West Wing Fanfic
"Electricity, Chemistry, and Zing" by Isabel
Spoilers: A bunch of references; takes place after between The Leadership Breakfast and The Drop-In
Summary: Sam helps Josh realize something, Josh puts his foot in his mouth, and eventually, a new relationship blossoms
Disclaimers: These characters do not belong to me, nor will they ever. I'm simply borrowing them for some much-needed extra-curricular activities
"Donna!" Nothing. "Donna!!!" Silence. "DONATELLA MOSS!"
"What, Joshua?" she asked exasperatedly.
"I've been calling you for ten minutes," I exaggerated.
"Most doubtful," she said with a sigh.
"Okay, maybe five minutes," I conceded. "But still, why were you ignoring me?"
"I wasn't ignoring you, Josh, I was otherwise occupied."
"With what?" By now, I was fully aware of the whine creeping into my tone, but I was tired and hungry and I'd been here since six in the morning, damnit.
"I was in the ladies' room."
"And whatever you were doing took five minutes?" I paused, noticing for the first time that she had changed out of her suit and was wearing jeans and a sweater set. "Where are you going?"
"A date, Joshua. I said I needed to leave at eight."
"Yeah but you didn't say it was for a date. Why not?"
"Well, the level of interest you take in the revolving door of local Gomers I see is minimal, to put it mildly. Besides, my small sense of self-worth thought it'd be best to keep it quiet."
I was speechless a rare event, believe me.
"So, Spencer is waiting," she continued, looking at her watch. "I really have to get going."
"I've been seeing him for a few weeks. He's nice; he's a veterinarian."
"Umm... okay. Have a good time."
"I'll try," she said, a smile finally crossing her face. "Don't work too hard; I'll see you tomorrow."
"Okay. Have fun with Spencer."
"You bet." She turned and left, stopping briefly to pick up her bag and coat. Spencer? When did Spencer happen? Spencer the veterinarian? Why hadn't Donna told me about Spencer the veterinarian?
'You know why, Josh Lyman,' my brain scolded. 'You'd say something that would make her feel bad and/or insecure, and she'd never be happy in the relationship. Do you really blame her for not advertising her dates with this guy?'
'Yes!' my inner monologue screamed. 'She's Donnatella, she tells me everything!'
'Not that you listen to or support her romantic life,' I chided myself.
I dropped my head in my hands. Why the hell did I have such weird reactions to Donna's love life or lack thereof (cruel, but true). I needed a second opinion.
Gathering up my sense of self-worth, I walked across the bullpen to Sam's office and knocked twice.
"Yeah," came a tired voice.
"Hey, Sam," I said, unceremoniously dropping into a chair.
"Jesus, Josh, you look exhausted."
"I am exhausted. Look, I need to talk to you. You're a smart guy, and you're an impartial observer to my actions."
"As impartial as a best friend can be expected to be."
"Right." I sighed and ran a hand through my messy brown hair. "Donna had a date tonight."
"Good for her."
"She's been seeing this guy for a few weeks apparently."
"Again, good for her."
"I just found out about this guy tonight. His name is Spencer."
"Spencer the veterinarian. That sounds like someone from a soap opera or something."
"Josh, I hope this is going somewhere, because I gotta get this draft done before Toby draws and quarters me."
"Sam, did you hear me?! I just found out about this guy tonight, but they've been seeing each other for a few weeks. Why didn't she tell me?"
"Because the last time she had a date, you were a total jerk," he said bluntly. "You said something about her need to be coupled and how it might doom whatever relationship "
"I know," I groused. "Believe me, I remember."
"I'm just saying that I can understand why she might not want to broadcast her relationship with Spencer the veterinarian."
I rubbed my eyes tiredly. "I don't understand why I react this way when she gets into relationships. She supports me. I should support her."
"Yeah, you should. I mean, I support Cathy in her romantic escapades. You tend to prevent Donna from having romantic escapades."
"See, that's my question, Sam: why do I do that?"
"You don't want her to have a successful relationship with a guy."
"But there's no reason for me to do that. I mean, she's one of my closest friends. I want her to be happy."
"Just not with someone like Spencer the veterinarian."
"Well that doesn't make sense; I've never met this guy. I don't know what he's like."
"You don't think he's right for Donna. Because you think you know who's right for her."
"What are you saying?" I asked, shifting uncomfortably in the chair.
"Josh, just between us: the Fulbright scholarship and the 760 verbal are both lies, right? I mean you're so goddamned dense. You don't want Donna to date Spencer because he's not you."
I nearly fell out of the chair. "WHAT?!!!!"
"You're desperately trying to sabotage every relationship she has so that eventually you'll be the only guy left for her to be with."
"You're in love with Donna, pal o' mine, and you should do something about it before you really screw up with an insult and she hates you."
"I am not in love with my assistant," I protested vehemently.
"Look me in the eye and say that you don't love her."
"As a friend, Sam, nothing more."
"She bugs the hell out of me."
