Title: Pretending to Sleep (1/1)
Timeline: S7, sometime before The Cold
Disclaimer: I own nothing…I just borrow.
Feedback: Greatly appreciated.
A/N: This was an exercise in writing a story with no dialogue. Dialogue is my strength and I have to work really hard at description.
It was nights like this when Josh really wished he could sleep on the bus. All the neighboring seats in the back of the bus were filled with people who were sound asleep in various awkward positions. Josh was sprawled across two seats, reading. He sat slumped in the one against the window, resting his temple against the cold glass. His lap was piled high with briefing books that weren't making sense anymore.
It wasn't often that they drove through the night on the bus anymore. Usually time was too valuable. But in an effort to reach out to all Americans, not just those within an hour or two of the airport, they were driving tonight.
Josh's cheek bounced on the glass pane as the bus made its way along the uneven country road. It was giving him an awful headache. He clenched his eyes shut, and sat up. He needed to sit at the table if he had any hope of digesting the 1000 pages on his lap.
Scrubbing his tired eyes with his hand, Josh picked up the books and tossed them into his bookbag, which lay completely unzipped on the aisle seat. He yanked on the knot of his already loose tie till it came undone, wadding the fabric up and adding it to the mess in his bag before he zipped it up. He pushed himself to his feet. The throbbing in his head intensified, and he winced, picking up his bag by the fraying black straps.
No one stirred as Josh ambled down the narrow center aisle. He found it funny that in a bus full of campaign operatives he was the only one awake. It was 2am, but still. He passed by Lou, with her coat wedged against the window as a pillow. Bram had his long legs sprawled out into the aisle. Josh saw them just in time to not trip over them.
He sighed as he saw there was someone curled up on the bench around the table. There seemed to be just enough space for him to sit. His scowl turned to a soft smile when he got closer and saw that the sleeping form was Donna. She was lying under the window on her side with her head resting on her elbow. Her bangs had fallen across her face.
Josh sat in forward facing seat beside her head, quietly laying his backpack on the formica table. He slid the zipper open, tugging impatiently as it snagged on the worn canvas. Pulling the briefing books out launched a pen, which clattered down on the bench at Donna's side. Josh tensed, looking down at her. She stirred slightly, but didn't wake. Josh let out the breath he didn't realize he was holding. He didn't want to wake her, really he didn't. She deserved whatever meager hours of sleep she could cobble out of their hectic schedule.
He couldn't take his eyes off her. It had been a long time since he had gotten to watch her sleep. It used to be a guilty pleasure of his, on business trips, with Donna curled up in the chair beside him. When she was asleep, he got to watch her without worrying about her noticing him watch her. Then her head would tip onto his shoulder and that was a totally different guilty pleasure. Lying here asleep she looked so serene. This was the Donna he knew, the Donna he lo--. He clenched his eyes shut, not ready to go there.
As he opened his eyes again, he noticed the hair across her face. He really didn't like the bangs. They were part of the new Donna that he didn't know what to do with. He reached his hand out, stopping just short of her forehead. He wanted to brush them off her face. He contemplated it for a moment, and gently tucked the wayward hair behind her ear, the back of his knuckles barely touching her warm skin. He didn't want to break contact. Lightly, he let his hand rest on her shoulder, finally wrenching his gaze up and opening the briefing book on the table in front of him.
It was the tapping that woke Donna up. A dull tapping on her shoulder. She could feel that someone was sitting on the bench beside her head. She didn't need to open her eyes to know it was Josh. She'd always been able to sense him. It was something about all that restless energy. Restless energy that was currently drumming on her shoulder. Donna was sure he didn't realize he was doing it.
She peeked out from her heavy, sleepy eyelids. Josh had his elbow on the table, head in his hand. He stared intently down at the thick sheaf of papers. With a wince, Josh lifted his head to flip the page. He didn't move the hand on her shoulder, she noted. He picked up a highlighter, tapping it on the table in time with his finger drumming on her shoulder.
His brow furrowed as he read. The tapping stopped abruptly as he bit the cap off the highlighter, and scribbled yellow over a section of the page. He returned the marker to its cap, clicked it shut, and the tapping resumed. Donna smiled. She had always loved to watch him work. Such intensity. She was glad to see that fire. All too often these days it was snuffed out by frustration.
