“When do you get off?”
“Depends how good you are, doesn’t it?”
“Let me rephrase. When does your shift end?”
“About twenty minutes. For now, I gotta check on my other customers.”
Harvey Specter nods and watches his waitress strut down to the other end of the bar, his eyes lingering on her fabulous legs and lethal-looking heels. She stops in front of a guy who sat down a few seats from Harvey and is now scanning the menu.
“What do you want?’
“Well, you’ve raised your beer prices fifteen percent, so I can clearly not choose the beer in front of you. But I’ve got work early tomorrow, so I can clearly not choose any of the hard liquor in front of me.”
The waitress’s smile freezes. “Let me know when you figure it out.” She turns right around, flipping her hair, and comes back towards Harvey. “Some guys.”
He gives her a sympathetic laugh, but as soon as she passes by and heads into the lounge, his eyes flicker back to the new guy. Young, underdressed in a slightly ratty t-shirt and jeans, he sits curled in on himself, like he doesn’t really want to talk to anyone.
Maybe it’s arrogant, but Harvey likes to think he’s not just anyone. So he obeys his strange twinge of interest, raises his voice over the surrounding chatter and music, and says, “Truly, you have a dizzying intellect.”
The guy twists around, his face instantly illuminated by a smile. “You got that reference? Inconceivable.”
He immediately retorts, “I do not think that word means you think it means.”
“No,” says the stranger, shaking his head. “It’s impressive. I mean it.”
Without missing a beat, Harvey reaches out for the nearby snack bowl and pushes it towards him. “Any chance you want a peanut?”
They stare at each other over the bowl for a moment and then break out laughing. Harvey slips down to the seat next to him and reaches out a hand. “I’m Harvey.”
“I’m Mike,” the guy says as they shake hands. “Good to meet you.”
“If you’re still conflicted, I recommend the Macallan 18.”
“30 dollars for one swallow?”
“So there’s an issue. You’re not supposed to chug it like an overgrown frat boy.”
Mike takes a handful of peanuts and pops them in his mouth. “I don’t exactly have experience with fine whiskeys.”
“Let me remedy that.”
“You– what?” Mike does a double-take, blinking, and Harvey notices for the first time that his eyes are strikingly blue.
“Let me buy you a shot.”
“Are you propositioning me?”
Amused, Harvey raises his eyebrows. “What did you just say?”
“It’s good to make these things explicit.”
“I’m good at making things explicit.”
“That’s an awful pun.”
“You just butchered The Princess Bride, you don’t get to criticize.”
“You liked my butchering!” Mike mock-protests.
“It wasn’t the worst thing I’ve heard today,” Harvey admits, chuckling.
“It’s the best thing you’ve heard today,” he corrects with a grin. “Anyway. What’s the fine print on the drink?”
“What fine print would you be interested in?”
“I get to drink a 30-dollar shot on you, no strings attached.” His smile falters as he adds, “Sorry, but I’m not looking to sleep with you.”
To Harvey’s surprise, he smarts at the rejection, even though Mike’s voice is gentle, even though he’s got an objectively hotter date waiting for him in ten minutes. Still, he keeps his suave smirk in place and says, “One unattached 30-dollar shot it is. Bartender?”
They watch the bartender pour out one shot of scotch and place it in front of Mike.
“Thanks for this,” Mike says, raising the glass to Harvey before taking his first sip. He swirls it about his mouth before swallowing. “Hmm.”
“What’s the verdict?”
“Exceptional." He keeps holding the glass in the air, examining the amber liquid. "On the nose I taste dried fruit, ginger, maybe some vanilla and cinnamon? Then there’s hints of toffee and smoke that make for a full-bodied finish. And there’s traces of clove. Obviously.”
Harvey stares at Mike. Mike stares at the scotch for several seconds before glancing over and cracking into laughter. “I got you, didn’t I?”
“Not entirely,” Harvey says, smiling back at him. “What’d you really think?”
“It tastes like every other whiskey I’ve ever had, but more expensive. I like it.”
“And did you just improvise that entire speech?”
“Nope,” Mike says, taking another sip, “that’s the official description of the Macallan 18 on the real Macallan website.”
Harvey’s lost track of how many times this kid has surprised him. Still, shock creeps into his voice as he says, “You just quoted the official description of the Macallan 18 off the top of your head, despite having never drunk it in your life.”
“I like to read,” he explains with a shrug. “And I had to read up on loads of pretentious drinks a while back.”
“I was helping a chef pair liquors with fine cheeses,” he says. “This one sadly didn’t make the cut.”
“Well, it’s been my favorite for a long time. When I’m celebrating, I like to pour this out and make my one shot last.”
“If only everyone did that,” he mutters to himself. The non-sequitur makes no sense to Harvey, but he can read the shift in Mike’s body language; he’s curling back in on himself, and the light seems to dim in his eyes. Then an instant later he shakes his head. “Sorry, where were we?”
Mike grins at yet another Princess Bride reference, and then they’re back to their battle of wits, that strange moment forgotten. Ten minutes later, Harvey’s ribs hurt from how hard he’s laughing at MLT sandwiches, and he doesn’t notice the waitress shooting Mike a dirty look before she leaves the bar alone.
Harvey’s still smiling when he comes into the office the next morning.
“Donna, do you have a message from–”
“Top of your inbox.”
“And the research for–”
“On your desk.”
Harvey heads into his office, ignoring Donna’s curious look.
His good mood lasts another few hours later, until Jessica comes into his office and plants herself in front of his desk. “What did you do to Altitech?”
“Nothing,” he says without missing a beat.
“So you have no explanation for why Louis went to bed with a promise that he’d represent them and woke up to find that they’ve signed with Skadden.”
“If Louis can’t attract his own clients, it’s not my problem.”
Jessica considers his smirk for a moment before shaking her head, chuckling. “Oh god, you think I’d fall for that.”
“For thinking this is about you and Louis and your never-ending catfight.” He goes to interrupt, but she silences him with a hand. “But it’s me and the firm you’re really angry with, and Louis is just convenient collateral damage.”
“Look me in the eye and tell me this isn’t because of the merger.”
“Fine,” he says, rising from his seat and glaring at her, “it’s about the merger. It’s about the fact that if you wanted to make a bold move after Hardman you should have made me name partner, not shackled us to Rand, Kaldor, and goddamn Zane.”
“Harvey,” she says, folding her arms and looking down at him from atop her Manolo Blahniks, “I don’t care about your petty revenge, you cannot drive clients from the firm. Now, I may not be managing partner anymore–”
“Damn right. You’re not my boss, and I don’t have to take this from you–”
“Then consider this a friendly warning,” she says with an icy smile. “Robert Zane is your boss, and he’s no fool. You pull one more stunt like this, and you can forget making name partner, he’ll make you unemployed. And I can’t say I’ll blame him.”
She turns on her heel and strides out before he can reply.
Ray pulls up in the Lincoln town car around eight, and Harvey slips into the backseat, slamming the door harder than he should.
He lets out a long sigh as Jessica’s words play once again his head, weighing more heavily than he could show.
“Ray? Let’s go back to the bar instead."
They pull up in front of a hotel, and then Harvey hops out and crosses the street to the same bar he visited last night. He doesn’t have any assurance Mike will be back tonight, but he hopes–
“Hey!” Mike greets him with a grin as soon as he enters, raising a glass of scotch.
“I think I’m a convert,” he says, taking a small sip. “How was your day?”
Harvey gives a reflexive groan.
“That bad, huh?” He chuckles. “Mine wasn’t so hot either.”
“What do you do?”
Mike ponders the question for a few moments. “Well, today, I spent two hours explaining bugs to a duck.”
“I’m not even kidding!”
Harvey blinks. “Were you . . . successful in your explanation?”
“Yeah, ducks are great listeners,” Mike says. “How about you?”
Harvey’s first impulse is to whip out his full title, drop a few clients’ names, maybe slide his Harvard degree into the conversation. It’d be easy, yet it somehow feels cheap, out of place. So he instead says, “I spent two hours inspecting a guy’s briefs.”
Having successfully turned the tables, Harvey has to suppress a grin. “Turned out there were tons of holes.”
Mike chokes on his scotch. “That’s unfortunate.”
“Yeah, I’d rather spend my time with boxers.”
“Huh.” Mike tilts his head, deciding on his next move. “After the duck incident, I learned there were ten types of people.”
“Those who know this joke works great written down, and those who have no clue what I’m talking about.”
Harvey has no clue what he’s talking about, but Mike’s smile is catching. They keep swapping increasingly confusing stories about their work, attempting to out-weird each other and laughing harder with every line. Before they stumble out to their respective homes, they make plans to be back at nine again the next night.
Harvey has to remind himself it’s not a date.
When Harvey enters his office the next morning, Donna follows him in and shuts the door.
