It's a little after midnight when Harvey hears his phone ring.
“Mike, why the hell are you calling?” he says, as cheerfully as he can muster given the late hour.
“This isn't Mike,” says an unfamiliar voice on the other end of the phone. “I'm looking for Harvey Specter.”
“It's after midnight; lose my number, don't call again, and I won't sue you.”
“Oh yeah, forgot about the time difference,” the voice says. “Um, I think we had the same mom.”
Harvey hangs up the phone and goes back to sleep.
Stiles is used to rejection. He's pined after Lydia most of his life, he can handle a lawyer hanging up on him from across the country.
He calls again, but it goes to voicemail. He decides that's enough rejection for one night and doesn't bother leaving a message. He has a Plan B.
It really says something about how dangerous Beacon Hills has gotten that Plan B is a really dumb idea.
Scott was the one who'd thought of it, after all.
Harvey answers the door expecting pizza. Instead, he gets a sixteen year-old boy with worse taste in clothes than Mike.
“Are you lost?” Harvey asks dubiously.
“Not anymore,” says the kid, with a goofy grin, “I'm Stiles, your long-lost little brother!” and throws his arms wide.
Harvey shuts the door in his face.
Plan B sucks.
But hey, he's out of California, far away from the murderous monsters of his hometown, that's gotta count for something, right? Things can't get any worse, can they?
Well, of course they can, but a guy can dream, can't he? And besides, Stiles can always blame Scott when they inevitably do.
So he pounds on the door until Harvey opens it.
Harvey kind of hates his life right now.
The kid is drumming his fingers on the edge of Harvey's coffee table. “I just needed to get away from my life for a while, and I figured, hey, it's summer, and my best friend might be languishing in summer school but I got perfect grades, why should I be punished? So I used my dad's police contacts to check out my mom's family, and I found out about Harvey Specter, super lawyer of New York City, and even though I'm probably gonna be in debt for the rest of my natural life just to pay for the gas it took to drive here, I thought we could maybe try some brotherly bonding. What do you say?”
“That's a beautiful story, it really is, but I live in the real world,” Harvey explains patiently. “You cannot stay here.” A thought occurs to him. “Does your—father—even know you're out here?”
The alleged brother fidgets guiltily and pulls at a loose thread in his sleeve. “Maybe?”
“I might have told him that I got an internship in New York that offers free room and board?”
Harvey really, really hates his life right now.
Stiles hates lying to his dad, but it was necessary. He had to get out of Beacon Hills, at least for the summer, if only to get away from the worried look on his father's face every time they find another murder victim. He had to get away from the gap steadily growing between him and Scott. He had to get away from Derek and the pack and the horror movie his life has become. But he still hates lying about it.
He wonders if it's bad that he doesn't feel bad about lying to Harvey.
They've only just met, he reminds himself. It's okay, because they're gonna be brothers.
“Do you play any sports?” Harvey tries the next day. He's trying to avoid thinking about how much the kid resembles his mother—how much he looks like a blend of his mother and another man.
Stiles rolls his eyes. “Um, yeah? I'm in high school.”
Harvey has a brief flare of hope. “You like baseball?”
The kid shakes his head. “Nobody cares about baseball anymore. I play lacrosse.”
Nope. Definitely not his brother.
Harvey's job rocks.
Stiles is a little bit star-struck as he walks through the doors. He feels self-conscious in his jeans and T-shirt, trailing through the lobby behind Harvey.
Behind his big brother.
His brother, who is a fantastically rich lawyer. Extreme research skills must be in the blood. Stiles is suddenly proud of his way with research, even if he only bothers when it's sufficiently interesting, or a means to annoy his teachers, or potentially useful in a life-or-death situation.
“Harvey, you seem to have brought in a stray,” a redheaded receptionist says outside Harvey's office, and wow, look at that view.
“I found him outside,” Harvey says without missing a beat. “He followed me in, and I've been thinking about taking him home with me.”
