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"Between Friends" 1/1 By Cindy

"Between friends"
By Cindy cindyryan7@yahoo.com

Josh Lyman swore silently as yet another file fell to
the floor of his office as he tried to sift through
the mess that was his desk.

"Donna!"Lyman shouted as he came up empty on the third
pass of his desk. Where the hell was the EPA file on
farming pesticides? He knew he had seen it this
morning. It was only then that Josh realized his assistant
wasn't in his office.

"Donnatella!!"Josh called again hoping that using her
full name would get her attention.

Bonnie knocked on his open office door. "Josh? Don't
you know that Donna left for lunch an hour ago?"

Josh glanced up from the stack of files and computer
printouts. "Obviously not or I wouldn't have wasted
five minutes calling her. Since when does she leave
for lunch so early?"

Bonnie shrugged. "I don't know....she went somewhere
with Sam."

Josh's head shot up. "Sam?"

"Yeah."Toby's assistant replied.

"Was it a working lunch?"Josh asked as his mind
scrambled for reasons as to why Donna would be having
lunch with Sam Seaborn.

"Not sure,"Bonnie replied looking at him strangely.
"Anything you need me to find?"

"Yeah,"Josh replied as he gingerly pulled his hands
away from the leaning pile. "See if you can find where
Donna hid the EPA file on pesticides."

"Sure."

"Thanks Bonnie."

A few seconds later Bonnie poked her head back into
the office.

"You found it already?"Josh asked surprised as he
walked around the corner of his desk.

Bonnie shook her head. "No, I was just wondering if
you wanted me to order lunch?"

"No thanks, I'll grab something later."Lyman replied
suddenly not very hungry.

"Okay."

********

With the normal hectic schedule of the White House
Josh didn't have a chance to talk with Donna until
Wednesday morning. He had overhead Bonnie and Cathy talking about the lunch and dinner that Sam took with Donna on Tuesday.
Even though he was late for a staff meeting Josh
grabbed Donna gently by the left elbow and pulled her
into his office shutting the door.

"Josh, the staff meeting started five minutes
ago."Donna pointed out as she gently broke free of his
grasp.

Lyman shook his head as he leaned against the front of
his desk. "They can deal without me for five minutes.
Donna, we need to talk."

"About what?"Moss asked quietly as she leaned back
against the file cabinet.

"Are you fielding job offers?"Josh asked more sharply
than he intended to.

Donna's head snapped up in surprise. "What gave you
that idea?"

"I know you've been spending a lot of time with
Sam."Josh countered as he stepped forward. "Him giving
you advice on job hunting was the only reason I could
come up with."

Donna bristled as she moved toward the door. "So you
think that the only reason a man like Sam Seaborn
would spend time with me is work related?!"

Josh winced and reached toward her but she opened the
door and backed into the hallway."Donna...that's not
what I meant...."

Donna knew she shouldn't let it bother her what Josh
thought. But he was her boss and she thought he was
her friend. "Maybe I should look for another job."She
replied quietly before turning on her heel and
stalking toward her desk.

Josh mentally kicked himself. He had no right to ask
her about her personal life....even if it now included
Sam. He watched her for a long moment before closing
his office door and heading for the staff meeting.
He'd mend things with Donna as soon as the meeting was
over.

********

"Toby,Sam," Leo stated as he wrapped up the staff
meeting. "Make sure that the President and I get a
final look at the speech. I don't want any more 'as I
look out over this magnificent vista' incidents."

Sam sighed inwardly; he was never going to live that
one down. "Okay."

"That's all for now," Leo replied as he stood and
handed a few papers to Margaret.

Seaborn caught Josh in the hallway just outside the
communications bullpen. Sam had noticed during the
meeting that Josh had said barely two words to him or
anyone else for that matter.

"Josh, everything okay?" Sam asked with concern as the
two stood near the wall.

"Yeah, why?" Lyman replied. He had realized during the
meeting that one of the things that had bothered him
most about the Donna/Sam discovery was that Sam hadn't
told him about it. Josh thought they were friends,
some might even say best friends.

Sam leaned against the wall. "You seemed distant
during the meeting."

Josh shrugged, "You know me,Sam, not enough hours in
the day to include both work and sleep."

Sam nodded and moved away from the wall. "Okay, if
you're sure."

"Yeah," Josh replied quietly as Sam turned and began
to head back toward his office.

"See you at the meeting with Toby," Sam called over
his shoulder.

"What are your intentions toward Donna?" Josh demanded
his question halting Sam in the doorway of his office
and bringing activity in the bullpen to a dead halt.

Sam was more than aware of the sudden quiet as he
turned to face Josh,"What are you talking about?"

