Disclaimer: The Invisible Chimp owns the characters of the West Wing, and I own him, does that mean I own the characters? Wait, no, I own the chimp, all he owns isa red hat with a flower and a blue and white striped jacket. Damn, my dreams gone!
A/N: So, pretty much all of my stories are ending up the same but I like it still. Review it this time, ok? I only had 4 reviews for Words Unspoken and as great as they were (Thanks to everyone who reviewed!) it weasn't very many. I live for feedback, so yeah! Enjoy!
"You're a funny man, Mr Lyman!" A voice from the audience shouted making the others in the stand laugh loudly.
Giggling slightly herself, the young hostess continued her questions. "So, Josh, in politics a lot of sacrifices have to be made every day. What is the biggest sacrifice you've ever had to make because of politics?"
His interviewer was referring to incentives that had to be dropped or ideas that had to be forgotten when the time came to drafting bills or whatever. The political aspects of politics, after all, he was on a political talk show. Josh knew this and had his answer already prepared in anticipation of the question, so what happened next really was a surprise. He opened his mouth to give some semi-witty response about budget cuts but instead just one word came out.
Maybe it was his sleep-deprived brain getting revenge or perhaps the stress was just getting the better of him but the word left his mouth before he even realised what had happened. And when he did, well, it was too late to take it back.
"Really?" Was his interviewers eager response. "Please, tell us more."
- - - -
The adjoining door swung open with such an almighty bang that Josh practically jumped from his chair.
"Mr President," he acknowledged his superiors presence when he finally caught his breath.
"Josh," President Matt Santos stood in the doorway between the Oval Office and the office of his Chief of Staff, his arms folded and a look of annoyance on his face.
"I've done something, haven't I?" Josh guessed lightly, he was used to seeing this look at least ten times a day.
Matt nodded, leaving Josh to guess what he'd done.
"It wasn't actually me," Josh began hesitantly. "I'm sure you'll find that Charlie was the one who actually signed the…"
"Stop!" Matt said in a somewhat tired voice, he was used to Josh passing the blame for anything onto his Deputy, Charlie Young. "I have no clue what you're talking about, though I'm sure I'll find out."
"Oh," Josh frowned as he tried to work out what else his boss could be annoyed about. Admittedly there were a number of possibilities but not that many he would know about. "Wait, is this about last night?"
Matt nodded. "Something you forgot to tell me?"
"No," Josh pleaded ignorance. "You knew I was going on the show."
"I did," Matt agreed. "And I helped you plan the answers to give, so would you mind explaining where that answer came from? Or better yet why I knew nothing about this part of your life?"
"There's a lot about my life you don't know, sir," Josh answered. "She's just a part of it. And as for where it came from, I have no idea. Believe me, it was just as much a surprise to me as it was you."
"I doubt that," Matt commented, motioning for Josh to follow him into the Oval Office. "We're going have to do something about this before it's brought up in this mornings briefing."
"As in press?" Josh asked, a little stunned. "It's not that bad. I doubt anyone was watching anyway, I mean it was shown at, what, four in the morning?"
"Three-thirty," Matt answered matter-of-factly. "And the only reason I've seen it is because Casey brought it to me first thing. Apparently several members of the press corps have been trying to get her to make a comment on it already. What was it you were saying about no one watching?"
Josh chuckled nervously. "I don't see why it's such a big deal. It's not like anything happened."
"Forbidden love between boss and assistant?" Matt said, his tone loud with frustration. "That's the kind of thing the press salivate over."
"Nothing happened!" Josh cried. "And it's never going to either. The press will just have to deal with that."
"Leo was right," Matt muttered. "He told me you'd cause more trouble than anyone else."
"He said what?" Josh cried indignantly, his voice rising in pitch at the end.
"He meant day to day stuff, breaking things, forgetting meetings, that kind of stuff…I don't think he could even have guessed this would happen."
"Nothing's happening," Josh reiterated. "I'll have a word with John, get him to write a press release for Casey to read out this morning. It'll all blow over by noon."
"Better had do," Matt warned, waving him from the room. When Josh was two steps from the door Matt called him once more. "Oh, and Josh? Sort out whatever it is you're blaming Charlie for this time."
- - - -
For the second time in twenty-four hours the adjoining door of Josh's office swung open loudly. Josh didn't even flicker this time.
