Title: 'Opportunities' 1/2
Authors: MoJo and Jori
Rating: I'll say R to be safe but it's what you get to see on primetime TV.
Summary: An opportunity for Donna turns into an even bigger opportunity for Josh and her.
Archive: Just let us know where!
Disclaimer: They belong to Aaron Sorkin and NBC. Not us. We're sorry. We just had to borrow them.
Authors' Notes: If you are missing any part of this story, you can find it at: http://www.netroenterprises.com/stateoftheunion/suopptpg.html
The White House Washington, DC
Today is as good a day as any to do this. Not like any day is particularily good, but Josh won't even notice I'm gone. He's got too much work to wrap up before we leave for that fund raiser tomorrow. I carry another stack of files into his office and drop them in his chair. There. That should keep him busy.
I dust my fingers off and smooth the front of my suit down. I'd better get going if I want to make it to La Colline by noon. I don't want to be late. First impressions. Very important.
Oh damn. I look up and see Josh scuttling towards me with a look of panic.
"Lunch," he says, maneuvering around me quickly and heading for his chair. He lets out a little groan as his butt hits the stack of files and not the chair. Josh reaches around, grabs them and deposits them with a 'smack' on the floor.
"What about it?"
"We're working through it."
Josh looks down at his desk and starts shuffling papers around, making the automatic assumption I had no plans or whatever plans I might have had aren't as important as his plans and taking for granted I'd be here for him. I'm to blame for that. I always put Josh first. Except today.
That one word gets Josh's attention. His eyes come up and meet mine.
"Can't," I repeat, turning on my heel and returning to my desk. Less said the better.
"I'm buying," Josh calls out as I reach down to get my purse from under my desk. A pang of guilt moves through me and I close my eyes. Stop it, Donnatella. I'm not going to feel guilty about this. I'm just going to find out what they are willing to offer. That's all. I haven't said yes to anything. I straighten up and spin around and find myself eye to eye and nose to nose with Josh.
His hands are on his hips and he's got me blocked in between his body and my desk. My heart races at being in such close proximity to him. I can feel that energy-tension-whatever rising off his body and it makes it hard to breathe. He's nervous and he's making me nervous and I can't be nervous right now. Josh can't suspect a thing.
"Anything you want, Donna, I'll order it in," he says, taking my purse out of my hand. Our fingers brush in the exchange and that sends a tremble down my spine. He sets it on my desk. "C'mon, work with me here."
That's the problem. All we do is work.
"I will when I get back from lunch," I say, hoping he doesn't press the issue.
Josh says nothing, nor does he move out of the way. His eyes leave mine long enough to move quickly down my body and back up again. Does he notice I'm wearing my one and only Donna Karan suit? Or the fact I retouched my make-up not even twenty minutes ago and not one hair is out of place? All telltale signs of what I'm doing.
"You're...taller," he finally says.
Figures Josh would notice that we're not on the same level today. My shoes. I'm wearing higher heels than what I normally wear.
"I'm the same height I've always been," I say, picking up my purse again. "Maybe you're just shorter."
"Size doesn't matter, Donna."
"Yeah, but ever notice how only small men say that?"
I take a step forward in said heels and that makes Josh take a step backwards to let me pass. Somehow, I manage to do so without brushing against him. He looks back into his office and then at me like a lost puppy. It makes the center of my chest tighten up with even more guilt and something...else. Oh, Josh, please don't give me that look. I had better get out of here now or else I'm not going to be able to.
"How can you leave me with all that paperwork?"
"Very easily," I say, with a pulling my lips into a tight grin. Irony being it is anything but easy to do this. But I have to. "Later, Josh."
"I'm timing you," Josh says, anxiously looking at his watch. "One hour, Donna. Starting now."
I turn and start walking, my heart pounding even harder now. I clear my head and try to stop thinking about Josh. This has nothing to do with him.
But it does. It has everything to do with Josh.
The White House Washington, DC
"You'll never guess who I saw at La Colline," Sam says as he catches up to me in the hall. I'm trying to get to C.J. before she makes a briefing because someone got something wrong. Very wrong. Not me, of course, but I don't really have time for Sam and whatever it is he has to tell me right now.
"Go ahead and guess."
