Chapters: 001 Word Count: 3679
Character(s): Josh Lyman, Donna Moss
Crossover Shows: - No Show -
Summary: Josh has an important question to ask but he becomes anxious as he tries to figure out the best way to do it
Timeline: During the first year of the Santos administration
Disclaimers: Blah, blah. Same as always
Feedback: Is always welcome.
A/N: Beta’d. Thank you ladies! I take responsibility for any errors. Again, this is nothing but romantic fluff. That seems to be what I feel like writing lately
Josh heard the key in the lock and smiled slightly. He had never tired of that sound, never failed to notice it. It meant that Donna was home and that was something he was still getting used to. The two of them had been living together since they returned from their Hawaiian holiday. That was 6 months ago and he still got a thrill hearing Donna come into his townhouse. Josh gave himself a mental shake – their townhouse. It had been ‘his’ for so long, he occasionally still used that singular pronoun. But Josh took nothing for granted. He hoped that years from now he’d still feel contentment when he heard Donna come home. As that idea floated through his mind, he smiled again. He was aware of exactly what he’d just thought! It was no shock to him to realise that he thought of he and Donna as ‘forever’. As for when he’d realised it, that was a tougher question. It was just something that had been a part of him for so long, he couldn’t put a date or an event to it. He just knew it.
Donna came inside and kicked her shoes off by the door. It was one of the first things she did when she got home. She padded into the living room and flopped onto the sofa next to Josh.
“How was lunch?” he enquired.
“Oh, it was lovely. We sat outdoors. Good food, good wine and lots of girl talk.”
Donna had befriended Sam’s fiancée Jenna when she’d arrived in DC and they’d formed a firm friendship. Donna helped Jenna navigate the difficulties of having a relationship with someone who worked the long hours required at times from White House staff and Jenna provided Donna with an opportunity to live outside the bubble for awhile. It had been a long time since Donna had socialised with someone who didn’t work in the White House, Congress or politics directly.
Both Sam and Josh encouraged this friendship. It made it easy for them to socialise together and both men appreciated the support the women gave each other. So when Donna announced she and Jenna were going for lunch the following Saturday, Josh only complained a little! It meant giving up a Saturday afternoon with Donna. They got so little time at home. But he wasn’t that selfish to whine for long.
Donna curled up against Josh and he wrapped an arm around her. Kissing the top of her head he asked “So what did you two talk about?”
“This and that. Girl talk. Don’t worry, I won’t repeat it. I know it will make your eyes glaze over.”
“It will not. I love to hear you talk,” Josh defended himself.
“Really? You want me to tell you about the shop that has 40% off designer bags?”
“Hmm, maybe not.”
“Would you prefer if I tell you that Jenna asked me to recommend an OB/GYN? She hasn’t found one yet that she feels comfortable with.”
“Donna, stop! I get it. You talked about stuff that will either bore me to death or have me feeling queasy. You don’t have to go on.”
“Ok, so you don’t want to know how Sam proposed?” Donna asked innocently. She knew this had been a sore point between the men. Sam didn’t want to share something so personal and Josh, well he was too stubborn to give up. Donna started to get up but Josh’s hand clamped around her wrist and he tugged her back onto the couch.
“You got her to tell you?” he asked incredulously. “How did you do that?”
“Same way I get you to do things?”
Josh’s eyebrows raised and he said, “Donna, that may be some guys idea of an ideal fantasy but it’s not mine!”
“What are you talking about?” she asked. “Ah, you mean…”
“Josh, that is not the only way I get you to do things. Besides, use that incredible mind of yours. Jenna and I were in public. How could you even think… oh God there is no way out of this conversation is there?”
“Nope!” Josh grinned. “Seriously, how did you manage to get her to share what has taken on the gravitas of a state secret?”
“We drank a bottle of wine over lunch, on the first warm day of the year. By the time she was onto her 3rd glass, there really was no challenge.” Donna settled herself with her head in Josh’s lap.
“So, we’ve speculated that Sam would propose in some overly romantic way. It would be perfectly planned and executed. Ok, well maybe not perfectly executed. This is Sam we’re talking about. But he’d certainly do the candlelight and flowers things.”
Donna opened her eyes and looked at him. “Well, I guess it was romantic if you like that sort of stuff.”
