In the corner of Harvey's home office there is a desk, solid dark mahogany and pristine, the kind of piece bought not to be used but admired. The top drawer has a brass keyhole and is constantly locked; the antique style key that fits the lock resides in Harvey's bedside table. There are no valuables in the traditional sense hidden there, no stockpiles of cash or diamond studded watches or gold bullions. But the contents of this drawer are all the things Harvey treasures, those keepsakes that tell the story of who he is and how he got to be that way, memories of his past and reminders for his future.
He has always been an intensely private man. Which sounds slightly ridiculous, what with him being a Senior Partner in a major law firm and having the reputation as the best closer in the city. And people like to remind him of how he is constantly showing off, not only in his work and personality but in his environs (the records, baseballs, basketballs…). But that is Harvey The Lawyer. A projection. A disguise so good you can't tell where illusion ends and reality begins. The Real Harvey, the one who is slightly dorky and fiercely protective and stubborn to a fault, he keeps his private life just that, only showing his true self to a worthy few.
Which isn't to say that Harvey The Lawyer is a complete lie. Because Harvey does love his music and sports and is genuinely proud of his status and achievements. It just isn't the whole truth. The complete story of who Harvey is, and how he got that way, is locked in that desk drawer.
It probably isn’t a great surprise to learn that as a general rule Harvey is not prone to sentimentality (while Harvey The Lawyer abhors emotions The Real Harvey accepts that he has feelings, a lot of them, but there are still limits). But that doesn’t mean he isn't capable of recognizing the moments that shaped and moulded him into the man he is today. He is self-aware enough to know which moments (big or small, good or bad) have lead him to this point and he is happy and thankful enough for his life as it is to acknowledge them by keeping some small tokens.
He doesn't delve into the drawer too often, maybe once or twice a year, not including the times when he is adding something to the stash. No one has seen its contents except Mike. That was the last time he added something (the vows from their wedding day, but more on that later) and Mike took a few minutes to run his fingertips along the various items, pick a few up for closer inspection. And then he asked Harvey to tell him the stories behind every item in the drawer….
[agents details of apartment 15B at 161 West 75th Street]
The first thing Harvey did after making Junior Partner was have a minor panic attack.
He had enough presence of mind to at least wait until after Jessica had left the conference room, because even in the midst of a life-changing moment he knew the power and importance of perception, and it wouldn’t do to have a newly minted Junior Partner passing out in full view of the office. So as soon as Jessica was out of sight he collapsed back into the chair and tried to catch his breath. The effort it took during the meeting to school his features from surprise and excitement into something along the lines of 'I am awesome and always knew this day was coming and it's about damned time' felt like running a marathon.
And that's not to say he didn't know he was awesome and that this day was nothing if not an inevitability. But the reality was so surreal. He remembered one particular day at Harvard when one of his professors told their class to think about where they wanted to end up and what they would do to get there. Most of his classmates' replies were obvious and cliché (taking a case to the Supreme Court, Managing Partner at a major law firm, having a part in a landmark case, becoming a judge, etc etc ad nauseum) and Harvey rolled his eyes at every one. Because his entire class was made up of privileged wannabes who felt that this qualification and this career and this life was something they were entitled to, and not something that they had to earn. But Harvey wasn't like them. While he could acknowledge that he had a helping hand (and even then he knew that he and Jessica would be eternally bound after what she did for him) beyond that he had fought tooth and nail for everything that he had. So when it was his turn he told them it was making Junior Partner at Jessica Pearson's firm in New York and held his head high even as those around him sniggered.
He didn't think it a low goal. On the contrary, being buried under a stack of books in a stark dorm with the only company his roommate's snores, becoming Junior Partner felt completely unattainable.
And yet there he was. The day he had been working towards his whole career had finally arrived. And when his heartbeat finally calmed a slow smile lit his features and all he could think was fuck yeah!! .
He went out celebrating that night. First there was a drink with Jessica. Then he called Donna and insisted she meet him for dinner, and even though she grumbled about how you can't demand my time away from the office and hey a please would be nice man you are so demanding I'll see you in five she still showed up in a stunning black dress and he treated her to the most expensive restaurant in town (which she had booked three hours previous). The meal was long and enjoyable, delicious food and even better wine, and after dessert and a sloppy makeout session in their corner booth ("What?!?!" Mike exclaims. "Don't worry, we were just high on excitement and tipsy from the wine and nothing ever happened I promise," Harvey reassures him with a kiss) Donna got a cab home in one direction while he walked in the opposite direction and found an upscale bar to continue his celebrations in.
The next morning, after sharing a quick bite to eat with the lovely waitress he spent the evening with and telling her politely but firmly that she could see herself out, Harvey got dressed in his most upscale casual clothes, grabbed his wallet and walked out the door. He made it to his appointment with minutes to spare, eyes wide as they flittered over all the listings of apartments for sale.
While he had always done okay financially since he started working (thank you Jessica and Pearson Hardman for paying for those school fees) the habits of his upbringing were hard to shake. So he lived, while not completely frugally, at least sensibly. He didn't indulge in all the things he coveted (and there were a lot of things) but kept himself well within his means. But a promotion to Junior Partner was proof that this wasn't going away, and more than that, that he deserved the life he had always aspired to. And fuck it, now was the time to start living it.
