Obviously I own nothing. I'm just playing with someone else's great ideas for a little while... Hope you enjoy! I apologize for any type-o's and errors.
“DONNA!” Josh’s bellowing was becoming increasingly louder as I made my way across the makeshift office towards him.
“Oh, Donna!” CJ snagged me on my way, grabbing my arm and pulling me aside. “I’ve been looking for you. Wrap it up for the daily pretty soon. We’re going out,” she told me, rather than asked. “It’s been a long couple of months and we’re in New Orleans for the night,” her smile widened to a full on mischievous grin. “Let’s see what kind of trouble a couple of girls can dig up.”
CJ rolled her eyes. “Not to mention it sounds like you could use a drink,” she nodded her head towards Josh’s shouting, “What’s his deal lately, anyway?”
Donna sighed, not knowing what to say, but C.J.’s question was mostly rhetorical.
“Anyway,” she grinned like a Cheshire cat and filled Donna in on the specifics of her plan. “See you later,” she shouted over her shoulder as Donna started off towards Josh.
“WHAT?” That caught him off guard. Sure, he bellows for her about 412 times a day but rarely does she have the golden opportunity to yell back from just a few inches infront of him.
He startled a bit, jumping back a tiny distance. “Oh, I didn’t see you there. Do you have the numbers on the thing…”
“Right here,” she interrupted, handing him a folder. “You’ve got the guy at the place in ten minutes.”
“mmpfh,” he grunted, going back to what he was doing.
“Do you need anything else from me tonight?” Donna put her hand on her hip. They’d been on the road for a week visiting different parts of the country regarding the President’s new economic policy and to begin to gear up for the mid terms.
Josh looked up at her, somewhat taken aback by her candor. “I guess not. Why, do you have a hot date? We’ve only been in town for 16 hours and you’ve scoped out a Republican gomer,” he joked. He gave a smug smile and she rolled her eyes.
“Some of us are going out,” she told him, ignoring the quip about her dating life and placing the files he wouldn’t need into his backpack while tidying up for the day. They were headed back to DC the next afternoon.
“Who, uh, who is some of us?” Josh shifted his weight back and forth, now intrigued by Donna’s plans for the night in a town notorious for partying.
She shrugged her shoulders, somewhat brushing him off. “Mostly everyone, I suppose. Leo told us all to pack up early tonight and blow off a little steam before we get back.” She zipped his backpack and handed it to him. “You’re going to be late for your meeting and I’ve got to get back to the hotel to change.” She scribbled something down on a post it and handed it to him. “This is where we’ll be when you’re done with the Senator. You could use a night off to relax, too.”
Josh shot her a grin and put the note in his pocket as he swaggered out the door.
“Another round,” Toby instructed the waitress, motioning at their table. They’d just finished dinner and were all well on their way to relaxing in The Big Easy. Everyone at the table was broken off into small side conversations; Will and Toby arguing over the specifics of a speech, Ginger talking to a guy who’d just bought her a beer and C.J. and Donna just catching up.
“So,” she leaned in a little closer. “What’s the deal with you and Josh lately?”
“There’s no deal,” Donna stated flatly.
“Yeah. That’s what I’m talking about. You guys are always so-“ C.J paused to flail her hand about in the air, “so you about everything and now you’re just… not.”
Donna nodded. ‘Tell me about it,’ she thought. “It’s nothing. I’m just still trying to get back into the swing of things. I mean I’ve only been back at work for a few weeks and my PT keeps me exhausted. We’ll get back into the swing of things.” She added a silent ‘I hope’ in her head.
“Did something happen in Germany, Donna,” C.J. asked, but didn’t pry. Donna was able to tell when she was talking to the press secretary and when she was talking to her dear friend and tonight she knew she was speaking to the latter of the options.
“No,” Donna lightly twirled the liquid in her whiskey sour and stared into the glass. “I mean, he was great, don’t get me wrong,” she quickly amended, looking up at her friend who wore a skeptical face. “It’s just- I guess I thought that since he flew all the way over there…” Donna trailed off but C.J. continued to stare at her intently.
“That there was more to it,” C.J. surmised.
“It’s stupid, I know.” Donna sat up and plastered a fake smile on her face. “I mean, we’re just friends. We work together. That’s all. Anyway, what’s the deal with you and Danny?” Donna was a master at changing the subject.
C.J. began to fill her in on the red haired reporter but Donna found it difficult to concentrate. Something had shifted after Gaza. Something she couldn’t exactly put her finger on. The man had flown halfway around the world to be by her side but… that’s where it stopped. He’d never made any kind of move, any kind of statement. At first she blamed it on Collin’s presence, but Donna had asked him in no uncertain terms to go, wanting nothing more than to just have Josh at her side but that didn’t change things. Donna was to the point where she’d chalked the whole thing up to a combination of Josh’s unrelenting guilt and Leo’s orders to send a White House liaison.
And when she’d returned from Germany things just seemed so strained. He’d had a rough time professionally but Donna knew that wasn’t the extent of it. They were just… off. And she hated it.
C.J. eventually became distracted telling Will a story and Donna stood with her drink, finding her legs to be more wobbly than she anticipated, to head to the ladies room. She straightened her dress, a new impulse purchase from a shop window on her way back to her hotel, and confidently shook her hair over her shoulders. Her look this evening was a far cry from her usual White House ensemble. The dress was skimpy, her hair was full and tossed and she was wearing considerably more eye makeup than normal. She looked good and she knew it. Maybe she’d even meet someone tonight. Get a little lucky…
She made her way through the crowded bar, passing in front of the entrance just as he walked in. He looked defeated- exhausted with a loosened tie and rolled up shirt sleeves. He looked around the bar, skeptical, in search of his friends, questioning why he even bothered to come out after the disaster of the day, week- hell, months, he’d had lately.
“Joshua.” Donna was immediately at his side.
He smiled at her. “How do you do that?”
“I’m tuned to you,” she told him, cocking her head to the side and staring at him. He looked uneasy. She knew he was on somewhat of a rough footing with everyone right now and she had just enough liquid courage to put all of their recent issues aside and just act like their old selves.
“Everyone is over there,” she pointed at the booth in the corner, shoving her whiskey into his hand. “You’re behind. Drink this and catch up. I’ll be back to join you guys in a minute.”
Before she knew what was happening she stood on her tiptoes and gave him a quick peck on the cheek.
“I’m glad you came,” she told him before sauntering off to the ladies room.
The drinks flowed liberally and Donna soon found herself at the bar, with Josh’s credit card, ordering 6 more drinks for their table. She’d been getting excellent service all evening and more than a few pick up lines. The dress was really doing it’s job. She was currently waiting for someone behind the busy bar to take her order while she chatted with a guy who could easily be confused for a Calvin Klein underwear model.
They were laughing and flirting but as Donna continued to turn on the charm his face slowly changed.
“Donna,” she heard a very drunk Josh almost slur from right over her shoulder. “We’re leaving.”
She furrowed her brow and looked over, noticing the glare Josh was giving underwear guy. “Josh,” she warned through gritted teeth.
“C.J. wants to go somewhere else. They’re getting a cab. C’mon.”
“Hey, you don’t have to go with him. You can stay here, you know” the guy said, flashing her a smile. What was his name? Brad? Brett? Brian? ‘Who really cares,’ Donna thought.
Donna didn’t even have time to respond before Josh edged infront of her, getting aggressively close to Brad/Brett/Brian.
“Yeah, she really does have to go,” Josh spat at him. “She’s not that kind of girl.” For reasons she couldn’t seem to come up with Donna let Josh lead her out of the bar to meet up with the rest of the group, noticing his hand guiding her on the small of her back. It was a simple gesture, one he’d extended to her countless times before, but it had been noticeably absent over the past few months. Donna stood a little taller as she walked and hoped they really were moving in the right direction again.
The six of them piled into a cab and rode a few minutes to a different bar, meeting up with a few additional staffers on the trip and a couple of members of the press corps at their second stop. Everyone was on fairly equal footing as far as inebriation went and after a loud declaration of ‘everyone is off the record’ was agreed to the crowd really began to loosen up.
Will was telling Jokes, Toby was relaxed and enjoying a cigar and C.J.’s laugh was ringing above the music. A couple members of the press corps brought over tequila shots and they’d all indulged.
Donna wasn’t sure who suggested piling onto the dance floor but they all did and the next thing that she knew she was laughing and dancing. A jazzy sounding New Orleans version of Sexual Healing came over the speakers and her dance partner Will passed her to Toby who spun her around a few times. Everyone began to sing along to the iconic song. Toby passed her over to Danny who danced a few funny, over exaggerated steps with her when she felt a hand around her waist. Josh pulled her over and smiled, singing along to the music as Danny continued across the floor with Ginger.
Josh spun her a few times during the instrumental, then taking both of her hands in his and moved them around as he sang off key and at the top of his lungs with the rest of the bar.
“Baby, I'm hot just like an oven/ I need some lovin'”
He pulled her close to his body and wrapped his arms around her waist. She ran her hands up his chest and around his neck, her fingers gently twisting into his curls. They were pressed against each other, a far cry from the way that they’d danced together at state functions, but nobody seemed to notice or care.
“And baby, I can't hold it much longer/ It's getting stronger and stronger”
Their eyes locked and stayed that way for the rest of the song. With all the liquor and music and people nobody even noticed when Josh leaned down and whispered in Donna’s ear.
“Come on, baby, Let’s get out of here,” he told her grabbing her by the hand and slipping out the door into the night.
Donna let out a deep, content sigh as she lay in the tangled sheets, gently running her hands across Josh’s chest. She couldn’t help the smile on her face. This, she thought, is what people meant by ‘afterglow.’
They’d stumbled back to the hotel and up to Josh’s room, getting increasingly handsy on the way and fumbling the door open, locked at the lips. Josh made quick work of finding the zipper on the back of her dress as she unbuttoned his shirt and slipped his tie off.
He broke their embrace momentarily and though he wobbled a bit on his own legs his glossy eyes looked at hers and he became completely serious. “You know, right,” he asked her, searching her face as he spoke. “How I- How I feel. That I-“
“Yeah,” she interrupted him, the corners of her mouth quirking up in a smile. “Me too.”
He nodded his head and gave her a full dimpled grin before picking her up and carrying her to the bed.
The sex, Donna thought, was beyond fantastic. It was, well, it was beyond what she’d imagined. And she certainly had imagined it. Even for all the awkward moments and missteps in the last few months combined with the copious amount of liquor they immediately found their rhythm. Donna’s mental replay was interrupted by a knock on their door.
She hopped up and threw on his undershirt, stepping over their discarded clothing that littered the floor. She cracked the door, signing the slip and telling the bellman to leave the tray. Once he was gone she peeked out and picked up the plate of breakfast they’d ordered as a middle of the night snack as Josh raided the mini bar again.
She turned to say something to him and started giggling for no reason when she tripped over her previously discarded shoes, dumping the plate onto their clothes. After the initial startle and making sure she was okay Josh laughed too. They sat there, on the floor of a hotel room, drinking Jack Daniels out of a couple tiny bottles.
“Donnatella,” Josh began, pulling her onto his lap, his head resting against the wall with his eyes closed. “Donna tomorrow’s going to come and-“
“Stop.” She cut him off, the serious drunk coming out in here.
“I’m just saying. It’s not fair. They’ll, you know... It’ll be…”
“I think you’re lying about your SAT verbal score,” she teased him about his inability to articulate well, anything, on this subject..
“I’m bad at this, Donnatella. You know that.” He grabbed her hand and brought it to his lips, gently kissing the inside of her wrist. “There’s so much to lose right now. And I’m not going to put you through what would be thrown at you if we went public with this. I'm not going to lose you, Donna.”
“Or to the President,” Donna added with a nod, showing her understanding.
“Someday,” he told her, “we’ll be together.” He kissed her shoulder and nodded off, right there against the wall, and she followed right behind him.
So, this is my first shot at one of these. I would be grateful for any feedback on this... it's going to be a journey and I hope to improve in the process.
If you're interested this version of the song is 'Hot 8 Brass Band- Sexual Healing.'
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
I'm considering this to be AU but we're still in cannon-ish so far... but you'll enjoy it a lot more if you don't think to closely about any of the timelines :)
If Donna would have had the energy to groan, she would have. She was awake, but she couldn’t bring herself to pry her eyelids open. It was taking all of her brain power just to attempt to reign in the pounding in her head.
She willed herself to figure out what was going on. She was so… content. Part of her wanted to stay where she was but the rational part of her felt her leg getting stiff. What was that sound? Snoring? Oh, that was just Josh. And why was she so cold? Oh, because she was only wearing her panties and his tshirt.
WHAT!? Her eyes popped open immediately as she lay there. Josh’s arms wrapped around her and pulled her close as he continued in his deep sleep.
Ok. Ok. Take it easy. We went out. Had a few drinks. Then it get hazy…. Oh, dancing. We were dancing. And then we were… OH. She began to smile a bit. Oh yes. Well, she certainly hadn’t had any complaints about that last night. But her leg was killing her and she knew his side would be too if they didn’t get up off the floor where they were currently sleeping.
She lightly kissed his scar, running her hands across his chest as she whispered his name. He stirred but didn’t wake. She stood up, almost toppling over in the process. Once she’d balanced a bit and the room stopped spinning she knew she had to wake Josh.
“Josh,” she said a bit louder, touching his shoulder. “Josh, wake up.”
He mumbled something and moved around.
“Josh,” she increased her volume yet again, shaking his arm a bit.
He finally pried one eye halfway open and looked at her. “Josh get up, you’ve gotta get in bed.”
He grumbled but didn’t fight her, almost falling over himself a few times on the way. She pulled the covers back and he flopped down, barely able to mutter a quiet ‘thanks, Donna’ and softly kiss her leg, which was at his eye level as she stood next to the bed, before passing out again.
Donna smiled at the random gesture and pulled the covers over him, running her fingers gently through his curls. It was 4:45am. And her heart was so full.
She would love to crawl back into bed with him and have a repeat performance of last night, or better yet just snuggle with him but her alarm would be going off in 30 minutes and she needed to get back to her room before they were caught. She surveyed the room as Josh began to snore again and walked over to their heap of discarded clothing in the entry way.
“Ugh, gross,” she said softly, thought she was speaking to no one. Who orders oatmeal in the middle of the night after heavy drinking anyway? She cleaned up the spilled room service from hours ago, though the bulk of it had landed on their clothing. Placing the dishes into the hallway she sat their clothing in the sink to soak and neatly folded Josh’s suit jacket, which had escaped the food stains. She picked up his shoes and belt and then straightened up his room before rummaging around in his dopp kit for some ibuprofen. She sat two on his nightstand with a bottle of water and grabbed her purse before quietly closing the door.
She was staying in the room right next to him and she quickly let herself in. The last thing she needed was to be spotted leaving his room and it was a safe bet that she had a very narrow window of time before the press woke up. She started the coffee maker and hopped in the shower, attempting to wash off her hangover. After 45 minutes and several ibuprofen of her own she was beginning to think she would live. She thoroughly brushed her teeth, forced herself to drink an $8 bottle of hotel water to flush her system and set her alarm again, allowing herself a cat nap before getting dressed while her hair air dried.
She knew that if she felt this bad it was going to be one hell of a morning for Josh Lyman’s sensitive system. A smile involuntarily crossed her face. Yes. Josh Lyman. There was a happy thought. She hated that she couldn’t have stayed curled up in bed with him but she knew they had to be smart about this. After all, he’d finally made a move. And she knew once they finally took that first step there would be no turning back for them. Donna dozed off, perfectly content, dreaming of many mornings to come when she’d wake up in Josh Lyman’s arms.
“Uggghhh,” Josh audibly groaned. “Make it stop,” he whimpered, pulling a spare pillow on top of his head to drown out the sound of what he was sure had to be someone operating a jackhammer in his hotel room. His head was pounding. His equilibrium was off and his stomach was doing somersaults.
Knock, Knock, Knock.
“Joshua, open the door.” It came into his hotel room in a muffled tone but there was no mistaking her voice.
“Donna,” he choked out. “Thirty more minutes. Please. I’m begging you.”
Knock, Knock, Knock.
“Joshua, get out of bed and open this door.”
It occurred to him that at the level at which he was previously speaking there was no way she could hear him.
He slowly pulled himself out of bed and stumbled to the door, cracking it open a bit.
She bit her lip to prevent herself from laughing when she caught sight of him. He was standing there in only his boxer shorts looked like he’d been hit by a bus; disheveled, disgruntled and wild hair sticking every which way. That sensitive system of his didn’t do him any favors last night- not that she felt much better. She was just able to mask her hangover with the help of the fine people at Lancome.
“Hey,” she started brightly.
“Shhhhhh….” He pleaded with her. Loud noises were not his friend at the moment.
“Josh, it almost 7:30. You’ve gotta get up and get dressed. You have a conference call downstairs in an hour and then we have to get to the airport.”
She stepped towards him, pushing gently to open the door further.
“Donna!” His voice jumped a few octaves as she stopped dead in her tracks at his outburst. “I’m- you know… not dressed.” He told her sheepishly.
She chuckled, continuing to come into the room.
“Donna, I’m serious!”
She cocked her head to the side and searched his face to figure out what in the hell was going on. He’d never been exceedingly shy around her before and after last night he certainly had no reason to be that way now. But he had a history of being somewhat of a petulant child when hungover, so Donna shook it off.
“I’ll be down in a few minutes,” he told her pinching the bridge of his nose as his head pounded. “Can you order me breakfast?”
She stood, frozen to her spot. “Uh, yeah. I’ll be in the conference room.” She turned and headed towards the elevators, thinking that was one of the more bizarre exchanges they’d had. And certainly not what she was expecting from him this morning.
Josh closed the door and leaned up against it. He was quite certain he’d never felt this awful. He flipped on the shower as hot as it would go to attempt to create some kind of steam shower and surveyed the room.
“What in the hell happened last night,” he said out loud to no one.
He began to take a mental inventory. Ok... at the office, meeting with the Senator, took a cab to dinner with everyone… oh right, we went out. Had a few drinks. That dive bar…”
He shuffled over to the bed and sat down. And then what? Josh couldn’t remember getting back to the room. He’d never been a big drinker but… oh hell, had he blacked out last night? Good god. He played through the scene in his head again, but the last thing he remembers is sitting in a corner booth arguing with Toby.
He concentrated again. Wait. Oh shit. Had Donna been here last night? Why does he vaguely remember Donna being in his room last night? He’s trying to think a little more clear… it’s fuzzy and grey but its there. Yes, Donna was here. Wearing… his tshirt? And tucking him into bed? What in the hell?
He looked at the bed where he was sitting, the covers pulled back (he knows has the tendency to sleep onto of the comforter when he’s exhausted at home) and a water and ibuprofen on his nightstand.
He chuckled. Yeap, that was a sure sign that Donna had been here.
Then he groaned. Oh hell, did she have to take care of him last night? They’d been on such shaky ground lately he was already mentally kicking himself for forcing her to babysit him on her night off.
He laid back on the pillow, looking over at the nightstand. He gulped. Did he… kiss her knee? What in the hell kind of maneuver was that? Kissing her knee. Hah! She probably thought he had really lost it. Josh sat up, condemning himself for not being the one to take care of her and once again putting himself in the needy boss category. Maybe, he told himself, it’s not a big deal. He just had a mental image of her putting him to bed… and then he kissed her knee… and then she left, right? No, she cleaned something up. That can’t be right, can it? What could she have been cleaning up?
He shuffled into the bathroom to take his hot shower when he saw it. Their clothes were in a pile in the sink. And what was all over them? He looked a little closer, quickly turning green.
Oh. Oh, God. Surely he didn’t… Is that vomit?!
“You IDIOT,” he scolded himself out loud. Had he thrown up? Had Donna had to take care of him and clean him up and oh god, that was her dress. Shit, shit, shit. His eyes were wide with panic. He’d gotten blackout drunk, thrown up on himself, and Donna, and she cleaned it up and put him into bed. Oh this was NOT happening.
He’d been so determined to change the status of their relationship but every time he thought he was taking a step forward he took about five giant steps back.
He grabbed a plastic bag and threw the soiled clothing in it, tossing it out of the bathroom and into the hallway before he was ill again.
He took his shower and dressed, throwing his things into a suitcase while he tried to put together a plan (and find any missing pieces of several hours of his evening) as he headed downstairs.
He dropped his bag next to Donna’s and slouched into a chair next to C.J. and across from Toby.
The three of them exchanged glances and made a wordless deal to sit quietly and pray for death.
C.J. sipped her coffee slowly and nibbled a piece of toast.
“You need to eat something,” Donna told him, coming up from behind him and handing him a bottle of water and a piece of toast. “Get some coffee on your way out, your meeting starts in a few minutes.”
He sighed, knowing he needed to get his thoughts together before his call with the whip’s office, but he just didn’t have the energy.
She rested her hand lightly on his shoulder. “C’mon. I’ll get the call started.”
Summoning all of the energy he could find, Josh stood again and began to follow out of the room.
She dialed the Congresswoman’s office and handed the phone to Josh, who said a few words and then gladly let someone else on the call take the lead.
Donna took a big gulp of her warm coffee and looked him up and down. “Did you take the pills I left on your nightstand?”
“Yeah, thanks,” he told her, not really listening to the call. He’d muted himself and intended to just ride out the rest of the half hour- it was a pretty cut and dry issue and he was really just involved for some hand holding. “Hey, um,” he cleared his throat and looked at the floor speaking in a very low whisper, “I’ve, uh, I’ve got your dress in my bag. I’ll get it dry-cleaned when we get back to D.C.”
“Oh, okay, thanks,” she squeezed his arm, taking another drink of coffee. She looked at him again, and could tell he was struggling. “Sip?” she asked, holding her cup towards him.
He looked at the warm coffee and then back at her. “You’re offering me coffee?”
She chuckled. “Don’t get carried away, I’m offering you a drink of coffee since you’re on a call. And you know…” she smiled gently.
Ah. Yes. She was taking pity on him. But at the current moment he was too exhausted to care. “Donnatella Moss, you’re a goddess among women,” he quipped, taking a long drink of her cappuccino. Just then he had to take himself off of mute and rejoin the call to put a couple of Congressional staffers in line.
“Keep it,” she whispered, nodding to the coffee. She gave his arm a final squeeze and left to join the others to finalize a few things before heading back to the airport.
One thing lead to another and before they knew it the flight home was touching down at National and they were crowding into cabs and heading back to the White House.
Donna had barely seen Josh all day. She’d been tasked with giving C.J. and extra hand, and given the Press Secretary’s state that particular day, she had needed it. Even on the airplane they’d sat separately, having been split up at ticketing to accommodate a family traveling last minute. Now she was somehow crammed between Toby and Will while Josh made a quick stop at the OEOB on his way back.
Everyone went through the motions the rest of the day, filtering through their missed messages and the stacks of paper that had piled up in their absence, but they were all watching the clock too. Everyone was ready to go home and crash.
Donna was just finishing going through the last pile on Josh’s desk when he walked in.
He stood in the doorway, clearing his throat. He knew he had to apologize for getting sick the night before. She’d always taken such good care of him, and even though he knew he could be an ass about it, he secretly loves the way she has always watched over him. Loves? Jeeze, who was he turning into?
“Hey,” she greeted him, looking up with a grin. “How’d it go?”
“Fine,” he said, acting like an awkward teenager. “I thought you’d be gone by now.”
“Disappointed?” She teased him.
“No!” She raised any eyebrow at his over compensating response. Wow, she thought, the man really was terrible at this.
“You can go though, get some sleep.” He waved her off of what she was working on.
Though the thought of a hot shower and 10 hours of sleep did seem insanely tempting, she wasn’t used to Josh Lyman telling her to go home in any circumstance. But damn was he acting weird today.
She froze for a second. Was he acting this way because he was having second thoughts about the night before? Oh god, was he sorry it happened and now he was going to pull a stunt like this? Just act passive aggressive to her until she went away?! Donna thought she was going to be sick but she didn’t want to fall apart just yet.
“Oh, um, alright,” she stacked the last few papers. “I’ll see you in the morning?”
“Yeah. Donna, listen, about last night…” he scrubbed his hands over his face. “I’m sorry. I’m SOOO sorry. That was- I mean,” he let out a little laugh, not knowing what to say.
“You’re- You’re sorry?!” she asked incredulously.
“Yeah, of course I’m sorry! God, Donna, I’m down right embarrassed! Mortified, even!” he was whisper yelling.
She felt her stomach drop into her knees and her mouth gaped open for a moment, but he was looking away, unable to face her in his internal shame.
She’d managed to briefly pull herself together before he looked back at her. She was slowly nodding her head, trying to comprehend what he’d just told her.
“Look, like I said, I’ll get your dress dry cleaned but I’d appreciate it if we just acted like it never happened, okay?”
Her eyes went wide.
He got a little more desperate. “Please, Donna. I’ll owe you big time. I mean, lets NEVER speak of it again, under any circumstances.”
Her mind was running 1,000 miles per hour and he just kept talking.
“I’ll even throw in a shopping spree at that little boutique you like in Georgetown if you promise not to say anything. Some new shoes for your silence,” he joked, attempting to lighten the mood and banter with her until he was back in her good graces. “And hey, we’re supposed to finally go to that lunch you’ve been nagging me about for weeks tomorrow. We can go somewhere, you know, halfway decent.”
Something flashed in her eyes and her head spun over to look at him. “That won't be necessary. Goodnight, Mr. Lyman,” she spat at him tersely before turning on her heals and storming out, leaving Josh in a stunned and confused silence.
Hope you're enjoying this! I'm quite new at this and any feedback would be most appreciated!
Just a little side note... I'm kind of picking a choosing what happened in cannon... this is mostly cannon for the time being. No China summit, No Jack Reese, No talk from CJ before Gaza. Everything else is fair game unless noted. :)
"You're sure there's nothing I can help you with?" Will shifted in his seat uncomfortably.
Donna waved her hand at him. "No, no. Just ignore me." She took another bite of her salad. Josh was due back from his meeting on the hill at any point and she was watching TV in Will's office.
Ok, fine. She was hiding. She was avoiding him.
She'd gone back to her apartment the night before fuming mad at Josh Lyman. She'd slammed doors and even just yelled out loud to no one before tearing into a pint of Ben & Jerry's. It was only a few more seconds before her anger turned into unbridled heartbreak. She'd slid to the floor and sobbed uncontrollably- she wasn't even sure how long she sat there. Eventually, though, she took a hot shower and got into bed. Sleep, however, wouldn't come. She stared at her ceiling trying to figure out why things went so terribly wrong. How she could have so drastically misread Josh's feelings. She'd cried herself to sleep, waking up this morning resolved to hold her head high and not let this impact her job.
But here she sat, in Will's office, avoiding Josh.
He'd had a meeting on the hill first thing this morning and it had run long- or so she assumed. He hadn't really explained. All she knew was that he'd given her a hurried call to tell her to push his 10:30 to noon. And therefore cancelled their lunch once again.
Now, more than ever, she needed to talk to him. To figure out what in the hell was going on between them. Donna had played this out in her mind before and everything had been so- different. Sure, she'd wanted the happily ever after, the fairytale ending, but at the very least she thought they could continue to work together. This morning she'd told herself that the wounds were just fresh yesterday. That she was tired and so was she. But now, as she sits on the couch holding a salad she has no appetite for, she wonders if the gaping hole in her heart will ever be able to heal.
"Donna?" Will's voice was a little higher this time.
She looked over at him, seeing a startled expression on his face.
"Donna, are you crying?"
"No," she sniffled, gathering her things up. "It's- I think there's an onion or something in here," she lied, gesturing to her salad.
"UhhhKay…" Will was always uncomfortable with crying women, but even more so with this particular crying woman. Donna was so sweet and he really enjoyed her company, but he was a fast learner. And he would have had to be pretty stupid not to know you keep a safe distance from the DCOS's assistant at all times. He'd been warned of this well known fact of life in Washington by no less than 30 people, some more subtly than others. And he'd watched Josh and Donna interact, drawing his own first hand conclusions. He'd been in the bar two nights ago, and though he was having as much fun as everyone else, he'd seen them dancing a little, okay a lot, closer than boss/assistant. He was only a few feet away with a cute local brunette and they'd been as oblivious to him as the rest of the room was to them.
He vaguely thought that protocol in this scenario would be to hug his friend, and to comfort her. He also thought, however, he'd like to make it to dinner time without Josh Lyman decking him.
"Thanks for letting me hang out in here, Will," she told him sheepishly.
"Oh," he smiled. "Yeah, no problem. See ya, Donna."
Josh strolled into his office and threw his backpack onto a visitors chair. It may have taken all morning but he'd brow beaten the three crucial Republican Senators into submission. The vote would pass.
He needed this. He needed the win. Things had been shaky since Carrick and he was just getting back on level footing thanks to the seven day economic swing they'd all just returned from.
"Donna!" She hadn't been at her desk when he'd come back but she'd wandered by his still open office door. He'd had to blow off their lunch again today and he knew he was on thin ice with her. They'd rescheduled for the next day and he'd called ahead to make reservations at Morton's instead of planning on grabbing take out from the mess like usual.
She paused in the doorway. "Yes?"
"I brought you one of those lemon blueberry things from the place down the street." He knew he was on thin ice and needed to be extra nice to her. He was, at this moment, not above groveling.
She stared at him. She wanted the pastry but she'd just told herself not to let him get away with this.
He just looked so… confused. Kind of like a lost puppy. It broke her resolve.
And he knew the second it happened. He held the bag out to her and smiled.
"Give me that," she grabbed the treat hastily from his hand and headed back to her desk calling out his schedule the rest of the day over her shoulder and handing him the file he needed as he hurried to the Roosevelt Room for his next meeting.
Avoiding anything that she needed to be doing she wandered down the hall to C.J's office. C.J. was the one who had introduced her to the lemon blueberry bars to begin with and they always shared with each other.
"Carol isn't out there. You busy?" Donna peeked her head into the office.
"I'm never busy if that bag you're holding is from Gladstone's."
Donna smiled. "Astute observation, Ms. Cregg."
Donna gave CJ half of the treat and flopped down in an extra chair as C.J. leaned back and put her feet up on her desk.
"I was looking for you anyway," C.J. said, brushing some rogue powdered sugar off of her fingers. "We're still borderline on the vote so we're going to watch. But they're cleaning the carpets or something so we're getting take out and heading back to my place. Work for you?"
Donna stared at her shoes. "Who's we?"
C.J. laughed. "Everyone, I guess. Particular about the guest list all of the sudden, Donna?" She sat up and started rearranging things on her desk, obviously looking for something. "Toby, Will, Charlie, You and Me… and I assume your ego maniac boss will be joining us?"
Donna didn't say anything. She was trying to come up with a way to get out of it.
"I wanted to go over this report you put together for me too. It looks fantastic, Donna. You really outdid yourself."
"Oh, well, thank you," she blushed a bit at the compliment. C.J. was a close friend but she was also a powerful woman and a force to be reckoned with. Her praise meant a lot to Donna.