“What is wrong with candlelight and flowers?”
“Nothing, nothing at all. It’s perfect for some people but not for me.”
Josh tried to appear casual but he felt this was a conversation he should be paying close attention to. His fingers drew lazy circles on her forearm.
“You’d prefer something less traditional?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
“How about those couples you see on TV who get engaged at the ballpark? You know, the message goes up on the big screen and then the camera pans in on the couple.”
Donna laughed. “I think that is more a man’s dream proposal than the woman’s.”
“So that is a bit too out there for you?”
“God yes. Everyone watching what should be a private moment. Blah! Can you imagine the embarrassment all round if the woman said no?’
“She’d say no?” Josh squeaked. All his plans for the future hinged on Donna saying ‘Yes’.
“She might. It might all be too much for her and she’d feel self conscious and then the moment is lost.”
“So I suppose you hate the idea of people proposing over the PA on a plane, for example.”
“Again, too public for my taste.”
“Good to know,” Josh commented without thinking. Donna’s eyes flew open but Josh was staring at the TV so she assumed it was an innocent comment and went back to enjoying the sensation Josh’s fingers were creating.
“So you don’t like the public proposals? I heard of someone who got a glider to write ‘Will you marry me?’ in the sky. No good?”
“How did your parents get engaged?”
Donna looked at Josh curiously. “Why all the questions?”
“I..um..I’m just wondering. All this talk of Sam and Jenna. You know…”
Donna had a feeling there was more to this than he was admitting but she didn’t push.
“Mom always listened to the radio in the morning before going to work. Dad knew this and asked the radio station to play a song at a time he knew Mom listened. When the song was over, he proposed, over the airwaves. Problem was everyone heard it, including my Nonna who was on the phone before she’d had a chance to respond.”
“That wouldn’t be good,” Josh chuckled, thinking of his own mother and her reaction if the couple involved were her son and Donna.
Josh sat quietly on the couch, Donna’s head in his lap. She’d curled onto her side, face outwards. Josh continued stroking her hair and Donna drifted off. Josh’s voice brought her back to consciousness.
“So how did he do it?”
“No, Marconi! Of course I mean Sam.”
“No need to get snarky.”
“Donna,” he began to whine.
“Relax, Joshua. I’ll tell you. It was all very traditional.”
“Do you want all the details or just the highlights?”
”I’ll leave it up to you,”
“Very wise. I’ll just give you the highlights.”
“They flew to NY for the weekend. Dinner, dancing and a proposal at the top of the Empire State Building.”
“Very traditional. But women like that, don’t they?”
“Yes, but there was another part to it that made it more clichéd than traditional. It all happened on Jenna’s birthday.”
“And that’s not good because…” Josh was floundering here.
“There is no surprise element. A birthday, an anniversary, a trip to Paris. A proposal becomes expected,” Donna sighed.
Josh pondered all of this. Donna didn’t want a public, showy proposal. Nor did she want a cliché. He really didn’t know what to do. All he knew was that it was important to get it right.
“So it worked for Jenna but it wouldn’t work for you?” Josh clarified.
Donna sat up and looked at Josh. “No, it wouldn’t work for me. The man who I’ll marry knows that isn’t really our style. He’d try and do something that was right for us. Something that was in character for us both.”
As Donna got up she heard Josh mutter “God, no pressure!” In a louder voice he said wickedly, “So I’m guessing ‘How about it, then?’ also wouldn’t work?”
Donna looked at him seriously and replied. “No, that would earn him an elbow to the ribs.”
“Good,” and Donna went into the bedroom to change. She closed the door and leaned up against it. She tried to process the very strange conversation she’d just had with Josh. He couldn’t be thinking of marriage, could he? They’d only been together 6 months. 9 years and six months. They had come along way but they’d never had a discussion about formalising their relationship. Sure, they had talked about what they wanted from each other and there was no confusion that they both wanted to be together for the long haul. But they hadn’t gone as far as talking about getting married. As Donna realised where Josh’s mind was going, she smiled broadly.
Josh, meanwhile, was having the beginning of a mental breakdown. My God, what was he going to do? In his mind, he’d decided that moving their relationship to the next level was what he wanted. He’d imagined proposing. Donna would accept and that would be that. But listening to Donna now, he realised that there was so much more to this than just saying the words. He was going to have to give this some thought.
