Twenty Five Hundred and Counting
Notes: This is an answer to Mary/Chris's challenges about Donna having a fan club, so this is dedicated to you two :-) Thanks to Susan and Nancy for betaing, huge thanks to Yana for same, and to Evelyn, for giving me a spontaneous homework assignment. If only we got these at school...
At first glance the small, square post-it seemed like nothing out of the ordinary. A brief daily schedule reminder, it was crammed to the edges with the usual acronyms of people, organizations and bills that had to be dealt with that day. It was only when Josh looked it over for the second time that he realized there was one item he wasn't familiar with.
He stepped outside his office and waved the note at Donna, who was typing at her desk. "What's this under the NRA meeting?"
"Huh?" she asked absently, fingers continuing to speed across the keyboard.
"There's some interview you scheduled for me, but I don't recognize these initials."
Her face never left the monitor. "Right," she agreed. "Absolutely. "
Casually, he folded his arms. "So we've decided to have the President eliminated," he stated. "Because down in the kitchens they were complaining about the terror regime of New England produce."
"That's--one second, Josh."
Not one to favor being ignored, Josh approached her desk so he could tower over her. "It's nice to know that the free world could go down in a flame of foreign food and you'll just go on, click-click-clickin' away." He pressed the Alt and F4 keys and stuck the note in front of her face, pointing at the problematic line. "What does this mean?"
Donna's arm pinned his own to the desk and she stared at him, paying no attention to the note. "You do realize I was five seconds away from printing this memo which I've been working on for half an hour."
Josh straightened. "I guess I shouldn't have done that, then," he offered, a tad sheepishly.
"No, you should not have," she huffed.
"But you're gonna redo it anyway," he surmised hopefully.
"Phew," he breathed. "So what--"
"There's nothing under the NRA meeting." Donna answered, slumped despondently in her chair now that she thought of all the extra work ahead of her.
"Hey, you were listening!" Josh exclaimed.
She rolled her eyes. "Your voice is just a bit too annoying to be ignored. The NRA meeting is the last thing you're doing today."
"Except that according to this note, it isn't," he contradicted her. "Unless I am mistaken, and I admit I'm frequently mistaken when it comes to your handwriting, but in this case it seems I have a scheduled interview with or about the WLDN." Josh looked down at her expectantly.
"Oh, dear," she said quickly, grabbing the note from his hand. She scanned it briefly, then switched it with a similar note that was stuck on her desk lamp. She gave him the new one with an apologetic expression. "Looks like I mixed up your agenda with my copy. Sorry." She immediately turned to her computer screen and began typing again.
"Whoa, wait a second." Josh inspected his new post-it which, indeed, had an organized schedule that ended with a meeting with representatives from the NRA. "What's the WLDN and how come it's only on *your* schedule?"
"It's nothing," she dismissed. "I have lots of work now, so if you could--?" She left it hanging.
"Sure, yeah," Josh agreed. After all, she did have to rewrite the memo because of him. He entered his office and closed the door behind him.
Ten minutes later he stepped back out, and declared: "I've checked every single file in my office and not one of them mentions the WLDN."
"You have hundreds of files in your office," Donna pointed out.
"I checked the W's."
"Oh." She kept her face blank.
"Well?" he demanded.
"It's nothing," she brushed him off again, making a small movement with her hand as if swatting a fly.
"It's not nothing! My assistant is giving out secret interviews. It's my right to know what they're about. It's my *responsibility*," he added with emphasis, "to know what they're about."
"Look, Josh, this is none of your business. And it's nothing. I have to type now."
"Yeah, I can see you're awfully eager to do that. What's the WLDN?"
"It's..." she faltered. "The... World... Long Distance... Negotiations."
Short pause. "You made that up," he accused.
"You could tell?" she muttered under her breath, but continued fluently. "Actually, it's short for Wimbledon. I was gonna watch the interview with the winner of the tournament."
"Really?" An eyebrow arched up.
"Yes," she replied confidently.
"Who was the Champion?"
She grasped for a name, but her mind was empty. "Well, I was gonna watch to find out," she flailed.
Josh shook his head. "You're reaching."
"Yeah, I know."
