WARNINGS: Needles and cancer.

Disclaimer: There would be far more explanation of Mike's no doubt tragic past if I was in charge. And waaaaaay more hugging too. :D

Credit to Lu for the title which is way better than what I was coming up with. Also for flailing and telling me I'm not a total dork. (Just part of one, apparently. :P)

Written for a prompt by msmaddiesciuto on suits_meme on LJ:

Mike has an extreme case of Trypanophobia (needle phobia). Then one day he gets in a situation where he needs it. Anasthisa at dentist/got a cut and need a tetanus shot/ flu shot/something something.

Cue a huge freak out and BAMF!Donna or BAMF!Harvey stepping in to comfort Mike.

(Gen, het or slash is up to author)


*sips cocoa and munches a cookie* Phobic!Mike + compassionate!Harvey + protective!Donna is apparently my kink. Good to know.

Mike started up his computer and sipped his coffee as he waited for it to load. He logged in, his bagel hanging from his mouth like a dog with a toy, then bit off the chunk and chewed.

He leaned back in his chair and watched, drinking coffee and finishing breakfast, as the various programs auto-started, reaching over to grab the mouse and move to the e-mail application when it was ready.

He skimmed the bold subjects of new messages, mentally filing them in order of importance until he came to one that made him stop cold.

He sat forward and nearly spit out his coffee as the bright red and black words stared back at him.

Oh no. Nononononono. This was bad. This was so bad. Shit.

He looked around, as though he was expecting someone to pounce on him at any moment. There was no one there and that was good. What was not good was that he couldn't just pretend he hadn't gotten the message.

His skin crawled and sweat beaded on his forehead and he felt a cold chill race down his spine just thinking about it. To actually endure it? He shuddered.

Then he blew out a careful breath and stood. It was okay. It was all fine and cool and nothing was wrong.

He would just go home and pretend he had never been here and call in sick and—

"Oh good, you're here early."

Mike's face scrunched up and he barely bit back the groan of annoyance. He quickly cleared his face though when Harvey came around to where he could see Mike, affecting an expression of attentive interest.

"We need to go over the merger documentation before— Is something wrong?" Harvey was staring at him like he'd just noticed Mike had food on his face.

Oh if only.

"No?" Mike said. "I mean, no. Nothing's wrong. Why... why do you think something's wrong?"

"You're all..." He waved a hand to indicate Mike's face. "Pale. Are you sick?"

Mike nodded. "Yes. I... actually, I am. I think... maybe flu?" He shrugged and thought about coughing, but he didn't want to oversell it.

Harvey was still scrutinizing him. "You were fine last night." And he had been when they left at almost midnight. Damn.

"Could be a twenty-four hour bug. Showed up while I was sleeping?" Harvey was looking doubtful and Mike opened his mouth to suggest maybe it was something he ate and even if he wasn't contagious he could very well be sick enough to puke at any second and that wouldn't go over well with a client, would it now?

But Harvey just turned and walked away, back toward his office.

Mike watched until he was out of hearing range, then sighed in relief and started to pack up his bag.

He was just about to loop the strap over his head when he heard, "Where do you think you're going?"

Mike turned and gestured with his thumb in the direction of the elevator. "I, um... home?" he said, Harvey's stern look turning it from a statement into a question.

Harvey face now said he was being ridiculous and he held up a finger from which dangled... a face mask.


"Oh. Hey. That's... Um." He stared at the mask. "That's handy. Where did you even—"

"First aid closet in the associate's kitchen."

"We have a whole closet for first aid?" Mike said in confusion. How had he never noticed that? And what kind of first aid did they expect the associates to need that required that much space for storage?

Harvey drew his attention back when he said, "You think associates can take off that much time when they get the flu?" He snorted. "None of you would get the shots so you could have a vacation every winter. This way you get all the joy of saving up your sick days for when you become a partner and yet you don't spread any of your germs in the meantime."

"How... compassionate of you."

