Disclaimer: I do not own any of Aaron Sorkin's characters or the bizarre mutations that Wells has put them through. Patrick, fully developed or not, is mine.
Timeline: Set sometime mid season six around King Corn.
Feedback: Oh such fun! But be gentle, this is my first outing into fanfiction.
Donna was sitting at an out of the way table in the breakfast area of the Comfort Inn in Sioux City, IA surrounded by manila file folders and note cards, drinking coffee like it was water. The caffeine was needed to stay awake after days of donor and caucus captain meetings to prepare for the all- important Iowa Caucuses. A thin, pale man with long raven hair tied back neatly in a low ponytail approached her carrying an outrageously beautiful arrangement of stargazer lilies and peach colored roses. The richness of their fragrance overwhelmed the strong coffee and stale donut smell that had pervaded the lobby/breakfast area.
"Ms. Moss? These were just delivered for you." The young man, who Donna recognized as the evening clerk, Patrick, spoke hesitantly seeming afraid to interrupt her focus. Luckily, he didn't know her focus at that moment was on counting how many frays she could spot in the aged, orange and black patterned carpet in the lobby area.
"For me? Thank you, Patrick. Could you please bring them up to my room for me in a little while? I'm done here, but I don't think I can get everything in one trip." Donna asked, while completely transfixed by the radiant colors of the blossoms in front of her. In the endless days of campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, she was beginning to forget there were colors in nature outside of gray, grayish white and black.
"Sure thing, Ms. Moss. I'll bring them up after I update our reservation system." Patrick took the flowers back with him to the front desk and began his work.
Donna gazed at the flowers wistfully and sighed. Gathering up the legal pads, note cards, files and stuffing them in her overflowing burgundy leather briefcase, she trudged to the elevator to head back to her room. Perhaps a change of scenery would make her focus return to the work that needed to be done, rather mindless day -dreaming. As she pushed the up button to summon the elevator car, Donna idly wondered who could be sending her flowers.
A few minutes later, Donna was back in her small and nondescript hotel room, peeling off her nylons and shimmying out of her gray wool skirt. Her sensible one- inch heels had already been kicked off as soon as the door clicked shut behind her. The soft, ivory silk blouse and lacy bra had also been shed and left in a neat pile on the bed to be hung up after she put her pajamas on. Digging into her dresser, she pulled out a very worn navy Harvard T- shirt and flannel boxers, comfort clothes to be sure. For some reason, the prospect of getting flowers from an unknown admirer made her feel all the more alone and in need of comfort.
Patrick knocked a moment later to deliver her flowers. Donna scrounged in her wallet for a few dollars to tip him before answering the door. The intoxicating fragrance of the flowers overwhelmed her as soon as she opened the door.
"Thank you so much, Patrick." She said softly, taking the flowers and handing him the tip.
"No problem, Ms. Moss. Have a good evening." He smiled brightly at her before heading back to the elevator and the rest of his work. Donna closed the door softly and carried the flowers to the small desk on the other side of the room from the door. She searched for a card and quickly came up with a generic "Thinking of You" card. The message was written in a swirly, cursive hand and said simply- "Because today mattered to you." There was no name or any other indication who had sent them.
Donna frowned at the riddle of a message as she ran herself a hot bath. She added a few drops of the lavender bubble bath she had purchased at a drugstore in rural New Hampshire. It had become a ritual for her to soak the campaign grit, literal and figurative off of her aching body each night before she went to bed. By the time she finally found her way back to her room each night, her body craved the enveloping warmth and gentle perfume of the bubbles.
Slipping into the bath, Donna ran through her mind every person she had encountered that day, every event of the campaign large and small. Nothing stood out as mattering to her or anyone else for that matter. The Vice President had started the day at a pancake breakfast with at a VFW somewhere in western Iowa, done a few interviews with the local media, a rubber chicken lunch in a church basement in Sioux City, they'd had a strategy meeting regarding the South Carolina media buys and another rubber chicken dinner and back to the hotel to review notes from the earlier meetings. Nothing stood out as unusual, she hadn't been particularly articulate or even outspoken during the strategy sessions. The actual events of today couldn't have spurred the flowers.
Her bath turned tepid and still she had no ideas as to whom the flowers came from or what the card meant. Donna stepped out of the tub and pulled one of the thin and scratchy hotel towels from the metal rack above the toilet to dry off. What she wouldn't give for the plush, soft lavender towels in her bathroom at home. She pulled her comfort clothes back on and went back to stare at her flowers. The bright pink lilies and soft peach roses complimented each other far better than she would have expected. Something about the arrangement brought up a wave of nostalgia and the familiar ache in her stomach. Desperate to avoid that thought process all together, Donna picked up the phone and dialed Will Bailey's number, hoping he would know something about the origins of the flowers.
