Author's Note: Thank you so much for the kind comments and support for Chapter 1. Sorry it's been awhile since the last update; job obligations have a pesky way of getting in the way sometimes. Here's another long chapter to hopefully make up for the wait. Disclaimer: I stole bits of dialogue from Suits 1.02.
He didn't want to admit it, but damnit, he actually liked Harvey.
It definitely hadn't started out that way. As a kid, Mike had always thought it was sort of cool that he had two 'long lost' brothers somewhere else in the world...but that was exactly where they had been: somewhere else in the world.
That was, until he had learned of Grammy's diagnosis. Then, abruptly, Harvey Specter had become a name he couldn't seem to escape from. "But I don't want to live with him!" Mike had argued vehemently, "I want to stay with you! I'll take good care of you, I promise." But Grammy had been insistent - please, Michael, I know you're unhappy with this situation, but you must make the best of it - and so he had sucked it up and put on his game face.
The first time he had gone into the DA's office to meet Harvey, he had gone in with a secret agenda. Part of his mind had looking for something to get him out of the situation, even as the other part of his mind had been grudgingly blown away by how awesome Harvey was. He was living the dream! Harvard-graduate, star prosecutor. He was everything Mike had wanted to be since he was ten years old, everything he had always wanted in an older brother. Despite himself, despite the plan, he had found himself showing off a bit, trying to impress Harvey.
Their first day together had been so awesomely perfect that Mike was sure he dreamed it. The only time a sliver of doubt had entered his mind had been when they had returned from their shopping trip to Target, arms laden with new purchases, and Mike had suddenly realized, oh shit, maybe I shouldn't have spent so much of his money.
Then Harvey had magically conjured up Yankees tickets, and the thought had been gone almost as quickly as it had come.
The doubts were back now though, and they had invited company.
As he ate his Cheerios, Mike tried to discreetly study his new 'guardian' (because 'brother', even 'half-brother', was really way too much of a stretch at this point; he could just imagine the look of horror on Harvey's face).
What was the catch? Why was Harvey putting up with what had to be a huge upheaval in his perfect life? For a crazy moment, Mike had the mental image of Grammy somehow having blackmail material on the man. She had always been one heckuva resourceful woman.
"My tie can't be crooked," Harvey said.
Mike's spoon stopped halfway to his mouth. "Huh?"
"You're looking for something." Harvey set down his Blackberry and raised an eyebrow, the question 'so what is it?' implicit.
He thought fast. "Is it weird wearing a suit all the time?"
"Is it weird always wearing pants that are hanging off your ass?" came the quick rejoinder.
"Hey this is style."
"Uh-huh," Harvey didn't sound convinced, but he returned to his Blackberry.
Mike met a whirlwind of people that morning.
First there was Cameron Dennis, the District Attorney, Harvey's boss. "Whoa there," he declared, his tone genial as he came forward and thumped Mike on the back, "Who's the junior, Harvey?"
"My Mentoring for Success project."
Mr. Dennis pursed his lips. "Well, if program participation helps win votes..." he said, and then laughed. "Just messing with you, kid. Welcome to the office. Don't let Harvey be too much of an ass; he's damn good at it."
"Yes, sir," Mike agreed. He liked the man, with his confident smile and bushy mustache.
Harvey rolled his eyes. "Let's go."
"I'd vote for him," he told Harvey as they were walking away.
"If that's all it takes to convince you, then it dismays me to think that people like you will be able to legally vote in two years," Harvey said.
Then there was Big Bertha. Mike also liked her immediately, with her no-nonsense demeanor and her ability to cut right through Harvey's charm.
"I'm telling you, she adores me," Harvey assured him.
Mike chanced a glance backwards. "She's shaking her head."
"Obviously at something completely unrelated," Harvey scoffed, but Mike didn't missed the wink he threw back over his shoulder.
Nor did either of them miss the pen that suddenly bounced off the back of Harvey's head.
And then finally, there was Donna.
Donna, a category all of her own, as she so cheerfully informed him.
"Ms. Sanchez mentioned that I had you to thank for arranging the meeting with Harvey, Ms. Paulsen," Mike said, shaking her hand politely.
