AN: Just a short vignette—in a future where Vinnick beats Santos in the election. Spoilers, if any, through Ninety Miles Away. Josh & Donna. (My first WW fic—be kind!)
The Two Lymans
The Scotch had melted down the ice substantially—he watched as the top cube tumbled off of the bottom one, hitting the bottom of the glass with a dull clink. Sighing, he swirled the glass half-heartedly, and took a heavy sip.
The alcohol burned its way down his chest—he would have gagged, were he not sitting in a public place.
"Josh, tough loss, man," someone said, as they passed the bar. He felt a heavy hand on his shoulder, but didn't look up to greet the passerby. He realized, of course, that ignoring everyone who passed might not be a wise career move. Then again, he wondered just how many bridges he had burned during the Bartlet administration, and how many of those bridges were permanently destroyed.
But he just couldn't bring himself to look at anyone right now.
The race had been tight. In fact, they hadn't been able to call it for half the night. By 2:30 the next morning, Josh was certain he was going to collapse from a stroke.
Vinnick had been a remarkable, worthy opponent, and both Josh and Matt respected him thoroughly.
That didn't make the loss sting any less.
He took another swig, nearly choking this time. He sighed, and put down the glass with a sharp thud.
"Tough night," another voice appeared behind him, and this time he had the good sense to turn around.
"Donna," he said, her name coming out with a heavy sigh.
She looked stunning, her hair pulled up in a messy ponytail, her eyes sparkling with an odd combination of mirth and sympathy. Her light pink scarf was still wrapped around her neck, accenting her pale skin and pink cheeks.
"How much have you had?" she asked, eyebrow arched.
"One…two-ish," Josh smiled slightly, and watched Donna shake her head.
"I'm not going to be witness to another puking session," she sighed, and moved to the bar to push the Scotch glass out of reach. A futile maneuver, considering it was empty.
"You don't have to…" Josh sighed, and looked at his hands as Donna shrugged out of her coat.
A long, silent moment passed. Donna watched Josh out of the corner of her eye. She saw the signs. Knew them well.
He was blaming himself a lot more than he should be.
"Tough loss," she finally sighed, "you ran an amazing campaign."
"Woulda been even more amazing if we'd, ya know, won," Josh chuckled bitterly.
"You can't win 'em all, Josh," Donna replied, then turned to look at him, "And you lost to a hell of a guy."
Josh nodded, then looked over at Donna, studying her intently. She squirmed under the scrutiny, and turned away.
"Where's Cliff tonight?" Josh finally asked.
"Dunno," Donna shrugged nonchalantly, though in fact, she knew damn well where he was.
She figured that telling Josh that Cliff had gone to the Vinnick victory party was a bad idea.
"Liar," Josh called her on the lie, but didn't press for more information.
"What are you gonna do now?" Donna asked softly.
"Maybe I'll run for Congress," Josh smiled, and Donna looked at him crossly.
Josh sobered, and shrugged.
"I don't really know," he admitted quietly, "I mean, I barely had a plan when I left the White House."
"You and me both," Donna laughed, then immediately regretted saying it. She caught a barely-visible wince from Josh, and knew that she had, in fact, hit a nerve.
They had never really talked about what had happened.
They hadn't really talked about a lot of things.
Josh sighed, and it was clear to her that he was having similar thoughts…similar regrets, about the past several months.
"Did you ever…tell Cliff…about the Convention?" Josh ventured, though he refused to meet her gaze.
"No," she answered
shortly, "There was nothing to tell."
He winced a bit more visibly this time, and she felt guilt course through her. Why did he always have this effect on her, anyway? She glanced over at him, and hoped he'd just drop it.
No such luck. Scotch was like liquid courage to those with delicate systems.
"Nothing?" he rasped, and she felt her heart drop to her stomach.
It amazed her sometimes, the way Josh Lyman could be two completely different people. At times his confidence was in overabundance—and his cockiness could be a turn off to those who didn't know him. He'd made a lot of friends in Washington, but he'd made quite a few enemies as well. It was his cocky attitude and over-confidence that often got him into a heap of trouble.
Then, as if a switch had been turned off, Josh could become completely insecure, fearful and meek. Few people saw this Josh, particularly while working. Donna had seen it often, and she was sure Leo had been witness to it once or twice. He got this look—this look of utter helplessness and despair, and it was at once heartbreaking and frustrating.
