AN: Second Suits fic because I cannot stop with the ideas. Seriously: I have eight or nine prompts that are looking for writers to pick them up and turn them into fics. PLEASE PM me and take one or a few? I beg of you.
Thanks for reading. Sorry for any mistakes or OOC-ness.
Disclaimer: Suits and Phantom of the Opera are not mine.
The very ironic thing about the situation, Mike mused, was that their firm had been hired to prove that the allegations that Clinton Reed was mentally unstable were completely false. At first, Mike had been utterly confident that he and Harvey had this one in the bag - Reed was an artistic genius, a prodigy, a star, not some loon.
Of course, now he was thinking it was going to be a lot harder to prove Reed's mental stability. Seeing as Clinton currently had a gun pointing at Mike's head and all.
"Clinton, put the fucking gun down," Harvey growled, glaring daggers over Mike's shoulder at the man the blonde could hear panting in his ear.
"This isn't helping anything," Jessica said in a calm voice, her eyes hard but her posture much more relaxed than Harvey's.
Behind the two partners stood the silent, wide-eyed forms of Donna and Rachel, both clutching files as though they were shields. Mike wished they'd look at Reed like Harvey and Jessica were - having their frightened gazes on him wasn't helping the rapid beating of his heart in any way. They weren't even supposed to be there. It had been some sick twist of fate that they'd both come in, chatting and trying to stifle giggles as they saw the meeting was about to begin, to fetch some files from Jessica and Harvey respectively. Everybody had expected them to grab what they needed and leave quietly so the meeting could start.
Except that the meeting had never started. Because Harvey opened his mouth and explained the case and Clinton flipped. Nobody - not even Mike - was entirely sure what had happened. And Mike wasn't going to risk anything by trying to find out. He kept his eyes firmly on Harvey now, trying to breathe deeply even though the cold barrel of the gun was at his temple.
"Clinton, I swear to-!" Harvey began in a snarl.
"No!" Reed was choked, shaking, desperate and wild. Strangely, this comforted Mike - if he did die, it wouldn't be at the hands of somebody who had coldly calculated blowing his brains out. For the first time ever, Mike was slightly relieved his grandmother was dead. "No! These bastards don't get to do this! I'm not crazy! They've already ruined so much of my reputation five years ago and now that I've just settled into trying again they-? No!" The gun was pressed firmer to Mike's head. "Not again! I'm not going through all this again!"
"We're not going to lose!" Harvey snapped, his eyes flickering to Mike's for the briefest of seconds. "We're going to-"
"Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit!" Clinton raved at once, his voice choking. "That's what my last lawyers said! 'Don't worry, Clint.' 'We have it all under control, Clint.' And then they billed me insane amounts of money and told me we won but all I got out of it was everybody doubting that I was sane, doubting that I was capable of designing mechanical art at all... They undermined my intelligence in front of the whole fucking world and made everybody think I was nuts!"
"Waving a gun at a man does not project the image that you are completely sane," Jessica interrupted coolly, ignoring Harvey's annoyed jerk in her direction. "So put the gun down-"
"I won't. I saw it in your eyes that none of you cold-hearted bastards really believed me, let alone cared. This isn't about money. This is my life. I'll have nothing if they do this to me again! Nothing! So I'm going to keep this gun right here so that you all know how fucking serious I am about this."
"We know you're serious, Clinton," Jessica said in her calm voice, cutting across whatever Harvey had been about to throw at the client. The man's eyes were blazing fire and Mike was slightly awed despite the situation. "Now, could you please let Mister Ross go?"
"Stop talking to me as though I'm an imbecile," Reed raged, gripping Mike tighter. "What is it that you fucking assholes of the world don't understand? I'm smart! I'm smarter than everybody here! And they don't like it, so they're trying to take it away from me. And you - the people who are supposed to be on my side - are telling me to lay low, to actually downplay and hide how smart I really am, to go against every bit of my morals? I don't fucking think so. None of you have half an idea what this is like!"
"That's not entirely true." Every eye in the room snapped to Mike.
"Mike, shut up," Harvey snapped at once, actually shifting closer.
"Don't try your bullshit on me. Don't try and talk me into-"
"I don't wanna talk you into anything," Mike replied, very relieved at how steady his own voice was. "I just wanna correct a misconception that you have."
