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“Look, you can argue all you want, I stand by what I said. I’m not giving up my firm.”

“Your firm? We’ve been over this, Cliff, a hundred fucking times. It isn’t your firm. We built it up together, remember?”

Mike shuts his eyes, barely resisting the urge to groan. Harvey and he have been sitting here for over an hour with this couple going through the divorce from hell, which is unfortunate since it’s up to them to ensure that both parties are satisfied. Which is impossible, not least because they can’t spend a minute in the same room without nearly killing each other. Mike will be surprised if they leave here with everyone in one piece.

How Harvey is keeping a straight face through all of this, he has no idea.

“Yes, and I ask myself every day how we managed to do so with your dirty little hands all over it.”

“Oh, you have got to be kidding me!”

Mike is beginning to think so too. Unfortunately, both of them are perfectly serious and unwilling to stop digging in their heels. They have been here for over an hour, their negotiations going absolutely nowhere, and the faint headache he came in with has turned into a persistent pounding that gets worse with every second he has to listen to this nonsense. He’s been trying to fight it for a few days now despite the pills he’s been taking at irregular intervals, but any progress he has made has been lost since entering this room.

“Do I look like I’m kidding, Sarah?”

“Well, you sure as hell look like a fucking joke from where I’m sitting.”

“Excuse me for a moment,” Mike mutters even though no one is paying attention to him, getting up to leave the room.

The jarring voices mercifully fade to the background but the pounding in his head persists, making him regret that he didn’t take another pill with him.

He walks down the hall, looking around to see if he can find the bathroom, and rounds the corner only to be faced with an even longer hall. Mike sighs. The mansion of their clients is massive – figuring out who gets to keep it will probably be even more fun than their current negotiations – and he isn’t exactly inclined to go back and ask for the way.

Well, at least he has an excuse to stay away for a while.

The longer he roams the halls, the more he’s convinced that this place was built for the sole purpose of showing off the owners’ wealth and maybe confusing people. No one can actually have use for this much space, especially in a two-person household.

“This is ridiculous,” Mike mutters to himself. “Where the hell is the bathroom?”

“Around the corner. Second door on the left.”

“Oh, right. Thanks.”

He must really be getting sick, because it takes Mike a full ten seconds to realize that there is no one around who could have said those words.

No one but a dog in a basket, watching him idly.

“What the- hello? Is someone there? Could you please show yourself because I’m… kind of starting to worry that I’m hallucinating.”

“I doubt it,” the voice says, and this time there is no denying that it’s coming straight from the dog.

He looks at it.

The dog looks back.

“What the fuck,” Mike whispers.

The dog tilts its head. “Problem?”

“I- what? Did you just- say something to me?” Mike asks, then immediately shakes his head in horror. “Oh my god. What am I doing? I’m talking to a dog.”

The dog looks unimpressed by the crisis he is currently going through. Mike had no idea dogs could even look unimpressed, but this one definitely does.

“You asked, I answered. Like I said, the bathroom’s around the corner. It’s a big house, I know. Easy to get lost in. I’m just out here so I don’t have to listen to them fighting all day,” the dog says, and while part of Mike is inclined to agree, most of him is just majorly freaked out.

“Hold on a minute. Why can I understand you? Is this a joke? Is someone having a laugh here? Because I’ll admit it’s a great prank, but I’m ready for it to be over now, thanks.”

He waits, but no one comes out of hiding or takes credit for a joke well done. And who should, anyway? Their clients don’t have children, and Mike doubts that the staff would risk their job for something as silly as this.

Which means that this is… real.

The dog drops his head. “No one is laughing here, believe me. It’s just you and me, buddy.”

Oh, hell.

This is not happening.

A lot of shit has gone down in Mike’s life, but talking animals? This has got to take the cake.

“I’ve lost my mind,” he says numbly, paralyzed by the prospect that this may actually be it for him. He is still so young. How is he going to do his job if he’s mentally unstable? What is Harvey going to do without him?

“I don’t think so. I live with people who have lost their minds. You’re sane.”

Says the talking dog he’s been conversing with for the past two minutes.

God help him.

Yeah, no. Mike has to get out of here, right now.

“I’m sorry, I- I have to go,” he mutters, turning on the spot to get as far away from here as possible.

“Of course. No one takes the time to pet me anymore,” he hears the resigned voice behind him.

Mike nearly trips over his feet as he walks faster.

He is out of breath by the time he gets back, for a moment caught off guard by the fact that nothing at all has changed while he was out there, questioning his sanity.

Thankfully, no one looks up upon his entrance, the clients still engaged in what has escalated into a full-blown fight, Harvey rubbing his temple as he writes something down that Mike can only guess is a cry for help. It gives him time to regain a semblance of control before stepping behind Harvey, putting a hand on his shoulder to get his attention.

“Harvey, I’m- I think I need to go home. I’m not feeling well.”

Harvey turns to him, giving him a look that, if he didn’t know better, Mike would describe as vaguely concerned. “What’s wrong?”

He swallows, waving his hand inexpressively. “I, ehrm…”

“Is it still that headache you had yesterday?”

“Yeah,” he agrees, grateful to be handed an excuse on a silver platter. “Yeah, that.”

“Didn’t you take those pills?”

“I did. They, uh, don’t seem to be working.”

Or working too well, depending on which way he’s looking at it.

Harvey narrows his eyes. “Maybe you should go see a doctor.”

“Yeah,” Mike agrees under his breath.

Perhaps a psychiatrist would be in order.

He leaves Harvey and their clients behind in a state of dazed disbelief. Somehow he gets himself home, avoiding eye contact with any dogs at all costs, lest he starts hearing things again.

Once he’s home he drops on the sofa, sinking into the cushions with a groan.

“What the fuck,” he mutters, running a hand over his face.

He talked to a dog. He understood what a dog was telling him, and worst of all he replied to him like it was the most normal thing in the world.

It doesn’t get any worse than that, does it?

Mike would happily buy into the stereotype that “crazy people don’t know they’re crazy”, but he knows it’s bullshit, and really, there’s no other explanation for this.

He’s hearing voices, for god’s sake. Animal voices. Animals, who should not have voices at all that speak in a language he understands.

He can’t hear them now, but that may not mean anything except that he doesn’t actually have cockroaches in this shithole of an apartment, and on top of everything he can feel his headache returning with full force, the pounding so persistent that it leaves him groaning.

Mike sits up with a start.

The headache. Maybe Harvey wasn’t too far off with his assumption. Mike has taken some new pills, ones he’s never taken before. Maybe they caused side effects he wasn’t aware of. There’s probably a perfectly rational explanation for all this.

