Step 1: Shock
By Tori Morris.
Spoilers: Yes. Starts about two weeks after Two Cathedrals.
Category: J/D, J/Other.
Summary: You guys all inspired me-with the Thursday chats and your ideal ways of getting Josh and Donna together. Other inspirations for this include: Bridget Jones's Diary, Kevin Smith and my whole damn life.
Note: Going off the assumption that 2C is sometime in May, this story starts on June 3. Much thanks to Bramble and Pix for encouragement and beta reading this for me.
Someday, I think, my children are going to ask how this whole thing began. I'll start at the beginning, in New Hampshire, or I'll start at college, or somewhere else entirely. I'll tell them about a man who took pity on a girl who was very alone, and a woman who helped a good friend put his life back together, only to get hurt by it. But for now, this seems like as good a place as any.
It was a couple of weeks after Mrs. Landingham's death, and we were all gearing up for reelection, which Josh had become obsessed with so much I felt like I was more a deputy chief of staff than he was. I can't blame him for it-they had a lot of ground to recover if they even had a shot at another term.
This is where the story starts, as much as any story has a beginning and ending. With a curse, shit and a party. Really.
Wednesday, June, 3, 2001
"Goddammit!" Josh's scream resounded throughout the bullpen, and I bit my lip as Cathy skittered away with the look you give to someone you might never see again. Why did Leo schedule this on poll numbers day? He knew how Josh got...
'One,' I counted in my head and Josh's door flew open, and a wad of papers chucked at me. I caught them with ease.
'Two, Thr-' and a another shout. "Donna!"
"I'm right here, Josh." I said with my exasperated, 'I'm being very patient with you- don't yell' motherly type voice.
"Oh. Ok." He said, still rather angry, but calming down rapidly. "Have you seen a wad of rather important papers I may have-" and I held them out for him. "Huh. Thanks." He said, grabbing them and un-wrinkling them carefully.
"The polling sucks." I said, both statement and question.
"Ok. That doesn't mean you get to yell." He looked up at me with his 'I'm king and should be able to do that' look. Then a sigh and he gave up, rather easily, I thought.
"Yeah. I'm sorry about that." It's a mystery to me, that when Josh actually does apologize, he manages to make it very low-key and unimportant, like an unruly teen who has to give in to get his parent off his back. One of the many things that I find both interesting and confusing. And then he went back to his papers.
"Well, don't apologize to me, you should say that to the entire bullpen."
He looked up at me, exasperated.
"Fine." He moved quickly to the door, opened it, and shouted, "Sorry!" to the bullpen. A few heads popped up, and a questioning murmur. A few people led a ragged chorus of 'It's okay's', and 'No problems.' He turned back to me. "Better?"
I grinned. I decided to write this down in my journal-'today got Josh to apologize to bullpen'.
"Ok, so, what am I supposed to be doing for the rest of the day?"
"Um..." Oh crap. I had completely forgotten about the fundraiser Leo had me put on his schedule during his meeting with Senator Reid on the tobacco issue, which continued to drag out. "See, that's a funny thing, about your schedule...."
He looked up quickly. "What about my schedule?"
"Leo had me clear it during your meeting with Reid."
Faint look of surprise. "Why?"
"See, here's the part you're not going to like..."
"I told Leo that he should pick someone else for this, that you are not very artistically inclined, but he said you had to go..."
"I have to go do what?"
"You have to go to a fundraiser tonight."
"This group- Democrats for the First Amendment, is holding a gallery show tonight. It's a fundraiser, and Leo promised someone from the White House would attend."
"And he picked me?"
"I told him you are the worst choice for this, and you were gonna be ticked, but he didn't care..." and Josh is dialing the phone.
"Margaret? Give me Leo." He taps his pencil absently against the desk. I stand patiently, waiting for the phone conversation to end. "Leo...why do I have to go to this thing?"
"It's not so terrible..." I interject. He glares at me and listens to Leo. I continue to stand by the desk.
