A/N: I don't even know where to begin. Well, I guess first of all: HI!
It's not been that long since I ended my last multific, but it feels like it's been forever. I was so grateful and overwhelmed by your amazing support, and I really hope you'll enjoy this new work that it's actually pretty important to me.
I've started writing this story during quarantine, then Sacrifice became a full time job and I left the drafts sitting in my computer forever. I continued it a few weeks ago, and... here we are. Season 4(ish), after the infamous 'You know I love you, Donna.' Even if it may not be everyone's cup of tea, I still hope you'll like it and that you'll stick around. I promise it's worth it!
Needless to say, this chapter wouldn't be the same without Stefanie's help, who's the best supporter and the best thing that's ever happened to my writing, xx.
You're only flaw, you are flawless
But I just can't wait for love to destroy us
I just can't wait for love
-The Neighborhood "Flawless"
It's so fucking hot she's sweating. She can feel them, the little sticky droplets of sweat dampening her back, making her want to lie on her side. As if she could. It's like her own specific torture.
Donna moves her feet on the cool spot of the mattress, only to feel it burn after a matter of seconds. She prays to the lord the rest of the bed has freshened up a bit in the meantime.
She checks — in her dreams, maybe.
At this point, she chooses to change tactics, reaching out and throwing the comforter away. It's one of Persian's finest silk, but the moment it starts melting your skin overnight, Donna considers it cheap polyester.
So far, it's one of the hottest summers New York has seen in a long time. The day was compelled by the scorching rays of the searing sun, forcing people to wait in line to buy sunscreen in stock. Around noon, no one dared to get out, not even in their wildest dreams. If you walked down the busy streets of Manhattan during that hour, you could feel the pavement burning under your shoes. Donna managed to find comfort in the sanctity of her own office, equipped with air conditioning and everything. Night, although, was a completely different cup of tea. There was no escaping from the hundred degrees her room seemed able to reach. The air became heavy and humid, too thick to inhale and exhale properly, and her whole body feels like fusing with the mattress underneath.
Donna doesn't even remember the last time she felt the need to sleep naked, tortured by the light fabric of her nightgown that makes friction with her over-sensitive skin.
For the first time in months, she actually likes the idea of not having someone sleeping next to her. Well, not exactly like. It's more of the bright side of her situation.
She tells herself to relax, that the more she thinks of it, the more uncomfortable she'll feel. Reverse psychology doesn't seem interested in engaging at all with her at the moment, though, and her mind is soon distracted by the familiar, yet now pretty much unwelcome, intrusion of her son. She knows it's him, always the first to take initiative and start moving around. Maybe he's bothered by his mother's restlessness. She wonders if he can really perceive her agitation.
Shortly after, her train of thoughts is interrupted by a swift kick to her spleen by her daughter. Donna knows it's her, always joining the party in her outstretched uterus, and always following her brother with whatever he does.
Bonding this way with her unborn kids is the last thing she'd ever expected, but it's very much real and very much pleasant to get to know them before they come into the world and turn it upside down.
She believes she should be prepared, should gather as much information as she can before she'll have to learn quickly in the field and she'll have no room for mistakes. It's always been her job, being efficient and skillful, and she's always been keen on applying these resources to her personal life.
So far it's going great, and she's discovered so much about these two little creatures that are very much there, yet still an abstract concept. Donna has come to terms with her pregnancy fairly long ago, but she still can't picture the two babies that are currently inside of her. She can't wait to put a face to a name. And she may not know what they look like, but she knows them. She's grown to recognize their sneaky way of making their presence known, already trying to reach the outside world with an elbow or a foot, pressed tight against her stretched skin. She knows it's fifty percent instincts and fifty percent random, but she likes to think that her baby boy is the one currently in charge, the one who isn't afraid of demanding attention or ask for what he wants; her baby girl is way quieter and steadier, but she listens and copies every little thing her brother does, so Donna guesses she's going to be a troublemaker as well.
She wishes she could just have them close a little longer, literally attached and depending on her, before they'll eventually fly with their own wings, and she'll be alone once again.
Nonetheless, she can't wait to be able to turn on her side again.
At first, Donna thought women who gave up their heels had no respect for themselves. But she has never been happier to trade those for flats, at least after finding out the hard way that swollen feet are a first category bitch.
She tells herself she doesn't have to wear them because she wears confidence and that's enough. She reprimands herself, knowing that she, as well as other women, don't need to follow orthodox codes and rules, imposed by society itself to satisfy obnoxious standards.