Harvey shook his head with a laugh. "We're not paid to be compassionate, Rookie. Now, are you going to throw up?"

"Maybe?" Mike said, wondering if that would even matter. Logic said that since Harvey had asked it must have some bearing on his potential to go home.

Harvey flicked the mask at him and said, "Make sure it's not on the clients. And until then, we have work to do. Let's go."

Unfortunately, logic and Harvey Specter were more like friends with benefits. They interacted—usually just to use each other for their own needs—but they were by no means in an exclusive relationship and were just as content to go their separate ways.

Mike sighed and let his bag slide down to the ground again. He picked up the mask and huffed in annoyance, then followed Harvey.

As he struggled to get the strap just right so it was comfortable, he realized that this might actually be the best solution.

After all, he couldn't give blood if he had the flu, could he? Behind his mask he grinned widely, grateful that it concealed his expression.


Donna entered the office with a cup of coffee in hand but stopped when she caught sight of Mike in his mask.

"Don't get any closer to me and I won't have to demonstrate my proficiency in Krav Maga, understood?"

Harvey snorted a laugh and kept writing, then switched to typing.

Mike frowned. "I have a mask," he said, pointing. And he wasn't sick, but that wasn't really important at the moment, now was it?

Donna was completely serious when she said, "I don't care. I will lay your skinny ass out."

"He's not leaving the office unless he has to puke," Harvey said from his desk. "And then you should probably let him go."

Donna's lip curled and she retreated to her desk.

Mike laughed and looked down at his paperwork. He jerked back and looked up a few moments later when he heard a hiss and felt the cool mist of an aerosol being sprayed on him.

"The power of Lysol compels thee!" she said, waving her ridiculously large can back and forth for one more pass before nodding and leaving again, closing the door behind her.

Mike just stared, blinking and waving a hand to dispel the cloud of disinfectant.

"So. Donna's a bit of a germophobe," he said after a moment, looking at his paperwork, now liberally speckled with tiny dots of moisture. It wasn't enough to ruin them, but it did mean he'd have to wait to write anything or risk it smearing.

Harvey was smirking as he signed something with a flourish. "You might say that."

"I don't like being sick," came her voice over the intercom, her eyes burning through the glass to nail Mike. "That's not a crime."

"No, but if you really don't like being sick then you should know that regular exposure to a broad spectrum of bacteria and viruses in small doses is more effective than attempting to avoid them through disinfectant because your immune system gradually builds up stronger defenses."

Donna's expression didn't relent. "I'm not listening to you. You're sick."

Mike rolled his eyes, but gave up. "Okay. Fine. Whatever."

"Mike, don't breathe on Donna. Donna, stop spraying the puppy. I'll take him to get his shots this weekend, okay?"

Every muscle in Mike's body clenched at the very suggestion, but neither of them seemed to notice and he was able to surreptitiously do some slow breaths behind his mask.

"You were supposed to do that when you first got him. You suck at pet ownership."

Mike put all of the indignation he could into his voice to cover up the fear when he said, "I'm not actually a puppy."

"No barking," Harvey said absently. "Bad puppy."

Mike sighed and shook his head, returning to his work and ignoring both of them on the grounds that they were ridiculous and maybe they would stop talking about it if they didn't have encouragement.


The clients came and the merger was discussed and then they left again and somehow Mike had managed to forget about the blood drive, despite wearing a mask to keep him from having to participate.

Until Louis came in, jacket off and right sleeve rolled up, self-adhesive gauze tape securing a cotton ball to the inside of his elbow. He was sipping orange juice from a plastic cup and had an absolutely huge cookie in his hand.

"When did they start instituting snack time," Mike asked, "and where does one go to get it?"

Louis gave him a dirty look and said, "You can't have one." Then he turned to Harvey. "Jessica is wondering where you are."

Mike's jaw dropping in indignation wasn't visible with the mask on, but it must have still shown on his face because Harvey said, "You have to donate blood. You get cookies and orange juice to help keep your blood sugar from dropping too low. I'll be there in a few minutes, Louis."

