Hi everyone! Truthfully, I'm kind of nervous about this chapter because people have been asking me for it for ages and a lot of people seemed really enthusiastic about it. So...let's just not get our hopes up too high, okay? Lol hopefully nobody will be disappointed, but I'm afraid that trouble-making!Mike isn't a specialty of mine. Hopefully everything seems relatively in-character. Okay I'm just going to stop ranting and let you guys read now.
Other disclaimers: I don't know anything about nice cars, the foster care system of New York, or parenting unruly teenage boys.
Mike's age: 16
Slow down, you crazy child
You're so ambitious for a juvenile
-From "Vienna" by Billy Joel
It all started one regular Saturday morning at the grocery store.
Mike hadn't even wanted to tag along in the first place, but Harvey had vaguely promised donuts as a reward and he'd caved. He certainly had better things that he could have been doing with his Saturday morning—namely sleeping—but Harvey had plugged the coffeemaker into the outlet near the smoke detector and left it while he showered again, and Mike had been rudely awakened at 9 AM when the fire alarm had gone off from the heat and steam of the coffeemaker. Thankfully it only went off in their apartment unit and not the whole building, or they would have been on the receiving end of some pretty intense glares in the parking lot when the building evacuated. Then again, Harvey would have been dressed in only a towel since it happened mid-shower, so most of the women in the complex probably would have instantly forgiven the Specter-Ross family.
But anyway, Mike wasn't exactly thrilled about this impromptu shopping trip—it was 9:30 in the morning on a Saturday, he was sixteen years old, and he wanted to sleep.
"You always complain that I don't get the right kind of bread, so you might as well come along and pick it out yourself," Harvey pointed out as they sat in traffic—why was there traffic on a Saturday morning?—on their way to the store.
"That's because you always buy cinnamon-raisin swirl bread, and I just want plain cinnamon swirl bread," Mike said grumpily, staring out the window at the dreary gray sky. "Raisins are stupid. It's a waste of perfectly good grapes."
"Sounds like somebody got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning," Harvey said cheerfully, obviously not relating to Mike's raisin-induced angst. Or maybe it was hormone-induced. Either way, Harvey sounded like such a dad when he said corny things like that that it almost made Mike want to smile. But then he remembered that he hadn't gotten any coffee that morning because of the smoke detector incident, and he decided that he was too tired to smile.
As Mike's luck had it, the grocery store was out of cinnamon swirl bread.
"Well, you could just have a donut for breakfast," Harvey suggested when Mike moped over to the produce aisle where Harvey was examining granny smith apples.
"What does that even mean? Are you just going to keep hinting at it, or are you actually going to buy me a goddamn donut?" Mike groaned in irritation.
Harvey cuffed him lightly on the shoulder with a banana. "Language," he reprimanded affably.
Mike wandered away—he wasn't 'sulking away', no matter what Harvey said— to look for donuts then, frustrated and moody about being so frustrated and moody all the time. He knew that it was just a stage that he was going through; that someday his voice wouldn't crack anymore and that one day his hormones would even out and he'd stop tripping over his too-large feet and constantly feeling like he simultaneously wanted to burst into tears, punch a hole in the wall, and hug his baby blanket.
But yeah, puberty sucked.
He had just turned into the deli/bakery corner of the small store when he ran into a woman.
"Oh, sorry—" he began automatically, reaching out to steady whoever it was he'd bumped.
And then he looked up and recognized Mrs. Jensen, his former foster mother.
It was as though all the air had been suddenly squeezed from his lungs; as though he were spinning on a time machine back to a period in his life when he'd had no one by his side who loved him and nowhere to turn to for help. He vaguely wondered what the odds were of running into her here in this little local supermarket in Manhattan were and cursed his bad luck. He should have turned around and gone straight home and back to bed the instant he realized that there was no cinnamon swirl bread here.
It seemed Mrs. Jensen recognized him too.
"You," she fairly spat at him, glaring accusingly and taking a step back as though he were diseased.
"Yes," he said, not sure of what else to say. "Me." His palms were oddly sweaty, and he was sure that the entire store could hear his heart pounding; that Harvey was going to come rushing over any second and ask what that noise was.