"You love that she bugs the hell out of you. The two of you act like an old married couple. Admit it you're in love with her."
"Denial is not an attractive trait, my friend."
"That's a fancy word for delusional."
"Josh, I'm trying to help you here."
"Even if I was in love with her which I do not grant it would never work. I mean, we work in the White House, for starters. It could become a scandal."
"For God sakes, I hugged a call girl, and very little came out of that!"
"Then there's Leo's problems with office romance."
"I think he'd be happy for you."
"The age difference would be a problem too. I'm twelve years older than she is."
"My father is nine years older than my mother and they've been married for forty years. Age doesn't matter when you have what you and Donna have."
"What do we have?" I asked confusedly.
"Electricity. Chemistry. Zing. Whatever you want to call it."
"You're crazy, Sam," I laughed, standing up.
"Think about it, Josh. Who always makes you feel better whether you're tense about a Congressional vote or you're in pain from your surgery? Why do you suppose the closest thing you've had to a relationship since meeting Donna was Mandy, which was an unmitigated disaster? Why do you always smile when she spouts off inane trivia? You're completely in love with Donna Moss, Josh."
I closed my eyes. "I don't think so." My words were an attempt to convince myself as much as Sam.
"Okay," he shrugged. "You asked for my thoughts on the matter."
"Yeah. Well, thanks," I said with a halting laugh.
"Anytime, Josh. Good night."
"Yeah, good night, Sam."
I didn't get to sleep until two that morning, although I tried to convince myself that my insomnia was work-related. Of course work meant Donna, and... Jesus, was Sam right? Did I love her? I mean, love her like that?
It's been three years; shouldn't I have noticed by now if I had feelings for her?
Does she have feelings for me? She was just being a good friend when she took me to the hospital after the broken window fiasco, right? She was just being a good friend when she hugged me last Christmas, right? And when she kept vigil like a hawk during my recovery? Of course. I mean, this is the woman who told me to gather my rosebuds with Joey Lucas. She's fine with my dating other women; in fact she encourages it.
Toby had told me after I returned to work how Donna reacted when he told her that I'd been hit. At first, she didn't understand, but then, apparently, she clapped her hand over her mouth and had to prevent herself from sobbing. Toby remarked that he almost hugged her she looked so forlorn. I guess she had to be pretty forlorn for the great Toby Ziegler to nearly be moved to a display of affection.
But she was forlorn because I was her friend. She didn't want to lose our friendship. I mean, there was nothing else to lose; we were and are 'just friends.' Not that we have an ordinary friendship. She is my rock. My source of comfort, strength, exasperation, and laughter. My advisor. My... my Donnatella.
There it was. The truth I had been denying for three years to myself and to everyone else: I want her to be mine not only professionally and platonically, but in a deeper sense, as well. I love her. Holy shit, I'm in love with her.
'Okay, that's enough revelations for one night, Josh,' I said to myself. 'Time for sleep.'
Sleep did not come easily, but it eventually got the better of me. It was not a good dream. I dreamed Donna came into the office saying that she was in love with Spencer the veterinarian. Then I made a nasty crack and she quit her job. I haven't had a nightmare that scary since I was eight-years-old.
I got to work early the next morning, and I was relieved to see that I had beat Donna into the office. On my door, there was a Post-It note bearing the message "Take the bull by the horns". Immediately I recognized Sam's handwriting and rolled my eyes, not admitting that he was right.
Before Donna got into work, I went over to her desk and placed a Three Musketeers bar with a red ribbon on her desk. Cheesy, but I know it's her favorite candy bar, and I know red is her favorite color. If she asks, I'll deny everything. I can do that pretty well; I'm in politics.
She finally breezed into the office with a smile on her face so wide that I could almost feel it beaming through the halls.
"Coming," she called. She walked in with a folder and grinned. "Good morning, Josh."
"Good morning," I said with no small measure of trepidation. Why was she so happy? Was it because of him?
"You have an eleven-o'clock meeting with Worthington from the FDA and a one-o'clock with Congressman Neal in the Mural Room. Plus, Staff in five minutes."
She was unbearably cheery. "Donna, what's gotten into you?"
"Well, someone left a candy bar on my desk, which was sweet," she said, giving no indication that she suspected me as the culprit.
"If that's all it takes to cheer you up in the mornings, I should give you one every day," I said, only half-joking.
She made an adorable face and stuck out her tongue. "Very funny, Joshua."
"Thank you Donnatella."
"Yup. Hey, do you know that there are over forty Catholic saints named Felix?"
"I'm Jewish, Donna, I don't pay much attention to studying Christian saints."
"You mean hagiography."
"Hagiography. The study of saints and other holy persons. There are extensive books on the subject, including an excellent old one by Sabine Baring-Gould "
"Donna, you're not Catholic either."
"I'm expanding my intellectual horizons."
"You do that then," I said with a laugh.
"You've got Staff now," she reminded me."
"Yeah, okay. Hey, Donna, walk with me," I said grinning as I put my suit jacket on again.
