That’s all it took for Donna’s world to change.
Being an actress was something Donna always dreamed of. Whether it was as a child playing pretend, a teenager pursuing her dreams, or a fresh graduate out of Yale University.
From a young age, whenever she was questioned about her career plans, Donna’s answer was always the same. She wanted to be an actress, there was just no other option for her. It’s what she always wanted to do, and it’s the reason she moved to New York right after graduating.
Being in the Big Apple was scary at first — even if her sister offered her a helping hand, which she refused. She wanted to be a self-made woman, make a name for herself, not be Addison’s little sister.
That’s why she found herself a small apartment in the Lower East Side right between a local theater and a 24-hour bodega, which her sister thought idiotic, but Donna loved it. The buzz of a new production, the feeling of being as close as possible to a stage, combined with the butterflies whenever she passed by, only confirmed that this was the right choice. Pursuing this career path was what she had dreamed of, but it didn’t pay the bills. If she wanted to keep living her dream, she had to pay for it somehow, so instead of gracing the stage with her presence, she got a part-time job as a waitress instead.
A few weeks later, after she got settled into her new life, Donna began to realize that becoming an actress was hard. Really hard. So many rejections. So many hopes were raised, only for them to be dashed within minutes. But her persistence paid off in the end. After finally scoring her first role, the feeling of being on stage and hearing the applause of an audience was indescribable.
Honestly, it felt as if she was on drugs - but way, way better. She was hooked.
Being an actress and living in a city that never sleeps was awesome. Until it wasn’t.
A year later, the restaurant she’d been working at as a side job closed down and Donna had to look for a new job. Yes, she got paid for her roles, but not enough for rent. Losing her job was a setback for sure, but she wouldn't be Donna Paulsen if she wasn't as crafty as they come. Just one day after her last shift, she had contacted everyone she knew in the city and as it was her luck, one friend told her about the perfect offer: a New York Assistant District Attorney was in need of a new secretary.
Considering her options, Donna duly applied, interviewed, and with relative ease — owing to her effortless charm and Donna skills — she got the job and her life changed yet again.
Over the next couple of years, she’d met a lot of people — men, women, lawyers, and artists — some more interesting than others. But then one particular night, as she celebrated yet another successful play with her theater group at a bar, her eyes fell on a tall man with dark blonde hair and her world shifted.
Immediately transfixed by his presence, Donna wanted to find out everything about him.
You see, ever since she was little, she had this ability to read people — It was something she’d inherited from her grandmother, and it had slowly developed over the years. She just knew who she was dealing with the moment she met someone. It came in handy a lot of the time, especially when she was approached by drunk guys at bars after her play, but it also worked when she wanted to approach someone she found interesting. And this guy definitely was intriguing.
Her interest was piqued the moment her eyes landed on him and it only grew the more she watched him.
He looked interesting and mysterious, but at the same time familiar.
As if they had crossed paths before. But where? That was a mystery she was rather eager to solve. From what she could see, he was definitely handsome. His features were chiseled, and his build was just right . Too bad she was sitting further away from the bar, otherwise she would’ve had a better view. So, instead, she observed him from a distance. Several minutes passed, and Donna almost lost her interest when suddenly, she saw him approach the bar. Finally, she got a good look at his face. In an instant, she knew why he seemed so familiar.
It was none other than Harvey Specter, one of New York’s Assistant District Attorneys.
Working at the DA’s office herself, Donna wasn’t unfamiliar with the gossip that ran through the secretaries mill about him. She knew who he was. She knew all about his reputation. But just like any gossip she had heard over the years, she wasn’t put off by it, it just made her curious. Was he as good as they said? Was his reputation really all that?
Yes, there were some that despised him, but in her experience, that was most likely just jealousy. Women at the office only gushed about him. So, what was she supposed to think?
Was he really the man everyone made him out to be? Or was he different?
From what she heard, he was only going to be at the DA’s temporarily. He had a corporate background which he was planning on returning to.