"Not…Josh, you know what I mean," Donna said quickly.
"It wasn't nothing to me," he muttered, as he scrubbed his face with his hands, "I'd better get home," he sighed.
"Josh, just…wait, a second, okay?" Donna placed her hand on Josh's bicep, and he calmed slightly. It still astounded her that she had that effect on him.
"I didn't mean that it meant nothing…it just…I thought—"
"You thought what?" Josh said, irritation lining his voice. Josh number one rearing his head, for just a moment.
"I thought maybe it was just…the excitement," Donna shrugged.
"The excitement…of what?" Josh arched an eyebrow.
"The Convention…Santos' nomination…everything," Donna replied, her voice fading.
"Not, perhaps, the excitement of seeing a familiar face?" Josh ventured.
"Maybe that," Donna smiled, and cursed her cheeks for going pink on her.
"I didn't mean to kiss you," Josh said quietly, and this time, it was Donna's turn to wince.
"I mean…I didn't mean to kiss you…there…at-at the Convention."
"What?" God, how was he able to do that?
"I wanted to…but not there. And not while you were with Cliff…" Josh finished.
"I'm not with Cliff," Donna interrupted.
"I'm not with Cliff…anymore."
"Oh," Josh replied, "O-okay."
"When did you mean to kiss me, then?" Donna smiled.
"When we won the election," Josh grinned, the familiar twinkle once again lighting his chocolate eyes.
"But…we didn't win," Donna mock-pouted, and Josh's dimples appeared.
"Well, then I suppose you'll have to wait 4 more years."
The Democratic National Convention
"Josh, where's the Congressman?"
He blinked, his eyes coming into focus. Toby was standing in front of him, looking annoyed.
Like that was something new.
"Uh, he's…back…back there," Josh pointed toward a door down the hall, and Toby wordlessly marched toward it.
"Your welcome," Josh sighed to himself, and wandered out toward the floor.
The stadium was packed, and red, white and blue streamers, balloons and signs filled every corner.
It was an odd feeling. He felt so completely alone, in this room filled with people.
He wasn't really sure when it had happened…and how he could come to feel so isolated while surrounded by people.
And they were good people. The people that helped him get Santos here…they were all good people.
But they weren't his friends.
He turned, and saw her immediately, fighting her way through the sea of Democrats. When she finally reached him, she was out of breath.
"You made it," he smiled, and immediately led her to a darkened corridor just behind the stage.
"Why are we in a dark corner?" Donna asked.
"What, you can pull me into closets, but I can't pull you into musty corners?" Josh winked.
"What's going on?"
"Nothing, I just…how are you?" he grinned.
"You aren't seriously gonna start gloating, are you?" Donna arched an eyebrow.
"No! I mean, I'm shocked that the front runner lost so much steam right at the end there, but…"
"Okay, okay. Look, I just wanted to see how you were. I wanted to see if you were at all interested in working with me on the—"
"Whoa! Just, hold on there, bucko, okay?" Donna held up a hand in protest.
"Bucko?" Josh chuckled.
"I know where this is headed. Josh, I don't want to be your assistant, ya know? I don't wanna end up taking care of inane tasks while you parade around the country with the DNC's newest shining star. I've outgrown all that, Josh, and I've outgrown you."
She shocked herself with her bluntness—but once the words started coming out, she found that she couldn't stop them. It was as if all of her frustrations over all that had happened had built up to this moment, backstage at the National Convention.
She was expecting him to be really pissed off. She was expecting him to yell. She wasn't really expecting him to look so damned hurt.
"I…wasn't looking for an assistant, Donna," he started, his voice low and raspy, "and I don't need you to take care of me. I just…I just thought that you maybe needed a job, and I could really use someone like you on the campaign—and not for inane tasks. And…maybe it's selfish, but I really need a friend out there. I mean, don't get me wrong, everyone is great…Matt and Helen, they've been great…but they're not you. And they're not Sam, or CJ, or…even Toby. I just…I could use a friend right now."
Maybe it was the look in his eyes; maybe it was the helplessness that lined his voice…maybe it was that they were in a dark corner. She wasn't really sure what it was that made her lunge toward him—made her kiss him.
All she knew that it was the sweetest kiss she'd ever had.