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the spaces grown between us

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He’d been staring at the same page for hours now; the words nothing more than black smears of ink against the crisp white backdrop of the papers they were printed on. No matter how hard he tried to focus, Mike just couldn’t bring himself to read them. He squinted against the sheaf of papers in his hand, wishing he could just throw himself into the pages and pages of legal jargon piled up around him, to lose himself in the intricately worded documents and forget everything else.

The words continued to not make sense as his focus turned to the much avoided topic currently occupying his mind. With a groan, Mike dropped the papers to the coffee table and fell back against the cool leather of the couch, lifting his hands to scrub roughly across his face. His eyes itched, the burn of exhaustion letting itself be known even as he blinked against the gritty feeling.

He reached for the can of Red Bull beside him and sighed. Empty. Well, what’s another at- he checked his watch. Two-thirty a.m. Shit. He hadn’t meant to stay up this long. Just long enough to make sure Harvey was well and truly asleep before climbing into bed beside him.

He knew Harvey would be up before him in the morning, and if there was any luck in the world he’d probably have left for the gym by the time Mike’s own alarm went off. Then they wouldn’t have to see each other until they were at the office and by then… well, by then they would end up pretending that this last fight of theirs never happened and brush it under the proverbial carpet with all the other not-fights they’d been having recently.

Mike sighed. When did it all start to go wrong? He pushed the thought away as soon as it came. He’d only start thinking in circles if he tried to analyse what they had of a relationship- though to even call it that seemed to be a stretch of the imagination.

He was just contemplating crawling under the covers for the last three and a bit hours of the evening when he heard movement from the bedroom; the rustle of sheets, the soft pad of footsteps, each sound loud against the heavy silence of the room. Mike felt himself tense up instinctively, his back straightening and his hand reaching for his abandoned highlighter as if it were some kind of anchor.

He didn’t bother with trying to read the pages, knowing that they’d make even less sense now than when he’d initially given up on them, but that didn’t stop him from dragging his highlighter across random words and paragraphs as if they made all the sense in the world.

By the time Harvey shuffled his way into the living room, it looked as if Mike was just as hard at work as he was when Harvey had gone to bed. He didn’t look up as Harvey leaned himself against the entertainment unit dominating the main wall, but that didn’t stop him from feeling the brush of Harvey’s gaze as it travelled over him.

Harvey didn’t say anything for a long moment. And Mike, in an endeavour not to pay him any mind, kept on highlighting passages of text that would have absolutely no significance to anyone come morning.

“Mike?” Harvey eventually spoke. Though his voice was sleep-softened, it still made Mike flinch to hear it. His hand stuttered to a stop and with regret he looked up.

Harvey was wearing nothing but a pair of sleep shorts. He stood with his hair mussed, his arms folded across his bare chest, and his brow creased in obvious displeasure. Mike wondered, almost absently, when he became the person in Harvey’s life who put that kind of expression on his face.

“Are you coming to bed?” Harvey asked, when Mike’s eyes found his own.

“I need to get this finished.” Mike said, dropping his gaze quickly back to the papers before him.

“You need to sleep,” Harvey countered, his voice a little louder.

Mike bristled, but otherwise ignored him, hoping that Harvey would just concede defeat and leave him to his obsessive highlighting.

“Mike it’s almost three in the morning,” Harvey pressed on with a sigh instead. “You’re not going to be able to function if you don’t try to get at least some sleep.”

“I’ll be fine. I’ve had to work on less sleep than this before.” He said, deliberately flipping to the next page.

“Mike-,” And here Harvey unfolded his arms and took a step forward, as if coming closer would somehow persuade Mike to listen to him.

Mike looked up, cutting Harvey off before he could get started. “Look, Harvey, if I don’t finish this tonight I might as well not bother turning up for work today.”

Harvey’s sigh was less concerned and more aggravated this time as he pinned Mike beneath a disapproving stare. “Cut the dramatics. You’re working yourself too hard, and we both know it’s only out of avoidance and not some ethical need to actually do your job.”

Mike fisted his fingers around the highlighter. “Yeah? Well, apparently I’m not working hard enough then.”

“At avoiding me or your job?” Harvey needled and Mike turned away, scowling at the pages before him as he felt the familiar stirrings of anger and resentment bubbling up inside him.

