A/N: Finally! The day has come to get this AU up and running. It has been living in my head "rent free" for months now and I have missed writing so much. I can never thank my dear friends Heather and Stephanie enough for all their encouragement and support. A million thanks to Steph and Jo, also, for their amazing beta work and for the hours Steph spent creating this beautiful cover.
Hope everyone enjoys this new story and please leave a review to let me know your thoughts.
My Best Friend's Wedding
Harvey drops his phone into the sink with a clatter.
"Well, hello to you too."
He hears the familiar snicker come through the receiver as he attempts to shake the water from his phone.
"Sorry," he grunts as he hits the speaker button, "you caught me shaving and I dropped my phone."
"God forbid I distract you and you miss a spot. I can't imagine the ramifications of the great Harvey Specter stepping out of his condo with any hint of stubble."
"Listen, Donna," his tone feigns irritation but his grin is wide, "if you just called to give me shit, can I call you back? I'm running late for a big client meeting and—"
"I'm getting married!"
The cut is sharp and it bites like a mother-fucker. As the blood runs down his chiseled jaw he thinks absently that he hasn't cut himself shaving since he was a teen.
"Harvey?" Donna's voice echoes for the second or third time. "Did you hear what I said?"
Reaching for a towel he struggles to find his composure and clears his throat.
"Yes. Sorry, yes. Donna." Harvey swallows the thick lump in his throat. "That's... unbelievable." It was the only word he could think of that wouldn't make him a pansy or an asshole.
"I know! I know!" Donna's tone is a notch or two higher than normal. She sounds ecstatic and it makes his stomach turn. "I know it's only been six months but when you know, you just… know. You know?"
Harvey normally loves it when she rambles this way, but for some reason, at the moment, he finds it irritating.
"Well, if you're happy, I'm happy," he lies. "Look, Donna. I know this is huge, and I want to hear all about it." Another lie. "But like I said, I'm running late. Big client."
"Harvey, do you even have a small client?" she teases.
"Point taken," he says, still trying to stop the bleeding. Literally and figuratively. "I'll call you tonight?"
"Okay, Harvey. Sounds good. I need to call my mom anyway."
"You haven't told your mom?" The exasperation in his voice is evident.
"You were my first call, Silly. You are my best friend, you know."
"Yeah," he sighs quietly, "I know."
When Harvey ends the call he takes a long hard look at himself in the mirror.
Powerful, successful, wealthy. He has everything he'd ever wanted. Save one.
"You've reached Donna. Leave a message, and if you're lucky, I'll call you back."
"Hey. It's me." Harvey concentrates on the movement of his tongue in an attempt to hide the two glasses of Scotch he'd drained before calling. "I said I'd call and here I am. I'm sure you're busy so just call me back whenever." He disconnects the call and fills his tumbler again.
Mike had been warning him since the day he met Donna that someone was going to take her off the market if he didn't move his ass. And of course, he'd explained that they were just friends.
The Scotch burns his throat with each additional tip of the glass.
His dad had been playing match-maker since middle school when they moved into the Boston suburb and Donna was the first friend he made. "We're just friends, Dad." It had become his mantra.
They did cross that line, once. In college. They both had a few too many, lines blurred, hands roamed. They slept together that night and it changed everything. Until the next morning when he woke and the only sign of Donna was a note she'd left.
"Don't worry, Harvey. I know this doesn't change things between us. Best friends forever."
He had been heartbroken. He moved to LA for grad school, right after graduation.
It was awkward for a while after that, but they found their groove again, they always did.
But the real elephant in the room was the agreement they'd made on Donna's 30th Birthday. She flew out to LA to spend a week on the west coast with him. Things had just ended with her and Mark, and even though he'd never kept his distaste for the guy a secret, he felt for her. A year before he'd convinced himself Scottie was the one and he understood the sting of hard truths as well as anyone.
"I'm basically middle-aged and alone..." Donna cries on her best friend's shoulder.
"Donna." His voice is soft and so is his stroke of her hair. "You're not middle-aged and you're not alone. I'm right here."
"You don't count." She huffs.
"Ouch. You know a more sensitive guy might take offense to that," Harvey jokes. Knowing what she really meant by the comment.
"I'm serious, Harvey." Donna sits up and swipes at her wet cheeks. "I always pictured myself married by thirty. I want a family. The clock is ticking."