So he spent the day with a realtor looking at the best apartments in Midtown, the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side. And when he walked into what was to become his home, he just knew.
He didn’t sign the contracts straight away, because he wasn't an idiot, but after two days of not being able to get the condo out of his head he walked in the door and made an offer and signed the papers and it was all his.
As he walked out of the realtor's office, signed contracts in one hand and a copy of the agent's details in the other, he couldn’t help but think that with his career goal achieved maybe it was time to set a new one.
Harvey Specter, Senior Partner had a nice ring to it…
[ticket stub from Harvey's first date, dated 12/6/86]
His first date was when he was fourteen. Her name was Margie and she was pretty but shy, her hair always in a long braid down her back, her pale blue eyes looking at him like she couldn't believe he even noticed her, let alone asked her out. His dad dropped him off at her house and he picked her up on a cloudy afternoon, hands shoved deep into their coat pockets as they walked the short distance to the cinema.
Harvey fell in love that day. Just not with Margie.
They went and saw Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home because the only other options were Firewalker (which Margie said looked stupid) and An American Tail (and there was no way Harvey was seeing a cartoon for his first date). And the whole time Harvey couldn't take his eyes off Captain James T Kirk. He just sat there, staring, mouth slightly agape. Later he would recognize that the feelings stirring within were sexual attraction but at fourteen years old he didn't even want to begin contemplating such a thing so he sublimated it into adoration of the character and the desire to be just like him.
From that moment on it had been the yardstick by which he measured his life. He wanted to always be the smartest guy in the room, crack a joke at every available opportunity, have a girl in every port…
It was a mantra he stuck to longer than was probably necessary. But it served him well, up until it didn't anymore, and he realized he could be something better, something more.
Oh, and for the record, he and Margie were together for two months and he made it to second base before he called it off.
[a dark maroon pen with the name and address of the Chilton Hotel in gold block letters on the side]
The pen was stolen from the Chilton the day he met Mike, the man who would evolve from secret to be kept and ace in the hole and thorn in his side to partner and husband and love of his life. The end.
(Mike: "Come on, there has to be more to it than that." Harvey: "Nope, afraid not.")
The truth that Harvey doesn't tell Mike is this:
When Jessica told him he was being promoted to Senior Partner the part about recruiting his own Associate almost made him want to tell her to take it back because he didn't want to be responsible for someone who probably wasn’t going to be smart enough or quick enough and might just drag him down. Okay, so admittedly he only thought that for about two seconds because hello, Senior Partner was totally his due and the fact that he was beating out Louis was just icing on the cake.
But then the day dawned and a seemingly never-ending parade of completely unworthy idiots filed in and out of the hotel room serving as his office and he got more and more dispirited after each one.
And then came Mike. Then came Mike with his briefcase of pot and bright blue eyes and unhealthy attachments to assholes who were dragging him down and his genius mind and his desire for something more. And Harvey made the biggest mistake in his career and the best decision he ever made by deciding to hire Mike.
After giving Mike a list of demands contingent on his hire and sending him off Harvey took a moment alone in the room. He couldn’t believe what he had just done. This could backfire spectacularly and he was risking everything and he didn’t know why other than the feeling deep in his gut that this was what was supposed to happen. And Harvey was comfortable enough with the fluidity of his sexuality to admit to himself that he might be slightly attracted to the young man, but now that they would be working together he had to push even the idea of that aside. Mike would now and forevermore be a no-go area.
Donna came bursting into the room, pulling him from his thoughts. She had already gotten rid of the applicants waiting outside the door and between the two of them they quickly packed everything up before heading back to the office. The pen, which for the most part he had been using to doodle on the resumes of everyone under the pretense of making notes, somehow ended up in his briefcase and returned with him to Pearson Hardman.
It ended up doing the rounds for a long time. It was in Donna's desk for a while, then it travelled to Rachel to Harold to Louis to Kyle and then back to Donna. And as fate would have it, it ended up back with Harvey at a very significant moment.
[Harvey's Pearson Hardman photo ID card from his mailroom days]
When Harvey was seventeen he ran away to New York. Well, ran away was probably a bit of a dramatic description. He left the shell that his home had become, hugging Morgan goodbye and promising they would see each other soon, and went somewhere new to start over.
But he had no plan. In the insanity that was the previous year he was so distracted that in the end he didn't apply to any colleges. He went to New York with what little money he had and nothing else but the determination to make a new life for himself.
He got a job at a sporting goods store and found a place to live (a tiny apartment in the Village, with five of them in a space probably only big enough for two) and it wasn't a great life but it was enough. His roommates were all like him, young and reckless, people who had fled from various small towns to the city of the silver screen. Harvey didn't particularly like having to live with other people, but it was what it was, so he made the best of it.
One night it was one of his roommate's birthday and they went out to celebrate. Alcohol was involved. A lot of it. And that was before they headed out. They hit a few bars, never staying in one place for longer than an hour. It was past midnight when they stumbled into what they discovered was a blues club, small and smoky. Most of the group wanted to bolt and go somewhere else but it was Harvey's round and something about the music filling the space called to him and he wanted to stay. So they did.
They set up camp at the bar. His friends were boisterous but Harvey could barely hear them over the music, the power it had over him, demanding his attention. He handed over his cash as they continued drinking but passed on actually buying drinks for himself.