"You think you understand me, kid?" Reed sneered.
Mike closed his eyes for a brief second. "You were reading The Phantom of the Opera while you waited for Harvey and Jessica and I," Mike told him quietly. "It's a well-worn book, which means you've read it a lot."
"What are you, fucking Sherlock Holmes? That doesn't prove anything! You're just-!"
"Pick a page." Mike interrupted him. "Any page. Just... Do this."
There was a beat of silence. "Page fifty."
Mike took a deep breath and closed his eyes again. "Christine Daaé, owing to intrigues to which I will return later, did not immediately continue her triumph at the Opera. After the famous gala night, she sang once at the Duchess de Zurich's, but this was the last occasion on which she was heard in private. She refused, without plausible excuse, to appear at a charity concert to which she had promised her assistance. She acted throughout as though she were no longer the mistress of her own destiny and as though she feared a fresh triumph." Mike paused. "Should I continue?"
"Wha...? How...? Did you memorise that entire book?"
"No," Mike said calmly, heart thumping at the interest in Clinton's voice. This might actually work... "I read it once. A friend left it lying around and I got bored."
"You... Read it once?"
"I have an eidetic memory," Mike told him calmly. "I remember everything that I see, read, hear, smell... Anything I can understand sticks. I can tell you what Donna was wearing last month, what the 3826 pages of the Ackerson brief said, what my second grade teacher put in the math test she gave us..."
"And you're a Harvard Golden Boy because of it," Reed spat, the gun being held steady again. "You're nothing like me."
"Probably not," Mike said quietly. "I mean, was your dad proud of what your mind can do?"
"My father has-"
"Mine wasn't," Mike went on calmly. He really, really, really didn't want to do this. Not in front of Donna and Rachel and Harvey and Jessica Freaking Pearson but this was the only way he saw out. Harvey had never really told him all 146 options one had if a man held a gun to your head and this was the only plausible thing he could think could work. "He was a great guy, don't get me wrong. He just saw the world one way and wanted it to remain that way. He wanted a normal wife, normal job, normal house, normal life. And the universe stuck him with me, the kid who could read before he turned two. It was the only thing my parents really fought about - me and what to do with me. My mom agreed with the school when they wanted to bump me up a grade. My dad didn't want that and when I fought him, pleaded with him, tried to smart-aleck my way into letting him give me work that might actually be challenging... Well, he didn't speak to me for a month and then made sure I was held back a year."
By now, Mike was staring resolutely at the wall. He could feel all the eyes on him but didn't dare look at anybody else in the room. It was difficult enough as it was to think about the things he was saying, let alone speak them out loud in a room of people. He'd never even spoken about his father's feelings of his memory in front of Grammy. Mike hoped that Reed would just back off already, that he could leave it there, that he wouldn't have to remember anything further... There was already a hard pit in his stomach.
"Is that supposed to mean jackshit to me?" But the anger and some of the desperation was gone from Clinton's voice, and Mike could hear the curiosity. "He couldn't stop you from being smart."
"No," Mike agreed quietly. "And the more he tried, the more I tried to undermine him. Especially as I got older. I just... I was a bit of a dick, actually." He gave a humourless smile at the memories, his heart aching as he remembered all he'd said and done. "I hit the teenage rebellion stage early. And I was so... So determined to... I dunno...Make him let me be the great genius I thought I was, I guess. Anyway, the local high school approached me when I was eleven and asked if I wanted to be enrolled a few years early." There was dead silence and Mike found his gaze now trained on the carpet, his hands balled into fists. "Dad and I... Uh... We had very different responses to the offer. We fought about it the whole afternoon and I made him so pissed he grounded me, taking just my mother out to dinner instead. He told me he wished I'd been born normal. I told him to go to hell."
"Did he kick you out?" Clinton was now totally absorbed.
It took far too long for Mike to find his tongue again. There was a pressure on his chest and a deep plea that everybody else in the room would just disappear. He didn't want to talk about this. "No. He died. Him and my mom both. That night. Car accident."
The silence was oppressive now, as though somebody had uttered a bad word. Mike still stared resolutely at the carpet, vaguely realising he'd remember the strange shape of the faded stain for the rest of his life.
"So... Then you were free after that," Clinton said slowly, taking the gun away about a millimetre.
