Usual Disclaimer. These characters are not mine but I'm going to take a chance and assume that the folks who do own them don't mind me taking them out for a spin as long as I return them in reasonably good condition. There is some adult language and situations in this story, though no worse than the ten o'clock timeslot on TV, it is a little stronger than what we normally see on TWW. Feedback is always appreciated and if you want to re-post I'm generally okay with that just drop me a line and let me know. Spoilers if at all are for "The Portland Trip" and "Mandatory Minimums" Thank you for taking the time to read my work. -BG
By The Bondi Gargoyle
"How come you're still here?"
Josh looked up to see Sam leaning in his doorway.
"I've got stuff to do."
Sam craned around to look at the screen of Josh's TV.
"Is there some political importance associated with old repeats of 'Bewitched' here-to overlooked by this or any other administration?"
"Donna has a date" Josh grumbled
"I saw her on her way out, she looked fantastic."
Josh glared at him.
"She was wearing the red dress."
"Well yes, " confirmed Sam, "it was a red dress."
"No Sam, it's not 'a' red dress, it's 'the' red dress."
Sam studied Josh "Is that like your Joey Lucas suit?"
"It's exactly like my Joey Lucas suit." Josh had long since stopped trying to fight that moniker for his best suit. "The fact that she's wearing it speaks volumes as to her expectations of what this evening and this man has in store."
Josh nodded, scowling.
"So what are you doing?"
"I'm waiting up."
"Gee Dad, that's swell of you," Sam paused. "You didn't tell her to come back to work did you?"
"I thought about it but I couldn't create a good enough reason."
"You can be, and I say this as one of your best friends, a real dork."
"Are you under some expectation that she's going to call you?"
"I'm under the expectation that Bryan Kitler is, like all the other mooks she seems to end up with, going to break her heart. She'll have to come back here anyway for her car, I figured I'd stick around in case she needs a shoulder to cry on."
Josh refocused on Samantha and Darren not wanting to look Sam in the eye.
"You realize if you're wrong, you may still be sitting here when she comes into work tomorrow."
"You're a big help, Sam." Josh tossed a cashew at his friend's head
Sam easily ducked. He quite clearly understood what was going on, he only wished there were something tangible he could do to help.
"Look Toby's making me re-write the AFL-CIO address for like the eighty-eighth time. Why don't you come hang out in my office?"
"If she comes back..."
Sam crossed to Josh's desk, grabbed a post-it, scrawled 'In Sam's Office' and stuck it to the door. "You coming?"
"Yeah, why not. I like the other Darren better anyway."
"Which one is this?"
"The one I don't like as much as the other one"
"How come you're still here?" asked Toby, as Josh followed Sam into the room.
"Is everyone under the impression that I keep bankers' hours all of sudden?" Josh protested
"Is this because of the red dress?" Toby inquired patiently.
"I told him to come sulk in here" Sam explained as Josh stuck out his tongue.
"Misery loves company," agreed Toby. "Time for your next draft."
"What'd you cut?"
"I left you the second and seventeenth paragraphs."
"Write, Sam, prove your vocation."
Sam sighed as he took the seat behind the desk and Josh flopped down beside Toby. As he sat, Josh's cel-phone began to ring. He dug it out of his pocket, looked at the display and grinned victoriously.
"Ha! Told you so," he said to Sam, flicking it open. "Okay what dive do you need me to come get you from?"
The voice he heard wasn't Donna. It was Bryan Kitler and he sounded as though he was talking through gauze.
"Where did you park?" a distant Kitler asked.
"What?" Toby asked, observing Josh's frown.
"I think she's accidentally hit auto dial."
"So hang up," instructed Sam, but Josh shook his head, continuing to listen.
Donna was speaking "Over there, in that row, next to Josh's Saab."
"Is Lyman still driving that dinosaur? Tell him when he's ready to upgrade, I'll fix him up with my dealer."
Josh gritted his teeth but determinedly waved off Sam's urgings to close the phone.
Donna spoke again. "Thank you for a lovely evening, Bryan."
"I don't get a kiss good-night?"
"Yeah, sure." The pause, the hesitation was infinitesimal, almost anyone else would have missed it, but it brought Josh to his feet.
Toby and Sam exchanged a wary glance.
Josh counted off the seconds of silence; finally he heard Donna's voice: "I should get going, I've got an early start tomorrow."
The next sound was a clunk, the noise of an auto-lock mechanism, then Donna said: "Come on Bryan, I really have to go."
