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Six Degrees of Mistrust (8/?)
playthewoman
Title: Six Degrees of Mistrust
Rating:T/PG-13
Pairing: none, gen!fic
Warnings: language, but milder than what you'd see on the show. Also unbetaed.
Disclaimer: I do not own "Suits" or any of the content affiliated with it.
Summary: in the aftermath of the merger, relationships unravel at the old Pearson & Hardman, as the landscape of the firm changes. A lawsuit that Harvey gets dismissed without problems reveals that Edward Darby might have one secret too many. In the midst of it all, tragedy not so unexpectedly strikes Jessica.


Mike blinked a few times, trying to force his eyes to focus on the

imagines on the screen of his laptop. The words of Myra Tomlin's
deposition were playing on a loop in his head, as he uselessly tried
to study her mannerisms and facial expression in search for whatever
Harvey had seen and he'd missed. So far it had gotten close to three
in the morning and he got squad. If Harvey was trying to make him
hate the plaintiff, he was succeeding, because right now he wanted to
see her get the chair, just so that he could go home and get some
sleep.






Compared to the bylaws he had had to plow through in the past, this
file was relatively short and he already knew it by heart. There was
nothing there that made their client less of a creep and the
plaintiff less of a victim. So he was stuck watching video of a
deposition he had actually attended over and over again looking for
the Jimmy Hoffa of clues. And much like in Hoffa's case, nothing
could be found.






Myra Tomlin had been genuinely frightened. She had even shed a few
tears. Everything she said rang true.... She seemed so convinced...
because she believed herself. She was either an excellent actress,
who had missed her calling, or a sociopath. Either way, she was
lying. Maybe not about the whole thing, but she wasn't telling the
truth either. That had been what Harvey had caught. And that was why
he was still a gullible idiot. At least, on occasion.






The discovery did better than Red Bull in terms of rejuvenating him.
If Tomlin was obsessed with his client, whether something had
happened between them or not, then the woman was one loose screw away
from Glen Close in Fatal Attraction and odds were good she had
done this before. If she had made the whole thing up to cash in by
suing a wealthy professor, then she either had money problems or
again had attempted something similar before. In any case, he needed
to put in a request for an investigator. But most of all, he needed
time, which he didn't have, since the first hearing was scheduled to
take place in less than twelve hours.






He decided to stall and scanned through potential options. A motion
to dismiss, doomed to fail at this point as it was, looked like the
best choice. The only problem was he had had to make it good, so that
the other more experienced lawyer wouldn't suspect anything. With
briefs to proof for Louis first thing in the morning, he had no
choice but give up on sleeping in the next twenty-four hours entirely
and write the night away. Also if he wanted fast and top results from
an investigator, which would be ideal, since his flimsy motion
wouldn't buy him much time and he was still running the risk of the
judge cracking down on him for it, he also needed to go to Harvey and
beg for access to his legendary PI. The city's best closer only
worked with the best. And when it came to digging dirt on people,
that was his own personal Natasha Romanoff – the ever elusive and
mysterious Vanessa. A third of the firm thought she didn't really
exist and Harvey had invented her. Another third gossiped that it was
Donna's secret identity. Finally, the rest surmised she was, in fact,
the real-life Natasha Romanoff.






Harvey always paid her himself in cash and had yet to refer her to
anyone else in the firm. He was also the only one who knew how to
contact her and there was nothing formally linking her to them or the
former Pearson & Hardman. Whoever Vanessa was, she was a ghost,
but right now she was Mike's best option to win this case. If Donna
didn't kill him first on his way to see Harvey, of course.






~ * ~






Jessica had one arm in her coat, when the phone on her desk rang. It
was late enough for her assistant to have gone home already so
Jessica picked up herself.






“Jessica Pearson?” an unfamiliar feminine voice asked neutrally.
Jessica guessed she had to be a professional of some sorts.






“Speaking,” she responded equally unengaged.






“I am Dr. Jaclyn Hornsby from Staten Island University Hospital
calling about your former husband, Quentin Sainz. He requested you be
notified of any serious worsening of his condition.”






Jessica grabbed the edge of her desk with her free hand, fighting off
the mild vertigo. Her world was perilously reduced to the receiver
she was currently gripping tight enough to fear cracking it. “How
is he?”






“Mr. Sainz was admitted earlier tonight in critical condition with
an assortment of symptoms connected with Amyotrophic lateral
sclerosis. I'm sorry to inform you that despite our best efforts, Mr.
Sainz passed away an hour ago.”



Jessica carefully loosened her grip on the receiver and distanced it
from her mouth, as she pulled on a shaky breath that came close to a
sob. The glass edge of her desk dug almost painfully in her palm so
she relaxed that grip too.






“Mrs. Pearson...” the voice in her ear gently called her
attention. “Mrs. Pearson, are you still there?”






“Yes, I am. Thank you, Doctor. I'm on my way there.”