Oh. Right.

Damn it.

"Better hurry up, the snickerdoodles are almost gone."

"Then I'll have something else," Harvey said with a roll of his eyes. He waved a hand. "Goodbye."

Louis left, smirking at Mike as he took another bite of his cookie, and Mike's mouth closed on a scowl.

Asshole. Though even if he wasn't 'sick', he still wouldn't want a cookie that bad.

Except... "The Red Cross has gotten nicer since I was in high school," he said with a frown.

"What?" Harvey said as he continued typing something into his computer.

"They came and did a blood drive for all the seniors and they had cookies, but they were tiny and gross. Trevor swiped a handful and we used them as missiles to throw at each other. I think someone got a black eye and had to go to the hospital."

Harvey smirked. "The Red Cross didn't provide those. Jessica buys the cookies and juice."

Oh. Well that made sense.

Still wasn't worth it, though. Mike went back to his work.

Harvey finished his report and closed the document, then stood. He shrugged into his jacket and said, "Come on."

"Huh?" Mike said, looking up. "Come where?" he asked.

"To the conference room downstairs."

"Where they're doing the blood drive?" Mike tried to keep his voice from rising, but he wasn't sure if he was successful when Harvey gave him a narrow-eyed look.

"You have to leave at some point anyway and Donna's not here right now. Might as well go while you can or she'll make you run a Lysol gauntlet."

Mike's face screwed up in disgust and he quickly gathered his things.

When he tried to split off from Harvey to go to his desk, he had just enough time to put down the files before Harvey was waving and chivvying him along again.

"Whoa! What— Harvey? Where are we going?" he asked as he was herded into the elevator.

"To the conference room," Harvey said. "Does being sick have that much of an effect on your memory?"

Mike scowled and Harvey smirked as the doors slid closed.


Mike felt like he stepped out of the elevator into a freezer. He knew that it was just him and the fact that he knew he was getting closer to the dreaded room, that it wasn't actually colder down here, but that didn't stop him from shivering slightly.

"So explain to me again why I'm here?" Mike said, eying the small clusters of people who were chatting and eating cookies. Had the entire firm taken the morning off for this? What the hell was wrong with them? "I'm sick. I shouldn't be here—"

"Harvey, I see you made it down," Jessica said. Then she looked at Mike and a wrinkle creased the line between her eyes. "What's wrong with your associate?"

"Flu," Harvey said with a small shrug that said, Associates. What can you do?

Mike tried smiling wanly, but realized too late that Jessica couldn't see that.

"I see." She shook it off like an annoying fly and said, "I asked them to save a peanut butter cookie for you."

"Thanks," Harvey said with a smile. She nodded and headed off to where someone was calling her name.

"This way," Harvey said and led the way closer to the conference room.

Mike swallowed and looked around at the crowded hall, wondering if he could just walk away...


Mike gritted his teeth and followed.

"Seriously," he asked when he'd caught up. "Why am I here? I can't donate blood."

"You're not here to donate blood," Harvey said. He led the way past the door into the first conference room where the Red Cross had set up their operation. Mike tried to avert his gaze but it was like a train wreck.

He was glad that the room was full enough that people were lining the glass walls while they waited though. It kept him from seeing anything he didn't want to see.

Not that just knowing what was going on wasn't freaking him out enough. He was consciously controlling his breathing to try and stave off the lightheadedness and he wasn't sure how much longer that would work.

"This way," Harvey said and opened the door. Mike forced his gaze from the conference room just as Harvey said, "It just so happens this group is headed to a clinic next to distribute flu treatments. I arranged for you to— Mike?"

The last thing Mike saw was the glint of light on a sharp silver point and then the everything faded to grey on the way to complete black. He never even felt it when he hit the floor.


