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About a spider

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“With great power comes great responsibility.”

 

Some days Mike just wants to jump.

He sits on the very edge of the roof of Pearson-Specter-Litt office building. His pose resembles those of a dog, his feet at each side of his body, his pinkie fingers almost touching his polished, leather shoes. Most of the people would be extremely uncomfortable in this stance, yet he looks entirely at ease holding body in that strange position.

Some days Mike craves for nothing more but the cold wind blowing into his short hair once again, his heart spinning with extraordinary speed, his primal instinct forcing him to fight gravity, his mind anticipating the impending impact with the solid asphalt. Calming down, letting go, embracing the weightlessness. Waiting till the very last second.

And then, changing the direction rapidly, swinging carelessly between the buildings, right above the crowded streets of New York.

Mike’s heart aches in his chest, clutches with longing. Sometimes Mike sees himself as a bird with broken wings and God, how much he misses his special kind of flying.

Today is one of these days. The streets of Manhattan are so inviting, so tempting he almost yields to the haunting desire. Only one step ahead is needed, or even less, all he has to do is slightly lean forward, lose his balance and…

His phone beeps irritably. Mike gets rapidly pulled out of his thoughts.

“Being the Junior Partner doesn’t allow you to be late.”, says the text.

Mike suppresses the desire to roll his eyes.

There will be no jumping anytime soon.

*

Nick Fury is standing on a wooden platform in front of a huge crowd, people sitting outdoors on a camp chairs, others standing wherever the spare room allowed them to, listening to his words in a silent melancholy. It has been an annual event for the last five years, always in the centre of Manhattan, where the main part of the Battle of New York took place.

“…We all know now who he fought against and who he fought for. Even if we can never find his motives, or even his real name. But we must realise that he was one of us, a regular person. Why did he decide to put on the suit? Why did he decide to fight for us? We must seek answers to that questions deep in our hearts…”

Mike appears in the middle of Fury’s sublime speech, yet he doesn’t seem to be trying to catch up at all. Harvey nudges him and looks down on him sharply.

“If you’re not interested, at least pretend you are.”, he hisses quietly, so that no one apart from Mike can hear it.

“It’s been five fucking years since the Spider-Man died.”  Mike replies in whisper. “Come on, Harvey. S.H.I.E.L.D. should finally let themselves and other people move on.”, He shakes his head in obvious disapproval.

“People like such gestures.”, Harvey explains patiently. “Organising events like this—It’s a good publicity for them.”, he adds. “They actively try to regain public trust after the nuke fiasco during the Battle.” His voice is completely businesslike, yet Mike senses there’s something more to it. Harvey doesn’t approve of this attitude either, but has no desire to elaborate on the topic with Mike. Or simply not in that particular moment, with such audience around them.

“I get it.”, says Mike agreeably. “Just don’t make me listen to that crap, please. I’ll sit straight and try not to look bored, but the last couple of days were really tough for me. I have to think some things through.”

Harvey doesn’t look pleased, but leaves it without a word, just turns his towards Fury again.

“—he saved my life during the Battle of New York. Had he survived that day, he would still carry the burn mark on his forearm for the rest of his life. Yet, he didn’t hesitate even for a briefest moment when I found myself in the firing line. It was like a second nature to him, saving people, shielding them from every hazard lurking in the shadows.”

Mike catches only a brief phrase from the speech before he gets back to what’s eating him up. Tries not to think about the deep scar running along his ulna. He’s got more pressuring problems than that.

Rachel, the upcoming wedding, the planning of the whole event, the guest list, the non-existent press announcement, Rachel’s inquisitive mother and all those lies designed to keep his secret safe.

“Mike: You hung me out to dry.

Rachel: How exactly did I do that?

Mike: By making it seem like I'm the one that's taking away your dream wedding!

Rachel: You are the one taking away my dream wedding!”

Mike knows it’s not entirely true. He’s not only taking away her dream, but her whole life as well. Once they are married, nothing will be the same for her ever again. Married to a fraud. Lying for a fraud. Living with a fraud.

Mikes knows Rachel doesn’t deserve any of this. He doesn’t understand how could he even let things go that far. Why didn’t he step back when he should have? Why didn’t he let her go when it wouldn’t have broken her heart yet?

He is such an egoistic bastard, he knows it. Or he just got caught up in his own lie too much, believed that everything will be fine in the end. But one cannot run from the responsibility forever.

“Claire: One day it is going to come crashing down, and if you really do love her, you'll put a stop to this right now.

Mike: So you think I should stop being a lawyer?

Claire: I'm saying if you really love her, you won't marry her.”

Claire is right. From the very beginning, Mike knew that happy endings weren’t meant for him. One day, he will end up in prison and everybody around him will face the consequences of his actions. How can he make Rachel – this beautiful, smart, resourceful woman, with whole bright future ahead of her – marry a fraud? A fraud that will never be able to provide her a sense of security?

 Trevor: “The longer you go, the less the money matters. The food doesn't taste as good. The cars aren't fast enough. The view isn't high enough. And finally, you realize that you would trade it all in for one night of going to bed, where you don't have to worry, 'When are they going to come for me?'”

A fraud, who even while revealing one secret, still hides another?

How can Mike Ross marry Rachel Zane if a person named ‘Mike Ross’ doesn’t even exist?

With great power comes great responsibility, that’s what his uncle used to tell him when he was a little boy.

Fury’s speech comes to an end, possibly with some turgid slogan for the people to bear in minds and hearts for the next few hours. Mike despises such clichés.

Responsibility is a bitch, thinks Mike, not being a little boy anymore, standing up and clapping his hands along with the crowd and finally reaching a decision that will tear his whole life apart.

Once again.

Mike doesn’t know what shows upon his face, but Harvey notices immediately and grabs him by the arm, not letting him mingle into the mass. Fury gets off the podium, people are leaving the place of memorial, the chairs are getting empty. It resembles a swarm of fruit flies, relocating from once apple to the other.

“What happened, Mike?”, Harvey asks, not hiding his concern entirely. He watches Mike closely, sees the sudden emptiness in his eyes, his pale cheeks, sorrow and bitterness embodied in his light features.

The people are passing by them, knocking into them, prodding and barging, as if they didn’t notice that those two figures are not moving.

But Harvey doesn’t care, he simply looks at Mike, demanding an answer.

“I can’t marry her.” Mike almost whispers, but Harvey reads every word vividly.

When surprise wears off his face, there is only understanding left. Mike doesn’t know how, but Harvey simply gets it, there’s nothing more to explain.

“Come by my place later, I’ll get you something appropriate to drink.”, suggest Harvey and Mike finds himself nodding before he can really think it through.

He almost smiles. Harvey is the only person on Earth who would imply that there’s an appropriate drink for someone in his situation.

*

“It’s not working…”

Fury stops in midstep, hearing this defeated admission. He rapidly turns around and eyes the grey-haired scientist up and down, vividly annoyed.

“What do you mean ‘it’s not working’?”, Fury hisses, making the other man rethink his every step during the building process in search for mistake. He doesn’t find it, though.

“Everything matches the blueprints.”, explains the man carefully. “Yet it seems something is still missing. We tried everything we could think of. We simply lack some piece of this puzzle.”

“Are you positive that every single detail is in accordance with the blueprints? Have you tried looking into temperature, humidity, pressure, and I don’t know, weather conditions? There has to be something amiss!”

Usually, Fury wouldn’t bother in getting into such detailed discussion with his men. They were top-notch scientists, multiple times tested and trained to think outside the box, to look for solutions no one else would come up with. But this time he has to be entirely sure before he draws a conclusion.

He prayed for this tiny detail to be negligible, but of course luck doesn’t bother to hang around him even when it comes to trivia.

He hears the resigned voice of the engineer. “I’m sorry. I wouldn’t come here if I thought there is still something more we could do.” And Fury knows he wouldn’t. Admitting failure is the very last step each of his men would even consider.

Fury is on the verge of smashing his fist into the wall. It was such a promising project! Agents have lost their lives to put hands on those blueprints! Fury squeezes the base of his nose, rethinking all his options, even though from the very beginning he knew there aren’t many. He commenced this project under the assumption that the one part he knew would be the hardest to obtain, wouldn’t be needed at all.

Fucking criminal masterminds and their underlying desire to play charades!

Suddenly, his phone rings irritably, but also quite characteristically. Fury has the phone by his ear faster than a thought reaches his mind.

“You found it?”, Fury asks immediately, because this is the only thing that could help him right now. He hears laugh on the other side.

“You won’t believe where!”

Fury feels a smug smile appearing on his face. God bless the real professionals!

“Where?”, he asks, but only as a formality, because he doesn’t really care as long as he would have it in his hands eventually.

“EBay, sir!”

Fury actually doesn’t believe his ears.

And his luck.

*

When the night sets in, Mike stands at Harvey’s door with reddened face, eyes swollen from crying, his hair messy and wrinkled suit. Fingers of his left hand are clutched tightly around medium-sized, black sports bag.

Harvey realises on the spot what that means. Mike looks unsecure and doesn’t enter even when Harvey steps aside to let him in.

“I know I probably shouldn’t even ask but…” Mike wants to clarify things first. “May I crash on your couch tonight?”

I don’t have anywhere else to go, remains unsaid, but Harvey catches it anyway.

Normally, Harvey would disagree or at least have some objections about it. But with Forstman hanging over his head, with still fresh wound after Donna’s leaving, and sessions with Dr Agard that invariably make him question his every decision and rule he up until this moment lived by, Harvey realises he might actually benefit from Mike’s presence in his apartment.

Mike needs him and Harvey is finally able to admit to himself that he really needs people who need him in return. Because Donna showed him she doesn’t anymore. And during the last session with Dr Agard he realised that Jessica might actually need him— to be gone. Mike is just another person who was truly close to him, yet they also started drifting apart with the progress of Mike’s relationship with Rachel. Harvey knows Mike considered quitting the job for her, and even though that thought hurt like hell, Harvey realised then that he was in no position to argue. At least, not anymore.

But suddenly, in a matter of hours, his life gets turned upside down. Mike leaves Rachel, appears on his doorstep and Harvey feels that the drift between them disappears in split seconds. 

“No problem, rookie.”

 

 

Mike is relieved, but looks also horribly insecure. He feels so out of place. He lays his bag in the corner, trying to take as little space as possible with himself. Then, they sit together on Harvey’s black couch.

“Mike”, Harvey says calmly, trying to catch Mike’s attention.

Mike rises his eyes slightly, barely stopping himself from bursting into tears once again. He knows he has made the right decision, but that doesn’t stop him from being hurt by the outcome. He tore Rachel’s heart apart. He never meant to cause her so much pain. He should have left much earlier. He never should have started that relationship in the first place.

“Mike”, repeats Harvey and suddenly Mike realises that Harvey is just at arm’s length from him, his right hand on Mike’s shoulder, squeezing it gently. Mike thinks he must have drifted off for a moment.

“Yes?” Mike’s voice is barely audible.

Harvey has never seen him falling so much apart before.

“Talk to me, Mike.”, urges him Harvey, even though he believes himself to be the last person anyone with heart problems should be talking to. But Mike chose him, came to him, therefore Harvey decides to try and do his best.

“But there is nothing to tell…”, replies Mike with emptiness in his voice. He presses himself into the backrest and tilts his head backwards, looking with hollow eyes into the ceiling.

“There is always something to tell.” Harvey squeezes his arm one more time, trying to comfort him (and still failing visibly in doing so), pulls himself off the couch and approaches the cabinet with his special scotch supply.

“I shouldn’t have come here.”, says Mike suddenly and stands up rapidly.

“What?” Harvey stops in midstep and turns around only to see Mike grab his sports bag and head for the door. Harvey immediately realises something the things are much worse than he anticipated.

“Mike, where are you going?”, he asks sharply. The harshness in the voice is the things that stops Mike from grabbing the doorknob.

“This has to end.”, explains Mike in a broken voice. “I need to leave.”

Somehow, Harvey instantly knows that Mike isn’t just talking about saying at his house at night. In Mike stance, in the sadness of his voice, in the exhaustion visible in his eyes, Harvey notices that this whole thing is much more life-changing decision.

“You want to quit?” Harvey can barely utter those words. He can feel his heart beating in his chest. His palms start to shake and Harvey feels it even if it’s not visible just yet.

“I can’t keep living like this. I can’t keep putting you all in jeopardy. You gave me a wonderful life, Harvey, you fulfilled my dream. But this whole thing is a lie and I was just too much of a coward to give it up.”

“Mike…” Harvey sounds broken and he’s not even afraid to admit it. Dr Agard changed him. That damn woman. Harvey knows that if he lets Mike go without a fight, he would never be able to live with himself. He let too many people leave him already. He’s not ready for another blow yet. “I need you, Mike”, he almost whispers, but the room is so silent that Mike has no problem in hearing it.

Mike simply stands in Harvey’s hallway, his hand still on the doorknob, his body suddenly getting stiff. He has never thought he would hear such admission from Harvey. He knows those few words shouldn’t be a deal-breaker for him, that they shouldn’t make him question his newly made decision. But it is Harvey and Harvey has always had this power over him.

“Why?”, Mike asks, his voice tight and unbelieving. “Why don’t you just let me go when you know it’s best for you? When we both know this whole thing can’t have a happy ending?”

Only when Mike asked him the question, did Harvey realise the answer. It was truthful and simple and admitting it was both the easiest and the most terrifying thing in his life, just after putting his whole career on the line for Mike. But just as it happened then, this time Harvey also doesn’t hesitate even for a second.

“Because I would always choose going down with you over living happily ever after without you.”

Harvey sees Mike hold his breath and exhale deeply after a few seconds. He lowers his hand and turns around slowly, looking Harvey straight in the eyes. There is a question hidden in this gaze.

But Harvey has enough emotional confession for one night so he only waves his hand invitingly and offers:

“I’ll find you some bedding for the night.”

The tightness around his heart unclutches only when he finally hears Mike stepping shyly into his guest room once again.

 

“When you’re backed against the wall, break the goddamn thing down.”

 

Mike wants to stay at Harvey’s only for one night. Things don’t go as planned.

They enter the office building together, walk out of elevator and then their ways separate, for each of them has his own office now. But not more than thirty minutes later Harvey walks into Mike’s office and throws a file onto his desk.

“What’s that?”, asks Mike, even though he sees it’s a case file. And he even suspects what Harvey is about to ask from him and why.

“I know you have your own cases but I thought maybe you would like to be a Robin to my Batman once again?”

In some ways, this time is different from the last when Harvey tried to get his mind off grieving. When Mike’s grandmother died, Harvey also buried him with work, but it was much less subtle than what he is doing now. This time, Harvey practically asks Mike for permission to do so.

“What do we get here?”, asks Mike, trying to sound lightly. He doesn’t, at all. But Harvey lets it go.

Mike is heartbroken, depressed and feels terrifyingly at loss about his life. Harvey can’t really talk him out of these feelings.

“We’ve got a journalist facing a class suit. Defamation. Have you heard of Daily Bugle and J. Jonah Jameson?”

Mike’s heart almost stops, but he quickly regains his composure. Or at least the remnants of it.

“Fuck me…”, he whispers absent-mindedly. Then, he focuses on Harvey once again. “We’re representing Jameson?”, his voice is incredulous.

Harvey frowns slightly.

“Is something wrong with that?”

He brought this case to take Mike’s mind off his troubles, not cause him more. And Mike suddenly looks troubled like hell. Harvey doesn’t know what to think of it.

