"I'm fine, Mike."
"Yeah, except for that bruise on your face. It's very colourful. I like it."
"You like that your boss took a punch to the face?"
"No...no! I just-" Mike smiled sheepishly. "I like colours."
"You like colours."
"That, and it makes you look cool."
"Took one for the team, and all you can say is 'cool.'"
Mike shrugged. He could not help but say it. "Well...you did ask for it."
Harvey wished he could glare but he could not do it very effectively when the left side of his face was still throbbing.
"Small price to pay, Mike. Small price to pay."
They watched as Clifford climb into a car, the happiest he had been in over a decade. He nodded to them both.
"Take care, prosecutor."
Mike lifted a hand to wave him off as Clifford finally drove away, and he found himself finishing the sentence in his head. "To his new-found freedom."
Harvey did not answer. There was a peculiar look of consternation on his face Mike found to be quite out of place on such joyous occasion.
"What is it?"
Clifford Danner. He had been just a kid the first time Harvey saw him. Scrawny, tough-talking, innocent.
Harvey unconsciously placed a hand on his stomach as a surge of overwhelming nausea came over him.
Seeing him drive away with a broad smile on his face, now a grown man-
All those years the kid spent in prison...how was Harvey going to get them back? How was he going to give them back?
Harvey looked up. "Yeah?"
Mike was a good three metres away when the altercation happened the day before but he did not remember seeing Harvey hit more than once. "Did Clifford hit you anywhere else?"
"Coz you look like someone just sucker-punched you in the gut."
"Really." Harvey managed a wan smile.
"Yeah..we got him out, that's something to be happy about, isn't it? You got him out."
A derisive shrug. "Sure. Shook my hand, slap on the back - all's forgiven right?"
Without waiting for an answer, Harvey left Mike standing dumbfounded in the middle of the road and got into the car.
"Everything okay, Harvey?"
Ray studied his friend through the rear-view mirror. It was all too familiar. Ray could not be the only one to see the signs.
"You don't look right."
Harvey cautioned Ray with a warning look, just in time for Mike who had finally climbed into the seat next to him to miss the discreet exchange of eye contact between the two.
As they drove away, Harvey caught Ray's eyes once again drawn to him. An imperceptible shake of the head, and Ray remained mute the entire journey.
But it did not reassure him one damn bit.
"Donna!" He snapped.
"Yes, Harvey?" Donna smiled sweetly.
"Any reason why you spiked my coffee this morning?" A few heads turned. Some curiouser ones continued staring until Harvey gave them the evil eye.
"Oh dear, whatever's wrong with it?" Donna sniffed the cup Harvey had so kindly shoved back under her nose, savouring the decadent aroma.
"Full Roast. Viennese." She tapped a finger against her chin. "Did you want hot chocolate and forget to tell me?"
"There's. Milk. In. My. Coffee." Harvey's eyes darkened a shade. "Why?"
"Milk, is gentle."
Harvey was stupefied. "Gentle."
When two people claimed they could communicate through their eyes, and when the two people happened to be Harvey and Donna (according to popular belief), it did not take long for the unspoken question in Harvey's viciously blank stare to cross the great divide.
"Gentle..." Donna leaned over the counter and whispered conspiratorially in Harvey's ear. "On your stomach."
Harvey gave his head an imperceptible shake. "What are you talking about?"
"Here's what we're going to do." Unconsciously Harvey found himself standing up straighter at the tone of her voice.
"We are going to pretend your ulcer is not acting up, and I'm going to pretend this-" Donna plopped a small inconspicuous-looking bottle on the counter top, "-is not the second time I have had to refill your antacid prescription this week. And you are going to pretend that this is just your daily vitamin supplement or whatever until-"
Donna delivered her last line with a sigh and less punch than usual. "You see your doctor."
"I don't have time."
As if Harvey was just going to roll over and do as she said. Not a puppy, madam.
Donna sighed again. "When do you ever?"
She slid a crisp white business card neatly underneath Harvey's fingertips. "I'm sure your gastroenterologist remembers you."
He glanced at it for a split second before turning his gaze back at his assistant, curiously angered. "An appointment. Which I don't recall having asked you to make."
Donna was calm. "A rescheduled appointment. You defaulted the last one."
"You're the one who needs to see the doctor. Not me."
