Possession: 1. Hostile Takeover Bid


“You see, Mike, there are winners and there are losers in this world. And do you want to know how to make sure you’re a winner and not a loser?”


Mike stifled a yawn and handed Louis the big stack of files he’d spent all morning retrieving from the file room.


“I’m sure you’re going to tell me,” he muttered. His back was aching, and if Harvey had come looking for him at any point in the past few hours then his afternoon was going to be just as unpleasant as his morning had been so far. Not that Harvey had come looking for him much lately. He seemed to have been avoiding him since the Clifford Danner case, and Mike had no idea why.


Louis gave him a reptilian smile. “I am, Mike, yes, because I look at you and see myself.”


“Really?” Mike felt faintly alarmed by that.


“Yes – I mean, you’re not as bright or as good-looking, but I can see in you a paler, inferior version of myself, as I was at your age.”


“Really?” Mike injected more sarcasm into it this time. “Will this take long, Louis, only…” he gestured in the direction of Harvey’s office.


“Winners and losers, Mike! You want to be on the winning team, don’t you?”


“Yes, Louis, I do.” Mike nodded. If he’d learned one thing from the past few months working at Pearson Hardman, it was that losing was a disgrace you wanted to avoid at all costs.


“Well, the secret, my friend, and I tell you this as a friend…” Louis leaned forward conspiratorially, beckoning. Mike hesitated and then leaned in too. Louis moved in a bit closer, so their heads almost banged together; Mike drew back a fraction.


“The secret is to keep your eyes open and look around; spot the winners and make sure you’re always on their team. That way you’ll be a winner too.”


Louis sat back and gazed at him expectantly. Mike pondered that for a moment, wondering what he was being told. This was Louis, so there had to be an ulterior motive or hidden meaning in there somewhere.


Louis gave a theatrical sigh. “I’m saying, Michael…Mikey…uh…Mike…what I’m saying is – who brings in the big payloads around here?” He had the cocky look on his face that Mike always found faintly repellent. He was looking smugly expectant, his fingers tapping impatiently on the desk in front of him as he waited for Mike’s answer.


“Uh…Harvey?” Mike ventured.


“What? No!” Louis’s face turned sulky. “Harvey’s showy, sure…he has the name, and the reputation.” He said that sneeringly. “But in terms of the big bucks, it’s me, Mike. Me. Moi. Numero uno. I’m the winner around here. So, if you want to be a winner too…”


“I should be on your team?”


“Now you’re getting it.” Louis gave a smirk. “That’s right, Mike. I’m a winner, so if you’re smart, you’ll get into bed with me.”


Mike hoped he didn’t mean that literally, but he gave a shudder at the mental image anyway.


“See…” Louis beckoned him back again. “I know, Mike.”


Mike felt his stomach flip at that. Did Louis know his secret? How? Only he and Harvey, and possibly Donna, knew about his lack of a Harvard law degree.


“What is it you know, Louis?” Mike asked carefully.


“I know you have an exceptional memory; almost photographic. I’ve been secretly testing you, Mike.”


“Well, it’s not really a secret…”


Louis waved a hand in the air. “See, facts, figures, dates…the devil is in the detail, but that stuff…well, it’s dull. I’m bigger than that. I’m a mover. I’m a dealer. You get what I’m saying?”


“Oh yes.” Mike nodded. He got it.


“Look, Mike, I’ve got a secret of my own.” Louis beckoned him back again, and Mike went, more cautiously this time. Louis made a show of looking around his office theatrically, to make sure that nobody was there. Mike did his best to hide his eye roll.


“Jessica has made it known to me – discreetly – that I’m soon going to be a senior partner.”


“Really?” Mike tried to sound impressed.


“Oh yes!” Louis looked like the cat that’d got the cream. “Really. And of course, when that happens I’ll be allowed to have my own associate – and I’d like to offer that prestigious job to you, Mike. We could be a great team. You could do the boring stuff, while I do the big, important stuff.”


“When you put it like that, it’s a hard offer to refuse.”


Mike’s sarcastic tone was lost on Louis. “That’s right. And you don’t want to refuse me, Mike.” Louis’s face turned suddenly ugly. “You really don’t.”


