Inarticulate Speech of the Heart

A series of missing scenes from Transition to Tomorrow

Disclaimer: most characters borrowed from Sorkin and Wells. Title borrowed from Van Morrison

Prologue

"Turn him to any cause of policy,

The Gordian Knot of it he will unloose,

Familiar as his garter" (Shakespeare, Henry V, Act 1 Scene 1. 45–47)

She wakes up in his bed alone and lonely. The pale green light of the clock tells her there's still an hour or so left until dawn, and even Josh isn't likely to head over to the OEOB before 5:00 am. There's a thin strip of light under the bedroom door, which leads her to suspect he's already awake and churning at full steam. She reaches over to touch where he was lying and finds that the sheets are already cold. She wonders if it's some kind of metaphor. She can't figure out if she's trying to start a relationship, or lay it to rest. Nine years of orbiting around each other, and she's determined either to collide and meld or spin away into the blackness of outer space. All in all, with the sensory overloads of the election win, Leo's death, and their convoluted courtship, she has the freakish sensation of being tossed sky high in a blanket late at night; every so often she can see the stars and the wide dark panoply of the future, but most of the time she's either muffled and confused, or just randomly rushing through space.

The transition going on between the two of them confuses her. She thinks back to election morning and wonders how they got to that place where they'd usurped each other's roles. Josh asking she was feeling took her by surprise. She couldn't begin to analyze her feelings at that point… and how un-political… how un- bulldog…how un-Josh like! A conversation then… that would have been a good idea… when he was open, and vulnerable and ready to talk. But she'd already moved into the realpolitik of election day, and instead she had offered him her version of a gift… a peace offering of sorts in the form of coffee.

She thinks she may have missed a window.

She lies in bed trying to marshall her thoughts…trying to find some way of cutting through this Gordian Knot of communication that has tangled itself around them both. Between the two of them they can't seem to utter a single sentence anymore that doesn't have to do with either politics or the election, and even though during their best days the conversation was fraught with innuendo and misdirection, now they can't seem to find even that level of exchange. Physical intimacy seems to have replaced their usual forms of communication, leaving her bereft and fulfilled at the same time. At her core she's hurt that he's left her here, in his bed, alone.

She tries to formulate words, ideas… anything to push them forward out of this morass of confusion, because she's terrified of holding this position for another eight years…of rotating around his brightness while Josh consumes himself in a blaze of self immolation.

Her therapist has used the phrase "But what about your needs, Donna? What do you need to do for you?" and honestly the only answer she has is 'anything but the status quo'. She practices phrases over, and over, staring at the strip of light, willing him to stay out there. When she feels she has rehearsed enough she gets up and dresses. CJ will have left for the White House by now. She can go over there, have a shower, and change before going in to work. She phones for a taxi, and gathers her things together.

She stops with her hand on the bedroom door knob for an instant, takes a deep breath, and hears the voice of her therapist saying, "State your needs, Donna. Be clear, be concise, and be honest with yourself."

"Okay," she thinks, "I can do this."

She steps out of the bedroom, and sees him at the table, rumpled, jittery and probably still half asleep.

"Morning…almost," she says as she fastens her earring.


The Bahamas

There's a weariness about them both that even the first few days of warm sun, long sleeps, and passionate sex hasn't allayed. She can't bring herself to even bring up the discussion she wants to have…feels the need to have. Just the fact that he asked her to come with him has to count for something, doesn't it? And really she can't find the words right now…she doesn't want to break the spell. Instead they seem to find some kind of familiar balance; an island of comfort, away from the day to day tensions and stresses of the transition. "Well," she thinks to herself, "that's what vacations are supposed to be." So she finds herself unwilling to probe any deeper, and instead they relax into the slower pace of brightly colored beach chairs.

She pulls a copy of Vanity Fair out of the straw tote she bought at the hotel yesterday. He raises his eyebrows at her.

"Where did you even get that?" he smirks.

"There's a newsstand in the lobby of the resort, Josh. I found it yesterday when you were napping."