To this day he doesn't know what started it. One minute he was sitting there absorbed in the music and the next his friends had gotten into a brawl and he was somehow dragged into it and before he knew it he was in the back of a cop car on the way to the nearest precinct, his right eye bruised and his knuckles bloodied.
The waiting room was cold and he was tired and painfully sobering up and his head throbbed and he wondered how it was possible his life had led to this. This wasn't the plan. He was supposed to become a success, obscenely wealthy and brilliant, able to take care of Morgan and give him whatever he needed. Instead he had a crappy job and idiot friends and was about to be charged with assault. Just great.
(Mike: "Wait, so, you were just as much of a screw up as me." Harvey: "Uh, of the two of us, I was not the one about to go down for drug trafficking." Mike: "No, I was the one who avoided getting caught, you were the one who actually got arrested.")
He wasn't stupid, so he refused to talk without a lawyer, and he waited what felt like an eternity until in walked his lawyer. He felt her eyes roam over him, considering what she saw before her, and he saw a hint of recognition before she introduced herself as Jessica Pearson, his attorney.
Turned out Jessica had been at the blues club and had seen him there, absorbed in the music. They ended up talking about the music more than the case, which Harvey thought was weird but he went with it (later he learned this was a tactic, one Jessica used to get him to trust her). She told him her favorite artists, why she liked them, and Harvey responded by admitting that the cheesy pop and college rock scene that had engulfed most of those his age was really not for him, that music was just background noise, something to fill the silence. Jessica told him that she didn’t think that was entirely true, that maybe he was just searching for the right music, that perhaps he was looking for something to connect to and let in, and that maybe he had finally found it. Harvey felt like maybe they weren’t talking about music anymore.
He didn't know then what Jessica had seen in him and with the wisdom of years he still couldn’t figure it out, because he was a sullen ass, completely lost in the world, and how could that have possibly endeared him to Jessica? And on the rare occasion when he asked her about it she just smiled knowingly and changed the topic. But see something she did, because not only did she get the charges dropped she offered him a job in the mailroom of her new firm.
To anyone else it might seem like a lowly job, and maybe it was, but to Harvey it felt like the world. His eyes boggled when he got his first pay check (still not enough to be able to afford his own place but definitely much more than he had ever earned before) and he was determined to ensure Jessica didn't regret her decision. He wanted to make her proud.
She kept an eye on him over the months, periodically checking in to make sure he was on the straight and narrow. She needn't have bothered – Harvey wasn't one to look a gift horse in the mouth and was quickly making himself indispensible to his department. He had taken the opportunity inexplicably afforded to him and run with it.
When Jessica called him into her office and asked him about his future and if he'd ever considered being a lawyer, Harvey was too overwhelmed to speak. So he let her do all the talking, telling him that if he went to college and got a degree and got accepted into Harvard she would pay for his schooling (the Harvard schooling, his college fees were on him) and he could come back to work here as a lawyer. He was completely shocked by the offer, but he also wasn’t an idiot, so he accepted wholeheartedly.
Harvey got into NYU for his undergrad degree and Jessica let him stay on part time. It was a long four years, but every day was in pursuit of something bigger than himself, and the fire that burned in him at the idea of it (the inevitable success, finding something to excel at, knowing his plans which were admittedly rather abstract were on their way to being fully realized) propelled him forward.
When he received his acceptance letter from Harvard, opening it alone in his bedroom with shaking hands, he danced and jumped around the room, punching the air and screaming at the top of his lungs. He strode into Jessica's office the next morning and handed the letter over, and the two of them beamed at each other.
On his last day at Pearson Hardman before heading off to Harvard, Harvey took Jessica out to lunch. It was a lame (and cheap) attempt at a thank you but it was the thought that counted, which he knew she appreciated. She spent the hour giving him advice and tips for his coming days at Harvard, and he listened with rapt attention. When they parted ways at the office Jessica told him he could have the rest of the afternoon off to get everything packed and ready to go for his move. He hugged her (it was impulsive and she was rigid beneath his arms but he didn’t mind) and gave her his genuine thanks. He tried to hand over his Pearson Hardman staff ID card to her but she smiled and told him to keep it, because he would need it again one day.
[a piece of A4 yellow legal pad paper, folded in half, with a handwritten note in block writing: WILL YOU MARRY ME? with YES and NO options written on the line underneath and the YES option circled with blue highlighter]
Harvey had been thinking about proposing to Mike for a while; not in a 'I'm not sure if I really want to get married' kind of way, more in a 'this is a big fucking deal and I want it to be perfect and how the hell do I ask' kind of way. His own uncertainty and dithering was starting to distract him to the point where it was all he could think about. He almost proposed that morning in bed, until he remembered that old superstition about it being bad luck to propose in bed and he thought better of it.
But that desire and need in him, the absolute necessity not to claim Mike but confirm that this was what they were meant for, that they belonged to each other come hell or high water, it ricocheted throughout his body, getting louder and more insistent each day. It made him reckless and impulsive, but the end result was worth it so he couldn’t say he ended up regretted his actions.
Pearson Hardman had been in the middle of a massive case, one of the biggest in Mike's tenure, so big that not only were all the associates congregated in the library but most of the paralegals and admin staff and a healthy dose of Junior Partners too. They were all crowded at the desks, poring over law books and contracts, the room a constant hum of people talking and pens scratching and fingertips gliding over laptop keys. Harvey had even spent a few hours amongst the crowd, doing his little bit for the team, attempting to tune out Louis who was wafting on beside him and sharing the occasional look with Mike who sat at the table across from his.
