3 Years Ago
A flying carton of Chunky Monkey ice cream was an excellent way to test Harvey Specter's reflexes. He saw it from the corner of his eye and caught it a split second before it would have hit him and exploded all over his suit. The source of the ice cream was now standing in front of his desk, looking down at him with a sympathetic look on her face.
"What the hell is this?" he demanded, setting the carton on his desk and trying to conceal the fright that the frozen projectile had caused him.
"I know what you said about Chunky Monkey, and after thinking about what you said, I decided that I'm going to reject your rejection." Harvey had been wondering whether this moment would manifest.
"But it's not even breakfast time," Harvey said with a touch of sarcasm.
"Doesn't matter. It's got chocolate. There's always time for chocolate" As far as Donna was concerned, there was never a bad time for chocolate.
"Donna, I have work to do. Can we do this later?" 'This' wasn't strictly referring to the ice cream, and they both knew it. She was presumably waiting for him to have some kind of emotional breakdown about Zoe.
"No, that's okay. You keep working, I'll just sit here quietly, enjoying the ice cream that you're still refusing. I can't believe you're just going to let it melt," Donna said, shaking her head in utter disdain. She settled herself into his couch with her own carton, and Harvey knew it was going to be a long night.
"If I eat it, will you leave sooner?" He knew that there would be no ripping off the band-aid with Donna, but that sure as hell didn't mean that he wasn't going to try.
"I can't make any promises. But signs point to yes." Donna knew that even a conditional 'yes' was as good as a complete victory. He'd just given her the perfect opportunity to elongate their conversation as much as possible.
"I don't have a spoon." Harvey said stubbornly. There was no good reason for him to make it easy for Donna to achieve her goal. And he really hoped that she wasn't about to suggest that he eat it straight.
"If you move that messy pile of papers, you'll find one," Donna replied, gesturing to the stack with her spoon. Harvey didn't appreciate the dig at the way he kept his desk, but he dutifully fished through his files and found a large silver spoon sitting at him. The way that it shone so innocently under the light of his office didn't align with how it obviously must have found its way onto his desk.
"When did you put this here?"
"Does it really matter?" Harvey knew that that was Donna's way of saying that it had already been there when she had initially made the offer to him. The way that she had let it stay there meant that Donna had trusted that they'd be having such a meeting, even after he said no. Harvey didn't like it one bit.
"I know what you're doing, Donna," Harvey said, taking his first mouthful of ice cream. Her end goal was to get him to discuss his feelings about Zoe leaving. But Donna was going to go home empty-handed, because there was nothing he had to say on the matter.
"I'd be disappointed in you if you didn't."
"So, are you going to force me to talk about my feelings?" No-one could force Harvey to do anything, but Donna was the one person who could get pretty damn close.
"Not if you don't want to talk," Donna replied, shrugging pacifistically.
"Good," Harvey said bluntly. It felt like a trap. If Donna wanted something, she never gave in without a fight. Donna didn't respond right away, and every second of silence where she didn't protest made Harvey more and more nervous.
"I mean, I know you'll apologise to Mike when you're ready." There it is. He hadn't been expecting her to mention Mike at all, and the surprise prompted him to respond before he could even consider his answer.
"I'm not apologising to Mike. His behaviour has been completely inexcusable lately." Harvey knew as soon as he said it that his statement was perhaps a little too harsh, but he wasn't planning on apologising, either.
"His grandmother just died. I think it's okay if he's a little off his game," Donna pointed out.
"Was I off my game when my father died?" It was a jackpot for Donna. Although the purpose of the ice cream therapy had meant to be in relation to Zoe, she would happily take Harvey talking about his father's death.
"Of course not, but that's because you're you, and you don't let anything throw you. Ever," she added for good measure; it was hard to tell whether she meant it as an insult or a compliment. That was the unusual thing about Donna – she always knew the truth about people, and
"Zoe thought I lost my way," Harvey admitted. Donna allowed herself a little triumphant smile.
