Author's Notes: wowww, you guys are incredible! Thank you for all the kind reviews and encouragement. I'm always a bit apprehensive to post a new chapter after getting such great feedback for fear of being unable to meet expectations. :) But without further ado, here we go! Hope you all enjoy.
Pyrrhic victory: a victory achieved at too great a cost. Named after King Pyrrhus of Epirus.
"An explanation, please," Jessica said tersely, gracefully seating herself behind her desk. She left Harvey standing like an errant schoolboy. Ordinarily he would have bristled at the implication, but right now, he simply didn't know what to think.
Hell, she wanted an explanation, but he didn't even have his thoughts gathered.
"Harvey," she pressed, not appearing to be in the mood for patience.
He took in a deep breath and cast about hoping to regain some of his legendary control and poise. Christ. This was why he worked so damn hard to smother his emotions, to keep everything tightly in check, because when his emotions were uncapped like this, he simply didn't know how to handle them.
"I was badgering the witness," he said, with forced nonchalance. "I didn't want to win by cheating."
"Is that what it was?"
He raised his head and looked at her.
And knew immediately that she wasn't buying it. "You have never been able to lie to me," she said archly.
Something like anger stirred in his chest. "And you're not as opaque as you'd like to think. You manufactured this situation. Louis is a crappy lawyer, but even he would have had the foresight to call the argumentative objection." He paused for a moment, a moment which teetered precariously on the edge of a knife, the splitting fragile second between before it was too late and after the fact. And then he plunged forward, "Louis would have called the objection. Unless you had ordered him not to."
His accusation hung heavy in the air.
"I would stop now before you say something you regret," she said, in a tone that implied there was much he should already be regretting.
That said it all.
"I know you don't like the kid, but that is surprisingly vindictive."
"This exercise had nothing to do with my opinion on your associate."
He gave a derisive snort.
"Mike Ross made a crucial mistake in the associates' mock trial. I was expecting that you wouldn't make the same one. I had been hoping that you would exhibit the strength and determination that we pride here at Pearson Hardman, the qualities I instilled in you."
Every protest seemed lodged in his throat. Here, now, removed from the situation, removed from those haunted, wounded eyes, how could he possibly explain why he had done what he had done? That he had pulled back because he'd seen how his words had been hurting the kid? That was meaningless. What it came down to was that he had backed off. In front of many of the firm's senior partners and all the junior associates, he had shown his weakness.
"The firm needs to see you as invincible," she said.
"The firm knows my value. I shouldn't need to prove it in a game."
She eyed him critically. "You shouldn't need to. But you should have."
He was silent for a moment. Then: "What would you have done?"
"In what situation?"
"If you were me. If I were the witness." Harvey paced a few steps in front of her desk, and then clasped his hands behind his back and looked at her sideways. "You were the one to teach me to press it where it hurts. What would you have done?"
"I would have done as I taught you."
A humorless smile tugged at his lips; she hadn't even spent a second to contemplate the answer. "At whatever cost."
"We make a living taking risks," Jessica said, sharply, "Every day, we put ourselves out there and we bare our throats before the courts. It's a harsh, ruthless reality, but it is the one we live in. You did your associate no favors by shielding him."
"You shouldn't have orchestrated the situation," he flung back at her, "What benefit was there?"
"Then I would be doing you no favors."
He stared at her, unseeing.
"Fix this," she said, "I don't care what you have to do."
"'Or,'" she said, with emphasis, "is not an option." Because in her world, Harvey Specter was a far greater asset than a Mike Ross, and she wasn't about to let him sacrifice himself.
He recognized the dismissal for what it was, but Harvey lingered there a moment longer, his eyebrows knitting together in a frown as he mulled over the situation.
She was concerned for him, and not just for his reputation. Certainly any outsider might wrongly perceive her stern words and his obstinate behavior as antagonism towards one another, but Harvey knew her, knew her better than anyone. He heard every word that she left unsaid. She pushed him because that was what she felt he needed; she was angry because she was worried for him.
