Chasing Perfection

Step 5-Mourning

By: Tori Morris

Disclaimer: Some of these characters belong to me; others belong to Aaron. I trust you can recognize who's is who's.

Author's note: The unbeatable beta team of Bramble and Pix are back on the job. Thanks guys! Oh-and there are spoilers for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in here, so you've been warned. Oh-and there's a bunch of choice words, so if you don't like heated language...

And now, the story...


6: 13, Tuesday, July, 17, 2001

The early morning light filtered in through the windows of my apartment in a rather bright and shocking way. The best thing about time zone changes is that I don't wake up in the dark all the time. The worst thing about time changing is that you do too, if only to adapt. Forced change is a pain in the ass.

"Hey." I say, pulling a chair out from the kitchen table.

"Mmph." Rachel mumbled, her head on the side of the table, draping fading pink locks all over the place.

"Hey Donna. Want an omelet? I got spinach." Sylvia asked, bent over the stove top in her pink nightwear that looked like she bought it out of a teen catalogue. I glanced at my watch. It's 6:15.

"Yeah." I say, getting up and routing through the fridge for some more stuff to throw in the omelet. A quarter of a pack of shredded Monterey Jack. Some sliced mushrooms.

"Don't eat all the cheese. I want some." Rachel said, lifting her head off the table.

"Okay." I say, handing Sylvia the ingredients and pulling out some plates for her, as she sprinkled the cheese and mushrooms into the mix. I handed her a plate and she flipped the omelet twice, and then onto the plate.

"That's for you. Next one's for Rach."

"Cool." Rachel said, leaning her head into her hands.

I took a bite of my omelet as it heated up my entire mouth. I could feel it, all hot, as it slid down my stomach. "So, what're you guys doing today?"

"I'm taking us shopping, for the road trip." Rachel said, as she stood up and got her plate, then collapsed back into her seat.

"You guys decided where you are going yet?"

Sylvia nodded. "We're going to go to the Big Apple, and Rachel wants to stop in New Jersey on the way."

Rachel grins as she fully wakes up after a few bites of omelet. "We're going to visit my old high school and crash the 10 year reunion."

I look at her doubtfully. "You're going to crash a reunion?"

"Yeah. Cindy Nape is going to be there. She was a senior when I went-and she dropped out and became a porn star." Rachel said, between giggles.

I take another bite of omelet. "You're crashing a reunion to see some girl who became a porn star?"
Sylvia rolled her eyes. "Yeah. But she's not just any porn star..."

"-she's an internationally known porn star. And she stole my first girlfriend from me." Rachel said, and her and Sylvia shared a glance. I finished the last bit of my omelet.

"Ok, you know what, I really don't think I want to know." I said, standing up, and sticking my dish in the sink.

"But-it's romantic!" Rachel teased. Sylvia thwacked her on the arm. "Ow!" Rach responded and stuck her tongue out at Syl.

"Bye." I said, opening the door and walking out.

"See ya, Donna." Sylvia and Rachel said, laughing as I left.



"Hey, CJ." I said, as she walked nearby me through the halls.

"Hey Donna. What's going on?"

"Well, lots of things. Josh is finishing up the work on the Family Wellness Act. And the Japan trip. "

"The Stackhouse thing?" She says, and then stops. "But I meant, what's going on with you."


"What's going on with you. Donna Moss. Today."

"Oh. Well, my roommate is leaving Friday for a week to go on a spur of the moment road trip, to among other things, crash a high school reunion, and defend her honor against an internationally known porn star."

"Mm...ok. Glad I asked." CJ said, looking at me like I had been smoking something that would get me in a lot of trouble.

"See, I didn't really get it either..." I add quickly. I need something else to throw out. "And, I was thinking of joining a health club."

"Really?" CJ says, entering the communications bullpen. I followed her.

"Yeah. I want to be able to swim in a pool sometime this summer, so I figure, health clubs have pools."

"My health club has a pool." She includes, handing Carol some files.

"That's what I figured."

"You should join a health club. Working out does wonders for your self esteem." She adds, walking into her office. I follow.

"Yeah, but I really don't know if I'll like it or not, and..."

CJ is routing through a pile of papers in the top drawer of her desk.

"Are you busy? Because I could..."

"No. I was just going to get you a thing, they send me these things all the time. Bring a friend for free for a month or something."

"Oh." I say. I'm actually touched. CJ really was paying attention to what I was saying. I waited patiently, and watched Gail float around in her little bowl. CJ had put up a new little figurine in the center-this one was a little boy with dark hair and blue swimming trunks. He had a little horse blowup ring around his middle.

"Here it is!" CJ said in triumph and handed me the coupon.


"No problem, Donna. I get a 10% discount for everyone who actually uses one."

"Well, I'll try and use it, then. Hey, CJ, where do you get all those figurines for Gail's bowl?"

She smiled. "You actually notice those? I try to pick different ones for the seasons."

"Yeah. They're cute."

"Well, a secret admirer gave me that one." She said, gently tapping the bowl to get the fish to move around a little.

