Title: Lit Up
Genre: H/C, slash
Word Count: Roughly 10,000 at current count (but later chapters need some editing).
Warnings: Language, overuse of color adjectives, descriptions of a medical issue (epilepsy), graphic sexual content of the slash variety.
Summary: Mike has synesthesia, which turns out to be a blessing, a bit of a curse, and an unconventional way to finally get his boss naked.
A/N 1: I have a sort of fascination with synesthesia, which is a neurological condition in which one's senses are unusually linked. Sounds can have a color (as in this fic) or taste, letters or days of the week can have personalities, etc. It's very interesting from an intellectual standpoint. After I was hit by a drunk driver, I experienced a very mild form of synesthesia for about a month due to a head injury. Since then I've really wanted to write a fic about it, so here I am. I took some liberties with the condition for the sake of creative expression, so please don't look at this as a reliable scientific source of information. :) There will also be descriptions of an epileptic seizure later in the story (primarily the build-up and after effects) - this, too, is taken from personal experience. Luckily I only had seizures on and off for about six months after my accident, and it gave me some good fodder for fanfic (silver lining and all that!).
A/N 2: This fic is dedicated to laylabinx, who is just as crazy about Mike whump as I am, who indulges my many ridiculous prompts at the meme, and who writes consistently awesome H/C fics for Suits. Go check out her work. Seriously. It's awesome!
Harvey voice is a deep, rich red – it washes over Mike the first time he hears it, a colored ribbon of sound that sends a warm flush down his spine. His own voice when he speaks is a tremulous yellow, weaker and more stressed than the usual gray-blue of his tone, stretched thin under the threat of arrest for possession with intent to distribute. In those tense first moments when they meet, when Mike spills a briefcase of drugs onto the expensive carpet, Harvey quirks his brow and pierces Mike with a considering look. The smooth blood red of Harvey's timbre washes over Mike's quavering off-yellow like an ink, and Mike half suspects the color will stain everything it touches with hints of vermillion.
The air is heavy with danger and possibility, an entire spectrum of color waiting to explode, and Mike knows immediately that this job will be more challenging, more terrifying, and more important than anything else he's done with his pathetic, wasted life so far.
What Mike understands later (but not then) is that his prediction is spot on. Only, he is applying those adjectives to the job when really, he should be applying them to the man himself, Harvey Spector.
Harvey's voice rarely changes its base color, though it tends to vary in shades– today it's an excited fire engine red, the fractal coronas of his words tinged with the intense hue of Harvey's satisfaction as he struts out of court, fresh from their victory in the Gunderson v. Jackson real estate case.
"I hope you were taking notes, kid, because that is how you destroy opposing counsel," Harvey says, chest held high. It would look like arrogance on anyone else, but on Harvey it simply looks like truth in advertising, the natural posture of someone who wields power as easily as most people breathe. The lines of his charcoal gray suit sit perfectly on his shoulders, the captivating angle of his trim waist. The corner of his mouth quirks up in a pleased smirk. Harvey is never as happy as when he's won a case, especially when he's won it with style and aplomb.
Mike likes this side of him. Victory brings out Harvey's generous side, his willingness to advise his associate and include him in the afterglow. It's a bit like standing near a blazing fire on a cold night – everything around them seems muted, the colors of other people's conversations faded to pastels next to the crimson gusto of Harvey's pleasure.
"Notes?" Mike scoffs, adjusting his messenger bag on his shoulder as he tries to keep up. "Remember who you're talking to here, Harvey. I could recite the whole trial back to you verbatim if you wanted. You want me to give you a highlights reel? Maybe an instant replay of you flipping their witness? Man, she folded like a bad hand. It was a thing of beauty."
Harvey strides with purpose and confidence, each step a silvery click of sound in Mike's peripheral. Mike's own feet seem to tangle, an ashy, chaotic rhythm overshadowed by Harvey's perfect footfalls. There is hardly a moment spent in Harvey's company that Mike does not feel awkward, fumbling, and sloppy by comparison. It's would be like working for the Statue of David if David had preferred tailored suits over nudity (and doesn't that image send Mike's brain straight into dangerous waters).