"Donna," she corrected him, pulling a face, "It's all the title I need."
"I'll remember that, Donna," Mike said, "Are you Harvey's..." he bit off the sentence, maybe a bit late. 'Secretary' sounded a bit old-fashioned, a bit sexist, and even though he had only known her for two seconds, he was pretty darn sure this was someone whose bad side he wanted to avoid as much as humanly possible.
"Everything," Donna said.
Mike blinked, taken aback. That wasn't a thing.
"Everything?" Harvey said quietly, a peculiar note in his voice. Still confused, Mike tilted his head to look at him, and was surprised to see a crooked, languid smile on Harvey's face.
It was right about then that Mike began to get a seriously uncomfortable inkling that he had somehow wandered somewhere he really shouldn't be. "Um - uh, the bathroom," he said, his ears flushing red hot as he quickly ducked his head and ran.
From somewhere behind him, he thought he heard Donna's soft peals of laughter. "Oh he's cute, Harvey..."
The day spent at the DA's office was one of the most mentally challenging days Mike had ever experienced, and he loved every second of it. This was real work they were doing, real bad guys that they were putting away, and Mike was almost dizzy with exhilaration. Even better, it was something he was good at, and he made damn sure that Harvey knew it, too.
They pitched ideas back and forth, referencing precedent and vague bylaws of bylaws. Mike proved more than once that once had read something, he remembered it - even if were a footnote on page 847 of a three-thousand page document. Those moments made him proud because he was being useful somehow, he wasn't just some nuisance that Harvey had been coerced into accepting.
"Come on," he ribbed Harvey, "is that the best a Harvard-trained attorney can do? Budd vs. New York."
"That's what one might have thought of the Interstate Commerce Clause and violence against women, but Rehnquist sure proved that one wrong. Just run with it, okay? Budd vs. New York."
"Property rights." There was a healthy note of skepticism in Harvey's voice.
"If a man devotes his honestly acquired land to a public use, he gives to the public a right to control that use. The court upheld Munn vs. Illinois."
He ended the sentence with a triumphant smile, only to be met with a bemused stare.
Mike bounced on his heels as he waited for the light bulb over Harvey's head to light up.
"Keep drawing the line connecting that decision with solicitation," Harvey said.
"The point is it was public land where the solicitation took place!"
"Oh, now I see what you're saying. It had to be Professor Plum in the library with the candlestick," Harvey said dryly.
"Hey, you watched A Few Good Men," Mike said, and artificially deepened his voice to his best Colonel Jessep impression, "You can't handle the truth!"
"It's not convincing when your voice cracks halfway," Harvey said.
And so it went, on and on.
As they ate their takeout dinner over the file folders, greasy, delicious American Chinese food, Mike chanced to ask, "So have you ever lost a case?"
"Nope." Harvey plucked a piece of orange chicken with his chopsticks and popped it in his mouth.
"Live by the Golden Rule, and you're set."
"Treat others as you'd like to be treated?"
"Not that kindergarten bullshit," Harvey scoffed, "Don't go to court unless you can win."
Mike shook his head in disbelief. "You can't possibly win every time. What if all the evidence points against your client?"
Harvey leaned back in his chair, propped his dress shoes up on the desk, and said, "Do you play poker?"
"Some Texas Hold Em', yeah," Mike said, rescuing the broccoli beef from Harvey's feet.
"You win a lot?"
"By counting cards."
Mike opened his mouth to protest, but then he noticed the knowing glint in Harvey's eyes. Right. The whole 'read people' thing. His shoulders slumped. "Yeah, maybe."
"Well then, what happens when the math's telling you that you don't have the right cards?"
"Then you're hosed," Mike said.
"No, losing isn't an option," Harvey shook his head, "So you bluff."
Could it be as easy as that? Mike was speechless; Harvey sounded so confident...
And then it hit him, a horrible, awful, gut wrenching thought: how much was Harvey bluffing with him?
Because Harvey had been nothing but kind to him, and that completely didn't jive with what he had overheard. Even now, he could replay the words in his mind, as crystal clear as the day he had huddled outside of Grammy's hospital room and pressed his ear to the door and heard Ms. Sanchez tell Grammy, "Harvey isn't relenting. He doesn't want the kid."
