So let's see if I can remember how this goes... These characters are not mine and are borrowed from WB, NBC and Aaron Sorkin, none of whom really need to waste their time suing me. Feedback always welcome. Thanks for reading- BG
Crossroads: An "18th & Potomac" Episode Addition
By The Bondi Gargoyle
Josh slowly put down the phone and turned toward his doorway. He leaned on the doorframe and gazed across the bullpen to Donna's desk. She hadn't even bothered to sit down but was leaning over her computer typing with one hand, sifting documents with the other.
'She doesn't deserve this,' Josh thought. 'None of us deserve this."
"Just a sec."
"Come here a minute, please."
It was the 'please' that got her, that and the look on his face when she turned around. She followed him into his office and shut the door.
"There's been a car accident," he began.
For a minute she feared that they were echoing the night of the Illinois primary.
"There's been a car accident," he said again, "at Eighteenth and Potomac."
He didn't know why that detail felt so important. Perhaps it was the sudden knowledge that it would never again be just another intersection, that he would never again be able to drive past it without a stab of pain. Whatever the cause, he echoed Leo's emphasis on those words.
For her part, Donna felt a momentary free-fall of relief. If the accident was in D.C. then it didn't involve her family. Almost as soon as the thought was recognized, though, it was gone. She could see that Josh was in pain and began skimming a mental list of who could be hurt. The senior staff were all still in the West Wing waiting for The Meeting and subsequently the support staff were likewise hanging around.
"ZoŽ?" she asked "Danny?"
Josh shook his head and swallowed hard
"Mrs. Landingham had gone to pick up her car-"
"A drunk ran the red. She was killed instantly" he said, adding 'we hope' in his head.
Donna stared at him, eyes wide in disbelief, her lower lip trembling.
"Mrs...." she stopped and glanced at the door. "I should..."
"Donna." He could see her valiantly trying to hold onto her composure.
"I know you hate it when I get emotional, so I'll-"
"Donna, this isn't one of those times."
He opened his arms and she collapsed into them and wept.
When she could again speak, Donna lifted her head and looked into his eyes searchingly. "Mrs. Landingham?"
Josh nodded sadly.
"Josh, when you were..." she searched for the word.
"Hurt?" he offered the gentlest one possible.
Donna nodded "She kept me together. Her and Mrs. Bartlet. I wouldn't have made through without her."
She sniffled and he handed her his handkerchief
Donna shook her head, still trying to process it all. "Why do these things keep happening to us?"
"I don't know," Josh shrugged helplessly. "Maybe God really is a Republican."
She leaned into him, slightly, "I would give my left arm to hear a little good news right now, Josh, really I would."
Looking back he wasn't sure what he had intended to say. Something about the Tobacco suit perhaps, or maybe a joke about her left arm. But when he opened his mouth, what came out was: "I love you."
If possible, Donna looked even more stunned.
"Yes," he replied feeling almost as surprised as she looked, "though I'm not sure if you'd categorize that as good news."
"Wow," she whispered
Josh smiled then stepped back toward his desk, shoving his hands into his pockets.
"Thing is, Donna, my timing isn't exactly stellar. In fact, my timing sucks. I mean the world is collapsing around our ears. True to your predictions the sky is falling. Leo's going to want two hundred and fifty percent from all of us, 'til this blows over and God knows when that will be-"
"I'm just saying I can't, we can't do anything about this right now."
"Josh, I know that."
"And it's okay?"
"Of course. I'll just fold it up and keep it in my pocket," she illustrated with his handkerchief, "to remind myself that nothing's all bad, not even this week."
"Here," Josh cupped her face in his hands and kissed her sweetly "keep that in your pocket as well."
Donna took a deep breath and pulled herself back together. "Do the others know yet?"
"I'm not sure who knows," Josh admitted, rubbing the back of his neck. "Charlie took the call and Leo told the President before he called me. I suppose I should go check in with everybody."
"I'll start telling the assistants."
"You don't have to do that."
"I think I do." Donna frowned in concentration "Josh, normally when we go into crisis mode, Leo looks after the senior staff and Mrs. Landingham looks after us."
"But Leo's up to his eye-balls with the President and Mrs. Landingham-"
"I think it's up to us, Josh, you and me."
"Why us?" he asked, not arguing, just trying to clarify her position.
"Cause we have one thing in our corner no-one else does."
"This?" he gestured at the space between them
"This" she nodded, with a small smile.
"So we should get to work." She took a step toward the door.
