Title: Come the Rain
By: Gabrielle Aurelius
Warning: very mild swear words, spoiler for ITSOTGM
Note: unlike the fiction I wrote last night at 3 am ("For the One You
Love"), this one has a much longer plot, so please be patient with me as I
get the different chapters out; it may take awhile.  Also, this is the first
story in a three-part series.  :)  Just a friendly explanation~
Please give feedback *plaintive grin*


COME THE RAIN

Chapter 1

-Present Day-
It was a small glass statue, no more than three inches high.  Tiny cracks
ran up and down it, beginning at the top of the dancer's flowing hair and
ending at the bottoms of her shoes.  Her beautiful glass face was as it had
been years ago- smooth and perfect, the only part that hadn't needed to be
repaired.
Donna looked at the statue on the nightstand from where she lay curled up
on her bed.  Faint light shone through the window, glinting off the glass
dancer; shadows played upon her flowing glass dress, making it appear to
move and sway.
Even after all these years, it still hurt to look at the statue.
It reminded her of him, the man who'd loved her more than anything else.
The man whose heart she'd broken.
Donna sighed and ran a finger along the glass statue, almost believing she
could feel the clothes shift beneath her touch.
"Tomorrow," she murmured into the pillow, repeating the hollow, but
strangely comforting phrase.  It had accompanied her to sleep every night
for the past two years.  "I'll call him tomorrow."
**********************************

-3 years ago-
Josh grabbed the cup of coffee and stared dismally into its black depths.
"Bottoms up," he muttered, gulping it down.  He winced as it burned his
tongue.
Just then his door banged open.  Yelping in surprise, Josh choked, the
coffee he'd been swallowing decorating the window.  The rest of it dribbled
down his chin and onto his white shirt.
"DONNA!!!" he yelled, incensed, knowing full well who had caused his
mishap.  He whirled, his face red.
Donna stifled a smile.  "Oops, did I do that?"
Josh threw his hands in the air.  "No, I thought the window wasn't quite
dirty enough, so I decided to spit-clean it with my coffee."
Donna examined the dripping window.  "Good job."
Josh scowled at her.  "Donna, what am I supposed to do with this shirt?  I
have a staff meeting in-" he checked his watch- "in five minutes!"
Donna grabbed his soggy tie and pulled it off.  "Well, there's a department
store down the street.  I'm sure you could pick something up there and be
back in time."
"'Down the street'?!  Donna, do you know how long it's going to take me to
get 'down the street' in rush hour traffic?!" Josh practically shouted.
"Not if you walk."
Josh glared at her.  "I am not going to walk!!!"  He began unbuttoning his
shirt collar.
"What are you doing?" Donna gasped.
"What does it look like I'm doing?"  Josh continued industriously
unbuttoning his shirt.
"Stripping!" Donna squealed.
"I am not stripping!!!" Josh argued.  He carefully pulled his shirt off.
Donna stared at her half-naked boss with her mouth open.
Josh  shoved his coffee-stained shirt into his assistant's hands.  "Now,
Donna, go to the bathroom and wash this off."
She remained fixed to the floor, eyes wide.
"DONNA!!!" Josh shouted, exasperated.  He shivered.  "It's as cold as hell
in here, so would you hurry up and clean my shirt?!"  He started pushing her
towards the door.
Donna seemed to snap out of her stupor.  "Fine, I'm going, I'm going."  She
seemed to pause slightly and her gaze shifted to the scar marring his chest.
  Her expression changed and her face became unreadable.  Donna whirled
suddenly, almost as if afraid she would be caught crying, and hastily walked
off with the shirt in the direction of the ladies' bathroom.
Josh stared after her for a moment, unsure how to handle the look she had
just given him.  Then, realizing he was standing half-naked in full view of
the rest of the office, he quickly shut the door.  He would think about
Donna later.  But for now, Leo was going to kill him for being late again.
