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The Flight From Hell and Other LA Adventures

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The Flight From Hell and Other LA Adventures

by: Ginny

Pairing/Characters: Josh/Donna
Rating: YTEEN
Series: 5th in the Picking Up the Pieces series
Disclaimer: They're not mine, nor do I expect to get them as a birthday present tomorrow.

Donna dropped the pen down on the desk and reached her arms up over her head to stretch her aching muscles. In mid-stretch the phone rang.

"That's typical," she muttered to herself as she picked up the phone.  "Josh Lyman's office."

"Hey, Donna, it's me" said Josh in a tired voice.

"Hey.  You on your way back?"

"Yeah"

"How'd it go"?

"Fine" he sighed.

"I was just going to head down to the mess and grab something for dinner.  You want anything?"

"No, I, uh, had a big lunch.  I can get something on the plane later.  I'll see you in a little while." he said quietly.

"Josh, are you ok?" asked Donna a little concerned at how tired he sounded.

"Uh, yeah" he said quietly as he hung up.

Donna stared at the phone for a second before putting it back on the desk.  She didn't notice Sam coming towards her until he was standing right beside her.

"Was that Josh?  How was his meeting?"

"Yeah that was him.  He said it was fine."

"Fine?"

"Yeah, that's all he said"

"Is he ok?  He didn't eat anything at lunch and he was looking pretty tired this morning."

"He didn't eat?"

"Nope"

"Interesting.  I'm running down to the mess, you want anything?"

"No, I'm good.  Tell Josh to come see me when he gets a minute"

Sam turned to leave as Donna grabbed her purse and stood up.  She sighed deeply at the thought of having to deal with a sick Josh.  A nasty summer cold had been going around the office for a few weeks.  Most everyone had had it already, except Josh.  And now they were scheduled to leave for California in a little over 3 hours.  Donna had been looking forward to this trip for weeks.  Josh had promised her some free time and she was looking forward to working on her tan.  Now it seemed like all her free time would be spent taking care of her boss.  Not that she minded all that much.

For the most part, Josh had been doing well all summer.  The stiffness that had bothered him all spring had let up.  He was upbeat, arrogant, sarcastic, in other words back to normal.  Things between Josh and Donna were good, the bantering was at an all time high and they were spending more and more time together outside of the office.  They had somehow managed to keep things between them basically platonic.  The fact that Josh was back to some sense of normalcy helped that situation.  It let Donna spend more time just being with him and less time helping him hold himself together.  Not that she disliked holding him together, it was just that when she was busy trying to keep him from careening out of control certain feelings would always come to the surface.  Feelings she had worked for years to keep hidden from view. Deep down they both knew that sooner or later, for better or for worse, something would happen between them to either bring them together for good or prove to them that they were better off as friends.

Fifteen minutes later Donna was on her way back from the mess with a salad for herself and some soup and a milkshake for Josh.  The light shining under his closed door let her know he was back.  She knocked lightly and stuck her head in.  Josh was on the phone.  He waved her in, motioned for her to take a seat and turned his attention back to his phone call.

Two minutes later he hung up.  Donna pushed the soup and milkshake towards him.

"Here, I got you a milkshake and some soup. Sam told me you didn't eat lunch," she said.

"Oh" he said looking appropriately guilty.  "Thanks"

Donna watched him silently as he pried the top off of the soup and took a spoonful.  He winced as the hot soup hit his throat.  He looked up to see if Donna was watching.

"Throat hurts?" she asked unnecessarily.

He just nodded his head and pushed the soup away.  He leaned forward to put his head down on the desk with a sigh.  Donna reached over to feel his forehead.

"Josh, you're really hot"

"Why thank you, Donna," he muttered without lifting his head.

Donna rolled her eyes, stood up and walked out to her desk.  She returned with 2 Advil and a box of throat drops.  She grabbed a bottle of water from Josh's fridge and handed everything to him as she sat down in front of him on the corner of his desk.

He took the Advil and leaned back in his chair.  Donna reached down into the top drawer of his desk and pulled out a small flashlight.

"Let me see"

"See what?" he smirked.

"Open your mouth, Joshua" she said as she shined the flashlight in his eyes.

"Oww, OK," he muttered as he sat up and opened his mouth.  "And exactly when did you get your medical degree Donnatella, at lunch time?"

"Shut up and hold still"

Donna took a hold of his chin and took a quick look.  "Wow"

Josh pulled back and looked her in the eye.  "Wow?  That's your expert opinion?" he teased.

"Well, Joshua, we both know I'm not an expert but it looks terrible.  Anything else hurt?"

"My ear" he admitted with a sigh.

"And you're going to fly in exactly 2 hours and 15 minutes" said Donna glancing at her watch.  "Just great.  Let me see if Mrs. Bartlet is around."

"Mrs. Bartlet? Do I have to?" he whined.

"Yes, you do.  Stay here, drink the shake, I'll be back in a minute.  Okay?"

Josh just nodded and grabbed the shake off of his desk.

Ten minutes later Josh was on his way to the residence to see Mrs.--make that Dr.--Bartlet.  He had managed to convince Donna not to come with him.  She stayed behind to pack his backpack and wrap up a few loose ends before they had to head to the airport.  Josh dragged his feet all the way to the door to the Presidential bedroom.  The agent at the door announced him and sent him in.

"Good evening, ma'am" said Josh as he shut the door behind him.

"Joshua" said Abbey.  And although she said his name with a smile she had that disappointed tone that made him cringe.  "Have a seat and lose the tie." she ordered in the *doctor* tone that made him cringe even more.

Josh took a seat on the couch and pulled his tie loose.  Abbey pulled out the thermometer and stuck it under his tongue.  She waited for the beep, pulled it out and frowned at the reading.

"How bad?"

"Bad, 102.7" she said with a sigh as she reached inside her bag again. "OK, open up and let's take a look"

Josh leaned his head back and opened his mouth.  Abbey shined the light in, took a quick look.  She rolled her eyes but didn't say a word, something that did not bode well with Josh.

"Which ear?"

"Left" he said turning his head slightly.

Again, she looked silently with only a small shake of the head.  She took a quick look in his right ear.  With cool, clinical detachment she pulled his shirt out of his pants and listened to his heart and lungs. A quick blood pressure check was next.

"Mind if I take a look?" she said as she pointed to his chest.

Having the First Lady of the United States examine his scar wasn't exactly something Josh looked forward to, but given the current circumstances he decided to just keep his mouth shut and let Abbey take a look.  He unbuttoned his dress shirt and pulled up his t-shirt.

"Looks good," said Abbey as she took a quick glance at the scar from the entry wound.  "You allergic to any antibiotics?" Josh just shook his head.  "OK, get yourself together while I go make a quick phone call.  And then we can talk for a minute"

"Sure" muttered Josh as he pulled his shirt back on and buttoned it up.

Two minutes later Abbey returned.

"Here's the deal," she said taking a seat on the coffee table in front of Josh.  "You have a raging ear infection; one that, if you had actually started the antibiotics about three days ago, wouldn't be so bad right now.  As for your throat, it's bad but it doesn't look like strep.  And you're about to be on some heavy-duty antibiotics in a little while anyway so I'm not going to bother with a culture.  You are exhausted, well on your way to being dehydrated and running a pretty high fever for an adult.  If you were anyone else I would insist you not fly, send you to bed and keep you there for 3 days.  But, knowing you as I do, I'm not going to bother.  I don't have the energy to yell at you at the moment.  I still have packing of my own to do."

"Thanks for not yelling" said Josh with a small smile as he started to stand.

"You're welcome, but I'm not done yet" she replied pushing him back on the couch.  "A couple of prescriptions will be sent to your office in a few minutes.  The antibiotics are one pill, three times a day with some food until they're gone. The other one is a decongestant.  Take one right away and that might help the pressure in your ear before we take off. I'm not going to lie to you; you're going to be in pain during the flight.  So take 2 more Advil when you get on the plane.  And you have to drink something. I don't care if you eat or not but you need some fluids.  It's very dry on the plane and that's not going to help the situation.  I'll be there if you need anything.  Don't be stubborn, if it gets too bad I can give you something.  Understand?"

