TITLE: Cut To Love
Disclaimer: The West Wing and its characters are the property of Aaron Sorkin, Warner Brothers, and NBC. No Copyright Infringement is intended. I'm borrowing these fantastic characters for personal enjoyment, nothing more.
Author's Note: This is just a little puff piece about how IT could happen. I'd love to hear feedback. Enjoy!
"You look... okay."
And with that, Josh Lyman turned back to his work.
Donna stood there on the spot. You look okay? she thought. She watched her boss go back to his work, ignoring her presence. Ignoring her new outfit that she knew made her look more than okay. He was busily writing on his notepad, seemingly unaware that his assistant was standing in front of his desk, wearing a brand new $400 dress and a look of shock and growing disappointment on her face.
After a few seconds or so, Josh looked up. "What is it, Donna?" he asked in an impatient tone.
"That's it?" Her voice was quiet but incredulous.
Donna heard Josh give a large sigh. "What else do you want? I've seen your dress, I said you can go, I'm sorry I can't personally drive you to your date in a stretch limo but I'm extremely busy here trying to keep the head of our nation out of jail." His words were forceful, his tone annoyed. He went back to his work.
Donna felt angry tears prick her eyes, but fought to keep her voice light and steady. "I was just wondering if there were any messages you wanted me to pass on. That's all."
"Oh", said Josh in a quieter tone, "no. There's nothing. You can go." He didn't look up as he added: "Have a good time. Don't forget your keys."
She felt crushed. Didn't he even care that she was going out on a date? Obviously not, she thought, as she left his office. Since she mentioned it three days ago he hadn't said one thing about it, other than to remind her of her last date, when she forgot to bring her keys and ended up on his doorstep at 12 o'clock at night. That memory, treasured by her since, now made her want to cry even more. They had had the best time that night, staying up and playing cards and just talking. He'd let her sleep in his bed that night too, while he took the couch. That simple gesture, done almost unconsciously by Josh, had confirmed her feelings for him. She hadn't been on a date since that night.
She began to pack away her things at her desk, resolutely pushing thoughts of that night out of her head.
"Hey Donna", said Sam Seaborn, coming up to her desk. "Is Josh...wow!"
Donna glanced at Sam, who had stopped in his tracks and staring at her. He looked so cute standing there with his mouth open that it made her smile and feel a little better.
"Is something wrong, Sam?" she asked him innocently.
"You look fantastic, Donna", Sam said simply. "Is that a new dress?"
Donna gave a big smile. "Yep - I bought it last week." And had used nearly all her rent money to do it. She had fallen in love with it the moment she saw it, and she hadn't bought anything nice in a long time. It was a simple sheath and was white with pink flowers over it in that silhouette pattern that was so popular at the moment. It was strapless and fell in a straight line to just above her knees. A small line of white organza peeked below the hem.
She teamed the dress with simple white sandals and a thin silver circular necklace with small diamonds around it. She also taken the trouble that morning to curl her hair a bit, so that now it wasn't dead straight as usual, but had soft waves in it. A perfect spring outfit. Not that Josh cared - or even noticed. He hadn't even said anything about her hair.
"Big night tonight?" Sam asked.
Donna shrugged. "Not really. I just wanted to wear my new dress." She felt reluctant to say she was going on a date. Sam was sweet, but he couldn't keep a secret. By Monday, the whole office would know that she had gone out on a date, something that was rare enough to have practically the entire White House gossiping.
"Well, have a great time", Sam said sincerely. "Is Josh still working on that tax thing?"
"I guess so." Donna actually had no idea what Josh was doing, but since it seemed so important (more important than her, a part of her whispered), it probably was 'that tax thing'. "Thanks, Sam. I'll see you on Monday."
Sam left, and Donna finished packing her things, and put on her coat. Sam was her friend, and he had noticed. But Josh was... he was something more, and he didn't care at all. He should have said something more, even if he didn't mean it. They were friends, she angrily thought. Even if there was nothing else, they were still friends. Her emotions jumped from anger to depression.
I guess in the end he's my boss, she thought dejectedly, as she walked out of the West Wing
Saturday morning, Donna sat at the table, having her morning coffee and still thinking about Josh's callous indifference to her yesterday. In fact, she hadn't been able to stop thinking about it all last night.
The night had been quite pleasant. Andrew, a friend of her roommate, was great company. He was soft-spoken yet charming, and told her many funny stories about the students he taught at the American University. An English professor, young and attractive in an athletic way.
And all she could think about was Josh.
Dinner had been delicious, and afterwards they had gone to a hotel. He knew this great lounge with fantastic views, and they had spent several hours there drinking coffee, sampling the chocolates and talking. They parted amiably - no kiss though - and Donna knew that they could easily go out again. She liked him, but she didn't feel a special attraction.