“Won't Mike get jealous?” the redhead asks seriously. Stiles tries very hard not to picture himself as a high-powered lawyer with Lydia Martin as his savvy secretary, and nary a werewolf in sight.
He suddenly wants Harvey's life so bad.
“Mike has bigger things to worry about, Donna,” Harvey says, and marches inside without a glance back.
Stiles hesitates half a second before following him.
“Harvey, I hope you are prepared for how awesome I am,” Mike says, barging into Harvey's office as if Donna would just let him. “I was checking the dates on the Ternery case, and it turns out her son claimed she was a resident of Delaware back in— Hello, who are you?” Mike finally spots the kid lounging on Harvey's couch.
“I'm Stiles,” the kid says, chewing on his lower lip. He jerks his head in Harvey's direction. “I'm his intern.”
“Uhh…” Mike glances at Harvey. “Intern?”
“This is my associate, Mike Ross,” Harvey says tersely. “Mike, meet my intern. He's not getting paid.”
“But I am overworked,” Stiles adds.
“Depends on how you define 'work',” Harvey says through gritted teeth.
“Since when do you have interns?” Mike interrupts as Stiles opens his mouth with a no doubt witty rejoinder. “I thought I did all your work.”
“It's my first day,” Stiles says cheerfully.
“Ignore him,” Harvey says icily. “Just give me your notes on Ternery.”
Stiles knows Harvey is not happy. It's kind of like knowing when Derek isn't happy (which, granted, is generally all the time; it's all fun and games until someone gets slammed into a wall).
He can't quite figure out why though.
Is it the brother thing? Because if he didn't want Stiles around, he wouldn't have let him stay, right?
Mike and Donna are clearly picking up on Harvey's mood as well, because after thirty minutes of awkward silence Donna comes marching in and puts a hand on Stiles's shoulder.
“You have to go to the bathroom,” she says. It's not a question.
Stiles feels suddenly defiant. “No, I'm fine. I went before I left.”
She leans down close to his face. “You have to go,” she says, and when he flinches, it's not because he's scared, because he's faced down way worse; it's because he hears Lydia's voice in her command, and is struck with a sudden wave of homesickness, which doesn't even make any sense.
Stiles flees, if only to get away from the memory.
“He's your son, isn't he?” Donna asks shortly after Stiles has left in search of the bathroom.
Harvey rolls his eyes. “He's my brother.”
Mike lets a slow smile spread across his face. “Yeah right. He's totally your son.”
“How old do you think I am? He's my brother,” Harvey insists.
“Oh, and is he your sister and your daughter, too?”
Harvey gives him a scathing look. “You're dumber than you think I think you are.”
“Where did he come from?” Mike asks.
“Oh, Harvey, I think it's time you had that talk with him,” Donna says, patting Mike on the arm.
Harvey fixes Mike with an intent stare. “You see, Mike, when two people love each other very very much—”
“Oh my God, is this actually happening?”
“—they sometimes decide to destroy their children's lives by starting a new family on the side, and giving their new children incredibly stupid names.”
“No, please, keep talking, I didn't hear any of that,” Stiles says, slinking back into the office with his hands in his pockets. “Though I gotta say there is a reason I go by 'Stiles'.”
“'Stiles' is what I was referring to, actually,” Harvey lies. “You've got a family name, you should be proud of it.”
Stiles shrugs. “My dad calls me Stiles.”
There's a sudden tension in the air.
“Why don't I send our intern out for some coffee?” Donna asks, too brightly. “Stiles. Go get us some coffee.”
“I'll come with you,” Mike says quickly. Coward.
Stiles spends the rest of the day with Mike.
First it's the coffee, when he asks if Harvey's always been so… so Harvey, or if it's just Stiles's magical ability to bring out the worst in people.
“He cares,” Mike insists. “He just doesn't like showing it.” Which, well, that doesn't always mean he does care, does it?
Then it's the next three hours spent in Mike's cubicle when they're going over paperwork for some client or other, and Stiles might not be too fond of math, but he's no slouch at it either. He picks up on it fairly quickly, and eventually it's just pointless busywork meant to distract him from Harvey.
