The characters found within this story are not mine and belong to the various people who create and own the West Wing I respectfully borrow them. Her endeth the usual disclaimer. Though I listed this as a sequel, it actually falls just before the last paragraph/section of "What You Will Pt 3" and contains Donna's reflection on the weekend that would have fallen there. While I don't normally do dedications I'd like to dedicate this piece to all the people who regularly send me feedback and check for my name in the author's section- y'all know who you are- you guys make writing these all the more fun so thanks. One small note, gentle reader, I wrote this piece in what was for me an unusual tense. While this was a good challenge, I'm not one hundred percent sure that I managed to get every verb to agree, what I'm saying is I appreciate your patience. Thanks-B.G.
World Enough and Time
By The Bondi Gargoyle
It occurred to her, as she drove to work through the early morning light, to wonder how she was going to make it through an entire day without touching him. Since Friday night, she had done almost nothing else. Even as her hands gripped the steering wheel, taking her through the familiar, never quite empty streets, she could feel him. His warm skin, the muscles in his arms and back, the line down his chest.
Twice, she had been glaringly aware of that mark. Now well healed, it was, as a professional had assessed, a beautiful scar: neat, straight, no longer than it needed to be. To her it was beautiful because it meant he had continued to breathe, oxygen had continued to be sent to his brain. He had not left them. She shivered despite the already warm morning, remembering the one thought she had never voiced, even as it came to her that dark May night. Her first, overwhelming fear had been that he would die. That the damage would be too great, the loss of blood too severe for them to pull him back from the brink. The second was lesser but more insidious. It crept into her brain in the quieter moments, carried on the knowledge gleaned first as a doctor's daughter, then later as another doctor's lover. If the blood flow to the brain was interrupted, it didn't always result in death, sometimes the body healed, motor function continued unabated. Instead of death there came another kind of loss: personality, memory, intuitive function. So as she sat, the First Lady on one side, Mrs. Laningham on the other, she had silently wondered and dreaded. What if only part of him came back? What if he lived but he wasn't Josh anymore? Josh, whose entire being was wrapped up in his ability to take a seemingly unresolvable situation and find a solution. For whom strategy was like air, mental sparring, like water. What if all that he was left with was the frustration of knowing what he was once, but no longer, capable of achieving? To her that scar was a victory banner. It was proof that Toby had found him in time. It was evidence that a White House ID card in his wallet bought Josh the skills of one of the best trauma teams in the country: men and women selected singularly for their ability to respond to the words 'Trauma One Blue'. To her that scar meant he was still Josh, complete.
Saturday morning she had woken first, curled to his side as he lay on his back, breathing long slow even breaths, his face both peaceful and content. Perhaps he always looked that way when he slept in his own bed. She'd never had the chance to bear witness to his unencumbered sleep before. Previously, when he slept beside her it had always been on airplanes, or a few minutes snatched at his desk or in a hotel room come office. Always there was some part of his consciousness that remained alert, waiting for a hand on his shoulder or the buzz of his cel-phone or pager. Even when he had been recovering from his injuries, when she had come to his apartment daily, often finding him asleep on his couch, that sleep had been restless. In his face there had been marks of pain, of the frustration that he wasn't healing fast enough, of the boredom of a man used to constant motion now slowed to a trickle. So perhaps he always looked happy when he was allowed to enjoy the deep sleep of the just and the good. She preferred to believe that the slight smile that had tugged at the corners of his mouth had been her doing.
As he continued to sleep she had allowed her hand to move over him, sliding across his belly, up his side, and along his arms; his gentle powerful arms that had held her so tightly the night before and were still loosely wrapped around her. At some point she had felt him wake, heard the slight change in his breathing, felt wakefulness seep into his limbs. He had neither spoken nor opened his eyes and so she'd continued to learn him by touch. She had followed one collarbone from shoulder to thorax and moved down along his chest to his ribs. In moving back up her fingers trailed ever closer to his scar. It was then that she'd realized that he was almost rigid with tension. His breath, which he'd been valiantly trying to control, came in unnatural spaces and a light sheen had begun to form across his skin. It had occurred to her, that other than the doctors and he, himself, no one had touched the line he bore. It stood for many things, she supposed, many things he did not talk about, even to her; but it was also part of him and she could see no way that ignoring that fact would ever improve the situation. So she had touched it, run her middle finger along its length, as the rest of her hand, splayed wide, had caressed the healthy unmarred skin to the left and right. She'd paid it no special attention, made no comment and at reaching its end, had continued until she found the edge of the opposite collar bone, traced this back to the hollow of his shoulder and had there replaced her hand with her lips. Josh had opened his eyes and smiled, his expression a mix of gratitude, adoration and, quite frankly, lust. Pulling her face to his, he had begun again that which had taken up the waning hours of Friday night.