"Anyway, be there at 7. Charlie's getting the food and if we win Toby says he'll buy a round at that bar on the corner… though I'm still personally subscribing to the 'never drinking again' theory."
"Kay," Donna stood to return to her desk. "See you then."
Donna sat on C.J.'s couch and picked at her chicken and snow peas while she listened to Charlie and Toby bicker about college basketball. The truth was, she didn't have much of an appetite.
C.J. flopped down next to her. "I hate this couch," she stated flatly, surveying her own furniture. "I always have. Makes me wonder why I've had it for eight years and I've moved it cross country." She twisted her face as she studied the upholstery. "Where's idiot boy," she asked, looking up at Donna. "He missed his own damn vote."
Donna shrugged. "I don't know. He told me to head over here and I thought he'd be right behind me. He said he had something to do but I guess I supposed he meant… I don't know, change his shirt or something."
"Since when do you not know exactly what Josh is doing," Charlie nudged her playfully.
"Hey, if the boss says go home, you go home," Will jumped in with a joke, not even aware that he was rescuing her from the line of questioning.
"Well, shall we move this down to Corner Bar?" Toby was standing, hands in pocket, clearly ready to go. He was never one to want to loiter around anyone's home for a prolonged length of time.
"Call Josh," Charlie instructed Donna. "Tell him I said to be a man and come down for a beer."
Donna laughed, dialing her phone.
Josh was beat. It had been an unbearably long day. He'd been getting a weird vibe from Donna, the vote was causing him extra anxiety and it seemed that everyone wanted his opinion on something today.
He'd tried to head over to C.J.'s when Donna left, hoping he could give her a ride and maybe figure out why she looked like she was going to burst into tears all day. Just as he was walking back to his office, though, Leo had grabbed him and asked him to meet in the Oval in 20 minutes. Not wanting to further annoy Donna by ruining her plans he'd sent her on her way. It wouldn't do her any good to just be waiting at he desk for Josh- once again waiting on him.
The meeting in the Oval had dragged on and on. Josh would have liked to have bolted at the first possible moment but the President continued to ramble about the Pony Express. He thought he was going to scream before it was over. And then Leo had asked him to pull a file for him. It took Josh forever to find the requested information in Donna's insane system, but he wasn't about to call her and bother her about work. Thankfully Ed and Larry had ordered an extra large pizza with double cheese and taken pity on him, offering a few slices. The vote had passed and Josh was finally headed home. He was fine with taking a rain check on C.J.'s plans.
Lost in his thoughts he brushed shoulders with someone on the street, barely looking up as he muttered an apology in the form of a quick 'excuse me.'
Josh's eyes darted over. Oh, of course. Of all the people in D.C. he would bump into Amy.
"Amelia," he greeted her curtly.
"Bad day, J?"
"Hey, congrats on the vote tonight. Big win for Democrats."
"Thanks," he looked at her for the first time. "Why are you all dressed up?"
Amy wore a slinky red dress he'd seen before- perhaps on election night? He wasn't quite sure. The most striking feature of the dress, Josh thought, was the resemblance it bore to the one that Donna owned.
"Just left a mixer with a few Congressmen and lobbyists. Trying to get some momentum going on HB 692."
Josh nodded. That one was going to be a fight. But the White House wanted it to pass and it wasn't always bad to have Amy Gardner on your side, he thought.
"Yeah, not a bad idea. I think the key is going to be-"
Josh stopped mid sentence as his phone rang. He checked the caller ID to see Donna's number. He knew she probably wondered what had held him up.
"Hey," he said into the mouthpiece, turning partially away from Amy for some semblance of privacy.
"Well if it isn't Bartlet's Bulldog himself," she teased, but he could hear her smile on the other end of the phone. "I'm putting you on speakerphone. Are you still at the office?"
"JOSH! YOU'RE MISSING YOUR OWN CELEBRATION!"
"GET OVER HERE IDIOT BOY!"
"…seventh grade slumber party NON-SENSE."
He laughed, hearing the excitement in the background as his friends somewhat commandeered Donna's call.
"We're heading down to Corner Bar," CJ told him. "And your presence is in high demand."
"I dunno, I think I'm going to take a rain check," Josh began.
"Josh…" That one was Donna.
Ugh. He hated when she did that. She just said his name and he changed directions on whatever he was doing just to suit her.
"Fine. But just for a minute," he sighed.
"Good. Are you coming here? You missed dinner," CJ interjected. "But we still have plenty of take out."
"I already ate," he told them. "I'll see you in a bit. But I'm not staying long!"
He flipped his phone shut and turned around to see Amy still standing there.
"Well," she grinned at him. "Are you going to buy me a drink?"
"No." Josh wasn't too wild about going out in general. He certainly didn't want to add Amy to the mix.
Amy raised an eyebrow at him. "It's so hard to believe that things didn't work out between us," she said sarcastically. "I'm not trying to win you back or something, J," she said with borderline disgust in her voice. "I want to talk strategy for the vote."
Josh stretched his neck from side to side, but he did actually need to work with her on this, even if he didn't want to admit it. "Fine," he sighed. "Walk and talk."
And so they did. Right to Corner Bar.
"I'm just going to pop in and use the ladies room and then grab a cab home," Amy told him. "I won't crash your party," she joked, touching his arm somewhat playfully. "But we do need to get the rest of this ironed out. I'll have my office call Donna."
"Yeah, fine." Josh appeased her as they walked in, making a mental note to be sure and have Ed or Larry take that meeting.
Donna and C.J. had ordered Shirley Temples. It had only been two days and their love/hate relationship with whiskey sours was still officially in the 'hate' zone.
The bar wasn't overly crowded so everyone looked up with the door opened and Amy, clad in a skimpy red cocktail dress, entered with Josh.
Donna couldn't believe her eyes. He was out to dinner with Amy? That's why he'd blown them off? He'd made his intentions pretty clear to her but he didn't need to rub it in her face. She'd been willing to let a lot of things slide over the years to make this job work. She'd sacrificed pretty much her entire life for Josh Lyman and this job. And she'd never minded- it had always seemed worth it to her. She was doing something big. Something fantastic. And she'd always thought that she and Josh were, well, different.
Boundaries, she told herself. She needed boundaries with him. And she'd been attempting to talk to him about her job for weeks. Their personal life, though, whatever that is- or was, rather, was a different story. There was a line and they'd crossed it. And she couldn't watch him with Amy the rest of the night.
Donna looked around. Everyone else at the table was having a similar negative reaction to Amy's appearance. Toby audibly groaned and C.J. shook her head in dismay.
"Not again," Charlie muttered.
Donna watched Amy lightly touch Josh's arm before walking towards the ladies room. This, she thought, was her chance. She didn't want to have to play nice with her all night.
"Well, I'm beat," she told the table, Josh still out of earshot. "I'm going home."
"Don't let her. Don't let her win," Toby said softly, staring into his whiskey.
"Too late. She just did," Donna gave a cold laugh, throwing a couple bucks on the table to cover her drink and the tip. She looked up to see the concerned eyes of her friends, knowing that she'd likely already opened up too much. "See you guys tomorrow. Thanks for dinner, Ceej."
They all gave her weak smiles and bid her goodnight. Though they had no idea exactly what was going through Donna's mind at the moment, they'd all had their theories on the Moss/Lyman relationship and they could all see what Josh and Donna fought so hard to ignore.
"Where are you going," Josh asked as Donna attempted to breeze past him to the exit.
"Home." She wasn't in the mood for conversation.
"I just got here."
It hit him that she may be worried about having to play babysitter to him again. He decided to let it go and give it a little time.
"Oh. Well, hey, I just wanted to say great job tonight. That wouldn't have passed without you, Donna."
"Thanks." She was fidgeting, like she wanted to get out of the place a fast as he could.
He touched her cheek, cupping her face and forcing her to look at him as he studied her face a little closer, trying to figure out what was wrong. "You sure you're alright getting home?"
"I'm FINE, Josh." She shook him off. "I'll be in the office by 7." And with that she all but ran out of the bar.
The next morning was more of the same- chaos in the White House. Donna gathered her purse and her coat, straightening her skirt and composing herself as she walked into Josh's office.
"Ready to go?" He looked over at her.
"Our lunch. The lunch we've been trying to have. It's 11:45."
"I can't today, Donna. Another time, okay?"
"It's just crazy today. I've got a lot going on." He'd been in the sit room all morning though she'd thought it was in a budget meeting. Leo had wanted to keep it quiet, even within the West Wing and now he was reeling with this new information added to the pile of things he was already trying to handle.
Donna set her jaw. She'd had just about enough of this. He wouldn't even sit down and have a discussion with her. He was clearly avoiding even being in the same room with her. He pulled his overcoat on as his desk phone rang.
"Josh Lyman's office," Donna answered, looking for a pen and paper.
"Oh. I'll give him the message. Thanks."
She looked up at him. "You're heading to lunch." It wasn't a question.
"That was the front gate. Amy's waiting for you."
"Great, right on time." He threw the scarf around his neck. He was dreading this meeting but it was inevitable. They couldn't win the vote without Amy. And honestly he was a little afraid of what Donna was going to say to him in their lunch meeting. He just needed to buy some time to get back into her good graces. "Sorry about all this. It feels like the world's ending around here or something." He began to walk away from her.
"Tomorrow. Lunch. Definitely."
"I'll buy you dessert too."
"Josh, I quit."
He stopped turning, and realized that she was no longer walking with him, and stared at her.
"No, you don't. Come on, walk with me."
"Look at my face. I'm not messing with you." And she wasn't
"We'll talk about this later, Donna."
He laughed, walking out of the bullpen towards his lunch meeting. "She quits," he shook his head, walking out of the building to his dreaded lunch with Amy. He didn't have time for any of this today.
I hope you're enjoying this! As always, feedback would be greatly appreciated!
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
“Good Morning, Donnatella. Are you over your temper tant-“ Josh couldn’t even get the last syllable out as he looked over to her desk and stopped dead in his tracks.
“Who are you?”
“I’m Marla. You must be Mr. Lyman.”
“Again, who are you?”
“I’m the temp. Donna Moss trained me as her replacement.”
“Oh this is rich,” Josh muttered walking into his office and slamming the door. She’d be back by lunch.
Donna couldn’t remember the last time she’d had a real day off. She’d slept in, treated herself to a leisurely cup of coffee and painted her toenails. And now that her apartment was tidied and she was dressed for the day she was… bored.
She’d honestly halfway expected a call from Josh, or at the very least a desperate plea for help from Marla the temp, but her phone remained silent. She drummed her fingers on the counter, looking around her quiet kitchen. What to do, what to do…
She knew she had to find a job. Luckily her resume was already updated and ready to go. She hopped around from posting to posting on the internet, looking for something that fit what she was looking for. She’d worked on a Presidential campaign and in the White House- it wasn’t as if she lacked experience. She knew she could easily snag a job on the hill but she didn’t want to be an assistant anymore. She wanted a more hands on approach to politics.
She scrolled by the administrative positions and any staff positions with Congressmen she disliked. She also ruled out the majority leader’s office and the whips office- it seemed like Josh was there every day.
She perused a little more and studied her resume, wondering if it could use a little tweaking. She’d probably be better off with a recommendation letter but she couldn’t ask Josh for one of those now.
Going out on limb she picked up her phone and called Andi. The two of them had grown quite close on the CODEL and she knew that Andi was far enough removed from the White House that the conversation wasn’t like to get back to Josh.
Andi agreed to keep a silent ear out and let Donna know if she heard of any opportunities. She assured her that she would be a hot commodity on the hill. Everyone knew her pretty well from dealing with Josh’s office over the last years and she was well liked on both sides of the aisle. Andi had even begun to offer to create a position for Donna but she’d quickly declined- she didn’t want either of them to be in an awkward position over this.
Only a few hours later Donna’s phone was practically ringing off the hook. Senators, non-profits, lobbyists- you name it, they were making her offers. Some of them, admittedly, were a step down- but they were offers nonetheless. Confidence restored, Donna allowed herself some time to think about each of them and went out for a long walk- and perhaps a cup a frozen yogurt. The machine would catch her messages.
Donna took it easy for the next few weeks. She went home to Wisconsin to visit her family, though she was bitterly disappointed by her trip. She’d grown so much in her years in Washington and the great divide between herself and her relatives was certainly showing.
They didn’t agree with President Bartlet’s agenda. They wondered why anyone would sacrifice their social life for job as an assistant. They wondered why anyone would work for that man for so many years- he seemed like a pompous jackass on the news, one of her aunts had said. When they’d heard she quit her job they all assumed she was going to move back- to get some local job and marry a local guy and have babies- before its too late, you know, the same aunt had remarked.
And by the end of her trip Donna had realized what she’d been suspecting for years. She was on her own now.
When she flew back to D.C. her head felt somewhat more clear. Even though it wasn’t exactly a relaxing week in the tropics it was good to escape the frantic pace of the beltway and do some thinking about what she wanted.
She picked up the phone, dialing the number scribbled on the message pad. It was the job offer she’d been mulling over in her mind all week. It would be a change, that’s for sure. But she thought she could learn so much. And she could make a difference. Not to mention she’d have time to go back to school.
She accepted the offer, made a call to her landlord and readied the check for her school enrollment fee. But before she got to work packing her apartment she needed to make one more call.
“C.J., it’s Donna for you on line one,” Margaret’s voice came through the intercom.
“Donna!” C.J.’s jovial greeting was a welcome sound to Donna’s ears.
“Hey, C.J.! I just called to congratulate you on the big promotion.” Donna, despite the events of the last weeks, was disappointed for Josh. She felt he’d been robbed. But she was also C.J.’s friend and wanted to give her a pat on the back for this huge opportunity.
“Thank you! It’s quite the ride already,” she laughed. “And how are you? We miss seeing your smiling face around here every day.”
“Oh, I’m fine,” Donna was only partially lying. “I miss you guys too.”
She heard C.J.’s muffled voice, speaking to someone else.
“I’m so sorry but I have to go, Donna. Hey, I know you’re busy but can you meet me for dinner so we can catch up? My schedule is open next Thursday. Maybe around 8?”
“I’m sorry, C.J. I know you’re slammed but is there any way you’re available for tonight?”
“Alright… I can move some things around. Meet you at the White House gates around… 7:30?”
Donna paused on the suggestion that she return to the building. “Ummm… we can just meet…”
C.J. cut her off. “He’s not here, Donna. You won’t run into him.” Her tone was softer, but not at all condescending or full of pity. And that, she decided, was the essence of what she loved the most about her friendship with C.J.
“Great,” Donna smiled. “See you then.”
Donna stood outside the White House gates and checked her watch. Her pass had been revoked when she’d left her job. She was waiting for C.J. but she was freezing, even in her pea coat and scarf. She was enjoying the lack of stress she now had in her life when she stood in front of this building and watched the tourists wander by and take it all in.
“TAXI,” her serenity was broken. She’d know that voice anywhere, especially when he was bellowing.
He rushed right up to the street, holding a small box under his arm in addition to the backpack that was slung over his shoulder and he was standing next to Congressman Santos.
“Joshua.” Her tone was soft but it was enough to cause him to startle, turning around to face her.
He was clearly caught off guard by her presence. “Donna.”
She wasn’t sure what to say so she kept it professional, turning to Matt Santos while Josh got his thoughts together.
“Congressman Santos, great to see you,” he extended his hand to greet her. “Miss Moss. Always a pleasure.”
“You two know each other?”
Donna rolled her eyes and Matt gave a hearty laugh. “Everyone knows Donna. And more importantly everyone knows Donna. She’s the only reason anyone on the hill is even willing to take a call from your office, Josh!” He was kidding, but not by much.
“Can you give us a minute,” Josh requested and Matt walked a few yards away to speak to a group of tourists with University of Texas hats on.
“So, does this mean you’ve found your man?” Donna asked playfully.
“How did you know- I mean, of all the things-“
“I’m still tuned to you, Josh. Can’t undo 8 years of that in 2 months.”
He looked at the ground, unsure of what to say.
“You should be with me on this,” he finally muttered. “He’s the guy. He’s the real deal.”
Donna smiled sadly. “I appreciate that Josh, but I think its pretty clear that we can’t work together right now.
“I need help, Donna. I have a million things to do.”
She shook her head. His body language was so cold and even though part of her wanted to drop what she was doing and follow him wherever he’d lead her, she knew she couldn’t do that. She needed to prove herself. She couldn’t just be Josh Lyman’s assistant for the rest of her life. And she especially couldn’t be that girl anymore- things had changed for them and she had to acknowledge it and move on.
“I thought the Vice President was going to be the nominee?” She changed the subject, picking at him a little bit.
“Bingo Bob? Donna, come on! We can’t just hand him the White House.”
She didn’t respond, but she didn’t disagree either.
“Do your thing, Josh. I’ll do mine. And maybe, at some point down the road, we can see if our paths cross again. And in the mean time, well, we both need to concentrate on ourselves and our careers.”
He shook his head. “It’s now or never. I’m risking everything I have and I can’t have any distractions down the road. This is a campaign for Presidency, Donna, and there’s nothing-“
“- that you take more seriously than that. Yes. I know,” she finished his sentence.
But that wasn’t what he was going to say at all. He was going to tell her that he needed her- not as his assistant, but as his partner. That he couldn’t do this without her. Hell, that he didn’t want to do this without her. That he thought now that they were both out of the White House he’d have the guts to make a move. That he’d been carrying an antique engagement ring for her in his backpack for the better part of six years.
“Donna?” She turned at the sound of her name, breaking the trance from their conversation.
“Charlie!” She gave him a warm embrace. “It’s so good to see you!”
Charlie shook Josh’s hand before turning back to Donna. “She’s tied up for a minute, she wants to know if you can wait in her office.”
Donna nodded to Charlie, realizing her conversation with Josh probably needed to be corked anyway. Wouldn’t the post love it to hear a senior staffer screaming about the inadequacies of the Vice President on the sidewalk in front of the White House?
She turned back to Josh, Charlie waiting to escort her through security only a few steps away. He wanted to continue their conversation but he knew this wasn’t the time or place. He’d clear his head and go to her later this week. Maybe with a bouquet of flowers and a dinner reservation somewhere nice. Maybe that French place she was always talking to Leo about.
Donna gave him a sad but gentile smile, cupping his cheek with her hand and knowing she didn’t want to leave him on a bad note. “I know you’re capable of anything you set your mind to, Joshua, and I also know that this is so important to you,” she told him honestly. “Do good.” And with that stood on her tip toes and lightly kissed his cheek before squeezing his arm an joining Charlie to walk into the White House. She hoped she now had her closure on Josh Lyman.
C.J. had guessed something was off with Donna when she’d asked to meet her on such short notice, but she didn’t want to pry. So, they walked to dinner and made lighthearted conversation while they waited for their entrees.
Once Donna was most of the way through her grilled chicken salad she knew she had to tell C.J. what was going on.
“I took a job,” she blurted out. “And that’s why I wanted to have dinner with you.”
“Oh, well, that’s great, Donna.” And C.J. meant it. She knew her friend was tremendously capable.
“The thing is- Well, I’m leaving town.”
C.J. stopped eating and looked up. She didn’t say anything, waiting for Donna to give her more information, but she didn’t continue.
“And that’s why I wanted to have dinner. I leave in the morning and I just wanted to say goodbye. C.J. you’ve always been such an amazing friend and mentor. I have all the respect in the world for you and-“
“Donna, don’t act like we’re never going to speak to each other again.”
“You’re right. You’re right.” But Donna wasn’t convinced. She knew that tomorrow morning when she got in her car with her belongings and hit the road that she was beginning yet another new chapter of her life.
C.J. was silent for a moment but she went out on a limb. “You know, he’s not the same without you.” Donna opened her mouth to protest but C.J. continued. “He’s lost and miserable. I don’t know exactly what happened between the two of you, and lord knows I probably don’t want to, but he’s crazy without you. I mean, he left the White House!”
Donna bit her bottom lip. “I just can’t do it anymore, C.J. And yeah, he did leave the White House but it had nothing to do with me. Leo wanted him to find his guy and even after all these years that wasn’t a conversation that I was privy to- it wasn’t something he trusted me with or wanted me involved in or whatever. And that’s fine. I’m just an assistant. It’s just that I have given him so many years of my life, and that’s okay, I was doing what I wanted to, but I always wondered what would become of it and- well, now I know.”
“What do you know? Where are you going, Donna?” C.J. was somewhat startled by what she was hearing, though she’d watched Josh flounder at personal relationships for years so she should hardly have been surprised. But somehow he’d always been able to find his way with Donna- even if he was missing the obvious. He never seemed to have seen what everyone else saw between them. She wondered what had changed.
“I’m trying something new. And I’m going to leave out the specifics. It’ll be easier if you have to deal with him. I’m sure eventually he will have questions about where I’ve been taking his dry cleaning for the last 7 years and he will try to track me down. The less you know for now the better. I’ll email you once I’m settled.”
“Donna, I don’t know what to say-”
Donna waived C.J. off, not wanting to put her in the middle of all of this- or talk about it. She knew she had to change the subject if she had any chance of choking back the tears.
“Desert?” Donna offered, pulling an emotional mask over her face and attempting to finish one last dinner with her friend on a high note.
Her things were all put away in her new apartment. The space contained the same objects as her place in D.C. had, but it just wasn’t quite home yet. She sighed. It would be soon enough, she assumed.
She’d managed to find a buyer for her car almost immediately, giving her some extra money to pad her savings account and to save her on parking costs in the city. She’d be walking most places now anyway. She’d also put out an ad for a room mate- she’d found a great deal subletting a 2 bedroom apartment, but she didn’t need all that space and it would be great to have a built in friend in a new city.
She took out her old checkbook and scribbled out the most she could afford to part with. She hesitated for a moment before writing an extra little note in the memo line and placing it into an envelope. She grabbed her keys and a jacket and headed out into the night for some fresh air in search of a mailbox.
After a few blocks she popped the letter into the mailbox and headed across the street to the drug store to pick up a few things before returning home. It was only when the small shopping basket was practically overflowing in Donna’s arms that she’d done the math. Six weeks. Surely she did the math wrong… No. It had been six weeks. She gulped, placing the box into her basket and checking out, barely able to contain heart rate on the way back to her new little apartment.
She sat on her bathroom floor, eyes as wide as saucers, and stared at the blue plus sign. Even with the uncertainty of her new little life and the turmoil over the past few months she couldn’t help but smile.
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
Ok, so this one is a bit long but I couldn't think of any other way to chop it up. Best served cohesive ;)
Hope you stick with me. I'm LOVING your reviews! So motivating :)
Cannon notes for this one: the phone bit is out of order from original cannon and Leo doesn't have a heart attack (YAY! LEO!)
Donna finally sat down on her sofa- she'd been going all day and her feet were killing her. She'd started her new job in the New York City mayor's office and quickly found her footing. They'd loved the work she was doing and moved her from special projects team member to be the liaison from the Mayor's office to the department of education and teacher's union. She was thriving.
She'd also started school at Columbia. She'd gotten a full scholarship and between the classes she'd taken when she was a student in Wisconsin and the credit they were willing to give her for the time she'd worked in the White House she could have her degree completed within the year.
She'd also had her first obstetrician appointment that morning. And the doctor confirmed what she knew- she was in fact pregnant. Everything looked healthy, he'd told her, so she'd take her pre natal vitamins and follow up in another month. She'd been shocked to say the least, but the organizational part of her brain took over before she could panic.
She'd sublet her spare bedroom on a six month lease to a 19 year old sophomore form the UK spending a semester at NYU. She'd be out before the baby came and she'd provide Donna with half the rent and some company in the mean time. Donna had also taken a waitressing job, serving coffee to the brunch crowd on weekend mornings to pad her savings account for the baby. She was aware of the irony.
But there was one thing she hadn't done. She hadn't told Josh. Sure, she'd picked up the phone about 400 times but she could never bring herself to call him. Maybe, she thought, after the 12 week visit. That's when she could start 'telling' people. But who did she have to tell? It wasn't as though she had a friend base in the city. And her family, who already scoffed at her life choices, wouldn't exactly be over the moon about this little development.
Things were off to a slow start for the Santos Campaign. But at least it was a start. Josh was burning the candle at both ends and he felt like he was making very little headway. He had unsure footing with the staff, minimal control of his candidate and the war chest was damn near out of money.
He sat at the folding table he was using as a makeshift desk among the life boats and went over the daily spending reports, tapping his pencil to see where he could cut back. They'd drained all the resources he could think of at the moment and they were still a few bucks short from their needed ad buy.
"Here's the mail," Ronna handed him a stack of papers, "and all of the donations that came in today. We're headed back to the hotel, don't stay too late."
"Night." Josh grabbed the stack of checks first, hoping for the best. He flipped through, glancing at the amounts. Most of them were likely the result of the Congressman's latest local speech. They were personal contributions in fairly small amounts but they certainly added up and made a difference. Thumbing through, he stopped short, her signature immediately catching his eye.
He pulled her check from the stack and stared at her nearly illegible handwriting in the memo note, scribbling out a message that he knew was meant just for him. How could she afford to send him that much? It startled him that he knew so little about her life right now. The check, he noticed, must have been old. Her old apartment in D.C. was listed on there and he knew first hand that she'd moved out.
He'd gone to find her the night after they'd bumped into one another in front of the White House. He'd purchased two dozen roses and a pint of her favorite ice cream and shown up on her doorstep only to find the lights out and the locks changed. He'd wanted her to come to New Hampshire with him- and even though he was still hurt from her departure he needed to clear the air between them. He still wasn't sure what had spiraled so out of control.
He quickly sorted through the incoming mail, hoping that Donna had perhaps sent an accompanying card or letter- but there was no luck. He was so desperate to find her. After his realization that she'd left D.C. he'd become frantic. He drove straight to C.J.'s but he hadn't gotten anywhere with her. Donna had barely given any information, C.J. had told him, because of this exact scenario. But C.J. had promised to let him know when she emailed to say that she was okay. And she'd made good on her word but still didn't have any detailed information on Donna's whereabouts.
Josh flipped open his cell phone and punched a few numbers in. "Ronna? It's Josh. Listen, where are the envelopes that these donation checks came in. I'm looking all over," he pushed the papers around on her desk, desperate to find a return address for Donna.
"I'm sure they've been thrown away," she answered calmly, unaware of the emotional mayhem in Josh's mind. "Most of them came in yesterday and Ned took out the trash last night."
"Damnit," Josh scrubbed his free hand over his face. "Ok, listen to me. Do either of you remember seeing an envelope from a Donnatella Moss? Or what the return address was? Even just the city?"
"Donnatella Moss," Ronna repeated. "I remember that one, I opened it. Unusual name. I don't know anything about the address though, I just remember the memo on the check said-"
"I KNOW WHAT IT SAYS!" Josh burst out, closing his eyes for a moment to regain his composure. "I need you to really think, Ronna. What was the address. Ask Ned if he saw it."
"I just don't remember, Josh. I'm so sorry. There's just so much mail…" she trailed off and he could hear her cover the speaker to her cell a bit as she asked Ned if he'd seen a return address.
"I'm sorry, no, he doesn't know," Ronna said, this time with sincerity. "If anything else comes from Donnatella Moss I'll send it right to you," Ronna assured him.
"Donnatella Moss," the Congressman repeated in the background, presumably to Ned. "He should never have let that one slip away."
The end of Donna's first trimester had come and gone, and she still hadn't spoken to Josh. She'd intended to, but never did. She followed the campaign coverage and knew his stress level was through the roof. It always seemed like one thing after another would be more pressing. She didn't want to add that additional layer of stress to his life. Besides, she was getting along fine on her own.
She also couldn't help but to fear his rejection once again. She'd replayed their conversation in his office after their return from the economic trip over and over in her mind, giving her a bitter taste when it came to anything to do with him. She'd always thought that this would be different. That if they were to have a baby he'd be there. Sure, he'd be freaked out at first- it was Josh after all- but that they would ultimately be a united front- and in some state of eternal bliss.
And honestly, he was doing something important. Something huge. He was trying to make a man President. And there was nothing more important in his life. Nothing. Which, Donna supposed, is why he didn't have a life. He'd pushed her away. She can take a hint. Maybe after the nomination, she thought. The Vice President had the lead anyway, this could very well all be over soon.
She'd been spending her free time shopping and slowly getting ready for the baby. She loved the second hand stores in the city and she already had most of the large purchases she needed. She'd just finished classes and had a week break before her summer session. Everything was going surprisingly well, Donna thought.
"We're going to be just fine, aren't we, little one?" She reassured both herself and her bump.
Josh sat in his war room, phone clutched to his chest. This was not happening. Baker threw his hat into the ring and everything had turned to mayhem. Josh had run through every scenario in his mind, counting and re-counting ways to get to the 2162 votes needed. And he knew there was only one way to do it- the teacher's unions. And they weren't exactly jumping up and down for Matt Santos. He'd just returned from a meeting with Ernie Gambelli who'd told him in no uncertain terms that unless Santos' budged on teacher tenure, Gambelli wouldn't be throwing votes his way.
Josh was working himself into a later, trying to determine what his next step would be when his cell phone rang. He flipped it open without checking the caller I.D.
"Josh, it's Ernie Gambelli. Listen, is it too late for that meeting? I'm downstairs."
Josh hopped up from his seat and was downstairs in a flash, shaking the man's hand. Josh didn't say much as he lead Gambelli into a private office, the President at the ready if the leader of the teacher's union needed additional persuasion. Josh, however, hadn't said anything when Gambelli informed him that all of New York's delegates would be going to Santos.
Josh couldn't help but to show a smirk.
"Don't flatter yourself, Lyman," Gambelli told him. "It was a very convincing phone call from a woman in my office. She's a liaison from the Mayor. She's pretty politically savvy and not to mention well liked. She talked me into Santos, laid out the benefits instead of just shoving it down my throat like you do. Maybe you should take a page out of her book. She's a big Santos fan- has a lot of faith in you too. And I'd say she just won you the nomination."
Josh nodded his head. Someone out there was defiantly looking out for him today.
Donna hung up the phone with Mr. Gambelli, letting out a deep sigh of relief. Maybe Josh had something else up his sleeve but with the Baker upset she was worried about the race to 2162, so she'd put herself on the line and helped the only way she new how. By pitching Santos' education plan- and the man himself- to the head of the teacher's union. She'd met him several times and although it probably put her career at risk to speak so out of turn she hadn't even thought twice about it.
She looked back at the TV and watched Matt Santos and Leo walk on stage and accept the Democratic nomination.
"Yayyy," she cheered quietly in a baby talk manner, speaking to her stomach. "Look what Daddy did!"
Josh had been nervous all day. It wasn't anything in particular- but it was everything combined. They were six weeks from election day and everything was coming to a head. He'd worked himself into a later almost every day for the past week and if it wasn't for Leo he probably would have blown his top already.
He'd snagged Will after the convention and convinced him to come on board as a consultant to help Otto and Lou. In a sea of people looking to Josh for direction he was glad he had a familiar face. At least someone kind of knew how he worked.
"Let's go downstairs and grab a beer, Josh."
"No time," Josh didn't even look up from his paperwork when Will let him into Josh's office. He'd been practically undisturbed all afternoon. He'd blown up at Otto, admittedly an overreaction, and since then everyone had been steering clear of him.
