Delicate Systems (1/2)
by Jo March

SUMMARY: Companion piece to Ryo Sen's "A Phenomenally Bad Idea." Donna's take on the events of that story. DISCLAIMER: Everyone mentioned here belongs to Aaron Sorkin and his various corporate bosses. Even the bosses who were dumb enough to give Dan and Casey a laugh track.
ARCHIVE: Keep my name on it, tell me where it is, and take it with my blessing.
THANKS: To Ryo, of course, without whose wonderful story I would actually be spending my day off cleaning house. You saved me from a fate worse than death, girlfriend!

I hate fundraisers.

Terrible things happen at fundraisers. Terrible things that generally involve women coming on to my boss and pressing their hotel keys into his hand.

To my knowledge, he's never taken any of them up on their offers. (But why, I've always wondered, did Sarah Weisinger give him that smoking jacket?) Still, one of these days it's bound to happen.

Some woman will proposition him at a fundraiser just like this one and he'll flirt with her and she won't be sleeping with Al Kiefer. And the next day he'll be all happy and relaxed, and he'll probably swagger even more than usual.

Not that I am the least bit bothered by the thought of Josh having sex with another woman. I sincerely could not care. I am so over my "I think I'm in love with my boss" phase.

Been there. Done that. Time to move on.

It's just that I hate the thought of Josh's already massive ego being stroked--

Bad choice of words?

Well, I know what I mean. Josh on a regular morning is annoying. Josh the morning after--impossible.

And some day it will happen. Probably at a fundraiser.

Because, let's face it, Josh and lasting relationships do not mix. Okay, Mandy wasn't his fault--except in a general sort of "what-was-he-thinking" way. I defy anyone to have a lasting relationship with Mandy Hampton. But he completely blew the Joey Lucas thing, which had potential.

So what I'm saying is that the man's not a monk. At some point, he's just going to want to get laid. Since he sucks at relationships, he'll probably opt for a one-night stand. Somewhere that isn't Washington, DC, so he won't have to worry about running into her again. Which makes some woman who comes on to him at a fundraiser the perfect candidate.

I'll probably be at the damn fundraiser when it happens. I'll probably be right by his side when she comes on to him.

He'll probably expect me to book them a room.

I hate fundraisers.

"Do I really have to be here?" I ask him.

This is a reasonable question. I mean, is there some briefing memo he expects me to write here? Is there a point to my presence at this event?

He gives me this absolutely malevolent look. "Yes."

"Why?" Again, a reasonable question. One for which he does not have an answer. I can tell because he shrugs. He always shrugs when he doesn't have a convincing answer. "Because," he says, "we're a team."

We're really not. Members of a team are equals. Members of a team get paid comparable amounts of money. One member of the team does not sleep soundly while the other loses sleep imagining what it would be like to make love to him.

Not that I lose sleep over him.

Not anymore.

"We are *not* a team, Joshua," I point out. "In fact, you are my boss and you ordered me to be here! It's Saturday night, Josh. Do you know what I could be doing right now?"

"Dating the latest in a series of veritable losers?"

The bastard.

This is why I'm over him. This is why I'm glad I never told him that I had that whole "I-want-to-sleep-with-Josh" phase.

Then he does that thing I hate. He calculates just how far he's pushed me and how inconvenienced he'd be if I quit and he goes into his fake apology. "Donna--"

I don't want to hear the fake apology. "Forget it, Josh." I walk past him toward the door. At least, there will be a bar inside. At least, I can have a drink.

Lots of drinks. After all, it's not as though I have--Is there an echo in here?

This is bizarre. This is "Twilight Zone" time. This is my conversation with Josh being replayed by two other people.

Whose voices I swear I recognize.

Josh comes up behind me, and I tell him to be quiet.

To be quiet so I can listen to Casey and Dan.

My god.

I love this fundraiser! *** So it turns out that Dan Rydell and Casey McCall are even wittier in person than they are on TV. Also better looking. And, let's face it, they were hunks to begin with.

Dan, especially, is just a sweetie. Although it was Casey who made the joke about my being the deputy deputy chief of staff. Well, it was funny when *Casey* said it. But I think I'll let CJ have him. There's two; we can share.

Besides, I am seriously liking Dan. He can talk. I like a man who can talk. Especially a man who can talk about something other than politics. Dan has a very nice smile, and he seems like a kind-hearted person. Also modest. Refreshingly modest. That's a pleasant change from--

Where is Josh anyway? Didn't he say something about getting drinks, like, half an hour ago?

Damn. He's determined to ruin my night, isn't he? I apologize to Dan and Casey and explain that I need to find my wayward boss and, miracle of miracles, they offer to come with me. Dan Rydell and Casey McCall, who could be off mingling with anyone at this party, want to follow Donnatella Moss to the bar.

Damn, but my life is good.

Except for the fact that Josh is getting drunk. Rum and coke--what is he thinking? He knows his system cannot tolerate rum and coke.

Why does he do this to himself? More to the point, why does he do this to me?

Josh is being thoroughly obnoxious, and Dan and Casey are being way too nice. You just have to adore the fact that they're not letting Josh's hostility get to them. Very secure in their masculinity, I'm thinking, not to let Josh bully them.

Besides, CJ's here, and I don't think they're really paying attention to Josh at all.

