Authors: Ellie and Westwinger247
Posted: March 17, 2001
Air Force One
May 27, 2001
Passenger, Sam Seaborn (White House Deputy Communications Director):
I can hardly explain it, but I know exactly what I'm looking at.
I feel like a voyeur just sitting here watching them so I'm pretending to look at my laptop computer. Of course, the screen is blank. I mean, it's turned on and that impatient cursor is flashing at me again and again--it kind of reminds me of Josh but without the sound effects. See, I haven't written a word since I turned the computer on. I can't. I'm tired. We were in San Diego for 36 hours, but before that we were in Seattle for a day and Chicago for two days the day before that. In that time, I think I've slept a total of 12 hours (and I'm one of the lucky ones). So I'm weary and I have a hard time writing when I'm like this. I also tend to ramble, which is a good reason not to be writing anything official at all.
Don't get me wrong. I can still compose beautiful, eloquent and phrases, fuse together insightful quips for stunning sound bites and hammer out compassionate and passionate oration for the president. I can do that when I'm half-asleep, half-frayed, half-drunk even, but it's the actual physical writing I can't do. The typos kill me every time; I've learned to try to avoid writing (or rather typing) when I'm exceedingly tired. So, I let my mind wander instead--my conscious mind that is--the unconscious part is finishing this speech I should be working on. I just can't get the words to go from my head to my fingertips yet. Toby wants this thing done by Thursday morning, and he'll have it. Believe me, he will, I just can't show any physical evidence to back up that assertion right now. But I work in politics and bluster is half the game so I'm not concerned. Not really. Not excessively anyway.
Actually, what concerns me more is what I'm seeing here--this thing I'm ashamed to be secretly watching.
Josh and Donna.
They're sort of diagonal across the aisle from me. They haven't a clue I'm watching, intruding on them like this. But even if they did, nothing would change. See, they're not doing anything, in the sense of "doing something." I mean, if someone, hell if Danny Concannon, walked by right now, he wouldn't pause for a second. He'd breeze right by them without breaking his stride. A quick glance would reveal only two people, sitting side-by-side near the cabin windows, running through data between a computer on her lap and a stack of faxes in his hands. Their voices are respectfully hushed--it's two a.m. (at least that's what my watch says, but it's still on California time, so it's 5 a.m. back in Washington where we're headed). I can pick up some of what they are saying, and it's all strictly business: They're strategizing about a pending House Bill on prescription drug pricing; the subject is hardly risqué.
But what they're doing is.
I can't avert my eyes because this is so riveting and worrisome at the same time. What I am seeing is both an intimate and private moment as well as a highly public display of how blisteringly platonic their relationship is. Danny would agree if he saw this. He couldn't argue that this was anything more than the Deputy Chief of Staff and his assistant burning the midnight oil (a phrase I hate incidentally but there are no viable clichés about solar power yet, not to mention it would be mixing of metaphors and that's just bad writing, but I digress).
See the problem is, if Danny stopped for maybe a little longer, and watched them, really watched them--he'd see what I'm seeing.
That's why I worry.
There's something deeper here.
Josh and Donna reached the point in synergy long ago. They work with machine like precision. They run on the same clock; they have their rhythms in synch; all their cogs turn in perfect time. You can see it when they walk through the office, when they parlay through question and answer sessions, even when they hand folders to each other. One simple knows where they other will be, like a blind pass in the NCAA finals, it's a smooth, well-practiced maneuver that is loaded with trust and faith in each other.
But it goes deeper than that now. There's this other thing.
There is some part of them that does not connect at all, and it spells trouble. Because 90 percent of these two is tethered together. That remaining 10 percent intrigues me because it is so volatile and at least one of them knows it and is holding the line, but I don't know how long it can last.
I've watched them together (and apart) a lot. Not that I stare or am stalking them. I do have a life of my own--and it's a satisfying existence, pleasurable in fact; I'm not fixated on this thing between them, but how could I ignore it? We practically live in the White House with the amount of time we spend there and now we're gearing up to run a national campaign; that just augments it. So I've watch this thing evolve over time. I'm pretty sure I have it figured out now.