Determined to get to the bottom of things, he retrieves the pills from the kitchen counter where he left them this morning, reading the package insert carefully.

There’s no mention of hallucinations as a side effect, but that doesn’t discourage him. Mike remembers the pharmacist telling him that the pills were new on the market, so there may not be enough data for them to know about it.

Not ready to give his mind up as a lost cause yet, he grabs his laptop and starts researching.

As it turns out, the pill has only been out for a month. It’s being praised as the fastest treatment for headaches, using a specific way of targeting the neurons carrying the pain into the brain. The details go over Mike’s head, since he’s never really engaged himself in neurology, but no time like the present, right? He’s home, he’s got nothing else on, and he’d really like to understand what’s happening to him.

So Mike sinks back into the sofa and starts reading.

By the time he resurfaces from his research his head is pounding and his eyes are strained, but he understands enough to make the educated guess that the pills caused his brain to short-circuit and thus understand that dog.

Or think that he did, anyway.

It’s gotten dark around him, and realizing that he hasn’t eaten or drunk anything for hours, Mike gets up to stretch and grab something from the fridge.

When he checks his phone, he finds a new text from Harvey. His heart jostles at the sight.

How are you feeling?

The whole truth would go beyond the scope, so Mike settles on, A little better, thank you. I’ll be back at work tomorrow. Sorry I left in such a hurry… and sorry I left you with them

Not your fault. Glad you’re doing better. Meet me straight at the Johnson’s tomorrow, we didn’t really get anywhere before I had to abort the meeting. There’s still lots to discuss.

Yay. Alright, will do. See you tomorrow!

He puts his phone down, then goes to the bathroom and heads straight to bed without taking another pill. Hopefully some sleep will take care of his headache.

*

He doesn’t exactly feel rested in the morning, but at least his head is clearer. The events from yesterday seem blurry in hindsight, like he probably just exaggerated a small drug-induced fantasy.

He’s half apprehensive, half curious about going back to the clients’ house today and facing the dog again. Well, no way out but through. At least this time he’ll be prepared for any eventualities.

Harvey is already waiting for him when he arrives, emptying his coffee before dumping it in a bin at the street corner.

“Morning, sunshine.”

“Morning. Ready?”

Harvey scoffs. “I wouldn’t be ready if that had been pure vodka instead of coffee. Come on, let’s go inside.”

Clearly, Mike isn’t the only one who didn’t get enough rest.

Their clients seem every bit as worked up as they were the last time he saw them, picking up straight where they left off yesterday. Harvey intervenes to his best ability, determined to get on with this case, but even so their negotiations turn into a shouting match within minutes.

It would be funny, if it weren’t so exhausting.

Mike lasts about an hour before he flees the room again, shrugging at the dry look Harvey is giving him as he excuses himself.

He inhales deeply as he steps into the hall, his feet carrying him into the same direction as yesterday without his conscious decision.

Like he thought, the dog is in the same place, lifting his head from the basket when he approaches him.

“Look who it is.”

Alright, so he’s still talking.

“I-“ Mike clears his throat. Actively conversing with an animal still makes him feel ridiculous. “I wanted to see if yesterday was a one-off. Which, apparently, it wasn’t.”

He’s still not sure if this is a hallucination or if he can actually understand what the dog is saying, but he’s determined to find out.

“Tell me something,” he demands. “Something I couldn’t know myself.”

“I told you where the bathroom was,” the dog points out.

“Yes,” Mike concedes after a slight pause, “but that’s not enough to convince me. I need hard evidence.”

The dog bows its head. “What do you want me to say? That behind the door to your left is an office with three identical paintings over the desk? That my master has a scar on the back of his right thigh? That the mistress decided on salmon for dinner tonight?”

“Uh. Something like that, yeah.”

Mike eyes the door to his left, then opens it and peeks inside. One look is enough to confirm the paintings.

“O-kay,” he mutters, shutting the door again before running a hand through his hair. “That’s one out of three. I, uh. I’ll be back.”

“You take your time,” he hears the dog’s gloomy voice behind him.

He always sounds so dejected. Mike can’t blame him, living with a couple like this.

On second thought, he turns on his heels and walks up to him, giving him a hesitant caress before he straightens and leaves again, shaking his head at himself.

*

There’s a light breeze tousling his hair, carrying over the laughter and voices of the kids on the playground behind him, but Mike is barely listening. He is sitting on a bench in the nearest park, enjoying the morning sun warming his face as he observes the scene before him, trying to see if he can make out any voices of the dogs chasing each other.

He hears the guy sitting down next to him, of course, but he still startles when he asks, “Which one is yours?”

“Hm? Oh, none. I’m just watching. Yours?”

“The husky over there,” the guy says, tilting his chin. “Mako!”

The dog turns at once, running towards them. “Good boy!” he says with a grin, running his hand over his head. “This is Mako. Say hi!”

“Hey, Mako,” Mike greets him, scratching him behind the ears when he looks at him. “I’m Mike.”

“Hi Mike!” Mako says.

Alright then.

“And I’m Ismail,” the guy introduces himself.

Glancing up, Mike smiles. “Nice to meet you.”

He turns back to the dog with a deep breath. “What a pretty boy you are!”

Mako wags his tail. “Thank you! Thank you!”

Mike bites his lip. Now that he has made his – fragile – peace with the fact that he can hear these voices, he can focus on the how.

“Are you having fun, hm?” he asks, watching attentively.

“So much fun!” Mako agrees in form of a bark.

Mike still hears it for what it is, he realizes. There’s not actually a voice coming out of his mouth that says stuff in English. It’s still the same sound he always heard, only that now he understands it. It’s a bit like listening to a foreign language – the sounds are different from his own, but he still knows the meaning of it in his head.

It’s fascinating, now that he’s gotten over the initial shock.

“Good, that’s great,” Mike mutters, not taking his eyes off the dog when he asks Ismail, “How old is he?”

“He turned one last month.”

Still young then. No wonder he’s so much more excited than the old dog at the Johnsons’. That, and the fact that his owner seems a lot friendlier than his clients do.

“God, that’s cute.”

“Yeah, he’s really happy about everything, basically.” Ismail laughs. “Meeting new friends around here is his favorite thing to do.”

“Is that so?” Mike asks, grinning when Mako agrees. “Alright, I won’t keep you then. Go on, make some more friends.”

“Sure! Great talking to you!” Mako exclaims, leaving a wet stripe on his hand before he leaves.

Mike laughs. “It was great talking to you too.”

Ismail grins, assuming he’s just fooling around. “You’re good with him. He likes you.”