"You're going to have a family, Donna. You're going to find a guy that deserves you, and he will sweep you off your feet, and you'll have a house with lots of little redheads and a dog named Rufus."
She laughs out loud at that, but the humor in her eyes doesn't last more than a second or two.
"You don't know that. I wish you were right, but it's not like you have any control over it." Her eyes drift off across the room.
"What if I did?" He swallows.
His words shock them both. Donna slowly, deliberately, brings her eyes to meet his, and he continues.
"What if I make you a promise? Right here. Right now."
"What kind of promise?" Donna's voice is barely a whisper as her eyes search his.
"If neither one of us is married, or engaged, by your 35th birthday…" His Adam's apple bobs as doubt settles in.
Donna slips her slender fingers into his warm palms and tilts her head, encouraging him to finish his thought.
"Then we will start a family together. You and me."
He'd dreamt of this moment, of saying the words out loud. Sure, not quite like this… not like some kind of back-up plan, but it's out there now. He can't seem to get a read on what Donna is thinking and it's more than a little unsettling.
"You and me?" she says after several long beats. "Start a family?" She pulls her hands from his and sits back against the couch.
"Why not?" There is a touch of defensiveness in his voice and he cringes internally.
"Because we're… friends. We aren't… People get married when they're in love, Harvey. It's not some kind of business merger."
"You think that's what I meant? That it's some mutually beneficial arrangement?" He stands up and paces the room. "How many marriages do you know that don't last because despite being 'in love', the two people can't stand each other? Maybe being friends is more important than people think."
Harvey keeps his voice even but his stomach is in knots. Would marrying him really be such a terrible fate?
"Harvey… Harvey, listen." Donna stands and walks to him. "For as long as I can remember you've been looking out for me… protecting me. But this, this is too much even for you. It's not your responsibility to give me a family. You deserve to have the future you've dreamed of, not just play a role in mine."
If she only knew that she is the future he's dreamed of. If only he could say the words. Instead, he lets his shoulders drop.
"You know I love you, Donna." His voice is hoarse and his eyes are full.
"I love you too, Harvey." She smiles softly and then steps in for a long hug.
And despite the fact that Donna never agreed to his suggestion, he commits to himself, as he holds her in his arms, that he will in fact propose on her 35th birthday.
But fate had other plans.
Donna notices her phone buzzing on the table but lets it go unanswered when she sees Harvey's name on the screen. Despite his well wishes this morning, it was obvious he wasn't thrilled about her big news. And considering Stephen is across the room stoking the fire, she doesn't think this is the time to discuss it.
She's thrilled about the news and that's what really matters.
"Who was that?" Stephen asks as he slides in beside her on the couch.
"Oh, my mom. Again." She feels a pang of guilt in her side for lying to him but she'd had more than a few ruined relationships over the years at the hands of Harvey and their unconventional friendship. She'd been downplaying it, or more like avoiding the topic altogether, since she and Stephen started dating. He knows that Harvey is an old friend, and that she wants him in the wedding party, but Stephen had put him into the brother-type category and Donna hadn't felt the need to correct him. Not that she has any idea how to define what they are to one another, even if she tried.
Donna met Stephen back in December at Riverdale Country School's Winter Recital where she teaches dance and drama. He is ten years her senior and the divorced father of one of her students. He had made an immediate impression with his sparkling blue eyes and sexy British accent and when he invited Donna out for coffee, she had immediately accepted. Six short months later, she'd said yes again.
"She's excited, I take it?"
"Are you kidding? She's over the moon!" At least she'd pretended to be. Not too unlike Harvey as a matter of fact.
"Listen, Love." Stephen brushes the hair from her cheek and runs his thumb along the line of her jaw. Something about the way he looks at her makes her feel like a rare piece of art. "I know this is all moving a little fast, but with my company, I just never know when I'll be sent back to England, and I know you want to start a family." He smiles and kisses her lightly on the lips. "When something feels this right, sometimes you just have to throw caution to the wind and take that leap."
Throwing caution to the wind has never been a strength of hers. And despite a conscious effort, her thoughts once again drift to Harvey.
She leans in and kisses Stephen softly. It has become second nature for her to turn to a physical response when she struggles for a verbal one. He doesn't seem to mind.
Donna waits until the following morning, and a full cup of coffee, before listening to Harvey's message. He'd been drinking. She can tell three words in. And the way he says, Call me back whenever makes her cringe.
