Mike was late. Again.
Harvey's expression darkened as he checked the time for what felt like the thousandth time that morning. This tardiness was getting ridiculous - no, it was far, far past the point of ridiculous, and Harvey simply didn't understand it. He had never had such problems getting into the office back when he had been an associate. Quite the contrary, he had always been at his desk by 6 AM at the latest, no exceptions.
And so he waited at his associate's cube, more than ready to give him a piece of his mind.
When after twenty minutes there was still no sign of the kid, Harvey irritably rose to his feet. He couldn't afford to sit here all day! Perhaps he'd return to his office, and grab one the case files on the Westridge Pharmaceutical lawsuit...
Just as he was musing, there was a sudden clatter of footsteps in the hallway; Harvey glanced up and saw a whirlwind of papers, the blur of a brown satchel.
"Nice of you to finally make it, Ross," someone jeered.
Harvey settled back into his associate's chair, and prepared himself to be intimidating.
"Did you get lost on the way to work, Ross?" another associate laughed.
"Stuff it, Devon, I - " Mike abruptly noticed Harvey's presence, and froze on the spot.
The kid blinked at him guiltily, and Harvey frowned at his appearance. Mike's hair was mussed, his white button-up shirt was far from neatly pressed, his suit jacket looked rumpled and frayed - hell, even his ridiculously skinny tie was crooked.
For goodness sakes, if the kid was going to be late, couldn't he at least have put on an ironed shirt?
Harvey raised an eyebrow at him, and then looked pointedly at his watch.
"Sorry, sorry," Mike said hurriedly, "I was - I had - "
"No excuses. I expect you to be here when you're needed here, and that point in time was well over an hour ago," Harvey said sternly.
Mike looked at him pitifully.
"Unless you were hit by a car, then I don't want to hear it."
He pushed himself up from Mike's desk chair, satisfied that he had suitably chastised the younger man, and made to return to his office. And then he noticed the look on Mike's face.
Harvey Specter prided himself on his ability to read people, and Mike Ross had never exactly learned how to maintain the stoic lawyer face. So he knew that look, that look that read: well, actually, I WAS just hit by a car…
Unexpectedly strong concern, mingled with a fair amount of alarm, rushed through him. "Were you?" he said sharply, trying to disguise the fact that his heart was suddenly pounding thunderously.
"I don't. Answer the question."
Mike's cheeks colored, and he looked down. "It was a close call."
It had been a close call…one of many.
Harvey shook his head in disbelief, and made his decision in a second. "Come with me."
Looking very confused and fairly worried, Mike followed Harvey as he led the way back to his office. Harvey suppressed a snort at the apprehension on the kid's face - did Mike really think that he might fire him over this?
Once in his office, he went to his bookshelf and opened a small box, lifting a tiny, shiny object from it. "Catch."
The object bounced off of Mike's chest, and clattered to the floor.
Harvey rolled his eyes. "I said, catch."
"I couldn't see it," Mike protested, crouching down to retrieve the object in question. His fingers froze. Slowly, very slowly, he craned his neck upwards to look at Harvey. "It's a key."
"Very good. I knew I hired you for a reason."
Mike stared at him, utterly baffled. "What's it a key to?"
Here was the tricky part. He'd have to deliver with every appearance of nonchalance.
"I have a spare Tesla Roadster in the garage," Harvey said carelessly, "That's your new ride to work."
Mike blinked. Once. Twice. "You're kidding."
"Pick up the key and get off the floor. You look ridiculous."
"Harvey," Mike's eyes were wide, "I can't - "
"You can and you will. Can you imagine how confident our clients must feel after seeing you pedal up to them like a ten-year-old? Do you have any idea how badly it reflects on me when you stumble in late every single day, and on a ratty bicycle at that?"
"Not every - " Mike bit off the remainder of his sentence as Harvey leveled a glare at him.
"That car has 288 horsepower. It can go 125 miles per hour, compared to your little bicycle which goes, what, three?"
Harvey waved that off. "The point is, you have no more excuses for coming into the office late. Is that understood?"
"But I don't know - "
If he could accept the car? Well that was fine. It wasn't a gift. He had a reputation to maintain, after all, and that Harvey Specter didn't go around giving cars worth over $100,000 to junior associates.
