On one of the other groups, we had a challenge going. Actually, we had two challenges going. Here are the challenge points:
1 scene story
Someone laughs.
Someone cries (not a woman).
There is supposed to be a kiss.
It's someone's birthday.
The staff wants to celebrate.
There has to be an embarrassing and/or inappropriate gift.
Reference to a Beatles song.
And a tape gun must be involved.

So, this is my response.
TITLE: "There Are Places"
CATEGORY: General (challenge response)
SUMMARY: Josh musings
DISCLAIMER: Ain't mine. Nuff said

"There Are Places" A challenge response by CretKid aka Cal


"I thought I might find you here."

Josh Lyman leaned his head back to look up the steps. The twilight backdrop wasn't so dark to hide the man's identity, even with the back lighting of the Lincoln Memorial casting his face in shadow. The distinctive shuffle step down the stair would have been a dead give away in any case.

"Hey, Leo."

"I'm going to sit for a spell, if you don't mind."

"It's still a free country."

There was something to be said about the quiet of the Mall, late in the evening when the tourists had left and the museums had closed shop.

The serenity of the flood lights on the monuments.

The soft lapping of the Potomac when the wind was just right.

The cool touch of the steps on his back side.

The way the statues of the Korean Memorial seemed to come alive under the small floodlights buried in the foliage, and the eerie way they looked when the thermals were such that the entire area seemed bathed in fog for that brief time between dusk and darkness.

The way the Reflecting Pool seemed to mirror the night time sky.

Josh leaned back, elbows on the step above him, ankles crossed two stairs below him. He played with the half empty Starbucks cup in his hand, though it didn't contain coffee. He turned it in circles, tapping it against the stair, against his chest. The ice that had not melted rattled against the cardboard sides. All pretense to hide the contents had been tossed when he frisbee-d the plastic cover in the trash can at the base of the stairs. He really didn't care that he was probably breaking a hundred different laws. He really didn't care that his friends would probably tear in him several new orifices for playing hooky.

"You're missing a hell of a party."

Josh took a heavy swig from his cup and winced a little at the watered down taste. "I'll bet."

"I don't think they've noticed you're not there."

"That wouldn't surprise me, either."

His shirt sleeves were rolled up past his elbows. His jacket had been long abandoned to the muggy afternoon. The knot in his tie was at half mast and several buttons were undone. If he didn't move, he could almost pretend that he wasn't sitting in a pool of his own sweat. Weather like this was obscene for early May. Hartford was never like this in May. Leo had the audacity to still be in a jacket and tie. Damn the man and his sense of decorum.

"They are a little too busy at the moment. You know those things, the tape things. Hell if I know what they're called. The things for the packing tape."

"Tape gun?"

"Sure. CJ and Toby have each gotten a hold of one of those tape gun things. Last I heard, they had Sam trapped in the bull pen."

"Do I want to know how much they have had to drink?"

"I don't want to know. All I do know is that none of them had better complain of a hangover tomorrow."

"I'm having a hard time picturing Toby chasing after Sam. Actually, the whole Toby-running thing just boggles the mind."

"I don't think it was so much Toby chasing Sam as Donna, Bonnie and Cathy herding him into the Communications area, asking Toby to grab Sam, and then Toby not letting go."

"Where does CJ come into play in all this?"

"Damned if I know."

"Leo, you know everything. As much as you complain about not wanting to hear the sordid details that Margaret bestows upon everyone and everything in hearing distance, I know you know."

"Fine. I think CJ threatened to tape him to a wall if he ever engaged the President in a trivia contest ever again in her presence. By the way, I assume that's when you made your getaway."

Josh nodded and smiled. One ten-hour lecture on the virtues of the nation's Park system was more than enough for one lifetime.

"So why wasn't CJ chasing him through the halls?"

"That's where things get a little fuzzy. Something about Sam bellowing for Cathy, Cathy being offended by his lack of respect by using a cattle call. Sam defending his bellowing by using you, CJ and Toby as examples, Cathy bellowing for the rest of the secretarial staff to confront Sam about his newly acquired trait. Sam running to CJ for help, whom, by the way, had just escaped from the President's clutches. CJ threatening Sam, Sam begging for help, CJ bellowing for Carol to find this tape gun thing, Carol refusing in solidarity for Cathy's plight, CJ finding her own damn tape gun thing. Bonnie, Donna and Cathy chasing Sam around with a Ms. Manner's etiquette book, Toby clothes-lining Sam in the bull pen because now Ginger refuses to answer to the cattle call. Sam taped to an office chair, and Toby taking perverse pleasure in sticking post-it notes all over Sam with punctuation marks and rules of grammar. Sam was laughing so hard, there were tears in his eyes. Not that anyone would have heard him, since CJ taped his mouth shut. I think that about sums it up, unless Margaret got it wrong."

