The Accelerated Program

by: Willynilly

Character(s): Josh, Donna, Will, Matt, Helen, Senior Staff
Pairing(s): Josh/Donna
Category(s): Post-Ep
Rating: TEEN
Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, never will be.
Summary: Post-ep for 2162 Votes
Spoiler: 2162 Votes
Author's Note: This picks up shortly after the end of What's Next? You should probably read that one first.

Josh and Donna thanked Matt and Helen for brunch and said good bye to Leo and were walking to the elevator bank hand-in-hand.

"So what's on your agenda for today?" Josh asked as he bounced on the balls of his feet.

"Well, it is my first day off in months, so I thought I would get my nails done, do a little shopping, take a bath," she shrugged.

"Oh," he said a little disappointment in his voice.

"I really need a few hours to regroup Josh," she squeezed his hand.

Josh understood, he really did, they had both been through a lot over the past few days, weeks and months. He probably could do with some down time himself, not that he was really familiar with the concept.

"Would you care to join me for dinner?" he asked hopefully.

"I would love to join you for dinner," Donna smiled brightly.

"OK, I'll swing by your room around 8:00," Josh nodded and that was done, they had a date.

The elevator stopped on Donna's floor and she stepped out, relinquishing her hold on Josh's hand.

"See you later," she smiled again and he waved.

As the elevator doors closed Josh slumped against the wall and realized just how exhausted he was. He returned to his room and went through some accumulated faxes and emails and then crawled back into the bed that he and Donna had slept in earlier that day.

Donna was a little more refreshed having slept a little longer and better than Josh. She called down to the hotel salon and scheduled a manicure and pedicure for later and then headed out to do a little shopping, if she were going out on her first date with Josh, she needed a new dress.

She went from shop to shop looking for the perfect dress. Along the way she found the perfect shoes, purse and jewelry and several new pieces for her work wardrobe, but the perfect dress alluded her.

With only 45 minutes until she was due at the salon Donna entered one last store and there it was, the perfect dress. She made a beeline for the rack and flipped insistently until she found one in her size. Her eyes were dancing with delight as she went to the fitting room to try it on.

Donna had worn a lot of dresses in her life. Sweet little girl dresses with sashes and smock fronts, the giddy teenage dresses of proms and home coming dances, she owned gowns fit for Inaugural Balls and formal wear for million dollar fundraisers, but it had been some time since she had bought this type of dress. This was a first date dress and as she slipped it over her head she thought back to a fall night several years ago and a red dress she was certain was the `one'.

This dress was nothing like that red dress, the red one was much more overt. This dress was soft, pastel and very feminine, it was much more subtle in its sexiness. The hemline was adequately short, the neckline just low enough and the delicate straps were edged with the slightest ruffle. As she slid the garment over her head she new it would fit perfectly and it did.

Short dresses were a challenge after the bombing, the scars on her upper leg were still harsh to the casual observer and while Donna was not ashamed of her appearance she didn't enjoy the questioning glances that accompany a pair of shorts or a dress that didn't cover them.

This dress fell right to her knee in layers that shifted as she walked in it. She slipped the shoes out of one of her other bags and slid them on, a perfect match. Donna bought the dress and as soon as she brought it back to the hotel she cut off the price tag, this dress was not going back tomorrow, this dress would be folded into her cedar chest and preserved forever.

She was 3 minutes late for her manicure, but the manicurist was still with her last customer, one Donna recognized immediately.

"Mrs. Santos?" Donna asked the back of the woman's head.

"Donna, hi," she smiled as she looked over her shoulder, her hand held hostage by the manicurist.

"Mine are a mess," Donna admitted holding her hands up to illustrate.

"Mine too, I think I may have started biting them around the 2nd ballot," she admitted.

"I'll be with you in a moment Miss Moss, feel free to have a seat," the manicurist smiled.

"Sit over here with me," Helen smiled.

"Thank you Ma'am."

"Donna, we're going to be working together a lot, you don't need to call me Ma'am."

"You might want to start getting used to it, I know it took Dr. Bartlet awhile."

"You think we can win?" Helen asked surprised.

"Don't you?"

"Yes, yes I do, but I thought I was the only one," she smiled at Donna.

"I've learned never to bet against Josh Lyman, even when he's down, he is rarely out," Donna shrugged.

"He is really something. Tell me about you two," Helen made a little motion with the hand that wasn't being manicured.

"There's not much to tell yet. We met, I hired myself as his assistant on the first Bartlet campaign, we made it to the White House, we worked well together, I needed to make a mark on my own, I quit to work for Russell, we lost, Josh hired me back, I accepted under the condition that we be allowed to explore our relationship outside the office, he agreed, I got a job, a date & the perfect dress all in the same day," Donna finished with a flourish.

"I think that is the Cliff Note version, but very interesting none the less. You two aren't together already? Like for years?"

"Not romantically no, tonight is our first date," Donna beamed.

"And you shall have beautiful nails," the manicurist announced as she moved Helen to a nail drier and got Donna settled in the pedicure chair.

It was 7:58 when Josh knocked on Donna's door. She finished applying her lip gloss and ran a hand through her hair as she approached the door. She sucked in a breath for courage and opened the door.

"Hi," she smiled at the man leaning against the doorjamb in his best gray suit.

"You look amazing," he said and she wasn't sure if he was aware of the other time he said those words to her, but she smiled the same bright smile at hearing them again.

"Thanks," she said as she looked down at the floor, her hair shielding her eyes.

