TITLE: Bluer Than the Ocean, Bluer Than the Sky
AUTHOR: Julian Lee
EMAIL: thwarted1066@yahoo.com
URL: http://geocities.com/thwarted1066/index.html
Rating: CHILD
SPOILERS: "Dead Irish Writers," all things Amy-related "Red Haven's On Fire" and after.
ARCHIVE: Yes to list archives; others please ask.
DISCLAIMER: I am not of the powers that do be do be do in charge of "The West Wing" and its characters.
SUMMARY: Things you forget. Things you pretend to forget. Things you only wish you could forget.
NOTES: For Michelle K., who responds well to bribery.

* * *

Bluer Than the Ocean, Bluer Than the Sky by Julian Lee

You stand on the shore of an ocean bluer than the sky, bluer than any ocean has the right to be. The waves race each other back and forth across the surface. You can walk into the water, and you will be able to breathe - breathe more freely than you do in the air. You can walk away from everything the land and the air have come to choke you with and bury you under.

* * *

By the time the phone's rung twice, you've forgotten your dream, though when you try to catch the corner of it, you see fields and fields of blue. The idea that beckons seductively is ignoring the call. You're sleeping. It's a rare enough event that you should be able to do it uninterrupted. But your job doesn't accommodate screening your calls. Finding the phone takes a minute; you're an indifferent housekeeper when she's gone. The call's about to go to voicemail; you catch the 'talk' button just in time.

"Amy Gardner."

"Hey, it's me."

You squint at the bedside clock. "Donna? Why are you calling me at--" You squint harder. "4:06 a.m.?"

"What? I'm not. It's - oh, no."


"I got the time zones--"

You rub your hand over your face, try to convince your eyes to stay open. "You okay?"

"I've never--" You can practically *hear* her embarrassed blush. "I can't believe - Amy, I am *so* sorry. I can't believe this. We've been doing this for five years, and this is the first time I have ever gotten confused about the time difference between D.C. and...anywhere."

"What time did you think it was?"

"I thought we were behind you. I thought it was 4 in the afternoon."

"Not so much, no."

"I'll go. I'll hang up, let you get back to sleep."

"No - Donna, wait." Nothing. "You still there?"

"Yes." Half a whisper, half a sigh. "You really don't mind?"

Good thing she can't see the self-deprecating grimace. "Anything for you. So. How's Stockholm?"

If she were here, you would see a shrug in the little pause before she says, "Cold. Sunny, and very cold. People don't shake hands a lot around here."

You stare at the ceiling. It's not interesting. "Probably afraid of frostbite in their extremities."

"Their whats?"

"Extremities." You wait for the lewd comeback, but she answers you with only silence. "Fingertips?"

"Right." Now she sounds distracted. You bet she's biting her lower lip.

"Are you okay, Donna? You're not exactly with me, here. Did something happen today? Yesterday? Whatever the fuck day it is where you are?"

"I'm - no, I'm fine. Just - Josh and Toby were talking about this meeting they'd just come out of, and Josh said something kind of stupid--"

You pinch the bridge of your nose and calculate the odds that you'll get back to sleep after this call ends. "I can't even get any sarcasm together on that one."

"So Toby had to call him on it. The usual, except Will doesn't know how to talk them down like Sam did. So it turned into this thing, and Josh spent the rest of the morning doing his 'I am Achilles sulking in my tent' thing. And then there was..."

You frown at the ceiling. It frowns back and tells you not to take out your frustrations with your girlfriend on innocent plaster. "What? There was what?"

"Huh? Oh, that. No. Nothing."

You're scared. You don't know why - because despite your best efforts, despite what sound like logical contributions to a coherent conversation, you're still more than half asleep - but tendrils of fear are sneaking through your stomach. "Donna?"

"Nothing, Amy, really. I just wanted to call and hear your voice. I'm sorry I woke you up."

That's almost enough to send the tendrils back to hide under their rocks. "It's okay. I'm glad you called. I wanted to hear your voice, too." Though admitting it, saying it out loud like cheesy dialogue from a Ma Bell commercial, burns your throat, just a little. "I should go. Pretend to go back to sleep."

"Yeah. Okay. Yeah. Amy?"


She sucks in a fast breath. "There's going to be a thing."

"What thing?"

"Tomorrow. You might - you're going to be seeing something, and I just wanted - I wanted you to hear it from me first."

Your heart hammers triple-time. "What thing? Donna, what are you talking about?"

"I can't tell you more. I wasn't even supposed to tell you this much. But I didn't want - you're going to see it tomorrow. Today, I mean. And I just - listen, Amy, I have to go now, okay?"