Why are you doing this? he wanted to ask, but there was no point, because he already knew her answer.
It was her way of protecting them all.
I'm pressing it where it hurts. For what purpose? So you learn your weaknesses, but more importantly so you learn to correct your weaknesses, here, now, in a mock trial, where the price of failure doesn't carry the weight of forever.
There was a dull throb radiating from his sinuses, and Harvey suppressed a groan as he rubbed the bridge of his nose in an attempt to stave off the headache.
Fix this, Jessica had said. Easier said than done.
The mock trial case files - coupled with a fair number of leather-bound books - were spread out on his desk, and Harvey could've sworn that they had somehow grown mouths and were laughing at him. This was such a phenomenal waste of time, and they knew that. Black's Law Dictionary, 9th Edition in particular was giggling insufferably.
A few seconds later, it finally occurred to him that was peculiar behavior.
Right. If his mind had reached the stage of personifying objects, he definitely needed sleep. But because the entire goddamn universe seemed to be against him today, the last person he wanted to see walked into his office just as Harvey was pulling on his suit jacket. Fuck, the kid had impeccable timing when it came to inconveniencing others.
His associate looked like hell. His face was showing a day's worth of stubble, his sleeves were rolled up and rumpled, and his hair was standing up at odd angles, as if he had spent the better part of the day thumping his head against the wall. "I've been trying to find you all day," the kid said, dropping heavily to the leather couch.
"Don't consider a career as a bounty hunter, then," Harvey said, "I've been here the entire day."
"Your watchdog's been outside."
Both of Harvey's eyebrows shot up. "My watch - ? Donna?"
"She doesn't record conversations inside this room, right?" Mike suddenly looked very worried.
"For your sake, I hope not."
"She finally went home," Mike said, by way of explanation.
"I see." They were both doing a very precarious dance around the real issue at hand, and Harvey wanted to keep it that way for as long as possible.
Mike flushed a bit, looking anywhere but at Harvey. "It's just, whenever you're mad at me, she tends to be mad at me too."
There went the avoidance plan.
And why the hell would the kid think Donna was angry with him? Harvey was bewildered at his logic. Did Mike have no idea how fiercely Donna had tried to protect him earlier in the day? Good grief. Harvey hadn't spoken to her after the mock trial, not quite in the mood to speak with anyone, but of course, Donna had figured out precisely what had happened. Since she knew his moods so well, she hadn't brought it up. The only indication of her approval had been the mysterious appearance of his secret guilty pleasure on his desk: a delectable dessert from Max Brenner on Broadway.
"Stick to being a fake lawyer," he advised.
Several emotions ran across Mike's face. "Then," the kid said slowly, "that means you're not mad at me."
Keeping his face carefully blank, Harvey leaned back in his chair and twirled a pen in his fingers.
"Your words imply that I'm wrong in my assumption that Donna's pissed off at me," Mike reasoned, "And if Donna's always mad at me when you're mad at me, then since she's not mad, by deductive logic, you're not mad."
His associate looked so darn hopeful at the prospect. Harvey blew out a sigh. Honestly, this mentoring thing was such an ass sometimes. "Why are you here?" he said, trying to ignore the deep pressure in his sinuses.
Mike looked momentarily crestfallen. "I've been doing research."
Harvey's eyes narrowed. "For the mock trial?"
"Yeah. I've found some precedent - "
"For the defense?" Harvey interrupted, not quite a question.
Of course he had.
"Damnit, Mike," he muttered, "You know I can't use anything you've found."
The younger man's jaw jutted out stubbornly. "Why not?"
"You could be trying to sandbag me for all I know," Harvey said, suddenly irrationally annoyed at the naivety of the question. That naivety, after all, was what had tangled them into this goddamn situation in the first place. "When does the defendant ever find evidence for the other side?"
