”I need to re-evaluate my duties. I want Sam to take on more of the chief of staff responsibilities, and I think we should employ another deputy. Take on some of his more menial stuff.”
“Josh, what are you talking about?” President Santos looked taken aback but already slightly indignant.
“Donna’s pregnant. So I gotta… do better, which basically means I need more than five hours sleep a night. I’ve worked my ass off for this administration for the last few months, and I will continue to do that. But, she’s gotta take precedence. If that means…”
“I’m not hiring a new chief of staff, Josh. You need to extend Sam’s responsibilities? That’s fine. What about Will Bailey to help with the deputy chief of staff duties?”
“I was going to suggest Will, sir. I know he was on the Russell campaign but I think it needs to be someone familiar with Sam and I, and the White House.”
“Hey, the guy came pretty close to convincing the country that Bob Russell was a viable option for commander-in-chief. I don’t have a problem with hiring him if we need another guy. Get Sam to sign off on it, and I’m in.”
As soon as he was out of the Oval, Josh headed towards the bullpen in the direction of his old office. “Sam, you got a minute?”
“Umm… I’m between reading over the latest draft of the State of the Union and a meeting on the Hill. Is there any chance it can wait?”
Josh carried on regardless. “Donna’s pregnant. I’m giving you more of my responsibilities, and pawning off your lesser priorities to Will Bailey.” Josh stated very matter-of-factly.
“Is it yours?” Sam quipped.
“Of course it’s mine.” Josh said, indignant.
“Well, okay then.”
“Sam, you’re late to the Hill.” Ginger appeared in the doorway.
Sam headed out the door, stopping where Josh crossed his path. “Congratulations.” They shared a familial hug, before heavily patting each other’s backs.
After his visit to Sam’s office, Josh headed over to the East Wing. He was first met by a predictably perky Annabeth. “Joshua Lyman, as I live and breathe. To what do we owe this pleasure?”
“I came to see Donna. Can I get a minute?”
“Busy day but I’ll bet she can fit you in.” Annabeth smiled. She was already inside on the baby news, but Josh didn’t know that.
“Thanks.” Josh walked further down the hall and found Donna’s office door again. He knocked briefly before opening the door. “Hello my radiant little cupcake.” Before Donna could react, Josh had planted a chaste kiss on her lips and laid an affectionate hand on the insubstantial bump of their child.
“What’s put you in such a good mood?”
“Can’t I just be happy to see you?” Josh grinned.
“Well I’ve never had quite this effect before.”
“I’m scaling back my chief of staff responsibilities. Giving Sam a load. We’re hiring Will Bailey – mostly because I can’t have Toby Ziegler or CJ Cregg. But I just wanted you to know that you can expect me to be around.”
“’Kay.” Donna was smiling at him, genuinely surprised by his news. She inched closer to him, and wrapped her arms around his waist beneath his jacket.
“You’re very sexy when you’re carrying my baby, you know.” Josh said, flirtatiously as he felt her stomach pressed against his. Donna raised an eyebrow, not that Josh could see.
“I thought you might not want to be around. The moment the doctor said, I expected you to run. Whether just to cool off or not come back. But you didn’t.” Donna blurted out.
“Don’t say that.” Josh’s voice was sombre. “I’m stupid and I know this. I work too much. I am a real ass and a terrible boyfriend. But, I do love you more than you know. And, scary as it may be, I do want kids. Granted, it wasn’t a priority before but – it’s you and me now.”
“You make me really happy when you talk like that.” Donna gave Josh a proper kiss before returning to her seat behind her desk. It was a little emasculating to be dismissed by his missus, but he found himself enjoying it.
“There’s my baby mama.” Josh feigned enthusiasm but failed to keep in a yawn as he entered his apartment. Donna looked up briefly to scowl at him.
Josh walked over to her, ignoring her apparent mood. She was lying down on the sofa, making her protruding bump all the more obvious. His hand immediately found her midriff. Donna didn’t settle under his palm though. She knew he wanted to feel their active little one moving around against his hand, but she denied him of it. “Busy week?”
“Couldn’t get Sam to take your meetings this afternoon?”
“I had to go to Hill, unexpectedly.”
“That’s why you missed the ultrasound?” Donna said, coldly. She walked out of the room then and into their bedroom. It was a stab in the gut for Josh. He followed after her.
“I’m sorry.” Blinking heavily, Josh held an uncomfortable posture in the doorway.
“Donna resigned?” Josh yelled, abruptly.
“She didn’t tell you?” Sam looked at Josh, astonished despite his awareness of the fractious nature of Josh’s relationship.
“We’ve been missing each other a lot lately.” Josh felt a little embarrassed by the truth of it. It was confronting for him to realize.
“I thought you hired Will to avoid this. I thought, you know, things were better.”
“So did I.” Josh sighed heavily before focusing all his attention on the coffee he proceeded to sip.
“Everything’s okay though, right?”
