Mike Ross stepped into the elevator and glanced at his watch, which seemed to chastise him with the obscenity of the late hour. The fact that he was alone in an elevator usually crowded with associates was an exclamation point to his tardiness. If there is a God, he thought, Harvey and Louis would be stuck in client meetings for at least another fifteen minutes.
He received some condescending smirks from several of his fellow associates as he made his way, messenger bag in hand, to his cubicle but noted with relief that there wasn't a Partner in sight.
"Keeping banker's hours now, are we?" said a voice behind him. It was a voice that sounded dangerously similar to Louis Litt's.
"Something like that," he mumbled under his breath.
"I'm sorry, I didn't catch that." Louis was giving him a condescending glare, and Mike tried to remind himself that punching a supervisor was probably frowned upon at Pearson Hardman.
"Oh, nothing," said Mike. "Doctor's appointment."
"After that bloodbath from yesterday, I should think so," said Louis smugly. Mike groaned inwardly. It was going to be a supremely long day.
"Is there something I can help you with?" said Mike, trying to ignore the jab.
"Just a reminder, your summary brief for the mock trial is due on my desk by the end of the week. Oh and I need background research on the Feldman vs. Lenninger patent infringement." He casually tossed a pile of folders on Mike's desk. "And try not to get too attached to Mr. Lenninger's company. We're trying to sue his ass off for over a quarter of a billion."
Mike pulled out a bottle of Advil from his desk drawer and took two pills, then rested his head in his hands. He stared at the bottle on the desk, longing to crawl into it for the rest of the day. He suddenly noticed a small "From the desk of…" sticker on the side of the bottle. Smiling faintly, he realized he had a phone call to make.
"Thanks, Ray," said Donna as she stepped out of the town car.
"I should thank you for brightening my day," said Ray, eyes twinkling the way he always did when complimented her.
"I just knew Harvey never brightened your day," she said playfully. "We shouldn't tell him, though. I don't know if his ego could handle that."
"Harvey outshines us all," he said. It was one of the things that she adored about the man that he truly wasn't being facetious when he said it.
"Oh! The file-" she said, glancing back into the backseat, where it had fallen on the floor.
"Allow me," said Ray, who emerged victorious with the fruit of her across-town labor.
"You're a peach, Ray," she said over her shoulder as she walked into the lobby of Pearson Hardman. She took a delightful satisfaction at the small salute offered by Harvey's driver before he got back into the town car.
She normally hated running these errands for Harvey. The firm did have a number of couriers on retainer. But there were some documents that he didn't trust to the couriers, and if she happened to be close friends with the receptionist of one particular law firm that was handing over a confidential addendum to a settlement agreement, so much the better. Today, however, she would have let Ray drive her to a Starbucks in New Jersey if it would have gotten her out of the office.
Harvey was in one of his blackest moods in years, and he was taking it out on anyone he ran into. He knew better than to push her, so their interaction that morning mostly consisted of her talking and Harvey answering her in a one-word monotone. After seeing him chew out several of the associates and the new mail delivery clerk, she figured she was getting off easy.
She never thought she'd give in to the whipped puppy look, but after yesterday the person she felt deserved every ounce of her sympathy was Mike. She knew as well as he did the consequences of chivalry at Pearson Hardman. She'd seen Harvey waver several times in the early years, and also witnessed the full wrath of Jessica's subsequent fury. If Harvey's chilly reception of Mike this morning was anything to go by, she should have picked up a sweater to bring back to her desk.
She had been working with Harvey long enough to know that, eventually, even the nicest associates had all traces of empathy drubbed out of them by the Senior Partners. The Harvard drones seemed to accept this willingly, but Mike... Mike was fighting it tooth and nail, and she had to admit, she was secretly cheering him on. She had always been a sucker for underdogs.
Speak of the devil, she thought, as she discovered what was waiting for her at her cubicle. A bouquet of yellow roses had been left on her desk, and she laughed delightedly at the tiny little plastic Oscar statue that was nestled amongst the flowers. She opened the envelope clipped to one of the stems to find a card that read:
You were amazing yesterday. Thanks for coming to the rescue. –Mike
"Secret admirer?" said Harvey, walking out of his office. The words were simple enough but she knew that tone. He was looking for a fight.
"Wouldn't you like to know," she said, slipping the card and the Oscar statuette behind a stack of folders.
