Second Chances

Harvey Specter was twenty-six years old and New York State's newest Assistant DA when he learned of the existence of his half-brother: Michael James Ross.


June 23rd, 1999 was the day his life changed forever.

Harvey Specter was twenty-six years old and New York State's newest Assistant DA when he learned of the existence of his half-brother.

The social worker on the phone sounded entirely too optimistic as she brought the tenuous walls holding up his carefully crafted new life crashing down around him. "We're considering this as a short-term solution only."

"I think my taxes pay for something amazingly suitable for this situation. It might be called the foster care system," Harvey said.

"Mr. Specter," she said, almost severely, "Do you realize how difficult it is for a sixteen-year-old to find a good placement in foster care?"

"It's probably better than impossible, which, funnily enough is what his chances are with me."

"We are obligated to first seek an alternative placement. This is your half-brother."

"Legally, perhaps," he said flatly, even as his mind processed the implications of the familial relationship and immediately dismissed them. So his mother had gotten herself knocked up by one of the many men she had cheated with? He hadn't given her a second's thought for years.

"He's been living in New York with his paternal grandmother, but she's very sick, Mr. Specter. Stage III ovarian cancer."

She paused there, as if waiting his reaction.

"My condolences," he said curtly.

Somehow, amazingly, she was professional enough to not call him out as a heartless asshole. Harvey mentally gave her a few points for that.

She pressed on, "His name is Michael James Ross, and he goes by 'Mike'. He's had a rough few years in school, but he's an incredibly intelligent and engaging young man."

"They all are, I'm sure."

Her voice finally dipped into uncertainty. "Will you at least meet him?"

"No."

"Mr. Specter," she began, but Harvey had had enough.

"I don't mean to ruin this magical moment," he said brusquely, "But I have a trial this afternoon that I need to prepare for. Good day."

With that, he hung up.

:::

Donna was in his office less than ten seconds later. "One, you don't have a trial this afternoon, and two, that was fairly rude of you."

"I'm really not in the mood for a lecture."

"Bullshit," she said, not giving an inch to him, "You'll be in the mood if I say that you are."

Exasperated, Harvey set down his pen and met her beautiful, fiery gaze unflinchingly. "Okay. Say what you have to say, because I have a feeling I won't hear the end of it until you do."

She rolled her eyes at him. "I can't help it that you put on your asshole hat this morning, but," and she sank into the chair opposite him, her voice softening slightly as she continued, "Harvey, don't take it out on this kid."

"He's nobody to me."

"Doesn't mean he couldn't be somebody."

"That presupposes that I actually want something to do with that kid."

And he didn't. His mother had ceased to be his mother the day that she had left them, he, Dad, and Marc, and left them only the shattered remnants of his dad's heart. She had left without a word and never picked up the phone, never answered any letters, and so Harvey hadn't shed a tear the day he had learned she had died in a car crash, her and her 'true love.'

"I know, Harvey," Donna said quietly, reaching a hand across the desk for his, "But I also know this: you're not the kind of man who could walk away from his half-brother. You're better than that."

He looked away, uncomfortable. "Look - "

"Yes, just look."

He glanced down at the desk, at the thin paper folder she had slid under his hand. "What's this?"

"His name is Mike Ross. That's his freshman year picture."

Nimbly he flipped open the file folder and found himself staring into discerning blue eyes, a cherubic kid whose face hadn't yet hardened with the lines of adulthood, a kid with dirty-blond locks, long eyelashes, and a wide smile. There was no question about it: this kid would get eaten alive in the foster care system.

He looked so young. So innocent. So like Marcus, before he had -

Harvey felt a lump in his throat.

"Donna, you somehow again are both impressive and terrifying," he managed to say. The social worker had called him only five minutes ago. How she had managed to already have this picture in her possession - honestly, it bent the physics of possibility.

"If you were impressed by that, then try this," she said, with a slight smile, "Mike will be here tomorrow, after the disposition at 3."