Josh closed the space between them but didn't lower
his voice. He hadn't meant to confront Sam about this,
but now that it was out in the open he wanted to
know."I know you two have gone out several times this
week and that's fine. You're both consenting adults,
what you do outside of this office is none of my
business. I love you like a brother, Sam, but I
know your track record with women. If you hurt her
you'll have me to answer to."

For once Sam was at a loss for words. If Josh only
knew how far off the mark he was about this. But he'd
made a promise to Donna that he wouldn't say anything.
So for now Josh would have to be left in the dark.

"You're right, Josh, it is none of your business," Sam
replied tersly before turning on his heel and storming
back into his office slamming the door behind him.

********

Donna returned from her dentist appointment not as mad
as she had been but still ticked off at Josh. Did he
really think that little of her?

Moss jumped slightly as Kathy snatched her b the elbow
and dragged her into Toby's empty office closing the
door behind them.

"Kathy....what?" Donna asked in surprise.

Sam's assistant smiled widely. "Whatever you have
Donna Moss you better bottle it and sell it, you'll
make millions. Better yet just give me some."

Donna looked at her friend blankly. "What are you
talking about?"

"You haven't heard have you?" Kathy asked as she
leaned back against the door.

"I've been at the dentist for the past hour. What
happened?" Donna asked,a frown crossing her face.

"Your boss called my boss out in front of the whole
staff," Kathy stated as she pushed herself away from
the door. "They had just got out of the staff
meeting."

Donna paled slightly as she reached back for the desk.
"They fought?" she asked softly.

Kathy shook her head. "No, but they came very close.
Josh asked Sam point blank what his intentions toward
you were."

"He did?" Donna asked with a slight shake of her head.
Well that explained the job hunting thing this
morning.

Kathy nodded. "I wish I'd had a camera. You should've
seen Josh's face, Donna. If you ever had any doubt
that he didn't have deep feelings for you, you can
forget it. He's fallen for you, honey, hard."

Donna moved toward the center of the room. "Where's
Sam?"

Kathy looked at her strangely. "Donna, I just told you
that the guy you've had a crush on for the past two
years has feelings for you and all you can ask is
'Where's Sam?'?"

"Never mind," Donna replied distractedly. "I'll find
him."

Toby stepped into his office just as Donna left.
Ziegler looked from one woman to the other and back
again. "Isn't this my office?"

Kathy moved quickly toward the door. "We...had a
communications thing to talk about."

Toby shook his head in exsperation. "Just say gossip
if that's what it is. And don't use my office for it
next time."

"Yes,Sir," Kathy replied with a barely hidden smile as
she left.

Donna knocked on Sam's office door a few minues later clearly aware of
the attention she was drawing from the staff in the bullpen.

"Come."Seaborn called. He stood when Donna stepped quickly into the
office closing the door behind her.

"Donna."Sam greeted with a smile as he walked around his desk. His smile instantly disappered when he saw the expression on Moss's face. "What's wrong?"

"I just heard."Donna replied quietly as she closed the space between them.

Seaborn frowned, wondering if Josh had been hurt somehow. "About what?"

Donna glared at him slightly. "About your altercation with Josh earlier."

"Oh."Sam replied as he sat down on the corner of his desk. "Well I wouldn't exactly call it an altercation."

"Kathy said you nearly came to blows."Donna replied as she folded her arms across her chest.

Sam sighed as he rubbed a hand along the back of his neck. "Kathy talks too much. Donna, it wasn't as bad as it sounds. Josh is very protective with people he cares about. And he obviously cares about you a great deal."

Donna flopped down in one of the chairs in front of Seaborn's desk.
"This whole thing has gotten way out of hand, Sam. I'm sorry you got caught in it."

Sam smiled as he reached over and took her hand in his. "Hey, I volunteered, remember? Have you seen Josh since you came back?"

Donna shook her head. "No. He accused me earlier of fielding job offers so I can only imagine what he's thinking now."

Sam blinked. "He thinks you're looking for other jobs?"

Donna nodded. "He pulled me into his office before the staff meeting and jumped to the conclusion that the only reason you and I were meeting was that you were offering me job advice."

Seaborn shook his head in amazement. "Well I can assure you that he now does not think I'm offering you job advice."

"I know."Donna replied quietly as she stood. "I should just tell him everything."

Sam stood and placed a comforting hand on her right shoulder. "You've continued with it this far, Donna, finish it. I promised you I wouldn't say anything to anybody and intend to keep that promise."

Donna smiled as she met his gaze. "Mallory's very lucky to have you."

*******

Josh had just left Leo's office after receiving a severe dressing down for the yelling match with Sam earlier. His next stop was Sam's office to apoligize. And it wasn't just because Leo had yelled at him....Josh had felt bad about the altercation every since it happened. Sam and
Donna were two of his closest friends....if they had found happiness with each other....then he was happy for them.