He plopped into his chair with a sigh, rubbing his eyes.  He was dead tired,
on top of it all; he suspected he would've been bouncing off the walls right
now if he'd gotten a chance to drink his coffee in peace.
The door whooshed open.  "Geez, Donna, that was fast-" Josh began, then
stopped, with his mouth open.
CJ stared back at him, her eyes the widest Josh had ever seen them.
Josh dove under his desk.
"Josh, what in God's name is going on?!" the Press Secretary yelled.
"I want to die," Josh moaned pitifully from the confines of his desk.
"Tell me what is going on before I have to come over there and get you."
A muffled yelp of horror came from beneath the desk.  "No, no- CJ, stay
right there, thank you.  You see, I err spilled coffee all over my shirt
because- well, it's Donna's fault, naturally, because she barged in on me
when I was swallowing- and so right now I'm getting my shirt cleaned-
rather, Donna's cleaning it in the ladies' bathroom, and so I obviously
can't go to the staff meeting right now in my err current state of undress,"
Josh babbled miserably.
"I expect that somewhere in there you actually explained to me what was
happening, right?"
"Perfectly."
CJ sighed.  "You have to come to the meeting, you know."
"I can't go like this!" Josh exclaimed, mortified.
"Well, the President is asking for you, and he knows you're somewhere in
the building.  I don't see how you can avoid it."
The telephone began ringing.  Josh groaned.  "CJ, would you get that?"
"Nope, Josh.  It's probably the President, and I'd rather him chew you out
than me."
Josh could practically see her smirking.
The phone continued to ring.
"Josh!" CJ said.  "Answer the phone."
"I'm just going to pretend I'm not here."
"You do that and I'm going to start pushing your desk into the hallway."
"CJ!!!"
"Okay, here goes," she said, tugging at one side of the desk.  It began to
move slowly forward.
With a near-scream, Josh reached an arm out and began feeling around for
the phone.  He peered cautiously over the top of the desk, his eyes barely
showing, and snagged the phone, dragging it down into the darkness with him.
"H-hello?" Josh stuttered into the phone.  He nearly dropped it at the
volume of the voice on the other end.  "Oh Mr. President, it's you, Sir.
Yes, I was just- no, no!  Honestly!  I mean, I was just finishing something
with- uh huh, yes, Sir, that's exactly who- and I was heading right over
now.  Yes, CJ is right here with me- actually, Sir, she's just hanging out;
she told me to take my time, not to rush.  Yes, it's all CJ's fault."  The
receiver was suddenly ripped from his hand.
CJ towered above Josh, glaring at him.  She put the phone to her ear.
"Hello, Mr. President.  We're coming right over now.  We'll be there in two
seconds.  Uh huh- we'll do that.  Bye, Sir."  She hung the phone up and
grinned evilly down at Josh.
He stared up at her nervously from where he was curled up beneath his desk.
  "Hiya, CJ."
"Hello, Josh," she snickered.  "Well, since you were so nice to blame
everything on me, you're going to the staff meeting.  Now."
Josh blanched.  "But-"
"Josh, I don't want to hear it.  Now, stand up, front and center."
"You can't make me."
CJ began to bend towards him, her arms ready to yank him out from under his
desk.
"WAIT!!!  Wait, CJ- ha ha I was kidding!!!" Josh yelled, whacking his head
against the underside of his desk as he tried to escape her hands.
"Then come out of there.  We have a staff meeting to go to."
"You wouldn't happen to want to, uh, lend me your coat, would you?"
"No."
Josh sighed resignedly.  "Didn't think so."  He pulled himself out from
under his desk and grabbed his soggy tie, lying in a small pungent heap on
his desk.  Glaring at CJ, he wrapped it around his neck, tied it, and
smoothed it down.
CJ smirked at him.  "If you think that's going to help you keep your
dignity, you're more deluded than I thought."
Josh ignored her and walked over to a mass of files he had stacked on the
floor.  He grimly picked them up one by one until they completely hid the
front of his chest.