“Okay, who is she?”
“Your new girl.” When he looks at her in confusion, she sighs. “‘Perky’ is not a term I ever thought I’d use for you, but it’s the best description I’ve got for your body language yesterday morning.”
“I’ll take your word for it.” He starts to open his laptop, intending to check his email.
“Shut that, you’re not worming out of this.”
Though Harvey doesn’t shut his laptop, he does turn his eyes back to her.
“I thought it was a fluke,” she continues. “Maybe you were binge-watching the original Star Trek again. But then Jessica chewed you out, and you still turn up this morning more chipper than you were on your first day as an associate.”
“I’m happy two days in a row, ergo I must be sleeping with someone?”
“Yes, and she has to be someone special.”
Harvey holds her stare just long enough to make her certain she’s right before revealing, “I didn’t sleep with anyone yesterday.”
She flinches. “The day before?”
“I’ve slept with a grand total of zero people since the Baines case.” He starts to add “not that it’s your business,” but that would just encourage her prying.
Her jaw falls open. “And you still smiled at Louis this morning? How?”
“I’m the eighth wonder of the world. Now, don’t you have work to do?”
Harvey gives her empty chair a pointed look. She rolls her eyes at him but does actually return to her desk, and he spends a few minutes in blessed silence until the intercom crackles.
“Did you at least buy a new toy?”
“Work,” he snaps. He tries to give her a withering glare but finds he’s too amused to wither.
Soon after eight, Harvey puts the finishing touches on a settlement letter and heads to the elevator, only to find Robert Zane blocking his way.
“You have a new case,” Robert announces, pressing a folder into Harvey’s chest, his voice even more thunderous than usual. “You’re going to get in at eight tomorrow and give your client an 8:15 appointment.”
“Hold on a minute, what kind of a case is this–”
“It’s a case that I’d handle myself, but your client’s asked to have someone else, so I’m giving it to you. Now you’re going to go back into your office and read it over right this minute.” Without another word, he storms off.
It’s not until Harvey’s halfway back to his office that he curses, realizing he doesn’t have Mike’s number. He tries calling the bar, hoping one of the waiters can warn Mike he’s running late, but only gets the answering machine.
He curses again when he opens the file and realizes he’s been saddled with a divorce case.
His client is Rachel Elizabeth Zane, which explains Robert’s mood; due to irreconcilable differences she’s seeking a divorce from her husband of two years, a Michael James Ross. Harvey scans her information and finds that she’s by far the wealthier party, having established herself as a celebrity chef prior to her marriage, while her husband runs a fledgling startup. Under normal circumstances, Harvey would be interested in working with Michael’s company, which helps litigators by applying artificial intelligence to organize and speed up discovery, but as it is, he only looks at the company’s finances and finds that it’s had a checkered past. He shoots off a request to his PI, Vanessa, asking her to dig deeper, before returning to the file.
“How’s it going?”
He looks up to find Robert in the doorway. “Not my typical area, but it won’t be a problem.”
“I hope your bite’s half as good as your bark.”
Harvey scowls. “Listen, Robert. I’m going to win this, but I’m not going to tolerate micromanagement. And I understand it’s your daughter we’re talking about, but this is my case. Are we clear?”
Robert’s nostrils flare, and he says, “You did a damn good job with Esther Litt’s divorce, so I’ll let you do what you want, as long as you promise to rip that bastard’s balls off.”
Harvey considers the heat in Robert’s voice. This case offers a stunningly simple way to get back in his boss’s good graces and stay there, up until he can launch a successful rebellion. And destroying the opposition has always been his strong suit . . .
“It’ll be my pleasure.”
When Ray pulls up in front of the hotel, Harvey sprints across the road, barely checking for oncoming traffic. As he heads towards the door, he runs smack into someone leaving the bar.
“Harvey? I figured you weren’t coming.”
There’s something oddly clipped about his voice. Then Harvey sees him blink too fast and clench his jaw–
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, sure, I’m fine–”
Mike looks up, and Harvey finds that his eyes are shimmering with tears.
“What’s going on?” When he receives no answer, he adds, “I’m sorry I’m late, I got held up at work–”
“It’s not your fault,” Mike interrupts.
They fall silent. Harvey is still trying to identify his next move when Mike surprises him once again: “You’re attracted to me, right?”
“I am, but if you’re not interested I completely respect that–”
Mike ignores him. “And we’re not just talking platonic feelings.”
“No, we’re not.” Harvey gives him a puzzled frown.
Suddenly he’s thrust against the bar’s wall, and Mike cups his face and brings their lips together.
Well, that answers a few questions. First of all, Mike is into guys, or at least willing to explore. Second, Harvey didn’t just imagine the sexual electricity thrumming under their conversations. Third, Mike’s lips are even softer than they look and downright delicious, currently laced with Macallan 18.
For once Harvey notices the toffee finish.
Then his analytical mind shuts down, and he closes his eyes and surges forward, pressing his lips hard against Mike’s. His heart races faster than it has since he first met Scottie– no, since earlier, when he was still a teenager fumbling in the locker room after a game. It’s the same giddy mix of nerves and euphoria, the marrow-deep knowledge that this kiss is so right–
“I’m sorry–” Mike pulls away, rubbing tears from both cheeks. “I can’t do this to you.”
He turns and flees down the street.
“Goddammit, Louis! If you bother me one more time today, I’ll take your other new clients too.”
By the time Harvey makes it into his office the next morning, he’s picked three fights in the hallway alone. Donna takes one look at his expression and mutters, “There’s the Harvey I know.”
Standing straight and staring out at the Manhattan skyline, he calms himself by the time Rachel Zane walks in the door at 8:10.
“Sorry,” she says. “I’m early.”
“I appreciate it when people don’t waste my time.”
“So do I. Rachel Zane, nice to meet you.”
She’s young and professionally dressed, and she wears a smile that doesn’t quite match her tired eyes. As she gives him a firm handshake, he glances at the notebook tucked under her other arm.
“I came prepared,” she explains. “Now, I know I’m not the lawyer here, but I intend to make sure I know what’s happening.”
As they sit, he gives her an approving nod. “And I intend to keep you fully informed. Now, to start, tell me how things are between you and Michael right now.”
She tucks one curl behind her ear and takes a deep breath. “It’s complicated. The simple version is that I haven’t been in New York much recently, since I’ve been filming a new show abroad. But, whenever I come home or even call, we always end up fighting. It’s been like this for months.”
“How many months?”
“Our first big fight was right before New Year’s. I had ballet tickets that I had put weeks of effort into getting, and then he skipped out at the last minute for a work emergency.”
Harvey bites back the impulse to say that personally he’d invent a work emergency if it could get him out of the ballet, instead motioning for her to continue.
“We’ve been on thin ice ever since then, like we’re both just waiting for an excuse to explode.”
“Is there ever violence involved?”
“What? No,” Rachel says, blinking in surprise. “He has many faults, but violence isn’t one of them.”
“Has he ever abused or controlled you in any way? Verbally, psychologically–”
“He wouldn’t do that,” she interrupts. “Anything he dished out, I was capable of throwing right back. I’ve never felt exploited or betrayed by him.”
“Then what makes you think the marriage can’t be saved?”
Rachel sighs. “It’s not enough for a relationship if we’re just good people, I need things to feel right between us. And they really don’t.”
Usually he’d dismiss that statement as hokum, but today he thinks he might just understand. “So to be clear, you’re not interested in divorcing him because he’s at fault in any way.”
“He’s no more at fault than I am,” she says ruefully. “It just didn’t work out.”
“Then you’ve got two clear paths. Option one, the two of you sign an agreement of separation, live apart a full year, and then get a divorce if you still want it.”
“I’m not sure he’d sign an agreement.”
“He won’t drop a relationship even if it’s strangling him.”
“You have no idea,” she groans. “Anyway, I have no intention of spending another year being held back by him, even on paper.”
“Then your best bet is to file a divorce citing a six-month breakdown in your relationship. Now, if your first big fight was around New Year’s, you’ll have to wait another month to file, but that’s time we can put to use.”
“For the settlement?”
“For the settlement,” he confirms. “If we can reach an agreement on how to split all your joint property now, everything else should be easy.”
She lifts her chin and looks him in the eye. “I told my dad I didn’t want him interfering in this case, but I suspect he’s already given you some guidance on the settlement.”
Harvey keeps his face blank as he says, “That’s possible.”
“At a guess, you’ve been ordered to rob my husband blind.” Rachel shakes her head, tsking. “Ignore that. We may not be on friendly terms, but I still respect him, and I want to treat him generously.”
Harvey winces internally. Out loud, he simply says, “We can do that.”
They spend the rest of the meeting going over Rachel’s financial details, pinning down the first settlement offer she’d like to give and the best and worst she could reasonably accept. Minding Robert’s instructions, he pushes her to protect her own interests more aggressively, but she remains resolved to let Michael walk away with a liberal portion.