There was a noise from Donna that let Mike know the redhead would have ripped Reed to shreds over the callous comment if he didn't have a gun. Mike risked a glance at her and found her eyes now held more anger than fear. Something funny flipped in his chest, as it did every time she mother henned him. He had to get her out of Reed's range of fire. No matter what it took. And what it would take was him bearing the history he wanted to keep hidden as well as thinking up some fantastic ways to twist the truth so he got his point across without having to get to the 'I'm not really a lawyer' bombshell.
"You can see it that way," he found himself replying to Clinton, his gut twisting in guilt as the words came from his mouth. As if he wouldn't willingly submit himself to years of being chained down if it meant getting his parents back. "But after that things just got worse."
"How?" It was a morbid curiosity that was driving Clinton now; the strong desire to figure Mike out like he would figure out the way to make one of his designs work. Mike was Reed's new project, and the older man wanted the blonde at his rawest state, especially if that state somehow empathised with him. Mike hated him a bit when he realised this, and was tempted to stop talking and refuse to draw any more parallels between him and their client.
But Donna, Rachel, Jessica, Harvey... All in the range of the gun...
"I went into my grandmother's care. Grammy is-" There was a beat when everything in him flinched at the incorrect tense usage. "She was one of the greatest women I'd ever met. She became like a mother to me and she... You don't understand how much I still owe her."
Here Mike had to stop to take a couple of deep breaths. His gaze was back to the carpet and the eyes watching him were like burning lasers against his skin. Talking of his grandmother hurt. And now he'd have to slander her name in front of a lot of people without having the means to explain himself and ask for forgiveness later. Mike grit his teeth so hard it hurt.
"But she was already quite old back then and... She did a couple of old people things. Forgetting to pay the bills, losing the keys so we were stuck outside, forgetting to cook things all the way through... When she left the stove on and nearly set the whole house on fire social services said they had to evaluate the situation to see if she was still 'able to take care of me properly'."
His tone turned bitter and his jaw clenched harder as he stared resentful daggers into the mat. "And so I made sure they and everybody else knew that Edith Ross was the only reason her slow, pathetic orphan of a grandson passed anything at school. When she helped me with my homework or to study for a test, I passed. When she didn't, I made sure I failed on my ass. Obviously there were other stunts I pulled but that was the main one. And it made them back the hell off."
"That's fucking pathetic." Clinton sounded disgusted. "You're smarter than all those assholes. You're supposed to be on top, not let them win. That's the exact kind of bullshit that has me doing this!" The gun, still pressed to Mike's temple, was shaken slightly. "Are you trying to sell me the bullshit that that's where you learnt 'restraint' and to dance like the monkey this fucking world wants to make you even though your brain can run circles around them?"
Mike gave a humourless smile. "Actually, yeah. Pretending to be so much slower than you actually are does the great job of shoving humility down your throat and up your ass. Especially after it was your damned mind that almost destroyed your family when you had it."
"That's bullshit!" The gun was pressed harder against Mike. "They should have been bowing to you, letting you into Harvard early, making-"
"You don't get it," Mike snapped, cutting Clinton off simply because the older man was surprised by his captive's change in tone. "They were going to take me away from her. She is..." He shut his eyes again. "She was everything I had left. And I was everything she had left. I would have done anything to keep us together."
Reed was silent for a while and Mike suddenly realised how quiet the rest of the room was. Nobody had made a sound for ages - not even Harvey. Curiosity won over shame and sadness and Mike peeped at his boss' face. Harvey was staring at him the same way he had after Mike told him who the apartment in Manhattan was for. It was as though he was at war with himself; be an asshole so he didn't care, or get involved and become weak and do something that had thrown Mike more than the pot smoking had. Like tell Mike about his father and mother.
"But you made it into Harvard," Reed suddenly said, his stance becoming aggressive. "How'd you even make it into college with shit school marks?"
Mike looked away from his boss again, contemplating how much of the truth he had to bend. Technically, Reed and Rachel were the only two in the room who didn't know Mike's biggest secret. But Harvey had been right: anybody else who knew was just a threat to all of them. If he couldn't tell Rachel, there was no way Harvey would think telling a mentally unstable client was a good thing. So he'd have to bullshit.
He started with the full truth. "I got into college on a scholarship. I was held back a year, remember? So by the time I was eighteen I was only in my junior year. I was an adult then; the state couldn't take Grammy away any more. So I started to be the one to take care of her and I stopped the bullshitting and... Let my mind be what it was. I was welcomed with open arms."