~ * ~






The drive to Staten Island was interminable, the lights of the city
flashing past her car windows strangely in tone with the blurry swirl
of memories in her head. The day she and Quentin met. His proposal.
Her meeting his parents. Their wedding. The first fight as a married
couple. The too many that had followed. His accusation that she had
left him for her work long before he packed his bags to move out of
their home. Then the small things. The way his eyes light up when he
smiled. The sound of his laugh. The terrible, terrible movies he
liked. All in the past now. Quentin was gone.






Knowing this was coming hadn't helped. It still felt raw and
shockingly new. But besides that she felt nothing. No gut-wrenching
sorrow. No unbearable pain. Only regret-tinged numbness. And above
all the knowledge that the last of those closest to her was gone. Her
parents died years ago and she had no brothers and sisters. And now
Quentin....






Her driver politely informed her that they had reached their
destination. She raised her eyes, ready to nod her acknowledgement,
and caught sight of her own face in the rear view mirror. Her
expression was stony, clear of no emotion, and it frightened her. For
one terrible second she wondered if she didn't feel anything, because
she was as dead inside as all her loved ones. Then the driver opened
her door and she got out.






Quentin's parents and Lisa, his lover, were already there. So was his
sister and her family. Nobody met her with hostility. His parents
were too crushed to pay her any heed. Lisa was hysterical and Dr
Hornsby had to give her an injection of something to calm her down.
Jessica offered her assistance, but her former sister-in-law quietly
assured her Quentin had taken care of everything beforehand. He had
set up a successor at him company, left his money to a local
foundation offering support to victims of ALS and their families and
written instructions to be buried in his home town in New Jersey. The
funeral was to take place in two days, right when Jessica herself had
to be in Dubai to meet with their millionaire clients there and look
into the possibility of opening an office.






Canceling even a vital business trip to attend her ex-husband's
funeral was only human, but she couldn't let Edward Darby know that
about her. She needed to appear powerful, unshakable in the eyes of
her new partner. That was why bringing her wayward pit bull to heel
before the merger by all means necessary had been something of a
necessity, rather than a strategic move. If her and Darby's firm
hadn't been on equal footing, then it would have been no merger, but
an incorporation by a bigger international firm. She could never let
her footing slip or her position of power would no longer hold in
front of Darby. She couldn't be human in his eyes. She could only be
the unfailing, cold-blooded lawyer he had taken for a partner.






Besides Quentin's relatives didn't need her. She looked at them and
their visible suffering and couldn't help but remember her unmoved
face from the car. They had to be seeing the same thing. Lisa was the
one acting like a grieving widow, not her. Even Quentin's doctor
fussed over her and only spared Jessica a passing courtesy. It should
have made her angry but she couldn't deny that Lisa was the one in
need of compassion and medical attention right now. Everybody
probably thought she had come out of some social obligation. A part
of her questioned whether that wasn't perhaps true.






She watched Quentin's family, saw them lean on each other and admired
their solidarity that so clearly excluded her. She was a stranger to
them now, whether or not they had welcomed her as one of their own at
some time in the past. She offered them her sympathies and told them
that work obligations would keep her from attending the funeral, but
afterwards if they needed anything, she would help them gladly. She
gave them her personal cellphone number, insisting they could call
any time, while having no doubt they never would. They had each
other. They didn't need her.






She arrived at her house well past two in the morning, which was just
as well, since she doubted sleep would be an option for tonight. The
fact didn't worry her, since she knew she had minor things to follow
up on in the morning and then in the afternoon she had her flight to
Dubai. She reasoned she could sleep on the plane. She didn't look
forward to going back to the office, but she wasn't in the mood for
making up excuses to cancel everything, either.






She went into her living-room, flipping lights on as she moved,
aiming for the small bar the area was equipped with. At the bar she
poured herself a generous serving of Lagavulin 21, drank some of it
while still standing before slipping her heels off and sinking into
an armchair. She made a mental note not to drink anything past this
first glass. It wouldn't do to get drunk on a school night and show
up at work hang-over.






She looked over her period-appropriate decorated Art Deco
living-room. Odd that she had such a large living-room and almost
never anybody over. But then it wasn't any stranger than the fact
that she had two guest-bedrooms and never any overnight guests. For
the life of her she couldn't remember why she owned such a big house.
She had bought it years after her divorce so she couldn't choke it up
to any youthful illusions. Why did people dream of having big houses?
They only looked all the more empty. Or maybe that was just her.
Alone in this large, lovely brownstone in Central Greenwich Village.






It was also quiet, her street occupied by similar brownstones and a
lot of green she had found charming when shopping for the place.
Well, at least, she could do something about the silence. She walked
up to her state-of-the-art stereo system and put on some Puccini. She
really loved opera and she could go to shows more often.






When she had found out that Quentin was ill, the only person she had
told had been Harvey. Now she and Harvey weren't even quoting James
Bond together anymore. She couldn't imagine talking to him about
Quentin's death. For once, she didn't have much to say. He was dead.
She was numb and another woman played the part of the widow. Then it
would be humiliating and she doubted she could take his listening to
her out of pity.