Lyman raised his hand to knock on Sam's closed office door when he spied a familiar flash of blonde hair through the window. Josh lowered his hand and took a better look into the office.
Sam was standing just in front of his desk with Donna standing a few feet away. She was gazing at him as Sam placed a hand on her shoulder.
Josh swallowed hard and looked away from the clearly intimate moment.
Not wanting to interupt Josh turned and walked quickly back to his own office.
He'd apoligize later....to both of them.

********


Josh glanced up at the clock on the wall of the Roosevelt room and frowned. It was just after seven and his meeting with Toby and Senator Abott from Iowa was just now starting to wrap up. The meeting with Abott was supposed to end at six but the meeting scheduled at four with the
chariman of the HUD committe had run long pushing everything back.

"Thank you for your time, Mr. Ziegler, Mr. Lyman," the red haired man in his early forties commented as he stood.

Toby rose to his feet prompting Josh to do the same. "I'll pass your recommendations along to the President, Senator."

Abott nodded, "Thank you, gentlemen."he replied as he strode toward the door.

"Senator," Josh replied distractedly.

"Whatever it is,Josh," Toby stated as he gathered his belongings together. "Take care of it. You were barely 'here' during this meeting."

Lyman nodded knowing Toby was right. He had spent the majority of the meeting thinking of his missed chance with Donna and his shattered friendships with both her and Sam.

"I apologize, Toby," Josh replied as he gathered his own things and moved toward the door. "Won't happen again."

Josh strode through the communications area on his way back to his office and couldn't help noticing that Sam's office was dark. He glanced into the bullpen and saw that Kathy was gone as well.
"Glad some of us get to leave before nightfall."Josh muttered darkly as he continued on his way. It was only as he neared his office that he saw that his assistant wasn't at her desk.

Lyman sighed as he entered his office hoping that Donna hadn't left mad at him. He had every intention of apologizing to both her and Sam that afternoon but time just got away from him. Somehow he'd make it up to her.

********

It was another half an hour before Josh could wrap things up enough that he could call it a day and head home. When he arrived at his apartment Josh left the light off as he tossed his coat haphazardly in a nearby chair. He dropped his briefcase somewhere near the closet and headed
toward the tiny kitchen. Josh hoped he had something more than three day old pizza and potato chips because he was starving. As his hand rested on top of the door handle of the refrigerator the apartment was suddenly bathed with light.

Lyman yelped in surprise and whirled around. It took his eyes a moment to adjust to the light but when he did he found himself facing a living room full of friends yelling surprise.

"W-what??" Josh stammered as he forced his feet to move forward.

Donna grinned as she stepped into his line of vision and placed a brightly colored party hat on his head. "Happy Birthday, Joshua."

Josh stared at her blankly. "Donnatella my birthday was last week."

Donna glared at him slightly, "We had this orginally planned for last week but you going on the President's trip to Oregon complicated things."she replied as she handed him a small colorfully wrapped box.

"Happy birthday, buddy," Sam commented as he, CJ, Leo and Toby approached the pair.

"Thanks," Josh replied as he glanced at Ziegler. "So you knew about this too?"

The communications director smiled. "Your assistant can be very persusive when she wants something done."

"The President sends his regrets that he and Zoey couldn't be here," Leo interjected as he added his present to the growing pile on the small counter. "But with Abby's parent's coming in to visit....."

Lyman nodded with a grin, "Besides I think I would've noticed a bunch of Secret Service agents in the hall."

********

An hour later the party was in full swing but the guest of honor was nowhere in sight. Donna scanned the crowded living room one last time before going to the only other place Josh could be. The bedroom door was open slightly and Donna spotted Josh sitting in a chair near the window
staring out at the dark Potomac below.

"Josh?" Donna asked softly as she stepped into the room. "What are you doing in here?"

Lyman didn't look away from the window. "I had some thinking to do."

Donna sat down on the corner of the bed. "Josh, I know we need to talk....."

Josh finally met her gaze, "Are you happy with Sam?"

Donna blinked in surprise....he still thought she was with Sam?"Josh....."

Josh reached over and took her right hand in his. "I know I handled things badly this week. I was just surprised that you or Sam didn't tell me about your relationship. But if you two are happy that's all that matters."

Donna shook her head. "Joshua, Sam and I are just friends. He helped me plan this party."

Josh blinked in surprise. "All the lunches and dinners?"

Donna smiled. "With our schedules it was the only time we could get together to go over the details."

Josh ducked his head briefly. "You must think I'm an idiot."

Moss shook her head as she reached up to lightly touch his left cheek."No, just a person with a very big heart."

Their gazes locked for a long moment before Josh stood moving over to a small table on the other side of the room.
"I haven't opened your gift yet," Josh stated quietly as he picked up the small box and moved around the bed to sit down next to her.

