"Josh!"
The office door slammed. "Wha-"
"You didn't!"
Josh lifted his head off his desk, wincing as his neck protested. "Didn't
what?" He tried to blink away the grogginess.
Donna threw her hands up in exasperation. "Just once, Joshua! Just once I
would like to leave the damn office before my workaholic boss, and not have to
worry about calling said workaholic to make sure he remembers to go home and
sleep!"
Josh's head and vision finally managed to clear. He almost wished he were
still half-asleep. A pissed-off Donnatella Moss was not one of his favorite
things to be confronted with first thing in the morning. Especially a Saturday
morning she was supposed to have off. "Did you bring me coffee?"
"Josh!" Okay, humor wasn't going to work this time. He'd noticed that she'd
become a little more protective of him after...well, after Newseum. Not that
she'd ever really been protective so much as...or had she? Wasn't she just
looking out for her boss?
They'd never really had the typical/boss assistant relationship, though. It was
always more like a friendship than anything else...
And now was not the time for this. "Okay, okay, Donna. For your information,
I did go home, but I couldn't sleep, so I decided to come in and get some work
done before the meeting."
"How early?"
"Five."
Donna looked ready to throw something at him, and then her expression changed.
Like something had just registered. Uh-oh.
"Josh, why couldn't you sleep?"
He blinked at her. "No reason," he said, trying to keep his voice light.
"Josh."
"No reason, Donna. I just couldn't sleep."
"Josh."
He spread his arms out. "I never needed a reason for insomnia before, did I?"
"Josh."
He sighed. "Donna-"
"Joshua." He studied her face for a minute. Damn. There was no way to win
this. If he gave her too much of a reason for concern, she'd just go to Leo
again. Besides, he didn't really like worrying Donna. It just seemed
unavoidable sometimes.
He stood up, pushing his chair back and went to look out the window. He ran a
hand back through his hair and took a breath. He might as well tell her.
"I...had a...nightmare."
"I know."
Josh turned around and gave her a puzzled look.
She shrugged, but didn't break eye contact. "You're right, you've never needed
a reason for insomnia before, Josh, but you've always told me anyway. It's
always been 'this brief was bothering me' or 'I couldn't get such-and-such off
my mind'. Just as conversation."
He still stared at her. "And because I didn't say immediately why I couldn't
sleep, you just assumed I had a nightmare?"
"And I was right, wasn't I?"
"Donna, that doesn't make sense."
She took a few steps closer. "It makes perfect sense, Joshua." Her tone was a
little softer than usual. "I've worked with you for a little over two years
now. Whether you like it or not, I know you pretty damn well. And I can tell
when you try to hide something."
"Then why didn't you just come out and say it?"
"Because I want you to tell me. I don't want you to think you have to keep
things from me. I may be your assistant, Josh, but you're the closest thing I
have to a best friend." Donna's voice nearly cracked at the end of that, and
she quickly clamped a hand over her mouth.
It took Josh all of two seconds to round the desk and pull Donna into his arms.
"Hey, Donna, it's okay. It's okay. Don't cry."
"I'm not crying," she said, obviously trying to choke back tears.
He should let go. He shouldn't be holding her this long. But somehow the
message between his brain and limbs got twisted, and he pulled her even closer.
"I'm sorry, Donnatella," he whispered. "You weren't actually at Newseum, so I
guess I just thought you weren't affected by it." God, he really was an ass,
sometimes. Of course Donna would be affected. She works for the President, and
was close with nearly all the senior staff. And while he was in the hospital,
she was always there. He'd just been too wrapped up in his own pain to notice
hers.
Donna was the one who pulled away first, and Josh was almost surprised that he
felt a slight twinge of disappointment. "It's okay," she said, pulling a piece
of hair behind her ear. "You had enough on your mind." There was little sign
she'd been crying. "Now, you're going to go home, shower, and change. You
need to be back here in three hours. I expect you to be clean, shaved, and in a
different suit than the one you've been wearing for what, the past forty-eight
hours?"
"Did you get the memo I asked for?" Josh suppressed and even more surprising
twinge of disappointment at the reappearance of a down-to-business Donna.
She raised her eyebrows. "Have I ever once not gotten a memo you asked for?"
"Point taken."
"Go home now, Josh."
"Yeah." Josh ran a hand through his hair. "Listen, I want you to get in
contact with Lord John Marbury for me."
"Lord Marbury? Why?"
"His nephew's a noted anthropologist who's worked in some of these countries
Kramer wants to cut funding to. I've read a few of his articles in the stuff
you pulled up for me, but if we could get him to speak for us, it'd be even
better."
"Pulling in the guns, Josh? It's that serious?"
He paused. "Yeah."
"Oh. No problem." She smirked. "And maybe he's thought of some more royal,
single men he can introduce me to. Maybe his nephew's cute. And eligible."
"'Eligible'? You sound like my mother, Donna."
"I still say you're threatened by his brilliance."
"I am not threatened by his brilliance, and I need to go home now."
"Ah, retreating. Very graceful."
"I'll see you in three hours, Donna."
"Right."
She stopped halfway out the office door and turned to face him. "Josh?"
"Yeah." He shrugged into his suit jacket.
"You're right. I wasn't at Newseum, but I was at the hospital. I was right
outside that operating room. I have nightmares, too, Joshua."
He paused in the midst of taking his coat off the rack. "Donna-"
"See you in three."


