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Better Days

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JUNE, 1999

 

Mike graduates high school, and nothing changes. Not immediately, anyway.

Some of his classmates have planned all night keggers, but Mike has work in the morning, and really, he never has to see any of these people again unless he wants to, and he definitely doesn't want to. He doesn’t want to hear about the amazing gifts their parents got them, or the gifts they wanted to get but their parents were too stingy to spring for. He doesn’t want to hear about how they’re going to kick back for the rest of the summer, and watch them roll their eyes as they talk about their teary-eyed moms. No, he’s had plenty of that already.

Even if he wanted to see them, he already has plans to meet up with Trevor after the requisite celebratory dinner with Grammy. She's picked up a bottle of sparkling wine to toast him, and she even offers him seconds.

“They’d be so proud of you,” she says, squeezing his shoulder too tightly. The wine is too sweet going down, the bubbles aggravating his nerves. It's a nice gesture, and he’s so grateful for her kindness, but it’s not enough. And the worst part is she knows it. Nothing makes up for the fact that his parents aren't there to celebrate with them. Mike pours the rest of his glass out in the sink when she isn't looking.

He decides to ride his bike to the beach to meet with Trevor, even though it takes him close to an hour. He's early, and he lets his bike drop to the ground. It's still light out, but not too warm so he snuggles into his hoodie as he settles on the shore. It's more gravel than sand, and the pebbles dig into his back and butt as he lays down.

He brought his walkman and the mixtape Jenny made him, plainly titled 'End of School / Start of Life.' She'd slipped it into his palm the week before after their shift. “I know you're into all that grungy mopey stuff, but a little cheerfulness won’t ruin your image.”

It was a simple, plain tape, the title written in thick block letters. There was no tracklisting or fancy cover but it belied her feelings nonetheless. “Just don't listen to it until you're actually done, okay?”

He'd nodded, and kept up his bit of the bargain. It hadn't been difficult, which probably wasn't a good sign. He still doesn't really want to listen to it, but they'll be working together the next day and knowing her there's no way she won’t want to hear his thoughts.

Filter blasts through his flimsy headphones and Mike closes his eyes, trying to absorb what Jenny wants him to hear, and trying to ignore the knot in his stomach that’s been growing all day.

Mike is halfway through the tape when the gravel crunches with the sound of a car driving up. It comes to a halt slowly, and Mike doesn't move as he watches Trevor practically leap out.

“Think fast!” Trevor tosses a can of beer in Mike's direction, and he barely catches it. The can is cool and slippery in his hands, sweating from the summer heat; fresh from Trevor's mom's cooler, no doubt.

Trevor drops a six pack between them as he joins Mike on the ground, trying to make himself comfortable on the uneven surface.

“I don't know why we have to come all the way out here. There's like, actual beaches we could go to instead of this gravel pit.”

“Then we'd have to deal with sand. And people,” Mike says around the lip of his can.

“True that,” Trevor cracks open a beer of his own and proffers it for a toast. “Happy grad, man.”

“Happy grad to you,” Mike says, more of a mumble than anything else.

They toast, cans silently colliding, and they both take sip on their beers.

“It's our last summer, man,” Trevor says, already melancholy. He's been saying this a lot. He's been saying it since March, each time as sincere.

It's not really true, though. Trevor has the summer off, free to sleep in and party all night but Mike, Mike is working two jobs. And he's been working through his summers for a while. He’s pretty sure his real last summer came and went without much fanfare.

“There's going to be a shitton of parties. It's the perfect time to hook up with all the hot chicks who are feeling all sad about school ending.” Trevor, on a roll, continues, “And even better, make a good impression on the uggos that will blossom in college. You gotta think ahead, you know? It’ll make for some sweet Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks.”

“I know that's exactly how I was planning on not spending my summer.”

“Yeah, yeah, I'm sure Tess appreciates that.” He says her name with disdain, a sharp point. As if she really is the only reason Mike wouldn’t want to participate in a summer of debauchery. Trevor polishes off his can and cracks open a new one, taking a long gulp. “I really needed that.”

Mike knows better than to ask, so he doesn't. They sit in silence for a bit, the only sound the music still emanating from his headphones, now loose around his neck. Mike and Trevor both nod their heads to the heavy bassline.

“That's good, what is that?” Trevor asks. Mike offers him the headphones and Trevor props them gingerly on his head, leaving one ear free.

“Dunno, it's a mix Jenny made me.”

“Jenny? From Applebee's? Dude.” Trevor pauses for effect, “She has got it so bad for you.” He chuckles low, and Mike doesn't even bother protesting. They've had this discussion before. He almost singsongs, “How does Tess feel about this?”

Mike shrugs. Truthfully, he can’t imagine that Tess would care. Besides, there’s no reason for her to know. They’d already decided they wouldn’t try to stay together after graduation, which made the summer a wash-out of sorts anyway.

“Oh, shit, you haven't told her, have you?”

“It's just a mixtape. I didn't even ask for it.”

“Okay, sure, you know though that's not going to play well anyway.”

He taps the walkman. “She even put Rancid on here, dude. If Tess finds this she's going to think you've been fucking this girl on the side for like, I don't know. However long you've worked at Applebee's.”

Mike's halfway through his second beer, and he hugs the can tightly, pressing his fingers into the soft aluminum until it's dented.

Trevor continues, “Which is why, you obviously need to come party all night long with me. Meet some new people. And by people, I mean sophomores with our fresh out of school status. Besides, I came here to drink some beer, and we're almost out of beer.”

He grins, his standard I've-got-an-amazing-plan grin and Mike would normally roll his eyes and go along with whatever plan Trevor has, but he's really not feeling it.

“This isn't Dazed and Confused, man. Life continues after tonight.”

“You're being such a buzzkill. There's going to be babes, beer and bud.”

“Here’s another B for you-- I biked.”

“No shit. I can drive you back tomorrow, and you can pick up your bike.”

Mike shakes his head, says, “I have to open the shop tomorrow.”

“Oh, shit, yeah. You're doing summer hours now.” Trevor sighs, finishing off his beer. He drops it to the ground and pounds it with his heel until it's distorted and flat. “Fuck, this is our last summer and I'm not even gonna see you.”

“You're gonna see me all the time.” Trevor huffs at that.

“I'm sorry to leave on this note,” Trevor says, glancing at his watch, not sounding sorry at all, “but I've got a pick-up I'm going to be late for if I don't book it. I’ll save you some grass for later, yeah?”

Mike nods, waving Trevor off.

He gets up, dusting off his jeans. They fistbump. “You'll take care of the empties?” Trevor asks, but doesn’t wait for a response before hopping into his car.

Mike stays and listens to the mix a couple more times. Trevor is right, it's eerie how pegged Jenny has got him. Although, most of the songs are too optimistic for him right now. The summer may be stretched out like an open road of opportunity for Trevor, and Jenny and well, most everyone but for Mike it's a yoke hanging around his neck. A road covered in milestones that he’ll cross alone. The wind rustles the leaves, and he feels acutely aware of how lonely he is, right now. All the melancholy has gotten to him.

The breeze has picked up and a chill presses down his spine as Fiona Apple sings in his ear, grating his nerves. He pours out the last of his beer and and packs it in, barely buzzed.

The bike ride home is long, but he cherishes it. The streets are mostly empty, save for a few groups of rowdy kids hollering at him as he swishes by.

 

 

-

 

 

He gets home right after midnight, which is past his curfew, technically speaking. The house is dark though, the only light visible emanating from Grammy's window. Which means she's up and waiting for him, but not like, Waiting For Him. Which he's grateful for; it means he won't have to talk to anyone else tonight.

As he carries his bike up the porch, the lights turn on and he startles at the sight of Tess. He wasn't expecting her. He nods at her, hopefully non-committally and shimmies his bike past her onto the railing, working the lock expertly. He's too drained to be dealing with her right now.

“There you are,” she says, languidly. As if she could have waited all night.

“You’ve been here long?”

She shakes her head behind him.

“You didn't have to come,” he says, trying not to add 'I wish you hadn't'.

“I wanted to see you,” Tess says, She's behind him, breasts pressing against his back. She whispering into his ear.“Trevor said you weren't coming to the party.” So Trevor sent her here. No doubt with visions of her finding the tape and storming out, leaving Mike’s schedule wide open for Trevor all summer. Of course.

Her hands hook the front of his jeans and he has to work to move them away. He turns around, and she's smiling, broadly. Too broadly. She kisses him: a simple press of her lips, and then another at the corner of his mouth, another on his neck. He has to push her away.

“You're no fun.” She pouts, dramatically, but then smiles again. “Come on, have a little fun.”

“We're basically in public right now. Grammy could come out.”

“That’s the definition of fun.”

The lights have gone off again, and in the dark Tess's eyes are glistening. She looks so young, even though they're the exact same age. She looks happy, which is so far from what he’s feeling right now, his chest tightens with jealousy.

“Did you drink?” She shrugs. He prods again, “Anything else?”

She shrugs again, and her smile says it all. Of course, something else. He can't let her drive home like this. He unlocks the door, not bothering to be quiet about it: Grammy wants to hear that he's home, after all. He could let Tess sleep on the couch, or settle there himself, but then he’d run the risk of Gram seeing someone there in the middle of the night. Which would bring up more questions than he wants to deal with. He settles for shooing Tess upstairs, and she goes, surprisingly quietly.

He stops by the kitchen first, downing a glass of water. He refills it, and another, bringing them both with him upstairs. Tess is on his bed when he comes in, thankfully still dressed. He hands her the water.

“Finish this. And no funny business tonight. I have to get up early for work.”

She nods as she gulps down the water. A small tendril runs down the corner of her mouth. He wipes it away, and strokes her hair.

She finishes her glass as he changes into sweats, and joins her under the covers. “I’m sorry,” she murmurs into the pillow. “I just didn’t want you to be alone. Not today.”

He feels a stab of guilt, and pulls Tess into his arms. “Thanks,” he says, but she’s sleeping already, heavy against his shoulder.

 

 

-

 

 

Mike manages to leave in the morning without much fuss. Tess rolls out of bed at the sound of the alarm, and lets Mike make breakfast and pack his sandwiches and Applebee’s uniform without uttering a sound. He still feels guilty, and makes her toast, which she takes to go, along with a can of coke. From the hangover she seems to be nursing, Mike missed one heck of a blow out.

The morning light is still faint as he unlocks his bike: the street dewy and abandoned. He’s still not used to being up and out this early on the weekend.

Mike spots a jogger in the distance, getting closer as Mike carries his bike down the street. It’s an odd sight; Mike usually has the street to himself on Saturday mornings.

The guy’s shoulders are squared and stiff, and he wears a sweater, which is somewhat noteworthy for the summertime but the air does still carry a chill. The block letters of his sweater proclaim: COLUMBIA.

Mike tries to get a closer look at the guy as he bikes past, but all he can tell is that he looks really determined, and has a ridiculously serious face on for someone who is basically running himself ragged for the sake of it. Mike can’t tell from afar how old the guy is, but from his angle Mike guesses he’s probably a recent college graduate or current student. Easy guess, considering the guy’s attire.

They lock eyes briefly-- so very briefly -- before Mike feels a lump in his throat and has to look away. It’s too piercing, and it wakes him up properly. He feels a bit like he stepped on this guy’s toes by daring to share the street with him

He pedals harder, standing up, and flexing the muscles of his legs as he speeds ahead.

 

 

-

 

 

It takes Mike about 40 minutes to bike to Winstone Books. He’s early but this is the way he prefers it. After locking up his bike in front of the store-- where he can keep eyes on it when sitting at the register-- he lets himself into the musty old shop.

Opening is his favorite, because it means he has the store to himself and can decide what to read for the day. Typically the store is moderately busy, but Mike can still get through a couple of books each day. And the first day of summer break? Mike’s pretty sure no one is going to willingly step inside a bookstore.

He’s still working through last year’s bestsellers, so he picks up ‘Bag of Bones’ and ‘Into Thin Air’, stacking them next to each other by the register. He has a couple of minutes before the store actually opens, and he takes time to gather himself in the washroom.

He’s still a little shaken from the morning’s encounter. His hair is matted to his forehead, and his face is gross and sweaty. He doesn't even want to think about what he looked like to the guy. In fact, he doesn't want to think about why he doesn't want to think about it. He washes his face and slicks his hair back, his face popping a bit more, looking more confident.

It might be time for that haircut, after all.

The day goes by quickly as Mike disappears into his books--there's a few customers, but nothing difficult to deal with. The store is old enough that there's no stereo system installed, but here, Mike doesn't mind the silence so much. He eats his sandwich at the register, brushing the crumbs to the floor. There’s no cleaning staff, so he’ll have to sweep it up himself, but then again, that’s a problem for later.

He leaves when Jerome comes in to replace him, and he speeds off to Applebee’s after changing in the store bathroom. He arrives in time to clock in, uniform wrinkled from his rushed pedalling. He couldn't care less.

Mike is so focused on Jenny standing behind the bar -- because neither she, nor he, are actually allowed to be there -- and her open expression and genuine smile, that he doesn’t notice that she’s talking to Trevor until he turns around, grinning at Mike like he fucking ate the canary, and Mike's stomach drops a little bit.

“There's the graduate!” Jenny says brightly, but she looks down,as she makes her way back out from behind the bar. “I was just, helping Lulu out with the lemon slicing. I wasn’t touching the drinks.”

“I won’t tell,” Mike assures her, and she relaxes. He continues, “It's really not a big deal. You'll be done next year.”

“I graduated this year too, you know,” Trevor says, and he bites the straw in his drink.

“That’s great! Congrats to you too,” Jenny says, all happy. Mike’s pretty sure she’s got her best hostess smile on, but he’s not looking at her. He’s staring down Trevor, trying to telepathically communicate with him. Which is clearly not working.

“Trevor, you know my shift doesn't start until five.”

“I had some time to kill,” Trevor says, and twirls his straw. “I had to meet the infamous Jenny, since you've told me so much about her.”

Jenny blushes at that, and Mike groans internally. He turns to Jenny, says, “I hope he didn't bother you too much. Or really, at all. Because I can make sure he never steps foot in here again.”

“He was a perfect gentleman.” Those are words Mike never thought he’d hear about Trevor.

“Hey! That's just rude. I am still here. I wanted to make sure you were still alive after last night.” Trevor actually winks at him. It’s deplorable.

His patience has already worn thin. It's bad enough that Trevor's not working any jobs this summer, Mike has no interest in Trevor crashing his, and watching him wipe down tables and woo patrons. He has even less interest in watching Trevor flirt with Jenny. Mike may not be interested in her, but he’s still invested in her wellbeing. She deserves better.

“Right. So I hope you're not expecting a discount since you got here before I did.”

Mike can tell Jenny's about to step in and save the day, but Trevor interrupts her before she can, “Naw, man, I just wanted some sweet, sweet iced tea.”

It's definitely more than that, Mike knows, but he's not going to press the matter here and now. He knows Trevor well enough to know that he'd love the opportunity to show off.

“Surprisingly short visit,” Mike says, and Trevor shrugs, noncommittally.

“I heard Tess stopped by your place last night.”

“Because you sent her,” Mike says, and watches Jenny from the corner of his eye. She’s returned to her post, trying to give them some privacy, no doubt. He wonders what Trevor told her, if anything.

“It seemed like you needed some cheering up,” Trevor says, and Mike is not going to dignify that comment with a response. Trevor continues, “You still down for tomorrow?”

“As always. You could have just come by, you know. You didn’t need to come check up on me.”

“And miss out on meeting Baby Spice? Where’s the fun in that?” Trevor says and pats Mike on the shoulder. “Now get to work!”

Mike rolls his eyes in Jenny's direction, and she laughs. She looks charmed when Trevor stops by to say goodbye before stepping out. A couple approaches, and they set off the dinner rush, like clockwork.

Mike and Jenny take their break together, like every night. They huddle in the alleyway behind the restaurant, sitting on their designated cinder block. Jenny picks at her salad, stabbing at it with dedication.

“This doesn't taste like anything,” she says after failing to pierce a cherry tomato. She plucks out a cigarette from her apron.

“That's because you've messed with your tastebuds. I thought you were quitting.”

“Says the guy who refuses to eat legumes,” she says it with a smile and a shrug. “I'm down to one a day.”

“Except for at parties.”

“Except for at parties. Busted.” She sounds casual, but she’s jittery. She wants to ask about the tape, Mike can tell. He can read her pretty well by now.

“Thank you for the mix.”

“You liked it?” She's smiling brightly now. She's pretty, there's no doubt about it. Her hair is pulled back in a loose ponytail, and her lipstick has worn out in the middle.

“It was very optimistic.”

“It's an optimistic time.”

“I didn't know you liked Rancid.”

“I don't... but you do, right? I figured I should put something in there you'd like for sure. In case the rest was a bust, you know?”

Of course, Trevor had been right. If Mike had been interested, this would have been the perfect moment to make a move. He almost wishes he was; it would make his life so much easier. It even sounds like a movie from the 50s. With a toothachy name like, ‘My Summer Sweetheart’ or something. It would probably open with a musical number. But that’s just not Mike’s life, because Mike doesn’t get nice things. Or maybe he doesn’t want them.

He lets the moment pass. Jenny rubs her shoe against some invisible spot on the ground, asks, “So what's it like to be done with school?”

“I'm not really done, there’s still college. It's not that big of a deal anyway. You'll be done next year.”

“Seems like an eternity.” She stubs out her cigarette on the wall, and gets up to toss it in the dumpster. He's finished his sandwich and as he moves to get up Jenny takes the wrapper from him and tosses in the dumpster as well. Responsible.

“I really hope Trevor didn't bother you,” Mike says trying to sound casual. He can't be too overt about asking what Trevor may or may not have said. “He wasn't around long, was he?”

Her face lights up again, and she lets out a small cheerful chuckle. “No, he was really nice. It was nice to meet someone from your other life. Or should I say, your real life?”

“You can't believe anything he says. He's a compulsive liar.”

“The Jekyll to your Hyde?”

He doesn’t bother correcting her, says, “Something like that.”

“As if you're so innocent.” Jenny is teasing him, but there's truth to her words. He's not that much better than Trevor.

“Just don't let him give you any shit.”

“I can handle myself.” He's sure she thinks she can.

 

 

-

 

 

Winstone Books opens at noon on Sunday, which means Mike has the day off, which means he has no excuse not to take Grammy to church. Except Mike has been lying about this ever since he started working there.

It works for him because he refuses to go to church and stare at Father Parker while he carries on about life and forgiveness and moving on. But also, he gets to see Trevor for a full day before his weekly dinner with Grammy. He doesn't have to explain where he is, and endure her disapproving looks and sighs when he explains where he’s going and who he’s with.

He gives her a kiss on the cheek before she leaves, dropping onto the couch with his cereal as he waits for Trevor to show up. He’s on his second Simpsons episode when there’s a quick knock on the back door. Mike doesn’t have to respond before Trevor walks in.

It's a familiar ritual of theirs, and he's right at home. He heads straight for the kitchen opening the fridge, and observing the contents.

“There's eggs and coffee, if you want some,” Mike says.

“Bacon?

“There's always bacon.”

“Sweet.”

Trevor prepares his breakfast in the kitchen. The smell of bacon wafts into the living room. He shouts, “I was talking to Marcus, and apparently he's got all the Terminator movies on tape. I was thinking we could go over and marathon them and you can blow his mind by reciting all the lines.”

“Yeah?” Mike says, slurping down the rest of the cereal milk.

Trevor plants himself on the couch next to him. He's chewing on a strip of bacon and offers the plate to Mike. He grabs two pieces, the grease thick on his fingers.

They watch in silence for a bit. Mike sets aside his empty bowl.

“You can recite all the lines too,” Mike says because it's true.

“Not verbatim,” Trevor says, and wipes his fingers off on the couch.

 

 

-

 

 

Marcus is prepping a bowl when they walk in, slumped against a bean bag. He nods at Trevor, and gives Mike a quick once over. “'Sup,” he says, “You must be Mike.”

Mike recognizes Marcus from school, it's easy enough, he looks the same. Stocky build, hidden under large swaths of clothes. He remembers Marcus having this buzz of energy, but no outlet for it. When Mike started getting into trouble, he'd spent more than a couple detentions with him. They'd spoken maybe once or twice before Mike transferred. It's not surprising that Marcus doesn't recognize him.

“We used to go to the same school.”

“Right, and you like, got kicked out?”

Marcus uses his feet to push another beanbag against the couch, and Trevor takes over, grabbing onto it and shaping it into a teardrop before sitting down. Mike knew in some abstract way that Trevor was still hanging out with people at school -- obviously -- but he didn't realize he was actually good friends with them, like he seems to be with Marcus. Which makes Mike wonder, briefly, if Trevor was hiding this from him for some reason? He can't think of why that would be.

“He transferred,” Trevor says, defensively. He takes the bong from Marcus and takes a hit. He tries to blow smoke rings, and fails.

“It’s true, the rumors of my departure were greatly exaggerated,” Mike says. Trevor doesn't bother passing the bong his way: he knows Mike won't smoke when there's a chance Grammy might see him later. It’s not worth the risk.

“Get the movies,” he says to Mike as he gets comfortable. He toes off his shoes, and kicks them against the wall. “Preacher was giving him shit,” Trevor tells Marcus, letting a large plume of smoke escape his mouth.

Marcus nods, huffs a laugh. “I know the feeling.”

Mike carefully surveys the bookshelves stacked with tapes. Trevor wasn't kidding when he talked about this collection. The spines reveal rows of Star Trek films, and the Rocky trilogy, but there's also the Godfather films, and even a small stack of Criterion DVDs. Mike finds the Terminator tapes next to the Mariachi trilogy; for such an impressive collection, surprisingly little thought seems to have gone into organizing them.

Mike watches the movie mostly in silence, as Trevor and Marcus rag each other. He recites the lines when Trevor asks him too, and Marcus is, naturally, impressed. He's not paying so much attention to the film as to Marcus and Trevor's interactions. They've got inside jokes, and references and it's not that it's making Mike uncomfortable. It isn't. But it's... weird, seeing how close they are. Especially since he's not high.

When the movie ends, Marcus quickly switches over to Judgment Day, “The superior film,” Marcus says. While Mike is inclined to agree all he can think about is John Connor's foster parents getting killed, and him finding out, and he grimaces. This might be one of the last things Mike wants to watch right now.

Trevor and Marcus are both stoned, slumped and lost in the voice over. Mike tips his glass forward and back, considering. They wouldn't miss him if he stepped out for a couple of minutes.

“I'm going to get a refill.”

Marcus turns around, points to the mini fridge, says, “I've got some beer in there.”

Mike shakes his head, standing up. “Need to use the washroom, too. Might as well ”

“Bladder acting up again?” Trevor says and tries to smirk. His eyes are half closed and he starts laughing at himself.

“Bathroom's right by the kitchen, grab us some sodas too, will you? And check if there's any good snacks.”

The fridge is surprisingly full, of well, everything Mike would like. More mustard jars than he can make sense of, and sausages and thickly cut bacon. There's jars of fancy olives stuffed with horseradish and garlic, which certainly would qualify as a snack, but probably not for Trevor and Marcus. He opens it up and picks one out, plopping it into his mouth. The salty brine is perfect, and he takes another one, carelessly sucking the juice off his fingers.

“You're letting all the air out,” a voice says behind him, and Mike startles, thumb still in his mouth.

It's The Guy, the jogging guy, the guy with the deep set eyes that are even nicer up close, and fuck. Now he's the guy who caught Mike dipping his dirty fingers in the olive jar.

“Sorry,” Mike mumbles, and overcompensates by slamming the fridge door.

“I didn't say you should slam it,” The Guy says. “You break it you buy it. And I think it's outside of your budget.”

He takes a swig from his water bottle. Lips defined as they stretch around the rim. Mike watches his throat move as he swallows. He smells sweaty and earthy and amazing. He's wearing sweat shorts, the thick drawstring pulling Mike’s attention to his crotch. He makes an effort not to stare He's wearing the same Columbia sweater he was last time, sweat stains ringing his pits and neck.

“So. What are you doing in my house?”

“Marcus-- I'm friends with Marcus. We're watching Terminator?” Mike says it like a question, and kicks himself internally. He's flustered, and he’d bet the guy can tell. At least he looks amused and not enraged.

He waves the bottle in at Mike. “And you are?”

“Mike Ross. I uh, live like a couple blocks away. I went to school with Marcus.”

“Do you always introduce yourself by your full name, Mike Ross?”

“I uh-- force of habit, I guess. There's usually always lots of Mikes and Michaels around.”

The guy nods. “It's a good habit.”

“And you're--” Mike trails off, uncertain as to how to continue. What do you talk about with the hot guy you've been wanting to run into when you actually run into him? In his own kitchen, no less? He's pretty sure he's not inspiring confidence right now, picking at the hem of his shirt.

Self-conscious, he sticks his free hand in his jean pocket, Mike is acutely aware of the way his hair sticks to his forehead, limp and sweaty, and how really the shirt he's wearing should've been in the laundry a week ago.

“I live here.”

“Right-- I just mean--”

“You mean Marcus hasn't mentioned me? I'm wounded,” The Guy says with a smirk and continues “Well, Mike Ross, I'm Harvey Specter.”

Harvey stretches out his hand and for a split second Mike thinks he's about to grab his hand, but no, he's taking the olive jar. “Did someone say you could eat the olives?”

He takes a couple of his own, and bites down on them, chewing deliberately. Mike can't stop staring at his mouth, and his fingers pushing the olives into it. “Well?”

Mike’s attention snaps back to Harvey’s eyes. “I was looking for snacks.”

“I'm impressed you found your way to the fridge with those bangs obscuring your view,” Harvey says, and Mike can feel himself shrinking. This is not going the way he wants it to.

Harvey continues, “Marcus doesn't like olives. These are mine.” He doesn't sound mad though, and he offers the jar to Mike. He takes another one. Harvey brushes past him as he opens the fridge and puts the jar back. He's so close. If Mike wanted to he could easily lick up the sweat from the back of his neck. Not that he would, that would be crazy. And probably grounds for a lawsuit of some kind.

“There's some crackers and chips in the cupboards.” Harvey takes out a jar of salsa from the fridge. “Dip.”

Harvey returns to the counter, and takes off his sweater-- the tank top he has on underneath rides up a bit, and Mike can't help but stare at the stretch of exposed skin. Harvey has a thin pleasure trail that dips below his shorts. Mike swallows his chewed up olive, and he's pretty sure he won't be able to eat olives ever again without having an instant erection.

There's no reason for him to stay, but he doesn't want to go yet. “Your shirt-- you go to Columbia?”

“I did, yes.”

“I'm going there this fall.”

“Oh?” Harvey says, and coming from anyone else it would sound disinterested, but Mike thinks there's a bit of intrigue there. It could also be wishful thinking.

“Got a scholarship and everything.”

“Good for you.” Harvey finishes his water, capping the bottle and placing it next to the sink. He folds up his sweater and straightens up. “If you don't mind. I've gotta go freshen up.”

Mike blurts out, “We're probably going to watch something else when we're done with Terminator. If you want to join us, I mean. You guys have a pretty sweet collection.”

“Yes, my collection is pretty sweet.” Harvey smirks, looks at him for a second in a way Mike can't read. And then he leaves, as silently as he appeared.

It would be ridiculous to say that Mike can't think about anything else for the rest of the day, but it also wouldn't be a lie. When he returns to the basement, he gladly quotes along with the film, and laughs at Trevor when he rolls off his beanbag, and Marcus when he spills his beer all over the floor.

But he is still thinking of Harvey. He's giddy and excited and jesus, fuck. He knows he’s still a teenager, technically, but he rarely feels it so acutely. He almost jumps every time he hears a sound, expecting Harvey to knock on the door and ask to join them. Or even come in and tell Marcus he needs to put aside the dishes, or clean up after himself or anything, really. Give him shit, like older siblings are supposed to. Anything. But they finish the film, and put on another and Harvey doesn't show up.

“I was thinking,” Marcus says, shoving more chips into his mouth, crunching loudly. “I was thinking we should have a pre-4th bash. You know?”

Trevor nods. “Yeah! I've only been to one party so far and June is almost over. And Mike hasn't been to any.”

“Dude, seriously?” Marcus cracks open a beer, and swallows down a few gulps. He offers one to Mike, he declines. Marcus cocks his head. He's still got a bit of a hazy gaze, eyes slightly lazy. “Too good for it?”

Trevor grabs the beer for himself. “Naw, he's fine. He just doesn't do fun on Sundays.”

“What, because of God?” Marcus laughs, but his jaw is tight.

“His grandma, who basically is God,” Trevor says with laughter. He turns to Marcus, says, “Dude, would he be hanging out with me if he wasn't cool? I think not.”

He turns to Mike, tapping him on the knee. His tone is cocky, but his face is pleading. “You're down for a party, right? You can even invite Jenny, if you think we won't be fun enough for you to be around.” He's trying to sound casual about it, but Mike can see right through it. He's not really down for a party, especially not if Jenny's going to get dragged into it. But. It might be a chance to see Harvey again, which, yes. That, he is most definitely down for.

“Totally down, dudes.”

 

 

-

 

 

Mike gets home in time to change and shower before dinner, an effort to make sure he doesn't reek of pot. He'd like a moment to regroup, and maybe create an action plan on how to approach Harvey the next time he sees him, but he's barely into his sweats before Grammy calls him downstairs to slice potatoes.

He always enjoys Sunday dinner with Grammy, but tonight he's distracted. She boils peas and fries up some chicken. She talks about church, which friends were there and which weren't. He asks easy questions and stuffs his face. She asks about his day and he lies with an easy smile-- it should really be disconcerting, how easily the deception comes to him.

 

 

-

 

 

The party is slotted for Friday: so soon, but so far away, especially since Mike doesn't think he'll see Harvey before then. He hasn't biked past him on any run, and Mike's stomach might be in knots about it. It's ridiculous, he knows. But he's trying to decipher what it means: does not seeing Harvey mean that he's not in town this week? Or maybe he skipped town for the rest of the summer. Maybe he was actually visiting for a weekend when Mike saw him. Who knows what college grads do with their summers?

The only concrete thing he has control over right now is his hair. And he needs to fix it before he sees Harvey again.

 

 

-

 

 

“I'm thinking about cutting my hair,” Mike tells Jenny when they're on shift, smoothing down the tangles hanging above his forehead. “What do you think?”

Jenny squints at him, and gently touches her fingers to his scalp. “I think it would look good.”

“Shouldn't be too hard to do on my own, right?” He asks.

“No, please don't do that to yourself. I can do it, if you want. Free of charge.” The restaurant is dead, and Jenny has been folding origami flowers all night, there's a pile of them at her hostess stand.“If you're not busy on Friday, I can help you with your hair then. They never schedule me on Fridays. I don't deserve the big tip outs, I guess.”

“Yeah, I'm actually going to a party that night, so we can do it before that.”

“Oh? I don't need to crash your plans --” She ducks her head, looking embarrassed.

“No, you should come. Trevor actually told me to ask you to come.”

“Really.”

“Yes, really.”

“He asked about me?” She tilts her head, and finishes folding her lily. She nods, and slots the paper flower in his shirt pocket. “Okay. So how short do you want it?”

Chapter Text

JULY

 

 

Grammy is surprisingly pleased that Mike is going to a party, and as pleased as he expected that he's getting a haircut. She suggests he go to a barber, which, no. He says as much, trying to keep his horror contained.

“You've been working so much,” she says, and brushes her fingers against his hair. “It would be my treat.”

“Jenny's going to do it.”

“Is this the girl from Applebee’s?” Mike nods, and pours out two cups of coffee. One black with sugar for her, and one with plenty of cream for himself.

“She's coming over tonight to do it. And then we'll go together.”

“Well, that's nice.” She doesn't seem to mean more than that, nods thoughtfully. She sips her coffee carefully and returns to her crossword. Almost too lightly, she says, “And will Jenny be spending the night?”

She doesn't look up at him as she says it, thoroughly spelling out one of the answers of her crossword.

“Grammy. No,” he says it firmly.

“I'm not implying anything untoward, Michael. But how will she get home? If she needs to stay she can. On the couch.”

He actually hadn't thought of that... and okay. Maybe Jenny does need to spend the night? How did he not consider this? And the way it might come off? Grammy must be able to read his face, because she pats his hand thoughtfully. “I'll leave some spare blankets and pillows out just in case.”

He nods his thanks, finishing up his coffee.

“I suppose you don't want me waiting up for you?”

“We'll be just a couple of blocks away.”

“That's not an answer,” she counters, tilting her head at him. Sometimes when he looks at her he sees the same Grammy from all these years ago, but sometimes, in a certain light, when she looks at him in certain ways, like now, she looks old. Actually old. And it catches him off guard every time. The wrinkles on her face are deeper than he seems to remember, and the hollows under her eyes are darker. He has to remind himself that she doesn't look old, necessarily: she is old. His chest tightens at the thought and he's grateful he has something to do with his hands, hugging his mug tightly, and finishes up his drink. He savors the bitterness.

He moves to take her mug, asks, “Are you done?” She nods and looks at him, her eyes kind and concerned. Instinctively, he leans down and kisses her on the cheek. “You don't have to wait up.”

 

-

 

When Jenny arrives Mike is blasting Joy Division at full volume as he loads up the freezer with ice.

“No parental supervision?” Jenny asks, peering around as she steps into the house. She's trying to be subtle, and not succeeding very well. She has a large backpack and her hair is tied back loosely. She looks different than he's used to, by sheer virtue of being outside of the restaurant.

“My Grammy has book club on Fridays, she says it keeps her young.” She quirks an eyebrow at him, but doesn’t prod further.

“Do they get their books from your store? Because you should get a commision if they do.” She drops her bag onto the couch and wanders over to the book shelf, observing the titles.

He chuckles. “No, she does but I think the others still do group orders from Barnes and Noble. Besides, she gets my discount.”

Mike dips into the party supplies to pour them each a coke-- no point in dirtying up dishes when there's solo cups around. He even squeezes some lime into Jenny's, because he knows from working with her that's how she likes it.

She takes her cup, and keeps exploring the room. Her hands skim over the record player that's gathering dust, below the old family photos Grammy won’t take down and Mike never looks at. He’s pretty sure his heart skips a beat as he watches her hover. He doesn’t want to have this discussion now.

“So you're the golden grandson.” She turns around, and relief washes over him.

“I'm not going to turn down that badge,” he says it with a tight smile, but if she notices, she doesn’t say anything.

“So where are we dealing with this mop of yours?”

She vetoes his plan of sitting in the kitchen, “It’s going to be a mess,” she says.  She takes initiative and carries a chair into the bathroom, directing him to take a seat.

“What is this bummer music that's been playing? It's like we're in some doomed melodrama.”

“Joy Division is not melodramatic, it’s expressive.”

“Expressive is just a fancy word for schmaltzy.”

“Now that’s rude,” Mike says, trying to look stern, but that’s hard to do with a towel draped over your shoulders. Jenny combs out his hair with her fingers, she’s not being gentle, tugging at the strands.

“It's not exactly elevating the party mood.”

“I didn't realize we needed party mood so early.”