Mike’s mind is literally spinning for a couple of seconds. He can feel the rest of his self-control fly away, his head clouded with the darkest thoughts. Why is his old life catching up with him? Why know?

But then he catches Harvey’s eyes and this familiar look grounds him. There is no need to panic, Mike reminds himself and takes a deep breath. It never ceases to amaze him how Harvey’s sheer presence influences his ability to think clearly.

Mike quickly pulls himself together and replies confidently.

“No, everything is fine. I’m good. Whose ass are we going to kick today?”

 

Travis Tanner’s, of course. But the case is shady and it quickly turns out that there’s much more to it than “we’re the good guys, you’re the bad ones” division. J. Jonah Jameson is sued by the bunch of New York citizens for defaming the Spider-Man. And it should be clearly said that Jameson is in no way an easy person to deal with.

Harvey has questions and Jameson doesn’t seem eager to answer all of them. Mike knows his reasons, but he is also sure that Harvey wouldn’t let it go easily.

“Listen, Mr Jameson” Mike knows this tone in Harvey’s voice. It means the older lawyer is about to scold the journalist even though it is their client. “I don’t care whether you trust that man and I don’t care about your confidentiality of sources. If I am to be your lawyer, you must share these pieces of information with me. I am going to try to avoid using them in court, but I cannot be caught by surprise if an opposing counsel throws it right into my face. So let me ask you once again: who supplied you with the photos of Spider-Man in battle?”

For the most part of their meeting now Harvey tries to get this information out of Jameson, who proves to be exquisitely resistant. Mike knows what Harvey is trying to do. He has to make sure that Jameson got the photos of a real thing, that no one meddled with them in order to influence Jameson’s opinion. If he did, it would be the best way to clear their client.

Mike knows the photos were good, but he keeps his mouth shut.

Mike never thought he would ever see J. Jonah Jameson stepping back from a fight. But hey, he also never thought he would ever see an alien invasion on New York, so the only thing he can do is to shrug it off, because stranger things happened in his life after all.

“Peter Parker”, replies Jameson after a while of silence. He looks strangely subdued.

“And are you entirely sure he couldn’t have meddled with the photos before he gave them to you?”, presses Harvey.

“Yes, I am.” The response is short and firm.

Mike feels horribly weird and he isn’t sure if that’s because he hears Jameson speak almost-highly about Peter Parker or because Jameson keeps glancing at Mike once in a while.

“How can you be?” Harvey is not the one to trust people just because they say so.

“You’d be surprised what people you supposedly know are capable of.”, adds Mike gently. He tries to have some input in this conversation, even though he knows it’s basically pointless.

“I just know that he didn’t. And that’s really not the case here. The suit isn’t about the photos, it’s about the articles.” Jameson starts to get angry.

“Whatever you say, Mr Jameson.” Apparently Harvey has enough of it too. “But just for your information, we’ll have to call this Peter Parker for a deposition too.”

Mike thinks it is high time to interfere.

“Harvey…”, he starts but is cut in by Jameson.

“No, Mr Specter, you won’t.” Jameson’s voice is bitter and adamant.

“It’s not your call to make”, replies Harvey decisively.

“It’s not, but I know you won’t. The kid is dead for over five years know.”, explains Jameson dryly. Mike almost flinches, hearing it. Even after all those years, he still can’t stand thinking about it.

“And for your information”, Jameson adds, copying Harvey’s supercilious tone of voice from a minute ago, “he died during the Battle of New York, trying to get genuine photos of the Spider-Man fighting alongside the Avengers. And they both lost their lives that day. So don’t you dare pull this know-it-all attitude at me, Mr Specter, because I’m quite sure Peter Parker will be mentioned during this case, but surely not as a perpetrator, but rather as a victim.”

With this words, Jameson gets up from the chair and goes out.

“Yeah, that went awesome”, comments Mike when their client disappears around the corner. And then he ducks from a pen Harvey throws at him.

Even if the case is a bitch, Mike still feels better with himself all of a sudden. He doesn’t really understand why is that. Maybe just the fact that he gets to work with Harvey, strategize with him once again and joke as if his problems with Rachel and identity crisis never existed.

 

They leave the office about the same time, without agreeing it earlier, simply coming across each other in the lobby.

“May I ride with you? I still have to come by your place and grab my things.”, Mike asks tentatively. There is no awkwardness between them, but the day was incredibly busy and in this whole Jameson insanity Mike didn’t have even a second to look for a place to sleep tonight, so all he can think of right now is his hotel possibilities.

“You found a new apartment?” Harvey looks dubious about it. Well, Mike supposes he had equally busy day as he had himself.

Normally, Mike would decide on a tiny lie, just not to let Harvey worry about him (which Harvey would  deny, but Mike knows better), but he has had enough of his lies recently, so he shrugs and replies calmly:

“Nah, I will just book a hotel room for a couple of days.”

Harvey eyes him, clearly considering something.

“You know what?”, he begins, reaching a decision really quickly. He tries to make his next words sound light and noncommittal. “I’d benefit more of a partner whose main focus is on the case, not on the accommodation lookout. Stay at my place for a couple of days. We’ll find you somewhere to live during the weekend, after we wipe the floor with Tanner.”

On the one hand, Mike really doesn’t want to impose himself on Harvey. On the other, though, he hears the underlying plead. Harvey doesn’t want to be alone.

Mike doesn’t think he is the best company for Harvey right now. But of course, he agrees.

 

They sit and try to come up with an appropriate winning strategy, but it comes to naught since Jameson doesn’t seem eager to cooperate. Mike is torn a little. Torn, because he knows Jameson’s reasons and only a little, because he put that life behind himself a long time ago and therefore he learned not to dwell on it too much. 

Harvey tries to ask him about Rachel one more time, but Mike is adamant not to elaborate on his decision. What should he tell Harvey anyway? That the reasons for  his decision had been accumulating for quite some time and two days ago he simply snapped? That he had been able to lie to himself only until Rachel found something explicitly linking him to his previous life, which was when the final realisation hit him like a brick in the head?

The situation was prosaic, really. He kept some boxes with his parents’ and grandmother’s old stuff. Some of them had huge sentimental value for him, others just gathered dust and occupied space. Mike decided to look though them, take a real care of the important ones and throw away or sell the rest. Rachel volunteered to help with the selling thing, so when Mike was done with separating one from the other, she took care of the rest, which at that time Mike was extremely grateful for.

It was until he saw six brass figurines of the Egyptian gods standing on the desk near Rachel, while she was posting the offer on EBay. He must have overlooked them somehow.

Rachel didn’t do anything wrong, of course, but Mike lashed out anyway. It was irrational and immature, he should have known better, be better than this. But the mere flashback, single glance back in time was all it took for him to freeze. His whole body tensed, got filled with fear first and pure anger just a second later.

The thought what could happen if those figurines were to be put to use again made Mike’s body shiver. And even though Mike was aware that the figurines on its own were useless, he still had put so much effort in keeping them safe and secret, that seeing Rachel displaying them online  (online, for heaven’s sake!) made him see red.

It happened on Sunday evening. The offer was online only for about five minutes before Mike hastily deleted it and tried to cover all the traces of its existence.

The Spider-Man memorial was on Monday. Later that day, Mike broke up with Rachel for good and slept the night at Harvey’s.

The whole Tuesday Mike tried to convince himself that nobody could possible trace the figurines though this unfortunate offer. And that nobody would really be interested in doing that in the first place.

On Wednesday Mike is about to learn that in the Internet nothing disappears and that five minutes is just enough. And he is about to learn it the hard way.

 

Once you pick a side, if you’re not loyal to that side, then who the hell are you?”

 

Wednesday comes. At the meeting with the opposing counsel Jameson is literally crushed.

“So you’re saying that all you ever wanted was to prevent kids from following the steps of the Spider-Man?”, asks Travis Tanner, cornering his prey in the masterly way.

“Yes”, confirms Jameson and both of his lawyers suspect he goes right into Tanner’s trap. “I’ve met the Spider-Man personally a couple of times and I’ve noticed his voice sounded like… like he belonged to a teenager, or a young man at the very most. And the pictures I’ve published at Daily Bugle clearly show how dangerous his vigilante undertakings were.”

“If, as you said yourself, you care so much of the today’s youth, then why would sent your young reporter, Peter Parker, right in the middle of the Battle of New York, which lead to his death? And of course it isn’t the only case because poor Peter also brought you photos from Spider-Man’s fights with Dr Octopus, Rhino, Venom and many others, which means he had to be present during each of them.”, Tanner argues smugly.

Mike tightens his fingers around the pen he is holding.

“I didn’t sent him anywhere.”, replies Jameson haughtily. “He was a freelancer. When he had new photos, he came to me and I paid him.”

“But isn’t that true that you pressed him to bring more photos of the Spider-Man?”

“I admit I paid him much more for the photos of the Spider-Man. But that’s because they were truly unique and every paper would pay for them a small fortune.”, explains Jameson.

“Exactly!”, exclaims Tanner and that’s when Mike feels he and Harvey are in a deep shit. “A small fortune! But let’s see…” Tanner pulls out two manila folders and pushes them onto the table in their direction. “I’ve got here a list of photos Peter gave you and the amounts of money you paid him for each. And in the second file I’ve got a list of offers that Peter got from the other newspaper companies in New York. So tell me, Mr Jameson, why did he always sell photos to you, even though the price you offered was jokingly low in the comparison to the others?”

That’s when Harvey decides to step in.

“Objection. That’s not a question for my client. That’s a question for Peter Parker, which cannot be answered, because he’s deceased.”

“How convenient for your client, isn’t it, Harvey?”, mocks Tanner.

“How dare you?!”, exclaims Jameson in rage and stands up, ready to attack Tanner not only verbally.

It is the second time Harvey sees Mike holding the other, taller and seemingly stronger than him person firmly in place without any visible signs of fatigue. But just as the previous time, it is not the best moment to dwell on this fact.

“Please, calm down, Mr Jameson.”, asks Mike, letting go of his furious client but still watching closely his movements. “Mr Tanner just has this kind of personality that inevitably leads to other people wanting to bruise their knuckles on his jaw. Trust me, we can deal with this in a more civilised way. We’ve been there before.”

Even if Harvey is surprised by Mike’s little speech, he doesn’t let it show on his face.

“Mike, you may sound more grown-up than before”, says Tanner, noticing the maturity in his commentary as well, “but you’re still just as naïve if you think you can win this case.”

“And you are still just as thick-headed if you think we can’t.”, replies Harvey, firmly stepping in. “Now show yourself out, Tanner, before we reconsider the punching-your-face-strategy. It was fun the last time.” Harvey smirks at the memory.

“Good thing you’re still optimistic. It will be even more fun to see the both of you crawling at my feet and begging for a settlement.”

“This deposition is over, Tanner.”, states Harvey categorically. “Are you able to find the door or should I call the security to accompany you?”

“See you next time, Harvey. Hope it will be as much fun as it was today.”, replies Tanner and heads out without further delay.

Silence fills the conference room they are sitting in. It lasts only for three or four seconds when Harvey spits out:

“How much did you pay the kid for those pics?”

“Not enough”, comes the quiet reply. Jameson looks troubled.

“And why is that?”, presses Harvey, getting more and more annoyed.

“Because I knew he needed money. I was afraid that if I gave him too much, the photos will stop coming.”, admits Jameson.

Mike knows everything they hear from Jameson is just worsening their situation. And he knows Harvey is aware of it too.

Jameson, when I need you to shut up for once, of course you have to be unusually forthcoming, thinks Mike, suppressing the need to roll his eyes. But deep inside he isn’t really surprised that if someone is able to make Jameson do something he doesn’t want to, this person is Harvey Specter.

“But the kid had much better offers.”, reasons Harvey. “Why didn’t he take them?”

Jameson looks broken. And Mike feels slightly broken too, because never in his life has he wanted to see that men enduring such regret. Even if I know first-hand that you’re a bastard, Jameson.

“Because Peter was stupidly loyal and I used this loyalty against him.” Jameson sounds guilty. He keeps silent for a moment, but they notice he still wants to add something, so they don’t interfere. Jameson exhales deeply. “After his death I volunteered to be the one to identify his body in the morgue, because I wasn’t able to stand the thought of his aunt going through this. And I believe it was one of the best decisions in my life because his body… He was crushed by one of the buildings coming down. They had to make a digital reconstruction of his skull for me to identify him properly. I don’t think his aunt would have gotten through it. I barely did.”, he admits quietly.

Mike remembers the day he was told about what Jameson had done for his aunt. He still feels grateful. Maybe that’s one of the reasons he really wants to win this case. But not the only one.

“You should have told us sooner”, scolds him Harvey.

“But this trial isn’t about Peter, it’s about me defaming the Spider-Man in the Daily Bugle!”, reminds him Jameson indignantly. “Then why is suddenly everything pivoting on him?!”

“Apparently, in this case, these two are connected.”, observes Harvey dryly.

Of course, Harvey must be the one to openly acknowledge the connection between Peter Parker and the Spider-Man, muses Mike. He’s not afraid, though. If anything, he feels proud of Harvey, and that thought  actually surprises him once he realises it.

“We wanted to argue that you wrote all those things about Spider-Man in order to prevent kids from playing heroes. But that won’t stand up in court as long as the jury sees you as a heartless bastard, who used his young employee with no conscience at all!” Harvey is short on his temper. Mike surmises that the lack cooperation from Jameson is only partially to blame. Because there is still situation with Hardman hanging over their heads.

Jameson stands up with fury in his eyes.

“Guess what, Mr Specter”, he begins snidely. “I was a heartless bastard, I used a kid and most likely was a cause of his death at age 23. But it’s still your goddamn job to defend me in court and save the good name of my company, because otherwise over 2,000 people will lose their jobs. I’m the head of a serious newspaper and even if the people suing me want only a formal apology from me, I can’t do that, because it will cost my company credibility. And if the newspaper doesn’t have the credibility, then it doesn’t have anything at all.”

Jameson gathers his things and heads for the door.

“I hope you will figure something out till tomorrow, gentlemen.”, he adds as a farewell.

 

They doesn’t head home straight after the meeting, even though is past seven p.m. Instead, they sit together in Harvey’s office and look at each other in silence for a while.

“We’re not dropping this case”, says Harvey, anticipating Mike’s view on the situation.

“I didn’t say anything about it.” Mike sprawls out on Harvey’s black couch as if it belonged to him. He feels really comfortable in this office, Harvey observes. Or maybe just around Harvey himself.

“But I knew you would. And we’re not.”

“I wouldn’t.”, argues Mike.

“Why?” Harvey can’t hide that he is a little surprised about that statement.

“Why would I?”, replies Mike.

“Because we’re clearly defending a bastard who led a young photographer to death. And because Daily Bugle wrote some really shitty things about Spider-Man, which I thought you’d be strongly opposed to. Shouldn’t you be the one to care about such things?”

Mike sighs and combs his hair with his fingers.

“I do care, believe me.”, he assures. He also looks like he is about to add something else but hesitates. Harvey gives him the time to reach a decision. Finally the younger man starts talking. “It’s just… Jameson seems to be an insensitive asshole sometimes, but I believe… but he’s not a bad man.”, states Mike tentatively. “And I want to defend him, because I don’t think he deserves to go down for the things he wrote about someone who doesn’t even care about it right now.”

“Not a bad man?”, repeats Harvey incredulously. “Mike, do you want to tell me something? Have you met him before?”, he asks seriously. “Because I’m sure as hell you didn’t just draw this conclusion from these two meetings we had with him.”

