I'm somehow aware that I'm staring at a wall, and have been staring at a wall for some time now. Simultaneously, I'm completely unaware of my surroundings and have no real desire to blink, possibly ever again.
I'm aware of the presence sitting on the floor next to me, though I'd managed to somehow also forget he was there as I attempt to get in my staring time for the foreseeable future. Still managing not to blink, I shrug my shoulders and hum, "I don't know."
"You haven't been keeping track?" he asks me, incredulously, and I feel an eyebrow lift in response, though I don't tear my gaze away from this apparently fascinating spot on the wall.
"You haven't? You've somehow lost the ability to tell time?"
Josh sighs and I hear a light thump as the back of his head hits the wall. He doesn't curse or whine, so I don't bother to disrupt the groove I've gotten into to ask if he's okay. I wonder how long a person can go without blinking.
We're quiet again, and other than the constant noise of DC—the people everywhere at all hours of the day and night, the cars that never stop honking or screeching their tires—the apartment is silent. The occasional sighs from Josh are the only break in the monotony.
"You know what I could really go for?" I ask suddenly, my voice surprising even me, and I can vaguely see him jump a little out of the corner of my eye at the sound of someone talking.
"What's that?" he answers warily, as if my answer could somehow jump out and bite him.
"A Snickers. I could really go for a Snickers right now."
"Oh." I hear him chuckle a little. "Yeah, actually that sounds—"
"A Snickers dipped in mayonnaise."
"Ugh!" he exclaims, and I can feel him staring at me in disgust. "The hell, Donna?!"
"You know, if you'd said that to me—I don't know, an hour ago—I wouldn't have had to fight evening traffic to get to Giant to buy not one but five pregnancy tests."
That snaps me out of my reverie and I finally blink, though I don't look too far away from the spot on the wall that's been my anchor for the past few minutes. "I didn't tell you to—"
"That is literally the most pregnant thing a human being has ever uttered in the history of mankind."
"It's not that—"
"You want to dip a candy bar in mayonnaise? That's the most disgusting thing I've ever heard. Only someone with those weird cravings would make a request like that."
"You know, sometimes people crave dirt," I counter, looking at him for a second before I go back to the wall. "All it means is that there's something—some critical vitamin or nutrient—in it that's missing from their diet. This isn't any different."
"You want to take chocolate and peanuts and caramel and that nougatty stuff and dip it into a mixture of egg yolks, mustard, vinegar, and oil. Please explain to me how that combination makes sense to any rational human being."
"I am a rational human being," I insist, and he snorts in disgust.
"Not when you say crazy things like you want to dip candy into condiments."
Truthfully, I get what he's saying, and normally, I'd agree with him wholeheartedly. Unfortunately, right now, Snickers and mayo feels like the way to go.
I am beginning to see his point, though I still feel kind of blindsided by this whole thing. How is it he seems to know the workings of my own body better than I do?
"It's just…wrong. It's so very wrong. Of all the wrong things in the world…I mean, you could take all the wrong things that have happened, roll them into a ball, and this would still be worse than all of that."
"Ah, yes, because dipping a candy bar in mayonnaise is worse than the Holocaust," I answer sarcastically, figuring that dig should give him a bit of perspective.
"It might be!" he practically yelps, and I slowly turn my head to him, my head dropping forward a bit as I stare at him through less-than-amused eyes.
He actually waits for me to agree with him for a few moments, before his face suddenly loses the expectant expression. "Okay, maybe you're right."
We're silent again for a while, though I can tell he's still trying to wrap his mind around the combination of food that I'm willing to ingest. Slowly, my hand reaches out to him, groping for his fingers. I'm mildly surprised when his hand finds mine moments later—in my mind, I saw us as sitting far apart, with yards of space between us. Turns out, it's only a matter of inches. He slides his fingers between mine and squeezes gently.
"Do you really think I'm pregnant?" I ask in a whisper, though the question echoes in the hall like a gunshot.
"After that Snickers/mayonnaise comment…"
"Josh, I'm being serious."
"So am I! I don't know much about pregnant women, but I'm positive only someone with child would want a combination like that."
Objectively, he's probably not wrong. Objectively.
I just don't know that I have the ability to be objective right now.