"Oh?" Donna's eyebrow lifted a fraction. "Sorry, I just saw my surgeon last month and he said my implants are still good for another decade, give or take five years-"
Sliding the business card across the counter far, far away from him, Harvey's other thumb finally left his burning xiphisternum and found its way to lightly grazing Donna's left earlobe. "Your selective hearing deficit. It's getting worse."
Donna's gaze did not falter.
"I don't have time for this right now, Donna," Harvey repeated, kindly.
"Time for what?"
On harmonious reflex, Harvey covered the doctor's appointment card with his hand, and Donna palmed the bottle of antacids in hers.
"Mike. You're late."
"Yeah, yeah, what's new." Flustered, Mike shrugged his messenger bag off his shoulder but immediately caught himself. "Sorry. Harvey. Sorry. I stayed up late and my alarm didn't go off and yeah, sorry."
Mike waited for somebody to break the awkward silence.
"Forget it." Harvey sounded almost tired. "We've got work to do. Come on."
Instead of following Harvey into his office, Mike found himself joining Donna as she watched Harvey rifle through the boxes one by one.
"Is something wrong?" He could not understand the sudden look of despair on Donna's face. He studied the figure of his boss as Harvey flipped through the pages at a fervent speed. "He...didn't agree with your diamond studs?"
After a long, palpable silence-
"I've opened Pandora's Box, Ross."
Mike turned to look at her slowly. Donna appeared wistful...she could be wearing what looked like a frown, but if one were to call it a very sad smile, Mike would certainly agree. She sounded eerily similar to someone who was finally confessing to their crime after much, much thought.
"He's calling you, Mike." Her cascading red locks hid her face as Donna abruptly swivelled and buried her head in her desk. "See to what he wants."
"But what did you mean by-"
A perfectly manicured index finger ended the conversation by means of pointing Mike in the direction of one exasperated-looking Harvey.
"Clifford Danner's only the tip of the iceberg and you know it."
Mike bit his proverbial lip to refrain from pointing out how secretive Harvey had been since the whole Cameron Dennis debacle started, and no, he didn't know that but of course to say that would be lying, iceberg or no iceberg. Of course Mike knew that it would not end with Clifford, once they'd-once Harvey- started digging.
Mike sighed. At least Harvey was letting him help this time, he thought as he helped himself to a box labelled 'March - June' across the top.
"I see you have not returned these to the DA's office, as you should have done."
Mike dropped the brief he had just picked out like a hot potato when a tall shadow loomed over him.
"Jessica." Harvey idly twiddled with his cuff links, his impassive face betraying no emotion.
"You seem to have chosen to misunderstand our conversation earlier."
"I have a responsibility, Jessica."
Mike's gaze shifted from the fearsome Jessica Pearson to his mentor who had suddenly grown wary. He could tell because Harvey was using his soft, self-placating voice.
"Not anymore. It is out of your hands."
"You don't really believe that." Harvey rose to his full height slowly.
"I admire your tenacity and I have complete confidence that if left to your own devices, you will attempt to undo all his wrongdoings and that you will succeed."
"I know what you are getting at. I am not doing this on billable time. Neither am I exploiting the firm's resources!" Harvey's jaw was set in bold resistance. "So what I do, in my own time, is none of your concern."
A tense silence fell over the room, and Mike wished he could just disappear into thin air.
"I simply have to be firm with you on this, Harvey."
Jessica strode across the length of the room and stood face to face with a defiant-looking Harvey. "Your...crusade, as I will acknowledge and give due recognition, is noble. However."
"Time is money. And your time belongs to the firm." Jessica's voice was unadulterated silk. "As long as you remain an asset, you have a responsibility here. And as long as you have a responsibility here, the firm needs your undivided attention and undivided loyalties."
Harvey remained silent.
"I want them gone by tomorrow."
She lingered for a second, her hand on the door. "Let Cameron pay for his sins, Harvey."
She turned around for one last time, her eyes mournful almost. "God knows we have enough of our own."
It was a given Harvey Specter rarely responded to threats. Like Jessica, he was used to making them, not being on the receiving end of one. Mike had to give it to Harvey, he certainly knew how to play the game and beat the odds.