Late into the afternoon Donna arrived, hovering at the edge of the room with a few files in hand. Harvey stood and crossed the room to her. She flicked open the folders and he took the pen from her outstretched hand and signed wherever she pointed. When it was done and Donna was asking about how things were going Harvey finally noticed the pen he was twirling in his hands. The name was slightly faded from use but there it was on the side: Chilton Hotel.
Harvey's eyes automatically flew to Mike where he sat across the room. Over two years later and the pen from the hotel the day he met Mike was resting in his hand and he was overcome with the absolute need to ask Mike and ask him now.
He took the legal pad from Donna's arm and ignoring her confused look scribbled a note on it before tearing the page off and folding it in half, giving the pad back to her. He could feel her gaze as he crossed the room to Mike but he didn't care. He knew he should feel nervous or idiotic, knew that there was a time and place for this and this probably (okay, definitely) wasn't it, but he simply didn’t care.
He dropped the piece of paper on the desk in front of Mike. It covered the file he was reading and Mike automatically looked up. Seeing Harvey looming over him he reached for the note and unfolded it, no doubt expecting it to be instructions on where to focus his research or maybe a demand to help on his case instead of this one. Instead when he opened it he was greeted with a simple message in Harvey's messy scrawl:
WILL YOU MARRY ME?
Mike looked back up at Harvey, shock clear on his face. Harvey's lips quirked into a smile and suddenly Mike was there on his feet, mouth pressed to Harvey's in a desperate and insistent kiss. Harvey could hear the sudden hush of the room around them, but that was his last conscious thought before deepening the kiss, gripping onto Mike's side and returning the embrace with equal ardour. When Mike finally broke away, Harvey grinned and asked if that was in fact a yes. In reply Mike simply grabbed his highlighter and circled the YES option before looking back at Harvey with a smile.
[receipt for a $4,000 tailored Armani suit dated, 05/09/98]
Harvey hadn't seen it until it was too late and that made the betrayal all the worse.
When he caught Cameron burying a key piece of evidence he didn’t know how to react. Legally and ethically he knew he was obligated to say something but the lines between him and Cameron were strong and he couldn’t betray the man who had taught him everything. He could never do that.
So he looked the other way, even though he felt disgusted by it. Those rules were there for a reason, and even if they had the purest of intentions and even if they were right and this man was guilty, it still felt like a betrayal of everything he had learned since day one at Harvard. It was low. It was cheating. It was wrong.
When he realized that if Cameron had done this once he had probably done it before (and if not he was likely to do it again) Harvey was forced to look at his life in a way he never had before. He could stay with Cameron and become part of a system that was growing more corrupt with each passing day or he could tap out and go corporate and move to Pearson Hardman.
On paper the choice was obvious but the loyalty he felt to Cameron was strong. Too strong.
Weeks passed and every day he felt torn and betrayed and it was starting to affect his work (not in an obvious way, but Donna was always able to pick up on the subtle and she definitely noticed). So one day Donna dragged him to lunch and made him tell her exactly what was going on. When he confessed to suspecting Cameron of dirty (read: illegal) tactics Donna told him she suspected it went much further than that. Harvey never questioned how she knew but over that lunch the decision was made and the first call he made upon his return to the office was to Jessica. He told her he was ready but could he bring Donna with him. And because Jessica knew enough about Harvey to know that his asking for this was a big deal she told him she wanted to meet Donna first but if she was good they could always use more talented and dedicated admin staff.
When he told Cameron he was leaving the older man's face had been a mask of indifference. But Harvey knew better than that, could see the seething anger and betrayal beneath the surface and he couldn't help but bitterly think well now you know I feel. But Cameron knew the game and was all airs and graces and well wishes because you never knew when you would need someone on your side in the future.
Harvey left the District Attorney's office tall and strong and he didn't look back.
But there was no rest for the wicked and he had only the weekend to himself between jobs. On the Saturday after going to the gym and running some errands he walked into a shop he had passed many times and always longed to enter. His eyes were wide and he was slightly overwhelmed by the vast amount of options; so many different shapes and colors and styles of suits. And Harvey was determined to buy the most expensive one he could.
Starting at Pearson Hardman was akin to being given a clean slate. He had been offered a new start and this time he would do it right. He would work within the confines of the law and be as creative but ethical as possible and he would become the man and the lawyer he always wanted to be. And though he was entering Pearson Hardman at a fairly low rung on the ladder (but not so low as to be a rookie associate – his time at the DA's Office had thankfully prevented that) he would still be earning considerably more than in his previous job. He was swimming with the big boys now and was determined to look the part.
The salesman's name was Rene and he found Harvey the most flawless suit Harvey had ever had the pleasure of wearing. And after some minor tailoring it would fit perfectly.
He left the store with the receipt for the suit in hand and a promise that he would be back for more.
It wasn’t an empty promise. When he was at the DA's office his suits were fine, cheap but fine. That was the way Cameron preferred it – you needed to look professional but not showy, because that would not endear you to any juries or opposing councils and public defenders. But that was in the past now. Because he was moving forward, moving up, finally getting to start the life he envisioned when he was sitting in that old rundown house as a kid and dreaming of a better life.