"Go Harvard," he muttered with a determined look on his face.  Then, he
stepped out the door, straining as he carried the files, CJ trailing after
him with an amused expression on her face.
Josh speed walked all the way to the meeting with, surprisingly, no
embarrassing encounters.  Still, he dreaded having to explain to the senior
staff why it was that he was half-naked.
He stopped in front of the door to the meeting and grimaced.  He began to
draw his ego around him like a cloak.  "No sweat," he said to himself.  "If
you don't *act* embarrassed, you can't *be* embarrassed."
CJ stopped behind him and poked him in the back, laughing.  "Problem,
Josh?"
"No, and stop doing that.  Your nails are making me itchy."
CJ snickered.
Josh took a deep breath and nudged the door open with one foot.
"And so," the President was saying as Josh entered the room, "if you know
where to look, the rare bird with the Latin name WHAT THE *HELL*?!" he gaped
at his Deputy Chief of Staff standing in the doorway, obviously half nude
and obviously endeavoring not to appear so.
Josh took that as his cue.  With poise, grace, and dignity, he walked
inside, head held high.  And, had he been looking down, he perhaps would
have seen the chair leg before he tripped over it.
With a cry, Josh went sprawling onto the floor, files flying out of his
hands.  The senior staff ran for cover from the sudden landslide of paper
and folders.  Amidst it all, Josh lay with his face pressed against the
carpet, wishing he could suffocate himself to death.
When the chaos finally ended, the Secret Service had the door kicked in and
they were running about the room with their guns drawn.  Several of them
were piled on top of the President, guarding him from whatever it was that
had caused the commotion.
Josh continued to lie on the carpet, banging his head against the floor.
"Why me?  Why me?" he moaned.
The senior staff got up carefully, all very confused.  The President lay
beneath the pileup of Secret Service Agents, laughing his head off.  "Okay,
guys," he chuckled, despite the fact that he was losing whatever precious
air he had, "you can get off now- thank you.  Sorry about the trouble, it's
nothing.  False alarm.  You can all go back to your posts."  He climbed to
his feet, his face red from laughing.
Meanwhile, the rest of the senior staff was gathered in a shocked circle
around Josh, who was trying to pretend he was part of the carpet, and
therefore invisible.
Leo, surprisingly, was the first one to laugh.  As he lost control, the
rest of them began to as well, all throwing back their heads and giving
voice to their humor.  Even Toby was chuckling with tears in his eyes.
Oddly, though, Sam stood apart from the group, staring at Josh with a pale
face.  Had anyone been looking, they would have noticed him trembling.
Josh sighed at his colleagues gathered around him like laughing buzzards.
He didn't notice Sam's absence from the crowd.
"Guys, please," Josh groaned.  "Not now.  I am having, like, the *worst*
day of my life."
They ignored him and continued to laugh.  Toby and CJ collapsed into
chairs, laughing so hard that tears streamed down their cheeks.
Leo managed to make it over to the couch, where the President was sprawled.
  Together, the two friends laughed until they couldn't breathe.
Josh got to his feet, trying to glower at everyone at once.  "It's not
funny!!!" he insisted.
Finally, the President regained control of himself.  "Okay, everybody,
okay.  I think poor Josh has had enough."  He chuckled a final time, then
cleared his throat, turning to Josh.  Laughter still danced in his eyes.
"Josh, you care to explain what happened?"
"No, Sir," Josh said miserably.  "Actually, I think I'm just going to
return to my office and hang myself with my tie."
"C'mere, Josh," President Bartlet said, patting the open space next to him
on the couch.  "Charlie?" he bellowed.
Charlie quickly entered the room.  He gaped at Josh, then forced himself to
look at the President and pretend that nothing was wrong.  "Sir?"
"Could you go to the Residence and pick up one of my shirts?"
"Yes, Sir."  The door closed behind the aid.
