When Mike exits their bedroom he halts in the hallway as Harvey's voice floats down the space. Intrigued, Mike slowly shuffles down the corridor to Owen and Maisie's room. He peeks his head around the doorframe and his heart nearly stops at the sight before him.
Harvey is sitting on Owen's bed, back pressed against the mint green colored wall with Maisie and Owen curled up on either side, faces peering at the open book Harvey is reading. All three are still in their pajamas, relaxed and content. He's reading a Sesame Street book starring the Cookie Monster which extols the virtues of sharing, and Harvey gets completely involved, doing a terrible (but completely adorable) Cookie Monster voice.
Mike is glued to the spot, unable to tear his eyes away. None of them have noticed him, too drawn in to the story, so Mike allows himself a moment to just watch. Harvey looks really happy, dividing his attention between the two of them, doing silly voices and dramatically reading the story, causing Maisie to gasp once or twice.
When the story finishes the children immediately demand, "Again! Again!" and Harvey seems more than happy to oblige, returning to the beginning of the book and starting again.
Nate finds him not long later, and he's nowhere near as subtle as Mike. They stand together in the doorway and Nate chuckles at Harvey's Cookie Monster voice, causing the man himself to look up and see them at last. He meets Mike's eyes and it's so unguarded. Mike's never seen Harvey like this. It's real and fragile and hopeful and Mike is overwhelmed by the intensity they share from a simple look. Harvey smiles softly at him for a moment, and Mike barely has time to return it before Owen is demanding Harvey's attention.
"Come on," Nate says, "we should leave them to it."
Mike nods, and trails after him.
"We never talk about it," Nate says when they're downstairs, "but I know Harvey hates not seeing the kids more often. I think he worries that they'll forget about him, like one day he'll come and see us and they won't know who he is or something."
"I know he regrets not being part of their lives more," Mike says.
"I don't blame him for anything. Life's hard, we all know that, and Harvey is busy with his work. I don't begrudge him that at all. We live too far away to make seeing each other regularly possible. I'm just glad we have this time for the kids to spend with their uncle, even if it's not as much as it could be," he says, not a little bitterly.
"You taking them back today?" Mike asks, even though he already knows.
Nate nods. "I should be grateful, because they were supposed to be with Jemma this month and she let them come down here. I just wish they could've stayed the whole fortnight, if only to spend some more time with you and Harvey."
Mike smiles softly. "Me too."
"Do you want kids?" Nate asks, and the question surprises him more than it should.
"Yeah, I do," Mike tells him honestly. "But if it doesn't happen, I'm okay with that too. All I really want is a family, and I have that with Harvey. That's all I need."
Nate smiles warmly at him, and Mike suddenly has an idea.
"You're taking the kids back to Hudson today, aren't you?" At Nate's nod, Mike suggests, "You should take Harvey with you, maybe go out for lunch, just the four of you."
Nate seems to think it over for a moment before grinning. "Yeah, good idea. I'll ask Harvey about it later."
After a lazy breakfast, it feels like the morning is spent cleaning and packing everything for the kids' departure. Mike takes Owen outside to play so Harvey and Nate can pack everything up and pile it all into the car while Maisie naps in Harvey and Mike's bed. Owen seems to have a never-ending well of energy, but Mike manages to keep up with him. They run around the damp grass for a while before Mike goes and grabs a soccer ball and they spend a good half hour kicking it around the yard.
When Harvey joins them, Mike asks, "All ready to go?"
Harvey nods. "Nate invited me to drive back with them, take the kids out to lunch."
Mike can't tell if Harvey knew it was his idea or not, and decides not to say anything. "Sounds like a great idea."
"You okay here?"
"Totally fine," Mike assures him. "Don't worry about me. Go, be with your family."
Harvey squeezes his hand briefly and then Owen comes charging towards them, Harvey scooping him up and spinning him around, Owen screaming with delight. The three of them keep playing outside for another ten minutes until Maisie comes running out of the house to join them. She immediately makes a beeline for Owen, throwing her arms around him and hugging him like they hadn't seen each other in a week. It's such an amusing quirk that Mike can't help but exclaim, "Hey, where are our hugs?" at which point she grins, running over to hug both Mike and Harvey.
They usher both kids inside, and Nate breaks the news that it's time to go.
"No, we stay here and you go home," Owen says, and Mike can't help but laugh.
"But mommy is waiting for you at home, don't you want to go and see her?"
"Okay," Owen sighs, like it was some big chore, but then he runs to the door, clearly excited to go home to his mom.
Everyone traipses outside, and Nate tells the kids, "Now say goodbye to Poppy and Uncle Mike."
Mike starts at the 'uncle' tag, eyes briefly flicking to Harvey who has an unreadable expression coloring his face, but then he's accosted by Maisie before he can think about it too much. He crouches down so she can throw her arms around him.
"Bye sweetie," he murmurs, pressing a kiss to her hair.
"Bye Uncle Mike," she replies, and he lets her go so she can scamper over to Gordon.
He's still crouched down when Owen runs over and quickly hugs him. Mike holds out his fist, and Owen grins, bumping it with his own tiny one. "Keep it real, little man," Mike says, ruffling Owen's hair.
Gordon and Nate buckle the kids into the car, so Harvey heads over to Mike. "See you in a few hours."
"Have fun," Mike tells him, and because he can see Nate looking over at them Mike kisses Harvey on the cheek before turning and heading back inside.
He's a bit chilled from playing outside with the kids (clearly Owen was much smarter than Mike and had more appropriate layers for the cool October air) so he heads upstairs and has a quick but enjoyably hot shower. Once dressed and warm again, he heads downstairs and finds Gordon in the lounge.
Gordon's reading a book on the couch, but looks up and smiles warmly at Mike when he notices him.
"What are you reading?"
Gordon holds up the book so Mike can see. It's a collection of poetry by Walt Whitman, and Mike nods in acknowledgement. He cautiously moves into the room, hands twisting with nerves over what he's about to ask.
"I was wondering if I could ask you a favor," Mike says, voice small.
"Of course, what is it?" Gordon asks, sitting up.
