Fandom: suits (usa)
Characters: donna paulsen, harvey specter, dana scott
Summary: She has convinced herself that this is how life is supposed to be. That the not-having is equivalent to the having.
There is a lack of fulfilment that she has noticed nagging at the sides of conscience, momentary lapses in her resolve where she can't remember why she still works at the law firm that doesn't pay her what she deserves, with a man that doesn't give her what she wants. It happens gradually, perhaps encouraged by the frequency of Dana and Harvey's 'work lunches' and the way his fingers will settle on her waist when he goes to kiss her cheek but mostly it is precipitated by the fact that she feels like she is getting older without anything to show for it but some wrinkles.
She belongs to a generation of women that appreciate ambition and an eagerness for success and where feminism isn't a dirty word but a foot in the door and a nick to the glass ceiling and yet there is a lack of something that she feels more acutely now that the only other person in the world that she thought functioned similarly to her is smothered in that treacherously unattainable something.
It makes her angry in a pensive way that life doesn't just present choices to you that don't have any consequences. Instead, as she walks to her house, taking the long route through Central Park to punish herself with adoring couples lazing in the warm evening air on the banks of the pond, she feels the ache nagging in the pit of her stomach. A telling sign that life was slipping away and her hold on what she'd always thought was happiness was not waiting for her indecisions anymore.
She ponders the reason for this change, trying to link it back to one, or any moment. She settles uncomfortably on the fact that she needs to put aside whatever fancies she still entertains about him and move on.
It hurts so much, this great disappointment she feels, she takes a personal day and then comes into work anyway, explaining that her emergency turned out to be relatively minor and what, didn't you need me, Harvey?
He just grins before his phone rings.
'Scottie. What's up?'
She is, was, always has been effervescent. A quality she has managed to exude in even the briefest encounters with strangers. People always told her, 'you're so..bright,' like her penchant for conversation and a self-confidence were somehow exclusive to the upper echelons of her gender.
And perhaps that was what attracted her to Harvey originally. He never said anything to her. There was never an admission of her calibre. His compliments were heard by other people. To her, she was sure, he perceived her as useful. A tool. And of course, in the moments after he'd left his position at the District Attorney's office, when he'd appeared at her door, and after, when she'd told him quietly that if they worked together they couldn't be together, she'd seen that same effervescence in him.
And she'd thought that would be enough.
Sometimes, on the really crisp nights in Manhattan, she'll leave all her windows open, put on a thin slip of a silk nightgown and bury herself into her duvet and wonder what kind of masochist she is.
She'd even once told Mike that the feelings just go away, eventually.
Well that piece of advice could go fuck itself because she sure as hell still wanted to fuck Harvey as badly as she did that morning in the cafe.
The most frustrating part of her life, now, is that Dana has it.
It bruises her ego a lot to think that she's become that woman. The kind that pushes other women towards their love interest with a blatant disregard for her own feelings and then hates the woman for trampling all over her garden.
What a fucking joke.
Dana even catches her off guard one morning.
'I..you wouldn't believe, I think he-... he said he loves me,' she whispers, mostly to herself.
Donna is glad for the lack of mirrored surfaces in the law library because she simply nods, angry, indignant tears burning her retinas.
What kind of fucked up masochistic son of a bitch-
But the thought trails off. There is too much self-blame to properly formulate any outward anger.
Whose fault but her own?
And that makes it all the worse.
She confronts Harvey about it, in her teasing way, once she's gotten control of her feelings on the matter. Once she's reigned in the humiliation she felt, so unjustly, in that moment.
'She said what?'
'She-.. wait a minute, what did you say to her?'
'I said I wanted to marry her.'
jesus mother fucking prick on a stick how dare that little fucking cunt he could take his romantic shit and shove it up his fucking
'So you said you wanted to marry her but you never said you loved her? Harvey, I think your chronology's off.'
She does momentarily contemplate showing up at his apartment with a bottle of wine with a note that says 'commiserations on your shitty marriage with the woman that is not the love of your life because i am you ungrateful fuck do you know what i've done for you all these years?' and it sounds like such a good idea, she even buys a piteously cheap bottle of shiraz to arrive with.
Instead, she drinks the wine in the cab on the way over because all the best decisions were made while inebriated.
'Not home, Ms Paulsen?'
'Nope. Take me to Mr Specter's home.'
And she must've at some point resuscitated the address from the depths of her foggy memory because she did, in fact, end up at Harvey's apartment.
On the curb side, she remembers vaguely placing her palms together in some sort of pseudo prayer and hoping that Dana was not in his apartment.
The door is thick solid oak and she wonders if the interior is what she always expected but after knocking three times, there is no magical reveal.
Instead, pleasantries come from behind her as Harvey steps out from the elevator.
She takes in the fact that he's smirking at her but only vaguely.
'Are you.. drunk?'
Donna laughs and offers him the bottle.
'It was supposed to be a present. On your engagement.'
Had she been sober, she would've registered the dimming of his expression to one of slight irritation.
'It was supposed to be some sort of a secret,' he mutters. 'What are you doing at my door drunk, anyway?'
'Celebrating!' she says, sarcastically. 'Isn't that what's supposed to happen?'
Harvey smiles a little. 'You drank the wine though.'
'We never did have a tradition for proposals. You didn't really do them often enough,' she says quietly, wrapping her hand firmly around the handle to keep her balance.
'No,' Harvey replies and she recognises the awkward intonation, 'that was you that's been proposed to four times.'
Donna doesn't manage a laugh, what with all the swirling going on in her brain but she doesn't ever let a dig go unanswered.
'Uh, once was in Cabo. Cabo doesn't count.'
But Harvey doesn't think its funny or whatever because he's ushering her to the side and opening his door.
'So what's the deal, why are you here?'
Donna thinks of all the things she could do in that moment in the way drunk people do. She lists them out loud.
'I could say I feel sorry on your impending life sentence to martyrdom, oop, marriagedom? Same shit. Anyway, that would be a lie, I don't. I like the idea that you'll hate it. Maybe it'll change your mind on her. Or I could just kiss you that would be pretty clear too? But I think, in the same-.. I don't really. Wait, what was the question? Oh no, I do remember. This isn't going to be a thing. Nu-uh. Goodnight Harvey.'
She is so proud of herself all the way until she presses the button for the elevator and watches the doors close on her before she remembers, groggily, the same scene playing itself out and hastily puts her hand between the doors. The elevator rings gently and opens as she steps out.
'You couldn't even fucking hold the elevator for me, just one time?'
And she doesn't know why but she wants that to hurt him so bad. He just shakes his head, unphased in the most heartbreaking way possible. He proceeds to say lots of things about regret and 'go home, Donna, you're drunk' and she nods.
'What's loving you going to be like through this, huh?' she asks him quietly when he steps into the elevator with her. 'I'll be redemoted.'
Harvey is quiet for a long time before he reaches forward to push the button for the ground floor.
'The secretary,' she mumbles to herself, caustically. 'What a fucking cliche.'
He says nothing but slips his hand into hers when the elevator falls past the 11th floor.
He even gets into the cab with her, by this time her drunkeness slipping, a veil she wants to keep up to protect herself from the burning humiliation starting to rise with her awakening inhibitions so she pretends to sleep, head pressed against the glass.
'I hope you don't remember any of this,' he says softly.
Numb and cold, the only thing she understands is that this is the most vulnerable she has ever seen him and it hurts.
Like any other moment in their relationship that is course-changing or significant, it is never spoken of again. Instead they force themselves to meet each others eyes and laugh like 'what? there's nothing here'.
And it is Donna's penance that she remembers the night with an acidic clarity that she cannot distort or pass off.