Title: Between Friends
Author: Cindy Brewer
Disclaimer: I don't own them Summary: Josh can't help but notice when Sam and Donna start spending a lot of time together. But things aren't what they appear to be.:) Notes: Many thanks to Vicki for betaing.
Josh glanced up at the clock on the wall of the Roosevelt room and frowned. It was just after seven and his meeting with Toby and Senator Abott from Iowa was just now starting to wrap up. The meeting with Abott was supposed to end at six but the meeting scheduled at four with the chariman of the HUD committe had run long pushing everything back.
"Thank you for your time, Mr. Ziegler, Mr. Lyman," the red haired man in his early forties commented as he stood.
Toby rose to his feet prompting Josh to do the same. "I'll pass your recommendations along to the President, Senator."
Abott nodded, "Thank you, gentlemen."he replied as he strode toward the door.
"Senator," Josh replied distractedly.
"Whatever it is,Josh," Toby stated as he gathered his belongings together. "Take care of it. You were barely 'here' during this meeting."
Lyman nodded knowing Toby was right. He had spent the majority of the meeting thinking of his missed chance with Donna and his shattered friendships with both her and Sam.
"I apologize, Toby," Josh replied as he gathered his own things and moved toward the door. "Won't happen again."
Josh strode through the communications area on his way back to his office and couldn't help noticing that Sam's office was dark. He glanced into the bullpen and saw that Kathy was gone as well. "Glad some of us get to leave before nightfall."Josh muttered darkly as he continued on his way. It was only as he neared his office that he saw that his assistant wasn't at her desk.
Lyman sighed as he entered his office hoping that Donna hadn't left mad at him. He had every intention of apologizing to both her and Sam that afternoon but time just got away from him. Somehow he'd make it up to her.
It was another half an hour before Josh could wrap things up enough that he could call it a day and head home. When he arrived at his apartment Josh left the light off as he tossed his coat haphazardly in a nearby chair. He dropped his briefcase somewhere near the closet and headed toward the tiny kitchen. Josh hoped he had something more than three day old pizza and potato chips because he was starving. As his hand rested on top of the door handle of the refrigerator the apartment was suddenly bathed with light.
Lyman yelped in surprise and whirled around. It took his eyes a moment to adjust to the light but when he did he found himself facing a living room full of friends yelling surprise.
"W-what??" Josh stammered as he forced his feet to move forward.
Donna grinned as she stepped into his line of vision and placed a brightly colored party hat on his head. "Happy Birthday, Joshua."
Josh stared at her blankly. "Donnatella my birthday was last week."
Donna glared at him slightly, "We had this orginally planned for last week but you going on the President's trip to Oregon complicated things."she replied as she handed him a small colorfully wrapped box.
"Happy birthday, buddy," Sam commented as he, CJ, Leo and Toby approached the pair.
"Thanks," Josh replied as he glanced at Ziegler. "So you knew about this too?"
The communications director smiled. "Your assistant can be very persusive when she wants something done."
"The President sends his regrets that he and Zoey couldn't be here," Leo interjected as he added his present to the growing pile on the small counter. "But with Abby's parent's coming in to visit....."
Lyman nodded with a grin, "Besides I think I would've noticed a bunch of Secret Service agents in the hall."
An hour later the party was in full swing but the guest of honor was nowhere in sight. Donna scanned the crowded living room one last time before going to the only other place Josh could be. The bedroom door was open slightly and Donna spotted Josh sitting in a chair near the window staring out at the dark Potomac below.
"Josh?" Donna asked softly as she stepped into the room. "What are you doing in here?"
Lyman didn't look away from the window. "I had some thinking to do."
Donna sat down on the corner of the bed. "Josh, I know we need to talk....."
Josh finally met her gaze, "Are you happy with Sam?"
Donna blinked in surprise....he still thought she was with Sam?"Josh....."
Josh reached over and took her right hand in his. "I know I handled things badly this week. I was just surprised that you or Sam didn't tell me about your relationship. But if you two are happy that's all that matters."
Donna shook her head. "Joshua, Sam and I are just friends. He helped me plan this party."
Josh blinked in surprise. "All the lunches and dinners?"
Donna smiled. "With our schedules it was the only time we could get together to go over the details."
Josh ducked his head briefly. "You must think I'm an idiot."
Moss shook her head as she reached up to lightly touch his left cheek."No, just a person with a very big heart."
Their gazes locked for a long moment before Josh stood moving over to a small table on the other side of the room. "I haven't opened your gift yet," Josh stated quietly as he picked up the small box and moved around the bed to sit down next to her.
Donna fiddled with her bracelet nervously. "I hope you like it. Sam helped me pick it out."
