Mike gets the tattoo the day before his twenty-second birthday.
It’s been a rough year. Turning twenty one was such a milestone, and yet it felt completely hollow. His parents’ absence was always obvious during big events in his life, but it felt even more glaring when he blew out the twenty one candles on the cake Grammy had made. Maybe it was due to the impending ten year anniversary of their deaths. Probably it was exacerbated by the weight of Grammy’s disappointment, not only in him getting kicked out of school, but for not getting back on his feet in any viable or respectable way.
In short, his twenty first birthday is not the joyous occasion it should’ve been.
He tries to sort out his life, and manages to find a job as a bike messenger. It’s not pre-law, but it’s something, and Grammy’s extreme enthusiasm for the prospect when he tells her about it makes it all worth it. He tries to bury himself in the work, taking as many shifts as he can, pushing his body to the limit of exhaustion, all to try and distract himself from the ache he gets in his chest when he thinks about his parents. Which he does, with more regularity than usual.
When the anniversary of their deaths arrives Mike calls in sick to work and spends the day holed up in his bedroom, poring over old photo albums, the last tangible piece of his parents’ lives. When he moved in with Grammy into her tiny Brooklyn apartment, Grammy packed up his parents’ house and either sold or donated all of their belongings. He didn’t think much of it at the time, but now with hindsight he can understand the inclination. There wasn’t anywhere for her to keep a life’s worth of belongings, and even if there were it would’ve been too painful to keep everything around. But still, he wishes he had more, something he could hold in his hands and know it was something his parents had held in theirs.
He finally emerges some time after dinnertime has come and gone. Grammy doesn’t say anything. She herself looks drawn and pale, but she tries to give him a weak smile. His attempt at returning it isn’t successful, but she doesn’t seem to mind. Instead she heads over to the kitchen, and, of all things, cuts him a piece of mud cake. It’s ridiculous, because cakes should be for celebrating and not mourning, but it’s Grammy’s go-to for baking and she probably needed something to do today.
Grammy places two plates of cake on the small table, and when Mike crosses the room to sit down Grammy putters over to the old CD player tucked away in the bookshelf and puts on a CD. They sit together and silently eat cake as his parents’ favorite album plays around them.
Though the music isn’t something he would’ve discovered on his own - it was a cult classic album put out a good six or seven years before he was born - he knows it better than he knows his own Metallica and Arcade Fire albums. James and Nina Ross loved music, it was always playing in their house, and this was an album that had high rotation. Mike listens, memories of hot summer days dancing around the house with his mom and curled up on the couch reading with his dad washing over him.
And suddenly, he knows what he wants to do.
Mike’s personal favorite song from the album is called Summer Sun. It somehow has always made him warm and comforted, and given him a sense of belonging, of being in the exact right place at the exact right time. So he finds the sheet music online and takes it to a local tattoo parlor.
They discuss size and placement and cost and book an appointment for the following month. Mike doesn’t feel nervous or uncertain. In fact, he feels settled for the first time in months. It’s like having some kind of permanent marker for his parents is allowing him the freedom to let go.
His tattoo artist prints up the stencil and carefully places it on Mike’s skin. He’s getting it low on his left ribcage, close to his heart. He chose the music from his favorite lyric, and after a quick debate with his tattoo artist decided to keep the staff lines in. It isn’t long, just over half a dozen notes, and the length wraps around his rib nicely. Getting the tattoo hurts, a lot, and yet somehow it’s not as painful as he’d feared; his mind had conjured the idea of pain so unbearable that the reality isn’t anywhere near as bad.
It doesn’t take long, and his artist wraps it up and goes through the aftercare procedure and when Mike leaves he feels more connected to his parents than he has in years.
“Did I ever tell you about my dad?”
“I think you know the answer to that question.”
So Harvey does. He tells Mike that his dad was a musician, a saxophone player, and that he played with all the greats because they all loved him.
Mike may be too stoned to react, but he isn’t too stoned to realize.
It was five years ago now but he remembers. He remembers looking up the sheet music when he was planning his tattoo. He remembers seeing lyrics by Riley Ellis, music by Gordon Specter in the top right hand corner. He even remembers meeting Harvey and being amused by the coincidence of the surname.
