents – or later his grandmother – continuously told him how to properly meet his significant other's parents, but Mike is fairly sure that there are some firm ground rules established by generations upon generations of nervous boyfriends. Most importantly the one about how first impressions count, and that he's supposed to do everything in his power to leave a good one. He's pretty damn sure that he should have had flowers for Harvey's mother at the very least, and most importantly he should have met them standing upright. Now he's forever going to be the guy who fell on his ass in front of them, and what kind of first impression is that?
Already his brain is running desperately in an attempt to try and figure out how to salvage this catastrophic start to this meeting, but it seems that Harvey has finally found his footing again, and Mike gladly allows him to take over. He closes the door behind them and then he's at Mike's side again, looking a lot more composed than Mike feels. It's his courtroom face, though, the one he uses whenever a witness does something unexpected, and Mike feels somewhat calmed at the fact that he's not the only one who feels like this situation slipped out of control the moment that door gave way beneath them.
"Why didn't you call?"
Even as he speaks, Harvey moves towards his mother, some of the tension in his shoulders loosening as he embraces her and kisses her cheek. He greets his father with another embrace, the kind of manly hug that comes along with a slap to the back to mask any emotions behind it, and Mike feels the same kind of ache he always experiences when he sees other people interact with their parents. It's something hell be forever missing out on, and once more he wishes that this meeting had been planned, that he could have prepared himself for this a bit more so that it wouldn't hit him in all the raw spots.
Now it almost feels overwhelming to see Harvey interact with his parents. His parents. Of course Mike knows and has always known that Harvey didn't just walk out of a courtroom one day fully formed, but it's one thing to know something on an abstract level and another thing entirely to actually see it. Harvey has parents. They're both in their early sixties, maybe, Mike's never been good at judging these things without embarrassing himself. But considering Harvey's age, it's a good bet.
Harvey's mother is about a head smaller than her son, with shoulder-length dark blond hair, and once Mike takes his first good look at her, he almost takes an unconscious step back. Mike knows pictures of his own parents, and he knows that he favors both of them in a way, maybe his Dad a bit more than his Mom, but Harvey…looking at Mrs. Specter, he's surprised to find a female version of Harvey's face looking back at him. The same nose, same chin, same facial structures, all in all it's a smoother, more rounded version of Harvey's face…it's eerie.
The only difference is the eyes. Her eyes are blue, but it only takes a small turn to the right to figure out where Harvey got that particular feature from. Harvey's father has the same eyes – not just the same in the sense that they both have brown eyes, but their eyes are exactly the same – and the set of his mouth is one Mike knows only too well from Harvey, too.
It's not even that it's completely unexpected. After all, no matter what he says, Harvey is human, which means that he has a mother and a father whom he probably favors in one way or another, but right now Mike feels completely unprepared to just have the evidence of that thrown in his face. Another reason why knowing about this meeting beforehand might have been a good idea. It's only now that Mike realizes that he's never even seen a picture of them before, which is probably the reason why he's staring somewhat dumbly right now.
He almost startles when Harvey wraps an arm around his waist again and tears him out of his thoughts.
"What are you doing here?" Harvey asks, and his voice is steady enough to almost mask the fact that he's still startled and confused by finding his parents in his living room without prior announcement. "And why didn't you call?"
"A client gave me tickets to the Met, so we thought we'd spend some time on the east coast and visit our eldest while we're in town." Harvey's father pauses and raises an eyebrow for dramatic effect. "And we did call. More than once."
Harvey frowns and fumbles in his pocket for his cell phone, but before he can even pull it out, a disapproving frown from his father stops him.
"Your mother and I left you a number of messages," and he nods his head into the direction of the living room, where the phone is standing on a small table beside the sofa. Even from the distance, Mike can see that the small red light of the integrated answering machine is blinking, signaling new messages. Harvey follows his gaze and his eyes widen in disbelief.
"On the answering machine? You called on the landline?"
"Where else would I have called?"
Harvey seems taken aback. "I don't know, Dad, maybe you could have called me at the office? Or – and here's a crazy thought – how about on my cell phone?"
"I don't believe in cell phones."
"They're not a religion, Dad. They allow you to get into contact with people regardless of whether or not you believe in them."
Harvey's father brushes off his protests, and that's probably the first time Mike has seen anyone do this and get away with it.
"So you didn't get our messages?"
"I was barely home at all during the past week, of course I didn't get your messages. You didn't think it strange that you left me a number of messages about coming for a visit and I never once called you back?"
Harvey's mother steps in to interrupt them, and Mike gets the sudden feeling that it's not the first time she does that, but rather that it's a well established way to stop her husband and son from going in circles.
"Is it a problem that we're here? We can stay at a hotel if it's inconvenient."
Harvey's head snaps up with a speed that makes Mike think of whiplash. "What? No, of course it's not a problem. It's just…" he runs a hand across his face with a sigh, and it reminds Mike painfully of the week they've just been through and the exhaustion that Harvey is surely feeling just as much as Mike himself is. "A little warning would have been nice, that's all. But of course you can stay."
Harvey's mother smiles as if that settled a matter of great importance, and Mike is startled to see that even the way the corners of her eyes crinkle when she smiles is pure Harvey.
"That's great, because I already put our things into the guest room. Now, how about your father and I wait in the living room while you boys go freshen up a little?"
She has turned around and is pulling her husband along into the living room while Mike is still reeling about her calling them boys – or about anyone describing Harvey that way and living to see another day for that matter – but it's obvious that it wasn't a suggestion so much as an order, so he obediently follows Harvey into the master bedroom to change out of his wrinkled work suit. Harvey closes the door behind them, then he leans against it with his entire weight, as if he has to physically stop someone from coming in after them, and closes his eyes with a loud sigh.
Mike has made it as far as the bed, and he sinks down on the mattress with a weary sigh. An irrational burst of laughter is bubbling up inside his chest, but he struggles to keep it down. Looking at Harvey now, slumped against the door as if it's the only thing keeping him upright, he's pretty sure the other man wouldn't appreciate an outburst of hilarity. Even though it'd be justified, Mike thinks. Just fifteen minutes ago they could hardly wait to get into the condo and tear each other's clothes off – not necessarily in that order, even – and now sex is pretty much the farthest thing from their minds.
They've just been cockblocked by Harvey's parents, and if that isn't hilarious, Mike doesn't know what is.
Still, Mike takes one look at Harvey and feels the levity drain out of him. Harvey looks exhausted in a way that has nothing to do with the endless hours of work they've put in at the office over the past week. Mike gets up from the bed and crosses the distance towards him.
"Are you okay?"
It takes a moment until Harvey opens his eyes, and the look on his face is answer enough already. Harvey doesn't like the unexpected, he doesn't like being blind-sighted, and his parents' sudden appearance was definitely unexpected and unplanned for. Unexpected enough to throw him for a loop, and considering that he excels at handling the unexpected in his professional life, it takes quite a bit to throw him off this badly.
"Yeah, I'm good," Harvey replies, his voice rough, and they both try to ignore the obvious lie. Eventually, Harvey pushes himself away from the door and runs a hand through his already mussed up hair.
"I'm going to take a quick shower." He brushes a kiss against Mike's forehead in passing and discards his suit jacket and tie on the bed before he vanishes into the bathroom and closes the door behind him. On any other occasion, Mike might have felt offended at the way Harvey dodged his question and vanished without another word, but he knows enough to not feel affronted.
Harvey's relationship with his parents is…difficult. It's something Mike knows he'll probably never fully understand because his own parents died before he even entered puberty. All he remembers are childhood memories of them, and what few conflicts there ever were between them were struggles about bedtime or about toys he wanted but didn't get. Harvey's issues with his parents are in a different ballpark altogether. Hell, they're in a completely different league.