"Yes ma'am" he muttered.

Abbey just sighed and reached out to ruffle his hair.  "How can I get through to you guys?  Make you realize you are not invincible, that you all have to start taking better care of yourselves."

Josh just gave her a trademark dimpled grin and shrugged his shoulders.

"Go, Donna's waiting for you.  I suggest you let her fuss over you a little" said Abbey with a smile.

"I will," said Josh as he felt his cheeks turn red.

Donna was in his office stuffing his worn copy of ONE FISH TWO FISH, RED FISH BLUE FISH into his backpack.

"Hey" he said as he stopped in the doorway.

"Hey, I put two pills on your desk; the rest are in the outside pocket of this along with some more Advil" she said as she dropped the backpack on his visitors chair.  Josh nodded and reached for the pills and the bottle of water. "I pulled a t-shirt, sweatshirt, a pair of track pants and your sneakers out of your bag.  Change before we leave."

"Everybody else changed?" he asked as he grabbed the clothes.

"Yeah.  I'll leave so you can change in here.  Don't forget to put your shoes in your garment bag."

"Yes, mom" said Josh with a healthy dose of sarcasm.

"Very cute.  Hey, maybe I should give your mom a call, let her know how well you've been taking care of yourself over the past few days" smirked Donna as she reached for the phone.

Josh grabbed her hand as she reached around him.  "I don't think so.  Just go and let me change." he said wearily.

Donna glanced down at their hands that were still intertwined.  Josh gave her hand a squeeze and dropped it.  They stood there for a few seconds, not moving, not talking.

"I'm gonna, uh, just..." said Donna as she pointed towards the door.  She walked out closing it behind her.  She took a deep breath and went to gather the rest of her things.

A little over an hour later they were boarding Air Force One.  It was just after 8 and take off was scheduled for 8:30, which would put them in LA around midnight.  With any luck, Donna hoped, Josh would sleep on the plane and then get a good night's sleep at the hotel.

Of course, that little scenario never happened and they had the flight from hell.

At 9:15 they were still on the ground, waiting for the weather to clear.  Everyone was tired and cranky, wandering around the plane, picking on each other and generally acting about 10 years old.  The President included.  Abbey finally dragged him to his study to spare the rest of the group a lecture about the different kinds of cloud formations and storm fronts.

Donna had staked out a quiet corner and parked Josh in a seat when they boarded the plane.  He had been very quiet on the drive over and was happy to just sit quietly while they waited for the weather to clear.  This behavior, of course, was not very Josh-like, which worried Donna.  After grabbing him a pillow and blanket she went to get him something to drink.  He had stretched out across the three seats and was dozing by the time she got back.  Donna pulled off his sneakers, fastened his seatbelt, covered him up and reached out to feel his forehead.

"Any cooler?" asked Sam as he came up behind her.

"Not really" said Donna as she stood up and stretched.

"You ok?" asked Sam as he put his arm around her shoulders and gave her a quick squeeze.

"Yeah, just tired.  I'm going to wander around for a few minutes, can you stay with him?"

"Sure.  If you run in to Toby tell him where I am"

Fifteen minutes later the pilot announced that they would be departing momentarily.  Donna made her way back to where Josh was sleeping.  She chuckled to herself as she entered the compartment and found Sam stretched out on the three seats opposite Josh, snoring softly.  She kicked off her shoes and took the seat across the aisle from where Josh was sleeping.

"Hey, you can sit over here," said Josh weakly as he slowly sat up.  Donna sat down while Josh tried to curl back up on only two seats.  She tugged on his pillow until he lifted his head.  She slipped the pillow onto her lap and pulled him down.  He was reluctant at first to curl up in her lap but he was too tired and felt too crappy to put up much of a fight.

Josh fell back to sleep instantly and Donna relaxed as the plane taxied out to the runway.  Within 15 seconds of taking off Josh was restlessly stirring.  He brought his hand up to his ear as he sat upright.  Donna flicked on the light over his head and reached out to him.  She put her arm around him and pulled his head down onto her shoulder.  Rocking him gently she tried to comfort him as best she could.

"Shh, it's ok, take a deep breath and swallow.  Want to try some gum?"

Josh just shook his head.

"It hurts, Donna," he said in a voice that all but broke her heart.

"I know," she said as she reached out with her foot and kicked Sam to wake him up.  "Get Mrs. Bartlet"

Sam took one look at Josh's pale face and went quickly to find the First Lady.  Abbey was there within a minute, followed by the President and Leo.  Abbey knelt in front of Josh and Donna.

"Hey.  Not doing too well?" she asked as she reached out to feel his forehead.  He was somewhat cooler but still running a significant fever.

Josh just shook his head.  He sat up straighter and moved slightly away from Donna.

"OK, let's see what we can do about that."  She turned towards Donna.  "Can you get him something to drink?"  Donna nodded and reached for the bottle of water she had brought to him earlier.  "Josh I want you to sit for a few minutes, have something to drink," said Abbey as she patted his knee. "I'll be right back"

She came back a few minutes later with a warm, wet washcloth.  "OK, let's try this.  Put your head back down in Donna's lap." He did as he was told without a word.  "Here Donna, take this and just hold it against his ear.  Hopefully the heat will help a little." Donna took the washcloth and settled back in the seat.

No one moved for a few minutes.  Abbey knelt in front of Josh and Donna.  Leo stood off to the side with Jed until Charlie came in to announce a phone call they needed to take care of.

Josh tried to keep his eyes open but his exhaustion, the motion of the plane and the warmth against his ear were too much and he fell asleep within 10 minutes.

"I'll be up front if you need anything.  Just ask a steward if you need another warm cloth," said Abbey as she stood up to leave. 

"Thanks" muttered Donna sleepily.

For the next few hours things went smoothly, Josh and Donna got some sleep, Sam and Toby took over the opposite corner of the cabin and worked quietly for a while until giving into their own exhaustion.  And then the weather took a turn and the turbulence started.

Donna woke up first, followed quickly by Josh who sat up dazed and shaking.

"It's ok, just a little turbulence, it's starting to rain." she said reaching out to rub his back.  She could feel him shivering under the blanket.  "You cold?"

"Yeah"

Donna grabbed his sweatshirt out of the backpack and helped him pull it on.  She handed him the bottle of water, which he finished slowly but without complaint.

"Feel any better?"

"A little, I guess," sighed Josh as he sat back and put his feet up.

Donna touched his cheek briefly.  "Fever's gone down a little.  Can I get you anything?  You hungry at all?"

"I don't know, think you could find some ice cream?"

"I'll try, wait here," said Donna as she brushed back his hair and smiled warmly.

Josh looked out and watched the rain stream against the windows while he waited for Donna to get back.  He felt someone sit down next to him and turned, expecting to see Donna.  Instead he found Abbey.

"Here's some ice cream.  You should feel privileged, this was the last cup and Jed insisted you have it."

"Thanks" laughed Josh quietly.

"So how are you doing?"

"A little better, not looking forward to landing though" he mumbled as he pulled the paper cover off the cup of ice cream.

"Yeah, I doubt that will be a whole lot of fun.  I have to go get some things done.  Let me know if you need anything.  Oh, Donna's in the press cabin.  CJ's going to give a short statement to the press that you aren't feeling well.  Just so they don't start asking questions if you miss something.  Is that ok?"

"Fine"

Abbey patted his shoulder and went back to the front of the plane.  Josh ate the ice cream, used the bathroom and wandered around the plane for a while.  Donna wasn't in the press cabin but he found her with the other assistants debating the merits of a number of different sunscreens and lipsticks.  He caught her eye and waved her back down as she started to get up.  He continued on his wandering until the rain became heavier and the pilot asked everyone to take their seats, as he was about to try and climb up and out of the storm. 

Josh walked back to his seat and curled up.  Donna joined him a minute later and took quick notice of how his face had paled at the thought of the plane climbing again.  She had brought another warm cloth with her and settled him back down with his head in her lap.

As expected, the ascent of the plane caused Josh a considerable amount of additional pain.  Donna held him tight while silent tears fell from his eyes and ran down into his hair.  After 10 minutes he couldn't take it anymore.

