Title: Two Weeks Into January

Warnings: UST. It's really a Josh/Donna story, but you have to look at it backwards to see it.

Disclaimer: The Manchester school district has several thousand students, the Union Leader can be found pretty much anywhere, Laconia has tourists- not dairy farmers, and Pease AFB is no longer active. Since I know all this, I clearly don't own West Wing. Sad for me.

Notes: So my friend Figfan and I were talking about the final two seasons, and how they compared to real campaigning, and what sorts of things were left off-screen. This crazy little scenario came to mind, and she said I couldn't write it, so I had to give it a try.

She underestimates him.

Because he isn't Josh.

He's actually smarter than Josh, but she'll never say so.

She limits herself to cliche compliments and quick embraces, and wonders- like she used to wonder about Sam- why he's content to lend his words to others instead of voicing them himself.

Because he's so quiet. He doesn't bark orders. He doesn't yell for coffee. And his temper doesn't flare up every time their numbers drop.

They're slipping in the polls right now, two weeks into January, and he just looks tired.

He's not the unstoppable force of energy she's used to. He's a pale face, an undone tie, semi-greasy hair, and eyes losing focus behind a thin pair of glasses.

They're sitting together at some hole in the wall bar in Cheshire County, and she thinks he looks too at home here- like just another small town businessman taking the edge off his day.

It's that ability to blend in that makes him so good at this job- makes the voters think he's one of them.

Then he blows it.

"I hate this state." It's as much heat as she's ever heard from him.

She wants him to ask the bartender to turn off the Pats game and put on CNN, but he doesn't. He doesn't want to hear about.

Twelve days before the first primary, and he already knows they won't take the White House.

He brings his eyes up slowly to meet hers. "You don't belong here, you know. You should be somewhere..." He waves a hand vaguely- "somewhere with..." He trails off again, and swallows the last of his beer.

"I chose to come with you," she reminds him. She doesn't want him thinking, like the others do, that she was running away.

She knows he's going to kiss her- it's the stress, and the alcohol, and cold New England winter. The inches between them fall away. She finds her arms snaking around his neck.

In the morning, she wakes up with a sinking feeling in her stomach. She doesn't want to open her eyes, can't bear to face his worshiping gaze, doesn't want to admit that she used him.

She realizes the room is empty.

She underestimates him. Because he isn't Josh.

And he knows it.