“It's never too early to set the mood right,” she chides, “That’s the whole point of pre-party hangs, don’t you think? Besides, this might influence me to give you an Ian Curtis cut and I don’t think anyone wants that.”

Mike laughs at that, concedes, “I guess I’m at your mercy. There’s tapes in my room, pick something else, your highness.”

She leaves after flashing him a grin in the mirror, and returns with a pair of scissors and the decidedly lighter tunes of Lush in the air. She doesn’t give him any warning before she takes a swipe at his bangs. Tufts land on his face and he blows them away.

“You know what else pre-party hangs are for?” She asks, but doesn’t wait for answer before continuing, “Gossip.”

“I don’t have any gossip.”

“I’m sure you do, you just don’t know it. Or you don’t want to share. Here I’ll get us started: did Trevor really want me to come?”

“Yeah,” he says, trying not to shift in his seat. It is true. But it was an invite that might need a caveat. He’s not sure he can deliver it now.

All he gets is a, “Hmm,” in response. Jenny pushes his ears out of the way as she wedges the scissors behind them, cropping the hairs close to his skull.

“Okay, how about you? You seem in a way better mood than before. Something’s changed.”

“Before… I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You know what they say, new haircut, new you. What’s this new you all about?”

“Who is they, exactly? Just because something is in Cosmo doesn’t mean it’s true, you know.”

“You’re deflecting,” she says, but with a smile. “That’s all right, I’m sure I’ll figure it out. You think you have a great poker face, but you really don’t.”

He doesn’t know what to say to that, so he stays silent. She doesn’t press the issue and concentrates on trimming the hair on the back of his head.  

When they’re done, she goes to change while he showers. He only needs a quick rinse, and spends longer looking at himself in the mirror after the shower. He should probably feel different, but he looks the same, basically. He hits air much earlier than he’s used to when he cards his fingers through his hair and his face stands out more. He’s still the same old Mike. He looks younger, oddly, but he’s still the same.

 

-

 

Mike shouldn’t be surprised that Harvey opens the door when he and Jenny arrive at his house-- especially since that’s how Mike has it classified in his head, as Harvey’s house -- but he is.

“Well if it isn’t Mike Ross plus one,” Harvey says with a smirk when he opens the door. He leans against the doorframe, as if he has no intention of letting them in without a passcode.

“I didn’t realize you were co-hosting,” Mike says, because he has a feeling it will push Harvey’s buttons. He’s satisfied when Harvey’s twists his mouth.

“I have no affiliation with the bacchanalian feast scheduled for tonight.”

“You know, that’s actually redundant.”

“Pardon?”

“The definition of bacchanal is basically a drunken feast, so, you’re saying it’s a drunken feast feast.”

Harvey looks at him, like actually looks at him when he counters, “Bacchanal is an adjective.”

“It’s also a noun.” Mike thinks he can sense interest in the way Harvey narrows his eyes at him ever so slightly.

Jenny picks this moment to pipe up, “Not to interrupt the fun with words that’s going on, but I think our ice is melting.”

“Right,” Harvey says, glancing at the dripping bags with aversion and opens the door wide, moving out of the way. Mike is acutely aware of Harvey’s eyes on him as they head inside and to the kitchen. It takes everything in him not to stare back and grin. This is the perfect time to get that poker face under control.

Jenny and Mike drop their supplies on an overflowing kitchen table, and he heaves their ice bags into coolers by the fridge. All surface areas have been covered with cups and bottles filled to various degrees.  

Trevor offers up his fist to Mike for a bump, and quickly turns to Jenny, sly smile gracing his face.

“Pleasure to see you, Jenny, would you care for a drink?” His hand has found its way to Jenny's elbow, and he leads her toward a keg. Leaving Mike to fend for himself, of course. There’s a knock at the door, Mike turns his head, hoping to find Harvey still there, but no luck. Door duty has been taken over by Marcus, who lets in a throng of guys Mike vaguely recognizes. They all high five before filing into the kitchen, carelessly bumping into him as they unload their supplies.

Mike takes this as his cue to grab himself a beer, an unopened and therefore unclaimed twist off and slurps down half of it in one go, wiping at his face when he's done. He hadn’t had time to explore the rest of Harvey’s house when he’d been there last, so he takes this opportunity to snoop.

Aside from the cluster of kids in the living room, it looks almost pristine. Practically unlived in. There’s a couple of photos of what Mike assumes is Harvey and Marcus as children, together and separately, but no family photos to speak of.

He's finishing up his third beer when a girl asks him if he wants to join in on a round of beer pong, set up on the coffee table, the furniture pushed to the walls, carelessly. He grins politely but declines, and she moves on to the next guy without a second thought.

Mike makes his way out to the backyard, spotting Marcus in the distance, illuminated by strung up Christmas lights. He sees Trevor and Jenny are sitting on the grass, leaning up against a hedge. The grass isn't cut, which tells him neither Marcus or Harvey have chores. Or maybe, that no one cares about keeping the lawn nice. It’s incongruous with the lights. Mike wonders briefly if Harvey put them up, if it’s a summer thing or if they’re the kind of  family that leaves their Christmas decorations around all year. He can picture Harvey hauling the wires, sweaty from having to maneuver the strands onto branches.

Trevor’s voice  pulls him out of his daydreaming. “Mike! Join us. We were just talking about--” Trevor pauses. “What were we talking about?”

“My fucking brother?” Marcus stutters this out, trying to hold his breath and speak at the same time. A pool of smoke filling the air when he exhales. He offers Mike a joint, and he accepts it, eagerly awaiting the rest of this discussion.

“Yeah! Fucking Harv, man. Such a buzzkill. He should get a buzzcut to go with the attitude. Did you see him earlier?”

Mike nods, with as much disinterest as he can muster. He takes a long pull off the joint. It’s been a while, and he can feel his lungs burning as he holds his breath. He coughs as he exhales, throat raw.

Mike offers Jenny the joint and she shakes her head, flicking her cigarette at him. He attempts to pass it back to Marcus, but he's already working on a new one, fingers struggling with a lighter. This one's all Mike's. This is probably not a good idea, he realizes, but he’s already started. He takes another pull, waiting for Marcus and Trevor to continue their discussion.

“Yeah, he's chaperoning,” Marcus says.

“He actually used the word chaperone,” Trevor crows. “Who does that?”

Mike laughs, although it's not even funny, the pot's hitting him fast. He would have liked to have heard this conversation, only to watch Harvey's lips curl around that word. He can’t really imagine Harvey speaking to Trevor at all. He was probably smirking when he said it, eyes shiny and hard.  If he wasn’t already feeling fuzzy that visual would do it.

Trevor continues, “It's like, dude, don't you have your own friends to hang out with? Why is he hanging out with high school kids?”

“He's not actually hanging out with us, though,” Mike chokes out. He takes a swig of his beer, to ground himself. He catches Jenny’s eyes for a brief second before looking away. Poker face, he thinks.

“And we're not in high school anymore,” Marcus says.

Debatable, Mike thinks, but doesn't say anything. He notices that Trevor's got his hand on Jenny's thigh.

“Shit, Mike! I forgot to tell you, I told Tess about the party, but she didn't say if she was coming. You haven't seen her around have you?” Jenny looks curious, and Trevor grins widely, his teeth shining in the dark. He probably thought he was doing Mike a favor. Just like always. Mike really should have expected it. Of course Trevor had to orchestrate for Tess to be here at the same time as Jenny. No doubt so a showdown could occur, and Trevor could be the one to console Jenny when she burst into tears. Why did he have to make things so complicated? There was no doubt that Mike loved Trevor, but sometimes he really wanted to strangle him.    

Not tonight, he thinks. He needs to leave before this conversation escalates. He says, “I need another drink,” and turns to leave.

Mike barely registers Trevor calling out, “If you see Tess, tell her I said hi!”

Mike stops by the keg to fill up a cup. Harvey’s somewhere in the house, and he intends to find him. He considers bringing along another cup for him, but that seems juvenile. He doubts Harvey has any interest in cheap keg beer.

The basement is Mike’s first and only stop. Harvey’s sitting on the floor, and he glances at the door when Mike steps inside, his shoulders relaxing when he sees who it is. He doesn’t seem surprised to see Mike, which can only mean good things.

“Mike Ross,” Harvey says, tipping his bottle at Mike. He turns his attention back to the TV.

“I've been looking for you,” Mike says and he's pretty sure his smile is going to split his face in half, but he doesn't care. Because Harvey's here and he looks warm and comfortable, legs stretching out in front of him and his hair mussed from him leaning against the couch. Only Harvey could make sitting on the floor look so appealing and effortless.

“Is that so?”

Mike slides down next to him. Harvey doesn't move, which is a great sign, in Mike's mind. Harvey continues, “Got tired of raging already? Kids these days have no stamina.”

He sounds disinterested, but from what Mike can tell, Harvey’s not the kind of person to ask questions he doesn’t want answers to. Then again, it’s a little difficult to read the situation when he’s as high as he is. Mike sips from his beer, his throat a little dry. “You're not that much older than me.”

Harvey quirks his eyebrow at that, but says nothing. He’s focused on the TV set, which gives Mike the perfect opportunity to observe him. He looks tired in this light, his mouth sloping down, and lips slightly parted. He licks them absentmindedly, Mike mirroring the move instinctively.

“I heard Trevor was giving you shit—so like. Sorry about that. He can be a prick sometimes.”

“Sometimes?” Harvey asks, and Mike laughs at that. A blooming silent laugh that ripples through his chest. Harvey glances at Mike and smirks. Sometimes probably doesn’t cover it. He doesn’t seem disturbed by whatever happened earlier. Trevor calling him out probably didn’t phase him one bit. Mike can't imagine there's a lot Harvey can't handle.

Mike manages to calm himself down, hugging his stomach, and asks, “So why are you here?”

Harvey tips his head, voice neutral when he asks, “What do yo mean?”

“I mean, Marcus says you're like. Watching over the party. But like. Obviously we're drinking, no one's trying to hide that,” Mike says, and waves his cup around to make his point.

“This party was happening with or without me being here.”

“But you’re the only one that could get into real trouble, aren’t you? If something happened? Like, we’d just get our shit taken away. You might actually get arrested. For corrupting minors. Or something like that.”

“Very astute observation,” Harvey says. He stays silent for a moment and Mike takes this opportunity to shift the tiniest bit on the ground, moving so that his thigh grazes Harvey’s. Either he doesn’t notice, or he doesn’t mind. He takes another sip from his beer. Then, “Shit happens, I'd rather be here if it does. I'd rather get in trouble but avert a disaster than cover my own ass. That's not how I operate.”

Mike nods at that, hoping that he conveys understanding. He's not sure he gets it though, it’s a little too much to process at the moment, when he’s high and drunk and also so close to Harvey....

They sit in silence, Mike's only half watching the screen, partly because he doesn’t know what it is but mostly because he hasn’t had this good of an opportunity before to study Harvey’s face. Mike wants nothing more than to reach out and like, trace his cheekbones, and track his thumb over Harvey's lips and the bridge of his nose. And the moles, he wants to kiss those moles, he wants to kiss the corner of Harvey's eyes, the spot below his ear-- everywhere, really.

It seems like an amazing idea, right then, to try something. It seems like the best idea he’s ever had, actually. He carefully puts his cup down, and then, ever so casually, he circles his fingers around Harvey’s wrist and turns his hand over, palm up. He notices Harvey’s face angle towards him ever so slightly, but he doesn’t say anything.

Mike takes this as his cue to continue, and he traces the lines on Harvey’s palm, gently, and then he flattens his hand out, and weaves his fingers with Harvey’s. Harvey’s voice trails off as he says, “Mike...” but he squeezes back, ever so briefly.

Mike has never felt so fucking excited in his life. Like his chest is so full it might burst open at any second, and really, he needs to kiss Harvey before that happens. Right then-- as if Harvey could read his mind he turns towards Mike, his beautiful mouth is open slightly, like he’s about to ask a question but then he closes it. It stiffens into a line, and Harvey’s hand squeezes around his, tighter than he’d like.

“Look at me,” Harvey says, and his tone is anything but casual at this point. He stares at Mike intently, searching for something. Mike wants to turn away from the scrutiny. As much as he wanted Harvey’s attention, this doesn’t feel so good anymore. He has to look away. He settles for the spot between Harvey’s eyes, the spot where his eyebrows are knitted.

“Mike, I need you to be honest with me,” Harvey asks, voice calculated and cold. “Are you high?”  

Harvey’s full attention is on him, but it doesn’t feel good anymore. He’s not holding Mike’s hand, fingers digging into the skin of his wrist. Shit. Mike’s heart is pounding in his chest. Harvey continues, “You are, aren't you? Fuck.”

Harvey lets go of Mike’s wrist and rubs his face with his hand. He presses his fingers against the bridge of his nose. “Did Marcus give you something?”

Mike shakes his head, probably too vigorously, because Harvey's definitely not buying it. “'M fine.”

Harvey looks at him sternly. He takes a deep breath, and bites his bottom lip. Considering something. Mike wishes he could rewind the evening. Not by much, but enough to turn this around and wipe the disappointment off of Harvey’s face.

“How did you get here, tonight?”

“I walked,” Mike says, trying to speak clearly, but it comes out more like a whisper. A stupid, disappointing, cowardly whisper.

Harvey finally looks at him again when he says, “You should go home.”

This is definitely not the outcome Mike was hoping for.

-

 

Mike finds Jenny on the front porch, half huddled on the stairs with a cup in her hand. He's kind of surprised to see her there. He'd all but forgotten about her, which, is probably not the appropriate reaction to be having right now.

“Hey-- I was looking for you,” he says, a blatant attempt to save himself. She definitely sees through it, glaring at him, but at least she doesn't say anything.

She taps her fingers against her cup before cradling it, fingers tracing the horizontal grooves. “You know, the lines represent basic liquid quantities? Like this one--” she points to the groove closest to the bottom of the cup, “this one's one ounce. And the next one is five. And the top one is twelve.”

Mike shakes his head, but she’s not looking at him, so he says, “I didn’t know.”

“Some people say it's for like, drinking purposes, you know? Like an ounce of alcohol for mixed drinks, five ounces of wine, twelve ounces of beer. But it could be for anything. Doesn't have to be for booze.”

“Makes sense.” He has no idea where she's going with this. She crushes the cup in her hands, forcefully. It crumples loudly, the plastic crunching as it folds in on itself.

“I'm not dumb, you know. Like, I know you have some weird freakish memory--” He startles at that, it's not like he told her anything.

Jenny continues, “Don't think I haven't noticed. You learned the full menu and daily specials on your first shift. You can recite the ingredients, down to the garnish, of any dish. I’ve seen you do it. And you have new book recommendations every day. So. I may not have that freakish memory but I'm not dumb, okay?”

“Jenny--” he starts, but he doesn't know what to say. He is too high to deal with this properly.

“You didn't have to lie, you know. I don't care that you don't like me. I would still be your friend.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I saw the way you were looking at that guy, Marcus's brother, right?”

He doesn’t mean to, but he chokes out, “Harvey.”

“I get it, okay, you're into guys. It's fine. You didn't have to lie about wanting me here. Unless you’re trying to rub it in my face.”

“Jenny, I didn’t-- Trevor really did want you to come.”

“But you didn’t, right? You didn’t want me to come. But might as well bring a distraction along. And Trevor-- I mean-- I don't even know what to say about that.” There's laughter in her voice, incredulous laughter. It hits him sharply in the gut, adds to his mortification.

If Mike wasn't completely horrified already, this would definitely do it. Being so obvious in front of Jenny, humiliating himself in front of Harvey, putting Jenny in the middle of everything.  Harvey was right: he needs to go home.

He wants to explain this to Jenny: how ashamed he feels about everything. But he doesn’t have the wherewithal to elaborate right now. It’s all a jumble in his head and his chest. He can practically feel the words bouncing around in his skull, maybe tomorrow, he could explain.

“I didn't lie, I can't. I can't talk about this right now, okay? Do you want to come home with me? I mean-- Grammy set up the couch if you want to sleep over?”

She shakes her head. “I called a cab, it’ll be here any second. My mom gave me some emergency cash. Don’t worry about me.”

“Can I wait with you?”

“I'd rather be alone, thanks.” She doesn't look at him, after that, so he walks away, his feet leading the way home without him consciously thinking about it. A ball of shame blossoming in his chest.

 

-

 

Mike has to work all Saturday, and and he wakes up feeling like he's still high and drunk. Or possibly hazy with a weed hangover, the inside of his head floating freely and his limbs prickling. He could have dealt with it fine if he wasn't also still so humiliated. But at least he doesn’t throw up.

Thank god for small victories.

He’s still uneven when he bikes to the bookstore, and doesn’t trust himself to listen to anything as he pedals furiously. He arrives at the store still feeling cloudy, and he’s grateful he has the place to himself to recover.

At Applebee's he plasters on his best smile, and serves everyone well enough so as to not get any complaints. He's never been happier that Jenny doesn't get weekend shifts. He wants to make things right with her, but he's not sure how. And seeing her today would probably lead to him making things worse.

He catches his reflection over the bar before closing, and he looks as wrecked as he’s been feeling all day. Dark lines drawn under his eyes. It fits the way he feels.

-

He manages to avoid Trevor for almost a week. Not for lack of effort on Trevor’s part; he calls everyday, as if nothing’s wrong. Which as far as he’s concerned is probably true.

Mike can do this, he thinks. He can be a hermit. He wears out his Smiths tapes, but he was overdue to replace them with CDs anyway. He reorganizes his room twice, and picks up extra shifts at Applebee’s, and catches up on the year’s bestsellers. He could probably learn to play the guitar, or Spanish, or code. With so much time on his hands, he could literally do anything.

He might be going a little stir crazy, but he’ll get used to it. It’s probably good for him; he’s read about that, about how you should learn to be alone. Besides he doesn’t see anyone outside of work, there’s no chance of him humiliating himself, or inadvertently hurting anyone. Certainly, that’s worth a bit of cabin fever. Besides, his room has never been more spotless.

He has dinner with Grammy every night, and they watch her favorite movies; she’s not about to complain about seeing him more, especially when he does the dishes. He manages to convince himself that he’s doing her a favor, being at home and hanging out with her.

That is, until, she overhears him using her as an excuse not to hang out with Trevor. He can tell her face tightens up, and that afternoon when he asks what their plans are for the night, she answers that she’s going out with her work friends. He’s stunned and she seems pleased.

“As much as I enjoy your company, dear, I do have a social life,” she says and pats him on the cheek. “Now go do some fun stuff before someone revokes your youth card.”

He opens his mouth to protest, but she stops him, says, “I don’t want to see you here when I get home. That’s an order.”

And that’s how Mike ends up spending his afternoon at the arcade with Trevor for a couple of hours before his Applebee’s shift. It’s surprising how easy they fall into their old rhythm: they shark tokens off of unsuspecting bullies on Mortal Kombat, and attempting to overtake the Twilight Zone pinball high score.

“I swear, there was a day when I was the only one on that top ten,” Trevor says, when the he loses his last round, and the machine slots him as fifth.

“I’m pretty sure I was number one, which is what matters,” Mike says, and Trevor snorts at him.

“Whatever, dude,” he responds.

They’re out of tokens, and Mike’s starting to get a stomach ache from all the nachos and fake cheese and Mountain Dew he’s been consuming. It’s comforting in a familiar way, where it feels like old times. Until Trevor says, “I’m heading over to Marcus's place later, he scored the new Street Fighter game so we’re going to practice.”

Mike’s skin prickles unpleasantly at the mention of Harvey’s house and if he wasn’t already on the verge of nausea, this would probably do it. He tries to keep his voice even when he says, “I have work tonight.” For the first time in a week, his excuse is true.

“So come after,” Trevor says, “or don’t. No skin off my back. Don’t come whining to me when I slay you next time we play.”

 

-

 

An hour into his shift, Jenny comes on and takes over hostessing duties. He isn’t sure whether to be apprehensive or excited that she’s back. He waves at her when she catches his eye and he gets a tight smile in response. She doesn’t seem to be avoiding him. She even seats a couple in his section even though she doesn’t have to. Which means she can’t be that mad at him.

“I was starting to think you’d fled the country,” Mike says, sidling up to Jenny at her podium. A small smile tugs at her lips, all though she doesn’t face, but he’ll take any small victory. “Seriously, it’s nice to see you back.”

“Well, I did leave the state but not because of you, Mike. The world doesn’t revolve around you, you know?”

“I’m actually happy to hear that.” She actually smiles at that, and quirks her eyebrow. She returns to her list of reservations, crossing out names that already have a checkmark next to them. Clearly they could keep going like this for days, weeks even. But Mike wants to deal with the situation head on.

“Can we talk, after work?”

She seems to consider it, and when she finally answers, it’s with a sigh, “Yeah, alright.”

Mike can live with that.

He spends the rest of his shift trying to figure out how to approach his conversation with Jenny after work. The last thing he wants is to alienate her more.

In the end, he settles for a simple apology. They sit at the corner of the bar, each with tall glasses of lemonade.

“Do you know what you’re apologizing for?” She asks. He must look confused, because she adds, “Like, do you understand why I was mad?”

“I mean. The night didn’t exactly go as planned, I think for anyone involved. And I don’t know-- I feel like maybe I lead you on somehow?” He hesitates, because in truth, he’s not exactly sure. It could be so many things.

She blushes at the last part, and hugs her glass before taking a sip. She doesn’t look at him when she says, “I felt really foolish.”

Mike waits for her to continue.

“He-- Trevor, he told me that he listened to the tape I made you. And he had this look like you’d been talking about me. The two of you. I don’t know. Like maybe you two just like, had fun at my expense.”

She isn’t entirely wrong about them talking about her, but it was nothing like that. Not even close. He tries to sound as sincere as he can. “Jenny, no. I wouldn’t. That’s not me.”

She sighs, frustrated. “Yeah. Well. You can’t expect me to know that, can you?” She bites her nail and stops herself, lacing her fingers around her glass. She looks at him now. Her eyes are almost glassy, but not quite. “You invited me and then I saw you like, once, after we got there. I don’t even know what you were up to. And then Trevor was nice, I guess, before that. I don’t like being used, you know?”

“I didn’t know. Trevor… he has a hard time relating to people sometimes. Like, I think he was trying to pay you a compliment.”

She makes a face at that, and he can’t help but laugh. It wouldn’t make sense to someone who doesn’t know Trevor.

“I mean,” he continues, “I did let him listen to the mix, because it was good. He was impressed. And I think. That’s probably the only entryway he had. That and me. So I guess it came off wrong.”

Her mouth twists at that, and she sighs. “Well. I guess I didn’t know what to expect.”

“I’m sorry, okay? I promise never to invite you to another party, ever again.”

“Well, I wouldn’t go that far. We have to redeem it somehow.”

“Alright. I guess I still have to prove myself.”

 

-

 

They end up leaving over an hour past closing, the staff exit door falling closed heavily behind them. Jenny notices it before Mike does, cocking her head to where he’d left his bike as he rushed into work.

“Mike--” Jenny pauses. “Isn't that your bike?”

He follows her eyeline and stops in his tracks for a second. It is his bike. But it’s crooked and leaning awkwardly onto the street, the back wheel completely warped out of shape.

“Shit,” he mutters, he approaches it tentatively, and gives the wheel a proper push, as if that would do anything to budge the rim. Of course, the whole bike moves under the pressure of his hand. The tire isn’t even attached to the rim anymore, a loose circle of rubber haloing the wheel.

“A car must have backed into it or something…” Jenny says, and adds, “At least it’s not stolen?”

“If it was stolen at least I wouldn’t have to figure out a way to carry it home.” He groans. He doesn’t really mean it, a stolen bike would be much more expensive to replace. But it would be less of a hassle. What a mess.

He could try to carry it home, but it would take over an hour and even though it’s a lightweight city bike he’s not sure he can pull off walking it home. Upper body strength has never been a priority. He gets up and kicks the bike stand, mutters, “Fuck!”

“Enough cursing. We need an action plan.”

“No, don’t worry about it. It’s my karma, I’ll deal with it,” he says. Even if it means schlepping the bike onto the subway.

“Don’t be a drama queen, okay. That’s not even how karma works.” He can practically hear Jenny rolling her eyes at him. She’s right. If he wasn’t so frustrated right now he’d probably laugh.

“Okay.”

“I wasn’t serious about the cursing, if you need to do some more of that, go ahead. But it’s not going to help.”

He exhales deeply, rubbing the back of his head. She’s right, again. “I’m good.”

“So. Action plan. What’s our best course of action. Just say it, don’t think.”

“A car.”

“Okay, who has a car that can come pick you up?”

He says the first name that comes to mind, “Trevor,” and winces. Jenny doesn’t seem phased. She’s still in action plan mode.

“Alright, let’s call him.”

“He’s not home he’s hanging out with Marcus,” Mike says, and tries to suppress a groan. Despite his weakness for Harvey, he’d never had the need to learn his number. He’d never even chanced on it. Not that he’d want to risk calling. But tonight, he’d grin and bear it.

Jenny considers this, she has her thumb in her mouth, no doubt biting at the nail. She seems to think of something, and digs into her purse, says, “Okay, so my mom gave me this pager right, because she wanted to make sure I could always get hold of her if I needed to. Although really, it’s just her sending me call requests to make sure I’m still alive. Anyway. Trevor has a pager, doesn’t he? We can page him the number of a payphone and he’ll get back to us.”

She looks so excited, and Mike grins in response. “Jenny, you’re a goddamn champion.” He pulls her in for a hug before she has a chance to protest.

They page Trevor, and don’t have to wait long for the payphone to ring, the shrill sound is the best thing Mike has heard all week. Trevor doesn’t sound too pleased, or even like he’s sure what the problem is, but he agrees to come by and pick Mike up. “You owe me big time,” he all but stutters out, and Mike chalks it up to the shitty connection. He has to explain their location twice, and Trevor gives him a vague time estimate.

While they wait for Trevor to arrive, Mike calls home and leaves a message for Grammy that he’ll be late, so she doesn’t have to worry. He doesn’t tell her how he’ll be getting home, though, he doesn’t want her to be concerned.

 

-

 

Mike doesn't recognize the car that parks not too far away, because it's not Trevor's car. It kind of looks familiar-- Mike studies the license plate and before the realization clicks into place,  Harvey steps out in front of the hood. He's surveying the surroundings, keys in hand, and he looks pissed.

Mike blinks in surprise and tentatively calls out, “Harvey?” He’s not entirely sure he isn’t seeing things. Harvey is definitely among the last on the list of people Mike would expect to show up randomly at this particular time. If there are dots to be connected, Mike isn’t seeing them.

Harvey shifts in his direction, pocketing his keys and strides towards them. His forehead is furrowed and his shoulders are tense. Why is he here? He stops in front of Mike, his glance travels over Mike’s face, and onto Jenny’s. Mike’s almost certain he can see Harvey twitch before looking at the mangled bike at their feet.

“This your bike?” He jerks his head at it, as if it personally offended him.

Mike nods, asks, “Why are you here?” He probably sounds incredulous, but he seriously doesn’t get it.

Harvey doesn't acknowledge the question, says, “Do you mind unlocking it?”

Mike obliges without question, sliding the u-lock off and hauling it over his shoulder. He bumps into Jenny when he backs away, and she squeezes his shoulder.

“Do you want me to stay?” She asks in a hushed tone, and Harvey glances at them before grabbing the bicycle and easily carrying it over to his car. He rests is against a pole as he opens the backseat door, leaning in and folding them down.

“I think...you can go.” Mike says. He hopes he doesn’t sound like he wants to get rid of her. But he does want to get to the bottom of this, and he doesn’t think Jenny’s presence is going to make that easier. “Seriously, I’m good.”

She nods, but she doesn’t look sure. She gives him an awkward one armed hug before leaving.

Mike watches as Harvey hauls the bike into the car through the trunk, folding the handle bars so the front dips into the backseat. Mike wouldn't have guessed that it would fit, but Harvey must have done this before. The trunk closes easily under Harvey’s steady hand, and Mike can’t help it. He has to ask again.

“Harvey. Why are you here?”

“What does it look like?”

“Obviously you're here to pick me up… but I didn't ask for your help.”

“I'm sorry, would you like to take the matter into your own hands? Be my guest.” Harvey’s tone is clipped. He opens the trunk  back up and gestures for Mike to go ahead. It’s an empty command, as both he and Mike know that he can’t take care of it. Mike shakes his head. He has no idea why Harvey is so mad at him. “Didn't think so.”

This time he slams the trunk, and jumps into the driver’s seat. He revs the engine, and if Mike didn’t know better he wouldn’t put it above Harvey to leave him at the side of the road. All the same, he rushes to jump into the passenger seat.

Of all the possible scenarios Mike had pictured himself in with Harvey, this was not one one of them. Harvey doesn’t even look at him as he drives, which gives Mike more of a chance to leer. He’s as ridiculously attractive as ever, which is all the more infuriating.

“Does your grandmother know what happened?” Harvey doesn’t sound that pissed anymore. Which is probably good, but still incredibly confusing.

“Yeah, I called her.” Harvey nods.

Mike’s not sure where the question came from, or how Harvey knew to ask about Grammy rather than his parents-- it shouldn't be a surprise that Harvey might know, but it’s bothering him. What right does Harvey have to know anything about his life, when he shunned him less than a week ago?  The more he thinks about it, the more worked up he gets. Why does Harvey get to show up like some white knight and save the day? And for what purpose? What’s the point of him acting like he cares even remotely about what’s going on with Mike?

“I don't mean to look a gift horse in the mouth and what not, but seriously. I need to know why you're doing this. I think I deserve to know.” Mike tries to sound stern, but knowing him, it probably comes off as whiny.

Harvey clenches his jaw, but he doesn't protest. He seems tired all of a sudden, or maybe he always was but Mike wasn't paying proper attention. He taps the steering wheel, chances a glance at Mike. “Are you hungry?”

Not the response Mike was expecting.

“I guess, yeah. I would eat with Grammy but...it's obviously too late for that.”

“Tacos okay?”

“Sure.”

For some reason Mike figures they'll go to Taco Bell, or Chilis but no. Harvey drives them to a part of town Mike's never been in. He leads the way into a small Ecuadorian place that has plastic chairs and plates.

“Anything you won't eat?” Harvey asks Mike, and he shakes his head. He lets Mike grab a table and orders at a counter.

He returns with two bright pink Jarritos bottles. Not something Mike would pick out on his own, but he's not going to decline whatever Harvey offers. Freshly made tortilla chips appear at their table, along with bowls filled with sauces and chopped onions and cilantro. It doesn't take long before their soft tacos appear as well, with plates of beans and rice and mashed avocados. It looks to Mike like Harvey ordered enough to feed a family, but as soon as Mike starts eating he kind of can't stop.

They eat in silence for a while, the tension seeming to drain from Harvey’s face, although his forehead is still lined. He looks more relaxed than earlier. It doesn’t seem like he’s going to bring up the topic though, so it’s up to Mike.

“So are you going to tell me why you came or do I have to like, push some more buttons.”

Harvey shakes out some hot sauce onto the rice, and spoons it into his mouth. He watches Mike as he chews, as if he’s considering which approach to take. He licks his lips.

Finally, he says, “You were expecting Trevor.” It's not a question, but the way Harvey looks at him makes it feel like one. He takes a long pull off his soda, which Mike has to admit wasn't bad at all.

“Yeah.”

Mike had gathered that Trevor was at Marcus's house, but that still didn't make sense to him. Why would Trevor say he'd come and send Harvey instead? He didn't even like Harvey.

“He was not fit to drive. And neither was Marcus,” Harvey says, and the sting is back in his voice.

Oh. Now Mike feels like an ass. So Harvey dropped everything he was doing to come pick up some kid -- because that's probably what Harvey thinks of him, no matter how much that pains Mike -- some kid that's only kind of friends with his brother. Some kid who has terrible judgment  but mostly is friends with a pothead who’s invaded his house . Some kid who basically tried to molest him.

“The kid is bad news.” Harvey sighs. “They both are.”

Normally Mike would argue with that statement. And he has, in the past. Because Mike knows Trevor better than anyone. He's fucked up for sure, but so has Mike and they're usually doing it together. But at this point he's finding it a little hard to find the words, or the enthusiasm to come to Trevor’s rescue. Because Harvey, no matter what he's saying, actually did both Trevor and Mike a huge favor by not letting him come and pick Mike up. Considering how many times Mike has seen Trevor get behind the wheel with a couple of beers under his belt, he feels really guilty for not being a better friend and stopping him in the past.

“Is he-- are they alright?”

“It's nothing he won't sleep off.”

Mike feels sick. He's not sure anymore if he's eaten too much or lost his appetite. He kind of wants to ask Harvey what he's going to do about it-- not necessarily Trevor, but Marcus at least. But he doesn't want to overstep his bounds. The imbalance between them feels so stark, he doesn’t want to add to it by asking stupid shit.

Instead he settles for, “I'm sorry. For like, ruining your night.”

Harvey doesn’t acknowledge the apology. “Finish your tacos, or I will.”

 

-

 

 

When they're back in the car it's Mike that feels increasingly uncomfortable. He hasn't deserved this kind of help. And he has no idea why Harvey is being so nice to him.

“You can put something on, if you like,” Harvey says. He seems lighter somehow, which makes Mike feel even worse.

Mike prods through the cassettes on the dash, more as a chance to find out more about what Harvey likes than anything. He settles for a Love & Rockets tape, the perfect soundtrack for his misery.

When Mike starts to recognize the streets he starts to get antsy. He has to say something.

“Harvey-- I'm sorry.”

“Stop apologizing. It's getting boring.”

“No I don't mean-- not for tonight.”

Harvey looks at him then, his eyebrows raised in question. It's a brief glance before he returns his attention to the road. “Oh?”

“You know. At the party.” Harvey bites his lip.

“That's not necessary.”

“Harvey please, that was by far the most humiliating moment of my life.”

“So far.”

“No, I'm pretty sure I peaked and it's not going to get worse than that.”

Harvey laughs, and it sounds so good. It's like a fucking knife twisting in Mike's gut. Mike is really trying. Why can't he take this seriously? But also, why does he have to look so fucking good right now?

Harvey pulls up outside of Mike's house, unbuckles his seatbelt. The rumble of the engine and the melancholy melody the only sounds filling the car as Harvey looks at him. Really looks at him.

“Okay.” Mike's fidgeting with the hem of his coat, and Harvey's hand grabs his and squeezes. “Stop it.”

And maybe Mike is imagining things, maybe, because he kind of feels like Harvey's serious. Like there wasn't anything to apologize for after all. Harvey’s so close, Mike could probably grab him is he wanted. Pull at his sleeves until Harvey gave in. His train of thought is interrupted by Harvey moving, and getting out of the car.

Mike takes a moment to collect himself before stepping out and joining him. He has to stop with the fantasies. Maybe Harvey’s right, Mike is clearly on the road to humiliating himself again.

Harvey's hauled the bike out and is waiting for him. “Where do you want it?”

“I can take it...”

“Mike, don't be difficult.”

“The backyard is probably good.”

Harvey nods, says, “Close the trunk.”