Seriously...how did I miss this? It's my own damn body. Not that Josh isn't attuned to it. After all the years we've known each other, not to mention our time as a couple, secrets are few and far between. I suppose pregnancy isn't all that dissimilar to getting the flu but insisting you're fine. You have a coughing fit, and you think you just swallowed wrong. Your nose gets stuffy, and you're sure it's allergies. Everyone around you tells you to go home and get some sleep, and you're adamant that it's just hay fever. Not that you're in denial at that point—just that you're not able to see the big picture. So, the fact that I've been rundown to the point of nodding off at my desk didn't seem like a big deal, other than being wildly embarrassing. The occasional bout of praying to the porcelain god has been easily waved away as a result of exhaustion. The fact that I'm eating about twice as much as I normally eat lately is a simple result not getting enough sleep and needing to keep my body fueled. All of these are things that I've more or less experienced on a fairly regular basis since I got into politics. No big deal.
Except to the apparently observant Josh, who it seems has been busy cataloging my every move, nap, meal, and vomit-session.
"Your boobs are bigger."
My head whips over to look at him so quickly I think I actually pull a muscle. "What?"
"As a very big enthusiast of your breasts and all of the privileges I've been granted to them, I'm kinda aware of when they change. They've grown lately, and not in the usual once-a-month kind of way. They haven't gone back to their regular size. That kind of thing usually happens when a woman is pregnant."
Just when I think he can't possibly surprise me ever again, he manages to find something that's almost creepy, but also incredibly sweet.
"What if I am pregnant?" I bite my lip, my heart starting to flutter wildly as I really think about the prospect. Though whether it's from nerves or excitement is anyone's guess.
He squeezes his hand again, and I feel him scoot close enough to me that our sides are pressed firmly together. "Then we'll have a baby."
"But what about—"
"There's never gonna be a 'good' time, Donna," he answers, knowing what I was worried about. "Not with our jobs in our line of work. We'll figure it out, though. Together."
"Yeah. I guess. There's gonna be…talk, though." So much talk. I thought people talked about the two of us—independently and as a set—a lot during the Bartlet administration. The chatter during the Santos administration has been ten times worse, and for reasons I still can't figure out. There's general hostility toward me from a large portion of Josh's fan club, though I can't say as that stuns me, but the amount of people in the world as a whole who have managed to call me a whore since Josh and I actually got together has been staggering. Not to mention the double-standard of the talking people do. Not that Josh is heralded as some great stud in that regard, but there's more congratulatory, you-finally-nailed-your-hot-assistant talk than seems logical, especially because I've not been his assistant for years. Meanwhile, political pundits and trash rags alike have held me up as a pariah, throwing accusations and allegations at me with a speed I never would have thought possible. I suppose I was in my own naïve little bubble for a long time, but I had no idea that the world as a whole cared that much about the White House Chief of Staff or who he happened to be sleeping with. For the most part, I've learned to let it roll off my back when I can't ignore it completely, but if I'm actually pregnant, we're going to be in for a world of hurt. D.C. gossip is worse than anything I've seen coming out of Hollywood, there just aren't dozens of tabloid magazines to advertise it.
"Hell, we've been married for more than a year. What could anyone possibly say at this point?"
I don't even bother gracing that with a response. He knows as well as I do that us being legally bound to each other hasn't stopped the tongue-wagging.
"All those idiots who said that we got married because I knocked you up have been proven very wrong, same with all those people who thought you'd faked a pregnancy to get me to marry you. All those crazy conservatives who think that marriage should come before babies will have to be appeased because we're doing this in the 'correct' order. There's no scandal here, Donna. We're just a boring old married couple who are having a kid."
"Just because there's no scandal doesn't mean people won't talk."
"You're right, but…who cares? Let them talk. The current presidency is so boring and uninteresting that they have to make stuff up sell papers. Let them. It'll blow over. Eventually they'll find someone else to crucify."
"I just wouldn't want someone to do anything to hurt our baby." Our baby. That stops me in my tracks for a minute. That just came out of my mouth, like it was already a given. My heart flutters again in that strange, uncertain way and I look down at my stomach, surprised to find my left hand resting on it. I couldn't even say how long it's been there.
"Let 'em try," he answers softly, his free hand coming to rest on top of mine.
I have no idea if I'm actually pregnant. Therefore, there's absolutely no reason in the world for this insane protective streak to be coursing through me right now. All I know is that I would cheerfully tear anyone limb from limb if they so much as glance at our kid in a way that's anything less than open adoration.
"Can you imagine our baby? How cute would that kid be?" Josh exclaims suddenly, both of his hands tightening against mine, though the one against my stomach loosens up almost immediately. "All long limbed and gangly, probably a smart ass right out of the womb. Your eyes, hopefully, and well, everything about you, actually—"
"You're actually excited about this?" I ask in disbelief, staring at him in shock. He just grins at me so hard it looks like his face is going to split in half.
"Well, yeah! I'm crazy about this! A Donna Moss/Josh Lyman exclusive. I mean, it's our baby. What's not to be excited about?" His face drops a moment later when it's obvious my reaction is somewhat different. "I guess you're not that excited."