"You know," he began lightly. "If you keep doing that the door's going to need replacing."
In response a newspaper hit Josh's head and landed on his desk upside down. The headline was still clear; More Heartache for White House Senior.
"What is this?" Josh asked as he turned it around to look at the full article.
"Read it," Matt told him.
"Senior White House staffer, Joshua Lyman, yesterday declared his love for ex-assistant, Donna Moss. He later prepared a statement claiming that, though he had harboured these feelings for his then co-worker for several years, he has no intention of following through any impulses he may have to pursue a relationship with the woman of his dreams.
"Despite this claim, his closest friends have unveiled plans to change Mr. Lyman's mind. It appears, however, that such plans are unnecessary for this reporter has been on a quest. I have spent the last day attempting to track down Ms. Moss, a woman who looks to have disappeared off the face of the Earth. I have been in touch with everyone who has ever been in contact with Moss and not one of them knows the whereabouts of this mystery woman. How will Lyman cope when he realises the love of his life has vanished?
"This is complete and utter crap!"
Matt studied Josh intently but didn't say a word.
"Well it is," Josh continued. "Vanished, honestly. She's doing sightseeing of America."
"How do you know?"
"I – uh – One of the secret service guys gives me weekly updates on where she is. Monday he told me she was visiting Mount Rushmore. Don't ask me."
"I'm sorry, you get regular updates on her whereabouts?" Matt sounded amazed, though he wasn't sure why anything Josh did surprised him any more.
"I said don't ask me, but yeah," Josh admitted sheepishly. "And I know where she is, so once again; this article is complete and utter crap!"
Matt shook his head. "You're full of it, Lyman and you had your chance, now I'm giving this up to Charlie, John and Casey to sort out. If you're not going to do anything then they can."
"With all due respect Mr. President –"
"That's an order. Now let them deal with everything."
Josh frowned; there was something about Matt's tone that Josh didn't like. He didn't sound like he was just talking about calming down the press and the endless possibilities about what else he could mean where endless and each one scarier than the rest.
"It's out of your hands, Josh," and with that the President left the room and entered his own office, leaving Josh wondering behind him.
- - - -
Life in the White House has always been a busy and hectic lifestyle. There is always some situation or other to deal with, none harder to control than when it was caused by a member of their own team. Josh's 'situation' wasn't meant to be a situation. It really shouldn't have been, but often it takes just one newspaper report and everything can just snowball from it. This article, the one that told of Donna's 'disappearance' was a part of that force.
It brought phone calls, lots of phone calls, from family, friends, odd acquaintances long forgotten. Each one with the same point, each one telling a different tale.
"That's one hell of a sacrifice," Sam's voice came down the receiver.
"Oh, don't you start, too."
Sam laughed a little. "I'm not the first person to talk to you?"
"More like the first thousandth! I've had my mom, Leo, the President, Charlie, practically the entire White House, secret service and all! Senators, governors, I even got people phoning me at home, Sam. You know what they all want?"
"Same thing I phoned for?" Sam guessed with humour.
"If you're about to tell me you phoned to tell me to get my ass into gear, I'm going to hang up."
Again Sam laughed. "Actually I was going to ask you why you hadn't got it into gear yet, but that works too."
Josh smiled. "You know full well why."
"Oh yeah," Sam muttered. "You're scared she doesn't feel the same. Weak, I must say, especially when she all but told you so."
"She did not, and anyway, if she felt anything she'd have got in touch by now, wouldn't she? It's been four days."
"Maybe she's scared to because of what you said."
"I didn't say anyth…" a beep cut off Josh's words. "Hold on, I have another call."
"Well, I'll go then, it might be her."
"No, wait." Josh put Sam on hold as he picked up the other line. "Josh Lyman."
"Joshua," it was a woman's voice but not the one he wanted to hear.
"CJ, I'm talking to Sam at the minute, can we do this later."
"No," she answered in her no-nonsense tone. "Put him on, too."
"If I can work out the buttons," there was a moment's silence as Josh struggled and then a triumphant sound. "Got it, I think."
"Got what?" Sam's voice came on the line.
"Worked out how to get it on conference call." CJ answered him.
"Josh, you've been working in that building for nine years now, you still don't know how to get it on conference?"