Josh dropped onto the sofa beside the President, head in hands.  He grabbed
a pillow and clutched it, trying to hide his exposed skin.  "I don't think I
can ever come to work again.  Sir, can I resign?"
Jed just chuckled and slapped Josh on the back.  "No, Josh.  Besides, I
think this adds a little flair to the meeting.  It was getting pretty dull
until you showed up."
"Yeah, I'll bet," Josh muttered into his palms.
CJ snickered loudly.
A knock came on the door.  Charlie entered a second after, a pressed white
shirt in his hands.  "I believe this is for you?" he asked Josh, his face
carefully neutral.
Josh snatched the shirt and pulled it on, his expression desperate.
"Thank you, Mr. President," Bartlet intoned sarcastically.
"Uh, yeah," Josh said hastily, "thank you, Sir."  He shoved his
coffee-smelling tie into one of his pockets.
"No thanks necessary," Jed said, sitting back with a mischievous grin.  He
addressed the rest of the staff with a twinkle in his eyes.  "Anyway, as we
were saying, we're going to arrange a trip to California- Toby, Josh, Sam,
and CJ, I want you guys on that.  Leo and I will stay back and hold things
down over here."  His face broke into a grin.  "Now, that said, after what's
been going on, I think you'll all agree with me when I say that there's no
way we're going to get through a regular staff meeting now.  And, as Josh is
fully clothed, I believe it's safe to say you're all dismissed."
Everyone stood up at once and grinned at the President as they left.  The
respectful "Sir" that they directed at Bartlet as they left seemed to hold
more repressed laughter in it than usual.  Sam followed them out
inconspicuously.
Josh sighed; the President's shirt flapped on him like a large sail as he
stood to follow the rest of the staff out of the room.  "I'm never going to
live this down," he moaned.
***

"Josh?"  Sam knocked gently on the Deputy Chief of Staff's open door.
"What?"  Josh continued to read the stack of papers on his desk.
"We gotta go to California for the thing, okay?  Leo just wanted me to give
you a heads up."
"You mean that thing from last week?  The thing the President was talking
about at the meeting?" Josh asked, scribbling notes on one of the margins.
"Yeah.  So you better be packed and everything by tomorrow.  Plane leaves
at eleven."
"Okay- morning or night?"
"Night.  Saves time."
Josh looked up for the first time.  "It saves us time flying at night?"
"Well, time-wise, no.  But efficiency-wise, yes."
"What are you babbling about?"  Josh was examining Sam shrewdly even as
they talked.  He noticed his friend seemed different somehow; the old Sam
spark of innocence and bliss was dulled.  His concern began to turn into
worry.
"Time-wise," Sam was explaining without his usual flair, "meaning in actual
hours and minutes, the flight isn't shorter than it would be if we take it
in the morning.  But efficiency-wise, we save time: if we fly in the
morning, we waste a whole day in the air and can't get as much done as if we
spent it, say, in the office; however, if we fly at night, when we're
supposed to be sleeping, we will have spent the entire day being efficient
in the office, and so can afford to be in the air at night wasting time
flying to California."  He finished without a smile.
"Ah."  Josh shook his head and went back to his stack of papers.  "If you
say so."
"Oh- and we got another meeting in five."
"I know."
"Just telling you, y'know, in case you forgot," Sam said.  He shuffled his
feet distractedly.
"Uh huh."  Josh raised an eyebrow at Sam.  "Was there anything else you
wanted?"  He gave Sam his best 'I look busy but I'm really not' look.  It
seemed to be the only way to make Sam talk about whatever was bothering him
sometimes.
"No, not really.  Just-" Sam stopped short and sighed.
"What?"  Josh looked up again from his pile of papers.  'Here we go,' he
thought to himself.  He leaned back in his chair and gave Sam his full
attention.
"It's just...well..."
"C'mon, spit it out."
Sam attempted a smile.  "I'm glad you're okay, that's all."
