Title: Peter Cottontail
Disclaimer: Alas, these characters are not mine.
Rating: This chapter is PG-13. Later parts will probably get to R. This does deal with some adult themes, although it is not at all graphic.
Category: Angst, romance, AU.
Feedback: Always appreciated.
Archiving: Please ask.
Timeline: Probably fairly early in the first administration, but it doesn't really matter.
This is a bit of holiday fluff inspired by an album of Easter songs I had as a kid. It's unbetaed, so all mistakes are thoroughly my own.
"You've got it? Great. Yeah, I'll come pick it up sometime this week." Josh Lyman hung up the phone and smiled, pleased with himself. "DONNA!"
A moment later, Donna Moss appeared in his doorway with arms folded and an eyebrow raised.
"Yeah, c'mere." Josh tried not to let his voice betray his excitement. "Do you have plans for Sunday?"
Donna sat down in one of his visitors' chairs and sighed dramatically.
"Are you making me work on Sunday? It's Easter." She thought for a second. "You're not even working, are you?"
"No, it's Toby's turn," Josh said. Josh and Toby took turns staffing the President on Christian holidays so that the rest of the senior staff could celebrate with their families or friends. "I'm not going to make you work, I promise. Now, do you have plans or not?"
"Not really," Donna admitted. "I'll probably find a church service to go to, but I hadn't really thought about the rest of the day yet."
"You should come over," Josh blurted out.
"Uh, okay . . . Who else is coming?" Donna asked carefully.
"No one. Just us. If that's okay," Josh said quickly. "I have a surprise for you."
"Oh. Is it an Easter-related surprise or is the timing coincidental?"
"No, it's definitely Easter-related. So will you come?"
"Just so we're clear, are you asking me to come over and pick something up at some point during the day, or are you talking about having Easter dinner or something?"
"Easter dinner? Oh. Easter dinner would be good." Josh paused. "What do you people usually eat for Easter dinner?"
"You don't like ham."
"I know. You asked what was traditional. You didn't ask if I liked it."
"So we can eat something other than ham?" Josh clarified.
"Yes. But can it just not be Chinese or pizza or burgers? It's a holiday. It should feel a little special."
"Sure." Josh smiled. "That means you're coming?"
"Can we watch Easter Parade?"
"Is that an actual parade?"
"No, it's a movie." She figured there was no need to tell him that it was actually a musical.
"Oh. Is that a Moss family tradition?"
"No, not exactly. It's a personal tradition."
"Personal tradition?" He looked skeptical.
"It's something I started doing every year now that my slave-driving boss doesn't give me enough time off to go home for Easter."
"Oh. Sorry. Yeah, of course we can watch it."
"Then sure. I'll come."
Donna felt slightly foolish as she stood at Josh's door holding an Easter basket. But she'd felt like she should bring something, especially since he had some mysterious surprise for her, and he'd sworn that he had the food under control and she didn't need to bring anything for dinner. Besides, it had been fun to put it together. She wondered if he had ever had an Easter basket before.
Josh let her in and she held up the basket slightly shyly.
"The Easter Bunny left something for you at my apartment," she said.
"That's funny, because he left something for you here," he answered. "You'd think someone like that would have a better sense of direction. We should get him a GPS or something." He took the basket from her and placed it next to another filled Easter basket on the coffee table. "We can look at them in a minute. Here, let me take your coat."
Josh hung her coat up and Donna followed him into the kitchen. She sniffed and looked around.
"Are you COOKING?"
"Yes. I can cook!" he said defensively.
"Yeah, actually. I just never have time. But I wanted you to have a nice Easter dinner."
"Thanks. But I'm still skeptical about these newfound cooking abilities."
"You'll see." He smiled. "Dinner will be ready in a few minutes. Let's go look at the baskets."
They sat on the couch and started digging into their Easter baskets. Donna had to admit that she was pretty impressed by the contents of hers. She had sort of expected one of those pre-made ones that they sell at candy stores, but Josh had clearly put this together himself. It contained Easter versions of several of her favorite types of candy as well as a big chocolate bunny from one of the best chocolatiers in DC. There were also several small gifts, including new paperbacks by a few of her favorite writers and sparkly Easter egg earrings.
"Josh, this is really impressive. Did you seriously do this yourself?"
"Well, I got some tips from Zoey," he admitted. "I'd never made an Easter basket before and I wanted it to be right." He paused, looking uncertain. "I know the earrings are kind of silly, but I saw them and thought they were cute . . ."
"They're perfect. It's all perfect," she assured him as she put on the earrings. "Really, this is a great basket. Thank you." Donna realized that Josh hadn't said anything about his own basket. "Do you like yours?" she asked, suddenly nervous.
"I love it. It's wonderful." He suddenly turned and hugged her. "No one's ever made me an Easter basket before. Thanks."
"Well, everyone needs an Easter basket," Donna said lightly, trying to keep the emotion out of her voice. "The Easter Bunny doesn't really care that you're Jewish."
"Good to know. Okay, go sit down and I'll serve dinner. Then after dinner you can have your surprise."
Donna started to head for dining area and then realized what he had said. "Wait, the basket wasn't my surprise?"