"Josh—I'm just—aren't we…" I can't form coherent thoughts right now. I'm too shocked by his enthusiasm. Kids are not something we've talked a whole lot about, other than a vague agreement a while back that it felt like something we'd want to do at some point. Contrary to society's belief of women as a whole, having a family hasn't been at the top of my list. I've not been opposed to it, not at all, and it's been an even more appealing prospect knowing that Josh would be the father, but we've had a million other things to think about in the last few years. Never mind that we've liked focusing on our relationship being the two of us and taking the chance to do things that couples are supposed to when they're child-free. This would change all that drastically. Which is fine, of course, but still, based on our earlier conversations, I never thought he'd be that into having kids. I knew he'd do it, and he'd be a great father, but I figured we'd cross that bridge at some point in the future.
Turns out that the bridge is suddenly looming in front of us.
"Josh," I try again, forcing myself to take deep breaths, "I don't know if there's anything to be excited about yet. Right now all we have is a bunch of sticks on the bathroom counter." I have this brief moment of certainty, though, that being pregnant makes perfect sense. It explains everything.
I try to shove that thought away before I can get too attached to the idea.
"Okay, sure, but doesn't this give us a chance to have a few more conversations about it if it turns out you're not? Hell, I don't even need to have a conversation. If you're not pregnant right now, I vote that we get to work on it right away."
I can't help but smile just a little even as I feel a tear tickle the corner of my eye. "Aren't you scared shitless?"
"Absolutely," he answers without hesitation. "Nothing has terrified me more, other than maybe finding out you were in a bombing on the other side of the world. That doesn't mean I don't wanna do it." The fingers laced with mine squeezes my hand again, and I look back to him to find him smiling sadly at me. "Do you…not…want to…you don't want to…you don't want kids?"
Never in a million years would I have expected Josh to look quite so forlorn at the prospect of not having children, but I don't suppose I'm giving him enough credit.
I scoot closer to him somehow and disentangle our hands, wrapping my arms around his shoulders. "Honey, that's not it. Not even a little bit." At this point, I'm not surprised to realize what I'm saying is the absolute truth. "I want kids. I want kids with you. I'm still just a little…stunned by all of this. I really never thought about it until you mentioned it earlier. Honestly. Never crossed my mind. But it seems like you've had at a least few hours head start on me, if not maybe a few days. I'm just trying to catch up. Plus, you know, I really am terrified at just the idea of it. I'm so scared about how badly I could screw this up, and I'm just talking about the gestation part right now. I can't even bring myself to think about anything beyond that right now."
His left arm slides around my back, but his right hand remains resolutely on my stomach. "I know that the burden of pregnancy rests exclusively on your shoulders. It's your body that changes, you're the one that has to deal with cravings and hormones and the sickness, while it's typically the father's job to strut around, bragging about how he's spread his seed and be very caveman about impregnating his woman, while making occasional offers to rub your feet or fetch the latest craving. But I want you to know that I'm going to be here for it. As much as I'm able, and I have no doubt that the President will gladly shove me out of the office if he knows my pregnant wife is waiting for me. I want to be as much a part of it as you need me to be. I mean, you're creating a human inside of your body. The least I can do is try to make sure you're comfortable."
My husband is amazing. He puts all other spouses to shame. I don't know what I did to deserve someone like this in my life. In just a few sentences, he's managed to take me from terrified to…well, still terrified but definitely more excited about the prospect.
He presses his lips to the side of my head and I sigh, my eyes drifting shut. I take a deep breath and let his familiar scent wash through me, grounding me just a little. It's still Josh. It's still us. There just might be a little more of us than we're used to. But we might be able to handle that.
"You think it's time to check?" he whispers, and I let out a watery chuckle.
"I think they've been ready for a good ten minutes now. Or an hour. How long have we been sitting here?"
He laughs and disentangles himself from me, helping me to my feet as he stands. I feel a brief wave of dizziness, but I pass that off as sitting on the floor for too long. We stand facing each other for a few moments, our hands holding onto each other for dear life, and I'm a little relieved to see that he actually does look as scared as I feel. He's still grinning at me like an idiot, but he's definitely terrified at the prospect.
"Want me to wait out here, or…" He drifts off, waiting for an answer. I adamantly refused to let him into the bathroom with me while taking the tests. We may have lost a lot of the mystery over the last few years, but there was no way I was going to let him watch me pee on a stick. Or multiple sticks, as the case may be. I had to draw a line somewhere.
However, this part feels a little different, and I have a very strong feeling that I might need someone to keep me upright in a few seconds. Instead, I shake my head and squeeze his fingers. "We should do this together. Seems like we'll both be affected by the outcome."