"But if you need me," Josh said, "you come find me. I don't care where I am. That's part of the deal. If we're going to get them through it, we have to get each other through it first."
Donna leaned up and kissed his cheek "I love you, too, Josh", then she headed out.
"Kay well that felt like good news." Josh smiled to himself and went to find CJ.
"Come in" Leo called in response to the knock on the 'War Room' door.
Donna stepped in, laden down with two cups and a couple of shirts on hangers.
"I've brought you some fresh coffee and you've both been in the same clothes for about thirty hours, so here's a clean shirt each."
"Thanks" Josh said, barely looking up as he pulled his tie free of his collar and the dirty shirt over his head. But as she handed him the clean one, he met her eyes, cocking his head questioningly. She nodded and he smiled; none of which escaped notice by Leo.
"Drink that before it gets cold," Donna instructed on her way out.
Leo waited until she had departed before he started to change, glaring at Josh as he did.
"What's going on?"
"With what?" Josh asked, his eyes skimming over the stacks of paper.
"You and her."
Josh paused, one hand still resting on a shirt button. "She has a name, Leo."
Donna was still the only assistant who knew about 'Sagittarius'. As such, she was doing the work of five. When Josh had suggested she go home and grab some sleep, she'd instead opted to crash on the couch next door, in case she was needed. She had fetched countless sandwiches, cups of coffee and bottles of water. She did not, in Josh's eyes, need to be reduced to a pronoun.
"You and Donna, then. What the hell are you doing? I mean I always assumed we'd be having this conversation eventually but jeez Josh, now? You gotta pick now? Have you taken complete leave of your senses?"
"One," Josh replied finishing his buttons and starting on his tie, "I am stunned that you've been waiting for a conversation about me and Donna, cause I assure you, you're the only one. Two, that was nothing that you need to get amped up about."
"Your level of non-verbal conversation has doubled over the last thirty-six hours."
"We're just checking in, so don't have a cow, Dude"
"Checking in about what?" Leo refused to be pacified.
"Oh I don't know, Leo," Josh was starting to get pretty amped up himself. "How about the fact that the support staff have all figured out that the gates of hell are about to open, they just don't know why. And if that's not enough to upset them, they just lost the most steadying force in their lives. Then there's the senior staff. CJ's freaked, justifiably, about the fact that she's made public statements about the President's health which aren't true. It's all Toby can do not to have visions of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse having milk and cookies in the Mural Room. And Sam, well in the last couple of months Sam's found out that both his father and his President have been living a lie, so you can imagine how stable he is. All of which Donna and I are trying to keep from falling into your lap. So what could we possibly have to check in about?"
Leo finished changing his shirt in silence. "I'm sorry," he said finally.
"You don't need to apologize," Josh said more calmly. "If you need to blow of some steam by yelling at me, knock yourself out. But, Leo, if you take any of this out on Donna, after all she's done, so help me I'll-"
Donna knocked and came in again "Leo, the President would like to see you in the Residence."
Leo nodded resignedly and reached for his jacket. As he passed Donna he stopped.
"Thanks for the clean shirt"
"How's Margaret doing?"
Donna glanced at Josh before answering. "She's worried. They're all worried but Margaret thinks this might be about your...addiction"
"When all this comes out, she's going to wish this was about my drinking. I wish this was about my drinking"
He glanced from one to the other.
"You two should try and get some sleep in the next five hours. I don't know when you'll get another chance after that."
Leo turned to go but paused and took one more, long, look at Donna "You're a good girl," he said. "She'd be very proud of you"
"Thank you," she murmured.
Leo continued up the stairs and out the door, weariness sagging his shoulders and slowing his step.
"He's right you know," Josh said. "She would have been."
"Josh Lyman, if you make me start crying again, that's the last clean shirt you'll ever get."
He grinned, then yawned
"Why don't you go stretch out for a bit," Donna suggested. "I'll call you when Leo gets back."
"I'm fine, but you go."
"I just put on a clean shirt. If I lie down, it'll get wrinkled" he protested lightly
"Fine, I don't have the energy to argue. But don't let me sleep any longer than two hours, okay?"
"Cause I want you to close your eyes even if it's only for half an hour."
"Like that's going to happen," he muttered.
"I heard you the first time"
"Forget it, I'll have the switchboard call me."
"Your overwhelming faith is heartwarming," laughed Josh.
They both knew full well that he would have let her sleep through.
When she was on the landing he called her name.
Without a word he tapped his shirt pocket. Slightly dewy-eyed Donna echoed the gesture. For now it was enough.