Warnings/Disclaimers/etc: see pt 1

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Donna halted just outside C.J.'s door. She had taken it upon herself to talk to the older woman, and wasn't sure, quite frankly, how she'd be received. But, she told herself, C.J. had looked terrible at the staff meeting. She just needed someone to talk to. Besides, Donna added, she wanted answers.

She knocked once and was rewarded by a curt "Who is it."

"It's Donna."

"Donna?" C.J. echoed. Her voice turned hard. "If you're bringing messages from Josh, you can leave right now."

"Josh?" Donna snorted. "C.J., I'm mad at him too."

"What'd he do to you?" In spite of herself, C.J. sounded interested.

"I'm just sick of having to share office space with his ego." Donna sighed. "Um, C.J., I don't want to be rude, but if we're going to have a conversation could I come in?"

"Yeah, what the hell." C.J. opened the door and Donna was surprised at how tired she looked.

She said as much, treading carefully. "C.J., you don't look so good."

C.J. laughed sardonically. "Well, Donna, I have every right to look terrible. I have three more briefings to give, I still haven't organized the President's appearance at the WHO fundraiser, Sam's avoiding me and Josh is an asshole!"

Donna could read her, and it shocked her somewhat to see that the press secretary was really hurting. She'd always thought of C.J. as somewhat invincible. Thus it was surprising to see C.J. agonize over anything.

She said, "Sam's avoiding you? Why?"

"Because." C.J.'s gaze dropped to a spot on the floor. "I told him I thought we shouldn't date anymore."

Donna's expression was eloquent. "C.J.," she said, somewhat bitterly, "you are one of the smartest people I know. But that was really, really stupid."

"Oh, really, Donna?" C.J.'s ire was up, and her eyes were narrowed.

"Yes, really. Josh showed you the memo purposely to make you nervous," Donna said with her characteristic bluntness. "He was supposed to show it to Simon. He showed it to you to make his point."

Donna had expected C.J. to get angry when told this latest piece of news. Thus, she was totally unprepared when instead of getting up and beginning to rant and pace around her office, C.J. dropped her head into her forearms with the utmost expression of pain.

She moved across to the desk, not sure of what to do. "C.J., are you all right?"

With great difficulty, C.J. lifted her head. "Both of my best friends are mad at me. I'm exceedingly pissed off at one of those best friends. I just lost a chance at a great relationship. I have three briefings." She slammed a hand down on the desk. "I have no goddamn control! None!"

"But you could have control." The words came out of Donna's mouth before she could stop them.

"What do you mean?"

"Just be like me." Donna attempted a small smile. "I control things. I have the run of Josh's day. So he has to be relatively nice to me. Without me he'd be lost." She faced the older woman. "You're in the same position. Without you, they're ambushed on any possible press leaks, and also they don't have the rapport with *certain reporters* that you do."

C.J. winced. "Donna, I have no idea what to do about Danny right now."

"Why do anything?" Donna asked rhetorically. "Let a bit of this blow over. Then talk to Sam, Josh *and* Danny. You're not thinking right now, C.J. Let some of this pass."

"Yeah, I suppose so." C.J. stared at the younger woman with new admiration. Donna so often played the expected roles – the Dumb Blonde, the Competent Assistant – that it was sometimes hard to find the smart, sensitive woman underneath. That was often the way she felt herself. She played her roles – the Press Secretary, the Senior Staffer, the Strong Politician – that it was so difficult sometimes to let all that femininity escape. Sam had let her do that.

She stifled the melancholy and said, "Thanks, Donna. I needed that."

"Not a problem." Donna smiled. "Just let some time go by. Besides," she added, smirk coming to her face. "Josh has enough on his plate right now."

"Really?"

"Oh, yes." Donna briefly filled C.J. in on Josh's trials during that day. "And Sam even came to his office and chewed him out!" she finished, smiling at the memory. "I couldn't hear everything, but Sam was actually *yelling.*"

"Sam? Yelling?" C.J. said, amused yet not. Sam needed a damn good reason to blow up at someone.

"Yeah, he's been in a foul mood for a while," Donna answered breezily. "He snapped at Cathy, and he basically told Toby what he could do with the Emerson memoranda."

"Wow."

"Yeah." Donna mused. "I wonder what could have made him so mad."

"Go figure. But with Sam, it's got to be something personal."

"Yeah."

"I wonder what." But as C.J. spoke a tiny, troublesome doubt inserted itself into her head. Could Sam be taking his anger at her out on everyone else? Was that why he had been avoiding her? It would be like him. He was so seldom angry that he often didn't know how to deal with it. And he only got this mad over personal issues.

She put her head in her hands again. "My God. Can this get *any* worse?"

"What do you mean, C.J.?" Donna looked concerned.

"He's mad at me." It sounded hideously convincing the more she thought about it. Why else would he be that angry? Well, she amended, some of it was probably Josh's interference – no matter what C.J. had told Sam, Josh's interference would still be resented. But it probably wasn't that big a deal anymore, given that the situation was now moot. "He's mad at me because I dumped him."

Donna smiled evenly, trying to lighten the mood. "C.J., do you really think you've got that kind of effect on men?"

C.J. laughed. "Maybe not. But still... is there another explanation?"

"Maybe." Donna consulted her watch. "Look. I have to go into the lion's den – in other words, I have to talk to Sam, even in his current state. Is there anything you want me to tell him?"

C.J. pondered that one. Would it really do any good right now, whether he was mad or not? "No, Donna. I want to leave it alone for now."

Donna sighed. "Fine." She turned to leave.

"Hey, Donna?"

"Yeah?"

C.J. smiled. "We should do something sometime. You know, a girls' night." She tried to inject enthusiasm in her voice for something that wasn't that interesting. "You know. Go to the bar, dance with the guys. Hell, let's bring along some of the better-looking Secret Service men."

Donna laughed. "I'd enjoy that. Thanks, C.J." She turned and left, thinking, *I don't know, would Josh get jealous? I care about that. Why the hell do I care?*


You're So Vain - 7

 

 

 

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