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Lobster and other Catastrophes

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His phone pings, and Harvey nearly walks into a door.

The two events are directly related; though it’s not the sound that catches him off guard. It’s who the text is from.

Mike’s name hasn’t appeared on his screen in several weeks, and he certainly did not expect it to now.

It’s been seven months since Mike left. Five since they actually talked on the phone. Three since the last text Harvey received from him.

Not that he’s keeping count or anything.

It’s not that Harvey blames Mike for not staying in touch. He suspected that this was going to happen the minute he told him he was leaving, and he watched his predictions come true with a wistful resignation, telling himself that it’s alright, that it doesn’t matter, that this is what Mike wants and there is nothing he can do about it.

It’s only the last part he finds easy to believe.

He tries to go on with his life to his best ability. Mike’s absence is palpable, seeping into spaces it should have no part in, but Harvey sucks it up, straightens his shoulders, and soldiers on. There is nothing else he can do. No point in dwelling on how everyone seems to leave him and the way his lungs feel too tight to draw breath sometimes because of it.

He already went through the worst when Mike announced that he was moving. The fact that they fell out of touch is just the bitter cherry on top.

Harvey still has a vague idea of what’s going on in his life. He just hears about it from Robert Zane rather than Mike. And Robert doesn’t have a habit of gossiping about his daughter and son-in-law during working hours, so there isn’t much, but he knows that they seem to have settled in, that work is keeping them busy, and that they are doing well.

It’s also how he knows that Mike and Rachel happen to be on their slightly belated honeymoon right this moment.

So why is Mike texting him now, of all times?

The message is fairly short and about as generic as it can get.

Greetings from the most gorgeous beach with the most gorgeous view of the sea :)

It’s also more than Harvey has heard from Mike in months.

Greetings from the office, where people actually work sometimes, he texts back.

As if you’ve ever worked before 10 am in your life

Harvey stares at the instant reply, lifting an eyebrow.

Did you text me just to attack me?

No, just to say hi. And maybe gloat a little. I just woke up from a nap in the shade and am now sipping a Pina Colada. Are you jealous? :)

Harvey huffs. Terribly. Sounds like quite a good time you’re having. Where are you, exactly?

He tries to go back to work, but his text alert sounds again only a few seconds later.

The Seychelles. Nice little island called La Digue. The beach I’m currently lying on is allegedly the most beautiful one in the world, btw. It’s called Anse Cocos, if you want to google it for visuals :D

“Oh, you think?” Harvey mutters, promptly opening Google to look it up.

“Son of a bitch.”

Okay, so Mike wasn’t exaggerating. It is gorgeous. He texts Mike just that, then opens his browser again to scroll through the images, taking a closer look.

Something about the pictures nags him. The place is beautiful, certainly. It looks like paradise. He can very much picture Rachel there. Mike… not so much.

It’s not that he doesn’t think he’s enjoying himself, because from the sound of it he clearly is. But he can’t for the life of him imagine Mike making the decision to go there. Rachel, absolutely. She’s the kind of person to value this sort of luxury, specifically seeking it out for a vacation – or a honeymoon, in this case. But Mike? He never quite got into this upscale lifestyle. Harvey would have expected him to choose a dozen different destinations before this one.

Who knows, maybe he just wanted something new. Something luxurious.

Or maybe Harvey just doesn’t know him as well as he would like to think.

Told you it was nice :), Mike’s answering message pops up. Harvey’s fingers hover over the keys before he makes up his mind.

Bit upscale, actually. Wouldn’t have thought that’s your thing. So, what can you do on that island besides sleeping on the beach and day drinking?

He still doesn’t really know why Mike texted him. There doesn’t seem to be anything in particular he wants to tell him. Maybe he has really just been working a lot lately and has now finally found the time to reach out again. But still, on his honeymoon?

Well, as long as Mike is the one to initiate this, there is no reason Harvey shouldn’t take advantage of it.

Isn’t that enough? Actually, there’s a few more things you can do here, but we haven’t done any of them yet. Just a walk on the beach in the moonlight (and before you say it, yes I know it’s a total cliché shut up)

It doesn’t escape Harvey that Mike skipped over the first part of his message.

Well, I guess you two deserve some romantic nonsense after these past few years. The words leave a bitter taste in his mouth, but Harvey is so used to it that he barely notices anymore. And it’s been a while since you got married. A proper honeymoon was long overdue, wasn’t it?

Yeah, we just somehow never found the time for it with moving and work and everything

Understandable. Well, you’re there now. Enjoy it.

Yeah, I will :) I think I’ve earned having a break, so that’s exactly what I’m doing

Sure of yourself, are you?

You saying I haven’t earned it?

No, we both know you have. You never even went on a vacation while you were here, so it’s about time that you got one.

Harvey sends the text, then hesitates. He is loath to end the conversation, but he knows he has no business inserting himself in their honeymoon. He has no idea why Mike is even talking to him, but he does know that he shouldn’t make himself comfortable somewhere he isn’t supposed to be.

Taking a deep breath, he adds, Well, some of us actually have work to do. I’m about to head into a deposition. It’s a good case. You would have liked it.

He isn’t quite sure why he’s telling him that, but he hits send before he can rethink it and then finishes on, Enjoy your Pina Colada. Have one on me.

The answer arrives just a few seconds later. Oh, it’s definitely gonna be more than one ;)

Harvey stares at his phone, but nothing else comes. When the screen goes dark, he sighs and gets back to work.

*

Harvey’s text alert sounds as he sits over a stack of files, startling him out of his concentration. His eyes dart to his phone. He reaches for it, quashing the foolish hope that it’s from Mike. Before this week, he didn’t text him for months. There’s no reason that should change now.

Only that Harvey is wrong. The text actually is from him.

Pina Colada count for today: two so far

Harvey blinks at the message, having no idea what to do with it. Clearly, this is nothing urgent. Mike just seems to want to talk to him. Again. While he’s on vacation. On his honeymoon.

Harvey was going to back off and keep his distance. Accept that it was a one-time thing. But if Mike is so clearly determined to keep this up… there is no reason to pass up on the opportunity.

It’s eight in the morning.

Not where I am, genius

A quick google search reveals that Mike is actually eight hours ahead of him. Harvey didn’t think of that.

Are you teasing me with tales of your indulgent vacation on purpose?

Mmmmaybe

Are you drunk?

Not yet. Rachel wants to do a thing with turtles later, so I’m gonna have to stay sober

A thing with turtles?

Yeah… I think. I’m not sure. Don’t tell her I didn’t listen though

As if Harvey would ever side with Rachel rather than Mike. Don’t worry, he tells him. You know we’re good at keeping secrets.

Oh, we totally are

There’s a short pause during which Harvey thinks about what to reply, not wanting the conversation to end, before a second text arrives.

Tell me about your case. The one with the deposition

Harvey lifts an eyebrow.

You sure you want to hear about work on your vacation?

Mike’s reply is instant, no hesitation.

You know I tend to get bored quickly. Indulge me, old man :)

“That little shit,” Harvey mutters despite the smile spreading on his lips.

You know that asking me for a favor and insulting me in the same breath isn’t going to help your case, don’t you?

Come on. Pretty please? Or are you busy?

No, it’s fine. Alright, you remember Timothy Bernards? The guy with the software patent?

Sure do. What’s he done?

Well, long story short: the software was a success, he started his own company, and all of a sudden his numbers dropped. Turns out it was an inside job.

Damn. You know who did it?

We figured it out. Now we’re working on getting her tangled up in her lies until she has to confess. It needs to happen fast, though, or Timothy is gonna suffer some serious losses.

Sounds like you’re having a busy week then

I am. But this is the fun part.

I can imagine. You’re gonna get her, I’m sure

Of course. When have I ever not?

I can think of a few times

Right. Nice of you to remind me.

I’m nothing if not nice

Harvey snorts. He’s in the middle of typing a reply when a second message arrives that reads, Okay, Rachel just came back. Gotta go

Harvey ignores the familiar stab of jealousy in his stomach at that. Swallowing down his irrational disappointment, he texts back, Of course. Enjoy your turtles. And give Rachel my best.

Will do. You enjoy work. Win that case ;)

I sure will ;)

Harvey sits back, letting out a deep breath when his phone stays silent after that.

Of course it does.

*

Harvey stares at the picture. He has been staring at the picture for a long time, and he knows it’s getting ridiculous, but he can’t seem to stop.

It’s a great picture. The landscape Mike captured is breathtaking, the clear, light blue water like something out of a dream, the white sand almost unreal.

Harvey is not looking at the water. He’s not looking at the sand. He’s looking at the shadow Mike is casting on the ground, a dark silhouette that could belong to anyone, and yet is undeniably Mike’s.

Harvey recognizes it instantly.

After spending an unhealthy amount of time staring at it, he finally manages to tear his gaze away, annoyed at himself for his reaction.

God, it’s pathetic how much he misses him. Talking to him like this, getting these little snippets throughout the day that tell him barely anything and are yet the strongest connection he has to Mike, somehow makes it better and worse at the same time.

Taking a deep breath, he tries to shake the unsettling sensation in his stomach and focuses on the picture instead.

You weren’t lying about the beach. It looks gorgeous.

I know right? It’s unreal. I’m right here and even I can’t believe it. It’s out of this world, honestly

Harvey smiles a little. Looks like it. What’s the Pina Colada count?

I’ve switched to Margaritas. They make mean martinis here, too. I guess I’m gonna have to try all the drinks while I’m here

What a terrible burden. How long are you staying, anyway?

Three more weeks

Wow. Sure you don’t wanna go ahead and move there entirely?

Wouldn’t be the first time, he thinks dryly.

Hey, we agreed that I earned this. It’s just all been a lot lately, you know? These past few years, really. Rachel and I both felt it, it’s been getting to us, and I think we can use some time away to start this marriage off the right way. Even if we’re a little late for that

Harvey raises his eyebrows, caught between asking why he’s so defensive and assuring him that he was just making a joke. It’s weird, talking to Mike like this, with no way to see his face or hear his voice, no clue as to what he’s thinking or what is going on with him other than what he takes from his choice of words. He has no idea what to think of it.

Mike, you don’t have to justify yourself. You and Rachel have worked hard before you moved to Seattle, and from what I’ve been gathering, the last few months haven’t exactly been less stressful for you. You deserve some time away. Just make sure to enjoy yourselves and make the most of it.

He hesitates, then adds, You know, out of respect for those who have to work while you’re lounging around.

It seems to have been the right thing to say.

You bet. Not that you’re fooling anyone, I know you’re just pretending to work hard while the associates do all the heavy lifting, but nice try ;)

Gotta maintain my reputation, don’t I? So, what’s the plan for today? Or rather what was the plan, since you’re quite a bit ahead of me?

We went snorkeling earlier, which was awesome. All the fish, man. So cool. Now we’re doing a sunset boat tour of the bay, which is also pretty nice

Harvey narrows his eyes. Mike is on the boat right now? He’s texting him during the tour?

He started the conversation while on that probably romantic as hell boat with his wife?

“What are you doing?” Harvey mutters. He has no idea what to make of this, but since he actually does have work to do and sitting here trying to get behind Mike’s motives isn’t going to accomplish anything, he decides to just let it go.

Sounds great. I’ll leave you to it then. Enjoy your night.

Alright :) Talk to you soon!

“Soon,” Harvey repeats to himself, shaking his head quietly. “Sure.”

*

Look at this. How awesome is this??

Before Harvey can ask what exactly he is meant to be looking at, Mike sends him a video. He impatiently waits for it to load, opening it as soon as the download is complete.

He is greeted by the startlingly blue sea, the water so bright it almost hurts his eyes. The camera is shaking, like the person filming isn’t actually looking at the screen, and a moment later Harvey understands why. First there are two, then three, and finally four dolphins emerging from the sea. They are incredibly close, apparently not minding the people in the slightest.

The water rustles loudly, but Harvey can still hear traces of the breathless laughter he immediately recognizes as Mike’s in the background.

The video ends abruptly when the last dolphin has disappeared. Harvey impatiently restarts it, watching – and listening to – it three more times before he can tear himself away. It’s a gorgeous sight.

It’s a gorgeous sound, too. And not just the sea.

Wow. That looks amazing, Mike.

I know right?? There were whales too, but I didn’t get them on camera. But jesus, whales AND dolphins. Have you ever seen either of those?? They are incredible up close. Incredible, Harvey

Harvey can’t help but smile. He sucks in his lip, for once quite glad that Mike isn’t around to see him beaming at his phone like a lunatic.