All she could think about was Josh.
Any disappointment or dejection she felt had disappeared during her date. Andrew was an intelligent, attractive, charming guy who wanted to go out with her, and he had spent several minutes admiring her outfit. So had Sam. So had an old friend she met at the restaurant. She had looked great, and Josh had ignored her.
It had to have been deliberate, she decided. She knew that Josh often just forgot to notice things, especially when it came to her. But she had specifically asked him how she looked in her new dress, and he had deliberately said she looked 'okay'. Why would he say that? Was he trying to ruin her date? A friend would have said she looked fantastic, or she looked horrible, but would have said something more than 'okay'. What Josh had done deserved revenge.
Josh was always taking her for granted. If he didn't feel about her the way she felt about him, she could accept that - in fact, she had accepted it pretty much since the day she started working for him. But he should acknowledge that he needed her, and that she was more than just an assistant. If he didn't love her (it hurt her to say that, even to herself), he certainly didn't have to be mean to her.
But how could she get him back?
She was tired of him not noticing her when everyone else did. She couldn't accept that he didn't care, because his behaviour wasn't forgetful or careless - it seemed deliberate. She needed to do something that he couldn't pretend to ignore, something that was scare him out of his relying on her always being predictable old Donna...
Ah! She had an inspiration. And if she did it right, then she would find out why he acted like that. She'd need help though. Her roommate's friend, Janine, might be perfect... She chuckled to herself as she opened her address book and began dialling. Josh would get the biggest surprise of his life on Monday.
Monday morning found Josh Lyman feeling awful. He hadn't slept much that weekend, kept awake by thoughts of, well, everything.
But mostly he thought of Donna.
He'd been so mean to her on Friday. All week actually, but especially on Friday. When she'd come to work that morning, he noticed immediately that her hair was different: instead of being straight, it was all wavy. It looked so nice on her and he'd been about to tell her that (well, something to that effect, with a joke thrown in) when he realised that it was the night of her date. She'd done up her hair because of her date. He decided not to say anything after all.
Many times that day he wanted to tell her that he liked her hair, but something held her back. She'd probably just think he was being stupid anyway, so he bit back the words each time.
But when she walked into his office that evening, he couldn't speak. She looked... beautiful. There was no other word for it. Beautiful. He loved her new dress (and he knew it was new too - he remembered every dress she wore), especially the way the pink brought out a little colour on her otherwise pale face.
And so when she asked him what she thought, what did he say? "You look okay". Okay?! He wanted to tell her that she looked really nice - no, beautiful - but he couldn't, just the way he couldn't tell her that he liked her hair, and the way he avoided the subject of her date all week. As soon as he'd said those words, he'd immediately looked down and tried to act busy, embarrassed of the way he felt and sure she would be able to tell that he was lying.
And he'd been deliberately short with her when she stayed on his office, torn between wanting her to go because he'd just insulted her and wanting her to stay, so he could just stare at her. She didn't seem to care though - she'd just asked if he needed any messages passed on. She was just doing her job as his assistant.
Josh particularly remembered his last words: "Don't forget your keys." The last time she went out on a date, she'd forgotten her keys and had come over to his place, to get her spares. But it was late and they'd stayed up pretty all night, just talking. Josh remembered that night down to every last detail. He'd mentioned it as a sort of apology, so that she would remember a time when he wasn't been so mean to her.
She was more than an assistant to him. What else she was, Josh didn't know (or didn't want to admit), but it was more than an assistant. She was his friend, and he had no right to behave like that to her. Oh well. She'd probably had a great time with that college professor, though why that made him feel sick he didn't understand.
Josh decided to make it up to her today. How, he wasn't quite sure. Maybe he'd take her out to lunch or something, somewhere they could talk. He missed talking with her, even though it was only two days since they'd spoken.
Donna walked in the White House, feeling nervous and sick. Janine had done a great job, but as she walked towards her desk she began regretting her plan. What if it backfired completely? And then, or course, there was everyone else to contend with.
She saw CJ coming towards her, reading some papers she was holding, and took a deep breath. If it worked with CJ, then she would go through with it, Donna decided.
"Morning, CJ", Donna said brightly.
"Good morning, Donna", replied CJ, looking up from her notes. "How are - Oh my God!" CJ gave a violent start and dropped her papers, her hands flying up to her face. "Donna...what... how... what did you do to your hair?"
Donna laughed at CJ's reaction. It was going to work after all. "Well, I decided to cut it," she said simply.
CJ was shaking her head in disbelief. "But it so... short!"
