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When We Were Young

Chapter Text

Donna Moss was into the third period of her second day of her first week at her brand new high school as a sophomore. Her first day had gone well enough. She hadn’t tripped in the hallway or walked out of the bathroom with toilet paper stuck to her shoe. Her teachers were all nice enough to her and she especially loved the class she was in right now. Her economics class with Mr. Bartlet had been fun and engaging and right now she was watching him animatedly discuss FDR. Though the rest of the class stared back at him with mostly glazed over looks, Donna was enjoying the lecture. Their heads collectively picked up when they heard the door creak open noisily.

Donna watched as a boy with a disheveled mop of brown curls walked into the room, a black Jansport backpack strewn over one shoulder. He was dressed in a white t-shirt and a red and black plaid shirt that remained unbuttoned with only one sleeve pushed up. He wore grey jeans that were rolled up at the bottom and on his feet were a pair of beat up, black old-skool Vans.

“Ah, Mr. Lyman!” Mr. Bartlet said loudly, turning to the boy with an arm outstretched. He removed his glasses.

“So glad you’ve decided to join us!”

Donna leaned forward slightly and watched as did the rest of the class, waiting for Josh’s reply.

“Sorry, Mr. B,” Josh said simply, his mouth pulled into a thin line. Donna noticed Mr. Bartlet seemed slightly disappointed by this response, as if he was expecting more banter out of the interaction. His eyebrows rose slightly.

“Take a seat, Joshua,” he said after a moment, putting his glasses back on. Josh did as he was told and Donna realized with a jolt that the one empty seat in the class was placed directly to her left. She sat in the middle of the rows of desks, towards the left side. With a sigh, Josh dropped into the seat and let his backpack sink to the ground heavily. Josh reached into the bag and pulled out a textbook. Upon opening it though, he glanced up and looked around at other desks sheepishly. Donna looked over and whispered.

“Page 43.”

Josh’s eyes focused on her and he gave a thankful smile, Donna noticed the dimples on both his cheeks.

“Thanks.”

She nodded in response and turned back to listen to Mr. Bartlet’s lecture. A few minutes went by and she noticed Josh’s hands tapping on the desk. When she looked up at the sound, she made eye contact with Josh.

“Hey, do you have a pencil?” he asked her, his face crinkling in an apologetic way.

“Sure.” Donna reached into her own backpack bag and grabbed a freshly sharpened number 2, Ticonderoga pencil.

“I’ll give it back,” Josh promised.

“Ms. Moss, Mr. Lyman, something you would like to share with the class?” They both looked up startled. Mr. Bartlet was at the head of the class and staring at them intently, his eyes narrowed slightly.

“No-“ Josh began, but Mr. Bartlet cut him off.

“To avoid a reprimand, you must answer one trivia question about FDR correctly,” Mr.Bartlet told them. Josh gulped.

“Okay, sir,” Donna said, almost eagerly. Josh looked at her strangely.

“Tell me you two, what was one of FDR’s life long hobbies that he once credited his whole life to?”

“Oh come, on,” Josh said exasperatedly. His head sunk into his hands and he leaned forward on the desk. A few classmates sniggered.

“Ms. Moss? Can you save it for the two of you?” Donna glanced at Josh before looking back to Mr. Bartlet.

“Stamp collecting, sir,” she said confidently. A few students turned around to look at her as Mr. Bartlet immediately cracked up laughing.

“I'm impressed! Not many students can answer my trivia questions, Ms. Moss. Today’s your lucky day, Mr. Lyman.” Donna allowed herself a small smile as Mr. Bartlet returned to his lecture.

“Thank you,” Josh breathed quietly.

Not wanting to get in trouble again, Donna pretended not to hear him. Taking the hint, Josh turned around and began taking notes on Mr. Barltet’s lecture or at least he started to. A couple minutes later, Donna glanced over and found him staring out the window with his hand propping up his chin. Half an hour later, the bell rang and students all around them began packing up their things.

