Harvey flirts with men.
Jessica's word, not his. He'd put it more like...well, charm as a verb leaves a bad taste in his mouth. Calling it that makes it anything but.
It's the closest word he has, though. For that tone he gets when he's really in the zone, and he knows he can push someone right into the corner where he needs them – with facts and case law and logic, of course, but if he really has to, on force of personality alone.
Flirtation – if you have to call it that – is just another tool in the box. Alongside obfuscation, deception and intimidation. In some ways, more effective than all of those combined. Give anyone that buzz of feeling interesting and important, on the inside of the joke, and you're more than halfway home.
So yeah, ok. He flirts with clients, judges, and opposing counsel. He does it to close a deal, to make transactions easier, and build working relationships he can cash in on later. And he does all this without the slightest hint of shame.
He does not flirt with men for sex. Not because that would be shameful, just because...because. He just doesn't.
Harvey flirts with men for profit. Until he meets
Rick Sorkin Mike Ross, and it starts being for fun.
Because, let's face it, Harvey doesn't need to flirt with Mike to get his way (more or less). When Harvey says jump, Mike sneaks off to steal a pogo stick. And although he might brain himself with it at first, he ends up achieving more vertical lift than Harvey asked for.
It gives Harvey a special kind of power rush each and every time. It's obedience, but not unthinking. Mike wants to please Harvey but not simply by following orders – which, Harvey won't admit out loud, gets tedious after a while. No, Mike absorbs Harvey's orders then thinks up new and often perilous ways to accomplish things himself.
So flirtation, in Mike's case, isn't really a tool. With or without it, Mike likes Harvey, and wants to fall in step towards a common goal. As for making his life easier, Harvey's fairly sure there's no power in the universe which can make that word apply to life with Mike.
If he'd had to name a reason for it early on – if he'd been conscious that he was doing it at all – Harvey would've said he flirted with Mike as a reward. But that's an indirect and partial truth.
That's truth enough for other people, but not enough to feed himself.
The whole truth, the big true truth, is that rewarding Mike is a whole other rush for Harvey. He gives Mike a little and he gets it back ten-fold. Not because Mike tries harder – that comes standard with his loyalty – but by some intrinsic mechanism Harvey has yet to understand.
All this has been in motion since the moment they met, when Mike looked straight at him, weed scattered all over the silk Persian rug and said, "Yeeahh, so...this is exactly what it looks like. Sorry."
And Harvey flashed his best flirting grin, with no discernible motive, and said, "Now why do I think there's more to it than that?"
That's when it began, in a way, but not....quite. Because Harvey doesn't know it has til nearly three months later, when Donna stalks into his office, passing Mike on his way out.
"You know I never interfere, but...seriously, what are you doing?"
"You never interfere?" Harvey asks her. That's news to him.
She ignores that. "I don't want to think you're playing with him for fun, but I'm running out of other explanations."
Harvey frowns in the direction Mike just disappeared. That's the most recent him Harvey could possibly be playing with. And yes, he does play with Mike, for various reasons, but just now? He was not.
"I have no idea what you're talking about."
Some of the intensity goes out in Donna's eyes. She straightens out of her aggressive lean and searches his face. "Wait. You don't know."
He speaks slowly, like she's a child. "That's right. I really don't. Why don't you enlighten me?"
She smirks. "You're a bright boy. Review that last conversation, and why don't you tell me?"
He thinks. Mike brought him an update on a case – it might be something, but a lot more research was needed. Harvey was feeling magnanimous with Mike, who'd been performing all his tricks well lately, so he offered to help get it done. Harvey's all-nighters at the office were behind him, though, so he offered up his home as a venue.
"What? I was being nice. I didn't screw with him at all."
The fond exasperation on Donna's face is usually directed at Mike. "Harvey. You were hitting on him."
She couldn't have stunned him any better with a hammer between the eyes. "What?"
"You told him you wanted him naked," she says.
He did no - "I did no such thing!"
"You said at least you could both be comfortable working from your place, and he said not really, since he'd still be in his suit. You leered and made a joke about slipping into something else, and when he said he wouldn't have anything, you told him you found 'nothing' very comfortable."
Harvey blinks. Yes, that...ok, that part of the conversation happened, but - "I was joking. He – I tease him all the time!"
"You flirt with him all the time, and it's been getting steadily worse."
Harvey patently trusts Donna's judgment. She gives him a hard time about never asking for advice, but that's partly because she volunteers it before he ever can. There's no reason she would lie to him; this could be an elaborate hoax – in which case, bravo – but she's not that good an actress.
Still, she's just. What she's saying makes no sense. "He has a penis," he explains, and immediately regrets the phrasing at the joy that lights her face.
"I'll have to take your word on that one." He's very close to sputtering, which Harvey Specter doesn't do, when she says, "Seriously. The kid is half in love with you, and you're just stringing him along. If his hero-worship were a little less crippling, he'd've crawled in your lap by now. So stop it."
That image twists his stomach in new and interesting ways. But. "I wasn't - "
She gives him a cutting look. "You might not mean to, but you have been."
She walks out while Harvey's head's still spinning.
It takes Harvey roughly three hours of thinking about precious little else to admit that Donna's right. His denials weren't Denial...but he had to rearrange his frame of reference before the facts aligned correctly.
Because. Well. Mike Ross is male. Harvey doesn't...do that. Or maybe he should say 'didn't,' because apparently, now he does.
Harvey Specter doesn't stoop to gay panic. Primarily because he doesn't stoop to panic of any kind. But he finds himself a little baffled by this turn of events. Once he accepts that Donna's right, that only makes things more confusing.
Is this some...mid-life...thing?
He applies his brand new reference frame to everything he can think of. Has he hit on any other men in recent months? Has he hit on men at any point in his life? He's pretty sure the answer to both those questions is no. But he can't say that with certitude, which bothers him more than he likes.
After all, yesterday he would've sworn he'd never hit on Mike, either. He would've meant it completely, and he would've been completely wrong.
He's tempted, for a moment, to use Donna as his soothsayer. But she's probably enjoying this enough without him saying, "Is it possible I didn't know that I'm actually a little bit gay?"
He won't even mind if he is...there could be benefits. But it's startling to think he never knew this about himself.
"Harvey? Do you want me to go?"
Mike is looking at him strangely. "You've been staring at that same page for half an hour."
Shit. "I'm just – " grasping at straws because you've upended my entire sexual identity – "tired."
"Ok," Mike says, but he looks skeptical. "I can take this back to the office. If you don't feel well."
Mike's hair looks like a thousand fingers have been through it, his tie is off, his collar's undone, and Harvey flashes to the comment that Donna thought was too far.
"Maybe you should. Go."
Mike looks disappointed and vaguely hurt, but Harvey has no clue what he's doing, and he's obviously not getting work done tonight. Until he sorts this out, he shouldn't put himself in the position of doing something very stupid.
Like telling Mike he should get comfortable after all.