He hopes he doesn't wake her.
It's 3:30 in the morning and he's not sure what he's doing here. If he had stayed at the White House he could have gotten four hours of sleep on one of the couches she so thoughtfully set up.
But now he's down to three hours if he's lucky and he's standing outside the door in the cold apartment hallway.
He sent her home two hours ago after they were able to commiserate briefly about Mrs. Landingham in the privacy of his office. That was at 1:30 and it's only 3:30 now but it seems like so much later than that.
She had wanted to stay in his office but he had walked her to her car and made sure she drove off. One of them needed to go home, plus a glance at his secret calendar told him she was probably tired even if she wouldn't admit it.
He chooses what he hopes is the lesser of two evils.
She answers on the first ring.
"Donna, I..." he starts talking into his cell phone unsure of quite what to say. "Can I come in?" He asks cryptically, hoping she understands the he's outside her door.
"Are you here?" He hears her feet padding across the floor in his ear and a second later the door opens.
She hangs up when she finds herself staring at him -- he does the same.
"I just, I wanted to..." She pulls him inside, as he throws his phone in his backpack and props that up against the wall.
Her eyes are red-rimmed and puffy, she's dressed for bed but it's obvious she hasn't slept much. He hates the fact that this isn't the first time he's seen her look like this. That a little more than a year ago he woke in a hospital bed to the same cried out eyes and shaky voice.
There's enough light in the apartment that he can just make out the leaf-patterned boxer shorts she's wearing, which he thinks he can identify as an old pair of his. He averts his eyes after he discovers he can just make out the shadows of her nipples through her white tank top.
"You need some sleep, Donna."
"And you don't?" She shoots back. "You have to be back in what, four hours? When were you going to sleep?"
The first thought that pops into his mind is, 'when I'm dead' but he knows better than to say that tonight. It's so unfunny that he finds it exactly that and he starts to laugh bitterly.
"I just, hell, I don't know." He stops to run his hand through his hair. "I just don't know anymore, I should go. I just wanted to make sure you were okay."
She takes his hand before he can move and starts to lead him to her bedroom.
"You should get some sleep, just a couple of hours, in a bed. Not your chair and not even a couch. A bed."
"Yes," she says without pausing.
Unlike the times when he's drunk and she just pulls off his shoes and tie before throwing him on the couch, tonight she helps him make a pile of his clothes on the chair beside her bed.
Then she slides back in between the sheets and holds the covers out expectantly.
He's never been in her bed before and he hesitates for a second before crawling in next to her in his boxers and undershirt. The sheets are plesantly cool and he thinks they smell faintly of cinnamon.
Reaching out, he readjusts her body so that she's half laying on top of him, her one leg settling between his thighs and her head resting on his shoulder in a perfect fit against his body.
Sam was first to point out to him that he and Donna were not normal. It was near the end of their first year in office, during an early-morning brain-storming session, before he had started making Donna stay late with him. Sam was at Josh's desk while he was on the floor, sprawled out, trying to think of a strategy.
"What's this calendar in your desk drawer?"
"Why are you looking in my desk?"
"I'm bored. It says DP at the top and it's got a red line through next week. What's next week?"
"Oh..ummm...nothing.." he says, putting his hand over his eyes.
"There's one next month too -- and the next month.." he hears the pages continue to turn, "it's never the same week each month, it's moving up a few days..." Sam trails off as he continues to cover his face.
"Tell me you don't have the days when Donna has her period marked in a calendar."
"Okay. I don't have the days when Donna has her period marked in a calendar."
"But you do, don't you?"
He pauses and sighs. "Yes."
"She yells at me more then. I've found it's helpful to have a head's up of when she might be...more prone to yell at me." He pauses, sitting up. "I would think you of all people would appreciate something like this."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I mean, Cathy. I know she scares you, wouldn't it be nice to know when..."
"She does not," Sam responds defiantly.
"Well that's not what I heard. Regardless, don't you think it would help to know..."
"Maybe, but Josh, she's my assistant. I shouldn't know when she's, you know, doing *that*."
"All I have to say is, you'd be singing another tune pretty quickly if Cathy threw a stapler at you."
Sam opens his mouth in shock. "Donna threw a stapler at you? Are you sure you aren't confusing her with your ex-girlfriend?"
"No, Donna threw a stapler at me and missed by a mile -- Mandy actually hit me with a stapler."
"Ahh, I think that right there pretty much sums up the difference between Donna and Mandy."
"Okay, but how did you know when...I mean, she didn't put it in a calendar for you, did she?"
"No. Earlier in the 'stapler day', she made a comment about feeling crampy so I just kind of assumed. Then that night I figured it out for the next...umm...for a while."
"Josh, how long do you have it figured out for?"