But Harvey didn't come, and Mike was left standing alone with a woman who had ruined his life when he was eleven years old—a woman who had permanently scarred him; a woman who had done all that and then had the gall to not even remember his goddamn name.
"You—you're that boy who's grandmother made all of those false accusations about my husband and I!" Mrs. Jensen fairly shrieked, waving her fake nails in the air. "You ruined our lives," she hissed. "Our reputation, our marriage…gone, all of it! And it's all your fault.
"Well, you ruined my life too, so I think we're about even there," Mike retorted, proud of the fact that his voice only wavered a little bit.
He didn't know where that little bit of courage came from, but he had a feeling it wasn't going to last much longer. Seriously, where the hell was Harvey?! If he was doing that stupid thing where he picked out a million individual yogurts instead of just buying the variety pack that came together rather than standing here and defending Mike from this madwoman, Mike was going to kill him. He could feel his breathing growing shallower and shallower the more time he spent with Mrs. Jensen, his anxiety building.
She seemed to notice that he was searching for someone to come and rescue him, and as she always had when he was eleven, she found a way to twist that and use it to gain emotional leverage over him.
"I see you're looking for someone to come and rescue you from the big, bad, foster mother, is that right?" She asked coolly. She sort of reminded him of Cruella de Vil in a way. Not a good way.
"Yes, actually," Mike said honestly. He reminded himself had nothing to fear from her—he was five years older than when he'd last seen her, much stronger, and had enough support in his life to know that how she and her husband had treated him was very wrong.
"So you've found yourself a new family, huh? How long do you think it'll take before this family gets sick of you and gets rid of you?" She said, her voice shifting from cool into cold.
"Harvey isn't getting rid of me anytime soon," Mike said staunchly, thinking of the adoption papers that Harvey had given him just a few short months ago. Still, his voice wavered a little bit and he chastised himself—he couldn't fall back into Mrs. Jensen's trap! She was doing this on purpose; just trying to get even for the fact that Grammy's persistent complaints had led to the Jensens getting their foster license revoked.
"Are you sure about that?" She said, arching an eyebrow. "Because I remember how much we wanted to get rid of you. Some people just aren't meant to have families. Now if you'll excuse me, I have better things to do with my day." She turned and marched right up to the express check-out, leaving Mike standing alone in the bakery.
The instant she was out of his eye line, he collapsed against the end-cap of a lane, his whole body trembling and his eyes filling with tears of shock. Her words kept replaying in his head—some people just aren't meant to have families.
It's not true, Mike, he tried to tell himself firmly as he found Harvey in the Italian section, agonizing over pasta sauces. You know that she's crazy and spiteful. You can't believe her lies.
"You still want a donut?" Harvey asked, cheerfully oblivious. "I think the bakery is right back there."
"Yeah, I know," he muttered, still feeling clammy and shaken. "No, I don't want a donut. Let's just go back to the apartment; I don't feel well."
No matter how hard he tried to forget them, Mrs. Jensen's words stayed with him for a long time after that.
A few weeks later:
"I'm sorry; they did what?" Harvey asked disbelievingly, sitting up very straight in his office chair. "No, no, I had no clue….yes, I'll definitely talk to him. Thank you for telling me."
He put the phone back in its cradle and staring unseeingly at his basketballs.
"So…I'm guessing Mike is in trouble for something?" Donna asked, appearing at the door of his office. One of her eyebrows was quirked in a mixture of interest and concern.
"That was Robert Zane on the phone," Harvey said, still in shock.
"Yes, I know, Harvey. I'm the one who takes your calls and transfers them to you."
"Apparently he and his wife came home last night and found Mike and Rachel drunk and shirtless on the couch together," Harvey said woodenly. "I didn't even know the two of them were….together! Romantically inclined! Doing things shirtless on the couch!"
As always, Donna was the voice of reason. "Come on, Harvey, you know that that's nothing worse than what we were up to at that age. I'm not condoning Mike's actions, but it could be much worse. And we don't know if he and Rachel are together or not—kids experiment at that age. Have you talked to him about sex like I suggested you should two years ago?"