"I just did, didn't I?" Josh countered in defiance.
"All that sun's going to your head," Josh muttered before turning his attentions to CJ. "What are you phoning for then, CJ?"
Josh groaned. "Will you people leave me alone?"
"You should have learnt by now that that's never going to happen." A new voice entered the conversation.
"Toby?" Sam asked, excited.
"Sam," Toby acknowledged sombrely.
"Don't sound too excited, will you?" Josh teased lightly.
"You kidding?" CJ announced. "He's got a giant grin on his face."
"I do not!"
"I'm stood right next to you, I can see you, and even if I couldn't see you, I know you. You look like the Cheshire Cat."
"I do not!"
"Too late, she's already let it spill now."
A heavy sigh crackled down the lines as Toby huffed. "I thought we were meant to be bugging Josh, not me."
"Oh yeah," CJ remembered, giggling as this time Josh sighed.
"Let's not, every member of the Bartlett family was bugging enough."
"I'm not convinced," Sam declared.
"Me either," Toby agreed.
"Oh, trust me, it was. Jed gave me a list of the greatest love tragedies ever with a detailed description of what happened to each and every person involved."
CJ and Toby could be heard laughing.
"Sounds like you might have had enough of being bugged, just a little." Even Sam's smirk could be heard through the mirth in his voice.
Josh narrowed his eyes, "I hate you guys sometimes. I really do."
"Nah," CJ argued. "You love us really."
Josh made a noise, a cross between agreement and doubt. "That's debatable right now."
They spent a little more time on the phone, discussing Josh and Donna, and CJ and Toby's new life as campaign consultants and Sam's current single status as a Californian Governor recently broken up with his girlfriend of two and a half years. They talked about everything really until Josh realised it was getting late and he had work to do."
"You know what you need to do?" CJ questioned for the final time.
"Yes," Josh answered in a weary tone, he'd answered this question so many times now.
"And you're going to, right?"
"No," Josh answered stubbornly. He hung up on all three of them and left his office, telling his assistant to take messages if anyone phoned.
- - - -
A fine drizzle of rain covered Washington an hour later as Josh made his way back to the White House. Most people disliked the rain, even more hated it when it was like this, slow, persistent drops of water that just kept coming. It wasn't heavy enough to run from so you kept your pace and ended up more wet than if you had ran to avoid the heavy rain. That is why most people hated it and that is exactly why Josh liked it. It went at it's own pace, it didn't hurry for anyone or anything but it had an uncertainty about it. Would it get heavier, faster? Or would it continue as it did, annoying so many people? It reminded Josh of his life and so he was quite happy to just wander through it taking each drop as it fell, wandering through life, taking each blow as it came.
He looked up at the sky. The sun was beginning to set, it's light fading. Dark clouds began to spread throughout the sky. The rain was going to get heavier. Josh quickened his pace, hurrying the last few metres to the grand building before him. Just in time too, the minute he closed the door behind him the heavens opened and the rain poured from it like there would be no end. He headed to his office.
"Any messages?" He asked his assistant, Lilly.
"Professional, you have none, personal you have a few off Governor Seaborn, over twenty off Miss Cregg and one off your mother."
"Are they all about the same thing?"
Lilly nodded sympathetically.
Josh sighed. "Alright, keep holding calls for me. I need to do some work."
Lilly nodded and Josh went into his office to do some work. After a couple of hours he took a break to go to the mess for coffees for Lilly and him. He came back.
"Thanks, Josh," she said as she took a sip. Josh nodded and continued on to his office. "Josh wait," he stopped and turned to look at his assistant. "While you were gone…"
"I told you, I don't want messages," he said before opening his office door, closing it behind him.
"It's not a message," she muttered to the closed door.
It swung open again and once more Josh came out, this time looking pale. "You're meant to warn me about these things."
"I tried, I said 'while you were gone', you cut me off."
"Well next time, don't let me."
"Aye-aye captain," she said sarcastically. They both knew that if Josh wanted something nothing would get in his way, which meant there was no way she would be able to tell him anything he didn't want to hear. There was only one person who had managed to get him to listen.
"Go easy on her," a voice scolded Josh from behind him. "She's only been with you a few weeks, it's not like she's had seven years to perfect the skill of getting things through your thick skull. I'll give you tips, by the way." The woman said this last bit to Lilly with a small grin.
