Author's Note: Good day, everybody. =) This is a one-shot that would not stop bugging me, so now that it's out of the way I can focus on The Hour Before Midnight. I hope you all enjoy.
"Hey, Ross, haven't you gotten your pink slip yet?"
Mike didn't even grace Kyle with an eye roll as he read Kaplan Corporation's bylaws. He and Harvey had a board meeting in two days, but the closer naturally preferred to settle, so he had Mike looking through bylaws to find a loophole before the company was bought by a dubious group of investors. He hadn't found anything yet, but it was in here somewhere, as it always w –
"Maybe Mr. Specter's waiting until the end of the day to do it. Ya know, so he can get another full day's work out of you," Kyle said. Mike finally graced him with a bored expression, but he desperately tried to hide his unease. There wasn't the usual irritating twinkle that was there whenever Kyle was gearing up for a round of insults. Instead he saw the malicious smile of a vicious truth.
You're just spooking yourself. He's just a first class idiot who can't be trusted, Mike told himself and he lowered his eyes back to his work.
"Are you sure they're not just hiring a new associate to get rid of you? I mean, look at you right now, working so hard…" Mike replied, his voice echoing slightly from continuing to read, but he glanced up to see Kyle's reaction and grinned. The other associate paled and glanced over to the entrance to the bullpen. His smirk returned to his face as he saw that no one of importance was there, but he could see a nervous edge to the look.
"Oh, it's definitely going to be you. I guess Mr. Specter has finally wised up to what kind of riff raff it was that he brought into the firm."
He's just goading you like always, Mike thought, but he could feel the tips of his ears go warm as he blushed. Without fail, Mike inwardly squirmed as he was reminded of his economic status, helped by the contrast of Harvey's nice suits to his cheap ones whenever they were in the same room.
"Speak for yourself, Kyle. At least I got in on merit," Mike mumbled back. He didn't even bother looking for a reaction, but he could see Kyle's fists clench at the top of his cubicle from his peripheral.
"The pink slips coming, Ross. Enjoy your last day," Kyle snarled in response before he finally walked off.
Mike let out a shuddering breath and felt the shiver of relief run down his spine as his body relaxed from the tension in his shoulders that he hadn't realized was there. He really hoped all of his shit would end when he finally made partner, but he had a feeling Kyle would be plaguing him for the rest of his life, not unlike Louis to Harvey.
He did his best to keep working – Harvey wanted something before noon – but then Louis stopped by and, surprisingly, not with any briefs to do.
"Now, Mike, you know that you'll always have a place here at Pearson Hardman, right?"
Mike tried to keep from wrinkling his nose in disgust at Louis, but he did not quite succeed in wiping the worry from his eyes.
The Junior partner must have seen it because he continued speaking with one of his patronizing smiles. "Listen, I know you may be upset, but Harvey's an asshole. He doesn't seem to recognize the value in you, but I do. I'll see to it that you work on the best and the best alone."
"Err…uhh…thanks, Louis, I really appreciate it. But I'm not fired," Mike replied in a measured voice, trying not to sound condescending or even worried at all.
This did not stop Louis. Instead, his smile seemed to turn more pitiable as he looked down on Mike and he shook his head. "You're in denial, I can see."
"No, I'm not fired. Harvey hasn't come to see me about any of this."
Louis continued to shake his head. "It's only a matter of time before you get your pink slip. I saw Harvey in Jessica's office, begging for a new associate. I'm afraid the situation is real. You just tell Harvey that, despite what he may think, you're still going to be a valuable part of the company. Okay?"
"Okay." With that Louis walked off where he came from.
Mike gaped after him, but then turned in the direction of where Harvey's office was supposed to be and stared as if he could see through walls. Was this true? Did Harvey get another associate? He was pretty damn sure Jessica would not allow Harvey to have two associates all to himself, so was he really going to get fired? Harvey really had not expressed any dissatisfaction in his work and had, in fact, bought him a victory dinner just the last week after they settled a lawsuit worth $315 million.