"I wasn't napping!" he protests self righteously.

She reaches over and pats him on the knee, "Yesterday afternoon, yes, you were...after, you know…" She busies herself with getting settled.

"After sex, Donna…that's what they call it," he grins a teasing little wolfish grin.

She huffs. "Fine, Josh. After sex, while you were napping, I went down to the lobby and found the newsstand where I bought some magazines, including this issue of Vanity Fair."

He looks at her over his sunglasses, "And of all the edifying magazines available to you at this newsstand you bought Vanity Fair?"

She looks at him sternly "There's some very good writing in Vanity Fair, Joshua. They have great articles and lots of insightful political commentary."

"Funny," he says, "that's what the frat guys used to say about Playboy when I was in college."

"Which of course you never read, being as how you were too busy studying. That dog won't hunt, Josh."

She's smiling as she opens the magazine and starts to read. She is happy to be here, in this paradise of bright sun and little umbrella drinks, happy to be bantering over nothing at all, happy because it's him, it's them… together, and it feels like old times.

The White House is a harsh mistress and Josh knows it. He's seen Sam's first engagement whither from neglect. Watched as Toby's marriage imploded. Turned his head away while Jenny McGarry slowly simmered to dry and burning.

He gave up long ago trying to analyze the Bartlet marriage. Abbey Bartlet could strike the fear of god into any one of the senior staff during that administration, and he's pretty sure there was some unholy Dolley Madison, Eleanor Roosevelt, Abigail Bartlet witchcraft involved that he'd rather just not know about.

Hell, his own relationship with Amy has to be classified as a White House casualty, but he's willing to kneel down in the foyer and kiss the marble floor for that particular piece of fortune. He can feel some kind of change, some kind of inner transition… shaping and remolding his priorities. He wishes he had some kind of roadmap, or guidebook to help him, because god only knows he wants it all; the White House, a life, the success of the Democratic Party and Donna…and not necessarily in that order.

He lies back against his beach chair, and studies her from behind his sun glasses. If he could just figure out what to say…how to say…even, hell, understand for himself what is going on, he'd be a happy camper. Shouldn't he feel ensorcelled? Enraptured? Captivated? He's been in love before… he thinks… Linda Harris in his final year of pre-law, who challenged him at every turn, and quite frankly every curve, then slipped right out of his arms and life to Stanford Law and some surfer dude that he's sure turned out to be a supreme loser…He was devastated for weeks….. then at Yale, slogging through Con Law with Pam Sussman twirling one lock of hair around her finger as she stared earnestly past him at Eric, the grad assistant. Oh god he thought he'd die if she wouldn't sleep with him.…and then Mandy…well maybe not Mandy…although at the time if you'd asked him he'd have said they made a good couple… Amy… well that was ensorcellment, and it certainly didn't feel like this… If he could put words to how he feels he'd have to say comfortable…normal…Not that he's not attracted to her…I mean this is Donna, who he's been undressing with his eyes since the moment she told him her name… just watching her as she shifts her position in the lounger next to him makes him want to haul her back to the hotel room for the rest of the afternoon, or maybe the rest of the week, or really forever if he lets himself… It's just … Donna was right about one thing, there was too much stuff going on when they started this… whatever it is…but really if things could just stay like they are right now, he thinks he'd be a happy man. For awhile.


The Return

The rain is beating against the window of the airplane as it taxies away from the terminal in Nassau. She leans against the window and sighs. She's been determined not to add pressure while they've been away. Determined to let the warm wind carry all the anxiety and uncertainty away. They've been in a kind of holiday cocoon, and now they're heading back to DC and she knows nothing more than when they left except… except she likes this. Likes them together. Likes teasing and laughing, and making love. Likes having time to spend. She's been charmed and she knows it. And suddenly the desire to get outside his sphere of illusion becomes overwhelming.

"So I'm thinking…"

"Mmm?" he opens one eye, lazily.

"I'm thinking I should go to CJ's tonight."