"WLDN. I'm putting it out there, all you gotta do is interpret four letters and I'm off your back."
Donna doubted it. "Wildlife League... of Ducks, and... Something."
"You know," he said, placing both hands flat on her desk and leaning down, "I get this feeling there's something you don't want me to know."
"I love it when you get observant," she murmured into her screen.
"Wouldn't it be simpler if you just told me?"
"I'm starting to think that it might." Donna twisted her chair towards him so she could look him square in the face. "Okay. This is going to come as a big shock, so you might wanna sit down. Although I have no visitor's chair, because I have no office, and this might be a good time to bring up--"
"It's really not."
"And have you noticed it never is?" His glare weakened her resolve. "Right. As I was saying, this will come as a surprise to you, and the only reason I haven't told you until now is that I thought your reaction might be..." To make my life a living hell? Freaking out and blowing this all out of proportion? Pestering every single person in the west wing? Firing me in a mad fit of rage, perhaps? "...anyway. Try not to feel threatened or overshadowed by this."
"I'll do my best," he replied in an indulgent tone.
"I'm only trying to prepare you."
"I was getting to it! The final item I have on my schedule for today is a monthly interview given to the"--she took a deep breath--"the We Love Donna Newsletter. It's published by my fan club." Donna braced herself.
She really should have expected the weak laugh that followed. "Your... your..." he chortled, unable to get the words out. "*Fan club?*" He pressed one arm to the table for support, and for a fleeting second tried to force his face into a serious expression.
"Yes," she said with indignation. She'd been trying to cushion the blow, but if this was his reaction, he would get similar treatment. "A fan club. The Donna Moss Fan Club."
Josh lips turned up along with his eyebrows. Obviously this was the most entertaining thing he had heard in a while. "Whose members include," he pondered, "let's think... You. Your roommate. The three cats..." he cracked up again, one step away from slapping his thighs.
"It happens to have a very widespread member base," she said testily.
"Donna." He grinned, and when he spoke his voice dripped with condensation. "My fan club happens to have over one thousand members. Yours has, what, eleven?"
Donna raised her chin. "Twenty-five hundred." Josh snorted, so she repeated the figure. "Two-thousand five-hundred and seventeen, to be precise."
He stared at her for a moment, trying to judge whether or not she was being serious, until eventually he reached the correct conclusion. "What!" he screeched.
Donna flinched. "Keep it down, Josh."
"How can this be?" he asked incredulously. "This is impossible. Show me--show me proof."
With a sigh, Donna reached into her bottom desk drawer and pulled out a folded copy of the magazine. Josh stared at the header, which cheerfully read 'We Love Donna' in a flowery pink font. Underneath, the main title read: 'Donna Visits Wisconsin Family July 4th', and besides that a side column with a photo of twenty or so laughing people, captioned: '2500 and counting: Go Donna!'
Dumbfounded, Josh flipped through the pages, his eyes registering pictures of a teenaged Donna, trivia corners, questionnaires, articles, specials and a crossword puzzle. He tried to solve one of the puzzles. Ten across: Donna's first boyfriend (3,7).
"Unbelievable," he mumbled.
"Jim Connors," she assisted helpfully. "It was in tenth grade, he was in my drama club."
"Thanks," Josh replied sarcastically, throwing the paper down on her lap. "Any other clubs I should be aware of?"
She folded it neatly and quickly stuck it back in the drawer. "Come on, you know it doesn't mean anything."
In a vigorous tone he retorted, "Oh, I know it doesn't mean anything."
"It's not that more people like me than they like you," she added.
"More people *don't* like you than they like me," he scowled.
"The whole thing is plain silly," Donna scoffed, "and you shouldn't feel jealous at all."
"I don't feel jealous at all," Josh said darkly.
"Okay, then," she smiled brightly, turning back to her computer. "Back to work."
Josh spun around and marched towards his office. "Back to work," he repeated, slamming the door behind him.
* * * * * * *
"So, about this *fan club* thing," Josh burst out, putting just enough stress on the two words so as to indicate that he found the idea nothing short of ridiculous. He was standing in the bullpen again, the door to his office swinging shut behind him.
