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24 January 2008 @ 01:50 am
Memories Are Made of This: JD Fluff  
Title: Memories Are Made of This
Summary: ... The Grand Moss-Lyman Memorial Tour of the Past Twenty-Five Years. It's been 25 years since she came back to NH, and Josh and Donna take some couple time to remember all that happened since.
Word Count: 8000. Yes. It's really long.
Notes: All post-series material in this fic (and there is a lot, seeing as it's set about 15 years after "Tomorrow") is more or less directly related to my chaptered (and, alas, still unfinished) fic And Now The World Is Ours. Although it works as a stand-alone, so don't go reading all fifteen chapters of the Guppy fic unless you really want to.
Rating: PG-13 for some sexing, but nothing too smutty.

Memories Are Made of This:

The Grand Moss-Lyman Memorial Tour of the Past Twenty-Five Years

"She's late."

Josephine Claudia Moss Lyman, known as Josie to most and Guppy to a select few, barely looks up from her book as her father walks into her bedroom, wearing a nicer-than-usual suit and playing with his tie impatiently. "So it would seem."

"Can I turn on C-SPAN for a sec and see when she finished?"

"Dad. We do have a television downstairs."

"Your brothers are monopolizing it, and I don't have that kind of fight in me right now."

"Go ahead."

He flicks on the television. “Oh, are you kidding me? She hasn’t even started yet!”

She groans, reaches for the remote and turns off the television. "Dad. Chill."

"She hasn’t even started yet!" He repeats. "This is ridiculous! It's our anniversary! I have plans! I bribed CJ into coming over here taking care of your brothers for a weekend, which, for the record, cost me like a semester of college tuition worth of favors, and I'm gonna want those back if this weekend isn't happening."

"Dad-"

"We were going to fly to Hawaii. Other people might be missing their dinner reservations; we're missing our plane. Our plane."

"Yes. You're missing your plane to Hawaii. Oh, and you know CJ's not going to let you off the hook about those favors, right?"

He stares at her. Except for the hair, which is his, dark and unruly, she is her mother's spitting image, with those watery eyes and sharp tongue, her haywire sense of humor and the way she never lets him get away with anything.

"Can I ask you something?" She actually puts her book down this time, and pats her bed next to her. He sits, hesitantly.

"Guppy, please don't tell me you're about to ask me about sex."

"Dad!" She protests, all fourteen-year-old indignation. "Ew!"

"Yeah, yeah. What's on your mind?"

"You keep saying that tonight's your anniversary but it's, like, not. You and Mom went out to celebrate your anniversary like two weeks ago."

"Yes indeed."

"So how come this is your anniversary too?"

"That's kind of a long story."

"She hasn’t even started yet,” Guppy reminds him sweetly. “So spill."

He sighs, grinning at her. "How much do you know about Mom and me before we were, you know, Mom and me?"

"I know that you were secretly in love with each other for, like, five million years while Bartlet was president, if that's what you mean."

"Yes," he answers slowly, "yes, that's what I meant. Well, your Mom started working for me in January, 'cause she'd left her old boyfriend and needed something to do with her life; except then she went back to him two weeks later-"

"She did?! Why?"

"I've often wondered, and have never gotten a satisfactory answer. Anyway, what happened next was that she was in a car accident, and Dr. Freeride -the old boyfriend- stopped to have a beer with some of his friends on the way to the hospital."

"Oh my God! What a jerk!"

"I'll say. So she dumped him for good and came back and started working for me again. And I used to tease her about and say it was our anniversary and send her flowers and stuff, and, I don't know, it became a tradition." He hesitates. "And it's been 25 years since she first came back and, you know."

“Well said,” his daughter deadpans. "But 25 years, wow. That's almost twice as old as I am."

"Yeah."

She smiles. "I knew that story," she confesses. "I just didn't know that was today."

"How'd you know?"

"Mom told me."

"Really?"

"Remember when we had the Chicken Pox?" Josh groans, remembering three small children covered in red pustules, and having to move out because he'd never had them as a child. "I was lying in bed, and I was irritated and wanted to scratch, and she distracted me by, like, telling me all these stories about you guys."

"Really?"

"Well, she said that they were about this knight called Sir Lancelot and this girl who ran away from her village and became his -I don't even remember what it was she did, I think like fix his swords or something- but I figured out it was you guys pretty much immediately."

Josh lets out a long, amused sigh. "See, we've known each other for 25 years, and your mother never ceases to surprise me."

"Which, I think, is the way it should be."

"You bet." He pauses, then: "There's a part of the story I haven't told you, and I doubt Mom did."

"Tell me!" She says immediately.

"Okay, so there was this one night, during the first Bartlet term-" and it only occurs to him now, as he's telling this story for the first time, how strange it is that he measures his life in presidencies- "and it was tonight, and I'd bought your Mom flowers, and she was kind of pissed about it, and we were working late, and I don't know, we were talking, and she told me the story about Dr. Freeride and the accident, and I said something to the effect of, well he's a jerk, and if you were in an accident, I wouldn't stop for a beer, and your Mom said, well, if you were in an accident, I wouldn't stop for red lights." He smiles nostalgically at his daughter, who is looking like she's about to squeal and prays she won't. "And I think that's when we first knew. So that's why tonight is, you know."

"Different from all of the other nights?" Guppy smiles. "Dad, that's so cute."

"Yeah, I guess."

"No, seriously, Dad. That's so. Cute."

He reaches over for the remote and turns the TV back on. C-SPAN is covering a Brookings Institution symposium on Global Governance and Democracy, and keynote speaker just happens to be one Donnatella Moss-Lyman, issues director of the Center for Global Development. Father and daughter watch for a second as she talks about global responsibilities and foreign aid that goes beyond handing out checks.

They grin at each other. "Guppy, you've got a pretty great Mom, you know that?"

"My Dad isn't so bad either," she smiles back. He gives her a one-armed hug, marveling at how tall she is, how she's reading To Kill A Mockingbird and how "like" has become an important part at her vocabulary.

