Disclaimer: Heck I wish they were mine. But alas they're not though I lay claim to Jill Caprisi and I suppose to Bryan Kitler. References up to and including any and all of both seasons but no major spoilers past the end of Season 1. It will however make more sense if you read the previous stories in this sequence first. "As You Wish", What You Will" and "World Enough and Time" Thanks as always for your patronage and feedback. –B.G.

Fifteen-Love Part 1

By The Bondi Gargoyle

"All right, Gentlemen, you're done" Jed Bartlet nodded

"Thank you Mr. President" Leo and Josh replied in unison, rising stiffly to their feet.

Once they were safely outside the Oval Office, Josh glanced at his watch and groaned.

"How long 'til we have to be back?" Leo asked

"Do you really want to know?"

Leo shook his head "You sent Donna home already, right?"

"Yeah. Margaret?"

"Hours ago. It's tempting" Leo said as they stood in the hallway, "to just sleep in my office"

"You have a couch," Josh pointed out "I have to choose between my desk and my bookshelf. Which leads me to once again state that we need to revisit how I got stuck with the worst office of the all the senior staff"

"Right now?" Leo demanded

"No," Josh answered emphatically "Not right now."

"Go home, Josh" Leo patted his shoulder "You did good."

"Thanks Leo."

Josh stumbled back to his office, gathered his things, and wandered to the door on autopilot.

"You want a cab, Mr. Lyman?"

He paused and turned around. The night guard, Gil was looking at him expectantly "You want a cab?"

"I've got my car."

"You sure? Cab'll be here in two minutes"

Josh nodded and put his keys away "Call me a cab"

He half expected Gil to say "Okay you're a cab" but thankfully the man simply dialed the number. True to his word the cab arrived in two minutes. It was just as well, Josh reasoned, since he fell asleep on the short drive home.

"Hey Rip Van Winkle!" The driver reached back and shook him. "You're home."

"Thanks" Josh handed him some money "Keep the change."

Based on the man's grin he suspected it was a bigger tip than he would have offered if he'd been awake.

"What are you, Secretary of the Treasury?" the man asked him.

"No, he's home in bed," Josh grumbled. "I am but a lowly servant of the people."

"Ain't we all!" The cab disappeared into the night and Josh dragged himself up the front steps and then the interior stairway to his apartment.

The last few steps inside were almost the hardest. He dropped his bag from his shoulder to the floor and wandered into the kitchen, rattling around the fridge for a beer. He cracked it open, tossed the cap in the general vicinity of the sink and launched himself toward the couch. He knew he should get to bed, but he wanted a few minutes to himself to decompress otherwise he was going to dream about insurance deregulation. As he stretched out his leg his foot hit something under the coffee table. He nudged it back toward himself and picked it up. It was a shoe, a woman's shoe. To be perfectly accurate, Donna's shoe. He supposed she had left it earlier in the week. Monday night, at his suggestion, she had grabbed a pile of clothes for the week and hung them in the corner of his closet. From there they had slowly migrated to a small pile of laundry on the chair in his bedroom. Not that Josh minded; he liked having her things around him. He liked having her around him even more, however, and felt suddenly very bereft of her presence. Taking the shoe and his beer he wandered toward the bedroom to catch a few hours of sleep. Reaching for the light switch, he stopped himself just in time. The streetlight outside his window cast a faint glow across the room and glinted on her blond hair.

"Donna?" he mouthed. "Stupid question," he told then himself. "Are their other women who are going to end up in your bed?"

She was fast asleep, wearing one of his Redskins T-shirts, one hand stretched out to his side of the bed. Josh lowered himself onto the chair, belatedly thinking that he should have moved her clothes but making no attempt to rectify it. He was quite frankly awe-struck. He had gotten used to Donna being in his bed. In fact he was surprised at how quickly he had gotten used to it, but he had always been in it with her.