"Donna - " he protested. 'Cancel it,' was on the tip of his tongue.

She arched a perfectly shaped brow at him, and he knew right then, that he had lost. Not that we would ever admit it, of course.

:::

"How did you convince Cameron to approve bringing a high school student into the office?" Harvey said to Donna, as he smoothed his tie for what felt like the fiftieth time in the afternoon.

"You're now a part of the New York Mentoring for Success program."

Harvey pursed his lips. "Fantastic."

"Nobody in this office believes you volunteered for this," she assured him.

The two rounded the corner. Unwillingly, Harvey's breath came a bit faster as he saw a glimpse of blue jeans, red shirt, and badly scuffed sneakers inside the conference room. This was it. His heart was pounding stupidly fast with, what? Apprehension? He was above that, surely.

"Play nice," Donna cautioned, as he stepped forward and entered the room.

Mike was seated ramrod straight in the chair, looking uncomfortable and out of place. His short hair had been teased with an idiotic amount of gel, into spikes that stood up half-heartedly, and his blue eyes were dimmed and heavy with fatigue. Yet despite that, Harvey could see the flicker of intelligence there, a spark of interest as the kid appraised him.

"Harvey Specter," he said, and offered a hand to shake. A second later he regretted the perfunctory action - this wasn't a client!

To make matters worse, Mike was staring at the proffered hand like he didn't quite know what to do with it. The silence stretched on for what felt like the longest seconds of Harvey's life, to the point where he was considering pulling back his hand and pretending the moment hadn't happened, when Mike came to his feet and took the hand in a firm shake. "Mike Ross."

So, at least his grandmother had taught him proper manners. Courtesy of Donna's amazing sleuthing, Harvey had a good portion of the kid's life story. After Mike's parents (because it was somehow easier to simply think of them as if they were both strangers) had been killed in a car crash, he had been raised by his grandmother.

Harvey took a seat across the table. A moment later, Mike reseated himself and stared at him expectantly.

Yet for one of the first times in his life, Harvey Specter found himself tongue-tied. All the words that he had so carefully rehearsed were stuck in his throat because now that he was staring the kid face-to-face, the resemblance to Marc was even stronger than it had been with the picture. Harvey's heart constricted with guilt, a feeling he had worked so damn hard to bury forever.

"So you're a lawyer," Mike broke the silence.

"Guilty as charged."

"That's cool," Mike determined.

"I'm touched that you think so," Harvey said dryly. "Shouldn't you think firefighters and cops are cool?"

"I'm not five," the kid sounded affronted. "But yeah, lawyers are cool. I like to read. I remember everything I've ever read."

"What, you're Rain Man now?"

Mike grinned, and just like that, his entire face transformed. Suddenly there was confidence there, a cocky swagger, an assurance that he seemed almost a little too young for. Harvey stared, just a little amazed to see the smile that he employed so often on someone else's face.

"You'd be surprised, Charlie," Mike informed Harvey sincerely. With his chin, he gestured toward the bookshelf in the corner of he room. "Is that the BarBri Legal Handbook? Open it up. Read me anything."

Intrigued despite himself, Harvey crossed the room, selected the book, and thumbed it open to a random page. "Civil liability associated with agency is based on several factors including - "

" - including the deviation of the agent from his path of reasonable inference of agency on behalf of the plaintiff and the nature of the damages themselves."

The hell? Harvey stared at him.

A few beats later, he remembered to close his mouth. "How do you know that?"

"I learned it when I was preparing for a mock trial at school."

"A mock trial at school," Harvey said skeptically, "Isn't the BarBri handbook overkill for that?"

"I like to read," Mike insisted, "And the handbook was interesting."

"I don't think I've ever heard that one before."

"Well I'm not like anyone you've ever met before," Mike's chin jutted out as he said that.

I'm beginning to see that, kid.

Throughout his life, Harvey had trusted and lived by his instincts. His uncanny ability to understand people - what they thought, what they feared, what they could be tempted by - was one of his greatest strengths.