“Here’s your pencil back,” Josh said as he put the pencil back on her desk. “Thanks for letting me borrow it.” Donna popped it back in her bag and looked up.

“Sorry for getting you in trouble,” Josh muttered. He then grabbed his backpack and tried to scurry out of the room. Mr. Bartlet held out an arm as he tried to pass him though.

“Hold on, Josh.” Josh stopped and bit back a groan.

“Ms. Moss would you please see me at my desk please.” With a feeling of dread, Donna made her way to the front of the classroom. Josh was looking jittery, one leg bouncing up and down wildly as he looked up at the ceiling. He had one hand on a backpack strap.

When Donna got to Mr. Bartlet’s desk he smiled wide.

“Well Donna, you impressed me today with your FDR knowledge, I was wondering if you would like to join our debate team today for practice after school today,” Mr. Bartflet asked her with a wide smile.

“All it takes is knowing a few FDR facts?” Donna asked, unsure. Mr. Bartlet just continued to smile.

“Josh here is our co-captain,” he continued. At this declaration, Josh suddenly looked stricken. His hand clung a little tighter to the strap of his backpack and he gulped.

“Uh, actually, sir,” Josh interrupted. Mr. Bartlet paused and glanced at him expectantly.

“I um. Quit the debate team. Yesterday,” Josh said apologetically. “I told Mr. McGarry about it. I thought he would have told you.” Mr. Bartlet looked stricken.

“You quit?!” he demanded. “What do you mean you quit?”

“I’m sorry sir,” Josh said sincerely. His eyes were firmly focused on his own shoes.

“Josh, what about the finals this year?”

Josh remained silent, his eyes stayed glued to the ground.

“Is everything alright, Josh?” Mr. Bartlet asked softly. Donna had the good grace to look away.

Josh raised his eyes, but his head remained tucked into his chest.

“Fine, sir.”

“You were especially quiet in class today, getting Ms. Moss in trouble aside,” Mr. Bartlet said, throwing a wink to Donna.

Josh gave a quick look to Donna before he muttered a quiet, “we’re going to be late to our next class, Mr. B.”

Jed nodded reluctantly.

“Alright. I hope to see you at practice today, Donna,” he said as he picked up a paper from his desk and began reading.

“I’ll think about it, sir. Thank you for inviting me,” Donna smiled. Josh was already quickly shuffling out of the room. Before Donna had a chance to even say anything to him, he was out the door and into the busy hallway, lost in the crowd.

--

Donna was walking out of her Algebra II class to her locker with her books clutched tightly to her chest when she heard a loud commotion coming from a nearby hallway. Continuing her route to her locker, she was dismayed to see the commotion was taking place right in front of it. She found an opening in the crowd of students and gasped when she saw the boy she had met in her economics class earlier in the day being tackled into a locker roughly. Donna saw he already had multiple red welts across his face and his left eye was swelling. Before the larger boy Donna didn’t recognize could take another swing though, Josh ducked under his arms and aimed a punch right in the side of the other boy’s jaw. Donna winced as she saw it connect.

There was a parting in the crowd as Donna saw a man she met briefly on her first day. Mr. McGarry, the school’s assistant principal, was rushing forward.

“What the hell is going on here?!” he demanded as he made it to the center circle, just as Josh was receiving a swift punch to the stomach which made him double over. Donna recognized the disappointment in Mr. McGarry’s face as he laid eyes on Josh. The other boy started to try and move away inconspicuously as Mr. McGarry's gaze was held solely on Josh who was still doubled over in pain. Another teacher quickly arrive on the scene.

“I’ve got Gianelli,” the other teacher shouted out to Mr. McGarry. Leading the boy away from the scene. The warning bell for next period rang and students quickly started rushing away to their classrooms. Mr. McGarry remained standing in front of Josh, his hands in his pockets. Donna delayed swapping out her books for as long as possible, keeping an eye on Josh and Mr. McGarry.