Harvey cringed. "I meant to, I just…forgot," he said lamely.
"Well, you had better un-forget the next time you see Mike. That boy needs guidance right now—he's at a critical age where he's deciding what kind of drinking habits and love life he wants to have. And you blushing at the idea of giving him the Talk isn't going to help anyone," Donna lectured, her eyes flashing fiercely. "Unless you want to become a grandfather already," she smirked.
Harvey shuddered at that idea. "I know, I know," he said before his gaze turned hesitant. "But…it's just… Mike's been kind of strange the past few weeks. I don't know if this is just normal teenager stuff, but he's been very angry and stand-offish. And you know Mike, Donna—he's not like that."
Donna pursed her lips, knowing that Harvey would never ask for advice or admit to a problem unless it was pretty bad. "He hasn't been around the office very much, which is unusual," she admitted. "Have you asked him about it? Can you think of something that could have triggered it?"
Harvey just shrugged. "I asked him if anything was bothering him last week and he just snapped at me."
"Aww, Harvey…are your feelings hurt?" Donna asked teasingly.
"No!" Harvey said quickly, defensively. "I'm just worried about Mike, that's all. I'll talk to him tonight when he gets home from debate," he sighed wearily, massaging his temples. Donna wondered if she should tell him that he now had ink smeared across his forehead, but decided that the timing was inappropriate.
And for all of Harvey's protests that he was fine, Donna couldn't help but notice that his shoulders were slumped more than normal and that his expression was forlorn as he spent the rest of the afternoon staring out the window and googling "tips for dealing with surly teens."
She still couldn't decide if she wanted to take a screenshot of that particular google search and send it to Mike as a joke, or FaceTime him and read him the Riot Act herself.
"So," Harvey said that night when he got home from work and found Mike playing video games with headphones on. "How was your day?" He sat down on the couch and reached over to pull Mike's earbuds out of his ears.
"Hey!" Mike exclaimed indignantly. "I was about to beat this level!"
"Tough luck," Harvey said unapologetically. "So, has anything happened lately that you want to tell me about?" He may or may not have stolen this conversation-starting line from an online forum dedicated to parents with unruly teens.
"No," Mike said, a hint of caution in his voice. He scooted slightly away from Harvey on the couch, as though he knew where this conversation was going eventually and wanted to be ready with an escape route.
"You sure about that?" He asked, keeping his voice firm but neutral so that Mike had the opportunity to come clean on his own, just like the forum had said.
"Yep, I'm sure," Mike said. Ahh, yes. Definitely nervous now. "Anyway, I'm just going to go…shower," Mike said vaguely, making to stand up and escape.
Harvey grabbed his shoulder before he could.
"You and I need to have a talk," he said, his voice becoming stern. He hadn't used this tone of voice since Mike first came to live with him over two years ago. The Mike he'd known for the past two years had never needed any real reprimands—sure, Harvey had to remind him to do little things like clean up after himself and empty the dishwasher, but he'd never really disobeyed Harvey before.
Harvey supposed he'd just been lucky this whole time—he and Mike had always had an unconventional relationship, but it had worked up until now. Maybe it was just because Mike was a sweet kid, or because he was just so damn grateful that someone wanted him—which made Harvey feel bad, because he didn't want the kid obeying him out of some misplaced sense of gratitude or owed debt—but Mike had never really put up a fuss to anything that Harvey had asked of him before.
But now, whether it was just teenage hormones or something more, Mike was acting out. Harvey suspected that it was a cry for attention, but he couldn't figure out why. Everything had been fine until a few weeks ago, and now all of a sudden Mike was drinking and messing around with Rachel and acting like….well, acting like he hated Harvey. Or at the very least, like he found Harvey's presence to be strongly annoying. It was a very normal way for a teenager to treat their parent or guardian, but not for Mike and Harvey. They didn't work like that.
And he could lie all he wanted to Donna and tell the world that it didn't bother him when Mike snapped at him or acted like it was painful and embarrassing to even be in the same room as him, but the truth was that it did hurt. He loved the kid; had welcomed him into his previously-closed-off life and adopted him. And now Mike was acting like he didn't even care.
