Disclaimers in PT 1

SNOWBOWL cont

By the Bondi Gargoyle

"Forget elementary school" he growled "Lady I'm going to show you what I learned at Yale."

Dec 3rd

11:18 am EST

"Leo?"

"Josh. How're the football injuries?"

"Healing. Look Leo I've got this thing."

"Here we go again. What sort of thing?"

Josh crossed his arms protectively "An 'I want to marry my assistant' sort of thing."

"I thought this engagement was supposed to be four days long"

"Change of plans."

"Uh-huh" Leo sat down on his office couch "You'd better have a seat."

"I was afraid of that" Josh muttered

"What if I were to tell you if you choose to pursue this, Donna's going to have to resign?"

"No."

"Josh"

"No. You know damn well its all going to fall apart without Donna."

"By 'all ' you mean you."

"Yeah basically."

"Son, you can't have your cake and eat it too."

"Leo, you didn't make me resign over the my meltdown last year and the President didn't let you resign when Lillienfield was head hunting. Why should Donna have to resign because she's-"

"Misguided enough to fall in love with you" Leo finished dryly "I mean I presume, you wouldn't be throwing yourself upon my mercy if this weren't a two way street."

"What makes you think I 'm throwing myself on your mercy?"

"Aren't you?"

"You're going to make me grovel for this." Josh glared at him

"It'll help curry my favour"

"Then will you please help me find a solution?" Josh begged with sincerity

Leo sat back and studied his junior. The fact was, regardless of what he had said to the President, he'd considered this conversation as inevitable. In truth, Leo had no appetite for splitting them up. Apart for his fondness for them both, he wasn't sure any of the other assistants would put up with Josh, let alone steer him as subtly as Donna did. Nor was Leo about to risk putting Donna with someone who couldn't get past her idiosyncrasies to see her inner strength and talent.

Josh shifted a little uncomfortably under Leo's scrutiny and tried not to let his imagination revisit the previous night.

"How much has happened already?"

"Leo."

"I'm not the National Enquirer Josh, I'm not about to publicize your private life but you know how the game is played. You either talk to me, now, or we forget it."

"We've kissed."

"Where?"

"On the lips."

"You're going to play dumb? Is that your strategy?"

"We were standing, fully clothed, in her old room in her parents house. Also we slept together, literally, for a couple of nights. I was wearing boxers and a T-shirt; she was wearing her brother's old sweats. Okay, is that what you were looking for?"

"And?"

"And nothing. We slept."

"Who knows?"

"You, me, Donna and her family."

"How extensive was this family gathering; cousins, aunts, uncles?"

"Brothers, sisters, spouses."

"Any danger points?"

" Maybe the older sister and her soon to be ex-husband. One sister-in-law is a sportswriter from the Chicago Trib. but she's given us her word she'll keep the secret"

Leo sat back in his chair and contemplated the situation. "Get through the re-election campaign," he said finally.

"What do you mean 'get through'?"

"I mean you wait 'til after the election to have any kind of physical relationship."

"You're saying we can't have sex again for almost a year?"

"I'm saying you can't have sex with Donna 'til this administration is in its second term." And then Leo caught it "What do you mean 'again'?"

"Leo."

" Josh what do you mean 'again'."

"Last night and that's all I'm saying on the subject"

"Believe me" Leo held up his hand "On that topic that's all I'm asking."

"On that topic?"

"Josh do you want to work for Jed Bartlet for another five years?"

"Yes."

"Then you know what it takes."

The problem was Josh knew exactly what Leo was telling him and if it had been anyone else he would have said the same thing. He tried one last tack

"You do realize I'm in love with Donna right? I'm not talking about a fling. This isn't like Sam and the call-girl thing"

"Unfortunately Josh, in the eyes of some, its going to be pretty close"

"Hey!"

"I think you know me well enough to know I am not casting aspersions on Donna's character. But when some tight-assed Senator with an axe to grind starts shouting about taxpayers' money and hotel rooms I want you to have an iron clad, shiny clean record.

Take it from this angle. Donna's good at her job right, you haven't kept her on the payroll for the last four years out of pent-up sexual desire have you?"

"Okay I'm leaving " Josh got up

"No you're not. You're going to sit back down and talk this out with me"

Josh looked at the door and sat back down.

"Do you want someone pointing fingers at Donna and saying she slept her way to the West Wing."

"Of course not."

"You are perceived as a man of great power and influence." Leo said calmly "Of course they don't know you like we do" he added

Josh managed a rueful smile

"Leo, doesn't our record together speak for itself. We've worked together all this time without being involved."

"And to me that's enough but it shouldn't be me you're worried about"

"Who should I be worried about?"

"You should be worried about the election. You should be worried about the press, you should be worried about the Republicans, you should be worried about anyone you've had to reprimand since you started this job"

"They're not going to go away after the election. We live with the wolves at the door every day. I take it we're both assuming the President will win, so how is any of this going to change come the second term."