For a long time, most of us were willing to write this off as simple infatuation on Donna's part alone. That made sense. A young woman from Wisconsin looking to start her life over stumbles into a job working for what some people charitably call a charismatic man. I mean, I suppose there is a sort of belligerent charm about Josh. One of the more smitten profile writer's once referred to him as the political equivalent of a cowboy. So, it's easy to see how someone of Donna's background could get swept up in that. I mean, the guy was the senior political director of a campaign that put a man in the White House. That's heady stuff to a woman on the rebound from a bad relationship that took herself esteem and her chance at a college degree.
Then the shooting was added into the equation.
Almost losing Josh drew us all a little closer to him. I figured, like the rest of the staff, that Donna had some derivation of the Florence Nightingale syndrome going on afterward. She took care of him and somewhere along the way that line between assistant and something else got blurred.
Now, a year after that night in Virginia, things have come considerably farther than any of us ever predicted. I've gotta say, I'm impressed with her restraint because it's gotta be hell.
See, she's the one holding back. Consciously, that is.
Josh, well, don't misunderstand me, the man is smart, even brilliant sometimes (just ask him, he'll tell you), but when it comes to anything remotely personal he's a dunce. Well, maybe that's harsh. Maybe he's more in-tune than I give him credit for. Mostly I think, it's that this man with such a public life, someone who craves the spotlight and attention, is really shy--at least about personal things.
He told me weeks ago that he doesn't like it when Donna dates others and even admitted he does everything he can to sabotage her efforts to date. But I'm not sure he knows why he does it. It's not to be malicious, that much is certain. To him, life is all about politics and this job he does. Nothing else registers on his radar. Donna, in Josh's view, is part of this job and therefore an integral part of his life; anything she might do to distract her from the job is therefore bad and should be stopped because it would throw off their routine.
I'm not saying that's the whole truth, but I'd lay a wager that's how Josh sees things and justifies it to himself. He's totally cerebral.
Donna on the other hand... She's not deluded. She feels as well as thinks, and that puts her ahead of Josh on this one. Okay, so it took hearing a comment Joey Lucas made, I admit, to make things clear to me.
Joey was right. It's obvious now. A check of my watch again confirms it.
Donna doesn't need to be doing this work right now. From the yawns she keeps stifling, she wants and needs sleep badly. But Josh is working, so she is, too. She could leave Josh to his numbers, but I know she won't. Because this is the only time she can spend with him. That's good because it also means it's safe. She's too professional to overstep the assistant/deputy relationship while they're working. Of course, spending this time with him has become something of an addiction. She has to be with him. It's like there's nothing he doesn't do that doesn't do something for her. That's touching, but it's troubling me as well.
We are starting to look toward the next election and that is the only thing Josh can focus upon. He's one of my best friends and I really would like to see him find happiness that stems from something other than just the political game, but I'm selfish as well. I want to win, and I don't think we can if we don't have Josh--all of him. Now, I know his Achilles Heel. If the wrong person were to figure it out as well, Josh could be neutralized on the campaign front.
I feel crummy about it, but I'll have to talk to Toby. There has to be a balance of keeping this Lyman/Moss team together while keeping Josh and Donna apart. That's what makes this hard, because I care about both of them. So long as Josh is clueless, he's not gonna get hurt by this thing, but Donna...
I saw the way she just placed her hand over his to
cease the incessant tapping of his pencil on those fax pages. She did it
without saying a word then offered him a careworn expression of agitation
and admiration that can mean only one thing. Donnatella Moss has tripped
clean over her crush and fallen in love with Josh Lyman.
Air Force One
May 27, 2001
Passenger, Donna Moss (Assistant to White House Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman):
Oh, God, would he just stop that annoying tapping! I'm typing as fast as a person who's had--let's see, seven and a half hours of sleep in four and a half days--can type. For some reason, I don't remember the first campaign to be this exhausting. Then again, Josh didn't trust me as much as he does now.