“Did you at least do a little damage to Bruno?” he asked Josh. Josh said nothing. When he stood up straighter, Mr. McGarry let out a soft hiss upon seeing his face. Donna looked over her shoulder from her locker and winced too. The red welts had grown angrier and more pronounced. His left eye was growing purple and dark.

“Come on,” Mr. McGarry said gruffly as he took hold of Josh’s collar and started to drag him away. Josh looked back as they were turning a corner and briefly made eye contact with Donna. Then he was gone. She hurried to class before the final bell went off.

--

“Josh, what the hell?” Mr. McGarry immediately exclaimed as he practically threw Josh into his office. Josh clumsily found his way into one of the visitor chairs across from Mr. McGarry's desk. Leo went to the mini fridge in the corner and sat examining it for a few seconds before he pulled out a can of Diet Coke.

“Best I can do,” he said simply as he handed Josh the can. Josh promptly held it up to his swelling eye. Josh gave a fractional nod of acknowledgement.

“What the hell are you doing fighting Bruno Gianelli? He’s bigger than you and smarter than you,” Mr. McGarry began harshly.

“Thanks,” Josh said sarcastically. “This isn’t even cold.” He placed the Diet Coke back on Mr. McGarry's desk and his gaze went to the window. Leo watched him from behind the desk for a while before moving to the other side. He sat against the edge of the desk, between Josh and the window. He crossed his arms and Josh’s eyes moved from the window to the floor.

“What’s gotten into you lately?” Mr. McGarry asked, his voice softening. Josh shook his head.

“Nothing.”

“I heard you dropped all of your extra curriculars.”

“No.” Josh replied, a slight edge to his voice.

“No?”

“I didn’t quit theatre.”

“Well thank god the theatre department didn’t lose their piano player,” Mr. McGarry said with a roll of the eyes. Josh hardened slightly at his words.

“Doesn’t seem like you to quit like that all of a sudden,” Mr. McGarry continued.

“You don’t know me,” Josh muttered bitterly.

“Josh, I’ve known you since before you could walk. I think I have some idea,” Mr. McGarry answered with the slightest of smirks. Josh’s gaze never rose from his shoes. Mr. McGarry let out a deep sigh.

“What are we gonna do with you, kid?” He moved back behind his desk and sank into the high backed chair. Josh remained silent.

“So you quit all the teams and clubs where your friends are and then I find you in the middle of a fist fight in the hallways,” Mr. McGarry began. “You know what the penalty for fighting is?”

Josh shrugged.

“Suspension.”

Josh’s face perked up slightly, as much as it could under the swelling.

“Yeah,” Mr. McGarry agreed, noticing Josh’s anxiety at those words. “You think the people at Harvard like to see suspensions on high school transcripts?”

Josh sighed and leaned back in the chair. He winced slightly at the change of position.

“I have a deal for you.”

Josh’s raised his head to meet Mr. McGarry’s gaze.

“You stay on the debate team and I won’t suspend you.”

Josh grimaced and let his head fall into his hands for a few moments.

“Fine,” he muttered through his fingers.

"Now I'm doing you a favor here, kid. Don't make me regret it."

Josh nodded dolefully.

“I don’t like this, Josh. You know you can talk to me right?” Mr. McGarry said sincerely. “I'm worried about you.” At this, Josh stood up sharply.

“Are we done here?” he asked, fighting between his respect for Mr. McGarry and storming straight out of the room.

Mr. McGarry waved a dismissive hand. “I’ll see you at debate later.” Josh gave a nod and refrained from rolling his eyes.

When Josh’s hand turned the doorknob and Mr. McGarry spoke up again.

“Stop by the nurses office would you, Josh? You look a mess.”