"Humph," said Harvey. "Richard Chase just called. He asked to move the meeting to three. I'm heading out."
"You were supposed to meet with Mike at three," she said evenly.
"Cancel it. Kid doesn't listen to me anyway," he said bitterly, as he began an enforced march down the hallway.
She had been tied up with rearranging Harvey's afternoon schedule and didn't have time to stop by Mike's desk. She tried to suppress a wave of guilt as he approached her desk and noticed the empty office.
"They're beautiful," she said warmly.
"I was going to get red, but I know you said yellow was your favorite color so…" She tried to suppress a grin at the sheepish look Mike was giving her. The whole day he had been projecting an aura of defeat like a second suit, and the sheepishness was about to overload her Pathetic Meter. Damn it, she thought, if this keeps up I am going to have to hug him.
"I um- had a meeting with Harvey," he said, gesturing to the empty office. "He's not… here." Was she imagining it or did he seem far more upset about Harvey's absence than he should, given the general mood of the most newly-anointed senior partner.
"Meeting with Richard Chase got moved up to 3 pm. He's over at Williams, Kleine and Kitt." She belatedly realized that until yesterday, Harvey had been keeping Mike updated on Chase's company's legal proceedings. She tried to ignore the hurt look on Mike's face. She wasn't a hugging person, damn it.
Oh hell, she thought, about ready to indulge that microscopic speck of nurturing instinct. But Mike's actions stopped her in her tracks.
"Would you-" he choked, tears forming in his eyes, "Would you give him this when he gets back?" He took a small, bulky envelope and handed it to her. In small letters, written across the front was just one word "Harvey."
Oh God, she thought, this can't be what I think it is. I'm going to kill him for this.
She took the envelope and subtly felt the contents. "Mike-", she said frowning.
"Just give it to him, okay?" said Mike, eyes filled with despair.
She walked around the desk, and instead of hugging him she grabbed his arm and marched him into one of the smaller, private conference rooms.
"How did you find out?" she said gently.
"People get drunk enough, they talk. Arrogant assholes who wipe the floor with you in mock trials, they shout from the tabletops."
"It's just a habit between the two of them, it doesn't mean anything," she said soothingly.
"I thought he was helping me because he thought I could do this," said Mike softly. He gazed at her fully and said through haunted eyes "It was a damn bet. He's probably more pissed because he lost a bet than he is that I did the right thing."
"Even if that's true, this" she said, grasping the envelope lightly, "is not going to change anything."
"I know it's pocket change to him. The point is, it's not pocket change to me," said Mike acidly.
"Mike, I know what the usual bet is. Are you sure you can do this? Five thousand is a lot of money."
"Doesn't matter whether I can or not," he said stubbornly. "I am."
"Why, for God's sake? "
"Because I've done a lot of illegal things in my life, but whoring myself out has never been one of them." He must have mistaken her shocked expression for fear, because his gaze softened and he said, "But thanks, for yesterday. I mean it," he said, genuinely. " You are one of the few truly awesome people I've met since I got here." He opened the conference room door and began to walk down the hall.
He was a few steps ahead of her when he stopped and turned and added, "Donna, when you give it to him, give him a message for me. Tell him to stop betting on lost causes."
Harvey arrived back at the office in a somewhat better mood, thanks to an inconsistency in the SEC filing that enabled Harvey to get all pending litigation against his client dismissed.
"You gonna tell me who these are from?" he said suspiciously, milling around her desk for a clue.
"No. Go away." She said, keeping her voice on the razor's edge between mock and serious annoyance.
Harvey walked into his office and a few minutes after he sat down he shouted, "Donna, where the hell is Mike? He wasn't at his desk when I walked in. Damn kid is probably planning on hiding in the research stacks for the rest of the week."
It wasn't like her to get worked up about office politics. In fact she had managed to become one of the most respective senior admin assistants at the firm precisely because she made a concerted effort to stay out of the fray. But Mike had confided in her and now this felt downright personal. She grabbed the envelope out of her desk drawer and marched into Harvey's office.
"Donna," Harvey said, snapping back into annoyance once again. "To what do I owe the pleasure," he said sarcastically.
"You," she said softly, "can be a real bastard sometimes."
She wasn't sure whether to slap Harvey or bang her head against the wall as it took him a moment to realize she was genuinely angry.
"Close the door," he said gruffly.
