A Good Thingby Allison
Disclaimers: None of these characters belong to me in any way, shape, or form. If you sue me, you'll get nine dollars and a Shakespeare textbook.
Josh stood grumbling in the hallway, moving the keycard rhythmically up and down as if he thought that would change something. Coming up behind him, Donna sighed heavily and took the card from his hand, sliding it effortlessly as always through the lock and opening the door when the light flashed green. "You loosened it for me," she deadpanned, shoving past him and dragging his suitcase into the room. "Can I talk to you for a second?" she asked when the door had closed behind him.
"Since when do you need my permission?" he teased.
She gave him a glare of death and continued, flopping familiarly on one of the double beds. "I was talking to Ainsley on the plane -"
"About moisturizer. I tuned you out when you hit the pore refiner."
"Not about that," she scolded, tossing a pillow at him from behind her head. "She said because of the hearings and the filibuster fiasco she and Sam haven't had much time together lately."
"So?" Josh asked.
"So, you and Sam are sharing a room, and Ainsley and I are sharing a room."
"Under duress," Josh reminded her. "The hotel overbooked."
"Whatever." She dismissed this comment with a shake of her head. "I'm saying, we should let Sam and Ainsley share a room."
"Are you crazy?" he fairly shouted. "Dating in public is one thing, but flaunting a sexual -"
"Josh," Donna interrupted patiently. "These two rooms connect. I'm not saying we should advertise that they're sharing a room, just that once both doors are locked we can move around as we please between the rooms . . ."
"And no one's the wiser," Josh finished. "That is a point."
"Shut up." He threw the pillow back at her. She igmored it and continued talking with it laying partially over one side of her forehead, which he found oddly endearing.
"Wait." Suddenly his brain kicked into gear. "Are you suggesting that I share a hotel room with you for three days?"
"How is that different from crashing on my couch?" she asked rhetorically.
"No cats," he mused.
"No one would know," she pointed out.
"Sam and Ainsley . . ."
"Do you really think we're what Sam and Ainsley would be focusing on?"
He smirked. "Guess not."
"Besides," she added, "would you rather share a hotel room with a lovesick Sam for three days?"
"No," he pronounced definitively.
The door swung open, admitting the two people in question. "Hey, you two," Sam said cheerfully. Ainsley raised an eyebrow at Donna flopped on the bed, but said nothing.
"Hey," Donna greeted them. "Josh and I decided something."
Ainsley bit first. "What?"
"These rooms connect. So no one would know if he bunked with me and Ainsley slept in here."
Sam and Ainsley both blushed furiously while looking at Donna as if she were God's gift to romance. "You two would be all right with that?" Ainsley asked worriedly.
"I can put up with anything," Donna replied airily, waving off her concern.
"You're fired," Josh declared.
"See?" Donna said to Ainsley. Ainsley nodded, grinning.
"So," Josh interrupted. "As it's eleven o'clock and we haven't slept in, oh - four years, I'm going to take my luggage into the other room. Goodnight."
"Goodnight," everyone else chorused. Donna dragged herself reluctantly off the bed and followed him to the connecting door - which he was unable to open despite having flipped the latch. "It's probably latched on both sides," she pointed out. "We'll have to go around by the hallway to unlock it."
They left a still-blushing Sam and Ainsley in the first room and entered the other through the hall door. Donna unlatched the connecting door and knocked sharply before opening it. Sam and Ainsley were sitting decorously on opposite sides of the room. "Just wanted to remind you," Donna called, "if Ainsley needs to leave the room she's going to have to come through this way. Just in case."
"Good point," Ainsley acknowledged.
"Oh," Donna added as an afterthought, "and turn down both beds."
"Why?" Sam wondered. "I mean, even assuming the chambermaid sold the story to Hard Copy, if no one knows we . . ."
Donna raised an eyebrow. "If the chambermaid sells the story to Hard Copy, do you really want her thinking you shared a bed with Josh?"
Sam blushed even darker, and Ainsley giggled. Donna smiled wisely at both of them and said, "Goodnight," as she pulled the door closed. She turned around to find Josh staring at her. "What?"
"Did you have to put that picture in my head?" he asked.
