Christmas for Pearson Hardman employees was all about the bonus checks. Mike remembered as much from last year. Associates didn’t get much of a bonus in comparison to even the Junior Partners, but it was still more money in a check written directly to him since the bonus the year before. The accomplishment, such as it was, spiked a bittersweet feeling through him; he couldn’t share any of it with Gram this time. Really, the whole holiday season felt wrong because she wasn’t there to share it with Mike.
“That was a heavy sigh. Bonus not what you expected?”
Rachel’s voice startled Mike and he hastily shoved the check back in its envelope. “No, no it’s great.”
Rachel frowned at him. “Then what’s wrong?”
“I was just thinking about Gram,” Mike answered honestly.
Rachel softened a little, the humor fading, and she said, “That’s understandable. What are you doing for the holiday, anyhow?”
Mike shrugged, dark humor abruptly surfacing as he gave her a wry grin. “I thought I would embrace the single man’s cliché and order Chinese take-out while playing video games in my underwear.”
Rachel grinned and said, “Make sure you take a picture for me.”
Louis popped up behind her, as only Louis could, and said, “Only if he shares it with everyone.”
Mike blinked at him. Even for Louis, that was oddly invasive. “Um, no. Can I help you, Louis?”
Rachel gave Mike a sympathetic look and walked away.
“I needed that Wilson brief an hour ago. You know how important it is.”
“I left it on your desk two hours ago.”
“No, you didn’t.”
“Yeah, I did.”
“Louis, stop harassing my associate.”
Mike breathed a silent sigh of relief at Harvey’s magical appearance. It was like he’d developed a kind of radar for running interference. Ever since Hardman had been knocked out of the company on his ass, Louis had been paranoid and working Mike like a dog more than he ever had. He'd also been bordering on sexual harassment, making Mike very uncomfortable on several occasions.
Louis gave Harvey a disdainful look and said, “He didn’t do what I told him to do.”
“He said he did, which means he did. Mike, come with me. We have a client.”
Harvey didn’t wait, so Mike scrambled to his feet and hurried after him. On catching up, he said, “Thanks, Harvey.”
Harvey glanced at him sidelong and said, “Get the Reardon file from Rachel.”
“Wait. We really have a client?”
“Did I not just say that?”
They split at Rachel’s office, with Harvey continuing on to his own. Mike tapped a knuckle on the door and then poked his head into Rachel’s office. “Hey, you have the Reardon file?”
Rachel rifled through the pile on her desk. “Tell me Harvey’s not going to make you work late tonight, of all nights.”
Half the associates were already gone for the day, being Christmas Eve, and he knew Rachel was just about on her way out, too. “I don’t care. Keeps me distracted.”
“Well, try and at least get some sleep the next couple of days,” Rachel ordered, handing over the file. “You don’t quite look like death warmed over, but just about.”
Mike snorted. “Thanks. Merry Christmas, in case I don’t see you before you leave.”
She stood and walked over to hug him. “Merry Christmas, Mike.”
Mike returned the hug briefly then left with the file.
Donna was festively dressed in a red and green sweater and smiled at him as he walked up. “Merry Christmas, Mike!”
“Merry Christmas, Donna,” Mike said, smiling at her obvious good mood. “I thought you were taking today off?”
Donna smirked a bit. “Not if ye olde ball and chain is here. Leaving in about ten minutes, though.”
Harvey gestured impatiently from his desk and Mike said, “Speaking of ye olde, gotta go. See you next week.”
Donna stood up and gave him a quick hug. “Call me if you need anything, Mike, really.”
Mike said, “Thanks, Donna,” and pulled back as quickly as he could. If he let himself linger, he might actually start crying and that, he would never hear the end of. He cleared his throat and ignored her knowing look as he walked into Harvey’s office, waving the file. “Got it.”
Harvey frowned at him. “Why was Donna hugging you?”
Mike frowned right back at him. “Wishing me a Merry Christmas.”
“I didn’t get a hug.”
“Maybe you were naughty this year.”
“That’s not new.”
Mike snickered and dropped the file on the desk. “So. What can we do for the wealthy, battery-making Reardon family this holiday season?”