Josh stared at him; he had been prepared for Sam to say any number of
things, but this had definitely not even crossed his mind.  He tried to
refocus his thoughts.  "Sam, the Newseum- that was almost a year ago."
"Yeah, I know," Sam said softly.
"Why are you thinking about it now?"
"I never stopped," Sam admitted in a quiet voice.  "And when you came to
the meeting today, I saw it.  Your scar."  He was shaking.
Josh got up from his chair and closed the door.
Sam continued speaking, not facing his friend.  "It's just that we never
got around to talking about it.  I mean, we're always so busy here, and
stuff always has to be done, but..." he trailed off uncomfortably.
"It's okay, Sam."  Josh put his arm around his friend's shoulders.
"No it's not, Josh.  Maybe everyone else has coped with it, but I sure as
hell haven't.  All this time I've just been pushing it to the back of my
mind.  But I can't anymore.  There are things I need to tell you."  He
brushed a finger against his eye; Josh became alarmed when he realized Sam
was crying.
"I'm right here, Sam," Josh said quietly.  "Say whatever you need to; I
understand."
Sam drew a deep breath as if preparing to read a sermon or a eulogy.
"You're my best friend.  After I almost lost you, I got so scared that I
just froze up.  For months.  I used work to hide my fear and to run from
facing the fact that my best friend nearly died.  I wanted to pretend like
it never happened.  But I can't pretend anymore.  It just hurts too much
inside."  He sniffled and a tear rolled down his face.
Josh wrapped him in a hug.  "Sam, it's going to be alright.  I'm alive.
And I know, Sam.  I know that you care- you don't have to say it.  I already
know."
Sam shook his head and cried into Josh's shoulder.  "I'm sorry, Josh.  I
avoided you for such a long time.  I always found a way to skirt the issue
and make it so I never would have to confront you about what happened.  I
was just so scared that talking to you about it- telling you how much losing
you would have affected me- would make it real.  I wanted so badly to
forget.  But I can't anymore.  I can't keep on pretending."  He pulled away
from Josh and forced himself to look his friend in the eyes.  "I've spent
awhile reevaluating my life and the people in it.  I realize that life is
really too short not to tell people you care.  So I want to tell you now,
Josh: I love you.  And when I saw you in that emergency room with your blood
everywhere, and I thought you were going to die, I couldn't take it.  Just
the thought of losing the one person I love like a brother killed me.  I
have never cried more in my entire life than I did that week."  Sam
carefully wiped away his tears and struggled to regain control of his
emotions.  When he finally looked back up at Josh, he seemed subdued, as if
he had reached a shaky peace.  A small smile passed over his face and he
whispered, "I just needed you to know that."
Josh hugged Sam tightly and a tear escaped from his eye.  "Thank you."
***

Donna sat in Josh's chair and leaned back.  The door was closed and she was
alone.
Josh had gone out to lunch with Sam; they both looked like they needed to
talk.
Donna absentmindedly stroked the shirt in her lap.  She'd washed it as
carefully and quickly as humanly possible, yet Josh had left before she'd
returned.  She'd later heard from CJ that he had gone to the staff meeting
wearing just his pants and a tie.  Donna shook her head as a smile crept
onto her face.  Josh could be so brazenly audacious sometimes that she
wondered about him.  And he did look good without a shirt...his lean body
and smooth skin, the way his muscles seemed to...Donna shook her head.  No
no no, she was *definitely* not going to go there.
Still, she'd never seen him with his shirt completely off before, and it
had sent shivers running up and down her spine.  Quickly, though, the smile
fled from her face.  She was remembering his scar- how it had stood out like
a large slice across the lower half of his body.  She had almost lost it
there in his office, in front of him- she had felt the tears prickling at
the corners of her eyes, making everything blur, including his concerned
face.  After that, she'd left the room nearly at a run, hoping to get away
from Josh before the first tear fell.
