A/N: This was actually a much more daunting task than I realized when I originally resolved to do it…about three days ago. While I've written Sorkin's characters before, rather notably for my still unfinished crossover-saga, I've not once stepped completely outside the Buffy the Vampire Slayer fandom to write anything for another fandom since I first started penning Sang et Ivoire over six years ago.
I wanted to write a Josh/Donna fic for Kimmie. I decided it could be done in the limited time-frame I'd allotted myself between making the decision and her birthday. However, it's been a long time since I wrote Josh/Donna dialogue. A long, long time. Yes, I've dabbled in Sorkin's world since my muse abandoned The Garden Club series, sure, but not Josh/Donna. There's also the issue that Kimmie writes some of the best damn dialogue I've ever read, particularly when it comes to Josh/Donna. For the first time in a long time, I felt intimidated. I knew I could do it, I just didn't know if the finished product would be worth reading.
Therefore, I popped in my West Wing DVDs, camped out, and started writing. I'm very adamant on this: my Josh/Donna dialogue comes nowhere near what she can do with these characters—though I'll be damned if she ever realizes it. I just hope she likes what she reads. Admittedly, I do feel a sense of accomplishment. I managed to write something completely outside Whedon's world…and while I'm eager as hell to get back to my home territory, I'm mostly happy with the way this turned out.
Happy birthday, Kimmie. You're the absolute best.
Timeline: Following In the Shadow of Two Gunmen and sometime in the beginning of The Midterms. Spoilers through In the Shadow of Two Gunmen.
Summary: A wounded, healing Josh finds himself needing unexpected assistance.
Warnings: Language, Adult Content
Disclaimer: The characters herein are the property of Aaron Sorkin and NBC Studios. They are being used out of respect and affection, and not for the sake of profit. No copyright infringement is intended.
It was Donna's idea and at Leo's insistence, and, in Josh's opinion, a perfect waste of money. There was no need to hire anyone to help him in his recovery—Donna was at his side practically day and night. In point of fact, the only time she wasn't mothering him was in his sleep, and even then he wouldn't put it past her. Over the past few days she'd practically moved onto his couch, ready to bolt to attention should a floorboard creek. She steadfastly ignored him when he asked for updates when she returned from the White House, and she had cut all the fun food from his diet.
He wouldn't mind so much if he could sneak a slice of pizza now and then. The woman's instincts were hawk-like. The few times he'd planned on ordering in during a window of Donna-absence, she'd confiscated his wallet and left him to fresh vegetables and canned soup.
And now this. A nurse.
Well, if he was lucky, perhaps his nurse would be a blonde, busty sex-kitten. If he was going to receive bedside attention, better to make it a prepubescent fantasy come to life: a girl whose IQ roughly matched her bra-size; a girl whose breasts smothered him when she leaned over; a girl who would let him sneak hot dogs and French fries when Donna wasn't around to monitor everything that went into his mouth.
Josh watched with barely-guised amusement as Donna maneuvered through his apartment. It amazed him how quickly the walls had grown accustomed to her presence. She looked like she belonged here.
"I have a lunch with Margaret and I need to drop by the store to get more Motrin and milk." She made a face, disappearing quickly into his suddenly-feminine bathroom. "By the way, don't drink the milk."
Josh snickered, resting his chin against his palm. "After your display this morning, I might never drink milk again."
"It looked like an eight."
"What looked like an eight?"
"The date on the thing. It looked like an eight."
"What was it?"
"A six." Donna shuddered and made a yucky face. "I'll be back around one. One-thirty at the latest. Is there anything you want me to bring you?"
"A Kansas City Steak would be great."
"Big bag of greasy fries."
"A fat chili dog."
She admonished him with a look. "You know what the doctor said."
"The doctor said I should watch my diet, not eat Nazi food."
Donna's brows hit her hairline. "This is Nazi food?"
"This is exactly what the Nazis did."
"I'm not bringing you a hamburger. There's soup in the kitchen and stuff to make sandwiches."
Josh pouted but didn't object. There was no sense trying to budge Donna when she had her mind fixed on something, and lately he'd been too exhausted to try. Once his body healed and caught up with the rest of him, he'd have to give her extra grief. For the moment, though, he was too grateful for her worrying nature to care too horribly much.
Donna materialized out of the bathroom again, her hair having miraculously lifted itself into a funny up-do in a matter of seconds. How she was able to practically wish clothes on herself yet still run late was beyond him. Not that Donna was ever really late; she just managed to run late before arriving with time to spare. "All right. Am I forgetting anything?"
