206. The number was etched into his brain. She was etched into his brain. He found he had been staring at the numbers for an eternity. Though it had been a decade since he had last stood before them, these numbers marked the memories remained vivid in the recesses of his mind. He hesitated, knowing that whatever happened next would, in one way or another, change them forever. There would be no going back, not from this, not this time. He steadied his breathing, knowing that the minute she opened the door his senses would be inundated with memories of that night lost long ago. His arm felt like lead as he reached up and rapped his knuckles against the wooden surface, the sound ringing loud in his ears.
Donna stared at her reflection in the mirror. She wasn't in any kind of mood for a date but she was determined, or stubborn as some people liked to call it. It's who she was and she wasn't apologizing for it. This needed to be done. This was the only way to move past it. The black dress hugged her figure in all the right places, the cap sleeves hung off her shoulders accentuating her clavicle, the hem stopped just above the knee. It was just the right amount of skin, she supposed. As she hung long drops of gold and emerald from each ear, she heard a low knock at her door. She looked at the clock on her nightstand with a huff, 7:40, he was way too early she thought as she frowned with annoyance.
The time a man showed up for a date was, in Donna's opinion, a form of art and etiquette that all men had to learn. Never show up too early because a woman would not be ready, and seeing her before she is ready ruins the presentation of the final package. Never show up too late because she may consider that she's been stood up or worse, that you are sloppy and have no consideration for her time. Show up exactly on time and she may find you to be a stickler for time and rules. The truth was, a man should arrive on time or early but give her 6 minutes after the agreed upon time and pretend like he had been running a few minutes late, even though they both know he'd been waiting outside the entire time. It may sound crazy but she was a complex woman who didn't like being rushed. As she slipped on her heels and made her way to the door, she realized that only one person knew these quirks and intricacies, only one man, and as she pulled open the door, she found herself facing him.
"Harvey?" she asked surprised, though she couldn't help as annoyance colored her tone, the smile she had plastered on her face falling, "what are you doing here?"
Harvey was relieved that she had been surprised to find him at her door because it gave him the extra seconds he needed to recover. He noticed how her smile disappeared as she spotted him and he felt a pang in his chest.
"We need to talk," he said, ignoring her tone, allowing himself to cut past her, crossing the threshold into her apartment. The roll of the eyes as she took in a deep breath and slammed the door behind her did not go unnoticed by him. She was likely praying for some form of patience he mused.
"Yeah, Harvey, now is not a good time," she snapped and cut around him, making her way back into her apartment. "I have a date, remember? Who is supposed to be here in 20 minutes by the way."
He turned to follow her, appreciating the view while simultaneously envying the man it was intended for. She turned on him, noticing his stare which only seemed to make her blood boil further.
"What do you want, Harvey!? I don't have time for this! Whatever file you need processed is just going to have to wait until tomorrow!" she cried out, forcefully this time.
He stared at her for a long moment in silence. His eyes flickered slightly toward the couch, ambushed by the sudden image of the two of them in a hot tangled mess, before meeting hers again. She crossed her arms across her chest and stared back, not giving in. Harvey looks down to the floor before taking a step closer to her.
"So this date you've got," he said, shoving his hands in his pockets, attempting at casual conversation, "who's the guy?"
Donna cocked her head to the side, knitting her eyebrows in what he was sure was the perfect blend of utter disbelief and pure unadulterated anger, before shaking her head and walking away from him.
"Frankly, Harvey, that it none of your business," she scoffed as she made her way to the dining room table and picked up her phone and dropped it into the clutch she had picked out for the night.
"As I've said before, just because it's not my business doesn't keep me from thinking about it. Is it the accountant again?" he asked, his tone clearly intended to antagonize her.
"No, as a matter of fact his name is Jonathan, and he's in banking," she replied with some hesitance, dropping the clutch back down on the table and made her way to the kitchen, where she began pouring herself a generous glass of wine. Harvey smiled inwardly, knowing he already had her riled up.