Mike obeys and follows behind Harvey as he walks to the back of the house.

“It shouldn't be too hard of a fix. Getting a new wheel. Might be able to salvage this one, even.”

“Yeah. I guess.”

“I have a bike I don't use, that you can borrow, if you like,” Harvey offers. He leans the bike against the stairs.  “I assume you rely on this for transportation.”

“Yeah-- thanks.”

Harvey nods, “It's a good bike, it should get used.”

“No I mean, thanks for everything, you know.”

Harvey's looking at him like he's trying to decipher a puzzle, a little bit. But Mike's not a puzzle, so he has no idea why Harvey has to stare at him so intently. He's acutely aware that they're standing awfully close. Mike can sense himself spiralling so he tries to shut it down.

Except-- except Harvey’s hand is cupping Mike’s face, and then his lips are on his. Mike can feel his face flush, and the heat travels to his belly. It’s so much better than Mike would have imagined, mostly because it’s real. Harvey actually pressing into him, his mouth wet and hot against his own.

He has no idea why or this is happening but he has no intention of making it stop. He's on-board immediately. Mike tugs at Harvey's shirt, looking for purchase – but Harvey pulls away, far too soon.

“Harvey?”

Harvey almost looks embarrassed. He clears his throat, and presses his thumb against his mouth. He backs away with a wave. “You don't want to keep your grandmother waiting.”

 

-

 

Grammy is waiting for him when Mike gets in, and he tries to patiently fill her in on what happened. Except for the part where Harvey’s the one who drove him home. He wants to keep that to himself.

Mike goes straight to the shower and jerks off, skin still humming from the night air and Harvey pressing up close to him. He feels buzzed, but completely sober at the same time. He can't remember ever coming so quickly in his life. It actually happened: he actually got to kiss Harvey and he kissed him back. And it was so much better than he thought it would be.

He needs a plan. He needs a rock solid, fool proof, ironclad plan because there is no way that this is the only time he gets to kiss Harvey Specter. Absolutely not. He spends most of the night tossing and turning, alternating between replaying the kiss in his mind, and trying to figure out how to get more of the same.

 

-

 

He doesn't have any shifts at the bookstore or Applebee's the next day, but he decides to stop by and pick up the bike regardless. This is the perfect time for him to make his move. He needs the bike so it’s a legitimate reason to see Harvey, and if he can get him alone, that’s a bonus.

Assuming Harvey actually meant it when he said he could borrow it.

“I'm here for the bike,” Mike blurts out as soon as Harvey opens the front door. Harvey doesn't look surprised to see him, which is a plus. “You know, you said, I could borrow it.”

“You need it now?”

“No, but I figured now's good. Then I don't have to worry about bothering you when I'm in a rush or anything. Or trying to guess when you're home.”

Harvey smirks at him, but he doesn't contest what he's saying. He steps out and leads the way to the garage.

It's a black Giant mountain bike, much nicer than the one Mike has. It's mounted on the wall, and Mike watches as Harvey's shirt strains across his shoulders as her removes it. It looks so soft and worn, Harvey was probably sleeping in it. Mike takes a deep breath to steel himself. He can do this.

Harvey gathers two locks and hooks them over the handlebars. “If you get this one broken, or dismantled for parts--”

Mike interrupts him, says, “I have to pay for it, I know.”

“I was actually going to say it's fine. It's an old bike. I don't think I've used it in months.” He moves to a wall covered in plastic boxes, and starts rummaging through them. “I think we have bike lights somewhere.”

“I have lights.”

Harvey stills and turns around. “Well.”

“Thank you,” Mike says. He approaches the bike, fiddles with the handlebar, and the gear shift. He palms the seat, dusting it off. In any situation he'd be dying to get on this bike and take if for a ride, but right now he wants to stay here with Harvey for as long as he can.

Harvey clears his throat. “Do you need anything else? I don't have all day to hang out in the garage, you know.”

He crosses his arms, loosely. He's waiting for something. For Mike to do something. Mike licks his lips, it's not a deliberate move, it's only nerves, but he can see Harvey's eyes dart to his mouth, and he does it again, this time with purpose. “I think you know.”

Harvey's eyes lock with his. Mike has no idea how Harvey can look so intense, so focused, and yet so casual at the same time. Harvey sounds detached when he finally says, “Do I?”

Mike nods. “Yes.”

“I don't want to take advantage,” Harvey says, but he says it like he actually does want to take advantage. Or, god, Mike hopes so. Harvey's eyes are burrowing straight into him and if Mike doesn't do something now he never will, he knows. This isn't the time to be cowardly, even though he can feel all his nerves itching and screaming at him fucking do something.

Mike probably won't get a clearer signal than this, so he takes a couple of steps closer. It takes so much willpower to move, he stops when he's almost pressed up against Harvey. Mike can feel his breath on his face. Harvey doesn't seem disturbed by this development at all, he leans back against the wall. He's still staring Mike straight in the eyes, but he's not doing anything.

Mike tries to sound confident when he says, “What if I want you to?”

Mike needs to do something with his hands, but he's not sure what. He plucks at the waistband of Harvey's jeans. Dipping below and brushing his fingers against Harvey's skin and the sparse hair growing there, it's warm and so much softer than he would have thought -- it makes his breath hitch. He has no idea how Harvey's able to stay still right now. Mike feels like he's about to jump out of his skin.

“What is that? What do you want me to do?” Harvey's voice is low, and almost threatening. Mike's heart is beating like mad in his chest, and he has to look away. His gaze drifts down to Harvey's lips, his chin, the dip of his throat. The way his Adam's apple moves as he swallows.

He's not used to being direct with these things, but it's obviously what Harvey wants, he tries to stay calm as he says, “Take advantage.”

Harvey must be growing impatient, because he uncrosses his arms, and takes Mike's hand in his. It startles Mike, that intentional touch.

“Look at me,” Harvey says, and Mike obeys. He doesn't look or sound mad. His fingers circling around Mike's wrist. He lifts Mike's hand to his mouth and places a kiss at the heel of his hand. “What do you want?”

“That, I want...” Mike trails off. “I want you to keep doing that.”

Harvey kisses his hand again, and again, slowly moving to his palm. He follows it up by licking, a thick stripe along the inside of Mike's thumb. And then teeth-- it's barely a nip at Mike's skin, but it sends a shiver down his spine. If he wasn't already incredibly turned on from being so close to Harvey, this would definitely do it. Harvey stops and asks, “What else?”

“I want to taste you.” Mike's voice sounds thick and gritty to his ears. Harvey must like the way he sounds, or what he's saying, or both, because he smiles.

“Get to it, then.”

Mike doesn't need to be told twice. He starts by mimicking what Harvey just did, taking his hands and placing kisses on them. It's not enough, not nearly enough, and he quickly discards that plan, instead leaning in and placing a kiss on Harvey's smiling mouth.

It's even better than it was last night, because this time they're both on board. Harvey pushes back, mouth opening tentatively and it's all the invitation Mike needs to slip his tongue in Harvey's mouth. He doesn't want to stop, like, ever. Harvey moans into his mouth, and the thought of Harvey losing even the tiniest bit of composure is doing things to Mike he didn't even know were possible. He hadn't realized that kissing could feel so good. It's like his face is on fire, and his chest is on fire and his dick is on fire all at once. But like, a good fire.

Harvey's hands are on his hips, and Mike takes it as an invitation to rut into Harvey's crotch. He's hard too, and Mike groans at that. It's for Mike, only for him, and although he thought he was satisfied with making out he knows it's not enough. It's not nearly enough.

He doesn't stop kissing Harvey, still hungry for more, but he undoes the button on Harvey's jeans, and pulls down the zipper. He expects Harvey to stop him, he really does, but there's no resistance. His hips jerk a little as Mike's hands pry the fly open.

He sticks his hand down Harvey's briefs, bunching the fabric below his cock and and rubs his hand on it. He wants to memorize the way it feels in his hand. It's so hard and heavy against his palm and when he squeezes it Harvey actually grunts. Mike can't fucking wait to get his mouth on it.

He moves back a little, and watches Harvey watch him. Harvey's face is the tiniest bit flushed, and he licks his lower lip. His breathing is ragged. Mike steals another kiss before sinking to his knees. It's not the most comfortable, but this is what he wants right now.

Mike doesn't waste any time, pressing kisses to the base of Harvey's cock, and then moving up the shaft. He wants to taste all of it, everything and he wants to remember it, too. He might not have done this before, but he knows what he likes, and it can't be all that different for Harvey. When he's covered all of Harvey's dick with sloppy kisses, he licks a stripe along the underside, thick and wet and closes his mouth around the tip when he reaches it. Harvey groans at that, as if he didn't see it coming. Mike can't help but feel pleased with himself for making Harvey groan, and he does it again, licking another stripe and another, before taking the head of Harvey's dick in his mouth.

Harvey's lost his patience, trying to push more of his dick into Mike's mouth. But Mike doesn't move, lets the head of Harvey's dick rest on his tongue as he gently sucks it. His hands cradling Harvey's hips to keep him still.

“Fuck,” Harvey says, and he sounds so desperate it goes straight to Mike's dick. This is probably the closest Harvey will come to begging. Mike wishes he could multitask and jerk himself off, but he's pretty sure he'd end up focusing on himself instead of Harvey. And Mike did tell Harvey he wanted to taste him. He should deliver.

“Don't stop,” Harvey says, and Mike's happy to oblige. He sucks in earnest, and files away the desperate sounds Harvey's making for later use.

Harvey groans again and his hands are in Mike's hair. They're not grabbing at it, just, there, cradling his skull as Mike dips his tongue into Harvey's slit, rubs it in properly. He tightens his lips and when he thinks Harvey won't be able to take it anymore, he tries to take as much of his dick in his mouth as he can. It's not easy, he's pretty sure he nicks him with his teeth at least once, from the hiss Harvey makes, but he doesn't complain.

Mike is never taking blow jobs for granted again.

Harvey's hands are encouraging in his hair, pulling him closer. Mike looks up at Harvey, and he's not sure what he expected but it wasn't this. Harvey is looking down at him with reverence. His jaw is slack, and his eyes half-closed, but also... he looks like he's in awe of Mike, and it's doing things to him that he doesn't even know how to categorize, especially not in the moment.

“Fuck,” Harvey says and shudders, a full body shudder and bites his lip. “I'm close, Mike--” Harvey interrupts himself as Mike goes at his cock in earnest. It sounds like a warning, but Mike's taking it like an encouragement, bathing Harvey's cock with his mouth. He wants this, he wants Harvey to come and he wants to taste all of it.

Harvey gasps once, twice, before coming into Mike's mouth, hot and thick. It's... not what Mike expected at all, kind of bitter, but it's still Harvey and he does his best to swallow it all down. His mouth fills up quickly, and he struggles a bit, he can feel the come dribbling down his chin.

“Jesus christ, Mike,” Harvey says, awe in his voice. Harvey's dick slips out of Mike's mouth, and he pulls him up to his feet and wipes the stray come from the side of Mike's mouth with his thumb, and pushes into Mike's mouth. Mike sucks at it desperately, and Harvey quickly withdraws his thumb before kissing him deeply. Mike is still desperate for more, pressing his hard-on against Harvey's hip.

Harvey pulls away, says, “Here.” He brings his hand up to his mouth and licks it, and offers it to Mike to do the same. He does, with abandon, and Harvey smiles at him appreciatively.

He withdraws his hand, and Mike feels the loss until Harvey kisses him again. Before he knows it Harvey's undoing Mike's jeans and his hand is wrapped tightly around Mike's dick and – oh.

He groans into Harvey's mouth and it's all he can do to not come immediately. Harvey's fingers are nimble, tugging at Mike's dick just on this side of too rough which is exactly what he wants right now.

Mike only lasts a couple of strokes, not even long enough to warn Harvey that he's coming before he does, spurting all over Harvey's arm and shirt. It catches Harvey by surprise, he can tell, because he stops kissing him briefly, and looks down, a brief chuckle escaping.

“Well,” he says, “I guess this shirt is going back into the laundry.” Harvey tucks his dick back into his briefs and zips himself back up. Mike reluctantly does the same.

“Sorry,” Mike slurs, but he's not sorry at all. He should probably be embarrassed but he's so sated he doesn't care. As far as he's concerned, it's a fucking miracle he didn't come in his pants when he had Harvey's dick in his mouth.

He catches Harvey's mouth again, and they kiss slowly this time, with no goal in mind. Mike's lips are swollen and hypersensitive, but he doesn't want to stop. Eventually Harvey pulls away. He strips off his shirt, and wipes Mike's come off his arms, and makes an effort to rub it off Mike's jeans.

“Isn't Marcus going to wonder why you're shirtless?” Mike watches as Harvey scrunches up the shirt, and lets his eyes wander over Harvey's bare chest. It's like a promise of things to come, and Mike can't wait to get his hands and his mouth all over it, and all over the rest of Harvey.

“He might wonder, but he's not going to ask, besides,” Harvey says, “I think wearing a shirt covered in come is more suspicious.”

Mike wants to touch Harvey again, like, right now, but he's not sure if it's welcome anymore. He withdraws, tugging his shirt down over his jeans.

“Hey,” Harvey says, and cups his face. He looks concerned. “Are you alright?”

Mike nods, and presses into the palm of Harvey's hand. “Yes. I just--” He stops himself, and gathers his courage, taking a deep breath. “When can I see you again?”

“Is that what you want?” Harvey smiles. Mike almost scoffs at the question. Obviously, that's what he wants. He has no idea how it's even a question that Harvey can ask. Yes yes yes.

“Yes,” he answers plainly, and hope he conveys how much he means it with that one word. “Yes.”

Harvey laughs at that, it's a small laugh but it sounds so good. Mike wants to bottle it up. He could sell that sound for millions, he's sure.

“Aren't you the eager pup?”

“I'm not a puppy.”

“No, no you're not.” Harvey looks pleased as punch, and Mike wants to kiss him silly. Harvey must feel the same way, because he pulls him in for a quick kiss, that turns into two. He runs his fingers through Mike's hair. “Did I tell you the short hair suits you?”

Mike shakes his head.

“It does.”

“That doesn't answer my question.” Mike's pretty sure he's whining, but he doesn't care at all.

“Right. Tomorrow night?”

“Okay.” 

“I'll come to yours.”

“Okay.” Mike lets out a long breath.  Two days, he thinks, he can totally handle waiting that long.

Chapter Text

Trevor calls the next day and wants to hang out since he knows Mike's only working the bookstore and has the evening free. Technically, Mike could do it, but then he tries to think of extricating himself of the situation to go home and wait for Harvey-- which, he doesn't even know when Harvey's going to show up-- and he can't really think of what he'd say. Sorry, I'm meeting up with Marcus's older brother to hopefully have lots of sex? Or even worse, Trevor insists on coming over and Harvey comes when he’s still there? That's just a disaster waiting to happen. So he tells Trevor he's busy, and he can practically hear Trevor rolling his eyes.

“This better not be a repeat of last week, Mike,” he chides before hanging up.

Mike stays at home all day, anxious and excited. He also has time to dust, and vacuum, take out the trash, and jerk off three times. Grammy looks at him suspiciously when she comes home from work, but he's made dinner for her so she doesn't complain.

When he tells her he has after dinner plans, she hums like she knows he's up to something, but she doesn't ask anything, thank god. Even as they eat, he jiggles his leg under the table, half expecting there to be a knock on the door, interrupting them. Their dinner is uninterrupted, thankfully.

Mike's hates waiting, especially when he has no end time in point. He's not sure what to do. If he stays in and watches TV with Grammy, Harvey will have to knock and be introduced to her. Which is like--okay, he's pretty sure Grammy wouldn't have a problem with it, but he's not ready for that just yet.

Mike ends up waiting on the porch with a book, kicking his heel against the leg of the chair to keep the motion activated porch light on. Until now, he hadn't even considered the fact that maybe Harvey might no-show, but it’s getting dark and his nerves are getting the better of him. What if Harvey was just indulging him? What if he changed his mind?

He doesn't get into the book, but he gets so absorbed in his whirling thoughts that he doesn't notice Harvey walking up until he speaks.

“Am I interrupting something?”

“Hey,” Mike says, relief washing over him. He tries not to smile, at least not too wide, but he's probably failing from the way Harvey's looking at him. He waves the book before setting it aside. “Just rereading a classic.”

“By all means, then, don't mind me.” He leans back against the railing, hands in his pockets. He looks like he’s content to stay there all night. “So are we going somewhere? Or just chatting on the porch?”

“I uh-- I actually didn't think about it.”

“You're the one who wanted to see me,” Harvey teases. “Typically the onus is on the person initiating.”

Mike scrambles. Mike's spent all day thinking about tonight, speculating as to where Harvey might take him, and yet he hadn't even considered that he might be the one who has to suggest something. He blinks.

“Yeah-- I--” Nothing he can think of seems appropriate or cool enough for Harvey. He wouldn't mind just hanging out in his bedroom, but then he'd have to like, escort Harvey up there, past Grammy watching 60 Minutes, which is just not happening. He wouldn't mind hanging at Harvey's but Marcus is there. And well, even though he dated Tess for almost a year they never really went anywhere, either stayed home or in her car. He'd be happy with just making out in Harvey's car, really. “What would you normally be doing? We can just hang out.”

Harvey seems to consider Mike's question, and straightens up. “Stay here.”

He makes to leave and panic rises in Mike's throat. Did he seriously mess this up already? Just by not having a suggestion on where to go? He tries to keep his voice steady when he asks, “You're leaving?”

“I'm getting my car, relax,” Harvey says with a lilt. He turns back as he walks away.

Mike slumps back in the deck chair, watching Harvey walk off. He collects himself, before leaping up and starting for the curb, waiting for Harvey to return.

 

-

 

Mike is excited about the prospect of a surprise until they've been driving for fifteen minutes. In silence, save for the Jazz radio filtering through the car. Obviously taking the car in New York meant they were going somewhere not easily accessible by foot or subway, but he'd expected a hint of some kind beyond that. “Are we going to a make out point? Because I'd be down for that.”

“The suggestion portion of the evening is over, you asked me what I'd be doing, so we're going to where I'd be. Be patient. Stop asking questions.”

“Are we there yet?”

Harvey glances at him. “Sometimes I forget that you're a child.”

“If you keep talking like that I’m going to start to think you’re serious.”

“Who says I’m not serious?” Harvey says mockingly, voice rising, but as soon as it's out he winces. “That was a bit much.”

Mike can’t stop laughing, little bubbles from his stomach and he's totally losing it. Harvey doesn't say anything but he seems amused. Sufficiently convinced that he hasn't scared Mike off, at least.

“It's not in the years, honey, but in the miles.”

“Honey? Really?”

“It's from Indiana Jones.”

“I know what it's from. I'm just-- you're full of surprises aren't you?” Harvey’s expression is unreadable, and Mike can’t wait to learn them all. He classifies this one as ‘slight interest’ based on the way Harvey’s eyes are narrowed and the corners of his mouth are turned up.

Harvey kills the engine and declares, “We're here.” He reaches into the backseat, picking up a tote bag with what looks like towels inside.

 

-

 

Here turns out to be a beach Mike's never been to before. They walk along a well worn path through a thicket of trees, emerging at a wide beach. Harvey keeps walking and Mike follows, passing the large expanses of sand where there are some stray people hanging out. Harvey is clearly taking them somewhere specific.

There's a nook thick with trees that they fight their way through. It's too well maintained to be abandoned but it's isolated.

Mike is already in love with it. It's so perfect, he can't help but ask, “Is this where you take all your conquests?”

“You're calling yourself a conquest, are you? I'm pretty sure we're past that point already.” Harvey smirks.

“That's mean.”

“It's true.”

“It can still be mean.” Mike catches up with him, pushes at his chest until Harvey drops the bag and plants a sloppy kiss on his mouth. Harvey embraces him, hands cradling his shoulders and Mike pushes off. “How did you even find this place?”

“Found it when I was in university. I come here to swim.”

“There's more resistance than in swimming pools. That’s how you build stamina. And,” he says, taking his shirt off without breaking eye contact, “it's far more private.” He unbuttons his pants, and with a swift move pushes them and his underwear down, bending at the waist to take off his shoes and socks while he's at it.

Mike stares, hypnotized.

Harvey's managed to pile his clothes neatly, laying them next to the bag he brought along. “You do know how to swim, don't you?” He asks.

“Yeah-- not like, professional levels or anything--”

“Good,” Harvey says, and sets off into the water. He takes it slow, wading in. It's mesmerizing, the way he looks as he gets deeper and deeper. Mike's throat has definitely gone dry. The water's up to Harvey's hips, and the dip of his waist looks delicious. That's the only way Mike can think to describe it, he wants to just bite into it, wants to lick up his spine and nip at the meat of his shoulders, and-- well, he should probably join him. There’s a better chance he’ll get to do at least one of those if he’s in the water with him.

Mike stumbles as he eagerly gets undressed, yelping when he almost falls over. Harvey glances back at the sound and then sets off, diving into the water. He starts swimming in earnest, strong strokes carrying him towards the horizon.

Despite the July heat the water is still chilly and Mike hisses as he wades in, submerging his whole body as soon as he can to get it over with. He gasps when he emerges, still trying to adjust to the cold. He spots Harvey in the distance, arms forcefully slicing through the surface carrying him farther and farther away. He seems to be circling in the distance, waiting for Mike to catch up.

Mike sets off after him, but swimming was never one of his strengths. He has to give on catching Harvey when he can't see him anymore, and he gulps a mouthful of water as he tries to perfect his stroke. He's already out of breath and his arms are burning. Just because Harvey wants a workout doesn't mean that Mike has to participate.

He gives up, and leans back into a half-assed starfish position, trying to get comfortable as he slowly paddles himself closer to shore. He drifts until he's in a shallow spot where he can float safely, and touch the ground if he wants to.

It's possibly the quietest place he's been in the city. He'd never guess they were so close. He stares up into the sky and there's no light pollution stopping him from seeing the stars. He starts looking for the constellations he learned in school and the water laps at his skin.

He dips and bobs as Harvey approaches, languid strokes carrying him gracefully in Mike's direction.

“Tired already?”

“I'm not some workout freak, sorry. Biking, that's my strong suit, okay?”

“Yes, I know.”

“It's a really nice place though. If I didn't know better, I wouldn’t know we were in the city.”

“It does have its perks.”

“I think I've swallowed enough water that my blood pressure will be through the roof from all the salt.“

“Oh really?”

“Yeah, really.”

“I’ll have to keep a close eye on you then, won’t I?”

Harvey leans in closer, and presses his lips against Mike's. It's not desperate, but it's close enough. Soon, they're both standing, clawing at each others bodies. Harvey's pinches Mike's ass as they rub against each other. They're both hard, and Mike whines when Harvey's hand leaves his butt only to close around their cocks. He has to squeeze his eyes shut at the sensation.

“Fuck,” Mike says, and Harvey just grins at him. He squeezes and Mike thrusts into the grip, it's almost too much.

“You know, I always wanted to have sex in a pool,” he manages to choke out when he can breathe evenly again, “this is way better.”

“You talk too much.” Harvey's hand is steady as he presses their cocks together, and Mike can't help but hiss.

“So make me stop.”

Harvey obliges, presses his mouth against Mike's hungrily, tongue pressing it open and Mike just lets it happen, happily, until he can't take it anymore and has to press his forehead against Harvey's. His nerves are on overload, the arousal pooling in his groin, sharp and almost painful. He surrenders to it, to Harvey the cold water all around them, the night.

He leans into Harvey, forehead dropping against the crook of Harvey’s neck and he licks at his skin. It’s all he can do, that, and gripping Harvey’s hips tightly, digging in so hard he must be leaving bruises. Harvey’s grip is smooth and steady and he thrusts against Mike, who does his best to stay still for fear of coming too soon.

He pulls back and watches Harvey’s face, mouth hanging open as he says, “Mike, fuck don’t stop.” His voice is strained, and he grimaces before gripping them both tighter.

Mike takes it as his cue to keep nipping at him, pressing his open mouth against Harvey’s skin. It’s so warm and salty and he succumbs to his desire to take a bit, gently pressing his teeth against the base of Harvey’s neck.

“Fuck, Mike--“ Harvey groans, and that does it for him. Mike gasps, and comes, head still pressed against Harvey’s shoulder, completely helpless to the way his body feels.

Mike keeps lapping at Harvey’s skin until he jerks against him, gasping and coming with a groan.

Harvey holds on to him, Mike's pretty sure he would've fallen back into the water, boneless and sated and just floated away. Harvey says as much, and pulls him in closer, grounding him to the shore. Mike has no idea how Harvey seems to be so steady.

“Come on,” he starts to walk back up the beach, hand gripping Mike's tightly, and he follows.

“Did you plan this?” Mike asks when Harvey wraps a towel around his back, tugging it roughly so the fibers scratch at Mike's back.

“What?”

“This, the uh, the date?” Mike takes over toweling himself off and watches as Harvey works his own towel over himself. Thorough, and quick. “I mean you had the towels ready.”

“As much as I appreciate being considered a mastermind, it's not very difficult to put clean towels in a bag.” He folds his towel back up, placing it in the bag and pulls his jeans back on. He makes a show buttoning them back up, thumb lingering over the waist. He must catch Mike staring because he looks awfully pleased. He picks up his shirt but holds on to it. “Besides, I told you, I would be here normally.”

“I don't buy it.”

Harvey chuckles, but Mike catches him biting his lip as he gets dressed, satisfaction pooling in his belly.

“Well, it was this or the batting cages.”

“I respect your choice then.”

“That's what I thought,” Harvey says, running his fingers through Mike's hair, messing it up, before landing at the nape of his neck, solid and secure. He doesn't need to say anything for Mike to follow him back to the car.

Mike’s nerves have evaporated, and he feels grounded when he settles into the car. He has no qualms about watching Harvey as he drives them back. He would never have guessed that Harvey was on edge earlier, but judging from the way he smiles at Mike he must have been. He seems much more relaxed, the line of his mouth is smooth, his tongue poking out briefly. He even reaches over and leaves his hand on Mike’s knee.

He’s taking the long way home, through the city and when they drive past Winstone Books Mike can’t help but point it out.

“You have two jobs?”

“Why, are you jealous? Do you have none?” Mike teases and Harvey pushes at his knee and laughs.

“I will have you know that I am gainfully employed.”

“Gainfully, you say? With benefits and everything?”

“Something like that.”

“Please, do tell me more.”

“I work at a law firm. In the mailroom.”

“So you’re going to be a lawyer?”

“Why would you assume that?” Harvey asks, surprise crossing his face.

“You could work in any mailroom, but you chose a law firm, I think it’s pretty telling.”

“It could just be the first place that hired me.”

“Even if that were the case… You’re clearly attached to the law firm aspect, since that’s the first thing you said. That you work in a law firm. You could have just said you work in an office.”

“Good deduction skills over there.” Harvey looks pleased, and the approval just makes Mike’s chest swell with pride. Harvey changes the subject quickly after that, and Mike decides he’ll have to poke more later.

-

 

Over breakfast the next morning, Grammy looks at Mike with a weirdly happy face that's freaking him out a little bit. He’s still feeling loose limbed and happy but he doesn’t like the way she’s observing him like she can tell exactly what he’s been up to and who with.

She doesn't comment on how big the globs of butter are that Mike slathers on his toast, or how much peanut butter he adds on top. And when she sees him sneak a drink straight from the OJ carton, she doesn't say anything.

He'd gotten home just in time before curfew which meant she hadn't asked about what he'd been up to, as per their deal. But judging from her expression she knows something. Maybe not exactly what Mike's been up to, but she knows enough of something that makes Mike feel uncomfortable and awkward. Even more than the first time Tess spent the night, or whenever she'd caught him sneaking out of the house with Trevor.

Since she's in a good mood, this seems like the perfect time to bring up his main concern.

“I was thinking, about the curfew--” He picks up a third slice of toast, and she pushes the butter his way. She's being far too accommodating.

“You'd like to not have one anymore?”

“Yeah.”

“Mhm, well it lasted long enough.”

He puts down his knife, and observes her cautiously. This can't be real. “Wait, that's it? All I had to do was ask and then it would be gone?”

“Don't be ridiculous. I knew it wouldn't last forever. Especially not once you went to college. And you've always done good by it.”

“I'm not in college yet.”

“Well, Michael, you really shouldn't be trying to diminish your case.”

“No, of course. I mean. Thank you.” She strokes his hair, and then pinches his cheek-- it still catches him off guard, the pinch of steel. She only brings it out for special occasions, when she’s trying to make a point.

“That doesn't mean you can just stay out all night, I hope you know that. If I don't hear from you and you're not here in the morning there will be a missing person's report with your name on it.”

“You have to wait longer than that to file those.”

“Oh, do you? Do you really think I can't get around that rule?” She says it matter-of-factly, as if she's done it many a time before. “I have been around the block before, Michael, I know all the tricks.” It's times like these that it hits him, how much he loves her. He has no doubt she'd get around the rule. “No curfew doesn't mean you can take your sweet time on breakfast, however. Finish up your gluttonous ways, or we'll both be late for work.”

He laughs at that, but resumes fixing up his toast, knife slicing through the soft middle. He folds it in two and takes a too big bite, the crust scraping the roof of his mouth.

 

-

 

Mike's at Winstone Books all day, and he spends it looking for books that might be of interest to Harvey. From the music Harvey played in the car to his mention of batting cages, Mike’s gotten intrigued, and he gathers those are good places to start. He skims through some Jazz biographies on Nina Simone and Billy Strayhorn, and is disappointed when he finds only one baseball book in the shelves. He’ll have to order in some more.

He's gotten so engrossed in ‘The History of Jazz’ that when the bell chimes he glances at his watch and just calls out, “We're closed.” No one had come into the store the past two hours, and late drop ins rarely bought anything, making them a complete waste of time.

The steps come closer and Mike is faced with Harvey, looking down at him deviously. He straightens his back out, spine cracking audibly as he stretches.

“Harvey, hi. What are you doing here?” Mike puts the book aside behind the register, hoping Harvey hasn't caught the title. He'd like to dazzle Harvey without him knowing his tidbits came straight from a book.

“Looks like my office isn't too far away from your office.” He had not mentioned this last night. Not that it isn't a welcome surprise; more than, actually.

“You do realize you've now opened the door to me dropping in on you at work?”

“I sincerely doubt you'd make it past security.”

“I have some tricks up my sleeve,” Mike says, thinking of Grammy and her tricks. He could probably even ask her for some advice. This is the kind of rule bending she heartily endorses.

“I'm not saying I wouldn't like to see you try.” Harvey glances around, hands in his pockets. He seems to be studying the plaques on each shelf, clearly looking for something. “So I hear you're closed, which is odd, because the door was open.”

“Well, special customers are allowed to browse privately.”

“Is that so?” Harvey cocks his head and wanders deeper into the store. He ducks into the non-fiction section, and Mike hears the tell tale sign of books being pulled out and pushed back into the shelves. Maybe Harvey really was just looking for some reading material.

Nonetheless, Mike goes outside, dragging the sandwich board inside and locks the front door. He finds Harvey still in the stacks and Mike studies him, the way his fingers delicately brush over the spines of the books. He picks one out, and the only word Mike can make out from where he’s standing is ‘Law’ something or other. “Isn't one of the perks of working at a law firm access to legal books?”

“We do have an impressive library. But then I’d have to put up with associates getting into my business. I underestimated how nosy shopkeepers are.” Harvey glances at him and his tongue darts out, licking his lower lip quickly. He carefully pushes the book he was holding back into its place.

“Your business is my business.”

“Do you have plans?” Harvey asks, change of subject abrupt, fingertips still lingering on the spine of the book he just looked at.

“Depends.”

“And here I thought you said you didn't have work tonight.”

“I don't, but I can't be too easy, can I?” Harvey smirks at that, as if to imply he begs to differ. It’s a look filled with promise and it coils its way down Mike’s spine. He itches to get closer to Harvey, so he does, boldly crooking a finger through one of Harvey’s belt loops.

“I was thinking of checking out ‘The Blair Witch Project’, but I hear it’s best not to see it alone. In case your schedule would allow it, would you care to join?”

“Sure, sounds like fun, being your escort,” Mike says, and he must be really transparent because Harvey narrows his eyes at him, as if he can tell that Mike is thinking of all the naughty things they can do in a movie theater. He tugs at the belt loop, trying to get Harvey to come closer. He doesn’t oblige, cool and collected. There’s no way he isn’t doing this on purpose.

“You should get your mind out of the gutter, though, when I say we should go see it, I mean actually watch it. And pay attention. Not necking in the back. Defeats the purpose of paying for tickets.”

“Isn’t that what scary movies are for? Making out in the back?”

Mike bites his lip, but doesn't say anything. Harvey just comes closer. “Do you think you can behave?”

“I don't know.”

Harvey clicks his tongue, and Mike licks his lips on instinct. He glances between Harvey's eyes, full of promise, and his mouth, just slightly open. He's so focused on his face he almost jumps when Harvey's fingers bracket his hips. His thumbs dip below the waist of his pants, rubbing along the seam, and then-- his hand presses against his groin. Mike nudges closer instinctively. There's no doubt that he's very hard, and Harvey looks quite pleased with this. “Perhaps we should take care of this first. Hmm?”

Mike doesn't want to seem desperate, a whine just lingering in the back of his throat so he just nods. His own hands flattened on Harvey's shoulders. Harvey leans in close, voice almost a whisper when he asks, “Mike, is there anyone else in the store?” He punctuates his question by pressing the heel of his hand against Mike and he hisses at the friction.

“No.”

“And can we expect more wayward customers?”

“You weren't a wayward customer.”

“Are you giving me attitude right now?” Mike feels his cheeks flush under the intensity of Harvey’s gaze.

“It's locked. The door, I mean-- I took care of it.”

“Well isn't that industrious.” Harvey smirks, and undoes Mike's fly, hand pushing into Mike's jeans. Mike squirms to assist Harvey in pushing them down, they’re barely down his thighs.“It's almost as if you wanted something to happen.” Mike can't hold back the whimper when Harvey's fingers wrap around his cock and he'd feel really ridiculous, except Harvey seems really into it. He squeezes hard, and sounds stern when he demands, “Answer me.”

“I-- was hoping.” Mike gasps after that, and doesn't hesitate to pull Harvey in for a kiss. Even though he takes initiative Harvey ends up pushing him back hard, turning them around so Mike is leaning back against the wall.

Harvey’s mouth is hot and demanding against Mike’s, his tongue driving Mike completely crazy, and his hand jerking at Mike's cock without mercy.

He leans back, loosening Mike's pants enough that they fall to all the way down to his ankles with one push. He studies Mike, and it looks like he wants to swallow him whole. Mike's dick pokes out of his briefs, but it's not good enough apparently, because Harvey pulls those down his thighs as well. “Mhm,” he says coolly, studying his work. “Stay still.”

As if Mike has any choice in the matter. Harvey pinning him, and sinking down, Mike wants to look away so things aren’t over embarrassingly fast, but... Well, it’s Harvey-- he can’t not look.

