((My first story fiction. Please review. Chapter 2 will be up in a few days hopefully!))
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters from the West Wing. I own the plot for this story though; and any characters that you haven't heard of before.
Josh Lyman was furious. As he stared down at the thermometer tucked between his teeth, another cough racked his body. He sat in a white t-shirt and a pair of boxers on the edge of his bed, breathing deep and hair mussed up from not sleeping very well the previous night.
Of all the days that he didn't want to feel sick, it was April Fool's Day. He'd planned several debilitating and clever jokes to pull on the rest of the staffers, preferably Toby Zeigler. The Communications Director was one of the least satirical employees at the White House and Josh had made it a point to see if he could get a rise out of him. After all, that's how he operated.
But glancing back down at the digital numbers, his hopes sank fast. 101.4. He had a temperature of 101.4. Well, that was encouraging... he hadn't thought that he'd had the flu, maybe a 24 hour bug, but nothing that would crush his plans for that day.
A sigh escaped him along with a couple of straggling coughs as he looked to the bedside clock. The infra red glow depicted close to 6:30. He swallowed and regretted it when pain scorched up and down his wind pipe. 'Great.' he thought to himself, flopping back onto the cool mattress. 'Leo's gonna have my ass if I can't come in today.' he mused, trying to clear his throat. But it was clogged and just when he thought that he should get a drink of water, he was launched into a number of relapse coughs. He stumbled to the bathroom just before he coughed up some acid green mucus.
Giving one last spit to clear his mouth, his face scrunched back at the taste and he promptly gargled. When Josh lifted his head, he found himself staring at his severely degraded reflection, the ghostly pallor and the darkness not only in his eyes but beneath them. It wasn't like he hadn't noticed, it just hadn't been this bad. And since in the past couple of weeks, he'd been acting like a happy-go-lucky shmuck without a care in the world, he'd practically set himself up for this.
Last week at the concert in the Kennedy Center for the London Symphony Orchestra, he'd gotten a call during intermission from the Senate Minority Whip, Michael Foxe, questioning him on whether or not the President had been responsible for axing the membership of a Ms. Nathalie Waitier from the Education Department. Apparently, Foxe and Waitier were old friends and he wanted to see if the rumors were true. He'd stood out on the terrace for nearly an hour without his blazer since he'd taken it off inside when it had gotten too hot, trying to convince the Whip that there would be no reason for the President to fire her.
Pouring himself a glass of water and exiting the bathroom, Josh lay once again on his bed, his mind whirling trying to think of an idea. Perhaps Donna was awake. He cast a hopeful glance towards the phone and picked it up. He punched the speed dial button; Donna was practically the only person that he communicated with when he was at home, and that was mostly because he liked to tease her in his spare time. Of course it was all in good fun and she never took any of it seriously, at least he hoped that she didn't. Everyone else on the other hand, he preferred to be unreachable, and also preferred his privacy. Although that didn't stop them from calling him and when they did was when he wished that he was taking a cruise to Jamaica or some other exotic island.
The ringing on the other side of the phone pulsed twice before the hardly chipper voice of Donna Moss picked up. "Hello?"
"Donna, it's me." he started.
There was a pause and a sigh. "I knew this was going to be a bad day."
"Hey!" he protested, straightening up a little. "I haven't said anything yet. Go easy on me."
"Why should I?" she asked. "After all, this is practically your national holiday."
He heard a couple of dishes clatter. "Under usual circumstances, it would be."
"What makes these unusual circumstances?"
"I've known that for a long time." Donna giggled.
"No, no, no, Donna. I'm not kidding. I just took my temperature. I've got a 101 degree flu."
"I told you not to stay out all night drinking beer." she kidded. "But you men, never listen."
"Donnnnna..." Josh whined which sparked off more coughing.
"Okay." Donna addressed in a more serious tone, thinking that she should probably humor him. "This means that you're not coming in today."
He rolled his eyes, greatful that she could not see. "Well, I certainly hope not." A few more coughs escaped him.
"You know, today's the day that Leo asked you to meet with that woman from the education department."
"Yeah." she acknowledged.
"Why does he want me meeting with her?"
"Because the President is going to fire her."
He groaned. So she was being fired. Why didn't people tell him these things when he needed to know them? "Yeah. So?"
"So... you're not doing this to get out of it are you?" she inquired suspiciously.
He sat for a moment. "I wish that was the reason. Leo knows that I don't do well with anyone from the Department of Education, especially Nathalie Waitier." he emphasized, taking a sip of water.
"Unpleasant memories." he said shortly.
"Well, if you're not going to tell me, I'll call Leo and tell him to expect you."
"Oh come on, Donna. That's not fair." he pleaded, pushing the covers aside on his bed and climbing back beneath them.
"Good. I hoped that I was being at least a little unfair." she replied. "It's about time that I got my chance."
He could tell that she was smiling. "Cruel." he muttered.
"So," Donna redirected. "What do you want me to do? Just tell them that you're not coming in or... what?"
"Tell 'em I'm not going to be there." he decided on the spot. "And let Leo know that I'm sorry."
"I don't think a minor apology is going to do much, Josh."
"Too bad. I look like shit and my self esteem is damaged." he made up an excuse, coughing again. "I can't go into work knowing that."
"Suddenly Mr. Vanity Fair, are we?" she questioned mockingly.
"That's Master Vanity Fair." he corrected, taking a long breath of air.
"You know..." Donna paused again, building a case for herself. "For someone with a 101 degree flu, you seem to be pretty lively to me."
"What does that mean?"
"It means that you're a pretty bad liar, Josh."
"Donna!" he exploded. "I'm not lying." Here he began hacking irratically until whatever tickle was in his throat was annihilated.
"Do you want me to get you anything? Chicken soup? Fruit parfait? O. J.?" she asked considerately.
"Coffee and a bagel wouldn't be too much to ask for would it?"
"Sick people shouldn't drink coffee or eat bagels."
"I think they should."
A huff echoed over the phone.
"Okay, okay!" he changed his mind. "Maybe some Cranberry juice."
"I'll bring it over during my lunch break, okay?" she insisted.
He could hear her rifling around, probably in her purse looking for something. "Thanks."
"I'd like to say that it's not a problem... but... with you, that would be a lie."
"Oh, you love me, admit it." he teased, taking another gulp from the water.
"Yes, just about as much as I love artichokes and mosquitos." she replied sardonically.
"Hey, I love artichokes." he protested.
Donna sighed. "Of course you do."
"Oh, by the way. The senate whip asked about you." he changed the subject.
Her voice fell into shock. "He did?"
"Michael Foxe asked about me?"
"Isn't that what I just said?"
"Last Friday. I talked with him on the phone."
Donna paused. "Um, what exactly did he say?"
"He said, 'Gee, that Donna Moss is real giddy. Maybe I should ask her on a date and find out what she's like when she's not hyped up on coffee.'"
Pause. "He said that?" Her voice sounded as if something had stepped on it.
Then the line went dead.
Josh hung up and leaned back against his pillow. "I guess that means I'm not getting the juice."