Mike takes a deep breath. "I was wondering if you could teach me to play piano."
Gordon smiles warmly at him. "I'd love to," he says, putting his book aside and heading to the music room. "Have you played before?"
"My parents died when I was a kid, but I have vague memories of my mom trying to teach me to play with her keyboard. I don't remember much."
Gordon sits at the piano, and Mike sits beside him. "That must've been difficult," Gordon says kindly.
"It was, but I had my Grammy. And it's not like I had a choice in the matter. I had to accept that they were gone and that my life wasn't going to be the same again."
"Loss is a powerful thing. It shapes us in ways we never anticipated, both for the better and worse."
"Yeah," Mike agrees. "Of course I wish I still had them, and my Grammy, but I probably wouldn't be the person I am today otherwise. And, of course if given the option between having them back and having the life I have now I'd choose them, but I still love my life, and I think at the end of the day they'd just want me to be happy."
"And are you?"
The question is simple and easy while simultaneously being incredibly personal and important. Mike takes a moment to think about it. He knows he shouldn't be, because his life is full of lies and deceit and he's actively endangering those he cares about. But when he thinks about his job and Harvey and being here with Gordon, all of that seems to pale into insignificance.
"Yes," Mike tells him honestly. "I really am."
Mike doesn't say the words, doesn't say your son makes me happy, he's amazing, you should be so proud, but he thinks that Gordon can sense the sentiment in there anyway.
The older man smiles, quick but warm, and there's a wistful quality to his voice when he says, "I'm glad." He turns his attention to the piano, lifting the fall board and running his fingertips over the keys. He plays a few notes, seemingly without even thinking, before turning back to Mike and saying, "Okay, how about you show me what you remember and we can go from there."
"Are you fucking kidding me?" Harvey exclaims as Nate pulls a couple of joints out of his coat pocket and lights one up.
"What? Come on, it's not like the kids are around or anything."
"Oh my God," Harvey groans, and then turns to his dad, saying, "Really? You're just going to let him do this?"
Gordon laughs. "He's not a child, Harvey."
"Cheers, Dad," Nate says, handing the joint over to Gordon, who accepts it with a nod before taking a hit.
"I'm surrounded by idiots," Harvey grumbles to Mike, who briefly squeezes his thigh.
"It's fine, Harvey," Mike assures him, correctly surmising his discomfort relates to Mike's history with drugs.
Nate, who has taken the joint back from Gordon and has sucked in another drag, holds up the other joint in offering to Harvey.
Nate shrugs, turning his attention to Mike. Harvey bristles at the action, but Mike is already waving Nate away, saying pleasantly, "No, thanks."
Harvey looks at Mike for a moment, considering. They were on vacation after all, and he knows Mike isn't due for another drug test for a few months. He leans over and says quietly, "If you really want to, you can."
Mike looks incredulously at Harvey. And then he smiles, shifting closer so he can whisper in reply, "I don't want to. I promised you I wouldn't and I'm never breaking that promise again."
When Harvey pulls away, can look at Mike in the admittedly low light, he can't help it. Mike is just looking at him like he's never meant anything more, and Harvey doesn't know how to deal with heat flooding through his veins. Without his consent his hand makes its way to Mike's face, fingers wrapping around his neck, his thumb brushing the arch of his cheek. Mike doesn't even startle at the touch, just smiles softly, and Harvey feels like he can't breathe.
"What are you two whispering about over there?" Nate asks, very loudly, and it's enough to break the moment, Mike collapsing back into this chair and Harvey suddenly feeling cold from the loss of proximity.
"Nothing," Harvey says, trying to tamp down the resentment at the intrusion. He can't help wondering what would've happened without the interruption. And to stop himself from doing something stupid he shoves his hands into his coat pockets.
"Oh, I just thought maybe you were telling Mike about your wayward youth and past drug abuse. Which is kinda hilarious when you think about how uptight you are about it now," Nate laughs.
"Wait," Mike says, sitting up and looking far too interested. "Harvey did drugs when he was younger?"
"Oh yeah," Nate laughs. "He never told you?"
"No, he didn't," Mike says significantly, and Harvey knows that at some point in his immediate future he and Mike will have a conversation during which Mike will inevitably call him a hypocrite.
"You should get him to tell you about the time he got so high he ran naked though the main street of the town we grew up in."
Mike collapses into a ball of laughter as Harvey buries his face in his hands.
"Can we please not do the telling embarrassing stories thing, if only for the utter cliché of it all," Harvey begs, but he already knows it's going to be pointless.
"Hell no," Mike says. "I demand you tell me all the embarrassing stories," he continues, looking across the table at Nate.
"Well, there was the time that Harvey..." and Nate proceeds to tell Mike all about when Harvey went to the market and bought ten boxes of donuts, Mike listening with rapt attention.
Harvey uses this as his cue to take all their dinner plates inside. He scrapes the leftover food from the plates as he watches his family spill secrets to Mike. He's struck by how content they all look. An objective outsider might assume that all four of them had known each other all their lives by how comfortable they all were. Harvey's content to just watch for a few minutes from the quiet of the kitchen. He notices the crinkles his dad gets around his eyes when he laughs, how bright his brother's features are as he regales the table with no doubt wildly inaccurate stories. He can't see Mike's face from this angle, can only see his body, which never stills, always moving as he laughs at Nate's tales.
Harvey heads back outside, adding a couple more logs to the fireplace before returning to the table. Nate is in the middle of telling Mike about the prank that Harvey played on their next door neighbor when they were kids (spoiler alert: it backfired spectacularly), conveniently omitting his own part in the prank.
Harvey looks over to his dad, plaintive, but Gordon just shrugs. "At least you had four days of peace before all this came out. It could've been worse. You know it took all of your brother's will to not tell embarrassing childhood stories to Mike the night you arrived."
