Actions

Work Header

this tornado loves you

Work Text:

part one; that teenage feeling

Mike’s first kiss is when he’s eleven. Melissa Tremble had recently turned twelve and invited the whole class to her party, which was the only reason Mike had even been there to get flat out shut down during an otherwise friendly game of spin the bottle.

Now, a small group of his classmates are joining together to loudly remind Mike of his failure.

He’s just starting to get red-faced with anger and shame over their taunts, when Trevor comes out of nowhere, grabs Mike roughly by the shoulders, and just plants one on him.

For the second their lips connect, Mike sees stars, but more in the dizzy, stunned sense than the romantic one, he assures himself.

Trevor lets go of him and Mike staggers a little, barely noticing at first that half the playground is looking at them now. But Trevor just stands at his side, a defiant arm thrown over Mike’s shoulders, and, not for the first time, Mike can’t help thinking of Trevor as his hero.

---

Mike’s second kiss is when he’s thirteen, and it’s with Jenny. They’re idling on the swings of the park near her house, late, or as late as their curfews allow.

She’s talking softly, and looking at Mike the same way, and when Jenny asks, “Do you like me, Mike?” He says, “Yes,” before he even has to think about it.

Jenny smiles, prettier than anything he’s even seen, and Mike meets her half-way, leaning between the chains of the swings to kiss her, long and sweet.

A week later, Jenny starts going out with Trevor, and Mike thinks that will be the end of the kissing.

 

 

It’s not.

---

Mike wakes up in Trevor’s basement, mouth full of cotton and Trevor and Jenny passed out on either side of him.

He rubs his face with his palms, but otherwise doesn’t move.

It had been a good night, up till morning celebrating Trevor’s seventeenth birthday. They’d raided his absentee parents’ liquor cabinet, doing elaborate shots and dissolving into group hugs and sloppy declarations of love by the small hours of the morning.

At seventeen, Trevor and Jenny are prototypical high school sweethearts, or they would be, it if wasn’t for Mike. They’ve been dating since the eighth grade, and it’s at the point where they’re firmly “Trevor and Jenny,” and not “Trevor” and “Jenny,” but Mike’s been there for every minute of it. Officially, he’s Trevor’s best friend, and Jenny’s confidante, but in practice, Mike’s so much more than that.

In practice, it’s Mike’s job to smooth things over with Jenny when Trevor screws up, and it’s his job to make sure no one hits on her when she goes to parties and Trevor can’t come along. It’s his job to hold her hair back when she gets drunk and throws up at said parties. It’s his job to make sure Trevor doesn’t fail out of his classes, and it’s his job to be there with them, every step of the way. It’s his job to sit between them in the movie theater and hold their hands in the dark, letting Jenny’s nails bite into his skin during the scary parts of the horror movies Trevor likes, and letting Trevor punch him in the leg when a hot girl comes on screen. It’s his job to talk Trevor down when he gets jealous over nothing, and it’s his job to go stag at school dances and hold Jenny’s purse, and to smile while they dance together.

It’s his job to take care of them, and in return, sometimes Mike gets to wake up to mornings like this, with both of them wrapped around him like he’s the most important thing in the world.

---

Trevor sidles up to his locker after fifth period, and Mike narrows his eyes as soon as he sees the look on Trevor’s face.

Trevor grins, taking Mike’s scowl for encouragement, and says, “Jenny and her folks are going away for the weekend,” and Mike groans, because he knows what that means.

Put simply, what it means is the two of them spending the next 48 hours hot-boxing the bathroom in Trevor’s basement and passing out watching movies on his couch. It’s not that Jenny doesn’t know they smoke, it’s just that she doesn’t like it, so they tend to take advantage of her absences to get seriously fucked up.

The thing is, “Man, I have an AP history test on Monday.”

Trevor scoffs. “Dude, it’s history. Dates and shit. You don’t need to study that crap, you’ve had it memorized since you first cracked the binding.”

Mike sighs. “It’s not just memorizing dates! There are going to be essays - I have to think of arguments and maybe write a few practice answers, I can’t just fall back on a few key quotes and dates!”

Trevor rolls his eyes and leans closer, his eyes wide and locked with Mike’s when he says, “Come on, man,” in such an unfairly wheedling and hopeful tone that Mike just folds like the sucker he is.

Trevor throws his arms up in victory, and Mike takes it like a man when he smacks a triumphant kiss right in the middle of Mike’s forehead.

---

They keep things pretty tame for the first day, not smoking up until noon, just hanging out half-dressed, playing video games all day, the drugs making them worse but also far more easily impressed with themselves.

Dinner is pizza they eat standing up in the hallway, because it smelled so good upon delivery that they couldn’t even wait to bring it downstairs. They’re at the stage of being high when they want to talk a lot about how high they are, and they have a twenty minute discussion covering that important subject, and also the frankly insane deliciousness of the pizza, before wandering back downstairs.

Then it’s movies they half pay attention to and the slow, inevitable slide of their bodies closer together, inching their way towards each other from opposite ends of the couch, until Mike is in Trevor’s lap and Trevor’s got one hand in Mike’s hair and the other down his pants.

Mike moans into Trevor’s mouth and Trevor kisses him hard enough to hurt, and the last coherent thought Mike has for the rest of the night is, “Oh fuck, I’m going to regret this in the morning.”

Except, in the morning, Trevor passes him the pipe before Mike’s eyes are even all the way open, and once he’s stoned again, it seems like the most natural thing in the world to push Trevor’s head down his chest and fuck his mouth while Trevor’s fingers leave bruises on his thighs.

It basically goes like that all day; they don’t bother to get dressed more than throwing on sweatpants, and they make out and fuck sloppily in between games of Mario Brothers and bowls of cereal.

They don’t even make it to the bed that night, too burnt out and sore to bother leaving the couch, and Mike falls asleep with his nose pressed against the upholstery, Trevor spooning him, gripping on tight so he doesn’t fall off the edge.

---

In the morning on Monday, Mike feels like death, and when they shower together to save time, that’s really all it is.

Trevor’s reasoning is that it doesn’t count as cheating on Jenny if they’re both stoned, which is a special brand of Trevor logic Mike will usually only accept when he’s already stoned himself, but that doesn’t stop Mike from looking, at least a little, while he and Trevor are naked together under the hot spray. Trevor keeps his hands and his eyes to himself, though, and when he smacks Mike on the ass with a towel while they’re drying off, it’s typical locker room style bullshit, void of the any of the heady, seductive undertones shaping their interactions during the weekend.

Mike eats a handful of cereal and squashes down the guilt that’s starting to nag at him now that he’s fully dressed and sober, trying to remind himself that what Jenny doesn’t know doesn’t hurt her. When that doesn’t work, he settles for focusing on the fact that it’s not exactly as if they don’t all sometimes end up naked and all over each other anyway. By the time Trevor’s locking up his house and throwing a companionable arm around Mike’s shoulders, the lingering want and guilt are both locked up tight inside Mike’s chest, so he can smile, wide and cocky, and pretend like nothing happened. Or at least pretend to be okay with Trevor acting that way.

They don’t talk about it, that’s the most important thing, not with each other, and not with Jenny.

Not ever, in fact, and certainly not when they go together to pick her up for school that morning. Not even when she smiles at them knowingly, kissing Trevor on the mouth and then Mike on the cheek, before taking one of each of their hands and walking with them like that all the way to school.

---

Mike ends up with a B+ on his history exam, a full letter grade lower than he usually gets, but whenever he thinks of the soft way Trevor looked at him, right before they smoked up on Sunday morning, Mike has to admit it was worth it.

---

Jenny is on the yearbook staff, which is weird, because up till their senior year, she demonstrated no visible signs of school spirit, and preferred to spend her afternoons in varying levels of undress and insobriety with Trevor and Mike. The only school activity she’s ever participated in before has been band, and even that stopped after they went into high school.

But now, she’s concerned with Making Memories and connecting with her roots, or something, and so Mike has to wait around an extra hour and a half on Mondays and Thursdays to walk her home from school.

Technically, Jenny knows her own address, and could probably find her way back home on her own, but walking Jenny to and from school is a tradition, and Mike is a great believer in tradition.

Trevor is slightly less so, in that he’s mostly too much of a delinquent to stand being on school grounds a second longer than is strictly necessary on any given day, so on Mondays and Thursdays it’s just Jenny and Mike walking home alone.

Late September in New York is Mike’s favorite time of year, when the wind is just starting to have a bite to it, when the leaves crunch beneath their feet, and the girls start wearing thick wool skirts and knee high bootsnearly all the time.

Mike likes to walk alone with Jenny, holding her gloved hand with his bare one, their fingers twined together, not talking or even needing to look at each other, happy just knowing that it’s enough to walk and breathe in the same rhythm.

---

Mike remembers his parents, but most of the memories are bad ones.

He remembers loving his dad and wanting to make him proud, but never quite hitting the mark, always falling just a little short, too little, too weird, and too smart to fit into the mold his father had designed for him. He remembers his father’s disappointment, twofold, for the son he couldn’t love quite enough, and the father he’d wanted, but ultimately failed, to be.

He remembers his mother’s quiet sadness, the way it permeated the house, the way it filled Mike’s lungs when he’d take his first breath after stepping back inside. He remembers sitting with her and reading to her for hours, and he remembers the way she’d almost never look at him, but how she would cry sometimes, never for any reason Mike’s young mind could discern.

He remembers being in class, taking notes on different types of clouds, when the guidance counselor knocked on the door and asked his teacher if Mike Ross could please come with her.

He remembers Trevor’s grin, like he was proud of Mike for being the one in trouble, for once, and then the way the brightness faded from Trevor’s eyes as he took in the grave expression on the guidance counselor’s face.

He remembers numbly waiting for his Gram to come pick him up on the front steps of the school, and he remembers the way Trevor had just shown up, at one point, while he was still waiting, and sat with Mike in silence, holding his hand.

---

Mike loves Jenny’s house, because it’s full and messy and loud, none of the things his apartment with Gram is.

Jenny has two older brothers and a stay-at-home mom, a dad who reads the paper at the breakfast table every morning, and a cat named Dina.

Jenny teases Mike sometimes that he only loves for her house, for Dina who will curl up on Mike’s lap wherever he goes, whenever he’s visiting, and Mike will smile and shake his head, and let the joke lie because it’s better than the alternative, better than admitting that they both only love each other as a means to the same end.

---

Mike’s apartment is on the first floor, and his window is low enough that Trevor can crawl into it easily, provided he gets Mike’s attention first so that Mike will unlock it.

This tends to happen in the mornings, when Trevor wants to bypass Mike’s Gram’s disapproving looks on his way to picking Mike up for school.

Going through the front door usually means Trevor gets breakfast, but he’s told Mike more than once that not even muffins as good as Mike’s Gram makes are worth the hard line of her mouth whenever she looks at him.

This time, though, it’s not morning, not by any respectable definition of the word, anyway, just past three A.M., when Mike is awoken by Trevor’s persistent tapping against the glass.

Mike stumbles out of bed, still half-asleep, and opens the latch blindly, getting an armful of Trevor as he spills in through the now open window.

They land in an undignified heap on the floor, and Mike has the wind knocked out of him by the impact.

Trevor grins down at him, pretending to pin Mike to the ground, and chides, “You have to be more careful, Mikey. Who knows what kind of hooligans could be knocking on your window. It could have been anyone.”

“But instead it was just you,” Mike sighs, shoving Trevor off him roughly, less amused by the situation than his inebriated friend.

Mike gets up, and Trevor scrambles after him, tripping over himself a little, and Mike offers him a reluctant hand, steadying Trevor and inhaling the smell of pot and cold air.

“Come look at the stars with me, Mike,” Trevor cajoles, half-hugging Mike, whispering in his ear.

Mike elbows him away, and goes to sit back down on his bed, fully awake now. He keeps the light off, not wanting to alert his Gram, and hisses, “Shut up and sit down,” to Trevor, who, remarkably, does.

He presses in close against Mike, their thighs lined up, shoulders brushing, and Trevor’s skin still feels cold to the touch.

“How long were you outside?” Mike asks, voice hushed.

“I’m not sure,” Trevor says, putting his chin on Mike’s shoulder. “I never went home.”

“After school?” Mike asks incredulously. He’d walked Trevor home himself, after dropping off Jenny together.

“Yeah. After you dropped me off I realized there was something I had to take care of, so I took my bike from the back and I was going to come back after but I lost track of time. Doesn’t matter, my folks are gone again anyway.”

“What did you have to take care of?” Mike asks, even though he’s almost positive he doesn’t want to know.

Trevor only shrugs, anyway, and says, “Just business, Mike.”

Business. Like Trevor is some kind of criminal mastermind instead of a seventeen-year-old douchebag who deals pot out of an elementary school playground in Queens.

“Let’s go outside,” Trevor tries again, when Mike doesn’t respond to his earlier comment, or the poking he’s doing to Mike’s face with his forefinger.

“No, man, come on, it’s freezing out there,” Mike protests, grabbing Trevor’s pawing hands by the wrists and giving him what he hopes is a firm look.

Trevor giggles, and fuck, his stoned self is so much less charming when Mike’s not stoned too, but the laughter doesn’t reach his eyes, and when Mike frowns at him, Trevor just sort of sags against him, giving up or giving in, and Mike sighs and pulls Trevor closer to his chest, easing them both down into a horizontal position, until they’re lying together with Trevor’s head against his heart and his right leg slung over Mike’s thighs.

Mike falls asleep to the sound of Trevor’s voice, whispering that he can feel Mike’s heart beating inside his chest like it’s his own.

---

Sometimes Mike goes to Jenny’s house to help her study, and he’ll sprawl out on her floor with half a dozen textbooks and binders spread open, teaching her chemistry or arguing over the meaning of whatever novel they’re reading that week in English class.

Trevor doesn’t usually attend these study sessions, laughingly saying that Jenny is safe with Mike, and acknowledging that he wouldn’t be any help anyway.

It’s true that they wouldn’t get any work done if he was around. In fact, the times Trevor tags along, instead of studying, they usually end up making out on his bed while Mike watches, and they all carefully pretend he’s not as turned on as they are.

It’s less true that Jenny is safe with Mike. Not like Trevor means anyway, but he has to know that Mike and Jenny are no more well behaved in private than he and Trevor are, or at least Mike assumes Trevor’s not actually stupid enough to think otherwise.

Still, when he and Jenny kiss, on sunny afternoons spread over schoolwork and quiet conversations, it’s always chaste, innocent like nothing either of them do privately with Trevor is. Innocent like nothing the three of them do together, drunk and frantic, and not to be talked about after, could ever be. They’ll kiss for hours without even using tongue, just pressing their lips together like children, eyes wide open, with their faces only centimetres apart, smiling at each other.

---

In October, the captain of the football team throws a Halloween rager, and Trevor gets an invite because he deals to practically the whole team.

Mike doesn’t want to go; he hates costumes and parties with douches, which is what this one will almost exclusively trade in. And besides that, Jenny and Trevor have been sniping at each other all week, building up to a real fight, and Mike would rather not be at a house party with a bunch of their drunk classmates when that happens.

Still, Trevor insists, and Jenny’s friends with some of the girls from the cheerleading squad, so she wants to go too, and it’s not like Mike can let them go unsupervised, not ever, and especially not in the mood they’re both in now.

So he sits between them in the front of Trevor’s dad’s truck on the ride over, and talks louder and more often than he normally would, trying to fill up the resentful silence passing between Trevor and Jenny.

He knows what they’re not quite fighting about, but he doesn’t know what makes this time different, why it seems to have pushed Jenny over the edge of her tolerance. Trevor failed their Calculus midterm, and Jenny just found out about it on Monday, so she’s pissed, although from what Mike can gather, she’s more pissed about the C he got. In return, Trevor is pissed about getting blamed for Mike’s grade, and Mike’s working hard not to be pissed at either of them for fighting about something that’s his own stupid fault.

He knew full well that he shouldn’t have smoked up with Trevor in the park all those nights instead of cramming, but he did it anyway. It’s not Trevor’s fault that Mike would rather spend his time memorizing the feel of the cool grass between his fingers and the taste of Trevor’s tongue pressed against his than worrying about calculus proofs. It’s not Trevor’s fault, and Jenny’s wrong to take it out on him, but he’s smarter than Trevor, so he keeps his mouth shut, knowing a losing battle when he sees one.

They pull up to Randy’s house in silence, Mike having finally given up trying to fill it, and both Trevor and Jenny bolt out of the truck without looking at him or each other, slamming their doors in unison, and leaving him sitting alone in the empty truck. He scrambles to lock the doors and chase after them, but Mike loses Trevor to the crush of people as soon as they step inside, and the only reason the same thing doesn’t happen with Jenny is because Mike grabs onto her wrist and doesn’t let go.

She only puts up with it for about half an hour, though, letting him shadow her wherever she goes, nodding along to her conversations, holding her drink, before Jenny finally shakes him off. Then Mike’s left alone, wandering the house, and trying to avoid walking in on anyone having sex, or doing keg stands.

He endures a solid hour of having drinks spilled on him and being on the receiving end of blank, confused looks from people wondering who let that weird Mike Ross into a cool kid’s party, before he finally locates Trevor.

He’s drunk, or at least Mike hopes he is, ’cause he’s also got his hand up Sarah McGill’s shirt.

“Shit - Trevor!” Mike shouts, dragging him bodily away from her and catching Trevor when he trips and falls roughly against Mike.

Sarah gives him a glare and scoffs, “Typical,” before stalking off, and Mike doesn’t even bother to watch her leave, he just turns back to Trevor, trying to manhandle him into an upright position.

“You’re a dick,” he informs Trevor tiredly, but Trevor just looks at him, all glassy-eyed and trusting, so Mike focuses on finding an empty room to stash him in, and figures he can worry about being pissed, and making sure Sarah doesn’t say anything, later.

The bedroom he eventually finds must belong to Randy’s little sister or something, because it’s all pink and garish, but it has a bed he can dump Trevor on, so Mike counts it as a win.

Once he’s deposited Trevor, however, he doesn’t let Mike go. He grabs on, clumsily tugging at the fabric of Mike’s shirt, his voice slurred but determined when he says, “Mike, Mikey, stay with me.”

He should really go find Jenny, start the damage control, but Trevor is looking at him like he’s going to cry, or something, if Mike leaves, and Mike’s been around Trevor’s drunk self enough times to know the crying thing is actually a real possibility. So he sighs, and slides onto the bed with Trevor, letting him press their bodies close and tuck his face into Mike’s neck.

“She says I’m dragging you down,” Trevor is muttering into Mike’s skin, his hands winding tighter around Mike’s back, drawing them even closer together. “She says I’m dragging you down, Mikey, but what else am I supposed to do? I can’t just let you go. You’re too smart for me and I can’t... we’re supposed to be together, right? Best friends. You’re my best friend, right Mike?”

“Yeah,” Mike promises, petting Trevor’s hair repressively and trying to keep the pinched look out of his eyes, not that Trevor’s with it enough to notice, anyway. “Yeah, Trevor, I’m your best friend.”

---

He doesn’t find Jenny again that night, but she finds him the next morning, sitting out on his front porch, wrapped around a cup of coffee and still shivering in his sweats and hoodie.

She looks like she hasn’t slept, still wearing the remnants of her costume from the party, hair falling out of its complicated up-do, make-up smeared around her eyes.

She comes and sits down beside him on the steps, and he puts an arm around her automatically when Jenny rests her head on his shoulder.

“I liked you first, you know.”

“Yeah, I remember.”

“Even before I kissed you, I mean. For a long time, actually.”

He looks at her in surprise. “I didn’t know.”

She smiles. “Yeah, I kind of figured, the way you never even bothered to pay attention to me.”

“I paid attention to you!”

“Not like I wanted you to,” she says, her smile sad and teasing at the same time. “Not like Trevor.”

“Wait, now I’m worse than Trevor?” He may be Mike’s best friend, but that’s still a pretty low bar.

“I meant you never paid attention to me like you paid attention to Trevor.”

Mike glances away, trying to formulate a believable denial, but Jenny just grabs his arm and shakes him a little. “Hey, I mean, it’s okay. There was a reason I kissed you and then started dating Trevor a week later. I knew that’s how it needed to be, knew I couldn’t have one of you without the other. And I never minded. I still don’t. But you have to admit that it’s true. When Trevor’s around, he might as well be the only person in the universe, for all you’d notice. And he’s like that too, about you, just a little less obvious about it, is all.”

“Jenny,” Mike protests, voice low and urgent, “Trevor loves you.”

She smiles, soft and resigned, and says, “I guess I’m just lucky he loves both of us.”

---

Mike’s never really minded about Trevor’s dealing, mostly because he’s just a middleman for the high-school anyway, and Mike figures Trevor has to be better than the skeezy guys he buys from. He prefers it when Trevor leaves him out of it, though. Mike would much rather buy than sell, but he helps out occasionally, just delivering the occasional order, passing stuff on that’s already been paid for. Once, he picked up from the guys Trevor buys from, but only one time, and Trevor’s promised up and down that he’ll never ask Mike again. Which is good, because Mike couldn’t look his Gram in the eye for a whole day after he did that.

---

Jackie Marsh asks him if he wants to go to a movie with her in November, and Mike’s so surprised he just says, “No,” in a blank, incredulous tone, and then her face crumbles and she races away before he can apologize or try and back-peddle.

Worst of all, it happens in the middle of the cafeteria, right in front of Jenny and Trevor, and Jenny laughs gleefully behind her hand, saying, “Smooth, Mike, real smooth.”

He expects the same kind of treatment from Trevor, and is surprised when all Trevor does is narrow his eyes and settle into a suspicious silence for the rest of the lunch period.

He doesn’t say a word to Mike until they’re in electronics a couple periods later, bent over a mess of wood and wires that is ultimately supposed to turn into a doorbell.

“Don’t you even want a girlfriend?”

Mike lets out a surprised chuckle. “Why would I want a girlfriend?”

Trevor shrugs. “I don’t know. The usual reason, I guess. Get laid.”

Mike’s hand freezes, and he puts down the soldering gun he was holding, glancing at Trevor quickly and then looking away. They’re not supposed to talk about this, but Trevor’s the one who started it.

“Since when do I need a girlfriend to get laid?”

“You don’t,” Trevor responds, voice hard, but there’s still something leading and uncertain in his eyes.

Mike leans closer, doing a quick shoulder check to make sure their fellow classmates, and teacher, are all occupied with their projects. “What’s this about, Trevor? You want me to go out with Jackie, or something?”

“No,” Trevor snaps back, fierce and immediate, a twist of embarrassment following after it.

“I’m fine, all right? I don’t need a girlfriend or,” he lowers his voice, “a boyfriend, or any of that shit, okay? I have you and Jenny. That’s all I want.”

Triumph and guilt clash on Trevor’s face, but then he shuts both emotions down, turning away from Mike and going back to work like nothing’s happened.

After a second of watching Trevor pretend, Mike picks the gun back up and does the same.

---

In December, Mike’s Gram injures herself shoveling snow, which Mike told her a million times not to do, and to help pay the physio bills, Mike gets a job at a local coffee shop called Sally’s Beans. He’s good at it, because he’s friendly, never forgets the orders, and has the entire menu memorized five minutes into his first day.

He likes the job, insofar as his boss is nice, and lets Jenny camp out at a table in the back corner pretty much whenever he has a shift. That’s what he likes best, standing behind the counter watching Jenny read or scribble in a notebook, always knowing, even when he’s too busy to stop and chat, or even look at her, that she’s there.

---

On New Year’s Eve, they don’t go out to any parties. It’s been his tradition to spend New Year’s with Trevor almost as long as they’ve been friends, and even though it only started because their parents used to double up on a babysitter and be out together all night, they’ve continued the tradition on their own. Jenny was brought in as soon as she started officially dating Trevor, and even though she kisses Trevor first, Mike’s always there to kiss her cheek when they’re done.

This year, they veg out at Trevor’s, piled together on the couch under a legion of blankets, and Jenny’s in the middle between Trevor and Mike, alternating between resting her head on each of their shoulders.

They’re not drunk, or stoned, there hasn’t been any rowdiness or debauchery, and when the countdown comes and midnight passes, Mike barely notices, he’s so deep within a cocoon of comfort and happiness.

He notices it when Jenny kisses him, though, peppermint chap-stick and a little bit of tongue, and when they’re done she keeps her hand on Mike’s neck, guiding his face until his lips meet with Trevor’s, and even though Mike’s eyes are closed, he can feel her watching them.

Trevor kisses him like it’s the first time, and Mike wonders if Trevor’s thinking about their real first kiss, like he is, or if he doesn’t even remember that. If maybe Trevor thinks that, since they’ve never actually done this sober, it might as well be.

---

Due to Jenny’s badgering and the dark, worried circles under her eyes, Mike starts cutting back on smoking up, just a little, enough to pull his grades back up and still keep Trevor satisfied, to still keep himself loose, slipping into the soothing vagueness of being high at least once or twice a week, but no more than that.

He’s supposed to be applying for colleges, working out his future, but it’s all Mike can do to get through his classes and his shifts at Sally’s, saving what little remaining energy he has for trying to keep up with Trevor and take care of his Gram, and so the stack of applications on his desk remains untouched. Mike lies to Jenny when she asks about them, and then pretends not to notice when all the deadlines come and go.

---

Trevor shows up near the end of his shift, and Jenny is in the bathroom, which Trevor probably timed somehow, because he’s an asshole like that.

“Dude, Donkey Kong and a little bud this weekend, come on, you know you want to.”

There aren’t any customers behind him, and Sally, Mike’s boss, is in the back, so Mike leans over the counter and says, “I can’t. I have a double-shift on Saturday, and Sunday I have to spend some time with my Gram. She hasn’t been doing so great, lately.” It’s a bit of an understatement, but Mike’s not ready to admit how much, certainly not aloud.

Trevor rolls his eyes, and Mike smacks him. “She’s my Gram. It’s important.”

Trevor sighs. “Yeah, no, whatever, I know that. But I never see you anymore, man. You’re all about work and school these days, it’s lame.” There’s something genuinely wounded lurking underneath his intentionally petulant tone, and Mike feels his resolve weaken, just a little.

“I really can’t. Not this weekend. But,” he searches his mind for an afternoon that’s not already promised to work or studying with Jenny. “How about Wednesday? It’s warming up, now, we’ll go to the park, commune with nature a little bit.”

Trevor laughs, and gives Mike an approving thump on the back. “That’s my boy.”

---

Jenny’s over at his place, and they’re supposed to be going over the material for their upcoming English test, but she’s been restless and distracted all evening, getting up and wandering around his room, picking things up and inspecting them like she hasn’t been coming over every other day since they were twelve.

“What’s this?” she asks suddenly, snapping Mike’s attention away from the copy of King Lear he was leafing through.

He looks up at her curiously, and then feels his heart stutter and sink, because she’s got a stack of his uncompleted college applications in her hands and an angry, confused look on her face.

“Mike, tell me these aren’t what I think they are. Tell me you’re not actually that stupid.”

He gets up off the bed, grabbing the applications out of her hand and shoving them unceremoniously into his desk drawer.

“Look, I just didn’t get to them, okay, it’s not like I can afford college anyway, and--”

“Mike, for a genius? You’re the dumbest person I know. You could have gotten scholarships! With a brain like yours? You should be testing out of high school and heading off to some Ivy League school - with actual ivy and everything! You’re so much better than this, Mike, you know you are.”

“Maybe I like this, did you ever think of that? Maybe I like my life, just the way it is.”

The anger drains from her face, and now Jenny just looks sad. She shakes her head. “Yeah, but Mike, this is high school. We’re just kids. You can’t live like this forever. None of us can.”

“I want to, though. Just like this. The three of us.” He says, stubborn, suddenly, needing her to know.

She smiles, sadder than anything, and reaches out to take his hand. “I know. I wish we could, too. But we can’t.”

Mike shakes his head, backing away from her, but when she pulls him into a kiss, he pours all of himself into it, and shuts down any thought except the feel of her, right here, right now.

---

In addition to being on the yearbook staff, Jenny is actually helping organize prom this year, so she’s busy with that all day, and for once Mike doesn’t have a shift at Sally’s, which is why he and Trevor are able to spend their Saturday getting baked and watching cartoons.

In a lag between episodes, Mike looks over at Trevor, dumb grin on his face, pipe in his hand, and he can’t help but ask,

“Don’t you ever want more than this?”

Trevor shrugs, passing him the pipe. “Why would I?”

“I don’t know, most people would, I guess.”

“I’ve got everything I want already. I don’t care about living up to my supposed potential or being all I can be, or whatever the fuck. I’m your best friend, and Jenny’s boyfriend. That’s more than enough for me.”

Mike nods, and lights the bowl, inhaling steadily, coughing a little on the exhale.

Trevor claps him on the shoulder and says, “What’s better than this?”

Mike smiles at him wanly, and wishes he had an answer.

---

In the tail-end of spring, Mike’s Gram has a stroke, and his world shrinks down to nothing but the blind, terrifying thought of losing her, the one and only thing he’s always been able to truly depend on.

He sits in the hospital waiting room, arms wrapped around himself, knees tucked up at his chin, head down, trying to calculate the amount of money this will cost them, trying to figure out how he’s going to get it, refusing to accept anything but the reality that she will recover and be okay, and, as such, he’ll need to find the money to take care of her.

He’s still sitting, waiting for any word on her condition, when from somewhere above him, Mike hears Trevor say, “Fuck this, Mikey, I’m so sorry,” and then Trevor’s hauling Mike onto his feet and into his arms for a crushing hug.

Mike all-but collapses against Trevor, and he’s sure that if it wasn’t for how tightly Trevor is holding on, he wouldn’t even be upright. Mike just clings to him, desperate for something real and alive underneath his fingertips, and then Trevor is passing him to Jenny, and she’s hugging him just as hard. Mike presses his face into her hair and inhales, and she smells so good, so much like herself, baby-power and vanilla and something indefinable, that Mike can close his eyes and almost forget, for an instant, where he is.

She draws away to kiss his forehead, and says, “I put on extra perfume, I didn’t know what else to do.”

Mike laughs, broken and over-loud like crying, and then Trevor comes around the other side of him so he and Jenny have Mike surrounded, flanking him and holding on tight.

He sinks back down onto his chair and they huddle in around him, and the way they’re holding him, so fierce and determined and unashamed, almost makes Mike believe that nothing bad would ever dare happen to him again.

---

Trevor finds him again later, in the bathroom, washing his face and trying to shake the day off of him, reminding himself over and over that - for now at least - his Gram is going to be fine. The rest doesn’t matter, it’s just details. Mike’ll figure it out. For now, she’s fine, and that’s all that matters.

“Hey, Mike,” Trevor says, sliding a hand up Mike’s spine to rest on his shoulder, squeezing hard.

“You okay?”

Mike makes himself look at his reflection in the mirror, his face is white and he has a shocked, lost look in his eyes that he can’t seem to make go away, no matter how long he stares.

“What am I going to do, Trevor?” he didn’t mean to ask, or even speak, but the words are out now, and Trevor is already leaning closer, pulling Mike against him.

He turns around in Trevor’s arms and Trevor grabs Mike’s face in his hands and says, “Look, Mike, it’s going to be okay, I promise. I’m going to help you.”

Mike laughs, in a desperate, ragged way, and he says, “How are you going to do that?”

Trevor smiles. “I have money, Mike. I mean, I can’t fix your Gram, but the doctors said she’s going to be okay, and I know you, your enormous brain is already scrambling to figure out how you’re going to pay these hospital bills, and I’m telling you, I can help with that. I have money.”

“Trevor, you’ve owed me forty bucks since the fifth grade, I’m pretty sure you don’t have the thousands of dollars this is going to cost me.”

Trevor just shakes his head. “That’s where you’re wrong, buddy. I have it. And I can get you more, just say the word.”

Mike pulls away from Trevor, needing a minute to think, to process, and then he says, “From the drugs?”

Trevor nods. “It’s a good business, Mike. And now that school’s almost done, I’ve been thinking of expanding.”

“Expanding.” He can’t believe this is the conversation he is having, here, in the men’s room at the hospital his Gram almost died in.

“Yeah. Like I said, we’re going to graduate soon. It’s time to get serious.”

It’s so fucking Trevor that Mike shouldn’t even be surprised. “This is what you’re going to get serious about? Really?”

Trevor shrugs. “It’s good money, Mike, and I’m good at it. But I’d be even better with you helping me, you know, partners. Like we always should have been.”

“Trevor, Jesus, I can’t just - what about my Gram? What about Jenny?”

Trevor grins, full of the cocky self-assurance Mike’s always envied, always admired, and says, “This is for your Gram, it’s to help her. And as for Jenny, well, she already has one drug-dealer boyfriend, right? I’m sure she can handle having another.”

---

It only occurs to Mike later what Trevor said, that he called Jenny Mike’s girlfriend as natural as breathing, that he said it, and even meant it, in his own backwards, dickish Trevor way.

The label makes Mike feel like he’s lost and won something at the same time, and he so adds it to the list of things they won’t speak of again, trying not to wonder if it would have felt better or worse if Jenny had called him that herself.

---

When they finally let Mike go in to see her, his Gram is awake and talking, but she looks like she’s aged ten years.

Mike’s knees give out on him, but there’s a chair right beside her bed, and it catches his fall.

He edges as close in beside her as he can get without actually climbing into the bed, putting one of her hands between both of his.

“How are you? Are they treating you okay? I will bully nurses if I have to,” he lets out in a rush, stopping when she squeezes his hand.

“I’m fine, Michael. You worry too much.”

“I worry too much?” He scoffs weakly. “Gram, you had a stroke. They can kill people. You’re lucky to be alive, never mind awake and talking and--”

“Breathe,” she orders, and he closes his eyes, trying to remember how.

“I’m going to be alright. The doctors said it wasn’t actually a stroke, just an episode.”

Mike laughs. “An episode of what?”

She tilts her head enigmatically and Mike sighs, shaking his head. “Fine. Don’t tell me. But I’m going to take care of you, I swear. All my life you took care of me, now it’s my turn.”

“You’re such a good boy, Michael,” she says, patting his hand, and Mike forces a smile onto his face, knowing he’ll do whatever it takes to keep his promise to her.

---

“Jesus, that’s a lot of pot,” Mike says, mildly in awe and feeling more than a little queasy. This is way more than the small-time shit he’d always thought Trevor was involved with.

“Lesson number one, Mike. Don’t underestimate the other guy’s greed.” He laughs. “But it’s me, so you can forget lesson number one. Lesson number two,” Trevor holds up two fingers, “don’t get high on your own supply.”

Scarface, seriously? You’re quoting Scarface in the middle of your recruitment speech?”

“If the shoe fits,” Trevor says with an unconcerned shrug.

“Let’s hope it doesn’t,” Mike mutters, shaking his head and snapping the cupboard shut.

“And you just keep it all locked up in here, in your own basement?”

“Are you volunteering to keep the stash at your place?” Trevor taunts.

Mike runs a hand through his hair, fingers shaking a little. “No. But it’s stupid for you to keep your shit where you live. Even if it’s locked, it’s not like your parents couldn’t get in, or, I don’t know, the cops.”

“The cops? Mike, come on. I’m not going to get caught by the cops.”

“Right, because you’ve given this so much thought and taken all the necessary precautions.”

“Exactly.”

“I was being sarcastic. A lot.”

Trevor puts an arm around Mike’s shoulders. “Look man, I can give you the money to pay for your Gram’s hospital bills, this time, or I can give you an opportunity to make enough money to take care of her indefinitely, and then you’ll be protected if, god forbid, anything else should happen to her. It’s your choice.”

Mike sighs and says, “This is so much worse than when you convinced me to cheat on that math test in the third grade,” but that’s not a no, and Trevor hears the acceptance in his tone, reluctant though it may be, and he squeezes Mike in closer against his side.

“You’re not going to regret this Mike, I promise.”