In retrospect, she still didn't understand why she'd reacted so badly to
seeing his scar.  She supposed that for some reason, she illogically had
thought the mark had gone away; that it had healed completely over time,
leaving no trace.  Boy had she been wrong.
Donna berated herself for being so stupid and so na´ve.  "Idiot," she
seethed to herself, "what did you expect?  That he had somehow drank from
the Holy Grail like in Indiana Jones and that the scar had magically
disappeared?"  She pounded her fist against the white shirt.  "Donnatella
Moss, you are such an idiot!!!"
Donna sighed and tried to regain control of herself.
Her mind meandered into another issue that had attracted her attention for
the past week or so.  She swiveled in the chair so that she faced the
window.  Somehow, she always thought better that way.
"Why does he always look at me?" she asked aloud, her voice quiet in the
room.  She hugged the shirt to her chest and frowned.  She'd noticed Josh
watching her for awhile now- not in the old way that he used to, but new, as
if he was seeing her for the first time.  She didn't know what to make of
that.  Every time she tried to catch his gaze, he would turn away and
pretend he had been looking at something else.  She even wondered if he
himself realized what he was doing.
Donna rolled her eyes.  No, he probably didn't realize it.  "It's Josh,
after all," she mumbled.  "My socially oblivious, genius of a boss."
She sighed in frustration.  She really didn't know how she felt about him
looking at her all the time.  Some treacherous part of her mind whispered to
her that she liked it.
Donna blushed and stifled a giggle.  "Yeah, I guess I do like it," she
finally admitted with a wide grin.
"Like what?" a voice asked.
Donna yelped and fell out of the chair.  She leapt to her feet and spun
around to face Josh, a smile as big as the Cheshire cat's on his face.
"Nothing!" she yelled.  "And don't you dare sneak up on me like that,
Joshua!!!"
Josh leaned against the doorway and scoffed.  "May I remind you that this
is my office."
"So?"
"So it is entirely natural for me to enter it without knocking or otherwise
announcing my presence.  I am totally blameless."
"Right, Josh.  If there's one thing I've learned, it's that the words
'politician' and 'blameless' can never be seriously linked.  Especially with
you."
"Thanks, Donna, I'm touched."  Josh made a face at her.  "But really, what
were you thinking about?"
"Mind your own business, Josh," she said airily.
He grinned at her rakishly.  "You know me better than that."
"Ah, yes, I'm afraid so."
Donna suddenly felt tense.  He was looking at her in 'that way' again.  His
face was pensive and his eyes were slightly wary, yet undeniably curious.
His mouth was creased into a thoughtful smile, almost as if he was in the
middle of a problem that he couldn't quite figure out.
"What's wrong?" she asked softly, feeling that if she spoke too loudly she
would frighten him.
Josh shook himself and the intensely inquisitive expression disappeared.
"Nothing."
Donna decided to get straight to the point.  "Why were you looking at me
like that?"
"Like what?  I wasn't looking at you."
Donna studied him for awhile before carefully saying, "Yes, Josh, you
were."
Josh raised his eyebrows.  "I wasn't.  I don't know what you're talking
about."
Donna looked at him closely.  He seemed too confused to be lying through
his teeth.  "You know, I really think you don't."
"No," he said with exaggerated patience.
She frowned at him and sighed loudly.  "Never mind, Josh.  Just never
mind."
"Okay."  He still looked monumentally confused.  "Anyway, Donna; we- Toby,
Sam, CJ, and me- are going to California tomorrow to do the thing for the
President.  You're coming, too."
"I am?"
"Yes."
"And it never crossed your little brain to *ask* me first?  Perhaps I have
plans."
"Donna, this is for *work*.  It's not optional."
"Why do I have to come?  Are Bonnie and Ginger coming?  Is Margaret
coming?"
Josh rolled his eyes.  "Consider yourself privileged.  You're the only
one."