Mike tried very hard not to laugh in his face. “Yeah, see, thing is, I’m not sure what Harvey would have to say about that.”


Louis’s expression darkened even more. “Harvey has nothing to do with this. He doesn’t own you. “


“Doesn’t he?” a voice behind them said, and Mike swung around, unsure if he should be relieved or petrified to see Harvey standing in the doorway.


Harvey looked as smooth and unruffled as ever, but Mike had become attuned to Harvey’s moods. He could tell by the slight drag of Harvey’s eyebrow that he was amused, by the little curl of his lip that he was annoyed, and by the slight crease of his brow that his cunning brain was already machinating – although about what, Mike had no idea.


Louis looked like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Yet, despite being caught in the act, he clearly had no intention of relinquishing his hold on the cookie he coveted so much. Mike wasn’t sure he liked being the cookie in this analogy, but there was something curiously hot about watching Harvey and Louis face off over him.


“If you want an associate to order around, go find your own. I believe Harold’s available.” Harvey jerked his head down the hallway, and Mike couldn’t help grinning; Harold would hardly be anyone’s first choice.


Louis scowled at him. “I’m just pointing out to Ross that he might want to think twice about who he associates with.” He smiled at his little play on words. “Hooking up with you might not have been his best career move. Your risk-taking has earned you a certain reputation, Harvey, but when you fall – and we all know you will fall one day soon – then you’ll take Mike with you on the way down. I’m just trying to look out for him.”


“Hmmm.” Harvey appeared to consider that. “No, I don’t think that’s it, Louis. I think this is just you, wanting whatever belongs to me, as usual.”


There was something about the idea of belonging to Harvey that made Mike’s stomach do a little flip. He ignored it because it was both presumptuous and arrogant for Harvey to act like he owned him.


“Uh…guys…I don’t actually belong to anyone but myself,” he interjected.


Harvey’s laser-like gaze moved from Louis to him, and Mike almost regretted saying anything. Now the little drag of Harvey’s eyebrow signalled that he’d gone from amused to highly amused.


“Is that so?” he asked, in a deceptively mild tone.


“Well, yes. I mean, I work for you, and for Pearson Hardman, and sometimes even for Louis. But nobody actually owns me.”


Harvey appeared to ponder this, while Louis gloated, visibly. “He’s right. He might be, for now, nominally your associate but remember he reports to me – because I’m in charge of all the associates. His contract of employment is with Pearson Hardman, and his services are for anyone’s use. He’s not exclusively yours, Harvey, and if he chose to be mine instead there isn’t a damn thing you could do about it.”


Mike wasn’t so sure he liked the idea of his services being for anyone’s use. That made him sound like a general whore rather than someone’s specific courtesan. And he actually felt a bit dejected at the idea of not being Harvey’s, despite what he’d said. He liked being Harvey’s. He always got a little glow whenever Harvey referred to him as his puppy or his boy, although he never liked to examine why too closely.


“I’m sure you’ve both heard the term ‘possession is nine-tenths of the law’,” Harvey said smoothly.


“Of course,” Louis replied. “But you don’t possess Mike.”


Harvey gave a slow smile, and Mike felt an exhilarating tingle of fear creep down his spine. When Harvey was in full danger mode there was nothing to do but hold onto the sides of the ride and scream for all you were worth on the way down.


“Mike, explain what the old adage, ‘possession is nine-tenths of the law’ means,” Harvey instructed.


“Uh well…” Mike thought back to the relevant page in his memory. “It’s not a legal precept as such. It’s more just a general expression meaning that ownership is easier to maintain if one has possession of something, and much more difficult to enforce if one does not. “


“That’s right.” Harvey nodded. “Or, to put it another way: in a property dispute, in the absence of clear and compelling testimony or documentation to the contrary, the person in actual possession of the property is presumed to be the rightful owner. So that tie you’re wearing…” Harvey glanced at Mike’s tie with a wince. “Is presumed to be yours unless someone can prove that it is not, although why anyone would lay claim to such an ugly tie is beyond me. It’s surely bad enough that you are claiming ownership yourself, via the express means of wearing it.”


“It actually belongs to Trevor.” Mike grinned at him.