"Not just yet."
It was all Josh needed to hear. He lowered the phone.
"Toby, do you still have that Louisville Slugger in your office?"
"I'm borrowing it." Josh flung open the door.
"You couldn't say 'no'" hissed Sam, rising to follow
"Hang on," Toby blocked the door to his office as Josh came out with the bat.
"Toby, I love you like a brother but if you don't get the hell out of my way, I'm using this on you first."
Toby looked into Josh's eyes. He wasn't sure exactly what the details were but he could guess; and he knew that if it were Andi on the other end of the phone, he'd be reacting in the same way.
"I'm coming with you."
"Suit yourself" said Josh "The more the merrier, I say."
Toby moved to let him pass.
"Toby?" Sam started to protest
"Just move Sam." Toby instructed as they jogged to catch up with Josh.
CJ opened her door to see the bizarre parade go past.
"What's going on?" She grabbed Sam.
"Donna," he replied simply.
"Josh is going after her with a bat?" CJ's eyes widened in alarm
"No, of course not. I think, though, he might going after Bryan Kitler with a bat."
"Well that I'd pay money to see." CJ announced, trailing after Toby and Josh.
"Am I the only one who thinks this is a bad idea?" Sam asked the ether, as he too followed his colleagues.
Josh descended the steps to the first level of the underground parking lot where he'd left his car some sixteen hours earlier. He was vaguely aware of the sound of many feet following him but his attention was focused on the distance between the black BMW and Donna's red Civic.
She had gotten out of Kitler's car but he was holding onto her with both hands, his expression ugly, one of his eyes starting to turn black.
"Gee!" Josh hollered, his voice bouncing around the concrete walls, "I guess its going to have to be hardball. Sam thought we might end up playing softball but I told him, it was fast pitch, small ball the whole way."
He had the bat across both shoulders, his forearms braced behind it almost casually, but there was nothing casual about his voice, or the cold fury in his eyes.
Bryan Kitler turned to look at him
"Foff Lyman, this has nothing to do with you."
"Oh yeah that's going to happen. Donna, come here."
She took a step toward Josh and the others who now stood behind him, but Kitler shoved her back against the car.
Josh swung the bat down into one hand, resting it against his leg. Sam reached for him but was caught by Toby.
"Leave him for a minute" Toby said firmly
"Okay, Idiot Boy," Josh took a few steps closer to the car, "here's how this is going to work. You're going to let go of her and you're going to get in your little black phallus extender and you're going to drive away. Because if you don't, I'm going to pull a Jack Nicholson and take batting practice on your precious BMW."
Sam started to speak but Toby muttered "So help me, if you don't shut up right now," which seemed to quiet, or perhaps stun, his junior.
"You're bluffing." Kitler snarled at Josh.
"There's a surveillance camera above your head, you touch my car and I'll have you arrested. Good-bye West Wing office, hello jail cell. Don't worry though, a cute boy like you'll make friends quickly."
Josh smiled acquiescently, though Donna could see it still didn't reach his eyes. Without turning around, he passed the bat back behind him to Toby, crossed his arms and took a few more steps forward.
"Yeah the camera, couple things about that," Josh began conversationally. "To begin with, it has no sound. So when asked, we're going to talk about how we were all feeling a bit wound up and thought we'd head over to this little park in Baltimore that has twenty-four hour batting cages. We go every couple of weeks; you know how it is. They know us there; the guy at the cash register keeps trying to pick up CJ. So you see, there's nothing out of the ordinary about us walking through here with a baseball bat. What I'm a little unclear on, Bryan, is how you plan to explain shoving her against that car. And Bryan, they've seen your face, not mine. Okay Donna."
Donna pushed on Kitler's chest and this time he stepped back. Josh noted, to her credit, that she did not flee, but walked calmly, drawn up to her full height, to stand with the others.
"She hit me." Kitler pointed to his eye
"Good for her, what's your point?"
"I'm going to charge her with assault."
"Kitler you're six foot two, you're two hundred and sixty-five pounds. If you can find a jury that's going to listen to anything other than self-defense, tell me about it, 'cause I've got a few bridges over the Potomac that I've been trying to sell. Now get in your car, Bryan, and you can consider a one block restraining order in effect between you and Donna."
"Well that's going to be a little difficult to enforce, when I come up to the White House" Kitler tried to retain some male bravado.
"You're not coming anywhere near the White House. You cross the threshold, and so help me I'll have a marine throw you through a second floor window."