"Can you get Mrs. Bartlet?" he asked in a hoarse, shaky voice.

"Yeah" said Donna as she caught Sam's eye.  Sam jumped up and went to find Abbey.

Donna continued to hold Josh and brush back his hair as he tried to relax but the motion of the plane, the pain in his ear and the ice cream he had just eaten were conspiring against him.  He took a couple of deep breaths to try relaxing and holding back the bile he felt rising up in his throat.  It didn't work.  Luckily they were seated next to a rest room and he managed to make it there in time.

Donna knelt behind him, rubbing his back and holding his head.  Toby had stepped out of the cabin to give them some privacy and to see what was taking Abbey and Sam so long to get back.  Abbey patted Donna on the shoulder a minute later and motioned for her to step back in the cabin.  Sam stayed with Josh.

"OK, what's plan B or C, whatever we are on?" asked Donna with a tired smile as she sat down wearily.  She was exhausted and it was starting to show.

"I'm going to check his temp and then sedate him.  He's not likely to get any rest otherwise.  How are you holding up?" she asked as she brushed Donna's hair out of her eyes.

"I'm ok," she said jumping up as she saw Josh coming back.

Sam helped Josh back to his seat and he and Donna stepped back to let Abbey talk to Josh.

"Well, this is shaping up to be a trip you won't soon forget."

"Yeah, unfortunately.  Any suggestions on how to make me just forget about it all for a little while?"

"Yes, let me just check your temperature and then I'll give you a sedative"

"Will it knock me out?"

"Not completely but you'll be much happier and you should be able to get some more sleep."

Abbey handed him the thermometer and reached in her bag to grab the sedative.  Josh paled at the sight of the needle.  The thermometer beeped and he pulled it out with a shaky hand.

"101, still up there.  Here, take these." she said as she handed him two Advil.

He swallowed them with some water.

"Uh, can't I just have a pill?" he asked as he eyed the syringe warily.

"What's the matter Josh?  Afraid of a little needle?"

"Uh, frankly, yeah"

Abbey smiled and called Donna over to hold his hand.

"Hold Donna's hand and look away, it'll be over in a second." Abbey assured him.  "There" she said as she pulled his pants back up over his hip, "all done."  She brushed back his hair and kissed his forehead just like she used to do to the girls when they were sick.

Abbey turned to Donna before leaving.  "He should fall asleep within 20 minutes.  Hopefully he'll stay asleep for the rest of the flight.  You get some rest yourself or I'm sedating you next."

"Yes ma'am.  Thank you"

Sam stood up and steered Donna into the row of seats opposite Josh.  "You get some sleep.  I'll keep an eye on him"

Donna could only nod, as she was asleep before she even lay down.

A little over 3 hours later the plan landed in LA without a hitch.  Josh managed to sleep through the landing and was feeling better by the time they got to the hotel.  Abbey had asked Charlie to make sure that Josh and Donna were given adjoining rooms.  She knew Donna would want to keep an eye on him and wanted to make things as easy as possible on them.

Donna was wide awake after sleeping on the plane so she unpacked and did some reading and made some note cards for Josh while he went back to sleep.  Then Sam had come by with sandwiches and a pot of tea.  He and Donna chatted for about an hour, until both of them were yawning.

"Get some sleep.  I'll see you in the morning." said Sam as he stood up.  He poked his head into Josh's room to check on him before returning to his own room.

Around 3:00 Donna pushed aside her work and padded into Josh's room to check on him one last time before attempting to get some sleep herself. A quick kiss to his forehead told her he was a little cooler.  She refilled the glass of water she had put on the table next to him and pulled the covers up around him. 

She left the door opened between the two rooms and slept in the bed closest to the door, just in case.

That turned out to be a good thing.  An hour later she heard Josh calling her name.  She jumped out of bed and found him sitting up, still half asleep, obviously in the middle of a nightmare.  She sighed as she sat down next to him and took him in her arms. 

"Josh, wake up...it's ok...you're safe" she whispered as she leaned back against the headboard and pulled him close. 

"Donna?" he said as he looked up at her without really focusing.

"Yeah, it's me.  Take a deep breath and relax"

She felt him take a few shaky breaths and settle down a bit.

"Damn, it's been months.  I thought the nightmares were over."  He sighed as he untangled himself from her arms and sat up cross-legged on the bed with his head in his hands.

Donna crawled around Josh to sit in front of him.  She kissed the top of his head and ran her fingers through his hair.  Gently she reached out and lifted his chin so she could look him in the eye.

"Josh, you're sick, you had a sedative, you're running a fever and you're jet lagged.  You have every right to have a nightmare." said Donna trying to reassure him.  "Here take a drink of water and settle back down."  He took the glass she offered him and drained it.

"Lie back down, I'll fill this up again"

Donna went to the bathroom and filled the glass.  She took a glance at the time and grabbed a couple of Advil.

"Here take these" she said as she handed him the pills and the water.  She took the glass from him and turned the light back out.  She tucked him back in and turned to leave when his voice called her back.

"Donna, uh, could you..."

"Want me to stay till you fall asleep?"

"Yeah"

Donna walked around to the other side of the bed, kicked off her slippers and sat down.  "Roll over and I'll rub your back for you."

Josh stuffed the pillow under his head and stretched out on his stomach.  Donna rubbed his back gently, wondering to herself how someone who never set foot in the gym could be so well built.  She shook her head as if to try and get rid of the thoughts like those that had been creeping into her mind with great frequency lately.

Deep down she knew she was in love with Josh and she was pretty sure he felt the same way about her.  But something always prevented them from acting on those feelings. 

In the beginning of the summer things were so confused and frantic.  The President had just announced he was suffering from MS, the anniversary of the shooting had just past, Josh was emotionally on the edge and it had been enough for Donna to just keep him stable without starting a whole new phase of their relationship.

The middle of the summer brought depositions and the hell that went along with them.  Even after the little incident with the Mary Chapin Carpenter CD not much happened.  It was if they were terrified to take that next step.

And now things were getting back to normal, whatever that was. 

Donna sighed as she ran her fingers through Josh's hair.  His breathing had evened out and slowed down as he drifted back to sleep.  He rolled over on his side, facing Donna.  She watched him silently for a few minutes before kissing his cheek.  His fever was down and he looked more relaxed. 

Just as Donna was about to climb out of the bed and go back to her room Josh's hand reached out and grabbed hers.  She held it in her own, both hands resting in her lap until tears started to fall.  She wasn't sure what the tears were for, sadness, happiness, exhaustion?  Probably a big combination of all those things.  She dropped his hand and crawled under the covers next to him.  Unconsciously Josh moved closer to her and put his head on her shoulder.  She kissed the top of his head and closed her eyes.  Not caring about what would happen in the morning she relaxed next to him, feeling, for the first time in months, that she was just where she belonged.

Donna woke up a little after 7.  She actually felt pretty good for someone who had only gotten a few hours sleep.  Josh was curled up on his side facing away from her.  She contemplated sneaking out of bed and trying to forget the fact she just spent the night next to her boss.  But before she could even move Josh started mumbling.

"What time is it?" he asked without turning over to face her.

"A little after 7" she answered as she reached over to feel his forehead.  He was still pretty warm.  "Feel any better?"

Josh rolled over to face her, propping his head up on his hand.  "A little? Maybe...too soon to tell."  He took a deep breath and started to sit up.  He got about halfway up, then flopped back down on the bed.  "Maybe later" he mumbled as he pulled the sheet up over his head.

Donna sat up next to him and rubbed her eyes.

"Good idea.  I'm gonna shower, eat and collect your messages.  What do you want me to bring you for breakfast?"

"Not hungry" he mumbled.

"You need to eat something with the medicine.  You really don't want to get sick again."

"No, not at all.  Yogurt and a bottle of iced tea."

"OK, anything else?"

"No.  Donna...uh...thanks, for everything yesterday and for staying last night."

She reached over and pulled the sheet down to look at him.  "You're welcome.  Now go back to sleep.  When I get back you can decide what you feel up to doing today.  I talked to Sam last night and he assured me that Leo doesn't expect much from you over the next day or two."

