playthewoman


This new-built city from both work and sleep

suspended, like a prehistoric fly.


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Six Degrees of Mistrust (6/?)
playthewoman
Title: Six Degrees of Mistrust
Rating:T/PG-13


Pairing: none, gen!fic
Warnings: language, but milder than what you'd see on the show. Also unbetaed.


Disclaimer: I don't own Suits, its characters or the lines from Dr. No Jessica and Harvey quotes No copyright infringement is intended by their use.
Summary: in the aftermath of the merger, relationships unravel at the old Pearson & Hardman, as the landscape of the firm changes. In the midst of it all, Travis Tanner returns and he is not the bearer of good news. The witness in Tanner's lawsuit, however, turns out to be more deeply connected to the firm than anyone could have imagine... anyone but Harvey, that is.



The thoughts may not have risen that so keep
This new-built city from both work and sleep.

(Robert Frost – A Brook in the City)


It was an unusual occurrence for Jessica to just walk into his office
these days. Donna hadn't gone so far as to try and stop her, but she
had her passive-aggressive ways of showing the managing partner she
wasn't welcome in the area anymore. Jessica feigned indifference,
giving Donna the same courtesy of yore, as the two women engaged in a
silent battle of wills with stakes in neither addressing the
proverbial elephant in the room. He looked up from his computer
screen and greeted her mildly. Her mood was assessing.


"I heard you had Tanner's suit against Rolland Courtenay dismissed.
Nicely done."


He shrugged. "He didn't have a leg to stand on to begin with. It
was more of a case of a disgruntled former employee out to get
Courtenay and his company. Tanner would've never taken it, if he
weren't so keen on going another round with me."


That was as final as he could make it without being rude, but she didn't
seem inclined to leave. She was scrutinizing him with more intensity
than anyone would have found comfortable, but he had a long history
of maintaining both eye contact with her and a poker face. She
actually smiled with genuine warmth. "The Montgomery class
action law suit, too. Both in the same week. When do you sleep 007?"


He knew Bond's line was Never on the firm's time, Sir. They
both knew he did. And he recognized the peace offering in comparing
the two of them with M and James Bond. But the words never came to
pass his lips. He couldn't pretend nothing had changed, when in fact
everything had.


He was saved from answering Jessica at all by Louis opening the door. "I
could come back," the other attorney said, while firmly planted
in the doorway with no visible intention to leave.


Jessica turned to him, a congenial smile plastered on her face. "I would
appreciate it, Louis."


"Is this about the Burroughs Investments licensing deal, because if it
is, we are on a deadline on that one," Harvey pointed out
mildly.

Jessica's smile vanished. "I thought we were at the goal line on it,"
she said, basically quoting from his briefing on the matter at a
partners meeting earlier the same week.


"Yes, but I ran into some trouble with some numbers that didn't add up and
asked Louis to look it over for me."


He was lying and not even making an effort to sound truthful. The
respective deal was as good as done. Donna had established a time and
place for the signing less than an hour ago. Jessica's eyes widened
in surprise and he wasn't sure if it was because he was lying to her
without caring whether she believed him or not or because he had used
Louis of all people as a pretext. Louis himself had no problem with
running with the lie.


"Yeah and I did. The numbers should be fine now," Louis assured with
more conviction than Harvey had bothered.


"Well then I'll leave you two to it," Jessica said acidly before
finally going on her way.


From over Louis' shoulder he could see Donna pretend to be too immersed in
her work to notice the managing partner walk by. He looked up at
Louis then, who did, in fact, hold a thick folder.


"Is this about the Sparling lawsuit?" Harvey asked, sidestepping
their needless lie to Jessica with ease.


"Yeah, I hit a stumbling block and I was wondering if you could take a look
at it for me." Louis sounded close to pleading and Harvey knew
exactly why. Since everybody was aware that Donna was Wonder Woman by
night and legal secretary by day, it did beg the question why they
even tried anymore.


Harvey grinned. "Louis, really? After all this time? Have you even met
Donna?"


He heard said assistant laugh in her cubicle. Louis sighed in defeat.
"So you know it's Mike's case."


"I also know it's too though of a nut to crack for him."


"Not just for him. I went through it with a fine comb and I have no idea
how to help him. So please... Harvey..."


Donna had stood up and was glaring a warning at him through the glass.
Apparently Mike had crossed well into unforgiving territory with her.