You don't want to let her. You want to pin her to the line until you force this out of her. But she hasn't kept her job as Josh Lyman's assistant for almost six years by being easily cowed, and you're half convinced you're still asleep, still dreaming. "Okay. Good bye, Donna."


Confusion scrambles your brain like a Tilt-a-Whirl; the tendrils of fear have grown into vines curling around your heart. The instant you disconnect the call, you fall back asleep anyway.

* * *

You're more exhausted than you should be when the alarm shrills. You rub the inside corners of your eyes and swing your feet out of the bed, ignoring Donna's cold, empty side of the bed. Your phone sits on the bedside stand. You blink at it. Was there a call in the night? You push the Caller ID button and get some strange, 15-digit number. An international number.


Donna called. You remember now, hazily. Some confusion about time zones and the ocean. You shake your head. No. Not the ocean.

That was something else, maybe.

* * *

When Lilly brings you the wire report, there's fear in her eyes. You wonder who or what she's afraid of - or for.

You have your answer in under ten seconds, and that same fear drives you as you race down the hall to the First Lady's office.


Abbey turns to you, and you want to cry when you see her eyes. No fear, not her. Disappointment. Betrayal. Her own husband, and he's--

Well, he's the President first, isn't he? And that's what makes this life impossible. You take a step forward. "Ma'am--"

"We worked hard, Amy," she says stiffly. Other than her mouth, she doesn't make a single visible move. She looks more like a statue than a woman. "We worked hard, and we were professional, and we should be proud of ourselves."

For now, you know, this is all she's going to say. You nod too hard; the headache gears up instantly. "Yes, ma'am."

And you did. You worked so hard. Professionally, just like Josh told you to do. There was no personal wheedling - no Abbey bugging Jed to sign this bill; no Amy trying to get under Josh's skin or sneaking Donna position papers to slip into his inbox. Dr. Abigail Bartlet (you won't say 'Mrs.' Won't pretend - surrender of license or no - that her years of training count for nothing) and her chief of staff lobbied and crusaded and made a damned good case for a bill that would have improved the welfare of the nation's poorest children. And there had been indications - you had been given indications that the administration was looking favorably on your arguments. The tide had seemed to be flowing in your direction.

'Veto' is such a stark, ugly word.

You turn to go. Later, Abbey will come to you and ask what you think went wrong, what you do next. You want to go back to your office, sit with the blinds drawn and the lights out, nurse your growing headache and try to form an answer.


You turn. She still hasn't moved. "Yes, ma'am?"

"Did you know that--" She flicks her hand in disbelief and something close to desperation. "Did you have *any* idea this was coming?"

You shake your head. You're every bit as confused as she is, every bit as off-keel. "No, ma'am. There was nothing."

"Okay. We'll talk later."

"Yes, ma'am." You nod and slip out of her office, clicking swiftly back to your own.

**Did you have *any* idea--**

**You're going to be seeing something, and I just wanted--**

Donna knows you only half remember things that happen during the night. You don't stop walking. Your stride doesn't change. No one could tell that you're shaking inside, that you're hearing a sound like a thousand angry bees inside your head.

Donna's worked for Josh for almost six years, and she's never screwed up the time difference between D.C. and anywhere.

* * *

"The President vetoed the bill."

It's just past midnight in Stockholm. Your call wakes her up. You don't like that that gives you a vicious thrill, but you like the vicious thrill.

"He had to," she says. She's so goddamned alert, so cogent. "Josh told me about the Health and Human Services study, and the Republicans are pressuring them to--"

"Donna." You lean your forehead against the windowpane and let the cool seep into your overheated brain. "I don't care. I mean, no. I care, but I don't want to argue about it. I'm just saying, the President vetoed the bill."

"He did," she says, very quietly. "I'm sorry. They're really impressed with you guys. I know that doesn't make it easier, but they're talking about what a great job the First Lady's staff did arguing for it. Leo, Josh - everybody."

"You're right," you say. "It doesn't make it easier." **You did a shitty thing to me, Donna,** you want to say, but it's just past midnight in Stockholm, and you don't have the luxury of knowing that she'll forget your conversation by morning. "You should get back to sleep," you say instead.

"Okay," she agrees. "We'll be home at seven tonight. Tomorrow night." She knows the time zones, but she's never known how to talk about them. "I miss you."

And you miss her, but right now you hate her, too. So all you say is, "Good night, Donna."

* * *

You stand on the shore of an ocean bluer than the sky, bluer than any ocean has the right to be. The waves race each other back and forth across the surface. You can walk into the water, and you will be able to breathe - breathe more freely than you do in the air. You can walk away from everything the land and the air have come to choke you with and bury you under.

You kick off your shoes. You strip off your clothes.

You turn your face toward the sea spray and start walking.


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