Josh took a deep breath and nodded before shutting the door behind him. Mr. McGarry sat staring at the door for a long time. He was truly worried about his old friend’s son. The boy was usually bright and cheerful, eager to participate in his various clubs and teams. To see Josh drop all of them so suddenly had truly troubled him. He knew Josh needed at least one to keep him sane and being that Mr. McGarry coached the debate team with Mr. Bartlet, this was the one club he had the most authority in.

With a heavy sigh and a look at the clock, Mr. McGarry turned away from the door and went back to work.

Chapter Text

Donna was looking down at the school map she had been given on her first day and was currently trying to locate room 32E. She had a feeling she was close, but she had no idea which direction to go in next. The endless rows of lockers might as well have been a maze.

“You lost?” came a voice from behind her. Donna turned to see a tall, dark haired boy with glasses walking up to her.

“Um, sorta.”

“What are you looking for?”

“Um,” Donna looked down at her map again. “32E.”

“Are you going to debate practice?” the boy asked her, brightening.

“Yeah,” Donna said shyly.

“Huh. A new member.” He looked lost in thought for a second before he snapped out of it. He smiled at her and stuck out a hand.

“Sam Seaborn.”

Donna smiled and returned the handshake.

“Donna Moss.”

“I'm on the team, let me show you the way to the room,” Sam said as he turned around. He gestured for Donna to follow him by flinging a hand over his shoulder.

“Mr. Bartlet invited me to join today,” Donna said as way of an explanation.

“Ah!” Sam replied. “Did you answer a trivia question right?”

Donna laughed lightly. “Yeah, how did you know that?

Sam just gave her a significant look and kept walking.

“So are you new?”

“Yeah, this is my second day,” Donna said, a hand tightening on her bag.

“How are you finding it so far?”

“Fine. No problems.”

“Well, I'm sure that’ll change,” Sam said with a lazy smile. “Here we are!” He opened the door to a large classroom that Donna had to assume was also used for band class due to the random instruments strewn about the room. Stacks of chairs stood off to the side, lined against the walls. There was a small risen stage up front and tables and chairs scattered in a non-uniform way across the room. A teacher’s desk was tucked into the corner. There were many students already there.

Donna took a quick mental account of everyone in the room. There was a tall girl dressed in jeans and ringed a t-shirt, hunched over a notebook full of handwritten notes. Next to her sat a boy with hair not quite as dark as Sam’s but curlier, dressed in an old sweater that had many loose threads. He had a small beard, which Donna found impressive for a high school aged kid. A few tables behind them was another boy with brown hair and glasses in a polo shirt, his hair cut short. Closer to the stage two boys sat huddled together pointing in a frantic way down at a textbook. A blonde girl sat with her feet over the edge of the stage in slacks and a fitted sweater, talking with Mr. McGarry. To the right side of the stage she spotted Josh Lyman, the boy who had made such a forceful impact on her second day. He also sat with his feet over the edge of the stage, but in his hands was an ice pack that he was gently tossing between his fingers. His gaze was directed at the floor. Donna could only see one side of his face but it didn’t look great from here.

Mr. Bartlet, who was at the teacher’s desk suddenly looked up and noticed her entrance.

“Ah, Ms. Moss!” he announced loudly, standing up and walking over to her and Sam.

“Everyone listen up,” Mr. Bartlet stated. Everyone glanced over to him in the center of the room.

“This is Donnatella Moss, new to the school and in my third period economics class. She expertly answered one of my trivia questions today so we’re going to see how she likes our little debate team.”

“Sir, don’t you think basing merit for the debate team on trivia questions is a bad way to recruit people?” The boy with the beard asked, in a low, bored tone.

“It’s gotten us this far, Toby,” Mr. Bartlet answered back happily. “Let’s get everyone on stage and we’ll introduce ourselves.” The rest of the students slowly began making their way to the stage. After everyone had gathered, the door opened again and a small, slightly frazzled looking boy rushed in with a backpack hanging off one shoulder.

“Sorry I'm late,” he said apologetically, slightly out of breath.

