Disclaimers in PT1
By the Bondi Gargoyle
"Thanks Josh. And you're not driving me any more crazy the you usually do"
As he walked downstairs he tried to figure out if that was a compliment or not
2:56 am CST
She woke with his name on her lips, breathing heavily from a particularly vivid and erotic dream.
"What the hell am I doing?" she asked aloud " I never dream about him."
For the most part, this was because she wouldn't let herself. Somehow she had programmed her subconscious to wake her up the minute Josh entered the scene. Only this time her mental alarm clock had been a little late. The dream flashed behind her eyes, okay a lot late. Her first impulse was gratitude that he was no longer sleeping in her room. She was in no way ready to explain why she was calling to him in her sleep. After a moment however, she almost missed him. She fought valiantly against the urge to go downstairs and check on him but, in the end, surrendered and went anyway.
Despite Dylan, Tony and Mike's desire to have "Unca Josh" join them on the rec. room camp bunks, Berti had decreed that Josh would have the living room sofa.
"Definitely a step up from the floor." Berti pointed out
"I don't know " he had replied looking over the top of his coffee mug at Donna "I was kind of starting to like it."
He had fallen asleep with the light on, a file open on his chest, one foot protruding from under his quilts. Donna knew her mother sometimes found her father this way. Once when she was about ten and had come downstairs for a glass of milk, she had sat hidden on the steps and watched the process. Even years later, she vividly recalled her mother carefully removing the glasses from her father's face; tiding up the papers; unfolding the blanket from the back of the couch and laying it over him.
Watching Josh sleep, she felt a pang in her chest. This man, this man who counseled the President of the United States had taken four days out of an impenetrable schedule to try and help her. And what had he received in return? He'd been turned into a human snowman by her brothers; grilled by her parents; dragged out shopping on the worst day of the year, and subjected to Joanne's imitation of a clinging vine.
She reached for the file, "Coffee every morning for a month. I promise."
"Please don't" he whispered, making her jump. "Its only going to scare the living daylights out of me every day when I come in and think I've been fired."
"Speaking of scaring the living daylights, Josh, I thought you were asleep." She scolded him
"Nope just resting my eyes." He sat up, gathering his papers. "What time is it?"
She glanced at the mantle clock.
"I guess I should get some sleep. How come you're up?"
Unwilling put voice to the thoughts that had roused her, she simply asked: "Want me to get the light?"
She was at the stairs before she heard his voice
"Donna, come and sit with me for a while"
"Do you want me to turn the lamp back on?"
She left it off
He made room on the couch and she sat beside him.
"Your father told me he thinks I am in love with you" he began almost conversationally "Actually in truth, he claims you and I in love with each other."
"Well I wouldn't worry about it too much. Dad is a banker not a marriage guidance counselor"
Her ring caught the glow from the streetlight and she stared at on her hand.
" I should give you this back"
"No. You keep it"
"It's too expensive, send it back"
"To my mom?"
"I didn't lie to your sister"
"It's not from the Met"
"It is, but I didn't buy it."
"I don't understand"
"When my grandmother was a young woman she had one very similar. Her family were wealthy Viennese and it had been a present for her coming of age. She was in America, on a holiday with a widowed aunt, when the Nazis took the rest of their family. She used her jewelry, including the ring, to bribe a State Department official for the visas that allowed them to stay.
A couple of years ago, my grandmother noticed it in the gift store, whilst on her monthly pilgrimage to the Met. My mother bought her the ring as an eighty-fifth birthday present. When my grandmother died last year, my mother gave it to me. Told me to consider it an heirloom and that I should give it to someone I love"
"Then you should definitely have it back" Donna started to pull the ring from her finger
"I don't want it back," Josh said pointedly. "I've done exactly as my mother instructed."
Donna stared at him.
" I realized today I would have never given you that ring if I intended for you to take it off after these four days were over"
"What are you saying Josh?"
"That your father is right. Or at least half right"
Donna was quiet for a long while before she said "I don't want to stop working with you. I know that sounds like a stupid response to what you just said but..."
"First of all, it's not stupid. I understand. And given that when I'm left unattended, I end up helping Sam set fire to the decorations, I don't want you going anywhere either. But if we can find a way to keep working together, how would you feel about making this thing between us less platonic, more-?
"Josh do you love me the way you loved Joey Lucas or Mandy?"
"Lets not talk about the incredible lack of judgment that was my relationship with Mandy, okay? She gets filed with Mark. Deal?"
"Sure. And Joey?"
"Joey. Yeah, that was fun while it lasted but it wouldn't have worked out in the long run"
"Well for a start my job is in Washington and hers is in California and neither of us was about to give that up."
"Isn't she going to run for Congress next year?"
"Oh me and a Congresswoman, can you imagine it? Talk about bringing your work home. I think I might have some problems remembering that she worked for the people of California and not for me and the President."
Donna remained silent, her legs drawn up to her chest, her brow creased in concentration.