Looks like it. How many did you see?

Three whales, and another group of dolphins after that one. We were out on the water for four hours, mostly just waiting, but it was so worth it

I can tell. You back on firm ground now?

Yeah, it’s almost time for dinner. Sadly. Could have stayed out there all day, even though I did get a bit dizzy from the boat (don’t laugh, it’s seriously uncomfortable). I’m just bummed we didn’t see any sharks

Are you seriously sad that there were no sharks while you were out on the open sea? Do you have a death wish?

Not particularly, but I would have liked to see one live and christen it Harvey Specter the Second or something.

So you just miss me, then. It’s okay, you can say it.

His heart pounds in his chest as he hits send, the truth behind the words cutting him to the bone. It’s ridiculous, but he wants to hear it. He wants to know he still has a place in Mike’s life, and if it’s just empty space where he used to be. He wants to know that he left a void that is at least similar to the one Mike left him with.

He doesn’t know what he expected Mike to reply, what he dared to hope for, but what he says is so much better than anything he imagined.

I do miss you. Don’t tell me you don’t miss me too, I don’t buy it ;)

Oh, if only he knew.

Fine, then I won’t.

Harvey bites his lip, then adds, What are you up to now?

He didn’t realize just how much he was missing Mike until he texted him again. He’d just gotten used to it, to him not being there, his absence following him everywhere. Now that he’s been reminded of what it’s like when things are different, the thought of going back sickens him.

I’m about to head to bed, actually. Staring at the sea in the sun all day is surprisingly exhausting

Right. The time difference. Harvey stifles the disappointment welling up in him, doing his best not to think about what exactly Mike is going to do once he’s in bed with his wife. Good thing he’s practiced at that by now.

All those drinks getting to you? Not as young as you used to be anymore, huh?

You’re one to talk, old man

Hush. You don’t get to tease me, a hard-working citizen, when you’re tired from doing nothing

Sounds like someone’s jealous :P

You’re delusional. You really must be tired. I’ll let you get to bed then.
Good night, Mike.

Night, Harvey :)

Tracing the words with his thumb, Harvey lets out a deep breath before he puts his phone down. Despite his initial disappointment, he’s not all that bothered that their conversation ended.

Something tells him that it won’t be the last one.

*

Harvey is right. It just keeps happening.

I am so sick of lobster

He lifts an eyebrow in amusement, his lunch forgotten as soon as his text alert sounds. It’s been four days, he texts back, absently shoving a fork full of salad into his mouth.

Five. And we have had lobster for lunch or dinner on every single one of them and there is no end in sight. I don’t even like lobster. It’s terrible how they’re killed. I mean, any killing is kind of terrible when you think about it, but that shit is rough, Harvey

Harvey huffs out a laugh.

You’re not wrong. Then why do you keep having it, if you’re so appalled?

Rachel loves it

I see.
Actually, I don’t. Why do you have to eat it if she likes it? Is this some sort of marriage custom?

I don’t know. Probably. I’m still new to this as well, I’m just winging it, man. Honestly, she just loves this restaurant and they have virtually nothing else so I end up eating it again and again and now I think I ate it one too many times

Good luck convincing her to eat somewhere else tomorrow then.

Thanks.
I can feel your glee from here, btw. A little compassion would be nice

Sorry, you have my heartfelt sympathy.

Harvey ignores the disconcerting, familiar sensation that wells up in him every time he’s reminded of Mike and Rachel’s relationship – which he tries to avoid as much as possible, because he likes Rachel, and it’s not her fault that she’s the one who earned Mike’s affection, and he really doesn’t need to suffer any more, thank you very much. Besides, he does want them to be happy. They deserve it.

It’s just sad for him that he doesn’t fit into that equation.

Done anything exciting today? he asks to distract himself from his thoughts. Apart from having lobster again.

Ha ha. Actually I did! Guess what, turns out that bikes are the favored mode of transportation around here. I rented one for the day and went exploring

Harvey frowns. I? As in, Mike went by himself? That’s weird.

It’s probably nothing, though. Just a bad choice of words.

Sounds like it’s right up your alley. Discovered anything interesting?

I totally did. I stumbled upon a vanilla plantation (I still smell like it and guess what, I love it) and I found an old colonial cemetery. The headstones were so weathered you could barely read the names anymore

That does sound interesting. And there are worse things to smell of than vanilla. At least it suits your soft features ;)

Oh my god. You remember that?

Are you kidding? Of course I do.

It’s not like that moment led to several fantasies he would never admit to, ensuring that the words burned into his brain forever.

Besides, he remembers most of what Mike said to him. If he had known he was going to leave one day, he would have listened more closely. He would have tried to memorize everything.

But it’s done now. It’s over, and Mike isn’t coming back, and if all he’s getting these days are the tiny fragments of his life he lets him see through his texts, he sure as hell isn’t going to say no to that.

*

Something is definitely off.

Harvey thought he was imagining it at first, reading too much into what Mike is saying, but this has been going on for a week now and something isn’t right.

It’s what he isn’t saying that tips him off.

I rented a bike. I explored the island. I went for a swim. I tried a new place for lunch and it was awesome.

Not a single mention of Rachel. Not even a ‘we’.

It’s subtle, but Harvey picks up on it anyway. Considering that, and how often Mike has reached out to him over the past week, he can’t help but grow suspicious.

Whatever it is, though, Mike hasn’t brought it up yet. Unwilling to downright ask if he doesn’t start by himself, Harvey tries to gather information through a more discreet approach.

What were you two up to today? he asks, careful not to make it sound like he’s prying.

Mike’s reply is entirely neutral. It doesn’t ease his suspicions in the slightest.

Rachel was at the beach, and I headed back to the other side of the island. I met some people there last time and we had some great conversations, so I went back to talk to them again

Harvey is no expert on honeymoons, or marriages, or relationships at all, but even he knows that this is… weird. He’s not sure if what they are doing is a healthy balance of time spent together and apart, or if there’s, quite literally, trouble in paradise.

If it’s the latter, what does he do with that information? Does he even do anything? Does he talk to Mike about it?

He clearly wants to stay in touch, that much is obvious, but he hasn’t uttered a word about this. Nothing except the one incidental remark that all the stress has been getting to him and Rachel. But that might as well have been nothing. And since Harvey is getting surer and surer that something is up, he decides to take matters into his own hands.

Sounds great! Rachel didn’t want to come along for that?

Not his smoothest line of questioning, granted, but he has no idea how else to steer the conversation there. And if Mike doesn’t want to talk about it, he’ll let him know.

No, she said she wanted to spend the day at the beach, so I just went by myself. It’s not bad, you know? Getting to do things on my own for once, not having to answer or pay attention to anyone. It’s kind of liberating.

Yeah, I know what you mean. Sometimes your own company is more than enough, isn’t it?

Exactly.
Is that why you usually keep to yourself? I mean, I know you have a lot of friendships and stuff, but you’re still something of a lone wolf
If it’s okay that I’m asking. If not, feel free to ignore this

Harvey swallows as he reads the texts, momentarily at a loss. It’s funny, that Mike of all people is asking him that question. There’s a lot Harvey could say in response, a lot he wants to tell him, that it’s by force of circumstance rather than by choice, but then he might as well shovel his own grave, and he’s not about to do either.

Since when do you give a shit about respecting my privacy? he asks to buy himself some time, then lets out a deep breath before he starts typing.

It’s fine, Mike. You know you can ask me anything. I guess that is part of why I haven’t had lasting relationships, yes. I value my time to myself. But it’s not always me that decides to end things. Many times it’s been the other person who chose to leave. And there’s nothing I can do about that but accept it, no matter what my feelings on the matter are.

He hits send before he can change his mind, feeling strangely vulnerable as he rereads the message. They’ve been talking on and off all week, but this is the first time since Mike left that they are actually talking. It’s also the most open Harvey has been in a long time, and the closest he has ever gotten to telling Mike what his leaving meant for him.

His breath hitches when the text alert sounds.

God, relationships are complicated, aren’t they? Sometimes you do something for yourself and end up hurting the other person, or you try to save one relationship only to ruin another, and no matter what you do, something always ends up broken

“Tell me about it,” Harvey mutters.

He swallows past the tightness in his throat and types, I guess some things just aren’t meant to last. But some stay whole. Even if it requires work. And some can be mended.

For once, Mike’s response isn’t instant. When he does reply, the message just reads, The trouble is figuring out which is which, isn’t it? And then accepting that

Both, yes.

There is a pause during which they both seem to hang after their own thoughts. Harvey shakes them off when his phone chimes again.

I’m sorry, I’m not exactly fun right now, am I? You probably don’t wanna talk about shit like this in the middle of your work day and yet here I am, distracting you with my musings about life
This is what happens when I have nothing to do, I guess

Harvey doesn’t want to give him any ideas, but he can think of plenty of things to do on one’s honeymoon. It’s curious that Mike can’t seem to.

Feeling a bit restless, huh?

Yeah, a bit

But why? Harvey sighs. Ever since they started texting, he just can’t seem to figure Mike out. Has he lost his touch? Or is Mike really acting as confusing as he thinks?

Shaking his head, Harvey types, Isn’t it dinner time for you?

Not yet. Rachel is still down by the sea and I think she’s staying there for a while, so we’re having a late dinner today

Didn’t feel like joining her after you got back?

Not really. I mean, don’t get me wrong, this place is gorgeous, but after a week here, I feel like I’ve kind of seen all of the sea I want to see, you know?
That probably makes me sound ungrateful as hell

It’s fine. I get it. I did wonder what you were gonna do in a place like that for so long, to be honest. You don’t strike me as the type to spend weeks lounging around at the beach

Yeah, turns out you were right about that.

Before Harvey can think of anything to say that could cheer him up, Mike sends another message. And then another, and another.

It’s just that I’m starting to feel a bit trapped on this island. Which is stupid, I know, but I’ve been riled up for days and I can’t seem to go anywhere to let it out
God, listen to me complaining about my ridiculously upscale vacation
I should appreciate this more. I should be grateful that I get to be here at all, because it sure as hell didn’t look like I would have a life like that for a long time, did it? I mean, I am grateful. And like I said, it is beautiful. But I just feel like… it’s not for me. This isn’t me.

The final sentence is what Harvey gets hung up on. What the hell is he supposed to say to that?

It would be easy to play it off, to tell him to suck it up and enjoy the peace while it lasts because knowing him, it won’t for long. But something holds him back. Call him crazy, but Harvey can’t shake the feeling that there is more behind those words than just cabin fever. Part of him wants to ask, but he has no idea how, and there’s still a chance he’s wrong about this – he doesn’t want Mike to get defensive and stop whatever it is that’s making him text all the time.

Deciding to let it go for now, he settles on, First of all, you don’t have to apologize for how you’re feeling. It’s just who you are, there’s no need to justify that. Second, if anyone were ever stupid enough to believe you’re taking your life for granted after what you’ve been through, it would be their own damn problem. And third, everyone has phases like that sometimes. It’s normal, and I’m sure it’s gonna pass. You’ll be fine, Mike.

Part of him wonders what happened that Mike so desperately needs to hear this.

Part of him wonders why he’s the one telling him.

Mike’s response is short, but Harvey knows he means it.

Thank you.

Of course.
Go find your wife, I’m sure she’ll be happy to distract you.

Yeah, I guess

Harvey narrows his eyes at his phone, but before he can decide whether to say something or not, Mike adds, Talk to you soon?

The way his heart jumps at the question is pathetic. Harvey can almost hear him asking, can see his face before him with that hopeful expression that makes him look so much younger, almost like the past years haven’t left their mark on him.

His fingers fly over the keys automatically to respond, Of course, Mike. Talk to you soon.

*

“That was a good idea,” Robert remarks, watching their client head for the elevators through the glass walls. Harvey swivels his chair to face him, lifting an eyebrow.

“You sound surprised. Seven months of working together, and you still can’t acknowledge that I really am the best closer around here?”

Robert huffs. “I’m not acknowledging that because it’s not true while I’m sitting right next to you. But I can admit that you’re doing good work, when you do. I’m almost starting to believe you’re learning to play by the rules, Harvey.”

“If you really believe that, you’re a bigger fool than I thought.”

“Clearly not as big as you, if you’re talking to me like that.”

