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Aftermath

by: Jennifer Wilson (Send Feedback)

Chapters: 001 Word Count: 2265
Rating: TEEN
Character(s): Josh Lyman, Donna Moss
Category(ies): Post-Episode
Pairing(s): Josh/Donna
Episode(s): 7-01 The Ticket
Crossover Shows: - No Show -
Summary: Donna's day after her interview with Josh. Post-ep for 'The Ticket'

Chapters: 1

She’s not sure how she manages to walk through the office to leave. Her legs are shaking, she can barely breathe, can barely see through the tears welling up in her eyes and her heart… well, it’s in pieces on the floor of Josh’s office.

As she waits for a cab to go back to the Vice-President’s office, thank goodness she didn’t quit, she doesn’t look back, not once, and for that, she’s … grateful. He’s not going to follow her out, she knows that. There was a time he would’ve. A time he would’ve dropped everything and followed her, putting an arm around her and looking at her in that way that only he could. That way that made her believe everything was going to be ok. But she hasn’t seen that look in so long, too long, and she knows she won’t be seeing it today. But still, she wonders if he wanted to follow her, even just a little, and that makes it harder to hold in the tears.

She finds that if she looks up towards the sky, it’s easier to keep them at bay, and she has to do that, she absolutely has to, just until she gets into the cab, then she can let go. She’s furious with herself for the way her voice broke there at the end, when she thanked him for his time. He knows her too well, so she’s sure he knew she was barely hanging on, but she’ll be damned if she’ll let anyone on his precious untrustworthy staff see her break down on P street.

A cab pulls up and she climbs clumsily inside, lacking the strength in her legs to climb in gracefully. The first tears begin spilling down her cheeks even before the door’s closed all the way, and she begins searching her purse for tissues as she mumbles, “The OEOB.” The driver couldn’t care less that she’s crying, he simply pulls out of the spot and drives, and she finds that comforting. She’d hate that a stranger cared when he didn’t.

She wants nothing more in the world than to go home and climb into bed where she can hug the teddy bear her mom brought to Germany from her childhood bedroom. A thought flitters into her mind that she needs a bubble bath and Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia, but she knows it wouldn’t help. The pain she feels right now is beyond what ice cream has the ability to fix. But to go into work seems like the worst possible solution at the moment, so she looks up and tells the driver her address instead. This time, he looks back at her through the rearview mirror with pity and she wants to scream.

She doesn’t think she has the ability to call Will. Her voice won’t hold out long enough for the call, so she pulls out her cell and text messages him. “Doctor’s appt taking longer than expected. Probably won’t be back today.” Once she hits send, she looks out the window and continues crying silently.

When the cab finally pulls up in front of her building, she pays the driver with a twenty and doesn’t wait for her change before climbing out and steadying herself for a few seconds. When she finds the strength, she climbs the six steps that lead to her building. Her hands shake as she pulls her keys from her purse, unlocking the door, and for every second she stands there, she thinks a hundred more tears fall from her eyes. Finally, she hears a click and pulls the door open, where the stairs in front of her might as well be a mountain. Suddenly, she takes off running up them at full speed, the confines of her apartment calling her and telling her she’ll be safe in there. When she reaches her door, she fumbles with the lock, finally pushing it open. She turns and closes it, sliding immediately to the floor, tears turning to sobs, breathing turning to choking, silence turning to wailing.

The meeting starts replaying itself over and over in her mind, distorted a little differently each time. His soft tone turns to screaming, his offer to make calls turns to laughing, his eyes from gentle to red and angry. She finds that even as she sits on the floor in her foyer crying about it that she can’t really believe it happened. That he said no. She didn’t expect it to be easy, but she never in a million years thought he’d say no. Not him. Not to her.

She tries to get up, but can’t quite make herself move off the floor, and part of her wonders how long she’s been sitting there. Her cell phone’s rung at least twice, but she doesn’t move to answer it or check her voicemail, she just keeps crying. She wishes she could calm down, concentrate more on what was said and how he said it, and she hates herself just a little bit for caring if he was or wasn’t being an ass as he said no. He said no, and that should be enough, but it’s not.

She doesn’t know how much time lapses before she passes the point of tears, but eventually they stop and she becomes almost numb. It’s probably better, but she doesn’t have the strength to think about it. But finally, she’s able to stand up and walk unsteady into her bedroom. She feels like she’s going through the motions, as she unzips her skirt and lets it fall to the floor. She steps out of her shoes while taking off her jacket, which lands close to the skirt, her blouse near that. She never leaves clothes on the floor, but today she walks away from the pile to her bathroom without a second thought.

She looks at herself in the mirror and flinches. Her face moves closer until she’s leaning against the mirror awkwardly over the sink. The glass feels cool against her skin and she stays that way for several seconds. The ringing of her home phone brings her back to reality and she bends over, rinsing her face off with cool water. It’s the best she’s felt all day, and she pulls the water up with her hands to her face over and over and over as if she can wash away the humiliation and pain coursing through her.