How the tables have turned, Harvey mused as he thought about how to begin this conversation with Mike. Just two years ago he had been the one who was reluctant to have Mike around. Now the kid said a few rude things to him and he fell apart. It was embarrassing, frankly.
"So…you wanted to talk to me about an extremely outdated euphemism?" Mike asked slowly, confusion replacing the nervousness in his eyes.
Had he said that bit about the turning tables out loud?
"No," he said. "I mean yes," he amended.
Mike still looked confused.
"Robert Zane called my office this afternoon," Harvey said, deciding it was best to just move on. "Can you think of anything that he might have wanted to talk to me about?"
"…no," Mike said quietly, his face pale and his shoulders hunched in. Harvey had forgotten how twitchy and skittish Mike always got when being reprimanded, a sure souvenir from his time with those awful foster parents he'd had.
Figuring he'd just make it easier on Mike and say himself, Harvey forged on.
"Really? That's interesting. Because Mr. Zane told me that he and his wife walked in on you and Rachel half-naked and drunk the other night."
Mike exploded. "Yeah? Well maybe it's true! Maybe we were drunk and maybe I liked it!" He shouted, jumping to his feet and beginning to pace. "Anything else you want to accuse me of?" He snapped furiously.
Okay, so maybe saying it himself hadn't been the best route to take. But never one to give up easily, Harvey rolled up his sleeves (metaphorically) and jumped right back in.
"Look, Mike, you know that you're only sixteen years old," he said gently.
"Really? Gee, thanks, Harvey; I had no idea," Mike said sarcastically. Harvey struggled to reign in his temper, knowing that Mike was just trying to bait him so he'd get distracted.
"Mike, you can't be out drinking at sixteen. Not only is it bad for you, it's also illegal. I'm surprised at you, Mike," he said. "After what happened to your parents—"
Mike was done. "Really, Harvey?" He said, his voice trembling with anger. "That's the card you're going to play?! I can't believe you would accuse me of that—of course I wouldn't drive under the influence! I was there when my parents were killed by a drunk driver, remember? Because I sure as hell do."
"That wasn't what I meant, Mike—"
"Oh, really? Then what did you mean? You know what, why don't you just come out and say that you're disappointed in me?" Mike shouted in frustration.
Ah. And there it was.
Donna had said something about this to him when Mike had moved back in with him after Edith moved to Florida and their living situation had become permanent.
"You know, Harvey," Donna had said one afternoon as stood in the hallway at Pearson Hardman and watched Mike speed-reading through files in the conference room. "Mike will probably test your limits at some point. It might not happen immediately, but eventually he'll start to push you to see how far he can go before you want to get rid of him. It's actually very common in adopted children."
Back then, Harvey had just nodded uncomfortably—he had just been getting used to the idea of thinking of Mike as his son, and adoption had seemed very far away. But now, two years later, it was happening. Harvey just wished he knew the trigger that had caused Mike's sudden need to push at Harvey's boundaries and rebel. Things had seemed fine since the adoption, but now he needed to figure out what was going on in his new son's head.
Because he sure as hell wasn't going anywhere, no matter what Mike did.
"I'm going for a walk," Mike declared, still crackling with angry energy.
"Mike, I think you should stay. We need to talk about this," Harvey said firmly.
"No," Mike said, irritation and stubbornness seeping into his voice. "I'm done talking for now."
Harvey had had enough. "Michael James Ross," he barked sternly. "Do not leave this apartment."
Mike's eyes widened with shock at Harvey's anger—it was probably the middle-name usage that got him—for a brief instant and Harvey thought he had won. That was until Mike grabbed his jacket and opened the front door.
"I'm leaving," he said coldly.
"You are in so much—" Mike slammed the door shut. "—trouble," Harvey finished quietly, collapsing on the couch. He couldn't believe how poorly that discussion had gone. He hadn't been anticipating the depth of Mike's anger—this was clearly something he'd been bottling up for some time now.
He figured he'd give Mike fifteen or twenty minutes to cool off and then go looking for him. At least Mike had a jacket and his keys and wallet. He'd be fine, if he managed to keep himself from doing something stupid and illegal.