"Oh, the trauma," she mocked. "Where did you put my suitcase?"
"On the bed," he pointed. "You weren't planning on sleeping naked, right?"
She faced him down, hands on hips. "I was going to be sharing this room with Ainsley, so no, not really. And don't say it - yes, I did have to put that picture in your head."
"Actually, that one I don't mind so much," he joked.
"Pervert," she retorted, but secretly her mind was turning circles. Josh admitting he found her attractive - even in the same breath as saying he found Ainsley attractive - was a rare enough event that it caught her off guard. She didn't quite know how to respond and found herself giving him the shy, pleased smile he'd come to associate with offering to put her on a stamp.
He even gave her a little smile in return, which caused an odd lurch in her stomach somewhere. She put it down to exhausted sentimentalism and turned her back on him, pulling clothes out of the suitcase. "Give me your suits for tomorrow and Thursday," she directed without looking at him. "If I don't hang them up now they'll look like you slept in them."
Josh refrained from comment or objection as he handed her both of his suits, folded already on hangers. She slipped them into the little closet and then gathered a pile of clothes and headed for the bathroom. "Right out," she called over one shoulder.
"Sure," he replied dubiously. He laid himself across the other bed and started flipping television channels. It was fifteen minutes and half of a Cheers rerun before Donna emerged from the bathroom in a cloud of steam and the scent of hotel soap, wearing loose cotton pants and a tank top. "Right out, huh?" he asked.
"Would you prefer me unkempt and hairy?" she asked. "Don't answer that."
"Wasn't planning on it," he replied smoothly. He rolled off the bed. "Witness efficiency in action." He ducked into the bathroom, breathing deeply of the warm soap smell and starting the shower. "You better have left hot water," he called.
"It's a hotel, there's always hot water," she returned, settling into his spot to watch Cheers. His bed was directly in front of the TV whereas hers was off to the side. She stretched out on top of the covers, enjoying the way the heat of the water lingered on her skin, keeping her warm despite her lack of sleeves.
Five minutes later the water stopped. A minute after that the bathroom door opened and Josh's damp head and bare shoulders stuck out. He was carefully keeping the rest of himself behind the doorframe, although she could see the towel he was wrapped in. They were pretty small towels. "Donna?" he asked rather pathetically.
"You forgot clothes, didn't you?" she asked.
"Efficiency in action?"
"Just get my damn shorts, would you?"
She sighed heavily and leaned over to rummage in his suitcase. "These?" she asked, waving a pair of plaid boxers.
"Yes, and get them over here before I flash you."
She settled back on the bed, twirling his shorts around one finger. "Interesting option," she mused.
"Just kidding." She crossed the room and handed him the boxers, careful to keep on the right side of the door. Without thanking her he ducked back into the bathroom and slammed the door tightly.
When he emerged, Donna glanced up from the TV and her breath caught in her throat. Intellectually she knew she had only handed Josh boxers, but some part of her wasn't prepared for him to come out of the bathroom bare-chested. Tendrils of steam escaped with him, and she said quickly to cover up her staring, "You're steaming up the room."
"I am, huh?" he smirked.
She rolled her eyes. "You know what I meant."
"Sure." Still looking insufferably self-conscious, he reached for his suitcase and dug into it for a shirt. Suddenly he paused and the grin faded from his face as he looked up at Donna. "Donna?" he asked, sounding, for him, oddly unsure.
"Yeah?" she replied, picking up on his tone immediately.
"How many . . . Millicent Griffith said . . . did you . . . have . . . is it . . ."
"It's not that bad, Josh," she replied, taking pity on him finally.
"How did you know?"
She smiled up at him and waved the remote control in his general direction. "Well, you're not usually standing in front of me half-naked. I guessed what you were thinking about."
He frowned and hesitated, as if deciding whether to joke or ask her honest opinion. He, she, everyone knew they had an important relationship, an important and special dynamic, but opening himself up to her emotionally was uncertain territory. "It's really not bad?" he asked at last in a small voice.
