Title: A Quiet Word Author: A.j.
Rating: Whatever the hell 'Parental Guidance' is now.
Fandom:"West Wing", Josh/Donna established.
Notes: Much love to Bex for the beta. Written because all the 'Hurt her and you're dead!' threats from the men of the West Wing at Josh stories kinda pissed me off. I mean, who's looking out for our boy? Well...

Summary: Tea for two.


Donna has always liked Josh's mother.

Well. More admired. Respected. Worshipped. That kind of thing.

The woman had somehow managed to survive Josh's childhood with dignity, class, and most of her hair. In Donna's book that equated to sainthood. Donna herself had only had to deal with Josh after he'd figured out how to do his own laundry and actually walk. Mrs. Lyman - and it was always Mrs. Lyman in Donna's head, even after she'd been asked to use her given name - had needed to push, pull, and threaten her extremely stubborn son into something that resembled tact and gentleman-like behavior.

The fact that she'd managed to succeed at all - Josh did know which fork to use at a formal dinner, how to wear a tux, and more ballroom steps than Donna ever wanted to contemplate - was a testament to her will and ability as a person and mother.

Mrs. Lyman was one of Donna's pantheon of unsung heroes.

Additionally, from what Donna could tell, Mrs. Lyman had always liked her. That was the impression she'd gotten, anyway. All the phone calls and birthday messages (and presents) and commiseration sessions over the years had helped solidify that opinion into reliable fact.

They liked each other. Mutually.

That didn't make this afternoon's tea any less nerve-wracking.

Donna bit her lip and tried not to fidget under the older woman's calm gaze. Today was different than the other teas they'd had together. All of them.

Today, she wasn't having tea with Josh's mom, Mrs. Lyman. She was having tea with her boyfriend's mom. A much, much different animal.

"Thank you for inviting me out, Mrs. Lyman."

Long used to Donna's refusal to use her first name, Josh's mother waved her off, neatly placing the bone china tea cup on the saucer without sloshing. It was a trick Donna had only perfected in the last few years.

"It was nothing, dear."

"This is really lovely though..." Donna waved a hand to indicate the lushly brocaded room. Before moving to Washington, Donna'd never really thought a room could actually be described as brocaded. Now? Well. She spent most of her time in brocaded rooms.

Mrs. Lyman just smiled and waved a hand. "Well, I figured we could do with a little alone time for this visit. Josh has been higher strung than a long-
tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. Silly boy."

Donna smiled and sipped her tea. The ginger peach flavor was fabulous. But then, she hadn't really expected anything less from the Four Seasons' tea room. It was strange to think that even five years ago, these surroundings would have intimidated the hell out of her.

It was rare that she was reminded how differently she and Josh and been raised. Like it or not, the twelve year age gap really did make a difference in some things. That and the whole East Coast/Midwest thing.

Still, it felt really good to... belong here in this bright and overly pompous room. To be recognized and catered to. She'd certainly come a long way from Madison Wisconsin.

Not that she'd ever turn down a bucket of beer and a basket of cheese curds.

And, because she was sitting across from Josh's mom, she shuts down the sudden and very vibrant memory of the last time she hadn't turned down a bucket of beer and a basket of cheese curds. There were some places a mind shouldn't go in front of your boyfriend's mother, and that little kinky detour was one of them.

"Besides, I always like to take a meal at the Four Seasons' when I'm in town." If Mrs. Lyman noticed Donna's blush, she was polite enough to ignore it. "Their seared tuna is to die for."

"I'll certainly have to try it then."

"Lovely." Mrs. Lyman beamed at her and settled her now-empty tea cup on the low table between them. "However, before we go in for lunch, I do have something I'd like to talk to you about.

Donna shifted a bit in her chair, feeling suddenly less comfortable. "Oh?"

The older woman nodded and smiled at her calmly. "I hope you don't take offense at this. It's just... Well. I felt this was important to get out in the open right now."

Donna waited.

"Hurt my son, and there will never be a distance great enough to protect you from me." The words were simple and direct, much like Mrs. Lyman's stare.

That was... completely unexpected.

Cold prickled down Donna's spine as she read complete and total honesty in the older woman's face. She wasn't kidding. Mrs. Lyman would take her out. Fast. And hard.

"Er..."

And then she changed. Back to the warm and caring face Donna had always come to expect. It was eerie. It reminded her of Josh right after smacking around a congressperson. She'd just been smacked around like a congressperson.

"You know how it is dear. I have to say it." Mrs. Lyman seemed almost apologetic. Her perfectly done up face a picture of apology. Except not.

"Uh, okay." Talk about awkward...

"Now come on, dear," all smiles, Mrs. Lyman rose and waved her ahead towards the dining room. "I'm really not kidding about the tuna."

fin-