Harvey grudgingly agrees. He can tell Nate has been waiting for this opportunity by the sheer arsenal of never-ending stories that he regales Mike with. Harvey gives up fighting, let's them expose his flaws and mistakes, only occasionally throwing in a comment to correct an outrageous lie, because he isn't afraid of Mike knowing the truth about him. If there is anyone he trusts with his history, it's Mike. And as the night wears on he can see he was right, because Mike doesn't look at him like he thinks any less of Harvey for it. He just smiles and laughs and teases Harvey. Nothing feels different. And yet, Harvey can't help but think that everything's changed.
"I thought I'd find you here."
Mike looks up from his book to see Harvey standing in the doorway, leaning against the jam, smiling at him. He smiles in return, placing the open book over his thigh to keep the page marked.
He's sitting on the day bed in the sunroom, back pressed to the stone feature wall, legs stretched out and crossed at the ankle. He's loved this room since he first stepped into it, with its glass wall giving a perfect view to the green grass and fall trees beyond. Even on a day like today, with rain pouring heavily through a grey morning mist, it's still beautiful. The room is warm and comfortable, and Mike quickly claimed this as his favorite spot.
"Did you know this room was my idea?" Harvey continues as he steps into the room.
Mike shakes his head, surprised, as Harvey collapses beside him onto the day bed. He's sitting close enough that Mike can feel the line of Harvey along his arm.
"It was around the same time I moved into my condo. I became obsessed with glass and light and when I came home once I suddenly saw this room right here. I suggested it to Dad and he remodeled the kitchen and added this."
Mike looks around the room, into the kitchen, and sees the space in a new light. "So this was the outside of the house," Mike says, looking at the wall they were leaning on.
"Yeah. Makes a nice feature, huh?"
"Definitely. Maybe you missed your calling, should've gone into architecture or renovations or something."
Harvey chuckles. "I think I'm doing okay with the law for now. Although I suppose it'd be a good back up career option if anything ever went wrong. Would you follow me into architecture if I left?" Harvey asks, his tone light and teasing.
"Of course," Mike says, not even really thinking about it. "I'd follow you anywhere."
Harvey looks at him for a moment, the room suddenly heavy around them. Mike is acutely aware of their bodies pressing together, can feel Harvey's body shift slightly as he breathes in and out.
Harvey coughs lightly, looks away, breaking the moment between them. "What are you reading?" he asks, nodding at the book.
Mike, grateful for the distraction, picks it up and shows him the cover. It's the collection of Whitman poems Gordon was reading yesterday. "Your dad gave it to me."
Harvey smiles wistfully. "Enjoying it?"
"Yeah," Mike says. "Never been much a poetry guy before, but I get the appeal. It's beautiful."
"Whitman is Dad's favorite. I think he could give you a run for your money when it comes to memorizing these poems."
"Maybe we can have a poetry recital-off later," Mike laughs.
Harvey chuckles. He looks at Mike for a moment before saying, "I should leave you to it," and starting to scoot down the bed. But Mike doesn't even think about it, just reaches over and wraps his hand around Harvey's wrist, halting him before he can leave.
"No, it's fine. Stay. If you want," Mike says, trying to keep his voice casual, to not give away how much he wants Harvey here with him.
Harvey doesn't respond, remains completely still. He isn't looking at him, all Mike can see is the profile of his face, and it suddenly occurs to him that his fingers are still enclosing Harvey's wrist, that maybe Harvey's waiting for Mike to let him go so he can leave. With more reluctance than he cares to examine, Mike lets go, sits back against the wall, and waits for Harvey to get up and leave.
But he doesn't. He shifts onto his side, lying down with his head resting on Mike's thigh, looking out onto the view. Harvey doesn't say anything, and not wanting to do anything to disrupt the moment, Mike remains silent too.
Mike goes back to his book, becomes lost in the words. He can vaguely hear the light sounds of a piano medley floating softly through the house from where Gordon is working, along with the constant beating of rain on glass. It's comforting, feels like the whole world is quiet, like the end of a deep exhale where everything feels uncomplicated, and for quite possibly the first time in his life Mike, feels like he's exactly where he should be. He doesn't even realize he's running his fingers through the soft hairs at the nape of Harvey's neck at first, but when he becomes aware of the fact he doesn't stop, keeps the rhythm constant.
"Harvey?" he says quietly, afraid of breaking the spell of the moment but unable to not say anything.
"Mmm?" is Harvey's reply, soft and content.
"I'm really glad I'm here."
There's a brief pause, long enough for Mike to start to panic, before Harvey replies in a murmur, "Me too."
Mike keeps tossing and turning. It's late, long past midnight, and this whole week Harvey has never known Mike to take longer than twenty minutes to fall asleep. But they've been lying here for nearly an hour now, and they're both still awake.
"Are you okay?" Harvey asks into the dark, voice low so as not to startle the younger man.
"Yeah," Mike says, and Harvey knows it's a lie.
"What's wrong, Mike?" Harvey asks softly.
There are a few beats of silence before Mike sighs. He maneuvers himself in the bed, both of them now lying on their sides, facing each other. His knees knock into Harvey's and he doesn't move them away.
"Nothing's wrong. I was just thinking about what your brother said at dinner."
Nate had said a lot of things at dinner. They all had. It was lively and verbose and Harvey still marveled at how easily Mike had fit in with his family. Yet Harvey didn't need to ask to what Mike was referring because he already knew. He sighed. "Ignore him, he didn't really mean it."
"But he's not wrong, is he?" Mike asks, somewhat rhetorically, and Harvey had been trying his best to ignore that. "Most marriages end in divorce, and ours will too."
Harvey doesn't want to think about that. Denial was not something he allowed himself to use in his everyday life, because it just put off the inevitable and increased the pain more than would've occurred otherwise. But when it came to this, when it came to him and Mike, denial was the only option he could bear.
"What you have to understand," Harvey says, because, incredibly, it's easier to talk about this than to talk about their own impending (and doomed) marriage, "is that we didn't have the best example. Our parents' marriage didn't end well, and he was so determined that his own was going to succeed. I think it hurt him more, not being able to break that pattern, than it would've had our parents still been together."
Mike's quiet for a few moments, and Harvey can't say he hadn't been expecting it when Mike quietly asks, "What happened with your parents?"