"Sam, nearly every employee on the Hill has eaten there at one time or another, so I'm really at a loss as to who it might have been. I really don't have time for this right now... what were you doing at La Colline anyway? We're leaving tomorrow morning. Don't you have work to do?"
"I was working. I had a lunch meeting with Senator Ashcroft..."
"Ashcroft went to La Colline with you? The one meeting I had with him he had a brown bag lunch and offered me half a turkey sandwich," I say, looking into C.J.'s office. Damn. She's not there. Her assistant isn't out front. Seems to be a trend around here.
"Well, that's you, Josh. With me, it's La Colline," Sam says, straightening his tie. I begin to walk away from him, and he follows behind. "Anyway, guess."
"You know what? This conversation has just gone on too long and I'm losing the ability to feign any interest whatsoever..."
That stops me in my tracks and Sam slams into me. Sam is always walking into something, so no one pays any attention to us.
"Donna? *My* Donna?" I ask as he regroups from our collision.
"Yes, though whether you can really claim her as 'your' Donna for much longer is questionable."
"What are you talking about?" I ask, rubbing my eyes and trying to figure out what in the hell he means by that. I know she isn't 'my' Donna in any greater sense than I'm her boss and she's my assistant, but if she was out with another guy, well, she does go out on dates. It has nothing to do with us. Or at least I don't think it does.
"I saw Donna having lunch with my friend Kevin Brooker from Arent Fox. I heard through the grapevine that Kevin lost his secretary a few weeks ago and if you ask me, what I saw today looked an awful lot like a job interview. Has Donna been unhappy working for you lately, Josh? One could hardly blame her . . " Sam starts.
"I-- I don't think so. I can't see why she would be. Sam, can you get this to C.J.?" I ask, handing him the memo I have in my hand. "Tell her that the figures she got last night are wrong and these are the correct ones. I have to... uh, I have to go check into something."
I begin to back away from him, not really sure what I have to check into. The latest gossip? That's what I need to know about. One of the other assistants must have heard something. They are always together during lunch rattling on about something. One of them must know something.
"Josh, I'm sure it's nothing. She's probably just out there 'playing the field,' so to speak. Seeing what she's worth..."
I round the corner and can't hear whatever else he has to say. I just have to get to my office and figure this all out. What in the hell am I going to do without Donna? I sit down behind my desk and stare at all the folders now piled up on my desk. What am I going to do to keep her here? I don't really want to have to go through the process of training someone new. I don't... well, I don't want to lose her.
The phone buzzes and it makes me jump, drawing me out of my thoughts.
"Josh Lyman," I answer.
"Josh, this is C.J. Are you sure about those numbers you gave me?" she asks. The memo I sent with Sam. I knew I should have done it myself.
"I positive about them, C.J. Those are the numbers Donna pulled for me this morning and there's no reason I would suspect they are wrong," I say, trying to find the original source for those numbers somewhere on my desk. It was in that pile of stuff Donna left on my chair right before she dashed out of here to find a better job.
"Donna did seem a little nervous this morning. Maybe she got one of them transposed..."
"I-I can't imagine why she might have been nervous. I'll double check them myself and get back to you," I say, hanging up the line as I dig through the papers on my desk trying to find the source C.J. needs.
Damn it. Donna looks nervous because she's going on a job interview with an associate partner at the largest law firm in DC and I can't even spot it. I do have an excuse. I've got a lot to do concerning this fund raiser tomorrow. We are leaving in exactly 18 hours and I can't be expected to notice everything. I check my watch. She's twenty minutes late. This is not good. Not good at all.
I look up and see her walk by my office toward her desk. She has on higher heels than usual and that is a nice suit. Not her normal suit. Not that she has a normal suit, but that is a nice suit. Her face is flawless as is her hair. Long and blonde, flowing down her shoulders...
Oh, hell. What am I thinking? I don't know what I'm thinking. Whatever that passing thought was, it was not good. She's still my assistant and I'd like to keep it that way. I just can't come out and ask her about the interview. What if Sam was wrong? I have no idea what to do but sit back and wait for her to come to me.
Except I'm just not good at doing that. I'm going to have to find out. Somehow or another, without asking her directly, I'm going to have to get to the bottom of this.
