Cousins a TWW vignette by Cait & Janie
RATING: actually it's probably G but we'd never admit it
SYNOPSIS: just another quiet dinner for a thousand of your closest friends
ARCHIVE: Sure, just let us know. HTML version available
DISCLAIMER: the characters in this work of fiction are solely the property of the Evil Genius, Aaron Sorkin, and of Warner Bros. For that reason the authors wish to state that we intend no infringement of their copyright, nor do we expect to make any profit from it.
"Do we have to go to this -- thing?" Sam Seaborn complained to his putative date for the evening's event. He smoothed one hand unhappily over his already smoothed hair and frowned into the mirror.
"Well of course you don't have to go, Sam." Mallory McGarry O'Brien replied, struggling with the shoes that were supposed to work 'perfectly' with her new fancy-dress gown. "This is a free country, last I heard. But I'm going."
"Cos my Dad will kill me if I don't."
"Works for me." Sam grinned. "Need some help with your shoes?"
"No, thanks just the same. But you need some help with that tux! You look like you can't breathe, Sam!"
"Oh, are you supposed to be able to breathe in one of these things?"
"Fair point. Okay, Sam, grab my stole and bag and let's hit the bricks!"
"Okay." Dutifully, the White House Deputy Communications Director draped the brilliant green silk over one shoulder, perched the matching bag in his opposite hand and started to walk out the door.
"I told them not to do this ... thing!" C.J. Cregg muttered to herself pacing around her apartment as she dressed. "I've been telling them for weeks not to do it. I've been telling them exactly how and why it is going to be a ridiculous, over-blown, C.J.-you-deal-with-the-press-about-this-disaster!"
The White House Press Secretary bent down to feed Gail, the happily swimming, thriving goldfish who now presided over her bedroom, instead of her office. "You aren't over there anymore, mi amor, but you know I always tell them when something is going to be a huge success or a spectacular disaster. And they never listen! Why do you think that is?"
Spotting her temporarily misplaced right earring in Gail's bowl, C.J. deftly reached in and salvaged it.
"You're absolutely right, my dear. They never listen to me because they're all men! And they've got me talking to my goldfish!"
"Joshua," she said to the air as she swept out the door, "you'd better be ready when I get there."
"To-beeeeee!!" the stunning blonde called. "Come on, we're gonna be late for the thing!!!"
"I can only hope," he muttered into his tie.
"You know," she breathed, "It's been ages since I went to anything like _this_ ! I'm so looking forward to it."
"Wanting is often not the same as having." He rummaged around on the bureau for his car keys, finding them inside a brown sock. So guiding his date by the elbow, he strolled to the car, got her safely seated, and went around to his own door.
A few minutes later they were speeding toward the hotel where the fundraiser was being held. Suddenly, Toby looked up and, where he expected to find the rear view mirror, found none: his companion had twisted it around so she could use it for a vanity mirror. He reached up and turned it back, mumbling, "I've already had my close call for this year, thanks."
"Why exactly are we going to this ... thing?" Zoey Bartlet asked with an exasperated brush at her auburn hair.
"Because the President asked us to come, is my guess." Charlie Young answered, giving his date a small grin. "And the President happens to be your father and my boss."
"That doesn't mean we have to stay there all night, does it?"
"You know better than I do how these things work, Zoey. How long did you stay at the last fundraiser you went to?"
"Only for as long as I could humanly stand it. Fundraisers are deadly dull. They're sort of like one of those roasts, only without anyone there who knows how to tell a joke."
"Well then, I guess we'll take our half-dozen armed guards and sneak out as early as possible. How's that?"
"Deal." Zoey raised her hand, and Charlie obligingly high-fived her.
"Deal." he said, and leaned in for a quick kiss before they hurried out the door of his apartment.
"Josh? Open the door." CJ knocked again, then rang the bell.
"This is all I need," she said to nobody in particular. Then the door opened to reveal a half-dressed, tousled Joshua Lyman with one black sock and one brown sock in his hands.
"Hey," he said, trying to button his shirt while holding a sock in each hand. Leaving the door open, he wandered back into his living room, CJ following.
"Josh, come on, we're going to be late."
"Where are we going again?" he asked with a mouth full of toothpaste.
"The Park Hyatt. But you're not driving."
"Ya think? These pain pills are _wicked_!"
"Did you eat something?" CJ called as he disappeared into the bedroom again.
"Why, aren't they feeding us?"
"Well yes, they are, but if you haven't eaten, you'd better not have anything to drink before dinner. You'll make an ass out of yourself."
"I don't need a drink to do that!"
"Come on, pal o'mine. We're late."
As they sped off down the street, Josh turned to her and asked, "Hey wait a minute, isn't a pal o'mine a horse?"
"Aren't they supposed to be feeding us at this ... thing?" Jed Bartlet muttered to his COS.
"Only after you've had your hand shaken off a few hundred more times, Mr. President," Leo answered, allowing a tight grin onto his features for all of twenty seconds. "That's what all these people paid a thousand bucks a plate for, after all."
"That's what I was afraid of." Bartlet frowned, rolling his eyes upwards for a moment, recovering with lightning speed and a brilliant smile for the next couple walking up to him in the receiving line.