Now, his instincts made the decision in a second. "Okay, here's the deal, hotshot," he said, "I'll become your legal guardian, with the following stipulations. One: I'm not your mother. You clean up after your own shit."

"Our mother."

Harvey grimly continued, "Two: you never refer to her as 'our' mother again. She's your mother. Three," he said, before the kid could object, "I don't care what your taste in music is, but you never play boy band music when I'm within hearing range."

"Boy bands? I'm not a twelve-year-old girl!"

He plowed on as if he hadn't heard. "Four: you don't hog the phone line, and five: you'll promise to throw away all your pot and never touch it again."

Mike raised his hand. "Can I speak now?"

He made a 'go-on' gesture with his hand.

"I don't smoke pot."

"Six," Harvey said, "you never lie to me again."

The kid stared at him, his expression a cross between aghast and stunned. To Harvey's smug satisfaction, Mike didn't seem to have any retaliatory words.

"You read books, I read people," Harvey said, with a slight smirk, "Do we have a deal?"

"You know, as a minor, I could disaffirm at any time."

Despite himself, he grinned. This kid was really something. "Then in loco parentis, I'll sign for you," he said, "and I think we have a deal."

They would still have to make it official of course, but Harvey had a sneaking suspicion that even as he and Mike were talking, Donna was on the phone with the social worker, hammering out the details.

:::

Harvey spent the following Saturday getting some of his affairs in order. His one bedroom apartment, while more than adequate for his needs, was going to need some work in order to accommodate a teenager. Fortunately his furniture was limited in quantity; Harvey refused to buy cheap, knock-off items, and instead saved up for real wood, real leather. It was easy enough to shove his sofa, dining table, and four chairs to one side. In the free space, he strung up a curtain to give Mike some privacy.

He didn't have an extra bed, so the inflatable mattress would have to serve for now. Harvey sighed wistfully as he gazed around his apartment. It was fairly evident he was going to need to start looking for a new place. Damn, but he had been so proud when he had first moved in; the square footage was laughable, but he had one large window with a partial view of the city skyline.

The social worker had wanted him to accompany Mike to his grandmother's nursing home for a visit and to pick his up belongings. Harvey had refused adamantly, informing her that it would be nearly impossible for him to remain civil. Mike's grandmother, after all, was the mother of a man who had the morals to sleep with a married woman. Thankfully the social worker had seen sense and relented, promising to bring Mike by in the early evening.

Harvey sighed as he glanced around the apartment and realized just how much his life was changing. This apartment would no longer be his place to unwind after work, with a glass of scotch and the smooth sounds of classic music. No, instead there would be...game consoles and yoyos, or whatever it was that teenagers these days did in their free time.

Too late now for regrets though. Harvey resigned himself to starting dinner. His cooking repertoire was quite limited, but he had managed to fend for himself reasonably well over the years. Tonight, he was sticking to pasta with garlic, olive oil, and red pepper flakes.

At 7:30pm, Mike arrived, clutching a well-worn dark blue Nike duffel bag.

"Where's Ms. - " Harvey racked his mind for the name of the social worker, and came up empty. Thank goodness Donna wasn't here to rag him about it.

"Sanchez," Mike said, "and she said she was too busy to drop in. I'm pretty sure she doesn't like you."

"That's ridiculous; women love me," he said. "Come in. Dinner will be ready in about ten minutes."

He pointed out landmarks in the apartment to Mike as they walked inside. "Kitchen, bathroom, my room, your room."

Mike touched the inflatable bed curiously.

"It's that or the floor," Harvey said.

"No, it's great," the kid said quickly, "Just like camping." He set the duffel bag on the light bamboo hardwood floors, and again grazed the bed with his fingers. "Are these 1000-count sheets or something?"

"I told you the women love me," Harvey said.