They look at each other before they both start grinning.

“Tell you what. If this works out, and we both know it will, we’re going out for burgers. It’s on me.”

“Deal. You know I never say no to burgers.”

“So I’ve been told.” Harvey glances at Robert, biting his lip before he makes up his mind. Leaning back in his chair, he casually asks, “So, have you heard from Rachel lately?”

Robert nods, the proud look he always gets when someone mentions his daughter coming into his eyes. “Talked to her just two days ago.”

“Yeah? How’s she doing? She and Mike enjoying the island life?”

“Oh yeah.” Robert grins. “They’re really treating themselves. Rachel said they’re basically living off of lobster over there. They can’t get enough of it.”

“Huh.” Filing that information away for later, he probes further, curious to know if she said anything about the situation with Mike. “And the two of them are having a good time?”

“How couldn’t they, in a place like that?” Robert sighs. “Reminds me that my next vacation is long overdue. I think I’m gonna grab Laura and get away for a while once everything around here has settled.”

“Will it ever?” Harvey remarks dryly, but it’s only half a joke. The truth is that it’s been half a year since they became Zane Specter Litt, and things have yet to really look up.

“What, suddenly you have no confidence in your skills anymore? What happened to you being the best closer around?”

“Point taken,” Harvey concedes. “I think we all deserve a proper vacation after this,” he then says, accepting the change of subject without complaint. Robert doesn’t seem to know about any troubles Rachel and Mike are having anyway, or if he does he simply won’t talk to Harvey about it. Which is fair enough.

“You proposing a firm-wide getaway? Because I’m down for burgers, but if you want to take things further, you can bet your ass that I’m gonna make you and Louis share a bunkbed.”

“Do you want us to kill each other over who gets the top bed?” Harvey asks, watching him button his jacket as he gets up. “Because however that would end, you’d be short one excellent name partner.”

“Then let’s stick to keeping our vacation plans private,” Robert remarks before he strides out of the conference room.

Harvey’s smile slips from his face as he looks after him, tapping his fingers against the table.

He doesn’t like to think about it, being stressed enough as it is, but it’s true, and it has been true for more than seven months now. Ever since the merger things have been shaky, to say the least. For every up there seems to be an even worse down they have to deal with. Harvey hasn’t gotten a good night’s rest in longer than he can remember, and the case he’s working with Robert right now is no exception.

He’d be lying if he said it wasn’t getting to him. As much as he hates to admit it, he isn’t as young as he used to be anymore, and Mike isn’t the only one the past few years have been hard on. It just doesn’t seem to let up. Every time he thinks he made it past the storm, something new comes up. First it was Mike’s secret, then Donna leaving, then Jessica leaving, then Donna kissing him and shaking up his first serious attempt at a relationship in forever, then Mike leaving and the entire ordeal with Jessica’s name and the merger, now Samantha Wheeler, trying to find their balance at the new firm, handling cases… Harvey is still reeling from things that happened months ago, years now, and there is always something new to add to that list.

Some days, Harvey is just tired.

He stifles a sigh, all too aware of the glass walls around him allowing anyone to see him at any given moment. This isn’t the right time to show weakness.

It never is.

Straightening, Harvey grabs the file from the table and returns his attention to the work at hand.

Later. He’ll deal with it later.

*

He doesn’t deal with it later. He gets home long after dusk, as he does almost every night, grabs a quick bite to make up for the hasty sandwich he had for dinner, goes to the bathroom, and then heads straight to bed.

Just another night.

Exhausted, he climbs beneath the covers, ready for blissful oblivion to take over.

Only that Harvey, for the life of him, can’t seem to turn his mind off and just go to sleep.

That also isn’t out of the ordinary.

He rolls over, tossing and turning a few more times when that doesn’t help before he finally lets out a sigh and accepts that he’s in for another night of little rest.

He’s had too many of those lately. It annoys him to no end, how his mind prevents him from making use of the few hours he actually gets to unwind. A glance at his alarm reveals that he has to get up in five hours, but sleep still eludes him.

Looks like it’s just going to be one of these days.

As a rule, he forces himself to lie still for at least an hour before he gets up to use the time more wisely. As he lies and waits, listening to every second ticking by so much slower than it should, his thoughts inevitably wander to Mike.

It surprises him how overwhelming the sudden urge to speak to him is.

He just wants to reach out and talk, but he instinctively tries to quash the desire, telling himself that he should let it go.

Only that more time passes, and Harvey still lies there, and the way he misses Mike only seems to grow worse. And the longer he thinks about it, the more his resolve wavers.

Things are different now, after all. There was a time not too long ago when reaching out was simply not an option. But that was before.

Harvey hesitates, then makes up his mind.

To hell with it. Mike has made it more than clear that he wants to talk to him. There’s no reason Harvey shouldn’t take the initiative for once.

He thinks about what to write, then decides on a simple hey and hits send before he can overthink it.

Mike responds immediately, almost like he’s been waiting for him.

Hey. Late night?

You could say that. How are you?

I’m good, just having breakfast. Trying to enjoy eating something other than lobster for once ;) what about you? Everything alright?

Yeah, everything’s fine. There’s just a lot on my mind, that’s all.

Did something happen?

No, just the usual. Believe it or not, there’s always a lot on my mind.

Believe it or not, I do believe that. I’ve never known you to be the worrying type though. Want to talk about it?

Harvey is sorely tempted to, despite not having a clue as to what to say. How could he take ‘my life is an endless cycle of work, no sleep, repeat’ and ‘everybody leaves’ and ‘I miss you so much that I can barely breathe sometimes’ and turn it into something he can actually say?

I’m not about to unload my problems on you during your honeymoon, Mike. I just wanted to talk to you.

Alright, then talk to me. I’m happy to distract you :)
And just for the record, you could. If you wanted to. Unload your problems, I mean

Thank you.
Tell me something. What are you up to today?

Not sure yet, to be honest. I’ll have to ask Rachel if there’s anything she wants to do. I’m kind of running out of ideas. There isn’t much left to do after 12 days here

Don’t tell me you’re actually getting bored on your honeymoon.

Not exactly bored as much as… fidgety, if that makes sense?

I think it does, yeah.

I just kind of feel like I’m stagnating, you know? Every day is the same as before and it’s so far removed from real life, it just doesn’t seem real.

That sounds unpleasant.

Yeah, it is. I hate that. I should be having a great time and instead I just feel like I’m faking it

That much is obvious. Harvey bites his lip, then texts back, Have you talked to Rachel about this?

Not in so many words

Maybe you should. Talking about things helps, apparently.

Actually, that may not the best idea. We had kind of a big fight last night

Oh. I’m sorry to hear that.

No need. It wasn’t the first one since we got here. Or at all, really
Look at me. Now I’m the one unloading my problems on you. Sorry about that

Are you serious? Stop apologizing, Mike. You know you can always talk to me when something’s bothering you.

Yeah, I know. It’s just not that easy, is it? I guess you’d know, of all people

Yeah. I do.

He itches to ask what the two of them were fighting about, if they’ve resolved whatever issue they had, but he made his offer clear, and if Mike doesn’t take him up on it, he isn’t going to push him. It’s too fragile, this connection that’s reopened between them. He’ll be damned if he’s going to risk it.

Anyway. I couldn’t eat more breakfast if I tried, so I’m gonna go talk to Rachel about her plans for the day. If you aren’t going to spill your guts, you should probably try to catch some sleep

Alright, mom.

Ha ha. Just remember that I’m not the one who has to be at the office in a few hours running on a nap and caffeine

Thanks for the reminder. Alright, I’ll try to get some rest. You enjoy your day, okay? Let me know if you decide on anything exciting.

I’ll try. Sure, I will. Good night now, sleepyhead ;)

Good day, lippy.

The screen goes dark and then black before Harvey can get himself to move, rolling onto his back as he drops his phone and runs a hand over his face.

It seems that both of them aren’t too happy right now, though he has to admit that even just talking to Mike has somewhat calmed him. It’s far from a cure for his problems, but at least it eases the symptoms a little.

He hopes it’s doing the same for Mike.

Their conversation has given him new food for thought, distracting him from his own turmoil until he finally falls asleep.

He isn’t exactly well-rested in the morning, but he has woken up feeling worse. This, he can handle. After he has forced himself to sit up, an automatic glance at his phone reveals that he has no new messages.

He rubs his face, thinking back to their conversation.

It’s not that they revealed their deepest and darkest secrets last night, far from it, but it was still different from what Harvey is used to. Things got… personal.

There was a time when they talked about this sort of stuff. Never excessively, never in so much detail that Harvey had to worry about betraying the secrets that could destroy everything between them, but they talked about things that weighed on them, and even if they didn’t they still knew that they could.

But not anymore. Not in quite a while, even before Mike left, when he went to prison for him and came out only to start keeping secrets and going behind his back instead of just talking to him.

And now they’re suddenly speaking again, like nothing ever happened, and Harvey is back to reminding himself to keep what he’s really feeling hidden away lest he jeopardize what they’re rebuilding here.

Really, he has no idea what to do with this.

A glance at the time tells him that he’s late already, so he decides to think about that later and hurry the hell up.

Besides, Mike said he would text, so he’s going to act like the goddamn grown-up he is and wait for him to do so.

As it turns out, he has to wait quite a while.

Once he’s at the office he gets so swamped with work that he barely has time to check his phone, but every time he does, he finds no new messages from Mike. It takes until his hasty dinner for his text alert to sound and Harvey to nearly drop his fork when he sees that Mike hasn’t just texted him, he sent him a picture.

He slows down for what feels like the first time that day, taking the moment to really look at it.

It’s a photo of Mike.

Despite the way they’ve been talking recently, despite knowing the lines of his face by heart, the sight still makes him stop short.

He doesn’t look much different. A little tanner, his hair a little messier, hints of a beard framing his jaw, but altogether he looks like he did when Harvey last saw him, the tux swapped for a ratty shirt he recognizes from before.

Objectively, he’s the same.

It must be the look on his face that’s different then. The expression he’s wearing that Harvey can’t quite interpret, no matter how long he stares at it.

He stares at it for a long time.

It’s a complicated look, or at least it seems that way to him. Like there’s something he is clearly thinking, written on his face, only that Harvey somehow can’t read it.

Maybe he just doesn’t know him as well as he used to anymore. Several months have passed after all, months during which he heard nothing of him. Of course he could have changed. Harvey probably did, too.

It wouldn’t be surprising, but it still scares him. He always knew there was the possibility of Mike slipping away from him. He watched it happen with a front row seat. But seeing hard proof of it is something else entirely, being confronted with the very real chance that they have already grown apart and it’s just going to be downhill from here…

Harvey shakes the thoughts off, taking a deep breath to quash the bottomless sensation in his stomach.

This isn’t even the lowest point of their relationship. They’re in touch again, even if Mike’s reasons elude him, and even though he has no idea if it’s going to stick once he gets back home and real life catches up with him again, it’s still worth something.

Shaking his head at himself, Harvey taps the screen when it dims. After making sure that the picture is saved to his gallery, he types, Looking good, Hasselhoff.

You’re not seriously making a Baywatch reference. What year is this?

What? You’re at the beach. You strike a good figure. Learn to take a compliment on the rare occasion that I hand one out.

I mean, it’s quite flattering of course, I just don’t see the resemblance I guess
I’m not even shirtless

Harvey wants to agree and say that of course there isn’t much resemblance since Mike is much better looking than Hasselhoff ever was, but that would overdo it just a little, so he sticks to, It’s up to you to change that, Captain Obvious. What are you doing, except taking selfies at the beach?

I tried to capture me and the turtles. Did you see the turtles, Harvey? I photographed them for you.

If you mean the green spots in the background, I did see those, yes.

You’re so rude

The turtles are very nice, Mike.

I know :)

So that is how you’re spending your day?

Most of it, yes. They’re surprisingly good company, once you get past the fact that they’re very slow and don’t give you satisfying answers

Like most people, then.

Exactly :D

Harvey snorts. Mike seems to be in a fairly good mood. Maybe that means he made up with Rachel. Or maybe it’s because Rachel doesn’t appear to be anywhere near him.

It occurs to him then that he can just ask.

I don’t mean to pry, so forgive me if I’m out of line, but how are things with Rachel?

It’s fine, you’re not prying. Things are… developing, still. We’ll see where it goes, I guess

That doesn’t sound too promising. Not entirely sure what to make of it, especially lacking any context, Harvey replies, Give it time, you two will figure things out. You always do. Did you resolve whatever your fight was about, at least?