"So you're gonna miss your plane?"

"Yeah," he answers, resignedly. "We'll figure something out. I'll be downstairs- I still owe eight overenthusiastic freshmen their papers."

"Have fun."

He leaves his daughter's room and walks through the house. Josh Lyman is a man of occasion, and as such, he takes his time in getting to his desk, and walks slowly, reconstructing the past 25 years in his mind. 25 years of Donna, 25 years of dancing around each other, of being distracted by how beautiful she really is, of arguing, of making up. They've spent a quarter of a century together, and this house holds pictures, mementoes, memories, of every one of those years. The framed, faded Bartlet for America poster in the upstairs hallway:The beginnings, marveling at the spunk and spark and farm-girl-looks of his new assistant, and catching himself missing her when she'd left, and being enormously relieved when she returned. A framed picture of the two of them stands in one of the bookshelves at the top of the stairs. At a state dinner during their first years in the White House: dancing, dancing like they did for years: years of shooting sideways glances at each other, trying to read what the other was feeling, two steps forward, one step back, and occasionally a twirl, and growing tired of all of it, dizzy and frustrated, and taking it out on each other. And they still made it. Here’s another picture, this one taken during the Santos campaign: sitting cross legged on a couch, she’s eating Chinese food and pointing her chopsticks at him to make a point, and he’s smiling at her like he can’t believe his good fortune, and he couldn’t then, and can’t now. He smiles at the two people in the photograph, young and unsure, they don’t know that just a few days after this picture was taken, they would be kissing each other for their lives’ worth for the first time. That just a few weeks later, they’d be sitting in Hawaii, trying to bridge the distance between them, trying to figure it out and then realizing that really, they were making it all much, much more complicated than it was.

And then came Guppy, and their wedding, Donna in a white dress with her bump clearly visible, practically floating. And Guppy was born, and it was uphill from there, as they say. He walks downstairs, past pictures of their children, Guppy as a six-month old baby fast asleep in his arms, and in the next picture, wide awake and struggling to crawl out of Donna’s lap. Watching their beautiful baby girl growing up into a two-year old wise-ass that had inherited their combined powers of debate, and then President Santos had won reelection and four months after Inauguration, Donna had informed him when he came downstairs from reading Guppy Goodnight, Moon for the seventh night in a row that she was pregnant again. And this time it had been twins, two boys named after their grandfathers whom they’d never get to meet. There’s a snapshot of Donna, eight months pregnant and huge, standing with her back against the wall of a corridor of the West Wing, and her stomach’s touching the other wall, and she’s grinning wildly. Two baby boys that they took home from the hospital on Christmas Eve, that for the first five weeks, only slept soundly when they were sleeping side by side in the same bed, that soon started drooling over plastic airplanes and toy trucks, brought dirt into the house and irritated Guppy beyond belief. He laughs at a framed picture standing on the dresser in their downstairs hallway. Taken one Thanksgiving in Madison, Donna’s holding Robbie, he’s holding Noah, and they’re both supporting Guppy as she balances on a log, all five of them packed in thick winter clothes, cheeks read from the cold wind, hair ruffled, laughing at a joke he can’t remember.

From the living room comes the sound of his sons laughing and arguing drifts over as he stands there, staring at the picture of them. They’re growing up so quickly, his children, and he’s grateful for every moment he gets to hear their voices. That’s why, when two weeks before the Santos presidency was to come to an official end, he decided that he was through with politics for the time being, called the Dean at Georgetown School of Foreign Service and asked him for a job. And it worked out perfectly. His kids learned the number of electoral votes and predicted party affiliation along with the states and state capitols in third grade, and when they were smaller, barely a week went by without them having dinner at the dining hall across the street from his office at Georgetown at least once, because he was teaching a late class and Donna was stuck in committee, and he’d come back from his Intro to Foreign Policy lecture to find three children watching The Lion King in his office, only sometimes surrounded by things they hadn’t wrecked on purpose.

Three kids, their kids, Guppy still as much as a wise-ass as she was at two, reading so much she’ll have run out of even vaguely age-appropriate things soon enough. Guppy, who started telling political jokes when she was eight and takes tap-dance, and when they asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, at six, she said “CJ”. But they still call her Guppy, her in utero nickname, even though everyone else calls her “Josie” or even “Josephine” these days –much like her lovely godmother, she likes to pretend the Claudia isn’t really a part of her name at all- and if she minds, she’s not telling. Guppy, the quintessentially impatient big sister to her two little brothers: Robbie, who’s inherited his dark hair and, Donna says, his energy, and Noah, with flaxen curls and a sensitive, artistic nature that only fits into the Moss-Lyman family at second glance, and then it makes so much sense. Robbie plays every organized sport on the planet, baseball and basketball and soccer and lacrosse, and Noah plays none, instead, he draws. They bought him his first set of fingerprints when he was barely a year old, and his first camera when he was three-and-a-half, and the pictures he took then, wobbly pictures of the world out of a toddler’s wondrous perspective, still make Josh wonder how he could be at all involved in the making of this child.

He carries the stack of freshman papers to the living room for correcting, and as he reads them, he watches the boys play Risk. Guppy wanders down and watches them, making hilariously inappropriate wisecracks when Ukraine invades Saudi-Arabia. As he’s just scrawling an A-, start working on these 48 hours before they’re due and you’ll make it an A under a paper, the key in the lock of the front door turns.

“I’m home!” Donna calls. The twins barely look up, and Guppy gives him a raised-eyebrow glance and nudges her head into the direction of the door. Grinning, he gets up and wanders into the hallway.

“Hey,” he smiles, watching her hang up her coat. She wears her hair shorter these days; she’s got crinkly laugh lines around her eyes and wears pantsuits that show clearly that she means business. And once again, he’s distracted by how beautiful she is.

“Hi,” she says, sounding exhausted.

“How was your day?”

“Eugh. Hug, please.”

He wraps his arms around her gently. “I saw you on TV, you did well.”

“Didn’t feel like it.”

“Well, I wasn’t really paying attention, but you looked very pretty.”