One evening, a few weeks later, Donna arrived home from work to the unusual sight of a tidy home and the aroma of wonderful food wafting from the kitchen. As she followed her nose, she saw Josh bent over the oven. She couldn’t help herself. She crept up behind him and gently slapped him on the backside. He yelped and turned around, quickly regrouping.
“Like what you see, Donnatella?” he grinned.
“The sight of you cooking or the sight of your very fine ass pointed in my direction?”
“Whichever one does it for you,” he teased.
“Oh, the sight of you in the kitchen definitely does it for me,” she replied, eyes twinkling.
“Wench,” Josh replied as he grabbed her for a kiss. “Now go change and by the time you’re ready, I’ll be ready to serve dinner.
“What are we having?” Donna asked only to have her hand swatted away from the stove.
“It’s a surprise. Now go,” Josh shooed her out of the kitchen.
By the time Donna emerged from the bedroom comfortably attired in a casual skirt and top, Josh was pouring the wine. He took Donna by the hand and led her to the table where he revealed a meal that could only be described as delicious. Donna raised an eyebrow at him. Josh was an average cook but this was beyond his level of skill.
He met her eye and shrugged, “I ordered from Vito’s Trattoria.”
Donna kissed his cheek and sat down. “Perfect. Let’s eat.”
After a meal of mussels in a tomato and chilli sauce, veal scaloppine with Mediterranean vegetables and cherry zabaglione tart for dessert, they washed up the dishes.
“That was lovely. But why the effort?” Donna mused aloud.
“We’ve been working hard and I thought we deserved a great meal. I’m just too tired to dress up and go out for it,” Josh answered calmly.
“Well, it was a nice treat. How about we pop in a DVD and relax?” Donna asked, heading towards the spare bedroom. She still had some of her belongings in boxes and her DVD collection sat on a shelf in the spare room waiting for the day she had the time and inclination to place them in the cabinet in the living room.
The words were barely past her lips when Josh shrieked “Wait! Don’t go in there!”
Donna jumped in shock. What the… “Josh, what’s the matter? Why can’t I go in here?” she asked with narrowed eyes.
“Because…I um… I made a mess in there and I haven’t had a chance to clean it up.”
“Since when has that bothered you?” she asked suspiciously. Something was definitely up.
“Well, it’s all my smelly gym gear. I just dumped it in there.”
“I’ve smelled your sweat before Joshua,” she said dryly. “I want to get the DVD that is in there.”
With a flying leap, Josh tried to get his hand to the handle before Donna but he wasn’t fast enough. Donna opened the door, viewed the contents and mouth open, turned to Josh.
“Why is your blackboard from your old office in our spare room?” she asked menacingly. Space was at a premium and they were trying to throw items away, not gain new ones. Especially such large ones!
Josh knew there was no use delaying the inevitable. “I am working on something but I I’m not quite finished. I needed a few more minutes to add the final part. But seeing as how you couldn’t leave it alone, my little surprise is spoiled.”
He took Donna by the hand and led her into the room.
“I wanted to do this in Sam’s office, my old office, but that would mean letting him in on why I was taking over his office. I really didn’t feeling like going into all that so I’ve done the next best thing. I brought some of my old office here,” he spoke quietly.
As Josh said that her eyes swept the room, noticing that some items that hung on his DCoS office wall now decorated the wall of the spare room. His large leather chair was positioned next to the board. A number of coloured index cards were stuck onto the board along with some other items placed underneath each card. She looked at him with a puzzled but affectionate gaze.
“What is this?”
“It’s us,” Josh said, leading her to the first index card. Below it was the ID card Josh gave her when she first joined the campaign. The index card read “The day we met and you changed my life.”
Josh admitted “I had to raid your memory box for that one but I couldn’t do this timeline without it.”
The next index card said “You controlling me. Courtesy of the Bartlet Library Foundation.” Next to it was a copy of the first day of meetings etc., Donna had organised in Josh’s diary.
Donna ran a finger over that, lost in memory. “You were so disorganised. How you got anywhere on time I’ll never know.”
Josh watched her as she moved onto the next card. “One of the many times you inspired me and made me look at something from a different perspective,” and underneath was placed a copy of ‘The Antiquities Act’. Donna laughed as she recalled that day.