"And what am I supposed to tell the Congresswoman?"
"Tell her you've developed an allergic sensitivity to the wallpaper paste in the Roosevelt Room for all I care; but if so much as your shadow crosses the gate, I guarantee, there will be no cameras pointing your way."
Kitler turned to leave but Josh wasn't quite done
"One more thing. You should know that I'll be getting a copy of that surveillance tape and keeping it in our vault. If you come near any of my people, or if I hear you've pulled this stunt with any other woman, I will be distributing copies with an enthusiasm that would put Miramax to shame. Of course the first tape will go to your boss, Congresswoman Lobo, who I'm sure will be enthralled, given that she's just co-sponsored a bill to change the way we try date-rape offenders. After that, I will send a copy to every member of Congress, every major fund-raiser for the Democratic Party and every news organization in the known world. Do I make myself clear?"
"Crystal." Kitler looked past Josh " Hey Donna you were a real waste of a decent meal."
"Exactly how small is it, Bryan?" she called back. Kitler took an angry step toward her
"You were leaving," Josh informed him, standing his ground until Kitler had climbed into his car and roared away with a screech of tires.
"Okay," Toby said calmly "Let's get out of here."
Josh rejoined them, briefly meeting Donna's eyes, silently asking if she was all right. She gave him a quick nod
"Yeah" Josh agreed, "Let's go back inside"
"Is there actually a batting cage?" CJ asked, "Just so I know who's hitting on me."
"Josh and I went a couple times last summer, but the guy at the register is about eighty so I wouldn't get my hopes up" replied Toby, holding the staircase door open for the others. "By the way, Joshua, this bat is a limited edition, commemorative issue, celebrating my Yankees demolishing your Mets in the 'Subway' Series. If you'd actually used it on a car, you would be buying me season tickets, for the rest of your natural life."
"Josh wasn't ever actually going to use the bat. Were you?" Sam asked with a nervous chuckle as they stepped back into the summer night
"Yes I was"
"But the cameras..."
"I've got a good lawyer." Josh replied, seemingly unperturbed. "Don't I?"
It wasn't until they were back in the safety of Josh's office and the others had said 'goodnight' that Donna spoke again.
"You're welcome. Are you really okay?"
She nodded again, then followed his gaze to the twin bruises coming up on her arms. Quite unexpectedly, she started to tremble. She tried to hold it in but Josh could hear her teeth chattering.
Wordlessly, he folded her into his arms and held her close.
Donna rested her chin on Josh's shoulder. Trying to calm herself, she concentrated on the rough cotton of his dress shirt next to her cheek, the mix of sweat and aftershave she could smell on his skin. She found herself realizing that it was the second time in less than half an hour she had been held onto by a man she found attractive. Facing the memory of Bryan's anger she focused on the arm that was now around her waist, on the hand that was gently stroking her spine.
Josh for his part, just kept his eyes closed and acknowledged to the Deity the deal he had struck, the list of things he had agreed to do in exchange for Donna's safety.
"It's just adrenaline" he assured her after a minute, continuing to stroke her back. "Take a few deep breaths it'll be okay."
She slowly drew in a breath, held and released it.
"Better?" he asked as she stepped back
Donna nodded once more. "I'm sorry, it all just caught up with me"
"The last thing you need to do is apologize. Do you want a drink?"
"Sit" he pointed to the spare chair, then turned in a slow circle before asking: "And where do we keep the scotch?"
"Under the TV"
He extracted the bottle and a tumbler and poured her a good four fingers worth.
"Here, that'll settle your nerves"
"That'll get me drunk."
"Well I'll be driving you home, so drink it anyway." He handed it to her and leaned against the front of his desk, watching her carefully.
"Josh, I know you regularly claim omnipotence but how did you manage to get there when you did?"
"Check your phone."
She did so. His number was shown as the last call.
"I'm assuming you dialed me accidentally so lets put it down to your guardian angel working overtime"
"Especially since my phone doesn't usually get a signal in the underground lot."
Josh frowned, "In that case I'm buying you a new phone. By the way, what did you hit him with?"
"My right hand." She made a fist
"Ol' Right-hook Moss, that's what we always called you"
They shared a smile. Josh pointed to the glass. Donna obligingly took a drink letting the scotch slide slowly down her throat. She was beginning to feel slightly self-conscious under Josh's scrutiny.
"You could stop that" she told him
"Looking at me as though I'm about to fall apart. I'm okay. I'm not going to start weeping."