[one of Mike's skinny ties]
(Mike: "I thought I lost that tie." Harvey: "You did. You lost it to me.")
While Harvey could grudgingly admit that Mike's suits had improved they still weren't up to Harvey's standards. They were still just that little bit too generic, that little bit too cheap, and don't even get him stared on those goddamn skinny ties.
After a big win, which Mike was largely responsible for, Harvey decided it was time the kid took his outfits to the next level. So he told Mike to be ready by 1pm the next day for an important meeting. Mike grumbled at the loss of his Saturday but nodded, and when the next day Harvey arrived at his apartment Mike was dressed in what was currently his best suit, ready to work. It was only when they were in a cab heading back to the city did Mike ask where they were going and Harvey told him they were going shopping.
(Mike: "I still can't believe you quoted Mean Girls at me." Harvey: "Paraphrased, not quoted, and I thought we agreed never to speak of that again.")
Harvey knew better than to take him back to Rene after last time, so he instead took him to another reputable establishment, one which bowed to the protests Harvey knew Mike would make about the cost (and therefore none of the suits in the vicinity reached the five figure mark). Mike grumbled the whole time but knew it was a lost cause and in the end he just gave up and let Harvey and the sales assistant choose some suits and shirts for him while he browsed their tie selection.
Harvey sat on the cushioned bench outside the change room at the back of the store, grinning to himself at the lost and scared look on Mike's face before he closed the door behind him. It took longer than it probably should to change into the first suit but eventually Mike opened the door to show Harvey and gain his approval.
Harvey roamed over with him with a critical eye. Not bad, except for one minor (or, to Harvey's mind, major) detail. With an eye roll Harvey stood and began taking off his own tie. Damn kid and his stupid skinny ties. How was it Mike was wearing the most expensive suit he had ever put on and he still wore a goddamn skinny tie? He flung his own tie over his shoulder before he stepped into the dressing room and removed the new but still too skinny tie from around Mike's neck.
He had just looped his tie around Mike's neck and was about to start tying it when he looked up and met Mike's eyes. Mike was staring at him, biting on his lower lip, breathing shallow. Harvey wanted to break the eye contact but he couldn't. His hands gave up their task and they just stood there staring at each other before Mike breached the very small gap between them and suddenly they were kissing desperately.
Harvey had enough presence of mind to blindly reach behind him and close and lock the door. Mike was already pushing and pulling at his clothes, hands frantic. With the door locked Harvey surged forward, backing Mike up until he was pressed against the wall as the kiss deepened, hands roamed.
It wasn't how he ever envisioned their first time together (not that he ever thought they would have a first time, because of a never-ending list of reasons, but he was only human and was prone to the occasional stray thought). It was quick and desperate, bodies pressed together and their pants around their ankles, breathless and impatient and knowing they needed to keep it quiet so as not to be discovered. They moved together with perfect ease, every touch electric, every kiss like coming home. And as he came, Mike exhaled Harvey's name. Never once had Harvey heard anything like it. Over the years he had heard his name invoked by countless lovers but never like that, so full of want and trust and relief, a verbal articulation of the total surrender to this moment and everything it meant to both of them. And even to this day Harvey shivers when he remembers it.
When it was over, Harvey's hands braced to the wall on either side of Mike, Mike's arms wrapped tightly around Harvey (like he was the only thing keeping Mike upright, and not the wall at his back), Mike whispered a confession into his ear, something along the lines of you have no idea how long I've wanted to do that, to which Harvey smiled and murmured probably not as long as I have. And then after a lingering kiss they separated, Harvey pulling a handkerchief from his pocket and cleaning them up. And in the scramble to get dressed and get the hell out of there Mike's tie somehow ended up in Harvey's possession.
[a copy of the dissolution of marriage papers filed between Edward Specter and Nancy Specter (nee Perry), dated 04/02/1990]
When Harvey was seventeen his parents separated.
He saw it coming a mile away.
They clearly hadn't been happy for a long time, as long as Harvey could remember in fact. It wasn't that they fought all the time. On the contrary, they barely spoke. They were like strangers to each other, ships in the night, and Harvey barely remembers them saying more than a few words to each other each week.
He might have seen the divorce coming but he definitely did not see the reason for it, at least until said reason arrived to pick up his mom from their house. His name was Ian and his mom had been sleeping with him for a year. Ian told him this while his mom was upstairs packing, a smug smile on his face that Harvey wanted to wipe off with his fists. Harvey glanced to his dad, sitting in the next room and pretending to read the paper while Ian bragged about the new life they were going to start together.
To this day he remembers the anger that welled within as each moment slowly ticked by. He could hear his mom upstairs packing up her things and the rustle of his dad turning the pages of his newspaper and the inane prattle of this loser his mother had been fucking and he snapped, walking straight over and punching him in the stomach. Ian recoiled, having not seen the punch coming and not protecting himself from it, but he recovered quickly, closing the gap between them and striking Harvey across the face. Harvey tried to retaliate but Ian was on his guard now and when Harvey advanced he was ready and Harvey found himself being hurled backwards. He couldn’t see where he was going, had no control, everything happened so fast, but afterwards there was the pain in his shoulder from where it hit the corner of the table and a vase of flowers crashed on the floor and Harvey's mom flying down the stairs.