"The car is a loaner," he clarified, "If it gets even one scratch, you can be sure I'll be taking it out of your next paycheck."
"I CAN'T DRIVE," Mike said, loudly.
Oh. Oh. So that was what the kid had been trying to say.
Utterly speechless at the revelation, Harvey stared at him. So did two or three associates who had been passing by near the door.
"Well then…learn," Harvey recovered gracefully, saying it as if it were the most obvious solution in the world. Because it was, really.
The corners of his ears still flushed with embarrassment, the kid looked back at him helplessly. "I don't have a car to practice in."
"In case you've somehow forgotten, you are holding a car key in your hand."
"I can't drive it without a licensed adult in the car!"
"Mike, I'm sure several million people drive without a license every day."
Mike's blue eyes narrowed keenly. "You do realize that if I get pulled over by the police, I'll have to show your vehicle registration."
Was that...was that blackmail? Stupid, stupid, clever kid. Harvey wasn't sure if he was irritated or impressed.
But surely, his mind reasoned, any time spent now was surely an investment for the future, if it meant that Mike could stop looking like a bum he'd picked up off the streets and more like a proper Harvard attorney.
He sighed and conceded. "This Saturday, meet me at 8:00 AM sharp at my place. We'll take the car out for a few hours, and you'll be good enough to pass the driving test."
"You're going to teach me how to drive?"
"Hell no," he snorted, "I'm going to sit in the passenger seat and review some briefs."
Mike bit his lip and said anxiously, "But what if I crash?"
"I don't do reassuring."
"Then mission accomplished, Captain."
Suppressing a smile, Harvey picked up the file he'd been perusing prior to deciding to track his associate down, and settled down into his chair. After a few moments, he became aware that Mike was still in his office, looking around awkwardly.
"Can I help you?" Harvey sighed.
"It's just…" the kid grimaced, shoving his hands in his pockets, "Do you have a car that isn't worth the price of a small island?"
Harvey very, very slowly raised an eyebrow at him.
"You look like I just asked you if you buy your clothes at Target," Mike said warily, "Do you even know what Target is? Discount retailer? Big red circle logo? No?"
He glanced pointedly at the door, and Mike thankfully got the hint and showed himself out.
Mike had just seated himself at his desk when his phone buzzed. It was a text message from Harvey.
The Tesla has a dress code: suit and tie. And by tie, I mean a REAL tie, not one of those skimpy pieces of fabric that you try to pass off as a tie.
Mike let his head drop to the table with a loud thunk. What was he getting himself into?
Five minutes into the driving, Harvey was beginning to seriously regret this idea.
The sleek glacier-blue Tesla Roadster inched forward. Jerked. Inched. Jerked. Inched. Jerked. Harvey was getting a pounding headache from trying to focus on his files while being yanked about by the car's convulsive motions.
"For the love of God," he finally snapped, "Treat the brake like you would a woman, okay? Slow and gentle."
"You'll give me sex advice, but not driving advice?" Mike sounded frustrated.
Harvey quite honestly didn't even know how to respond to that one.
A second later, the kid's face went ashen. "Oh shit. I'm sorry, I just say things when I'm nervous, okay? I couldn't sleep at all last night and then I had two cups of coffee this morning and I even spilled a little bit on my tie - um wait, I didn't just say that either. There's no coffee on my tie. None whatsoever. "
"I didn't just hear that," Harvey muttered, rubbing his right temple with his hand. Deciding that (im)plausible deniability was probably the best solution for them all, he instead said, "Why are you even using the brake? We're in an empty parking garage going in a straight line."
"But when I don't step on the brake, the car moves," Mike said, with emphasis.
"Amazingly, that means the car is functioning as intended."
"But it makes me nervous when it moves," Mike gabbled, "This thing can break a hundred miles per hour."
"We're barely traveling a hundred feet per hour!"
"I told you I didn't know what I was doing!"
