"Meet me at the old Barlet For America headquarters in three hours. Josh."
That was the text message that brought Donna Moss to "Grandma's Attic: Antiques and Eccentrics" on the corner of Smith and Maine. She stood outside the window, woefully undressed and shivering. Perhaps "at" had actually meant "in" and she was developing frostbite for nothing. Then again, Josh Lyman would join the Republican party before he set foot in an antiques store, nostalgia or not.
He came up from behind and she saw his reflection before he spoke. "I don't know what to make of our old headquarters being a place for antiques and eccentrics."
"It wasn't a place for antiques and eccentrics during the campaign?" She didn't yet turn around to face him.
"Sure. I'm a priceless antique whose value will only appreciate over time and you're a charming eccentric that someone keeps in their attic." He grinned widely and his tone was flirtatious. "And we won't even get into what Toby is."
"Josh!" She turned around and lightly poked him in the chest. "I'm freezing out here, let's go inside. Unless..." She hesitated. "Unless this is more of an I've-only-got-a-few-minutes thing."
Josh's face became serious. "No, I've got time. Cleared my whole afternoon."
Donna smiled. "You know how to do that?"
"Sure," Josh shrugged his shoulders and they walked to the door. "I mean, I can't make coffee and I'm not wearing matching socks and I left half my campaign materials in an IHOP in Charleston, but I think I'm still ahead of the learning curve."
He opened the door for her and she stopped for a second. "You sure you want to go in here? I know how you feel about antique stores..."
"Why not? We're doing nostalgia here on all fronts."
"Oh-kay. Just try to, you know, not break things."
She entered and he followed her in. The place smelled a bit musty, but not overwhelming. Mozart was playing on a small radio by the cashier; it sounded distant and tinny. Only a few people milled around the various knickknacks, old books and velvet pictures of clowns. There was a huge stack of Lawrence Welk records right by Josh. He shuddered inwardly.
"We've literally entered my grandmother's attic," Donna whispered and he could tell she was not too taken by the merchandise, either.
"My grandmother had better taste," Josh whispered back.
"Are you insulting my grandmother?"
"Did she watch Lawrence Welk?"
Donna saw the stack of records. "You have a point."
They walked around the store for a moment, pretending to browse, Josh a step behind Donna, not looking at any antiques or eccentrics. He was studying her hair, her ears, the curve of her hand and was trying not to be nervous. So far, it was going well.
Donna picked up an orange statue of either Paul Bunyan or Sitting Bull, it was hard to tell. "It looks like it's made out of cheddar cheese."
"You would know these things."
"Ah, the six hundred and seventy-second Wisconsin crack in almost eight years."
"But I have yet to say anything about Bingo Bob, that should win me points."
"You just called him 'Bingo Bob'"
"Yeah, but I'm sure his wife and immediate family call him that, too."
Donna grinned weakly. She put the statue back on the shelf.
"You don't really believe in him, do you Donna?" Josh's expression turned serious. "I mean... it's not the same for you with him as it was for Bartlet, is it?"
She looked as if she was about to affirm his question, but then she looked down at the floor. "I really don't think we should talk about it."
He reached out to touch her arm and then drew his hand back quickly, not wanting to push his luck. "It's not like I'm going to tell Will Bailey or Matt Santos or anyone, Donna."
"I know," she said quickly and looked up at him and her smile jolted him like electricity. It was real and warm and just for him. She then was looking over his shoulder. "Look what they have where Toby used to be."
Josh turned his head, but Donna was already walking towards the table filled with every kind of baby apparatus made in the last hundred years. Antique bottles, frilly Confirmation dresses, old pacifiers...
"Why would anyone want something that some kid sucked on for two years?"
"That, I don't know." Donna picked up a very tiny pair of knitted baby booties. "These are adorable."
"I don't think they'd fit you."
For the second time that day, she poked him and said his name in mock exasperation. Josh welcomed any touch he got. She put down the booties and picked up a dirty lace bonnet. "You'd have to wash this about a hundred times before you'd see my kid wearing it."
"It's kind of..." His mouth had become very dry at the mention of "her kid." "Kind of... sissy-like, don't you think? The kid would get beat up."
"I don't think babies beat up other babies."
He cleared his throat. "Maybe in your neighborhood, they didn't. I come from the mean streets of Connecticut." Donna chuckled a bit.
They were silent for a moment, Donna looking through the baby things, Josh avoiding touching any of it. Partly out of fear of petrified baby drool from the twenties and partly because babies and Donna had come together a bit too often in his thoughts over the last few years and he would very much like not to put the cart before the horse. They hadn't even kissed yet.
"Interesting that this at Toby's old desk," Josh said after a moment.
"It's symbolic," Donna pawed at a baby poodle skirt.
"He did often act like a big baby."