“Really?” Harvey’s eyebrow shot up his forehead. “Well, I can see why he hasn’t sued to get it back.”


“The adage isn’t literally true,” Louis interjected, looking irritated by their banter. “The legal truth is that every claimant must succeed by the strength of his own title, and not by the weakness of his antagonist’s.”


Uti possidetis,” Harvey shot back. “As you possess, so may you continue to possess, which, in Mike’s case, unfortunately, means he’s stuck with a very ugly tie.”


Mike laughed out loud at that. Louis looked annoyed.


“And in my case, as Mike is my associate, hired by me to do my bidding, I claim possession,” Harvey continued.


“Except Mike has free will. He’s not a tie or a piece of property!” Louis snapped. “You can’t possess him!”


“Oh, can’t I?” The look Harvey gave Mike sent the shivers currently running up and down his spine into overdrive. “Look, Louis, I’m tired of you constantly machinating to acquire Mike’s services. It’s getting old. I suggest we reconvene here at 10 a.m. tomorrow, when you will capitulate and agree to stop trying to weasel Mike out of my office and into yours, once and for all.”


“And why would I do that?” Louis sneered.


“Because then I will prove both ownership and possession beyond all doubt. Deal?” Harvey held out his hand.


Louis gave it a hostile look but shook it all the same. “Deal. Seeing as how you can’t.”


Harvey’s supremely confident smile indicated that Louis might just have made a bad bargain; it certainly left Mike wondering what on earth Harvey was going to do to prove his ‘possession’. As far as he could see, Louis was right; his contract was with Pearson Hardman not Harvey personally, even if he had hired him, and if he chose to be Louis’s associate instead of Harvey’s, there wasn’t a damn thing Harvey could do about it. Not that he intended to make that choice.


Mike sighed. “Haven’t we been here before?” he asked, looking from Louis to Harvey and back again. “And I said then that I’m not a chattel, and I’ll say it again. Could I also point out that last time you and Harvey made a wager over my services, you decided you didn’t actually want them when you got them,” Mike said to Louis.


“That’s because Harvey screwed up and let you run a case alone with the inevitable result that you created a total mess. I won’t be doing that, Mike. I’ll be a proper mentor and give you real help and advice, like a good mentor should.”


Harvey’s eyes flashed darkly, and Mike knew Louis had hit a nerve. Harvey’s history with his own mentors was complex, and Mike was sure that had affected their own relationship. Harvey had a tendency to blow hot and cold, sometimes giving him help and advice and other times leaving him to screw up all by himself. Mike resented that; Harvey knew he hadn’t gone to law school. He might have a photographic memory and understand the law but that wasn’t the same as knowing how to practice it.


“And if you fail to prove possession,” Louis purred. “Then I get Mike, and you get…” he shrugged, a nasty grin on his face. “Harold.”


Harvey’s expression didn’t falter, but a muscle in his jaw twitched. Mike doubted that Louis noticed it, but he did.


“Fine. Deal,” Harvey said brusquely. He turned on his heel. “Mike, with me,” he ordered, as he stalked out of the office.




“You bartered me? For real this time – not just for ten days but forever?” Mike said hotly as he ran after Harvey. “Damn it, Harvey, what the hell were you thinking?”


Harvey spun round. “I’m thinking that you spent all morning running errands for Louis when I gave you work to do, so right now you might as well be his associate and not mine.”


“That’s not fair! He told me I had to…he said it was urgent, and if I wanted to keep my job I should…” Mike took a step back, alarmed by the dark look in Harvey’s eyes.


“Mike, he’s playing you. You heard him back there. Do you want to be Louis’s lackey?”


“No! I’d far rather be your lackey.” Mike grinned, trying to calm the situation down.


“Really? Because I’m not seeing any evidence of that right now.” Harvey didn’t return his grin. He just looked intently into Mike’s eyes.


Mike felt his grin fading. “Of course I don’t want to work for Louis, Harvey!”


“It’s not just about work, Mike.”


Harvey’s intent gaze bored holes into him, and Mike swallowed hard. “I just…look, Harvey, he told me to do something. He outranks me, so I thought I should do it.”


“I asked you to do something too. Any reason why my work is still sitting on your desk untouched and his has been done?”


