A/N: I really like those moments when Harvey and Mike are getting along, particularly when Harvey is doing his part as a mentor, though we haven't seen too much of that lately. Here's a little antidote to this week's episode. (Minor spoilers for Play The Man.) Notes on the story title are after the fic.
The Ticktockman's Lament
He wasn't much to begin with, except a man who had no sense of time.
- from "Repent, Harlequin!" said the Ticktockman, by Harlan Ellison
"I don't want excuses," said Harvey Specter, with genuine irritation. "Just get it done." He didn't bother to look up from his laptop as Mike exited his office.
"A little hard on him lately, don't you think?" said Donna, who was leaning against the doorway.
"He hasn't managed to finish half of what I've given him over the last three days," growled Harvey.
"Firsts of all," said Donna, "Louis has commandeered a good chunk of the reference library for his antitrust case for The Beckett Group. Mike has been running circles around the building trying to find the volumes he needs."
"And second," her tone dropped into a more sympathetic register, "this isn't about Mike at all."
"Oh really? And what is it about?" Harvey looked up and leaned back in his chair expectantly.
"Oh… maybe the fact somewhere across the pond, Scotty is tying the knot in two days."
"Since when am I incapable of separating my work and personal life?" he said incredulously.
"Since you got yourself an overeager punching bag," said Donna, gesturing to Mike as he happened to be passing by.
"If I don't ride his ass, he's never going to learn a thing around here." Harvey meant to sound sarcastic but his words sounded defensive, even to his own ears.
"Mm hmm. I'm just saying." Donna held up her hands in a defensive gesture of her own and disappeared back to her desk.
X o X o X o
It was two o'clock and Harvey had been reading over the details of yet another merger agreement for the better part of two hours. The words were starting to blur together, and he realized he had glanced at the same sentence several times without actually reading it.
He took a quick look at his calendar and headed out of his office.
"I need coffee," he said to Donna, as he passed by.
"Do you want me to-"
"No, I need to clear my head. I'll be back in twenty. Just going across the street."
"Remember you're meeting with Jessica at three fifteen!" she called after him.
"Got it," he said, grinning as he walked to the elevators. He wondered for the millionth time what he would do without her.
X o X o X o
In accommodation of its primary clientele from the nearby high-rises, Legal Grounds resembled more an upscale hotel bar than a coffee shop. Polished hardwood graced the floors, and the usual plastic chairs had been replaced by deep-set, semicircular easy chairs and mahogany cocktail tables. Low walls topped by planter boxes provided a feeling of coziness that belied shop's considerable size.
Harvey sighed in annoyance as he entered the building to find a line much longer than would be expected in the middle of the afternoon. The baristas were working as efficiently as possible, but it was going to be awhile.
He ordered his coffee and took a seat at the stool of a nearby counter that was configured for laptop use. He had just finished a text message to Donna telling her he would be late getting back, when a familiar voice registered from around the corner.
"You're sure you're okay with this?" Harvey was startled to hear Mike's voice.
"Of course," said a young woman's voice that was familiar but that he couldn't place. "She's practically my grandmother, too. I'm honored that you even asked."
Jill… Jessica… Harvey realized she was Mike's girlfriend from the mock trial but couldn't place the name.
"It's just, I'm not always able to get to the phone, and if something happens…" Mike's voice shrank a bit and he suddenly sounded worried.
"Nothing is going to happen, especially not now that you have an additional emergency contact." Her voice betrayed the smile that was on her face.
"Thanks, Jenny. I'll call her tonight and let her know."
Jenny, that was it.
"You know what? Why don't you let me do it. I'll swing by and see her after my art class tonight. I haven't seen her in ages."
"She'd love that. She asks about you all the time."
"Mike," Jenny said, pausing to consider her words. "How much does she know about… this?"
Harvey heard his coffee order called by stayed where he was. He had never talked to Mike about his relationship with his grandmother, and this was something he found himself wondering about whenever Mike mentioned her.
