Spoilers: Up to and including "The Portland Trip"
Disclaimer: The West Wing and it's characters are the property of the great and powerful Aaron Sorkin.
Authors note: This story came out of nowhere- I hope every one likes it as much as I do. It's mostly dialogue, which is something I don't do very often, so bear with me. As always, I love feedback. Any responses would be much appreciated.
"'White House Sexual Harrasment Policy'?" Donna read aloud from the paper on Josh's desk. He glanced up at her from his work.
"Uh, yeah. Leo asked me to go over this."
"I would have gotten it for you, you know." She looked almost disapointed that he hadn't asked her for her help.
"I couldn't find you."
"Oh." She paused for a moment, then decided that this was an acceptable answer and casually lifted one of the documents on his desk up to see. He glanced at her again as she started reading a passage from it aloud. It was about inter-office affairs.
Apparently they weren't a good thing.
She stopped in mid sentence to give him a curious look.
"So what are you supposed to do with this?" She asked.
"Punishment." She gave him another of her famous looks of confusion.
"Apparently I've crossed the lines." He stated simply.
"You're good at that." She teased and was rewarded with a sarcastic smile. "What lines?"
"The ones that you are, apparently, not supposed to cross." Setting the document back down on his desk, she made a face at him and he grinned slightly.
"What'd you do?"
"I made a comment."
"You're not giving me a whole lot to go on, Josh."
"It doesn't matter." He sighed and shifted his weight in the chair. "My punishment, however, is to review this." He paused, then added, as though just remembering, "and take notes."
"*And* take notes?"
"Are you gonna make *me* take notes?" Her voice suddenly took on a tone of whining.
"I would, but your handwritting's illegible." He grinned and she leaned over and hit him playfully.
"What did you say, anyway?"
"Huh?" He looked up again, having trouble deviding his attention between her and the policy.
"What did you say that was worthy of a review of the White House Sexual Harrasment Policy?"
He paused for a moment, debating what to say and how to say it, before opening his mouth to speak.
"I made a comment to CJ."
"What kind of comment?" Donna suddenly looked slightly disgusted with him, as well as a little surprised. His eyes widened at her reaction.
"No, no. Not that kind of comment." He said quickly, shaking his head as if to emphasize his point.
The look on Donna's face faded and he went on, relieved. "I just made an off-hand remark about you not bringing me coffee."
"You got in trouble because I don't bring you coffee?" Again her expression was one of puzzelment.
"Well I guess that's part of it." He gave her a look as if to imply that she should feel guilty for causing him this trouble.
"I'm not bringing you coffee." He pretended to look wounded by her statement.
"Anyway, Leo was listening. And, as punishment . . ." he waved his hand across the papers on his desk. "This."
"You realize that doesn't make *any* sense, right?"
Donna's look of confusion was suddenly replaced by one of determination, and she leaned forward a little in an attempt to show that she wanted a straight answer from him. "What exactly did you say?"
He shrugged. "I said 'Donna never brings me coffee.'"
"That's all?" She looked at him skeptically, knowing full well that it was not all. Josh was famous for his ability to get himself into trouble.
He cleared his throat before speaking hesitantly.
"I might have mentioned something about it being your revenge for me keeping you late."
Donna's face was expressionless as she thought over how mentioning this thought would get Josh into trouble. And why would Josh think that it was her revenge in the first place? She looked up at him and realized that he hadn't returned to the policy, and was, instead, leaning back in his chair comfortably.
Or, somewhat comfortably. The look on his face wasn't quite as relaxed as it usually was and she felt the sudden need to reassure him.
"It's not." She stated simply about the idea of her not bringing him coffee as some sort of revenge.
She leaned back again, and let out a frustrated sigh. "That still doesn't make any sense. Leo doesn't care if you keep me here late."
"I might have also mentioned that you were particularly upset with me when I made you come back from that date with Tom."
"Whatever." She stared at him in pure confusion.
"Okay, maybe I'm a little slow, cause, as surprising as it is, I'm not seeing what you did wrong." She paused before feeling the need to add, "Except, of course, cutting my date short."
"Which was going badly anyway."
"That's not the point." He gave her a weak smile.
"Is there something I'm missing?" She asked. "Cause I still don't understand."
