Here’s a secret: Louis Litt always wanted to be an actor.
Okay, so maybe that’s less a secret and more a predictable and rather mundane revelation. He was born with a vicious streak, that everybody knows; and everybody knows that vicious streaks serve you just as well in Hollywood as they do on a courtroom floor. He wasn’t born nasty, but he learnt it, in time. He wasn’t born in the spotlight, but now he drags it to himself because you find your light and you stay there. He wasn’t born with both feet on the stage, but he’ll damn well get the lead if it kills him, bowing to applause and flashing a smile that makes you more than a little nervous. He knows what he is. He knows what he looks like. That’s power. (People get it when it’s Harvey. That one’s always stuck in his craw.)
Louis Litt always wanted to be an actor. Look at him now, tell him he isn’t.
“Tragedy or comedy?” asks Louis, and Donna wrinkles her nose, says, “Depends. Good comedy over bad tragedy, but—”
“Tragedy over everything else, I know,” says Louis, smiling a little, “But actually, this one’s a little harder to place.”
Donna looks over his shoulder and smirks, “Richard III?”
“It’s my favourite,” says Louis, shrugging slightly, and Donna laughs, says, “And that’s shocked anyone, ever, when?”
Donna Paulsen is the best legal secretary in New York.
Don’t get her wrong, she’s capable of modesty, but she knows how good she is and she doesn’t believe in playing it down. (She does believe in lying, but that comes later.) Donna believes in good coffee, expensive shoes, and that information has power. She hoards it, but not jealously, except when she must. Donna believes that lawyers are bastards, but bastards have their own kind of charm. Donna believes that there’s an alternate universe where she’s a superhero, or a spy, or a stone-cold bitch of a New York Police detective.
But this is the life she’s got, and anyway, who said make believe was for children, anyway?
“Are you crying?” says Donna, and she sounds almost like she’s trying not to laugh.
“Your Cleopatra is incandescent,” says Louis, then, “No. Shut up.”
“Your Anthony was passable,” says Donna, and Louis nods, takes it as the compliment it’s meant to be, says, “Next week, the Percys?”
“Does this mean I get to punch you?” says Donna, and Louis frowns, says, “I can’t answer that without risking a sexual harassment lawsuit.”
“Because that usually stops you,” says Donna, and Louis narrows his eyes, says, “My harassment of the associates is strictly politically correct. Family, friends, high school damage, recent break-ups, assorted other insecurities, refusing bathroom breaks, banning food on their floor, and sleep deprivation only.”
“Only,” parrots Donna, and Louis smirks, says, “Who did I find crying in the men’s bathroom last week?”
“I plead the fifth,” says Donna, and slips a gold bangle off her wrist with an easy flick of her fingers.
Then it all goes to hell.
Louis holds on, holds on, holds on, knows Harvey will save Donna if it kills him—
Louis calls Donna a hundred and fifty-seven times, and tells Mike it was three. He doesn’t tell Harvey anything, because he doesn’t trust himself to try. He sees Donna for the first time in days when she walks into a room and knows that his single role in this situation is to break her. He breaks her, because that’s what he does. He pukes before Harvey finds him in the bathroom, because that’s what he is.
For a single, crystalline moment, Louis thinks that he’s going to punch Harvey Specter right on his perfect, Paul Newman jawline. He doesn’t.
He uses words instead, because Louis Litt plays his role better than anyone, and he knows exactly how much damage words can do.
He sees it in Harvey’s eyes, and he doesn’t feel sorry. Donna deserved better. Donna deserves better than Harvey, and she deserves better than Louis, but someone—
—someone has to step up. Find your light, learn you lines, bow.
Donna answers the phone on the third ring.
“Go away, Louis.”
“I’m going to ruin some people,” says Louis, his voice hoarse and sore and his head the clearest it’s ever been, “I’m going to ruin some people, and it’s got fuck-all to do with Harvey Specter.”
“Do you need me to answer the question you asked me?” says Donna, and Louis hears the hope there, says, “I dare do all that may become a man; Who dares do more is none.”
Donna’s intake of breath on the other line is shaky and sharp, until she says, “But screw your courage to the sticking-place, and we’ll not fail.”
“This town’s gonna burn,” says Louis, and Donna laughs, high, on the other end, hangs up.
And so I am revenged. The Bard, he wrote it first.
“You didn’t have to do this,” says Donna, hair wet from the shower and opening the nearest file, but that isn’t what she means.
“You know I did,” says Louis, shoes slid off and oh-so-carefully not touching her, and it’s what he means exactly.