Donna noticeably tensed as her attention focused on the next part of the timeline. Josh’s hospital ID tag was stuck on the board with a note reading “The night my heart stopped and the time you encouraged it to beat again.”
Donna looked at the man who had survived such violence. “A team of the best cardiovascular surgeons got it working again.”
“Maybe. But it was you who worked tenaciously to ensure I got better and as you did, my heart became yours. I just didn’t know it then,” he whispered in her ear.
Donna was tearing up at the effort Josh had gone to. She wasn’t exactly sure why he done all this but she was moved by this summary of their life together.
The note cards and mementos continued with news clippings of the Stackhouse filibuster, an invitation to the Correspondents’ dinner the year she had told Josh she wouldn’t stop for red lights, a photo of his mother wearing the scarf she’d sent her for Christmas one year.
She smiled as her eye rested on her invitation to President Bartlet’s 2nd Inaugural Balls. Adjacent to it was a photo of the two of them, eyes only for each other. There was a glow to both of them that night. Donna reached for Josh and rested her head on his shoulder. “For a night that started off so badly, that was a lovely evening.”
Josh kissed her gently and replied, “That night was when I realised I was tired of hiding how I felt about you. I knew I was in love with you and I crossed a line. You really did look amazing.”
An invitation card for ‘Josh Lyman and guest’ reminded her of accompanying him to the swearing in ceremony in the East Room of Evelyn Lang as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Josh had insisted she be his guest, since he liked to remind her “It was all your idea.”
The next few things recalled some darker times in their past. With a shrug Josh explained “The bad stuff is all part of the story too.” The index card attached to his airline ticket to Germany simply said “The second time in my life that my heart stopped.” Donna saw something she’d never seen before – her cell phone number on a post it. She didn’t recognise the handwriting. Looking at the card she read ‘Reality hit home. You had left me’. As Josh explained how Marla had offered him Donna’s cell phone number, she winced. She could only imagine how that must have stung him.
Coasters from hotels from the Santos campaign recalled the time they met while working for opposing candidates.
An index card said “A great morning…”Donna looked closer to see one of those little cardboard envelopes containing a hotel room swipe card. It needed no explanation for Donna. She had kept her room card as well. She just hadn’t known Josh had kept his. Their first kiss.
The final card was attached to a photo of them in Hawaii. The couple smiling out from the picture was oozing happiness and love. There was nothing overly physical about them. It was more the body language that screamed familiarity and contentment. They looked like a couple who had been together for years and who were still as much in love as ever. Which, in a way, was true.
Donna threw her arms around Josh and hugged him. As he reluctantly let go, she asked “This is all beautiful and you’ve gone to a lot of trouble, but why?”
Josh sighed. “I told you I wasn’t finished. I was going to finish it after dinner and then show you. I had one more to add.”
“Oh?” she queried.
“Yeah.” Josh drew a deep breath and ploughed on. “All of these things show how much you mean to me. They show the triumphs, the inspirations, the good and the bad. This is our life shown here. Both personal and professional. I know I’m older than you. I know I can be unbearable at times. I know I leave the bathroom in a mess. I hope this isn’t a cliché and I hope I am getting this right. If I am doing this right, the next index card will simply say ‘Marry me?’” Josh paused and looked at Donna nervously.
Donna said nothing but reached for a pen and one of the index cards. Without a word, she began writing. Josh impatiently bounced on the balls of his feet. Any time, he attempted to speak, she shushed him. Finally she stopped writing, placed the card on the board and turned to Josh who read aloud:
‘Donna Moss’s research into proposal placed before her:
• Yes, you are older than me but you have the exuberance of a 5 year old!
• Yes, you can be unbearable but you are also passionate, intelligent and caring.
• Yes, you leave a mess in the bathroom but you take out the garbage, help with the laundry and display other signs of being house trained :)
• Yes, you are getting it right. This is romantic and sweet but isn’t clichéd. It is very ‘us’. PS I can’t believe you used index cards!
• Yes, I will marry you.’
By the time Josh got to the last point he was grinning from ear to ear. Gathering Donna up into a sweeping embrace, he was eternally grateful for all they’d shared that led to this point, all the things that made them ‘them’. And he was grateful he’d got it right.