“Shut up.” There’s a pause, then: “You’re wearing a suit.”

“I am.”

“Why are you wearing a suit?” She stares at him, then looks around the hall: “Why is there a suitcase standing there?”

He smiles. “Guess.”

“Josh, what…” She frowns. He can practically see her doing the math in her head, can practically see it click, and then her eyes light up and she grins broadly at him. “No.”

“Yeah.”

“Today? Really?”

“Yeah.”

“Wow.” Leans over and places a quick kiss on his lips. “Twenty five years, huh?”

“I know.”

“What are we doing?” She asks excitedly.

He sighs. “We were actually going to go to Hawaii, but we’ve kind of missed our flight, cause the thing ran late and stuff.”

“Hawaii?” She shakes her head, eyes wide, grin broad. “Joshua, Joshua, you never cease to amaze me.”

“I had it all organized- Guppy helped me pack and CJ’s coming in tonight to take care of the kids for the weekend, and we were going to, I don’t know, take the grand Moss-Lyman Hawaii Memorial Tour or something.”

“Take a bottle of champagne to the very spot where we once decided to try out hand at being, you know, a couple?”

“Something like that, yeah.”

She giggles. “I love you so much right now.”

He shrugs. “Well, we need to figure out what we want to do instead. We’ve got the whole weekend, I cleared your schedule with Kerry and everything, and CJ’s on the plane anyway. We should do something.”

Her eyes alight. “How about we take the grand Moss-Lyman Memorial Tour anyway?”

“You’re gonna need to explain that-“

“Grab your coat,” she says, and hurries into the living room.

“Hey guys,” he hears her say. She asks about Guppy’s social studies quiz (“easy-peasy” – “Well, it should be, considering you learnt most of this when you were in kindergarten”), about Robbie’s lacrosse practice (“Coach says I’ll be a regular on the team in Spring” – “You know that doesn’t mean you’re getting out of Hebrew School”), Noah’s math test (“I don’t think I did very well” – “That’s okay, sweetie, we’re not mad”- “I know, Mom”). She kisses all three kids, tells Guppy she’s leaving money for pizza on the kitchen table, and CJ’ll be there soon enough. He hears her walking into the kitchen, then back into the living room: “Okay, don’t break anything. We’ll call before you go to sleep- we love you!” She calls then reappears. “Josh, I’m serious. Get your coat.”

“Where are we going?”

“You’ll see.”

Bemused, he puts on his coat, calls a hurried goodbye to his kids and follows her out of the front door of their house in Cleveland Park. She takes his hand in a giddy gesture that never really suited them, and still doesn’t, but he finds himself quite liking it as she squeezes his hands and presses a kiss on his cheek.

“My man of occasion,” she whispers into his ear.

They walk along the darkening, tree-lined streets of their neighborhood in a comfortable silence.

“You’re still not going to tell me-“

“No.”

“Kay.”

“Can I ask you something?”

“Shoot.”

“When you think about me, who do you see?”

“What?” He stops and stares, confused.

She sighs, turns to almost-face him, but focuses on something left of his ear. “I’m just curious- when you think about me, who do you see? Do you see me when I was twenty five and pretty, or do you… who do you see?”

“I’m still not getting the question.”

“Close your eyes,” she says. He obeys, though not wholly without rolling them first. “Think about me. What imagine comes to-“

“Donna, you’re standing right in front of me, what am I supposed to-“

She lets of a half-amused, half-exasperated giggle-snort and turns to keep walking. “Never mind.”

“I see you on a Tuesday morning at home,” he says, quietly. She turns to face him, eyes wide, a little smile playing on her lips. “It’s seven thirty and you’re reading the Post or a briefing memo and having breakfast with the kids –Robert Samuel Lyman, do not even think about turning on that television-“ he mimics, and she laughs and slaps his shoulder playfully. “You actually listen to what they’re saying, and you’re doing multiplication flashcards with Noah and then you see me walk in and you smile at me, pretty exactly the way you’re smiling now.” He shakes his head. “I’m not saying you weren’t pretty when you were twenty-five, but nothing beats that,” he says, simply.

She smiles. “Thanks.”

“Your turn,” he prods. “’Cause now I’m intrigued.”

“Same thing, really,” she says, slowly. “Except mine’s on week nights when I come home –kind of like tonight- and you’re grading papers and helping the kids with homework and cutting up carrot sticks for dinner and explaining stuff to Guppy and not-yelling at Robbie when I probably would be.” She leans against him, and he almost instinctively nuzzles her head.

“Donna?”

“Yeah?”

“You weren’t worried that I was wishing you were still twenty-five, were you?”

No-o,” she says, and sounds just like Guppy when he asked her whether she liked that boy Andrew from her math class.

“You crack me up,” he says into the silence of the street, the sweet April air, wrapping his arms around her. “And I am so not going to give you the satisfaction of telling you that you are more beautiful today than you ever were at twenty-five.”

“No?” She asks, molding her body to perfectly fit in with his, and his hands lightly make their way up her arms.

“No,” he mumbles into her neck, her neck that still smells a little like cookie dough, and he presses a kiss on that spot behind her ear that makes her dig her fingernails into his arm.

Someone clears their throat behind them. They break apart to see Kelly Jordan, in front of whose door they’re standing and who’s son Jack plays on Robbie’s Lacrosse team, stand there with raised eyebrows.

“Uh,” Josh says, immediately letting go of Donna. “Hey, Kelly.”

“Hi,” Donna manages, flustered. “We were just…”

“Yeah,” Josh says, “We were…”

Kelly just grins. “I just kind of need to get inside,” she says. “Have a good night, you two.”

She walks inside, laughing. They stare at each other. “Okay, seriously, from now on its hands off until we’re somewhere with a locked door, Mister,” she says, giggling.

He just laughs and takes her hand. “You’re still not going to tell me where we’re going?”

“Would you just… no. I’m not. Now come on!”

