Summary: These sorts of changes are slow to take. Or, alternatively: the next time.
Rating: hard r/nc-17
Author's Notes: 5,685 words. General series spoilers. Set in the indiscriminite future (and by this I mean: hopefully soon.) First time writing Harvey in this type of capacity, so con-crit is both welcome and encouraged. All mistakes are mine. These characters, unfortunately, are not.
His father asks him once, “You’ve never thought about it? Not once?”
The connection is spotty, going in and out periodically. His father is on the train back home, calling just to say it was so good to see you, son. Harvey looks up, catches sight of Donna from across the way and watches her through the glass of his office. His mouth twists for just a moment before he presses it into a thin, straight line.
“No,” he says decisively, pointedly, hands and eyes busying themselves with the files on his desk.
His father’s warm laughter spills and crackles over the line. “Well, goddamn, son. Why the hell not?”
Harvey opens his mouth to reply, but the lies die in his throat.
When the realization comes, finally, it hits him out of nowhere.
Harvey is almost running late for trial, pressing the can opener into Donna’s awaiting palm, and his fingers linger uncharacteristically against hers for one second, two second before letting go. She peers at him curiously, mouth twisting at the corners as she walks away.
It is nothing out of the ordinary, this moment. It is just another in a long, long line of many, something they have shared and experienced a million times over. But it matters all the same. It matters because unlike so many times before, Harvey watches as she walks away, his eyes trained on her through the glass as she sits down in her chair, answers the phone, twirls the cord between her fingers. Harvey watches and notes the gentle line of her shoulders, the subtle curve of her back, the fierce and bright red of her hair, and something sparks and settles warm and low in the base of his spine.
It matters, this moment, because Donna looks up, catches his eye. She motions to her watch as she cradles the phone to her ear, her lips turning, the left side just a smidge higher. Late, she mouths, and Harvey feels such affection for her in this moment that he nearly chokes on the foreign taste of it in the back of his throat.
Something funny happens inside his chest then, this fierce constriction that almost hurts, but Harvey smiles through it all, grabs his files, and thinks maybe.
He starts to think of the beginnings of things more than he used to.
His. Hers. Theirs. Those early days in the DA’s office when he had an office the size of a closet and a view of nothing but a concrete wall. Harvey thinks too often about their very first moment together, how simple it all felt then, and how seemingly irrelevant in the general scheme of things it was meant to be. It was just a fleeting touch, her hand small but solid against his as her mouth quirked around a movie quote he couldn’t quite place. Harvey remembers all too clearly how she rushed into his life without any inhibition or care, completely reckless in the way she changed the very core of his world without either of them noticing.
An inordinate amount of time is spent in his home office, Harvey staring at a portrait that looks worn and out of place, but stands tall and proud amongst his diplomas and autographed movie posters, the records he couldn’t quite find room for at the firm. It has hung there for years, given to him during the time he served under Cameron by Donna, meant to be put on display on his bare, cracked and peeling concrete wall as a reminder of what was yet to come. Donna had given it to him during their very first winter together, when Harvey was still young and breakable, when he was so tired and frustrated, when the anger with Jessica for making him wait for everything he had worked so hard to achieve simmered quietly beneath the surface.
It is during these moments, when it is just him and his thoughts, when memories arrive in spurts and gasps, tiny snippets flowing back to him one by one – his greatest victories, his most haunting failures, his father’s funeral. The edges of them have been blurred by time, the color hazy, dull. Some of them have come to mean more to him than others, but every one has a single reoccurring theme: Donna. There by his side, through his highest highs and lowest lows, offering strength and support with a simple curl of her mouth or a mere touch of her fingers against the span of his shoulders, the crook of his elbow.
Eventually, Harvey comes to realize some of the most worthwhile choices are those made without any thought at all. They are the ones we often don’t realize have been made until they have already altered the very course of things.
Inevitably, he also remembers the one thing they do not dare to talk about – the other time.
How smooth her skin was beneath his fingers, the weight of her breasts as he held them in the palms of his hands, the angle of her hips as they slid against hers. Often, Harvey will find himself closing his eyes and imagining with absolute clarity the hiss of a sigh she breathed as she came, and how good and whole he felt while inside her, while her mouth and hands and body hollowed him out completely.