"My mom tried to blame it on my dad, said he wasn't around enough, that he loved music more than he loved her. But that was just her excuse, the lie she told herself so she could cheat on him without guilt. I was sixteen when I caught her cheating on him with her boss."
He can hear Mike's sharp intake of breath at that, but he remains silent.
"I didn’t know what to do. I couldn't tell him, couldn't be the one to break his heart. My dad's a romantic, you know? He believed, somehow incredibly still does, in love at first sight. She was a groupie, and he fell for her hard. I guess he thought the music connected them, but it didn't. I found out later that she'd cheated on him for years."
"I always wondered why you were so vehement in your 'no married women' policy."
"Yeah," Harvey agrees. "I'd like to think that even without what happened I wouldn't go there, but it's pretty obvious that what happened with them affected me."
"What was she like?"
Harvey takes a moment to think about that. He hasn't spoken to his mother in twenty years, barely even thinks about her anymore. But he gets that because Mike doesn't have parents that he'd be curious about his.
"The thing is, growing up, she seemed like the perfect mom. I remember lots of baking and stories and playing when I was a kid. I remember growing up feeling loved. But when I was about ten or eleven I started to notice a change. Whether she actually changed at all or it was just me realizing what was there all along, I still couldn't tell you. But I just didn't understand her anymore. She was distant and uncaring. And Dad was never around and Nate was still a little kid and I felt completely alone."
"I wish I'd have known you then," Mike whispers, and Harvey can't help but chuckle.
"I don't. You wouldn't have liked me. Plus, you know, when I was a teenager you were still running around in diapers, so..."
Mike pushes Harvey playfully, the covers rustling with the movement. "Smartass, always bringing logic into these things."
"It's a gift."
They're silent for a few moments, but it's not uncomfortable. He'd never really spoken to anyone about his mother, not since he told Donna the bare minimum required to keep her from pressing the point about a decade earlier. But he trusts Mike. And it doesn’t feel like a burden telling him.
"My dad didn't understand me," Mike confesses. "I know that he loved me, but our relationship was difficult. I think he just didn't know how to relate to me. He was by no means simple or idiotic, but he was what he was and didn't care about improving his situation. And because my brain just picked up on everything I think I outsmarted him a lot and he couldn't deal with that."
"That must've been hard."
"It was what it was," Mike says dismissively, but Harvey can detect the thin layer of hurt in his voice. "Do I wish things could've been different? Of course, especially since I had so little time with them. I hate that so many memories of my dad aren't good ones. But I just try and focus on the happier times, and it works, for the most part."
"I think it's hard to remember sometimes that our parents are just people too. We idolize them so much that when they disappoint us it hurts even more. The first time I felt really let down by my dad, it was a pretty rude awakening."
"What happened?" Mike asks.
"He found out the truth about me, that I was into guys. In his defence, it's not like I sat him down and told him. He found out by walking in on me and one of my teammates making out in my bedroom. But yeah, he didn't react well."
"Really?" Mike says, surprised.
He knows it's probably surprising to hear, given how okay Gordon is with Mike, given how close they are now. And it's not something he ever really thinks about anymore. "Well, you have to remember it was a different time, and I'd never said or done anything to prepare him for that. It was the shock more than anything else I think. He works in the music industry; he wasn't unfamiliar with the lifestyle. I just don't think he expected to walk in on it in his eldest son's bedroom. But we got through it together, and we're probably closer for it. I guess my point is, parents are flawed, but if they're any good, and given how you turned out I'm sure yours were, they're always trying, and that's all we can really ask for."
Mike doesn't say anything for a while, but Harvey doesn't press him, just listens to the sound of their breathing. They're lying close enough that once in a while he can feel Mike's breath exhaling onto his skin.
After a few minutes of silence, Mike breaks it by quietly asking, "Do you ever think about having kids?"
"Sometimes," Harvey admits, but he can't talk about this. He can't let his mind conjure images of children because it traitorously includes Mike in the scenario, even as the rational corner of his mind is reminding him it's something that can never happen. He can't ask Mike the same question, because he's scared of knowing the answer. Instead he changes the topic, asking Mike about his Grammy, and Mike is more than happy to oblige, telling him all about the woman who practically raised him.
Harvey tells Mike about his days at Harvard. Mike tells Harvey about never finding anywhere he could fit in because of how his brain works. Harvey tells Mike about how close he came to playing pro baseball, and how he still laments not being able to. Mike tells Harvey about his decision to come to America, those first few years where he was alone until he met Trevor and Jenny and found some semblance of belonging. They talk about the first movies they ever saw and the places all over the world that they want to visit and the most irrational phobias they have.
Every time a topic of conversation reaches its natural conclusion someone will start talking about something else. As the hours pass, their voices become more sleepy, their responses slower. Harvey doesn’t know how long they lie there, talking in the dark, but thinks it must be near dawn by the time they stop. The last thing Harvey remembers before falling asleep is murmuring, "I don't want to go home to New York," his hand inching across the bed so his pinkie rests atop Mike's hand, and Mike's soft, "I know what you mean."
When Mike wakes up in the morning, the first thing he's aware of is Harvey.
Harvey's still in bed with him, which hasn't happened once all week. But then Mike becomes acutely aware of the way they are lying, Mike with his forehead pressed to the nape of Harvey's neck, his hand curled around Harvey's hip, their feet touching at the foot of the bed.
Mike instantly pulls away, heart pounding in his chest. He practically falls out of the bed in his haste, and when he gets up onto his feet he creeps around the bed to see that Harvey is still asleep.
With an exhale of relief he heads downstairs and grabs some breakfast. He's nearly finished when Harvey pads into the room, and despite the fact that they only got a few hours sleep Harvey looks so rested, so content. He smiles warmly at Mike, and Mike returns it briefly before standing from the table and fleeing from the room, ignoring the feel of Harvey's confused gaze on the back of his head.
Mike just needs to be alone. He can feel it sitting in his stomach, that change between them. He doesn’t know when it occurred, but he does know that what happened yesterday brought it crashing into his consciousness, and he can't pretend like he doesn’t know anymore.
He has feelings for Harvey.
Actual, serious, strong, romantic feelings.
