Inspired by this anonymous prompt on the Suits meme: "I'd like to read a universe where [Harvey and Mike] are just angry teenagers meeting each other at detention and angry therapy school groups. Maybe it can be a 5 + 1, I don't know. I just want a really angry!AU. I want them hating everything, destroying things, fighting with other guys at school and, somehow, becoming friends."
I didn't exactly deliver on that premise, but it did start me thinking.
(This story has been edited from its original posting on the meme.)
Mike hadn't thrown the first punch.
What he had done was say the first insult, and the second, and the third, and really just about every horrible thing that could possibly be said about Trevor's mother had come spilling of Mike's mouth. He'd been provoked, really, because even though it had sounded nice, Mike knew when Trevor was making fun of him, and there was no way Mike was going to stand idly by and let Trevor insult his mother's good name like that. He'd assumed the teachers would take his side and call it righteous self defense; but Mike had definitely thrown the second punch, and since the school generally frowned on violence in its halls he had been sentenced to a week's worth of lunch detentions.
He really hated detention. It was just a stupid class full of stupid people who couldn't be trusted to be civil when the teachers weren't watching, and Mike resented every second he was forced to spend with them. He'd rather be back outside, where the students were still stupid and untrustworthy but at least they weren't in class.
He also hated the stupid desk they made him sit at, with its stupid broken leg that caused it to rattle, and the stupid piece of gum stuck to the underside, not to mention the incredibly stupid graffiti carved into the side. 'Specter rules'? Lame.
So Mike spent the next week carefully scratching out the word 'rules' and replacing it with 'blows.'
Mike hadn't actually done anything wrong.
It was like that when he got there, honest!
But the teachers had decided that someone had to take the blame for taking a sledgehammer to Trevor's locker, and apparently being caught holding said sledgehammer at the scene made Mike the prime suspect, so he was forced to spend the next three Saturdays scraping gum off of the stairs.
Trevor had totally deserved it, anyway.
"Hey, my dad and I are going camping next weekend. Wanna come?" he'd asked that morning.
Mike knew no one would corroborate his story, but he was sure there had been a definite tone of mocking to it.
Because Mike didn't have a dad anymore.
So it was that he found himself slacking off on the stairs, idly picking at the old black wads of chewing gum with the (stupid) scraper they'd given him, and wondering why on earth he even bothered. No one would ever appreciate him, his life was meaningless, and stupid Trevor still had his deadbeat dad while Mike would never even get a chance to tell off his own for being so worthless.
He'd just about finished (not) doing his work when he noticed the picture painted in old gum underneath the upper railing. It was in a pretty difficult location to see, which was probably why no one had overwritten it in the (ten?) years since its creation. Mike was both disgusted and fascinated by how rarely this school was cleaned.
But he had leaned out and sidled under the railing to get a tiny bit of shade from the sun, and he found it: the constellation Orion, every star lovingly detailed with tiny bits of now-black gum, along with a surprisingly graphic penis.
Mike actually chuckled a bit when he saw it, before he got angry. Why should that be funny? The Orion was a hidden work of art, but the moron who'd been brilliant enough to create it had also decided to deface it with this disgusting display. Whatever admiration Mike might have had for this artist was instantly replaced by revulsion.
There was a signature (also in gum) beneath it: HS.
Those were stupid initials.
Mike made sure to scrape off every last piece of gum that made up the Orion, and left the initials to proudly mark what remained of their juvenile artwork.
Mike hadn't meant to do it.
He'd actually been trying to do his homework for once, because his Gram had just looked so sad after that last call from the principal, but math was stupid, and economics even more so, and Mike had had no choice but to turn to his government textbook for anything resembling sense.
But it turned out that he'd lent it to Trevor that morning to study during his camping trip (since Mike hadn't planned on doing his homework anyway), and while Mike had the first 102 pages memorized, he hadn't yet bothered to take a look at what remained. So it was Trevor's fault, really, that Mike had to go back to the school library to borrow another copy.
There was only one copy that the librarian could find for him. For all that it was at least ten years old, it was in surprisingly good condition; it was, unfortunately, an older edition than Mike was used to, so he had to waste precious minutes of his life scanning through the first pages again to make sure nothing too significant had changed.
He got to page 26 before he saw it.
Some previous owner had gone through the book (the entire book) and corrected it.
Mike was all for fixing typos in his own textbooks—his father had called it disrespectful, but, well, he wasn't here anymore, was he?—but this was different. The asshole who'd destroyed this book had made marks in red pen, noting loopholes in the laws and pointing out famous court cases that disagreed with the view the book presented. And yeah, that was great and all, but it just reeked of showing off, and it completely obscured the text Mike desperately needed to see.
He flipped to the inside cover to find the name of the culprit: 'Harvey.'
What a stupid name.
So you really couldn't blame him for ripping out the pages and setting them on fire in the trash can. Those pages had been worthless anyway.
Mike hadn't wanted to do it.
He'd been trying, really, because as much as it hurt him, he knew it hurt his grandmother more. And he didn't want to let her down, not when she needed him to be there for her; but the problem was that as much as he loved her, she wasn't what he needed. What Mike needed was his parents again, but he was never going to have that, and his grandmother served as a constant reminder of the fact that they were just each others' replacements for the pieces missing in their lives.
And Mike really didn't want to be his father's replacement.