“He probably likes everyone,” Mike points out, but the thought still gives him a weirdly fond feeling.

He keeps watching the dogs until a flock of birds flying over their heads catches his attention, too far away to hear. He wonders if he could understand them too, if his new ability is limited to dogs or applies to all animals.

Taking a mental note to find out, Mike sits back and enjoys being outside for a while longer before he says goodbye to Ismail and returns home. The fresh air has cleared his head, even easing his headache a little. He hasn’t taken any pills since he figured out they were the source of his new powers, which hasn’t exactly helped with the pain.

The calm morning has, though. He doesn’t do this kind of thing nearly enough. Getting outside, just being by himself for a while, not thinking about work for once, it’s doing wonders for the mind.

To say that he’s gotten used to his new skills would be an overstatement, but he feels a lot better about them now. Curious rather than frightened.

He does need to get some work done when he gets home, but he vows to explore his abilities further at the next chance he gets.

It’s what makes him stop short when he gets ready for bed that night, his eyes falling on the pills in passing. He hesitates, then picks up the package, turning it over as he gnaws his lip.

Should he or shouldn’t he? It’s risky, there’s no denying it. The pills could be causing catastrophic damage. There is no research on the matter, no guarantee that this isn’t just the beginning of a complete deconstruction of his brain.

But Mike feels fine. The voices are the only side effect so far, and it’s been a while since he took the last pill. He knows that doesn’t have to mean anything, but he trusts his gut instincts. And he has the chance to explore something amazing here, something entirely unheard of.

Is it worth the risk?

Mike only stares at the package for another second before he opens it and pops one pill out. Placing it in his mouth, he swallows it down with a gulp of water and then switches all the lights off, heading straight to bed.

*

Mike gets off his bike, regarding the gate before him as he locks it. He found the address of this animal shelter on Google, and even though it looks as unspectacular as it gets, the sight fills him with excitement.

Opening the small door latch, he pushes the gate open, startling when he immediately gets jumped.

“Whoa! Oh, hey, look at you.” He closes the gate behind him, regarding the small, light brown dog with a smile. “Hello, you. What’s your name?”

“Peanut!” the dog announces.

Mike chuckles. He can see why. “Nice to meet you, Peanut. I’m Mike.”

Peanut wags her tail. “Mike! Nice to meet you! Do you want to play?”

“I’d love to, but I’m actually here to meet a few of your friends, if that’s alright.” He looks around. “Is there anyone who could show me around?”

“They’re all in the house,” Peanut says, nodding towards what Mike presumes is the office. He hesitates, but then gets distracted by a barking sound coming from behind a lawn.

Mike smiles.

“Well, maybe you can give me a quick tour then.”

“Of course!”

Peanut turns and waddles into the direction of the barking. Following her, Mike asks, “Why are you just walking around here? Don’t you have to be in a kennel like the other dogs?”

“I’m not from here,” Peanut explains, running a few feet ahead before turning back to him. “I’m with my mistress. We come here every day.”

“Oh, that’s nice. Lots of friends to play with here, right?”

“Yes!” Peanut agrees as she leads him to the dogs. Mike approaches the first kennel with two Labradors inside, dozing side by side.

“Uh, hey, guys. I’m Mike.”

One of the Labradors lifts its head while the other continues sleeping.

“Hey, Mike. Do you want to play with us?”

“No, I just wanted to talk a little.”

“Oh. Pity. No one ever comes to play.”

“I’m sorry.”

Mike frowns in sympathy. It can’t be a happy life, spending most of their time locked in, only getting to go for a walk once or twice a day. If he could, he would stay a while or come here more often to spend time with them, give them something else to think about. He saw on the website that the shelter is looking for volunteers. Looks like they haven’t found that many yet.

He crouches down, offering his hand to smell before he starts petting her head gently. “It’s pretty boring here, huh?”

“Very boring,” she agrees, her eyes closing at the touch. She looks a bit miserable, Mike thinks, but then again that might just be her face.

“How long have you been here?”

“A few months.”

“What happened?”

“My master went away. He drank a lot. He got angry all the time. I was left behind, so they brought me here.”

“Oh. That’s terrible.” Mike purses his lips. “Tell you what. I can’t stay long today, but the next time I get a few hours off, I’ll come back and we can play a while. How’s that sound?”

She perks up a little. “That sounds very nice.”

Mike smiles. He pets her a little more, then rises again.

He makes a quick stop at the remaining kennels – talking to everyone for a while is the least he can do – before he turns to Peanut again, who has been following him dutifully.

“Can you show me where the cats are? Or rabbits?”

“Cats!” Peanut exclaims. “Of course!”

“You like cats?” Mike asks, amused.

“I love cats. They’re so fun.”

“Right.” He wonders if they feel the same way about her.

Peanut stops at the next building, giving him an expectant look.

“Behind that door?”

Finding it unlocked, he steps inside. Peanut follows, and Mike is worried for a split second, but any concerns he had dissolve when they see the first cats, none of which seem surprised by the excited dog staring at them.

“You again,” one of them says.

Mike lets out a quiet, disbelieving laugh.

“Hello!” Peanut says, oblivious to the atmosphere around her.

“I take it you two know each other?” Mike asks, looking between them. He can’t quite keep the smile off his face. It’s not just dogs, then.

This is huge. This is amazing.

“Kind of hard not to, with her constantly running around here.”

“Is someone jealous that she can’t walk around freely?” he teases, stepping closer. “I’m Mike, by the way. Great to meet you.”

“I’m Minnie. And you can understand me.”

Mike nods. “Yes, I can.”

“Why?”

“I took some medicine. It did something to my brain.”

Minnie narrows her eyes. “Interesting.”

“You’re the first one to ask, actually. But you’re also the first cat I’ve talked to. I’ve just met dogs so far.”

She throws him a look. “I’m not a dog. Get used to it.”

Mike chuckles, holding out his fingers for her to smell. “Got it.”

She sniffles his hand, allowing him to run it over her fur without complaint.

“Why are you here?” Minnie asks, tilting her head. Mike takes the hint, scratching her chin and watching in fascination as she narrows her eyes, purring surprisingly loud. “Mhhh. That’s it.”

“I wanted to see if I could talk to other animals than just dogs. Clearly I do.”

“And what are you going to do, now that you know?”

Good question.

“I have no idea,” Mike says honestly.

“You could take me with you,” Minnie suggests, opening her eyes again. “I’d be happy to talk to you. We could have riveting conversations.”

“I believe it. You have quite the vocabulary there,” Mike says, the corner of his mouth lifting. “But I don’t think you would enjoy my apartment very much. Besides, I’m always at the office. You’d probably be lonely.”

