Step Seven

By carnifax (originally posted to tumblr)
Rated T
General | Romance
Donna had been right about Mike; he looked like a mess.

"What's wrong with Mike?"

Harvey plucked a record from its place on the shelf and turned to face Donna, head tilting at the concern on her face. Granted, she worried about Mike often—more often than she would admit—but she looked genuinely anxious for the kid, and that made Harvey uneasy.

"I passed him on his way back from his lunch break," she explained, taking a few steps into the office and lowering her voice. "His eyes were red and puffy. He looks like a mess." Her eyes flickered over her shoulder and then landed on Harvey again, pinning him with one look. "You should check on him."

Harvey tried to ignore the red flags of panic rising in the back of his mind and moved to put the record on its player, hoping that music would help somehow. "Does he look like he was smoking?" Harvey asked, focusing on the record player's knobs. The word pot went unsaid, but the implication hung heavy in the air.

"You know he doesn't do that anymore." She paused, took a step closer. "I think it was his grandmother."

Shit. Shit. Harvey hadn't thought of that. She was old, yes, but from what Mike had rambled on about, the woman's health had seemed solid. But then, sometimes a simple sniffle could have catastrophic events in an older body. God knows there were plenty of pro bono cases about those kinds of lawsuits.

He sighed. "Thanks, Donna. I'll talk to him."

"Good." She started out the door. "And be nice."

It took Harvey another minute to coax himself to walk to Mike's desk, but he stilled mid-step as soon as he turned the corner and saw the kid for himself.

Donna had been right about Mike; he looked like a mess. His eyes were red, swollen from tears, and even from this distance Harvey could see the way his lower lip trembled. He seemed to be working, with his head buried in one of the files Harvey had given him before lunch, but he had a highlighter in one hand and a balled-up Kleenex in the other.

And Harvey wasn't the only one staring. The girl at the cubicle beside Mike's was glancing over at him every ten seconds. Louis, who was halfheartedly scolding one of the guys farther down the room, was openly staring at Mike with either horror or apprehension. And even Gregory, whose name Harvey only knew because of Mike's dislike for the man, looked distressed by Mike's suffering.

Harvey cleared his throat as he started closer, making the associates—and Louis—suddenly very focused on their work. Except, of course, for Mike, who recognized the sound and looked blearily up at Harvey instead.

Harvey met Mike's gaze and tipped his head just slightly before turning down a little-used corridor and walking far enough away from the cubicles that they could have a private conversation. Mike appeared a few seconds later, trotting closer and trying to smile. The fact that he had to try made Harvey's chest hurt.

"What is it?" Mike asked, leaning against the wall. His voice sounded raw.

Harvey folded his arms across his chest, hoping it would make the knot inside of him go away; it didn't. "What's going on, Mike?"

The kid looked surprised. "I don't know," he said slowly, and stood upright. "I was just looking through those files... I'm almost done," he said suddenly, almost defensively. "You said you wouldn't need them until tomorrow, but I can get them done today, I just need another few hours and then you can—"

"Stop, stop," Harvey sighed, tightening his arms around himself. Frustration and concern were creeping through his veins, making him nauseated. He couldn't remember the last time he felt like this. "I meant, what's going on with you?"

Mike shook his head, still apparently bewildered.

"Mike—" Harvey sighed again, pinching the bridge of his nose between two fingers, trying to find the right words. His voice was rough when he finally spoke. "Look, you look like you were crying in a corner somewhere, okay? You look like a kicked puppy. And if something happened"—he paused for emphasis—" then I understand if you need to take care of it. But you need to tell me what's going on first."

There was a moment of silence, and then suddenly the confusion cleared from Mike's face and a laugh broke from his lips. He shook his head, running a hand down his face. "No, Harvey, nothing happened." He started back toward his cubicle but Harvey caught his arm, bringing him closer.

"It's nothing!" Mike insisted, but his smile wasn't genuine.

Harvey jerked him back when Mike tried to leave again. "That's bullshit, Mike," he growled, pissed off.