I calmly place my hand over his to stop the impatient tapping. I look into those tired eyes. I try to give him my best 'If you don't stop I'll break that pencil' look, but I think it turned into a look a compassion. If I've had 71/2 hours of sleep, then Josh has only had 41/2. He had just begun to get his normal five hours a night sleep back. At least that's what he told me before we left DC He may have just said that so I would quit nagging him.
But, we can't…yawn…stop what we started a couple of hours ago. We're trying to come up with a plan to counter the Republican's upcoming House Bill on prescription drug pricing. Surprisingly we've managed to get a pretty decent draft…yawn…written on the plane. Sam and Toby better watch out - I'm becoming quite the writer.
I glance over at Josh again. He's reading the fax sent by Ed and Larry for the tenth time, hoping to find something that he may have missed the other nine times he's read it. He throws down the papers; leans his head back against the seat and rubs his eyes. I turn back toward the laptop to continue putting together the proposal he just finished dictating to me.
Josh is so drained. But, I believe he wouldn't have it any other way. This life style is in his blood--it's what he lives by. Most people need air, food and water. Josh needs politics. And he's so skilled at what he does, too. I have literally seen him make the most powerful Senators and Congressman cower in his presence. However, that same attitude almost got him fired. Thinking back to that moment when I brought him coffee, I believe that I would have followed him out the door of the west wing if he had been fired. Josh doesn't know it, but he's turned my life around in so many ways. When he first saw me, I was a destroyed human being. My life had been turned upside down by my ex-boyfriend. But through the years of working side by side with Josh, he's made me into a self-confident person again.
I've gotta stop thinking about this; I push it to the back of my mind as often as I can, but it's getting harder. I'm afraid. Actually afraid now. And with good reason. What could be scarier than realizing you're head over heals in love with Joshua Lyman?
I've got to hide that, though. I cannot tell a soul. There's a chance it would get us fired. Well, maybe not Josh. Just me. I'm not even sure why I love him; I just do. I mean, some of the reasons are obvious; Josh is a very attractive man. He's older than I am, too. That seems to be a weakness with me--case in point with "Dr. Freeride" (to borrow a Josh-ism). I wonder if they have a 12-step program for this kind of thing?
Anyway, after the debacle with the good doctor, I told myself that it would never happen again. Of course, as if on cue, Josh walked into his office. To tell you the truth, when I walked in the door of the "Bartlet for America" campaign headquarters, I thought that Sam was Josh. I mean I saw Sam leave Josh's office, so I thought I had put two and two together. But math was never my strong point.
When I first started to get that, you know, fluttery feeling about him, I tried to blame it on having just been dumped. That's how I justified it through the entire election. Truthfully, I grew out of it--and more or less--and instead grew to admire and respect Josh. How could I not? I mean, despite what I say sometimes, Josh is probably one of the smartest people I will ever know.
So you respect a guy's mind and think he's cute--that shouldn't gel into anything real.
Then his father died.
It broke my heart to tell him that news, especially since it was just minutes after he and the others won the Illinois primary for then-Governor Bartlet. I surprised myself when I offered to accompany Josh back to Connecticut for the services. He politely refused, stating that I would be more valuable to him on the campaign that having to sit through a funeral of a man I never knew. I wish I had known Noah Lyman; it would have been a honor to meet the man who instilled so much passion and enthusiasm in Josh.
Losing his father was hard on Josh, but he handled it with the same courage he handled the shooting and its aftermath. Something in him changed subtly when he bid farewell to his father. I noticed immediately; how could I not? When he joined the campaign again in California, he started giving me more responsibilities, even putting me on salary. We began to banter and talk--he would explain things to me more often rather than just bark terse orders.
By the time our second Christmas rolled around, I wasn't sure if I should feel anything for him. I mean, is one-sided affection love at all? But things had changed between us--evolved slowly. With the first holiday season, I barely got a 'Merry Christmas' out of him--which was miracle because Josh isn't big on any holiday (Christian or Jewish).
