After Gaza

by Speranza

Author's Note: More Josh/Donna.  Many thanks to the longsuffering Terri, who just looks at me and pleads, "Slash now?"

Everyone at the White House was so terrific after Gaza, quietly cleaning all the boxes and clutter out of the hallways so that she could navigate them in her wheelchair. People smiled at her and gave her high-fives and there were always fresh-cut flowers on her desk, but it was harder than she thought to get through the day: things were too high, or too low, and only one of the White House bathrooms had been converted to be wheelchair accessible, and she had trouble getting herself in and out of the chair.

At the hospital, Donna had seen people who had inspired her—people who were graceful and athletic, moving into and out of their wheelchairs like gymnasts at the parallel bars. But it was all much, much harder than it looked, and she found she didn't have the upper body strength: she needed Carole, her home care worker, to help her get showered and dressed in the morning, and without her roommate Sandy, she wouldn't have been able to get herself washed, undressed, and into bed at night.

That was the part she couldn't bring herself to talk about. She could talk about the explosion and how frightening it was, and she could talk about her leg, and how well it was healing, thanks for asking; but she couldn't talk about the stupid things: her clumsiness as she tried to steer, the way she couldn't get close enough to tables to feel comfortable sitting at them, how helpless she felt most of the time. Everyone seemed to treat her like she was fine, and so she had to be fine. She was fine.

Until one afternoon when she was hurrying to get the final copy of Josh's daily briefing memo printed and to the President's office, and she turned and knocked over her afternoon chai. She grabbed for it and quickly set the paper cup upright, but it was too late—it was running off the desk and onto her lap, staining her gray pants, and she was too clumsy and stupid to roll away in time, and the napkins were high up by the coffee machine where she couldn't get at them by herself and God damn it!

Donna took a deep breath; okay, okay, there was no use crying over spilt chai. In fact, this wasn't the first time she'd spilled something on herself at the office. She had an entire drawer full of emergency supplies: pantyhose, spare pair of heels, sneakers, socks, a change of underwear, in case she got her period. She also had a blouse, a sweater, and a spare skirt—clothes she wasn't in love with, but would be happy to have if, say, she suddenly spilled chai all over herself. She reached into her drawer and found the plastic supermarket bag with her spare clothes in it. She'd just—what? Take herself to the White House's wheelchair-accessible bathroom, and do what exactly? She'd never be able to get her pants off, over her cast, by herself; there wasn't a bed she could sprawl back on; if she lowered herself down to the floor she'd never get back in the chair again. She needed help; she could maybe call Carole, except she was pretty sure that Carole had other clients during the day when Donna was at—

"Donna, hey, do you have the—" Josh said, skidding to a stop by the side of her desk, and Donna looked frantically around for a legal pad, an empty file folder, anything she could use to cover the spill, but everything around her was either really important or already covered in chai. "Hey," Josh said, sounding surprised. "You're a mess. Do you need help?" and there was something about finally hearing somebody ask the question that put her right on the edge of losing it.

"No!" Donna was aware that her stupid lip was trembling, and she tried to get control of herself while Josh darted out into the hall. A moment later, he returned with a thick stack of napkins. "I'm fine," she insisted, snatching the napkins from him and using them to clean up the puddle of chai on her desk. Everything was sticky; she was sticky; and it took everything she had not to rail in frustration. "It's nothing. Just a minor accident," she said, and tried to turn the wheelchair away from her desk.

Josh raised one hand to clutch the doorframe, and moved his body into her path. "You don't look fine," he said, looking strangely tall as he frowned down at her. "You look like you need help."

"I don't," Donna lied. "I called Carole—she's the home-care assistant they sent me—and she'll be here in—" and here's where she made her key tactical mistake, "about an hour."

Josh blinked at her and repeated, incredulously: "An hour? You can't sit like that for an hour!"

"Less probably," Donna said quickly. "She always says an hour but she usually only takes twenty minutes," except she'd already blown it, because Josh was staring at her like he smelled a rat.

"Uh-huh," Josh said evenly. "Okay," and she knew that he knew that nobody was coming to help her. She braced herself for another round of arguments, but he surprised her by pushing himself away from the doorframe and squatting down by the side of her wheelchair. "Okay, look," Josh said, lowering his voice and looking at her with strangely earnest eyes, "I can't believe I'm saying this, but—it's only me, all right? Let me help you," and that was the most terrifying thing she had ever heard.

"Josh. No. I can't—"

"Oh yes, you can," Josh said, straightening up. "Strangely, I have this memory of somebody changing the bandages of my gaping chest wound—"

"Yeah, but—" Donna quickly looked away, unable to meet his eyes. "That was different."

"Oh yeah?" she heard him ask. "How exactly?" and she had no answer for that. "Because it was you, right? Sorry, that's not really working for me as a reason," Josh said, and then he was taking the handles of her wheelchair and pushing her down the hallway toward the elevator.

"No! Josh! Josh, I'm serious," Donna said, and people were staring at them, but Josh just smiled and nodded and said, "Hey, sorry, carjacking," and everyone smiled and got out of their way.