It wasn't even Mike making him mad; it was the way Mike's eyes were shining, like there were tears still in them, and the way that his eyelashes were clumped together, and the way that miniscule dimples in Mike's chin were quivering, like he was still on some verge of emotional breakdown—and yet Harvey had no idea how to fix it, or even what to fix.

"Tell me," Harvey demanded.

Mike rolled his eyes, but it took too much effort to be natural. "Nothing is wrong."

"Dammit, Mike—" Harvey pushed him into the wall and kept a hand on his chest to still him. "Will you just tell me what the fuck happened to you? I'm not going to yell at you, or whatever you seem to think will happen. I know—"

Mike squirmed. "Harvey, listen—"

"No, Mike." He pressed his palm a little more firmly against Mike's chest. "I know I try to keep out of your business—because honestly most of the time it's inane and boring—but when you show up after lunch looking like someone killed your dog, what do you think I—" He stopped, taking a deep breath before he could say things he didn't need to, and shook his head. "I'd like to know why. Is it your grandmother? Or Trevor, god forbid, is it him? Or—what's her name?—Jenny? Rachel, even? I saw her this morning but maybe… What happened?"

Mike didn't answer for a long minute. Harvey could feel his chest rising and falling below his palm, his heartbeat racing, how warm Mike was under his cheap suit. It only reminded him that under different circumstances, Harvey might've—

"I don't own a dog," Mike said finally.

Harvey dropped his hand from the kid's chest. "Mike—"

"True Blood." He slumped against the wall, shaking his head at the floor, half a laugh catching in his throat. "Nothing happened. It's—Well, True Blood happened."

Harvey stared at him, not understanding.

"So I went to Panera today for lunch, right," Mike started, crossing his arms and avoiding Harvey's eyes. "And I took my laptop because I didn't catch last night's episode of True Blood, and I couldn't wait until I got home so I figured it would be fine if I just watched it during my lunch break. But the thing is—" His voice caught, tears welling in his eyes again, and he tried to laugh it off but his voice came out strained and ragged. "There's this bitch," he went on, one hand gesturing while the other ran nervously through his hair. "And she's a witch and she was dead but then she came back and—And there's this guy, this nurse, okay, he's a nurse but he's a guy, and the guy he's dating—Lafayette—is the one that the fucking witch-ghost possessed and then she tied up Jesus—That's the brujo's name, the nurse, y'know, who—Whatever. And then"—his voice broke—"after Marnie killed Jesus and everything went down, and Lafayette was sitting in his room, mourning, fucking depressed because he killed his boyfriend with his own hands, Jesus' ghost came back, and Je-Jesus told Lafayette that he'd always be with him because he was a ghost and Lafayette was a medium, and it was just so… I just…" Mike swallowed and glanced at Harvey before staring pointedly at the ground, his arms crossing tightly against his chest again. "I just really love that show," he sniffed sadly.

Harvey gaped at him. He had missed half of that explanation but from what he had understood of it, no one in Mike's life was in trouble. No one in Mike's life had died; no one had been arrested. No one even in real life had suffered something terrible.

All the worry, all the dizzying panic Harvey would never admit he had felt—All because Mike had watched a TV show over lunch.

What started as half a smile turned into roaring laughter that left Harvey clutching his stomach, almost doubling over with hysterics. Mike winced back at the sound of it but that made Harvey laugh even harder, not even caring who he disrupted. The thought of Mike sitting in Panera by himself, sobbing into his laptop was entertaining enough, but it was the relief that had Harvey laughing so hard that his chest hurt with it.

"A fucking television show," he choked out, and grabbed onto Mike's shoulder to support himself as another peal of booming laughter broke past his lips. "And you—Oh, christ." He hung his head, still shuddering with laughter, but tried to quiet himself a little. "Oh god. You've got to be kidding me."

"Um." Mike sniffed. "Are you okay, or…?"