They walk to Connecticut Avenue and Donna hails a cab, telling the driver their destination in an undertone so he doesn’t hear. Resigned, he watches DC zoom past until, barely ten minutes later; they stop in a Georgetown side street, in front of a very familiar looking house. He clambers out as Donna pays the cabbie, and finds himself in front of his old house, their old house, their first home together. He wraps an arm around her as she joins him.

“Welcome,” she says, in the cheery voice of a talk radio host, “to the first stop on the Grand Moss-Lyman Memorial Tour of the Past Twenty-Five Years. You see in front of you the…” She doesn’t get further than that because he’s leaning in and kissing her for all she’s worth.

When they break apart, they just stand there, gazing up at the familiar stoop, the brick structure and the windows. “Remember when we brought home Guppy?” He asks, tracing circles into her palm with his index finger.

“Remember how tiny she was?”

“Remember how quiet she was?”

“What happened?” They laugh.

“We got engaged here,” he says quietly. “And Guppy took her first steps in that living room.”

“And said her first word.”

“ ‘No!’ “ They say, in unison.

“And the boys,” Donna reminds him. “I think they were even conceived here. Unlike Guppy.”

He laughs softly. “True.” After a pause: “It was a good house.”

“It was a tiny house. Once there were five of us. Remember how crowded it was when they were small?”

“Did I ever tell you that I actually tripped over Noah once? He was sitting in the hallway drawing, and Robbie had bumped his knee and I was carrying him and running to get a band-aid and I just didn’t see him there.”

“And you tripped? Over your own son?” Donna laughs. “Wow.”

He wraps his arms around her. “You wanna hear something strange? I’m trying to remember this house before you and the kids, but there’s hardly anything there.”

“That might be ‘cause you were hardly ever there,” she points out.

“Yeah, but…” he shrugs. He pulls her close and whispers into her hair, “I remember that Christmas. You know.”

“After Rosslyn?”

“Yeah.”

“I remember that too,” she says, softly. “And I remember picking up your stuff a couple of days after it happened… after the shooting. I was so scared.”

“I know.”

She grips his hands tightly. “I still think about it,” she offers quietly. “Sometimes. That but for an inch of a miracle, I would never have had any of this.”

“Me too.” He presses his lips on her hair. “We’re so lucky.”

“We really are.”

In silence, and in perfect unison, they start walking again, both of them gazing back at the old house, hands tightly intertwined. “What’s next?” He asks, and then they both have to laugh.

“You’ll see.”

Another cab, and then they’re standing in front of the concrete-and-glass façade of GW Hospital. Ambulances are howling, visitors, nurses and doctors streaming in and out.

“This is the second stop?” He asks, surprised.

She nods. “Encompassing the ER, the cardiovascular recovery ward and, oh, the nursery.” She lifts his clenched fists and gently kisses his knuckles. “Don’t worry, we’re not going in. But I thought it was worth stopping by.”

“To count our blessings?”

“Yes.”

“Good thinking.” He pauses. “God. So much happened here…”

“I know.”

“Guppy and the boys.” Guppy had been a beautiful baby, and her birth had been relatively easy. He remembers her falling asleep in his arms just a few hours after she was born, her tiny hand giving his pinky the tiniest of tugs moments before. And the boys, who had been born by C-section and had spent a terribly week in incubators, Donna’s face when she caressed their bodies, through the mess of tubes and wires around them, Guppy pressing her face against the glass of the NICU, wanting to meet her baby brothers and hating that she couldn’t. “And…”

“I know,” she says quietly, and he knows she knows that even now, after this moment, there is the faintest acidic burning in his throat.

He studies her with a frown. “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“You were there. When I was in here, after Rosslyn, for three months, you were constantly there - and you made sure I ate and you brought me my stuff and…” He pauses. “Did you know, then?”

She sighs. “I don’t know. Yes. I think so. No.” She studies the yellow concrete building with painful intensity. “I knew I couldn’t bear the thought of losing you. And then when I didn’t, I just… “ She looks at him, and shrugs. “Does it matter, really?”

“I guess not.” Another silence, then. “I knew. In Germany, I knew.”

“I know. I mean, I knew. I knew you knew is what I’m saying.”

“Yeah?”

“Oh, yeah.” She wraps her arms around him. “It doesn’t matter. Come on, we can walk to the next stop from here.”

They walk up New Hampshire Avenue. “But if it doesn’t matter, then why are we taking this tour?” He asks, half-seriously, half smiling as they link arms and breathe in the smell of spring and cherries and car exhausts in the air. “What?” He asks, at her head-shaking grin.

“The rare valid point.”

“You got an answer for me?”

“I’m working on it.”

They walk past politicos and pundits coming home from work –or maybe just picking up some food before slinking back into the office- past dates on their way to drinks or dinner, and she leads him into M Street silently.

“Donna? It’s taking you a little long to come up with an answer.”

“I’m just…” She shrugs. They’ve never really talked about this- they’ve made jokes, about the mutual pining, about the years that can’t help feel like wasted when you wake up next to each other every morning and it’s the easiest thing in the world, but not once have they really talked about it. “I was so young,” she says. “I mean, we both were, but I was so young. And I…” She shrugs. “I feel kind of stupid about a lot of the things I did, then, and I don’t really like remembering that part of my –of our- life. Not that particular aspect, anyway.” He opens his mouth to respond, but she cuts across him. “Look. We have a wonderful life and I love you very, very much, and you’ve been making my life better for the past twenty-five years. That’s what matters. That’s why we’re doing this tonight. But I don’t like remembering what it felt like to be some pathetic wide-eyed girl just waiting for you to notice me, and hating myself and hating you and… I know we joke about it a lot, but they’re not good memories, for me, in retrospect. I mean, they are, some of them, but…”

“I get it,” he says, quietly.

“Really?”

“Yeah. But you weren’t pathetic, then. Just… stubborn.”

She laughs, and the sound of it still rings in his ears, fresh and familiar and wonderful. “I noticed you,” he whispers into her hair, “right from the very beginning.”

“No, you didn’t,” she immediately says, but she’s blushing and biting her lip and, even though it doesn’t quite suit her anymore, it’s very, very cute.