Harvey took in a deep breath, trying hard to rein in his frustration. "Steering wheel," he pointed, "Turn it right, the car moves right. Turn it left, the car moves left. Hold it straight, the car goes straight. Brake," he tapped on Mike's right leg. "It's the big pedal to the left. It stops the car. Don't slam your foot down on it, ease down on the brake. Accelerator. Something you seem utterly incapable of using."
"Haha, very funny," Mike snarked back at him.
"It was meant to be useful."
"I read the Roadster's Owner's Manual, okay? I know what every button in this car does."
"You read the Owner's Manual? Nobody reads the Owner's Manual."
"I read the New York State Driver's Manual too," Mike said.
Somehow, Harvey wasn't too surprised to hear that. "And you still couldn't sleep?"
"It was pretty informative, actually. In fact, according to Appendix B.1(A), it's pretty dangerous for us to be sitting in a poorly ventilated space idling," Mike said, "The carbon monoxide - "
Harvey gritted his teeth. "Mike? Drive."
"Hey, you're always complaining that I never stop and listen to anything you say. I'm just trying to listen to you."
"Just drive the goddamn car."
The kid had the audacity to smile. "I think someone has a bad case of road rage," he said, in entirely too chirpy a tone, but he thankfully took his foot off the brake pedal, and the car began to crawl forward.
Harvey eyed his technique critically. Mike seemed to be using the steering wheel excessively, constantly twitching it left and right as he overcompensated for small adjustments, and then had to quickly yank the wheel the other way to correct himself. He opened his mouth to comment on it, then quickly thought better of it. At least they were moving. Harvey settled instead for giving the Tesla a pat and a quiet apology.
Slowly but steadily they moved, creeping toward the parking garage exit. Harvey was immensely grateful he'd had the foresight to park the car on the first floor. He didn't want to think about how slowly Mike would have taken the looping exit turns between levels.
And then just as he was thinking they were finally making progress, Mike braked. HARD.
Harvey bit back a curse as the case folder that had been on his lap tumbled forward, scattering documents all over.
"There's other cars out there," Mike blinked at him anxiously, gesturing at the street in front of them.
He didn't understand the kid. He really didn't. Mike was absolutely fearless on his bicycle, darting in and out of cars like a kamikaze driver. But put him in what was essentially a well-protected metal cage with the best airbag technology in the world, and suddenly he couldn't handle the sight of other cars?
It was becoming painfully, painfully apparent that Harvey had grossly overestimated Mike's ability to quickly learn driving.
"Switch seats with me."
"Are we done?" Mike said hopefully.
There was no doubt that he was regretting this entire idea very much, but Harvey Specter didn't quit. Not that easily.
"I'm going to drive us somewhere for you to practice. Somewhere without witnesses. Otherwise I'm going to need to hide my head in a paper bag to avoid the travesty of being seen in a Tesla going two miles per hour."
"Oh that's why you care. Not because I might hit someone with a car, but because a paper bag wouldn't really go with your suit. And hey," Mike brightened, "Two miles per hour? Means I've made pretty significant progress."
"I think you've forgotten the meaning of the words 'significant' and 'progress'."
"Significant," the kid said, "having meaning; especially suggestive. Having or likely to have influence or effect. Of a noticeably large or measurably large amount."
Exasperated, Harvey reluctantly acknowledged that he had pretty much invited that one. "All right, Seven of Nine. Why don't you actually put that big brain to use and observe how driving should be done?"
"Isn't Seven of Nine a woman?"
"You're driving like one."
"Harvey, that's a second grader's insult," Mike said.
"That's ironic, considering you're also driving like a second grader."
The kid eyed him. "You know, I think I'm seeing a different side of you."
"Not yet," Harvey deadpanned, "but once you finally park your ass in the passenger's seat like I said to a few minutes ago, then yes, you'll see a different side of me."
Mike gave him a mock salute before he unbuckled his seatbelt. "Aye, aye, Captain."
Two hours later, Harvey was seriously questioning his own judgment.
After taking over the wheel, he had driven the car to a high school in the suburbs, correctly guessing that the parking lot was likely to be an excellent practice ground.
Unfortunately, one other person had had the same idea, and the contrast was depressing.
Harvey stared gloomily out of the passenger side window as the young teenager in the other car (a battered silver Honda Civic) zoomed past, executed a sharp turn, and neatly reverse-parked. That was how he had envisioned this entire idea would go.