“Look Harvey…” begins Mike, suddenly looking horribly unconfident. He takes a deep breath and begins once again, more decisively this time. “I won’t lie to you.”, he states, his eyes meeting Harvey’s. “But I can’t tell you everything either. And please don’t ask, just leave it be for the time being.”

“So you’re not going to tell me anything at all?” Harvey knows he touched something big and personal. And he can’t help feeling disappointed when Mike simply cuts him off from himself like that.

“I’m going to tell you that I have my reasons to believe that Jameson, in spite of being an asshole, still deserves to have his ass saved this time.”, replies Mike. “And I’m sure both Peter Parker and the Spider-Man wouldn’t protest too loudly about it.”

Harvey is a bit concerned about Mike. Defending the man like Jameson doesn’t seem to be a thing he would normally do. But on the other hand, Harvey didn’t see Mike and Rachel’s breakup coming either, so maybe in the end he doesn’t know the younger man as well as he would like to.

That thought suddenly makes him really tired and maybe just a little bitter.

“What?” Mike’s voice brings him back to reality. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Because I thought you’d put up a fight about defending Jameson.” Harvey replies, but seems detached about it. As if it wasn’t what he really wanted to say. “He was really opposed to the Spider-Man after all.”

“He was” Mike nods.

“Do you agree with what he wrote?” Harvey asks suspiciously.

“Hell no!”, exclaims Mike, outraged by the suggestion. “Do you?” he asks suspiciously in return.

“Of course not. You know… I’m the last person to approve of the spandex suit but… I really admired what the Spider-Man did for the city. Maybe it was naïve of him to think he could change something, but it was… brave. And when I saw all these people at his funeral, I couldn’t help thinking that maybe in the end he wasn’t the naïve one… because he did make that change and the people of New York will remember him.”

Harvey sighs and reaches for his scotch.

“You went to his funeral?”, inquires Mike with surprise.

“You didn’t?” Harvey lifts his eyebrow questioningly. The Battle of New York happened about six months before their first meeting. They actually never talked about it until this day. “There was one of the biggest crowds this town saw in decades.”, reminisces Harvey.

“I… I was indisposed.” says Mike dismissively. “How was it?” He is genuinely curious.

“Abnormally quiet for New York.” Harvey reaches out for his memories of that day.

The city was destroyed to a great degree after the battle. People lost their households, their relatives and friends, everything they owned… and they still came to bid farewell to the city’s most devoted superhero.

“I still don’t know how S.H.I.E.L.D. pulled that off, but no one ever found out his real name.”, admits Harvey. “The body was too destroyed, so they put his costume on a display instead. I returned there a month later and there were still so many thank-you cards…”

Harvey spent two hours just sitting at the graveyard and reading them, one by one. Of course he didn’t make it even to the half, but still remembered a few.

He saved my daughter from a burning garage. I thank him every day when I put her to sleep. I will never forget.

I was a hostage during a bank robbery. I had a gun pressed to my temple. I owe you my life, Spider-Man.

And the one written with a child’s hand with big and crooked letters: I was afraid when the bad man came. He hurt mommy and wanted to hurt me too. Then you – Spider-Man came and you made him go away. Me and mommy are OK now. I hope you are OK there too.

The last one made Harvey feel wetness in the corners of his eyes. But he was all alone then and he will never admit it to anybody. Even Mike. Because Harvey Specter doesn’t cry, especially not after some spidery self-appointed hero.

“Harvey” Mike’s gentle voice pulls him out of his thoughts. “Let’s get out of here finally. I’ve got enough of this building for today, don’t you?”

“We still have next to nothing for our case.” Harvey points out, but grabs his coat anyway, as if he anticipated that Mike would say:

“Does it make a difference if we figure something out here or at your place?”, which Mike obviously does say indeed.

 

Chapter Text

“You would be surprised what people you trust would do when someone puts them in position where they think they don’t have a choice.”

 

As it quickly turns out, Mike’s insistence on leaving work is one of the most life changing decisions in his life. Neither he nor Harvey anticipate what they will come upon in Harvey’s apartment.

At first, everything seems just fine, that is until Mike’s entire body fills with something he hasn’t felt very often in the last few years.

The spider-sense.

It tingles, the crawling sensation just beneath his skin, yelling at him to prepare for the worst. Mike sees Harvey almost in slow motion, watching him approach the door and take the keys out of his pocket. Mike feels the adrenaline rushing through his veins, his eyes become vigilant, ears sensitized for every unusual sound in the area, his whole body readied for action.

He acts purely on instinct.

Harvey twists the key in the keyhole, but before he can reach for a doorknob, Mike pushes him aside with the strength of a trained baseball player and barges into Harvey’s apartment.

“Stay here!”, he orders, which is totally vain, because Harvey is not a person to follow orders, especially when he doesn’t understand the grounds for them.

Spider-sense has never been wrong and this time is no different.

“What the fuck?!” Mike raises his voice to purposefully attract attention, because he finds himself standing eye to eye with a thief plundering Harvey’s living room. Which wouldn’t be even half as bad if it weren’t for the bag the thief is holding.

Mike’s bag.

They exchange glances, Mike and a thief, and then the second one drops the bag back onto the floor and that’s when Mike notices one of the six brass figurines still squeezed in the thief’s left hand.

Mike goes livid. It happens in one second, his whole world re-evaluates. One moment he’s Mike Ross, a genius fake lawyer, thinking about his cancelled engagement and coming up with the ideas to win the case. Then he sees the figurines, the man wearing black cargo pants caught red-handed stealing them, gun in a holster by his hip-- and that’s when he ceases to be just Mike.

He doesn’t even realise he’s made any actual decision, but just a second later one of Harvey’s kitchen knives rests loosely in his palm.

“You have three seconds to give the statues back.” Mike doesn’t try to sound threatening or intimidating. He simply eyes the man from head to toe, realizing the other does exactly the same thing to him.

Mike’s stance is not calm, but steady. His hand doesn’t shiver, his voice doesn’t waver.

Mike know he doesn’t need to verbalise his threats, because everything the opponent needs to know is in his eyes. And Mike knows there won’t be any hesitation.

“They are not yours to keep.” The thief observes harshly.

“Mike, what the hell?” Suddenly, Harvey is right behind him, not understanding the situation in the slightest.

“Stay out of this.”, Mike says in commanding voice. The last thing he needs is Harvey watching this scene. But he supposes he can’t do much to help it right now. He only decides to move slightly to the left, standing right on the line between Harvey and the thief.

Harvey is taken aback by not only by the gesture, but also with the way Mike’s made it. Confidently, without even a hint of hesitation in his posture. Like shielding Harvey with his own body was the most natural thing for him to do in a situation like this.

“They are not yours to keep either.”, replies Mike, focusing his attention back on the intruder. “Hand them over now and maybe I will let you leave this place in one piece.”

Harvey has never heard Mike using such tone of voice. It is grim, low and deadly serious, which is why Harvey throat suddenly goes really dry. He’s never seen Mike behaving like that.

“That’s a generous offer, but sadly I will have to decline.” The thief seems to be mocking Mike, but Harvey notices that he doesn’t really take his eyes off Mike’s hand; the one holding the knife. “My superior doesn’t leave much room for failure.”

“Your choice.”, replies Mike dryly.

This is one of very few times in his life when Harvey can truthfully say he doesn’t have the slightest idea of what will happen next.

He certainly doesn’t anticipate Mike to throw the knife precisely in the direction of the thief’s left arm. But the confrontation doesn’t end there. Actually, it’s just the beginning. The whole situation lasts only for about twenty seconds, but it seems like hours.

Mike’s moves almost at the speed of light, or so it looks like to Harvey.

Mike throws a knife, the thief dodges it in one well-trained movement, doing a forward roll. But Mike doesn’t stay still either. He runs across the room, bends slightly when passing by his black sports bag and clenches his fist, giving it the impetus. The thief ends the roll and immediately tries to stand back on his feet, but Mike’s is already waiting for him. His fist meets with the man’s jaw, the thief’s head falls backwards, but his right hand reaches for a gun.

The scuffle is over as quickly as it started. Mike steps back, raising both of his hands, the gun pointed steadily at his head.

Harvey holds his breath.

“Who the hell are you, Mike Ross?” The intruder’s voice is unbelieving and hoarse.

“Maybe you should have done your homework before trying to steal something from me.”, suggests Mike coldly. Harvey still doesn’t hear neither hesitation nor even a hint of fear in his voice.

“It’s suffice that I know what I am stealing.”, replies the man with a smug smile, yet still cautious and somehow weary. The bruise already starts to show on his jawline. Mike, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to feel any discomfort in his hand at all.

“Do you, really?”, asks him Mike, his tone condescending.

The man watches him closely for a few seconds, holding the gun steadily, but doesn’t respond to this question. He glances around the room.

“I wonder how are you planning on escaping…”, muses Mike and Harvey gets the feeling he shamelessly leads the man on.

“What makes you think I won’t just shoot the both of you?”, confronts the man boldly.

“We’ll just move away from the hallway, slowly, and let you go. No one needs to get hurt.”, says Mike calmly, not really answering the thief’s question.

Harvey is actually bemused by Mike’s suggestion. If he wanted to let the man go all along, why take the risk of engaging in a fight in the first place? But for once he realises he lacks information so much that he decides not to interfere in any way.  

The situation plays as Mike proposed. Harvey treads carefully behind Mike’s back as the thief approaches the door, skirting round Mike. Harvey doesn’t like that he’s basically hiding behind Mike’s back all the time, but that’s exactly what Mike’s hand orders him to do in a tiny gestures, waving at him continuously to stay out of the score. He will have words with Mike later, but right now he just doesn’t want anyone to get shot and Mike seems to be handling this situation like a pro.

Which actually arises plethora of questions in Harvey’s mind.

 

When the intruder disappears behind the door and the sound of his steps dies away, Harvey finally focuses his gaze back on Mike. But instead of his eyes, he meets only the back of his head, because Mike continuously stares at the door.

“Mike, care to explain?”, prompts him Harvey.

Mike finally turns around, but his posture isn’t getting any more relaxed. His blue eyes radiate with determination, but also sadness. He licks his lips tentatively.

“I can’t right now.”, he replies at last. “I have to go.” With these words, Mike approaches his bag lying in the middle of Harvey’s living room, searches something in it hastily for several second and finally takes a small electronic device out of it with a sigh of relief.

“Where?” Harvey tracks Mike’s doings carefully with his eyes, but doesn’t move an inch himself. He has so many assumptions and so many questions spinning in his mind that he doesn’t even know where to start.

“I must get those statues back.”, explains Mike quietly.

Why? What are these statues? Why are they so important? Who was that guy? How did he know where to find you? How do you know how to fight? Why didn’t you tell me about it? What do you hide?

From all of those questions, Harvey decides on the most matter-of-fact one:

“How will you find him?”

Mike stops mid-step, surprised by Harvey’s choice.

“I put a tracker on him.”

Why do you have such things at hand? What do you need them for? Where did you get them?

“When did you manage to do that?”

“When I hit him.”

Harvey rises his eyebrows in bewilderment. The scuffle didn’t last longer than a few seconds.

“That’s not possible.”, observes Harvey sternly.

Mike only raises his hand with the tracker up and turns the tiny screen towards Harvey. There is a map of New York and a red beeping moving dot, pinpointing the location.

“I’m sorry, Harvey. I can’t explain right now. I can’t let him get out of range.”

He is already by the door when Harvey asks bitterly:

“Why did you lie to me about who you really are?”

Harvey doesn’t need to ask if Mike did it. It’s as plain as day, he doesn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to put two and two together. Mike wouldn’t be able to fight like this, to act so calmly in high-stress situation if he didn’t have some sort of combat training. Mike wouldn’t be in possession of some possibly dangerous stuff if he wasn’t… involved in something. In something Harvey had no previous information about.

Mike takes a deep breath and focuses his apologetic gaze on Harvey for a second.

“I never lied to you about who I want to be.”, Mike replies truthfully and grabs the doorknob.

“Will you come back here tonight?”, Harvey rushes the last question, which stops Mike one more time.

“Do you want me to?”, asks Mike in turn, surprise lingering in his eyes.

Harvey hesitates only for a second.

“I do.”

 

 

 

When Mike steps outside, he hesitates what to do. He looks up, traces the path in the middle of the buildings and almost raises his hand to shoot the web.

Instead, he raises his hand and calls the cab.

The dot stops moving about half an hour later and Mike tells the driver to pull up literally in the middle of nowhere, just outside the city. The cabbie looks like he has to bit his tongue not to ask about his sanity, but he does what he’s told to. Mike pays and the cab leaves him alone by the road.

Mike is about a kilometre away from the dotted thief. Even though he’s condition is nowhere near what it used to be, he runs all the way and doesn’t even sweat. Finally, he sees a huge fence and a couple of production hall-like buildings. There is a barbed wire on the top of the fence and tones of security cameras deployed all over the area. What he doesn’t notice, though, is the name of a company or the owner anywhere on the building or the equipment.

Breaking in imperceptibly doesn’t pose much of a challenge for him. Old habits die hard, after all.

 

Mike retrieves statues without much trouble and attention. He manages to avoid another confrontation with the thief, as it turns out he left his booty in one of the production halls.

Mike spends there only forty five minutes, yet it’s more than enough for him to know everything he needs to about these premises. What he finds there, though, makes his blood boil.

No rest for the wicked, Mike thinks bitterly and leaves the grounds, his mind spinning with plans and possibilities. He heads home, to Harvey.

 

 

Mike finds Harvey sitting on his couch, a glass of scotch placed firmly in his hand. The room is dimly-lit, there is only one bulb shining onto the kitchen counter and thus lightening the darkness of the living room almost accidentally. Harvey is still wearing his black vest onto the white shirt, only his jacket is hung over the backrest.

Hearing the door opening, Harvey raises his eyes to meet Mike’s.

“You’re back.”, observes Harvey dryly. Mike supposes Harvey didn’t believe he would be.

“I am.” Mike simply doesn’t know what else to say.

The silence is stretching for a couple of seconds, and Mike wonders if this is the end of it all. Of his life as a lawyer, of being Harvey’s friend, of putting his mind to a good use, of living like his grandmother always wanted him to. He knows no lie can last forever, but still realises he irrationally hoped that this time would be different.

“What do you want me to do, Harvey?”

“I want you to be honest with me. Are you even able to do so?” Harvey’s voice is accusing, but Mike cannot really blame him for it. After what he has witnessed.

“Me being honest with you about this puts you in danger way more than me being a fraud.”, replies Mike.

“Are you a terrorist? A spy? An undercover agent?” Harvey would never allow such idiocy to come out of his mouth, but after today’s event’s, those options don’t seem so far-fetched anymore.

Mike raises his eyebrows in bemusement.

“Definitely not a terrorist.” Mike decides to focus on the one that he can truthfully exclude.

“I bet that’s exactly what a terrorist would say.”, deadpans Harvey, but Mike can clearly see that even though this entire situation put him on edge, he isn’t serious this time. Mike cracks a shy smile.

“I suppose.”, he nods and takes a deep breath, eyeing Harvey tentatively. He knows he’s pushing it. “I think it all goes down to you being able to trust me.”

Harvey goes still.

“How can I? Tell me Mike, why should I trust you? How can I know that you aren’t lying to me again?”

Mike doesn’t really want to dive too deep into that topic. But still, the reply forms almost absent-mindedly in his mouth. He keeps his voice calm and steady, tries not to be a smart-ass about it, so in the end it turns to be quite dry.

“Harvey, if you knew, it wouldn’t be trust anymore.”

