Punctuation of a Kiss

by Ginny K.

Feedback to always appreciated
Archive: Just ask
Note: Just a piece of stand alone fluff that started with a quote from a Mary Engelbreit page-a-day calendar.
Spoilers: General Season Two, nothing terribly specific. Set before 2 Cathedrals.

Part 1

"A Kiss can be a comma,
a question mark
or an
exclamation point "
~~~~~ Mistinguett

At 9:00 on Friday night the West Wing was slowing down from the frantic pace of a normal week. People were starting to leave and the noise level was dropping. Leo had gone to dinner with Mallory, Toby and CJ both had weekend plans that involved air travel, Charlie had managed to leave the White House in time to meet Zoey for dinner and the President had actually gone up to the residence at 8:30.

That left Josh, Donna and Sam in the West Wing.

Sam was in his office, trying to summarize a 20 paper down to a mere 3 pages. Judging by the rolled up sleeves, loosened tie, and collection of empty coffee cups and candy wrappers that littered his desk, things were not going well. He sighed and tried to stretch out his aching muscles. He winced at the pain in his neck and the dull throbbing behind his eyes. Reaching in his desk drawer he grabbed the familiar bottle of Advil and shook two pills out into his hand. Washing them down with some cold coffee he stood and paced around the room trying to think who was still around and more importantly, who was still around and in a mood to help him. He wandered the halls for a while and came to the conclusion that he would have to do the summary himself. He knew Josh was still around but he wasn't in his office or by Donna's desk. He was turning to go back to his office when he heard footsteps behind him. He was about to turn when he heard a familiar southern drawl.

"Hey Sam, what are you still doing here?" asked Ainsley as she quickened her pace to catch up with him.

"Hey, Ainsley. Just wandering the halls looking for, uh, some help. What about you?" he asked as the came to his office. He motioned for her to go in.

"Just dropping some stuff off for Leo," she said as she took a seat on his desk.

Sam dropped down in his visitor's chair and propped his feet up on the front of the desk next to her. He slumped back and tiredly rubbed his eyes.

"So, something I can help you with?" asked Ainsley quietly as she took a good look at Sam. He looked worn out and somewhat defeated.

"It's just a summary I have to do," he sighed, bracing himself for what he was sure to come next?

"I can help. Is this it?" asked Ainsley as she reached over his feet and grabbed a folder off the corner of the desk.

Sam wanted to take the blue folder from her hands but he stood up a little too quickly and had to struggle to keep his balance. Ainsley reached out to grab him and in the process dropped the folder, scattering the contents across the floor.

"Hey Sam, sit down," said Ainsley a little more forcefully than needed. Putting her hands on his shoulders she maneuvered him back into the chair. He was pale and shaking slightly as he leaned over to put his head in his hands. She knelt down next to him and rubbed his back with one hand as she reached to feel his forehead with her other hand. Cool and clammy, just as she had expected.

"I'm fine," whispered Sam in a voice that assured Ainsley he was anything but fine. "I have a headache and I got up to fast, no big deal. I have work to do, so if you will, uh, excuse me" he said stumbling over his words slightly.

He really should have known Ainsley wasn't going to give up that easily. She picked up the papers off of the floor and placed the folder back on his desk, all the while keeping one eye on him.

"Samuel Seaborn, you are most certainly not fine. You almost passed out at my feet." She surveyed the coffee cups and candy wrappers on the desk. "So, when was the last time you ate a real meal? Something that didn't come out of a machine and that didn't contain massive amounts of sugar and caffeine."

"What month is this?" asked Sam with a small smirk.

"Cute. Tell you what, you go rest in Toby's office and I'll get us something to eat and then we'll work on your summary," said Ainsley as she held out her hand towards him.

"You're not going to give up are you?" he asked as he let her pull him to his feet.

"No, I'm not."

She held on to his hand for a few seconds as he wavered slightly.

You ok?" she asked as she looked into his blue eyes.

"Yeah, I'm ok. So, I'll let you help me on one condition. No reversing my position." he stated as he grabbed the folder and his glasses from the desk and headed out the door.

"Sam, I did that once. And you were wrong, you even agreed with me when I was done. I've summarized plenty of other things for you and your Democratic friends in the past few months without reversing any positions. Can't we just forget about that one incident" She stopped for a short breath as Sam watched her with growing amusement. They were standing in the doorway to Toby's office. He was leaning against the jamb with his arms folded, trying to keep a straight face.

"Why are you staring at me Sam? Sam, you're starting to freak me out. What do I have chocolate cookie stuck in my teeth -- a milk mustache-- What, are you still afraid that I'll get Republican juice on you if we work together or are you just trying to make me nuts-Because, if you are, you're doing a good job..."

