Joshuaís Jealousy

By Aquila (aquila@cliffhanger.com)

 

Date:                           3rd June 2000

Rating:                         PG, I think

Category:             Josh/Donna Romance

Archive:             Please ask first.

Summary:             Joshís eyes are opened.           

Disclaimer: I haven't any money and I'm not making any from this.

Feedback:             Constructive stuff particularly welcome. Please be gentle though, this is my first fanfic!

 

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Sam and Josh sat on bar stools, or rather slumped, having drunk their recommended weekly ration in the last couple of hours alone. Josh had drunk most of Samís allowance too and Sam had let him, hoping to draw out his lately troubled friend. All the signs were that Josh was unhappy and Sam wanted to help.

It was getting late but Sam felt after hours of listening to Josh ramble on every subject, that they were finally getting close to something.

             "She doesnít pay attention to me any more," said Josh after a while, his voice slurring slightly.

Sam waited patiently, sensing there was more coming; he gave his friend time to formulate his thoughts. Eventually he came out with:

            "She doesnít chat with me like we used to."

"Who doesnít chat like you used to?"

"Donna."

"Donna?" Sam was confused.

"Donna doesn't talk to me like she used to. She's all professhy-onal" Josh rested his chin on elbow on the bar; his face in his hand and closed his eyes.

"And before she was unprofessional?"

"Before she was my friend."

            A glimmer of light started to dawn for Sam.

"I haven't noticed anything different. She seems fine to me, sheís friendly, she's efficient, sheís great! Mind you, she spends a lot of time talking to Bonnie and Ginger" he said cautiously, "Have you two had some kind of.... problem?"

"Sheís got a new boyfriend, a congressman, if you can believe it. David, Dave, David Something. Canít remember. Sheís all glowy-eyed and happy and Not-Donna"

"Not the depressed, miserable, blight-on-the-day we all know and love, then?" Sam chuckled gleefully.

Josh just looked at him.

"Well, good for Donna. When did this all start?"

"A couple of months ago..."

 

******

"Donna!" Josh yelled, from his office, early one morning. "Donna? Where are you!" he repeated when she didnít scuttle in immediately

"Here, Iím coming, hold the crisis!"

"Iím not holding anything, this is the government we work for, not Burger King, Donnatella. Now do I have a schedule for today, or do I have to write one myself?"

"Depends how creative youíre feeling and patience, by the way, is a virtue"

"So is punctuality." He paused. "Why do I need to be creative?"

"No itís not"

"Well should be" he said, stacking his papers, "hit me with a schedule"

"At ten youíre with Toby and then youíve lunch with Senator Murphy, then a meeting at six with Michael Haley. So all in all, a light day. Plenty of nice big spaces for you to do some whimsical time allocation, hence the creativity." She smiled. "Me, Iím going to the park for a picnic."

"Since when?"

"Since you agreed to the free afternoon thing."

            "Oh right," he smiled. "So youíre going for a picnic in the park and Iím free for most of the afternoon. Can I come if I promise I wonít feed all your sandwiches to the ducks?"

He scooped up his files and headed for the door, expecting to walk and talk, expecting her to follow after him as she always did, but she stopped by her desk and sat down.

            "Sorry, Iíve already made arrangements that involve me having a life outside of work." She smiled to herself and for the first time since heíd met her, it really made him pause.

 

And that was day one of The Change. From then on, Josh noticed a difference in Donna. She still sparred with him, still laughed at him, still talked about bizarre topics that were typically irrelevant but Josh felt her concentration wasnít there as it had been. Although her work was as efficient as always, she was distracted . She began to insist on her time off. She didnít follow after him through corridors just so she could keep talking to him; she no longer waited for him in hallways. She negated his mockery with a shrug, with a glance that caused a pang. And that bothered him more than he felt it should. He often caught her smiling to herself and when he teased her about it, she offered no explanation. That's when he realised that talking to Donna was the only thing guaranteed to brighten his day and without that verbal back-and-forth each day felt incomplete.

More and more often when his mind drifted, it drifted to Donna. How often had he told her that much of what she said was a waste of his time, or declared that he had no interest in her life? He really hadnít meant it but now when he called her at home in the evenings, she wasnít there. Then he spent a sleepless night wondering why.