Donna pouted.  "Then why me?  I could be more useful here, running your
office like I always do.  It wouldn't fall apart without you, but it'd
definitely fall apart without me."
Josh laughed.  "Yeah, right."  As Donna began to protest again, Josh cut
her off.  "No arguing, Donna.  Plane leaves at eleven.  Now, out of my
office.  I have important work to do."  He began shooing her out.
"But- Josh- wait-"
Josh shut the door in her face.
Donna huffed as she came face-to-face with wood.  He had actually closed
the door on her!  Donna muttered under her breath as she headed back to her
desk.  That hadn't been necessary.  It was almost like Josh was afraid he
couldn't give her a valid answer as to why she had to go with him to
California.
Then it hit her.
Josh had closed the door in her face *exactly* because he hadn't had a
valid answer as to why she had to go with him to California.
She grinned stupidly.
Josh wanted her there.
It had nothing to do with needing her help for work.
He really *wanted* her to be there with him.
Donna sat down in her chair with a thoughtful expression on her face.
This was definitely an interesting development.
She grinned and looked at Josh's closed door.
Definitely interesting.
***

At seven o'clock, Josh pulled up in front of his apartment.  He made a
break for the door as rain began to fall.
He trudged up the stairs, contemplating how nice it was to actually see
them.  Usually, he got home way past twelve, when it was impossible to make
out the steps, let alone ascend without major bodily harm.  But today he
could actually see them.  He silently thanked Leo for dismissing- no,
ordering- everyone home so they could pack and rest.  Even though that meant
they would all be expected to get to work tomorrow at six, it was still
worth it.
Josh dropped his bag on a chair and took off the shirt the President had
lent him.  He sighed and shook his head.  This was definitely one of the
worst days of his career.  What would his dad have said if he'd found out
his son had attended a staff meeting wearing only a tie around his neck?
Josh chuckled.  His dad would've freaked.
Josh slipped on a t-shirt and curled up on the window ledge.
He looked at the rain running down his window.  He drew his woolen blanket
closer and shivered.
Across the street, a couple was kissing beneath an umbrella.  He could see
the woman smiling as she snuggled closer to her lover.  For some indefinable
reason, it almost physically hurt Josh to watch them.  He absently noticed
that the woman, with her long blond hair, reminded him of Donna.
He pressed his fingers against the glass, running them lightly over the
water tracks left by the rain.  He imagined what it would feel like to be
out there in the storm, surrounded by cold and rain, yet strangely warm
because of a woman's presence at his side.
Josh blinked when a rather obvious revelation hit him.
"I'm lonely," he said in wonder.
He leaned his head against the windowsill.  "I'm lonely," he repeated into
the silence of his room.  Somehow, voicing the words made him accept them
better.
"Why am I lonely?" he asked himself.  "Well, maybe it's because I have no
life.  I lack real human interaction."
Then he realized that he was talking to himself.
"I'm going crazy," he sighed, shaking his head.  He turned back to watch
the couple outside.  The man was talking to the woman, and she was laughing
in reaction to whatever it was he was saying.  "What I wouldn't give..."
Josh whispered without thinking.
The couple began to walk further down the street.  They walked with the
slow, euphoric pace that two people in love moved in- a pace that set them
aside from every other human being in the area.  To them, they could be
alone for all they cared.
Josh shook his head.  "No," he reprimanded himself loudly.  "You're not
going to do that again, Lyman.  Don't you remember..."  He trailed off,
unable even to voice his feelings to himself.  *Don't you remember what it
feels like to have your heart broken?* his thoughts completed.
"All too damn well," he sighed.
But the crazy thing was that he remembered everything- what it was like to
be in love.  The absolute bliss and even- especially- the heartbreak.  It
came together like a package; you couldn't have one, it seemed, without the
other.  And Josh wanted the first so badly.