Seeing no other way to get her to stop talking, Sam leaned forward and kissed her softly. He caught her by surprise and expected her to pull away instantly. But she didn't. The kiss was warm, comforting and completely innocent. It ended quickly but not abruptly. They ended the kiss together, thus stopping the inevitable question of who pulled away first.

"Sam, what was that for?" she asked as she felt her cheeks blush.

"That was to shut you up. You tend to speak the way I tend to write."

"And in what way is that?" asked Ainsley curiously.

"Without punctuation. It drives Toby crazy," admitted Sam with a shy smile. "So consider that kiss a comma, a chance to breathe before continuing your lecture"

He brushed past her and stretched out on Toby's couch before she could say a word.

Ainsley found herself strangely unable to speak for a minute. Sam just watched with amusement from the couch.

"OK, I'm just going to go get something to eat. You relax for a few minutes," mumbled Ainsley as she hurried out of sight. Sam smiled to himself as he closed his eyes.

Twenty minutes later Ainsley stepped back in to Toby's office expecting a big long speech from Sam on why he didn't need her help. She felt a lump rise in her throat when she looked at him. He was sound asleep on the couch; curled up like a little boy. She put the bag of food on the coffee table and went into Sam's office. She grabbed his coat and his laptop. She went back in to Toby's office and turned off the overhead light. She covered Sam up with his coat and brushed the hair out of his eyes. She settled herself down at Toby's desk to read through his position paper and eat her sandwich.

A little after midnight she turned off the computer and sighed. The paper was summarized, Sam's position had not been reversed and he was still sound asleep. Grabbing a piece of scrap paper from Toby's desk she left him a note.



The summary is on your computer. I didn't reverse anything. There's a sandwich in the bag.

Thanks for the punctuation lesson.

Feel better.



She propped the note up on the coffee table and turned out the desk lamp. She got to the doorway and then stopped. She took one last glance at Sam and smiled to herself as she closed the door behind her.

* * * * *

Part 2

Friday night found Josh and Donna still working at 10:00. They were sitting on the floor of his office. Their backs against his desk, the floor littered with Chinese take out boxes, files, shoes, his tie, empty iced tea bottles and a half eaten package of Oreos.

"Josh, are we almost done?" whined Donna.

"No, not really," he replied somewhat distractedly as he reached for another folder from the large stack to his right.

Donna rolled her eyes and watched him read for a few minutes before grabbing the folder from him and tossing it aside.

"What did you do that for?" asked Josh.

"It's late, we're tired and we've been going around in circles for the past hour looking for precedent. Let's just quit for now. Start again in the morning," whined Donna as she looked hopefully at him.

He shook his head and attempted to reach over her and retrieve the stolen folder.

"Oowww," he moaned as his body, which had all but been motionless for the past few hours protested painfully. He sat back up and leaned his head back against the desk.

"You ok?" asked Donna as she snapped out of her whining persona and leapt into concerned friend mode. Reaching over she grabbed the folder and held it out to him.

"Just great," smirked Josh as he took the folder from her and opened it back up. He stared at it for a minute before throwing it across the room while muttering a string of four letter words that didn't normally pass by his lips.

Donna turned sideways to look at him. He had stretched out his legs in front of him and was attempting to loosen up his back by dropping his head to his knees. He wasn't very successful and his efforts only caused him more pain.

"Damn," he groaned as he sat back up and pulled his knees up to his chest.

"Back a little stiff?" asked Donna as she reached over and brushed back his hair.

"Back, hip, leg, just about everything," he said with a sigh.

"Everything, huh?" teased Donna.

Josh just looked at her with raised eyebrows, not really sure how to respond.

"I'm sorry, that was uncalled for, I couldn't help myself," she said dissolving into a fit of giggles.

Josh tried to be annoyed but pretty soon he just gave up and giggled along with Donna. Their laughter died down and they relaxed side by side once again. Josh reached for the Oreos and put one in his mouth whole.

"We need milk," he declared through a mouthful of cookie.

"Well, Josh, I suggest you try the Mess," said Donna as she wiped the crumbs from his face and turned her attention back to her notes.

"What, you won't bring me milk either?" whined Josh.


"Fine, I'll just haul myself up off the floor and get it myself," he declared as he tried to stand. He wasn't prepared for the trouble his hip and leg were going to give him. Donna watched him out of the corner of her eye and incorrectly assumed he was faking it in an effort to get her to go find him a glass of milk.

He tried twice and then sat back down heavily. Donna dropped her notepad and turned to get a good look at him. He was pale and obviously not faking.

"Josh, are you ok?" she asked softly as she reached out to touch his arm.

