Disclaimers in Part 1

Fifteen-Love Part 2

By The Bondi Gargoyle

"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"

 

Monday morning began with a summons from Leo.

"Go on in" Margaret instructed, "he's waiting."

As Josh put his hand on the door handle, he caught Margaret giving Donna a hopeful thumbs-up in his periphery vision. He tried to take it as a good sign.

"Come in, shut the door" Leo stood as they entered, then came round his desk ushering them onto the couch

"So," he said as he sat down in the armchair. Josh read his boss's face and braced for what was coming

"So," Leo repeated, "I'm sorry."

"Leo-" Josh broke in

"Josh, I've come at this from every angle and while I know you two are a good team and Donna has been responsible for keeping you on track more than once, I can't throw the entire code out the window."

"Am I getting fired?" Donna asked quietly

"No of course not" Leo reassured her "If I was going to fire anyone. It would be him"

"Thanks a lot" Josh grimaced

"Its just that...well isn't Josh my supervisor regardless of where I work in the White House?"

"Almost but here's what we're going to do. You're going to go work for the First Lady. Same building, same pay scale, benefits, privileges but it's a distinct power structure. Lilly's assistant Margo has just gone on maternity leave. So you'll take her spot. When and if Margo comes back we can re-asses this."

"When do I start?"

"Lilly's expecting you sometime this morning."

"And I'm doing what?" Josh asked

"You're getting a temp"

"I'm not that difficult to work with."

"Margaret's going to work on Ginger a little, see if she can be convinced to sign off on you. The problem is that if we pull Ginger out of Communications we have to find someone who's willing to put up with Toby. The two of you are almost more trouble than you're worth"

"This is the only option?" Josh persisted

"No the other option is for you two to go back to a strictly professional relationship" Leo replied quietly, when they remained silent he said: "I'm right in presuming you'd prefer this choice to that?"

They nodded

"Now the other aspect is that I'm not sure it works to anyone's advantage, yours included, to have people aware of why you're being split up. So I'll have Margaret start a rumor that this move was at Donna's request."

"Why would I request to be moved?"

" 'Cause you're sick of him."

"You know Leo, I came to you with this," Josh pointed out, his jaw clenched "Do you have to paint me as the bad guy?

"No Josh, do you think you'll be seen in a better light if we tell people you fired Donna?"

"I'll go pack up my desk." Donna got up

Josh remained on the couch, his head hanging down. He waited 'til Donna had left before glaring at Leo. "Lilly, you had to send her to Lilly"

"I was trying to preserve her pay status. Lilly's assistant is on the same civil service code as yours" Leo growled back "And you started this, Josh, so stop getting mad at me."

"That's as it may be but did you have to assign my girlfriend to work for my ex-girlfriend's best friend and college room-mate?"

"I forgot that it was Mandy who brought Lilly on board" Leo admitted with a laugh "Josh it'll be okay. Just give it time, you'll get used to a new assistant. I'm sure we can get Ginger on side"

"Ginger isn't Donna"

"I know," Leo shrugged, "and I'm sorry."

Josh wandered back to his bullpen feeling decidedly downhearted. He leaned on the partition watching Donna pack

"We could meet for lunch," he suggested.

"Why would I quit then go to lunch with you?"

"I could be trying to talk you out of it"

"I think we'd better wait 'til next week to try that." Donna looked as miserable as he felt

"I'm not giving up on this. I'm going to convince Leo that this was a mistake"

"Go easy on Leo. If you piss him off, he's just going to dig his heels in."

"Stop trying to manage me," Josh teased her. "It's not your job any more"

"Wanna bet?" Donna managed a slight smile, which elicited one from Josh in return "I'll see you later," she whispered, then headed off down the hall

"Where's Donna going?" CJ asked from behind him.

Josh turned around. "To work for Lilly."

"Why?"

"You want the truth or the party line?"

"What's the party line?"

"Cause she's done putting up with me."

"What dumb thing did you do, Josh? I mean seriously, can't you get through two whole weeks before you sabotage yourself?

"Okay well obviously this won't be a stretch for anyone" Josh turned to face CJ "Did I not just make it clear that that's not what's actually going on here?"

"Yes, sorry, you did. What's actually going on?"

"Leo's worried about the precedent. And since Lilly is Mrs. Bartlet's Chief of Staff, as her assistant Donna will keep her current salary and benefits without being under my supervision."

"Oh. Josh isn't Lilly Mandy's-?"

"Yes"

"Sorry"

"You're sorry? I'm the sorriest White House aide since the guy who suggested Lincoln go to the theatre"

"Are you going to be able to cope without Donna?"

"I did okay before."

"Before when?"

"During the campaign when Donna went home to Wisconsin for a few weeks."

"Interesting how your description of those events has changed," CJ observed. "And in truth, Josh, 'okay' wasn't the word I would have picked"

"What word would you have picked?"