“I did!”

Thank God, there’s a bunch of stuff on that desk?

“I took you back, didn’t I?”

“Yes,” she says, wrapping her arms around him, “yes, you did.” They stand there for a second, and the fact that they have each other on this April night without any real need to talk about it, without it being complicated and angst-ridden, seems like both a miracle and the most normal thing in the world.

“Hey, where are we going?” He asks, unable to stop himself as she leads him into a tree-lined sidestreet.

“We’re here, actually.”

The Capitol Grand Hotel?”

“Yes.”

He racks his brains. “I don’t get it.”

“You don’t.”

This feels a lot like what forgetting her birthday must feel like. “No,” he says, apologetic, though not sure what he’s apologizing for. “I don’t get it.”

She sighs, impatient but not angry, takes his hand and leads him inside the building, past a reception desk and into an atrium-style bar twinkling with fairy lights and already crowded. They sit down at a table, and she looks at him expectantly. He shakes his head. “Still don’t get it.”

“Okay. I’m going to tell you a little story now-“

He laughs, remembering what Guppy told him before, and has to laugh even more when the look on her face is precisely her bedtime-story-look. She peers at him sternly, and he realizes that this is what Robbie must feel like when gets this look for dawdling before bed.

“There was a morning,” she begins her story, “on the Santos Campaign. After San Andreo, the first polls were released, and we were gaining ground everywhere, and we were tied nationally. And I came down to tell you.”

“Oh.” He grins at her. “Yes. That I remember.”

Yes,” she says, smiling back at him. “And later that day, we flew down to Washington because President Bartlet wanted to talk to the candidates about Kazakhstan, and we stayed here-”

“Oh.”

“And I, foolish and eager to be disappointed in you yet again, as I am so very prone to be, decided to go out on a limb and…”

“Yes.” He mumbles, sheepishly.

“Do you get it now?”

“Uh-huh.”

“That was one of those moments where I just felt like it’d probably be wise to give up on men in general and you in particular.”

“I know.”

“Seriously, Josh, what the hell happened that night?”

“Whatever happened to ‘It doesn’t matter?’” He quips. “Anyway, how about I make it up to you tonight?” He stops a waiter rushing by their table. “Excuse me, is there any chance you have a room available for tonight?”

He keeps his eyes on Donna, whose lips form a perfectly round “Oh” of surprise before breaking into a huge smile.

“Well,” he shrugs, “it’s never too late to redeem a missed opportunity, right?”

“Not for us it’s not.”

The waiter returns. “Sir? If you’d like to come to the front desk, we’ve got a few rooms available.”

Ten minutes later, she’s unlocking the door to a room on the eighth floor, and before the door has properly snapped shut he’s scooped her up in her arms and they tumble on the bed, a tangle of arms, legs and snatched kisses. With the kids, work, laundry to do and lunches to make, papers to correct and to write, respectively, more often than not these days, their days end with a kiss and one of them turning off his bedside light. But now, they’re both wide awake, there is no chance of Noah bursting inside, complaining that Robbie won’t let him sleep, and they take full advantage of that. He kisses her deeply, unbuttoning her blouse while her hands loose themselves in his hair, and she doesn’t even notice that it’s thinning and graying. He pulls her closer, can’t get enough of her- he’s seen her in every imaginable state, twenty-five and wide-eyed, in Inauguration ball gowns and in a hospital gown, nine months pregnant and wearing her Dad’s boxers and flannel shirt, in fashionable power-politics pantsuits, and covered from head to toe in mud after a disastrous trip to Rock Creek Park with the boys. He knows her body as well as his own, but he’s still unbelievably attracted to her as he pulls her closer, as her quick fingers pull of his tie and unbutton his shirt.

There’s a knock on the door. “Room Service!” A cheery voice calls. With a groan, they pull apart, and he crosses to the door, reappearing seconds later with a tray boasting a bottle of champagne and a plate of strawberries.

Donna raises her eyebrows, laughing. “Please tell me you didn’t order these?”

“I thought you-“ He frowns. “That’s weird.”

“Not really,” Donna shrugs, glancing at a card on the tray. “They probably think it’s out honeymoon or something, look- it’s complimentary.”

“Nifty,” he comments dryly as he fills up two glasses and hands her one. “Thanks for coming back to me,” he smiles.

“Thanks for taking me back.”

“To the past twenty-five years.” He holds up his glass, but she shakes her head: “To the next twenty-five years,” she gently corrects him.

They clink glasses, identical smiles playing on their faces. After a few moments of silence, Donna says, “We should call the kids. We might be… preoccupied later.”

He grins at her as he peels his cell phone out of the pocket of his discarded jacket, hits the one on speed dial.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Rob.”

“Hi Dad,” his son says, sounding out of breath as usual. “It’s not bedtime yet,” he adds immediately.

Josh laughs. “I know, I know. Mom and I are just going to be kind of busy the next couple of hours, so we wanted to make sure we called before you guys went to sleep.”

“What are you going to be busy with?”

Josh eyes his wife, who is biting into a strawberry and shooting him a smoldering look: “Dessert, buddy… we’re having dinner and desert.”

“Cool. Hey, I’m watching the ball game on TV- can you give Mom a kiss from me?”

“You bet. Can I talk to the others?”

“Sure. Bye, Dad.”

“Goodnight, buddy. I love you.”

“Love you too.” He hears Robbie’s ever-running footsteps, his voice yelling “NOAH! GUPPY! DAD’S ON THE PHONE!” and then his other son calmly saying, “Hey, Daddy.”

“Hi, Noah. What’s up?”

“Not much,” and he can see Noah shrugging, looking hesitant. “Robbie’s watching TV, Guppy’s reading, I’m drawing.”

“Sounds cool. CJ there yet?”

“No, but she called before, when she landed- she’s coming in half an hour, and she’s bringing Nellie!” Josh smiles to himself- Eleanor Concannon, though barely a year older than Guppy, is practically sainted amongst his kids.

“Wow, that’s great. You wanna talk to Mom?”