That set him apart from the people they worked with.
He really wasn’t like everyone else, and her gut told her that every time she stole a glance at him when she passed him in the halls.
He was different.
And that’s why Donna was intrigued to meet him, properly this time…
As she approached the bar, Donna heard him give the bartender his order and she decided to let her presence be known. With confidence seeping through her, she closed the distance between them.
“You know, usually when someone wins their first trial, they at least pretend to finish the drink their fellow ADAs bought them.”
As she spoke, she could see him turning around with a confused gaze. “I’m sorry, do we..?”
“Know each other? Not yet. But today’s your lucky day.”
“And why is that?” Harvey wondered with a raised eyebrow and amused smirk.
“Because you get to meet Donna.”
“And let me guess. You’re Donna.”
“Oh, you have no idea how Donna I am.” She said with a smirk of her own.
They might have passed by each other at work, but Harvey Specter clearly didn’t know her. He probably heard about “Donna” from someone they worked with, but he didn’t know her. But he would.
As they sat down in the corner booth and talked about her intentions, Donna realized there was something there. A spark between them. A flame. And it was strong.
Was it filled with desire? Infatuation? Or was it something else?
She didn’t know. But what she did know was that it was intoxicating.
When Harvey met Donna, he was immediately transfixed by her presence.
From the moment his eyes landed on her, he knew that she was different than all the other women he met. Fiery hair that shone under the lights, hazel eyes that sparkled every time he cracked a joke, and a smile so bright that it made him want to make her laugh at every opportunity he got.
Her twinkling eyes, genuine smile, and vibrant hair made her stand out. So, he made a move on her, just to try his luck. Unfortunately, she did something no woman has ever done to him before — she shut him down. And it threw him off.
It also did something else he didn’t expect — it made him want more. And from the moment she got on his desk, he got more than he knew how to handle.
She was the first woman who actually managed to match his quick repartee, she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind, and put him in his place. As if, in a way, she was immune to his charms. It was something completely new.
It should have frustrated him because he was usually the one who took charge of the conversation, but not with Donna. As much as it bothered him, he also experienced something that he hadn’t felt before: Want. From the moment he met her at that bar, she ignited a curiosity and desire inside of him to a point where it almost messed up his thinking.
But she turned him down. He couldn’t do much about it because she started working for him. Although that didn’t stop him from flirting with her every chance he could.
How could he not when he walked into his office and saw her leaning against her desk, looking like that in a deep green turtleneck and a black pencil skirt that accentuated her pale skin, long legs, and her ginger hair?
“Black, two sugars, a splash of vanilla.” Her voice brought him back to reality.
“How do you know that’s how I take my coffee?”
“Same way I know you’re not taking that job.”
“You know I’m not taking that job because I came to work today.”
“No, Mr. Specter I knew you weren’t taking that job the second you walked away from me the other night.” The smugness in her voice made him want to break out into a big grin, but he refrained from it. Instead, he began to chant “she has a rule” in his head like a mantra. Because he knew if he didn’t, he’d get into trouble.
“Told you I know people better than they know themselves.”
And she did.
It wasn’t only her looks that captivated him — even if she was the most beautiful woman he had ever met. But the more he got to know her, it was her quick wit, confidence, and her ability to think on her feet that made him crave her more and more.
Her skills and abilities were apparent the moment she told him about Forstman being shady. He was totally blown away by how she could suss the man out just by looking at him.
And he couldn’t stop thinking about her.
After a long day at work a week into their arrangement, Harvey got home, showered, got settled on the couch, and put one of his father’s records on. A song or two later, his mind drifted to a certain redhead yet again. Thinking nothing of it, he let it slide. But after a while, he ran out of ways to distract himself. So he decided to text her, asking about a case and if she has the time to go over it with him — trying to not appear too desperate.
A moment later, he was met with a reply saying that she was out for the night.