“Do you think something’s up with her?” he asks Donna after she leaves. “Parties in a divorce aren’t usually that nice to each other.”
“Well, she’s got money to burn, and she likes philanthropy. Maybe Michael’s just another charity case?”
Harvey shrugs. “I guess if I have a fair, rational client, I shouldn’t complain about it.”
“Yeah,” Donna replies with a devilish grin, “you might just get through a divorce case without ever having to deal with a real human feeling.”
Donna knocks on Harvey’s door. “Rachel and Michael are in the conference room.”
“His lawyer’s late?”
“No, I asked. Turns out he’s representing himself.”
Harvey groans at that, and Donna frowns. “That’s a good thing; he’ll be a pushover.”
“No, it’s a problem; I’ll have to work even harder to give him a fair settlement. Otherwise it’ll get thrown out in court because he didn’t have counsel.” He rolls his eyes and spins around, heading straight for the conference room with a print-out of the initial settlement offer, one that’s more favorable to Michael than he’d typically recommend.
Upon turning a corner, he looks through the glass wall and sees Rachel on the far side of the dark conference table, looking calm and collected, while Michael sits opposite her with his back to Harvey. It looks like they’re coolly ignoring each other, which is better than most of the alternatives; Harvey was worried he might have to break up a fistfight.
He sweeps into the room. “Thank you both for being here–”
He spots Mike, staring back at him with wide blue eyes. Mike from the bar is now sitting in his conference room, with a three-piece suit in place of his ratty T-shirt and jeans, and Harvey’s first thought is that the cut of the jacket is delectable.
Then he realizes Michael James Ross is his Mike, back to surprise him once again.
Mike recovers first and stands to shake his hand. “You’re Harvey Specter, then.”
There’s just the mildest emphasis on “you’re.”
Harvey takes his hand. “I am. And you’re . . . Michael Ross.”
They hold on for a heartbeat too long before Mike lets go, mumbling, “Call me ‘Mike.’”
Harvey’s surely faced stranger situations, even if he can’t recall any at the moment, and so he locks down his poker face and carries on with the appointment as if he’s not shell-shocked, as if he’s not replaying every exchange he and Mike have ever shared, as if he’s not about to run out and hand this case off to someone, anyone else–
Then he imagines telling Robert Zane, “I dropped your daughter’s case because I remember making out with her husband too vividly,” and he dismisses that particular escape route.
Mike’s surely thrown off too, but he doesn’t show it. Instead, he seems engrossed in Harvey’s explanation of procedural technicalities.
“So Rachel’s interested in obtaining a simple no-fault divorce, to minimize court time and other complications–”
“Sorry to interrupt,” Mike cuts in, “but when are you claiming the breakdown in our marriage began?”
Harvey looks to Rachel.
“With the ballet.”
“The night of December 23rd, then? I remember that.”
“Of course you do,” she says, forcing a smile.
“So,” he replies, “you have to wait another month before actually filing.”
“We have to wait, yes.” She nods.
“Fine. And I assume you have a settlement offer?”
“We do.” Harvey removes the offer letter from his folder and hands it to Mike.
He scans it for five seconds, so fast Harvey can’t believe he’s read any of it, and states, “I want three times this.”
Rachel scoffs, and Harvey’s jaw drops, because Mike’s demand is far more extreme than anything he had pictured. “Excuse me?”
“And we’re not selling the apartment to split the proceeds, I’m getting the whole thing.”
Huh, so maybe he did read it.
“Mike,” Harvey says, “that’s patently–”
“Ridiculous?” Mike finishes. “It’s no more ridiculous than this divorce is in the first place.”
“What do you mean?” Rachel asks, bewildered.
“I mean if you think we’re broken then we should be in a counselor’s office right now, not in a law firm.”
“Mike,” she cries, “you’ve been snappish with me for months, and I don’t know why!”
“And you always take the easy way out, which is why you’d rather leave me than ask me what the hell is wrong–”
“And what do you think is wrong, Mike?” Harvey cuts in.
Mike looks at him for a long moment before turning back to Rachel. “This no-fault option is really convenient, isn’t it.” Mike’s voice holds a resentment Harvey recognizes from before, when he muttered about making one shot last. “Even if I fight you in court, the fact that we can’t agree on whether there’s a breakdown will be evidence of a breakdown in itself, and you’re guaranteed your divorce.” He snorts. “Now, I admit you’re being nice with this offer. It’s on the higher end of what I could get if I just took you to court.”
His whole speech is legally sound, and a chill starts to prickle on Harvey’s skin as he waits for the inevitable “but.”
“But I’m not giving up on us this easily,” Mike continues. “So to hell with your Kobayashi Maru.”
“My what?” Rachel says.
“The lose-lose situation you’ve put him in,” Harvey quickly explains the Star Trek reference.
Mike glances up at him, his expression unreadable even to Harvey, before saying, “I’m redefining the rules. No, I can’t protest your no-fault filing directly, but I can sure as hell file papers of my own.”
Even while Rachel squints at him perplexedly, Harvey catches on in an instant. “What ground do you have for an at-fault divorce?”
“A very simple one,” Mike answers, rising from his chair and buttoning his jacket. “She committed adultery.”
He sweeps out of the room.
“Did you do it?”
“He has no proof.”
“I’ll take that as a ‘yes.’”
Sitting in Harvey’s office after the settlement meeting, Rachel just buries her face in her hands in reply.
Harvey swallows down his first question– “Why would you do that to him?”– and his impulse to run out the door again. “With whom?”
“My high school sweetheart.”
“What’s their name?”
“Logan Sanders,” she answers, and Harvey recognizes that as the name of an up-and-coming businessman currently making waves with multiple acquisition deals. “He was the first guy I was ever really in love with, first kiss, first time, all that. But he was a total screw-up, and I thought it was over between us once he went away to college.”
“Okay,” Harvey says. “What changed?”
“I had heard that his father passed away,” she replies, her voice softening, “and that he took over the family companies, and then I ran into him in person last December, right after Mike and I had our ballet blow-up. I was angry and lonely, and then it turned out Logan had done the one thing I never expected.”
“And what’s that?”
“He grew up.”
“How did the affair happen? Dates, times–”
“I was traveling for my new show on fusion cuisine, and Logan was abroad for business. We met in hotels all over the world. If you want a complete timeline I’ll need to check my shooting schedule.”
“I’d appreciate that. Are you still seeing him?”
“No,” she says in a near-whisper. More loudly, she adds, “I told him I’m not going to be with him again while I’m legally married to Mike.”
The next question sticks in his throat before he gets it out: “Has Mike ever cheated on you?”
That should feel like bad news, since it’s far harder for one spouse to divorce another for adultery when both parties cheat, yet he’s strangely relieved to hear it.
Then a wave of alarm hits, as he finds he’s rooting against his own client. It’s a foreign feeling; he’s represented oil companies and tobacco lobbyists and other objectively awful clients without hesitation. He reasons that latent memories of his mother’s infidelity must be propelling this madness, not the fact that Rachel’s victim is Mike.
“If you and Logan only met abroad, how did Mike find out?”
“I have no idea.” Rachel deflates before his very eyes. “Being with Mike is like living with Sherlock Holmes.”
“What do you mean?” Harvey tries for a concerned tone and ends up sounding intrigued, even to his own ears.
“He remembers everything.”
“And what does ‘everything’ mean?”
“Once he reads something, he understands it. Once he understands it, he never forgets it. It goes for other things too, he remembers conversations almost verbatim, and pictures and facial expressions. For all I know he figured it out because I, I don’t know, looked at a subway map wrong.” She looks up to find Harvey gaping at her. “What?”
“That’s . . . staggering.”
“I know,” she scoffs. “Mike’s memory was fun at first, but then I just got exhausted.”
She takes several seconds to formulate her reply. “I– I can’t live like that, with someone who expects me to be ‘on’ all the time. He’s always five steps ahead of everyone else in the room, and he’s always making comments and jokes and these little references that nobody else understands. I mean,” she rolls her eyes, “he acts like I should have all of A Few Good Men memorized.”
Harvey makes an incoherent noise that she hopefully interprets as encouragement.
Rachel pauses a moment and then sighs. “Sorry for dumping all this on you.”
“No, it’s been–” he casts about for a word, “informative. I must say, though, I wish I had known all this before I went into that conference room.”
A frown flickers across her face. “I didn’t want my dad to find out what I did.”
Harvey flinches. “Rachel–”
“I mean, you work for him, he might make you tell him. It’s a conflict of interest.”
“Rachel,” he repeats more firmly, “I’m never going to compromise your interests just because your father would like me to.”
“Good . . . good.” She shudders. “I can’t believe how complicated this all got.”