The second time his scar had drawn note, he had been more comfortable. It was Sunday, also in the morning, or perhaps by then it was early afternoon. After they had made love that morning Josh had gotten dressed and gone out for donuts. She would have thought with his tastes in other areas, his expensive suits, Danish beer and Swedish car, it would have been croissants or cinnamon rolls or at the very least muffins of strange hybrids: mango strawberry or what not, but, no, he preferred donuts. He had returned with a 'Dunkin Donuts' bag, poured two cups of coffee, unwrapped the Sunday edition of the New York Times and come back to bed. His bed was big enough that if Josh lay where he slept, his shoulders propped up against the headboard, and she positioned herself on a slight diagonal and kept her knees bent, there was room for her to lie with her head resting on his stomach. For three amicable hours, they had eaten donuts and read the paper. Swapping and sorting sections as one was finished and another begun. Josh had held the paper in his left hand, balanced against his left knee and kept his right resting on her abdomen just below her breasts. He would lift his hand occasionally to switch from Sports to Business or to refold the broadsheet but always returned it to the same spot. Neither one had spoken, and even when pointing out an interesting paragraph or article, would do so with a tug of shirt, a tap on the section of note. Given how much language had always been a part of their courtship, she had been surprised at how much she enjoyed being quiet with him. Finally though, she had spoken.
"Hmm?" He'd just been finishing the last piece of maple glazed and furrowing his brow in response to the op-ed page.
"The other night, there was a poem."
"A poem?" he'd repeated, putting down the paper
"You went with Shakespeare but you said there was a poem, only it wasn't appropriate."
" 'To his Coy Mistress'?"
"Uh-huh. Will you do it for me now?"
"Donna, there is nothing," he'd paused to crane down and kiss her forehead, "coy about you."
"Shut up and tell me the poem," she had instructed.
He'd chuckled at her intended contradiction and cleared his throat.
"Had we but world enough and time, This coyness, Lady, were no crime..."
She'd turned on her side as he spoke and laid one hand on his chest, so that she could see, hear and feel his speech as he recited the words to her. When he'd reached the line: 'The grave's a fine and private place, But none I think do there embrace,' he had stumbled slightly, some part of his brain registering how close he'd come to missing the opportunity to lie with her and recite poetry on a Sunday morning. She'd been aware that her hand was atop his scar and through his T-shirt had gently drawn her thumb across it, trying to translate all it meant to her. 'You're here. You're safe. You were lucky. We're lucky.' The warmth in his eyes suggested he'd understood.
"Get a lot of girls with that?" she'd asked without ire when he'd finished.
"I never really thought of you as the poetic type. Though I suppose it's the rare woman who can be seduced with 'Crises of the Republic'."
"You'd be surprised" he'd laughed.
"Okay, do something else."
Josh had remained silent.
"You don't know anything else. Do you?"
"One or two more lines of Shakespeare. Fragments of Whitman and Yeats. I never really needed anything else."
"You took exactly one English class didn't you?" she had teased.
"Well I took a couple of Theater classes, does that count?"
"You took Theater?"
"The gift of oratory is the hallmark of a great politician."
"So you learned just enough to convince unwitting co-eds that you were a sensitive guy and went back to your Economics class."
"Umm," Josh had hesitated, giving her all the evidence she needed that she had just nailed him.
"That line of Shakespeare, from the other night, how often did you use that?"
"That was the first time."
"I swear. It wasn't something I learned, it just stuck in my head and at that moment seemed to fit. Andrew Marvell always got me all the, always had the desired effect."