But the next year, I saw how sweet and caring Josh can be. The Art and Artistry of Alpine Skiing. It still sits on my desk in the bullpen, right next to all the other things I cherish. That inscription really got to me. It was so touching; I found out how much I meant to him as a colleague and friend. Maybe that's when my admiration grew from friendship to what the other assistants call 'puppy love.'
I won't go there, except to say that that's when my 'puppy love' grew into absolute love for him. When you come close to…no, I won't go there.
I take another glance over, and he's picked up the papers again. Politics and Josh are like peanut butter and jelly - they go well together. That's why I tried to set him up with Joey Lucas. They both love the game of politics. They're both equals when it comes to intelligence (although don't let Josh know I said that) and nobody would care if they started dating. Joey would be great for the campaign. She would help the President win. Josh caught me off guard when he asked me why I was trying to set them up.
And my quick brain came up with: "If you got married, you'd be Joshua and Josephine Lucas-Lyman. You won't have to have you towels re-monogrammed." No wonder I only got a 510 verbal on my SATs. Although, come to think of it, he's been awfully distant and aloof when I mention Joey.
I, on the other hand, would be a complete and utter distraction for the reelection campaign. I have this recurring fear that the reporters would be more interested in our personal lives half-forget that President Bartlet is running for reelection. I can hear Danny Concannon now: "CJ, are Josh and Donna sleeping in the same hotel room tonight? When will they be moving in together? When can we expect a formal engagement announcement? Oh, yeah how's the President's reelection thing going?" This will be a serious campaign about serious issues; there's no room for romance on the platform, and I will not be a burden to this administration or the President. I refuse to.
So once again, I've talked myself out of leaning over and revealing to him the one thing about me he doesn't know. I'm not playing the martyr, but for the sake of this campaign, for the sake of our careers, I will set my happiness aside.
I just wonder how long I can do this. As long as I have to, I suppose. Which, though difficult, is fine because to tell you the truth, even if I did say something, there's no guarantee that Josh feels the way I do.
Once again, I hear the papers being rustled. I close my laptop and turn to face him.
"Josh, ssh. You'll wake the others--well, everybody but Sam. He's still working. There's nothing more to do here. You should try to rest. You look like hell."
Josh turns to me. "Well, I could say the same for you, Donnatella. Get some sleep."
I love it when he says actual my name.
"Only if you do the same. You've hardly slept at all since we left DC. I won't feel right about sleeping while you're working. Besides, there's nothing more you can do until we land in a few hours."
"Fine." He leans back and extends his legs. Within minutes, he's fast asleep. I think.
I place the laptop in the empty seat next to me and try to get as comfortable as I can. I close my eyes and try not to think about the body next to me. I would just love to say "Screw Politics" (to borrow another Josh-ism) and let Josh and the world know how I feel. But…I fear I've become too much like a politician. Can't…yawn…let personal…yawn…matters interfere with… yawn…the job.
Tap... tap... tap
Without needing to open my eyes and look, I reach over and grab the pencil out of his hands.
Air Force One landed, as always, on time. Though no president is ever known for his promptness, no such thing can be said for his air transport. The plane touched down as scheduled at 8:30 a.m. EST on the nose. The most spectacular piece of private transportation funded by the public taxied down the runway toward the hangar where the normal greeting entourage was waiting: the contingent of press, a ground crew, several ominous looking black Suburbans with full security detail and Leo McGarry, White House Chief of Staff.
Once the stairway was in place, the doors opened and President Bartlet, a spring in his step like a child returning from summer camp, descended, waving to the press while speaking orders to his body man, Charlie Young. Charlie, technically known as the president's personal aide, led the rest of the senior staff from the plane.