"Danny?" I asked, wondering who would have left CJ a secret gift.

"He's dating the editor of Elle. Besides, he wasn't exactly a 'secret' admirer."

"Oh. I didn't know..." I say, trying to retract my statement. "I guess that's true."

"Yeah." She said, looking at some files.

"Well, see you later."

"You too." She said, and I went down the hall wondering who CJ's secret admirer was.



I walk into Josh's office and hand him some note cards on Nuclear Fission. "Hey, did you know CJ has a secret admirer?" I announce.

"Danny?" Josh asks as he skims the note cards.

"No-Danny wasn't much of a secret, was he?" I say, sitting in a chair.


I sigh. Making any sort of entertaining banter with Josh since he starting dating Amy has been almost impossible. I continued on, bravely.
"So, who do you think it could be?"

"Almost anyone." He says, typing a little into his computer.

"I've narrowed it down to a couple of possibilities-"

"Could you get some more information about the other sites for Nuclear Waste disposal? We have to press that issue, otherwise we won't win Nevada."

I frowned. Another shut door in my face. I wish he would just grow up and realize he doesn't have to be single to talk to me.

"Fine." I say, leaving his office.



I smell something peculiar. It smells oily and stale. What is that?"

"Hey, Donna." Oh. It's Amy, and she's wearing a large smock with blotches of paint on it. Even the pass she has to get into the West Wing has some smudges of paint on them.

"How's the painting going?" I ask.

"How...oh." She says, looking down at her hands and shrugs. "It's going pretty well. I haven't done a real commissioned portrait since collage, but it's not something you forget."

"Is it done? You've been here every day for over a week."

She grins. "As a matter of fact, I have a few more details to clean up, and then it's done."

"Great. Are you looking for Josh?" I asked.

"Yeah, is he in?"

"Nope. He just stepped out."

"Darn." She says and tucks a piece of her hair back behind her ear. "Andy and I were wondering if you wanted to watch him again Friday. "

"Oh. Of course I would."

"It's the night before the Japan trip. Are you going?" She asked.

"I think so. Josh usually brings me along on that kind of thing." I had completely forgotten about the Japan trip. I was looking forward to it-four days in Japan. And, we got to meet with the Emperor. Well, the President did, anyway.

"Of course." And she smiled a little bit, but not warmly. "Don't you have to pack?"

"I always pack the night before, so I can remember to add things I left out of my suitcase."

"Ok. Andy will be really excited."

"So will I."


6:15, Friday, July 20, 2001.

I gently rap on the door of Amy's apartment, checking my watch. I'm not late-she told me to show up about now.

"Hey." I hear a voice. It's Andy, holding the door open by just a crack.

"Hey, where's your mom?" I ask.

"She's still getting dressed." He said, opening the door wider to let me in. "I've never got that-why do girls care about what they wear? If someone likes you, they like you."

"Well," I start, putting my purse on the corner table. "If a woman is well dressed, it indicates that she has good taste, and the more expensive the clothes, the higher up in society you are. Plus, wearing nice clothes makes you feel beautiful, and you hope the clothes make you look beautiful to others."
He rolled his eyes. "Yeah, I guess. I rented some movies and some games."

"Really? Let me see." I say, and he hands me some tapes. I look through them.

"Let's watch this one-I haven't seen it." I say, about a movie called Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I've heard of it-it won some Oscars, didn't it?

"Ok. This is really cool. The special effects rock." He says, as he puts in the DVD. As he does, Amy comes out of her bedroom, wearing a nice lilac pantsuit. She's tapping her watch.

"Well, I'm late. Take care you two. Donna..."

"I have your number right here." I say, pulling out my cell phone.

"Great. Bye guys!" She says and gives a little wave and leaves as the movie starts.



Sniff. "What a terrible movie, why does she have to kill herself at the end?" I say, dabbing my face with a kleenex.

"What did you want to happen? She was married already."

I frown at Andy-he's always so practical. I vaguely remember when I was like that myself-seeing the world in black and white terms.

"She could have run away with him and lived in the desert. Her father would never have found her."

"Maybe-" He says as he looks out the window. "My mom's home."

I look at my watch. 9:35. "Already? It's not even ten yet." I mutter. "I didn't even order food for us yet..."

"Yeah." Andy says quietly, and walks up to the door. I can hear her fumbling for the keys.

"Aww, crap." She says, picking them up off the ground, and rubbing her eyes. They are angry and red, and I think she might have been crying.

"Mom?" Andy asks.

"Amy? Are you ok?" I offer, standing up and walking over to them as she stepped inside and shut the door behind her.

"No..." She says, dropping her things on the table. My heart sinks. Josh must have had a fight with her. Or something similar. Damn him-why can't he ever do anything right for himself.

"What happened?" I ask, feeling the anger rise in myself. It's one thing to treat me like shit-God knows I'm used to it. It's another thing for him to do it to someone else. Someone who likes him.

She takes a few seconds to gather herself. Andy takes her coat and hangs it up in the closet. "It's over-between me and Josh."

