Disclaimer: I do not own the West Wing or any of its characters. Just borrowing them for a little fun!
Characters: Josh and Donna, a little Will
Summary: My own post 2162, been done to death, but it wouldn't leave me alone.
Josh stepped into the Russell war room without a word, carrying beer for his former compatriots. He passed one to Will with a nod and then to Donna. For a brief moment, Donna looked up and smiled at him the way she had a hundred times before and he hardly noticed it. Now he noticed and shared the smile.
The odd trio watched the new Democratic nominees for President and Vice President speak in silence. Finally, Will cleared his throat and stood.
"I'm going to bed… for a few weeks I think. If the Vice President needs me, tell him I'm unable to be reached. A nice long vacation sounds good about now- somewhere without CNN or cell phones."
"Hey Will?" Josh called out as the younger man stumbled towards the door. Will paused and looked back at Josh expectantly.
"You did well. You know, if the vacation gets old, we could use you. If you're interested, of course." Josh spoke without a trace of arrogance or malice for the man who had shown little respect to him or his candidate the entire time they'd been campaigning.
"I'll think about it. I appreciate the offer very much, Josh." Will answered sincerely, before heading out the door.
Josh and Donna continued to sit in silence for a few minutes, not quite the awkward silences they'd shared in the early days after she had started working for Vice President Russell, but certainly not a companionable silence. Josh looked over at her sideways and said cautiously
"You know that Santos could use you as well. If you'd be interested, of course."
"I couldn't work for you again, Josh." Donna answered softly, staring intently at a crumpled Russell for President placard on the floor.
"Because I was such an ogre of a boss? Besides, you wouldn't really be working for me. You'd be working for the Santos campaign." Josh answered logically.
"But being that you're the campaign manager, I'd report to you." Donna continued with equal logic.
"Yes, that's true I suppose. What will you do if you don't come work for Santos?" Josh asked in a tone that wasas casual and non-condescending as he could make it.
"Well, I do currently have a job working for the Vice President of the United States, so there's always that to fall back on." Donna retorted harshly.
"God knows that's a prize of a job." Josh muttered sarcastically.
"Actually Josh, it is. I am respected there. The Vice President listens to what I say and follows my advice. He doesn't expect me to do anything for him but my job, he doesn't interfere in my social life and he sure as hell doesn't try to save me from myself every time I turn around." Donna lashed out suddenly. Josh stared at her in shock for a few minutes.
"And I did all of those things? That's why you up and left without so much as a day's notice? Does the Vice President know how quickly you move on, Donna? Does he know he better have a replacement ready to take over at a moment's notice in case you suddenly decide you need more from your job?" Josh spoke with barely concealed fury and hurt. Donna's words had picked at wounds he thought had healed over the months apart, but clearly the pain had only been deadened for a time.
"I gave C. J. plenty of notice. I tried to give you notice, but you blew me off. Just like you blew me off every time I asked for more responsibilities, more opportunities to grow in my job. In the eight months I've worked for Bob Russell, I've had more opportunities than I had in eight YEARS working for you. You only wanted me as your assistant, to run around taking care of you every minute of the day."
"That's all I could have of you." Josh said softly, stopping Donna's fury cold. She turned to him and stared for a few minutes before continuing softly.
"You had every opportunity to ask for more when you flew to my hospital bed. You never said a word."
"How could I with you all kissy face with the photographer? The message was clear, you'd moved on from any feelings I may have imagined you had for me. I was just your boss. Now I'm not even that, I 'm the asshole you used to work for." Josh spoke with regret and aggravation at missed opportunities.
"If you really wanted me, Colin wouldn't have stopped you." Donna said softly, challenging him with her eyes to prove her wrong. Josh ran a hand through his hair in frustration.
"Donna, if the situation had been reversed and Amy had been at my bedside, would you have told me you loved me?" The shock of the words they never dared to speak stunned them both into silence for a few minutes. Donna thought carefully about Josh's assertion before answering.
"No, right then I wouldn't have. And I would probably regret it for the rest of my life." She answered brokenly.
"So now you're walking in my shoes. I had every intention of telling you everything I've ever thought or felt about you, but then he showed up. And you kissed him… and it was like a knife to my heart. Once again, you'd left me, first figuratively and then unimaginably, you really left me. And I've been a walking wound ever since that day. I'm as much a fraud as I accused Bingo Bob of being." Josh spoke softly, brokenly, feeling the familiar panic thread through him at being this vulnerable with her. This woman could break him with just a glance, but he still stood before her, open hearted and terrified. There really was no other option if he wanted to feel anything ever again.
"You made a nobody Congressman the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. Six months ago, the average American couldn't have picked Matt Santos out of a line up. That's not exactly work for a chimp." Donna responded cynically, but with a trace of the pride that used to always glow in her eyes.
"Aside from convincing the man to run, every major decision made during this campaign was exactly the opposite of my suggestions. Matt Santos ignored damn near every bit of advice I ever gave him. I'm just here to wear holes in the floor and keep my mind off the gaping hole in my soul and in my heart since you left." Josh answered honestly, shaking off the nagging fear that had always accompanied any real conversation with her about their feelings.
Donna met his unwavering gaze as tears pooled in her azure eyes. She took a shaky breath and reached out for his hand. Josh's eyes closed tightly and he released a deep sigh at her touch.