Harvey didn't cry and he didn't yell, just gritted his teeth against the pain. His mom knelt beside him, hand reaching out but he recoiled from her touch and she didn't try again. Harvey asked her if it was true, if she had cheated on his dad, and fucking Ian couldn't keep his mouth shut, screaming about how she had never loved him and had never been faithful and didn't want kids or a family and how their whole lives were a lie. Harvey looked at his mom then and didn't ask her any more questions. He didn't need to. He could see it on her face clear as day. Everything Ian was saying was true. He didn't ask her why, he didn't ask her if she ever loved him and Morgan, he didn't ask her anything again. For years.
And then they were gone, without another word.
When Morgan got home Harvey told him he hurt his shoulder at baseball practice (he told his coach he had fallen down the stairs at home and remained stoic when he was told he couldn't play in the championship game) and that their mom had told Harvey to make sure Morgan knew how much she loved him but that she had to go. It was a lie Morgan clung to for a long time, and Harvey felt guilty over the deception but knew it was better than the truth.
He wasn't in contact with his mom for a long time. It felt like a lifetime – Graduation, the mail room at Pearson Hardman, NYU, Harvard, and now the DA's Office – and then there she was, standing on his doorstep, begging for his forgiveness.
He had been sorely tempted to slam the door in her face but he didn't. He let her in to his crummy apartment and let her speak, let her try and explain and justify her behavior. When she was done, black tear streaks on her cheeks from where her mascara had run, he calmly stood and went into the next room and dug out a copy of their divorce papers. He shouldn’t have this copy, shouldn’t even have seen it let alone copied it and taken it home, but it helped to have friends in lofty places willing to do you a favor.
He threw the papers onto the coffee table between them and she stared at it. She knew the words staining those white pages, the spiteful and cruel things she said in their messy divorce as she tried to get as much as she could for herself, and now she knew that Harvey knew all that too. He reminded her of everything she had put them through, all the lies and the deceit. She couldn’t take that back, not now and not ever. She had broken her promise, to him and his brother and his dad, and he could never forgive her for that. And then he told her to get the fuck out, this time slamming the door behind her and collapsing back onto it, sucking in a large gulp of air.
He put the papers away but he never got rid of them. They were his constant reminder. Actions have consequences. Promises are not to be broken. People's lives are not something you can toy with with no consequences. Marriage is not something to be taken lightly, to be entered into because you are bored or scared or lonely – it's real and important and he would probably never get married but if he did by God he would not let it end like his parents had.
[funeral program from the funeral of Edith Ross]
Harvey and Mike had been together for a grand total of three weeks when Mike's only living relative died.
Mike appeared on his doorstep with pale skin, shining eyes, lips that were bright red from where he had worried them and light tear tracks on his cheeks. One look at Harvey and Mike let out a sob, practically collapsing into his arms. Harvey held him tight, fear coursing through his veins. He didn’t know what was wrong and his mind starting racing as it went through the possibilities.
Mike finally managed to get out a strangled Grammy … sick … didn't make it before he was crying again and Harvey gripped him even tighter, this time whispering reassurances he knew Mike couldn’t possibly believe into his ear.
They stood like that in the entryway for a long time. When Mike finally calmed down enough Harvey wrapped his fingers around his wrist and steered him to the bedroom. Mike fell onto the bed, exhausted, and Harvey removed his shoes and jacket before quietly slipping from the room.
As he moved around the kitchen preparing a light sandwich and pouring a glass of water Harvey called Donna to let her know what was going on. He told her to cancel all non-essential appointments and reschedule the ones he couldn’t miss so they were all condensed together so he could be in at the office as little as possible. Donna assured him she was on it and that she would deal with Louis to make sure all of Mike's work was redistributed. After giving his heartfelt thanks and assuring Donna he was fine when she asked (he didn't doubt that she saw right through the lie) she told him she would call back when everything was sorted and to give Mike a hug for her before she hung up.
Next came the unfortunate but unavoidable call to Jessica. He only meant to tell her that due to a personal situation he wouldn't be in the office much over the next few days but he would still be in to deal with the things that couldn’t wait. When she asked why he couldn’t get Mike to deal with the non-essentials he knew he was screwed. He took a deep breath as he rolled the options over in his mind. He knew that by telling her the truth she would put two and two together and that she would be pissed. Because she may have let Mike stay when she found out the truth but she never really forgave either of them for it and to find out that they were now seeing each other would be one step too far. It was Harvey declaring once again that Mike was more important to him than she was. And he hated that because he honestly loved Jessica for everything she had done for him. But the truth was at this point Mike was more important to him.
He respected Jessica too much to lie to her. So he told her that Mike's grandmother had died and he would be out of the office for the rest of the week and in the silence that followed Harvey could practically hear her doing the math in her head and coming up with the right answer (Harvey being away for personal reasons + Mike having a death in the family = they don't have the appropriate boss/subordinate relationship). He heard her sigh an expletive and he murmured an apology in reply. She told him that we will definitely be having words about this later, Specter (she hadn't called him Specter since his mailroom days) and to pass on her condolences to Mike before she hung up on him.
With a sigh Harvey turned the phone to silent and left it on the kitchen counter, bringing the glass of water and plate of food into the bedroom. Mike was lying on his side, not quite curled up into the fetal position but pretty damn close. Harvey put the water and sandwich on the bedside table and toed off his shoes and shed his tie and shirt before crawling onto the bed. He curled up behind Mike, pressing his whole body along the length of his. He slipped an arm across Mike's waist and Mike instantly grasped his hand, holding it against his chest and gripping so tight it almost hurt. But Harvey didn't object, just shifted all the closer and pressed his lips to the nape of Mike's neck.
