Hands, like secrets, are the hardest thing to keep from you
Lines and phrases, like knives, your words can cut me through
Dismantle me down
As useful as it has been his entire life, Mike Ross hates his eidetic memory.
It’s particularly useful at work (he damn near always wins his cases), it’s gotten him out of a tight spot more often than not, it’s allowed him to almost constantly be the smartest person in the room.
It also makes him the most anxious.
“With great knowledge comes great responsibility” someone was once paraphrased and at some point during his life Mike has read it and never forgotten it since. Obviously. That’s his problem. But more than that, for Mike Ross, with knowledge comes depression and over-analysis.
The thing about his eidetic memory is that it means his brain never switches off. Constantly processing and reevaluating whatever he has learnt means he can never stop thinking, he can never relax.
Everyone tells him how lucky he is to have a mind like his, how blessed he is, how privileged he must feel…
But it’s constant and chaotic and no one ever considers the downsides. It never stops, it’s overbearing, it hurts, and it’s just too much for Mike to deal with.
That’s what the weed was for; to stop the thoughts, to stop the constant whirring of worry, to allow himself the chance to just… be. It gave him a chance to breathe, to numb his brain long enough to stop questioning, to stop the pain, to stop the urges.
It was one of the strategies he’d learned over the years; a way to cope, to shut his mind down for just a little while. Despite the knowledge he possessed, all the things he knows, Mike Ross could never teach his mind to be quiet. It didn’t just happen because he wanted it to; he had to find the right vice, the right toxin to take over, to drown out the thoughts. In all his years he had only ever found three that actually worked to the slightest degree.
… But he doesn’t have the weed anymore.
With Harvey came the loss of the drugs, but also came a sudden, realistic, sometimes downright daunting expectation on him that he wouldn’t completely screw up his future.
No one’s ever held many expectations of him; even Grammy had her limits as to what she deemed him capable of achieving. Mike knew he broke her heart every time she looked at him. She loves him, there’s no doubt about it, but she knows the pain and she knows the potential, and she knows that the pain wins out every time.
But now the expectations are suffocating him, he’s in the door and for once Grammy’s actually looking at him like she’s proud. Harvey’s breathing down his neck and tells him almost daily that he better not screw up, and the thought of his expectations alone are almost enough to make Mike panic.
He holds out longer than he thought he would (he never said he had high expectations of himself either), but it’s the fear of disappointing Harvey, the outright desire to please the other man that keeps him holding out for so long to begin with.
… He knew he wouldn’t last forever. He knew it wouldn’t take long before his mind stopped being able to cope with the stress of new knowledge and the lack of weed to counteract the overflow of emotion and anxiety that his mind was constantly fed.
In hindsight his attempt was pathetic but at least he tried, right?
The first night he snaps it’s nothing specific that sets him off, it’s just his brain working overtime, thoughts exploding and running riot, causing pain and hurt and way too much noise. He doesn’t have a trigger, that’s his issue in finding solutions. It would be so much easier to counteract if only there were something specific to fight. Well… his trigger is knowing too much but he can’t exactly turn that off.
It’s intimidating, the constant barrage of new information and understandings of the world, of being able to consider the perspectives of people who are suffering, of having the theoretical answers to the world’s problems but lacking the practical means, insights, and opportunities in order to help. Some days it’s just noise, his mind unable to settle, but they’re the good days. Most of the time it’s downright depressing and Mike can no longer rely on the weed to block out the world.
He knows he shouldn’t do it, that’s he’s facing a dangerous path he hasn’t turned down in years, but there’s no weed and there’s too much noise and there’s just nothing else he can do.
His other option is love. To surround himself with the people he cares about, the people who care about him, and wallow in their hearts, the good they possess within themselves and to soak it up like his minds not fighting to cave in on itself.
But that’s not an option tonight. Trevor and Jenny are gone and it’s moments like this that he misses them more than anything. He can’t go to Grammy now. He checks his watch and realises it’s almost 3am and damn he hates how often he loses track of time and can’t account for his actions. He thinks of going to Harvey, how the older man might berate him for waking him up but ultimately wouldn’t mind. But the bathroom’s closer and there’s too much noise, and Mike’s thinking so much he can’t just think.
At any other time he’d find the thought amusing, but as he is, his eyesight is blurring and he’s mildly aware of his hands shaking as he collapses to the ground in the middle of his living room and pulls at the strands of his hair.
He swears he can hear someone screaming but he knows by now it’s inside his mind. The first time it had happened Jenny had almost passed out Mike had scared her so much.
His mind switches to number patterns, to page 17 of ‘A Farewell To Arms’, to facts and figures, to the employee list of Pearson Hardman.
