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04 March 2008 @ 12:43 am
5 Movies Josh Would Never Have Seen Without Donna, part 2  
Title: 5 Movies Josh Would Have Never Seen Without Donna (2/5)
Word Count: 2500.
Rating: G

Note: Um. This is kind of. Well. It helps if you've seen Love, Actually. Often. Also, um, emo. And maybe a little unrealistic, but on the whole, believable, I think. Also, all italicized quotes are directly from Love, Actually, which I, of course, don't own. It kind of owns me.

Two: Love, Actually

He’s never been this bored in his life. Or this frustrated.

The New Hampshire primary is two weeks away, and he’s sitting in a hotel room in Manchester, eating a Club Sandwich and channel surfing. His candidate is back in Texas. He’s sent his staff home.
And it’s only nine o’clock.

It’s Peter Santos’s birthday tomorrow, and when the Congressman had said that he would be in Texas for it, the entire staff –he refuses to call them team, they’re too few, and something else about them is distinctly unlike the people he’s become so used to working with- had looked at him like they expected him to forbid it. Like they were expecting him to crack under the strain, say something completely asshat-y and then the Congressman would fire him and they could go back to their calm ways.

Josh, of course, had not cracked. Nearly eight years of working side-by-side with Leo McGarry had taught him this, if anything: the candidate runs the show. He has to. He makes the rules and he makes the decisions, he has to. And eight years of working for Jed Bartlet had robbed Josh, at least temporarily, of the notion that candidates –that Presidents- sometimes made the completely wrong decisions.

Not that he was going to make Matt Santos skip his son’s birthday. Not that he was going to do the completely assholic but oh-so-necessary thing where he yelled at the Congressman that he had to want this. And that he had to understand that sometimes you had to get your fingers dirty in order to do the right thing.

Groaning in frustration, he downs his beer in one and chucks a balled-up T-shirt at the television, where Wolf Blitzer is stubbornly refusing to even mention Matt Santos.

“Shut up,” he snaps, and flicks over to Fox News, where Ann Coulter is complaining about Arnie Vinnick, looking so pissed off he could have sworn green steam is coming out of her nostrils. It’s more of the same on MSNBC, and he just hasn’t got it in him to check the wires tonight. Kneading his forehead, he keeps flicking the remote, to ESPN, where the Mets are being mercilessly mocked, and CSC, where the Redskins are being taken for a ride. He wonders whether the universe hates him, and decides that it just might.

It’s nine o’clock in New Hampshire, and he’s bored and frustrated and lonely.

He misses them. It’s hard to convince himself he’s doing the right thing, when they’re not there with him, his friends, his war-buddies, anchors to sanity in a business that went crazy a long time ago. He misses CJ’s persistence and her laugh and her class, and the angular grace she presents herself with. He misses Toby’s doleful look, his bleak matter-of-factness hiding a lot of passion for a country he can’t bear writing off. He misses Sam’s blue-eyed idealism and moments of supreme dorkiness. Leo’s dry smirk and unshatterable belief in the good of people and politics, and the value of what they were doing; and President Bartlet’s love of trivia and moments of shocking, beautiful statesmanship.

And he misses Donna.

The thought sneaks into his consciousness unbidden, but he knows it’s been there, hanging out until the moment presented itself, and he knows it’s true. He misses her. Her laugh and her questions and her eyes and those moments late at night, when the light at her desk was all he could see, and she’d be sitting there, feet propped up, reading a briefing memo with the cap of her pen between her teeth and a crease of concentration between her eyes as they flitted over the page, and he found it impossible to concentrate on anything else for a little while. If she were here now, he wouldn’t be feeling like this. They’d be arguing or joking around, sharing food and he would be much, much surer of what he was doing. But she’s working for that ambitious sleazebag and his cowboy-booted cardboard candidate, and the thought of that makes him ball his fists until he feels the crust of his sandwich turn into mush in his hands. The thought of Donna, wide-eyed Donna who always expected politics to be right and reasonable and got outraged when they didn’t, working for everything he hated about his line of work made all his other frustrations pale in contrast.

Best not to think about it.

He flicks through the channels, again, and, trying to get away from a now positively raging Ann Coulter as quickly as possible, finds himself turning on the hotel’s movie channel by accident. Unsure whether to be relieved or disappointed it’s not hard-core porn he’s strayed into, he finds himself wincing when a rather unattractive blonde guy on screen pronounces a loud: “Wisconsin babes!”

Well, he thinks, that was certainly uncalled for.

Because technology has never been his strong suit, he can’t figure out how to get back to normal television, and finds himself strangely intrigued by the quirky, dry –British- dialogue and the host of characters. Then he realizes he’s essentially watching a romance movie, and quickly turns the television off- only to flick it back on a few minutes later, because it turns out being alone in a quiet room without distractions or company is not pleasant, given his current state of mind.