Fine. Give the guy some time to adjust.
Stiles thinks that if he can do a good job on these audits, Harvey might think him worth his time. With the way Mike is speeding through the things, it's pretty obvious that's why Harvey values him; not just for his ability to get the job done, but to get the job done well.
And also for his snark. Mike is pretty self-aware, actually, so Stiles figures he shouldn't have to play catch-up there himself.
Then they're getting lunch and even though Stiles really wants to talk about Harvey he finds himself talking about Scott instead, and how much he misses his mom, and what life was like growing up in Beacon Hills.
He doesn't mention the werewolf business though. Gotta draw the line somewhere.
Mike nods and shares some story about his ass of a best friend, and his life growing up with his grandma, and what life was like in college, and Stiles can tell that he's leaving something out too, but doesn't press him.
He wonders if everyone here lies, or if it's just a Harvey thing.
Harvey sometimes wonders how Mike has an uncanny ability to make a bad situation worse.
“I thought I told you I didn't want to hear from you until you'd fixed the Caine audits,” Harvey says without looking up from his desk.
“Actually, I was going over them this morning with your new intern,” Mike says, like it's perfectly normal to discuss classified financial information with teenaged runaways. “Took me half the time. He's pretty sharp, Harvey.”
And Harvey sees where this is going, so he cuts him off. “Then I guess you'll have time to work with Louis on the Feldman deposition,” he says, and that's the end of the discussion.
“I have to read all of this?” Stiles asks, dismayed.
“Yep,” Mike says, humming as he surveys the twenty volume novel being printed in the copy room. “I outrank you, so…”
“But that'll take me all night,” he protests.
Mike raises an eyebrow. “I could do it in a few hours.”
“But you have that magic memory thing.”
“Sucks to be you, then.” Mike grins. “Tell you what, we'll order dinner on the firm. What do you say to sushi?”
Stiles doesn't like sushi, but he heard the we in Mike's offer, so he smiles back.
Maybe he's not alone after all.
Apparently, Mike and Stiles have bonded.
Which is—great. Harvey doesn't care, as long as it doesn't affect Mike's work. It's great.
Only they're talking in his office, and he can't concentrate.
“And he goes, 'Chick, you're what I call a real pal… You take Mary'!” Mike says, and Stiles cracks up.
Only they're talking in his office about old movies, and Harvey's desperately trying not to participate.
He gets the feeling that Donna planned this.
“Hey, have you ever seen The Wolf Man?” Stiles asks.
Mike quirks an eyebrow. “You mean like Lon Chaney, Jr. and Claude Rains?”
Stiles's mouth falls open in astonishment. “I think I love you,” he says, and something twists in Harvey's stomach.
“Get back to work,” he snaps, and spends the next twenty minutes fuming in the overbearing silence that fills his office.
Stiles is trying, really he is.
He's been observing—noticing the way Harvey treats Mike and Donna, the way Harvey holds them close and tries to deny how important they are to him, how he acts like the world revolves around him when in fact he is so dependent on the people he loves that he would do anything to protect them if they were threatened.
And Stiles has been studying—looking at the way Mike seems to know exactly what to say to get Harvey to smile, the way Donna effortlessly reins him in when he's gone too far, the way Mike so clearly wants to be Harvey but can't admit it, the way Donna relies on him just as much as he relies on her.
And Stiles has been practicing—he's been carefully following in their footsteps, building himself into the sort of person Harvey could rely on, that Harvey could trust, that Harvey could love.
And Stiles has been denying—that the way Harvey clings to the people close to him is the same way Stiles clings to Scott, and to Lydia, and his dad, and all the people he loves. It's the way Stiles held on to his mom.
It's the way Harvey held on to his mom.
And Stiles has been longing—trying so hard to fill the void her death and then Scott's distance left in him that he's willing to let Harvey into his life, if only Harvey would let him into his.