He cleared his throat again, as though not wanting to say anything more. She could tell he didn't like the topic they were discussing, even though he tried to hide it. She knew him too well.
"I also told her that I tried to apologize by telling you that you looked good in that dress."
"Yeah, well . . ." Donna smiled, remembering the compliment, then frowned as she was also reminded of the earlier conversation with him about her taste in men.
She shook her head slightly, as if to ward off any unwanted memories, and returned to her original smile. Though she was still somewhat upset by his harsh words that night, she knew he hadn't really meant it.
"I know you mean well." She replied, half serious, half playful. "You just have a funny way of showing it."
"Thanks." He spoke sarcastically.
"So Leo came outa nowhere and chewed me out over what I had told CJ. Then piled on the homework." He motioned, again, towards the paperwork covering his desk.
"I don't get it."
"Niether do I. He was practically yelling at me in front of the entire west wing, and he wouldn't explain what it was I did." Josh looked at his desk, then back up to Donna, exasperatedly. The whole situation had been tearing at his nerves since morning. Needless to say, his day wasn't looking too great.
Donna, however, didn't seem to be the person to go to for concern or sympathy.
"You made it worse for yourself, didn't you?" She said accusingly.
"When Leo started to chew you out, you got upset and made the situation worse by yelling back at him."
"I did not." He replied deffensively and Donna gave him a look.
"Well. Maybe a little." He relented.
"Josh . . ."
"What? He got upset with me for no reason. Of course I was gonna fight back." She groaned loudly, realizing his current situation was not really about any comment he had made to CJ but about him talking back to Leo.
"This wasn't the original punishment, was it?"
"No." He replied sheepishly.
Donna was deffinately not the person to turn to on days like this, he realized. "I was just gonna get a warning, but . . . well, he didn't like my attitude."
"Who does?" She smiled and he couldn't hold back the slight grin on his face. He supposed having her around on days like this wasn't all bad.
"Very funny." His tone was sarcastic, but his grin gave him away. "You wanna leave me alone now so I can finish this before the New Year?"
"I suppose." She gave him another smile and then got up to leave as he bent back down over the policy.
It was, admittedly, hard to concntrate on. Especially, considering the subject. For some reason he didn't really like being reminded in several different ways on one sheet of paper how *not* to aproach a coworker of the opposite sex. It was degrading and disrespectful. And it made any sort of relationship between people in the same office building look like a criminal act.
As soon as Donna had disapeared, there was a yell outside his office.
"Josh!" CJ's voice called out from somewhere in the bullpen.
"What?" He yelled back, not taking his eyes off the papers infront of him.
"You're an idiot." She yelled again, even though she was now stepping into the room. He groaned and looked up at her as she shut the door.
"Thanks for the heads-up." He said sarcastically.
"No problem." The volume of her voice dropped down to a more pleasing volume as she spoke, completely serious.
Josh leaned over the papers again as CJ grabbed one of them and began reading off a policy similar to the one Donna had been reading. Her voice was completely serious, as though she were directing the words she read at Josh. Which he couldn't help noticing, uncomfortably.
She stopped herself at the end of the page and glanced at the man before her. "You really should learn to watch what you say."
"I'll take that into consideration." His tone was still sarcastic, but her intensity was unwavering.
"I mean it." She spoke and he jerked his head up at what he percieved to be the beginings of a fight.
"I didn't say anything." He argued deffensively.
"You're an idiot."
"I think that's already been established, thanks."
"It's worth repeating."
"Can we move on?" He asked, the anger showing through in his voice and making the question come out more like a command.
Unfortunately, CJ was just as upset.
"Fine." She answered shortly. "Leo's pissed."
"So I noticed." He tried to sound as though the whole situation wasn't worth his time, but it wasn't working.
"Do you know why?"
"Not a clue." Unable to fake a lack of concern, he settled for sounding as he normally did, slightly sarcastic and frustrated.
"Didn't think so." Her voice had a condesending tone to it that, somehow, he had a feeling he deserved. He wasn't about to admit it, though.
CJ paused and glanced over the paper work on his desk, as though trying to decide how to frame her next words without making a complete enemy out of him. Just as she decided to be as direct as possible, in the hopes that maybe a forward aproach would get across her point, a thought occurred to Josh.
