Author's Note: No spanking in this one.

NEGOTIATIONS


"Mrs. Ross." Harvey bends to lift the old woman's proffered hand, his lips ghosting over the withered knuckles as he surreptitiously glances around the small, private room. It's clean, with freshly painted walls and pictures that make it almost homey. He wonders if the place costs more than Mike's signing bonus can cover, and makes a mental note to have Donna place some discreet calls.

"Mr. Specter," Mike's grandmother acknowledges frankly, as if she knew Harvey would come, which doesn't seem possible, since Harvey hadn't known himself. He's a senior partner, after all; the affairs of associates are below him - even if the associate is as exasperatingly endearing as a puppy.

Harvey expects Mike's gratitude and admiration when Harvey cleans up his messes, but Harvey doesn't expect the way they make him feel. Responsible. Like if he doesn't feed Mike and walk him and clean up after him, that Jessica will ask Harvey to take Mike to the goddamn pound or something. It's not a feeling he wears as comfortably as his five thousand dollar suits and Hermes ties, and he's not in any hurry to explore it. No, Harvey's only here because he's curious what the old dame wants. And she is a dame, he notes, smoothly settling into the seat she's indicated at the side of her hospice bed. She might be old, but Mrs. Ross is no slouch. Her white hair is styled and fluffed around her shoulders, her relaxed posture contrasting with the sharpness of what must have once been Bette Davis eyes.

"Please, call me Harvey." He smiles his most charming smile, the one with dimples that both children and dowagers find irresistible.

"You're wondering why I asked to see you."

Harvey appreciates the direct approach. "I take it you're not interested in a clandestine affair."

"I spend enough time in bed as it is, young man," the woman replies archly.

"Then this must be about Mike," Harvey says, although he'd already concluded as much. Mike might be a genius, but the earnest eyes and goofy hair make him seem younger; bring out the protective instincts of those around him. First that hot paralegal – Rochelle? - and then Donna, and now even Jessica seems to think Mike belongs to Harvey. And he does, but Harvey does not belong to Mike. Harvey Specter belongs to no one.

Harvey leans forward in his chair, resting his forearms on his knees and clasping his hands together. "I understand, Mrs. Ross – you're his grandmother. You're going to worry about the hours Mike is working and the pressure he's under, and you're going to want me to let up on him, but - "

"Don't."

Harvey blinks at the terse command. "Don't what?" he asks carefully, because women still manage to surprise him on occasion, and Harvey really doesn't want to be known as the guy who goaded an old woman into an episode. Besides, Mike might find that distracting, and Harvey needs him focused.

"Don't let up on him." Harvey feels his brows draw together, and Mrs. Ross smiles a little at his confusion. "Harvey; if you're half as clever as I think you are, you already know Michael's life hasn't been easy. I was an old woman when his parents died, I didn't know how to raise a seven year-old boy on my own."

"I'm sure you did the best you could," Harvey responds automatically, frowning at the present course of conversation. Mike's keen appreciation of Harvey's help, his eagerness to please the older lawyer, would be evident to even the casual observer. And Harvey hasn't hesitated to take advantage of it.

The old woman waves off the platitude. "He's a very gifted young man, and he has a good heart," she insists, throwing Harvey a pointed look that has him offering a light shrug of agreement. She searches his face briefly, after a moment appearing satisfied. "But he's too trusting, and sometimes he listens to the wrong people." Her thinning lips twist ruefully. "He lacks confidence, even if he is a bit of a smart mouth."

"Only a bit?" Harvey asks dryly, recalling the crap the kid gave him recently over an old mistake.

Mrs. Ross folds her arms over the bed's neatly pressed blankets. "I'm not in good health, Harvey," she confides, her pale blue gaze fixed on his. "I'm happy that Michael has someone looking out for him, to teach him the things I haven't."

Harvey frowns, slowly straightening in his seat. "Mike is my associate, Mrs. Ross. It's to my advantage not to let him f- mess things up," he hastily amends at her warning glance.

"So your interest in my grandson is purely self-motivated?" she challenges.

"Yes." Harvey is not intimidated. He's the best closer in New York City. And he's tall, damn it. Taller than anyone at Pearson-Hardman, too, when someone isn't wearing five-inch heels.

"He doesn't have a degree."

"No one will know."

"I hear you sent him to your personal tailor," she persists.

Harvey shrugs again. "When he looks good, I look good."

"He said he broke a promise he made you. And you forgave him."

What is this? The inquisition? "He brought the firm a client worth billions. And I didn't forgive him," Harvey adds quickly, causing the woman's lips to curve slightly.

"Sounds like a lot of trouble just for an associate," she remarks blandly.

Harvey rolls his eyes. "You have no idea. He has no idea how to conduct himself – he thinks the job is about caring when the job is about winning. And those suits..." Harvey shakes his head, chagrined at the kid's lack of polish. "But he's smart," he has to continue, glancing up at Mrs. Ross. "Maybe not as smart as me," he can't resist qualifying smugly, "but he's got promise. He just needs a kick in the ass once in a while."

"You won't let him quit."

And there it is. If he's honest with himself, Harvey's been grooming Mike since the moment he bungled his way into that stuffy Chilton conference room with his briefcase full of weed and boldly demanded Harvey give him a job. Harvey might even like the kid. Which no one can say shit about, because who doesn't like puppies? Only Harvey is just part of the equation here. "Mike has a mind of his own; I'm not sure I have that kind of influence."

Mrs. Ross tuts in disappointment. "I didn't think you were that kind of man, Harvey."

"What kind?" Harvey's compelled to ask.

"The kind to underestimate himself." Her still elegant brows rise in inquiry.

Harvey stares at her for a long moment, then smirks. "One year. That's all I'll guarantee," he warns. "That's if he continues to be an asset, and if he buys a grown-up tie."

"I'll take it," she agrees, too promptly, and Harvey's eyes narrow suspiciously.

"Are you sure you shouldn't be my associate?"

Mrs. Ross smiles sweetly and reaches for a deck of cards on her beside table. "Do you play cards, Harvey?"

"I may have sat a hand once or twice," he tells her, pulling his chair a little closer as the old woman begins to shuffle. Harvey Specter doesn't keep a schedule, and besides, the office can wait.

His associate will be fine.

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