But it’s not a coincidence. It can’t be. Harvey’s dad wrote the notes that Mike has permanently marked on his skin.
Still, just to be sure, Mike asks the question. They’ve gone to Pearson Hardman to pee in Louis’ office, but then are distracted by can openers and memos and uncovering a conspiracy that somehow neither of them saw when they were sober. Dawn is starting to break, and the high is starting to wear off, and Mike thinks that if he doesn’t ask this now he’ll never find the courage again. So he says Harvey’s name and asks, “So, your dad, would I know any of his music?”
“Depends on how into 70s and 80s jazz you are,” Harvey grins. He stands from the sofa and heads to the wall of records that suddenly make so much more sense in Mike’s mind. Mike stands, follows, as he’s been doing from the moment they met.
Harvey starts pulling out records, a frankly astonishing number. Harvey will tell him which songs Gordon performed on, which records have songs that he wrote, which artists were his dad’s favorite to work with. Mike listens with rapt attention, and doesn’t even flinch when Harvey pulls out a record that Mike has seen a hundred times before. Granted, his parents had their copy on tape, and his Grammy had bought the CD version when it became available, and now Mike plays it on his iPhone, but the artwork is the same, has followed the music through all its iterations.
It’s not a coincidence. Harvey and Mike were connected in an ethereal way long before they ever met. The knowledge warms inside him, the first moment of comfort he’s had since that terrible moment when Rachel told him about Grammy and his world came crashing down around him. He would never admit it out loud, but he’d always felt there was something between him and Harvey - call it what you will; a spark, a connection - that went beyond the ordinary. He would never call it fate, because that was an ideal too grandiose for him to consider. It’s just, he’s always felt like he and Harvey were meant to find each other.
Maybe this is the universe’s way of telling him that he’s right. That he and Harvey are meant to be in each other's lives.
He thinks about telling Harvey, but the day before had been too heavy and the night before had been too light and he doesn’t know where this piece of information fits in. It just doesn’t feel like the right moment, not now, when he’s still so thick with grief. When he tells Harvey he wants it to be about them, and them alone. So he bites his tongue and hopes that soon the day will come when the moment feels right.
Mike has felt this thing between them building for so long he couldn’t even say when it started.
Maybe it was when he broke up with Rachel and spent a week living on Harvey’s couch. Perhaps it was when he went to prison and Harvey spent every waking moment trying to get him out again. It could have been the first time he was arrested and refused to give Harvey up. Maybe it was when his Grammy died and Harvey was the one person who knew how to give him exactly what he needed. Maybe it was him helping Harvey in the Clifford Danner case or Harvey paying for his rookie dinner or one of a thousand other moments.
Or maybe, just maybe, it was from the moment Mike stumbled into Harvey’s hotel room and bluffed his way into a job he had no right to have.
But whenever it started, it was all leading to this.
Mike tentatively reaches over, his fingertips light on Harvey’s skin as he gently cups his face. Harvey’s lips quirk into a smile which looks equal parts nervous and encouraging, so Mike inches forward, ever so slowly. Harvey meets him halfway and their mouths press together in a gentle kiss.
Mike had never allowed himself to think of this possibility too often, but when he had, when he indulged in the fantasy of Harvey actually returning his feelings, of one of them making a move, it was nothing like this. He’d imagined heat and urgency, an almost aggressive coupling filled with desperation and burning need. He never considered this, this simmering want, the gentle tentativeness that comes with knowing that even so small an act could change everything.
They pull back just far enough to be able to look in each other’s eyes.
“I can’t believe that took us five years,” Mike whispers.
“I can’t believe it didn’t take us ten,” Harvey replies, voice soft but wondrous. And all Mike can do in reply is kiss him again.
Harvey’s hands wrap around his hips and pull him closer. The kiss deepens but doesn’t quicken, and Mike has the fleeting thought that this must be what heaven is like.
Mike doesn’t know how long they stand there, but eventually Harvey murmurs against Mike’s lips, “We should take this elsewhere.”