"So exactly why did I make this trip?" he asked her, eyebrows raised.

"Well, Joshua, cause you were too stubborn to stay home"

He nodded and flashed her a dimpled grin.  She smiled back and without thinking leaned over and kissed him tenderly on the lips.  Sure, they had kissed before but nothing that really crossed over the line of friendship. Not that this kiss went that far over the line either, but it was definitely a kiss that was filled with the promise of something more.

They ended the kiss together and Donna sat up slowly.  They both gave little chuckle and smiled at each other.  Then reality hit Donna and her expression changed completely.

"I, uh, better go," stuttered Donna as she stood up and started to quickly leave the room.

"Donnatella, look at me" said Josh quietly.

She stopped and turned around slowly.  Almost afraid to look him in the eye, she stared at her feet.

"Donna, look at me," he pleaded softly, "It's ok.  Do what you need to do this morning and we'll talk later."

"OK" she replied as she went back to her room, closing the door behind her.

Donna showered and dressed quickly.  She poked her head into Josh's room before she went downstairs; he had fallen asleep again, watching CNN.  She closed the door quietly and headed down the hall. 

As she entered the room where everyone was gathered they all wanted an update on how Josh was doing.  She filled them all in, of course, leaving out large chunks of the events of the previous 8 hours.  Abbey told her that she would be by to check in on him in an hour or so.  Grabbing a container of yogurt and a couple of bottles of iced tea Donna picked up the messages at the front desk she had neglected to pick up the night before.  As she flipped to the one from Joey Lucas her heart sank.  And it sank even further when she looked up and saw Joey and Kenny coming across the hotel lobby.  By some stroke of luck Sam cut them off before they spotted Donna.  With a smile of gratitude towards Sam she hurried to the elevator.

She went into her room first and dropped her bag on the bed.  Josh didn't answer when she knocked on the connecting door.  She poked her head in to find that he wasn't in bed.  The shower wasn't running and the door to the bathroom was open.  Looking out the sliding doors to the balcony she saw a head of wild hair and a pair of bare feet propped up on the railing.  She grabbed his pills and took his breakfast out to him.

"Hey, decided to get up?"

"Yeah, I figured it was about time for a shower."

Donna handed him the pills and the yogurt before sitting down on the lounge chair next to him.  It was a gorgeous day; the sky wasn't filled with the usual LA smog and they had a great view from the balcony. 

"Any messages?"

"Yeah, nothing too important.  We can go over them later.  Leo said not to worry about anything today."  Donna took a deep breath, "There was a message from Joey.  She's here."

"Oh really?  Here in LA?" he asked, his voice showing a little more interest than Donna had hoped.

"Uh, no, here as in I almost ran into her in the lobby a few minutes ago." said Donna as she searched his face for some kind of reaction. 

"Think she's on her way up?" asked Josh as he glanced down at his outfit.  He was wearing a Harvard t-shirt and a pair of tan cargo shorts that Donna had convinced him looked good on him, no shoes and he hadn't combed his hair after he had taken a shower.

"Not likely, if Sam had anything to say about it" muttered Donna distractedly.

"Donna, what's wrong?"

"Nothing" replied Donna grumpily.

Josh pulled his feet off the railing and stood up a little shakily.  He put the empty yogurt container on the table and leaned over to push Donna's bare feet out of the way so he could sit down with her on the lounge chair.

"Donna, look at me" he said as he lifted her chin up.  "Look, I'm not sure what to say...I don't exactly understand what's happening between us...but I do know that it's what I want...you're the one I want to 'gather rosebuds' with.  Last night when you curled up next to me..that was..I can't even describe it.  And no, my feelings didn't have anything to do with the sedative Dr. Bartlet gave me." he teased.

Donna gave him a small smile.  Josh wiped her eyes with his thumbs.  They both took a couple of deep breaths and Donna scooted back in the chair pulling Josh down with her.  She settled him against her chest, resting her chin on the top of his head.

They stayed that way until Abbey arrived to check on her patient.  Donna left them alone and went to her room to check Josh's messages.  Ten minutes later Abbey stuck her head into the room and called her back in.  Josh was on the phone so they stepped out onto the balcony.

"So, I guess he'll live?" teased Donna.

"Probably, but he's still running a fever and complaining about his ear.  I left a couple of painkillers if he needs them, no alcohol if he takes them.  Try to get some more fluids into him.  If the fever doesn't break by tomorrow I want to do some blood work.  So I guess just let him do what he feels up to doing, don't let him push himself.  I'll check in later."

"Thanks, for everything"

"You're welcome.  And hope you enjoy the adjoining rooms" called Abbey over her shoulder as she was halfway out the door.

Donna just stood there blushing with her mouth hanging open.

"Did she just say, what I think she said?" asked Josh as he hung up the phone.

"I think so"

"OK. Well, maybe we should, uh, work for a while" asked Josh, a little unsure of what to do or say.

"Yeah, sure" came Donna's slightly too enthusiastic reply.

They settled themselves and a pile of work on Josh's bed.  They worked as they always worked, side by side, in tune to each other's needs, although a little closer to each other and with a few more lingering glances than usual.

Two hours later Donna was on a roll with the note cards and Josh was fidgeting.  He was distractedly playing with her hair with one hand and rubbing his ear with the other, while a fax sat unread in his lap.

Donna finished a card and looked up at him.  He was pale and in obvious pain.

"Hey, you ok?" she asked.

He shook his head, handed her the fax and curled up on the bed.

She leaned over to kiss forehead.  His fever was up again.

"Why don't you take a pain pill and get some rest?  We can finish this later," she said gathering up the papers and putting them on the table.  "Here, drink some tea" she added, handing him the bottle.

Josh took the pill and Donna got him settled back down with a warm washcloth for his ear.  She turned the TV on to CNN and pulled the drapes shut.

"Better?"

"Yeah.  Donna, you don't have to stay with me.  I'll be fine.  Go out to lunch with Carol and Margaret.  I know you've been looking forward to spending time shopping and all that other girly stuff with them."

"Fine, I'll stay until you fall asleep.  I have my phone, call me if you need me."

Half an hour later Josh was sound asleep and Donna was slipping on her sandals to leave.  She peeked in his room one last time before heading out the door.

Lunch with Margaret and Carol was fun.  They ate at a little outdoor cafe.  They did a little guy-watching.  Carol and Margaret did observe that Donna didn't seem to be as interested in watching as she usually was and they called her on it.  She tried to bluff her way through the interrogation but was failing miserably, especially when Margaret asked about the adjoining rooms.  Donna felt her cheeks turn as red as the tomatoes in her salad.

After lunch they did a little shopping, picked up some new earrings to wear to the fundraiser, tried on some outrageously expensive clothes and basically relaxed for a few hours.

Donna picked up some fruit salad and a muffin for Josh on the way back.  Margaret and Carol teased her some more as they headed back to the hotel. 

There were a few more messages waiting for Josh when Donna went to the front desk.  Among them was another message from Joey Lucas informing Josh that she would be attending the fundraiser and she looked forward to seeing him.  Donna shoved it in her pocket.

When she got back to her room Josh was still sleeping.  A quick kiss to his cheek told her his fever was down.  She opened the drapes slightly to let in the sun.  Settling down on the bed next to Josh she channel surfed for a while, finally stopping to watch "The Brady Bunch" reruns on Nickelodeon.

Josh woke up in the middle of the Brady's trip to Hawaii. 

"The Brady Bunch?" he said with a smirk.

"Josh, it's 4 in the afternoon, there's not a big selection of things to watch, would you rather watch Oprah?"

"No, no, no.  This is fine.  Did you happen to bring me any food?  I think I'm actually hungry" he said as he sat up and ran his fingers through his hair.

"There's some fruit salad and a muffin on the table.  Let's go out on the balcony, you could us a little fresh air."

They settled down once again in the lounge chair, with Josh leaning back against her eating his lunch.  When he was done he tossed the empty container aside.  Donna wrapped her arms around him and kissed the top of his head.

"So, you wanted to talk?" she asked, trying to sound nonchalant but not even coming close.

"Well, I think we should.  Don't you?"

"Yeah, you can start" she said poking him gently in the ribs.