"If I remember correctly, it only took you a couple of days."
"Actually it took me less than a minute but I had an advantage she doesn't."
"And what was that?" Josh questioned with doubt.
"You were in love with me from the moment you saw me so you were willing to listen to me, with the exception of letting me go, obviously. I'm guessing, after your rather public display of affection, that you're not in love with her, so she's going to find it a little bit more difficult."
"Like he could have me even he wanted me," Lilly remarked cheekily.
After giving Lilly a glare, Josh turned to the blonde behind him. "Donna, get back in there."
She did as she was told and he followed her, closing the door behind him. "So – uh – hi."
Donna smiled and sat in the edge of his desk carefully. Josh took in the sight of her. Her hair was shorter and cut more fashionably but aside from that she looked exactly the same. Except for one important detail. Donna now was soaking wet.
"Did you walk here?" He asked her in surprise.
"Only from your apartment."
"What? That's over half an hours walk!"
"It's pouring down outside."
Donna shrugged. "I like to walk in the rain."
"So do I but I wouldn't walk from my apartment to here in it."
"That's because you're a wimp," she teased.
"I'm not that much of a wimp. I admitted my feelings for you to the whole country, didn't I?"
"Oh yeah, classic Joshua Lyman," Donna commented with a snarl.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"What do you think it means? Since the day I left you've made one attempt to make any kind of reconciliation. One attempt and you did it while it was safe, while Will was around, just so you wouldn't have to make a real effort. You've spent the last year keeping tabs on me."
"You spoke to the President?" Josh asked.
"He might have phoned me," Donna admitted. "But even ifhe hadn't, I know how to tell when the secret service are around."
Josh looked away from her and said nothing; she took it as a sign to continue.
"So you had them tailing me and you knew where I was, you never once tried to get in touch with me though, did you? Face it Josh, you do these things, you do these really sweet things but you hide it and you avoid actually getting in too deep. I have a theory about it, about why you said you loved me and told it to the whole country rather than me on my own. The whole country, by the way? About 5 percent since it was shown early morning and the only people who saw it were those coming to or from work and insomniacs."
Josh rolled his eyes. "So what's this theory?"
"Theory, right. You said it on the show because you knew few people would be watching it, you said it because you had to get it off your chest at some point but you were too scared to tell me and you chose that moment because you didn't think I would be watching. You forget I watch every time you're on TV. And then that statement. That just proves you were afraid. 'I do love Donna Moss but I have no plans to pursue a relationship with her in the future'."
"Oh, I get it, I get it!"
"Get what?" Donna asked doubtfully.
"Why you're so pissed."
"I'm not pissed."
"You are, and it's because I said I didn't want to pursue a relationship."
"Well, yeah, maybe a little," Donna acknowledged. "Because you keep doing these things and I keep putting my life on hold and I'm not getting any rewards for it."
"Stop," Josh interrupted her rant. "You know I had to say that, I had to. I would love nothing more than to pursue a relationship with you. Hell, I've been wanting to for as long as I've known you."
"So do it!" Donna cried exasperated.
"It's not that simple."
"Sure it is."
"No, it's not."
"Yes, it is."
"No, it's really not."
And then, a smile broke out on Donna's face and she began laughing. Josh looked at her like she was crazy.
"What's so funny?"
Josh walked towards her, stopping a foot or so away. Knowing he wasn't about to move any further any time soon, Donna closed the distance and pressed her lips against his. Just as their kiss got deeper she pulled away.
"Wasn't too difficult was it?"
Josh stared at her dumbly. A knock sounded on the adjoining door and President Santos walked into Josh's office.
"Good Lord, man, the girl's still soaking wet! Donna, I assume?"
Donna laughed. "Yes, Mr President," she answered taking his proffered hand.
"Well, I must say, it's nice to have Josh silent for a change." Donna laughed again. "Please, come over to the residence. You need to dry off and my wife would love to meet you."
"Your wife?" Donna asked, surprised.
"Mm," Matt said. "You're the one person Josh has barely mentioned, she's rather intrigued by you."
"Well then," Donna said, following him back out of the office. "I guess I'd better satisfy her curiosity." And the two went over to the residence, Josh following when he finally recovered enough from the kiss to realise what exactly was going on.