Authors note: Contains major spoilers for the season finale. This is the first fic I've written that was inspired by one single image – the look on Donna's face when she says "You can never go back." Hope you enjoy!
Minerva: Roman goddess of wisdom and war.
Donna sat in the darkened office, nursing the last of her third drink in silence. Rachel had offered to walk out with her but she had declined, choosing instead to indulge her self-pity with a fifth of Harvey's reserve scotch and a spectacular view. She knew Harvey would be pissed. She had been prepared for that. She just hadn't expected it to hurt so damn much.
She wasn't sure what had cut her more deeply, the anger on his face or discovering that, after twelve years, she was so easily disposable. He had nearly fired her without a moment's hesitation, and had Jessica not intervened, she thought, he probably would have.
She had meant what she told Rachel. You can never go back. Rachel had taken it as a pep talk for platonic work relationships, but what Donna really meant was, You can never go back when the man you'd sacrifice everything for just threatened to throw you out on your ass. She had been glad Rachel was already more than a little tipsy, because she was sure the true meaning of that sentence was written across her face in neon.
Of course he had apologized later. It was hurried, and hollow, and convenient, but in the interests of professionalism, or so she told herself later, she had taken the coward's way out. She had accepted Harvey's apology at face value, and acted like everything was back to normal. Except it wasn't. If it was, she wouldn't be sitting in a fifteenth-floor office in the dark, nursing a glass of McCallan and trying to keep her tears from spoiling the papers that were scattered over Harvey's desk.
This was the absolute last place she should be drowning her sorrows, she thought, but in a way it was oddly comforting at the same time. All those years working with Harvey surrounded her in that room: extravagant mementos of high profile victories and sentimental reminders of the lower profile but no-less-important ones. In the lingering silence, the room brought its own soundtrack to the fore: the celebratory clink of two champagne glasses, the rustle of bags of late-night Chinese take-out, the soft, scratchy sounds of mellow jazz underneath a hushed, exhausted banter.
It would probably have hurt less if they hadn't become friends before she began working with Harvey at Pearson Hardman. But she knew Harvey well enough to know that he chose his words carefully, and in his rage he had gone for the jugular, to maximum effect. He had been trained by two of the best, after all. It took only one sentence to reduce her from valued partner to insubordinate office temp, their long history together instantly swept away by the tidal wave that was Harvey's sense of betrayal.
It was ironic, she thought, because she owed him everything, and she'd no more betray his trust than he would Jessica's. It didn't matter, though, because he thought she'd gone after Cameron for her own reasons, not his. And that was why he was ready to throw her out of the office in a heartbeat. She suddenly realized that the biggest reason she was drinking her way through a bottle of scotch was that, after all this time, Harvey was still defending the man that had made her life a living hell for nearly a year. Loyalty was something that Harvey gave unconditionally once it was earned, and it bruised her to the core to realize that she had never attained that status in his eyes.
She wondered for the millionth time if she should have told Harvey everything, all those years ago. He knew about the long hours, Cameron's ridiculous demands that went far beyond her job description, and how often she was subject to Cameron's little tirades about how she was incompetent. He knew Cameron had found out about the headhunting firm and had threatened to blacklist her if she went looking for another job. But Harvey was a new ADA at the time, and was walking a tightrope between protégé and protagonist. Given his relationship with Cameron, there was only so much he could do.
That was until one night when he asked her to meet him at O'Malley's, a little Irish pub that they had accidentally discovered when ducking a rainstorm on the way back from the courthouse.
He was already there when she arrived, and as she slid into the wooden booth, his face held a nervous smile that she had never seen before.
"Okay, this is weird," she said uneasily.
"Come with me." He said, confidently then, and without preamble.
"Excuse me?" She wondered how many pints of Guinness it would take to make sense of this conversation.
"I'm taking a partnership at Pearson Hardman, starting the first of the month. And I'm going to need an Executive Assistant." She couldn't read him this time, at least not well. He seemed excited but there was also an undercurrent of sadness or disappointment that seemed out of place.
"For God's sake, why?" she exclaimed. "With your record? They practically have a picture of you framed in the lobby already."
"It's just…time," he said, his eyes far away and distant. He shook himself and focused on her with an intense gaze. "Will you come with? You'll be making double what you're making for Cameron."