“Worse than the total agony of being in love?” A little redheaded kid quips, and he groans and opens another beer.

It’s not The Godfather and it’s not Casablanca, but it’s entertaining and funny, and while he knows that he will never, ever tell anyone that Josh Lyman once spent an evening watching what might just be the girliest, cheesiest movie ever made, he finds himself being touched by the various stories, the gently fleshed out characters. While half his mind is far away, with Matt Santos in Texas or perhaps with Toby who will be up writing the State of the Union all alone, he’s glad to focus on the awkward interaction between a British writer and a Portuguese housekeeper. It’s not until the American President turns up that he really starts paying attention, and then the British PM goes postal at a press conference and he’s nearly convinced that this is the stupidest movie ever made, except his heart is doing this weird tugging thing and he needs to stop himself from punching the air.

You should have done something like that. Maybe Donna wouldn’t have left if you’d done that kind of number in front of the White House Press Corps. Or maybe if you could dance like that, the afterthought comes to him as Hugh Grant shimmies through 10 Downing Street.

He firmly tells his brain to shut up, opens another beer and turns up the volume.

But the thought returns, of Donna and the things he should have done to get her to stay, or maybe it’s the combination of alcohol, tiredness and cinematic sentimentality that’s making him miss her, the way her pale skin smells faintly of cookie dough and how her hair falls into her face, and the way she knew exactly what he was thinking when he himself had trouble figuring it out. He watches two characters fall in love without speaking the same language, and wishes he’d ever had the confidence to say something like this out loud. And when his heart starts to ache as a poor guy is forced to admit that he’s hopefully smitten with his best friend’s new wife, he realizes he is way too invested in this movie.

There was for Kate and Leo,” little redheaded Sam says quietly. “There was for you. And there is for me. She’s the one.”

A truly frightening concept occurs to him: what if this little kid has it more together than he does? What if Donna’s been the one all along, and he was just too stupid to figure it out?

And things are going terribly wrong, and he thought women watched these kinds of movies to cheer themselves up, not to depress them even more? As he watches dreams fall apart and a marriage deteriorate, he wishes pretty badly that he could just go back to watching Ann Coulter in peace. He drains another beer. Politics, he can deal with. Human interaction, not so much.

He supposes Colin’s adventure in Wisconsin is supposed to be comic relief, but it just depresses him even more.

At this point, he’s had enough beers to admit the Joni Mitchell’s haunting voice and the way Emma Thompson just sort of stands there is touching his heart in a very real kind of way, and then the little redheaded quip, who is quickly becoming something of a guru for him tonight, says something that makes him smile tiredly despite himself: “But you know the thing about romance is, people never get together until right at the very end.” The sentence seems to hang in the air, it seems to mean something in an important way, and he grabbles around on his nightstand until he finds his blackberry –knocking over a half-empty cup of coffee from this morning in the process-, opens a new note and enters the sentence. The words blink up at him, blurred around the edges and terribly cliché, and he feels sick.

“What the hell?” He asks the room at large, and deletes it again, throwing his blackberry into the corner with a heavy sigh.

And can’t keep his eyes away from the screen.

Then he’s watching that pale-faced unhappy guy in love with his friends wife having more balls than he, Josh, has ever had in his life, and his eyes fill with unexpected tears. He wonders where Donna is, and wonders whether he could, for the life of him, pull of something like this. Holding up simple signs, telling her how feels. Wonders whether she would appreciate this, or if she’d just put on that new ice-queen look of hers that goes so well with that stylish new haircut he can’t help but hate, and walk away. He punches his pillow and impatiently wipes his eyes, as everything –this room, the fact that he’s drunk and watching a fucking romance movie in New Hampshire, the dinky version of Silent Night playing, and the fact that all the things he’s ever wanted to say to Donna would never ever fit on a blank sign he could hold up in front of her- seems to close in on him.

It’s a terrible, terrible mistake, Chubs, but you turn out to be the fucking love of my life.

That, on the other hand, he could do. But Donna, he knows, would not be impressed.

Even the British PM and the badly-dressed crime writer have figured it out by now, and the unbearably cheesy final moments of this movie that make him remember why –apart from the fact that, despite recent evidence to the contrary, he is, you know, male- he hates love stories in every size, shape or form are just minutes away, and as a ten-year-old girl belts out All I Want For Christmas Is You, he switches off the television, but the silence is so sudden, so pressing and so god-awful that he immediately turns it back on.