He can feel it down to his very core, how important Harvey is, how much he wants. It's been a low level desire he'd tried to ignore for as long as he could remember, but he can't pretend anymore. He has to acknowledge it, if only to himself.
Terror floods his veins as the weight of such a realization settles on his shoulders. It's too dangerous, too daunting. He's overwhelmed with his mind imagining all the ways this could end badly, and there are too many to even begin to enumerate. As much as he knows his feelings for Harvey are real, are genuine and actually kinda pure, he also knows that that doesn't matter. Nothing good can come from this, and Harvey didn't ask for and certainly wouldn't welcome his feelings.
He wishes he could blame it on their current proximity, but he can't even do that, because it's been there for months, maybe even years. Recent events may have brought them to the surface, but they were there long before Mike got himself into trouble once more and Harvey, rather inexplicably, saved him yet again.
He finds his book where he left it yesterday, sitting on the day bed in the sunroom, and he curls into a ball on the bed, opening the book but not really seeing the words. He doesn't know how long he lies like that before Harvey finds him.
"Hey," Harvey says warmly, and Mike doesn't even look up from his book. "You okay?" Harvey asks, and Mike's heart thuds from the concern he hears there.
"Fine," Mike replies, giving him a weak smile, and it seems to placate the older man.
"We're heading out for a game of golf, Nate's latest obsession. Do you want to come?"
Mike seizes on the opportunity, shaking his head. He just wants to be alone, can't even think about being with Harvey right now with all these thoughts and feelings whirling within, threatening to break free. He can't be with Harvey and not think about everything he wants and can't have. "Nah, I'm pretty beat," Mike says, trying to remain indifferent. "You guys go, have fun."
Harvey takes a cautious step into the room. "Are you sure you're okay?"
Mike makes a concerted effort to meet Harvey's eyes, to smile warmly at him. "Fine," he insists. "Go, have Specter family bonding time."
Harvey chuckles, and Mike thinks he's been appeased. "Okay. We'll be gone most of the day."
"Won't need it. Nate is never as good as he thinks he is."
Mike chuckles. "Well, in that case, try not to beat him by too much."
"I'll consider it," Harvey grins as he leaves the room, and when he's gone, Mike feels like he can breathe again.
Mike revels in having the house to himself for the day. He reads his book for a bit, then watches a movie, and surfs the net for a while. He tries to keep himself active and focused on anything other than his inner turmoil. As the afternoon progresses he starts to get antsy, so he changes into sweats and grabs his ipod before heading out for a run.
Well, he's not really a runner, so he jogs for about fifteen minutes and then just keeps walking after that. It really is beautiful here. He can see why Gordon chose it to escape to. It's so peaceful that you could almost forget the rest of the world exists, just leave all your problems behind.
But Mike can't do that. His problems follow wherever he goes.
He tries not to think about Harvey but he doesn't succeed. He gets actual butterflies in his stomach, like some teenager with their first crush. But everything is just so complicated. He doesn't know how to navigate this, how to deal with his feelings given everything else that's going on.
When he heads back to the house he sees their car in the drive, which means that Harvey, Nate and Gordon have arrived home. Despite the fact that it's late afternoon and Mike's been alone all day, he's still not ready to face anyone just yet. So he quietly slips in through the front door, and tries to sneak upstairs without being noticed.
Only, as he's passing the music room, he can hear voices inside, saying his name. Unable to stop himself he hovers outside and listens in.
"This isn't about Mike," Nate says. "You know that we like him. Not that I've got much basis for comparison because you've never brought anyone home to meet us, but we both think he's great. This is about you."
"What, it's so hard for you to believe I can make the commitment?" Harvey asks, and he can hear the underlying hurt at his family's lack of faith in him.
"It just seems so fast," Gordon says, and Mike gets the feeling that he's on Harvey's side but is playing Devil's Advocate for his younger son. "We didn't even know about the two of you until a week ago."
"We haven't told anyone other than you two, and Jessica, and that was only last week too. I'm sorry for not telling you sooner, but we had our reasons."
Yeah, because it's all a lie we didn't need to create until last week, Mike thinks bitterly. There's a pause, and then a sigh Mike thinks comes from Nate.
"I just want you to be sure. That's all, Harvey," Nate tells him.
"I am," Harvey insists, and even though Mike knows the truth he sounds so certain that if he didn’t know any better he'd believe him. There's a pause before Harvey quietly adds, "I can't imagine my life without him."
Mike can't hear any more. He can't listen to Harvey having to think up lies to tell his family to keep up this charade, all the while wishing that it was true.
He makes it upstairs without being seen, immediately jumping in the shower and scrubbing himself clean. After dressing and making his way back downstairs, any resolve he had to distance himself from Harvey melts away the second he sees him. He and Nate are lounging on the sofas and he can hear Gordon in the kitchen preparing dinner and, fuck it, Mike's missed him. It's only been a day, less than a day really, and okay he has a slightly clingy personality, but this is ridiculous even for him.
He knows, intellectually, that he needs distance from Harvey, that for him to be able to function and live his new life without being driven insane by unrequited feelings, he needs to try and keep their lives separate. But as strong as those self-preservation feelings are, the truth is, the need to be near Harvey is even stronger.
So he collapses casually on the couch next to Harvey and asks, "Who won?"
"Like you even need to ask," Harvey grins, which of course sets Nate off with token protests about how Harvey cheated and Harvey gives him crap right back and Mike just sits there, listens to the two brothers tease each other good naturedly, and tries not to think about how crazy he is about Harvey.
After dinner Gordon asks Mike if he plays chess, and when Mike replies in the affirmative they head into the music room and set up a game. Mike hasn't played in years, and it takes a while to get into the groove, but Gordon doesn't seem to mind. He lets Mike take his time, and they chat idly as they play.
There's something about Gordon Specter that just makes Mike feel at ease. He's a quiet man with a fairly placid personality, but he's still sharp and intelligent and engaging. Mike imagines that this is how Harvey will be in his later years once he's mellowed, but the thought takes his mind down a dangerous path, thinking about a future he's not sure can exist.