Josh took another swallow of beer and studied her. It wasn't the first time he had watched her sleep. He wasn't sure if she was aware of that fact, though he knew she did the same thing in the mornings. He also supposed, since she had no comparisons, that she didn't know that he had started sleeping better since she had begun sharing his bed. He'd always found it difficult to shut his brain down at night and stop thinking long enough to relax. It used to irritate Mandy to no end. She was a light sleeper and she complained that his 'thrashing' as he tried to settle himself woke her back up. Donna was a heavy sleeper and Josh doubted that she'd complain anyway but he found that his insomnia seemed to have abated. After she had fallen asleep, Josh would lie in the dark, holding her close, listening to her breathe. And it seemed to him that the world would fold in on itself. There was no White House, no Capitol Hill, no Washington D.C. All that existed were the four walls around him, the warm bed, and this woman; and the next thing he knew it would be morning.

He glanced out the window and noticed that the far corner of the sky was beginning to lighten. He should get into bed; he should get to sleep. And yet he wasn't quite ready. He wasn't ready to let go of the vision of her in his bed, lest it was just a vision. He stood and moved closer, fighting an urge to touch her and make sure she was real, lest he wake her up. When he had sent her home, he told her that in all likelihood he'd be at the White House all night. The decision the President was struggling with was not an easy one and he wanted Josh and Leo at his side for as long as it took. Donna had nodded, given him a sympathetic look and said something about bringing him a fresh shirt, but by then Leo was calling him back into the Oval Office to answer a question. He knew that she wouldn't mind. She was able to dismiss his distractedness at work as being about work and not the state of their relationship. He had assumed that she would go back to her own place, he saw no reason to expect otherwise. Why would she spend the night alone in his apartment? And yet here she was. He swayed slightly and realized his body was starting to rebel. He should get into bed before he passed out. If Donna woke up and found him asleep on the floor he'd never hear the end of it. Quietly he stripped down to his boxers and pulled back the covers on his side of the bed. He lifted her arm to slide under it and in doing so she woke.

"Josh?" she murmured

"Yeah Honey, it's me" He kissed her forehead gently, wondering when he'd stared talking like a Fifties sitcom.

"Timezit?"

"It's late; or early. Go back to sleep."

" 'Kay" she pressed her self up against him and was instantly asleep again.

Josh kissed her once more, pulled her closer and then he too lost consciousness

When Josh woke up, he was fighting the morning more than usual. As the alarm broke into his three hours of sleep he swatted at it, trying to pry it off the nightstand. (Donna had glued it down months before, when, instead of throwing his clock as he usually did at the wall or the floor, he'd flipped it over his shoulder and broken a window).

"Come on, Babe, I know you don't want to get up but I'm afraid you have to."

The small part of his brain already functioning registered that someone was rubbing his back, that he could smell coffee and that he had just been called 'Babe'.

He rolled over. Donna was sitting on the edge of the bed. She had obviously been awake for a while because she was fully dressed, her hair still damp from the shower.

"Did you just call me 'Babe'?"

"Hey you called me 'Honey' last night," she smiled.

"You heard that huh?" he muttered.

"Come on, you really do have to get up, I reset the alarm to let you sleep a little more but if you don't get into the shower now, you'll be late for morning staff." She held up a cup "Here"

"What's that?"

"Coffee"

He pulled away from it.

"Josh, it's coffee not hemlock"

"What do you know that I don't?"

"A heck of a lot, but none of it from Leo. Are you expecting to get fired?" she put the cup in his hands and stood so he could swing his legs out of bed.

"Always, especially when you bring me coffee"

"We're not at work right now, the rules are a little different at home."

"Are they?"

"Have you ever seen me naked at work?" she asked pointedly.

"'Kay now I'm awake," Josh announced

Donna nodded "I thought that would work. Go get in the shower"

"Are you coming with me?"

"No."

"You're going to make a statement like that, conjure up all kinds of images-"

"Amongst other things"

"Exactly." He advanced on her

"Stay over there," Donna ordered, backing up.

"Why?" He continued to move forward.

"Because you look particularly desirable when you've just woken up" she admitted reaching the door "And because you really don't want to explain why we're both late to Leo." She turned and fled.