"It's all about reading people," Harvey tells him, angling his head conspiratorially towards Mike. "Did you see the way she was picking at her nails? They were high-end acrylics, well maintained, expensive. No way a woman who puts that much money into her nails picks at them unless she's got a damn good reason. And she looked down and to the left every time she lied. It was easy to figure out she was lying about the site inspections. Child's play, almost. Right up your alley."
Harvey smirks playfully at Mike and Mike rolls his eyes at the familiar jab. He hadn't noticed her picking her nails, actually, but he had noticed the thread of lime green anxiety in her voice every time she lied.
He doesn't tell Harvey that. That's a conversation Mike can't even imagine beginning, a surreal hypothetical that he doubts will ever become reality.
"The look on opposing counsel's face..." he says wryly. "It was like you'd just told him you'd just backed over his dog after fucking his wife."
He nudges Harvey with a friendly elbow, waggling his eyebrows childishly (because these are the roles they play, and they're familiar and easy and fun). Most days Mike knows not to touch Harvey, but when he's fresh off a win like this, the usual boundaries relax and Mike takes full advantage, saving up casual touches and grazes to get him through the dry spells when Harvey is frustrated and stalwart.
Harvey grins toothily, part predatory cat and part gleeful child. The roles blur a little, and something flutters in Mike's gut.
"Glen is an asshole," Harvey says. "He's a half-decent litigator, but he fails at thinking on his feet, every time. Even though he likes to think he's god's gift to law."
"Too bad that title is already claimed," Mike says, and is gratified when Harvey's grin widens. "He won't be able to sit right for a week after the thorough spanking you just delivered. If you're not careful, he might sue you for emotional damages. Your honor," he says in a tremulous, mocking imitation of opposing counsel (it turns his voice terra cotta), "I can't even see a three-piece suit without suffering flashbacks."
Harvey actually laughs, a short burst of genuine sound that Mike has never heard from him before. The sound sparkles in Mike's vision like fireworks, and it's pink.
For the first time since Mike met Harvey, he almost wants to tell him about the synesthesia, just so he can taunt Harvey with the fact that his laugh is magenta pink and shimmery like glitter. Then he imagines the look on Harvey's face, the indignant insistence that would no doubt follow such a proclamation, and remembers why that conversation must remain firmly in the hypothetical.
This moment is warm and perfect and Mike won't ruin it with an awkward announcement about his fucked up brain. He knows how those conversations go – the confused looks, the uneasiness, the way people stare while they try to figure out exactly how different he is. The pity when he has to explain how he gained the ability to blend his senses.
He's seen enough of that look on people's faces to last a life time. He doesn't think he could handle seeing it on Harvey's face as well.
So he jokes with Harvey about opposing counsel, basks in the pleased candy apple red of Harvey's voice when he praises Mike's work on the case, and enjoys the bright, brassy colors of Harvey's latest mix for Ray while they ride back to the office.
Harvey gives him briefs to proof for their next case, and a warm, firm hand on his shoulder when he wanders back to his glass-walled fortress of solitude. Mike watches the rainbow oscillation of Pearson Hardman swirl around him while he works, papery whites, frustrated greens, flirty purples, and puncturing grays dancing in a Jackson Pollock display of chaotic energy.
He tells himself that he isn't looking for Harvey's deep, distinctive hue in the mix, waiting to follow it back to the source like it's a tether, a fine red silk thread tied to the center of him, always pulling him in Harvey's direction.
And he can almost, almost, believe that.
There are some words that have distinctive flavors when Mike utters them. The word "Grammy" tastes like sugar cookies and a hint of lilac. "Sex" tastes like sugar and hot pepper. "Failure" tastes like gone-by apples and fish, and it makes him gag to say it.
His own name, when he's forced to utter it, tastes like mint with a wash of vinegar and salt, a bitter flavor of disappointment and regret.
It's about two months after he starts at Pearson Hardman that Mike realizes he's beginning to pick up the flavor of his coworker's names.
"Jessica" tastes like espresso and nutmeg, strong and distinct. "Rachel" tastes like maple and curry. "Louis" tastes, surprisingly, like wood smoke and the smell of aged books.