“He’s meaner than you?” Mike suggested, which was partly the truth. Harvey was a tyrannical slave driver, but he wasn’t a low-life like Louis.


“You don’t think I can be mean?” Harvey’s dark-eyed gaze made Mike feel like he was walking further and further into a trap with every word he said. Harvey moved in close, a little smile playing at the corners of his mouth. “Oh, I can be mean, Mike,” he murmured into Mike’s ear. “I can be mean, demanding and completely without mercy, as you’re about to find out this evening. Be at my apartment at eight p.m. sharp.”


“Your apartment?” Mike repeated, surprised. “But you never let me into your apartment.”


“Well, let’s hope that I do tonight, or you’ll be spending it on the floor outside my front door.”


“C’mon, Harvey! I said I’m sorry.”


“Actually, you didn’t.” Harvey looked frankly annoyed, and Mike had the feeling that he’d done something to really piss him off. He just wasn’t sure what precisely.


Was this really all about him spending the morning working for Louis? It seemed more personal than that, and Mike was confused as to what he’d done wrong. It was as if he’d unwittingly broken some special Harvey rule he wasn’t even aware of, and his confusion made him defensive.


“If you were around more often, maybe I’d have done your work instead of Louis’s, but I’ve barely seen you in weeks!” he snapped. “You’re right – I might as well be Louis’s associate and not yours for all the damn attention you’ve been paying me lately. At least Louis seems interested in actually being my mentor, which is more than I’m getting from you right now.”


The sense of danger skyrocketed as Harvey’s expression darkened. “So this is all about getting my attention?” He moved in even closer, so that Mike could feel the cool, silken interior of his suit jacket against his hand. “You want my attention, Mike? Well, you’ve got it; I just hope you can handle it. Tonight, Mike. And prepare for a long night. You won’t be getting much sleep.”


That sounded ominous, and Mike felt another flare of temper. He didn’t see how any of this was his fault, so why was he in so much trouble with Harvey?


“So, you’re going to make me stay up working all night to punish me for helping Louis this morning?” he asked petulantly.


“Oh, I expect there will be punishment, yes,” Harvey said silkily.


Mike’s stomach did a strangely excited little flip. “And how is working me into the ground all night going to prove your point about possession to Louis?” he demanded.


Harvey’s only reply to that was a laugh. He turned and began striding away.


“I’m going out for the rest of the afternoon. You will be at my apartment at eight tonight. Don’t be late, Mike,” he instructed over his shoulder as he disappeared around the corner.




Louis marched up to Mike’s cubicle an hour later, leaned on it, and flashed him a smarmy grin.


“Mike – let’s get lunch.”


“Louis, look, I’m flattered and all, but I have to get all this proof-read for Harvey by this evening,” Mike replied, pointing at the massive pile of legal papers on his desk.


“Harold will do it. Harold!” Louis picked up the pile of papers before Mike could protest and threw them onto Harold’s desk. “Proof that. You’ve got three hours. Fail, and I’ll fire you.”


Harold’s pale skin flushed a dark red, and he grabbed the papers and immediately launched himself into the task. Mike almost felt sorry for him.


Louis turned back to him. “Mike – I’ve booked a table for us at Medici’s for lunch.”




“It’s the hottest new restaurant in town. You’ve probably read the reviews. There’s already a six month waiting list for a table, but I made a call, and they were falling over themselves to get me in for lunch today.” Louis preened and adjusted his tie with a flourish.


“And you want to take me there?” Mike asked blankly.


“I do.” Louis smiled. “I don’t think you fully understand the deal I was offering you earlier, Mike. I want you to see how this could really benefit you.”


Mike sighed. “Please, Louis, just let it drop. I’m in enough trouble with Harvey as it is, and…”


“Forget Harvey. He’s just using you. Hitch your wagon to mine, and you’ll find your career will really start to take off. Now, come with me.”


Louis snapped his fingers and walked swiftly towards the door. Mike stared after him for a moment, but then he figured it’d do his ego good to have Louis fawning all over him, to say nothing of paying for him to eat lunch at the most expensive restaurant in town.


Harvey not only hadn’t been around much lately, but when he was he always seemed to be doing his best to keep Mike at arm’s length. It would be nice to spend some time with someone who actually appreciated him, even if Louis’s appreciation was a double-edged sword.