She nearly chocked on the last of her drink at unexpected wave of
guilt the thought of Harvey brought. Ironic that she could feel that,
when the grief was so hard to come. She stomped angrily on that
emotion. She refused to feel guilty. She had done what she had to.
Harvey had provided the leverage with the colossal stupidity of
hiring Mike and she had used that appropriately. She had to do what
was best for her and her firm. That had been all there was. It hadn't
been because she was afraid of him. But even if she was, who could
blame her? Historically speaking, most leaders had raised those who
had overthrown them. Harvey and Daniel Hardman were disturbingly
alike in one too many ways. Yes, she knew Harvey cared more than he
let on. But was their bond enough for him not to get her own name off
the building given half a chance?






It didn't matter now. It was all water under the bridge. She finished
her drink and got up to take a shower. In the bathroom she broke
down, crouching under the hot water spray, her body wrecked with
sobs. She cried until her eyes had no more tears and it became
difficult to breathe in the scalding vapor. Then she retreated to the
coolness of her bedroom and sought refuge in a bed that was as empty
as the rest of her house. Her prediction about the lack of sleep came
true, but she did get up a few times to dry heave over the toilet.






~ * ~






The morning had come gray and watery to New York and as the managing
partner of Pearson & Darby strode into the firm, no trace of the
agony of the night before overshadowed her flawless features. She
arrived uneventfully to the 49th floor and it was only when she
walked past Harvey's office that her composure faltered. It was empty
and Donna wasn't in her cubicle. It was unusual since the merger for
Harvey to come in late and it had always been unthinkable of Donna to
be anything but prompt for work. For one or two seconds of blind
panic she thought that something had happened to him as well. Else
why would be Donna missing too? Or maybe he had finally decided to
throw both caution and his non-compete to the wind and leave. Maybe
his and Donna's resignations were on her desk right now, waiting for
her.






Something twisted painfully deep inside her and thrust through her
barriers to the surface, before reason could reassert itself. Maybe
he was in court. Maybe Donna had taken time off. Maybe just maybe he
wasn't gone. It wasn't easy to force her eyes away from his deserted
office. Her feet moved even with more difficulty and it took her
another few good seconds to set herself in motion again. When she
did, she nearly collided with Donna, who gaped at her in suspicious
surprise. Jessica commanded herself to remain aloof. That woman was
one of the few left in the world who could read her. The thought was
less comforting than she had expected.






“Morning, Jessica,” Donna said with fake cheer, her eyes studying
her all too closely.






Jessica took a measured step in the vague direction of her office.
“Donna,” she said with a smile. “I was looking for Harvey. I
need an update on the Burroughs Investments licensing deal.”






Donna was looking her straight in the eye with no intention of
backing down. “Harvey took the morning off. I just came from
leaving a note with your assistant. He had nothing major scheduled,
anyway, but he said he'd be available on his cellphone so I can call
him about Burroughs Investments, if you want. But the deal is closed.
The signed contracts were already on my desk, when I came in this
morning.”






“No, don't call him,” Jessica replied and Donna's suspicion grew
exponentially. Had she answered a bit too quickly? It certainly
hadn't seemed so. She tried to undo the damage with a casual smile.
“He'd take it as a sign that we can't survive so much as a day
without him around here.”






“He took only five hours off, not the whole day,” Donna said
accusatory, as if Jessica's words had been a rebuttal, which they
hadn't.






“Then why don't you call him and tell him I said to take the whole
day? He'd been working too hard lately. Truth be told, he could use a
vacation, but that would be too much to hope for.”






Donna's face was an equivocally balanced mix of control and dubiety.
Jessica could almost get angry. She had told the truth. Nobody at the
firm deserved a vacation more than Harvey, but he hadn't taken one
since his first day and he wouldn't put it past him to never do.






“I'll call him, but he'll be here in the afternoon,” Donna said
while retreating to her cubicle and grabbing a file from her desk.
Jessica knew that at least the second part was true.






“Maybe you can convince him otherwise,” Jessica insisted.






Donna plopped in her chair with an impatient expression that mutely
told Jessica she had outstayed her welcome. “I wouldn't count on
it. He has court tomorrow.”






Jessica nodded in acknowledgement and retreated. In every sense of
the word. Pushing would have been senseless and not just because
Donna didn't trust her anymore. They both knew Harvey took only one
day off a year and that was the day of his father's death. These few
hours were odd and Jessica wished she had the time to look into it or
that at least, Donna would talk to her. But she had no reasonable
motivation to investigate further. Maybe it was something truly
personal. Maybe Harvey was finally seeing someone. Someone who wasn't
Scottie, because she was in her office, as Jessica passed by. Or
maybe it was something else entirely. Either way, the private life of
the senior partners was none of the managing partner's business.







TBC


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