"Uh-huh. Just as well."
"I wouldn't use a line on you, Donna, honest."
"I know but that's not what I meant."
"What did you mean?"
"The line of Shakespeare you quoted is said by a woman."
" 'We, men...' is said by a woman?"
"Listen, Fulbright boy, I took a hell of a lot more humanities classes than you did in my short academic career, so trust me on this."
"It's said by a woman?" he'd persisted
"It's a line from 'Twelfth Night' and it's said by Viola, who at the time is disguised as a man. She is, nevertheless, a woman."
"Played by a boy," he'd argued
"You're sure Viola says it? I'd lay money that it's the Duke."
"I'll bet you ten bucks."
Josh had grinned at her "Fine"
She'd gotten up then and gone out to retrieve the "Complete Works of Shakespeare" she knew was in his bookshelf.
"Why do you have this anyway?" she'd asked him, coming back into the room, turning pages as she walked.
"To impress women."
"You are such a libertine."
"I didn't notice you complaining up 'til now. I keep it because my mother gave it to me and would notice its absence."
"From lothario to mother's boy in one mere sentence"
"Have you found the page yet?"
She had and turned the book so he could see it. "Ten dollars."
He had scanned the line "Damn!" then closed the book and tossed it to the floor.
"You're not thinking about reneging on a deal are you?"
"No," Josh had shaken his head, "but I was thinking, maybe you'd take payment in kind"
"Ah the economist emerges."
"Barter, the tradition this great country was built on"
"Actually it was built on Puritan traditions all of which disapprove of what you're about to suggest."
"Do you?" he'd asked crawling across the bed toward her as she backed up.
"Do I what?"
"Oh I think I could be converted." And then she'd allowed him to catch her.
"Are their lawyers who agree with you?" he had asked her some time later when they were once again lying quietly wrapped together.
She'd racked her brain trying to think of anything she had recently said that would invoke a legal opinion. Nothing came to mind.
"About the fact that the law that says we can't do what we just did, what we have spent the better part of the weekend doing, doesn't actually apply to us."
"And why are we talking about this now?" she'd asked him.
"Because I'm beginning to recognize the strength of my addiction to you." He'd tossed it out as though it were a flippant remark but they'd both known that was not the case.
She'd leaned over and gently kissed him whispering his full name as she did. "Ainsley," she'd added as she lay back down.
"What about her?" he'd asked, his train of thought on a completely new track.
"You wanted to know if any lawyers agreed, Ainsley does."
Josh had been quiet for a moment then had asked, the laughter evident in his voice: "You told the White House Republican? You got mad at me for telling Sam and CJ and you told the White House Republican?"
"Stop calling her that. And I got mad at you for not telling me."
"I told you eventually."
"And I forgave you, eventually."
"Which still doesn't explain you telling the White House-"
"-Republican that you're in love with me."
"I told her nothing of the sort and stop calling her that."
"Why didn't I tell her that I'm in love with my boss?"
"Why should I stop calling her that?"
"Because she's a nice person."
"I know, I like her. It's not meant in a derogatory fashion"
"Josh you are incapable of saying the word 'Republican' in anything but a derogatory fashion."
"I'm sure Ainsley feels the same way about the word 'Democrat' but either way it's accurate. She is the token White House Republican."
"True but could you stop calling her that."
"What else should I call her?"
"How about 'Ainsley'?"
"Why do you care?"
"In all honesty I don't but Sam does."
"Sam? Sam started it."
"And now he's stopped and so should you."
"Because it bugs him."
"And you accuse me of talking around subjects. Why? Why does it bug him?"
She had shaken her head then and wondered how such a brilliant man could be so obtuse.
"I don't know Joshua, why do you think a man might be upset about a particular woman getting called names, unless it's by him."
The light bulb had finally snapped on
"No! No way! Absolutely not!"
"It's not that unbelievable."
"Right and Elvis, Amelia Earhart and Jimmy Hoffa are all alive and well and participating in the Witness Protection Program."
"You left out J.F.K."
"Sam is not in love with Ainsley."
"Not yet but soon."
"She kicked his butt on national television." Josh had protested vehemently. "Subsequent to that act, he has failed to win any argument into which they enter."