Josh is now on his second rum and coke. I know what he expects. He expects me to take care of him. He expects me to remind him that he shouldn't have another drink. He expects me to ignore Casey and Dan and keep him sober and amused until he can find some other woman to flirt with.

Well, not tonight, Joshua. Just get as drunk as you want tonight.

I'm having fun. * ** Three hours.

Dan Rydell spent three hours talking to me.

Dan Rydell of Sports Night spent three hours talking to Donnatella Moss.

Dan Rydell asked about my life. He did not pontificate about domestic policy (or even, you know, sports) and expect me to agree. He wanted to know my opinions. We discussed art and music and literature and why I'm going to major in history when I go back to college. I just had a lengthy, stimulating conversation with a man who is not Joshua Lyman.

I am so over Josh.

Who is asleep. Who slept completely through my having a stimulating conversation with an attractive, intelligent man who is not him.

Oh, well. Can't have everything. And, sadly, the party's breaking up.

"Josh?" He does look kind of cute, with his eyes closed, leaning back in this overstuffed armchair. He has this deceptively sweet little boy quality to him. Assuming, of course, that we're describing a little boy who is stinking drunk and prone to belligerent behavior when awake.

And also prone to innuendo.

The bastard.

I'm saying good night to Dan, and it's going well. I'm thinking there's a possibility of something developing here. And he hugs me. Dan Rydell--this smart, funny, decent, attractive, single man who is not Josh--hugs me. I am smiling. I am enjoying this. I am completely over Josh.

Who suddenly jumps to his feet, nearly knocking CJ down in the process. And then, because he is a complete bastard who is intent on ruining my life, Josh moves toward me and says (in a rather loud voice), "Let's go to bed."

Damn this alabaster skin! I can feel myself blushing.

God only knows what Dan is thinking.

I move as far away from Josh as I can manage. "Excuse me?" I say in my best "your life will be a living hell for the next week" voice.

"I need to go to bed, Donna."

Yeah, and I need a new job, but it's not going to happen.

I make our excuses to Casey and Dan. Dan, at least, doesn't seem phased by Josh's little outbursts. He gives me his card, which he is in no way obligated to do, so I'm thinking there's hope. CJ grabs Josh's arm and starts to drag him off. I'm hoping this is good; I'm hoping she'll take care of Josh and I'll have a chance to set up something a little more definite than "call me if you're in DC" with Dan.

And that, of course, is when Joshua drags me off. It's like we're in some sort of half-assed conga line--CJ in the lead, dragging Josh, who is holding on to me as though I'm his personal property.


Dan and Casey are out of sight by the time we hit the elevators and I can bring myself to speak to Josh.

"Josh," I tell him, "you are impossible sometimes. Did you see the handsome, interesting man talking to me? Did you catch that in your drunken stupor?"

"Yes," he says. "Don't like them hitting on our women."

Son of a bitch!

CJ and I let go of him simultaneously, and he goes stumbling toward the elevator. How he manages not to fall I'm sure I don't know. He goes bobbing along until he somehow manages to prop himself up against a wall and face us.

"What did you say?" CJ demands. Which is a good thing because I'm too angry to speak.

"Something stupid. I'm drunk."

Oh, like the genius behind the secret plan to fight inflation needs an excuse to say something stupid.

Even though he does have a delicate system.

"I need to go to bed," he says. He looks miserable. He is turning green. Literally. "Donna," he says in his begging voice, "please."

I hate myself. I hate myself for being so weak where he's concerned and letting him manipulate me. I honestly hate myself.

But not as much as I hate him.

"Fine," I tell him, "but we're going to have a talk tomorrow, Joshua. CJ and I are *not* 'your women.'"

Well, CJ isn't, anyway.

CJ heads off in the opposite direction, leaving me alone with Josh. Who I hate. Who I am completely and totally over. Who is only my boss and who I will not allow to treat me this way.

"Furthermore," I tell him as we enter the elevator, "I resent your incessant intrusions into my private life. It's not like this is the first time you've been a schmuck, Josh, but this was a nice guy." I press the button for our floor. "He's a sportscaster. You *like* him, for the love of god. Why would you try to sabotage--"

And that is when it happens. That's when Josh--who is surprisingly strong for a drunk--presses me against the side of the elevator and starts kissing me.

It's late, I'm tired and I'm in mid-rant, so it takes a second or two for my brain to process this information.

Josh is kissing me.

It's not bad.

It should be bad. He's drunk. How good can he be when he's this drunk?

Amazingly good.

I think I'm moaning.

The man can do astounding things with that tongue.

Plus he's stroking my hair. He's stroking my hair very gently while his tongue is just sort of teasing--Oh, god, please let this elevator get stuck between floors! Please do not let this end.

It wouldn't be bad, getting stuck in here for an hour or two. It's not like help wouldn't arrive eventually. After all, these hotel elevators have security cameras and--


Oh, shit.

I stop kissing Josh back. I stop holding on to Josh for dear life. I move a respectable distance away. And I ache--I honestly ache--to touch him again.

Josh just stares at me like--like I have broken his heart.

Which is, of course, ridiculous.

He's so drunk he won't even remember this in the morning.

He's so drunk he won't even remember it was me.

He's a man. He's drunk. He wants sex.

This has nothing to do with me. This has nothing to do with him loving me.

Nothing whatsoever.

The very idea is ridiculous.

And I'm over him anyway. ***

Delicate Systems - 2



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