He wanted to feel again the sensation of waking up in the morning with a
smile, lying against the sheets thinking about the woman he loved, knowing
he would see her that day, everything in him aching, dreaming, and planning
for that moment.  Or, maybe she was even there when he awoke, nestled
against him making him shiver with memories of the night before.  He would
look at her for as long as time permitted, his gaze resting on her face, the
way she breathed, the gentle curves of her body; then he would slide slowly
out of bed, dress, and quietly leave, smiling at her one last time before he
closed the door; he would drive to work with traces of her clinging to him,
and begin counting the seconds until he could see her again.
        He wanted to feel like he was untouchable again; like no matter what
he said or did at work, whether he royally messed up or insulted the wrong
people, he could in a moment rise above it all.  He could pretend, at least
to himself, that he wasn't Joshua Lyman, egotistical political ace and
renowned hothead who took his job in his hands every time he opened his
mouth; instead, he could be simply a man - a man with someone special who
loved him.
        Donna's face drifted into his thoughts.  Her thin lips, her wide,
gorgeous eyes- the smile she had on her face when they playfully bantered.
Josh blinked.  Where had that come from?  Sure, he spent lots of time with
his assistant, but he'd never really liked her more than a friend.  He
frowned.  It didn't make sense.  Why, when he was depressed and lonely and
wishing he could have a girlfriend again, did he think of Donna?
        It was an unsettling thought.
        "Well, for supposition's sake," Josh said aloud, "let's just say I
did go out with Donnatella.  Donna.  Yes, okay; well, so what?  She isn't
the most confident or endearing of women.  But she does have spunk and
brains and she's beautiful.  Wait now.  Did I just call Donna beautiful?"
Josh shook his head.  "What the hell is going on?"
He sighed, frustrated.  Since when did he start noticing Donna as more than
an employee?  "Since forever," a sarcastic voice muttered treacherously in
his mind.  Josh ignored it.  No, he was really sure he'd never been
interested in Donna; and he still wasn't.  He didn't have the strange
feeling he got when he pursued, say, Joey Lucas, or Mandy- the agitated,
jittery feeling that he was about to plunge into something that practically
scared him to death.  No, that was obviously lacking.
        "How do I feel about her, then?" he asked.  He thought for a long
moment.  "Well, I'm comfortable around her, she's like a little
sister...wait, eww.  No way, not like a little sister.  She's more of a
woman, a not-bad-looking woman, who handles my schedule and makes sure I
don't get fired.  She tells me inane trivia and ensures I don't sleep at the
office every night.  She brings me lunch and answers my phone, and when I
was in the hospital she took care of me.  She...she's amazing."  Josh said
the last sentence in a rush, his eyes opening in shock.  "I have a crush on
Donna!" he yelped.
        Then he took a calming breath.  "No, I don't."  He shook his head
emphatically.  "Donna is just my assistant and my friend.  That's all she
will ever be.  I refuse to get into another bad relationship that will only
end in our friendship dissolving."  He bit his lip.  "I don't like
Donnatella Moss."  He knew just by the way he said it that he was trying to
convince himself.  He groaned.  That meant he probably did like her.  "Well,
maybe...maybe we have a chance.  If I try..."  He lost himself in memories.
Joey Lucas, Mandy, and a half dozen other women drifted before his eyes.  He
remembered drinking or crying over each of them when he was alone, after
either he'd broken it up, or she had; each time, the pain never dulled.  All
he was ever left with were bittersweet memories and heartbreak.  He'd never
regained his friendship with any of them.
        Josh shook his head and wrapped the blanket around himself.  Who was
he kidding?  Sure, relationships were wonderful- but they never stayed that
way.  His problem was that he remembered the heartache and the gnawing,
gaping pain all too well.  It had happened so many times that he was afraid
to count them.  "Don't ride the roller coaster if you can't take the drop,"
he reminded himself sternly, using a phrase someone had once told him.  "And
you can't take it," he sighed.  "Not just yet."

End Part 1

 

 

 

 

 

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