“I can handle lonely. Lonely is not a problem.”

Mike lifts a sympathetic eyebrow. “You really wanna get out of here, huh? Is it that bad?”

“Not always.” Minnie settles down, bowing her head. Mike goes back to scratching her ears again. “We get fed. Some of the humans are nice. Others less so.”

Mike frowns. “How do you mean? Is someone hurting you?”

“No, not really. But the way we’re being treated sometimes, it’s not exactly warm and affectionate. Not a kind word. No caresses. Sometimes not even food.”

She gets up and walks a few steps, turning back to Mike to elaborate, “It’s just one of them, really. He’s the one in charge around here, so he can do whatever he likes. He’s… not good, in his heart. He doesn’t understand us. Even less so than the others.”

“Well, I understand you,” Mike murmurs. “And maybe I can do something about that.”

“Can I help you?”

Mike looks up, straightening when he sees a woman approaching him. “Hey, sorry. I wasn’t sure if I should tell someone that I’m here, but I got distracted before I saw anyone.” He holds out a hand. “I’m Mike Ross.”

“Nasrin,” she introduces herself, taking it. “It’s fine, I just heard Peanut barking. We don’t usually get unannounced visitors here, other than those that drop off their pets of course, so there’s no protocol.”

Mike holds up his hands. “Not leaving any pets here. I’m just having a look.”

“Are you interested in adopting one?” Nasrin asks, getting on one knee to scratch Peanut’s head.

“Maybe,” Mike lies. “I’m just looking around for now. I’m not sure my working hours make me the perfect candidate for a pet.”

“Where do you work?”

“At a corporate law firm. I’m a lawyer.”

Nasrin looks at him, raising her eyebrows. “Really? Not bad. Though I can imagine how busy you are. I’m glad to have a job like this, personally. Reasonable hours, it’s something I love doing, plus it allows me to just bring my dog along...”

“Yeah, that must be nice.” Mike nods at Peanut. “Is she yours, then?”

“Yeah. She was dropped off here as a puppy. I saw her and just fell in love.”

Peanut barks, and Mike wishes he could explain to her what she just told him.

“Looks like the feeling is mutual,” is all he says. Nasrin chuckles.

“Oh, she’s just excited about everything. Aren’t you?” She exhales deeply, her smile fading as she straightens. “Then again, she has a lot to be excited about. She doesn’t have to stay here, after all.”

“That’s not the first time I’m hearing this,” Mike mutters, following her outside with a quick wave at Minnie, who watches him go in silence. “So the conditions here aren’t exactly great?”

“Well, it’s the same everywhere, basically.” Nasrin sighs. “There’s too little funding, a shortage of workers, too little space. We’re doing the best we can with what we have. Or most of us are,” she adds under her breath.

Mike raises an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

Nasrin presses her lips together, exhaling deeply. “Don’t get me wrong, the animals are all being cared for and they don’t suffer, it’s just… never mind. I shouldn’t be talking about this.”

Mike narrows his eyes as he regards her, weighing his options. He could just let it go and move on. Or he could get to the bottom of things.

It’s not even a choice, honestly.

“Do you have a dollar?”

“Yes,” Nasrin says, lifting an eyebrow.

Mike holds out his hand. When she has dug it out of her pocket and put it in his palm, he says, “There. I’m your lawyer now. Anything you say is protected by attorney-client-privilege.”

Nasrin regards him with a frown.

“You’re a cheap lawyer,” she says. “You sure you’re any good?”

Mike huffs out a laugh. “I’m pretty good, believe me.”

Nasrin doesn’t join in. Instead she asks, “I don’t understand. Why are you doing this?”

“Because I know what it’s like when you need help and there’s no one there to give it.”

Nasrin looks away, her breath forming white puffs in the air as she exhales deeply. “It’s my boss,” she finally says. “He’s not exactly great with the animals, but it’s not just that. He’s taking from our funds, I’m sure of it. Not that there’s much to take from to begin with. But sometimes we get donations, generous ones, and… they never make it to the animals.”

“How long has this been going on?”

“Pretty much since I got here. John’s been here longer than me, so…”

She trails off, and Mike nods. “Do you have any proof?”

She shakes her head. “I’m sure there’s something in the books that doesn’t add up, but I don’t know enough about finances to even know where to start looking.”

“But you could give me access to those books?”

“Maybe. When he’s not here. He usually leaves his office locked, though.”

“Okay,” Mike says. “Don’t worry. We’ll figure it out.”

“We?”

“I’m your lawyer now, remember? And I just decided to represent the shelter.”

Nasrin searches his face. “We can’t afford you,” she says, shaking her head. “I certainly can’t.”

“You don’t have to. I’m doing it pro bono. We’ll take care of this.”

Nasrin looks unconvinced. “If you say so.”

Mike smiles “I do say so.”

He checks the time, cursing when he realizes that he’s running late for a meeting with Harvey.

“Shit. I gotta get going. But I’ll come back, okay? I’ll be in touch.”

“Yeah, alright,” she agrees, sounding like she doesn’t quite believe him, but Mike just gives her another quick smile over his shoulder before he rushes to the gate.

Even with his bike, he is predictably late.

“I am so, so sorry,” he says before Harvey even has the chance to scold him. “I lost track of time. It won’t happen again.”

“It better not.” Harvey looks him up and down, lifting his eyebrows. “What were you doing?”

“I…”

Mike trails off, realizing a moment too late that he should have thought of an excuse beforehand. Of course Harvey was going to ask.

“I was helping a friend with her work problems,” he explains vaguely. Harvey looks unconvinced.

“You were helping a friend,” he repeats. “With work problems.”

“Yup.”

“I didn’t know you had friends, apart from me.”

“Did you just admit that we’re friends?” Mike asks, partly to distract him from his story, partly because he is actually surprised to hear those words coming out of his mouth so easily.

Harvey gives him a look. “I know you’re deflecting.”

“So are you,” Mike counters.

Harvey fixes him with a stare.

“Don’t be late again,” he eventually says, but his eyes stay on Mike’s face, the look in them so intense that he can feel himself flushing beneath it. He swallows and tears his eyes from Harvey’s, lest he give away his increasingly frustrating infatuation.

All this time they have worked together now, all his attempts not to notice the weight of Harvey’s gaze when he looks at him, and Mike is still not used to it.

“A wizard is never late, nor is he early, he arrives precisely when he means to.”

“Are you telling me that you meant to keep me waiting?” Harvey asks, tilting his head.

“No, no. Not at all.”