“You’re two minutes early, actually, Charlie,” Mr. Bartlet said happily, pointing at the clock. “Come join us on stage and introduce yourself to our potential new member.”

Charlie made his way to join the group and Mr. Bartlet spoke up again.

“Now, Ms. Moss, just to give you some background. Our debate team is made up of 10 individuals. Well, it usually is. We’re hoping it will be if you enjoy your time today. We recently lost our 10th member, Mandy Hampton.” Mr. Bartlet gave a significant, slightly accusatory look to Josh.

“But we are award winning, quite bright, and are a very likable bunch in my opinion.”

Mr. McGarry rolled his eyes. “Would you just have everyone introduce themselves so we can move on, Jed?”

Mr. Bartlet gave an amused look but relented. “Fine, everybody sound off.”

The boy Mr. McGarry had identified as Toby stepped forward. “I'm Toby, I’m the uh, the captain of the team.” He hesitated. “Please don’t join unless you’re actually serious about this.” A few of the other students gave him exasperated looks.

“Next,” Mr. Bartlet said quickly.

“CJ Cregg,” the girl who was studying hard said. Donna noticed she stumbled ever so slightly as she stepped forward.

“Ed.”

“Larry.”

Donna smiled at everyone as they introduced themselves.

“Will Bailey,” the other boy with glasses raised a single finger as he introduced himself.

“I'm Ainsley Hayes,” the blonde girl announced. Donna noted her southern accent but before she could say anything, Ainsley kept going. “As you can probably tell from my accent, I'm not from around here either, so feel free to seek me out for any advice on how to deal with this group,” she ended with a roll of the eyes. Donna could easily note the warmth within Ainsley’s gaze though.

“Thanks,” Donna smiled. The young boy who walked in last stepped forward.

“I’m Charlie Young.” Sam reintroduced himself and then Donna noticed Josh was the last to go. He had moved to the center of the stage, but was still sitting with his legs hanging off the side, the backs of his feet lighting kicking against the side of the stage. His eyes lifted and he met Donna’s gaze. The black eye that was starting to form when Donna last saw him was a much deeper purple now and most of Josh’s eye was swollen shut. The red marks seemed to have lessened with the ice, but he still cut a very disheveled figure. Donna noticed there was a tear on his plaid shirt. She was surprised to see him at the practice at all.

“Josh,” he said quietly.

“Ah, yes,” Mr. Bartlet said stepping forward again. “Our resident trouble maker, Mr. Joshua Lyman. We’ll get started in a few minutes. Leo, a word,” Mr. Bartlet ushered Mr. McGarry to the side of the room and the group started to break up to different parts of the room again. Sam had immediately crouched down next to Josh, looking distressed at how beat up Josh looked. Being that they were the only two Donna really knew, she walked over to them. She found Sam lecturing Josh while a finger delicately touched Josh’s black and blue eye.

“You were never going to win a fight with Bruno, why would you even try!?”

“He was being a dick,” Josh muttered, pushing Sam's hand away.

“Hi,” Donna said shyly. The two boys looked up at her.

“Hey, Donna,” Sam replied.

“How’s your eye,” Donna asked Josh. Her fingers nervously tapped against her backpack strap. Josh looked embarrassed.

“It’s fine,” he muttered. He looked at the ground again.

“You got a few good punches in,” Donna said lightly. Josh breathed out a small laugh.

“Not really.”

“You saw the fight?” Sam asked Donna. Donna nodded.

“How bad was it?” Sam asked, he lowered his voice and angled his head away from Josh. Josh threw his arms up in exasperation, but let out a laugh. “You know I'm right here and can hear everything you’re saying.”

Donna put a hand up to her mouth and angled her head towards Sam, playing along.

“It looked like it hurt.”

“Josh isn’t always the best at picking fights,” Sam sighed, looking over to his friend. “Once when we were in 1st and 2nd grade respectively, Josh tried to pick a fight with a 5th grader who lived down the street.”

“He tried to steal your bike!” Josh cried out. Sam gave him a warm smile.