There were words on the tip of his tongue to throw back at Harvey, to tell him how if things weren’t so horrible between them then maybe Mike wouldn’t have to actively avoid him in what was supposed to be their home. That if Harvey hadn’t broken his promise to never let the problems between them follow them into the workplace, then Mike wouldn’t have so much work to do courtesy of Louis Litt who could always tell when Harvey was pissed off with him and thus took great delight in drowning him with as much work as possible, safe in the knowledge Harvey wouldn’t try to intervene.

And maybe… maybe he didn’t try to complain to Harvey about the workload because Harvey was right- he had started using it as an excuse to avoid spending time with him. But when any time spent together usually ended with one of them upsetting the other, he didn’t think he could entirely be blamed for wanting to steer clear of another argument.

His eyes began to prickle and he blinked furiously against the sensation, telling himself that he was just overtired and fed up of all the bickering and fighting they’d been doing lately.

“Look, I just want to get this finished,” he said instead of answering, his voice a little more choked sounding than usual. He dropped the papers he’d been holding to the table and pressed his fingers against the bridge of his nose. “Go back to bed, Harvey.”

There was a moment where he thought Harvey would ignore his request and move towards him instead but after a long moment of hesitation he turned on his heel and left the room without another word.

Mike slumped forward, pressing his fingers against his eyelids and ignoring the wetness he felt there. Of course the one time Harvey actually listened to him was the one time Mike didn’t want him too. Not really. He’d give anything to just have Harvey wrap his arms around him and hold him like there was nothing else in the world that mattered as much.

He hadn’t done that in a long while now. And Mike hadn’t let himself be in a position whereby it could be an option. He just… he didn’t know when it had all gone wrong. It had been so good in the beginning, when they’d first started working together, when all they’d had to worry about was a mutual respect and a burgeoning friendship. It had seemed a natural progression to attraction then, for Mike at least he’d always found Harvey pleasing to the eye, and the more he got to know him, the more he’d realised that his feelings for Harvey went a little more than skin deep.

And when he’d discovered that Harvey felt the same way about him… things had just gotten better and better between them, until they were spending every moment of every day together, and things had been good. Every minute spent together was savoured and every second spent apart was mourned and when it got to a point, maybe six months down the line, and Harvey had asked if Mike would move in with him, there hadn’t been any other answer but yes. Yes, of course he would.

Things stopped being so good after the first few weeks, slowly but steadily turning what they had into something neither of them wanted and both of them were beginning to resent.

They’d been living together for a few months now and it was pretty clear that the honeymoon phase of their relationship was over. All they had done for the last two months or so was fight with each other over stupid petty little things, but things that didn’t seem so stupid or petty when they were hurling insults across the room at one another over them.

It was little things like not being able to agree on what to watch on TV, who’s turn it was to take out the trash, Mike not rinsing the shower out after he used it, Harvey leaving his gym clothes in the washing machine and not turning it on, Mike drinking straight from the carton instead of fetching a glass (even though Harvey never drank the guava juice Mike bought).

All these little things that were quick to add up to bigger arguments, like Mike
leaving his dirty dishes in the sink after cooking instead of putting them straight into the dishwasher. It didn’t seem to matter that Mike could justify it by saying he’d wait until he was finished eating to clean up after himself, Harvey had wanted to know why he couldn’t just clean up as he went along? He’d made such a song and dance about the whole thing one evening that Mike had ended up chucking his half-eaten pasta in the bin and proceeded to clean up the kitchen as Harvey had wanted.

Only Harvey hadn’t meant for him to throw his dinner away and really Mike was just being overly dramatic about the whole thing, which had led Mike to snap that Harvey was being the dramatic one and he’d been put off his dinner as a result. This turned into a fight about food wastage and how Mike didn’t eat properly and Mike had gotten so angry he’d barely been paying attention when he’d shoved his hand into the sink to grab the cutlery and he’d ended up slicing his palm on one of the knives he’d used.

At least that had ended the argument about his eating habits. Mike hadn’t even bothered trying to defend himself when Harvey’d patched up his hand and made a somewhat snide comment about how this wouldn’t have happened if Mike had just put them in the dishwasher in the first place.

You see, Harvey liked having everything in a particular order. It was something Mike had known about him before he’d moved in- you just had to take a look at his office at Pearson-Hardman to see that. The problem was that even with Mike moving in, Harvey had stuck to his ‘particular order’ of having things, which meant that things like Mike’s books and DVDs and other miscellaneous items just did not fit in with everything else. It wasn’t that Harvey hadn’t made space for all Mike’s stuff, it was just that even with allocated shelving and drawers, Harvey had made it obvious (perhaps unintentionally, thought it was hard to tell now) that Harvey had his things and Mike had his things and there was no inclination to mix them or merge them and make them their things.