Donna rolled her eyes at Josh. "I mean, it's symbolic because he was the first one out of all of you to procreate."
"The President and Leo have kids."
"You know what I mean, Josh."
He did, but he didn't know where this conversation was heading and the horse may very well trample the cart if he didn't watch his tongue. And stop thinking of what he'd like to do with his tongue. "Yeah."
"It's kind of odd, isn't it?" Donna started to step away. "Toby being the one with kids. He wouldn't be the one I would have thought back when we were here."
"Who would you have thought?" Damn tongue.
"Then you, of course," Donna spoke a bit too quickly. Babies and Josh did weird things with her tongue, too. "I was obviously a bit petrified to think you might have them with Mandy Hampton. They'd have great political skills but no tact and probably scream at inhuman decibels."
"I picture Mandy being one of those mothers who eats her babies." Josh began walking towards his old office.
Donna raised an eyebrow, but followed him towards the enclosed space. There were watercolors of cats, some looking very abstract, covering the glass and someone had installed saloon doors to the modern door frame. It looked... very bad. Grandma's attic meets a John Wayne film meets an insurance office.
They both stopped in front of the doors and took a deep breath. Josh glanced over. Suddenly, nothing was funny anymore, not even Mandy eating her children. He took another deep breath.
Donna looked outside at the snow beginning to fall. "You got my e-mail?"
"Yeah," Josh spoke barely above a breath. "Thank you for replying to me."
To: "Donna Moss" "Joshua Lyman" Thurs, Feb 1, 2006 02:34:10
Subject: Eight years...
It's not yet our anniversary, the one you like to celebrate in February. And, even though flowers might be difficult this year, being as I don't know where you'll be, I will e-mail you on the correct date. I'll probably e-mail you before then, or, I don't know, as often as it takes for us to get this resolved.
Obviously, you know that I am a gigantic coward and I am e-mailing you instead of calling or talking to you in person. And I am a gigantic asshole for not trying to do this sooner. But I don't think things between us have EVER been has tense as they were in that Holiday Inn in Iowa. I didn't know it was going to be... like that.
You seem to be absolutely furious with me and while I don't understand why or what I did, I do understand why you left. Really, I do. You needed to grow and you weren't going to do that being my assistant. You needed more challenges and opportunities and responsibilities. You DESERVE and have EARNED all of that. Never think I don't realize that. I always knew you were never going to be my Mrs. Landingham or Margaret, following me from job to job. I knew you were destined for more.
But you also deserve to know that my holding on to you like I did and blowing off "our talk" and all the rest... it didn't have to do with your filing skills. It was personal, Donna. I didn't want to lose Donnatella Moss; it had nothing to do with keeping a faithful assistant. I wanted you with me, for many reasons that I need to tell you in person. When you were my assistant, I saw you everyday. Now, I barely see you. And I hate it.
You may not even read this, you're so pissed at me. At least, I think you are. I don't really know. I do know that I want us to be friends and I want us to communicate and when I see you in an elevator, I don't want the silence to be so thick it chokes us. I think after eight years and everything that has happened, we owe each other and our relationship a chance to work things out.
One more thing, and then I'm done with girly emotions this evening:
I miss you.
To: "Joshua Lyman" "Donna Moss" Fri, Feb 2, 2006 09:15:00
Subject: RE: Eight years...
I really don't know what to say (or write) in return. I agree with you that things are tense and they really shouldn't be and we do owe each other and our relationship more then almost knocks on hotel doors. (I was looking through the keyhole. How well I know you.)
Josh, I don't think you did anything wrong besides take me for granted. For many years, I was content with my job and the status quo, but then I wasn't and I knew that the idea of me leaving scared you. It scared me, too. Who was I in the world of politics without Joshua Lyman? I had to go find out. I had to do it. I've spent far too much of my life being in the shadow of a man. And although you are so much better then the men who came before you, it's time for me to grow up.
There are things I need to say to you in person, too. Things I'm scared to say. But I imagine it wasn't easy for you to write that e-mail and I'm very glad that you did. I feel much better already about our relationship. It's been hard for me, too. I miss you very much.
Without saying another word, Josh barged into his old office, the wood door swinging back towards Donna. She was about to follow him when she heard him bellow.
The clerk in front lifted her grayed head and glared and the old man in the corner fingering an old scrap book looked like he was about to have a heart attack. Sheepishly, Donna pushed on the panel and entered. "Joshua, you don't have to yell."
"Donna, look... what they've turned... our office into."
"It ceased to be our office seven and change years ago, Josh."
"Donna, they've... turned my office..."
He was flabbergasted. She was extremely amused by the situation.
"This seems to be where they put the porn section. Definitely wasn't in my Grandmother's attic. Do you think this qualifies as "antique" or "eccentric"?"
