A/N: Set within the first few minutes of "Election Day I", I tried to give both POVs. Josh's are shorter by necessity - everything he thinks is written in his face, in his body language, in his actions. It's Donna that's the mystery here because she doesn't do or say any of what, I imagine, a good 95% percent of us expected from her when this FINALLY happened. And yet it still made sense to me. This is the prose version of what I figured was going on in her brain. With bits from Josh to keep us on our timeline. And because the freeway metaphor just appeared in my brain and started this whole thing, so because I started with him, I couldn't just leave him out of it altogether...that's just rude. Feedback is love, because this is a new fandom for me, and I want to make sure I'm doing them right.
Usually it wasn't liquid courage, it was liquid amnesia. But this time the burn made me clench my teeth and focus my mind. It felt like a freeway in there – like switching lanes at rush hour, checking the mirror compulsively and still having the feeling that any second you were going to slide into a crash at sixty-five miles an hour. It made it difficult to breathe, like it was some…fever dream.
I rose and followed her, two steps behind. As we boarded the elevator, she stepped sideways. I propped myself up on the handicap rails, and she didn't look back at me. She stood ramrod-straight, and didn't speak. My heart raced, I could feel my blood pressure in the flush of my neck – like this was maybe a mistake. Something didn't feel right – why wasn't she…saying anything? Wasn't this…wasn't this…big? It felt big. It felt so many things. It felt big and scary and fast and the slowest elevator in the history of the planet.
My eyes might have bored a hole into the back of her skull. There was no air circulation in our mute moving room – each thread of her hair stayed perfectly in place. That is, until she rubbed the back of her neck, flipping the hair off the curve of her shoulder. For the first time, I thought to myself she was beautiful, and didn't try to make myself take it back or justify it in a generic way to trick my own mind.
It must have taken twenty minutes for the doors to open once it stopped. I wondered if I held my breath, because when the doors slid open with a smooth hydraulic hiss, I felt dizzy and had to shake my head to clear the black spots.
She walked out of the elevator and turned left, still not looking at me. I stood in the middle of the hallway and watched her walk, no, saunter, down the hallway, a sweater sleeve dragging on the carpet. Again, my mind seemed to buzz with so much…so many thoughts and voices that it was a dull hum echoing in my ear canals. I kept taking deep breaths, like I had to remind myself to breathe.
And then I followed after her.
# # # # #
I smoothed my skirt to keep my hands from shaking. Swallowing hard, my heart beating a hundred miles a minute, I stood and sat down next to him. My burst of confidence all those weeks ago had dissipated into thin air. Well, not so much thin air as dissolved into panic and second, third, fourth, ninth-guessing myself. Wasn't this what we had been waiting for? I couldn't believe, right then, that I'd read it wrong for so long. Years. But that look had been…well it had been down right enigmatic, and he had never been enigmatic.
But then he had kissed me. Sure, it had been in a moment of exhilaration, and if it had been just that, if it had stopped there, maybe I could have written it off. But it didn't. It didn't stop there, and I honestly don't know if it would have stopped when it did if we weren't interrupted.
So I took a deep breath and I concentrated on asking my body not to betray me by shaking like I had Parkinson's.
My chest tightened when he gave me that look – that look that I'd never actually seen but suspected at least three people of my acquaintance were…familiar with. His sidelong glance was lazy and it was sexy and wanted to object to my own course of action and couldn't. I wanted this too much. I knew all of his looks, all of his faces, all of his body language - except this and except now. The way he had draped himself over the couch was meant to be relaxed, but it didn't feel like it, not really. But then again my judgment was clouded by my own considerable fears, so I suppose perhaps I wasn't the best to appraise the situation.
And there was so much riding on this moment; on this moment that was, I let a tiny part of myself hope, the first in a series of moments. And at the same time I wondered if I was loading the final bullet into the gun – if what I was encouraging was merely the means to the final end. It would happen and the last threads that tied me to him – this person who had once been my closest friend in a way neither of us could ever or did ever articulate so blatantly, would be cut clean. Never mind that my heart had been breaking for two years, never mind that I would have to leave behind all the friends I'd made over the last eight – I would be running away again. I wanted to think I was better than that, more mature this time. Maybe I was. Maybe that's how I knew, right then, that it wouldn't be an escape, a change of venue, a new path. It would be running away.
I walked to the elevator and tried not to look back to see if he followed.
He leaned on the handicap rails behind me, and my heart fluttered so fast I couldn't turn and face him. Seduction was not a trait that had developed in my time away from him – it felt awkward enough already and I didn't know what to do. It had always been easy between us, and now the air felt so heavy my chest was in danger of collapsing in the pressure. I felt a twinge in my right lung – a twinge I hadn't felt in months, and I was suddenly aware of how tightly strung every muscle group in my body was, and I wanted to laugh, just a little, at the distinct possibility that I would actually pass out. He was still silent, and I massaged the back of my neck, trying to convince myself to relax. It wasn't helping.
When the doors opened, I still couldn't look back at him – I couldn't see the look on his face as his eyes met mine and everything was laid out as the biggest mistake he would ever make. I didn't want to see the fear, the panic. I would lose my nerve if I did, and the running would start right there.
My fingers were cramped and I tried to flex my knuckles, accidentally dropping my hold on my sweater. I didn't want to drag it on the floor, but that issue seemed to be knocked to the bottom of the list of things I could worry about right then.
I still didn't look back to see if he followed.