"Dinner. You've gotta eat."
Josh still didn't stop what he was doing. "Pass."
"Listen, Josh. I don't know what's going on but everyone's a little freaked out by what happened earlier today."
"Save it, Will. You can go home for the night."
Will raised his eyebrows but was unsure of how to reach his boss at the moment. The only person who was able to cut through Josh's exterior was Donna and she was currently nowhere to be found.
Defeated, Will left, passing Leo on the way out. "You heard," he asked.
Leo nodded that he did. "Go home, Will. I'll take it from here."
Leo stood in the doorway to Josh's office and watched him work. "How's it goin, kid?"
Josh finally looked up, acknowledging Leo who made himself comfortable infront of Josh's desk.
Josh leaned back in his chair and Leo noticed just how tired he looked.
"It's been better," Josh admitted.
"Heard you had a little run in with the new kid."
Josh groaned. Of all the things he had to do tonight, talking about this was not on the top of the list.
"He's too sensitive. This is a campaign for the Presidency and it's crunch time!"
"Josh, you're wound too tight. You can't keep going on like this. So he had your Blackberry for a few minutes, he's your assistant. You can't snap at the kid. What could have happened in the few minutes?"
"She called." Josh leaned forward and scrubbed his hands over his face. "She called while Otto had the phone. She called collect- God knows why or what kind of trouble she had to have been in to call me and to call collect- and some intern that Otto had doing the Blackberry updates didn't accept the charges. Didn't know who she was."
"Who is she?"
He stopped and looked up at Leo, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "Donna."
"Donna?" Leo furrowed his brow. "Donna Moss?"
Josh nodded his head. "The one and only. He didn't let her call through. She slipped through my fingers again."
Donna sat the phone down and bit her bottom lip. She couldn't speak to him. She should have called him months ago, but she didn't. And now here she sat, alone and afraid, and she can't reach him.
The guy who'd answered his phone- he'd had no idea who she was. Not that she could guarantee Josh would have taken her call either way. Okay, that's not true. One thing she could say is that Josh would definitely hear her out.
But she'd had to call collect- she couldn't have her cell phone on in here and his number was long distance from New York. And that kid, the one she supposed was his new assistant, wouldn't even accept her call or take a message. He'd told her Josh was busy. 'He's an important man in high demand,' he'd stated. He could give her information on how to volunteer locally and she could get in touch with someone there. She'd tried to explain it was a personal call, but she was advised to try again after the election if it was personal. The kid had joked with her and then the time had cut out and the call had ended.
She wiped the tears from her cheeks and cleared her throat, arranging the pillows behind her in the hospital bed. She had other things to focus on right now.
She'd gone into labor late that morning, completely caught off guard. It had been too early- way too early. But he was here now- her son. Their son. John Bartlet Moss, Jack for short. Named after two Presidents that Josh had always approved of. Well, and Donna's grandfather.
The nurse had taken him to the NICU but she'd had just a few moments with him before that. Enough time to take in his sweet little face and see Josh's curls on his tiny head. She'd been repeatedly assured that his condition was stable, but she knew he had plenty of obstacles in the next months.
A nurse would be coming over in a little bit to take Donna down to see him again. But in the mean time she pulled out a pad and paper and began to write. And by the time the nurse appeared with a wheelchair she had just sealed the second envelope and placed them in her hospital bag. One to Josh. A very long letter to Josh that she'd give him some day. She'd stick it in the shoebox with the others. And one to his mother. Because she had nearly as much that she'd like to express to Judy Lyman.
He was fairly sure that he hadn't had more than 3 consecutive hours of sleep in the better part of a year. But tonight that had all paid off. He listened to Matthew Santos, flanked by Leo, give an acceptance speech and take the Presidency.
But even with all of the cheering and pats on the back, something was still missing for him. He stepped into the hallway and called C.J.
"Well if it isn't the man of the hour," he could hear her smile through the phone. "Congratulations, mi amor!"
"Thanks… Hey, listen, Ceej, I need… I need a favor. I've been trying to keep you out of it but I can't anymore. Just let me have her new email address. She tried to call me and it turned into a whole ordeal and…" he sighed, leaning back against the wall, unsure of what else to say.
"You okay, Josh?"
"No. Yeah. I don't know," he was admitting honestly. "It's all exciting, but the hard work, the actual work, is just getting started."
"Oh, don't I know it," she reassured him. "Write this down and don't do anything stupid."
He scribbled Donna's email address down and thanked C.J., ending the call.
He wasn't quite sure how to go about things so he kept it brief, knowing that the likelihood of her responding, or in his mind even reading it, was probably extremely low.
I've come to realize that even victory is empty without you by my side.
He clicked send and pocketed his Blackberry, standing in the hall for a moment and trying to work up the energy to rejoin the celebrations.
He was startled when he felt a buzz, pulling it out to read the quick response. And then he walked out onto the stage, a genuine smile on his face.
She lay on the couch in her apartment, the tiny infant snuggled into her chest. After many long weeks in the NICU he'd come home today- on election day. It was fitting, she'd thought.
Donna had voted early and then been able to bring him home, at six weeks old. He a little bit small but he was healthy, and she was grateful. She'd watched Josh's guy win and cheered him on from her living room, telling baby Jack all about what was happening on TV. And all about the important work that his father had done to shape the nation for the next years.
He'd just dozed off after his feeding when her computer signaled new email. She couldn't believe it when she saw who the sender was.
She responded immediately.
Been thinking of you and watching you on TV all day- and for months, really.
You da man.
Enjoy your victory tonight. Let's sit down and talk soon.
She watched him reappear on the stage, a full dimpled grin on his face, and give Leo a warm embrace. She watched the coverage until the network moved on, stroking the soft curls on Jack's head and kissing the little dimples on his cheeks. He was certainly his father's son.
It had been a few weeks since election night and Josh was sleeping even less. He didn't even think that was possible. It was well past 1 am when he'd looked at the clock in his office. He clicked back to his email and was somewhat surprised to see a new message.
Hope you're getting settled back into D.C.—and maybe getting some sleep (though I know you so I doubt you are.)
Can we schedule that talk?
It was simple but it still brought an unexpected easiness over him.
You're one to talk, it's almost 2 in the morning! Or at least it is here. I'm not sure where you are.
My schedule is a little tight right now. What have you been up to?
They emailed back and forth over the next couple days but she'd avoided any attempts he'd made to ask about her life. She'd only requested that they talk in person before the inauguration.
He couldn't deal with it now. He was still somewhat angry at her for leaving him to begin with. And though he wanted her to be back in his life he couldn't easily just move on from the abandonment he felt the year prior. He needed her to understand. To wait until his life was a little more stable. He couldn't give her the attention that he would knew this would need right now.
Over the course of their absence from each other's lives and their email exchanges a bit of unacknowledged hostility had bloomed. They'd both sat on so many unvented emotions for so long, that they'd both stopped acknowledging the root of the problem. Anger, bitterness, passive aggressive hostility and sadness loomed between them, growing with each non confrontational exchange
He was currently trying to convince Sam to come back to D.C. and he couldn't focus on anything else.
He stood in the Starbucks across from Sam's firm in L.A. when he felt his Blackberry buzz.
Didn't hear back from you last time. Everything okay? Have some time for me this week? Maybe Friday?
28 days to go :)
He sighed, already irritated from his delayed flight and the less than warm welcome from Sam. But he certainly wouldn't ignore her.
Can't do this week. On east coast.
She fired back immediately. She must have been sitting at her computer.
I'm just asking for a few minutes, Josh. Work with me here. It's important.
20 days to go.
His fingers typed furiously on the small keypad. His anger had a shorter than ever fuse lately and he clicked send, shoving the phone back into his pocket and taking his Venti dark roast from the barista.
We'll work something out but I really don't think I can make your deadline. You know how it is in transition. This is everything and I can't look away from what I'm doing until we take office. This is the most important thing I'll ever do, Donna. You know that. For right now, for these years, nothing is more important than my job.
He realized what he said may have been a bit more harsh than he'd intended. He also realize that they were now forgoing the greetings and pleasantries.
Joshua! This is me. Asking you for fifteen minutes of your time. It's important to me. And it has to be in the next twenty days. I have an opportunity and I don't want to do anything until we talk. I won't keep badgering you, I know you're busy. Please. Please, just carve out some time.
Take care of yourself, Joshua.
He didn't know how to respond so he threw himself into his work. Whatever she'd needed could wait, he'd decided. He didn't want to weigh in on any career decisions she had now anyway. She'd made it more than clear that she thought he'd kept her in a position that was beneath her for years and he didn't want to be accused of giving he bad advice.
They'd emailed a few more times, but things had come up. He'd consistently skirted the issue.
The only high point in transition was that Josh had convinced Sam to come back to work. He finally had one person he could wholly depend on. He'd be back in D.C. tomorrow, three days before inauguration, provided that Josh meet a few conditions, the main one being a visit or two with Stanley and a trip to the cardiologist. Josh had put them off but he'd finally made appointments for the following weeks.
Now he just had to get through the next few days without a meltdown.
It was warmer than usual for January in D.C., but that wasn't really saying much. Donna bundled Jack in as many layers as she could and wrapped a scarf around herself, making her way to the National Mall with the throngs of others. They stood in the crowd, watching Josh's guy swear in as President. Donna had the lady standing next to her snap a photo of her and the baby with the Capital steps in the background, the pomp and circumstance underway in full force.
After the ceremony she went out on a limb and walked to Josh's apartment. It was a long shot but it was all that she had. She knew the way to his brownstone by memory and her mind wandered as she walked the familiar route, holding a sleeping Jack close. Someone held the outer door for her and she made the familiar climb up the steps to his door.
She noticed a decorative mat in the hallway, not a detail her Josh Lyman would have thought of. She held her breath and knocked, the door answered by a woman in her mid fifties. She explained she'd moved in three weeks ago, that she'd gotten an excellent deal on the place because the guy needed to move in a hurry. And no, she didn't have a forwarding address.
Donna nodded her appreciation, fighting the tears and pulling Jack a little closer. It made sense, she supposed. New job, new apartment. The secret service probably wouldn't have been crazy about this brownstone to begin with and he'd be under protection with the Kazakhstan conflict. But she didn't know where else to turn.
Maybe, she thought, this was fate giving her a clear signal. She could make it without him, even if she didn't want to. And it was pretty clear that he was doing just fine without her.
Josh stood in his office, straightening his clip on bow tie. They'd made it. Now he had eight inaugural balls to attend- not his idea of a good evening. At least Sam was here now, so he'd have someone to talk to. It was a strange feeling, walking through the corridors with so many unfamiliar faces. Leo was now in the Vice President's office, taking Margaret with him; the Bartlets, Toby and C.J. had headed out. Sam was back, and Will had stayed on in a smaller advisory role, but it just wasn't the same.
Mostly, he missed Donna. He knew he'd royally fucked things up with her once again. He couldn't grasp her obsession with the timeline. His life was a crazy mess right now and she had to understand that- she knew how he worked better than anyone.
Besides, she'd left him. And if he was completely honest with himself he hadn't gotten over that.
He strode through the corridors and into the motorcade, killing time at ball after ball. Glad handing donors and playing nice with the people he'd be working with over the next four- hopefully eight- years.
"These don't seem to become any more fun as the night goes on, do they?" Sam sidled up next to Josh at the bar in the far corner.
Josh raised his glass to that sentiment, finishing his scotch and ordering another.
"Gentlemen," Will greeted them with a nod.
The three made small talk, none of them overly eager to socialize with the other guests.
"Haven't seen you drink that much since our little New Orleans excursion," Will teased Josh.
Josh looked into his drink but didn't respond.
Sam, however, didn't miss a beat. "What happened in New Orleans?"
Will grinned. "We had quite the evening. All of us. C.J. did the Jackal."
Sam chuckled and Josh looked up.
"She did the Jackal in front of the press corps?" Josh did smirk at that. "I don't remember that. We were all a little worse for wear but that's a bold move."
"Yeah, at that second place. The one where you were…" Will waived his hand around.
"Where I was what?"
"You know. With Donna."
Josh froze. "What?"
Sam was now watching the exchange with renewed interest.
"That jazz band was playing," he continued, speaking mostly to Sam and not realizing how vague Josh's memory was of the situation. "And we'd all just come over to that dive bar from the place we had dinner. C.J. had done the Jackal on the sidewalk and the press corps brought us shots."
"Tequila." Josh added softly, the memory fading into the foreground of his mind for the first time.
Will nodded, continuing with his story. "So then we all started dancing. You know who can really dance? Gary, from the press pool. The man must have some kind of training, really. It's astounding."
The memory faded into Josh's mind and he stood up a bit taller and took a deep breath. "I danced with Donna," he said out loud, though he hadn't intended to.
"Is that what the kids are calling it these days," Will chuckled.
Josh's head spun quickly to glare at Will. "Don't," he almost shouted.
His mind was reeling as he slammed his glass back down on the counter and stormed outside, needing some fresh air.
W every step he took on the balcony the images in his mind became more and more clear.
"Shit," he shouted, tucking his hands around the unbuttoned jacket of his tux and into his pockets. He desperately wished he had something to throw. His anxiety was now through the roof and he felt as though he was sick to his stomach.
He'd blown it. He'd finally worked up the nerve and then he'd shot it all to hell.
A one night stand was the last thing he'd wanted with her. And he'd even manage to ruin that.
She deserved the world, and he'd wanted to give it to her. He'd wanted to date her and savor her. HE wanted to woo her and to let her know how valuable she was to him- how integral she was to his life. Hell, he wanted to marry her.
"Josh, you alright buddy?" Sam had followed him onto the balcony.
'NO,' he wanted to scream. 'I've never been less alright in my life!' But after his conversation with Sam and his current proximity to the press corps he reigned in his desperation.
Josh cleared his throat, but didn't look at Sam. His gaze remained on the D.C. skyline. He didn't answer. He just composed himself and went back to work. He had to do something, but whatever he did regarding the mess of a lifetime, he knew he needed to do when he didn't have four glasses of scotch clouding his brain. He'd call her, finally take her up on her request to chat. He'd kicked himself for putting her off at all. For not pulling every resource he had to track her down in the first place. But at this point it had been over a year since she'd left. He told himself it could wait another twelve hours.
At 4 am Donna checked her bags BWI and she and Jack boarded an aircraft for London.
Don't hate me! but i totally understand if you do...
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
Donna and Jack had just settled back in to her apartment in New York. She'd been given the opportunity to study abroad in London for the winter and summer semesters and she couldn't turn it down. It was an amazing opportunity and it significantly expedited the work she was doing on her Master's degree.
But now that she had that wonderful experience out of the way she cold get back to work and resume her life. She'd been able to hop back into her old position at the Mayor's office. She'd start Monday, giving them enough time to get their lives back to normal in New York.
The main thing that had been on her mind for the past several months was Josh. She couldn't escape him- lord knows she tried. But she knew that she had to resolve things between the once and for all. It wasn't about her any more. It was about Jack. And he and Josh deserved to know each other. She'd never meant for it to get out of control like this.
She'd called the switchboard at the White House but she wasn't able to get through. Road blocks like that, however, weren't going to stop her any more. She'd been trying to come up with a plan all afternoon and as she sat in her living room on a Tuesday in late August folding a load of towels it finally came to her.
She flipped her laptop open and pulled up a website… She thought she'd heard somewhere that… Yes! There it is! She jotted down and address and glanced at the clock. She should have just enough time to get down there. She gathered her things and knocked on her elderly neighbor's door. Maureen, the sweet lady across the hall, always jumped at any opportunity to sit with Jack while Donna ran errands. It was good for both of them, Donna thought.
She was out the door in a flash, grabbing a cab and giving the driver the address she'd written down moments earlier. She sat back for the first time, trying to figure out how to go about this. There was no use mincing words with him, she told herself. But she wouldn't bring up Jack if she could avoid it. Josh deserved to be the first to know.
Paying her fare she hopped out and almost jogged the rest of the distance, making it to the large old building just in plenty of time. She stood near the rear entrance an listened, somehow both comforted and amused by the tone and the content of his class. Once he dismissed them, the students left in quick droves, only a few staying behind for follow up questions on their assignment. She continued to hang back until they were gone and he'd returned to his desk to gather his paperwork.
She stepped inside and walked down to front.
"Toby," she asked, surprised to hear the level of uncertainly in her own voice.
He spun around, not used to being referred to by his first name on Campus.
He froze, looking at her. But a Toby-like grin soon spread across his face. "Donna."
She smiled, giving him a thousand watt grin. "It's so good to see you." Even though it was Toby, and he would never initiate it, she took a few more steps forward and wrapped him in a hug.
"Is there somewhere we could talk," she asked him.
Toby nodded, unsure of what was happening but glad to see a familiar face nonetheless. He'd always liked Donna, and due to his ever shrinking friend list these days, welcomed her presence even more.
They exchanged idle chit chat on the way back to his office, Toby catching her up on Huck and Molly, and Donna telling him about her time across the pond. They arrived at his office and he showed her in, offering her a water from his mini fridge.
"Toby, I'm going to cut right to the chase," Donna said, not wanting to lose her nerve. "I need to see him."
Toby leaned back in his chair. "Donna, I'm not sure that I'm the right person to help you with that."
"I can't get an appointment with him. I tried pretty relentlessly before I left for London. And now I can't even get through on the switchboard. I flew to D.C.- he moved. And I assume he has a new cell phone because his old number is disconnected. He's a ghost. Even his mother's number is unlisted. I need to talk to him- I have to talk to him IN PERSON. I don't know what to do."
He nodded slowly, taking this into consideration. "I'll see what I can do. But I can't promise anything. He and I- it's different now. He's different now."
She nodded as if she understood.
"What happened with you two?" Toby back tracked almost as quickly as he'd asked the question. "Never mind. None of my business. I probably don't want to know."
"Yeah," Donna said sheepishly. "Probably not."
The sat in a heavy silence for a moment.
"It'll be a little while- before I can call him, that is. And even then I'm not sure how to go about it."
She nodded her head, grateful for any help she could get.
They ended with a promise of catching up again soon and Donna gave him her phone number. They'd agreed to try for coffee in a few weeks, and both of them hoped they'd actually follow through on it.
The weeks had passed and Toby had yet to come up with an in for Donna to see Josh. He hadn't the slightest idea what was causing her such eagerness and distress, but he knew the two of them and he'd been glad to try and help her. He hadn't heard much from her lately though. Their years working together and taught Donna to trust him to follow up and not badger him in the process and Toby had respected her ability to step back and trust him.
Toby was so engrossed in thought that he could have easily missed the scene unfolding right outside the door of his cab. It was a stroke of luck, really, that made him turn his head and look at the woman on the sidewalk. She stood there, in the pouring rain, futzing with an umbrella that looked a little worse for wear while holding a small toddler and attempting to corral a tiny backpack and an oversized purse. She looked exhausted. The baby was fussing and she was clearly on the brink of tears as the paper sack holding a few groceries gave way, causing her things to spill over the sidewalk.
"Stop the car," Toby told his driver, though traffic wasn't exactly moving to begin with.
He sat inside the warm, dry sedan and watched the startled blonde on the sidewalk for a few seconds more before opening the door and beginning to walk towards her.
"Get in," he shouted, knowing he was loud enough to hear over the engine but not making a scene.
She was reluctant to but smart enough to know when she'd met her match. Toby took a few of her bags and she slid inside, grateful to be out of the torrential downpour.
"Give them your address, Donnatella," he instructed her flatly.
She told the driver her address with a sigh, leaning back in the seat. She shifted a few times, moving a fussy Jack to a new position on her lap.
"Toby, I-" she began, immediately cut off by her old friend.
"Shhhh. We'll get to all that." He sat silently for the rest of the short car ride, following her into her apartment and taking Jack from her without a single word while she fished for her keys.
Donna was beyond nervous as she flipped on the lights in her modest apartment. It was tidy, as it always was, and she was proud of the home she had created. But now, with Toby standing in her doorway she was suddenly self conscious of putting everything on the line.
"He's asleep," he told her, nodding towards Jack, who had finally crashed in his arms.
She gently lifted him from Toby's shoulder. "I'm just going to put him down. Make yourself at home."
Toby nodded in understanding.
Donna made quick work of changing the baby into pajamas before kissing his forehead gently. She left the door slightly cracked and made her way into the living room to begin what she was sure was going to be a very awkward conversation with Toby Ziegler.
"Can I get you some coffee, Toby?" She tried to keep things breezy, but she was afraid she was failing miserably.
Much to her surprise he accepted. "That would be great."
He made small talk with her as she sat the kettle on the stove, waiting for the water to boil. He discussed local issues, told Donna a funny story about an incident regarding a mariachi band on the subway and about a human interest article he'd read about a student from a high school near her apartment. She knew he was just trying to fill the silence but she found herself being lulled into a familiar security of a warm conversation with someone whom she admired greatly. Toby had never been much of a talker but she appreciated the fact that he was keeping things light for her.
Eventually the kettle whistled and she poured the warm water into the French press. She placed the press and mugs on a tray and joined Toby in the living room. She sat back in her chair, cradling the warm mug in her hands for warmth. There was a marked silence as the rain beat on the windows. It was Toby who eventually spoke first.
"He looks just like him, you know," he said with a smirk.
Donna's head whipped over from where she was looking out the window. She opened her mouth to protest but he waved his hands in the air, beating her to it.
"Save it, Donna. It's not a game we need to play. You know I hate getting involved in, well, anyone's personal life, but with Josh—Well, with Josh it's different. He's my brother."
Donna nodded slowly, unsure of where to start in this mountain of a mess that she'd created.
Toby continued. "Like I said, I don't know the details of happened between you two- although, I think I have a better idea after this afternoon," he surmised. "But what I do know is he never recovered from it. The Josh Lyman you knew those years ago is not the same man that sits in the office connecting to the Oval. He was really beside himself when you left. I'm not telling you to guilt you or to scare you or worry you. I just- I thought you should know. He was a complete train wreck for quite a while."
Donna bit her lip. "Yeah, well, so was I."
He paused for a moment, allowing that to sink in.
"I want to fix it." Donna muttered quietly, staring intently at the contents of her mug. She was almost shocked at the words coming out of her mouth. They were so quiet they were barely audible.
Toby solemnly nodded his head.
"I just- I don't know how," Donna admitted sheepishly. "He made his feelings towards me abundantly clear and now, after all this time, I don't think he could ever forgive me. And I don't expect him to. But…" Donna began to softly cry. She'd never really spoken to anyone about this mess with Josh. She hadn't had anyone to confide in.
"It's not going to be easy, Donna. I wish I could tell you it would be. I don't know how he's going to take it when he sees you, let alone finds out, you know," Toby cleared his throat, "the whole story."
"I know," she wiped her tears. "I've tried to figure out what to say for so long. But I didn't want to do anything to jeopardize President Bartlet's administration or the campaign. That's what started it all to begin with."
Toby shook his head. "That's a conversation for you and Josh. But don't underestimate your importance in his life, Donna. I know that Josh can be a self centered, arrogant workaholic, but you've always been able to see past that. You knew him better than anyone. Hell, I'm sure you still do. And I think you know that your son needs to know him like that too."
Donna nodded solemnly. She knew it was coming, but the day of reckoning was approaching faster than she anticipated.
"So," Toby sat back in his chair, a different demeanor on his face. "Tell me about what you've really been up to. Tell me about your boy. It's been a long time since I've been able to catch up with an old friend, Donna." He smiled warmly at her and for the first time in years some of Donna's anxiety about confronting her old life began to face away.
"Jack," Donna told him, her eyes lighting up immediately. "His name is John Bartlet but I call him Jack."
Toby nodded his head. "John as in…"
"Kennedy, mostly. But my grandfather as well. You know how Josh is about JFK."
"Ah, yes. One of his great political idols. And Bartlet." He was clearly not expecting that one, but a smile crossed his face as he said it.
The both nodded their heads, silently lost in their own memories. "So, does he- did he-" Toby wasn't sure how to broach the topic.
"He doesn't know," Donna supplied curtly, removing any further doubts that he may have about the situation at hand. "I found out after I'd left and well, that part of my life was in the past. The bridge was burnt and I thought this would be best for all of us. For the time being."
A small cry pulled them from their conversation.
Donna stood and walked into Jack 's room. "Hey there," she told him, carrying back into the living room, patting down his unruly curls. "Feeling better, little buddy?"
Jack lay his head on Donna's shoulder, suddenly becoming shy.
"This is Toby," Donna told him softly. "Can you say hi?"
Jack looked at her again and Donna gave him a reassuring nod before he gave Toby at little wave at Donna's prodding.
"Nice to meet you," Toby said, amused.
Donna tickled him a little bit before sitting him down on the living room rug. Toby stared at the little boy, astounded at what he saw. A tiny version of Josh- his hair, his dimples when he smiled and the adoring way he looked at Donna. Toby finished his cup of coffee and said his goodbyes, needing to get home for the evening.
Once he was on the street, crowded under her awning from the rain, he pulled his cell phone out.
"Andi, It's me. I need a favor and we need to move quickly. The less questions you ask the better, but believe me when I tell you you're doing nothing to help me and I wouldn't ask unless it was important. I need you, without making any waves and not looping any senior staff or assistants, to have a pass waiting at the White House gates for Donna tomorrow morning...
You guys! I am loving the feedback you're giving me! It's amazing! Here's another update and there will be another chapter to follow soon. Hope you'll like me a little more after this update ;)
I'm also working on 2 more so if anyone has input I'd love to hear it! PM me! They won't be posted until this one is complete thought, I think I'd get some kind of writer's vertigo.
(Just for the record I usually don't have this kind of time on my hands- I sprained my ankle so I'm all about writing right now. And no, it wasn't a late thaw or a car accident. I'm just uncoordinated.)
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
Josh paused in the outer doorway of his office, reading a briefing memo with a scowl. It had been one hell of a day. Well, really, one hell of a couple of months. He was running on fumes and he was out of patience. Everyone knew that if you crossed his path you were at risk of having your head taken off- through no fault of your own.
“I’ll be in the situation room, Alan,” he muttered to his latest assistant. “What do I have this afternoon besides the 4:00 meeting with Congressman Furlong?”
“Actually, sir, that’s been cancelled. Your afternoon has been cleared for a previously unscheduled meeting.”
“What? WHY?” Josh was furious.
Alan flinched a bit as his boss’ raised voice. “The Vice President’s office, sir. I’m not sure of your appointments name- they just said Leo McGarry wanted you to meet with an old friend from home.”
Josh stopped at the use of the phrase. “An old friend from home?” he clarified.
“Leo McGarry set it up. You’re sure.”
“Yes, sir.” Alan couldn’t understand why his boss was so bent out of shape about this, but rarely did he know what to expect from the Chief of Staff.
Josh nodded, still somewhat startled by his assistant’s words. “Alright.” Even he wasn’t one to argue with the use of that phrase. “I should be back in twenty minutes.”
Three hours later Josh returned from the situation room, fuming. He’d accompanied a very angry President Santos into the Oval where he’d been advised that it was going to be a long night.
“I’ll be here, sir,” he told him before turning and strolling into his own office through the side door. He was still looking over a classified folder, all thoughts of his mysterious meeting gone by the wayside with the intel he’d been presented in the past hours. “ALAN!” he screamed. “Get me the-“ he stopped dead in his tracks, losing his train of thought, and gaped at her.
Donna stood from where she’d been seated in the corner of his office for the past two hours. “Hi, Josh,” she told him meekly. She’d rehearsed what to say to him thousands of times, but at this moment, with him actually just a few feet in front of her, she’d lost all the words.
“Yes, Mr. Lyman?” Alan peeked his head in from when Josh had called his name..
“Get out, Alan,’ Josh stated, never taking his eyes off of Donna.
Josh paced around his office a little bit before tossing his paperwork down on his desk and standing behind it, resting his arms in a wide V and leaning on his desk. He closed his eyes and took a couple deep breaths. He desperately wanted to pull her close and kiss the air out of her lungs but he knew it would come off as somewhat forward and condescending. Not to mention he’d been going out of his mind without her for two years and he was still trying to process the fact that she’d left him but was standing in front of him. He opened his eyes and looked at her for a moment. “Donna?” The simple greeting asked so many questions.
“Hi,” she repeated again from where she stood. “I’m sorry to catch you in the middle of things…” she looked uneasily around the room, unsure of how to proceed.
He waived her off with a swift movement of his hand, trying to indicate with an air of informality that it wasn’t a bad time. She could tell, however, that wasn’t the case.
“I-I need to talk to you, Josh. And I wanted to see you in person.” It was no time to mince words. She took a step closer to him, not wanting to overwhelm him but certainly knowing him well enough to know this wasn’t going to be easy.
“Are you okay?”
“I am,” she answered calmly. “How are you?”
He waived her off. “I’m fine.” He wasn’t. “But that’s not what I meant. You need to tell me something? You’re not sick, right?” He was looking her up and down, assuring himself that she looked okay. Great actually. Really great.
But his mind went from 0- Disaster in 3 seconds and she knew it. Picking up right where they left off in that regard, she thought. “No, Josh, its not that. I’m perfectly healthy and I’m not in any kind of trouble.” She sat back down on the couch, crossing her long legs and waiting for him to calm down enough to come over and talk to her. “I like what you’ve done with the place,” she smiled, taking in the room again, which was very similar to the way it looked when Leo had used it as his office, only with Josh’s mayhem strewn around. She rattled on for a few moments, trying to ease into the more dense areas of discussion slowly.
He must have begun to feel more at ease because at some point he moved over towards her and sat down on the couch in the corner. He cleared his throat, finding his nerve. “Donna, Why are you really here? Why now?” he reached out and tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear, needed to touch her somehow to make sure she was real.
“Do you think we could go somewhere to talk? Maybe a- I don’t know where, really, somewhere a little less… official?”
He shook his head. “I can’t leave tonight. There’s something going on, I’ve got to be back in the sit room before the evening is over. We’ve always been able to talk in my office, Donna. That much hasn’t changed. The doors are closed.”
She bit her lip. Might as well jump right into it- she knew their time was probably limited and she didn’t want to put this off. It could be her only choice for a while.
“Josh, I, for many, many reasons, hate how we left things. The night we- the night we were in New Orleans…”
“Donna, I’m so sorry. I never meant for it to be like that. I think I need to explain myself.” He began to reach for her, the words tumbling out of him in an unusual way.
She held up her hand. “You don’t have to do that, Josh. You were honest with me after it happened and you can’t change the way you feel. It was a one night stand, it happens. It was… convenience.”
“Stop. Stop right there. I need you to never think that again.” He was insistent.
Donna, somewhat startled, looked over at him. Really looked at him. She could read his face again. He was vulnerable, panicked and remorseful.
He scrubbed his hands over his face. “Before you go on I need to let you know what happened.”
“I was there, Josh,” she supplied.
“Donna, I was drunk.”
“We both were.”
“I- the next morning. I woke up and I- I didn’t remember anything that happened.”
“You- wait, you WHAT?” she all but screamed, a million terrifying scenarios running through her mind.