He’s right, they should, because darkened room or no they are still standing in the middle of Mike’s office where anyone could walk in on them. It’s not likely of course, since it’s nearing one in the morning, but still. This is something that Mike wants to keep to themselves, at least for the moment, and the last thing they need is someone discovering them and telling the world.
“Come home with me.” Harvey’s words may have been a statement but they were really a question. They also might have been more impressive back when they first met, when he and Harvey lived in different boroughs and Harvey would barely let him past the front door. Now they live but a block and a half from each other, and barely a week goes by without one of them knocking on the other’s door for the sole purpose of hanging out. Still, Mike feels a flutter in his stomach, nerves and anticipation and incredulity that this is actually really happening.
The cab ride over is a blur. They make out like teenagers in the backseat, simply because they can, because they’ve waited years for this and they’re giddy and impatient with it. Despite the invitation to Harvey’s apartment Mike’s is actually closer, so that’s where they go. Their fingers tangle together as they cross the lobby, and when they are in the elevator Harvey crowds into Mike’s space in the corner of the car. He doesn’t kiss Mike though, just seems to revel in the proximity, the tip of his nose brushing along Mike’s cheekbone. It feels heady.
Harvey keeps his distance while Mike unlocks the door, but as soon as they’ve closed the door behind them they’re kissing as though their lives depend on it. Mike isn’t even embarrassed by the desperation. He wants Harvey more than he can say, more than he’s ever wanted anyone else, and there’s no way he could hide that fact even if he wanted to. But Harvey seems to be right there with him, trying to both push Mike’s jacket from his shoulders and pull his body closer by the hips, all at once.
“Bedroom,” Mike says against Harvey’s lips, and they move as one across the apartment, laughing as they trip over their own feet.
Mike pushes Harvey down onto the bed and then climbs into his lap. They fall back onto the soft mattress, Mike’s nimble fingers swiftly undoing Harvey’s tie and removing the material by throwing it across the room. Harvey’s shirt is next, and as he undoes each button he carefully kisses each newly exposed patch of skin. It’s a barely there touch that still has Harvey moaning, and Mike can’t wait to hear all the noises Harvey will make.
Mike fists his hands in Harvey’s shirt, sitting up and bringing Harvey with him, pushing the material off his shoulders and down his arms as they kiss. Once the shirt is gone Harvey gets his hands on Mike, cupping his face and kissing under his chin, down the column of his neck. Mike arches back to give him better access, and he’s so distracted by the delicious feeling of Harvey’s lips and tongue against his skin that for the first few seconds he doesn’t even notice. But then he realizes that Harvey has started to unbutton his shirt, and his hands fly to Harvey’s almost without his permission, fingers wrapping around Harvey’s hands, stilling him.
“You okay?” Harvey asks, looking up at him, breathless and beautiful. “Did I-?”
“No,” Mike hastens to assure him. “No, it wasn’t you. I just … I … it’s complicated.”
Mike’s instinct might’ve stopped Harvey, but now that his brain is focused on something other than the feeling of Harvey against him it’s become painfully clear why he stopped Harvey from removing his shirt.
Because once he did, he’d see the tattoo.
Mike hadn’t meant to keep it a secret all this time. It just never felt like the right moment to tell him. And then it got to the point where it felt like too much time had passed, where it felt less like he'd been keeping a secret and more like telling a lie. And he didn’t know how to tell Harvey after so long a silence.
He’d be lying if he said he hasn’t felt the weight of it over the years. It was so different to when they were pretending he was a real lawyer - at least then, the burden was shared. But Mike has been alone in this. Until now.
Harvey has dropped his hands onto the bed, leaning back on his palms in fake ease. He’s trying to look like he’s just giving Mike space, but Mike knows Harvey too well now, can read his expressions like a book, can see the hurt and confusion and worry buried beneath the surface. He thinks Mike’s confused about them, when nothing could be further from the truth.
“Harvey,” Mike says softly. “You have to know how much I want this. How much I want you. I’ve been in love with you for … well, a long time.”
Harvey’s face becomes soft with affection. “Yeah? Me too.”