A sharp smell assaulted his nose and Mike jerked and tried to push away just as an indignant voice said, "—course I had no idea or I wouldn't have dragged him down here!" A heartfelt—and exasperated—profanity followed.

Mike coughed and swiped a hand in the general area of his nose to get rid of whatever it was that had woken him up and looked around in confusion.

A nurse in scrubs was recapping a bottle and watching him closely. "How are you feeling?"

"She means besides 'likes a total pussy', by the way," Harvey said and Mike's eyes rolled up to see his boss' upside down face. He realized after a moment that it was Harvey's legs and arms that were keeping Mike from laying flat on the ground.

"What...?" He realized what had happened and pushed to try and sit up.

"Whoa!" the nurse said and put a hand on his chest. Harvey also tightened his grip on Mike's arms and scowled.

"Stop it. You just fainted."

Mike groaned.



"Anyone see it?" Harvey finished with a roll of his eyes. "No. Just everyone in the immediate vicinity. So most of the firm. Including all of the senior partners. But no. No one saw it. "

Mike closed his eyes and wished for unconsciousness to return.

"Not going to happen," Harvey said.

The sound of the door opening drew everyone's attention to it and they saw Donna slip inside.

"How is—" She realized he was awake and her concerned expression melted into anger. "You are in so much trouble, mister," she said, pointing at him.

"I... But I—" He realized his mask was gone. "Oh shit." He covered his face with his hand.

"You lied to me," she said.

He swallowed. "I can explain—"

"You pretended you were sick."

He dropped his hand. "I didn't mean—"

"And then you went and fainted and made me think you were about to die."

Mike waited while she glared.

"Are... you done?"

"Ohhhh no. I'm just getting started with you, kid."

Harvey rolled his eyes and said, "Lecture him later. Can we sit him up now?"

The nurse was watching this whole thing play out with a fair amount of amusement. "Whenever he feels ready," she said.

"Mike?" Harvey said, but it wasn't really a question.

"Yeah. I'm— Ow!" he said when Harvey's arm brushed the back of his head in the process of rising to his feet and pulling Mike up with him.

When he was fully upright, Mike reached a cautious hand back to explore and find the source of the pain now that he was aware of it. A gauze pad was taped into place over a portion of his hair and Mike hissed at the spike of pain touching it caused.

Harvey slapped his hand away. "Don't touch that."

"What is it?"

"A bandage to keep you from bleeding all over because you just had to hit a chair when you went down."

Mike swallowed back another groan of embarrassment.

"No concussion though," the nurse said. "You were lucky."

Mike shot her an incredulous glare.

"You're still making him get the shot, right?" Donna said, arms folded over her chest.

"Yeah," Harvey said, copying her pose.

"What?" Mike said, backing away from them both, hands out to ward them off. "I'm not actually sick, remember?"

Donna smiled. It was not a comforting gesture. "You're getting the vaccine, not the treatment. This way you won't get sick."

"But... Can't I—"

"Get it another time?" Harvey said. "No. Because if this experience is any indication, you won't even think of actually going and getting it."

"But I don't need it! I'm very healthy and I—" The rest of his protest was choked off as he saw the nurse pull out another—thankfully still capped—hypodermic and a small vial. His legs gave out on him and he would have gone down again if not for Harvey and Donna leaping forward and grabbing his arms. They pulled him forward and sat him on a chair.

"Breathe, Mike," Donna said.

Mike thought she might not sound as angry anymore, but his ears were ringing a little and he wasn't sure if that was distorting her voice at all.

"It's just a tiny needle," Harvey said. "How can you be that scared of it?"

Mike made an incoherent sound of distress when the cap came off and the needle plunged through the rubber of the bottle's cap. His vision greyed, but he sucked in a breath and held onto consciousness with both hands.

That took a lot of his concentration though and depleted it from other things like stifling the noises he was making. He must have started really embarrassing himself with panic because Donna shifted behind him to hold his shoulders while Harvey came in front and blocked the view of the needle.