"Mm-hmm." She walked step-in-step with me, rattling on about the fact that Saint Sebastian was probably martyred by stones, not arrows, as is commonly believed. 'She's too much,' I thought to myself.
"Hey, Donna, why are you really so cheerful this morning?" I wasn't sure I wanted to hear the answer to my question.
"I had an amazing time last night."
"With Spencer the veterinarian?"
"Yes," she said. Then I swear she giggled. "He's really great. He's taking me to lunch today after he picks me up at the office. You'll get to meet him."
I stopped dead in my tracks. "The office?"
"Yeah," she said with a furrow in her brow. "Why?"
"Donna, this is a place for work, not where your current boy-toy picks you up."
She rolled her eyes. "Josh, he's not a boy-toy. I think this could be serious."
My heart contracted painfully. "Don't get your hopes up. When you get hurt, I don't want it to be too badly."
As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I wanted to take them back.
"When I get hurt?" she repeated in a frighteningly soft voice. Not saying another word, she turned on her heel and walked back to her desk.
"Hey, why are you just standing in the middle of the hall?"
"Oh, sorry, CJ. I was just lost in thought for a moment."
When I went back to my office, there was no sign of Donna. In a way, I was glad for her absence. Frankly, I was terrified of facing her after the idiotic things I had said. Although Donna wasn't there, Sam was, sitting on my couch.
I jumped, not seeing him. "Jesus, Sam, did anyone ever tell you you have stealth capabilities?"
"Very funny. Did you get my note? I wasn't going to ask you during the Staff meeting, cause if an explanation was demanded, it could get sticky."
"It's already sticky." I closed the door.
I dropped down on the couch next to him. "She said that she's serious about this guy."
"Spencer the veterinarian?"
"Yeah," I replied, wincing. "I told her not to get her hopes up."
"I said I didn't want her to get hurt too badly. Basically, I implied that it was inevitably going to end."
"Well, that was smooth."
"Tell me about it.
"Did you think about what I said last night?"
"You were right."
"You'll finally admit that you're in love with her."
"You have to say it, Josh."
"I'm in love with Donna."
"Attaboy." He slapped my knee and stood up. "Best of luck getting your foot out of your mouth."
"Thanks, I'll need it."
Sam left my office and I shook my head. Just once, just once, I'd like to have an easy relationship. Of course, that may be a contradiction in terms. But this could work, Donna and me. I mean, first she has to forgive me, which will not be quick, I can assure you.
About five minutes later, Donna walked back into my office with a file. "Here's the notes you needed for the Worthington meeting, Joshua."
She was calling me Joshua. This was not good.
"Look Donna "
"Don't, okay? Just don't."
"Sure. You're the boss," I said with a feeble attempt to make her laugh. My efforts were in vain. Instead of laughing, she looked like she was on the verge of tears.
"You know, you can be a real jerk, Josh." Clearing her throat, she turned and left my office, closing the door behind her.
'Maybe this wasn't a good idea,' my brain nagged. 'After this she could get really pissed off. Although she's already really pissed off, so what do I have to lose?'
"Hello?" she answered after two rings.
"Did I wake you?"
A long pause. "No, you didn't. Even though it's after eleven. What do you want Josh?" Her voice was stiff, and I could practically see the small worry lines on her forehead.
"I want to talk to you."
"Go ahead, then."
"No, in person. I'm outside your building; can I come up?" She let out a long breath, and I could hear her sniffling. "Donna are you crying?"
"Yes!" she half-shouted.
Oh, God, I made her cry. I am such an asshole. "Can I please come up?"
"Okay, fine. But tomorrow you're bringing me a donut at work."
"Deal." She buzzed me in and I ran up to the second floor two stairs at a time.
Her apartment door was open and she was waiting in the doorframe for me, her arms wrapped protectively around herself. Even though it was a cold night it was, after all, January she was only wearing a very long 'Bartlet For America' tee shirt.
"Josh, what do you want to talk about?"
"Well, whatever it is, I'd like to do it inside the apartment if that's okay."
She nodded and stepped aside, letting me into the large room that was a combination foyer, living room, and dining room. The apartment had one bedroom, a tiny bathroom, and a really tiny kitchen. Boxes were still unpacked; she had moved in just a few weeks ago after her roommate moved to Tennessee.
"You want to sit down? Or you want a drink?" Well, at least she was being hospitable.
"Um, I don't need a drink, thanks." I sat down on the couch and she joined me, tucking her right leg under her outstretched left one. "I wanted to apologize."
"It came out the wrong way, Donna, that's all. 'When' wasn't what I meant."
"Why not? Since I've met you I haven't been able to date anybody."
"Well, this Spencer guy... I hope you're happy dating him."
"I broke up with him."
"What? Why?" I hoped my voice didn't betray some of the joy I was feeling due to that news. "I thought you said it could be serious."
"Because you were right; it will end. I suck at relationships, Josh."
"Well, I don't help much."
"No, you don't," she agreed with a nod.
"I really want you to be happy, Donnatella."