His eyes are wide open now. "What? Why?"

She's not really sure and can't quite find the words to explain.

"I… I.. I think we need a break."

"We do?" He's baffled, and truth be told he's hurt, but Josh has spent so many years guarding vulnerabilities he barely notices the walls he's starting to form.

"I just think it might be a good idea…"

He can't for the life of him imagine why.

"I thought we were having a good time," he says, with just a touch of petulance.

"We were…we are.." she prevaricates.

He looks at her blankly. What he wouldn't give for a good recalcitrant congressman. He knows exactly what to say in that situation.

"So why don't you want to stay at my place?"

"It's not that I don't want to."

"So what's the problem?"

"I just need a little time…I need to clear my head a little."

"I thought you…" he sighs heavily.

"We need to talk, Josh…..We never really talked"

"We're talking now."

She looks around the plane, at the pair of twenty-something women giggling across the aisle…at the kid with his iPod cranked so high he'll be deaf by the time he's fourteen…at the guy in the Panama Joe shirt working on his laptop.

He grimaces. "Yeah… probably not the best time," he mumbles.

"I wonder what the weather's like in Washington?"

"I'm guessing colder than it was here," he says with just a trace of bitterness.


Playing House

She leans in the door of his office at the OEOB, her coat draped over one arm.

"Are you leaving already?" he says wistfully.

"Well, we're done for today…are you going to be long?"

He sighs. "Another couple of hours."

"I thought I'd cook."

"For me?"

She shakes her head slowly, "For us."

"Right. That's what I meant."

She holds up her keys, "So is that okay? If I go to your apartment?"

He nods eagerly, "Absolutely!"

She smiles, and turns to go.

"And Donna?"

She looks back.

"Just for the record…it's more than okay."

She smiles warmly at him. "Try for seven."

"Nothing like a little motivation."

He goes back to work, but he feels a little warmer, a little happier, and when Otto hands him a vetted list of suggested Secretaries of Agriculture he says thank you as if he actually means it.

It's cold and raw as he hurries along the street, and it's almost quarter after seven by the time he gets to the townhouse. The lights shining in the window seem to call out to him as he runs up the stairs. The Goldberg Variations are playing on the sound system, and the rooms are warm and fragrant with Italian spices.

"Hey!" she smiles at him, "You're just in time to help with the salad."

He drapes his coat over the sofa. "We're having salad?" he says peevishly.

"And manicotti. Wash your hands, then come help out, Josh"

"What!" Are you channeling my mother, now?" he calls from the bathroom.

"Let's not even go there," she answers, "I mean I worship the ground your mother cooks on, but really, Josh," she raises her eyebrows, "Is that the image you want to raise?"

He shakes his head, as he sits down on the stool, and she hands him a knife and a cutting board. "No…no I don't think it is."

She leans across and kisses him.

But in spite of his declaration, it is his mother he's thinking about. The feeling of coming home after Hebrew school, or music class, or tennis lessons, to the warm smell of dinner cooking, and his mother saying "Joanie, Joshua, wash up, come set the table. Joanie, you help with the salad. Your Tatteh will be home any minute." And Joanie would stop to put something on the hi-fi… Bach, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, or even one of his mother's jazz '78's…It's an old memory, from a time he doesn't dwell on much anymore. Music stopped in the Lyman household nearly thirty years ago. Things became more separated… more contained. Less shared and more private.

Still… he smiles to himself as he massacres a red pepper.

"What?" she asks.

"Nothing… it's just… this is nice…" he struggles," I mean it's….comforting…"

Her eyebrows have risen again.

He waves the paring knife, "…I don't know!..." he looks down at the cutting board, "You're going to Houston in the morning?"

She nods. "Mmm hmm."

"Do you have all your stuff?" he says awkwardly, "I mean…Do you want to stay over?"

"Do you want me to?"

"I want you to want to…" he fumbles.

She walks behind him, and wraps her arms around him, resting her chin on the top of his head. "Yes. I do want to."