He knows, he must know what this does to Mike because his tongue pokes out of his mouth, sliding over his lower lip, so incredibly close but just not close enough. He noses under Mike’s shirt and pressing kisses along his stomach. His breath is warm against his cock as he teases Mike, blowing coolly as he jerks his hand steadily, and placing a kiss on Mike’s hip.

“Harvey….” It’s a legitimate whine, but Mike can’t help himself. At least he doesn’t move. And Harvey seems pleased, finally sinking his mouth over Mike’s aching cock.

Mike told himself he’d try to remember everything Harvey does with his mouth if he was lucky enough to be on the receiving end of it. And he intends to, really, but he honestly can’t focus. It just feels too damn good, and he has to work hard to resist bucking against Harvey.

It only takes three swipes of Harvey’s tongue, flat against him for him to stop trying and give in. It doesn’t take long at all for Mike to come, a strangled cry, which Harvey doesn’t seem satisfied with considering the force with which he sucks him down.

Harvey pulls off with a satisfied smirk. He leans back on his heels, face wrecked. Mike’s pretty sure he’s never seen him look more amazing. “Harvey-- you-- God, you have no idea how you look right now.”

“Look who’s talking.” He’s right, Mike must look a mess himself, pants around his ankles, and flushed but he doesn’t care. He pulls Harvey closer, into a standing position and wraps his arms around his waist, drawing him in for a sloppy kiss. He can taste himself on Harvey’s tongue and he groans at that, pressing deeper wanting more. Harvey smiles against his mouth, licking his lips before pulling away.

He grabs Mike’s ass before sliding his hands down his thighs, pulling up his briefs. “Come on, we don’t want to miss the previews.”

 

-

 

The film is legitimately terrifying, in the way that Mike would love to be distracted from by making out, but Harvey was completely serious about them focusing on the movie. Mike tried to reach over once, slipping his palm against Harvey's jeans, tentatively rubbing at the inside of Harvey's thigh. Harvey quirks an eyebrow at him, question evident. “I want to return the favor.”

“It wasn't a favor, Mike.” Harvey sounds a little stern at that, removing Mike's hand and placing it back on the hand rest. The bag of popcorn replaces Mike's hand on his lap. He picks at it and pops a couple of kernels into his mouth. “Besides, I can control myself.”

Mike pouts a little bit at that, but Harvey doesn't notice, or he pretends not to. Just tips the bag in his direction until Mike's hand is overflowing. He doesn't look Mike's way at all throughout the film. But he does grab Mike's hand at one point, and lazily strokes circles on the back of it. All the way through the credits.

And when they get up, Mike makes sure to hold on tightly, because he has no intention of letting go just yet.

Mike's full on popcorn after the film, there's even leftovers in the rolled bag that he's bringing back for Grammy, but Harvey insists they have something at least resembling a meal.

“There's always room for pizza,” Mike suggests, bumping up against Harvey's shoulder, steering him in the direction of one of the pizza places littering the block.

“That's dessert.”

“No, dessert gets all the marketing, but there's also always room for pizza.”

“I also said we should have a meal, which implies nutrition.” Harvey's protesting, but he leads the way into the shop and orders a plain slice while Mike observes the display.

“Marinara counts,” Mike says, “tons of nutrients. And pepperoni and cheese? That's protein right there.” Harvey rolls his eyes, but he pays for them both, passing Mike's paper plate to him.

Without the curfew in place, Mike isn't in a rush and he doesn't really want their night to end. He still has his bike, and Harvey took the subway to work. He steers them east, and half expects Harvey to hop on the subway, and leave him. Harvey doesn't seem to be going anywhere, though, helping pave the way through the throngs of pedestrians until the crowd thins out, and they can comfortably spread out on the sidewalk without attracting glares.

“I can't believe you eat plain pizza, that's so boring,” Mike says, mouth still full. He's having trouble multitasking, trying to hold the handlebar and the popcorn bag in one hand. A basket would really be useful in situations like these.

“I'll have you know that margherita is the original pizza, and it's the only authentic one you can get,” Harvey says, slow and deliberate, stopping in his tracks and taking over bike duty, steadying it between them. His grip is stable as he steers the bike.

“You know what else is authentic? Sleeping on the ground. But that was improved with the invention of beds. I don't see you sleeping on the floor because that's they way the ancients did it.”

“Whatever you say, heathen.”

“I'm the heathen? That's not even a proper margarita slice, it's just a poor imitation. If the people who invented pizza saw that I bet they'd have an aneurysm.”

“As opposed to your masterful pepperoni slice?”

Mike waves his leftover crust at Harvey's face, accusatory. “I'm not the one who's spouting on about authenticity.”

“I do not spout.”

“You so do.”

“Since neither of us is in kindergarten it's safe to say we've aged past 'do not' and 'do so' wordplay.”

“Which means I won.”

At that Harvey grabs the crust from Mike's grip, dangling it awfully close to his face, placing it in his folded paper plate. Mike's definitely counting that as a win in his favor.

“Smartass.”

Harvey takes Mike's plate from him and tosses both of their scraps into a garbage can. Despite Mike's hand being freed up, he still keeps hold of the bike between them.

They're on the slope of the bridge, and the sun is setting behind them, casting their shadows in front of them. Mike looks out over the water and at Harvey's profile against the sky and his heart swells in his chest. He has to hold his breath so he doesn't do or say anything stupid.

Harvey must sense the change in mood, and asks, softly, “What?”

“Okay, so tell me,” Mike starts, emboldened by the gentle tone of Harvey's voice. “How come I never saw you before? In the neighbourhood. Because I would have remembered seeing you.” He's been curious but there hasn't really been a good time to ask until now.

“Why, thank you,” Harvey says with a hint of laughter in his voice. “I haven't lived at home in a couple of years. Or more, actually.”

“Because of university?”

“In part, yes. Commuting is doable but it's not ideal.” Mike thinks about this. He had planned on living in the dorms because his scholarship covered it. But since he started seeing Harvey he couldn't see himself not in the neighborhood. It would make it harder to hang out, if he was in Harlem and Harvey was back home. But it's true: commuting isn't ideal.

Then again, who knows if Harvey will even want to have anything to do with him once the summer's over? Maybe that's why he caved to begin with; because there was a clear expiration date. Mike's stomach is in knots at the thought and he grips the popcorn bag tighter, pressing it against his hip. Harvey looks at him inquisitively, and Mike tries to push thoughts to the back of his mind. He can't freak out on Harvey now.

This will have to be a problem for Future Mike.

He takes a deep breath and continues, “So why did you come back?” Harvey's knuckles at the handlebar whiten, and Mike stops. “Hey, if you don't want to talk about it... I mean it's fine.” Mike certainly has his fair share of things he doesn't want to discuss.

“You don't talk about your parents.”

“Well, no. But you never asked. And when you picked me up, you asked if my grandmother knew I was going to be late. You didn’t mention my parents. So I figured you knew.”

“I do know.” Mike nods, looking away. Well, of course he knows. Who doesn't know about the tragic poor sad orphan boy in the neighborhood? “Hey,” Harvey says, and tilts Mike's head up to meet him. He's looking at him with kindness, but not pity. Which is a really big relief. “I didn't ask around or anything, okay? Marcus mentioned it in passing. I didn't intend to go around you. I hope you can believe that.”

“Yeah. It's... it's probably better, anyway. There's no easy way to just drop that bomb you know?”

Harvey lips tighten. He clears his throat before continuing, “As for me... well my mother isn't in the picture anymore.” Mike must look alarmed at that, because he clarifies, “I mean, she’s alive. Just not around. My dad, he's a musician, an amazing brilliant musician.” Harvey's face lights up as he talks about him, which warms Mike's heart. “Normally he'd just do in-studio sessions and some live gigs around town. But he was offered a tour and that's big money, more than he'd normally get. But he couldn’t leave Marcus alone, so I’m back home to watch over him while he’s away. Not that I've done a good job of that.”

Harvey sounds bitter, like he's been chewing on this for a while. This idea that he failed somehow. He's done nothing of the sort, as far as Mike's concerned.

“He's old enough to make his own choices, you know. He's my age.”

Harvey groans at that, and laughs. “Don't remind me, please.”

“I just mean, I would be fine on my own. If it wasn't for Grammy--” he has to swallow down the rest of that sentence. He doesn't want to think about being without Grammy at all. “I'm just saying, I make my own choices, you know. You're not responsible for him”

“You're different.” Harvey says it like it's the greatest compliment in the world. Coming from Harvey, it definitely is.

Mike maneuvers them around so the bike isn't between them anymore, and he takes hold of Harvey's hand, squeezing it gently. Harvey squeezes back gently, but his mouth is still drawn tight.

“You know, Harvey,” Mike starts, deciding to lighten the mood, “I'm starting to think you don't want to be seen in public with me.”

Harvey chuckles. “Are we not out, right now, in public? Walking together, to a joint destination? That's pretty much the definition of public.”

“No, we were just indoors. And before that indoors again. And before that--”

Harvey pulls him in closer, pressing a chaste kiss against Mike's lips.

“Is this public enough for you?” Harvey teases.

“Not in the least.”

Harvey stops, and pulls him in for a kiss, slow and languid. They're both sweaty from being out in the heat, and Mike savors the salty flavor of Harvey's lips. He can taste the pizza and the popcorn, but he wants to taste Harvey. He presses his tongue into Harvey's mouth, demanding more and Harvey just meets the resistance with his own tongue. They stand close, making out for what must be a while, Harvey making a point of aggressively taking Mike's mouth each time he pulls back to take a breath. His hands cradle Mike's face and he lets Harvey claim him, head swimming a little bit. Mike's bike is leaning awkwardly against his back but he has no intention of stopping until Harvey wants to.

When Harvey lets go, he raises an eyebrow at Mike. His lips are swollen and shiny and he sighs, clearing his throat before asking,“Well?”

Mike cedes, “Better.” His heart's still pounding wildly in his chest. He's glad he has the bike to hold onto so he can ground himself.

“Glad that's settled.” Harvey looks completely self satisfied and Mike loves the way it looks on him. Although, he has yet to see a look of Harvey's that he doesn't like. Even when he was fuming, he was hot as fuck. “I have this feeling that you’re about to ruin my life,” he’s suddenly serious, and it’s the most vulnerable Mike’s seen him. Mike’s heart catches in his throat. He wishes he could make Harvey feel differently, he grabs his hand, threading their fingers together.

“That’s weird,” I feel the exact opposite,” Mike says bringing their joint hands up to his mouth and kissing Harvey's knuckles.

 

-

 

The rest of Mike’s week is booked solid with double shifts. Harvey comes to visit the bookstore at lunch once, bringing in a coffee and a bagel, and lingers again in the same aisle he was in last. Just seeing him there sends shivers down Mike's spine, and he's fairly certain Harvey's doing it on purpose. There's no time for a repeat performance, unfortunately.

Harvey buys a copy of ‘Stomping the Blues’ before leaving. When Mike tries to give him the employee discount Harvey protests, insisting on paying sticker price. He looks almost proud when Mike fights him on it, insisting he at least get’s the friend discount. He tells Mike he’ll be busy the rest of the week, which is fine, really, considering Mike’s own schedule is intense. But Mike misses him nonetheless, which is odd, considering just a few weeks ago he wasn't even in his life at all.

Jenny seems to notice the change as well, good-naturedly rolling her eyes at him when someone of approximately Harvey's height and build enters the restaurant. He can’t help it; even if Harvey’s busy he still has to eat. It’s completely plausible that he might show up at the restaurant.

“You know, if he comes in, you're going to have to be professional. And you can’t even be professional when you think he’s here, so I don’t know how you plan on handling that.”

“I could totally handle it,” Mike says with faux confidence.

“Sure,” Jenny says, disbelief plain on her face. She pats him on the shoulder condescendingly.

She's probably right. Mike thinks he could handle serving Harvey, but maybe not. Harvey would probably make it really hard. Just seeing him at the bookstore over lunch had him flustered, and most definitely erect at the way Harvey was staring him down, practically eye-fucking him. And there he had the benefit of being relegated behind a cash register.

Here? Where he has to walk around in thin slacks and appear normal? It would probably be a disaster. Especially if Harvey set his mind to it.

Perhaps that's why he hasn't dropped by.

Jenny catches Mike at the bar when he passes on drink orders to the bartender.

“Hey, so since we're not working on Sunday, do you want to go to the movies with me?”

“Maybe, what did you have in mind?”

“That witch movie thing, I was thinking.”

“I already saw that with Harvey.” He tries to sound disappointed, but judging from Jenny's reaction it probably comes out more smug. He bites the inside of his cheek.

“Oh. So this is like, serious, isn't it?”

“I don't know about that.”

“You're spending all your time with him.”

“I’m spending almost all my time working, so that’s incorrect. We saw one movie, which is just one date. Two hours.”

“Yeah, right. You're telling me that's it?” She doesn't wait for a response. “Whatever makes you happy, Mikey, I guess. I just didn't take you for one of those guys who disappears on his friends as soon as he gets a boyfriend.”

This elicits a pang of guilt; not just because it's kind of true but also because she sounds just like Trevor. Just last night he'd called, and accused him of the same thing. Although he didn't mention Harvey.

“That's not fair.”

“So you want fairness and fairness only, Mike Ross?” He screws up his face at that and Jenny laughs. “I'm just saying. It's fine. We've all been there. I just thought better of you.”

“And he's not my boyfriend,” he calls out after her as she returns to her post.

“But you want him to be!”

 

-

 

Since Harvey hasn't gotten in touch with Mike about making plans, and Jenny's words are still echoing in his head, Mike decides to call Trevor and ask if anything is going on the next day. The fact that Trevor suggests hanging out at Harvey's (Mike's words) and playing video games does not sway Mike's decision one bit.

Not at all.

The basement is now off limits, Marcus says. Trevor's less diplomatic, explains, “That cunt brother of his locked it. We have to like, ask for the tapes that we want to watch and he brings them up to us. Like we're children, or something.”

“All the gaming stuff is up here though,” Marcus adds. He doesn't seem too concerned.

They are Harvey’s tapes, though, Mike thinks. And they haven’t exactly proven that they can be trusted with the basement.

“And,” Trevor continues, getting worked up, “he fucking made Marcus get a job, can you believe it?”

Mike can definitely believe that. “When did this happen?”

“He was already pissed after the party, but this just happened like a couple weeks ago. After we were gonna come pick you up.”

“So it's basically your fault, Mike,” Trevor says, and he means it as a joke but it still pisses Mike off. Trevor hasn't even asked about Mike's bike, he didn't even mention bailing on him because he and Marcus were too wasted to drive. Mike hasn't thought about it since it ended up working out so well, but hearing Trevor give Harvey shit when it's his and Marcus's own damn faults? He swallows the annoyance, gritting his teeth.

“Where are you working?” He asks Marcus, who doesn't seem to be too bothered, making Trevor's ire look even more disproportionate.

“Game Champ, which actually isn't that bad.” Marcus says, shrugging. He pulls out a box stacked with video games and starts stacking them on the coffee table.

“Yeah, and at least he gets discounts now.” Trevor's settled back onto the couch with his feet on the table, seemingly done with this topic.

“See if there's anything you're into, I'm gonna order pizza.”

“With extra cheese!” Trevor calls out after him, and turns back to Mike. “I don't know how he puts up with this bullshit. Could you imagine being bossed around like that, fuck. I had to bring my own beer, and Marcus won't even touch it because he's all scared of pissing off big bro.”

Mike pulls the box onto his lap and flips through games. Counter-Strike, Final Fantasy, Silent Hill, three GTA games. He turns over the GTA London case, studying it closely. It’s all he can do to not respond to Trevor’s tirade.

Trevor takes it from him, says.“That one's good. I think Marcus is getting the new GTA game early too. I guess the job is good for something.” He digs into his backpack pulling out two cans of beer. “You want one? Just ‘cause Marcus isn't drinking doesn't mean you can't.”

“I'm good.” Mike is starting to think this wasn't such a great idea after all. He wonders what Harvey's up to at this moment. He considers that he might be disappointed that Mike’s back at it with Trevor and Marcus.

“You know, I thought you were blowing me off for Tess but I saw her the other day and it looks like she's got herself a new boy toy.” Trevor's cracked open his beer and brings it to his mouth, studying Mike closely.

Well, that certainly explains why Mike hasn't seen or heard from her in a while. It's a relief. He doesn't have to let her down and she doesn't have to let him down. Maybe he should call her up and tell her he has a boy toy of his own. That's sure to give her a rise. The irony is palpable.

Trevor narrows his eyes at him still waiting for a response, and Mike coughs, trying not to laugh.

“I've been busy. You know, school stuff.” He wrings his hands.

“Right. School stuff in July. Good one, Mike. You were never even busy with school during the year.” Trevor probably wants a response to that, but Mike can't really give him any. “God, with you and Marcus becoming boring ass worker bees I'm all by my lonesome. It fucking blows. I'm gonna have to expand my social circle.”

“Aren't you always talking about meeting chicks?”

“Yeah, those are more like, social branches. They don’t lead anywhere.”

“Maybe you should get a job, it ain't so bad.”

Trevor rolls his eyes at that. “I don't need to work.”

“Right.”

Marcus returns with a bag of chips and bottles of coke, and Trevor passes him the GTA case.

“Good choice,” he says, setting up the Playstation, and digging out the controllers. Trevor doesn't wait to get started on the chips.

Mike hears the rustle of the front door opening, and someone stepping in. Harvey strolls in and acknowledges their presences wordlessly, disappearing into the kitchen, and returning with a glass of water.

“Did you get food?” Harvey asks, tapping the bills on the coffee table.

“We ordered pizza,” Marcus says, and Harvey's gaze shifts to Trevor. He seems to be avoiding Mike all together. He shifts in his seat, trying to act normal. As if he even knows what normal is anymore. “Do you want some?”

“I'm fine. I'll be upstairs if you need me,” Harvey says and it sounds more like a warning than anything else. He starts for the stairs, taking them two at a time as he goes. Mike looks on, a sinking feeling washing over him.

He did think there would be a possibility to see Harvey since he was here... but Harvey didn’t exactly look pleased. He knows Harvey's not going to come back down, so if he wants to see him, actually see him he'll have to make a move on his own. He rolls his soda bottle between his palms and sets it aside.

Neither Marcus nor Trevor pay attention to him, but nonetheless, he needs an excuse. “I should go, uh, wash my hands.”

“If the pizza comes we're not saving any for you,” Trevor says.

“You're full of chips, you probably can't even eat anything else.” Trevor throwing a chip at him. It bounces off of the back of his shoulder.

“But I could still eat it all,” Marcus deadpans. “There's no jerking off in my house, Ross.”

Mike laughs uncomfortably. It's not on his agenda certainly, but if Marcus only knew what was. He would definitely not approve of that either.

It's weird going to Harvey's room without even having been invited, so he knocks a waits for an answer. It's not like he can just march in just because he's seen Harvey naked. Can he? That'd be awfully presumptuous.

There's a muffled, “Yes,” from inside, and Mike cracks the door open. Harvey's sitting at a desk, his back still to him, so Mike steps in, closing the door behind him.

“Hey,” he says.

Harvey just turns his head, mutters a hello, and returns to his work. Mike could certainly watch Harvey's back as he works for hours but, it's not exactly the greeting he expected.

“Do you need anything?”

“I just-- wanted to say hi. Like an actual hi. Since we didn't really talk, downstairs.”

“And now we have.”

“No need to roll out the red carpet or anything.” Mike sounds petulant, he knows, but he can't help it. If Harvey's going to push him away when Mike tries to reach out it's going to get old really fast.

“When I said I was busy, I meant it.”

Mike snorts, and Harvey leans back in his chair turning to face him.

“Okay, if you don't want to see me anymore there's no need to be an asshole about it. Fine. I wanted to see you, since we're both here at the same time and it's been a while. I didn't want to like, cramp your style or anything.”

“I know this may be hard to believe but I do actually have work to do. I wasn't blowing you off.” Mike isn't quite sure if he can believe him just yet. “What did you really want?”

Mike shrugs. “Just talk, I guess. Maybe make out.” Maybe a little more than make out, he thinks, but doesn't say it out loud. If Harvey's going to let him down he'd rather not expose all his cards at once. He must not have hid the thought very well though because Harvey sighs. He doesn't seem interested in Mike's suggestion.

“For how long?”

“I didn't exactly think it through that far.”

“Because your friends are waiting for you downstairs.” He says friends like an insult, and it's a bit of a punch in the gut.

“Your brother happens to be one of them, you know.”

“That just means I love him. It doesn't mean I have to think he's good company to keep.” He pauses. “Especially not when Trevor is around. He's not a good influence. For either you or Marcus.”

“I thought you said I was different? You think I'm that easily influenced?”

“I'm not trying to control your life Mike. But I think you'd agree that he's shown his colors.”

He has a point, but Mike can't agree with him. “He's my oldest friend, you know.”

“Yes.” Harvey seems beat, and runs his hand through his hair. Like he has no interest in continuing this conversation, especially not with Mike defending Trevor. They're at a standstill, but Mike doesn't want to leave just yet, not on a sour note like this.

“What exactly are you working on? I thought the joy of a nine-to-five was the absence of take home assignments.”

Harvey taps his notebook, studying it for a second. As if he's trying to decide if he can discuss this with Mike or not. He pushes it aside.

“Come here,” Harvey beckons, and Mike tries not to be too eager as he walks over. Harvey pats the edge of the bed, and Mike sits on the corner, trying not to make himself too comfortable. This is not the circumstance in which he pictured himself first being in Harvey's room.

Harvey scoots closer, legs spread and bracketing his. He worries his lower lip before nodding to himself. Reaching back, he picks up one of the books from his desk and hands it to Mike.

It's an LSAT study guide.

“Is this why you were looking at all those law books at the store?”

“Yes.”

“I thought you were just toying with me.”

“Well, there was a little bit of that as well. Why do you think I picked that aisle to begin with?” He smirks and Mike's heart swells. He tries to tamp down the flood of emotions. So Harvey wasn't trying to phase him out. That's good.

“So you're studying for the LSAT. I don't know why you didn't tell me about it?”

“I wasn't sure... I'm still not a hundred percent sure. I was supposed to take it last year, but then all this family stuff happened...”

“Your mom leaving?”

“There wasn't really any room for me to go to law school after that. It's a lot of money. So I never took the the test.”

“And what changed?”

Harvey takes the book back from Mike, his hands ghosting over his thighs, as if he's trying to figure out the right way to explain things. Mike can tell he's considering his words when he speaks.“This partner at the firm. She offered to put me through law school.”

“Harvey, that's amazing!” Harvey ducks his head at that, a small smile tugging at his lips. Mike can't help himself, he leans in closer and cups Harvey's face in his hands, kissing him. He's filled with pride, and this is the only way he can think of to convey it. “So you want to get the best score you can and make her proud.”

Harvey snorts. “I want to make myself proud.”

“Alright, sure, same difference. So when is the test?”

“That's the problem. The next one is in October.”

“Okay, that's a while away, you can totally do that.”

Harvey laughs. “It's not that far away. It's recommended that you study for seven months before you take the test. At least.”

“Seven months?”

“So I should take the test in February, at the earliest.”

“That's just crazy.”

“The experts are experts for a reason. They know what they're talking about.”

At this Mike grins, says, “But they're talking about people who don't have me to help out.”

“What are you talking about?” Harvey looks amused, as if Mike were joking with him. “I'm going to need more than just a couple of flashcards. This is a serious test. Pretending to help me is not a good excuse to see me more.”

“It's not an excuse. Harvey, believe me when I tell you I can help you with this test. And I'm not talking flashcards.”

Harvey laughs and Mike shuts him up with a kiss, pressing until Harvey melts into it. He needs to convey how serious he is. When he pulls away Harvey's eyes have gone soft. “I'm serious. I have this freak memory. I'll read all the books with you, and then I can quiz you on everything. It's going to be great.”

“Freak memory, huh?”

“How did you think I got a full ride scholarship at Columbia? I have serious skills. I can't prove it to you now, cause I haven't read anything yet, but I swear. I will recite all those books.”

“Mhm,” Harvey says, but he doesn't seem to believe him. He huffs out a small laugh. “You're nothing if not entertaining.

“I'm totally serious.”

“And it's cute that you think you can help.” Harvey strokes Mike's face, with a fond look. “You should go back down before your friends get suspicious.”

He's right, but Mike can't leave before Harvey agrees to let him help. This is the least he can do, and he actually knows he can be useful. Besides, he might want to go to law school at some point, so he might as well gather all the knowledge he needs now.

“Will you let me help you if I promise not to hang out with Trevor again?” Harvey's forehead furrows at that. “I don't mean like, forever, just when we're studying.”

“Are you bartering right now?”

“You said it yourself, this is a big test. So if we're going to get you ready in time for October we're going to be really busy. Which means I won't even have time to see Trevor. Even if I wanted to. It's a win-win.”

“What exactly is the ‘win’ for you?”

“I'll help you ace the test, and then I'll have all the skill to ace it myself when I want to take it.”

“You're going to take the LSAT?”

“Why not? Sounds like fun.”

Harvey laughs and kisses him on the forehead. “You're a madman, you know that?”

“I prefer the term evil genius.” He grins, he knows he's won this round. “So it's a deal?”

“I think we can say it's a preliminary deal. I reserve the right to fire you as my helper if it comes to that.”

“It won't.”

“We'll see,” Harvey says, with little conviction. Even if Harvey's only indulging him for now, he knows he'll be able to prove his worth, very quickly. “Now go back down, enjoy the pizza.” He pushes at Mike to stand up. “I'll come see you at lunch tomorrow, and we can go over this plan of yours.”

“Deal.”

Chapter Text

AUGUST


The benefit of working at a Winstone is that Mike can use their business account to order in the books he wants, pay it back to the store, and get them for about fifty percent cheaper than they’d be retail. So he orders some prep books that Harvey doesn't already have, springs for express shipping, and finds a couple already in the stacks that he starts working on as soon as he has a chance.

It takes him longer to read through them than he thought it would, not only because the store is busy with overly ambitious kids already counting down until their return to school, but also because it’s not what he expected at all.

There’s barely any legal knowledge required. It’s all analytical thinking and solving logic puzzles, which for sure is going to make things harder. It makes sense now, that Harvey wasn't around much when he was trying to dig into the meaty world of prep. The SATs were a cakewalk in comparison.

He gets the hang of it, sort of, and then goes over everything again, trying to read the books through Harvey’s eyes. He highlights passages that seem important, and underlines tips and tricks, adding notes in the margins when he thinks of questions. Just because he'll be able to recite the whole thing backwards and forwards doesn't mean it will help Harvey. And that's the whole point.

He brings the books with him to the restaurant, and leaves them at the bar, under Andrew’s not so watchful eye. He seriously doubts anyone's in the market for mangled prep books. Besides, it gives him a chance to read over a paragraph or two when the room is slow.

“Not to ruin your plans or anything, but you do realize you're supposed to take the LSAT after you've been to college, right?” Jenny asks when she sees him skimming through one of the books.

She has one eye on the door, but no one’s come through for a while, so she joins him at the bar.

“It's not for me. But at this rate I feel like I'd like to take this test just to make use of this knowledge.”

“So who is it for?”

He blinks at that, clears his throat before muttering, “I'm helping uh, someone, study for it.” He's reluctant to mention Harvey by name, mostly because Harvey was reluctant to even tell him about studying for the test. He probably wouldn't appreciate Mike babbling about it all over town. Even if he doesn't know Jenny, and it wouldn’t get back to him.

“So you're studying in order to help them study? I thought the whole point of tutoring was like, teaching someone what you already know.”

“Once I finish reading all this stuff I'll know it.”

“Okay...” She doesn't look convinced in the least, fingertip trailing along the inside of the book, and turning the pages. She might have figured out that he has a great memory, but that’s all she knows.

“Try me.”

Her eyebrows rise and she lets out a small amused. “What do you mean?”

“Look through the book and ask me something.”

She flips the pages through the book, skimming the topics and narrowing her eyes at the text. Eventually she stops, declaratively displaying the section she’s chosen. “Logic games. Tell me all about it.”

“There’s different classifications of logic games, which determine the approach that you should take with them.”

“Like, there’s different kinds? Isn't it all just like, logic? I mean, it's in the name.”

Mike shakes his head, says, “No that would be too simple. There's pure sequencing, and basic linear stuff, of course. But also advanced linear games, and then the grouping games which can be sub-categorized as well. And then there’s endless variations and combinations that create these intense mindfucks.”

Jenny’s mouth’s open, and she lets out a sound of disbelief, trying to recover, she closes the book and counters, “What does this have to do with law though?”

He hasn’t entirely figured this out himself, but he can talk through it. “I think, it’s like, if you can figure out these questions with like ten different levels to them you’ll be able to understand contracts and laws that also have tons of layers, you know?”

It sort of makes sense. Jenny seems convinced enough, so he must’ve done well.

“Okay... so you do know this? I have to say, I didn't think I was stupid but that sounds... insane.”

He shrugs. “I told you, once I finish reading it all I'll know it.”

“Is this what you're going to do for money, in college? Tutoring?”

“I haven't thought about it.” It’s true. He hasn't thought beyond helping Harvey get as close to a full score as possible, but Jenny might have a point. The campus will be crawling with ambitious pre-law students that he could guide through the LSAT prep minefield. He'd considered maybe picking up an on-campus job, but tutoring would be much more flexible.

“Well, do you think you'd consider helping me with my SATs?” She picks at her nails, eyes averted.

“Yeah, of course Jenny.”

“My parents are already talking about getting a tutor so I know there'll be money involved. Like, I'm sure we could find someone through school but I'd rather see you, you know?”

“You know you don't have to pay me to keep seeing me when school starts.”

“I didn't mean like that-- I do want your help.”

“I know. And I'd be happy to help. And you don't need an excuse to see me. I mean, I'm going to be busy with this,” he gestures towards the book, “but there's an end date.”

“Okay, okay. You've convinced me.” She smiles shyly, but still looks like she wants to ask something else. Probably about Harvey, because he hasn't mentioned him. Like if that’s ending soon, too, since he’s been eating up all of Mike’s time. Or how he feels about Mike busying himself with LSAT prep.

Mike braces himself for the questioning but nothing comes. Jenny shakes her head, ponytail bouncing and pats the book, fingertip tracing the title before she slides it over to the the corner of the bar, and returns to her post with a practiced grin.

 

 

When Mike and Harvey meet up for their scheduled study date, Harvey watches curiously as Mike slides a stuffed backpack onto his bedroom floor, and begins unloading stacks of color coded papers and books. He lays them out on Harvey's bed, and divides them by subject, keeping the piles tidy to appeal to Harvey’s inner neat freak.

Once Mike’s done, he picks up one of the books, he rifles through it and extends some sheafs of paper to Harvey.

“I brought a test, we need to know what your current baseline is, so we can figure out how much you need to improve.”

“You do realize I have actually studied before, right? I did graduate high school and university.” Harvey takes the paper, but his lips are quirked in amusement, as if he’s humoring Mike.

“This isn't the same thing, this is hard stuff.”

“Yes, I do recall telling you something like that.” He smirks, he goddamn smirks and Mike wants to strangle him. Is this just a joke to him? Mike’s annoyance must be showing on his face, because Harvey starts laughing. “And here I was concerned you weren't going to take this seriously.”

“It seems to me that I’m the only one taking it seriously, at the moment.”

Without glancing at them, Harvey sets the papers aside. “I've already done a baseline test, as you like to call it.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.”

“So? What did you get?”

“I got a one-sixty-eight.”

Mike nods at that. “That's good, we can work with that.”

Harvey leans back in his seat, observes Mike with amusement. “Oh, we can, can we?”

“Yeah, we need to keep the momentum going though. You should be doing about seventy tests before you take the real one. So that's maybe two a week? Also, ten logic games in ten minutes, then we increase the time and amount of questions you need to be answering.”

Harvey inclines his head, urging Mike to continue. His mouth still quirked in amusement.

“And you should be reading all of these,” Mike says, tossing a pile of magazines on the table. “Wall Street Journal, The Economist, Scientific American, Washington Post.” Mike amends, “If you don't already read them, that is.”

“We have those at work.”

“Then you can grab some of the old issues. It's good for reading comprehension. You need to familiarize yourself with the dense language and stuff. I'll quiz you on them. Like, the motivation of the author, and what the background thesis might be and counterpoints to that. And we need to find the strengths and weaknesses of each of the viewpoints, of course.”

“Of course.”

“So, yeah.” Mike collapses onto the bed, having run out of steam. Harvey’s smiling mildly at him. Like maybe he can consider taking Mike’s efforts seriously.

“How do you know all this?”

“I researched it.”

“It's been less than a week.”

“I told you, I'm good at this stuff. I already know everything in all of these books. Now we've just got to make sure all that knowledge gets crammed into your head.”

“We do, don't we?” He says 'we' with a lilt and it warms Mike's heart. He sits up straighter and crosses his legs, realizing he was basically slouching, which is hardly authoritative. Even though he’s the one being helped, he still needs to remain in charge. He adjusts the stacks of papers in front of him.

“And well, we're here today, but we need to be in public as much as possible. Somewhere loud. Like a coffee shop. Or oh, Central Park might be good. Libraries might be too quiet, I think.” He ponders that and is distracted when Harvey's foot pokes him in the leg.

“Are you scared you'll get distracted?” He's wheeled himself closer to the bed, and rubs his heel against Mike's thigh.

As much as it pains him, Mike pushes it away, Harvey’s foot dropping to the floor with a thud. Harvey looks so pleased that Mike can't regret his resolve. He’s determined to make this work.

“More like you won't be. You can't control the environment where you take the test, you have to be prepared to deal with any distractions that might come up. So we have to be doing this where distractions will happen. Make it part of your success.”

“Alright.” He shifts in his seat, picking up a pen from his desk. “So where do we start today?”

“I think you can work on an essay while I look over the test you already took. I'll set the timer for you. I have some scenarios you can choose from.” He hands over one sheet of paper and Harvey looks it over.

“Writing? Really?”

“Just because they don't score it doesn't mean you should neglect it. You have no idea what the schools want to see, you need to make sure you're on top of all of this.”

Harvey nods at that, turning towards his desk. He opens a drawer and takes out a prep book. “I did test nine. Knock yourself out correcting it.” He tosses it at Mike, and it lands in his lap. “I can time myself though. Wouldn't want your attention to be split, would we?”

Harvey leaves the room and returns with a kitchen timer and bottles of water for each of them.

Mike takes it and makes himself comfortable, accomplishment and pride swelling in his chest as Harvey sets the timer and focuses his attention on the test, his pen scraping across his paper.

 

-

 

Part of Mike's study plan is that Harvey needs a day off each week. He mentions it after a late night session, when Harvey has joined him in bed, limbs loose around him. He’s saved this idea for just the right time, because he’s not sure how Harvey will react to it. But now, with Harvey about to pass out from mental exhaustion; this seems like the right moment.

Mike stretches out next to him, trying to get as much contact as possible and Harvey nods next to him, a soft hum escaping his throat.

He explains, “To recharge the brain batteries. I think it should be Sunday. You'll burn yourself out, otherwise.”