"If you want to, go ahead"
"I'm okay." She repeated
He nodded but she doubted he fully accepted her statement, especially since he made no attempt to take his eyes off of her
"How're we doing?"
They turned as Leo came into the room, shutting the door behind him.
"I didn't realize you were still here." Josh admitted
"Yep. Donna are you alright?" Leo gently touched her bruised upper arm.
"Shaken not stirred"
"Okay. You let me know what you want to do about pressing charges."
"Leo I "
"Don't think about it now. Get some sleep and then we'll discuss it. In the meantime, Josh, I've been thinking about this new bill Congresswoman Lobo's brought to the table."
"What about it?"
"Well I think we should talk about it in greater depth, so I'm going to invite her to come by my office tomorrow; if a certain surveillance tape happens to be on the monitor, well co-incidences do happen."
"Leo if we go after Bryan, he's going to go after Josh" Donna argued
"Go after Josh for what? On their way out they told me they were going to that batting cage place they frequent up in Maryland; the one with the guy who likes CJ. If they walked in on something between you and Kitler, so be it. And if you're worried about his eye, Josh was right, it's clearly self-defense. Now, I think you two should both go home and get some sleep. Josh?" Leo indicated he wanted to talk to his deputy outside.
Together the men stepped out into the hallway and shut the door
"Who filled you in?" Josh asked
"Toby stopped by. Is Donna okay?"
"I think so."
"Feeling a little helpless?" Leo read the frustration in Josh's face.
"I hold one of the most powerful jobs in the country and I can't keep a jerk like Bryan Kitler from hurting someone I care about."
"I know, though from what I hear you did a pretty good job tonight."
" Donna probably did more damage landing that punch but thanks all the same."
"Okay. One more thing, the next time you get it into your head to go after a Congressional aide with a baseball bat," Leo paused. Josh braced himself for the coming rebuke. "Bring me along. Why should you get all the fun?" the older man smiled with a depth of understanding.
"So go, go make sure she gets home safely."
"Are you going to be all right on your own?" Josh asked as he stood in Donna's kitchen forty minutes later.
"I'll be fine. I'm going to take a hot bath and go to sleep."
"Cause I can sleep on the couch, if you need someone around."
"Thanks, but it's not necessary. I know how uncomfortable that couch is and since you've already played knight in shining armor, the least I can do is let you get a decent nights rest."
"Well if you're sure..."
"You didn't like Bryan much even before this, did you?"
"I don't like any of the men you date," he admitted, the words slipping out before he could stop them.
"Right, my infamous terrible taste in men."
"That wasn't what I meant."
"He always seemed so nice, Josh. I mean I wouldn't have gone out with him, otherwise. Whenever he came over from the Hill, he was always polite, almost sweet. He was like that for most of the evening too. Right up to the point when he turned off the car, I was thinking: 'Gee Donna, maybe your luck's finally about to change'."
Josh felt an overwhelming temptation to reveal the inner workings of his heart and mind. He wanted to tell her the reason he didn't like any of the guys she dated was jealousy, pure and simple. He wanted to tell her that all she had to do was say the word and she would never have to go on another lousy date. He wanted to tell her he loved her; to take her in his arms and make Bryan Kitler nothing more than a distant if unpleasant memory; but as the words rose in his throat he forced them back down. There would be other days, Josh told himself, better days, untainted by the likes of Kitler or the suggestion of violence. For the time being, he would keep his peace.
"It'll change" he said instead "Sometime soon, your luck will change and you'll barely remember all these gonzos." He leaned over and kissed her forehead in a brotherly way.
Donna felt almost disappointed by the gesture, kind as it was. The emotions with which Josh had struggled with had been readily apparent in his face and she'd thought he might be about to put voice to them.
"I'll pick you up at about seven" he told her, pulling open the front door.
"Thanks for waiting up."
"I had work to do"
"This is me you're talking to; I know the complete contents of your desk, remember? Thanks for being there."
"That's my job." He smiled and turned to go. "Donna, will you do me one favour?" he asked without turning back around
"That dress, next time you wear it, wear it for me, not one of these losers okay?"
It took her a minute to find her voice.
"Okay," she replied, forcing herself to sound as casual as he had.
His shoulders noticeably relaxed and his grip on the doorknob seemed to loosen.
"Thanks. I'll see you tomorrow."
She closed the door behind him and leaned against it, smiling to herself
"I love you too, Joshua," she whispered "I love you too."