The Maine Thing

Author's Note: This is a total AU fantasy-not magical fantasy, the romantic kind. It's got mystery, suspense (sort of), melodrama, a fair dash of angst, and I hope a fair dash of romance, too, though if you're looking for steamy sex scenes you'll be disappointed, I'm afraid; those have never been my thing. Think of it as beach reading, summer-movie stuff. And, oh yeah, it's also West Wing J/D fanfic.

It's set two years after the end of Season 6, in a village on the coast of Maine. You can assume continuity with the show more or less up to the convention. I've moved a couple of things that actually happened at the convention forward a week or two, and then I've messed around big time with what happened during the convention week. It starts off a bit slowly, I'm afraid, but I couldn't figure out any other way to set the story up. Things should pick up if you stick with it.

First posted on JDFF in June and July 2005.

The Maine Thing

1—

It was a beautiful day. Donna couldn't remember the last time she'd spent such a beautiful day in such a beautiful place, and not had anything she had to do except enjoy it.

"This is heaven, Mar," she said, stretching her legs out in the deck chair so they could catch the full sun. One of them had a white streak of sunscreen down its side; she bent over and smoothed it in.

"Absolute heaven," Marie agreed, rubbing lotion in circles on her belly and scooping the excess out of her navel with a flick of her finger. The dock rocked gently under them, the little swell lapping quietly against its sides.

"Have you ever seen anything so blue?"

"It's gorgeous, with all those white sails."

"And those little islands beyond the harbor—they're all green and purpley."

"Mmm, yes. Blueberries, I bet. Karena said they're in season now. Maybe she'll have some for breakfast."

"I love blueberries."

"Me, too."

"Heaven."

"Absolute heaven."

The two women stretched out in their deck chairs and contemplated heaven in a contented silence that lasted about a minute before it was broken by a shriek. The dock suddenly lurched, and a voice said, "Damn it, I'm spilling! Quick, someone, grab something before I drop it all." Donna and Marie both jumped, and scrambled out of their chairs. Their hostess had appeared on the gangway and was trying to balance a large tray filled with glasses, several bowls and baskets covered with napkins, and a jug of something that was slurping dangerously close to the top, all without losing grip on the ice bucket she had hooked over one wrist or the bottles that were clamped under either arm. Donna got to her first, taking the tray out of her hands, while Marie rescued the bottles.

"Karena!" Marie scolded. "What on earth were you trying to do?"

"Bring breakfast down," her friend said, pouting a little. "I didn't want to have to do the stairs again; it's such a trek."

"We could have."

"Just as much of a trek for you. I was fine, only that champagne bottle started to slip, just as I was coming down the last steps. It's from Daddy's special supply; he'd kill me if I wasted it."

Donna looked at the bottles Marie had rescued, her eyebrows almost disappearing into her hair. Even after Bob Russell's presidential campaign she wasn't used to the idea of sipping expensive champagne at 10:00 in the morning.

"He'll kill you anyway, if we use that," Marie said, setting the bottles down on the dock and pulling up a folding table for Donna to put the tray on.

"Oh, he'll never know," Karena answered placidly. "He doesn't keep track; he just orders more when Maeve says the supply is down." Maeve, Donna had already found out, was Karena's stepmother. "But if I'd dropped them I'd have been sure to tell, just to see the expression on his face. He'd look so funny." She giggled, and picked up the corkscrew. "There's muffins in that basket; I had Rosa go down to the village this morning." Rosa was the maid. "There's the best little bakery there. And orange juice in that pitcher, and blueberries in the big bowl, and coffee. Help yourselves."

After the pop of the champagne cork there was silence again, except for the clink of bottle neck on glass, and the water rolling against the dock and the rocky shore. This time the silence was broken by the buzz of a big motor boat crossing the harbor. A minute later the wake hit the dock, sending the golden liquid splashing over the rims of their glasses, to a chorus of "Oh!'s" and "Ack!'s" and "Damn!'s"

"I guess I got these a bit too full," Karena said ruefully. "Better drink it up quick, and I'll pour smaller glasses next time."

"If they're smaller, we can have more of them," Marie said.

"Exactly."

"This is heaven."