“Is that because your schedule happens to be clear on Sundays as well?” Harvey reaches out and cards his fingers through Mike's hair. Mike leans into the touch and wraps his arm around Harvey's chest.

“I don't know what you're talking about.”

“Shouldn't I also avoid you, then, since you're part of this study thing?” Harvey's words are almost slurred, and he blinks at Mike. His eyes are dark and bloodshot.

“I think that's taking things a bit too far,” Mike says and tries to look outraged. He doesn't have to try very hard. Harvey starts to laugh at him, softly, and he shuts his eyes tightly.

“You're not keeping me from my workout routine,” Harvey says, “I always go running on Sundays.”

“I can keep up with you, old man. Besides, that's good for you, keeping the blood flowing. It'll help you focus.”

“Mmm,” Harvey mumbles, and sighs. The grip he has in Mike's hair loosens, and Mike's pretty sure he's falling asleep. He kisses Harvey’s closed eyelids as he drifts off, trying his hardest not to stir, not wanting to jerk Harvey out of his well deserved rest.

He rarely gets to see Harvey like this, and he wants to stay put as long as he can, tracing his fingertips across the planes of Harvey's face as his breath deepens.

He's not sure how long they lay there, but he closes his eyes for one second and opens them minutes later, shaking his head trying to keep himself awake. It might be time to go. He doesn't want to, wants to burrow into the bed that smells like Harvey until he can carry his scent with him everywhere. But he doesn't really have a choice, remembering Grammy’s stern warning about unplanned sleepovers.

He sighs heavily and heaves himself out of bed. He feels a tug in his chest, watching as Harvey rolls onto his back, the hand that was in Mike’s hair now grasping at air.

The light is on in Marcus's room when Mike slips out of Harvey's, and he tries his best to be quiet as he tiptoes down the stairs.

He grabs one of the spare keys dangling off the mail rack and locks the door behind him. It feels illicit, carrying around a key to Harvey's house, especially since it hasn't been given to him, but leaving the door unlocked isn’t exactly an alternative he’s keen on.

Still, he plays with it in his pocket on the way home, and leaves it on his nightstand, where he'll see it first thing in the morning.

 

-

 

Mike shows up for their Sunday run dressed in the same outfit he kept around for PE, shorts made of shiny material that doesn’t breathe and a shirt with a print that’s begun to peel off. Harvey scrutinizes him, but doesn’t warn him at all. Which, really, should have been warning enough.

“Five minute warm-up,” Harvey declares, and sets off on an easy jog. Easy enough that Mike can keep up and naively thinks the rest of the run will be like this. It’s leisurely enough that he doesn’t have a problem speaking, and asks Harvey about their route and his average pace.

“You know, if you can talk and run, you're not running hard enough,” Harvey says, and Mike rolls his eyes.

“You're answering me so I guess you're not running hard enough either,” he points out. If this is it, he can keep going all day.

When they reach the end of their third block, Harvey declares, “Warm up's over,” and practically doubles his speed, legs stretching out ahead of him and arms pumping.

Mike doesn't hesitate to speed up, his legs feel great, thighs loose and strong, but soon enough there's a stab in his side and he tries to grin through it. Apparently, biking around town was not the same as going for a forty minute jog.

He doesn't catch up to Harvey, and he only slows down enough to make sure Mike's still following. Which means Mike can't stop and walk, or Harvey will see and never let him live it down.

Harvey leads the way and alternates between sprinting ahead of him, and then jogging backwards, watching Mike with a devilish grin.

Mike wishes he had his walkman with him so he could be distracted by something other than his embarrassingly loud wheezing. It can’t be normal. Maybe he should be checked for asthma. Heck, he wishes Harvey was listening to something so he wouldn't have to hear it. Despite being ahead of him, Mike's pretty sure the sound of his ragged breath is carrying over to him. Or else there's no way Harvey would look so goddamn smug.

At least the distance between them means Mike doesn't have to pretend to be able to converse with him anymore.

“It's like you're trying to kill me,” Mike says, panting and disheveled when he finally catches up with Harvey. They've completed their route, although if asked, there's no way Mike could trace it back. He'd been too busy focusing on his burning lungs and aching calves. At least his thighs never felt stiff.

“There are easier ways,” Harvey says, and the bastard is actually stretching. And he looks good, too fucking good. Mike has lost all sense of pride at this point, and lays down on the lawn. Who cares. At least he didn't walk.

“You're the one who said not to go easy on you.” Harvey fucking laughs at him. He reaches out and Mike grabs his hand, letting Harvey pull him back to his feet. “Steady yourself on me and stretch out your thighs,” he instructs.

“My thighs are the only part of me that feel fine,” he says, but takes a firm hold of Harvey’s chest, and picks up his foot with his other hand.

“That just means they’ll hurt tomorrow, now switch.”

Mike switches and can feel his muscles burning slightly. He's always thought stretching was for wimps, but clearly, he is a wimp.

Once Harvey’s determined that Mike’s had enough, he tells him to shake out his legs and moves behind him, thumbs digging into his neck and pushing out towards his shoulders.

He tilts the back of Mike’s head forward, says, “Drop your head down, and roll it side to side.”

Mike’s never been so aware of his neck muscles as he rolls his head back and forth. When Mike’s done, Harvey grabs his shoulders and massages them, hands gripping his arms and straightening them out. Once he's satisfied, he grips Mike's hand and pulls him towards the house.

“Come on, time to clean up, that's the fun part.” Mike expected them to split up, clean up at their respective houses and maybe meet up later. But he's not going to complain when Harvey's holding on to him and ushering him into the house.

Harvey nudges him inside, a steady hand on his back. The damp fabric of Mike’s shirt clinging against his skin. He appreciates the touch, but he probably couldn’t even pull away and if he wanted to.

The place seems empty, but he can't help but ask, “Where's Marcus?”

“Working.” That's all Harvey has to say before Mike takes off his shirt. If no one's around you bet he's going to take advantage.

He turns to face Harvey and bites his lip, trying to back up the stairs. He bends down to take off his socks, kicking them away and hooking his thumbs in his shorts, slowly pushing them down before pulling them back up.

“What are you doing?

“Getting ready for the shower.” He digs his fingers into the hem of his pants, running them along the inside as he tries to make a show of taking them off.

“You're ridiculous,” Harvey says, but he pulls Mike in by the hem of his shorts and kisses him sweetly, tongue barely licking at Mike’s lips. They're at a standstill on the stairs, Mike half dressed, and Harvey still in his sweats.

“You love it,” Mike says when Harvey pulls away.

He points to the socks and shirt discarded on the floor. “Pick them up.”

“What if I don't?”

Harvey quirks his eyebrow at that, but he doesn't say anything. He lets go of Mike's shorts, and leaps up the stairs, undoubtedly going to the bathroom. Mike looks at the discarded clothing. If he leaves his clothes, there's always a possibility that Marcus will come home and find them.

More importantly, he's not sure he wants to see how disappointed Harvey would be if he doesn't listen to him.

He gathers up his socks and shirt, and makes his way up to the bathroom. Harvey's already in the shower, curtain drawn around the tub. “Where should I put my clothes?”

“Hamper.”

That’s slightly odd; it’s not like he has a change of clothes at Harvey’s. Harvey seems to know what he wants though, so Mike doesn’t protest. He slides off his shorts and underwear, and drops them and the rest of his clothes into the hamper.

He watches Harvey's silhouette through the curtain when he’s done. The thought of watching Harvey is appealing, but his sweat has dried and he feels pretty gross. The shower is small, but Harvey wouldn't have brought Mike back if he wasn't okay with Mike joining him, would he? So he pushes the curtain aside and steps into the tub.

Harvey has his back to Mike, which gives him the perfect opportunity to look at the smooth plane of his back up close. He strokes his palm against Harvey’s spine as water splashes over it. He presses a kiss against Harvey's shoulder, and continues a line up towards his neck.

“If you're gonna be back there, might as well soap me up.” Harvey says, and Mike obliges, pumping soap into his hands and taking the invitation to rub his hands all over Harvey.

“Do you have any idea how hot you are?” Mike asks, and he doesn't expect an answer, but the way Harvey hums is more than enough. He kneads the meat of his shoulders, moving over his back and sides, soaping up his flank. It gives him a rush the way Harvey’s letting Mike touch wherever he pleases; giving himself over.

A soft grunt escapes Harvey’s mouth, and Mike takes his chance, cupping Harvey's ass. Harvey flexes beneath Mike’s fingers as he kneads the meat of his butt. Harvey doesn't protest or seem to mind, so he keeps going, moving his thumb to his ass crack, and following the water sluicing down.

Harvey twitches at that, and Mike plasters himself against Harvey's back, hands grasping his hips. His dick is hard, nestled between Harvey's cheeks.

“Hmm, I see you're easily distracted,” Harvey says, his voice low and hoarse. Mike moves his hand to Harvey’s groin, fingers circling around the base of his dick, which is already half-hard.

“Can't help it,” Mike says and squeezes Harvey's cock. It's thick and throbbing, firming up more under Mike’s touch, and Harvey groans, a small involuntary thrust following in response. He disentangles himself from the circle of Mike's arms, turning around.

He doesn't waste time bringing his hands up to Mike's face, cupping it before kissing him, mouth open and warm. Tongue hungrily dipping into Mike’s mouth. Mike sucks at it, trying to get more of Harvey’s taste into his mouth. He wants to revel in it, this moment, this kiss, everything.

“Come on,” Harvey says when he pulls back, and pumps some soap into his hands. He rubs them across Mike's chest, pushing them under his arms and pressing into his armpits. Mike moans involuntarily and tries to lean in closer, his cock aching from the lack of contact. Harvey ignores it.

Harvey washes Mike behind the ears, and the knees, even manages to bend down in the small space, rubbing soap against Mike's feet, prompting him to lift them up and gently caressing the soles and teasing his toes. Mike wriggles them in his face, Harvey leaning down and gently biting Mike’s big toe to make him stop.

It arouses him more, though, this detailed attention Harvey is showering him with. Mike can feel it in his entire body, the want, the need for more. Or really, for anything Harvey will give him.

He's touching Mike everywhere except where Mike really needs him to, which is incredibly cruel. “Harvey, please,” he whines, knees trembling when Harvey kisses his kneecap and his hand pats at the inside of Mike's thighs, urging him to spread his legs.

He obliges as much as he can, and Harvey gets up, hand so close to Mike's dick, and yet he doesn't touch it. His thumb grazes the sensitive skin of Mike’s balls, and he hisses. Instead of continuing, Harvey presses behind them, eliciting another hiss from Mike.

His fingers are slippery and soon Mike can feel his fingertip against his ass. Just a slight pressure circling the rim. “Harvey...” he repeats himself, because he has no idea what else to say. His head is swimming and he's pretty sure he's never been so turned on in his life.

Mike grips Harvey's shoulders to steady himself. He can't spread his legs any farther, so he lifts one of his legs and leans it against the edge of the tub. He hopes this is invitation enough for Harvey to do something and counts it as a success when Harvey presses harder against his hole. The tip of his finger is slick enough that it slips in, and he pushes in and out, gently, lighting up Mike’s nerves.

“I really want to fuck you,” Harvey says, voice hoarse against Mike's ear and he groans. Mike tries to push back against Harvey, demanding more. “How do you feel about that?”

Mike nods and grunts a yes, or at least hopes it can pass as that. “Here?”

“I don't know, think you can handle it here?”

Mike tries to focus. He wants Harvey to fuck him sooner rather than later, and right now would be fucking amazing as far as his dick is concerned. He inhales sharply, collecting himself. His legs are still leaden from the run, and he can't really hold on to anything in the shower, aside from Harvey. It would probably be a disaster waiting to happen.

“I-- no-- I don't think I'll be able to stay up,” he says and Harvey pulls away instantly. Mike pulls at him trying to get him to resume his touch.

“I think you're right,” he says, looking pleased, “besides, I want to see your face.”

Mike shivers at that and pulls Harvey in for another kiss. This way he can get some friction on his dick, sliding it against Harvey's. Harvey stops him before he can rut in earnest, hand in his, leading him out of the tub.

They're nearly frantic as they towel themselves off, and Harvey doesn't even complain when Mike drops his towel to the floor.

They head to Harvey's room in silence, labored breaths hanging in the air, and Mike collapses onto the bed. He slides back so he can rest against the headboard.

“Harvey, please...” he says, when Harvey doesn't join him right away. He's digging into one of his drawers, and tosses a bottle of lube and a condom onto the bedspread.

Harvey stays still and drinks Mike in where he lays for a moment, and then slides onto the bed, one knee at a time. Mike admires the way the muscles of Harvey’s belly flex when crawls on top of him, and the way the tendons in his neck tense as he looks down at him.

Harvey has a dark, intense look in his eye, but seems to be completely in control, cradling Mike's jaw and tipping it towards his chest. He pushes his thumb into Mike's mouth and Mike sucks at it hungrily. If that's all he's getting for now he's going to make the most of it.

“Fuck, Mike,” Harvey says and his eyes cross as he watches his thumb disappear between Mike's lips. Harvey's jaw is slack and his eyes are hooded, and Mike sucks with abandon, tongue caressing the pad of his thumb. “The things I want to do to you...god.”

Mike opens his mouth and Harvey withdraws his finger. He pleads, want clear as day in his voice, “Show me. Anything, you can do anything, please.”

“Look at you,” Harvey says with a sly smile, and he huffs a breath. “So needy.”

He presses himself closer, hands ghosting along Mike's ribs, and his mouth hot and inviting against Mike's. Mike tries to thrust up against Harvey, attempting to gain some sort of traction, but Harvey pulls away. He swipes his spit slick thumb against one of Mike's nipples, flicking at it.

“Harvey, please,” Mike manages to wheeze out. “Please do something, I can't-- I can't take it.”

Harvey looks so pleased, and trails his tongue along the underside of Mike's jaw. He swipes downwards, mouth closing against the hollow of Mike's throat. He sucks and nips, moving away before he can leave a mark. Mike's entire body is flush and he has no idea how much longer he can stand this teasing.

He's pretty sure he's whining, and Harvey moves, sliding in between Mike's legs, inching downward.

“I want to taste you,” he says, and gathers Mike's wrists together on his way down. He holds them easily in one hand as they rest against Mike's belly. So close to his dick-- if only Harvey would let him go he could start jerking himself. Or even better, push his dick towards Harvey's mouth as he approaches.

Harvey seems to have something else in mind though, as his tongue dips into his belly button and then down, teasing the root of Mike's dick. Mike gasps at that and he twitches in anticipation. A drop of precum oozes out of his slit, and Harvey presses the tip of his tongue against it.

It's brief and then he's gone, Mike groans in disappointment. Before he knows it, Harvey's spreading his legs wider, and nosing his way along Mike's balls, lips sucking gently at the sensitive skin. “If I let you go, can you stay still?”

Mike alternates between shaking and nodding his head, uncertain whether that's something he can promise. He's already shaking under Harvey. He realizes Harvey can't see him then, as Harvey's head pops up from between his legs. His face is a mess and his eyes are dark. Mike swallows thickly, trying to find his voice. “I can try... I can't promise.”

“Can you not touch yourself?”

Mike whines at that but he also knows that if he does, if he does touch himself he'll probably come within seconds. And that will ruin whatever Harvey has planned.

“I'll do my best.”

Harvey lets go of his wrists, and Mike clutches the sheet next to him, clenching until his nails dig into into the fabric.

Harvey slides down farther, this time using his hands to spread Mike's legs even more, bending them so he has more access. His lips are gentle against the inside of Mike's thighs, and his nose digs into him. Mike tries to keep his breath even and steady but gasps when he feels Harvey's mouth against his taint, and then his ass. For some reason he was completely unprepared for this, fuck.

He thinks he can feel Harvey chuckling at him, but he doesn't give a fuck as long as he doesn't stop. “Fuck, Harvey-- don't--”

Harvey pulls back, replacing his mouth with a finger, gently prodding at his now wet hole.

“You want me to stop?” He asks, and although he looks completely intoxicated, he also looks wary. Ready to pull back if Mike wants him to. Mike pushes back against his finger to make sure Harvey has no doubt how much Mike's enjoying himself. His entire body is tingling, and he thinks he might actually explode if Harvey stops now.

He grinds out, “Don't stop, please. Please don't stop.” It's more of a stutter and Harvey sighs contentedly before muttering something that sounds like, “good boy,” and replacing his finger with his mouth again.

He laps at Mike, tongue thick and determined against Mike’s ass, and Mike has given up on staying still. He jerks his hips, instinctively asking for more.

Harvey doesn't seem to mind though, his tongue lapping at Mike's hole and then stabbing at it, barely pushing in. Mike's never been so aroused, and he doesn't think it can get better until Harvey's tongue is joined by a finger, cold and slick. Harvey must've managed to dip into the lube.

He spreads his cheeks using his other hand and his finger presses in so slowly, even though it's kind of uncomfortable Mike just wants him to get on with it. One knuckle in, and he pulls out, pushing back in some more and then he crooks his finger ever so slightly and-- fuck, Mike mewls at that, incapable of controlling himself.

He's fisting the sheets and pulling at them violently now, back arching. “How do you feel?” Harvey asks and Mike almost wants to laugh at that. How does he feel? He feels exposed and vulnerable and so fucking turned on he doesn’t even have words for it.

Harvey pulls out and soon there's a second finger, probing at his ass. It burns slightly as they push in but Mike doesn't want it to stop, not even slightly.

“Are you serious? Fuck-- Harvey--”

He glances down, watching the way Harvey looks at him, watching his face as his fingers fuck in and out of his ass-- it's mesmerizing. He might be addicted to this; to Harvey’s attention. How did that happen? He wants everything and anything Harvey will do to him. A full body shiver passes through him and he pushes back against Harvey's fingers, trying to get more contact.

“I'm going to add one more, think you can take it?” Harvey withdraws, and Mike can see him spreading more lube over his fingers. He sloppily spreads more over Mike’s hole as he vibrates with anticipation.

“Yes,” Mike's voice is so thick he barely recognizes it, but he doesn't have time to think about it before Harvey's fingers are inside him again, quickly thrusting in and out, loosening him up. “Harvey, please, can you fuck me? Please? I can't wait any longer.”

Harvey sucks in a breath and nods rapidly before grunting. He removes his fingers quickly and Mike feels the loss. He watches as Harvey scrambles to open the condom and then pause. “Do you want to put it on?”

Mike tries to adjust himself, letting go of the sheets, and reaches in between them. He gently takes the condom out and rolls it down Harvey's dick, pumping a couple times for good measure. This is just for him, and he can't help but tug at his own dick a couple of times, matching strokes, his arousal pooling in his belly.

Harvey spreads some more lube over his cock, and leans in to give Mike a sloppy open mouthed kiss. His arm reaches for a pillow, and he urges Mike to move so can place it under his butt.

Mike's barely settled back down when Harvey spreads his legs with certain hands, he's looking down and Mike wishes he could see what Harvey sees. He can feel the tip of his cock nudging at him, and then the tip enters him. Harvey's biting his lip as he rocks against Mike, slow and steady. It burns when Harvey slides all the way in, but it’s also so satisfying. Harvey stays still for a couple of seconds, breathing heavily above Mike, mouth open and teeth gritted.

Harvey looks away, his eyes scrunched shut. He does little circles with his hips, and then pulls out and thrusts back in angling himself so he hits Mike's prostate and Mike can't help but clench around him. His entire body hums, sharp spikes of pleasure radiating from his ass.

“Fuck, Harvey.” Mike screws his eyes shut trying not to get overloaded. Harvey grunts above him, and his palms are firm on his ribs.

“You have no idea how amazing you are, Mike, fuck,” Harvey says and sets an even rhythm. Mike tries to accelerate things by thrusting back and clenching down on Harvey, enjoying the way he stills as if he's about to lose control.

“Mike, if you keep doing that I'm not going to last,” he stutters out, sounding pained. His mouth twisted.

“Maybe, that's what I want,” Mike says and clenches around him again. He takes the opportunity to lift his legs, and lock his ankles behind Harvey’s back, urging him on.

“You're such a brat,” Harvey says, and continues to thrust hard. Mike wants to tease him for that, but really, he’d rather have this now. There’s pebbles of sweat along Harvey’s forehead, and all Mike can think of is licking them up.

“Touch yourself.” The effort is clear on Harvey’s face when he says it, “I want you to come with me inside you.” Mike grunts, because, yes, yes he'd very much like that.

Mike’s hand is still slippery from the lube and he wraps it tightly around his cock, trying to match his strokes to Harvey's thrusts. It doesn't take more than a couple before he's keening, clenching around Harvey without controlling it. “Harvey, I'm so close.”

“Then come,” Harvey stutters as he seems to lose his grip and pushes in again, hitting Mike in exactly the right spot-- before he knows it Mike's spilling all over himself and all his nerves light up. He has to close his eyes and he can feel Harvey still and twitch as he comes inside him.

He's panting loudly, riding out the waves of his orgasm. Distantly, he can feel Harvey’s hand on his face and Mike opens his eyes, stares right into Harvey’s. The way Harvey's looks right now-- as he empties himself out inside of him-- that's something he's filing away for later. He looks almost pained, but so completely fucking perfect, his eyes dark and glistening, mouth lax and open.

Harvey’s head drops down and he reaches between them, holding on to the base of his dick as he pulls out. Mike hisses and Harvey smooths his palm against Mike's hip. It's tender and loving and Mike can feel his heart pounding at the way Harvey looks at him.

“I think we need another shower,” Mike says, but he has absolutely no intention of getting up. Harvey does, though, tying up the condom and discarding it in the trash.

He returns to wipe the come off of Mike's stomach with a paper towel, and leans in for a quick kiss before discarding the tissue as well.

Mike grabs on to Harvey’s hand and pulls him into bed. “I thought you said we needed to shower?”

“Snuggle first.”

“So demanding,” Harvey says but he complies, shifting so he can pull the sheet out from under them and wrap it over their bodies. Mike nestles in closer and wipes his thumb across Harvey's cheekbone. He's covered in a light sheen of sweat, as Mike probably is.

Mike catches his mouth in a kiss and they lay facing each other, lazily making out. Mike is completely relaxed, limbs and muscles weak, but in the best way ever. “Now that's the kind of work out I like,” he says, and Harvey snorts.

“Harvey.”

“Mmm?”

“Would you let me fuck you?”

“You'd like that?” He asks, and leans in for another kiss, tongue licking the seam of Mike’s mouth, prodding it open. He’s demanding, and Mike’s only too happy to give in.

“Yes,” he gasps, when he catches a breath. Mike can feel his face flush at how much he'd like it. Not that this wasn't completely amazing, it was, but to be able to make Harvey fall apart like Mike just did... the thought alone is enough to arouse him. He can picture Harvey splayed out on his back, or-- oh god, on his knees with his head hanging low as he thrusts his ass against Mike.

Yeah. Yeah, Mike would like that very much.

“I can tell,” Harvey says and if Mike's face wasn't already flushed he's certain that would do it.

“Would you?”

“I'll think about it.” Harvey sounds detached, but he licks his lips. Mike's satisfied with that response, and sprawls out more. He's so comfortable and relaxed, for once not having to go anywhere. Harvey strokes his hair, and kisses his temple. Mike silently congratulates himself on what a spectacular idea this day off was, before drifting off to sleep.

 

-

 

Mike returns to consciousness slowly, rolling over once and reaching out to touch his nightstand, which isn't where he expects. The bed feels bigger too, and the pillow’s not right, and that's when he opens his eyes in a slight panic.

Harvey’s. It’s too bright out to be morning, so at least he didn’t break Grammy’s cardinal rule. Harvey's sitting at his desk working away on his prep tests.

“Well, look who decided to join the class,” he says with a drawl, and returns to his work. The desk is loaded up with books and papers. Harvey must have been going at it for a while. He’s dressed again, jeans and a white shirt.

“What did I tell you about time off?” Mike feels a little bit ridiculous chastising Harvey because, well, he's naked for one, and for the other it's weird. Harvey quirks his mouth in amusement.

“I think we just had some spectacular time off”

“You know what I mean.”

“I do know but I still want to work on this. I can't let it go for a day,” he says, tapping his pen against his notebook. He shifts over to the bed, and strokes Mike's forehead. “That's not who I am.”

Mike can feel his heart in his throat at Harvey's touch and attention. He doesn't know why, it just feels like too much. Like he can't handle it. He tries to lighten the mood, says,

“And here I was looking forward to at least some sort of reprieve. I'm supposed to be the ruthless taskmaster, here.”

Harvey chuckles. “Okay, sure. If that's what you'd like to think.” Harvey kisses Mike, but it's too brief as Mike leans into him when he pulls away. “No one says you have to stay, Mike. But I'm going to do some work.”

“So much for round two.”

“Hey now,” Harvey sounds offended, fingers pinching one of Mike's nipple. He squirms under Harvey’s touch. “Don't you have plans tonight anyway?”

“Hmm, what time is it?”

“Almost four.”

“Shit.” Mike whines, he really should head back home. At the very least, he and Grammy need to be having dinner together. But he really wants to stay. Even if it means reciting more logic games and proofing essays. At least he’ll be with Harvey. And there would be a possibility, of a second round… actually, he’s pretty sure he could make it happen.

The dilemma must be plain on his face because Harvey chuckles at him.

“See, don't ask for things you can't deliver,” he says.

“Don't be mean.”

“I'm not the one who started this.” Harvey cups Mike's face, fingers resting snug along the back of his neck. They kiss again, a soft warm meeting of lips that Mike doesn't want to end.

“I should go.” He leans into the kiss again. “Can I borrow something to wear?”

Harvey gets up, and walks over to the hamper which is now in his room-- pulling out freshly laundered clothes. Mike catches what Harvey tosses them at him. He pulls at the shorts and recognizes them as his own. Same goes for the shirt, underwear and socks. They’re soft and dry to the touch, and they smell great. “You did laundry? Fuck, I really was out for a while.”

Harvey smirks but doesn't respond. Mike feels awkward crawling out of bed and getting dressed in front of Harvey. It's kind of weird, being naked, when there's no element of seduction, but the feeling passes when Mike notices Harvey's observing him with interest, as if he still hasn’t gotten his fill. Mike preens a bit at that, his skin flushing with excitement.

“I expect you to be fully prepared for a full test tomorrow, then?” Mike asks, as he pulls on his last sock. He tries to sound stern but Harvey waves him off with a chuckle.

 

-

 

Mike's skin is still damp and sticky from earlier, and he wants to take a quick rinse in the shower when he gets home. He doesn't get a chance, though, because Grammy's already there when he gets in.

She's hovering by the the vinyl collection, and a silky tune is being scratched out on the record player. He hasn't seen her use it in… well, not since before his parents died. She doesn’t seem to notice his presence, smoothing her fingers over the stacks.

He kicks off his shoes, carefully putting them back in the closet, and watches her for a minute before interrupting her.

“Hey.”

She turns, says, “Michael, I didn't expect to see you so soon.” There’s genuine surprise on her face. She immediately moves to take the needle off the record, and silence settles in the room, heavily. “Well,” she says and studies his ensemble. “Did you go to work in that?”

“Huh?” He squeaks out, before realizing that yes, shit, he's supposed to have been working at Winstone today. Fuck. “I uh-- got off earlier so I came home and changed and went for a run.”

He can only hope she hadn't been home for too long, or the lie would be incredibly apparent.

“A run? Changing things up are we?” She studies him carefully, and now he's grateful that he didn't have time to clean up before leaving Harvey's. His messed up sex hair and flushed face can probably pass for the remnants of an easy run.

“Yeah, just, trying new things, you know. Okay if I go shower before we get started on dinner?”

“I would prefer it if you did. I was thinking lasagna? But we don't have any spinach, so I'll go pick some up while you're freshening up.”

“Sounds good,” he says, and heads up the stairs, heart beating in his chest. He thinks she bought it. Maybe.

He showers for the second time that day, a quick rinse is all he needs, but he spends an inordinate amount of time studying his body in the shower.

Leaving the curtain open, he can see his reflection in the mirror hanging over the sink, and he runs his hand over his chest, trying to see what Harvey sees. It feels ridiculous, to preen for himself, so it’s a useless exercise. He moves on to study the spots on his throat where Harvey sucked. There's no mark. His ass is sore, and a little swollen to the touch, but other than that, it's like nothing's different. He's not sure how he feels about that, he wouldn't have minded a hickey or two, although they'd be difficult to explain away.

Maybe he can ask for one, next time, somewhere only he can see.

Grammy isn't back by the time he's done, so he wanders over to the record collection, to see what she'd been up to. Although he never plays anything from the extensive collection, he knows it by heart. He’s certain that even without his memory, he’d know them all, if only for the amount of time he’s spent studying the albums.

They’re some of the few personal artifacts of his parents that have remained, and the ones toughest to decipher. When Mike was younger and his night terrors were at their worst, he’d come down and spend hours on the floor, trying to guess which of his parents a given album belonged to, or if it was a gift from someone else, something neither of them particularly liked but didn't want to re-gift or throw out.

He never played any of them. The ones he remembers hearing when he was young, he's repurchased in tape format. He refuses to listen to the vinyl for risk of scratching it.

That’s not the only reason he refuses to touch them, however. His parents had played an album before going out, that night. And he can't remember which one it was. He's sure, though, that if he heard the sound off the vinyl, he'd remember, and he'd be transported right back to that day. It’s the last thing he wants.

He's always assumed that's why Grammy wouldn't touch the albums either, but from skimming the rows, Mike can tell things have been moved around a fair bit since he last looked it over. It had been a while, though. The record she'd been playing is at the top of pile of five more. As if she's been working her way through them.

He doesn't want to dwell, so he heads back upstairs to pick up his discman, putting on something upbeat that he can distract himself with as he starts to prep dinner.

By the time Grammy returns Mike’s finished the bechamel and is busily chopping onions. She’s carrying large produce bags in her hands, dropping them onto the kitchen table.

She plucks out a bunch of spinach, dropping it into a bowl and rinsing it in the sink before passing it on to Mike. She stirs the sauce, studying it carefully for lumps.

“Did you remember to whisk?”

“Of course,” he says, pulling out his earbuds with his knuckles, and looping them around his neck. “You taught me well, Grammy.”

“Mhm,” she hums appreciatively as she inspects the progress he's made on the onions. “Don't forget to smash the garlic, not chop it.”

“Grammy, I know.”

She pats him on the cheek, and returns to her packed bags, unloading them as she hums the same song she was listening to earlier. She’s bought plenty of supplies for the rest of the week, and he helps her unpack when all the lasagna components have been prepared. She’s the best at layering, alternating just the right amount of pasta, spinach and sauce, so he leaves that to her.

It’s the kind of tradition he doesn't mind, one that doesn’t remind him of his parents at all because it only involves the two of them. He hasn’t thought about it before then, college seeming so far away, but in this moment he decides he'll come back every Sunday during the semester. There’s no reason the ritual can’t continue because they won’t be under the same roof.

Grammy tells him about church and asks about his weekend as she works. She takes her lasagna seriously, which means Mike doesn’t have to look her in the eye when he lies about what he’s been up to.

As soon as the lasagna’s in the oven and the timer is set, she turns to him casually and asks, “So who have you been spending time with today?”

He’s busy making lemonade, keeping it tart enough to hurt your mouth if you drink too much of it. Exactly the way they both like it.

Mike nearly chokes, and coughs. He stalls by pouring himself some of the lemonade, swallowing big gulps which is, frankly, making matters worse as the tart drink burns its way down his throat.

Grammy watches his struggle innocently.

“I was at the bookstore, you know that I work Sunday mornings.”

“I may be old, but I'm not a fool, Michael. That store isn't open in the morning on Sundays. Don't you think I knew you were squandering away your Sundays with Trevor?”

He gapes at that; he doesn't know what he thought. “Why didn't you say anything?”

“I don't have any interest in forcing you to come to church with me. I understand that you haven’t made peace with the congregation. That has to come in due time, after all.”

“I don't think it will ever happen,” he says sincerely, and he feels a stab of guilt, waiting for Grammy to respond.

“Yes, well, then it won't. I'm not going to force the matter. Besides, you're a grown up now, it's time we start being straight with each other. If you wanted to see Trevor, it's not like I could forbid you to. Or I could, but God knows that would only make matters worse.”

“I wasn't with him.”

“No, not today, I can tell. You're in too good of a mood for that.” Is he really that transparent? He must be, because Grammy observes him expectantly. “Well?”

“I'm tutoring someone,” he says, which isn't a lie, although calling it tutoring sounds ridiculous, considering Harvey's much smarter than Mike. “That's where I was today. And where I've been most nights I haven’t been working, too.”

“Someone in summer school?”

“It's actually…” he clears his throat, and rubs the back of his neck. He’s not quite sure how to explain Harvey to Grammy, especially without giving too much away. “One of my old classmates who lives in the neighborhood, his brother is studying for the LSAT. So I’m helping with that.”

“Isn't that fancy.”

“Well, it's a lot of work. But it's going real well so far. Jenny actually suggested that I continue tutoring when I'm in school, you know, for extra cash? Since I can't stay at Winstone and well, the Applebee's shifts won't really be reliable, ever. If I make enough I could even quit there. And it wouldn't have to be exclusively LSAT tutoring, I could help kids with SATs, I mean, there's bound to be Upper West Side parents dying for a good tutor.”

“That sounds like a great plan,” Grammy says, looks approving.

“Yeah. So... you're not mad, about the lying?” He tucks back into his meal, swallows a thick bite too quickly, feeling it lodge in his throat uncomfortably. He swallows again, pushing it down.

“I'm not pleased, but I can see your perspective. However, I really do wish you didn't think you had to lie to me.

“I don't,” he says, but that in and of itself feels like a lie. He doesn’t think he has to lie, and it makes him feel queasy that he still is, in a way.

Because it's not like he's told her about Harvey, really. Only the bare-bones truth. And there's so much more to it. So much more to how happy he makes Mike feel and how Mike hopes this never stops and how he's worried it will have to-- but he can't talk to her about that, not yet. It would be too real if she knew. She’ll have all these questions about how serious they are, and then Mike will have to really think about it, and maybe even talk to Harvey about it and then well, then Harvey might decide Mike’s just not worth the effort or the trouble.

He can’t really think about all that yet.

Chapter Text

Mike and Harvey settle into an easy routine. On nights that they’re both free they meet up and study at various locations. It wouldn't be entirely wrong to say that Mike thinks of them as mini-dates. On Monday, they go to Bryant park for the free film screening which starts at dusk.

Harvey bristles a little at the suggestion at first, but if they meet at the park right after work they’ll still have about three hours to study, which is substantial. They’ve had shorter sessions in the past.

“The film will be the reward for work well done,” Mike says, trying to keep his tone casual. It’s true, but it’s also true that he’s thinking of it a bit like a date. “Besides, aren’t you always telling me I need to watch more classics?”

Harvey concedes with a slight head tilt, says, “Next you’ll say the fresh air will be a great contribution?”

“I could show you some studies on it--”

Harvey laughs, interrupting him and stopping the incoming rant. “Sounds good, Mike. No need to attempt to convince me further."