Josh laughed somewhat regretfully and went to shower.

His shirt, tie and suit were laid out on the bed when he returned. He dressed with the rapid efficiency known only to politicians, reporters and firefighters.

"Donna, are you still here?" he called out as he pulled on his shoes.

"Uh-huh, I'm going to drive in with you today," she replied.

He walked out, jacket under his arm, tie undone but otherwise complete. Donna was leaning on the kitchen counter, eating a piece of toast and perusing the Post.

"You want some?" she held up the half-eaten slice

"I'm not awake enough to be hungry, I'll grab something at work." He leaned over and kissed her, tasting jam on her lips.

"Strawberry?"

"Raspberry"

"Ah. By the way if you think you're getting away scot-free for that little game this morning you've got another thing coming"

"I brought you coffee," she protested.

"Different arena entirely," Josh shook his head.

"Did you shave?" Donna asked, dragging her knuckles across the light stubble on his jaw.

"I'll shave in the car. How come you're driving in with me? Not that I mind."

"Actually you're driving in with me, though we can take the Saab if you want."

"You think you're driving my Saab?"

"Right Josh, 'cause despite the fact that you've barely slept three hours and you plan to shave on the way there, you're a far superior driver. You know that NOW meeting you want CJ to get you out of, I'm telling her to forget it."

"You still can't drive my car."

"Why not?" Donna demanded, her glare suggesting that she was falling out of love with him by the second

" 'Cause it's at work. I was too tired to drive last night, so I took a taxi. Guess we're taking your car."

"One of these days, Alice!" She did a passable imitation of Ralph Kramden as they headed out the door.

"What did the President decide?" Donna asked as she stopped at a light.

"What would you think about me growing a beard? Josh asked not listening as he ran the electric razor over his face.

"Oh yeah there's a good idea"

"No? What about a moustache?"

"Please tell me this is the sleep deprivation talking."

"You don't think it would make me look distinguished?"

"I think it would make you look even more unkempt than you usually do. What did the President decide?"

"I'll have you know I am regularly complemented on my grooming and style."

"Josh! What did the President decide?"

"Oh he's going to veto it" Josh grumbled

Donna glanced over at him "You must be pleased"

"Yeah I'm just thrilled. I love staying up with the President 'til three am only to have him ignore me."

"You're pleased" Donna repeated unswayed "You disliked that bill from the get-go and all the while that you were laying out the political ramifications you were hoping he'd veto it."

She was right of course but Josh wasn't about to admit that without a fight

"What makes you so sure?"

"Because you got Jed Bartlet elected, not John Hoynes. When you and Leo go into one of those meetings you tell him what he needs to hear in terms of consequences but you want him to go the other way. You just want him to get there on his own."

"Okay" Josh conceded, secretly pleased that she understood him so well. "You're right, I'd rather earn my keep protecting him from the fall out than have an easy week because he signed it."

 

They went through their normal morning rituals, including Josh walking into Senior Staff exactly one step ahead of the President.

"Cutting it a little fine there these days, Bucko" Jed Bartlet commented his eyes twinkling.

For an instant Josh thought the President knew, though that seemed unlikely. The only person who knew was Sam, wasn't it? In fact Donna had been arguing that they needed to tell Leo soon, before they slipped and got caught by someone else and he heard it from another source. Nevertheless the President shot him a look that suggested it was readily apparent. Josh resolved that the time for 'the talk' with his boss had arrived.

"Have you seen Josh?" CJ asked Donna later that afternoon.

"Yea tall, ego the size of the Chrysler building, had his shirt mis-buttoned for most of the morning?" Donna clarified

"That would be him."

"He's over at the Justice Department meeting with Jeff Breckinridge."

"On the Catalano thing?"

"He didn't say but I think so."

CJ nodded and seemed to be eyeing Donna

"Nice day out" she commented conversationally

"It is." Donna finished at the filing cabinet and headed back to her desk, CJ trailing her.