We might have if we’d known what it was about. It was just… all over the place. I don’t even know what started it, but suddenly we were throwing around things from years ago that we both thought we’d left behind
Apparently just not talking about things and waiting until they go away doesn’t actually make them go away

Oh, Harvey is intimately familiar with that problem.

Tell me about it. It can get pretty ugly when that stuff comes back up.

I’ll say

The symbol showing that Mike is typing appears, staying for an unusually long time before his next text comes through.

I don’t know if I should even be telling you this, but we fought about you too

Harvey blinks at the screen, taken aback. Of all the things he imagined Mike to say, this never crossed his mind. His fingers hover over the keys, hesitating before he types, About me? I’m not sure what I did, but… I’m sorry?

Don’t be. It had absolutely nothing to do with anything you did, on the contrary. It’s just, that was when things got really ugly. And I haven’t really been able to stop thinking about it since

Well, are you going to tell me what it was about? Maybe I can help.

It’s not your job to help, Harvey. That’s not why I’m bringing this up, you’re not supposed to play marriage counselor for me

I know that. I still want to help if I can, though. You’re my friend, Mike. And Rachel is too. If you’re fighting, especially when it’s because of me, I want to know how I can do better

God, Harvey. Believe me when I say that you have gone above and beyond what any friend would or should do. You’ve done nothing wrong. Our issues are our own, and it’s not up to you to make them go away. If we can’t do that ourselves…
Anyway, about our fight. I never told you this, but during my trial Rachel and I had a big one too

And that was about me as well?

Yeah. Gibbs was going after you, and one night when things were looking worse and worse Rachel suggested that we should let her have you.

It hurts a little to read those words, a quick flash of instinctive betrayal that Harvey can neither stop nor control, before they sink in properly.

It’s not entirely surprising, in hindsight. He can’t blame her, either. Even though Mike clearly does.

Another message pops up, reading, I’m not telling you this because I want you to be mad at her or anything

I’m not mad. I agree with her.

I know.
That’s precisely the problem, Harvey.
You’ve always been like this. You were willing to give up everything for me so many times, even before we had to deal with Gibbs, and then she turned up and you were willing to just take the blame and go to prison for me

I didn’t realize it was such a bad thing. People have told me to be more selfless before.

It’s not a bad thing. But Harvey, it can be a terrible, terrible thing.

I’m not sure I follow.

Look, you were ready to throw away everything for me. That in itself is reason enough why you should never, ever have to face the repercussions of my actions. Even when things were looking that bad for me and I was facing prison, I never would have considered saving myself and putting the blame on you. In all that chaos, I just knew that I would do anything to protect you. And when she suggested that we should give you up… I got so angry, Harvey.
I’m still angry. It’s been years, and I’m only just realizing that I never quite forgave her for that.

What a strange thing to say. It’s not Rachel’s slip-up with Logan Sanders that’s unforgiveable, not her unfaithfulness that he can’t get past. It’s her willingness to sacrifice Harvey for the man she loves. Harvey, who is as guilty in all this as Mike was, if not more, who agrees with her that it should have been him who took the fall.

How very strange, indeed.

It’s alright, Mike. It’s in the past. It’s done. You can forgive her.

He’s not quite sure what Mike wants him to say, or what he should, but he has a feeling that this isn’t about what he’s saying at all. It’s about what Mike is, finally breaking his silence after days of beating around the bush, getting something off his chest that seems to have been weighing on him for much longer than even he realized.

I know. I know it’s over, and it doesn’t really change anything, but… when I think about the fact that she was willing to go there, it kind of changes everything.

Everything. It’s a big word. It feels heavy somehow, like it’s taken Mike all he has to write it.

How do you mean?

I don’t know. I know she loves you too. I know that. But if it still makes me mad that she even entertained the idea of doing that to you, and I know with absolute certainty that I would do prison all over again rather than let you take my place, how does that work? How do we make that work?

I know she loves you too.

The words practically scream at Harvey from the screen, playing in his head on a loop even when he manages to tear his eyes away.

This is too much. This is so much more than he bargained for. His mind is in an uproar between the implication that Mike loves him, never mind that it’s not the same way Harvey does, the idea that Rachel and Mike’s partnership isn’t as solid as he believed, and the fact that Mike is asking him for advice on how to salvage it.

Harvey doesn’t want them to be torn apart by this. He cares about them too much for that.

But he’s also just human. He’s a man in love, someone who has lost too much too many times, and no matter what Mike thinks of him, he can be selfish sometimes.

If the possibility of Mike breaking things off, returning to him, is dangled right in front of him, how is he expected not to hope for it?

He never claimed to be of the altruistic kind. That was just Mike, seeing something in him he still doesn’t quite understand.

Still, no reason to let him see that side of him. Above all, Harvey wants him to be happy. What he himself feels about that comes second.

Since you’re probably never going to be in a situation again where you have to choose between me and yourself, you won’t have to make it work. Look, Mike, sometimes you disagree with the people you love. You and I know that better than most. It can be tricky, but it’s not impossible to get past these differences.

The seconds tick by, turning into minutes that stretch on endlessly as Harvey waits for an answer. He has reread his own text half a dozen times when his phone chimes.

But what if you can’t? What if it’s something so fundamental that there’s no way you’ll get past it?

Harvey hesitates before he asks, Is it?

Mike’s answer is surprisingly short for the long time it takes him to send it.

I’m not sure

Then give yourself some time to think it over. There’s no need to find an answer to that tonight, Mike.

Yeah, I guess you’ve got a point
Maybe I should think about all that when it’s not the middle of the night and I’m dead tired

Probably. Isn’t it like three in the morning where you are?

Yeah

Jesus, Mike. Go get some sleep. You’ll have plenty of time to think things over once you’ve gotten some rest.

Yeah, you’re probably right
Thank you. For listening.

Anytime, Mike.
If there’s anything on your mind, you know how to reach me, alright?

I do. Good night, Harvey

Good night.

Harvey locks his phone, fragments of their conversation still echoing in his mind. It’s way too much to process at once, especially with how little sleep he has gotten the night before. He’ll try to make sense of all this later. Right now, he doesn’t want to examine the mess of emotions tightening his gut too closely. He wants to focus on the good parts, the hesitant warmth spreading in him at Mike’s admission that he loves him, that he is important enough for him to reconsider his entire partnership.

He knows it doesn’t mean what he wants it to. But god, this is the most he has gotten from Mike in months, if not years. He’s going to hold on to it if it kills him.

He hesitates, then gives in to his impulses and opens the picture he sent him again, biting his lip as he looks at it.

It doesn’t matter that it’s just one photo. It doesn’t matter that Mike’s expression seems foreign in it.

It’s still so very good to see him.

*

Getting some sleep doesn’t exactly clear things up. Harvey hopes it worked out better for Mike, who hasn’t yet texted him.

Not that he expected him to. He hoped for it, certainly. But Mike is still miles away, hours ahead of him, and altogether entirely out of reach.

He has no idea what Mike is thinking or how he’s doing, and he has no way of finding out other than taking what he gives him at face value. If he gives him anything.

It’s an exhausting way of communicating when so much between them has been left unsaid for so long.

The more Harvey thinks about it, the worse he feels. He may be closer to Mike than before, but they are still farther apart than ever. Small black letters on a screen are their only connection. Maybe a photo, if he’s lucky. It’s messed up. They can say all the things to each other they want. Mike is still gone, and he’ll still be gone by the time his honeymoon ends. This won’t last. The trip may suck, but he will return as a married man and go on with his life, and Harvey… Harvey will still be here and have nothing. Or not what he really wants, at least.

The thought puts him in a sour mood that only gets worse when he doesn’t hear from Mike all day. He tells himself that it’s probably for the best not to get too used to his daily messages and then gets mad at himself for still being disappointed, still acting so goddamn predictable.

He tells himself he keeps his text alert on for no particular reason when he goes to bed, because who knows what emergency may arise in the middle of the night, right?

He doesn’t believe himself for a second.

*

Mike texts him the next day, making up for the prolonged silence with another picture.

Two weeks on the island = I’ve got a serious tan going on, the caption reads, but Harvey barely pays attention to it, instead zooming in on Mike’s face. It’s a wide shot showing off the beach and the sea with Mike right in the middle, and, at second glance, Rachel somewhere behind him on a towel.

He spends an unhealthy amount of time staring at Mike, then at Rachel, then at the two of them together, or rather… not.

Weird, how she’s back there and not with Mike in the center.

It could be a coincidence. It could mean nothing.

It could mean a whole lot, though.

He zooms back in on the picture, taking a screenshot of the part with just Mike in it and only feeling a little guilty about it.

Returning to the chat, he types, As long as you’re not getting a sunburn.

Aw, look at you caring about my health. That’s so sweet of you

Very funny.
Another day of enjoying the beach, I see?

I am, yeah
It just… feels more like making the best out of an unideal situation, you know?
In all honesty, I think I need a vacation after this vacation

What, the luxury’s not up to your standards?

No it’s just… in general

So Mike is not in the mood to joke around.

Still trouble in paradise?

Mike types for several minutes before his reply arrives. Looks like he’s finally ready to talk.

Yeah. I mean, nothing’s really changed since we last spoke, which is somehow even worse? Like, shouldn’t we have worked this out by now? We’ve been here for more than two weeks and we’ve spent most of that time fighting and then not dealing with that, and it feels so goddamn off. I have no idea what to do. Jesus, I have no idea what to do with her, and that’s one hell of a thing to say about your wife during your honeymoon, isn’t it? It’s just that this whole thing has left me so insecure about where I stand, or where we stand together. It really sucks. Not knowing.

Harvey takes a deep breath. Mike, I really think you should talk to Rachel about this. You know I’m always here to listen, but ultimately I can’t tell you what’s right. I’m not part of your relationship.

Never mind the fact that he seems to have been a deciding factor in this new development.

Yeah, I guess. I think I’m just afraid of what might come out of that conversation, if we ever manage to have it

I can imagine. How are things between you now?

We’re both making an effort to keep it civil, to show each other that things are back to normal, but all that accomplishes is that we’re almost carefully neutral with each other. I feel like I’m talking to a client sometimes instead of my spouse
We’re just pretending it’s all good, and I think we both know it. It’s just that neither of us wants to say it

Uncomfortable as it’s going to be, I think there’s only so long you can get away with that. Not talking about it is not a solution in the long run.

No, I know it isn’t. I mean, it’s evident. I’m just not sure that’s a conversation I want to have on my honeymoon. Not that I’d even know how to start it

You probably will when the time is right. I guess the only advice I can give you is to not run away from it. I’ve done that enough times to know that it only makes things worse.

Yeah, you’re probably right. I guess I’ll just wait and see what happens.
God, I’m just talking about myself all the time. How are things with you?

Oh, same old, same old. We’ve been facing a few issues here and there at the firm, but we’re used to that.

Not that you’d have it any other way.

Well, some peace and quiet doesn’t exactly sound terrible, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.

Of course not. You can handle anything ;)

Harvey almost laughs at that. This from the guy who nearly brought him to his knees.

His screen lights up with another text.

That doesn’t tell me how you are, though. Apart from work, how are you doing?

There is no ‘apart from work’ when you practically live at the office, Mike.

That bad?

Yeah. Seriously though, I’m fine. Tired, but otherwise it’s all good. It helps that everyone’s acting in concert for once. Louis and I are getting along better than ever. Things with Donna are good too. She started dating someone a while back, I don’t know if she told you or Rachel, but things have relaxed since then. Not that they were tense before, but after the situation with Paula and her kissing me I felt that we were kind of off balance. I’m glad we’ve left that behind now.

Glad to hear about Louis. Tell him I said hi :) Yeah, Donna mentioned that. Good for her that they’re still seeing each other. And good for you that it’s been helping
Honestly, if I’d known it would mess things up this much I never would have pushed her to do something. I’m sorry about that

It’s alright. You were just trying to help. You didn’t know.

No, I really didn’t. I honestly thought that was what you wanted. She clearly must have too…

I don’t think she thought anything past the fact that it was what she wanted. She even said so. ‘I just had to know’, right after the kiss. Never mind that I was still seeing Paula at the time.

Shit, Harvey. I really had no idea. No wonder you were so mad at her afterwards

I was. It’s alright now, though. We’ve moved on. She had to know, now she does. End of story.
Seriously, don’t blame yourself for what she did. That was all her.