Mike rubbed at his eyes a final time before sweeping his gaze across the apartment. Even now, three months down the line, it was very definitely Harvey’s apartment they were living in and Mike felt decidedly out of place sitting in a living room that was bigger than his entire apartment had been. It was just another reminder that Mike didn’t belong here and not for the first time he wondered how they’d managed to delude themselves into thinking this could work.

His gaze settled upon the private glass elevator at the other end of the room where the boxes they’d used to move all Mike’s stuff in still sat (another sore point between them- Harvey wanted them gone but Mike couldn’t be sure he wasn’t going to be needing them again sooner rather than later), and for one heart-wrenching moment he honestly considered just packing up his things and leaving.

His fingers twitched and then stilled, as if subconsciously he already knew that this was where they were heading. The thought was both terrifying and sobering, giving him the answer to a problem that had been plaguing him for months now. What if the only option for them was for Mike to leave?

Any anger or resentment he felt for Harvey in that instant seemed to fade beneath the weight of grief that suddenly settled over him.

As much as he loved Harvey, as much as he knew Harvey must still love him (they’d never have gotten this far for anything less), what other option was there for them? If he left then maybe… maybe they could at least salvage what they’d had of a friendship, because he’d rather have Harvey as a friend than nothing at all.

He felt his eyes prickling again and this time he made no effort to still the tears he could feel building up. He didn’t want to leave, of course, he just couldn’t see another way out of this.

An overwhelming urge to see Harvey came over him then and Mike pushed himself to his feet, making his way into the bedroom (not their bedroom). Harvey had left the curtains open (again), making it easy for Mike to pad his way across the room and perch himself on the edge of the mattress. Harvey was turned towards his side of the bed, and Mike let his eyes roam over the contours of Harvey’s face, seeing the small furrow of his brow that not even sleep had managed to erase.

Mike knew that that was his fault. He didn’t know how he kept hurting Harvey, or what he could do to stop. It just seemed as though every little thing he did was wrong and the mistakes they were making with each other were starting to outweigh the perks.

He sucked in a shaky breath and lay himself down. Watching Harvey as if this was to be their last night together; his hair falling over his forehead, his lips parted, his back rising and falling with each breath he took. He looked gorgeous.

His tears blurred his vision once again and Mike reached up to rub at his eyes, sniffing slightly.

“Mike?” Harvey called, and Mike blinked at him, watching as Harvey dragged himself from sleep to wakefulness; the furrow of his brow only increasing as he focussed on Mike.

Mike turned his head into his pillow, squeezing his eyes shut. He half-wished Harvey would just roll over and go back to sleep.

“Mike, what’s wrong?” Harvey asked, sounding more awake now.

Mike shook his head, body trembling as he felt Harvey’s hand touch at his shoulder. He didn’t pull away when Mike failed to answer him either, instead he moved his hand to rub along the length of his back; soothing, caring, the touch so foreign after weeks spent avoiding any sort of intimacy between one another.

After a while, Harvey called his name again, shifting closer until the only thing separating their bodies was the duvet between them. He sounded unsure now and Mike found himself turning his head against the pillow, meeting the quiet concern in Harvey’s eyes.

“Mike?”

“This isn’t working.” Mike breathed, terrified of saying the words any louder than a whisper.

Harvey lifted his hand from Mike’s back to touch cautiously at his face; fingers brushing away the tears still leaking silently from his eyes.

“I know,” he agreed, the words a sigh. And something settled in Mike then. Maybe it was the confirmation of everything they’d already known, but Mike found himself reaching out to touch at Harvey’s face; fingers skimming along the scratch of his jaw, curling round his ear to brush his thumb against the curve of it in that way he knew Harvey liked so much.

He leant forward a little and pressed his mouth against Harvey’s in a soft, barely-there kiss. Harvey’s hand slipped around the back of his neck, tightening gently when Mike pulled away, licking at his lips as if to savour the taste of Harvey against them.

“I’m thinking about leaving you,” Mike said after a moment and watched, saddened, when the frown creasing Harvey’s brow faded at his words. Had he expected them? Had he been thinking them himself? Was it a relief to finally hear one of them say the words out loud?

