A little post-ep for "Requiem", NO spoilers for "Transition" and beyond.
Ah, yeah, caz963 I know I said earlier that I wasn't working on anything new, but this sort of snuck up on me!
It looked ethereal, framed white against the absolute black of the night sky, like a palace of light standing against a world of darkness.
Sometimes Josh wondered if he was the only person left in the country who revered what this building stood for above and beyond the power it bestowed; the only person left who understood that its foundations lay buried deep in the bedrock of an idea at once astonishingly radical and yet self-evidently true. He wondered if he was the only person who felt its weight resting on his shoulders like the heavy hand of history.
You are the future…
Leo, he thought, would have understood.
And perhaps, eight years ago, Leo had stood on the self same spot and stared at the White House with the same sense of awe and wonder, and perhaps he too had wilted a little under the weight of responsibility.
But Leo had been ten years older, and ten times the man; Josh felt like a child walking in giants footsteps. He knew, deep down, that he wasn’t meant to be doing this alone. He was meant to be doing this with Leo, and now he was beginning to wonder if he was meant to be doing it at all…
We’re counting on you…
He’d never, in his whole life, felt so ill prepared. Santos was a neophyte, and without Leo to leaven the mix Josh knew that he was the only thing standing between the country and disaster.
No pressure then.
He felt sick to his stomach as he turned away, sick to his stomach and cold to the core. Three days since the election, three months until they took office, and already the weight was crushing.
With a heavy sigh he turned away, hunching deeper into his coat as he began the walk home. He’d drunk too much to drive and didn’t feel like enduring the idle chat or oppressive silence of a cab. Besides, the cold November air was…bracing. It would do him good – clear out the cobwebs as his mother would say.
He was still on Pennsylvania Avenue when he sensed the car pull up behind him. Glancing once over his shoulder he didn’t recognise it, so kept walking. The car didn’t drive off, though, and just as the first wave of adrenaline pulsed he heard a familiar voice call out. “Need a ride?”
God he loved that voice… Despite his best efforts, Josh couldn’t help smiling as he turned around. “Is this how you find your dates?”
Donna barely raised an eyebrow as she stopped her car at the side of the road. “Usually I try a better part of town.”
“Slumming it tonight?”
She cocked her head. “I’m on my way to C.J.’s. You want a ride or not?”
“Because if you girls have something kinky planned, I—”
“Okay.” The window was rolling up, the car was starting to move. Josh darted around in front and the car lurched to a halt. Donna cast him a flat look as he wrenched open the door and scrambled into the passenger seat. “Are you stupid? I could have run you over!”
“You were doing, like…two miles an hour.”
Her eyes narrowed a little. “Next time I’ll go faster.”
Josh chuckled and reached for his seatbelt. “So…we’re not really going to C.J.’s, right?”
“Right,” Donna agreed, concentrating as she pulled out into the sparse traffic. “I’m going to C.J.’s, you’re going home.”
He glanced over at her, a retort on his lips, but her serious face killed it there. Whatever was happening between them, Josh would be the first to admit that he didn’t have a clue what to do next. But he was beginning to suspect that Donna might be equally at sea, despite her bravado. Dropping all trace of teasing from his voice, he said, “You could always tell her the truth, you know.”
Her mouth twisted into an odd, almost bitter smile. “I could.”
“But…?” Her reticence made him nervous; was she…embarrassed?
For a moment she didn’t answer, but Josh could see her thinking and so let the silence ride until she said, “It’s complicated.”
“You and C.J.?”
She shrugged. “Anyway, there’s not that much to tell.”
Josh was a little stunned by that, and a little stung. “Not that much to tell?”
She glanced over, the hint of an apology on her face. “I mean… We’ve slept together twice, Josh. I’ve had plenty of relationships that never went beyond that.”
He held her gaze for a moment, then looked sharply away. “That’s not what this is.” Unless… “Is it?”
“No.” The speed of her answer was as welcome as its warmth. “No, I just meant… There are obviously some things we need to discuss, and….” She trailed off. “It’s complicated.”
“You and me?”
Donna smiled a little. “When has that not been complicated? But I meant with C.J.”
“I don’t…” He rubbed at the stiffness in the back of his neck. “Don’t tell me she’s got the hots for me too.”
He smiled. “For you, then?”
Donna rolled her eyes. “It’s nothing like that, forget it.”
“Yeah, like that’s going to happen.”
She cast him a quick look. “Don’t you have a transition to manage, or something?”
Huh… His mood soured like hot milk in the sun. “Apparently not. Barry Goodwin does.”
“Barry Goodwin?” The car swerved slightly as Donna turned to stare at him in shock. “But I thought you—”
“Santos hired Goodwin? Did he even ask you first?”
“It’s…the President Elect, and no he didn’t.”
Donna glared out the windshield for a moment. “Well that’s… A bad choice.”
Josh sighed his agreement, his head sinking back against the seat. A bad choice… Outside the nightlife of the city was speeding past in a blur of lights and half-seen people and all Josh could think was that it wasn’t meant to be this hard. “Leo would have know what to do.”
He heard Donna sigh, and to his surprise felt her warm hand closing over his. “You’ll figure it out.”
Threading his fingers through hers, he said, “I miss him.”