Yeah, I guess
It’s weird, isn’t it? How you can get an entirely wrong impression of somebody. Me and her thinking you wanted her that way, you thinking she didn’t want you, and no one ever saying what they really think… sometimes I wonder if we all aren’t just pretending with each other

Harvey swallows. Mike’s words hit a little too close to home. He hesitates, then takes heart and asks, Are you pretending?

I don’t know. Sometimes, I think
That was a lie. I know I am
A lot of times, actually
That’s what makes me wonder if it’s the same for others

Harvey huffs.

I don’t know about others, but I can tell you that it’s the same for me.
That doesn’t mean I’m constantly lying to people though. I’m just not always showing them the whole truth.

Mike’s answer catches him off guard.

Why not?

A bold question, when you know the answer. Harvey isn’t quite bold enough to give it.

Why aren’t you? he asks instead.

Mike takes a while to reply. Before he can, Harvey adds, You don’t have to answer that. We both know why. Because sometimes it’s better not to say things out loud, isn’t it?

He hits send before he can think better of it, trying to will his heart to calm down. There is no reason to be this agitated by their conversation. It’s purely hypothetical.

Is it really better though? Or does it just lead to suppressed feelings and the kind of shit that comes back even uglier

It’s getting uncomfortably close to the truth, though.

I don’t know, Mike. Is it better to deal with the shit later by yourself or ruin things for both you and the other party involved?
It’s a good question, but I’m the wrong person to ask. I don’t know the answer to it.

Again, Mike takes a long time to reply. When he does text, all he says is, Yeah, neither do I

Harvey lets out a deep breath. Let me know if you figure it out.

Yeah. Who knows, maybe I will soon

That’s an ominous statement if he ever heard one. Giving up trying to figure out his train of thought, he just texts back, Good luck with that.

He would like to pretend not to think about their conversation for the rest of the day.

He has long ago realized that lying to himself is pointless, though.

*

Harvey checks the time, then gives himself one last look in the mirror before he heads for the door. It’s habit more than anything. He isn’t actually concerned if he looks impressive enough.

Getting ready for a date used to feel very different. He did it so often, remembers perfectly how he chatted someone up at every chance he got, looking for people to have dinner with and people to take home alike, embracing every opportunity to connect and see what might come out of it.

He doesn’t do that anymore. The desire just ceased with time, giving way to the evolving feelings he’d developed for Mike.

He still has his fun every once in a while. Just because he’s emotionally committed to someone doesn’t mean that he can’t have a physical connection with someone else. He just doesn’t feel the need to do so all that often anymore, never mind that he’s too exhausted to even think about it when he comes home most of the time.

Maybe he’s getting old. Or maybe he’s just foolish enough to pine after something he can never have so much that he neglects all the things he could have instead, because really, none of them could compare.

It’s probably a bit of both.

An old fool in love. Harvey huffs. It’s not something he ever thought he’d describe himself as.

Tonight’s date is the first one he is going on since Paula, and while he wouldn’t mind getting some action by the end of it – or more, though he highly doubts that – he isn’t overly concerned with it. Her name is Christina. They met when Harvey took on her brother’s case, and she agreed to go for dinner with neither much reluctance nor great enthusiasm, so he doesn’t really know what to expect from the night.

He’s not quite sure why he asked her out at all. She was charming, and easy on the eyes, and she happened to be there, so Harvey decided to just go for it, see what it leads to.

Truth be told, the fact that he knows he could use the distraction probably played into it as well.

And maybe it’s time to move on too, a small voice in his head remarks. Not that it’s going to be easy, or happen within one night. Or at all, possibly.

But it’s a start.

He’ll give it a try. No expectations. Just wait and see where it goes.

Christina is waiting for him at the restaurant, smiling as soon as she lays eyes on him.

“Looks like we color-coordinated!” she says, nodding at his tie. It’s not the same shade of blue as her blouse, but close enough.

“Looks like it,” he tells her, smiling, before he kisses her cheek and sits down. “Hello, Christina. I’m glad you could make it.”

And so he settles in for the evening, choosing something to eat and engaging in superficial, but friendly conversation, all the while trying to ignore how much he doesn’t really feel like being here. How much he’s putting on an act to charm her instead of letting her see what’s beneath.

He used to like this part, figuring out who the other person really is, see how they match and where they clash. It doesn’t do much for him tonight, and it feels less exciting than he remembers when she responds to his flirting in kind.

Or maybe his heart just isn’t in it.

To his surprise, dinner goes rather well. They make it through their starters without running out of things to say, and in time Harvey feels himself loosening up, the mask slipping as his responses come more naturally.

Christina is good company, he realizes. She’s not just able to keep up with him, but challenges him to do the same. Her friendliness is far from bland, her stories entertaining enough, and her smile so genuine that Harvey can’t help but return it.

He is actually enjoying himself.

He has no idea if they could work in the long run. If he’d even want them to. But they could be something. Something for the night at the very least.

“It wasn’t the last time I went to Barcelona, either,” she tells him, chuckling.

“Seriously?” Harvey shakes his head. “What on earth convinced you to go back there after those first two times?”

He nearly startles when he feels his phone buzzing in his pocket, the irrational hope for it to be Mike flaring up reflexively.

It could be anyone. It could be about anything at all.

His hand twitches, but he forces himself to keep still, trying to focus on what Christina is saying.

He fails spectacularly.

Realizing soon that he won’t be able to listen to her until he has checked, he takes his phone out as discreetly as he can and glances at the screen.

It’s Mike.

I’ve made a new friend. He’s very proud and fancy-looking and walks around like he owns the island

“Work?” Christina asks knowingly, making him startle for the second time in as many minutes. Harvey gives her a smile.

“Yeah, I’m sorry. As head of the firm I’m always in demand.”

He feels slightly bad about the lie, but it allows him to send a quick reply when she nods in understanding.

Who are you talking about?

It doesn’t take half a minute for a picture to arrive, a stray cat squinting at the camera as it leans into a hand petting it that must be Mike’s.

I see. He does look fancy.

“Sorry,” he says again, shaking his head.

“It’s okay. I’ve seen you at work, I know how good you are. No wonder people demand your services at this hour.”

“Yes,” Harvey murmurs, then clears his throat. “So. Barcelona?”

I know, right?
Would you be terribly mad if I named him after you?

He just so holds back a snort.

What is it with you and wanting to give animals my name?

Only specific animals. I would never name a sweet oblivious turtle after you. Or a lobster about to meet its maker.

“There’s just something about it, despite all the crazy things that happened to me over there,” Christina says. Harvey bites his lip, trying to school his features into a neutral expression.

“I see.”

You’re ridiculous. Stop befriending animals over there, it’s only gonna make you sad when you have to leave them behind.
On that note, please don’t bring any stray animals back from your honeymoon.

Well, what else am I supposed to do here after 18 days?
There’s no need to worry about that though. Rachel would never let me bring an animal into the house

“Have you ever been to Barcelona?”

Harvey glances up. “Me? No, I can’t say that I have.”

“Well, despite the horror stories I’ve just told you I can honestly recommend it. It’s such a vibrant place.”

“Mh.”

I have to agree with her on that.

If you could see Harvey Junior in real life, you’d say something different

This time Harvey actually snorts, covering the sound with a subtle cough.

Have I mentioned how ridiculous you are?

You have, yeah. Unnecessarily so btw

That’s up for debate.

He finally puts the phone down, but feels it vibrating again just a moment later.

So what are you up to?

Just having dinner, he texts back, omitting the fact that he’s not having it alone. What about you?

Not much. Can’t sleep, so I’m on the balcony
What are you having for dinner?

Harvey frowns. It’s clear as day that Mike wants to talk right now. He sucks in his lip, glancing from his phone to the woman before him.

He doesn’t want to be rude. She deserves better than to sit here with someone whose attention is only half on her. And Mike does, too.

Looking at Christina, he sighs.

It’s a shame to ditch her. But his mind is already made up.

“I’m sorry,” he says. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to cut this evening short. Please order whatever you like for dessert, it’s on me.”

“Oh.” She looks disappointed. “It’s that urgent, then?”

“Regretfully it is. I’m really sorry, but I can’t stay.”

“Well, nothing to be done about that.” She smiles a little, trying to hold his gaze. “Maybe you can make it up to me with another dinner sometime.”

“We’ll see what we can do,” Harvey promises even though he knows they won’t hear from each other again, only feeling marginally bad about it.

He gets up to kiss Christina’s cheek, gives her another apology, takes care of their bill and then strides out of the restaurant without another glance back.

He takes a deep breath of the cool evening air, shaking his head at the fact that he just gave up what could have been a great one-night stand at the very least in favor of exchanging a few texts with Mike, all because he had a hunch that he wants to talk.

He has to admit it was an easy choice.

He is never going to be to Mike what he is to him, but he is still his friend. And if that’s the most he can get, he is going to be the best goddamn friend in the world.

It was nothing special, he tells him as he walks home. But why don’t you tell me about what’s going on with you instead? Why can’t you sleep?

I’ve just been thinking. Again.
A lot

Got anywhere with it?

Might have

Harvey waits, and when nothing else comes he asks, Want to talk about it?

He can practically feel Mike trying to decide what to say, sees him pacing the balcony or worrying his lip, and it would make him smile if he weren’t so curious, because they may be as far apart as they can be, but he still knows him. He does.

Mike finally replies, the symbol that he’s typing appearing anew every time he’s sent a text. Harvey lets him get everything off his chest, waiting until nothing else comes before he responds.

I just... is it normal to get cold feet after the wedding?
I don’t know why I’m asking you that. You’re not married
It’s just that I figured something out today and I’m not sure I should even say it. Or text it, in this case. But I can’t keep this to myself. I need to tell someone
And I want to tell you

The last text leaves Harvey feeling strangely warm despite the cool night air biting his skin.

Mike still needs him. It’s all he ever asked for.

You can tell me anything, Mike. I won’t judge you, you know that.

Yeah, I do
Do you remember how I said I was starting to feel a bit trapped on this island at the beginning?

I remember.

Well, it’s not the island that’s making me feel trapped
Shit, Harvey. I’m just wondering if I’ve made a mistake. I’ve been wondering for some time now, if I’m honest

Having reached his apartment, Harvey goes straight through to the living room. Not bothering to switch on the lights, he sinks down on the sofa and rereads the last text.

Is this the realization you came to? That you’re feeling trapped in your marriage?

It takes Mike all of two minutes to send his reply.

Yes

Harvey can tell why. The word is heavy, carrying a weight he is not sure he comprehends just yet.

Do you regret it?

I don’t know. I feel like I do. And that honestly just fucks me up
This is huge, and I just… I don’t know what to think.

Neither does Harvey, much less what to feel. Biting his lip, he considers his next words.

At the risk of sounding condescending, have you considered that maybe you’re not seeing things clearly right now? I haven’t talked to you for a while before your trip, so I obviously don’t know if this is something you’ve been thinking about for longer, but it seems to have become this major thing over the past two weeks. Maybe you’re missing structure, or routine, or the familiarity of your own space, and that’s what’s sent you reeling. Maybe you just need to get back to your life to remember why you wanted it so much.

It’s far-fetched, but it’s the only alternative Harvey can see to the conclusion Mike has drawn. If he isn’t quite ready to confront that, it’s worth considering it.

It’s Mike’s marriage that’s on the line here. That’s nothing to throw away on a whim.

Do you honestly think so?

Harvey bites his lip.

I don’t know, Mike. I really don’t. But I think you have time to figure it out. You’ll see. You’re going home soon.

Yeah, I guess. I’m just not sure we’re gonna go home together
Or if we should

Harvey stares at his bright screen in the darkness, caught between hope, nagging guilt, and sympathy.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this, for either of them. If Harvey isn’t, at least the two of them should be happy.

Another text pops up.

It’s past midnight for you, isn’t it? Why are you still up?

I’m not tired.

Are you planning on going to bed soon?

Not necessarily. Why?

I was just thinking, would it be okay if I… can I call you real quick? I just really need to talk to you right now

Harvey’s heart skips a beat. He sits up straighter, typing, Of course you can call.

Mike doesn’t reply. Instead his phone lights up with an incoming call just a few seconds later. Harvey stares at the name as if transfixed before he picks up, his hand just slightly unsteady as he raises his phone.

