A/N: This was another little fic that my muse wouldn't quit harassing me about until I finally gave in and wrote it. Again, all my love to my darling virtual spouse and beta extraordinaire phoenix on cloud nine for all her help and support.
Disclaimer: I don't own Suits.
It all started with Harvey leaving.
Harvey had been called away early that morning to D.C. for some lobbyist big-wig and although Mike had done everything short of shameless begging, Harvey had refused to take him, citing some critical research Mike was working on for their anti-trust trial coming up early the next week. Mike figured things would be boring but generally uneventful with Harvey gone, but it had become obvious to him very quickly how much the mere presence of Harvey had been protecting him at the office.
Donna had been deployed with her boss on the private jet to the capital, leaving Mike at the mercy of not only Louis, but the Harvard drones as well. Sensing blood in the water; no matter how much Mike tried to feign indifference at Harvey's two day absence, they took an almost perverse delight in harassing him - making comments, trying to foist their work off on him, and generally making his life miserable. Gregory and Kyle screwed with him the most, though several of the others, emboldened by Harvey's absence, got their cheap shots in as well. Mike kept his head down and his mouth shut. He knew the idea of complaining to Louis was laughable; the Junior Partner was, if anything, worse then what he'd been putting up with from the others. He managed to pop up at Mike's desk multiple times a day, always dropping off more work, heedless of the fact that Mike had plenty of his own to do.
The third time this happened, culminating in Louis making some smart-ass comment about Harvey 'leaving his puppy at home in the kennel all by himself', Mike snapped something back, which made him feel better for a few minutes, but ultimately ended with him being banished by a smug Louis to the copy room with a stack of briefs that took him four hours to copy, index and file.
Harvey returned Wednesday afternoon; Donna having come in early Wednesday morning to start shifting through what had piled up in their absence. Harvey wouldn't have told Mike under threat of death, but he'd missed the kid. He was used to the whirl of activity and energy that was Mike and had grown accustomed to the banter and good natured teasing they kept up in a steady stream at work every day. Harvey had called once a day for the two days he'd been gone, ostensibly to check on Mike's progress with the case files - at least that was what he told Donna. The red head had only given him a knowing smirk and went back to her work, choosing not to verbalize what they were both well aware of; things weren't the same without Mike.
Harvey had expected to see the blonde burst into his office the minute he found out Harvey was back. He looked forward to complaining about Mike's continuing lack of etiquette, (would that kid ever learn to knock?) before settling in contentedly to listen to a marathon session of Mike's excited barking about the case, and whatever else was swirling around in that big brain of his. So he was genuinely surprised when Mike didn't show up at Donna's desk until after 11am; a full three hours after Harvey had sailed in - both flirting harmlessly with Jessica and artfully insulting Louis in quick succession. After the first hour Harvey had manufactured a reason to pass by the associates' cubicles (allegedly to check on… something) and he'd seen the top of the familiar blonde head as Mike bent over some papers spread across the surface of his desk. Harvey thought about sending for Mike, but decided that would give the wrong impression; he'd let the pup come to him.
Harvey watched Mike approach Donna's desk with a smile that looked suspiciously strained. He exchanged a few words with the older woman before she nodded him back toward Harvey's office. Harvey quickly dropped his eyes to the brief he was 'reading' when there was a knock at his door. Snapping his eyes up, Harvey froze.
Mike had just knocked on Harvey's door.
Mike never knocked.
Harvey felt a small jolt of something like concern ripple down his spine.
"Come in," Harvey called and Mike entered the office a second later, stopping short at the desk with several files cradled in the crook of his right arm.
"Hey, Harvey, welcome back - I've got those files you need for the Semtech case," Mike said in a conversational, almost bland tone.
Harvey flicked a laser eye over the younger man; Mike didn't seem to be outwardly sick or injured, he didn't seem sleep deprived or otherwise distressed, but the ripple of unease was turning into a wave and Harvey, who had built his career on his ability to read people, knew instinctively that something was wrong.
"Thanks, I'm sure it's a relief to see a noticeable increase in the level of competence around here," Harvey answered with a trademark cocky smirk. Normally such a statement would have quickly drawn a sarcastic retort from his associate, but Mike only gave a half-hearted eye roll before offering a mumbled excuse and quickly exiting the office, leaving Harvey blinking in confusion.
It was like that the rest of the week.