Not trying to push his luck, Harvey told her to have fun and left for bed right after. There was a whole day of court ahead of him and he needed to be ready — the thought of who exactly Donna was out with, was pushed aside to another day.
Over the next few weeks, Harvey slowly uncovered everything that made Donna who she was; the little details. Like the fact that she took her coffee with skimmed milk, whipped cream, and sugar. How her eyes resembled frisbees whenever she was way too excited about something, or how her favorite flowers were lilies. But his personal favorite aspect about her was still her intuition and the way she reads people.
Being able to witness those quirks made Harvey cherish her trust. With other people, she liked to put up a facade of sorts, to hide her true self, but not with him. She could be herself with him.
And he liked that. A lot.
Every little thing was like a layer or a missing piece of the puzzle of the mystery that was Donna Paulsen.
And Harvey couldn’t wait to uncover more in the future.
As weeks turned into months, Harvey’s attraction turned into something else and he realized that with her he didn’t just flirt for the heck of it. He used it to hide his feelings.
He couldn’t do anything about it before, because she started working for him. She had made it clear that she had a rule from day one. A rule that he had to accept. But that didn’t stop him from flirting with her every chance he could.
He couldn’t help himself.
It drove him crazy. To a point where he had to remind himself that she was off-limits almost every goddamn second.
Months became a year and then two. A difficult case that turned for the worse, had Harvey quit the DA’s office and that same evening, he sat in his living room with a new bottle of Macallan and listened to his dad’s records. In the midst of it all, his mind drifted to his redhead.
These past two years their relationship shifted slowly into something he wasn’t quite sure how to describe. Yes, they worked together. But they also spent their free time together from time to time. Every play she performed in, he was there cheering her on. They also shared meals together on occasion. It wasn’t until he’d taken her to Del Posto on their first work anniversary - he insisted that they celebrate the occasion - that he noticed something had subtly changed between them.
They were more open with each other. Trusted each other implicitly. He told her about his mom. She, in return, told him about her dad.
Though, it wasn’t until he was sitting in his living room, surrounded by his father’s tunes, swallowing his choice to quit, in a bottle of his favorite beverage, that a realization struck him.
Putting his tumbler on the table, he shot up from the seat and out of his place with one thought in mind and a Cheshire grin plastered on his face.
Crossing the threshold of her building, Harvey was starting to get worried.
They might have known each other for a long time, hung out at each other’s places more times than he could count, but this was the first time that Harvey crossed the lobby of her building with his heartbeat ringing in his ears.
On the way there, his mind was set on only one thing. But as he got closer, he became slightly nervous — okay, more than slightly — over what her reaction would be.
Would she throw him out? Would she be too stunned to say anything? Would she be on the same page as him?
As he stepped into the elevator and made his way to her floor, his father’s words kept repeating themselves with each passing floor.
If you feel that she’s the one, you have to chase after her, Harvey. Because in the end, she’s worth all the trouble.
And he knew that his father was right all those years ago — she really was the one. Her rule had prevented him from pursuing what he really wanted in the first place — the feisty redhead. He had to be patient and wait for the right moment. It had taken a few years, but Harvey knew that it would be worth it.
At least he hoped so.
Shaking his thoughts away, Harvey grinned as he made his way towards her door.
The gold-plated 206 stared back at him as he gathered the courage to ring the doorbell.
He didn’t have to wait long before Donna opened the door, and he was met with a curious look that changed everything…
As the sunrise seeped through the window, Harvey took a glance at the redhead covered in nothing but a white sheet beside him and he sighed in pure bliss.
It’s been a few hours since he crossed the threshold of her apartment and wore his heart on his sleeve. After a few rounds of lovemaking on every surface imaginable, they both ended up in her bed, too exhausted to continue, only to end up falling asleep intertwined in each other's embrace.
