Warnings/disclaimers: See pt 1

The sound of footsteps were heard. Then a very familiar voice shouted, "Donna, damn it, I have to get the door!"

Josh Lyman flung the door open only to see his friends. "Sam!" shouted the former Deputy Chief of Staff, bearhugging his best friend. "How are you? How've things been?"

"Not too bad, not too bad," Sam rejoined, grinning. He gestured to the small person in the group, saying teasingly, "Watch your mouth around my daughter."

Josh grinned apologetically and turned to his other best friend. "What's doing, Claudia Jean?"

C.J. hugged him tightly. "Not a whole lot, Joshua." She let him go, but kept her hands on his shoulders. "How is he?"

Josh swallowed. "Honestly?" He paused, then finally said, "He's probably not as good as you'd hope. But not as bad as you've probably feared, either." His tone changed and he bent to Alyssa, who up until that moment had been very quiet, sucking her thumb and holding her mother's hand. "Oh, fine," he said in a mock-hurt tone. "Don't even say hi to your Uncle Josh." He turned away.

Then Alyssa came to life, as only two-year olds can do. "Hi!!" she shrieked, running and throwing her little body into his arms.

Josh caught her and lifted her into the air. "I'm glad to see you, sweetheart!" Picking her up, he said, "Tell you what. Let's come inside and you can see your Aunt Donna, and your mommy and daddy can see Jed and Abbey." He twisted his tongue around the last few words. Even after two years out of office, it was hard to call them "Jed and Abbey."

Josh walked inside holding Alyssa, trailed by her parents. "Hey, we got company!" he called.

The next person they saw was Eleanor McGarry. "Hi, everyone!" she cried, hugging C.J. and then Sam.

"How are you, Eleanor?" Sam asked. She looked wonderful. Marriage to the former Chief of Staff agreed with her.

"I'm just fine, thank you, Sam," Eleanor said, smiling. "Leo is around here somewhere; I think he's with Abbey and Mallory." She turned to Alyssa. "And how is my granddaughter?"

Alyssa transferred herself into Eleanor's arms. "I good, Grandma."

"That's good, sweetheart."

Just as Eleanor was about to say more, a thin, red-haired woman walked into the hall. "Oh!" she exclaimed. "Hi, C.J." Mallory O'Brien hugged her stepsister.

"Hi, Mal. How are you?" Since their parents had married, C.J. and Mallory had bonded somewhat. They didn't exactly feel like sisters, but they were friends with a good working relationship. "Still dating Mark?" Mallory's latest boyfriend was Mark Harper, who worked out of the Attorney General's office.

"Fascist," Sam grumbled under his breath. Harper was far too conservative for his bent.

Mallory faced her brother-in-law, bemused smile on her face. "Sam, you show far too much interest in my love life for a man with a wife and daughter."

After all that had happened, she still liked to tease him. "Mal, I just don't agree with his politics. Whatever makes you happy."

He'd choked on his words, but Mal let it slide. "Hi, sweetheart!" she said to Alyssa, who was still perched in her grandmother's arms. "Come on, you guys. If you'll excuse us, Eleanor –"

"Go right ahead." Eleanor smiled. "The Bartlets are dying to see you." She handed Alyssa to Mallory and followed then into the living room.

The crush was immediate. Leo, Donna, and the kids all came over en masse to say hello. Finally, the former First Lady walked up to the Seaborns.

Abbey Bartlet hadn't aged that much since Washington. The only noticeable difference was a marked stiffness in her movements as she came over. "Sam. C.J." Her eyes were bright. "It's great to see you. You both look wonderful."

"Right," scoffed C.J., laughing. "Now that you're not the First Lady, Abbey, I can call you a liar. I look all right. For a forty-year old communications rep with a two-year old daughter."

Abbey laughed. "Sam, what have you been up to? We haven't heard from you in quite some time; not since Alyssa was born."

There was an implied reproof there, and Sam didn't miss it. "I know, Abbey, and I'm sorry. Georgetown is fine, if a bit boring." Sam was a law professor at the university.

He would have said more, but Alyssa could not keep quiet anymore. She wrenched herself from Mallory's arms and ran over to Abbey.

"Hi, sweetheart!" Abbey smiled and picked up the little girl. "How are you doing?"

"Good!" Alyssa smiled back, the same toothy grin she'd given to her mother that morning.

"You look very pretty," Abbey said.

Alyssa turned to her mother, and stuck out her tongue. Turning back to Abbey, she said, "Thank you."

Abbey put Alyssa on the floor, where she could play with Jake and Becky, the Lymans' twins. "She's very cute."

"Thanks." C.J. was rather antsy. "Abbey, I don't mean to be rude, but –"

"- You want to see Jed," Abbey finished for her. "Of course." She turned away for a moment, calling, "Jed! C.J. and Sam are here!"

Chapter 3



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