"The money isn't the issue," she said, her head still spinning. "Cameron's ready to destroy my career of I leave, what do you think he's going to do to you for stealing me away?"
"Let me worry about that." Smug bastard, she thought, inwardly smiling at Harvey's not so subtle act of chivalry.
"Harvey." She stared at him with an expectant look that told him the conversation wasn't going any further until she got an answer.
He sighed in exasperation. "Jessica's willing to intervene, okay? If it's necessary. But I don't think it will be."
"Jessica. Pearson?" She said incredulously.
"How many other Jessica's do I know?" He was clearly enjoying the effect of this little bit of news.
"What about Cameron?" she asked again.
"He'll get over it," said Harvey simply.
"Uh-huh. Just like that." She said skeptically. "You leave the DA's office with almost no notice, and steal his AA, and you think he'll get over it."
"He'll have to," said Harvey, resolute. He gazed at her intently, took her hands in his across the table and added softly, "I'm not leaving you there."
She hadn't trusted her voice not to break at that moment, so she sufficed with a grateful smile and a squeeze of his hands.
"Good," he said with a wide grin. "It's settled."
* o * o * o * o * o * o *
She decided at that moment that the rest of the story between herself and Cameron Dennis would forever stay hidden. Harvey was already playing White Knight to her Damsel in Distress. She would be leaving soon, and anything else she had to say about Cameron would only end up damaging Havey's career. She had gotten her Get Out Of Hell Free card. For Harvey's sake, the rest was her burden to carry.
Donna shook herself out of her reverie and glanced at her watch that now read a quarter after midnight. She began tidying up the office as she tried to focus on how she was going to deal with present events. She couldn't blame Harvey for not knowing the full extent of her hatred for Cameron, but to watch him discount their own friendship on behalf of someone that had damaged her so badly was something that she wasn't sure she could get over.
One of the perks of being Harvey's Executive Assistant was the late night car service, and she picked up the phone to call the Dispatch office for a ride home.
* o * o * o * o * o * o *
It had been two weeks since the blowup in Harvey's office. Harvey and Mike were embroiled in a patent infringement claim that had them working twenty-hour days. The hard work paid off, however, in the form of an injunction that had been handed over to the defendant earlier that afternoon.
She had been glad there was something urgent and time-consuming on Harvey's plate these days. Their interactions of late consisted of back and forth emails and brief stops at Donna's cubicle for coffee and/or files. Harvey was too distracted to notice that she kept her eyes focused on something else when he was around. She had arranged a ridiculously long list of projects to complete that week. It kept her mind off of the things she'd rather not think about, and ensured she could wave almost anyone away under the guise of being under a deadline.
Everyone, of course, except Mike. She was still puzzled as to how the same trait in a person could be both endearing and endlessly exasperating at the same time. In spite of the pressure and work load, he somehow never failed to notice when she was having a bad day. More often than not, an extra cappuccino would mysteriously appear at her desk sometime during the day. She had thought she had done a good job with the façade until she noticed him frowning at her several times when he and Harvey were running in or out of the office.
She glanced uneasily into the office, where Mike was diligently working away on drafting a settlement letter. Harvey had gone to meet a client, and left the two of them to their own devices. She thought Mike's assignment would keep him busy until she was a shape hovering over her desk out of the corner of her eye.
"Distracting again," she said evenly, still typing the file inventory she had been working on for the better part of two days.
"Are you okay?" he said, genuine worry evident in his voice. Damn it. Not now, kid. She thought.
"Fine," she said, still typing. She knew she was in trouble when Mike did something he had never done before. He walked around the back of her chair and leaned against the wall of her cubicle.
"Personal space," she said. "I hear it's a wonder."
Mike merely sighed and from behind her said "I'm wondering about you."
"I'm fine," she said, a little more defensively than she intended. She kept typing.
He walked back around the cubicle again and propped himself up on his elbows. "Yes, that's why you're boring holes into that screen and you won't look at me – or Harvey – for even a minute."
That got her attention and her eyes reflexively snapped up to meet Mike's for the briefest second. It was enough.
"Do you want to talk about it?" he said. "Cause if you do-"
"It's nothing," she said, trying to think of some Oscar-winning actress she could channel at that moment to keep her voice even and keep herself from falling apart right in the middle of the office. "Just some personal issues, nothing for you, or Harvey," she said pointedly, "to worry about."