"Jonathan in banking," he mimicked as her followed her toward the kitchen, but opted for leaning against the doorway and not quite following her in.
"Next thing I know, you're going to tell me his last name is Sidwell," he added as a joke.
Donna straightened at the name, her eyes flickered to meet his before quickly averting his gaze and focusing entirely too much on pouring an absurd amount of wine into her glass. Her entire body betrayed her and he knew she had given much more information than had been intended for him.
"Wait a minute! Is it Sidwell?" he demanded as his voice rose an octave, eyes narrowing, "You're going out, on a date, with Jonathan Sidwell? When the hell did this happen?"
"I don't know, sometime between Mike getting him out from Tony Giannopoulos and screwing him over with Charles Forstman," she replied indifferently, "he asked me out a couple of times."
"And you thought now would be a good time to agree to go out with him? Donna, you can't be serious!" he argued, approaching her directly at the kitchen counter, forcing her to make the eye contact she was deliberately trying to avoid.
"Like I said, Harvey, it is none of your damn business," she replied, skirting around him and moving to the living room, where she stood facing out the window.
"You can't go out with him," he declared boldly as he trailed her into the living room, the edge creeping into his tone.
"Excuse me!?" she shrieked, spinning around on him, her eyes wide with anger, "What did you just say?"
He held her gaze defiantly and stayed silent. Donna sputtered out an incredulous laugh as she pressed her palms against one another in a prayer like fashion before speaking slowly and concisely at him.
"Harvey, try to understand this, you DO NOT get to tell me who I can and cannot go out with. And you cannot keep doing this and barging in on my dates!"
"Barging in? I've never barged in on any of your dates. And I'd hardly call this barging in anyways, your date hasn't even started."
Donna shot him a deadpanned expression before shaking her head, "Oh, that's new! Really? Never? What about Stephen?"
"Huntley?" now he was the one who nearly shrieked, "That son-of-a-bitch? You should be thanking me for that one! Look how well that turned out for you!" he refuted, knowing he had crossed the line that he'd just have to roll with.
Donna glowered, shaking her head once more before turning away from him to look out the window once more.
"I think you should go," she said firmly without looking back at him. Harvey hadn't meant to throw the whole Stephen debacle in her face but he stood his ground as Mike's works resounded in his head.
"Donna, don't do it. Don't go out with that guy."
"Why not, Harvey? Why? What is your reason this time?" she turned on him throwing her hands in the air, her voice cracking ever so slightly.
"He's not right for you!"
"Oh ok!" she shot back as she circled the living room, "Is it because he's smart, successful, available, interested in me? You're right Harvey, he's—"
"A dick! And you know it!" he finished for her instead.
He watched as she tapped the toe of her stilettos on the gray shag rug that decorated her small living room. She bit down on her lips, considering her response.
"There's always something, she said tiredly, "Why? Is it me? Am I not worthy of something with those qualities? Am I just the lowly secretary?"
She sounded genuinely hurt and Harvey realized for the first time ever that she took his nagging about her dates as a sign that she was reaching out of her league, that she wasn't good enough. Her words hit him like a ton of bricks.
"What did you say?" he asked in complete shock as she stood before him and looked away, unable to meet his gaze.
"Are you crazy!? Jesus! Donna are you trying to kill me?" he cried out passionately as he paced the room, his hands balling up at his sides. When she remained silent, he moved in on her until her back rested against the windowsill.
"I never want to hear you say or think anything like that every again. Do you understand?"
They were inches away and she stared at him, eyes wide.
"Do you understand?" he pressed again, his hands leaning against the windowsill, barricading her in, "That the reason they aren't right for you is because they don't deserve to have you. I don't deserve to have you. None of us do. Do you think I'd have wagered going to Pearson Hardman on a lowly secretary? I wasn't lying when I told you I couldn't be me without you, Donna."
"Do you understand that?" he repeated the question softer this time.
He caught her eyes and saw that they glistened from the tears that threatened to break. He could she her fight the urge and she bit down harder on her lip. Ever the warrior, he thought to himself. He was tempted to close the space between them, to kiss her, to get lost in her embrace, but he couldn't, not until he told her everything she needed to hear.