"Yes?" Will answered the phone groggily. Clearly he had taken the early evening in to catch up on sleep instead of reading.
"Hey Will, you wouldn't know anything about some flowers being delivered to me, would you?" Donna asked somewhat hesitantly.
"Well I didn't send them if that's what you're asking. Wasn't there a card?" Will asked, not particularly interested, but awake enough now to make conversation.
"It wasn't signed." Donna responded with frustration. She picked up the card again and sighed heavily.
"Well what does it say? Any clues to who sent it?"
"It says 'Because today mattered to you.' Any thoughts?" Donna asked hopefully.
"Hmm… I'm assuming that you've ruled out anything that actually happened today?" At Donna's affirmative grunt, Will continued thinking out loud. "Well then is anything jump out as you that happened on Feb 10th in the past?"
"February 10th?" Donna asked in alarm, starting to pace in her room as far as the phone cord would allow.
"That would be today's date. Why? Something stand out to you?" Will asked curiously.
"Um… no, I just lost track of the date that's all. February is getting away from me." Donna responded lamely. "Look, Jo- Will, I'll figure it out. Go back to sleep. I'll talk to you in the morning." Donna hung up quickly before Will picked up on the slip she almost made.
How could she have not realized it was the 10th of February? Of course this year there was no Josh around to needle about the importance of the date. Nine years ago, she had hired herself as Josh's assistant and promptly fallen head over heels in love with him. "Because today mattered to you. Could Josh have possibly remembered their "real" anniversary after all these years of intentionally forgetting? Their interaction of late was stilted to say the least. If he had sent these flowers, what did it mean?
Without thinking, she grabbed her cell phone and hit speed dial #1. Somehow taking his number off of her speed dial was a finality she could never manage.
"Josh Lyman." The sound of his husky, distracted voice still brought a little flip to her stomach. A thread of panic ran through Donna's stomach as she suddenly had no idea what to say him.
"Hello? Anyone there?" Josh exhaled with frustration. Yet another day on the campaign trail, beating his head against the wall that was Matt Santos's stubborn will had exhausted him beyond anything he had ever known. On the other end of the line he heard a familiar sigh. "Donna?" he asked hesitantly.
"Yes, it's me." Donna nearly whispered back. At the sound of her voice, Josh closed his laptop and sat up a little straighter on the bed.
"H-How are you?" Josh stumbled slightly, feeling his heart rate suddenly triple in the space of a few minutes. All day he'd been hoping he would hear from her, and yet afraid she would call.
"Tired. How are you?" Donna smiled slightly at his stuttering and slumped down on the bed, propping a few pillows up to support her head. Though they had hardly spoken in the last few months, somehow it felt so normal to be on the phone with him now.
"Tired would about cover it. How's life in Russell campaign?" Josh fished around, hoping she would give him some sign that he hadn't made an ass of himself by sending those flowers.
"Well it's Will and I and a whole lot of 20 year olds trying to get a great line on their resume, so you can imagine the fun we're having." Donna responded wryly.
"Yes, but at least you aren't spending every night at the local Motel 6 or other $20 a night flea bag motel. My back will never forgive me for this campaign." Josh commented with a sigh, trying desperately to force the pillows behind him on the bed to become firmer, give some cushion against the hard headboard behind him.
"That's what happens when you go with the dark horse. If I recall, we spent a few nights in the Motel 6 on the first campaign." Donna hoped this subtle jab would remind him of the day's importance.
"Yes, but nine years is a long time between bad mattresses. How quickly one forgets." The irony of his comment brought a snort from Donna.
"No kidding. So… I got a delivery today." She tries desperately to keep her voice casual, but knows that she is failing miserably.
"Well as the woman in charge of media targeting in the Northeast and Pacific Northwest for the Russell campaign, I would imagine you get a fair number of deliveries each day. What the hell are you doing in Iowa by the way if your focus is supposed to be in the Pacific Northwest and Northeast?" Josh asked, stalling for time, knowing that she had figured him out and he was going to have to have a conversation with her he'd been running from for nine years.
"Vice President Russell likes to hear my view as thing come up, so I'm traveling with him now. More as an advisor, I guess." In spite of herself, Donna couldn't help feel proud that Josh remembered her exact title after hearing it only in passing.
"Wow, Donna that's really great. Even if you are with the wrong man, at least he's giving you the respect you deserve." Josh was somewhat shocked that Bingo Bob had it in him to recognize the depth of wisdom and intuitive skill Donna possessed.
"It's about time, I'd say. Nine years is a long time to stay in one place." Donna continued to push at the importance of the timeline, hoping he'd pick up on her hints so she wouldn't have to come right out and ask him why he sent the flowers.