“That should be your catch phrase,” Mike grouses, but Trevor just keeps grinning at him, and after a few seconds, Mike can’t help but smile back, trying to believe that maybe this time Trevor will actually be right.

---

Trevor comes through with the money, and there’s enough to cover his Gram’s first set of hospital bills and to keep her there for another whole week to recover. She really does seem to be bouncing back, walking on her own after the fifth day, and more antsy than anything by the seventh, when she’s finally released.

The look on her face when they first get her home is worth the pit of anxiety that’s been growing in Mike’s stomach since he agreed to work with Trevor, it’s worth anything and everything he’ll have to do, because, in that moment, she is home, and they are together, and Mike will never be able to regret making that happen.

And so, even later, even after everything, Mike can’t quite say that Trevor was wrong.

---

He only does the books, at first, once he recovers from his surprise that Trevor has books at all.

“You have like, dozens of clients on this,” Mike says, scanning the list Trevor handed him. “These aren’t... they’re not just kids from school. There’s way more than that.”

Trevor shrugs. “I told you, Mike. I’ve been expanding. I mostly deal to their parents, now, that kind of thing, stressed out businessmen and bored housewives. And you saw, it’s good money.”

Mike can’t deny that, the hospital bills were in the thousands and Trevor paid them almost blithely, evidently because there really is more where that came from.

“Well, this is completely disorganized, and there’s way too much of a paper trail.”

Trevor just smiles, like he’s glad for the disapproving tone of Mike’s voice, and he says, “That’s why you’re going to be the brains of this operation, Mike. Fix it up, I trust you. Just leave the grunt work to me.”

Mike smiles, too, and they knock elbows, miming their traditional mock-fight to seal the deal.

---

Jenny announces that she’s gotten into NYU on a Sunday, when they’re all over at Mike’s apartment, watching TV on mute because Mike doesn’t want to disturb his Gram, but staying there because he doesn’t want to leave her alone for too long, either.

“Congratulations, babe,” Trevor says, kissing her cheek and giving Jenny what Mike assumes is meant to be an ‘atta-girl’ style slap on the thigh.

She gives Trevor a vague smile, but her eyes are fixed on Mike, and she says, “Do you have anything to say?”

Mike fakes a smile. “Congratulations. That’s great, you deserve it.”

It probably doesn’t sound like it, but he means it, he does. He didn’t even want to go to college this year, and he couldn’t afford it even if he did, not even between his legitimate job at Sally’s and his illegitimate partnership with Trevor. Still. He’d always thought the three of them would go off to college together someday.

“We should all get a place,” Trevor says, like it’s both the best and most logical plan in the world. “It’s time to get out of Queens anyway, and me and Mike always planned to get a loft or something in Manhattan once we graduated, didn’t we, Mike?”

“Trevor, we made that plan when we were twelve,” Mike sighs.

Trevor shrugs. “So? It’s still a good idea. And we’ll save money, all three of us living together. We can get a one bedroom and everything, maybe even a bachelor, not like we need the space or anything. We’ll find somewhere nice, close to campus, it’ll be great.”

Jenny is still looking at Mike, like he’s the deciding factor here, like they both won’t just go wherever Trevor does.

“I’m game if you are, I guess,” he says to her. “So long as we’re still close enough that I can come back to take care of Gram sometimes.”

Jenny’s face scrunches like she hadn’t thought of that, and she reaches around Trevor to put a worried hand on Mike’s arm. “She’s doing better, though, right?”

He nods. And she is. She’s been home from the hospital for a couple weeks, now, and she’s mostly mobile again, entirely lucid, and if he keeps making money like he is right now, he should be able to afford home-care for her by the time fall comes around.

“Yeah, and she wouldn’t want me hanging around here after I graduate anyway. She’ll want me to, you know, stand on my own two feet and stuff. Have a life.”

Jenny nods, eyes full of compassion and understanding, and Trevor claps his hands together and says, “Chick flick moment over? Good. Let’s order some pizza or something, I’m starving.”

“You’re high,” Jenny says, rolling her eyes.

Trevor grins. “Same thing.”

Jenny groans, but Mike laughs, and Trevor sits between them with a smile on his face, secure in the knowledge that he’s got both of them right where he wants them.

 

 

 

 

interlude; we can only laugh at these regrets

Trevor tells him there’s a shipment coming in - he actually uses that word, and no amount of Mike’s eye-rolling can get him to stop - at the beginning of July. They’ve just graduated, and Mike is still smarting from the disappointment in his Gram’s eyes when he finally told her he hadn’t even applied to any colleges. She blamed Trevor without ever actually saying the words, and Mike had been forced to wonder yet again if anyone was ever going to let him take credit for his own fuck-ups, or what it would be like if Trevor ever stopped being there to take the blame.

In that head-space, it’s all too easy for Trevor to manipulate him, and Mike knows that, but that knowledge has never made Mike any better at stopping it from happening.

Even so, when Trevor calls Mike at the last minute and tells him he can’t make the meeting, tells Mike he’s going to have to go collect the new ‘shipment’ by himself, Mike shouts at him for a good ten minutes about the chances of dying during a drug deal being greater than the chances of dying on death row, “in Texas, Trevor. Texas,” before finally sighing into the phone, and saying, “Okay.”

There’s an answering silence on the other end of the phone that goes on longer than Mike’s strictly comfortable with, and his sense of foreboding only grows when Trevor clears his throat and mutters, “Be careful, Mikey,” more roughly than Mike’s heard him talk outside of screaming matches and sex.

Still, it’s Trevor asking, Trevor saying he has to go, so when the time comes, Mike goes.

---

When it turns out the new shipment is being delivered by undercover cops, Mike’s not even surprised.

Doesn’t stop them from catching him, though.

 

part two; so we wouldn’t be so young, and tragic

Mike uses his one phone call on Trevor, because he’s actually that stupid, but then Jenny’s the one who answers, so maybe he’s not so stupid after all.

“Jesus Christ, Mike! What is going on? Trevor came here like an hour ago in an absolute panic, shouting at me that we had to get away, telling me to pack my bags and get in the car with him, and he wouldn’t tell me what was wrong or where you were, and I’ve been calling your house, but I didn’t want to worry your Gram, so I always hung up when you didn’t answer and--”

“Jenny, breathe.”

He listens, for awhile, as she does just that, and the sound of it makes Mike feel calmer than he thinks he has any right being, given the situation.

“What happened?” She asks again, quieter, once they’re breathing in unison.

“I was - I can’t really talk about it, not here, but I’m in a police station.”

“You’re where?” The thing is, she doesn’t sound frantic, or shocked. She sounds pissed.

“The police station. A police station, I guess. I’m not really sure, actually.” It’s hard to think of anything past the moment one of cops handcuffed him and started reading him his rights, just before shoving Mike roughly into the back of the cop car.

“It was Trevor, wasn’t it?” She asks, her voice a kind of scary calm Mike’s never heard before.

He hasn’t been letting himself think it, not that, not now, and so Mike says, “Jenny, it wasn’t his fault. I mean, aside from giving me an offer I should have refused. It could just as easily have been him.” Mike has to believe this. He does believe this.

But Jenny snorts, low and venomous, and she says, “I don’t think so.”

“Why not?” Mike asks, wondering distantly how long this one phone call thing is allowed to go on, wondering if anyone has told his Gram yet. Probably not. If Jenny hasn’t, there isn’t anyone who would. All he’s said to the cops who’ve tried to interrogate him is that he wants a lawyer.

“Because we - I told him...” She drifts off for a long time, and Mike can imagine her, sitting cross-legged on her bed, chewing anxiously on her bottom lip.

“Jenny. What happened.”

“It was yesterday! We were having lunch, he stopped by my work,” Jenny’s been temping in an office all summer, “We went for a walk by the water, and I told him I didn’t want to be his girlfriend anymore.”

Somehow, this shocks Mike more than the fact that he’s currently standing in a holding cell.

No one’s ever accused him of having his priorities straight.

“Fuck, Jenny, why would you say that?” If this is about to become a break-up speech, it’s the worst timing Mike’s ever heard of.

“I didn’t mean it like that! He took it all wrong, and things got so crazy, the things he was saying, Mike, you wouldn’t even have recognized him. He wasn’t Trevor at all - except. Oh god, Mike, if he did this--”

“What did you mean, then, Jenny?” Mike interrupts, feeling almost zen, now, like, of course. Of course he’s in jail, but the more pressing concern is still Trevor and Jenny’s relationship drama. It’s almost comforting, in a way.

“We’re all supposed to be living together next year. Properly, the three of us together, I thought. I hoped. So it just seemed stupid, dishonest, to stay like we’ve always been. To let everyone think I’m just Trevor’s girlfriend, and you’re just his best friend. Like you’re not so much more than that to both of us.”

It’s everything he’s ever wanted to hear, but not from her, not this way. “And Trevor freaked out?”

“Pretty much.”

And then suddenly he couldn’t make the pick-up. Jesus.

Mike feels the world drop out from under his feet, a bottomless roar of fear and loss echoing in his head, but he takes a breath and tries to shut it down, to lock those feelings away, like he has every other time Trevor’s let him down.

Except Trevor letting him down doesn’t usually land Mike in prison, so his normal coping strategy turns out to be less effective than usual.

He tries to fake it, though, because he doesn’t know how to do anything else.

“Look, Jenny, I’m sure it’s just a coincidence, Trevor’s an idiot, but he’s not - he wouldn’t--”

“Don’t you dare forgive him for this, Mike,” Jenny snaps, and Mike is choked by the finality in her voice. “Don’t you dare. But, it doesn’t matter what he did, because I’m going to help you - my dad’s best friend is a partner in this really big firm, they’ll help you, I know it. I won’t let this happen to you, Mike. I won’t let Trevor ruin your life.”

“Jenny--”

But she’s already gone, hung up the phone, and Mike is left standing alone, wondering if he’ll ever see either of them again.

---

He spends a sleepless night pacing in the holding cell with three individuals of dubious odor and attire, each brandishing many a homemade tattoo, and then in the morning, a guard comes and tells Mike his lawyer is here to see him.

He’s led into an interview room and left there alone for ten minutes before a man bursts in with the best suit and sharpest grin Mike’s ever seen.

“My name is Harvey Specter. I'm a partner at Pearson Hardman.”

He holds out his hand to Mike, and Mike takes it warily, somehow not surprised when it turns out Specter has a really good grip.

He’s unsettled, even more so than what has become normal for the past forty-eight hours, but still, Mike’s never been good at thinking before he speaks, so he just blurts, “Pearson Hardman doesn’t take criminal cases.”

“Well, not normally, no, but,” Specter stops himself, tilting his head curiously, like he’s sizing Mike up and is surprised by what he’s discovered. “How did you know that?”

Mike shrugs. “I read.”

“You read?”

“Yeah.”

“What do you read?” Specter’s tone is indulgently bemused, and there’s a strange spark in his eye.

“Lots of things. The paper, in this case. Your firm has been in the news seventeen times in the past two months alone, and none of those instances involved criminal law. You specialize in finance, corporate buyouts and mergers, protecting the rich and defending corporations.”

“We also do pro bono work, and sometimes that can include criminal cases. Like yours. And it was sixteen.”

Mike shakes his head. “No it wasn’t.”

Specter raises an eyebrow, and Mike sits up straighter and rattles off every mention, whether it be a high profile case, or a one line reference to the firm’s dealings, finishing with, “And last week, Louis Litt brokered a deal with Gemini Development for fifty-two million.”

Specter snorts. “Louis doesn’t count.”

“Is he on the payroll?”

Specter nods, but manages to make it look sarcastic, which Mike has to admit is pretty impressive.

“Then it counts,” Mike concludes, with a note of defiant triumph that is, admittedly, totally inappropriate for the situation.

But Specter smiles, like this is exactly the kind of thing they should be discussing, and sits down at the table across from Mike with a satisfied air.

“Regardless of our usual choice of clients, you’ve been taken on at the behest of one of our most respected senior partners, and that means I’m going to make sure we win.”

“So, you don’t actually care about me, is that what you’re saying?” Mike asks, a mix of incredulous and resentful.

Specter grins, and says, “Glad you’re keeping up.”

---

They talk for a couple hours, going over the details of Mike’s case, and Specter interjects a lot of sarcastic remarks about Mike’s intelligence, taste in friends, general attitude, and life choices. He’s as far as Mike can imagine from what he expects a lawyer to be, particularly one doing pro bono work on a case like his, but Specter keeps insisting he’s just here because he wants to make a good impression with the partners, because Mike’s lucky enough to know Jenny.

“Your girlfriend may be the only thing you’ve got going for you right now, but at least she’s gotten you me by proxy,” Harvey concludes, once they’ve gone over all the other details of the case, after Mike has refused exactly seven times to tell Harvey where Trevor is or anything else substantive about him.

Still, Mike pinches the bridge of his nose and says, “She’s not my girlfriend.”

Specter raises his eyebrows skeptically, but just says, “Well, whatever your relationship, she’s the one you have to thank for this, and trust me, you’re going to want to thank her.”

“And if you get me out of this sometime in the next decade or two, then maybe I’ll even get to do it in person.”

Specter smirks, the way he has to all Mike’s little digs and moments of defiance, but then shakes his head, looking serious for the first time.

“Your test scores indicate genius level intelligence, and in the past hour, you’ve kept up with me, which I find even more surprising. Now, I know you said you needed the money because your grandmother got sick, but with all that intelligence, you really couldn’t think of a less stupid way to get it?”

“Stupid?” Mike scoffs, wondering if there’s a point far enough past incredulous where the shit Specter says to him will eventually start making sense. “You don’t think the illegality is the more pressing concern?”

Specter gives him a look indicating that Mike’s completely missed the point. “I can make this go away. I’m waiting for you to convince me I should.”

There’s a confidence in Specter’s voice that makes Mike’s heart race, like this could actually be something he gets out of, like maybe this isn’t the end of everything, but he forces himself to calm down, to not get ahead of himself. Or be foolish enough to put his trust in someone he barely knows, and, more importantly, someone who has been spending the short time they have known each other emphasizing the point that he doesn’t actually give a shit about Mike.

Still, it’s not like he’s going to turn down that offer, illusory though it may be. “What am I supposed to say? And how would you even do that? They caught me, I’m guilty.”

“Never admit guilt,” Harvey chides him, a disapproving little frown forming at the side of his mouth. “And what you’re supposed to say is that you accept how monumentally stupid this entire situation is, and that it’s never going to happen again.”

“That’s it? You just want me to promise I’ll never do it again? Like, a pinkie swear or something?” Mike laughs a little wildly, head shaking. “What kind of a lawyer are you?”

Harvey grins, obnoxious and wide. “The best.”

---

Specter leaves with an enigmatic flourish, but three hours later, Mike is given an ankle bracelet, a plastic baggie containing his personal effects, and is told he’s free to go. Within a hundred mile radius of the police station, that is.

---

His Gram is waiting for him outside the station, and it’s worse than anything, the way he can’t look at her, the way she shakes her head and says, “Oh, Michael,” when he finally does. It’s worse than the moment he realized, just a second too late, that the guys delivering the drugs had to be cops, that their shoes were all wrong and their smiles too satisfied. Worse than realizing he was about to get arrested for trying to buy ten grand worth of weed. Worse than being shoved into the cop car, worse than spending the night in prison, worse even than realizing Trevor was probably the reason he was there.

He’s disappointed her before, but never like this, and they don’t even speak on the subway home.

---

She makes him dinner, when they get back to the apartment, moving about deftly in the small space. She’s almost fully recovered from the ‘episode,’ now, and something tense loosens inside Mike, just a little, watching that.

No matter what it took, no matter what things he had to do, Mike helped make that recovery happen. He may regret everything else about going into business with Trevor, but he can’t bring himself to regret that.

He would never say that he did it for her, never aloud, but his Gram says it for him, once they’re sitting down to eat.

“I know I scared you this year, Michael. I know it’s been hard, and that you were trying your best to make it better. But this isn’t the way. It can’t be the way for you, not if you want half a hope of having any decent kind of future. And if you want to do something for me, do that, take care of yourself, be good to yourself. That’s all I want for you. Just try, and let me worry about the rest for once, how about that?”

He has to close his eyes and just breathe for a really long time, but eventually, Mike is able to look into her eyes and say, “Okay, Gram. I promise I’ll try.”

---

When he gets inside his room a few hours later, the lights are off, and Trevor is sitting on Mike’s bed waiting for him.

Mike is too numb, too exhausted, to feel either anger or surprise. He ignores the spark of something dangerously close to relief.

Trevor is on his feet in an instant, rushing towards Mike like it’s still his right, hugging him and saying, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Mike.”

Mike stands limp, but unresisting, in Trevor’s arms, until he has to screw his eyes shut and step away before he says something stupid like, “It’s okay.”

It’s not. And if Specter’s not as good as he says he is, it might never be again.

He’s silent, staring at Trevor’s feet because he can’t stand the thought of what might be showing on Trevor’s face. He’s not ready to hate Trevor, not even now, and he can’t look into Trevor’s eyes and know that he should.

Trevor takes a half-step closer to Mike again, but Mike wraps his arms around himself and backs away, stopping Trevor in his tracks.

“I didn’t know, I swear,” Trevor promises, his voice taking on an even more desperate quality. “I had no idea they’d be cops. I thought... I don’t know. I though maybe they’d be pissed I sent you instead of coming myself, maybe they’d give you a bit of a hard time, but that’s all. Mike, you have to believe me.”

Mike releases a ragged laugh. “Believe what? That you meant to send me to a beat down instead of jail? That’s your big apology?”

Trevor has the audacity to smile sheepishly, and it should make Mike angry, it should, but instead, what resolve he’s managed to scrape together softens, threatening to slip away entirely. “Not my best work, huh?”

Impossibly, Mike laughs, a real one, this time, although there’s still an edge of hysteria to it. This would be monumentally cruel, if Trevor was capable of that kind of forethought. Instead, it’s just brute bad luck and an admittedly wide mean streak. He knows that about Trevor already. He can handle that.

“Not so much, no.”

Trevor looks at him, then, clear-eyed and utterly serious. “What can I do? I’ll turn myself in, maybe they’ll--”

“No,” Mike interrupts harshly. “There’s no reason for us both to be in this mess.” It’s the practical thing, he tries to tell himself, but that’s not really why Mike says no. Deep down, it’s because he doesn’t want to know if the promise will ring hollow if he says yes.

“Then what, Mike? What can I do?”

Trevor is edging closer to Mike once more, and this time, he lets Trevor come. This time, Mike meets Trevor half-way, and when they kiss, they do it stone-cold sober, with their eyes wide open.

---

Trevor’s gone in the morning, leaving Mike with bruises on his hips and the memory of Trevor’s voice whispering in his ear, long after Mike had begun feigning sleep.

“You’re the best thing that ever happened to me. I’m sorry I was the worst thing that ever happened to you.”

 

 

 

part three; the most tender place in my heart is for strangers

Harvey’s only officially been working at Pearson Hardman for an hour before Jessica calls him into her office and says, “Congratulations, your first case.”

She hands him a file that he immediately leafs through, looking up at Jessica incredulously once he’s absorbed the relevant details.

“And we’re taking this case pro bono?”

“That’s right.”

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the point of doing pro bono work to make the firm look good in the eyes of the general public?”

“It is.”

Harvey sighs. “Okay, so explain to me when exactly getting a white kid off the hook for drug trafficking became something that would help the firm’s image?”

“It hasn’t. But the kid’s girlfriend is the god-daughter of Greg Finch,” one of their senior partners, “and he wants the situation dealt with. So go meet with him, figure out a way to spin the situation, innocent or not, and make sure that when you win, it still looks like Pearson Hardman is a champion for justice in the community.”

“I love it when you ask so little of me.”

Jessica doesn’t smile, she just crosses her arms and looks imposing, which Harvey has to admit is not at all a bad look on her.

“Win the case, Harvey. That’s what I hired you for.”

He tips an imaginary hat, and catches the slight twitch of a repressed smile on her lips.

“Yes ma’am.”

---

He goes to meet with Jenny - the girlfriend slash god-daughter - first, because she’s the reason he got this assigned this case, and as far as Harvey’s concerned, she’s the partner’s concern, so she’s the real client.

She’s beautiful in a soft, wounded kind of way, and shocks him with the conviction in her voice, the steely tone she uses to beg Harvey to help Mike, and the way the plea comes out sounding like an order Harvey might actually want to follow.

--

Harvey’s determination to win the case skyrockets to unprecedented new heights when he meets Mike Ross. He’s impressed immediately, which never happens, and after an hour of discussing the particulars of his case with Mike, Harvey’s alarmed to discover he’s categorically opposed to the idea of seeing this kid rot in jail. He finds himself wanting to win, not for himself, which is usually where he starts, not for the senior partner he wants to impress, not even for the sweetly sad Jenny, but for Mike himself.

Hearing Mike talk about Trevor, his alleged best friend and erstwhile drug partner, makes Harvey’s skin crawl, and he knows he’s projecting, but knowing that does nothing to stop it from happening. He hears the misplaced loyalty and affection in Mike’s voice, and has to bite the inside of his cheek to stop himself from interrupting Mike and telling him to shut up and get a clue, because no friend would betray him like Trevor did, no friend would put himself so consistently first.

With great difficultly, he manages to largely side-step the Trevor situation, beyond a few unsuccessful attempts to get Mike to admit that Trevor was the ring-leader behind their little operation, or that he was also responsible for planning the bust Mike got caught in the middle of. In lieu of pressing where it really hurts, Harvey settles for passive-aggressive needling. Not his most professional choice, but there’s turning out to be nothing normal about this case, not for him, and at this point he’s struggling just to keep up.

“Your test scores indicate genius level intelligence, and in the past hour, you’ve kept up with me, which I find even more surprising. Now, I know you said you needed the money because your grandmother got sick, but with all that intelligence, you really couldn’t think of a less stupid way to get money?”

“Stupid? You don’t think the illegality is the more pressing concern?”

Harvey frowns. “I can make this go away. I’m waiting for you to convince me I should.”

Mike’s eyes bug out a little, but he checks himself quickly. “What am I supposed to say? And how would you even do that? They caught me, I’m guilty.”

“Never admit guilt,” Harvey corrects immediately, momentarily abandoning the growing admiration for Mike he’d been trying his best to ignore anyway. “And you’re supposed to say that you accept how monumentally stupid this entire situation is, and that it’s never going to happen again.”

“That’s it? You just want me to promise I’ll never do it again? Like, a pinkie swear or something?” Mike laughs incredulously, shaking his head. “What kind of a lawyer are you?”

Harvey grins. “The best.”

Mike scoffs, and Harvey finds himself delighted instead of annoyed by it. The annoyance catches up a second later, because seriously, what’s with this kid, doesn’t he know where he is and what’s on the line? Except, if he’s honest, the fact that Mike refuses to kowtow or suck up to Harvey, despite the obvious power differential, despite Harvey being Mike’s only god damn hope, only ingratiates the kid to him more.

He’s got balls, of a calibre Harvey typically only assigns to himself, and what Mike grossly lacks in street sense and taste in friends, has the potential to be made up for in raw intellect and with some much needed guidance.

“Is that why you got stuck with my case? Cause you’re the best?” Mike mocks. Actually mocks. From across the wrong side of the table in the middle of an interrogation room.

Kids today.

“Point of fact, it is. I got this case because they trust me to win it. And I will. I’ll do one better, actually, I’ll make it so we don’t even have to go to trial. But first you have to show me it’s worth it.”

Mike shakes his head, and then holds out his pinkie, a wicked spark of challenge in his eye.

Harvey laughs, but swats his hand away. “I’ll take a verbal contract.”

Mike sobers, and then looks at Harvey head-on, one hand over his heart, and says, “I, Mike Ross, accept how monumentally stupid this entire situation is. And I swear, by the power invested in me by Harvey Specter, that it will never happen again.”

---

Once he’s extracted Mike’s promise, and with more reluctance than he’s comfortable analyzing, Harvey leaves Mike in a cell at the precinct, while he pursues channels of varying legality to attempt to secure Mike’s release.

Going to court is not an option, even though he knows he could win. A face and a story like Mike’s would play beautifully in front of a jury, never mind the earnest, remorseful way he has of talking, the big-eyed sincerity he seems to exude naturally. It’d be a cakewalk, but it’s more of a risk to the firm, and it would go on Mike’s record. Better to have the charges dropped entirely, to make this thing go away for good.

He flits in and out of the office, calling in favors where he’s comfortable, straining to keep the process out of Cameron’s purview, while still working his connections at the D.A’s office as best he can.

He’s always had a talent for deception and subtlety, but somehow this has never applied where Donna is concerned. Not surprisingly, then, she finds out what Harvey’s up to almost immediately, storming into his office with her hands on her hips.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Harvey shifts guiltily in his seat, half-wishing she didn’t know him as well as she does, but taking it back immediately, even just in his head, because he knows he’d be lost without Donna. He’ll even tell her so, occasionally, when they’re both drunk or need it enough.

“I’m working my case. I’m winning it.”

“Do you know the kind of chatter I’ve heard about your shenanigans?”

“Chatter? On your freaky network of all living and dead secretaries?”

“Assistants, ass.” He knows, and she knows he knows. It’s part of their thing, at this point, to needle at both sides. “And yes. Word on the street,” she pointedly ignores his snort, “is that you’re practically offering to sell your soul to get this Mike Ross kid off the hook. So, I’m asking again, what the hell do you think you’re doing?”

Harvey sighs, smoothing his tie and standing up.

“I’m trying to help him. To give him a second chance.”

She doesn’t budge an inch, arms still crossed, face still a mask of stern disapproval. “Why? What’s so special about him?”

Harvey has to look away to answer. “I think I... like him. I think I’m like him.”

“Which one is it?”

Harvey shrugs. “Both? You should have seen him the day we met, Donna. Cracking jokes and giving me lip, not showing a trace of fear. He isn’t some hardened criminal, it’s not that, he’s not street tough. He’s just... strong. But he’s lost. He has next to no one, and worse, he’s gotten himself convinced it’s all he deserves. I want to convince him otherwise.”

Harvey sees comprehension flash in Donna’s eyes, and for his money, he’d bet she’s probably just gotten the situation figured out better than Harvey has himself.

“You’re not him, Harvey,” she says, voice still hard and uncompromising.

Harvey meets her disapproving glare with another sigh. “But I could have been. If I hadn’t had help, if I hadn’t had Jessica, and you. I could have been just like him.”

Donna’s glare softens, but she still says, “That doesn’t mean you have to do this.”

Harvey squares his shoulders, looking away from her and out onto the city, so many floors below.

“Yes, it does.”

---

It takes a week to get everything sorted, and Harvey doesn’t have time to visit Mike, although he did post Mike’s bail at the end of the first day, and knowing Mike’s been safely released into his grandmother’s custody helps Harvey breathe a little easier along the way.

Talking to the cops who arrested Mike, and dealing with the A.D.A handling Mike’s case actually only takes three days, but the other two are spent tracking down Mike’s deadbeat of a best friend.

He’s surprisingly difficult to find for an idiot eighteen-year-old, and when the first words out of Trevor’s mouth are, “Is Mike okay?” it just makes Harvey hate the kid more.

“No. Mike’s about to go to prison for a very long time,” not technically true, but whatever gets the job done. “I can prevent that, but whether or not I do depends on you.”

Trevor pulls himself up, straightening his shoulders, and out of the corner of his eye, Harvey can almost catch, just for a second, a glimmer of what Mike must see in him. “I’ll do anything.”

Harvey nods, not letting the triumph show on his face, and explains the situation in a clipped, emotionless voice, finishing by handing Trevor a one-way bus ticket and remarking that Montana is supposed to be lovely this time of year.

He personally escorts Trevor to Port Authority and then physically walks Trevor onto the bus, and is grudgingly impressed when Trevor turns to him at the last minute to say, “Don’t tell him I did this for him, okay. Make it sound like I just bailed.” He shrugs. “I’d already be long gone, anyway, except I’ve been trying to convince Jenny to come with me. So, just. Just don’t tell him, alright? He’ll get it all mixed up like I’m,” Trevor shakes his head, cutting himself off. “Tell him I just left, and that I didn’t look back.”

Harvey nods, knowing this is the one promise to Trevor he’ll actually be willing to keep.

---

Once Mike’s record is expunged, Harvey calls in one last favor to have him taken back to the station to be ‘processed.’

He lets Mike stew in an interview room for a couple hours, handcuffed to a table, before finally making his dramatic entrance.

“The charges have been dismissed, you’re free to go.”

Mike stares up at Harvey with his hands still chained to the table, suspicion and disbelief clear on his face.

“I’m free to go? How the hell did you manage that?”

Harvey grins, noting the awe buried under the fear and anger in Mike’s voice. “I’m just that good, now come on, let’s go.”

Mike rolls his eyes and rattles his chains a little, and Harvey shakes his head and steps back, letting the guard past to unlock Mike’s cuffs.

Mike stands uncertainly, rubbing his left wrist and still gaping at Harvey, and he has to put a hand on Mike’s shoulder and steer him bodily out of the precinct.

He takes Mike across the street to a diner, and they sit on opposite ends of a cherry red booth, staring at each other.

Harvey orders them both food when the server comes, and Mike just blinks at her as if he’s never seen another human being in his life.

Alone again, Harvey has work to keep his hands clenched on his lap, fighting to reach out and catch Mike’s own hands, which keep moving, fluttering nervously from his lap to the table, fiddling with his cutlery, drawing shapes in the condensation on his glass.

“So that’s really it?” Mike finally asks, two thirds into his burger. When the food arrived, he stared at it warily for a good ten minutes before picking up the first fry, but after that one bite, Mike fell upon the rest like it was his last meal.

“That’s really it. The charges have been dropped, you won’t even have an arrest record. You can move on with your life.” It’s actually somewhat embarrassing how many strings he’d had to pull to make it happen, strings, favors, and the delivery of more than one passionate speech about Mike’s potential, and his grandmother, and how he was mainly guilty of having terrible taste in friends. But Harvey is certainly not going to tell Mike any of that.

“What about Trevor?” Mike asks quietly, and Harvey carefully keeps the flinch off his face.

“Trevor’s gone.”

Mike’s eyes widen, and he jumps halfway out of his seat. Harvey’s hand shoots out without his conscious approval, clamping down on Mike’s shoulder and yanking him back into his seat.

“What did you do to him?” Mike hisses, hunching mutinously, ready to spring if Harvey says the wrong thing.

Donna’s warnings aside, he hasn’t let himself look seriously at his motives or reasoning behind the driving need to get Mike out, but now, sitting across from what is essentially a shell-shocked teenager he barely knows, the past week comes crashing down around him, and Harvey’s left staring wonderingly at the metaphorical rubble. He can’t believe he’s let himself get so deep into this. It’s so far past the point of not-caring it’s frankly ridiculous.

Still, “I put him on a bus.”

“A bus to where?”

“I’m not telling you that.”

“You can’t just do that! Trevor didn’t even get caught, you have no legal recourse against him, and you can’t just send someone away to... god knows where, against their will!”

“Who said it was against his will?”

Mike’s shoulders slump, and he looks away from Harvey for the first time since the conversation began. “He wouldn’t do that. He’d find a way to say goodbye to me first.”

“Setting you up for that drug bust is the only goodbye you’re going to get from him,” Harvey snaps, before sighing and pinching the bridge of his nose when Mike can’t quite bite back the low moan of grief that escapes his lips.

“Look, this is how it is. I read people - it’s what I do. And that means I can tell that, although you may have the worst taste in friends I’ve ever seen, you’re basically a good kid. I know why you were mixed up with the drugs and I know that, if Trevor is gone, you won’t do it again. Trevor, on the other hand, is guilty, of more than I can prove, and he won’t stop. Neither of you will, not if he sticks around. Now, I may have been able to bend the rules and get you off the hook, but I couldn’t do that in good conscience and leave the situation with Trevor as is. So that’s the deal, like it or not. You’re free, but Trevor’s gone.” For good, if Harvey has any say in it, and the thought that there’s no valid or ongoing reason why he should is far more difficult to stomach than it has any right to be.

“You can’t - you don’t even know us! You can’t just come in and make decisions about our lives like this.” Mike draws in a deep breath, obviously trying to calm himself down. “Don’t, don’t get me wrong, I am grateful - I am so grateful for everything you’ve done for me - but Trevor isn’t as bad as you’re saying. He’s not--”

“This morning, I found you chained to a table. Last night, if it wasn’t for the bail my firm posted, you would have been sleeping behind bars. Trevor did that. Now, tell me exactly what I’m missing, here, that makes you think I don’t understand exactly what kind of a friend he’s been to you.”

“He was trying to help me.”

Harvey shakes his head. “Now it’s time for you to help yourself.”

---

He drops Mike off at his apartment, but before he lets Mike out of his car, Harvey says, “I’m going to be looking in on you every couple of weeks. We’ll start with regular bi-weekly check-ins and go from there, see how you’re managing.”

Mike stares at him incredulously. It’s a very familiar look, at this point. “What?”

“Did I stutter?”

Mike’s laughter is shocked out of him, too loud and messy, and he shakes his head, muttering, “No, dad. What about you.”

Harvey grins, and for a moment, they’re finally on the same page. He’ll tolerate anyone with a suitable appreciation for the classics, and not that he advertises it all over town, but as far as Harvey’s concerned, John Hughes’s premiere opus on teen angst qualifies as such.

It’s good to grin at each other, to share a moment of simple camaraderie. It feels better than it has any right to, actually, but then the moment’s gone as quickly as it came, and Mike shifts nervously in his seat, asking, “So, I mean, are you serious? You’re actually going to check up on me?”

Harvey nods. He hadn’t really thought any of this through before he started speaking, but it’s important that he looks like he knows what he’s doing. It’s important that Mike thinks of him as someone in control, someone reliable. “Think of me like a parole officer.”

“Wasn’t the whole point of getting my charges dismissed to avoid that sort of thing?”

“The ‘whole point’ of getting your charges dismissed was to avoid you wasting any more of your untapped and thus far undeserved potential. I don’t want to see you behind bars, but I don’t want to let you fall back into your old ways, either. You have the chance to do something truly great with your life. With a mind like yours, who knows what you could accomplish, what kind of good you could do. But you’re not ready to be left on your own yet, and your grandmother’s already put up with enough of your crap.”

He thinks Mike’s going to fight him, because Mike always fights him, and even though a week is a short time to characterize as always, it still feels true.

Instead, Mike sits up straighter, unbuckling his seat-belt with undue determination. He turns, facing Harvey, and says, “Okay.”

“Okay?”

Mike nods. “Yeah. I mean, I do kind of owe you my freedom, so.”

“You owe Jenny your freedom.”

Mike snorts. “Right. Because you only care about her god-father. You know, you should really try peddling that I-don’t-care schtick onto someone you haven’t just single-handedly gotten out of jail.”

Harvey stays quiet. He’s not going to admit it out loud, but Mike’s right. It’s not like he has much of a leg to stand on in that area, at least not where Mike’s concerned.

Eventually, Mike sighs, suddenly looking more vulnerable than Harvey’s ever seen him, not even that first day when they met in a police interrogation room.

“Trevor came to see me,” Harvey tenses immediately. “It was the first night after I got released. After you got me released. I went home and he was waiting for me. Even after everything, I still let him fuck me. I still wanted him to, still wanted whatever he’d give me.” Mike shakes his head, glancing out the window and then back at Harvey, a bleak, desolate look in his eyes.

“And if he came back right now, I don’t know that I’d be able to tell him no. If I got him back, I don’t think I’d be able to make him leave again. So, yeah. Maybe I could use a little extra supervision. But please, let’s call it something other than ‘parole officer,’ because that’s just embarrassing for both of us.”

Harvey chuckles, and says, “How about sponsor?” The wounds from Cameron are too fresh to use the word ‘mentor,’ but this is as close as Harvey can get. It’s still all a little too close for comfort, but that seems to be the nature of Mike.