“I had no idea. I thought I’d had a few too many drinks and you’d taken care of me and put me to bed, as per usual. It wasn’t until much later- inauguration night, actually, that I realized what had… happened.”
“Oh my God. Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god.” Donna pinched the bridge of her nose, panicking.
“Do you honestly think that’s what I wanted? A one night stand with you? Donna, after all we’ve been through- do you, do you really think that I’d just change my mind the next morning? You were- I wanted everything with you. It just took a little, or a lot, of courage to work up the nerve.”
Donna clasped her hands over her eyes. “Oh my God.”
Josh chuckled a bit. “You seem to be saying that a lot.”
“I thought you hated me,” she choked out, the tears forming in her eyes. “I thought you never wanted to see me again. You said you were mortified about what happened. You offered me money never to talk about it again.”
“I didn’t know- that’s not what I meant. That’s not what I thought happened. Donna, surely you couldn’t think I’d say those things to you about… that.”
She sniffed and looked at the ceiling, trying to regain her composure for what had to come out of her mouth.
“Josh,” she began, taking a deep breath.
He reached out and touched her chin, urging her to look at him.
“That night, our night together… We- well, I- I mean,” she fumbled over her words. She didn’t want to just break down and scream ‘you knocked me up’ but the way her train of thought was currently derailing in her mind, she wouldn’t have been surprised if she did. “Josh, we um… conceived.” Conceived? Donna mentally questioned her own ability to speak.
Josh’s hand stayed where it was, likely out of nothing more than shock. His eyebrows shot to his forehead and his voice changed dramatically. “What did you just say to me?”
“I got pregnant, Josh. I found out after I left D.C.”
“With a baby.” His face was like a deer in the headlights. “With our baby.”
“Yes, Josh. Pregnant. With our baby.”
“And you- you- didn’t want to… I don’t know… CALL ME?” His hand fell and he stood bolt upright, his confusion turning to rage in an instant. And she knew it would. He shoved one hand into his pocket and began pacing his office like a mad man.
“Josh, listen to me.” She remained seated, staying calm for both of them. “Telling you I’m sorry right now wouldn’t begin to skim the surface of how I feel. I never meant for it to happen like this. You doing this great thing with President Santos. And I know that there’s nothing you take-“
“-more seriously than a Presidential campaign. I KNOW! But God, Donna! That doesn’t apply to YOU! What in the hell were you thinking?” Josh slapped his flat palm against the wall, causing her to jump. “Of all the shit- and you of all people! You know me! You were ‘tuned’ to me,” he said the last bit in somewhat of a mocking tone. “You didn’t want to run this by me? Holy shit!” He loosened his tie a bit, running his fingers through his hair. His eyes were wide and his face was turning red from anger.
“Against the wall.” She said to him, her face stony and her brows furrowed. She could still tell when he was near a meltdown.
He set his jaw and looked at her. “You don’t get to-“
“Against the wall, Joshua,” she commanded again, standing up and taking a few slow steps towards him. She didn’t want to overwhelm him but she knew he had to reign it all in a bit or they were headed for real disaster.
He complied, begrudgingly, and leaned against the wall in his office, straightening his spine and exhaling deeply, closing his eyes.
“Deep breaths,” she told him in a soft voice and she walked over and tenderly placed her hand on his shoulder to begin, eventually moving to further loosen his tie and unbutton the top of his shirt, allowing him to feel a bit less constrained. She then stepped back, allowing him some space and leaned against his desk in silence, allowing him as much time as he needed.
He had calmed only slightly when the connecting door to the Oval swung open.
“They need us- Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you had company.”
“Mr. President,” Donna quickly hopped to a fully upright standing position.
“Ah,” Santos smiled. “Miss Moss! Great to see you! So sorry to interrupt but we need Josh for a bit.” He gave her a confused smile and returned to the Oval, shutting the door behind him.
Donna nodded her head as Josh began to snap back into political operative mode, gathering a few things.
“Are you going to disappear?” he asked her, not daring to look up.
“No, of course not.”
“Don’t say ‘of course not’ like it’s a prepositions idea on my behalf.”
“You’re right. That’s fair. But Josh I’m never going to go off the radar again. I’d like to continue this tonight though, so I can wait here if you’d like.”
Josh shook his head. “This could be all night,” he wiped his hands over his face, clearly exhausted on so many levels.
“Josh, we’ve barely scratched the surface of this.”
“Donna,” he sighed, clearly exasperated. “I have a million things going on and forgive me if I need a minute to, to… process this!”
Thinking quickly she grabbed a post it from his desk, jotting down some information and handing it to him. “This is my phone number. And our current address in New York. Just so you’ll always be able to find us. I’m at the Marriott on 14th tonight, Room 637. My flight is early tomorrow morning. I understand if you’re busy right now, but Josh… please find the time in the next few weeks to talk to me, okay? Please don’t avoid this conversation.”
“Yeah,” he croaked out, completely unsure of how to otherwise respond. “You remember how to get out?”
“Yes.” She hated the formality. He was just beginning to open up to her again and they were interrupted. The wall was back up. He reached for the doorknob, turning it to exit when she spoke.
“His name is Jack,” She called out from behind him, pausing for a moment, as did he, before she began again. “His name is Jack, and he looks just like you.”
Josh swallowed a lump in his throat and continued to the situation room, knowing he’d crumble into a million different pieces if he turned back to look at her.
Well, kids, the cat's out of the bag now! They didn't get very far, but such is the life of Josh and Donna- interruptions and misdirection. But at least she got it out in the open. Though I'm sure they'll have plenty of things to circle back to! Was this the reaction you thought he'd have? Let me know what you think!
Chapter 8: Chapter 8
Knock, Knock, Knock.
Knock, Knock, Knock.
Donna rolled over, still half asleep.
Knock, knock, knock.
That was her door, wasn’t it? Someone was knocking on her door. Where in the hell was she? Oh, right. A hotel in D.C. She groggily looked around to get her bearings about her. She grabbed for her glasses on the night stand and stood up, trying to figure out what was going on in the pitch darkness. Sliding the frames onto her face she could at least avoid tripping into furniture. Even though she hated the glasses, they made a world of a difference once they were on her face. Her vision had suffered in the last year or so- likely a side effect of reading textbooks, and they made her feel somewhat old, even if the salesgirl had told her the pair was stylish. She wore the tiniest pair of short shorts and an oversized Columbia sweatshirt, her hair pulled into a pony, messy from sleep.
Knock, knock, knock.
“I’m coming, I’m coming.”
It was 4am. There was only one person on Earth who could possibly be standing on the other side of that door.
She threw the door open and was face to face with an agent in a dark suit. “Ma’am,” he greeted her. “I just need to clear the room.”
She sighed and stepped out of the way for the agent, who flipped the light on and looked around as Josh stood in the hallway, not yet saying a word. Donna recognized the look on his face though- he was mad as hell and spoiling for a fight. It was a face usually reserved for Haffley or Walken, or on a few particular occasions, Cliff Calley. Donna, in all her years, had never been on the receiving end of it. His eyes bored into hers, never breaking contact, as he shot silent daggers in her direction.
The agent gave the go ahead and exited, posting up in the hallway as Josh entered the room and closed the door behind him.
He stood there, not saying anything for quite a few moments. “I’m sorry it’s so late,” he began, his voice cold, formal and distant. “I’ve been in the sit room all night but we most certainly weren’t done with our prior conversation.”
She stood there, now fully awake, just staring at him.
“This is a lot for me to take in,” he began again, a fierce calm to his voice. “So forgive me for being a little disconnected right now.
She didn’t move or speak, listening closely to what he was telling her.
“Let’s start at the beginning, Donnatella, because we have quite a bit of ground to cover.” For the first time in her life, she didn’t like the way her name rolled off of his tongue.
“First of all, let’s get one thing clear. You left me. Gone. No chance for a discussion, no concern for what I was possibly thinking, no explanation. You just vanished. After everything we’d been through. What in the hell was going through your mind?”
Her eyes had grown wide and she looked at him, somewhat shocked, and just blinked.
“The question is not rhetorical, Donna.”
“I gave you plenty of chances, Josh. You pushed me off for Amy. You spent 20 hours a day in an office with me- you could have said something. You rescheduled lunches with me every day for weeks.”
“Oh , bullshit.”
“I need a real reason, Donna. The misdirection stops right here, right now. We have sailed way past that invisible line we tried not to cross for so many years and you need to start talking because in my opinion, this doesn’t seem to be going so well!”
“Shhh, keep your voice down,” Donna halfway scolded him, crossing her arms over her chest and stepping towards him, responding quietly. “I was afraid. I was terrified for so many reasons. I’d never put myself out there to you and when I did, I felt rejected. And I knew I couldn’t work with you every day knowing you hated me. That you hated the thought of us.”
“But you never wanted to ask me about any of that? To talk about it?”
“Josh, don’t act like you’re the world’s leading authority on being emotionally available. You’d made yourself pretty damn clear the next day in your office.”
“But I wasn’t talking about- Okay, we have to move on from that. Why did you keep the baby from me?”
“When I found out I was pregnant I was scared Josh. Scared of your rejection again. I just wanted to get through the first trimester- to make sure nothing went wrong. And by that point you were about to take the nomination and I knew you were so close. I told myself I’d tell you after the convention. But you guys won- and here you were, doing this incredible thing. What you’ve worked your whole life towards. I thought if I stayed away you’d be focused. You didn’t need the distraction. And then after the election…” she trailed off, unsure of how to proceed.
“Yeah.” He ran his hands through his hair, kicking himself for being so caught up he actually blew her off. Donna. His Donna- the Donna he hadn’t stopped thinking about for a minute since she walked out of his life. “But Donna, those aren’t choices you get to make for me!” His anger was back. “I trusted you and you know it and you went so far beyond betrayal with this one- you robbed me of this, Donna! I can’t believe it. You’re the last person I would ever… I mean, seriously, Donna, what the FUCK?!” With the last word he slammed his fist down on the small entry table in the mini suite.
Josh’s outburst resonated through the room and Jack let out a little cry from the bedroom.
Donna looked at Josh, who was frozen, eyes wide and eyebrows practically up to his hairline. “Is that- He’s here?”
Donna attempted to suppress a smile. “Yes, Josh. Of course he’s with me. Where else would he be?”
Josh scratched the back of his head, as if he honestly hadn’t thought that far.
“He’ll probably put himself back to sleep in a second,” Donna told him, listening closely. “Do you want to check on him,” Donna motioned towards the doorway.
“I’m not sure. Should I?” He looked borderline panicked.
“You don’t have to if you don’t want to, Josh,” she reassured him gently.
“I want to,” he added quickly. “But maybe when he’s awake. I don’t want to, you know, scare him or something.”
“Kay.” At least they weren’t fighting, Donna thought.
Josh was clearly trying to think of something else to say but his eyes were glued to the door frame.
“Come on,” Donna nodded her head and lead him to the hotel pack n play where Jack was sleeping contently.
Josh stared at his little boy, clad in dinosaur footie pajamas, dreaming and breathing steadily, happily sleeping away, with his auburn curls running wild atop his head. He felt a smile creep across his face, a stark contrast to the anger coursing through his veins a few minutes ago. He’d come over tonight unsure of what he was going to say to Donna, but now, he knew he wanted to try. As angry and broken as he currently felt, he knew he was going to fight for these two. He’d sort everything thing out as he went.
They stood there for a few minutes and Josh watched Donna almost as much as he watched Jack. He’d made a lot of revelations about his feelings for Donna in the last 18 months, and as upside down as that all felt right now, he couldn’t help himself.
“C’mere,” he told her very softly, opening his arm and wrapping her close to him. She rested her head against his chest and let out a deep, content sigh. “That’s our baby,” he told her, happiness creeping into his voice as he softly kissed her hair.
Eventually the embrace broke and they walked back to the foyer, closing the door softly behind them, somehow breaking their earlier truce.
“Our flight leaves in a few hours,” Donna said, looking at the clock. “And you look like you could use some sleep.” She knew they were both emotionally and physically exhausted, and she could mentally foresee the wagons really coming off of the wheels after their little moment with Jack. She thought it would be best to put a lid on everything for tonight.
“Look, Donna, I hate to be blunt, but what is it that you want from me?” He knew how it sounded the second it left his mouth. All he meant was to ask what kind of role she anticipated him playing.
Her jaw set. “I don’t want anything from you. This is not about me. This is not about us. This is about him,” she whisper shouted, motioning towards where Jack slept. “I need you figure out what YOU want. Just think on it for a while and call or email me and we can figure out where to go from here.”
She shifted uncomfortably, before she continued. “But there’s just one thing I’d like to ask you to do.”
“Right now, Donna, you don’t seem to have a lot of leverage with me to make demands,” he scoffed, but waited for her to continue none the less.
“It’s not a demand or a condition- neither of those will ever be attached to your time or relationship with Jack. It’s simply a request from me to you, because believe it or not I still care a great deal about you, Josh. But first,” she reached into her overnight bag, pulling out a large stack of letters, rubberbanded together. “These are for you. They don’t explain everything, and they don’t make up for anything. They’re just- well, they’re letters I wrote you. You can read them or burn them or whatever, but I just want you to have them. The decision on what to do with them beyond that is completely in your hands.” She took a deep breath, steadying herself for the second portion. “The request is that you speak to Stanley before you meet or make any decisions regarding Jack.”
That one really struck a nerve with him. “Jesus, Donna,” he turned away from her.
“Josh, I’m serious. Just give him a call. I’m worried about you and I’m not living under the impression that this is going to be easy for any of us. You have every right to be angry at me- furious, even. I did something unforgiveable and I realize that. If I could change it I would- I’m trying to. I’d take it all back in a heartbeat. But I can’t- so I’d just like you to have someone to talk to if you won’t talk to me.”
He didn’t respond but she could tell he was considering it.
“Think on it and let me know what’s next,” she told him, following him to the doorway. “I’ll answer any questions you have- about anything. Read the letters. Let me know what you decide and I’ll make sure it happens.”
He nodded his head. “Kay,” he told her, unsure of what else to say. “Night.”
“Goodnight, Joshua,” she told him, closing the door behind Josh and his detail and heading back to bed for a few short hours. At least he was talking, she told herself. Her main concern was that he’d bottle it all up. Now if she could just pull her own self together and get them over the next hurdles.
Chapter 9: Chapter 9
It had been at least four nights since Josh had seen his bed and longer than that since he’d had anything more than a handful of hours of sleep. But now, alone in his bedroom under his comforter, he was wide awake. He rolled over and shifted, attempting to get comfortable for what seemed like the thousandth time, but it was no use. His brain was abuzz. He glanced over to the clock on his nightstand- 7:45. He could probably just get up, drink a strong cup of coffee and go back to the office.
So much had changed in the last 24 hours. He couldn’t get Donna and Jack off of his mind. The image of his son, of their son, sleeping peacefully made him happier than he would have thought possible. She’d given him time and space to try and figure out what he wanted from this situation but it was a no brainer for him. It wasn’t going to be easy but he wanted to be a father to Jack. That much he knew for certain.
Donna dropped her overnight bag in the entryway of her apartment and walked to Jack’s nursery to get him settled. He’d been wide awake and fidgeting non stop for the duration of their trip back to New York, only falling asleep as the cab had turned onto their block.
She wanted to collapse on the couch, mentally and physically exhausted from the last 24 hours, but she knew better. She needed to get a few things done while he napped. Beginning to sort some laundry she was interrupted by her ringing phone, a welcome distraction from the non stop inner workings of her mind.
She didn’t recognize the number, flipping it open curiously.
She smiled. Even after time and distance there was no need for him to inform her who was on the line.
“Hey yourself,” she glanced at the clock on her nightstand. “Shouldn’t you be getting a few precious hours of sleep?”
He grumbled, giving her no real answer before changing the subject. “Did you make it back?”
“We did,” she responded, unsure of where this was going. The casual conversation hadn’t exactly been free flowing during their last encounter. “He’s asleep now, though he’s as restless as you are when he flies,” she felt the corners of her mouth turn up in an involuntary smile.
“Hey, I meant to ask. How’d you manage to get an appointment and clear my schedule? Alan’s not really aware of that phrase… did Leo set it up?”
“No,” Donna shifted around. “Not exactly. Your old friend Bob pulled a few strings.”
“Ah,” he responded, not wishing to pursue that topic of conversation any further over a government issued phone.
He took a deep breath and she knew he was about to change the tide as he slowly exhaled. Being open and forthcoming wasn’t Josh’s forte so she was quiet, letting him speak in his own time.
“I had so many things that I’ve been wanting to say to you for years, and I wasn’t prepared to see you. It’s been crazy at work, Donna. And I have a lot on my plate. It’s so much more than it was before. But I know that’s no excuse.”
“I know it is,” she told him, one of the few people who really knew how life in the West Wing could be. “And you’re doing a great job.” She studied his voice. “When was the last time you really spent the night at home, Josh? Slept more than 3 hours in your bed? Ate a decent meal?”
“It’s been a while,” he admitted begrudgingly, not inclined to let her know the full truth regarding his work hours or unhealthy habits.
She nodded her head, though he couldn’t see her. “I’d imagine so, yes. Josh, go get some rest. You need it. The last thing I wanted was to add stress to your life, okay?”
He scrubbed his hands over his face. “I’d like to meet him. Jack. But-”
Donna smiled softly, not letting him finish the sentence as she knew where it was going. “I think he’d like to meet you too.”
“I want to do this, Donna, I do. And I want to do it right.” he told her earnestly, running his hand through his hair. “I’m not sure of the logistics or how it’s going to work but I’d like to give it my best shot.”
She was elated to hear that, though on some level she never doubted his commitment. “That’s all I ask,” she told him.
He cleared his throat, not wanting to get into a deep conversation sitting in the back of his town car with his agents in ear shot. “Alright. This week is going to be pretty busy for me but I’ll uh, I’ll email you.”
“Yeah, that would be great,” she assured him. “Have a good day, Joshua.”
They said their goodbyes and ended the call, Donna going back to her day and deciding to give Josh the time and space he’d need for logistics. It was only a few minutes, however, before the alert on her inbox sounded.
Can you bring him to D.C. this weekend? Let me know. I can arrange your flight info.
Her response was immediate.
Of course. But I’ll take care of our tickets.
She was determined to bend over backwards to make this work. She booked a space on the shuttle for Friday evening and sent him the confirmation info.
He responded later that evening.
Thank you. Day got away from me. I’ll send a car to the airport. I’d like to pick you two up myself but I’m just not sure what’s going to be possible.
She emailed him back, letting him know that wouldn’t be necessary, that she could take a cab to the hotel and he could call her when he had some free time. She didn’t want to pressure him. She could tell he was close to the edge to begin with and that she needed to keep everything easy this weekend. She shut off her lamp and went to sleep knowing her first day of work was rapidly approaching.
Toby strolled into his office on Monday following his 1:00 lecture and found two large pink bakery boxes sitting in the middle of his desk. One had clearly been hand delivered, the other was stamped as though it had come via courier.
The notes attached to the top of the boxes were simple but both contained the same message: “Thank you.”
They didn’t even need signatures.
Donna quickly settled back into her job. She was excited to be doing what she loved and equally as thrilled to be back with her coworkers. They’d all stopped by to catch up with he in the first few days. They’d wanted to hear stories about her time abroad and see updated photos of Jack.
She’d also emailed Josh frequently all week. He’d asked her to stay at his place over the weekend. It would be difficult for her to be in a hotel- his detail would have to accompany him everywhere he went and it would raise flags if he was spending hours coped up in a Marriott. It would be easier this way, he told her, and she’d be more comfortable too. Donna had her reservations about the agreement, red flags popping up everywhere in her mind, but agreed none the less. He was nothing if not persistent. He’d also followed up with a request for a shopping list.
I don’t have any baby equipment, he’d written, causing her to laugh. Can you send a list? A very detailed list.
She’d loved the thought but told him not to worry about it for now. That they could manage for the weekend with what she was bringing and she could help him down the road a bit. She made a mental note to pack a few things she could leave at Josh’s so he wouldn’t feel like she was blowing him off. She just didn’t see Josh with a long, detailed list in a baby superstore ending well.
She’d been exhausted all week- the change in schedule following a weekend trip, getting back into the swing of classes and Jack had been unusually fussy. She was asleep as soon as her head had hit the pillow that night.
But a ringing phone startled her awake. She sat up, feeling around on the nightstand before answering with a groggy, “Hello?”
“He was early?! Six weeks seems like a lot, Donna.”
She lay back onto her pillows with a thud. “What time is it, Josh?”
“Is he okay? He is, right?”
“He’s okay, Josh,” she said in a soothing tone. “He’s a perfectly healthy little boy.”
She glanced at the clock on her nightstand. 2:45.
“Because it says in this letter that when he was born…”
“I know. But everything turned out fine. You saw him with your own two eyes, Josh. He’s a sweet, smart, curious little boy. He’s allergic to strawberries, and that’s about it.”
“You’re not sending me a shopping list.” He could change conversation topics as quickly as she.
“No, Josh, I’m not,” she sighed. “I can bring a few things on Friday and we will be okay for the weekend. I didn’t want you to have to run around. I know you’re busy right now. If you want to pick up a few items we can go together. If you’d like.”
“Yeah, okay.” He seemed satisfied with that answer. “I did have the agents buy a car seat though. To pick you up.”
She smiled at the sentiment. “Thank you, Josh.”
“It worries me though. I mean, I barely have time to go home and change clothes, and I don’t know the first thing about kids. I really don’t want to be a terrible parent. I’m not sure if I can do this.”
“First of all, Josh, you’re already an amazing father. Look at all the changes you’ve made in this country in the last 9 years. Things that will change lives- and not only Jack’s life, but kids everywhere. Don’t forget that. And yeah, its terrifying, but that’s just part of it. Just do your best, everything will come to you. And as for the time, well, we’ll figure something out. You’re not alone in this, Josh, and trust me when I tell you I’ve made every mistake a few times. And I made a pretty damn big one too- one that’ll probably never go away. I should never have kept him from you, Josh. And I didn’t mean to. I promise you, this was never my intention.” She’d said it before and she’d say it again, but she had to make it perfectly clear to Josh.
It was not lost on him that even now she was building him up, giving him the confidence he needed by believing in him.
He cleared his throat, a bit choked up by her speech. “I know, Donna,” he admitted. And on many levels he did. “Sorry I woke you. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Today,” she corrected with a slight smile. “We’ll see you later today.”
I know this one was short and fluffy- but there's another update on the way this weekend!
Chapter 10: Chapter 10
Donna’s office closed at noon, as it did every Friday, so she was able to hop an early shuttle and arrive in D.C. by mid afternoon. She was beyond nervous. The prior week she hadn’t had time to think about what she was doing. It had happened so quickly- Toby had called her with the appointment and the next thing she knew she was standing in Josh’s office. This week, however, was very different. She’d had it on her mind non stop.
She shifted Jack onto her right hip and pulled his little hat down around his head as she stepped into baggage claim. She wanted to be out of the line of vision with him as soon as possible. Spotting Josh’s driver she informed him which bags were hers and hurriedly exited to the waiting car. Fastening Jack into a top of the line car seat she had to laugh. Josh didn’t do anything half way, and she loved that about him.
Donna was chatty with Josh’s driver as they made their way to his new residence. Her belongings were unloaded for her as she and Jack made their way into his new brownstone, the agent posted at the front door acknowledging their arrival but keeping his distance.
The place was structurally beautiful- not overdone, but classy none the less. She couldn’t help but notice, though, how sparse it was. The furniture from his old place was there but it looked almost as though he’d never moved in. Nothing was on the walls, there were still a few boxes tucked away in the corners and she was immediately sure the kitchen hadn’t been cooked in- at least recently. She sat down on the couch with Jack as her phone rang.
“How long did you say you’d lived here,” she said with a smile as a way of greeting him.
“Ugh, you sound like my mother. I just haven’t gotten around to, you know, moving in.”
“How long, Josh,” she chided him with a laugh.
“A while… ten months?”
She smiled. Typical Josh. He probably still had that ugly bedspread on his, no doubt, unmade bed. He’d purchased a top of the line mattress for an exorbitant amount of money after he began having chronic back pain, and immediately tossed his 15 year old sheets on it when it was delivered.
“Listen, Donna,” he continued with a sigh. He sounded stressed. “There’s a situation. I’m going to be… a while. I’m sorry. I’m trying to get out of here as soon as I can but it’ll still be late.”
“I understand,” she told him sympathetically. And she did, better than most. She’d told herself that this was bound to happen at some point, and that she wouldn’t get worked up about it. That didn’t do anyone good.
“What time does he go to bed?”
Donna could hear Josh rustling for papers, opening and shutting his desk drawers on the other end of the phone.
“Well, probably 8:30. He can take an extra nap. Would that work?”
“I don’t know. I hope so,” he told her honestly. “I left a credit card on the dining room table,” he told her. “Go out and get anything we need. I didn’t have time to go to the grocery store or anything, I’ve been here since 5am.”
“Oh. Um, okay.”
“Your day has come, Donnatella,” he laughed. “Shopping on my credit card. You’ve been training for this for years.”
She picked up on the genuine humor in his voice and loved that they were back to some banter. She heard someone speaking to him in his office and knew he had to get back to whatever it was he was working on.
“Don’t stress, Joshua,” she told him. “We’ll be here when you’re done.”
Josh was in the sit room until 3am, expecting to be called back at a moment’s notice. Things in Kazakhstan had been tense for a year and they’d been slowly coming to an impasse in the last weeks. Last night had been full of regional instability. Troop movement, threats on the US, and then, a glimmer of hope- an offer of peace talks.
When he finally drug himself back to his office he crashed on the couch, waiting for a CIA briefing. He woke to a knocking at his door the next morning, sitting up and running his hands through his hair in a vain attempt to calm his curls, he shouted, “Yeah, come in.”
The door opened and an agent from White House security entered. “This was couriered over for you, Mr. Lyman.”
“Thanks,” Josh spoke, “you can sit it over here,” he nodded towards the empty chair next to his couch.
After the guard left he opened the garment bag to find a fresh change of clothes accompanying a bagel and banana. He smiled. How’d she know?
Flipping open his cell he lay back down on the couch.
“Still not brining me any coffee, I see,” he told her by way of greeting.
“Well, let’s not get carried away.” The smile was evident in her voice.
“I’m sorry I didn’t make it back last night, this whole thing with-“
“Josh, you don’t have to explain.”
“Yeah. Thanks. And thanks for the suit and breakfast. You have no idea how badly I need them. Hey, listen, I should be out of here by no later than 7 tonight. How about I pick up Chinese on the way back?”
“That sounds great actually, if you wouldn’t mind.”
“Not at all- Donna, what in the hell is going on over there?” Josh could no longer ignore the loud screeching sounds in the background.
Donna laughed. “He’s just overly excited for breakfast today. Apparently bananas are pretty thrilling this morning.”
Just smirked a bit, wishing he could see what all the fuss was about. The whole scenario was so foreign to him.
“I better go,” Josh responded. “I’ll get out of here as soon as I can,” he promised. And he really would try.
At 8:05 an exhausted Josh let himself into his apartment. Sitting the Chinese he’d promised to bring with him on the kitchen counter he looked around a bit, expecting to see more… well, mayhem.
“Donna?” he called, not too loudly. It was fairly quiet.
“Josh? We’re back here.”
He rounded the corner and was met by Donna, carrying a wet headed Jack, wrapped up in one of his oversized bath towels. Josh froze where he was, staring at them, his heart pounding in his chest. He was suddenly so very nervous. He hadn’t had much time to think about it all week, but now, standing in front of them, he wasn’t sure how to act.
“Hi,” he offered, unsure of what else to say.
“Hey there,” Donna smiled. “We just finished his bath, didn’t we, buddy?” She spoke partly to Josh, and partly to Jack, bouncing the baby on her side and trying to get a smile out of him.
Instead, he clung closely to Donna, resting his head on her shoulder and staring silently at Josh. “Can you say ‘hi,’ Jack?” Jack glanced up at her with his big brown eyes and then refocused his attention on Josh momentarily, before burying his face in the crook of Donna’s neck. “I think somebody’s a little shy tonight because they’re tired,” she tickled him animatedly, eventually causing Jack to look up and giggle, flashing Josh a huge dimpled grin.
This caused Josh to do the same, but he kept his distance nonetheless. Donna, knowing she would need to take charge in this, wasted no time. “Let’s get some jammies on you, little man,” she told Jack, motioning for Josh to follow. Entering the guest room where she’d set up for the weekend she grabbed what she’d needed out of their bag and placed the towel on the bed, laying Jack on top of it. Josh leaned in the door frame and watched closely, saying almost nothing.
“So, I guess you had a long few days,” Donna glanced up at Josh, who was loosening his tie.
“Yeah,” he let out a deep breath. “I’m glad they’re over. I’m beat.” He watched Jack nom on his fingers and then grab for his feet as Donna efficiently put him into a diaper and some footie pajamas. “I brought the Chinese food, it’s in the kitchen,” he offered, unsure of what else to say. He’d never really had an awkward moment with Donna before, he decided. Not that this was awkward, but it was… intimidating. Yes, Joshua Lyman could keep Congress in check but he was terrified by a tiny little boy.
“Great,” she beamed at him, picking Jack up and tossing the towel into a hamper. She looked amazing, Josh decided. Relaxed and happy. She’d changed her hair since leaving the White House, but it suited her. It was curly today, and she wasn’t wearing any makeup, and Josh loved it. Dressed in a tank top and pajama pants which were splashed with a little bit of water and holding their son, Josh decided she’d never looked better.
She brushed past him out the door and down the hallway to the kitchen and Josh followed closely, deciding to elaborate on a few benign things about his day to fill the silence, telling her a story about Sam and the Congresswoman from Oregon.
“Oh yeah, I heard Sam was back in the White House,” she smiled genuinely at him as she worked her way around the kitchen as if she’d lived there for years, Jack still staring at him over Donna’s shoulder.
“Yeah,” he shifted, leaning against the wall. “It’s great to have him back.” Josh continued with his story as Donna wordlessly handed him Jack and turned back to the fridge, continuing what she was doing.
Josh and Jack stared at each other, Jack squirming and fussing slightly until he was positioned to where he could clearly see Donna again. Josh hesitantly continued speaking, paying closer attention to Jack, still holding him somewhat stiffly. She finished making a bottle and stepped past them, walking into the living room, Josh quickly following behind.
“Sit,” she instructed him, pointing at the end of the couch. He did so, Jack now in his lap. She settled Jack properly into Josh’s arms, propping them both up with a pillow so Josh’s back wouldn’t be sore.
She gave him a soft smile and Donna handed Josh the bottle, the baby reaching for it in the process.
“He’ll probably fall asleep before he finishes it,” Donna told him, removing Josh’s tie before Jack decided he wanted to tug on it.
Josh nervously began to give Jack his bottle, finally beginning to loosen up once Jack started to drink, completely calm next to Josh. Donna began to walk into the kitchen, leaving the two of them alone to bond.
“Wait, where are you going,” Josh asked, a bit of panic in his voice and eyes.