"And you let her think that," Donna clarified, and Harvey gave a conceding little nod as he dug a little further into his ice cream.
"She was right. I wasn't thinking straight. I didn't want to admit the possibility that my head was in the wrong place." There were a few seconds of silence as they both mulled over Harvey's comment. But it wasn't over yet. Donna had barely scratched the surface.
"Is that why you're pretending to be okay about her leaving?" Donna didn't get the answer she wanted. Instead, Harvey suddenly let out an almighty wince, inhaling sharply and dropping his spoon. A sudden pain had hit him, rendering him practically speechless.
"Fuck," he managed to hiss, clenching his fists and arching back in his chair.
"Oh my God," Donna said, jumping up and rushing straight to his side.
"What is it? Should I call 911?" Harvey let out another moan of pain, and any level-headedness of Donna's flew out the window. Medical emergencies were not Donna's forte, and watching Harvey
"Use your words, Harvey, I can't help you if you don't tell me what's wrong!" Donna's voice had climbed several octaves in pitch as she tried not to panic at Harvey's visible agony.
"It's nothing, it'll pass – ah, shit!" Harvey groaned as a second wave of pain hit him, though not as bad as the first. It eased off after a couple of seconds, and he was able to sit back upright and give Donna a pallid smile. It did nothing to wipe the terrified look off her face.
"See? I'm fine." He so desperately wanted for her slightly glistening eyes to be a trick of the light.
"Oh, you're fine? I bring up a touchy subject and suddenly you're practically convulsing on the floor? I know your family's medical history, Harvey. I don't know what the hell you'd call this, but it's definitely not fine." Her voice broke on the last word, and Harvey registered just how tightly she was gripping his right fist with both hands. Given that they had just been discussing Harvey's father, he knew that her first thought was something to do with his heart. Harvey almost didn't want to tell her the anticlimactic truth about his episode. But it would be cruel of him to lie.
"Brain freeze, Donna. That's all." Her face went from one of panic to confusion to a mixture of fury and embarrassment in about a second. The way she instantly relinquished her grip on his hand hurt almost as much as the brain freeze itself.
"You son of a bitch." Without another word, she seized the ice cream and spoon off his desk and made for the door.
"You're not even going to let me finish? Come on!" Harvey called after her, trying to laugh it off. In his defence, it was an awful case of brain freeze, but he felt bad for making Donna worry.
"If you want to finish this, you're going to have a proper conversation with me about your feelings. Until then, don't even think about it." Donna made sure that the door closed as noisily as it would allow as she sat down at her own desk, avoiding Harvey's sorrowful gaze through the glass. He had gotten what he wanted, which was to stall their inevitable discussion about Zoe. This time, it was Harvey who came to her desk. He had her carton that she had dropped on his floor held out in a peace offering.
"You dropped this."
"Yeah, because I was busy attending to your melodramatic ass," Donna snapped. She had been the one to threaten to call 911 over brain freeze, but Harvey knew that to point that out would be callous.
"Brain freeze is a very serious medical condition, you know. Maybe the ice cream was a bad idea after all," he suggested, knowing very well that Donna would disagree. She would blame it on his lack of cooperation with her conversation.
"No way. Just as I ask you a tough question about Zoe, you just happen to get an ice cream headache? You better not fucking toy with me, Specter."
"I would never toy with you," Harvey told her gently. And that was the truth. He had never meant to cause her any harm. Donna swallowed a sniffle and finally took the ice cream that Harvey was offering.
"You obviously can't handle Chunky Monkey anyway. Brain freeze? What are you, twelve?"
Every time Donna had tried to get Harvey to talk about how he was feeling, there had always been a caveat. Harvey had promised her that he'd never deliberately toy with her, but that didn't mean that his actions and lack of actions failed to hurt her. Either brain freeze got in the way, or there were rules that rules that they couldn't overstep. Or Harvey was upset about being betrayed and needed someone to be his emotional support – not a romantic partner. Harvey didn't seem to be in a state of emotional vulnerability, but that probably had a lot to do with the high they were on from a successful legal day.
