Committed, Part II - by Christine
Spoilers: The Midterms, general S3
Disclaimers: None of the characters belong to me. They all belong to AS and Co.
Josh finished putting the extra beer away in the refrigerator, grabbed a chilled Killian's for himself and headed outside to the front stoop. The others were already there, assembling in their usual spots. The only person missing was Donna. Josh felt a moment of sadness, but pushed it away before taking his seat on the uppermost step.
Amy moved to sit directly below him and he stopped her with a sharp, "Don't sit there."
"Don't sit there," he repeated.
"Just don't. Please?" He sounded more impatient than he intended, but he couldn't seem to control his annoyance toward Amy. Donna wouldn't have had to ask why. More importantly, he wouldn't have asked Donna to move. He stopped himself as he realized he was once again comparing Amy to Donna. They were different women, he reminded himself, and he had to stop thinking that Amy should be more like Donna.
"Ok." She shot him a puzzled look and then moved a little further down, closer to CJ.
"That's Donna's spot." CJ explained to her.
"Donna." He heard the exasperation in Amy's voice and knew that this would turn into another fight between them. It seemed as if very conversation between them lately turned into a fight. The only question remaining was how long it would take until she finally decided to drop the subject.
"Yes, whenever we escaped from the rules and came out here on the stoop, Donna would sit there next to Josh," Sam elaborated.
"The rules? When was this?"
"A couple of summers ago," Sam explained. "Whenever Donna relaxed the rules enough to allow Josh outside, we could come out here."
"Donna made the rules?" Amy sounded incredulous.
Josh couldn't help thinking that if Amy truly cared about him, she would understand about the rules without CJ and Sam's explanations. Almost immediately, he realized how unfair he was being to her again and tried to soften his tone as he quietly answered, "During my... recovery, when she was helping me out at home." He concentrated on peeling the label from his beer bottle and avoided looking at Amy.
"J? Why was your secretary making house rules for you?"
He raised his head and focused on her, blowing a breath out in frustration. "First, she's not my secretary. She's my assistant. Second, she's also my friend."
"And the rules?" she persisted.
"It was a thing we had. She was worried about me overdoing stuff. So she made up these rules that said when I could work." He glanced at Toby and smiled briefly. "She even restricted who could visit."
"But, J -"
He realized that they would continue to bicker about the rules all night if he didn't end the conversation quickly. "Amy, can we drop it for tonight? Please? It's been a long week, and I just want to sit here and relax with my friends." He knew that his statement excluded Amy, but it was too late to take it back.
The group lapsed into an awkward silence until Sam spoke. "I miss Donna."
*Me, too* Josh thought.
"It's only for a month," CJ reminded the group. "She'll be back at the end of August."
"I know, but it seems so long since we've done this, and now that we are, she's not here. It just doesn't seem right," Sam continued.
"Sam, her father had a major stroke, and her mother's going crazy with worry. She's their only child. It's natural that they would need her at home. She's lucky Leo gave her as much time as he did," CJ commented.
"You're right. How did she manage to get so much time off?" Sam asked
"I don't know," Josh admitted with a sad smile. "She talked to Leo on her own. Didn't even tell me until all the arrangements were made."
"Yeah." It hurt him that Donna hadn't confided to him about her father's health first. That one small act said more about how far his and Donna's relationship had deteriorated during the previous year than anything else. He suddenly felt the need to escape from his friends' pitying looks. "Listen, I'm going in to get some more beer. Anyone else need something?"
Toby stood up. "I'll join you."
When they were inside, Toby leaned against the kitchen counter, arms crossed. "Josh, what's going on?"
Josh feigned confusion. "What are you talking about?"
"First, you get upset at Amy for sitting in Donna's spot and then, when we started talking about Donna-"
"I don't want to talk about it, Toby." He yanked open the refrigerator door and started to rummage inside.
"Too bad, because we're going to talk about it." Toby paused a moment while he waited for Josh to emerge from the fridge, "A few months ago, you came to me and told me you were ensorcelled by Amy. She had changed her hair or something." Josh nodded reluctantly. "Were you really falling for her or was it something else?"
"I was falling for her," Josh insisted, defiantly.
Josh didn't answer directly. Instead, he stubbornly replied, "I'm not that guy. I'm not hit and run."
"Is that was this is about?" Toby asked in disbelief. "Don't stay in a relationship just because you don't want to be 'that guy.' It's not fair to you and it's not fair to Amy."
"I want to prove that I can be committed."
"You can be. We all know that. You don't need to prove it. Not to us, not to your friends."
"How would you know?"
Toby gave him an assessing look. He debated telling him how he knew, but decided it was best left for another day. "I just know," he answered cryptically.
"Fine." Josh shot a weary look at him. "Are you done being 'Dear Abbey'? Can we go outside and join the others?" he asked.
"Yes, but think about what I said," Toby reminded him, as they grabbed the beers and headed back outside.
Josh noticed that the stoop was missing a person and spotted Amy's retreating back halfway down the block. "Where's Amy going?"
"Home. She had an early meeting tomorrow," Sam explained.
"Oh." Quickly forgetting about Amy, his thoughts turned once more to his absent assistant. "So what do you think the weather in Wisconsin is like right now?"
A chorus of voices answered him. "Hot. Humid. Sticky."
CJ asked about air conditioning and the conversation shifted to more general topics. Their voices could be heard, talking and laughing, well into the night.