Author's Note: This is a series of short post-eps for the "Election Day" episodes. They were first posted on JDFF in April 2006 as four separate stories, which I've combined into one here. Some are from Donna's point of view, and some from Josh's. They were a bit of an experiment for me, to see if I could do those funny first-person voices I enjoyed so much in other people's fics. I think the answer is probably "no," but since I'm putting my other stories up here, these might as well go up along with the rest.
Part 1: The Art of Having Sex Without Touching
This was supposed to be it. This was supposed to be the most important moment of my life. Well, moments—an hour or so. The hour that would change everything. The hour that would complete everything, make everything right. Not perfect—I'm not a teenager anymore—just, right. Really right.
But that was a long time ago. I stopped having that fantasy the night of the shutdown, the night I had that conversation with C.J. and she pointed out just how deluded I was about Josh. Well, to be entirely honest, I didn't stop having that fantasy completely, but I definitely stopped believing it. What this was really supposed to be was the hour that was going to clear all those ridiculous ideas out of my head for once and for all. I was going to have the sex, get it over with, and get on with my life. It was C.J.'s idea that one-night stands would help me get over him, after all. She meant one-night stands with other men, of course. I tried taking her advice, but it never seemed to work out the way she'd said it would. Maybe I didn't take it often enough, or maybe I didn't choose the right men or the right nights, or maybe . . . .
However, after months of closeness-induced frustration and (because this is Josh we're talking about) irritation, it finally crossed my sleep-deprived, campaign-drained brain that the one-night stand didn't have to be with someone else. It could be with him. This is perfect, I thought, when it occurred to me: I can have my cake and eat it too. Indulge this irrational obsession I have for him, resolve the unresolved sexual tension, get him out of my system and be able to think about something else for a change. Like other men's biceps, other men's cheekbones, other men's asses, other men's smiles, other men's dimples, other men's eyes, other men's eyebrows . . . . Just, other men. And it would be excellent stress relief; I was really just too keyed up about this campaign. Yes, no question about it, I'd definitely had a brilliant idea there. Someone should give me an honorary degree for an idea like that. Or a promotion to a new position: Professional Political Operative. But I'd already had that.
The first attempt didn't work that well. Slipping him my key seemed like a good plan: a cool, sophisticated, I-do-this-all-the-time kind of move. Then Ronna brought it to me. For a minute that upset me; I wondered what message he was sending there, what point he was trying to make. Then I saw his face and realized he wasn't sending any message, he just hadn't picked up the key before Ronna did. Which left me pretty much in the dark about why he hadn't picked up the key, and nothing he said or did the next time I saw him shed a whole lot of light on that. I put my brilliant idea aside for a while after that, but in spite of all my best efforts, I couldn't seem to forget it. That shouldn't really come as a surprise: I think I've demonstrated pretty conclusively by now that my none of my best efforts to forget about Josh has ever been what you'd call a terrific success. But that's just because of the sex, because we haven't had it yet. Once we've broken that sexual-tension thing I'll be able to see him for what he really is and move on. And then everything will be—not perfect, I'm not expecting that. But all right. Then everything will be all right.
So here I am, walking out of this hotel lounge and wondering if he's going to come after me or not. I could hardly have made myself any plainer without actually bending over and flashing my underwear at him, or grabbing him right there. I think I brought it off pretty smoothly, really. I think I must have looked like I knew what I was doing, even if I haven't really done this all that often, and even if I admitted I've never done it on a campaign before. I wasn't really planning to let that slip, but I'm hoping he'll forget it. I'm walking like I know what I'm doing, aren't I? I'm not Donna Dairy Queen anymore. I've picked up guys before. I've had my share of casual sex. I'm not really a Sex and the City girl, but I know how to act like one. I know how to be cool, collected, sophisticated. I can do this. Right?
Yeah, he's coming after me. I didn't think he could resist. A campaign fling, no strings attached—what guy would turn that one down?
He doesn't try to touch me in the elevator. He stands a little way away from me, looking at me sideways, not touching me, not saying anything. I stare straight ahead, smiling a little, hoping I look enigmatic and sexy instead of crazy with nervousness and—whatever this is I'm feeling. Lust, I guess; that's all it could be. Nervousness and lust.
