August 10, 2000


It's almost 5 in the morning, and the hospital is just a little too quiet. Zoey came in a few hours ago, but she didn't stay long; I think this is the first time in three days that your room has cleared out entirely. No doctors, no nurses, no Heads of State wandering in before they get chased back to bed, no senior staff alternating between worrying about you and worrying about me. I think they're mostly worrying about me because they can't do much for you, but it's getting old.

Well, no, it's actually kind of sweet, the way CJ can't seem to decide which of us she should be fussing over more. When she's not trailing after nurses to interrogate them about what all of the machines hooked up to you are for (which saves me the trouble), she's trying to make me go home to sleep (which is really not going to happen). Lucky for me, someone seems to have appointed Toby as *her* baby-sitter; he finds someplace else she has to be after about an hour, just around the time I start trying to figure out where to hide the body.

Wait. Sorry. Dead jokes are not funny right now. Forget I said that.

Anyway, it's not like I'm stupid, I know I have to eat and sleep. I'm just not going to do it while you're awake. I have other things I need to be doing then, like trying to keep you from talking (yeah, right) and forcing Jell-O down your throat even though you hate it. But it's good for you, Josh, so you'll damn well eat it!

Sorry, I'm a little stressed. My boss is in the hospital....

You're missing some outstanding chances to make fun of Toby, by the way. Whenever he's here, he keeps hovering at the bedside next to us, just like CJ. He does his best not to look worried because that would, you know, blow his whole 'not liking you' thing, but he never seems to get more than a few feet away from you. His hand keeps resting on my shoulder until he realizes what he's doing; then he kind of pats it before he lets go, and moves away. Then he drifts back a few minutes later, and we start all over again. He actually apologized yesterday for being the one to tell me about what happened to you, like he thought it would have been better coming from someone else. I couldn't think of a really nice and polite way to call him an idiot, so I just smiled and didn't say much of anything. I'm getting good at that. (Shut up! I can be quiet when I want to be!)

And don't get me started on the President. Leo and the First Lady are spending most of their time keeping him under control (isn't that a terrible thing to say about the Leader of Our Country? Do you think I'd get fired for it?); otherwise, he'd be roaming the corridors at all hours of the day and night, annoying his doctors and freaking out his agents. He slipped the leash last night and almost scared me to death when I woke up and found him standing next to my chair, leaning on his cane and looking at you. I pretended to be asleep and he pretended to believe it and nobody was fooling anybody (so far, the only person I've successfully fooled with the 'pretending to be asleep' routine is you). The President is going home tomorrow, thank God; if nothing else, the Secret Service presence will lighten up. (Relax, I checked, we get to keep our agents until you go home.)

Sam is the only one who's acting normally which, when you think about it, is sort of weird, because you'd expect him to be the one stroking out. But instead, he's Mr. Calm and Efficient -- no fussing, no hovering, but whenever we need anything, like a nurse, or clean clothes, or more coffee (the First Lady started enforcing decaf rules two days ago, which probably has a lot to do with why he's so non-crazed), there Sam is to get it. Like Toby and CJ, he's doing half of his work here instead of at the office, sitting in the corner with his laptop or a legal pad; and, like Toby and CJ, all work comes to a screeching halt as soon as you open your eyes. Must be nice to finally have the world revolving around you, just like you've always thought it should.

I've really learned to appreciate Sam the last few days; he's the only one who doesn't nag me about sleeping, and he just sort of shows up with food and leaves it for when I'm ready, instead of standing over me until I take a bite. He's also put himself in charge of taking care of your mother. She's doing okay, by the way. I mean, she's doing the whole 'not-sleeping' thing along with me, but Sam talked her into going back to your place tonight, as long as I promised to stay here with you (like I'm going anywhere). Your mom's really great, Josh, and when you're on your feet again, I'm going to kick your ass for making her worry like this. And, well, for making me worry like this....

Anyway, you're asleep now and everyone has finally left and I'm happy about that because, you know, it's our special time together. Except that you're out cold (on what are apparently some really great drugs) and the only thing I can hear is the Secret Service agents patrolling up and down the corridors, in case some lunatic manages to get past the 3 million agents downstairs and makes it up here to the President and you....