"I'm sure I'll love it," Josh replied as he tore the paper away revealing a red jeweler's box. He met her gaze briefly before lifting the lid.
Nestled inside between folds of gold velvet was a silver pocket watch with a picture of the White House engraved on the front. Underneath the White House were the dates of Bartlet's first term. Josh tenderly took the watch out of the box and set the box aside. He traced the engraving lightly before opening the watch.
"My father used to wear a pocket watch," Josh whispered his gaze never breaking from the small clock in his hands.
"I'm sorry Josh.....I can take it back.....I had no idea...." Donna replied as she started to stand.
Josh quickly caught her arm and gently pulled her back down as he looked up from the watch. "No, Donnatella. The watch is perfect. I couldn't have asked for a better birthday present."
"Really?" Donna asked quietly as her blue gaze searched his face.
Lyman nodded. "My father told me once that he wore the watch to remind him of how far the country had come. When I look at this I'll remember him and our friendship. Thank you, Donnatella."
Donna smiled her eyes bright with tears. "You're welcome, Joshua. Happy Birthday."
Josh met her gaze for a long moment before leaning forward and capturing her lips in a kiss that was full of promises and passion.
When they finally broke apart Josh pulled away from her slightly so he could see her face. He reached over and gently wiped away her tears.
"I thought I had missed my chance with you,"Josh whispered huskily.
Donna shook her head not quite believing what was happening. "You've always had my heart, Joshua."
Josh reached up and gently caressed her left cheek. "I was a fool for not acting on my feelings for you sooner, Donnatella. But I was so afraid of losing our friendship."
"That will never happen," Donna promised softly. "Speaking of friendships.....I think there's somebody out in the living room that you owe an apology too."
Lyman grimaced as he recalled his arguement with Sam. "Yeah," he replied quietly as he stood pulling Donna up with him. "Besides you owe this birthday boy a dance."
As soon as they stepped back into the living room CJ handed him a small paper plate with a piece of cake. "Was begining to think you had abandoned your own party, Josh."
Lyman shook his head with a smile as he took the cake from her. "No,just had some things to straighten out. Looks like you kept the party going though."
CJ grinned not blind to the fact that Josh and Donna were holding hands. "I almost had to do the Jackal but I decided to save that for later."
Josh laughed as he scanned the living room. "Sam still here?"
CJ gestured toward the far window. "Talking with Mallory by the window."
"Thanks," Josh replied as he stepped away from Donna and turned back to face her. "Be right back. Remember you owe me that dance."
"I'll keep my dance card clear."Donna quipped.
Josh nodded before turning and melting into the crowd.
"You're kidding....." Mallory O'Brien replied with a wide grin. "Dad always told me you fell off a boat but he never told me the whole story."
"No, I'm not kidding."Sam replied quietly. "And I'd rather not talk about it any more."
Mallory placed a hand on his upper arm. "Oh come on, Sam. You can't leave me there...."
Sam glared at her slightly. "I don't want to hear any more boat jokes.Especially from you."
Mallory's eyes twinkled michevously. "Would I make boat jokes?"
"Yes," Sam replied firmly.
"Hey."Josh greeted as he approached the pair.
"Happy Birthday, Josh," Mallory replied with a smile. "Like the hat."
"Thanks," Josh replied as he reached up to take the hat off. He had completely forgotten he had the thing on. "Sam, can I talk to you for a minute?"
"Sure," Seaborn replied as he leaned back against the windowsil.
"I'll see if I can drag my father out onto the dance floor," Mallory replied as she quickly excused herself.
Lyman glanced down at the paper party hat in his hands as he twirled it between his fingers. "Sam, I...."
Sam shook his head. "Forget it, Josh."
Josh's head snapped up. "I should've handled things a lot different."
Seaborn nodded. "True. But if I had been in your shoes I might have jumped to the same conclusion."
Josh sighed as he leaned back against the windowsil. "That's just it I shouldn't have."
Sam turned to face his friend. "Josh, if I had romantic feelings toward Donna I certainly would've gone to you first."
Lyman grinned. "So do you have feelings for my assistant."
Sam shook his head. "No, but it's clear that you do."
Josh nodded as he placed the hat back on his head. "Yeah, that might be the only good thing that came out of this mess."
Sam blinked in surprise. "You finally told her?"
Josh glared at him slightly. "What do you mean finally?"
Sam laughed as he shook his head, "Josh, we were taking bets on you two during the campaign."
Lyman raised an eyebrow, "The *campaign*?"
Sam placed a hand on Josh's shoulder and gave him a gentle push forward. "Just go and dance with the lady before she realizes her mistake and leaves you in the dust."
"Not a chance of that happening." Josh replied softly as he met Donna's gaze across the room.