A/N: Story written and originally published on LiveJournal in June of 2009.
Disclaimer: Aaron Sorkin is a creative genius and a brilliant wordsmith; I'm a lowly fangirl just borrowing his characters for a spell.
This was the sum total of their relationship:
Two movie ticket stubs from their first "in public" date – a movie, because neither of them were entirely comfortable with being seen (or photographed) in public together just yet. Dinner in a well-lit restaurant inevitably lent itself to the possibility that they would encounter press, or at the very least any one of a plethora of Washington figures who would recognize them as "White House Deputy Josh Lyman and His Assistant Donna Moss." He found the ticket stubs in the pocket of his jeans when he'd done laundry a week later, and, in a moment of uncharacteristic sentimentality, decided to keep them.
One chipped Green Bay Packers mug, which appeared in his kitchen cabinet in much the same way that she showed up in his life: unannounced, unexpected, almost inevitable. And, just as she had been sewn into his life almost seamlessly, the mug took up residence among his other flatware as if it had always been there and would always belong there. She would pull it from the shelf every morning she stayed over, fill it with the coffee she had set to brew the night before, and, after a moment's kidding, pour him a cup, too. Before her, he never had the presence of mind or the discipline to fill the coffeemaker with a fresh filter and grounds the night before; inevitably, he woke up the next morning and had to clean out the previous day's grounds and leftover coffee before he could brew a fresh pot. Her routine, as with all the others in her life, was effortless, and just like clockwork the coffee was brewing when they rose from his bed each morning.
A green toothbrush, the bristles of which indicated that it was a good six months past its suggested replacement date. He once asked her why she didn't just buy a new one, and she fell quiet, staring at the object in question as it rested in her hand, poised to go into her mouth. She gazed at it for a moment and then met his eyes, visibly debating with herself whether truthfulness was the best course of action. After a moment, she admitted that, when she forgot the toothbrush after one of their earlier nights together, she worried that its arrival would send him into a panic at the perception of forced domesticity or cohabitation. When he said nothing, and even went so far as to buy a cup so that their toothbrushes stood side by side, she lost a significant amount of the fear that her presence in his personal life was fleeting or temporary.
A University of Wisconsin-Madison sweatshirt, crumpled in a ball underneath his bed, which he found weeks afterward as he vacuumed, finally admitting that no cleaning fairy was going to appear out of nowhere and do it for him. The vacuum foot snarled its displeasure as it came into contact with something big and he snaked it out, unraveling the sweatshirt and shaking out the dust bunnies. It was the one she slept in during the winter months, when her flannel pajama pants and tank top weren't enough to keep her warm, even with his arms wrapped around her. It was worn from too many washes, and the cuffs at the wrists were frayed, but it was her favorite. When he discovered it, he lifted it to his nose out of pure habit, but the scent of her – a mix of her shampoo and some kind of floral scent – was gone. He tossed it into his hamper with his own dirty laundry and tried not to feel ridiculous for smelling it in the first place as he went back to his cleaning.
A book, mixed in amid his own, sandwiched on his bookshelf between Profiles in Courage and An Unfinished Life. It was a thick volume, and as he raised himself to his toes, squinting to read the title sloping down the spine in small, block letters, he realized it was the previous year's report by the Human Rights Watch. He remembered her marching her way through it early on, telling him when he asked that if they were truly the leaders of the free world, shouldn't they know exactly for whom they were supposed to be setting the example? He listened as she passionately listed the human rights violations in countries all over the world, and tried not to tamp down on her idealistic exclamations that they should DO something with the logic that, if things were that easy, they'd be doing them already. He listened to her voice, her indignation, and silently catalogued it as one more reason why he loved her.
A Cosmopolitan magazine that had reduced them both to hiccups after she'd made him take the "Do you understand your orgasm?" quiz. His jokes, her blushes, his answers, her reactions had egged them on until they were a mess of hysterical laughter, tear-blurred vision, and aching cheek muscles. After a moment's consideration, he grabbed her by the crooks of her knees and threw her legs around his waist, looming above her with the trademark smirk in place, reassuring her that not only did he understand his orgasm, he damn well understood hers, too, and he was going to prove it to her.