"But-it's art! I don't know anything about art! Send Toby, he really likes all that painting stuff." Pause. "I didn't, you know, actually visit museums while I was there you know." I figure Leo brought up the, 'You spent a year in Paris and you didn't learn anything about art?' argument. I've had this conversation with Josh before, when I tried to drag him to the Met during the campaign. I refuse to understand what kept Josh so busy he couldn't go to the Louvre once.
Josh sighs. "Fine. If I have to. But-if I make a horrible ass out of myself, you know it's going to be your fault? Just remember that I was totally objecting this whole plot." Pause. "Ha. Funny. I'm rolling in the isles." Another pause. "Fine. I'll do my best.." Click and scowl.
"Josh, it won't be to bad, I mean, it's political art. So you'll know something about it."
He stares at me. "Isn't political art a nice term that artists use to paint religious figures in poop?"
I shake my head, "That's controversial."
"Be ready to go by six. I'm having your tux cleaned-they picked it up a little while ago."
"Right-I have to wear a tux?"
"It's a gallery opening, and a fundraiser. You have to look nice."
"You know, if I were you, I'd love these things. You get to hobnob with famous artists-for free-and clean up. A perfect opportunity."
He looks at me, suspiciously. "Yet another way I am not a girl."
"And we're all really grateful for that."
He sighs and leans back
in his chair. "If you like these things so much, why don't you come with
What? Come with...what is this, some kind of date? Did Josh really mean that...
"Come with me, and we can make fun of the art together."
"Um..." I'm still back on 'come with me'. It's not a big deal. I've been plenty of places with Josh...
But never dressed up, by ourselves, or at a party. It reeks of date.
What do I say?
"What, are you washing your hair tonight or something?" Pause. "It'll be fun-we can eat cocktail weenies and make fun of the freaky attendees, all dressed in black."
I find my voice. "Yeah, I guess. I wanted to watch Law and Order tonight though." That's good Donna-nonchalant. It doesn't mean anything to you that Josh asked you to come. It doesn't mean anything to Josh that he asked you to come-does it? No. Must not let hopes up. You are just his loyal assistant.
I'm tugging at the little red dress in the mirror and frown. Have I gained weight? No matter-it's not important, because this is not a date. This is work. (This has become my mantra, and I repeat it several times a minute.)
It's not the red dress he told me I looked good in, unfortunately. I had to take that one back-it really was out of my price range. But I searched cheaper places until I found one. It's almost similar-a little more orange than the pure cherry color of the last one, but it's close enough. I hope. I wonder if he'll remember?
Ding Dong! There goes my doorbell. It's Josh. I check my French bun one last time for stray hair, and there isn't any. The red beaded choker I've borrowed from my roommate is straight. My makeup isn't smudged. I can do this.
I walk calmly to the door. Josh is ringing the doorbell again-and persistently. Sigh. I pull it open, and there he is. In his tux.
"Josh." I say, interrupting him in mid-doorbell ring. He looks up and smiles, taking his finger off the buzzer.
"I was...checking it. Making sure it worked."
"Josh, you can hear it from outside."
"Yeah, but you weren't opening the door."
"I was waiting."
"For what, the world to end?"
"No. I was waiting the required few moments before..." 'a girl gets picked up by her date.' I bit my lip. I couldn't finish that sentence. Josh probably didn't think this was a date.
"You know, before a girl gets picked up. I was being fashionably late."
"It's not like it's a prom, Donna. It's a dumb art thing."
"It's not a dumb art thing-they're raising money for President Bartlet, and you are supposed to be there, to show that it's..."
"Important to the White House."
"I suppose." He concedes, and I get in the car. He didn't open the door for me, I think miserably, and sigh.
"If it were nothing, you wouldn't have sighed over it." He says as he drives out of my apartment complex.
"It's just-I wish you would take this more seriously. Art has a profound emotional impact on people, and you, we need to make an impact on people's feelings in order to win votes, right?"
"Then you shouldn't piss them off, Josh. You should try and convince them that Bartlet's the best choice for the democratic nomination."
"I was planning on it."
"You think I'm that stupid? My pride is hurt."
"Your 'pride' needs to take a good beating every once and a while."
"Only if you do it." He says in that raspy sexy voice of his.
Oh. Must. Find. Comeback.
