Okay the standard disclaimers. The characters of West Wing belong to various people like Aaron Sorkin, Warner Bros. and NBC. They do not belong to me; I'm just borrowing them. Donna's family is mine. There are references to various episodes but I think the only actual spoilers are for ITSOTG and NOEL. Also there is reference made to a recent election anomaly (no not Florida) and I think I should add that no disrespect is intended toward Senator Carnahan from Missouri or her late husband Feedback is always welcome, but please just let me know me before re-posting. Thanks to L.A. for reading the various drafts. One last comment, I'm not sure how this got to be so long but to those of you who persevere to the end well, thanks
5:23 p.m. EST
"I need a man."
Josh Lyman paused mid keystroke and smirked to himself.
"Yeah Donna," he conceded, "I think we can agree on that"
"I'm serious Josh." Donna flopped into the visitor's chair "I have to go home at Thanksgiving."
"You know it drives me crazy when you switch topics mid-stream like that."
"You went from- No never mind. Donna, I'm trying to work here."
"No you're not," she countered derisively. "You're playing Minesweeper"
Josh glanced from the screen to his assistant. "There is no possible way you can tell that from where you're sitting."
"This is the first time your plate has been clear all day and I know that the first thing you do is come in here and haul up Minesweeper."
"Its electronic meditation."
"It's a game, Josh, and a pretty bland one at that."
"Which reminds me, I used to have better games on my computer. You wouldn't happen to know what happened to them, would you?"
"I wiped them."
"Josh you usually have what, eight minutes to play computer games? What are you going to play for eight minutes and get anywhere?"
"Age of Empires."
She didn't say a word; the look on her face made it unnecessary.
"It's meticulous," he protested.
"And at the rate you play, you'd complete one game in about eight and a half years, which, unless you have some secret plan to eliminate term limits, is longer than you have."
"When do you leave for Thanksgiving?" he asked hopefully
"Well given that it's the Second of November, not for a few hours at least. By the way you remember that you have a meeting with the Democratic Caucus up on the Hill in thirty minutes, don't you?"
"Yeah thanks." He shut his computer down and grabbed his coat.
"Aren't you even going to ask why I need a man for Thanksgiving?" Donna asked as they headed down the hall.
"Do you have the file on Jacobson?" he asked, studiously ignoring the topic of Thanksgiving.
"Are you sure?"
"Joshua, the fact that you're nervous about this meeting doesn't mean I've suddenly descended into incompetence."
"I'm not nervous!" he argued slightly louder than he meant to, given that they were now in the main lobby. He dropped his voice; "A bunch of Congressional Democrats, Democrats for gawd's sake, are not going to make me nervous. They're on our side"
"So it has nothing to do with the fact that Leo yells louder when you insult 'our side'?"
"I don't insult our side, that's Toby's gig." He smiled
"Is Toby going to this meeting?"
Josh puffed air into his cheeks, a gesture Donna had long since recognized as an admission of, albeit temporary, defeat.
"The Jacobson file is blue, the Macgregor file is red and the numbers for South Carolina are in the yellow file. And they're all in your briefcase, which is in your left hand."
"Jacobson blue, Macgregor red, S.C. yellow, briefcase; got it."
"Go get'em Tiger," she said encouragingly, straightening his tie.
"Thanks" Josh started toward the door then stopped and turned back to her. "Listen why don't you walk up to the Capitol with me and you can tell me about the Thanksgiving thing."
As they stepped out into the cold evening, Josh studied his assistant "You're wearing your coat."
"You knew I'd give in."
"Donna, just promise you'll never go work for the Republicans."
"We'll see," she said with mock solemnity. "I have to keep my options open."
"So you need a man for Thanksgiving. Isn't the traditional meal turkey?" He quipped then paused. Donna was looking at him with arched eyebrows "I realize some sexual content could be read into that but just don't, okay."
"Are you going to tell me what's going on? Or just let me keep burying myself?"