By the time he’s aware of himself again, of anything outside of his mind, his hands have moved to his forearms and there he finds red rivers of torn skin. Even though he hadn’t felt what he’d done, the sight sends a jolt of clarity through his mind and just for a moment he’s aware of his surroundings.
It’s enough to get him moving.
He’s back on his feet and inside the bathroom before he can blink twice.
He’s knows it’s there. It shouldn’t be. He should have thrown it out when he tossed the weed.
He stares at himself in the mirror, trying like hell to talk himself out of it; to clear the whirlwind enough for his coherent thoughts to be heard, for the sanity to step back in and take over and allow him to breathe. He just wants to stop, to catch his breath.
The dictionary flutters through his mind, followed by Grammy’s spaghetti sauce recipe, chased by the statistical chances of surviving a car accident.
The insurance settlement regarding his parents’ deaths is suddenly clear as day and then his fingers are cold.
He doesn’t know what he’d been expecting when he’d looked down, objectively he knows what he holds in his hands, but somehow he’s still surprised. Surprised by how ominous it looks, by how it doesn’t look ominous at all… by the way it hasn’t changed in the slightest and he’s not sure why he’d expected it would.
It’s silver and slim and much too cold; slowly sapping the warmth from his fingertips like a parasite living off his body. And as if that isn’t a sign of things to come.
His hands are steady, steadier than they’ve been in hours, and Mike’s sure his body is tricking him into something he knows is wrong, but he just can’t think through all the thoughts.
He sees the mark before he feels anything; the slow swelling of red bursting through the seam on his skin.
Then there’s the sting and the burn and the gasp of pain.
And then there’s silence.
There’s blissful, calming, empty silence and Mike can’t help but smile.
He’s aware of himself enough now to know he probably looks manic, that if anyone were to walk in right now he’d probably be carted off to a mental hospital without question. That train of thought sparks another and another and Mike can feel himself spiraling out of control again.
Another mark, parallel to its brother, high on his bicep so it won’t be seen even if he rolls up his shirtsleeves.
He should stop, he knows he should stop, but he’s missed this. He’s missed the quiet, the serenity of his mind, the feeling of normality that washes over him and the way he no longer has to chase his own breath. He’s been too long without the weed and suddenly the blade against his skin is its own kind of drug, lulling him into a false sense of stability.
He loses himself to the numbness, to the escape of the quiet and the sharp spikes of pain occasionally bringing him back to reality.
He snaps to when his knees hit the cold tile, the sudden solid impact shaking him out of his reverie, the clatter of the razor on the tile echoing too loud in the small room.
His hands are shaking, skin soaked with his own blood, and he feels weak as he struggles to pull himself back to his feet. He spares a glance at the razor on the floor, stomach jolting at the sight, and it’s all Mike can do to stagger towards his bed, collapse into the mess of cool, rough sheets, and hope like hell he hasn’t cut himself deep enough to do any lasting damage.
After that it all goes downhill. Mike spirals into a haze of noise, pain, quiet slices of metal across his skin.
The cutting becomes a daily habit, the urge insistent and the pressure constantly building until he can find that blissful release.
He succeeds for a few days at keeping it out of the office, counting down the minutes until he can get home and fall apart. His bathroom floor becomes his new best friend, stains of red creating a home for themselves across the white tiles.
It's much too soon that the buzzing escalates, that he's stuck at the office with an overactive mind and without a way to shut it out. The by-laws are dancing across his mind, suddenly accompanied by employee contracts and business earnings. He can’t decipher one from the other and suddenly he just can’t help himself anymore.
He's not sure how long he's locked himself in a private bathroom for but when he comes to he's shaking and disorientated. There's a constant stream of thoughts swirling around his mind but he can't pinpoint anything specific. All he's aware of warm droplets of blood falling over his fingertips, cold metal pressing against too hot skin and the shattered remains of his spare plastic razor lying broken amongst his feet.
The only coherent voice Mike can decipher is telling him to unbuckle his pants and let the blade slide across his skin. He's hopeless to resist the only thing that makes sense.
Mike stares too long at the slip of metal, torn between ruckus and noise or pain and a quiet relief. At first the slash of the blade against his thigh doesn't even register, then blood is flowing freely. It’s quiet and for a moment he can think again.
He looks down at the mess of skin and blood covering his upper thigh and swears quietly to himself. He desperately tries to stem the flow of blood; it wouldn't do to stain his suit trousers.
The thought brings with it a spark of panic, what is someone finds out, what if Harvey finds out? Mike doesn’t want to lose him job, Mike can’t afford to lose his job.