"Oh, shut up Josh." He grins, and knows he won this round. He reaches and turns on NPR and spends the rest of the way listening to a debate on Illegal Immigration.
"Hmm." I say, pondering a wonderful painting. It's a character-type picture of the President, with the word MS on his cheek. Below it, in red typeset letters are the words, 'The scarlet letters?'. I read the little plaque besides it. It's called 'The scarlet letters?', and is by a woman named Amy Tolkien, like the author. It was painted in acrylic and gauche, which I seem to remember is a type of watercolor. I think about it in terms of postmodern Pop Art, except I'm not sure that's exactly what it is.
"Wonderful, isn't it? Remarkable how prolific Amy is." I look to my side and there is a charming young European beside me. Dressed in a tight, all-black tux. Dark hair, just short and rather spiked just a little framed his face. Some of the strands of hair drooped over his face, past his dark thick eyebrows and warm brown eyes. His smile was great, and he had a cute little goatee. Wow.
"Yes, I love the analogy." I say, hoping it was witty enough to impress him, and where Josh is. Last I saw him, he was following the food trays around.
"I've never seen you at any of these before, do you like art?"
"I think art is a beautiful way of expressing feelings and ideas." He nods, and points to a large red, shiny gun made out of patent leather in the middle of the room. I had spent a few minutes avoiding that. It disturbed me slightly, with it's vivid blood red color, and slick sides.
"I made that."
"Really? You're...Thomas..." I say, not quite remembering his last name from the tag.
"Daniels. Thomas Daniels, and you are?" he said, sticking out his hand for a shake.
"This is Donnatella Moss." Josh said, coming up behind me and looking rather protective. Damn.
"Oh. Right. Well, it was nice to meet you, Donnatella." He said, and withdrew his hand to fold it behind his back. He slowly floated off to the other people, and I looked at the floor until he had gone far enough away.
"What was that for?" I hissed between my teeth.
"He was a gomer. You don't want his kind." He murmured between the edge of the glass of champagne he was sipping on.
"Josh, " I said a little louder, "I really don't need your help. I'm perfectly capable of picking future dates on my own." I practically spit. I felt like adding, 'and don't you be protective of me like that unless you actually want to date me.' But I didn't. Not here, where others could here.
"Really, I'm just..."
"Impervious, Josh." I reminded him, and went off to see if I could find Tom again.
I sighed softly. 9:00, and what a total failure this has been. Oh, the art was nice enough on it's own, and the food was wonderful, as was the champaign. But Josh has been too busy speaking to little knots of people about Bartlet and the White House, and Tom's avoided me like the plague since our little incident.
"And, so that's why bailing out the Mexican economy was so important." He finishes. He's only talking to one person, a young woman. She a few inches shorter than me, with pale blonde hair, in a softly spiked manner. Two braids trail on the sides of her face, with silver beads flashing them. Her eyes are crystal blue, and she's wearing a long strapless dress, a cerulean color that floats and wisps in the back, like something Greek Goddesses would wear.
"Fascinating." She says, and puts her hand to her throat. I saw a documentary on this before-that's a flirtation signal. Tsk. I must interrupt this.
"Josh," I say, standing behind her. She turns to look at me and smiles, hand still on throat.
"Hey, Donna. Meet Amy. She was one of the artists here tonight."
"Really?" I smile and hold my hand out and she shakes it, firmly but warmly.
"Yeah, I had some pieces in the show."
"Oh, you're Amy Tolkien." I say, remembering dragons and hobbits, and the painting I saw earlier.
"Yes, I am. Are you familiar with my work?" She smiles widely and I think about her as a pale golden serpent, ready to eat me.
"No. Actually, I saw your paintings for the first time tonight. "
"And they're great." Josh interjects and Amy smiles and touches his arm lightly.
"They're not that good."
"Yes, actually they are. I love them, and as Donna can tell you, I'm not the biggest fan of all this." She looks flattered and a slight blush rises on her cheeks.
"Yeah, I had to drag him here." I say, slight chuckle.
"Oh, are you two..." she looks worried.
"No." Josh says quickly, and then adds, "She's my assistant, and good friend."