Not that Mike knows the whole story. He knows he doesn't, and even after nearly two years of working together and – more importantly – a little less than a year of being in a relationship with him, Harvey never once sat down with him to tell him what happened, from beginning to end. Knowing Harvey, that's not going to happen anytime soon, either, not unless this visit somehow forces him to.
What Mike does know he pieced together from small admissions Harvey made over the course of time, words that slipped out in a given situation or after a drink too many, one bit of information after another. And then there's things Mike knows that Harvey never told him, things he heard from Eric, the one member of Harvey's family he's met so far. Put together, these pieces of information paint a picture that Mike would have never expected two years ago, when they first met.
The first surprise really was that Harvey comes from a working class background. Mike would have never thought it possible, not with the ease with which Harvey moves in his current, obviously wealthy lifestyle, but he grew up in a middle class family. Upper middle class, admittedly, the kind of family where money issues were never any real pressing concerns, but still a family where both his parents went to work every day because they needed to, and not just in order to avoid boredom while they counted their riches.
Harvey's father is an accountant, and while he owns an apparently successful accounting firm of his own nowadays, he was an employed accountant in someone else's firm while Harvey grew up. Harvey's mother did something in the pharmaceutical field that Mike isn't too sure about exactly. In fact, he isn't even sure if she's still working now, but he knows for a fact that the Specters might be what he'd consider wealthy now, but hadn't been while Harvey was growing up.
Mike heard hints of it before at the office, too, though it took time for him to figure it out. The clues were there all along – mentions of how Harvey started out in the mail room at Pearson Hardman, how it was Jessica who sent him to Harvard, not his parents or a scholarship. Once he even overheard Jessica reminding Harvey that he was a screw-up back when they first met, but he never put the pieces together until Harvey's brother filled in a couple of blanks.
Eric is almost seven years younger than Harvey, and probably the only person on the entire planet that Harvey would not only let get away with murder, but also the only person whom he'd help to hide the body and get the bloodstains out of the carpet. And while Eric was still a kid when it all started, and his memory is quite obviously colored by a younger brother's hero worship for his older sibling, Mike thinks he gets the gist of it.
Believe it or not, apparently Harvey was a perfectly ordinary teenager. The only extraordinary thing that happened to him was when his shoulder gave out during his senior year in high school, ruining a varsity baseball career that might have developed into a professional one.
It was only in college when he started acting out, though that's not really something Mike has any right to judge. Partying, drinking, sex, drugs (even if rarely) – the list sounds bad if put together like that, but Mike knows that it probably wasn't nearly as dramatic as it was spread out over the four years it took Harvey to get his undergraduate degree. It definitely wasn't any worse than some of the things Mike did, long after he still had the excuse of being a college student. Nothing that left any lasting marks on Harvey's record in any case, because even early on he had enough brains to get good grades without putting in too much effort. He wasn't living up to his potential, but he was definitely getting by.
But then at some point during his final year in college, his parents marriage took a turn for the worse. Mike doesn't know the details, doesn't really want to know the details, but he knows that things went from bad to worse within weeks, and a once stable marriage turned into something closely resembling The War of the Roses. Alimony issues, custody issues, whatever cliché the situation called for the Specters delivered it, and apparently Eric thought this was as good a time as any to take a leaf out of his older brother's book and act out a little to draw his parents' attention.
Rather than welcoming his parents for his graduation ceremony like his fellow students, Harvey's college days at NYU ended with a phone call detailing his brother's joyride in their mother's car at the shy age of fifteen. The impact against the telephone pole totaled the car and put Eric into the hospital for close to four weeks, and it would have ended a lot worse if he hadn't been wearing a seatbelt.
Instead of going to law school right away, Harvey moved back into his childhood home with his mother and brother, forfeiting a scholarship he had already been granted. But if he had hoped that the accident and its aftermath was going to bring their parents closer together, or would at least stop the war they were waging against one another for the time being, he was mistaken. If anything, both of them tried to use the accident as ammunition in their ongoing divorce and custody struggle.
Harvey watched them go at it for three months, until Eric was out of the hospital and could walk without crutches. When things still hadn't let up by then, Harvey Specter made a choice that pretty much turned his life around. Fed up with his parents pitting against each other and his brother caught in the crossfire, Harvey took whatever money he had saved up, researched until he found the best lawyer he could afford, and tried to put an end to the madness.
This is one of the things that Mike officially doesn't know about, even though he's sure that Harvey knows Eric told him. Still, it's not something Harvey is ever going to talk about voluntarily, but Mike finds it's impossible not to fall yet another bit more in love with him every time he thinks about what he did back then.
Harvey Specter, barely twenty-two years old and with a fresh undergrad degree, the dream of becoming a lawyer but with no steady income, went ahead and put and end to his parents' custody struggle by filing for custody of his younger brother himself.
It was a bold move, it cost him all the money he had saved up to get him through law school, and it was a move that didn't exactly promise success. But even in his early twenties, Harvey was nothing if not a stubborn bastard, willing to see things through to the end and even go to trial with it if he had to. He didn't stand much of a chance to actually win and be awarded custody, but his filing for it had two important consequences.
For one, with Harvey petitioning against them, the Specters found themselves on the same side of a confrontation for the first time in months, if not longer. It didn't change things over night, far from it. But faced with the possibility – however remote – of losing custody of Eric to Harvey, suddenly it no longer seemed like an impossible feat to work out a custody agreement between them. Eric once told Mike that Harvey became something of a mutual adversary for them during that time, someone else to focus their frustration on instead of each other. Mike doesn't know if Harvey put himself into the position of being the scapegoat deliberately, but he knows Harvey well enough by not to not put it past him. Considering that they are still married today, almost fifteen years later, it tells Mike that something good came out of the whole mess, even if it changed Harvey's relationship to his parents irrevocably.
The second consequence of the custody suit Harvey filed is that he met Jessica Pearson. Mike has no idea how that happened, because he knows Jessica specialized in corporate law early on in her career and never practiced family law. But somehow they met during that time, and two years later when she made partner at Pearson Hardman, she remembered the young pre-law student with enough guts to sue his own parents and decided to give him a chance. She invested in him and sent him to Harvard, and Harvey seized the opportunity she gave him and repaid it multiple times over.
Harvey didn't talk to his parents for the next five years, even after they salvaged the remains of their marriage and moved to Minneapolis to make a new start. He kept in close contact with Eric at all times, but it was only after Harvey graduated Harvard and started working up his way through the ranks at Pearson Hardman that he got into tentative contact with them again.
They've rebuild a lot of bridges over the past years, but Mike knows that things still aren't easy between them. Every step towards each other, every conversation, every hug, each moment of banter and every interaction between them is something they had to work for. Mike thinks it's pretty remarkable that they managed to reach the point where they are in regular contact with each other. In fact, by now Harvey's parents are on the very short list of people who the doorman is allowed to let into the condo even in Harvey's absence. To Mike's knowledge, they haven't made use of that privilege until now, but it's an important sign that Harvey allowed for the possibility.
Still, the history of their relationship explains why their sudden appearance threw Harvey for such a loop. They get along within carefully constructed boundaries, and up until earlier those boundaries did not imply showing up without previous announcement that would give Harvey sufficient time to prepare.
But now it happened, and Mike and Harvey will have to make the best of it.
Mike hears the water in the bathroom turn off and quickly hurries over towards the wardrobe to change into different clothes. He did manage to grab a shower earlier today, unlike Harvey who spent the entire night in his office, going over the relevant files for their case. Unless Harvey's parents expect Mike to be clean shaven once he comes out of the bedroom again, he should be fine without a shower.
Harvey comes out of the bathroom just as Mike contemplates what to wear – and really, he's never going to make fun of Rachel or Donna or any other woman who asks the big What am I going to wear –question ever again. What does one wear during the first proper meeting with the parents of the man he loves? He knows a little about Harvey's parents, but he doesn't know them, so he has no idea if he needs to change from one suit into the other, or if jeans and a shirt will do.