Hair elastics, showing up at inopportune times and in downright bizarre places, including inside his pillowcase, around the faucet in his shower, and around the gearshift in his car. He never understood how she seemed to have hundreds of them, which made even less sense considering how rarely she actually wore her hair up. It began to make more sense to him, though, as time wore on and he understood that, when she wasn't at work and trying to, in her words, "Look like an adult," she would knot her hair on top of her head or pull it into a ponytail at the base of her neck to keep it out of her face. He liked watching the smooth motion as she effortlessly swept it up, a seemingly inborn skill possessed by all women. He liked it best when she did it absently, her mind on something else: when she was reading something complicated, chewing on her lower lip with a slight crinkle between her eyebrows as she frowned in concentration; when she was cooking them dinner, following directions of a recipe from the cookbook that had magically appeared in his kitchen after one too many dinners of macaroni and cheese; once, even, as she was astride him and got impatient with the loose tendrils getting in her way when she leaned down to kiss his chest.
A bottle of nail polish – Bogota Blackberry, the label on the bottom informed him – that he found between the couch cushions when he was searching for the TV remote. The color reminded him of a night before he ever worked up the courage to kiss her, one of many times he had seen her in formal wear. It was the night of one of the many formal events thrown in the President's honor, and she appeared once again in a breathtaking dress that made his mouth go too dry for him to fall back on his standard jab about buying and then returning the dress. As his eyes traveled her figure, his gaze fell on her feet, encased in black, strappy sandals, and his attention was caught by her toenails, painted a bold shade of purplish-red. He was mesmerized by her toes in a way that still made little sense to him – that dark, bold color on Donna, who was always soft colors and understatement. It was perhaps his first hint of a darker side, and it was just nail polish but it intrigued him in a way that was entirely new to their dynamic. Later, after he'd grown used to kissing her and having her in his bed, he'd get unfathomably excited anytime she painted her toes a dark color.
A travel-size tube of lotion – cucumber with aloe – that she constantly applied and re-applied during the winter, and that she slathered on his own hands when he complained about the cracking skin on his knuckles. He bitched and moaned about his skin feeling slimy, but when she wasn't looking he raised his hands to his nose and inhaled, the scent smelling like her own skin and stirring feelings of contentment deep in his gut that equal parts exhilarated and terrified him.
A pillowcase that still smelled faintly like lavender and baby powder that he couldn't bring himself to wash, and that he curled himself around every night as he willed himself, unsuccessfully, to sleep.
There were also darker things that chronicled the less happy part of their history together; things that chronicled their demise.
The extra pregnancy test stashed beneath his bathroom sink, after the scare they had when she was nearly a week late, and which had resulted in some pretty ugly fighting on both their parts. He always thought, if such a situation arose, he'd have to be the jerk and explain why he simply wasn't daddy material, or that the timing wasn't right, or that it would be better to wait. What he hadn't counted on was the feeling that would take root in his stomach as soon as the possibility of Donna being pregnant entered his mind. The far-too-Republican-for-his-liking image of Donna, barefoot and pregnant in his apartment, that made him feel far safer and more content than he'd ever admit. The elusive image of a little girl with his wild curls and dimples and Donna's clear blue eyes that tugged at him, making him feel like there was somebody he had yet to meet who would throw his world into turmoil even more than Donna had. What he hadn't counted on was the possibility that Donna might be the one saying no. What he hadn't counted on was the possibility that she might not want to have his child. He certainly hadn't counted on the angry, ugly things that came out of his mouth when those fears overwhelmed him.
The sonogram picture of the baby that would never grow into the little girl with brown curls that he'd imagined so many times; the picture that he tucked into his walled but pulled out and stared at too many times to count. The little lima bean that was already making him want to fix the world and all its problems before it even arrived. Before, he'd wanted to save the world for other people's children. Then, he wanted to save it for his own. Now, he wasn't sure he cared who saved it anymore, or why they did it. Now he could admit to himself, if to no one else, that he secretly hated women who aborted babies, because he'd wanted his so badly and couldn't have it. Some days he hated Donna, because she was still deciding if she wanted it when the decision was made for them.
There was the mirror that was shattered when she threw the television remote across his bedroom, narrowly missing his head, after she found out about Amy. His explanation that he'd been drunk, broken-hearted, depressed about the miscarriage, hadn't meant anything. Honestly, he hadn't expected it to. He'd been confused, looking for a way out almost as desperately as he was looking for a way to fix it. Amy had been there, more than willing, and it had been the coward's way out. And he took it.
There was the cardboard box of things she left on purpose, things he gave her or that they acquired together that she simply didn't want naymore. The Art and Artistry of Alpine Skiing was the one that sucker-punched him and stole his breath. Rooting through the box, past cheesy stuffed animals, photo booth strips of snapshots, and various other mementos they collected during their time together, he found his first gift to her buried at the bottom of the heap. And, tucked inside it, the Bartlet for America credential that he held out to her, offered like a promise.