He was actually glad to have a problem to deal with, even on Christmas Eve day. It took them two hours to untangle the mess Louis had created and Mike considered the tongue lashing Louis received to be his real bonus that year. He suspected Jessica was more ticked about having to still be at the office than the error Louis had made, but it was still nice to watch.
Three o’clock came around and it was officially time to go. Mike walked back to his desk and grabbed his coat and messenger bag. Harvey waited by the elevators and arched an eyebrow at him. “Please tell me you didn’t ride your bike in this weather.”
‘This weather’ being all-day flurries. He'd ridden his bike in worse weather than that. Mike shrugged. “It’s fine.”
Harvey rolled his eyes. “You’re riding with me. Come on, puppy. We don’t want you playing in the street and getting hit by a car.”
Mike wanted to argue, but a warm ride home in a luxury car wasn’t exactly a hardship. And he knew his bike fit in the trunk. The elevator ride down to the main floor was silent, but comfortable. Harvey got quiet when he was thinking about something. Usually Mike filled the silence with chatter, but not always. The bitter cold air stole Mike’s breath and he had to cough a couple of times before his lungs adjusted. Harvey didn’t seem affected, as usual, which made Mike a little grumpy as he went to collect his bike.
Ray already had the trunk open by the time Mike pushed his bike over. He took the bike and said, “Merry Christmas, Mike.”
Mike smiled briefly. “Merry Christmas, Ray. Thanks for this.”
Ray clapped him on the shoulder. “Any time.”
Mike went and joined Harvey in the car, rubbing his hands together to defrost them.
Harvey shook his head and asked, “Why don’t you just buy a pair of gloves? And don’t tell me you can’t afford them. I know how much your bonus was.”
Mike shrugged. “I have a pair and I use them when I bike. Don’t need them for walking to the car.”
Ray pulled into traffic and soft holiday jazz filled the vehicle. Mike listened to them trading verbal music jabs at each other, the warmth of the car soaking into him, and dozed a little.
Some time later, Harvey shook him lightly and said, “Mike, we’re here. Wake up.”
Mike jolted awake and rubbed his eyes. “Wasn't sleeping.”
Harvey smiled a bit. “Sure you weren’t. C’mon.”
Instead of stepping out in front of his apartment building, they were in front of a mom and pop pizzeria somewhere… “Are we in Brooklyn?”
“Bronx,” Harvey corrected. “Best pizza on the planet, and don’t let anyone tell you different. They don’t deliver, though, eat-in only.”
Mike’s eyebrows went up in surprise. “Really?”
Harvey gave him a grin and jerked his head at the door before walking into the restaurant.
Mike followed him in and was immediately assaulted by insanely delicious food smells. It was a mix of pizza, pasta, spicy sausage, and who knew what else that instantly set his mouth to watering. The place was packed, even on Christmas Eve, with only a couple of tables left open.
“Harvey! Been too long, man!” a stout old man with a grayed comb-over exclaimed, grabbing Harvey into a hug.
Mike was a little shocked when Harvey returned the hug, slapping the man on the back before stepping back.
“George, this is Mike Ross. Mike, this is George Alexopoulos.”
Mike shook hands with him and nearly came back with it crushed. Discretely shaking it out, he said, “Nice to meet you.”
George leered at him and said, “Harvey ain’t brought no one around in a long time. You must be somethin’ special, kid. Go on. Both of yas take a seat. Your pie’ll be ready in ten.”
Bemused, Mike followed Harvey to one of the tiny booths, the kind with the plastic seats attached to a Formica table all of it bolted into the floor. The whole restaurant seemed to be about thirty years old, with faded floor linoleum and scratches all over the tables. Plastic salt and pepper shakers stood with crushed red pepper and parmesan cheese shakers on the table.
An older woman with dark hair in braids to her waist brought over a couple of glasses of water. She put them on the table and exclaimed, “Harvey Specter as I live and breathe! Get up and kiss me, you handsome devil!”
Mike grinned as Harvey did just that, planting an audible kiss on her cheek.
George shouted, “Keep it up and I’ll sock ya one, Specter!”
Mike was almost sure he was kidding.
The woman looked at Mike and demanded, “And who’s this?”
Mike stood and offered his hand. “Mike Ross, ma’am. Nice to meet you.”