Donna paused a split second before putting down the remote and gesturing for him to come down to her. He sat carefully on the bed, watching that his shorts didn't ride up and expose anything that shouldn't be exposed. Hanging out casually around Donna half-dressed was not on his list of comfortable things to be doing, and a part of him couldn't imagine why he was doing it. Another part reminded him that he hadn't been with a woman since the days PS - pre-shooting - and that maybe having her see him was a necessary part of healing.
"You saw it before," he said nervously as he sat beside her.
"Not since it closed up all the way," she replied, looking up from his chest to meet his eyes. "I haven't seen it healed. You didn't need my help by then."
"No," he replied softly.
She reached out and placed one hand on his shoulder, to steady both of them and accustom him to her touch. With the other hand she gently stroked the length of his scar, first with one fingertip and then her whole hand. Overcoming her shyness about the physical contact, she allowed her fingers to run through the hair on his chest - which, she noted, didn't grow over the scar yet - and rubbed him more firmly. "It's not bad at all," she said finally. She took one of his hands in hers and placed it over his own chest, over the scar. "See?"
"Yeah," he said distractedly.
Feeling the sudden deperate need to break the tension, Donna backed off and lifted one leg of her pants, displaying a vivid purple slash mark across her lower thigh. "The color never faded from this one," she commented casually. "I did it seven years ago."
"How?" he asked, resisting the inexplicable urge to run his finger over it.
"I fell down the side of a mountain," she explained.
"How?" he repeated, surprised.
"Hiking. I wandered off the path and slipped. I didn't fall too far, but a tree branch scratched me up pretty bad." She lowered her pants leg and settled back against the headboard. "I used to worry that guys would think it was gross."
"You don't anymore?" he asked.
"Well, not much," she admitted. "Mostly I think of it as a battle scar. A badge of honor, you know?"
"I know," he said quietly.
She grinned at him, and to her great delight he smiled back. A sudden banging click made them both jump.
"What was that?" Josh asked, looking around.
Donna smiled slyly. "I think it was the latch on the connecting door."
"Oh," Josh said, a similar look appearing on his own face. "I see."
They shared conspiratorial smiles, and Donna reached for the remote again. "There's a Mel Brooks movie coming on. If you don't want to sleep yet."
"I'd wake up at three AM," Josh commented. "Put it on." He turned back to his suitcase and extracted a t-shirt, which he slipped over his head before settling back beside Donna. The opening titles of Young Frankenstein began, and he relaxed as the long day, the travel, and the warm shower began to take effect. The headboard was suddenly rock hard behind him, and he told Donna, "Grab the pillows from the other bed."
"I'd have to get up," she protested.
"One each is too low," he said plaintively.
"So get them yourself."
He sighed heavily. "Fine then, give me that one and we'll share." He pulled the pillow from behind her and added it to his, then pulled her over to rest her head on the side of the pillows. He leaned back beside her, careful not to lay on her long hair.
"Okay?" she asked.
"Mm-hmm," he murmured, settling himself in the most comfortable position with relation to her, which turned out to be slightly under her, her arm resting on his. "You smell like hotel soap," he mused.
"So do you," she pointed out, smiling. "We just used the same soap."
"Smells better on you," he replied a bit sleepily. While she was deciding what to make of that, he said, "This is my favorite part." They both laughed as Teri Garr "rolled in the hay," and Donna unconsciously rolled a bit onto her side so that she was almost resting on him. A thump from the room next door made them both chuckle, and that was one of the last things Donna remembered. When she woke up, the digital clock read two and there was an infomercial on the TV. Josh was fast asleep beside her. She clicked off the TV and eased herself off the bed, pulling the blankets out from under him as gently as possible and covering him up with them. Then she slipped into the other bed and fell immediately asleep again.
* * * * *
Donna was awakened by the jarring sound of the hotel alarm clock. She dove out of bed, looking for the source of the noise, and located the offending object on the small table on the other side of Josh's bed. Not really caring whether she disturbed him - it was high time he got up anyway - she vaulted onto the bed and leaned over him to grab the alarm and shut it off.
"Your knee is in my spleen," Josh grunted without opening his eyes.
"You don't even know where your spleen is," Donna returned, settling back onto the empty side of the bed. "Sleep well?"