The panic swells, his heart beats hard against his chest and breathing becomes a struggle once again.
Mike continues to fight against the panic, tiny sharp nicks racing across his skin whenever the chaos even comes close to taking over his mind once again.
He’s not sure how long he’s been there when a vibration against his leg and a shrill ringing breaks him out of his blissful silence. His hands tremble as he reaches for his phone, small spots of blood darkening the small device.
He contemplates not answering it, he doesn’t want to answer it, but it’s Harvey. He can’t not answer Harvey.
“Mike. Where are you?”
“Bathroom.” Mike’s proud of how even his voice sounds.
“I’ve been sitting at your desk for twenty minutes.”
Panic floods through him momentarily but somehow he’s able to think through the heavy haze, “I spilt coffee on myself, I’ve been cleaning up. I’ll be there in a minute.”
Harvey doesn’t justify him with a response; instead a simple click is his only answer.
Mike sucks in a heavy breath then starts work on meticulously cleaning up the mess he’s made. He’s finding it easier to think clearly when he’s focusing on Harvey, on getting to the other man, on doing what he’s asked.
He studies himself in the mirror and once again berates himself for his idiocy. He knows he’s getting worse, that the temptations are becoming more frequent and his power to say no to himself is decreasing every day.
Mike finds Harvey exactly where he said he’d be, sitting at Mike’s cubicle, scaring the other associates with a simple glare. The older man grins when he sees Mike approaching and stands to hand him a file.
He pulls back at the last moment, face transforming into a scowl, “What happened to your fingers?”
“I fought with a ream of paper and lost.” Mike manages to convince even himself and Harvey too it seems; the older man simply rolls his eyes and huffs, the sound just short of a laugh.
It only takes a little over a week after that for Harvey to start watching him closely. It begins with the glances, a curious look that silently asks what’s going on, that hints at the notion of discovery but is still rife with confusion. It soon escalates to outright staring and Mike immediately starts doing his best to avoid the older man.
Turns out it’s not all that easy to avoid your boss.
It’s bordering on 9pm on a Sunday night and Mike’s been holed up in Harvey’s condo for the past six hours now. He’d been having a good day, as far as things go for him these days, with the weekend helping him to relax and miraculously he was able to switch off for a little while without the help of a razorblade.
Now though he’s getting antsy. He tries to suppress the subtle shaking of his body, the fidgeting that naturally comes alongside his restlessness; he tries to hide himself from Harvey while sitting right next to the man.
His fingers are itching for the cool of the blade.
He doesn’t even need the silence right now, he just needs to stop the chaotic tension. He’s freaking out about Harvey finding out, but the only way Harvey will find out is if he freaks out. The thought turns his brain into a tailspin and suddenly Harvey staring at him like he’s never seen him before.
“Are you okay?” There’s genuine concern lacing Harvey’s voice and Mike breathes a little easier, and panics a little more, at the sound.
“Mike, you don’t look okay.” He scoots closer to Mike on the sofa, eyes frantically studying his face, “You’re sweating, you look like you’re about to be sick.”
Mike takes a deep breath, counts to five, and lets it go. He focuses on repeating Harvey’s voice over and over again in his mind while he fights valiantly to control his breathing.
He doesn’t know how long it’s been when he finally snaps his eyes open – when he even shut them he has no idea – and Harvey’s still staring at him, caring and concerned, looking almost on the verge of panic himself.
Mike decides then and there that the look doesn’t suit him.
He tries a soft simple and is pleased when it comes out feeling real, “I’m okay, I promise.”
“That didn’t seem like okay to me.”
“I am. Promise.”
Mike’s body apparently still has other ideas than his mind because surely that can’t be his hand cupping his boss’ cheek.
Harvey startles for a few moments, studying Mike, trying to gauge his intentions, and all Mike can do is breathe and focus on Harvey as he tries not to freak out, because he sure as hell didn’t mean for this to be happening. He can’t seem to pull his hand away though and his eyes stay locked to the deep brown staring back at him.
Suddenly warm lips are pressing against his own and Mike immediately opens his mouth under Harvey’s. He never intended for this to happen, he never planned on telling Harvey how he feels, but Harvey’s tongue is sliding against his own and Mike’s helpless to do anything except reciprocate.
Lips nip at lips, tongues dance between mouths, and Mike can’t help but groan into the sensations. He can’t think about anything other than Harvey pressing even closer to him, the warmth of his body almost overwhelming in its toxic addictiveness.
Harvey’s skin feels blazing hot where his palms press into the tops of Mike’s hands and Mike wishes he could feel more, he could feel all of Harvey, that he could have the older man completely. The thoughts drive him to take action, to unbutton the ridiculously expensive button-up Harvey’s wearing despite working at home on a Sunday, to get to more skin as quickly as possible.