There were bathrooms scattered here and there throughout the building, but the large gold bathroom down near the mess was the favorite of overworked White House staff because of its large shower and tub. Donna had sent Josh down there many a time with a disposable razor and a change of shirt.

They barely made it through the door: this was one of the bathrooms that hadn't been made disability-friendly, and she wouldn't have been able to reach the taps on the sink or use the toilet by herself.

Josh wheeled her in, parked her next to the tub, and locked the door behind them. "Okay," he said, more to himself than to her as he opened the closet door. Somebody on staff understood the people who worked here, because the shelves were stocked like a drugstore: soap, shaving cream, toothbrushes, mouthwash, tampons, small bottles of shampoo, as well as a stack of white fluffy towels. Josh pulled out two of them, then turned to the old-style tub, which had a hand-held attachment for sponge bathing, in the European style, rather than an American-style showerhead; the shower was in the cubicle on the other side of the room. He flipped the water on. "Let's get you cleaned up."

"I can't!" Donna pleaded, raising her voice over the sound of the running water. "Josh. You're not listening."

Josh sat down on the edge of the tub. "Donna, I am listening," he said, sounding so serious and un-Josh-like that she could only stare at him. "But listen to me for a second, will you? I can be an adult when I need to be. I'm not going to laugh, or make sex jokes, or tease you about your underwear," and God, this unexpected kindness from Josh was almost torture. "You helped me through it, so let me help you, now, okay? I know this isn't a comedy or a porn film—"

"Josh." Donna was on the verge of tears, and fighting hard not to break down completely, "I'm not worried that you're going to find this too sexy," and suddenly Josh's face changed and he looked down, down at her gray slacks, at her right leg sticking out at its awkward angle. And then he put his hand on her thigh and gently drew it down her broken leg.

"Oh," Josh breathed. "Oh, I see," and then he reached across, grabbed the hand-held attachment, and spritzed cold water in her face. She shrieked and threw her arms up. "I'm not indulging you in this crap, Donnatella!" Josh said, spraying her once more in the face before dropping the attachment into the tub and reaching for the waistband of her slacks. "So shut up and take your pants off! Geez," Josh muttered, almost like he was talking to himself, "I should have gone for the direct approach years ago instead of trying to woo you with flowers and moose meat. Well, this is the new, not-at-all-subtle Josh Lyman, telling you to take your damn clothes off! Now!" and Donna was nearly breathless with shock and laughter, even as she tried to slap his hands away from her zipper.

"Josh! Wait! No!" Donna squealed, but it was different now: a game, and if he was abusing her like this, then he couldn't be pitying her. "You are an awful, terrible man!—"

"I'm guessing pink underwear," Josh said, and his hands were actually undoing her button, undoing her zipper, taking her pants off. "With little flowers. No, wait—polka-dots. Lollypops—and your name sewn in the label. Cause you're, like, four. No, no, wait— baby blue. Heather gray? Oh my God: are you wearing a thong?" and she was gasping and laughing too hard to point out that he could already see her underwear (pale pink, in fact) because he had already pulled her gray pants down around her ass. Getting them the rest of the way off turned out to be more of a trick, but Josh moved slowly and carefully, even as he kept up a constant stream of talk: "Pink!—see, I knew it, I should never have second-guessed myself concerning the lingerie instincts of Donna Moss. You're a traditional girl, so I can see we're talking cotton, muted colors, none of that silky Victoria's Secret ho-wear. You, Donnatella, are wearing the panties of the mid-west," and if he noticed the white plaster cast, and the terrible, reddish puckering scar zig-zagging its way down her other thigh, he never said a word.

"All right," Josh said finally, getting her pants down and off and shoving them away. "Hey, I've got an idea: we could get naked and take a shower together," and it was glorious to be able to beat him about the head and shoulders and yell that he was violating not only the sexual harassment clause of Title IX but also several provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act. "Okay, all right, fine: be that way. The disability lobby just wants ramps and pneumatic doors—I'm offering you a full array of sexual services, here," and when she feigned wide-eyed shock, Josh sighed and said, "Okay, okay, fine—just a sponge bath," and cleaned off her sticky legs with a warm washcloth.

Afterwards, he gently patted her dry with a towel, taking every opportunity to skim his hand down her bare leg. She felt sexy and breathless and turned on for the first time since the accident, and it was somehow okay that she was sitting there wearing only her blouse and her pink cotton underwear. Josh rummaged through her bag and came up with her emergency skirt—a blue gauzy thing that looked nice with just about everything she owned, and conveniently had an elastic waist. Josh helped her put it on over her head, and then he bent and let her wrap her arms around his neck. Grunting a little at the effort, he lifted her out of the chair and ran his hand down over her ass to tuck her skirt down.

"Okay," Josh moaned, and ran his hand down over her ass again, more slowly, "This is really fun. I think I’m going to start spilling things on you on purpose. Coffee, hot cocoa, coca-cola—"

"You're a bad, bad, evil man," Donna said, but she tightened her arms around his neck when he made to put her down. He stopped and looked at her, and she could see the serious, adult Joshua Lyman in his eyes, lurking somewhere deep, underneath; hiding now, but hers. "And I love you," she whispered, and then she buried her face against the warm, slightly spicy skin below his ear, and let him hug her.

The End

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