"Feel like coming for a walk?" CJ queried

"What bombshell are you about to drop on me this time?" Donna demanded remembering their last jaunt to the mall

"Nothing. A simple walk, that's all I'm saying. A chance to breathe air that is not re-cycled, to stock up on Vitamin D, to commune with what passes for wildlife in this city"

"Souvenir salesmen, exhausted tourists and over-fed squirrels?

"Come on, I've got a hankering for a sno-cone from the guy by the Smithsonian Carousel."

"Oh fine"

They chatted about inconsequential things until after they'd bought their sno-cones and were walking back

"That's a nice color on you, Donna." CJ observed tugging gently on the lavender blue broadcloth of her friend's sleeve.

"Thanks"

"Whose shirt is it?"

Donna almost choked on the bite of grape-syrup drenched ice she had just put in her mouth.

"What makes you think it's not mine?"

"For a start, it's a man's shirt. Brooks Brothers isn't it?"

"Brooks Brothers makes women's shirts too."

"But the buttons are on the side for a man. You shouldn't have pointed out that Josh mis-buttoned his shirt this morning or I wouldn't have noticed."

"So this was all an elaborate ruse?"

"No," CJ laughed. "I really did want a sno-cone. Whose shirt is it?"

"Take a guess"

"You slept at his place last night?" CJ queried scrutinizing Donna's reaction.

Donna weighed her answer carefully but figured that as CJ Cregg PI had noticed which side her shirt buttoned on then it was pretty inevitable that she had or would figure everything else out.

"I've slept at his place every night this week," Donna admitted.

CJ stopped walking "Starting when?"

"Last Friday night. After Josh talked to you and Sam, he and I talked, which led to... other things."

"I've been extra nice to him all week because of that conversation he had with Sam and me."

"Yeah so have I but I don't think we're talking about the same thing" Donna chuckled.

"You two made up last Friday night?"

"Yeah. What made you think we hadn't?"

"You both seemed kind of edgy on Monday"

"We were worried that everyone was going to figure it out and there was still the problem of what Leo was going to say."

"So who did figure it out?"

"Just Sam and I think that was because Josh did everything short of putting up a billboard. Personally, I thought you'd have guessed"

"It's been a tough week, I've been distracted. What did Leo say?"

"We haven't told him yet."

"Donna!"

"It's been a tough week, we've been distracted."

"Isn't it a bit of a risk then, wearing Josh's shirt to work?"

"It's not like it's monogrammed. I ran out of clean blouses."

"You slept at his place last night?" CJ repeated

"Uh-huh"

"Weren't Josh and Leo up all night with the President?"

"Pretty much."

"You're sleeping in his apartment, alone."

"No he eventually got home, at some ungodly hour this morning"

"You're wearing his clothing"

"CJ"

"You've got it bad." CJ shook her head

"I do not."

"What would you call it?"

Donna thought about it

"Alright fine, I'm hopelessly in love with the architect of the President's secret plan to fight inflation. Happy?"

"Yes, actually" CJ smiled.

"Where have you been?" Josh asked as Donna walked into his office and shut the door.

"CJ and I walked down to the mall for a sno-cone. You need to go see Leo, ASAP."

"Why, is there a national security risk involving sno-cones?"

"Yeah, Josh, we've discovered that global warming is in fact an alien plot to deny the world of popsicles. Look, I'm wearing your shirt."

Josh stared at her "Yes you are. How did I miss that fact?"

"No sleep."

"Right, which I don't think can be blamed for the fact that you're still not making any sense"

"I put your shirt on today because I didn't go back to my apartment last night and I figured I could put on one from my gym locker once I got to work. Only I don't have a clean shirt in my gym locker because Sam accidentally sprayed me with ink last week. So I've had to keep your shirt on all day."

"You're spending too much time with Margaret."

"CJ figured out that it was your shirt, which means Ginger, Bonnie and more importantly Margaret can't be far behind"

"Which is why I need to go see Leo?"

"Yes."

"So I've had three hours sleep. I've got to start working out a strategy for dealing with this veto. The Catalano thing is this close to blowing up in our faces. And now I've got to go tell Leo that you and I are sleeping together and pray that he agrees with your interpretation of FEWSA?"