And really, he fell on his ass in front of those people while making out with their son, so his choice of pants really can't become the decisive factor in how they perceive him. Even if he feels a slight nervous flutter settle in his stomach now, something that didn't happen earlier simply because there was no time for it. He quickly shrugs into a pair of dark slacks and a simple blue button down shirt, deciding that even if it's not up to Harvey's usual dress code, it will do for tonight. It's not like he keeps all his clothes at Harvey's place, after all, so his choice is limited.
He's a little more sure about it when Harvey comes out of the bathroom a moment later, towel wrapped around his waist and his hair still damp and standing up at odd angles from where he rubbed it off. Harvey puts on a pair of jeans and a black shirt, which calms Mike somewhat. At least this is going to be a casual affair for tonight. It's something, at least.
Harvey seems to have regained his usual control over his expression, but Mike knows him well enough to see right through the façade. It's forced, at least to some degree, but still Harvey looks a little more at ease with himself and this situation than he did earlier. As he stands in front of the mirror and buttons up his shirt, Mike steps up behind him and leans into him, his arms going around Harvey's waist almost of their own accord.
"Are you okay?" He repeats his earlier question before he presses a kiss against the back of Harvey's neck.
Harvey continues to do up the buttons before he looks up and meets Mike's eyes in the mirror. There's a whole silent exchange in that one gaze that says clearly that he's not okay, not really, not completely, and that they both know why that is even though they never talked about it before. After a moment, Harvey looks away and turns around in Mike's arms.
"I'll be fine, kid. And now we'd better get back out there before those two get bored enough to start snooping around in the cupboards and drawers."
Mike smiles even though he still feels the strong urge to lock Harvey up in the bedroom and shield him from whatever bad memories his parents' visit might have evoked. It's not an option, though, so he has to make do with pressing a lingering kiss against Harvey's lips. He doesn't withdraw until he feels Harvey lean into him and respond, and maybe it's just his imagination but he thinks Harvey seems a little more relaxed once they break apart.
"We should get back out there before my parents think we continued right where we were interrupted earlier."
Mike feels a smile tug at the corners of his mouth and can't help but press another quick kiss to Harvey's lips.
"Don't tempt me."
Harvey squeezes his ass in response before he turns them towards the bedroom door, and Mike feels somewhat reassured. It's just Harvey's parents, and just for one evening. They've taken on worse opponents before.
In fact, he probably shouldn't be thinking about Harvey's parents in terms of opponents at all. They're just ordinary people visiting their oldest son, not potential enemies on the warpath, no matter the history between them and Harvey. As much as his instinct might tell him to involve himself in this because it's and issue that hurt Harvey and still does, he knows he can't. It's not his family, not his story and not his fight. All Mike can do is stand in Harvey's corner and let him know that he has his back, no matter how hard it is for both of them.
The Specters don't look the part of opponents either once Mike and Harvey finally leave the bedroom. They're sitting on one of the couches in the living area, and Mike feels his heart speed up in his chest as they approach them, and his palms start to feel clammy from nervousness. It's ridiculous, he knows that, but nevertheless he feels somewhat calmed by the warmth of Harvey's hand against the small of his back as he guides them over towards the second couch.
Mike is afraid that the moment they sit down, the room will fall silent as they struggle to find a topic everyone involved deems safe, but Harvey doesn't let it get that far.
"Did you guys eat? We could go out for a late lunch if you want."
Food sounds like a heavenly concept right about now, and Mike feels his mouth water at the thought. He only had a bagel of questionable age this morning, somewhere between one stack of files and the next, and now that he thinks about it he's feeing positively starved. But he's also tired. In fact, he's so exhausted that he doesn't really want to contemplate the possibility that he might have to dress up and leave the house again. He's actually kind of grateful when Harvey's mother shakes her head.
"We stopped for lunch on our way from the airport. Don't worry about us, Harvey. It's obvious that our arrival was somewhat…unexpected, so there's no need to go out of your way for us." She glances at Mike when she says the last part, and for a moment Mike is almost sure she winked at him, but then she's looking at her son again and Mike is no longer sure that he didn't imagine it. Starvation and exhaustion do funny things to the human mind, after all.
"And we have dinner reservations for later," Harvey's father adds. "Though you're welcome to join us, if you like. I'm sure we could change the reservation."
Harvey glances at Mike, just for a quick moment, but Mike is pretty sure that it was long enough to get the message across that he absolutely doesn't want to leave the house tonight, at least not unless it's on fire. He knows Harvey has to feel similarly exhausted, so the decision is neither difficult nor surprising.
"Thanks Dad, but I think we're just going to stay here tonight. We have a bit of sleep to catch up on."
There's an almost understanding smile on Mr. Specter's face at those words.
"Hard day at the office?"
"More like a hard week, really. But you two go out and have fun, treat yourself to the full dinner-and-opera-experience. What are they showing?"
There's something about the tone of voice in which Harvey's father says it that makes Mike suspect that Mr. Specter is not exactly a big fan of the opera, which Mike can completely relate to because it's absolutely not his thing either. Harvey took him to the opera once and it was…there are no proper words to describe it. They left during the break and that's all that ever needs to be said about it. Normally, Mike is not the kind of person to draw life lessons from movies, especially not bad ones, but there's a valid lesson that Pretty Woman teaches you about the opera: Either you love it or you hate it. Mike – well, it's safe to say that he doesn't love it. Neither, apparently, does Mr. Specter, but there's a gleam in his wife's eyes that explains who the driving force behind their unannounced trip to New York might have been.
"Anyway," Mrs. Specter runs interference once again. "Michael. Or do you prefer Mike? Gosh, is it even okay if I call you by your first name? I'm a bit out of practice with these things."
Mike can't help the smile that tugs at the corners of his mouth at Mrs. Specter's fumbling. He would have preferred if the focus of the conversation wasn't on him, but given the situation it has probably been unavoidable.
"Mike is fine, Mrs. Specter."
"Helen," she corrects him with determination.
"Helen." It feels a little weird to call her by her first name, but he doesn't have much experience with this whole meet the parents-scenario. Or with parents in general, come to think about it. "It's good to meet you, too. I…up until earlier, I wasn't even aware that you knew about me."
Helen smiles, but Mike doesn't miss the look she throws into her son's direction, one that's lost somewhere between fondness and exasperation.
"Well, I guess you know what Harvey's like. He's not exactly big on volunteering information, but he did mention his new associate a little while after you started working for him. It's probably easier to squeeze blood out of a stone than to get personal information out of Harvey, so I don't really know much at all. He mentioned that you were his associate, and a few months ago he admitted that the two of you are dating." She turns to look at Harvey. "Is that what the kids are calling it these days?"
Mike can't help it, he snorts in laughter both at the question and the look on Harvey's face. He is actually flushing a little as he stutters for an answer.
"What the…Mom, I'm thirty-nine years old! I have no idea what the kids are calling it these days. Half the time I don't even know what Mike's blabbering on about."
Helen just smiles indulgently at his protests, and there's something in her eyes that makes Mike almost sure that she was teasing her son deliberately. That Harvey's father does his best to stay in the background and not be noticed by either of the two only confirms that thought. For a moment, he's tempted to just leave Harvey hanging for a little while longer, but it's been a hard week and Mike knows how to chose his moments of deliberate cruelty. Today is not one of them.
"Well, I don't really know if there's all that much else to tell."
"Oh, but I doubt that. Are you from New York initially?"
Mike nods. "Yes. I grew up over in Brooklyn with my Grandma."
It's a sentence that carries the potential for all the questions about Mike's past that he doesn't feel comfortable discussing. Admitting that he grew up with his grandmother implies that for some reason his parents were not there to raise him, and Mike has met a lot of people who saw it as an invitation to ask further invasive questions about his family history. However, if Helen feels that particular urge, she keeps it to herself, and Mike feels incredibly grateful for it.
"A real New Yorker then. Wonderful. The next time we come for a visit, maybe you can show us around a little. Whenever I'm in New York, I always feel like a tourist who misses out the things that are really worth seeing."
