Mike doesn’t usually go around memorizing people’s facial expressions– hell, he can barely remember what his own face looks like half of the time– but Harvey Specter’s an exception to that rule. Perhaps it’s because of how important the role is that Harvey plays in his life, or it could be because his face is just that goddamn beautiful, but Mike’s brain captures his expressions in photorealistic detail and keeps them in neatly labeled structures, preserving them like a scared text.
Storing all these images no doubt drains his memory, but Mike can’t bring himself to complain.
When Mike meets Harvey for the first time, he spends the first few seconds panicking about the weed in his briefcase, and the next few minutes panicking about the weed on the floor. It’s not until Harvey’s reading the BarBri handbook and he’s quoting it back that Mike realizes that Harvey Specter is exquisitely, painfully gorgeous.
Though he keeps his chin still tucked down, Harvey gradually raises his eyes from the handbook, and suddenly Mike is under the full force of his stare, intense and wondering and full of want. Mike gives no ground, instead matching Harvey’s gaze, sinking into those rich, warm, cinnamon-brown eyes. Then he sees Harvey’s lips have parted ever so slightly– lips that are a perfect, rosy, kissable pink, thin overall but plump in just the right places– and he starts to suspect he is lost to this man.
Several years later, Mike reviews three thousand pages of evidence in his head, strings together precedents from four different cases, and delivers a watertight argument to Harvey in five seconds flat. Then he glances at him and stops halfway through a word, breath stolen away because Harvey’s giving him that same look.
Harvey rises from his seat, slow and deliberate, and crosses the room to where Mike’s standing, fixed in place. His eyes rove down and up again hungrily, but he holds himself back from physical contact, allowing Mike a moment to flee.
Mike doesn’t flee– he doubts his legs could escape Harvey’s pull even if he wanted them to. Instead, he looks down at Harvey’s slightly parted lips, leans forward, and slots his own lips between them.
Mike collects Harvey’s smiles.
Harvey’s got a trademarked smirk for everyday use, one he dispenses indiscriminately to clients and opponents and coworkers, and Mike’s memory has identified five distinct versions within their first five days working together. It’s a sharp look that pairs well with a Tom Ford suit and Windsor knot, and Mike consistently feels a thrill in his stomach when Harvey hurls it at his opposition, completing a verbal takedown.
Harvey’s hiding a whole other sort of smile in him, one most easily unlocked by marijuana. He gets crinkles all around his eyes and across his forehead, yet the smile’s so soft and free, so easy to tip into laughter that Mike thinks he looks ten years younger.
Mike’s favorite smile lies somewhere in between, a semirare look that’s got all the confidence of the smirk and all the boyishness of the pot-induced chuckle. It’s a smile he often wears when he’s taunting Louis or joking with Jessica, all widened eyes and lifted eyebrows.
It’s a playful smile, sometimes downright goofy, but Harvey can wear it even when he’s dead serious. That’s the smile he has on when he reaches for Mike’s tie and reels him in for a kiss, or when he sucks a hickey on Mike’s neck just high enough that a shirt collar might fail to hide it, or when the elevator doors close and he slips one hand below Mike’s waistband, fully aware there’s no time to do anything but tease.
Despite the formidable competition from many worthy opponents, that’s definitely Mike’s favorite Specter smile.
When he sees Harvey meet Cameron Dennis for the first time, Mike notices that something’s odd about his smile, but he’s so excited at the prospect of meeting “Harvey’s Harvey” that he doesn’t pay it much attention. It’s not until later, when he’s comparing it against other entries in his archive of Harvey Specter expressions, that he puts his finger on the issue.
Upon seeing Cameron, Harvey had instantly pulled his mouth into his typical asymmetric smirk– it’s unclear whether he was trying to fake a smile for Cameron or Mike, or both– but his eyes lacked their typical light. It was a small chink in Harvey’s otherwise smooth veneer, but as soon as Mike perceives it he’s certain things have gone truly, terrifically wrong.
When Harvey replicates that expression several years later, Mike immediately knows they have a problem.
They’re at a black-tie charity event, and Harvey spends most of the night chasing down a carefully curated list of potential clients and schmoozing them. Mike does some professional networking of his own, but when he runs into a former Pearson-Hardman associate who’s now made partner across town the conversation turns casual. They swap industry gossip, omitting privileged information but leaving plenty of other juicy bits in, laughing loud and clear.
“Mike–” Harvey appears at his elbow, mouth pulled into that non-smile– “there you are. I need you to try working for a change.”
He hauls Mike away from his conversation partner before he can properly excuse himself.
“What’s up with you?” Mike says with a scowl. “She was telling me about–”
“I don’t care what she was telling you, you need to be talking to Schultz. You know, your paying client?”
“But I closed Schultz earlier today. He signed, the case’s settled.”
Harvey blinks in surprise.
“And if you were curious about Schultz, you would have asked me about him earlier,” Mike continues, “instead of storming up to me at the end of the night. Given the evidence, I have to conclude it’s not really Schultz you give a damn about.”
“Yeah?” Harvey says, challenging.
“Yeah. You’re jealous.”