Some days Harvey looks at Stiles and sees everything he loved about his mother.
“Hey, dad. Yeah, I'm fine. No, I just wanted to talk to you.” There's a pause, and Stiles glances over to where Harvey is pretending he's not listening. “Tell Scott to stay out of the woods. Yeah, I know, but just tell him anyway, all right?” Stiles sighs and leans his head back. “I won't run out, I've got enough.”
His tone suddenly shifts, becoming less resigned, more serious. “Are you… are you okay? Another attack?! Who was it?” He gasps slightly. “Is she…? Oh. I'm sorry. You'd think they'd run out of people eventually, huh?” He gives a shaky laugh. “Oh. Okay. Yeah, I'm safe. You know the homicide rate in New York isn't any better than— Dad. I'm fine. I'll be okay. I just… I worry about you too, you know. It gets dangerous at night.” Another pause. “That better not be a burger you're eating,” he teases, but there's a tiny, desperate plea in his voice.
Then quietly, “Yeah, I miss you too, dad. I love you.”
And some days Harvey looks at Stiles and only sees a reason to be bitter.
It's not working.
Stiles doesn't get it. Harvey lets him stay, but then keeps his distance. Harvey introduces him to his friends, but then pushes him away. It's like he can't get over the disappointment, like he keeps expecting Stiles to let him down the same way his mother did.
Stiles is so not okay with this. He is not a substitute for his mother, never mind that that's exactly what he's been trying to do with Harvey. Stiles is sixteen, he's allowed to make mistakes.
But Harvey? Harvey needs to grow up and get over it, admit he never wanted a brother and send Stiles home. At least then he'd know where he stands.
So Stiles stops trying to crowd into his life, starts trying to avoid him. It's obviously what Harvey wants, and Stiles is nothing if not a master at avoiding things.
He just doesn't expect Harvey to corner him first.
“Why did you decide to come here?” Harvey asks as they're eating dinner at a classy restaurant. He's deigned to treat the kid to a proper meal tonight, so he's got him trapped.
Stiles doesn't really think about it. “Because you're family,” he says, though he doesn't sound entirely convinced of that.
Harvey rests his elbows on the table and folds his hands in front of his chin. “You don't want to be here,” he says. It's not a question.
Stiles shrugs. “No, I love spending the summer with my estranged brother who hates me.” He meets Harvey's eye and flails a bit. “Look, it's better than Beacon Hills, all right? I just needed to get away.”
“So why stay here?” Harvey wants to know, he really does, because he can't think of a single good reason.
“You're family,” Stiles repeats, “Or at least you were supposed to be. And maybe you had some unresolved issues with her, but she was my mom too, and I loved her, and I miss her every day. And you know, why haven't you kicked me out?” Stiles shoots back. “If you wanted me gone so bad, all you had to do was say so.”
“Because it's not your fault,” Harvey says.
“What she did. It wasn't your fault.” Stiles bristles, but Harvey continues. “She wasn't a saint, and she wasn't a good mother, and she only ever hurt the people who loved her. I'm not going to repeat her mistake. I'm not going to turn my back on family the way she did to us.”
“She never turned her back on me,” Stiles hisses. “She was a good mom!”
“And what about your father?” Harvey asks angrily. “Does that make him a good man, sleeping with a married woman?”
Stiles's hands are clenched into fists on the table. “He loved her,” he says through gritted teeth.
Harvey pours himself another glass of wine, and says softly, “But she left him, too.”
The rest of the meal is spent in silence.
“You remind me of someone I knew,” Stiles says suddenly over breakfast.
“I doubt that,” Harvey mutters, groping for coffee. Stiles hopes he burns his hand in the toaster.
“He was into the whole alpha male posturing, and talking about how important his family was to him, but they weren't,” Stiles says. He remembers a hand on his wrist, and an offer being made. “He only ever used them, as an excuse. He threw them under the bus just for power.”
Harvey starts the coffee maker. “Maybe they weren't really his family then.”