He could only shake his head. He was staring straight ahead, his head resting back on the desk. Donna hooked a finger under his chin and turned his face towards hers. He tried to look away but she kept a firm hold on his chin. She saw tears of frustration threatening to spill from the corners of his eyes.

"Hey, it's ok," she said softly as she wiped the corners of his eyes with her thumbs. "Let's get you up on the couch and I'll get some milk and a couple of Advil."

He smiled and nodded weakly as she caressed his cheek. She stood and took both of his hands in hers. She leaned back and pulled him to his feet with a minimal amount of additional pain. He slowly sank down into the couch. She helped put his legs up and watched as he tried to get comfortable.

"I'll be back in a minute. You want some ice or a heating pad?" she asked as she bent over to clear a path to the door.

"Ice, thanks"

Donna walked to the Mess and grabbed a couple of little cartons of milk. She found some Ziploc bags and filled them with a few handfuls of ice.

While she was gone Josh allowed a few tears to fall. He managed to pull himself together as he heard her whistling through the bullpen.

He was reading the contents of one of the many blue folders when she returned.

"Here, try this," she said as she handed him the bags of ice.

He took it and put one under the small of his back and one under his hip. Donna handed him an opened carton of milk and the package of cookies. She stepped over to his desk and grabbed a couple of Advil. As she bent down to grab her notepad and pen she felt his eyes on her. She straightened up and turned around to face him. He had a goofy grin on his face and cookie crumbs down the front of his white dress shirt.

"What?" she asked, somewhat annoyed with him.

"Nothing," he said quickly and with all the innocence he could muster.

Donna picked up her things and started to sit down at his desk to work.

"You can work over here, I don't bite," teased Josh as he tore the carton of milk open all the way so he could dunk his cookies.

Donna laughed as she watched him dunk his cookies with the enthusiasm of a 5 year old. Unfortunately, in his exhausted state, he had the hand-eye coordination of a 3 year old and managed to drip milk and crumbs down his chin and onto his shirt. She sighed and reached for the napkins that were still in the bag from the Chinese take out place. Kneeling down next to the couch she wiped at his face and did what little she could do with his shirt. As she cleaned him up strikingly similar thoughts passed through both their minds.

They had spent the better part of 3 years denying certain feelings they had about each other. They were on the edge of something new; they couldn't deny it any longer. A question was forming on Josh's lips and he was about to speak when his heart took over and all rational thoughts left his head. He reached up to kiss her. The kiss was gentle and in a way it was the question that they both had been longing to ask...

It this what we really want?

The kiss was gentle at first but then crossed the line from friendship to something more when Josh felt Donna's tongue slide over his lower lip. The kiss deepened but still remained sweet and somewhat questioning. They pulled apart at the same time, resting their foreheads together in total silence.

After a minute Donna pulled back and looked into Josh's eyes. She saw adoration, longing and an unspoken question.

She nodded her head and smiled ever so slightly as stood up and put some distance between them.

Part of Josh felt he should take her backing away as a bad sign. But he knew better, he knew Donna better than that. She wasn't backing away from him as much as she was stepping back to get a better look at the situation. Smiling, she motioned for him to sit up for a minute so she could curl up with him on the couch. She moved the pile of work close enough so they could reach it. Settling herself down in the corner of the couch she took Josh by the shoulders and rested his head in her lap. He adjusted the pillows and the ice packs underneath him.

Silently Donna handed him the folder he had been reading when she had come back up from the Mess. They got back to work almost as if nothing had happened.

But it had happened. An unspoken question was answered and hopes for the future were being made in the minds of Joshua Lyman and Donnatella Moss.

She watched as his eyelids grew heavy and his grasp on the folder loosened enough so it slid to the floor. She brushed back his hair and reached to her left to turn out the light. Sighing a contented sigh, she allowed herself to dream of the future.

* * * * *

Part 3

By 10:00 on Friday night, Jed Bartlet was pacing the halls of the White House residence. Abbey was due home any minute and he was nervous. They hadn't spent more than a few days together in the past month. And when they did spend time with each other, they fought. About their deal, about his health. They also fought for the sake of fighting. They kept in touch by phone but even that was strained. Talking three times a day without really saying anything was enough to make any sane person completely nuts.

While he was eager to see her, he was also anxious about their reunion. For the past few days he had felt tired and run down. He wasn't eating or sleeping much and he was sure she would be able to tell that within 30 seconds of her return. After coming up from the West Wing he had changed into jeans and a Notre Dame sweatshirt. A quick perusal of the kitchen yielded nothing that interested him very much. He grabbed a glass of milk and a banana so he would at least have something on his stomach, which was feeling a bit queasy. Probably just due to the nervousness he felt about Abbey's return.

