by Caitlin Dubois
Thursdays tend to be long days. C.J. always like to make major news announcements so the news hit the cycle by no later than Thursday of each week because people in general don't watch TV on Friday nights. They have better things to do, unless they work in the White House, then they watch the news cycle day in and day out, forget about even the thought of going out on a Friday night. And, since this is Thursday, there is a lot of follow up work to attend to now that the big news announcements of the week have been made.
Josh knows this b/c after all, he is the deputy chief of staff. Not a position to scoff at. He reports directly to Leo and the President and oversees a staff of over 1,000 people. So on this particular Thursday night at 11:30 PM he can take a quick assessment of the amount of work that he still has at his desk and safely guess that he won't be leaving until at least 1:30 AM.
Time for more coffee.
Wandering outside his office and in search of hot coffee, he sees his assistant, Donna, sitting at her desk, typing something. Most likely, she's drafting notes for the healthcare reform proposal that he had asked her to research earlier this evening. For once, instead of walking up to her and bothering her, he just watched her instead.
No matter what kind of day he is having, it makes him feel better to know Donna is there right alongside him. Notwithstanding her stubbornness and refusal to be ignored for causes that he dismisses with jokes and sarcasm, deep down, he admires her passion and tenacity. Josh doesn't understand why he feels this way, nor does he really want to spend too much time dwelling on why it is he feels this way - a part of him knows that the answer might scare him - it's bad enough, he tells himself, that he has started to notice his growing attraction to her.
Donna did not see Josh watching her, nor could she have known what he is thinking. At the moment, she is so focused that she's started to bite on her lower lip, a bad habit she acquired during her first year in college. She want to get this done before midnight so she can get home and possibly catch at least 5 hours of sleep before the day begins tomorrow.
Done. Finally. Thank god.
"Josh, it's ready." She handed him the notes. "Do you need me for something else?"
"Hey thanks. I think that's good enough for today. Hey, are you alright?" Donna looked a little pale. Suddenly, Josh felt a pang of guilt. He had been working pretty crazy hours over the past three weeks, even by the standards of the West Wing and he knew Donna had been working those same kind of hours right besides him. Maybe that wasn't such a good idea in hindsight.
"Oh, I'm fine. Just a little tired...." Donna suddenly felt the room spin and sat down.
"Hey, are you alright?" By now, Josh had gone from guilt to concern. "Why don't you go home? I'll drive you."
Donna smiled at Josh. Josh can be overbearing and full of himself, but she knows that he can also be caring. The offer was very sweet but she knows that if she accepts his offer and let him drive her home, she'll just fall even more for him than she already has, and she had already resolved to maintain professional relationship when it comes to Josh Lyman . "It's okay Josh, I drove today, I can drive home myself."
"In your condition, I wouldn't trust you to hail a cab properly. Come on, I'll give you a ride home." Josh grabbed his coat and waited while Donna gathered her things. She really doesn't look well. Her porcelain skin looks unusually pale and her usually lively eyes are tinged with signs of exhaustion.
On the way to the car, Donna kept insisting to Josh that he doesn't have to do this. But Josh was adamant. By now, he feels personally responsible for causing Donna to be so worn out. He helped her into the car and drove to her apartment, just across town. He knows where she lives b/c he's been there before - though the last time he was there, he was drunk. This time, he's not. When he pull up to the front of her building, he looked over at her. Donna had fallen asleep. An errant strand of hair laid against her brow. He gently brushed it aside, pausing to caress her face.
She is really beautiful, Josh thought to himself. Sighing inwardly, he knows that what he feels for Donna could never be expressed. Not while she works for him. In moments of optimism, he considered transferring her to Sam, his best friend and the Deputy Communications Director of the White House, but the thought of losing her daily presence, not being able to call out to her and see her appear in the doorway with a slightly exasperated expression playing about her face was not something he was willing to give up. So for now...for now...his growing attraction to her will have to stay with him and him alone. "Donna....Donna, we're here," Josh gently said to Donna.
Donna slowly woke up. She opened her eyes and looked around. Josh is telling her that they have arrived. Gathering her things, she turned to Josh to find him staring at her with a thoughtful expression on his face. "What's wrong? Did I do or say something embarrassing in my sleep?"