They're deep into the second game (Gordon unsurprisingly won the first, but Mike's putting up a much better fight this time around) when Nate pops his head into the room to bid them both goodnight before disappearing again. Harvey appears not long later, stepping into the room and halting by Mike's side as he assesses the chess board.
Harvey casually cups his hand around the back of Mike's neck as Gordon answers, and Mike hates himself for leaning into the touch but he can't help it. His rational mind knows that it doesn't mean anything, that it's more for Gordon than for him, it's just Harvey projecting the illusion of their romantic relationship. But there's that part of him that just doesn't care about reality, that just wants to be touched and loved, and that's the side that wins out (he never claimed to have a lot of willpower).
"Well, I'm heading to bed. Goodnight," Harvey says, fingertips tickling across Mike's skin as he walks away.
Mike's distracted after that, nearly losing the game before he manages to stop himself thinking about the feel of Harvey's fingers on his skin and refocusing on the game. Mike pulls out a few fluky moves which get him back into the groove and the game heats up again. Gordon starts trying to trash talk him, the words softened by his near constant grin, and Mike smiles, giving back as good as he gets.
Mike wins the second game and they are setting up the board for the tie-breaker when Gordon says lightly, "So it occurs to me that I haven’t given you the obligatory 'break my son's heart and I'll hurt you' speech."
Mike knows he's just meaning to tease, that he actually doesn't mean anything by it; it's just another random thing Gordon is saying to rib Mike and throw him off his game. But something in Mike finally breaks, and he realizes he can't do this. He can't live this lie. He can't make Harvey give up his life for him, lie to his family and his friends and change everything, just for him. And he can't do this anymore. He can't keep lying to everyone, can't keep dragging Harvey down with him. He can't keep pretending what he and Harvey have is real when it's not, when he wants it to be. It's too painful, too much, and he's so overwhelmed by the guilt and unrequited feelings that before he can stop himself, he blurts, "I'm sorry, I can't do this anymore."
He gets up out of the chair, takes a few steps away, back to Gordon as he tries to breathe. He tries to keep control, but it's too much, and he can feel everything unravelling, powerless to stop it.
"Mike, what's wrong?" Gordon asks, concern clear in his voice.
Mike turns and faces him. "It's all a lie," Mike admits weakly, his heart pounding against his ribs in protest as he says the words. "Harvey and I, we aren't in love. He's just doing this to protect me. But I can't let him do this anymore."
"I don't understand," Gordon says, genuinely confused, and Mike doesn't even know how to begin explaining this. "Of course you and Harvey are in love. I've seen it with my own eyes."
Mike just shakes his head sadly. "No, you saw what we wanted you to see. But none of it was real." He sucks in a deep breath, tries to keep the tears threatening at bay. And suddenly he just needs to get out. He can't stay here, can't let Harvey try and convince him to keep going. He needs to leave, leave Harvey, confess the truth, get deported if need be. Anything was better than living with someone who pretended to feel something you wished was real.
"I'm sorry but I have to go. I need to leave right now," Mike says, but when he tries to leave Gordon blocks his path. Mike must look spooked or something because Gordon holds up his hands in surrender before slowly inching forward to rest a hand on Mike's shoulder.
"Look, I can't pretend to know exactly what's going on here. But I know my son. And whatever's between you, it's real, I know it is."
Mike wants to protest, but it's too hard. He's lost all his strength, doesn't know how to fight, even if it's just to deny something he wishes was true.
"If you want to leave I'm not going to stop you. But I think you should talk to Harvey before you go. You owe him that much at least."
But Mike can't. Leaving Harvey is going to be the absolute hardest thing he's ever done and he can't make it worse by seeing him one last time. He just needs to leave, run, go back to New York, go back to Canada, do anything other than deal with the feelings that Harvey doesn't return.
"I'm so sorry," Mike says softly. It doesn’t seem like enough to cover his multitude of sins, but he doesn’t know what else to say. He's loved his time here, is honored to have spent this week with Gordon and Nate, feels privileged to have been allowed into the inner circle with Harvey. And he's so fucking sorry for all the lies and deceit.
And then, without another word, he heads upstairs to pack.
Harvey is somewhere between sleep and wakefulness when he hears Mike enter the bedroom.
Half asleep, he doesn’t really understand straight away, but then he realizes that what he's hearing is in fact the sound of dresser drawers being repeatedly opened and closed and he knows something is wrong.
"Mike?" Harvey asks sleepily, but there's no reply. He reaches over and flicks on the bedside lamp, blinking at the sudden brightness. He looks back at the other side of the room to find Mike pulling clothes from the drawers and shoving them haphazardly into his bag. Suddenly wide awake as panic flood through his body, Harvey asks, "What's going on?"
Mike seems content to continue ignoring Harvey, so he gets out of bed and stumbles over. Mike won't even look at him, just focuses on packing his bag, until Harvey reaches over and touches his arm and Mike drops everything he's holding onto the floor, taking a step back from him.
"I can't do this anymore, Harvey," Mike says, and Harvey has never seen him look more terrified.
It hurts something deep within to see Mike so scared when he's looking at Harvey. He's never wanted to see that expression on his face, and when it's directed at him, it fucking stings.
"Do what?" Harvey asks, not even sure he wants to know the answer. Because Mike is packing his bags like he's going to leave and Harvey feels a physical response at the thought.
"This," Mike says, waving an arm between them.
"What are you talking about?" Harvey says, ignoring the begging tone in his voice. He's just so confused and scared and he has no idea what the hell is going on.
"Please don't make me say it." Mike's voice is so small, like he's the one begging now, desperate for a reprieve.
And Harvey doesn’t want to hurt Mike. He's never wanted to hurt him, but if Mike's going to hurt Harvey by leaving in the middle of the night then Harvey at least wants to know why. He inches forward slightly. "Just talk to me, Mike."
Mike takes a deep breath, doesn't look at Harvey when he says, "I can't keep pretending that we're together and in love because I want us to be. I'm crazy about you and I want this to be real. But it's not, and it never will be, and it just hurts too fucking much. I can't keep pretending that all our words and touches are real when all I can think about is how much I want it to be."