Stiles glares for a full minute. “I'm glad we had this talk. Because now I know.”
Harvey sighs and waits until his coffee is ready before speaking. “Know what?” he asks, finally sitting down.
Stiles remembers a hand on his wrist, and sharp teeth closing in on it; and he remembers pulling away. “That I don't want to be like you.”
Harvey forbids Mike from leaning so much on Stiles for highlighter duty.
Mike is blunt. “Is this because you're jealous of our beautiful friendship?”
“Yes,” Harvey answers. “You're a bad influence. Now get back to work.”
It's for practical reasons, really. Better not to grow too attached if the kid is just going to be leaving.
He takes after his mother, after all.
“So what was Harvard like?” Stiles asks Mike when they're sitting in Harvey's office poring over the Garber briefings. Mike smiles and preens and seems strangely panicked.
“It was… an intense experience,” Mike says. “There's a lot of competition.”
“Wild parties and drugs,” Harvey says with a smirk. “Maybe you went to a different Harvard than the rest of us.”
Stiles ignores him. “Where'd you do your undergrad?” he asks instead, and tries not to jump at the sudden spasm that crosses Mike's face.
“If you're thinking of applying, it doesn't really matter as long as your grades are good enough,” Mike says carefully after he's regained his composure.
Stiles toys with a highlighter cap while he considers this. “Maybe,” he says finally.
“You don't have any plans?” Harvey asks him. Mike twists around to stare at him.
But Stiles just shrugs, and brings the highlighter cap up to his mouth to gnaw on it. “Not really. Harvard, MIT, maybe. I was just going to go wherever Lydia Martin went.”
Harvey doesn't say anything in response to that. Stiles tries not to feel too disappointed.
Really, what was he expecting anyway?
Harvey enters the living room one night to see Stiles staring out the window. The city glows beneath them, the light below drowning out the stars above in a sea of inky blackness. It's a beautiful view, but Stiles is gazing upward, watching the full moon drift slowly across the sky.
Harvey is suddenly struck with a memory of his father, staring at the stars right after his mother had left, lost in the endlessness of betrayal. And all at once Harvey recognizes it, is acutely aware that Stiles is wearing the same look of betrayal his father had.
He doesn't bother to ask who let him down.
Stiles is leaving. He's had enough, so he's leaving.
“Thanks for the job,” he tells Harvey. “Even though you didn't pay me.”
“I'll write you a letter of recommendation,” Harvey offers, and Stiles smiles and nods and vows silently to burn it.
It's the day after the full moon, and he's going crazy with worry. Scott still hasn't called, and for all Stiles knows he could be dead in a ditch somewhere; and there's nothing he can do anyway, but it still grates. Scott just doesn't need him; he was the one who'd suggested that Stiles leave in the first place. Sure, he'd claimed it was for “protection” but Stiles knows what that means. It means he's useless and can't be trusted.
But Stiles doesn't want to stay here any more than he wants to go back to Beacon Hills. New York is just as full of people that he's let down. He should feel sad, but mostly he's just angry; here's more proof that there are all sorts of monsters wherever you go, only Harvey's not the sort that can be warded off with a handful of mountain ash and wolfsbane. And he hates it, hates that he's just as useless against them as he was back home.
How do you protect yourself from people like that?
And Stiles thinks, What would Harvey do?
He waits until he's a few hours away before he calls Mike.
“Hey, Stiles, how's the drive going?”
“It's thrilling, really,” he says, automatically slipping into talking-to-Scott mode. “Did you know they have roads out here?”
Mike replies easily, “No, I think I would have remembered that.”
Stiles grins. He's missed this, missed the sort of easy conversation that comes from true friendship. But there are still secrets between them, things Stiles doesn't know, a whole world Mike doesn't know, that Mike might not even want to know; but Mike wants to be Harvey, and more importantly, Harvey wants Mike to be him.
Well, Harvey's not the only one who can hold on to people.
“Hey, Mike?” Stiles says, and makes the offer. “Can I tell you a secret?”