Donna sighed, "My mom wants everyone home for Thanksgiving dinner"
"I thought she made that demand every year."
They had descended the White House steps and started along Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol. Somewhere in the back of her mind, Donna noticed that Josh had automatically stepped around her to take the curbside. Her father did that, as did Leo, but Josh was the only man she knew of her own generation who ever made the gesture.
"She does." Donna returned her full attention to the conversation "I've just run out of excuses."
"What excuse did you use last year?" Josh glanced at the front of the late edition of the Post as they walked past a newsstand. "Donna?" he added when his assistant didn't answer right away.
"The shooting" she mumbled "I'm sorry, I know it was in bad taste but my mother...anyway I told her I was worried about you."
"At least you didn't lie to your mother," he said with a rueful smile, letting her know he wasn't offended.
Given his behaviour the previous winter, Josh was pretty sure that even in November, Donna had been worried about him.
"So this year your mother blindsided you and you have to go home. I could just refuse to give you the time off."
"I tried that angle, my mother said that if you were a jerk, she'd send Cougar and Dodge to convince you."
"What the hell are Cougar and Dodge other than fine products of the American car industry?"
"They're my second cousins; twice removed, thankfully. They're marines."
"And their names are Cougar and Dodge? Those are their actual first names? "
"I'm not sure. We're not really close but they are stationed at Norfolk and my mother uses them as a threat whenever she really wants something."
"So you're going home for Thanksgiving, I thought you liked your family."
"I do, well most of them, just not all at once."
"You'll go Wednesday afternoon and come back Sunday morning, it'll be four days. It won't be that bad" Josh tried to sound as empathetic as possible.
"Except for the small issue of my fianc"e."
Josh paused, "Do you have a fianc"e?"
"Okay cause I know sometimes I don't pay the closest attention but-"
"So you admit it"
"Let's stick to the topic of your non-fianc"e and leave my insensitivity out of it. Here I was giving you undeserved credit for not lying to your parents when actually-"
"Actually I lied to my sisters first. They were tag teaming me with three-way calling so I told them Doug and I were engaged but I hadn't found the right moment to tell them."
"He's not real either is he?"
"Just checking. Didn't your family find it strange that you hadn't told them, unless of course Doug is an axe murderer doing time at Leavenworth."
"I told them I was waiting to do it in person when the whole family was together."
"Like at Thanksgiving?" Josh offered barely containing his amusement.
"So now do I not only have to go home, I need to take a suitable fianc"e so as to officially announce our engagement"
"Take Sam," Josh suggested after a moment. "Mothers love him He 's polite, employed and he flosses regularly."
Josh stopped dead "You asked Sam first?"
"What do you mean 'first'?"
"You went to Sam before coming to me"
"Josh, the Democratic caucus."
"Oh they can wait. This is important. You have violated the 'Boss/Assistant Protocol.' You always come to me first. I mean this is just the start. First you're going to him with imaginary fianc"es and before you know it, its matters of state and trips to Hawaii and then its 'so long Josh, so long Kathy, hello Sam and Donna'."
Donna stared at him "You're cute when you're jealous, you know that? I didn't take it to Sam first; Kathy told me that he's spending Thanksgiving with Mallory and Leo. Okay? Is the 'Boss/Assistant Protocol' intact?"
"Made you smile though didn't I?"
"Does this mean you're taking me to Hawaii?"
"Not a chance. But I will offer you an all expense paid trip to a Congressional meeting room to watch me try and control Toby."
"As tempting as that is, especially when you hold it up next to, say, Maui, I have work I should get back to, now that we're sure the boss/assistant thing is safe."
"Okay, but take a cab back" Josh instructed
"Josh its an easy walk, we just-"
"Its dark out, I don't want you walking by yourself" he flagged down a cab and pressed a twenty into her hand " And I want change this time."
He held open the door.