I'm crushed, but try not to let it show. They are so clearly flirting with each other, and I guess it should be natural. I mean, she's attractive, far more so than I, she's smart, and she can apparently hold a conversation with him. Unlike me, of course.
It's only natural, right? He hasn't had a girlfriend for...well, since Mandy actually. And even though he could, he never sleeps around as far as I know. He stays at the office too late. Besides, he's the kind of guy who gets attached deeply to one girl, and then gets crushed when he finds out she isn't perfect. Like Mandy.
Obviously I'm not a candidate to be that girl anymore. Even if I was.
They continue to flirt while I sink onto a chair to let this sink in. He never had feelings for me.
What a relief. Now I don't have to worry about becoming news by getting involved with him.
Then why does it hurt so badly?
Josh finds me a half an hour later, in the same chair. I've only left to get some more champaign, and I feel slightly dizzy. Am I drunk?
"Donna?" he asks, touching my shoulder. I jump.
"Hey Josh." I say, glumly. Oh god-am I getting maudlin over this? I remind myself-it's really no big deal, that Josh doesn't like you in that way. I mean, he's your boss. You shouldn't value yourself worth by how many men you can snare, it is so old fashioned and antifeminist. Even if you were only trying to snare one particular man. Right?
"It's time to go."
"Yeah," I say, getting up slowly so I don't wobble. He's staring at the empty glasses next to my seat.
"How many of those did you have."
"Five or six, I think. I lost track." He frowns, and then smiles.
"You're drunk." he grins.
"Nothing-it's just usually, it's the other way around." He grabs my arm in a wobbly moment to steady me, and I pull away. I barely keep my balance.
"I am not drunk, Josh. Just a little tipsy."
More grinning. Oh god, please make it stop. "Sure."
"You know, even if I was, at least I managed to make it three glasses past what would have sent you flying." I manage, tartly.
"Mmhmm...I think we'd better go then."
"'Kay." he says, and waves good-bye. He thanks the artists who put on the show, and starts to lead me out.
"Hey, did you see Amy over there?"
"I saw plenty of her before." I mutter darkly.
"I wanted to say good-bye."
"I'm sure she'll find you, Josh. I mean, you only work in that big White House on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue." I slur the word Pennsylvania and rub my head. I am drunk.
"Yeah, you're probably right." He says softly, looking back as we leave the gallery.
"Thanks for the ride, Josh." I muttered as I got out of the car.
"No problem." He said getting out.
"I don't need you to walk to my door, Josh. I can do this on my own." I am a modern woman, and I need no 'man' to make me feel better. I could hook lots of well educated, clever and witty men if I so wanted to. Why, that artist guy, what's his name, with the big phallic gun thing. I could have gotten his number, if Josh hadn't interrupted.
"You couldn't get in the car on your own."
"Shut up and leave me alone." I say, anger over his dismissal of the artist-guy coloring my tone.
"Okay. But I'm still walking you up to your door." And we walked in silence, Josh steadying me twice when I got a little woozy. Each time I pulled away my hand, and each time he looked a little more confused. But we finally made it to my apartment and Sylvia the roommate took over after that.
"Hey, Sylvia." He said, holding me up with one arm while trying to keep himself steady on the door.
She gave him a horrible look. Yes, that's right-you go girl. We're angry with Josh, remember?
"Oh my God! Joshua Lyman, what the hell did you do to her?!" Sylvia screeches and grabs me, taking me inside. She puts me on the couch, where I slump over. I'm not that drunk-just sad and angry. Really.
"Mmph." I mutter.
"Nothing-really! I swear, she just, got really drunk. I think it was because I scared off this scary looking guy earlier, but you know her..."
"Get out of here, now." She ordered, commandingly. He seemed to shrink and left quickly.
She padded softly up to me, and pushed one of the cats off the couch. I spread my feet out all the way.
"Donna, are you all right, girl?" She said softly, putting a blanket on me and handing me an aspirin from a bottle she had on top of the TV.
"Noo..." I said softly, and started to cry. Screw being a modern woman-this hurts.
She rubbed my back softly, and handed me a tissue. I didn't tell her what had happened, but I guess she'll figure some of it out from the weeping I did until I fell asleep.