It’s not a date, not really, but it doesn’t stop Mike from thinking about it like one. He’s filled his backpack with their books and study supplies, but also a thick picnic blanket that comfortably fits two adults laying down.

He gets done at Winstone mid-afternoon, and takes his time getting into Manhattan. He’s walking for once, having left his bike at home because he expects to go home with Harvey. It would be rather unfortunate if they’d have to split up after the film ends.

He stops by Katz’ Deli and picks up two reubens and a bag of pickles for dinner. They’d go well with some beer, but he knows Harvey wouldn’t approve so he settles for a large bottle of coke that they can share.

Mike gets to the park first, already a few groups of people sitting on the grass, and he finds a spot close to the edge, laying down his blanket and backpack. It looks a little too picturesque, so he takes out the books and papers as well before laying down and waiting for Harvey.

He tries to get comfortable, his back covered in sweat from his walk, and he’s pretty sure there are large damp spots under his arms. This is why he prefers biking. He settles on his stomach, lifting his shirt a little bit to let the breeze in and cool his skin.

His gaze wanders easily to the other early comers. One couple is tangled up, the guy’s fingers threading through the girl's hair as she speaks. There’s a group of girlfriends who’ve spread out into a circle around a huge spread, their peals of laughter and occasional shouts carrying over to his spot. There’s a couple of singles, too, immersed in their reading.

He spots Harvey in the distance and waves him over, watching as he strides confidently over the grass. There’s a pinch in his belly, and he moves to sit up, crossing his legs and picking up one of the books. He should look like they’re going to study, at least.

“Nice blanket,” Harvey teases, and folds his legs as takes a seat, knees knocking against Mike’s.

“Well, we wouldn’t want to risk getting grass stains on your business attire, would we?”

Harvey tips his head at that, but ignores the jibe. Instead of picking up the papers that Mike’s laid out he pokes at the takeaway bag. The paper crumples in his hand and he buries his nose into it.

“I picked up some sandwiches for us,” Mike says.

“Pastrami?”

“Reuben.”

Harvey nods his approval, says, “I could eat.”

Harvey tears the bag in half, spreading it out over the blanket, dropping the pickles and sandwiches on there. He doesn’t hesitate to dig into his sandwich, mouth opening wide so he can take a huge bite. He doesn’t seem concerned with the studying, pushing the other sandwich in Mike’s direction. The tension drains from Mike’s shoulders at that. Maybe it’s not so bad to combine a study date and an actual date.

“What?” He says around a mouthful, seemingly making an effort to swallow down his huge bite.

“Nothing.” Mike offers the sweating coke bottle, and digs into his own meal, not bothering to hide his blatant observation of Harvey as his lips wrap around the rim of the bottle.

“It’s like you’ve never seen a man eat before.”

Mike cocks his head but keeps chewing. They talk about their days while they finish their meals, and Mike is content to watch Harvey’s expression as he complains about the incompetence of his co-workers and superiors. He starts off tense, shoulders stiff and brow furrowed. But the more he speaks the more the tension seems to evaporate. His face has relaxed by the time they start on their revisions, and Mike purposefully lays on his belly so he can glance up at Harvey’s concentrated brow as he fills out the quizzes Mike made for him.

They finish just before the film is set to start, and Mike packs everything up into his backpack. Harvey’s leaning back, weight on his elbows and shoulders hunched. Mike can feel his eyes on him, and he settles back down gingerly, pressing up against Harvey’s side despite the expanse of the blanket.

He stretches out his legs and groans unintentionally, there’s pinpricks in his calf from putting his weight on it for too long, lifting his feet one at a time and rotating his ankles.

“Are you seriously still sore from the run?”

“No, my leg is asleep.” He feigns outrage, but really the prickling in his leg has him shaking it out. Harvey’s mouth quirks, and he leans down, grasping Mike’s with steady hands.

“You’re supposed to be in the best shape of your life, you know.”

The pinpricks intensify as Harvey rubs his palms into Mike’s flesh, massaging it back to life. Mike can feel his muscles twitching under Harvey’s touch, searing flashes of heat as the nerves awaken.

“I’m not a professional athlete. My peak is ahead of me.” He rotates his ankle and tries not to twitch out of Harvey’s grasp.

“I think your workout routine needs to be revised. That’s twice now I’ve beat you by a wide margin.”

“I didn’t realize we were competing.”

“Everything's a competition,” Harvey says and punctuates by pulling his binder onto his lap with a thud. He straightens his back, and opens it up on his crossed legs. “And if it isn’t, it’s not worth wasting time on.”

Mike doesn’t agree with that at all, but this doesn’t quite seem like the time to start this discussion. Instead he teases, “I could kick your ass in biking.”

“That’s quite the empty threat, considering we only have one functioning bike between us at the moment.” Harvey’s tongue pokes out between his lips, softening the dig, before he gathers himself.“You can start the timer.”

It’s probably an empty remark; that Mike still has Harvey’s bike. But it grinds at him anyway. He should probably get it fixed.

He starts the timer and Harvey starts working on his tests immediately.

Mike’s task for the day is to read through old periodicals that Harvey’s brought in, and summarize the editorials, crafting questions that he can throw at Harvey at a later date.

He’s having a hard time tearing his eyes away from Harvey, though. He’d come straight from work, starched button down and slacks. Dressy for the mail room, but Mike has learned that Harvey doesn’t do half-measures. Now, Harvey looks so at ease, sleeves bunched up around his elbows, hand delicately sliding across the pages he fills out. His brow tightened in concentration.

Mike can practically see the gears in his brain turning.

They work in silence, and when the timer goes off, Harvey sets his sheets aside and waits for Mike to reset it before even looking at the next section. It gives Mike a thrill, seeing Harvey trust him like this.

He finishes before Harvey’s done, of course, and spends the rest of the time observing him, covertly, and trying to place themselves among the growing crowd in the park.

Do they look like friends? Or just study buddies? Or does it look like they could be more? There are many couples out, most of them sitting close, legs touching, fingers tangled with each other or in their hair. His knees knock against Harvey’s if he moves to the left. Is that close enough to be considered more than friends?

The park has gone dark, strings of lights on the periphery bathing them in soft light. A small crowd has gathered by the screen, the jarring feedback from a mic crackling through the air. Mike doesn’t have to look at the clock to figure out that they’re out of study time.

Harvey shifts where he sits, gazing towards the screen, and takes the cue to pack up. He shifts, cracking his arms before carefully setting aside all the papers, organizing them into a finished pile, and separating them into different folders in his messenger bag.

He stands up, with a grunt, eyes shutting and his face scrunching up. For a second Mike panics, heart hammering in his chest. Did Harvey not want to stay?

Harvey stretches out his arms in front of him, shaking out his hand. Mike shifts where he sits, trying to control his face. He needs to hold his tongue, uncertain that he could ask what Harvey’s up to without sounding insecure and whiny.

His resolve slips just as Harvey crouches down, digging back into his bag and picking out his wallet.

“Do you want some snacks?”

“Sure,” Mike’s voice sounds thick to his ears. Harvey nods, and walks off to the corner of the park where vendors are congregating. Mike coughs to himself, trying to control his voice as he watches Harvey navigate through the sea of people. His heart is still rabbiting in his chest, and he lays back down to calm himself. It’s fine. Harvey's not going anywhere.

An older man steps up to the mic and introduces the film as the crowd settles. Mike can barely make out what the man’s saying, which doesn’t exactly bode well for the film dialogue, but then again, the film is only a small reason why he even wanted to come out.

Harvey returns while the intro is going strong, the presenter thanking the endless list of sponsors.

“Got Boston mix and regular,” Harvey says, two paper bags of popcorn gripped between his fingers. Mike moves to make space on the blanket, taking the bags from Harvey and placing them between them. He dips his head down to the Boston mix, tongue catching a couple of still sticky kernels.

Harvey scoffs, moving the bags over to his side and settles in close, pulling Mike so that he can drape over his lap, head resting against his stomach.

Mike tries to pay attention to the film, but mostly focuses on the way Harvey’s stomach moves as he breathes, and his thumb absentmindedly skating over his neck and shoulder. He doesn’t press into it, but he can feel his skin warming under the touch.

He can’t help it, suddenly shifting and moving up, face inches away from Harvey’s.

“Hi,” he says, watching as Harvey blinks slowly, a slow smile spreading on his face.

That’s all it takes for Mike to clasp Harvey’s jaw and lean in close, sucking at Harvey’s lips, tongue languid against his. Harvey’s reciprocating with gentle nips. He’s smirking when Mike pulls away.

“Same rule applies for outdoor movies as cinemas.”

“Just wanted to say hi.”

“And you did,” Harvey says, bigger smile. He’s the one who leans down this time, pressing a chaste kiss against the corner of Mike’s mouth. “Now focus.”

Harvey jostles Mike’s shoulders, and it’s easy for him to slump back down, head fitting nicely against Harvey’s shoulder. It makes for a nice pillow, too, supporting his head at just the right angle to watch the screen.

Mike drags his knuckles along the curve of Harvey’s belly, it tenses under his touch, and relaxes as Mike continues, absentmindedly.

There’s no mistaking them for anything other than a couple, now.

 

--

 

Mike falls asleep at some point, and comes to when Harvey’s fingers caress the nape of his neck. Harvey’s fingers still as Mike shifts, as if he dislikes being caught. But Mike pushes his head back into the touch, only resting again once Harvey’s touch resumes, the hair on the back of Mike’s neck raised in attention. He takes the opportunity to draw patterns on Harvey’s thigh, and he relaxes under the touch.

By the time the film ends they’re both sluggish. It’s too late to walk home, Mike probably wouldn’t want to either, the night is still hot, and his fingers are slippery with sweat as he holds Harvey’s hand tightly.

They following the crowd to the 42nd street station and finish the popcorn on the subway. Harvey doesn’t say anything when Mike rests his head against his shoulder, squeezing his hand tightly on his lap.

They’re done with all their food by the time they’ve emerged from their subway stop, and Mike bundles up all their trash into a compact ball, dropping it onto an already overflowing trash can.

“I’ll walk you home,” Harvey says, and Mike squeezes his hand harder.

“Afraid I’ll get lost?”

“You’re carrying precious cargo, can’t afford to lose all this intellectual property."

“Never had my brain referred to as cargo before, I guess there’s a first for everything.”

“Ha ha,” Harvey says, and pinches Mike’s hip, just above the waist of his jeans. “Who says I’m talking about your brain?”

Mike tugs him closer at that, pressing his lips against the corner of Harvey’s mouth. He can’t stop smiling, feels like his whole chest is filled with air. He drags Harvey along, his messenger bag bouncing against his hip.

Harvey doesn’t protest when Mike pulls him into the house. He’s not planning on making him stay; he knows he wouldn’t. Harvey needs to stay home to supervise Marcus, after all. But that doesn’t mean he wants to say goodbye yet.

Besides, they have to unload all of their study materials.

It’s the first time Harvey has been in the house, Mike realizes, as he watches him explore with attentive eyes. Mike turns on one of the lamps in the living room, unloading his backpack on to the table, papers and binder spilling out.

Harvey’s studying the photos on the wall, and Mike takes the opportunity to grab his shoulder strap, pulling at it to get Harvey closer.

Harvey looks at him questioningly. “That isn’t a leash,” he says.

“No?”

“No.” Harvey shakes his head, but but moves along as Mike tugs him towards the living room.

Mike cups Harvey’s face, fingers stroking the the hinge in his jaw. Harvey responds easily, fingers clasping around Mike’s and removing them from his shoulder strap. He lifts the bag off of his shoulders, setting it down next to Mike’s backpack.

Emboldened by the tilt of Harvey’s mouth, Mike moves him to the couch, palms firm against his shoulders as he pushes him down. He takes a seat without protest.

Mike straddles Harvey easily, sinking onto his thighs, hands quickly cupping Harvey’s face before pressing his lips against Harvey’s. He tastes salty from the popcorn and possibly a bit of sweat. His collar is damp under Mike’s fingertips as they travel along his throat, thumb digging into Harvey’s pulse point.

Harvey’s hands are flat against Mike’s thighs, warm “Isn’t your grandmother home?”

“She’s sleeping.”

“She could wake up.”

“We’re just--,” Mike starts, and pauses for a kiss, nipping at Harvey’s bottom lip before pulling away, “kissing. Nothing scandalous about that.”

“Is that all?”

Mike nods.

“Making up for earlier. I wanted to do this at the park, but you know, couldn’t risk getting arrested for public indecency.”

Harvey laughs wetly, pulling him in closer, fingers pressing into Mike’s ass. He plants a sloppy kiss against Mike’s throat.

“As long as that’s all.”

Mike would like to protest, especially with the way Harvey’s hands feel against him, and how easily he could tip them over on the couch. How much he’d like to lick the sweat off of Harvey’s chest down to his boxers, dip his tongue into Harvey’s bellybutton. How much he’d like to dig his fingers under the elastic of his boxers, teasing Harvey until he’s panting loudly. But that might not be a good idea for now.

“It is,” Mike says, and leans back in. Their kisses are aimless and sweet. Harvey’s tongue is gentle against his, and Mike sucks at it lightly, not wanting to tip over into into the desperation that’s playing right under the surface of his skin.

He works so hard at keeping himself composed that he barely hears a knock, and the telltale drag of the back door sliding open.

“Did you hear that?” Harvey leans back, and Mike follows instinctively, chasing his mouth, but the look on Harvey's face catches him off guard. He looks surprised. He clears his throat and nods to towards the back, voice low as he says, “Trevor.”

Mike whips around. He doesn’t expect to see Trevor even though there’s no reason for Harvey to be wrong. But yes, there he is, just at the threshold from the back door to the living room. He's holding onto what looks like a thick rolled up envelope, bouncing it against his leg, mouth open.

Mike’s voice thick when he says, “Oh, hey, Trev.” Mike is acutely aware of how flushed his face must be and well. There's no way that Trevor missed any of what was going on, really.

“Were you waiting for me?”

“I-- yeah.”

Mike slips off of Harvey’s lap, heart in his throat. There’s nothing to say, really. “Okay.”

Trevor blinks at him, eyebrows furrowed deeply. “Okay? Really? What the fuck, Mike?”

Mike’s stomach drops at the sounds of Trevor’s voice. It’s accusatory and his eyes dart across Mike’s face, over to Harvey’s, dropping to his crotch, where Mike's legs are still over his legs. Mike moves and straightens up properly next to Harvey, thighs still pressed close to his.

“What are you doing here? What’s up?” He tries to keep a semblance of calm, but he’s pretty sure his voice is wavering. His throat is as thick as ever, panic about to wash over him. Harvey grabs his hand and squeezes it tightly.

“You're always telling me not to knock...” He trails off and shakes his head. "Okay, no, I'm not gonna pretend like this is normal, what the fuck are you doing, Mike?"

Mike stares and looks to Harvey, pleadingly. Harvey opens his mouth but Trevor interrupts him with a scoff.

“No, no I don’t want to hear from you. Mike. Come on. You can speak for yourself can’t you?”

“I'm helping him study, Trevor, it's fine.” Trevor starts laughing, walks the length of the room and keeps his eyes on Harvey as he goes. Harvey seems to be ignoring this; he’s only looking at Mike and his hand is still tight around his.

“Oh yeah? Study sessions seem to have changed since you helped me out. What are you, fucking his brains out, literally?” He spits it out at Harvey. He’s circled the couch and leans over the back. He’s trying to aggravate Harvey, getting into his space. “God, I always thought you were a piece of shit but I didn't know you were a fucking creeper too.”

Harvey’s jaw tenses and he breathes deeply, trying to control himself. His eyes darting to the spot where Trevor stands over him.

“Trevor, stop!”

“What are you, defending him? What the fuck, Mike?”

“That's enough,” Harvey speaks up, sternly. His calm voice belied by the tension in his jaw. Trevor can’t read that, though, and he gets more worked up at how unconcerned Harvey seems.

Trevor backs away with a huff, he waves his hand around, using the paper in his hand to point at Mike, as if it were a weapon. “Is he calling the shots? I mean, that’s a stupid question isn’t it. Of course he is. Fuck, Mike. I didn’t think you were so fucking stupid.”

Harvey sounds still when he answers, “I think you should leave.”

“That’s great. I don’t think I want your opinion at all,” Trevor spits out.

“Trevor please-- can you just-- We’ll talk later,” Mike pleads. He can sense Harvey tensing up next to him, and he really needs Trevor to go. He’s obviously going to have to explain but he can’t do it now.

“What the fuck did he do to you? ” His eyes dart towards Harvey, he continues, his voice dripping with sarcasm, “Perhaps you should leave so Mikey and I can have this conversation on our own.”

“Mike has made it quite clear that he doesn't want you here.”

Trevor seems to be taken aback. Slowly retreating. Mike thinks they’re done, but then Trevor turns, a renewed fervor in his eyes. His mouth twisted. He turns to Harvey again, asks, “Did you know he has a girlfriend?”

Mike chest fills with dread. Shit. Shit. Trevor mouth stretches out in delight as he studies Harvey’s face.

It would be a misnomer to say that Harvey looks shocked. In fact, he doesn't seem to be expressing anything at all, his face is a blank. But Trevor can tell he’s found the quick, and he wants to dig in.

He looks back at Mike, and there’s a glint in his eye that Mike recognizes. He’s seen that look when Trevor’s tasted blood and wants nothing more than to destroy his opponent. Mike doesn’t like being on the receiving end of it, not at all.

“Mikey, you didn’t tell him about Tess? That wasn’t very nice of you.”

“She has nothing to do with this--” Harvey lets go of Mike’s hand, and he doesn’t know who to address. He ignores Trevor for now, says, “Harvey, I swear, I haven’t even seen her in ages.”

“You can't have it both ways, Mike.” Trevor says forcefully. The smile is gone, he drags his teeth over his lower lip, pulling it into his mouth as he watches Mike. “What’s the problem, Harv? Didn’t know little Mikey was into girls too? No gold stars for him.”

Harvey catches Mike’s eyes for a split second before looking away again. He gets up from the couch, straightening up. “Harvey, I can explain.” Mike tries to grab Trevor’s elbow but he jerks it out of Mike’s grasp. As if Mike were contagious. “Trevor, you need to go.”

Trevor shakes his head and he lifts the roll of papers he’s been holding on to. “Well. I just came by to show you this.” He slaps it against Mike’s chest, and lets go of it.The papers drop to the ground with a soft thud, and Trevor watches it unfurl lightly. “I guess that says it all, have a nice night, Mike.”

He leaves the same way he came, through the back. Once he’s gone, Mike goes to lock the door. He can’t help it. If only he’d fucking done that to begin with they would not be in this mess.

Harvey studies him carefully as Mike approaches. He wipes his face with both hands, nervously picking at his ear before trying to calm himself down.

Harvey doesn’t waste time, face still terse when he asks, “Who is she?”

“She's just... we dated in high school. I haven't seen her in months.”

“You haven’t seen her,” Harvey repeats dully.

“Not since June. Graduation night.” He wants to stop there, but Harvey’s boring into him like he wants him to continue. He still hesitates, and “And she spent the night.” Harvey laughs at that, quick and dry, and Mike stumbles over his words, “Not like that-- No, nothing happened. She just didn’t want me to be alone.”

Harvey’s eyebrows knot, and he looks at Mike as if that’s worse somehow. That he didn’t even fuck her, that last time.

“She’s not my girlfriend. I mean, she was, kind of. But not anymore.”

Harvey watches him, Mike can practically see the gears turning in his head but he can’t figure out the direction they’re going in. He takes a step, and another, getting into his space. If he could just show Harvey how much he wants to be with him…. He reaches out, hands flat on Harvey’s arms.

He only makes contact for a second before Harvey steps back, out of reach again.

“I should leave,” Harvey says, and his voice is so cold it grips Mike around the throat.

“What? Why? Harvey-- please.” His mind is blank. He’s always been good with words-- why can’t he think of any right now, when he really needs them? He doesn’t even understand really what the problem is. He hasn’t seen Tess at all while he’s been with Harvey. And he’s pretty sure Harvey’s had girlfriends in the past, has heard Marcus mention them in passing. He pleads, “I don’t understand?”

Harvey stands still long enough that Mike can grab his arm. He loosens and tightens his grip, as if to make sure Harvey’s still there. The fabric of his shirt soft against Mike’s fingers. That’s all he seems to be able to focus on right now. Harvey shifts and his voice is low, when he asks, “Does she know she’s not your girlfriend anymore?”

Mike pauses. “I mean, yeah?” He sounds unsure. They both moved on, didn't they? They hadn’t really had a talk, or whatever. But still.

Harvey’s mouth curls downward briefly, and he looks away from Mike. He reaches do to grab his bag and hoists it over his shoulder, all the while Mike is still gripping him tightly.

“Let me go, Mike, please,” Harvey says. Mike doesn’t, he can’t. But he’s not white-knuckling it anymore, so when Harvey pries his fingers off Mike doesn’t resist, and his hand just drops to his side.

He follows Harvey out, all the way to the edge of the porch, but can’t bring himself to keep walking after him beyond that. He’s pretty sure he’d just end up trailing behind him with nothing to say, just trying to touch Harvey’s shoulder or hand, and then he’d make a scene, and then Harvey would just get even more upset.

So he stays. And he’s not sure what exactly happened, except it’s not good, and he’s pretty certain Harvey doesn’t want to see him anytime soon.

Back inside, he locks the door with numb fingers, grateful that the commotion didn’t seem to wake up Grammy. His toes clumsily catch on the rolled up envelope that Trevor had brought by, and he picks it up. It’s addressed to Trevor, with a Columbia stamp on it.

He pulls out the contents, and skims the pages. It’s an admission letter, along with a course catalog and housing information. He got in off the waitlist. A flare of excitement bubbles up as he processes the information, only to be thwarted by the reminder of Trevor’s bitter display.

Mike is the only reason Trevor was even on the waitlist to begin with-- having convinced him it was worth a shot to accept the waiting game. They were going to pick the same dorms if things worked out; take over campus. Fuck. No wonder he’d come by. No wonder he’d waited. He was probably excited, ready to celebrate and instead they got a fight out of it. The sour taste in his mouth intensifies, and if he wasn’t furious he could probably cry into a pillow. As it is, he just wants to shout in frustration and throw the papers back into Trevor’s face.

“Shit,” he mutters to himself and tosses the papers on the table, as if they scorched his hand. The thud as they land is unsatisfying. Too dull.

There’s nothing he can do. His head and chest heavy and tight. It’s still early, but there’s nothing for him to do, really. He’s on autopilot as he gathers everything up from the table, putting the papers aside into their respective folders. Harvey’s test is still there and he holds on to it gingerly as he sets everything aside.

The only thing he doesn’t touch is Trevor’s envelope.

Chapter Text

It’s probably nothing.

That’s what Mike tells himself when he wakes up, headphone cords tightly wound around his throat, and he has to disentangle himself from them. His bones feel heavy and and his limbs stiff and numb. He pokes his tongue out to lick his chapped lips.

His sheets are bunched around his legs, as if he’s tossed and turned all night. He’s warm and gross, the sheets sticking to his skin. He forgot to close his window before going to bed last night, and the sun is too bright as it pours in, warming the room and making him sweat.

He'd planned on surprising Harvey at his office during lunch; having created cheat sheets for the logic games they'd covered so far. A part of him wants to go anyway. Just show up and surprise Harvey, act as if nothing’s off. Because it could be fine, couldn’t it? Harvey could have just gotten caught up in the moment last night, and wandered off emotionally. Maybe he’d be happy to see Mike today.

Another part of Mike knows, though. Knows in his gut that Harvey would probably look at him blankly. And even just the thought of that is too much to take.

He could handle shouting, he could handle tears-- even though, well, he could hardly picture Harvey crying but he could handle it if it happened. But the careless cold stare? How is he supposed to combat that?

The problem is really that he doesn’t have anything. If he’s going to confront Harvey he needs to do it right. When he’ll confront Harvey, he needs to do it right. He’ll only have one chance. And the dull ache in his chest tells him he’s not ready yet.

Mike goes downstairs to pour himself a cup of coffee, that Grammy’s left out for him. He scans the contents of the fridge but nothing appeals to him. He goes back to his room and lays down again. His palms are clammy around the warm mug and he sips it slowly, the bitter taste coating his mouth, causing a grimace. He stuffs the coffee aside on his nightstand, rolling over onto his belly and pressing his face into his pillow, darkness behind his eyelids when he shuts his eyes.

He’s trying to will himself back to sleep, to no avail. The window’s closed and the blinds drawn, the air conditioning slowly cooling the room to an acceptable temperature. He’s still tired, but his brain keeps racing. He shuffles again, trying to make himself comfortable in bed, but the sheets scratch uncomfortably against his skin, hot and tight. All he can think of is the precious few hours he and Harvey had yesterday, and if there could’ve been a way to avoid it.

Why did Trevor have to ruin everything?

Eventually he abandons his attempt to sleep and gets back up, slipping into a pair of loose jean shorts and a tank top. He observes himself in the mirror as he brushes his teeth, foam gathering at the corner of his mouth and he’s almost mad at how normal he looks. His chest is still tight and full, his belly overflowing with acid. But he looks just the same as he did yesterday.

He makes himself lunch, a sandwich that he takes one bite of and sets aside. It’s tasteless and thick in his throat when he swallows it down, and he paces around the house. Breathing space.

He tries to watch TV, a South Park marathon he’d normally be all over just makes him jiggle his leg. It’s past the time when he’d be surprising Harvey if he’d gone through with that plan, and it feels terrible to be stuck at home with nothing to do.

He buries his face in his hands. He can't just sit at home and wait for Grammy to come home. And then talk about his completely useless and boring day.

He goes to check the mail, and for once there’s something for him. A thick envelope from Columbia. He opens it on autopilot, half expecting them to rescind their offer. Wouldn't that just be grand? The cherry on top of his sour sundae.

They don’t, though: the envelope is full of pamphlets and thick brochures on housing, courses and frosh week which it seems, is right around the corner. He flips through one of the calendars, not even reading the information, just looking at the colorful pages and the stupidly happy people in all the photos. You’ll fit right in!, the captions scream, and it couldn’t feel further from the truth.

He doesn’t have mental wherewithal to sit and process all this information, the envelope hot in his hands, reminding him of last night and the responsibilities he’ll have to shoulder soon enough. It seems to infect the whole house, so he leaves it on the kitchen table and heads out. Grabbing his bike and setting off in a random direction, to pedal some nerves away.

 

--

 

He ends up at Applebee’s.

Jenny is working, fresh faced and optimistic, her hair delicately curled and a pencil perched behind her ear. She’s busy when he comes in, so he waves before heading straight to the back to pick up his check. The manager has two waiting for him, which is a pleasant surprise and he fingers the envelope carefully as he sits at the bar, waiting for Jenny to take her break. He’s not in a rush to go home.

He gets through half an iced tea before she slumps onto a stool next to him, no pretense as she pulls the collar of her shirt away from her neck.

“You know it’s the worst being up front, you get both the hot air from outside and the air conditioning? So like, your body never completely adjusts to whatever’s going on. It sucks.”

“Want some?” He offers his iced tea, and she takes it happily. Downing it straight from the lip of the glass instead of using the straw.

When Sonia appears behind the Jenny asks for a refill and one of her own. She takes a big gulp as soon as she gets her glass, sighing happily.

“So. What’s up?” She asks, finally turning Mike’s way. “Didn’t expect to see you ‘til tomorrow.”

“I got my package from Columbia.”

“Oh yeah? That’s nice.” She doesn’t seem to gather the magnitude, but he can’t really expect that, can he? She fishes out the slice of lemon from the glass and bites into it. She doesn’t even grimace as she sucks on it. “You were already accepted though, weren’t you?”

“Yeah, but. I have to figure out residence, and create a course schedule. Probably need to figure out some alternatives since freshmen get the shaft most of the time.

“D’you need a major, too?”

He shakes his head. “I’ve still got time for that.”

“So you’re not going to use all your fresh law knowledge to go pre-law?”

“Pre-law’s not really a major.” He can’t hold back a frown when he speaks, mouth twitching with frustration. Jenny looks surprised, lines appearing on her forehead as she leans in, urging him to continue. He sighs. “I don’t really want to talk about it. Any of it.”

She continues, “Okay, so I guess the topic of law is off the table in every respect, including the tests you have to take?”

Mike’s mouth twists involuntarily and he leans heavily onto the bar. Jenny turns to the front of the restaurant, lower lip caught between her teeth.

“Okay, I’m done in like, twenty minutes. Want to hang out after?”

He shrugs, although his shoulders ease a little bit. He could use the company, since his plan for the afternoon was to biking around Manhattan aimlessly until his legs gave out.

“We could go check out campus, it’s not too far, right? I want to see your new digs,” she says it with a fresh smile, and Mike nods easily. It’d be impossible to refuse her right now.

 

--

 

Jenny’s eager to look at the statues, dragging Mike past the Chapel but he slows down, observing it quietly.

Jenny notices his slowed pace, and turns to look at the building.

“Is that a church? We can go in if you want, I’m sure it’s open.”

Mike shakes his head, says, and leads her away, back on the quest for Rodin statue. “Used to go to concerts there when I was a kid.”

“Oh?”

He hasn’t thought about that for a while, the concerts his parents would take him to sometimes. Hadn’t thought about the fact that he’d be walking past the chapel every other day.

“I’m pretty excited about the libraries, can take you to them after the statue if you like?”

The thought of those still excite him. The thought of all the new books he’ll get to read, stuff that he doesn’t have access to at Winstone, volumes filled with all this knowledge for him to absorb.

“That’s nice, it’s like I’m getting a free campus tour. Even better when you’re actually studying and I get to visit, I’ll know it by heart.”

“Did you want to go to Columbia?”

“I dunno, maybe? I kind of like the idea of getting as far away from my family as possible, but living in Manhattan would be amazing too. NYU might work as well, but that’s more spread out, right? So not really the same experience.” She grimaces. “I suppose it depends on my grades, I’d probably need a scholarship for this place or NYU. ”

Guilt settles into his belly at her comment. Here he is trying to avoid thinking about being her in a couple of weeks, meanwhile most people can’t even afford to actually pick a college they want to go to. Mike is incredibly lucky that he got a full ride. There’s no way Grammy would have been able to pay for his tuition. At the most, his work at Winstone or Applebee’s might cover the cost of his literature.

“So you have to pick a residence, right?”

“I think that's set with the scholarship, they've already picked it for me. Not sure though. But there aren't that many options for freshmen.”

“Well if you need help moving your shit, I mean, I can lift a lot of heave things. It’s all in the legs, you know? I do a lot of legwork.”

Mike laughs. “I think the rooms will be fairly small, so there’s won’t be much to carry.”

“Well, I can definitely help then.” She smiles broadly. “And you’ll get to make a new roommate friend.”

“Yeah. You know the plan was always to stay with Trevor. Figure out a way that we could room together.”

“Is he also going?”

“He was waitlisted. But yeah, he got in now.”

“But it’s not the plan anymore?” Jenny speaks hesitantly. He’s pretty sure she can tell that he’s upset, with his hand pressed against his face, thumb worrying against his lip.

“No, it really isn’t.”

“You don’t have to talk about it, but like. I’m listening, you know?”

“Let’s get some coffee.”

They find a coffee cart and Jenny insists on buying a chocolate chip cookie that’s as big as Mike’s fist. Jenny tears the cookie in half as Mike balances their cardboard cups. There’s an expanse of green space at their disposal, and they pick a spot near a large maple tree to sit down.

“You get the big piece, I can’t finish this.”

“You’re the one who insisted on buying it.”

She tilts her head at him. “Mike, please, you know you want some.”

She pushes the piece of cookie at his face, taking advantage of the fact that he can’t defend himself, hands full. He moves his head, and the cookie hits him in the cheek before Mike relents, and accepts the piece in his mouth.

“There you go, now give me my coffee please.”

He hands over one of the cups, and she unhooks the lid, blowing on the surface before taking a sip. Mike takes a bite of the cookie, which is good, actually, but he’s not about to concede to that fact just yet, and follows it with a sip of his own coffee.

“I think this is a pretty nice campus to be living on.”

“Mhm.”

“Like, NYU is so much more central but it’s not the same kind of college experience, really.”

“I guess.”

Jenny nods. Stretching out her legs in front of her, adjusting her skirt on the grass.

“You sure you don’t want to talk about what’s going on?”

His heart is hammering in his chest. It’s probably just as well. He can’t talk to Harvey yet, and certainly not Trevor. And well, Grammy-- god. She’ll try to empathize, she always does. But she’ll just be happy that he doesn’t want to hang out with Trevor anymore.

“Trevor and I had a fight. He uh, he came over last night to tell me about getting off the waitlist but I was with Harvey. And he completely freaked out at us.”

Jenny blinks at him, gaze sharpening. “Wait, was it because Harvey’s a guy, because I will punch Trevor right in the face.”

“No no I don’t think he cares about that.” Mike shakes his head.

Jenny bites her lower lip. “So,” she says, “why was he mad?”

“I don’t really know. But he said some really shitty stuff to Harvey, and I think it fucked things up pretty badly. He left and I don't know. I don't think he wants to see me again.”

“I’m sorry Mike. That’s terrible.” She’s so sincere, her expression soft and fond.

“I just didn’t expect that from him, you know? That kind of sabotage. But I probably should’ve. It’s just as well, probably, that it happened now so I wasn’t stuck in the same room as him.”

“That’s a positive attitude,” Jenny says with a soft smile. They end up lingering on campus for a couple more hours, until they're both exhausted and sunburned from napping on the lawn.

 

--

 

He gets home in time for dinner, when he’d normally be heading straight to Harvey’s for another study session. It’s almost like stepping back in time; coming home to Grammy making dinner in the kitchen with the radio tuned into the oldies station. He hasn’t been greeted by this in a while, and he can tell Grammy’s as surprised as him from her happy coo when he says hello.

He saddles up to her side to take out dishes for them both.

“What a pleasant surprise,” Grammy says when she sees him. “I’ve only made soup and salad today I’m afraid, you might want to make yourself a sandwich as well.”

He nods at that uneasily. She seems on edge, ladling up a bowl of soup for him while he prepares a ham and cheese sandwich.

“I got my papers from Columbia today.”

“Yes, I did see them on the table. You really should take better care of your things they could get lost easily.”

Words of protest are on the tip of his tongue, but it’s just because he’s been on edge all day. It's not fair to take it out on her. It’s coming from a good place.

“Did you look at them?”

She nods. She’s taken out the cheddar from the fridge and grates it into his soup just like he likes it. The sight makes him feel bad about almost lashing out.

“It looks like residence is set, because of your scholarship, so that’s good. And there’s quite a few interesting courses available. Can’t wait for you to pass on all your new knowledge to me on our Sunday night dinners.”

She winks at him, and he smiles instinctively.

They’re at the table, halfway through their meal when Grammy puts down her spoon carefully and says, “I received a very interesting phone call today.”

Mike’s chewing on a large bite of bread and he blinks in surprise. He knows better than to ask while his mouth is full, and Grammy watches him chew and swallow.

“Oh?”

“It was from Trevor. Telling me that someone has been taking advantage of you.”