He groaned and pushed himself to his feet. In this case, maybe two minutes was a better head start than twenty minutes. He grabbed his jacket and rummaged around for his keys, feeling his frustration double as he realized that they were nowhere to be found. He could have sworn that he'd left them in the little holder by the door.
Oh well—his favorite Mustang was so high tech that it had a little hidden compartment on the underside for a spare key, so he'd just grab that.
He made his way down to the garage of the apartment complex and froze when he opened the door.
His mustang was gone. And he had a bad feeling that a certain angry teenager had taken it.
"He stole my car, Donna!" Harvey practically shouted over the phone, fuming. "He knows that he's not allowed to touch the Mustang!" Harvey and Ray usually chauffeured Mike around, but when Mike did drive, he was only allowed to take Harvey's Volvo. The Mustang was his baby, and Mike knew that.
"I think 'stole' is a bit of an exaggeration when it's your own son, Harvey," Donna said dryly. "Where would he have gone?" She asked, concern creeping into her voice.
"I don't even know anymore, Donna," Harvey sighed wearily, scrubbing a hand over his face. "I don't know what goes through that's boy's head—he kept shouting about me being disappointed in him—when have I ever been disappointed in him?"
"I warned you that this was going to happen eventually, Harvey," Donna said matter-of-factly. "I'm sure Mike will be fine—in spite of his recent behavior, he's a smart boy."
"He's only had his license for a few months, it's past driving curfew for teenagers, it's snowy and icy out, and he has almost no winter driving experience," Harvey listed, concern building in his stomach.
"Okay, you're right—maybe you should look for him," Donna amended.
"I don't have keys to the Volvo," Harvey moaned as he remembered that Mike must have snagged the entire key ring from Harvey's coat pocket. "The spare is at the office."
"Do you want me to come pick you up?" Donna asked, and Harvey knew she would. But she lived all the way across town and the snow was starting to pick up.
"No," he said. "Don't risk it—the roads are too bad right now. I'll call a taxi or Ray to drive me around if he's not back in half an hour."
"Okay. Harvey?" Donna said quietly. "You know Mike cares about you very much, right? Don't forget that, okay?"
"I know, Donna," Harvey sighed. "I'll let you know when he's back."
With that he hung up and went back up to the apartment to wait—or rather, to pace a hole in his carpet and leave Mike a string of angry/concerned voicemails.
When his phone rang and the caller ID said that it was Mike, he was so startled that he almost dropped his phone—why was Mike calling him? That was distinctly abnormal behavior for someone who was running away or going off on an angry joyride or whatever it was exactly that Mike was doing. Unless something was wrong…
"Mike?" He said, pressing the accept call button.
"Harvey?" Mike's voice came on the other line, a distinct mixture of nervous and tearful. "Um… Harvey, I messed up," he said, breath hitching slightly. "It's just…the roads are really icy and I know I shouldn't have taken the Mustang! But I was just so angry and it seemed like a good idea at the time. And then I was driving and the car didn't stop when I hit the brakes…and I sort of…slid into a parked car."
Harvey felt his temple throb dangerously. "Stay right there," he growled, massaging the bridge of his nose and wondering when this night and Mike's rebellious stage would end. "Where are you?" His voice had taken on a low, deadly calm, and he could practically hear Mike gulp as he gave Harvey directions.
"You are going to pull the car over and park it right this instant," Harvey instructed. "And then you're going to sit there and wait for me to come and pick you up. Understood?"
"Yes," Mike said meekly, hanging up.
Harvey couldn't remember the last time he'd felt such a strong mix of emotions—sure, he knew he had a bad temper at the office sometimes, but it was different when it was his son stealing his car and almost wrecking it. There was a little bit of everything there—anger, disbelief….mostly fear. Fear that Mike would do something so stupid and put his life in danger. The Mustang didn't really matter—it could be fixed; it was just a machine. But Mike…well, they had a lot to talk about tonight.
The fifteen minutes that Mike sat and waited for Harvey were fifteen of the longest minutes of his life. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been in this much trouble—maybe never. Now he had three strikes—being caught drinking, being caught er...doing things with Rachel, and now stealing Harvey's prized possession and damaging it.