Harvey, for literally the first time in his entire life, is stunned into silence. Mike is just looking at him, scared and sad, and Harvey can't move, can't think. And then Mike is talking about how he needs to leave, how he'd rather be deported than suffer the torture of being married to someone who doesn't want him back, and then he's no longer talking because Harvey is kissing him.
Mike gasps into the kiss before returning the embrace. Harvey presses their bodies together, licks into Mike's mouth, finally gets the taste he's been craving. Mike moans, hands firm on his hips, fingertips slipping beneath Harvey's tee to the skin beneath.
Harvey's hands wander, everywhere, over Mike's chest and sides and back and ass. He doesn't know how long they stand there making out, but they only stop when Mike grabs at the hem of Harvey's t-shirt and pulls back enough to push the offending material off, Harvey raising his arms to help him without even thinking about it.
But when Mike leans back in to kiss him Harvey stops him, hand to Mike's chest. He's breathless when he asks, "Are you sure about this?"
Mike looks vaguely confused. "Why wouldn't I be?"
"You've never done this before."
And Mike chuckles, stepping forward and placing a hand light on Harvey's chest, right over his heart. "You're right, I haven't. But when I told you I'd thought about it before, who exactly do you think I was imagining myself with?"
That's it. Harvey is done. His mouth crashes to Mike's, hands on his hips to steer him back towards the bed. Harvey never wants to stop kissing Mike. He's not usually one to over romanticize, but it feels like this is what he was put on this earth for. And yet it's a pleasure he happily foregoes when they break apart so they can quickly strip each other, Harvey's pajamas joining Mike's clothes in a pile on the floor until they're both naked.
Harvey's done first, so he sits on the edge of the bed and watches as Mike divests himself of the last of his clothes (in his impatience he almost forgot his socks until a cough and head nod from Harvey alerted him to the fact). Once completely naked he sinks into Harvey's lap, thighs pressing into hips, cock nudging stomach, arms firm around Harvey's neck as he kisses him deeply.
Harvey moans into his mouth, keeps the kiss slow and sensual. He drags his mouth slowly down Mike's neck and Mike throws his head back, starts writhing in his lap. Harvey hardens at near record speed as Mike's skin slides against his, and his hands make their way to the flesh of Mike's ass.
Harvey wants to fuck Mike. He wants Mike to fuck him. He wants to be Mike's first and last and everything in-between. He wants so completely and vehemently, and he wishes he could be surprised by it, but the truth is that he's felt his feelings for Mike growing for months, for years. And Harvey knows they'll have their whole lives to experience all their fantasies and desires, but for tonight, it's too soon for any of that. Because as much as he knows Mike wants this, he can also feel the way the younger man is trembling slightly, the way his own hands shake as they move across Mike's warm skin. They're both too overwhelmed by the power of the moment, the release of all those feelings long denied, and it would be too clumsy, too messy, and Mike deserves better.
He falls back to the bed, and Mike laughs, following him down. Harvey crawls up the mattress to rest his head on the pillow, the task made difficult by Mike's refusal to remove himself from atop Harvey, and they're both giggling as they slowly scramble along the bed.
Mike's mouth pulls away from him so he can explore Harvey's body. His hands are light over Harvey's skin, tentative to begin with but growing more assured in their exploration, like he's trying to map a foreign territory and commit it to memory for future invasions. His mouth trails along after, his warm tongue dipping to taste, making Harvey groan.
Harvey wants too much. He's waited so long and he needs Mike now. He can't control himself, hands cupping Mike's face and pulling him in for a deep kiss as he rolls them over so he's on top. He settles between Mike's legs, aligns their bodies perfectly before he starts moving. Mike breaks the kiss with a gasp, head thrown back, body arching up beneath Harvey's. Seeing that long, pale neck exposed, Harvey thinks it would be a crime to leave it unblemished, so he latches on, sucking and biting a mark at the point where neck meets shoulder.
Mike's hands are firm on his back and he keeps chanting Harvey's name, over and over. Harvey keeps his movements short and sharp as their cocks rub together tantalizingly. He can feel every spot where their bodies touch, from his lips on Mike's neck all the way down to where Mike's thighs wrap around his hips.
Harvey pulls up so he can see Mike's face. He looks utterly wrecked, biting his lower lip, eyes closed and a contented moan escaping his lips.
"Mike," Harvey whispers, "look at me."
And Mike does, opening his eyes slowly. He smiles shyly for a moment and all those words Harvey was going to say get caught in his throat. So he kisses him instead, tongues moving easily together. He increases his tempo, getting close, thrusting deep and fast. All he can concentrate on is the way their bodies move together, warm and slick. He breaks their kiss but can't pull away entirely, faces pressed together so closely that they share the same breath. Mike moans, unabashedly, fingers digging into Harvey's skin as he scrambles for purchase.
They're both so close, breaths becoming nothing but short gasps. Mike's whole body seems to press in closer, desperate for release. He licks at Harvey's lips briefly before he says, "I love you."
The words were barely above a whisper, but Harvey feels like Mike just screamed them from the rooftops for everyone to hear.
He says it again. "I love you. Harvey, I love you."
Harvey is desperate to say it back, but it's just not enough. It's three tiny words, it can't even begin to encapsulate everything he feels for Mike, how he makes Harvey feel happy and infuriated and terrified and wondrous, how he makes Harvey better. He can't speak, buries his face into Mike's neck.
"Harvey," Mike gasps into his ear and then he stills as he comes.
Harvey keeps moving, a few more quick thrusts, the sweet slide of their bodies before he's coming too, his body shaking as he comes down from his orgasm. He collapses onto Mike, full body weight sinking onto Mike's, but the younger man doesn't seem to mind, arms wrapping around him as they both try and regain their breath.
After a few moments, Harvey lifts his head and presses his mouth to Mike's in a gentle kiss. As he rolls off him, Harvey slides a hand around the back of Mike's neck, smiles softly when he confesses, "I'm so in love with you."
Mike wakes slowly, his head fuzzy as he slips into consciousness. Soft morning light is streaming into the bedroom, and Mike feels warm and safe.