"The last six months I've felt like I'm leading a double life. When I was in conference calls or meetings with the campaign or working with the press, it was exhilarating. But I would get back to my hotel room and feel so hollow inside, like I'd left my very core somewhere. I'm so tired of feeling empty." Donna's voice wavered softly, her throat thick with months of unshed tears. Josh met her watery gaze and pulled her into a passionate embrace.
It was as if every muscle in Donna's body had been contracted for months and with his arms around her, suddenly they all relaxed. She was fairly certain that if he was not holding her as if his life depended on it, she would not still be standing. If just being in his arms had this effect on her, what would it be like if they ever managed a kiss?
She didn't have to wait long to find out. Josh pulled away just far enough to brush her lips with his gently, tentatively. He was very sure any minute now Donna would come to her senses and slap him for daring to cross this line they had tap danced around for so many years. When she didn't pull away, he kissed her again, just as gently with a reverence that pushed the tears that had been on the edge to fall in steady streams down her cheeks. She wound her arms around his neck and deepened the kiss.
They broke apart, breathless and both a little shocked by the kiss they'd both dreamed of for so long. Josh reached up to cup her face gently. Donna leaned into his touch and closed her eyes, sighing softly.
"Do you promise me that I'm not going to wake up in a few minutes, still wearing the same clothes I've had on for three days and stiff from sleeping in a folding chair again?" he asked softly.
"So that's what that smell is. I thought it was Will's jacket." Donna joked lightly. Josh started to pull away, a little unsure about what came next in this moment. Donna pulled his hands back and spoke softly "Joke, Josh. We used to do that, remember?"
"Yeah. Somehow, I can't quite make sentences right now. I'm too overwhelmed by you." Josh spoke in a voice still choked with emotion. Donna leaned towards him so that their foreheads were touching.
"You're pretty overwhelming yourself, Mr. Lyman." She said lightly. They stood like that for a few minutes, both breathing in the moment and savoring it. A janitor pushing a pair of large trashbins noisily down the hall outside the conference room stumbled inside and flipped the fluorescent lights on.
"Sorry, I didn't know anyone was in here. Are you about finished?" He asked with barely concealed frustration at finding the room occupied. The whole building was a disaster and it would take his team hours to scratch the surface of the mess to prepare for the Mary Kay convention arriving the next evening.
Josh and Donna sprang apart as if they were teenagers caught necking by their parents rather than two consenting adults sharing a much more tender moment. Josh ran his hands through his hair nervously and Donna fiddled with the buttons on her blouse.
"Um… yeah, we'll be just a few more minutes if that's okay." Josh said quickly. The janitor nodded curtly and rattled further down the hall, grumbling audibly under his breath.
The pairstared at each other for an awkward moment, both completely unsure of what came next. Finally, Donna broke eye contact and began packing up her briefcase on the portion of the table she had claimed as her desk earlier in the week. Josh shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other, watching her pack up and feeling suddenly bereft and lost without her in his arms.
"So… what happens now?" he asked at last. Donna froze, hearing the catch in his voice and thanking all that was holy she wasn't the only one feeling off- center. She stood up slowly and caught his gaze steadily.
"What do you want to be next?" She asked softly and tremulously. Josh ran his hands through his hair again and let out a shaky laugh.
"Well what I really want to be next is to ravish you right here, or at least across the street in the hotel room that I think my luggage was delivered to. But somehow I don't think that's the best idea." He answered honestly. Donna gasped sharply as the image of Josh's words overtook her whole body.
"You're probably right. It would be fun though." She answered with a hitch in her voice and breathing just a bit heavier than before. Josh shot a shocked look at her and she responded defensively "It's been NINE years, Josh. Don't you think I'm more than a little ready to let you ravish me at last? In fact I'd like to do some ravaging of my own if you don't mind."
"Why on earth would I mind?" Josh asked breathlessly. Still they stood several feet apart, not near enough to touch, both waiting for the other to make the first move beyond the verbal seduction. Donna chuckled at Josh's obvious struggle for control of his better impulses and crossed the room to wrap her arms tightly around his neck, pressing her body into his hard. Josh took her face in his hands and kissed her hotly, holding none of the passion that had been burning in him for years back. Suddenly no amount of kissing was enough, no embrace close enough for them. Only the sound of the trash bins rattling pointedly near the door broke them apart.
"Wow! If I'd known that was coming, I'd have backed you against your desk years ago." Donna exhaled heavily, still clinging tightly to Josh. He chuckled softly into her golden hair.
"One of us should have done something like that a long time ago. So can I interest you in a visit to what I hope is my empty hotel room? We could talk or watch TV or you know, ravish each other senseless." Josh whispered softly, his breath hot against her neck.
"Won't Leo and the Senator need you and wonder where you are? Not that I'm declining the invitation, I just want to know what kind of time frame we're looking at." Donna finished quickly, seeing the slightly crestfallen look on his face at her reminder of their real responsibilities.
"They can wait. God knows, I've waited long enough for you. The country, the Democratic party, Santos, they can all wait this time. I'm not letting you go. Not this time." Donna felt her heart literally jump in her chest at his words, more romantic to her ears than any flowery declarations of love ever would be. She pulled him closer to her and nestled her head into the crook of his neck.
"Good, because I'm not letting you go either. I don't give a damn who they elect president, or pope, you are not getting away from me ever again." She whispered fiercely. Josh took her by the hand and pulled her gently towards the door.
"Shall we?" He asked softly. Donna smiled luminously at him and followed him out the door.