He'd already checked out the damage and it didn't look too bad—he was lucky in a way, because the Mustang was worse off than the car he'd bumped. That car, a red sedan, only had a small scratch on the rear bumper, and he'd scrawled an apologetic note with contact and insurance information and stuck it in the windshield. The Mustang, on the other hand, had a dented and cracked front bumper. While it could have been much worse, it still was going to be expensive to fix.
He banged his head against the steering wheel—he wasn't going to be allowed out of Harvey's sight for months after all of this.
That was, if Harvey even wanted him around anymore after all the trouble he'd been causing.
He'd gone too far and he knew that now. He'd just wanted…well, he didn't really know what he'd wanted. But ever since he'd run into Mrs. Jensen in the grocery store, he couldn't shake the feeling of anxiety and anger that had hung around him. It was like all of the issues from the past that he'd buried so well were springing up again, haunting his dreams and infecting his every waking thought. For five years, he'd kept all of it at bay. And now, after one little chance encounter with his former stepmother, he was spending a lot of time sitting curled up in a ball in his closet in the middle of the night, staring at his adoption papers as though they might disappear at any minute.
He knew that he wasn't handling things well—that Harvey didn't deserve it when Mike was short with him and that talking about what was bothering him would be more effective than bottling it up. But he couldn't stop being angry and frightened, and it scared him. He'd heard that people who were mistreated as children had a higher chance of one day becoming angry, abusive adults, and he'd only been at the Jensens' for three months but it had had a profound impact on who he was. He didn't want to become that person.
Which was why he'd tried losing himself in alcohol the other night when Rachel had confessed that her older cousin had bought her a fifth of vodka. And that was why he'd allowed himself to lose himself in Rachel's kisses and body when they were good and drunk with little thought as to how this could impact their friendship.
A taxi pulled up next to the Mustang and Mike grimly got out of the car to greet his fate with his head held high.
The back door opened for him and Mike climbed inside, swallowing thickly and not meeting Harvey's eyes.
Perhaps Harvey didn't want to yell in front of the taxi driver, because he just looked at Mike and said, "You are grounded. For a very long time," his voice tight.
Mike just nodded, biting his lip and trying to figure out exactly how angry Harvey was about the car.
It was a very silent and strained taxi ride, and driver flashed Mike a sympathetic smile when he dropped them off at the curb of the apartment complex. They rode the elevator up in silence, and it wasn't until they were back in the apartment that Harvey began speaking.
"What were you thinking?" He said, shaking his head and pacing. "For someone so smart, that was an incredibly stupid move, Michael." It had been years since Harvey had called him Michael. "Do you have any idea how dangerous it was to drive in this weather in an unfamiliar car that isn't built for snow driving? You're not used to driving a manual! You could have hit someone or crashed into something much worse than a parked car. You could have been seriously injured or even killed!" Harvey's voice had escalated and Mike stared at him in shock.
Harvey hadn't said anything about the damage to the car itself—the only thing he was mad about was that Mike had run off and put himself in danger. And okay, maybe he was overreacting a little bit because Mike his driver's license and was a qualified driver and all, but it was true that he wasn't comfortable driving a manual car and that he'd fumbled around on the slick streets in the Mustang.
"I'm sorry," he said, his voice small. "I'll pay to get the car fixed—it might take me awhile, but I'll pay for it."
"I don't give a damn about the car," Harvey snapped. "What do I have to do to make you see that I'm not going anywhere?" He asked, the anger dissipating from his voice and a weary, sad tone taking its place. "You can push me all you want, Mike, but I'm not push back and get rid of you. We're family, and family is permanent. That's what those adoption papers meant."
Mike hadn't realized that that was even what he had been doing for the past few weeks since the grocery store incident, or that he had needed to hear those words from Harvey this entire time, but it was as though a storm inside him suddenly calmed.
He sat down on the couch next to Harvey and took a deep, steadying breath. "I ran into Mrs. Jensen," he admitted, finally bringing up what had been on his mind for weeks now.