"Gee thanks," he muttered as he tried to gather his thoughts together.  He had them all worked out in his head earlier.  He had come up with this whole speech while he was in the shower that morning but now, leaning back against Donna, feeling her arms wrapped around him, his memory betrayed him.  "Uh, I think we should, uh..."

"OK, now I'm positive you stole those SAT scores, Joshua" teased Donna.

"OK, here goes.  Donnatella Moss, we've known each other for a few years, and while our relationship has been great I think it could be better and..."

"We should go gather rosebuds?" asked Donna.

"Yeah" whispered Josh as he unwrapped her arms from around his chest and entwined theirs fingers together.

Donna patted his ribs to get him to sit up.  She reached behind and lowered the back of the lounge chair down a notch.  Rolling out from underneath Josh they ended up side by side, their faces mere inches from each other. 

For a moment time stood still.  After years of flirting and denying their feelings they were about to move forward.  Josh caressed her cheek as he leaned in to kiss her.  At first it was gentle and tentative, until her felt Donna's tongue slide over his lower lip.  He threaded his hands through her hair as her hands snaked up under the back of his shirt.

When Sam entered the room unnoticed ten minutes later they were a tangle of long limbs on the lounge chair.  The fact that Josh was still sick was probably the only reason they weren't a tangle of long *naked* limbs out on the balcony.

Sam took once glance at them, covered his eyes and cleared his throat. Donna jumped up off of the chair, nearly pushing Josh on the floor in the process.

"Uh, Sam, uh, hi.  Did you need something?" asked Donna as she valiantly tried to gain her composure and straighten her hair.  "Sam you can uncover your eyes.  We're dressed" teased Donna.

"Yeah, sorry.  I knocked but I guess you were too busy and you didn't hear me."

By this time Josh had gotten up off the chair and was watching his best friend squirm while trying not to laugh.  He was failing miserably.  Pretty soon the three of them were laughing hysterically.  When they calmed themselves down Josh and Sam sat down to discuss some details about the fundraiser while Donna went to start to get ready.

Josh sat on Donna's bed and waited for her to come out of the bathroom.  He had fleeting images of her coming out in just a towel.  But the fact that he had seen her take in her robe ruined that idea.  However the robe was quite short and not tied very tightly when she did come out.  The fact that Josh was sitting on her bed didn't surprise her in the least.

"Josh you need to get ready."

"I am ready," he said, flopping back on the bed.

"For the fundraiser," she said sighing.  "I can see you're feeling better, either that or you are now doped up on pain killers."

"Uh, a little of both." he said after thinking for just a moment. 

He sat back up and held out his hand to Donna.  He pulled her towards him until she was standing between his knees. Wrapping his fingers around the ties to her robe he looked up at her with a look of pure longing.  She pushed her wet hair back behind her ears and nodded slightly.  He pulled at the satin ties until the material parted and all he saw was beautiful alabaster skin before him.  Wrapping his arms around her waist he leaned forward and rested his forehead between her breasts.  The scent of peppermint soap filled his nose as he felt her hands wind through his hair.

Over three years of repressed feelings, denials and unspoken dreams came to the surface in a flood of emotion that left Donna teary and Josh speechless.  Donna ran her hands over his shoulders and kissed the top of his head before taking a step back.  She glanced at the clock and took a deep breath.

"Josh" she said quietly as she nudged her head towards the clock.

"Yeah" he mumbled as he stood up.  He looked her in the eye and then leaned down to plant a kiss on the top of her breast.  Standing up straight he kissed her forehead as she grinned and basically shoved him into his own room.  Sighing heavily she closed the door behind him and threw herself on the bed.  She stared up at the ceiling for a few minutes with a huge smile of her face.

Meanwhile in his room, Josh was about to take a much-needed cold shower.

An hour later, after numerous attempts to tame Josh's hair and straighten his tie they were on their way downstairs.  As luck would have it, they were alone in the elevator.  They pulled apart just as the door opened in the lobby and they were greeted by Sam.

"You might want to wipe the lipstick off of your face" said Sam as he walked up to Josh.

"DONNA" he whined, wiping at his mouth.

"Hold still"

She pulled his handkerchief out of his pants pocket and proceeded to get rid of the evidence.

They walked to the waiting cars and climbed in, taking seats next to each other, like always.  Sam and Toby sat across from them going over the President's speech one last time, like always.

The fundraiser was nothing out of the ordinary, as far as fundraisers went.  A lot of meet and greet, handshaking and pretending to be interested in the political views of someone with a large sum of money to throw around.  Dinner was slightly better than the usual rubber chicken meal but not by much.

By the time the President was done his remarks Josh was starting to fade.  Sam was dancing with Donna when Josh got up to take a walk outside to get some air.  He caught Donna's eye with a wink and a smile. 

The night was warm and muggy and he pulled at his tie to loosen it.  He took a couple of deep breaths trying to clear his head.  Wandering around for a few minutes he murmured greetings to half a dozen people before stopping to lean against a low stonewall that surrounded the fountain.

"Joshua Lyman, there you are" came a familiar male voice.  Josh turned to see Joey Lucas and Kenny coming towards him.  He smiled and greeted them, shaking Kenny's hand and giving Joey a kiss on the cheek.  Joey turned to Kenny and they signed quickly for a minute and Kenny took off back inside.

"How have you been?  I haven't heard from you in a few weeks?" asked Joey.

"I've been fine, busy, but I guess that is to be expected." said Josh, taking care to enunciate everything clearly.

"Yeah, it is.  Are you ok, you look a little pale."

"I've been sick for a few days.  Nothing serious.  I'm fine." replied Josh in a voice that was hopefully convincing, considering at the moment he could basically feel his temperature rising. 

"So, you here with anyone?"

"What?" asked Josh, not quite sure he had heard her correctly.

"Are you here alone?"

"Uh, no, I came with someone, she's inside." he stuttered.

"Finally put an end to Donna's misdirection?" teased Joey.

"I think so.  But please don't say anything.  We've barely admitted our feelings to each other." said Josh.

"You mean you've just now gotten around to admitting them.  I told you months ago, Joshua." said Joey with a smile.

"Yeah.  Sometimes I'm a little slow." he shrugged.

"I'm happy for you two.  I hope things work out."

"Thanks, what about you?  You seeing anyone?"

"No, not seriously."

"What happened to Al Keifer?" asked Josh trying not to smirk.

"Momentary lapse of sanity?" mused Joey.

She looked down at her watch.  "I have to get going.  If I don't see Donna tell her I said 'hi'.  Call me sometime, let me know how things are going."

"I will," said Josh as he dipped his chin down.

Joey reached out and lifted his chin up.

"I will and thanks for the 'polling information' you gave me." he said clearly.

Joey looked at him with a puzzled look for a second before she realized what he meant. "Oh, the 100 Donnas.  You're welcome.  Take care.  And get some sleep, you look like you're about to fall over."

Joey reached up to kiss his cheek.

"Bye"

"Bye"

Josh watched as she back in the building.  She passed Donna on the way but Donna was too busy talking to someone and didn't see her.

Donna excused herself from the company of the completely boring gentleman she had been talking to and went out to find Josh.  She glanced at her watch and made a mental calculation that the Advil and the painkiller Josh had taken were probably wearing off about now.

She was right.

Donna found Josh right where Joey had left him, leaning against the wall watching the fountain.  He gave a weary smile and pushed himself up to stand, as she got closer.  She could tell he was more than ready to go.

"Hey, you."

Not hesitating for a second, he wrapped his arms around her and whispered into her ear. "Get me out of here, please." he pleaded.

"Sure" she said as pressed her hand against his warm cheek. 

They walked back through the building.  She handed Josh a painkiller and placed him in Sam's care while she went to gather their things and talk to Mrs. Bartlet for a minute.  Twenty minutes later she was nudging Josh awake in the limo.

"Josh, wake up."

He opened his eyes and stared at her for a second before realizing where he was.  The agent who had accompanied them back got out and helped Donna get him upstairs.  She muttered her thanks and steered Josh towards her bed.  His words were quickly starting to slur due to the fact he hadn't eaten much at dinner.