A few hours later, it was Harvey who woke up first due to his phone buzzing somewhere in a pile of clothes on her bedroom floor. Looking around at the mess they’ve made, he smiled as his gaze settled on the redhead, still sleeping in his embrace.
Pushing away a few flyaway strands of hair from her face, Harvey traced her face gingerly with a small grin forming on his face. She was so beautiful and he was goddamn lucky to have witnessed her like this: stripped of all makeup and showing him her vulnerable side.
He was so damn privileged to see her like this.
Even though he was scared as hell, he knew that after last night, he wouldn’t be able to let go of her, even if he wanted to…
With a kiss to her temple, or two, Harvey succumbed to the exhaustion and fell asleep again.
Unfortunately, not for too long though. After what felt like minutes, he was woken up by his phone yet again. With a heavy heart, he slipped out of bed, careful to not wake Donna, and fished his phone out of the pile before reading his messages.
Ignoring the messages from Cameron, he messaged Jessica to meet him in her office. After that, he looked behind him to see if Donna was still asleep and then he gathered his clothes and got dressed for the day.
Once he was ready, he found a piece of paper and a pen on Donna’s nightstand and wrote her a note. Just in case. Kneeling down next to her, he kissed her, slightly waking her up.
“Wha—?” she asked, way too sleepy to even register what he was saying.
Harvey chuckled. “I gotta go.”
“I’ll tell you more later.”
“Mkay,” Donna mumbled as she snuggled further into her blanket and fell back asleep.
Harvey smiled, left a peck on her cheek, and the note on his pillow — he couldn’t trust her to remember his goodbye — and made his way out of her apartment.
“She must be very special.”
She was this confident, spectacular, witty, charming, beautiful woman he wasn’t sure that he would ever be worthy of, not with the way he was now. Maybe never.
But last night, or maybe even the last few months, showed him that maybe he didn’t have to be the judge of that. Despite every dark thought that crossed his conscience whenever he thought about it, Donna was there, showing him that he didn’t have to worry about anything.
He really was worthy of a chance.
Whether it was a smile she sent his way across the office whenever he had a bad day or the way she just fit in his arms after they finally crossed the line… Harvey knew she was special. There was no doubt about that. Especially when he got lost in her hazel eyes that made his heart beat faster and almost forget about anything else around him.
But it was after when she snuggled up to him and his heartbeat picked up again, that he knew that he was a goner. There was just something about her that made him think about his future and how he would like it if she was a part of it.
Being with Donna beyond today seemed extremely scary, and impossible for him. It was just too much. Way beyond the one-night-stands he was used to. And he knew that she deserved someone better. Someone who was worthy of her. Someone that would be there for the long run.
But that didn’t stop him from hoping that this someone would be him someday.
But what if he didn’t have to wait for someday?
The thought of that, mixed with Jessica’s words terrified him, but at the same time made him excited for the meal he was about to share with the redhead at the diner he was headed to.
“So, what was so important that you just had to see me?” Donna asked after they sat down and ordered.
“I don’t know how to say it, so I’m just gonna come out and say it. I don't want to lose you.”
Donna stared at him wide-eyed and speechless. Seeing her confusion, Harvey continued. “Come work for me.”
“What?” Donna asked after a long pause.
“Don’t go to Skadden. I took a job at my old firm.” Harvey looked at his former secretary, who suddenly seemed kind of sad about the offer, and said, “I was hoping you’d be happy.”
“If this is about your rule…”
“No. It’s not about that,” she quickly denied.
“Because if I’d known that this was gonna happen I never would’ve come over.”
“Why didn’t you know that this was gonna happen?”
“Because I hadn’t thought about taking another job before. And when I did, I thought about who I wanted to take it with. Look, I don’t want to find out what kind of lawyer I’d be without you.”
She mulled it over for a few more seconds.
“Okay, I’ll come work with you on two conditions.” She took a breath before continuing. “First, we put it out of our minds and never mention it again...”
Before she had a chance to finish, Harvey quickly interrupted her with a question: "What if I don't want to put it out of my mind?"