A comical array of expressions whirls across Harvey’s face– surprise, his “as if” smirk, thoughtfulness, and finally the alarm of a kid caught with the cookie jar. Mike represses the urge to laugh, instead murmuring, “You should know you don’t need to be jealous.”
“She was obviously flirting,” Harvey protests. “She doesn’t know you’re taken–”
Everyone around them falls silent as Mike leans forward and kisses him. He’s not thinking of anyone else though as he draws away slowly, catching Harvey’s lower lip between his teeth.
When he lets go, he smirks and says, “Problem fixed.”
Harvey’s pretty even when he’s exasperated. Mike doesn’t remember most of his first visit to Harvey’s apartment given that he was drunk out of his senses, but he remembers learning that much.
(Mike’s memories of the incident are fuzzier than usual, and his images of Harvey are blurry and out of focus, with a disproportionate emphasis on his gray shirt– not a suit!– and his truly exceptional cheekbones. It’s lucky that Harvey shut the door in his face before he could comment on the sharpness of those cheekbones, or try to cut his tongue licking them.)
When Harvey turns away from him with that same deadpan expression, Mike feels a prick of disappointment. He’s screwed up their case, he knows that much, but it hurts even more than before when Harvey shuts him out, now that they’re partners both at work and at home.
Harvey still has the same irritated look on when he walks in the door that night.
Sitting on the living room sofa, Harvey pays him no attention, keeping his eyes fixed on a contract. After a few seconds, he takes a sip of his glass of scotch, and the swallow briefly deepens the hollow of his cheeks, and Mike suddenly comes up with a way to fix this.
He walks forward and plants himself in front of Harvey. “Are you really going to ignore me?”
Mike drops to one knee. “Is that still the plan?”
“Unless you’re about to propose, which I doubt given the lack of ring and your lousy timing, yes.”
“No proposal, sorry,” Mike winces. Then he reaches towards Harvey’s zipper, pushing back a smile as he spreads his knees ever so slightly. “What about now?”
“Yes, it’s still the pla–” Harvey breaks off with a sudden moan.
Mike glances upwards and sees Harvey’s thrown his head back, eyes closed, lips fluttering open.
Yes, Harvey’s very pretty when he’s exasperated, but there are other expressions Mike loves even more.
The first time Mike says “I love you,” Harvey says, “I know.”
Mike was half-expecting that answer, and he also predicted how Harvey would say a proper “I love you” just a few moments later. What he didn’t guess, however, was that he’d recognize the exact expression on Harvey’s face when he says it.
Harvey’s head is tilted to the right, and he’s leaning back comfortably in a chair, and he’s got a little smile tugging at his lips. But for once it’s not Harvey’s mouth that Mike cares most about– it’s his eyes, fond and bright in the low light, and the wistful arch in his eyebrows. It’s an odd expression, both indulgent and proud, full of a tenderness that Harvey Specter rarely even hints at. Mike sees Harvey’s face and has no doubt he means his confession.
But Mike has seen that exact same expression before, when he was bragging late at night about convincing a hesitant witness to go on the record, and in his sleep-deprived state he pretended he was an awesome gunslinger right out of a movie and mimed shooting Harvey, and Harvey briefly revealed his inner dork by spinning in his chair, going along with the act, pretending Mike had struck him right in the heart.
Harvey’s been wearing this expression since Mike’s first case.
Mike wonders just how long ago he struck Harvey’s heart.
They rarely spend the night together, and even when they do Harvey sleeps later and rises first. Still, Mike pulls himself out of a dream one morning in hopes of seeing something new and even lovelier.
Harvey’s stretched out beside him, still, silent, utterly relaxed. Mike simply gazes, memorizing the scruff on his unshaven chin, the way the sunlight plays on the angles of his face, the tiny smile that comes and goes.
“Stop staring,” Harvey says, voice rough with sleep.
“I want to write an ode to your face, did you know that?” He smiles as Harvey mumbles an incoherent reply. “Your face makes me want to write poetry. Your face, and the brilliant mind behind it, and the heart you’re hiding, too.”
“Would the poetry suck? Probably. But you’d like it anyway, if only because it’s about you.”
Harvey chuckles, opening his eyes for one lazy second and then closing them again. Mike presses two kisses to Harvey’s forehead– the moles, specifically, which he has always loved, clinging to them as proof that Harvey is indeed a mere mortal with flaws– and then curls up close, falling back asleep.
Harvey Specter prides himself on his impenetrable poker face, the fact that he can hide pain and joy with ease and convince casual onlookers that he’s a particularly well-disguised android. Though he’d never openly admit to any imperfection, he also considers his inability to express emotions one of his greater weaknesses, one that’s torpedoed his relationships and left behind only jagged wreckage.
His face, however, is not just a particularly pretty picture– though Mike’s been begging to photograph it, he’s positive that’s all his Instagram account needs to take off– but an exquisitely expressive open book. He wears his heart on his face, for anyone who really knows him to read.
It takes Mike Ross years of study, but by the end he learns to decode Harvey’s thoughts from the angle of his eyebrows and discover his feelings from the brightness of his eyes. Mike has learned to read Harvey Specter, and he understands everything he reads.
(And once he understands, he knows he’s never going to forget.)