So he'd been laying low for the last week, and things had been looking up. He'd been raising his hand in class, he'd started doing his homework again, and he'd even resumed having lunch with Trevor. And what do you know, it was actually kind of nice. For the first time since he'd moved in with Gram, things were starting to feel normal.
And when Mrs. Freedman, his ancient English teacher, had started talking about how they were going to see some production of Hamlet, Mike had actually felt a little excited. But when she started passing out the permission slips and talking about how they needed to get their parents to sign them, Mike froze. Some tiny, rational part of his brain told him that she hadn't meant to hurt him with it, that really she was just saying it as a simple reminder to have their parents or legal guardian sign, but that voice was rapidly drowned out by thoughts of how his mother would have volunteered as a chaperone because she loved Shakespeare so much, and how his father would have signed the permission slip and grumbled about contributing bus fare; only now they never would because everyone died in the end of Hamlet and it was a horrible play and why the hell would anyone want to waste time to go see it?
He'd had two options at that point: cry, or rage.
And he hadn't wanted to cry.
So he'd ended up in detention (again), stuck at school the following Wednesday while the rest of his class had been bussed off to some stupid theatre to see some stupid play. Mrs. Freedman had told him scornfully that maybe when he learned to control his temper and apologize he could join the rest of them, but he'd responded with some rather clever (he thought) and obscure (he knew) words that summed up exactly how he felt on the matter, and refused to cooperate.
Fortunately, Mrs. Freedman did not know what 'quim' meant, and his detention was more for suspected wrongdoing than for any actual foul play.
Mike was sitting quietly (for once) in detention, trying not to feel too bitter as he read his English homework under the watchful eye of a jaded math teacher. He'd borrowed an old copy of Hamlet off of the library shelves surrounding them, and was perusing the notes scrawled in the margins.
The handwriting looked oddly familiar.
Mike had read the play before, but these notes were a treasure. They provided a running commentary on the psyche of their creator, casting the students of yesteryear in different roles according to their relative stupidity and sketching out how a good lawyer could have solved everyone's problems without all that silly death.
What really made his day, though, was finding a crude sketch in the back of the book (and really, that art style looked oddly familiar, too) that depicted a slightly-younger-but-still-aged Mrs. Freedman, along with one delightful caption: 'What a bitch.'
Mike hadn't wanted to go.
Apparently, however, this order came direct from the principal herself, and so could not be ignored. Worse still, his grandmother had put her foot down, and told him that if he didn't visit the school psychologist, she wasn't going to let him see Trevor ever again.
Mike half suspected that his Gram was using that threat to create some sort of no-lose situation for herself, and he was more than ready to call her bluff and let her face the full force of his resentment; but since Trevor was his only access to quality weed, he decided that therapy was the lesser of two evils and, after a two-day tantrum, acceded to her demands.
The school shrink wasn't actually that bad, Mike learned. He was a patient and surprisingly tall man who listened calmly and never once asked "How does that make you feel?" Once Mike was thoroughly convinced he wasn't an axe murderer or (much of) a quack, he decided to actually start showing up on time for his sessions.
"You seem less stressed today," the psychologist observed after several weeks of sullen silence had dissolved into casual chats.
"I've been trying to read more," Mike said honestly. "It's a good distraction." He'd found a copy of Death of a Salesman with notes in that same handwriting, and spent a pretty entertaining hour poring over them. (Apparently Willy Loman was a schizophrenic, and someone should have been sued for better healthcare.)
"You like to read?"
Mike nodded. "Yeah. And I never forget anything, so I can always just go back to reading it when I start to feel angry."
"Does that still happen a lot?"
Mike hesitated. "Yes," he admitted. "But not as much as it used to. It kind of… fades. Over time. Like, I know I'll never get them back," he said in small voice, "But sometimes I can pretend I don't miss them."
The other man nodded sagely. "It's never an easy thing, to cope with loss," he said. "Especially when you're a smart kid, because you know how you should deal with it, but that just makes it harder to follow through."
When Mike didn't say anything, he continued. "You know, you remind me a lot of this one student I had, oh, about ten years ago. He was a promising baseball star, talent scouts from all over coming to see him play. Could have been big. But then he injured his shoulder right before the state championship, and he lost his big chance." He fixed Mike with a steady gaze. "It's not the same, I know. But he lost something too, and he was just as angry. And he took it out on everyone."
"Sounds like a loser," Mike said.
The shrink shook his head. "My point is, Mike, that there are a plenty of reasons for people to get angry, and if that's all you're looking for, then that's all you're going to find. But that kid I was talking about? He moved on, went to college, studied law, because he decided to find a reason not to be so mad. He learned that he didn't need to feel so angry all the time."
"You mean he stopped caring."
The psychologist sighed. "Is that what you think, Mike? That you have to stop caring in order to get past the pain?"
Mike really did think so. Wasn't that how it worked? "I don't want to be like that kid," he said quietly. "I don't want it to stop hurting. I'd rather just be angry all the time than have it stop."
The psychologist smiled sadly. "It's never going to stop hurting," he said. "It'll just get easier to ignore. But that doesn't mean you've stopped caring."
"But what if I forget them?" he asked. "What if I get so used to ignoring it that I forget what it's like to miss them?"
The shrink actually rolled his eyes before he spoke. "Mike," he said, as though it were obvious, "I thought you never forgot anything."
A month ago, Mike would have bristled at that comment, trying to use the anger as a shield.
But today, he looked his shrink in the eye, and for the first time in a long time, he laughed.