"Let me talk to Toby today."
"Not a chance."
"He's just going to want you to look at a thing, and then you'll get all worked up and I'll have to confiscate your phone again."
"I still say that was uncalled for."
"Yes, well, it's the rules." She smiled softly. "Oh, and your nurse starts today."
"Because the insurance company hasn't fined me enough. What's her name?"
"Does she have a first name?"
"If she does, I don't know it." Donna shook her keys, gathered an armful of folders, and made her way to the door. "I'll be back at one."
"But not with a chili dog."
"You know what you are?"
"Yeah, well, if it keeps you alive." A funny look crossed over her face at that—brief, but notable. A look that made Josh supremely uncomfortable yet—at the same time—irrevocably moved at the same time. They hadn't talked much about what had happened at Rosslyn, or the hours of waiting while he was suspended between life and death. He knew what she'd gone through because he knew her, and because he knew exactly how he would have reacted had Donna been at the receiving end of the assassin's bullet that night.
He knew what she had gone through. He just didn't like thinking about it.
"Right," she said. "I'm gone."
Josh threw his hands up. "And I'm sitting here," he replied, indicating his wheelchair.
Donna smiled. "Okay."
Then she was gone. And the apartment fell quiet.
He only wished Donna hadn't hidden the remote.
There had to be a mistake.
"I'm sorry, you're who?"
The man in the doorway blinked dumbly. "I'm Nurse Keller."
Josh just stared, jaw agape. This couldn't be right. "You're a guy."
"So you noticed."
"And you're my nurse."
"Strangely enough, they do that now."
"Have male nurses."
Josh nodded. "I knew that, I just didn't think you were one of them."
Nurse Keller spread his arms and shrugged. "Well, as it turns out I am."
"For how long?"
"All my life, I'm pretty sure."
Josh rolled his eyes. "No, I mean how long did Donna schedule you to…I dunno, do nursely stuff?"
"Pretty much as long as you're wheelchair-bound."
"Well, I'll definitely work on fixing that." Josh sighed and wheeled back, allowing Nurse Keller to step inside.
This was not going to be fun.
Where was Donna and her Nazi food when he needed it?
The next few days saw a rather noticeable trend. Donna left, Nurse Keller—whose name was Bryan, as Josh soon learned—arrived, and Josh sent him home within an hour. Donna would return, scold Josh for neglecting his recovery, and provide him with reading material sent from Toby about how to go after the members of West Virginia White Pride without infringing on their Constitutional rights. Josh would read, work himself up, and Donna would deny him anything actually edible for another day.
On the fourth day, the trend changed.
"You know what we haven't done yet?" Nurse Keller asked as he wheeled Josh toward the bathroom.
"I have a feeling you're about to tell me," he muttered.
"We need to get you into the bath."
Josh froze. The period between leaving GW and arriving home for recovery had seen much assistance from his overly-worried mother, who had, until Donna hired Nurse Keller, assisted Josh with the more embarrassing tasks he couldn't manage to handle himself. He'd hated that with a passion, but at the moment he would take his mother and her entire Bingo club over the beefy, male hands of one Nurse Bryan Keller.
"We really don't need to do that," Josh protested.
"You're beginning to smell a little ripe, buddy."
"Don't hold back or anything."
"I'm not. That's why we're going to take a bath."
His eyes went wide. "No, we're not."
"We really are."
"I am not taking a bath with you around."
"That's really too bad, because I'm the one who can walk."
Josh's temper flared. "We're not going to do anything. Look, I think I can handle it from here."
"Do you, now?"
"I've been bathing myself without problems for thirty years. This isn't a thing."
"Yeah. Do you remember that you were shot?"
He blinked. "I was kinda there."
"You need help. That's what I was hired for."
"Yeah, well, this isn't going to happen." Josh pushed hard on the wheelchair brakes and jerked to a standstill. "If I need help, I promise you'll be at least the sixth or seventh person I call, but I can handle getting into the tub on my own."
Nurse Keller sighed dramatically. "I don't know why I'm here."
"Honestly, I don't either."
"Okay. Fine." The nurse released his grip on Josh's wheelchair and made the now-familiar thunderous track through the apartment. He gathered his things, tossed on his overcoat, and marched intently toward the front door. "You're the most difficult patient I've worked with."
"Then you must be new because I think I'm a prize."
Nurse Keller snorted loudly and made a good show of slamming the door behind him.
