Harvey’s sat on the sofa, immersed in mountains of paperwork when he hears a quiet shuffling behind him moving closer to the kitchen. He looks up and turns in his seat to peer over the back of the soft leather, a mop of blonde hair barely visible over the other side of the kitchen counter.
He waits quietly while Eli opens the fridge, retrieves a small bottle of orange juice, and turns to retreat back into his bedroom, “I don’t think your dad would be every happy.”
It’s obvious to Harvey that Eli thought he was being discreet enough to escape his father’s attention and is rather surprised at having been caught out.
“Spending all day inside, holed up in your room. You know he doesn’t like you playing too many video games.”
Harvey sits up straighter where he’s turned his chest to the back of the sofa.
He’d wandered into Eli’s room more than once over the course of the day, trying to coerce his son into giving up his computer games and for them to spend some time together. It had all been to no avail. Eli had been quieter than normal lately, a little grumpier, but overall the kid had seemed okay and Harvey trusted he’d come to him if he wasn’t, so he’d let it go.
But Eli isn’t a sullen kid, and he never gives his parents attitude, so now Harvey’s really worried.
“Hey.” Harvey settles his face into his ‘daddy face’ and lets all the love he has for his little man shine through, “Talk to me. What’s up?”
“Eli. What’s wrong? You haven’t been yourself lately.”
“It’s nothing.” Eli turns and walks away, out of Harvey’s sight.
He’s never done that before either. Eli’s never so blatantly ignored Harvey in any way, and Harvey’s baffled. He honestly has no idea how to deal with the situation so feels it best to just leave Eli be for a while more. He sighs, turning back to his paperwork, hating the fact something is bothering his son and he has no idea how to deal with it.
The sun begins to set behind the vast array of city buildings surrounding the apartment, shining through the floor to ceilings windows, illuminating the condo in a way Harvey revels in whenever he finds the time. He tosses his pen aside and contemplates cooking dinner, figuring that surely Eli must be hungry by now.
Harvey stands and stretches, the dull ache in his shoulder a sign of protest to sitting in one position so long, the muscles in his back celebrating the freedom to finally move. He turns and moves down the corridor towards Eli’s room, stopping just short of opening the door when he hears Eli’s voice float from under the door.
“I miss you, Daddy.”
Harvey jumps slightly and his skin prickles at the static sound of Mike’s voice coming through the speaker.
“I miss you too buddy. I’ll see you Wednesday for drums though.”
“I know but that’s ages away.”
Harvey can perfectly imagine the sulking expression to match Eli’s tone.
“It’s okay, champ. Aren’t you having fun with Papa?”
Harvey’s heart rate increases the longer Eli stays silent, not a single sound coming from the room until Mike’s voice squawks through the phone once again.
The hesitation hits him like a knife in the gut and suddenly Harvey can’t listen to this anymore. He turns and hurries back towards the kitchen, focusing on starting dinner while Eli’s on the phone to Mike. He can’t stop his mind from spinning though. He thinks maybe he should have stayed and listened, to find out what was bothering his son, to find out if it had anything to do with him, but it felt too much like betrayal, to both Eli and Mike.
Suddenly the thought hits him that maybe he should be talking to Mike about this, that they should be working together on this, to help make things better again for their little boy. He’s their son after all and some things are better fought as a team.
Mike has to consciously level his voice and try to calm his heart when he answers the phone. It’s fairly unusual for Eli to be calling him when he’s having his fortnight with Harvey, but it’s not unheard of either, so Mike tries not to panic.
The sadness in his son’s voice pulls at his heart and it takes every single bit of Mike’s self control to not rush over there as soon as he can and pull his son into his arms.
He hates being away from Eli. The fortnight’s he’s with Harvey seem to drag on too long; the fortnight’s Mike has him… they seem to fly by. Mike longs for Wednesday afternoons, for the short time he gets with his son even during Harvey’s time with him. Wednesday afternoons are drum afternoons and drums are a Mike duty. He uses the word ‘duty’ lightly, there’s nowhere else he’d rather be.
Eli’s reluctance to answer Mike’s question has him worried. If he were having fun with Harvey there’d be no reason to hesitate, right? It’s the logical path his mind takes but if having a child has taught him anything it’s to not jump to conclusions, to take the time to listen to other people’s perspectives.
“I dunno. It’s just not the same.”
The voice is so tiny, so timid, that Mike’s sure his heart’s going to break. And it’s getting harder by the minute to not want to break Harvey’s face.
