Alabaster by 

Jo March

Disclaimers, etc., in part one.

 

There are moments-there are, believe me, lots of moments-when I would like to murder Josh Lyman. This is one of them.

"Josh," I ask, "why would I want my pager? In the eighteen months that I have had this thing, you are the only person who has ever paged me."

"All the more reason you shouldn't be without it." He's smirking. He's doing that annoying smirking thing he knows I hate.

"But you're here, Josh," I state reasonably. "You don't need to page me if we're both sitting right here."

Now here's something I've noticed about Josh: he and sunlight don't mix. His natural element is the smoke-filled room, like the good little politico he is. Once, during the campaign, the Bartlets invited the staff to a barbeque. Even Toby spent more time outdoors than Josh did.

"Geez," he says, "it's hot out here." This is the Lyman version of a subtle hint. I'm supposed to agree and follow him back inside to whatever work awaits.

"This is my personal time," I tell him.

"What?"

"Between two and four is personal time. It's on the schedule." He's standing directly over me, and my neck is starting to feel the strain of staring up at him. "I am using my personal time to work on my tan."

"You have no tan to work on."

"Quit blocking the sun, and I will have."

He sits down, still wearing his jacket, on the chair next to mine. "As your boss, I feel the need to ask whether you think your outfit is appropriate."

"Appropriate? It's a bikini; I'm working on my tan. Yes, that seems appropriate."

"What I mean," Josh says, "is that, as part of the presidential party, you have to be image conscious."

"And you have to be kidding."

"No, I'm serious," he says. "I'm not sure you should be wearing that in public."

"I happen to look good in this."

"I didn't say you don't look good. In fact, you look--" He pauses to choose his words. "You look not bad."

Wrong choice.

"Josh, again I point out the concept of personal time. It's not like I'm wearing a button that says 'I work for Bartlet.'"

"Where would you stick it?" he mutters.

"I can tell you where to stick--"

"Bickering again, children?" CJ, dressed in a much more revealing swimsuit than mine, stops by us.

"Josh says I'm dressed inappropriately."

CJ laughs. "He's wearing a suit by the pool. I'd say he's the one who needs to change."

"I am making a point about the need to present ourselves as professionals," Josh replies.

"Josh, get a life," CJ says and walks past us.

Josh stands up and yells after her, "Yeah, that's a real witty comeback there, Claudia Jean."

He flops back down again. I close my eyes and try to ignore him. If I tell him Joey Lucas was looking for him, maybe he'll go away and leave me alone.

I don't say anything.

"It's too damn hot out here," Josh finally says. "Come on, Donna, let's go inside."

"No, it's my--"

"Your personal time. So I've heard. You know you're going to get sunburned, don't you? You'll probably try to take a sick day because of it."

"You're right."

"I am?"

"Yes," I say. "I should turn over and do my back now."

I turn over, and I hear Josh mumble something incoherent. "What did you say?" I ask him.

"You need to put some lotion or something on your back so you don't burn."

"I can't reach," I answer.

"It's right there on the table," he says.

"No, I mean I can't reach my back." I wait for a minute, hoping Josh will make the logical offer. He doesn't. I sigh and start to sit up. "I'll get CJ to help me," I say.

"No," Josh answers. "No, I'll do that for you. Yeah. Yeah, I can do that."

So, big deal. Josh touches me all the time. Every day. Josh is a very tactile person. This is nothing to make a-well, nothing to make a * thing * over. It's just Josh, after all.

I look up again and notice that Josh has apparently decided to turn this into a production. He's finally taken off his jacket, and it's comical to see how precisely he folds the crumpled, smelly thing over his chair.

"Did you bring another suit?" I ask. "Besides what you're wearing to the fundraiser, I mean."

"Why?" He sounds as though he thinks I'm crazy. "Because I know you. You'll head back to the White House instead of going home tonight. If you didn't bring anything else, I'll need to call housekeeping and have them clean that suit while we're at the fundraiser."

He rolls up his shirt sleeves. I wish I could find a man-an uncomplicated, non-work-related man-who has arms like Josh. For someone who spends most of his time in meetings, he's surprisingly muscular.

He pours some City Block in his hand and sits down on the edge of my lounge chair. I don't know why I close my eyes, but I do.

Josh is pushing my hair off my neck and rubbing the lotion in tiny little circles on my shoulders. This feels surprisingly good and warm and almost shockingly intimate. I can feel Josh's breath on my neck, and I really have lost the ability to speak.

I should speak. I should say something. I should stop myself from feeling this. I should say, "I saw Joey Lucas, and she's looking for you."

I don't say a word.

"Donnatella," Josh says-only he doesn't say it as much as he whispers it. I wait for the question or the order or whatever's coming next: "Donnatella, take a message." "Donnatella, where's the briefing memo?" "Donnatella, get me Joey Lucas on the phone." But he doesn't say anything else. Just "Donnatella." In a whisper. I wish he's say it again.

Something Sam said at Christmas comes back to me. "I get paid to read for subtext." Well, I wish Sam were here to explain this to me cause I'm thinking there's subtext but I can't figure out what it means.

No, I don't. I don't wish Sam were here. In fact, I wish CJ weren't on the other side of the pool. I wish Toby and the president weren't in this hotel. I wish Zoe and Charlie were in DC, because I want to do things that would set a very bad example.

I wish I'd never heard of Joey Lucas.

"You were right," Josh says.

"Huh?" This is a day for the record books; Josh never admits I'm right. "What was I right about?"

"You do have alabaster skin," he says. "I never noticed."

He suddenly stands up and grabs his jacket. "Well, this is all of the great outdoors I can take. I'm going back to the room to work." He glances at his watch. "You have forty-five minutes of personal time left."

"Slave driver," I say. I am amazed at how normal I sound.

"Layabout." He grins and starts to head back inside.

I am not going to be this person. I am not going to be this pathetic little person who develops a thing for her boss-her demanding, inconsiderate, selfish boss-just when he falls for someone else. I sit up and yell, "Joshua!"

He turns around. "What?"

"I forgot to tell you. I saw Joey Lucas."

"Joey Lucas? She's here?"

Damn him. Damn him. Damn him.

"Yeah. She said she'll be at the party, and she can't wait to see you."

He pauses. Then he says, "Good. Well, that's-good."

"Gather ye rosebuds, Josh," I say.

He turns his back to me and throws what looks like a wave or a dismissive gesture and walks away.

I've made up my mind. I've decided I hate Joey Lucas.

* * *

 

Alabaster - 3

 

 

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