"How are you holding up?" she asked him on their way back to the firm. He had refused to mention Sadie by her first name or barely touch on the fact that she had worked for him. It could have been down to the fact that they had had a busy day, but she also knew that Harvey's eagerness to keep busy was a little extreme – even for him.
"Did you see what we achieved today? I feel awesome." That wasn't what Donna had been getting at, but she knew it was the wrong time to press the matter, so she changed the subject.
"Is the firm still shouting me dinner tonight? I think I deserve it after that performance," Donna yawned, stretching out in her seat of the car. The espressos had finally worn off, and the resulting hangover was excruciating. It wasn't exactly brain freeze, but it was contributing to her less than jubilant mood. She had pulled off her jacket and draped it over her eyes to alleviate her headache.
"I think you scarred that poor journalist for life. After all you did today, I'm sure Jessica will be more than happy with the restaurant we're going to."
"Who's we?" Donna pretended like she hadn't noticed the implied thanks he had given.
"You, me, Mike, Rachel, Jessica...Louis," Harvey added in a grudging voice. Donna wanted to sigh. It was obviously too much for her to ever expect Louis and Harvey to see eye to eye anymore.
"Oh good, a bigger audience for your heartfelt apology."
"Apology? What made you think that there'd be any apology?" She knew that Harvey was joking, but it made her realise in that moment how much she really fucking needed a proper apology before she'd be willing to proceed with their working relationship. And not just 'I'm sorry'. She knew that Harvey had been ready to give her that the night before, but after the upset with Sadie it was going to be hard to tell which part of him was genuinely ready to say it. Or maybe it was just easier to expect that the apology she was wanting might never arrive.
"'I'm sorry Donna for abusing the law to send me home, and also for ever doubting you'? There we go, I even wrote your speech for you," Donna said, giving his knee an encouraging pat.
"Abusing the law? We trespassed you because it was a matter of safety," Harvey protested, lifting the jacket off her face so he could give her his best wounded look.
"Whose safety, exactly?" she challenged, squinting at him.
"Everyone's." It was the only safe response to the question, but it was also the most truthful. Donna accepted this answer, and tugged the jacket from Harvey's hands. She sensed that he was about to make a quip about her headache in comparison to his brain freeze, but instead he smiled and let her take the jacket back. They didn't say another word for the rest of the journey. There'd be plenty of time for that later.
Harvey had invited her to have a celebratory scotch in his office, but she had politely declined. It wasn't the best idea to have alcohol when her head was still thumping a little, and she figured there'd be plenty of time to celebrate at dinner. Plus, she needed a little bit of time to comprehend all that had happened that day. The water cooler in the partner's lounge provided the perfect opportunity for her to be alone with her thoughts. Her few moments of peace and quiet at the water cooler ended when Louis found her with her eyes closed, in an almost meditative state.
"How'd it go today?" She could hear the false peppiness in his voice; he knew what was coming and he was trying to be happy for Donna. Donna couldn't quite match the excitement in his voice as she opened her eyes to Louis.
"It went great," Donna said listlessly. "The Times will be printing a retraction, and for once we got a judge that doesn't hate Harvey, so the civil case is well on its way."
"You don't sound so happy about it," Louis said astutely, pouring himself a cup of water. In recent weeks, Donna had almost forgotten that they were friends, first and foremost. The first time she had rejected being Louis' secretary wasn't just because of her loyalty to Harvey. It was because she had anticipated this happening. They'd barely had a proper personal conversation in about a month.
"I'm just dehydrated. It's been a long day," Donna sighed, leaning against the water cooler.
"That's not it," Louis said, shaking his head. He had been there when Harvey couldn't say exactly how he loved Donna. Louis knew that was still weighing on her mind, even more so when she was likely to join him again on a permanent basis. He also knew that if there was any doubt, she wouldn't be making the shift back to him.