Mike's face suffused with color. "Um - "

Harvey snorted. "Please tell me you can hear the word 'sex' without - never mind," he sighed, as Mike flushed even redder and began stammering some nonsensical syllables. Well, there went his personal life for the foreseeable future. That finalized it: he definitely needed a two-bedroom place.

Meanwhile Mike was busying himself with inspecting the items Harvey had laid out for him. "Is this your old Harvard hoodie? Cool!" He wiggled his way into it, and Harvey's lips twitched at the sight of the kid dwarfed in the Harvard crimson. Although Mike wasn't particularly short or tall for his age, he was gangly, all legs and limbs.

Mike inspected himself. "Does this look okay?"

"On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd say a 3," Harvey said.

"Is 10 'it looks great' or 'it looks dorky'?" Mike frowned at him.

"You don't want to know."

"Well I like it," Mike said, in his best offhanded tone that fooled nobody. Giving his old hoodie to Mike had been Donna's idea, and he was beginning to understand why she had suggested it. Despite how silly the hoodie looked on him, the kid looked ridiculously proud to be wearing it.

"Get yourself settled in," Harvey said, "and I'll finish up dinner."

"It smells good. What're you making?"

"Pasta."

"Awesome, I love Italian," Mike said, "by the way, have you ever had the pizza with the cheesy crust? Because it blew my mind."

Harvey didn't deign to respond.

:::

They spent the next day following Donna's itinerary. The morning started off with breakfast at one of Harvey's favorite diners, where Harvey learned that Mike hated the taste of black coffee, but absolutely adored coffee ice cream. Then they spent an hour at Target, where Mike insisted on buying some milk crates to store his clothing and other belongings.

Harvey shifted uncomfortably. "I can buy some real furniture," he said.

"I honestly prefer the milk crates," Mike said.

"I hope you're not planning to build a fort with them."

"Seriously, I'm not five."

Harvey heaved a sigh. "Milk crates are not furniture."

"Don't get skimpy on me. They're only two dollars each."

"They're something people used to throw out," Harvey said.

So as he stood at the cashier and paid for a dozen milk crates, a mix of black, white, and blue crates, Harvey silently wondered how exactly his life had gotten to this point.

After they had taken a taxi back to his place and dropped off their purchases, Harvey said casually, "Ready for the game?"

"What game?"

Harvey waved two tickets under the kid's nose.

Mike yelped, "YANKEES TICKETS?"

"Luxury suite. Yankees vs. Orioles."

"Holy shit! Holy shit!" A moment later, Mike bit his lip. "Oh sorry."

"You can swear in front of me," Harvey said, amused.

"Awesome!" Mike declared, reaching reverently for the tickets. "How on earth did you manage to land these? These have to be at least four thousand a pop!"

"The DA's office sometimes receives gifts."

"Isn't that like bribery?"

"Gifts of appreciation. But if you really want to keep pulling at that string, these tickets might go poof."

"My lips are sealed," Mike said solemnly, "Let's go, Yankees!"

:::

The game was better than he could have hoped for. Harvey bought a navy blue Yankees cap and pulled it over Mike's head, even as the kid almost fell over with professions of gratitude. They woofed down hotdogs and chili-cheese fries, and relished the sweet night air, and the sounds of the thunderous stadium over the tunes of 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game'.

After the game was over (the Yankees won), Harvey and Mike made their way to the taxi stand Mike's eyes were shining with exuberance, and he was practically dancing as he kept rehashing the highlights of the game to Harvey.

"Did you see when Jeter hit that homerun? He just pulled back and blam!"

"Yes, Mike, I was there. Sitting next to you as you stole my fries. Remember?"

None of that deterred Mike though, and he was a chatterbox the entire ride home as Harvey learned more than he had ever cared to know about Chicago pizzas, cheese on a stick, Super Smash Brothers, and oddly enough, the history of grog in the British Navy. The kid was a friggin' walking Brittanica.