"Oddly enough, yes," he groaned, finally looking up at her. "It should be a crime to look that perky at this hour, you know that, right?"
"Well, the eardrum-puncturing alarm, to which you are apparently immune, helped a bit."
Josh threw the blankets off himself and stumbled toward the bathroom. "Is Sam up yet?"
"I don't know," Donna replied. As the bathroom door closed behind Josh she walked over to the connector and knocked lightly. She tried it and found it unlatched - they'd probably opened it sometime before falling asleep, she figured. She pushed the door open slowly, calling, "Guys? Good morning?"
Both Sam and Ainsley were apparently very heavy sleepers, because neither of them stirred. Donna paused in the doorway for a moment watching them - since, fortunately, they were both decent. Sam had Ainsley folded in his arms, her head resting on his shoulder, his fingers tangled in her long hair and one of her hands cupping his face. As Donna observed them, Sam shifted in his sleep and pulled Ainsley a little closer, simultaneously stroking her hair and settling his cheek against the top of her head. Donna swallowed an unexpected lump in her throat and smiled. "Guys? Sam? Ainsley?"
She felt a presence behind her and turned to find Josh, smelling of hotel soap again and watching the sleeping couple over her shoulder. "They're kind of cute," he said when Donna caught him.
"Yeah," she smiled. "See? You did a good thing."
"You did," he corrected. Then he leaned over her shoulder and yelled, "Hey, Sam!"
Both Sam and Ainsley jumped nearly a foot, then vaulted out of bed before realizing it was only Josh and Donna. Ainsley dropped the sheet she had wrapped tightly around herself - rather redundantly, since she was also dressed, and said, "Good morning to you too."
Josh grinned. "Meeting in one hour."
By the time they all returned to Josh and Donna's room at ten that evening, all four of them were exhausted and ready to kill the next person who had an issue about energy to discuss with the representatives from the White House. Even Donna had spent the day deflecting interest groups and trying to keep Josh and Sam from either murdering or insulting anyone. They staggered into the room like the Donner party finding civilization and dropped immediately onto whatever pieces of furniture they found most convenient. From his position across Donna's bed Sam grunted, "Anyone in favor of room service?" Arms lifted from Josh, Donna, and Ainsley, and Josh reached for the menu.
While Josh and Sam bickered over the relative merits of steak and chicken, Donna pulled herself to her feet and opened the sliding glass door that led out to the small balcony. She walked out and leaned against the wrought-iron railing, trying to place the slightly down feeling she'd been having all day. She'd been cycling between highs and lows, and she had even herself confused.
The door slid open again behind her and she turned to see Ainsley slipping out onto the balcony. "Hey."
"Hey," Ainsley replied. She came and leaned on the railing beside Donna for a moment before asking gently, "Are you okay?"
"Sure," Donna fibbed easily. "Tired."
"Okay," Ainsley replied, not wanting to push. "Just, you know, if there's anything . . ."
"Yeah," Donna acknowledged with a little smile. She paused for a while, looking out over the hotel parking lot into the night sky. "You and Sam are very cute," she said finally.
Even in the dark she could tell Ainsley was blushing. "Thanks," she replied. "I think."
"It's a good thing," Donna said. "I wish . . ."
"What?" Ainsley asked.
Donna sighed and pushed a strand of hair behind her ear. "I wish I could find somebody like that. Not like Sam - I mean, not that there's anything wrong with Sam. I mean - somebody who would be for me what Sam is for you."
"I get it," Ainsley laughed. "You will."
"I don't think so," Donna said with a sad, quiet smile. "I've been there."
"What do you mean?" Ainsley pushed herself up on the railing and looked at Donna intently.
"I thought I had that once already," Donna admitted, twisting the bottom of her cardigan around her fingers. "Turns out I was wrong."
"He left?" Ainsley guessed kindly.
"No, I left," Donna sighed. "But he had left a long time before that, you know what I mean?"
"I do," Ainsley said. "But there'll be somebody else."
"There have been lots of somebody elses," Donna said, laughing a little. "But I'm not the . . ." She gestured blankly into the night.
"You're not the . . . ?"
"I'm not the permanent kind," Donna said, finally finding the words she wanted. "I'm a couple of dates person, not a move in and settle down person."