"Pretty much everything," he said. "I didn't tell her exactly how I got the job, but she knows the rest."
"Has she ever met Harvey?" Jenny asked.
"No," Mike laughed. Harvey didn't fail to notice that it was with bitterness, not mirth.
"I kind of wanted to ask him, at the beginning, you know? Kind of stupid. Rose colored glasses, I guess."
"It's not stupid at all," Jenny said with encouraging affection. Harvey was beginning to see why Mike had become friends with her. "And now?"
"Now I know him well enough to never, ever bring it up." Mike said this as simply as he would have said "Never, ever cross a busy street in Manhattan without looking first." As if it were one of the unwritten laws of the universe. Harvey frowned.
"Can I ask you a question?" said Jenny.
"Anything," said Mike. "You know that."
"When I met you at your law firm, for the mock trial, I got the feeling that you liked working for Harvey. But every time I see you these days, you look more tired, more miserable. And every time you talk about him, you sound…sad. What happened with you two?"
Harvey had retrieved his drink but set it down on the counter and listened intently.
Mike sighed loudly, but Harvey had to strain to hear his reply. "Things at work are getting bad.
Harvey has decided I don't have the stomach for the courtroom, so he's shutting me out of the cases he's working on unless he needs research done. I don't talk to him anymore unless he's ordering me around or complaining about something. You know, I can't stand Louis, and I know the feeling is mutual, but at least if I go to him and ask a question, I have a reasonable shot at getting an answer." His voice was heavy with emotion when he said, "I've been doing that a lot lately."
"I thought you were Harvey's protégé? That he was supposed to be mentoring you."
"He used to treat me like his protégé," said Mike bitterly, "Now he treats me like a machine."
"You like him a lot, don't you?" she said kindly.
"Uh, what part of this conversation did you miss?" said Mike blankly.
"I know you, Mike. You wouldn't be this miserable about if you didn't care so much. When you told me about Harvey right before the trial, I could tell you admired him, that you respected him. And I don't think that's changed. Have you tried talking to him?"
Smart girl, Harvey thought. Listen to her, kid.
"You don't talk to Harvey," said Mike brokenly. "At least I don't. Not anymore. He doesn't give a shit anyway."
Harvey blanched at the honest despair coming from his young associate. When the hell had this happened, and how is it that he missed it entirely? He resisted the urge to barge around the corner.
"Maybe you should. Maybe he'd surprise you." Harvey decided he really wanted to meet this girl.
"You always were a pathological optimist," said Mike, the beginnings of a smile coloring his voice.
"Does that mean you're going to try?" she said slyly.
"Thanks, Jen, but no. Insert whatever clichéd phrase you like: ships sailing, barn doors being left open, old dogs, new tricks." Harvey's heart fell as Mike said, "It's basically too late for that. I know him. He's made up his mind."
Like hell, Harvey thought.
"So what are you going to do?"
"I don't know," said Mike softly. "I can't exactly go work for another partner, and truth is, I don't really want to. I just-" his voice broke and he took a breath to calm himself down. "I didn't enter this deal to work at Pearson Hardman. From the moment I met him, I always saw myself working with Harvey, learning from him. I don't think that's an option anymore, but I can't leave right now, either. I can finally pay for Grammy's care without getting evicted from my apartment. I guess I'll just stick it out for awhile, till I figure out what to do."
Reeling, Harvey pulled out his phone and sent a text to Donna. Put Mike on my schedule for five pm.
X o X o X o
"Harvey wanted to see me?" said Mike tiredly. Donna winced inwardly at the look on the kid's face. He never seemed to smile anymore. And every time he was about to walk through the door of Harvey's office, he looked like a prisoner about to meet the firing squad.
"Go on in," she said warmly. "And Mike,"
"Yeah?" he said, after taking a step away from the desk.