Mike seems to like it, anyway, smiling in a wry, world-weary kind of way, and agreeing, “My sponsor for a Trevor-free tomorrow. Yeah. Let’s go with that. But, for the record, you might want to tone down the dickishness.”

There’s enough seriousness in the suggestion for Harvey to restrain his trademark smirk and just ask, “Why’s that?”

Mike shrugs. “As you’re so fond of pointing out, I have an unfortunate tendency to form unhealthy emotional attachments to assholes.”

Harvey grins, leans across Mike to open his door, and then shoves him unceremoniously out of the car.

“I think I’ll take my chances.”

 

part four; All the loves we had, all we ever knew, did they fill me with so many secrets
that keep me from loving you

Mike moves into an apartment Harvey found for him in South Harlem at the end of August. Jenny’s decided to move into one of the NYU dorms, and isn’t answering his calls, anyway. So that leaves Mike alone, except for Harvey, who tries to hire him movers at first, but later even he has to admit it’s an entirely unnecessary extravagance given the amount of stuff Mike has.

Harvey ends up helping Mike move himself, alarming Mike by being both able and willing to lug his many boxes of books (basically the only thing other than clothes that Mike has to bring with him) up the four flights to his bachelor apartment.

Harvey’s kindness is always what throws Mike off the most, the rare times when he doesn’t hide his sweetness behind aloof indifference and smug superiority wrapped in sarcastic comments and snide looks. They’ve been meeting regularly all summer, most Sunday afternoons, to have coffee and talk. Usually they talk about Mike, and the hopes for his life that Mike always kept quiet, generally even to himself. The dreams he kept buried underneath the all-consuming need to be with Trevor and Jenny, to do whatever he had to in order to stay with them.

Thanks to Harvey and his life-coaching, which is Mike’s new favorite and most sarcastic way of framing their interactions, he’s got a job in the city (Starbucks this time, going corporate), a place to live, and genuine plans to apply to colleges for early admission into the spring semester. His grades were all over the place, but he scored a 2400 on his SATs, and along with his references from teachers, Harvey has promised to write an additional set of letters so menacingly complimentary that no school will dare not let Mike in.

The apartment is on the subway line, and he should be able to make it back into Queens to visit his Gram in a little over an hour, not bad for NYC commuting on a good day, and she’s so proud of him, so happy with the changes Mike’s been able to make in his life, thanks to Harvey, that the distance isn’t even causing Mike too many pangs of guilt. Well, no more than he can live with, anyway. She’s been doing great, too, doesn’t even need a home-care worker, anymore.

The move itself only takes a couple hours, but it’s still hot as fuck in the city, and they’re both sweaty and exhausted by the time they get the last box of books up into Mike’s new place.

There’s a couch that Harvey insisted on buying and having delivered earlier that day, so they collapse on that, looking out onto the rest of the apartment, littered with boxes and garbage bags full of clothes.

Mike pushes his bangs further off his face, wiping the sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand.

Harvey looks at him, caught in the middle of making up his mind about something, and then announces decisively, “Beer. And pizza.”

Ten minutes later, they’re back up in the apartment carrying a box of pizza and a six-pack.

“I love this neighborhood,” Mike says happily, digging into the pizza with relish.

“It’ll do,” Harvey allows.

Mike grins at him, shaking his head. There’s a bodega right on the corner, and a liquor store three buildings down from his apartment. Another block away, there’s a Duane Reade, and there’s a Fairway within easy biking distance as well.

“I should get you a TV,” Harvey mutters, probably talking to himself, making little plans the way he does, and Mike rolls his eyes.

“Alternatively, you should stop buying me stuff. Just a suggestion.”

Harvey shrugs like he’ll take it under advisement, and Mike smirks a little. God. He’s been spending way too much time around Harvey.

He picks up his beer and drains it, discarding it on one of the nearest boxes and reaching for another.

Harvey slaps his hand away, but Mike glares at him, and he relents.

“You’re already facilitating the delinquency of a minor, Harvey. Pretty much full time, actually, so why not just run with it?” Mike reflects, a little light-headed, now, from finishing half a beer in one go. It’s been awhile.

“Have another piece of pizza,” is all Harvey says.

They fall back into silence as they eat, but Mike only half listens to Harvey’s instructions, eating more, sure, but not enough to keep up with how much he’s drinking. Even in his wildest days, he never drank enough to build up much of a tolerance, and it starts to show after his third beer, when things start to sway and blur a little, and Mike suddenly feels empowered, bold.

He takes one last, long drink, and then, with a deep breath, puts his hand on Harvey’s leg.

Harvey jerks away from him instantly, moving across the couch so fast it makes Mike’s head spin.

He doesn’t give up, though, he’s in it now, he’s come this far, so he scrambles after Harvey, determined, and Harvey has to put his hand against Mike’s chest, hard, to block him from crawling into Harvey’s lap.

“No, Mike,” Harvey says firmly, and there are no discernible emotions in his eyes.

He means it, though, and Mike deflates, cheeks flaming with humiliation, and he slinks back as far away from Harvey as he can get.

“That’s not what this is about, Mike,” Harvey is saying, his voice soft and soothing, the way Mike’s heard him talk over the phone to spooked clients and, once, to his assistant Donna when something was happening with her parents. “You don’t owe me anything.”

Mike wants to laugh, wants to beg, wants to punch Harvey in his stupid, beautiful face, wants more than anything to lunge forward and kiss Harvey until he tells Mike what he really wants from him.

He settles for just yelling for awhile. “You say that, but you don’t operate that way! You’ve told me over and over that you don’t. And even if I didn’t believe that, which I kind of don’t, honestly, you still have to want something! Everyone wants something. If it’s not this, then what?”

“I told you - I don’t want to see you waste your potential, to throw your life down the drain, to--”

“Harvey, come on. There are lots of smart screw-ups out there. What makes me so special? What’s in it for you to do all this? Because if it’s the pleasure of my company, I’m telling you. I can do better than this,” he says, waving vaguely between them. “I may be a witty conversationalist, but you should see me suck a dick.”

Harvey winces, and it occurs to Mike that he has to brush up on his seduction skills. Evidently, waiting for Trevor to get high enough, or for Jenny to be either sad or drunk enough, hasn’t adequately prepared him for the likes of Harvey Specter.

“I’m sure you have many talents I’ve yet to experience,” Harvey placates him with an eye roll. “But that’s not what this is. You’re only eighteen. You just got out of a very complicated and destructive relationship. Set of relationships. I don’t date teenagers. And I certainly don’t exchange legal services and personal favors for sex. I don’t have to.”

And yeah, of course he doesn’t. He’s Harvey Fucking Specter, what the hell was Mike thinking?

Except, except, “So what the hell is this, then? Don’t just give me that bullshit about my potential again, Harvey, because that’s what it is. Bullshit. You can do better.”

“I want to help you, Mike. Isn’t that enough?” Harvey asks tiredly.

“How can it be? I’ve practically put my whole life in your hands, Harvey. I’ve trusted you - with my freedom, with my secrets. Everything there is to know abut me, you know. I gave you all that, because you helped me, and because I assumed eventually you’d let me help you in return. Or at least make it up to you, give something back.” He shrugs. “I don’t have much to offer, but I can at least make you feel good.”

Harvey closes his eyes. “There are lots of ways to do that, Mike.”

“Yeah, but this is only way I’m good at,” Mike says, trying to slide closer to Harvey again.

He glares at Mike sharply, stopping his movement, and says, “The fact that you think that, right there, is part of why I wanted to help you.”

“To rehabilitate me?” Mike frowns. “To build my self-esteem? Really?”

Harvey chuckles bitterly. “It sounds trite, but yes.”

“Okay. Great, you’re my fairy godmother. But, why? Why me?”

“I’m not getting into this with you, Mike. Just drop it.”

It’s not even an order, and Harvey’s all too-fond of giving those, so Mike should know. It’s a request, almost a plea, and that should be enough to make Mike stop, but he doesn’t, he just keeps on pressing, needing to know, thinking, maybe, that Harvey needs to tell him.

He does the only thing he can think of, the only thing left. He looks straight into Harvey’s eyes, and says, “Please.”

Harvey’s jaw twitches, a sure sign of his displeasure, but this time he doesn’t balk, or deflect, he just sighs, and says, “When I got assigned your case, it was my first at Pearson Hardman. I’d only been working there an hour.”

Mike nods, he’s looked Harvey up pretty extensively since then.

“Before that, I was with the D.A’s office. Years ago, Jessica Pearson plucked me out of the mail-room and kicked my ass into gear, got me out of a spiral so deep I couldn’t even see the way out anymore, and then she put me through Harvard.” Harvey speaks in a monotone, like he’s completely detached, like he’s talking about sometime else. “Once I graduated, she sent me to the D.A’s office to get court experience, and she said there was no one better to learn from than Cameron Dennis. And for the first two years, I thought she was right. Cameron is the smoothest talker you’ll ever meet, he’s charming, dedicated, brilliant, charismatic, and,” Harvey sighs, “he’s been suppressing evidence on his cases for years.”

Mike’s eyes bug out, and he blurts, “Is that why you left? You had a one hundred percent success rate in court, I read about you, and all the articles made it sound like you’d be a shoo-in for D.A yourself someday, so--”

“It’s why I left,” Harvey cuts him off shortly. “Donna helped me see what he was doing, how it couldn’t go on, or at least that I couldn’t be a part of it. But he was my mentor. He helped make me who I am today, the lawyer, and the man. Whatever else he’s done, I owe him for that. But I couldn’t stay and watch, couldn’t participate. We put away guilty men and women, but,” Harvey shakes his head. “It wasn’t worth it. So, I told Jessica I was ready, I’d learned enough, and she hired me on, like we’d always planned. But then I got your case. At first I thought it was ridiculous, defending some white kid for dealing drugs in his own community, selling to high schoolers and bored housewives, and doing it pro bono, no less. But then I talked to Jenny, and I met you, and you will absolutely, and under no circumstances, ever hear me say this again, so enjoy it, but you reminded me of myself. You impressed me, and you did it in the most unlikely set of circumstances. When you should have been frantic and lost and afraid, you were smart and cagey and loyal, and even if that loyalty was undeserved, it was still commendable. I met you, and I thought of how my life would have been, if I hadn’t gotten all the help I have, if I hadn’t had people like Jessica and Donna watching out for me, believing in me. I wanted you to have that. I wanted you to know you deserved it.”

“Jesus,” Mike breathes. “So wait, is Cameron like, your Trevor?” It’s a bizarre concept to try and wrap his head around, Harvey being vulnerable, Harvey needing someone and them daring to let him down.

But Harvey just laughs, a little hysterical and definitely at himself. “Yeah. I suppose so.”

Mike shakes his head, still struggling to take it all in. “Shit, dude,” Harvey rolls his eyes, but that’s to be expected, at this point. Doesn’t matter, anyway. Mike’s totally got his number, now.

He grins. “All this time, I was sure it had to be a kinky sex thing, but it turns out you’re just a big fluffy puppy with transference and a god-complex?” Not that he didn’t know about the god-complex before, but still.

“Relieved?” Harvey asks, smiling ruefully. Score another one for Mike’s campaign to get Harvey to display emotions other than smugness.

Still, Mike shakes his head, feeling more drunk than ever, but not from the alcohol, just from the rush of Harvey’s confession, the trust he’s shown in Mike by telling him making him want to be bold again. So he smiles, no artifice or agenda, and admits, “A little disappointed, actually,” and watches Harvey relax, just a little, the obvious tension in his shoulders and around his eyes diminishing a little.

“Well, buck up, Mike. There’s plenty more assholes in the sea.”

---

The next morning, Mike wakes up to banging on his door, and he stumbles half-dressed across the apartment, tripping over exactly three boxes before reaching the door.

When he opens it, it’s Harvey, and Mike really shouldn’t be surprised, no one else other than his Gram even has the address, but after last night, well. Mike was pretty much expecting not to see Harvey for awhile.

He flushes all over again, remembering his disastrous attempt at seduction, and then stares at his bare toes instead of looking at Harvey, recalling the confessions that followed. He still can’t believe Harvey told him any of that, never mind that he stuck around long enough to bother, or that he’s here again now.

Harvey makes an impatient noise that snaps Mike to attention, standing up straight and looking Harvey in the eye, and he gets a grimace and a cup of coffee for his efforts.

“Drink that,” Harvey says, and Mike does, tentatively at first, but then sucking it down greedily when he discovers the coffee is the perfect temperature.

They stand like that, in Mike’s doorway, while Mike guzzles coffee, for a couple minutes before Mike remembers himself and says, “Do you want to come in?”

Harvey snorts, “What hospitality,” but he follows Mike inside, locking the door behind them.

“What’s up?” Mike asks, feeling impossibly awkward, standing there in his jeans from last night and nothing else, with Harvey looking more out of place than Mike’s ever seen him.

“I’m here to make a couple things clear,” Harvey says briskly, suddenly all confidence and poise, shaking off his uncertainty like it wasn’t even there.

Mike nods. “I promise not to grope you again. I’m really sorry about that, I was a bit drunk. And in my defense, I really thought you wanted me to.” It had honestly seemed like the most likely scenario at the time, ridiculous as it seems now.

Harvey quirks an eyebrow, “It’s the fact that you thought I wanted you to that worries me. For whatever I did to give you that impression, and for not explaining things earlier,” he pauses, with an expression like he’s got a bad taste in his mouth, and then forces out, “I’m sorry. But now that everyone is on the same page, I want it understood that we will never speak of any of this again. Especially not anything I may or may not have told you about my time at the D.A's office. That was coerced out of me while under duress, and I want it stricken from the record, is that clear?”

Mike should give Harvey this win, he knows that, but if he backed down now, wouldn’t he just be betraying the part of himself that Harvey evidently liked in the first place?

So he does what comes naturally, scoffing and saying snarkily, “Right, because you don’t have emotions, and certainly not about other people. Wouldn’t want me thinking you care about me, or, god forbid, trust me a little.”

“Believe what you want, but if you can’t keep what happened last night to yourself, this ends. Right now.”

Fear winds itself tight around his insides, making it harder to breathe, but this is too important, Harvey is too important, and Mike can’t give up now. Harvey hasn’t given up on him, he can’t either.

“No.”

“No?”

“You heard me. I’m not putting up with any more of your crap, okay, Harvey? All this time, you’ve been helping me, but you have to let me help you, too. Not the way I thought, sure, but maybe there’s a better way, like you said you wanted for me. Well, sucks to be you, I guess, but now you get to reap the rewards of my increased self-esteem. And I’m telling you, all that ‘don’t care about people, just care about winning’ crap? It’s crap. And worse, it’s not your crap, is it? It’s Cameron’s.”

Harvey flinches, and his face hardens immediately afterwards, like he’s going to deny it, or say something cutting, something sharp enough to leave Mike bleeding on the floor while he makes his retreat, but Harvey’s better than that, stronger, and instead he says, “What makes you so sure?” not like the denial Mike was expecting, but a test. A chance for Mike to prove himself.

Mike’s got his answer ready. “Because you’re here. Would you really be, if you didn’t care? Would I be?”

Harvey says nothing, but his silence is confirmation enough. Mike takes a step towards him, his hands raised unthreateningly in the air. “He’s got his hooks in you, Harvey, just like Trevor’s got his hooks in me. Even if they’re not in our lives, they can still fuck with us. And if you’re as messed up as I am, you can’t help me unless you let me help you. The way I see it, if Cameron’s your Trevor, then I have to be your Harvey.”

“I am not as messed up as you,” Harvey protests immediately, looking almost comically offended.

Mike can’t help but smile. “But you know what I mean, right? You don’t want me to get dragged down by Trevor’s shit, and I don’t want you to give into Cameron’s douchebag programming. We can kick the habit together, what do you say?”

“I think this might be my worst idea yet, in relation to you, and that’s really saying something,” Harvey responds, eye rolling again, but he’s not saying no, he’s not leaving.

And when Mike holds his hand out, Harvey makes a sharp, frustrated sound, but then shoves his palm against Mike’s, shaking hands with the same fierce grip Mike remembers from their first meeting.

If they both hold on a little longer, this time, neither one of them feels the need to mention it.

---

Mike spends the next week getting settled in his new place, getting to know the area better and finishing up the paperwork for his new job, before he tries again to call Jenny. He’s only seen her once, since he was arrested, since Trevor left without a proper good-bye to either of them, and even then, it was only for a few minutes, and she barely looked at him.

He misses her, all the time, and it’s not like how he misses Trevor, but that doesn’t make it less painful.

He’s talked about it with Harvey, part of his sponsorship duties for a Trevor-free tomorrow, and while Harvey always allows that Jenny could still potentially be a positive part of Mike’s life, he’s never actively encouraged Mike to seek her out, either. Mike had always sort of assumed it was because Harvey was eventually planning on sleeping with Mike, but since that’s apparently not the case, Mike feels like he’s within his rights to at least try and see if Jenny wants him back in her life as much as he wants her back in his.

It takes seven tries for her to finally pick up her phone, and when she does, Mike opens with the apology he should have given her the last time they saw each other, and when she doesn’t say a word, he rushes right onto his gratitude for everything she did for him, for saving him and finding him Harvey.

He babbles for about ten minutes before finally running out of steam, and then they both stay on the line, just listening to the sound of each other breathing, until finally Jenny says, “What do you want, Mike?”

“I want to see you! I want... I want us to be close, again, to be together again.”

“Mike, we can’t. We can’t ever go back to what we were. If we were ever really anything at all.”

“Why not?”

“Because it will hurt too much.”

“Jenny, please, I love you,” Mike protests softly. It’s the first time he’s actually said those words too her in earnest, and from the way she sighs, Mike wonders if he’s held them in too long for them to have any meaning, now.

“No, you don’t.”

“Yes, I do.”

“No, you don’t.”

“Jenny!”

“Mike, believe me, I wish you did, but you don’t. It was never about Trevor, for me. It was about you. But you were already too in love with Trevor to notice. I let you believe he was the one I cared about, because I knew you couldn’t imagine anyone feeling differently, but it was never Trevor. It was always you. And you never once looked at me like you looked at him, like I looked at you. That’s how I know you don’t feel the same.”

Mike bows his head, wishing more than anything that what she’s saying isn’t true, that he could call her a liar and mean it, but he can’t. She’s right. She’s always been so much smarter than him, and he’s never done anything to deserve her.

“I’m sorry, Jenny,” he whispers brokenly, and she makes a soft sound, almost like she’s crying, but Mike knows better. Jenny’s tougher than that, tougher than him, than anyone he’s met, except maybe his Gram.

“I’m going to say good-bye, now, Mike,” she says, like it’s going to be the last time, and Mike feels the remaining piece of his heart that was still intact from Trevor break in half.

“Can I call you again, sometime?” He pleads, needing this to not really be the end, needing some part of this, some part of that life, to go on, even just the hope of it.

She’s silent for a long time, but she doesn’t hang up, and finally Jenny says, “Yeah. Sometime,” and then she’s gone.

---

He holds it together okay, that first day after talking to Jenny. He tells himself he should have seen it coming, should have known she’d want a clean break. To the best of his ability, he tries to entirely avoid thinking about the fact that he was so monumentally wrong about how she felt about him in first place.

The first day is easy enough, because it’s also his first shift at Starbucks, so he’s on his feet all day, busy talking to customers and trying to figure out the informal power structure amongst the other three baristas he’s working with.

That only lasts Mike until he gets home, though, and then he’s alone in his half-unpacked apartment, trying to fight off gnawing loneliness and grief that makes him want to reach for the shoebox under his bed, which contains the remainder of his and Trevor’s stash.

He tries having a beer, instead, but that just reminds him of Harvey, and it makes him feel worse, because Mike can’t think of all the good reasons Harvey had for pushing him away that night, he can only feel the sting of another rejection.

By eight, he caves, grinding the weed and packing a bowl on autopilot, and he can almost hear the ghost of Trevor’s voice in his ear, encouraging him, laughing at him fondly. Mike misses Trevor so deeply in that moment, his hands shake as he fumbles with the lighter, but he gets it eventually, lighting the bowl and inhaling, slow and steady, until he has to exhale or choke.

He calls Jenny two bowls in, and tells her he loves her over and over until she screams at him and hangs up.

It’s not his finest hour, but it might be even worse when he calls Harvey, half-crying, another bowl later.

Harvey listens for about thirty seconds before saying, “Twentn three minutes,” and hanging up.

Mike gets close to convincing himself it didn’t really happen by the time Harvey shows up.

“It’s been twenty seven minutes,” he says, taking a wild guess.

Harvey doesn’t even deign to snort or roll his eyes, he just inhales sharply, and starts rolling up his sleeves.

Ten minutes later, Mike’s stepping out of the shower Harvey shoved him into fully dressed. The water was cold, because Harvey is that much of a fucker.

“You’re the worst mentor ever,” he mutters spitefully at Harvey, as he passes him on his way towards putting on some dry clothes.

Harvey leaves him to it, turning his back to Mike, and doesn’t reply.

“This isn’t how weed works, you know,” Mike points out, once he’s changed.

Harvey turns back around, frowning. “Wishful thinking, then.”

It’s true that Mike is still mostly floating far above the situation, but he’s hyper-aware of it at the same time, feeling everything intensely, although he can’t be sure if any of the emotions are real and his own, and just heightened, or if they’re simply the product of the weed entirely.

“What the hell does work, then?” Harvey asks, looking extremely put out.

Mike finds it kind of adorable, and he tells Harvey so.

“Shut up, Mike,” Harvey says, casting a weary glance around the apartment.

“I just have to wait,” Mike says once he feels a suitable amount of time has passed under the ‘shut up’ order.

“That’s a terrible system.”

Mike shrugs. “If it helps at all, you’re definitely killing my buzz.”

Harvey smiles grimly. “I’ll take what I can get.”

---

Mike comes down a half hour or so later, still feeling not quite himself, but getting towards burnt out, and he’s clear-headed enough to want to curl up into a ball of regret around everything he’s done this evening, at least.

Harvey makes them coffee, despite the hour, and waits until Mike’s drank half a cup before asking, “What happened?”

Mike looks down at his hands, wrapped tight around the chipped mug. It’s one of the ones his Gram made him take from their apartment, and he can remember filling it with milk and dipping homemade cookies inside growing up.

“Jenny’s done with me. She wants me to leave her alone.”

Harvey looks momentarily surprised, but he covers it well. “That’s her choice,” he says, tone cautious, measuring.

“I know, I know,” Mike allows hastily, flapping a little bit. Harvey glares, and he stops. “I just. I wanted to keep this. Her. Just one piece of what my life used to be. And she was a good part, you know?”

“You can’t keep clinging to her because she’s reminds you of Trevor. It’s not fair to either of you.”

“It’s all I have,” he whispers miserably.

Harvey shakes his head, grim and determined.

“It’s not enough.”

---

Harvey puts him to bed a little while later, and Mike thinks he catches something almost like tenderness on his face, just for a second, but before he’s even sure, it’s gone, and Mike falls asleep, forgetting all about it.

---

In the morning, Harvey shocks Mike by still being his apartment, and then even more so by telling him he did the right thing.

“Excuse me?”

“Well, not with the smoking, obviously. Or calling Jenny - stop being a jackass. But calling me. That showed good judgement, or, at least better than average for you.” His tone makes it clear how well Mike would be doing if Harvey wasn’t grading on a considerable curve.

Still, “You’re congratulating me on asking you for help? Well, demanding it in a tearful and inebriated fashion? You?”

“The first one. And yes. I’ve heard it’s what friends do.”

Mike’s mind boggles at that one for a long minute before he can respond. “Friends, huh?”

Harvey smiles self-deprecatingly, which is a really strange look on him, and Mike finds he doesn’t like it. “Well, apparently I’m the worst mentor ever. Maybe I’m better at being a friend.”

Mike looks at him skeptically, quashing down the guilt over his comment from last night. He should have known better than to bring up Cameron like that, even as a joke. Or whatever it was.

“I don’t know. Have you ever actually had a friend before? Do you have references?”

Harvey shoves Mike a little in response, and Mike laughs and says, “You’re hired.”

---

After his shift ends later that day, Mike calls Jenny again. He apologizes for the previous night, and after a long silence, she agrees to meet with him for breakfast at Kitchenette the next morning.

He arrives early, knee bouncing nervously under the glass table, which possibly used to be a door, eyes fixed on the street outside.

Jenny’s ten minutes late, looking frazzled and uncertain, dwarfed in a sweater three or four times her size, piled over leggings, and a sundress he recognizes from the time he helped Trevor peel it off her on his seventeenth birthday. She isn’t wearing any make-up, and her hair is pulled into a messy side ponytail.

She’s so beautiful it makes his chest ache.

“Hi,” he says softly, as she slips into a miss-matched chair on the opposite side of the table.

She meets his eyes for a second, and then looks away.

“I’m sorry,” he says, needing to get it out right away, needing to say it in person, for once. “I”m sorry about last night--”

“Were you high?”

He bites his lip. “Yeah.”

“I thought you weren’t doing that anymore.” Technically, it had been part of his ‘parole’ agreement with Harvey not to.

“I wasn’t. But...” he shrugs. “Last night I did.”

“Because of me?”

Mike shakes his head sharply. “Because of me. It was my fault, my choice.”

She inhales deeply, but then nods, accepting this.

Encouraged, Mike presses onward. “But I’m not just sorry about last night, for calling, for putting you through that. I’m sorry about everything. I’ve been a jackass pretty much the entire time you’ve known me, and I don’t blame you for wanting nothing to do with me. But. I don’t want you to think, just because it was always Trevor first, for me, that I didn’t care about you. That I didn’t - that I don’t love you. I do,” he wants to desperately to reach across the table and take her hands, to touch her face and make Jenny look at him, but Mike restrains himself. “I love you, Jenny. And not because of Trevor. Because of you.”

She still doesn’t say anything, but when she looks at him, it feels to Mike like she’s actually seeing him again, not just looking past him, or searching in his eyes for something that isn’t there.

“And okay, I get why we can’t... date, or anything. I get why that can’t happen. But couldn’t we just, maybe, try, I don’t know. Being friends? I don’t want to lose you, Jenny. We’ve both already lost enough, haven’t we?”

“Don’t do that. Don’t use Trevor to try and get what you want from me. It’s not fair to either of us.”

“That’s funny, Harvey said kind of the same thing.”

She’s about to respond, when a server comes and gives her a menu and a glass of water. It’s an old glass jar, really, and she picks it up, smiling. It’s a different size and design than Mike’s.

“I like this place. Everything’s different.”

“Jenny--”

“I’m thinking, Mike.”

He shuts up, and settles to for watching her, being close.

By the time their food arrives, Jenny’s looking at him again, and when he burns his mouth on his pancakes, she gives him an automatic, sympathetic smile.

“We can try,” she says, once they’ve paid.

Mike searches her eyes, making sure this is something he can ask of her, needing to not be a selfish fuck, even just for that moment of searching, and when he finds a spark of hope and an undercurrent of trust, Mike throws his hands in the air and whoops, grinning and twirling around.

After a second of watching Mike, Jenny shakes her head, and starts laughing with him.

---

After that, sometimes, when she has a break in classes and Mike isn’t working a shift at the ‘bucks, he’ll meet Jenny for lunch near the NYU campus, and she’ll sit with her feet in his lap, letting him listen to the minutia of her life like it’s the secret to life, the universe, and everything.

On these lunches, Mike is almost able to squint, and pretend that it’s not just the two of them alone, but that Trevor’s there with them too, and everything’s exactly as it was.

---

Mike has a shift from two till ten PM, and during his break around six, he calls Harvey.

“How’s it going?”

“What? Mike, I’m at work, why are you calling me?”

“Just checking in with my good friend Harvey Specter. Wondering how your day’s going so far. Did you happen to have any non-winning related feelings today? Any emotions you’d like to share?”

“Mike,” Harvey says warningly.

“Harvey,” Mike replies, imitating his low register. “Come on, this is important. Think of this like, I don’t know, a drug test, except less invasive, and geared towards building mutual trust. Just tell me one nice, non-Cameron-like thing you did for someone today.”

There’s silence on Harvey’s end for a really long time, but then he sighs, and says, “I gave Donna an extra hour off for lunch to go get her parents from the airport.”

“That’s Donna, you already have real emotions about her. Doesn’t count.”

“I’m letting her parents stay in my condo! For a week.”

And okay, that might score him some points. “Why?”

“She cried,” Harvey admits, obviously with great personal difficulty.

Mike rolls his eyes. “Nope, that’s just you two and your wacky yet adorable routine of mutual manipulation, definitely doesn’t count. Try again.”

He can almost hear Harvey grinding his teeth, but eventually, he does answer, “Louis won a case today. I refrained from mocking him about it. And I even backhandedly told him that he did a good job.”

Now Mike’s impressed. “Showing compassion to lesser beings! Harvey, that’s real progress! You get a gold star.”

“Mike?”

“Yeah?”

“I’m hanging up now.”

Mike grins, and hangs up first.

---

Mike hates living alone.

He’s just really bad at it, is the thing. As quiet as life with his Gram back in their little apartment in Queens was, she was always there, a reassuring presence in the corner of his eye, always puttering around, popping her head in his room every once in awhile, asking Mike what he wanted for dinner, or if he felt like losing a game of backgammon. And he’d always spent at least half of his time over at Jenny’s or Trevor’s, anyway, curled up with Jenny, half-studying on her bed, or playing video games and smoking with Trevor.

He’s a naturally social person (naturallly needy, Trevor always said), and he’s always hated being alone, but it’s incomparably worse, having to come home to an empty apartment every night, reeking of coffee and bone tired from working all day and then biking home.

He finds himself gravitating to Harvey’s condo instead, first just a night or two a week, but more than that, when Harvey doesn’t (strenuously) object.

Harvey’s a pretty awesome cook, for one thing, which Mike would call unfair, but the reality is, Harvey’s basically great at everything he tries, and at least Mike gets to benefit from this quality more often than not. He also has an amazing movie collection, along with the complete original Star Trek series (which he claims was a gift), and a truly extravagant TV to match. He hates video games, which Mike would find unfortunate, expect he’s not really sure how many more lines between Harvey and Trevor he wants to blur, and keeping their leisure activities separate is as good a place to start as any, Mike guesses.

Some nights, Harvey has too much work to do, and so they won’t watch a movie, but they’ll talk over dinner, if verbal sparring and mutual mocking counts as talking, and then Harvey will return to a pile of due diligence and Mike will curl up on the swivel chair he’s claimed as his own, reading whatever random novel he brought with him, sometimes trying to pick something that will purposefully piss Harvey off, sometimes hitting that mark without even meaning to.

It’s probably not that surprising, really, but Harvey has a real lack of appreciation for the greatness of Salinger.

“How can you not like the Glass family, Harvey? Where is your heart? Where is your thirst to plum the depths of the suffering inherent to the human condition? The brutality of banalities of life, the--”

“Stop. Stop right there. Save it for your dead poets society fan-club.”

Harvey’s across the room, fixing himself a new drink, because apparently you’re allowed to drink on the job if it’s after nine, and he puts in another inch worth of scotch, like he’s going to need to fortify himself for this intellectual debate about the merits of Salinger, or something.

“I don’t have one of those,” Mike responds petulantly, once Harvey is back sitting down the couch. “But if I did, you would be Robin Williams, and I’d probably be the kid who kills himself.”

“You’re an idiot, Mike,” Harvey says sharply, taking a long drink. He was already a little maudlin at dinner, but clearly the third glass of scotch (or whatever Harvey’s been reading all evening) is getting to him, because Harvey sounds tired, too tired, and he won’t look at Mike.

“Harvey, man, come on. I was kidding. Maybe I’m actually one of the kids who stands up on his desk at the end and says “Oh captain, my captain,” and it’s all inspiring and shit.”

There’s a delay in his response, but Harvey actually cracks a smile, eventually, and says, “The only captain I’m interested in being compared to is James T Kirk.”

Mike instantly raises his fist in the air and says, “I knew it! I knew it wasn’t a gift. You’re a Trekkie.”

“Shut up, Mike,” Harvey says, still with traces of a smile.

Mike salutes sharply. “Aye, aye, captain.”

---

When he can’t be at Harvey’s, Mike likes to walk the city at night, to let the lights and the people fill him up, until not even the air he breathes feels like it’s his own, until he can close his eyes and feel a part of everything, and nothing, all at the same time.

---

The Pearson Hardman building isn’t anywhere near where Mike works, but sometimes Harvey drops in during the day anyway, just to brighten his own day a little by making Mike’s harder.

Mike assumes he plots these visits for days, because Harvey thrives on plotting diabolically, Mike is certain of this. There can be no other explanation for Harvey’s talent for devising the most complicated, impossibly precise orders imaginable, full of made up allergy restrictions and specifications about the exact temperature of the steam Mike can’t possibly meet.

Harvey always makes sure to come during a really busy time, too, just to watch Mike scramble, and never orders unless at least one of Mike’s superiors is around, so he can’t even mouth off, or better yet, tell Harvey to go fuck himself with his tall half-skinny half-one percent extra hot split quad shot latte with no-whip and his refusal to repeat himself ever.

Still, as much as Harvey’s orders are designed to piss Mike off, as much as he has to restrain himself from ever spitting into Harvey’s cup, Mike always finds himself watching the door, day after day, hoping the next customer who comes in will be Harvey, disappointed each time it’s not.

---

Mike keeps Trevor locked away in a box inside his head, one he tries to only open once a day, right when he wakes up, and can’t help himself. It’s hardest at first, when everything reminds him of Trevor; everything he sees, every person he talks to, all a pale imitation of his friend. He feels a bit like he’s going crazy, sometimes, but the worst of it, though, is how nothing feels like it’s his own, how every memory, every taste and preference, seems to belong to Trevor, a collective heritage he’s no longer there to give life and meaning to.

He tries talking about it with Jenny, but she won’t speak to him about Trevor, not how much Mike misses him, not any of the myriad of things that remind Mike of him, day in, day out. And he tries never to talk to Harvey about Trevor, not anymore, not when Harvey smiles at him sometimes, all wide and genuine, like he’s just so fucking proud of Mike he can’t help but let it show through. Mike doesn’t want to fuck that up, doesn’t want to disappoint Harvey by letting him know how much Mike still misses Trevor, how much of Mike still wants him.

So Mike forces himself not to think about Trevor at all, if he can help it. Whenever possible, he shuts down the connections in his brain that will lead inevitably back to Trevor, like when a song they used to make fun of gets stuck in his head, or when a movie they used to quote endlessly comes on late at night and he wants to reach for the weed he still keeps hidden under his bed.

He makes himself avoid the things he used to do with Trevor, their favorite places and activities, even the foods they’d eat. He hasn’t touched a double pepperoni and green pepper pizza in months, and he’s taken twenty minute detours to avoid passing by the park they used to get stoned, the times he goes back to Queens to visit his Gram.

He can’t stop himself from dreaming, though, and the more he shuts Trevor out of his conscious thought, the more he pops up in Mike’s dreams. In the dreams, Trevor always comes back, but sometimes Mike welcomes him, hugs him and begs him to stay, and other times, Mike turns his back on Trevor, tells him to leave, to never come back.

Whenever Mike wakes up, he can never quite decide which dream is wish-fulfillment, and which one is the nightmare.

---

Mike sucks at grocery shopping. Well, he mostly sucks at remembering to go grocery shopping. Or eat anything, most days.

Two weeks into living on his own, Harvey started looking at Mike critically (well, more critically), and after a month, he starts making lots of remarks about how Mike is “skin and bones,” and threatening to start calling Mike everyday to see if he’s eaten.

In the interest of efficiency (Harvey’s words) they start going grocery shopping together instead, so Harvey can be reasonably sure Mike at least has some food in his cupboards. They go every week, late on Saturday nights, when it’s all students and the occasional drunk.