Mike was too quiet, too distant, too slow to come to Harvey and too eager to leave. By Friday Harvey was hiding it well, but he was thoroughly frustrated. He'd dealt with a sulky Mike often enough to know how to handle that, but this wasn't Mike sulking. It was something deeper and Harvey knew he was out of his depth. Much as he hated to admit it, he needed help.
Luckily he knew where to get it.
"I don't know what the hell the problem is, Donna - I barely said a word to him, but he's acting like I had that garbage heap he calls a bike dropped in a trash compacter," Harvey was staring out the window behind his desk at the city skyline, hands jammed in his pockets, face pensive.
"Did he say anything was up when you called this week?" Donna asked from her perch on a corner of Harvey's desk.
"No, he said everything was fine."
"There's your answer then," she said definitively.
"What do you mean?" He asked, turning to look at his PA.
"Harvey, he was here alone with Louis and his lapdogs for two days. You know the amount of shit they try to pull with you in the office - try and imagine what fresh hell it must have been for him while we were in D.C," Donna stated darkly. They both ruminated on the possibilities silently for a moment.
"It couldn't have been that bad - could it?" Harvey directed the question toward Donna, but he was as much talking to himself as he was to her.
"You know how jealous they are of him, how many times have you seen them harassing him? I can guarantee that Louis got his digs in too," Donna wore an expression that made Harvey wince. It was the face that suggested Louis and whoever else had upset Mike had just shot directly to the top of her shit-list.
"Should have just taken him with me," Harvey mumbled.
"That's what I told you before we left; see what happens when you attempt to think for yourself?" Donna replied smartly.
Harvey frowned. "Well, what am I supposed to do about it?" He finally huffed out, just barely preventing himself from running a hand through his perfectly styled hair.
"Talk to him - he's hurting, Harvey," Donna said quietly.
"How well do you figure that will go? You're the one that delights in constantly reminding me how 'emotionally stunted' I am," Harvey groused. Donna stood gracefully and gave the morose-looking Harvey an affectionate nudge in the ribs.
"You'll figure something out," she disappeared back to her desk.
Harvey finally decided to corner Mike at the end of the day and demand he tell him what was wrong, but he got caught up in a long conference call and a meeting with Jessica and the other senior partners, and by the time it broke up, Mike was gone.
It was heading toward midnight as Mike leaned back against Harvey's couch with a deep sigh. He'd come back to the office an hour earlier, unable to sleep; wanting to get some work done but not at his cubicle. He'd told himself the only reason he ended up in Harvey's office, working by the light of a single lamp, was because there was more room to spread out - and the couch was way better than his stupid desk chair.
Yeah, that's all it was.
After a minute, Mike pushed himself off the couch and wandered over to where Harvey kept his stash of top-shelf liquor. Mike wasn't so much interested in the grandeur of flavor Harvey enjoyed; he just needed a damn drink. Pouring two fingers of whatever was closest in a glass; Mike dropped down on the couch again and took a sip.
"Ugh, Scotch," he made a face as the amber liquid burned its way down.
He stretched his legs out before him and closed his eyes, glass still clutched in his right hand. In the darkened silence of the empty office, the stray thoughts Mike had worked so hard to ignore all week suddenly flooded his subconscious again. Emotions tumbled over each other before finally settling down into one over-arching theme.
He was disappointed.
Mike brutally analyzed this feeling as he finished his glass. He was disappointed that Harvey didn't take him along to D.C. He'd wanted to go (who doesn't want to fly in a G6 private jet?) but it was more than that.
He felt… unimportant. Harvey obviously didn't need his help, didn't need Mike along to do anything - he could get along just fine without his puppy.
He grimaced in distaste at the bitterness that bubbled up in him at that word. He hated the way Louis had called him a puppy, it was malicious and cutting, meant to humiliate and degrade Mike in front of the other associates. When Harvey called him a puppy, his puppy, there was always an undercurrent of something else. Affection, pride, exasperated fondness; it was more a term of endearment than anything else, and Mike hadn't minded, he'd seen enough parallels himself to concede the point. Louis - helped along by his cronies - had been able to find the self-doubt Mike had tried so hard to bury and rip it out of him, laying it bare for everyone to see and exploit. He knew realistically that Harvey couldn't have known what would happen, yet the small, selfish, childish part of him whispered in his mind that Harvey should have known, should have foreseen it; hell, maybe he'd figured it might happen but didn't care enough to prevent it?