“Josh, you should go and talk to her. It’s important. I can take the next meeting.” Sam was sympathetic to Josh, acknowledging the breakdown of his own engagement – not for the first time. Sam was perhaps for hopeless than Josh, or just yet to meet anyone willing to forgive that of him.
“I don’t think she wants to talk to me right now.”
“What, so you’re just gonna go on not talking? It’s not…” Sam contemplated his choice of words for a moment. “It’s Donna.”
Josh wore an empty expression.
“You quit your job?” Josh was home earlier than usual, and Donna was in the kitchen making herself dinner.
“You want some?” Donna, ignoring Josh’s question, pointed at the spaghetti-filled pan that sat on the hob.
“No, I don’t want any! You quit your job, without telling me! We never even talked about this, Donna. I found out from Sam.”
“I didn’t quit exactly.” Donna’s tone remained soft as Josh raised his voice. She rested a hand on the curve of her stomach as though to soothe the foetus. “I simply told Mrs Santos that I wouldn’t be able to maintain my chief of staff responsibilities after I have the baby. I can come back whenever I want. You didn’t seriously think I was going to stay working full time at the White House with a newborn baby?”
“I don’t know. You didn’t talk to me about it.”
“That’s because you’re never around to talk about anything.” Donna’s voice was raised now, and there was a catch in her throat. After a pause, she continued. “I want my little girl to know her mother. I want to be around. I’m going to hire and train my replacement until the baby’s born. Then I’m going to raise my kid.”
“Your kid? Why are you locking me out?”
“You’re locking yourself out. You want to be in this with me? Try harder, Josh. You get so tunnel-visioned. You are entirely focused on the presidency. And then it’s only when things are halfway over the abyss that you become completely focused on us. Either one can only last so long. I need you to create a balance, or else… I don’t know. You promised you’d be around but you’re getting less sleep than ever. You’re never at home and you think you can turn this relationship on and off as you please. It’s exhausting to be around. So it’s easier not to be.”
“You’re acting like… you’re a single parent.”
“I’m not a parent at all, yet.” She was cold to him again.
“Donna.” Josh didn’t know what to say. He hadn’t been around enough. He was terrible at keeping things at arm’s length when it came to his work. He had to be in control, be informed. That came with the sacrifice of his relationship, it seemed. It wasn’t a conscious decision though; he would never choose to turn away from Donna. He wanted to run in her direction, but the winds of outside forces pushed him back into the same old life, same old habits.
Donna moved her hand down across her burgeoning bump, caressing over it in regular motions. Josh watched her, so natural as a mother already. It was bittersweet. He wanted to reach out to her but knew she would ease away from him. He felt overcome with a yearning for that sweetly soft sensation of movement against Donna’s skin from their impending child.
“Are we gonna be okay?” Josh suddenly felt himself implode. The desperate emotion she heard catch his voice softened her disposition somewhat.
“How mad at him are you?” Sam was talking to Donna down in the mess.
“I just miss him, is all. I miss the days that I couldn’t finish a thought without hearing him call my name. He just… he doesn’t come home at night.”
“He does want to spend time with you. He just gets worked up. The politics make him crazy. It only seems to get worse with time. You know him better than anyone.”
“Yeah, I’ll take what little of him I can get. But it doesn’t mean I have to like it.”
Donna was in her office, on the phone to CJ. “I don’t know. She hasn’t kicked all day. I can’t feel her moving. I just wish she’d let me know she’s alright in there. I don’t want to make a big drama out of it. But I get so anxious.”
“Of course she’s going to make a big drama, she’s a Lyman.” CJ left a pause for Donna’s amusement before continuing. “Have you told Josh?”
“No, he’d probably freak out.”
“No, he’d definitely freak out.”
“How are things with you two?”
“It’s better than it was. He comes at night. Sometimes we even eat together. He cleaned out the spare room and kitted it out for the baby too – with Sam’s help of course.”
“He’s really very sweet sometimes. It’s the rest of the time that I question how you can live with him.”
“I’d rather be alone than with anyone but Josh. It’s not about dependency, and it’s not about the fear of being alone. I just want him. And for now, I can’t have him all to myself, but what it comes down to is, I know that if I just flat-out asked him to, he would quit. It wouldn’t make him happy, and he would probably end up working just as much anywhere else, but he loves me as much as I love him and that feels incredible. So, we fight and we pass like ships in the night some weeks, but when he’s got that tunnel vision and it’s only me… for a little while… I couldn’t give that up for anything.”
“I’m sure your hold on him will be nothing compared to when the baby comes. She’ll have him wrapped around her little finger in no time.”
“We’ll soon see.”
“Not long now. How’s that bump doing?”
“It’s huge! She’s a fidget in there, too. It can be hard to sleep sometimes with her moving so much. That’s why today is freaking me out.”
“Get an appointment – go to the hospital. I’d take you myself, forcibly, if I was there! Just go, ease your mind. Tell Joshua, as well.”