He follows me to his room, just a step behind me, the way I used to walk behind him all the time back in the White House, the way I still end up walking behind him when he's tearing off to do something important for the campaign. He's letting me take the lead here. I wonder what that means? I like to take the lead a little, but I don't want to have to take it all the way. There wouldn't be much stress relief in that; more like a stress-compounder: do this, do that; put it there; no, not there, there; faster, slower; harder, softer; not like that, no—I'm getting stressed just thinking about it. I hope he's better than that. He's got to be, doesn't he? He's had plenty of experience, and he's a take-charge kind of guy, to put it mildly. And I can't imagine any of his girlfriends I've known . . . . but I don't want to think about that. I don't want to think about them.
I wish he'd put his hand on my back, but he doesn't. We get to his door and I hold out my hand for his keycard and open it and walk in. He stops just over the threshold, holding the door open, looking at me in such a strange way.
"You might want to shut the door," I say over my shoulder. I'm trying to sound very collected here. He takes another step into the room and lets it close behind him, but doesn't come any closer to me.
I turn around and look him up and down.
"Donna," he says, his voice cracking like a teenager's.
"Jo-osh," I say. Mocking is one of the things I do well with Josh. If I can mock him a little now, maybe I can do this.
"Are you—sure—you want—to do this?" He sounds pretty unsure himself, which makes me more nervous than I was a minute ago. If he doesn't want this . . . .
"Do what?" I say, trying to stay cool.
"This," he says, gesturing kind of wildly into the room, towards the bed.
"We don't seem to be doing anything at the moment."
He swallows, hard.
"We could change that," he says, taking a step towards me. His voice is a whole lot lower-pitched than it was.
"So we could."
"Okay," he says huskily, still standing there, just looking at me and not doing anything. What on earth does he want? And then I realize. Of course. He's worried about what's going to happen tomorrow if we do this tonight.
"Okay, Josh," I say, moving in to close the gap between us. "But maybe we should get on with it. We've got an election to win tomorrow, and it's pretty late now; our time for casual sex is kind of limited here."
I'm proud of the way I managed to slip that in. Just to make myself clear. Just in case he's holding back here because he's afraid of what I might expect from him tomorrow. I might not have slept with him before, but I know Josh well enough to know there's a reason why he's forty-five and not married, and he knows me well enough to know I don't always take it well when my dates don't call back or send roses the next day, when they don't want a long-term thing.
A strange expression crosses his face.
"Yeah," he says, and his voice sounds—odd. I'm not used to that voice from Josh, or that expression on his face; I don't know what they mean. "Yeah. Of course. That's right." He takes my face in his hands and starts to kiss me, almost roughly. I kiss back. And things go on more or less as you'd expect from there.
So here I am, lying with my back turned to him, as close to the edge of the bed as I can get. He's lying the same way, which is pretty much what I was expecting. What I wasn't expecting is that we didn't have to be lying this way. No guy I've ever slept with casually—okay, no guy I've ever slept with, period—has ever wanted anything else after sex: they say thanks, they roll over, maybe they mutter a sleepy compliment or two, but that's basically it until they're ready for the next round of athletic fun.
Josh, wouldn't you know, is different. He tried to hold me afterwards; I'm the one who rolled away. He's reached out to touch me three or four times in the hour we've been lying here; he pulls back when I don't respond. I never expected him to do that. It's thoughtful of him. I should be grateful: I used to hate it when guys wouldn't make the effort even to pretend the sex was something more than what it was. Now I wish he wouldn't. It's making this so much harder than it should be. Harder than I think I can really take.
If I let him touch me now, let him hold me, I don't know what will happen. I might hold on to him so hard I'd break something. I might break down and cry. I might fall apart and start babbling incoherently about that day in New Hampshire eight—almost nine—years ago, about working for him, about working for Will, about working for him again in this new role and all the complicated things I feel about it. About Rosslyn, about Gaza, about Germany, about coming home, about the therapy I had to do, about that last fall before I left. About leaving. About being away. About coming back.
And since I have absolutely no idea what I would say about any of those things—no idea which of the hundreds of thousands of completely contradictory things I've thought and still think about those things, whenever I'm stupid enough to think about them at all—because I have absolutely no idea what would come tumbling out of my mouth, I need to make absolutely certain I don't open it and start babbling at all. Because it would be embarrassing. Demoralizing. Humiliating. Because this is just campaign sex. Just stress relief. Just a chance to resolve some unresolved sexual tension, just a little sex therapy for a woman who's been just a bit obsessed with a man for a very long time.