"What about that other guy?" Ainsley asked.
"He needed me for something that had little to do with my personal qualities," Donna said dryly.
"Ah." Ainsley winced. "Well done leaving him."
"Yeah," Donna replied with a raise of her eyebrows. "He would have left me eventually if I hadn't. He was getting tired of me."
"Doesn't sound like the ideal relationship," Ainsley commented neutrally.
"Ideal it was not," Donna agreed. "But what do you know when you're twenty?"
"Not a lot," Ainsley replied, thinking of her own history.
"At least I know better now," Donna continued. "Enough - I would hope - not to make the same mistake again."
"Thinking it would last," Donna said softly. "Don't get me wrong, I meet lots of guys that I have high hopes for. It usually just takes two dates for me to realize they won't stay with me any more than he would have."
"Eh." Donna shrugged. "They can't all be the wrong guys, right? I mean, all of them have probably moved on to have fulfilling relationships with other people. I think it's me."
"How could it be you?" Ainsley wondered, looking at the sweet, pretty young woman before her.
Donna laughed. "I'm impossible to live with."
Inside, Sam wandered back through to his and Ainsley's room to change out of his wrinkled suit, and Josh flipped the TV on and settled himself on the bed. The sound of his own name caught his ears, and he muted the television and listened shamelessly.
"Josh hasn't had to live with me," Donna was saying with laughter in her voice - but it was a dry, bitter laughter. "Although you could almost make that argument. No, I know I'm a good assistant. That's not the same thing as having to be in a relationship with me."
"I guess not," Ainsley conceded.
"I mean, a relationship implies that you're staying with just that one person. I can't - can you imagine me being the only person someone would want to be with?"
"Yes," Ainsley replied without hesitation. "And I mean that in a strictly non-lesbian-overture kind of way."
Donna laughed again, but this time she meant it. "Yeah. I don't buy it, though."
"You think I'm hitting on you?" Ainsley asked, her southern drawl becoming more and more amused.
"Not that part," Donna said. "I mean about someone wanting to - I mean, I'm completely impossible. And I don't think I can help it."
"What makes you think you're impossible?" Ainsley asked.
"I'm annoying in a relationship. I talk too much," Donna ticked off with her fingers. "I'm totally compulsive. I'm clingy. I argue too much. I expect too much. I'm smothering. And I cry too easily."
"That's just ridiculous," Ainsley said. "If you cried too easily you wouldn't last a day with Josh."
Josh was mildly insulted by this, but he felt compelled to hear Donna's answer.
"Not about things like that," she replied. "Not usually about work stuff, or about Josh - although sometimes . . . but not till I get home. Problem is, if you're living with me that's where you have to deal with me. And it's not so much that I cry a lot - it's that once I start I can't stop."
"Yeah," Ainsley said sympathetically. "Well, for what it's worth, I don't think you're annoying at all. I think you're a good person and the right kind of guy would be lucky as hell to be in a relationship with you. You just haven't met the right kind of guys." She smiled. "I hadn't either, until Sam. And I'm older than you are."
"Not by much," Donna said.
"But that doesn't change the fact that when I was twenty- what? Twenty-seven?"
"Okay. That when I was twenty-six, twenty-seven I didn't know I was going to meet Sam when I was twenty-nine. I was in exactly the same position you are."
"I guess," Donna said, trying to smile at her. "Thanks, Ainsley."
Ainsley returned her smile warmly. "You're welcome."
"Just for the record," Donna said, "I'm glad you came to work with us."
Ainsley's smile grew even brighter. "Thank you, Donna." She slipped off the railing carefully, her bare feet touching the ground without making a sound. "Food must be almost here."
"I'll be there in a second," Donna said, watching her go.
"Hey, Josh," Ainsley called as she reentered the room.
"Hey, Ainsley," he replied distractedly, trying casually to unmute the TV. "Donna still out there?"
"Yeah," she answered. "I'm going to go unearth Sam. He's probably fallen asleep."
Josh smiled, but his mind was elsewhere. "Sure."