"How about the next time you come for a visit, you call first. That way, we can make sure we actually know you're coming."
The snark in Harvey's words isn't entirely real, and Helen seems to notice it as well because she flashes her son a challenging grin.
"I thought we established that we did, in fact, call you a number of times. And I'm actually glad that you didn't check your messages, because who knows if we had met Mike had you known that we were coming. It's not every day that you introduce us to the person you're dating, after all. Actually, if memory serves me right this is the first time."
Something lodges in Mike's chest at those words, something warm yet anxious that he can't quite define. It's not an unpleasant feeling at all, but he is still struggling with the revelation that apparently Harvey never brought a date home to meet his parents. Which is somewhat inconceivable, really. As he himself pointed out, Harvey is thirty-nine years old, and rocky relationship with his family notwithstanding, surely there must have been someone they met over the course of the years.
"You met Christy Tanner."
And just like that, the warm fuzzy feeling in the pit of Mike's stomach turns into a bitter knot. So much for hoping that the inconceivable could be really true.
Helen, however, thinks for a moment before she huffs in amusement.
"For the record, I did not meet Christy Tanner. The one and only time I saw her, she was writhing naked in your bed and the two of you were going at it as if it was the last chance you'd ever get."
Harvey is blushing furiously, and it's almost adorable how young he looks at that moment, with his hair not gelled back but flopping over his forehead, staring at his mother with a wide-eyed expression of disbelief.
"You said you'd be gone for the evening!"
"Oh, so now it's my fault that the car broke down and we had to cancel the date? Besides, you were fifteen years old, Harvey. Leaving you alone at that age, I was worried you were going to throw a party and get drunk, not that you'd be screwing that little tramp the moment we left the house. Trust me, no mother wants to find her son in that particular position."
Mike is struggling hard not to howl with laughter at the thought of a fifteen year old Harvey caught in the act by his mother. He's really trying to hold it back, but a deep sonorous laugh from the direction of the other couch alerts him to the fact that apparently, Harvey's father isn't nearly as successful at it as Mike is. When he sees Mike's eyes on him, Harvey's father gives him an amused wink.
"All you have to do is bring up that story, and the two of them will keep you entertained for the rest of the night. It never fails."
To Mike, Harvey doesn't looks as if the situation is particularly amusing to him, but he doesn't look angry, either. More like he got roped into an age old argument once more that he knows he can't win, and Harvey hates not being able to win an argument.
"Anyway," Helen interrupts the argument before it can really get out of hand. "My point is that meeting someone means being properly introduced to each other, preferably while everyone involved is fully clothed. So it's good that we got to meet you this way, Mike."
"Good thing too that I didn't wait for a few more minutes before I opened that door, otherwise it might have been Christy Tanner all over again."
It's not even that Harvey's father is really wrong about this, Mike thinks. He knows he's blushing furiously about the mere thought, but five minutes farther down the road, and he and Harvey probably would have been in an advanced state of undress. Mike doesn't even want to imagine the potential embarrassment of that scenario.
Harvey sighs, exasperatedly, but Mike can tell that a lot of it is for show.
"Don't you have an opera to get ready for?"
Turns out they have, and all of a sudden there's a flurry of activity in the condo as if the whole cast of Carmen had chosen the space to get prepared for the show. There constantly seems to be someone walking to and fro, from the living room to the guest room and back again, then to the guest bathroom and back across the hall again, into the kitchen and back to the guest bedroom. It makes Mike slightly nauseous to watch it, and while there seems to be some underlying sense of order to the pandemonium, he decides it's best if he keeps sitting on the couch so that he doesn't get in anyone's way.
Despite the apparent chaos, somewhere in between Harvey, can I use your bathroom? You know how your father takes ages to get ready and repeated renditions of Do you have the tickets? – I thought you had the them! – I think they're in my purse as their paths cross all over the condo, Harvey's parents actually manage to get dressed and ready for their evening out. Mike manages to avoid getting caught in the chaos for the most part, and only once nearly runs right into Harvey's father on his way into the kitchen – Sorry, Mr. Specter! – Call me Ben, son. Have you seen my cufflinks? – and then finally the doorman rings up that the cab is there and they leave.
Mike leans back into the couch at the sound of the front door closing, and a moment later Harvey drops onto the seat beside him with a loud sigh.
"I thought they'd never get going."
Mike chuckles even though he feels too wrung out to even open his eyes.
"I was getting motion sickness just from watching them. Are they always like that?"
It could be a loaded question under different circumstances, but for today Harvey seems to decide to just take the most obvious meaning and not dig any deeper.
"You should have seen them getting ready for the big summer vacation of 1982. You know those clips where they fast forward everything and it looks like people are speeding across the screen? It was like a live version of that, and still they forgot half of the important things at home."
Mike huffs out another laugh, and even with his eyes closed his hand finds Harvey's on the seat and covers it with his own.
He cracks his eyes open to find Harvey look back at him with his patented are you serious?–expression.
"I'm starved. I just don't think I have the energy to move."
"There's this new thing called delivery service. They bring your food right to your front door, you only have to call them first."
He receives a punch in the thigh in response to that, which really negates Harvey's earlier statement about how he doesn't have the energy to move properly, but after a moment Harvey leans to the side and picks up the phone. They end up ordering pizza, which is perfectly all right with Mike. Harvey is not ready to commit to the concept of cheese in the crust just yet, but that's okay, too. It's a work in progress, and eventually he'll manage to convince Harvey to get his mind blown by the experience.
It's still early when they finish eating, but Mike is done for the day. While Harvey clears away the empty pizza boxes, he drags himself into the bathroom for a quick shower. Harvey is already in bed by the time he comes out of the bathroom and shrugs into a pair of pajama pants and extinguishes the lights. Harvey mumbles sleepily as Mike slides into bed beside him and curls up against the other man's back.
"You're dripping all over me," Harvey mumbles into his pillow, but there's no real heat behind the words and Mike takes that as agreement for him to move even closer despite his damp hair, wrapping an arm around Harvey's waist and sliding a hand along his stomach until it comes to rest below Harvey's belly button. It takes a few moments, but eventually Harvey relaxes back against him with a sigh.
"Well, that could have gone worse."
Harvey makes a sound that could almost be called an amused snort, but it's muffled by the pillow and barely audible. "How could that have possibly gone any worse?"
Mike actually has to think about that for a moment since he hasn't really expected Harvey to ask him to go into detail about this.
"Well, for one we were still fully dressed by the time your Dad opened the door. Just imagine we had been a little more impatient in the elevator. Though of course now your parents are gone, so we could continue right where we were interrupted earlier…"
He lets his hand trail over Harvey's stomach deliberately, fingers brushing against the soft trail of hair below his navel. Harvey's hand catches his before Mike can even make up his mind about where he wants this to go, though, and intertwines their fingers.
"Hell no. Knowing my luck, the Met probably burned down this afternoon, or the entire cast of Carmen suffers from food poisoning and they cancel tonight's showing. I'm not going to risk that they come home unexpectedly while we're right in the middle of having sex."
Mike chuckles against Harvey's skin, and he can't resist the urge to press a line of kisses along the curve of Harvey's shoulder.
"Ah. So basically you're protecting my virtue and want to stop me from becoming the next Christy Tanner."
Harvey's laugh is a pleasant vibration against Mike's chest. "Of course. Besides, the embarrassment of my own mother walking in on me during sex once is enough to last me for an entire lifetime, thank you very much. I'm not exactly lining up for an encore."
"Pity. I bet we'd put on a good show."
Harvey turns in his arms then, and even despite the darkness in the room, Mike knows that he's raising an eyebrow at him.
"What's that? A visit from my folks is enough to bring out your kinky side? Besides, I don't think my parents would approve. Somehow, they never warmed up to Christy after that little incident."
"Your mother called her a tramp."