Josh smiled, "Donna, talking in your sleep would pale in comparison to some of your other 'triumphs'."
Donna gave him a dirty look, but it was half-hearted - she couldn't suppress the grin that was forming on the corner of her mouth, "Yeah, yeah, I could say the same for you. Listen, thanks for the ride home."
"You're welcome. Goodnight."
"Goodnight." Donna got out of the car and walked to her apartment. She can feel Josh looking at her from his car. Always the thoughtful one, she knows he will wait until she gets safely into the building before driving off. Right before she enters the building,
"Yeah?" She turned towards him.
"Listen, you don't have to come in until 9 tomorrow okay?"
"But you have staff at 7 and you'll need me to type up your notes for you."
"Don't worry about it. I'll get another person to do it."
"Yeah. Get some rest Donatella Moss."
Josh watched Donna slipped into her three story walk-up and drove back to the West Wing. Glancing quickly at his watch, he guesses that he won't be able to leave until 2:30. He might as well spend the night at the West Wing. There's an extra suit in the closet that Donna keeps for him for nights like this. Though his job is incredibly stressful, he loves the work and while most people would inwardly cringe at the thought of working 18-20 hour days, he revels in his job b/c he understands that he doesn't have this chance forever and the window of opportunity for him to make a difference is only two years, with an option for four more...if and only if his boss decides to run again.
15 minutes later, he pulls back into the parking space reserved for him. He walks into the building. It's now a quarter after midnight and staffers are still busy at work. He notices Sam and Toby in Sam's office, working on another speech perhaps.
Two hours later, he looks up at the clock, surprised to find that it's only a quarter after 2 AM, he finished a little early. Leaving his office, he notices that everyone is gone. Not feeling like going home. He curls up on the couch in Sam's office and closed his eyes.
"Josh? Josh? It's 6:30, time to get up"
Josh slowly opened his eyes. It's Donna and her graceful frame leaned over him as she gently tug on his shirt. "What are you doing here? I thought I told you to come in later."
"I'm in later. I was in at 6:15, I'm usually in at 6" was her prim response. "You have staff in half an hour you know."
Josh groans. He slowly gets up while Donna stands in front of him, fresh as a daisy. "Can you get my spare suit from the staff hall closet?"
"What's the magic word?"
"You're fired if you don't?"
Donna gave him a small smile of triumph and went to get his suit. In truth, she was actually worried about him. Sometimes, Josh pushes himself so hard that he doesn't know when he's run out of fuel. The people around here put too much faith in the power of a fresh suit, she thought disapprovingly.
She brought the suit back to Josh, who by now was reading the notes that she had put together for him for his staff meeting. "Hey, this is pretty good."
"I know. Here's your suit."
Josh begins to change and Donna starts to leave the room. "Donna."
"You're welcome." Donna leaves to go outside and circulated the final draft of the healthcare reform memo that Josh had been working on. She was pleased to note that Josh incorporated a significant chunk of her research in his piece. When Josh emerges from Sam's office, he was wearing his fresh suit. Donna had to admit that it does seem to make a difference. He does seem more alert. When he walks by her desk, she gets up quickly to intercept him, "Wait Josh."
With an exaggerated sigh, Josh looks at Donna and said, "what now?"
She moved directly in front of him and started to straighten his tie. In that brief moment of intimacy, Josh was suddenly aware of the scent of lavender that must have come from her shampoo. She smelled like gardenias and he found himself fascinated by her long delicate hands as she expertly straightened his tie.
Stepping back to admire her own handiwork, Donna smiles at Josh and said, "All set. See you in an hour."
Josh remained standing there for a moment, unsure of what just happened but sure that he suddenly felt like the day was going to be a good one. Looking down the hallway, he realizes that Sam had arrived and was making his way to the Oval office. Catching up with Sam, the two best friends walked together.
"Were you in my office last night?"
"Yeah, I took up residence on your couch."
"Didn't you go home last night?"
"How are you feeling?"
"Hey, what's up with you and Donna?"
