Almost Normal

by: Brandy

Category: Drama
Written: June 2002
Disclaimer: Not mine. Still disappointed. Still trying to deal. Still sneaking Sorkin's kids out to play.
Characters: Donna, Josh
Rating: YTEEN
Summary: 7th in the Transition Series - It follows: 1) Unspoken 2) A Brief Glimpse 3) Sanctuary 4) Contemplation 5) Dirty Work 6) Precious Moments
Notes: Thanks as always to Shelley for her help and encouragement.

‘It's been a strange couple of weeks', Donna thought as she returned to the west wing Friday afternoon. It had begun with Simon's tragic death, but it hadn't ended there. Everything seemed to be in a constant state of fluctuation, with everyone acting a little off. To a degree, that was understandable, but some elements of it still had her off-balance.

The way Josh had acted when he took her out to lunch last week was a perfect example. He had gone out of his way to be pleasing and accommodating. He had even bought her a bouquet of flowers from a street vendor on their way back to work. That had really shocked her, although she'd done her best not to show it. At the time she couldn't help but remember the flowers he had forgotten in April. That spontaneous bouquet more than made up for it though. In fact, it was better. There had been other little moments throughout the week- but that lunch, and his actions afterward, had been the oddest things of all. To add to the overall strangeness of the last two weeks, she had run into Amy, of all people, on her way over to the OEOB to pick up some files for Josh. Donna had hoped to get away with nothing more than a nodding hello as she went about her business, but as luck would have it, that didn't happen.

Donna noticed the deceptively cordial smile pasted on Amy's face as she approached. That smile had always bothered Donna to no end. It wasn't just that it was patently deceitful and grossly insincere. After spending the last few years in the world of professional politics, she had grown used to artificial smiles. It was that Amy's smile always seemed to have a predatory gleam to it. It reminded Donna of those alligators she had seen lazing in the sun on a campaign stop through Florida. Those alligators had the same look in their eyes as they regarded the tourists who thought they looked so placid and harmless behind their enclosure.

With a deep sigh of resignation, Donna pasted on her own smile as Amy stopped in front of her.

"Donna, I haven't seen you in a while. How've you been?"

"Fine, Amy. Busy, but fine. Yourself?"

"Good. I've been out touching base with a few old contacts. I'm not with the WLC anymore- but you knew that, right?" Amy asked, her voice deceptively carefree- as though leaving the job she loved had been entirely her own idea.

"Yes. I was sorry to hear about that."

"Really? I would have thought you'd be anything but sorry to hear about it- all things considered," Amy replied, her brow arched in subtle, yet unmistakable challenge. Donna was trying to decide on the best way to make a quick and graceful departure when Amy spoke again- all apparent challenge gone from her voice.

"How's J?"

"Josh is fine. I'll tell him you asked ... I'm sorry Amy, I really do have to get going. Josh needs me-"

"Yes, I know. I won't keep you then. Remember to tell J I asked about him," Amy said with almost saccharin sweetness before turning and walking away. Donna stood there for a moment, shaking her head in confusion over what that bizarre conversation had actually meant, then shrugging in resignation she continued on her way.

It wasn't until later, when Donna had returned to the west wing and was checking phone messages, that the cryptic nature of her conversation with Amy became a little clearer. She turned and walked into Josh's office and, leaning in his open doorway, she asked, "Did you happen to mention anything to Amy about the help I gave you on the welfare reform vote?"

Josh looked up from the briefing memo he had been reading, clearly puzzled by her abrupt question.

"Why do you ask?"

"Could you just answer the question, Josh?"

"No...not at all. I told you the last time I talked to her was the night I broke things off, and your name never came up," Josh replied, still looking puzzled.

"Not at all? Not in any way?"

"No, Donna- not at all. Not in any way. Now, will you please tell me what this is all about?" With a sigh, Donna came in and sat down.

"I ran into Amy on my way over to OEOB, and she said some things."

"What things?" Josh asked, immediately wary.

"Nothing in particular. She asked about you," Donna noted, and the expression on her face made it clear that Amy's inquiry had little to do with any regard for his health.

"I'll bet. What else?"

"Nothing in particular. It was one of those conversations that women have that have all kinds of layers and hidden meanings that men just don't understand," Donna replied with a teasing air of mystery. If the truth were told, she still didn't completely understand some of Amy's more veiled comments, but bit by bit it was becoming clearer.

"That's kind of sexist of you, Donna," Josh said with a grin.

"Not at all- merely the truth," she replied with mock haughtiness.

"So that's your explanation for why women don't make any sense?"

"Smart-ass. We make perfect sense. It's not our fault that you men haven't refined the skills required to understand our intricate thought patterns ."

"That's one way of looking at it," Josh rejoined with a grin, then asked, "So did she actually accuse you of having something to do with her losing her job?"

"No. I told you - it wasn't anything that obvious. Just a combination of impressions that led to a conclusion."

"Well, don't worry about it. Things worked out the way they were supposed to, and anything that was done by either of us was a combined effort," Josh said, not wanting her to feel any guilt over Amy's current unemployment.

"Oh I wasn't worried about it," she quickly assured him. "I was just wondering whether you may have mentioned something or if she got the idea based on something else."

"She probably concluded the very thing I just said- that pretty much everything we do, we do together. It's really not that hard to understand," he said finally, looking very content with his analysis.

Donna sat there for a moment, taking in what he had said, and realized that things had really taken a turn between them. It was almost the way it was before, when they were so close. Before Cliff and Amy and the investigations. Before the tension and hurt feelings. It was almost like that- but not quite.

Of course, normal was only a relative term when it was applied to them anyway. They had never been normal anything- not in the traditional sense. Not normal employer and employee. Not normal friends. She supposed the best way to look at it was to say that they were both just too unique to be described with a word as mundane as ‘normal'. It was nice that things were approaching their own particular state of normal though.

"Well, I guess I better get back to work. We both have a pile of stuff, and you have that budget meeting at four"

"Yeah, I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to that," Josh grumbled.

"Buck up, Josh- it can't all be glamour and fun."

"I'd settle for not going insane with boredom."

"It'll be okay- and if you're good you'll get a reward at the end," Donna placated him with a smile.

"Like what?" Josh asked, immediately perking up.

"Are the Mets playing tonight?"


"How about pizza and your Mets? Will that get you through the nasty old budget meeting?" Donna offered teasingly.

"Will you join me?"

"Okay- but only if you go to your budget meeting without whining," Donna countered.

"It's a deal" Josh said with a smile. A smile that remained as he watched Donna return to her desk. A smile that was still present as he turned his attention back to the briefing memo he had been reading.

Donna had a similar smile on her face as she tackled the stack of work that awaited her. It was true things weren't quite back to normal- at least not the old normal. This seemed to be some sort of new normal- and that had the prospect of being a lot more interesting than what had been before. More interesting- and a lot more fun.

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