Chasing Perfection

Step 3-Fear

By: Tori Morris

Disclaimer: Amy and Andy and Sylvia belong to me; but I share. The rest of 'em belong to Aaron. He doesn't like to share so much, but I'm using them anyway.

Author's Note: Thanks to Pix and Bramble for their unending support-I couldn't really do it without them; I'd fall down and never get back up.


7:33 PM, Wednesday, July 3, 2001

"So, how's Josh?" Sylvia said, sounding far away as she drank something on the other end of the line.

"He's-you know, fine. We're going to Sam's party tonight."

"Who's Sam?"

"He's-ah, you know, I've talked about him before. He's a speech writer."

"Ohh. Right. The one who's father had a secret affair or something for his entire life."

"That's the one." I said, typing slowly on my computer. I'd really finished my work three hours ago, but I was not letting that on to anyone-work has a way of finding you here, if you appear to casual.

"Isn't he Josh's best friend?"


"Hey, Donna, is Josh taking Amy to the party?"

"Um. I really don't know."

"Well, I'm just asking, because, the way you said that you and Josh were going."

"Oh, come on, Sylvia. I know you don't like...whatever, but that sentence was perfectly innocent."

"I'll admit, on paper, your sentence probably sounded pretty normal, but when you say it? It takes on a whole new meaning that I know you rationally don't mean."

"Whatever, Sylvia."

"You've really got to get over this whole thing, Donna. The way you don't do anything on your own, for yourself."

"I do things for myself!" I screeched, and then lowered my voice.

"How come you don't have any friends outside the office, Donna?"

"My job keeps me busy."

"What is your job?"

" I'm not playing this game with you Sylvia."

"What game? It was an innocent-"

"Good-bye Syl, see you later tonight." Click.

Sigh. Now what should I do. Maybe I should check up on my horoscope online...

"Hey, Donna?" It's Sam behind me.

"Hey, Sam. What's up?"

"You're coming to the party, right?"

"Your before the fourth party?" I inquire, as if it was some other party, or that someone else would be holding it.

"That's the one. The one I have every year."

"Yes." Sam's parties are always great-last year, we held it at Josh's because Josh wasn't exactly mobile yet. Sam made up for it by bringing all nonalcoholic beverages, (in consideration of Josh) and sparklers. Josh made us light them in the street, because he didn't think me and Sam were 'fire safe.' Toby declined, and CJ delightfully lit one and brought it near Josh, who got very crabby and told him to knock it off.

I laughed, and told him he shouldn't be so afraid of a little sparkler-I wasn't, after all. He smiled at me, but refused to let us light them near his house. Later, he told me that was something he admired in me-I wasn't afraid of anything.

It was one of those perfect moments, that months later, you can still picture and taste in your mind, and you know, that no matter what, it doesn't get any better than that. Even thinking about it, I get this crystal clear image of me and Sam laughing, and Josh playfully scowling with Toby on the steps, while CJ twirls her sparkler around in circles.

"Of course I'm coming, Sam. I wouldn't miss it for the world." I smiled.

"Great! There's been a little change-instead of my house, we're having it at Callahan's."

"The Irish pub?"

"Yeah-I, um, forgot to buy beer earlier. But it'll be ok, this'll be different."

"Yeah, no problem Sam."

"Great." He says and bounces off to go tell someone else, I assume. I open up Minesweeper and start a new game.



I'm in the middle of a very difficult game of solitaire when the phone rings.

"Josh Lyman's office." I answer swiftly.

"Hey, Donna." I frown. It's Amy.

"Hey-Amy." It's really no big deal she's calling-she's probably just wanting to check in with Josh.

"Could...Is he busy right now?"

I bite my lip. What do I tell her. That Josh is currently hard at work playing 'stick a pencil in the ceiling?'

"Ah, no. Hold on." And I walk quickly over to Josh's office-it only takes me about two seconds, since most of the office has piled out early to enjoy their holiday.

I rap on the door, and lean on it, absorbing it's coolness through my pantsuit. "Hey, Josh, Amy's on line one."

"She is? Great." He said, putting the sharpened pencils back in his little jar next to the computer, and grabbing the phone. "Hey Amy."

I stand outside the door, and listen in. I crave listening in-'know thy enemy, know thyself', and all that.

"A fireworks display?" Pause. "Are you sure?" Pause. "Yes, it's an all-American thing to do on the night before, but..." Pause. "Did you know that fireworks are one of the--" A long pause. "Well, I guess. He's your son." Pause. "Of course I'll come. I wasn't doing anything tonight." Pause. "No, I just finished up. Twenty minutes?" Pause. "Ok...see you then." He hung up the phone.