“Yeah. Goodnight, Daddy. I love you.”

“I love you too. Night-night.” He hands the phone to Donna, who talks to Noah and Guppy before hanging up.

“Guppy didn’t want to talk to me?” He asks, surprised.

She giggles, shaking her head. “I’m sure it wasn’t personal. Anyway, where were we?”

They look at each other and she bites into another strawberry, her lips closing sensually around the ludicrously red fruit as she gives him another tantalizing look, and he swears that this might be the sexiest thing he’s ever seen as he pulls her into his arms. The remains of the strawberry stain his shirt bright pink, her lips taste fresh and his lips brush hers, gently and forcefully, again and again and again, just because he can, while her hands work their way up his shirt, and his continue unbutton her blouse. And he feels her quiver under his hands, and he groans under her knowing touch, and kisses everywhere, as he touches her body as though he’s doing for the first time, as though he’s exploring unfamiliar territory, the incredibly soft skin between her collarbone which he bestows with light kisses that make her sigh, the soft, light hairs on her arms as he slides off her blouse.

She’s running her hands over his chest, and her fingers seem to tickle, or maybe burn him, and then she pushes him down and straddles him, and she laughs at the wide-eyed look on his eyes as he knees dig into his side as she unbuttons his jeans, and his laugh turns into a groan as he stares up at her, and she slides her hand into his boxers and he looses track of things from there on.

Later, much later, after kisses and laughter, after whispering sweet nothings into the other’s ear and lips and navel, after caressing every part of her, after hearing her moan as he kisses the inside of her thighs and gently runs his finger over hear nipples, after feeling every part of each other with an intensity and attention they haven’t had in awhile, they lie sprawled in the middle of the king-sized bed, her legs arranged artfully over his, noses almost touching, breaths mingling.

He leans over the tiny space separating them and bestows a light kiss on her nose, which makes her smile, and one on her lips, which makes her smile even wider.

“What do you think?” He smiles. “We make up for that night?”

She turns her face away from him and nods into her pillow, grinning broadly. His fingers gently walk their way up her bare back. “You okay?”

Another vigorous nod into the depths of her pillow.

“Donna?” His fingers find their way up her neck and he carefully presses them down onto what he knows from years of being forced to massage them are two her most sensitive points.

She lifts her head an inch and looks up at him, and he sees, to his horror that her eyes are bright and swimming with tears. “Donna, what…?”

She stares at him, smiling broadly as her eyes start to leak, reaches out and gently cups his face in her hand. “I love you very, very much, Josh,” she says, seriously.

He smiles. “I love you,” he answers.

“I was just thinking how lucky we are,” she shrugs, wiping her cheeks on the pillow. “I’m sorry, this is weird.”

“No, it’s…”

“It’s weird.”

“No, it’s not. It’s, you know, incredibly sentimental and a little cliché-“ She laughs at this and smacks his arm, and he smiles, satisfied, and this, for some reasons, prompts her to roll her eyes at him.

“Josh.”

“Yes.”

“We’ve known each for twenty-five years; we’ve been married for thirteen of them, by now you should that sometimes I get teary, and most of the time that’s a good thing, and most of the time, it doesn’t mean you need to go out of your way to make me smile again.”

“I like it when you smile,” he shrugs, sheepish, and as proof of that, he leans over and his lips graze each upturned corner of her mouth and her high cheekbones, and his fingertips linger on the crinkly laughlines around her eyes.

“I’m serious.”

“So am I.”

They just lie there, smiling broadly at each other, occasionally reaching out, because tonight, they cannot get enough of the other.

Eventually, however, Donna sits up with a sudden movement that makes him flinch. “So we never finished our tour,” she says, smiling as she proceeds to pull on her panties.

He frowns. “We can’t postpone…”

“It’s just one more stop,” she says, shrugging. “Plus, I’m kinda hungry.”

“We can order room service, stay here all weekend.”

No.”

“Donna! It’s our anniversary weekend! I had this fantastic plan…”

“Josh, seriously? The Hawaii idea was cute and everything, but that didn’t happen, and now I find myself with an entirely free weekend for the first time since President’s Day, and I’d kind of like to spend that, not just with you, but with my kids.” She snaps her bra shut and peels her blouse out from under the bed, frowning at its wrinkled state. “We’ll pawn them off to CJ to take to the movies or something tomorrow night and you can do many, many kinky things to me then, but now, we’re getting dressed, we’re having dinner, we’re taking a walk and we’re going home.”

“You don’t want to spend the perfect weekend with your husband?”

“I want to spend the perfect weekend with my family.”

Unearthing his boxers from the sheets beneath him, he reflects how unfortunate it is to have a wife prone to make points so valid he can’t really argue with them in situations such as these.

Checking out of the Capitol Grand is one of the more uncomfortable episodes of his life, as the concierge seems to realize they’re not, in fact, on their honeymoon, and apparently is considering making them pay for the champagne and strawberries. Back in the cold night air, they wander aimlessly –or so it seems to him- through DC sidestreets, only ever meeting couples like, and yet incredibly unlike, them.

“It’s power-date night in Washington,” he observes, as they pass the fourth of such a couple, deep in a flirty conversation poorly disguised as a political argument. “Anyway, I thought you were hungry- how come we’re still wandering around?”

“Haven’t found the perfect place yet.”

“We’ve passed like twenty-five restaurants,” he argues.

“Oh, and you want to go to any old restaurant on tonight of all nights?”

“I didn’t want to go any restaurant at all,” he grumbles lightly.

Five minutes later, however, they turn into a familiar street, and this time, he guesses where they’re going.

“Donna.”

“What?”

“Oh, come on!” He shakes his head at her when she leads him to the rooftop restaurant where they got married fourteen years and a few weeks ago. “You’re so…”

“Adorable? Romantic? Charming?”