The feel of Harvey’s fingers skirting along the hem of Mike’s shirt makes his pulse quicken, the brush of skin against skin sends his heart into overdrive.
His mind catches up and suddenly he can’t bear to be this close to the other man. His stomach revolts at the same time as his mind, the sudden fear of Harvey finding his scars sending him scuttling from the sofa, eyes wide as he struggles to retain his lunch.
Harvey’s body stiffens where he still sits and Mike can see his mouth moving but all he can hear is the rush of blood in his ears, the pounding of his heart and the overwhelming cascade of thoughts that are suddenly invading his mind.
The fear encapsulates his entire body and Mike can’t be out of the condo quick enough.
The pounding on the front door startles him out of his desperate focus, the clatter of the blade on the bathroom tiles ringing throughout the room and echoing around his brain.
He should have known Harvey would come, that he would want to know why Mike ran, that he wouldn’t let it fester overnight and risk ruining their professional relationship.
He hastens to zip up his jeans and hide the razor in a bathroom drawer before he hurries towards the door. He stops short of opening it, unable to bring himself to do it, unable to face Harvey once again, fearing the truth will be apparent the moment they lock eyes.
“Mike I know you’re in there!”
He jumps at the noise, the voice obnoxiously loud just on the other side of the door.
Harvey’s standing in front of him, panting and frantic, and Mike’s not aware he even opened the door until he realises he’s holding onto the handle.
“You going to tell me what the hell that was all about?” Harvey sounds almost desperate, pleading, eyes locked on Mike’s own.
Mike shifts uncomfortably but manages to keep his voice even, “It just wasn’t a good idea. I don’t want to ruin our working relationship.”
It’s bullshit and they both know it.
“You started-“ Harvey’s voice cuts off and Mike follows his gaze to where he’s found Mike’s hand, still blood-soaked and shaking slightly, “What is that?”
Mike pulls his hands out of sight, rubbing them aggressively against the bum of his jeans, “Nothing.” His voice is shaking and immediately he knows Harvey’s going to figure out what is going on.
Harvey’s fingers burn where they’re pulling at Mike’s wrists, bringing his hands level with Harvey’s face so he can inspect them properly. He’s silent for what feels like forever and Mike certain he should be panicking but all he can focus on is the feel of Harvey’s skin against his own.
“This blood isn’t from your hands.” He’s staring back into Mike’s eyes, asking without words for the younger man to explain.
Mike tries desperately to come up with a lie, an excuse to hide behind, a story to tell that will convince Harvey enough that the older man will leave. Nothing comes to mind, all he can focus on is Harvey’s skin and the ever-dwelling panic.
“Mike.” Again, the pleading, and it pulls at Mike’s heart. He doesn’t like hurting other people, he doesn’t like hurting Harvey; the pain is for him and him alone, no one else deserves it.
“You better come in and sit down.”
Mike disentangles himself from Harvey’s hands and moves past the sofa into the bedroom. He sits in the middles of the too-soft mattress and waits for Harvey to join him.
The older man sits beside him and they’re almost touching, the heat from Harvey’s body almost sending Mike into another frenzy and suddenly he just feels defeated.
He can’t lie to Harvey anymore.
“I promise you I’m not crazy.”
Harvey looks at him like he has no idea what’s going on, like he can’t even fathom what Mike’s about to tell him and he desperately hopes this is all some incredibly insane dream.
“You know I’m smart. What you don’t know is that sometimes it’s too much, sometimes I can’t turn it off, sometimes I need a little bit of help.”
Harvey gives him a minute shake of the head, “Mike, what are you-“
“I can show you. If you want. I don’t really know how to explain it.”
Harvey looks at him incredulously, remains silent as he tries to process all the information and come up with an answer. Something’s still escaping him though. Mike figures it’s time to help the process along.
He moves towards the end of the bed and stands, facing Harvey as he carefully undoes the button on his jeans. Harvey’s eyes scatter between Mike’s face and his hands, torn between allowing this to continue and just outright demanding answers.
Mike stares at Harvey a moment before taking a deep breath and slipping his pants down his legs. He inhales sharply at the feel of the rough denim rubbing against the sensitive skin of his latest cut.
Harvey flinches at the sight, gaze still flickering between Mike’s eyes and his legs.
Thoughtfulness takes over his face, his eyes suddenly glued to Mike’s legs as he contemplates everything he knows and works at putting the pieces together. The longer he stares the more Mike starts to fidget, to regret. He wishes he’d never done this. He should have ignored the door, he shoulder have kept his mouth shut.