Josh turned to face her. "Donna, look over where we used to keep the files on potential VPs. There is a picture of a man... doing..."
Donna tilted her head up. "Yeah, I don't think that's really legal."
"That sheep doesn't look so happy."
Josh ran his hand over his face. "You're entirely too smug about this."
"Josh, the man and the poor animal are long dead. You won't find anyone who will prosecute. And yes, it's gross, but not all of it's bad. Look, over where the mini-fridge used to be... it's a table with... oh my."
A smirk the walls had seen a million times before came to Josh's face. "Guess the shoe's on the other foot now."
They walked the short distance to the table. "They all seem rather big, don't you think, Josh?" Donna reached her hand out to touch.
"Don't touch them, Donna. Really. Do not touch them."
"I'm sure they've been washed, Josh."
"Don't care, don't care, I'm still feeling very disturbed."
"It's just porn, Josh. And... some equipment."
"It's my great grandfather's porn, Donna. And it's in my old office. This office, where powerful people made important decisions that have affect the world in more ways that we can calculate."
Donna smirked. "You know, you think finding the sheep picture would have deflated your ego just a tiny bit."
Josh's eyes changed color a bit and he suddenly seemed very somber. He waited to speak until he had her eyes in his. "I gave you my ID badge in this office, Donna. And that has affected my world in more ways that I can calculate."
Suddenly, Donna's heart was pounding in her ears and her palms felt like they were dripping on the floor. "It made my world, Joshua."
He stepped a bit closer to her. Over his shoulder, Donna could see a very old photograph of a bare-breasted woman and a Rudolph Valentino-esque man embracing passionately. It looked like someone had poured olive oil all over the man and put baby powder all over the woman. Her eyes flickered back to Josh and she saw all kinds of erotic images, none of which involved salad dressing. He had never quite looked at her that way before.
He could see the snow falling through the cracks between the cat pictures. He groaned inwardly as the owner's bad pun with the "cat" pictures occurred to him. But then he straightened his vision and all there was was Donna. And though her eyes and face had changed, grown older, she still caused all the blood in his veins to boil and his heart to catch fire. He could think of a bunch more romantic girly clichés, but he'd rather focus on her. And for the first time in their relationship, there was no line that couldn't be crossed. They were free. She was right, it was scary. But also wonderful.
Josh found of his voice and let the words come out of his mouth. "I want to kiss you, but not in front of the dildos."
Donna's eyes widened and for a second, he felt that he had made a horrible error. Then she threw her head back and laughed. He just stared at her for a second, then he let his dimples begin to show.
"That's quite a line, Joshua."
"Thanks, use it on all the ladies."
Donna smiled somewhat bashfully. "Yeah, I think, um, kissing amongst these eccentric antiques would be a bit strange even for us."
Josh started to pace where his desk used to be. "I can't believe they did this to my old office. I had a whole plan, Donna. Almost as elaborate as my nine point plan for Santos. We would come here, we would talk, we would get everything out in the open, I would bring you in here and then we would, you know... talk more about certain things... maybe... I dunno... admit...some...things...and then I would, you know, kiss you. I thought it would be romantic, our first kiss, the old office, old things, new things..."
"You had a plan," Donna couldn't help but smile and gently nod her head.
"Yes!" Josh ran his fingers through his hair.
"A nine-point plan, three of the points being, talking, admitting and kissing."
Josh stopped and looked back at her. "Well, for the plan to work, the points would have to happen in sequential order."
"Did you stay up nights in Holiday Inns in Des Moines thinking up this plan?"
"I stayed up nights thinking of kissing you."
Suddenly, the room was spinning again. Donna felt a jolt go through her system. Her voice was soft when she spoke again. "And did that just happen in Des Moines?"
"No, that's happened in most of the fifty states, Germany and probably a few other countries. And, of course, it happened all the time in D.C." His voice was raspy and he was moving towards her again.
Donna took a deep breath. "Josh, maybe the office is different. But we're different. We've got more scars now, ones you can see and ones you can't and you have less hair." He chuckled at that. "And maybe a prehistoric porno section in a bizarre little store isn't where either of us pictured it happening, but we've both just admitted, well you just admitted and now I'm admitting, that we've wanted this to happen for a long time and I'll throw you one even bigger and tell you that my feelings for you are more then friendship and have been for a long time. I mean, it's not ideal, but I don't think we should let the dildos get us down."
Josh paused his steps and Donna was almost about to throw herself out of the room and out of the store, when he began to laugh. She covered her face with her hands, but couldn't stop herself from laughing, either.
Donna was just about to brush a tear away from her eye when she felt Josh move her hands away from her face. Before she could register anything else, his lips were on hers and their hands were woven together. It started off extremely gentle, almost shy, but just as suddenly, their hands broke apart and she cupped his face. He pulled her closer, wrapping his arms around her waist and their mouths opened to each other.