“- sappy, I was gonna say.” They ride up the elevator, where two enthusiastic Italians greet them: Beano, the owner of the place, and his partner Giuseppe’s mamma, who recognize them immediately. Beano and Giuseppe have been friends with Donna for ages –he’s still not sure how or why- and when they decided to get married here, all three of them where an enormous help. Beano leads them over to one of the best tables, asks about the kids, and brings over a bottle of Venetian Prosecco and a plate of Garlic Bread without being asked.

“And two plates Spaghetti Aglio e Olio, yes?” He asks, grinning down at them broadly. “And some antipasti?”

“That’d be great, thanks so much,” Donna smiles at him.

“Anything for you, kiddo.” He scuttles off into the direction of the kitchen, and they toast each other, smiles wide.

Dinner is the mix of catching-up, reminiscing and both mundane and not-so-mundane planning that is symptomatic of couples that have been sharing their daily lives for as long as they have.

“So the other day,” he says, halfway through a plate of spaghetti, remembering something he’s been meaning to tell her all week, “I was helping Noah with his social studies project, and I’m sitting there, explaining to him the whole concept of, you know, Renaissance thinkers and Galileo and stuff, and he looks up at me, and asks me, ‘Dad, do you mind if I sketch you while you talk?’ And I say, ‘No, Noah, I think you should listen to me while I talk…” He breaks off because she’s laughing so hard. “What?”

“I’m sorry, I’m just picturing this in my head and it’s pretty funny story,” she giggles. “Plus, I’m still having trouble believing a child of mine would ever say the words ‘Do you mind if I sketch you?’ “

“Tell me about it,” Josh shrugs. “Anyway, I got pretty annoyed about it, but then we talked it over, and we decided there was no earthly reason he couldn’t put his talent to some use, and now he’s doing his project on Michelangelo and Renaissance Art.” He pauses, then, hesitantly: “And it’s entirely possible I told him we might take them to Italy over the summer.”

“Josh!”

“I’m sorry, it just sort of slipped out…”

She shakes her head. “If this weren’t our anniversary, I’d be pretty pissed at you right now.”

“I know.”

“We were going to send them to camp this year!”

“I know.”

“All of them!”

“I know.”

“We were going to Italy by ourselves this summer. I’ve never been to Italy. When I go, don’t want to be bothered by Guppy who wants to drink coffee and starts flirting with Italian strangers just to annoy you, I don’t want you and Robbie getting into Tiramisu eating contests and him dragging us to see Milan play soccer, I don’t want to go to the Uffizi with Noah, who’s going to stand in front of every picture for ten freaking minutes…” She stops. “Oh, damn you.”

“What?”

“I hate myself for saying this, but that sounds like a pretty amazing vacation.”

“I know.”

“How can they do this? How can they be such monsters and yet be totally amazing and make me want to spend my summer in Italy with them?”

“Well, they’re our kids, so…”

“That’s right, they’re our kids. These are all your genes. I can’t stand you, and I’ve been spending half of my life with you.” They look at each other, and start laughing.

“We’ll start planning when we get home,” he promises. “It’ll be great.”

“Next year, they’re going to camp. All of them.”

They finish their spaghetti amidst plans for Italy forming, amidst more memories resurfacing and more news being broken, and when Donna tells him that Guppy does in fact likes that kid Andrew, while he’s not in the least surprised, it hits hard.

“God, she’s growing up quickly,” he mutters, shaking his head. “Remember when she used to say Huck was the only boy she wanted to marry?”

“Yeah,” Donna giggles. “Oh, Josh, you didn’t think she was being serious?”

“I’m just saying, we’ve never met this kid. At least with Huck we know he’s too damn shy to do anything uncouth.” He shrugs.

“Josh. If there’s one girl on the planet who I know is going to be smart –more confident than you’d like, more charming than you’d appreciate, this I’m sure of- but smart about boys, it’s Guppy. Don’t you think so?”

“Yeah, I do, but… she’s growing up.”

“Yes, Josh. She’s growing up.”

“I remember when she was this tiny little baby falling asleep on my chest. It’s just weird to imagine her going on dates or, god forbid, making out with some sleazy jock from…”

“Joshua! Do you know how mortified she’d be right now?” He nods, and with that, the topic of their daughter and her love life is closed for now.

They wave Beano over, pay, and in no time, they’re roaming the streets again, and he’s got one arm wrapped firmly around her and she’s got a tub of Guiseppe’s mamma’s Tiramisu in her bag to take home, for later, along with the promise that they’ll be back soon with the kids. This time, he knows where they’re going right away, because the one place they haven’t hit yet is the most important for them, in this city. And indeed, they hit Pennsylvania Avenue, and on the far side, there’s the beautifully illuminated Capitol, and right their, the pillar of Washington Monument, and below it… they walk towards the White House in calm, comfortable silence. Neither of them have been in here since President Santos’ term ended and the Republicans took over, as they inevitably would. They walk towards Lafayette Park, which is quiet and empty this time of night, and stand there, looking over at the building that, for so many years, was where they spent all their time together, shared their lives. So much of their history happened her.

In a way, tonight happened here.

She snakes her arm around his body. “What’s your favorite memory in there?”

“Oh, you’re kidding. Way too many.”

“Okay, top ten.”

“Moving in with the Bartlet Administration,” he says, counting them off on his fingers, “and when the President kicked Mary Marsh out of the building when he should have fired me, and when he said he was going to run again –although I guess that wasn’t really here- and Big Block of Cheese Day, and…” He pauses to think. “And moving in with President Santos, and when we brokered the Peace Deal in Pakistan, and…” he smiles. “… I think conceiving Guppy in there is a definite highlight,”

“Oh, God,” she mouths, “don’t even remind me.”

He laughs. “Does it make it better that we were probably the only two people left in the West Wing when that happened?” It had been late, she’d just gotten back from a trip with the First Lady to Argentina, they’d been in meetings for the rest of the night, and then she’d picked him up in his office, and they had missed each other like crazy for a week, and no-one else had been around, and so one thing led to a fast, furious, passionate other in a deserted office on a Saturday night, and Guppy had been born nine months later.

“I still cannot believe we did that,” she mutters, shaking her head. “Please tell me you never told anyone?”

