In the Shadow of Abraham
Category: Post-ep to Swiss Diplomacy
Characters: Josh and Donna
A quick glance at my watch tells me it's 8:45, which translates into roughly between 8:30 and 9:15. Although that technically makes it relatively early for me to be leaving I am packing my backpack and getting the hell out of here. It's been a long day, not just time wise. I've completely lost my ability to banter and I'm getting nothing done, so I think now is a good time to make my escape. Plus, as Donna continually points out, I am still recovering from whatever it was I was plagued with around the election. I'm feeling much better but I still haven't completely recovered the energy needed to put in 18-hour days.
Which reminds me, I still have one last antibiotic pill to take. I fish it out of my pocket and swallow it with the rest of my Snapple from dinner.
I leave Donna a quick note, telling her I'm going to visit Abe and head home. She's in the Mess with Margaret and my best guess is she will catch up with me on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in about 20 minutes. She has this uncanny ability to sense when I need her.
I pull on my coat and head out the door. It's warm for November in DC so I don't bother buttoning it. I walked to work this morning, something I've been trying to do more often. It forces me to get a small amount of exercise and gives me time to think. Well, the truth is, I use the time in the morning to strategize and plan the day. At night I usually use the time to brood about whatever has happened during the day that's worthy of brooding over.
And tonight's subject is something John, excuse me, Mr. Vice President, said this afternoon.
The comment about how I would have been good in Leo's job.
Now, that comment wasn't surprising to me. As I'm sure he thought it would be. I've long thought that had things worked out differently, had I not gone to New Hampshire, I would be in Leo's office. Call it arrogance or whatever but I honestly thought I would have been the Chief of Staff to President John Hoynes. What I heard today just confirmed it. And so for the rest of the day that comment had me playing a game of "what if" with myself.
What if I hadn't taken the time to talk to Leo on the Capitol steps the day he came to see me?
What if I hadn't gone to New Hampshire?
What if I had been so engrossed in my crossword puzzle that I didn't realize I was hearing "the real thing"?
Would I be enjoying the comforts of the big office next to the Oval or would I have shot off my mouth one too many times and have been shown the proverbially door?
I don't really know.
But what I do know is I wouldn't trade anything for the experiences I've had over the past 5 years.
Sure, some experiences I could live without, burying my father, taking a bullet meant for my friend, saying goodbye to Mrs. Landingham, finding out the President has MS and a host of other crappy things that have happened.
OK, now I'm just depressing myself.
I look up and realize I'm at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial. It's amazing how many times I've walked here without really paying attention to where I'm going. It's like my body is on autopilot sometimes.
The marble likeness of Abe stares out over the reflecting pool towards the Washington Monument. As I'm usually here well after the closing time of midnight I don't normally get to go up the steps but today I have the time and more importantly, the energy to actually climb them. Something I've lacked over the past few weeks.
As I sit on the top step I look out and see Donna coming up the path from the Vietnam Memorial. She looks worried when she can't find me on the bottom steps. I'm just about to yell to her when she looks up and spots me. I wave as she starts towards me. I smile when I realize she's holding two big cups of what I can only hope is coffee.
"Hey," I say with a smile as she sits down next to me. "What did I do?" I ask as I point to the coffee she holding out for me.
"Nothing and it's not coffee, it's green tea," she says with a smile as she hands it to me.
I take it with a smile. Donna's been trying to cut down my coffee intake for a few months now. I kept trying to tell her that election time was not a good time to cut back on coffee. But as usual she didn't particularly care about my argument. So she stocked up on tea and I have to admit I've become quite fond of green tea with orange, passion fruit and jasmine. But I don't pass that information on to just anybody; I have an image to uphold. And well, that tea just sounds too girly.
"So, what are you brooding about tonight?" she asks with a knowing look.
I can't sneak anything by her. And that fact has saved my ass more times than I care to admit.
"Something John said earlier."
"The Vice President," I say with a smile as I realize I don't usually refer to him by his first name in front of Donna, or well anyone.
"I got smacked down by him, the reason isn't important, and during the smacking he said something that got me thinking."
She gives me the worried little smile I've come to adore and spill everything.
I explain the whole thing to Donna. What he said, my feelings and my internal game of "what if?" She listens quietly, gently rubbing my back as I talk.
When I finish my story, we're both quiet for a few minutes. I'm sure she needs a little time to process what I've said. So I drink my tea and gaze across the reflecting pool at the Washington Monument.
"Do you ever wish things had turned out differently, that you'd taken a different road?" she asks quietly.
Her question honestly shocks me. How could she even ask that?
"No, never. All the things that have happened, good and bad, I wouldn't trade them for anything."
"But Josh, you almost died doing this job."
"And as you so nicely put it last week, I could also get hit by a bus walking to work in the morning," I tease with a grin.
"But you could have been sitting in Leo's office right now..."
"I'll sit there someday, just wait. The California 47th is only the beginning for Sam," Donna smiles and pats my hand. "I saw the real thing that night in New Hampshire. John Hoynes was not the real thing. I have no regrets about the road I've taken."
She's quiet for a minute and I know she's thinking the same thing I am, if I hadn't realized what I'd found in Jed Bartlet, our paths would never have crossed and I'd have a huge void in my life.
"I don't regret my choices either," she says softly as she puts her head on my shoulder. I turn my head a little and brush a kiss on her forehead.
"I can't imagine life without this," I whisper.
"Me neither." she says and then chuckles softly.
"Exactly...what? What is this thing that we have?" she asks as she glances away from me.
I'm not sure if she's expecting an answer or not. So I tip her chin towards me and give her one anyway. "What we have is....is "us", nothing more, nothing less, plain and simple, like it or not."
"I like it," she whispers as she kisses my cheek.
"Me too. You want to come over for a little while, watch a movie or something?"
"Sure," she says as she stands up and holds out her hand to help me up. I hold her hand a fraction longer than necessary before dropping it so I can pick up my backpack.
"I get to pick the movie," she announces as she practically skips down the steps.
Great, some girly movie. Might as well paint Donna's nails for her too.
I give Abe one last glance before I leave. No matter how many times I look at him, I'm still in awe of the majesty and beauty of the whole monument. I hear Donna giggling behind me. As much as she likes the Lincoln Memorial she doesn't quite see what I see. And she's always quick to tease me about it. That's ok, she's got a thing for the Capitol and I tease her about that.
We walk in silence for a while, close but not touching. I realize the wall that was between us for the past year or so has pretty much crumbled; the bricks have fallen and we've returned to "us". But we're still dancing over the line that divides our personal relationship and our professional one. Each time I think we're about to make the big leap something, or someone gets in the way. And in a way, I'm not complaining. As much as I think Donna and I would be good together, I sometimes feel hesitant to risk what we have now. I think she feels the same way.
Now that we've been re-elected certain things that would have been picked up by every news outlet in America during our first term could probably fly under the radar. So I've been contemplating a change but it honestly scares me to death. I obviously don't have a great track record when it comes to relationships. And let's be honest, all gomer talk aside, neither does Donna.
So I fumble along waiting for a sign, any kind of sign. I haven't seen one yet.