Disclaimers in PT 1
By the Bondi Gargoyle
Some time later after she was sure Josh was asleep Donna muttered "Or I suppose it could have been the fact that he had an affair."
Still awake, Josh imagined having Mark run over by a tank division or three
9:04 am CST
"Josh still asleep?" Berti asked as Donna appeared in her pajamas.
"Uh-huh." She opened the fridge and stuck her head in peering at its over-stuffed contents "I think it's the first time he's slept in, in about three years. That, or he's hiding from all of you."
"We were a bit of a swarm, weren't we. Donna what are you looking for?"
"Over here" Berti picked up the carton and shook it. "Does Josh have brothers and sisters?"
Donna poured herself a glass.
"He had a sister but she died when he was little."
"That's a shame. Well he'll get used to being part of our mob pretty soon."
"I haven't" her daughter muttered
"Good morning!" Pete banged into the kitchen, Dylan on his shoulders. He leaned over, hanging his son almost upside down. "Kiss your aunt." Dylan pressed a wet smack onto Donna's cheek. "Now Grandma."
Berti stretched up and kissed her grandson.
"Where's Josh?" asked Pete as Dylan slid down his back.
"Resting up for his annihilation. Pete, let him out of it."
"Not a chance, Kiddo. With Rob's conspicuous absence, we won't have enough for a game if Josh doesn't play. Speaking of which," Pete covered Dylan's ears, "where is Rob?"
Berti put a bowl of cereal in the little boy's hands "Take that out to the table and Mommy will get you some milk."
"Yes Grandma. Go Bears, kick butt!" he yelled to his father and disappeared out the swinging door.
"Don't look at me, Mom, I don't know where he learns these things."
"So where's Rob?" he repeated, putting a couple waffles in the toaster.
"Joanne says he's coming today."
"Do you believe her?" asked Donna
Berti shrugged "Well, you know your sister."
"Which means what?" Pete pressed
"It means it's your sister's business and we should stay out of it till she wants to talk about it."
Donna opened and shut her mouth wordlessly. "There is no justice," she finally stammered. "I'm going to wake Josh up before he misses breakfast"
"What's wrong with Little D?" Pete asked his mother as Donna exited
"I don't know, Pete." Berti shrugged "I don't know anymore"
As it turned out Josh didn't need waking up. As Donna stepped onto the staircase, Josh descended, hair still damp from a shower, dressed in baggy cords and a v-neck sweatshirt.
"Good morning" he said smiling and pulling her into a hug.
She hadn't really gotten used to the affectionate-even-if-only-for-appearances Josh but she had to admit she was starting to like all the hugging.
As they separated he flicked his eyes toward the dining room where her assembled family were craning to get a better look.
Donna rolled her eyes in exasperation
"Okay everyone, he hasn't sprouted a second head since last night so if you'll all just go back to whatever you were doing we'll be right with you."
Not counting on them to comply she pushed Josh a few steps back up the stairs.
"I thought you'd slept in, I was on my way up to get you."
"For me this is sleeping in." he pointed out
"See the thing is, I was hoping to let the bulk of them get though breakfast before we ate. "
"Donna your family doesn't scare me."
"Well that makes one of us."
He looked her up and down. "You're swimming in those sweats."
"They're Pete's." she admitted
"This tousled look kind of works for you, you know."
"Great, when we get re-elected, I'll wear them to the inaugural ball. Are you sure you're up to all this?"
"Well I think I need to take a shower before I face them, do you want to -"
"Go get cleaned up. I'll have breakfast with my new in-laws."
"You remember the rules."
"Don't talk about anything."
"Exactly. I'll be back down in a bit."
"Morning all." Josh raised a hand in salutation as he sauntered into the dining room and faced Donna's family around an enormous table.
"Who are you? A small girl with enormous glasses demanded to know.
"Chloe I told you" Betsy spoke gently to her daughter "That's Uncle Josh."
"Are you 'placing Unca Rob" asked one of two boys, whom Josh correctly surmised were Tony and Mike
"No he's not!" Joanne spit out "Why do they think Rob is being replaced?"
"Because they're eight and six, Jo." Rick replied. "They think Mickey Mouse in the President of the United States"
"He's not?" Josh joked.
They all looked vaguely confused except Stacy who was smiling into her coffee cup. Josh wasn't sure if she was amused by the line or by its complete failure
"See I'm...I work...Mickey...never mind."
"He's marrying, Aunt Donna." Roz told her sons, wiping jam off their faces.
Berti came into the room "Josh, good morning." She crossed and gave him a quick peck on the cheek "Come grab some food in the kitchen while these guys make room."
Josh decided that since he was on some form of vacation, he'd go with Cap'n Crunch instead of Grapenuts and bear whatever comments Donna made. Those, together with juice, coffee and two Eggoes, struck him as a reasonable preparatory meal for Snowbowl and with a carefully balanced stack he headed back to the table.
"Here, sit next to me" Joanne commanded pushing Dylan off the chair.
"Jo" Pete growled
"He's five, Pete, he can sit on the floor if necessary."
"Come here, Honey" Stacy pulled her son up onto her lap. "Let's make room for Uncle Josh. You're done anyway."
"So Josh." Rick leaned forward as Josh began to eat. "What are your prospects?"
"My pwospex?" Josh repeated around a mouth of cereal
"Yeah. Are you going to be able to provide for my sister? Do you have a good job?"