Harvey seems to give this some serious thought. "Actually, looking back now I have to say that she kinda was. But I was fifteen, it seemed like a worthy conquest back then."
Mike shakes his head and presses a kiss to Harvey's lips. "Sleep deprivation always wreaks havoc with your brain-to-mouth filter. We should probably try to get some sleep."
"You don't know the half of it. Old people get up notoriously early, and my mother won't hesitate to throw us out of bed if she thinks we're lazing around."
Somehow Mike doubts that Helen would go quite that far, but he's completely beat and sleep sounds like a heavenly idea right now. He shifts a bit until he has found a comfortable position and closes his eyes. It doesn't take long for him to start drifting off, but there's one more thing he has to say before they go to sleep.
"They're not that bad, you know? Your parents, I mean."
For a moment, the only sound in the bedroom is the sound of their breathing. Then Harvey's lips press against his forehead as he moves yet another bit closer.
"I know, Mike." He draws a deep breath that is only slightly shaky as he releases it. "I know."
One peculiar fact about Harvey is that once he falls asleep, he sleeps like a dead man. He's out like a light, and there's only a handful of things known to man that are able to rouse him. His alarm clock, of course, is one of those things, though Mike has strong suspicions that its shrill sound would be able to wake up the dead. His cell phone is another, and once that rings Harvey can go from sleeping-like-a-log to badass-lawyer in less than three seconds. Quite probably things like the fire alarm or the sound of Mike being brutally murdered in the hallway would do the trick, too, though there are no precedents to be absolutely sure about it. But everything else Harvey sleeps through unless he is given a very good incentive to open his eyes.
So it's no real surprise that when Mike drifts awake the next morning, Harvey is still fast asleep beside him, one arm curled over Mike's chest and his breaths deep and regular against Mike's shoulder. The first time they spent the night together, Mike didn't really dare to extract himself from Harvey the following morning, but by now he has learned that it takes a lot more than someone moving around beside him to rouse Harvey. So Mike has no qualms about gently but determinedly dislodging Harvey's arm from his body before he slides out of bed.
There's already plenty of morning light streaming through the high windows – another thing Harvey can sleep through with no problems at all – and with a yawn Mike pads over into the bathroom. They have visitors, after all, and at least one of them should be up in case Harvey's parents are already awake. He takes care of pressing bladder business, splashes water on his face, runs his fingers through his messy bed hair and brushes his teeth before he goes back into the bedroom to shrug into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt.
He has been gone from the bed for less than ten minutes, but in that time Harvey somehow managed to shift around so that he's lying almost diagonally on the bed, on his stomach with his face buried in Mike's pillow. The blanket has slid down his body, revealing a glorious expanse of skin as well as the hem of his pajama pants and the swell of his ass. Mike takes a moment to appreciate the sight before him of Harvey completely relaxed and at ease, back rising and falling gently in time with his breaths. He tears himself away, though, before the urge to touch becomes so overwhelming that he can't resist giving in.
Instead, he leaves Harvey fast asleep on the bed and goes into the kitchen for an early morning caffeine fix. He turns on the sleek, modern designer coffee machine that took him ages to figure out, and pulls out a cup while the machine heats up. While he waits for his coffee he looks out of the high glass windows and sees Helen sit on one of the lounge chairs out on the balcony, an open book in her lap. Since the coffee machine was still turned off when Mike came into the kitchen, and he sees no cup on the table beside Helen, he brews a second cup of coffee and carries them both out onto the balcony.
Helen looks up as he steps through the sliding glass doors and puts the cups down.
"Good morning, Mike."
"Good morning. I didn't know how you take your coffee, so…well, actually I don't even know if you drink coffee at all."
Helen takes one of the cops with a smile. "Black is fine. Thank you Mike." She puts her book down and takes a sip of the coffee. "Harvey is still asleep?"
Mike smiles and sits down in one of the free lounge chairs with his own cup of coffee. "Out like a light. Nothing short of an earthquake is going to wake him up. What about Ben?"
"I sent him on a grocery run a little while ago. I don't know if you noticed, but there was nothing in the fridge but Chinese takeout of dubious age and a glass of olives."
"Yeah, we weren't exactly home much during the past week. Grocery shopping really wasn't high on the list during that time."
"All the more reasons you boys could do with a home-cooked breakfast." She takes another sip from her cup. "Ben's also bringing coffee."
Mike smiles around his own mouthful of delicious caffeine. "Let me guess – you battled the coffee machine and lost."
"That…that thing – and I'm not entirely sure it even is a coffee machine – has about twenty-seven buttons and dials. It might look all sleek and flashy, but you try getting an ordinary cup of coffee out of it. It's impossible."
Mike has fought more than just one battle with that particular kitchen appliance, so he can relate to what Helen is saying. He chuckles.
"Want to know a secret? The real kicker is that you actually only need to push two of those buttons and don't have to work any of the dials to get some coffee out of it."
"Oh yes? And how long did it take you to figure that out?"
Mike shrugs. "About four weeks."
Helen shakes her head. "I don't believe you. And whatever overpaid designer who came up with that thing couldn't have labeled those buttons? Or any of them, really? I don't know, just put on a big red arrow that says 'press here for coffee and ignore the rest'?"
"Probably would have ruined the design or something. The real problem is that your son threw out the manual because after all he knows how to work that thing. The first time I tried to make a cup of coffee, I accidentally activated the cleaning program and didn't notice. Harvey thought I was trying to poison him."
Helen takes another sip of her coffee before she puts the cup down and turns in her seat so that she's facing him.
"Well, it seems that you managed to figure it out after all."
"I survive on caffeine. It was pure survival instinct." He finishes his own coffee and leans back into a more comfortable position on the lounge chair. "So, how was the opera?"
Helen smiles, and her whole face seems to light up. "It was wonderful. And Ben managed to stay awake for the entire duration, and I'm willing to see that as an added bonus."
"That's great. I'm glad you enjoyed yourself."
"We did." She smiles at him, but after a long moment something changes in her gaze and her expression grows more serious. It looks almost as if there's something on her mind that she has to work up the courage to talk about. He can't really imagine where this conversation is heading, but a strange feeling starts to settle in his gut that Mike can't quite define.
She drums her fingers against the cover of her book for a few seconds, then she draws a deep breath.
"So, now that the two of us have a few minutes on our own I guess this is the classic situation in which I'm supposed to ask you what your intentions towards my son are. But I think we both know that it wouldn't really feel right if I did."
Mike isn't sure that he likes where this conversation is going, so he gives a non-committal shrug.
"He's your son. You have every right to look out for him."
Helen laughs, but there is no real mirth to it. "Harvey hasn't needed anyone to look out for him for a long time. Or at least that's what he likes to tell himself."
"It never hurts to have someone who cares."
Helen looks down at her hands for a long moment, contemplating the floor as if the tile pattern was the most interesting thing she had seen in a long time.
"I don't know what Harvey told you about our relationship."
She looks up expectantly, but Mike doesn't quite know how to answer that. Harvey himself wasn't comfortable telling Mike the whole story from beginning to end, so he feels even less comfortable revealing any details of the little he knows to Harvey's mother.
"I know that it's…difficult."
Helen huffs out a bitter laugh. "That's a nice way of putting it. It's a minefield. Some of those mines we managed to disarm over the past years, but there's others we're still struggling not to step on. It tends to make family reunions somewhat awkward, because we're all somewhat worried that things might blow up around us any minute now. When we got here last night and it turned out that you had no idea that we were coming…" She shakes her head. "I thought it was going to become one of the really awkward evenings. It's good that you were there."
Mike thinks that the previous evening definitely qualifies as awkward despite his presence, but he's not quite sure how to put that into words.
"I don't think I really did anything, to be honest."
In answer, Helen just smiles at him, and there's so much in that expression that Mike can't name or define. He's left with the impression that she thinks she knows something he's not aware of, and it's a somewhat unsettling feeling.