"I wouldn't trick you."
"That's not the point."
"Harvey, I'm just trying to help!" Mike shot to his feet.
"You can't," Harvey said flatly. "We've already put the mock in this mock trial. Let's not push it."
"This trial is a travesty. It's a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham."
Had Mike really just quoted Woody Allen's Bananas at him? Harvey felt his headache compound as an entirely inappropriate flash of amusement jolted through him.
The kid quirked an eyebrow.
His irritation was gone as quickly as it had come. Harvey almost wished for it back, because all it left in its wake was the same disquieting feeling he'd done his best to ignore the entire evening. "Mike," he said wearily, "Go home. Or change the oil in my car if you need something to do."
Exasperatingly, his associate made no move to leave. "Why'd you do it?"
"Today. During the cross-ex. You..."
"Louis was trying to cheat," Harvey said, in his firmest voice. "I didn't want to win on those terms."
A look of consternation crossed Mike's face. "Why can't you ever just admit - " he bit off the words, belatedly.
That he cared? That he actually gave a damn about his associate? That he had given up both his pride and the victory for him? Christ, that was a weakness he could never admit.
"Admit what?" he said, an edge to his voice.
"You backed off. You went for the jugular, and you backed off. Because you care," Mike stressed.
The kid was forever trying to push this overly sanguine point. Harvey was determined to set the record straight: "Yeah. I care. I care about me, and I didn't need the entire firm to see that I trained a weak associate. You were about to fall apart on the stand."
"I could've handled it!"
"Bullshit. You could have given Donna a run for her money, what with those tears in your eyes."
"You must need a new prescription," Mike bit back, "Oh yeah, don't think I haven't seen the glasses you try to hide from everyone."
The two glared irritably at each other.
Mike was the first to break the stalemate, stepping back and throwing up his hands in frustration. "Why do you always make it so damn hard to be grateful?"
Harvey's lips compressed into a thin line. A thousand acerbic retorts sprang to mind, but before he could pick which one would best cut his associate down to size, Mike spoke:
"I'm just - I'm just trying to say - look, thanks, okay?" he said, his ears flushing red. "I know what you did today. I get it, I do. I'm a reflection of you, blah blah, you don't give a crap about anything or anyone, you did what you did for yourself. That'll remain the official party line. But I know, Harvey. So just...thanks."
Shit. The kid really knew him. Harvey found himself in the rare situation of being completely speechless. Mike had known from the beginning that Harvey intended to break him on the stand. He had expected the betrayal. And when it hadn't come, he had been magnanimously forgiving - grateful, even. He had understood just what exactly it had cost Harvey to back off in front of the entire firm - every image he projected, every value he stood for.
Every value he claimed he stood for.
There was an unpleasant, coiling feeling in his gut: the knowledge that he had come so very close to breaking this kid, this kid who was showing him such unwarranted loyalty.
"I'll go now," Mike said quietly, sounding deflated. He reached into his suit jacket and withdrew an object, which he placed at the edge of Harvey's desk. "Something for your headache," he said, before backing out of the office.
Harvey winced as the sense of unease and self-reproach doubled. Goddamn, but this day had been a long one. Hell, in lieu of a stiff drink, some ibuprofen would be welcome right now.
He reached forward - and then froze.
Mike had left a bottle of ibuprofen. And a digital voice recorder.
Bits and pieces of the conversation rushed back to him. Mike's voice, unnaturally high: she doesn't record conversations inside this room, right? - Harvey, I'm just trying to help! - This trial is a travesty - Something for your headache.
He stared at the voice recorder, the idea forming in his head.
And then he shook his head, disbelieving. The kid was a genius.
"Court is in session, Russell vs. Carlsen," Jessica said, "Mr. Specter, are you ready to continue with cross-examination of the witness?"
He had just opened his mouth to respond when Louis angrily interrupted, "Your Honor, defense moves for a mistrial."