# # # # #
She stood at her door, and I stood behind her, wondering why it was so confusing. Hadn't I been here before? Hadn't I been part of so many trysts that this couldn't possibly still be so hard to sort out? I swallowed hard, thinking about that word – tryst. Maybe because this wasn't it. I hoped to God it wasn't. I didn't want it to be and I didn't know how to make it obvious I didn't want it to be that. I leaned over her, one arm propped on the doorjamb, and the key card came from nowhere. She put it in backwards the first time, and the angry beep made us both chuckle under our breath. The way she was concentrating on it, twisting it abruptly in her hand to try again, I thought I might've seen her hand twitch. I leaned down and kissed her softly, pressing my lips to that curve between neck and shoulder.
She got the green light and finally turned to look at me, holding open the weighted door.
I crossed the threshold and took her face in my hands and kissed her like I'd kissed her before – like it was something I'd been waiting for and finally been given permission to do correctly.
Her skin was silk like her hair was silk, and I thought I might never want to stop touching her.
As I held her, I said her name with the reverence I'd been waiting to speak those syllables for days I couldn't number. And hearing my name pass her lips in that breathy whisper was the most beautiful thing about her.
# # # # #
I felt him standing behind me, hovering, his body heat radiating through my clothing and making me feel...safe. The stupid keycard didn't have the arrows like every other keycard in the history of the universe and I put the damn thing in backwards. Such a little thing and I almost collapsed to the floor sobbing like it was a sign that I was going to really really screw this up. Maybe I already had.
My hand shook so violently trying to get that goddamned green light and to hear that telltale shot of the door lock that I almost grabbed my right wrist with my left hand to calm myself.
And he laughed a little. He laughed and then I felt his shirt touch mine and his lips on my skin and all the tension drained away. At the core of it, were always his apologies. Whenever he said or did something stupid, he always knew it later. Sometimes it took only seconds, sometimes it took days, and sometimes it took a play-by-play, but he always apologized. Never until he felt he'd done something wrong, and never if it was only a perceived slight instead of an actual one. Maybe that's why I always forgave him – because the "I'm sorry"s were never theatrical. They were always real.
Somehow that kiss felt like an apology, and I wasn't quite sure for what, but it gave me the courage to open my door and beckon him in, to take that final step beyond the point of no return.
I had never been kissed so sweetly in my entire life. There were a few that came close, but it seemed that this one, that I had been waiting for, this one topped all the others because I let it take my breath away.
His fingers on my skin, brushing over my shirt and then down my sides and then under my top, across belly and ribs were gentle and then gentleness turned into gentle force as his thumbs pressed into my hips, pulling my body to his as he kissed me.
And oh did he kiss me. I participated to the best of my ability, but I had a strange flashback of a John Wayne movie, about being "good and kissed". I was being good and kissed and it was the most wonderful feeling in the world. I might have created hype, based on years of observation, in a small corner of my mind, and I smiled into his mouth, because the hype was all true.
It was all I could do to stay on my feet, and I started to wonder who was seducing who, because his mouth moved from mine to my neck, to my shoulders, the buttons on my shirt verily parted at the slightest brush of his fingertips, and he kissed his way down to his knees and again I had to smile to myself – I didn't like older men for nothing. Enthusiasm takes on a whole new spin when it's coupled with experience.
Later, hearing my name whispered into the stillness of our otherwise wordless encounter, turned my insides to gelatin and let myself hope that this wouldn't be the end of it – if only I could hear him say my name like that again. I finally said his name at the last, said it like I'd wanted to say it for years, like I'd said it in my dreams, and he kissed it away from me and I was well and truly lost.
# # # # #
Never had a morning after been so…confusing. There is that word again. Why, if this was something I know I'd wanted for years and never allowed myself to have and been hurt by so many damn times, was it so hard to figure out? Not that I was ever privy to the wheels that turned in her head, but at least I could usually understand it on some level. I had no idea what she was thinking, no idea why, at three a.m., she would be getting up to leave.
Through all her excuses, I just wanted to kiss her again. I wanted to make her know that this wasn't a one-night stand for me.
I wondered if that's what it was for her.
# # # # #
I felt him toss and turn on the bed. He was awake. Maybe he was waiting for me to leave, waiting for me to…I don't know. I used to get him, I used to understand him, but this was not a him that I knew. I didn't know "morning after" Josh, I didn't know "sex" Josh at all.
Who can ever know if it would have been what it had been if I hadn't been in love with him for so long. I had thought I had loved at least one other guy, and had really wanted to love at least one besides that. It had never been like it was last night. And that scared the shit out of me. I was too deep in this, and the gap between our bodies had grown cold hours ago and this was my exit pass. I wasn't going to stick around for the "thanks" or the "this sort of stuff happens in such a highly charged environment" or any of the other talks he might have up his sleeve.
But then he surprised me. He's surprised me before with his sweetness, because it seems that as often as it's happened, I still never expect it from him.
He got up right after I did and he hovered. He asked how I felt and he ate toothpaste surreptitiously, like he was concerned about morning breath. I didn't kiss him, even though I wanted to, because it was suddenly not as cut and dry as it had been in my mind just moments ago. I couldn't help the weird feeling of suspicion, like now I had to un-convince myself of his intention to apologize for any preconceived notions about last night. He was being sweet and I loved the sound of his voice before he had woken it up with his chattering, when it was still low and husky, and I loved the smile that played around his lips.
I ducked out from under him, trying not to smile back. I was afraid that if I did, I would wake up, and this would all be a dream.
So I said thank you in the way that was us, apologized for my coldness in the way that was us, said "this isn't over yet" in the way that was us – I went and got us coffee at quarter after three in the morning.