"I wasn't lying last night when I said that it's easier to squeeze blood out of a stone than to get Harvey to tell something about his personal life. This lifestyle," she gestures around the balcony in an attempt to capture the luxury of Harvey's life, "it's not that hard to imagine what Harvey's life looked like over the past years. His work, the money, the women and men. Don't get me wrong, I know that he earned it. He worked hard to get to where he is now, against all the odds – some of which I know Ben and me are to blame for. But no matter our history, I'm still Harvey's mother. I worry, especially when I see my son drift through a life where he seems to have everything one could ever dream of, but nothing really substantial to hold on to. Harvey has it all, but he…he never really let anyone close."
She shrugs somewhat helplessly, but Mike gets the feeling that she's not done talking yet and now is not the time to interrupt.
"When Harvey told me that the two of you were dating, I…well, I was surprised. Curious, too, especially once Eric told me that he introduced you to him. Harvey probably treated it like no big deal, but meeting his little brother? Coming from Harvey, that's the highest accolade I can think of."
She's right about one thing – Harvey didn't treat it like a big deal when he introduced Mike to his brother. He remembers that first meeting as a very relaxed and laid back affair, and all initial nervousness on Mike's part withstanding it was a walk in the park compared to the tension that hung in the air last night. Still, he doesn't know what exactly Helen wants him to say in response.
"One thing I learned about Harvey over the past two years is that he's not nearly as complicated as he wants people to think he is. That he's good at hiding that he cares about people doesn't mean he doesn't care at all."
Helen looks at him for a long moment, a sad smile playing around the corners of her mouth.
"Yes, but one thing raising Harvey and living under the same roof with him for eighteen years has taught me, then that he can hold a grudge for a long time. Especially if he lets you in and you disappoint his trust in you. That's something you can't ever fix completely."
Mike doesn't know if Helen's words are meant as a confession or a warning, and in all honesty he's not alert enough to search for hidden meanings in every single word that's being said. Maybe he's about to take liberties where it's not his place, after all he met Harvey's mother less than a day ago, but he knows that some things just need to be said out loud, clearly and without beating about the bush.
"The thing is that you can run yourself ragged trying to fix something, but it won't get you anywhere if it's not really broken."
Helen raises an eyebrow at him. "What do you mean?"
Mike takes a deep breath, and for a moment he hesitates before he starts speaking.
"When my parents died, people started walking on eggshells around me. Not my grandmother, but pretty much everyone else – my friends and classmates, their parents, my teachers, everyone. And I'm not trying to say that it wasn't hard. It was the worst thing that ever happened to me. But after a while…I mean, as bad as it was to lose them, life went on. I missed them, of course I did, and I still do, but I just had to go on, and it became normal that they weren't around anymore. It sure as hell turned my life upside down from how it would have gone had they not died, but that's the point. My life was different without them, I was different without them, but I wasn't broken. Yet still people tried to fix me. Even today, when I tell someone that my parents died when I was young, they still walk on eggshells around me. They start picking their words carefully, they give me these apologetic glances whenever they think they slipped up and said the wrong thing. It's like they try to fix something that can't be fixed because it's not broken. I'm not broken."
He looks up and gives Helen a smile that he hopes looks more convincing than it feels. "You didn't do that, by the way, when I mentioned growing up with my grandmother last night. I appreciate that."
Helen shrugs. "I didn't think it was my place, especially considering the fact that my own family history is somewhat of a battlefield."
"But that's just the thing. You can wallow in what ifs until you're blue in the face, but it won't get you anywhere. Would your relationship with Harvey be any different if you hadn't had that falling out years ago? Probably, but would it be better or worse? I have no idea, and you can't know that either. I don't know the details of what happened between you, and I'm not sure if I want to know. But you screwed up. Ben screwed up. Knowing Harvey, I'm pretty damn sure he screwed up somewhere along the way, as well. It's what families do. And maybe things were worse for you than for most other families, but that doesn't mean anything's broken. It's just different. And maybe…I know it's not really my place, but maybe if all of you stopped thinking about where you'd be if things hadn't gone wrong, and if you'd stop chasing some ideal of what your family should be like, you'd stop trying to fix things and instead you'd start appreciating what you have."
Helen's expression darkens, and for a moment Mike is convinced that this is it, that he overstepped boundaries he shouldn't even have approached, and this peaceful morning on the balcony is about to blow up in his face in a spectacular fashion. But then she only shakes her head with a weary sigh.
"It's not that easy, you know?"
Mike finds himself nodding almost automatically. "Believe me, I do. But I'm pretty sure it's worth it."
Helen doesn't meet his eyes for a long moment, but Mike waits until she looks up. It's still a bit unsettling to look into those blue eyes set into a face that resembles Harvey so much, but somehow it's also strangely comforting. It's a visible reassurance that no matter what Harvey – or his parents, for that matter – think, they're still around. They still have each other, they just need to see it.
"You said that Harvey doesn't let people in easily, and that it's hard back to get back in his good graces if you break his trust, and maybe that's true. I'm pretty sure it is. But that doesn't mean he locked you out. There's only six names on the list of people the doorman is allowed to let into the apartment without calling Harvey first, and you and Ben are two of those people. That doesn't sound broken to me."
A small smile appears on Helen's face, but before she can answer her eyes turn to a point somewhere above and behind Mike. There's steps behind him, and a moment later a pair of hands settle warmly on Mike's shoulders and Harvey presses a kiss on top of Mike's head.
"Morning," he mumbles, his voice still raspy from sleep as he shuffles around the chair and non-too-gently pushes at Mike's legs to make room for him to sit on the foot end of the lounge chair. He's still in his pajama pants and, much to Mike's chagrin, has put on a t-shirt after he got out of bed. His hair is all over the place, though, sticking up in adorable tufts all over his head, and Mike has to suppress the urge to ruffle it up even further.
"How was the opera?" He asks around a yawn, blinking up at his mother against the bright sunlight on the balcony. Helen shrugs with a smile.
"Your father stayed awake through the entire performance."
"That means it was either very good or very loud."
Mike knows that Harvey doesn't lie when he says that it's his job to read people. It takes him a moment, but he seems to catch up on the strange mood between Mike and his mother. He straightens up, suddenly more alert, and looks from Mike to Helen and back again.
"What's wrong? Did I interrupt something?"
Mike doesn't know what to say, but Helen answers for both of them before he can even think of a possible answer.
"No." She smiles at Harvey, a genuine and somewhat relieved smile if Mike is the one to judge, and reaches for her empty cup as she gets up from her chair. "We were just talking."
She turns towards the door leading inside, but stops beside them as she passes the lounge chair Mike and Harvey are seated on. Harvey's eyes widen as she leans down and presses a kiss to his forehead.
"You look out for that one, Harvey. He's a keeper." Helen's voice is low, but still loud enough for Mike to hear. Somehow, he has the feeling that he was meant to hear, and he feels a blush heat up his cheeks. Helen pats Harvey's shoulder once, then she vanishes inside without another word.
Harvey looks after her for a long moment, then he turns towards Mike with wide eyes.
"What did you do to my mother?"
Mike just smiles. "She told you, we were just talking."
Harvey looks at him suspiciously, with the kind of expression that makes witnesses spill their secrets in court, but Mike is not fazed. He smiles and pulls at Harvey's arm, and the other man follows the movement easily, sinking down onto the lounge chair to rest against Mike's chest. He shifts a little until he has found a comfortable position and buries his nose against Mike's shirt with a sleepy hum.
"Just talking, my ass. I leave you alone for half an hour, and already you and my Mom are having secrets."
Mike laughs and brings a hand up to run it through Harvey's hair. "Your own fault if you sleep the morning away instead of looking after your visitors."
"I was just getting my well-earned rest." He makes an adorable snuffling sound and looks up at Mike from half-lidded eyes. "Is there any coffee left?"