He shook his head. This is stupid. Mike turned back to his work, determined not to let this get to him. Louis was an asshole and Kyle was his protégé. He doubted that it was so much above them to actually lie to him about getting the shaft. This was not the first time either one of them had attempted to throw a wrench into breaking up their team, only to earn both his and Harvey's wrath. So with that decided, he steeled himself up and tried to bury the deep fear that Harvey had gotten tired of the liability that he was and hired someone else.
The stress cracks continued to grow, though, as he seemed to make eye contact with more associates and they turned away hastily to the papers they were carrying, but he did not miss their looks of pity. Was he fired? Was he going to be the last person to know?
It was approaching lunch when Mike finally struck gold and snatched up the file to head straight to Harvey's. It felt like every associates eye followed him as he head off, causing him to prickle in annoyance: at himself for believing the rumors and at Harvey for doing nothing to clear them up.
He was certain it was nothing.
Until he crossed Rachel, who put the final nail in the coffin.
"Hey, Rachel." She glanced up with a jolt of surprise and her face immediately adopted an expression of sadness and, again, pity. He felt his shoulders go rigid with tension, but he attempted to play dumb. "What's wrong?"
"You haven't heard?"
Rachel bit her lip, which gave him the impression that she didn't want to be the one to break the news. "Oh, well, uh, I, uh, I'm sorry to tell you this, but Harvey apparently hired another associate."
Mike felt his heart sink into his stomach and felt a cold shock start to sweep through his entire body. "So it's true then?" Mike replied, without really knowing what he was saying.
She grimaced and nodded. "Everyone is talking about it. I heard this from people who heard Harvey actually pleading his case to Jessica about it. I-I'm so sorry, Mike." For a moment she stood there, looking like she was going to hug him, but then she just walked past him.
He was certain he never would have accepted it anyway. He couldn't believe it. He and Harvey had been working beautifully as a team for a whole year! Sure there were a few cases that they lost due to extenuating circumstances or in the rare case of a Mike or Harvey flub, but they were only human. They had the best win percentage of all, the senior partners and their associates. Not that he would gloat, but they were practically legends now.
But now that was apparently all gone. He was going to be thrown out on his ass and Harvey hadn't so much as given him the courtesy of letting him know he might get fired. Yet his brain kept yelling at him, This doesn't sound right. Harvey wouldn't do this and, if he was firing you, he'd let you hear it first. But Mike quashed those words. Three eyewitness accounts, one of which that was actually trustworthy, was proof enough.
"Oh no, it looks like someone took the puppy's bone," Donna said, with a teasing twinkle in her eye.
A deep fury welled up within Mike that Donna, of all people, would have the nerve to tease him about something like this. He kept a neutral mask on, but the secretary seemed to sense his underlying emotions, because when he actually reached her desk she frowned at him. "Seriously, what's wrong?"
"Why don't you ask, Harvey?" Mike snarled at her before entering the office.
Harvey, who had been reading a report of some sort, immediately looked up and gave Donna a puzzled look, but he turned a glare on Mike as the kid came up to his desk with storm clouds forming on his brow.
"Okay, kid, I don't care what has got you in such a foul mood, but don't you ever take your anger out on Donna. You have a problem with me then come to me about it. Now, what do you have to keep Caldwell and his roundtable of idiots from selling Kaplan?"
Mike slapped the documents down on the table. "Why don't you find out yourself? After all, if I'm out of the job then I don't have to care about work anymore."
"Don't tempt me, Mike," Harvey replied through gritted teeth.
"Don't tempt you? You've already fired me! Why do you insist on dragging this out? I know you don't care but I figured even you were above making me work for the day until you finally hand me the pink slip!"
This stopped Mike in his tracks. Harvey had been about ready to tear into him verbally until Mike had said his second sentence, and right then the closer had sat back and stared up at him in complete and total confusion. This made Mike hesitate a little bit, but then he recollected himself and ploughed on through.