After Jessica left, Harvey banished him to his cubicle. Mike knew why he did it. Harvey, being Harvey, was saving him from whatever incrimination that could befall him if he played along with Harvey's personal 'crusade', as Jessica called it.
Plausible deniability applied to him too it seemed, even if Mike was waaay down the command chain.
Come lunch hour, and Harvey never left his office. He quietly let himself in, and when Harvey did not even bother to berate him for ignoring common courtesy of the simple act of knocking, Mike knew he needed to do something to help.
Harvey had been poring over the previously sealed and hidden files for hours. Mike was not sure if he had actually found anything but he could tell Harvey's mood had definitely worsened as the day progressed. With every page he read, the shadows over his sharp features darkened. With fury, with guilt? Mike could only wonder.
But Mike knew one thing for sure: the more evidence Harvey uncovered, the harder it would be for him to recover from Cameron's betrayal. A part of him wished Harvey could find what he was looking for, if only for his own absolution, even if Mike wholeheartedly believed Harvey was innocent in the whole evidence-tampering matter…but he was not entirely sure if he wanted to be there when it happened.
Harvey finally looked up and rubbed a hand over his face. "Can't stay away?"
"Brought you something." Mike dropped a paper bag on the desk.
"I thought I told you. No more doggy bags."
"You missed lunch."
"And the world is weeping," Harvey said sadistically.
Mike shrugged. "Thought I'd come in and start doing a bit of work on the merger before the meeting with our new client tomorrow. Since I figured you'd be busy and all."
"Knock yourself out. Oppressive capitalists, whatever will they do…without us…" Harvey's voice trailed off into a peculiar grunt.
Mike tentatively took a step closer towards the desk. "Harvey?"
His boss was hunched over his desk, his face ashen. A few seconds later when Harvey doubled up in obvious distress, Mike was already by his side, pushing him into his chair by the shoulder.
"Damn chilli," he ground out in pain, the fire gnawing at his stomach relentless and coming in waves, each one worse than the one before.
"The chilli was three days ago, Harvey, the heartburn should really be a thing of the past by now." Mike blinked.
Harvey rested his forehead against the edge of his desk, the glass as cool as marble. He breathed in long and deep, willing for the pain to abate.
Mike watched as perspiration dewed on his mentor's temple, matting stray locks of hair to his skin. Harvey was not saying a word, and Mike refused to admit he was on the brink of panic.
He reluctantly left Harvey's side and dashed to the partners' kitchen, because it was closest, and he really couldn't care less about being seen in it. A split second later he re-emerged with a glass of ice water in one hand, and cold milk in the other.
When Mike reached Harvey's office, Donna was already there and Harvey was lying curled up on the couch.
"Here." Donna had loosened Harvey's tie, and without looking, grabbed the water from Mike's hand and was now coaxing Harvey to sit up and drink. "Don't be such a baby. Drink."
"Donna, go away," Harvey groused. "I'm fine."
"Of course you are, Harvey." Donna slipped a hand inside his jacket and retrieved a small nondescript bottle, out of which she fished a few pills. "Take these."
Harvey swallowed them gratefully and buried his face in the headrest, one arm wrapped protectively around his midsection.
"Do you feel like being sick?" Donna asked after a moment of silence.
"No," Harvey answered quietly. "Could you?"
"Consider it done." Satisfied, Donna pushed her knees off of the floor and pulled Mike to his feet. "Come on, Mike."
"What's going on with him, Donna?" Mike demanded just as they went out of earshot.
After a few long moments of internal debate with herself, Donna uncrossed her arms and stopped pacing. She sat Mike in her chair.
"I think it's best if you don't know."
"Harvey wouldn't like it if he found out that you found out…"
Mike cocked a thumb over his shoulder. "Did you not see him back there?"
Donna still looked torn.
"Donna. Stop contemplating. Tell me. You know you need to."
Donna heaved a sigh and propped her elbows on the counter. She fisted her hair against the sides of her head. "Promise you won't tell him?"
Mike crossed his heart. "I'll even sign a blood oath. Now tell me!"
Donna cleared her throat and hesitatingly began to speak.
"A few years ago, Harvey was in charge of an embezzlement lawsuit against a junior accountant for a company he represented." Donna's voice was hushed, and Mike knew what she was about to divulge was meant only for him to hear. "The defendant refused to settle, protesting his innocence all the way to trial."