He puts the knife down, swivels on the stool and hugs her close.


Long Distance

There's a cold wind blowing the leaves along the road, as if it's trying to sweep the streets clean in time for an early winter storm. As usual it's dark when he gets home, but unlike last night are no welcoming lights in the living room, no music on the stereo, and even though he'd known Donna was going to be in Texas for the next god knows how long when he kissed her goodbye that morning, he feels incredibly bereft. Over this last year, leading up to the election he has fine tuned his ability to be alone; recalibrated the solitariness of his adolescence to become the adult version of the unworthy only child left in a family of misfortune. Loneliness was an art form; a state to be achieved. Now, just a few weeks later, he's staggered by the body blow of the empty apartment. Part of him wishes she didn't affect him quite so much. He shrugs out of his jacket, loosens his tie, and flicks on CNN before heading to the kitchen to search the fridge for a beer. The light from the fridge is somewhat blinding, and he squints into it to see a Tupperware container with a post-it on it, that's says "EAT ME" with a bottle of Yoo-hoo standing beside it. There are groceries too: milk, eggs, a fresh can of coffee, and a net bag of tangerines. He sits down on the kitchen floor and leans his head against the open fridge door. He'd phone her, but he can't even think of what to say that won't sound lame and needy. He calls his mother, because it dawns on him that if he feels lonely surely she must be too. He eats the leftover manicotti cold while he watches the news, switching from channel to channel to compare the Kazakhstan coverage. He fills almost two hours before the crushing need to call her finally wins.

Her cell phone is ringing as she stops at the desk to check for messages. She grabs the pink message forms from the clerk as she flips her phone open, not bothering to check the call display.

"Donna Moss"

"Hey" he says.

"Hey" she smiles at the clerk, at the phone, at life in general. There's a long pause. "Was there something you wanted?" she asks gently.

"Uh…so…how is everything?"

"Good… It's good."

"Any idea yet how long you are staying."

"Ah… she wants leave by the weekend."

"Oh. Well… okay…. okay then." There's another interminable pause before he manages "Will you be coming here?"

"Well, of course we will Josh, where else would we go but DC?"

He closes his eyes against his own stupidity; at what he suspects might be her own willful misinterpretation.

"No, I mean here, here," he says awkwardly, "My apartment, uh… the apartment?"

"Do you want me to? CJ said she always has space..." she's speaking carefully; as if not to frighten a small animal.

"No…I mean, yes I want you to… I mean no. No, you shouldn't stay with CJ." He scrubs his hand across his face and up into his hair.

He can hear her sigh in what he hopes is relief.

"Oh. Okay then."

There is a pause,..long enough to recite a sonnet, or read an itinerary. He feels the blood rushing through his veins. Hears his heart pounding.

"I talked to my mom."

"Oh?" she says brightly, "How's she doing?"

She wants me to come down there for Thanksgiving.

"Oh…"

Again the silence of unsaid thought. He wishes he could see her face. Some kind of clue for what she's thinking.

"I wondered if maybe…I thought you might… I thought we might…" his throat seems to be closing, "Do you want to come with me?"

She swallows hard. She'd been preparing herself to tell him to go, he owed to his mother…she'd be fine."To your mother's? … for Thanksgiving?" she struggles.

"Uh yeah…if you want to that is, I mean." He runs his hand through his hair again, "I mean I think she'd like that." He leans his head back against the pillows and closes his eyes, "I know I'd like that."

And there's hardly any pause before she says, "So would I"

"Well, then… good…. That's good."

She swipes her key card through the lock, and pushes the door open.

"I miss you Josh," she says quietly.

He replies with more fluidity that he's had all evening, "Yeah, same here, Donnatella."


Advice

The phone pulls Sam out of a deep sleep, and his foggy brain, after four or so years of uninterrupted nights, fumbles for words after his hand has automatically grabbed the phone and flipped it open.

"H'lo," he mumbles.

