domenica 20 settembre 2009

Muffins, Bagels and Baby Names - Part 3

The day turned out to be one of the longest in history, or so it felt like to Josh. Since his morning conversation with Donna, which had in so many ways turned the entire planet upside down, the hours seemed to have dragged on interminably, like the day of the Stackhouse filibuster, multiplied. He'd been busy as usual, running around the corridors between CJ's office, the Communications wing and Leo's office working on various tactics to appease House Ways and Means and gathering information for the upcoming trade negotiations with China which hopefully Hoynes was going to help them out with. He'd hardly had a moment to sit with Donna since their chat in his office although he'd dropped by as often as possible in between one mad dash and another, almost unnerving her with his obsessive attention to her health as if from one morning to the next she'd become a fragile flower that was likely to snap any moment.

Donna meanwhile was trying her best to be "business as usual", and thankfully, given the rush of the day, few had noticed her being more quiet and reserved than usual. Concentrating on making notes for Josh on trade regulations had kept her mind off her situation and she made even more index cards than usual.

At eleven, Josh sailed past her, dropping a basket of muffins from the mess and a hot chocolate on her desk. He'd barely the time to squeeze her arm and whisper "Extra one for the baby" into her ear but when she looked into the muffin basket there was also a note.

"Take out and movie later? If you want to talk, Josh. X."

When she got back to her desk after lunch, there was a cushion on her seat. Josh whizzed by again later on and Donna mumbled over her yogurt "What's the cushion for Josh? Did you put it here?"

"Yeah. Y'know... In case... Don't you all get back pain and cranky when... you know...?"

Donna smiled softly... "Josh, she whispered, it's been three days... I'm not exactly carrying an extra fifty pounds with me."

"Ok. Well... you've always said I should think about the ergonomics of the office desks, so, at least now you can't complain that I don't listen." And with that, and a grin, he hurtled off down the hallway again.

By 9 p.m it was eerily quiet, as if everyone had crashed and burned form the high energy of the morning. Ginger and Bonnie had gone out with some of the girls from the OEOB to grab cocktails at Manson's bar, Donna politely refused pointing at her head and saying "headache girls, got to get my beauty sleep".
Just as she was gathering up her bags, Josh came strutting into the bullpen.

"Hey." he said, looking sheepish now that there was no noise and bustle to mask his concern.
"Hey. I was heading out..."
"Wanna come over and grab some Kung Po chicken?"
"Josh have you mastered the zen art of asian cooking or are you making me an offering of greasy meat in a carton?"
"Only the best greasy meat for my assistant, Donna. I am, after all, da man.
"ONly if I get to choose the movie. And don't you dare groan if the word romance appears on the back cover."

Josh suddenly looked grave. The banter swiftly turned to awkward silence.

"Donna, how are you feeling? Do you feel sick or anything?" He moved closer and took her by the arm, then leaned in and looked her right in the eye, she felt her stomach flutter - and it definitely wasn't morning sickness.
"If you wanna just go home and relax, I'll drive you home. I mean, if you don't feel like chicken, or whatever. Maybe you'd prefer to crash, I don't know. Is it ok? For you to come hang out? I just want to offer myself... ahem... as a friend. You know."

Donna smiled softly and patted his shirt gently.

"Josh, I'd really like to not be alone this evening, and watching a trashy movie and making fun of you always makes me feel better. Really though. I'd like that. That would be nice."

"Good. I'll get my coat."

He breezed off into his office with a spring in his step that almost gave away his infant ballerina fantasties. It had been a while since DOnna had come over for a movie. Since the shooting really. It was only at that moment that he realized just how much he'd missed having her bantering over stupid movies with him on the couch.
He wasn't sure there'd be much banter tonight though. He stepped back out putting his coat on and caught her staring wistfully down at the floor, cradling her tummy. THe strip light caught her hair in the otherwise dark office and his breath caught in his throat. She was beautiful, and suddenly, what with the whole pregnancy thing, she looked somehow even more womanly.

God I'm becoming a pussyboy, thought Josh and whipped his scarf round his neck.

"let's go" a grin, and off they went.

Within minutes of getting through Josh's front door the pair quickly settled into a routine, just as they had all those months ago, after Rosslyn. Josh went to his room to change, Donna set about getting plates and napkins for the take out food and rifling through old copies of the New York Review and whatever other out of date papers and magazines were lying around in the general area of the couch. While Josh washed his face and put on his sweat pants, Donna read out jokes from the funny pages and snacked on prawn crackers.

The only thing different this time around was that instead of listening to Donna's usual perky chatter from the next room, Josh was busy looking in the mirror and having a little heart to heart with himself. His hands felt sweaty and he couldn't seem to get comfortable in his t-shirt and jogging pants. Josh not exactly being the master at any conversation that begins with "let's talk" he was almost cursing himself for having suggested it. He wanted to talk. God- he had a million things he could say, things he could barely get his head around, things that had been in denial for a long time. But actually doing it? Yeah, right, like that was gonna happen. He knew it would end up in misdirection. What is she didn't even care? She wasn't having his baby. He couldn't even get it together enough to admit to himself why this bothered him so much!