"At least if I got kidnapped and sold into the white slave trade I wouldn't have to go home for Thanksgiving." She said half-heartedly as she got into the cab.
"Ah but how would I find the Whitcliffe file, which I'm going to need first thing tomorrow."
"You could try looking in your file cabinet under 'W' "
"Sounds too complicated. Guess you'll just have to stay in my employ for another day. I'll see you in a couple hours" He shut the door behind her.
"Oh so now I have to stick around 'til you get back." She called as the cab pulled away
"Always gotta have the last word." Josh declared smiling to himself and resumed walking.
"How about Toby?" Josh said a few hours later, as he tossed his briefcase and coat onto his chair.
"How about Toby what?" Donna followed him into his office, dropped the briefcase to the floor and handed him back his coat indicating the row of hooks pointedly. Josh took these gentle admonishments without notice or comment.
"How about Toby as your fianc"e?"
"You want me to take Toby home to meet my family?" Donna stared in disbelief.
"Not really I'd just like to keep him away from Congress even for a few days. What about Charlie? Or would your family...?" he left the question hanging
"My family are all pretty open minded. I think I'd get grief about the fact that he's six years younger than me than not the fact that he's black; but I assumed he'd want to be with his sister and Zoey."
"Yeah you really need someone who isn't attached."
"Someone who isn't Toby, and isn't attached."
"What about CJ?"
"I know you guys routinely ignore the fact that CJ's a woman." Donna pointed out "But I think my folks might notice."
"You said they were open-minded"
"Yeah but grandchildren are a pretty big playing card and I don't really want to get into a discussion on sperm banks with my father over the dinner table" "Getting back on topic" said Josh perhaps a tad to quickly. He turned away to look at something on his desk and hide the fact that he was blushing. "Hey what about Danny Concannon?"
"Are you suggesting I enlist a member of the press corps to assist me in a conspiracy of deceit?"
"You're right, bad precedent. Look Donna let me think on it. I'll find you the perfect guy. Perhaps one of our fine members of Congress."
"I think subjecting them to Toby and my family in one month is a bit much. Maybe Todd's free."
"No I'll find someone I promise."
2:13 p.m. EST
A week before Thanksgiving Josh still hadn't found anyone. It was time he realized, to go with the solution that had been staring him in the face, or rather in the mirror.
"Donna!" he hollered bringing her in from the bullpen
"What?" She seemed a little tense which Josh put down to her upcoming ordeal rather than his in ability to get up and call her at a civilized decibel.
"I think I've got this fianc"e thing figured out."
"Who? And don't say the Transportation Secretary. I know he's divorced and lonely but I've got my own problems."
As usual Josh allowed himself to be side tracked, at least momentarily. "How do you know that much about the personal life of the Trans Sec?"
"Cause he keeps asking me out."
"Does he indeed" Josh sat up straighter and Donna could see him gearing up for a fight.
"Josh, he's completely innocuous. Really"
"Yeah unfortunately, he 's pretty innocuous as a Cabinet Secretary too. The President's started baiting him again. So where were we? Your fianc"e. I've found a guy."
"You?" Donna looked slightly unnerved
"Your overwhelming enthusiasm is heart warming"
"Have you thought about what this would mean? You would have to spend four days in Wisconsin pretending to be in love with me."
"I'd rather have Sam."
"It's going to be weird, Josh. I'd rather have Sam"
"We've established that's not going to happen."
"What if we did a trade. You have dinner with Leo and Mallory and I'll take Sam to Wisconsin."
"Much as I think at this point, both Sam and Leo might be happier with that arrangement, Mallory's not going to buy it."
"It's going to be weird Josh."
"It's only four days Donna, we've endured four days of weirdness before, we work in politics."
Donna still looked skeptical "What were you going to do for Thanksgiving?"
"I've been invited to join the First Family"
"Can you get out of that?"
"You can't believe how hard I've been trying." He whined mournfully "Even before your little situation came up."