"How do you define happy, Josh? Lonely? Tired? Desperate? Then I'm really happy, Josh, congratulations."
I winced. "You're not desperate, Donna."
"That's debatable. Why did you come here, Josh? To apologize? Well, apology accepted."
"I've been apologizing a lot lately, haven't I?"
"Yes." Her voice was cold.
"Okay." Not seeing the conversation looking up, I stood up and walked to her door.
"Why did you leave me a candy bar this morning? A preemptive apology?"
I turned around. "How did you know it was from me?" Smooth, Lyman. Don't deny it or anything.
"You used the same ribbon to wrap my Christmas present."
"Oh." I paused. My head was screaming, 'Get out now!' My heart was urging, 'Tell her. For God sakes, just tell her.'
"Josh?" She looked concerned. Apparently a few minutes had passed.
I sat down next to her again and closed my eyes. "Okay... it's kind of funny, actually. I don't know if it's funny like it's comical or like it's weird, but "
"You're rambling," she said gently. A smile had crossed her face, and I knew I was going to listen to my heart.
"Last night after you left, I went to talk to Sam. I asked him why he thought you hadn't told me about Spencer even though you'd been dating for a while. He said because if you mentioned him, I'd insult you."
"Yeah. Okay, Donna, do me a favor here don't interrupt me."
I took a deep breath. "So, I was asking him why I always reacted like I did. Basically, he said it was because I was and am jealous of any guy you date."
"Donna! Quiet, please!" Her eyes were incredibly wide, and I was unable to tell what emotion they expressed. "Yes, jealous. That was Sam's theory. I denied it, laughed at him, and told him he was delusional. I got home, and I couldn't sleep. You were all I could think about. All I could dream about. And it hit me, Donna Sam is right. He was also right about another aspect of his theory."
I sighed, not even caring that she had interrupted me. All I cared about was how she would react to what I was going to say next. "That I'm in love with you."
Silence hung in the room for a few minutes, and it seemed as if Donna hadn't blinked since I had made my declaration. "Donnatella?" I asked worriedly
She was snapped out of her trance and looked up at me quizzically. "Yeah?"
"Is this a sick joke?"
My heart fell. "No, it's not."
"Because if it is "
"For how long?"
"For how long what?" I asked confusedly.
"I been in love with you?" Her eyes widened again when I repeated my declaration. "Since you fast-talked your way into being my assistant three years ago at least subconsciously."
"Twenty-four hours, give or take," I said giving her a grin. She hadn't slapped me, or screamed, or ran to her bedroom, so this wasn't going so badly.
"Thanks to Sam?"
"Thanks to Sam," I echoed. When she remained quiet, I guided her head up and looked into her eyes. Usually I could read her like a book as she could with me but she had put on the best poker face I'd ever seen. "Okay, one of two things is going to happen here, Donna, and it's entirely your choice."
She nodded, assuring me that she hadn't slipped into a catatonic state. "What?" she whispered.
"We could talk about this, whether you want this, whether it would work I think it would and whatever else needs to be discussed."
I hoped to God that her simple question didn't indicate unwillingness to entertain the first possibility. "Or, I could get up, go home, come to work tomorrow, and we could pretend that this never happened. I guess a third option would be that you'd ask to be reassigned, but "
"I don't want to be reassigned," she said in a rush. "I love working for you."
I let out a breath. "Okay, that leaves us with two choices."
"What do you think we should do?"
"I know what I want."
Only Donna could drive me so crazy I'd start grinning like a fool. "I want you."
All of the emotion she had been suppressing since I walked into her apartment was released and she buried her head in her hands, crying. The only problem was I had no clue what emotion the tears represented.
"Donna?" She didn't respond. "Donna, c'mon, you're scaring me."
"I'm sorry," she sniffled, looking up at me again. "Josh, I "
"What do you want Donna? And if you say you don't want the kind of relationship I want I swear there will be no grudges, no hard feelings, and no pestering you to change your mind."
She bit her lip and the tears continued to flow freely. "You're really in love with me?"
"Have I ever lied to you before?"
She shook her head no. "Then believe me," I continued. "I not only love you, I'm in love with you, Donnatella Paris Moss."
"Josh, I..." Her voice died as she fought a new wave of tears. "I love you, too, Josh," she managed to say between sobs.
My heart skipped at least one beat. "What?" I wasn't sure I had heard right.
She wiped her eyes as the crying subsided and looked at me with the gentlest smile I had ever seen. "I love you too, Josh. I've always loved you."
I closed my eyes and found myself fighting my own emotions. "So," I said when I trusted my voice again. "I guess it'd be futile to pretend this never happened, huh?"
Donna laughed loudly, and I grinned at her. "Probably," she agreed. "So... where do we go from here?"
"Wherever you want," I said honestly. "I just want to be with you, I don't care about a certain timetable or "
"You just want us to start this new chapter in our relationship without damaging the others, namely our jobs and friendship," she finished. God, this woman was amazing. She could read my mind.
"Exactly," I said, my grin turning into a softer smile.