Josh slows down and said, "What do you mean?"
"Well, I saw her fixing your tie."
"Nothing out of the ordinary about that. She fixes my tie all the time. Heck she even takes my stuff to the dry cleaners sometimes."
"Yeah, but I wasn't talking about what she was doing, I was talking about the way you were looking at her while she was doing it."
"How exactly was I looking at her?"
"The way Danny looks at CJ"
"I am too. Look, you know me and Donna." Josh laughs.
Sam shakes his head, "whatever you say." With that, they walk into the Oval office.
An hour later, Josh emerges with Sam, Leo, Toby and CJ. He walks back to his office and screamed, "Donna!"
Within a matter of seconds, Donna's willowy frame appeared in front of his desk. "Josh, you have a phone, there's such a thing as an intercom, you don't have the shout."
"Calling on the intercom is for wimps. I like to shout, that's my thing."
"Whatever. You probably don't know how to use the intercom. What do you want?"
Josh had to admit that Donna was right. He didn't know how to use an intercom although he has always managed to tell himself that even if he did know, he'd rather not use it anyway, it's too impersonal. "I need you to call Senator Johnson of Illinois and schedule a meeting with him and his people."
"Tell him it's about the healthcare reform proposal we are sending through the House next Thursday."
"Okay." She started to leave but stopped and turned back, "Josh?"
"Can I leave at 7 tonight?"
"Donna...." Josh knew that whenever Donna asks to leave early it usually means she has a date. And he is naturally inclined to not let that happen. Not b/c he's mean or sadistic, but b/c he honestly believes Donna have the worse taste in men imaginable.
"I want to have dinner with Ainsley. You know, she's new and all and I really like her, and we kind of made plans two weeks ago."
Oh...with Ainsley...that's another story, Josh thought, his resistance to her leaving early taking a sharp turn for the better. "well...it's not so bad today, but if I need you, I'll call you alright?"
Donna gave Josh what could only be described as a beatific smile and left his office.
Josh grins and shouted to her retreating figure, "Hey, does this mean you'll take my stuff to the dry cleaners later?"
"That'll happen when I get your coffee for you," she retorted w/o skipping a beat.
Donna looks up at the clock, it's a quarter to 7. Oh good, she's almost done and she should be able to meet up with Ainsley in the bull pen in time for their dinner. Making a dash to the bathroom, she raked a comb through her long blond hair and put on a touch of lip gloss before running outside to send the e-mails for Josh that he had asked her to do before she leaves. When she walked past his office, she noticed that he was still engrossed in a pile of documents.
"Josh, I'm leaving. Do you need anything?"
Josh looks up, "Oh, no, I'm fine. Have a good time with Ainsley. Where are you guys going?"
"I think she said Miranda's."
"Well have fun, I'll see you tomorrow?"
"Yeah. Call me if you need me." With that, Donna left and Josh watches her. He wonders when was the last time he had a night out on the town with Sam or anyone for that matter....it's too depressing. He sighs. Well, at least it looks like a slow night. He looked over at Sam's office and saw his friend hunched over his laptop. Looking back down at his work, he refocused on the task at hand.
(two hours later...)
Josh looks up and sees Sam standing at his doorway. "Done for the day?"
"I'm very close..." Josh replied as he scribbled something on a document he was writing. "Actually, I'm just done."
"Hey, have you eaten anything yet?"
"No, wanna grab a bite?"
"Sure, let me grab my coat." Josh rose from his desk and took his coat before walking out with Sam. As usual, they were one of the last ones there. Leo might still be in his office, but Toby and CJ have gone for the night.
"Where do you want to eat?"
For some reason, "Miranda's" popped into Josh's mind at that moment and w/o thinking, he said, "Miranda's"
"Miranda's? Okay, we've never been there before but there's a first time for everything."
"You know what, let's go somewhere else instead. I think Donna told me she's going to have dinner there with Ainsley there tonight and I don't want to interrupt them."
"Ainsley and Donna?" Sam said surprised and, it seemed to Josh, interested
"Well, why can't we go there? We've got just a right to going as anyone, right? And besides, they are probably gone already."