But most distinct, most alluring (unsurprisingly), is Harvey's name.
It's rich, spicy, and complex – Merlot, dark chocolate, and cinnamon. It coats the inside of Mike's mouth when he says it, better than the most expensive wines or the most exotic foods. Mike wants to bite down on it, bury his teeth in it. Sometimes at night he lies awake and says "Harvey, Harvey," into the dark of his room, watching the ocean blue of his voice twist through the darkness like an unfurling vine, the taste of Harvey's name heavy on his tongue, intimate and lingering like a kiss.
Harvey invites Mike to watch the Yankees game at his condo in October.
"You've been working hard," Harvey tells him (and the spark of approval in his eyes warms Mike in a way that is mildly embarrassing but oh, so satisfying). "Bring the Killerman briefs, we can proof them during commercial breaks. No need to spend another weekend in the office when we could spend it watching baseball."
Mike spends all of Friday night anxiously anticipating the game. This is new territory for them, an unprecedented redrawing of borders. With anyone else, a casual invite to work from home and watch the game would hardly be worth thinking about. But with Harvey, who guards himself like a kingdom under constant siege, it's groundbreaking. Mike is terrified of fucking it up somehow, of losing this tenuous ground he's gained, and he feels on-edge and off-center by the time he arrives at Harvey's doorstep Saturday afternoon.
Mike is immediately, thoroughly shocked by two things when he arrives: Harvey has a glass fucking elevator in his condo (further blurring the lines between "lawyer" and "pimp mack daddy"), and Donna is there, wearing a fitted Yankees jersey and holding a bowl of popcorn.
Mike feels something suspiciously like jealousy and disappointment twinge low in his belly. He swiftly squashes the train of thought that wants to explore why Harvey's gorgeous assistant is standing barefoot in his condo. He squashes the train of thought that wants to explore why he even cares with far more vigor.
"Harvey," Donna shouts, casual pony tail sweeping over her shoulder as she turns her head, "Someone left a puppy on your doorstep! Can we keep him, pretty please?"
"No," Harvey's voice sounds from deeper in the room, amusement tingeing it brick red.
"Too late," Donna says, shoving the bowl of popcorn into Mike's hands with a wink and stepping aside to let him in. "I've already fed him." Her voice is teal with undertones of emerald green.
"You're responsible for the inevitable vet bills, then," Harvey says, appearing with a beer for Mike as they make their way to the lavish living room. Harvey is wearing jeans (jeans that are clearly more expensive than Mike's entire wardrobe combined, but still, jeans). Mike feels his world view tilt a little on its axis. He determinedly does not stare at the obscenely hot way the denim sits on Harvey's ass.
"If either of you even think about mentioning neutering, I'm out of here," he says instead, settling into an armchair more comfortable than his bed.
"That is a specialty of Donna's, I believe," Harvey says, smiling around his beer as he drinks.
"Speaking from experience?" Mike chuckles. "I sort of suspected she might be keeping your balls in her desk somewhere."
"Kid, she'd need a lot more storage than that."
Donna curls her legs under her on the sofa, cups her hand to shield her mouth from Harvey's view, and mouths lower right hand drawer to Mike.
Mike chokes on his beer and enjoys the resulting back and forth banter, watching Harvey and Donna's voices twist together like playful otters in the air between them.
They drink imported beer, eat Harvey's idea of "junk food" (which probably costs more than a four course meal at Mike's favorite restaurant – really, who puts white truffle oil on popcorn?), and enjoy the first inning without ever cracking open the files.
It quickly becomes apparent that Donna is an insane baseball fan. She hurls insults at the opposing team that would be considered colorful even to someone without synesthesia, whoops with joy when the Yankees score, and at one point is apparently prepared to hurl her beer at the obscenely large flat screen before Harvey skillfully slips it out of her upraised hand.
"This is why they won't let you back in Hurley's Sports Bar and you have to suffer my company to watch the game on a big screen TV" Harvey admonishes her wryly.