“Nah,” he assures. “Although it’s such a good story.”

“It seems worse in retrospect,” she laughs.

“Okay, your turn now,” he says, turning on her.

“Moving in, too, when President Bartlet called Mrs. Morello from the Oval Office, the time I became Canadian for like a night on Mrs. Bartlet’s birthday and got to get drunk with her and CJ and Amy, when they first showed me my office in the East Wing, when I hired Ishmael and realized how much I could do as Helen’s Chief of Staff, when I was in a meeting with Joey and we realized I was pregnant with Guppy, the day we opened the daycare, when I brought Guppy in when she was four and she ran right into the Press Room and started ‘briefing’…” She leans against him. “We had some really good times in here, huh?”

“I’ll say,” he answers, and while the not-so-good-times, bubbling resentment and post-traumatic-stress-disorder, boyfriends and girlfriends and power plays hang in the air, tonight, none of that matters, because they made it through all of that.

“I got one more memory,” he offers, shyly. “Tonight.”

“That wasn’t here, that was in New Hampsh- oh.”

“Yes.” He pulls her into a hug. “If you were in an accident, I wouldn’t stop for red lights,” he whispers into her hair. “That still true?”

“Never stopped,” she assures him quietly, her hands finding his. And she mouths, “Never will.”

They stand there, two very definitely middle-aged people by now, hugging each other on an April night in front of the White House. They share a kiss, then start walking back towards a cab, towards home, towards their family and a weekend, and a lifetime spend with their lovely, insane kids, and, most importantly, with each other.

Fin

 
 
Current Mood: boredbored
 
 
 
RayRay: tww-donnamorethanexist on January 25th, 2008 03:53 am (UTC)
Squeee!!!!!!!!!!!! Okay, I don't know if I'm the first to comment or not, but on my page it looks like it and I love this story and I totally want to know more about Guppy growing up and her saying she wanted to be CJ and trying to brief. Oh, and I kind of want to know about CJ and Danny and Nellie. I want to know how this version of cannon comes out.

And, just so you know, this story is my personal cannon. I know it's not actual, but I really don't care because now when I think of post-series West Wing I think of this story. And did I ever tell you that you own my soul?

Anywho, so so so so soooooo happy to see you post something after what seemed like forever and even though it wasn't the next chapter I'll forgive you because this is amazing and I love it and !!!!! *hugglez*

And the comment about Republicans taking over the White House, I mean I know that a republican is in the White House right now in real life and everything, but I kind of can't picture a Republican being in the White House. I don't know, I will always think of the inside of the White House looking like it does in the first few seasons of the show, and it's just odd for me to think other-wise. I mean, Santos wasn't too drastic of a change, they just shuffled people around a bit, but a Republican? Now that's weird.

Then there's the fact that they're taking everyone to Italy just because Josh was stupid enough to mention it to Noah. Well, Josh was never REALLY the brightest bulb on the string of Christmas tree lights.

And I love grown-up Guppy and how she has such an awesome relationship with her dad. See, that always happens in fanfiction, but almost never in real life. *bangs head up against wall* Oh, and what did they call Noah and Robbie before they were born because they can't reuse the name Guppy.

Oh My God, longest review ever, but it was fun and I don't think I have anything more to say. Other than to anyone who's reading this, beat this suckers! : )
'Noodlesnewyork_noodles on January 26th, 2008 01:16 am (UTC)
Y HALO THER.

Best review ever- the squee is so palpable it made me grin when I needed it badly, and I'm gladly it lived up to your expectations for Guppy!verse.

To answer some of your questions-

Nellie's, like, ten feet tall with bright orange pigtails and Danny's smile. She's so smart it even freaks out her parents and is revered among the Lyman kids for being much more worldy than they are. Cause, like. Danny writes like one super shiny feature for Newsweek a year for a living about some strange and exotic place, and takes CJ and Nellie along for research. Plus, CJ's in Africa a lot because she's building highways there, and she always took Nellie if she had a chance. So Nellie, like, speaks fifteen languages and is totally worldly and awesome and her middle name is Mary-Sue

Noah and Robbie were Noah and Robbie before they were born, because this time around they knew it was boys right away, and knew what they wanted to name them. And they were easy to tell apart in utero because Robbie's so squirmy and Noah's so calm.

There will be fic on Josh and Guppy -I know I keep making these promises and never seem to keep them, but this one's in the works- because they're so cute.

And I think after sixteen years of Bartlet/Santos liberal awesomeness, the republicans are allowed to take back the White House. For one term. And an awesome President, like maybe the gay congressman from The Portland Trip, or a cool woman. That'd be fun.

Happy now?

thanks for awesome reviewage!
RayRay: real life-fangirlnessmorethanexist on January 26th, 2008 02:42 pm (UTC)
I aim to please. : )

No, no strike-through on that, Nellie's middle name is officially Mary Sue. But I love her anyway. Or already even though I haven't read any of her yet. And will go read CJ/Danny/Nellie fic in a minute.

Okay, so going by memory here and a little more math than I like to do, this fic takes place in the year 2022, Donna is in her late 40s and Josh is in his fifties. Guppy is 15 and I'm guessing that the boys are somewhere between 12 and 14 depending on how old Guppy was when they were born.

And yes, I'm very happy now.
'Noodles: joshquotenewyork_noodles on January 27th, 2008 01:47 am (UTC)
You'll be happy to know that the soul-owning is mutual.

This was supposed to be 200 word drabble. DAMN YOU.
http://community.livejournal.com/charlotte_s_web/5830.html
'Noodlesnewyork_noodles on January 26th, 2008 01:19 am (UTC)
Also, *self-pimpage*: I wrote this CJ/Danny/Nellie drabble way back when:

http://charlottesweb01.livejournal.com/2269.html#cutid1
jhulings on February 4th, 2008 01:50 am (UTC)
I loved this story!!!!!!
I really loved this piece. It made me feel warm and happy as I read it. I will beg - please consider finishing - And Now the World is Ours.

Your writing rocks.

Joyce