"What do you want from me, Harvey?" she said so quietly, he almost thought he had imagined it.
"The truth," he answered firmly.
"You don't want the truth!" she responded vehemently, shaking her head.
"Then what am I doing here, Donna?" he replied with equal fervor, pushing himself away from the windowsill, "Why the hell am I here if I don't want the truth!?"
He shook his head and rubbed his face taking a deep breath, turning away from her before speaking again, "Donna…Friday night—"
"Was just one night, Harvey," she interrupted.
"That's bullshit, Donna, you know it is!" he said turning to her once again, "It wasn't just one night 10 years ago and it sure as hell wasn't just one night two day ago?"
She scoffed, "Ten years ago? Ten years ago, you took off in the morning without a word, Harvey! Like it was nothing! And when you called, it was about your job!"
"A job that I would have rejected if I couldn't have you with me!" he countered.
"Come on, Harvey. That was a bluff that worked out in your favor."
"It wasn't a bluff," he answered tightly.
"Then how did you do it? How did you convince Jessica? Associates don't get assistants. How did Jessica manage to waive the rule for you?"
"It doesn't matter, Donna," he replied casually.
"No!" she yelled back in anger, as she moved towards him pointing her finger at in accusation, "You don't get to come here demanding answers and truths from me and then avoid my questions when you aren't comfortable. That is not how this works!"
Harvey sighed and rubbed his hand against the nape of his neck, a habit of uncertainty. She would be the death of him of this he was absolutely certain.
"She agreed…if your salary came out of my paycheck," he hesitated under his breath.
"What?" she said stepping closer, eyes wide and wild.
He locked his gaze with hers and repeated clearly, "Jessica agreed to let me bring you, if I agreed to have your pay come out of my paycheck."
She took a step back from him and sat on the edge of the couch processing this new information. It was big. He knew it was. She knew it was. And it was the one secret he had managed to keep from her during their entire time together.
"You paid my salary, out of your own paycheck?" she repeated his words quietly.
"How long?" she asked, as her eyes narrowed as they met his.
"Until I made junior partner…and then you were added to the company payroll."
"That was a long time" she whispered under her breath.
"Hey, I'd do it all over again if I had to, Donna. I'd still do it until this day if I had to."
"How did I not know? I'm Donna. I know everything," she said dumbfounded.
"No one knew," he replied, "Jessica and I worked it out that way. She was the only person in this company who knew. And…my dad was the only person outside of it that knew."
Her eyes shot up, meeting his at the mention of his father, before she looked away again.
"You need to go," she repeated again.
"I'm not leaving until this conversation is done. If you want me out, call the cops."
"This conversation is done," she said through gritted teeth, standing up to face him.
"No, it isn't," he replied just as stubbornly.
"Then what, Harvey?! What do you want me to do with all that information? Wait around, as the dating pool gets slimmer, until some day some guy magically meets your standards? Am I supposed to just reject all dates you deem not good enough for me?"
"Don't you get it? No guy will ever be good enough, Donna… unless that guy is me!"
"What?" she whispered, her eyes meeting his.
"You heard me," he said, clearing his throat to find his voice, "You could find a saint and I'd still think he's not good enough for you because he isn't me. You put that goddamn rule in place for so long…"
"Yes, I did! To protect us," she argued, tears filling her eyes.
"Protect us from what!?" he yelled back passionately before composing his voice again, "From what, Donna? From a failed relationship. Look around, we're both still single and surrounded by one failed relationship after another!"
"And then you broke that rule…for Huntley," he continued, gritting his teeth and mentioning Stephen Huntley's name, "And you really had me thinking that it was because you never wanted this, us."
"Harvey, I—" she began to protest but he cut her off before she had a chance to deny anything.
"No! And then I find out that you told Rachel that you wanted to try ten years ago after the first time but you never said anything! Tell me it's not true," he challenged, trying to hold her gaze.