Mike could feel his heart slow down just a little, but not much more because he knew the needle was still there.

He swallowed and tried to calm himself but it wasn't really working. Any second now the needle was going to come back and— and—

Harvey half turned and held out a hand to the nurse. "Hold on." Then he faced Mike again.

Mike blinked and realized that, yeah, Harvey's face was like two inches away from his own. Warmth on either side of Mike's neck as well as the inability to move his head clued him into the fact that Harvey was holding his head in place, hands bracketing his jaw.

"Mike," Harvey said. "I want you to breathe with me, okay?" He inhaled noisily and then exhaled the same, the warmth of his breath washing over Mike along with the scent of Harvey's preferred blend of coffee, a slight hint of Irish crème making it minty.

Harvey's eyes locked onto Mike's and he ordered, "Breathe."

Mike swallowed and tried to mimic Harvey's example, though his respirations were audibly shaky.

"That's it," Harvey encouraged. "You're doing great, Mike. Just keep breathing."

And even though Mike felt ridiculous and embarrassed as hell he was really glad that Harvey and Donna—who was breathing in sync with them as well and murmuring encouragement in between—were there.

He could feel his pulse slowing, his heart not pounding quite so painfully in his chest, and the alternating waves of cold and nausea that had been plaguing him since before he collapsed were decreasing in frequency and intensity.

"Good boy," Harvey praised and Mike laughed shakily.

Harvey smiled and said, "What?"

"Do I get a treat after this?"

Donna squeezed his shoulders and Harvey smirked and bobbed his head to the side. "For breathing? No. Your reward for that is not passing out again. But if you let the nurse give you the shot, yeah, sure. I'll even let you pick what it is."

Mike's heart sped up again and Harvey, hand pressed to his carotid, could certainly feel it. And then— Oh hell.

Mike squeezed his eyes shut as his cheeks flamed hotly, drawing even more attention to the tears sliding down them.

"Shit," Harvey said and he sounded almost as shaken up as Mike felt. Clothing rustled and then, "Can you give us a minute?"

"I'll be right outside," the nurse said and left.

Mike focused on his breathing and not bursting into flames of embarrassment until he heard Harvey say, "Easy, kid. I'm right here, okay? I'm not going anywhere. Dammit."

"Mike?" Donna's voice was soft in his ear as she leaned down. "Hey. Mike."

Mike cleared his throat and then again, and said, "I'm sorry."

"What the hell for?" Mike could practically hear the scowl in Harvey's words.

Mike laughed bitterly and opened his eyes. "For being a pussy."

Harvey sighed and then looked Mike straight in the eye and said, "You're not."

Mike quirked a half grin and said, "Harvey, I fainted at the sight of a needle and now I'm c—" He had to swallow a lump of shame before he could continue. "Now I'm crying because of one and I can't even see it this time. Tell me how, exactly, this is not being a pussy."

Harvey's voice was firm when he said, "Having a phobia doesn't make you a pussy."

"But you yourself said—"

"I was being an asshole, okay? Geeze, kid, you think you'd have learned by now that's kind of my thing. Doesn't mean I'm always right either." Mike's lips twitched just a little and Harvey said, "Most of the time I am. Almost all of the time, in fact. But statistically speaking, I have to be wrong every once in a great while."

Mike snorted and Donna rubbed his shoulder with one hand.

After another few seconds of scrutiny, Harvey straightened and paced away a step before leaning against the conference table that filled the center of the room. He looked at Donna as if to check with her, then back at Mike.

"Okay, let's have it."

"Have what?" Mike asked, reaching up and wiping at his eyes. He sniffed mightily and cleared his throat, repressing the hell out any further tears that were thinking of surfacing.

"The reason for this," Harvey said, waving a hand.

Mike felt the blood drain from his face. He literally felt it rush down out of his head and the resulting dizzy spell would have probably left him on the floor—again—if not for Donna's restraining hands.

Harvey cursed and also moved forward again, ready to catch him if need be.