"Speaking of donations, Mr. Secretary," a clear, commanding voice came from behind Leo's back. "I'm here to collect your pledge to the Andrew Shepherd Presidential Library Fund."
Leo broke out in an ear-to-ear grin as he was warmly embraced by Sydney Ellen Wade, who sparkled in the room full of political hacks and amateurs, he thought, like a full-fledged star on a stage full of auditioning starlets.
"Syd!" he laughed, returning her hug then stepping back to admire the view. "You look fantastic!"
They were interrupted by the sound of the former President clearing his throat, pulling his wife away from his former Labor Secretary. "Great to see you again, too, Leo." Laughing, the two men shook hands warmly.
"I thought you sent your old man supposed out on the memoir-hyping rubber-chicken circuit!" Leo went on. "What did you bring him for?"
"Appearance's sake, Mr. Secretary." she joked back at him.. "You know I wouldn't miss a chance to see you again. You look really well. Is that a new tux?"
"I didn't see you two come in, Mr. President." Jed turned now, shaking his predecessor's hand vigorously.
"We managed to sneak in the front way." Shepherd answered. "Turns out, the press is all crowded around the back door, waiting for your exit. Haven't you found that tunnel yet ?"
"Oh sure I have. The tunnel you told me runs under most of the District? I thought they used that for the Metro," Bartlet joked. "Sydney, you look magnificent tonight."
"Thanks so much, Mr. President, you're looking very well yourself. But I didn't see Abbey on our way over here. Couldn't she make it?"
Bartlet shook his head. "And she'll be mad as a wet hen that she missed you. She won't much like it if I tell anyone why she's not here, either." Jed allowed himself a small grin. "But I guess you two won't run to the tabloids with it."
Grinning widely in return, Sydney agreed, her wide eyes smiling as she lifted her hand to her dark blue silk bodice. "Cross my heart. And his, too. Is she off somewhere with _your_ Secretary of Labor, sir?"
"No, nothing that interesting. Abby caught the chicken pox from Jo's baby boy. It's not a bad case, but she's miserable, and well and truly quarantined."
"Well do give her our love," Shepherd responded. "Come on, Syd, we're holding up the receiving line."
Sam and Mallory were working the room when they saw Toby and his date arrive. They both stopped dead in their tracks and tried valiantly not to stare.
"Sam, that is Toby, right?"
"Uh, who's that with him?"
"I have no idea."
"Roll your tongue back in, Seaborn. You might trip." She slapped his arm playfully.
"I'm sorry, what?" he responded.
"Never mind. Let's work our way over to say hi to Dad."
Toby, meanwhile, was introducing his companion for the evening to a knot of Congress members, whose interest visibly picked up when they learned her name. "This is Ms Cherie Herriman, Congresswoman Polk, Congressman Jackson, Congresswoman Buchanan, Congressman Taylor, Congresswoman Harrison, and Congresswoman Garfield."
The last named, a short, eager-looking redhead, grasped the blonde's hand and shook it vigorously.
"Ms. Herriman, I'm delighted to meet you! Your family has done so much for this country! But you're so young! Surely Ambassador Herriman couldn't have been your father!"
Cherie blinked hard, as if an eyelash had fallen loose, and then laughed aloud, her voice rising sharply. "Oh no! Those Herrimans are my grandfather's cousins! That's okay. People are always getting us mixed up. My dad says our side of the family raises the kind of money their side of the family was born with, and lots of it!"
Toby sighed with relief. Earlier in the week, Leo had announced at Senior Staff that he would have to tap one of them to escort Cherie to the fundraiser, because her father would be unable to attend. Sam announced that he was bringing Mallory, and CJ pointed out that she had volunteered to make sure Josh got to his post-Rosslyn debut without a hitch. This left Toby.
"Well," Leo had said, "I guess you're it."
Sam deadpanned, "Unless Toby would like to take Mallory instead-"
Leo glared. "Why should I trust him with my only daughter?"
"You trust Sam with your only daughter!" Toby had shot back.
A motion at the back of the room rousted Toby from his reverie. Glancing in that direction, Toby noted Sam, Mallory and Leo conferring with someone else he couldn't see. President Bartlet was on his way to the dais, and former President Shepherd and his wife were only a few steps behind him. But CJ was nowhere to be seen.
But just as Toby was wondering if he should be sending someone to look for the Press Secretary and the Deputy Chief of Staff, two familiar voices rose in the doorway behind him.
"But Joshua," CJ was saying, "we didn't even need to go through DuPont Circle!"
Josh's laugh was a touch too edgy. "It's so much fun watching you go around in circles!"
Uh-oh, Toby thought. Maybe Josh isn't quite ready for prime time yet. He excused himself from the dowager who had been bending his ear, and headed toward the newcomers.
"Where have you two been?" Toby stage-whispered at the pair.
CJ glared. "I should have known better than to expect Joshua to know how to read a map. After all, he and Sam grew up together."
"Fair point," Toby replied. "You've missed the receiving line."
"How will I survive?" she responded, grabbing Josh's elbow. "Come on, mi amor, let's go to the big kid's table."