"Josh, answer me this: has Sam ever fallen for a woman that hasn't kicked his butt?"
He had been silent, as he scanned his memory, his fingers which had been tracing idle patterns on her shoulder, switched to tapping out the count of Sam's past loves.
"That's a disturbing precedent," he had finally admitted. "And what does Ainsley think of Sam?"
She's torn between the pro that he's cute, intelligent, well-spoken and goes out of his way to be nice to her and the con that he's opposed to almost everything she stands for and vice versa."
"You think Sam is cute?"
"Yes" She had smiled at his latching onto the least important detail.
"But I think you're sexier."
"Nice try, but I'm not that easy."
"All evidence suggests otherwise."
"So you still haven't explained what you said to Ainsley, other than 'Help me O' White House Republican. I fear I am in love with my devastatingly handsome, charming, witty, brilliant-'"
"Obnoxious, conceited, annoyingly smug"
"-Boss and I fear the Federal Employees Workplace Standards Act will forever keep us apart."
"I asked her why FEWSA applied when the OSHA laws didn't. She said in fact neither of them applied."
"So" Josh had said "You used the devious smokescreen of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome to determine that there's nothing to prevent us from doing this," he had begun to kiss her neck, moving up to a particularly sensitive spot below her jaw, "in the middle of the Oval Office."
"Except that it might upset the President" she had murmured, running her fingers through his hair
"If we timed it to co-incide with a particularly mundane agricultural briefing, it might earn us a medal."
"We should go shopping" she had declared suddenly, voicing the thought that had sprung into her head.
Josh had drawn back and glared at her, his mind clearly not on retail "What on earth for?"
"Food. There's none in the house."
"Good point," he'd had to agree " We should shop, and also probably pick up your car and then I'll make you dinner."
"You'll make me dinner?"
"I can cook"
"Yeah right, Josh. Something other than Kraft macaroni or frozen pizza?"
"Wait and see, oh ye of little faith."
So they had shopped, which had felt unnervingly domestic, though in a good way, and picked up her car from the White House lot where it had sat for almost four days. They'd also paid a fleeting visit to her apartment, long enough for her to explain to Jane's cats that eventually someone would feed them but it wasn't going to be her and more importantly to grab clothes for Monday morning. Showing up in the same pair of pants in the middle of the week was explainable, over the weekend it would elicit no end of questions. Questions they weren't ready to answer. Questions they weren't even prepared to discuss between themselves. They had spent the whole weekend praying that nothing would happen to summon them back to deal with the affairs of the nation. If the phone rang, it went unanswered. After it had stopped Josh would check his messages, prepared to call in if necessary but crossing his fingers that he wouldn't have to. In the end the only people who had called were Sam, several times, wanting to go to a ball game and CJ, her voice apologetic, suggesting coffee. For two days at least the fates seemed content to leave them in peace.
Josh had made enchiladas for dinner. It wasn't exactly pheasant under glass but it was better than she'd expected and the fact that he'd cooked it for her made it all the more palatable. She had tried to help but he'd told her it was too distracting bumping into her in the small kitchen and she had been relegated to a stool by the counter to drink Dos Equis, eat corn chips and distract him with her voice rather than her body. At least until dinner ended.
Her Monday morning musings took her all the way into work, past the security checkpoint and to her desk. The first one in the bullpen, she started the coffee maker, not her job though often she did it anyway, and pulled the weekend wires from the fax machine. Standing at his desk she sorted them into related piles and then stacked them in importance, checking as she did for any sign of him out the window. He was at most fifteen minutes behind her. They'd showered together but he'd stopped to check CNN before leaving. It was mostly an act of killing time, of separating their schedules so that she would, as usual, arrive before him. She found herself glancing toward the lobby a few too many times and it occurred to her that they should have practiced not touching. She worked out that over the course of the weekend the longest they'd spent without physical contact was twenty-three minutes (the time it took to drive her car from the White House to his apartment.) Their average day was close to sixteen hours long. She was trying to figure how many times twenty-three went into nine hundred and sixty when he walked in. He was smiling and swaggering and as his eyes met hers, she was clear on one thing: it was going to be a long hard day.