"I've been thinking about it for a while, and so this weekend I just did it". Donna struggled to contain her laughter. She was enjoying herself immensely. "Do you like it?" she asked CJ innocently.
CJ started to stutter. "It's... it's.... I mean, it's nice, but... your hair was so long."
Donna leaned in close. "Well, to tell you the truth, CJ, it was becoming a bit of a hassle."
"Oh. Well". CJ calmed down a little. "You look great. It really does suit you, Donna", she said earnestly. "It was just a bit of shock."
"I'll bet", replied Donna, smiling. And then, because she was still so nervous, she asked CJ "Have you seen Josh this morning?"
"He's in his... oh!" The realisation hit CJ halfway through her sentence. "Oh my God, Donna, I HAVE to be there when you show him."
"I think I want to do this alone", said Donna. "Just don't tell him."
CJ smiled, but disbelief was in her voice. "You got it, Donna."
As she walked away, Donna realised that she was looking forward to confronting Josh. He wouldn't ignore her hair, and the shock of it all would last for months. She reached up to touch the unfamiliar hair. It was so short, she thought. She'd asked Janine for Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail, but Janine had said that her hair was too thin to hold that style. Donna, however, liked the choppy, layered look that Janine had done, more like Winona Ryder. And, she admitted, it looked good too. It made her face seem a bit more angular, but she also thought that it placed more emphasis on her eyes. She's spent a bit of time choosing her outfit for today, deciding on a red jacket and shirt suit, with a white top underneath. She also wore red lipstick to match.
Yes, today she would get her revenge on Josh Lyman.
Josh sat in his office, trying to work, but really waiting for Donna to arrive. He'd heard her arrive at her desk while he was on the phone, but before he could get out there to see her, she'd left. He guessed she had some things to do, while at the same time, making him wait before she talked to him. The best thing to do, he decided, was stay in his office until she came to see him.
He heard someone at the door, and looked up expectantly.
"Good morning, Josh". It was CJ, and she was grinning from ear to ear.
"Hey CJ." said Josh, trying to keep the disappointment from his voice. "What are you so happy about? The entire Press Corps got the flu today?"
"No, no", giggled CJ. "It's just a good morning. You know, the start of another week. Lots of things to do, lots of people to see..."
Josh looked back to his work. CJ's obvious good mood was annoying him. "Yeah, well, why don't you go start on those things now? And if you see Donna out there, tell her I need to talk to her."
"So, you haven't seen Donna this morning?", CJ asked in what Josh almost thought was a mischievous voice.
"No, I haven't, and I need her to finish sorting these reports." He sighed. "So if you see her, CJ, on your way out..."
"Okay, Joshua, I can take a hint." CJ turned to leave. "I'll... ah... see you later, then."
Josh didn't look up, just waved his hand at her. He did have to finish reading these reports, and it helped to take his mind off of what he was going to say to Donna. He got through about four pages, when he heard Donna come back at her desk. Trying to keep things as normal as possible, he yelled out to her.
"Donna! Get in here!"
He was just finishing the fifth page when he heard Donna walk into his office. "Just one second, I'm almost finished," he said, without looking up.
"Take your time", she said.
He finished the last paragraph. "Now Donna," he said, putting the notes down, "I need you..." He stopped talking as he turned his head up to look at Donna. He saw her.
There was a long silence. Donna stood there, waiting for Josh to speak. Josh just sat at his desk, speechless, staring at her with wide eyes and a half-opened mouth. I've got my wish, thought Donna. He's noticing me all right.
Trying to keep her voice flippant, she asked, "You need me to do what, Josh?"
Josh continued to stare at her. "Donna," he finally murmured, no louder than a whisper, "your hair."
"I glad you noticed, Josh", Donna said in a sharp tone, then instantly regretted it. "Do you like it", she asked quietly.
Josh couldn't say anything. Not because he was trying to cover up his feelings, or because he didn't know what to say. He literally could not talk. All he could do was stare. She cut her hair, he moaned inwardly. She cut her long, blond hair. It was because of him, he knew that instantly. What he didn't know was why.
But she had asked him a question, the same as on Friday. Even though he was still in shock, he knew he had to answer her.
"It's...nice." Oh God, he thought, it was the worst answer he could possibly give.
She didn't seem to take offence. "You think so?" She looked so delicate standing there, nervously fidgeting with her hair, her eyes wide with something akin to fear. Whatever he had done to her, he had to make it up. Starting from now.
"Yeah, absolutely", he said emphatically, standing up and moving around the desk to her. "You look fantastic, really, really fantastic."
"Really?" Donna looked a little confused. Whatever she had been expecting, it wasn't this. She was sure he would hate it.
"Yeah, really. It's a shock, I mean, yeah, but it's great. Really." He stood next to her, making a show of examining her hair. "You look a little like Winona Ryder."