"Hey, you should really come see this. CJs biting the head off anything male
and walking." Sam Seaborn grinned and leaned against the doorjamb to Josh's
office.
"And this differs from any other day how?" Josh didn't look up from the pile
of files on his desk.
"Point."
"So what's up, Sam, or did you just stop by to tell me you love me?" Josh
reached over to take a swig of his coffee.
"My, aren't we the charmer today?"
"Sam, it's Monday. And are you going to get to a point soon or do I have to
beat it out of you?"
"You know the State dinner on Friday?"
"The one for the South Africans. Yeah. What's up? Don't tell me they're not
coming! I was really looking forward to meeting Nelson Mandela."
Sam shook his head. "No, no, it's not that."
Josh took another sip of his coffee. "Then what? 'Cause you know, some of us
have actual work to do, and I'm sure there's something of yours Toby needs to
add punctuation to."
"Who are you taking to the dinner?"
"My cousin Edith."
"You have a cousin?"
"Yeah, don't most people? I haven't seen her since we were kids, and it turns
out she's coming to D.C. to work for the district attorney's office."
"So you thought you'd bring her to a State dinner to catch up on old times?"
"No, I thought we'd go out to eat tomorrow night and catch up on old times.
I'm taking her to the State dinner because I told her about it over the phone
when she called me, and she told me that before law school she spent a few years
living with a friend in Cape Town." Josh moved a file to his left, and opened
another. "Is there anything else I can help you with other than giving out
information that really is none of your business?"
"Can I ask Donna?"
Josh blinked and stared at Sam for a good long while. "Why are you asking me
this? This isn't prom night and I'm not her father, Sam."
Sam looked uncomfortable. "I just wondered if you had her working or
anything."
"No, actually, she requested off too early for me to force her into working.
Um, why are you asking Donna?"
"I thought you said you weren't her father, Josh."
"Sam."
"She's smart, funny, and attractive."
"Sam."
"No reason, Josh. She's a friend!"
Josh studied him for a minute. He was definitely uncomfortable about
something. And it definitely had nothing to do with Donna. At least, it better
not...Josh shook his head to dispel that last thought.
He raised his voice. "Donna!"
Sam looked startled. "Josh-"
The answering shout came from outside. "What?"
"Get in here!"
The door swung open. "Whatever happened to the use of the word 'please'? Oh,
wait, I forgot. It never was part of that famous SAT-busting vocabulary of
yours."
Josh looked at Sam. "I'm not the only one cranky on Mondays." He turned back
to Donna, who was impatiently tapping her foot. "Sam wants to know if you'll go
to the State dinner with him on Friday."
Donna blinked, then turned her head to look at Sam. "Couldn't get a date with
Ainsley?"
Sam groaned, and Josh felt a grin sneak onto his face. "Ainsley Hayes?" he
said, "That's what this is about?"
Donna was still looking at Sam. "You didn't even ask her, did you?"
"Now, hang on a minute –"
She put her hands on her hips and smiled. "You know, Sam, you're never going
to get anywhere in life if you don't learn to take risks."
"I take risks! I left a prominent law career and joined the campaign!"
"I'm not talking professionally, Sam, and you know it. Now you march
downstairs right now and ask that pretty little Republican to the State dinner."
"But, Donna-"
"Besides, Dr. Ethan Marbury already beat you to the chase, so you have no
choice."
Josh blinked. Dr. Ethan Marbury? Who the hell was he? Wait a minute...
"Donna-"
"Do you think she'll say yes?" Sam interjected.
"Donna-"
She promptly ignored him. "Yes, Sam, I think she will. But you'll never know
if you don't ask, will you?"
"Donna-"
"Okay. I'm going to do it." Sam looked at his shoes for a minute. "What if I
can't do it, Donna?"