They were words he could never forget.
What game was Harvey really playing? Mike stared into those unfathomable dark eyes and found no answer.
He accompanied Harvey to the DA's office again the following day, but it was immediately very clear that Something Big had happened overnight. Mr. Dennis called for Harvey's attention, and as Mike threw himself in Harvey's guest chair and watched their interactions through the glass window of some conference room, it was clear both men were agitated. A few minutes later, Harvey came striding back to his desk.
"Mike, I'm slammed today, you're going to need to entertain yourself a bit," he said, his voice clipped.
"Can I help?" Mike said eagerly.
"No," Harvey said shortly, "Where's Donna?" It was clear the question wasn't really posed to him though, because Harvey was already yanking open cabinet drawers and pulling out stacks of folders.
"I can read things really fast - " Mike tried.
"Richard," Harvey stood up and waved at one of his coworkers. "Have you met Mike? He's a real ace with this law stuff and he's not bad with sports trivia either. Let him in on the Schumacher case?"
Mike stared, mouth agape. What was going on? Why couldn't he help? Why was Harvey suddenly pawning him off like he was Hot Potato?
But there was no time to say any of this, because Harvey was already out the door. And all Mike could do was stare at the void he had left behind, hurt at the curt dismissal. Now what was he supposed to do?
The man who Harvey had called out to rose from his desk and came over to him. "Hey there," he said, with a disarming smile, "I'm Richard Jensen. Are you Harvey's mentee?"
"Um," Mike gulped back a wave of stupid emotion, "Yes. Mike Ross."
"Nice to meet you, Mike."
"Nice to meet you too," he said, knowing he didn't sound enough like he meant it. His emotions were still reeling from Harvey's abrupt departure, and he couldn't seem to shut up the part of his brain that was saying, see! He can't be bothered with you in his life.
"You a football fan, Mike?"
He had tried so hard yesterday to make Harvey like him, to value him, and he had thought it was working...
"Um yeah, a bit," he managed to say.
"In the final AFL game ever played, what team did the Chiefs beat in 1970?"
What was this, a pop quiz? Mike tried to drag his thoughts into focus. "Oakland Raiders."
"Who was the first person in the NFL to rush for over a thousand yards in a season?"
"Beattie Feathers, Chicago Bears," Mike said, "That the best you've got?" But he smiled as he said it, to hopefully not give offense to the only friendly face he saw around.
"Just wanted to see if you were as good as advertised," Richard said with a grin, "And damn, you're good. As it so happens, I'm working a case right now where I could use a sports expert. You game?"
His interest was piqued a bit at the mention of a case. And well...why the hell not? Harvey had clearly abandoned him.
"Sure," he said, "I'm down."
"We've been trying to convince a witness to testify for us in a money laundering case," Richard explained, "He doesn't trust lawyers. I think he's had some bad dealings with them, patents and all that stuff."
"Can't you just subpoena him?"
"I could, but I'd rather not. It's always dangerous to bring in a subpoenaed witness because you never know what they'll say on the stand."
Intrigued, Mike said, "So what do you need me to do?"
"He runs a fantasy football site, Premiere Fantasy Sports," Richard's teeth gleamed pearly white, "And you're going to impress the shit out of him."
"Those two questions I asked you, Tom asked me one the first time I met him, the other the second. Each time I couldn't come up with an answer, and he came up with an excuse to stonewall me."
Just for not knowing football trivia? Mike had read of some truly crazy excuses for witnesses refusing to testify before, but this one really topped the list.
Richard seemed to catch his train of thought. "I agree, he is a bit ridiculous. His business is worth a hundred million, and he uses a frat brother as his attorney. Just think of it this way: he doesn't get lawyers, so we need to give him someone who he relates to."
The plan was beginning to click in Mike's mind. "And that's where I come in."
"You think you can handle it?"
"No problem." Actually it was kinda cool; he could pretend he was going undercover on a mission for the DA.
"You're a damn good partner, Mike. I'm counting on you," Richard said, and even though he had a strong suspicion he was being fed the carrot, Mike couldn't help but puff up a bit at those words. Harvey hadn't said that, not once, even after they had spent the entire day poring over cases together.