“You’re gonna have a massive phone bill after this,” he greets him.

Mike chuckles. It’s the first he has heard of him in so long, the first that isn’t in the background of some video he sent him, that’s real. It sounds wry, and tired, and yet so unmistakably like him that it nearly takes his breath away. “Yeah, I don’t really care about that right now.”

Harvey closes his eyes as he speaks, feeling a tension fall away from him he never even realized he was holding.

“Hey, Mike.”

Mike exhales deeply. “Hi, Harvey.”

“It’s good to hear your voice.”

It is. So very, very good.

“Yeah.”

Harvey gives him a moment. He can use it too. “What did you want to talk about?” he prompts softly.

Mike sighs. “I want you to be honest with me, okay?”

“Of course. Always.”

Mike takes a sharp breath. “Do you think that- it was a mistake? Getting married?”

Well, that’s direct. Harvey carefully weighs his words.

“You know I can’t possibly give you a satisfying answer to that. I’m not privy to your relationship. My opinion as an outsider doesn’t matter.”

“I know that, but I’d still like to hear what you think. You know me, and Rachel, and you’ve been there from the start.” He pauses. “Also, you’re not an outsider. Your opinion matters to me.”

It seems that Harvey won’t be able to worm his way out of this one. Not when Mike is asking like this.

“Look, all I know is that you and Rachel have a lot of history, and you’ve been trying to get this right for a long time. I think it’s normal to fight, and to have doubts, but that doesn’t make all that meaningless.”

Mike is silent, but Harvey can still hear him breathing on the other end of the line.

“But isn’t that just it? We’ve been trying, for so long, and we just can’t seem to get there. Now less so than ever. And I don’t think it should be like that when you get married. It’s- wrong.”

Harvey sucks in his lip. “To be honest, it really doesn’t sound like happily ever after right now. And you wouldn’t be talking about this if things weren’t messed up. Despite your sentimental history, I know you wouldn’t throw everything away just to be dramatic.”

He’s relieved to hear the genuine, if somewhat broken laugh Mike lets out at that.

“It’s really, really messed up,” he then says, half whispering the words as if that makes them any easier to say. “This entire honeymoon, it’s been…”

“I know.” Harvey traces his nails with his thumb, pressing down until he feels a dull ache. “You have almost another week to figure it out.”

“Shit.”

“What?”

“I don’t know. I guess that’s what I’m scared of, figuring it out.”

Harvey digs into his skin until it stings.

“Better than this uncertainty though, isn’t it? Finally knowing for good.”

“Yeah, I guess.”

The sting heightens the more he presses. His heart is pounding too fast. “Have you talked to Rachel about this yet?”

“Vaguely. Then again, we haven’t been talking all that much in general lately.” Mike sighs. “I think neither of us wants to address it so we don’t ruin this trip, but we both know something’s going on.”

“Not that you don’t have my ear anytime, but maybe you should be talking to her about all this then. Disturbing the peace isn’t pleasant, sure, but when the peace is just an illusion anyway…”

“I know. I’ll have to do it sooner or later, I just… I needed to get there myself first before I could bring it up.”

The sharp ache helps Harvey speak his next words.

“I get it. Just don’t push it back too often, Mike. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this, but your relationship is on the line here. The life you’ve chosen for yourself. It might still be salvageable, but prolonging this strain isn’t gonna make the odds any better. So if you think there’s any chance you still want to give it a try… don’t wait too long.”

It’s a good thing Mike isn’t here to read from his face how bitter the words taste on his tongue.

“You only get so many chances. Once the opportunity is gone, it’s gone. You won’t get it back.”

Mike is quiet.

“You’re right,” he finally says, and it sounds as regretful as if he’s already let his chance go to waste, like it’s too late already.

He sounds just like Harvey feels.

“Hey,” he says, forcing himself to keep the heaviness of his longing out of his voice. “You got this. I know it’s hard, and it’s not something you ever want to have to do, but I know you. You don’t give up when things are hard. You do what needs to be done.”

Mike breathes out slowly. “Sounds more like you than me,” he says.

God, he has no idea. No idea what Harvey has done because it needed to be, because Mike asked him to, because it was the right thing. Offered his blessing. Stood by as his best man while he married someone else. Let him go.

“I think we’re alike in that, you and I.”

What are you looking for? Another me.

It’s a blessing as much as a curse that he found one.

“Yeah, maybe. God, I just want this whole thing to blow over already.”

“You’ll get through this,” Harvey promises. “You’ll know more soon, and whatever comes next, I’m right here. Whenever you want to talk.”

“Thanks.” A quiet laugh. “We’ve come a long way from ‘I only care about you as a reflection of me’, haven’t we?”

At any other time Harvey might have denied it, throwing in a quip they both would have known he doesn’t mean, but tonight he just says, “Yeah. We have.”

It was a lie even then, when he’d barely known Mike. He’d always cared.

He was right that it would be his downfall, in the end.

“And Mike-“ He hesitates, biting his lip. “If you do talk to Rachel, and things don’t go well… if you need a break, or some place to stay, you know you’ll always have a home here.”

The rabbit hole is bottomless. Some days Harvey is just determined to dig himself deeper into it.

“I know. Thank you. For everything, Harvey. I don’t know how I’ll ever repay you.”

It’s hard to speak all of a sudden. “Nothing to thank me for, Mike.”

“Yes, there is. Plenty. And I never said it enough. But I’ll get around to it, I promise.”

Swallowing, Harvey nods. “I’ll be here, then.”

Mike lets out a quiet sigh. “Rachel is going to wake up soon.”

“Want to get back inside before she notices you’re missing?”

“Well, it wouldn’t be the first time she’s waking up to an empty bed. Anyway. I should still get going. Maybe catch another hour of sleep before breakfast.”

“Of course. Enjoy it.” Harvey smiles. “No lobster.”

Mike chuckles. “Yeah, thank god.”

“Text me if you need anything. Or call. Anytime.”

“I will, thanks. You have a good night.”

“Sure.”

“And Harvey?”

“Yeah?”

“It’s good to hear your voice too.”

Harvey swallows.

“Good night, Mike.”

“Good night, Harvey.”

The call disconnects. Harvey lowers his phone, looking at the screen until it goes black and he sits in total darkness.

He stays there for a long time, Mike’s voice in his head on a loop that is as painful as it’s soothing.

He often feels like that, where Mike is concerned.

*

Harvey doesn’t hear from Mike again for three days. Going cold turkey after their call is rougher than it should be, but there is nothing to do but soldier on. Mike is going to reach out when he wants to, when he’s ready.

On the fourth day he receives a text so trivial it tells him nothing at all about the state of things, but it’s a sign of life, and so Harvey plays along and responds to the picture of Mike’s sunburn in kind, starting a conversation easily.

They don’t go into it, the elephant firmly back in the room, but Harvey has a feeling that this is exactly what Mike needs right now, so he bides his time and just enjoys talking to him.

On the fifth day Mike texts him around half past three – almost midnight for him – that he just returned from a bike ride across the island. They barely graze his trip, which Harvey suspects was only a cover for some soul-searching anyway, before he announces that he’s made a decision.

After just over three weeks Mike and Rachel’s honeymoon ends, having them packing their things and flying home – separately.

Rachel goes back to Seattle to take care of their apartment. Mike, for his part, comes straight to New York.

“You did say you needed a vacation after this,” Harvey said as soon as he heard the news, trying to keep his voice level and the complicated mix of emotions from washing over him for the moment. “So come to New York. Stay a while. However long you like.” He swallowed, his heart pounding as he said, “Come back home.”

So Mike comes back home.

Harvey picks him up from the airport, canceling his entire day to be there when he arrives. He has yet to speak to Robert about the end of Rachel and Mike’s marriage, and he’s not sure if he knows that Mike is returning, but if he does, he hasn’t said anything about it. Sooner or later it’s going to come up and things are likely going to get weird, but Harvey doesn’t intend to hide where he stands or that Mike is staying with him.

He has always made clear where his loyalty lies.

After months apart, the final few minutes of separation seem to stretch forever.

Checking the clock for the seventh time, Harvey taps his foot as he waits among the rest of the people picking someone up. Mike’s flight arrived almost half an hour ago. He should be here any minute now.

He impatiently watches people exiting the doors until his eyes catch on a flash of hair he would recognize anywhere. His breath hitches as he moves closer to get a clear view. It’s Mike, who lays eyes on him that very moment, a smile of recognition spreading on his face as he makes his way towards him.

He’s working a nice tan, much more so than the pictures let on. His hair is a little longer, and he’s in desperate need of a shave, though Harvey has to admit that it’s not a bad look on him. He’s wearing a coat Harvey has never seen before and seems tired from the flight, and although there is no denying that time has moved on without them, one look at him is all it takes for something inside Harvey to settle that’s been up in arms since the day he left.

When he stops in front of him, it’s the first time he can breathe freely again.

“Mike.”

“Hey, Harvey.”

God, his voice. The phone calls were one thing, but hearing it in person, seeing him as they speak, is something else entirely.

“You look good. I almost didn’t recognize you.”

Mike smiles. “Well, you look exactly the same.”

They watch each other, and then they step into a hug at the same time, foregoing any more words.

Harvey inhales deeply as Mike’s arms close around him, memories of the last time he held him welling up, his familiar scent stirring a sensation in him that makes him want to weep, and if he’s holding on a little too tightly, neither of them says a word about it.

They don’t say anything at all, just holding each other close. It’s more than a greeting, it’s reassurance, recognition, and most of all comfort, for both of them.

Listening to Mike’s breathing, Harvey swallows, trying to keep the onslaught of emotions hitting him at bay. He only breaks the silence to eventually say, “Welcome back.”

“Thank you.”

Mike takes a step back, licking his lips, and Harvey reluctantly lets him go. “And thank you for having me.”

“Of course. Don’t mention it.” Harvey nods towards the exit. “Come on. Ray’s waiting outside.”

After another, much quicker reunion they climb into the back of the car while Ray gets them home. Harvey keeps stealing glances at Mike, unable to take his eyes off him for more than a few seconds. He seems perfectly happy looking out of the window, soaking up the view of the city passing them by, and Harvey is perfectly happy to watch him, the music Ray has put on playing lowly in the background.

It’s weird, having Mike in front of him again. It’s even weirder having him in his apartment, looking around with a mix of hesitation and curiosity, like he isn’t quite sure he’s allowed to but is desperate to see what changed around here.

It’s weird in the best possible way, though.

“You can put your stuff in the guest room,” Harvey tells him as he starts the coffee machine. “Feel at home. I assume you still know where everything is. If you need anything else, just let me know.”

“Like better sheets?” Mike teases.

“My thread count is fine,” Harvey tells him, though he’s smiling too. “If you’ve got a complaint, there’s a hotel right around the corner.”

“I’ve got enough of hotels for quite a while, thanks. And I’d rather stay with you.”

Harvey catches his eyes. “Good. Now, what do you want for lunch?”

“I had something on the plane.”

Harvey throws him a look. “Don’t tell me that was actually edible. I was thinking that Thai place two blocks from here you used to love, but if you want something else, just let me know.”

Mike looks at him with something Harvey can’t quite pinpoint until he asks, “You’re not going back to the office?”

“Of course not. You think I want to deal with mergers or settlements when I haven’t seen you in months? I took the day off to welcome you home, so that’s what I’m going to do.”

A complicated expression passes over Mike’s face, superseded by a genuine smile that steals Harvey’s breath away.

It’s been so long since he saw that.

“Thai sounds lovely,” Mike says, his voice soft.

Harvey has to clear his throat before he can answer. “I’ll call them,” he tells him, getting up. “Same order?”

“You got it.”

Mike goes to make himself at home a little, though he leaves unpacking the rest of his stuff for later when he hears Harvey finishing up.

It’s a bit surreal, having Mike back, talking to him like this wasn’t preceded by months of silence. It’s different, because they are both different, and yet it’s so easy to fall back into the effortlessness Harvey always loved about their interactions. They may both have grown since they last saw each other, but they haven’t grown apart.

They catch up over lunch, talking about the firm and Harvey’s condo and some cases Mike had in Seattle. They stay clear of the topic of his marriage or the future for the time being. Harvey figures that Mike is going to start talking when he’s ready, and for now he’s happy to distract him and return to the easy banter they used to throw around all the time.

“I forgot how much I can actually devour when it comes to Thai food,” Mike mumbles when he’s finished, putting his empty tray on the table before he leans back.