"No," Donna says, raising a stern finger in Harvey's direction, "They won't let me back in Hurley's because I broke that investment banker's wrist last fall."
Mike chokes on his beer a little (again – it seems to be a pattern). "What? Seriously?"
"He grabbed my tits," Donna shrugs. "I feel as though it was an appropriate response. You disagree?"
She has that slightly off-balanced, shark-like look of danger in her eyes.
"No, no!" Mike rushes to assure her. "If I had been there I'm sure I would have broken his wrist on your behalf, or relieved him of a finger or something as a reminder not to go where he's not invited."
"You think I need you to break wrists on my behalf, Junior?"
"No, I mean, clearly you're capable of breaking bones on your own, I just meant that I – uh-"
"Give the kid a break," Harvey scolds Donna, "You'll break his brain or something," (and that right there is just further evidence of the fact that Harvey very wellmight need an airplane hanger to store his apparently massive balls, because who else but someone with epic cajones would scold Donna? The woman is terrifying).
"I knew you cared," Mike grins at Harvey, who rolls his eyes.
"Don't read too much into it, kid. I just find your freakish memory useful for impressing clients and amusing small minds at the firm's cocktail parties."
Mike continues to smile beguilingly at Harvey, unconvinced, even as his heart clenches a little at Harvey's choice of words.
"I do like the idea of removing that banker's fingers," Donna concedes, tapping her lip with one perfectly manicured finger. She appears to be considering the logistics of divesting a man of his digits in a bar. "Very Arabian. Has a certain barbaric flair to it."
Mike adds another mental tally mark to the Reasons Not To Piss Off Donna column in his brain, then scoops up another handful of popcorn with white truffle oil and dead sea salt (it is delicious).
Harvey calls him a cab close to midnight, long after the game has ended and Donna has annihilated them both in Wii bowling several times over. Mike stands awkwardly in the doorway as he leaves, slightly drunk and more relaxed than he's been in months. He feels like he's in high school, trying to decide rather of not to kiss his date. Except that's ridiculous, because this is Harvey (Harvey, who collects one night stands with beautiful women like they're baseball cards or stamps), and Donna is in the next room trying to find her shoes and her phone before she leaves.
"The Killerman briefs," Mike blurts suddenly. "We never – I didn't proof them."
Harvey looks at him with a strange blend of consternation and amusement (and maybe, just maybe, a little affection).
"It's fine, Mike," he says, passing Mike his messenger bag and ushering him out the door.
Mike is halfway home before he realizes that when Harvey said it's fine what he meant was that was never why I asked you over in the first place.
There is a warm blush of burgundy behind his eyes when he drifts off to sleep that night, despite the fact that Harvey is much too far away for his voice to be painting Mike's vision.
If Harvey's voice is warm and rich when he's pleased with Mike, it's cold and biting when he's let down. Mike hates the color of Harvey's voice when Harvey's displeased with him, frustrated, annoyed, or (worst of all) disappointed. It's like a violent, sickening splash of blood across his vision, and he swears he'd do just about anything to bring the hue back to its usual Merlot.
"You've got a weak stomach," Harvey tells him after the mock trial. "You're not cut out for this."
His words are a metallic red, edged with a sharp, steely thread of contempt that cuts Mike to his core.
Mike wants to tell Harvey the way his own voice had looked in the fake court room, dirty gray and vicious black, the sound circling Rachael like a predator. He wants to tell Harvey how Rachael's voice had slipped from the gentle lavender of her usual cadence to a deep, wounded magenta that trembled with hints of red, the way the words he threw at her tasted like blood and dirt and pain.
But the metal in Harvey's voice is a wall between them. Mike knows that anything he says will only break itself against the unyielding color of Harvey's disappointment, his useless words falling away like dead leaves in a wind.
He stays quiet, unwilling to see the disheartened, chastised shade of his own voice stretch into the emptiness between them.
A/N 3: Any and all feedback or concrit will be loved, cherished, and cradled like a firstborn child. I'm quite nervous about this fic, because I'm not sure if my descriptions of Mike's sensory differences make sense or not, so if it seems unduly confusing or unclear please let me know so that I can try to fix it! :)