At first, Harvey looks pissed off, as if he took this answer as yet another evasion from honesty. For a moment Mike thinks he pushed it too far and Harvey will simply throw him out of his apartment, no explanation whatsoever. Mike goes still and waits to see how the situation will unfold.

Harvey tightens his fingers around the glass of Scotch and scrutinizes Mike’s face carefully. Mike is not sure what he sees there, because all he feels right now is fear, exhaustion and bitterness. Fear that this is yet another time he has to leave his life and everyone he loves behind in order to be someone he doesn’t even want to be anymore. Exhaustion because a case involving the six statues should be closed and buried for a long time, so the mere idea that it is not, makes his skin crawl and Mike thinks of the history repeating itself. It makes him also question the sole purpose of his existence, of everything he has done for the world. Does it even make a difference? And finally, bitterness, because of the conclusions he draws from those aforementioned questions are not optimistic ones.

So yes, Mike doesn’t know what emotion visible on his face could possibly change Harvey’s attitude towards his words, but apparently there is something, because Harvey doesn’t order him to get out of his sight, even though a second ago he was on the verge of doing so. But instead he sighs and leans back on the couch with a tiny gesture of his hand inviting Mike to join him.

“Tell me everything you can.”, asks Harvey decisively.

Even though one minute earlier Mike would be more than reluctant to agree, now he simply starts to filter information in his head and begins picking everything that is important, but not endangering. At least, not endangering too much.

All this happens because once Mike really feels that his whole life is about to end, he realises how much he wishes for this particular lie to last, how accustomed to it he has become, how important it is for him now. More than he has let himself to believe, apparently. And on the spur of the moment he decides that maybe letting Harvey in just a little bit is not worse than letting go of Harvey himself.

Loyalty is a two way street, Mike recalls Harvey’s words. Trust is a two way street too, he realises on his own.

Mike sits beside Harvey and takes a deep breath.

“It started about seventy years ago. You must have heard of a Super Soldier initiative that created Captain America.”, begins Mike. Harvey frowns and nods, but doesn’t interrupt. “Well, it was a success, of course, but the purpose of the initiative was to create a whole army of Super Soldiers. So after the explosion in the lab and after losing the formula, the military tried to come up with it once again. After many trials and errors they successfully created yet another bunch of Super Soldiers, but with certain flaws. They powers weren’t permanent. Together with Cap they were called “The Six American Warriors”, as you have probably heard.” Once again, Harvey silently nods. “But do you know how and when their story ends?”

Mike is impressed that even though Harvey has no idea why Mike has begun telling his story with those seemingly unrelated information, he still manages to listen patiently.

Harvey simply shakes his head and waits for further explanation.

“Seven years ago.”

This is the first time Harvey decides to step in.

“But Captain America is dead for a half of a century. And the other five warriors must have been too old for superhero business by then.”, he observes clear-headedly.

“Yeah, well, they were a bit old”, admits Mike. “But still alive and kicking.”, he adds with amused smile. He remembers clearly what the retired superheroes were capable of and in no way will he belittle their services. “And about Captain… well, he was pronounced dead, but what actually happened is a longer story. The story that I’m actually about to tell you now.”

“I really hope that you will tell me eventually what it has to do with you.”, mutters Harvey.

“I will.”, promises Mike. “But right now, just listen.” Harvey takes a sip of Scotch and prompts Mike to continue. “In the 1940s Red Skull and the Nazis invented something called The Doomsday Project. For many years nobody had known what it was meant for because The American Warriors pulled the rug from under Red Skull’s feet. But that fight was not an easy one and sacrifices had to be made. It was Cap who made them. During the fight with Red Skull he pushed him into the vortex of energy produced by the device and together they disappeared, transferring their fight beyond the dimension of space and time.

The five remaining warriors dissolved the team and went their own ways, but they had not enough strong will to destroy the Doomsday Complex, as it would mean the inevitable end of their leader.

About seventy years later, that is exactly seven years ago, our new criminal mastermind, called The Kingpin, found out about the project and decided to try once again to put this device to use. This is where Spider-Man stepped in and gathered the American Warriors once again. But they weren’t able to stop their enemies from laying their hands on the Doomsday Complex. The vortex got turned on once again, Captain America and Red Skull came out of it, their youth frozen in time, still fighting relentlessly. Even though at the beginning the fight seemed to be lost, even though Red Skull managed to use the devise and create a being called Electro, Spider-Man and the Six American Warriors managed to win eventually.

I don’t know what the official story was, but I’m sure you remember the damage made to New York during this fight. It wasn’t comparable to what happened during the alien attack, but still.

And the ending of this story proves that history does repeat itself. In the end, Captain America did exactly the same thing as seventy years earlier. He went together with Red Skull into the vortex and they disappeared once again.

But this time his brothers-in-arms didn’t hesitate and they destroyed the whole Doomsday Complex to prevent the history from ever repeating itself anymore.” Mike finished this part of a story and cleared his throat.

“Apart from wondering how do you know about it all, I also still don’t understand what it has to do with you. Have you worked in S.H.I.E.L.D.?”

“No. But I was involved in this situation in the way that I would rather not disclose. This is a key factor that may pose danger to anybody who has this information. I don’t want to put you in that position. But I can tell you that for past seven years there was no sign that the Doomsday Project is all but forgotten.”

“What changed?”

“There is one more thing you need to know to understand it all. The Doomsday Complex couldn’t be opened without six characteristically designed keys. They were in the shape of ancient Egyptian gods…”

Harvey let out a loud breath, finally catching up. Mike noticed it, but continued anyway.

“I had them only as a memorandum, nothing more. I never thought I would be forced to protect them, because I also never thought anyone would be interested in getting them, now that the Doomsday Complex is destroyed. Imagine my surprise when I saw someone stealing them today.”

“But if the Complex is destroyed, why do you care?”

“It there was no use for them, nobody would risk stealing them.”, replies Mike. His strategic thinking swings into the high gear as he not only tells Harvey the story but also simultaneously calculates what he should do next in these circumstances.

“So you believe someone wants to rebuilt this complex?”

“I didn’t know what to think when I saw the thief, but I had to find out. And now I don’t just believe. Tonight I’ve seen the complex rebuilt. It’s just outside the New York City.”, explains Mike, disclosing what he has done after he left Harvey’s apartment.

“You broke into it?”

“Plausible deniability, Harvey.” Mike shrugs apologetically.

“So you did.”, realises Harvey with bemusement. “I hope you’ve got enough brains and skills not to get yourself caught.”, he mutters disapprovingly.

“Don’t worry, I do.”, assures him Mike, starting to feel better once he deduced from Harvey’s words that he does worry about him indeed.

“So, what are you planning on doing about this complex? Can you call it in somehow? Shouldn’t S.H.I.E.L.D. handle such things?”, suggests Harvey.

Mike frowns and shakes his head.

“Nah, to be honest, I trust S.H.I.E.L.D. as far as can throw them. I might have worked with them once or twice, but that’s all. They’re too shady for my liking. Besides, I work alone.”, says Mike decisively and Harvey has an impression that he talks about what he had been doing before fake-degree thing. That’s why Harvey decides to point out:

“I don’t know how it had been before we met, Mike. But now? You don’t work alone anymore. If you don’t want me involved, go and find somebody else. I don’t want you to face this situation all alone.”

Mike actually thinks for a second that his ears are failing him. Did Harvey come to terms with Mike’s revelations just like that? And maybe even gave him his blessing to get involved even further?

“How can you be so calm about it?” Mike can’t hide his confusion.

“Believe me, I’m not. But from what I can see in your eyes, you won’t let it go, it’s far too serious. There’s no point in asking you to. So as I can see it, I’ve got two options. Primo, tell you to get the fuck out, because you’ve lied to me. Again. And probably about much more serious matter. Secondo, accept that you have hidden something, trust that you’ve had a good reason for it and make sure you don’t end up in some even deeper shit. And you can see now which option I went for.”, explains dryly Harvey.

“Thank you, Harvey.”

“Don’t thank me. Just make sure you’ve got backup before you take another step into this.”

“I will. But seriously, Harvey, thanks for having my back. I didn’t… I didn’t think you would… actually, I didn’t think anyone would…”

“I’m not anyone, kid.”

“Yeah, I know. You are Harvey Specter, badass lawyer, who doesn’t lose. And about that last thing…”

“Hm?”

“I know how to win our Spider-case.”

 

“When you're backed against the wall, break the goddamn thing down.”

 

“We’ll put Joseph Robertson on a stand.”, resolves Mike. “He worked in Daily Bugle with Jameson and with Parker, so he can prove that Parker didn’t feel any pressure from Jameson. And he left the newspaper after Parker’s death, so Tanner won’t be able to argue that he’s biased.”

“That’s true only if we work under the assumption that Parker really didn’t feel that pressure.”, points out Harvey.

“He didn’t and Robertson will confirm it, trust me on this one.”, assures him Mike.

“I will.” This statement surprised even Harvey himself, let alone his associate. “But Mike… may I count that one day you will explain it all to me?” 

Mike looks at Harvey completely stunned. He didn’t expect to hear a question like that.

And suddenly Mike realises he doesn’t have a problem with answering this question.

“Of course you may.”, he replied, smiling at Harvey kindly.

As they are both lawyers, they understand perfectly one thing about this conversation: “one day” doesn’t mean “one day in the near future”. Rather quite the opposite.

 

 

Convincing Robertson to take a stand isn’t hard at all. To be honest, all it takes is for them to introduce themselves as Jameson’s lawyers.

“What can I do to help him?”, asks Robertson and Mike knows their case is already won, even if Harvey isn’t so sure yet.

“Peter was a great man”, begins Robertson when they bring him into Harvey’s office and ask about Parker. “Probably one of the best people I have met in my life.”

“But how can you prove Jameson didn’t force him to go to the battle?”, asks Harvey.

Robertson looks attentive for a moment, gathering thoughts.

“Listen, gentleman”, Robertson measures them both carefully with his scrutinising eyes. Apparently what he sees in them, prompts him to continue. “In court I will say that Peter may have been a young man, but he had the spine of an old and experienced one. I will assure the jury that he was my friend and I knew him, therefore I know he couldn’t be manoeuvred into something he didn’t want to do. If Peter went to that battle, it was of his own free will.”

“You being sure didn’t convince me and it won’t convince the jury. I need some solid evidence.” Harvey sounds annoyed, because he still can’t make a case. He still has nothing. 

“I can’t convince the jury.”, admits Robertson. “But I can convince you under a condition that you won’t use that information in court. In fact, I want to be sure this information doesn’t get out of this room.”

Mike freezes suddenly. He immediately realises what Robbie wants to say. He knows it’s impossible, it should be, because Robbie has never found out about it, but his tone of voice tells Mike otherwise. And even if Mike knows what’s about to happen, he has no real means to prevent it.

“If you have such condition, then I might as well not have this information at all, because if I can’t use it, then there’s no purpose in me knowing.” replies Harvey sharply, and Mike almost breathes in relief. This feeling doesn’t last long, though.  

“The purpose is simple.”, responds Robertson calmly, not affected at all by Harvey’s outburst. “You don’t believe Jameson didn’t make Peter go there, so you can’t bring yourself to care about the outcome of this case like you should. If I change your mind about Jameson, then I change your attitude towards this case. And then I hope you can figure something out, because no one is called the best closer in the city for no reason.”

“Then you clearly know nothing about who I am because I don’t care whether or not Jameson made Parker go.” Harvey’s voice is hardened. “I just care about evidence that can prove his innocence. If you can’t help with that, then this conversation is pointless.” Harvey tries to stand up but Mike catches his arm and stops him.

He isn’t sure himself why he has done it. But suddenly his fingers are tightened around Harvey’s forearm and Mike realises he has unconsciously made a decision. And he’s going to act accordingly. Because if there was any person on a planet who is worth knowing, Mike wouldn’t pick a better one. Robbie has read them right.

“Harvey”, he says gently. “Just listen to him. What harm can it do to our case?”, he reasons.

“My condition still stands.”, stresses Robertson and Harvey nods in annoyance.

“I get it, we get it”, he corrects. “Just spit it out. What proof do you have that Peter went to the battle of his own free will?”

Robertson sighs.

“Because photos or not, he would have gone there anyway.”, he explains quietly, but obviously with a heavy heart. “Because Peter Parker was the Spider-Man.”

 

And once again, silence falls

“Shit”, says Mike.

Till the very end, he hasn’t been entirely sure that Robbie will say that. But he did. And Mike isn’t sure how to react.

“Shit”, admits Harvey.

Of course it makes sense for him too. The fact that Peter Parker was the only one who could get the clear shots of Spider-Man. And that they both died on the same day (even though it was the day many other people died too, so it couldn’t have made anybody suspect anything) and presumably in a similar way. Peter’s body was massacred beyond recognition and so was the Spider-Man’s.

“It doesn’t help our case.”, says Harvey after a few long minutes. “But it does answer some questions.”, he admits.

Oh no, no, no. If it had to be revealed, it might as well come in handy, thinks Mike, desperately trying to come up with something useful. It turns out, he doesn’t need more than three seconds.

“Actually”, Mike dares to suggest. “I believe it helps it a lot. We just have to tell this just one other person.”

“Out of question!”, protests Robertson immediately. “That was not what we agreed to!”

“I know.”, says Mike conciliatorily, trying to calm Robertson down. “But if you just listen to me, you will see that it will not endanger the Spider-Man’s secret identity to be revealed any further.”

“Who are you talking about?”, asks Harvey finally.

“You’re not at your best today, are you, Harvey?” Mike looks at him with a crooked smile and if it weren’t for their companion, Harvey would’ve just kicked him in the ankle. “I’m talking about Travis Tanner, of course.”, says Mike smugly.

 

 

 

Harvey stands in front of utterly flabbergasted Travis Tanner, not even trying to hide a smirk on his lips.

“So as you can see, it’s a win-win for the both of us.”, he continues his speech. “Or a lose-lose, depends on your attitude.”, he amends. “But the fact is, without Peter Parker, you don’t have a case. If you pull him out in court, I will reveal that he was the Spider-Man. And if the Spider-Man himself worked for the person presumably defaming him, then I will easily crush you in front of the jury. On the other hand, if you don’t pull out Peter Parker, then my previous line of defence will obliterate yours.” Harvey is deliberately savouring the word obliterate on his tongue. “So you talk to your clients and explain them what a bad idea this suit was. Moreover, you sign the confidentiality agreement right now, stating that you won’t reveal the Spider-Man’s identity.”

And of course it can’t be that simple. Travis is clenching his teeth at the beginning, but after a few second his face lightens up slyly.

“You see, Harvey, I don’t really believe that you would reveal his identity, even if it meant losing the case.”, guesses Tanner with a crooked smile.

“Then you clearly didn’t learn anything from our previous meetings.”, replies Harvey confidently. “Because there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to win my cases.”

“Then let’s go to court, because I have no qualms about revealing the Spider-Man’s identity to the public.”

Tanner feels he has won this round. But then Mike runs the conference room and hands him a file, looking indecently smugly.

Harvey glares at him, because after all this time Mike should’ve learned a thing or two about being late to the meetings. But in this glare there was also a silent question, which Mike answers with his confident stance.

“You see, Tanner, I think you’re full of shit.”, states Mike calmly. “You don’t want the Spider-Man’s identity revealed just like us.”

“And why would that be, kid?” Tanner is visibly more curious than afraid. Harvey doesn’t like that one bit. But he has faith in Mike. The kid is never that confident without a reason.