"Okay then, if you say so, but if they ask why we're there, I'm going to point at you"
"Don't have a problem with that," Sam said cheerfully as he got into the car. The drive was only about 15 minutes. By the time they entered the restaurant - restaurant and bar, Josh noted to himself, it was pretty packed. Sam peered anxiously around the room which puzzled Josh. Not that he wasn't scanning the room himself for a sign of Donna. Sam nudged him and looking at Sam's line of vision, he can see Donna and Ainsley and he can clearly see that they are most certainly not having dinner by themselves. They were sitting at the bar, talking to two guys.
Almost immediately, Josh had a sour taste in the back of his throat. Donna had lied to him! She said she was having dinner with Ainsley and she was really on a double date! Why? Why didn't she trust him to tell him the truth? Did she think he was going to sabatoge her? (of course, he would, but it was only for her own good.) Glancing over at Sam, he noticed that Sam doesn't look too thrilled either. By now, Josh is starting to suspect that Sam Seaborn has feelings other than the strictly professional kind for their newest counsel. He made a mental note to tease Sam about this later, but right now, he's attention is trained on the tall dark haired fellow who is looking a little too attentive to his Donna...wait a minute, did he just think of Donna as "his" Donna? Truth be told, Donna isn't "his" - he's just her boss for Pete's sake. She only thinks of him as her annoying boss who gives her a hard time and likes to hear himself speak. But the thought of her with anyone doesn't only bother him a little, it would be inconceivable for her to be with anyone except for himself - of course there's the whole delicate line of boss/subordinate relations that need to be taken into consideration, and the even more important consideration that she might not return his feelings. Not that Josh Lyman can ever be accused of having a low self esteem. In fact, he and Sam Seaborn has recently been voted most eligible bachelor by People magazine. Dating has never been a problem for Josh or Sam. Meeting the right one, the one who incites your passion, challenges your beliefs and isn't afraid to tell you that you're an idiot when you are being one, now that's a slightly different story. There's been a lot fewer of those.
Donna is talking to a perfectly charming young man who works as an associate at a downtown law firm and she knows he's nice, but she can't stop wondering as she chatted with this guy if Josh has left work for the day. This nagging thought bothers her. It bothers her b/c she realizes that no matter how nice of a guy this one is, in her mind, she is already stacking him up against Josh and he just won't be able to measure up. She sighed and looked around the room. Suddenly, she spots Sam and Josh, who are looking in their direction. With a bright smile and a wave of her hand, she signaled to them. Reluctantly, they start towards her and Ainsley's area.
In truth, Donna was looking for a nice exit out of this situation. She and Ainsley had come to this restaurant, hoping to get a table but unfortunately, the hostess had no record of their reservations. Instead, they had to wait for a table at the bar, which was where these two nice young men came in. They are nice enough, but it's clear to Donna that Ainsley wasn't interested in them, and neither was she. When Ainsley realized that Sam and Josh are coming towards their table, she brightened up immediately. "Sam! Josh! What a coincidence - or are you spying on us girls?"
Sam looked at the two guys around Ainsley and Donna. The two guys looked at each other and it quickly became apparent that Sam and Josh do not want them around. They smiled at the girls with a twinge of regret. The dark haired one that Josh was observing so intently gave Donna his card before leaving, an act that didn't escape Josh. Josh looked at Donna and said coolly, "we thought you were having a girl's night out. We didn't mean to interrupt on your dates."
Ainsley laughed, "you can't be serious? Those boys are nice but we had no intention of carrying on with them for long. They just wouldn't leave me and Donna alone and I really want to wait for a table b/c I hear that the desserts here are amazing!"
Sam visibly relaxed, apparently deciding to believe Ainsley, "you need to get checked out for that tape worm of yours."
As Sam and Ainsley joked and laughed, Josh and Donna stood together quietly. Donna was hurt by his remark and his insinuation that she had lied to him. First of all, she hadn't. And second, even if she was going out on a date, what's it to him?
Josh meanwhile, felt like an idiot. He cursed himself as he looked at Donna, clearly she was angry with him, hurt at the very least. He shouldn't have jumped to conclusions, leaning closer to her so the others wouldn't hear, he murmured, "hey Donna, look, I'm sorry about that. I had no right."