“To heat up our dinner,” she informed him coolly. “You two will be fine, I’m right around the corner.”
Donna cleaned up a bit from Jack’s dinner and bottle and then began to slowly gather the Chinese food, whishing to give Josh some time to get comfortable with Jack. She could eventually hear him talking softly to the baby and knew he was just beginning to loosen up. It was hard for him to process, she knew, and a big adjustment. She just needed to nudge him along in the right direction.
She hung back in the kitchen, letting them have some time, and hopped up to a sitting position on his counter, where she leaned her head back on the cabinets and listened to Josh.
“You’re pretty hungry, aren’t you?” Josh stared at a very wide eyed Jack. He felt as though he was being inspected, and on some levels he was. Donna was right- Jack did look exactly like him. There was certainly no doubt about it. Josh smiled, taking in the similarities in his own features on the baby. “You’ve got your Mom’s nose though, did you know that,” he asked with a smile. “You’re a cute kid, even if you do look like me,” he joked.
Josh watched Jack for a few more moments in silence, taking in just how small he was, even though he was 11 months old. “So listen,” Josh continued. “I’m a little out of my element here,” he confessed to Jack, “but I’d really like to try and be a good Dad, okay? Think you can be patient with me while I try to figure this out?”
Jack blinked his big brown eyes at him a few times and then grabbed a handful of Josh’s dress shirt. “I’ll take that as a yes,” Josh laughed, pulling him a bit closer as Jack nodded off.
Josh sat the mostly empty bottle on the coffee table and sat quietly watching his son sleep. His breathing was slow and rhythmic, one hand thrown above his head and the other still holding lightly onto Josh’s shirt.
Donna eventually rounded the corner and leaned on the arm of the sofa.
“He’s asleep,” Josh offered, as though he was unsure of what to do next.
Donna lightly ran her finger across Jack’s cheek and onto the top of his wispy soft curls. “He looks pretty content to me,” Donna told him. “The food’s still warming, I’m going to go clean up from bath time and find a sweatshirt. Just let him be for now.” She straightened up to begin to walk away, at the last minute placing a gentle hand on Josh’s shoulder. “You’re doing great, Dad,” she told him before disappearing down the hall.
Donna eventually re-emerged in warmer clothing, taking the food out of the warmer and placing it on the coffee table.
“I’ll take him,” she told Josh, gently lifting Jack into her arms and kissing the top of his head. She nestled him into the pack and play before joining Josh on the couch for dinner.
“He’s amazing,” Josh blurted out with one of the most genuine smiles she’d ever seen from him.
Donna returned the sentiment. “Yeah, he really is.”
The chatted idly for a few minutes, loosening up a bit. It didn’t take long before they were settling into their old rhythm. They split a beer, Donna helping herself to Josh’s without either of them thinking anything of it.
“So, what do you want to do about this,” Josh asked, leaning forward on the couch to rest his elbows on his knees, clasping his hands in front of him. He looked over and saw her somewhat startled expression. “I mean, we don’t have to decide everything tonight. I’m definitely going to be, you know, involved. There’s no question about that. But I guess I’m asking… hell, I don’t even know what I’m asking.” He scrubbed his hands over his face and leaned backwards against the couch, tipping his head back.
“Nothing.” Donna eventually spoke, Josh turning to look at her, somewhat confused. “That’s what I want to do. Nothing.” She sat her mug of tea down and turned to face him. “At least for right now. I think we all just need a little bit of time to settle into each other before we decide what the natural next steps will be. They’ll be big decisions for all of us. But Josh, I’ll do whatever you’re comfortable with.”
He nodded his head slowly at her suggestion. “I think that’s a great plan.”
“We can maybe revisit this in a month,” she asked nervously, tucking her hair behind her ear. “It’s important that you’re comfortable with however we proceed. This is all going to be a lot more life changing for you than it is for me. Let’s just take things slow. One thing at a time.”
He reached out and squeezed her hand, tipping his head back on the couch and closing his eyes. “Thanks. That’s exactly what I needed to hear right now,” he admitted.
“Go to bed, Josh. You’re exhausted and your back hurts.”
“Yeah,” he agreed, standing up and following her down the hallway. He peeked into her room to get a quick glimpse of a deeply sleeping Jack. “See you in the morning.”
She gave him an impromptu but genuine hug before turning in for the night.
He, for the first time in ages, fell quickly to sleep with a smile on his face.
Chapter 11: Chapter 11
Josh and Donna collectively decided that the easiest arrangement would be for Donna and Jack to continue to fly to D.C. over the weekends. Josh purchased them tickets on the Friday afternoon shuttle for the next four weekends. They’d spoken a few times during the week, Josh checking on Jack but staying on the line to talk to Donna about whatever was on his mind. It felt good to be getting back to a normal place with her. He still had plenty of trust issues where she was concerned but he’d missed her, there was no denying that.
He’d been so proud of her for going back to school and for her job at the mayor’s office. Though she had done so much to be her own person, and she was truly proud of herself, Josh’s praise had meant so much.
The second weekend was very similar to the first, Josh becoming more comfortable around Jack and Donna, and enjoying some time out of the office. He had to work the bulk of the weekend, but Donna expected that. He admitted that he was attempting to cut back his hours on the weekend, but it was hard to go cold turkey when he’d scheduled appointments weeks out. Donna understood completely and was glad to hear he was making an effort. Jack had learned to abundantly use the word “yay” and Josh was looking forward to hearing it this weekend. The two had quickly bonded and Josh was proud of everything that he did.
Josh had spent a few days in Phoenix with the President and Donna’s flight had been delayed, causing them to land well past their intended touchdown time, and past Jack’s bedtime.
“Ms. Moss,” Josh’s driver Greg got her attention over Jack’s borderline fit. “Mr. Lyman’s flight is early. He’ll be ready in about ten minutes, so we’ll have to go straight there.”
Donna shifted uncomfortably in her seat. They’d been trying to fly under the radar- she wasn’t sure how it would go if they showed up on the tarmac. She pulled out her cell and dialed his number, his phone going to voicemail immediately as they were still in the air. “Josh, it’s Donna. Our flight was delayed and they’re going to have to drive straight to pick you up. I just wanted to give you a heads up and let you know that we’re in the car and Jack’s not happy tonight, as you can probably hear from the noise. Anyway, I’m sorry about this, but we’ll see you in a minute. Hope you get this in time. Bye.”
They sat on the tarmac and waited for Josh, Donna apologizing over and over to Greg as Jack became increasingly agitated with being cooped up for so long on the delayed flight and then in the carseat. They’d quickly moved from fussy to full on cries, Jack becoming red faced and teary.
Realizing when she was outmatched, Donna took him out of the harness and pulled him close, though it only moderately appeased him. She was exhausted and barely holding it together.
Before she knew it the door to the backseat of the vehicle opened and Josh slid in, tossing his backpack onto the floorboard. Josh looked like he was working through something in his head, and was a little startled at Jack’s outburst.
Wallowing in his own self pity, Jack hadn’t even noticed Josh entering the car. “Hey buddy, what’s wrong?” Josh reached over to rub his back. Jack pushed himself upright from where he’d somewhat thrown himself against Donna, and his tears immediately ceased. He sniffed a few times and looked at Josh before shouting “YAY!” and clapping his little hands.
This, in turn, made Josh’s day, if not week. He laughed heartily and took him from Donna. “Come here, buddy. You giving your Mommy a hard time today?” Josh bounced him a bit, trying to keep him entertained.
“Mr. Lyman,” Greg interjected, “Sorry to interrupt but we can’t move until he’s in the carseat.”
Donna sighed, and moved the straps out of the way as Josh sat Jack back in to get him buckled. Jack was having none of it, crying again almost immediately. “Shhhh, buddy,” Donna cupped his face, a soothing mechanism that usually worked on him. “You’ve gotta calm down, just a few more minutes and we’ll be back to Daddy’s place,” she soothed.
“You’ve had a long day, we know,” Josh chimed in, letting Jack clasp his finger. He rooted around in his backpack with his free hand, pulling out a small stuffed fox. “Look,” he held it up for Jack. “I brought you a new friend.” Josh snuggled it into his side and while it appeased it appeased him for a quick moment, the cries continued all the way back to his place, across the sidewalk, up the stairs and into the living room.
“I’m going to run a bath,” Donna told Josh, “You okay with him for a minute?”
Josh nodded that he was, but followed her fairly quickly, helping to get Jack in the bath and trying to calm him down. While the warm water generally put Jack quickly to sleep, it only appeased his mood that night while he was in the bubbles.
“Are you sure nothings wrong,” Josh watched him closely. “He isn’t sick or hurt or anything?”
“He’s just overly tired,” Donna explained when he began to sniffle a bit while she put him in his pajamas. “And cranky, I guess.”
“Will he fall asleep,” Josh asked, giving him a soft kiss on the top of the head as Donna held him.
“Eventually,” Donna had resigned herself to the fact that it was going to be a long night. “I’m going to turn off the light and try to get him to conk out,” she told him.
“Alright. Let me know if you need anything, I’ve gotta get some work done before my meeting in the morning. Josh rubbed his back for a minute more before exiting the room and trying to formulate a strategy for the upcoming vote on the highways bill. Before he knew it he was pacing the living room, working out a plan in his head.
Donna was exhausted. Absolutely exhausted. It had been an unusually stressful week at work and she’d had two quizzes, a paper and a meeting with her advisor. The good news was that she was on track to graduate in December. She’d also been given some extra responsibilities at work, which had resulted in a title bump and small raise.
Jack just needed to be held that night. As she walked back and forth in front of the bed and spoke softly to him, she heard something. The repeated movements and mumblings that couldn’t be anything else- Josh was working through something in his mind. And she knew how that went. Pacing, talking, and a late night.
She opened the door to her room and walked out to Josh, handing him Jack. “Your turn,” she smiled. “I’m in there walking him around and talking to him. Just keep doing what you were doing and when he’s definitely out the pack and play is set up in my room, just lay him down. Sound ok?” Josh nodded, glad to be doing his part. Donna grabbed two aspirin and washed them down with a glass of water, handing two more to Josh who did the same. She squeezed his shoulder and went back to bed, asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow.
“Well buddy, we’ve got a vote to win,” Josh told Jack, resuming his pacing. “Here’s what I was thinking…”
Sam Seaborn walked through the corridors of the West Wing exhausted from their Arizona trip. He’d returned to the White House in the motorcade to gather a few things and drive his car home, as it had been sitting in staff parking all week. He walked through the corridor, needing to drop some paperwork for Josh before he left.
“On your way out?”
“Mr. President,” Sam turned to face him. “You startled me.”
“Sorry, Sam. I just wondered if you had a quick minute.
“Yes, of course.” Sam was always chipper.
The two remained mostly silent until they were back into the Oval. President Santos poured them each a drink, handing one to Sam. “You’ve been friends with Josh for a long time, haven’t you Sam?”
“I have. In fact, he’s my best friend.”
“Then clue me in- does the man have a personal life at all?” The President was curious. Josh had always come across so shut off. It was no secret that he was a workaholic, but Josh rarely shared any personal information.
Sam shrugged his shoulders, looking out over Pennsylvania Avenue. “It’s very complicated, Sir. But to answer your question, not much of one, I guess,” Sam replied, taking a drink. “The job is his life.”
“You know how closed off he is. I couldn’t help but wonder. A conversation I kind of walked in on a few weeks ago made me start to wonder. Gotta say, never thought I’d care, but it just makes him that much harder to read.”
“Can’t say I blame you,” Sam admitted. “If I didn’t know him better I suppose it would bother me to know so little about a man I work so closely with.”
“I know quite a bit about him professionally, and I guess we chat sometimes. He’s a Mets fan.”
“That he is,” Sam chuckled.
“It’s just that it seems like he’s always giving me advice- and Helen, for that matter, and we know so little about him. And tonight when he got into his car- and you’ll think I’m crazy, but I swear I heard a crying baby.”
Sam laughed. “I think you’re hearing things, Mr. President.”
“Yeah,” the President laughed, finishing his drink. “Must be time for bed.”
He had completely worked out his strategy for the Highways bill. He’d go over it with the senior staff and the President in the morning. Softly opening the door to his guest room he settled a sleeping Jack into bed, standing over him to make sure he didn’t wake. Once Josh was satisfied he was truly out for the night he turned to Donna, pulling the covers up over her. He could tell how tired she was. He brushed he hair out of her face and leaned over, lightly kissing her forehead before closing the door and going to sleep himself.
Josh threw on a suit and wandered out to his kitchen the next morning. He had to be to senior staff by eight. Donna was clad in a robe, sitting at the kitchen table, drinking from a mug. “There’s coffee,” Donna told him.
“Thanks,” he wandered over to Jack, who was having breakfast in the high chair Josh had assembled the prior weekend, and ruffled his hair, laying a file and its corresponding notes on the table as he poured himself a cup of coffee. Donna stood, walking over to him to automatically tie his tie.
“He’s in a better mood this morning,” Josh noted, watching Jack happily swinging his feet as he fed himself pieces of a banana. “I’ll chalk that up to the success of our late night strategy session. You can just call me the baby whisperer, Donnatella,” Josh smirked. She rolled her eyes, straightening his tie and leaning her hip on the counter next to where he stood.
“Hey, I was thinking,” Josh began again. “This place isn’t really very babyproof.”
Donna chuckled. “Yeah, Josh, that’s probably an understatement.”
“So,” he continued, “we should do something about that. There’s a home furnishings place three blocks over, I opened an account and listed your name. Get whatever, just finish the place and make sure it’s comfortable for him. And for you,” he gave her a quick smile. “I thought we could turn that empty bedroom into his nursery?”
She raised her eyebrows at him. “Just do it, Donna. You know it bothers you that there are sharp objects and boxes of things that haven’t been put away laying around. Plus, he’ll be mobile soon.”
He had a point there. It wasn’t exactly the safest place for a baby in his apartment. “Are you sure you want me to?”
“Donna, please. You know how I am about stuff like this. Look around, I haven’t even unpacked. You’d be doing me a favor- and probably getting my mother off my back about the state of this place. Just do it. And there’s a card for a contractor on the fridge if you need, you know, painting or whatever. You know what I like better than I do. Just don’t go to frilly- we need some manly space, don’t we Jack?”
She turned back to their son, still content as can be in his highchair, listening to his father speak.
“Ewww,” she said, “Buddy, don’t put your breakfast on Daddy’s important papers.” She wiped the banana off of Josh’s folder, slipping it into his backpack. “And Daddy, don’t put your important briefs where sticky little fingers can reach.” She handed him his backpack.
“What time are you done today?” she asked.
“Four probably,” he muttered. “You’ve still got that thing?”
“Yes, Joshua. At 4:45, so if you can’t make it can you call and let me know?”
“I’ll be here, barring a national crisis,” he told her kissing Jack goodbye and heading to the White House.
Josh outlined his plan for the Highway Bill to Sam, Lou and the President, reaching into his backpack to provide them the vote breakdown he’d worked on the night before.
Handing copies around to each of them as he spoke, Josh was interrupted by Lou. “Sorry to interrupt, but is there… banana on this?” Lou squinted her eyes and inspected her paper.
“Yeah right,” Sam laughed. “Josh probably hasn’t eaten a piece of fruit since…” he trailed off, realizing that Josh probably hadn’t eaten a banana since Donna left.
“Give me that,” Josh snapped, taking the paper back and continuing with his narrative.
Sam studied him closely, thinking back to his conversation with the President the night before. What exactly, Sam wondered, had the President walked in on?
Josh breezed in at 4:30 to watch Jack, who was taking a long nap. Donna gave him a quick run down of where everything he’d need was stored and how to reach her. All of the sudden she was a little nervous.
“Donna, it’s fine. Calm down. I told you, I’m the baby whisperer,” he added with a smirk. “We’ll be two men watching baseball and doing, you know- as men do. I’m a pro a this. Go. Don’t worry.” He practically shooed her out the door.
Donna wandered onto the street and towards a coffee shop, grabbing a warm cup on a crisp fall day. She really didn’t have anywhere to go, she just wanted to give Josh some alone time with Jack. And she could use a minute to herself as well. Now that Josh had decided to redecorate his place, though, she had a mission. She’d made a mental list of what he’d need earlier in the day while he was at work, and she’d already called the contractor for some paint. It was no wonder he was never there, she thought, the place was so cold and unwelcoming.
She wandered into the furniture store and began to pick out which items they’d need, taking her time without a care in the world.
Josh sat on the floor of his living room with the game on in the background. It was a beautiful day in late September and he had been explaining baseball statistic to Jack for half an hour. Helping him to balance, Josh coaxed him to take a few steps. “Come on, buddy, you’ve got this. You’re so close.”
Jack showed no interest in moving, however, content just to hold onto Josh and look around.
“I think you’re just being stubborn,” Josh told him. “Just like the talking. But that’s okay, you come by it honestly,” he smiled. “You’ll get there when you’re ready.”
The played with a few toys before Josh popped him up on his feet again, for one more shot. The baby book that Donna had given him encouraged trying to get him to become mobile on his own, so Josh was on a mission. Jack was stable on his feet and Josh moved his fire truck just out of his reach. When Jack began to move, though, he fell side ways, but Josh wasn’t quick enough. He hit his head on the coffee table and let out a wail that broke Josh’s heart.
Scooping him up, Josh tried not to panic. He check Jack over, and he seemed to be fine, just startled from the fall. There was a little red spot but no goose egg was forming.
“You’re alright, buddy,” Josh assured him, but Jack continued to cry.
Josh tried to remember what Donna had done in situations such as this, and what the baby book had said. A snack, Josh remembered, would distract him. He’d seen Donna procure Cheerios from the depths of her bag at a moment’s notice to distract him. He toted Jack into the kitchen, rummaging through the pantry, but couldn’t find anything that looked baby friendly enough for him to eat. There was some fruit in the fridge but it would take to long to cut up. Opening the freezer he grabbed a fruit bar popsicle, probably left over from his mother’s visit earlier in the summer. Josh knew he would never willingly buy them.
He sat Jack on the counter and took the wrapper off, offering him the treat. Jack was almost immediately content. “Just a bite or two,” he told Jack. “Mommy will go crazy if she finds out I gave you a popsicle for dinner and you’re all wound up when she gets home.”
Jack was enjoying the sticky treat, but wasn’t eating fast enough to avoid the melting mess, so Josh took a bite of it, attempting to stop the dripping. As soon as he tasted it, he threw it in the sink, grabbing for the wrapper. Strawberry.
“Shit,” he said, getting a cool cloth to wipe Jack’s face. Little hives were already beginning to form. Josh went into overreaction mode immediately, snatching Jack into his arms while he grabbed his wallet and cell from the entry table and yelled for his detail, who had him loaded into his waiting car in an instant, and called ahead to GW.
Josh was in a panic, studying Jack closely for any signs of trouble breathing or swelling. He didn’t see any, but he couldn’t be too careful. He encouraged his driver to hurry, and whipped out his cell phone to make a call he wished he didn’t have to.
“Thanks again for all of your help,” Donna shook the hand of the saleswoman and neatly folded the receipt for the furniture and slid it into her purse, exiting the store when her phone rang.
“Hey, I’m just on my way back.” Donna’s smile faded as she heard Josh’s voice come through the phone.
“Josh, listen to me,” he kept talking, not hearing Donna over his own thoughts. “Josh. Josh. JOSH!”
He finally stopped speaking for just a second.
“It’s a fairly mild allergy, are you sure he’s-“
Josh was past the point of reason, Donna was sure, and wouldn’t rest easy until he was assured Jack was ok by a medical doctor. He was certain something was seriously wrong.
“Okay, Okay, I believe you. Where are you?” Donna hailed a cab, trying to remain calm for Josh’s sake, while she was really a bundle of nerves. Was Josh just being paranoid or was something seriously wrong with her baby?
He’s told here they were pulling up, and that they’d be in the back when she arrived.
“Listen to me for a second, Josh.” Donna had to get this out so he could hear it. She knew where his head would be. “This is not your fault. Okay? It was an accident. It’s not your fault. He’s going to be fine.”
Josh ended the call as they’d arrived at the ER, and Donna sped along in a cab to meet them there, willing the driver to go faster.
Josh sat on the hospital bed, clutching his now sleepy son close to his chest. He had been assured repeatedly that Jack was fine, it appeared to just be a mild allergic reaction- an itch on his skin and that was about it. He’d been given a small dose of antihistamines and was being kept for observation for an hour or two just to make sure nothing was wrong.
Josh hated hospitals, particularly this hospital. Today, however, his mind was somewhere else. He was grateful that Jack was alright and that this evening’s visit was little more than an overly protective parent, but something had begun to bother Josh aside from the nagging guilt of feeding his infant son a strawberry. Something he hadn’t expected.
He’d teased Donna about being the baby whisperer, and was loving the time he was spending getting to know Jack, but he had barely scratched the surface. The nurse had handed him a clipboard full of paperwork, forms asking for basic information along with medical history, and Josh was unable to complete them for his son.
Sure, he’d asked Donna as many questions as he could think of and she’d offered as much as she could come up with to tell him, but still, the most basic of information was lost on him.
Donna broke his train of though when she blew into the room, clutching her hand to her chest in relief when she saw them.
She walked over and gave Jack a kiss, running her hand over his head as he slept. “Everybody okay,” she asked Josh.
“Yeah,” he choked out. “They just gave him some Benadryl or something and said he’d be good as new in a few hours. Listen, Donna, I’m so sorry-“
Donna cut him off. “Stop, Josh. This is not your fault. It was an accident, you didn’t do it on purpose,” she looked him right in the eye to drive he point home. “Not. Your. Fault. You don’t get to feel guilty for this one, okay? It happened, and when it did, well, you did everything right. Good job, Dad. Thanks for taking care of him.” She leaned in and gave him a soft kiss on the cheek before turning her attention back to Jack.
Josh just stared at her for a minute, completely caught off guard by her reaction, but at the same time so comforted. It was truly his Donna shining through again. She’d always been able to tell what he was thinking.
She motioned for him to scoot over and sat next to him on the hospital bed, softly rubbing Jack’s back. “When can we blow this joint,” she asked with a laugh.
“Thirty minutes or so,” he told her. “Hey, uh, there’s some paperwork on that table,” he nodded his head to indicate where the forms lay, “and I wasn’t sure…” he trailed off, somewhat embarrassed that he couldn’t complete the forms.
She hopped up and grabbed the clipboard, rooting around in her purse for a pen, and then returned to her spot. Donna intentionally began to read the questions and answers out loud, trying to remain casual but allowing Josh to hear the information as she placed pen to paper. She titled the insurance information to where he could see what he was writing, and he was watching closely.
Jack Lyman was scrawled across the top of the page under patient’s name. Without dramatically crossing it out, Donna jotted down John B. Moss next to it and went on to the next question. Date of birth was correct, mailing address was fine, Donna scribbled in his social security number and her insurance billing information.
“What’s the B stand for,” Josh finally asked, somewhat embarrassed that it hadn’t come up before.
“Bartlet,” Donna responded with a smile, not looking up from the form. She felt Josh’s arm snake around her shoulders and pull her close.
“And John as in…”
“Kennedy, Jack for short,” she told him.
“Excellent choices,” he told her, kissing the top of her hair. They’d been doing things like that a lot lately, Donna noticed.
Not long after, they were released and they took a still sleepy Jack home and to bed. Josh and Donna watched him sleep in the dark for a few moments before Josh quietly brought up what Donna was sure had been on his mind for the past few hours. “His last name is Moss,” Josh noted softly.
“It is,” Donna gently nodded her head.
“Can we change that?” Donna was shocked at how timidly Josh asked.
“Yes. I’d really like that- and I think Jack would too,” she told him and meant.
Chapter 12: Chapter 12
Donna and Jack returned to New York late Sunday afternoon as planned, having spent the rest of the weekend just relaxing at Josh's apartment. They'd discussed Jack's birthday the following weekend and agreed to keep it low key, much to Josh's dismay. If it were up to him there would be a carnival in front of his apartment and a Presidential proclamation.
But, since Jack was turning 1 and wouldn't understand the concept of a birthday party, and because they were still trying to keep a very low profile, they'd agreed to dinner and cake at his apartment with a few simple decorations and a guest list of one: Sam.
Donna knew they were probably living on borrowed time as far as their privacy was concerned, but there was little she could do about that. They'd need to come up with a plan, but for now they'd continue they way they were going- it was working nicely for everyone.
Jack was always fussy on their first night back in her apartment- and away from Josh. Donna rocked him slowly in the overstuffed glider in his nursery, trying to figure out where time had gone. Pretty soon she would have a one year old.
"Hey," Josh paused in the doorway, not taking his eyes off the paperwork that Lou had just handed him. He circled something in pen and leaned up against a wall to make a quick comment.
"Josh. Good to see you." Sam, ever the optimist, rarely caught sight of his best friend in this corner of the West Wing anymore. "What can I do for you?"
Josh looked up, almost as though he was startled to be there, his brain completely somewhere else. "Oh. Uh, Saturday, after work. Want to swing by?"
"…swing by your office?" Sam wasn't used to receiving social invitations from Josh anymore.
"By my place, Sam. For dinner or whatever. A party I guess."
"A dinner party." Sam wore an expression of genuine confusion. "At your apartment."
"Yeah." Josh didn't understand what was so hard to grasp about his offer.
Sam had never seen Josh entertain or cook. To pair the two wasn't a combination he'd been expecting.
"I don't understand- you're cooking? Or should I bring a pizza?"
Josh laughed. "I'm cooking. Well, I'm not cooking," he rephrased. But the middle of the bullpen on a busy day wasn't the best way to hash this all out. It would have to wait until Saturday to be explained. "Just come over around 5, alright? There's uh, someone I want you to meet." Josh smiled widely, which really caught Sam off guard. Maybe, he thought, the President was on to something.
Josh turned to walk away, but stopped, peeking his head back into Sam's office. "Oh, and uh, don't mention it to anyone, alright?"
Sam nodded his head in agreement. "Should I bring a date?"
Josh smirked, "Nah, I think you'll find yourself in pleasant company." He walked away, leaving Sam more confused than he'd been in ages.
"Whew, you're getting heavy, buddy." Donna couldn't help but to feel a little bit guilty as she walked around her apartment taking care of a few nightly chores. She shifted Jack onto her other hip. The truth was, she'd been carrying him everywhere she possibly could- that or walking slowly behind him as she held his little hands to support him as he tried to toddle about. He'd sit and play for a few minutes on the floor, content among his blocks and toys, but as soon as he'd stand up and get a brave look on his face she'd snatch him up.
She felt bad, she really did. She wanted Jack to succeed, it was just that, when it came to walking, well, that was all Josh. He'd made it his mission. They'd worked on in relentlessly on the weekends. Josh had read several articles and tried all kinds of approaches- and he'd been largely successful. The progress that Jack had made on the weekends was tenfold compared to the cooperation he'd give Donna at the same task. And on Sunday, just before they got back he'd been so close. So, knowing they'd be back in D.C. in just a few days, Donna had decided to carry him. She'd wanted Josh to be there for his first steps. It was, Donna decided, the very least he deserved. She'd weighed her options carefully and determined that four more days of immobility wouldn't have a long term impact on Jack.
She'd decided that she'd probably made the right decision when Josh had called her the night before to tell her about the tiny sneaker's he'd purchased. She could almost hear him bouncing on the balls of his feet in excitement as he described the pair he'd picked out especially for Jack.
"Hello?" The voice was confused and partially uninterested. He'd guessed she'd answered without checking her caller ID first.
Josh leaned back in his office chair and threw his feet up on his desk. "Well, Claudia Jean, you've taught me well. After all these years you are, indeed, my first call."
"What did you do now, idiot boy?" He could hear the smile in her voice.
Josh let out a full throated chuckle. "Come to D.C. this weekend, Ceej, and find out."
"It's that bad!?" she halfway yelled. "And as I recall you have our own team of specialists to handle your secret plans to flight inflation now. You can leave me out of it."
He groaned. "I'm never going to live that down, am I?"
"Not in this lifetime, no."
"Seriously, C.J. Trust me on this one. Hop a flight out here and be at my house by 5 on Saturday. And don't make a big production of the fact that you're coming. We all know you're out here to see a certain editor at The Post pretty regularly anyway."
She didn't have much to say to that.
"Call Sam, you can con him in to picking you up from the airport."
She sighed. "Ah, what the hell. I'll be there."
"Great, Thanks! I can't tell you how happy this will make her… umm, I mean me. I'll see you then, C.J."
C.J sighed. "Her who? Josh, why do I have the feeling I'm going to regret agreeing to this?"
"Oh, trust me, Claudia. You won't want to hear about this second hand," he told her, hanging up the phone.
For once, when Donna and Jack arrived, Josh was already at home.
"Hi," she smiled, surprised to see him. "What are you doing here so early?"
"They're fumigating my office or something, forced me to work from home this afternoon," Josh muttered, kissing her cheek hello and immediately taking Jack from her. "How was your flight?"
"It was uneventful," she told him. "He's getting so big it's hard to contain him for an hour," she laughed.
He looked up from where he was already spread out on the floor with Jack and a fire truck. "You okay? You look like you're sore. Back bothering you?"
"I'm fine," she muttered. "Must have slept wrong or something." She wasn't going to admit she'd been hauling Jack around everywhere for four and a half days. "I'm just going to grab some aspirin."
"Tomorrow is your birthday, buddy," Josh had completely turned his attention to Jack. "Did you know that? I'm so glad you're here so I can celebrate it with you!" He was talking softly with such animation, and Jack was enthralled with his father, as he always was.
Donna could hear Josh moving a few things around and talking to Jack before she rounded the corner. She smiled when she saw Jack in his tiny shoes, Josh beaming behind him. That didn't take long, she thought.
"Check out those shoes, little man," she laughed walking over to bend down next to Jack. "You're all ready to go!" Jack bounced up and down, holding onto the coffee table for a minute and giggling. He loved the attention, and apparently, the shoes.
Donna stood again, wandering around Josh's place and looking at the work the contractor had gotten done over the week.
"Take a lap with Daddy," she heard Josh mutter, holding Jack's hands for some satiability and walking once around the living room with him.
She'd just let herself into the guest bathroom to check out the new paint color when she heard Josh call her, somewhat urgently, from the living room.
"Donna… Donna, I think he's going to do it… DONNA!"
She hurried down the hallway just in time to see Jack step from the coffee table into Josh's waiting arms.
He wobbled a bit and Josh scooped him up, tossing him happily in the air. "Atta boy! You did it, buddy!" Josh, who was nothing short of elated, turned to her in the hallway. "Did you see that, Mom?"
"I sure did." Donna wasn't sure who she was happier for- Josh or Jack. "Let's try it again," she told him, sitting down on the living room rug that had been delivered earlier that week and coaxing Jack over to her from Josh.
They sat there for quite a while, Jack hobbling back and forth until he was exhausted, curling up with Josh. Donna made herself comfortable beside them, handing Jack a fabric activity book to occupy him and ordered a pizza. Simple nights like these, she decided, were now her favorite.
"He's out," Josh announced, leaning back into the couch and putting his feet up towards Donna's end.