She returned the smile and took my hand. "Okay, you want my thoughts?"
"I meant what I said before that I've always loved you. The pace seems unimportant right now. Like you said, I just want to be with you. Let's have the pieces fall where they may."
"What are you saying?"
"Gather ye rosebuds, Joshua."
I laughed and looked at her sparkling blue eyes. "Interpreting the classics with poet laureate Donnatella Moss."
Her expression turned serious. "Take this time to gather rosebuds because you might not be able to later." I knew immediately she was referring to the shooting. Instinctively, I reached over and drew her into a gentle embrace. For a long while we sat there just studying each others' breathing patterns and reveling in the love and safety we found in each other.
When I finally shifted, she didn't, and I realized she had fallen asleep in my arms. Smiling, I carried her to her bedroom, thankful she was already in her night shirt. She sleepily protested my tucking her under the covers, although I don't think she was awake enough to know what was going on. For about five minutes, I sat there, and then I leaned in, kissed her forehead, and went home, thankful her apartment door could be locked from the inside.
I made sure to get to work early the next day so that I could leave Donna's requested donut on her desk before she arrived. Closing my door behind me, I had just started to think about what was ahead for us when there was a knock at my door.
The subject of my thoughts entered my office with a stack of folders and a smile. "Hey."
"Good morning. Hey, shut the door, Donna."
She did, and then sat down, her smile fading. "What is it?"
"Nothing bad, no, I just wanted to talk to you."
"Oh thank God," she said with a blush. "When you left a donut on my desk, I thought you had changed your mind and "
"You requested a donut last night, remember?"
"No," she admitted, "but you've never lied to me before." I recognized the line from the night before and smiled.
"You know, I meant everything I said last night."
"Me too," she said softly, the color returning to her cheeks. "God you're making me blush!" she cried.
"Not good," I laughed. "I want to see that alabaster skin."
She stuck her tongue out.
"What are you, five-years-old?" I asked as I grinned broadly.
"No. Anything else?" she asked, quickly swinging back into being my assistant.
"Yeah. I need you to clear some time tonight."
"Dinner," I said expectantly.
"Deal. Now, you've got a country to run, Joshua. Plus Staff in about thirty seconds."
"Thanks for the heads-up," I groaned.
"I meant to thank you," she said softly as I stood up.
"Putting me to bed and locking the door."
"No problem. I watched you for a moment after you fell asleep."
"Voyeur," she said with a laugh.
"Damn right!" Now we were both smiling.
"You've got Staff," she reminded me.
"Yeah. Thanks, Donna."
"Yup." She went back to her desk and I went to my meeting.
"Donna forgave you?" Sam asked as we walked through the Communications bullpen later that day.
"How'd you know?"
"You had a grin on your face at Staff that was sickening." I followed him into his office and we sat down.
"She didn't just forgive me," I said.
"You told her?" he asked, surprised. "Wow. I guess the sickening grin indicates that things went pretty well."
"We talked, we laughed, we cried," I joked.
"Well, she cried... the point is, she feels the same way. I love her so much, Sam. She fell asleep and I put her in bed, and she looked like an angel lying there."
"Oh, that is such a cliché," he moaned.
"Hey, you're the speechwriter," I said defensively.
He laughed and shook his head. "It's about damn time."
"We have a first date tonight. I hope it won't be weird."
"Josh, you guys have been dating each other for three years, you've just been in denial about it."
"It's true," I mused. "I mean, it's not like I met her at a bar. We know pretty much everything about each other."
"Yeah, once you get the sex figured out "
"SAM!!!" I laughed loudly. Thank God the door was closed.
"What? You waiting 'till the honeymoon?"
"Sam Seaborn, straight-arrow, commenting on my sex life," I teased him.
"Anything I can do to make you squirm, buddy."
"Well congratulations, you did your part." There was a pause. "But you're right."
"It won't be weird. We could get married tomorrow, and it probably wouldn't be weird for either of us."
"Don't worry, I'm not rushing into anything."
"Last night, I told Donna I was completely willing to let her dictate the schedule."
"See, there you sounded more like a boss than a boyfriend."
I chuckled. "Shut up, Sam."
"Ah, an eloquent argument. What did she say about 'dictating the schedule?'" he asked, mocking my words.
"That she's always loved me and we should just let things happed on their own accord."
"She's a smart woman."
"Yes, she is."
"Does she have a sister?"
"Kidding. Now, go forth and date, young Skywalker."
"Thank you Obi-Wan," I said through my laughing. "How old are we?"
"Sounds good to me. See you later, Sam."
It was nearly eight before my work was done well, not done, but at least tamed enough to be left for the night. Donna was sitting at her desk, reading that book about saints she had mentioned the other day.
She jumped. "Jesus, Josh."
"Sorry." She slipped her coat on and picked up her bag, returning my smile. "What are you reading about hags?"
"Hagiography, Joshua," she corrected, although her smile continued to grace her face. "Say it with me."