"Absolute heaven," Karena agreed. "Well, almost absolute heaven."

"Almost?"

"Sixth heaven. Maybe fifth."

"And I was thinking it was perfect," Marie said. "What's missing, Karen?"

"Men," her hostess said with a grin. "Really good-looking, hunky, hot men."

"Well, you've got a point there."

"We'll go out tonight and find some."

"We will?"

"We will. There are a couple of good spots in town, and there should be lots of guys up here this weekend. Locals, too—the workmen can be really hot." She raised her glass. "To men," she said. "To us finding some really hot men. In the village. Tonight."

"To men," Donna answered dutifully, clinking glasses with the other women and taking a small sip from hers. Neither Marie nor Karena noticed how forced her smile looked, or how quickly it faded, the corners of her mouth turning down as she looked away. The three women spent the morning stretched out in their chairs, chatting aimlessly, soaking in the sun and the glorious view, but Donna's voice never quite regained its lightness or her eyes their smile.

There was just one man she wanted to find, but she didn't know how. It had been eighteen months since she'd seen him. She hadn't thought anything could be worse than the first fourteen of those, but she'd been wrong. At least then she'd known where he was. Exactly where he was. That had been bad, but this was worse: for the first time since she'd met him, she didn't have any idea where he could be at all.

oooooo

She'd gotten the invitation the week before. "Hey, Donna, come out to dinner with us," Marie had said, as they were leaving work. "I'm meeting some friends; it'll be fun."

Marie was one of the most social people Donna had ever known. She was always meeting friends after work, and passed invitations around like the box of candy she kept on her desk. She'd done her best to include Donna ever since Donna had started working for the group, a not-for-profit that lobbied Congress for children's causes. Donna liked her and ate lunch with her a couple of times a week, but she almost always turned down the invitations to socialize after hours, just as she turned down all the offers of dates with men she got, and there had been quite a few of those. Will, Cliff, Bill Brewer—sometimes it seemed as if every man she'd ever had a drink with was asking her out, and a lot of new ones, too. Cliff had been particularly persistent. Of course, there'd been more between them than just drinks once, but that had been a long time ago, and she'd made it clear, the one time she had gone out with him again during the campaign, that there wasn't going to be more between them again. That had been over two years ago, and yet he kept calling, checking in in a friendly sort of way, but obviously hoping she'd change her mind. It was flattering, really, but she didn't care. Having so many possibilities would have pleased her once; now she wished they would all go away. She could keep her attention on her work during the day, but it took an effort; at night she just wanted to be by herself. Needed to be by herself. If she didn't have that time alone to let herself go, she knew she wouldn't be able to hold it together when she had to. She didn't cry—she almost never cried—but she didn't have to pretend to be all right, either.

But being alone every night wasn't working so well anymore. It hadn't been working for quite a while, really. She knew she couldn't go on like that; it had been one thing when there'd been an endpoint to the misery, a finishing line that she'd thought she just had to get across and then things would start to get better. But that line had come and gone four months ago, and nothing had gotten better at all. She needed to change something, so last Friday when Marie had said, "Come out to dinner with us," she'd said, "Sure." And when Marie's friend Karena had said, "I'm going to the cottage next week; come stay," and Marie had said, "Come on, Donna, it'll be fun," she'd said, "Okay. Sure." Congress was out of session; there was nothing worth mentioning to do at work; she'd already planned to take a few days off. Spending them in the company of two friendly women at a seaside cottage on the coast of Maine sounded a whole lot better than spending them doing laundry alone in her apartment, especially when the airconditioner had broken and the landlord still hadn't come to fix it. So she'd packed a bag and got on a plane with Marie, and here she was, staying in a house that was several times larger than her apartment, with a huge verandah and five decks terraced down the side of a cliff and a private dock at the bottom, with her own tastefully decorated room and bath, a beautiful view of one of Maine's more beautiful harbors, and a hostess who served fresh blueberries and muffins and mimosas made with expensive champagne for breakfast. In heaven. Except that it wasn't heaven, because Josh Lyman wasn't there. And wherever he was, wherever he'd been for the last four months, she didn't really think he was all right.

oooooo