At 10:15 Ron turned towards him and motioned in the direction of the stairs. Abbey was on her way up. He was utterly at a loss for what he should be doing, waiting at the top of the stairs, sitting on the couch, lounging stark naked on the bed? He settled for going out on the Truman balcony and acting like he didn't know she was on her way up. Not that she actually believed that.

"Jed, I'm home," she called as she took off her jacket and kicked off her shoes.

"Out here," he called from the railing.

She poured herself a drink and went out to greet him. She was equally unsure of what to do. They met in an awkward exchange of kisses on the cheek and a half-hearted embrace. They were silent for a few minutes as they looked out at the DC skyline. She took a sip of her drink and held it out to him.

"No thanks," he muttered as he turned to go back into the bedroom.

She sighed heavily as all thoughts she had come home with regarding a happy reunion retreated from her mind. She drained the glass and followed him inside fully prepared to fight yet again. He was on the lying on his back on the bed, one arm thrown over his eyes.

Abbey crossed the room and went to her closet to grab something to change into. Not feeling particularly sexy, she decided on a pair of flannel pants and an old t-shirt of Jed's, Notre Dame, of course. She glanced back towards the bed to find Jed was well on his way to falling asleep. Sighing to herself she went to take a shower.

Half an hour later she emerged to find him awake and reading on the couch. He too, had changed into flannel pants and a Notre Dame shirt. He looked at her over the rims of his glasses and smiled as he tossed aside the folder he had been reading and patted the spot next to him on the couch.

Abbey returned the smile and crossed the room to sit next to him. She tucked her feet under her and sat sideways, facing him. He tentatively reached out to take her hand in his. He wasn't sure what to expect; he half expected she would pull away instantly and retreat to the other end of the couch. She pulled his hand into her lap and entwined their fingers together.

They sat like that in silence for a few minutes. Neither one wanting to break the spell, neither one wanting to say something that would shatter the peaceful moment and hurtle them to yet another fight.

Jed gave a loud yawn and scooted forward so he could lean back and rest his head on the back of the couch. Abbey reached over to feel his forehead and to push a stray lock of hair off of his forehead. For the first time since coming in the room she took a good look at him. She frowned at what she saw. He was pale, with dark circles under his eyes. She correctly guessed that he hadn't been sleeping or eating properly. Part of her wanted to yell at him for letting himself so run down; but the other part of her knew that she should take the softer, quieter route if she actually expected to get somewhere.

"Honey, you don't look too well. As much as I would like to yell and scream, I'm not going to. You know how I feel about the fact you haven't been taking care of yourself. And you know the consequences that are likely to occur if you don't make some changes."

"Yeah, I know, an MS episode," said Jed, starting to get annoyed with the conversation already. He turned his head to look away.

"Josiah Bartlet, look at me," ordered Abbey as she took him by the chin and forced him to look at her. "Look, I am no mood to fight with you right now. We've been apart for too many days recently. I admit a lot of that was my doing and I am sorry. I shouldn't have run away. I should have stayed so we could..."

"So we could what? Fight face to face?" asked Jed bitterly.

"No, so we could talk about things. But you know what I want more than anything right now?"

Jed grinned at her with raised eyebrows.

"Jed, you're impossible. No, not that...."

His grin quickly changed into a full blown pouty face. Abbey could only laugh. She threw one leg over him and straddled him on the couch. Taking his face into her hands she looked longingly into his clear blue eyes.

She leaned over to whisper in his ear.

"What I want now is a kiss. A real kiss, not the peek on the cheek crap we've shared in the past month. A full blown, curl your toes, leave you breathless kiss. A kiss that leads to more. A kiss like..." she stopped to search for the right word.

"Gee Abbey and I always thought you were pretty articulate," teased Jed as he pulled her closer.

"OK, Mr. Webster, you finish my thought...A kiss like...."

Jed thought for a second, "like an exclamation point."

Abbey giggled for a second and then nodded in agreement as Jed pulled her even closer for a kiss. A kiss that curled her toes and left them both breathless, an exclamation point.

An hour and a half later Abbey sat up in bed finishing a pint of Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey. Jed was curled up next to her snoring softly. She reached over to run her fingers through his hair. It was still damp from the shower he had finished a little while earlier. Putting the now empty carton on the bedside table she turned off the light and stretched out next to Jed. As she ran a hand down his face she noticed how much more relaxed he looked. She hoped he would get a decent night's sleep for a change. He turned over in his sleep and now faced away from her. Abbey scooted closer to him and wrapped her arms around him from behind and held him tight.


Saturday found three women enjoying their morning cup of coffee and recalling the three very different kisses they had received the night before. Although the kisses were completely different from each other, in both meaning and intensity, they were perfectly suited to the couples that had shared them.

They were,

a comma,

a question mark,

and an

exclamation point.


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