These are the things he will never be able to truly forget, the things he once shoved deep, deep down in a place where he buries all of the things that can hurt him when she murmured never again and he believed her.
“You ever think about that night?” he asks.
It’s late. Donna is straightening his desk, teasing him about something insignificant and the adrenaline from his earlier victory in the courtroom is still fresh in his veins, humming like a livewire under his skin. They banter back and forth, always their version of common ground, and when the silence lapses between them the words slip out of his mouth so easily, so confidently.
Harvey has never been very good with boundaries.
Donna glances at him sharply, her back straightening, fingers stilling near the stack of files on the edge of his desk. He watches her face closely, sees the immediate sense of shock give way to practiced indifference. He remembers – she had wanted to be an actress once.
“No,” she replies all too simply. Her gaze is steady and unyielding with his, and Harvey can’t help but wonder if this was the first thing he ever appreciated about her – how she matched him inch for inch, never giving in, always his favorite opponent. Almost as an addendum, she adds, “As a rule.”
Innately, Harvey understands what she means. He does what he has always excelled greatest at and reads between the lines, sees the meaning Donna subtly hides between sharp glances and pointed words. They are both honest when they say, I know you best. Their trust in one another has always been sharp and uncompromising and for years they have been carrying the other’s secrets, the other’s burdens. So it’s something akin to second nature, then, that Harvey knows the way her shoulders tense and soften, the way her fingers discretely curl into a fist and then release immediately thereafter means she isn’t divulging the whole truth.
Which is fine, he thinks. Really. Donna simply isn’t there yet. She isn’t ready.
So he tries to do the one thing he has never been very good at – he waits.
The progression is frustratingly slow.
It happens over the course of weeks and months, and during this time things do not change, not essentially.
There is still subtext and innuendo and all the words they don’t know how to say to each other hidden under layer and layer of banter and arguments. There are still battles of wits to be won over stats and mindless trivia and he still respects her enough to never allow her to win. Harvey does not all of a sudden start using please and thank you or trite overtures Donna would see right through in an instant. He does try, once, but the words taste bitter and wrong on the tip of his tongue and Donna had seen right through it, effectively cutting him off with an arched eyebrow and an inquisition that could rival his greatest crosses in the courtroom.
During this time, Harvey still takes and takes and takes without remorse, and Donna still gives and gives unashamedly and without any hesitation, but he is slowly becoming a tad bit better about giving too. There are more than a few late night dinners and celebratory drinks, and occasionally he even allows her to choose their destination without too much complaint.
The only real tangible change is this: he allows his touches and glances to linger with intent, with want. After years of making an art out of toeing it, Harvey effectively crosses the bold, messy line he and Donna drew between them after the time they do not speak of.
Often, his hand will brush against hers, the connection held for entire second before letting go. His fingers find themselves secure and steady, at home near the small of her back as he follows her into a room or elevator.
It is nothing ostentatious, nothing anyone notices but her, and the first time she initiates contact, the first time she reaches out for him, her fingers smoothing over the slight wrinkles in his jacket before he heads into a meeting, Harvey ranks it as a triumph on par with some of his greatest legal victories.
Of course, Harvey bides his time with tall brunettes and gorgeous blondes with names he never learns and numbers he never cares enough to remember. They all have legs for days, and skillful moths and hands because he is Harvey Specter and not a goddamn saint, and he doesn’t owe her anything, not yet.
He does wonder, however, if it makes any difference at all that he thinks about her mouth and her hands the entire time.
“I know exactly what you’re doing,” she tells him.
There is dinner and wine between them, a celebration of some sorts. Years later and Harvey will remember nothing outside of this moment with her, the way her hair glints almost golden under the soft light of the restaurant.
Still, her words startle him slightly, but the thin and guarded turn of her lips is what sets him on edge. She is still Donna, still his Donna in all the ways that count, but… cautious, tempered somehow; it doesn’t feel right. He thinks about lying for a moment, already spinning the words of denial in the back of his mind, but he stops just short of opening his mouth and letting them spill and taint everything between them.
Harvey will never quite be able to figure out how to lie to her – to others, yes, but never to her.