“Then stop wasting even more of our time and get to it.”

He pushes some files into Mike’s direction, then drops a bag on the desk as he sits down.

“Here. I saved you a sandwich.”

“Oh, awesome. I’m starving.”

He left home without a breakfast this morning and forgot all about lunch at the shelter. He takes the sandwich, giving Harvey a grateful smile as he unwraps it. He is just about to take a bite when he halts, slowly lowering his hands.

Harvey looks up, lifting an eyebrow. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s, uh. There’s turkey on this.”

Mike’s stomach turns as he stares at the meat, the mere thought of swallowing it repelling him.

Apparently once he’s talked to animals, he can’t keep eating them with a clean conscience.

“So?”

“I can’t eat that,” Mike says, swallowing. “I’m… no more meat for me.”

Harvey frowns. “Since when are you a vegetarian?”

“Since right now,” Mike mutters, pushing the sandwich as far away as possible.

Harvey shrugs.

“Suit yourself,” he remarks, throwing him a funny look when Mike’s stomach rumbles. Mike gives him a tight smile and reaches for the file on the table. He may be hungry, but his appetite is gone quite thoroughly.

“So, the case. Any news?”

*

The next time Mike has an hour to spare, he gets on his bike and goes straight to the shelter.

Nasrin looks surprised to see him again. Mike can’t blame her – he probably wouldn’t have believed himself either. It makes him all the more determined to show her how serious he is, though.

“Tell me more about John,” he asks, taking a seat on a bench. Nasrin glances towards the office, but joins him. And then she tells him what she knows.

Mike is fairly certain that he can take care of the matter. Figuring out how to make time for it in his busy schedule – the divorce from hell is still underway and it’s not their only case by far – is going to be the tricky part. Still, he’s excited to take on the extra work, and not just because Nasrin finally smiles at him by the end of their conversation. There’s something about the case that gets him pumped, the fact that it feels personal somehow, now that he has made acquaintance with several of the animals affected by it.

Like he promised, he stops by the dogs and Minnie before leaving, unfortunately losing track of time so much that he ends up being late again.

“You have got to be kidding me,” Harvey says when he stumbles into the office, panting.

“Sorry, I’m so sorry.”

“Yeah, I heard that before.” Harvey stares at him. “Where were you?”

“I was… out,” Mike explains lamely, because ‘helping a friend with her work problems’ barely cut it the first time.

“Out,” Harvey repeats tonelessly.

“Yeah.”

Knowing it will make him look even more suspicious, Mike resists the urge to look away, instead holding Harvey’s eyes until he grows hot under his gaze.

“What’s going on here?” Harvey finally demands to know, sitting back in his chair. “Are you in trouble again?”

“I’m not- again? Come on, I’m not that bad. No, I’m not in trouble. It’s nothing.”

Which, of course, is the worst thing to say to someone you want to stop thinking that there’s something.

Harvey narrows his eyes. “Look, either you’re neglecting your job for no real reason or there’s something, and I’m pretty sure it’s the latter.”

“Your faith in my abilities is staggering,” Mike murmurs.

“Don’t change the subject. I know what you’re trying to do, and I can tell you that it’s not working. So why don’t you quit playing stupid and start talking? Obviously something’s going on with you. What are you not telling me?”

Mike sighs. He wishes he could tell Harvey, he really does. Part of him itches to come clean, let him in on this strange and wonderful and exciting turn of events, but he knows it’s not an option. “I told you, it’s nothing.”

“And I don’t believe you.” Harvey’s mouth is a thin line. “But if you don’t want to tell me, suit yourself. I can’t force you to trust me.”

“Harvey, come on. That’s not fair.”

“No, you know what’s not fair? You not being here for me when we’re this swamped. Whatever you do in your free time is your business, same as who you decide to tell about it.”

Mike opens his mouth, but Harvey talks right over him.

“But as soon as your work is affected by it, it becomes my business, whether you like it or not. I need you here, Mike. I need you to get your head in the game. You can’t leave me hanging at a time like this.”

“I know. I won’t, I promise. I won’t let you down.”

Harvey’s eyes fix on him before he nods curtly. “Take those files,” he says, waving towards a stack on his desk. Mike picks it up dutifully.

“Still looking for precedents?”

“Yes. And we’re not stopping until we find one, so you better get to work.”

Harvey returns his attention to the folder before him, but Mike bites his lip, the files he’s clutching to his chest doing nothing to ease the uncomfortable feeling in his stomach. He knows Harvey has a point, but he can’t leave things like this.

“Harvey.”

He looks up. “What now?”

“I do trust you. You know that, don’t you?”

Harvey looks at him before he drops his eyes. “Let’s get this done,” is all he says.

“Yeah,” Mike murmurs, feeling worse than ever.

Harvey clearly doesn’t buy his story, and he’s obviously taking it personal as well when really, this has nothing to do with him.

It’s not like Mike can blame him. He’d probably feel the same way if someone told him such an obvious lie.

He sighs. He never wanted to drag Harvey into this, but leaving him out of it is turning out to be even more complicated. He’s either going to have to learn to lie better or deal with the hurt in Harvey’s expression he’s trying so hard to cover up.

Somehow he doesn’t like either option too much.

*

Another day at the Johnsons’ mansion, and Mike is this close to losing it. They have been circling the same point for an hour now, neither of their clients is willing to move as much as an inch from their standpoint, Harvey is quite obviously using every trick in the book to keep himself from punching something, and Mike’s headache, which mercifully dissolved after a week, is threatening to make a cracking return.

Just another Thursday, really.

To his credit, Mike really tries to stick around until the last possible moment, but he reaches the point where he can no longer endure the fighting quicker every time.

Harvey sends him a withering look when he excuses himself to the bathroom again, to which he just shrugs a little in defense. It’s not going to help anyone if they both lose their minds.

Besides, he also wants to see if he can find the dog again. He has some unfinished business with him that he would like to take care of before they settle this case. If they ever do.

Indeed, he finds him in the same spot he was in the last two times, looking marginally more lively when he sees him rounding the corner.

“You’re here again.”

“Hey there. I said I’d be back, didn’t I?” Mike smiles. “I was hoping to find you here. I wanted to apologize.”

The dog lifts his head. “For what?”

“Running out on you like that. Not taking the time to talk to you properly. Or pet you.”

He squats down, caressing his head gently.

“I never asked what your name was.”

“Brutus,” the dog tells him. Mike huffs out a quiet laugh. Of course.

“Nice to meet you, Brutus. I’m Mike. I was a bit confused the last times I saw you, which is why I acted so weird.”

“That’s fine. You’re still the nicest person around here.”