"Hey, Donna!" I call from my office. "You know those numbers you pulled for C.J.? I'm going to need them figured again."
The White House Washington, DC
"Here, let me help you with that," Josh says, coming up from behind me and taking half the stack of files I'm moving from C.J.'s office back to his. I found my mistake from earlier and managed to correct it in time. I should have been paying better attention, but my mind was on other things earlier. It still is.
"Gee, Josh. I didn't know you were that eager for more work," I say dryly, avoiding his gaze. I can't look at him in the eye right now because it just flusters me too much.
We're in for a long night since we are leaving first thing in the morning and Josh is going to want to have everything wrapped up. He never asks me if I want to stay late, it's just assumed I will. Kevin Brooker said I'd have set hours at Arent Fox. Daytime hours. Nine to five. Not that I mind staying late here because I'm normally staying late with Josh.
"I just didn't want you to feel overwhelmed," he says and for once he's not trotting off ahead of me. Instead, Josh matches his steps to mine. Which is good because my ankles are killing me in these heels and I can't walk very fast. "Why don't you uh...take the rest of the afternoon off. You know, to pack and get ready."
I stop walking and so does Josh. I turn and face him, shuffling the files to one arm.
"Are you feeling all right?" I ask, laying the palm of my free hand on his forehead. He's been acting weird all afternoon. Too weird. He *is* a little warm. And flushed. I turn my hand over and press the back of my fingers to his cheek gently. Josh smiles at the gesture and it makes my insides twist. I quickly pull my hand away, afraid of misinterpreting that smile.
"Why wouldn't I be feeling all right?" he says as I start walking again.
"Because you're telling me to take the afternoon off the day before a road trip to a very important fund raising event."
"And your point is?"
"There is something wrong with you," I say as I turn the corner.
"If there is something wrong with me, I would hope you'd come to me and tell me there is something wrong so I can fix it."
"I just did."
Josh stops and lets me go on ahead into his office. I drop that stack of files on his desk while he stands in the threshold, staring at me. Oh, I wish he wouldn't do that. I feel like I've got the words 'I was made a job offer' written in big red letters across my forehead already.
"Are you okay going tomorrow?" he asks, entering the room and dropping his stack on top of mine. Again, he's standing really close to me and again I feel that energy-tension-whatever rising off his body.
"Of course I am," I reply, moving away from him and checking his phone for voice mail. Josh follows me and closes up the gap between us once more.
"If you don't want to go to these things, you don't have to go," Josh rambles, scratching behind his ear. "I'll be okay without you."
"You'll be okay without me?" I say, with a little pout. Does he have any idea what he just said?
"No," Josh quickly corrects, holding out his hands in a panicked gesture and waving them back and forth. "That's not what I meant. I won't be okay without you."
"But you just said you would?"
"Hypothetically speaking," Josh says, pushing his sleeves up even higher on his arms then jamming his hands in his pockets. "I'm not okay without you but if you really don't want to go, that's okay too."
"I'm okay," I say.
"You're okay what?" Josh asks nervously. Oh God, maybe I *should* leave early. He's getting weirder by the second and all it's doing is confusing me even more than what I already am.
"I'm okay with going with you tomorrow," I say. Josh lets out a big sigh before finally sitting down.
"If you weren't okay, you would tell me, right?"
I open my mouth to say something, but nothing comes out. Instead, I retreat back to my desk quickly. Why does he have to be so... so Josh right now? So charming and so annoying and so...Josh.
I sit down and close my eyes, wishing I could understand all the mixed messages my brain and my heart keep sending to each other. Should I stay? Should I go? A job is a job. But if I take the position at Arent Fox, then I won't be working for Josh anymore. He won't be my boss and I won't be his assistant and we could...not be boss and assistant. But if I take it and that doesn't happen then I won't see Josh anymore at all and that isn't what I really want. I plant my elbows on my desk and cover my face with my hands. It's a good thing I told Kevin Brooker I'd need a couple days before giving him my answer.
I'm glad my roommate is out of town this week and it's just me and the cats. What I need to do is get a good night's sleep tonight or else I'm going to be a wreck tomorrow. Hopefully, everything will look much clearer in the morning.