They each carry their own basket, because Harvey has control issues, and Mike likes to pick out food he can actually afford, not just the gourmet items Harvey always insists on for himself, and tries to sneak into Mike’s basket when he’s not looking. They bicker from the minute they step inside to the last second before Harvey drops Mike off at this place (usually after helping to carry the groceries up the four flights of stairs), criticizing each other’s selections (Harvey has a weird affection for pineapple Mike doesn’t fully understand, and Mike is routinely mocked for still purchasing cereal with prizes inside), and, on Harvey’s end, making a lot of skeptical noises about Mike’s ability to cook half of what he buys.

They sometimes draw strange looks, wandering up and down the aisles together at eleven PM, knocking their shoulders as they walk side by side, having ‘well-mannered’ competitions (again, Harvey’s words) to see who can get everything from their list first. It’s fun, though, probably more fun than grocery shopping has any right to be, but Mike knows Harvey well enough by now to say with authority that he’s rarely happier than he is when spending money, and evidently this extends to broccoli and imported cheeses the same way it does to suits and fancy cars.

He usually tries to pay for Mike’s groceries, too, and if Mike isn’t vigilant when they’re at the checkout, he’ll get away with it, all charming smiles for the cashier and smug grins for Mike. Mike bristles at the behavior, sometimes, but Harvey always gets surprised and vaguely hurt when Mike is actually disgruntled or genuinely suspicious of him anymore, and he’s not really. He’s stopped waiting for the other shoe to fall with Harvey (well, mostly), and honestly, sometimes Harvey’s help is the difference between actually being able to afford groceries at all.

He tries to pay Harvey back in little ways, friend ways, like watching a baseball game instead of insisting on a movie he’d actually be able to sit through without falling asleep, or making a joke at his own expense to see Harvey delight in mocking him, or just being there, at the other end of the phone, when Harvey’s had a long, frustrating day, and he needs to shout at someone who will shout back until Harvey’s worn himself out, or figured out the solution to his problem.

It’s no hardship, doing these things for Harvey, and it’s nice, albeit strange, to give Harvey so little and receive so much in return. It’s nice to feel useful, wanted, even if it’s just keeping Harvey entertained in the produce aisle.

But the best times are when Harvey lets Mike follow him back to his place once they’re done, and he’ll cook them an elaborate dinner while Mike puts the rest of the stuff away (he remembers where things go in Harvey’s kitchen better than his own), and provides commentary on Harvey’s ingredient selection, taking points off when he burns the dish or doesn’t cut vegetables evenly enough.

They’ll usually end such evenings around two or three AM, when one of them inevitably falls asleep on the couch into their second or third movie, and the other will just give in and do the same.

---

Jenny’s not much for the party scene, not anymore, and neither is Mike. He never was, really; it was always about being where Trevor and Jenny were, for him, about watching out for them, trying to keep them from the worst of themselves. He wasn’t all that good at that, in the end, but there was still something important in the trying, Mike always felt.

So, it’s not surprising, then, that when Jenny calls him and asks him if he’ll come with her to her first real college party, Mike immediately says yes, even though it means he has to switch a shift at work and cancel on wings and Risk at Harvey’s later that night.

The party, at first glance, seems exactly the same as any of the house-parties they attended in high school, the same red cups full of questionably procured alcohol, the same throng of strangers talking shit and making out in dark corners. And, just like at one of their high school parties, everyone seems to know and love Jenny, and everyone gives Mike weird looks like they’re all pretty sure he doesn’t belong.

Which he doesn’t, technically, he supposes, not being a student at NYU or any other college, but that doesn’t stop him from getting into an argument with a group of douche-bros who try to talk to Mike like he’s stupid just because he works at Starbucks.

Once he’s schooled them on the finer points of Kant and also why they’re such dickbags, Mike is tempted to throw his arm over Jenny and say, “I got her number, how about them apples,” but he’s afraid the reference would go right over their heads, and anyway, he doubts Jenny would appreciate it. She’s always been weirdly disgruntled about the fact that Ben Affleck got an Oscar for screenwriting.

He drinks, because that’s the only way to survive these things, and once Jenny drifts away from him, disappearing into a crowd of intimidatingly attractive people, Mike starts to drink excessively, because he was nothing else to do. At least having a drink gives him something to do with his hands.

He spends a long time in the bathroom, having clumsy, drunken thoughts about the Reader’s Digest article he tries to read, before finally stumbling out and immediately spotting Jenny, pressed against the wall at the end of the hallway, smiling up at one of the douche-bros from earlier that night, who’s leaning with his hand against the same wall, penning her in.

Mike’s first thought is, “Trevor is going to kill me if I let her make-out with that douche-rocket,” and his second, somewhat more coherent thought is, “Oh god, I’m going to hurl,” and then he races back into the bathroom to do just that.

When he comes back out, Jenny is standing alone, looking right at him, an unreadable expression on her face.

Mike slinks meekly over to her, and Jenny sighs, running her fingers through his sweaty mess of hair.

“Come on, let’s find somewhere for you to lie down.”

They must, because the next time Mike is even vaguely aware of his surroundings, they’ve changed dramatically, away from the noise and the crush of people, and he’s horizontal, looking up at a ornate light fixture and trying to trace the pattern of the stucco with his hand raised in the air.

“Sorry to be such a cock-block,” Mike says, feeling suddenly terrible about it, that kind of dramatic swing in mood that comes from being as drunk as he evidently still is, despite puking up the entire contents of his stomach and possibly a vital organ or two.

Jenny laughs, sharp and too loud, and says, “It’s about time you apologized to me for that.”

He looks up at her, sitting beside him, close enough to touch, and Mike reaches out without thinking, to brush his fingers against her cheek and make her look at him, smiling at her as helplessly as he always does. After a minute, Jenny smiles back, and they just stay there, smiling at each other, until her face crumples into a lost, fragile thing, just for a moment, and then she leans down, and Mike leans up, and suddenly they’re kissing, rough and desperate like their lives depend on it.

Jenny tastes like gin and Mike probably tastes a million times worse, but she slides her away on top of him anyway, legs twining together, and she pins his hands to the bed, linking their fingers and kissing him even harder, teeth and lips and tongue, and Mike can’t think, can’t breathe, but he wants nothing more than for this moment to last forever, to stretch until there’s nothing left but them, but this.

He starts to get hard, and Jenny is grinding down against him encouragingly, making his heart race impossibly faster, and they moan together, struggling with clothes and fighting against each other’s skin, like not even that should separate them, and Mike is all the way out of his pants and halfway into Jenny’s when he realizes their kissing has become far too damp, and he pulls back with the sudden awareness that Jenny is crying.

He looks into her mascara streaked eyes, and it’s only when she blinks and he sees his own reflection that Mike realizes he’s crying too.

Wordlessly, Mike shimmies back into his jeans, buttoning them up with a shaking hand, and they separate enough for Jenny to slip her sweater back over her shoulders, fastening her own jeans back up as well.

They stare at each other hopelessly for a minute, and Mike is afraid both of them are going to cut and run, but something in his face must stop Jenny, because she gives up looking at the door and starts looking at him again instead, and then, slowly, so slowly, she lowers herself back onto him, still not saying a word, and rests her head against his chest, right over his heart.

He wraps his arms around her, and holds on, and they stay like that, lying in silence for a very long time, their eyes tightly shut.

---

In the morning, Jenny says, “That was the last time,” and Mike nods, but doesn’t say anything else. He knows it has to be true, but he can’t let himself think about what it really means for that part of them to be over forever.

He has lunch with Harvey later that day, and he’s pretty sure Harvey can tell something happened, just by looking at Mike, but he doesn’t say anything, and neither does Mike, so they eat in silence. Mike doesn’t smile the whole time, not until Harvey kicks him under the table, hard enough to hurt, and gives him such a petulant, childish frown that Mike can’t help but laugh, and then spend the rest of the lunch making fun of Harvey for being such an attention-starved bastard.

By the time they leave the restaurant together, Mike almost feels human again.

---

Mike is willing to acknowledge that, while admittedly being something of a genius in a few abstract areas, his track record shows rather pretty incontrovertibly that he’s a complete idiot in most others.

Take, for example, how much times passes before he realizes there’s no way he could afford a bachelor apartment in Manhattan on a barista’s salary, not even one who gets as many tips as Mike.

He’s three months in before he cottons on, and Mike ends up lurking outside Harvey’s condo, waiting to confront him about it. He’s the one who found Mike the apartment, after all.

Harvey gets home around ten, and Mike's been waiting for almost an hour, freezing, and starting to attract weird looks by the time Harvey arrives.

Harvey looks askance at Mike as soon as he spots him, bustling Mike quickly inside saying, “Jesus, Mike, I live here, you can’t just loiter outside at all hours. People will complain,” and “You’re half-frozen! It’s December, you moron. Why don’t you have a coat?” all in the same breath.

Mike ignores the berating diatribe and the concern underneath it, letting himself be pulled along by Harvey, down the hall, up the elevator, and into his condo.

When the door shuts behind them, Harvey immediately loosens his tie and glares at Mike reproachfully, before disappearing into his closet (it’s an honest to god walk-in) and returning in jeans and a faded Harvard sweatshirt. He has an extra in his hands, and he throws it at Mike.

“Put that on,” Harvey commands brusquely, and, still shaking a bit from the cold, Mike complies.

Harvey starts puttering around the kitchen, not quite ignoring Mike, but not talking to him, either, beyond asking Mike if he wants tea, and whether he prefers honey in it or not after Mike says yes.

Once Mike has his tea and Harvey has a glass of scotch, Mike finally asks, “Why is my rent so cheap, Harvey?”

Harvey sighs into his glass, taking a long swallow. “Remember when we first met and you were so grateful to me that you never questioned my methods?”

“No,” Mike says, scrunching his face incredulously.

“Yeah, me neither. Would have been nice, though.”

“Harvey.”

Harvey puts his glass down on the table, rattling it a bit. “The landlord who owns this building has a daughter, she was kidnapped last year. I put her abductor behind bars for a very long time.”

Mike takes a second to be impressed, before working out what that means. “So I’m exploiting the gratitude of a man whose daughter was abducted? Seriously?”

“He became a friend, well, sort of. It was a way to let him do me a favor without taking more than he could handle. That’s all.”

Which is fine, except Mike’s pretty sure Harvey never would have taken the favor at all if it wasn’t for Mike. As far as Mike can tell, the only times Harvey’s gone out of bounds, legally or otherwise, have been because of him.

Kind of the opposite of what he’s supposed to be teaching Harvey. And besides, “You can’t keep doing stuff like this - making everything easier for me all the time. You have to let me stand on my own two feet.”

“Do I?” Harvey surprises Mike by instantly replying.

“Yes,” Mike says with forceful indignation. “You do.”

“I think that’s crap.”

“You what?”

“I think it’s crap, and if it was the other way around, you’d never let me get away with it. You’re learning how to be on your own, to take care of yourself, and that’s good, but no one can do that without help. I’m helping. It’s what friends do.”

“Yeah, but friends don’t typically exploit the past misfortune of others to give each other huge rent breaks as their way of 'helping,' Harvey.”

“Don’t they? You needed a place to live, somewhere close to the subway line, somewhere safe and clean. I had a way to give you that. Simple.”

“Simple?” Mike echos doubtfully.

“Look, Mike. Maybe I should have told you, talked to you about it first, but I’m new to this friend gig. And I maintain that I was still doing a good thing,” he smiles bitterly. “An anti-Cameron like thing. Trying to help, not trying to take credit.”

And fuck, okay, he has Mike there.

He holds out for a minute, but then sighs, in acceptance, or defeat.

“Fine. Okay. I get it. But next time, Harvey? You better fucking ask first.”

Harvey looks at him solemnly, and says, “It’s a deal.”

---

He visits his Gram on Friday evenings, and sleeps over to spend all day Saturday with her too, usually not getting back into Manhattan until late, at which point Harvey will pick him up for groceries and an argument about Mike's music taste (or lack thereof, in Harvey’s opinion) on the ride over.

She’s doing so much better, now, doesn’t even need a home-care worker, and she insists it’s not just because it’s too expensive, but rather that she was going to stage a prison break from the apartment if she didn’t have to stop dealing with “all that mollycoddling,” every day. Mike still feels guiltily about it, but she made him promise to let her do some of the worrying, and he’s been trying his best to keep that promise.

On his visits, they do everything they never seemed to have time for, not when they were actually living together, and life had a way of always getting between them. They read the paper aloud and do the crossword together over coffee and toast, and they putter around the house, cleaning and listening to records on rainy days, playing dominoes and backgammon all afternoon and then making dinner together. When it’s nice out, before the weather starts to really turn, they’ll sometimes spend a few hours out working on the tiny plot she has in a community garden down the block, harvesting her potatoes and carrots and eating them fresh with dinner. In the evenings, before he takes the subway back into Manhattan, they’ll sit together, watching TV on mute, and talk about everything they’ve done in the week since they last saw each other.

She’ll tell him all the gossip about the other tenants in the building, she’ll complain a little about being bored and a little lonely, but just enough for Mike to know she doesn’t really mean it, and she’ll tell him about the books she’s reading, the things she’s seen on the walks she takes every morning.

And in return, Mike will tell her funny stories about the strangest customers he gets at Starbucks, like the man who always comes in at 5:47 AM wanting two venti Americano’s with two extra shots of espresso each, who always stays and drinks them both standing up at the bar before leaving. He’ll tell her about the progress of his college applications (all mailed by late October) and talk about Jenny, if he saw her that week. Mostly, though, Mike stores up as many complaints about Harvey as he can think of, as many ways to make fun of him, and he’ll rattle them off just to have her scoff at him, just to have her say how lucky he is to have Harvey in his life. And even though Mike will always roll her eyes, he’ll smile, too, and never deny that it’s true.

---

It’s strangely not weird, with Jenny, after the party, after the kiss that shouldn’t have happened in the first place and definitely shouldn’t have gone on as long as it did. He expected her to avoid him, or for them to avoid each other, but they see more of each other now than ever, and when they hang out, it’s simple, easy, like their friendship never quite was before. When they’re together, Mike doesn’t look into Jenny’s eyes and see only the past. When he looks at Jenny now, he doesn’t see Trevor or everything that could have been, he just sees her, looking back at him full of knowledge and unselfish affection, and that’s enough.

---

Mike’s spoken to Donna at least a dozen times on the phone before he actually meets her.

It’s January, and he’s fifteen minutes late by the time he finally manages to navigate his way through the Pearson Hardman building to meet with Harvey for a ‘working lunch.’ Once he’s fairly certain he’s on the right floor, and possibly even headed in the right direction of Harvey’s office, Donna is the first person he recognizes, even if it’s just from her voice and Harvey’s descriptions of her.

She takes one look at Mike, and narrows her eyes, pointing a finger at him accusingly. “You’d better be worth it.”

“I’m trying to be ma'am,” Mike replies immediately, hands raised in the air.

Donna nods sharply, still glaring a little, and then Mike feels Harvey come up behind him. He puts his hand against the back of Mike’s neck, sliding it across his spine to squeeze Mike’s shoulder, silently guiding Mike towards his office.

“Did you just call Donna ‘ma’am’?” Harvey asks as they walk, smirking idly.

“I was aiming for respectful,” Mike mutters in his defense, trying to shake off Harvey’s arm.

Harvey just smirks more and tugs Mike the rest of the way into his office, saying, “Interesting choice.”

Mike shrugs, and a minute later, a delivery guy comes in with their food, and Harvey proceeds to ‘eat’ his lunch, while standing up and arguing with people on the phone, occasionally rummaging through files and muttering to himself. He largely ignores Mike, aside from the occasional grunt meant to convey that he wants Mike to pass him a particular file, and the one notable, and extremely confusing, exception when Harvey actually asks Mike for his opinion on something, and then appears impressed by Mike’s answer.

Forty-five minutes in, Mike finally has to ask, “So, why’d you invite me here, Harvey? Do you just like having an audience, or something?” Knowing Harvey, it had to be said.

But Harvey adopts a look of wounded innocence. “I just thought you might find it interesting.”

Which would be fine, except there’s nothing innocent, or accidental about Harvey Specter, and Mike’s shoulders instinctively hike up to his chin, his eyes narrowing. “Harvey, did you bring me here to try and trick me into wanting to become a lawyer?”

Harvey grins, and then looks down his nose at Mike, asking gravely, ”Don’t you want to be cool, like me, Mike?”

Mike laughs, head thrown back, and says, “I don’t think peer pressure works like that, Harvey.”

“Well, you have proven inordinately susceptible to it in the past,” Harvey grouses.

Mike smiles ruefully in acknowledgement, and then tilts his head seriously. “So, wait, is this your diabolical plan? Convince me to go to law school so I can, what, get a job at your firm and then enter into an indefinite period of indentured lawyer servitude?”

“Oh, for the love of -- could you stop, just for a minute, and consider the possibility that I don’t actually have a diabolical plan, so much as good intentions and your best interests at heart? Do you think that might be a vague possibility?”

Mike makes a show of thinking about it for a full minute before saying, “Nope. Pretty sure that’s not it.”

“Fine,” Harvey says, rolling his eyes. “You’ve guessed my evil scheme - to get you out of jail and into a good college, all so you can one day go to Harvard, get a job as an associate at my firm, and work for me when I become senior partner.”

“You monster,” Mike gasps, hand over his heart, attempting to look as scandalized as possible.

Harvey stares at him blankly for just a tiny bit too long, but then his face softens, and he smiles almost fondly when he says, “Go home, Mike. We’ll talk next week.”

Mike waves him off, “Yeah, yeah,” and starts gathering up his stuff, but he pauses for a second at the doorway, turning back to smile at Harvey and say, “I got my first acceptance letter today. Columbia. Is that good enough to get me into Harvard Law someday, do you think?”

For a moment, Harvey just looks stunned, but then he grins, wide and proud, and says, “Maybe. If you don’t fuck it up.”

Mike grins too. “That’s what I have you for, isn’t it?”

part five; and it feels like his new life can start

Friendship with Harvey is like an endurance race, a marathon of hard-won closeness and respect, and even the most casual daily interaction can turn into a test. From something as important as how well Mike’s taking care of himself and his Gram, to something as stupid as whether or not Mike catches the movie quote or blues reference Harvey makes in casual conversation, everything’s about proving himself to Harvey, about proving Harvey made the right choice, deciding to help Mike.

Mike doesn’t mind the game, he likes it, even, getting a strange thrill every time he does something right, even if it’s just the look of impressed surprise in Harvey’s eye when he references Mississippi Burning and Mike’s able to quote the next line without missing a beat.

---

Harvey is weirdly sporty, which has confused Mike since he met him, and more recently, has caused Mike bodily injury in addition to ample befuddlement.

It stands to reason, Mike supposes, that Harvey would want to stay in shape. He’s that kind of a guy. Image is everything to Harvey, or at least projecting the image of a slick, uncaring, but wildly successful douchebag, is everything to him, so Mike wouldn’t have been surprised if Harvey forced himself to go to the gym every morning. Which he does, actually, but it’s his affinity for contact sports that’s really causing Mike problems.

Specifically, Harvey’s love for one-on-one basketball is causing Mike the problem of a bloody nose and an impending heart attack.

He’s collapsed on the side of the court, wheezing and sopping up blood with a spare t-shirt Harvey threw at him, right after he caught Mike in the face with his elbow. There might have actually been a delay between these two events, but Mike’s recall isn’t perfect right now, and he can still mostly only still see the blurry outline of things, rather than the things themselves.

Still, he’s pretty sure the shape looming angrily over him is Harvey. No one else could so effortlessly exude both protectiveness and exasperation in the same breath.

“Was it something I said?” Mike asks once he’s managed to staunch the blood flow enough that he can pull Harvey’s shirt from his face.

Harvey crouches down, peering at him critically, ignoring Mike’s question and making him follow his finger for awhile and then identify the current president (of the Yankees, of course, Harvey has priorities), before proclaiming Mike fit to stand up.

“I think we need to look at this as another excellent opportunity to give you an important lesson in friendship, Harvey,” Mike says, as Harvey helps him limp off the court (right before the nose thing happened, Harvey stepped down on Mike’s foot, hard).

“Oh, yeah?” Harvey mutters distractedly.

“Yeah,” Mike huffs, struggling to keep up, even with Harvey’s help. “You know. Playing well with others, that kind of thing. Clearly there were some considerable gaps in your kindergarten education. Usually, when two people are friends, and they play a game, the objective is not to murder or maim each other.”

Harvey just laughs, and says, “You must have gone to a crappy kindergarten.”

---

Mike gets lots of acceptance letters, because Harvey made him apply all over, supervising the application process to the point where Mike was looking over his shoulder when he put them in the mailbox, half-convinced Harvey was going to be lurking somewhere in the shadows to make sure he really mailed them.

Still, other than NYU, there’s nowhere else but Columbia that will allow him to stay in the city, and even though Mike doesn’t want to encroach on Jenny’s territory, he’s not ready to leave New York, and his Gram, so Columbia it is.

Harvey frowns at him a little for not even considering Harvard and Yale, but underneath the route disapproval, Mike’s pretty sure he sees something in Harvey’s eyes that can only be characterized as relief.

---

Mike attempts to ensure that his course selection is the douchey-est one available, full of English, Philosophy, and Politics classes all designed to piss Harvey off. Well, those, plus the Introduction to Economics Harvey makes him take, possibly just out of spite, or perhaps simply because he’s the greatest douche of them all, and really believes it will be useful.

---

Harvey calls Mike on his first day of classes, and Mike expects a long lecture about responsibility and not fucking up, but instead Harvey just says, “Good luck,” too clipped and low to be anything but sincere.

Mike finds himself smiling into the phone, and for once, instead of mouthing off, he just says, “Thank you.”

---

Columbia is full of assholes, and really, Mike should learn to stop being surprised by disappointment.

---

He goes to lunch with Jenny, and complains about the deplorable quality of his classes, his professors, and, most importantly, his fellow classmates.

He’s hoping for some sympathy, possibly a little mutual griping about people at her school, but Jenny just shakes her head at him, saying, “Oh, Mike. You have to stop being such a snob.”

“Excuse me? A snob? How am I a snob - the whole thing I’m saying is that Columbia is full of pretentious dickbag snobs, and it’s killing me inside!”

She tisks, picking at a loose thread of her sweater. “Snob.”

“Jenny, yesterday, a guy behind me in Econ asked me if I was planning on summering in the Hamptons this year! The Hamptons.”

“That’s an excuse, Mike. A reason not to do the work, or put yourself out there.”

Mike crosses his arms and slouches defensively. “How would you know?”

She rolls her eyes at him, poking Mike in the ribs. “Because I know you, Mike. It was the same in high school. You were smarter than the teachers, so you didn’t want to do the work. You were way smarter than the other students, and so you isolated yourself in a little bubble of co-dependence with Trevor to avoid ever having to talk to anyone else. And then you acted like it was everyone else’s fault that you didn’t have friends, that people thought you were weird. You always think you’re a victim, Mike, but it’s not true. People like you, people want to help you, to be near you. But you’d rather be better than everyone else, and alone, than try to understand things from any side but your own.”

Mike stares at her, mouth hanging slightly open, but then he uncrosses his arms and says, “I liked it so much better when we never talked about Things.”

Jenny keeps frowning, just for a second, but then she chuckles wryly, and says, “Yeah. Me too.”

---

Mike used to live his life by drifting in Trevor’s wake, going where he went, doing what he wanted, liking what he liked. Even liking who he liked, when the need arose.

Now, his life is dictated by three poles, his Gram, Jenny, and Harvey, and they tend to pull him in the same direction, towards some amorphous but allegedly superior future, but when Mike closes his eyes, it’s still only Trevor that he sees.

---

“You’ve been skipping classes.”

Mike jumps half a foot in the air, heart pounding in his chest, and by the time he’s processed that it’s Harvey lurking in the shadows of his half-lit apartment, and not some random bugler, Mike’s gone from scared to pissed.

“Jesus, have you been following me?”

Harvey has the gall to look offended. “Please. I have far better ways to spend my time.”

Mike gives Harvey his least impressed face, and says, “Then how did you know I haven’t been going to class?”

Harvey sighs, “Because you just told me.”

Damn it. “You have to stop lawyering me like that, asshole.”

“It doesn’t count as ‘lawyering’ you if you fall for it that easily, Mike. You know that,” Harvey chides him, the real reproach in his voice now buried under a softer, affectionate kind.

Mike accepts the peace offering in Harvey’s tone, and drops his messenger bag onto his coffee table (okay, it’s an upturned box, but it works!) and sits down beside Harvey on the couch.

“I’m still doing the work, if that helps. I understand the material, I’m handing in the assignments.”

Harvey nods, lips pursed. “So why aren’t you going to your actual classes?”

Mike shrugs. “Because most of my professors are pompous asses who couldn’t teach their way out of a paper bag, and the rest are worse? I don’t need their soul-crushingly boring lectures, I can learn everything better and quicker if I do it on my own. I use most of my class time to do the readings and essays, and with the rest, I pick up extra shifts at the ‘bucks. I’m not smoking pot or having phone sex with Trevor or anything, I promise,” he means it as a joke, obviously, but it falls a little flat, making Harvey’s jaw twitch instead of soften into a smile.

“You have his phone number?” Harvey asks, voice like ice.

“No, no, come on, Harvey, don’t be like that, I was just joking - I haven’t - you know I haven’t even seen Trevor, let alone spoken to him, not since he left. I just meant. Don’t worry. I’m not becoming a burnout or anything again. I’m keeping up my end of our deal.”

Harvey sighs. “Okay. New deal, then. I want you to start going to classes - good grades aren’t the only thing that matters. If you’re serious about trying to get into Harvard Law someday, you’re going to need more than a good GPA. You need connections, people skills, reference letters from professors who know your face and not just your grade.”

“Next you’re going to try and make me rush a fraternity or something,” Mike says, rolling his eyes.

Harvey just looks thoughtful. “Wouldn’t be the worst idea - it’s a good place to make contacts, but you’re not housebroken yet. You wouldn’t know how to schmooze your way through a single frat party, never mind cope with the dynamics of a fraternity all year long.”

“As always, your confidence in me is overwhelming.”

“Did you just misquote the Princess Bride?”

“Sue me.”

Harvey grins. “Don’t tempt me, Mike.”

Mike sighs. “There’s no way I’m joining a frat, okay? No matter how ‘housebroken’ I become, which, by the way, not my favorite analogy of yours.”

“Your objections have been noted. But for now, I’m not talking about a fraternity. I’m just talking about going to the classes you worked hard to get into, to be able to afford. Don’t waste the opportunity, Mike, squeeze every last drop of advantage you can out of it.”

He’d object on the grounds that there is a distinctly Cameron-esque quality about the advice, the implicit command to look out for number one, except it’s always been more complicated than that for Harvey, Mike knows. And when he pushes Mike like this, Mike believes there’s something real and well-meaning underneath Harvey’s relentless drive to be the best, to push Mike to be the best as well. It’s a warped way of showing that you care, but it’s still Harvey’s.

So he inches a little closer to Harvey, and looks him in the eye when he says, “So, what do I get if I agree?”

“You get to come to work with me,” Harvey answers quickly, too quickly to have only thought of this now.

“Really?” Mike asks, sounding eager despite himself. “What could I do? I’m not even--”

“You can help me with my case work. Nothing too onerous, of course, and no contact with the clients, you’re not ready for any of that, but you can help with research, find me background information. You’ve got an eye for details, I can use that.”

“You’re trying to bargain work for... more work?”

“You say the problem is that your classes aren’t challenging enough to merit attending class, right? Well, try the Harvey Specter Introduction to being a closer. I’m sure you’ll find it suitably rigorous.”

Mike rolls his eyes, but he’s smiling, and he says, “I knew this was your diabolical plan. This is clearly just the first stage in my career as your indentured legal servant.”

Harvey grins. “Hey, don’t knock it. You’re the one who gave me the idea.”

Helplessly, Mike grins, too. “Then how can I say no?”

---

Harvey insists on taking him suit shopping, at which point Mike attempts to call the whole thing off. But Harvey takes such perverse and obvious pleasure in spending ridiculous amounts of money on Mike’s new attire that he’s like a kid in a candy store, and watching Harvey like that, Mike can’t help but enjoy himself, too.

After taking care of Mike’s pressing sartorial concerns (Harvey’s words), Harvey gives him a stack of books, typically meant to help people prepare for the LSATs and to take the Bar. Once Mike’s passed a series of ‘quizzes’ Harvey launches spontaneously amidst evenings otherwise spent watching movies on his couch, Mike starts coming into work with Harvey between classes on Tuesday mornings and Thursday afternoons, and he’ll curl up on the couch in Harvey’s office, reading over case files and researching.

Mike likes the work, challenging enough to lose himself to, enough to let everything else fall away until it’s just him, and the certainty that he’ll find the answers Harvey needs.

---

His classes don’t get any less boring, or the students any less irritating, but Mike makes himself keep going to all of them. He even speaks up in lecture occasionally, just enough to score the occasional impressed nod from his professors. The rest of the time, Mike scribbles notes in the margins of his notebooks and hides a copy of the BarBri legal handbook behind his open laptop, muttering to himself and plotting ways to stump Harvey the next time they play a game of legal trivia like the nerds they both evidently are.

---

It’s strange, being around Harvey’s office self, watching him do such a good job at pretending to be the buttoned up and calculating prick Mike’s been working to stop Harvey from truly becoming since they met.

It’s like being let in on a whole new set of secrets, watching how Harvey is with other people, how far away he keeps everyone else, how different he is.

Mike finds it jarring, making the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end, and prefers to see Harvey interact with Donna, or Jessica, even though they’re both terrifying, because at least with them, Harvey still lets cracks of his real self show through.

---

It’s a Wednesday, early, and the rain is coming down hard enough to make the windows of Harvey’s ridiculous office rattle.

“Harvey, I didn’t realize it was take-your-felon-to-work day again so soon,” Louis says, coming out of nowhere and insinuating himself in between Harvey and Mike.

Mike shudders a little, it’s a Louis-proximity thing, and then watches with appreciation as Harvey glares impressively and says, “Shut up, Louis. I heard about your prescription shampoo. Honestly, do you even have enough hair for that? Or, are you hoping it’ll make some of it grow back?”

Louis flushes, and walks away with out a retort.

“He makes it too easy,” Harvey says to Mike when Louis is gone, almost looking disappointed.

Mike pats Harvey sympathetically on the hand, and says, “If you want to get beat in a verbal hair pulling match, you could always go take a run at Jessica.”

Harvey’s eyes widen comically, and then he shakes himself, replying sternly, “Get back to work. Those briefs aren’t going to proof themselves.”

---

Jenny was always kind of musical, although she never really pursued it that much in high school, too busy drifting aimlessly with Trevor and Mike to ever really get serious about her lessons, but now that she’s started school, Jenny’s blossoming, in more ways than one.

He sees her with guys, sometimes, just chatting with them at the end of a class when he comes to pick her up for lunch, or sitting together on the steps of her dorm when he comes over, but she never talks to Mike about them, and he doesn’t press.

She does talk to him about music, though, shyly admitting she’s been trying to write some songs, taking out her guitar and playing it for him, sometimes, when they’re hanging out in quiet evenings when he doesn’t have to work or see Harvey.

By the middle of Mike’s summer term, Jenny’s gotten good enough that she wants to push herself to perform for an audience of more than Mike, and with some coaxing and encouragement from him, she decides to go to the open-mike night at the cafe near campus.

She’s nervous, and afraid no one will come, or at least no one who will clap for her, so in an effort to swell the ranks of Jenny’s supporters, Mike invites Harvey. He doesn’t really expect Harvey to say yes, but his mouth curves up into an amused smile and he says he’ll go, asking Mike sardonically if he also wants Harvey to force all the associates to come, really get the place packed. Afraid Harvey might actually be serious, Mike strenuously assures him that won’t be necessary.

On the night, Harvey picks him up, and they arrive together, when the crowd is just starting to gather. Harvey orders their drinks and commands the space with ease, securing two seats in the front with a well-placed disdainful look that has the people who had been sitting there before scattering like the seats had been reserved for him and Mike especially.

They sit down together and Harvey puts his arm against the back of Mike’s seat, the same casual, unthinking way he always takes up space around him, fitting in effortlessly wherever he is, and Mike can’t help thinking about what it would be like if Trevor was here with him, instead.

With Trevor, they’d probably be drunk, stoned, or both, and he knows Trevor would be rowdy, cheering for Jenny before she even came on stage, and he’d probably have insisted they make signs, or something. Probably something garish and probably a little dirty, and Mike thinks about Jenny watching that from stage, and wonders if she’d like it better, of if she’d have flushed with embarrassment instead of the slight, pleased pink that actually accents her cheeks when Mike and Harvey stand up to applaud after she finishes her song.

When she comes off stage, Harvey hands Jenny the bouquet of roses he brought with them, two dozen white, and Jenny buries her face in them, breathing deep, her smile incandescent when she finally withdraws.

They take her out for dinner, and Jenny laughs, and tells them they shouldn’t be spoiling her like this, it was just one stupid song, but Harvey and Mike will have none of it, piling her with wine and all her favorite foods. When they drop her off after dessert, Jenny leans over to kiss each of their cheeks, and as she walks up the stairs to her dorm, carrying her roses and guitar, Jenny is singing loud and clear, happier than Mike’s ever seen her.

---

In July, Mike’s workload picks up considerably, and he actually has to start studying. He even pays attention in class more regularly.

Mostly, though, he still prefers working on his own, figuring out the material himself, but the problem is, he can’t concentrate properly at his apartment. It’s too quiet, and there are too many distractions, so he starts going to the library, usually the one for Business and Economics students, because he’s found them to be the least interested in any life forms other than themselves, and it cuts down on the chances of anyone trying to talk to him.

On one such occasion, Mike looks up from his book for the first time in what feels like hours, eyes gritty, and he’s tired enough that he’s pretty sure he’s hallucinating the smiling Harvey standing before him in a windbreaker, holding out an enormous cup of coffee.

“What are you doing here?” Mike demands, when the image of Harvey doesn’t disappear after the application of two huge and scalding gulps of coffee.

Harvey shrugs in the general direction of Mike’s hands, which still have a death-grip on the coffee.

“You told me you were going to be in the library studying. I just closed a deal with a new client, and I thought you could probably use a pick-me-up.”

Mike grins at him, bleary-eyed and just shy of giddy with exhaustion.

“What, no Red Bull?”

Harvey rolls his eyes. “That stuff’ll kill ya.”

---

They start seeing even more of each other, then. Evidently the schedule of a stressed out undergraduate and an overworked junior partner have a lot of overlap, especially between the hours of ‘Why am I still up’ and ‘Oh god, there’s still so much more to do, how is it already starting to get bright outside.’

Mike starts having to drag his own books with him on his bike rides over to Pearson Hardman on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, but both of them are careful not to mention that he maybe doesn’t actually need to show up there at all, since Mike’s too busy to help Harvey with his work, anyway.

Mike doesn’t know Harvey’s reasons for silence, but Mike keeps quiet because he likes working around Harvey, even if they’re not actually working on the same thing. It’s still easier for Mike to focus; the scratching of Harvey’s pen against paper and the muffled sound of his voice on the phone somehow the perfect background noise to study to.

Other times, Harvey will visit Mike again in the library, or show up at his place in the middle of the night with a pizza when he knows Mike’s pulling an all-nighter. When Harvey’s working on a particularly demanding case, Mike will sometimes do the same for him, turning up at his condo or the lobby of Pearson Hardman with Harvey’s favorite burgers and fancy coffee for Donna, on the nights Harvey has her working with him.

These are Mike’s favorite times with Harvey, when they’re exhausted and overworked, too busy to even talk to each other between bites of food and sips of coffee or Red Bull, but when they can at least look up at each other across the room and see the other one is just the same, like somehow their suffering is less because it’s shared.