"From how it is right now, today? It won't. But from how it'll be in the middle of an election, well that's a whole different story. Come on Josh, think, not with your heart but with that great big brain we pay you for. If the wolf is at the gate right now, in the middle of the election, they'll be in your living room. Today, you and Donna, its not even news to the Post, and even in Peoria, its barely a column inch in the middle section. In the midst of the election, it's an expose on improprieties in the Bartlet White House. Never mind that you're both adults, in a relationship with each other, there's a Congressional investigation into sexual harassment, and then suddenly, because someone who has access to your personnel file had a crush on you and now feels snubbed, your episode of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is front page news."

"All of that could still happen"

"True enough. And with regards to the last part what I said last Christmas, holds true. Your job is safe. But if it all hits at once, and we're trying to protect the President, to put a good man back in office, then what?"

"Then I'd resign."

"And I don't want to lose you. I need you here. The President needs you here. And you need Donna here." Leo paused "If heaven forbid it happens, we'll deal with it and don't doubt for a minute that I will go to bat for you with every resource available. But Josh, why hand them the match in the first place?"

Josh got up and paced a small trail in front of the coffee table Leo watched him sympathetically

"I understand what I'm asking of you but I'm not banishing her to the Outer Hebrides. Talk to her, laugh with her, enjoy her company, take care of her, let her take care of you. You just can't sleep with her."

"What about kissing, hugging, hand holding?"

"Not on government property, not in public and not anywhere you plan to be for more than five minutes."

"You've eliminated most of the known world."

"Really? Which part did I miss?"

"So theoretically, if I were to, for example, give her a lift home. I could see her up to her apartment and kiss her good night, inside, as long as I was back at my car in five minutes so that the theoretical reporter who is theoretically following me around Washington, wouldn't suspect anything amiss or untoward."

"That's fine."

"Okay." Josh said more to himself than Leo. "I can probably manage to have sex in under five minutes." He glanced at his watch as if calculating

"I don't doubt it, Son but man to man it's not a great way to sell your talent." Leo regarded him with great amusement

Josh blushed and glared simultaneously "Point taken."

"A year Josh, priests give it up for life."

"Which is yet another reason why I'm Jewish."

"Oh and you can tell her you love her, same rules as above but you put it in writing and the next thing you sign will be your resignation."

"There are going to be trips, Leo. Especially with the re-election, we're going to be all over the country."

"What are you asking for?"

"I'm not asking for anything. But you know previously, well we've been in and out of each other's hotel rooms, going over paperwork, making calls, eating. I guess I'm asking if you expect me to start second guessing my every contact with her?"

"If you play by my rules, no. Josh if you were to be hauled before a Senate subcommittee, I want you to be able answer the questions without there being a danger of putting yourself in contempt. Take for example the trip to Houston last month. I, Senator Montgomery, might ask you if you shared a hotel room with your assistant"

"No. We always have our own rooms." Josh fell easily into the mock question and answer style they often used to in prep.

"But Miss Moss did spend a great deal of time in your room. In fact we have several room service receipts showing meals for two people delivered to your room. Or are you just a growing boy, Mr. Lyman?"

"Well Senator, we used my room as an office. We were there working at several different times during the day and evening."

"Did you sleep in your own room?"

"Is he allowed to ask me that question?"

"Josh the public want to make sure their taxes aren't paying for your romantic getaways. I believe the Senator asked you a question"

"Yes Senator."

"Did Miss Moss? "

"No Senator. She slept in her own room, she also changed her clothes in her own room, and if she showered which I presume she did at some point over the thirty hours, it was in her own room. That's why she has her own room."

"And they wouldn't find any evidence to the contrary because there isn't any, and there won't be, will there?"

"Are you still Montgomery or can I go back to calling you Leo?"

"It's a lousy deal Josh but it's the best I can offer."

"Okay you win" Josh turned to the door then stopped "Leo there is one more thing. I gave her my grandmother's ring. I'd really like her to be able to wear it. It would mean a lot to me "

"On her right hand." Leo conceded " And when you feel ready I think we should tell the staff, keep you two lower on the gossip radar."

"Okay, but where do I send the requisition to have a cold shower installed in my office."

"The White House is a publicly owned building I think to perform alterations you have to get Congressional approval " Leo teased him

"One of these days, McGarry"

"Yeah yeah. Oh before you go," Leo crossed to Josh and pulled him into a hug "Congratulations!"

"So you're alright with this?" Josh looked a little confused as the older man stepped back.

"Me, Leo? Not the Chief of Staff?"

"Yeah."

"I couldn't be happier."

A slow smile spread across Josh's face

"Thanks. We won't let you down"

"I know. I trust you Josh; you wouldn't be here if I didn't. And just a warning, the President is going to take credit for the idea."

"For McGarry's rules of modern courtship?"