Four Seasons Bar Washington, DC
"I thought I might find you here. You do realize that we all have to be on a plane in nearly... seven hours, don't you?" Sam asks, looking at his watch before sitting down on the barstool next to me.
"I'm well aware of that fact. Even without an assistant -- or you for that matter, I can tell time pretty well. Learned how when I was about six. I had a book all about telling time and I had this little clock whose hands moved around its face. I usually am pretty good about knowing what time it is and . . ."
"And you are relatively incoherent already and you've had what? Two drinks?"
"That's my limit."
"I think you are worrying about nothing. I really do. If she was seriously looking elsewhere, it would be all over the office by now. No one there can keep a secret. It's the White House, for chrissakes. Secrets leak out of there faster than water through a... sieve," he says and I just stare at him.
"They really let you write? I mean, you were honestly hired to write for important people?"
"I can do better. But the point is, I think you are worrying prematurely," he says, motioning for the bartender and placing an order.
"And if she leaves? What am I supposed to do if she leaves?" I ask, staring at the melting ice in my drink. The water swirls with the amber liquid and I know better than to have another. No matter how badly I want one.
"You'll get a new assistant. Kevin Brooker is a nice guy. I went to Princeton with him and he's a damn fine attorney, from what I understand. He'll treat her well and I think she'll do fine there," Sam says as the bartender slides a drink in front of him. "Unless it's not Donna that you're worried about."
"W-what do you mean by that?" I ask, sitting up straighter and giving up on the thought of another drink.
"You asked 'what are you supposed to do' so I'm assuming you are more worried about yourself than you are about what she's doing with her life. Maybe if you figured out why she wants to leave, you can fix it and she won't go. Then you wouldn't have to worry about hiring someone new," Sam says and it all sounds so practical.
Yes. I just have to figure out what's wrong with where she's at and fix it. She certainly wasn't going to open up about it when I asked her all afternoon. I know the job can be demanding but she knew that coming into it. The hours are always long but I didn't think she minded them terribly. We were usually working together and we do work well together. I see no reason to end this particular arrangement we have going. It works well for me... there I go again. I have to figure out why it doesn't work well for Donna. What's missing in our relationship.
"What would make you resign, Sam?" I ask and he takes a long, smooth swallow from his glass.
"I suppose if I monumentally screwed up in some way, I'd resign."
"If there was some grave family crisis and they needed me, I suppose I might consider it," Sam says, putting his drink down on the wet paper napkin.
"Maybe if I fell madly in love with someone I couldn't live without and they owned an Italian villa and wanted me to run away with them and never set foot inside the White House again, I might think about it."
"Yeah..." I say and that kicks my brain into gear. Is Donna in love with someone? Wouldn't she tell me? Wouldn't I at least hear it in all the gossip that goes around? Why would she quit this job if she was? Oh, damn. I still don't know what's going on. "Do you think that's what's happening here?"
"Do I think Donna is running off to an Italian villa with someone she can't live without? No. I think Donna is looking at a job offer from a very large and prestigious law firm here in town and you really shouldn't read too much into it, Josh. Things like this happen. If you want her to stay, find out why she's considering it," Sam says, looking at his watch again.
"We have to be on a plane to Chicago in six and a half hours. I need to go throw some stuff in a bag and then get back to work," Sam says, pulling out his wallet and tossing some bills down on the bar.
"I, uh, so do I," I say absentmindedly. I rub my tired eyes and look up at Sam. "I'll see you in a little while, okay? I have to take care of something."
"Are you okay? Did you drive?" he asks.
"I'll be fine. Get going. We've got to be on a plane..."
"I know. Don't worry about it, Josh. It will all work out in the end," Sam says, walking away.
Sure it will all work out in the end. But that still doesn't answer why she's doing this in the first place. That's all I want to know.
Donna Moss' Apartment
The sound of knocking awakens me from the half-conscious state I'm in. The cats immediately jump off my bed and start howling at the door, thinking my roommate has come home. I'm all alone and I'm not getting out of bed. It's probably just one of my neighbors drunk and thinking this is their apartment. I close my eyes and settle back against the pillow and hope they go away.
It is quiet for a minute and then the knocking starts up again, this time louder and more deliberate. I throw back the covers and reach for my robe. I put it on quickly, sweeping my hair over my shoulders as I head for the phone. I hope whoever it is just leaves so I don't have to call the cops. I squint at the clock on the nightstand. It's nearly 2 a.m.