The food at Medici’s was over-priced, frou-frou crap to Mike’s mind, but he enjoyed choosing several of the most expensive items on the menu and watching Louis blanch in response.


Louis didn’t waste much time; Mike was only halfway through his starter when Louis took out a sheaf of papers.


“Mike, I’m serious about this. So serious, I’m prepared to put it in writing. This is an agreement I’ve drawn up, between you and me. I’m suggesting putting you on a retainer – out of my own money – as a placeholder until such time as I make Senior Partner – which, Jessica has assured me, will be within three months. After that, you’ll become my associate, and I’ll give you 5% commission on any bonus Pearson Harman awards me. And, let’s face it, I’m going to be earning some very big bonuses.” Louis gave a confident grin.


“Commission?” Mike stared at Louis, open-mouthed.


Louis tapped his chin with his index finger to close his jaw. “Manners, Mike. I can see an entire mouthful of food.”


“You’re doing this just to win that stupid wager with Harvey?”


“Of course not. Well, not entirely.” Louis shrugged.


“You two are insane, you know that? You both work for the same firm; this weird, competitive rivalry between you is crazy.”


“No, it’s not; it keeps us sharp. And don’t call me crazy. As for the wager, I already told you I want you to be my associate and if this is the way to get you, then I’ll happily play Harvey’s stupid game with him – and win.”


“And this is how you’re going to win?”


“Of course.” Louis gave an offhand shrug. “Look, I figure there’s only one way to prove possession of someone, Mike, and that’s to buy them.”


“You’re buying me?” Mike asked, still in shock.


“Yes, I am.”


“And what makes you think I’m for sale?”


“Oh, everyone has a price, Mike.” Louis smirked. “I bet Harvey hasn’t offered you a cut of his bonus, has he?”


“Uh…no.” Mike stared at the piece of paper in front of him. There was no doubt this would help with a lot of his financial worries. His grandmother’s nursing home wasn’t cheap, and he still had considerable debts from his previous life. This would take care of all those worries in one go.


“All I ask is that you commit.” Louis gestured at the papers on the table in front of him. “See, Harvey made a big mistake not locking you into an exclusive agreement. I’m not going to make the same mistake, Mike. I want you to agree to work as my associate, exclusively for me, on the terms I just laid out, and sign on the dotted line.” He got out an expensive fountain pen and placed it on top of the papers. “Well, what do you say?”


“Uh…” Mike tried to swallow down the food, which now felt dry and tasteless in his mouth. He took a gulp of water, suddenly not feeling hungry anymore. “Well, first of all, I need to read this.”


“You don’t trust me?” Louis grinned at him.


“Well, you are a lawyer.” Mike grinned back, playing for time. He needed to think this through.


“Takes one to know one, huh? Fine. Take it away, read it. But if Harvey offers you a better deal, I’ll eat my hat.”


Mike frowned. “Do you even own a hat?”


“No. You know what I mean. Look, Mike – if Harvey offers you a better deal, just give me a chance to counter-offer. Okay? Don’t just accept without talking to me first.”


“Hang on! You really think Harvey’s going to offer me money to stay with him?”


“Of course.” Louis looked surprised. “Come on, Mike – how the hell else is he going to prove his stupid point about possession? You take the king’s shilling; you become the king’s man. Everyone knows that.”


“Right,” Mike said uncertainly. “And you’re the king in this analogy?” He picked up the papers, folded them, and placed them in his jacket pocket.


“If the shoe fits.” Louis nudged him conspiratorially. “You and me, Mike – we’re going to make a great team. I’ll take you all the way to the top with me. I’m not like Harvey – I take care of my underlings.”


“You think Harvey doesn’t take care of me?” Mike felt the gnawing sense of insecurity that had been with him since he’d first met Harvey. He wanted Harvey to be proud of him and impressed by him, and he would work his ass off to make it happen, but he wasn’t sure Harvey felt that way. He certainly hadn’t showed it recently if he did.


They had these moments, when Mike felt as if Harvey liked and valued him, when they laughed, and joked, and wrangled their way around the law, winning cases and swapping movie quotes…and then it was like a reset button was pressed, and Harvey was back to his usual inscrutable self. Mike didn’t know where he stood with him.