"He's not mad at you, okay?" She wasn't an emotional person by any means, but Mike's dead eyes and the way he pursed his lips and nodded his head in unbelieving acknowledgement was almost enough to make her cry.
X o X o X o
"You wanted to see me?" said Mike, standing in the middle of Harvey's office.
Harvey kept his attention focused on the documents in front of him for another moment longer and then looked up saying, "We need to talk."
Mike saw in his gaze the same calculating once-over that Harvey always used on him when he was suspicious about something. Oh God, Mike thought, what did I do now?
"Have a seat," said Harvey noncommittally.
"Harvey, whatever it is I-"
Harvey held out a hand in front of him and said, "Interrupting?" He nodded his head to the couch and said, "Sit."
This is it, thought Mike. I knew this was coming, just didn't think it would be so soon. The reality of the room fell away for a moment as he started mulling over how he was going to start looking for a new job.
"Mike-" His gaze returned to Harvey, who was holding a fifth of bourbon in one hand and holding one out to Mike with the other. He took it with a shaking hand.
"You don't have to do this," he said sadly. He felt nauseous, and wanted to bolt out of there, but the reality of what was happening pinned him to the sofa like the anvil that was currently sitting on his chest.
"Do what?" said Harvey, looking puzzled.
"I don't need a drink, or a lecture," said Mike, trying to keep his voice from breaking. "If you want me gone, I'll just go clear out my things right now."
"See, I think you do need a lecture," said Harvey, using what Mike had come to refer to as his Condescending Courtroom Voice. "And in the worst way possible."
"Look, I said I would go-" Mike meant to get off the sofa but stopped in his tracks at Harvey's next words.
"I went out to get coffee this afternoon."
"And yes, I overheard your conversation with Jenny." Harvey gazed at Mike evenly, waiting for him to respond but giving no indication of his mood. "And I'll save you the trouble of replaying the conversation in your head, wondering what I found out. I think I heard pretty much everything."
"Again with the interrupting," said Harvey. He sat down on the chair next to Mike.
"Better. Now, first of all, your girlfriend is a smart, perceptive woman. You should bring her by the office sometime. I'd like to meet her." Harvey tried to maintain a serious demeanor but inwardly smiled at the utterly confused look on Mike's face. It was a cheap courtroom tactic, diverting the issue to throw off one's opponent, but he had a lot to lose in this case and he wasn't above pulling all the tricks of the trade.
"As for you," Harvey sighed. I wasn't going to do this, but you don't really leave me any choice." He pulled a slip of paper from a file folder that was laying on the coffee table, and laid it in front of Mike, laying a pen on top of it.
Mike saw the acknowledgement of termination notice in his head but then suddenly realized that wasn't what he was looking at all. He was looking at an Agreement of Retainer that listed him as associate counsel for Peter McKenzie, the media mogul that had been tying up Harvey's services for weeks. It was the case he had been shut out of for the better part of that time.
"This conversation can't go any further until you sign it," said Harvey gently.
"What does this have to do with- Okay, okay," said Mike, at Harvey's annoyed glance. He signed his name and handed the slip of paper back to Harvey. He was so confused he thought the room might begin to spin at any given moment.
"You want to tell me what's going on, because I'm at a loss here," said Mike, his voice heavy with frustration. Harvey's odd behavior and his overloaded stress level was beginning to get to him.
"You need to listen to your girlfriend and talk to me, Mike. You make these assumptions about me, about my perception of you, and in case you haven't noticed, you're wrong a good portion of the time." He looked at Mike with affection and said, "I didn't shut you out of this case because of the mock trial."
"Then why?" Mike whispered softly.
Harvey held up the slip of paper he was holding in his hand. "You're associate counsel now, bound by attorney-client privilege, so I can tell you. McKenzie is a scumbag son-of-a-bitch who is guilty as sin, and I don't want you anywhere near a case like this until you're ready."
"You don't think I can handle it?" said Mike.