"Tell you what, Louis, if you can convince Donna Mike's worth this a
thousandth chance you want me to give him, I'll do it. Because Mike
is about to lose this one, not because he isn't smart enough or can't
find the right arguments, but because he doesn't have the balls to
crack down on the other side like he knows he should. And you can't
help him, because you still oversee the associates and it'll be seen
as favoritism by the rest of them. But if I take on the case, it'll
only seem as he's my associate again so it's only natural for me to
take over any of his cases I want."


Louis took a moment to look crestfallen at his insight, before turning
towards Donna. The sight of her made him take a step back. "I
can't go with this to her," Louis actually begged. "She'll
kill me."


Harvey chuckled. "Do you want to hide in here for a while?"


Louis looked like he was really considering it. "Forget I asked."


Harvey grabbed a baseball ball from his desk and began to idly play with it.
Once Louis left, Donna walked in. He was expecting some words on his
exchange with his fellow senior partner, but all he got was a
muffins-filled package placed gingerly on his desk. He gave her an
incredulous look.



"They're not from Meredith Metcalf," she said. "And they came with a
card." She placed the still sealed, tiny envelope on the desk,
next to the parcel.


"Who?"


"The plaintiff in the pro bono custody dispute Jessica forced down your
neck to get you to pawn it to Mike so you'll talk to him, when she
really should've known better," Donna clarified. "She sends
you cookies every week or so since you won it for her. These aren't
cookies and they're not from her."


He opened his mouth to ask her from whom the new baked goods were, but
she had already turned to leave, signaling he should find that one by
himself. The message inside the small envelope was succinct: Your
firm is not in any danger from me. Neither is my father.
The
note was signed with the initials E. M. He glanced at the strange
token and then at Donna, but she had gone back to work. The muffins
looked home made. He took one automatically, while he mulled over
loyalties and secrets. The muffin was good, really good. He finished
it, stashed one more and stood up, taking the rest with him.


"Here, try them. Blueberry and not bad," he recommended, placing the
packet on Donna's desk.

~ * ~

Breathing a little easier when he didn't see Norma at her desk, he strode
faster into Louis' office. He didn't know where that creepy woman was
lurking, but she could be back at any given moment. Louis' expression
was both curious and buoyant.


"Let me see that Sparling file," Harvey said.


~ * ~


Mike pressed the pads of his fingers on his closed, aching eyes. He was
dog-tired. This was the third night in a row, when he was at the
office long after the other cubicles had emptied. The too many words
of the case were whirling in his brain on a loop. Some days he hated
his perfect memory. These days he hated his work at the firm he once
had felt so tied to. He was about to lose the nightmarish case that
had landed on him and though it wouldn't help his standing in the
pool of associates, which was more competitive than ever with the
addition of the London lawyers, he didn't mind it one bit. In fact,
he didn't want to win. It wasn't right that he did.


George Sparling sat on the the board of one of their most important Wall
Street clients. He was middle-aged, married and had two children. He
also taught a class in Risk at Columbia Business School, which was
where he had met Myra Tomlin, a promising, young PhD candidate, whom
he had proceeded to stalk, after she had refused his advances. The
guy was an expert on risk-taking alright, because he always skated on
the edge of the law without actually breaking it. When the police
couldn't help her, Myra Tomlin had filed a civil suit against him in
hopes of putting an end to the terror.


Sparling had run right to Pearson & Darby, claiming it was the other way
around: she was the one obsessed with him, after he had turned down
her overtures. Only that surprise, surprise: he had no proof of that,
while the young woman had phones listings with his number calling her
one too many times, suspicious break-ins into her apartment and loved
letters dropped on her doorstep. The case was a classic and Mike
could not imagine a jury not returning a verdict in her favor. Heck,
even he believed her over his client.


The firm or more precisely, Arnold Goldberg, the senior partner who was
representing Sparling's company, was, of course, more interested in
the millions of dollars worth of legal work he had to do for the
corporation, rather than something as inconsequential as the fact
that a board member was a lecherous lunatic terrorizing an innocent
girl. So Goldberg had dumped the suit into the associates pool for
one of the youngsters to get rid of the whole thing as quickly and as
inexpensively as possible. Mike had drawn the short stick.


He had attempted to settle, but meeting had been a nightmare all onto
its own. Myra Tomlin looked even younger in person and had been on
the verge of tears only from being in the same room with Sparling.
Her attorney, a woman twice his age, hadn't seem like much when he
had looked into her track record, yet she had had more cases of the
kind under her belt than he did, and had instantly smelled his
sympathy for her client.