"Tomorrow we'll have a one year old," Donna's heart clenched just thinking about it. "He won't be a baby anymore. He'll be one."
"He'll always be our baby, that's not going to change between now and tomorrow morning," Josh told her, opening his arms and motioning for her to come closer.
She did, moving towards him on the couch and settling comfortably in his arms. She rested her head on his chest and closed her eyes. She'd tried so hard to keep her distance from Josh, letting him determine how he'd like to proceed and work through things in his own time. She knew that until he had time to figure out what he wanted and process all of this they couldn't rush into anything. It would only end in disaster and she wasn't willing to let everything deteriorate because she had been in love with him all these years. If Josh didn't ever want anything more than their current dynamic she'd have to be okay with that. She'd made her choices. Now she'll do whatever is best for Jack.
His hand was lightly rubbing her arm as he watched the end of Wolf Blitzer's commentary on the current administration. "So, Donnatella Moss, tell me what you were doing at this time, one year ago," he smiled, nudging her a bit.
She looked up at him and studied his face. "Do you really want to hear about it," she asked, unsure if he was kidding or not.
"Of course I do," he told her genuinely.
She thought for a moment, trying to decide where to begin. "I- I wish you would have been there," she stated, the waterworks starting involuntarily.
He wrapped her up in his arms a little bit tighter. "Me too," he told her, but in such a gentle way. "But I don't want you to beat yourself up about that anymore, okay? You're always on me about guilt, but you need to take some of your own advice. We can't change it now, but I'd still like to know. Is that okay?"
She nodded that it was and began again after a moment to compose herself, playing absentmindedly with the button on his shirt. For all of their efforts to work through their issues while keeping a safe distance, they both knew they were playing with fire when it came to their boundaries.
"It was very early in the morning," she told him, "and he was so small, and I was so scared. But they handed him to me and he already had your curls and your dimples and… I've just never been so in love."
He kissed her forehead, turning to bury his face in her neck. "Yeah," he choked out. "Me either."
Josh got an early start the next day, but he made sure he had time to wish his little man happy birthday, and to get him all excited and wound up, before heading to the White House.
Donna took her time setting up his apartment for the afternoon. Josh had purchased a few decorations, which she found to be a completely adorable gesture, and she hung them up, getting into the festive spirit. A few streamers in the dining room nook, a colorful table cloth and a simple pennant banner on Jack's high chair. Nothing over the top. She'd made a cake, which she'd frost while Jack was taking his nap, and dinner would just need to warm in the oven.
She sat down on the floor of the now finished nursery and he walked over to her, clad in his pajamas and the tiny sneakers he was currently insisting be worn at all times. He'd cried and reached for them until Josh relented this morning, putting them on with his airplane zip onesie. They'd decided that morning that Jack had largely skipped walking. He went from a few uneasy steps yesterday to running everywhere he went this morning.
"Guess what, buddy?" She lay down next to him as he played on a tiny toy xylophone. "You're going to meet your Uncle Sam this afternoon."
Donna was beyond excited, even though she was nervous, to see Sam. She'd missed all of her friends since she'd left the White House. She was a bit apprehensive, however, to find out how they'd all react to Jack. And to her keeping him a secret. She was aware they'd be upset, and once again she told herself she just had to take it head on. It was the decision she'd made and she had to live with the consequences. Besides, it was between her and Josh now.
When Josh breezed through the door at 4:30 with a huge bundle of balloons to find Donna still not showered and sliding dinner into the oven while Jack sat on the floor of the kitchen and shouted "no" repeatedly.
He raised his eyebrows, knowing better than to say anything about her running behind.
"The decorations look great," he told her, kissing her hello on the cheek. That still threw her of every time. "And I brought some balloons," he told Jack. Jack immediately reached for them, his eyes lighting up.
Donna smirked at the guys mutual excitement. Josh tied the balloons to the back of Jack's highchair and picked him up, returning to Donna. "What's with the get up," he asked, referring to Jack, who was wearing nothing but a diaper and his tennis shoes. "He cries when he doesn't have them on. Its just not worth the fight today," she admitted.
He laughed. "So, um, how would you feel about setting a 4th place at the table," he began casually. "Sam's bringing someone."
Donna raised an eyebrow at him, unsure of where this was going. He could tell she was getting a little bit nervous. "Do you, um, have you met her? Can you trust her?"
"Oh, sure, I know her," Josh began casually, taking the beater out of the icing bowl and giving Jack a lick of the sugary treat before tasting it himself and tossing the beater into the dishwasher. "Actually, maybe you've heard of her… C.J. Cregg?" He smirked at Donna, who beamed back at him.
"C.J. is coming? Seriously?" She was ecstatic.
"Seriously." Josh laughed. "She'll be here with Sam at 5. Go get showered, I'll get Usain Bolt over here dressed and ready."
"Thanks," she muttered as she hurried down the hall to take a quick shower.
He put the cake on the server in the dining room and quickly wiped down the counter, surprised at how much he was learning to do with only one free hand. Jack, for the most part, was cooperative though. He was content just being held by Josh.
He then walked to the hall closet and pulled out the gifts that Donna had wrapped for Jack and sat them in the living room. "And now one for Mommy," he whispered to Jack, heading to his bedroom to pull the long rectangular box from where he'd stashed it in his nightstand, placing it gently on her pillow.
"Now, let's get you dressed."
"No, huh?" Josh laughed. Everything was either 'no' or 'yay.'
"No, no, no, no, no."
"Mommy didn't lay anything out," Josh muttered, rifling through the drawers. "So how about your Mets tshirt?" Josh pulled the shirt over Jack's head and began to dig for a pair of jeans when the doorbell rang. He glanced at his watch- they were early.
"Just a second, bud," Josh told Jack, sit here and play, he placed him on the rug with some toys. "I'll be right back."
Josh jogged over and opened the door, greeting a cheery Sam and a curious C.J.
"We brought wine," C.J. greeted. "Now, let us in so we can figure out what in the hell you've been-"
C.J was cut short when she heard a fit of giggles coming down the hall and the stomping of tiny feet running as fast as they could go. She and Sam stood there, eyes wide and mouths agape as a mop of curly auburn hair atop a tiny little boy rounded the corner, crashing into Josh's leg and shooting them a dimpled smile.
"Might as well cut to the chase," Josh muttered, hoisting Jack back up and gesturing for Sam and C.J. to come in. "So," he began, closing the door behind them. "Make yourselves at home."
"Josh." Sam spoke first. "You're holding a small child. A small child who bears, well, a striking resemblance to you."
"Yeah, we get that a lot. His name is Jack, by the way."
"And he's not wearing any pants," Sam added, unsure of the story behind this particular ensemble.
At the mention of pants Jack piped up. "No."
Sam tilted his head a bit. "What's he saying no to?"
"Pants," Josh informed them.
"No." Jack piped up again.
"Well, he's certainly yours," C.J. interjected some humor upon the situation, not knowing what to say.
Sam, who was effectively shell shocked, continued to stand silently in the foyer. "Who- When- Why didn't you-"
"We'll discuss it all later, Sam. Let me finish getting him dressed. Make yourselves at home."
Donna could hear chatting in the living room and hurried through her hair and makeup routine, pulling on some jeans and a light sweater, extremely excited to see her friends again. Stepping out of the bathroom the light blue box caught her eye immediately. She walked over, shocked by its presence, and opened the accompanying card with her name on it.
You've given me the greatest gift I could ever imagine. Your strength and kindness amaze me and there is no one else I'd rather be on this journey with.
She opened the box and gasp at the simple but gorgeous diamond solitaire necklace. Fastening the clasp around the back of her neck she lightly touched up her now tear stained makeup and made her way out to her guests.
She turned the corner from the hallway to see Jack playing contently and Josh handing C.J. and Sam drinks.
"Hi guys," she spoke, hesitantly at first. "I'm so glad you could both make it."
"Donna," Sam could no longer mask his shock and stood by the counter, doing his best impression of Gail.
C.J. let out a full throated laugh. A deep, genuine laugh, a smile spreading wide across her face as she looked at Josh. "Boy, am I glad I don't work for you anymore." She sat down her glass and walked over to Donna, enveloping her friend in a giant hug.
Dinner had gone well that evening, everyone eventually loosening up a bit, but still managing to avoid any details about the elephant in the room. Jack won them over immediately and spent the evening reveling in the attention from his new friends.
He'd opened his gifts, a couple of books and a toy fire truck, and Donna had served cake. Jack had quite the adventure eating his piece, wearing more of the icing than he had consumed.
"I'll just get him cleaned up," Donna announced, taking Jack to the kitchen.
"And I'll grab us all some coffee," Josh followed her.
"They're all really good together," C.J. said to Sam as soon as they were out of earshot.
Sam nodded his head in agreement. "They seem so… happy."
Donna sat Jack on the counter and began to wipe his face when he reached out and grabbed her nose in an attempt to evade the damp washcloth. His still sticky hands left a dollop of icing on Donna's nose and she left it there for a quick second, just to be silly and get a giggle out of her son. Josh walked by to grab the cream from the refrigerator and, almost as if it were reflexive, leaned in and kissed the icing off of Donna's nose and then planted a soft, chase kiss on her lips.
Donna smiled lazily. It felt like the most natural thing in the world. But it wasn't. Josh had just kissed her. And though it may have been natural and easy, it was anything but routine. Chaste or not, she felt something. And she thought that maybe he did too. Her eyes widened and she stiffened a bit, processing that this had really happened.
Josh froze slightly, meeting her gaze. He'd just kissed Donna. As if it were no big deal. When in his head, it was a huge deal. It was, quite possibly, the BIGGEST deal. And he'd just leaned over and kissed it, right in the kitchen while she washed Jack's face. No romance, no woo. Josh was mentally kicking himself. It all felt so right to him, but he'd wanted to give her the whole nine yards. And he didn't even know if this was what she wanted. Hell, he'd been so mad at her a few weeks ago he was seeing red.
But this was Donna. His Donna. "One of these days, Donnatella, I'm going to sweep you off your feet," he whispered into her ear.
Unsure of how to proceed from there, he went about his business normally, rejoining their guests in the dining room.
C.J., while not normally a 'baby person' held Jack until bedtime, when Josh put him down, leaving Donna to visit with their friends. She caught them up on what she'd been doing since the White House and apologized for losing touch. They did the same, the conversation staying light and breezy until Josh slid into the chair next to Donna's.
"Guys," C.J. began with a different tone, "it's none of our business, but what's going on? I mean, why didn't you ever say anything?"
Donna opened her mouth to speak. "I-"
She barely got a word out.
"Things were just so crazy," Josh began. "The campaign, the transition, The White House. Donna was in school and working. I hope you guys know that we would have liked to have included you from the beginning, but it just wasn't possible. I hope you can move past that and start fresh, because we'd like you both to be in Jack's lives. And in ours as well."
"But why- why did you hide him from us? And why now?" This time Sam was the one voicing his concerns, his voice filled with more anger than C.J.'s.
Donna began to speak again, but Josh placed his hand on her knee, giving a small squeeze to silence her.
"We needed some time, Sam. We had to figure things out for ourselves first. The details stay between Donna and I, and that's never going to change." He spoke in a voice he rarely used, and left no room for argument.
Donna stared at him, unsure of why he was jumping in front of the train for her.
"And have you figured "it" out," C.J. asked.
Josh shrugged his shoulders. "Some of it. And I'm hoping when the day comes that we've figured all of it out, or that someone decides that this too is for public consumption, that we'll have you two on our sides."
"Absolutely," they both agreed without even having to think about it.
Josh rested his arm on the top of Donna's chair, glad that they had that out of the way. The truth was that he feared that day may be coming sooner rather than later. They could only wall themselves off for so long- eventually the press would have a field day with his family. And even though he had a very capable communications department in the Santos White House, he knew that they were all strangers to Donna and she'd need someone besides him that she trusted personally and professionally more than ever- and that someone was C.J.
I know this is fluffy but I promise I'm going somewhere with it. Promise.
Thanks for all the amazing comments! So great to hear from you guys :)
Chapter 13: Chapter 13
Donna jumped when the front door to Josh’s apartment swung open mid day the following Saturday.
“Hey,” he grinned at her.
“You startled me,” she told him, standing up from where she’d been studying at his kitchen table. “It’s the middle of the day, what are you doing here? Are you done for the day?” She was optimistic.
He leaned in and lightly kissed her nose. “I wish I was, but I have a few more things this afternoon.” He tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear. “I came to get Jack. He and I have a lunch meeting in 30 minutes.”
“Oh, do you?” She thought he was kidding.
“We do,” Josh bounced on the balls of his feet. “Is he up?”
The question answered itself when they heard Jack babbling from the nursery.
“Can you help me get him dressed?”
Donna was still confused. “Josh, where are you going that you can take Jack?”
Josh grinned brightly. “We’re having lunch with Leo.”
Donna suddenly understood the pride swelling in Josh. Leo had been a father figure to him, and introducing Leo to Jack was a big, and important, step for Josh.
“You find him something to wear and I’ll attempt to tame the bed head,” she told him. “There are khaki pants in the second dresser drawer and you can grab a dress shirt for him out of the closet.” Donna lifted Jack out of the crib, but he immediately reached for Josh, excited to see him. “Say hi, Dad,” Donna instructed him in passing and Josh ruffled Jack’s curls.
“I didn’t know that babies had dress shirts and khaki pants,” Josh muttered, doing as he’d been instructed.
Donna had Jack ready to go and they were out the door in record time.
“You’re sure you don’t want to come with us,” Josh asked for what had to be the fifth time.
“No,” Donna shook her head. “Go, enjoy yourselves. Sounds like a guy’s afternoon. I’m just going to run an errand of my own.” She kissed them both on their cheeks and closed the door, quickly grabbing a jacket and scarf and setting out on a mission of her own.
“Knock, knock,” Donna stood in the doorway to Sam’s office.
“Donna,” Sam stood to greet her. “Come in!”
She entered, giving Sam a friendly hug and closing the door behind her. “I brought lunch,” she extended a to go bag containing what she knew to be his favorite lunch from the deli down the street. “Thanks for agreeing to squeeze me in on such short notice.”
“Of course,” Sam told her genuinely, unwrapping half a sandwich and a cup of soup. “What brings you by.”
“Well,” Donna moved around the pieces of lettuce in her salad. “A couple of things, actually.
Sam glanced up at her, wondering what could possibly give her pause after last weekend’s revelation. “Donna? Is everything alright?”
She sat her fork down and sighed. “That’s the thing, Sam. I’m just not sure. Everything seems to be fine- great, even, but…”
“Ah.” Sam seemingly read her mind.
“Has he been taking care of himself, Sam? Because he puts on this mask like nothing could possibly be wrong but I’m not convinced. He just looks so tired, and he’s so thin.”
Sam nodded. He’d never discuss this with anyone else, but, well it was Donna. She’d been so tuned to Josh. She’d caught it that Christmas. “I just don’t know, Donna. He seems okay to me right now. I know he covers it well when he’s not doing so great, but I haven’t seen anything to make me worry. I’ll be perfectly honest with you though- I’m not sure of the last time he talked to Stanley or saw a cardiologist. But Leo usually stays on his case for both of those. I wouldn’t worry about it too much. You know when something’s wrong, trust your gut. Donna, do you think something’s wrong?”
“I- no, I don’t suppose I do. But I don’t see him every day. I just- look out for him, okay, Sam? I know you have been, I just worry about him. I always have. Every single day since I met him.”
“I know you have, Donna,” he assured her. “The depth of your relationship with Josh is not lost on me. And if I think something’s wrong, I promise I’ll call you. So don’t lose sleep over it,” he smiled.
“He’s been so happy for the last several weeks- I presume that has everything to do with you,” Sam looked up at her.
Donna bit her lip, trying to stifle a smile. “He really is crazy about Jack. And it goes both ways.”
“That’s pretty clear,” Sam joked, turning his attention back to his lunch.
“I wanted to- Sam, I want to apologize. I know I hurt him. I didn’t mean to. I certainly didn’t want to, but I did. And as his best friend I understand if you hate me, but I just wanted to let you know how sorry I am.”
“Donna, I certainly don’t hate you. If I’ve done something to give you that impression, I apologize.” He stood and rounded his desk, sitting in the unoccupied chair next to her. “Last weekend I was surprised, that’s all. It was a lot to take in. But I’ll tell you this- whatever goes on between you and Josh is just that- between you and Josh. You’re not going to use him or hurt him, Donna. I know you better than to think that. And if Josh can get over whatever happened in the past then I certainly can too.”
“Thanks, Sam.” She stood and hugged him again, this time a lot more genuinely. “I’ve really missed you. And I’m so glad Jack with have his Uncle Sammy in his life now.”
Sam swelled with pride. “I am too. Uncle Sammy, huh? Sounds like a promotion to me.”
Donna headed back to Josh’s apartment and changed into some comfortable clothes, hoping to get a run in before Josh and Jack came back. She’d only been there for a few minutes, however, when Josh came crashing in, handing Jack off to her and explaining that something had come up at work. She studied the two of them for a moment, both with wild curls and unexplainably rumpled clothing. Both of them were absolutely perfect in her eyes. The moment was fleeting though- he was back out the door in a flash.
She and Jack continued a to have a relaxing day, and eventually night. Josh didn’t come home from the White House and Donna eventually fell asleep on the couch waiting for him.
Saturday night turned into Sunday morning and still no Josh. Donna called his cell, which went to voicemail, and slowly gathered their things for the flight back to the city. He’d been so good about having boundaries between work and home, so Donna knew whatever it was must be important. “He’s probably in the sit room,” she muttered when he didn’t answer her call.
Their small bag was packed, Donna now having doubles of most of what they would need already at Josh’s apartment, and she was just hoping he’d walk through the door to say goodbye.
“Ms. Moss?” She could hear the agent knock on the door.
“Yes,” she opened it, hoisting Jack up. “Mr. Lyman has requested that we drive you to the White House on the way to the airport so he can say goodbye. Are you ready to go?”
Donna smiled. She knew he wouldn’t let them leave without saying goodbye. “I am. That’s our only bag. Just let me grab a sweater for Jack and something for Josh to eat. I’ll be right down,” she told them.
She pulled all of the items she needed into a small tote bag and hurried to the car, buckling Jack in and heading to wait in the White House driveway. They sat in the running car and eventually Josh opened the door and slid in.
“Can you just circle the block a few times, Greg,” he asked.
“I’m so sorry,” he immediately poured out, turning his attention back to Donna, and then to Jack. “So sorry, buddy.”
“It’s okay, Josh. You don’t need to apologize. It must have been important,” she assured him. She could see his rising stress level, and wanted to try and calm him down, if only for a few minutes. “Here, we brought you something to eat,” she handed him the lunch she’d packed. She reached over and cupped his chin, stroking his cheek with her thumb. “Just take it easy for a few minutes.”
He let out a deep breath he didn’t realize he was holding and lay his head back on the seat resting his free hand protectively on Jack. She had to fight the urge to crawl over and hold him, instead wrapping her arm around his and hoping he knew she was there for him.
They sat mostly in silence for the few minutes Josh was afforded away from the White House before pulling back up to the front gate. Josh said his goodbyes to both of them. “Call me when you land,” he requested, taking the meal that Donna had packed him and heading back inside.
Donna hadn’t been in a particularly pleasant mood since returning to New York. It was becoming more and more difficult to leave D.C. and be away from Josh. It also didn’t help that they wouldn’t be returning for a visit for several weeks. Between Josh and Donna’s schedules it just wasn’t going to be feasible. They’d agreed in advance that neither could ask the other one to put anything on hold so they’d just have to make it work until Donna could find a free weekend. She was working extra hours and trying to finish her obligations for school. And on top of that she was honing her resume and closely watching the job boards for open positions. Though she hadn’t discussed it with Josh, she’d already decided she’d be applying for jobs in D.C. She couldn’t- and didn’t want to- continue with their weekend travel arrangement and she wanted Josh to be closer to Jack. But in the mean time she had to find someone to hire her. She didn’t want to get his hopes up before anything panned out.
They’d spoken on the phone every night but it just wasn’t the same. At least when she was seeing him on the weekends the end was in sight. She could make it the 4 days knowing they’d be on the connector on Friday afternoon. She mentally scolded herself for becoming so attached to Josh. She was supposed to be keeping an emotional distance while he determined how and when he wanted to proceed, but she just couldn’t. It was Josh and she’d never been able to not love him.
It had weeks since she’d seen him and she still had what felt like forever to go until she and Jack could make it back to D.C. She pulled on an oversized sweatshirt she’d pilfered from Josh years ago and a pair of her favorite pajama pants and wandered into the kitchen, staring in front of the pantry trying to decide what to do for dinner.
“What do you want for dinner, buddy? Noodles?” She always talked to Jack, encouraging him to learn more words.
“No,” he responded, playing with his trucks on the floor.
She laughed a little bit, pulling out a pot to start some water when she heard a knock at her door. Opening it, she couldn’t believe her eyes.
“Josh,” she gushed, almost leaping into his arms. “You’re here.”
He wrapped her up in his arms, burying his face in her neck and smelling her hair. She finally let go, not wanting to make a scene in the hallway of her apartment building or in front of the agent standing next to him.
She looked over at Kyle, the agent, and opened the door a little wider. “Do you need to clear it?”
“Ok. Jack’s in the living room,” she told him, turning back to Josh and smiling. She was so happy she could burst.
“Oh, uh, these are for you,” he offered her a bouquet of flowers. “I wanted to see if you would have dinner with me tonight?” He asked her so genuinely he looked almost sheepish. She couldn’t believe her ears. Was this a… date? She didn’t have a chance to ask him, interrupted by the movement she could hear coming around the corner in her apartment.
“YAY!” Jack recognized Kyle and knew what that meant. She could hear his little feet running around looking for Josh.
“Better say hi to your fan club,” Donna smirked.
Kyle gave the all clear just as Jack ran around the corner and barreled into Josh’s waiting arms.
“Awww, hey buddy, I missed you,” Josh walked in once given the all clear, Donna pouring a cup of coffee into a thermos while Josh and Jack said their hellos.
“What’s that for,” he asked Donna.
“My hallway doesn’t have heat. It’s for Kyle.”
“You’re adorable,” he told her. Leave it to Donna to be taking care of the secret service.
She returned to the living room, making herself comfortable on the couch with him.
“So, you didn’t answer me,” he told her. “Dinner?”
“Tonight? Right now?”
He laughed. “Yes, Donna. Tonight. We have reservations in an hour. Do you think you can find a sitter?”
She blushed. “I’m sure. My next door neighbor watches him sometimes. I’ll just go get dressed.” She walked away in somewhat of a daze, barely believing that she was about to go to dinner with Josh Lyman.
Thirty five minutes later she emerged in a gorgeous red dress, her hair and makeup immaculate.
“Wow,” Josh remarked. “You look incredible.” He stood crossing the room to her.
“Too much?” she asked, realizing she didn’t even know where they were going.
“No,” he kissed her very softly on the lips. “You’re perfect.”
They were seated in a secluded booth in what Donna had heard was a very well known French restaurant. They’d finished a delicious meal and were sipping the last of their wine, enjoying each other’s company in the soft candle light. They’d talked about everything and nothing over the course of dinner.
He’d come into town a night early for a meeting he took in the morning. But he didn’t want to talk about work. They spoke about books and friends, old memories and Jack. Donna couldn’t help but to notice how easy it was. They were finding their old rhythm and they could be unapologetically themselves around each other again.
Josh, for his part, saw the date as a mere formality. If given the choice he would have married her ten years ago.
He paid the check and took her hand, strolling leisurely out of the restaurant. “We aren’t far from your place, care to walk?” he asked her.
She agreed, loving the slow pace and the time with him. He placed his jacket over her bare shoulders and lightly wrapped his arm around her, his detail close by.
He told her a story of when he was young- about a night in the city with his parents and Joanie. About how, at that age, he thought he’d end up living there as a ball player or perhaps an astronaut. It was the next summer, he told her, when he’d really gotten to know Leo, that he knew he’d wanted to be in D.C.
The strolled up the steps to her apartment and through the front door, thanking the babysitter.
“Can you stay,” Donna asked, already knowing the answer but hoping she was wrong.
“No,” he sighed. “I have to get to the hotel. But I wish I could.”
She nodded her head, understanding there was little room for argument with the secret service.
“But I don’t have to leave yet,” he told her, wrapping his arms around her and planting soft kisses on the back of her neck. She turned in his embrace, wrapping her arms around his neck. He leaned in and captured her lips, causing her knees to go weak.
He pulled back slightly after a few moments, leaving her breathless. He knew he needed to slow down or there would be no going back. Leaning his forehead against hers, he was honest with her. “Donna, You know how bad I am at this. With relationships. And I don’t want to mess this up. So I still think we should continue to take things slowly. Everything we have right now is so good and I don’t want to risk losing that because I do something wrong. Because things change too fast. I can’t handle the thought of losing you.”
She bit her lip, not liking the way her evening was changing.
“You have a lot going on right now,” he continued, “and so do I. You’re almost done with school. We’re in two different cities. When we do this, I’m playing for keeps and I need to be in a place where I can give you everything you deserve. I’m crazy about you and that’s not going to change. Do you understand?”
She honestly did. But it didn’t mean that she liked it. It didn’t mean it stopped her from wanting to wrap him up and never let him leave her apartment. He kissed her forehead and stepped back a bit, putting some physical space between them. “Go change into you pajamas. You’re cute when you’re wearing my sweatshirt,” he shot her a grin. “I’m going to go check on him.”
She complied, finding Josh in the nursery, situated comfortably in the glider with Jack sleeping contently on his chest. She leaned in the doorway and watched him, her mind racing. She was so confused about their evening. It had been the perfect date and then he’d… backed off. She’d understood his hesitation with her, but she really thought they were working through that. She told herself not to over think it. They’d agreed to take it slow. And what good would it be to jump into something head first only to watch it blow up in their faces.
Eventually Josh rose, placing Jack back in his crib and closing the door to the nursery.
“The photo, on his dresser,” Josh stared at him. “You- you brought him?”
She blushed. He’d seen the inauguration photo of her and a very tiny baby Jack. “Yes, we were there. I wanted him to see what his Dad had done. I’m proud of you, Josh. Always have been.”
He gave her a genuine hug, whispering a heartfelt thank you in her hear. His lips eventually moved lower, grazing her neck as he continue to praise her. “Tonight was amazing,” he told her, planting soft kisses on her jaw. “You’re amazing.” He moved to her cheek. “And I’d give anything not to have to go,” he eventually found her lips again, their fingers intertwining for a few moments before he had to go.
“Well, Josh, I appreciate the time. I’ll think about everything and get back to your office.”
Josh stood, shaking Ernie Gambelli’s hand.
“You know, I’ve got a woman in this office I think you should meet. She’s a big fan of yours. I told you about her- talked me in to the President’s education plan during the convention. Won you the nomination, I’d say.” Gambelli laughed. “Anyway, she’s in the office today. I’ll introduce you to her if you don’t steal her away from me.”
Josh agreed halfheartedly. He had very little interest in meeting any of Gambelli’s staffers, but it was true that if she’d swung the New York delegates to Santos, she probably had helped in large part to win him the nomination. And from what Gambelli had said, she’d risked her job to do it.
“Ah, there she is now. I’d like you to meet-“
Donna leaped up from her desk. “Josh. Mr. Gambelli. Josh- what are you doing here?”
“This was my morning meeting, Donnatella,” he looked pleased with himself. “What are you doing here?”
“I work here…”
“She’s the one I was telling you about,” Gambelli interjected. “If you’ll excuse me, I have a conference call. You’ll see yourself out, Mr. Lyman.”
Josh nodded that he would and turned back to Donna, his face turning form surprise to awe as he realized what she’d done for the ticket. For him.
“I thought you worked for the mayor’s office,” he began, leaning on her desk.
She explained that she was the liaison for special projects as she gathered a few files.
“In a hurry?” he teased her.
She glanced at her watch. “As a matter of fact, yes. I have twenty minutes to get to my meeting and its five blocks away.”
“Well, madame, your chariot awaits,” Josh grinned. Greg will drop you wherever you’re going. “Come on.”
She considered it for a moment, finally agreeing and gathering her things. They rode the few blocks together, Josh’s arm moving to rest on the seatback above her shoulders. He’d asked her for a copy of the inauguration photo, which she’d agreed to email him later this week.
She kissed him chastely goodbye once they’d arrived at her destination, adding in a whisper that she’d miss him.
He grinned at that, leaning back into his seat with a smirk on is face as his car pulled away from the curb. In his head, he was already counting the minutes until he saw them again.
You guys are amazing! Thanks so much for all of your wonderful comments! Hopefully you like where they’re headed!
Chapter 14: Chapter 14
Donna would admit it- she was overly excited today. She had just finished work and was heading to pick up Jack so they could catch the shuttle to D.C. for the weekend- and she couldn’t wait to see Josh. She felt like it had been an eternity since she’d seen him and they’d gone on their first official date. She’d splurged on a new shirt and had her hair done. She was on cloud nine- and a little bit nervous.
They’d spoken on the phone practically every day she could tell their relationship was about to change drastically. He was opening up. And she was ready. Stopping by one of her favorite coffee shops, she treated herself to a latte to go and headed off to pick up Jack from the child development program he attended on campus.
Just outside of his tiny school, her phone rang. She smiled. Josh.
“Hey there,” she knew her greeting was sickeningly sweet, but she couldn’t help it. She, Donnatella Moss, was swooning.
“Hi.” The one word instantly sat her on alert, her body language changing immediately.
He sighed. “There’s an… issue,” he gulped. “In Khazakstan.”
Donna stopped walking. “With the ceasefire?”
“Yeah,” he cleared his throat. “The President needs to be there so we’re leaving tonight.”
Her heart sank. Of course she didn’t want to miss their weekend together, but that she could get over. What really terrified her was the thought of Josh being thrown into what was, for all intents and purposes, an active war zone. “Josh,” she couldn’t help it, her voice cracked. But she didn’t even have a chance to finish her thought.
“I know, Donna. I’m okay. Don’t worry about that, alright? I’m sorry about our weekend.”
“Don’t apologize, Josh. This is bigger than either of us. I understand.”
He slowly let out his breath and closed his eyes. He sat back in his office chair, wishing for the millionth time that she were always just a few feet away.
“When will you be back,” she asked after a few minutes of silence.
“I’m not sure, sweetheart,” term of endearment rolled off of his tongue so naturally that it even caught him by surprise, though, he supposed, it shouldn’t have.
She liked the way it sounded, she decided.
“Thanksgiving?” she asked, optimistically.
“I’m not sure. I hope so. I’ll call you as often as I can though, alright?”
“Josh, I mean it. Take care of yourself, okay?” She felt her throat tightening.
“If something were to happen…” he continued seriously.
“Don’t say that,” she pleaded with him.
“Just- listen to me. You remember my father’s firm?”
“Yes,” she knew he wasn’t in the mood to joke around.
“You get Jack and go straight to Tob- I mean to, um, to Bob, immediately, and have him take you to my father’s firm. Ask for Russell, tell him who you are. He’ll take care of everything.”