She patted his shoulder. "You can do it. I believe in you. Reach for those
stars, Sam."
He smiled at her. "Okay. I'll see you later."
"Good luck!" Donna smiled as Sam left, striding purposely down the hallway.
"Can you believe him? I didn't think shyness still existed in men."
Josh was still staring. "Donna, I said get in contact with Lord Marbury, not
pick up his nephew!"
She slowly took up a position in the guest chair, intentionally ignoring him.
"Of course she'll say yes. Have you seen the way they look at each other? Not
that either of them realizes it, but I guess that's what makes them so cute."
"Donnatella!"
Finally she met him with a cool, calm countenance, marred only slightly by a
small smirk. "You don't have to yell, Joshua. I'm right here."
"Explain."
She blinked with mock innocence. "Explain what?"
He closed his eyes for a moment. "Donna!" It wasn't exactly roaring, but it
was pretty close.
She pointed to his chair. "Sit."
He sat.
Donna sat straighter in her chair. "First off, let me begin by saying that
this really is none of your business."
"Whatever. And?"
"Do you want to hear this or are you just hell-bent on pissing me off today?"
"Sorry," he muttered. He meant it. Kind of.
"I was able to reach Lord Marbury –personally, actually. Seems he remembers
me. Anyway, apparently he hates to discuss things over the phone, and when I
mentioned the thing about his nephew, he insisted I come over to his place at
once. I mean, what are the chances that both Ethan and his uncle would be in
town the very same day I try to contact them?"
"So you went over?"
"Of course. Josh, you don't refuse an invitation from Lord John Marbury. Not
if you're female, anyway."
It really was a strain for him to keep from rolling his eyes. "Okay, so you
met Dr. Marbury. How is he invited to the State dinner, and why is taking you?"
"Gee, Josh, you make it all seem so romantic."
"Donna," he said in a warning tone. Then something occurred to him. "You
called him Ethan."
"Huh?"
"Dr. Marbury. You called him Ethan."
"Well, I am his date for the dinner, Josh. It'd be kind of awkward if we
weren't on a first-name basis."
"Yeah. So..."
"He was invited."
"By who?"
"Nelson Mandela heard that he'd be in town, and requested that he be there."
"Why?"
Donna rolled her eyes at him. "Y'know, Josh, you'd think you'd do a little
research now and then. Ethan Marbury did doctorate work down in South Africa,
mainly among the Xhosa, which is the tribe Mandela came from."
"I thought he was Zulu."
"No, Xhosa."
"What's the difference?"
"Oh, just language and culture, Josh, not much." That was definitely
sarcastic.
"So why is he taking you, again?"
Donna smiled. He didn't like that smile. It was entirely too happy. "I think
he likes me."
"Oh."
"Lord Marbury introduced us, and we began talking. I started with your request
–which, by the way, he'd be happy to do – and we ended up talking about some of
the work he's done around the world. It was fascinating."
"Sounds like he likes to talk about himself."
"Only in response to the questions I asked. And he actually asked me about
myself. And listened. Do you have any idea how long it's been since a man
actually listened to me?"
"I listen to you!" he protested.
"Right. When you're not shouting."
"Donna!"
"Whatever." She stood up. "I have phone calls to make, and you have a senior
staff in ten minutes."
"Twenty."
"Josh, how many time do I have to tell you that your watch sucks?"
"In five different time zones, yeah, yeah."
She smiled. He liked that smile better. It was the
my-boss-is-an-idiot-but-I-like-him-anyway smile.
Donna shut the door behind her, and Josh began to wonder why exactly he was
feeling...well, jealous.
And when exactly he'd begun to catalogue her smiles.
It was going to be hell to try and concentrate on the Kramer brief.

 

Shelter From the Storm - 3

 

 

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