The trouble is, I'm not feeling the way I was expecting. The sex wasn't what I was expecting. I've had a fair amount of sex in my life: it's good or it's bad, there isn't much in between. I've been lucky: I've never had a really seriously bad time. I'm not sure I've ever had a really totally stunning, absolutely amazing, completely thrilling time, either. What we just had could have been any or all of those, but it wasn't; it was—different. Not what I was expecting. Not bad, certainly. Good, really—more than good; I'm sure most women would call it excellent. But it felt strange, and not the way I was expecting.
The way he kissed me wasn't what I was expecting. When we kissed that first time, that morning when I came into his room with the polling results and he grabbed me and kissed me, it was different from this: gentler, more intimate, although of course neither of us was expecting it to lead to anything else; we weren't even expecting it to happen.
It's not that there was anything wrong with the way he kissed me tonight, or with what came after it. He was passionate. He was sexy. He took the lead. After I told him to get on with it, he didn't hesitate, and he knew what he was doing. Which is what I was really expecting—he's had plenty of experience, and I couldn't imagine Mandy or Amy sticking around with a man who wasn't good in bed. I can now say it for myself: Josh is good in bed. He asks all the right questions, does all the right things, does them in pretty much the right way. He lasted longer than I was expecting, considering his sensitive system and the whiskey he'd been drinking before we came upstairs. And he even tried to hold me afterwards and say nice things to me.
But something was missing, something didn't feel right. Maybe it was the whisky. It was all I could smell when he kissed me, all I could taste. I don't mind the smell or the taste—I'd been drinking it too—but I minded it on him. It made him taste like half the other men I've slept with, not like what I was expecting, not like Josh. The other morning when he grabbed me and kissed me he tasted like sleep and stale coffee, but underneath that he tasted like Josh. And I know what Josh should taste like, even though I'd never kissed him before. You can't take a man's shirts to the dry cleaners for eight years without knowing what he should taste like. You can't sleep on busses and planes next to a man for eight years without knowing what he should taste like. And Josh shouldn't taste like whisky: it's not really his drink. He only drinks it when he's either badly depressed, or showing off. Or when he thinks he has to to fit in with whoever he's drinking with, which is pretty much the same thing as showing off. He should taste like beer or coffee with cream and three sugars or peppermint toothpaste, but underneath that he should taste like—Josh.
Maybe it was the whisky, maybe it was something else: I don't know. I don't know what to think anymore, what to feel. I thought I knew what was going to happen tonight: the sex might be good, the sex might be bad, but in the end it would be just sex, like all the other sex I've had in my life, even with Alan, and when it was over I'd feel—free. Released, resolved. Ready to go on. I might not have done this on a campaign before, but I've had enough casual sex to know how it works. It doesn't work like this.
It doesn't leave you wanting to hold on to the man lying next to you so hard you might break something. It doesn't leave you wanting to spill out the whole story of your life and everything you've ever felt, everything you've ever thought about him in all its embarrassing, humiliating detail. It doesn't leave you wanting to break down and cry. It leaves you feeling a little cheap, or a little dirty, or a little sad that this is the only kind of sex you're able to get anymore; it leaves you wondering when you're going to find the man who doesn't leave you feeling this way; but it doesn't leave you feeling like you've found him but he's on one side of the universe and you're on another and in between there's about a trillion, zillion lightyears of cold, empty space. It doesn't leave you feeling like you're lying beside the person you know better than anyone else in the world and you're farther away from him than you've ever been before. It doesn't leave you feeling like you've just had sex without touching each other at all.
No, that's wrong. That's exactly what it does. I guess I got what I wanted: I've just had casual, no-strings-attached sex with Josh. And that's why I'm lying here feeling lonelier than I've ever felt in my life but not able to let him touch me, because the more he touches me, the farther away he seems. Because I know his touch doesn't mean anything. I know this is just a campaign fling.
And that's okay, right? It has to be. It's what I wanted, after all. Maybe, if we wait just a little while longer, I'll be able to let him touch me again, we'll be able to do this again. I just need a little time now to pull myself together, to remind myself who I am and who he is and what this is all about. I'm a professional political operative now, like he is. The election is what really matters to him, and to me too. This is just campaign sex, what professional political operatives do to fill in time on election night, when they can't campaign anymore and the stakes are too high and the wait is too long to bear. It's part of the job: a professional political operation. If I pull myself together now, we can do this again later. If we do it enough, maybe I'll get used to it. Maybe I'll learn the art of having sex with Josh without his touching me or my touching him at all.