8:17 pm Sam Seaborn's apartment July 22, 2001
Josh opened the door to Sam's apartment with the spare key and let himself in. "Can I come in?" he hollered as he walked into the postage stamp sized kitchen and set down the beer he'd brought.
"Yeah, sure Josh, let yourself in," Sam replied sarcastically, slowly walking into the kitchen. He grinned at the table. "I've missed this place," he said, patting it affectionately. Josh nodded empathetically. "It's great, the first full day back at home." He frowned. "Day two, you go stir crazy. By day three-"
"You're calling into work constantly and Donna's yelling at you and making up rules." Josh grinned. There was a knock on the door and both men shouted, "It's open," as CJ and Ainsley came in. "Yeah, but if Donna starts yellin' at you, I'm gonna have to write her off as extremely controlling," Josh said, continuing his conversation with Sam. "You don't already do that?" CJ asked flippantly, setting down her contribution- three cartons of Edy's ice cream. "No Ben and Jerry's?" CJ shook her head. "These were on sale. Actually, where is Donna? I'd've thought she'd be with you," she said, turning to Josh. "She's getting the Chinese food." CJ nodded, moving the ice cream into the freezer. "Good Lord Sam, do you ever keep food in the house?"
"No." There was another knock on the door and Toby walked in. "Sam, you have the absolute worst apartment location. There's virtually no parking, and you don't have a front stoop." Sam shrugged. "Sorry, I wasn't anticipating having recovery parties at my place when I bought it."
"Thanks for that real estate tip, Toby, I'll keep it in mind next time I'm buying an apartment."
"Hey, the sitting-on-the-front-stoop-getting-drunk is my claim."
"Josh, it really isn't."
"Food's here!" Donna announced, walking into the apartment. Everyone sat down in various places around the apartment: Sam sprawled across the couch, with Ainsley sitting cross-legged leaning against it; Josh and Donna sitting next to each other in chairs they'd grabbed from the kitchen; CJ and Toby in the two recliners. An unspoken agreement determined that those were to be their respective seats whenever they got together at Sam's place, just as they had their respective places on Josh's front steps. "Donna, you got Thai food," Josh said, looking at his plate. "Yes, I did," she replied around a mouthful of egg roll. "I don't like Thai food."
"Josh, you are aware that there are like, five other people who are eating this besides you."
"I like Thai food."
"You said you were getting Chinese!"
"Get over it." There was relative silence as everyone dug into their food- except Josh, who was alternately glaring at Donna and his plate. Ainsley looked over at Josh and offered, "Josh, I'll take your food if you're not gonna eat it." Josh sighed and handed his plate over. "This is what my life has come to. Giving my dinner to a Republican." Ainsley sighed and replied in the exact same tone, "This is what my life has come to. Eating dinner with a whole slew of Democrats."
"Nice one, Ainsley," CJ said, giving her a grin. "I'll overlook the implied insult and steal Josh's egg rolls from you," Toby said, standing. Ainsley shook her head. "Nope. He gave 'em to me, they're mine now."
"Sam, do you have any other food in this house?"
"No." Josh finally gave up on his fruitless search and grabbed a beer. Donna gave him a look, but didn't say anything.
It was one-thirty before Sam kicked everyone out. Donna drove Josh back to the apartment. He
kicked off his shoes and collapsed on the couch. Or at least, he tried to collapse on the couch. "You missed," Donna informed him, as she walked into the kitchen. "No kidding," Josh mumbled from the floor. She picked up Josh's backpack and sat down cross-legged on the couch. "You're doing work?" Josh asked incredulously. "Yes, in anticipation of the hangover you're going to have tomorrow. I'm finishing up the notes you're supposed to have for the Blue Ribbon meetings." Josh groaned. "Do I have to go to those?"
"Damn." He hauled himself to his feet and headed in the general direction of the bedroom. He paused in the hallway and turned to look at Donna, who was typing up some notes for him. "You really are too good for me, Donnatella," he said. She looked up and smiled. "Go to sleep, Joshua."
White House Mess 12:32 pm July 23 2001
"Ainsley?" Mallory asked, coming up behind the blonde woman. Ainsley turned and smiled. "Hi, Mallory," she said. "What're you doing here?"
"Some of my students won an essay contest, and they get to visit the White House. They're eating lunch in the Rose Garden." Ainsley nodded. "I've heard something about that, involving Sam..." Mallory laughed. "Yeah, that's how we met." She told Ainsley what had happened, sending both women into laughter. Ainsley glanced at her watch. "I need to go," she said, standing. Mallory followed suit. "Hey, Mallory, CJ, Donna, and I are gonna go out for drinks or something tonight. You wanna come?" Mallory nodded. "Sure, that'll be great. I haven't seen them in a while." The two women parted. Toby watched from his table and knew that sooner or later, his subordinate was gonna get it from those two. He took a sip of coffee and smiled.