Donna fiddled with her bracelet nervously. "I hope you like it. Sam helped me pick it out."

"I'm sure I'll love it," Josh replied as he tore the paper away revealing a red jeweler's box. He met her gaze briefly before lifting the lid.

Nestled inside between folds of gold velvet was a silver pocket watch with a picture of the White House engraved on the front. Underneath the White House were the dates of Bartlet's first term.
Josh tenderly took the watch out of the box and set the box aside. He traced the engraving lightly before opening the watch.

"My father used to wear a pocket watch," Josh whispered his gaze never breaking from the small clock in his hands.

"I'm sorry Josh.....I can take it back.....I had no idea...." Donna replied as she started to stand.

Josh quickly caught her arm and gently pulled her back down as he looked up from the watch. "No, Donnatella. The watch is perfect. I couldn't have asked for a better birthday present."

"Really?" Donna asked quietly as her blue gaze searched his face.

Lyman nodded. "My father told me once that he wore the watch to remind him of how far the country had come. When I look at this I'll remember him and our friendship. Thank you, Donnatella."

Donna smiled her eyes bright with tears. "You're welcome, Joshua. Happy Birthday."

Josh met her gaze for a long moment before leaning forward and capturing her lips in a kiss that was full of promises and passion.

When they finally broke apart Josh pulled away from her slightly so he could see her face. He reached over and gently wiped away her tears.

"I thought I had missed my chance with you,"Josh whispered huskily.

Donna shook her head not quite believing what was happening. "You've always had my heart, Joshua."

Josh reached up and gently caressed her left cheek. "I was a fool for not acting on my feelings for you sooner, Donnatella. But I was so afraid of losing our friendship."

"That will never happen," Donna promised softly. "Speaking of friendships.....I think there's somebody out in the living room that you owe an apology too."

Lyman grimaced as he recalled his arguement with Sam. "Yeah," he replied quietly as he stood pulling Donna up with him. "Besides you owe this birthday boy a dance."

********

As soon as they stepped back into the living room CJ handed him a small paper plate with a piece of cake. "Was begining to think you had abandoned your own party, Josh."

Lyman shook his head with a smile as he took the cake from her. "No,just had some things to straighten out. Looks like you kept the party going though."

CJ grinned not blind to the fact that Josh and Donna were holding hands."I almost had to do the Jackal but I decided to save that for later."

Josh laughed as he scanned the living room. "Sam still here?"

CJ gestured toward the far window. "Talking with Mallory by the window."

"Thanks," Josh replied as he stepped away from Donna and turned back to face her. "Be right back. Remember you owe me that dance."

"I'll keep my dance card clear."Donna quipped.

Josh nodded before turning and melting into the crowd.

**********

"You're kidding....." Mallory O'Brien replied with a wide grin. "Dad always told me you fell off a boat but he never told me the whole story."

"No, I'm not kidding."Sam replied quietly. "And I'd rather not talk about it any more."

Mallory placed a hand on his upper arm. "Oh come on, Sam. You can't leave me there...."

Sam glared at her slightly. "I don't want to hear any more boat jokes.Especially from you."

Mallory's eyes twinkled michevously. "Would I make boat jokes?"

"Yes," Sam replied firmly.

"Hey."Josh greeted as he approached the pair.

"Happy Birthday, Josh," Mallory replied with a smile. "Like the hat."

"Thanks," Josh replied as he reached up to take the hat off. He had completely forgotten he had the thing on. "Sam, can I talk to you for a minute?"

"Sure," Seaborn replied as he leaned back against the windowsil.

"I'll see if I can drag my father out onto the dance floor," Mallory replied as she quickly excused herself.

Lyman glanced down at the paper party hat in his hands as he twirled it between his fingers. "Sam, I...."

Sam shook his head. "Forget it, Josh."

Josh's head snapped up. "I should've handled things a lot different."

Seaborn nodded. "True. But if I had been in your shoes I might have jumped to the same conclusion."

Josh sighed as he leaned back against the windowsil. "That's just it I shouldn't have."

Sam turned to face his friend. "Josh, if I had romantic feelings toward Donna I certainly would've gone to you first."

Lyman grinned. "So do you have feelings for my assistant."

Sam shook his head. "No, but it's clear that you do."

Josh nodded as he placed the hat back on his head. "Yeah, that might be the only good thing that came out of this mess."

Sam blinked in surprise. "You finally told her?"

Josh glared at him slightly. "What do you mean finally?"

Sam laughed as he shook his head, "Josh, we were taking bets on you two during the campaign."

Lyman raised an eyebrow, "The *campaign*?"

Sam placed a hand on Josh's shoulder and gave him a gentle push forward.
"Just go and dance with the lady before she realizes her mistake and leaves you in the dust."

"Not a chance of that happening." Josh replied softly as he met Donna's gaze across the room.


End