“Josh, I…” They hadn’t really discussed anything like this and it made her sick to her stomach to think about it.
“Tell me you understand. Tell me that’s exactly what you’ll do.”
“Yes,” she admitted softly. “I understand.”
At that moment he missed her so much he physically ached. He hadn’t wanted to do this over the phone. He’d wanted everything to be perfect for her, but so far fate hadn’t cooperated with him. “Donna, I- you know that I- I feel, well, I-“
She typically wasn’t one to let him off easy in moments such as these, but she understood his sentiment, and given the current situation, she took pity on him.
“I know, Josh,” she assured him, unable to hide the smile creeping across her face on the park bench she currently occupied. “I know you do. Me too. Tell me when you see me again.”
He sat in his office hundreds of miles away, knowing he would do just that.
“Jack does too, you know,” she offered.
“Yeah,” he replied, thinking of their smiling little ball of energy. “Give him a kiss for me. I better go.”
They hung up the phone and Donna sat where she was for a few minutes, drinking her coffee in the afternoon sun on a chilly fall day. Tossing her cup away, she picked up her phone again and made another call. She needed a lawyer, and one that she could trust.
“Sam? It’s Donna…”
Days turned into weeks and communication was minimal, but finally Josh was headed back to D.C. Unfortunately he’d missed the holiday by 2 days, but he was so exhausted he was just thankful to be headed home.
Donna, cautiously optimistic, had packed Jack up and headed to D.C. as planned for the holiday. They’d arrived Wednesday evening and upon the realization that Josh wouldn’t be home, Donna decided to forgo the traditional dinner the next day. She’d spent the time airing out Josh’s apartment and making it feel more like home. She’d stocked the fridge for the rest of the weekend, done some laundry, and spruced up the apartment a bit, doing some light cleaning and adding a few candles and fresh flowers. It really felt so homey.
Friday morning Donna put on her suit and grabbed the most current copy of her resume. Andi Wyatt had given her the name of the twins’ nanny and she had agreed to watch Jack for an hour or two. Donna hailed a cab and rode to the first of three interviews she’d managed to arrange on a holiday weekend. She took a deep breath and assured herself that she could to this. That something would open up so she and Jack could move to D.C. as soon as she graduated.
He finally drug himself up the stairs to his doorway late Saturday evening. So much for their long weekend together, he thought. The thought of her being there when he opened the door, however, dramatically boosted his spirits. He glanced at his watch and knew to be quiet when he walked in- it was just after Jack’s bed time and Donna had mentioned that he’d been extra fussy while he was fighting a bit of a cold. He softly closed the door behind him and sat his backpack and coat on the bench.
Looking around he felt immediately at peace. She had dinner in the oven and two places set at the table. His apartment was now fully furnished- touches of Jack and Donna easily intertwined with his things. She’d placed Jack’s latest artwork from daycare under a magnet on his fridge and there was soft music playing in the living room. He wandered down the hallway, shedding his suit jacket and tie on the way, and found her holding Jack who looked as if he’d just drifted off.
He leaned in the doorway and watched them, realizing he hadn’t been this content in a long time- if ever.
She felt his presence, looking up and greeting him with a full smile as he finally approached her. She scooted aside to make room for him in the oversized chair, but he pulled her onto his lap and wrapped her up, kissing the top of her head and then Jack’s. She shifted Jack a bit where he was dozing on her and he placed a hand protectively on his sleeping son’s back. He then decided he couldn’t wait another second, tilting her face up to his and kissing her soundly on the mouth. What he intended to be soft and gentle somehow came out as intense and somewhat needy. He stopped cold, however, when he felt a small movement and a tiny hand on his face. He smiled against her mouth, opening his eyes and pulling away, leaving Donna flushed and speechless.
“Hey, buddy. Sorry about that,” he turned his attention to Jack and started to rub his back. “Go back to sleep, Daddy will be here in the morning.” They sat in silence for a few more moments until Jack did, in fact, nod off. Josh carefully placed him in his crib and softly closed the door.
“Let’s try that again,” he smirked.
She wasted no time, wrapping her arms around his neck and properly kissing him hello. “You’re exhausted,” she whispered as he held her in his arms. “Go take a shower, dinner is almost ready.”
He did as he was told, feeling the last two weeks begin to wash off of him under the hot water. The talks hadn’t been overly successful and they hadn’t come to a strong resolution. Josh had worked non stop, barely sleeping the entire time they were gone. They’d traveled via helicopter and humvee, met with delegates from all involved parties and still weren’t able to come to an agreement. The only thing that the President had decided was to remove US forces from the region.
Josh had been on edge since the moment that Air Force One had left Dover and he still isn’t sure how he held it together. When the cease fire expired two nights ago they’d been the target of a mortar attack. The attack was a failure, missing it’s target and not resulting in any injury, but it had scared the hell out of Josh, even if he wasn’t ready to admit it. He’d sat wide awake in his hotel room the entire first night, and again on the plane for the entire duration of the flight back. His hands shook in the shower as he thought about it, causing him to drop a bottle of shampoo and jump at the loud crash. He leaned against the cold tile and took a deep breath. He had to pull it together. He didn’t want Donna to worry.
She’d just placed dinner on the table when he came walking down the hallway in flannel pajama pants and an undershirt, running his fingers through his damp hair. She’d admit it. He looked so sexy she could jump him right then and there.
They ate in quiet comfort, discussing a few off the wall topics here and there. She mostly watched him, though. She could tell something was wrong. They weren’t necessarily on the edge of the cliff, but she could feel something about him shift. She was on alert. Donna-Duty, as Leo had once called it. She hoped it wasn’t what she thought it was. He’d told her the trip to Kazakhstan had been uneventful. Perhaps she was wrong, she told herself. Maybe he was just tired.
She stood moving to stand behind his chair and gently rub the tension out of his shoulders. He groaned a little in relief as he felt some of the pain begin to subside. She stood there for a few minutes before giving him a final squeeze and sending him to bed. “You’re exhausted, Josh,” she’d told him. “You can’t fight it. Go lay down, I’ll clean up in here.”
Much to his dismay he knew she was right. Besides, he was home now. Everything was fine.
She cleaned up in the kitchen and checked on Jack, who was still sleeping soundly, before changing into her own pajamas. She tucked the envelope containing the documents Sam had drawn up for her back into her suitcase. Given her uncertainty of Josh’s exhaustion and mood, tonight wasn’t the right timing. She’d had everything drawn up to amend Jack’s birth certificate to list Josh and to legally change his last name to Lyman and make Josh legally his parent. She’d signed everything already, they were just waiting for his signature. They’d file them together when he was ready. She just wanted him to know she was all in. No holding back.
Knowing she had finals the coming week, she pulled out a book and resigned herself to get just a little bit more done before she turned in. Her studying turned from a few minutes to a few hours and before she knew it, it was close to the middle of the night.
She stood in Josh’s guest bedroom, now littered with her belongings, and wondered what to do. It would make sense, she decided, for her to give him some space. She didn’t want to step out of line. She should probably just sleep in the guest bedroom. But she also knew that she hadn’t made the wrong assumption about them. She wanted to crawl into bed with him and just be near him. She stood for a moment, trying to make up her mind, when the decision was made for her.
She heard him mumble loudly down the hall, causing her to briefly freeze. Surely he wasn’t…
But only seconds later he yelled out. She ran to him, not even hesitating as she opened the door to his bedroom and saw him thrashing about in a cold sweat, tangled in his sheets.
“Josh,” she grabbed his shoulder. “Josh, wake up!” She shook him a little bit. “Josh you’re okay, you’re alright.”
He finally gasp for air, sitting quickly upright in bed, staring at her wide eyed and terrified.
“Breathe,” she told him, in the calmest voice she could manage, he hand resting on his leg as she perched on the side of his bed. “In… and out…” she sat there for a few minutes while he steadied his breaths. “I’m going to go get you a glass of water,” she told him gently, “but I’ll be right back, okay?”
He didn’t respond verbally, but he looked at her and she knew he heard her. “I’ll only be a second, Josh.”
She hurried to the kitchen for some cold water, returning to where he sat somewhat stunned, now resting with his feet on the floor. “I’m just going to grab you a pill,” she told him, walking into his bathroom and opening the medicine cabinet. She grabbed the bottle of Tylenol she was looking for but something else caught her eye. Two empty bottles from his cardiologist. She picked them up, glancing at the labels. His blood pressure medicine. She furrowed her brown in concern, making a mental note to come back to that.
She sat the pills on his nightstand next to the water and put a gentle hand on his shoulder, causing him to flinch wildly.
“Josh…” she sat down next to him, still trying to give him some space.
“Sorry,” he muttered. “Go back to bed.”
“Josh?” She was taken aback. This was a road they’d been down together before, and she certainly wasn’t sending him on his own this time. She stayed where she was, allowing him to sit in silence for a few minutes and gather his thoughts. He eventually took the pills and got up for a moment, stretching and entering the bathroom where he closed the door behind him. She heard the sink running, and she was sure he was splashing water on his face. She waited patiently.
When he reemerged he headed straight for bed, staring at her. “Will you?” he asked sheepishly.
“Of course,” she responded, curling up next to him. He circled his arms around her and she rested her head on his chest, listening to his still rapidly beating heart.
“Want to talk about it,” she offered.
“No,” he told her, kissing her hair.
“Will you call Stanley tomorrow?” She had a feeling he hadn’t made the call she’d requested in August. “And your cardiologist…” she trailed off, not wanting to push but unable to stop herself from mentally calculating how long he’d been out of his medication.
He sighed. “Yeah. Yeah, I will.”
“Thank you,” she raised up and kissed his shoulder. “You know, you’ve got a lot to live for,” she offered. “He adores you,” she said, referring to Jack.
“I know. Go to sleep,” he whispered. He doubted he’d get any rest but he already felt better just holding her close.
“Kay,” she told him, already nodding off in his comforting embrace. “I love you,” she muttered, half asleep.
“Oh, Donnatella,” he told her. “I love you, too.”
Donna woke the next morning to the soft feel of Josh’s fingertips brushing up and down her arm. She stirred a bit, moving closer to his body. “Good morning,” he whispered, pulling her close and kissing her as his hand snaked under her shirt.
She’d been giving him all the right signals for weeks and he couldn’t wait any longer. She was a more than willing participant at first, only pausing when he tugged at her shirt.
“I don’t think we should.” She pulled her top down from where it was beginning to bunch up. Reading the confused expression on his face, she explained her reasoning. “It’s just, I don’t want to, you know, take advantage of you. If you’re not ready to move forward in this, with us, I just…” She shifted, changing her tone as the words came tumbling out. “I know what happened last night. You can’t tell me that was a rogue nightmare. And I don’t want this to be the result of an emotionally charged night.” She bit her lip, waiting to see how he’d take her confession.
He propped himself up on his elbows and looked at her. “Donna, you take such good care of me, but I want to get something out in the open. Sometimes, just sometimes, I know what I’m feeling more than you do. Give me some credit. You’re not a bandaid, Donna. You’re not someone I’m using so I don’t have to confront my issues. I’ve waited for this- for you- for years, Donna.” His tone was slowly changing, as unexpected anger began to surface.
“All I meant was…” she tried to get a word in edge wise.
“But, hey, let’s be serious, this is who I am. I know it’s not a fairytale, but Donna, I’m not going to hide it from you anymore. But maybe I should have. If it’s too much for you to handle, then just say it. Don’t pity me, and don’t wait for it to go away, because guess what- it’s not going to.”
“I would never…”
He kept talking, as if he didn’t even hear her.
“Because though I admit I have taken you for granted in the past, I have never, ever, used you, Donna.” He ran his hands through his hair.
“Forget it,” he muttered, storming away.
She sat there, shocked, and wrapped in his comforter, unsure of how to proceed, letting the tears roll down her cheeks. She heard him banging around in the kitchen a bit, but she couldn’t bring herself to move. A sob eventually escaped her lips and she folded into herself. It wasn’t that she felt rejected or hurt. It was that she could see his pain and couldn’t reach him to do anything about it.
A few moments later he returned, wordlessly wrapping her up, and wearing a guilty expression.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said those things,” he admitted softly. “I don’t- I don’t know where they came from,” he told her honestly.
But she knew. They came from the nightmare that he’d had, from his inability to process stress. They came from years of carrying around guilt over losses he couldn’t control and missing people he loved so dearly. They came from anger over her sudden departure after New Orleans.
“Please don’t cry,” he told her after she didn’t respond. “Donna, I’m not an easy person to… I understand if you don’t want to deal…”
“Stop,” she told him, pressing two fingers to his lips. She looked at him in the eye. “I love you, Josh, and that’s enough. I know you inside and out and I still love you. And that’s never going to waiver. I should never have second guessed you this morning. I just didn’t want you to regret anything. I never want you to have filter yourself around me. I’m all in, Josh. The good, the bad and the ugly- I’m here. I’m ready.”
He kissed the tip of her nose. “I’ll never regret anything that has to do with you, Donna.”
And then he showed her how much she really meant to him. Donna practically melted under his touch quickly forgetting all the troubles of the last 24 hours.
A little while later, as she lay in a tangle of sheets with him, more satisfied than she ever thought she could be, she turned to him and snuggled in close again, her finger tracing his scar.
They lay in the quiet calm for a moment, Josh moving to kiss her neck again. “All in, huh?”
She gulped a bit, hoping that hadn’t triggered some kind of male flight response in him. “All in, Josh.”
“Me too,” he whispered.
Their morning together had ended all to quickly, interrupted by a ringing phone which resulted in a crying baby. Josh quickly dressed to head to the White House while Donna made Jack breakfast.
“Think you’ll be all day,” she asked him.
“There’s no way to know,” he told her honestly. “But I know what’s going on and we’re still waiting on some intel so I told the President I’d be another hour or so. They wont be able to brief before then anyway. Do you, uh, Donna do you think you could stay? Take a few more days off and be here this week?”
He looked so vulnerable when he asked her, it broke her heart to have to say no. She just couldn’t she explained. But she wished there was another way. She had work and finals. She had to wrap everything up with her degree and it just couldn’t be pushed off. He told her he understood, and he really did, even if he did have the look of defeat on his face.
He walked over and stood next to Jack. “What’s for breakfast, little man,” he asked, glad to see such a happy little face in the morning. He ruffled his hair and moved to pour himself a cup of coffee.
“None for you,” Donna intervened with a glass of orange juice. “Don’t think I didn’t see your blood pressure bottles. Get to a cardiologist,” she shot him a glare that he didn’t dare argue with and made his way back to the table.
“What’s this,” he asked her, motioning to the envelope on the table.
“Oh, um, just some documents I had prepared,” she hedged, hoping he’d open them on his own as she wandered back into the kitchen to find something to make him for breakfast. Grabbing some fruit and tossing an English muffin into the toaster, she rounded the corner again to watch him open the envelope.
He immediately took the bait, freezing when he saw the documents. Briefly she questioned taking the lead on this. She couldn’t see his face, but seconds later she saw him wipe a tear away and knew she’d done the right thing. He stood and picked Jack up out of his high chair kissing his forehead and holding him close.
“We’re going to officially make you a Lyman, little guy,” Josh told him. “And then we’re going to have to see if we can do the same for Mommy.”
Donna’s jaw dropped. He really was all in.
Hope you’re still enjoying this and not just getting emotional whiplash! It’s turning out a little more intense than I intended, but hey, it is what it is.
More to come, friends!
Chapter 15: Chapter 15
Josh finally returned to his apartment around 9 that night. He hated how empty and quiet it was without Jack and Donna. He’d called them to make sure they were safely back at her place and to say goodnight on her landline, but she hadn’t answered. He knew Donna was studying for a final that she had the next morning at 8 so he didn’t want to keep calling and bother her.
Reaching into the fridge for the plate she’d left him, he dialed his mother, knowing he’d needed to call her back for some time.
He’d explained that he was back from Kazakhstan, and sorry he’d missed Thanksgiving. She’d spent it with her neighbors in Florida, but he should have called. He felt bad for making her worry those extra few days but he wouldn’t have known what to say if she’d have asked him to come down.
“Listen, Mom, I’m sorry it’s been so long. Do you think you’d like to come to DC for a visit? Maybe, I don’t know, this week?”
She’d panicked a bit. “No, nothings wrong,” Josh laughed. “I just don’t have a lot going on and thought maybe we could… visit.” He needed to have a long conversation with her about Donna and Jack, but over the phone wasn’t the way to go about it, that much he knew.
She’d arrive Wednesday afternoon, giving him plenty of time to talk to her, and for her to process what he was about to tell her, before Donna and Jack arrived on Friday.
It was no secret that Josh was stressed again. On Sunday night, with all that was on his mind coupled with Donna’s absence in the spot next to him, he barely slept. He lay in the quiet apartment and stared at his ceiling, feeling as though the emptiness would swallow him whole.
After a turbulent flight with an uncooperative baby, Donna was at her wit’s end. They landed in a downpour and she had to fight for a cab. Almost two hours after they landed she finally walked into her apartment, everything she owned sopping wet. She put an extremely cranky Jack in a warm bath followed by dry pajamas. It was after midnight when she finally got him to sleep. Allowing herself a hot shower as well, she finally flipped open her laptop to get some last minute studying done before her 8am final. It was going to be a long night.
In all the chaos, she realized she hadn’t called Josh to let him know they were home. Glancing at her cell phone, she didn’t have a missed call so she assumed he’d gotten caught up too.
It was now well past 3 am, and she needed a little sleep. Crawling into bed, she shut off her light and mentally told him goodnight, wishing she was next to him. She’d call, but she didn’t want to wake him up. He’d just looked so tired.
On Monday night Josh had a nightmare that jolted him from his sleep and stayed on his mind all day. It was more intense, more real, than any he’d had in a very long time.
Donna studied non-stop. If Jack was sleeping or distracted, her nose was in a book or she was typing a paper. She was in the home stretch- she could almost reach the finish line. She just couldn’t slow before she crossed it.
He’d missed her call again. He’d been running himself ragged trying to get everything taken care of at work. It had been a madhouse. One thing after another. A foreign threat that had kept him in the sit room for hours, a natural disaster in the Pacific Northwest, pushback from Congress on the education bill and anything else you could think of.
The only good part of the day was that he’d signed the papers Donna had drawn up for Jack, and given them to Sam, who assured him he’d make sure everything was filed.
On Tuesday night Josh had yet another nightmare. They were evolving. This time it wasn’t just him laying on the cement. He’d give anything to be able to roll over and touch Donna. To peek in and see with his own eyes that Jack was sleeping peacefully.
It was something more than that though, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. He just couldn’t shake the strange feeling he’d had all day and finally gathered all his strength to get a glass of water from the kitchen. Maybe a couple Tylenol would take the edge off.
Donna aced the last of her finals and received an email from the Dean’s office informing her that she was, in fact, cleared to graduate. She was on cloud nine. Walking back from her lunch break, her cell phone rang and she was offered a job in the DC office of a prominent New York Senator, a follow up from her interview over Thanksgiving. She accepted the job without hesitation and walked back to give her two weeks notice.
“You’ve saved up quite a bit of personal time and sick leave, Miss Moss,” her boss told her. Why don’t you use some of that up before your last day, he said with a wink. Just have everything organized for us by the time you leave today, and stop by to say hell next time you’re in the city. We’ll be in touch on the education plan, I’m sure.
Donna practically danced out of the building at 5, calling the airlines on her way to pick up Jack. She’d pack their things and be on the flight to DC tomorrow to surprise Josh on Wednesday morning. This was it. Everything was falling into place. They could finally, finally be together.
She gave Jack a huge kiss when she picked him up from school, tossing him in the air a bit and stopping on the way home to grab takeout. There was so much to celebrate.
Very early Wednesday morning, Josh Lyman had a heart attack.
Don't hate me! You hate me, don't you?
There's another chapter coming quickly... like, tonight. But I had to end it there because, well, it wouldn't make sense any other way.
Chapter 16: Chapter 16
Boarding the airplane with Jack, an oversized bag and her coffee in tow, Donna was all the more glad that these weekend commutes were ending. Something had just felt off to her that morning. Taking her seat her cell phone rang, causing the man next to her to scowl as she jostled Jack around and dug for it. She glanced at the caller ID to see Sam’s name just as it stopped ringing. She’d call him back when it was less crazy. They were about to depart. She switched her phone off and settled Jack onto her lap, pulling out a book to read him and a tiny bit of apple juice so his ears would pop on the way up. She had this down to a science.
The flight went by quickly and Donna was off the plane as fast as possible when it touched down. Riding the escalator down to the baggage claim area she scanned the crowd for Greg, whom she’d called the night prior for an airport pick up. She spotted him and then saw Sam standing next to him, unable to stay still. She didn’t like how that felt. Something was wrong, she just knew it. Why else would he be here? She made quick work of bee lining to Sam while Jack waived hello to every person in the airport over her shoulder.
“Sam? What’s going on?” There was no time for formalities.
“Hi,” Jack chirped.
“Donna, let’s get in the car, okay?” Sam began to lead Donna out of the building.
“Hi,” Jack repeated to anyone who was listening.
“Sam? You’re scaring me.”
“Ms. Moss, to the vehicle please,” Greg interrupted.
She nodded her head, walking in a daze to the waiting vehicle, her mind racing.
“Hi, Hi, Hi,” Jack repeated.
“Hi, buddy,” Donna hugged him closer, sliding into the backseat. “Spill it, Sam,” she told him as soon as the car door closed.
“I’m sure he’s going to be fine, Donna. It’s going to be okay,” he attempted in vain to lessen the blow.
“Sam, you’re scaring the hell out of me!”
“Donna, early this morning, Josh had a heart attack. He’s at GW. We’re going to take you straight there. I don’t know much more, I’m sorry.”
Donna immediately dissolved into tears, startling Jack.
Sam took the baby from her, bucking him into his seat and then attempting to comfort Donna on the way over there.
“Is he conscious,” Donna choked out?
Sam shook his head. “Not from what I’ve been told. He was initially, but he had to be sedated for some kind of procedure. Something through his leg from what I could piece together,” Sam told her.
Donna nodded absently, staring out the window and then deciding at once to pour all of her attention into Jack.
“Greg?” she suddenly found her voice, leaning forward towards Josh’s driver. “Did you see him? Were you there?” The tears were beginning to pool in her eyes. Greg glanced into the rearview mirror.
“I’m sorry, Ms. Moss. I wasn’t there. Kyle and Marty were on the shift.”
Donna sat back slowly, trying not to be sick.
“Donna,” Sam tested the waters. “Donna, they aren’t going to let you take Jack in there with you right now.”
The thought hadn’t really occurred to her. “Oh, uhm, I, uh.”
“Donna, do you remember Ainsely Hayes?” Sam was being extremely patient, trying to keep her calm.
She nodded her head that she did.
“Ainsley’s working at the White House again. Josh hired her, and she’s a good friend of mine. She’s going to stay with Jack today if you’d like. You can trust her, Donna.”
Donna was hesitant at first, not that she doubted Ainsley, but she would have rather had Jack close right now. She knew though, that she had to be with Josh and Jack just couldn’t sit in his hospital room. “Thank you,” Donna managed to whisper as the pulled into the underground structure at GW. She hated this hospital, her stomach doing a back flip as she’d thought of all he’d been through in this place. She saw Ainsley waiting as their car pulled up and Sam hopped out, trading places with her.
“Hi, Donna,” she said in her particular southern accent. “It’s good to see you again, though I wish it would be in circumstances different than this.”
Donna nodded her agreement.
“You must be Jack,” Ainsley continued, shaking his little foot in the car seat. “I’m Ainsley.”
“Hi,” he attempted for about the hundredth time this morning.
“Well aren’t you polite,” she beamed, instantly falling in love with the little boy.
“Donna wiped her hand over her face. There’s um, toys in the bag, and diapers and- do you have my phone number?”
“I do,” Ainsley nodded.
“He’s allergic to strawberries,” Donna emphasized.
“Okay. I’ll remember that. Don’t worry about him, Donna. We’ll be fine. Sam’s going to come and get him in a few hours. Go, get up there to Josh.”
“Thank you,” she told her, kissing Jack good bye and heading to meet Sam and ride the elevator up to find Josh.
They stood in silence for a few moments before Donna had a few questions of her own.
“When- when did it happen,” she managed to choke out.
“Early this morning. His agents found him. Kyle and Marty, I think,” Sam told her. “They were changing shifts and heard him collapse. They were there immediately, Donna,” he told her, knowing what her next question would be. He placed his arm around her shoulders, knowing she was teetering on the edge.
They walked through the stark hospital corridors and were allowed to enter a mostly empty wing. Donna’s eyes headed straight for the room she knew Josh would be in- Kyle was posted outside the door. Before she knew it her legs were carrying her as fast as she could go. She was running to him.
Once inside the scene was similar to the one she’d prepared herself to find. He was asleep, hooked up to various wires and machines. His skin was pale and he looked so tired.
The tears started again as she walked towards him, kissing his hair, his forehead, his temple, his cheek, anything she could reach. She clasp his hand in hers and sat down beside his bed. “Oh, Josh,” she cried. She felt a faint squeeze from his hand and, though his eyes were still closed, she knew he could hear her. “I’m here,” she told him, pushing his hair back. “Just rest.”
Once she knew he was asleep again, she peeked her head out, motioning for Sam to join her.
“Leo called Judy,” Sam told her, handing her a bottle of water. “She’ll be here this afternoon.” Donna nodded her head, slightly zoning out on everything Sam was saying. “CJ’s in town too. So if you’d like to stay here tonight she and I would be happy to watch Jack.”
“Thanks, Sam, but you don’t need to do that,” Donna told him. “But I appreciate it.”
Sam sat with her for another hour before having to leave. “Leo’s on his way,” Sam told her as he hugged her goodbye. “And I just got an email from Ainsley, Jack’s doing just fine.”
She nodded her understanding, turning her attention back to Josh, who was just waking up. He looked at her through foggy eyes. “You’re here?”
“I am,” she assured him.
“Finals?” He asked, too tired to form complete sentences.
“All finished. Not that it would matter- Nothing could keep me away from the man I love. But they’re done and now I’m with you as long as you’ll let me stay,” she told him, kissing his cheek again.
“Mmm, how bout forever,” he muttered through a heavy layer of pain medication, closing his eyes again.
“I’m counting on it,” she admitted in a whisper, laying her head down next to his hand.
Josh had been in and out all day. When he was awake he was increasingly alert, but he was just so tired. The nurse had come in to tend to a few things, giving him another dose of pain medication that knocked him out, so Donna stepped out to refresh her coffee and speak to his cardiologist. Walking back towards his room, she bumped into Judith Lyman at the nurses statement.
“Judy,” Donna greeted her, extending her arms for a hug. She’d always been so close with Josh’s mom, their bond beginning the summer after Rosslyn and only strengthening when Donna’s relationship with her own mother had faltered over years of long hours and minimal vacations at the White House.
“Donna?” She was so surprised to see her. “You’re here?”
“Yeah, I just went down for another cup of coffee. He’s sleeping.”
“Who told you,” she asked Donna, her brow furrowing. Though Josh had been distant and vague about Donna’s departure, and really, about everything over the past few months, she knew that he still cared very deeply for her. And that he’d been lugging around a lot of emotional baggage where Donna was concerned.
“Sam called, I got here as soon as fast as I could.” Donna bit her lip and looked over at the doorway to Josh’s room.
Judy studied her face. She did look concerned. And she knew how Donna was as far as Josh was concerned- or at least how she used to be. That summer after Rosslyn- they would have never made it without Donna. She took such good care of Josh. And when Judy was at her wit’s end, here came Donna. She was always able to handle Josh just the way he needed to be handled, no matter his mood. But still- he’d just had a stress induced cardiac event. She didn’t think it would be a good idea if he woke up to the surprise of her sitting there.
Judy turned to head back to Josh’s room, Donna staying in stride with her, but not attempting to make conversation. They were both processing enough in their own heads.
They stopped a few feet away from the room, when Judy realized Donna was headed in with her.
“Donna, dear,” she began, wanting to make her point without being to harsh. “I think it’s wonderful that you’re here. And I’m sure Joshua will too. But I’m not sure if right now is the right time…” she trailed off, trying to think of how to tactfully ask Donna to hash out her issues with Josh when he was a little more stable. “What I’m saying is that he shouldn’t have any stress right now, and I’m sorry Donna, but as much as close as you two used to be, you’ve also been the source of a great deal of heartache for him over the past years.” She tried to be as nice about it as she could, but the words shook Donna to her core.
“I don’t think, I mean… it’s not the same now. He needs me. I need him.” The tears began to flow. She wasn’t going to have a knock down drag out argument with Judith Lyman in a secluded corridor of GW, but she wasn’t exactly going down without a fight, either.
“Donna, please, let’s not drag this out. Go home, get some sleep, and think it over. If you still want to see Josh then maybe we can arrange something for tomorrow, alright?”
Donna stood her ground, shaking her head no. “If I still want to see him tomorrow? Of course I’ll want to see him tomorrow. I’m not leaving. I’m not leaving him,” she sniffled. “Why? Why would you do this to me? To us?” She quickly wiped the falling tears from her cheeks, so incredibly confused.
“Donna, that’s my little boy in that bed. He’s all I have left, okay? And as much as I’d love to have your company while we wait, I’m not going to risk anything happening to him.” She held her ground.
Donna’s jaw dropped. She collapsed into a chair in the waiting room. This is Josh that she was talking about. Her Josh. Donna was about to lose her mind, but she wasn’t going to get into a physical match with Kyle if she stormed his door, so she’d have to just think this through. There was nothing keeping her from standing her post in the waiting room.
Judy knew the look on Donna’s face. She’d seen it several times that summer. It was one of the reasons she loved Donna so much- the way she gave Josh all she had when she was near him. Or at least, that’s how it had been all those years ago.
“Donna, dear, go home and get something to eat. It’s no use for you to hole up in this waiting room.” Judy was trying desperately to diffuse the situation, but was becoming worried about Donna. She was looking rather frazzled.
“I don’t understand. I don’t understand why you’re so adamant that I can’t see him. I was in there earlier…”
“Yes, I know. He was groggy earlier though.”
“And he hasn’t asked for me?”
“No, dear.” Judy felt bad, but it was the truth.
“Oh.” Donna’s heart dropped. “Well, when can Jack and I come back?”
“Who’s Jack, dear?” She asked. Perhaps a mutual friend of theirs?
Donna’s jaw dropped. Josh hadn’t told his mother, and he thought that Donna had left to take care of Jack, so he wasn’t bothering anyone to retrieve her from the waiting room. It was all becoming more and more clear to her.
Sam returned to the hospital as soon as he could get away from the White House. Rounding the corner to Josh’s wing, he noticed a very upset Donna sitting in a chair in the waiting room.
Explaining the situation to Sam, he immediately jumped to action. “She just doesn’t realize… Look, I’ll walk her down for some lunch and explain that you and Josh are… acquainted again. I won’t give anything away,” he assured her. “I know she wouldn’t do this on purpose, Donna. She really is just trying to look out for Josh. She’s always loved you like a daughter. I think everyone’s just a little upset right now. It’ll be fine. Give me five minutes, okay?”