Donna dropped her head to her hands. "Oh, for heaven's sake," she muttered. She lifted her head in despair. "Josh, if you were frying burgers for a living I wouldn't give a damn what you did during work hours, but given that it's not only the future of the State of Alabama that's on the line but my own personal future as an American citizen as well, I'd appreciate it if you'd stick to your schedule and go about making laws."
"I don't actually make laws," Josh corrected briefly, at which she rolled her eyes, before he pondered out loud: "Maybe they gave you a fan club because you talk so fast."
"What?" she asked, startled.
"Well, you talk very quickly in these long, confusing sentences. Maybe there are eccentric people who admire and honor you for that," he reasoned.
"Sure, Josh," she sighed. "Assorted oddballs from thirty-nine states have annual conventions in honor of my bizarre way of speaking. That's very plausible."
"Thirty-nine states?" he echoed faintly.
"I can name them all," she verified. She stood up with a stack of now finished memos to distribute, hoping that if she traveled fast enough she would lose him amongst the west wing corridors.
"That's interesting," he commented, following Donna, to her chagrin. "It's just that I'm asking because, well, *my* fan club--"
"Has members from the DC area, about fifty from Maryland, twenty from Connecticut and two from Florida, one of whom is your mother." Donna tried to hold back her amusement and failed miserably, walking at a quicker pace than him so he wouldn't see her face.
"That's right," he agreed, stumped. Then he straightened his back. "Though this actually means that my fans are more sophisticated, politically involved and generally smarter than yours. Except for Mrs. Leibovitz," he added, upon second thought.
"Who?" Donna asked, not bothering to argue with him.
"The other Florida fan."
"Ah." She nodded. "Whatever you say." She turned a couple of fast corners that were out of her route, hoping to shake him off, but no luck.
"So," he inquired cautiously, "How did you get so many fans? Did you have to pay them? Or maybe make this deal--join for a year and get a free TV set?"
Donna decided it was easier to ignore him than to think about his words. "Yes, Josh," she answered tiredly. "It's a satanic pact between us. In my interview tonight, I'm going to add another offer. Fans get a free tour of the White House at the taxpayers' expense in exchange for displaying their 'We Love Donna' bumper stickers."
"Oh, you're not going to the interview," she heard from behind her.
She stopped in her tracks and spun around, arm extended to keep Josh from bumping into her. She ended up poking him in the chest.
"What did you say?" Her eyes narrowed dangerously.
"Careful!" he brushed her hand away, rubbing his chest. "Sensitive area, remember?" She allowed herself no more than a second's concern. Josh shrugged. "I said you're not going to do the interview. The NRA meeting's probably going to take longer than we expected and I'm gonna need you to draft some stuff up afterwards. We have a serious job to do here and we're not gonna let pesky matters like fan clubs deter us from the really important issues."
"We can do that tomorrow," she challenged. "And I already took into account that the meeting would run late."
"I'm your boss, Donna," he said sternly. "Why put off for tomorrow what you can do today? We're deciding the future of not only the State of Alabama, here," he threw her own words back at her, "but our own, as well."
Fists clenched, Donna took in his appearance. His arms were folded with self-satisfaction and he didn't even attempt to hide the smirk that was smeared across his face.
"You're only doing this because you're feeling threatened," she accused darkly.
"Why would I feel threatened by a fan club?" he scoffed. "I don't feel threatened by the Republican Majority Leader, why would I feel threatened by a fan club?"
Donna's icy glare homed in on him for a moment. Then she spun around, flipping her hair carelessly across her shoulder. "Fine," she acknowledged evenly. "If that's the way you want it, fine."
She changed direction from her original destination and started making her way into the Communications bullpen.
Josh had trouble keeping up. "Uh, where are you going?"
"You were right," she shrugged, weaving her way through desks and people with trained ease. "This is a serious place of work and we shouldn't be deflected by stupid things like fan clubs. I don't even know why I tried to hide it from you, to," she uttered the next the word with scorn, "*protect* you. Obviously you don't let petty issues like these sidetrack you."
Donna led the way in a swift, hot-tempered stride, opening doors and marching through without waiting for Josh. "I'm still not following why we're going here, though," Josh wondered, barely missing a collision with a glass door Donna had released to swing in his face.