"If you think Harvey is tough now, you should have seen him when he was younger and less weathered." She smiled bitterly at the memory. "Of course, Harvey won the case. Guy was convicted, and was sent to prison."
Mike listened, pacing himself for the worst, which was sure to come.
"A few days later they found him hanging in his cell. Somehow he had managed to make a noose out of old socks."
And it did come. Mike's lips parted in shock.
"Harvey took it hard."
Mike shook his head in disbelief. "C'mon Donna, anyone'd know it wasn't Harvey's fault-"
"Harvey took it hard," Donna interjected. "When an inquest and new evidence overturned the verdict. The guy was innocent after all."
Mike leaned back in the chair, momentarily stupefied, his face taut with anxiety. "And Harvey?"
"I didn't see it for some time, until one day he fainted in the car on his way to work." Donna pursed her lips and paused. Mike held his breath, and waited in respectful silence.
"Harvey would have choked on his own vomit had Ray not been there with him. And after that, Ray himself cleaned the blood off the backseat."
He exhaled slowly. "What was wrong with him?"
"Stress-induced peptic ulcer was the provisional diagnosis." Donna sounded sceptical. "Harvey likes forgetting doctor's appointments, among other things. So we never really found out the biopsy result from the scope they did when they had to stop the bleeding."
"Can't we just make him go?" Mike drummed his fingers anxiously against the computer monitor, clearly frustrated.
"You've studied him for a year now, kid." Donna gave him a challenging look. "You tell me."
"Stop hovering. I'm fine. For the hundredth time."
"Maybe I should send Jessica an anonymous text message.."
"Mike, go away."
"Telling her you're not fit to work-"
"Or I can tell her you're secretly still trying to clean up Cameron Dennis' mess when she explicitly told you not to.."
"Please look for other new, exciting methods to blackmail me." Harvey sniffed. "Methods that do not involve my managing partner. Originality has its merits."
"I could call your mom."
Mike's angelic smile and the sheer ridiculousness of the suggestion had Harvey smirking too.
"And if I told you I'm a sleeper agent for the Soviet Union and that I never knew my real mother and my fake mother sacrificed her career as a combat-infantry soldier to become a lense grinder in Omsk?"
"Was that before, or after the dissolution of the Soviet Union?" Mike asked, the cheeky twinkle never leaving his blue eyes.
Harvey clasped his hands in his lap. "Activate me, and I'll tell you."
Mike laughed. Harvey was beginning to sound normal again. He liked Normal Harvey.
"I can't quite see you as a Soviet spy..." Mike's legs rocked back and forth slowly off the ledge, precariously close to his basketball collection. "You're not blond enough."
Harvey rolled his eyes. "Now that's original."
"Yeah, like Superman."
"I'm sticking to Keaton, Mike. No Reeve references, please." Mike watched as Harvey returned to the briefs, his perpetual frown making him look older than his years. When he was done, he rummaged through the stack by his leg for another.
So much for putting a lid back on Pandora's Box, Mike glared viciously around the room at the boxes littering the once immaculate office.
He sighed loudly.
"Am I boring you?" Harvey's eyes were narrowed. "If you're not going to help, you might as well take a hike."
But Mike was oblivious to the bite in his voice. Harvey was starting to sweat again, and his lips had gone white around the edges. Obviously he had not fully recovered from earlier.
"Antacids only relieve the symptoms, Harvey," Mike said, feeling more than a little concerned. Ever since his near collapse in the morning, Harvey had been popping them like they were candy, not even bothering to hide them anymore. "They don't get rid of the actual problem."
"And what, may I ask, is the actual problem?"
"The actual problem is likely to be.." A voluminous tome of papers miraculously appeared from behind Mike. "A Helicobacter pylori infection."
Harvey's pen stilled in the midst of scribing.
Sometimes Harvey wondered if the kid actually had a marsupial pouch on his backside.
And sometimes Harvey wondered if he could ever keep secrets around here anymore.
Harvey carefully recapped his pen, now that his research had been rudely interrupted-
"See I'd be inclined to believe you if: number one, you were an actual doctor; and number two, had I not already been treated for H. pylori."
Mike opened his mouth, but Harvey shushed him with the lift of a finger. "And I don't care if you've actually taken the USMLE exam for some doctor-wannabe. It doesn't count."