"Wow," Josh mused, wheeling his way into his bedroom. "Is that ever a waste of money."
In all honesty, he felt the wheelchair portion of his recovery itself was coming to an end. It wasn't entirely necessary—he could walk just fine when he had someone beside him or a sturdy barrier on which to lean. His chest always seemed to hurt more when he tested his legs, though, and no matter how much he wanted to be his own man again, for the moment the wheelchair was the best bet.
However, he would get Bryan the Male Nurse to help him step forward with the walking thing tomorrow. Tomorrow, after he was clean and not in danger of having his parts handled by a stranger with an Adam's apple.
Equipped with a lapful of pajama pants and a loose-fitting t-shirt, Josh navigated the narrow halls toward his bathroom, pausing at the linen closet to collect a towel.
Honestly, what use would Bryan the Male Nurse have been had he stayed? Bathing wasn't rocket science, wheelchair-bound or not. He could manage just fine on his own.
He winced, his jaw grating against the bathmat. "Could you please not shout?"
The silence between her stunned steps was almost worse than the shrill of her voice. "Oh my God, Josh."
"Oh my God!"
"You can stop saying that anytime, you know." He jerked, gasping as a sharp pain riddled his insides. "And maybe help me up?"
That was all it took to snap her back to herself. Donna rushed forward, gentle hands grasping his shoulders. "What happened?"
"I tried to take a bath."
"I was unsuccessful."
"Where's Nurse Keller?"
Josh groaned. "I sent him home."
"Because I didn't need his help with the thing."
"You didn't need help with a bath."
"That's what I said."
Donna sighed. "Apparently, you did."
"It would seem so, yes." Heaving, they leaned and pulled on one another until Josh was sitting against the porcelain tub, gasping deep breaths and trying hard to ignore the agonizing pain in his chest. "I swear," he said, craning his neck to gaze at the water nozzle, "the thing didn't look that far away before I reached."
"You really shouldn't have done that."
"Well, yes, I realize that now." Josh's eyes fell shut, his chest rocking hard. "Okay."
"Give me a minute and we'll try for the chair."
Donna worried a lip between her teeth and shook her head. "Let me run your water."
"Look, you're going to need to clean yourself eventually, and if it's not today, it's tomorrow with Nurse Keller." She arched a brow. "You're not getting clean sitting here."
"I really don't need a bath."
"Believe me when I say you do."
Her hands came up. "I wasn't going to say anything, but without your mother around—"
"This won't be a thing. Honestly, Josh…"
"There's absolutely no way we can not do this?"
"No." Donna poked her tongue out at him, reaching over with an ease he envied to twist the water knob. "All right. Arms up."
Josh froze, throat tightening. It honestly hadn't occurred to him until that second that Donna assisting him with a bath would entail getting naked in front of her. And while the prospect was admittedly more pleasing in certain contexts—contexts he wasn't ready to confess he considered with anything resembling regularity, even if it was the truth—this scenario was not one of his forbidden fantasies. He was weak and pain-riddled and apparently very smelly. Stripping down and having Donna's hands all over his bare flesh had never had this twist in his imagination, but he didn't have much in the way of options.
"Yeah, okay." Josh sighed and lifted his arms, doing his best to keep from shuddering when her fingers curled under the hemline of his shirt. To her credit, her expression didn't change, save for a slight darkening of her eyes when her gaze raked over his healing bullet wound.
"It's looking better," she said absently, looking away. Then without warning, she was pressed up against him, arms hooking under his shoulders. "Okay. Work with me."
"We're going to lift you onto the edge of the tub so I can remove your pants."
Josh's throat tightened even further. Removing his pants was where this grew uncomfortable, but such was a necessary part of bathing and there was really no getting around it. Thus without a word, he assisted her in worming his flannel pajama bottoms down his legs. Donna's face didn't change. She stripped his socks off his feet and studiously avoided glancing anywhere near his now-naked penis.
Good. She wasn't trying to make this awkward.
"All right," she said, her voice unchanged. She dipped a finger into the tub and nodded. "That feels warm enough."
"I like it scalding," Josh replied.
"You'll like it like this."
"Is it scalding?"
"It's hot. It's good enough." Donna sighed and rose to her feet, then bent forward and hooked her arms under his shoulders again. "One leg at a time."
"I know how to get into a tub, Donna."
"Not with a gunshot wound, Josh."
"Sponged you. You never actually got into a tub."
