But, they'll always have Paris.

By Tori Morris

Author's Note: I don't own any characters, except those of my own creation. They actually belong to Aaron Sorkien, creator of the West Wing, and NBC, who owns the thing.

Because people asked for it, I am writing this. Hopefully, I have something important to say.

~~~

"The moment you have in your heart this extraordinary thing called love and feel the depth, the delight, the ecstasy of it, you will discover that for you, the world is transformed."

J. Krishnamurti

"The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself."

-Ben Franklin

~~~

It was the holidays, and not everyone was chipper, and not everyone was blue. Some people were just fine in between. Deputy Chief of Staff Joshua Lyman was one of those, or he used to be.

The holidays usually didn't mean much to him. Just that he had to stop being a tight-wad for four hours to brave the mall and come back with gifts for his friends. Usually at the last minute possible.

A creek on the door, and he looked up from the list. He had no idea what to get her, he mused, as he looked up into her face.

"Donna, do you always sneak up on people when they are busy?"

"Always. It's my ability."

"It's your ability?"

"You know, the one thing people are the best at. Mine is sneaking up on people. Joshua Lyman, in particular."

"Wait...so if your talent is sneaking up on me, what's mine?"

"Being a thoughtless dork."

"I'm not a thoughtless dork."

"All evidence to the contrary. You can't even talk to me without being a dork."

"Yes I can."

"No you can't...name one time." and Donna held out her finger to further indicate the number one.

"Now."

"Besides right now."

"Last week."

"When last week."

He looked around slowly, to make sure no one was in sight.

"At the wedding last week." He'd caught hell from Leo for skipping out early when there was work to be done, but he had made up an excuse involving feeling sick and a broken down car. He didn't think they knew, but, he didn't want anyone finding out all the same. Joshua Lyman might be socially inept, but that didn't mean he couldn't see what things looked like.

And the New York trip did not look like a normal boss and his normal assistant.

Donna snorted. "But the reason you were there was because you insulted me."

"Ok, technically, yes, but I didn't do it once while I was there. And," he stressed the word, "I haven't done it since I got back."

The leggy assistant looked thoughtful, and sighed.

"Ok, you win that round. But I'll be watching you. You have to slip sometime."

"No I don't," he rebutted, but it was too late, she had left his office. In her place was a shiny new pile of documents, all waiting to be looked at.

~~~

The mall, four days before Christmas was no place for a White House staffer to be shopping, Josh thought as he strolled slowly down the aisles of a non-descript electronics store. He'd already chose gifts for the President and Abbey, Leo and Toby. He'd even found CJ a gift. Now all he had to do was pick out something for his best friend and...Donna.

In his mind, he used to call her "assistant" or "friend", but ever since the "trip", he had called her Donna. God, my therapist would have a field day with that. No, no, let's not think about the trip. Let's get a gift for Sam, instead.

"Sam, Sam, Sam, what can I get Sam?" A palm pilot? Nah, seemed a bit useless to him, he couldn't even keep a beeper on him. Well, then again, neither can I. Donna does that for me usually. He slapped his head. Donna, Donna everywhere and not a thought to spare.

His eyes skipped past different goodies of different sorts. VCR's, home computers, video games, DVD's...

"Wait a minute." He said out loud. Hadn't Donna wanted a DVD player once? Well, now's a perfect opportunity to show how much I do care. And he didn't deny it, he did care.

~~~

CJ Cregg's head was slumped over the edge of the couch, while the end credits of "It's a wonderful life." scrolled past, illuminating her snoring form with delicate shades of grey.

Buzzzzz, jumped the pager in her pockets, vibrating and wiggling all over the place so as to get her waking attention. Finally, CJ jumped out of sleep and grabbed the pager out of her pocket.

"What!" she groaned angrily as she tried to determine who had been calling her by the fading light of the television. Josh's home phone, she concluded, although she couldn't say where exactly that remembrance came from.

With a groan, she sat up and reached for the cell phone on her end table, and after a few seconds of struggles, came away with the little red Nokia in her palm. Still fighting off sleep, she punched a couple of buttons and hoped they were correct.

"Josh..." she mumbled irritably.

"Hey there CJ! Glad you called me back, I'd been trying for a few minutes...were you sleeping?"

"Yes, yes I was Josh. Now what is it you want?"

"Oh, sorry, well, ahem..."

"What is it?"

"Do you know how to wrap large gifts?"

"What?"

"I said..."

"Yes, yes, I know...I mean, I do know how to wrap gifts. Why?"

"Can you help me wrap this?"