“When’s the last time you slept with Mike?”
Rachel’s eyes snap back up as she stammers, “What did you just ask me?”
“If he goes to court and proves you cheated on him, we can use a condonation defense,” Harvey explains, even as a sick chill settles into his stomach. “If he sleeps with you after finding out you cheated, it can legally count as forgiveness, and he can’t divorce you for the adultery. Same thing happens if you end up going to couple’s therapy to fix your marriage, which it sounds like he’s interested in–”
“No, that doesn’t help,” she cuts in.
“Are you familiar with my main show?”
Harvey shakes his head.
“Well, my entire brand is built on wholesomeness, tradition, and good values,” she says, “both in the kitchen and outside.”
Harvey successfully resists the urge to snort.
“And all of that,” she continues, “goes up in smoke if anyone so much as breathes the word ‘adultery’ on the public record. He has to go with a no-fault divorce.”
“Alright.” Harvey nods slowly, suddenly realizing that Mike’s adultery bombshell was even shrewder than he’d thought. “There’s one question I have to ask at this point, because this divorce poses significant risk to you. Are you sure you want to end your marriage to Mike?”
“Yes,” she says, sounding absolutely certain. “I can’t stay in a marriage where one person has feelings for someone else.”
On the upside, Harvey now has Mike’s phone number from case documents. On the downside, he’s spent the five hours since Rachel left debating whether to call, without ever reaching a verdict.
Eventually, he tires of his impression of a middle-school girl and phones Ray. “Same bar.”
Sure enough, Mike’s sitting at one end of the counter with a cold beer between his hands, shoulders hunched like the first time Harvey saw him. He doesn’t react to Harvey as he enters and takes the seat next to him.
They sit in silence for a full minute before Mike lets out a long breath. “You’re Rachel’s divorce lawyer.”
“Yep,” Harvey says, failing to hide the edge in his voice. “And you’re Rachel’s husband.”
They turn their heads to look at each other.
Then Mike says, “Of all the gin joints in all the world, you had to walk into mine.”
Casablanca. It’s a classic quote, and Harvey’s half upset at how fitting it feels and half upset he didn’t come up with it first.
“Yours?” he snorts. “How is it yours?”
“My office is four blocks away.”
“My house is one block away, so clearly this bar belongs to me.”
They’re both smiling cautiously, and Mike jokes, “And to hell with the actual owners.”
They turn quiet again.
“What the hell are we still doing here?” Harvey finally says. “You’re married, I’m representing your wife in the divorce, there can’t be anything between us.”
“That’s . . . not strictly true.”
“I checked, and nothing prohibits a lawyer from just being friends with someone on the other side, if we don’t discuss the case.”
He’s right, technically– no written rule would prohibit mere friendship– yet Harvey can list off plenty of reasons why they should never see each other outside a professional context until the divorce is entirely finalized, months or years down the line. Lawyers are meant to go above and beyond what legal ethics rules require, and he ought to preserve Rachel’s trust by treating Mike in a strictly professional fashion going forward. He ought to listen to the lectures from Robert and Jessica that his mind has conjured up, listing the potentially catastrophic consequences of remaining friends with Mike. He ought to avoid the temptation to stay near Mike, a man who quite possibly loves his wife, seeing how their relationship is already dangerous and convoluted.
Yet Harvey can’t bring himself to move from his barstool.
“You’re right,” he says before he can stop himself. “There’s nothing prohibiting it.”
Just friends. Harvey can do just friends. He’s a robotic bastard by nature, capable of compartmentalizing his emotions until he nearly forgets they exist, and he’s utterly failed to sustain feelings for plenty of people who were as attractive and more available than Mike in the past. He’ll take what he’s given, the jokes and the banter, and he’ll forget their one bizarre kiss. This will work out fine.
Mike melts into a broad smile, and Harvey emphatically refuses to think about how that smile makes his heart stutter as he orders a beer of his own.
As they wait for Harvey’s drink to come, they observe the new bar snacks: freshly fried chips, still hot from the oil. Mike plucks one out and brings it to his mouth in slow-motion.
“I’ll take a potato chip–” he flicks his wrist and then takes a melodramatic chomp– “and eat it!”
At the end of his display, Harvey shakes his head and admits, “I have no idea what you’re referring to.”
Mike chortles. “I just gained a lot of respect for you.”
“Because I don’t know your referent?”
“Yeah,” Mike says with a cheery nod. “Also because you actually told me you didn’t know. If it were Rachel, she’d just stew for twenty minutes before overreacting to something entirely different, and I’d have to review the whole night’s conversation before realizing where I went wrong.”
Harvey grimaces. “I’m not afraid to admit what I don’t know. Just means I have something new to learn.”
“I’ll drink to that,” Mike says as Harvey’s beer arrives.
He raises his drink. “Mike, I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship.”
Taking a swig, Harvey swallows down the first quote that sprung to mind: “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
They’re not dating.
The next night, they meet at the bar at nine as always, only to realize that Mike’s skipped lunch and needs actual nutrition, so Harvey suggests the new restaurant down the street that he’s been eyeing for months. This is how he ends up taking Mike to a high-end steakhouse, where they try the filet mignon and share a bottle of red wine.
Though they decide early on not to mention Rachel due to potential complications with the case, they never lack for topics. Mike tells Harvey about his employees, especially a young programmer whose love of Egg McMuffins borders on fetishistic. In return, Harvey digs into the firm’s deep well of gossip and dredges up tales of mud and prune smoothies, bran bars and cat hair. In the restaurant’s low lighting their conversation effervesces, light and easy.
A few nights later it’s Friday, and Ray drives them out to Atlantic City. Harvey’s in a tux, of course, and he rolls his eyes at Mike’s pale blue shirt and dark jeans.
“Not even a tie? Really?”
“I have one,” Mike protests, “but when I was putting it on it tried to strangle me.”
“Let me see.”
When Mike hands him a purple bow tie, he can’t tell whether to roll his eyes or laugh. He decides on showing no reaction, simply reaching over the middle seat of the car and tying it for him. When he finishes and leans back, the warmth of Mike’s skin still lingers on his fingertips.
Out of consideration for Mike’s financial situation, Harvey forgoes the high roller rooms, and he discovers even low-stakes games are thrilling when he’s playing against Mike. He quickly realizes that Mike’s counting cards, likely working out the exact probability of any given hand, and he’s throwing in the occasional suboptimal move to avoid being kicked out of the casino. Fortunately, Harvey’s got a good head for numbers himself, so he calculates rough statistics even while watching Mike and the other players closely. He reads his opponents’ expressions, and, where he finds discrepancies between what they tell him and what the plain numbers predict, he strikes, cutting Mike off from victory.
When Mike catches him staring, hanging onto every flicker of his facial muscles and puzzling out their meaning, Harvey learns he’s got a good poker face in his arsenal. Mike quickly bring his tells under control, bluffing at least half as well as Harvey does, forcing him to stare longer and more intensely to deduce his strategy. Harvey feels Mike’s eyes on him too, and they start to play one another even as they play the game, each aiming to throw the other off.
Harvey loses some games to Mike, and Mike loses a few more to Harvey, and between the two of them they wreck everyone who dares stand in their way.
They end up at a new restaurant the next night, and their discussion turns outward, comparing views on politics and current events and the legal industry. They comment on ethics in corporate law, and Harvey’s amused by Mike’s outright enthusiasm for pro bono cases, which always struck him as just a nuisance.
“If another lawyer springs a surprise on you at work,” Mike says a few minutes later, “how would that change your feelings about them?”
“Depends what kind of surprise.”
“Something unpleasant,” he clarifies. “Say they pull a trick that makes it harder for you to win a case.”
Harvey considers the question for a moment. “If what they do is illegal, I’d lose respect for them.”
“What if it’s perfectly legal, just sneaky and underhanded?”
Harvey thinks of Scottie and Jessica and their endless ploys, and he smirks. “Going by previous experience, I have to say I’d probably end up a lifetime fan.”
Mike gives a contemplative “hmm,” and then he steals a fry from Harvey’s plate with a mischievous smile.
Harvey laughs at his unabashed lack of subtlety, and he feels a sudden urge to lean forward and kiss that smile off Mike’s face. Something in him aches as he remembers, no, Mike and all his smiles still legally belong with Rachel.
They can’t be dating.
Ever since Atlantic City, Harvey can’t stop thinking about Mike and his poker face. He observed that, while Mike struggled to hide an excellent hand, he was far more capable of faking confidence, pretending he possessed better cards and more complete information than he actually did. The preliminary results of Vanessa’s investigation into Mike’s company confirm his penchant for bluffing his way out of risky situations, and Harvey starts to suspect he brought that skillset into the last settlement meeting.
“So you think he doesn’t really have proof I cheated?” Rachel says, mouth agape.