She smiled broadly and elbowed Harvey hard enough to make him ‘oof.’ “You finally brought me a nice boy! No more of that dating models shenanigans!”
Mike found himself enveloped in a hug that almost squeezed the air from him. She released him just as suddenly and he staggered a little.
“Sit! I’m getting a nice wine for your meal,” she exclaimed before bustling off.
Harvey grinned at Mike and said, “That was Irene Alexopoulos nee McFadden, by the way.”
Mike blinked a little. “Irish and Greek. Now there’s a combination.”
Harvey chuckled. “It’s never quiet, that’s for sure. I found this place by accident and they seem to think they’ve adopted me. It nets me the best pizza ever, so I don’t complain.”
Mike grinned and said, “I don’t blame you. It smells awesome in here!”
Harvey nodded, dark eyes bright with good humor. “It is awesome.”
Smirking, Mike teased, “You just said awesome.”
“And I’ll sue you for defamation if you tell anyone,” Harvey said, deadpan.
Irene came back while Mike was still laughing. She expertly poured a red wine in two glasses and left the bottle on the table. “Your pie’ll be up in a minute, boys.”
Harvey raised his glass and said, “Thanks, Irene.”
She swatted him on the shoulder. “Oh, you.”
Mike chuckled as she walked away. “She's great.”
“Yeah,” Harvey agreed, smiling fondly after her. Then he looked at Mike and said, “So are you.”
Mike's mouth clicked shut in surprise. “Um.”
Harvey smirked a little and said, “Eloquent.”
Irene returned with a large pizza just then, setting it down between them. It was just as well Mike had something to focus on, because he wasn't sure if Harvey's words had been a subtle form of mockery or an actual compliment; either was just as likely. So was a combination of the two.
The pizza was truly incredible and Mike nearly died and went to heaven after the first bite. “Oh my God.”
When Harvey didn't answer, Mike opened his eyes and froze at the predatory expression on his face. He'd been the focus of the other man's intensity a lot over the last couple of years, but never in quite this way. A flush heated its way across his face and Mike returned his attention to the pizza. Self-conscious, Mike made sure not to make any more noise as he enjoyed the rest of his share of the pizza. The wine was perfect and way above his palate, Mike knew that without even asking. Its warmth spread through him insidiously, relaxing him in spite of Harvey's odd regard through the rest of the meal.
Irene magically appeared three more times as they talked over pizza. Once to refill their glasses even though the wine bottle perfectly within their reach, the second time to take away the empty pizza pan, and lastly to bring out two small pieces of baklava on surprisingly dainty dishes. He was skeptical about how well it would go with the pizza and wine, but carefully bit into it anyhow. The sweetness was just right, to his surprise, not overpowering, and Mike savored the richness until he polished off the rest of his wine.
By then, Mike was completely relaxed and leaned back in the hard booth seat. “So Harvey.”
Harvey's gaze didn't waver. “Yes, Mike?”
“Any particular reason you're looking at me like I'm dessert instead of the baklava?”
“More like a night cap.”
And Mike knew exactly what he meant by night cap. “Why are we here, Harvey?”
Harvey stretched an arm over the back of his booth and said, “We just had a really nice dinner, Mike.”
Mike crossed his arms over his chest and stared at Harvey, unimpressed by the lame comeback. Harvey broke first, to his surprise, and scowled a little before he reached into his suit coat pocket and pulling out a small jewelry box. He pushed it across the table so that it was within easy reach for Mike.
Heart thumping in sudden anticipation, Mike picked up the box and slowly opened it. Cufflinks sat nestled together on the silk, platinum if he knew his metals, and he did, each with a diamond chip on them. Mike had thought, for a heart-stopping second, that Harvey had bought him a ring; that all their flirting and foreplay had gone straight to a marriage proposal. The possibility had dizzied him and he let out a short, sharp breath as the world returned to its normal parameters. Harvey had bought him a totally inappropriately expensive gift, something the other man always had problems with. Although usually the gifts involved saving Mike from Very Bad Things, like a life of crime or his former best friend getting killed by drug dealers.
Mike finally dragged his gaze up to meet Harvey's and he said, “Harvey, I don't know what to say.”