He jerks his head towards the cup on the table, and Mike shakes his head. "Not unless you go inside and make some. But your Dad is on a grocery run and should be back soon. He's bringing coffee."
It takes a moment for Harvey to understand, then he snorts in amusement. "Seriously, it's a coffee machine, and operating it is not like performing brain surgery. Why the hell do you all have so many issues with it?"
Mike raises his eyebrows, but never once stops the soothing motion of his fingers through Harvey's hair.
"There are computers that are less complicated than that machine. It took me four weeks to figure out how to get an ordinary cup of coffee, Harvey. Up to this day, I'm scared I'll blow up a satellite if I push the wrong button."
Harvey chuckles, a warm puff of air against Mike's chest, and his arms around Mike's waist tighten.
"You're an idiot."
Mike smiles, and the warm feeling in his chest has nothing to do with the sun shining down on him or with Harvey's breaths against his shirt.
"You love me for it."
"Yeah." It's almost a sigh instead of a word, and Mike fondly watches as Harvey's eyes slowly slide closed again. "I do."
The rest of the morning turns out to be…oddly relaxed, especially compared to the tension that hung in the air the previous night. It takes Mike a bit of literal poking and prodding to get Harvey to get up before he falls asleep again – not that Mike minds the proximity in any way, but Harvey is lying right on top of him and he's not exactly a lightweight. By the time they're both showered, shaved and dressed properly, Ben is back from his grocery run and Helen is using what looks like every pot and pan Harvey owns to prepare them "a real, home-cooked breakfast, Harvey, because it's not healthy to survive on coffee and takeout". Harvey tries to protest, but by that time Mike's had his first forkful of eggs and they're perfect, so he stays out of that particular discussion. Besides, Harvey finishes off his own plate at an incredible speed, so Mike has the sneaking suspicion that his protest were mostly for show, anyway.
Around noon, Harvey's parents are packed up and ready to leave, and then they're gone almost as quickly as they arrived. There's a flurry of goodbyes, Mike finds himself on the receiving end of a firm handshake from Ben and a quick and completely unexpected hug from Helen, then the elevator doors close behind them and they're gone. Not a full minute later, Harvey drops face first on the sofa with an almighty groan, just as if being fed an obscenely good breakfast by his mother – who even insisted on cleaning up the kitchen afterwards – was some sort of chore, but Mike doesn't comment on it. He's full and content, they still have a whole day off ahead of them, and with a little bit of manipulating Harvey's limp body around, there's just enough room on the sofa for Mike to curl up beside him. For today, life is good.
Work catches up again with them as soon as they're back at the office the following Monday. Nothing as exhausting as the Minetti case, but still there is plenty to do, and the unexpected visit from Harvey's parents quickly fades into the background.
Mike has known that Harvey talked to his parents occasionally even before their visit. He has no idea if there has ever been any kind of regularity to those phone calls, though. He might spend most of his precious little free time at the condo, but he doesn't live there, after all. He still has his own apartment, and a few nights each week he actually sleeps there, as well. So it's no real surprise that it's after one of those evenings apart that Harvey tells him that Helen asked about him and sent her regards. Mike likes Harvey's parents, the little he got to know them during that one overnight stay, and he thinks they liked him – or at least he thinks they didn't absolutely hate him – but if Harvey feels more comfortable talking to them when he's alone, that's perfectly fine with him.
He soon realizes that whether or not Harvey talks to his parents has nothing to do with whether or not Mike is there. A little more than a month after that first call, they're spending a lazy evening in front of the TV when the phone rings, and for the next half hour Mike is highly entertained to watch Harvey roll his eyes good-naturedly as he answers his mother's inquisition. He's not really listening in on the conversation, he's just entertaining himself watching Harvey's reactions to whatever his mother is telling him and figures it's okay, that Harvey would end the call or go to another room if he didn't want him to hear what's being said.
He's extremely surprised when after a while, he hears Harvey say "He's right here," only to get up and hand him the phone with a grin and a court "She wants to talk to you." He's still a little stunned when Helen's voice starts coming at him through the phone, and it takes him a moment to catch up to the fact that yes, this is really Harvey's mother on the phone, and yes, she really wants to talk to him, and not about anything important or really anything specific either. They simply chat for a few minutes before they end the call, and the whole experience leaves Mike feeling bewildered and Harvey looking extremely amused.
It doesn't become a regular thing, but whenever Harvey talks to his parents while Mike is around, he ends up chatting with them for a few minutes. He still doesn't know if these calls happen more regularly than before the visit or if Harvey simply no longer goes out of his way to make and receive calls to his parents when Mike isn't around, but after a while it no longer feels strange to find himself included in these interactions. They're not talking about anything hugely important, they aren't planning any family vacations either, but it's strangely normal and Mike realizes that he actually enjoys it.
It's a few months after the visit that the package arrives.
It's been a pretty exhausting day. Mike has been proofing what feels like thousands upon thousands of pages of the most boring legal text known to mankind, and actually he only wants to fall into bed and sleep for as long as he can before he has to get back to the office the next day to continue right where he left off. Harvey has been caught up in client meetings all day so they haven't really seen each other, but when Mike checked his phone before he left he found a text message from Harvey asking him to come to the condo.
Mike figures that a bed is a bed, and there's an extremely comfortable specimen in Harvey's bedroom, so he's not going to be picky about where he falls into a comatose sleep. He only hopes that Harvey hasn't made any big plans for the night, because he's not too sure he can keep his eyes open for long once he sits down.
As he lets himself in he finds Harvey sitting on the couch, a couple of papers spread on the glass table in front of him. He has dressed down into jeans and a sweatshirt and seems to be completely engrossed into whatever it is that he's reading. There's a square brown package sitting on the end of the sofa table, but it still seems unopened and Mike finds his eyes drawn to it in curiosity as he walks over and greets Harvey with a quick kiss on the lips.
"Hey. How was the big meeting this afternoon?"
Harvey rolls his eyes as Mike sinks into the cushion beside him.
"Harper is making problems. He suddenly thinks the conditions of the new contract are no longer appropriate and refuses to sign. I'm going to need your help tomorrow going through everything with a fine-toothed comb, and I don't care what Louis has you working on right now. This is more important."
It sounds like a threat, but considering the paperwork from hell that's stacking up in Mike's cubicle, he actually feels relieved.
"If it gets me out of the crap Louis dumped on me, you'll earn a reward."
The corner of Harvey's lips quirks up at that, and maybe Mike isn't as tired as he thought. He might still have some energy reserves left for other nocturnal activities than sleeping.
"What's that?" He asks, nodding his head towards the package on the table.
"Mom sent a package," Harvey replies offhandedly as he begins to gather the papers he spread out. Considering that the package is still very obviously unopened, Mike's curiosity spikes a couple of notches.
"Then why didn't you open it? Don't you want to know what's inside?"
"I'm not a grabby-handed five year old on Christmas morning. Besides, opening someone else's mail is considered a federal offence, and as a lawyer I really can't afford an investigation on my record."
Mike is stunned for a moment, but then Harvey's words really sink in.
"Someone else's mail? Why would she send a package here if it isn't for you?"
Harvey puts the papers down and rolls his eyes.
"I guess because she knew that it'd get to you if she sent it here."
That doesn't really make sense. Not unless…
"It's for me? Your mother sent me something? But what's in it?"
Harvey rolls his eyes again. "Why yes Alex, I'll take 'things you can find out if you only open the damn thing' for $500."
There's his usual snark in Harvey's voice, but something else rings with it, too. It's…apprehension, maybe, and he sounds a little put off, too, but Mike can't quite figure out why. It'd probably be obvious if he only spent some more time thinking about it, but there's a package for him right there. He never receives packages in the mail unless he orders something online, and getting those packages is never this exciting. He all but jumps off the couch and resolves to figure out what crawled up Harvey's ass later, once he solved the mystery of what Helen could have possibly sent him.