"Come on, Donna, I know you're in there."
There is a desperation in his tone that panics me. What is he doing here? Nothing happened at work to disappoint him today, did it? Has he been drinking? Josh has such a sensitive system and he should know better.
I sidestep over the cats and unlock the door, pulling it back just in time to catch Josh halfway down the dimly lit hallway.
Josh turns around, wiping his hazy eyes. He has been drinking. And he's a mess, too. The knot in his tie has been pulled loose, his shirt is all wrinkled and his hair is sticking up in weird directions. He starts walking back towards my door, his steps a little uneven.
"I, uh, was just in the neighborhood..." he mumbles, stopping at the threshold.
"You're always in the neighborhood," I say, as he wipes his eyes again. He leans against the door, his face close to mine as he rests his forehead on the doorframe.
"...and I wanted to see if you were okay," he continues, his hand coming up to finger the chain hopefully.
I'm okay, but I'm not certain that Josh is okay. I close the door and pull the chain back to let him inside. He stumbles over one cat and nearly steps on the other as it weaves its body around his ankles.
"Her name is Cleo," I say, locking the door up again.
"Her name is 'damn cat' as far as I'm concerned," Josh yells, bending down so Cleo can hear him better. She hisses at him and Josh hisses back.
I fold my arms and stare at Josh through the darkness. If I leave, whose door is Josh going to show up at? And will they care about him the way I care about him? This is something that wasn't in the job description. But I don't think it's part of the job. It's part of something... else.
"Sit down and they might leave you alone."
Josh obeys and within seconds, Tabitha is up on his lap, leaving her long silvery hair all over him. He closes his eyes, perhaps hoping that when he opens them, she will have disappeared. No such luck. He opens his eyes and she's staring right back at him with wide-eyed wonderment.
"Donna, could you?" he asks, trying to shoo the cat away. She won't budge.
"Tabby cat, come here. Let's go get a treat," I say as I start walking toward the little kitchen off of the living room. As I move behind the couch, I stop just long enough to smooth Josh's messy hair back into place. He closes his eyes again as my fingers continue to move through his hair. I can tell he likes this. I like it, too. "Would you like for me to make you some coffee?"
"Me or the cat?" Josh asks, opening his eyes and staring up at me.
"Donna, you won't even get me a cup of already made coffee at work. Now you're going to make me a whole pot?" he asks. He sounds strange. Confused. Maybe he's just as confused as I am. I unravel my fingers from his hair and go into the kitchen, the cat finally leaving his lap and following me.
"You're in my home. I'm not your assistant and you aren't my boss right at the moment, though if you keep yelling at the cats, I might not offer you anything again," I say, pulling the coffee can out of the cabinet. He might like some of the things I have to offer... stop it, Donnatella. Don't go there with him sitting on your couch looking all rumpled and... needy.
"Donna, everything is okay, isn't it?" he asks for the 200th time today.
Somehow, he knows. I don't know how he knows, but he knows. The only person who knew was Carol and she certainly wouldn't have said anything. I don't think Kevin Brooker called Josh for a reference since I asked him not to.
I scoop the grounds into the filter, set it inside the machine and flip the switch. I tuck a strand of hair behind my ear, taking a deep breath and before I can even think twice about it, the words come tumbling out of my mouth.
"Josh, I was offered another a job today."
There is a long pause.
"Is that what you want?" I hear him say behind me.
No, it's not what I want. Because what I want is sitting on my couch.
I turn and find Josh isn't sitting on the couch anymore. He's in my dark kitchen just ten feet away from me and coming closer every second. Inside, my heart is racing and I couldn't stop it even if I wanted to. I take a deep breath as he stops right in front of me, arms reaching out so his hands can rest on the counter with me pinned between them. The panicked look in his eyes quickly dissolves into a look of longing as he brings his body closer. Oh God, is Josh going to kiss me? I stare at his lips and feel a slow burn move through me. I want him to kiss me. Please, Josh. Just kiss me so I'll know and then none of this with Kevin Brooker is going to matter.
I close my eyes and part my lips and wait.
Continued in Part II