It’s been two years since their split, and while it hasn’t exactly gotten any easier, it’s gotten more manageable. They’re civil enough, exchanging little more than pleasantries both inside the office and when discussing Eli. They spend very little time together at all anymore. Mike’s finally made his way up the ranks to become junior partner at Pearson Specter and so he no longer works under Harvey directly (thank god), and the only time they spend together outside the office is at Eli’s baseball games, school awards nights, and soon his musical performances. It’s these things that are the hardest. At the office they can be indifferent, they can ignore each other for the most part and be purely professional whenever they are forced to work together, but the other times, the times away from the office, the times that Eli brings them back together and they can reflect on the beautiful boy they both love, they have fun. They laugh and they joke and it’s almost like old times. It’s in these moments that Mike finds it hard to remember why they split in the first place.
Mike shakes the thoughts away, knowing they’re useless and impractical and only lead to pain, and focuses back on the conversation and the little boy he loves more than life itself.
“You used to always love being there.” Mike’s not really sure where he’s going with this, but his gut instinct tells him to push through, to find out what’s worrying their son, to make things right. When Eli stays quiet again for too long, Mike decides on another tacit, “What’d you do today, buddy?”
Mike thinks he hears a choked cry through the phone and goddammit he can’t do this. Maybe he should speak to Harvey.
“Eli? Buddy, what’s wrong?”
“I wanna come home.”
The desperation hurts his heart and he’s almost convinced that maybe he should go over, that he should go pick up Eli and bring him home. Mike knows better though, he knows how to deal with Eli, and he knows that he needs to press on, that it might hurt them both, but it will get his son to open up and they’ll both feel better for it afterwards.
“Come on buddy, what’d you do today?”
“... Don’t be mad.”
Okay and that was definitely not what he’d been expecting.
“Hey, why would I be mad?”
“Papa said you would be.”
Mike has to take a deep breath and force himself not to snap. He knows it’s not Eli’s fault, and more than likely if he’s angry with anyone it’ll be Harvey.
“I won’t be mad at you. I promise.”
“Have I ever broken a promise to you before?”
“… I guess not.”
He can hear the change in Eli’s tone, the way he softens just before he gives up whatever truth he’s been keeping to himself. It makes Mike smile despite the worry surging through him.
“So what’d you get up to today?”
“What?” Mike thought the kid had no surprises left in him but apparently not.
“Nothing.” It’s so quiet Mike has to strain himself to hear the mumbled words, “Did nothing.”
“What do you mean you did nothing? Didn’t you do something with Papa?”
“No. I played video games while he worked.”
Mike’s jaw clenches painfully in an attempt to stifle the curse words that surge forward. He and Harvey had talked about this when Eli started to get a little bit older. Video games were fine, to an extent, but they didn’t want to raise a child who locked themselves in their rooms for hours on end and had little interaction with the outside world. And given it’s a Sunday just makes everything worse.
Weekends aren’t working time; if Eli is with you, weekends are family time. The only exception being unless you’re swamped with a case and Mike knows Harvey isn’t right now. He knows because Mike had been until late last night and had been angry at himself for not being able to make Eli’s baseball game. Harvey had assured him he’d be there though, that he had nothing pressing so he’d be able to spend quality time with him the whole weekend.
Mike realises he’s been quiet too long when Eli starts crying, his soft sobs breaking Mike’s heart on the other side of the city.
“Hey, buddy, it’s okay, I’m not mad.” Mike hears a hiccup over the line and in that moment all he wants to do is be able to hold his son. “Shh, it’s okay bud. Deep breaths.”
He can hear Eli inhale a shaky breath and if the whole ordeal weren’t so sad, Mike would probably be laughing a little.
“I’m not mad at you, okay? I promise.”
“But… but… I know you don’t like it but Papa was working and I miss you and I want to be home with you and so I just didn’t wanna play with him.” Eli’s voice increases steadily as he speaks until he’s almost worked himself back into a panic.
“Shh, Eli, breathe. Just breathe, baby.”
Mike listens to the deep breaths in and out, in and out, until Eli finally seems to have settled enough to listen to him once again.
“Neither Papa or I are mad at you, okay? And if you’re feeling sad about being there with Papa, you need to tell him, okay?”
Mike hates how dejected he sounds.
“It’s okay to feel like that sometimes, but you need to let him know. You can call me and talk to me too, of course, but you need to tell him too.”
“Okay, Daddy, I will.”
“That’s my little man!”
Eli’s bubble of laughter spreads a grin across Mike’s face and just for a second things seem alright again.
“Have you eaten yet?”
“Okay well how about you go and see what Papa’s doing for dinner and then get some sleep, okay? I’ll call you tomorrow.”
“I love you.”
Mike swears that he if could die of happiness then hearing those three little words would do him in every time.
“I love you too champ. Try to smile, okay?”
It takes every single ounce of strength not to deck Harvey the minute he sees him Monday morning, his job be damned. The only thing stopping him is the fact that he’d probably have to explain the bruise to Eli himself and that’s not a conversation that he will ever allow to happen.