"That's absolutely correct, you have no right." Donna muttered angrily. Not wanting to cause a scene she turned away from Ainsley and Sam and moved a little further down the bar. Josh followed closely and leaned in to speak over the noise, "Look, it was a misunderstanding, I just didn't want you to go into your vicious cycle of dating losers again."
Turning quickly towards him, Donna's angry retort was caught in her throat when she realized that Josh's face was just inches from hers. Suddenly, each party had a heightened awareness of the other's proximity. Josh's eyes wandered down to Donna's mouth and he suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to kiss her, right there, in that crowded bar, where strangers do not know who he was, or who she was, where he can express his feelings for her without worrying about the consequences of his action.
'Hey Josh!" Sam shouted, breaking their spell. "Table is ready."
Josh and Donna looked into each other's eyes for a moment before breaking contact. They followed Sam and Ainsley to the table and sat down. The food was delicious but neither Josh nor Donna could remember much of it. Each was embroiled in a series of rapid fire thoughts.
My god, Josh thought, what am I doing? This is ridiculous and I need to stop but as he played that moment at the bar over and over again in his mind, the one detail he can't get over was that when he was about to kiss Donna, something extremely extraordinary happened - she didn't pull away.
Donna vowed to herself, what almost happened must never happen again. I need to maintain my professional relationship with Josh as strictly that, nothing more.
After dinner, Ainsley and Sam wanted to go get coffee, but Donna was honestly very tired, so she begged out. Josh opted to stay with Donna so Sam and Ainsley went off while Josh walked with Donna to his car. Their walk was in silence as each was thinking what they should be doing.
In the car, Josh turned to Donna and said, "Donna, what happened back there..."
"Josh, it's okay, I understand."
"Yeah, you thought you were trying to protect me by preventing me from going out with that guy and I know it's well-intentioned, but I think we both agree that you shouldn't interfere with my love life." Donna said in her most matter-of-fact tone of voice.
"That's not what I was talking about Donna."
"Oh Josh, I have this huge headache, can you please take me home?"
Josh looked at Donna and quietly said, "Fine." Without another word, he drove her to her apartment.
Donna knew she had hurt Josh but cutting him off, but she knows that's it's best for their relationship if they don't cross that line. By now, she has convinced herself that what Josh feels for her is just a momentary loss of sanity type of scenario. He is probably all stressed out and feeling a little lonely so he is misdirecting his emotions on her. Satisfied with that convincing line of thought, she smiled brightly at him when he stopped the car. "Thanks for the ride Josh, I'll see you tomorrow."
Josh turned to Donna and for a moment, there was silence. Then, without saying a word, Josh pulled Donna into his arms and thoroughly kissed her. It was the kind of kiss that people write about in novels and sang about in songs. Donna moaned and Josh deepened his kiss, pulling her closer to him. Donna felt her blood rush through her veins and for a brief moment, allowed herself to be lost in Josh's arm. But slowly, the realization of what is happening hits her and she pulled away from Josh. When she looked into his eyes, she saw such longing that she could almost not bear it. The same kind of longing that's in her own eyes, she thought to herself. "Josh, we can't."
"Because you are my boss, and b/c you are the only guy I've ever met who is not a jerk and I don't want to ruin our relationship by taking it further than what it's meant to be."
"Donna, we can work around your first concern and we should talk about your
"Donna, you're not like his friend, and this won't be a problem."
Donna gave him a wistful smile, "Josh, that's wishful thinking and you know it."
Frustrated, Josh slams his fist against the steering wheel of car.
"Good night Josh," Donna said softly and left the car.
Josh felt incredibly depressed. It's odd, considering how just a brief moment ago, he felt incredible. As he drove back to his apartment, his spirits start to improve. After all, it's clear from tonight that Donna does have feelings for him. All he has to do is get her to trust him, to trust him with not breaking her heart like all her other boyfriends. To trust him when he said he can take care of the delicate situation with work. He isn't the Deputy Chief of Staff for nothing now, was he?
And for the first time since dinner, Josh smiled.