---

During an exam review sessions for his Econ class, Mike loses his pen, and borrows another one from a girl with crimped brown hair and huge, dark frame glasses. She has freckles, and a smile he’d like to see more of.

They stumble their way into agreeing to go for coffee over smalltalk when he returns the pen, and it honestly doesn’t occur to Mike how terrible of an idea the whole thing is until he’s waiting for her in the campus coffee shop, trying to remember how to talk to someone who isn’t Harvey, Jenny, or his Gram.

When she - Jamie - turns up, Mike babbles at her for five minutes straight before he stops for air, but she doesn’t storm off the way any reasonable person would. Instead, she laughs at him, and goes to buy them each a latte.

They spend an hour having an actual conversation, which Mike finds pleasant, if somewhat of a minefield. He’s really out of practice with smalltalk, and trying to explain most parts of his life without sounding like he’s talking utter bullshit proves surprisingly difficult.

“So you live on the island, by yourself? How do you afford that, do you have student loans?”

“Well, I have a scholarship, full tuition and books, but I work at Starbucks, too, you know, for food and stuff.” It’s the fourth time he’s had to side-step the Harvey factor, and from the tilt of her head, he’s guessing Jamie’s starting to get suspicious.

But she doesn’t push it, she just smiles apologetically and says, “I’m sorry I made you go out for coffee, then. You probably hate even the smell of it by now.”

Mike grins, relaxing from his tension over his latest lie of omission, and just says, “Nah. I’m still basically a coffee addict, and the company is a lot better here than at the ‘bucks.”

She grins back at him, soft and pleased, and Mike realizes too late that he was flirting, and that he’s probably been flirting the whole time.

He’s hit with the irrational urge to call Harvey, demanding reinforcements, or something, when obviously Harvey would never show up, because it’s the middle of the day, and also, he’d probably be more likely to egg Mike on than actually try to extract him from this social situation with minimum hurt feelings or awkwardness.

He kind of just wants to get up from the table and run for it, because if there’s anything Mike believes in, it’s avoidance as a coping strategy, but there’s still another two weeks of Econ classes to sit through together, and besides, it’s not Jamie’s fault Mike’s a human disaster.

He opens his mouth to attempt to let her down gently, or whatever it is people do, but she beats him too it, shaking her head and saying, “Hey. It’s okay. This can just be a friendly coffee between classmates.” She curls her finger around a strand of her hair, pulling down on it, and it bounces back, the curl holding firm. “I should have known, anyway. I’ve seen that hot guy bringing you coffee and food and stuff, sometimes, in the library or in the mezzanine. Is he your boyfriend?”

It’s a good thing Mike doesn’t have any coffee in his mouth, because he absolutely would have ended up doing a spit-take all over her shirt if he had. As it is, he immediately has a coughing fit, and doesn’t manage to get a hold of himself for a full minute.

Jamie looks at him anxiously, her forehead scrunched, and Mike rushes to reassure her that she has the wrong idea. “Harvey? No, that’s. Harvey’s... well, he’s my friend.”

“Your friend who looks about ten years older and wears bespoke suits?”

“Dude, have you been stalking me?”

Jamie laughs. “We just have the same study schedule, I swear. I see you in the study rooms at Watson almost every night.”

Mike nods, “Yeah, I pretty much live there, lately. Which is fine, because I hate my apartment anyway.”

She raises her eyebrows. “Why?”

Mike shrugs. “Too quiet.”

She laughs again. “So you go to the library instead?”

Mike smiles sheepishly. “At least there are other people around, you know? And if there are people working around me, makes me less likely to just fuck around.”

“Peer pressure studying?”

Mike laughs too. “Had to start paying off sometime, right?”

---

Mike makes the Dean’s List in his first semester at Columbia, and Harvey takes him, Jenny, and his Gram out for dinner to celebrate. Harvey chooses somewhere classy, but intimate, and he books them a private dining room, insisting this is just for them. They all dress up, and Mike walks arm and arm with his Gram all the way from the car to the table, the pocket square of his suit matching her dress, standing tall at her side. She smiles at him like he’s something more than her grandson, now, like he’s something to be proud of that goes far beyond that, and Mike knows he has Harvey to thank for that, and for everything he’s accomplished this year.

When they reach the table and Harvey immediately withdraws a chair for his Gram, tucking it in once she’s sat down, then doing the same with Jenny, Mike thinks he’s never been prouder to call Harvey his friend.

---

It’s a perfect night. They eat, and talk, and laugh, and his Gram and Harvey get on like a house on fire, enough to worry Mike, a bit, but Jenny has his back when they team up on teasing him, and luckily his Gram keeps the stories about Mike as a naked toddler terrorizing the neighborhood to a minimum.

After the meal, they go walking through Central Park, and this time Mike links arms with Jenny, and Harvey offers his arm to Mike’s Gram. She elbows him, and they both laugh, but she takes it a minute later, and Mike lags behind a few paces with Jenny, watching them chat happily, loving the way his Gram so clearly steers where they’ll go next. He’s never seen Harvey behave this well for anyone but Jessica. Maybe not even Jessica.

Jenny is warm and smiling at his side, and she smells as good as ever, but there’s no stir of desire now, just the deep, tantalizing security of home, a feeling Jenny brings with her whenever they’re together, a feeling he’s never had as strongly as he does, right now, together with these three people, walking two by two under the stars.

---

Harvey drives his Gram back to Queens, and they all go along for the ride, dropping off Jenny next, and finally bypassing Mike’s apartment to head back to Harvey’s condo, Harvey implicitly knowing that Mike doesn’t want to be alone tonight.

He still hates it, the empty apartment, the oppressive silence when he’s trying to sleep, and Harvey doesn’t ever press that weakness, it’s one line of Mike’s that he’s never crossed.

Instead, he just sets up his sofa with a blanket and a pillow like always, and says, “Sleep well, Mike,” once they’ve brushed their teeth sharing the same sink, and Mike smiles at their reflections, and says, “You too, Harvey.”

---

He sleeps like a baby, the way he always does, at Harvey’s, and he doesn’t wake up until the persistent buzz of his phone tears him from sleep in the late morning.

He’s still half asleep, barely coherent, and Mike struggles to follow what the person is saying to him - he doesn’t recognize their voice, can’t parse their sharp, frantic phrases, not until they start saying the same thing over and over, and Mike feels his whole world shatter around him.

His Gram had a stroke sometime in the night.

She died before the ambulance even got to the apartment.

interlude; ‘cause you’re all that I’ve got

Mike can’t remember anything from the time he hangs up the phone till the moment he gets to the hospital to officially identify her body, and later, the only thing he will remember is how unlike herself his Gram looked.

That, and the solid presence of Harvey, standing beside him.

---

Harvey makes all the funeral arrangements.

Mike is too numb, too removed, to even try and stop him.

The wake is a mess, and Mike has to fight not to think about it whenever he closes his eyes, but the funeral itself is small, quiet, and Jenny and Harvey sit on either side of him, never leaving his sight. Jenny holds his hand, and Harvey keeps an arm around Mike’s shoulders or a hand pressed against the small of his back, and the feel of them is all that stops Mike from choking on his own grief, the only thing that stops him from running, running, and never looking back.

---

He gets through the eulogy by looking into Jenny’s eyes the whole time, except to glance occasionally at Harvey, and take a deep, fortifying breath, putting all of Harvey’s strength into his words. His voice doesn’t crack once, and he doesn’t cry, not when he talks about what an incredible woman she was, what an inspiration, not even as he tells everyone there exactly how much he’ll miss his Gram.

---

After the funeral, Mike goes back to her apartment in Queens and starts sorting through things, packing up what he can keep in his own place. But he never gets very far before he has to sit down on the floor, eyes screwed shut, arms wrapped around himself, shaking, trying to convince himself none of this is real, that he’ll be able to open his eyes again soon, and see his Gram smiling down at him.

---

The doorbell rings while he’s still packing, and Mike buzzes them in without checking to see who’s there, expecting it to be the same thing it’s been all week - friends of his Gram’s bringing condolences and casseroles.

When he opens the apartment door a minute later and finds Trevor staring back at him, Mike’s first instinct is to slam the door in his face, and possibly to hide under his bed, but Trevor catches the door with his hand before it can close.

Mike’s heart is hammering in his chest, and he’s not entirely sure he isn’t dreaming this, not until Trevor smiles at him, too sharp and painful to be anything but real.

He pushes again, still trying to shut the door, but Trevor stands firm, saying, “Come on, Mike. I’ve been on a bus for the past twenty-four hours just to see you. I know I don’t deserve much, but you could at least let me come inside.”

Mike hesitates, just for a second, relaxing his grip on the door, and it’s enough for Trevor to take advantage, enough for Trevor to push his way inside.

Alone together for the first time in almost a year, Mike is caught between noticing all the ways Trevor looks different (shorter hair, less flashy clothes, none of the usual mischievous spark in his eye), and struggling to believe that any time has passed at all, his presence making it seem temporarily impossible that anything of import could have happened in the time since they were last together.

Except so much has happened, for the better, and for the worse, and Mike’s head is swimming with it all, with the grief over his Gram he’s sure will never go away, with the shock of having that loss coupled with Trevor’s return. He expected the world to shrink down to nothing, the way it always used to when Trevor was around, but instead his presence sends Mike’s mind reeling, a cacophony of thoughts racing through his mind, everything he’s done this year, how far he’s come, what he’s lost, and he forces himself to take a deep breath, and wonder, what would Harvey do?

And that’s easy, Harvey would tell him to kick Trevor out, Harvey would tell Mike he’s better off without him. Thinking about the past year, Mike knows Harvey would be right.

Still, Mike can’t even look at Trevor when he says, “Mike, man, I’m so sorry. I know how much she meant to you.”

Mike’s gone through this enough already to know there’s a script for these sorts of interactions, a safe routine of offering and accepting condolences and sharing grief, but none of it makes sense with Trevor, and he can only croak, “How did you know?”

Trevor smiles, all the more familiar due to its guilty edge. “Jenny told me.”

With that, Mike’s snapped violently from shock to anger. It would throw him, except he’s been having mood swings like crazy since - well. He’s used to them by now, is the thing.

“You’ve been talking to Jenny?”

“Yeah, for awhile now. But she called as soon as she found out about your Gram.”

“So what, you couldn’t call me? Forgot my phone number, did you?”

“Mike, come on. Of course I couldn’t call you. You know that. I had to try and let you have a life.”

“Jenny doesn’t deserve a life?”

“Jenny’s not in love with me. Makes it easier.”

“I’m not in love with you either,” Mike says, meaning it spitefully, but in speaking the words, he’s surprised to discover that they’re true. He’d been so sure he was, all this time, but looking at Trevor now, it’s like he’s diminished, somehow. Mike looks at Trevor, and he doesn’t see his future, he only sees his past.

Trevor laughs. “Makes one of us.”

Mike closes his eyes, sighing. “I can’t hear this right now, Trevor. This is - you can’t just--”

“Hey, Mike, hey, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean. I just thought you should know. That I owed you that much, I guess.”

Mike wants to keep his eyes closed forever, or at least until Trevor leaves, but he forces himself to open them, looking Trevor straight in the eyes when he asks, “What are you doing here, Trevor? Really?”

Trevor shrugs. “Jenny thought you might need me.”

“I don’t.”

In the silence that follows, Mike realizes he’s more shocked by his outburst than Trevor is. He looks resigned, but unsurprised, prompting Mike to add, in the spirit of full disclosure,

“I’m not saying some part of me doesn’t still want you. I think in a way, I always will. But I can’t do this with you again, Trevor.”

“I know, man. I didn’t come back to try and talk my way back into your life. I just wanted to see you. To be here, if maybe you needed it, just for right now. Mostly, I guess, Jenny told me what happened, and I just couldn’t not come.”

Mike shakes his head. “I can’t believe you two have been talking behind my back. I mean, you, I’d believe, but Jenny, how could she--”

“Mike, I hear you, but you’ve got to let it go.”

“I’m sorry?”

“All the crap we put her through? Let her take a pass on this one. Get over it.” He smiles. “Blame me, if you want, but don’t take it out on Jenny.”

Mike takes a deep breath, and tries to do what Trevor’s suggesting, shaking his head a second later. “I can’t believe I’m taking advice from you.”

“It’s good, though, you know it. I’m right.”

Mike finds himself laughing.

“Had to happen sooner or later.”

---

He and Trevor talk for awhile longer, just basic things, like where Trevor’s been working (a diner, location undisclosed) and what Mike’s been taking in school. It’s not awkward, exactly, but the connection between them is strained, and Mike finds himself not quite knowing how to talk to Trevor, not anymore. They don’t fit, not like they used to, and Mike feels loss hit him harder that it has any right to, not after all this time. But sitting across from Trevor, now, it’s like he’s further away than he ever was this past year, like Mike’s been missing a person who doesn’t even exist. Or maybe he’s the one who isn’t the same person anymore.

They don’t smoke, or fuck, or even touch, not until the end, when Trevor is hovering in the doorway and Mike can’t help but wrap his arms around Trevor, one last time. One real goodbye.

Right before he lets Mike go, Trevor cups his jaw and says, “I love you, Mike,” and then, before Mike has time to think, let alone respond, Trevor’s gone, the door shut firmly behind him.

Mike sinks down to the floor, and calls Harvey.

---

He doesn’t get much out, just, “Trevor,” and, “I need you,” before Harvey is hanging up, and Mike remains curled into himself on the floor until the door swings dramatically open, and Harvey rushes inside.

“I’m alone,” Mike says brokenly, looking up at him from the ground.

“No, you’re not,” Harvey replies immediately, crousixg down beside Mike and hugging him fiercely. “You’ve got me.”

 

part six; I can tell just want you want (you don’t want to be alone)

Mike gets high and tries to sleep with Harvey three separate times after his Grandmother dies.

The first time is basically right after it happens, when Harvey is checking back in on Mike after going with him to identify her body earlier that day, and Mike’s hands and mouth are on him before Harvey is even all the way inside the door. The place reeks of pot and Mike’s mouth is dank and sour with it, but Harvey doesn’t even push Mike away, he just turns the frantic groping into a painfully tight hug, and Mike dissolves into sloppy, gulping tears in his arms.

The second time is in the middle of the wake, when Mike goes outside for a long time and comes back with glassy eyes and an open mouth, his tongue flicking out to lick his lips compulsively until Mike’s eyes lock onto Harvey. He tries to drag Harvey into a bathroom stall and Harvey lets him, locking them in together. He catches Mike’s hands, clumsily trying to undo Harvey’s fly, and holds them firm between his own shaking hands. They just stand there in the stall, staring at each other bleakly, until Mike snaps himself out of it and nods, looking almost sober, and then disappears out of the bathroom.

The third time is the night Trevor comes back. The night Trevor comes back, and Mike is strong enough to send him away.

Mike’s not even stoned when Harvey gets there, but he is crumpled in a heap on the floor, looking more lost and broken than Harvey’s ever seen him. Harvey sinks down onto the floor with him, hugging Mike for all he’s worth, but Mike just keeps shaking, shuddering in his arms. Despite himself, Harvey can’t help thinking that all of this is still going to seem as hard, and as empty, and as horrible in the morning, but at least he can give Mike something that might help him get through the night.

So he stands up, and goes to get the weed Mike keeps stashed under his bed, because of course Harvey knows where Mike keeps his shit, he’s not an idiot, and Mike’s not exactly subtle. He likes to think he is, Harvey knows, but he’s really, really not.

He sits back down on the floor, and places Mike’s pipe, his canister of weed, and lighter, all down in a row in front of him.

Mike stares at Harvey, wordless, like he’s afraid to look down at the drugs, but then he sucks in a sigh that sends a shiver down Harvey’s spine, and picks up the weed, opening the canister and tearing apart the buds methodically, head bent, totally focused on what he’s doing.

He doesn’t get up to smoke, just stays where he is on the floor, and Harvey’s not even surprised when Mike grabs his shoulders and pulls him into a kiss that’s full of smoke. Harvey chokes, a little, on smoke or want, or both, but he pushes Mike away, firm as always, and Mike smiles, like hey, had to give him points for trying.

Except Harvey gives Mike points for everything, always. Since the beginning, Harvey’s been too impressed by him, too fond of him, and maybe that’s their whole problem.

---

He stays the night, that third time, and he even lets Mike drag them into bed together, although it’s only because Mike’s clinging to him too tightly to do much else, babbling nonsense about how he’s afraid they’re the only two people left in the world, like maybe everyone else is really gone, outside his apartment, and how he’ll go crazy if Harvey leaves him behind too.

Mike’s asleep before they’re even under the covers, and Harvey lies at his side, watching him, knowing he should get up and leave, but doing no such thing.

---

Harvey knew he was in trouble the minute he met Mike, is the thing.

It’s just that he’s only now realizing how much.

---

He never meant for this to happen, he honestly didn’t.

In fact, he meant for the exact opposite to happen.

He meant to be the first person who wasn’t his Grandmother that didn’t take advantage of Mike.

He meant to look after him.

To keep Mike safe.

To show him that his potential wasn’t something to be ashamed of, or cast aside.

He meant to be good to Mike, to be good for him.

Waking up spooned together, with Mike’s hands wrapped around Harvey’s own, wasn’t supposed to be anywhere in the program.

---

When Mike finally wakes up in the late hours of the morning, Harvey is still there. Watching him, holding him.

Mike’s bleary eyed, rubbing absently at his face, seemingly unaware of Harvey’s lingering presence at his side, but then Harvey clears his throat, and Mike’s whole body startles, and he shrinks away from Harvey in an instant, a stricken, frightened look on his face.

Harvey knows the other side of the bed is where Mike should be - if not much further away - and he knows this is the time to talk, to reestablish some boundaries between them. Or at least shore up the facade of boundaries he needs to believe are there, just to keep from losing himself to this situation completely.

Except, he also knows that, when Mike thought he didn’t have anyone else, he called Harvey. And he knows that Mike has never needed him more than he does now.

So, he reaches out, curling his fingers around Mike’s shoulder and tugging him gently closer, an encouragement, not an insistence, and Mike comes gladly, plastering himself eagerly against Harvey’s side and making these soft, helpless sounds into Harvey’s neck. It’s not even like Mike’s crying, exactly, but almost something worse. Like this is what comes when you’ve cried so much you can’t anymore, because there are just no tears left, and Harvey is left holding on, waiting for Mike to fall back asleep.

---

When Mike got high and called him that first time, all those months ago, and Harvey was too busy being concerned to even consider being pissed, he knew he was in over his head, out of his depths, but he was the one Mike called, he was the one Mike needed, and he’d never been good at turning down a challenge, not even the strange, emotion-laden kind Mike offered.

When Mike called him while Harvey was at work, just to check in on Harvey and mockingly pry some emotions out of him, Harvey knew it was getting too close. But the call had snapped him out of a mood bad enough that even Donna had been giving him a wide berth, and he’d spent the rest of the day smiling to himself for no good reason.

When he went to Mike’s work, that first time, just because he had a free half hour and he hadn’t seen Mike in a few days, Harvey knew it was time to pull back before the situation spun completely out of his control. But when Harvey presented Mike with the most complicated order he could come up with, seeing Mike struggling to keep a resentful glare and a pleased grin off his face at the same time had been the best part of Harvey’s day. Maybe of his whole week, if Harvey was being honest.

When he started taking Mike grocery shopping with him, he knew it was stretching things way too thin, knew concern about Mike not eating enough was too weak of a reason to be anything other than an excuse, a poorly-concealed desire to just see more of Mike. But he kept going, week after week.

When Mike came to lunch, hungover and guilty-looking, Harvey knew the lurch of jealousy he felt was irrational, unfair, totally out of line. But he couldn’t help but be happy, later, when he realized it was Jenny that Mike almost slept with, when he watched their friendship finally settle into something solid and real, something unlikely to turn mercurial and ultimately romantic.

When Harvey’s elbow accidentally caught Mike in the nose and Harvey started to go half hard just from watching Mike wipe the blood from his mouth, he knew it was time to pull back, and probably get his head examined, too. But, instead, he helped Mike hobble off the court holding way too much of Mike against him, ignoring the dizzying thrum of want in his veins, and cracking jokes about the relative quality of their kindergartens.

When Mike started coming into work with him, Harvey knew he shouldn’t look forward to it as much as he did, knew he had no business letting Mike help out on his cases, or even come there at all. But he took the flack from the other junior partners and he even braved receiving the riot act from Jessica more than once, eventually convincing her to let Mike keep coming in, swearing up and down that he’d never get within a hundred feet of any breathing clients.

When he started bragging about Mike’s grades at Columbia like a proud parent or spouse, Harvey knew he should shut up, stop being so obvious, so demonstrative. But he couldn’t stop himself from crowing about every single one of Mike’s accomplishments, prouder than he’d ever been, even over his own.

When he went to bring Mike coffee because he was happy about his case and there was no one he wanted to be around more than Mike, Harvey knew he was letting this thing go way too far, even if it was just inside his own heart, even if it was nothing he’d act on, even if it was nothing he’d say aloud. But the smile Mike gave him in exchange for the drink was so pathetically genuine, so soft and surprised, that Harvey couldn’t bring himself to regret the gesture, and he couldn’t stop himself from repeating it.

When he kept letting Mike come to his office, even after he had nothing that remotely resembled a good reason to do so, Harvey knew it was time to admit this thing had gotten the best of him, but he resolved to be the only one who ever had to pay for it. Reassuring himself that it didn’t matter what he felt, as long as he could still be good to Mike.

Promising himself that, as long as Mike never found out, never knew, it wouldn’t matter that somewhere, between afternoons in his office, spent feigning work while watching Mike study out of the corner of his eye, and nights spent waking up at two AM to look across the couch and see Mike sacked out and drooling at his side, it all became too much, too close. It wouldn’t matter that somewhere along the line, and without Harvey’s conscious knowledge or approval, Mike became the most important person in his world.

---

When Mike wakes up a second time, Harvey is out of bed, making them breakfast. It’s not much - they missed their last grocery shopping trip and Mike’s cupboards are more than a little bare - but there’s eggs and beans and a piece of toast to be cut in half between them.

Mike still looks wrecked, exhausted in a way sleep can’t fix, and he wraps his arms tightly around himself, shuffling awkwardly into view, looking everywhere but at Harvey.

Harvey opens his mouth to tell Mike - well, he’s not sure, exactly, but hopefully something comforting, but before he can speak, Mike blurts,

“I’m sorry.”

Harvey shakes his head. “It’s alright.”

“Is it?” Mike asks shakily. “Why? Because Trevor was here? Because my grandmother just died?”

Harvey closes his eyes, breathing deep until the hysteria and anger in Mike’s voice is able to just slide off him like it’s nothing.

“I gave you the drugs,” is what Harvey says first, because it’s true, and it seems like the safest place to start this. He’s not actually sure if Mike’s talking about the pot or the kissing, but he settles for the pot, not anywhere near emotionally equipped to have the other conversation.

Mike is still tensed, shoulders curved protectively in around himself, but he nods, conceding this fact, at least. “I kind of meant more than that, though. The whole thing.” He runs a hand through his hair, unfolding just a bit. “The way I’ve been acting since it happened. Treating you like...” he shakes his head. “I’m sorry.”

Harvey shrugs, and turns away from him for a minute, fussing with the eggs, and takes them off the stove before turning back around to muster a smile for Mike.

“Like I said, it’s okay. You’ve been through a lot, and I can take it.”

“Yeah, but you shouldn’t have to.”

Harvey ignores him for the moment, plating the food, then waving Mike over impatiently when he just hovers uncertainly near the edge of the room.

They take the food to the couch, because Mike doesn’t have a kitchen table, or room for one, or any surfaces that aren’t covered in books and binders full of notes.

Mike sits far away from Harvey, pressed against the arm of the couch, carefully cutting up his eggs, and eating them dutifully, head down, until Harvey sighs and pushes his plate away, food half done, and Mike immediately does the same, like he was waiting for permission.

“You didn’t have to eat if you weren’t hungry,” Harvey says, restraining another sigh.

Mike shrugs, and looks at Harvey with big, red-rimmed eyes. It seems like it’s hurting Mike, just to look at Harvey, but he can’t seem to tear his eyes away, either.

Harvey remembers what Mike said to him last night, stoned and weepy, remembers the way he clung to Harvey like he was drowning, like Harvey was all he had left.

It might even be true, and for as long as it is, Harvey’s going to make damn sure he’s enough. He’s not going to be another person who lets Mike down, or leaves him behind. No matter how dangerous his own feelings, he’s not going to push Mike away when he needs Harvey the most.

So, throwing caution and self-preservation at least temporarily to the wind, Harvey shifts in his seat, angling himself towards Mike on the couch, and holds out his arms.

And maybe it shouldn't feel as significant as it does, maybe it doesn’t even make that much of a difference at all, not stacked up against everything Mike’s lost this past week, but Mike’s whole face seems to shine with relief, and he practically throws himself into Harvey’s arms, attaching himself like a limpet, and burying his face in Harvey’s shoulder.

Harvey doesn’t know how long they’ll stay like this, wrapped up in each other, just listening to the sound of the other breathing. He only knows that he’s not going to let go before Mike does.

---

Harvey’s never been a particularly demonstrative guy. He’s never dated anyone long enough to find out for sure, he guesses, but he had girlfriends in high school and college that he kept around longer than a night or two, and he never reached out to them just to remind himself they were still there, just to feel the reassuring beat of their pulse under his fingers, not like he finds himself doing with Mike.

He tries to stop it, once he’s noticed it happening, but when he does, Mike gets kind of wilted, going confused and a little bereft around the eyes, and while Harvey’s never been particularly good at resisting him, at telling Mike no, he’s completely crap at it now. He’d probably buy Mike a freaking pony, at this point, if it would get him to smile for more than a second before Mike remembered himself, if it would make Mike square his shoulders and hold his head high, if it would bring back the pride Mike had just started carrying himself with, the confidence that he was loved, that he had a place in the world.

In lieu of a pony, or more likely, a completely impractical and flashy car, Harvey settles for giving Mike what comfort his touches can provide, settles for wrapping Mike up close when they’re alone, and keeping a hand pressed to the small of his back or the crook of his neck when they’re not. And Mike does seem to draw some reassurance from it, some kind of strength, even though it’s not enough to make him laugh, even though it’s not enough to make Mike himself again. It’s still all Harvey’s got, and he’s desperate enough to take the win, minor and fraught though it may be.

---

At the end of August, two weeks after Helen’s death, Mike disappears. Harvey goes over to check on him after work, like most days, expecting Mike to be home, like always, knowing he’s barely left his apartment since it happened.

Except, when Harvey gets there, Mike’s gone, and he doesn’t answer his cellphone. Harvey tries Jenny’s, next, but she and Mike aren’t talking, again, and she seems as worried and confused as Harvey when she picks up the phone.

He leaves it for the night, refusing to give into panic, telling himself Mike will be fine.

When he goes back the next morning, though, the apartment’s still deserted, and there’s no sign Mike’s been back in the interim.

He tries to think of where Mike might have gone, furious and afraid, the fear just making him angrier, but try as he might, Mike’s not in any of the places Harvey can come up with. The problem is that all their interactions have been so isolated; nights spent watching movies at Harvey’s, afternoons and late nights working side by side in Harvey’s office, random trips to Mike’s work to give him a hard time, visits to the library... none if it is helpful now, and Harvey realizes he has no idea where else Mike might go, what else he even likes to do, or where he feels safe.

It makes him want to punch something, the way this realization drives home how little he actually knows Mike, or who he used to be, before Harvey breezed into his life and reordered everything to his liking, convincing himself it was for Mike’s own good.

Boxing has always been his sport, as much as his heart belongs to baseball, his temperament has always been more suited to pounding his frustrations out on a willing participant, or at least an inanimate one, so he spends a few hours trying to bleed his anger and worry out of his fists, and when that doesn’t work, Harvey gets back in his car and starts driving.

Even if he can’t find Mike, at least speeding through the city at night will give him the illusion of momentum.

---

He ends up in Queens, parked outside Mike’s old elementary school, the one he used to help Trevor sell drugs out of.

He sits in the car for a long time before Harvey finally notices that one of the swings is moving, even though the playground is dark and appears deserted, and when he squints, Harvey can make out the outline of hunched shoulders and a pulled up hood.

He springs out of his car, half running towards the swings, knowing he’s going to scare whoever it is, already bracing himself for pepper spray, in case it’s not actually Mike, but he makes enough noise that the figure turns before Harvey is up close, and there Mike is.

Harvey’s not out of breath, not quite, so he has enough force left in his lungs to say, “If you try this crap again I’m going to kill you,” and really mean it.

He hasn’t seen Mike in two days, and by the looks of him, Mike’s been out here, or out somewhere, the whole time.

“Go ahead,” Mike says, and Harvey can hear the real desperation in his tone, the desolation, but he’s had a long fucking night, and it just pisses him off.

“Shut the fuck up, I don’t want to hear that kind of shit from you. Your Grandmother just died, and she fought for every last one of her days with you, so have some respect.”

“You didn’t even know her!”

“I knew her well enough. Enough to like her, enough to be damn grateful to have gotten to meet her. I know it’s hard, being without her, but you can’t do this, Mike, you can’t give up. She wouldn’t want you to.”

Mike shakes his head, still sitting on the swing, and it twists along with his violent movement. “Maybe not, but she’s dead. So what’s the point?”

Harvey comes up close, grabbing Mike’s sweater in his hands, shaking him a little. “The point is to live, Mike, to live as much and as long as you can. Live for her, live for yourself, live for whatever the fuck you want, just live.”

Mike looks at him, and for a minute, it seems like he’s not even listening, like he’s just going to slip further and further away, but just before Harvey lets go, ready to step back and try something else, Mike takes a deep breath, and then another.

Harvey stands with him, watching Mike struggle to hold himself together, one breath at a time.

---

Mike’s classes don’t start up again for another two weeks, and ever since he ran off, Harvey gets a sick feeling in his stomach whenever he even thinks about leaving Mike alone, so he just starts taking Mike everywhere with him. Not to court, obviously, but pretty much everywhere else. If Mike’s already at the office with him anyway, at least Harvey can get Donna to keep an eye on him when he’s meeting with clients or in court.

“I don’t need a babysitter,” Mike routinely grumbles, but he never protests beyond that, and even that much is only when Harvey’s going to leave him alone with Donna instead of sticking around himself. When they’re together, Mike sticks as close to Harvey’s side as circumstances and physics will allow, and he never tries to resist when Harvey hooks an arm around his shoulder at the end of another day and says, “Why don’t you come back to my place tonight.”

Trevor’s gone back, “from whence he came,” according to Mike, but it’s not Trevor that Harvey’s worried about. It’s just Mike, Mike, and the dead look in his eyes so much of the time, Mike, and the way he honestly didn’t sound like he could think of one single reason to keep on going until Harvey gave him some.

It’s worrying, like everything about this situation is, and Harvey hates worrying about other people. He prefers to avoid worrying altogether, when possible, but none of his usual rules ever seem to apply with Mike.

Worse, he can’t seem to fix any of it, not Mike, not himself, and after awhile, Harvey gives up trying. Instead, he just grits his teeth and bears it, soldiering through the long silences that pass between them, when he talks and Mike stares listlessly out the window; putting up with the weird looks he gets for suddenly having a Mike-shaped shadow trailing after him wherever he goes; ignoring the choking sense of helplessness, right along with the insistent pulse of want, that follows wherever Mike does.

He can’t do much else, can’t fix this for either of them, but he can at least keep Mike with him, like that’ll stop Mike if he really wants to do harm to himself. Mike doesn’t seem to want to run again, though, and pretty soon it gets to be that Harvey’s used to getting up an extra twenty minutes early, just so he can have time to make them both breakfast before he goes to the gym. It gets to be that he expects to hear the sounds of Mike moving around in the condo, even if he can’t actually see him. It gets to be that he doesn’t even have to ask if Mike wants to come home with him at the end of the night.

They spend all their days together, with Harvey working and Mike mostly staring off into space, and the only times Mike looks like he even knows where he is, like he’s present, are when Harvey is looking back at him. And the only time Mike looks anything close to okay is at the end of each day, when Harvey raises his eyebrows and lifts his arm a little, and Mike slinks under it, sighing against him and letting Harvey lead them home.

---

It’s after dinner, and they’re at opposite ends of the couch, but Mike’s got his feet in Harvey’s lap, making it awkward every time Harvey has to turn the page in the brief he’s reading. Mike’s got one of his philosophy books open, one for the epistemology class he’s supposed to be starting on Monday, and Harvey asks without thinking, “Do you want to go back?”

“What?” Mike startles, dropping his book, voice high and eyes a little frantic.

“To your classes,” Harvey clarifies quickly, realizing Mike thought he meant ‘back to your own apartment.’

Mike’s shoulders sag and he slumps lower into the couch cushions. Harvey shouldn’t take comfort in how relieved Mike looks, but he does, all the same.

He watches Mike turn the question over in his head, shrugging eventually. “I hadn’t really thought about not. I’m registered, and,” he picks his book back up, raising it a little for emphasis, “I have most of my books already, too.” They’d gone shopping for them together, and all Harvey remembers is how much they laughed, how red Mike got when Harvey teased him for being so eager for the new term that he was buying books before the old one even finished. “Plus, it’ll probably be good to have something to do, keep busy.”

Harvey nods. It’s the smart thing, the practical thing, and he’s proud of Mike for making the right decision.

The idea of it leaves him feeling a bit unsettled, though, disoriented, maybe, but he tries to brush if off. It’s just that he’s gotten used to having Mike around, that’s all, and it’ll be strange, spending their days apart again. Like maybe he’s going to miss Mike, more than a little, and that’s a pathetic enough thought that Harvey can barely stand to admit it to himself, and he’s certainly not going to share it with Mike.

Still, evidently Mike’s right there with him, because he’s giving Harvey the first smile he’s seen in days, rueful but genuine, saying, “And hey, gotta keep up my grades so I can get into Harvard and become your associate someday, right?”

Harvey laughs, trying to cover up how surprised he is to hear Mike still talking about that, or expressing any kind of ambition at all, even if it was half his way of saying he just wants to stay near Harvey.

It’s not exactly like he can claim the feeling isn’t mutual.

“Absolutely right,” he answers eventually, when he thinks he can say it while keeping his voice steady, not showing how much he wants that for Mike, how much he wants Mike to have dreams, again, something to strive for.

Mike nods to himself, but he’s still smiling, just a little, so maybe Mike hears it after all. But maybe that’s okay.

He sits up, and starts inching his way over to Harvey until their sides are touching, until they’re close enough for Mike to rest his head on Harvey’s shoulder, and it’s going to be even more of a bitch to turn the pages of his brief now, but maybe, hearing the contented sigh Mike makes once he’s settled in comfortably, that’s okay too.

---

Helen owned her apartment in Queens, but took out a small second mortgage on it when Mike moved away. It’s not an amount Harvey would even notice is missing from his bank account, and he knows Mike thinks the place is paid for, so Harvey writes a check, and then it really is.

He takes care of the actual sale of the apartment as well, after pushing Mike a few times to keep the place and getting shouted down every time. The money goes into Mike’s account, along with the meager return on Helen’s life insurance policy, but Mike gets angry, or worse, whenever Harvey tries to bring the money up, and he’s pretty sure it’s going to sit in Mike’s bank account untouched for a very long time.

---

Mike’s been sleeping on the couch - Harvey hasn’t gone entirely out of his damn mind - and on the first day of his new classes, Harvey finds him still sitting there, wide awake, wrapped up in an afghan he brought with him. It looks homemade, and Harvey can’t think of anyone else Mike knows who might have crocheted him a blanket, so he guesses it must have been Helen.

Mike doesn’t even look up when Harvey comes to sit down beside him, but he leans into Harvey a little once he seems to accept Harvey isn’t going to get up again right away.