“You two have known each other for a long time?” Donna settled herself on top of a table set up across from them. She set her bag down and hopped up.

“For as long as I can remember,” Sam replied happily. “He lives five houses down from me.” He slapped Josh’s back, which elicited a sharp groan of pain from Josh. He leaned forward with his hands across his stomach and closed his eyes.

“Sorry,” Sam said, pulling a face. Donna couldn’t help but give a small chuckle at their antics. A clap of hands brought their attention back to Mr. Bartlet.

“Alright let’s get started.”

The practice went on from there. They were split into pairs by Mr. McGarry and each given a side to the death penalty to debate.

“Donna, you can pair with Charlie, he’s pretty new to the team too.”

“Hi Charlie,” Donna said as she walked over to his table.

“Hi,” Charlie said, a little shy. He was setting up a few blank pieces of paper and grabbing pens from his backpack.

“So you’re new too?” Donna asked him as she sat down. Charlie nodded.

“I uh- yeah. I started as a Freshman here at the start of the year, but I came to a few summer debate practices.”

“Cool,” Donna replied simply. It was end of September now so she hadn’t missed too much of the school year here. After a moment she asked.

“They had summer practices?” She was impressed by their dedication.

“Yeah, it was CJ’s idea. They kind of made it open to anyone who wanted to come and they put on clinics about debate. I think she just wanted another thing to put on her college transcripts, but she managed to get the most of the team to join in.”

“That’s awesome.”

“Yeah, they were pretty fun. It’s pretty entertaining watching her, Josh, Sam, and Toby get into it.”

Donna looked over the room and smiled. The four Charlie mentioned were currently together near a single table. Josh was sat on top of it and CJ was worriedly inspecting his face. Toby rolled his eyes, but Donna noticed how closely he was paying attention to CJ’s inspection.

“Put the ice pack on it,” she heard Toby order Josh. Josh did as he was told.

“They seem pretty close,” Donna said to Charlie.

“Yeah, they’ve been doing this together a few years now. Josh has been bringing Sam along since Josh’s Freshman year even though Sam couldn’t technically join the team.”

“I'm surprised Josh is here though,” Charlie continued as he started numbering the tops of his blank sheets of paper.

“Why?”

“He quit every team he was apart of this week.”

“What?” Donna’s eyebrows pinched together in concern.

“Yeah, he’s been in a funk for a while now.”

“Why?”

“Donno. He won’t talk to any of us.”

Donna glanced over at Josh again, concern seeping into her body. She’d only just met this boy and yet she found herself drawn to him.

“He was late to my class with Mr. Bartlet,” she said distractedly to Charlie.

“He’s been late to a lot of stuff lately,” Charlie said back.

“Is he a good guy?” Donna asked after a moment. Her only exposure to this kid had been him being late, unprepared, and getting in a fight and yet. She wanted to know more about him.

“Josh?” Charlie paused. “Yeah. Yeah he is.”

Donna looked at him and Charlie shifted slightly.

“He kind of took me under his wing during the summer.” Donna smiled. “Helped bring me into the group. Look, we should probably get started here,” Charlie said, trying to change the subject. Donna nodded. “Sure.”

The two of them quickly started formulating their argument, both taking extensive notes. Noting that Charlie had strong opinions on the matter, Donna let him take the lead. After about 10 minutes, Mr. Bartlet walked over.

“Donna, how are you finding out local wunderkind?” Charlie blushed deeply.

“He’s been very helpful, sir,” Donna said back, smiling at Charlie’s discomfort.

“You know he skipped 8th grade,” Mr. Bartlet said, putting a hand on Charlie’s shoulder. Donna’s face registered this discovery. She had thought Charlie looked particularly young.

“I didn’t know that sir,” Donna replied politely.

“He’s very modest, our young Charles. You should have seen him this past summer when he put Toby in his place,” Mr. Bartlet enthused. Donna smiled as Charlie melted a little but further down his chair. She’d like to hear that story. Mr. Bartlet patted Charlie on the back and moved on.