"And thank you for the flowers," she indicated the lovely bouquet of tulips on the dresser.

"You're welcome. I thought you should have flowers, but I didn't think you packed a vase, so I just had them sent instead of bringing them and then having nothing to put them in but the hotel ice bucket and that never looks right and I really want to take you out right now and not look around for a sufficient container for the flowers, so, so I had them sent," he babbled endearingly.

"It was very thoughtful Josh," she grinned at his warped logic.

Dinner was easy, the two of them trading stories from the campaign trail and catching up on White House gossip and family news. Josh chided Donna for not telling him about Margaret's pregnancy and Donna showed Josh pictures from her parent's 40th wedding anniversary party that she had managed to attend while on a campaign swing through the Midwest.

It was over coffee that they began to discuss them.

"So this has been nice Josh, our first date," Donna grinned as she held his hand on top of the table, out in public for anyone to see.

"I don't want to date you Donna," Josh started and Donna instantly pulled her hand away.

"I'm sorry?" Donna began confused.

"That came out wrong, I'm sorry. I mean I don't want to just date you Donna. We waited much too long for this date and went through way too much to get here, I don't want to date you Donna, I want to marry you," Josh used the hand Donna had unceremoniously dropped and reached into his coat and pulled out the ring he had bought while she was getting her nails done.

Josh had anticipated any number of reactions from Donna, the one he got was not among them. She laughed, really laughed, tears began to stream down her cheeks and her face was so red from laughing he was concerned and people were beginning to notice.

"What is so funny?" he asked with a smirk just happy she hadn't thrown her coffee in his lap and stormed out of the restaurant, that response he had actually imagined.

"You, Joshua Lyman, are the only man I know who would ask a girl to marry him on their first date," she shook her head and wiped at the tears on her cheeks.

"We didn't just meet at the Temple mixer last week Donna," he pointed out.

"I realize that Josh, but don't you think it would seem a little strange if we went from first date to wedding date in a day and a half?"

"Not to anyone who knows us Donna."

"They aren't the people I'm worried about Josh. You are the campaign manager on a fairly high profile campaign, don't you think the press might notice if you hire me and marry me in the same week!" her voice was a few octaves higher than normal.

"But I bought you this ring," Josh nearly whined as he cracked open the black velvet box that was sitting like a giant pink elephant on the table.

Donna gasped as she saw the ring, it was perfect, it made her perfect dress seem imperfect in its presence. It was strong and delicate at the same time, it was tasteful and elegant, it was unique and classic simultaneously.

"It reminded me of you," he said by way of explanation.

It was currently on her finger and it fit perfectly.

"I love you Donna, I want to marry you. I know there will be obstacles, I know there will be talk, but we've done nothing wrong and when this campaign is over and we are back at the White House I want to walk through the door with you as my wife."

"Last night you said we had to do everything possible to even have a chance against Vinnick, tonight we're sailing back in to the West Wing victorious," Donna grinned as her eyes finally left the ring on her finger.

"Last night was my one moment of doubt on this campaign Donna, the time for doubt is over, we are going to keep the White House, I swear to God we are," Josh's attention drifted for a moment to the campaign.

"There's a lot to discuss Josh, before we get married. What about children?"

"Our children?" Josh asked slightly awed.

"Well I am quite concerned with the state of children around the world, but right now, for the purpose of this conversation I was referring to our children, yes," Donna smiled.

"Our children," Josh repeated, the question leaving his voice.

"Yes Josh, children, offspring, progeny if you would," she giggled.

"What about them?" Josh regained his composure.

"We have different faiths Josh, that's an issue where children are concerned. I'm not getting any younger and we are working on a job interview for an 8 year position, do you want to wait?"

"I really don't want to wait Donna, can we start now?" Josh leered.

"What is this the accelerated program? First date, wedding date and due date all in one convenient meal," Donna laughed again.

"I don't want to lose you again Donna. I don't want another day to go by that I don't tell you how much I love you, how valuable you are to me," the levity of their conversation evaporated.

"I'm not going any where Josh," Donna took his hand back in hers and ran her thumb soothingly over his knuckles.

"I've had these feelings for you for so long and I put them away, I had to, for both our sakes and now that I'm letting them out they're just vying for attention. I want to be your best friend Donna, I want to be your lover and your husband I want to be the father of those children and yes there are things we need to discuss, but can you see any of those discussions leading us any where but here?" he indicated the ring on her finger.

"No," she said simply.

"Then please keep the ring, wear it on a different finger for awhile if that makes you more comfortable, we'll date publicly and then give an exclusive to a reporter we trust have a small private wedding in say September and win back the White House in November."

"You've given this some thought," Donna smiled proudly as she moved the ring to her right hand.

"For a lot longer than I might want to admit," Josh blushed.

"Sounds like a plan," and that was the end of the discussion.

"So how was your day?" Josh asked as he paid the bill.

"Good, I got almost everything done that I planned," Donna smiled coyly.

"Almost?" Josh asked as he calculated the tip.

"I ran out of time and never got to have that bath," she pouted.

"There is officially 2 hours left in your day off," he noted as he glanced at his watch.

"We discussed a lot tonight, but you know what we forgot to factor in the plan?" Donna asked as she stood from the table.

"What's that?" Josh asked as he reached for her hand.

"When exactly I get to see you naked," she leaned in and whispered in his ear.

"I don't usually sleep with someone on a first date," Josh teased.

"Me neither, but this is after all, the accelerated program," Donna dropped his hand and walked out of the restaurant leaving Josh truly and utterly speechless.

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