Harvey watches him rub his belly in amusement. “You guys don’t have Thai in Seattle?”

“Yeah, but we never got any.” Mike eyes him. “I only ever had it with you.”

Harvey swallows his bite, setting his leftovers down.

“I haven’t eaten there since you left either,” he says, meeting his eyes briefly. “Guess that was just always our thing, huh?”

Mike smiles, wistful and fond at once. He doesn’t speak, but his expression is enough for Harvey to continue.

“Seriously, Mike, it’s good to have you back. I know the circumstances are shitty, but nevertheless I’m glad that you’re here. It hasn’t been the same without you.”

Nothing has.

He should probably feel worse about the confession, about the fact that he’s happy about Mike’s failed marriage, but since he himself doesn’t seem all that devastated, he can’t see why he should.

Indeed, Mike just nods. “For me, either.” He lets out a deep breath, then smiles. “Well, I’m back now.”

For good?

The question is on the tip of Harvey’s tongue, hanging in the air between them, but he swallows it down. They’ve got time to talk about all that later. Right now, he just wants to enjoy that Mike is here, and not think about the possibility that he might leave again in just a few days.

“I thought I’d drop by the office and pick up a few files I need to look over,” Harvey says. “You wanna come with me and say hi to everyone?”

Mike hesitates, a frown crossing his face before he shakes his head. “I’d like to, but… I don’t want to risk running into Robert already. Maybe once I’ve gotten settled and Rachel’s had a chance to talk to her parents about… us.”

“Alright, sure. I’ll check when he’s not around if you want, so you’ll know when you can swing by.”

“That would be nice, yeah.”

Harvey leaves Mike to it, thinking that he can probably use the time to himself. When he gets back, he has unpacked his suitcase and is occupying Harvey’s washing machine, still knowing exactly how to use it.

In many ways, Harvey is beginning to realize that Mike’s absence or the time they spent not talking hasn’t actually done them any harm. Sure, he would have preferred for all that to never have happened, but it still led them to this. And this, picking what to eat for dinner, bickering about the space they’re sharing, wallowing in memories from years ago… it’s really, really nice.

He is reminded of the time that has passed only when Mike puts his plate down later that night, his dinner half-eaten, and stares ahead.

“What is it?” Harvey asks. “The curry not up to your standards?”

“No, it’s just… we used to go to that place for lunch sometimes, Rachel and I. This was her favorite.”

“Oh.” Harvey lowers his fork. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”

Mike waves his hand. “It’s fine. No point in pretending all that never happened, right? You said it yourself, we have history. And no matter what happened, I don’t want to forget about that.”

“And you shouldn’t. It was a big part of your life. It shaped you.”

Mike throws him a look. “A lot of things did.”

His eyes drift to his plate again. “It’s just so weird to picture my future without her. I mean, I thought I was going to spend my life with her. I still find it hard to realize that we’re done. All these years, she was just always… there. I got so used to it.” He sucks in his lip. “Though I think that’s precisely the problem.”

Harvey frowns. “I’m not following.”

“That’s why it didn’t work. Our relationship, I mean. Why it couldn’t. I was used to being with her. It was routine. And I mistook that for something entirely different.”

“Are you saying you didn’t-“

Harvey cuts off, the question slipping out before he can hold it back, but Mike already looks up, shaking his head. “I didn’t love her? No, I did. I do. It just wasn’t the way it should have been.”

“Then how?”

“I don’t know. Not enough. Not in the right way. I love her a lot, and I think part of me always will. But the idea of spending my life with her doesn’t excite me as much as it should, and knowing that I won’t doesn’t make me nearly as sad as it’s supposed to. And I think that tells me everything I need to know.”

Harvey sits back. “Huh.” Regarding Mike, he says, “You sound… certain. Much more than you did in your texts.”

“It was a process. Admitting to myself that it’s done, and we’re better off apart. But it’s true. It’s over.” Mike sighs. “Doesn’t mean it isn’t going to take me a while to move past it, though.”

The corner of his lips lifts as he glances at Harvey. “Still. It’s the right thing to do. To be honest, I think you’re more shaken by it than I am.”

Maybe that’s what Harvey finds so hard to believe, just can’t seem to wrap his head around. Rachel and Mike, the perfect star-crossed lovers that fought so long to find their way, only for their happy ending to be over in the blink of an eye.

He’d made his peace with it, that the two of them were forever. Realizing now that they weren’t feels a little like someone shifted his world off its axis.

“Do you miss her?”

He doesn’t know what makes him ask, his desire to understand, the need to be there for Mike, or the masochistic part of him that always wants to rub a little more salt into the wound just to really feel the burn. He does know that no matter what the answer is, it’s a lot more complicated than anything Mike can put into words, but he still needs to hear it. He needs to know.

“Yeah. A lot.”

Harvey wrings his hands together.

“Mike, are you sure that this is what you want?”

Letting out a short laugh, Mike shakes his head. “I certainly never wanted this, Harvey. Getting a divorce. Not even making it through our honeymoon. Letting go of the life I thought I was gonna have. But it’s still the right thing.”

Harvey searches his face, and when he finds nothing but determination there, he nods, finally allowing himself to accept it as the truth. “Then I want you to know that I’ll be there every step of the way. Whatever you need.”

Mike’s expression softens. “I know. Thank you.” He regards him, pursing his lips before he continues, “I meant what I said, you know. Thank you. For holding my hand through this entire thing. And for everything else you’ve done for me. I never said it nearly enough. I owe you. So much.”

“You owe me nothing.”

He doesn’t even have to think about it. It’s a truth as self-evident as his heart beating or the earth turning, one he knows in his bones and couldn’t change if he wanted to.

Mike however, just stares at him.

“You keep saying that. Why not?”

Harvey lifts his shoulders, shaking his head. “Because you’re you. And I…”

“You what?” Mike asks when he fails to find an end to that sentence, leaning in. He never takes his eyes off him, the frown etching into his forehead as he looks at him like he’s trying to work out something essential, something vital, like a missing piece from a puzzle he’s been trying to solve for ages.

Harvey swallows, looking away. “Mike…”

It’s too much, too close.

He feels too hot beneath his shirt all of a sudden, like he already said too much even though he barely said anything at all, and his first instinct is to take a step back and remove himself from the situation, bring some distance between them. But Mike is right here and Harvey knows he won’t let him talk his way out of this, and anyway, he can’t run away from Mike. There is no way he could ever walk away from him.

“No, Harvey. Come on. Say it.”

It’s the tone of his voice that makes him look back up.

It’s not cold, or challenging. It’s pleading. Hopeful. It’s breathless, like he doesn’t want to risk missing the answer for anything, and Harvey looks into his eyes and takes the biggest leap of faith of his life.

“Because you’re you, and I would do anything for you.”

Mike’s throat bobs.

“Why?”

His voice breaks, and it nearly rips Harvey right in the middle. Why is Mike clutching his hands like he’s afraid they might shake if he doesn’t? Why is he looking at him like that? Why is he the one fighting for his composure when it’s Harvey who is about to be laid bare?

“Don’t make me say it.”

His own voice is quiet. Too quiet. It’s as good as a confession.

“Please.”

His voice is only a whisper.

I would do anything for you.

Anything. It wasn’t a lie.

“Because I love you.”

The air leaves Harvey’s lungs in a rush as the words fall from his lips without his explicit permission, somehow the hardest thing he has ever done and yet entirely unstoppable. It feels like someone sucked the oxygen out of the whole room, leaving only the space between them, the look on Mike’s face as he stares at him, the shaky rise and fall of his chest.

This is it, then. Welcome to the end, or whatever comes now that Harvey has unveiled his greatest secret. There is no undoing it, no returning to the way things were. This might be the last time he and Mike are together like this.

And he only just got him back.

“Shit, Harvey.”

Mike gets up, running a hand over his face. Harvey watches him take a few steps, then finally turn back around.

“Shit. You know I love you too, right? You gotta know that.”

It’s the last thing he expected to hear from him.

This is Mike, who got married to someone else. Mike, who couldn’t seem to get away from him fast enough after prison. Mike, who went and left him behind like it was nothing.

And now he loves him?

“No,” Harvey says.

Mike swallows. “You didn’t know?”

“No, it’s not- you don’t mean that. Not the way I mean it.”

“I do, though,” Mike says quietly, not arguing, just silently asking him to listen, to believe him.

Mike, who refused to give Harvey up to save himself every time he got the chance. Mike, who was there for him whenever Harvey needed his help. Mike, who went to prison for him.

Mike, who loves him.

It’s the last thing he expected to hear from him, and yet he somehow isn’t surprised at all.

Harvey watches unmovingly as he slowly walks towards him, stopping inches before him.

He doesn’t move as he raises his hand, cupping his cheek so gently that his skin tingles where they connect. He doesn’t move as his eyes search his and his face softens and he bites his lip, hesitating just slightly before he makes up his mind.

He doesn’t move when he closes the last bit of distance between them, giving him plenty of time to draw back.

Harvey doesn’t move.

Mike’s lips are staggeringly warm when they meet his. He forbade himself from imagining the feeling of them too often, but he knows now he never could have gotten it right anyway. His heart stops briefly before it starts pounding, but acknowledging it is only a passing thought, meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

They are so close that he can hear every breath Mike draws, way too hard, too heavy. He isn’t faring much better himself, his reaction to feeling Mike like this beyond his control, the sigh escaping him betraying the smallest fraction of what he’s feeling right now.

Mike lets out a sound in return, so quiet and so urgent that Harvey’s heart nearly falls out of his chest. They are barely moving, barely doing anything as their lips slide together, getting acquainted with each other in the gentlest way possible.

It can’t have been more than a few seconds, but to Harvey they feel immeasurable. It lasts forever, over too soon and yet so much more than he can process.

They don’t deepen the kiss. They don’t press closer, or push for more, or turn it into anything other than the soft pressure that it is.

They’re just kissing.

It’s curiously simple. It changes absolutely everything.

Talk about a shift of his world.

Mike’s fingers curl on his cheek, grounding him in the moment when every part of him feels like it’s floating, rendered immobile by the sole point of contact where their lips connect.

It’s the most beautiful kiss he can ever remember having. It breaks his goddamn heart.

They part only to catch their breath, staying close, and he inhales sharply when Mike moves to kiss him again.

“Mike,” Harvey whispers. “Stop it.”

It takes all of his strength to utter the words, and all of it not to reach out and pull him back in when Mike drops his hands and steps away, bringing some distance between them. It’s only a few inches, but it might as well have been miles.

Mike looks impossibly young and vulnerable as he blinks at him.

“You-“

Harvey shakes his head, holding up a hand. “Don’t. You know I wanted this. I know you did, too. But we still can’t.”

“Why not?”

Harvey runs a hand over his mouth, exhaling deeply. “You literally just decided that your marriage is over. This is too soon.”

The fact that this is happening at all is too much to process, but Harvey is used to dealing with unexpected turns of events. It’s what he always does; what he’s good at. Something to fall back on when everything around him dissolves into chaos.

Mike’s eyes flicker across his face before he drops them. He doesn’t argue.

“Do you know, though?” he asks quietly.

“What?”

“That I love you. So, so much. Because I do. Shit, if I’d known sooner…”

Harvey swallows. “I know.”

Mike glances at him, wrapping his arms around himself as he purses his lips. “This is the worst possible timing, and I understand if you don’t believe me, but… it’s the truth. And it’s been true for a very long time. Just because I didn’t say it doesn’t mean it wasn’t real.”

Resisting the urge to pull him closer and hug him until he stops looking so lost and miserable is one of the hardest things Harvey has ever done.

“I believe you,” he says instead, choosing his words carefully. “But I also believe that your emotions are running high right now, and it would be… better for everyone involved if we didn’t do anything rash. Just so we’ll both know for sure where we stand.”

Mike nods. “Yeah.” He clears his throat. “Yeah, okay. You’re right.”

Harvey regards him quietly. “Hey,” he says, waiting until Mike is looking at him. “This isn’t any easier for me than it is for you. We’re not putting a stop to this, okay? We’re just putting on the brakes. Believe me, there’s nothing I’d love more than to continue where we left off. But we should do it properly. We should talk about things. Give it time. We can wait a bit longer.”

Mike purses his lips, then nods again. “Yeah, we can,” he says, though uncertainly. Neither of them points it out.

Forcing himself to tear his gaze from him, Harvey clears his throat. “Drink?”