Deep down, she knows it's bullshit and she just misses her Louboutins. And not because without them she feels short or inadequate, but for the killer red sole.
Right now, though, her calves and toes are begging for mercy, and she's willing to make a sacrifice for the greater good.
The redhead saunters down the corridors of the firm in the early hours of the morning, not a hair out of place or a wrinkle on her dress. She navigates the cubicles of her colleagues with familiarity and ease, throwing polite and bright smiles here and there, never missing a beat. Frankly, this whole facade is really getting on her nerves, but she can't help it. It comes as second nature, displaying perfection and playing it cool, and at least exceeding expectations keeps her busy. People know, that much is clear, but as long as she keeps flashing them ear to ear smiles, she hopes to blind their curiosity and get away with it. Distracting them and not leaving room to doubt how fine she is, is probably the best.
She has even thought about quitting, go somewhere else and start over, but she doesn't think leaving everyone else behind because of a certain person is fair, and, quite frankly, pregnant and miserable aren't qualities sought for in job applications, nor is she certainly thrilled of writing them down in her résumé.
She still has so much to offer, even without him. She's Donna, for God's sakes, and she's very capable of just meaning something without him.
As she makes her way to the kitchen, the mother-to-be is greeted by Gretchen's cheerful hello. The woman seemed busy having a conversation with Rachel over a coffee, but the moment she spots Donna, every pleasantry is long forgotten as she strides over to her.
Gretchen seems to have developed some kind of obsession for her pregnancy, at this point, Donna knows it's not her company she enjoys anymore, but her kids'. All she seeks are baby cuddles, and the twins are not even born yet, so she just limits to touch the redhead's baby bump and feel the movements underneath her skin. It probably reminds her of the time she carried her children as well, and the idea of having Donna close, helps her relive those moments she can no longer experience. It's just some healthy nostalgia, and Donna certainly doesn't mind some extra affection. It's all very exciting, and if she doesn't share it with her girlfriends, then who else?
Gretchen takes Donna's hand and twirls her around, letting her flowy summer dress fly around according to her movements, the little blue patterns over the white fabric twisting like a kaleidoscope. Still holding her hand, the secretary steps back to check her out. "Red, aren't you just a sight for sore eyes today?" Eyes roaming appreciatively over her sinuous body.
Five, now familiar, slender and jeweled fingers splay across her ever-growing bump before she even has the chance to reply.
Donna used to feel uncomfortable when the physical contact firstly began as if she was the glass that separated the tourists from the animals at the zoo. The pregnancy seemed to attract people like a magnet, people who were eager to violate her personal space and assume the right to touch her like she was just an incubator. Someone didn't even bother asking 'May I?' at some point. She visioned the connection with her babies as something private and didn't appreciate all this hustle and bustle of unfamiliar hands touching her skin.
With Gretchen, though, it just feels like sharing something beautiful.
"Oh yeah," Donna nods, "just like a beautiful flower. A flower that is pretty much ready to blossom," she jokes, narrowing her eyebrows.
She puts her hand over Gretchen's and just smiles. Rachel sets her finished cup of coffee in the sink, restrained jealousy flashing in her eyes for a second. But Donna sees it, of course, she sees it. The green-eyed monster has paid a visit to the brunette a fair share of times during these past months, probably because of the new proximity of her two friends, now that they have something in common. Something Rachel can't be a part of, so sometimes she feels left out. Not that she complains about not having children, because she sure as hell has other plans for her and Mike. Maybe someday, but definitely not now. And because Donna knows that, in all honesty, she finds her friend's behavior quite amusing.
"Don't you have a few more weeks to go?" she asks casually, eyeing the bump with intent.
"Actually, with twins it's different. Women usually give birth earlier, I'm surprised she's still going around like this," Gretchen answers for Donna, gaining a discreet eye-roll from Rachel.
"Trust me, if I could give birth today, I would," Donna says with a confidence that fades soon enough. She's caught herself doing it more and more often, just vocalizing her wish of delivering the babies and then regretting it a second later. She tells herself it's because every soon-to-be mother panics, because it's impossible to escape the fear of that primal and all-consuming pain that comes with every birth, but it's something else entirely. It's because something's missing, whether she realizes it or not. It's like trying to find a solution without a clue, or finishing a puzzle without the final piece.