He wanders into Harvey’s office unannounced and shuts the door behind him, ignoring the curious glance from Donna. He doesn’t do this anymore; this isn’t them anymore.
“Good weekend?” Mike doesn’t have time to beat around the bush today so he cuts straight through the crap and gets to the point.
Harvey ever so slowly raises his eyes from the laptop before him and raises an eyebrow ever so subtlety. He’s trying to act like he has no idea what Mike’s getting at but Mike knows him better by now; they’ve known each other over 10 years, Mike thinks he knows Harvey better than anyone.
“I did actually, thanks for asking.”
The smug bastard returns his gaze back to his computer screen and Mike suddenly remembers why they split in the first place.
“Cut the crap, Harvey! You know exactly what the fuck I’m talking about.”
“What’s your problem, Mike?” Harvey looks up at him sharply, voice suddenly menacing, and Mike can’t believe they’re back to doing this again, that after two years of separation they can still fight like cats and dogs.
“My problem is that you apparently don’t give two shits about spending time with our son, but yet you demand to have your time with him.”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about the fact that he called me last night, crying, telling me how badly he wants to come home to me because you care too much about your stupid work to spend any time with him!”
Mike knew it would hurt the moment the words escaped his lips, that’s why he’d said them, but he hadn’t prepared himself to see it so openly, for Harvey to bleed his feelings out through his face to be read like an open book. He thinks if Harvey had been standing he would have physically staggered to stay upright, but as it is, he’s still seated in his desk chair, pain etching across his face as his hand clenches into a fist.
“He… He was crying?”
At Harvey’s words Mike feels the fight leave him and suddenly he’s just tired. He doesn’t want to fight with Harvey, he doesn’t want them to have custody issues over Eli, he doesn’t want to become that couple. They’ve done so well to keep them as they are.
Mike slowly sits in the chair opposite Harvey and speaks softly, “Yeah, Harvey, he was crying. He thought I’d be mad at him for playing video games, but that he’d only done it because you didn’t want to play with him. He all but begged me to come and pick him up.”
Harvey doesn’t respond, in all honesty he’s at an absolute loss for words and the sensation is surreal, unfamiliar like the sudden bone deep guilt and pressing knowledge that he’s somehow failed his son. His mind goes into chaos, trying to pinpoint exactly when things went wrong, how he might have been able to somehow do things differently, but he comes up short every single time.
They’re silent for a long while, so long it should feel awkward to be around Mike without saying anything, but oddly Harvey feels comfort from his presence, from having Mike there with him despite the bone-crushing feelings overtaking him. Eventually Harvey can’t keep quiet any longer, he can’t deal with the overwhelming silence that only serves to multiply his unwanted thoughts. Harvey finally clears his throat with a rough cough and speaks, voice croaky and shaking, “If he doesn’t want to be there then-“
“Harvey, cut the bullshit.”
“What? Mike, you just told me my own son doesn’t want to be at home with me, that he called you up crying and asking to leave. I’m not going to force him to stay with me if he wants to be with you.”
“If I really thought it was an issue, do you really think I wouldn’t have been over there myself to pick him up?” Mike stares unimpressed, waiting for an answer, but when Harvey doesn’t give him anything, struggles to even hold eye contact for longer than a few seconds at a time, Mike continues his spiel, “He’s okay, Harvey, you just scared him by telling him I’d be mad about the games, and he really just wants to spend some quality time with you. Look, we both know I have no idea what your life is like with him, but from what he tells me, it sounds like you don’t do all that much stuff together anymore.”
Harvey’s hands come up to cover his face and he sighs loudly, rubbing at his face before pulling his hands away locking eyes with Mike, “I was thinking about this yesterday, that maybe I should talk to you about it all. It’s been going on a few weeks now. He’s just so withdrawn from me and I don’t know what it is. No matter what I do, whatever I try to suggest we do together, he’s just not interested. Obviously some days are better than others, but really all he ever talks about anymore is you and drums and his drum teacher. All he wants to do is practice drums or play his games.”
He somehow feels both worse and better for admitting these things to Mike. All he can do is hope that Mike has some words of encouragement, some way of getting them through this.
“Harvey.” Mike sighs heavily, gathering his thoughts before speaking again, “You think I have it easy at home? He talks about you all the time. You’re his superhero, you always have been, and you know that. We go through tantrums all the time too; some days he wants to go and see you and wants absolutely nothing to do with me, but we get through it. Talking it out with him is really important. It lets him think about what he’s doing and how he’s feeling. I know that’s a strange concept for you but I’ve found that it works for him.”
Harvey can’t help the slight smirk that brings forward; Eli really is so much like Mike.
“Do you ever think… Do you think that maybe he’s having a delayed reaction to the separation?”
“Probably. It wouldn’t surprise me.”
Harvey looks genuinely surprised at Mike’s response.