Mike’s stomach drops instantly, and he wants to laugh. He drops his spoon into his bowl and just watches it submerge into the soup. Right. Of course Trevor would lash out some more. He’s probably told every single shared acquaintance they have. There’s absolutely no reason for him to be surprised, and yet. He almost can’t believe it.

“Grammy, it's not like that.” He tries to keep his voice steady as he speaks. The concern is clear on Grammy’s face, and he has to be clear that things are fine. Without sounding too upset at Trevor because that will probably come off as being overly defensive and then she’ll worry some more, and he can’t have that.

“I wasn't born yesterday, I know better than to listen to him,” she says. “But that doesn't mean I don't want an explanation.”

Mike feels himself calm down a little bit. He really doesn't want to be having this conversation, though. He slumps into his seat, his whole body feeling suddenly heavy and uncontrolled.

“Do we have to talk about this now?”

She raises her eyebrows in mock surprise. Right. Of course they have to talk about this now.

“So which parts are true?”

“Why don't you tell me what he told you.”

“He said Marcus's brother, who is quite a bit older than you--”

“He's not that old,” he interrupts her, and she shushes him with a look.

“He said that this brother, has been taking advantage of you. Under the guise of getting your help.”

Mike’s stomach twists at that.

“I am actually helping him study. That's not a lie.”

“And the rest?”

“He's not taking advantage of me...” He trails off and then closes his mouth, unsure of how to proceed. This is uncharted territory for them.

When he was dating Tess, Grammy had made sure to tell him to be careful, but this might be different. He'd never thought she'd be a bigot, and well, to be honest, he understands that he would have had to discuss Harvey with her at some point. But he really thought it'd be on his own timetable. And far, far into the future. Like maybe Harvey would ace his LSAT and they’d all have dinner to celebrate and Grammy would fall in love with him and give her blessing for them to move in together, or something. But of course, Trevor had to take that from him.

“You’re serious about him?” She asks kindly, as if she could read his mind. It’s uncanny, how she always does that.

“I want to be. I really care for him. And now I think he'll never speak to me again because of Trevor I don’t even know if he wants my help anymore.”

“So you're going to shirk your responsibilities because you're scared? Honestly I thought I raised you better than that.”

“It's not that simple, Gram. I'm pretty sure he never wants to see me again.” As soon as it slips out he’s filled with panic. He isn’t sure of that, but it’s what he’s afraid of, and having said it out loud gives the thoughts some life.

She tilts her head patiently at him. He can feel the weight of her stare. She sighs when he doesn’t look her in the eyes.

“That’s what your heart says, and it’s not thinking rationally. What does your head say? Doesn't he need you? There’s a reason you’ve been working so hard and I know it’s not just because you want”

“I mean, I'm sure he could figure things out on his own.” They’ve been at it long enough that Mike is sure Harvey can figure it out on his own. But the idea of him working at it alone just twists in his gut, leaving a sour taste in his mouth. He knows Harvey doesn’t need him, but he promised to help.

“Sounds like a lot of unnecessary hassle when you’re available.”

“Yeah.” He feels his cheeks heat up and he pushes his spoon around in his soup. He is available. And they spent so long working together it would be cruel and irresponsible of him to disappear now. And it would be a shot in the foot; he’s certain Harvey won’t return of his own accord. Mike needs to be the one to push, just like he pushed his help onto him in the first place.

Grammy must be able to tell he’s back to being lost in his head, because she clears her throat, and looks at him with raised eyebrows.

“Don’t think I don’t expect to meet him when you’ve made things right, because I know you will. I’m incredibly insulted I had to hear about your personal life from Trevor of all people. Now, tell me everything else I’ve been missing out on. Don’t think I’ll stand for this information lock down.”

She smiles and Mike can’t help but bark out a laugh, mood sufficiently lifted.

 

--

 

Mike decides that the best tack for making sure Harvey doesn't ignore him is to just pretend like nothing happened.

First, he needs to get his bike fixed so he can return Harvey’s. If he’s going to make things right he wants them to be on an as even footing as possible. Which means he can’t be dependent on Harvey’s bike for transportation. He’s sure Harvey wouldn’t ask for it back, not yet at least, because he knows Mike needs it, which already means their relationship is skewed. If Mike’s going to show Harvey that he means business, that he wants to be serious, he needs to show that he’s independent and can take care of his own stuff.

He has time to bring his bike to a mechanic before he has to be at Winstone. It’s surprisingly painless-- he expects the mechanic to laugh at him for even thinking the wheel could be fixed. Instead he just lifts it up onto the truing wheel and gets to work.

He estimates the cost to be about seventy bucks, and tells Mike to come by in a couple of days.

He spends the rest of the day at the bookstore skimming through his course catalog nervously, and glancing at his watch. He has to be over at Harvey’s before he gets home from work, or he runs the risk of not being let in. He’d rather have the element of surprise on his side. And he’s pretty sure Harvey wouldn’t throw him out if he found Mike in his house, books and quizzes ready.

He rings the doorbell nervously when he gets to Harvey’s house. He still has the spare key, but he’s pretty sure it would be a terrible idea to let himself in. Two days ago he wouldn’t have hesitated, certain that that kind of surprise would be welcome. He didn’t even bring the key with him today. His best bet is Marcus being home, or he’ll be relegated to setting up on the front porch, which is less than ideal.

He’s shifting on his feet, ringing the bell again when he hears steps from inside.

Marcus swings the door open wide. Mike’s not sure what he expects, but it’s certainly not the defiant look on Marcus’ face, his chin aimed high. He seems utterly unsurprised to see Mike, and like he has no intention of letting him in.

Of course, he knows too. Everyone fucking knows.

“He's not here,” Marcus says, clenching his jaw.

“I know, that's why I'm here. I know he wouldn't let me in if he were.”

“And why should I let you in?”

“Honestly-- Marcus. I'm sorry if you're mad that I didn't tell you about me and Harvey but... would you really expect me to? I’m sorry if you think I’ve broken some kind of bro code or something, I don’t know, but I really care about him. ”

“Oh my god, you think I care about that?”

Mike tilts his head, duh written plainly across his face.

“I mean, yeah, I fucking care about that. But not in the way you think.” He scratches his head and grimaces briefly. “Like it’s a bit weird, right, he’s my brother. But I’m more concerned with the fact that you lied to him and like, strung him along.”

“I didn’t lie.”

Marcus rolls his eyes dramatically.

“Isn’t that why you’re here? To apologize?”

“That’s not--” he starts, but interrupts himself. Mike ducks his head. If Marcus doesn’t know it’s probably not Mike’s place to tell him. Then again, this is his only chance. Marcus looks to him expectantly, arm bracing the door as if he’s ready to close it any second, with no second thought.

Mike doesn’t have much of a choice. He takes a deep breath before speaking.

“Did Harvey tell you he's taking the LSAT?”

Marcus blinks in response, eyebrows knitting in confusion. “He is?”

“In October, yeah. I'm helping him study.”

“You're helping Harvey study for the LSAT.” He says it like it's the stupidest thing anyone has ever claimed.

“Yes.”

Mike slips his backpack off his shoulders and drops it to the floor. He kneels and opens it up, starts pulling out some of the LSAT prep books he has with him, and the printed quizzes he’s planned on making Harvey do today.

Marcus still looks confused.

“We’ve been working through a lot of old tests, trying to get his score as close to 180 as possible. I know that he’s mad at me. And I understand if you are too. But he needs me. That's all I want right now. To help him. He can hate me as much as he wants but I know that he knows that he needs me. He’ll probably be grumpy, but it’s the truth and he’ll adapt. And you want what's best for him too, don't you?”

Marcus’ grip on the door frame loosens tentatively and he bites his lip. “Fine,” he says, relenting.

Mike stands up and swings his bag around his shoulder quickly, not wanting Marcus to change his mind. He follows him in and settles himself in the living room.

Marcus watches him set up wordlessly. As if he still can’t quite believe that this is happening.

“You know, if he tells me he doesn’t want to see you again I won’t be letting you in anymore. You know that right?”

Mike nods, his throat feeling dry. He hopes it doesn’t come to that. “Right. I’m glad you have his back. But I’m not trying to hurt him. I swear.”

Marcus studies him carefully. He looks almost like he’s going to ask a question but shakes his head. “I’ll be in my room.”

“Thank you.”

Mike waits nervously for Harvey to come home, fiddling with a water bottle. He expects a massive showdown when Harvey arrives, and is pleasantly disappointed.

Harvey simply stares at him when he spots him on the couch.

“Why are you here?”

His eyes dart between Mike’s face and the documents spread out over the coffee table in the living room, so there's no doubt that Mike's there to study and nothing else.

Mike waves over the layup on the table. “What does it look like?”

“I find things work best when you don’t assume anything.” Harvey walks closer slowly, looking down at th array of papers before meeting Mike’s eyes. He’s still expecting a response.

“We still need to study. Doesn’t matter if you’re mad at me or whatever.”

“You don’t think I can do this on my own?”

Mike shakes his head. He’s thought about this, but he has to approach it in the best way. “You can. You can absolutely do it on your own.”

Harvey nods and clenches his jaw. His eyebrow arches expectantly.

“But you won’t do as well as if you have my help. And you know that. I know that. I mean, worst case scenario, this is great practice for you on focusing. If you can do that when I'm around you're going to ace that test."

Harvey seems to bite the inside of his cheek, as if he wants to protest. He’s so close to caving though, Mike can tell. He’s never been more certain, and the confidence makes him straighten his back.

“This is me being a grown up, Harvey. Are you going to join me on this side of the fence?”

Harvey’s fist clenches, and Mike can feel him glaring at him. He knows he hit a sore spot.

He takes a seat in the living room, and Mike mentally high fives himself, trying to contain his grin. This is a good step.

“Do you need to eat something before getting started?”

Harvey shakes his head, but he grabs one of the water bottles Mike laid out before joining Mike on the couch.

 

--

 

Mike is flooded with relief when he gets home.

It was a tense study sessions, and he’s exhausted. Physically, from keeping himself still as he sat next to Harvey working with him, and mentally from the thoughts that wouldn’t escape his brain. He’d told Harvey he was being an adult, but he didn’t feel like one earlier. Just wanting to plead and apologize and ask what needed to be done to make things right.

But he did it. He managed to stay on track even when their knees brushed, even when Harvey slipped up and laughed at one of Mike’s jokes. He managed to ignore the wild hammering of his heart and the panic that rose up in his throat every now and then.

Sleep comes easily that night, because he seems to be on the right track. Somehow.

 

--

 

This continues the rest of the week, Mike shows up before Harvey gets home from work, and sets everything up for them to study.

On Friday, Marcus lingers while Mike sets things up.

“How do you know all this stuff anyway?”

Mike shrugs, “I just remember things if I read them. And I understand them. Makes this kind of stuff easy.”

“Must be nice.” He sounds a bit resigned, and Mike blinks at him. “Things good?” Marcus asks, leaning against the window sill with a can of iced tea in his fist.

“Shouldn’t I be asking you that? You were gonna keep track of things, weren’t you? Any complaints you’d like to report?”

Marcus seems to consider this, trailing his fingers along his bicep.

“Okay, now you’re actually making me nervous.”

Marcus grimaces, taking a deep breath.

“Did he ever tell you why our parents split up? Why everything around here is so fucked?”

Mike shakes his head.

“Our mom was cheating. And Harvey caught her. More than once apparently.” Marcus grimaces. His chest expanding as he takes a deep breath. He almost laughs as he speaks. Like his own tragedy has turned into a joke. Mike can certainly empathize with that. “She just… destroyed my dad.

“That’s terrible, I’m sorry. But I don’t-- I don’t get why you’re telling me?” It’s not that he doesn’t appreciate the information, he really does. But he’s going to have to pretend like he doesn’t know when he sees Harvey and it’s going to be difficult. Then again, he knows there’s no way Harvey would tell him.

“I just figured you should know. He’s not going to tell you, but that’s why he’s not forgiven you. That’s why I was pissed.”

“But I wasn't-- I wasn't cheating.”

Marcus shrugs. “Did you ever really break up with Tess? Because I don't think you did.”

“It was like, a mutual fade out.”

“Right. I know that one. Usually leads to a mutual fade back in when you’re at a party together, or after some drunk MSN chats or whatever. She would have eased back into your life easily. And
she fits better with you than Harvey does.”

“That’s not true.”

“Right.” Marcus nods, as if he doesn’t believe Mike. “Well, that’s what Harvey thinks, anyway.”

“We don’t fit. There’s a reason I hadn’t seen her in months. And I wasn’t going to see her again. She’s literally leaving the state for school.”

“Like I said. He doesn’t know that.”

Marcus pushes himself off the window sill, and waves his fingers at Mike before heading upstairs.

He keeps thinking about what Marcus told him. His words bounce around Mike’s head even while he studies with Harvey, and he can’t help but sneak unsubtle glances his way.

When Harvey catches him staring a third time he says, “I thought you said you were going to be professional?”

“Just, thinking.”

“You’re thinking awfully aggressively.”

“I’m not saying anything. That’s not how thinking works, anyway.”

“Mike. You know what I mean. And your stare is about as subtle as a brick against a window. Please.”

Mike huffs, but tries to obey, focusing on his own work.

It makes sense. Harvey figured that he was just a stop-gap until Tess would come back on the scene, and that she’d probably be devastated to hear that Mike’d found someone else to hook up with. Even though she wouldn’t, even though Mike didn’t really think of Harvey as just a hook up and really, it sort of hurt that Harvey would think about them that way. But they’d never actually been clear, so he couldn’t blame him, logically speaking.

What was it Harvey’d said? That it was safer not to make any assumptions. Right. Well, Mike is going to have to work on that going forward.

Chapter Text

Having spent all summer revising for the LSAT has left Mike expertly prepared to deal with this problem. It’s the easiest logic game he’s ever come across, really. If the problem is that Harvey thinks Mike was dishonest and wronged Tess, all he has to do is clear things up with her.

He sets his plan into motion the next day, convincing Jenny to hang out after their shift. He knows what he’s doing, but having someone physically present to support him when he confronts Tess would be a huge relief.

Not that he thinks something is going to happen. Perhaps thinking of it as a confrontation is a bit off-- it’s going to be mostly him, speaking, and her agreeing with him. Or so he hopes. But just in case, having an audience will work in his favor.

“So Trevor told him you have a girlfriend?” Jenny watches him as she lights up her cigarette. Her brow creases with concern. “After walking in on you? It wasn’t like… R rated or anything, was it?”

“No, nothing that bad.” It’s still uncomfortable, though, which he’s sure his face is betraying.

He watches her cheeks dent as she sucks on her cigarette.

“That really fucking sucks. And Harvey won’t talk to you anymore?”

“I mean, we’re talking, kind of, but we’re not… like, seeing each other.” Because that’s what they’d been doing, wasn’t it? Despite never putting a name on it. They were dating. Those were dates that they’d been on. However casual it might have been for Harvey, it wasn’t actually casual for Mike. Which is probably part of the problem.

“But you’re not even seeing her. Or like, not for a while, right? It’s not fair.”

He can’t help the raw laugh that escapes his throat. “Who said anything about fair?”

She cocks her head, planting her heel against the brick wall as she leans back against it.

“I think he knows, actually, that it’s not true.”

It’s something he’s been thinking about, but not been able or willing to verbalize. That Harvey has to know. That this isn’t so much about him being scared that Mike was cheating, but about the dishonesty. Because if Tess was just swept under the rug, what else could Mike be hiding?

The thought sits heavy in his chest.

He presses the heel of his hand into his eye socket. There’s a slight headache building behind his temple from working all day; opening the shop and then rushing over to Applebee’s. That, all the while knowing he’d be rushing off to see Tess afterward. It’s a wonder his head hasn’t exploded.

“So what’s the problem?”

He thinks about it. Thinks about what Marcus told him. He understands, is the thing. He gets why Harvey’s pulled back under the circumstances. Mike can’t really prove that he wasn’t cheating, not at this point. But he doesn’t feel comfortable sharing this with Jenny. It’s really not his story to tell.

“He doesn’t like cheating,” he says, keeping it vague, voice wavering.

She’s insistent, “But you weren’t cheating. Didn’t you tell him that?”

“Isn’t that what cheaters say though?”

Jenny seems to consider this. “Okay.”

She taps her heel against the wall, pushing off and following Mike as he ambles away.

“Okay, but. What if you talk to her? And like. Check to see how she feels? And then you can just start over again with Harvey.”

Mike stops. “Yeah, that’s what we’re gonna do.”

“Right now? We?” She looks surprised. “Here I thought you were just going to vent and like, pick up some sad records so you’d have an excuse to weep openly,” she teases, trying to lighten the mood.

“I can cry without an excuse.” Honestly, what an insult. “Not that I would.”

“Noted.” She scoffs, eyebrows lifting.

“But yeah... Yeah, yeah right now. If you're okay with that. I just, you know, it’d be good to have some sort of back up. Not that I need you to say anything, obviously.” He bites his lip. “I mean, I want to do all the talking.”

“Obviously. But where are we going? Since the record store was a cruel lie to get me to agree to come along.” She punches him lightly in the arm.

“No, that’s... she works at the record shop. She might even be able to recommend some sad, sappy albums for you if you need a good cry.”

“Ha, ha.” She rolls her eyes, and moves to punch him again. This time he’s quick enough that he can dodge her. He laughs as he hops off the sidewalk, challenging her with a glance.

She tugs at his shirt, pulling him back up next to her. They walk in silence for a bit, the next words he wants to speak heavy in his mouth. The smell of cigarettes still clings to Jenny, and it’s sharp in his nostrils. If he can’t tell Jenny, how is he even supposed to tell Tess? He wets his lips.

“I think I’m also--” He stops to take a breath.“I’m going to tell her about him, I think. Or well, about me, really.”

Her eyes bug out briefly, but she schools her face. Small smile tugging at her lips. “You’re gonna come out? That’s huge.”

He does a half-hearted shrug, stuffing his hands into his pockets. It’s not that big of a deal. It really isn’t; not in the grand scheme of things. Everyone else knows, after all. But if honesty is such a big deal to Harvey, he has to go all out.

There’s no halfsies with this.

On a good day it takes about ten minutes to walk to Debaser; tonight it takes them twice as long as they meander. Jenny lights up another cigarette, providing an excuse to go slower. He’ll never say it, but he’s grateful for the gesture, not quite in a rush.

“I’ll be in the back,” Jenny says, as soon as they step in. She squeezes his shoulder and strokes the back of his arm firmly before stepping away. It’s a small comfort.

Mike doesn’t spot Tess at the counter, or anywhere among the record stacks. When he asks the guy at the register he rolls his eyes, and steps away to find her. It must be a common occurrence, people asking for her specifically. She’s always been popular.

Her forehead creases when she spots him, but she recovers quickly by pulling him in for a hug before stepping behind the counter.

She looks the same as always. Bright eyes framed in dark makeup, and her blonde hair loosely grazing her shoulders. Purposefully disheveled.

“I didn’t mean to interrupt whatever you were doing.”

She scoffs. “Please, I was just doing inventory. Phil just gets annoyed that I’m more popular than him. I sell more too, even though he hates leaving me on cash. All the boys want to buy all my suggestions,” she says with a coy smile.

“Can’t trust the pretty girl, right?” He says, it’s one of her favourite sayings. Her smile widens into a grin.

“Exactly. But he won’t have to deal with me for long.”

Right, because she was going out of state for school. He thanks his lucky stars that he caught her before she left. He hopes the way he nods doesn’t give away that he’s forgotten. “Put in your notice already?”

“Honestly, I’m gonna have so much packing to do,” she starts, eyes lit up with excitement. She gestures wildly as she goes through all the packing she has to do, and how she’s only allowed a certain amount of boxes for storage, just in case her parents want to move.

They’d never really had a chance to discuss her college plans beyond the fact that she was going away. It’s surprisingly easy to slip back into their old shoes, and he gets now what Marcus meant about falling back in sync with her. But he knows, just from seeing her again, that nothing would’ve ever happened. She’s as pretty as ever, and as engaging, but there’s no spark. Nothing.

She huffs out a breath, elbows pressed against the counter, tucking her face in her palms.

“What’s up with you? Didn’t come here just to catch up, did you?”

Right. “Well. I wanted to make sure that we finished on good terms.”

She blinks at him, eyes slightly narrowed, as if she doesn’t quite understand what he’s saying.

He scratches his jaw.

“I’m sorry, are you like, breaking up with me? Because I thought we went over that already?”

His chest deflates, a pinprick leaking all the air from his lungs. “I mean. I wanted to make sure, is all.”

“Okay, yeah, Mike. We’re fine.” He brow is furrowed, and her lips are pursed in what looks like disbelief.

It’s awkward, more than a bit. Mike feels like he should say more, somehow, but nothing seems quite right. How can he explain that he knew they’d broken up but he just wanted to make sure because this new guy he was seeing, but not really, was upset that he was cheating? There are no words to untangle that mess in a digestible way.

Tess is still looking at him with confusion written on her face when Jenny peers in their direction. She’s the only other customer in the shop, and quickly ducks away when she sees them standing in silence.

Tess’ mouth drops open and she laughs.

“Oh, I get it. Your new girl wants to make sure the book has been closed.” She shakes her head, smile splitting her face in half. “I should’ve guessed. Yes, Mike, you can tell her the book is closed and has been returned to the library, long ago.” She cocks her head.

Mike can feel his cheeks heating at her comment, and he hopes it doesn’t translate into a blush. He stuffs his hands into his pockets, rocking on the spot. “Right.”

“You know, I’m actually having a going away party if you want to come.”

“I appreciate it, really. But I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

She nods at Jenny by the door, says, “New girl can come too, though. I don’t have a problem with that. And if things are over by then I know lots of hot girls, you know. I can hook you up for sure.”

“I’m actually.” He takes a deep breath. “I’m actually just trying to win someone back. Uh. A boy.” He leans back on his heels, trying to root himself to the floor. His pulse racing in his ears. Well, he said it.

Tess’ expression is stunned. Really, that’s the only way he can describe it. “Is that like-- a full time thing, now? Boys? Did I--” She seems to hesitate over her words, continuing, “I didn’t turn you or anything?”

He coughs out a laugh. “No, nothing like that. And uh, I don’t really know, I haven’t really like, thought about it. I don’t think it’s ‘full time’,” he says, using air quotes. “Just the right person at the right time.”

He sucks his lips into his mouth, biting down sharply, waiting for her to speak.

“Right. I’m sorry that was insensitive, I know, like,” she says, and rolls her eyes, “that you can’t get ‘turned’ or whatever, I just had this other guy I dated tell me he was gay and I was starting to think it’s a me thing, you know? God, not that this is about me. Sorry.”

She’s rambling, and for some reason it makes him feel better. She’s right, it’s not about her, but her reaction just highlights that it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t change anything about Mike, or about his relationship with her, or how she feels about him. The first person he’s actually told and she makes it about her insecurities and Mike could honestly cry with happiness.

Her mouth is still twitching when she speaks again, “Seriously like, that’s awesome. And I’m sorry I really-- Did not mean to make that about me. He can come to the party if you win him back in time.”

He laughs at that. “I’ll keep it in mind, thanks. Might not really be his scene though.”

“Right.”

Her attention shifts when another customer walks into the store and they say their goodbyes quickly. He only needs to take a step back from the counter for Jenny to sidle up to him. The expression on her face says it all; she heard.

She loops her arm into his when they leave, “We should celebrate that, that was huge.”

“I feel like my insides have been scooped out with a melon baller.”

“But that went so well!”

“I don’t mean in a bad way, just. I haven’t told anyone before? It’s just weird. You figured it out. Everyone else who knows-- I didn’t really have a say in that.” It would be easier if he never had to say anything, ever, at all. But he realizes that’s not quite how things work. He can only hope it’ll be as painless as this in the future.

“All the more reason to celebrate. Fill that scooped out belly with ice cream, yeah?”

“Only if it’s mint chocolate.”

“Duh,” she says, and pulls him in the direction of Häagen-Dazs. The August air is still hot and humid, the stench of the city clinging to their skin, and still, Mike hasn’t felt as light in a long, long time. Jenny’s elbow knocking into his side, and her excited commentary restoring normalcy into his world.

 

 

-

 

“I spoke to Tess.”

It’s the first thing he says when he sees Harvey for their study session, unable to contain the news. Harvey doesn’t seem impressed, one eyebrow raised as he turns towards the couch. He drops down and leans back, steadying his gaze on Mike.

“Tess.” Harvey’s voice is flat, emotionless. But there’s a slight twitch at the corner of his mouth. Mike is pleased that he seems at least a little bit affected.

“Yeah, my ex.”

“Mike,” Harvey says this sternly, as if he’s ready to start a speech.

“Harvey. Let me finish. I spoke with her. And she told me she assumed we were done even before I did. Like, before we left school even.”

He waits, watching Harvey’s face intently. He stares right back.

“So?” A slight shrug of the shoulders accompanies the word.

“So… I didn’t cheat on her.”

Harvey adjusts himself on the couch, palms rubbing against his thighs. His jaw tenses minutely as if he’s trying to process the information.

He sucks in his cheeks before speaking, gaze steady on Mike. “I’m glad your conscience is cleared.”

“That’s it?” Mike puffs his cheeks out and shakes his head. He drops the papers he was holding onto the coffee table. It’s less dramatic than he hopes; pages barely spreading and no satisfying thud to underscore his frustration.

“I’m not sure what else you want me to say. Your relationship with Tess isn’t any of my business nor is it my concern.”

“Wow,” Mike says, brain-to-mouth filter having evaporated. He scoffs in disbelief, running his hand over his face and pinching his lower lip. “I came out to her.”

Harvey’s jaw clenches, and there’s a twitch in the corner of his eye. Lips rolling into his mouth and he watches Mike. “It’s not really my place to say that I’m proud but. I’m glad you could tell her.” There’s a twitch at the corner of his eye. “I just hope you didn’t do it for me.”

Mike’s mouth drops open. He can feel the anger in his teeth, waiting to hurtle out at his mouth. He bites it down, trying to keep himself in check by rotating his jaw, breathing deeply through his nose. He can be an adult about this. He can.

“You can’t be serious.”

It has more bite than intended, and Harvey must be able to tell that Mike’s holding back so much more. His gaze is steady. He leans back on the couch, hands folded onto his lap.

He’s back to being cool and collected, his face as still as a mask. He shrugs.

“I’m not sure what else you were expecting.”

He tilts his hands in an invitation for Mike to speak, and well, shit. He has to say something now. Mike can’t half-ass this. His heart is rabbiting in his chest as he tries to gather his thoughts. He’s thought about this, but he hasn’t expected to speak about it, not just yet.

“I thought. Maybe I thought we could go back to normal. Because I wasn’t cheating. And I was completely honest with her. And now I’m trying to be honest with you. I only want to be with you. Exclusively.”

He pauses, watching Harvey’s expressionless face. It’s not his real expression, Mike knows. He knows that this has to mean something to Harvey. And he doesn’t understand why he can’t just show it.

“Normal,” Harvey repeats hollowly.

Maybe Mike should have expected that.

He knows what he imagined; what he saw in his fantasies. Harvey pulling him fiercely into his arms, and burrowing his face in the crook of his neck. Hands fisting his hair, some declarations of sorts. And in his nightmares, Harvey stared him down, gaze icy, and told him he didn’t feel anything for him, and just needed an excuse to drop him before Mike’s neediness became overly embarrassing.

But not this. Not this blank face and refusal to engage.

“I’m sorry, I can’t do that,” Harvey says, at last.

He feels sick. He feels actually legitimately sick. His belly filling with acid and his chest too full and too empty all at the same time.

Harvey moves to open up one of the study books, pen in hand. A practiced move. A callous, emotionless move.

He watches Harvey continue, as if nothing’s happened. As if Mike didn’t just spill his guts in front of him.

Mike speaks before thinking, says, “I think I should go.” His voice sounds detached from his body, and he blinks in surprise. But it’s true. It’s what he needs. He clears his throat.

Harvey looks up, for once some emotion crossing his face. It’s too quick for Mike to decipher, and he doesn’t even care to anymore.

“You can keep the books and tests.”

Harvey doesn’t speak, of course. He nods curtly. Mike thinks his mouth is turned down at the edges, ever so slightly, but he can’t stare at him any longer. He leaves his things and lets his feet walk him back out.

 

 

-

 

It’s surprisingly easy to keep going.

Mike feels mostly nothing; numb, hollowed out, and disappointed. But there isn’t much to do. By deciding that he won’t be helping Harvey anymore, he’ll be able to stay away. And he only has a couple of weeks left before moving into the dorms.

He probably never has to see Harvey again unless he wants to.

Grammy senses that something’s wrong but lets him breathe. She pulls him in for a hug when they watch Jeopardy that night, and he rests his head on her shoulder like when he was younger. She doesn’t correct him when he guesses wrong, and lets him pick a film for them to watch, staying up long after her bedtime, and making them both hot toddys.

Not talking about it does him a world of good.

Mike gets a call from the bike mechanic the next day, telling him his bike is ready for pick up. Somehow, in the midst of this all, he forgot about that/it. Right.

Well, no time like the present to return Harvey’s bike, then. He might as well get it over with quickly, so as to not let Harvey think that Mike’s holding on to the bike because he wants Harvey’s attention.

Since it’s a weekday, he won’t risk running into Harvey until after six. And he’s pretty sure Marcus will be home. If not, he can probably take it out back, and lean it against the garage.

It’s less than ideal, though. He tried being a grown up, and he’s going to continue with that. Leaving the bike without letting anyone know doesn’t quite fit with that motto. Regardless, he’s ready to unload everything that belongs to the Specters, and he’s ready to do it now, before his feelings get in the way again.

Luckily, Marcus is home, and he leads the way to the garage, watching as Mike tries to hoist the bike up on the rack. He’s pretty sure he almost dislocates his shoulder in the process.

“So.” Marcus shuffles his feet. He’s not really looking at Mike, eyes almost glued to the ground.

Mike ignores him, saying, “I had these spare keys from, uh, before. You might want them back .”

He holds them up and waits for Marcus to take them. Eventually, Marcus opens his hand, and Mike drops the keys into his palm.

Marcus bites his lip, frowning. Finally looking up, pained expression as he speaks. “Don’t you think you should give them to Harvey?”

Mike shakes his head. “Don’t think I want to see him right now. Don’t think he wants to see me either.”

“Right.” Marcus shifts.

“I brought this with me--” Mike hands over a thick folder, pages spilling out. “It's a study plan. Just so Harvey knows what to look into and stuff.”

“You really should give it to him directly.”

“Believe me, we've said everything there is to say.” Or he had, at least. Laid his heart down and been humiliated. He's accepted defeat. He doesn’t want to be faced with pity. Or even worse, another blank robot stare. He shivers at the thought.

Marcus bites down on his lips. Tapping the folder with his fingers. “So what are you up to?” He moves to touch Mike’s arm, and drops his hand, seemingly not wanting to overstep. His expression is exactly the pitiful look that Mike wanted to avoid.

He hasn't thought about it, really. “I guess, just gonna pick my classes and prep for them.”

“Mike, come on, no one prepares for classes. You like, pick the stuff that’s in the afternoon, and try to get a three day weekend. Heck, you don’t even start studying until midterms.”

Mike’s not sure why Marcus is so determined that this is how it works, since he sincerely doubts this is how Harvey approached university. He doesn’t say that, though.

“Maybe that's why the freshman GPA is so low.”

Marcus chuckles and rolls his eyes. “Okay. Sure. Sounds boring as fuck to me though.” He bites down on his top lip, seemingly hesitating on what he wants to say next.

Mike’s not even sure why they’re still here. He’s handed everything over, and Marcus is blocking the exit. It’s not like he has anywhere else to be, though.

“You know, since you’re uh, your schedules have cleared up, you should come play soccer with me. I’ve got a sort of regular game going a couple times a week with some friends. It’s fun. Always looking for more people.”

Mike wrinkles his nose, remembering with embarrassment the failed run he went on with Harvey. “That’s not really my thing.”

“What? Hanging out and running around and laughing until you’re gonna puke? How can that not be your thing, it’s everyone’s thing.”

“I can’t see Trevor again.”

Marcus laughs, a full bodied laugh, chest shaking.

“He doesn’t come to that. Are you serious? Could you imagine him willingly participating in any kind of sporting activity for fun, while sober, with like no money or pride at stake? That's not his thing.”

“So he’s allowed to have a thing and I’m not?”

Marcus’ mouth widens in a crooked smile. It’s awfully familiar to Harvey’s, and it sears right through Mike’s chest. He has to catch his breath quietly.

Marcus must sense the shift in mood, because he makes to move, heading out of the garage. Mike follows, feet and head heavy again.

“It’s fine if you don’t want to, obviously. But it’s chill. And you don't have to worry about Harvey either. He doesn’t care.”

Of course Harvey doesn’t care. And if he doesn’t, why should Mike? Why should he limit himself in what he spends his time doing? He has the time, and it’s not like he has anyone else to hang out with, since losing Trevor and Harvey.

“Okay.”

Marcus turns after he speaks and smiles as bright as Mike’s ever seen. “Awesome. We’re actually heading out in an hour. Why don’t you go home and change and meet us at Wicker’s Park?”

Mike nods, feeling slightly detached from reality. This is probably a good thing for him, he tells himself.

 

 

-

 

 

He repeats that motto on the way home, while he gets changed, and on the way to the park.

The guys Marcus plays with are mostly new to him-- he didn't hang out with jocks in school, having judged them harshly for their inane focus on sports and banging their fists against their lockers in feats of strength.

But surprisingly-- or perhaps not -- they’re actually not that bad. None of them tries to assault him, or trip him on the field, or set him up.

They tease him for how crappy his stamina is, but there's never much bite to it. He does well as a goalie. Trying to stop speeding objects from hitting him in the face is nothing new. He mostly stops the balls with his chest, ducking all the other shots.

The first time he catches the ball with his hands as it sails towards him he actually shouts out loud, mouth hanging open in delight. He runs around the goal, ball high up in the air, and the other shout with him, running circles around him.

It becomes tradition.

It’s surprisingly easy to fill his days back up like this. It becomes a regular thing, and working out his frustrations on the field seems to help him chase away the hollow feeling in his chest. If anything, it’s hard to think about how much it hurts to be abandoned when you’re trying to catch a ball, or hit it with your foot.

Jenny comes to watch a couple of times, Mike suspects it has more to do with one of Marcus’ friends than him, but he's happy to be her excuse if she needs one. She's certainly been there for him when he needed it.

On one of their soccer games, Marcus mentions their dad having come back. Mike imagines briefly that Harvey must be relieved, the pressure and responsibility not his anymore. That’s the first time he thinks about Harvey on the field, and it’s a fleeting thought. It gives him pause, that he can think about Harvey without his face crumpling or without losing step. It feels good.

He learns that Marcus actually has a soccer scholarship at Brooklyn College, which leads to jabs about preparing for college. Because apparently it’s okay to prepare if you’re going to play sports, but not if you’re into academics. He and the others gang up on Marcus on that one, and it’s the most at home and at ease Mike’s felt since he broke it off with Harvey.

He feels like he fits in again.