“No one has called me about all the shifts I’ve been missing at work,” Mike says, and it’s about the last thing Harvey expected to hear coming out of Mike’s mouth today.

“I took care of it,” Harvey explains simply, shrugging a little.

Mike’s staring straight ahead, his profile turned away from Harvey, and when Harvey looks at Mike, he sees the tense line of Mike’s jaw, notes the way he’s blinking more than he should, the way Mike does when he’s frustrated or angry.

“You shouldn’t have done that.”

“Why not?”

“I need the job.”

“You still have the job. You’re just taking a leave of absence.”

“I’m part-time. We don’t have those.”

“I made a very convincing argument.”

Mike snorts, but it’s not without genuine humor. “I’ll bet you did.”

Harvey doesn’t say anything, he’s not going to apologize, and he’s not going to tell Mike what he said to convince them, even though part of Harvey wants Mike to know how easy it was, how understanding his supervisors all were, how concerned to hear about Mike’s loss. It’ll be good for Mike to find that out from them in person, on his own time, when he’s ready to go back.

So he keeps silent, and watches Mike carefully as he works his way to acceptance, even gratitude over what Harvey’s done.

Harvey gets off the couch before Mike can thank him, or say something else equally heavy and emotional that’ll stay with Harvey all day, and briskly begins setting the table for their breakfast. A few minutes later, Mike gets off the couch too, and starts helping.

---

Donna lets Harvey get away with the ridiculously short leash he’s been keeping Mike on until classes start, and she realizes Harvey’s still got Mike crashing at his place.

If you can even call it that, at this point. Harvey’s pretty sure Mike hasn’t seen the inside of his own apartment since Harvey took him from there the morning after Mike ran away.

And in all the time since then, he knows Donna’s been doing her best to deflect the weird looks and suspicious talk in the halls about why Mike’s constantly hanging around, just like he knows Donna’s been going easy on him because she gets that it’s not just Mike. Because she gets that Harvey’s grieving too, even though he probably doesn’t have the right, even though he barely knew Helen Ross.

Except now Mike’s back in school, but still in Harvey’s condo, and evidently Harvey’s grace period is up.

Donna even closes the blinds when she comes in, hands on her hips, but when he looks at her, she sinks down onto the couch and just stares at him bleakly, and that’s when Harvey knows he’s really in trouble.

“Just tell me you have some idea of what you’re doing here, Harvey. Tell me you have a plan, an exit strategy, anything. Tell me it’s not going to end like I think it is.”

“How do you think it’s going to end?”

She sighs. “With at least one of you getting your heart broken.”

Harvey manages to smile. “Easy. It won’t. I’m not going to let anything else happen to Mike, and everyone knows I had my own heart surgically removed after I took the Bar. It’ll be fine.”

Donna smiles at him grimly and says, “Yeah. It had better be.”

---

Harvey wishes he could say that he was blindsided by his attraction to Mike, and in a way, it’s almost true. It was never what he intended, never something he even thought of, not until that disastrous evening when Mike put his hand on Harvey’s leg, and it took Harvey spilling secrets he hasn’t even spoken aloud to Donna to convince Mike he wasn’t expecting sexual favors in return for taking an interest in Mike’s future.

Despite that, despite his best intentions and efforts, Harvey’s want and affection for Mike have grown silently, steadily, a pernicious thread of feelings wrapping tighter and tighter around his heart, until he can’t even remember what it was like, before, when his emotions were still his own. When they were locked down deep enough inside that Harvey didn’t have to worry about feeling much of anything.

Now, with Mike, he feels too much, all the time, and he can’t shut any of it off, can’t even pretend it away, not to himself, and, more and more, not to anyone else, either.

He swears he’ll never let Mike know, promises himself that there’s no way Mike already does.

That’s not what Mike’s advances have been about, Harvey’s sure of it. It’s not a mutual recognition, not an attraction shared between them. It’s not even real want, on Mike’s end. He’s just reverting, back to what he was when Harvey first met him, and Mike only knew how to show affection one way, when he only knew one way of asking to be close.

That’s all it is, Mike needing to be close to someone, anyone, so Harvey turns Mike’s kisses into hugs or soft strokes of his hair, he keeps Mike’s hands in his own so they don’t wander. Most of all, he ignores the look in Mike’s eyes, right before they say good night, the one that promises Mike’ll do anything if it means he doesn’t have to spend the night sleeping alone.

---

When Scotty calls him to tell Harvey’s she’s going to be in town, Harvey thinks it’s the answer to all his prayers.

Scotty’s fun, she’s hot, and all Harvey has to do is show up at her hotel room wearing a nice enough suit, and she’s pulling him through the door by the tie.

He gets all the way inside her without thinking about Mike, but when she moans, the first real, pleased and desperate sound he’s been able to pry from her, part of the competition between them, all Harvey can think about is the soft, helpless way Mike breathes against his neck when Harvey’s holding him, like he’s all that’s tethering Mike to the earth. He opens his eyes, trying to shut thoughts of Mike out by concentrating on her face, touching her back and arching her closer. Scotty hums approvingly and drives down on him harder, and once again Harvey’s overcome, lost to sensation, but as soon as he closes his eyes, all he sees is Mike, spread out like Scotty is for him now, and he comes without warning, like a freaking teenager.

Scotty laughs at him, but he goes down on her for long enough to turn the laughter into choked moans. Even then, Harvey’s removed, absent, and he thinks about Mike when he’s in the shower after, and again, the whole way home.

---

Mike brightens, just a little, once he’s been back into his classes for awhile, busy with the work, even challenged by it occasionally.

He starts taking shifts at Starbucks again, too, after the first two weeks of school, and Harvey adjusts to not having him around in the office, to sometimes coming home from work and not finding Mike there waiting for him.

They talk to each other on the phone during the day, though, most days, in Mike’s breaks and when he’s walking to the subway station on his way home, conversations that range from thirty seconds to an hour, when they can spare it. They talk about movies and work, and whose turn it is to do the dishes that night, but they don’t talk about Mike going back to his apartment, they don’t talk about the absurdity of what they’re doing, like they’re both afraid that if they examine things too closely, they’ll all fall apart.

---

For all the time they spend together, for all they talk, on the phone, in quiet evenings at home, Harvey and Mike don’t talk about much that matters. Mike won’t - maybe can’t - talk about his grandmother, and Harvey’s even more reluctant to bring up Trevor than Mike is.

They don’t talk much about Cameron, anymore, either, and sometimes Harvey can’t decide if he’s glad or sorry about that. It was good, if he’s willing to admit it, to have someone other than Donna who knew what went down at the D.A’s office. It was good to have Mike look at him, and see the man underneath, behind the person Cameron made Harvey think he needed to be.

But even if they don’t talk about him anymore, Mike still looks at Harvey like that, so maybe they don’t need to talk about it after all.

---

It takes a month of Mike living with him for Harvey to admit that’s actually what’s been going on. It’s another week before Harvey’s ready to admit he doesn’t want it to stop.

He could just let things go on as they have been, drifting from day to day, but he finds himself needing more security than that, finds himself wanting to offer more to Mike than this fleeting, fragile equilibrium.

He waits until Mike’s in a good mood, or what passes for a good mood, these days, until they’ve eaten dinner and Harvey’s had a glass of scotch, before asking.

“Do you want to keep staying here? On a semi-permanent basis? At least for now?”

Mike blinks up at him, legs tucked under his thighs, propped up at the foot of the couch. Before Harvey spoke, he’d been listening to the record Harvey put on intently, eyes closed, his face resting against Harvey’s calf.

“Am I invited?” he asks, sounding uncertain.

“You’re invited,” Harvey assures him, his voice going gravely and low without his permission.

Mike smiles, a real, happy smile, and it makes Harvey’s heart constrict painfully in his chest, makes his fingers itch to reach out and touch Mike. So he does, just a little, just ruffling Mike’s hair with his hands, but Mike leans into it, sighing contentedly, making Harvey pull away shakily, placing both his hands on his thighs, like he needs to keep them where he can see them.

“Then yeah, I want to stay,” Mike says, like his smile wasn’t answer enough, but Harvey nods, glad for the verbal confirmation as well.

“Good,” He says, casting an eye around his condo critically. For one person, the place is a palace, perfect. For two, it’ll take a little rearranging. He’s going to have to say goodbye to his home office.

Not that it matters. With Mike always out here reading or working, it’s not like he’s been spending too much time in there anyway. Mike can use the desk in the office for his own studying if he wants to, and some of the other furniture can be moved around or given away. There’s room enough, but they’ll need to get a few new things to make Mike comfortable. Something other than a banker’s lamp for his bedroom, another set of towels because they’re always having to use each other’s damp ones, maybe a bedside table and another hook in the foyer, so Mike always has a place to hang his coat. Speaking of which, they should probably get him a new one. Mike wandered around all last winter in layered hoodies and a worn corduroy jacket, and Harvey’s going to be damned if Mike gets hypothermia on his watch.

He’s in the middle of mentally rearranging his bookshelves so there’ll be space for Mike’s stuff amongst his own books and records, when Harvey realizes,

“We should get you a bed.” Mike sleeps on a a rickety futon in his old apartment, and Harvey has no interest in seeing him repeat that practice under his roof.

“Should we?” Mike asks, looking up at Harvey through his eye lashes. His voice is low and his eyes are dark, and it’s the first time Mike’s looked at Harvey like that sober.

It makes his pulse quicken, and Harvey nods very firmly.

“We should.”

---

They go get the rest of Mike’s stuff from his apartment the next day, after Harvey’s done work, and make plans to go shopping for a bed and the other odds and ends he’ll need that weekend.

While Mike is finishing up, Harvey goes across the hall and discreetly pays off the rest of Mike’s lease, and then tells Mike that Sam, his landlord, was willing to let Mike out of it without penalty. Mike glares at him like he knows Harvey is full of shit, but he doesn’t actively call Harvey on it, so they pack up the rest of the apartment without having an argument.

Once they’ve loaded the remainder of his books and clothes into Harvey’s car, Mike stands outside his building one last time, and he gives the place a hard, indecipherable look before getting into the car and waiting for Harvey to do the same. Harvey starts driving, and Mike keeps his face forward, not once looking back.

---

Even though part of Harvey feels more relaxed, more settled, now that Mike is living with him officially, now that he has his own space and a reason to keep coming back there, night after night, in some ways it makes things that much harder, too. When they were just drifting, day to day, he could avoid thinking too much about it, avoid analyzing too closely why it felt so good to come home and find Mike waiting for him. It’s tricky, now, to pretend he doesn’t want all the things with Mike that he does, all those small, simple things that add to up to a shared life.

He’s constantly fighting with himself, trying to keep a strangle hold on his want, trying not to think about a future built on this house of cards, pain and loss and loneliness conspiring to push them closer together than they have any right to be.

And it’s hard, too, simply being with Mike, living in such close quarters, partly just because Mike is still so exhausting, a lot of the time; moody and sullen one minute, hyper and affectionate the next, lashing out wildly, inexplicably, the minute after that.

What’s even worse is how much he still enjoys being around Mike, despite everything, how much he wants to be around Mike. Even as the poor imitation of himself that Mike is now, he’s still Harvey’s favorite person in the world, and that says more about Harvey than he likes.

---

Harvey gets home from work late, and Mike is already back from his classes.

He’s on the floor, sitting in front of a box, pictures and old cards from holidays and birthdays strewn all around him.

He looks like he’s been crying, but Harvey’s not going to mention it unless Mike does.

It’s been a hell of a day, he almost lost a case, too distracted, too tired, and he’s not blaming Mike, he can’t blame Mike, but it hasn’t been easy, looking after him like this. Trying to hold him together when Harvey feels so close to falling apart.

Mike looks up at him, red-eyed, and says, “Hi honey, how was your day?”

Harvey laughs, tired and not terribly amused, but Mike’s trying, Harvey can see it in the way he’s sitting up a little bit straighter, rolling his shoulders like he can shake the grief off if he tries hard enough.

“Can’t complain,” Harvey answers, even though his head is killing him and he had to go to Louis today to help fix his case. Louis.

Mike nods absently, and starts gathering up all the papers and pictures around him.

Harvey goes to change, and when he gets back, the living room is clean, except for one picture Mike’s still got clutched in his hands.

He’s off the floor, at least.

Harvey pours himself a drink, filling up his whole glass, and goes to sit down beside Mike, who is now perched on the couch. Mike keeps staring at the photo, running his thumb over it, and Harvey concentrates on putting a dent in his drink before finally leaning over Mike’s shoulder to look at the photo.

In it, Mike looks about fifteen, and he’s drunk, or at least inebriated, if the wide, somewhat vacant grin is any indication. He’s standing between Jenny and Trevor, and they’ve each got their arms around him. Mike’s looking at Trevor, and Jenny is looking at Mike, but Trevor’s leering into the camera, totally oblivious, and even though he should know better, Harvey really wishes he could travel back in time to go kick Trevor’s ass.

He can’t quite contain the snort of derision, and Mike’s face darkens, pulling the picture away from Harvey and curling around it protectively.

“Reliving your glory days, Mike?” Harvey snaps, meaner than he meant it to come out, but stubbornly unwilling to try and soften it now. He shouldn’t be drinking as fast as he is, not when he hasn’t eaten since breakfast, but he takes another swallow anyway, a dangerous recklessness taking hold of him.

Mike just shakes his head, anyway. “It’s all just stuff from,” he sighs, “from my Gram’s place. I sorted through it when I packed it all up, but I was trying to find her old diaries, from when she just started out as a journalist. She always told me about those times, and I, I just wanted to make sure I never forgot it, you know? Figured if I read them, I never would.”

Harvey nods, feeling like an ass, and says, “Sounds like a good idea.”

Mike smiles sadly. “Kind of a stupid one, actually, ‘cause I got about three pages in before freaking out, and then I found a bunch of shit from when Jenny was abusing her position on the yearbook staff to take a million pictures of us and Trevor and I just - I know it’s stupid. Still missing him so much, missing that time. I don’t even want him around. But I miss wanting that, does that make sense?”

Harvey looks away, jaw clenching, and downs the rest of his drink, trying to work his way through the irrational spike of jealousy and resentment, so uncalled for, so unhelpful to Mike right now.

“I guess it could make sense, missing that time, and everything you had back then. But Trevor wasn’t worth your time, not then, and certainly not now. You have enough to worry about.” Harvey’s voice is hard, even though he means for it not to be, and Mike’s expression hardens in turn.

“I needed to get away from him, and you were right to tell me so, I’m not denying that. But you never knew him, not really, and you have no idea what he was really like, what he had to go through.”

“So tell me, then,” Harvey challenges, getting up to pour himself another drink.

Mike sighs, wistful and far away, and Harvey takes a long swallow of scotch, sitting back down beside him.

“He was always so fearless, even when we were little kids. He didn’t care what other people thought of him, he just did what he wanted. But it wasn’t just arrogance, you know. It was survival, I think. He had to be that way, growing up like he did. His parents barely noticed he existed, barely cared, and it was always like that. On the rare times they did notice him, it was to yell at him about something. He never told me, but I know his dad used to hit him. I know it. And then, after he left, it took them weeks to even notice, they just assumed they were always missing each other, they were home so rarely anyway. Once they finally realized, they called me, and when I told them I didn’t know where he was, they didn’t seem particularly concerned. I mean, he may not have been the most reliable friend, but he tried, and besides, how was he supposed to learn when that’s all Trevor had going for him? Two parents who didn’t even care that he was theirs enough to notice he was gone.”

As sob stories go, Harvey’s not particularly impressed, and he tells Mike so. “It doesn’t matter.”

“What? Harvey - how could you say that? You’re not that much of an asshole, I know you’re not, you don’t--”

“I mean it. Trevor almost ruined you, Mike, and there’s a part of him inside you that still could. It’s there every time you doubt yourself, every time you want to reach for a joint instead of pushing through a stressful situation, every time you don’t know how to trust yourself, how to demand what you deserve. Trevor did that to you, bit by bit, all the years you knew him, and it doesn’t matter how he got to be the way he did, it just matters that he hurt you, just by being your friend. That’s enough for me to be glad you’re rid of him, it’s enough for me to want him gone for good, this time.”

Mike looks struck, stunned, but after a long silence, he says, “And I guess it doesn’t matter what I want, huh, Harvey?”

Harvey shakes his head, feeling the last threads of his control falling away, but suddenly unable to care. “That’s not what I’m saying - but valorizing Trevor, getting nostalgic, it’s stupid, and it’s dangerous, and you’re already just barely treading water as it is, Mike, I won’t let you--”

Mike’s on his feet before Harvey can even finish, glaring down at Harvey furiously.

“Just because you’ve learned to shut off your emotions doesn’t mean the rest of us have, okay Harvey? I’m sorry I’m not all better, I’m sorry I’ve wasted my life and my affection on people you didn’t deem worthy, but don’t fucking tell me I’m not allowed to grieve for him. Just because he’s not dead, that doesn’t mean Trevor isn’t gone, and I’m not going to sit here and have you lecture me just because you’ve decided he’s not worth missing.”

He’s out the door before Harvey can stop him, but if Harvey’s being honest with himself, he didn’t try very hard.

---

After their fight about Trevor, Mike stays gone for hours, and Harvey tries to put the fight, along with Mike’s protracted absence, from his mind, working a little, going down to the gym when that doesn’t help. By midnight, he gives it up as a bad job and heads back upstairs.

Mike’s there, he can tell as soon as he steps inside, even though he can’t see Mike yet, and sure enough, he appears in his bedroom doorway, looking embarrassed, wary. This is the time to be patient, understanding, but Harvey just can’t manage it.

He yells. He yells for a really long time, so long he forgets half of what he said, but it feels good, necessary, and by the time Harvey’s run out of steam, Mike is standing taller, as if he needed to hear the anger in Harvey’s voice, as though he needed Harvey to believe he could take it.

When Harvey finally goes silent, Mike smiles wryly, knowingly, and says, “I’m not going to apologize, and I assume neither are you. Can we kiss and make up anyway?”

Harvey laughs, surprised and exhausted, but he musters the energy to give Mike a sufficiently disdainful look down his nose when he says, “Absolutely not.”

Mike grins, though, and they end up spending half the night sitting up together, watching the Ninth Doctor and Rose run around the galaxy, and when Harvey wakes up in the morning, he’s still on the couch, a blanket spread over him, Mike nowhere in sight.

He gets up and finds a note from Mike telling he’s gone to class and that there’s eggs and bacon staying warm in the oven for Harvey if he wants them. Mike’s signed his name with a little heart dotting the eye I, and looking forward to making fun of Mike about it gets Harvey through his whole day.

---

Mike starts to get a little better, after that. He’s not happy, he’s not even okay, really, but he’s less listless, less distant, and sometimes when they’re together, Harvey thinks Mike can almost forget, even just for a little while, all the things he’s lost.

---

It’s a Tuesday morning, and they’re both up before five, like always. Harvey’s brushing his teeth in the bathroom when Mike wanders in, still half-dressed, his shirt incorrectly buttoned, feet barefoot.

Harvey raises his chin in a little greeting, and Mike makes a face into the mirror. “I hope I’m not cramping your style.”

Harvey spits, and shakes his head, smiling. “I think it’s a little late in the game for either of us to be worrying about that, don’t you?”

Mike chuckles, and it’s mostly forced, the way his laughter and smiles almost always are, these days, but he comes to stand beside Harvey over the sink, reaching for his own toothbrush.

They work around each other in the small room, and Harvey washes his face while Mike finishes brushing, sometimes bumping into each other accidentally, sometimes on purpose. Harvey lets himself enjoy the simple domesticity of it, even though he knows he should be doing the exact opposite.

---

Since the funeral, Mike hasn’t seen anything of Jenny, but whenever Harvey brings it up, Mike shuts down or storms off, so he doesn’t get very far into figuring out what’s going on.

However, once November rolls around and Mike is still flinching away from the mere mention of her name, Harvey decides to take action.

He goes straight to the source, because he’s always favored confrontation over most else. Harvey likes confrontations. He usually wins them.

Jenny’s not hard to find, he knows where she lives, works, and goes to school, so he ends up just knocking on her front door, and she takes a long time deciding, but Jenny eventually lets Harvey in.

“What’s going on with you and Mike?” Harvey asks, getting straight to the point.

Jenny is dressed in a cream coloured blouse and a wool skirt, a grey cardigan thrown over it, and she looks like she was on her way out, but she sits down at her kitchen table, folding her hands on her lap and looking at Harvey sadly.

He remembers when he first met her, remembers how much he liked her right away, remembers how much she made him want to help Mike. He also remembers telling Mike how much he was going to owe her, once his arrest got sorted out. Harvey never expected to feel so much gratitude to Jenny himself.

“What is it?” he asks again, when she doesn’t answer him.

Jenny shakes her head, staring out the window. “I don’t know. Trevor, of course,” she shrugs, “but I’m not sure if it’s because Trevor’s really gone, and so he doesn’t need me anymore, either, or if it’s just that he’s mad at me, hurt.”

“Why would he be hurt?” Gratitude to Jenny aside, if she’s done something to Mike, he’s going to make sure she pays for it.

“I’ve been talking to Trevor,” Jenny admits. “And I guess Trevor told him so, when he came up to visit.”

Jesus Christ.

“Why on earth would you do a thing like that?”

Jenny’s looked pretty remorseful, thus far, but she turns to Harvey with a fierce look in her eye, the line of her mouth hard when she snaps, “Trevor was my boyfriend for over six years, you know. Just because I loved Mike first, more, it doesn’t mean I didn’t care about him. It doesn’t mean he could disappear out of my life and have me not even notice.” She sits up a bit straighter in her chair. “Besides, he’s doing a lot better now. He’s cleaned up, no more drugs, no selling, nothing.”

Harvey scoffs. “You really believe that?”

Jenny shrugs. “I can tell when Trevor’s lying to me. He’s done it enough times.”

Well, fair enough.

“Mike knows about this?”

Jenny nods. “Like I said, Trevor told him when he came back to Queens.”

“Did you see him, Trevor?”

She shakes her head. “He left again pretty quick, I guess, after seeing Mike. I didn’t want him to come visit me, anyway. The phone is one thing, it’s a start. But I couldn’t... I’m still too angry with him to actually see him.” She laughs humorlessly. “I’d probably punch him in the face, if I did.”

Harvey can relate.

“I’ll try and talk to him,” Harvey says, quick and by accident, and Jenny beams at him gratefully.

“I really didn’t mean to go behind Mike’s back, I never wanted to hurt him. I just had to know Trevor was okay, or at least as okay as he deserves to be. But all we ever talked about was Mike, anyway. I guess that was kind of the point of it, really. For both of us.”

Harvey nods, understanding, thinking he’d probably do the same, if he ever lost Mike, and there was only one other person he knew who understood what that was like.

He hopes he’s never in a position to find out for sure.

---

He does try and talk to Mike about it, like he told Jenny he would. Mike’s arms coil up around himself as soon as Harvey starts talking, and usually that would be enough to shut Harvey up, because he’s entirely lost his game, where Mike is concerned.

But he keeps pressing, this time, maybe because he doesn’t want Jenny to be another thing Mike’s lost, maybe just because he knows Mike’s going to need someone other than Harvey, eventually, and at least with Jenny he can be reasonably sure Mike’s in good hands.

“She screwed up, not telling you about talking to him, and she knows that - you don’t have to shut her out, just because of what he--”

“It’s not always Trevor’s fault, okay. It’s not even always about him. Have you never thought of that before, Harvey? That maybe I could do things that weren’t because of him? If I haven’t wanted to see Jenny, then that’s no one’s business but my own. Just like my reasons. So just drop it, okay?”

“No.”

“No, huh?” Mike parrots, his voice hard, edged with mocking.

They’ve been working all morning repainting Harvey’s office because Mike hated the color, and he puts down brush he was holding, wiping his forehead before walking a few steps closer to Mike. He holds himself away from Harvey defensively, shoulders taught, blinking too rapidly.

“Jenny’s been a good friend to you, especially this past year. The two of you have come so far, you can’t give up on her now.”

Mike’s eyes flash, and Harvey expects a blow, verbal or otherwise, but the anger drains from Mike as quickly as it came, and he leans away from Harvey, letting his shoulders hit the wall (thankfully not one they’ve repainted, yet) and sliding down it onto the ground.

Harvey follows him, thinking they really need to stop spending so much time on the floor. It’s hell on his knees.

Mike wipes at his face with his hands, and even though he’s not crying, his face is red and he’s breathing raggedly enough that he might as well be.

“I just. I can’t. I can’t see her, or think about her, because when I do, she just reminds me of everything else. Of Trevor, of Gram. And you were right, you know, I have to get over it. I don’t want to be that guy anymore, not the one Jenny knew, growing up. I have to leave it all behind - her, Trevor - all of it. I have to be something new. It’s the only way I can keep going.”

“Jenny could be part of that, if you let her.”

Mike shakes his head resolutely. “I can’t be good to her, not anymore. I can’t be who she needs, not even just as a friend. I don’t want to be.”

“Who do you want to be?” Harvey asks, voice softer than it should be, reaching out to put his hand on Mike’s shoulder.

Mike gives him the ghost of a smile, and he says, “The person you see, whenever you look at me.”

---

Christmas comes early in New York, or at least the decorations do, and it feels like suddenly there are twice as many trees, because every one of them seems to have been strewn with twinkling lights, and carols and jazzy pop music follow Harvey wherever he goes.

He’s nervous about the holiday season this year, attuned to its stresses in a way he never really has been, before. Christmas usually meant going back home to Long Island for a couple of days, piling his brother’s wife and kids with gifts, and trying not to think about his parents, dead and buried for more than a decade, now. This year, not surprisingly, he’s staying in the city with Mike, but he doesn’t know what traditions Mike had with his Gram that he might still want to follow, doesn’t know how to broach the subject, not after Mike closed it those weeks ago when they were talking about Jenny.

He ends up buying Mike a million presents he doesn’t really need - clothes and DVDs and books, so many books - and he has Donna help him stash the stuff in her apartment so Mike won’t find any of it.

When he turns up on Sunday afternoon with another handful of bags, Donna’s had enough.

She tilts her head, a warning look in her eye, and Harvey is braced for it when she says, “Is there a new china pattern somewhere in there, too?”

Braced or not, Harvey still flinches, at her tone, at the implication of her question.

“He’s a teenager, Donna.”

“He’s not going to be one for much longer. You’re going to have to get working on another excuse.” Mike’s twentieth birthday is only a couple months away, but Harvey does his best not to think about that fact.

“Who says I need one?”

She doesn’t even bother to respond to that one, just snorts and rolls her eyes.

“I’m not going there with him. Even if he wanted me to, which he doesn’t.”

At that, Donna rolls her eyes so hard Harvey’s afraid she might physically strain herself.

“Sure he doesn’t.”

“Donna, he doesn’t. Really. And I don’t.”

“You don’t?” If her voice was any dryer, it would snap in two.

Harvey looks away. “It doesn’t matter. I’m not going to do anything about it.”

“Well, that’s good, because I’m sure moving him in with you and buying him half the books in New York City isn’t going to give Mike mixed signals at all.”

“I’m just looking out for him,” Harvey protests, “It’s his first Christmas without his grandmother, his first one properly on his own. He needs me.”

Donna shakes her head, looking as worried as Harvey’s ever seen her. “What do you need?”

Harvey shrugs. That’s easy.

“To make senior partner under thirty, and have a Tesla roadster of my very own.”

“I’m serious, Harvey.”

Harvey makes himself grin. “Hey, I’m serious too. It’s my life’s ambition to own that car.”

“Harvey, that car doesn’t even exist yet. It’s still in development.”

Harvey’s fake grin softens into a real smile, and he says, “That’s okay. I can wait. I’m a patient kind of guy.”

Donna shakes her head, but doesn’t press him about it further.

---

Christmas is still two weeks away, and Harvey’s never been busier at work. It’s like everyone in the city has gotten together to lose their damn minds, at least the members of the business elite, because suddenly everyone’s suing everyone else, and Harvey works so much he barely sees Mike, or the inside of his own apartment, until Christmas is all but upon them.

Mike’s been busy too, he’s got exams, and peppermint lattes won’t make themselves, apparently, but they manage to cobble together a couple hours to crash on the couch and watch movies on Christmas Eve.

It takes some doing, but Harvey gets Mike to admit that A Christmas Story is his favorite, and once they’re done watching that, Harvey puts in Scrooged, because Bill Murray is the man.

Mike gets weirdly into it, eyes fixed intently on the screen, ignoring the popcorn Harvey so graciously made for him. They’re cuddled together on the couch, which is basically routine, at this point, and Harvey knows he shouldn’t get used to it, knows he shouldn’t let it happen at all, but that’s par for the course, these days.

Harvey gets up to go to the washroom during the Ghost of Christmas Present, and when he comes back, Mike waits until he’s settled back against Harvey’s side before saying thoughtfully,

“You should start treating me worse. I’d probably get over myself quicker.”

“Shut the fuck up, Mike.”

Mike smiles against Harvey’s chest. “Now you’re getting it.”

---

Harvey gets up at four on Christmas morning, driving over to Donna’s and filling the car up with all the gifts he got for Mike, wrapped and ready. As her Christmas present to Harvey, Donna doesn’t even give him any crap about how he can barely fit everything into the car.

Mike’s up when he gets back, which pisses Harvey off, not at Mike, but at himself, for not getting up even earlier, especially when he gets a good look at Mike, and sees the way his eyes have gone all wide and frantic; like he woke up and immediately panicked over Harvey being gone.

He leaves the bags of gifts in a messy pile at his feet, rushing over to Mike and pulling him close, muttering reassurance until Mike butts his head against Harvey’s chin, and he withdraws, relieved to see the fear has mostly receded from Mike’s eyes.

Mike laughs shakily and says, “Sorry I’m such a basket-case. I keep thinking I’m getting better,” he shrugs. “But then you’ll be home ten minutes later than you said you’d be, or I’ll hear about a pileup on Madison Avenue on the news, and get myself so worked up, convinced something happened to you, that you’re hurt, or worse, and I can’t - I can’t--”

“Hey, hey, doesn’t matter. I’m here now, I’m fine. It’s Christmas. Everything is fine.”

Mike nods, putting his game face on, smiling at Harvey wonkily, looking down at the presents that surround them.

“You’ve been a very good boy this year, I see,” he remarks, and Harvey laughs.

“I always am. But most of these are for you.”

Mike’s eyes bug out a little, and he takes a cautious step back, making sure not step on anything.

“These aren’t like, pieces of Trevor all chopped up and gift-wrapped, are they? Because I know how you have anger-management issues.”

Harvey grins ruefully, having to give Mike something for his efforts to lighten his own mood, and just says, “No, but now that you’ve given me that idea, I’m a little disappointed I didn’t think of it first.”

Mike laughs, and to Harvey, it doesn’t sound like they’re talking about Trevor at all anymore when he says, “There’s always next year.”

---

Mike is effusively grateful about all the gifts Harvey got him, but he genuinely loses his shit over the signed first edition of Nine Stories that he opens last.

Mike cradles the book with what, in Harvey’s opinion, is undue reverence, but his personal distaste for Salinger aside, the look on Mike’s face is more than worth the full day he spent wandering around used book stores and badgering people over the phone to find it.

“Thank you,” Mike says, leaning across the pile of unwrapped presents to hook an arm around Harvey and hug him, quick, but hard.

“My pleasure,” Harvey says with a magnanimous nod, meaning it.

Mike grins at him, shaking his head, and says, “My gift is going to look extra crappy now, I just want you to know that. You have only yourself to blame.”

Harvey is momentarily thrown - he wasn’t even really expecting Mike would get him a gift. It’s not something they ever discussed, and he knows Mike worries about money enough as it is, even though he doesn’t have rent payments to make anymore.

Still, he adopts a look of mild expectation, trying to cover his surprise.

Mike gets up and disappears into his bedroom, coming back with an envelope and a nervous expression.

Harvey take the envelop when Mike hands it to him, and figures he can worry about getting the nervous expression from Mike once he’s unwrapped his present.

Inside are a handful of printed e-mails, and as Harvey scans them, he realizes they’re all from Mike’s professors. Each one has his course grade for the semester, and varying notes on the same theme - praising Mike’s general brilliance and thanking him for his thoughtful contributions to class.

“Like I said,” Mike mumbles out of the corner of his mouth, “Kind of a crappy gift. But I wanted you to know I’m still doing okay. I know it might not look like it, but I am, and that’s because of you.”

Harvey smiles at him, his throat tight, getting it, and he’s about to say so, when Mike barrels on, “There’s Yankees tickets in there, too, really shitty ones, and we don’t even have to use them - I know you could probably get better ones in a heartbeat, but I just wanted, I thought--”

Harvey cuts Mike off by hugging him, not the quick, unselfish embrace Mike gave him earlier, but long and deep, just breathing Mike in, letting himself hold onto Mike for this moment, because he wants to, and for no other reason.

Mike hugs him back, and when Harvey pulls him even closer, his sigh sounds a lot like contentment.

---

Mike stays pretty mellow for the next few days. It helps, Harvey supposes, that they’re both finally on vacation, which means Mike can wander the condo in pajama pants and hoodies at all hours, sleeping as much as he likes, and insisting that Harvey actually tries to take it easy as well. Mostly, Harvey thinks, it helps that they’re finally able to simply be together again, after so many stresses and distractions all term long.

Mike starts to tense again the closer it gets to New Year’s Eve, though, and he won’t tell Harvey why, but he twitches whenever Harvey asks him about it, about what he wants to do, so Harvey’s pretty sure it’s the date itself Mike’s dreading. And as for why, well, the list of possibilities Harvey can reasonably come up with isn’t particularly long. In fact, last year, Mike spent Christmas till past New Year’s with his Grandmother, but he still came back seeming a bit disoriented and bereft, so Harvey’s guessing this has more to do with Trevor than anything else.

He sees Mike looking furtively at the phone more than once, but as far as Harvey knows, Mike still doesn’t have Trevor’s phone number, nor the inclination to use it, if he had, so Harvey assumes that Mike must be thinking about calling Jenny. He thinks about encouraging that, but Harvey’s not sure how to do it without spooking Mike or putting him off more just out of stubbornness.

Instead, he focuses on trying to keep Mike busy and distracted, inventing errands they need to run and plumbing the depths of the Specter family traditions to keep them fully ensconced in holiday cheer.

Harvey honestly can’t believe what he’s become, or how little he regrets it.

He asks Mike several times what he’d like to do for New Year’s, but all he ever gets for an answer is sullen shrugs and deflections, so Harvey widens his net, and begins thinking about what he’d done on his own first New Year’s living in Manhattan, searching for inspiration in his conversations with Mike, back when he’d first moved and still treated the island like it was a mystical land of intrigue and adventure.

There’s a party for Pearson Hardman, of course, but Harvey finds himself in the rare mood of being unwilling to schmooze anyone, and he figures Jessica wouldn’t thank him for bringing Mike, anyway. He’s pretty sure Mike wouldn’t thank him either, come to that.

But it’s not like he can leave Mike alone, either, so when he can’t think of anything decent, that leaves calling Donna in desperation the night before, and doing some very undignified groveling before she’ll even stop scoffing at him long enough to let him get a word in edgewise.

“Why are you even stressing about this,” she says once he’s done asking her very nicely. “You hate the holidays, and especially New Year’s. What makes you so sure Mike’s any different?”

Mike is currently in the shower, but Harvey still looks over his shoulder before answering, “It’s his first holiday season on his own, I’m just trying to keep him busy enough that he doesn’t spend the whole time obsessing about that fact.”

“So instead, you’re doing the obsessing for him? Brilliant plan, boss.”

Harvey sighs and waits for Donna’s softer side to kick in. You wouldn’t know it to look at her, but she’s got one about a mile wide. The fact that she hides it under a sharp-tongued and impeccably dressed exterior is just part of what makes them such a great team.