They did not appear as refreshed as the Commander-in-Chief. CJ Cregg grasped the handrail as her knees wobbled. She concentrated on each footfall to insure that she didn't tumble from exhaustion headlong down the steps. Behind her was the perennially staid Toby Ziegler. However, even Toby--an insomniac by trade--appeared weary. The dark bags under his eyes belied a late night proofing speech drafts written by his deputy, Sam Seaborn. Sam followed close on Toby's heels, his eyes cast to the ground and worry hunched in his shoulders. The last to exit were Josh Lyman and Donna Moss. As always, they walked side by side, their steps matching rhythmically like a masterful sonata.
"Good morning, Mr. President," Leo said greeting him at the bottom of the ramp. "How was San Diego?"
The President nodded and smiled.
"It went well, Leo," he said heartily. "I only managed to piss off 20 percent of the people this time around."
"Well, sir, that means that our approval rating is up to 55 percent there."
"Don't bet on it," Bartlet said. "They haven't heard my energy package deal yet."
"Yes, sir," Leo sighed knowingly. "Listen, about this thing…"
Bartlet raised his hand to cease any further discussion.
"No, it's Sunday," he intoned. "I have just enough time to get back to the residence and get ready for church. And after that, I'm placing my presidential posterior on a couch to watch an Inter-League baseball game. The Cardinals and the Yankees."
"Ugh! Inter-League sucks," Leo said with audible disgust. "It's as bad as instant replay."
"Try as you might, you grumpy old codger, it's baseball and I'm going to watch it. Charlie! Let's go!"
Charlie sprinted to catch up.
"Yes, sir," he remarked eagerly.
"Ready for the peanuts and Cracker Jacks and all that good stuff?"
"Yes, sir, but I must remind you that Mrs. Bartlet strictly forbids you to eat onions on anything."
"Ah, Charlie, she won't know."
"Sir, I beg your pardon, but Mrs. Bartlet…"
"Shut up and get in the car."
The President and Charlie entered the limo without taking questions from the press--a common occurrence for the president on a Sunday. Leo watched the limo depart with the majority of the Secret Service following suit. He then turned to his raged looking staff.
"You guys look like hell," he remarked with a rueful shake of his head. "What the hell happened?"
"We're suffering cultural burn out," Josh remarked.
"What culture?" Leo asked.
"Any," Josh remarked. "I've never seen so many libraries and museums in my life."
"Yeah, it was probably the first cultural thing you've seen since elementary school." Donna retorted.
"I'll have you know that I spent many an afternoon in college studying."
"What? The student body?"
"Okay, this time I mean it," Josh said hotly. "You're
"Sure," Donna said. "And, trust me when I say, for the 96th time: Impervious. Face it, Josh. You're stuck with me. No one else will work with you."
"Lots of people would work with me," he said. "Donna, do you have any clue how many people want your job?"
"Do you know how many people want your job?" Leo asked Josh pointedly. "Could the two of you shut up? Thank you. Toby, Sam, ride back with me. I want to discuss the President's upcoming speech. CJ, you get the pleasure of riding with Frick and Frack."
"I refuse to be held responsible for my actions,"
CJ said rolling her eyes.
The group split up and walked to the two remaining limos.
Sam hung back for a moment, watching Josh and Donna walk to their ride, impressed by the near perfect cadence of their movements. It was the same when they argued. They didn't talk over each other or shout in a jarring manner. It was as though they were playing with a set of rules only they knew and understood. Even the venom in their comments was tactically not lethal. Despite the sharpness of the discourse, none of the digs were even mean. Sam noted this particularly in Donna's words. Josh could be hotheaded and occasionally go to far, but only when he was feeling passionate about something... or someone
"Sam!" Toby shouted as he held the limo door open. "Are you coming with us or are you going to walk back to the White House?"
"I would be joining you," Sam said shaking his head to clear his thoughts.
He sprinted towards the car.
This is why I need to talk with Toby, he thought. It's even distracting to me.
He readied himself for an uncomfortable conversation, but that was both a blessing and a curse. The reason for the added degree of unease was the presence of Leo. Leo wouldn't want to hear this conversation, but Leo had known Josh longer than anyone else in the White House. He would know what to do about this... this.... thing.