“Put the captain in his place?” Donna asked with a smile.

“I’ve got some game,” Charlie said quietly. 20 minutes later, time was up and they all met in the center of the room. Two teams would compete with opposite sides of the argument. After each round, Mr. Bartlet and Mr. McGarry would select a winner. Two tables with chairs were set up on the stage. Donna and Charlie started up against CJ and Josh.

The two teams sat down and waited for Mr. Bartlet to begin proceedings.

“Josh Lyman, should the US Judicial System be able to inflict the death penalty against criminals for particularly heinous offenses? Why or why not?” Josh sat up straighter.

“No, sir, they should not be allowed to.” Josh glanced across to Charlie and Donna before continuing. “We should not deem our judges and criminal justice officials to be in a high enough position to which they can play God and inflict their will upon others with such drastic consequences.”

Mr. Bartlet raised a hand to Donna and Charlie, encouraging them to begin their argument. Charlie spoke first.

“They should be able to sir, this is because there are some crimes and offenses that are so severe that the only reasonable option is to make sure those perpetrators never are able to commit them again. No matter what.”

CJ spoke up. “Are we not keeping them for perpetrating those crimes when we put them in prison?”

“There are other things to consider as well,” Charlie continued. Donna picked up again on the passion with which Charlie argued on this particular topic. “The families of the victims deserve to get justice for what has happened to them.”

“The families of the victims don’t get to play God either,” Josh rebutted. Donna noticed Charlie tense up. “The intense emotion of the families should not be taken into account. It should be a purely subjective analysis of what happened.”

“You don’t think the families deserve retribution?” Charlie asked back quickly. Josh’s eyebrows shot up quickly.

“I think their intense,” Josh paused. “Understandable pain, leads to juries feeling pressured to give verdicts. The amount of innocent people being put on death row is extremely high and dangerous. We need to be-“

“But I'm talking about the cases where it’s pretty damn obvious who the perpetrator was,” Charlie interrupted. Josh gave a sideways glance to Mr. Bartlet and Mr. McGarry.

“No, I still don’t think we should be putting people to death even when we know they are guilty. They should be kept off the street and away from society for society’s protection but-“

“Well maybe you should-“ Charlie cut himself off before continuing. He took a breath and looked down at his papers, straightening them.

“Why don’t we take a break,” Mr. McGarry cut in. “Take a few minutes everyone then we’ll start the next two teams.” Josh looked taken aback, but said nothing. He gave a look to CJ before standing up and making his way over to Charlie and Donna.

“Look, Charlie, I didn’t mean to-“

“No, I'm sorry,” Charlie said hurriedly. “I should have let Donna take the lead on this one.” Donna looked confusedly between the both of them.

Josh looked around and saw the other two teams starting to walk on stage.

“Come on,” he said to both of them with a flick of his head. They moved off the stage and into the chairs set up in front. Josh had a hand on Charlie’s shoulder. Donna looked curiously at them as she walked a few steps behind, wondering about all the context she was missing. About 30 minutes later all the teams had debated and practice was coming to a close.

“Alright everyone, we’ll see you all on Thursday. Donna, I hope you’ll have an answer for us by then,” Mr. Bartlet said with a smile. Everyone broke off and said their goodbyes. Donna found herself next to Sam and Josh again.

“You have a ride?” Sam asked her. Donna shrugged. “I was going to call my mom and see if she can pick me up but she might still be at work.”

Sam nudged Josh, who stood stock still with his hands in his pockets. When Josh didn’t reply, Sam spoke for him.

“We’ll drive you home.”

“No, that’s okay-“

"We don't want you waiting here all by yourself," Sam interrupted. "Right, Josh?"

“Come on,” Josh muttered. He pushed past the two of them towards the exit, his hands never leaving his jeans pockets.