“That's a first,” Harvey observed dryly.
Mike huffed in amusement. “Thanks. Well, yeah, actually thank you. This is, they're gorgeous. I can't possibly accept them, but... oh.”
Harvey had reached out to grip Mike's hand when he'd started to push the box reluctantly back across the table. His hand covered Mike's, warm and firm, and he continued to stare at Mike. It was the stare that connected the dots for Mike. He remembered overhearing Donna and Rachel talk about “Harvey's conquests” in the breakroom one day.
“He has this stare. It's like some kind of snake charmer thing,” Donna had said.
Rachel had giggled. “How is that different from his usual stare?”
Donna had shrugged and rolled her eyes. “Damned if I know. Whatever he does to those women, they never see him coming because they're too busy being mesmerized by his stare.”
Mike had withdrawn without being seen and now he sat across from Harvey being treated to that stare. He swallowed and said quietly, “You don't date men.”
Harvey's mouth twitched just a little and he agreed, “I don't. But this wouldn't be dating, would it, Mike?”
Their lives were already so tangled that Mike knew he was right; if they crossed that line, it would be a hell of a lot more than dating.
“I can't buy you a ring,” Harvey continued, just as quiet, “not until you make Junior Partner.”
Mike's breath left him in a rush and the dizziness returned. “Jesus, Harvey. We haven't even kissed yet.”
That almost-smile returned and Harvey glanced up, prompting Mike to do the same and find a sprig of mistletoe hanging above the table. He'd noticed it, but not paid it any attention; all the tables had one. When Harvey looked back at him, it was with that damn smirk that challenged Mike to do really stupid things, like pretend he had a law degree from Harvard to work illegally at a prestigious law firm.
Mike grinned a little and leaned forward. Unsurprisingly, Harvey met him halfway. Their first kiss was basically a dare in a pizza joint in the Bronx and tasted sweet from the baklava and heady from the wine. Mike hadn't back down from a challenge yet and upped the ante by sliding his tongue over Harvey's lips. Havey opened at the invitation and then reached over to cup the back of Mike's head and deepen the kiss. Mike groaned faintly and slid his tongue along Harvey's,wanting so much more.
A wolf-whistle jolted Mike out of his lust-addled state and he jerked back to find they'd acquired an audience. Every table in the place was staring at them and then burst into applause when they broke apart. Someone held up a napkin with a bold 10 in marker on it. Mike flushed in embarrassment and grumbled to himself when Harvey just smiled broadly and basked in the attention, giving a couple of small bows.
Irene walked over and promptly smacked Harvey upside the back of the head.
“Ow! What was that for?” Harvey demanded, rubbing his head.
Irene wagged a finger at him and said, “He's a nice boy. Don't go breaking this one's heart.”
Harvey smiled at Mike and said, “Oh, it's not his heart you have to worry about.”
Mike's heart actually skipped a couple of beats at that declaration. His hand snapped out to grab the jewelry box and clutched it to his chest.
Irene beamed at that and said, “Good! Merry Christmas, my boy,” and kissed the top of Harvey's head. Then she startled Mike by doing the same thing to him before bustling off again.
Harvey stood up and held out his hand, looking at Mike expectantly.
Mike took the hand and knotted their fingers together, keeping hold of the jewelry box with his free hand. As they walked out of the pizza shop, he grinned suddenly and said, “Bet I can make Junior Partner in two years.”
Harvey quirked an eyebrow at him as they left the shop. Ray instantly got out of the car and walked around to open the back door as Harvey echoed, “Two years? No one's ever done that. Not even me.”
Feeling reckless and a little on top of the world, just a little, Mike bragged, “Two years from tonight, you're going to have a ring waiting for me.”
Harvey paused and considered Mike for a second. It was only just gone five, but it was dark and the holiday lights blinked around him in a cheerful halo of color. “Okay. You make Junior Partner in two years and I will have a ring waiting for you.”
Mike stepped in close to him and said in a low voice, “You better.”
Harvey kissed him there, on the sidewalk, in front of God, Ray, and everyone and Mike kissed him back, arms wrapped around his neck as they sealed the challenge with a kiss. If Mike could handle Harvey Specter, he could totally make Junior Partner in two years. This was just incentive.