Harvey is curled up behind him, arm heavy over his side, his rhythmic breath tickling the back of his neck. Mike can't help it, breaking into a grin as the events of the previous evening go through his mind in glorious technicolor.
Harvey is obviously still sleeping, but Mike's in no hurry to wake him. He links his fingers with Harvey's and just lies there, content to just be in this moment, safe in the arms of the man he loves more than anyone in the world.
When Harvey stirs half an hour later, Mike turns in his arms so they're facing each other. Harvey smiles, sleepy soft, and Mike presses his mouth to Harvey's in a chaste but lingering kiss. It's the first time they've woken up together, and Mike is overwhelmed by how right this feels.
"Good morning," Mike says.
"Yes, it is," Harvey says, and Mike rolls his eyes at him, making Harvey chuckle.
Mike shifts closer, positioning himself so he's lying half atop Harvey. He can feel Harvey's skin against his own, warm and pliant beneath him. He kisses Harvey, doesn’t even care about morning breath, just needs to crawl inside Harvey's mouth and never leave.
"Would it be completely inappropriate if we just stayed in bed fucking all day?" Mike murmurs against Harvey's mouth, and he revels in the moan he gets in reply.
"Really? Even with my family in this very house?"
"Well, at least the kids are gone so we don't have to worry about them inadvertently walking in on us. I'm going to assume your dad and brother have enough sense to knock first."
"Please stop talking about my family," Harvey groans.
Mike laughs and figures that stopping talking sounds like a great idea. He kisses Harvey, shifts his body so he's completely atop the older man, hand slowly inching down Harvey's chest until he takes Harvey's cock in hand. Harvey startles with surprise but instantly relaxes into Mike's touch.
He's never done this before, and there's that low level of fear that comes with the unknown (not to mention a slight surrealism that he has his hand on Harvey's cock), but he knows what he likes and figures that's a good place to start. Harvey certainly seems to have no complaints, stretching out beneath him, eyes closed and a smile playing at his lips.
Mike barely has a chance to revel in how quickly he gets Harvey off before the man himself is pushing him back to the bed, kissing his way down his chest before wrapping his mouth around Mike's cock. And it's fucking mind blowing. Mike knows he did okay for his first time, that Harvey enjoyed it, but it was like a lucky fluke against a seasoned pro. Harvey is good, mouth and tongue moving like he's hungry for it, and Mike can do absolutely nothing but enjoy the ride.
Mike's breathless when he comes down from his orgasm, and he laughs as Harvey moves back up his body. Harvey gives him a quizzical look but Mike just shrugs, kissing him and tangling their bodies together after Harvey collapses beside him.
They don't get up for hours, just stay within the confines of their bed, talking and laughing, kissing and touching. Mike had sort of been expecting some kind of awkwardness, that changing their relationship so drastically would make them uncertain with each other, but it's like everything has finally fallen into place. Like the last two years were just a build up to this moment, that this is who they were always meant to be.
They eventually roll out of bed and stumble into the shower (showering together only to save water of course). By the time they head downstairs, it's late morning and the house appears deserted. Sharing a confused look they split up, and Mike heads to the kitchen area. There's no one in sight, but he does find a note on the counter.
Harvey and Mike,
Gone out for brunch. We would've invited you, but it sounded like you were otherwise occupied. We'll be back in a few hours.
Mike is torn between amusement and embarrassment, and when Harvey enters the room not long after he's read the note, he just hands him the paper before burying his head in Harvey's chest, laughing. Harvey's chest heaves with muted laughter as he reads, and then he scrunches the note up and throws it away.
Harvey makes them lunch, and they manage to keep their hands to themselves enough to make it through the meal. But afterwards, when Mike is cleaning up, Harvey crowds around him at the sink, hands on his hips and mouth sinking into his neck, and Mike surrenders, quickly turning and kissing him deeply. Harvey tries to strip him right there in the kitchen, but Mike refuses to have sex in Gordon's kitchen, so he extracts himself from Harvey's arms and races upstairs, laughing.
Mike knows that they're both overcome by the honeymoon stage of their relationship, but he doesn't care. Two years worth of restraint is being unleashed, and he doesn't think it's unreasonable or unheard of for that to take the form of lots and lots of sex.
An hour later, when Mike heads back downstairs, completely sated and blissed out (two words: Harvey's. Tongue.) he automatically heads to the sunroom and collapses on the day bed. The room is warm, the bed comfortable, and Mike never wants to move.
He's not alone for long. Harvey soon joins him, one of his dad's novels in hand. He sits at the opposite side of the sofa from Mike before settling in to read. Mike is content to just lounge around, dividing his attention between the view outside and the view at the other end of the bed.
Harvey manages to last over half an hour before putting the book aside and crawling down the sofa to him. Mike smiles as he approaches, somewhat proud that he managed to last this long. Harvey collapses beside him, legs tangled together, Harvey's hand slipping under the hem of Mike's sweater to brush idly against his stomach.
They talk for a while, and have just started making out lazily when they're interrupted by the sound of a throat being cleared. Mike instantly pulls away, blushing profusely with embarrassment when he sees Gordon standing in the doorway, looking at them with nothing but amusement. He tries to extract himself from Harvey but the older man isn't having it; Mike manages to shift up onto his elbows but doesn't get any further, Harvey keeping his hand under his shirt, entwined legs keeping him pinned in place.
"So, you're still here, Mike," Gordon says, like he's completely unsurprised by the fact.
Mike can't help ducking his head slightly in embarrassment. "Yeah. Sorry about last night."
Gordon waves him away, smiling indulgently at them. "I'm glad you got everything sorted out. One day you'll tell me the truth about what happened here, but for now I'll just say I'm glad you stayed."
"Me too," Mike says, and he can feel Harvey's hand on his stomach increase its pressure slightly.
"Well, I'll leave you two boys to it," Gordon says as he leaves.
Mike collapses back onto the bed, turns into Harvey and buries his head into his neck, mortified. And Harvey just laughs, brushing a kiss over the top of his head.
[part one] [part two] [part three] [part four] [part five]