The room erupted into shocked whispers. A pert frown creased Jessica's brow. "Sidebar," she commanded, waving them forward. "Louis, what is this?"
"I have in my possession a recording," Louis said, in a hushed, furious whisper, "Of my defendant collaborating on this case with Harvey. That led me to the only logical conclusion: this whole thing has been a set-up from the beginning. You saw the trial yesterday, you saw how Mike Ross let himself be led time and time again into admitting things. It was just too easy for Harvey. And then those crocodile tears at the end - it was all an act! They were working together to mock me."
Harvey smiled disarmingly as Jessica turned a severe look onto him.
"I'm sure I don't even need to list the precedent," Louis continued, "But State vs. Elliot, State vs. Walker - "
"I'm familiar with the legal precedent, thank you," Jessica said curtly, "What I want is an explanation."
"I plead the 5th," Harvey quipped.
It clearly wasn't the answer she had been hoping for. Her lips tightened with displeasure, and she gave him a long, hard stare before she said, in a louder voice, "Court will recess for fifteen minutes. Gentlemen. My office. Let's listen to this recording."
Inside Jessica's office, Mike's voice flowed clear and strong.
"I've been doing research."
"For the mock trial?"
"Yeah. I've found some precedent - "
"For the defense?"
Louis gave an ugly smile as the recording ended. "See? Ross has been working for Harvey this entire time."
"You know, Louis, that's observant of you, considering I hired him to be my associate," Harvey said.
"I meant during the duration of the mock trial!"
"Considering all those times you tried to pawn him, I'm not so sure you grasped the concept even before the mock trial."
"Harvey," Jessica censured, looking for a moment as if she was seriously considering throwing him out the window. "A word. Alone."
"I think that's your cue to exeunt," Harvey said patronizingly when Louis failed to leave the office. "What?" he said innocently, as Jessica's glare intensified to the power of a thousand supernovas, "I'm trying to speak his language."
"Louis, please," she gritted out.
He left, but not without first throwing a few attempts at death glares that reminded Harvey somewhat of a twitching squirrel. And then Harvey was alone, left alone with Jessica, a Jessica who was straightening herself to her full height and preparing to unleash what would undoubtedly be a magnificent maelstrom of fury upon him. "I should have you disbarred," she began, her voice low and silky.
Deciding it was in his best interests (or rather, imperative to his continued existence) to head her off early, Harvey reached into his pocket and withdrew another tape, juggling it casually with one hand.
Like an eagle, her focus immediately honed in. "What is that?"
"Are we off the record?"
"I'll be declaring a mistrial, so yes, we are off the record as there is no longer a record to be on," she snapped, "Now kindly explain to me why exactly that is the case."
"This is the full tape of what was said when Mike came into my office. Louis had a truncated version of the tape that I left sitting on Donna's desk. A version that I deliberately left on Donna's desk, knowing full well that he was likely to snoop around." As he was talking, he inserted the tape inside the cassette deck.
He played the recording for her, watching as her expression subtly shifted from cold fury to something rather akin to - dare he say it? - fond exasperation.
"I tell you to fix it," she sighed, "And this is what you come up with."
"Mike Ross did," Harvey said firmly. She needed now, more than ever, to see his associate's value.
She massaged her temples, and then fixed him with a fierce expression. "So this mock trial resulted in foul play all around and completely failed to achieve any of the desired objectives. Wonderful. Why couldn't you have just followed the plan and destroyed Mr. Carlsen on the stand?"
It was a rhetorical question, but Harvey surprised himself by answering it anyway.
"Because," he murmured, thinking of the look of pure devastation on Mike's face when he had said that he was disappointed in him, "It would have been a Pyrrhic victory."
Over the next few days, Harvey wasn't in the mindset to see or interact with anyone outside of business need, and fortunately, it seemed that Mike shared the same opinion. When they saw one another, it was always quick, germane meetings.