"I know, he does a lot of stupid things, but are you sure? He'll probably feel bad about it and-" I try.

"It's really over." She stresses, looking at me like I was an insect she wanted to crush. I guess I am too-I'm closely associated with Josh, and whatever fuck-up he did to make her feel this way. Just looking at me reminds me of him, probably. She takes a deep breath. "Thanks for watching Andy, though." She says softly, not looking at me in the eyes as she goes into her room.

"Yeah." I say, and pick up my things. Andy shrugs a little bit, and smiles.

"Hey, you were the coolest sitter I've had in a long time." He offers.

"Thanks, Andy." I say. It's pretty apparent I'll probably never see him again.

"Yeah-I'll stop by the White House a couple of times, ok?" He says. "It's really not that bad-kinda special even."

"Yeah." I say, and pat him on the shoulder before slipping out.



I'm in my car, almost to the White House, when my cell phone starts ringing. I fumble to open my purse, and pull it out. "Donna." I answer.

"Hey, Donna, we're just about to set out, and-" said Sylvia.

"Oh." The road trip. "Have a good time."

"Where are you? Are you on the way home? We could wait a few-"

"No. I'm on my way to the White House."

"What for?"

"I forgot a file." I lie, easily.

"Donna." Sylvia growls, and I can hear Rachel asking something in the background. "What's going on?"
"Nothing a good slap upside the head won't fix." I say, and hang up the phone, and turn it off.



I flash my badge to the night guard and run inside, quickly. I have to fix this. This is too good for Josh to screw over.

I tear through the empty communications department-everyone went home early, to pack for the plane leaving tomorrow at 4 am, or to catch some early winks. I sputter through the bullpen, and arrive at Josh's office.

"Hey. I didn't think you'd come here personally to yell at me-I figured you would do it over the phone." He says, casually as he types.

"Josh." I say, catching my breath.

"Donna." He says, still casually, with a hint of humor in his voice. I pant. He looks at his watch. "9:30? You made excellent time."

"It's 10. Your watch sucks."


I wave my hands. "What did you do to her?"

"So-we get to the point. Too bad. I figured we could dance around it, like we always do."

"Josh." I warn him. I'm in no mood for his games-I don't know what game this is, that he's playing, but it freaks me out.

"See, my psych says that I do this thing, where I avoid things, so I don't have to confront the truth. Like not mentioning my sister, which I think is really stupid. Just because I don't mention her, doesn't mean I don't know the truth. It's just, how many times can you mention that your sister died in a house fire when you were little in the course of a normal day."

He's looking at me, and I'm a bit scared. Maybe he finally took the jump off the deep end. He never mentions his sister unless he's in some weird mood.

"Josh-you should fix the thing-the Amy-" I stammer.

"Nah." He says, calmly and confidently.

"You should. She really likes you-"

"She does. But she doesn't love me."

"You don't know that."

"Not that that matters, because I don't love her myself. There are 'other fish' in the sea. " I hear Andy's voice, softly, in the back of my mind, echoing the same things.

"When did you figure that out?" I ask.

"My psych appointment today. I had been trying to figure out why I was glad I was going to Japan tonight, and I thought, suddenly, out of the blue, that it was because I got to be with you.."

"Well-" Shit.

"Yeah. So, I talked about it with Sandy for a little while, and she said, well, what about her makes you think she isn't the one. She wrote down all the things I told her, and then she read them out loud, and asked me, does anyone you know show all those qualities. And when she said that, I thought about you." He says, and he looks at me. The dots connect in my head and I start shaking my head slowly. I rub my temples. This isn't happening.

"Josh, Josh...Josh!"

"What? You're, like ruining the moment I had planned."

"You did not just say that you think I am your idea of the perfect woman, did you?" I say, looking at him.

"Yeah." He says.

"Christ, Joshua. You are such an asshole." I say, standing up and shaking my head.

"What?" He says, standing up, with me.

"Look at yourself. You take me to parties, and you scare off my dates-you banter with me for three years without anything going anywhere. You string a girl along, make her think you really do finally notice her, and then you fucking drop me like-like a something, to date another woman. How am I supposed to feel about that? And now that you dumped Amy, am I supposed to just throw up my hands, and say, 'Oh, it's ok now that you think I'm your perfect woman.'"

"That's not-"

"Fuck you. That's exactly what's happening here. I'm not your backup girl, Josh. I'm not the secretary you can bone between girlfriends. You got this second chance, to make everything right, and look what you're doing with it."

"No-you were never my-"

"Damn straight my answer is 'no.'" I cut him off. " Grow up. You are not God's gift to women, and if you treat all women like you treat me and Amy, maybe you didn't deserve the second chance." I yell, and the tears are starting to well up in my eyes-hot. I fight them, and the world looks watery.

He looks like I hit him-good. He should look like that. He should know what it feels like to be dropped on the ground.

"I went through this once before-hell, I went through it this time as well. And I won't do it again." I take my pass off and put in his hand. "Good-bye, Josh."

And for the second time today, I run through the empty White House halls.