Harvey swallowed, trying to keep back the urge to chuckle, only half succeeding; he couldn't help the ridiculous grin that stretched across his face. "Just a TV show," he murmured, mostly to himself, as he wiped the tears from his eyes. "God, Mike."

"It's a good show," Mike mumbled at the floor.

But Harvey barely heard him; he suddenly noticed that—at some point, he didn't know when exactly—Mike had put a hand on Harvey's shoulder, probably to steady him somehow, almost cupping his neck. And while the majority of Mike's hand was on top of Harvey's jacket, the edge of his thumb sat right above the line of his collar, burning hot where it pressed into Harvey's bare skin.

The sensation was distracting enough, but it didn't help that when Harvey swallowed just then, Mike felt it and looked up, and his eyes looked so goddamn piercingly blue from the tears that Harvey was powerless to do anything but stare. A second later he saw Mike's eyes widen a fraction of an inch and flicker down to Harvey's lips, and he felt Mike's fingers tighten slightly on his shoulder, felt Mike inhale sharply, and Harvey knew they were at work and Mike was his associate and he was straight but—

"Excuse me," came an embarrassed voice.

Harvey snapped away from Mike as if he'd been burned, stepping unnecessarily far back and staring at the floor as one of the paralegals passed them, practically on tiptoe as she stepped between them to get into one of the offices on the other side. It took Harvey a moment to speak, even after the girl had disappeared.

"You should, ah, get back to work," he said, pretending to fix his tie. He didn't wait for Mike's response before he pivoted on his heel and started down the hall.

"Wait, Harvey—"

Harvey didn't mean to stop so suddenly, so obviously, so reactively, but he did.

"Sorry," Mike said. "I'm sorry if you were—I mean. Not that you were worried. But, sorry."

Harvey licked his lips. And then he turned to face Mike, shrugging with feigned nonchalance. "It's Donna you should apologize to. She was worried enough to ask me if I could check on you."

"Donna?" The surprise in Mike's expression was entirely genuine, and it made Harvey tense. "But… Donna came with me."

"Come again?"

"No, nothing, it's just that Donna came with me, to Panera. She was there, with me, when I was—y'know." He waved a hand. "Making a fool of myself."

"She was with you," Harvey echoed.

Mike nodded. "And now you look angry."

Harvey rolled his eyes and groaned, turning around. "Typical."

Donna was already grinning at him from her desk when Harvey rounded the corner, her chin propped up in one hand and a devious look in her eyes.

"Are you going to start setting me up on blind dates, too?" he asked as he passed her.


Harvey stopped short at her tone. He could almost see her thinking, and dreaded whatever plans she concocted. "Donna, you wouldn't dare—"

"Of course not," she said, shaking her head. But he knew that voice, and he definitely knew that particularly dangerous smile. "But it is a good idea—"

"No, Donna."

"Well you have to admit, he's cute," she said before Harvey could start moving again. Her voice lowered. "Especially when he's upset."

"I think you should seek professional help," Harvey said evenly, his lips curving into a sardonic grin. "Lots of it."

"Pot calling the kettle aroused, boss."

Harvey didn't reply; he just walked into his office and shut the door behind him, the way he frequently solved problems that didn't involve courtrooms.

But Donna knew him well enough to catch the momentary flash of something in his eyes right as he turned away from her. It wasn't a massive realization, and there hadn't been a romantic scene in the hallway—although that was more to blame on that paralegal who interrupted them five minutes before her cue, honestly, Donna had explained the importance of a well-timed entrance about eight times to the girl—but it was something. It was only a chink in the armor, only a drop in the bucket; but from Harvey Fucking Specter, it was definitely momentous.

As soon as Donna was positive that Harvey wouldn't come out of the office any time soon, she lifted her mousepad and flipped it over, where a single yellow post-it note had been hidden for the last three months. She looked at it, running her fingers over the letters—written in Russian, of course, this was Harvey she was dealing with—and crossed off the seventh item on the list. And then she put the mousepad back and spared a glance into Harvey's office, where the man was consumed with his work.

Soon, she wanted to tell him. But for now, she just smiled.