There was a very large part of Harvey that was rather selfishly freaking the fuck out. He wasn't ready for this. He didn't know how to deal with someone in emotional crisis (at least in a way that wasn't going to offend or hurt, which was the usual outcome when he was confronted with emotions at work). He had never had to deal with death like this – his family were all still alive and his grandparents died either before he was born or when he was so young he could barely remember it. And he hated himself for even thinking it, but he and Mike hadn't been together very long and this was something major, something that would shake Mike to his core and he didn't know how a new relationship could survive something like this. Because even though he knew Mike too well to think that this would break him, that he had survived too much and was too strong for that, that didn't mean going through this wouldn't change or scar him.
But then Mike pulled his arm tighter around him, taking in a shaky breath. Harvey pushed the thoughts from his mind. He didn't know what the future held for them as a couple but he refused to believe that they wouldn’t get through this stronger than ever. Because even though it was early days he could feel it hum through his veins, that love and trust they had for each other, pretty much from the moment they met. They would get through this. Together.
To say it was a horrible week was an understatement of epic proportions. Harvey felt like he was being pulled in too many directions at once. Mike barely left Harvey's apartment so Harvey tried to get everything organized for him. He dealt with the nursing home, finalizing the payments and having Edith's belongings packed up. He handled the reading and actioning of her will. He helped Mike organize the service. And between all that he put in some appearances at work and tried to get Mike to eat and sleep and bathe and talk and breathe.
As per Edith's request the service was small. It was held in the chapel of the nursing home with her friends and staff in attendance. The only other person Harvey recognized was Jenny. She and Harvey shared a sad smile in greeting before she sat down on the other side of Mike, kissing his cheek softly. Harvey took Mike's hand in his as the service started. Mike sat still as stone, barely even blinking the whole time.
Harvey listened with rapt attention. He had only met Edith twice – both times before they were dating – so while he didn't know her well he knew her well enough to like and respect her, to be grateful to her for everything she had done for Mike. He regretted not knowing her better.
The wake was tea, coffee and cookies in the rec room (Harvey had tried to order some nicer refreshments but Mike had refused, partly because this was what Grammy wanted but mostly because it would just be wasted on the elderly residents and their various dietary requirements). Mike and Harvey didn't stick around long. Mike hugged Jenny goodbye before taking Harvey's hand and asking if they could just go for a walk before heading home. Harvey nodded (he would’ve agreed to whatever Mike wanted) and they roamed the streets together. They walked for hours. They ended up in Mike's old stomping ground, Mike pointing out where he and Grammy used to live, his old school, where he and Trevor and Jenny would hang out, his secret hiding spot he fled to whenever he wanted to be alone.
Mike talked more in that one afternoon than he had all week. Harvey had never heard anything more amazing than Mike's voice, spilling stories and secrets, a hint of a smile lighting his features when he spoke about the stupid antics he got up to when he was younger, and how Grammy had given him knowing looks every time he came home late, like she knew exactly what he had been up to, and that look was worse than any lecture or threat could ever be.
They sat on the steps of Mike's old brownstone, this place he spent so much of his youth, and Mike confessed that he had told Grammy about their relationship. She had responded with that knowing look and told him that Harvey was a good man and that she knew they would be happy together. Harvey didn't say anything, couldn’t find the words, so he leaned over and kissed Mike, chaste but lingering, a silent promise that they would be happy together, always.
When they finally made it home to Harvey's apartment (Mike hadn’t seen the inside of his for a week, and it turned out in the end he only went back to it to pack it up to move in with Harvey) Mike crashed fairly quickly. Harvey knew that the funeral had made it real in a way it hadn’t been before, but that saying goodbye had started the healing process. He felt like he was able to breathe just that little bit easier now.
As Harvey undressed he discovered the booklet from the service tucked away in his suit jacket, put there hours ago and promptly forgotten. He looked at the photo on the front with a sad smile, taking a minute in this moment of solitude to grieve for the woman. He barely knew Edith but he liked her immensely. He wished things were different.
He was hit with the sudden realization that Mike was the most important person in his life. It was something he had known on a subconscious level for a long time, but this was the first time he allowed himself to acknowledge it. And Edith had been the most important person in Mike's life, and Harvey respected that. This was where Mike came from, what made him into the man he was today, the man he already knew he was in love with.
[a photo of Harvey with his younger brother from when they were kids: it's a close up shot, Harvey sitting behind Morgan and resting his chin on his shoulder]
Harvey's brother is five years younger than him. It's a big gap, or at least it felt that way when they were kids, big enough to prevent them from being as close as they probably should be. And that’s not to say they didn't love each other because they did, they still do, but the age thing meant they always seemed to be in different places in their lives. The upside to the age difference was that it kicked Harvey's protective side into gear from a young age and being that much older he had always been able to act on those feelings.
When Harvey found out that Morgan was being bullied his first response was, understandably, anger. But then Morgan burst into tears and the anger was overtaken by regret. How had he not seen this? He put an arm around Morgan as he cried and promised everything would be okay. And then to cheer him up and distract him Harvey took him down to the park and they stayed out until after sunset.