Gretchen lets out a little snort, "Trust me, you don't want to push two humans out of your lady parts when the temperature it's over 84.2 degrees."
"Or maybe I don't want to carry them around when it's over 84.2 degrees."
Rachel cranes her neck, agreeing that, "She does have a point." Then she gets back to washing the cup, drying it properly, and setting it in the cabinet above her head. She turns around, facing the others, and leans back on the edge of the sink. Ankles and arms crossed, looking at her with reprimand, Donna knows what's coming. "Have you thought about what I asked you?"
The exchange is far too quick, and Donna ends it with a sneering smirk. She knows Rachel doesn't love giving her lectures — usually because she cares deeply about her friend, but Donna won't have it. She has the upper hand and the last word since she rightly can't be forced into letting someone stay at her apartment.
"You want to tell me what this all about?" Gretchen waves her index between the two women.
Donna opens her mouth, but Rachel anticipates her reply before she has the chance to muster up a word. "I offered to move to her place until she goes into labor so that she has someone already there when it happens."
"Yes, you offered. And I declined," Donna retorts quite wrily.
"Rachel's not wrong here, honey. You'll be glad to have someone to keep you from freaking out."
"I don't need a babysitter, and plus, won't Mike be jealous if you move in with me?"
"Mike gave me the idea," Rachel shuts her up with a quirk of her eyebrows, even though she knows Donna's problem has nothing to do with Mike.
"Rachel—" she really doesn't want to sound ungrateful or whiny, but she isn't going to retract or waver her decision. She is almost flattered by her friend's concern — even if at times it feels like pity — but the last thing she needs is a reminder of the only person who should be there for her, and yet won't.
Rachel shakes her head, disappointed. Obviously, she didn't assume Donna would just agree without reluctance, but she's just being stubborn, and the brunette won't leave without a fight. "You need someone Donna, you can't do it alone. We all know how self-reliant and strong you are, but this is bigger than you, and you'll need help."
Donna looks down, sign that she's aware of it, but she won't do anything about it.
"You can't keep going on like this Donna," Rachel patronizes. "You know it as well as I do."
Donna is about to rebut, her mouth opens in anticipation, but the words don't have enough time to get out. The women hear a loud crash coming from the library, interrupting their conversation, and prompting them to throw a glance over the glass wall simultaneously.
Harvey is knocked over one of the large conference tables, his eyebrows knit together, as he scans the surroundings, disoriented. That is alarming proof that he's anything but focused, like he was walking in his sleep and doesn't even know how he got there. It's happening more and more frequently, to be honest, him dragging himself around day and night, looking half-dead.
Donna takes an instinctive step forward, and if Rachel didn't know any better, she would swear she was about to walk over to him. She recovers quickly though, changing the route of her outstretched hand, and sliding her fingers over her locks. Her gaze is the one that doesn't falter, the only kind of contact she allows herself to keep and has no intention to leave. Keeping an eye on him, without having an actual conversation with him, feels like a good comprise at the moment. But there are times like this one, where stolen glances aren't enough, and she just wishes things were different so she could reach out for him. Donna scolds herself for going down that road again.
While she watches as the lawyer stubbornly refuses Mike's help and endures Jessica's reproach, she keeps from feeling the urge to take his side. Actually, the urge is always there and will probably never go away, but she buries it deep down, where all their almosts lie apparently unawakened but still threatening to surface. Donna tells herself she's not his secretary anymore and it isn't her job, or her place for the matter, to fix his shit.
Jessica says something, and even if Donna can't hear a thing through the soundproof glass, it must be something that really irritates him. Harvey slams his fist on the table, the action connoted by a kind of violence that has always been unfamiliar to him. But there's an equally unfamiliar dazzle in his eyes, the flame of pure and stark rage, probably a product of all the alcohol flowing in his system. Not that she cares.
It doesn't concern her anymore. Just like it doesn't concern her how he spats god knows what horrible accusations at Jessica's face — who keeps a straight face for good measure, but who's clearly just waiting for the right moment to strike — and pushes Mike aside to storm out of the library under the prying eyes of associates and partners.
Their eyes lock, for the briefest of seconds, and it's like an entire conversation, worth months of non-speaking terms, pass through. It's her mask of diligent assistant falling off, and his true self shining between the creases of this jumpy monster he's become.
It lasts just a second though, before he goes back to his rock-bottom and she goes back to her forced smiling. After all, it doesn't concern her anymore.