Disclaimers/etc: see pt 1
"Sure, Josh." She seemed a bit edgy still, but she hid it well. She hit a few keys on her computer and walked into his office.
Josh shut the door. "Okay, let me just say this 'cause it's hard for me to say and if you interrupt I'm gonna lose my nerve."
Donna looked shocked, then blushed furiously. Josh could almost read her thoughts. He knows, he knows!
Josh shook his head. "Donna... I know that it was you last night at Sam's place."
All the color drained from her face and she stifled a gasp. "Josh, I don't "
He cut her off. "It's okay. Really."
Donna felt a twinge of guilt, like she'd disobeyed her father. But she was glad to be forgiven; if nothing else she owed him an apology for misleading him.
Josh went on. "I wanted to say I was sorry for pranking you with Ainsley."
"That's all right," Donna said hastily, wanting to cover up how hurt she'd been. "I heard you when you apologized to Sam. And it wasn't that big of a deal for me. I just thought you'd lost your senses dating a Republican." Realizing she'd been rambling, she shut up.
Josh, fortunately, didn't notice. "I guess I just wanted to say I'm sorry for my part in this."
"Was that all, then?" Donna rose. He hadn't said one word about her and Sam, or Ainsley, or anything. He was treating this like a business matter. Damn the man.
Instinctively Donna halted and looked back.
Josh looked pale and tortured, and he ran a nervous hand across the back of his neck. "About Sam," he said, aggrieved. "I mean... if you want to... Sam's a great guy, but..."
Donna couldn't help looking perplexed, though a buried note of hope sounded in her heart. "Josh..." she said, echoing Ainsley, "why would you care?"
Staring at the window, Josh spoke the words that had played in his mind for quite some time. "I wouldn't stop for red lights, either, Donna."
Those quiet words threw Donna far more than anything straightforward could have done. "Josh," she said quietly, tremulously, "you are very important to me, too."
Donna smiled, then blurted, "And Sam is important to me too I'd just like the chance to figure out *how* important he is."
Josh sighed. "I guess. And I realize you don't need my permission," he added.
" 'Welcome." He paused. "It's just... anyone..." He stopped, but Donna saw with startling clarity what he was about to say. Anyone who isn't me, is probably not good enough for you.
She did not speak. It was enough to know that if on a rainy day she needed someone, he would be there. And after all the months of wanting it, it was so wonderful to have.
And yet last night, she had felt something in that little interlude with Sam that was just missing from her interactions with Josh. It was so obvious now that Josh loved her. Every little nuance showed her that she was important and needed. And yet Sam had all that and more: a fervor of a different sort than Josh's. And of course, the practical implications... boss and assistant would just never work. Sam didn't have those hurdles. And he was also a mystery in that respect. It intrigued her.
She really had to talk to him.
"I was an idiot not to guess," Josh said ruefully, turning her back to the present. "Last night when Sam told me to talk to you... I heard a gasp, and wondered about it. And this morning you were so jumpy..." He trailed off. "I mean, what kind of fool am I?"
Donna smiled sadly at him. "The same kind as me. A fool in love."
And with that she went to open the door, but she received a shock: Sam was standing in front of her.
Josh sensed a denouement. "I'm getting out of here." His smile was tragic as he tried to manufacture excuses. "Got a meeting. I think it's on the budget surplus. You know how it goes."
Even though convinced of what she was about to do, Donna's heart broke as she saw him walk away. Right or wrong, good or bad, she knew things between them would never quite be the same.
Sam hedged a bit. "Donna..." Those startling blue eyes swung up to meet her. "Did you talk to Josh?"
Donna nodded. "I..." She broke off. "How much did you hear?"
"Oh," Sam said, eyes shining. "Enough."
"What what do you mean?" Donna suddenly felt that feeling resurface; the one from the night before. He was unfamiliar again; she didn't have anything recognizable to take hold of. She felt adrift.
Sam suddenly moved just a step closer: not a threatening step, but just a step. "Donna, I heard what you said about fools."
"I'd have to say that I've been one too. And I'm sorry." He stared at her and Donna felt a memorable shudder course down her back. She'd had them for so long, but only now did she know what it was.
Her tone was husky. "How were you a fool?"
He sighed. "Today... you looked frightened. I immediately thought I'd avoid talking to you, because I didn't know if you felt taken advantage of or what. I should have known better." Sam came fully into the room and closed the door. "You needed to talk. And I half thought you'd go to Josh. But I hoped you wouldn't."
"Sam..." A tiny, malingering doubt remains. "Sam, what if we ..."
"Break up?" Sam smiled. "Have a fight?"
"Yeah. I mean..." Donna froze on the unpleasant words. *I don't want to lose you.*
He knew. "Donna." Sam's tone dropped a notch. "All I know is that for some reason right now, my stomach just rebelled when you said those words."
She smiled at him; a tiny, soft smile. "Mine, too."
"Well, then." Sam's eyes were laughing but his tone was not. "Donna, what do you say?"
The question was unspoken, simply because it could be. They'd always been best friends, Donna mused. Maybe this was just the next step up.
And *damn,* he was an attractive man.
"All right," she said, coming closer to him. "Let's give it a try."
The relief was utterly palpable. Sam immediately cracked a smile, and Donna had to bite back real tears of joy.
Just as quickly as it had happened, the moment was over. But it would remain with them for a while.
"I have to get back to work," Donna said, scooping up a few files.
"Yeah, me too." Sam stood and straightened his tie. "Meeting with the EPA people, then working on the Boston speech."
"Good luck." Her smile was special as he moved to walk out.
"Thanks." As Sam left, he tossed off a statement. "Hey, Donna? I like what you said earlier."
He gently took her hand. "About fools in love."
Donna, for some reason, could find no words. Finally she said, "I guess that's what we are."
"I guess so."
They both left the room.