Sure enough, after a few more seconds, Donna’s sighing too and saying, “Play to your strengths, Harvey. Go get a ridiculously complicated car from the club, charm your way into reservations at the hottest restaurant in town, and go for a walk under the lights in Washington Square, see a Christmas tree or three.”

“It’s not a date, Donna.”

He can practically hear her rolling her eyes. “Sure it’s not.”

“Donna, I’m serious.”

“Okay, fine. You’re serious. But it’s still New Year’s, Harvey. You’re supposed to spend it the way you want to spend the rest of your year, or at least with whom you want to spend the rest of your year. I know he’s not the brightest emotional bulb on the feelings Christmas tree, but I’m guessing the nuance won’t be lost on Mike.”

“Nice metaphor,” he says, defaulting to mockery because he can’t think of what else to say, her words constricting his throat.

“Harvey,” she starts, her voice cracking with real concern, now.

“It’s alright, it’s fine. I’m managing it.”

“Managing it?”

“Donna, please. Just drop it.”

She sighs, but eventually says, “Happy New Year, Harvey.”

Harvey closes his eyes, and says, “Happy New Year, Donna,” before hanging up.

---

Harvey considers Donna’s suggestion, thinks about taking Mike out, painting the town red, but braving the crowds on New Year’s Eve in Manhattan seems roughly akin to a nightmare, to Harvey, and he can’t imagine Mike feeling any differently. Even before he became an actively reclusive homebody, Mike was never big on the party scene, and that’s basically all NYC has to offer tonight.

He opts for a home-cooked meal - Mike seems to like when he cooks - and another disk of Doctor Who, thinking maybe they can go for a walk later if they feel like it. Not exactly inspired, but he knows Mike likes to walk the city at night, knows he likes to go out alone and let the lights and noise wash over him, and the weather’s sharp and clear, so Harvey thinks maybe they can go out in it together, and ring in the new year under some invisible stars.

 

---

It starts to snow almost as soon as they leave the building, but Mike laughs and turns his face towards the sky, closing his eyes and letting the flakes coat his eyelashes.

Harvey has to look away to stop himself from doing the same.

“Feels more like Christmas than New Year’s,” Mike says, but he sounds happy about it, so Harvey just nods absently, and they keep walking.

Harvey lives in Mid-town, not all that far from Pearson Hardman, really, but far enough that the area immediately surrounding his condo feels like it’s his own.

They walk, and as they go, they pass couples walking with linked arms and groups of friends, half-drunk and stumbling happily. Mike and Harvey get tangled up in one such group, and there’s a lot of giggling and apologizing, along with the brief and confusing appearance of a boa around Mike’s neck, before they eventually manage to separate themselves.

Once the group has moved on, Mike looks at Harvey and grins, shaking his head.

“They looked like they were having fun,” he says, and Harvey strains to see if he can detect any wistfulness in Mike’s voice.

“It’s not too late,” he says carefully, keeping his voice neutral. “I’m sure we could still find you a suitably exciting party to attend.”

Mike just laughs, his eyes soft. “I’m good here, thanks.”

Harvey nods, trying to ignore the warmth that floods him following Mike’s words.

They keep walking, and a few paces later, Mike reaches for Harvey’s hand. It’s cold, so they’re both wearing gloves, and Mike’s got the collar of his new coat turned up against the wind, but Harvey still feels it down to his toes when Mike links their fingers together and squeezes.

Harvey looks at him questioningly, and Mike smiles.

“Wouldn’t want you getting lost out here.”

Harvey forces a chuckle, and they keep walking.

---

They pass department stores and office buildings, and every time there’s a Christmas tree in the window, Mike makes them stop and look. He presses his face up against the glass, and everything, but Harvey can’t help but wonder if Mike’s doing it for his benefit a bit, trying to show Harvey he’s having a good time.

Regardless, they keep going, and eventually they reach the tree in front of the Rockefeller Center. Mike makes a sound, soft and surprised, like he’s never seen something so beautiful, and Harvey accepts that maybe Mike is really is having a good time, and not just trying to reassure Harvey that he still can.

They stand together, in front of the tree, surrounded by people, but feeling completely alone.

Mike turns to Harvey, fact lit up by the warm, white and gold lights of the tree, and he smiles softly, squeezing Harvey’s hand.

Harvey’s heart starts to pound in his chest, and he says, “Mike - we need to talk about this.”

But Mike shakes his head, still holding onto Harvey’s hand, saying, “Not tonight. Please. Just let us have this.”

His voice is steady, but his eyes are pleading, so Harvey nods, even though any decent lawyer will tell you that you shouldn’t agree to something if you don’t actually understand what it means.

---

In the morning, Harvey’s up early, but Mike is up even earlier, sitting at the table by the balcony doors, his hands folded, waiting for Harvey.

There’s coffee, and Mike seems alert, jumpy, even, so Harvey guesses he’s been up for awhile.

They were home before midnight, but they stayed up to watch the ball drop on TV, and Mike had leaned over and kissed Harvey on the cheek when it had. They’d gone to bed right after, not talking or even really looking at each other. They hadn’t even wished each other a happy New Year.

Seeing Mike’s face now, pinched from exhaustion and something darker, Harvey’s not sure it’s going to be one.

He pours himself a (large) cup of coffee, and sits down across from Mike. He flexes his fingers and smiles at Harvey weakly.

“Look, before you even start, I know, okay? I do know,” Mike says, causing a spike of alarm to shoot through Harvey.

“You know?” He asks, grateful his voice doesn’t crack the way it felt like it was going to.

Mike nods, seemingly oblivious to Harvey’s distress, still preoccupied with his own.

“I know I need to cut out the whole clingy waif routine. I know that. And I know you’ve only been putting up with it - with me - because of everything that’s happened. Because of my Gram,” it’s the first time in a long while that Mike’s spoken about her without prompting, voice steady. “And I’m working on it, I swear. I’m trying really hard. I just - I’ve just needed--”

“Someone to hold onto,” Harvey helps him, breathing more calmly now. This is fine, this is easy. “It’s okay, I understand.”

Except Mike’s looking at Harvey like he completely doesn’t and he says incredulously, “I didn’t just need ‘someone,’ Harvey. I needed you.”

“Mike--”

“And yeah, I know it’s not what we agreed on, I know I’m not supposed to want that from you, but how could I not, Harvey, you’re--”

“I’m not Trevor,” Harvey says sharply, before he can stop himself.

But Mike just tilts his head curiously. “No. Harvey, I know that. You’re like the anti-Trevor. But you’re more than that - you’re you. And I...” he laughs, cheeks red. “I really like you, Harvey. I know I’m not supposed to, but I do.”

Harvey sits there, stunned, hope warring with disbelief.

Mike’s face twists with worry and he blurts, “You’re not freaking out about this, are you? Please tell me you’re not having like, a super delayed case of gay panic or something, because I really, really need you to be cool about this.”

Harvey still doesn’t say anything - he can’t, his mouth won’t open - and Mike rings his hands, chewing on his bottom lip.

“I swear I won’t come onto you anymore, or anything, really. I’ve just been... I’ve been spiraling, I know that, and I haven’t been fair to you at all, but I’m going to be better, cross my heart. It’s my New Year’s resolution and everything - ‘Be Better.’”

On autopilot, Harvey says, “You’re not supposed to tell people your New Year’s resolutions Mike, otherwise they won’t come true.”

Mike chuckles unevenly. “I think that only applies to birthday wishes, Harvey.”

Harvey looks at Mike then, really looks, searching his whole face, trying to figure out how he could have missed this, trying to figure out how they got here.

He clears his throat and watches Mike square his shoulders, bracing himself.

Harvey forces himself to smile. “I’m not freaking out, or mad, or anything. I’m sure it’s just a temporary thing, just circumstantial. It’ll sort itself out.”

Mike looks momentarily doubtful, but he clears it from his face, nodding resolutely.

“We’re cool? Still friends?”

Harvey has to bite the inside of his cheek to keep the smile on his face. “Still friends.”

Mike’s whole self slumps with relief, and he gives Harvey a wide, dopey smile.

Harvey shakes his head, and makes himself look away.

It’s just a crush - just circumstances, like he said. Mike will get over it, and, eventually, so will Hareveny. They’re going to b fine.

Everything’s going to be fine.

 

 

part seven I’ll be your fuck-up for the rest of my days

It’s probably more than a little pathetic, but it took Trevor coming back for Mike to realize he wasn’t in love with him anymore.

Worse, it takes Harvey letting him down easy, gently but firmly reminding Mike that friendship is all that’s on offer, for Mike to realize how much he wants more.

---

On the second of January, Harvey goes back to work, but Mike doesn’t have a shift at Starbucks until that evening, and classes don’t start for another week.

He waits until Harvey’s gone, and then showers and dresses in the clothes Harvey gave him for Christmas, needing to feel Harvey with him, especially today.

At a quarter to ten, he gets on the subway and goes all the way to Queens.

It’s snowing again, and Mike pulls the wool scarf Harvey gave him closer around his neck, as he walks towards the cemetery.

His Gram is buried by her husband, and both of Mike’s parents, but he bypasses their graves, crouching in front of his Gram’s headstone with his head bowed.

When Mike finally looks up, the snow has stopped, and he brushes what’s fallen off his Gram’s stone, tracing the letters of her name with his fingertips. He leans down, kissing the cold stone, and then Mike gets up, and walks away without looking back.

---

Once he’s back in Manhattan, Mike gets off the subway at tenth street and walks the rest of the way to Jenny’s building.

He’s surprised that she buzzes him up right away, but far less surprised when the first thing Jenny says to him once she opens the door is, “You’re an asshole.”

“I know,” he says fervently. “I’m sorry.”

“I waited at home all New Year’s, thinking maybe you’d get the balls to actually call me.”

“I thought about it. All day. I just... couldn’t.”

“What are you doing here now, then?” She asks, arms crossed defensively.

Mike shrugs. “New Year’s resolution, I guess. Trying to buy into the whole fresh start cliche of it all.”

“Your New Year’s resolution was to come see me?”

Mike smiles ruefully. “More like a general attempt to suck less, but yeah. This is part of it.”

Jenny sighs, and something softens in her eyes.

“I miss her too, you know. It’s probably stupid, I barely even saw her, not after we all graduated, but she was always so nice to me. I know Trevor was terrified of her, but I liked her so much. She was the first adult who didn’t talk down to me when I was kid.”

Mike smiles. It hurts so much, talking about her, but it’s a good hurt, in a way.

“Yeah, well, she always liked you. Way more than Trevor, that’s for sure.”

Jenny laughs. “That’s a pretty low bar. Besides, she never liked either of us half as much as she liked Harvey.”

Mike scratches the back of his neck, looking away. “Harvey’s a charming bastard.”

Jenny shakes her head. “Trevor is charming. Harvey’s more than that.”

Mike coughs, his face heating up. “Yeah, about that,” he pauses, not sure he’s ready to say this out loud yet, but then takes a deep breath and just goes for it. “I think I might be, you know, a little bit in love with him, maybe. Definitely. Harvey, I mean.”

Jenny gives him a look like, “no shit,” but then her expression melts into a sympathetic smile.

“I’m actually kind of impressed you figured it out. You tend to be kind of slow on the uptake about these things.”

“You knew?”

“Sure. I’ve seen the way you look at him, like you can’t quite believe he’s real. And he’s practically all you ever talk about. It’s not that hard to figure out.”

“Maybe for you,” Mike mutters, and she gives him an unimpressed look. “Look, it’s not my fault I didn’t know, okay - I just didn’t recognize it at first,” Mike defends himself. “It’s different than it was with you and Trevor.”

He says both of them, because that’s how it was for him. He may have always wanted Trevor more, and Jenny may never quite believe him, but Mike loved them both.

She doesn’t acknowledge it, anyway, just smiles sadly and asks, “What’s it like?”

Mike thinks the question is probably meant to be rhetorical, but he tries to find an answer anyway.

“It’s like... I don’t know. With you and Trevor, it felt like I was constantly falling, like I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think straight. With Harvey, it’s the opposite. He’s the solid ground under my feet, the breath in my lungs, the balm for all my frantic, frenzied thoughts. When I’m with Harvey, I can close my eyes and just... be.”

Jenny nods. “Sounds familiar.”

Mike winces, but she shakes her head, cutting off the apology forming on his lips.

“I’m glad. For you, for me, even. We’re better friends than we were ever lovers, and I always knew that, even when I wanted you too much to care.”

Mike approaches her slowly, asking permission first with his eyes before reaching out to take her hand, just for a minute, squeezing hard.

“I missed you, Jenny.”

Her face crumples, and Jenny pulls him into hug. Mike presses their foreheads together, eyes closed, when Jenny whispers, “I missed you back.”

---

In the days following New Year’s, Harvey and Mike tiptoe around each other, their interactions polite, reserved. Harvey’s still as solicitous with him as ever, but it’s like he’s doing it from further back, somehow, and Mike misses the closeness of the past months, painful as the reasons prompting that closeness have been.

Harvey’s stopped touching him, too, and Mike misses the contact like a physical ache, making him feel stiff and cold when he has no reason to be.

He tries to wait it out, hoping that Harvey will ease up a bit if Mike can prove he’s really got a hold of himself, if he can show Harvey he’s not just going to try and jump his bones again at the soonest opportunity, but as the days go by, Harvey gets worse, not better. Mike barely sees him, and by mid-month, he’s lucky if he catches Harvey for five minutes in the morning before he rushes off to the gym, and most nights he’s not home until ten or eleven, and even when Mike waits up, Harvey is always too tired or preoccupied to talk or even just hang and watch a movie.

The only time he pays attention to Mike at all is to ask him if he needs Harvey to buy him things - clothes for the winter (as if he hasn’t already taken care of that), a new laptop to take to class with him, a better cellphone (probably because he knows Mike freaks out about being out of contact for too long) - or to ask, voice rough and reluctant, how Mike is doing.

Mike thinks he might almost be doing okay, or he would be, if he could just get Harvey back, if things could only go back to normal between them, but he can’t very well give that answer to Harvey. Harvey’s done enough out of a misplaced sense of guilt and responsibility already. Whatever he gets from Harvey from now on, Mike wants to earn.

---

It takes Mike three days to corner Harvey, once he actually psychs himself up enough to try and talk with him, and even then, he has to pull out his most woeful expression to make Harvey stay in one spot long enough to actually have a conversation.

They sit facing each other, Mike on one of the many stylishly modern chairs Harvey has strewn artfully around the condo, Harvey sitting backwards on another. They just sit, regarding each other silently, for what feels like a really long time. Mike tries to make the most of it, drinking in Harvey’s features, the strong line of his shoulders, the soothing rhythm of his breath.

Finally, he musters the courage to just ask, “Do you want me to move out?”

“What?” Harvey sputters, genuinely shocked.

Mike tries not to take it as too good a sign, not wanting to get ahead of himself, but at least the stunned look on Harvey’s face probably means he hasn’t already been thinking about it, right?

Mike shrugs. “I just thought. I don’t know. I’m doing better.” And he is, really, at least about somethings. He can actually think about his Gram without shutting down, or breaking into hysterics, and he hasn’t had a panic attack about Harvey dying for at least... a week? Hey, progress. “And I figured maybe you’d like your condo back.”

“No,” Harvey says, almost before Mike’s finished speaking. He looks surprised to have spoken at all, but doesn’t try and take it back.

“No?”

“No, I don’t want my condo back. No, I don’t want you to move out.” It looks like it’s physically paining Harvey to admit, but, again, he stands behind his words, not back-peddling or adding provisos.

Part of Mike is jubilant - at least he hasn’t screwed them up as much as he was starting to be afraid of, telling Harvey about his feelings - but there’s still that giant elephant in the room.

So he makes himself ask, “Are you sure? You haven’t really been... present, a whole lot. Since New Year’s. And I don’t want my shit, you know, my feelings, to drive you out of your own place, or make you feel uncomfortable.”

Harvey closes his eyes, and time seems to slow and stutter to a stop, just for that second, but then he opens his eyes again and shakes his head, snapping everything back into motion.

“That’s not - I don’t want you to be concerned about that. I’m sorry that you had to worry about it at all. Work’s been, well. I’ve been trying to give you some space, let you see that you can be on your own, but I didn’t mean to shut you out. You don’t make me uncomfortable, and this - as far as I’m concerned - is your home too. For as long as you want it to be.”

Mike smiles, he can’t help it, can’t stop it once he starts, and eventually, Harvey smiles back. A little strained, but there.

---

Things relax a bit between them, after that. It’s still not like it was, Mike sits on the opposite end of the couch when they watch movies now, and he gets used to walking around without Harvey’s hand constantly guiding him, but at least Harvey’s around more, again. At least he looks at Mike, sometimes, instead of just past him.

---

“What’s wrong with me?” He’s flopped on Jenny’s bed, staring balefully at her ceiling.

She makes an incredulous scoffing noise, and Mike sits up, turning his baleful look on her instead.

“You’re going to have to be more specific,” she says primly.

Mike rolls his eyes. “Why am I such a headcase? Why am I incapable of falling for someone who returns my feelings?”

They’ve been good, lately, falling back into the relaxed friendship they were starting to have before Mike dropped off the face of the earth for four months, so he thinks he can get away with saying that to her, but maybe not, because Jenny gets a hard look in her eye and looks away.

When she finally turns back, she says, “It’s not that you fall for people who don’t want you back. That’s never been your problem. It’s that you’re wilfully incapable of recognizing when they do.”

“I’m what?”

“Trevor loved you, Mike. I mean, he was an idiot about it, but so were you. And then there was me, and I let you both pretend you were competing for me, because it was easier than admitting we were both competing for you. But all you would have had to do is notice, even once, how Trevor looked at you, how I looked at you, and you would have realized you could have had either of us, wholly and exclusively, if you’d wanted to.”

There’s no real heat in her voice, no sharp edged recrimination, just a calm certainty, tinged with something just shy of regret.

Mike wants to reach out to her, but he doesn’t know how, not anymore.

He settles for an apologetic smile, for what little it’s worth, but then says, “Yeah, well, my fuck-upedness aside, I don’t think that’s the problem with me and Harvey.” There’s just no way Harvey’s been pining for him, or some shit. Harvey would never let himself do something so undignified or outside his control.

But Jenny just shakes her head at him, and says with the same eerie certainty, “I wouldn’t be so sure.”

---

On Saturday morning, when Mike’s barely scratched the surface of his first cup of coffee, Harvey comes out of his shower and announces that they’re going to go play hockey like it’s the single greatest idea in history.

Mike chokes a little on the sip of coffee already in his mouth, and Harvey gives him a look of real concern before brushing it off and telling Mike to watch himself in a suitably derisive voice.

Mike glares at him, partly out of principle, partly because Harvey actually seems pretty serious about the whole hockey thing.

“I haven’t skated in years. I don’t even have skates.”

Harvey shrugs, unconcerned. “We can rent you some at the rink.”

Mike raises an eyebrow. “And you have hockey sticks and equipment stashed somewhere in this apartment?”

“I have a locker there.”

“You have - who are you? How do you have the time for - you know what, never mind. You’re Harvey. Why sleep, when you could be crushing people against the boards, right? I bet that’s your favorite part.”

Harvey grins at him and says, “You’re about to find out.”

---

Once they’re lacing up their skates at the edge of the ice, Mike finally has to accept that he’s actually about to let himself get pummelled by Harvey and eight to ten of Pearson Hardman’s finest.

Harvey looks positively gleeful, probably over the prospect of how embarrassing this is going to be for Mike, and he rolls his eyes without thinking, muttering, “Man, you are are so lucky I want to sleep with you.”

Harvey freezes, hands still hovering over his half-tied up skates.

“I mean - in a very hilarious joke way. Very much so. With the joking.”

“Mike--”

“And I’m not - I’m not actually about to play hockey because I want to sleep with you! I wouldn’t do that. Because of my very healthy sense of self and also esteem. I just meant, you know, that you’re lucky I’m such an awesome friend, and that I want to spent time with you. Which I do.”

Harvey raises his eyebrows dryly.

“I’m serious! Why do you think I even want to sleep with you?” Jesus, he’s really on a roll today, but well, in for a penny, “It’s because you’re like, my favorite.”

“Your favorite what?”

“You know. Person. Thing.”

Harvey looks at him very seriously, and Mike feels his pulse quicken, feels hope and fear rattle against his chest.

“That was beautiful, Mike,” Harvey says, and Mike is surprised enough to laugh.

“You’re an asshole.”

“Really, I’m moved. Very poetic. Let’s get married.”

“I hate you.”

“Clearly, you don’t.”

Mike shoves him a little, and grinning helplessly, and says, “Shut up.”

Harvey grins back at him, reaching out to grab Mike by the scruff of the neck and shake him roughly, and then he skates away without a word.

---

Mike doesn’t remember anything about the game, just the way it felt, rough and good and right, every time his and Harvey’s bodies collided on the ice.

---

Mike’s at home, working on a paper for his Ideologies class, when suddenly Donna walks into the condo.

Mike jumps, tossing his pen in the air and making a truly embarrassing noise.

Donna smirks at him and Mike sputters, “What are you doing here? How did you just walk in, do you have a key? Harvey isn’t here!”

She sighs at him pityingly. “Mike, it’s my job to know where Harvey is, every second of his day. I think we can safely assume I already know he’s not here.”

And, okay, that’s fair. “What are you doing here, then?”

She reaches into her bag, and takes out a notebook and a pen.

“I have some questions for you.”

“Why?”

“Background check.”

“Background for what?”

“Take this seriously, and maybe you’ll find out.”

Nervous, but more than a little intrigued, Mike sits back down and says, “Okay. Hit me.”

She opens her notebook and sits down too, crossing her legs and propping an elbow on her folded knee.

“Are you a con-artist?”

“Am I a--”

“Just answer the question.”

“No. Very... no. Why would you think that?”

“Who says I do?”

“But you - okay. And still no. Definitely not.”

Donna narrows her eyes, but eventually nods, scratching something out in her notebook.

“What about a gigolo?”

Mike shakes his head warily.

“Corporate spy?”

Another head shake.

“Regular spy?”

“No, no spying of any kind.”

Donna crosses more things off. “Robot?” Head shake. “Robot-alien from the future?” More insistent head shake.

“Red Sox fan?”

“What! No.”

Donna smiles, for just a second, but Mike sees it.

“Last question, are you a complete idiot?”

Mike laughs, surprised that she saved that one for last. “That seems to be the general consensus, yeah.”

Donna gives him an unimpressed look of the calibre Mike usually only expects Harvey to be able to pull off. But then, Mike’s pretty sure Donna taught Harvey everything he knows. Well, her and Jessica, anyway.

“I don’t find you cute,” she says, the disapproval in her tone matching that in her face, but Mike smiles at her anyway.

“Not even a little bit?”

Donna rolls her eyes, but she’s fighting off a smile again, Mike can totally tell. “I won’t deny that you’ve been good for him. So far.”

“I have?” Mike echoes skeptically.

Donna looks at him sharply, like she’s surprised by his uncertainty. “Harvey took a sharp turn off a very dark road right before he met you, and I don’t know what it was about you, exactly, but you’ve given him a reason to stay on the right path. Usually self-preservation is all it takes with Harvey, but no one can live like that forever, and somehow, you’ve been able to drive that lesson home when no one else could. But don’t think that means you get a free pass on what’s happening now.”

“What’s happening now?”

She just shakes her head and asks, “Are you in love with him?”

“Jesus,” Mike coughs, shrinking away from her a little.

Donna purses her lips, tapping her pen against her chin. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

Mike’s eyes widen and he reaches out wildly, grabbing her shoulder and begging, “You can’t tell him. Please. It’s bad enough, him thinking I have like this, crush or whatever. He’ll totally wig if he finds out it’s more than that.”

He searches her face, hoping for mercy, but instead he finds a smile, warm and sure, and she says, sounding just like Jenny had, “I wouldn’t be so sure about that.”

---

Donna sticks around for another hour or so, patiently laying out her evidence that Harvey is actually butt-crazy in love with Mike.

She makes a surprisingly convincing case.

“In conclusion, no successful young professional, especially not one as ambitious as Harvey, simply redirects all his energies from his career to the random youth he plucked from the criminal justice system, not if there isn’t something pretty special about said youth. Or, in Harvey’s case, something special about the way said youth can actually make him feel things. A lot of things.”

He’s still surfing the wave of shock over her certainty that Mike’s feelings are returned, but underneath that, maybe Mike’s not so surprised after all. She’s talked about how they live together, how affectionate Harvey can be with him, all signs, sure, if you want to read them that way. Mike has his own interpretation, but still, putting this thing in terms of Harvey’s career really hits home.

If there’s one thing Mike believes in, it’s Harvey’s ambition. And he’s certainly set a lot of that aside the last year, looking after Mike. There has to be a limit to self-sacrifice somewhere, right? Some place in all this where Mike can point and say, “Okay, that’s not just me. Not just for me.” Like maybe Harvey is getting something out of this after all, even if it’s not as instrumental and calculating as Mike once thought, back when they first met.

And besides, he might be an idiot, but he’s learning to listen to people who are smarter than him, and Donna and Jenny definitely qualify.

“He’s going to be a complete nightmare about it for awhile, so brace yourself. Harvey doesn’t like doing what he’s told, even when he knows it’s the right thing.”

“And somehow... dating me is the right thing? You’re going to commit to that?”

Donna smiles. “I’m as surprised as you are. And if you hurt him, I will beat you to death with a shovel. But he cares about you, and that’s rare enough with Harvey that it ought to be encouraged. And if you can actually be serious, if you can mean it when you say you love him, and you’ll try to be good for him, then I can work with that.”

Feeling completely unworthy of the faith she’s showing in him, Mike squares his shoulders anyway and asks, “So, what am I supposed to do?”

“Well, first of all, you have to move out.”

“I have to what? Why would I - isn’t that a little counterproductive?”

“It’s Harvey, Mike. He’s never going to let himself pursue a relationship with you when you’re so dependent on him. If you move out, spread your wings a little, but still show him how much you want him in your life, even if you don’t strictly need him, it’ll do wonders.”

Mike’s panicking a little, at the prospect of leaving the cocoon of Harvey’s condo, but it’s more than that, too. “But that’s so underhanded and it just - it totally avoids the issue! I don’t want to trick him, you know? I want to be with him.”

“You’re not going to be tricking him, Mike. You’re going to be showing him.”

“Showing him what? That I can get through a day without freaking out if I don’t see him?”

“For a start,” she says, quirking an eyebrow. “But it’s more than that. You can’t just come out and tell Harvey you want to be with him. He’ll shut you down every time.”

“Yeah, already got some of that.”

Donna’s eyes widen. “You’ve told him, about your feelings?”

“Well, yeah. But he didn’t take me seriously, you know, thinking it’s just me latching on the nearest person available, that kind of thing.”

Donna shakes her head. “I’m going to kick his ass for not updating me about this.”

Mike grins weakly. “Do you usually get, you know, updates? About me?”

“It’s come up.”

Thinking about Donna and Harvey having conversations about him is just too murky a topic for his already spinning head, so Mike just takes a breath and says, “Okay. Move out. What else?”

“Start getting out more, seeing more people, maybe go on some dates.”

Dates?”

“To show him you can, to show him you’re over... what’s his face.”

“Trevor?”

Donna scrunches her mouth, “Yeah. Him.”

“I have to date other people to prove to Harvey I’m ready to date him?”

“That’s about the size of it. You don’t have to get serious about anyone, just go on a date or two. Jealousy is a powerful motivator, and in case you haven’t noticed, Harvey doesn’t like to share his things.”

Mike puts his head in his hands, fingers running through is hair roughly, trying to get his brain working. “This is all just a game, though, isn’t it? I don’t want to manipulate him, I just want to talk to him.”

Donna puts her hand on his arm, pulling it away from his face, and she says, “This is what it’s going to take, Mike. A lot of hard work, and probably some things you’d rather not do. But I know Harvey, and this is the only way to show him you’re okay, to show him you’re ready for a real relationship. It’s up to you to decide if that’s worth it.”

“By subtly manipulating him and moving out of his house?” Our house, almost, Mike thinks silently, wistfully.

“You have to hit him where it hurts, Mike.”

“But that’s the whole point! I don’t want to hurt Harvey. I want to be with him. I want him to let me take care of him, like I was supposed to, like he takes care of me.”

Donna smiles at him humoringly. “That’s sweet. But you have to think about who we’re dealing with, here. Either he won’t figure out what you’re doing, and it’ll work before he can, or he’ll figure out what you’re doing right away, and respect you for it. He may be trying to temper it, but Harvey’s still a sucker for someone with a bit of a manipulative streak. Keeps him on his toes.”

“You’re terrifying,” Mike tells her seriously.

She smiles, flicking her hair back and says, “See, you’re not entirely hopeless.”

---

As terrifying as Donna so completely is, it’s nothing compared to the prospect of telling Harvey he wants to move out.

Which he doesn’t, not at all, god, except, well. Maybe Donna’s kind of right. Not just about Harvey needing it, but about Mike needing it too. Most days, it feels like Harvey is all he has going for him, all he has left, and it’s paralyzing, sometimes, just thinking like that. Feeling that way.

He needs to be more than that, for himself, and for Harvey. He needs them both to know he can take care of himself, needs to know Harvey will stick by him even when Mike’s not falling apart.

---

It takes awhile to arrange another place for Mike to live, and he drags his feet a little, clinging to the last few days with Harvey spent sharing quiet mornings and long nights for all he’s worth. But Donna’s basically magic, so after a week, she’s somehow gotten him into the dorms at Columbia, even though that shouldn’t be possible at this time of year.

Mike kind of likes the idea, in abstract, of living in a dorm, and he sees the logic in her suggestion, thinking Harvey will really like it that Mike’s rounding out his college experience, making the most of it. It’s no fraternity house, but at least Mike’s gonna be participating in college life, or whatever, right?

He’s going to have a roommate, which is weird, but it’s got to be better than living alone was. And even if he can’t live with Harvey, maybe he’ll actually make a new friend. Or whatever. Mostly, Mike just hopes he’s not going to have to deal with any kind of sock on the door knob type situations. He likes the library fine, but he’d rather not have to sleep there. Well, more than he already does, anyway.

Once everything’s settled with the new place, paperwork wise, Mike asks Harvey to meet him for lunch, because he doesn’t think he can face doing this at home, looking around the condo at everything he just was starting to feel apart of, dealing with Harvey’s unchecked reactions. They go to a little sushi place Harvey likes, and Mike can’t afford, but he thinks Harvey won’t mind picking up one last check. Maybe it’ll even make him feel better, like Mike’s showing him he’s still going to lean on Harvey a little, like he’s reminding Harvey he’s still going to want and need him.

Or maybe Mike just wants a free lunch. It’s kind of hard to tell.

Harvey shows up on time, but looking mildly harassed, and he opens with a fifteen minute rant about his current client before Mike can even get a word in edgewise.

Mike waits him out, and eventually Harvey runs out of steam. He gives Mike a vaguely apologetic smile when he’s done, but Mike suspects Harvey’s mostly impressed Mike managed not to interrupt him, for once.

“So, what’s with the lunch?” Harvey asks, once Mike’s been suitably apologetic on behalf of the universe for all the crap Harvey’s had to put up with today.

“Well,” Mike says, shifting nervously in his seat. “I kind of have - news, I guess.”

“Bad news?” Harvey asks, alert and attentive, now.

Mike shakes his head. “No, good news. I think. I hope.”

Harvey quirks an eyebrow. “Well, have at it.”

“I got a dorm room in Fernald Hall. I can move in as soon as I want.”

“You what?” Harvey demands, voice worryingly flat.

Mike smiles weakly. “Surprise?”

Harvey narrows his eyes, leaning across the table conspiratorially. “Did Donna put you up to this?”

Mike’s face heats up, but he’s so genuinely flummoxed that Harvey came right out and asked, that he thinks he manages to make the incoherent denial seem credible. He’s not exactly known for his eloquence. “What? No! Why would you even - no - she didn’t. It was my choice.” That much is almost true, at least.

Harvey sags back against his chair, looking pretty flummoxed himself.

“Then why?” He asks, looking a little pale.

Mike really can’t believe he didn’t get it until now, the way Harvey actually lets him in, the way he doesn’t hide his feelings from Mike, and how big a deal that that is. He’d noticed, sure, but he’d never understood. Mostly, he can’t believe Harvey’s been looking at Mike like he is now, like he’s so completely, so desperately important that Harvey’s determined not to fuck Mike up, no matter the cost to himself. He can’t believe he didn’t realize there had to be a reason Harvey always held on as hard as Mike did, all this time.

Mike wants to take it back, wants to make Harvey stop looking so confused and vulnerable, his face cracked open by surprise. But he makes himself keep going, because this is important, too.

“I just think I”m ready. You’ve been amazing and you’re... you’re my best friend, Harvey.”

It feels good to say it, even though it’s not enough, not nearly everything Harvey is to him, but Harvey looks touched, at least momentarily, and then he catches himself, rolling his eyes.

Mike smiles automatically. “And you’re great at it. Best I’ve ever had,” he adds softly, eyes downcast. “But I can’t be in your hair all the time - it’s not good for either of us. And this’ll be good. For both of us.” It sounds like a lie in his head, but it feels true, falling off his tongue.

“Is this because--”

“It’s not, I swear,” Mike cuts him off quickly even though Harvey snorts doubtfully. “I know you’re not trying to get rid of me, I know it’s not like when I asked before, when I thought you wanted me to move out. We’re all good, on that. I’m good.”

Harvey nods, still looking skeptical, but coming around, a bit.

“It’s just time. I’m going to use some of my, you know, inheritance or whatever, to pay for it, and my scholarship covers the rest, still.” He feels guiltily, not about using the money for his dorm, but for bringing up that he’s going to, for doing it because he knows Harvey will see the significance of it, that he’s finally ready to acknowledge the money is there, that he’s going to use some of it.

Harvey nods again, more approving this time, and says, “Seems like you’ve got it all figured out.”

Mike smiles, hearing the conflicting emotions in his tone, half-proud, half-wistful.

“And it’s not like we won’t still see each other - I’m still going to come over to steal your food and HBO.”

Harvey laughs, a little ragged, but it reaches his eyes. “Well, that’s a relief.”

The sarcasm in his voice is totally ruined by the warm look in Harvey’s eyes, but Mike just smiles, and eventually, Harvey gives in and smiles back.

---

Harvey helps move Mike into his dorm, and thankfully his roommate isn’t there, because they’re both jittery and on edge, and Mike would rather not try and explain Harvey to anyone just yet.

It doesn’t take long to get Mike set up, but he goes back with Harvey to the condo after. It’s strange, being back so soon, but with everything already looking and feeling so different, now that all of Mike’s stuff is gone.

Not talking much, they rearrange Mike’s old room back into Harvey’s office, and Mike sits nursing a beer for an hour while Harvey reorganizes his bookshelves.

When they can’t delay it any longer, Harvey sighs at himself and offers to give Mike a ride home.

Mike wants to say yes - actually, he wants to say no, it’s fine, maybe he’ll just crash here, one last time, it’s not like he doesn’t already know how comfortable the couch is - but instead he shakes his head and says, “Nah, it’s cool. I’ll just catch the subway. Gotta get used to the route, because I’m going to be coming over all the time, right?”

“Right,” Harvey says, voice bright, but his expression heavy and a little doubtful.

Mike lunges forward without thinking, catching Harvey around the waist and hugging him close. Harvey freezes for an instant, but then he wraps his arms around Mike, one hand cupping the back of Mike’s head, the other around his shoulders, holding on fiercely. It’s the first time they’ve done this since New Year’s, and it feels so good Mike’s knees almost give out, just a little.