The glass in his hand sweats all over his fingers as he says, “You do know me best.”
Her mouth softens. He marks it as another victory.
This is important to know: Harvey doesn’t use the term love, not in the romantic sense. He doesn’t use it in his thoughts, his fantasies, and he certainly doesn’t use it aloud.
It isn’t as though he believes it doesn’t exist. He isn’t that cynical; he knows it does. He has, after all, seen it in action – his father loved his mother until the day he died, even though she was undeserving, even though it made him weak. And it is that, right there, where Harvey believes the problem truly lies: love in that capacity is too easily used as a weapon. It conveys a weakness, a vulnerability, and as soon as you show it, as soon as the crack in the foundation starts to spiderweb and take control, you are left spread wide-open and bare, and it is in most people’s nature to take full advantage of it, to walk all over you until you are merely dust beneath their shoes.
This is also important to know: Harvey knows he could love Donna.
He also knows he probably already does, and maybe it hasn’t been there since day one, since the first time he saw her and her hand slid into his or some clichéd bullshit like that, but it is mostly there now. He feels it with every lingering look and touch, every time she baits him into an argument or tells him exactly how it is with colorful language and not a word spared for his feelings.
With Donna, though, it’s more than love. It is about trust. It is about loyalty.
And when it happens, when they happen (Harvey likes to use absolute terms in this situation because they were there once, right on the cusp of something but too afraid, too young to know how to be good for one another in that way, and they will be there again) it will not be born out of grand gestures or silly romantic notions. It will be built upon a fundamental understanding of one another.
To Harvey, well, that matters so, so much more.
Donna kisses him on a Monday afternoon, in the elevator.
Harvey is heading to court and she’s taking a late lunch. One second they’re trading lines from A Few Good Men and she’s winning, and the next she has her hands fisted in the lapels of his jacket and her mouth is warm and inviting as it slides against his. Harvey is uncharacteristically blindsided, dumbstruck even, and for a second, for a whole stretch of time that seems to last for days, it’s as though he forgets where his hands go and how his mouth is suppose to work. He just stands there like a complete idiot before his instincts kick in and he realizes this is Donna, this is him and Donna, and something low and primal bubbles in the back of his throat, his hands reaching to frame her face, tangle in her hair.
It’s innocent, as far as kisses go, not lasting nearly long enough, and when the elevator dings, they separate, nameless associates completely unaware as they enter the elevator and fill the distance he and Donna have just placed between them. She keeps her head held high, eyes trained on the numbers descending above them. Harvey shoves his hands deep into his pockets, rocks back on his heels and swallows thickly. He can still taste her. It makes him dizzy.
When they reach the lobby, she goes left and he goes right, where Mike waits off to the side. Later that afternoon when he returns to the office, she is neither wary nor coy. Her mouth merely twists into a grin, her fingers lingering with his when she presses a cup of fresh coffee into his hands as if nothing happened.
Which is exactly how Harvey knows it meant something to her.
“Admit it,” he says, grin smug. “I’m wearing you down.”
Donna is in his chair, feet bare and propped up on his desk, as he stands tall near her feet. She has a glass of his scotch between her fingers as Charles Mingus plays softly in the background. They’ve been here before, the moment breathing a certain amount of familiarity.
“Maybe I’m the one wearing you down.”
Her gaze is steady with his as she brings the glass to her lips and takes a long, slow sip. Her smile is tight, borderline predatory after, and he reaches for her ankle without thinking. His fingers trace the lines and curves of his initials into the smooth skin near the bone, and Donna hums something low and appreciative in the back of her throat.
Harvey is growing tired of waiting.
Donna’s parents come down for a day trip and Harvey joins them for an early dinner, a routine of sorts they established years before. He talks shop with her father, and answers her mother’s endless questions about his non-existent love life with evasive and non-committal answers. When they start chatting amongst themselves about the cute blonde they know that would be just perfect for him, Harvey catches Donna’s eye, appreciates the beauty of her mouth just a little too much as it curves around the rim of her glass. He thinks too long about kissing her.