"So I've been thinking that we should really put some pressure on Rolston for agriculture, and I'd like Lou to look again at Tim for one of the deputy press secretaries."

Sam squints at his alarm clock, which reads 1:43.

"Josh, I swear to God, you need adult supervision."

"Yeah, but Donna's in Texas."

"I'm serious Josh…It's quarter to two on Wednesday morning, give it a freaking break already."

"There's a lot of work to be done. I'm just a little bit overwhelmed here buddy."

"Josh, we have to talk"

There's a pause during which Sam can almost see Josh rubbing his hand over his face.

"Yeah, you know I'm getting just a little weary of those particular five words in that particular order…"

"Well you haven't heard them from me!" snaps Sam before he stops to realize just exactly who Josh has been hearing them from. Sam waits a good 30 seconds before he says, "Are you alright Josh?"

Josh sighs. "No, in fact… I'm not sure I am."

"Are you seeing anyone?"

"Yeah," he answers sarcastically, "Donna, you know…blonde…willowy.."

"You know what I mean Josh_"

"Yeah," he admits, "but not recently.. you think I.."

"Yes," interrupts Sam, "I think very much so."

"I'm worried about the optics."

"Optics be damned Josh, I'm worried about the fallout… yes, you should see someone…you should probably both see someone."

Josh gulps audibly, "You mean, together?"

"Together, separately…whatever…it's just, and I mean this in the nicest way possible, neither of you has the greatest track record in the world…and these jobs you're about to take on… not the easiest in the world."

"That's where you come in, buddy.."

"That's what I mean. I'm not a marriage counselor."

"We're not married!" Josh fairly screeches.

"And here we get to the kernel of the issue…"

"What are you talking about?"

"Josh….you and Donna have the most tangled relationship I know of…hell…can even imagine, and although I have to say when she's in town you seem to be functioning just fine, the moment you're left to your own devices you seem to spin right out of orbit."

"I don't like it when she's gone."

"Painfully obvious."

"I didn't like it before either," he says sullenly.

Sam waits silently, the phone pressed to his ear, the faint amber glow from his clock causing deep shadows across the hotel coverlet.

"She just leaves whenever she feels like it."

"It's part of her job, Josh."

"It wasn't before," he says quietly, "and she left anyways."

"So right here… this is where the wheels come off the wagon Josh…..talk to someone…one of the Stanleys…please for the love of God…"

"Yeah….I'm sorry for waking you Sam."

"Josh! Wait…its just… you've been dancing around each other for the better part of a decade now…"

"Well we're dancing a little closer now," he replies drily.

"Oh Josh," he says defeatedly.

"I know Sam…really… it might not seem like it, but I know." He sighs quietly. "I've known for a long time," he says, more or less to himself.


Thanksgiving

The Florida night is warm and humid as they pull up to the pink stucco building, and wearily haul their bags out of the trunk of the rental car.

"Well here you are… finally!" his mother says as she pulls open the door and wraps her arms around him. He bends a little so she can kiss him on the cheek. "I could have picked you up at the airport you know. You didn't need to rent a car." She pushes past him, so she can hug and kiss Donna. "I'm so glad you came, dear. It's so nice to see you both." She turns back to her son, "Take the bags to your room Joshua and I'll make some tea. Are you hungry? I've got some nice bagels from that deli you like?"

"No, mahme. We're fine."

"What about you Donna?"

"Tea would be lovely Judith. Thank-you."

As his mother bustles off to plug in the kettle and make the tea he catches Donna's eye and smiles an apologetic little smile, then hauls their bags down the hall.

"Nice to see you taking orders from someone!" Donna calls after him, as she follows Judith.

When he comes into the kitchen she's sitting on a stool at the counter, leaning tiredly on her elbows. His mother, who is spooning loose tea into the pot, stops to look at him critically.

"Well you don't look as tired as you did before the election," she says, "that's one thing… but you're still too thin." She looks over at Donna. "You're both too thin," she scolds. "You're adults. You need to eat better." She turns back to the kettle, shaking her head, "I don't know what to do with the two of you. You can't survive on take-out and frozen dinners!"