Margaret rarely got anything wrong. Josh was kind of sorry he missed the whole affair. Then again, forcing Leo to tell the story almost made up for it. He took another sip, winced again and decided to chuck the cup into the waste bin.

Leo reached into his pocket and pulled out a small photo album. "You may want to hold on to this. In the wrong hands, someone could do some real damage. And don't worry, I didn't look through it or anything. I remember the look on your face when you first opened it."

Josh quietly snagged the album from Leo's hand and shoved it in his back pocket. After thinking about it for a second, he pulled the album from his back pocket and handed it back to Leo. After all, Leo had known him for what seemed like forever.

"Blackmail pictures, Josh?" Leo asked, thumbing through the prints.


"I assume CJ still has copies of these."

"Actually, no. She assures me everything my mother sent her is there, but I know she's scanned them and has stashes of disks everywhere should I get out of hand at some point. Though, she did put an IOU in the card for dinner at the restaurant of my choosing. I'm thinking lobster. Or steak. Or both."

"This explains the little display on your door this morning. The black balloons around each picture went a little overboard."

"Yeah. Someone got up early, seeing that I didn't leave until 3 am." Josh leaned forward, elbows on knees and head in his hands. "I didn't think my mother had kept those pictures. Those in your hand are the ones that CJ chose not to use."

"Yeah, I can see why you wouldn't want these on display." Leo chuckled.

Josh didn't need to look to know which picture Leo had found. "You found the one with me and the sprinkler."

"I'm betting you're really glad that this one didn't make your office door. Is this an exhibitionist streak that I'm going to have to be concerned about?"

"In my defense, I was five."

"Naked baby pictures aside, there anything else bothering you?"

"I'm 40 years old today, Leo. What else should be bothering me?"

"Well, it was after looking through these pictures that this little maudlin state of yours started. Though, I will say you showed a lot of poise when Donna, Carol and Ginger started oohing and aahing over the first few baby pictures before you snatched the album from their hands."

"Remind me to fire Donna tomorrow."

"Tomorrow is Saturday."

"Fine, then. Monday."

"Are you going to see your mother this weekend?"

"Yeah, I'm taking the shuttle up tomorrow night."

"Should make her Mother's Day a happy one."

"She'll put me to work, you know. It won't matter if I'm in my best suit to take her to brunch or anything. The minute I step in that yard, I will be cleaning out the gutters and chasing the squirrels from the bird feeder."

"Is that what's bothering you?"

Josh snorted. "Chasing squirrels? Beats chasing Republicans."

"That's not what I meant."

"The last time I had seen my father was on my birthday. Come to think of it, the last time I had seen my grandfather was on my birthday. I think I'm cursed."

"You're not cursed, Josh. Luck-challenged, maybe, but not cursed."

"The first time I had ever come to DC was on that birthday. My grandfather brought me down on the train. We visited the Smithsonian. I remember him telling me about the museums he would visit as a child, and how all that culture had been lost. Had he lived, I'm sure he would have been one of the first in line when the Holocaust Museum opened. I still can't bring myself to go there. But he would have been there in a heart beat."

"I'm sorry I never got to know your grandfather, Josh. He sounds like a great man."

"That he was. That he was. We sat right here, on these steps. He bought me an ice cream cone. I, of course, managed to get more of it on my clothes than in my mouth, but that didn't stop him from giving me half of his ice cream. I can remember thinking that this was where I wanted to be when I grew up. Didn't know exactly what I would do, but I knew I wanted to be here. My dad blames my grandfather for getting me interested in politics. Did you know that?"

"I, for one, am glad he did. You would have made a lousy lawyer, Josh."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence, Leo. Glad to know 4 years of law school were a total waste."

"I wouldn't say that." Leo dropped a paper bag into Josh's lap, along with the photo album. "Don't let this go to waste, though. You left before the cake Mrs. Landingham baked for you was cut. I managed to steal a piece for you. And before you start thinking I've lost my mind, this is from your mother."

Leo leaned over and kissed the crown of Josh's head.

"I have to get back the White House. There's no telling what the rest of them have gotten in to," Leo said, standing. "Take the earlier shuttle tomorrow, Josh. Go spend the weekend with your mother."

"Thanks, Leo."

"Don't mention it."

Josh listened as Leo trotted down the stairs. He leaned back against the steps and looked up to the sky. Clouds were starting to roll in. The wind was picking up. A storm was headed their way, he could tell by the taste of the air. Opening the paper sack, he found the cellophane wrapped paper plate and cake, a handful of napkins and a spoon. There was a note inside with Mrs. Landingham's penmanship on it. He would have to remember to thank her properly on Monday. Grabbing his desert, he started walking the Mall. Not yet ready to go back to the West Wing, not quite ready to go home either, and unwilling to give up his night of quiet to an impending storm.






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