 

 

SEPTEMBER

Mike really doesn’t want to see Trevor again. And he’d love to be able to say that he has no reason to.

But he still has Trevor’s admission package. The envelope is folded and stuffed in his bookcase, among the neat stacks of books. Sticking out like a sore thumb.

He’s reminded of it everytime he looks at his own papers. When he fills out his class preference grid and sends it away, and when his residence sends him a roommate questionnaire to fill out.

Something tightens inside of him when he does; each question just reminding him that he could’ve avoided this altogether if he and Trevor were still on good terms. It was supposed to be the two of them, together. The two of them taking over campus, and making it their playground. That’s what Trevor had always said, at least. He’d even picked out the posters he was going to bring to decorate.

It’s so him, when Mike thinks about it. Steering the ship before he even knew if it was going to work out. But that’s how the two of them worked, really. Trevor got an idea, and Mike rolled with it. And if they got into trouble, at least they were together.

He’s been trying-- and succeeding, he thinks-- in being adult about Harvey. But this… is something else he needs to take care of. Despite how much he doesn’t want to see Trevor, Mike essentially holds his college career in his hands.

He doesn’t necessarily expect Trevor to be surprised to see him, but he does expect more than quirked eyebrows and a nod ‘hello’.

He doesn’t even look back to see if Mike follows him into the house. But of course he does.

“Thought you might need these.” Mike waves Trevor’s admission papers around.

Trevor’s splayed out on the couch, channel surfing like he never even got up. His eyes flick in Mike’s direction before settling back on the screen.

“Did you pick res?”

“I’m gonna be at Furnald Hall.”

Trevor’s jaw tightens, the tendons in his neck popping. “Sounds nice.”

He doesn’t speak. Mike goes over to him and drops the envelope in his lap, where he can’t avoid it.

“Trevor, come on. This is important.”

“So you’re pretending you care about me, now?”

Mike laughs, actually laughs at that. “Wow, that’s rich coming from you.”

Trevor turns to him slowly, mouth twitching. “We were supposed to do this together, you know? I only applied because you were going to be there.”

“So now this is my fault?” Mike gestures between them, and he honestly could laugh again if it wasn’t so goddamn tragic.

“I’m not the one who made things weird.” Trevor says it casually, like it’s something he’s been repeating to himself, and everyone else who’s asked why Mike isn’t around.

Mike can actually feel the words hitting him in his bones. His chest growing hot, the flush traveling all the way down to his toes. His jaw dropping open in disbelief.

“Trevor. You can’t be serious?”

“What? That you were blinded by dick--which, I didn’t even fucking know was a thing for you,” he says, shaking his head. “And then you take that asshole’s side? He’s hated me since the start, so yeah, feels a lot like you did it on purpose.”

“That’s not what happened. You don’t have anything to do with this.”

Trevor rolls his eyes. “Right. That’s why you dropped me as soon as I found out. No point faking it anymore, right?”

Mike’s shaking, his fists tight and nails digging into his palms. But he tries to stay still. His voice getting higher without being able to control it.

“You told Grammy! That’s not-- that’s not okay. That kind of stuff is traumatizing.”

“You’re not traumatized.” Trevor scoffs.

“How would you know? You don’t know what happened. You have no idea how I’d react, or Grammy would react. What was even the point?” He spits it out, and finally Trevor looks at him. “You were trying to hurt me. And you did. And that shit has consequences, so be a grown up and deal with it.”

“I was worried about you.” Trevor’s face is tight and he does look pale. He means it, Mike can tell, but that’s even worse. Why would his first instinct be to run and tell everyone instead of talking to Mike directly?

“Is that why you told Marcus, too?”

Trevor inhales sharply at that, eyes darting up to meet Mike’s. That’s it. He’s got him now.

“T’s not the first time you’ve done this shit. Were you worried about Jenny, too? Because you were a dick to her, too, I don’t know if you remember.” Trevor’s jaw is clenched and he’s staring at the floor. He sniffs. Mike continues, “You don’t know what’s best for me, Trevor, you can’t just try to hold on to me and sabotage what’s good in my life so I’ll stick around. That’s not how friendship works.”

“You’re off doing your thing while I’m just waiting around. That’s not friendship either.” Mike laughs at that. A sad, broken laugh that brings out a grimace on Trevor’s face. “I didn’t realize that was so hilarious.”

Mike shakes his head. “You think I haven’t spent years waiting around on you, when you’ve been busy with parties and friends that I didn’t have and just-- And I’ve been working, and yeah, okay busy with Harvey. But it’s barely been two months. This is the first time I’m the one with more plans than you and you couldn’t wait?” He takes another deep breath, having run out. “And you really think that I was interested in Harvey because he doesn’t like you? The world doesn’t revolve around you, Trevor.”

Mike hasn’t really thought about it, but as he speaks he knows it’s true. Trevor was just lonely, and was used to being the center of attention. And as soon as he went without, as soon as Mike wasn’t calling and coming around and waiting for him to make plans, waiting for him to steer them in whatever direction he chose, he choked and lost it.

It’s sad, really.

Trevor shrugs, small and fragile. His fingertips grazing the papers. He sits in silence for a beat, and Mike just watches him. He can see both Trevors, clear as day. The one he grew up with and idolized and thought he’d have in his life forever. And the one who lashed out because he fet left out, and was unable to deal with the consequences.

If he hadn’t know already there was nothing to salvage, he knows it now.

“Congrats on getting in, by the way. I knew it would work out.”

“Thanks.” Trevor doesn’t look up at him when he leaves, but he doesn’t really care.

 

 

-

 

 

Mke is finalizing his second alternative class schedule in the backyard when Harvey strolls in unannounced.

It’s unexpected enough that he blinks twice, narrowing his eyes, asking, “Harvey?”

He feels a bit dumb after saying it, but he can’t be blamed for being surprised.

Harvey's got his hands stuck in his pockets. Khakis and a button down, as formal as ever, even in the lingering heat. He must’ve come straight from work.

Mike can feel how sweaty his own face is. And all he's done is sit in the grass and drink lemonade while reading the anti-calendar.

“That’s me,” Harvey says with a smack of his lips.

“How did you...I mean….” he doesn’t really know where he’s going with his question, not quite certain where exactly they stand. He clamps his mouth shut.

Harvey nods towards the house. “Your grandmother’s nice. Had a lot of questions, but nice. She said you’d be out here.”

Oh, God. Mike doesn’t want to think about what Grammy might have said, or asked. His belly squirming and skin feeling tight.

“I’m sorry? She can be a bit--grandmotherly.” He wrinkles his nose. It's really the best way of describing her.

Harvey smiles tightly and nods.

“May I?” He asks, gesturing to the porch steps. Mike shrugs and Harvey takes a seat. He has to look down to make eye contact, and it's odd. Their situations feel reversed, Harvey coming to him. Looking up at him.

Harvey sits in silence for a beat, hands now clasped in his lap.

He doesn’t look like he’s in a rush to say anything, making Mike uncomfortable.

“Did you want something to drink? I've got some lemonade?”

“No, I'm good. Thank you though.” His eyes narrow slightly, and crinkles form at the edges.

Mike has never been more confused in his life.

“I'm assuming you came for more than to sit on my porch steps. They're not particularly comfortable. I think your own stairs are much better.”

Harvey's mouth tugs up on one side. “I got a near perfect score on one of the practice tests.”

Mike’s stomach drops with excitement. He has to swallow before speaking, not wanting to humiliate himself again by showing how much he still cares.

“Harvey, that’s amazing,” he can’t help the smile that takes over his face. Cheeks hurting. So much for playing it cool.

His smile turns pained, resembling a grimace. Harvey inhales deeply. This is probably the last thing he wanted; for Mike to get all sappy at him. He’s probably here to rub it in. The fact that he doesn’t need Mike to help him, just like he always said.

“I knew you could could do it.” He picks at a loose thread in his shorts, and stares at Harvey’s ear. Not able to look him directly in the eye. “If you wanted to gloat, or whatever.

Harvey shakes his head. “Mike. I couldn’t have done this without you. You know that.”

Mike licks his lips. So it’s a thank you, then. “You’re welcome, I guess. You didn’t have to come here to tell me. A thank you card when you aced the actual test would’ve been enough. Could’ve just signed your name and dropped it in our mailbox.”

Harvey looks away and Mike takes the opportunity to look at him, and study his face. He doesn’t seem like he’s gloating. But Mike doesn’t know how to read him anymore. Harvey shakes his head and makes eye contact with Mike before he turns away, quickly.

His voice is sincere when he speaks. “That’s not it. I didn’t want to tell anyone else. My dad is back from tour and I told him and he seemed happy but, you know. It just wasn’t the same.”

“He probably doesn't know how hard it is.”

“Right. He expects this from me. The way you looked just now, when I told you.” Harvey breath catches, and he shakes his head. “It's like you care. Like you’re actually proud of me.”

“I do. I do care. Too much probably.”

“It's not too much.” Harvey's voice is softer than Mike's ever heard it before. Almost pleading. Mike's breath catches in his throat.

“It’s not?” He can’t hide the surprise in his voice.

“You know you’re really hot when you’re confused?”

“That’s rude and uncalled for and also inappropriate.”

“It doesn’t have to be, does it?”

“What?”

“Inappropriate.”

Mike’s pretty sure his heart is about to hammer its way out of his chest, but he’s still not going to let Harvey get away with this.

“I think you need to explain the scenario in which that wouldn’t be inappropriate because I’m-- I’m not about to assume anything and make an ass out of myself. If there’s one thing I’ve learned this summer, it’s that. Stop making an ass out of yourself.”

Harvey laughs. “That’s a good lesson.”

“Well, a wise man once told me not to assume anything.”

Harvey flashes a grin at that, eyebrows arching. “I guess you’re right not to make this easy on me. I know I didn’t make this easy on you. And I’m sorry about that. But if the offer still stands--”

“It does.”

Harvey smiles wider, not deterred by the interruption. “If it still stands, if you still want to try to be serious about this. I would like to try.”

“You’re willing or you actually want to? Because I don’t want to feel like I’ve dragged you into this.”

“I want to. I’ve missed that campus. Would be nice to have a reason to visit,” he teases. ”And I want whatever pep talk you might have before I take the LSAT.

“I want that too.”

“Okay.”

“You’re gonna have to meet Grammy though.”

Harvey frowns, “I just did.”

“No, that doesn’t count,” he says before laughing, “she’ll want a proper sit down dinner and I guarantee she won’t go easy on you.”

“I would expect nothing less.”

Mike nods. He’s not sure what to do with himself. Whether he should join Harvey on the steps and take his face in his hands, kissing him silly. He wants to, but even with the air cleared he’s not sure that it’s allowed.

They're still just staring at each other stupidly. Neither of them wanting to break the spell. It still
feels tentative and fragile. Enough that a small breeze could knock it apart.

Harvey rubs his hands on his thighs, leaning forward like he’s about to get up.

Of course, that’s when Grammy peeks outside, the door creaking and startling Mike and Harvey both.

“Are you done talking yet because the table needs to be set for dinner,” she says more than asks. Her brow innocently lifted as she shifts her gaze between Mike and Harvey.

When Mike said she’d want to have dinner he didn’t think it’d be this soon. Harvey gets up from where he’s sitting, dusting off the back of his pants.

Mike watches him as he speaks. “Gram, Harvey has to go home. His dad is waiting for him.”

“Nonsense, he just got here.” She scoffs. “The boy has to eat. Just call home and tell your father you’re doing your due diligence.”

She turns on her heel with that, the screen door thudding after her.

A choked laugh escapes Mike’s lips, and he didn’t think he’d want to sink down into the ground as badly ever before. “You don't have to stay. I didn’t think-- It’s probably a lot to deal with right now.”

Harvey leans against the handrail. He doesn’t seem concerned or put out, and Mike is flooded with relief that he can actually watch him openly, and have Harvey stare right back at him with softness in his eyes.

“No, Mike it’s okay. She’s right. I guess I didn’t expect the dinner to happen right away, but I suppose I do owe it to you.”

“This isn’t for me,” Mike pleads, trying to keep his voice low.

Grammy’s already taking dishes out of the cupboard when they get to the kitchen. Her hearing was always impeccable, her age just an excuse to pretend she couldn’t hear. Mike can tell she’s listening in, still.

Harvey’s fingers tangle with his, and he squeezes them tightly. “Yes, Mike, it is.”

He presses a kiss against Mike’s temple before pulling away, walking up to the counter and picking up the dishes.

“Thank you, Harvey,” Grammy says, and winks at Mike. “Now, you’re not off the hook. You’re on pasta duty, young man.” She turns to Harvey, “You know how people say that you need to salt the pasta water so it boils faster?”

Harvey nods, says, “I think I’ve heard that before.”

She huffs. “Well, they’re all morons because it has nothing to do with that, it’s all about the flavor. Plain water gives you plain pasta, as simple as that.”

Harvey laughs and hunches down, so he can get closer to her level as she speaks with him.

Mike feels a bit like he’s in a sort of of alternate reality from the way that Harvey seems at ease with Grammy, asking her questions and joking. Inquiring about the spices she’s picked out for the sauce, complimenting her on the dishes and the house and just generally acting like the perfect boyfriend who’s come to charm the parents.

Or well, the grandmother, in this case.

Grammy seems to be eating it all up, paying close attention to him while they eat, even offering him a glass of wine when she pours one for herself. It’s a trick, Mike knows, but it’s not like he can say anything.

“Unless Mike can join us, I’ll pass,” Harvey says. He reaches for the water pitcher and fills his and Mike’s glass. Grammy seems impressed.

“I have to ask, Harvey, what exactly are your intentions with Mike?”

“Grammy,” Mike tries to sound stern. He turns to Harvey, "She's not being serious."

Grammy raises an eyebrow at him, leaning back in her chair. "I see. Mocking the elderly. Speaking ill of them while in their presence. I expected much more from you, Michael."

Harvey's mouth twitches, and Mike can't decide who to look at. "I didn't--"

Grammy interrupts him, “Am I not allowed to be concerned for your well being just because you’re going off to college soon? Because that’s not how it works.”

“I understand,” Harvey says, before Mike has the opportunity to respond. He shouldn’t have to be here for this, really. His skin is crawling. “I think being clear and direct is for the best. For all parties involved.” He smirks in Mike’s direction. “I wouldn’t be surprised if my dad plans on speaking with you when you meet.”

Mike can feel his cheeks warming at the thought. His fork scrapes loudly over his plate.

“There you go, Mike. This is normal. Now, Harvey. It’s my understanding that you’re interested in the law, so please make your case.”

Harvey starts to laugh, a low chuckle. He’s close enough to Mike that he pats his knee under the table. His eyes still trained on Grammy.

“Well. At first I expected a summer fling. That Mike would get tired and move on to some college adventures.”

Harvey must sense that Mike wants to protest, his fingers digging into Mike’s thigh as he squeezes it reassuringly.

“I didn’t really consider what I might want, because I didn’t consider that of much relevance.”

Mike could feel his throat closing up at Harvey’s words. He sounds so clear and present minded. Iike he really believes that.

Harvey continues, “But that didn’t work well for me nor for Mike, so. My intentions are to be by Mike’s side for as long as he’ll have me. And to try and deserve that position.”

Grammy smiled at him. “You talk a big talk, that’s for sure. I think you’ll do well in law school.”

Harvey chuckled. “Does that mean I have your approval, then?”

“Oh, you don’t need my approval. I just wanted to hear what you have to say for yourself. Mike can take care of himself, I think.”

Harvey’s eyes crinkle from his wide smile. Mike snakes his hand below the table and grabbs his hand. “You talk a good talk, too, Ms Ross.”

“Well, I do have plenty of experience.”

 

 

-

 

 

“So what do you say?” Harvey asks after dinner, hands buried in soapy water. He’d offered to help with the dishes, and Grammy had winked at him, saying she understood that they needed alone time.

“About what?”

“Do I have your approval? Since apparently that’s what I need.”

“Harvey.” Mike’s chest is full, his lungs ready to burst although he hasn’t taken a breath. He watches Harvey carefully. His jaw clenched as he stares down into the murky water. “Look at me.”

Harvey turns to face him. Mike’s hands are still damp from drying off the dishes, but he doesn’t care. He cradles Harvey’s jaw and leans in, pressing his mouth against Harvey’s. It’s chaste enough that he wouldn’t care if Grammy saw, but also he’s pushing all his thoughts and feelings into it. He pulls away a fraction of an inch, still feeling Harvey’s breath against his lips. “I thought we went over this?”

Harvey swallows, Adam’s apple bobbing as he does. His eyes dart over Mike’s face, searching for meaning, or intent. He clears his throat and steps back. “Not being clear is how we ended up in this mess in the first place.”

“I’m sorry--” Mike starts again, the words easily rolling off his tongue. He’s said it so many times. But he’ll say it endlessly until it gets through Harvey’s head that he never meant to hurt him. That he never meant to lead him on.

“No.” Harvey shakes his head. “This isn’t about you. That’s not what I mean. And you’re right, you were right. You didn’t do anything wrong. But that’s the problem, isn’t it? We didn’t talk about anything. Since I assumed you’d just get bored and move on, anyway.”

“I won’t.” Harvey ducks his head, mouth twitching. It hits Mike then, with the way Harvey’s looking away. “You don’t believe me, still.”

“You can’t know what’s going to happen.” He rolls his lips and smiles feebly. His eyebrows arch. “But. That’s a risk I’m willing to take. That’s what I’m saying. As long as we both know we’re on the same page.”

Mike wants to protest further, but he knows there’s no point. Harvey has that determined look on. Instead he asks, “What page is it then?”

“The one where we’re together. Exclusively. Indefinitely.”

“Yes,” Mike says, quickly. He means for it to be decisive but it’s breathy instead and a quick smile flashes over Harvey’s face. “Yes.”

“You can think about it if you need.”

Mike shakes his head. He doesn’t care to hide the smile on his face. He can tell that Harvey’s pleased, even though he’s trying to keep his face emotionless. That he can tell that warms him up tremendously. “I don’t.”

 

 

-

 

 

If giving notice at Applebee’s was anti-climactic, his last shift is even more so. Jenny brings him a slice of lava cake with a sparkler on it. “I think the staff discount ended as soon as I clocked out,” he says, and she rolls her eyes.

“It’s my treat, duh.” She urges him to sit down at the bar. Their regular spots. Their formerly regular spots, since he can’t really picture himself coming back to visit just to sit at the bar.

As if Jenny could read his mind she says, “And obviously as long as I’m here you’re gonna keep that discount.”

“Is that a bribe?”

“I consider it an incentive to keep hanging out.”

“You know I don’t need that, Jen.”

“You sort of vanished again now that Harvey’s back.”

He shakes his head. “I know it might seem that way, but that’s really not what’s happening. I’ve been picking classes and trying to figure out the move and just. It’s a lot, you know? Knowing that this is it.”

Jenny steals some of his cake, and rolls her eyes. “You’re so dramatic. What is ‘it’? Really?”

He shrugs. He has to think about it. “My last summer, I guess?”

“You’re going to have summer breaks in university, too, you know. And grad school if you decide to do that, which, I mean. Knowing you… yeah.”

“I’ll have to work though.”

“Just like you worked this summer, you mean? You basically did triple duty with the bookstore, here and tutoring.”

He hasn’t thought of it that way, but she’s not wrong. And yes, he’ll have to work later on as well but it’ll probably be in a field that he actually enjoys. Not that’s he’s minded being in the bookstore at all. Or getting to hang out with Jenny and poke fun at asshole customers.

He definitely didn’t mind tutoring Harvey.

“Still no need to bribe me. You can help me move into the dorms if you’re that eager to see me, you know.”

“You already have enough help.”

He makes a face. “I don’t even have a car, I’m going to need all the help I can get. I mean, I’m not bringing much but it’s still going to be a couple of trips on transit. And also like, I’m sure I’ll have to pick up some stuff while I’m there.”

“Doesn’t Harvey have a car?”

“Yeah?”

She stares at him, he stares back. He takes another bite of the cake, moving the fizzled out sparkler onto the plate. Jenny’s still staring at him “What?”

“He can drive you, duh.”

Oh. He hadn’t even considered that possibility. But it’s true, they’re official now. And he should be able to ask him for help. He doesn’t say anything, but he’s pretty sure his face flushes briefly.

 

 

-

 

 

Mike meets Harvey’s dad by accident. He answers the door when Mike comes over, and Mike is left blinking in surprise, and somewhat delayed shock.

“Oh, you must be Mike?”

“Yeah, yeah.”

He disappears into the house and Mike is left with an open door and confusion. He ends up following him after he hasn’t heard anything.

He's in the living room, adjusting the records silently.

Mike’s uncertain as to the protocol, so he stands and watches. Harvey had said that his dad would probably grill him too, so. He steels himself for a speech.

He waits a beat, and nothing. Harvey’s dad hasn’t even introduced himself, which surely, is standard? Maybe he wants Mike to show initiative.

“It's an impressive collection.”

He seems to startle Harvey's dad, who turns with raised eyebrows. Seemingly surprised that Mike is still there.

“I suppose. I've seen people with far more,” he speaks slowly, as if measuring every word.

“Harvey said you're on a lot of these. That's cool.”

“Yes, well. Such is the life of a hired gun. Lots of small gigs. One song here and there.”

“Seems exciting,” Mike says and regrets it instantly. Why? Harvey's dad frowns at him.

“I suppose that’s a nicer way of saying unstable.” He’s almost scowling now, and Mike definitely fucked up.

“Oh, you’re here.” He hears Harvey speak and turns to see him halfway down the stairs.

“Hey!” His eyes must reveal his relief because a slight frown apears between Harvey’s brows.

“Why didn’t you come see me?”

“We were talking?” Mike's voice is higher than wants it to be. Embarrassment settling over him like a chill.

Gordon looks at him and looks at Harvey.

“It’s nothing time sensitive, you can go if you like. These records will still be around later.”

“Right, yeah. Can’t wait to hear about all the-- recording stuff.”

“Sure thing, son,” Harvey’s dad says, and Mike’s pretty sure he can hear a hint of laughter in there. He can’t seem to care though, not with Harvey waiting for him, face bright and happy.

Harvey asks, “So what exactly were you talking about? Didn’t seem like I interrupted anything.”

“Uh, I mean. I just thought maybe he’d want to like. Ask me something.”

“Did you think he’d want to interrogate you?”

Mike shrugs. Harvey quirks a smile. “Mike?”

“It’s not that weird. Grammy was giving you the fifth degree. And you said your dad would probably want to talk to me, too.”

“Yeah, like regular talk. Because he’d want to get to know the person I’m serious about.”

“That’s not what you said though, you said--” He pauses, what Harvey just said sinking in. “You're serious about me.” He grins stupidly.

Although Mike already knows that this is how Harvey feels everytime he makes it known a warmth spreads throughout his limbs.

Harvey rolls his eyes, but also presses a kiss against his temple.”That is what I said, yes.”

“I'm serious about you too, you know.”

Harvey closes the door his room before pressing close to him. His hand is heavy on Mike’s shoulder, grounding him, and he wouldn’t mind just staying like this all day, and all night.

“I’m glad to hear that.” Harvey hums. “He’s barely around as it is, he knows he doesn’t have any authority over me or Marcus like that. He doesn’t get a say in who we date.”

“I get it. I just wanted to make a good impression, I guess.”

“You let him talk about his records, I don’t think you could have made a better impression, to be honest.”

“I guess that’s all that matters.” He smiles, answering Harvey’s smirk. He’s feigning aloofness, which just won’t do, so Mike pushes his body into Harvey’s, until his arms wrap around him.

They land on the bed without letting go of each other. Mike noses at his jaw and neck, barely grazing them with his mouth. Harvey doesn’t seem to mind, pulling him in closer, fisting the fabric of his shirt.

“Hm, while I have you here there was something important I wanted to bring up…” he says, and Mike pulls back, just so he can get a good look at him. His lips are bitten red and swollen, and Mike can’t wait to kiss them again.

“I was thinking about that thing you mentioned you wanted to try,” Harvey says, mouth remaining open. Mike can see his tongue barely poking out, having trouble focusing on anything else.

“The thing…” He repeats, watching intently as Harve licks his lip.

“Mhm.” A smirk plays on his mouth. He pulls away and stretches on the bed, grabbing condoms and lube.

Oh.

He breathes in sharply.

“Can I?” He grabs the lube and Harvey laughs, chest shaking with it.

“That's the thought, yes.”

He starts taking off his shirt, and unbuttoning his pants. Harvey just watches him, amused. “You know you’re gonna have to be a lot more naked for this, right?”

Harvey barks out another laugh, but starts undressing as well. His body looks as amazing as always, and Mike can feel himself harden in anticipation.

He needs to kiss Harvey again, their naked skin sliding against each other. He hasn’t ever felt this much want, this much hunger for another person, and he doesn’t quite know how he doesn’t burst with it.

They move together, Harvey’s hands tight against his waist and in his hair, and when they pull apart they’re both panting.

For a second Mike feels like he detaches from himself, and is watching him and Harvey. He can see his ribs protruding from his chest, and the way his hip bones stick out. His skinny arms and the dusting of hair on his chest.

And Harvey-- Harvey’s perfect face and how he’s firm in all the right places. It’s unbelievable to think that Harvey would be into him, would be into Mike, in all his awkward glory.

But Harvey’s here, and he’s been here for the past couple of days and right now he’s hard against Mike’s hip, and Mike did that. It’s for him. Because of him, whatever.

He sucks in a breath, the awe filling him like a hot air balloon.

“Hey, you there?” Harvey asks, hand gentle against Mike’s cheek.

“Yeah, yeah. Just.” He breathes in deeply, chest filling impossibly more. “Thinking about how lucky I am.”

Harvey chuckles. “That’s nice, and all, but maybe can you think about that after you fuck me?”

And just like that, the tension breaks. Mike laughs, covering his mouth with his hand. Harvey doesn’t seem to mind, a crooked smile flashing his teeth.

“That’s rude,” Mike says, pushing his palm against Harvey’s chest.

“How do you want me?”

“I think,” he starts, hand running down Harvey’s side until he reaches the jut of his hip. “Hands and knees, if that’s okay I--” he swallows thickly. “Think I might come too fast otherwise.”

His face must be flaming but Harvey doesn’t say anything, just flips over, and slowly raises himself onto his elbows and knees.

“Ready when you are,” he says, with the hint of an edge. Mike doesn’t hesitate anymore, opening up the lube and slicking up his fingers.

He spreads Harvey’s cheeks and gently circles his hole with them, slicking him up. Even the sight is so much, the muscle just giving, waiting to be filled up.

He licks his lips, and pours out some more directly onto Harvey’s ass.

“You know, some friction is nice,” Harvey says, and Mike responds by pressing in one of his fingers, slowly. It’s surprisingly smooth and easy, and he tries not to wriggle his finger when it’s pressed in all the way. He wants this to be good, not amateur hour.

“You look amazing,” he says, his voice slower than intended. He loves when Harvey compliments him, he can only imagine he’d feel the same. Even if he might not let it show.

“Enough to paralyze?” He says, and clenches around Mike’s finger.

If that’s what he wants, that’s what he’ll get.

Mike pumps his finger in and out, one every other stroke angling it differently, trying to his Harvey’s prostate. He knows he succeeds when Harvey sucks in a breath and his back trembles.

“Not… too bad.” He turns his head and winks at Mike.

Mike adds another finger, this time more determined, crooking his fingers each time he thinks he’s close, trying to separate them to make room.

“Fuck, Harvey.” He breathes out heavily chest rattling as he presses in a third finger. Watching where part of him is being swallowed up by Harvey. That’s going to be his cock soon. The thought makes him throb, and he has to use his free hand to squeeze himself.

“Getting a bit excited, are we?”

Mike retaliates by pushing in harder, doing his best to press against Harvey’s prostate. Harvey’s breath catches, ass muscles clenching. He shakes his head.

“Think that’s enough. Or you’ll come without even being in me.”

“Don’t jinx it,” Mike says, removing his fingers carefully. Watching the way Harvey’s hole is gaping just a little bit. All because of him, all for him.

He has to wipe off his hands to tear open the condom packet, fingers still trembling. He adds more lube, squeezing his cock at the base.

He asks, “You ready?”

“I’ve been ready for years.” He sounds bored, but he spreads his thighs a bit, making room for Mike to slot behind him.

“You’re the worst.”

Mike takes a few seconds to rub the back of Harvey’s thighs, the coarse hair getting finer as he reaches his ass. He squeezes his cheeks, Harvey rocking into it.

“I’m the best.”

Mike would like to come up with a witty retort, but his breath escapes him as he presses into Harvey, his body practically sucking him in. “Oh-- Fuck. Harvey.”

His hips are flush against Harvey’s ass, and he clutches his hips, fingers digging in. It’s so hot, and tight, and welcoming and--fuck. “You feel-- so--” he stutters. Hands now rubbing against Harvey’s sides, up his back.

He leans down, pressing his mouth against the back of Harvey’s neck. He tastes salty, and he’s wet, and he mouths at Harvey’s neck as he rocks against him. Trying to urge him to turn around and give him a kiss.

Harvey relents eventually, mouth catching Mike’s. It’s a biting kiss, it feels like a challenge, teeth nipping sharply at Mike’s bottom lip.

“Good start,” Harvey says, low and throaty. “Now are you going to get moving?”

Mike presses in deeper, straightening out his back. He can do this.

He takes hold of Harvey’s hips again and holds him steady as he fucks in and out of him. He makes the mistake of looking down to where their bodies are joined, and he has to still himself, pleasure cresting immeasurably.

“Harvey-- I don’t--” He licks his lips, screwing his eyes shut. He can do this. He has to do this.

He picks up the pace, trying to hold back his orgasm, the pleasure a tight coil in his groin. He thinks he gets the right angle, Harvey squeezing his cock from the inside and a cut off gasp escaping his mouth.

That’s when he hears it; the slick sound of Harvey working his cock, and the low whimpers and grunts he’s making. No more smartass comments.

“Harvey--” Mike starts, but he doesn’t even know what to say, he’s filled with awe. Just want to say Harvey’s name. He sighs. “Harvey.”

“Mike,” he responds, the word strained. It eggs Mike on and he keeps going faster.

“Don’t think I’ll be able to--”

“Just come, Mike,” Harvey grunts out, and it’s all he has to say, Mike losing control of his hips, thrusts growing erratic. He’s pretty sure he’s wailing at some point, his skin, his cock, his belly on fire as he comes.

He all but collapses onto Harvey, having the wherewithal to bring his hand down to his cock, joining Harvey’s.

“Don’t move-- right-- right there,” Harvey says through gritted teeth, and Mike stays in place grinding his hips against Harvey’s ass. Hand following his movement, listening eagerly to each moan that spills out of his mouth.

Harvey clenches around Mike, a low whine escaping. His fist clicks as he jerks himself, and he stills, shudders racking over his body as he comes. Mike did that.

Harvey collapses, and Mike has to hold on to the base of his cock, securing the condom as he pulls out.

Harvey cocks an eyebrow, poker face back on. “Won’t be so bad with a little practice.”

It’s supposed to be a jab, Mike knows, but he kisses Harvey anyway. He feels wrecked. Like he’s just run a marathon, his muscles humming with the effort.

His fingers shake when he takes off the condom, attempting to tie it off into a knot. Harvey takes it from him, and wraps into in a paper towel before dropping it into the trash.

“Thank you.” His chest heaves, and he collapses onto the bed. Making his way onto Harvey’s prone body.

Harvey doesn’t ask, but he smiles briefly before tamping it down, pulling his lips into his mouth. “My pleasure,” he mumbles.

His fingers are grazing Mike’s shoulders tenderly, letting him lay heavily on his chest. He’s practically drooling on Harvey. He presses a line of small kisses along his ribs, squeezing him tighter.

“Hey, I have a question for you.”

“Another? Will the questions ever cease?” Harvey singsongs, and Mike flicks his nipple.

“Do you think you could help me move into my dorm?”

“Yeah, when is it?”

“On Tuesday.”

“Getting me all soft and vulnerable so you can exploit me, is that it?”

Mike blinks before realization hits. A weekday. Of course Harvey can’t, he’s going to be working.

Harvey’s eyes are sparkling and he shakes his head.

“Well, I have to work. But if you can wait until the afternoon I can use my lunch hour to leave early,” he says it like it’s nothing. Like it’s the easiest decision in the world.

Mike’s chest feels tight, and his stomach flutters. He clears his throat before speaking, “Yeah. That. Would be great, thank you.”

 

 

-

 

 

He wakes up later than usual on the day of his move, his last day before being forced awake bright and early for endless morning classes he couldn’t seem to avoid when making his schedule.

Grammy’s still sitting at the kitchen table when he comes down, trying to figure out what to make for breakfast. The nerves in the pit of his stomach make it hard to pick something. It all seems too much or too little or just wrong.

Instead he preps the coffee maker and watches Grammy as she works on her crossword puzzle. He can tell by the way her mouth is pinched that it’s the Sunday one. The only one that frustrates her enough to make her frown like that.

When the coffee’s done he fills up a mug for himself, and brings the pot over to the table, refilling her mug.

“I got us cherry danishes, if you want one,” she says, and he really can’t say no to that. The pastry overly sweet in his mouth as it flakes apart. Just the right thing to fuel him for the rest of the day.

“You know I never thought I’d have to do this twice?” She asks when he takes another bite. He has to chew on it before asking, crumbs still tacky on his lips.

“What?”

“Sending another kid off to college. Only had one for a reason, you know,” she says with a wink.

“You’re coming with, aren’t you?” He hadn’t thought of her not coming along. Although, he hadn’t thought of how this would feel, really. He can’t fault her if she doesn’t want to. “Not that I like-- expect you to help out.”

“Now, I know my place and I know I shouldn’t be doing any heavy lifting. Don’t worry about me. Emotional support is my strong suite.” She winks dramatically, and pushes a second Danish in Mike’s direction.

“I’ll miss you,” he says, throat tight. He doesn’t even know why he’s getting so emotional. He’s known this would happen ever since he got his early acceptance letter. He’s not leaving the country, or even the state. Just the borough.

Grammy squints at him. “Is this your way of saying you’re going to be bailing on Sunday dinners, because I expected more from you, Michael. ”

He chuckles wetly, having to put down his mug so he doesn’t spill any coffee. “Absolutely not. Couldn’t keep me away.”

“And I suppose Harvey will be joining us?”

Mike’s mouth tugs up. He hasn't discussed it with Harvey, but he wouldn’t be surprised if he wanted to come, at least once or twice. “He has to come back for another dose of the Grammy charm.”

“Pah!” She exclaims loudly, shaking her head. “Kids these days, thinking flattery will get them everywhere.”

“It’s not flattery if it’s true.”

He squeezes her hand tightly. He knows she means well. She takes another long gulp of her coffee, smacking her lips.

“Now are you going to help me solve this crossword puzzle or not?”

He shuffles his chair closer to hers, and she moves the paper so he can see it better. She has an extra pencil that he takes gingerly, carefully studying the clues in front of him

He has about four hours to go before Harvey and Jenny will be by to help him move. Four hours before the summer officially ends.

He can hardly wait.