O'Connor's Bar 11:32 pm July 23 2001
"Yeah, we need another pink squirrel, two whiskey sours, a grasshopper, and that spiked Fresca stuff you gave me last time," Ainsley said, slightly slurring. The bartender nodded and said, "We'll bring 'em to the table." Ainsley nodded and returned to her seat, where she was greeted by applause. "Great acting!"
"Thanks. Remind me again why we're doing this?"
"Cause it's been a long, long day and we need to entertain ourselves."
"And since Josh and Sam aren't here to perform 500 renditions of various Irish drinking songs, we have to do something."
"Okay, 47 and two-thirds."
"Yes. I did." Donna shrugged and glanced up, then grinned. "They sent over the really hot waiter again," she half whispered, sending the semi-drunk women into fits of giggling. The waiter set down the drinks and walked off. "So, Donna-"
"No, no, no, no. We're not gonna interrogate me about my love life. Or lack thereof."
"Josh could fix that."
"Was there a breeze in here just then?"
"Oh, very mature Donna."
"I'm half drunk. Cut me some slack." Donna took a sip of her drink. "Let's discuss Sam and Ainsley."
"Or Mallory," CJ put in. Mallory shook her head. "No! Look, Ainsley and I have talked, and we're gonna screw Sam around, and totally confuse him."
"How?" CJ asked, eagerly leaning forward. "Basically, both Ainsley and I will start acting interested in him on the exact same day, roughly two hours apart. We're gonna have to improvise from there-"
"-since we can't predict all that well what Sam'll do, but it should be amusing." Ainsley finished. Donna and CJ exchanged conspiratorial looks. "Can I tell Josh?" Donna asked. Ainsley shook her head. "No. Josh'll tell him in five minutes. He can't keep a secret." Donna simply took another drink, knowing perfectly well Josh could keep a secret when he wanted to.
Communications Bullpen 9:00 am July 24, 2001
"You sure I can't come up?" Sam's voice sounded plaintive over the speakerphone. Toby rubbed his forehead. "No, Sam, you can't. You know you're not up to it; not only that, but the First Lady would kill me for letting you come up, then she'd kill you for coming up in the first place."
"Okay. It's just I'm going stir-crazy here..."
"You'll be fine." Toby hung up and turned to the mountains of work on his desk. Josh knocked on the doorframe as he walked in. "'Sup?" he asked, collapsing into a chair. "We are absolutely no where."
"The damn leadership can't make up their minds, so we get to pretend to know what we're doing!"
"We don't already?" Toby shot Josh a withering look. Josh shrugged and took a sip of coffee. "Anyway, I had Donna move the meeting back an hour."
"Well, I had something else to do, and thought maybe you could do something with the draft." Toby stared at him. "Do something with the draft," he repeated, totally deadpan. Josh nodded. "Josh, what you see here on my desk is draft fourteen." Josh shrugged one shoulder and stood. "Fifteenth time's the charm," he tossed over his shoulder. "Right," Toby muttered.
Josh Lyman's Apartment 1:07 am July 26, 2001
Josh's panicked shouts abruptly woke Donna. She rolled over and shook his shoulders until he woke up. His eyes darted around the room before settling on Donna's concerned face. He closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths, trying to relax. Donna gently stroked his face, trying to calm him. "Shh, it's okay Josh. You're okay now. It's all right, you're okay." Josh slowly shook his head, trying to clear it. "It- it was really bad this time," he said. "It kept replaying in my head, and it got worse every time..." Donna sighed softly and put her arms around his waist, pulling him close. Josh buried his face in her shoulder. "It's- I just feel like I can't handle this anymore," he said softly. "I- sometimes I wish they'd killed me at Rosslyn." Donna stiffened and pulled back. She look half ready to slap, and half about to cry. "Damn it, Josh," she hissed angrily. "You have no idea- you have absolutely no idea- the total hell we went through that night. That I went through. Do you have nay idea how terrified we were that we would lose you? And you wish you were dead so you wouldn't have nightmares." She looked away and took a shaky breath. "We are your family Josh, we're here for you. I'm here. We'll help you through this. But not if you're going to be that- that selfish." Donna rolled over and added softly, choking back tears, "Besides you're not the only on who has nightmares." Josh stared at the ceiling for a few minutes. Then he turned and gently touched Donna's shoulder. "Donna?" he said quietly. She rolled back over and into his arms. "I'm sorry, Donnatella," he whispered. She nodded into his shoulder. Soon they were both asleep.