He couldn't make up his mind what he was thinking, but then the room service arrived and they all settled in around the little table to eat. He looked at Donna carefully but she seemed as blithe as ever, sitting beside him and stealing his french fries. She and Ainsley laughed over some episode of a prime time drama they apparently both watched, and there was no indication that she was feeling down as a result of their earlier conversation. He pushed his doubts to the back of his mind.
Later, after Sam and Ainsley had excused themselves to go to bed next door, Donna changed her clothes and then slipped out onto the balcony again. Josh hesitated for a moment before picking up her jacket from the chair where she'd thrown it and going after her.
"Good night," he said by way of greeting as he dropped the jacket around her shoulders.
"Yeah," Donna responded idly.
"Are you okay?" he asked.
She frowned. "Why does everyone keep asking me that?"
He shrugged. "You haven't seemed like yourself lately."
"What is my self usually like?" Donna shot back.
He shrugged again. "It's an expression."
He held it back for a moment before eventually bursting out with, "Donna, did he make you feel that you couldn't have a relationship?"
She spun around and glared at him. "Were you eavesdropping?"
"You were talking to Ainsley four feet from my head," he pointed out. "I didn't have to try that hard."
"Whatever," she grumbled, turning away from him again.
"I mean it," he said. "All that stuff you - did he tell you that?"
"Yes!" she exclaimed at last. "Is that what you wanted to hear? Yes, my boyfriend told me I was clingy and compulsive and that no one could possibly have a relationship with me without being driven crazy." She subsided and looked a little embarrassed for her outburst. "So maybe I don't pick losers after all - the losers pick me."
"Bullshit," Josh said firmly.
"I'm not arguing with the losers part, because I've met some of those guys you've gone out with, but that says nothing about you - except that you have a knack for trusting the wrong people."
"If this is you trying to help," Donna said, "don't."
"Donna . . ."
"Josh. I don't need your pity, okay? I'm really not that pathetic yet. It's fine. Ainsley and I were just talking." She turned to go back inside.
"You were wrong about me, you know," he said.
She turned back. "Huh?"
"About me being able to put up with you because I only work with you? Not true."
"You can't put up with me?" she guessed, leaning against the glass door.
He laughed. "No. I mean, yes, I can. I mean, no - it's not a question of putting up with you." He offered her a charming smile and started over. "Even if we didn't work together, I would still . . ."
"What?" Donna asked curiously.
"I would still like you."
"You like me?" she asked, her voice dangerously close to wobbling.
"Oh God," he replied. "Please don't start."
She clamped her hand over her mouth. "Sorry. I know. That irritates you."
"No, it doesn't," he said, realizing his tactical error. "Truth is . . ." He took a deep breath, not sure whether he wanted to let this get maudlin. "I stop you from getting emotional with me because I'm afraid I will, too."
She rewarded his admission with a tiny smile. "Okay."
"Okay, that's all I get?"
"Okay," she repeated, nodding.
"You're not seized with the urge to hug me or cry or something?"
"Do you want me to hug you?" she asked teasingly.
"No," he replied in the same tone.
"Okay then." She turned back to leave again.
"Hey, Donna." His doubts had come to the surface again, and he asked quickly, "Do I ever do that to you?"
"Do what?" she asked.
He sighed and raked his hand through his hair. "Make you feel like less than you are."
She opened her mouth and closed it again before finally saying, "Sometimes."
"See," he said, "and I know I would want to kill anyone who did that to you - and then I realized I did it myself without meaning to . . ."
"It's okay, Josh," she said. "I'm going to bed."
"Wait," he said. She looked at him curiously. "This is what we do," he continued. "We start to have a real conversation, and then one of us leaves."
"You want to have a conversation?" she asked.
"No, I want -" He frowned. "I want to know I'm not a bastard."
She laughed hard. "That's it, huh?" She patted him on the shoulder. "You're not a complete bastard. Goodnight."
"Donna!" he exclaimed plaintively. "That's not what I meant. I mean - I want you to know that you're wrong."
"Wow, you're getting better and better at this," she said.
"I mean about what you said before. To Ainsley, about - you're wrong. She was right. Any guy would be lucky to have you."
Donna blushed prettily despite trying not to. "You're very sweet. Goodnight."