It's not that he's jealous. She knows that. He's never wanted more from her than what they have… well, except once, but that had been a mistake and they both knew it. He just never seemed to approve of any of the guys she dated. Granted, in the end, he had been right about most of them. Okay, all of them. But Donna honestly believes Stephen is different and Harvey never even gave him a chance..
"So, he's how old? 55?"
"I said 45, Harvey, and I know you heard me."
She hears him snickering on the other end of the phone and despite being irritated with his attitude, she smiles.
"I think it's cute that you're jealous." She bites her bottom lip to suppress a giggle.
"Yeah, right. Why would I be jealous? I've got a sugar mama who bakes me cookies and pinches my cheeks. So I'd say we're even."
"Harvey!" Donna blurts. "I know you're not comparing my new boyfriend to your 70-year-old neighbor."
"Just saying," he chuckles, "I see some similarities."
Donna goes on to share that Stephen is a high profile corporate lawyer and that his firm is based out of London. She explains that he is quite the gentleman and that he makes her feel like she's the only woman in the room.
"What?" Donna presses when Harvey seems to have gone quiet.
"I don't know, Donna. A divorced lawyer who also happens to be English. Sounds like a trifecta of douche."
"Well, a pompous broker with a superiority complex would certainly know."
And with that, she hangs up on him.
The next day, a large bouquet of lilies arrives in the school office along with a note and his signature phrase.
"You know I love you, Donna. - H"
She'd already forgiven him, but the flowers don't hurt.
It's still early in California, and while she's woken him up plenty of times before, she opts for a text instead.
D: Morning. Sorry I missed you last night. Give me a call when you have time to talk.
Before she even sets her phone down on the counter it starts to ring.
"Hey!" Donna answers. "Sorry if I woke you."
"I was up. Just watching the Dow before I head out for a run. Shouldn't you be in class?"
"There's no school today. End of the trimester." When met with silence, she adds, "Sorry I missed you last night."
"No, you're not. You did us both a favor. Trust me."
"Harvey," she shuts her eyes when her voice cracks, "I want you to be happy for me."
She can hear him exhale a heavy sigh and clear his throat like he's carefully considering his response.
"I just want you to be happy, Donna. If this guy... if Stephen, is really the man to make that happen, then I support it one hundred percent."
His words make perfect sense, and they should come as a comfort, but for some reason, they cause her eyes to sting.
"When's the big day, by the way? Have you set a date?"
Donna bites the inside of her cheek nervously.
"Yes, actually. May 15th."
It's a good thing Harvey is nowhere near a razor this time because he may have done some serious damage to his best asset.
"It sounded like you said May 15th?" He stands up and runs a hand through his unbrushed hair. "You're getting married on your birthday? You mean next May, right?"
Harvey makes his living off of playing it cool in high-stress situations, but this one has him spiraling and he clenches his jaw in an attempt to steady his nerves.
Donna hesitates and he knows. She's getting married next month. On her 35th birthday.
She goes into a long explanation about it being a small, casual ceremony. Something about Stephen's company and an upcoming merger, spending the summer in London, and all the while his ears are ringing.
"...and I want you to be my Man of Honor."
That snaps him out of it.
"Your what now?"
"My Man of Honor." Donna pauses. "Look, I know it's not traditional, but you're my best friend. There's no one I want up at that altar with me more than you."
Harvey closes his eyes and pinches the bridge of his nose, her words stinging more than the cut healing on his jaw. On the rare occasion he let his mind drift to thoughts of the two of them at the altar, he certainly wasn't watching her marry someone else. But he hears the pleading in her voice and he meant what he'd said moments before, he just wants her to be happy.
"Sure, Donna. Of course."
When Harvey hears the sharp knocks on the front door, he curses under his breath. He'd planned to pack last night but his client meeting went long. Very long. And by the time he got in, he'd barely been able to get his shoes off before passing out on his bed. He'd gone for a run this morning because he felt wound up like a spring and that had put him even further behind schedule. Now Mike is at the door and they have a flight to catch.
"Use your key!" he yells from the bedroom.
A moment later, he hears the front door shut.
"Let me guess. You're not ready?" Mike's voice carries in from the living room.
"Don't give me any shit, okay," Harvey grumbles when Mike enters the room. "Last night was a shit show."
