Title: Fine Line
Author: A.j.
Spoilers:Upto 'Impact Winter' and speculation beyond.
Rating: PG-13
Notes: I originally wanted to write something for Celli with the line "The people elected him, I hired you.", a stress ball, and Josh/Donna. Um. One out of three isn't totally horrific? Donna/Josh angstiness ahead.

Summary: Donna always thought that people who talked to the voices in their head needed medical help.


Sometimes Donna has conversations with him in her head. Long, involved ones that they never had, maybe should have had, and probably will never have. They happen at odd times. Cleaning the bathroom in a manic fit on a random off hour. She scours the grout over her soap dish and talks to Josh about glue and how good his tongue felt on her clit the night before. Or how cute he'd look holding a baby.

She doesn't discuss these imaginary conversations with anyone. Mostly because of the baby bits. They're sappy and unrealistic and she wants to believe that she's moved beyond those dreams and thoughts.

She hasn't, but she does a damn good job of convincing herself she has for most of the day. Most of the year, actually. Damn dreams and thoughts.

It's hard to buck the training of the early formative years completely. People can and do manage it all the time, but not totally. Bits and pieces pop up, sticky and sudden. Wishes for dreams and family and happily ever after aren't silly or wrong. Just unrealistic. She's built her new life around being practical. Something that isn't realistic, isn't practical.

Then again, something that isn't practical doesn't always have to be unrealistic.

She's had that conversation with Josh. With the real him, not the one in her head. It had been three a.m. some time in their (and in her head 'their' is becoming less and less 'the Bartlet administration' and more 'Josh and Donna') first year in office. They still hadn't been used to the mounting insane hours, so had been flying on entirely too much coffee and been too lazy to go home for a few hours to turn around and come back again.

Josh had spent nearly five minutes dissecting her logic – of which there'd been very little at that point – and only stopped because she'd been laughing so hard at his earnest face, she'd fallen off her chair.

The incident probably would have lost itself in the multitude of similar amused conversations, as she and Josh were and are both extremely verbal people, if he hadn't brought it up a few days later.

"You're right," he'd said randomly, probably while handing her a file and walking.

"I'm always right," she'd responded. Mostly because she was. "This isn't news. What am I right about now?"

"Impractical isn't always unrealistic."

"Hence most of our current education system?"

"You didn't use that example three days ago."

"Because I was drunk on coffee and the mold living in your carpet. How did you come to this momentous realization, Josh? Bolt from the blue?"

He'd stopped then, likely by his office door as that was one of the few places he did actually stop outright. She did remember that, just like she remembered the amused half-smile he'd shot at her. "No. I thought about it. And you were right."

She'd talked, and he'd listened.

She misses talking to him. Actually talking to him, face to face. It's been two months since she quit, barely not yelling at him in the bullpen that the team was breaking up – pay attention to me! – and watching him walk away smirking. Because he'd been sure she'd been joking. She wouldn't leave.

He needed her. She needed him. They fit. They worked.

Except they hadn't anymore.

Donna knows she should have pushed harder. Made him see before letting him walk into her area and finding her gone. But she also knows that subtlety never works on Josh and everything up to and including beating him over the head doesn't work.

So she'd walked out. And she's only now looking back, just a little.

She misses Josh. Almost physically. Will's conversation about their new partnership – and lord was that still extremely odd – had been almost humiliatingly clear on that point. He wasn't Josh. He didn't work like Josh did. He didn't want her to work like she had with Josh. He wanted to work with her like she worked with Will.

She was Donna. Not 'and Donna', but just plainly Donna.

She misses having him listen.

And that's why this is okay. That's why this is important. Because he'd stopped doing that. And somewhere along the line, she'd stopped listening to him too. They'd become 'Josh and Donna', not Josh AND Donna.

So, she needs to be just Donna right now. Figure out who she is without him. Make her own mark with her own hand. Stand up, be strong, and about fifteen other different clichés.

And he needs to be just Josh. To do this thing. Be this person for awhile. Work this problem and remember who he was before five years of bureaucracy wore him down.

They need to remember who they are before they can be Josh and Donna again. And as much as it hurts to admit, they may never be ready for that.

She's had that conversation with her imaginary Josh. About burning too bright and close. Not wanting to destroy each other. She made herself cry with that one, staring out a hospital window in Germany with her mother down the hall. Said the words in her mind, watched his face tighten, and felt the tears come streaming down. She'd said goodbye to him in her head. It only took another seven months to say it out loud.

She's only seen him once since she quit. It had been at a distance, almost three days after she'd heard that he'd quit his job and was moving to New Hampshire to set up a campaign office for Santos. He'd been shouting at someone over his cell phone, tie askew, and hair standing on end. She'd felt her breath catch and in that moment, had wanted nothing more than run across the street, organize his briefcase and say that hey, she was Donna Moss and Becky had reassigned her.

Instead, she'd watched him walk away and gone back to her office to go over budget numbers again.

Still, she hadn't forgotten how happy he'd looked. How passionate. Nor has she forgotten that she is happy too. Because she is. She loves her new job. She is important, but not because of who she works for. Because of what she does. She, Donna Moss of Madison Wisconsin, is helping get another President elected.

But she still has conversations with Josh in her head. Long ones. Short ones. Debates over food, personalities, trivia, and beverages. When she has a problem, it's his voice that argues her into a solution. His history and humor that nag at the back of her mind during her meetings with the Vice President. That has her biting her tongue and folding her arms over her chest when she makes a suggestion she knows is right, but no one is listening.

Because seven years is a long time to love someone. To have them as a best friend. To ground a genius. And everything doesn't just stop because they're not nearby. They are nearby. Just not physically.

She needs him back. Craves the contact and the banter and the connection like a drug. Has to fight calling him up and discussing her day almost nightly. She needs him desperately.

But she knows that the instant she wants him back, is when she'll finally let herself finish dialing his number.

That won't be for a while yet. So, until then? She'll just talk to him in her head.

-fin-