:::

That night, Harvey woke up at 3am to the sound of whimpering. He was fully alert in a flash, heart pounding as he threw on a T-shirt and rushed into the living room. "Mike?"

The kid was tossing and turning fitfully, knuckles white on the white duvet that was twisted around his legs. "No," he cried out, "No, please don't." His brow was slicked with sweat.

"Mike, Mike, wake up," Harvey perched on the edge of the inflatable and put a hand on Mike's shoulder. Mike flinched away from the touch, and then his eyes popped open.

"Grammy?" he choked out, blue eyes wide with anxiety as he blinked a few times and tried to orient himself. "Grammy!"

Harvey drew back his hand, unsure how to respond.

A moment later, he saw the clarity come back to Mike's face, as he suddenly looked very, very embarrassed. "Harvey," he stammered, "I didn't - I hope I didn't wake you..."

"Don't worry about it," Harvey said quickly. "It was just a nightmare, Mike. It's okay. You're okay."

"Yeah," Mike gulped a bit, tried to affect some teenage bravado. But he clearly wasn't okay. The lawyer hesitated, torn between his desire to avoid all awkward situations and a sudden surge of protectiveness.

"Why don't you tell me about it," he said finally.

"No, I don't - " Mike cast about with his eyes, as if searching for an escape. "I don't want to."

Gently, Harvey tapped him on the nose. "Yes, you do. I read people for a living, remember? Now tell me."

"No, I don't, I don't - " Mike protested feebly, and then suddenly burst out, "She's going to die, isn't she?"

The quivering voice hit Harvey like a sledgehammer. He sat down, hard, at a complete loss for words. This was dangerous, unfamiliar territory; he was a smooth talker, a charmer. Sympathy was far from his specialty. His whole life was a testament to that fact. After his mother had left, despite his best efforts he had been unable to cajole either his Dad or Marc, and as a result, his family had fallen apart under his watch.

"She's receiving good care," he said.

"She's all I have," Mike said raggedly. "And they wouldn't have given me to you if...if..."

If there was any hope that his grandmother would make it. Something constricted inside his chest at the utter despair in Mike's voice.

Because he had heard that very same despair, in a different voice, in what felt like a lifetime ago. I'm going to die, aren't I, Harv?

He had been powerless then, but he saw the words he could say now, and he took them.

"Hey, hey now," he said softly, "Do you know what Ms. Sanchez said when she first told me about you? That this would be a short-term solution. Grammy needs full time care now, but once she pulls through, she'll be there for you again."

Mike's blue eyes turned to him, desperate, desperate to cling at any lifeline Harvey was willing to throw him. Even if it were a lie. "Ms. Sanchez really said that?"

"Yes," Harvey said.

Sick at heart, hating himself.

But it worked. Slowly, the tension eased from Mike's shoulders and the trembles ceased. "Thanks, Harvey," he croaked, roughly dragging an arm across his face.

"Anytime, hotshot. Now try to go back to sleep," he said gently.

Mike nodded wearily.

Remembering something of how Marc had been after a nightmare, Harvey stayed seated next to him until Mike's breathing deepened and came slow and steady. Even then, he remained seated in the darkness, a silhouetted statue in the moonlight, his heart heavy with guilt.

Because the social worker hadn't called it a short-term solution because she thought his grandmother would survive. It was a short-term solution because this arrangement only needed to last until Mike was eighteen, and a legal adult.

:::

The next morning, it was as if nothing had happened. Mike hungrily spooned up every last Cheerio and said, "cool," when Harvey announced his intention to bring Mike into the DA's office with him.


Up Next: Harvey and Mike's relationship is sorely tested when Mike breaks his promise.

And looking forward: So I never thought I'd actually write one of these Mike de-aged fics, but...this bunny just wouldn't let go. I'm not entirely sure yet where to carry this story, but I have a rough idea in my head to loosely mirror the events of canon, while delving a bit into the darker aspects of Mike and Harvey's pasts. Any interest in continuing? As always, I'd love to hear what you think.