Mike can almost pinpoint the exact moment Harvey figures it out. Still the older man remains silent and Mike’s stomach rolls with waves of anxiety. He can’t take his gaze away from Harvey, he needs to know what the older man is thinking, what he’s going to do, but he’s tempted to bolt for the bathroom, to empty his stomach into the sink and to wash away the blood stains.
“You did this?”
Harvey’s voice is steady and his eyes never waiver from the scars, the old and the freshly bleeding. Mike’s hands twitch with the impulse to cover himself up.
“It stops my mind for a little while.”
Harvey looks at him then, finally, and Mike hates the pity. This is why he didn’t want Harvey to know.
“It’s too much; the thoughts, the knowledge, the knowing everything. It’s overwhelming and sometimes it’s too much to deal with. It’s what the weed was for. It keeps my mind quiet.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“What? ‘Hey Harvey, the reason I light up is because I’m actually so smart it literally drives me insane and the only other way I don’t lose my mind is to cut myself.’ Yeah, that would have gone down great.” Mike’s not sure where the sarcasm comes from, but he’s still feeling vulnerable and Harvey’s still staring
“You could have told me some other way, you can have explained it to me like this.”
“All you ever do is tell me you don’t care about me.”
“We both know it’s not the truth, Mike. All you ever do is tell me I’m full of shit.”
“Yeah, well, this isn’t exactly an easy thing to admit to, not even now.”
Harvey moves so quickly Mike doesn’t even register it until Harvey up on his knees in front of him, kneeling on the end of the bed so he’s eye-level with Mike.
“This doesn’t change how I feel about you. I still kissed you back for a reason.”
“Mike, I just need to know that you’re okay. I mean… obviously you’re not,” Harvey motions awkwardly towards Mike’s legs but his eyes remain locked on the younger man’s face, “But I need to know that you will be.”
Mike takes a deep breath and reaches for Harvey’s shoulder, needing a physical reminder that this magnificent man is really here before him telling him he cares about him, that he wants to be with him.
“I will be.” Harvey looks at Mike like he so desperately wants to believe him but doubt still slips into his gaze so the younger man continues, “I mean it will take time, and I still need to find a… healthy way of dealing with this, but I know I’ll get there.”
“I’ll be there.”
“One day, I promise. I’ll be okay.”
Mike’s not entirely sure which one of them moves first but lips are crashing against lips once again as Harvey’s arms wrap around Mike’s waist. The movement causes the pair to lose balance and Harvey tumbles backwards onto the bed, pulling Mike with him.
Mike laughs against the older man’s mouth, feeling suddenly lighter and freer than he has in years. Harvey laughs softly back at him, their breaths mixing together before Harvey pulls Mike back in for another kiss. His hands make their way down Mike’s body, pushing the younger man’s jeans off completely, reveling in the feel of soft skin against his hands.
Suddenly a thought occurs to him and Harvey breaks the kiss enough to speak, “We should get you cleaned up first.”
“They’re okay.” Mike’s mouth immediately descends upon Harvey’s neck and the older man can’t suppress the groan it drags forth.
“Mike,” Harvey gasps, “You need to look after yourself.”
Mike finally pulls back to lock eyes with his boss, “Right now we need to look after each other. We can deal with that later.”
“I don’t want you getting hurt.”
“Trust me Harvey, right now all I need is you.”
Harvey’s helpless to argue against that so he simply pulls Mike’s mouth back towards his own. Mike fights with Harvey’s shirt, struggles with the buttons as he refuses to separate his mouth from the older man’s.
After what seems like forever Harvey’s shirt is gone, along with his pants and Mike’s shirt and they’re both blissfully naked, basking in the feel of the others skin burning against their own.
Harvey flips them so Mike’s on his back under him, staring up at him like he’s everything he’s ever been waiting for, like he holds the answers to all the questions Mike still struggles to answer. Harvey smiles at him gently, kisses him once again, and then begins to make his way down Mike’s body.
Harvey takes his time with him, gentle kisses pressed into over-heated skin as he explores previously uncharted territory. He seeks out Mike’s scars, the fresh ones, most obvious ones, gaining the most attention, but the ones from years ago, the ones faded from an adolescence long past, still get their fair share of kisses and caresses.
Mike thinks he hears whispers of love pressed against his skin but his mind can’t focus on them. His mind can’t focus on anything beyond the touch of Harvey’s hands, the feel of his lips burning promises across his body, the constant song of ‘Thank you, I love you’ marching through his mind. Nothing else breaks through and Mike feels like he’s flying.
He thinks he just found his fourth, and his favourite, way of quieting his mind.