"Mine and Ainsley's"

"Right"

"If I thought it was safe to put it off-"

"I was going to go see him anyway." Josh smiled, waving away her protest. "I think the President knows."

"How would the President know?"

"Damned if I can figure it out. It's just this look he shot me this morning. It's like he knows. So I'd already decided that this is D-day even before you came in with the alien sno-cone conspiracy "

"Want me to come with you?" she asked gently

Josh shook his head "This is something to be done amongst men"

"What exactly are you planning to tell Leo?"

"Not that!"

"Well you're the one talking like Earnest Hemmingway."

"If you come, Leo's going to think I brought you so that he'd yell less. So he'll just wait until you leave then he'll yell more."

"You're absolutely sure he's going to yell?"

"Yeah if only for the principal of the thing."

"Then good luck, I guess"

"You guess?"

"I don't know. Is that the right thing to say?"

"I'm not sure. Does Miss Manners have a section on this?"

"I seriously doubt it"

"I'll see you in a while" he squeezed her shoulder as he walked past her.

"Come home carrying your shield or on it," Donna called after him.

"Closer," his voice drifted back.

As he stood in front of Leo's office, he mumbled "I can't believe I'm about to tell my boss I'm sleeping with my assistant" to himself just as Leo opened the door

"When did you start talking to yourself?" Leo asked, giving him an odd look

"When did I stop?"

"CJ get asked about the bill?"

"Not yet," Josh followed Leo back into the office "She'll make a statement in about an hour"

"She knows what to say?"

" 'If the Republican leadership are under the delusion they can hold this administration hostage etceteras etceteras' It's CJ, she's got it all under control."

"How'd she do on OPEC?"

"How'd we do on OPEC, she's only as good as the material we give her."

"True enough. Did you want to see me about something?"

"Kind of, is this an okay time?"

"Is it ever?"

"My point exactly," Josh muttered "Last week the thing with Bryan Kitler-"

"Has he been bothering her?" Leo spun around " 'Cause I'll call up some old Air Force buddies who were Rangers..."

"Whoa, Leo. No it's not Kitler, it's me. It's about my over-reaction."

"Josh if you've got the Secret Service tailing her, I really am going to call some old buddies."

"No, I found a simpler way of getting Donna to stop dating D.C.'s least eligible bachelors."

"What's that?" Leo was quickly losing interest. He'd put on his glasses and

was scanning a report.

Josh took a deep breath; it was all he could do not to close his eyes. "I told her I loved her"

Leo took off his glasses and tossed them on the desk. "Josh I know you want to protect Donna, want to keep her away from bastards like Bryan Kitler but messing with her head -"

"No Leo, I mean I admitted that I love her. And she loves me back " Josh added hopefully

Leo stared at him. "Is some kind of a joke?"

Josh shook his head.

"I can ask that again, if you want to change your answer."

"Leo this wasn't-"

"Hang on."

Leo crossed to the door that separated his office from Margaret's. He pulled it open and she stumbled in.

"Did you call me?" Margaret hedged

"Do I need to?" He pointed at Josh "What do you know about this?" he asked his personal assistant

Margaret shook her head "Nothing"

Leo looked mildly surprised "Donna hasn't told you anything?"

"Nope"

Leo glared at Josh "I thought after this week I might get one, you know, slow day before we go into spin mode on the fallout from the veto. Now I've got to restructure the entire office." He sighed. " Margaret who's willing to work with him?"

"Donna."

"Besides Donna."

"Bonnie."

"And?"

"Me?"

"You're not going anywhere. Who else?"

Margaret was silent

"Well we can't put Donna with Toby, they'll come to blows by sunset. What if we put Donna with CJ?"

Margaret nodded, her face creased with concentration "Yeah that'd work. But where are you going to put Carol?"

"With Toby?"

"Carol can't spell."

"Which in Toby's mind is grounds for justifiable homicide. If we put Carol with Sam and Ginger concentrated on Toby..."