"The Nathern patent files," Mike said, dropping off a heavy stack of manila folders at the edge of his desk.
"I need the Aldridge briefs reviewed by the end of the day," Harvey said, not looking up from his paperwork.
"You got it," Mike said, and left.
No jokes about how Mike's latest tie looked, if possible, even more dreary and scrawny than its predecessors. No movie quote exchanges. Strictly professional interactions. In truth, Harvey had no damn idea how to talk to the kid. There was so much to say, so much to clear between them, and yet for all his skill with language and wordplay, he didn't know where to begin. And so avoidance was the name of the game, and they played it well.
Donna didn't approve. She tolerated the first couple of intermediary requests, and then set her foot down.
"Donna," Harvey said, pausing by her desk, "Could you please tell Mike - "
"No," she said, her fingers flying over the keyboard.
"No?" His eyebrows shot up.
"Tell him yourself," she said pointedly, "I'm done enabling your childish behavior."
After several more seconds of lingering there and having her ignore his best "Et tu, Brute?" impressions, Harvey sighed and made his way to the junior associates' cubicles.
Just in time to hear the taunt:
"Awww, is Mikey-boy stuck working at the office again?"
"Better be careful, Jeffrey," someone else said, "He might tell on you to Mr. Specter. We all know how well he can fake a lip wibble."
"Shut the fuck up," Mike said, sounding distracted.
Harvey's steps slowed, the blood rushing to his head as he witnessed the shit that Mike had to put up with. From what he surmised off the office grapevine (all right, admittedly from what Donna surmised off the office grapevine), the majority of the partners and associates were under the impression that the mistrial had been called because Mike and he had conspired to work together against Louis. The rivalry between the two partners was widely known; many had easily believed that Harvey and Mike had decided to make the whole mock trial a joke in order to put one over Louis. Jessica reluctantly encouraged the rumor, believing it far better for Harvey's reputation than the truth.
Since he was a senior partner, nobody dared ever bring the subject up in front of his face. It was clear Mike didn't share that privilege.
"About to cry on us, Ross?"
"Only from laughing after I wipe the floor with your ass." Mike.
A surge of pride rushed through him at his associate's defiant words. It seemed the kid had the situation firmly in hand, but Harvey wasn't about to just walk away, either.
He rounded the corner and folded his arms across his chest as he watched the scene unfold. The two junior associates - Jeffrey and...some kid whose name started with a 'A' - were leaning over Mike's cubicle wall, pressing in on his personal space. His associate had his white ear-buds firmly in his ears, his attention fixed on the screen.
"Ooh frightening," Jeffrey said, with a sneer. "Well, we're off to the happy hour. Catch you later, Ross." He made an imperious gesture with his hand to leave.
And then they saw Harvey, leaning against the wall, regarding them with a frown.
It was almost comical how simultaneously their eyes bugged out of their heads, how rapidly the color drained from their faces. "Mr. Specter," Jeffrey stumbled, looking like he desperately preferred to be seeing anything else - even Louis in a towel.
"If you feel you have the time to spare for a happy hour," Harvey said, his tone dangerously calm, "Then you clearly aren't indispensible to this firm. Jeffrey, was it? Tell me, what do you know about Moulton vs. Kershaw?"
Jeffrey looked at him, panicked.
"No? What about Cotnam vs. Wisdom? Daniels vs. Newton?"
The associate was silent.
"Mike?" Harvey prompted.
"Moulton vs. Kershaw established that there exists no contract unless a letter is clearly an offer and not simply an advertisement. Cotnam vs. Wisdom determined that any individual who receives medical care while unconscious or helpless is liable for payment via implied contract if medical care is provided in good faith. Daniels vs. Newton found that a seller may not bring action for breach of contract and seek remedy if buyer repudiates the contract, unless the seller has suffered a loss with a right already vested with him or been deprived from having performance he is entitled to receive."