Sam followed suit, walking quickly to catch up to Josh’s fast pace and Donna followed after them. In the parking lot, Donna watched as Josh and Sam walked what was clearly a familiar path towards Josh’s car. She was pleasantly surprised to see it was a Jeep Wrangler. A semi beat up Jeep Wrangler, but one all the same. It was blue.

“Is this your car?” Donna asked as the three of them stopped in front of it.

“No, we’re stealing it,” Josh said sarcastically, tossing his backpack into the back. Donna rolled her eyes.

“I was just going to say that I liked it.” Josh opened the driver’s side door and pulled a lever behind his seat, causing it to fold forward.

“Thanks,” he said with a slight smirk. He opened up his arm and gestured for her to get inside.

“Are you sure you should be driving with your eye like that?” Donna asked.

“Believe me when I say that me driving with one eye is safer than Sam driving with both.”

“Hey!”

“I could drive,” Donna offered.

“Thanks, but I don’t know you and I don’t let anybody else drive my car,” Josh said simply. He flung his arm out again, gesturing for Donna to get in the back. Which she did this time.

“Please don’t kill me,” Donna said lightly as she stepped under the seatbelt and into the backseat.

“I’ll do my best,” Josh replied. Sam made his way to the passenger seat and Josh slipped into the driver’s side.

“Where do you live, Moss?” Josh asked gruffly as he turned on the ignition.

“4264 Montgomery,” Donna answered.

“Next to the pizza place?”

“I don’t know,” Donna muttered. “I just moved in.”

“It’s next to the pizza place,” Sam answered for her, turning to face Josh. Josh nodded at him. He turned on the radio that was connected to an iPod classic. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears started playing. The three sat in silence for a while, enjoying the music until Donna spoke up.

“Hey.”

Sam turned down the volume.

“Was Charlie okay today?” Sam and Josh exchanged looks.

“It’s a touchy subject for him,” Sam started carefully.

“His mom was a cop and was killed in the line of duty not too long ago,” Josh continued. “Charlie has a very real opinion of the death penalty.”

“Oh,” Donna replied, her face falling. “Poor Charlie.”

“He doesn’t like to talk about it,” Josh said, looking at Donna through the rear view mirror. Donna nodded her understanding. As they were coming to a street Donna was just starting to recognize, Sam pointed out the pizza place.

“It’s so-so pizza,” he told her. “Dan Good Pizza is the best place to go.”

Donna gave a laugh. “Okay.” Josh turned right and pulled into Donna’s street.

“It’s the blue house with the big tree out front,” Donna told Josh, leaning forward in her seat to point it out through the windshield. Josh nodded and turned when he got to the driveway. Once he put the car in park, Josh opened the door and hopped out, pulling the lever again to let Donna out of the backseat. He stood leaning against the frame of the car with his ankles crossed as she stepped out.

“Thanks for the ride,” Donna said with a smile. Josh didn’t answer right away as he stood there watching her.

“What?” Donna asked, suddenly self-conscious.

“Nothin,” Josh muttered.

“You know, you’d look a lot more cool if you didn’t look like you just had your ass beat by Bruno Gianelli today, Josh,” Sam said from the front seat. Josh grabbed an old burger wrapper from the driver door pocket and crumpled it up before pelting it at Sam’s head, causing Sam to duck and cover his head. Donna laughed and Josh immediately turned back to her with a strange look, something akin to wonder crossing his face.

“I’ll see ya later,” he told Donna as he stepped back into the Jeep. Donna smiled shyly and tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.

“See you guys. It was nice meeting you,” she told them. Sam waved back energetically and Josh nodded before pulling the Jeep out into the street and driving away.

Donna stared after the car for a long moment, even after it had driven from sight. Nothing but the sound of the trees rustling the leaves in her ears. She found herself smiling. Her day definitely hadn’t gone as she had expected. With a little skip in her step, she spun around and made her way into the house, suddenly eager to see Josh in her economics class tomorrow.