Instead of agreeing with him however, Harvey’s fingers only tightened. “I don’t want you to leave me.”

“I don’t want to,” Mike said, searching Harvey’s eyes. “But I have to. There’s no other-,”

“No,” Harvey said, pushing himself up onto his elbow.

“Harvey-,” Mike began, hand falling away from Harvey’s face.

“No, Mike. What are you serious? You can’t just throw this at me.” He was frowning again and Mike… didn’t know what that meant right now. Despite himself he reached up and smoothed his fingers over Harvey’s brow, trying to brush away his frown.

“You knew this was coming,” he tried, “You had to know-,”

“This isn’t the only option-,” Harvey interrupted, grabbing at Mike’s hand and squeezing it between his own.

“What else is there?” Mike asked.

“Anything else! Everything else!” Harvey said, voice growing louder as though gearing up for another one of their arguments. If there was one thing Mike couldn’t bear right now it was another one of those.

“I don’t want to fight about this, Harvey.” Mike said, squeezing back at Harvey’s hand.

Harvey shook his head, deliberately lowering the tone of his voice. “You can’t just tell me you want to leave me and not expect me to fight for you!”

Mike swallowed heavily at his words. Actually, that was exactly what he was expecting. He hadn’t thought that Harvey would want to drag this out, that the idea of losing Mike would outweigh everything else that was happening between them.

Harvey’s face fell then, as he realised for himself that, no, Mike hadn’t been expecting Harvey to fight for him.

“But I love you.” Harvey said, simply, and Mike found himself blinking his eyes furiously at the words.

“I love you too,” he breathed. “Harvey, I love you so much it hurts. But I know… if I want to keep loving you, then… then I need to leave you, because this? This is killing us, and I don’t ever want us to get to a point where we hate each other.”

“It wouldn’t…” Harvey instantly defended. “It won’t.”

“You can’t promise me that.” Mike said, shaking his head.

“And you can’t know that it would ever get that bad.” He countered.

“Can’t I? Just look at where we are now! I can’t remember the last time we looked at each other and just smiled, Harvey. Or even the last time we had a conversation that didn’t end in a fight? How about the last time you actually touched me?”

“I’m touching you now.” Harvey said, but it was a weak argument and Mike found himself frowning his own displeasure.

“Now doesn’t count.” Mike snapped.

“Why not?” Harvey asked, attempting the smallest of smiles. It was shaky at best but the intention was there and Mike felt his heart stutter; he’d forgotten how good Harvey looked when he smiled.

“Harvey, be serious please,” he begged, smiling back sadly. “I’m trying to stop us from destroying each other. I love you enough to do this for you.”

“And I love you enough to fight for you. To keep you. I don’t want you to leave, Mike. We’ll try harder, do better. You need to give us another chance.”

“We’ve been trying for weeks.” Mike opposed.

“No, Mike, we’ve been fighting for weeks. And I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. We’re both of us trying so hard to hang onto what we were separately, not what we could be together.”

“Harvey-,”

“Why are you making this so hard?”

And Mike didn’t have an argument for that. Honestly, he didn’t want to leave Harvey. He just couldn’t see how this could get any better, how they could even begin to make this work. His hesitation to respond worked against him with Harvey using the time to slide his arms around him and roll him over onto Harvey’s side of the bed, where- unresisting- he soon found himself tucked up under the duvet with Harvey spooning up behind him, his hold warm and tight and everything Mike wanted.

He felt Harvey’s lips as they pressed against the back of his neck. “I can’t promise that this will be easy, Mike. I can’t even promise that we won’t fight. But I can promise you that I will try. I need you to let me try?”

Mike desperately wanted to say yes. To agree to give them another shot. But even as his heart said yes, his mind screamed out that the whole thing would just end in tears and that Mike would be better off cutting his losses now.

Harvey’s arms tightened around him and Mike found himself instinctively relaxing into the hold, his body responding to the touch with all the yearning he’d built up over the last couple of months, and he couldn’t help but feel like this was where he belonged. This was where he wanted to be. And maybe it would be okay to give it one more chance. Certainly it couldn’t be any worse than what they’d already been living with?

Mike turned his head then, desperately pressing his lips to Harvey’s. “Okay,” he agreed, because despite everything he didn’t want to be without this, without Harvey. “We’ll try.”

 

fin.