"Not when you're with the right person, it's not." Josh answered softly, a little bit of a catch in his voice. He cleared his throat and took a deep breath, preparing to take a leap off the high dive. "So you got a delivery today, huh?"
"Yeah… some crazy person sent me the most amazing flowers and forgot to sign the card." Donna said in a near whisper, fear and anticipation choking her voice.
"Hmmm, maybe whoever sent them was afraid you wouldn't want them if you knew he sent them."
"Who could send flowers this beautiful away? And for the first time, they are actually on the correct date, so that's reason enough to want to keep them." Donna tossed back flirtatiously.
"I have heard that being a man of occasion sometimes has its uses." Josh bantered back, just as flirtatious.
"So you're admitting you sent the flowers? That you remembered that this is our true anniversary?" Donna asked pointedly.
"I sent them. And today is AN anniversary…"
"The only anniversary we have." Donna interrupted forcefully.
"Yeah, well since the reasons for celebrating in April versus now don't hold up anymore, we may as well use your date." Josh spoke regretfully, a bit of wistfulness in his voice. Wistfulness that Donna completely missed.
"Is that a dig at me for leaving? I thought you'd gotten over that by now." Donna snapped defensively.
"I don't think I'll ever get over that, but it wasn't a dig. I promise." Josh answered sincerely. A long pause filled the air and Josh suddenly felt like he had forgotten to breathe. "Donna? Are you still there?" he asked softly, praying she had just gotten lost in her thoughts for a moment.
"Wh-why did you send the flowers Josh? Beyond being a man of occasion, what was the real reason?" Donna's voice was so soft and frightened sounding that it would have been easy to pretend he hadn't heard the question. Something inside him told him that if he avoided her and allowed misdirection to become the norm again, he would never have this chance again. Swallowing the heavy emotion that seemed to paralyze his voice in moments like this, he answered huskily.
"Because nine years ago today you turned the lights on inside my soul. And it's been so quiet and lonely since you left. I was hoping that maybe I could remind you of that amazing day and maybe bring a little of your sunshine back into my life."
Donna slowly released the breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. A steady stream of tears trickled their way down her alabaster cheeks. She picked up one sweet smelling rose and breathed deeply, trying to get her footing in this conversation.
"You miss me or you miss your assistant?" The question wasn't as direct as it could have been, but it was the only way she could think to phrase it that didn't terrify her.
"I miss you, Donna. I miss the random little bits of knowledge you shared, the wry smile you give me when you know I'm getting too full of myself, the glittering excitement in your eyes every time you see something new whether it's a monument to a peanut or the first time you saw the White House Christmas tree. I miss finishing each other's thoughts, knowing each other's needs without speaking and sharing all the little ins and outs of our lives. You were never just my assistant, Donna. You were my best friend. You were the woman that- that I always thought I could… that I always thought I could love." Josh tried desperately to hold himself together, but the raw ache of missing her the last several months was now a pain so devastating that if he messed this up and lost her for good he really didn't know how to go on.
A soft sob came from the other end of the line before Donna asked brokenly "Thought you could love, or did love?"
"Do love, will love no matter where this road takes us. I love you, Donnatella. I always, always did. I was just too scared to tell you." Josh spoke barely above a whisper. Donna took several steadying breaths to try to regain her voice before finally croaking out "I love you too. I really didn't want to, but I can't help it. And it is the scariest, best thing I've ever felt."
Josh let out a half sob/laugh and thanked all that was holy that this woman just might be back in his life again. He ran a hand over his face, wiping the stray tears from his eyes.
"I hate that we're doing this on the phone. I would give anything to stare into your eyes for a few hours right now."
"I know…but maybe it's better that we aren't together right now. This isn't going to be easy the next few months, working against each other." Donna responded, somehow regaining her ability to form logical thought despite the small voice in the back of her head shrieking with glee "He loves me! He Loves ME!"
"Nothing can be as hard as the last few months have been, hardly speaking, unable to be in the same room together. I can't go back to that, Donna. Not after this." Josh argued with as much passion as she had ever heard in his voice. She knew if she could see him, he'd be running his hand through his dark curls. Damn that short hair cut that actually stayed in place when he did that.
"I don't want to go back either. I'm just saying that we should take this slow, until things settle out on the campaign trail. It's not like either of us will have time for leisurely candlelit dinners right now anyway." Donna argued sensibly.
"So we keep talking, email and then after we're both working for the Congressman, we give it a real try?" Josh asked eagerly.
"Or both working for the Vice President, but yeah that sounds good to me." Donna agreed, her stomach flip- flopping enough to make her a little nauseous.
"Ok. So… I guess I better let you get some sleep or something. Sweet dreams, Donnatella. I love you." Josh whispered softly.
"Good night, my Joshua. I love you," Donna whispered back.