He run his hands through his hair nervously, making it look even more erratic that usual, gave himself a final glance in the mirror, and blowing out air from his cheeks, then strolled into the next room.

*damn he looks good enough to eat* thought Donna as she looked up from over a withered copy of Time and took in his toned arms in his sleeveless grey Harvard Athletics t-shirt and black sweat pants, Josh's hair was all wild and he had a cocky smile on his face like he'd just beat the Lakers single-handedly. Or had really good sex. Donna immediately blushed at the thought and inched the magazine a little further up to hide her cheeks.

*Hormones, Donna, it's just the hormones talking* she thought.

"Soooo, what's for dinner?" Josh bounded over to the kitchen and started opening up cartons. "Kung Po for me, MooShu pork for you... Wontons to share... Salad? -he turned his nose up - rabbit food for you". He picked up all the opened cartons and brought them over to the table, ignoring Donna's laid out plates and diving straight into to the chicken with his chopsticks as he slouched down onto the couch.

"You know Josh, if you're going to invite me over for dinner, you could at least pretend we're eating in a civilized way. I know you can't find it in your heart to give me a raise or spare enough money to take out your invaluable assistant out for a real dinner, but if you think its seductive watching you drooling over a carton, then you need to rethink why all these women keep leaving you."

Josh spluttered into his carton and looked round at Donna, eyes wide, then broke into a grin. What was needed immediately was some misdirection before he got tongue tied.

"Didn't realise I was trying to seduce you there Donna. Thought I was just sharing a take out with a friend. Is this how your gomers try and seduce you? You really need to start dating people with a mental age over 18..."

Donna blushed at first, then thought about what he'd said and turned to start filling her plate with food. This was turning ugly.

"I'm just saying Deputy Downer, that it would be nice once in a while to eat like I'm not still in the office, where my slave-driving boss keeps me until all hours of the morning, forcing me to eat take out from a box at my desk. You know, sometimes a woman needs to feel special."

"Donna, are you giving me dating advice? - Josh was on a roll, arrogant smirk in full force and voice getting shrill like when he was arguing policy with Senate Republicans - COs I really don't think anyone in your position should be giving pep talks on how to conduct a relationship, given your propensity for loser gomers who seduce you with fancy dinners then dump you...

Josh trailed off, having for a moment completely forgotten why he'd asked Donna over in the first place. He looked over at DOnna who'd gone really quiet and was staring intently at the coffee table.

"And what exactly is 'my position' JOsh? - she asked bitterly - You mean the dumb blonde assistant who gets knocked up by her one-night-stand couldn't possibly have a clue about love and dating? Is that what you think Josh? Did you invite me over to make fun of me? Because frankly I don't see anyone in your life right now, in fact, I don't see any kind of healthy relationship in your sad little world other than your obsessive fixation with that baseball player guy and regular sleepover dates with Appropriations Bills."

*and me running after you every second of the day* she thought, quietly.

She practically spat out the last words. Josh had never seen her quite so vitriolic. He felt like the biggest idiot on earth and cursed his big mouth. He also felt a sudden pang of terror at the truth in her words. He really didn't have anyone in his life. HAdn't for a long, long time. He dumped his carton on the table and slid over on the couch to get nearer Donna, who had turned away and was stifling a sob. Josh's heart broke.

*I'm the fucking gomer* he thought and gently laid a hand on Donna's shoulder.

"Hey, I'm sorry. I'm really... Donna, I would never mean that in a million years, you know that. Donna... DOnna, I'm an asshole, I... I didn't mean it."

She turned to face him, her eyes red, but fighting back the tears. She didn't give in though, she just looked at him. Like he'd killed her puppy. That look was seriously going to finish him off.

"You really are the biggest asshole Josh." SHe declared, looking him straight in the eye.

At that Josh's eyebrows shot up even further than before and he couldn't help but let a small grin form.

AS soon as the sides of his mouth curled up, Donna's face turned funny, then all of a sudden she burst out laughing, leaving JOsh looking first confused, then stunned, then finally he dissolved into laughter as well.
Donna play hit him on the shoulder,

"Asshole!" She shouted through the laughter.

"I can't believe you just called me an asshole." JOsh grinned.

"Feels pretty good, said DOnna, might say it again. Ass- hole!"

"I'm pretty sure it says somewhere in the Federal Workers Employee Act that calling your boss an asshole to his face is fair grounds for immediate dismissal." challenged Josh, rising to the game now, a smirk as wide as a river on his face.

"Oh yeah. said DOnna, picking up a pillow and lugging it at his head, "Well I'll sue you for causing stress and discriminating against an employee for being pregnant... ASSHOLE!"