She closed the door and returned to the same spot she had been standing in a few seconds prior.
"I'd say what's on your mind, but I have a feeling you are going to tell me," he said. She recognized that patronizing tone. It was the same tone he used when he was baiting a witness.
"Do you have any idea what you've done to Mike?" she said coldly. Though she wanted to, she refrained from putting her hands on her hips for emphasis. She'd picked up a few things over the years after all.
He glanced out the window of his office door and laughed in amusement. "Mike!" he said, triumphantly. "That's who gave you the flowers!" He chuckled in amusement. "Gee if I'd known that all it would take was some cheap flowers and you'd readily come to my defense, I'd have bought you your own floral shop ages ago."
She reined in her fury, but not enough to stop herself from slapping the envelope on the desk in front of him.
"Well you'll probably be able to now that you have this," she said acidly.
"What's this?" he said, the smug smile faltering ever so slightly.
"It's a reimbursement," she said. Wait for it… "For the bet he knows you lost to Louis."
"Who the hell told him about the bet?"
"Stop looking at me like that. The associates around here like to brag, particularly at celebratory dinners."
She didn't miss the momentary flash of guilt on his face before he put on an air of indignation. "Well, if he thinks this is going to get him back into my good graces…" said Harvey, shaking his head. "After embarrassing me the way he did yesterday-"
"You just don't get it, do you," she said. "Pretend for a minute that you can't afford half-a-million dollar buy-ins to the company or a two million dollar condo. Let's say you're a screwed up kid with a brand new job, a mountain of medical bills to pay, and you're living hand-to-mouth on whatever is left over. That cash on your desk, that's all of it, Harvey. All five thousand. Rachel says he emptied his savings account and is now trying to figure out how to delay his next rent payment by another week and a half."
"He's impulsive. He wants my approval, and creating this little sob story is his way of getting a pat on the back from me even after he screwed up."
"He doesn't want a pat on the back, Harvey. The kid thinks you've completely lost faith in him. When I gave you this, I was supposed to tell you to stop betting on lost causes." She knew he was going to make some crack about Mike being a drama queen, but before he exhaled the first breath she held up her finger to shush him.
"He idolizes you, Harvey. You're too busy arguing with opposing counsel but you should see the look on his face when you outmaneuver the other side of the table. These Harvard adolescents the firm keeps bringing in – they're in it for the dollar signs. But Mike is different. He's addicted to the challenge just as much as you are, but he took a back door into the firm and didn't have to give up his soul for the privilege."
"Not yet, anyway," said Harvey cynically.
"Not at all, if you don't fix this."
"And what is it, Donna, that I am supposed to fix?" said Harvey, suddenly sounding tired.
She took out a piece of paper, wrote the number four on it, and passed it to Harvey.
"Okay, it's been a long day and I'm not in the mood for games. Your point?"
"The number of times Mike Ross has ever been in a courtroom. In his life. Harvey, I don't care if he's Albert frigging Einstein, the kid needs help. You hired him for his memory but you keep acting as if four years of coursework and internships went with it." She paused a moment and said softly, "I think this afternoon he came to the conclusion that he doesn't have that expertise, and that he's never going to."
"Oh hell," said Harvey, rubbing his eyes as he always did when he had an unpleasant task ahead of him. "Get him in here."
She knew better not to smile at the victory, but instead turned and walked briskly out of Harvey's office. She stopped at the doorway, turned around and said, "Harvey, be nice."
"Tell me again why I'm here?" said Mike miserably. He was slouched over the wall of her cubicle like an abandoned marionette.
"Go on in," she said, trying to sound encouraging. She put a hand on his arm and added, "Don't worry, it'll be okay." She was rewarded with a small smile as he disappeared through Harvey's open door.
She was glad she was the only assistant working late that night, as it enabled her to stay quietly busy while she observed the conversation in the next room.
"You wanted to see me?" said Mike.
"You screwed up," said Harvey, giving Mike one of his patented withering stares.
"Yes, I believe we have established that fact. You called me in here to tell me I screwed up? Believe me, it's been made very clear to me all day." In a voice that Donna would never admit to anyone nearly broke her heart, Mike added, "I know how much confidence you used to have in me, Harvey."
"You're talking about this," Harvey said softly. Donna shifted her work efforts to subtly get a better view of the two of them in the conference room . Harvey was holding up Mike's envelope, cash still inside.