Harvey whipped around to stare at him, his eyes wide with instant concern. "What? When—where? What did she say to you? Did she hurt you?" Something bittersweet tightened in Mike's chest with the way that Harvey carefully looked him over to make certain that he was alright.
"I'm fine," Mike said, but the quietness of his voice did nothing to support that idea. "It was weeks ago—remember that morning at the grocery store? I ran into her over by the bakery."
"Christ, Mike," Harvey exhaled, looking guilty. "Why didn't you tell me? Is that what's been bothering you this whole time? What did she say to you?" His voice took on a harsh, threatening edge, but Mike wasn't intimidated—he knew that Harvey was angry at Mrs. Jensen, not him. Instead, he just felt warmed. He probably should have just told Harvey about this when it actually happened.
"She didn't say much," he lied, not meeting Harvey's eyes. "She just hates me because Grammy complained to Social Services after she came and took me back from them, and now they're not allowed to be foster parents anymore."
"Good. They never should have been foster parents in the first place," Harvey said firmly. "But what did she say to you? I know there must have been something."
Mike shrugged as though it wasn't a big deal. "Just stuff about how they didn't want me. And she just sort of…implied that I didn't deserve a family," he said quietly, pushing on in spite of the way Harvey opened his mouth in automatic protest. "But I know she's crazy—I lived with her for three months, I know I shouldn't believe her. But it's just…is hard to believe sometimes? I don't mean to doubt you or anything, it's just…hard," Mike said hastily. "I've been having a lot of nightmares lately," he confessed. "Not that it excuses my behavior at all. But now you know."
"Mike," Harvey said, a hand coming up to rest on Mike's shoulder. "That woman is completely wrong. And it's okay to have a hard time dealing with what she and her husband did to you. I'm so sorry that that happened to you, and if I could go back in time and change places with you, I'd do it in a heartbeat." He took a deep breath. "But I can't help you if I don't know that something is wrong."
"I know," Mike said. "I'm just so used to pushing this kind of stuff away. But maybe it's time that I dealt with it."
"I'll be here for you while you do," Harvey said, his eyes serious.
Mike felt his eyes fill with tears. "Why didn't they want me, Dad?" He whispered. "I was just a little kid—they're the ones who said they'd take another kid in. I didn't do anything! I was just a little kid—" his voice broke and he was pulled roughly into Harvey's shoulder in an embrace.
Harvey just let him cry, and while it might not have been enough to resolve Mike's issues with his past, it was definitely a breakthrough in the right direction.
That night was the first night in weeks that he didn't have a nightmare.
Harvey was evil. This was definitive proof that Harvey was most definitely evil.
Mike had had a long day, and it was only ten in the morning. He was currently about a quarter of the way finished with serving his month-long grounding sentence (one week for drinking, one week for "being ungentlemanly with Rachel"—Harvey still couldn't bring himself to say any word relating to sexual activity in front of him—and two weeks for taking the car without permission and crashing it). He was trying to make money to help pay for the car's repairs, and given that there weren't too many places in the area looking to hire sixteen-year-olds, he had very limited options.
So he had taken up dog-walking, and he hated it. Fortunately the people in this apartment complex who did have dogs were rich and they all paid very well. But it was the middle of winter and he didn't even like dogs that much. And he'd had to drag himself out of bed at eight in the morning on a Sunday to walk Porky, Mrs. Landon in 3A's poodle. Then he'd given Porky a bath for ten extra dollars. Needless to say, it hadn't been a pleasant experience.
Still, he was determined to pay off as much of the car as possible, since he really wanted to show Harvey that he was sorry for his behavior. Things weren't necessarily all sunny with the two of them again—they'd been having long, hard talks about Mike's past lately, and Mike felt like he was on an emotional rollercoaster some days. But he also felt like he was making steps towards healing and moving on from the past for the first time since…well, forever. Harvey had given him a notebook to write in—Mike complained about being given a diary, but he'd written in it a few times after nightmares, and to his surprise, it had actually helped. Harvey had even offered to find Mike a therapist if he felt like he could work through these issues better with a neutral, confidential third party. After some brief consideration, Mike had turned him down, but the offer been nice; just knowing that Harvey supported him and didn't think he was crazy or damaged beyond repair.