"You see!" Reed was almost hysterical, as though Mike had taken him on a treasure hunt and had suddenly revealed there was no treasure. "As soon as you proved you were smart, you were made!"
Mike swallowed. "It didn't work like that," he said quietly.
"You got hand-picked for one of the greatest law firms in New York!" Reed snapped.
"Yeah, but that wasn't because of me. No, listen." Another deep breath. He was starting to get stiff standing so still and straight. "I went to college, but it wasn't that simple. Grammy got older too and before long she had to be put into care. The only reason I was in college was because I was being paid for - we had no money to put her into a home. So I..." He paused. Rachel knew about this bit, and he was sure Donna and Harvey had at least guessed. But Jessica...
The pressure of the gun against his head made up his mind for him as survival instinct kicked in. "So I made money. Some girl I asked out on a date promised to pay me if I took the LSATS for her. She paid enough money to get Grammy into a good home and she had friends with the same lined pockets and the same request. Things got a little tricky when I went to Harvard" - the lie tasted strange after spilling so much truth and he prayed Clinton wouldn't catch on that something was false - "but I made it work. Then I came back to New York and nobody was hiring. Nobody cared what I could do, even when I was desperate enough to show off like a trained dog to try and get their attention." Bitterness was again there as his tale turned back to truth. "I was still able to make do until Grammy got worse and needed better care. I needed 25 grand and... nowhere to get it from. So I got desperate."
Reed was silent, so Mike went on, twisting the truth once again. "My ex roommate Trevor wrote software, and he had a client who was looking for something... Not so legal. I was promised a huge sum of money if I delivered the stuff, but it turned out that the "client" was actually a cop. To get away I ran into a room where Pearson Hardman was having interviews for a new associate. The hot, really scary redhead behind the desk" - that was his way of showing Donna how much she meant to him, just in case this all went to shit - "mistook me for somebody else and I got an interview with the great Harvey Spector." Mike looked up again, straight into Harvey's eyes. He hadn't had the chance to say goodbye to his grandmother. That wasn't happening again. "I told Harvey a bit of my story and about my Harvard degree" - Harvey glared at him and he had to try not to smirk - "and when he was a bit hesitant I showed him what my mind could do. He hired me, got my grandmother the money she needed and... pretty much saved my life. He made everything worth it again and I owe him... so much."
"So there it comes!" Clinton howled. "There's the nice fucking little moral at the end of the story! Harvey Fucking Spector saves the day, right? So I should just make myself their snivelling fool and Harvey will save me? Bullshit."
Mike looked away from Harvey's eyes and instead tried to catch a glimpse of the shuddering Clinton. "The point of that story, Mister Reed, was to show you that sometimes you have to do bad in order to do good. That sometimes life fucks you over even when you're a saint compared to some people. That sometimes you get handed a chance out of the pit and if you don't take it you're fucked for the rest of your life. I would have been fucked." Mike suddenly smiled again. "And, yeah, the point was also to drive home the fact that Harvey Spector always kicks ass."
"So you're saying I should trust him and do what he says? Grovel in front of the lying bastards and hope Harvey's right and it turns out okay?"
"Yeah, I'm telling you to trust him."
"What if I don't?" Reed whispered, stepping closer and wrapping a hand around Mike's throat. Harvey started forward but Jessica grabbed his arm and held him steady. "What would you say if I told you I much rather liked the idea of killing you?"
Suddenly, Mike was tired. Not the physical weariness that his job gave him but the soul-deep exhaustion that had set in when Edith had died and hadn't really let him go since. He was just so tired with life. So tired of fighting when she was gone and it was because of his own idiocy that he'd never gotten to say goodbye.
"I'd prefer it if you didn't shoot me," he told Reed honestly, surprised at how weary his very voice sounded. "I'd like to stay alive. Really. But if you do..." Mike shrugged. "It's not like I have anybody left that I have to keep living for."
It was a relief to finally say it out loud; finally lay out the ever-present thought that had hammered at the back of his head since Rachel had broken the news to him. Mike was alone, it was as simple as that. Because he owed Donna and Harvey - especially Harvey - so much he hadn't ever acted on that thought. Now that he was being forced to think about how alone he was so drastically... Well...