"I think so." Josh glanced helplessly around the room. They were all looking at him eagerly except for David Moss who was reading the sports pages apparently unconcerned, and Stacy who had her face buried in the top of Dylan's head. Even the children had a look of suspicion as though he might be some sort of freeloader who would lead Donna into destitution and despair.
"What is it that you do Josh?" Betsy asked, as though she was breaking a difficult question carefully.
"I work in the White House."
"So you and Donna met at work? That's nice. So did Kevin and I." She touched her husband's hand and they smiled at each other.
"You're also a teacher, Kevin?" Josh tried for a diversionary tactic
"He's a park ranger." Joanne cut in derisively. "They met on a particularly disastrous field trip."
"That sounds like a good story. What happened?"
"The thing is Josh," Rick said shaking his head, "We all know Kevin's story. We want to hear about you "
"I grew up in Connecticut. My father was a lawyer; my mother's a physics professor. I have a BA in political science from Harvard and a law degree from Yale. Oh and I play a pretty mean game of racquetball"
"And what is it you do at the White House?" Rick persisted
"What do I do?" They weren't serious were they? This was a test of some sort and if he couldn't find a way to say, "I counsel the President" without sounding pretentious he was going to fail
"Dylan you need more juice." Stacy declared darting into the kitchen.
"What's your job in the White House?" Rick wasn't giving up.
"Rick do you ever watch the news?" Donna came in at this point. Josh breathed a sigh of relief. "He's the Deputy Chief of Staff."
"Which means what?"
"It means he runs the place." Donna glared at her brother. She focused on Josh, "Is that Cap'n Crunch?"
"Maybe," he hedged
"Did you leave me any?"
"In the kitchen. Sit, I'll get you a bowl." He practically leapt from his chair.
As he entered the kitchen, Stacy was bent over double, a hand braced on the counter, laughing. She turned as he came in.
"Sorry, Josh, really." She straightened up. "It's just your face, trying to explain that you help run the country to a man whose realm of consideration barely extends to Kenosha"
"So someone knows who I am."
"Oh Joanne probably does too, she'll just let you suffer for the sake of it. Her marriage is a bit of a mess; Rob did not 'live up to his full potential'. They're not hicks, Josh, but honestly this is Middle America. They all know who Bartlett is, they can name Secretary of State, the Surgeon General, the Wisconsin Senators but they don't really care who the White House aides are."
"Their sister works in the White House" Josh countered a tad testily. "Don't they take an interest?"
"I don't think they think it's a permanent arrangement, " Stacy said off-handedly as she poured herself another cup of coffee and offered him one. "If it makes you feel any better, we've all been through it. Apparently Rick called Kevin "Smoky da Bear" for a year and a half when Betsy first brought him home. And Joanne was merciless to Roz, who worked for her father doing something benign 'til she married Rick. Jo never misses an oppourtunity to make poor Roz feel dumb."
"What about you? What did you go through?"
"Well it took a long time to make clear that the San Francisco Chronicle is not a little local paper you get for free in coffee shops."
"You're a reporter?" Josh choked on the sip of coffee he'd just taken.
"A sportswriter. That's how I met Pete. I'm with the Trib. now, of course but my column gets run in the Post sometimes, under my maiden name. S. Katerny? 'Skat's Stats'?"
"Yeah I've seen it."
"You okay Josh? You look a little pale."
"Josh, are you bringing that cereal from Borneo?' Donna came in "What's wrong?"
"Stacy was just telling me about her column that sometimes runs in the Post." Josh growled, his jaw clenching
"I forgot you're a reporter." Donna said softly to Stacy
"The list of things you forgot or omitted is getting a little long Donna."
"I'm sorry Josh. I told you this was going to be-"
"Hang on guys" Stacy interrupted "I know that this is, by its nature, going to be a pretty stressful weekend for you two, so before I contribute to it, let me just say this. I write sports. I read the Op/Ed and political pages but I never wanted to write them. I'm not about to start with a story about two White House staffers getting married. Nor" she held up her hand, as Josh was about to speak, "am I planning on giving it to anyone else. You guys are family, not news."
"Thanks Stacy," said Donna
"Yeah thanks " Josh nodded
"Its okay." Stacy headed for the door but paused to whisper to Donna: "He's cute but he's wound a little tight."
"That's basically what you get in D.C." Donna shrugged
"Don't worry. Pete'll shake him loose."
"Don't look at me, Donna. Snowbowl's a sacred thing. You know that." She winked at them and returned to the family
"Josh. I'm sorry. I even read Stacy's column yesterday. I just don't think of her in terms of what we do."
"No I'm sorry I shouldn't have snapped at you. I signed on for the full package deal, floor, football, family. I just had a vision of telling Leo, well you know."
"Yeah I know."
"She can be trusted, right?"
"Stacy? Yeah I'm pretty sure."
"Yo Joshua. It's time for Snowbowl!" Pete called out
"You don't have to do this." Donna pleaded
"No way, Donnatella. I'm not having them say you brought home a guy who didn't have the right stuff; who couldn't step up to the plate, er, line. I've heard the tone they all use when they talk about Rob, well no-one's gonna talk about Josh Lyman that way." He poked his chest with his index finger
"Actually when we don't get married, that's exactly how they're going to talk about you."
"We'll cross that bridge when we get there. For now, I am ready!"
Josh barged out of the kitchen
"Okay Pete bring it on!"
The pass Pete fired at him hit him right in the numbers and almost knocked the wind out of him. Fortunately he was saved from having to make immediate comment by Berti's command to "Take it outside."