He had to make one last attempt. "You know when you asked me to hire you, and you said you thought I might find you valuable?"
He spread his hands, trying to explain. "You were wrong. I don't."
Donna looked positively horrified. "I'm sorry?"
"Valuable is something nice, but you can live without it. You don't need valuable things, they just make life a little more pleasant. Air conditioning in the White House is valuable. You - you're necessary. I could live without air conditioning. You I need."
Donna still looked not quite sure how to take that. "Okay."
"Not that you don't make life more pleasant, because you definitely do. But life without you wouldn't just be unpleasant - it would be impossible. To me."
A slow smile spread its way across her face. "I think that might be the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me."
Josh grinned back. "Then you know a lot of pretty inarticulate people."
She laughed. "I was trying to be polite about it, but - we should thank our lucky stars Sam's the speechwriter."
"You know," he began.
"I wouldn't mind it a lot if you decided you wanted to hug me now."
"Why would I want to do that?" Donna asked.
He shrugged. "I just thought - you know, we were having a moment there."
She laughed again. "Josh, I'm kidding." He smiled, and she stepped carefully into his arms. "Thank you," she said quietly, then buried her face in his shoulder. He felt so warm and solid around her, and his shirt had the comfortable smell of cotton and fabric softener and Josh, and she could have been quite happy to stay there for hours.
"I don't tell you this very often," he said, tightening his hold on her and reveling in the feel of her hair under his fingers and her arms around his waist, "you know, unless it's a holiday or one of us has nearly been killed, but - you're important to me."
"You're important to me, too," she replied, feeling the tears well up in her eyes. "Now I'm crying."
"Well, stop," he said not unkindly. He pulled back enough to look at her and stroked the hair off her face with both hands. "Come on, let's go to bed."
She grinned. "What, you throw a compliment my way and you think I'm going to bed with you?"
He fought down the urge to admit that, yes, the foremost thought in his mind involved tugging Donna back into the room and pulling her shirt over her head while he kissed her senseless. The fantasy was disturbing, although not unfamiliar, and rather than probe its origins and meaning he shoved it right back down. "You know you can't resist me." He disentangled himself from her and shoved her toward the door. "Sleep."
They settled themselves in bed with no more talk, and Josh's breathing evened out until she was sure he was asleep. She tossed and turned, unable to get comfortable and feeling that same unidentifiable dissatisfaction she'd been experiencing all night. Finally she sat up against the headboard and watched Josh sleep. Five, ten, fifteen minutes passed before he opened his eyes and asked, "Donna, what are you doing?"
"Nothing," she replied. "I can't sleep."
He hesitated, then held out his arm. "You want to come here?"
"I mean it." He gestured again sleepily with his arm. "Come on. I've heard I make a great pillow."
"I don't think . . ."
"Oh, come on. I'm not trying to seduce you. I'll stroke your hair, you'll be asleep in seconds. Guaranteed."
She wavered for a moment. "Fine. But this is not to be construed as -"
"Yeah, yeah. Get over here."
She crawled out of bed and slipped in beside him, allowing him to cocoon himself around her. As promised, his hand went immediately to her hair while he arranged her carefully against his chest. "Go to sleep now," he murmured soothingly. "We'll be home tomorrow and you'll be back in your own bed. Just go to sleep. I'm here."
She closed her eyes and whispered, "Josh?"
"Are you just doing this to get me to sleep?" she asked shakily, instantly regretting the audacity of the question.
His hand in her hair stilled its motion for a split second. "No. I'm doing it because I don't often get an excuse. Now go to sleep."
"Okay," she whispered softly.
"Now who's not sleeping?" she teased without opening her eyes.
"I make you cry?"
Her heart stopped for a moment. "Sometimes."
"I don't want to do that anymore," he whispered. "If I had known . . ."
"It's okay. You're just - you know, you."
He frowned up at the ceiling. "Will you tell me?"
"Tell you what?"
"When I've said something you're going to cry over later?"
"I'm not a child, Josh," she said.
"I know that," he replied. "Just - don't let me hurt you, okay?"
"I'll try," she whispered. "Goodnight."
One hand found his free one and curled around it as she allowed him to lull her to sleep.