"Josh, look at me" she said as she stood in front of him.

He looked up slowly but not really focusing.  She reached out to push his jacket off of his shoulders and undo his tie.  His shaking hands fumbled at the buttons on his shirt.  Managing to get it off proved to be quite a task but Donna let him work at it while she looked around for something to eat.  She came up empty handed.

"Josh, I'm going to get you something to eat.  You need some food on your stomach with those pills.  Finish getting undressed and get into bed.  Josh are you listening?"

"Yeah...undressed...get in bed.  Can I sleep in your bed?" he asked sounding quite drunk for someone who drank only Coke all night.

"Sure.  I'm putting on CNN, yell at the Republicans, don't fall asleep."

She left the room not holding out any great hope that he would indeed still be awake when she got back.  Heading for the nearest vending machine she smiled to herself as she realized she just told her boss to get in her bed.  She also realized that she really needed to stop thinking of Josh as her boss and start thinking of him as her...as her what?  She wasn't quite sure...yet.

By some miracle Josh was still awake when she returned with a package of peanut butter crackers, some raisins and a bottle of iced tea.  He was cursing at the image of Henry Shallick on the television.

"Here, eat something." she said tossing him the snacks and putting the iced tea on the table between the beds.

Donna grabbed something to sleep in and headed for the bathroom.  She came out a few minutes later with her face scrubbed clean and her hair falling about her face.  But her face wasn't what Josh was gazing at.

"Hey, you stole my boxers." He accused, pointing at the Mets boxers she was wearing with a white tank top.

"So I did" came her completely innocent reply.  "Hope you're not getting crumbs in my bed Joshua."

"I'm not" he declared through a mouthful of crackers.  "I'm gonna brush my teeth, I'll be right back."

Donna watched him stagger towards his room with a laugh.  He somehow managed to brush his teeth and take off his pants and socks before coming back into her room.  He flopped on the bed in his boxers next to where she was sitting and reading a magazine.  The TV was still tuned to CNN so he turned up the sound a bit to watch.  Unfortunately he was getting his second wind and the combination of too much soda and the medicine made him more fidgety than usual and he bounced around on the bed until Donna tossed the magazine on the floor and grabbed him by the shoulders.

"Joshua.  Stop, you're driving me nuts." she sighed as she let go of his shoulders and he fell back onto the bed.

"Sorry, I'm just a little..."

"Wired" she guessed with a smile. 

He nodded as he rubbed his hands over his eyes tiredly.  Donna curled up next to him as he yawned.

"Josh, just relax and close your eyes."

He tried in vain for a while but every minute or so he was shifting around trying to get comfortable.  Donna tried rubbing his back but that only lasted for a few minutes until he rolled over again, and again, and again.

"Josh, you want me to sleep in the other bed?" she asked quietly, hoping that he would say no, but wanting to give him the chance to say yes.

"No," he said rolling over yet again so he was on his side facing her.

Donna reached over to brush back his hair and caress his cheek.

"What's wrong?  There's more to this than the fact you can't get to sleep."

"Well, ever since Sam walked in on us earlier I've had this vision, dream that tonight we would...uh, you know what I mean.  And now I feel bad because I feel like crap.  And I can't get comfortable. I can't get to sleep."

"Shhh, it's ok, honey.  We've waited over three years, you think I won't wait another day or two?" she asked as she kissed his forehead.

"I guess that was dumb, it's just that I...wait, did you just call me 'honey'?"

"Yeah.  Got a problem with that?" she asked poking him gently in the ribs.

"Not at all, but I don't think you should start yelling that through the bullpen." he said with a wry smile.

"I'll try to control myself."

Josh rolled over and fidgeted for another few minutes until Donna had had enough.  She reached over to turn on the light.

"That's it.  How about a walk, a shower, a bath, a glass of warm milk, a cup of tea, a sedative?"

Josh pondered the choices for a minute.  "A bath and a cup of tea, decaf."

"Obviously" smirked Donna.  "Come on" she said as she stood up and held out her hand to him.  "Mine or yours?"

"Huh?"

"Bathtub, Josh."

"Which one is bigger?"

"Josh, in case you haven't noticed our rooms are mirror images of each other.  Everything is the same." she sighed, partly in exasperation, partly in amusement.  Although at nearly midnight her amusement was starting to dwindle.

Josh pointed to her bathroom and then went to grab some clothes out of his room.  Donna sat down on the edge of the tub and started the water. She reached for the bag on the counter and pulled out a bottle of bubbles and dumped them in before Josh could say a word.

"DONNA," he whined as he pushed the door open.  "Girly bubbles?"

"They are not girly bubbles.  Trust me, it will help you relax."

"Oh no, it's those bubbles for fussy babies." he whined even louder.

"Joshua, they are not," she said as she showed him the bottle, which didn't have any babies anywhere on the label.  Although, now that she thought about it, the ingredients were probably similar.  That was a thought better kept to herself.

He eyes the tub warily as Donna shut off the water and stood up.  "I'm going to make some tea.  Get in and relax."

She shut the door behind her and leaned against it.  "First I tell my boss to get in my bed, now I just told him to get into my bathtub.  What am I going to tell him to get into next?" she muttered to herself for a second before bursting out laughing at what she had just said.  "Well, I have a couple of ideas" she thought to herself. 

"You OK out there, Donnatella?"

"Fine, Josh." she giggled.

A few minutes later she knocked on the bathroom door with a cup of tea in her hand.

"Can I come in?"

"Uh, yeah, sure." replied Josh after he took a quick glance down and was satisfied that everything was covered by the bubbles that he actually found pretty relaxing.

Donna took a deep breath and stepped into the room.  She put the tea on the counter and took a seat on the edge of the tub and tried not to stare.

"Leave that for a minute, it's too hot." she said as she looked at the bubbles, the wall, the door, anything but Josh.

"Donna," he said softly.  "It's ok, look at me"

She turned her gaze towards him as he reached out to touch her leg.  Donna looked him in the eye and gave him a small smile.  Her gaze traveled downward towards the scar on his chest.  She hadn't seen it in over a year.  In that time it had gone from angry red to pink to white. Sliding off the side of the tub she knelt down next to it and tentatively reached out to run her finger down its length.  As she did Josh put his head back and sighed.  When her finger reached the end Josh picked up her hand and brought it to his lips.  Planting a kiss on her fingertips he spoke softly.  "It's not exactly a huge tub but you wanna come in anyway?"

She hesitated for a second.  Sensing her apprehension he lifted up her chin to look into her eyes.  "Just a bath, I just need..."

Donna nodded slightly before he could finish his thought.  She handed him the tea before she slipped out of his boxers and her tank top. 

"Front or back?" he asked as he put the mug on the floor next to the tub.

"Back"

He moved forward to let her climb it behind him.  She sank into the hot water with a sigh; feeling her body relax immediately.  Pulling Josh back by the shoulders she settled him back against her chest.  She kissed his cheek and wrapped her arms around him covering his hands that were folded over his chest.

"So, tell me something.  Why didn't we think of this before now?" mused Josh.

"This, the bath, or this, in general."

"Both" he laughed.

"Well," started Donna as she took a deep breath, "I've contemplated both of these things for longer than I care to admit to."

"That's makes two of us.  I guess we've both been stuck in denial and misdirection for way too long."

"Yeah" whispered Donna.

They relaxed in the tub, the heat of the water melting away the tension of the day.  Josh fidgeted as usual, scooping the bubbles up and blowing them off his hands.  Donna traced his scar on his chest with her finger.  Then dipping her left hand under the water she found the other scar and ran her fingers over it.  Josh flinched slightly at her touch.

"Sorry," she whispered as she withdrew her hand quickly.  "Does it hurt?"

"No, it's pretty numb but let's just say, it doesn't get touched very often. At least not by people without an MD after their name."

"Oh." she chuckled.

