The Calendar Hung Itself
By: Tori Morris
Disclaimer: All the characters used belong to Aaron Sorkien, and NBC.
Summary: Josh tells Donna about Mrs. L. It's a Songfic, of sorts.
Spoilers: For everything.
Note: "The Calendar Hung Itself" is a song by the band Bright Eyes. For those that have never heard, the tone is harsh and rock, not soft. Also, this isn't the best thing I've ever written, but it was too good for me to dump completely.
~Well, I'd drug your ghost across the country
and we plotted out my death
in every city, memories would whisper-
'here's where you rest'
I was determined in Chicago
but I dug my teeth into my knees
and I settled for a telephone
and sang into your machine~
He ran his hand softly across the glass in front of the picture. It was a beautiful picture, he reflected, one of him, and Donna, and some other people at the inauguration. Or maybe it was some other time. He couldn't remember now, but it was before this, before the White House.
Before everything, before Rosslyn and before the Window, and before Joey Lucas. Before the truth that threatened to swallow him whole, and before the latest thing.
A car crash. God, what an awful way to die.
Although, for his money, getting shot wasn't a much better option.
He closed his eyes and he could hear the crunch of metal and the glass shattering, and he couldn't tell if the sounds were times before, or recent events he was imagining. He decided there wasn't much difference between the two, either way he would tear himself up thinking about it. About his playful jests about her new car, and the guilt that maybe he should have insisted on going with her.
Rationally, he said it was a weak offer anyhow, and he hadn't expected her to capitulate to it. And she hadn't. Inside, he felt as though he hadn't pushed the issue enough.
He took a deep breath, and twirled the phone cord in his office. He had let Donna go home, just a few minutes before he found out about Mrs. Landingham, and he was waiting for her to get home. When enough time had passed, he would pick up this phone and start to dial, although his fingers felt thick. He had to be first this time.
He kept his mind busy, with strategy. How to win back the trust of the American Public, enough to try to save the rest of this administration at least. A sick part of him thought that Mrs. Landingham might have picked the perfect time to get killed, he could use that extra bit of sympathy. He wondered, if they had had those kind of thoughts about him.
He went through the list. CJ wouldn't have thought that. Sam might have, but he doubted it. Toby and Leo did, and his heart twinged for them, because they had to be thinking the same thoughts right now. 'How can we use a devoted old woman's death to help our numbers in the next weeks.'
He looked at his watch. 9:30. She had to be home by now, right? He unwrapped the cord from around his pointer finger and punched in her number slowly, instead of using the speed dial. It rang once, and Donna picked up.
"How did you..."
"I got this new phone, it tells me who's calling."
"Caller ID's been out for a while, Donna" he said, and his mouth felt very dry. He drank a glass of water, (although he felt like a beer) as he waited for her response. She clearly didn't know yet; she wouldn't be shooting the shit about a new phone if she had.
"Yes, but this one has a voice. It says, 'Josh Lyman's office' when you call." In the background, he could hear her flipping through the channels on TV. 'Did she think this as just a normal phone call,' he wondered.
"And tomorrow, will be cloudy-" flip "wonder-wax!" sang her TV.
To her empty apartment, she frowned. His voice was raspy, far more than it had been all week, and she could hear him drinking while she spoke.
"Are you drinking a beer? You have a sensitive system, you know." She chided, adding a touch of humor into her voice.
"Donna." He said, completely refusing to banter. She began to feel that tingly feeling-the one that lets you know, 'oh, god, the other shoe is dropping....' It bit at her empty stomach and made her throat dry, and her hand began to shake, almost inpercebtably.
"What happened?" she said, stronger than she felt. When you faced things head on, they hurt less. Whatever he had to say, (and they were flitting through her mind at a mile a minute-'Leo's had a drink. The President had an attack. I don't feel well.') she could face it.
He swallowed again. "Mrs. Landingham."
She kept calm, very little panic rose into her voice. "What about her. What happened?"
"She's...she got hit by a drunk driver, and she's..."
"...she's dead, isn't she?"
"Yeah." He said, softly.
She nodded, accepting it calmly for now. If she was dead, there wasn't anything they could do about it now. It reminded her of Toby's earlier admission. Nothing she could do, right now. She couldn't comfort anyone but herself. Realizing she couldn't say that, she said, "I see. Does the president know?"
"Did someone tell her family?"
"Leo did. The President called her husband. Or, at least he was going to, I didn't stick around to see it."
"Should I come in?"
"No." he said, forcefully. The first time he had spoke above weak shock he had been using ever since he called. "You need to rest."
"So do you." She shot back, and she heard the sigh, and imagined the shrug that accompanied it.
"Yeah, but I'm busy, with- Sagittarius. I just wanted to be first to tell you, this time."
"Thanks, Josh." She said, and wondered why all her thoughts were always for him. The tingle had subsided, but she was left wondering why. Mrs. Landingham had been a great woman, an inspiration to all of the assistants. Donna would miss her warmth, her strength in the hard times.
She would treasure the time she had shown up, on the day of Josh's release from the hospital, with a fresh plate of cookies, still warm from the oven, and a sweet get-well card. Or the time she had shown a fresh young girl who didn't belong, the best way to file easily, and then introduced her to the governor.
Despite all the good memories, her first thought was to go to the White House. To help Josh, that was her place. Mrs. Landingham wouldn't have left if she had been the one to die. She would have tried to be there for everyone else.
"Yeah. See you tomorrow." He said, and hung up abruptly. She rested the phone back on it's cradle, as the electronic voice told her the call had ended.
And she remembered a distinct voice. Telling her not to worry. She would be fine. It was time to take care of the living.
She picked her coat off the ground where she had dropped on her way in. Shrugging it on, she left a note for the roommate who was out clubbing, and left the apartment.
He sat, crouched over the report in the dim light, and felt eyes on him. Burning coals, gazing into his heart. He looked up, and there was Donna, crouched in his doorway.
"I told you to get some sleep."
She shrugged. "How could I? With all this going on. My place is here."
He nodded, and understood. She pulled up a chair, and started talking lightly. It didn't matter so much that everything that should have been solid in the world wasn't. All that mattered right then and there was being together, and getting ready, to face the rest of this year.
~~Well the clocks heart
it hangs inside its open chest
with its hands stretched towards the calendar, hanging itself,
but I will not weep for those dying days-
For all the ones who have left, there are a few that stayed.
And they found me here
and pulled me from the grass
where I was laid. ~~