Soon, they were pressed together as firmly as humanly possible and their lips were dancing madly with each other, their tongues freely exploring. Although Donna's eyes were closed, she almost saw the picture in the corner of the man and the woman. She knew that, even with more clothes, her and Josh's kiss was better. But then her mind went back to Josh and his lips and hands.
They broke apart hesitantly, drawing on each others lips until they knew they had to stop before they started creating their own porn section.
Josh stared into her eyes. "My feelings go well beyond friendship, too. Well, well beyond."
Donna felt relief, but she knew there was still more to say, more to admit. "I didn't want to leave you. The job, yes, but not you."
"I was hurt, because I thought you did. I thought... you didn't love me anymore." Josh realized what he assumed and his eyebrows nearly touched his hairline. "I, I, I didn't mean..."
The almost-girl Josh gave an ID badge to eight years ago would be flustered, but the woman before him was not. "Of course I still love you."
She had never quite seen joy in Josh's eyes like she did at that moment. It wasn't there when Barlet won, either time, it wasn't there when bills got passed or judges appointed, or even for Mandy or Amy. She was sure the joy was mirrored in her own eyes.
"And I love you, Donnatella Moss. I'm sorry I didn't get to say it before now."
She took his hand again. "You did, in other ways, Josh. You did."
His eyes got serious again. Josh didn't really know if he was dreaming or not at this moment. He had been so petrified and now it all seemed so simple and easy. Like he had sweated it out eight years for nothing. Well, an improper relationship between a boss and his assistant wasn't nothing, per say, but his largest fears had been quelled. "Well, we've talked, admitted and kissed, not in the correct order, but I'll let it slide. What should we do now?"
"Hmmm... what are the other six points in your plan?"
The last point in the plan is on Toby's old desk, Josh thought, but his tongue was too busy begging to go back into Donna's mouth to cause trouble. "We'll get to them eventually."
"It's a large and complicated plan, Donna. Many ins and outs. You may need to make note cards."
She kissed him lightly. "I don't work for you anymore, Joshua."
"Thank God," he pulled her into another embrace.
To: "Donna Moss" "Joshua Lyman" Fri, Apr 23, 2006 10:02:32
Subject: Red Lights
Happy not-anniversary! I know you guys are sucking it big time now that we've hit our stride (come on, you can't expect me not to gloat a bit, I gotta be me), but I'm sure you're cheered by a mean man who can read a calendar, but still has trouble with the coffee maker. (Once we are living together, coffee should be your responsibility. Trust me, you don't want it any other way.)
Last night on the phone was amazing (even though you only think you are being funny by making those sheep noises). I hope no one was recording it, although we could blow all that crap in my old office away with our lovemaking. You don't think they put porn in my White House office, do you?
It is, however, no substitute for the real thing and I am looking forward, to put it mildly, to Tuesday when I can hold you and kiss you and make love to you and express all kinds of girly emotion. And I'm taking you out to dinner.
The subject is "red lights" and its because I've been thinking of something you said to be years ago, about how you wouldn't stop for them if I had been in an accident. And I've been thinking that I gave you so many red lights over the years, including trying to keep you tethered to me as an assistant and you didn't stop. You didn't stop loving me, even when I gave you a thousand reasons not to love me. I was stupid, I was being a silly little boy because I was scared. Emotions this strong are new for me, Donna. Well, now they're about eight years old. And I'm learning to stop acting like an eight-year-old.
Well, I'll keep the girly theme a-going. I love you, I love you, I love you. Top that, sheep-girl.
I miss you. I'll call you at two pm today.
To: "Joshua Lyman" "Donna Moss" Fri, Apr 23, 2006 11:55:09
Subject: RE: Red Lights
The sheep noises are funny, Josh! Well, maybe its a bit of sadistic humor, because I know it makes you uncomfortable. Stop picking on Bingo Bob!
The phone is great, but you're right that it doesn't compete with the real thing. I'm sure our lovemaking would definitely top anything found in that old Barlet for America office. Especially that night in Chicago. Well, in Atlanta, too. And in Houston, after we had dinner with the Santos' and found that beautiful park... you really are quite the outdoorsman, Josh.
And no, I doubt C.J. and Toby have filled your old WH office with porn.
I would never stop at red lights for you, Joshua, but I know that you wouldn't stop for me, either. We were both afraid. Don't put all the blame on yourself. I did plenty of things the last eight years to push you away, too. And you never stopped loving me either. That's why its so strong and powerful and real to us now that we've come to the place where we are.
I love you more then anything I've ever loved in my life.
And I will make the coffee, but I will not bring it to you.
I miss you, love you, look forward to your call