"Sorry," Mike apologized. "Sorry."

"Stop apologizing," Harvey said.

"Sorry," Mike said, then ducked his head when he realized what he'd done.

Harvey rolled his eyes and started pacing again.

"Well at least now I know that I never have to worry about you graduating to heroin..." Harvey muttered.

And that was just... Mike started laughing, and it was wrong. It wasn't amusement, it was hysteria and he pressed a shaking hand to his mouth to stop it.

Harvey was crouching down in front of him, his eyes flicking back and forth as he tried to understand what was going on with his normally sanguine associate.

"Needles took my mom," Mike blurted out. His brain didn't get the message that he was goingto do that until it was already done and his eyes widened in shock and disbelief and horror.

Harvey's eyes went a little wide with surprise too.

But his voice was more steady when he said, "Okay." A beat passed and his brow furrowed. "How?"

Mike didn't want to talk anymore, but he had a feeling that Harvey wasn't going to let this go and there was a lingering suspicion like he thought that Mike meant needles filled with illegal drugs, like that was where Mike had learned that it was okay to do things like that, and he just couldn't let that lie persist.

Besides he really just wanted to get back to his desk and bury himself in work, preferably something that required a lot of research and cross-referencing and decoding of legalese and cooperating was probably his best bet for achieving that goal, so he said, "Cancer. My m-mom... My mom had cancer."

Donna made a quiet sound of sympathy and distress and Harvey's expression softened. One of his hands came to rest on the back of Mike's neck, squeezing gently, and he said, "I'm sorry."

Mike laughed again, shakily, and said, "Not nearly as sorry as my dad. He... He stuck with my mom through it all. He took her to her treatments and when it went into remission he planned this big party and invited the whole neighborhood and—"

Mike swallowed and closed his eyes. Saying it all at once would be easier than waiting for the questions, so he just started talking.

"When it came back he was just as determined to make it go away again. But he... His will for it to leave wasn't enough. She— She went through all the treatments again, the chemotherapy that was almost worse than the cancer itself the way it left her exhausted and sick and in pain... She— She told me once, when she thought I was asleep, that she was ready to give up. She wasn't going to win and she would rather not spend her last few months or weeks or days in a hospital feeling like crap, but my dad... Every time she brought it up he insisted that she couldn't give up, that she had to keep fighting, dammit. So she did. For him. Because he couldn't bear to just stand by and watch her die."

Mike sniffed and said, "Fuck," and wiped at the fresh tears that refused to listen to him. He could sympathize with his father in that moment because the cancer had refused to listen too.

"He had to anyway. She held on as long as she could, but eventually the cancer won and she... she passed away. My dad wasn't there. He was talking with her doctor about what else could be done. I was, though. I was sitting there on the bed with her. She could hardly move, but she liked it when I would sit with her. She'd have the nurse wrap her arm around me and we'd just stay there. She'd sing to me when she felt strong enough."

He had to steel himself before he could say the next part.

"She didn't feel strong enough that day, but she sang to me anyway. I— For years I felt guilty because I asked her to sing to me and she did. I wondered if I killed her. If asking her to sing to me was just too much and that was what finally killed her."

A wave of crushing guilt swamped over him as fresh as the day he'd first had that thought—courtesy of his father, but he hadn't blamed the man for many years, believing he only spoke the truth.

"Mike—" Harvey said, but Mike waved a hand and continued speaking.

"I know. It wasn't my fault. She would have died anyway. I was a kid and—" He bit off the accusation against his father. One soul-baring confession was enough for one day.

"Anyway, she sang to me and she told me she loved me and she made me promise to look after my father... and then she just... She was gone."

He sniffed and opened his eyes and said, "I know that all the needles they used were there to save her. That every last one of them was put into her skin to make her better or to relieve her pain or whatever but... All I can think of is that I never saw her get a single shot or injection or anything before then. And it seemed like every time after I saw her get one, she got worse. Even when she was in remission for those three months, she was still getting being stuck with nee— needles for... I don't even know what. Blood draws or something most likely. The point is, I saw doctors and nurses stick her with those things for almost two years and in the end..."