That caught Donna off guard. “What?”
“Look, Donna…” Harvey began but trailed off once he saw her expression change from confused to nervous. A moment later, he continued. "I don't want to lose you and I don't want to lose... whatever this can be."
“What?” Donna asked again, her eyes even wider than before.
“You heard me…”
She raised an eyebrow in challenge.
“Donna...” Harvey sighed as he saw she wasn’t budging. “I can’t let you go, okay?!”
A long while passed as Donna tried to process everything. “I could come work for you if that’s what it takes?” She quickly offered, but Harvey shook his head.
“Work? Would that be enough for you? Having to keep your distance? Not being able to touch me? Not being touched by me. You feel this thing between us, I know you do. I’m not willing to give that up. For anything.”
"Harvey..." His name came out of her mouth almost like a whisper.
“I’m serious, Donna. What if we give this a try?”
“Are you sure about this?”
“Yes.” Harvey nodded.
“What about the rule?”
“That’s completely up to you. But I would like to break it.”
“Are you really sure that this is something you want?” Before Harvey had the chance to reply, Donna continued. “You have to be absolutely sure, Harvey. If not, we can forget all of this ever happened and I can still come work for you if you wa—”
“Do you feel this?” Harvey interrupted her taking her hand in his, leaving Donna staring at him in confusion. “Do you feel this thing between us? I don’t know how to explain it, but I know what I’m feeling. And it’s real, Donna. I wouldn’t be here, asking you if I didn’t. You’re too important for me to screw up like that...”
“I don’t know…”
“I don’t know either. No one knows what will happen in the future. But I’ll be damned if I didn’t try. So, what do you say? Do you want to give this — give us — a try?”
“Did you rehearse this on the way here?” She asked with a raised eyebrow. She had been by his side long enough to know how hard it was for him to talk about feelings and emotions. This wasn’t a spur of the moment speech for him.
A smug smile appeared on Harvey’s face as he heard her question. She hadn’t shut him down yet.
“Harvey…” Donna rolled her eyes as she saw the smirk.
“What do you say?”
“Someone’s persistent.” She joked.
“Fine. Let’s give this a try, Mister.”
“Does this mean?”
“I’ll still come work for you.” Harvey’s eyes lt up after hearing that, which prompted Donna to say, “You’d be lost without me otherwise.”
“What about your rule though?”
“That’s still in place. We’re just gonna have to rewrite it.”
“We won’t tell anyone about us at work.”
“You want to hide?”
“Yes. At least until we’re both more comfortable at the firm.”
“Okay. Whatever you want… What about your second condition?” Harvey asked, smirking.
“You’re giving me a huge goddamn signing bonus.”
Harvey pulled out an envelope and handed it to her.
“How do you know that’s enough?” Donna raised her eyebrow again.
“Because you’re the one who’s gonna fill in the amount.”
Donna laughed. “You really do need me… to stop you from doing shit like this.”
“Oh well…” Harvey pulled on the envelope, but Donna firmly held it in place. “In the future…”
Harvey smiled. Then he looked at his watch. “Wanna get out of here?”
Stepping off the elevator, Harvey looked to his right and sighed. This was it. A new journey he was about to begin. Thankfully, he wasn’t alone...
“And let's just put an order in for the valet to hold my suit jackets...” he started as they rounded the corner, but a voice calling his name stopped them in their tracks. Seeing the man who’s interrupted them, Harvey put a little smirk on his face as he addresses him. “Louis.”
“What are you doing here? You're not due back for another two years, three months, and five days.” Louis asked, and then quickly adds, “Not that I'm keeping track.”
“Change of plans. I'm back today.”
Louis chuckled nervously. “Who's this?”
Harvey looked at the woman standing next to him and with a proud smile started, “She’s my girl—“
Donna quickly jumped in before Harvey could finish his sentence. “Friday. I’m his Girl Friday.”