Both the associates wore equally stunned and equally idiotic expressions on their faces. It would have been funny if it weren't so depressing, because these were Harvard attorneys (though that phrase was meaning less and less, if these two shining examples were anything to come by.)
Harvey cocked an eyebrow. "You two want to talk like hotshots? Then you damn well better be able to back it up. I suggest, Jeffrey and crony, that you two brush up on your court cases tonight. Tomorrow, I'll pick three at random. If you can't identify them, well, then it's your resume you'll want to brush up next."
"You can't be serious," crony spluttered, "There's hundreds of thousands!"
Knowing that silence was often an underutilized and underappreciated weapon, Harvey held his annoyance firmly in check and smiled pleasantly. That was more effective than any threat, and the two associates hastily scuttled from his sight.
Mike was wearing a familiar goofy grin on his face.
For just one precarious moment, they could have taken advantage of the triumph over a common adversary and reverted back to their former ease. But Harvey couldn't find the words to make that happen, and the moment stretched on tautly, like a rubber band against a shiv, bristling with hazardous tension. The awkwardness returned.
"Uh," Mike said, and fell back into the safe confines of professionalism. "I'm just finalizing my summary. I'll have it on your desk in thirty minutes."
"Good," Harvey said. That had been what he had come down here to inquire about. Unfortunately, since Mike had already brought it up, that left him in the awkward position of having nothing additional to contribute to the conversation. "Make it sooner."
And then he turned and walked away.
True to his word, Mike arrived twenty minutes later, several bound printouts in hand. As before, he set them down on the corner of Harvey's desk and then turned to go. Harvey thumbed through a contract draft.
Several seconds later, he noticed his associate was still in his office, struggling with the door.
He frowned. "Problems?"
"Um," Mike turned around, looking apologetic, "I think your door is locked."
"That door has a lock?" Harvey said blankly.
His intercom flared to life. "Yes, it does. Don't even bother trying to unlock it from the inside; it's controlled digitally via the security system."
"Donna," Harvey said, not in the mood for her theatrics, "I don't know what you're hoping to accomplish - "
"No. Enough is enough. This door is going to remain locked until you two have worked things out."
Mike stared at him, looking aghast. Harvey fired a withering glare through the glass walls at Donna's back. He liked to think that he had at least intimidated the glass into fearing for its life because Donna seemed completely unfazed.
"But I just downed three coffees," Mike said weakly, "Couldn't you have given me a warning before I walked through the door?"
Even though he couldn't see her face, Harvey was sure that Donna had just rolled her eyes. "I'll get the ball rolling then," she said, "Mike, you're an idiot. Harvey isn't mad at you; I don't know why you always think he is. Harvey's been avoiding you because he's feeling guilty. And that's all you'll have from me, folks."
The intercom clicked off.
Harvey jabbed at the speak button. "Donna, unlock this door - " Or he would what? Resigned after his mind drew several blanks, Harvey realized that he had absolutely no leverage over her right at this moment in time.
"You don't have a bathroom in here, do you?" Mike sounded pained.
"No," Harvey said firmly.
"Excuse me. I wasn't expecting to be put in a near hostage situation." The kid gave a slight hop.
"What are you, three?" Harvey said, "Hold it."
"Maybe we could call security? Ask them for a door override?"
"And tell them what, exactly? My own assistant has me locked in my office? Just sit down and be patient. She has to let us out eventually."
Mike looked pitifully at him. "Wouldn't it be faster if we just...you know...talked?"
Harvey set his jaw resolutely, staring more intently at the contract before him. The undersigned parties hereby agree to the following provisions as conditions of the merger of Baylor Light Industries and Resser Technologies, henceforth known as The Merger.
"You're feeling guilty?" Mike said, sounding oddly hopeful.
"I'm feeling busy."
"Harvey, you're not the one with a ticking time-bomb!"
"This is me concerned," Harvey turned a page.