"You don't mind if I shoot you?" Reed's voice was quiet.
There was a growl from Harvey, deep and almost animalistic and Mike wished his boss - his mentor, his friend - was not in the room. Like Donna and like Rachel, Harvey didn't deserve to see this. Mike hoped he wouldn't take this as a personal failure. Without looking at anybody, the blonde turned around to face Reed, not worried when the gun was thrust into him painfully as retribution for his actions.
"I don't want you to," he clarified in a voice that was calmer than he felt. "But if you do, it wouldn't really matter."
Reed had eyes that were almost colourless, and they were stretched wide with adrenalin and fear and hysteria as they stared into Mike's. Mike wondered if he'd get a chance to look at anything else before he died. He hoped it wasn't the butt-ugly painting on the wall - that would be terrible but, hey, when did he start making jokes about himself dying oh shit this was really happening, wasn't it and Reed was placing his finger on the trigger and oh shit oh shit-
Reed wavered, the gun was dropped for a second and that was all it took. Harvey was suddenly tackling the client, ruthlessly grabbing the gun and shoving it aside before wrapping his hands around Reed's shoulders none too gently. A moment later, the security Mike hadn't even known was outside rushed in, securing Clinton Reed and speaking to the three women and taking Harvey aside and speaking to Mike...
It was pandemonium from then on, people swarming and demanding answers and asking if Mike was hurt. He wasn't, but his hands would not stop shaking. It was as though they knew the world was supposed to be ending when the rest of the world knew nothing. He was just being forcefully handed something for shock when a fierce blow was struck against his cheek.
"Don't you ever," Donna hissed, her eyes strangely wet, "do that to me again, you hear?" He blinked at her and she glared, sniffing twice. "You don't have anybody to live for, my ass. You're an asshole!"
He ducked her next blow, but the hug took him by surprise. Mike wanted to say something but had no words and suddenly he found himself melting into the comforting arms and trying not to cry like an eight-year-old. Donna - kick-ass, awesome, heaven-sent Donna - never mentioned how his breath hitched or how he clung to her as though she was his mother or how his body shook without restraint.
"So what did you tell him, kid?" Donna had just let go when a police officer took over Mike's line of vision. "What the hell did you tell him?"
"Too much," Mike found himself answering, and the embarrassed, hollow feeling returned.
"The information Mister Ross gave out this afternoon is of a private nature, officer," the imposing form of Jessica Pearson interrupted. "None of it will ever be heard outside this room. Or mentioned again."
Her eyes met Mike's and he nodded in gratitude. Jessica gave him a smile that was oddly soft in return. It left him blinking in confusion once more.
"Mike..." Rachel's voice was soft and he almost didn't turn to look at her. But she was like a magnet, and he found himself meeting her large, sympathetic eyes anyway. She said nothing more, for which he was extremely grateful, but hugged him instead. "I'm always here to talk, okay? I'm..."
She rubbed his arm awkwardly and then wandered away again a bit too quickly. Mike frowned, wondering if he'd made things worse by what he'd said. But then he turned back and found Harvey standing behind him and he understood.
"So. What option of the hundred and forty six did I pick?" Mike said, trying to turn it into a joke.
Harvey just shook his head, his face dark. "You really don't do things halfway, do you, kid?"
"What's going to happen to Reed?" Mike asked quietly instead of answering.
"I'm not sure yet. We'll hear in the morning." Harvey's jaw tightened. "He's never coming within fifty feet of you ever again, though. I'm making fucking sure of that."
"Harvey..." The older lawyer looked at him, and Mike felt a bit of the hollowness inside him fill. "Thanks. For..." He made a vague gesture.
Harvey's hand was suddenly on his shoulder, offering a squeezing comfort that Mike hadn't felt in ages. The older lawyer said nothing and offered no sympathetic smile or half-awkward pats. It was one squeeze – one lifeline between Mike and another person who would, as promised, tell the associate what he needed to hear. And then the hand was gone, and Harvey scoffed. "You're far more trouble than you're worth. And where the hell are those briefs I gave you this morning? I thought you just told us all how smart you are, but I don't see any truth."
Mike grinned broadly and, giving the faded stain on the carpet a chuckle, scuttled after his boss like an obedient puppy should, bickering the whole way back to Harvey's office.