He shook his head. "I know it's irrational. I know that lots of people get shots for lots of reasons and that getting an injection isn't going to kill me but..." He shrugged. "Logic doesn't always do very well when faced with a childhood fear."

Harvey sighed and pushed to his feet, pacing away and wiping a hand over his face. "I'm sorry," he finally said.

"For what?" Mike asked. "For trying to help me? For trying to be a good friend?"

Harvey shot him a sharp look at that and Mike returned a crooked smile.

"Come on, Harvey. You really think the 'I'm just your boss' schtick is going to fly right now? Harvey the Asshole Boss would have already fired me for fainting—after delivering a lecture on how if I can't handle a little shot then I'm not going to be able to handle an actual high-stakes trial on my own."

"He's got a point," Donna said. Mike involuntarily twitched at that and craned his neck to look at her in time to see her wince. "No pun intended. Sorry."

He gave her a smile to show it was okay.

"I can't actually fire you for that."

Mike shrugged one shoulder as he turned back. "You can if you couch it in just the right terms—something I don't think you'd have a problem with. And it only matters anyway if I fight you on it and I really have no desire to make this whole thing any more public than it is already."

"Well I'm not going to."

Mike's grin widened. "I know."

There was a moment of Mike grinning and Harvey glaring and then, "I'm still an asshole," Harvey said. "Just not that big of an asshole."

"Yeah, because you're an asshole who cares."

Harvey shook his head. "In any case, I'm sorry and I won't push this any further. You can go back to—"


Donna had started to lift her hands and Harvey was looking to the door and both of them froze.

Mike could understand that. He was a bit surprised by his declaration himself, but a moment's consideration said he wasn't going to retract it.

"What?" Harvey asked finally.

"I said, 'no'." He started to shrug out of his jacket and Donna released him for a moment, then helped him get the layer off and draped over his chair. That was the easy part. His hands started to shake as he loosened and removed his tie and they were going numb as he undid the buttons on his dress shirt. Donna helped again as he freed his left arm from his sleeve.

It was the last part that required an almost Herculean effort to accomplish: rolling up the short sleeve of his undershirt to expose his upper arm.

He had to grit his teeth and take a few deep breaths before he could say, "Call her back in."

Harvey had watched the entire process with a mixture of disbelief, alarm, and—most surprising and yet bolstering—pride.

"You don't have to do this," he said. "I'm not going to force—"

"I know," Mike said. "But you're wrong." His lips quirked on the one side. "Again."

Harvey's jaw clamped down and Mike shook his head. "I do have to do this, Harvey. It's an irrational fear and my method of 'dealing' with it has been to avoid it and, let's face it, that's not really a good long-term solution."

"It's not an unfounded fear," Harvey countered. "You had a traumatic experience as a child—"

"And I've let that dictate a great many things about my life since then. That's not dealing with it, that's surrendering to it. If I've learned anything from you in the last few months it's that surrender is not an option." He took a deep breath, in through his nose, out through his mouth. "So this is me not surrendering again."

Harvey barked out a laugh and wiped a hand over his mouth.

He didn't say anything, but Mike could see the pride shining even more brightly in his eyes before he turned and reached for the doorknob to call the nurse back in.

"Harvey?" Mike said before he could actually turn the handle. Harvey looked back.

Mike cursed his faltering voice as he asked, "You'll stay, right?" He looked up at Donna. "Both of you? You'll stay?"

She nodded, eyes suspiciously glossy.

Mike looked to Harvey again who had an unfamiliar look on his face, that Mike chose to interpret as fondness and maybe a little bit protective. He wondered if it was a look Harvey's younger brother had been on the receiving end of a lot.

"Yeah, I'll stay," he said, then opened the door and stuck his head out. "We're ready."


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