Josh looks over at Donna, to find her eyes full of laughter. They share a moment of kinship, the younger generation, indulges the older… we are all together in this… And he's struck by the fact that the last time he felt this way he was ten years old, exchanging eye rolls with his vibrant older sister, over some ridiculous maternal utterance. His mother piles cookies onto a plate and places it between them. Donna stirs milk into her mug of tea, and they chatter about what sales are happening on Friday. But Josh swirls this latest revelation around in his mind. Donna's not his sister…not at all his sister, but this feels so warm, so familiar, so comfortable that he almost has to leave the house and run for a couple of miles.

Early Thursday evening the two of them walk down the board walk at Red Reef Park, slightly fuzzy with the trifecta of tryptophan, alcohol, and the slight hangover caused from sleeping in until almost eleven o'clock. He sighs heavily.

"What's the matter, Josh?"

"Oh… no… nothing's the matter… I just…"

She looks at him expectantly.

"I just…"

They listen to the waves rolling in.

He stops, and she continues on for a few steps before turning and looking back at him. He spreads his hands wide in a gesture of futility. "I think we should…ah, I think you should…"

She looks at him as if he's rescuing her from some kind of unknown danger.

"Is this, you know… the talk?' she says, gesticulating between them.

"I don't know…part of it I guess…" he sighs exasperatedly, "I don't see why it has to be some big formal thing," he blurts out, "I don't have a nine point plan here Donna, and I don't think this is something you can itemize on index cards…. I mean can't it just be a conversation…. A series of conversations?"

Her eyes get rounder and she opens her mouth, then shuts it again. She searches for the words. "I didn't mean… of course it can Josh. I just didn't want…I just wanted…" She reaches out to grab his hand. "It's just that…We've been here before, Josh."

He shakes his head slowly. "No," he says solemnly, "I don't think we have."

"Not you and me together…I mean you and me with other people…I just…" she takes a step closer to him, and he reaches out with one arm and pulls her close. "I'm tired Josh," she says into his shoulder, "I don't want to put energy into a relationship that's not going anywhere."

He wiggles his other hand free of hers and wraps that arm around her. "Well, you see ," he says roughly into her hair, "this is where we're a bit at odds." He feels the trepidation in her body, and smiles to himself a little. "Because the thing is…I'm not going anywhere….How about you?"

She sighs against him, and he feels the tension drain away as he tightens his hold on her.

She turns her head, and her nose as it brushes against his neck seems surprisingly cold.

"No," she says earnestly, "I'm not going anywhere either."

"Promise?"

"Yeah. I promise."

It's getting dark as they turn back towards his mother's house, but the air seems clearer, lighter, easier to breathe.

Later that night, when she comes back from brushing her teeth he's already made himself comfortable in the bed.

"Hey!" she says in mock indignation, "that's my side!"

"Only because you think your side is the middle. I think of this as pre-emptive occupation. My theory is if I start in the middle, when you snuggle up and start forcing me backwards, I'll end up on my side with a little sliver of room, instead of clinging to the edge or contemplating the floor."

Her face falls, and the atmosphere in the room changes.

"Oh. Okay." She says tonelessly, and slipping under the covers she lies down, huddled on the edge of the bed…. curling away from him.

"Hey… " he says, puzzled. "It was only a joke… I mean… I don't really mind…I like it when you ….when we…." He really can't figure out what is going on… how they've suddenly slipped into this chasm. He reaches across to lay a hand against her bare shoulder.

"Donna?" he says quietly.

She closes her eyes, takes a shaky breath, and forces herself to speak."I don't want to need you more than you need me…" she says in a small voice. "I've done that before… it doesn't work out so well."

"Oh God, Donna…. I don't think you… I mean I think I actually….I'm a mess when you're not around… I mean ask Sam… ask Lou… ask anybody…."