“I can’t be sure,” he hedges, because he’s learned better than to assume he ever has Mike Ross all figured out, “but I think he would have gotten specific if he could. He would have said Logan’s name, he would have listed dates and times, he would have done more to scare us. And he wouldn’t have implied that counseling, which would hamstring an adultery argument, was still on the table.”
Rachel responds with a thoughtful hum. Two days later, they’ve updated their strategy, and they arrange another settlement meeting.
Mike shows up in yet another suit that highlights his slender frame– the tie’s too skinny, but on him it almost works– and Harvey has to rip his eyes away before Rachel notices him staring. They quickly get down to business, and Harvey hears the same rapid-fire rhythm in this conference room as in every non-date, as he throws out statements and Mike counterpunches, challenging him, fact-checking him, demanding that he be clearer and quicker and better.
He presents a new settlement offer: At Rachel’s urging, he’s let Mike walk away with 50% more cash than before, and instead of selling their apartment and splitting the proceeds evenly, he’ll allow Mike to take two-thirds of that money. Once again, Mike scans the offer letter in under five seconds before giving them a disbelieving look.
“This is an improvement,” he admits, “but you still haven’t come close to meeting my initial terms.”
“That’s because your initial terms were, in your own words, ‘ridiculous.’”
“But if you don’t meet them then I’ll take you to court and the whole world will know she cheated,” Mike says. “Didn’t you get the memo?”
“Oh, I heard you. But since adultery’s a state crime and the fifth amendment protects Rachel from testifying against herself, you need another witness, and you don’t have another witness. Look, it’s all a bit technical, but the important thing is we know you were bluffing and you can’t prove a damn thing in court.” Harvey gives a cavalier shrug. “That said, you’re free to make wild, unsupported allegations, because those’ll just win sympathy for my client.”
“You’re right,” Mike concedes. “I was bluffing.”
That was suspiciously easy, and Harvey senses another surprise lurking around the corner.
“I didn’t have a witness when I made my accusation,” Mike continues. “I didn’t even know for sure whether anything happened. Now I do.”
He pulls out his phone, calls up an audio file, and presses play.
“What the hell did you do, Logan?”
“Nothing she didn’t ask for."
It’s a taped phone call, Harvey quickly realizes, one wherein Mike confronts Logan Sanders about the adultery and they descend into a verbal wrestling match, spilling all manner of tawdry details in the process. Logan apparently has no clue he’s on tape, and recording him was a sneaky, underhanded, and perfectly legal move on Mike’s part. Harvey feels a swell of pride.
He furrows his brow in concentration, trying to match each revelation with the timeline Rachel had sent him and finding they line up painfully well. At the same time, he glances back and forth between Mike and Rachel, analyzing the drama now playing out on their faces.
Rachel’s eyes are fixed on her lap, glossy with unshed tears, and her chest heaves as she tries to steady herself with deep breaths. Mike’s eyes are dry and fixed on Rachel, a cold, steely blue, and there’s a sadistic glow in them that brightens, feeding off her humiliation. Still, Harvey sees hurt underneath, and he hears it clearly in Mike’s voice as he hurls his accusations at Logan.
“She’s always been a bit of an idiot, but eventually she realized she was bored of you,” Logan jeers, his voice harsh and tinny on the recording. “You weren’t ever good enough for her, you know? You aren’t well-connected, you’re not savvy, and it wouldn’t have taken you this long to catch onto us if you were half the genius you thought you were.”
“So you fully admit you told her to jump in your bed?”
“Yeah,” Logan answers with grating insouciance, “and you know what?”
“She loved it.”
The recording ends there with a vicious thud– likely Mike hitting the “End Call” button with unnecessary violence– and they sit in stunned silence.
Mike breaks the quiet, his voice low and hard. “I’m not bluffing anymore.”
Rachel’s eyes flicker up. “Mike–” she says, sounding broken. “I can explain–”
“Do you love him?”
She tries to answer him and produces a series of false starts before shaking her head.
“Did you ever love me?”
“Yes,” Rachel answers immediately, and Harvey’s surprised by the certainty in her voice, even if he doesn’t show it. “And I still do.”
Mike does show his surprise, visibly recoiling. “Then why–”
“It was silly of me,” she blurts before he can even finish the question. “I didn’t think it through, and I made a mistake. And it’s not easy for me to apologize, but I’m sorry I hurt you this way.”
“Are you just sorry I found out?” Mike says. Harvey thinks he’s trying to sound sardonic, yet he comes off as genuinely curious.
Rachel shakes her head. “No, Mike.” She lets out a sharp exhale. “And I can’t believe Logan said those things about you, I never even thought half of them. I guess he’s still the same spoiled brat he was at fifteen,” she adds, more to herself.
“And yet he’s the one I hear this from?”
“I’m sorry,” she repeats, now having to wipe away tears gray with mascara. “I was scared about my career, but I should have told you anyway, and I’m so, so sorry.”
Harvey keeps his eyes on Mike. All the fight’s gone out of him, and instead he’s watching his wife cry with unexpected pity; tenderness, too. And for once Harvey starts to see some hint of the love that supposedly brought them together in the first place.
“I’m going to go,” Mike murmurs. “I’ll call you.”
Harvey realizes he’s talking only to Rachel.
Harvey hears from Rachel first, when she calls to inform him that she and Mike have decided to halt divorce proceedings. Instead, they’ve decided to separate for some time, to give each other distance and space to rediscover their priorities and hopefully find a way to reconcile. Rachel sends Harvey their plans for an official agreement of separation, and then she schedules a date for him to meet with them and finalize it.
“Yes, we’re going to formalize our separation, but we both still believe in our marriage,” Rachel announces, and he can tell she’s beaming. “I’m completely done with Logan. Mike and I are in counseling now, and we’re going to work it out.”
He double-checks that she really wants to settle for separation, reminding her that he can still push for the divorce if she wants. It’s even harder to obtain a divorce without risking Rachel’s reputation now that Mike’s got hard evidence, but he’s not the greatest closer in the city for nothing. He can’t deny his disappointment when she assures him, no, she’s fully committed to the separation agreement.
When Mike calls, Harvey’s in his apartment, leaning back in a chair and sipping his second shot of Macallan 18; it’s far cheaper to just drink his own whiskey, yet it somehow feels less satisfying than the bar’s. Upon seeing “Mike” on the screen, he scrambles to pick up.
His heartbeat trips just at that single word, and he presses his eyes shut as he replies, “Mike. Hi.”
He sounds oddly breathless, and he can almost hear Mike frowning in concern. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, yeah.” He forces his breathing back under control. “What can I do for you?”
“I wanted to thank you for sending over the first draft of the separation agreement, it looks pretty good to me.”
“Good. It’s my job to make you happy.”
There’s an awkward pause. Harvey’s about to say goodbye when–
“I also wanted to say that we shouldn’t really see each other again, outside business.”
It’s hardly surprising.
“I’ll respect that, of course,” Harvey hears himself say.
There’s another awkward silence, and Harvey searches for some clever quote that can fix it, or at least fill it. He can’t come up with anything before Mike’s thanking him for his time, cool and professional, and hanging up.
He pours himself another scotch, filling the shot glass higher than usual, trying to shake Rachel’s voice from his head. It keeps repeating, “He won’t drop a relationship even if it’s strangling him.”
He and Mike didn’t have a relationship. Since the first minutes they met, Mike has been holding himself back, setting boundaries, warning Harvey that he can only give the smallest sliver of himself. They weren’t dating, and they shared only one kiss, fueled on Mike’s side by alcohol and misery, nothing more. Compared to what Mike and Rachel have– a two-year marriage, with a year of history before it– they had nothing.
He must be easy to drop.
He thinks then about his parents, how they might just have made it if his mother’s cheating had come to light sooner, how his father confided that he still loved Lily, that he regretted leaving her more days than not. He thinks about his own emotional chaos and the fact that he can’t picture himself opening up and saying he loves Mike, the way Rachel so straightforwardly does.
It’s not until his fourth scotch that he comes up with an appropriate quote.
“We'll always have Paris.”
Harvey’s life settles back into its usual routine. He has to deal with new cases, new deals, new clients, all blissfully unrelated to family law, until he can no longer recite all the ways people file for divorce or defend against adultery claims. He forgets the timbre of Mike’s voice. He forgets the exact blue of his irises. He goes to the bar and orders a beer on principle, because he liked that bar to begin with, and he’s not about to let a few memories kick him out.
Still, whenever his alarm clock wakes him from a dream, he can hear the echo of a movie quote in his ears, and the response is always ready on his tongue.
“Show me the heart unfettered by foolish dreams and I'll show you a happy man.”
The night before Harvey’s next meeting with Mike and Rachel, a blaring ringtone wakes him up before he hears the inevitable answer to his claim– “But only in their dreams can men be truly free”– and he shoots upright, grabbing for his phone.