Together, they send her parents on their way, Harvey standing awkwardly in the background as Donna hugs them close with declarations of love and promises to call soon. Her father shakes his hand; her mother pulls him into a hug and offers him a kiss on the cheek in a way Harvey supposes is meant to be maternal – he is never quite sure, doesn’t have a basis for navigation as to what good mothers are meant to do. He’s glad Donna does though, and these moments he shares with her parents aren’t nearly as awkward as they were in the beginning. They make him feel almost as if he is a part of something whole, something that has nothing to do with Jessica or the law or the sleek and shiny offices on the fiftieth floor of the firm.
Years later, and he’s still getting used to that feeling.
He sits too closely to her in the back seat of the car. Ray is behind the wheel and Donna is engaging him in an full-blown argument about whether or not the Giants are going to go all the way again this year. Ray is a Jet’s man and Harvey and Donna never let him live it down. Harvey’s thigh is flush with hers as he listens to her spew stats and trivia about passing yards and sacks, and he reaches for her without thinking not even ten minutes into the drive across town. His fingers fold against the bones of her bare knee with intent, and he is pleasantly surprised when she allows this, even more surprised when she shifts closer to him still.
In the tiny space on the stairs just outside her walk-up, she kisses him again. It’s soft, slow, unhurried. Donna kisses him with a soft hesitation that grows steadily into certainty, her mouth opening wider, her tongue smoothing against his only to retreat shortly thereafter. When she pulls away, her grin is too smug, and he likes it a little too much as he blinks to bring the red of her hair into focus.
“You keep doing that,” he says, and yeah, his grin is a little smug too.
“You like it.”
He does, and she knows it, so he doesn’t see the point in agreeing. “It’s a little inappropriate,” he points out instead, playful almost.
Donna’s grin spreads wider across her mouth as she steps further into his space for a moment. “Only because I am so incredibly awesome at it.”
To the left a streetlamp flickers on and off periodically. The noise from the busy street behind them pops in his ears and as she reaches into her bag for her keys, Harvey thinks about that night years before, standing in this very spot, another line toed and crossed only to be redrawn bigger and bolder than ever before afterwards.
He thought he understand what want was then. The very thought is almost laughable now.
“We’ve been here before,” he says quietly, a calculated risk.
Her hands still around her keys as she peers at him curiously. After a moment, she nods. “We have.”
Harvey leans in, presses his mouth near the corner of hers.
“We’ll be here again,” he tells her with the type of conviction and certainty he usually saves for the law or Jessica, and because she knows him, because she is an expert at transparency and reading between the lines just like him, she sees the promise underneath.
In the car, he waits until he sees the light in her living room flick on behind motioning for Ray to take him home.
When Harvey allows himself to think of such things, he likes to imagine the very specific details of the million and one ways it could happen: his place, hers, the back seat of the car, some random hotel room during a business trip out of town.
He likes to close his eyes and imagine what she would wear under those pencil skirts of hers, how she would look spread out underneath him, on top of him. He likes to imagine what she would say, if she would be loud or quiet, what exactly he would have to do to make her lose control to the point where his name is the only thing she can think or properly say.
Most importantly, he likes to imagine exactly how she would kiss him, because in his fantasies she always chooses him, always bridges the distance and presses her mouth to his first.
The reality is this:
His place, late on a Friday night, and the sight of her at his door surprises him and pleases him all at once, leaving that fierce, uncontrolled want tightening in his chest at just the sight of her. He’s still half in his suit from earlier in the day, and she’s in jeans and sweatshirt he vaguely remembers her stealing from him years before, the letters of Harvard peeling and fading with time, barely visible now. Harvey smiles at her, is barely able to murmur a hello before she pushes past him and further into his home. There are files strewn about in the living room, an abandoned glass of something thick and warm on the coffee table, SportsCenter brought to a dull noise in the background. Harvey watches Donna closely as she takes it all in, as her fingers twitch at her sides to reach for his drink but ultimately thinks better of it. He watches too closely as she peers into his bedroom and then back to him a second later, like she’s trying to catch him at something.
It stings a little more than he would like it to, but Donna knows him, knows him better than anyone, and she’s still here, so.
When her gaze finally settles on his again, she’s almost smiling. “This isn’t going to be easy,” she says.
Harvey schools his expression, merely nodding as he replies, “Probably not.”