"You're just going to skip out on Sam's party like that?" I burst.

"Were you listening to my conversation?"

"No." I wring my hands. "Well, ok. Maybe."

He looks at me for a long while, and then grabs some files and sticks them in his backpack. "Well, don't."

"Why not?"

"It could have been important-you know, state secrets or something."

"I just like to know things." I say, lamely.

"Well, stop. You don't need to know things about me and Amy, or me and anyone else, for that matter. You're not my mother."

"I know..." I say softly, as he shrugs his backpack over one shoulder and turns the lights off.

"Well, just don't do it again." He says, brusquely and leaves me in his wake, and I know he's right. I'm not his mother. He doesn't need me anymore-at all. I've been reduced to a regular assistant, one who doesn't go everywhere with her boss.

I'm just like Bonnie, or Margaret now.


9:08 P.M.

"Donna!" Sam's cheer resounded through the noisy bar, as I made my way through the crowd to get to the booth Sam and CJ had commandeered.

"Quite a night, huh?" CJ shouted over the din of the karaoke machine which was belting out Joan Osborn's "One of Us".

"Yeah." I shouted back and slid into the seat as she moved over. It was slightly quieter in the booth-meaning we didn't have to shout so loudly.

"Sam, I thought we were holding this at your house." CJ said, over the noise.

"We were-but I ran out of beer."

I nodded. "Thus the reason we are in a bar."

"Exactly." I chimed in and watched CJ take a large suck on something white with a pineapple slice on the rim. "Plus, Sam can't make daiquiri's." I pointed out helpfully. CJ nodded at this.

"It's a girly drink." He protested.

"In case you haven't noticed Sam..." CJ said, louder than was needed.

"Point taken." He said and gave a little head nod towards me, before sipping some beer.

"Where's Josh? I thought he was coming. " Sam asked.

"Out with Amy." I said, and looked jealously at CJ's daiquiri.

"That's what..." CJ said, trying to count as the song switched to something much louder, which could have been Green Day, but the person singing was really botching it.

"Everyday we have been in Washington for the night for the last month makes ten formal dates." I informed her.

"Hmmm..." she said, mulling this fact over her drink. She swirled it in a slow circular pattern and then gulped the remainder. "I'm gonna go find Toby before he makes an ass out of himself." And she stepped out of the booth and went looking for him.

"So..." Sam said, looking around to check that the coast as clear, while trying to flag a waitress.

"What, Sam?"

"Things are getting serious with him and Amy." He pointed out, like I wasn't aware of this.

"No kidding, Sam."

"Shouldn't you do something about it?"

"No." I said and a waitress found us, and took Sam's drink order. Then CJ came back with Toby who was irate at being pulled away from a lovely woman he was flirting with at the bar. Sam smiled into his drink, and I mentally cursed him for his idealism.


1:00 AM. Thursday, July 4, 2001.

"So, Amy and Josh, huh?" Sam said, standing up out of the booth we had been lurked in for the last hours, until the crowds had dimmed and left in pairs to spend their holiday the best they knew how.


"Who would have thought, a year ago."

"Shut up, Sam." I said stridently.


"What is it with you, and always trying to, I don't know, paint these idyllic happy pictures."

"I just like to see people happy. Two people, happy for the rest of their lives." He said, looking at the jukebox.

"Sam, you can't expect that. Life doesn't work like that. "

"I know." He said mildly.

"I mean, people fall in and out of love like that. It's a momentary thing. A delusion of your genetics, made to ensure you breed and continue the race. " I explained to him, in my most patient voice.

"My, how the rose colored glasses have broken. Most people prefer to think of love as something with permanence. You did too, until a month ago."

"Yeah, well, it's all your fault."

"My fault?"

"Yes. If you had run that errand yourself, I would have stayed in my little cubicle, and never left."

"You can't blame running into Amy on me." He said, looking at me, before turning to a wall near the back of the bar, and cutting right to the point.

"No, but I can try." I said, following him.

"It's foolish."

"No more foolish than love." I explained, running a finger along a pool table.

Sam said nothing and walked up to a dart board. He grabbed some darts and turned it on.

"Wanna play?" he asked, holding out three green darts.

"Not really."

"Oh, come on," he pleaded. "We'll make it a bet."

I eyed his suspiciously. Considering our current conversation: him trying to get me to admit what I felt about Amy, and me trying to rebuff him, it sounded like the bet would be something I hated.

"You win, I don't try and talk to you about it for a week. I win, you have to sit down and have a beer and tell me the truth."


"Two weeks?"


"Ok-how about this, if you win, you can make me do anything you want-within reason-for the rest of the day."