He frowned. "How do you know these things?"
"We open our mouths and words come out. It's called conversing." Donna grinned as he settled into the tub—the tub filled with water that was hot but not scalding; the sensation, however, felt so good he didn't think to complain. The last time he'd had a bath, the tub had been filled rubber ducks and toy boats, and he was quite certain water rushing up against his flesh hadn't had this effect. Perhaps his worn muscles needed the break. Perhaps his body was sighing in relief at the prospect of finally being clean. He didn't know—all he knew was bathing had fleetingly turned into his favorite activity.
"Oh, that's good," Josh murmured, sinking back.
"Bathing typically is."
"This isn't bathing. This is water-sex."
Donna's eyes went wide. "Well, I'd leave you two alone, but you might drown."
"I'm not going to drown in the tub."
"That's right. Hand me the soap."
Josh sighed but didn't argue, seizing the bar of soap his mother had undoubtedly placed on the ledge rather than the small alcove where the soap typically lived. "I can do this myself, you know."
"You don't have to be here."
"I really do."
"You just agreed I can do this by myself."
"When you're not in danger of popping stitches or falling on your face, I'll be content to let you bathe unsupervised as much as you like."
"I might even encourage it."
Josh gestured emphatically. "I misjudged the distance from the chair to the nozzle."
"I know. I walked in and you were on the floor."
"I remember," he replied.
"So you can see why I'm not going to let you sit here and drown on my watch."
He glanced down. "It's six inches of water."
"People have drowned before in six inches of water, Josh."
"Yeah, well, I won't."
"I bet that's what they said."
Donna waved a hand. "The people who drowned. I bet they said they weren't going to drown."
"People typically don't plan on drowning, Josh. It just happens."
"There's no way you're going to let me do this on my own, is there?"
She shrugged. "It's not looking that way, no."
"You're a nuisance."
Josh closed his eyes and leaned back, sighing. "Just promise me this never leaves this apartment."
"Josh, you're healing from an attempted murder. There's not much you can do on your own." Donna sighed, rising to her feet and plucking a washcloth from the basin she had placed strategically near the sink since essentially taking over the apartment. "I'm doing this—"
"I know why you're doing this."
"Then shut up and let me do it." She turned back to him, rolling up her sleeves and sinking to her knees once more. The washcloth dipped into the water before meeting with soap, sudsing the cloth with soft foam. "I've decided to let you start talking to Toby tomorrow."
Warm fabric caressed his skin, leaving a snow-white trail in its wake. Her touch was so soft, so gentle, so earnest and caring. It made his insides tremble. "Have you?"
"Because I'm a wonderful person who gives you things you don't deserve."
Josh prodded an eye open. "Can I have the remote back, while you're at it?"
"Not a chance."
"You watch conservative talk shows and get yourself all worked up."
"It's not healthy."
"Well," he replied, settling back. "Neither's being a conservative."
The washcloth trailed over and down his arms, making gentle study of his chest-wound before dancing over his belly. She didn't dare go much further, and he was grateful. Watching Donna wash his body was having an adverse effect. Well, adverse based on one's definition. In another life, in another world, in another setting perhaps he would act on it. Perhaps. But in this world his feelings were nonexistent—had to be. The real world. The world in which they lived, in which they'd met. The world wherein getting involved would be disastrous. Bad for their work relationship. Bad for public relations. Bad for the President.
Didn't stop him from thinking about it. Fantasizing about it. Didn't stop him from wanting it.
Even if he refused to admit it.
Opening his eyes to the sight of Donna's dipping neckline, her ample breasts pressed tantalizingly against her thin, water-splattered blouse was perhaps the dumbest thing he could do in this scenario. His body began to react, and given his state of undress and the shallowness of the bath-water, there was no way to hide his rapidly swelling cock. No way to keep her eyes from wandering further down his body when her hand inadvertently brushed against his erection. No way to prevent her gasp from echoing through the air or the red flush from spreading across her cheeks. Donna cleared her throat, eyes jumping to his and tearing away just as quickly.
He saw their relationship as a crystal vase in that second. One he could either catch and rescue or let shatter completely. This was new. A new element to their relationship. One that had always been there, just never acknowledged. A new place. New territory. He had to tread carefully, else they might never find their way home.
His cock didn't seem to mind his discomfort or Donna's blushes. If anything, his cock found her adorable and was desperate to show her just how much.
Well, he thought dryly, holding a breath and doing his best not to look at his erection, as if he could will it away if he pretended it wasn't there. At least I know it still works.