“Yeah, that doesn’t surprise me.” Mike sighs. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but your masters are seriously testing me. And my- uh, friend.”

Extremely inconspicuous of him to stumble over that particular label. Thankfully Brutus either doesn’t notice or, more likely, just doesn’t care.

“Not just you,” is all he says. “What are you even doing with them?”

“We’re trying to help with their divorce. See who gets to keep what, how they’re going to split their business, that sort of thing. As you can imagine, neither of them is willing to give up anything.”

Brutus nods. “Sounds like them.”

“This case could have been so easy,” Mike mutters. “They even put a stipulation in that says if either of them is at fault in case of a divorce, the other party gets double the shares. But of course neither of them is willing to make an admission of guilt.”

Brutus narrows his eyes. “What does that mean? At fault how?”

“Like if one of them had fallen in love with someone else and decided to be with them instead. Or had an affair.”

Brutus tilts his head. “Well, that’s easy. My master did.”

Mike blinks. “What?”

“My master. He’s had an affair long before he and the mistress started fighting all the time.”

Mike stares at him, distantly aware that his mouth is hanging open.

“You’re not serious.”

“Why would I be joking?”

“Yeah, why would you?” Mike murmurs, staring at him as she shakes his head. “You’re absolutely certain about this? No doubt?”

“I am. He still sees that woman. She has been coming here for years.”

“Wow,” Mike whispers, shaking his head. “This is… amazing, actually. Do you have any more information? Like, specific days she comes here on, her name, anything?”

“He usually brings her over when the mistress is at her yoga class. Sometimes when she’s at work too. And her name is Mandy.” He sighs. “I’ve heard it lots of times. Too often.”

Mike caresses him in sympathy, though his mind is already running a mile a minute.

“Alright, I can work with this,” he mutters.

He pets Brutus one last time, then gets up.

“I gotta get back, but thank you, so much. If this works out, I promise I’ll make it up to you!”

He’s already halfway down the hall when Brutus barks a goodbye after him, striding back into the sitting room with so much energy that everyone actually stops their arguing and turns to him.

“Sorry, am I interrupting something?” he asks. “I was just talking to your dog. Nice fella. You should pet him more.” He sits down, continuing before either of them can say anything, “Well, as nice as these negotiations have been, I think it’s time we ended them, don’t you?”

He looks around, finding both their clients staring at him in equal incomprehension. Harvey is giving him a confused look when he catches his eyes but doesn’t speak up, instead just watching him, letting him play this out. Trusting him.

Warmth coils in Mike’s stomach at the thought. He returns his focus to the Johnsons before his flushed cheeks can betray what he’s thinking, lifting an eyebrow.

“Well, yes, I would love to end them,” Cliff Johnson finally says with a huff, casting an icy glance at his wife, “but I don’t see how unless she starts acting sensible. Not that there is much hope for that. It would be the first time in seven years of marriage, after all.”

Sarah inhales sharply. “You can’t be serious,” she snaps. “This from the guy who likes to buy new cars every year just because he feels like it!”

“Enough,” Mike cuts them off, holding up a hand when everyone stares at him. “The time for pointless accusations is over. You can go on with that in your free time, but Harvey and I have better things to do than listen to this any longer. Cliff, Sarah, I assume you both want to see this settled, don’t you?”

“Of course,” they say in unison, promptly giving each other a disgusted glance. Mike rolls his eyes.

“Right. And we can all agree that determining whoever is at fault when it comes to the failure of this marriage-“ He has to force himself to keep a straight face at this point, because there is no world in which it would not have come crashing down at some point- “would bring the stipulation into effect you agreed upon when you started your business. Correct?”

He gives them a pointed look, waiting until they both nod. He feels Harvey’s eyes on him acutely, but he doesn’t look at him, doesn’t dare to meet his gaze before he hasn’t finished this, knowing it would just distract him.

“Correct,” Sarah confirms. Cliff gives a terse nod.

Mike turns to look directly at him.

“Then, Cliff, do us all a favor and admit to the affair that you’ve been having for several years now.” He tilts his head. “Or do you want me to call Mandy so she can clarify things for us?”

Silence. Then-

What?”

For once, Mike isn’t bothered by the woman’s shrill voice. He leans back, watching the events unfold with satisfaction as Cliff realizes that it’s over for him and his soon-to-be ex-wife rips him a new one.

Harvey is only stunned into silence for a brief moment before he composes himself again, taking over as smoothly as if they’d planned this all along. It makes Mike smile. They do work so well together.

And so, after long weeks of negotiations that went nowhere, they finally close the case. They work out the details, get the signatures they need, shake their clients’ hands and then walk out of the mansion for the last time.

It’s not until they’re outside that Harvey actually talks to him. Mike hoped that he’d get some more time to think of a cover story, but of course Harvey doesn’t wait.

He probably wouldn’t have, either.

They’re not yet past the gate when Harvey asks, “How did you know?”

Mike closes his eyes, the triumphant sense of victory that’s been lifting him up since he dropped the bomb dissolving at the question.

“It’s not important,” he says. He doesn’t have to look at Harvey to know his expression is incredulous.

“Like hell it isn’t.”

“It wasn’t illegal, okay? That’s all you need to know.”

“Bullshit. I don’t know that if I don’t know what it is you did, do I? I need to know how you got that information, and you’re gonna tell me,” Harvey demands.

Mike exhales deeply. “Why can’t you just drop it?”

“Because I can’t protect you if I don’t know what I need to protect you from.”

Having no idea what to respond to that, Mike stops short. Seeing that he took the wind out of his sails, Harvey lifts an expectant eyebrow.

“You don’t need to protect me,” he mutters, a last resort that he knows is futile.

Harvey gives him a warning look. “Mike…”

Mike sighs.

When did he get so bad at keeping secrets?

Maybe this is just one too big. And honestly, Mike has enough on his plate already. Screw it. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Harvey is going to believe him or not if he tells him the truth, but at least Mike will have gotten it off his chest. The prospect of finally sharing this with him, the desire to let him know is overwhelming all of a sudden, and just like that, his mind is made up.

He hates keeping secrets from Harvey. He hates not being able to talk to him.

That’s going to end now.

“Let’s go to yours,” he suggests, turning into the right direction without waiting for a reply. He can hear Harvey’s footsteps following.

They spend the twenty-minute walk to Harvey’s condo in silence, Harvey throwing him suspicious looks every now and then, Mike ransacking his brain over what to say.

He hasn’t really gotten anywhere when they reach the apartment and Harvey lets them in, nor when he sits down on the sofa and gives him an expectant look, but it’s too late to do anything about that now. He’ll just have to wing it and hope for the best.