When they finally let go, they both shuffle their feet awkwardly, still so reluctant to say good-bye, but Mike can’t even think of it like that, or he’ll lose it. So he makes himself punch Harvey in the arm and says, “Thanks for everything, coach.”

Harvey laughs softly. “Anytime, champ.”

And so they part company like that, rolling their eyes at each other and laughing, and Mike smiles the whole ride home, thinking that this doesn’t feel very much like an ending, after all.

Thinking it feels a hell of a lot more like a beginning.

---

Mike’s roommate is named Kyle, and it turns out he wants to go into law at Harvard, too. He’s hyper-competitive, wanting to compare GPAs and shit, which is annoying, but also kind of funny, mostly ‘cause of the way Kyle’s eyes bug out when he finds out that Mike’s is higher than his. He gets really pushy about why Mike started a year late, too, though, and why he’s only ‘dorming it up’ now.

Mike mostly avoids him, and Kyle’s questions, but after the first week, Mike accidentally mentions Harvey, and Kyle stares at him like Mike’s just revealed he knows how to fly.

“Harvey Specter? The Harvey Specter? You know him?”

You do?” Mike asks, alarmed. He never should have used Harvey’s whole name. Or any part of his name.

“I’ve followed his career since the D.A’s office. The guy’s a fucking legend at Harvard.”

“How would you know?”

“My whole family went there,” Kyle explains impatiently, like maybe he’s told Mike this before. “My cousin was in Harvey’s class. She told me that Harvey once threw down with their torts professor over the differences between strict and fault liability and almost made him cry.”

Mike laughs. “That sounds like Harvey.”

“So how did you meet him? Summer internship?”

“Something like that.”

“And now he’s mentoring you?” Kyle sounds like he might cry from jealousy. “Is he going to write you a letter? God, you’ll be a shoo-in.”

Mike frowns. “I’m going to be a shoo-in anyway. One more year and I can apply out straight into IL classes, and I’m going to kick the LSATs’ ass.”

“Me too, man,” Kyle says, getting a little crazy in the eyes. “We can rule the school together, what do you say?” he asks, raising his hand in the air.

Mike doesn’t like or trust the guy as far as he could throw him, and he’s already got one competitive douche in his life, but he shrugs and gives Kyle his high-five anyway.

Call it his humanitarian act of the day. And besides, if Kyle’s going to try and use Mike, the least Mike can do is use him right back.

Harvey would be so proud.

---

Kyle doesn’t know how to do laundry, which Mike discovers when he heads down to the machines on Saturday morning and finds Kyle standing in front of them and a pile of his clothes, a blank, vaguely worried expression on his face.

“Problem?” Mike says, hefting his own bag of clothes on top of one of the machines and fiddling with the settings.

“My old roommate, Dave, he used to...” Kyle trials off, still furrowing his brow in the direction of the washing machines.

“Dude, you used to get your roommate to do your laundry?” he scoffs, and then adds, “I’m not doing that,” when Kyle gives him a hopeful look.

“Come on, man, I’ll pay you.”

“You’ll pay me,” Mike parrots incredulously.

Kyle nods. “Ten bucks a load.”

“Dude that’s--” But Mike cuts himself off, realizing he’s about to turn down ridiculously easy money. Maybe Dave wasn’t such a sucker after all. “Sure. I can do that. I’m charging you for the dryer, too. Twenty bucks for a full wash and dry, each load.”

Kyle grins eagerly and shoves his hand into his pocket, shaking Mike’s hand and leaving it full of bills. “There, great, thanks man, see you back in the room.”

And then Kyle’s racing up the stairs like someone’s chasing him, and Mike just shakes his head and starts sorting through the clothes Kyle left behind.

It’s kind of gross, if you think about it, but Mike tries not to, and once everything’s running in the machines, he hops on top of one and gets out his cellphone.

Harvey answers on the fourth ring, sounding like he’s trying his best to be annoyed, but Mike is so over being fooled by that shit, so he just grins into the phone and says, “Shut up and listen to what my idiot roommate’s done this time,” and with a eye roll Mike can’t see, but is certain is there, Harvey does.

---

Jenny comes over and visits, sometimes, which she never did at Harvey’s, not even once Mike stopped being such a douche-rocket.

It makes no sense, on one level, because Mike has way less space, now, but the space is his own in a way it never really was in Harvey’s condo, no matter how hard Mike and Harvey both tried to pretend different.

He expects her to make fun of him for moving out just to try and impress Harvey, but instead, Jenny seems to think it’s a great idea.

“It’s good for you to be on your own for awhile, and I love living in my dorm. You make such amazing friends,” she’s totally sincere, which Mike’s always loved about her, so he neglects to explain that he already has all the friends he wants.

Still, as a result of Jenny’s visits, Kyle thinks Mike has a totally smoking hot girlfriend, which is cool with Mike, because Kyle is obsessed enough with Harvey’s presence in Mike’s life as it is. The last thing he needs is Kyle thinking he’d get into Harvard easier if they all had a threeway, or something.

---

He’s on a meal-plan now, so the Saturday evening grocery shopping trips are disbanded, but he and Harvey transition back into most of their other old routines from Mike’s first year, and make up a few new ones to off-set how weird it is not to see each other everyday anymore.

Mike’s favorite new addition is their standing Sunday brunch date at Good Enough to Eat, because strawberry-butter pancakes are delicious, and he likes still getting to see Harvey soft-eyed and a little undone, the way he only is in the mornings, when he hasn’t quite remembered to put on the full Harvey Specter veneer yet.

Sometimes Mike makes jokes about how they’re actual dates, just testing the waters a little bit, and Harvey always sighs long-sufferingly and complains about Mike only wanting him for his incredible body and bank account, but it’s way better than the flinching, careful, and overly polite way Harvey used to respond to Mike’s flirting, like he’s not so afraid of it anymore, like he doesn’t feel the need to shut it down at every possible opportunity.

It’s small progress, but it’s something, so Mike tries to enjoy the victory, and mostly restrains himself from trying to play footsie with Harvey under the table.

---

It’s not that everything is solved.

It’s not that Mike’s all better.

He still wakes up, sometimes, panting and blinking frantically into the dark, woken from a dream about Harvey dying, in a car crash like his parents, or alone on his apartment floor like his Gram.

He still spends some days on autopilot, flinching away from every noise and shrinking back from anyone who comes too close, days when he has to find an empty spot in the library stacks and crouch down with his head in his knees, breathing raggedly until he stops feeling like he’s going to throw up.

He still has to call Harvey, sometimes, in a blind panic, just needing to hear his voice.

But it’s not all the time, anymore, it’s not even regular, and slowly but surely, the bad days are starting to be overwhelmed by the good, and on days like that, Mike has to admit that, even if it doesn’t eventually get him Harvey, Donna still had a pretty good idea, suggesting it was time for Mike to try and take care of himself.

He expected it to be impossible, or at least hard enough that he’d give up, but he’s been on his own for almost two months, now, and he hasn’t given up yet. It’s a small thing, compared to what some people have to deal with, but when Mike thinks about how far he’s come, since his Gram, since Trevor, it doesn’t feel like such a small thing after all.

----

Mike totally can’t commit to the fake-dating thing. Even though Donna’s probably right, and it would be good to show Harvey he’s getting out there, moving on. Except he’s not, really, and moving out is one thing, but flat-out lying like that, to Harvey, to whoever he tried to date, just doesn’t work for Mike. Besides, when he thinks about anyone other than Harvey touching him, now, it kind of makes Mike’s skin crawl.

He eventually tells Donna this, and she smiles at him approvingly, like he’s passed some test.

“Wait - was that like, a trap? Are you kidding me?”

Donna just shrugs enigmatically and pats him on the head. “Just be glad you got out alive.”

---

Being back at the condo is really weird, now. It’s not his place, anymore, if it ever really was, but he still knows it intimately, from the ideal pressure of shower faucet to the top three places to look for the remote when it goes missing.

It’s strange to sit on the couch he once slept on, strange to walk on the floor he’s collapsed onto more often than he likes to remember, strange to cook a meal together and sit a careful distance apart on that same couch, and to then say good-night and go somewhere else, to leave and get on a subway and come home to Kyle, when Mike used to sleep with a shared wall between them, and the prospect of seeing Harvey in the morning to look forward to.

It’s strange, and it’s hard, but it’s worth it, Mike thinks. It’s worth it to meet Harvey’s eyes and see fierce pride instead of fearful worry staring back at him, it’s worth it to feel a little better, everyday, to feel okay, on his own, but never quite alone, knowing he’s doing this for both of them.

And it’s worth it to hear the poorly contained longing in Harvey’s voice, sometimes, when he’ll call Mike up, just to ask him how it’s going, or to harass him into playing another hockey game or some pick-up basketball, like Harvey can’t quite help himself, like he’s waited as long as he could, and when Harvey finally calls, it’s because he has to. Mike’s initiated more than a few calls like that himself, sometimes in the middle of the night, when he’s just been shaken from a nightmare and he needs to reassure himself that that’s all it was, but it’s different when it’s Harvey making the call.

It’s different when it’s Harvey making the admission of longing, when he’s revealing, even by de facto, that he misses Mike. Those times, Mike’s never been more glad that some cliches are true, discovering that sometimes distance really does make the heart grow fonder, even the heart of Harvey Specter.

---

Mike’s working, and during his breaks, he’s speed-reading his Econ textbook. Harvey didn’t even make him take the class, this time. It’s kind of embarrassing, but Mike sort of enjoys the material. Besides, it’ll be helpful if he wants to do corporate law, which is basically his default, at this point. He’s not even entirely sure he wants to work at Pearson Hardman someday, but he sure as hell wants to prove that he can.

When he gets out of the break-room, Harvey’s standing in line, and Mike beams at him and then groans in rapid succession, realizing that Harvey must be here to torture him.

It’s kind of been awhile, and it sends a happy thrill down Mike’s spine, just seeing Harvey here.

When the line reaches Harvey, Mike leans forward a little too eagerly and says, “What can I get for you, sir?” excepting Harvey to laugh, or play along and rattle off another impossibly complicated order.

Instead, Harvey gets a pinched look on his face and says, “Just a coffee - black. Big.”

Mike’s eyes widen, and his voice comes out all low and concerned when he asks, “Hey, you okay?”

Harvey looks at Mike like he doesn’t know him, almost like he can’t quite see him, and Mike swears under his breath, turning to the other barista he’s working with, Sharon, and hissing, “Can you cover me for a few minutes?”

It’s not that full, and Sharon’s a sympathetic human being, so she nods and Mike makes his way around the bar, hustling Harvey over to the deserted staff table and saying, “Wait here.” He rushes back, makes the strongest coffee he knows how, and returns, presenting it to Harvey in under two minutes.

“What happened?” he asks, sitting down across from Harvey.

Harvey blinks at him, like he’s trying to wake himself up.

“Harvey,” Mike prompts, putting his hand on Harvey’s arm.

Harvey looks down at Mike’s hand, and then up at his face. “Cameron came to see me today. He made it seem like we just ran into each other but,” Harvey shakes his head. “Nothing’s an accident with Cameron.”

Mike has no idea what the hell to say. Cameron Dennis has just always been this spector, this strange, looming anomaly in Harvey’s otherwise impeccable track-record of poise and control, someone almost like Mike himself, but dangerous in a way Mike never wants to be. Not to Harvey.

“What did he want?” Mike asks, managing to keep his voice level.

“Lunch.”

“Are you going?”

Harvey nods.

Mike can’t stop himself from saying, “Are you sure that’s a good idea? I mean, he’s essentially the anti-Christ, right? I’m not saying you can’t handle yourself, but--”

“I need to see what he wants. What he’s up to. That’s all.”

“And then you’ll tell him no, right? Whatever it is?”

Harvey looks away.

Mike’s hand is still on his arm, and he squeezes it urgently. “Harvey, Harvey, as your sponsor, I have to advise you that this is a very dangerous course of action, and I really feel that you ought to consider--”

“Mike, be quiet.”

“But you--”

“Quiet,” he repeats, voice hard. Mike wilts a little, and Harvey adds, “Please.”

Mike’s shocked enough to comply, that’s not a word you hear from Harvey everyday, but he doesn’t remove his hand, an they sit there like that for a long time, not saying anything, not looking at each other, but tethered together by the feel of Harvey’s pulse under Mike’s hand.

Harvey finally shakes himself out of it, and he pulls his arm away from Mike’s touch, reaching for his coffee. He drinks for a long time, and Mike watches, nervous and uncertain, but when Harvey puts the drink down, his face is clearer, and he almost looks like himself, again.

“You have to be careful, Harvey,” Mike says, quiet and reluctant, but needing to say it, needing Harvey to hear him.

Harvey smirks on default, and he says, “I can take care of myself.”

But he can’t, neither of them can. That’s the whole point of them, it’s always been, and Mike’s not going to let Harvey forget about that now, especially not when he’s the one Harvey came to, even if he’s not going to admit it was for Mike’s help.

He reaches out again, taking Harvey’s hand this time, and ignoring the violent twitch Harvey makes, holding on tight. “I’m not letting that guy turn you back into a douche on my watch, okay? I‘ve worked hard on you. You’re practically a real boy, now. I’m not letting that asshole ruin all my good work. You got me?”

“Yeah,” Harvey says, slowly, and after a long time. He’s not smiling, but some of the foreboding has receded from his eyes. “Yeah, I‘ve got you.”

---

He calls Donna practically the second Harvey leaves, despite knowing he’s basically going to owe Sharon a kidney at this point, for bailing on so much work.

“Code red,” Mike says as soon as she picks up, and Donna makes an exasperated noise into the phone.

“Mike, I told you not to call me at work, Harvey could be right on the other side of this very stylish but decidedly not sound-proof glass wall.”

“Yeah, but this is an emergency!” Besides, it’ll take Harvey fifteen minutes at least to get back to Pearson Hardman.

She sighs. “Okay, what happened.”

“Harvey saw Cameron. They’re going to lunch.”

“Oh, Jesus,” Donna breathes, and it’s the first time he’s ever heard her sound so unfiltered, so open.

“He was really freaking out, he came into my work and he just sort of, sat there, like a zombie or something, but he’s gone now and--”

“You left him alone? Are you crazy?”

“I think he might be actually doing better? I don’t know. He seemed okay when he left, like, steadier. More Harvey-like. I think I maybe calmed him down a little.”

“Huh,” she says eventually. “Nice one, kid.”

Mike laughs faintly. “Are you going to talk to him? Still? I know we’re trying to be stealth, and stuff, but I feel like now’s the time to like, circle the wagons or whatever.”

“I want to make fun of you for using that expression, but I’m honestly too pissed off right now to even think of something,” she says, like an apology, and Mike laughs a little less faintly.

“I’ll just imagine you said something sufficiently cutting, okay?”

“See that you do,” she says imperiously, but then ruins the effect by sighing and adding, “Thank you, Mike. For letting me know. For helping him.”

He could play it off, make a joke, but instead Mike nods to himself and says seriously, “Take care of him today, okay?”

He can almost hear her smiling when Donna replies, “I always do.”

---

Mike and Donna camp out in Harvey’s office together while he’s having lunch with Cameron.

They take turns pacing the length of the room for the first fifteen minutes, and then Donna sighs decisively and goes to pour them both a drink.

She hands one to Mike and they share a grim and silent toast, downing the alcohol cleanly.

Mike feels tense and helpless, and he reaches out at nothing, making a fist around the air, and says, “This is bullshit. I hate just waiting like this, not being able to do anything. I feel like going and tee-peeing his house or something.”

It’s a ridiculous, juvenile suggestion, but Donna laughs, and says, “I knew there was a reason I liked you.”

“You like me?” Mike says, eyes wide. On his best days, he aspired to be tolerated by her.

She shakes her head and says, “Don’t spread it around.”

Mike grins, he can’t help it, and he leans into her a little on the couch, just brushing their shoulders tentatively.

It’s nice, not being surprised, when she leans a little closer too, settling in against him, the both of them propping the other up.

---

“My cases,” Harvey says, as soon as he strides into the office, looking more pissed than Mike’s ever seen him.

He could never be afraid of Harvey, not really, but just for a split second, Mike can see how other people would be.

“What?” Donna asks, blinking worriedly.

Harvey clenches his fists at his sides, and says, “He tampered with my cases. Not just his. Mine. That son of a bitch, the attorney general’s office is going to destroy him for this, and if I don’t testify against him, I could go down with him.”

“Then you have to testify,” Donna says sharply, her face utterly resolved.

Harvey shakes his head wildly, saying, “He was my mentor,” and Mike hears an echo of his own voice, the way he used to sound when he’d say, “He’s my best friend,” whenever Trevor inevitably screwed up again, and Mike couldn’t do anything but excuse it away.

“It doesn’t matter,” Mike says, intentionally mimicking Harvey, that night they fought over Trevor and Mike was stupid enough, even for just an hour, to think running from Harvey would solve his problems.

Harvey stares at Mike like he’s betrayed Harvey, somehow, but Donna comes to stand at his side, pressing their shoulders together again, arms crossed, a united front.

“We love you, Harvey,” Donna says, and Mike doesn’t even mind that he’s not the one who gets to say it. Donna loved Harvey first, after all. “The people in this room, right here, we’re the ones who matter, we’re the ones who deserve your loyalty. And we don’t want to see you pay for any more of that asshole’s mistakes, right, Mike?”

“Right,” Mike agrees immediately, trying to sound as impressive and commanding as Donna, but failing miserably. Still, he tries to stand a little straighter, refusing to back down when Harvey fixes his eyes on Mike, glaring daggers.

Somehow, against all odds, Harvey’s the one who backs off first, and he turns away from them, walking blindly towards his desk, all but collapsing into his chair.

Donna and Mike follow him, standing at either side of Harvey, crouching down a little, each putting a hand on his shoulder.

“Okay,” Harvey says, after a really long time. Donna and Mike each squeeze his shoulder, and he turns to look at Donna, and then Mike, when he repeats, “Okay.”

---

They go out to dinner. Harvey drinks, a lot. He doesn’t do much else.

They practically have to pour him into the car when Ray comes to pick them up, and Donna eyes Mike speculatively.

“Can you handle him?”

Mike peers inside the car, looking at Harvey sprawled out in the back-seat, glassy-eyed, and then says resolutely, “Yeah, I got this.”

They say good-night, and he watches Donna get into a cab before climbing into the limo with Harvey.

Ray starts driving, window up, and Mike crawls closer to Harvey, trying to gauge his awareness of Mike’s presence.

Harvey looks at him blankly at first, but then he smiles, kind of wonky and impossibly young looking, reaching out to pat Mike’s face. Mike smiles uncertainly back, and Harvey grabs his shoulder and hauls Mike closer.

Mike ends up half in Harvey’s lap, Harvey’s arm wrapped around his shoulders.

They keep driving, and Harvey proves to be a maudlin, overly-touchy, but mostly silent drunk. He doesn’t talk, or make any noise, unless it’s to emit a low sound of protest if Mike shifts at all, or tries to move away from him.

By the time they’re turning onto Harvey’s street, Harvey’s staring at Mike intently, not clear-eyed, but still sharp, focused.

“You’re the best thing that ever happened to me,” Harvey says, like an accusation, and then he groans and says, “That’s so embarrassing, I can’t believe I just thought that.”

Mike tries to keep his face blank, but totally fails, and Harvey groans again. “I can’t believe I just said that. Ignore it. Never happened. Under no circumstances are you authorized to repeat what just happened here, to yourself or anyone else.”

“Okay, Harvey,” Mike says reassuringly, squeezing Harvey’s wrist.

The car stops, and Harvey seems jolted momentarily into sobriety by it, eyes widening and his expression turning vaguely appalled. He moves away from Mike so quickly it makes Mike’s teeth rattle a bit, and he’s out of the car just as fast.

Mike mumbles thanks to Ray, who leans out the window and says, “Go easy on him, kid,”

Mike laughs, and says, “I’ll do my best.”

Harvey’s already through the building doors, but the doorman just nods to Mike as he races after Harvey into the elevator.

He makes it just before the doors close, and Harvey raises his face to the heavens reproachfully when Mike slips inside.

They ride the elevator silently for two floors, and then Harvey says, “I owe you an apology.”

“No you don’t,” Mike responds immediately.

“Yes, I do, that was completely inappropriate - my behavior - and I shouldn’t have been touching you - it won’t--”

“Harvey. You can touch me whenever you like. I want it. I want you.”

It’s absolutely the worst place for them to be having this conversation, particularly the worst time, with Harvey drunk and hurting, but Mike can’t stand here and let Harvey apologize for taking some of the same comfort from Mike that he helped keep Mike alive with, this past year. He can’t have Harvey beating himself up about one more thing that isn’t his fault.

Harvey just stares at him, angry with disbelief, and once they reach his floor, he exits the elevator without looking at Mike, and he has to run to catch up again.

Harvey looks like he’s going to try to get into his condo without letting Mike follow, but Mike just jangles his own keys at Harvey defiantly. “Got my own, remember? I’m not going to let you shut me out, Harvey. Not in any sense of the term.”

“Suit yourself,” Harvey says aggressively, storming into his condo and not looking to see if Mike’s coming.

Mike is, of course, and he locks up after himself when he’s inside.

Once again, he’s hit with how strange it is to be here, the dual feeling of being a visitor and feeling completely at home.

Harvey immediately heads for the alcohol, and Mike lets him, going to the kitchen and pouring Harvey a giant glass of water in the idle hope that he’ll eventually be able to convince Harvey to drink it.

“You should go,” Harvey says, not angry, now, just lifeless, distant.

“Pass,” Mike says, coming to sit down beside him.

Harvey sighs and tries to inch away, but Mike follows, and eventually Harvey runs out of couch to slink away to, and they end up curled against the arm of it, just like they used to, with Mike plastered against Harvey’s side, his face tucked into the curve of Harvey’s neck.

Harvey’s ragged breath eventually steadies out, and he relaxes against Mike, resting his chin on the top of Mike’s head.

“This wasn’t supposed to happen.”

Mike smiles, a little sad, because he knows what it meant to Harvey, to try and have this thing between them stay pure, somehow, but he wants Harvey, however he can have him, even if it’s messy and complicated and hard.

“I know. But it did anyway.”

Harvey takes a deep breath, and brushes his lips against Mike’s forehead, softly, almost reverently. “Yeah. I suppose it did.”

---

In the morning, Harvey is hungover and surly, but he doesn’t try to make Mike leave, and once he’s showered and had some coffee, Harvey looks at Mike and says, “I need you.”

Mike smiles radiantly and says, “I figured you might.”

---

They go into the office, and spend the day pouring over all of Harvey’s old case files, searching for anything that doesn’t add up, anything that might point to something suspicious, some sign of evidence tampering or worse.

Mike’s never read faster, and yet more carefully, and by the afternoon his eyes feel gritty and he’s practically vibrating from the amount of Red Bull he’s consumed.

Donna comes around one to break up the research session with food and non-caffeinated beverages, glaring at Mike and sternly taking his fourth can of Red Bull right out of his grasping hands.

“Hey, hey, I need that, I’m helping!”

Donna rolls her eyes and glances pointedly at Harvey. He’s bent over files, looking somewhat crazed. “Help with that,” she reminds him, and Mike nods obediently.

Donna leaves without even trying to talk to Harvey, and once she’s gone, Mike approaches his desk cautiously, holding one of the sandwiches Donna brought in outstretched hands.

“Harvey, you need to take a break, eat something,” Harvey doesn’t look up, so Mike clears his throat and repeats, loudly, “Harvey!”

Harvey startles, and he glares at Mike reproachfully. “You’re not looking through your stack of files,” he says, like this is both a confusing and disappointing turn of events.

Mike gestures with the sandwich. “Food first, then more reading. I’m almost done mine, I can help with yours soon. But you’ve got to eat first.”

“Have you found anything?”

“No, of course not, I’d tell you right away if I did.” He leans down a little. “You know, there might not actually be anything to find.”

Harvey shrugs, ignoring the reassuring tone of Mike’s voice, and grabs the sandwich, unwrapping it almost violently.

Mike sighs, but perches on the side of his desk, unwrapping his own sandwich and starting to eat, watching to make sure Harvey does the same.

They eat in silence, and once they’re done, Mike gets back to work before Harvey even has time to tell him to.

It’s tense, and every time one of them turns a page the other one watches a little too closely, but still, somehow, despite the circumstances, it’s almost nice, being in here again, working with Harvey. Back when Harvey was still bribing Mike with legal work to make sure Mike went to his classes, he’d lived for the afternoons when he got to work with Harvey, when he could feel like the hours spent reading actually meant something, like it mattered in a way his coursework never could.

It’s like that now, except wildly, impossibly more important, and Mike concentrates harder than he ever has, determined to find the answers Harvey’s looking for, one way or another.

---

It’s dark out, and Pearson Hardman is all but deserted, when Harvey puts a file down and breathes, “Son of a bitch.”

Mike is up and at his side in an instant, reading shamelessly over Harvey’s shoulder. The file belongs to someone named Clifford Danner, and he’s been in jail for the last thee years. Harvey’s staring at a letter from the girl he’s supposed to have killed. It’s a love letter.

“What does this mean?” Mike asks, voice low.

Harvey shoves the file away from him viciously. “It means I sent an innocent man to prison - an innocent kid. It means I have to get him out.”

We have to get him out,” Mike corrects.

Harvey sneers at Mike and says, “What are you going to do?”

Mike just smiles grimly. “Whatever I have to.”

---

Harvey has to go and be deposed on the stand the next day, and Mike knows it’s not in Harvey to say anything, to turn against someone like Cameron, even though he knows he should. Mike wants to push him on it, but he couldn’t leave Trevor behind until he was good and ready, and he knows Harvey will be the same.

To make up for Harvey’s silence, Mike and Donna spend the entire time he’s gone conspiring together, trying to figure out how to protect Harvey using the evidence she’s been holding onto against Cameron since she left the D.A’s office.

When Harvey comes back from his deposition, he locks himself in his office again, and Mike stays to watch him while Donna goes to take the evidence to Jessica. They agreed they needed to bring out the big guns when they finally accepted that she could pull off intimidating bad-ass far better than either of them. Not that Donna couldn’t, really, but she knows Cameron too well, and Mike isn’t too inclined to send her back into his clutches anymore than he wants Harvey in them.

Harvey is oblivious, all his focus bent on finding a way to get Clifford Danner out of prison, and Mike is on his way to visit Danner with Harvey by the time Donna texts him the message, “the eagle has landed.”

Mike almost laughs, but he’s genuinely too relieved to do anything but quickly type the response, “You’re totally my hero. Jessica too.”

Harvey doesn’t notice, or ask, what he’s doing, and they march into the prison together, going through security and dealing with some expected confusion about who Mike is. Harvey gets him through assuring the guards that Mike is his associate. At least the suits Harvey bought him are finally paying off.

“Probably going to be true someday, right?” Mike says, trying to lighten the mood as they walk, and Harvey just shakes his head.

“You’d still want to be, after all this?”

It makes Mike stop in his tracks, and he grabs Harvey’s arm, making him stop too. “Yes. Always.”

“Always, huh?”

Mike nods with absolute certainly, not caring that both of them know they’re not just talking about him being Harvey’s associate anymore.

“Always.”

---

The interview with Clifford is going terribly, until Mike steps in.

He asks Harvey to leave, and Harvey looks at Mike like he’s crazy, but he complies.

“I’m not actually his associate,” Mike says, as soon as Harvey’s gone.

Clifford glares at him incredulously. “Who the hell are you, then?”

Mike shrugs, wishing he knew how to put it all into words, what Harvey means to him. He starts small. “I’m his friend. His best friend. I’m also the guy you want to listen to when I say - trust Harvey. If he takes your case, he will win. That’s what Harvey does, and he’s never been more motivated.”

“Yeah, he seemed to like winning just fine when he put me in jail for the death of the girl I loved. I told him about our relationship and he didn’t believe me. Why in hell should I trust him now?”

Mike leans closer and says, “When I met Harvey, I was in the same spot you are right now. Chained to a table, facing the end of my future. Harvey saved me, he helped me, and he stuck around to make sure the job was done right. In the two years I’ve known him, Harvey’s done more for me than you can possibly imagine, and he’s never once asked for anything in return. If you trust him now, he’ll do the same for you.”

“You really believe that?”

Mike nods. “I bet my life on Harvey, put it in his hands, and I haven’t regretted it since. You won’t either.”

---

Clifford agrees to let Harvey take on his case, and do it Harvey’s way.

When they leave together, Harvey says, “You know I could hear everything you were saying in there, right?”

Mike nods, looking straight ahead. “I knew.” Harvey never would have left Mike alone with Clifford if he wasn’t just outside the bars, waiting.

“And you meant what you said?”

Mike stops, needing to be facing Harvey when he says, “I meant every word.”

---

The trial is a blur of sleepless nights and strained phone conversations. He doesn’t actually see Harvey all that much, he’s entirely focused on the case, and Mike still has classes and shifts at Starbucks to get through, zombie-like and barely present, but he knows it’s important to Harvey that he keep going. It’s important to Mike too, he discovers, and he even has Kyle help him catch up on what he’s missed in their pre-law courses in exchange for a week’s worth of free laundry services.

The trial goes well until one of the dickbags who testified against Clifford during the original trial decides to perjure himself, and then Harvey’s reeling, out of ideas, and when Harvey comes to him with a bruised cheek and a desolate look, Mike steps in, feeling oddly cool-headed and says, “I have an idea.”

Harvey stares at Mike like he’s lost his mind, but Mike just smiles. “You’re going to like it. It’s from Mississippi Burning.”

---

Mike calls Kyle and asks him how he’d like Harvey Specter to owe him a favor, and Kyle shows up twenty minutes later with a bat, no questions asked.

---

Mike’s plan works, god, it works like a fucking charm, and he can’t help beaming at Harvey triumphantly once they’re alone.

“Who’s better than me?” He asks, arms raised in the air.

Harvey tries to roll his eyes, but he doesn’t quite manage it, and after struggling visibly against the impulse for a few seconds, he gives up, grabbing Mike around the waist and pulling him close, almost lifting Mike off the air.

“You’re just lucky you’re occasionally brilliant enough to be worth all the trouble, that’s what you are,” He says, letting Mike go, but it comes out sounding impossibly tender.

Mike grins and says, “I love you, too.”

Harvey opens his mouth like he’s going to protest, and Mike kisses him instead.

He expects resistance, but as soon as their lips touch, Harvey makes a broken sound and yanks Mike closer, his fist closing around a handful of Mike’s hair, kissing him back like he’s been waiting to do it his whole life.

---

When they get back to the office, Donna’s waiting up for them, and she takes one look at them and says, “I told you so.”

She doesn’t specify who she’s talking to, but then, she doesn’t really need to.

She told both of them, after all.

---

They only stay at the office long enough to drop off the paperwork and notify Clifford that Matt Bailey’s confessed, and then they get in a cab and drive silently back to Harvey’s condo.

They sit on opposite ends of the backseat, not touching or looking at each other, but Mike thinks he might be coming out of his skin, just from the sound of Harvey breathing unevenly next to him.

It takes real effort for Mike not to leap out of the cab and sprint all the way to the elevator, and he can’t help but notice that Harvey’s walking even faster than usual as they go inside.

Once the door of Harvey’s condo is closing behind them, though, they just stand there, staring at each other, not knowing what to do.

Mike’s got some ideas, but he’s still not entirely sure Harvey would go for them. Making out in a soon-to-be-convicted murder’s house notwithstanding.

Harvey clears his throat, looking stoic and self-sacrificing, and Mike say, “Oh, shut up,” before he even opens his mouth.

“Mike, we need to talk about this. Like rational adults.”

Mike does a mental victory dance that Harvey’s including him in that category, and says, “Okay, fine. But I get to go first.”

Harvey sighs, looking put-upon, but he waves his hand at Mike, allowing him to continue.

Mike takes a deep breath, rubbing his hands together, and then asks, “Okay, so, remember your list?”

“What list?”

“About me. Why you couldn’t date me. I was a teenager. I was too messed up about Trevor and Jenny. You didn’t want me to think I had to sleep with you because I owed you.”

“Yeah?” Harvey says warily.

Mike shrugs. “Well, those reasons don’t really apply anymore, do they?”

“Mike--”

“And you never said, ‘I don’t fuck guys,' or ‘you’re just not my type, Mike.’ You told me not yet. You told me to wait.”

“Mike, that’s not--”

“Not what you meant? Not what you want? Really? We don’t spend four nights out of the week curled up on the couch together? Or at least we didn’t, until you stopped it because of totally misplaced guilt? We don’t finish each other’s sentences and know each other’s breakfast orders? We don’t get crap about being married from Donna, Jenny, hell, even Louis, for god’s sake? We don’t know each other better than anyone? Trust each other more than anyone else? Love each other?”

“It would still be taking advantage,” Harvey answers immediately, ignoring everything else, his tone frighteningly final.

“Harvey, come on. That’s bullshit. I’m twenty, now! Besides, I think we both know that even when we met, I wasn’t exactly young, not too young for you. And you’ve been my friend - my best friend, shit, I mean, you’ve been my best everything, for over two years. I think at this point, I know you well enough to avoid getting manipulated by you if I don’t want to be. And you should know me well enough by now to know that I’m not as helpless as you first thought, or at least not as stupid as I was when you first met me. I’ve grown - we’ve both grown, and that’s because of each other, of what we can be together, the things we push each other towards, the ways we make each other better. Don’t you want to keep that going? Don’t you want to see how much better things can be?”

“There’s no guarantee they’ll get better. Complicating these kinds of situations with sex often tends to make things worse.”

Mike can’t help but notice Harvey didn’t refute anything else. He’s also pretty ecstatic to hear that sex is already on the table.

“Are you turning chicken on me, Harvey? Now of all times? You’re the guy who got me out of jail on bravado alone, the guy whose name inspires fear and awe in the hearts of gods and men, the one with ten-thousand dollar suits and million dollar ideas - you’re Harvey fucking Specter! Are you really going to turn down the greatest thing that’s ever happened to either of us, just because you’re afraid to take the risk?”

“You realize you’re essentially daring me to date you. Not the most mature way to make your case, Mike.”

But Mike can hear the weakening resolve behind Harvey’s sarcasm, and he just looks at Harvey, heart in his eyes, and says, “ I double dare you.”

“You’re ridiculous.”

Mike shrugs. “Eh, you like it.”

Harvey puts his face in his hands and says, “God help me, I really do.”

Mike laughs, open and victorious, but when Harvey immediately glares at him, Mike’s expression softens, and he takes a small step towards Harvey, looking at his stupidly beautiful, stupidly frustrating face when he says, “You wanted me to believe I deserved the best, Harvey. It’s not my fault you’re it.”

Harvey says, “Oh, well, when you put it like that,” aiming for sardonic and missing by a mile, landing somewhere a lot closer to choked and sincere.

Mike takes another step towards him, and Harvey sighs like he’s taking too long, reaching out and pulling Mike the rest of the way, until they’re touching from head to toe, foreheads pressed together.

Harvey closes his eyes, but Mike keeps his open, not wanting to miss a second of this.

“Hey, Harvey, hey,” he says, when Harvey won’t look at him.

Harvey opens his eyes slowly, and Mike smiles. “I’m sorry I broke our deal. It’s just that I got greedy, wanting you all to myself. Can’t fault me for my taste, though, can you?”

Harvey laughs, a little hysterical, but happy, helplessly, hopelessly happy. “No, I guess I can’t.”

“This is the part where you say, ‘I love you too, Mike,’” Mike points out, nudging Harvey’s forehead with his own.

Harvey pulls him inextricably closer, and kisses Mike instead. Doesn’t matter. Mike’s well schooled in the secret language of Harvey Specter by now, and he hears the words just fine in the soft sighs that pass between their lips, and in the dizzying rush of Harvey’s tongue against his.

Mostly, Mike hears it in the way Harvey holds on - the way he’s always held on - like Mike is something worth keeping.