"Like the whole firm doesn't know! Every single associate, Louis, and even Rachel have all told me about the new associate you found yourself!" Harvey's eyes widened ever so slightly and Mike almost wanted to congratulate himself for catching Harvey in the lie, but the feeling was tempered by the utter betrayal of knowing that the statement was obviously true. "Aha! You do have a new associate! What's wrong, Harvey, did you finally get tired of having the albatross of our secret hanging around your neck? You could have at least told me before everyone el – "
"Michael!" This was not the first time Harvey had said his name, but it was the first time he noticed. Harvey stood up from his desk to look down on him with an angry glare and then he stepped around his desk so that there would be nothing between them. When he was certain he had his associate's attention he went on: "You're not fired!"
Mike narrowed his eyes at him as if he didn't believe him.
"Now, as to the rumors of the associate I hired, at least let him start law school before you start getting jealous."
"Wait – what? I'm not jealous," Mike yelled, but he could feel the chill from the earlier shock finally starting to leave his body. So he wasn't fired. Kyle, Louis, and even Rachel had been wrong. He had never been so relieved than the time when Harvey had forgiven him for smoking pot to gain the client.
"You are too jealous. I know Louis would have offered you a job, because he 'recognizes the value you have to the firm.'" This last bit Harvey actually imitated Louis' voice and Mike couldn't keep from chuckling uncontrollably. "But really, I can't blame you, because I can only imagine the hell you would go through as one of Louis' underlings."
Mike tried to keep from grinning and instead nodded sagely, but then he tilted his head curiously and asked, "What do you mean this 'new associate' still has to start law school?"
"Well, unlike somebody who will remain anonymous," and here Harvey gave him a pointed stare, but Mike stared unabashedly at him and raised an eyebrow as a gesture to continue, "this kid is actually going to Harvard law. Now, because somebody seems to be on the fast track to becoming a full lawyer at this firm –" Harvey favored him with a small smile, which made Mike swell with pride – "I'm going to need another associate. To prevent me from having to do interviews, I contacted this kid and, after a short interview and quite a bit of pleading with Jessica, I officially secured him a position so that I won't have to deal with anymore Harvard douches than I already have to. He starts in three years and you should definitely be a partner to the firm by then."
Mike seemed to be staring at the senior partner as if he had never really seen him before, but he was smiling at the very least and now that he knew he wasn't about to be fired, his good cheer had come back in an instant. "So instead of interviewing a bunch of Harvard douches, you're crushing their dreams and hiring a Harvard douche right out of the gate."
"Well, first off, he's not a douche, or at least not your average douche. Second, part of what makes me despise Harvard douches is their lack of ability to think on their feet. I don't think this kid will have that problem."
"Does he have an eidetic memory?"
Harvey snorted. "How many people do? No, he does not! There's no way in hell he's going to be as efficient as you; Jessica's already warned me to not expect speedy results," he said and then he gave what sounded like a lamentable sigh.
Mike was beside himself with glee. Even after he became a full lawyer, the associate who was coming in to fill his spot still wouldn't be up to the same standard as him! He would wish the kid luck when he did finally see him.
"How did you meet this kid?"
"He's the son of a client."
Mike did not miss the slight tightening around Harvey's eyes at what he said and he noticed a hard glint in his eyes that suggested asking any further about the client would be a loaded answer that the closer wasn't very likely to give him. So he switched tactics and asked, "A client? As in a 'current client?' So…is the kid rich?"
"Yes, he is. Which means, I will finally have an associate who can afford to dress appropriately," Harvey replied and Mike rolled his eyes at the obvious dig to him.
The young lawyer still adopted a smug smile and he said, "Really, Harvey, I thought you were above cronyism!"
"This isn't cronyism because the kid is going to be plenty qualified by the time he graduates."
"He could have the worst grades in the class!"
"Not likely. He graduated college with a 3.9," Harvey replied just as quickly. He tilted his head curiously at the associate and asked with a teasing smile, "What is with the twenty questions, Mike? Why do you care?"