Panic jets through his veins at the following silence, ratcheting up further when a shaky exhale breaks it.
“Mike, what’s going on?”
Hitting the speakerphone button, he kicks off the covers and scrabbles to his feet, grabbing the glasses on his nightstand, a pair of jeans and the first sweatshirt he can find.
“Sorry for calling,” Mike says, and his voice is dull and wrong. “I just couldn’t think of anyone else.”
“My grandmother, she– she passed away an hour ago.”
Harvey stops in place.
He knew of Mike’s grandmother, having seen her claimed as a dependent on the joint tax returns, and, when he asked Rachel why Mike’s parents didn’t make any contribution, Harvey learned that they had passed away when Mike was still young. Harvey had never mentioned that to Mike– how do you drop something like that into a casual conversation?– but he had never forgotten it, either.
It’s why he doesn’t flop back into bed or at least grumble at Mike for calling past midnight. Instead, he asks, “You’re at the apartment, right?”
“I’m coming over.”
Though he phrases it as a statement, not a request, he waits for Mike’s reply. He hears a few more sniffles, and then Mike mumbles, “Okay.”
“I’ll be there soon.”
As soon as he locates the apartment’s address in the paperwork he drew up to handle Rachel and Mike’s assets, he’s jumping into a cab, dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt and wearing thick-rimmed glasses in place of his usual contacts. After three tries, he manages to turn off the TV blasting an ad for Dear Evan Hansen on the seatback in front of him– “On the outside, always looking in, will I ever be more than I’ve always been?"– and then runs his fingers through his hair so it looks slightly less like a briar patch.
“If you get me there in twenty minutes, I’ll throw in an extra twenty bucks.”
The driver gets him there in nineteen, and he sneaks through the apartment building’s door as another resident leaves, heading to the elevator. It’s not until he’s jabbed the button for Mike’s floor and the elevator doors are closing that he stops to wonder what the hell he’s going to do next.
He doesn’t arrive at a satisfactory answer by the time the elevator arrives at Mike’s floor, and he entirely drops the inquiry when confronted with the faint scent of weed.
Harvey only has to knock once before Mike opens the door. In lieu of a greeting, he says, “Are you stoned?”
Mike considers him for a long moment. “I’m not interested in a lecture, so–”
“Good, because I’m not interested in giving one.”
He sweeps inside and looks around the apartment. He can see Rachel’s influence everywhere, in the graceful ivory drapes that hang to the floor, in the marble fireplace topped with dark wood figurines, in the grand arch windows. It’s all tasteful and elegant, but nothing here feels like Mike.
Then his eyes land on a rolled joint, a shock of white against a sleek black coffee table.
Behind him, Mike snorts. “You can help yourself.”
It’s sarcasm with a side of self-pity, and Mike’s eyes widen when Harvey actually brings the joint to his lips and lights it. “Don’t mind if I do.”
Time and space start to slip soon after that, and Harvey’s not entirely sure how he and Mike end up sprawled on opposite sides of a rather small sofa, their legs tangled together, Mike’s stare locked on his. Eye contact has always meant too much to them; Harvey’s always poured out what he can’t say or do through his gaze, but now he feels like there’s nothing in the world that matters except Mike’s eyes on his, close and dark and intense.
Then they start talking, and in their words Harvey hears music. There’s the same punchy staccato as always, and the tempo speeds as the weed takes effect. They ornament their conversation with a mixture of quotes and belly laughs and hysterical giggling, and they complete each other’s phrases and answer questions before they’re even half-spoken, skipping from the start of a conversation to the end, short-circuiting convention. They dive into a topic– law, computers, start-ups, sitcoms, pretzels– exchange opinions and reconcile differences in an electric instant, and then flit onto the next. They’re playing a virtuosic duet with inhuman ease, as if the intoxication has broken their boundaries and blurred them into a single entity.
The breathless speed shatters when Harvey leaves a space for Mike to fill, and he doesn’t. Instead, he waits a full minute before observing, “I always hated the word ‘orphan.’”
Harvey has a hundred quotes to follow that, and he bites them all back.
“I just never felt like one,” Mike continues. “Until now.”
Harvey doesn’t know how to respond. No, that’s a lie; he knows precisely how to respond, and when he grasps at the walls that should be holding him back, he finds they’ve all dissolved under the weight of the weed and Mike’s stare. So he says, “Did I ever tell you about my dad?”
Mike shakes his head, eyebrows lifting in surprise. For all the intellectual intimacy of their discussions, they’ve never shared information this personal; Harvey learned most of what he knows about Mike’s family life from Rachel, and he’s never opened up his own history until now.
“He was a saxophone player. He sat in with everybody because everybody loved him. He believed in love at first sight–” Harvey pauses as an image of Mike sitting at the bar and scanning his drink menu floats up before his mind’s eye, “and unfortunately his first sight was a groupie.”
Mike tilts his head. “Your mother?”
“I was 8 when I first caught her cheating. I was 16 when I really figured it out. I knew if I told my dad, he'd–” his jaw pulses for a few seconds as he squeezes the word out, “divorce her and rip everything to shreds. Years went by, I didn't say a thing, and she went right on just . . . making him a fool. Look, this is all to say that I lived in a house surrounded by family, but I know what it's like to be totally alone.”
He’s acutely aware of Mike watching him, the slightest frown creasing his brow.
“Wow,” Mike says eventually. “This case’s been tough for you, huh?”
“You have no idea.” Mike’s frown deepens, and he hastens to add, “But I’m glad you called me tonight.”
“Grammy liked you.”
Harvey’s eyebrows leap up. “What?”
“I told her about you, and she said if she was still young she’d be chasing you down.”
They burst into simultaneous chuckles.
“She never liked Rachel half as much,” Mike says when they quiet again. “I guess that’s why I called you instead.”
“Has to be why,” Mike whispers.
Harvey’s not sure when Mike moved. Still, he realizes with a start that Mike’s gotten closer, slowly shifting further up his legs until he’s practically sitting in Harvey’s lap. Harvey’s struck still, breath suspended, heart battering against his ribs at the thought of what’ll surely happen next–
His stomach growls, and Mike throws his head back, laughing.
“I think I’m hungry,” Harvey says, trying and failing to keep a straight face.
Mike rolls off him and lands with a thud on the floor. He turns his face back up towards Harvey and remarks, “Did you know our bar has really good food?”
Food! Not just nuts and chips– their bar sells real, genuine food!
Mike blows his mind by reeling off all the different dishes on the full menu that Harvey’s somehow never seen, reciting the descriptions verbatim as they pile into a cab and head over to the bar. “They’ve got this crab, Harvey, and these roasted peppers that they char just right, and they serve the peppers with a four-cheese macaroni, which normally I’d consider pretentious, because who needs four cheeses just for mac-and-cheese? But this mac-and-cheese, I’m telling you, Harvey, it’s basically ambrosia–”
Most of what he’s saying is flying right over Harvey’s head, but he still loves watching Mike talk, his grin wide, his face practically glowing with excitement. When they get to the bar, Harvey shoves a bill in the driver’s hand, and they stumble out without waiting for change. Mike takes Harvey by the hand and pulls him towards the bar, only to halt in the middle of the pavement. Harvey just barely stops in time to not crash into him.
“I just remembered the fine print,” Mike says, “on the back of the menu.”
“The kitchen closes at 1 A.M.”
It takes Harvey a moment to work out why that matters, but as soon as he realizes it’s already past 2:00, he cracks up again, and Mike follows him, collapsing against him as his entire body shakes. Other pedestrians scowl as they stumble around and howl with laughter, but Harvey ignores them, just putting his own arms around Mike and holding him close.
“I remember the last time we were here.” The words float off Harvey’s tongue.
“Do you?” Mike murmurs.
Harvey pulls back, and no matter how light and cool the words are, there’s something white-hot between them; this time he places his hands on Mike’s cheeks and draws him in, softly, giving him time to flinch or flee.
Mike does neither.
And then Harvey’s mouth is on his, and he’s pressing Mike against the wall, and they’re kissing with traces of smiles still on their lips. The kissing quickly transforms into devouring, and Mike’s pushing off Harvey’s hood and curling his fingers in his hair, and Harvey bends to nuzzle Mike’s throat, eliciting moans and sighs with every lick.
“We can’t,” Mike says. Harvey doesn’t listen, not until Mike pushes him away, gentle but firm, disentangling himself and repeating, “We can’t.”
“Mike . . .” Harvey trails off with a long groan, dropping his head against the wall.
“I’m so goddamn sorry.”
They call a cab to drop them at their respective apartments. The drive to Harvey’s place is mercifully short and silent.