Donna takes a few steps, crossing the distance between them; Harvey finds himself meeting her halfway without even thinking about it. She reaches for him almost immediately, her fingers twisting into the fabric of his shirt for a moment before letting go.
Her jaw rises defiantly when she tells him, “I’m not going to change for you. I’m still going to call you on your bullshit. I am still going to tell you when I think you’re going too far.”
He nods, or at least he thinks he does. Maybe he even manages to murmur something akin to of course not or even just an okay. He should be listening – he is actively trying to listen – but the anticipation has roared to life inside his chest, has started to thrum in his veins, and reverberate in the base of his skull. He cannot, for the life of him, focus on anything outside of her mouth and how her hair smells like citrus and how badly he wants her, all of her, right this second and all the ones after.
But her mouth is still moving, and she has a look on her face like it’s important, so he reigns himself in and focuses.
“If at any point one or both of us even starts to think we want out, we tell the other, and we get out. We salvage our friendship and we move on.” Donna is almost too serious as she says this, and his first, immediate instinct is to tell her not to worry. To tell her they’re never going to get to that point, because she’s Donna and he’s Harvey and neither one of them know how to fail at anything.
But it seems a little too soon for that, and the thought alone scares even him, so all he does is smile at her and murmur okay. The word gets lost somewhere along the way the moment he reaches for her though, his hand moving to the curve of her neck, sliding along skin until his thumb rests on her jaw. Her eyes close as she allows herself to fully lean into his touch and his chest constricts so much it actually goddamn hurts.
When Donna finally kisses him, it tastes like a dare and the laughter bubbles in the back of his throat because she of all people should know – Harvey Specter never backs down from a challenge.
It is somewhat of miracle, really, that they even make it to his bed.
They’re a mess of tangled limbs and mouths before Harvey even has a chance to process that this is actually going to happen, that she’s actually here, with him, and after a decade and change of fits and starts, they’re actually going to try and make this work. They nearly trip over the shoes she kicked off as soon as she was able and he stubs his toe in a graceless move when they both stumble near the coffee table. It’s messy and disorganized and they laugh entirely way too much for it to be normal. But Harvey finds he almost likes it better this way. He has always liked that he can laugh with her, and be himself with her, and when he presses her down into his mattress and they settle against each other, they both let out a whoosh of air that resembles the softest of sighs at the same exact time. Naturally, they end up laughing about that too.
Donna runs her hands through his hair, tangling and pulling until it sticks every which way and he makes fun of her stupidly tight jeans as he peels them and her delightfully plain cotton panties off of her; tells her he doesn’t like to share his clothes, so he’d like his sweatshirt back thank you very much as he tosses it aside. All the while her mouth is hot and needy against his, tongue slick with want and need as it pushes it’s way past his lips. Harvey follows her lead every step of the way, allows her to undress him too, and feels like he could do this for hours if she asked him to.
It’s fun – the most fun he’s had in bed in a while, really, with all the skin against skin and the delicate arching of backs – until it turns serious. Until they are both naked and sweaty and his hands are buried between her thighs, licking into her. It’s fun until she nips at his bottom lip, moaning his name as his fingers spread her wide open, and Harvey can’t help but think about how goddamn beautiful she is, more so than he’s ever allowed himself to admit before. And since he’s trying to be a little bit better about giving, he tells her just that, pulling his mouth away from hers to graze along her throat, all tongue and teeth. It’s all fun until suddenly Donna doesn’t know how to take a compliment and Harvey doesn’t hesitate to call her on it as he opens her up to him real slowly, taking his time.
Her long back bows when he slips a finger inside her and she’s so tight and warm, and already right there when she reaches down, and pushes his hand away. Harvey pulls back, mostly surprised, but Donna has apparently decided she’s had about enough of him calling all the shots, uses those thighs he’s going to spend ample time later admiring to flip them, a leg on either side of his as she settles above him in one, solid motion.