"Hagiography," we said in tandem. "Okay, do I pass?"
She nodded and we left for dinner. "Where are we going?"
"There's a really good small Italian restaurant near my place. And by 'good' and 'small' I mean that the owners know me and they won't tell the Post that Josh Lyman had an intimate dinner with his beautiful, intelligent assistant." I paused as we approached our cars.
"How do you want to do this?" she asked.
"Follow me," I advised. "There's always parking around my place."
"Yeah, I know, I've parked there before." She probably didn't realize it, but her words made me realize how often she had come to take care of me after what happened in Rosslyn. That sense of duty Ainsley prattled on about? Donna had that and then some. "Josh?"
Her words shattered my reverie. "Sorry. Okay, let's go."
The drive to my neighborhood was relatively short, which I was thankful for. Frankly, I just wanted to be able to look at her and talk with her. A ten minute separation seemed like an hour, and I was thrilled when I finally parked my car and walked over to the tiny space she was attempting to maneuver her ridiculously old car into.
When she had accomplished a quite impressive feat of parallel parking, I opened her door for her before she could. "Hey." If she didn't see the grin on my face, she could probably have heard it in my voice.
"Hey, yourself." She climbed out of her car, and the surprise was evident on her face. "Thanks for getting the door."
"I'm a closet romantic."
The look of surprise was replaced by one of content. "Oh really? How else does this closet romanticism manifest itself."
"You'll have to wait and see," I said, my grin widening.
"That a challenge?"
With that question, it struck me that our conversations last night and this morning had been relatively vague. She was asking for some kind of confirmation that this would be a real relationship. I took her slender hand in mine and squeezed it. "No, it's a promise. A promise that I want this to work, and that it will work. And a promise that while we're still boss and assistant, friend and friend, we're now... I don't want to say boyfriend and girlfriend because that sounds juvenile, but, we're something we weren't a few days ago." I paused. "See, that's my very circuitous way of saying, yes, I'm committed to a romantic relationship with you, Donna."
Her face lit up like a kid at Channukah (or Christmas, I guess), and she gave my hand a squeeze in turn. "I am too. I mean, to one with you. Not to one with me. That'd be vaguely pathetic, but "
"You're babbling," I laughed.
"Don't apologize. C'mon, let's eat." We entered the restaurant and immediately the owner, Joseph greeted us.
"Hello, Joseph. I'd like you to meet my girlfriend Donna Moss."
"Very nice to meet you, Ms. Moss."
"Thank you," she said, a wide smile on her face.
"You can take any table. It's not too packed at nine on a Wednesday night. Most people are watching TV probably."
We walked over to a quiet, small table far from the front window. "I guess you don't mind using the term girlfriend," she commented as she perused the menu.
"It just doesn't seem appropriate to our relationship. It sounds like you're some girl I met at a bar and I've known for two weeks." Now I was channeling Sam. "But Joseph's a friend of mine, and I wanted him to know about... us." I gestured between the two of us for emphasis.
"The fact that we were hand-in-hand might have given it away, Joshua," she teased.
"Look, Donna, um, you know the reason why we're not telling everyone immediately, right? It's not because I'm ashamed of us, or of the fact that the great cynic, Josh Lyman, has finally fallen in love with someone "
"I didn't think that was the reason," she assured me, although I saw a smile cross her face at my mention of the word 'love'. "It's because we work in the White House but we live in the real world."
We studied our menus in silence for a few moment until Joseph's wife Lucia walked over and introduced herself to Donna and took our orders although not before she said to me, "I like this one."
Donna laughed as Lucia left our table. '"This one?"'
"I don't know what she's referring to," I said honestly. "I mean, I've taken a total of two dates here in the past two years."
"And they would be?"
"A blind date Sam set me up on, and, um, Joey Lucas."
"What happened between you and Joey, anyways? I mean, you really liked her."
I was thanking my lucky stars that she hadn't been thrown off by making mention of Joey. "Yeah, I did, but we just weren't quite right for each other, you know what I mean?"
Her gaze met mine and I could feel the electricity flowing between us. "Yeah, I definitely know what you mean." She paused. "But you still wear your Joey Lucas suit."
"It's back to being my regular Tuesday suit," I laughed. "Besides, I've got a closetful of suits that can be christened 'Donna Moss suits.'"
"You don't have a closetful of suits," she said, smiling. "You've got, like, three, and they're always rumpled."
"I look good rumpled!" I protested.
"Yes, you do," she agreed.
"We seem to have wandered off the topic."
"Which was?" Donna asked as Lucia returned with our wine and cast an approving gaze at Donna before scurrying off.
"Which was the secrecy of our relationship."
"I've already told Sam about us because he's, well, he's Sam."
"But Sam's your best friend, so he's going to be happy no matter what."
"Exactly. Tomorrow, I was thinking we should at least give CJ a heads-up."
"Agreed." She sipped her wine.
"Donna, I don't want to have to wait at all," I explained. "I want to go out to the White House Press Corps and say, 'I love Donnatella Moss, and the Hell with you who don't support us.'"