Mike actually feels like shit, but doesn’t let it show on his face. He knows that what he’s about to do is at least morally debatable, but once he decides, he doesn’t back down. And he decides to believe he does the right thing in the end.

“Because you owe the Spider-Man something. We all do, but you owe him something specifically. And you owe it to your little niece too.”

And that is when Harvey knows Mike has hit the jackpot, because Tanner immediately turns pale.

“What do you know?”, he asks angrily.

“I know that Spider-Man got crushed by an office block coming down. And I know that he saved each and every person from that building, including one little girl who had hidden under the desk. Her mother couldn’t find her anywhere and begged the Spider-Man to go back and look for the child.” Mike allows himself to take a deeper breath. “He did, he found her and threw the girl out of the window, with his web securing her. But for Spider-Man himself, it was too late to escape.” Mike swallows sadly. “That woman was your sister and the little girl was your nice, Christine. So yes, Tanner, you owe him much.”, Mike concludes.

“I won’t even ask how you know all that…”, begins Tanner bitterly. “But hasn’t it occurred to you that those events may be the exact reason why I took this case in the first place? That it’s for my niece that I want all these horrible allegations by Daily Bugle to be formally dismissed?”

“Yeah, it has occurred to me.”, admits Mike, sitting in front of Tanner. “But Tanner, I need you to understand one thing. The Spider-Man is a symbol while Peter Parker was a human. Me and Harvey want to preserve that symbol in people’s memory. Now people remember the costume and the idea. And when this case attracts publicity, and it inevitably will if we go to court, some newspaper will find these photos of Peter Parker.” Mike takes two photographs out of the file and presents them to Harvey and Tanner.

Both of them depict a reporter standing in the foreground with a microphone in her hand, probably describing a course of battle and informing about the casualties. But in the background there is a team of paramedics carrying a body on the stretcher. Nobody would be able to behold this body if it weren’t for a gust of wind that blew in the exact moment of taking this picture, and took off the piece of cloth the body was covered with.

On one of these pictures the body is blurred, so that it could be showed in public television. But the other is the original one.

“As you can see here”, Mike continues as if he hasn’t just shown them the most horrifying photo of a deformed human body. “S.H.I.E.L.D. had already taken care of the Spider-Man’s costume thus Peter Parker is naked here. Therefore we can see his multiple injuries very clearly and in gruesome details.”

Harvey isn’t moved by the photos even half as deeply as he is by the fact that Mike explains it all like he is talking about the weather. He is calm, pertinent and almost emotionless.

“So, Mr Tanner, please imagine what would happen to your niece if she saw these photos? Wouldn’t she be terrified with the knowledge what saving her life actually did to her hero? And let me assure you that if the identity of the Spider-Man were to become widespread, she would certainly see these photos one day and she would be devastated.”

Tanner stays silent for a minute.

“You both always seem to think that I am the bad guy here.”, he starts finally, shaking his head with clear anger. “But look at what you’re doing. I was trying to do the right thing for once and clear the Spider-Man’s name. And in the end it’s you who threaten me and my family with some gruesome photos.”

Mike sighs and hides the photos back to the file.

“I’m not threatening you, Mr Tanner. These were merely my predictions. I know what you may think about us right now, but I would like you to look at it the other way.

Jameson never published one bad word about the Spider-Man after his death. And people always turned a blind eye on his crusade against him anyway. Even the Spider-Man himself didn’t mind that much because he supplied Jameson with the photos.

So do you really believe that the people of New York need some kind of apology or retribution from Jameson? That it will change their views on the Spider-Man? Just look at the footage from his funeral. All those people came to say goodbye to him in spite of some shitty articles that nobody really believed in.

But do you know what those people really need right now? The jobs that Jameson provides. So please, Mr Tanner, don’t sink the whole ship when all you really want is to bitch-slap the captain.”, finishes Mike reasonably.

And once again, the silence overwhelms the room. Harvey is proud and concerned at the same time. Mike has just made a really masterly move. He had strong arguments, talked in an imposing manner and literally left the opponent with ‘an offer he can’t refuse’.

But he just doesn’t seem like Mike anymore. Why isn’t he moved by that dead body? Why does he look so… detached?

“I think that the pupil finally surpassed his master, Harvey.”, admits Tanner, even in the face of a failure trying to get under his opponent’s skin. “Where do I sign, Mike?”

 

Sometimes good guys gotta do bad things to make the bad guys pay.

 

Thursday afternoon is full of sensations for both Harvey and Mike. Harvey is just glad they separated on their way to his condo this time, because he walks in on Jessica sitting comfortably in the middle of his living room.

[…]Harvey: ”Again? You know, I’d really prefer if I’d just give you the key, so that I wouldn’t have to wonder how you keep getting in.”

Jessica is looking as relaxed as if she owned the place. Harvey glances around his apartment, carefully checking if there is anything in plain sight that screams “Mike Ross crashes here from Monday”. There is obviously no denying that there was another human being at his place this morning. Being observant like she is, Jessica must have noticed two plates in the sink from today’s breakfast, which Mike didn’t put right into dishwasher, despite Harvey’s disapproving looks. Thank god Mike at least put his outwear in the closet, because seeing other man’s coat on the hanger would certainly make Jessica put two and two together immediately.

But from what he sees, even though he can’t really deny sharing an apartment, there is no obvious way that would get Jessica to figure out with whom.

And there is also the fact that Jessica didn’t come to discuss his private life, but a professional one.

Jessica: “And I’d really preferred if you would check your cell phone every once in a while, so that I wouldn’t have to keep doing this.”

Harvey: “I have a cell phone?”

Jessica: “You do.[…]

It all gets down to Hardman, after all, muses Harvey inwardly. Some time ago things started to be a downward spiral as far as the previous name partner is concerned. Hardman kept plotting with Jack Soloff and Jack Soloff kept blackmailing Louis and Louis kept… being Louis, which made everything a hundred times worse.

Jessica tries to regain control over matters but it backfires over and over again.

Now, when Harvey has this whole mess with Mike plaguing his mind, Charles Forstman has to come into picture, of course. Things can never be just bad. They always have to keep getting worse and worse with every other hour.

Harvey: “I’ll tell you what’s going on. Hardman’s been playing with us this whole time.”

Jessica: “What are you saying?”

Harvey: “I’m saying I need to go to see a guy about a thing.”[…]

 

As Jessica leaves and as Harvey is about to do the same, he realises that he shouldn’t face Forstman alone. It’s not that he is afraid or insecure. He simply reminds himself of what he told Mike the day before. And if he would rather Mike didn’t go into a fight all on his own, then maybe Mike would feel similarly about this situation?

Harvey knows that Mike’s fight and his fight with Forstman are not exactly of the same type, but he guesses that the rules don’t differ that much. Therefore, much to his own surprise, he finds himself calling Mike.

 

“Mike, do you want to serve some jail-time with me?”

That is certainly not something Mike anticipates to hear when he picks up the phone on his way back from the office.

“Just give me time to bake the file inside a cake and I’m right behind you.”, replies Mike playfully, because he can adjust to the changing situation very quickly and he is also quite well-versed in reading between the lines as far as Harvey is concerned.

“Then brace yourself. We’ll meet at my place in thirty minutes.”, announces Harvey.

“Can we make it an hour?”, asks Mike carefully.

“Why?”

“I’m… huh… I’m in the middle of something.”, replies Mike.

“Mike?” Harvey says only his name, but Mike clearly hears every question the man may want to ask.

“Don’t worry. I’m just doing what you told me to. Gathering reinforcements.”, explains Mike, hoping he would dispel Harvey’s apprehension.

Harvey hums, Mike assumes that in some sort of approval.

“Good. Then don’t let me interrupt you. Let me know later how it went.”, says Harvey after a couple seconds of hesitation.

“Sure.” Mike’s lips widen into a smile and he breathes with relief. He is amazed. He never supposed Harvey would be willing to give him that much benefit of the doubt. Because one thing Mike knows for sure – as he is not an idiot. First and foremost, Harvey has a lot of doubts about him right now.

 

 

Mike quickly decides to shrug these musings off for now. He has to focus on the task and he is closing in on his target.

Well, maybe ‘target’ was not the best word to use.

Mike is standing in front of a workshop. The entrance was at the back of a building, nicely hidden from random eyes. But Mike came here knowing exactly who he is looking for. He came right after work, still wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase, mostly because the looks of a newbie lawyer may be just what he needs in order not to get violently killed in the first five seconds of the encounter.

“Who are you?”, comes the harsh growl from under the broken car. Mike stops immediately and sees the scrutinizing look of some bluish, hollow and yet still lethal eyes.

“James Barnes?”, he asks just to make sure.

The man immediately tenses and gets up, ready to fight.

“Who are you and how do you know my name?”, he asks once again, his voice as cold as a Siberian night.

“I am a friend.” Mike does his best to stay calm and collected. Also, he is very careful not to do any rapid movements. “Or at least, I want to be. I know your story, Mr Barnes, or at least a part of it.”, he hurries to explain as much as he can before Barnes does something violent.

“What do you want from me?” Barnes cold voice heads straight to the point and Mike understands that underlying threat: tell me now and hope that I will like it, otherwise this conversation will be finished much quicker than it started.

“I need your help. It’s about Captain America.” Mike says slowly and calmly. “And I think you won’t need much convincing as soon as I tell you what it is about. All I ask right now is an opportunity to talk to you for about… fifteen minutes?”

Barnes eyes him silently for a while. Mike tries to look relaxed and probably fails a little for two main reasons. One: he knows exactly who he is facing and what that man is capable of. Two: Barnes is a lifelong spy (or even more than a lifelong, actually), so he reads people for a living. Almost like Harvey, but Barnes looks for something else in their eyes. Threat. Either way, Mike knows what Barnes will find in his eyes: truthfulness. Mike may be a bit scared and a bit wary, but his intentions are honest and it’s probably his best defence.

Finally, Barnes decides:

“Fine. You’ve got fifteen minutes. Your name?”

Mike hesitates for a moment. Eventually, he settles on the assumption that a lie lasts as long as it doesn’t actually falls apart. Fake it, till you make it, he thinks.

“Call me Mike.”

 

 

 

When Mike gets home, Harvey quickly fills him in the Charles Forstman situation and then they set off together to face one hell of a dirty businessman.

 

[…] “Harvey Specter, what a nice surprise. It’s even better that you brought your baby boyfriend to watch you fall.” Charles Forstman greets them while standing at the billiard table.

Mike stands one step behind Harvey, watching the situation closely, but deciding not to interfere. He’s learned enough about politics, business and different forms of power play. He still finds it very surprising, though, that inwardly he feels completely at ease letting Harvey take the lead.

“No, I brought Mike here to show him how one should handle the likes of you.”

Mike is vigilant during the entire conversation. It takes a few twists and turns, Charles and Harvey play each other in a masterly manner, neither deciding to back off. Harvey threatens to transfer Charles to a more secure facility, Charles shrugs it off.

Mike wonders what the hell that man wants from Harvey. The answer comes pretty quickly.

[…]”Wanna stop me? Step down.”, says Charles confidently, as if he knew he has the upper hand.

“What?” Harvey seems to be genuinely surprised by that demand.

“You resign, the money goes away.”, explains Forstman smugly.

Harvey looks lost for a second. Mike wants to step in that moment, but realises it will only make Harvey look weak in Charles’s eyes, so he withstands that urge, only clenching his fists angrily.

“I knew it.”, continues Forstman spitefully. “You care about the people there. Just like you cared about your little brother way back when.”

Mike realises there is a story there, one that he hasn’t heard about.

“No way.”, replies Harvey after a moment of thought. “No deal.”, he decides firmly.

But Forstman hasn’t finished yet.

“Now, before you give me an answer… You came here tonight, because you know you’re gonna lose anyway. So why not save whatever poor sap it is while you still can?”

Mike wants to punch the bastard. And punch him hard, probably with this strength he carefully tried not to use in the previous five years. Now all he can think of is an image of Charles Forstman on his knees, coughing from a punch to his gut, fear and surprise visible in his eyes. Mike knows that it may very easily come true, but he also knows he can crush this bastard in another way. More legal, more grown-up way. Less bleeding, more tearing Forstman’s life and fortune apart. In the long run, it will be much more satisfying.

“Why should I believe you would even live up to your end of the bargain?”, asks Harvey, which suddenly makes Mike sick, because he doesn’t want to hear Harvey considering this offer even remotely.

Forstman sits down on a couch, looking like he has already won.

“Because I don’t give a shit about your war with Daniel Hardman. And I sure as hell don’t give a shit about your firm. All I want to do is see you get down on your knees and say ‘I quit.’. And let me assure you, Harvey, that I’m gonna go after everybody you care about, one after another, till you finally give in. If it doesn't work with Jessica, maybe it will work out with your little boyfriend here.” Suddenly, Forstman’s look is focused entirely on Mike. His eyes are cold and calculative, threatening and hollow.

Mike doesn’t even flinch, just stands and responds with non-wavering look on his own. Finally he takes a few steps ahead, placing himself firmly at Harvey’s side.

“Mr Forstman”, he begins with fake politeness. “If you want to come at me, rest assured that I am not afraid. Whatever you throw at me, I will throw right back twice as hard.” Mike’s voice is steady and confident. Harvey is truly amazed by the amount of strength that Mike’s posture is emanating. Mike continues with adamant voice: “But if you think even for a second that I will ever help you bring Harvey down, no matter what circumstances, then you’d better back off from this fight when you still can. Because after I’m done with you, you will have no hope of seeing the walls of your prison from the outside ever again.”

Forstman laughs right in Mike’s face, looking at him disdainfully.

“You have still much to learn, kid. Never pick up a fight you cannot win, for one. I’m wondering if you will be still this adamant about protecting Harvey when you stand behind bars on your own.”

“I know how to pick my fights, Mr Forstman. Maybe it’s you who should do your research first?”, counters Mike calmly.

“I’ve done my research just fine. And thus I know that looking into the matter of your Harvard education was a truly enlightening experience.”

Harvey notices Mike flinching visibly, but he quickly regains his composure. He straightens his posture and laughs coldly. Harvey has never heard a laugh like that from Mike.

“Had you done your research really meticulously, you would know that some lines should never be crossed. And if you decide to do it anyway, then it’s you who will regret it when the time comes.” Mike’s gaze is placed firmly on Forstman as he takes a few steps forward and stops at arm’s length in front of him, scrutinizing him opponent boldly. “I’m not afraid of jail. Actually, it may be just what I need. But I won’t go down without a fight. So I dare you, Mr Forstman. Come at me with all you have and live to regret it.”

Chapter Text

“It’s not bragging if it’s true.”

 

“For the record, I really don’t like you getting involved in the fight with Forstman.”, says Harvey while sitting on the backseat with Mike. They are getting back to Harvey’s apartment after visiting Forstman in jail.

“Don’t worry about it, Harvey.”, assures him Mike. “I can take care of myself.”

“Can you?”, counters him Harvey sharply. “I didn’t have that impression a few years ago when we were facing the SEC.”

 

Mike sighs and starts massaging his temples slowly, his shoulders overwhelmed with tension. For a moment he doesn’t know how to respond, so he keeps quiet, but Harvey also keeps waiting for his answer.

“Things were different then.”, he replies calmly.

“This explains literally nothing, Mike.”, points out Harvey and with the help of his stare prompts the younger man to elaborate.

“I know, but I also don’t know what else to say. I just cared for different things back then. I got paralysed by the fear that someone might find out who I really am… and I don’t mean only the fraud part.” Mike explains quietly. “I’m not really sure what changed and why. But I’m not scared anymore.”