"So you're not denying the fact that your ulcer might have recurred?"
Harvey tapped his fingers against his desk an exasperated staccato. "If you've read all about it, as I'm sure you have, then you would know reinfection is very uncommon."
"Only if your first eradication therapy was successful." Mike was smug. "Donna told me you threw away your meds the minute you felt marginally better."
Harvey Specter did not pout, so he merely crinkled his nose in distaste. "They cluttered up my desk," he muttered.
"Harvey, I know you embody the whole 'Mr-I-Don't-Need-Any-Help' act, but will you please listen this one time?"
"Don't patronise me, kid."
Mike raised a hand in surrender. He resisted the urge to march outside to Donna's table from where she was watching, and wave a white flag.
Ray, Donna, Jessica - so many people look out for this guy and he doesn't have a clue.
"Harvey," Mike tried again. "Hey look, far be it from me to tell you what to do-"
"Exactly," Harvey dead-panned.
"-but I think you should go see your doctor. I really, really think so." Mike hoped his eyes were big and blue enough.
"Because you know what could happen next, because you read it on Emedicine?" Harvey crossed his arms across his chest. "That the thing could perforate? That I'd bleed upside down and inside out?"
"Yeah all that and not to mention the black doodoo..." Mike drawled.
In mock horror, Harvey flipped his hands heavenwards. "Nooo, really?"
Nothing in the world possessed as much innocence as one Mike Ross. "Oh my god Harvey, you didn't know? When the ulcer bleeds that high up in your digestive tract, it turns black because it gets oxidi- OW!"
The baseball ricocheted off his shoulder and hit the glass wall.
Harvey's glare was scathing. "Seriously, Michael."
"Whine all you want to Donna. Yeah, I know she's the one who put you up to this."
Mike watched as Harvey paced the room, one hand absently rubbing his right shoulder, the other one balled into a fist and thrust against his solar plexus. Harvey was in pain but Mike knew he had to be smart about it.
The alternative would be to find a way to knock the man unconscious long enough to enable an uneventful transport from here to the doctor's office.
Harvey stopped in his tracks.
"Yeah...that scene when she rose from her coffin and twenty gallons of blood spewed from her mouth..." Mike looked somewhat forlorn. "She vomited blood all over her own fiance in such a projectile manner-"
Harvey dropped his head to his chest.
"Linda Blair had nothing against her."
"I had nightmares about it for weeks-"
"Whaat? I watched The Godfather! I had to watch Dracula." Mike wore his 'I-had-no-choice face too often for Harvey's liking.
Donna's voice chirped through the intercom. "Do as he says, Harvey. Lucy's death-robe is not very dashing and your family doesn't own a mausoleum."
Harvey pinched the bridge of his nose. He honestly could not believe how difficult it was to get these two people off his back. What did he ever do to them to deserve this?
"It wasn't the fiance."
Mike's forehead creased. "Sorry?"
Harvey sighed. "Lucy didn't upchuck on the fiance. She did it on Van Helsing."
Mike shook his head, turned around and hid a smile. "I knew that."
"And Francis Ford Coppola did it as an homage to Friedkin's 'The Exorcist'," Harvey muttered under his breath.
"I knew that too!" Mike's beatific smile grew wider. "So you'll go?"
"If I didn't have an ulcer then, I definitely have one now, talking to you."
"An ulcer induced by me? I'm flattered!" His mission accomplished, Mike bounded for the door, very happily.
"Oh, and Harvey?" Mike stuck his head through the door again.
"What is it now?"
" 'You can't undo any wrongdoings from the past, all you can do is ask for forgiveness and let God handle the rest.' "
Harvey stared at him long, and hard.
"Did God say that?"
Mike held his gaze as long as he could, breaking it at last with a smile. "Maybe he did."
Through the glass wall, Harvey could see Donna's anxious face watching him. And Mike, with his skinny tie and sun-kissed hair. And Ray Benghazi, watching over him in silence as he had always done since the day they met.
For the first time in what felt like forever, Harvey realised that perhaps the helping hand had been there all along and was never going away. For the first time, he felt he could breathe easier.
"Okay." And he smiled a genuine smile of his own.
A/N: I love Harvey whump. I wish there were more..
A/N #2: Doc Manager drives me insane e-very-time.