"But we can't," she said softly, accepting the situation.
"We have to go through CJ before we do anything. She'll give us a pretty objective view of things." Our food arrived, and we stopped talking about being a couple and just acted like one.
The conversation flowed freely and we shared our pasta dishes. By the end of dinner, we comfortable enough in our new intimate capacity to feed each other forkfuls of pasta. I was half-tempted to do a Lady and the Tramp-type move, but that could get messy. Besides our first kiss... I wanted it to be just the two of us, without any tomato sauce involved.
We each only had one glass of wine she needed to drive home, and I couldn't drink with the best of them unless I wanted to end up in Sam's foul-weather gear. Ah, memories.
It had started to snow lightly, and I seized the opportunity.
"You want to come up and get some coffee?"
"You have cocoa?" she asked eagerly.
"I still have, like, two boxes of Swiss Miss from when you'd stay over this summer. Please, come up and drink it so people don't think I'm a wimp."
"Cocoa is not a wimpy drink, Joshua."
"Whatever," I laughed as walked up the steps to my brownstone and into my first-floor apartment.
"You got the window fixed," she observed.
"Oh, yeah." Nothing more had to be said about that. "So cocoa?"
"Yes, please." All of a sudden I was incredibly nervous. This wasn't Donna, my assistant and friend, who'd been here dozens of times in dozens of capacities. She was here in a new capacity as my, well, girlfriend, for lack of a better word. I hadn't been this nervous in years.
A few minutes, I emerged from the kitchen with two Yale mugs, one filled with coffee and one filled with cocoa.
"Sorry, I don't have marshmallows."
"Oh, it's fine," she said with a dismissive wave of her hand as we sat down on the couch and began talking about anything and everything.
"Okay, I have to ask you," I said after about half an hour. "I've been wondering for three years how did your parents pick the name Donnatella Paris?" I had long since finished my coffee, but she was still nursing the now-lukewarm cocoa.
"My Mom's a die-hard art fan, and she likes the Renaissance artist Donnatello. Paris was where my parents went for their honeymoon. I got lucky. My name could have been Leonarda Mexico City or something. What about you?"
"Me? Josh is an Old Testament name, and so is my middle name."
"Yeah. I hate Reuben."
"It's a good sandwich."
"That's why I hate it. Plus, being named Joshua Reuben kind of ensures you're going to be Bar Mitzvahed no matter what."
"Were you Bar Mitzvahed?"
"Yeah. My parents were thrilled with the spiritual significance; frankly I was thrilled with the checks from relatives I didn't know existed."
She laughed and drained the last of her cocoa. "You make a mean mug of hot chocolate."
"Yeah, well, don't tell anyone."
"I'll keep it a secret," she teased. "I can imagine the scandal: Josh Lyman, after chewing out Congressional aides for twelve hours, goes home and makes his girlfriend hot chocolate."
"Hey, well, I have to protect my reputation as a macho guy."
Again, she laughed. "Funny, I've never seen you as a hunter-gatherer." All of a sudden, the lights dimmed. "Okay, did you do that?"
"No, I " I stopped short as the lights flickered and then went out.
"Josh?" She almost sounded frightened.
"I'm here." We were close enough to a window that there was some moonlight coming in. Recognizing her silhouette, I drew her into an embrace. No sooner were we nestled together than the lights came back on again.
She let out a breath. "I hate blackouts. When I was younger I tripped over my dog during a blackout and sprained my ankle."
"Was the dog okay?" I asked. She hit me playfully.
"Brant was fine."
"His name was Brant?"
"Short for Rembrandt," she informed me. "I told you, my Mom loves art." She paused. "What time is it?"
"Almost eleven," I said, glancing at my watch. "You should probably get going." I really didn't want her to leave.
"Yeah, probably." I could hear her disappointment in her voice and willed myself to suppress a smile. "Oh, my God! Look at the snow!"
We looked out the window and saw the flakes coming down fast and furious onto the sidewalk. Donna's car, just down the block, was already covered with about a half-inch. "This is just in the last forty-five minutes," I said with wonder. It took me a split second to decide what to say next. "You can't drive home in this, Donnatella."
"I could try to catch the Metro."
"Not this late. Not where your stop is."
"Yeah, you're right." I could see her fighting a smile. Never before had I been so grateful for snow. "I can sleep on the couch," she suggested.
"Do you want to sleep on the couch?"
She hesitated and blushed. "No."
"I don't want you to, either." There was a brief pause. "I have a tee shirt you can sleep in tonight," I offered.
We walked hand-in-hand to my room, suddenly silent, wondering how best to approach the situation. I pulled out a Boston Celtics tee shirt and tossed it to her. Wordlessly, she disappeared into the bathroom and shut the door so she could change.
'Okay, calm down, Josh,' my brain urged. 'This doesn't mean you guys have to have sex. I mean, it's really the only rational sleeping arrangement.' Bullshit. Donna had slept on my couch many times during my recovery last summer. 'But that was Donna your assistant, and this is Donna your . . . love. Maybe after tonight, your lover.'