"You do realize we arrived before that kid," he said.
"Not helping," Mike grated. His brow was furrowed in intense concentration as he slowly - slowly - eased the car into a left turn. "This wheel is so annoying."
"You said the wheel returns to position after a turn. It's not. I have to push it back into place every time."
"You're overthinking it. If you go a bit faster than 5mph, you'll notice that the wheel tends toward center," Harvey said tersely. He was far, far past the point of frustration. This was probably the thirtieth time they'd made an extremely slow and extremely boring circuit of the parking lot, and his usually sharp associate had made little progress.
"Your wheel's busted."
"It's not the car."
Mike didn't respond, his knuckles turning white on the steering wheel as he maneuvered.
The car dragged, limped, and Harvey grimaced. "Why the hell are you so goddamn afraid of the accelerator?"
"My parents died in a car crash, okay?" Mike snapped.
There was a moment before the words sunk in, and then - shit. His bad temper was gone in a second as guilt gnawed at him.
He hadn't known, but he should have guessed.
Harvey's stomach clenched as he replayed the entire day over again in his mind, with sudden new understanding.
Mike's jaw was tightly locked, and Harvey flexed his hands uncomfortably as the silence in the car became overwhelming. There was only the softest hum from the Roadster's electric engine, the subtle crunching of gravel as the tires rolled over the poorly paved parking lot.
Mike argued the car into a right turn.
Harvey started, tentatively, "If you're so uncomfortable with driving - "
"Don't." Mike cut him off.
"You and I both know that you don't do sympathy, all right? So just save it. You're probably just annoyed that this means I'll never be able to drive a car to your satisfaction, and you've made it perfectly clear that you need me to drive because it reflects badly on you for me to always be biking around."
There was a bitter taste in his mouth. Was that what the kid thought?
"That's not the reason." His voice sounded oddly strained to his own ears.
"Yeah?" The reply was fast, biting, sarcastic.
"Stop the car."
Mike's hands tightened on the wheel for a second, before he stepped on the brake, put the car into park, and turned off the engine. He refused to look at Harvey. "Is this the part where you tell me to get out? Because we're pretty far from public transport."
It might have been meant to be funny, but Harvey felt punched in the gut all the same. That wasn't something he would do - ever.
There was something, something the kid was trying to hide.
Harvey tilted his head to one side, appraising the sharp lines of Mike's profile. "Here's what I don't understand, Mike," he said, quietly, "You can spin it all you want to paint me as the asshole in all this. Hell, you might even be right. But I at least can plead ignorance."
The kid was stubbornly silent.
"I never forced you to come here. You never even gave me any indication you didn't want to."
"Forget it, Harvey. Okay?"
"I think you've been afraid of driving your whole life."
"You were hoping you could overcome that fear today, and you haven't been able to. You're leveling accusations at me because you're afraid to face yourself - "
"Stop." Mike's breathing was ragged. "Just stop. I work with you, Harvey. Don't you think I know what you're doing? I'm not some witness on the stand that you can just tear apart."
The reaction told him everything he needed to know. He had found the shatter-point.
Part of him wanted to say: a good lawyer can't break that easily.
The rebuke was at the tip of his tongue, but as he took in Mike's tense, rigid posture and shallow breathing, he found that he couldn't say it.
Shit, he was going soft.
"Start the car," he said instead, gently.
Mike shot him a quick, wary glance, and then twisted the key. The Tesla purred to life cheerfully.
"Now take a deep breath. Relax your shoulders. Both hands on the steering wheel, 10 and 2 position. You feel the hum of the engine in your hands? Think of the car as an extension of yourself. You're in command. Let your thoughts do the driving; don't overthink the mechanics."
He waited until Mike's breathing had evened, before he said, "One foot on the brake."
"Harvey," Mike said.
"Listen to me." He made it a command.
Once Mike had done so, Harvey shifted the car into drive. "Ease off the brake."
The car began to roll forward, and Mike's hands convulsed around the steering wheel.