"He wants to break the rule." She didn't need to explain any further. Louis had had so many questions about the whys of Harvey and Donna's relationship, but this rule seemed to answer most of them.
"Harvey's always been a rule-breaker," Louis nodded understandingly. He had a strange ability to bolster Donna's confidence in Harvey during the rare times that it faltered.
"But this is the first time in nearly 13 years that he said he wants to break this rule." Why had it taken him this long? But also, why was he saying it now?! Donna knew that her latter questions Louis wouldn't be able to answer. Hell, even Harvey probably couldn't give her a proper answer.
"Isn't that a good thing?"
"You're not supposed to be on his side," Donna smiled in spite of herself.
"I'm not on his side, I'm on your side. Is this what will make you happy?" She had always put other people first – even her choice to go work for Louis would never have happened had he not expressed his need for her. It was time for Louis to ensure that sheput herself first for once.
"Would you still be my friend if I said that it was what I wanted?" she asked meekly. Louis gave her a huge hug that said more than his words could.
"Of course I would. Plus, it's clear that I can handle having a different secretary far better than Harvey can," Louis said proudly. It had the intended effect; Donna laughed as she realised the truth of his statement. Even Harvey would agree to that.
Donna had promised that she wouldn't fall asleep at work again, but she convinced herself that there was a technical difference between falling asleep (implying it was accidental) and a well-timed, much needed power nap to refresh herself before dinner. As long as no-one found her, they'd be none the wiser.
As far as she was aware, they hadn't. No-one had made a single jibe at her all evening. She was feeling much better than she had been all day. Although still no apology had come her way from Harvey. An apology had been issued over sending her home, but it wasn't the apology that she had been waiting for. But she was so drunk that she couldn't be bothered caring anymore that night.
"The only way you can make me forgive you is by putting my name up on that goddamn wall." Donna had suggested it to Harvey before, but this time she had far more power to make such a proposal.
"Pearson Specter Litt Paulsen?" Harvey asked with a grin.
"Pearson Paulsen Specter Litt," Donna corrected him boldly. Harvey had much to learn in the way of
"Paulsen Pearson Specter Litt?" This time Harvey sneaked a glance at Jessica's reaction; she simply rolled her eyes.
"That's more like it. Now say it ten times fast," Donna giggled.
"Easy. . Paulsenpearsonspecterlitt. Paulsenpearsonspecterlitt. Paulsenpearsonspecter-"
"I think we need to cut these two off," Mike whispered to Rachel. Harvey and Donna had barely acknowledged anyone else at the table the entire evening. Their recount of their escapade of intimidating the editor-in-chief of The New York Times into obtaining a full-page retraction sounded extremely far-fetched, as though they were making up. No-one else could decipher what the hell they were talking about when Harvey mentioned the significance of one of the journalists' arrangement of thumb-tacks in the newsroom.
"They're so adorable, though. I haven't seen them this happy in a long time," Rachel whispered back.
"Do you think this means that they're actually gonna – you know?" Mike questioned to his fiancée.
"What are you guys talking about?" Louis asked in a loud whisper, sticking his head in their direction. Harvey and Donna had now moved onto impersonations of the editor-in-chief, and Jessica was patiently listening. She had, however, given the bottle of wine back to the waiter to make it harder for Donna and Harvey to intoxicate themselves any further. Mike glanced at Rachel and then back at Louis.
"We were thinking of making a wager," Mike said, in a tone that intrigued Louis. Rachel was normally morally opposed to such wagers, but given how sure she was about the outcome, this time she wasn't going to say 'no'.
Dessert (but no ice cream) and long drinks of water had meant that by the time Jessica paid the bill for the table, Donna and Harvey were no longer quite so inebriated. Harvey was even self-aware enough to apologise to Jessica for nearly dropping a cuff link in her soup.
"We'll arrange an appropriate punishment in the morning. You kids have fun," Jessica said, giving them a knowing smile. Normally Donna would have taken umbrage to being labelled a child, but it was close to how she felt. As they saw off the other four, she couldn't help but feel like a teenager about to go to prom for the first time.