"I suppose you might as well know, now that the cat's out of the bag." She turned a sharp corner that lead into Sam's office. Her head popped in. "Sam," she called. Josh arrived just in time to see his friend look up. "We'll have to do the WLDN thing tomorrow, okay?"
"Sure," Sam frowned, puzzled. "Anything wrong?"
She pointed at Josh with her thumb in a rueful, submissive gesture. "Gotta work," she apologized.
"No problem," he smiled. "I'll see you tomorrow. Duff Tuff!"
"Duff Tuff!" she repeated, grinning as she left. She retraced her steps, heading towards her and Josh's little niche in the White House, dragging Josh behind her.
She had never seen his eyebrows go so high. "What..." he sputtered. "What was that about?"
"Sam was going to interview me." Donna pressed her lips tightly to prevent herself from sounding the least bit smug. "You see, *he's* a member of my fan club. Ignorant freak that he is."
"*Sam's* in your fan club?" Josh's eyes looked like they were about to pop out.
Donna sat down at her desk and spoke naturally, as if this was no big thing. "Active member, even."
"*Sam Seaborn*?" Josh shook his head, trying to grasp it clearly.
"Sam," Donna confirmed with another nod. "I-am-Sam, Sam-I-am, would you, could you, on a boat, with a goat, in the dark, in a car, in a tree, Sam."
"Really. Sam." Josh was clearly not getting over that fact. "Although I think that, if he'd heard how you just described him, he'd consider dropping out."
"Nah. Sam's a supporter." Donna pretended to get back to work, scribbling some meaningless lines on a piece of paper. The conversation was bound to continue a while longer.
Josh took in a deep breath, and let it all out with a word: "Unbelievable." He looked at the ceiling with awe. "What's, uh, Duff Tuff?"
She flushed for a moment, but then lifted her chin and told herself she had nothing to be ashamed of. "It's easier to say than DFTF. Donna For The Fans."
"Donna For The Fans, right." He rubbed his forehead with his right hand. Just then Toby walked into the bullpen and heard him.
Toby turned to Donna with surprise. "Duff Tuff? You told him?"
"It was a mistake," she admitted regretfully.
"Wait." Josh targeted Toby accusingly. "You knew?"
Toby shrugged. "I'm a member."
Josh closed his eyes. "This is totally surreal." He opened them again. "I don't suppose you're a member of my fan club too, are you?"
Toby snorted. "I wouldn't be caught dead in your fan club. The only people in your fan club own fluffy pink pens."
"And you don't own one?" Donna teased.
"Cute," Toby replied shortly.
Josh stared uncomprehendingly. Donna and Toby were acting all buddy-buddy. "Definitely surreal," he muttered.
"Well," said Toby, "This is a discussion I'd rather not stay around for, so I'll come back later." He hesitated. "I shouldn't ask this, but have you shown him the newsletter?"
Donna knew what was coming, and tried to stop it in time. "Yes but he didn't get enough time to read every--"
"See you around, Fuzzy."
"--thing," she finished belatedly.
With a last look at the two of them Toby left, pursed lips hiding a smirk.
Josh narrowed his eyes dangerously. Donna flinched. "'Fuzzy'?" he inquired in a voice he usually reserved for meetings behind closed doors. Donna was already reaching into her desk drawer and pulling out the folded copy of the newsletter, flipping it to the crossword puzzle. She pointed at seven across.
"'Five-letter secret nickname Donna has for her boss'," Josh read aloud.
Donna's head fell to her table. "I'm sorry," she moaned. "It's because of your hair."
Josh slapped the newsletter copy beside her. "Beyond surreal," he said in amazement. "Fantastic. Un...believable."
"You keep saying that," Donna noted, slightly upset.
"Yeah!" Josh threw his hands in the air. "Because it is! It simply makes no sense. Why would people make a fan club for *you*?"
"Well, you don't have to put it that way," she protested, offended.
"Come on! I'm an attractive, powerful man," he reasoned, paying no notice to her tone. "I accomplish world-altering tasks every day. I influence the course of this country's future. I'm in daily contact with the President, Senators, Congressmen. Admirable deeds, you know, that's me. And you--" he spluttered. "I mean, what are you in the grand scheme of things, really?"