"Probably because you're a sorry excuse for a broker and you wouldn't know a sound investment if it bit you in the ass," Mike says matter of factly, taking in the mess of clothes all over Harvey's bed.
"Do you know what don't give me any shit means?" Harvey glares at his friend. "I'm running late, I don't know what the fuck to pack, and I have five hours next to you on a plane to look forward to."
"Did you also just start your period?"
Despite his foul mood, Mike's smart ass mouth actually makes Harvey laugh.
"Just shut up and help me."
"So, did Donna pick out your dress or did you get to do it yourself?" Mike suppresses a grin as he starts to fold a black V-neck sweater. The look he gets from Harvey then makes him lift both hands in self defense. "Okay, okay. I'm done."
They manage to get the rest of Harvey's wardrobe tucked away neatly in his Montblanc luggage and out to the waiting Lexus faster than anticipated. Both men spend the drive to LAX on their phones trying to square away as much as possible before heading to the east coast for a week.
Mike and Harvey met at Boston University where they both received degrees in Economics. They were fast friends and eventual roommates who made the mutual decision to move to LA and get their Master's Degrees from USC. They competed in every facet of the word and ended up accepting positions at the same top Investment Company, Goldman Sachs. Both had been wildly successful, just as they had planned over a bowl of Ramen and a couple of cheap beers at age 20.
Mike was almost as close to Donna as he was to Harvey. They teased and bickered like brother and sister, but when push came to shove, they were always there for each other with a shoulder to lean on. It took Mike years to even begin to understand the bond his two closest friends shared. It had been forged many years before he came into the picture and it often left him scratching his head. The two were nearly inseparable, finishing each other's sentences, sharing intimate details, anyone who met them automatically assumed they were a couple. Honestly, up until Donna's big announcement, Mike had been rooting for the two of them to be together. Maybe a small part of him still is.
Both men traveled regularly for business and with their TSA Precheck status they were checked in for the flight and ordering a drink at the bar with forty minutes to spare before boarding. It was past noon, which meant Scotch was perfectly acceptable. Well, not unacceptable anyway.
"So," Mike takes the first sip of his drink, "you okay?" He'd been going back and forth for weeks about whether or not to go down this road with Harvey. But he is running out of time and it just kinda slips out.
Harvey stares at the amber liquid in his glass without answering. He could pretend not to understand the intent of Mike's inquiry. To play it off with a shrug or a snide comment. But he isn't okay. So he takes a gulp, lets his throat burn, and opts for honesty.
"I don't know."
There is no eye contact between the men. No explanation. No elaboration. No follow up questions. Yet Harvey knows that Mike gets it. Somehow he can feel his friend's empathy and it helps. Just a little.
"When she called and told me about the wedding," Mike breaks the silence after several minutes and a refill of their glasses, "I was in shock. I mean I knew Donna was dating a new guy, but getting married? Damn."
Harvey's gut clenches at the word married. He had weeks to get used to the idea but instead, it's giving him an ulcer. The worst part is that he can't get a grip on what the exact issue is. Is he upset that Donna is marrying Stephen or that she isn't marrying him? The first is understandable but the second is terrifying.
He has no clue how to respond to Mike so he just takes another swig. If he stays quiet, Mike usually just keeps talking.
"I mean, we don't even know this guy. He's older, got kids… shit, what if she ends up moving to London?"
If Mike's earlier question had been a punch to the gut, this was a knife to the heart.
"She would never!" He almost spits his liquor all over the bar. Would she?
"I'm just saying this guy's a big shot attorney and his company's headquarters are in London." Mike lifts his drink and shrugs . "You really think he's going to stay in the states forever?"
"You know what, Mike? What I think is that you really suck at pep talks." Harvey sets his glass down a little harder than intended and heads to the men's room.
Splashing some water on his face, he takes a long hard look at his reflection. What the fuck is going on? A month ago he was looking at rings and actually picturing starting a family with Donna. Was he that stupid? Did he really think she was just hanging around and waiting for him? If he had really been what Donna wanted, she would have told him years ago when she had the chance. Instead, she ran away and left a fucking note.
Harvey sighs at Mike's reflection and pulls a paper towel from the dispenser.
"Hey," he replies.
"All I'm trying to say is if you feel about Donna, the way that I think you do, you better tell her before it's too late."
Harvey holds his friend's gaze for a moment before walking past him and dropping the towel in the trash. He doesn't mention that he'd just decided the exact opposite.