Sunlight gleams right in Harvey’s eyes, and he wakes with a dull ache in his head. Then he hears his phone’s ringtone instead of the alarm, and realizes that the sunlight is brighter than he’s used to waking up with, and immediately clambers out of bed with a curse.
“Where are you?” Donna exclaims as soon as he picks up. “You already missed your 10:00 with Seomun–”
“What’d you tell him?”
“I told him you’re tied up with a time-sensitive case for an even bigger client and you’ll see him first thing tomorrow.”
“Did he buy it?”
“Obviously, I sold it. But Harvey, where the hell have you been?”
“Busy with a time-sensitive case for an even bigger client. Obviously.”
She doesn’t buy it, he knows, but he hangs up and hurries through a stripped-back version of his morning routine, skipping all of his breakfast except the coffee. After zipping through the streets of Manhattan, thankfully now free of rush hour traffic, he enters the office, strutting in as confidently as he can.
The brave front doesn’t work on Donna, who takes one look at him and cries, “Jesus Christ, what happened last night–”
“Not now, I have an 11:30.”
Tutting, she hands him all the relevant files. “Rachel asked to talk to you first, but I put her off.”
“I told her she couldn’t demand your time without a separate appointment.”
He sighs, because usually he wouldn’t turn away a client right before a major meeting unless he had a major conflict, and he expects to get an earful from Robert on client satisfaction.
“It’s the best I could do,” Donna protests.
“Yeah, I know.” He gives her a brusque nod and then drags himself down to the conference room, surprisingly numb at the thought of facing Mike and Rachel. He’s exhausted, in more ways than one.
He pointedly ignores the way Mike’s tie sets off the blue of his eyes and feels a sting of pleasure when Mike stifles a yawn. He turns curiously when Rachel shoots Mike a dirty look in response.
“Thank you for coming today. I’ve taken all your suggestions into account to produce what I hope will be the final draft of your separation agreement–”
“I’m sorry, Harvey,” Rachel cuts in, “but I’ve decided I actually want a divorce at this point. I’m not interested in stopgap measures like separation anymore.”
“What?” Mike and Harvey say simultaneously.
“It’s not going to work out,” Rachel replies. “I know that now.”
“Are you– Did you get back together with Logan?” Mike asks.
“Excuse me?” she spits with new ice in her voice. “I made very clear to you that I was committed to our relationship.”
“You said that at the wedding too,” he says.
Rachel’s eyes flash, and she reaches into her handbag and pulls out a phone. “Lucky you, I brought my own evidence this time. Did you remember I’m staying in a hotel now?”
“Yes?” Mike’s eyes dart back and forth between her and Harvey.
“I assume you didn’t know which hotel, or else you wouldn’t have woken me up with a public disturbance right outside at 2:14 this morning.”
“What kind of disturbance?” Harvey says, clinging to his poker face.
She just pulls up her Photos app and shows them a picture.
It’s Mike, his face grainy but still discernible in the light of a nearby street lamp, his expression ecstatic. A man of about the same height is facing away from the camera and nibbling at his neck.
Rachel swipes through a series of photos and a video clip, and Harvey realizes that the other man isn’t clearly recognizable– between the thicket of hair, the scruff on his chin, the casual clothes, and the glasses, he’d never guess who that was without context.
“He looks very fit,” Rachel snorts, and Harvey holds back his “thank you.”
He had pulled his hood back on soon after Mike pushed him away, and so even when he turned around, Rachel never got a clear shot of his face. Still, they’re damning pictures for Mike.
“I saw you making out with him for a good ten minutes,” Rachel says, “and you clearly adored every moment.”
Mike swallows hard, and his eyelids flutter closed. “What do you want?”
“I want an at-fault divorce,” she answers, “with you at fault for adultery.”
Harvey’s eyes snap to her, because that’s not right. According to section 255.17 of New York Penal Law, adultery technically requires sexual intercourse, and Mike didn’t commit adultery with this mystery man.
Harvey would know.
Mike’s staring at Rachel in shock, and he scoffs, “You want me to be at fault?”
“Pot, kettle, black, anyone?”
“Hey,” she retorts, “what I did was wrong, but we were fighting, and I ended up with someone who I have cared about since I was fifteen. You, just weeks after recommitting to us and promising to give us a fair shot, picked up a random guy at a bar and started sucking his face on the street, for all of New York to see.”
Harvey’s tempted to laugh at the assignments of blame– personally, he doesn’t think anyone in the room still has a moral leg to stand on– but then his heart springs out of his chest as Mike protests, “He wasn’t just a–”
Rachel thankfully cuts him off, now almost shouting: “And it doesn’t take a genius to guess what happened after the two of you jumped into your cab.”
“Nothing happened,” Mike barks, shoulders tensing up.
“Really,” she says, narrowing her eyes. “If I asked your boytoy, would he say the same thing?”
“Yes! He’d tell you he went to his place and I went to mine, and we didn’t sleep together.”
“Mm-hmm. And he’d swear to that on the stand?”
Mike starts to speak, and then his mouth falls shut.
“That’s what I thought,” Rachel says with a smug smile.
Mike looks to Harvey, eyes bright with panic, but Harvey can’t respond, because his mind is playing Rachel’s scenario to its conclusion. If she demands an at-fault divorce on the ground of adultery, Mike would be entirely within his rights to defend himself. The most logical defense is of course to put his mystery man on the stand and make him swear that, no, they never had sex.
In the process, it would become exquisitely clear to the world that Harvey Specter had suffered the greatest lapse of judgement in his career. He’d gotten involved with the husband of the woman he was representing in a divorce case, and not just any woman– Rachel Zane. He’d get blowback from the Bar and the legal industry as a whole, he’d be dragged through the mud by the tabloids, he’d be out of a job, and he rather suspects Robert Zane would remove some of his teeth before he made it off the premises.
This cannot go to trial.
He cannot let Mike take this to trial.
“I think you’re being hasty, Rachel,” Harvey states, shocked at how calm he sounds. “Going to trial might backfire on you.”
Rachel scowls at him. “He cheated. How can proving it in court hurt me more?”
“Because he’ll bring up your own past.”
“That’s a separate incident,” she immediately replies. “You said it yourself, if we reconciled and went to therapy, it legally counts as forgiveness. It’s in my notes on condonation defenses.”
He did say that. Repressing a sigh, he leans in towards her and mutters, “There may be other ways to make it relevant and get it on the record.”
His stomach twists as he falls silent, because in any other situation he’d start listing strategies to prevent such a move. For any other client, he’d fight tooth and nail to prevent evidence of adultery from being admitted. Instead, he holds his tongue, compromising his legal advice in hopes of frightening Rachel.
She considers his point and then gives him a puzzled frown. “But it doesn’t really matter if we go to court.”
“What do you mean?”
“The only thing that’s prevented him from splashing my affair all over Page Six is that, up to this point, he still cared about me. Now that he’s going around with random strangers–” her voice breaks, but she inhales sharply and pulls herself back together; “I can’t count on that anymore. He’ll go public if he wants to go public. Going to court won’t change that much.”
Given what she knows, it’s a sensible conclusion, and Harvey suddenly realizes she’s not just a Zane in name. His brain goes into overdrive as he searches for a solution.
“It sounds like what you need,” he whispers, “is a non-disclosure agreement.”
Rachel raises her eyebrows. “He’s not going to give me that willingly.”
“But would you trade an at-fault divorce for a no-fault divorce plus an NDA?”
She closes her eyes, thinking the question through. At last, she murmurs, “If you can get it, yes.”
He’s Harvey Specter, the greatest closer in New York, a master of making people sign contracts they don’t want to and of pressing where it hurts. This is his job. This is his game.
For the first time, it makes him sick.
He secures his poker face and turns on Mike, who’s watching him with curiosity in those strikingly blue eyes. “You’re going to take the last settlement we offered you. Plenty of cash, 67% of the apartment’s value, and a no-fault divorce."
“Really?” He blinks and then adds, “What’s the catch?”
“You’re also going to sign an NDA preventing you from ever disclosing my client’s adultery to anyone outside this room.”
A flurry of emotions darts across Mike’s face– disbelief, grief, alarm, rage– but all he says aloud is: “Never.”
“Trevor Evans,” Harvey says, his voice hard like flint.
Mike squints in response. “What?”
“The co-founder of your start-up,” he elaborates. “Now, Rachel made an off-hand comment to me at one point that you don’t drop relationships, even if they’re strangling you. I don’t know if she realized how true that was, in Trevor’s case.”
Rachel gives him a confused look. “I know they fought a lot, but that was because they had different visions for the direction of the company–”
“Very different visions,” Harvey says, nodding. “Mike thought it should be a software company. Trevor thought it should be a crutch for his drug habit. My PI suspects he was using company projects as a front for drug deals, and he without a doubt embezzled company funds to pay for weed. Now, Mike here has a bleeding heart, so he let Trevor walk away without repaying a cent.”