"Well then I guess, providing the President doesn't charge you with treason, we're going to Wisconsin"
"Now there's an interesting point"
"Leo, do you have a minute?"
Leo looked up to see his deputy standing in the doorway. He smiled. Though Leo would never admit it, his regard for Josh was decidedly paternal. Of course having Josh as a surrogate son was a little like living with a high school senior, you never knew when he came through the door whether he'd tell you he'd made the honor roll or that he'd wrecked the car. Nevertheless Leo had never regretted taking Josh as his deputy. Well maybe just once or twice.
Josh came in and closed the door
"I've got kind of a thing."
Leo frowned "I wish you guys would stop doing that"
"Which guys would stop doing what?"
"You, CJ, Sam, Toby. To you everything from the President making a bad joke in public to us scrambling the bombers is a 'thing'. It makes it a little hard to gage the severity off the top."
Josh said a silent prayer of thanksgiving that Leo was in a good mood.
"We have not scrambled the bombers and I will draft a memo asking senior staff to be more precise in their employment of the vernacular."
"Now you're talking like the ivy-league geek we know and love."
"Ivy league geek?"
"You make cracks about Michigan, they get back to me. You had a thing."
"Its about Thanksgiving. I need to be out of town for a few days."
"Wednesday night to Sunday."
"Should be fine. Are you going to Connecticut?"
"Wisconsin." Leo repeated, a thought he didn't like forming in his head. "Hang on, the President said you were joining him."
"That's just one of my problems."
"That's a pretty big one. What are the others?"
Josh took a deep breath "Leo, this is going to look like something, but it isn't. In fact it's something else entirely."
"Want to try that again with a few proper nouns, maybe some verbs, the odd adjective?"
"I'm going to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving with Donna."
"This is what I was getting at. I know exactly what you're thinking and it's not the case. Her parents want to meet her fianc"e-"
"You and Donna are engaged?"
"How temporarily?" Leo demanded
Josh shrugged "For about four days. She made it up, Leo. Her family was hounding her because she doesn't date much, so she made up a guy. Only, now they want to meet him. I'm just trying to help her out. Its indicative of nothing except that maybe part of the reason she doesn't date is because I work her too hard." He mumbled the last part.
Leo studied him " Yeah okay. You'll have your phone. If something comes up I can always get you on a military transport."
"And the President?"
"You want me to talk to him, don't you?"
"Leo I don't want him to take offense but, well this time Donna needs me more than he does."
Josh looked so earnest, Leo found himself giving in
"I'll fix it with the President."
"Thanks Leo. Hey anything you want from Wisconsin? A two ton block of cheese perhaps?"
"Get out of my office, Josh."
8:19 p.m. EST
"You sure he's not making all of this up to get out of hearing my concise history of Thanksgiving" Jed Bartlet chuckled later that evening as his Chief of Staff explained Josh's plans.
"The concise history. Would that be the six hour version, Mr. President?"
"Nope the concise history weighs in at about three. Fits perfectly between pumpkin pie and the football."
"Sure if you eat at ten am."
They laughed with an easy familiarity that came of years of friendship.
"My next question, Leo, is: are we sure this engagement is just temporary?"
"I have no reason to suspect different."
"Pity" the President mused, " He could do a lot worse."
"She could do a lot better" Leo countered
"Come on, Leo I know you don't mean that"
"No I don't but if you try to make me admit it in front of him I'll deny every word."
"Still, I think it would be a good match."
"Sir, don't start playing Emma"
"Emma?" Jed regarded his friend with mock surprise
"The Jane Austen novel about a singularly unsuccessful matchmaker."
"I know the book, Leo, I just didn't think you read anything but policy memos and Zane Grey."
"Still Josh and Donna."
"We don't have enough trouble without opening up the West Wing to a Republican led impropriety investigation."
"You make it sound like they're about to make love on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Leo. I'm just saying they make a nice couple"
"And I'm just saying leave well enough alone."