This is a companion piece to Roles, by Lalden.
Masks by Michelle H.

Title: Masks 1/1
Author: Michelle
Rating: PG, a little swearing
Spoilers: Noel
Author's notes: This is a companion piece to Laurel's piece, Roles.
Here's to Laurel, beta-reader extraordinaire, who inspires me to
abandon life and other whatnot to work on fanfic. And to the others
(they know who they are) for the inspiration and clarity. Cheers, hail,
Disclaimer: I don't own them. Don't sue.
Summary: Josh muses...

Donna was the one who guessed.

I can't even begin to tell you how pleased that makes me. I guess I
think this is pleased. I'm a little rusty. Today is the first day in
weeks I've felt anything other than sheer misery.

God, it's a relief. But it's not over yet.

I've come to rely on Donna a lot over the years and the thought of her
being oblivious to my pain was actually--painful. All she did was go on
and on about Yo Yo Ma.

If I hadn't been so miserable, it would have been--cute. But I was
miserable. We shouted at each other. I treated her badly.

I can be a real asshole.

So I'm talking to Leo about rectangles and eating disorders, and trying
to not get all misty eyed while he tells me my job is secure, and all
the while I'm thinking about what an asshole I was to Donna. I guess I
wear a lot of masks around here.

Egotistical-Asshole is one that suits me well. I guess, sadly, it's
what people have come to expect.

Megalomaniacal-Tyrant is in the same vein, but it's mainly
administrative. I can be an Egotistical-Asshole anywhere. At work, at
the grocery store, in my car. It's convenient. When I don't know what
to do, or I feel helpless, or I'm faced with a pack of rabid
Republicans, I just fall back on Egotistical Asshole.

It works for me.

Okay, now and then it gets me into trouble, too. Like now, with
Donna. I've been an asshole to everyone lately, but I'm mainly
concerned about Donna. But she was the one who guessed.

Damn, I occasionally underestimate her.

Okay, I constantly underestimate her. She has me trained well.

The mask I always try to wear is, of course,

It's the mask I wish I was able to show Donna more often.

I try so hard. But some people wheedle their ways in and see beyond my
visage, beyond both Egotistical-Asshole and
Charming-Witty-and-Handsome-Political-Strategist. What they see are the
other masks. The ones that are more personal. The ones that are more
real, although I don't know if anyone's ever seen the real Joshua Lyman.

Who is the real Joshua Lyman, anyway?

I don't even think I know. I suppose my mother and Donna have come the
closest to seeing it. Whatever it is.

I wonder if Donna knows me better than I know myself. The possibility
should scare me. I wonder why it doesn't.


She's standing there, waiting patiently to take me to have my hand
looked at. On Christmas Eve.

God, what have I done? Donna deserves to be with her family, not
hauling me off to the hospital to have my hand swathed in Anti-biotic

For the first time in weeks, I allow her to control me. I allow her to
lead me away.

She was, after all, the one who guessed. Donna and my mother have seen
the masks that don't come out as often, like Good-Friend. Loving-Son.


Okay, so neither Donna nor my mother (thank God for that) can testify
about the last one. But the people who've been there can tell you.

Okay, I don't know for sure. I'm just saying. I haven't had any
complaints. I find it slightly disturbing that the people who honestly
know me well don't know about my sexual prowess.

That doesn't say much for the ones who do.


I step forward, with my Charming-Witty-and-Handsome-Political-Strategist
guise in place, and head off towards Donna's car.

It's going to be a long night.



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