"Regardless" Josh concluded "Joey and I would have ended up the same place Mandy and I did."
"Which is where?"
"At a point where who's right and who's right more often becomes overwhelmingly more important than actually being together. And I'm not talking about arguments, I'm talking about who's right in terms of how many votes a bill is likely to pass or fail by, that sort of competitive idiocy"
"And I'm not smart enough for you to worry about it? Is that it?"
"No that's not it. When you're right and I'm wrong I find it kind of..."
"Kind of what?"
"Kind of sexy."
" Yeah." He smiled "There's another reason why Joey and I wouldn't have worked"
"I was already in love with you."
"You didn't act like it."
"Well hey, you kept encouraging me to go after her."
"I wanted you to be happy."
"I don't mean that to sound like a gothic heroine. For a start you're easier to work with when you're happy. And given our situation I didn't think anything was likely to happen between us. I like Joey, better her than some of the others you've picked"
" I'm going to ignore that last statement."
"Suit yourself I'm just saying that for a supposedly smart guy-"
"Donna do you want to hear this?"
"I don't know," she admitted
They sat in silence for a minute then she said "Keep talking."
"Well I was attracted to Joey but despite that fact, certain other things just kept getting harder to ignore."
"Last Christmas, when I was starting to fall apart." He paused looking at his palm in the half-light, tracing the slight scar with his thumb "It was you who kind of kept track of all the pieces"
"I did? How?"
"Just by being you. By talking to Leo; by taking my arm and dragging me to the hospital, brooking no argument. It all just clicked. I realized I didn't just like you and care about you, I was head over heels in love with you"
"Okay so how come you got together with Joey after that?"
"Because previous to that, us, our thing, it was there and it was different from say Sam and Kathy or Toby and Ginger but it still seemed to fit into nice safe guidelines. Even after the shooting, it still came under the sweeping category of friends."
"And after Christmas, it-"
"Scared the hell out of me and I ran in the other direction. But it wasn't any use. I need you around too much to be able to run very far. I'm like the old joke about the kid who tried to run away from home but couldn't cross the street without his mom."
"Why are you telling me all this now?"
"Remember when I first volunteered for this and you said I would have to spend four days pretending to be in love with you?"
"Well all the things I've been feeling, its as though I've been stuffing them into a box, that's been taped down with a big label saying 'Don't open 'til Leo McGarry says so.' Except I had to open the box this weekend and now I have neither the know-how nor the inclination to put the lid back on. Donna I love you. I love you very much but beyond that I admire you, I respect you, I desire you, I am amused by you, I am comforted by your presence, I rely on you and I like you. Just to name a few of the more cogent points.
Donna rested her elbow on her knees and put her chin in her hand. "Hmm"
" 'Hmm'? I tell you all that. I bare my soul and I get 'hmm'?"
Cautiously he brought a hand forward and stroked the hair off her face. "Of course I've never given you the remarkably romantic, Dorothy Parker."
"People in glass houses, Mr. Alpine skiing."
Josh laughed out loud.
"Ssh! You'll have half the house down here."
"We could go back to the attic."
"Okay" she agreed softly
"Really?" Josh did a poor job of hiding his amazement
She took his hand "Really."
Josh followed her as they tiptoed up the stairs but when faced with the bed, her bed, he stopped
"Maybe I should sleep on the floor."
"Oh are we going to start that again?"
"I'm approaching it from a slightly different angle this time."
"Which would be what?"
"Knowing what your brother is capable of, and may I say he currently seems to like me, I'm not looking forward to what he'll do when he finds out I've taken advantage of his sister."
"What decade do you exist in? You are not taking advantage, this is completely consensual."
"Donna we are surrounded by a small legion of your family. Its not that I don't want to" he let his eyes roam meaningfully from her eyes to her feet and back "I just don't want to do it like this. I've been seventeen once already, I don't really need to re-live the experience."
"Josh get into bed."
"You haven't heard a word I've said have you?"
"Josh. Get. Into. Bed."
She was standing with her hands on her hips and Josh had to laugh
"What?" she demanded
"I can't believe I'm having this argument."
Donna sighed, pulled back the covers and got in. She looked up at him. "Will you please just get into bed, I am not for the umpteenth time trying to seduce you."
"Why not? " Josh frowned
"Because we're surrounded by a legion of my family, for one thing."
"Oh." He got into bed. "So this is...what?"
"I like to listen to you breathe" Donna mumbled
"Say that again."
"I like to listen to you breathe, okay?" she repeated louder. "The last couple of nights when I woke up, I could hear you breathing. And if I could hear you breathe, I knew you were safe. I'm sorry I know its silly but there you are."
"Come here" Josh put his arms around her and kissed the top of her head. "That's the least silly thing I've heard all day
"So can we go to sleep now?"
"Josh" Donna whispered in the darkness
"I love you too."
"I know," he said confidently
"You're really insufferable sometimes."
"I know that too"