"No, Josh, I was planning on sleeping, but, "

 

"Right. Do you know anyone else who knows how to do this then?"

CJ paused for just a minute. She didn't, but she assumed any respectable adult, other than Josh, would know how to wrap a gift. Besides, she had to talk to Josh about something she had overheard...

"Never mind Josh, I'll be right over."

"Really?"

"Yes really, just wait a minute."

And ten minutes later, CJ Cregg was in a car, zooming down the streets of Washington.

~~~

Knock, knock. Josh spun around and raced to the door, opening it wide.
"Hey CJ, come in."
CJ Cregg looked less than pleased to be at his house, but he wasn't really worried about that.
"You're not gonna tell anyone what they are getting, are you." he said, squinting.
"No Josh, just, wrap mine later."
"Ok. Hey. What makes you think I got you a gift."
"You got everyone gifts."
"I did, but, how did you know."
"Why would you leave me out?"
"Plenty of reasons."
"But you didn't, and I know you didn't." she said, slumping down on his kitchen table, and clearing some papers off of it slowly. She placed her purse on the table and sighed.
"Right. What are you doing?"
"Cleaning off your table," she said, placing some dishes in the sink. "honestly, when was the last time you cleaned this?"
"Umm...Donna came once a did it."
"You have your assistant do your dishes?"
"Not all the time. Only that once. And it was her idea." he said softly, rubbing his neck and looking away. He always does that, when he's talking about something he doesn't like to remember, she thought, and left it alone.
"Oh, ok, so where are those gifts."
"Right, gifts." he said, and reached in his closet. With a heft, he came out with a huge box.
"What on earth is that?!"
"A DVD player." he said, peering around the box and depositing it on the table.
"You got a DVD player? For who?"
Josh looked away for a moment. He's thinking about lying, and it's so obvious. An empty silence filled the room as she realized that rumor the press was investigating was true.
"Tell me the truth," she stopped and lowered her voice again. "It's for Donna, isn't it?"
"Um..."
"Joshua..." she pressed again. She needed to hear it from his voice.
"Yeah, think she'll like it?" He responded. Like that was what she was worried about.
"You bought Donna...your assistant Donna, a DVD player?"
"Mmhmm."
"And how much did that cost?"
"Why does it matter?"
"It does Josh!"
"A couple hundred bucks."
"Damnit Josh! I can't believe you did this!" she exploded.
"Did what? The DVD player or New York?"
"Either!" she ran her fingers through her hair, trying to think of a way to silence the press. "Both."
"And how long ago did you find out?"
"A few days ago, one of the rookie reporters asked me what I thought about it in private."
"What did you tell him?"
"What was I supposed to tell him? I knew you skipped out of work early that one day, and I also knew Donna had been gone." she stopped and searched his face. God, how could he do that.
"So, what did you say?"
"I said I wasn't your nanny, and I didn't know anything about that. Then I warned him off of the story, but..."
"Right. Does Danny know too?" he asked, moving slowly to pull out some gift wrap. He looked at her closely. Everyone knew they had a thing, or used to have a thing, but he wasn't sure how much she told him.
"You think I'm an idiot?"
"No. Just checking. All I have is this." he said and held up a roll of blue paper with a print of little silver stars on it.
"I don't think anyone will mind if you wrap it in Hanukkah paper."
"Ok." he said, and tossed her the roll. She caught it, and started to unroll it, then stopped.
"Josh, let's wrap something else first."
"Why? I wanted to do the big ones first."
"Joshua, you should take this back. Or keep it for yourself. Hell, give it Sam, I don't care, but you can't give this to Donna."
"Why? You think the press'll care? That I bought Donna DVD player?"
"I think they will care that you bought a two hundred dollar gift for your assistant, yes."
He shrugged. "So. It's not like I care, but, this isn't going to hurt anyone else is it?"
"Donna, you, maybe the rest of us. Please take it back." she wanted to ask another question, but maybe later, after he had calmed down a bit.
Josh shrugged and brought out some more gifts. A book in latin she figured was for the president, some electronics, an mp3 player, dvds...
"Josh, who're these for?" she said, holding up a copy of Casablanca.
"That's Donna's too. See, if I have to take that back, it makes those useless..."
CJ rubbed her eyes. "You got her dvds too?"
"Sure, otherwise she wouldn't have anything to play on it..."
She scanned over the titles. Casablanca, The American President, Ghost...
"Romances?"
"Well, I'm not sure what her taste in movies runs, so, you know, I tried to pick ones I'd seen."
Joshua Lyman, romance buff? She'd chuckle about that later. But that question kept popping up in her mind...
"How long?"
"Huh?"
"How long, have, you know..."
Josh rubbed his neck, and continued fumbling with the wrapping paper and the book.
"Josh..."
"Have you ever had an epiphany? " he asked, looking at her intently, stopping mid-fold to look unblinkingly.