The shock gives way to immediate appreciation, and there is this almost awkward, too-serious moment where all he can do is stare at her while she slides over him, so close, but not nearly close enough. Harvey’s hands fumble for her hips, traveling north over her belly and sides, before grazing the underside of her breasts. She says something, but he doesn’t catch it, his mind blank, unable to process anything besides the way her mouth quirks just before she slicks her mouth over his, kissing him so hard he can feel it in his teeth. One of her hands wrap around him, starts to move with just the right amount of pull and pressure, and a jolt of electricity courses through him, his hips jerking against her hands as the most ridiculous sound catches in the back of his throat. Donna smirks against his mouth then, smug, and her hands still just as quickly as they started to move, and he knows her, knows exactly what she wants from him, and he’s not going to beg. He even tells her so.
But it’s not exactly the truth, because he’s not inside her yet when she starts to rock against him, this soft whine forming low in her throat and falling between them, threatening to undo him completely. Harvey has to press his eyes shut tight, teeth gritted as his hands move from her breasts to tangle in hair. He knows he pulls a little too hard because it’s been months and years worth of foreplay buried under banter and misdirection. Harvey has never been this embarrassingly easy before, but his body is so keyed up and ready for her that he thinks he could come from the slow friction of her hips rocking against his alone. So instead of losing it completely he pulls her mouth to his, his please desperate and convoluted around the sound of her name, and it is as close to beginning as he’s ever been.
Donna takes it as a personal victory, Harvey can feel it the way she kisses him then, and she is beautiful, all smug and bravado as she gives in, as she’s slides onto him with her slick, white heat. There is a lengthy span of time where they pause and breathe, stretching to accommodate to the fit and she pulls away from his mouth, back straightening. He doesn’t let go of her, though. One hand is at her neck, partly tangled in her hair, the other on her hip. He can feel her pulse quicken beneath his palm as her eyes close and lips part, and the breath she draws in is shaky. Harvey watches her the entire time, cheek between his teeth and can’t decide what he likes more: the way she looks then with her back already arching and mouth parted around the sound of his name, or how she seems to want this just as badly as he does.
When she starts to move it’s graceful, slow and steady at first. Harvey remembers that from before, how she liked to take her time at first, let things build naturally until she couldn’t take it anymore. He starts to remember all sorts of things from the last and only time they did this, but that was then, and this is now, and even though Harvey has carried that night with him for years, it can’t even begin to compare to this, so he doesn’t even try.
Instead, he merely follows her lead, the hand at her waist serving as an anchor as he matches her pace and quickens it little by little, while the one located near her neck tugs and pulls until her mouth connects with his and she’s everywhere.
He comes harder than he has in years.
Everything is too bright and warm after, and all he can hear is the sound of his own heartbeat as the full weight of her body presses him into the mattress. Slowly, he blinks himself into clarity, feels the weight of her breaths start to slow and even as she presses her mouth against lazily against his neck.
It’s almost suffocating, but he holds her to him closely, the palms of his hands pressing between her shoulder blades.
At some point, she breathes, “We’re really going to do this,” and he is far too spent to try and figure out if she meant it as a question.
Still, he presses his lips to the crown of her head, his yeah quiet but sure.
In the morning, Harvey finds her in the kitchen, moving around his space effortlessly, as if she belongs there. His dress shirt hangs loose and wrinkled around her shoulders, buttons lazily skipped here and there, and when she reaches for an upper cabinet, the fabric slips higher and higher, revealing the soft skin of her thighs, the hint of cotton at her hips.
When she cranes her neck to peer at him, her mouth turns, but she doesn’t quite smile. “You moved the mugs,” she says simply, reaching for the fresh pot of coffee. “I explicitly told you when I organized this kitchen not to change a thing. It throws off the entire symmetry of the room.”
“I like them better over there,” he tells her quietly, moving farther into the room, but she’s already crossing the distance to him, rolling her eyes as she presses the warm mug into his hands. Harvey welcomes the familiarity.
“Don’t think I’m not going to move them back while you shower,” Donna warns, already shuffling past him. In the doorway she pauses, sends a questioning glance thrown his way over her shoulder. She is smiling now, bright and warm, just a hint of teeth. The red of her toenails are a stark contrast against his kitchen floor. “You coming back to bed or are you just going to stand there like an idiot and wait for an engraved invitation?” she asks.
All he can do is grin.
Maybe he thinks I love you then, and maybe he doesn’t.
These sorts of changes are slow to take.