“Thanks, Sam,” she gave him a huge hug.
“I’m Uncle Sammy. It’s just what I do,” he smiled at her.
Donna laughed whole-heartedly.
Sam talked Judy into walking down to the cafeteria for a moment as Josh was sleeping soundly. She’d agreed, peeking out the door and motioning Donna over on her own account- Sam had yet to say anything.
“If you’d just sit with him for a moment, dear,” she clasp Donna’s hand, “I know he’d appreciate it. And so would I. I won’t be long.”
Josh swam up from the grogginess again, feeling significantly more rested this time. Donna sat beside his bed, lightly holding his hand.
“Hey,” he choked out, his throat dry and scratchy.
“Hey yourself,” she stood reaching to give him some water.
He gladly drank it, feeling more alert every second.
She leaned in to kiss him on the temple. “Feeling better,” she asked?
He nodded that he was.
“Good.” She stood up a little straighter and lightly smacked him on the arm. “Now, what in the hell is wrong with you? You scared me half to death!”
“Donnaaaa…” he wined. “Be nice to me, I’m sick.”
“You’re going to listen to me for a minute, Joshua Lyman,” she demanded, and he knew better than to cross her. “Never again. Let me repeat myself: Never. Again. If I even so much as suspect you’re not taking care of yourself there will be hell to pay. Do you understand me?”
Eyes wide, Josh wasn’t sure how to respond. That didn’t really slow her down.
“We got our second chance, Josh. I’m not going to let you blow it because you’re eating burnt burgers instead of salads and not taking your blood pressure medicine. It’s insanity. I’m not going to be the one to have to explain to your son why you’re not at his high school graduation. I’m not. I won’t,” her lip finally began to quiver on the last portion of her little speech.
“Come here,” Josh told her, and she curled up beside him. “I’m not going anywhere, okay? Not for a long time.” He kissed the top of her head held her close, not needing to say anything else.
They lay in the comfortable silence for a while, before Donna sat up. “Okay, listen. Your mom clearly doesn’t know about us, and that’s not something you need to stress yourself out with before you’re feeling a bit better.”
“You just yelled at me, I just want to point that out.”
“Yes, but I talked to your cardiologist first and he said you deserved it.”
“And you hit me. Did you get permission for the hitting?”
“I barely touched you. But I think the permission was implied.”
“I doubt it,” he muttered.
She smiled at him, glad he was feeling good enough to banter with her.
“Anyway, you don’t have to discuss anything with her until you’re out of here. Give it a few more days if you’d like. Maybe that would be best for everyone.”
Josh nodded his head in agreement. “I should be discharged this weekend. We can sit down with her and she can meet Jack. I’m assuming she’ll want to stay with us for a while.”
Donna tried not to get hung up on the fact that he’d lumped them in to the same living arrangements. But it was music to her ears nonetheless.
“So, I have to go get him from Ainsely and”
“Ainsley?! You left our baby with a Republican? Donna, you’re undoing all my hard work,” he smirked at her.
She just rolled her eyes and continued. “Ainsley, whom you hired to serve as White House council, was kind enough to watch our thoroughly wound up son all day, so I need to go pick him up. Are you okay here? Your mother’s going to stay this evening.”
He nodded that he was.
“I want to stay with you,” she admitted somewhat sheepishly.
“It’s okay,” he told her. “As much as I wish you could be here, Jack needs you more right now.”
She nodded that she understood, but in all honesty, she was pretty sure she’d ask CJ to come sit with the baby after he was asleep so she could sneak back to GW.
“While you’re there, why don’t you officially move your stuff out of the guest room,” he shot her a questioning look.
“And where should I put it,” she played along. “In your study? In the living room with the pull out sofa?”
“You think you’re being cute right now, don’t you,” he mocked her. The truth was, he found it endearing.
“I do. Because I am,” she told him confidently, moving closer to him again. “Joshua, are you asking me to move into your bedroom,” she rolled onto her side to face him.
“I am.” He smiled genuinely, and she did too.
“I’d like that,” she told him, kissing his cheek.
“There’s something I’d like to ask you, though.”
“Oh, what’s that?” He was waiting for a punch line.
“How about Jack and I live there every day, not just on weekends?”
She realized this was moving rather quickly, and she hoped she wasn’t catching him too off guard. Ideally, this discussion wouldn’t be taking place 12 hours after a cardiac event.
“Well that would be ideal, wouldn’t it, Donnatella.” He looked at her longingly, not understanding what she was trying to tell him.
“Josh, I accepted a job here. In DC. I’m done with school, I’m done in the mayor’s office. Jack and I will be here permanently in a few weeks.” Her grin kept growing.
“You’re kidding.” He was blown away. “Donna, that’s amazing! I’m so proud of you!” He moved to embrace her and immediately regretted it, groaning in pain.
“Ok, we may be getting a little overly excited given the current circumstances,” she laughed. “We’ll celebrate later,” she winked.
“Yeah,” he agreed, finally feeling content again. It was all finally falling into place for them. Now he just had to get better. “Go get Jack.”
“Can we come by tomorrow? Your mom said she won’t be here until 11, so before that maybe?”
He nodded his head. “I’d like that.”
“You, um, have a call from 9 to 9:30, so we’ll be here at 9:30.”
“With who?” He furrowed his brow, trying to figure out which Senator would be able to get through to him in the hospital with Donna and his mother both standing guard.
“With Stanley,” Donna gave him a no nonsense look.
“Yeah. Okay. Thanks.”
She leaned in and gave him a kiss on the side of the mouth. “Get some rest. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“I love you,” he told her earnestly.
“I love you, too,” she responded, glad that they could now say it without fear.
She was almost out the door when Leo stopped her. “Not so fast,” he ushered her back into the room, letting his agent know that nobody comes in until he alerts them otherwise, shutting the door between them.
He turned, his demeanor changing instantly. “Good to see you, Donna!” He gave her a warm hug. “You look great. And that little man of yours- what a kid!”
She beamed with pride over Jack. “Thanks, Leo. Oh, I mean Mr. Vice President. You look great too.”
“Sit,” he told her.
“You,” he turned to Josh, shooting him a look. “I will speak to you next week about taking care of yourself. But that’s not why I’m here today. We’ve got bigger fish to fry.”
“Didn’t anyone head the no stress advice from my doctor?”
“Hush,” they both told him at once.
“I just ran into your mother in the hallway,” he looked at Josh. “She said Donna was in here with you, so I asked her where Jack was.”
“Yeah, that’s right. Care to explain why your mother doesn’t know she has a grandchild and may very well find out in the paper instead of from her own son?”
“The press has it,” Donna asked, horrified?
“No,” Leo said quickly, not actually wanting to upset Josh, all jokes aside. “But you’re constantly running the possibility. Especially with the paperwork Sam filed yesterday.”
They both nodded their heads in comprehension. It was coming. They knew it was. They’d decided to just let the chips fall where they may- they just didn’t think it would be so soon.
“I had a very discreet conversation with the President this morning, so you don’t need to worry about the White House being blind sided,” Leo advised him. “And I’ll do the same this afternoon with Jed.” Leo had resumed referring to his best friend by his first name once he was out of office.
Both of them nodded.
“But YOU need to tell your mother.”
“We are, Leo,” Donna interjected, explaining their plan to him.
“Alright. You were on your way out, so have a lovely evening, Donna. And let me know if you need anything,” he told her. “I’ve booked Judy a suite at the hotel down the road so she can be comfortable closer to you, and can all have some privacy.” Leo turned back to Josh, giving him a wry smile. “Now, I hear you’re under the weather. How are you feeling, son?”
Josh smirked. “It’s about time somebody noticed.”
Donna did, in fact, return to GW to spend the night with Josh. CJ had readily agreed to sleep in their guest room and watch Jack. Though she was admittedly not a ‘baby person,’ she’d had plenty of experience watching her nieces and told Donna not to worry.
Donna and Josh had both rested better in the close proximity to one another. Donna kissed him goodbye when the nurse came in for morning rounds, telling him she’d be back right after his call with Stanley and slipping home to get showered and changed for the day.
Before returning to the hospital she pulled the hood on Jack’s sweatshirt over his mop of curls and hugged him close. Though they would be entering from underground the conversation she’d had with Leo had still set her nerves on guard.
Unable to sleep, Judy Lyman decided to head to the hospital earlier than planned. She’d had breakfast and her coffee and was restless. She took her time walking over, deciding that she didn’t want to hail a cab.
Arriving at Josh’s room, she was politely informed by the agent at his door that he was on a call and not to be interrupted at this time. She nodded her head, hoping it had nothing to do with work.
Moseying over to the nurses station for a fresh cup of coffee she almost missed Donna striding intently down the hall, a tiny bundle of blue jeans in a green jacket held close to her chest. She approached the agent who nodded acknowledgement of her, but made no move to prohibit her entry.
Donna pulled the hood off of the baby to reveal wild auburn curls, causing Judy Lyman to squint and look closer, taken quite back. She couldn’t see much, the child clinging close to Donna’s chest.
“Hi,” she heard him chirp to the agent, seeing a tiny hand cup and un-cup in a wave.
The secret service agent, for all his training, wasn't immune to the little boy cupping and un-cupping his hand in a wave at what he considered a friendly face. He broke his steely reserve and smiled. He couldn’t help it. “Hi, Mr. Lyman,” Kyle said, grinning at the boy.
Judy almost fainted.
Whew! That's really as fast as I can type. That's what I get for promising another update tonight. hah!
Hope you enjoy... Josh is fine. I'm not a complete sadist ;) Just enough to put a little fear in them.
Chapter 17: Chapter 17
Donna removed the hood from Jack’s curls, brushing her fingers through them as he greeted the Secret Service agents, causing a smile to crawl across her face. Opening the door she entered to find Josh reading the very limited sections of the paper she’d left for him that morning. Nothing too stressful.
She gently closed the door behind her, walking towards Josh.
“Who’s that,” she excitedly asked Jack, who’d been searching the apartment for Josh since they’d arrived.
Jack immediately leaned towards Josh, struggling to break free and reach him. “Dada!” he practically shouted, pointing at Josh and continuing to squirm away from Donna.
Josh and Donna both froze and looked at him.
“Did he just-“
“Yeah, he did.”
Josh’s face lit up.
“Yeah, buddy,” Donna kissed his head, “that’s your Daddy!”
She stood near the head of Josh’s bed and held Jack, careful to keep him away from Josh as he was still fairly weak, and any rogue IV lines.
Josh scooted over as far as he comfortably could in the small hospital bed and pat the spot next to him.
“I don’t know,” Donna hesitated. “He’s going to crawl all over you.”
She didn’t want to fight it either so she gave in quickly, laying down next to him and sitting Jack between them. She kept one had on the baby to make sure he didn’t get too antsy.
They’d been up especially early that day, and CJ had said he hadn’t sleep too well, so Jack’s eyes began to get heavy fairly quickly. He lay back and snuggled in close to Josh’s arm, looking up at his father with big brown eyes, full engrossed with the gentle words Josh was saying.
Donna lay on her side, head propped onto her hand, perfectly content.
A knock at the door interrupted them and Josh glanced at the clock on the wall. “Must be the nurse. She’s running early today.”
“Come in,” Donna stated loudly, turning her attention immediately back to Josh and Jack.
“Joshua?” Came the unsure voice from the door.
“Mom?!” Josh’s eyebrows shot to his hairline as they stared at each other for a moment. Donna didn’t know what to say. Josh and Judy weren’t sure either.
But leave it to Jack to break the ice. “Hi!” he chirped, his new signature move.
The tension decreased with his sweet little voice.
“Well, hello,” Judy told him, closing the door behind, her and walking towards the bed, still rather stunned. They all were. “Who’s this,” she asked, quietly.
Josh cleared his throat a bit. “Mom, this is Jack.”
“And he’s…” Judy wasn’t even sure how to phrase the question. There was no need to ask if he was Josh’s, he was a little carbon copy of her son at that age.
“Yes,” Josh, answered anyway.
Judy just looked at all of them for a moment, shocked beyond her wildest dreams.
Under the scrutiny, Jack snuggled in closer to Josh’s protection.
Donna intervened, know she could lessen the tension in the room if she could just get Jack to be his usual animated self.
“Can you show Grandma Judy your smile,” Donna asked, causing Jack to look up at her. She reached down and tickled him, causing him to let out a series of giggles, causing Josh to laugh too, and then Jack’s dimples to come out in full force.
Judy nearly melted at the little boy. She still had so many questions and emotions coursing through her, but she couldn’t help but to love him immediately. “Can I hold you,” she asked him, opening her arms to him. Jack didn’t move, still somewhat unsure of her.
Donna jumped in, picking him up. “Say, ‘sure you can.’ But let’s not step on Daddy in the process.” She handed him to Judy, who made herself comfortable in a chair with Jack on her lap. He still hadn’t decided what to think. Donna dug around in her oversized pure for a moment, procuring a small container of Cheerios and a book, and handing them to Judy. Jack ate the snack with laser focus, becoming more and more content in Judy’s arms.
Donna returned to her position curled up next to Josh.
“Why-“ was all that Judy could ask at the moment.
“Later, Mom,” Josh told her in a tone that signified he meant business.
The four of them spent the rest of the morning in quiet comfort, Jack eventually becoming cranky and in need of a nap.
“What’s the plan for the day,” Josh asked. “Are they going to let me out of here or what?”
“Ah, yes, the impatient patient,” Donna poked at him. “I forgot how much I’ve missed him.
“Yeah, yeah. You love me,” Josh smirked.
“I do,” Donna responded, giving him a gentle kiss.
“So you two are finally…” Judy began, smiling.
“We’ll talk about it later, Mom,” Josh interjected again.
“What are we allowed to talk about,” Judy retorted, knowing exactly how to match her son’s demeanor.
“Yeah, Josh. You better pick something because otherwise we’re going to start talking about you,” Donna told him, shooting Judy a wink.
Just muttered something under his breath.
“What was that,” Donna asked in a chipper tone.
“Nothing,” Josh grumbled.
“That’s what I thought,” said, standing up. “Now, I’m taking him home for lunch and a nap,” she nodded to Jack. “You need to sleep and then you have your first PT session this afternoon.”
“PT? Come on Donna, give me a break here. You know I hate PT.”
“Joshua,” she told him in a no nonsense tone, glaring at him. “Think about the words I said to you yesterday.”
“Kay,” he laid back in his pillows, knowing better than to argue with her.
Judy Lyman bit back a smile. She’d always liked Donna.
Changing her demeanor entirely, she turned her attention to the other people in the room. “Judy, would you like to join Jack and I for lunch while Josh sleeps? We can pick your things up from the hotel and take them home. I hope you’ll stay with us,” she offered.
Judy nodded. Apparently everyone was just going to ignore the giant elephant in the room.
“Sounds lovely, dear.”
Donna picked Jack up and walked over, kissing Josh on the side of his mouth. “Don’t be a giant pain for your therapist, please. And get some sleep. I love you.”
She then held Jack closer to Josh, so he could reach him to say goodbye. “Say bye to Daddy,” Donna instructed. Jack gave Josh a big wet kiss on the cheek with another “Dada!” and Josh ruffled his head, grinning brightly.
After a lunch filled with some inane chit chat and lots of basic questions about Jack,
Donna returned to GW to pick Josh up, leaving Jack to nap with Judy. He was making great progress and was being discharged to return home. Though he had a detailed list of restrictions he was anxious to be headed home. He didn’t do well in hospitals.
Josh sat quietly, his head rested against the back of the seat. As much as he’d tried to make everyone think he was just fine, she could see he was struggling. She gently reached over and clasp his hand, letting him know he wasn’t alone in this. In any of it.
And as if the universe could feel them settling in, Donna’s cell phone rang.
Josh cracked one eye open to watch her as she answered it. He could tell the caller was his mother, though Donna kept her responses to a minimum, ending the conversation as quickly as possible.
She looked at Josh, sighing. “The press has it.”
He silently nodded his head. “Outside the apartment?”
“Yeah,” she told him.
“We’ll be using the rear entrance, Mr. Lyman,” Greg interjected. “It’s already been sealed off.”
“Thanks,” he told Greg, clasping Donna’s hand a bit tighter. “You ready?” he asked her.
“Yeah. I guess so,” she admitted, knowing that ship had sailed. There was no turning back now.
Donna got up from where she sat on the couch, excusing herself from the conversation to see what Josh needed. Upon hearing his father’s voice, Jack got up as well and plodded curiously down the hall after Donna.
She opened the door to their bedroom and found Josh standing, rummaging through his dresser.
“What are you doing? Sit down, Josh.”
He complied, realizing just how exhausted he was. “I was looking for some loose pants that wouldn’t touch my incision,” he admitted. “Are CJ and Danny already here?”
He never wanted to miss anything. “CJ is,” Donna told him, immediately pulling out the pair of pants she knew he was looking for. “Danny won’t be here for a while. Something came up.”
“And the gaggle is still on the front steps?”
Donna nodded affirmatively.
Josh pulled on the loose fitting outfit and almost immediately felt a tug at the cloth from Jack, who extended his arms to be picked up. Josh smiled and reflexively leaned over, only to be intercepted by Donna.
“You’re not supposed to lift anything, or anyone, over ten pounds, mister.” She reminded him. “And he is well over 10 pounds.”
She hoisted Jack onto her lap and sat next to him on their bed.
“Can you send CJ back here? I need to speak with her about something,” Josh requested.
“Kay.” She moved to tote Jack along with her.
“Leave him, he’ll be fine. I’ve missed him,” Josh admitted.
“But if he…”
“He’ll be fine,” he assured her. Donna relented, only to hear an “ouch!” from Josh when she was about 2 steps into the hall. She shook her head, sending CJ back to chat with him.
Danny had arrived, along with dinner, and they’d hashed out the first stage of their plan. The White House was giving their standard ‘we don’t comment on the personal lives of our staffers,’ but Josh and Donna both knew that wasn’t going to cut it. And if they wanted this to go away any time soon, they’d be best facing it head on.
And that’s where Danny and CJ came in. There was nobody better at spin than CJ Cregg, and there was no reporter that Josh trusted more than Danny Concannon. So, along with Judy, they’d all shared a meal and Danny had asked the questions he’d need answers to in order to write the editorial about Josh that would be published in The Post.
And that was, for now, that. They’d decided together that they weren’t going to let it run their lives.
Josh, exhausted, went to bed as soon as CJ and Danny left. Judy helped Donna give Jack a bath and tidied up the kitchen a bit while she put him to bed. Things had been amicable between the two of them, but there was still plenty of tension to go around. Judy was surprised when Donna asked her if she’d stay up for some tea and conversation.
She’d agreed, assuming they were in for some light banter. The heavy lifting, she thought, would come tomorrow. But Donna had other plans in mind. Sitting a warm mug down in front of Josh’s mother, she didn’t even hesitate.
“I’d start out with an apology,” she said, staring at the tea bag bobbing in the warm water, “but I’m fairly certain there’s nothing I could ever say to scratch the surface of the regret I feel about the way I handled this. So I’ll just tell you that if I had it to do all over again, I would do it differently. And I’ll tell you that I know you’re furious, and I understand if you never get past that. But I’ll also tell you that I love your son, and that never has and never will waiver,” Donna cleared her throat a bit. “Maybe the best way to go about this is for you to ask me whatever you’d like to, and I’ll answer it honestly.”
Judy nodded her head slowly, unsure of where to begin. “Do you want to wait for Josh?”
“No,” Donna stated adamantly. “The conversation we have with Josh tomorrow, or that you have with Josh tomorrow, is separate from this. We both know Josh is a fixer, but I think you and I need to be completely honest with each other, woman to woman, in this kitchen.”
“I’d like that,” Judy admitted, taking a sip of her tea. “So maybe we should start at the beginning of all of this.”
Donna nodded. “Right. The day I quit my job.”
“No, dear,” Judy told her lightly, extending her hand to pat Donna’s in a gesture of good will. “The actual beginning. New Hampshire in ’98.”
Donna sighed. It was going to be a long night.
The two discussed the ins and outs of many things regarding Donna’s relationship with Josh, and Josh’s own issues with allowing himself to be happy with Donna. They’d discussed where Donna had been, the logistics of raising Jack, the evolution of her relationship with Josh and how he was processing all of this. Donna had detailed his adventure into fatherhood and, in the interest of full disclosure and trust, that Jack was in fact the result of a one night stand with Josh.
Long out of tea and finishing the second coffee mug of bourbon, the two decided to call it a night after several hours of conversation.
Walking quietly down the hall towards their respective bedrooms, Donna paused. “Judy,” she began, “you never asked me why.”
“You’re right. I didn’t. Because I know why, Donna.”
Judy nodded her head somberly. “I may not like it, and it may have been excruciatingly painful to watch Josh miss you, but if he can move forward, so can I. Though I wish you wouldn’t have, I do understand why you felt you had to do what you did, Donna. It’s the same reason I kept you out of his hospital room on Wednesday. It comes from the same place.”
Donna nodded her head, the deep understanding passing between the two women in the quiet of the night.
“Donna,” Judy began again, just as she was entering the guest room. “I know you won’t hurt him again- of that I’m absolutely sure.” Donna nodded her head in agreement. “But please remember, you can always come to me, too.”
Donna smiled, feeling choked up at Judy’s sentiment, and leaning in to give her a warm, genuine hug.
She peeked in on Jack, who was sleeping soundly, and then joined Josh under the warm comforter, his arms automatically reaching out to embrace her as she drifted to sleep.
Chapter 18: Chapter 18
“Oh, but you are.”
“No,” Donna insisted.
“No!” Jack chimed in, unsure of the topic but pleased to be able to use one of his favorite words.
“See, Jack agrees with me. I’m staying here,” Donna retorted proudly.
“Like hell you are, Donna. You earned that degree, you’re walking across the stage,” Josh insisted. “You’re not going to skip it because you think you need to stay here with me.”
“Josh, it’s really not that big of a deal.” Okay, it really was a big deal, but Donna would be worried sick if she was away from Josh for that long. But she wouldn’t admit that.
“It’s already taken care of,” Josh told her. “The arrangements have been made. No more arguments.”
“Yes. You’re booked on the shuttle with CJ. She’s going with you. You’re walking in your graduation ceremony and then the movers will come to pack up your apartment and bring your things down here.”
Donna shook her head in amusement. “We’ll see,” she told him, walking into the kitchen to start breakfast and thereby changing the topic.
For all of their optimism, the press hadn’t just ‘gone away.’ They were still camped out on the front steps of Josh and Donna’s apartment and calling their landline about 100 times a day.
They’d discussed their options but had decided to stick to their original plan. Sitting own for a one on one interview would be opening a door. It would set a precedent that the personal lives of staffers were free game for reporters. They’d weather the storm together, and hopefully they’d be stronger for it in the end.
Right now, however, Donna would be willing to give up a lot to just be able to take a walk. Winter or not, keeping a little boy cooped up in an apartment and away from the windows was trying on everyone’s nerves. Judy, for her part, had been great. She’d embraced the role of grandmother completely, and Jack adored her. After her conversation with Donna until the early hours of the morning she’d sat down with Josh in his study. Donna had left them alone and when they’d emerged the tension had dissipated considerably. Judy had even been making jokes about more grandchildren, much to Josh’s dismay.
Privately, however, he’d told that Donna he, too, thought that would be a great idea. Donna, wide eyed and somewhat shocked, had urged him not to get any ideas any time soon.
Today, however, they had an actual out of the house activity planned. And Donna couldn’t wait.
The President would be lighting the tree on the White House lawn and Josh and Donna had agreed to take Jack. He hadn’t been to the White House yet, and given the media circus, it could turn out to be more than they bargained for but they’d decided to go anyway. President Bartlet and Abby were also in town for an unrelated event, and had agreed to stop by. Donna couldn’t wait to get some photos of Jack with Josh and one of his namesakes.
They’d made it to the White House with only a few minor setbacks (a meltdown over a green sweater by Jack, and Josh pleading a case that he felt completely fine and was sure he was up to showering with Donna.) Walking through the West Wing again, Donna felt oddly calm. Things were so different for her now- as though she was somehow disconnected from this part of her life. Yet somehow, the years she’d spent here would always be some of the greatest. She’d done something she was so proud of and, over the course of many late nights, weekends and too many cups of coffee to count, she’d found her love and made many lifelong friends.
The majority of the staffers were strangers to Donna, but they stopped along the way to say hello to everyone she knew, taking their time on the way to Josh’s office and wandering the corridors of the West Wing at a considerably slower pace.
“Oh, hey, J.” Amy emerged from seemingly nowhere and put her hand on his arm. “Donna.” She nodded a greeting.
Amy’s voice had the same effect as nails on a chalkboard to Donna. “Hello, Amy,” Donna said through gritted teeth.
“And this must be little J.” Amy came off as snarky and cold, even to baby.
“No,” Jack chirped, leaning closer to his mother. Even at a young age, Jack Lyman was apparently a good judge of character. For once, he’d decided not to give his now customary greeting of ‘hi.’ Donna mentally applauded him for it.
“His name is Jack,” Josh told Amy, hating the nickname J enough on its own, let alone ‘Little J.’ It was making him gag. “And we’re late for something.” He placed his hand on the small of Donna’s back and guided her through the corridors of the West Wing, loving how familiar it all became in an instant.
“They’re waiting in the Oval, sir,” Alan stood at the sight of his boss, causing Donna to raise her eyebrows and suppress a smirk.
“Good to see you again, Alan,” Donna noted, placing Jack on the floor to follow Josh and closing the door to the Chief of Staff’s outer office.
Josh looked around a bit, but Donna wasn’t going to let him get swept into work. He was still technically out on sick leave. Sam had been staffing the President.
“I think they’re waiting on us,” Donna noted to the door connecting to the Oval, where she could hear familiar voices chatting. Josh reached out and grabbed Jack’s little hand to walk with him and leaned over to kiss Donna. “Let’s go,” he gave her a smile, opening the door to be greeted by two presidents and their wives and many other familiar faces.
Only a few steps through the doorway Jack froze in his spot. All of the occupants of the grand, round room turned to look at him and conversation had halted. Still holding his father’s hand, he moved closer to Josh’s leg. Donna bent down next to him, assuring him it was okay to proceed into the group of strangers. He listened to what his mother was saying, surveying the room at the same time.
Then, mid sentence he took a deep breath of air and his eyes widened. “YAY!” he smiled, letting go of Josh’s hand and running full speed, weaving through several notable people and a the leader of the free world to crash into his Uncle Sammy.
“Hey, kid,” Sam picked him up. “Long time no see!”
“I swear if he says Sam before he says Mom you’re in trouble, Seaborn.” Donna’s humor lightened the mood and the room went back to what they were doing, slowly making their way over to meet Jack.
Donna had hit it off with Helen Santos, who had also taken a new liking to Josh, beginning to understand some of the complexities of the bottled up nervous energy that was her husband’s Chief of Staff.
The crowd continued to mingle, staffers coming in and out leading up to the tree lighting.
“President Bartlet,” Donna greeted him with a warm hug.
“Hello, Donnatella. Looking lovely as always.”
Abby joined them only a second later, moving over to Donna who was holding Jack. “Well, hello there,” she greeted him.
“Hi,” Jack chirped, his usual friendly self.
“Well aren’t you the spitting image of your father,” Abby practically cooed, unable to help herself. “But I bet you have a more pleasant demeanor, don’t you?” she added, unable to resist a little fun at Josh’s expense.
“No.” Jack responded, causing the 4 of them to burst into laugher.
“So, Jack is it?” President Bartlet began. “That’s a solid name for a boy. Big shoes to fill.”
“Big shoes, indeed, sir,” Josh told him, snaking his arm around Donna, who had just placed their son on the couch next to the former President. “But actually, his given name is John.”
“Oh,” the President looked up, seemingly unfazed by where the conversation was headed.
Josh looked at Donna, smiling. “It’s John Bartlet Lyman, if we’re being technical,” he told him, emphasizing his son’s middle name.
President Bartlet and Abby both looked up at Josh and Donna.
“I don’t know what to say,” President Bartlet responded, running his finger’s through Jack’s curls as he sat on Abby’s lap. Though it took quite a bit of effort, Jed stood shook Josh’s hand. “I’m honored, son,” he told him. “Truly honored.”
Donna Moss walked across the stage and received her master’s degree one week later. CJ had accompanied her to New York two days prior and after supervising a moving company as they packed all of her belongings and sent them to DC. Though the city held many memories for Donna and Jack, she was elated to begin her life with Josh.
Strolling back into the lobby of the hotel, she’d planned to quickly freshen up in her hotel room and meet CJ for dinner.
“Donna Moss?” The doorman seemed as if he knew exactly who he’d been waiting for.
“Yes,” she was surprised, looking over at CJ, who quietly stepped away.
“This is for you,” the doorman handed her a single long stem red rose and an envelope. “I’ve been advised to ask you to please read it here.” If there had been any doubt in her mind about who was behind it, they would have vanished as soon as she saw the ‘Donnatella’ scrawled in a messy script across the front of the envelope.
Unfolding the letter tucked into the envelope, Donna barely held it together as she read the note. Josh, in the way only Josh could, had made her heart. He’d written to her about their first year together. The campaign trail in the first Bartlet for America and all the experiences they’d shared. He told her about what she’d meant to him from the beginning, and all of the things she’d done that year, mostly unknowingly, that had made him begin to fall in love with her.
A smile on her face, she tucked the note back into the envelope.
“You’ll need to take the stairs,” the doorman informed her, pointing her to a stairwell off the lobby. Donna obeyed, opening the heavy steel door and walking up a flight.
On the landing sat a table with another long stem red rose and another letter. This one outlined year two. Adjusting to those late nights in the White House, getting to know each other over takeout in Josh’s office, and dancing together at state dinners.
The letters and the roses continued up the flights of stairs, raw and honest in their journey. Her heart had particularly seized up as he wrote her about the summer after Rosslyn, and again when he told her, for what may have been the first time, about just how he felt when he flew to Germany for her. He was honest in his emotions as he told her how broken he felt when she left him, and how he knew if he ever had the chance he’d never let her go again. She was a crying mess if there ever was one by the time she made it to the 12th floor. Their current year.
Instead of a letter a room key accompanied the red rose. Walking back into the hotel hallway, Donna found the accompanying suite and let herself in.
The lights were out but the curtains were open to the New York skyline at night and the rest of the room remained illuminated in the glow of what had to be at least 100 candles. Josh stood in the center of the room looking nervous, his trademark level of disheveled and so in love.
“Year twelve,” he began, with a lump in his throat, before she had the chance to say anything, “is the year where I ask you to be my wife.” He dropped on to one knee and popped a ring box open. “Donnatella Moss, will you marry me?”
Donna rushed across the room, her belongings falling wherever they may, as she dropped to her knees and kissed him breathless. “Of course I will.”
Well, hope you enjoyed it! They needed a happy ending :)
Thank you SO MUCH for reading this! I know it was a bit rough- my first one! But i have some other projects in the works and hope to improve along the way. Thanks to each and every one of you for the continued feed back!! You're amazing!