"I think you can handle the facts and figures just fine," Harvey said proudly. "But you've still got that idealistic glow that all the new associates have when they first get here. And you care about your clients hell of a lot more than most of them. I'm not going to sully that yet." Harvey added in a soft voice, "Not if there's another way."
"You were trying to protect me?" said Mike, incredulous. Harvey winced at the idea that the thought was so foreign to Mike. He really hadn't been paying attention to the important things for quite awhile.
"But I thought-" Mike continued.
"I know what you thought," said Harvey, his voice uncharacteristically heavy with emotion. "I was sitting just around the corner from you, remember?" Harvey signed and rubbed his temples with one hand. "That day at the recruiting interviews, I hired you for the same reason you wanted to work with me. In spite of what you may think, that hasn't changed."
He stood up and moved to the window, looking out into a city that was greyed by passing stormclouds. "I haven't been there for you lately, and I'm sorry. I've been tied up with this case, and because I was keeping you out of it, I had to limit your access to me and to the office." He turned to Mike with a sly grin and said, "If things ever get so bad that you prefer to go see Louis, talk to me, will you?"
Mike laughed and wiped away an escaped tear. "Whatever you say, Sensei."
"Damn right," said Harvey. "Now, about your Grandmother…."
"Oh God," said Mike, realizing the extent of Harvey's earlier eavesdropping. "Harvey, we were just talking, okay?" Mike silently panicked at the idea that the progress they'd made in the last ten minutes was Harvey's way of setting him up for an even bigger fall.
"See, there you go again, making assumptions," said Harvey smugly as he plopped back down into the chair near the sofa. "Stop looking like I'm about to throw you out that window. I merely brought it up because Donna has cleared my calendar for Thursday afternoon."
Mike stared at Harvey in disbelief, noting that the older man currently had that now- familiar "I have a reputation to maintain" look on his face. "Are you serious?"
"Do you want to go over there and tell Donna that she rearranged three client meetings for nothing?" smirked Harvey.
"Uh, no, I'll pass on that," said Mike, beaming.
"Good, then its set. Ray will pick us up at two o'clock. And don't be late. I wouldn't want your grandmother to think I wasn't punctual," Harvey said lightly.
"Two o'clock, got it." Said Mike happily.
"Oh and speaking of your grandmother," said Harvey. "I have something else for you to sign."
Harvey noticed with relief that Mike was now looking at him with interest, not panic.
He handed Mike another slip of paper and watched with delight as the younger man's eyes widened in surprise. "How- How did you make this happen?" he said in wonderment.
"I merely convinced Jessica that the fees we were getting from Tom Keller's representation more than justified additional compensation for you. I thought you'd rather it be applied to your grandmother's care facility."
"I don't know what to say," said Mike, flustered. He stared at the document in front of him.
"Mike, look at me," said Harvey intently. As the younger man's gaze met his own he said, "I want you to stay because you want to be here. Not because you have to be here. Got it?"
Mike looked sheepish as yet another piece of his earlier conversation came back to bite him in the ass. "Got it."
"Hey Harvey," said Mike, as a thought occurred to him. "Does this mean I'll be doing more on the McKenzie case?" He gestured toward the agreement on the table.
"No," said Harvey, his voice kind. "I meant what I said about keeping you out of this. This'll be over in a couple of weeks, and things should get back to normal."
"I'd like that," said Mike softly. "I'd like that very much."
"So would I, kid," said Harvey. "So would I."
*** FIN ***
A/N: "Repent, Harlequin!" said the Ticktockman is a classic Harlan Ellison story from the mid-60s. Harvey's obsession with being on time keeps reminding me of the Ticktockman, the keeper of order in this futuristic society who pursues the Harlequin, a happy rebel whose greatest crime in the world is that he doesn't care what time it is.
Thanks for reading, and also for the wonderful feedback and encouragement I've gotten from all of you since I started putting these Suits fics up. It is most appreciated!