She saw the look of understanding in his eyes and he said, "Ah. Okay. But you know, it's a standing offer."
"Thanks," she said. "But I'm okay, really." She gave him her best smile and thought, I'd like to thank the Academy…
The day seemed to have dragged on and somehow it was eight pm and she was still at her desk. Harvey had asked her to personally fax the final version of the settlement agreement the AA for opposing counsel, which happened to be a good friend of hers at Livingston & Tate. Mike had handed her the final draft on his way out the door to his Grandmother's birthday celebration.
She grabbed her cell and headed down the hall to the copy room.
She dialed Marjorie's personal number, wondering how Harvey would structure these deals if she didn't have contacts all over town.
"Hey Marj, it's going to be on its way to you in three," she said. "Okay, great."
She sorted the pages into the fax and chatted with her colleague as the pages went through. Unlike the young Mr. Ross, she thought, she did know how to erase a job's fax history from the machine, which she did as soon as the confirmation sheet appeared out of the machine.
"Gotta go, Marj. Okay, let me know if you need anything." Grabbing the originals and the confirmation sheet, she made her way back to her desk.
She spotted the little black velvet box that was lying on her keyboard when she was halfway back to her desk. Oh God, not today. She couldn't have been more horrified if her desk were actually in flames.
They had been working together for twelve years, but what she had completely forgotten over the tumultuous past few weeks was that the anniversary of the thirteenth was right around the corner.
As most traditions do, it had started as somewhat of an in-joke on the first anniversary of Harvey's time with the firm. She had become indispensable to Harvey by then, but was still reeling from the long-term effects of working for Cameron. Harvey had made a comment at some point that at the DA's office she was a "diamond in the rough" to which she had responded "Underappreciated lump of coal was more like it." She had come back to her desk on the day of Harvey's (and her's) anniversary with the firm to find a small, foil-wrapped box on her keyboard. Inside was a dewdrop silver pendant with a small inlaid diamond, accompanied by a folded up note that said "Don't you know what high pressure does to coal over time? Thanks for everything. –H". He had given her diamond jewelry every year since, and it appeared that this year was no exception.
Things went from bad to worse when she noticed that Harvey's office lights were still on and he was reading files at his desk. She inwardly groaned. Could he be more obvious?
She was shaking by the time she reached her cubicle, and she took care to keep her back to the glass wall behind her. Steeling her resolve, she picked up the box without looking at it and walked as calmly as she could into Harvey's office. It didn't stop her eyes from welling a bit with unshed tears, and she forced herself to keep going rather than running out of the office and straight to the ladies room.
Harvey looked up from the brief he was reading and smiled – smiled – at her as she made her way over to the desk. God help him, He thinks I'm actually happy about this. "I can't accept this, Harvey."
He obviously thought she was being self-deprecating. Not something she had done in previous years, but apparently it was expected, because he said, "Now don't go complaining about how it's too extravagant. I don't want to have to take it back to the store."
"I won't," she said, knowing it was petty but setting him up for a fall anyway. "Since I don't know what's inside it." She laid the box on the edge of his desk and watched his jaw drop as she said, "I can't accept this because it's not who we are anymore."
"What is that supposed to mean?" he said defensively. She ignored the question and started back to her cubicle, trying not to sob on the way out the door.
He was out of his chair in a flash and had grabbed her arm, gently but firmly, before she pulled the door open. "Donna," he said softly, his eyes warm with concern, "Talk to me."
"There is nothing to talk about, Harvey." Damn it. She could feel an escaped tear running down her cheek, which he wiped away with a concerned frown.
"Like Hell," he said. "Come on." He led her to the sofa and they sat down, her back to the hallway.
"What do you mean, that's not who we are anymore?" he said. She might have imagined it but she thought she heard a trace of uncertainty in his voice.
"It's against company policy for supervisors to give gifts to their employees that are over $200," she said, as if she were suddenly giving a new employee orientation.
"That's bullshit," said Harvey. "Since when are you just an employee?"
She didn't actually have to answer him this time. The look of hurt on her face pretty much said it all. She couldn't decide what she wanted more at that moment: to scream at him or to run out of the office and never come back again. Instead she turned her gaze to the floor.
"I never actually thought about firing you. I was angry, and I was out of line."
