Damn. Did I say that out loud?
I must have; Donna's quiet, like she would be if I'd asked an idiot question. It's the beer talking, and a long lack of food, but it isn't just those things.
She changes the subject with "I can't find last week," shuffling madly through her planner, and I know there's a sarcastic comment begging to be spoken, but my voice isn't working quite right.
We're silent for a while and then she speaks again, before I'm ready. "I've thought about asking you that," she says sort of stiffly, in that voice she's been using all day -- not quite abrupt, but approaching it. Her voice is much closer to casual when she adds, "But I changed my mind."
I shouldn't say anything else, but it's too quiet and she's here in front of me and something's wrong and my stomach hurts and
"You don't have to tell me," I offer.
Did she just -- or -- "You're not telling me?"
She's coming over here she's looking at me she's sitting down GOD she's looking
"I ... love Josh." Little smile.
"I know." More beer.
"He's my best friend."
Don't keep talking don't keep talking damn it Amy stop talking "But you're not in love with him?" More beer, more beer now.
She's pursing chapped lips and taking more beer too and we're talking like two other women.
"I think I tried to be, for a while." Blush. She's embarrassed, she wishes she hadn't said that, as if I've never tried to deny -- or, whatever, I'm thinking like some other woman. As if I've never tried to be in love with someone; with, in fact, the very same someone. It's none of my business it's none of my business it's none of --
"You tried to be," I go ahead and say.
"For a while." Defensive now.
"What went wrong?"
Frustrated shrug, so her blond hair spills back a little and a piece of it gets stuck on her shoulder, twisted so it catches the dim light in places maybe too much beer she's been quiet too long why did I ask her that
"I guess it went about as well as when I tried to be in love with Cliff Calley or Jack Reese or anyone who --" Pause, small shake of her head, which sets the twist of hair free to fall back against her shoulder. "It went better. Because I do love Josh."
"And his politics don't suck."
"And his politics don't suck. But ..."
More beer, more silence for both of us.
I have to stop looking at her. She's studying the desk top and I'm playing absently with the beer bottles but I need to focus on them better, my eyes keep straying, keep taking in the lines around her mouth, the little frown I put on her face.
Carol, in the doorway, is pale and frightened. Slowly, she's already started talking and Donna's gone rigid beside me and I can't catch up, too slowly I hear what's happening outside this office tonight; and Donna and I don't look at each other again as I charge back toward Abbey Bartlet's corner of the building and Donna goes in search of C.J.
We work all night, all of us. When there's nothing left to do, we do useless things anyway, because no one is going to even think about leaving the building. Every TV is on except mine. I've gone too long without sleep and food and I can't focus right. I keep leaving the office to walk the halls, fast, as though I'm going somewhere, as though I could possibly help. I feel desperate, not just about Zoey, but randomly desperate in a way that makes me need to keep moving. I'm biting my lip, tapping my fingers, shuffling papers without looking at them.
CJ and Will have gotten into a shouting match in the bullpen. I don't know where the Bartlets are. Tonight I'm thinking of them as Abbey and Jed, and I wish I could see them, and I know that if I did, I wouldn't be able to say anything to them.
At two-thirty, my mind wanders for a minute. When it snaps back to Zoey, I realize I'm a horrible person. For a minute there I was thinking "But you're not in love with him," and it's inappropriate and I'm torn up, confused, I'm torn up and confused and this whole damn night is wrong.
I was thinking it, but it's Donna who's said it, standing in my doorway looking tentative and embarrassed.
"And Josh isn't back and I'm ..." Long, long silence. "...sorry. I know you're busy." She has this smile that isn't quite a smile, directed at the floor.
"It's just that we spent so much of the day together."
She's trying, like me, to go back to today, back when we were more awake and the whole world wasn't off balance. I stand to greet her, as though it's the President who's walked into my office instead of the assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff.
"I'm ..." She starts again, and stops.
She sits down, and, at length, I remember to do the same.
By four, we aren't talking to each other at all. I take calls, and make them, and write useless notes on old papers, and Donna's turned on the TV.
I fall asleep first. Five-forty, face pressed against the desktop, I come awake suddenly and in a panic and it takes me a minute to catch my breath. Donna's gone; Josh must be in the building. I am suddenly unreasonably furious and want to kick something or cry.
Then the floor moves at the end of my desk and I jump backward with a yell, knocking over yesterday's coffee and a stack of outdated briefing memos.
"Sorry," Donna mumbles, pulling herself bleary-eyed back into her chair. And, as an afterthought, "Nice carpet." And, as her mind wakes up enough to remember why we're here, "Oh, god."
Seven-thirty, somebody shows me a photo of the two newest Zieglers. Donna's gone, for real this time. I shouldn't be thinking about that.
Eight-twenty and Zoey's home. She's home. I walk out into the bullpen and it's like waking up, everyone's cheering, up and down the halls that are too full for the hour. Josh picks me up and swings me around him. CJ's hugging Will and Danny's on the phone in the corner with his eyes half-closed. I am relieved. I am so so so so so relieved. But I still can't leave the building.
Nine-twenty, and Donna's at my door again.
"Did you see the babies?" she asks me. In her hand is a photo, gripped like evidence. She has a casual reason to be here. She has a casual reason to be here.
"The littlest Zieglers? I did." She keeps standing there, so I take the photo and look again. "Do they have names yet?"
"Abigail and Elliot."
"I didn't mean to pry." I pause to wait for the obligatory you-weren't-prying-the-babies'-names-aren't-secret joke that Donna seems too tired to make, and then I add "Last night."
"It would be easier," she says, looking out the window over my shoulder and keeping her expression neutral, as though she's not here at all, "if I could have answered yes."
We're in the same place, she and I. "I get that."
"Are you --" She stops, looks at the floor, looks uncomfortable and embarrassed.
"I'm tired of talking about Josh," I answer, and bite my lip a little, and look up at her. Her unwashed hair is starting to frizz and it's catching the light from the window in places and I can't breathe right.
"I have to go to work," she says.
She's almost gone when I call after her, "Thanks for sleeping with me!" I know it's the long lack of food and sleep talking, but it isn't just those things.
She looks startled and terrified and she almost smiles. "Thank you for the company," she says somewhat formally, and walks away, and I sit there and wonder if she's going to come back.
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