"What shall we do?" Harvey asked her, once the last cab had driven off.
"We?" Yup, definitely prom night jitters. In fact, she felt more nervous now than she had at her prom. Her actions had consequences now. Donna was certain that she was blushing, but she hoped that the cool evening air was a reasonable cover.
"You're not sick of my company already, are you?" How could he seem so calm? She couldn't help but have the fear that this was what Harvey meant by wanting everything – working together, being incredibly close…but still not bridging that gap.
"No…but I need a walk." She didn't wait for Harvey to respond, she started taking off down the street. Even with her slightly restricted walking ability, her head start meant that Harvey had to take a few quick strides to catch up with her. But he was still in good spirits; his head was lifted upwards slightly, looking up at the Manhattan skyline above them. In contrast, Donna had her head pointed downwards at the ground. It represented the balance in their relationship well; Harvey was always looking ahead to the end of the road, while Donna was making sure that they wouldn't trip along the way.
For the first time that Donna could remember, their silence was an awkward one. Or at least, that's how Donna felt. She knew that one of them ought to be speaking, but which words and about what she was unsure. Harvey didn't seem to share in her sense of awkwardness. On the contrary, he was enjoying being in her presence, even if it was a wordless one. But by the sixth block, even Harvey felt the need to break the ice.
"Thank you for helping me today, Donna." His unprompted expression of gratitude made Donna look up in surprise. The whole evening had been about thanking her. His tone was as though he had begged her to reveal the truth and assist him; when in reality she had wanted to help him.
"Harvey, I wasn't going to make you deal with that on your own. Why do you think I drank so much coffee today?" She playfully nudged his arm with her shoulder.
"What I'm saying is that you didn't have to. You could have left me to clean up my mess alone," Harvey pointed out, nudging her back.
"It wasn't your mess to clean up. And even if I could, I wouldn't. Trust me." It was a throwaway comment, but Harvey recognised the significance of her last two words even if she didn't. Harvey stopped walking so he could meet her gaze properly. His dark eyes were almost indistinguishable against the night that surrounded them, but even easier to get lost in.
"I do trust you." Goddamn Harvey Specter. He was picking up their conversation from both the night before and from earlier that day.
"Maybe we should talk about this somewhere warm; I'm freezing my ass off." The speed with which Harvey hailed them a taxi suggested that he was just as cold. She hadn't specifically mentioned a 'somewhere warm', but Harvey knew that where she had meant to finish their Donna noticed that Harvey had the most peculiar little smile on his face as they got out of the taxi outside her apartment building. He caught sight of her confused look as she pass through the door Harvey was holding open.
"I've only been to your apartment at night a few times before," Harvey explained as he followed her inside.
"Oh, God. Yes, Harvey. The godawful dinner party, the other time and the other other time," There was little doubt that she was referring to the time that they had had their huge argument. There was one last night time that she had left out, and she was hoping that he would fill in the blank. Whilst Donna's leg was on the mend, the elevator in her apartment was stagnant in its state of ill-repair.
"You're missing one," Harvey said as they got closer to Donna's door.
"Am I?" For once, Donna was terrible at feigning ignorance, but Harvey played along.
"Yeah, do you remember how I said I love you?" Only Harvey Specter could give her that giddy feeling in the pit of her stomach. He was still her biggest weakness of them all. It certainly didn't go unnoticed how he said 'love' instead of 'loved'.
"Actually, I'd completely forgotten," Donna replied loftily, turning her head away from him to put her key in the door. She knew that he was smiling at her, and it was hard for her to conceal a big, dorky grin herself. Harvey leaned on the door frame as if it were her locker, not the entrance to her home. It was the exact same playful look he had given her the first time he had suggested that she might like him.