Louis laughed out loud. “Harvey wants you because you make him look good, but he doesn’t do enough to keep you. If he did, you wouldn’t be sitting here right now, listening to my deal. Something’s missing.” Louis gave him another of those smug smirks, and Mike shifted uncomfortably. Damn Louis for so easily seeing a tiny piece of his soul.


Mike wasn’t sure what it was he wanted from Harvey exactly, but he knew he wasn’t getting it – or at least he was getting glimpses but not the whole deal. He also knew he wouldn’t get it from Louis – but at least he’d get something else out of that deal, and he’d never again have to worry about his grandmother being thrown out of her nursing home.


“I believe the best way to ensure loyalty is to buy it,” Louis told him. “I’ll buy your loyalty with cold, hard cash. You do a good job for me, and you’ll buy my loyalty in return. I’ll see you do well out of it.”


Mike stared at him, remembering Louis’s words to him earlier in the day. Now he wondered if he’d been looking at this the wrong way. Louis had told him that the way to get ahead was to identify a winner and get on their team. Maybe that was what Louis himself was doing right now. He thought Mike was a winner, and he wanted to snap him up in order to further his own career.


Mike wasn’t sure how he felt about that. At least Louis was viewing him as a winner, whereas Harvey seemed to view him as a puppy, to be ordered around at his whim. Inexplicably, Mike got that thrilling little shiver again. In a choice between being viewed as a winner or a puppy, it should have been a no-brainer, and yet somehow it wasn’t.


Maybe Harvey was right, after all, and emotions had no place in business. Louis was offering him a good deal. Why should Mike let his loyalty to Harvey get in the way of his own career? If Harvey has been offered the same deal then he’d probably sign without a second thought. Hell, Harvey would probably laugh at him for hesitating.


Mike found he couldn’t eat much more – his stomach was churning too much as he tried to figure out what to do for the best. He barely listened as Louis bragged about his latest deal and some woman he was supposedly dating, and he was relieved when the whole thing was over, and he could scurry back to his cubicle for some alone time to figure this out in his head.


“Do what’s best for you, Mike,” was Louis’s parting shot as they returned to the office. “Put Mike Ross first – then you’ll know what you have to do.”


Mike wished he did. Those papers burned a hole in his pocket, and he felt guilty for even thinking about Louis’s offer, yet he couldn’t stop thinking about it all the same – especially when all he was getting from Harvey were stern words, angry looks, and the prospect of working an all-nighter as a punishment for something that wasn’t his fault.


Mike went home after work and took a shower. He considered wearing a pair of holey jeans and a stained sweater to Harvey’s place, just to annoy him, knowing how much appearances mattered to Harvey, but in the end he decided against it. If he was going to dump Harvey on his ass and get into bed with Louis (Mike shuddered again at the mental image), then the least he could do was to show up looking halfway decent.


He pulled on his best pair of jeans and layered a blue sweater over a white tee shirt in a way that he thought might just meet Harvey’s exacting sartorial standards. Then it occurred to him that he’d need a suit for the following day if Harvey intended to make him work all night, so he packed one up in a garment bag with a shirt, tie and underwear, and attached the bag to the back of his bike.


He took one look around the place and saw Louis’s papers lying on the bed. He hadn’t signed them, but he was seriously considering it, and that bothered him.


“Judas,” he told himself. “Harvey gave you your break. If it wasn’t for him, you’d be doing time in prison, or lying at the bottom of the Atlantic with a bullet through your head courtesy of Trevor’s drug-dealing friends.”


Maybe he should mention this to Harvey and give him a chance to persuade him to stay. Maybe he should show him the contract Louis had drawn up. But he hated the thought of the look of betrayed disappointment he was sure he’d see in Harvey’s eyes if he found out he was even considering it.


In the end, Mike grabbed the papers and stuffed them into his bag. He could decide later. He didn’t have to decide now. He had until tomorrow morning after all, and maybe Harvey would say something tonight that would help him decide what to do.


Mike didn’t think for a second that Harvey would offer him money, the way Louis had.


But how else was he going to win his bet with Louis tomorrow…?


End of Part One



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