“Are you being resigned to lose or determined to win?”

“My feelings are on the former. My mind is on the latter.”

Harvey finds himself unable to ask what the hell it is supposed to mean.

 

 

James Barnes was never supposed to meet Harvey Specter, at least if Mike had anything to say on that matter. But apparently, he doesn’t. So when Harvey goes to see who is knocking on his door at 11 PM and finds himself face to face with a man much better built than himself, Mike immediately reacts and stands by his side before a thought “Holly shit, he has a metal arm!” reaches Harvey’s mind.

“What…”, starts Mike in bewilderment, automatically stepping in front of Harvey when the opportunity presents itself.

“I will help you.”, declares James sternly, completely ignoring Harvey’s presence.

Mike decides not to ask how Barnes has found his temporary accommodation – this guy was Russian spy for over a half of a century, he certainly has his methods. But that doesn’t mean Mike’s comfortable with it.

So he chooses to focus on the most pressing things.

“When?”, he asks, even though he already anticipates what answer he will receive.

“Tonight.”, replies Barnes grimly.

Mike has already noticed that Barnes is armed as if he was going to war. Hell, Mike thinks, maybe he is. Maybe we are, he corrects himself. From the look Harvey’s giving him, Mike realises the arms haven’t gone unnoticed by him either. He sends him a calming look, or at least tries to. There is literally no time to explain.

“Fine. Wait for me here, I’ll get ready. 5 minutes.”, requests Mike, because he’ll be damned if he let armed to the teeth ex-assassin enter Harvey’s condo.

Barnes is not really the type to talk when he doesn’t need to, so he only nods and steps back from the threshold.

God, this man is almost like a machine, thinks Mike as he retreats to Harvey’s apartment. He closes the door, because he might have found a common goal with Barnes, but he draws the line at trusting the guy more than he absolutely has to.

“This is your help?”, asks Harvey incredulously and maybe a bit angrily when Mike joins him in the living room.

Mike realises that this anger is only a physical display of Harvey’s worry. Mike’s not entirely surprised – Barnes is intimidating as hell.

“Yes. And before  you say anything else, just think for a while. It’s better to have him on my side, or on the opposite?”, says Mike, approaches his sports bag and starts digging in it.

“When I said “reinforcements” it’s not what I had in mind.”, admits Harvey, staring at Mike’s doings quite questioningly.

“I know”, Mike sighs and draws a set of dark clothes from his bag. Harvey eyes the clothes closely and realises it’s nothing out of the ordinary – just a black hoodie and dark grey (almost black too, actually) tracksuit bottoms.

Mike notices Harvey’s sceptic glare but shrugs it off. He doesn’t have the suit at hand and he certainly won’t go with Barnes in his regular suit and tie – his life in not that ridiculous just yet.

“You’re not going to tell me what is happening here any time soon, are you?”, guesses Harvey quite bitterly, folding his arms and leaning against his kitchen counter.

“I really can’t, Harvey. You surely realize by now how dangerous it is.” Mike gestures vaguely in the direction of Barnes standing behind Harvey’s closed door.

Harvey shifts uncomfortably, clearly unsettled by this whole situation. He looks like he wants to say something, but cannot really force the words out of his mouth. This internal struggle is not something Mike sees very often on Harvey, but he realises he has seen it quite a lot recently. Mike knows he’s the one to cause those feelings and hates himself for it.

“I do, Mike, that’s why I’m…” Harvey stops in mid-sentence, as if forcing himself to swallow the last word.

“You are?” Mike sends him a crooked smile, obviously trying to defuse the tension by a small banter. Harvey huffs quietly, appreciating the effort, even though they both know it’s not really effective. “I need to get changed.”, says Mike just to break the silence and heads for the bathroom.

It doesn’t last a minute before he comes out, fully dressed. He looks lost for a second, not knowing if he should go straight for the door or maybe talk to Harvey a bit more.

“Go if you have to”, prompts him Harvey.

But Mike doesn’t make any move. Instead, he meets Harvey’s eyes carefully and sighs quietly.

“Harvey, don’t worry about me.”, he says simply.

“I’m not wo…”, starts Harvey but again cuts himself off, as if changing his mind while speaking. “How can I not be worried, Mike?”, he says instead. His voice is so full of concern that it breaks Mike’s heart in half. “If I understand this correctly, and I believe I do, then you can even die tonight! And I don’t even know where you are going!” Harvey gets angrier and angrier with every word. “How can I stay calm when you go somewhere with a heavily armed man and when you both clearly know you’re gonna need to use these weapons? How can I sit and do nothing when you may as well be bleeding to death in some dark alley?! Tell me, Mike!”, he repeats, yelling.

Mike doesn’t look surprised by the outburst, but rather by the fact that Harvey really admitted to be worried. Either way, Mike doesn’t plan on getting involved in a shouting match, so he approaches Harvey slowly, his posture steady and radiating with calmness.

“Because I’ve been through worse, Harvey.”, he admits.

Harvey snorts.

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” His voice leaks with sarcasm.

“Actually, yeah”, states Mike firmly and looks Harvey directly in the eye. “Because it tells you that I am quite capable at this. I can handle it. I know it’s a lot to take in, but you have my word that I am not doing anything reckless. I know the extent of my abilities.” Mike tries to tell Harvey everything he can without really revealing any actual secrets. “I’m not going to lie to you. It is dangerous. But we are prepared and we have a lot to our advantage. I believe I should get out of it without even a scratch.”

Harvey lets out a deep breath he’s been probably holding for some time. He doesn’t look relieved, but maybe just a bit more composed.

“Okay”, he says after a couple of seconds. “Go there and do what you have to. But you will sit on your fucking ass and explain it to me, I mean really explain to me everything, and you will do it soon.”, says Harvey and it’s his I-don’t-take-no-for-an-answer tone of voice. “Now go. But I swear to God, if something happens to you tonight, I will kill you myself. Am. I. Clear?”

“Perfectly”, replies Mike and disappears behind closed door.

 

Only after a few minutes does Harvey come to a chilling realisation. Because if the soldier-whoever-he-is just showed up on his doorstep and agreed to help Mike, then how could he and Mike possibly have a pre-prepared plan?

Harvey can’t believe what his own mind tells him. Did Mike actually blatantly lie to him, unconscionably taking advantage of his unsettled state?

Harvey desperately wants to believe Mike wouldn’t do it. But the evidence tells him otherwise. He’s not sure whom he hates more – Mike for lying or himself for falling for it.

He slides down the kitchen counter and leans his back against it, sitting on the floor like a child. He feels the anxiety attack coming, but tries to fight it. To set his mind off the feelings of betrayal, disappointment and regret, he dials Dr’s Agard number and calls for an emergency session tomorrow.

 

 

*

 

 

Three hours and forty nine minutes later

 

“Mike!”, yells Harvey, rushing to his door when he hears them being opened. He knows he locked it when Mike left.

All his thoughts about Mike’s lies evaporate as soon as he sees the man leaning against the soldier with metal arm. Harvey notices that the lock in his door is broken and realises the soldier must have done it unintentionally. He probably hasn’t even noticed that the door resists opening.

“I’m fine, Harvey, don’t worry.” Mikes tries to calm him down, but it doesn’t help, because Harvey sees that Mike avoids standing on his left leg and keeps it few inches above the floor.

“I can see you’re not.”, counters Harvey, his worry mixing up with anger at Mike’s attitude. “Lay him on the couch, please.”, he says calmly to the soldier, deciding to add the last word only because he doesn’t look like someone taking orders well.

“It’s really not that bad.” Harvey hears gentle voice from the back of his hallway and turns around to look at its owner. He sees a tall man with broad shoulders and blonde short hair. He wouldn’t recognize his face if it weren’t for the blue worn out suit with American flag on it and a very characteristic round shield with the same pattern.

Harvey would think that the man is some sort of cosplayer, but it doesn’t really fit the situation. Also, he’s got multiple injuries on his face and body and his suit is torn in a few places, but despite that he doesn’t look like he needs medical attention. Actually, after a second glance, Harvey is able to conclude that he looks… relieved.

Harvey doesn’t know what to make of it.

“You are…? No way.”, says Harvey, raising his voice, cutting himself off. “Captain America is long de…” Suddenly Harvey remembers his conversation with Mike about this particular person and turns back again, catching Mike’s eyes with incredulity.

“No way.”, he repeats, looking at Mike and waiting for confirmation.

Mike, sitting finally on the couch, replies with a boyish smile.

“Way.”, he replies, his eyes glittering with joy.

Harvey scrutinizes the blonde man’s face once again with unbelieving eyes. It’s really beyond his imagination that this young man, about ten years younger than him actually, standing in his own apartment, in his hallway to be precise, is actually the American war hero, the one he read comics about when he was a child.

“Are you really Captain America?”, Harvey asks finally.

He doesn’t expect the man to shrug his shoulders a bit shyly.

“Yeah, though I’ve never thought I would be recognized even after… how much is it? 70 years?”, the man admits, looking around Harvey’s apartment as if it was some kind of a scientific laboratory.

“Yes, give or take.”, confirms Harvey.

“Well, a lot of things have changed, I see.”, observes Captain and Harvey is quite sure he’s talking about his modern décor.

“Don’t worry, we still have a lot of bad guys.”, comments Harvey. He still tried to figure out who the soldier actually is.

“One less, after tonight”, adds Mike vindictively. His left leg is stretched on the couch and Mike is inspecting his injury, but glancing once in a while in Harvey’s direction to follow the conversation.

“You need stitches.” That is the first thing the soldier says since they entered. His voice is harsh and low. Everything about this man screams “danger!”, but Harvey cannot fail to notice that Captain looks at him quite sadly, but also fondly.

“Harvey, do you have dental floss?”, asks Mike.

Harvey is sure he must have misheard. Or Mike is simply joking.  

“I do, but I also have the number to the closest hospital.”, he replies firmly.

“No hospitals.”, says Mike quickly, shaking his head. “It’s not serious, I’ve had much worse. It will heal within days. And hospitals ask questions.”, he reasons.

“I can sew.”, offers the soldier calmly.

“Yeah, I don’t doubt that”, replies Harvey with disapproval. He’s sure the soldier had to sew himself more than once, but it doesn’t mean he’s capable to sew Mike’s wound properly.

“Come on, Harvey. Bring the floss and let’s get this done. I don’t like it any more than you do, but it needs to be done. It’s just a few stitches.”, argues Mike.

 

 

A few stitches later

 

 

“Thank you”, says Mike, glancing at his reddened but again-in-one-piece calf. As it turns out, Barnes has really skilful hands. Mike is painfully aware that this adeptness in field medicine comes most probably out of his long war and espionage experience – he must have learned sewing on his own skin. Mike shudders at sole thought of it.

“Don’t mention it”, replies the soldier quietly and stands up from Harvey’s couch. “For what you did today, I will be forever in your debt.”, he adds casually, but everyone in the room knows that he means every word of it.

Harvey still has no idea what happened, but waits till he and Mike are able to talk face to face.

“No, you won’t.”, replied Mike, shifting uncomfortably. “Believe me or not, I had quite selfish reasons for doing this. I just didn’t want to have it hanging over my head.”, he explains quietly.

“Believe me or not”, begins the soldier firmly, “I don’t care what reasons you had. But if it weren’t for you, he wouldn’t be standing here right now.” He looks at his blond companion briefly.

“He’s right, we owe you”, admits Captain. “So if there is anything we can help you with, ever, don’t hesitate to ask for help.”

“I won’t”, concedes Mike finally. “But Captain…”, he says, sighing. “Don’t take offence, but I do hope I will never have to take you up on that offer.”

“None taken.”, replies Captain and smiles with understanding. He glances at the soldier and asks: “I think it’s time for us to leave.”

The soldier nods and heads for the hallway, passing Harvey with barely noticeable bow of his head that is probably meant as a farewell.

“Hey, Captain” Mike’s voice stops the blond man before he turns around. “I’m probably crossing the line here, cause it’s a bit personal…”, he begins tentatively, and yet carries on. “But you’ve been through a lot. You both have.”, he glances at Barnes too. “And you can go back to being a hero, because, as Harvey said, there is a lot of bad guys nowadays too. But there always will be bad guys and…” Mikes sighs. “What I’m trying to say is that… being a hero feels good, but it is also what gets you killed. And it mostly happens sooner than later. So I think sometimes one should know when to quit and try living instead of fighting.” At the end, Mike’s voice sounds just tired.

“Sometimes fighting is the only thing one has left…”, replies Captain bitterly.

“Sometimes when one simply looks around he might realise that’s not true at all.”, counters Mike as if he was talking about something very specific.

“If you start running once, you will never stop.”

“The irony is that for the past five years I’ve been desperately trying to stay, not run. But in the end it always catches up to me. But you? You’re young, declared dead, no one wants anything from you. You’ve got someone you care about. You’ve got a shot at normal life. Just… don’t waste it.”

“Thanks for advice, I’ll actually consider it.”, says Captain America, but his eyes are glittering with playfulness. “But let me tell you one thing, Mike.”, he adds seriously. “The way I see it”, he glances pointedly at Harvey, “You are in the exactly same position as I am.” He turns around and joins Barnes in the hallway. “Don’t waste it.”, he repeats Mike’s words. “Goodbye”, he says to Mike and turns to Harvey. “It was nice meeting you.”

And then they are gone.

 

 

When the footsteps behind the door quieten and finally disappear, Mike opens his mouth to provide Harvey with some sort of explanation. But as he catches Harvey’s eyes, words die in his throat.

Harvey looks at him with such a relief that Mike suddenly understands that he must have been worrying himself sick for the past few hours. Harvey’s face is still a bit pale and his breath is too steady for it to be natural and it means he must be forcing himself to calm down. And if this is a state Harvey’s in now, then Mike doesn’t even want to think about how he must have looked when he was alone, waiting for Mike to return.

Together, they’ve been through a lot and they’ve fought many fights. They’ve also done their fair share of worrying together, but all of that was different. Court fights cannot end up in someone getting hurt, beaten up, or even dead. They are brutal and fierce, of course, but that brutality is almost metaphorical in comparison with all those fights Mike has taken part in—no, took part in, because he doesn’t do that anymore.

Today was just a… tiny exception from the rule.

Harvey felt that difference on his own skin tonight.

So instead of explaining things, Mike simply gets up from the couch, effortlessly balancing on one leg.

“Harvey, I’m sorr…”, he begins, starting to limp towards the other man, but Harvey is faster and approaches him before Mike can take another step.

“Shut up, Mike”, he replies firmly.

For a brief moment Mike fears that Harvey’s getting angry again, but then he feels Harvey’s arms around his body, pulling him into a tight hug.

“Don’t you dare do something like that ever again.”, hisses Harvey to his ear, but doesn’t let go even an inch.

Mike gets over initial surprise and returns the embrace after a second’s hesitation. It feels weird only at the beginning, before he inhales deeply and Harvey’s scent enters his lungs. It immediately calms him down.

“I won’t.”, promises Mike solemnly. “I mean, as long as I have anything to say on the matter.”, he amends after a while – a while, which they spend entangled together and not even trying to extend the distance between each other.

Harvey’s arms are curled steadily around Mike’s back, which makes Mike feel irrationally safe. It’s a feeling he hasn’t thought he needed, but is now proven otherwise.

Mike’s chin finds its way to Harvey’s shoulder and stays there, because Harvey doesn’t protest verbally nor physically.