"No. Everyone needs an Easter basket," he answered, echoing her own words. "You can have your surprise in a bit."
Donna sat down at the table and thought about whether she was more impatient to find out about Josh's hidden cooking abilities or her mysterious surprise. She really couldn't decide. Josh made a few trips to and from the kitchen and soon the table was complete with some kind of covered dish, a big bowl of salad, bread, and wine.
"I know you said no pizza, so I hope Italian is okay," he said.
"Italian's fine," she assured him. "I just wanted real food. This definitely looks like it's going to be real food."
"Well, I try." He uncovered the baking dish and spooned some onto her plate. "Tri-color tortellini with chicken, tomatoes, olives, and artichoke hearts."
She stared at him. "You MADE this?" she asked again.
"Well, I bought the tortellini itself at a little Italian grocery where they make their own pasta. And the bread is from a bakery. But yes, I made everything else." He poured chilled Riesling into their wine glasses. "I know it's not Italian, but it seemed like it would go."
"Yeah. I love Riesling."
"I know." He just looked at her for a moment. "Go on, try the food. I promise it won't kill you."
She took a tentative bite, and then another. "Wow. This is really good."
"Thanks." He couldn't keep the smug smile off his face.
"Come on, Josh. What's with the cooking? And why did I never know you could do this?"
He suddenly looked serious. "Mom and Joanie used to cook together all the time," he started quietly.
"Oh." Donna wasn't sure what to say to this.
"I never paid a lot of attention to it when I was young, but it was one of those constants. Mom and Joanie in the kitchen together. Joanie loved to cook, and Mom loved teaching her. It was kind of their thing." Josh took a bit of tortellini and chewed it slowly, steeling himself for what he had to say next. "After Joanie died, Mom kept cooking for me and Dad, of course, but it was just her. And I couldn't stand seeing her in the kitchen by herself. It was awful. So I asked her to start teaching me."
"Oh," Donna said again. "That's really sweet, Joshua."
Josh shrugged. "It was – I don't know. I was little, and I wanted to fix things. I couldn't bring Joanie back, but I could cook with Mom. So I did."
"And you learned well, apparently. This is delicious. But why don't you ever tell anyone you can cook?"
"Well, I really don't have much time. You know that."
"And – I guess I associate cooking with Joanie. So it's special. I don't want to cook for just anyone."
Donna looked up at him. "Well, then, I'm honored. Thank you for cooking for me."
"Any time," Josh said, surprised to realize that he meant it.
After they finished eating, Donna helped Josh clear the table and then looked at him expectantly.
"You really want your surprise, don't you?" he chuckled. "Go sit on the couch. I'll go get it." He disappeared into his bedroom and returned with two wrapped packages. He sat down on the couch next to Donna and handed her the big flat package. "Open this first."
Donna tore off the wrapping paper and gasped in shock at what she found.
"Peter Cottontail!" she squealed.
"You can't remember your schedule, but you remember the name of the Easter record I had as a kid?"
"You told me about it last year. You sang 'Betty Bunny's Birthday Day' at me for weeks."
"But . . . how?"
"How did you find it?"
"I was at that record store I like, and I just . . . came across it."
"You just came across it?" She was skeptical.
"Okay, I asked the record store guy if he could find it."
"No, for Toby," he teased. "Here, this goes with it." He handed her the smaller package.
"Goes with it? Is it a record player?" she asked.
"No, I have a record player," he answered distractedly. "You said you always listened to the record while you colored Easter eggs, so . . ."
Donna ripped off the paper and found a box of Paas egg dye. "Oh, Josh, that was such a sweet thought . . ."
"But? I heard a 'but' there. Is it not the right kind of dye? You said it had to be the original Paas kind, and I think that's what that is, but - "
Donna cut him off. "No, that's not the problem. It's exactly right. It's just that you have to hardboil the eggs ahead of time. And you need vinegar. So I'm not sure we can . . ."
Josh grinned. "I may not have ever dyed Easter eggs before, Donnatella, but I do know how to read instructions. I have two dozen hardboiled eggs in the fridge and the right kind of vinegar in the cabinet."
"Really?" Her face lit up.
"And you'll help? Coloring eggs is no fun alone."
"Of course, but you'll have to show me what to do."
"I thought you could read instructions, Joshua."
"Sure, but haven't you noticed that I'd rather just make you do the work and then tell me about it?"
"I have, in fact, noticed that." Donna smiled. "Can we put on the record now? I don't think I've heard it since I was about ten."
"Sure." Josh put on the record and grinned again as Donna immediately started singing along and dancing around the room. "You're dancing."
"I'm getting in touch with my inner five-year-old. Shut up."
"I'm not saying anything. It's cute." He just watched her for a minute. "I'm gonna go start measuring out the vinegar."
"Hold on!" Donna rushed across the room and threw her arms around him. "This was the best Easter surprise ever. Thank you."
"You're welcome. I'm glad you like it," he murmured into her hair. "I hope it helps make up for your slave-driving boss not letting you go home."
"I didn't really mean that," she whispered.
"I don't have a record player. I'm going to have to come over here every Easter to listen to this."
Josh dropped a kiss on the top of her head. "I think I could deal with that."