"Hey, Donna. Listen. I need a ride."
At her desk, Donna faced her computer monitor, her chin propped in her hand, but raised her eyes to find Josh peering down at her. He leaned against the glass partition, already wearing his long overcoat, his arms bent and rigid, his lips stretched into a straight, thin line. Donna drew an even breath and leaned back in her seat. "Where are we going?"
A muscle twitched in Josh's jaw. "M and 23rd Street," he said, the words rushing out of him. Josh spun and plucked her coat from the rack. He thrust it at her, his hand curled into a tight fist as he pinched the collar.
The breeze sent loose papers fluttering across the desk, and Donna pinned them down again, stinging her palm with a slap that made Josh's eyes widen. "What's at M and 23rd Street?" she asked, curious but skeptical. Josh asked for dozens of favors-emergency dry-cleaning, personal travel arrangements, assistance when he'd locked himself out of his apartment-but, so far, at least, he'd never asked for a ride to an unnamed place in the West End.
"Uh, a-" Josh blinked and dropped his head. "It's the-place I have to be." He shook her coat, urging her to take it. "A meeting. I have a meeting."
Donna tilted her head as she studied his face. "A meeting?"
"A very important meeting."
"A very important meeting?"
"Yes, a very urgent-" His shoulders fell, and his outstretched arm flopped to his side, Donna's coat going with it. "Donna, I need a ride."
"What do I look like? Your personal chauffeur? I do a lot of things for you, Josh, but one thing I am not is your personal chauffeur," she said, reaching for the phone. "I'll call for a cab. It'll be here in ten minutes."
Josh lunged forward, holding the phone's receiver to its base with his free hand. "No cab. I can't. It's really simple. I need a ride to M and 23rd, and I need you to take me, and wait there, so you can give me a ride back to my apartment, because-"
"Because you won't be able to walk? Josh, you live a few blocks away."
"Well, more than a few, Donna."
"You've walked farther than that to work. What's going on?" Donna lifted her hands away from the phone and let them fall into her lap. "Will you just tell me what's going on? And don't say 'an important meeting'."
Josh heaved a sigh. "Yes," he said, slow and uncertain.
"Yes? Yes, you'll tell me what's going on?"
"Yes, I won't be able to walk. At least, probably not very well."
"Oh, God," Donna said, standing, stepping forward, and herding Josh against the filing cabinet. She glanced over her shoulder before she spoke again, her voice hushed, "Josh, this isn't one of those drinking meetings, is it? Where you score some points with two tumblers and a bottle of Maker's Mark-"
"-and come back to the office drunk-"
"-where it then becomes my job to pour coffee down your throat and sober you up for-"
Donna snapped her mouth closed. She found Josh's eyes and focused.
Josh sidled out from between Donna and the cabinet, draping Donna's coat over his arm. "It's not that kind of meeting."
"Then what kind of meeting is it?"
"It's-it's nothing. It's-" Josh blinked, pressing his lips together as he inhaled. His words streamed out with a lungful of air. "I'm having my wisdom teeth pulled."
For a second, Donna faltered over her words. "You're-you're having your wisdom teeth pulled? I thought you were supposed to get those taken out when you were in college. When you're twenty, or something."
"You're supposed to, if they cause problems. But I only have two, and they never really bothered me, so I never had them taken out."
"You only have two?"
"Yeah. I'm-" Josh cocked his head, a half-grin pulling at the corner of his mouth. "Evolutionarily advanced."
"I'll remember that the next time you bellow from your office like a cave-person."
Josh eyed her, his lips parting and his grin fading. "I don't bellow. I-raise my voice. In a civilized tone. I don't bellow."
Donna leaned back, folded her arms over her chest, and found a seat on the corner of her desk. "So you, the great, advanced, cerebral being that you are, decided that it would be more beneficial to wait to have your wisdom teeth pulled. One of your more brilliant decisions, I have to tell you."
"No, you really don't."
Donna narrowed her eyes. "Do you know that only one percent of teenage patients experience nerve damage following a wisdom tooth extraction? One percent. But the percentage of adults jumps to twelve percent. So you've traded a couple useless teeth for a higher risk of permanent nerve damage, plus a longer recovery period, which, by the way, will be unpredictable. Or, more unpredictable than it would have been when you were nineteen."
"How do you know this?" he asked, studying her for a moment. "Last I checked, you weren't Donna Moss, DDS. If you are, you should really update your resume."
Donna shrugged. "I know things."
Josh raised his eyebrows. "You do?"
"Don't you need a ride?"
"Yes. Yes, I do." He swallowed and mustered a weak smile. "Please?"
She fixed her gaze on Josh's face. "You shouldn't have waited this long."
His concession, the surrender in his voice made Donna's chest tighten, and she hunched forward. She sighed. "To the surgeon's office, then home?"
Josh fell silent for a moment. He wet his lips, meeting Donna's eyes, before he glanced beyond her, scanning her desk, the floor, the walls. His fingers tore pills of wool from her peacoat. "Yeah," he said, fast and quiet. "It's just-I waited because they were fine. They were fine, and I kept reading about the-gauze, and the blood, and the clots, and-"
"Josh," Donna said, leaning toward him, her hands curled around the edge of her desk.
"-the blood, and I thought-"
"Josh." Donna curved her fingers around Josh's forearm, squeezing gently, and watched as Josh's mouth closed, his eyes darting to her hand. She waited until he looked at her face, holding steady before she added, "It'll be fine."
Donna offered him a closed-mouth smile as she reached for her coat and slipped into it. She retrieved her purse, holding its straps with one hand while she raised the other to the center of Josh's back and nudged him toward the exit, her palm breaking the tension between his shoulder blades. "CJ's going to have a blast with this," she said, her grin widening.
"Yeah, I know. I can't pretend she's not entitled," he said, his tone already lighter. "But don't tell her that."
"Of course not."
Despite a wary sideways glance, Josh returned her smile, lips quirked and cheeks dimpled, as they walked toward the doors.