“It’s just … there’s something I’ve never told you.”
Harvey looks intrigued but non-judgemental. Mike takes a deep breath.
“How do you feel about tattoos?”
“Depends,” Harvey says, eyebrows quirking. “You don’t have a tattoo of Trevor’s face or anything, do you?”
The image startles a laugh out of Mike. “No, definitely not.”
Harvey nods. “Okay, so, are you embarrassed by it or something?”
“No. Quite the opposite in fact,” Mike says earnestly.
Harvey’s confusion is obvious, and Mike thinks they’re just gonna end up talking in circles about it, so he has to decide here and now if he’s ready. If he can finally tell Harvey about his tattoo. But looking into Harvey’s warm eyes, seeing the trust and love shining there, Mike can’t believe that this will go badly.
He presses a tender kiss to Harvey’s lips, lingering for just a moment, before he slips off Harvey’s lap, standing beside the bed. It feels ridiculous to start undressing while he still has his shoes on, so he toes them off first. His tie, already loose around his neck, is easily discarded. He can’t help but keep his eyes fixed on Harvey’s as he unbuttons his shirt. He isn’t trying to make it sexy, but he can’t deny the heat that floods between them. The buttons pop undone but he doesn’t open his shirt, just lets it sit loosely on his form, a sliver of skin down his torso showing between the crisp white material.
Mike takes an aborted step forward, noticing that Harvey still has his shoes on, and decides that turnabout is fair play. Harvey has given him plenty of shit over the years about his outfits and his inability to act like an adult, so Mike very deliberately lets his gaze travel down to Harvey’s feet, raising his eyebrows at him.
Harvey chuckles. “Really? After all this time you finally start to care about decorum?” But he takes his shoes off. In fact, he also takes his socks off with exaggerated flair. Mike grins at him, but then Harvey is sliding back on the bed in obvious invitation. Mike doesn’t hesitate, crawling over him and meeting his mouth in a searing kiss.
For all their talk about the hidden tattoo, Harvey doesn’t seem particularly eager to see it. His palm glides over Mike’s skin, the touch somehow both delicate and assured, but he doesn’t remove Mike’s shirt or break the kiss to look at it. Mike’s feels put at ease, some of the tension pouring out of his body, to the point where he collapses on top of Harvey, the length of their bodies touching. Mike starts to roll his hips, pulling a moan from the base of Harvey’s throat that sounds like heaven. Harvey gets a leg over Mike’s hip, pressing them even closer.
“God, you feel good,” Mike murmurs against his mouth.
Harvey rolls them over easily, sliding his mouth down Mike’s neck. He continues onwards, kissing down the center of his chest, the flat of his stomach. Mike arches up beneath him, getting a hand in Harvey’s hair. Harvey swirls a tongue around Mike’s nipple, a surprised gasp easily turning into a low moan as Harvey takes him apart.
And then, nothing. Stillness. Mike opens his eyes and sees Harvey, looking down at his chest where his shirt has fallen open, his eyes on the tattoo. It’s slightly faded and blurry compared to when he first got it, but on the whole it’s aged well. Mike watches as Harvey gingerly reaches over and runs his fingertips lightly over the marked skin.
“Do you … do you like it?” Mike asks tentatively. He feels like he can’t breathe.
“Yeah,” Harvey says slowly. “What’s it from?”
This is it. The moment Mike has been anticipating and dreading in equal measure. He takes a deep breath, tenderly cups Harvey’s face in his hand, guides Harvey’s attention to him. “Before I tell you, I need you to know that I’ve had it for ten years, long before we met.”
“Okay?” Harvey says, confused.
“It’s from one of your dad’s songs.”
The sudden stilling of Harvey’s fingers on his skin is the only reaction. Harvey is just looking at him, and every second that passes feels like an eternity. He looks down at the tattoo for a moment, and when he looks back he is wide eyed and wondrous. He opens his mouth but nothing comes out. He tries several times, to the point where in the end all they can do is laugh. It’s ridiculous, but it also breaks the tension slightly.
“I don’t - I have so many thoughts and questions I don’t know where to start,” Harvey admits.