 

But he wouldnít ask her. Some kind of pride prevented him from asking her.

 

 

****

 

Sam poured another drink out for each of them from the bottle the barman had left for them.

"So then what happened?" he asked

By now Josh was very drunk. "Finally, I found out what was going on" he paused, and for a moment, Sam thought he was asleep, "sheíd met someone."

"The David?"

"Davey Wavey himself. You know that party we were invited to, the Sports Association thing?"

"Yes, I thought youíd decided not to go?"

"I had. Too much else to do. I asked Donna to decline the invitation. But then that evening Jim Mitchell called me, you know Jim, the tall one? He was organising it, it turned out, and we got talking and he talked me into going, said some guys from college would be there. I was feeling bored and in need of cheering up, so I went."

"And Donna was there?" said Sam  "and Iím guessing she had a date?"

"She really did, no allure intended. You should have seen her, Sam, she looked incredible...wow, there she is." Josh closed his eyes to better enjoy the mental image. "Just as soon as I walked in the door, there she was..."

 

****

 

Josh checked his coat and walked into the room, swiping a drink from a passing waiter. The very first person he saw was Donna, and for a minute, all he could do was stand and stare at her. Instead of the plain and elegant black that she usually wore to political functions, she was wearing a dark, blood-red dress that clung to her and showed off her curves. Her hair, instead of being neatly pulled back as it often was in the office, was curled into thick, wavy tendrils that hung down her bare back. She was a different Donna, the elusive, enigmatic, unpredictable Donna that had drawn away from him, that Ė he realised suddenly Ė attracted him deeply. And here she was, all he had to do was walk up to her, ignoring the voice yelling in the back of his mind, and say something amazing that would open her up to him again. She was standing near the band, oblivious to his presence but a quick look round the room told Josh that he wasnít the only one who had noticed her. Practice made the mask slip easily into place.

 "Donnatella!" He called casually, with a confidence he didn't feel, "what a small world it is"

"Josh! What are you doing here? Youíre not meant to be here!" Donna stammered, as she whirled round to face him.

 ďYouíre not the only one who has a life, you know." Josh felt himself relax a little now that he was back in her company. Unreasonably, he also felt himself spoiling for a fight.

"But I cancelled the invitation for you!"

"And I uncancelled it"

"Oh. Why?"

"I Ėer, I changed my mind. You look very nice, by the way."

             "Thanks, I bought this on my last afternoon off, as it happens. So I *am* putting them to good use."

"These afternoons off that you want because you arenít very committed to your work?"

"The afternoons off that I'm more than entitled to and that I need in order to *stay* committed to my work."

"Hmm, let me see. When did *I* last get an afternoon off? Nineteen.... ninety- "

"Josh"

"Just saying, Donna"

"That's the problem. You just saying things. Need I remind you..."

"Ok, ok, I get it" They watched the dancers. "Just so you know that the office manages to grind on without you when you disappear enjoying yourself doing whatever it is you do. Don't think it doesn't"

She turned on him. "Look Josh, if you have a problem with my work, just come out and say it!"

" I donít, I don't have a problem. Do you think I should?"

"Are you really trying to tell me you're that indifferent to my absence? Because somehow I seriously doubt it." Her eyes were shining with anger and....contempt?

He sighed. "No. No, I'm not. I can't find things! Look, Donna, I'm being an idiot. I'm sorry -"

She barely heard him.

 "*You* canít manage without me, Joshua!"

Like a slap in the face, all their anger and resentment evaporated. It stunned him so much that he couldnít think of a comeback, except for the truth: "No I canít." he whispered, "You keep everything in my life running smoothly."

Their eyes met.

He heard her quiet gasp. "Thatís more than youíve ever said before" she said softly.

"I mean it, Donna, I really mean it"

Their eyes locked and Josh was entranced. He was so close to her he could feel her breath on his lips and it mesmerised him until he forgot she worked for him, forgot office politics, forgot for a moment that she was ever anything to him except the strangest and loveliest woman he had ever been lucky enough to meet. He was about to commit himself to a kiss when she smiled wryly, looked away and the moment was over.

 For a minute, they stood in silence, as Josh tried to get his thoughts together, amazed to find himself speechless in front of his assistant. Donna scanned the crowd.