"No, no I haven't."
"See, I knew what it meant, an epiphany." he said, seeming to get great pleasure out of the pronunciation. "But, I'd never had one, actually, never thought I'd had one before, until oh, half past nine, last friday." He paused to consider, and CJ sat motionless, listening. She knew well enough that the truth would come out now, or never.
"I've had several since then, I think, but they come in different ways. Some are simple truths that you suddenly know to be true, like the moment I knew that Josiah Bartlet was going to be great someday, and others are electric moments in time, where life stands still for several seconds, and afterward, you are breathless, and it hurts to move, to talk, to think. Those are the best kind, and if I spend the rest of my life trying, I may never have another.
That's fine; I think another would cheapen the feelings expressed in the first, make it harder to express the wonder about them. "
Cj ventured a question, hoping it wouldn't spoil the mood. "What kind of epiphany was it?"
"Ooh, it was the electrifying one; it made my hands shake, my whole body shiver. It's like little waves of sudden awareness running through your nerves. One minute, I was feeling depressed, I was wondering what love was." he chuckled at the thought. "I didn't think I knew, you know, but I did! It was there the whole time and it was so easy to see.
I was sitting in a little metal folding chair, nursing a beer while I thought about love. I was thinking about Mandy, and Joey, and then, she was there." he said it with such a tone, she knew he simply must be talking about Donna.
"She was wearing salmon, the light pink color was tinged with blue from the lights on the nearby dance floor. She wanted me to have this piece of cake, you see, and she pushed it in my face. She was worried about me, but all I could think about was the reason I had come to New York, I had come looking for things...for Donna." He laughed out loud, like it was the greatest joke ever.
"And, you see, it's the answer to both problems," he explained for CJ.
"What were the problems?" she asked.
"Why I came to New York. Why hadn't I just called her? Why I was feeling so empty all the time, except when she was around. Why I felt lonely when she left early to go out on a date, and I was left with the work, and I would write, but it wouldn't stay up here." he said with a light tap on his forehead.
CJ felt like she too, was experiencing Josh's epiphany. She could see it so clearly, the way he described it, and she understood. But she wasn't actually having an moment like he had, time wasn't slow, and it felt like he was flying through the description.
"And all the answers pointed to one thing, and I wasn't ready to admit it...but the moment I saw her face, that night on the dance floor, I knew and I knew, too, that I could never willingly deny the answer again."
"Oh, I can tell myself not to think about it, and I can tell myself to do it later, but I can't lie, I can't say, No Josh, you arn't really jealous of those other men, or No Josh, it doesn't matter if they hurt her. I just," he raised his hands and dropped them, "can't. Can you understand that?"
"Yes, I think so."
"Ok, then, show me how to wrap that DVD player."
CJ paused. She understood how Josh felt, and she didn't want to do this, but...it was almost election time again, and she couldn't allow Josh to do this right now...maybe later, if they won or lost, but not now.
"Josh...you've seen Casablanca, right?"
He looked at her deeply again. She could see right into his soul. She blinked and looked away.
"Yeah."
"Isn't sad, that no matter what, Ilsa belongs to Victor? That no matter how much Rick and she love each other, she belongs in one place, and he in the other, for the betterment of the world?"
Josh blinked, and she could swear he looked like he might cry. But, she had never seen it, and never would. He held it together.
"Yeah, it's tragic."
"Right." CJ paused. "But, they'll always have Paris, you know."
"Yeah."
"I'm gonna go now, ok?"
"Ok."
And she walked herself out, and once she was safely in her car, cried.
The End.
Author's end note: Ha! That's the best thing I've written so far...*cries softly.*
Waaah! Why am I so mean! Why can't I write the happy endings? When I was writing it, I fully intended it to end happily, but I'm far to realistic to actually do it, and this was is much truer. And, that's it. That's the ending.
"Number one: Do you know why books are so important? Because they have quality. And what does that word quality mean? To me it means texture. This book has pores. It has features. This book can go under the microscope. You'd find life under the glass, streaming past in infinite profusion. The more pores, the more truthfully recorded details of life per square inch you can get on a sheet of paper, the more 'literary' you are. That's my definition, anyway. Telling detail. Fresh detail. The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her. The bad ones rape her and leave her for the flies."
-Fahrenheit 451
Ray Bradbury

 


 

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