“We’re here,” Harvey announces unnecessarily, holding out his hands with his palms up. “Now talk.”

He’s never been the patient kind, has he? Well, no way out but through.

“You’re gonna think I’m crazy,” Mike warns. Harvey gives him a look.

“More than I already do, you mean?”

“Ha ha.” Mike rolls his eyes. “Very funny.”

Harvey waits, then says, “Mike,” when he doesn’t go on.

Mike purses his lips.

“Okay, this will sound weird. Like, actually really fucking weird. Full-on batshit crazy, to be honest. But. Uh. I can kind of… talk to animals.”

Harvey doesn’t move a muscle.

“I’m not sure I’m following.”

Mike sighs. “I can talk to animals. I mean, I understand them.”

He can practically see the wheels turning in Harvey’s head as he tries to process. “You interpret the sounds they make,” he finally offers. Mike just shakes his head.

“No, I mean that I talk to them like I talk to you, and they respond the same way. They reply to me.”

Harvey looks at him.

Mike looks back.

Harvey blinks.

“That’s a good one.”

“I’m not making a joke.”

Harvey keeps staring at him. “You’re serious.”

“I am.”

“Are you having a stroke?”

Mike huffs. “That would be the longest stroke in human history. No, I’m not.”

Harvey narrows his eyes. “Are you going insane? Am I overworking you?”

Mike lets out a short laugh at that. It probably doesn’t help Harvey’s suspicion. “Okay, I dig that theory. But no, I’m pretty sure I’m still as sane as I always was. Believe me, I’ve thought about this quite thoroughly. It’s not every day that you start being able to understand animals, after all.”

Harvey’s jaw twitches as he processes his words. Finally he asks, “Why?”

“It’s the pills I’ve been taking for my headache. They do something to the brain. Or my brain, at least.”

“Something,” Harvey echoes.

Mike lifts his shoulders. “It’s complicated.”

“I’ll say,” Harvey mutters. He gets up, pushing a hand into his hair as he paces back and forth before turning around, fixing him with a piercing look.

“This is one hell of a story you’re asking me to believe, Mike.”

“I know. Just… think about it. Have I ever lied to you? Really lied, I mean, about something that mattered. Something this big.”

Harvey purses his lips, shaking his head. “No.”

Mike gives him a slight smile. “And I don’t intend to start now.”

Harvey holds his gaze, taking a deep breath.

“Alright. Assuming you’re not crazy and what you’re saying is actually true – what does that have to do with the Johnsons?”

“They have a dog,” Mike explains. “We had a nice little chat on my way to the bathroom. He told me about the affair.”

Harvey stares at him again. Mike lets him look, not knowing what exactly Harvey is searching for, but whatever it is, he really wants him to find it.

Eventually he sits back down, his eyes narrowed in deep thought until he finally leans in and asks, curiosity seeping into his voice despite his bafflement, “How does it work?”

Mike lets out a quiet breath of relief. And then he starts explaining.

Harvey listens quietly, not saying a word until he’s finished.

“So it’s… telepathic,” he clarifies once Mike is done. “It’s not that you’re hearing actual words coming out of their mouths.”

“I wouldn’t call it telepathic, exactly. I hear the sounds they make for what they are, but my brain translates them into structures I can understand. And when I speak to them, they clearly understand me too.”

Harvey nods slowly. “That sounds reasonable. As reasonable as possible when talking about something like this, that is.”

“It took me a while to wrap my head around it too, believe me,” Mike says, patting Harvey’s hand. “You’re doing great.”

Harvey returns his smile, if somewhat dazed. Then he lets out a deep breath, shaking his head.

“How did you even figure all this out?”

“It was the dog from the Johnsons, actually. He started talking to me out of the blue. Then I visited a dog park after the initial shock, and then an animal shelter. I’ve got a pro bono for us, by the way. Just… when you’re receptive later.”

He half expects Harvey to drop a remark about how he hasn’t had this skill for two weeks and already managed to land a pro bono again, but instead he just frowns, his forehead creasing as he shakes his head a little.

“You said it was the pills that gave you this… ability?”

Mike nods. “I believe so. I’m like… 98% sure.”

“So what happens if you stop taking them?”

The corner of his mouth lifts. “I haven’t taken one in a few days, actually. The headache’s gone, and I was curious about that too. So far the effect hasn’t worn off. I don’t know if it will in time, or if it’s just going to be like this from now on. If they permanently rewrote my synapses or something.” He shrugs. “It’s not the worst thing in the world. I kind of like it, actually. I made quite a few new acquaintances because of it.”

“Yeah, you would,” Harvey mutters, rolling his eyes. Mike smiles.

“It’s helping me help people. It’s even helped with my cases, as you’ve seen today. I… this is a big deal, Harvey. I can actually make a difference with this.”

Harvey doesn’t say anything to that. He doesn’t say anything for quite a while. Assuming that he’s still processing this new revelation, Mike gives him time to think.

When he finally speaks again, however, it’s nothing Mike expected.

“Are you going to leave the firm?”

Mike blinks. “What?”

“You heard me.”

“I… I don’t know.”

He hasn’t thought about it, not actively, but he needs to admit that the idea has been forming at the back of his head, a nameless desire rather than a specific plan, but persistent all the same.

Helping people has always been what he wanted to do. And this is an opportunity he can’t just throw away.

He likes working with this skill. His head starts spinning with possibilities when he just thinks about what he could do with it.

But he likes his current job, too. He doesn’t want to leave the firm.

He doesn’t want to leave Harvey.

“I’ve thought about it,” he admits, scratching his neck. “Not because I want to leave. I don’t. But I can’t just sit around not making use of this gift. I have no idea what I’m going to do yet, honestly. I just know that I can’t let this opportunity go to waste.”

Harvey’s jaw clenches.

“Don’t go.”

Mike chews his lip. “Harvey…“

“No, listen to me. I mean it. Don’t go. You can’t.”

Mike blinks at him. “Why not?”

Harvey lets out a frustrated breath, getting up to pace the room. Mike watches him in confusion.

Finally, Harvey stops and turns to face him.

“I didn’t exactly plan on telling you like this. Or at all, really.” He squares his shoulders, looking Mike straight in the eye. “Well, here goes nothing.”

Mike blinks. “What are you-“

“Quiet.” Harvey holds up a hand. “I’m trying to do something here.”

He inhales deeply.