"Did Leo send you in here?" he asked, suspiciously.
She looked back at him, somewhat guiltily and spoke with reluctance. "Yes." She paused again. "I'm supposed to let you know what's going on."
"And he can't do that himself?" She stopped looking guilty immediately and returned to her previous controlled anger and the decision to be straightforward.
"He figured I'd be less likely to yell." Josh smirked.
"Shut up, Josh." He sat up a little straighter in his chair as she took a step closer to his desk, and sighed a little, as if preparing herself for the next few moments. "Okay, do you want the speech that Leo gave me, or the ten-word-or-less version?"
"How about the ten-words-or-less."
"If you don't watch what you say, something bad will happen, and Donna will press charges."
"That was more than ten words."
They stared at eachother for a moment before he succombed to his own confusion.
"I don't think I follow you."
"Josh, that was as clear and simple as it gets. You and Donna have a thing . . ."
"A thing?" He interrupted.
"You're friends. And you treat eachother as friends."
"Friends bring eachother coffee." He tried to make light of the situation, but CJ wasn't amused.
"Shut up for a second, will you?" She looked as though she were at a press conference, delivering a press release that she knew was going to spark unwanted questions.
"You're friends," she continued. "That's obvious. But if you go around making comments about her love life or how good she looks in some skimpy red dress, she might just take it to heart. Then, when she figures out that you *just* wanna be friends, she might *just* file charges. Hence the whole 'review of the Sexual Harrasment Policy.' Leo wants you to know what you're getting yourself into."
Though somewhat befudled by CJ's speech, Josh was quick to reply. "Donna would never think that I . . ."
"Yes she would." CJ interrupted, so seriously that he wasn't sure what to think. He stared at her for a long time in silence, then looked around uncomfortably.
"So, I'm supposed to watch what I say?" His voice still had that hint of anger, and gave away his dislike of the situation he was in.
"Basically. And what you do." Josh's eyes widened and he glared at her in fury at the sugestive tone she had used.
"I would *never* . . ."
"Really?" She interrupted him again. "Cause I think I know you better than that."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
CJ seemed to take this as her cue to begin ranting, her voice increasing in volume and anger with each sentence.
"It means that one day you're gonna be at the office late, and Donna's gonna be here too- cause God knows you keep her here 'till all hours. And some one will make a comment, or a gesture or . . . whatever. And before you know it, something will have happened. And you won't even realize you've done anything wrong until morning."
They stared at eachother for one long, tense moment. Josh was at a loss for words, not knowing what to say or think. And CJ sympathised, but would not back down.
"I have to finish this." He said finnaly, his voice completely monotone.
"I'll be around." Her tone was calmer now, giving away her wish to be of better comfort to him.
CJ turned and exited, leaving him in the quiet of his dimly lit office, the door partially open.
He stared straight ahead for an undeterminable amount of time in silence. Thinking. Trying to process the speech he had just been given without delving too deep into what it could mean.
"Donna!" He yelled, without even realizing it. Like a reflex- his voice simply called out her name at the slightest hint of needing to talk to her.
"Yeah, Josh?" At his call, she appeared in the doorway.
He stared at her for awhile, trying to decide what to say. He opened his mouth, but then thought better of it, and was silent again. Finnaly he smiled and spoke.
"You look good today." She smiled awkwardly, somewhat puzzled and somewhat embaressed.
"Is that all?"
"Yeah." She turned to leave. "Donna."
"Yeah?" She stopped and moved to face him again.
"When I said that you looked good in that dress the other night . . ." He looked down at his desk. There was something he wanted to say, but he wasn't sure what it was.
"You meant well." She said affectionately and he looked back up at her in surprise. Then grinned as she smiled back.
"Yeah. I did."
"I know." He nodded, suddenly feeling better, but not knowing why.
"Good. That's all." She left and he looked back down at the policy.
For a moment, it was okay.
Though he didn't know how, he knew it would work out. Whatever "it" was.
He cleared his throat. He would think about this some other time. The point was that it would all work out. So he didn't *have* to think about it just yet.
He could wait. Wait for that night when he was working late.
And Donna was with him.
And one of them would make a comment, or a gesture, or . . . whatever.
And maybe he wouldn't know what he was doing until it was too late.
But he would mean well.