“I know.” She squeezed his hand tight. “I know you do.”
And perhaps it was that quiet act of solidarity that made him say, “I don’t know if I can do this without him.”
He knew she’d say that, but really it was only half the truth. “The thing is,” he said quietly, “I don’t know…I don’t know if I want to.”
Again her hand tightened on his, but only for a moment before she took it away and pulled the car over by the side of the road. He was surprised to find himself outside his apartment already. Donna unclipped her seatbelt and turned to look at him. “Josh,” she said softly, “I know you. You’re not going to walk away from this.”
“The President Elect— Santos doesn’t…trust my counsel. He never has, right from the start. And I thought I could manage that, I thought— Running a country is completely different from running a campaign. And if he won’t listen to me now… What happens when there are lives at stake?”
A trace of a smile teased Donna’s lips. “Did you just get elected President, Josh?”
“If Santos doesn’t listen to you, then he’s an idiot and he’ll get what’s coming to him at the polls four years from now.”
“We’re deploying tens of thousands of soldiers into Kazakhstan, we’re—”
“He’ll listen to you.”
“But what if—”
“He’ll listen to you, Josh. You want to know why?” He didn’t answer, he just watched her – watched the absolute faith in her eyes, and marvelled at it. “He’ll listen to you, because you’re the guy the guy counts on.”
Amazing… The thought came out of nowhere, spoken in his mind as clearly as if he’d said it out loud. She’s amazing; my harbour in any storm. There was a strange sense of unfolding in his chest, of something expanding beyond his ability to contain it, and he realised in awe that it was love. Pure and simple. “What if…” He felt as if his whole body was smiling. “What if I don’t want to be the guy the guy counts on?”
Donna shook her head. “But you do…”
“What if…” He reached out and took her hand, her slender fingers perfect as they wrapped around his. “What if I want to be the guy the girl counts on?”
Her smile was like the sunrise and it filled his heart, it filled him completely. “The thing is… Why can’t you be both?”
“Both…?” She’d stunned him, electrified him.
“This is your time, Josh. This is what you were meant to do. You can’t walk away from it. You won’t walk away from it. Leo wouldn’t have let you, and neither will I.”
“If Leo was here…”
“He’d tell you to get to work.”
Josh smiled at the truth of that. “I just… I don’t know if I can.”
“You don’t see what I see, Josh.” She squeezed his hand again, her smile all affection and pride. “And, you know, I like to keep your ego in check so I don’t say it a lot, but… You really are remarkable. You can do this; it’s your time and you have to live it.”
“With you?” He hadn’t meant to ask that, to be so direct. Not so soon. But the words had just slipped out.
Donna’s smile stuttered into uncertainty, like a thin cloud passing in front of the sun. But it was only momentary. “That’s… There’s nowhere else I want to be.”
He wasn’t entirely sure what they’d just agreed on, but his heart was racing fast enough to power a small generator. “Then…you’ll stay? Tonight?” Every night?
Her smile strengthened, but her head was shaking. “Not tonight.”
“Why not? I thought we just—?”
“We did,” she assured him. “But tonight… I need to talk some things over with C.J., and you… You need to be alone.”
“Alone? I’ve spent every night for as long as I can remember alone, I need—”
“You’ve spent the last three months camped in the pocket of Matt Santos, and you’re going to spend every day for the next four years in the same place. We buried Leo today, Josh. We buried Leo McGarry and you need some time alone with that.”
The air left his lungs in a rush, as if he’d been punched in the chest by a velvet glove. His head dropped and he felt tears clutching at the back of his throat, a stinging heat in his eyes. Leo…
Donna’s hand was on his face, tipping it up toward her as she placed a soft kiss on his cheek. “We’ll talk tomorrow.”
He nodded, not trusting himself to speak until he’d sucked in a shaky breath and brushed a hand over his eyes. With a sniff, he forced a smile. “How do you know?”
“That I need to be alone with this.”
Her own smile was bitter-sweet. “Because I know you, Josh. Don’t you get that yet? I know you.”
And maybe he did. Maybe, at last, he did get it. She knew him better than he knew himself, she always had. And maybe he’d taken that for granted, maybe he hadn’t seen it for what it was – maybe he hadn’t truly understood what it meant to find the one. The one person to ground you, to raise you up, to hold you and to set you free. But he saw it now, he understood it now. And he was never, ever letting it go again. “I’m…” His breath came out in a long, marvelling sigh. “I am the luckiest...”
“Maybe we both are.”
And maybe she was right about that too. “So…I’ll see you in the morning?”
She nodded. “It’s the time of our lives, Josh. I don’t want to miss a moment.”
He didn’t say anything else; what was left to say? Instead he leaned over and kissed her lightly on the lips. “Goodnight.”
“Sleep well,” she said, brushing her fingertips lightly across his face. “Tomorrow, it begins.”
For a long moment he held her unwavering gaze and thought she’d never looked stronger or more beautiful; he could hardly believe she was here, at his side. She nodded, a silent moment of understanding, and he turned away. It was time to go. Time to be alone with his memories and his loss, time to grieve and ready himself for the new day.
But her words, like her touch, lingered long after her car had disappeared into the dark night. This is the time of our lives, Josh.
The time of our lives…
And it was only just beginning.
Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed it. Comments make my day! :)