Josh tipped his head back to kiss her softly.  He moved one hand up to thread his fingers through her blond hair.  She deepened the kiss as she felt him moan softly against her mouth.  Breathless and more aroused than either of then cared to admit they reluctantly ended the kiss.  Josh turned slightly sideways and rested his head on her chest. He admired the view of her breast before him.  With a soft breath he blew away the bubbles that covered her breast.  Drawing a slightly shaking hand out of the water he cupped her breast gently.  Running his thumb over her pink nipple he felt her draw in a sharp breath.  He brushed his lips softly where his thumb had been.  Closing his eyes he took a deep breath and inwardly cursed how bad he felt despite the closeness of the moment and the way his body was reacting.  But he knew that if they tried anything it would not end well.  Donna read his thoughts exactly.

"Josh, it's ok."

She felt him nod his head as his hand left her breast and disappeared under the water as he wrapped his arm around her waist.  Pulling him closer she kissed the top of his head and ran her fingers through the damp curls at the base of his neck.  He shivered against her.

"Cold?"

"A little," he muttered.

"You wanna add more hot water or do you want to get out."

"Get out.  I think I can get to sleep now." he said quietly.

He scooted forward to let her out first.  Donna dried off quickly and slipped the boxers and tank top back on.  She held out a hand out to him and helped him out, trying to keep her eyes up.  He threw the towel around his waist and wandered out of the bathroom while Donna drained the tub and hung up her towel.  She grabbed his shorts and went to see what he was doing.

"Here" she said as she tossed him his boxers.  "You want a shirt?"

"Yeah, thanks."

Donna grabbed one out of his room as he slipped on the shorts.   When she got back he was sitting on the side of the bed looking completely and utterly exhausted.  She took the towel out of his hands and ran it quickly over his shoulders and back. She helped him pull the shirt over his head.  He crawled under the covers and curled up on his side, falling asleep instantly.

Donna turned off the lights and shut off the TV.  She curled up next to him as she fell into a dreamless sleep.

The morning sun woke Josh up a little before 6.  He took a couple of deep breaths and stretched a little while trying to decide how he felt. He came to the conclusion that while he wasn't ready for a jogging meeting with Hoynes he was probably ready to join the staff for the remainder of their schedule before they flew home that night. 

Donna was still asleep next to him.  She was on her side facing him, one arm thrown over his hip.  He ran his fingers lightly up her arm and pushed her hair off of her face.  As she stirred slightly she hooked a leg over his.  Wrapping his arm around her waist he pulled her closer and kissed the tip of her nose.  She stirred again, opening her blue eyes slowly.  For just a second she struggled to remember just where she was.  A shy smile came across her face as she remembered with great clarity the recent events of her life.

"Morning Joshua."

"Morning, Donnatella." he said as a huge smile came across his face.

"How are you feeling," she asked as she ran her hand up his side.  "You feel cool."

"I feel pretty good." he said as he flashed his dimples, "Pretty energetic even." he added as he slowly ran his fingers up and down her back.

"Oh really." she muttered as she leaned forward to kiss him before he could speak again.

Her arms wound their way around his neck as his fingers skimmed along the sides of her breasts.  They eventually broke the kiss long enough for Josh to pull Donna's tank top over her head.

He laid her back on the bed and before looking down at her body he looked carefully in her blue eyes.  Searching them for any signs of doubt or hesitation, he found only adoration and longing.  Once again she knew his thoughts without him even speaking.  She caressed his cheek and kissed his forehead.

"I'm sure," she whispered in his ear before he moved back to take a better look at the sight before him.  For years he had been dreaming...fantasizing about Donna stretched out on his bed, and there she was. 

Josh kissed her lips softly before moving down her body slowly.  Planting hot open mouth kisses on her neck he rolled over from his place next to her and settled his legs in between hers.  She ran her fingers through his unruly hair as he moved further down the bed.  He felt her take in a sharp breath as he grazed his thumbs lightly over her nipples.  Encouraged by the way she squirmed under his touch he lowered his head to replace his thumb with his tongue.

"Josh" he heard her moan.

When he was done lavishing attention on both breasts he slid down further to slip off the stolen Mets boxers.  As he threw them onto the floor he knelt with his knees on either side of hers.  He looked at Donna with complete and utter adoration, taking in the sight of her naked on the bed, wanting him as much as he wanted her.

"Josh, um," stuttered Donna, suddenly self-conscious as she lay there naked while he was still wearing his t-shirt and boxers.  "I think you're wearing too many clothes."

"So, I guess you should do something about that, Donnatella."

Donna scooted up on the bed, taking care not to knee him in the process.  She got on her knees in front of him and pulled the shirt over his head.  Leaning forward she placed a kiss on the top of the scar.  His fingers threaded through her long blond hair as she left a trail of kisses along the scar, not stopping until she had reached the spot where it ended just above the waistband of his Cat in the Hat boxers.  She felt him inhale sharply as she ran her fingers just inside his boxers.  Gently pushing him down until he was flat on his back, she pulled the boxers off in one quick motion. 

Now it was his turn to lie still under Donna's lingering gaze.  And her gaze sure lingered. 

"Donna, come here." he said as he reached out to tug her down on top of him.  "I guess this would be a good time to, uh, ask..."

"We're fine, I'm on the Pill."

"Great...I mean, I'm glad there won't be..." he stopped short, feeling himself blush.

"Anything in between us?" said Donna shyly.

Josh nodded.

"Uh, as long as were mentioning awkward things, you should probably know it's, uh, been a while." stuttered Donna.

"Well, me too." admitted Josh as he reached out to brush the hair out of her eyes.

Donna rolled halfway off on him, keeping one leg between his.  She traced his scar with her finger, not stopping when she reached the end. She hesitated for just a second and then wound her fingers around him.

Josh's head fell back onto the pillow and his eyes slammed shut.  He enjoyed the sensation as long as he could but eventually he was forced to reach his hand down to stop her as things were on the verge of ending quickly.

"Sorry, I was too close."

"S'kay" she whispered as she pulled him on top of her and kissed him deeply.  His hands wandered up and down her body while she delighted in sensations that had been sorely missing in her life lately.

"Josh, now." she grinned as he lifted his head from where he had been busy sucking on an earlobe.

He grinned and started to get up on his knees and scoot down a little on the bed.  He stopped suddenly and looked at Donna with a look of slight panic.

"Josh, what's wrong?" she asked as she caressed his cheek.

"I'm not sure...could we roll over...I think I'd be more comfortable with you on top." he stuttered.  He hadn't made love to anyone since being shot and he didn't trust his right side to hold him up if he were on the top.

"Sure." she said as she rolled out from under him and settled herself on top.

She placed her hands on the bed on either side of his head.  Leaning to kiss him once again she slowly eased herself down onto him.  He lifted his hips once and then paused to allow her body to get used to him.

"Josh, move." she grinned.

He certainly didn't have to be told twice.

Three years of fantasies gave way to hot, urgent lovemaking.  They had both had fantasies of the first time being slow and gentle but as they came together they realized that there would be plenty of time for that in the future. 

Josh felt himself getting closer and wanted to hold off for Donna's sake.  She, as usual, could read his mind and took one of his hands and moved it down to where their bodies were joined.  After a quick couple of flicks of his thumb he felt her tense up around him.  He looked up at her and the sight of her face was enough to send him over the edge.

Ten minutes later they were a tangle of long, naked limbs resting under the sheet, trying to ignore the fact that they needed to get up and showered.  Donna had her head on his chest, her fingers making lazy circles around his hip.  Josh was running the fingers of one hand through her hair, the other hand tucked behind his head.

"Josh, we have to get up."

He just replied with a moan.

Donna reluctantly untangled herself from his embrace and sat up slowly, pulling the sheet around her.

"I don't wanna get up." whined Josh.

"Well, look at it this way, the quicker we get on with the day, the quicker we can fly home and go back to your place."

That was all the encouragement Josh needed.  He bounded from the bed, nearly falling to the floor as he managed to get himself tangled up in the sheets.  Donna just laughed and headed to the bathroom.

A little under an hour later Donna was sitting on the counter in Josh's bathroom trying to do his tie while he fidgeting in front of her.

"Joshua, hold still." she ordered as she grabbed his tie and pulled him in for a quick kiss. He opened his mouth to deepen the kiss just as she pushed him away. "Close your mouth."

"But Donna." he whined.