"This sucks," Mike muttered into his empty glass.
"That better not have been my Macallan," a voice said from the doorway.
Mike looked up to see Harvey leaning against the door, regarding him curiously.
"No idea, tastes like how lighter fluid smells though," Mike said, eyeing the glass.
"Didn't stop you from slurping it down," Harvey retorted, crossing over to where Mike was slumped on the couch.
"Beggars can't be choosers," Mike muttered. Harvey stepped gracefully over his associate's splayed legs as he unbuttoned his suit jacket and settled next to him on the couch.
"What are you doing here Harvey?" Mike asked, as if it just occurred to him that this was an odd time of the night for them to be meeting.
"I was looking for you. I had a feeling you might end up back here," Harvey said evenly.
"I had some work to do," Mike gestured at the pile of assorted files on the coffee table.
"Yes, you looked very productive draining that glass a minute ago," Harvey deadpanned.
"Whatever - what do you want? If it was just to give me shit, surely you could do that Monday morning," Mike stated as he set the glass on the polished surface of the coffee table.
"I could - and I probably will - but I came here tonight to find out what's going on with you," Harvey stated.
"What? There isn't anything going on with me," Mike lied.
"Cut the bullshit, Mike, I can read you from a block away. I know when something's up with you, and I want to know what it is," Harvey's voice was low and firm.
Mike didn't meet his eyes. "It's nothing, Harvey – "
"What happened with Louis?"
"Why do you assume something happened with Louis?"
"Because he's an ass, and I know how much he delights in messing with you."
"So what? He's been that way since I started here," Mike was squirming slightly under the intensity of Harvey's gaze on the top of his head.
"You're upset. He upset you, and I want to know what was said."
"Just drop it, Harvey."
"Hell no, I won't drop it. Tell me, Mike."
"It doesn't matter - "
"Don't worry about it."
"Michael," Harvey said in That Tone. The one that made Mike feel like he was about 10 years-old again. He hated when Harvey used That Tone, because it made doing anything but what Harvey wanted almost impossible. His mouth started talking before his brain could even register what was happening.
"Louis said you left me here because you don't really need me. He's probably right – you're Harvey Specter, you don't need anyone," Mike's words had trickled off into an almost inaudible whisper. The hand that collided with the back of his head a second later landed hard enough to jerk him forward several inches. Stunned, Mike whirled around to stare at Harvey, who was glaring at him with a thoroughly annoyed look on his face. He poked Mike in the chest with a forefinger.
"If you ever agree with something Louis says about you again, I will fire your ass. Louis is a bottom-feeding, ass-kissing sycophant that needs his ass kicked; a gift, by the way, which I'm going to bestow upon him on Monday," Harvey said darkly. Mike grinned a little, some of the tension leaving his body. Harvey continued.
"Look, kid, I thought it was best to leave you here to work on that Semtech case because we've got trial on Monday and I wanted that freakish brain of yours working on checking for loopholes. But you're not going to learn from the best if you're not watching the best in action. From now on you're going with me so I can keep your usual laziness to a minimum," Harvey declared.
Mike had to swallow down a laugh. He could speak fluent Harvey by now and knew what the older man was trying to tell him.
I'm sorry I left you, you matter to me.
"I'm not lazy, you just have unreasonable expectations," Mike said cheekily.
"Damn right I do," Harvey regarded Mike silently for a moment and before the younger man could say anything, Harvey spoke again, his voice quiet.
"Mike, you're right, I don't need anyone."
Mike held his breath, waiting.
"But I chose you. I could have had anyone or no one at all, but some dumb kid wandered into my job interview with a suitcase full of pot and a damn good story and I decided, what the hell? I'll take a chance," here the hand that had swatted him moments earlier was giving his knee an affectionate squeeze as their eyes met.
"I've never regretted choosing you. If anything; I think I got the better end of the deal, pup."
In that one statement, Harvey swept away all of Mike's self-doubt and solidified his trust and respect for Harvey as his mentor and, even more importantly, as his friend. Mike had thrown a wrench in Harvey's seemingly perfect life, and even with all the hassle that comes with a puppy, Harvey didn't want it any other way.
After a good deal of throat clearing and surreptitious swiping of suddenly over-bright eyes, Mike demanded that Harvey recount everything he said and did in D.C.
Settling into the tale, Harvey and Mike talked, argued and laughed in the darkened office long into the night.