"Would you like to, er, dance?" he said brightly, finally, bluffing over his confusion.

"No. Josh, actually I'm here with someone," she murmured and it was like L.A. all over again.

"There isnít any chance youíre just saying that for the allure is there?" he asked somewhat bitterly.

"The allure? The allure! Oh, no. No allure. I really did come here with someone; Iíve been seeing him for a while now. He's really wonderful. Those afternoons, I.... in fact, there he is! David!"

"There you are!" A tall and extremely handsome man pushed his way through the crowd. He handed her a drink, kissed her and waited expectantly for an introduction.
            "Josh Ė David Marsden, David Ė Joshua Lyman, my boss" Donna said warily and they shook hands.

"Hello Josh." The man was cheerful and friendly and Josh hated him.

 "Congressman, nice to see you again" he said, evenly. He had to watch as David Marsden put his arm round Donna, pulling her close to him and suddenly Josh wanted nothing more than to tear Donna away and take her back to the office where she was all his, or used to be. He could think of nothing to say.

 "Well, honey, would you like to meet my brother? I think I just saw him come in." Davidís arm steered her away and with one last smile at Josh, and a "See you Monday," she was...

 

****

"...Gone, oblivious to what she'd done to me. I went straight home, Sam, and Iíve spent all weekend obsessing about her. Tomorrow morning Iíve got to go into work and face her, and suddenly I donít know what to do or say to my own assistant."

"Well, that makes things a bit clearer, I was wondering what was such a big deal that you had to drag me out drinking on one of our precious free Sunday afternoons. Iím so glad it only took you five hours to tell me."

"But what am I going to do? Sheís been so chirpy and happy lately, and so indifferent to me. I think sheís really serious about him, really in love with him, and I know I should be happy for her but Iím jealous. Jealous so it burns. Iíve had forty-eight hours you wouldnít believe, everythingís upside down until I canít think straight so I need a friendís advice. I need clarity."

"Clarity?" Sam laughed "Heads up, Josh, youíre falling in love with her, you idiot, if you arenít there already!"

Josh stared intently at the bar counter top, suddenly more sober. "I think I am too," he said quietly. "Itís incredible but I canít explain how I feel in any other way. I'm really in love with her! Christ!"

"If you ask me, you've always had a bit of a thing for her. Every day since you and she first worked together has been a battle of wits, as far as I can tell. She's always kept you...awake."

"Maybe. For the longest time I thought she had a crush on me, and that felt good, yíknow? I never intended to do anything about it, but I got a boost out of our conversations, the flirting, the banter. Maybe I was wrong and she never felt that way, or maybe I was right and thatís why she kept quiet about him. Or maybe I'm just delusional."

"That's not unlikely at this point." Sam laughed gently at his friend.

Josh smiled weakly at the joke, but the sadness never left his eyes. "The truth is Iím so jealous, itís cutting me up that sheís with him. That Iím not the most important man in her life any more, even if I only ever was as her blind, condescending, workaholic boss. I didnít realise how much that meant to me, to be first with Donna, until it was taken away from me."

"Are you going to tell her how you feel?"

Josh was silent. "I can't, I canít say anything. Itís such a clichť: the boss and the secretary scenario. Itís not fair to her, it would be taking advantage of her position for me to - " he choked on his words and his head fell into his hands. "Oh God, Sam, how do I make these feelings go away?" 

Sam put his hand on his friend's arm. "You canít, you know that. But I think youíre right. While sheís involved with Marsden and especially if you think sheís really has strong feelings for him, then you canít say anything. The chances are itíll ruin everything; your working relationship and your friendship, such as it is. Sheíll almost certainly reject you and be angry at you for unburdening yourself at her expense. When you see her tomorrow, it has to be business as usual, if you want to keep what you do have. No matter what happens with him, you have to be her friend"

Josh looked up, worn and resigned. "I will be, I can be, but I miss her, Sam"

"She hasnít gone anywhere"

"She has, Iíve lost her"

"Weíll see, but remember: business as usual"

Josh nodded wearily and staggered to his feet. "I need to go home. I need to sleep. Help me get home, Sam?"

His friend smiled and put his hand on his shoulder. "Any time"

 

Sam paid the bill, and the two men left the bar.

 

 

THE END


 

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