“Then you’d better make sure you do.”, replies Harvey quietly but firmly and combes Mike’s brown hair with his fingers gently, letting out a deep breath.

Mike realises he has really underestimated the amount of distress he has caused.

They stand like that much longer than it’s appropriate even between closest friends. They are both aware that certain line has been crossed but neither acts on this further nor even decides to acknowledge it out loud.

“I will”, promises Mike once again.

“Good.” Harvey lets him go but still stays close and eyes him from eye to toe suspiciously. “Except for leg, everything is in one piece, I hope?”, he scolds, as if he suddenly remembered he is supposed to be angry at Mike.

“Sure.”, assures him Mike, smiling brightly.

“So you can tell me now what exactly you have done tonight.”

Saving people, hunting things, the family business…”, quotes Mike playfully.

“I’m serious, Mike.” Harvey folds arms and prompts Mike to elaborate with.

“I know, I know.”, says Mike quickly. “I’m just so glad it’s over.”

“I get it. So… this Doomsday Complex is… disabled?” Harvey decides to ask.

“I would rather use the phrase blown up, but yours is a pretty good description too.” Mike’s eyes glitter with mischief.

“Blown up? Where’d you take the explosives from?”

“Please, have you seen James? He’s like an explosive himself.”

“James? You mean the soldier?”

Mike doesn’t even register the moment they sit on the couch and continue their conversation, Mike cross-legged and finally getting relaxed, Harvey still uneasy, but also unwinding with each passing minute.

“Yeah. James “Bucky” Barnes. And it’s not exactly the soldier, it’s “The Winter Soldier” to be precise.”, explains Mike.

“Winter Soldier? As… the Russian spy Winter Soldier? The assassin Winter Soldier?!” Well, maybe this information didn’t exactly help Harvey unwind.

“Well, yes, but also Captain America’s best buddy Bucky? Y’know, childhood friends and so on…”, elaborates Mike, because this side of Bucky’s story sounds mobs better.

“Assassin, Mike!”, repeats Harvey, because he probably needs to emphasise this bit, because Mike acts as if he didn’t get the memo.

“I know, Harvey. But he was kind of brainwashed… A few years ago there was a hit on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s head Nick Fury and they captured him soon after. They examined him and found out this process can be reversed.”

“He doesn’t look exactly stable now, to be honest.”, points out Harvey disapprovingly.

“He’s not stable. He has a thumping PTSD and he was thrown in the next century with nobody at his side. Who would be stable in this situation?”

“And even with that knowledge you still decided it was a good idea to take him with you tonight?”

“Like you said, I needed back up. It was about Captain America. Barnes was an obvious choice.” Mike sounded reasonable, but nonetheless, this fact still send shivers down Harvey’s spine.

“A brainwashed assassin was an obvious choice? How could you be even sure he would remember Cap?”, delves Harvey, because that’s what good lawyers do, especially when they are desperate to regain their own peace of mind.

“I counted on it really, really much?”, replies Mike tentatively, knowing that it will meet with Harvey’s disapproval.

Harvey just rolls his eyes extremely expressively.

“Do you have a death wish?”

He is on the verge of brutally murdering Mike for making him worry like this and for taking such risks, but he is still too grateful to see him in one piece.

“It turned out fine.” Mike shrugs his shoulders. “Harvey, sometimes you just have to trust your gut.”

“I can’t believe you are still alive when you live by this philosophy.”, scolds him Harvey.

Mike suddenly gets a bit uncomfortable and scratches his neck sheepishly.

“Yeah, well. It is how it is.”, he replies as if he couldn’t think of anything better to say.

 

 

 

On Friday morning Harvey cancels his emergency session with Dr Agard.

“Are you sure this is a good idea, Harvey? You seemed pretty upset yesterday.”, reminds him his therapist.

“I know. But I’m better. And there’s too much I cannot tell you. It would be pointless.”

“That’s you call, Harvey. But I do hope you can talk about whatever it is with someone you can trust.”

“I can. And I did.”, assures her Harvey.

 

 

 

Jack Soloff calls for the vote of confidence. Louis is pissed. Jessica is cornered. Louis tries to threaten Daniel Hardman, but only gets threatened in return that Hardman will go after his sister’s company.

Donna tries to support Louis. Rachel generally stays out of it, it’s none of her concern at the moment, at least since Mike broke their engagement.

Harvey comes up with a plan to save the firm and comes to Jessica’s office. He sees her standing over her desk, looking out of the window. The desk is empty and all the stuff that’s supposed to be there is lying on the floor in disorder.

“Jessica…” Harvey begins gently.

“Yes?”, she replies as if nothing was amiss, so Harvey decides to act accordingly.

“I know how to fix this.”

“Enlighten me.”, says Jessica stiffly.

“Forstman doesn’t care about your position. His fight is with me. So the only reasonable option is that I’m going to resign.”, explains Harvey with a heavy sigh.

Jessica turns back rapidly.

“That’s not going to happen.”, she says slowly and firmly.

“That’s not your call to make. I choose to step down.”, counters Harvey.

The atmosphere is so tense that they almost miss the appearance of another person. Mike doesn’t even bother with greetings and simply jumps to the point.

“The hell you are!”, objects Mike strongly, stepping through the glass door.

“Eavesdropping, are we?”, hisses Harvey and looks at Mike with irritation.

“Actually, yes, I was. But you just had this facial expression while coming here that said ‘I’m freakishly determined to do something abnormally stupid and no one will talk me out of it’.”, counters Mike resolutely.

“Well, if you read all that from my face then what are you doing here?”, snarls Harvey.

His decision to step down is mostly impromptu, even if this thought has passed through his head once or twice before. But he doesn’t really have the time to dwell on it and it’s the only solution to Jessica’s problem that he can think of, so Harvey is determined to stand by it.

“Because I will talk you out of it no matter what you may think.”, says Mike strictly.

“It’s none of your business and you don’t get a say in this.”, fires Harvey back.

Mike looks Harvey right in the eye, not backing down. “Actually, I do. And you know why? Because you got a say in something that was none of your business and I listened! So now you are going to listen to me. And I say: Harvey Specter doesn’t give in to blackmail.”

“Even Harvey Specter sometimes doesn’t have a friggin’ choice!”, yells Harvey in return, losing control of himself for a moment.

“And that’s just bullshit!”

“Leave it, Mike. You don’t know what this is about.”, interjects Jessica sternly, tired of the shouting match that’s happening before her eyes.

Mike turns to look at her. “No, Jessica”, he says calmly. “You don’t know what this is about.” Then he glances back at Harvey. “Right, Harvey? I suppose you didn’t mention that you decided to step down because Daniel Hardman contacted you in the morning and threatened to expose the lack of my Harvard education.”

Jessica looks sharply at Harvey who fells into pregnant silence and purses his lips. But it lasts only for a couple of seconds.

Harvey recovers quickly. “Well, he did. But you know what? My stepping down is a fairly low price for saving Jessica’s firm and keeping you away from prison.”

“We can save this firm without it”, argues Mike.

“And what about your degree?”

“We can think something up when it comes to it.”

Jessica decides to step in. “Mike, I care about this firm much more than about your wellbeing.”, she begins in a harsh and painfully frank tone. “But prison will destroy you. Your smart ass talk would only bring you trouble and your mind won’t be of much help. Down there you would be nothing more than just a pretty face.”

Mike laughs bitterly. “That’s not exactly true.” He turns to look at Harvey. “And you know it, Harvey, don’t you?”

“This doesn’t change anything.”, replies Harvey stiffly.

“This changes everything. I don’t need you to protect me! I can handle it.”, reminds him Mike, looking straight into his eyes to convey the seriousness of his statement.

“Girls, quiet!”, orders Jessica suddenly and comes between them. “You, the both of you, are not telling me about something. And I don’t like being kept out of the loop.”

“Nobody ever does.”, replies Mike insolently. “But sometimes you can do nothing to help it.”

Jessica eyes her younger employee sharply. “Watch yourself, Ross.”

“I don’t have to.” Mike shrugs and begins in more official tone: “Mrs Person, I hereby tender my resignation.” He shrugs. “No Mike, no problem. You can focus on saving your firm.”, he resolves suddenly. “Good luck”, he adds as he turns his back on Jessica and heads towards the door.

Harvey stands in his way.

“Mike, you can’t just…”

“What, but you can?”, interrupts him Mike and shakes his head. “I won’t let you do this for me. And we both knew that this…” Mike waves his hand in an uncoordinated way. “…this has to end one day. This day happens to be today. And that’s fine. It was never meant to last forever.”

Harvey looks like he wants to say something, to fight a bit more, but doesn’t find proper words that can face Mike’s determination.

“Jessica, I will send you my letter of resignation by email if that’s okay.”, says Mike and sees Jessica nod quietly, so he opens the glass door and leaves her office.

 

 

“What are your choices when someone puts a gun to your head? You take the gun, or you pull out a bigger one. Or, you call their bluff. Or, you do any one of a hundred and forty six other things.”

 

 

Harvey follows Mike to his office, where Mike pulls out a carton box and starts frantically shoving everything within his reach into it, pointedly ignoring whatever Harvey says to him. He barely even registers it.

Harvey finally snaps and grabs Mike by his shoulders, forcibly dragging him away from the box and from his desk.

“Mike, goddammit! Just stop it!”, he yells quite desperately, not knowing what else to do. “Talk to me!”

Harvey Specter, as a rule, doesn’t beg. It’s a simple truth of nature, similar to the fact that the Earth goes around the Sun. But if someone heard the tone of Harvey’s voice in that moment, they would hesitate and doubt in the rules of the universe.

This tone of voice makes Mike freeze for a couple of seconds. He looks up at Harvey’s face and what he sees there breaks his heart into pieces.

“Mike, please, don’t do this.”, pleads Harvey one more time, in a quiet whisper.

“I’m…” Mike’s voice wavers slightly. “I’m sorry, Harvey.” He wants to add something more, even opens his mouth once again to do so, but nothing comes out of it, not even a single sound. He just stands there, with his eyes focused on Harvey, on his slightly disheveled hair, on his forehead crinkled in pain and lips pressed together tensely. And he realizes that no words can make it better now.

So Mike grabs the few last things left on the desk, throws them into his box, and mutters: “I’m sorry.”, once again, and goes past Harvey, carrying the carton box.

Harvey doesn’t stop him this time.

 

 

Someone else does, though.

 

Mike is waiting by the elevators, his shoulders hunched a bit and his head and soul feeling hollow inside.

But once the elevator door opens, it turns out, it’s not empty inside. Mike’s eyes widen as he takes a couple of steps back as his first reaction.

Nick Fury steps confidently out and three of his people follow. Phil Coulson, Maria Hill and someone else, whose name Mike doesn’t know, yet whose face is uncomfortably familiar.

“You stole the figurines.”, says Mike immediately, looking at the third agent. However, both Fury and the agent ignore those words entirely.

“Long time no see”, greets him Fury instead.

Mike’s fingers clench involuntarily on the handles of the box.

“I cannot say I missed you.”, Mike hears himself reply drily. He tells himself he’s not terrified of what is about to happen. He doesn’t feel really convinced, though.

Suddenly Harvey is in the elevator hall right behind him. Mike wonders if this funny feeling that has just flooded him is a relief.

“Nick Fury”, says Harvey carefully. Nick is well known as the head of the S.H.I.E.L.D. so Harvey recognizes him immediately. He knows also enough to stay alert. “What do you want from Mike?”

Harvey might have been broken just a few seconds ago, but now he’s fierce and protective again.

Nick responds looking Mike straight in the eye: “I’m here to take you home, Peter.”

 

 

Mike’s throat goes dry in a second. His fists tighten even more around the handles and almost tear them apart. He stands still for a couple of seconds, but then he replies sharply:

“I am home.”

Nick looks pointedly at the box he’s carrying. “Are you?”, he asks condescendingly.

Mike gulps. “It’s none of your business.”

Nick sighs sadly and the next time he speaks his tone resembles the one used when talking to a child. A child that has to have a surgery and you try to convince them it will be painful but necessary for their own good.

“Your borrowed time is up. Vacation’s over. We need you back.”, says Fury.

Mike’s eyes widen in shock, because it’s not possible.

It’s fucking not possible.

They can’t have known all this time. Had they known, they wouldn’t let him go that easily. It just can’t be right.

No. No. NO. NO!

Mike involuntarily takes a few steps back and his face turns pale.

“That’s impossible. You didn’t know.”, he whispers.

“You really thought you can keep something like that from us? We are spies. Gathering information is what we do.”, replies Fury calmly and confidently, but if one listened closely to this tone of voice longer, they might think that it sounded almost cruel. “We gave you some time off. But now the Avengers need you again.”

“No.”, whispers Mike, paling even more. “I won’t fight again.” He takes a few more steps back as if wanting to get away from Fury’s voice. He would step back even more, but a firm hand put on his back stops him.

Mike turns his head to the left and sees Harvey standing by his side. He’s afraid he will see the disappointment on his face.

The reality is worse. Mike has never seen Harvey so angry in his entire life.

“Peter Parker?”, asks Harvey quietly and it’s really weird, because his voice is gentle and supportive.

“Yes”, breaths Mike out and he feels his throat tighten. “Harvey, I…”, he begins.

Harvey cuts him off immediately. “Later.”, he murmurs. And then his eyes are focused on Fury, full of anger once again.

Maybe it’s not Mike Harvey is so furious at after all.

“So, Mr Fury, what is this all about?”, asks Harvey challengingly.

Fury glares at Harvey angrily in return, not liking that he jumped into this conversation.

“It’s none of your business, Mr Specter.”, he tries to dismiss him.

“You are coming to my firm and harassing my employee.”, says Harvey firmly. “Of course it’s my business.”

Fury raises his eyebrow in contempt.

“He’s not your employee anymore.”, he says, pointing at the box Mike’s carrying.

Harvey looks at it theatrically. “What? This? Oh, he’s just helping me clean my desk. I’m such a hoarder sometimes.”, he says negligently.

Mike almost smiles hearing this tone of voice that Harvey uses to smash his opponents into dust. Unfortunately, the situation is way too serious for it.

“You don’t know what you are getting yourself into, Mr Specter”, warns him Fury grimly.

“Well, that’s too bad, because I am getting into it.”, replies Harvey, but suddenly feels Mike hand on his forearm and his shaken voice by his ear.

Mike hasn’t even realised when he has put the box on the floor beside him.

“Harvey, don’t. It’s too big, I don’t want you to…”

Harvey catches Mike’s arm and lowers it down from his forearm, so that the situation shifts and now Harvey is holding Mike, not the other way around.

“Mike, shut up and calm down.”, says Harvey steadily, but authoritatively. “You’ve worked for me for years now. Have you learned nothing?”, he asks quietly. His words are not aggressive, they seem to be rather motivational. “Because right now all I can see is a gun pointed straight at your head. So what should you do?”

Mike shakes his head, his all body pretty shaken-up.

“But it’s different…”

Harvey cuts him off one more time. “It’s really not.”, he says with all the confidence in the world. “Just use this brilliant mind of yours and figure it out.”

“It’s not about figuring it out, Mr Specter.” Fury suddenly interrupts their quiet conversation with his powerful voice. “It’s about the responsibility.”

But Harvey has already said everything Mike needed to hear. Also, the word ‘responsibility’ has always made Mike see red.

“That’s bullshit!”, Mike suddenly exclaims towards Fury. “It’s about me staying out of your control.”

“Not at all.”, states Fury calmly. “It’s about the lives of the people that you have decided to abandon. It’s about what you can do and what you have to do.”