Okay, not thinking about that. Seriously. But it's dark and it's quiet and about the only things I can do are listen to the footsteps and radios, and check every few minutes to make sure you're still breathing.

Yes, you are. Good. Keep doing that.

(Yes, Joshua, I *know* you're giving me that 'I'm sure there's a point here, look how patiently I'm waiting for you to get to it already!' expression. Well, I'm getting to it. I am.)

The point is that it's really quiet in here and I keep thinking about things I'd rather not be thinking about. I'm not going to list them because, well, then I'd be thinking about them, which would kind of defeat the point. While you were unconscious (really unconscious, as opposed to merely unconscious like you are now), I spent a lot of time talking to you. But since you're just sleeping at the moment, talking to you will either wake you up or get me sedated with some of your really great drugs (which the First Lady has been threatening to do for two days and I'd rather not give her a reason, thank you).

(I know, I know. 'And it's important for me to know all of this why, Donnatella? I have a country to run!' Well, the thing is, you don't, not until you can stay conscious for more than five minutes at a time. You're my captive audience, so be quiet, and be grateful I'm doing this while you're asleep.)

So, returning to the point, which is that it's really quiet in here, and Sam or Toby left a legal pad and I need to do *something*. I'm going to have to go back to the office tomorrow to start staffing out your inbox, which has got to be burying your desk and spilling onto the floor by now, and I'll probably wind up bringing a stack of my own back here. (And no, I'm not going to let you work on any of it, so don't even ask.) That'll give me something to do tomorrow night, when everyone else has left and it's just you and me again (well, actually just me, since you're really not much of a conversationalist right now).

But I still have to fill the time tonight, and the thing is there's a lot that I really need to say to you. I can't do it when you're awake because, even if you weren't drugged, the whole serious conversation thing is just not us. The Banter Reflex is too strong. But saying them feels pretty urgent right now, after our near-death experience and all.

(Stop giving me that look with the eyebrows. Yes, 'our' near-death experience, because if you think my life wasn't flashing in front of my eyes in that waiting room for fourteen hours, you're not nearly as smart as you think you are.)

So, the point is that (yes, I'm actually going to get to the point this time, shut up) since there are things I can't say to you because we don't do that, I'm going sit here and write them instead. This is very efficient of me, since it lets me do two things at once -- it keeps me from dwelling on the 'really quiet' aspect of the room, and it gets thiswhole 'needing to talk' thing out of my system. And if you think I'm *ever* letting you read this, you're on even better drugs than I thought you were.

So, I need to tell you that I love you.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there it goes, the Joshua Lyman Squirrel in Headlights look! Well, that wasn't a declaration of passionate devotion, so you can start breathing again. (Like that, yes. Good.) Not that the devotion thing is completely inaccurate, but there's no *way* you're ever hearing that or I'll never have a free evening again.


I really do love you. And yes, the words 'in love' may have applied way back in New Hampshire when you first hired me. Like I could help it? Think about it -- older guy, intense, passionate, super-intelligent, gives me a chance to rebuild my life apparently out of the goodness of his heart... Of *course* broken-hearted, desperate-for-validation Donnatella fell for you.

That lasted a little less than a week, if you're interested -- until I figured out you hadn't kept me around out of kindness, but out of desperation. Honestly, Josh, the concept of organization just completely passed you by, didn't it? I keep trying to determine how you survived those first few months of the campaign before I showed up to rescue you from yourself; I've even consulted Sam and CJ, but they're not sure, either. Plus, I've gotta tell you, the bellowing across the room thing? It didn't do much for your Crush Quotient. (And yes, you do bellow, when you're not screaming. Don't even bother denying it.)

So I got over that, which is good, because can you honestly see either of us doing the unrequited-love angsting thing? Me neither. We're more the 'suffer loudly until everyone else is miserable enough to strangle us' types.