Watching Morgan play, all smiles and carefree, Harvey began formulating a plan. He thought about going to their father with this but as much as he loved his dad Harvey knew he wasn’t up for something like this. Dad was very much of the 'ignore it and it'll go away' train of thought. But that wasn't Harvey at all; he knew even at the age of twelve that you had to fight to be heard and demand what you wanted and couldn’t sit idly by and just hope things got better.
He never even considered going to their mother.
As he lay in bed that evening, watching Morgan sleep in the small bed across the room, it occurred to him for the first time how truly alone they were. They had no one they could rely on but each other. It was a terrifying prospect but there was something liberating about it too. The knowledge that they were in this together lit a fire within and he resolved then and there that he would look after Morgan better than either of their parents had thus far.
The next day Harvey walked Morgan to school but cut his own classes and headed into town. He knew the boy who had been bullying Morgan but more to the point he also knew his father. And with a steely determination he walked right into the man's shop, head held high.
If you asked Harvey today what he said to Mr Donaghy he wouldn’t be able to tell you. But whatever he said then must've been serious enough and intimidating enough and real enough to get the old man's attention. He remembers the sensation of being nervous but knowing he needed to mask that, to push through it until there was nothing left but bravado and the righteousness that came with being right.
Donaghy owned the camera shop in which Harvey stood, berating the man for not controlling his son, and as a final fuck you he stole a Polaroid camera and roll of film as he left. He idled the afternoon away, taking a few pictures with his new toy until it was time school let out.
He found Morgan on his walk home from school and instead of heading home they wandered to the river to hang out. Harvey handed over the camera and told Morgan that he didn’t need to worry anymore. Morgan's eyes were wide with disbelief and wonder and relief but he was unquestioning in his faith at Harvey's words. Because Harvey was his big brother and would never lie to him and Harvey promised himself he would repay the faith Morgan had in him by making both their lives as amazing as possible.
They went through the entire roll of film in the one afternoon, a litany of photos falling from the camera, Harvey's favorite being the only one they took of both of them together.
[Harvey and Mike's hand written vows]
While the proposal had been a rather public affair Harvey and Mike were both of the immediate and determined agreement that the actual wedding and reception would be an intimate and private occasion.
So they kept things simple. The ceremony took place on the stage of the Beaumont Theater (it was where they had their first official date – seeing War Horse before adjourning to Harvey's place for drinks – and of course Harvey knew a guy on the Lincoln Center board who owed him a favor and Mike grinned when Harvey suggested it, thrilled they had found somewhere unique and special to them). The large space dwarfed the small group: Harvey and Mike, the justice of the peace to marry them, Donna and Morgan to be their witnesses and the photographer who would document the event for posterity (a concession he made to Mike, the first of many no doubt). After everything was said and done and rings were placed on fingers and they were bound together for now and ever more, the photographer took them into the city streets and Central Park for a few photos. And before the reception that evening Harvey and Mike stole away for a couple hours, hustling back to their condo to quickly and quietly (okay, not so quietly) consummate their marriage.
Their reception was held in the private dining room of their favorite restaurant. There were about thirty guests in total – no family apart from Morgan but friends from the office (Jessica, Rachel, Harold, even Louis, plus a few of the associates and partners they were actually friendly with…) and other friends from various aspects of their lives (Jenny, Ray, Mike's old neighbor, some of Harvey's friends from his Harvard and ADA days, a couple of Mike's high school friends he reconnected with after saying goodbye to Trevor for the last time…). The room was bathed in candlelight and there were a half dozen tables filling the space and everyone talked and ate and drank. There was no cake to cut, no speeches made or first dance, just a small group of people brought together to celebrate a momentous and beautiful event.
And the whole time Harvey couldn't wipe the grin from his face. Between courses (all five of them, a concession Mike made to him, the first of many no doubt) he found himself taking hold of Mike's left hand and wrapping his own two around it, keeping hold safe in his lap, fingertips lightly idling over Mike's wedding ring. He could see Mike's lips quirk into a small smile every time and then Mike would lean over and kiss him, just because he could.
It was a perfect night.
Harvey, it is not an understatement to say that you have changed every aspect of my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. From the moment we met I wanted to be by your side because I liked and admired you. And then as time went by I felt my feelings for you deepen. I totally didn’t see it coming and it terrified me but at the same time it made perfect sense.
There is a reason we met when and how we did. There is a reason we tied our fates together and defended each other and protected each other. And that reason is that it was all leading to this, this love I have for you and you for me. I trust you more than anyone and love you more than I thought was possible and nothing on this earth will ever be more important than that.
I love you, Harvey. And I'll love you forever.
Mike, I never counted on someone like you. You weren't part of the plan. But then you crashed into my life, real and unapologetic and everything I ever needed, and now I genuinely cannot picture my life without you in it anymore.
And it hasn't been easy. Our lives have been one obstacle after another, and that was before we were even together. But that's okay. Because what that means is that nothing is going to stop us. We’ve both had our opportunities to tap out but we haven't because we are stronger than the forces that tried to tear us apart. And that's how I know. I know I don’t have to be scared of this, because every day I'm reminded of why I love you and why we've fought for the life we have.
I'm so thankful for you, Mike. I'm thankful that you stumbled into my life and stuck by my side and fought as hard for me as I did for you. And no matter what, I will fight for you for the rest of our lives.