He's kneeling beside the table and ripping off the brown wrapping paper before he even knows what he's doing – but not without checking that the package really says 'Michael Ross' on top of the address, just to make sure that this isn't a huge misunderstanding. Once he discovers that there's really his name on the package, he's tearing into the paper. There's an amused snort from Harvey's position on the couch.
"Speaking of grabby-handed five year olds on Christmas morning."
Mike decides to take the high road on that comment, and being the mature adult that he is answers the comment by sticking out his tongue at him. Harvey is just jealous that Mike received a package and he didn't. Underneath the wrapping paper is a plain cardboard box, and Mike quickly fumbles to open the lid.
There's what appears to be a book of some sort inside the box – which is great, Mike loves to read though he has no idea who could have told Helen about it – and a folded sheet of paper lying atop which Mike grabs before he takes a closer look at anything else. He unfolds the paper to find a letter from Helen.
I don't have your address, so I'm sending this to Harvey. I'm sure it's going to reach you there. I hope you're well and that the two of you aren't working too hard.
I found this while cleaning up around the house. Harvey didn't take many things when he moved out all those years ago, but I thought you might enjoy this. Use it wisely.
I hope to talk to you soon.
All my best,
Mike frowns at the words use it wisely, but he knows it's not going to solve any mysteries if he keeps staring at the letter, so he puts it down and carefully lifts the book out of the box. He discovers right away that it's not a book but an album, and he sinks back on his heels as he quickly flips it open. At first, his brain doesn't quite compute what he's seeing. There's a single picture in the center of the first page, and Mike finds himself staring at the image of a blond boy of maybe four or five years grinning up at him. The picture is clearly older and slightly faded, but there's absolutely no mistaking who the gap-toothed, grinning child with the huge brown eyes and the mop of shocking blond and – holy shit – fluffy hair is.
Mike quickly flips a couple of pages to find more pictures, everything from images of a chubby-cheeked baby to pictures that are labeled 'Christmas 1978' or 'first day at school', and he must have made some sort of sound because when he looks up Harvey is leaning forward, all pretence of reading his file forgotten as he looks at Mike with both eyebrows raised.
"What is it?"
Mike doesn't have the words to answer that simple question, because as thoughtful and heartwarming as it is that Helen sent him an album full of pictures of Harvey as a kid, this is also a goldmine of teasing material – oh man, Donna is going to be his coffee slave for the rest of his life if he shows her this album – and gosh, how is it possible that Harvey was this adorable as a child?
"Mike?" Harvey is slowly getting up from the couch, his expression caught somewhere between confusion and curiosity, with a healthy dose of suspicion thrown in. "What's in that album?"
Mike scrambles to his feet before Harvey can reach him, because suddenly the possibility that Harvey could snatch the album away from him before he has seen all the pictures seems all too real, and quickly turns another page.
And laughs. Oh, but he owes Helen a huge bouquet of flowers for this at the very least.
There's an underlying threat in Harvey's voice, and Mike takes another step back with a laugh.
"Halloween 1979, Harvey?"
Harvey pales a little and his eyes widen. "She didn't."
"Oh, but she did. This is awesome."
"Give it to me."
Mike shakes his head and takes another step back. "No way. Your mother sent this to me, and I'm going to have many wonderful hours looking through this."
"Give me the album, Mike. I'll drag you over by that skinny tie of yours if I have to, but you're going to give me that album."
Harvey is just a few steps away now, and with a laugh Mike scrambles over the back of the second couch and towards the door.
"Oh no, it's mine. Maybe I'll let you look, if you ask nicely."
He runs out of the room, and Harvey's giving chase. "She had no right…damn it Mike, if my mother already sends you embarrassing pictures of me, the least you can do is let me see them!"
Mike knows it's useless to try and run away from Harvey in his own condo, especially when he's laughing so hard he can barely breathe, so he lets himself drop onto the bed with the open album clutched against his chest as he tries to get his breath back in between the bouts of laughter. Harvey is beside him a moment later, and his grip is surprisingly gentle as he peels the album away from Mike's chest to look at the picture that has him in stitches like that. Once he sees it, he drops onto his back with a loud groan.
"Oh my god. That woman is evil."
Mike hiccups out another laugh. "I think your Mom is amazing. This…god, this is gold."
"I didn't even know they made Starfleet uniforms this small."
"And you hair." Mike giggles in a rather undignified way and clutches the album a little tighter against his chest. "You were blond! And your hair was so…so fluffy! Do you have any idea how adorable that is?"
He's startled when suddenly Harvey's lips are on his and he's kissed within an inch of his life, but he quickly adapts. Mike knows that kissing is one of Harvey's preferred ways of shutting him up, but as he lets go of the album to wrap his arms around the other man and pull him closer, he can't really bring himself to complain. He can look through the pictures later, when Harvey's not around to try and snatch them away from him.
When Harvey's fingers start fumbling with the buttons of the shirt to get to the skin beneath, he carefully puts the album down on the floor beside the bed. As adorable as Harvey was as a child, right now the adult version making short work of getting him out of his clothes holds much more appeal.
It's a couple of days after the arrival of the package that Mike wakes up and discovers that Harvey isn't in bed with him. It's nearly three a.m. and the sheets on Harvey's side of the bed are devoid of any lingering warmth, which means he must have been gone for a little while already. It's enough to wake Mike up, because Harvey is a deep sleeper and not the kind of person to get up in the middle of the night, and it makes Mike curious.
The lights in the adjourning bathroom are off, so Mike opens the bedroom door and silently pads out into the hall on bare feet. The entire apartment is dark save for a dim light spilling out of the door of Harvey's home office. That's probably where Harvey went, then, even if it's strange. Harvey rarely uses the office during daytime, preferring to work in the living room if he has to. Why on earth he'd go there in the middle of the night is a complete mystery to Mike.
As he approaches he sees that the door is halfway open, and the soft light coming from the room comes from the library-style desk lamp. Stepping up to the doorway, Mike can see that Harvey is sitting behind his desk, head bent over something in front of him. He's still in his pajama pants and t-shirt, barefoot just like Mike is, and his hair is mussed up in all directions from lying in bed.
Whatever drove him out of bed in the middle of the night seems to have captured his attention completely and he doesn't seem to notice Mike lingering in the dark hallway. Mike takes another silent step closer, and he's a little surprised to see that Harvey has the photo album Helen sent open on the desk in front of him. There's a glass of scotch on the desk beside the album, and Harvey's fingers absently trace the rim of the glass as he turns a page with his other hand.
For a moment, Mike doesn't really know what to do. He knows that Harvey has seen the pictures in the album before. They went through it together the day after the package arrived, looking through the pictures of birthdays and Christmases, of Harvey as a baby, kindergartner, and proud older brother. It was fun, and there was a lot of good-natured ribbing involved. Mike still isn't completely over the Star Trek Halloween costume, and he's pretty sure Donna will kill him for not showing it to her if she ever finds out, no matter that he had to promise Harvey.
But this…this looks different. There's an almost wistful smile on Harvey's face as he turns another page. Mike can't see which picture exactly Harvey is looking at, but something clenches tightly in his chest as he watches how Harvey tenderly traces something on the page with the tip of his finger. For a moment he's tempted to take a step forward and make his presence known, to go over to Harvey and wrap his arms around him, but something holds him back.
There's a reason why Harvey chose to come here and look at those pictures in the middle of the night, and it's not Mike's place to interrupt that. The moment feels too intimate disturb it, and Mike knows that Harvey is someone who needs to make things out on his own. He'll come to Mike if he needs to.
Mike silently steps away from the door and goes back to bed. It takes him a little while to fall asleep again, and when a while later the mattress dips to the left, he's still drifting somewhere between half-awake and half-asleep. It's obvious that Harvey is trying not to disturb him, but Mike simply turns around with a small sigh and curls into Harvey's chest. He smells of lemon shower gel, scotch and Harvey, and with a content sound Mike relaxes against him and drifts off to sleep.