“I got it when I was twenty one. It was my favorite song from my parents favorite album. It was to remember them. When you told me about your dad, that he was a musician, I knew it had to be the same person. And when I realized…” Mike trails off, wondering if he’s going too far by telling Harvey this. But then Harvey starts gently running his fingertips over the tattoo, a silent signal of support, and Mike remembers. He can tell Harvey anything. “When I realized it didn’t feel like oh that’s funny or that’s a cool coincidence. It was more like … of course. Of course Harvey’s dad wrote the music I carry around with me every moment of every day. Because from the moment we met I felt connected to you, like we were always meant to meet and be in each others’ lives. And this just confirmed it. I was meant to meet you, Harvey Specter.”
Harvey smiles softly, the kind that starts slow but soon takes over his whole face. “What song is it from?”
Harvey’s eyes widen, and then he laughs. He laughs so hard he rolls off Mike onto the soft bed beside him, and the reaction makes no sense to Mike but then he figures Harvey’s allowed to react however he needs. He shifts onto his side and waits Harvey out, and when Harvey is done, when his laughter peters out and he catches his breath, he simply cups a hand around Mike’s neck, leaning in and kissing him.
“I’ve always thought fate was just a form of coincidence. There’s no way it could be real. Even with everything that had to happen, to both of us, to get us into that room that day, I still couldn’t believe it. But this … now I’m a believer.”
Mike’s confused. It must be showing on his face, because Harvey smiles at him and says, “That song, those notes that you have tattooed on your skin, they were written for me.”
Now it’s Mike’s turn to be incredulous. “What?”
“Well, the story goes that when I was born, the first time my dad held me in his arms, he was so blinded by the love he felt that he turned to my mother and said, ‘It’s like looking into the sun.’”
Harvey levels a look at Mike but continues. “I was born in summer, on the summer solstice actually, so he started calling me his summer sun. He thought it was hilarious because people couldn’t tell if he was calling me sun with a ‘u’ or son with an ‘o’.”
Mike grins. “That’s such a dad joke. I love it.”
“Yeah, he did too. So apparently when I was a baby there was nothing I loved more than listening to my dad play music. His instrument of choice was saxophone, but he also dabbled in piano and guitar. And he liked to write melodies, even though he was more revered for his playing skills. I was always asking him to play for me, which he did, and one day he took it a step further and wrote me a song. I was about three years old and he called it Summer Sun. It wasn’t meant to be heard by anyone else, but then, a few years later, Riley Ellis was over and she heard it. I wasn’t well and my dad was playing it for me to cheer me up. A month later she came back to the house with a handwritten page of lyrics, and the rest is history.”
Mike can’t think. His brain, incredible and unstoppable machine that it is, simply can’t process this. He doesn’t know why, but learning that the song was written about Harvey feels even more amazing than the initial revelation of realizing Harvey’s dad had written the musical notes he has indelibly tattooed on his skin.
“I don’t know what to say,” Mike admits softly.
Harvey nods knowingly. Mike looks at Harvey through new eyes. It really had just felt like a nice idea, like it was a funny coincidence they could assign deeper meaning whenever they were feeling sentimental. But now, now it feels real. Now it feels like fate.
Mike reaches over and lightly cups Harvey’s face. “I really was meant to find you,” he whispers.
“And I’m so thankful that you did,” Harvey replies, tilting his head and pressing a kiss to Mike’s palm.
It’s so easy to lean forward and kiss Harvey then. So he does, falling back onto the mattress when Harvey presses forward. And then Harvey breaks their kiss, ducking his head and pressing his lips to Mike’s ribs, right where the tattoo is.
Mike believes in fate now - how could he not? - but that didn’t make life easier. He knows that, as much as he loves Harvey, life isn’t perfect and there will be bad times ahead. But he also knows that the good times will far outweigh the bad. And whenever he has any doubts, all he needs to do is look down and see Harvey written across his heart. Because even though Mike’s tattoo didn’t bring them together and it certainly wouldn’t keep them together, it was going to be an amazing reminder that no matter what, good times and bad, sickness and health, they were destined to meet. And they belong together.