"I want to know who's taking my place!"
"No, you just want me to inadvertently stroke your ego," Harvey said, rolling his eyes as he turned away to sit back at his desk.
"Hey, I deserve a little praise after thinking I was fired!"
"Not after believing Louis about being fired."
"I didn't believe Louis. I believed Rachel who said I was fired."
"Well, kid, the next time that you do believe one of these erroneous rumors and you don't come to me before making your assumptions, you will be fired. Now, the Kaplan bylaws,what did you find?"
Mike sagged a little at how abruptly all of this had been brushed over. It had certainly put his mind to ease, but for several hours there his heart had been pounding like a drum and so he tried not to show his disappointment as he said, "Okay, I found a rule that states that at least 75% of the board has to agree to the sale before it can go through. As it is, Mr. Caldwell only has about 60% of the support necessary."
"Great. I'll take it to Mr. Kaplan himself and then we'll see about giving them a pep talk on just why this deal is a bad idea," Harvey said, waving his hand in dismissal. Mike headed to the door with drooping shoulders, pretending not to be bothered about the dismissive way the situation had been handled. He had just about reached the door when Harvey called out to him, "Mike, I have this report I'd like you to go over. And just so you don't skip lunch and make me question how in the hell you're still living, I'll order a stuffed crust pizza."
Mike tried to hide the grin, but he could hear the apology in the sentence: I'm sorry you found out about the new associate in the wrong context. Let me buy you lunch. He nodded at Harvey and went to go straighten up his desk.
Donna ordered the pizza, as per Harvey's request, but then her voice crackled over the intercom and she said, "Harvey, you owe Mike a lot more than a pizza."
"I don't really owe him anything! It's not my fault he believed the rumor mill circulating this place. He should know better."
"If you bothered to pay attention and stamp out those rumors before they got started, then he might not find them half plausible. It's been a year, but you still keep up the front of not caring about him so, really, what does he honestly expect?"
"I haven't said that to him in months!"
"You said it just now!"
"No, I didn't care what his problem was."
"…which extends to him! It's one in the same Harvey."
Harvey sighed and kneaded his forehead.
"What do you want me to do about it?"
"Straighten it out! If you don't, I may be forced to post your baby pictures all around Pearson Hardman."
He let out a long and frustrated sigh. Of course Donna had his baby pictures; what did she not have on anybody? Well, probably nothing on Mike but that was because his secrets weren't really secrets anyway and then there was the fact that he would never hurt a fly. Resigning himself against a fate worse than death if he did otherwise, Harvey strode down the hall to the associate's bullpen to find Mike and set the record straight on the damn rumor mill.
He was very much annoyed to see Louis looming over his associate's cubicle and he decided a public lecture was very much in order.
"Louis!" The intolerable little lawyer jumped back as if he had been caught stealing cookies by mommy and he turned to give Harvey an irritated stare. The senior partner stepped up until he was clear in Louis' personal space and he looked down on the man, before saying aloud, "Louis, I will torch every single one of the pictures you have on your desk if you try to take my associate away by spreading rumors that he is fired."
He noticed from out of his peripheral vision that Mike sagged once more, but this time, in relief and he did his best to keep the stupid grin from spreading onto his face as he watched with some satisfaction as Louis scurried out of the bullpen with proverbial tail tucked between his legs. Then he turned to Harvey who slapped the top of the cubicle to get his attention. "I want one of those reports done by the time the pizza gets here."
Harvey's own pleasure diminished as Mike smiled up at him knowingly and eventually said, "You are too afraid of Donna!"
The 'new' associate in question, I already have a character story for, so if anyone would like to read anything from Mike or Harvey's POV on the kid, I would be happy to write it (after The Hour Before Midnight ). Otherwise, I know that original characters in the spotlight tend to be reviled, so I probably won't write about him unless you want to read it.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this. =) Thank you for reading!