And so that was how he found himself in a locker room, getting ready to play a game of tennis while also desperately hoping that he'd get this mission done before it got to the point where he'd actually need to play tennis.
Richard had pointed out Tom Keller to him earlier, and so Mike took up position at the locker opposite Tom's (he'd snuck a peek at the assignment sheet) and waited. It didn't take long; minutes later, Keller entered, easily recognizable by his shockingly blond hair and light hazel eyes. Judging purely from appearance alone, Mike would have guessed him to be not much older than twenty. That was good, because for this plan to work, Mike was going to need to pretend there wasn't an age gap.
"Hey, uh," he said, as nonchalantly as he could manage, "I know you must hear this all the time, but I'm totally addicted to your website."
For a moment it seemed Keller would ignore him, but after a beat, Keller shrugged on a shirt and said, "All right, who placed sixth in passing yards last year?"
Too easy. "Drew Bledsoe, 3633. How many sacks did Michael McCrary have?"
"Nut-uh, 14 and a half."
"Yeah I know, I rounded up."
"Your league doesn't, or I would've come in better than 20th."
Out of the corner of his eye, he was watching Keller carefully at this point, and so he saw the exact moment when Keller's face lit up with recognition. "You're rossaratus, right?"
"Yeah. Mike Ross."
"Tom Keller. Nice to meet you."
They shook hands.
"Congratulations, man, you got a nice team there. If Fred Taylor hadn't let you down, you would've been Top 10 for sure."
"Yeah well, that's what happens when you get high before the draft, right," Mike laughed.
Keller looked at him askance. "You get high?"
Alarm bells rang in his head as Harvey's warning suddenly flashed across his mind - you'll promise to throw away all your pot and never touch it again.
"I - uh - " he fumbled.
"It's okay, man," Keller said, "No worries." He closed the locker, and started to turn away. With panic, Mike realized that had been his window of opportunity, and he was now watching it slip away.
Harvey isn't relenting. He doesn't want the kid.
In that heartbeat he decided, screw it, screw Harvey and his rules, he didn't even mean it, he didn't give me a second's thought the moment his life got busy, this will show him I don't give a fuck too - and he blurted out, "It's 4:20."
The language of one stoner to another.
Keller turned back around, his hazel eyes flickering up to the clock that clearly read 2:55. "It's 4:20," he said, with a smile, "Follow me."
The rest of the afternoon was one giant blur. Some indiscriminate amount of time later, Mike found himself back outside on the tennis courts, with a racket in his hand that he had no idea how he had gotten, and with the hazy notion that it must have been really funny. He was somewhat sure a fedora and a few acorns had been involved. Heh. Fedoras.
They were wandering the courts and watching the neon yellow tennis balls fly around when Richard noticed him and jogged over. "Mike!"
Mike zeroed in immediately on the fact that the lawyer had a bag of Doritos in his left hand.
"You with him?" Keller said. "Mr. Jensen, right?"
"Mike's my man," Richard said, nudging him in the side with his Doritos-hand.
Through a really thick tortilla chip fog in his mind, he remembered the mission. "Yeah, Richard's cool," he told Keller, with every bit of conviction he could muster.
Keller appraised Richard. "Then I'll be in touch," he said, and then laughed, "Later. Trust me, you don't want my testimony now. See you around, Mike." He sauntered away, racket slung casually over his shoulder.
"You did it, Mike!" Richard slapped him on the back, "I knew you'd pull through. That conversation right there, I think that's the most words he's ever spoken to me that didn't involve any goddamn football trivia."
"Toldja," Mike said, "Hey, are those chips?"
"Yeah, do you want - " there was a pause, as Richard suddenly peered closely into his eyes and cursed. "Oh no. Don't tell me you're...oh shit. Harvey's going to fucking kill me."
He thought, Richard sounds worried, maybe I should be worried too.
Then he thought, I wonder if I could hit a tennis ball over that far wall if I swung the racket like a golf club.
And then he thought, but I'm pretty bad at golf.
"Mike," Richard snapped his fingers in front of his face, "Let's get you back to the office...and...maybe some Visine or something for your eyes. Do me a favor, and Don't. Talk. To. Anyone."