When she stands up, her hair’s wet on the edges. She looks at herself in the mirror again; she suddenly hates her haircut and pulls it back it into a sloppy ponytail. She turns from the mirror as she unhooks her bra so she doesn’t have to look at the scar on her chest, and walks back into her bedroom where she slips off her pantyhose and sits on her bed. There’s a picture of Josh and her in a frame on her dresser and as she stares at it, she finds herself thinking of the folder he pulled conveniently from his top desk drawer. A new tear slips down her cheeks as she decides he must’ve known she’d be coming. He must’ve been looking for reasons to tell her no so he wouldn’t have to look her in the eye and say he didn’t want to work with her anymore.

The tank top she wore to bed last night is shoved under her pillow and after several minutes, she pulls it on and crawls under her down comforter and closes her eyes. It’s still daylight, but she’s suddenly exhausted.

She wakes up sometime after dark. She thought she’d feel better, but she doesn’t. She stares at the ceiling as the last bit of their conversation plays through her mind again and she’s not sure if it’s the correct version or one of the distorted versions she’d been imagining all day but she continues staring at the ceiling as it plays in her mind over and over. “If you think I don’t miss you every day…”

She’d told herself the meeting was purely professional, so when he’d said that, she’d looked away, shocked and frightened and not ready to hear a statement so deep from him. But personal and professional are interweaved between them, and lying there now, she wishes he’d finished the thought, because part of her can’t help thinking it would’ve ended something like “…you’re right,” or “…you’re wrong. I need you out there.”

But then she closes her eyes and thinks of his voice when he said it, the way he made eye contact with her as he said the word ‘you,’ the silence afterwards as if he was waiting for her to tell him she’d missed him too, and she knows it was personal. That it was the closest he’d ever come, either of them had ever come, to those three unspoken words. He must’ve been crushed that she looked away.

She rolls to her side, curls herself up into a ball and cries again. She doesn’t think she has the strength to go another round of will they/won’t they, and she thinks there must be someone else out there in this huge world with whom she could be happy. She knows she’ll always love him, but thinks there must be a way to make room in her heart for someone else as well. But there’s not; she knows because she’s tried.

She’s not sure how long she cries this time, but eventually she breaks out of her reverie and goes to the restroom to wash her face again before shuffling into the kitchen. She glances at the microwave. It’s almost nine and she hasn’t eaten since breakfast, but as she opens the fridge to look for something, her stomach churns and she closes it heads into the foyer to pick her purse up off the floor.

She sees that she’s missed three calls on her cell; one from Will, one from her mom, and one from a DC number she’s unfamiliar with. She has voicemail, so she walks to her couch and plops unceremoniously down into the inviting cushions and calls it. The first is from Will telling her not to bother coming back into the office. She figured he wouldn’t care. They’ve got nothing to do there anyway, it’s like they’re biding time till they can all leave. The second is from her mom, “just calling to check in.”

She hits seven, erasing the message and the third one starts. Her breath catches in her throat when she hears Josh’s voice. “Hi… I just wanted… I called your office and they said you wouldn’t be in the rest of the day and I just … God Donna, I never meant to…” His voice catches there and there’s a long pause before he finishes in almost a whisper. “I just wanted to make sure you’re ok.” His voice sounds broken and her tears start falling again.

She knows she should’ve known he couldn’t hire her. Wouldn’t hire her, whatever, she doesn’t have the strength to re-hash it anymore. But she’d heard Will countless times over the last few months say Josh was going too far to be able to hire him after they beat Santos. But… it’s Josh…and she thought that would be enough. So she went into his office and put him in a position where he’d have no choice but to crush her, and she didn’t have the right to do that. The look on his face… why would she do that to him, she wonders. He would never willingly hurt her, why would she force him to? Why would she put them both through that? She wonders briefly if she did it on purpose so she could find a way to hate him, but she shakes if off. She gave up trying to hate him ages ago.

The message clicks off and she hangs up, still holding the phone in her hand. She gets up and walks to the desk in the corner looking at her answering machine. There are no messages, but she’s missed two calls, one from her mom who always tries her home number first, and one from the same number on her cell phone. She figures it’s his new office number and saves it on the caller i.d.

She’s exhausted again, but she doubts she’ll be able to sleep. Still, she locks the doors and turns off the lights, then pads back into her bedroom and climbs underneath the covers. She turns on her side and notices she’s still holding her cell phone. It’s takes a half hour to get up the nerve, and even then she calls his house knowing very well he’s still at the office. But she has to tell him. She has to make sure he knows, so when his answering machine beeps she takes a deep breath and finds a way to leave the message. “I miss you too.”

Chapters: 1

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