When she remained silent, he took a step toward her. She eyed him tentatively and she bit down on her lip. He stood mere inches from her, gauging her body language. He reached out and pulled her forward gently at the waist. Her eyes widened slightly as their gaze remained locked with one another.
"Was it true?" he whispered.
She nodded silently.
"But Harvey-" she began, but her had already decided that her silent nod of confirmation was all the answer he needed. He shook his head slightly before she finished her thought, reaching his hands up to cup her face and crash his lips to hers.
He felt her relax into the kiss, her hands pulling at his lapel to bring him closer. He smiled against her lips as he deepened the kiss.
At the need for oxygen, they broke apart but Harvey kept hold of her waist, keeping her close. She gave him a small shy smile that reflected in her eyes.
"No need to be so melodramatic Harvey," she said with a mischievous look in her eyes, "It was just a date. It's not like I was marrying the guy."
"You're damn right you're not marrying him! You're not even dating him," he returned.
"Oh, and what makes you think you can make those kind of demands?" she asked, continuing the charade.
"One, that kiss," he said pointedly, "and two, you could never be with him because you and I both know that the only person you want to be with is me."
She opened her mouth in mock disbelief.
"And it's the same reason I can't make it work with anyone else," he added before she could argue.
"Because you want to be with yourself?" she teased, with that impish smiled she often reserved for him.
"No Debbie, I want you," he said, giving her another tug at the waist.
"My name is Donna," she returned with another smile, as their foreheads touched.
"Oh, right…Donna," he said snapping his fingers, sharing a warm secrete smile with her.
"It's you, you know? It's always been you," he whispered, giving her forehead a kiss and then planting another gently on her lips.
He felt her pull away first from the kiss this time. He looked at her to find a nervous look on her face.
"I'm scared, Harvey," she whispered, meeting his eyes.
"Me too. But I trust you with this and I can't know where this will go for sure but I can guarantee you that no one will love you more."
"I don't appreciate you putting limitations on the love of those who worship Donna," she joked again.
"Donna?" he said, noticing that her jokes were only her way of dealing with her nerves.
"Shut up," he said gently as he pulled her in for another kiss.
"Harvey… I want this too," she admitted, to which he beamed a smile at her.
"I guess I'd better called Jonathan," she said pulling away from him, "he's going to be here any minute."
"Don't worry about him," he replied, pulling her back into him, "he'll realize he's been stood up eventually."
"That's a terrible thing to do," she countered.
"He'll survive, he's an asshole," he justified.
Donna rolled her eyes.
"If you think Sidewell deserves that, I wonder what you'd reserve for Travis Tanner," she commented.
Harvey froze and stood arms length away in order to meet her eyes, "Say what now!?"
"Yeah, he pursued quite heavily. At least 5 times and there were flowers too. But don't you worry, those Boston boys aren't my type."
"Travis Tanner!?" he cried out, "I'll kill him."
"Oh don't be so rash, Harvey," she smiled, pulling him into her, "you can't blame them for knowing a good thing when they see one."
He shook his head but smiled down at her anyway. He leaned down to kiss her again, moving his way from her lips, to her ears, and then down to her neck.
"You know," he murmured into her ear, as he felt goosebumps rise on her skin at his touch, "that couch is bringing back some memories. Want to go for a reenactment? Got any whipped cream in that fridge?"
She gave him a light push back and eyed him purposefully.
"Uh-uh Mister. I am dressed for a date and spent all this time getting ready for it, you're taking me on one."
"A little dessert before the main course never hurt anyone," he said as he kissed another light line down her neck, knowing her was breaking her resolve, "but I guess you're right, we should get some dinner after all!"
He noticed the flustered look she gave him.
"You're going to pay for that later," she said with a smirk, as she moved to grab her coat of the sofa.
"Promise?" he asked with a smile of anticipation.
"Let's go," she said laughing, tugging at his hand.
He looked down and smiled at how strangely natural it felt. They'd never held hands before but the fit was just right, like they'd been doing it for years. He could get used to this just fine, he thought as he followed her out and into the night.