All in all, he still could have settled the case quite nicely, but he
just couldn't bring himself to bully a woman, who had already been
victimized. Sparling had refused to pay the amount the other lawyer
wanted, and Mike couldn't fully blame him, since it would have
probably bankrupted him. Besides, the guy didn't deserve the chance
to pay his way out of this; he deserved to go to jail. But instead
they were going to trial and Mike had to defend the slimy bastard.


Mike was literally scared out of his glum musings by a file dropping
violently on his keyboards. He looked up and the scanting words died
on his lips, when he saw Harvey looming over his cubicle, his face
inscrutable in the merciless lights of the bullpen.


"Do me a favor and don't tell anyone you used to be my associate,"
Harvey said in a moderate tone of voice, that was all the more
berating in its collected viciousness.


Mike felt his cheeks heat with shame, as the memory of his old admiration
for the man before him resurfaced with a vengeance. Letting Harvey
down had always been painful, but his recent betrayal made it even
worse. He glanced down at the papers that had spewed on his desk and
instantly saw that they were copies of the Sparling file. He silently
cursed Louis for failing to keep his imminent defeat to himself.


"Jessica should've let me fire you, when I wanted to, because at this point
you're just one more anchor dragging us down," Harvey went on,
his voice still eerily calm. "What the hell is the matter with
you?"


Mike's shame quickly dissolved into anger. "You know what, Harvey?
Spare me. Isn't your obsession with winning that kept your name from
the door just a few months ago? You always have to win. You and you
alone." He jumped to his feet, the fresh waves of fury chasing
away his previous exhaustion. "You act like it's my and
Jessica's fault, when it's you who started the whole thing. You and
your self-entitlement and your sick need to always come on top. Well,
you were wrong. You were more than wrong. You also broke the law. And
for what? To force your name on a building that was crumbling down.
Because guess what, Harvey? This merger isn't an anchor. It's the
best that ever happened to this firm."


Something rare flared into Harvey's eyes, that instantly went more dark than
brown. Something baleful and sharp, like a cutting diamond edge or a
sliver of perfect steel. It served as an acute reminder that the
city's best closer was not only dangerous in the courtroom. The man
standing just a flimsy cubicle wall away from Mike was a force of
nature, someone to be reckoned with. He had made the drug dealers
threatening Trevor's life back down. But Mike was determined not to
let himself intimidated.


When he spoke, Harvey's voice had barely raised half an octave, but the
dark edge in his eyes had seeped into it, making it seem like a crack
of thunder in the quiet, deserted bullpen. "I didn't lose that
day, Mike. I started to the moment I hired a cowardly kid without a
degree to do a man's job. And I kept losing every time I risked my
own job to defend someone who could never get his shit together and
who still can't. You lose this suit, I'm taking it to the partners'
meeting the very next day and I won't even have to fire you myself.
Your incompetency will do it for me."


Mike saw red. "Why? Because our client's too cheap to spend a buck
for the woman whose life he turned upside down? Or is it because our
big, bad Manhattan firm couldn't stand to lose to her Brooklyn
lawyer?"


Harvey chuckled darkly. "So not only you forgot everything I taught
you, but as it turns out, you can't even recognize a fellow liar."


"She's not lying," Mike defended.


"She's also not your client."


"Of course not. She doesn't have the money for it."


"You know another one of the thousands of reasons why emotion is a bad
idea? Because it blinds you to the facts. Do your damned due
diligence on your damned case."


"Like you just did," Mike muttered. "This is my case, Harvey, not
yours."


"I know. Only you could've blown that settlement meeting the way you
did. And no, I didn't get an investigator to look into the plaintiff.
That was your job and you didn't do it. And if you were half as smart
as you think you are, you wouldn't have had to. You would've caught
it since her deposition."


Mike started to say something, then he stopped himself, troubled. Angry as
he was with Harvey's habit of dealing in the moral gray, he was still
well aware that the closer read people like he read case files:
easily and flawlessly. "Caught what?" he asked somewhat
subdued.


Harvey's expression was so closed off, his face might have been as well carved
from marble. "It's all in there," he said tilting his head
towards the file spread on Mike's desk. And with that he turned
towards the elevator and walked away before his former associate
could stop him.


Mike huffed a heavy sigh and plopped down on his chair. It seemed his day
was not over yet.



TBC


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