"Donna, if you're still listening to this, I think it'd really give Harvey some valuable perspective if you locked him in here one time when he needs the bathroom," Mike said, glaring.
Harvey ignored him. Several achingly long minutes passed, and then Mike spoke up again, "You know, this rug looks expensive."
"Piss on it and you're fired."
"HARVEY!" his associate practically shouted. "Look, 'thank you' or 'I'm sorry', okay? I'm sure Donna wants me to say one of those two things."
The guilt that he had tried so damn hard to suppress was gnawing furiously at him. Here he was, in the situation where he was in the wrong, and he should apologize, and he was, admittedly, being an ass. And besides, given what he knew of Donna's stubbornness, there was no way around this situation unless he planned to spend the rest of eternity locked inside his own office.
He had to speak. He had to speak now while his infamous stoicism was caught off guard. "The mistrial, Mike. It was a good idea."
Mike stared at him, his mouth hanging open slightly in a way that was almost comical.
The compliment had been easy enough to say, but now that the moment of truth was here, Harvey could feel his nerve to apologize rapidly depleting. "Why did you think I was angry with you?" Asking the questions was far, far easier.
"Well," Mike grimaced, "You...you backed off - and I know you hate that - because you thought you had to."
"Maybe I did," he said, watching the kid bite his bottom lip in embarrassment, "But maybe we shouldn't have been in that situation in the first place."
"You had to win. You were just doing what you had to do." His associate said it dully, by rote.
Pain and guilt stabbed through him. The proper answering words were stuck in his throat, his pride and reserve desperately clinging to them - and Harvey forced out, "It doesn't make it right."
It was as close to an apology as he could come.
Mike looked flabbergasted at the confession. "But you were so hell-bent that I break Rachel in the mock trial."
"Looks the same from where I'm standing."
"Maybe you should move." He was equivocating.
The kid blinked at him. "That's...philosophical."
How could he even begin to explain? Mike had wanted to protect Rachel because she was a pretty paralegal and he operated with some old-fashioned sense of honor that frowned upon things like making a woman cry on the stand. But Harvey needed to protect Mike. It wasn't a transient act of chivalry; it was a fundamental responsibility. The kid was more - far, far more - than just his associate, and Harvey's loyalty, once earned, was both relentless and forever. "It's my job, Mike," he said roughly. Fuck, that didn't even begin to cover it.
Because he didn't mean 'job' like Mike was his employee. He meant 'job' like it was his duty.
Mike's eyes narrowed. "Because I'm a reflection of you. And you protect yourself."
The words were tossed out there like a challenge, almost daring him to deny it. He could have. He could have still.
But he didn't.
"No," Harvey said, uncharacteristically gently.
No. Just that one word: no. Yet from the way Mike's eyes lit up, it was clear that the one simple confession meant so much more: it was absolution, it was recompense, it was an I'm sorry and you know, kid, you're actually pretty damn awesome rolled up into one.
The two stared at each other. A silly grin was beginning to edge back onto Mike's face, and unbidden, a smile was threatening to tug at Harvey's features. Damn the kid and his contagious exuberance.
The door clicked.
Both men swung their heads to stare at it, and then Mike's expression flooded with relief. He shifted uncomfortably on his feet and then said, "Look, I think we're having a moment here. In the movies, this would be the time for some uplifting music a la 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow.' But um, I really have to - " he jerked his thumb toward the door.
"Go," Harvey said, grateful for the opportunity to avoid talking further.
His associate rushed out.
Harvey reclined in his chair, feeling relieved and light and happy. "Donna, I think that was a textbook example of duress."
"Moment's not over yet, Specter," she said.
And then he flat out laughed as the music began playing over the intercom:
Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true
Now this felt like a victory.
Author's Note: I have no idea how my original 1K response to this prompt became a story over 10K. I really, really don't. Yeesh, someone stop me! Thanks again to phreakycat for the awesome prompt, and thanks to you all for the read! I'd love to hear your thoughts.