"As a matter of fact I am. Sorry for the inconvenience. Had I known that this mock trial was nothing more than a corporate version of a pit bull fight, I would have tried harder to be an asshole." Donna knew Mike was upset, but was still taken aback by the hurt in his voice.
Harvey's gaze followed Mike as he moved to stare out the window.
"It wasn't like that. Louis and I make these bets all the time. It keeps things interesting."
Mike stood silently and continued to take in the view.
"Are you going to say something or are you just going to stand there?" said Harvey.
Come on, kid, Donna thought, tell him what you told me.
"What is there to say?" said Mike, in a choked voice. "You told me I'm not cut out for this. Maybe I would be with some help once in awhile." He turned to look at Harvey with pain-filled eyes. "Apparently there has to be a significant amount of money on the line in order for you to actually give a damn."
Donna had known Harvey long enough to read right through his corporate attorney façade, and at that moment she saw his resolve start to crumble.
"You want to know why I'm pissed?" Harvey sighed resignedly and shook his head. "Because yesterday you did what I couldn't. I spent my day reconnecting with, and eventually outwitting, a very dear friend, and it cost her her job. And no matter what you think, I do give a damn."
"I know, I know," said Mike, almost reflexively. "Your ass is on the line as well as mine. Got the memo the first hundred times you sent it."
"Hey, look at me," said Harvey, pulling Mike's gaze from the floor. "You think I don't respect what you did for Rachel? I do. But I'm also frustrated as hell because I know you're better than this, and yesterday nobody at the firm got to see it."
Mike looked at Harvey a moment and asked "So you do think I can do this job?"
"What did I just say?" said Harvey.
"Then I want you to promise me some*thing. Think of it as a safe word for the office."
"Okay I don't think I like where this is going-" Harvey interrupted.
"Just hear me out." Mike held up his hands. "Your favorite pastime, other than making mix CDs for Ray, is finding new and creative ways of telling me you shouldn't have hired me."
"Mike-" said Harvey. Donna was surprised at how hurt that one word sounded.
"I can't walk into this mock trial, screw up the way I did, and have any confidence whatsoever that you don't mean it. So I want a letter."
"You want what?"
"If you ever decide that enough is enough, I want a letter. Your name, my name, and three words: This is it." Donna winced at the emotion in Mike's uneven voice as he added softly, "You do that, and I'll pack up my things and disappear."
Mike stared at Harvey in surprise when he said, "If you decide to go, I want one, too."
"You have a tendency to storm out of here and disappear when things get rough." Mike started to protest, but Harvey interrupted him.
"I want to know if there's a chance of bringing you back."
"Got a Harvard drone ready to fill my shoes?" said Mike. His brain had obviously meant the retort to be funny but his emotions were too raw and the fear in his voice was painfully evident.
"Don't even joke about that," said Harvey, his tone serious.
Mike said suddenly, in a voice Donna had to strain to hear, "Harvey, are we okay?" He turned moisture-filled eyes towards the older man, his face blank.
Harvey regarded Mike for a moment and said, "I think 'okay' is a little mundane for what we are, don't you?"
A small glimmer of a smile began on Mike's face, much to Donna's relief.
"Come here," said Harvey, enveloping his associate in a hug. Donna heard Harvey mumble something that sounded a lot like "I'm sorry."
"So am I," said Mike, pulling away to face the older man.
"Now, I believe you have some files of Louis' to start processing," said Harvey, tipping his head in the general direction of Mike's cubicle.
"Yeah, I should get to that," said Mike. Donna noted with amusement that he was backing out of Harvey's office.
"Oh, before you go-" Harvey picked up the envelope from his desk and tried to hand it to Mike.
"I meant it, Harvey," said Mike defensively.
"I know you did," said Harvey, kindly. "But that doesn't mean I have to accept, and I don't. And really, not to be pompous or anything, but the gesture means more to me than the cash."
"Yup, that was pompous alright," said Mike, grinning, but accepting the envelope in hand.
"Yeah it kind of was, wasn't it. Sounded better in my head. Now, off with you," Harvey made a shoo-ing gesture. "Go save the world for another hour or two."
"Aye-aye, Captain," said Mike with a small grin, and walked back to his desk.
Donna sighed, content that all was now right with the world, and gave Mike a wide smile and a wink as he made his way down the hall.