"Hey. Hey, relax." Harvey tapped the back of Mike's right hand with a finger. "I paid a hundred grand for this car. She knows how to travel straight. Keep your hands loosely on the wheel. If we start veering off course, then correct the move with a small adjustment."
"I don't think your car obeys me," Mike said, with forced lightness.
Harvey put his left hand on the wheel. "Here," he said, his voice low, "Follow my lead. Keep your hands on the wheel; get a feel for how much it needs to be adjusted."
Together, they drove slowly, steadily across the parking lot.
"Good," Harvey murmured, "Let's turn left."
As expected, Mike tensed. Harvey kept a hand on the wheel, keeping them stable.
"Tap gently on the brake. Always slow the car down before a turn," he instructed, "But you don't need to hold the brake through the turn, not when we're already going slow enough for a safe, controlled turn."
The car slowed.
"Now think about going left," Harvey said, "Look at where you want to go, and make it happen. Don't think about how much to turn the wheel. Your subconscious knows. And loosen your death grip on the wheel a bit, okay? Think of your hand as a guiding force."
The turn started off hesitantly, and then completed smoothly. The lines on Mike's brow eased as the wheel shifted smoothly back into center position, and the car straightened.
"See?" Harvey smiled. "Easy."
A relieved smile broke out on Mike's face. "Yeah," he said, "yeah."
Harvey made it into the office by 6:45 AM Monday morning. He didn't usually come in so early anymore, but since he'd had limited time over the weekend to review the case briefs, he needed the early start.
Mike had made fairly surprising progress. His turns were now smoother and far more confidant, and he was capable of driving straight without constantly micromanaging the steering wheel. Harvey was fairly sure they'd even gone over twenty miles per hour at certain points.
He hadn't pushed for the kid to keep the car, however, especially after seeing the rundown neighborhood that Mike lived in. The Tesla would probably be either vandalized or stolen within a day. Besides, Harvey had a feeling that Mike would never be fully comfortable with driving.
Perhaps he'd just have to consign himself to the fact that the kid would always be late.
Speak of the devil.
"Mike." Harvey glanced up, frowning. "You're here early."
Mike lingered for a second in the doorway, before seeming to gather his nerve and jaunt inside the room. "I just realized that I never said thanks for the weekend. So as a demonstration of sorts of my gratitude, I didn't ride my bike into work today."
"I know you worry about me getting hit by cars," Mike said, his tone just a trace too serious.
Harvey looked into those earnest blue eyes, and he knew, he tacitly knew the words for what they truly were: an apology, an acknowledgement that Mike had known exactly why Harvey had tried to lend him the car in the first place.
Still: "I don't worry," he said, automatically.
He knew right away that Mike wasn't fooled. Damn the kid. Somehow, someway, he'd snuck past all of Harvey's best defenses.
But Mike for once didn't push the issue. In fact, the serious expression was gone and he looked positively giddy with excitement. Harvey was instantly suspicious.
"I still needed a way to get into work," the kid said, "And walking just won't cut it. So..." and here he paused for dramatic flair, before hoisting two objects high in the air like they were a trophy, "I bought a pair of rollerblades!"
And those objects were indeed a pair of obnoxiously shiny black rollerblades, garishly trimmed with bright blue stripes, and complete with neon yellow rubber wheels.
Harvey stared at them, every aesthetic sense offended. "You didn't."
The only response was a radiant smile.
"Get those things out of my office."
Mike affected hurt. "You don't like them? Look, they even have a fire decal on the side."
"I was trying to choose between a bright red pair and these, but then I figured the blue stripes matched my suits a little better. Don't you think?"
"I think the wheels glow in the dark too. Pretty useful, huh?"
"Mike," Harvey fairly growled the word.
The kid finally seemed to recognize the danger.
"Never fear, Captain, I'm off to boldly go where no man has gone before!" And with that, he beat a hasty retreat.
Harvey called out after him, "Try the dumpster!"
For those roller blades, that damn well better be the final frontier.
Author's Note: oh gosh, writing this brought back memories of my first time driving. I spent three hours circling the neighborhood and flipping out every time I saw a car on the other side of the road. :D hope you all enjoyed! this was originally intended to be a light, fluffy piece, but somehow it ran away from me a bit there. o_0