Warnings/Disclaimers/Feedback: see pt 1

The West Wing was settling down for the night. Those few souls still marooned within the White House slowly relaxed and prepared for a distinctly uncomfortable time, sleeping on couches or floors with little or no blankets.

Abbey Bartlet shook her head as she heard the signs of movement behind the Press Secretary's and Deputy Chief of Staff's doors. Hadn't anyone warned C.J. or Josh about the ice storm? She'd thought that a few of her husband's people would be forced to camp out. In addition to C.J. and Josh, she heard voices coming from the bullpen and headed down that way.

She was surprised to see Sam and Donna, hunched over in an intense discussion. "Sam, I didn't expect to see you here."

"I got caught, ma'am." Ever polite and deferential, even at 11:30 at night with no power or phones. That was one of the reasons Abbey was very fond of Sam. "I was working and didn't notice the hail."

"Josh made me stay, Mrs. Bartlet," Donna answered, thinking to explain herself.

"How like him." Abbey smiled at the younger woman. "But the President and I anticipated this - especially after word came from the agents at the door that C.J. and Sam had stayed too late." She hefted her burden - a large load of blankets. "Here. Give these to C.J. and Josh as well. We don't have enough bedrooms for you all but we thought this might help make the night go a bit quicker."

"Thank you very much, ma'am." Donna smiled.

Sam added his thanks as well, but Abbey noticed that he had his sleeves up and was beginning to sweat. "Are you all right, Sam?" she asked, concerned.

Sam wiped his brow, only then realizing. "Oh, just fine, ma'am. A bit nervous, that's all."

What could Abbey do? She merely smiled and went off in search of Josh. Sam, meanwhile, turned to Donna. "I'm going to go do it now. I'll go talk to her and ask her to marry me. Right now."

"Go for it, Sam." Donna smiled, then turned back towards Josh's office as she heard her name being called.

What Josh yelled made her turn back and grab Sam. "Come on. Now."

"What?" Sam feebly protested.

"Josh needs you." Donna looked apologetic, then attempted to explain. "Josh thinks he might know who the leak was."

Sam sighed. "Fine." He did want to know who the leak was - just not now. Still, he allowed himself to be dragged away.

Josh was waiting with a flashlight and a look of untamed victory. "I may have something for you," he told Sam. "I was thinking about it, and really, there's only two alternatives."

Sam raised his eyebrows, C.J. now temporarily forgotten. "Two? I would have thought there were at least three."

"Well, that's what I thought, too." Josh ticked off the points one by one on his fingers. "First, Danny. I know you don't believe him," he said to Sam, "but I do. His logic makes perfect sense. Even if he wanted to hurt you, he'd do it personally, not professionally. The worst that would happen here would be a loss of prestige. Maybe a resignation if things got way out of hand. That wouldn't make you stop dating C.J."

"That's true," Sam had to admit. "Who are the other alternatives?"

"Well, then there's Amanda York, the reporter from the Guardian." Josh's expression creased in thought. "She can't exactly be pro-Bartlet, working at that right-wing rag."

Donna and Sam both nodded. "But," Donna added, "you don't have any proof, right?"

"Right." Josh sighed. "Then, the last alternative. Congresswoman Jarrard's aide was there, getting the response on the Ways & Means commission, remember?" Sam nodded. "She's the other alternative. We don't know anything about her, though."

"Well, there's a way that you could find out," Donna said.

"How?"

"The White House files," Donna said matter-of-factly. "Doesn't the Secret Service keep files on pretty much everyone who comes in contact with the President?"

Sam stared at Donna with open appreciation. "You know," he said to Josh, "why didn't we think of that?"

"Yeah," Josh echoed. "Why *didn't* we think of that?" But he found an objection. "But there's probably no one down there right now. I'll bet they all had the sense to leave before the storm hit."

"Oh, I'll bet there's someone there," Donna said.

"It's a decent gamble," Sam said. "What else are we going to do about it tonight?"

"Come on, then." Donna held up her big flashlight. "I'll lead the way."
The three made their way carefully down to the basement of the White House. A hazardous journey by daylight, it was even worse by night. Josh in particular fell and tripped on the old stairs.

Sam had to laugh. "Oh, I'm the clumsy one?"

Josh, fighting not to curse, contented himself with a mere, "Shut up, Sam."

The three made it down to the file room without further incident. But they ran into a problem when they tried to open the files: each cabinet was locked.

"Damn." Sam turned to Josh and Donna. "What do we do now?"

Josh shrugged. "See if any of the counsels are still here."

"Good idea. Will you go start to knock on doors?" Sam asked Donna.

"Sure." She left, but it didn't take her long to have success. "Found one!" she called, returning with a sleepy Ainsley Hayes in tow.

"Hi, Ainsley," Sam said. "Can you unlock these?"

"That one, yes." Ainsley pointed to the file cabinet Josh was propping himself up against. "But only that one and a few others. Mr. Tribbey gave me the keys for a case we're working on. I don't have the keys to any other ones."

"Guess that'll have to do for tonight," Josh said. Ainsley unlocked the cabinets and turned to sit against the wall.

"Did you have work to do, or did you get stuck here?" Donna asked, thinking to make conversation.

"I had to finish the closing arguments in the Hansen case." Ainsley stifled a yawn. "When I went upstairs to the mess I saw the inferno outside."

Sam blinked. "Aren't infernoes usually fiery?"

"Yes, but this one is an inferno of cold."

"Is there such a thing?"

"Shut up, Sam." Ainsley had become much more self-assured since she had become friends with the speechwriter. Thus Sam tolerated her rebuke as a mark of independence.

Still, he had to get on with the business at hand. "Ainsley, would you help us with this?" Sam asked. "It'll go quicker with four people."

"Sure." Ainsley got to her feet and slowly went over to one of the drawers. "What am I looking for?"

"The files on two people." Sam noticed with satisfaction that the files he stared at were all belonging to reporters. "One of them's relatively new - Amanda York, the new girl from the Guardian - and Congresswoman Jarrard's aide - what's her name, Josh?"

"Melissa Barton," Josh answered. "Melissa Lynnette Barton."

"OK." Ainsley set to work as the others followed suit.

 

Too Marvelous for Words - 8

 

 

 

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