He was starting to realize that if you tried to push the past away, it inevitably sprung right back at you. And so he was slowly learning to deal with it, and things were getting better.
At least until this morning, when Harvey decided that they needed to have a sex talk.
All Mike had wanted to do when he got back from dealing with Porky was go back to bed. And yet, he found himself sitting at the kitchen island and staring dumbly at Harvey as he fumbled his way through a vague and disturbing speech about the mechanics of sex.
"And then sometimes she might want you to—"
"Okay, you know what?" Mike interrupted, feeling nauseous. "I appreciate that you want to inform me about all of this, but I had health class freshman year of high school. And I have access to google. So I think we can skip the technical aspects of what you're trying to tell me."
"Oh thank god," Harvey sighed, throwing away the banana that he'd just used to show Mike how to put a condom on. Mike wasn't sure which one of them had been more traumatized by the experience.
"Look, Mike, sex is a beautiful thing," Harvey said, seeming much more at ease talking about the broad spectrum of the subject. "It's fun and it feels good. But the fact remains that it comes with a lot of responsibility. And before you do anything, you need to think about that. And it's always best to have honest, open communication from your partner so that you both know how you're feeling and what you're expecting from the experience. Did you and Rachel talk at all before or after you messed around?"
Mike shook his head silently. They'd both been drunk. He hadn't seen Rachel much since then, but things had been pretty awkward.
"Right—that's not good. That's how people get their heart broken. I'm going to tell you something that my father told me and then, praise God, we can stop talking about this. My father always told me that one day I would find someone that I really cared about and that when we had sex, everything would be completely different. And that I wouldn't understand what that meant until I found that person."
"Was he right?" Mike asked.
"Yes," Harvey said, a far-away look in his eyes. There was a story there, and Mike wondered if he'd ever get to hear it. "Anyway, now we can tell Donna that that happened so she'll stop hiding sex ed pamphlets around my office. She put one in a file and I accidentally gave that file to a client last week. It was a bit awkward when Mrs. Cooper found a brochure entitled "So You Think You're Ready For Sex?" in the same folder as her divorce settlement.
They both shuddered at the thought—Mrs. Cooper was about sixty years old, and quite cranky.
"Okay, well, this has been fun but I think that's enough talking on the subject to last us the next….sixty years or so," Mike said, jumping down from his stool and preparing to flee.
"Hey, wait," Harvey said. "Aren't you forgetting breakfast?"
"I think that talk killed my appetite," Mike said.
Then Harvey pulled out a donut and a piece of cinnamon swirl bread and Mike changed his mind.
"I suppose I could eat something…I'm a growing teenager and all that," Mike said interestedly, sitting back down. Harvey left him to his breakfast and clapped him on the shoulder with a grin as he left to go on a run.
"Just…maybe don't tell Donna that I bought you a donut while you're supposed to be grounded, okay?"
Mike grinned as he ate, thinking about all the people he had looking out for him. It had been a long road, but he was home.
A/N: My parents never grounded us, so I don't know if that was a realistic length of time for a punishment? Also for the life of me I can't remember if I ever gave Mr. and Mrs. Jensen first names-I tried looking through a few chapters of TBAH but didn't see anything. It's probably a bad sign when you can't even keep track of the names of characters in your own AU verse, but...
I'm about to start another semester so I can't guarantee that I'll be around much. But on the bright side, I just got a brand new laptop, which means that writing is going to be SO much easier in the future! If only I could show you guys my old one, you'd understand- it had a cracked screen, broken hinges, and was so slow that it could barely handle gifs. Maybe youtube videos on a really good day lol
Also! Sorry about all the a/n going on here, but to the people wanting me to put this series up on ao3, I'm trying but you can't import stuff directly from this site anymore and all I have are unedited first drafts of chapters on my harddrive. And you can't copy/paste on here anymore, so the only thing for me to do is edit all the unedited drafts to match the finished chapters, but that's going to take FOREVER if I can find time for it...so...sorry! Might not be any ao3 archiving in the near future.