"You're a girl," Josh blurted. The silence would end him.
Donna blinked. "What?"
"You're a girl. A pretty girl. This isn't…this doesn't mean…" He tore his eyes away again, the room starting to spin. Of all the scenarios in which he'd ever envisioned getting entangled with Donna, this hadn't made the final cut. An accidental stiffy in front of Donna, who could see and touch everything. "And I'm a guy, and these things happen. It doesn't mean anything."
Damn. That sounded a lot harsher than he intended, and there was no way to backtrack without making an even huger ass out of himself.
It didn't matter the next second; Donna licked her lips and Josh damn near moaned. This wasn't fair. "Right. Well…" She cleared her throat at last, slapping the wet washcloth over the tub's edge and rising to her feet once more. "Well," she said, voice strained. "I think you can take it from here. I'll just wait outside."
"In case I drown?" Josh asked weakly.
"In case you drown," she agreed. "Let me know when you're ready to go back into the chair."
Bats out of hell moved slower than Donna Moss did that afternoon. She transformed into pure wind, leaving him with nothing save wisps of her perfume and a slam of the bathroom door.
Josh swallowed hard and reached for the washcloth. If he knew what was good for him, he'd finish cleansing and quickly so they could put this whole awkward ordeal behind them.
If he knew what was good for him, which Josh Lyman rarely did. As though it had a will of its own, his right hand wrapped tightly around his erection and began to pump. Donna's face floated in front of him. Donna's hair and the way it cascaded over her shoulders. Donna's blouse. Donna's breasts. Donna's soft hands and the way she lovingly stroked his skin. The way she looked at him as though he were a living miracle. The way she berated him, laughed with him, gabbed endlessly about her cause-of-the-day. The way she lived here without living here at all.
The way she'd looked at him after he awoke. Standing in the doorway of his hospital room, shattered and pieced together all at once.
Hers was the name that tumbled off his lips when his body tumbled over. Softly.
Their relationship was dangerous in many ways, but they would never confess it. They couldn't. And there was every chance in the world the danger was all on his end. He couldn't take chances like this. Serving the President came before everything else, and office romances never worked out.
He couldn't bear it if he lost Donna because of his raging hormones.
So he sat in the tub as his body cooled down. Breathless. Wanting.
And unsure whether or not calling her back was a good idea.
Josh sighed and glanced wearily to his wheelchair which seemed, at that moment, fifty miles away.
She crept back inside like a criminal, diligently avoiding his face as she reached for a towel and helped him to his feet. The air between them strained with tension he couldn't name. He hated it. His relationship with Donna had been many things, but never awkward, even when his body demanded more than he was willing to chance.
They needed banter.
"I'm going to go grab dinner," she announced before he could get a word in edgewise.
"It's nighttime, Josh."
"I noticed that."
"It's when people typically eat dinner."
"Another thing I know."
"I'd hope so."
"What happened to the Nazi food?"
A soft smile played across her face. "Well, I was going to get you some Kung Pao chicken, but if you'd prefer a bowl of vegetable soup, I can—"
"Oh praise God," Josh heaved, gripping the shower-bar with his freehand as she helped him into his pajama bottoms. Little Josh remained obediently flaccid, though they were both intimately aware of what had transpired, therefore the act of dressing was much harsher than the act of undressing. "You need money?"
"No," she replied. "I've got your wallet."
He grinned wickedly as he slid back into the wheelchair. "I don't guess this reprieve from Nazi food is going to last, is it?"
"Most likely not, so relish it now."
"Oh, I intend to."
"And pick out something to watch tonight. I'm in the mood for fluff." Task complete, she made her way to the door, twisting her hair into a ponytail with dexterity that enchanted him. "Not Dirty Harry."
"What's wrong with Dirty Harry?"
"We've already watched it three times."
"Never too much of a good thing, Donna."
She rolled her eyes at him, and he knew in that second everything would be all right. No matter what had happened here, they would be all right. Perhaps she'd overlooked it. Perhaps she'd accepted his flimsy pretty-girls-turn-guys-dumb explanation. Or perhaps she was still absorbing the aftershocks of what happened to care too much about awkward moments.
"Believe me when I say there is," she replied, disappearing out the door again. Then, over her shoulder, she called, "I'll be back in twenty minutes."
"Can I get a crab rangoon?"
"Don't push it."
Josh's grin widened as he rolled himself into the hallway.
It was going to be a good night.