Mike clenches his fists once again and hisses: “I have always wanted to help people. And that’s exactly what I have been doing here for the last five years.”

“The only thing you’ve done is help rich people get richer.”, observes Fury dryly. “I can easily understand why this life appeals to you.”, he continues with considerations that Mike immediately pegs as fake. “It’s a life that makes you comfortable. You don’t have to worry about money. You don’t have to worry about your life. You can finally be appreciated for what you do. You don’t have the responsibility weighing on your shoulders.” Fury sighs in sympathy and takes a few steps towards Mike and Harvey. He still looks only at Mike, though. “But the responsibility doesn’t go away simply because you decide to forget about it, Peter.”

This time Harvey’s fingers tighten around Mike’s arm. And it’s Mike who sends Harvey a comforting look. Then he takes a deep breath and faces Fury’s eyes bravely.

“You’re wrong, Fury. There is no responsibility. I’m no police officer. I’m no FBI agent, nor a soldier. I’ve never made any vow to protect people with my own life. When I chose to do so, I did. But it’s over now.”

“It is disappointing to hear such things from you.”

“I’ve changed a lot.”, admits Mike bitterly.

“So you simply don’t care that your former brothers-at-arms need help?”

“I care. But I’m not a part of it anymore. And you won’t convince me to be.”

And that’s when Fury’s expression changes from sympathy to cold calculation.

“People of New York believe that Spider-Man gave up his life to protect them. Just think how would they feel if they were told the truth. Disappointed? Betrayed?”

“What do you think is the truth?”, asks him Mike sharply.

“That the Spider-Man used the Battle of New York as an opportunity to fake his death. To seemingly die in glory, when in fact… he just wanted to bury his head in the sand.”

These words makes Mike’s blood boil in a matter of seconds.

“I did die.”, he replies sharply. “It was bloody, it was painful and it wasn’t fast at all. I was lying under this building for hours, bleeding out, slowly suffocating by dust, my whole body was crushed under some rubble. It was only after I’d heard some other explosion in the distance, probably the next building got blown up, than did the walls collapse on me entirely and kill me.”, Mike explains, breathing heavily from the recollection. He is focused on Fury, eyeing him angrily. He hisses: “There was no elaborate ploy to fake my death. I just went there, I fought, and I died. And a week after the Battle I woke up in some apartment, in Brooklyn, and in this body, with this new face, with a post-it lying beside my bed from Madame Webb, saying that she had owed me one, so she got me a second chance.”, explains Mike, his breath tight and heavy and his voice leaking with indignation.

But Fury apparently can adapt his arguments to the changing situation pretty quickly, so he counters immediately:

“You got a chance to do something good with your life. And how did you use that?”

“I am doing something good with my life!”, yells Mike, approaching Fury with rage. “I help people. But that doesn’t mean I have to put my life on the line. The New York City doesn’t need any more superheroes.”

“You are mistaken. New York needs a team of heroes. It needs the Avengers. And you are one of them.”

“Go find someone else for your super team. I’m not an Avenger. I’ve never been. I helped you once, but it won’t happen again.”, vows Mike solemnly.

“Then the people of New York will have to find out a few things about their favourite hero.”

Mike slams his fist into a wall beside the elevator. Fury doesn’t seem fazed by this act.

“You don’t care about the real truth, do you?!”, asks Mike in despair and that’s when Harvey decides to step in. Because if his ability to put two and two together still works, then he may just have the ace he needs in his sleeve.

“I wouldn’t pull that card if I were you.”, he tells Fury calmly. “Because as much as you can fabricate dirt at Mike, we don’t have to fabricate anything and still have you in check. You see… the Doomsday Project is not so secret anymore. And it would make quite a catchy story, how the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. tried to create another Electro. I bet the press’s gonna love it.”

And that’s when realization hits Fury’s face.

“You did that!” He looks straight at Mike. “You destroyed it.”

Fury’s sudden rattled state causes Mike to relax a bit and find self-confidence once again. Well, apparently Fury doesn’t know everything, which make Mike feel at an advantage.

“Merely doing my civic duty.”, growls Mike in disdain. “I still can’t believe you actually build this damn thing.”

“You destroyed the only chance for saving the Captain America from the vortex!” Fury’s voice is incredulous and angry.

“Yeah, I bet that’s all it whole undertaking was about.”, mocks him Mike.

“You had no right!”

“I never had right to do anything”, reminded him Mike. “But you didn’t have problem with that when you had it your way.” He shakes his head in disappointment, but his eyes are filled with determination. “I wasn’t going to let anyone take any risks with that darn thing once again.”

“I had it fully under control!”

“If you had, then how did I destroy it?”, asks Mike sharply.

“You will face the consequences.”, promises Fury grimly, but it borders on being pathetic, so Mike doesn’t let the threat get through to him.

“I know my rights now better than ever. So I say, bring it on. But be prepared for a one hell of a fight.”, he replies quite calmly.

“You may fight as long as you want to. But in the end, you will come to senses and find yourself where you belong.”, hisses Fury.

This time it’s Harvey who cannot hold it to himself any longer. Because he may not see the whole picture, he may not comprehend some of the things that are being said, but he knows one thing for sure.

“You will not tell him where he does or does not belong.”, snarls Harvey with conviction.

Mike glances at him with genuine surprise mixed with mild curl of his lips. His eyes do seem a bit warmer and calmer.

But even though Harvey’s support makes Mike want to jump of sheer joy and relief, this is the battle he has to fight by himself.

And suddenly he knows exactly which string to pull.

He meets Fury’s eyes calmly and slowly starts undoing his cufflink.

“The only thing I want from you is to leave me alone. I want a peaceful and safe life.”, he begins as he methodically rolls up his sleeve. “And you owe me that much.”

Mike rapidly tugs it up and uncovers a huge scar that runs across his forearm. The same that Fury had talked about during every Spider-Man memorial so far.

“Because I saved your life”, continues Mike, carefully picking his words. “So the least you can do is let me live my own the way I want.”

 

 

The silence filling the room would be much more intimidating but for the fact that Mike knew he had every right to say that. His words seem to have touched a raw nerve, because Fury’s eyes change from unyielding to conciliatory.

But the more silence stretches, the more uncomfortable the atmosphere becomes, at least until Fury clears his throat and replies finally.

“It seems I was wrong.”, admits the head of S.H.I.E.L.D., nodding towards Mike. “Apparently you never stopped fighting. You’ve just changed your battlefield.”

There is not a modicum of approval in his voice, yet Mike can swear he hears a bit of respect shyly arising in the last sounds.

 

Mike doesn’t reply, partly because he has no idea what he could say, but also because he just wants this scene to end as soon as it’s possible. Fury’s presence is disconcerting not only to him, but also to the entire personnel that listens to their conversation, ridiculously trying to become invisible to the director’s eye.

Fury doesn’t want the answer, though.

 

“I won’t bother you again, then.”, promises Fury in lieu of saying goodbye. Mike prefers it that way.

 

A minute later there is nothing to attest that any agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. ever set foot in the Pearson-Specter-Litt elevator hall. Except for the people that have seen them, and Mike realizes the scale as he glances around with sudden resignation rising in his chest.

There is Harvey, of course, by his side. But he also notices Donna standing in the vicinity, frozen in the middle of the corridor with some files to her chest. Rachel stopped beside her, looking at Mike as if seeing him for the first time. There is also Louis ineptly hiding behind the corner, yet listening carefully to every word being said. Apart from his friends, there is also lots of other people, Donovan at the reception desk, Paul Porter who most definitely shouldn’t be here, yet still is, a couple of newbie associates who just happened to be passing by and stopped midstep when the S.H.I.E.L.D. entered, Crawford, Palmer, Fergusson, Mike even notices some nameless warranty work guy lurking behind the photocopier.

And last, but not least, there is Jessica standing in the hallway, staring Mike out with her arms crossed at her chest in a very I-demand-answers-now way.

 

The more Mike looks around, the more he realizes that his conversation with Fury will have long-lasting and impossible to predict consequences. And even though he dreads them, there is nothing he can do right now.

Admitting to be a superhero.

Admitting to a be a long dead superhero.

Admitting to be a different person all along.

Neither is a thing you can just shrug off with a ‘Nah, just kidding’.

 

 

However, before Mike can think of anything to say and before anyone manages to open their mouth to accuse or question him, the Spider-Sense kicks in.

Mildly, though.

A second later everyone in the hall hear a couple of similar sounds, resembling a small metal containers rolling and bumping on the marble floor. One of them stops at Mike’s shoe, the other one by the elevator door, others are scattered across the whole floor in the eyeshot.

Mike knows what will happen a whole second before it does. He jumps towards Harvey as smoke starts escaping from the little metal gas containers.

“Cover your mouth and nose! Don’t inhale it!”, shouts Mike and takes off his jacket in a millisecond to cover Harvey’s face with it.

Inwardly, he knows that this gas won’t cause anyone any harm. It’s just a soporific with a roofie-like substance to make those people forget everything that happened in the last few hours. But Mike is desperate not to see Harvey slipping unconsciously to the floor with the rest of PSL staff at this floor.

 

Five seconds later people start collapsing and the only thing Mike can do is watch and assist so that they don’t harm in the process. Even the mighty Jessica loses her balance and slides down the wall eventually.

Mike is not affected by the gas at all.

He can only stand at Harvey’s side, holding his arm to keep him upright despite the soporific, but Harvey can’t hold his breath forever and breathing through the jacket can help only so much.

In the end Harvey’s body limps in Mike’s arms as the older lawyer succumbs to the influence of the mixture of gases.

Mike kneels by his side, holding him way too tightly than he should. He feels like crying.

S.H.I.E.L.D. has cleared his records with this move and Mike knows he should be grateful. Some part of him is. There is no fear of his secret coming to light, he won’t need to be interrogated, nobody will ask him any uncomfortable questions. He’s just Mike once again. Mike who has just quit a job, true, but just Mike nonetheless.

And yet he wants to scream at the unfairness of it all. Because Harvey is the one and only person that truly deserved to know the truth and now that’s taken from him too.

Mike knows he won’t be able to tell Harvey by himself, he would never do that, even if he felt relieved when Harvey found out.

 

 

Mike punches the elevator door so hard that the exact shape of his knuckles stays imprinted in the thick metal.

 

 

***

 

 

In the next morning the story has already hit the headlines. The most successful law firm in the city under some mysterious attack (terrorists?! was it terrorists?! the debate with the panel of experts tonight at 7.30!) and the swift and efficient intervention of S.H.I.E.L.D., thanks to which nobody got hurt (S.H.I.E.L.D. Back In Action! – the exclusive interview with the director Fury’s right-hand agent – Maria Hill!).

 

Mike crumples the newspaper in his hand and enters Jessica’s office with the newly printed letter of resignation. She doesn’t remember their yesterday’s conversation, but that fact doesn’t change anything. The spectre of Charles Forstman digging up his lack of degree and using it against Harvey is still in place and Mike won’t let that happen.

 

“Jessica”, he greets the woman pleasantly. “I’ve got…”

“Mike.” Jessica cuts him off. “Impeccable timing. I’ve just wanted to talk to you.”

Mike rises an eyebrow in surprise, but continues what he came here for.

“I’m not sure it would matter after I give you this.” He lays the latter on the desk right in front of her eyes. She scans the text quickly and smiles with just the corner of her mouth. Then she opens her left-hand drawer, takes a manila file and hands it to Mike.

“And I’m sure it won’t matter”, she glances pointedly at Mike’s letter, “after I give you this.” Her voice is so confident that it immediately puts Mike at loss about the contents of the file.

As he opens it, the first thing he sees is the crimson logo with the prominent letters reading “Ve-ri-tas”. A logo of Harvard University. Mike skims though the diploma – because it cannot be anything else – and reads Michael James Ross and sees the signature and…

“It’s genuine.”, assures him Jessica.

“How could it be?”, asks Mike quietly, because he can’t even produce anything lounder than whisper. His adrenaline levels are suddenly too high for his linking, his heart comes up to his throat, because he doesn’t understand the situation at all. And that’s never good.

“A friend of yours visited me earlier this morning.”, explains Jessica, which doesn’t help, because Mike knows it’s only half past seven, so how early can she mean? Also, the words ‘friend’ hasn’t conveyed anything pleasant for him recently. “He introduced himself as Steven Rogers and asked me to give this file to you.”, continues Jessica and Mike’s jaw almost drops at the news.

“But that’s impossible”, repeats Mike, pointing at his very own Harvard diploma.

“Apparently not, as just before you came into my office I received a phone call from the dean of Harvard law. I believe the sole purpose of this call was to assure me he remembers you exceptionally fondly from your time at Harvard. And that he’s not the only one.”

“But how…?” Mike is so shocked that he can’t even think of proper questions to ask.

“I didn’t ask and neither should you.”, advises Jessica firmly. “But you don’t need that anymore.”, she adds as she takes Mike’s letter of resignation and tears it into four pieces.

“But Forstman…”, objects Mike fearfully.

“…has received a very formal warning from the director Fury himself in the middle of the night that they are keeping a close eye on him at the moment. And Daniel Hardman took off to Japan with his tail between his legs and will stay there… indefinitely.”

Jessica observes with satisfaction that Mikes face gradually goes from resignation through complete shock and finally to tentative contentment.

“So… I can stay?”, asks Mike timidly, still not being able to believe what is happening.

“Can?”, repeats Jessica incredulously and her smile widens. “Mr Ross”, she says formally. “It would be highly unreasonable for me to let go of such fine lawyer as you.”, she assures him, deeply emphasising the word.

 

 

Mike leaves her office with a blank mind, but a happy soul.

 

 

*

 

 

In the end everything plays out as Mike expected. Nobody in Pearson-Specter-Litt remembers a thing from his conversation with Fury. In fact, nobody even suspects there was any conversation at all. If Jessica has a hunch about his connection to S.H.I.E.L.D., she follows her I-don’t-want-to-know policy and leaves it be. Soon everything goes back to normal.

 

The most painful thing to Mike is that Harvey doesn’t remember either. Funnily enough, he doesn’t seem bothered by the holes in his memory at all and that’s a bit out of character for him. But Mike doesn’t want to pry, especially now that keeping Spider-Man a secret feels like betrayal more than ever before.

 

Mike doesn’t act on the profound desire to reveal his Spider-Man side to Harvey. The Doomsday Project is over. The figurines are burnt down in Harvey’s fireplace. Forstman is neutralised, Hardman is far away. It’s high time to go back to normalcy.

 

Mike tries and it actually works really well for him. Relatively well, that is.

 

He finds and rents an apartment, thanks Harvey for the hospitality and takes his stuff to his new home. But even after living there for a month it doesn’t feel like home at all. It’s a place to stay at most. But if Mike feels lonely in the afternoons (not to mention the nights), it doesn’t matter, because he’s happy with what he has already. It’s more than he could’ve dreamt of anyway.

 

He is a Junior Partner in the best law firm in New York City. He works on cases with Harvey more often than not, even if both of them pretend it’s not on purpose, that it ‘just happens’. Rachel sometimes even talks to him again.

 

His life has turned out well in the end.

 

Or at least that’s what he forces himself to believe every time he lies on his king-size bed and has to imagine being crammed on Harvey’s black couch so that he can fall asleep. But even if he has to resort to such methods at night, it doesn’t change his resolutions in the morning.

 

Mike is thankful for what he has.

 

And if something tightens in his chest every time he remembers that he’d never hear Harvey’s voice calling him ‘Peter’ again, well…

It’s just something he learns to live with.

 

 

The End