She fixed the tie and sent him out to put on his jacket while she grabbed his pills and took one last glance at her reflection in the mirror.  She was positive she had the words, I JUST SLEPT WITH MY BOSS, stamped on her forehead.  Satisfied that there were no words, just the telltale glow and glint in her eyes.  Both of which she could do nothing about.

The headed down to breakfast after a minor discussion about whether or not they should arrive together.  They realized that 9 times out of 10 when they traveled, they always arrived at breakfast together.  They each took a deep breath as Josh pushed open the door.  Within seconds Abbey was approaching them.

"Good morning.  How are you feeling this morning Josh?  You look a little flushed." said Abbey with a smile.

"I'm better ma'am, thanks for asking."

Abbey gave him another once over and smiled, pretty sure she knew why Josh was feeling better.

Donna handed him his pills and went to eat with Margaret and Carol.  Josh grabbed a cup of coffee and was about to go sit down when he looked at Donna and saw her mouth, "EAT SOMETHING."  He grabbed a bagel and took a seat next to Sam.

The rest of their time in LA was spent working.  Josh and the rest of the Senior Staff spent the day with the President at a town hall meeting, a fundraising luncheon and a monument dedication.  Donna had gone to the luncheon but didn't really spend much time with Josh, as he had been very busy. 

The assistants spent the rest of the afternoon back at the hotel.  Margaret, Carol and Donna took some work down by the pool and did manage to get a few things accomplished while working on their tans and gossiping.  Margaret and Carol both tried to get some information from Donna about her good mood but she managed to evade most of their questions. 

Two hours before they were to leave for Air Force One Josh wandered out by the pool, still dressed in his suit and wearing the sunglasses that made Donna go weak in the knees.  He flopped down on a deck chair next to where Donna was stretched out, trying to forget the fact that she needed to get ready to leave.

"Hey.  Have a good day?" she asked as she shielded her eyes from the sun.

"Well, it started off great but kind of went downhill from there." said Josh with a dimpled grin that disappeared quickly.

Donna sat up and pulled off his sunglasses to get a good look at him.

"You feel ok?" she asked, concerned at how weary he looked.

"Tired, a little achy, ear hurts a little." he admitted with a sigh.

"Worried about the flight?"

He nodded.

"OK, let's go pack up.  The cars are leaving in a little over an hour."

The walked slowly back to the room; stealing a few kisses on the empty elevator.  Donna sent him to the room while she went to the vending machine to get him some iced tea and something to put on his stomach with the antibiotic.  When she got back he was starting to pack his garment bag.

"Here.  Eat this and I'll get your pills.  I'll pack your stuff." she said as she handed him a granola bar and steered him towards the empty bed.

Donna came out of the bathroom and handed him the antibiotic, a decongestant and a couple of Advil.  He took them and sat back to relax for a few minutes.  As Donna pulled the clothes from the dresser she tossed him the cargo shorts, a polo shirt, socks and sneakers.  She shoved his sweatshirt in his backpack and placed it by the door.

"Get changed and then throw the rest of your stuff in your garment bag. I'm gonna go pack my stuff." she said as she left the room.

Josh changed quickly and wandered into Donna's room.  The bathroom door was open.  She was in there changing into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt.  He admired her silently from the doorway as she pulled the shirt on over her head and pulled her hair back in a ponytail.

"You gonna just stand there and stare or can you help me?" she smirked.

"Uh, help?" he replied, blushing.

Donna tossed her toiletry bag and robe to him for so he could put them in her suitcase.  Ten minutes later he was throwing a minor fit when Donna wouldn't let him carry both bags and his backpack.  She held out her hand for the backpack which he reluctantly handed over.  Throwing it on her shoulder she grabbed the key cards and cast a glance back over her bed.

"Don't worry, it wasn't just a dream." whispered Josh sweetly as he dropped the bags to wrap his arms around her from behind.

"I know."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The flight home wasn't too bad.  Josh wasn't in nearly as much pain as he had been on the flight out although the change in cabin pressure wasn't exactly comfortable.  They sat in the cabin with the rest of the staff but Josh actually let Donna fuss over him anyway.  The rest of the staff, the President and First Lady included cast knowing glances towards them without actually saying anything.  And for that they were grateful.  They knew that their relationship would not be kept secret for long but they were in no rush to announce it to the world. 

Somewhere over the mid-west Josh was starting to fade fast.  He was in the conference room with the rest of the Senior Staff and they had just finished eating.   Well, everyone else had eaten, Josh had just picked at his food.  Sam looked at Josh and then at Leo who called over to the cabin where Donna was eating with the rest of the support staff.

"Donna, it's Leo.  You wanna come down and drag your boss back to his seat.  He's about to fall asleep with his head on the conference table."

"Sure, I'll be right there." she said as she tossed the remnants of her meal in the trash.

She appeared in the doorway of the conference room a minute later.  Sam handed her Josh's backpack and gave Josh a push in the general direction of the door.

"Leo called you to come get me, huh?" he asked as they walked down the length of the plane.

"Yep, so let's get you back to your seat." she said as she threw the backpack over her shoulder and took Josh by the arm.

She grabbed his sweatshirt and tossed it to him as she kicked off her shoes.  He settled down across a row of seats while Donna got a blanket and a pillow for him.  She pulled off his sneakers and put the pillow under his head.  Nudging him over a little she perched on the edge of the seat.  She flicked off the light over his head and pulled the blanket up around him.

"You need anything?" she asked as she pressed her hand against his forehead.  He was a little warm but she wasn't real worried.

"No, I'm fine.  You gonna go back and hang out with Margaret and Carol?"

"Not if you want me to stay."

"Could you?" he asked quietly.

"Of course.  Lift up your head." she said as she slipped onto the seat and settled his head in her lap.  Josh closed his eyes as she reached for a magazine.  The rest of the staff as well as the assistants wandered back in after Josh had fallen asleep.  They all smiled at the sight of him curled up in Donna's lap sound asleep. 

Donna chatted with them until one by one they fell asleep.  Finally she was the only one still awake.  She looked down at Josh and brushed back his hair gently.  He had been sleeping peacefully for the better part of three hours.  Reaching as far as she could without waking him Donna managed to snag her tote bag from the floor.  She felt around for a bottle of water and something to read. As she searched blindly for her paperback her hand brushed across a familiar book.  She ran her fingers over the molten calf cover with a smile.  Making sure everyone else was still asleep she pulled it out of her bag and opened the cover.  Not that she needed to read what was written there; Josh's words had been memorized a long time ago.  She ran her fingers over his handwriting and smiled as she read.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Donnatella,

As you can see I didn't get you skis.  I found this book while on a forced shopping trip with the President, a trip I don't wish on anyone.

Anyway, there are a few things I'd like you to know.

When you came into my office declaring yourself my assistant I had a fleeting thought of just throwing you out of the building.  But as you talked I came to realize that you had a certain way about you.  You told me that you could be valuable to me.  And you were right.

You are more valuable to me than you will ever know.  And not just professionally.  I cherish the time we spend together, in and out of the office.  I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the times you let me in your apartment, drunk and cranky.  For all the times you refused to get me coffee but shared yours anyway.  For the times, too many to count, that you saved my butt in the office by providing a file, a reference, an excuse, a smile and a shoulder to lean on. 

But most of all for knowing how to make me laugh in the wee hours of the morning when my head is pounding and my brain has turned itself off.  Those are the times I remember most fondly.

May this coming year be filled with more good memories.  And maybe even a cup of coffee or two.

Merry Christmas.

Love,

Joshua

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Donna closed the book and clutched it to her chest for a moment before putting it back in her bag. As she gazed out at the night sky she thought about how far they had come.  From an arrogant political strategist, searching for the real thing, and a scared college drop-out searching for a new life to the Deputy Chief of Staff and his valuable, confident and witty assistant. They had come a long way over the past few years.  Despite their past tragedies and hard times they were moving on to a new course in their lives.  One that they knew would be filled with many obstacles, both personal and professional.  But for which they were ready to tackle, together.

Donna looked down one last time at Josh's sleeping face.  He looked positively peaceful.

"I love you, Joshua." she whispered as she turned out the light and closed her own eyes.

THE END

Sequel: "Soundtrack of a Weekend"