"Out of line for saying it or for thinking it?" she said, suddenly realizing that she had said the words in her head out loud. "It doesn't matter," she said with despair that she didn't even try to cover. "This is us now."
"No it's not," he said, taking her hands in his for the second time since they'd known each other. "I count on you," he said softly, "to know me better than anyone. To have my back. You know I wouldn't betray Cameron, and, as much as you can't stand the guy, it scares me that you would."
"I did it to protect you, whether you believe that or not," she said defiantly.
"Where did you even get the evidence you gave to Jessica?" he said, concerned. His voice softened and he looked so uncharacteristically hurt and vulnerable as he added, "What are you saving for a rainy day in case I piss you off?"
So that was it, she thought. She had been thinking about this for two weeks straight and it never occurred to her that what she had done had made Harvey afraid of what she was capable of.
She started at him then, with fondness, exasperation and fear, and said "I would never do that to you. The files from Cameron's office were insurance."
"Insurance for what?" he said, confused.
"Before I tell you any more, you need to promise me something. You need to promise that what is passed is passed, and that you'll leave Cameron to rot in his safe little house in the Hamptons."
"Tell me what?" he said, his eyes widening in agitation. "What are you saying?"
"Okay," he said. "I'm not going to like this, but you have my word."
She took a deep breath and was grateful for the slight increase in pressure of the hands that grasped hers. This was going to be hard enough as it was.
"You have to understand that I was fresh out of college and this job with Cameron was a dream for me, at least it started that way. I didn't know what I was supposed to do when things went south. You know as well as I do that when you work for the DA himself, the usual channels of recourse are cut off to you. That's the one thing they don't tell you when you sign on the dotted line."
"Donna," Harvey's voice wavered, "what are you saying?"
She wanted to break it to him gently but decided that the faster she ripped the band-aid off of this conversation, the faster it would be over.
"I'm saying that in addition to being a world-class asshole, Cameron Dennis fancies himself quite the ladies man." She couldn't bear to look at Harvey's face at that moment, and she glanced pointedly at the coffee table.
"WHAT?" Harvey inched closer to her and turned her head towards him with a hand on her chin. "Donna, did he- Because I'll kill him for this. I will."
She gave him a tired smile. He was constantly surprising her in some ways and so predictable in others. "Down boy. It never got to that point."
"But it got to a point," he said, dumbfounded. "Why the hell didn't you say anything?"
Her voice broke this time, and she choked away a sob. "Because the only person in that office who would have given a damn is you. What do you think happens when a newly-hired AA files a sexual harassment suit against a popular DA who happens to be golf buddies with the chief of police?"
"I would have put a stop to it, damned if I wouldn't." said Harvey firmly.
"I know you would have, you idiot" she said fondly. "And I'd have sat there and watched your career go down the drain on account of me. You think I wanted that?"
"I can't believe you didn't tell me."
"Harvey, I will always be grateful to you for getting me out of there. But before you came to the rescue, I had my own insurance policy, in case things turned really ugly. That's what this was. I could have buried Cameron the second I left but I didn't. Not until he went after someone I cared about."
Harvey came to a realization and he looked shell-shocked. His voice wavered as he said "I stood in this office and defended him. I was mad as hell at you for going after him, after what he did-" His voice broke and he added "God, Donna, I am so sorry. I didn't know-"
"Don't get sentimental on me now, Specter," she said through her drying tears. "I might have to hug you."
"Too late for that," he said, wrapping her in his arms. She thought she was done with the waterworks but the rest of the emotions she had been holding at bay flooded out, and she shook as Harvey tightened his hold ever so slightly.
"I'm sorry," he whispered. "Can I say that enough times, do you think?"
"Nope," she said, her voice muffled against his shoulder. "Does this mean you're not firing me?"
"Hmmm," his voice brushed against her ear. "You'd have to be an employee for me to do something like that."
"So I'm not an employee, huh?" she said playfully but basking in the restored glow and the mutual trust that accompanied their thirteen year history.
"You're sure as hell not an employee," said Harvey seriously. "You're Donna. And you're mine."
* o * o * o * o * o * o *
Thanks for reading and for all the great reviews on my other fics! This is the first of what I'd like to do as a Roman mythology series equating the various characters in Suits to the Roman gods/goddesses (we all know Donna is a goddess anyway so this one was an easy stretch!)