By Aquila (firstname.lastname@example.org)
3rd June 2000
PG, I think
Please ask first.
Joshís eyes are opened.
I haven't any money and I'm not making any from this.
Constructive stuff particularly welcome. Please be gentle though, this is
my first fanfic!
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.
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.
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."
doesnít chat like you used to?"
Sam was confused.
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.
before she was unprofessional?"
she was my friend."
A glimmer of light started to dawn for Sam.
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
got a new boyfriend, a congressman, if you can believe it. David, Dave, David
Something. Canít remember. Sheís all glowy-eyed and happy and
the depressed, miserable, blight-on-the-day we all know and love, then?"
Sam chuckled gleefully.
just looked at him.
good for Donna. When did this all start?"
couple of months ago..."
Josh yelled, from his office, early one morning. "Donna? Where are
you!" he repeated when she didnít scuttle in immediately
Iím coming, hold the crisis!"
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
how creative youíre feeling and patience, by the way, is a virtue"
is punctuality." He paused. "Why do I need to be creative?"
should be" he said, stacking his papers, "hit me with a schedule"
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
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?"
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.
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
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
he wouldnít ask her. Some kind of pride prevented him from asking her.
poured another drink out for each of them from the bottle the barman had left
then what happened?" he asked
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
Wavey himself. You know that party we were invited to, the Sports Association
I thought youíd decided not to go?"
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."
Donna was there?" said Sam "and
Iím guessing she had a date?"
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..."
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"
What are you doing here? Youíre not meant to be here!" Donna stammered,
as she whirled round to face him.
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.
I cancelled the invitation for you!"
I uncancelled it"
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."
afternoons off that you want because you arenít very committed to your
afternoons off that I'm more than entitled to and that I need in order to *stay*
committed to my work."
let me see. When did *I* last get an afternoon off? Nineteen.... ninety- "
the problem. You just saying things. Need I remind you..."
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"
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?"
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
sighed. "No. No, I'm not. I can't find things! Look, Donna, I'm being an
idiot. I'm sorry -"
barely heard him.
"*You* canít manage without me, Joshua!"
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
heard her quiet gasp. "Thatís more than youíve ever said before"
she said softly.
mean it, Donna, I really mean it"
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.
you like to, er, dance?" he said brightly, finally, bluffing over his
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.
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!"
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
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...
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
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."
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
Sam laughed "Heads up, Josh, youíre falling in love with her, you idiot,
if you arenít there already!"
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!"
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."
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."
not unlikely at this point." Sam laughed gently at his friend.
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."
you going to tell her how you feel?"
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
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"
looked up, worn and resigned. "I will be, I can be, but I miss her,
hasnít gone anywhere"
has, Iíve lost her"
see, but remember: business as usual"
nodded wearily and staggered to his feet. "I need to go home. I need to
sleep. Help me get home, Sam?"
friend smiled and put his hand on his shoulder. "Any time"
paid the bill, and the two men left the bar.