Bad Advice

A/N: This is my fifth fan fic (some X-Files stuff I wrote early on isn't on this site) and my first West Wing fan fiction. I found the series late (just this summer I slammed through all seasons in a few weeks) and I'm obsessed with Josh and Donna. Neither of them are the protagonist in this fic. She is made up and I guess slightly A/U, since no mention of her is made within the show/canon, but I've stayed true to everything that happened on the show, I've just added Dr. Brooke Bairstow, a friend of Donna's that we'll assume she e-mailed all the time, called every time that Josh let her leave the White House before 2 a.m. and who listened to everything that Donna confessed to her from the beginning to the end. Wow, long author's note.

Feedback is like the finest muffins and bagels in all the land.

Prologue:

I never thought I'd be this old, standing in a bridesmaid's dress, but here I am, almost 40 and wearing one and I couldn't be happier. This wedding has been coming for years—literally. It was danced around, whispered about, conjecture certainly played a role, but ultimately, the years proved that love can conquer all if you let it.

The bride is lovely, but it's easy to be when you are blonde and lithe and have teeth that are whiter than any bleach I've ever used (and they're natural.) Her hair is down, loose curls that are significant to the bride, to the groom and to three of the wedding guests (and possibly one cab driver, but we didn't track him down to ask.) Her gown is simple, tucked a bit to give a waist to someone who is so thin, but it accentuates her porcelain skin and she is wearing makeup that is tasteful and makes her glow, but I know that the mascara will be gone the minute that he sees her. Because he'll cry and then she'll cry and that'll be it for her makeup, but for now, it's perfect.

I adjust the strap of my cerulean gown (I'd suggested red as a wedding color, but she said that Josh preferred when she wore red dresses and remembering a story she told me once, I let that go and settled for blue) and turn toward her. "Donna?"I ask. Her mother has made last minute adjustments and went to be seated by Charlie, an usher, and aside from the flower girl, Miranda, who is sitting in a corner dropping rose petals into her basket, I'm the only woman left in the room with the bride, my best friend.

My eyes well with tears. A part of me can't really believe that after all these years, this is finally happening. "Yes?" she says and turns to me, her eyes mirroring mine. "Okay, Brooke, why are you crying?"

My words get stuck in my throat. "I feel like I'm in a romantic comedy and the leads are finally getting together," I say, earnestly, honestly. Donna laughs and the tears at the corners of her brilliant eyes spill down her cheeks.

"Me too," she says and we're both crying, for everything, for nothing, for all the years of friendship, for the years she missed with Josh because she was too afraid, because I gave her the best advice that turned out to be wrong. As if hearing my thoughts, Donna wipes her eyes carefully and says, "Remember all the times you told me to find someone else, move on, that this was never gonna happen?"

I start to object, to tell her that the advice was sound, that any other situation I should have—would have—been correct. Before I can voice my objections, though, Donna squeezes my arm softly and says, "Thank you."

I am taken aback. "What?" I say, a bit incredulous. Is she thanking me for good advice that was horrible in practice? I kept her from Josh for eight years.

"Brooke, you were my friend, you told me the truth when I didn't want to hear it, you kept me sane when he drove me crazy, the advice you gave, the advice I listened to, that's what got us here." She sounds reverent. I must look disbelieving, because she continues, her eyes now dry and thankfully, the mascara not gone or smudged. "Josh and I weren't ready then. We're ready now because we dated other people, because I quit, because I listened to you."

I sputter, "But you could have been having this day seven or eight years ago, and…" I look at her with what I hope is a twinkle in my eye, "I wouldn't be a 39 year old bridesmaid."

We both laugh and when Donna goes to get Mariah Santos and takes one last second to check her hair, I think she may be right. Maybe all my bad advice got her here: the day she becomes Donna Lyman.