“I understand where you’re coming from. And I know that this is just who you are, with your bleeding heart and the never-ceasing desire to help people, but Mike, you can’t go. I can’t let you do that, not without at least trying to change your mind. Because I need you. And not just at the office. I…” He shakes his head, but never stops looking at him. “Shit, Mike. I love you. I’m in love with you. And I want you to be with me.”

Mike’s mouth drops open. “I- what?”

Harvey sighs. “You’re really gonna make me repeat it?”

Despite his dry tone, there’s an air around him that tells Mike he isn’t as calm as he pretends to be, something in his stance and the lines of his face that betrays the cool composure he’s trying so hard to exude.

It’s a look Mike recognizes, has seen on him several times before. For the first time, he can actually read it.

“You love me,” he repeats in a daze, getting up from the sofa.

“I do,” Harvey confirms, casting him a nervous look as he wrings his hands. The mask has slipped. Mike can see right through it.

He shakes his head in wonder. “You’re serious. You’re not putting me on.”

It’s less of a question than a statement, but Harvey shakes his head anyway.

“I’m not about to start lying to you, either.”

Mike runs a hand over his mouth. “You love me,” he whispers to himself.

All this time he spent in silent yearning, and in the end it’s that simple.

He can feel delighted laughter bubbling up in him, the only response he’s capable of in the face of what might just be the most wondrous revelation of his entire life – and he recently discovered that he can talk to animals.

“Holy shit.”

Harvey doesn’t seem to share his ecstasy. In fact, he looks more edgy by the second.

“Can you please say something?” he asks, dropping any pretense of aloofness. “Other than… that?”

Mike snorts. “Harvey, how can you even doubt for a minute that I love you too?”

Harvey’s lips part in a perfect display of surprise.

“You do?”

Unable to keep it off his face any longer, Mike starts grinning. He steps closer until they are almost chest to chest, cupping Harvey’s face with both hands.

“Of course I fucking do.”

Harvey’s eyes dart over his face, a disbelieving smile stealing onto his lips.

“I knew that,” he claims.

“Yeah?”

“Mhm.”

“Looks like you’re a liar after all,” Mike mutters, and then he finally meets Harvey’s lips. They’re still smiling as they kiss, when Harvey wraps his arms around his waist and pulls him in, when Mike makes a low sound in the back of his throat to express his encouragement.

It makes everything slightly more complicated, but Mike doesn’t give a shit that it’s clumsy and uncoordinated and they’re too giddy to really go into it.

He’s kissing Harvey. There couldn’t be anything better than that.

When he draws back to catch his breath, Harvey tightens his hold on him.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

Mike chuckles. “Nowhere, apparently.”

“Damn right you aren’t.”

Mike regards him, smiling fondly.

“Idiot,” he murmurs. “I wouldn’t have left you. Maybe the firm, but never you.”

Harvey’s eyes move over his face. He purses his lips, but Mike can see the smile beneath it.

“Well. I know that now.”

Mike pecks his lips again for good measure, then asks, “So you don’t think I’m crazy? Or do you just love me despite it?”

The corner of Harvey’s mouth lifts. “I don’t know what to think. But I know that sometimes things happen you have a hard time believing, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t real.”

His hand brushes Mike’s waist tenderly, making him shiver.

“Wow,” Mike murmurs, shaking his head. “Who would have thought. You’re a goddamn sap.”

“I’m most certainly not.”

“Mhm. Try telling that to someone who believes it.”

Harvey huffs, then very deliberately changes the topic.

“Come on, let’s sit back down so you can tell me more about what exactly that dog said for you to close that case today. And then you can tell me about your pro bono.”

“And then we can do… less talking and more other things?” Mike asks hopefully, raising his eyebrows as he glances at him.

Harvey smirks. “If you think I’m letting you leave before we get to that part, you’re sorely mistaken. But first I want you to tell me everything about this new ability of yours. I have a feeling that it’s going to play a big part in our lives from now on.”

Our lives.

Mike smiles. He likes the sound of that.

“I can do that,” he agrees, letting himself be guided back to the sofa.

“One more thing,” Harvey says. “I know this is going to come up sooner or later, so I’ll come right out and say it. We are not getting a pet just for you two to conspire against me.”

Mike stops short. “I wasn’t aware I was even moving in, but... alright?”

“Well, it’s only a matter of time,” Harvey remarks with a wave of his hand, like they’re talking about the weather rather than their plans for the future – a future Mike didn’t even know they were going to have just five minutes ago.

“Right,” he says, returning the smile Harvey gives him when he meets his eyes. “No pets then. In this apartment. Where we’ll be living together. No big deal.”

Turns out that talking to animals isn’t the wildest thing to happen to Mike by far.

Starting a relationship with Harvey is a bit like stepping into a whirlwind – all fluttery stomachs, surprise kisses, frustrating teasing and new discoveries that have him in awe every single day.

It’s a bit like coming home, too. They already know each other like the back of their own hand. They know each other’s best and their worst, what they stand for and what riles them up, what they are like after an all-nighter and when they haven’t had their first coffee yet. Now they’re just learning all the rest too, like how Harvey has a very specific way of getting dressed in the morning or how Mike likes having the sweetest cereal he owns for a midnight snack after long nights at the office. Now they’re learning the taste of each other by heart, what makes them squirm and what has them moaning, what it feels like to fall asleep with their arms still wrapped around each other.

They learn that being together is as easy and natural as breathing. In all his life, Mike has never been as sure about anything as he is about Harvey, and the sentiment is clearly returned.

He moves in just three months later after realizing he hasn’t been at his own place in two weeks, deciding that he might as well save himself the trouble of going back and forth all the time.

He does not leave the firm. He works out a deal that allows him to do a significantly higher amount of pro bono work instead, starting with the shelter case he promised Nasrin he would win for her.

He does, of course.

They do end up getting a pet. Mike takes a cat home from a case after her owner goes to prison. Harvey outright refuses to adopt her, which is funny since he is the one who buys her a nice basket because “that dusty old thing won’t do”. After two weeks neither of them can pretend to want to give her away again, and so they just don’t, allowing her to quietly make herself a place in their life.

(Harvey was right, she and Mike do end up gossiping about him while he’s in the same room. Harvey narrows his eyes and feigns annoyance, but Mike sees the way he caresses her afterwards, quietly murmuring to her as they lead their own little conversation, and he thinks that he really couldn’t fool anyone.)

The effects of the pills don’t wear off. In time, Mike stops worrying about any other side effects that haven’t yet emerged and just accepts it as it is.

This is not something he ever expected to come out of his persistent headache by far, the animals, or Harvey, or moving in and adopting a cat with him, but seeing how perfectly it’s all playing out now, Mike wouldn’t have it any other way.