"No that's mine alone. No in the years to come, he's going to tell all who will listen how he brought you and Donna together"

"I see."

"Humour him., he's the President"

1:07pm EST

"Donna!" Josh bellowed from his chair

"Some things never change" she muttered "Yes Josh?"

"Come in, shut the door."

She complied. "You talked to Leo?"

"Yup. Let me ask you something. Did you enjoy last night?"

"Did I enjoy...? You mean... us?" She colored.

"Yeah, us."

"It wasn't a bad way to kill a Sunday evening given that Masterpiece Theatre was a repeat."

"Toby'll be pleased to hear you support Public Television. And I'm pleased you liked it, for many reasons but the most pertinent being it'll have to last you a year."

"Excuse me?"

Josh laid out the terms and reasonings behind Leo's deal

"Am I allowed to date other people while you're chained to Leo's desk?"

"Oh you're hilarious."

"I think it's a valid question. I'm a woman in her peak sexual years."

"For the love of all things holy please don't continue with that thought."

"So my dating?"

"Yeah Donna, you can date the Trans Sec"

"Too late, he's started dating Margaret."

"I somehow think its better if I pretend you never told me that." Josh said trying to fight the mental image that had forced its way into his brain. "So Leo's deal?"

"I can live with it." Donna said gently "In fact, Josh as busy as its going to get with the election it... well this way no-one will get their feelings hurt if we aren't putting enough energy into the relationship. And in the meantime I know how you feel." She held up her right hand.

Josh stared at her. "You didn't just switch hands did you " he stated rather than asked

"No I put it on my right hand this morning. I wanted to wear it and it's easier to explain this way."

"You didn't see Leo this morning by any chance did you?"

"As he was coming in."

"Did he ask you about it?"

"He said 'nice ring' and I said 'thank you' "

"He knew." Josh realized, laughing "He 's been figuring this out all morning."

"Josh, I think he knew before that. As he was walking away he said 'Its about time'"

Josh shook his head "Typical."

"Speaking of time..." she took a small flat box from her blazer and put it on the desk "An engagement present"

He opened it carefully and took out the watch that lay inside. It was a Swiss-made chronograph. Its dials were gold, like the band, against a midnight blue face.

"Donna, it's beautiful." Josh declared, touched. He looked up at her before proceeding cautiously "But you can't afford-"

She shook her head "I didn't buy it. It was Dad's. He gave it to me before we left yesterday. He thought I might want to give it to you. Its yet another family tradition."

"Thank you." Josh started to set the watch to the one on his wrist. Donna pointedly held her own forward. Josh's watch was at always at least fifteen minutes out of sync. As he finished an unpleasant thought suddenly hit the Deputy Chief of Staff.

"I can't keep it."

"Josh."

"No believe me Donna I want to, but the annual financial disclosure. How do I explain this?"

"Don't include it"

"I have to."

"Not if it's a loan."

"A loan?"

"A semi –permanent loan. In the vague hope you might be on time for something once during this administration."

"How semi-permanent?"

"Until our daughter meets some guy who means as much to her as you do to her mother."

When questioned later Josh would admit that while Donna regularly put him at a loss for words, never before that moment had she, or anyone else, rendered him entirely speechless.

He sat back in his chair totally silent, the emotion clearly visible on his face. Several times he tried to speak but his vocal chords seemed to be on vacation.

Donna watched at him with loving amusement

"Its okay Josh, you're not allowed to say it on government property anyway."

He nodded.

"I've got work to do." She pointed toward her desk. "So I'll get back to it."

As she reached the door, he regained the power of speech.

"Donna!" he croaked, then swallowed and began again in a close approximation of his normal voice. "Donna."

She paused, her back to him

"Yes Josh."

"You'll still tell me... when I'm about to be... late won't you?"

Donna smiled to herself "Yes Josh" She opened the door "Just because you've got a functioning watch doesn't mean you can tell time."

She disappeared into the bullpen

"Donna!" he hollered after her.

"What Josh?" she re-appeared in the doorway looking more annoyed than she felt

"Can you call Leo? Tell him... tell him I'm ready to give the President due credit at senior staff tomorrow. He'll know what it means."

"Okay. Oh I put Age of Empires back on your computer. Let me know when you conquer Europe."

Josh Lyman sat back in his chair. For a moment he just watched the seconds tick by on his watch. Smiling to himself he turned to his computer. He was reaching for the mouse when Donna re-appeared

"Admiral Fitzwallis is on line five and Senator Jordan wants to see you here at around two."

"About the thing?"

"He was unspecific but that was my sense."

"Can you pull the file on –"

It landed on his desk

"Great and let Sam and Toby know its going down."

"Will do." She pointed at the phone

"Admiral. Sorry to keep you waiting, I've got the report right here."

From the corridor, Leo observed the two members of his staff "Okay Jed" he said smiling to himself. "You can have this one. Lets just not start a trend, " and he headed toward the Oval Office.

 

The End

 

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