"The thing about Ginger and Toby..." Margaret began cautiously

"How about we just leave everything at status quo?" Josh suggested watching them with some amusement.

Leo crossed to his bookshelf and pulled down a hefty volume which Josh knew was one of two volumes which contained the Federal Employees Workplace Standards Act

"Catch" Leo tossed the book with more agility than Josh thought his boss had. The same couldn't be said of Josh's catch. The book slipped through his hands and landed on his foot.

"Don't think you're going to get that football scholarship, Son. I'd tell you to hit the books if you weren't such A COMPLETE IMBECILE!"

"Feel better?" Josh asked picking up the book and skimming for the article and section that he knew they were about to discuss.

"Marginally. Margaret, you can go back to whatever you were doing before you started listening at my door."

"Yeah what did you do before the campaign?" Josh laughed, falling silent as Leo glared at him.

Josh found the page and set the book on the desk "Article seven, Section two"

"That didn't take you long. Can I assume that you're familiar with it?"

"Leo I assure you that this was not something I entered into lightly. I 've been over this in my head a zillion times."

"And yet you still ended up here. Been looking at too many lugwrenchs?"

"Interesting that whenever I screw up we eventually end up talking about Mary Marsh."

"I though John Van Dyke said that"

"Actually Toby said it but it was in the presence of that woman"

"What are you doing Josh?"

"What was I supposed to do, wait eight years?"

"According to this book, yes you were. It's there in black and white."

"It's also an Act of Congress"

"And your point is?"

"We're not legally bound by it, it's a guideline."

"Which is really the message we wanted to flash around by having the Deputy Chief of Staff ignore it"

"I never considered that angle"

"I'll bet. Josh ultimately it's not you that I'm worried about. I know you're not about to sexually harass Donna but if gets out that this thing is open to interpretation, that's all we're going to do all day. We're going to be going case by case with everyone who wants an exemption"

"Is there an epidemic of supervisors wanting to date their direct sub-ordinates?"

"That's one small section. What if it's the woman who wants to switch desks because the man next to her is Asian-American?"

"Appendix A, the old White House policy, does apply directly to us, that would be racial discrimination."

"And the guy who argues that when we tell him he can't refer to his co-worker as a 'dyke', we're infringing on his free speech? Where's that in the Kennedy document?"

"We're Democrats, did we hire people like that?"

"We're Americans, we hired other Americans, over a thousand of them, yeah I think we probably hired people who are homophobic or bigots or sexist or misogynists or whatever. Which is why we have this policy."

"Leo there are people who already assumed that Donna and I were together, it didn't seem to set any kind of precedent for questioning the code."

"It also wasn't true."

Josh nodded, rubbing the back of his neck

"When did you tell her?" Leo asked, his tone less stern

"Last Friday"

This seemed to surprise Leo

"But on Monday, Margaret said she thought that you guys were having some sort of problem born out of the Kitler thing."

"Last Friday we were having any number of problems born of the Kitler thing. Monday we were just having trouble putting on our game faces"

Leo nodded

"Leo if we have to start doing this case by case, I'm willing to take it on, I'll handle it"

"You already have a job and I don't know if, being first exception to the rule, you'd be seen as particularly impartial in dealing with others."

"Yeah"

"Let me think about it"

"Leo-"

"Josh, let me think about it. You're asking me to open a pretty big Pandora's box."

Josh tried to interrupt again but Leo help up his hand

"At the same time, I understand about you and Donna and that the line between work and personal has never been particularly solid for you two. Give me the weekend to think about it"

Donna was in his office trying to update his computer when he got back.

"I swear I don't know how you do it, Josh," she grumbled, "but you've managed to re-label nine out of ten files. This is why you can't find anything."

"He said he'll think about it."

"Is that good or bad?" She looked up at him

"I don't know."

"Nothing we can do at this point."

"No" he sat down in the visitor's chair

"It's going to work out," Donna said reassuringly

"You know what?" Josh smiled at her "It already has"

 

Fifteen Love - 2

 

 

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