Mike shrugs casually in response, “I mean, it makes sense, he was only five at the time, I’m not really sure he understood the whole concept or what was really happening. Now he’s a bit older and he’s at school with friends and surrounded by other families he’s being exposed to a lot more. It makes sense that he’d start to feel it now.”
“Will you talk to him about it?”
“I will, but I think it’s important that you do as well. He needs to know we’re both still here for him.”
“I will. I mean it. Mike, trust me when I say I understand how important this is. He means everything to me and you know that.”
Mike smiles softly at him and Harvey’s chest aches. It reminds him of why he fell in love with Mike, of how easy it was, and how he wishes he hadn’t let them fall apart quite so easily. Sometimes he wonders why neither of them had fought harder, if maybe they really have made a mistake.
He wants to ask. The question is right there on the tip of his tongue, begging to be let free, but Harvey can’t quite bring himself to do it.
“So,” He laughs instead, trying to cover the pain suddenly coursing through him once again, “What’s with this drum teacher he seems to love so much?”
“Hey buddy, how was drums?” Harvey bends down to lift Eli, swinging him around in his arms before settling him against his back, Eli’s arms moving instinctively, one holding his glasses on tight, the other wrapping around Harvey’s neck for support. The kid’s laughing the whole time and Harvey can’t help but smile. Their ‘talk’ may have been slightly awkward (all thanks to Harvey’s inability to talk about his feelings ever) but ever since Eli’s seemed much more relaxed around him and is becoming much more like his usual self.
Turns out Eli had been worried that Harvey was getting bored with him, that he’d heard other kids at school talking about how when their parents have split up they’ve only been allowed to live with one and not see the other anymore and Eli was scared the same thing would happen to them. It was natural, his instinct to push away before he could be hurt (something Harvey was all too apt at doing), but once he was reassured that Harvey wasn’t going anywhere, that he loved him more than anything else in the world, the kid seemed a lot more settled.
“Drums were great!” Eli squeals into Harvey’s ear, tightening his legs around Harvey’s waist. He can’t help but laugh at his son.
“You going to say goodbye to Daddy now?” Harvey glances at Mike nervously before looking over his shoulder towards Eli. Harvey’s never figured it out, but still, after two years, he gets nervous around Mike at times like these. When one of them has to drop Eli off at the other’s home, it all just gets a bit much; butterflies dance around his stomach, his throat feels entirely too tight to breathe properly, and eye contact is pretty much out of the question.
“Why don’t you tell Papa about next weekend?”
The noise Eli makes is somewhere between a squeal and a screech and Harvey’s not entirely sure it’s even human.
“We’re having a concert, Papa!”
Yeah, okay, Harvey didn’t need that eardrum anyway.
“That’s great buddy,” Harvey chuckles at his son’s infectious enthusiasm, “Do you know what song you’ll be playing?”
“Not yet. Dominic said there’s a few different ones we can do but he’s going to let us pick. Dominic said I’m good at all my songs so I can do any I like.”
“Did he now?”
“Yep, he did. Daddy thinks I should do a rock song and Dominic thinks so too.”
Harvey spares a glance at Mike and raises a brow in question before returning his focus back to Eli.
“Well I think you should play whatever you want to play.”
“Are you going to come watch me Papa?”
“Of course I am, buddy, wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
Eli plants a wet kiss to Harvey’s cheek before pulling back to look at him with a huge grin and Harvey laughs in response.
“Okay monster, say goodbye to your Dad now.” He removes Eli from his back, putting him down at Mike’s feet, unable to watch the pair as they say their goodbyes, sharing hugs and kisses and whispered words. It stings Harvey’s heart, the blatant reminder of their broken family too much for Harvey to witness.
“I’ll see you Saturday, okay? Promise.”
“Okay Daddy. I love you.”
“I love you too, champ. Go be good for Papa, okay?”
Eli places a kiss on Mike’s cheek before running down the hall of the condo, Harvey’s shout ringing out behind him, “Go have a shower!”
Mike’s chuckle recaptures Harvey’s attention and he turns back to look at the younger man once again.
“So when is it?”
“Uh, next Saturday night.”
“You think he’s ready for it?”
“I think he’s excited and that’s all that really counts.” At Harvey’s level stare, Mike laughs softly and continues, “I’m not sure, but I think so. Dom says he is.
Harvey doesn’t respond, instead he merely raises an eyebrow and leans against the door frame, waiting for Mike to catch up.
Mike breathes a heavy sigh, apparently now desperate for the conversation to be over, “Yeah, Harvey, Dom. You know, Eli’s drum teacher?”
“I just didn’t realise you were on such friendly terms.”
“Well, we are. Is that a problem for you?” Mike feels a sudden flare of hope rush through his body followed quickly by a well of panic, because where the hell did that come from?