He nods and his throat bobs as he swallows heavily. Before I can move toward the bathroom, he reaches up and grabs my face, pulling me in to kiss me fiercely. "I love you," he whispers against my mouth. "Whatever happens in there…we got this."
I sniffle a little and nod as well. I give him another kiss and carefully extricate myself. I feel my heart jackhammer, my stomach twist painfully—which genuinely scares me for a second before I realize it's actually my stomach that's turning, and not pain anywhere near my uterus—and reach for bathroom door. Funnily enough, immediately after taking the tests, I all but slammed the door behind me, as if that barrier would somehow keep me safe from the possibility those unholy little sticks hold.
My hand shakes for just a second before I force myself to calm down and twist the knob. Josh grabs my other hand, his own palm sweaty. As side by side as we can get, we creep into bathroom, and as much as I'd like to find something else to look at, even just for a second, my eyes are immediately drawn to the row of pregnancy tests waiting next to the sink.
We take a couple of steps forward and I crane my neck, looking down at the little sticks, and just for a moment wonder exactly how clear these things will be. I've heard horror stories about plus signs that look like division symbols, or about second lines that are faint enough to make you question your sanity. Surely with five tests, one of them will be clear—it's the possibility that the rest won't be that scares the hell out of me.
"Wow," Josh breathes, his face right beside mine as he stares down at the results. "So…"
I reach down and pick up the test closest to me, holding straight out in front of us. A laugh bubbles out of me uncontrollably. "Oh, my God."
"Positive." Positive. Little pink plus signs as far as the eye can see. "I'm pregnant." I feel a grin threaten to take over my face as the word sinks in, and suddenly I've never been so happy about anything in my life. "Josh, I'm pregnant."
He lets out a strange noise suddenly—somewhere between a whoop and a battle cry—and he wraps his arms around me, crushing me against his chest. He buries his face in my neck and I can't tell if he's laughing or crying. I can't tell if I'm laughing or crying right now.
"We're having a baby," he mumbles. "A baby, Donna!" He pulls his face out of my neck and cups my cheeks gently. Somehow, impossibly, he's smiling even wider than he was out in the hall earlier, and his eyes are red-rimmed and a touch watery. A million and one cliché thoughts run through my mind in an instant, but I try not to judge myself too harshly for that. I can tell right now that they're cliché for a reason.
All I know is that right now I feel crazy, wildly, boundlessly, unexpectedly, and deliriously happy. I feel the clichéd "I didn't know how much I wanted it until it happened" thing, and the completely unoriginal overpowering wash of love for this thing inside me that can't be any bigger than a sea monkey right now…everything. I feel all of the things I've ever read about in books and have heard from friends over the years. It's all true and real, every stupid bit of it.
I try to tamp down my grin, without much luck. "We have to…um…we have to go to a doctor, sooner rather than later. You know, to make sure the tests aren't wrong—"
"Five false positives?" he exclaims with a laugh, but I ignore him.
"Just to make sure! And we have to make sure I'm okay and the baby's okay…" My knees actually go weak at the word "baby," my stomach dropping to the floor at the idea that anything could be wrong with it. Our baby is perfect; I know it with every fiber of my being.
"Later," Josh whispers, pulling me in for another kiss. His hands slide away from my face and wrap around me, and I respond in kind. His lips move against mine slowly, his fingers tightening against my back. He comes up for air but doesn't go far, resting his forehead against mine. "We'll do all that practical stuff tomorrow."
I nod a little, letting my eyes fall shut. "Yeah. Sounds good."
I feel his hands slide to my hips, his thumbs brushing reverently over my stomach, and for right now, I feel completely at peace. Panic will set in before I know it. We need to take every quiet moment we can find.
His lips brush against mine again, tenderly, without expectation, and everything inside of me flutters.
Damn it. Damn it, damn it, damn it. I really didn't want to do this. But for some reason, I had this image of Donna and Josh staring at the wall as she said she wanted to dip a Snickers in mayo and it wouldn't go away. Then in the shower, ideas to build on that image started to surge. I stayed up way too late that night writing. I lost a lot of sleep. I've been working on it for days. I thought it was going to be maybe a thousand words. I was wrong. I'm having the worst time naming this story (whatever the title winds up being, I can guarantee that I'll hate it). I couldn't figure out how to end it, so it basically just stops. The laptop that I bought three years ago when I started writing Mondler fic after my other laptop was stolen is literally falling apart. The screen is coming off the keyboard. I can't swing a new one. These are serious first world problems.
*sigh* At any rate, I hope this is enjoyable.