need

pg | no warnings apply

"What do you mean, my meeting was canceled again?"

"I mean," she said slowly. "That your meeting. Was canceled. Again."

"He's avoiding me." He pounded his fist on his desk, standing up so quickly that his chair flew back and whacked into the wall.

Donna rolled her eyes and kept flipping though his files. "No, he's sick."

"Wasn't that his excuse last time?"

With a heavy sigh, she leaned back in her chair. "No, last time, his daughter's soccer game was rescheduled."

"He's faking it."

"Well, if he is, he's doing a damn good job," she snapped. "His assistant had to call 911 and have him taken to the hospital."

That stopped him from pacing. "Oh. Um, then ... send some flowers to the hospital. Or his office."

"I already ordered them," she muttered under her breath.

"You going to tell me what's bothering you?"

"No."

"Why not?"

As if waking up from a haze, she blinked twice and shook her head. "Nothing's bothering me."

"Donna."

"Josh."

"Donna!"

"Josh!"

"You've been moping around here all day. Don't tell me that nothing's wrong."

She sighed again. "Did you see that dress I wore to the dinner on Saturday?" Her resigned tone made it sound as if she was just tired of fighting with him, although he suspected that she had been waiting for him to notice and say something.

I don't see how anyone could have not seen it, he thought. Dark green with tiny straps, fabric that clung to her in all the right places, and a neckline that left him fixated on her chest for most of the evening. Oh, yes, he had seen that dress.

"What about it?"

"I went to take it back -"

"You know, one of these days, you're going to go in there and they're going to tell you that they're tired of your little return scam."

Her eyes went wide, and as her nostrils flared, he found himself stepping back out of reflex.

"Did you do this?"

"Do what?"

"Did you tell them not to take my dress back?"

"I - what are you talking about?"

"I've been blacklisted. I'm not allowed to return any more merchandise to that store, even if I have the receipt and the tag's still on it."

The temptation to laugh was strong, but he knew enough to know that would be suicide. He bit his tongue until he tasted blood, trying to think of something he could say that wouldn't result in her fingers twisting his ear.

Unfortunately, he went with:

"Really, this was bound to happen eventually."

Probably the only thing that kept her from smacking him was his desk. "If you paid me a little more, I wouldn't have to borrow my outfits for these fancy dinners."

He dismissed her words with a wave of his hand. "You don't need fancy dresses. You could show up in a burlap sack, and you'd still look good. In fact, you don't even really need to attend them. You're not that important."

The smile that had started to spread across her face faded. She stood up, her back straight, her chin stuck out, and he was reminded how intimidating she could be when she wanted.

"Fine. If I'm not that important, then I'm going home."

"You can't go home," he scoffed. "It's only 7:30. I've still got polls to -"

"Do it yourself." She spun on her heel, and he followed her out to her desk, watching in disbelief as she turned off her computer, slipped on her coat.

"I'm not going to let you leave." She ignored him. "You leave, and I'll -"

"What? Fire me? Go ahead. The federal government apparently doesn't need me."

His jaw dropped as she dashed down the hallway. He managed to squeak out, "I need you," but she was far out of earshot by then.

(fin.)