Donna gave a half-smile. "That's what I was going for. My roommate's friend did it She's a hairdresser."
"But Donna", said Josh, his voice faltering, "why?"
"Because I wanted to," she answered him, but her voice was shaking too.
"Was it... was it because of me?" he asked her in a whisper.
Donna was silent. They were standing so close, and she couldn't hear any other noise but his soft voice. "What do you mean?"
His face was full of naked concern. "I mean, on Friday.... I was so... I shouldn't have acted like that."
"Like what, Josh?"
"Like I didn't care that you were going on a date. Like I didn't think you looked beautiful in that new dress. Like you weren't a... good friend."
Now it was Donna that couldn't speak. She had a huge lump in her throat. He cared she was going out on a date. He noticed it was a new dress. He thought she looked beautiful.
He kept going. "I don't know why I was like that. I've been really busy
and...and that's not the reason, of course. I just...umm... don't like you going
out on dates with college professors. Or anyone. But you didn't have to cut your hair. I
was going to apologise today, really." He saw that her lips were trembling. "You
didn't have to cut your hair."
They were so close now. He smelt the faint scent of her perfume. He wanted to close his
eyes remember that scent, but at the same time he never wanted to look away from her face
He reached out his hand to where her hair should have been, but instead he touched her neck. It was like a jolt of electricity, that small touch. He saw her eyes widen at the touch - she felt it too. He didn't move his hand. "I'm so sorry, Donna."
"Josh," she whispered, "I need to tell...."
But she didn't finish her sentence because in the next moment, Josh slid his hand behind her bare neck, and before he knew what he was doing he pulled her close and kissed her.
For Donna, it seemed to last forever. As their lips touched she felt a warmth flowing through her body. That nervous feeling that had been with her all weekend, and a lot longer before that, she belatedly realised, was gone in an instant. Apart from their lips, the only other contact between them was his hand on her neck, but she felt like her whole body was touching his.
For Josh, it seemed to be over in an instant. He felt the soft touch of her lips so briefly, too briefly, before they both pulled apart. He still kept his hand against her neck, savouring the feel of his skin under his fingers.
"For what?" Donna whispered after they had stood there for a while. Her eyes were wide, but Josh couldn't decipher what emotion was in them. He gazed into her eyes, lost in their depths and in the depths of his own feelings.
"What are you sorry for?"
"Oh", he said, startled back into the present. "I'm sorry that I made you cut your hair."
Inexplicably, Donna began to giggle. Josh found it infectious and smiled back. "What's so funny?"
"Oh, Josh", said Donna, shaking her head. "That's so sweet. But you didn't make me cut my hair."
"Oh", he said again, a little confused. "But I thought..."
"Josh." Donna stopped him talking by placing a finger against his mouth. Then she reached up, grabbing her hair. To Josh's utter amazement, she pulled it off, revealing what looked like a white swimming cap underneath. Josh's mouth opened wide.
Donna laughed at the expression on his face. She watched him stare first at her head, then at the wig in her hand, then back to her head again. He reached up and patted her head with his hand.
"What?" he managed to say, shocked into speechlessness for the second time in about five minutes. "A... wig?!"
"Yes", said Donna, a little sheepishly. "I wanted to, uh, get your attention."
He was still staring. "It's all still there?" he asked unbelievingly.
Donna laughed, and then pulled off the cap. Her hair, long and blond, fell out, spilling over her shoulders, like a cascading waterfall. "You're annoying, Josh Lyman, but there's no way I'd cut off my hair for you."
Josh still couldn't believe it. He grabbed her hair and, to Donna's amazement, gave it a good yank.
"Hey - that's my hair!"
Josh smiled. "You really didn't cut it all off?" he asked her one last time. She looked so beautiful with her long hair. He didn't wait for an answer but grabbed her with both arms and pulled her close for another kiss.
Donna let herself be kissed, the wig falling to the ground, its purpose fulfilled beyond her wildest expectations. What would happen next, she didn't know. But she did know that the emotional ice had been broken in a most unexpected way, and that from now on, they were most definitely more than friends. Then she realised something, and broke away from Josh.
"As much as I like what you're doing, Josh, I think we should close the door, unless you would like company."
He smiled, a huge grin that lit up his face, as he raced over to close his door. Then he turned back to the woman who had enchanted him with her long blond hair. The woman, he now knew, he loved. He'd tell her that right now.
And outside the office, CJ smiled. She hadn't been able to resist eavesdropping when she saw Donna go into Josh's office. And then, of course, she'd been unable to stop. Now, as she walked away, she wondered what kind of trick would help her catch the attention of that certain rumpled someone. Maybe a tattoo.