"A complete and utter wreck"

"That's more than one word"

"You warranted more than one word."

"Well some of that was trying to go it alone, which won't happen this time. Leo's giving me a temp."

"That should be entertaining."

"Thanks a lot."

"If you had been honest with me, I might have been able to help"

"I wasn't dishonest with you. It's not my fault you have over developed guilt genes. Furthermore, the last time you tried to help, Donna just about murdered me; so you'll understand why you weren't the first person I thought of turning to"

CJ stuck out her tongue at him.

"Right back at you, Claudia Jean"

"Don't look now, here comes your temp."

Josh found himself looking at a small mousy haired woman with a determined expression.

"Mr. Lyman?"

"Look just about everyone calls me 'Josh'"

"So you are Mr. Lyman?"

"Yes"

"Good. I am Celia Havers. I've been assigned to work with you."

"Well welcome to my staff."

"Here are my rules" She handed him a multi-page stapled document.

"Yeah great." Josh rolled it up in his hand without looking at it. "So there's a stack of files that need to be put away and there's some documents that need typing. If you have any questions my door is open. Or you could call Donna Moss up in the First Lady's office"

"Why would I call her?"

"She's my old assistant."

"I don't believe I'll need to consult her," Celia said without inflection

"Right okay, I'll be in my office"

Josh walked in, shutting his door behind him "Leo!" he growled.

"So this is your desk here." Lilly showed Donna around. "I'm through that door and Dr Bartlet is through there"

Donna nodded

"You'll find we're a little more relaxed up here. I mean we run a tight ship but certainly less hollering."

"That'll be nice," said Donna forcing a smile and trying to play her part.

" I'll tell you Donna, I don't know how you put up with him for so long."

"I like a challenge"

"I'm sure you got one. Anyway, welcome to the sane side of the building"

"Donna!" Josh hollered in annoyance as he sifted through the papers on his desk, unable to find the one he needed "Donna where's the thing for Jeff?"

There was no response. Josh walked around his desk to the door

"What, did you trade in carpal tunnel for selective hearing?"

He stopped. Donna wasn't at her desk, Celia Havers was.

"Didn't you hear me shouting?"

"I heard you shouting for Donna," she replied evenly

"I was shouting for my assistant. That would be you."

"My name is Celia"

"Yes"

"Why would I answer if you shout for Donna?"

"Look since before we moved into this building, since the New Hampshire primary I've hollered one word; 'Donna', and someone has come. Couldn't you pretend that it's a code word indicating that I need whoever is at this desk."

"No."

"Celia"

"Mr. Lyman, don't you think talking in codes is a little juvenile?"

"Welcome to the White House"

Leo came to see him that evening

"She quit?"

"I don't know, did she?" Josh replied having no idea what subject they were discussing

" What did you do?"

"What did I do to who? And is there a reason we're talking in questions? Or are you just brushing up on your Tom Stoppard?"

"Listen Guildenstern, how come your temp only lasted one day?"

"Celia quit?" Josh asked, his face lighting up

"That's right."

"Fifteen –Love Lyman." he declared, victoriously

"Why did she quit? What did you do?"

Josh shrugged

"Kay this better not be the beginning of a pattern."

"Leo, the girl was downright weird. I'm sure the next one will be fine"

"First and last warning."

"Do you mind if I go home now? I'd kinda like to see my girlfriend, whom you banished, and try and undo what-ever brainwashing Lilly's attempted over the course of the day"

"Don't think of Donna as banished, think of her as our early –warning system for Abbey's latest crusade."

"I'd rather just think of her as my assistant."

"We call that delusion, Josh, there are treatments available" Leo informed him walking out

 

Josh flicked off the TV and began to pace, glancing at his watch minute to minute. Finally he crossed to the phone and dialed her cel-phone.

"Hi, Josh," she answered, sounding tired.

"Hey. Are you still at work?" He tried to sound casual. He tried not to sound like he was saying 'Where the hell are you? I've been worried sick'

"No I'm at home."

Home. Josh felt the word like a slap.

"At your apartment?"

"Yes. I'm sorry, I should have called"

"It's okay. Are you coming over tonight or can I go ahead and put the chain on the door?" Yeah that was his main concern, the chain.

"I think I'm going to sleep here tonight. I'm... I'm kind of beat."

"Okay. Well I'll see you tomorrow."

"Yeah. Goodnight"

"Goodnight"

Josh hung up the phone and stared at it.

"It doesn't mean anything" he told himself " She went home to get clean clothes and check her mail and just couldn't face getting back into the car. It's indicative of absolutely nothing" He just didn't believe it.

 

"Who was that?" Jane asked from behind a book, as Donna walked back into the living room and flopped onto the sofa

"Josh," Donna said, willing herself not to cry.

"What has he done now?" her roommate demanded angrily

"Jane relax, he hasn't done anything."

"Then why do you look ready to burst into tears?"

" I'm just tired, that's all. It's been a long day"

"Tell him to stop working you so hard."