Mike huffs out a laugh. “Please.”

Harvey moves past him to fill two glasses, grateful for the opportunity to clear his head and bring some distance between them. He knows it’s the right thing to do, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

“Thanks,” Mike murmurs when he hands him one glass. They both take a nip of their drinks, each hanging after their own thoughts. Harvey barely tastes the sharpness of the alcohol. He’s still hung up on the feeling of Mike’s lips on his, the softness that broke and healed something in him at the same time. He is still struggling to comprehend everything that just transpired.

“I’m glad.”

He looks up at Mike. “Hm?”

“I’m glad we did it. That we kissed. Even though it’s too soon. Because at least now we know.”

“Yeah,” Harvey agrees gently. “We do.”

“I just want you to understand that… when I didn’t call, and didn’t text, it wasn’t because I forgot about you. It was because I couldn’t. And I thought I had to, if I wanted to make my marriage work.”

“I get it. And I don’t hold it against you.” Swirling the contents of his glass, he says, “This changes everything.”

Mike laughs quietly. “Everything is already changed.”

Harvey regards him. “Does this mean that you’re coming back to New York for good?”

He doesn’t realize how heavy the question has been weighing on him until the burden dissolves at Mike’s response.

“Of course. I was always going to come back, even if… tonight hadn’t happened. I’ve got nothing in Seattle that’s holding me there. Here, on the other hand…” He takes a deep breath. “There’s a life I had here. That I loved. With any luck, I can get at least some of that back. And there’s the most important thing that I’ve always regretted leaving behind. There’s you.”

Harvey swallows, his eyes catching on Mike’s until his cheeks burn, making him feel like a teenager.

“Well, I’m still here.”

“Yeah. And you have no idea how grateful I am for that.”

Not trusting himself to keep the ridiculously romantic things on the tip of his tongue inside, Harvey forgoes a reply and instead just reaches for Mike’s hand, giving it a gentle squeeze.

“How long are you staying? Before you go back to get your things, I mean.”

“I don’t know. A few days. Until the dust has settled a little.”

Harvey nods and takes another sip. They empty their drinks in silence, their eyes meeting every now and then before they look away again. When he glances at Mike he’s smiling, and Harvey thinks that they are both trying their damn hardest to keep their hands to themselves and stick to what they rationally know is best.

It’s just nearly impossible when Mike is right there, eyes hungry and his lips so damn kissable.

It only gets worse when Mike puts down his empty glass and clears his throat, his hands stuffed into his pockets.

“What is it?” Harvey asks, watching him in amusement.

Mike bites his lip. “I know this may be- we’re taking it slow, I know, but can I hold you for a bit, maybe? Just for a moment. I just need to-“

Harvey doesn’t know how he was going to end that sentence, but he understands. Wordlessly, he puts down his glass as well, signing Mike to come closer with a small smile. Mike exhales, wrapping his arms around him tightly.

Harvey shuts his eyes, allowing himself to sink into the feeling of his embrace.

When he eventually draws back, he searches Mike’s face.

“Okay?”

Mike nods. “Okay.”

Harvey squeezes his hand before he lets go.

It’ll be tough, waiting until the immediate storm has passed. But it’s the only right way to do this, the only way Harvey can see that will allow them to start out right. He will still be here when Mike has put his marriage behind him.

When he is ready to come home for good.

*

They fall into a rhythm.

Every day when Harvey gets home from work, Mike is there, abandoning whatever he was doing to sit with him and spend as much time together as possible. It’s a bit like they are getting to know each other all over again, only that this time it’s with clear intent.

They touch each other. It’s impossible not to. It’s careful, deliberate, innocent in its nature as they gently explore each other anew.

It’s enough to leave his mouth dry and his heart racing, the desire to do more vanishing in the face of his astonished wonder that after all the years of yearning, he actually gets to have this.

It’s nothing short of a miracle, as far as he’s concerned.

Mike has been staying with him for a week when he gets home to find him in the middle of a phone call. Harvey can guess who’s on the other end of the line, so he grabs some coffee and makes himself scarce, not intending to pry.

Mike joins him in his room when he’s done, lowering himself beside him with his phone still in hand.

“Hi,” Harvey says, nudging his knee.

“Hey.” Mike takes a deep breath. “That was Rachel.”

“I figured.”

“I’m going back to Seattle.”

Harvey freezes at the sudden announcement. Despite his best efforts to keep a straight face, Mike picks up on the change in his stance immediately.

“No, not- not like that. Just to dissolve the household properly. Grab the rest of my stuff. Sign a few things.”

“And after that you’re…”

“Coming back to New York,” Mike confirms, reaching for Harvey’s hand before opting for his wrist instead. It almost makes him smile.

“When are you leaving?”

“On Monday.”

So they’ll at least have the weekend.

“And for how long?”

“Just a few days. I should be back by Friday at the latest. You won’t even notice I’m gone.”

Harvey huffs. “Like hell I won’t.” He glances at him, licking his lips. “You’re still sure about this?”

“I am,” Mike agrees, no hesitation.

Harvey turns his hand, firmly lacing their fingers together. “I’ll take you to the airport.”

“You don’t have to.”

“I know. I want to.”

Mike smiles. “Okay.”

Harvey raises their locked hands and presses a kiss to Mike’s knuckles.

Screw going slow.

The weekend passes too quickly. Mike packs a bag on the morning he leaves, and Harvey accompanies him to the airport like he promised, even though he has to stay at the office until well into the night to make up for it. Without Mike there, he has no desire to spend his time at his empty apartment anyway.

Watching Mike leave again is painful in a special kind of way, never mind that it’s not for long. With any luck, it will be the last time he ever has to.

Mike is gone for five days before he returns, bringing a handful of boxes with him. He left all the furniture with Rachel, since she chose most of it anyway. They store the boxes in the guest room for the time being, which is unused now that Mike has moved to Harvey’s bedroom.

He only stays with him for three weeks before he finds a small apartment nearby. Harvey is appalled when he sees it, mostly because it’s not his, but Mike just grins and tells him that it’s not supposed to be for the long haul anyway, which appeases him slightly. They both know he’s going to move in with Harvey sooner or later, but he learned his lesson about rushing things.

As long as he’s in walking distance, Harvey doesn’t mind waiting.

Ignoring all protests, he takes a Friday off to help Mike bring his things over and get settled in.

It doesn’t take long for them to return to his apartment, though.

Mike has left some of his things at Harvey’s from the start – it’s just more practical than carrying it back and forth all the time, they agree – and before long they start adding up. Only a few weeks in, Harvey makes more room in his closet and clears him another drawer.

After a few months, most of Mike’s belongings have found their way back into Harvey’s apartment. Now all that’s missing is Mike.

Still a year passes before either of them actually takes that step. Knowing that Mike is reluctant to be the one to move things along, Harvey decides to take the initiative. On the anniversary of the day they first kissed, he cooks them Mike’s favorite dish, complete with a nice bottle of wine and one of his father’s records playing in the background.

He’s not sure if Mike is aware of the significance of the date – he probably is, all things considered – but it felt appropriate somehow. There’s nothing to be said against a little attention to detail.

Mike deserves nothing less.

His efforts don’t go unnoticed. Harvey sits back and allows himself to enjoy the night too, only announcing once they have moved to the sofa, “I have something for you.”

Mike glances at him. “Did you make dessert?”

“No.”

“Thank god. I don’t think I could eat another bite if I wanted to.”

Harvey rolls his eyes. “You can always eat dessert. Who are you trying to fool?”

Mike just grins.

“So, if it’s not food…” he then says, lifting an eyebrow.

“It’s this,” Harvey explains, taking the small box he’s been holding on to all evening out of his pocket.

Mike blinks. “Is that-”

“Not a ring,” Harvey finishes for him. Not yet. One day, maybe.

He hands Mike the box, watching as he opens it. He stills at the sight of the key inside, then looks up.

“It’s time,” Harvey tells him. “Move in with me, Mike. Properly.”

Mike’s lips curve upwards. “Is that a question?” he teases.

“What, you want me to fall down on my knees?”

“No, actually, you’re too old for that. I don’t want to cause any harm.”

“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Harvey mutters, shaking his head. “Old age certainly didn’t make you any less lippy.”

Putting one knee on the sofa, he lifts his eyebrows. “Mike Ross, will you do me the great honor of moving the rest of your clutter here and hogging the blankets every night and making me crazy with the used cups you leave around all the time?”

“That really bothers you, huh?”

Harvey sighs. “Are you gonna say yes or what?”

Mike snorts. “Idiot. I’ve already said yes.”

“Weird, I didn’t catch that over all your cocky remarks,” Harvey says, taking Mike’s face in both hands before he kisses him.

Mike smiles against his lips.

“We’re really doing this?” he asks when he draws back.

“We’re really doing this,” Harvey agrees. “You already spend most nights here. This is just the logical next step.”

“You’re right. And the majority of my things is already scattered around your place anyway, so it won’t really make a difference, right?”

“Our place,” Harvey corrects, mirroring the smile Mike gives him at that. “And you’re mistaken. It makes all the difference in the world.”

“Ugh, you’re the worst,” Mike mutters, then leans in to kiss him again. Harvey sits back when they part, pulling Mike along with him.

“Since you mentioned your things scattered around the place – we’re gonna have to have a serious talk about tidying up.”

“Is this gonna lead to our first fight as a couple?”

“Not if you start cleaning up after yourself.”

They sit there for a while, bickering back and forth, going over what changes they should make at the apartment now that Mike’s going to live here too, and when they go to bed together like they do almost every night, Harvey thinks that Mike really did say yes already, a long, long time ago.

And now they are making it official.

Mike gives notice the next day, only going back to his place to pack up his things before he moves in the following weekend.

“Welcome home,” Harvey says when he has put the last box down, wrapping his arms around his waist to pull him closer.

Mike grins. “Thank you.” He pecks Harvey’s cheek, then sighs. “I think I really am home now.”

“You are.” At long, long last. “Almost like you never left.”

Mike gives him a considering look. “I’m glad I did. Because now I know I’m in the right place, and I’m here to stay.”

Harvey savors the warmth spreading in him at the thought. He’s not sure he’s ever going to get used to it. He’s not sure he would want to, anyway.

“Good thing you are. I mean, what would I do at the firm without you?”

Mike has returned to Zane Specter Litt – the initial awkwardness around Robert Zane didn’t last long, thankfully – and now manages the firm’s new pro bono branch. He was surprised to find that Harvey took on pro bono work during his absence and more than excited to continue it for him, and often times with him. They are still the great team they always were, if not better, and Harvey is quite happy to take a step back from the ever-lasting chaos to focus on their cases.

Who knows, maybe the two of them will go solo one day. They’ve proven enough times that they work best together against the rest of the world, after all.

Mike grins and shakes his head. “Because that’s all you need me for, right?”

“Totally,” Harvey deadpans. “I just asked you to move in so we can work more efficiently.”

“Oh, so that’s what they’re calling it these days.”

Then Mike’s face softens. “What would I do, without you?” he asks quietly, his gaze so open that Harvey can only lean in and kiss him. It’s all the answer Mike needs.

They break apart reluctantly, hanging on to each other a while longer before they part for good, getting ready to start the rest of their lives together.

And it’s beautiful.

It’s not perfect, far from it. They clash. They fight. They stay at the office for so long that they can only fall into bed when they finally get home. Harvey is still trying to get past his abandonment issues, which works better on some days than on others. Tidying up is still a work in progress, but one Harvey is happy to discuss over and over again if it means that Mike is with him.

They laugh, too. They hold each other when they need it. They sit in companionable silence when they don’t want to talk. They have movie marathons and takeout and early morning sex and conversations about what to have for dinner, and Harvey wouldn’t give up any of it for the world, not the most mundane of their moments together, not a second.

He has waited so long for this to be his life. Most of that time he didn’t even know he was waiting. All that’s left now is to look ahead and embrace every minute.

Though it already feels like Mike has never stayed anywhere else, there are still changes ahead for them. They redecorate the living room to turn it into something that suits them both, something they did together. Mike’s divorce is finalized, leaving both of them relieved for reasons they can’t put into words. That chapter of their lives is over and done with.

It’s all good now, so much so that Harvey can’t quite believe it some days.

He’s never been one to dream of happily ever after, never thought that was on the table for him, but who knows. Maybe happy endings aren’t so far-fetched, after all.