"Turns out, I sorta meant it. And I was thinking that I should probably tell you exactly how much." His voice went from silly to serious in such a short space of time that Donna didn't want to push it. It made her pause for a moment. She slowly turned her head back to Harvey, leaving her key in the lock. Harvey was watching her carefully, waiting for her permission to proceed.
"God, if you're about to start reciting poetry or something else stupid like that, I think I might have to rethink this arrangement." Harvey gave a familiar scrunch-up of his nose at mention of poetry.
"Nah, I'm still not a Shakespeare fan."
"But are you still a Donna fan?" The more important question.
"I never stopped." Harvey had finished joking around, and he was now patiently waiting for her to meet him at his level.
"Harvey Specter just admitted his feelings! Stop the presses!" Donna gasped sarcastically. She didn't know when exactly she became the one to deflect her emotions with jokes, but she had some leftover nervousness to expel from her system. She was waiting for the road block that would stop them from moving forward; but tonight the way was clear.
"We already did." Harvey reminded her of their success at the newspaper from earlier that day. Donna and Harvey were back. Donna nodded slowly at the thought, a beaming smile on her face.
"'We already did'. You know, I like the sound of that," she decided. Harvey matched her smile.
"So do I." Then, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, Harvey leaned over and kissed her. It was soft and sweet and far too short for Donna's liking. Completely unlike their last romantic encounter. But even given the kiss' short duration, it had left Donna almost winded. Harvey drew back his head so his mouth was by her ear.
"I know you want to say it. Those four little words you've been dying to say to me all night."
"What, I love you too?"
"No," Harvey grinned, although he appreciated that as well, "The other one." Donna was slowly unbuttoning Harvey's jacket so it would be easier for him to shed it once they got inside.
"I don't know, Harvey," she shrugged. This time Harvey took a full step back, much to Donna's dismay. It was cold even out in the hallway, and she was missing his extra warmth next to her.
"You don't know?" he asked in mock horror.
"In case you hadn't noticed, I'm a little preoccupied right now," she replied, gesturing to his half open jacket. She reached out and pulled him back into her by his jacket, giving him a kiss that put his previous one to shame. Harvey wrapped one arm around her, the other tangled in her hair. He could remember their last dalliance over the line, and he was sure it hadn't been as incredible as this. But Donna broke their kiss prematurely again.
"I choose you, Harvey?" Donna guessed. Harvey shook his head; she was saying things that he wanted her to say, but not what she deserved to say.
"Why don't you just say it for me, then?" Donna suggested, pressing her forehead against his.
"I told you so," Harvey's soft voice tickled her ear. It sounded even better coming from Harvey than if she'd had to say it herself.
"Oh my God, that's the sexiest thing I've ever said," Donna moaned. If she was being honest, the thought hadn't crossed her mind. Of course, that probably had a lot to do with all the distractions that Harvey had provided her.
"So far…" he raised an eyebrow suggestively, and Donna smirked back at him.
"I have an idea." Those four words were equally promising to Harvey. Donna reached behind her to open her front door.
"Does it involve whipped cream?"
"Chocolate whipped cream," Donna said, tugging him inside by the hand. Harvey was in no position to decline. She pulled away from him to grab the aforementioned whipped cream. When she brought it back to him and tucked it into his pocket, he pulled out his own contribution from the other pocket – their can-opener that he'd been carrying all day. She looked from the can-opener to Harvey's face with wide eyes.
"You were carrying that all day?" Donna had thought Harvey was just happy to see her.
"Yeah. I've been using it as a good luck charm. But now that I've got you, I don't need it anymore," Harvey remarked as he wrapped both arms around her waist again. His comment nearly turned her legs to jelly, but her arms had a sturdy hold around his neck.
"You do realise you won't be able to just say cute things like that just so I'll do stuff for you. I expect compensation." Harvey leaned in and kissed her for a third time.
"I wouldn't expect less. I had a good idea where to start." Harvey started leading them slowly to Donna's bedroom. She looked up at him with a look of admiration as she knew exactly what he had in mind; a true sign that they were back for good.
"Wow, I really have taught you well."