Would you stay, knowing life would always be a little bit worse? Or would you cut and run?” He flinches, as though the woman on screen has dealt him a physical blow, and in a way, she has. “You’ve also made a fool out of me… you’ve made the life I lead foolish too.” Was that what he had done? When he failed to do what he’s started to think would have been the right thing to do, sweep her off her feet after Gaza with signs or a drumming solo or humiliating the leader of the free world at a press conference, did she feel like a fool? Did she cut and run, because cut and run she did, because she felt like an idiot for wanting him to do something like that? Or was he the fool in this scenario, because he wanted her to have wanted this, wanted him, and she never did?

Questions too confusing. Best not try to answer them tonight.

And the music is getting louder and his little redheaded Yoda is getting help from is Dad to get his act together –“You’ve got nothing to loose and you’ll always regret it if you don’t”- and he’s wondering if there is such a thing as a God of Television who sent this movie his way, and whether he’s getting the message right or not, and then little Yoda says, “Let’s go get the shit kicked out of us by love,” and before he knows what he’s doing, he’s sifting through the room to retrieve his blackberry. But now the badly dressed writer is speaking Portuguese and he’s momentarily distracted by this amusing turn of events as he bends down on hands and knees, the room blurred and his head pounding, and he realizes with a softly uttered “fuck” that he is, indeed, drunk. Too much of his attention focused on the movie and his general coordination, it takes him a little longer than strictly permissible to scan the carpeted floor for the little black device, and he pokes at a dark shape which he realizes only once he’s fished it out from under the bed with a clothes hanger is a discarded sock, and just as the music is reaching a climax that makes him suddenly and inexplicably think of Joanie and how bad she would tease him about this, he locates the little device under the curtains. He peels it out as the badly dressed writer speaks more Portuguese, and he can’t really read the subtitles properly anymore, but whatever he’s saying, it sounds heartening and gentle and beautiful.

He dials a familiar number, it’s almost muscle memory, but he takes his time and a deep, steadying breath and even though he knows this is a really bad idea, this movie, this cloying, predictable, over-sentimental holiday special has convinced him that it’s the only plan he’s got.

He stares at the number on the display, heart pounding.

Thank you,” Aurelia says, on screen. “That will be nice. Yes is being my answer. Easy question.”

He presses the green calling button as applause erupts.

You learned English?”

Just in cases.”

He presses the phone against his ear. There’s a mechanical beep, then: “The number you have called is no longer in service. Please redial. If you believe you are hearing this message in error, please call our 24 –hour-service-hotline at 1-800…”

The sound of the Beach Boys singing fills the room. Josh Lyman lets his blackberry sink in horror.

He turns off the television, and this time, it stays off.

He collects the empty beer bottles and stacks them on a plate for room service to pick up, strips down to his boxers, drinks a bottle of water and swallows a Tylenol. He rubs his eyes and crawls under his covers, turns off the lights and stares into the darkness, willing himself not see Donna right there.

In the silence, the music still rings in his ears.

God only knows what I’d be without you…
Pouncy: WW - Office Goddessmanywaters on March 4th, 2008 06:17 am (UTC)
Oh wow. I love the movie and you gave it an angsty side I've never considered. Thank you for writing this!
Blythe: [WW] ainsley fanvividahlin on March 4th, 2008 07:13 am (UTC)
I really love this series. :) Looking forward to more.
lilachighlilachigh on March 4th, 2008 08:14 am (UTC)
Late for work again! I really must learn to read these marvellous fics in the evening when I get in! Thank you.
crystalkei: frakcrystalkei on March 4th, 2008 02:29 pm (UTC)
now i have to go rent this movie. good stuff!
(Deleted comment)
'Noodlesnewyork_noodles on March 8th, 2008 04:06 am (UTC)
YAY, I'm thrilled someone picked up on that. Passing references are made of win.
Tori Morris: Josh Pillow Cling!skywaterblue on March 8th, 2008 03:53 am (UTC)

He presses the phone against his ear. There’s a mechanical beep, then: “The number you have called is no longer in service. Please redial. If you believe you are hearing this message in error, please call our 24 –hour-service-hotline at 1-800…”

Ouch. That really slices. (Also: Love, Actually: best movie or greatest movie?)
'Noodlesnewyork_noodles on March 8th, 2008 04:06 am (UTC)
Greatest Movie Ever Made. For serious.
Leli: Town and Countryleli_5 on April 2nd, 2008 02:27 am (UTC)
Wow, that was good. Harsh ending, but I liked it. I'm really enjoying this series and looking forward to the next installment.
dwhitforddwhitford on September 28th, 2008 05:00 am (UTC)
ouch-how sad! I need more, please write more. Parts 1 & 2 were wonderful, Thanks.