Rachel whips her head around to face Mike. “But I put up the seed money. Those funds were my investment.”
Her face is twisted by betrayal. Mike’s is too, but he’s looking at Harvey.
Harvey pushes onwards. “Now let’s think about the criteria the court would use to distribute marital assets. They’d consider what you each came into the marriage with– in your case, nothing. They’d consider the money you each contributed during the marriage– again, in your case, next to nothing. And they would take into account whether either spouse has wastefully dissipated marital assets, which you undoubtedly did when you let Trevor off the hook.”
Mike’s face is frozen in horror as he finishes, “Long story short, if you go to court, I’ll make sure you leave destitute.”
Rachel and Mike both gape at him, speechless.
“Fine,” Mike says an eternity later, his voice tired and empty. “You win, Harvey.”
Harvey nods. “I’ll go draw up the paperwork now.”
In a matter of hours, they’ve signed the settlement and made arrangements to file a simple, no-fault divorce in court the next day. Harvey wins, or at least does reasonably well on his client’s behalf, yet it feels like a mortifying defeat.
Around 8 P.M. the next day, Donna walks into his office and closes the door. “All right, put that contract down.”
“But this is your fourth time re-reading it and you still don’t know what Seomun’s talking about, because your brain didn’t show up to work today,” she finishes. “Now, I have bran bars and coffee, and I will escort you to the restroom if necessary, but otherwise you are my hostage, and I am not letting you go until you tell me what the hell is wrong with you.”
His jaw tenses. “Nothing’s wrong.”
“You really are out of it if you think I’d fall for that.”
She gives him a look, and he drops the contract on his desk. “What do you want to know?”
“Everything. I’ll start with knowing why you overslept yesterday, even though the last time you missed your alarm was June 2007.”
“Why do you know the last time I missed my alarm?”
“I’m Donna. Now stop deflecting.”
He stares at her in silence.
“I’m waiting . . .”
“I’m trying to explain, I just . . . think I might have to start earlier than that night.”
She nods and seats herself opposite him. “I’ve got time.”
So he tells her. He’s hesitant at first, but she’s always been good at coaxing secrets out of him and soon he’s spilling the whole sordid tale. Many of his revelations don’t seem to faze her– she’s already picked up on bits of the drama, naturally– but other plot twists have her gasping.
“Obviously, I could have handled this better,” he says at the end.
“Understatement of the century,” she replies. “But what are you going to do next?”
“I’m not doing anything next.”
“You’re not going to talk to Mike?”
“Why would I?” He gives her a baffled frown. “We got in a lot of trouble together, I acted like a complete bastard yesterday, but at the end of the day he’s just a random kid I found in a bar.”
“Mm-hmm. All right. Let us review the things you have done for this ‘random kid.’”
“You have risked your managing partner’s wrath. You have plunged into ethical gray areas that would normally send you running. You have intentionally misled a client. You have risked retaliation by the Bar. Most importantly, you have willingly lowered your barriers and let someone into your life, and you’ve willingly stepped into theirs.” She shakes her head, chuckling. “He’s not just a random kid, Harvey. He hasn’t been for a while.”
“So what would you say I should do next?”
“The same thing you think you should do, even if you won’t admit it,” she answers with a shrug. “You need to get on your knees and grovel.”
Though he winces, he knows she’s right. “So you’re saying I care about him, huh?”
“That’s progress,” she rolls her eyes, “I guess.”
He can fix anything, Harvey tells himself as he knocks on Mike’s door, waits, and then knocks more insistently.
When Mike finally opens it, he’s wearing sweatpants and a faded hoodie, and there are haggard circles under his eyes. “I can’t talk to you.”
“Then why’d you open the door?”
“Let me clarify,” he says, looking pointedly over Harvey’s shoulder. “I won’t talk to you, and I opened the door for the pleasure of shutting it in your face–”
“If you won’t talk, then just listen.” Harvey seizes the opening in the conversation, even as he literally braces his hand against the door. “Mike, I’m sorry for what happened, I hated saying what I said, but I had to do it.”
“Why?” Mike spits.
“Because I had to get a settlement through.”
“Because you couldn’t go to court.”
“Because you would have put me on the stand, and my career would be over.”
The words rip out of him, leaving him suddenly breathless.
Mike shrinks back as soon as he says it. “What, you thought I’d put you on the stand?”
“It’s the obvious move.”
“Harvey–” The bitterness in Mike’s voice makes him flinch. “I wasn’t going to put you on the stand. Hell, I probably wasn’t going to spill Rachel’s secrets either. I was going to try and get out of the at-fault divorce without smearing either of you, and if I couldn’t pull some legal trick to do that? Then I’d take the at-fault divorce and live with it.”
Harvey’s silver tongue deserts him. “But– why–”
“Because I’m a ‘bleeding heart,’ Harvey,” Mike roars, “and I don’t tear down people I–”
He cuts himself off with a sudden inhale.
“Mike, how do I fix this?” Harvey pauses, searching for solutions to offer. “I tried to give you a favorable settlement, but I can do more. I can help you get new housing. I can find you more work. I can connect your company with venture capitalists, I can–”
“God, I don’t want that kind of fixing,” he interrupts. “Don’t you get it?”
Harvey replies with a small frown. “No. I don’t think I do.”
“I trusted you, Harvey, and then you ambushed me the day after my grandmother died,” he says, his voice low and grim. “You looked into my past, which I understand, I guess, but then you found the place where Trevor backstabbed me and you ripped me right open along the seam, because you didn’t trust me enough to know I wouldn’t ruin everything you hold dear.”
Mike’s finally meeting his gaze, and Harvey can barely breathe from the sheer surprise. He grasps for words, reviewing everything he’s ever known in hopes of finding some appropriate response.
“What is it you want from me, Mike?”
He huffs and starts to turn away, but Harvey plunges on, “What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word, and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down.”
Mike stops, looking back, wide-eyed as he murmurs, “I’ll take it.”
“And the way I acted towards you yesterday,” Harvey adds, his words slow and tentative even as his heart speeds, “isn’t really real, you know. Don't forget I'm also just a boy, standing in front of a boy . . .”
He doesn’t finish the quote, but he knows Mike will infer the ending: “Asking him to love him.”
Mike serves him with a bewildered stare, like he’s caught between slapping Harvey and laughing at him.
Finally, he just raises his eyebrows and snaps, “Why don’t you kiss me instead of talking me to death?”
Grinning, Harvey hastens to comply.
Three Years Later
Three years later, the statute of limitations for legal malpractice elapses, as do the time limits on inflicting any professional penalty short of disbarment. That very night, Mike accompanies Harvey to a party celebrating the renaming of Pearson Specter.
Dressed in an impeccably tailored tuxedo, Mike lingers at the party's edges, smiling as Harvey works the whole room, flitting from client to client, wearing his most brilliant smirk. He's so caught up in watching that he doesn't notice Donna sneaking up on him.
"All right, wallflower," she says, startling him, "time to mingle."
"I've been mingling!"
"No, you're too busy being starstruck." She licks her finger and presses a wayward blond spike back into place. "The heart eyes aren't subtle, by the way."
Ignoring his protests, she straightens his bowtie, clamps a hand on his forearm, and drags him towards the center of the room, calling, "Jessica."
Jessica, stunning in a white column dress with her curls piled high atop her head, turns to look.
"You have to meet Mike," Donna tells her once they draw closer. "He's the mastermind behind our new eDiscovery software."
Jessica tilts her head, curious. “A pleasure to meet you. That software’s streamlined our litigation process dramatically.”
She transfers a glass of champagne from her right hand to her left and then reaches out for a handshake.
"It's good to meet you too," Mike says, grasping her hand and wondering what to say next.
Right on cue, Donna adds, “He’s also Harvey’s boyfriend.”
Jessica’s eyebrows jump. “His boyfriend?”
“No,” Mike corrects, “I wouldn’t say I’m his boyfriend. The accurate term is now fiancé.”
He says it with a nonchalant shrug, but a grin breaks loose a second later as he sees their clear shock.
Gaping at him, Donna asks, “He finally proposed?”
“How did he do it?” she demands.
“He handed me a contract and told me he needed a second pair of eyes to check it out. Turned out it was a prenup.”
Jessica lets out a snort, and Donna gasps in horror. “I’m going to kill Harvey.”
“Why? He said yes, draconian adultery clauses and all.” At just that instant, Harvey sidles up to Mike and hands him a shot of scotch. “Make it last.”
“I will.” Mike gives him a soft smile before turning back to Donna. “It could have been worse.”
“If he had waited any longer, I would have proposed.”
“And how,” Donna exclaims, throwing up her hands, “could that possibly be worse?”
“I would have made things too simple,” Mike says with a wince. “I’d just turn to him . . . and ask for his hand in mawwiage.”