Donna took a deep breath. "I'm not working for Josh anymore, I'm working for the First Lady's Chief of Staff."

Jane studied her suspiciously. "You're not working for Josh, you're sleeping here for the first time in over a week and he hasn't done anything?"

"No."

"Uh-huh"

Donna sighed, "I'm going to bed"

"If he calls back do you want me to wake you up?"

"He won't call."

"Josh calls, on average, twice a night"

"Not tonight."

"Donna I've lived with you since you came to Washington. I speak to Josh more than I do my own mother."

"He won't call again tonight."

"Okay"

Jane watched concerned as Donna shuffled into her room.

Josh tossed and turned.

"This is stupid" he declared aloud. "It's my bed, it's had a variety of women in it and their departure has never cost me any sleep."

Nevertheless he got up, grabbed a pillow and pulled the old Harvard blanket from the corner chair, trying not to notice that tonight there was no laundry on it. He wandered into the living room and settled himself on the couch. After twenty minutes of staring at the ceiling he had to admit that his insomnia was back, worse than ever.

By Friday, Josh had earned himself a new nickname. They were calling him 'The Grizz'. He had gone through three temps and yelled at everyone save Leo and the President. Leo had lectured him twice. Both times Josh had stood staring at the floor, his expression petulant.

"Scaring off the temps is not going to make me bring her back to our side of the building" Leo snarled the second time.

"You know what, Leo, this has nothing to do with where Donna's working!" Josh had growled back

"Then what the hell is making you behave like such a bear?"

"I'm having a bad week. Okay? When Toby acts like this, you ignore it"

"That's 'cause Toby always acts like this."

"Well maybe I'm modeling myself after Toby."

"I really don't need two of you."

"I thought I was already one of the problem children."

"You're all problem children, but up until this week, at least you were all distinct."

Josh sighed. "I'm just having a bad week, Leo. Can we leave it at that?"

Leo scrutinized him but Josh was giving nothing more away.

"Yeah, fine. But stop yelling at the temps"

It was enough for Margaret, Bonnie and Ginger to hold a meeting

"He's working his way down the list toward Alvin" Margaret told them "If we let that happen, Donna's never going to forgive us" She looked pointedly at Ginger.

"Okay fine, I'll go work for Josh. Though when he's like this he scares me more than Toby used to"

"Yeah what do you suppose is going on?" Bonnie asked

"I don't know" Margaret shook her head "But someone needs to take him back in hand."

"I'll try." Ginger sighed

"Do you think you could handle Toby on your own?" Bonnie queried "If I take on Josh, can you deal with Toby?"

"Sure."

"I mean really deal with him. We know your weakness"

Ginger blushed "I'll be fine"

"Fine with what?" Donna joined them.

"Ginger's going to look after Toby on her own and I'm going to take on your previous tormentor," Bonnie explained.

"No, you're not," Donna declared. "For a start I think there still needs to be a buffer between Toby and Ginger."

Ginger started to protest but Donna interrupted

"He's not stupid, Ginger, he's going to figure out how you feel"

"Oh yeah, they're all brilliant" Bonnie agreed facetiously "Just look at Josh."

"Okay, so they're all a little dense on the interpersonal front. But it's a moot point. I'm going to go back to my old job, so the rest of you can just stay put."

Margaret's eyes widened "That's settled, then." She shot Bonnie and Ginger a guarded look

"Well we should get back upstairs" Bonnie said catching the meaning "I'm sure Toby's gratitude at our continued servitude doesn't run to tolerance if he bellows and no-one answers."

"Especially since he doesn't realize how close he came to losing us" Ginger agreed.

Once they were gone Margaret turned to Donna, speaking in harsh whispers

"What do you mean you're going back? Leo hasn't changed his mind"

"Josh and I broke up," Donna said flatly.

"When?"

"Monday."

"What happened?"

But Donna pressed on without elaborating "I'll go to London with the First Lady and the Surgeon General and by the time we get back Josh and I will have been apart for as long as we were together. Leo should be fine with me going back to work at that point"

"I suppose." Margaret shook her head "But will Josh?"

"Yes"

"Donna, I find it a little hard to believe that after all this time you and Josh lasted less than ten days."

"It was a mistake."

 

When Donna arrived back from lunch, Josh was waiting at her desk

"What?" she asked not looking at him.

"What the hell is going on?" he demanded.

"Not here," she mumbled

"Fine. Where?"

"Josh I know you're used to being able to bully Donna but she doesn't work for you anymore," Lilly said in a superior sing song voice as she came out of her office.

"Lilly I know you hate me, I know why you hate me but if I could just implore you to butt out for one more minute."

"Stop bugging my staff, Josh"

Donna grabbed his arm and pulled him toward the door.

"Tonight, I'll come over to your apartment tonight" she muttered as she pushed him into the hallway.

Fifteen Love - 3

 

 

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