Author's Note: This fic has been on my site for a while, and I finally decided to read through it, realise it was not as terrible as I previously believed, so copied it and others to here. It came out of my watching the entire show again from start to finish, whenever there was an hour of nothing on tv. The horizontal line signals the break between the two episodes. Enjoy.
Post Episode: Arctic Radar, Holy Night.
"These are stories which would make me like you."
Josh stood watching her as she sorted things out in the bullpen, the last words he had just said and her reply replaying themselves over and over in his mind. Abruptly the replay served to create an epiphany. He didn't want this. He didn't want her treating the words, every phrase he said like that, as though they had no deeper meaning. He didn't want her adhering to the silent code between them to observe the line that they never crossed.
Before he was consciously aware of what he was doing, Josh had taken her hand and practically dragged her into his office.
"Josh, what's wrong?" He heard her asking him as let go of her hand to shut the doors, giving them privacy.
"I said these are stories which would make me like you," Josh began, his voice a quiet softness to which she had to strain to listen to. "But then I always liked you."
"Josh, what's this about?" Donna asked him, matching his tone.
Her words seemed to awaken him. He stopped pacing, and stood before her. Slowly he reached out to touch her face. A caress with one finger, so soft, so fleeting, that she almost didn't feel it.
Their eyes met, and a silent passage of conversation passed between them. He leaned in towards her, lips meeting lips.
It was a soft kiss, like every other sense had been between the of them in that moment. Barely did Donna feel that it had begun before she felt him withdraw. She watched his eyes, trying to divine what was in his mood, but for once it was incomprehensible.
And suddenly the moment was over. With one last, long, almost sad look at her, Josh turned and opened the doors. He walked out of the one that led through the bull pens, off to roam the halls.
Leaving her silent and thoughtful about what had just occurred.
"Was I being insensitive about sending Donna off?"
"What? No," Josh found himself answering, the denial was automatic by now.
Leo looked at him carefully. "Get it together, would you please?"
"I'm trying," Josh confessed.
Leo walked away, leaving his deputy silent and thoughtful. Josh felt himself walking back through the bullpen in a daze, not wanting to think, afraid of the thoughts his mind might bring up.
He entered his office in the same sort of dream, closing the door behind him in an effort to shut out the world. To shut out the sight of the empty bullpen.
His chair turned around, startling him out of the daze, and he raised his eyes from the floor to fix upon whoever was occupying it.
Her identity was a shock. A moment of silence passed before he felt himself able to speak. "Leo told me had sent you home."
She stood up from his chair and walked around to lean on the front of his desk before him. "I went home, but only to dump my bags and make a call."
"Jack," she replied. Another moment of silence. "I told him I couldn't come. That it wasn't going to work out between us." She looked at him steadily. "I came back because I wanted to finish that conversation we had before Thanksgiving."
"Why?" Josh found himself asking, his tone conveying a depth of sadness she had rarely heard from him.
"Because we need to," she answered. "Now, what did you mean by 'but then I always liked you?'"
His first thought was to shrug it off, to change the subject. To misdirect her. But a part of him, the part that was tired, not just of the day, but of the constant dodging dance performed by the two of them for nearly five years, took over the part of him which controlled his speech, and answered her question. "Joey was right."
Despite their ability to divine each other's thoughts and conversations, this non sequitur surprised her. "About what?"
"Well, she was right in one sense and wrong in the other." He paused, his eyes still fixed on the floor, too nervous about what he was saying to raise them to look at her. "It was during the polling blackout. She said that if you polled a hundred Donnas on whether she and I should go out, you would get a yes. But what you wouldn't get was that it was the wrong question. She claimed that you were using misdirection because you were afraid that your liking me was starting to show." he paused again, trying to collect his exhausted tangle of thoughts in his equally exhausted mind.
"I denied it, like I always do, but I knew while I believed she was wrong about you, she was right about me. I would want to ask her out, but I never would, because I always wanted to ask you more." The words were coming easily now, but only because he was reaching the end of this confession. "I've liked you, I always have. I still do. And that's why I would always do everything within my power to sabotage the dates you went out on; not just because they were gomers, but because you deserved more than them. When it came to him, and you asked me, I did it because I wanted to make you happy. I didn't mean to sabotage tonight. But all the same I was looking forward to spending the evening with you."
Silence invaded the room after this point, and both of them let it, one at the end of his talking, too nervous to add anything more, the other trying to process, to understand what he had meant.
Donna found herself remembering when Jack- she knew him was Jack -had asked her out, he had asked her if he was getting into the middle of something. And how, just like every other time, she had denied it immediately. She also remembered him commenting that Josh had done the same, while talking about her more in seven minutes that Jack ever did about his own assistant. At the time, she was still thinking over the odd moment between herself and Josh in the office, the brief kiss they had shared, like it was a puzzle to solve rather something to realise and act upon.
She had come to realise however. And so, it seemed had Josh. And Joey, and Amy, it seemed, if she had heard right from Sam about what Amy had asked Josh when he found himself ensnared by her. True, they weren't having an affair in the literal sense of the word, but both of them knew what they felt about each other. And pretended to misunderstand what the other felt, or said whenever the line of banter between was crossed.
And now it was crossed. Broken infact. Beyond repair. Tonight was make or break time for their relationship. He had made his move, now it was time to make hers.
"Joey was right," she replied, reaching out with her hands to take his own, to draw him closer to her. "I was using misdirection. I still do. Which is why I brushed past your comment concerning the stories. But only because that's what I thought you wanted. If I had known..." she let the sentence fade away, its ending all too clear by now. Taking a deep breath, she committed herself as deeply he had. "I like you too. I always have."
That made him look up at last. His eyes met hers, and a profound change overcame him, taking away the sadness, the exhaustion which had possessed him until now. He conquered the remaining space between them. Felt himself smile. Saw the smile returned by her. Then he leaned forward and touched her lips with his.
This time there was no brief kiss. This time it lasted for as long as both of them wished for it to do.
Outside the closed doors of his office the west wing continued to exist; Toby and his father watching the whiffenpoofs singing; Leo continuing to try and fix the world, trying to make amends. The President in the residence, getting ready to leave, CJ musing with Gail over the present from Danny, one goldfish in the bowl, another on her top. Will continuing to write the inauguration speech.
All contriving unknowingly to leave them undisturbed until they too departed to celebrate Christmas.