He turned and started for the car. Mike went with him, because he still had the chips.
Thirty minutes later, Mike and Richard were camped out in one of the conference rooms tucked away in the back of the office, waiting for Mike to come down from his high.
"Thank goodness Harvey has his hands full with the judge," Richard muttered to himself, and then cursed and said, "Speak of the devil."
Harvey was rapping on the glass door.
"If you build it, they will come," Mike told Richard solemnly.
Richard seemed to appreciate neither the irony nor the quote. "Follow my cue, and try not to say anything, okay?"
He nodded in agreement, and then a few more times for good measure.
"I'm dead," Richard sighed, as stood up from his seat. There was a moment when he seemed to pull his lawyer mask on, and then: "Harvey!" he greeted warmly, pulling open the door and leaning against the doorframe, arms crossed in a relaxed fashion. "How are things with Judge Pearl?"
"You know that feeling when you've been irrationally screwed over in open court because of an affair that you didn't have with the judge's wife? Yeah. That kind of day. Mike," Harvey snapped his fingers, "Donna will kill me if I don't feed you something."
"Oh don't worry about that; we've already eaten," Richard said, still casually blocking Harvey's access inside the room.
Mike suppressed a giggle at the tactic. Like that would work with Harvey.
Sure enough, he could hear the sudden suspicion in Harvey's voice. "What's going on here?"
"Nothing, nothing. Mike's been helping me review some cases."
Mike hastily dropped his head over the stack of papers in front of him and pretended to be reading. There were so many lines of text, just lines and lines of text swirling together into a giant swirl of multi-color highlighter...whoa. He tilted his head to one side, fascinated.
"Uh, Mike, I just remembered, I left some briefs down in the car. If you wouldn't mind grabbing them..." Richard said, his voice a bit strained.
Case files. Yes, case files!
"On it!" he jumped up and ducked his head as he tried to squeeze past the two men at the door.
Only to be blocked by Harvey.
As he fumbled to regain his footing, Mike tried his best to look anywhere but at Harvey, a task made almost impossible by the other's unfairly large and rapidly intimidating presence at the door.
"Look at me," Harvey demanded.
"Harvey," Richard began.
"Shut up," Harvey snapped, "Mike, look at me."
Okay, right, look at him. Mike could do that. It was just looking, after all. With careful effort, he dragged his gaze up, up from the oak floors, past the curve of Harvey's dress shoes, the hem of his dark charcoal pants, the crisp lines of his white dress shirt, the sharp angle of Harvey's clean-shaven jaw, and finally -
He looked directly into the gaze of the man who had taken him to a Yankees game and bought him an overpriced cap, who had comforted him in the dark of night and done him the courtesy of pretending it had never happened, and who had carved out a space in his home for him...and found that it was the prosecutor staring back at him. Harvey's eyes were cool and foreboding as they swept over him, and Mike's chest began yammering with anxiety because the idea that had seemed so good at the time, clearly didn't seem quite so good now.
He told himself that he was prepared for the anger. He could handle it; hell, he was pretty ticked off himself at how the morning had gone. Fight fire with fire? Yeah, he could handle that.
He told himself he was prepared for indifference. In fact,this might be exactly the sort of screw up Harvey had been hoping for in order to dump him off. Harvey might even be grateful.
But what he wasn't expecting, what he was entirely unprepared for, was disappointment.
And so when it came, it was like a punch to the gut.
Mike's stomach flipped several times over as he struggled to hold eye contact, because the look that Harvey was giving him cut right through him like steel, and Mike realized, a bit too late, that maybe Harvey had meant every word that he had said, had been genuine all along.
"You're high," Harvey said, flatly.
It wasn't a question.
Mike jerked his head in a nod, his innards too twisted up for words.
Richard said, "Harvey, he helped convince Tom Keller to - "
Harvey spun on his heel and strode away.
Author's Note: Cruel to leave it here, I know! But this one was getting loooong, and since Harvey's about to punch a wall, I thought it was about time to switch POVs with a new chapter. I hope to have it out soon. As always, I'd love to hear what you think. Comments feed the muse?