He mumbles something inaudible hoping Sam will just drop it.
"Josh, I didn't quite catch that."
"Through re-election, okay?"
Sam starts laughing as he puts the calendar back.
"Okay. But you know that might change because sometimes cycles are unpredictable."
"Yeah, yeah, thank you professor, I know that. When it seems like I'm off, I just kind of recalibrate by a few days...and I can usually tell because...nevermind."
"That is so weird," Sam comments as he continues to chuckle. "Does Donna know you have a secret menstrual calendar?"
Just then Toby walks by Josh's office.
"Toby, come here for a minute," Sam yells, as Josh moans into his hands.
"Do you know when Bonnie or Ginger have their periods?"
"I think you should know that in tomorrow's staff meeting I'm going to suggest that you and Josh not be allowed to work together anymore," Toby says, before walking off back down the hall.
Sam shakes his head. "You and Donna are so not normal. I mean, don't get me wrong, the two of you are really cute and all, but you're not normal."
He has his own theory that he's been kicking around lately -- he sees them as having a dyslexic sort of relationship. They reverse the logical progression of relationship events with their own illogical, ass-backwards order. It seems normal to them because that's the only way they can see it.
So, he figures it's completely normal for them to be lying in her bed together now -- for it to not even be the first time they've slept next to each other for comfort.
"How could something like this happen?" She asks in a small voice. "I mean, that sounds so stupid, because stuff like this happens all of the time and people always ask that."
"Just because it happens all the time, doesn't mean that it's easy or that it makes any sense." He strokes her hair softly, as she lays against him, adding, "it's just part of a cycle we have no control over."
"Isn't that a hippie song?" She asks.
He thinks for a minute, "I think you mean seasons."
"Oh yeah, that's it," she shifts her head a bit so it's resting more on his chest than on his shoulder. "I think I'd prefer to skip this season."
"You and me both," he agrees somberly.
"Is this okay?"
"Yeah, this is...perfect," he responds, hoping she's talking about them lying in her bed.
He feels a contentedness he doesn't think he deserves to feel right now. Not when a woman he knew died bleeding and alone in a car crash earlier tonight.
Instinctively, his arms wrap tighter around the younger, bleeding woman on top of him right now.
"I can't imagine what he's going through."
It takes him a second to realize she's talking about the President.
"Me either," he whispers, once again in awe of her ability to always think of others first.
"She was always so nice to me, I just..."
She starts shaking slightly and he knows she's crying. He also knows that she's trying to hide it.
"I-I'm sorry, I can't believe I can cry anymore," she mumbles. "I know you hate..."
"Shhhh," he interrupts. "Donna, I don't hate it when you cry. It's okay." He trails off before, to his horror, he almost calls her 'honey'.
He shuts his mouth tightly and rubs her back the way he knows relaxes her.
Later, he wraps his arms tighter around her as he allows himself to let go too -- about Mrs. Landingham, the President, and his inability to shield people from physically fatal car accidents and politically fatal lies of omission.
His eyes water over and begin to spill for so many reasons he can't even begin name them all. He finds himself selfishly relieved that for the first time in a while, the pain isn't about him.
They lie there for a few minutes holding on to each other, until he's struck by a memory that makes him grin, that he needs to share with her.
"She brought me chicken soup once."
Donna pulls back to look at him, a slight smile forming on her tear-stained face.
"When?" she asks, as she rolls over on her side and rests her chin in her hand.
"When I was sick."
"Where was I?"
"In Wisconsin, with Dr. Freeride. See you left me and..."
"Joshua," she warns.
"Okay. Anyway, I caught this horrible cold from Sam and couldn't even get out of bed. Mrs. Landingham stopped by that afternoon with a whole pot of chicken soup."
"She actually made you chicken soup?"
"Yeah and she wouldn't let anyone else have any," he says with a pleased expression.
"How do you know she would't let anyone else have any?"
"Sam told me. I guess she brought it to work that day and the President had tried to sneak a bowl. She hit his hand with a big spoon."
Donna laughs in spite of her sadness. "Can a person hit the president with a spoon?"
"Well, actually he was only the Governor then."
"Ahhh," she nods.
"But if anyone can hit the President with a spoon, other than the First Lady of course, my money's on Mrs. Landingham."
There's an awkward moment when they both realize he spoke using the wrong tense.
"So did you guys get to talk about the other thing at all tonight?" She asks with a sniffle.
"No, the President wasn't up to coming down."
"What do you think will happen?"
He contemplates silently for a second before answering. "I really don't know, it's unpredictable."
"You should try and sleep, Josh."
"You should too, Donna."
She settles back on top of him and he wraps his arms around her again.
"It's going to be okay," he whispers, as he quickly kisses her head and tries to believe it himself.