'Don't get ahead of yourself,' I thought. 'The last thing you want is to push her into something she's not ready for.' While my head was debating the exploration of a physical relationship, I had changed into sweatpants and my undershirt and climbed under the covers, sitting up and trying not to hyperventilate.
The brief darkness of the bedroom left as Donna opened the door and walked into the room in my tee shirt. Any thoughts I had of normal breathing patterns were gone. So were any thoughts of chastity tonight.
"You mind if I switch on the lamp?"
"Huh? Oh, no." My desire didn't ebb when more light shone in the room and I could see her blonde hair, which had previously been up, hanging down her back and practically screaming, 'Feel how soft I am!'
"Josh?" I realized I must have looked like an idiot just staring at her.
"I've just I wasn't "
"You're allowed to look," she said with a flirting quality to her voice. "Boyfriends look."
Yes they do. Especially if their girlfriend looks like Donna.
Whatever shreds of control I had went out the window when she gave me a soft smile. Not a coy or sexy or inviting one. Just one that seemed to say, 'hey, I'm happy to be here and be with you.'
"Donna." It was barely a whisper, but she heard it and recognized what it was a quiet request for permission to kiss her.
"Josh." I wondered if she could hear my heart thumping harder than ever.
Not wanting to spend another moment without her in my arms, I leaned in gently kissed her, our bodies coming together flawlessly for a tight embrace. Three years of desire, of tension, of love spilled over, and after a moment, the soft, sweet kiss we had started deepened as my tongue found its way into her mouth.
She clutched me tighter and opened her mouth to give me better access. A tiny sighing sound came from the back of her throat as my hands roamed over her back, kneading her tense muscles.
The kiss seemed to last for hours and hours, and neither of us needed anything more at that moment. Just to hold each other, just to kiss and be kissed like never before that was enough for us.
When we finally pulled apart, there was no panting, no frenzied attempts to catch our breath like after most intense kisses. Our kiss had been intense, but not frantic at all, but instead, a deep, loving kiss shared by two people very much in love.
The snow was still falling outside and I was very thankful Donna hadn't left from a safety standpoint. I realized she was looking at me expectantly. "Josh?" she asked.
I lay down and she followed suit, climbing into my open eyes. "Donna, that was... life-affirming."
She wrapped her arms around my chest. "I love you so much, Josh," she said, her voice wavering.
"Why are you crying?"
"It's stupid, really."
I switched off the lamp and stroked her hair, making eye contact with her even in the darkness. "Donna, I won't think anything you say is stupid. Unless it involves hagiography."
"No, I like philately." I could practically feel her cheeks burning. "But, really, what was it just a moment ago? What's wrong?"
"Oh, no, Josh, nothing's wrong. It's just... so often when you want something so badly it doesn't live up to expectations, but that kiss was everything I'd hoped for."
"How long had you hoped for it?"
"Three years." The quietness of her voice made me realize how vulnerable she felt right now. "I meant what I said when I told you I always loved you, Joshua Lyman."
"Even when I didn't get you skis?"
"Even when you found me hungover in my office with red panties around my neck?"
She laughed and nodded. "Yeah."
"Even when I did things that hurt you?" My tone had turned serious, and she sighed.
"The only time I tried to convince myself I didn't love you was the time you said..."
"What I said about your sense of self-worth?"
"I'm sorry about that. It was cruel, and wrong of me to say. Of course, now I know why I said it."
"You didn't want me to be happy with anyone else?"
"You could have saved me three-years of breakups if you had told me that when we met," she said, only half-joking.
"I'm not disagreeing with you. I thought... when you told me to gather my rosebuds with Joey, I sort of thought that you didn't want a relationship with me."
"I just want you to be happy. If it meant happiness with Joey Lucas, I could have dealt with that."
"I'm happy with you. I may not have been aware of it, but I always loved you. I always will love you. I could see myself still bantering with you and making you cocoa in twenty or thirty years."
Her grip tightened even further. "Josh, please don't get my hopes up if you're not prepared to follow through."
"I want to spend the rest of my life talking about philately and OSHA and the Indonesian penal system and Yo-Yo Ma and... big things, like you know "
"You're rambling," she cut in gently.
"You kept me going, Donna. Not just this summer, but at Christmas, too. And you put up with my crap for way longer than anyone could have expected you to. You've made me so happy. I want to make you happy now. And not just for a few months until someone new comes along. As long as I'm on this Earth, Donnatella Moss, you're going to have to be with me," I teased.
"A fate worse than death," she joked.
"I mean it. Tonight... felt so right. Like it was a natural progression, and we didn't have to change anything about the way we are together, we just took it to a new level. So, tomorrow, I'm going to go see CJ and I'm going to say, 'I'm with Donna, my perfect assistant. I'm in love with Donna. This isn't an office fling, this is a deep, undying love.' Can I count you in on that discussion?"
She was silent.
I laughed. "More or less."
"You can count me in."