But that doesn't mean I don't love you, even with the bellowing. Just so you know. And I really am grateful to you for giving me that chance, even if your motives weren't entirely selfless. When I think about all of the things I got to do, all of the things I've been a part of because I happened to be standing there when you had a moment of weakness.... Well, I am grateful, and I always will be.

(Oh, stop making that face. I told you, you're my captive audience and you can just sit there and listen to me be sentimental and sappy for five minutes. It won't kill you. Okay, bad choice of words, but you know what I mean. Fine, I'll put it into bullet points; sit back and pretend it's a briefing. Or better yet, Letterman -- you pay more attention to him than you do to briefings.)


The Top Ten Reasons Donna Is Grateful To/Loves Josh Which She Will Never Admit to His Face

10. Because he's never been serious about making me bring him coffee.

9. Because he's never meant it when he's fired me, even though he probably should have a few times.

8. Because he threatened one of the Illinois delegates at the DNC with serious physical harm if he 'accidentally' brushed up against my chest one more time.

7. Because he honestly thought I wouldn't find out about (8).

6. Because he took Zoey out for lunch the day she started Georgetown so she wouldn't have to eat alone in one of the university cafeterias with just her agents, and pretended it was so that he could tease her about Charlie for a whole hour, which he did (yes, Josh, she told me about that).

5. Because he spent ten minutes sitting in one place on election night to explain the electoral college to me for the fifth time, when he would much rather have been running around shouting for numbers and annoying everyone else in the room.

4. Because he (sort of) listens to my dating stories instead of running away from me, or just crushing the "local gomers" (God, I hate that phrase) into powder (politically speaking) to remove the issue so I'll stop talking about it, because as much as he'll deny it, he actually cares about my life.

3. Because I overheard him having a 'my assistant is better than your assistant' competition with Sam, and he put as much enthusiasm into it as he puts into kicking Republicans around until they scream for mercy.

2. Because when he's not being arrogant and insufferable and completely impossible to live with, which is often and if you don't believe me, ask anyone who knows him, he's my best friend.

And the Number One Reason Donna Is Grateful To/Loves Josh Which She Will Never Admit to His Face

1. Because he survived.

Okay. Deep breath. I feel much better now. You understand, of course, that all of the above are declared completely null and void if (1) becomes inapplicable. Good. Glad we've got that straight.

You look like you're waking up (you you, not the you in my head who's been making rude comments about my handwriting while I do this), and by the time we've gotten nurses in here and gotten you fed (yes, the dreaded Jell-O returns. Be brave) and done various and assorted other things that intensive care patients need done and that I could have lived a really long time without knowing about or seeing applied to you... Anyway, then you'll pass out again and Sam or Toby will have shown up and the quiet thing will be over for another night. So I guess I'm done.

I don't actually know what I'm going to do with this. Maybe I'll throw it in the Potomac the next time I go outside, which won't be for a while. Maybe I'll hide it in a drawer somewhere and find it in about ten years and read it. Or maybe I'll hide it in a drawer somewhere and find it in about ten years and let you read it. You never know.

Keep breathing, Josh. I'll be here when you wake up.




This can be considered a companion piece to On the Way to Comfort, but you so don't have to have read that to read this. And, following someone else's lead, I went with the series timeline which places the shooting in August, 3 months before November elections, rather than May. It doesn't make much of a difference, I'm just saying....

Actually, I've gotta get over this Rosslyn fixation -- but have you ever tried getting Donna Moss to shut up when she's got something to say? < g > This one came ripping out when I was supposed to, you know, be actually earning my paycheck, which created problems at work, let me tell you. But I don't feel as bad about continuing to contribute to the flood of post-shooting fic, since very few people, it turns out, have actually addressed Donna's reaction to the shooting outside of the context of some serious 'shipper fic. But any romantic feelings or sexual tension aside, this is her best friend who almost got killed! So, we dealt.

Thanks to my ever-glorious betareader Kiki, who assured me this isn't pointless or self-indulgent (I'm still more than a little dubious), and snickered/winced in the correct places. I was going to dedicate this to Lacy 'cause she asked for fic, but this was going to get written regardless. So I'll dedicate it to her 'cause she's a hell of a writer, instead. < g >