It struck him that the silence that followed didn't have any of those comfortable vibes he was used to.
"Is it so hard," she asked, her tone remaining even and unwavering by sheer determination alone, "to believe that people like me?"
Josh realized belatedly that he'd gone too far. "Donna," he started, but she cut him off with a hand motion.
"No, you could be right. Who am I, really? Not worthy of all this attention, certainly." She clutched the paper in her right hand. "I'm Donna Moss, simpleton from god-knows-where, Wisconsin. I pay people to join my fan club."
"Donna," he said softly, but she continued.
"I'm not gonna continue with this... drama queen routine now. To tell you the truth, I have no idea why all these people suddenly thought me worthy of a fan club. I haven't done anything extraordinarily special. I haven't changed the world. Maybe it all started out as joke, who knows. Maybe they find a Cinderella story in my life, somewhere. Maybe they're inspired by someone who had the guts to start over a life that went to hell." Donna knew that was her one strong point and she wasn't ashamed to say it. "I don't know why they did it, but... it's nice to get flowers once in a while, and it's nice to get credit for being yourself." She waited for a response and, receiving none, went back to work, scribbling for real this time.
"Donna," Josh spoke after a long silence. "I didn't mean it was--"
"I don't care what you think about the stupid fan club, Josh." She swallowed. "I care what you think about me."
Josh pulled up a waiting chair from its place along the wall and sat down in front of her desk. "I think..." he started. He waited until he caught her eyes, and ignored his inner voice that was screaming warnings of the sappiness ahead. "I think you deserve a fan club."
Donna lowered her head. "Don't just say that because you feel obligated."
"I'm not," he said. He raised his eyebrows slightly with a tiny smile. "It actually makes perfect sense. You're younger than me, you're better looking, and god knows you're nicer than I am."
Her mouth crooked into a small smile as well. "Hey, you admitted I'm better looking."
"Don't spread it around."
"Are you kidding? This is going into next month's newsletter, Fuzzy."
Josh chuckled, relaxing in his chair. "I had a fan who sent me flowers once," he told her. "It got ugly when I started getting a dozen bouquets a day and I had to call in the police."
"You mean *I* had to call in the police," she reminded him, lazily tracing a pattern on the notebook paper with her pencil.
He scrunched his forehead. "Oh, yeah, that's right."
"Well, I have fans, not fanatics." Spirals and a few hearts. She'd have to rewrite the thing anyhowshe'd been too distracted to do it well, earlier.
He watched her draw. "When did you get flowers?" he asked, honestly interested.
"On my birthday. Valentine's Day. And when you were... you know." She pierced the little hearts with arrows, dirty gray on yellow.
"Yeah," he said softly. Then he stood up. "Well, I should get back to work."
"Yeah," she agreed, lifting herself up in her chair as well. "You should."
He stretched his arms and walked into his office. He threw his last words behind his shoulder. "You can go do your interview tonight."
"Thanks," she called after him. No explanations needed.
That night, after she wrapped it up with Sam, Donna came back to the bullpen to collect her stuff and saw the light in Josh's office was still on. She knocked lightly and entered.
"So I was thinking," he opened straight away, hands entwined on top of his desk. "How would one go about it if he wanted to join the Donna Moss fan club?"
Donna couldn't help the smile that crept onto her face. "I'm not sure, actually. You'd have to ask someone else."
"I will," he promised. "There seem to be plenty of people around to ask."
She tilted her head to one side. "One more's always nice." She yawned, and adjusted the strap of her purse as she set to leave. "Later."
"See you tomorrow," Josh said as she turned away. Then, as an afterthought, he called out, "You know what? Wait five minutes and I'll give you a ride home."
Donna smiled walking out and leant back on her desk, waiting. Two-thousand five-hundred and eighteen wasn't a bad achievement, when it came right down to it. She surveyed the desk of a successful woman such as she and realized there was one thing missing from its surface.
She pulled open her bottom drawer and retrieved the fluffy pink pen that had lain there, forgotten for a long time. After circling one of the hearts to ensure it still worked, she pointedly dropped it into her pencil jar.
"You ready?" Josh asked from his office door, backpack slung over one shoulder.
"Yeah," she replied. "Let's go."
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