"My pathetic need to be coupled up…. You were the one who said that…" she chews at her lip, "I didn't mean to… damn it Josh…." She rolls onto her back, staring at the ceiling. "You know I used to think I was okay for quite awhile there. I was just me… on my own… people seemed to value my opinion…."

He thinks about how much he missed her… how harsh and cold things were between them. How harsh and cold things were all around him. How much he wasn't okay on his own.

"I don't want to be pathetic," she continues, still looking at the ceiling, "I don't want rely on someone else for my self worth…" she sighs, "I don't want to need you so much if you don't really need me."

And there's a little crack in the grey cloud of confusion that surrounds him… a tiny sliver of light that penetrates the fogginess in his brain…"Oh god Donna, you are so far from pathetic….I'm not trying to….I always need you…it might not seem like it, maybe… I don't know….I think people more or less hated me when you weren't around…I need you because…. I think you make me better…make me kinder…make me smarter…You think I don't notice that, but I do…" She's still staring at the ceiling, and he feels like he's foundering. He swallows hard and tries to continue. "Sometimes I'll need you more… sometimes you'll need me more… I think… I guess.. oh hell I don't know…besides.. ..it's not … it shouldn't be a competition…"

She turns over to face him, and he pulls her closer, so that the words can't come between them.

"Oh Josh," she says sadly into the soft skin below his ear, "with you everything is a competition."

He feels the silkiness of her hair against his arm, her warmth against his chest. He hugs her a little tighter.

"Careful," he says so quietly she can hardly hear, "it's possible we're having another conversation…and if we are…. I win 'cause I started it."

She smiles in spite of herself, and then she kisses him, and she tells herself it's just to make him be quiet, but the truth is she'd be willing to listen to him talk for the rest of her life.

She jolts awake with her heart racing, unsure for a moment where she is; the sharp sounds of gunfire and an IED from her dream still echoing in her head. She sighs back against him, her heart beating wildly, and even in his sleep he wraps one arm around her and the warmth of his body and his measured breathing lulls her back to sleep.


Epilogue

The rain is beating against the window of the airplane as it taxies away from the terminal in Fort Lauderdale. He leans against the window and sighs. She reaches out for his hand and he wraps his fingers around hers.

"So how much longer does the twitchy chick have your apartment?" he asks mournfully.

"Next Friday," she says sadly.

He pulls her hand over into his lap and folds his other hand around it. He looks at their entwined hands and not at her.

"Do you think it's possible…" he sighs, "do you think maybe she'd be willing to stay on… I mean…" he tightens his grip a little, "I mean I think I like it better when we are in the same place… oh God, I'm totally screwing this up…"

"Are we having a conversation, Josh?"

"What? No!" he turns quickly to look at her, and she's smiling just a little bit. "I mean… yes, I guess so… could you just stay with me? Could we just live in the same place so we'd see each other … I mean not that we won't see each other… I'll see you every day I imagine, but I …." He grinds to a halt.

"Yes." She says simply.

He smiles full out. "You don't want to negotiate? Talk it over?"

She shakes her head. "Nope. I'm good."

He blinks in disbelief. "Okay." He says somewhat tentatively.

She leans against his shoulder, closes her eyes and sighs.

"Do you, ahh, have some stuff you want to bring over?"

She nods tiredly against his arm. "Mm hmm, but we can sort that out later… after we get home."

That last phrase echoes in his head for the entire flight.

The cold air of Washington is a bracing reminder of all the work that rises like a mountain in front of them both, and for the first time in his life he feels just a tiny bit resentful of the all consuming nature of his job. Of her job. Of the next four, and hopefully eight, years that are stretching out in front of them. Instead of going by the OEOB he gives the taxi driver his home address, and he finds himself savoring the moments of the cab ride; his arm wrapped around her shoulders, her hair soft against his cheek.

He opens the door to the apartment and, in spite of the fact that they haven't been there all weekend, it seems warm and welcoming. It smells different to him somehow; like the candles Donna brought back from Minsk years ago, spicy and a little bit sweet.

The End