Another pillow flew and narrowly missed his face.

"Oh, pillow fighting Donna? Real mature..." Josh stood up this time and grabbed the pillow from Donna's hands before tossing it at her. Donna fought back with a larger cushion, the pair of them in hysterics by now and they pillow fought all round the couch and coffee table until Donna's foot caught on a fallen pillow and she tripped and fell.

"Ow, dammit" She immediately reached for her ankle as JOsh dropped the pillows and rushed over to where she was, sprawled at the foot of the couch.

"Donna, are you ok? Did you hurt yourself? Let me have a look.."

"It's ok Josh, I just twisted my ankle a bit. Don't worry, just... help me up, please?"

"Sure - he cradled Donna in his arms and pulled her up, half falling onto the couch with her.

"Is, are, is... are you alright? You didn't... bang the baby or anything did you?"

Donna looked at Josh, who's arm was still wrapped around one of her shoulders, warm and comforting, and more than a little distracting. SHe smiled softly, looking at him with her big, soft blue eyes. And patted him on the leg.

"Josh, the baby right now is a collection of cells so tiny you couldn't even see them on the head of a pin. I don't think it broke any major bones... I on the other hand, can see that my ankle is going to be the size of a watermelon if you don't get a compress on it soon...

"God, of course, hang on"

Josh leapt up, in full shining knight mode and ran to the fridge for some ice cubes, which he wrapped in a towel and brought over to Donna. He immediately sat down, took up her foot and rested it on his lap as he pressed the cold ice pack down on her swelling ankle.

"Oh, that's good. That feels better. Thank you."

They fell into a comfortable silence for a moment. Josh glanced at Donna from the corner of his eye as he padded her ankle with the cold compress. SHe was looking at the floor wistfully, with a small smile in her eyes. She was beautiful. He could barely tear his eyes away and she felt it. They both looked at each other and something passed between them, as it had done so many times before. But Donna didn't look away this time.

"Josh, thank you for this.

"Hey, sprained ankle.. ice is the best thing!

"NO, not that... I mean, well, thank you for that obviously... but really. Thank you, for take out. For having me around... I... I haven't felt worried since I got here and really, all I've wanted all day is a bit of distraction.

"DOnna... I invited you round and insulted you. I'm sorry. I... I know I don't say this enough DOnna, but you're invaluable to me... in so many ways... - he looked right at her and she felt heat rise to her cheeks - and the least I can do is repay the favour when you need someone. I want you to be able to talk to me... ok? And if it makes you feel better to call me an asshole, then... go for it. Just try not to do it in front of the President..."

He looked at her, looking suddenly like a schoolboy on his first date. Dona's heart squeeze a little at the sight of his brown eyes boring into hers.

"Okay. Apology accepted. But as a punishment, you'll now have to endure Love Actually. All one hour and forty minutes of it. Without complaint.


"NO buts, Josh, just sit up, and shut up."

"Okay." He grinned. He liked this commanding DOnna, It was very... sexy.

*God, don't think like that, not now, pleease not now!*

He put the DVD in and sat back down. DOnna placed a cushion on the coffee table and started to lift her ankle to rest it there when Josh took her leg and placed her ankle back in his lap. She looked at him and for a moment he blushed and looked down at her ankle again.

"Well, how are you going to keep the compress on your ankle otherwise?"

*excellent misdirection* they both thought. THe film started up and it was only twenty minutes from the end that Donna realised Josh had long since replaced the cold compress with his warm hand and had been softly stroking her ankle since halfway through the film. Apparently without either being aware of it. It just came naturally.

By the time the film was over Donna jumped up from the couch. Well, hopped, sort of. She feined yawning and started to fuss about early mornings. Hobbling over to get her coat, Josh accompanied her to the door as she picked up her bags. He'd realised he'd been holding her ankle for the duration of the film and the air in the apartment seemed to have gotten about ten degrees warmer. Neither seemed able, nor willing to even mention it so both slipped effortlessly back into denial and Donna started saying her goodbyes. Besides, it was 2 in the morning and they both had to be at work again in 5 hours.

"Night Donna. Call me when you get home."

"Yes Joshua. You have the meeting with O'Bryan tomorrow on the hill, wear your dark grey tie, it looks good with your jacket and that other one is all crumpled.

"Ok. He grinned, loving that she paid attention to these details and subconsciously realising how much he'd missed this domestic intimacy after he'd recovered from the Rosslyn shooting.

She looked up at Josh, more silent words crossed the divide between them.

Opening his arms, he took her in a warm embrace. Burying his head in her hair.

"I'm sorry for what I said Donna. I just... You and the baby deserve to be happy. You really deserve to be happy, and I know I don't tell you that often enough."

"Josh..." SHe didn't say anything more. Just revelled in his hug and squeezed him tight.

*I love you* they both thought, silently, *and one of these days, we'll figure it out*.

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