I shook my head. I didn't want anything from Sam, but for him to leave me alone. I didn't know why I came. For the last month, since Josh had started dating her, he's been bugging me about it.

"How about this," I began. He looked at me eagerly. "For every dart we play, the one that gets closest gets to ask a question, and the other has to tell the truth."

"Deal." He said, and we shook hands, and took our positions. He shot first, hitting the second ring from the center. I hit the fourth.

"Donna, do you have unspoken feelings for your boss, and my friend, Josh Lyman?" He asked, in his best 'lawyer giving a deposition' voice.

"Yes." I said, and it came out light and free, surprising myself. "Next round?"

He won again.

"Donna," dramatic pause, "How do you feel about Amy Tolkien?"

"She's a warm, wonderful person I've had the pleasure of meeting on several occasions, and a fantastic painter."

He scowled at me. "That's not a good answer."

I smirked, and shot my dart.

He won again.

"Ok, now I know you're cheating, or something."

"I played a lot of darts in my fraternity in collage."

"So what am I doing wrong?"

"You're throwing it with your arm, and not your wrist. It's all in the wrist."

"Ok," I say, and shot my dart. A little higher than the last couple of times.

"Hey! I didn't get my question." He protested.

"Fine, ask it now."

"Does it bother you that Josh's relationship is looking serious?"


"Tell the truth..." he prodded.

"Yes, Sam, yes it does. Does that make you happy? Does it make you happy to rub it in, that I missed my chance, and that was it? That I stay up, late at night, and thing horrible thinks about a wonderful woman, because I can't face that it's too late? That every time I think about them together, I get scared, because I know that she could be it for him?" I shout.

"No." He said, and pulled my dart out of the board.

"Well...that's bad. You should be supporting him, Sam. He's your friend, and he's happier than I ever made him."

Sam says nothing, and looks at his hands for just a second, and then he sighs.

"Of all the things I've learned about Josh after knowing him for nearly 17 years, I know that he's never been able to see what's in front of his face." And he looks at me in earnest.

"Sam, don't tell me, you know..."

"Things that would give you hope?"
"Yeah, like that. I have to get over this thing I have for Josh. I mean, even if he wasn't dating another woman-very seriously, I might add, I wouldn't have a chance. I'm 12 years younger than he is. I'm his assistant!"

"Everyone in Washington knows about you and Josh. Hell, I know Toby's made plans for it." Sam said, rolling the darts in his hand.

"It?" I repeat.

"When you and Josh would finally snap and face reality about each other."

"And how do you know this?"

"When-during the wait for the paramedics, Toby was trying to...well, he told Josh that if he wasted the amount of time Toby put into making it safe for you and him, he would kill Josh himself. "

"He was lying to keep him alive." I mutter.

"Josh didn't seem to think so. He tried to..."

"Sam?" I say, worried about his sudden cut off of words.

"Never mind, it's not that important." He said and tossed the remaining darts on the board. "I'm going home." He said, grabbing his coat and moving quickly.

"Sam?" I said, following, then running a little. "Are you ok?"

"I just-some times I can't stand it. How stupid the two of you can be. He has this second chance-I told him that. He should be out making his life right this time. And what does he do? He dates some artist woman." He says, derisively.

"We can't live his life for him." I say, holding the door open and following Sam out.

"I know."

"We can only stand by and watch, and accept that he isn't going to be with me."

"He only looks happy."

"He looks happy, Sam. I'm going to accept that. I spent too much time second guessing his every movement." There's a question, on the tip of my tongue and I blurt it out. "Why are you pushing this so badly?"

"Badly?" He mocked.

"You know what I mean. Why are you so obsessed with the idea of love everlasting and second chances?" I said, knowing the answer, even if he wouldn't tell me.

"I've seen a lot of couples in my life, Donna, and most of them have blown it for one reason or another, because they were not adult enough to get over the petty fears, and uncomfortableness to search for something greater. I didn't want to see that happen to you and Josh."

"I'm not your mother, Sam." I say, the words echoing Josh's words in my mind.

"Right. I know." He says, in the light voice he uses when he doesn't want to register something. I've probably hurt him a little, but he'd never admit it, and I feel bad for him. Some hurt is just unavoidable in life. "I'll see you tomorrow?" He asks, after a pause.

"Yeah." I say, walking to my old car, and getting in. I take a deep breath. Maybe Sylvia is right-and I need to move on. Take charge of my life. Maybe Sam is right, and Josh and I are making huge mistakes. Hell, maybe both of them are right. But I'm so tired-I can't beat myself up over it any longer. What's done is done. I just need to accept it and move on, as best I can.

Some hurt is just unavoidable on the path of life.