He looked exhausted, but she knew he rarely slept on the bus. She used to be able to get him to sleep sometimes, if he was really tired. He looked really tired tonight. But she didn't have that kind of influence anymore. Maybe she did. She really had no idea these days. Donna sighed.
The tapping stopped abruptly. Donna closed her eyes quickly, knowing Josh's attention had shifted suddenly down to her. She sighed again, and shifted a bit. Her forehead was now resting on the outside of her thigh.
He froze, stilling his hand on her shoulder. He hadn't realized that he'd started tapping his fingers. Absently, his thumb traced small half circles on her soft sweater. As he did, it seemed like she moved closer. He watched her intently. Her back rose and fell steadily. She was asleep. He was just imagining things. He gave her shoulder a light squeeze and slid his hand to her back.
Donna concentrated on breathing in and out evenly. His light touch tickled a little, but it felt really nice. In a lot of ways it was easier to pretend to sleep and just let him play, without letting on that she was awake and allowing him to do it. They still had a lot to talk about, and that wasn't going to happen any time soon. Right now it was just nice to be physically close to him. It had been so long.
Donna shifted in what she hoped was a natural-seeming way, curling her head closer to his leg still. Really, now she was using his thigh was a pillow. It was warm and inviting. She drew her hand up to rest on his knee. It was bold, but it passed as something she could have done just shifting in her sleep.
Josh inhaled sharply as Donna's hand landed on his knee. He looked down at the pool of blonde hair on this thigh. Should he wake her? He didn't want her to wake up suddenly and be angry with him about letting this go on. She looked so peaceful. Screw it, he thought. If she wanted to be mad at him later, so be it. Right now, he was going to enjoy the moment.
Josh ran the heel of his hand down her back, and she made a small sound of contentment. Hmm. Josh repeated the motion, and Donna repeated the noise. Suddenly, he was certain she was awake. And that she had been since she'd first drawn his attention with movement. But she was pretending to still be asleep. Curious.
He decided to pretend he hadn't noticed that she was actually awake. Acknowledging it would mean talking about it, and it was way too late at night for that. It was way too late for the damn briefing book in front of him too. He heaved it shut with his free hand, sitting back against the wall.
God he was tired. He closed his eyes. Donna's back was warm against his hand. Her cheek was warm against his thigh. Her thumb was playing with his knee, but he was pretending not to notice that. It was a particularly difficult task, as it was all he could think about.
Josh opened his eyes, watching for a moment as her delicate hand traced its pattern on the grey wool of his pants. He sat forward, putting his head down in his arms on the table.
Donna's breath caught as he leaned forward. His chest now grazed her other ear, and she shifted back a bit to increase the contact. It was all a bit ridiculous. By this point, he certainly knew she was awake. Yet, neither of them wanted to break the moment by acknowledging it.
As she thought about this, he shifted again. Donna resisted the urge to tell him to sit still. Talking to him would likely mean losing her warm, fleshy pillow. It was okay for them to touch if they didn't talk about it.
His leg straightened, and he laid it flat on the seats Donna was laying on. His other leg followed. Donna quickly, but casually, hooked her leg over his. She could have swore she heard him chuckle. He slouched down in the corner of the seat, which shifted Donna's head from thigh, to hip, to stomach. Finally, as he pushed himself to full horizontal, her head ended up on his chest.
She purred happily, and drew her hand up to rest over his heart. It had been so long since she had lied on his chest. Several years at this point. Too long, she sighed.
Josh wrapped his arm tightly around her shoulders. It felt so good to hold her. He hadn't held her in… He couldn't remember when the last time had been. Which meant it had been much too long ago. It wasn't like he used to get to hold her all the time. That was only true for the months right after he'd been shot, while she was staying with him. Every now and then after that they still ended up asleep in each other's arms. But it had been years since that had happened.
Josh tugged her closer. Her breathing was steady beneath his hand, and he suspected that she had actually fallen back to sleep. He closed his eyes, for the first time all night feeling like he might actually be able to sleep himself. He usually could with her by his side.