SUMMARY: CJ inflicts a little punishment.
DISCLAIMER: They're not mine; if they were, I'd be nicer to them. ;)
THANKS: To Jo March, as always, for her unwavering support and excellent editorial suggestions.
I round the corner at a good clip, nearly running smack into Victim Number One.
Josh steps back and attempts to steady me. I shrug him off.
"Josh," I say. "I'm going to borrow Donna for a bit."
He looks curious, but merely nods. "'Kay."
I lean around the glass partition to ask Donna, but she is already gathering her notebook.
"CJ," Donna says, "The song was last week."
Josh jumps on that, of course. "I *knew* you needed help with the song," he smirks.
"Shut up," I reply, shooting Donna an annoyed look.
"Sorry," she mouths.
With a dismissive wave of my hand, I lead her into my office. Donna sits, opens her notebook, and looks at me expectantly.
"You won't be needing that," I say.
"Okay," Donna nods. "So why--?"
"It was Josh's idea, wasn't it?"
"Probably," she says. "But what, specifically, are we talking about?"
"Eric and Troy. Having them, you know, bunk with me."
Donna nods. "I'm pretty sure he suggested it, but Sam and Toby were more than eager to agree."
"Fine," I say. "They're on my list, too."
Donna's face lights up. "Punishment?"
I give her a conspiratorial grin. "Punishment."
"Can I help?"
"After your fabulous performance at the annual Fourth of July strip poker game? Of course."
"I still can't believe they burned those pictures," Donna grins. "My personal favorite was that one of Toby in his maroon silk boxers, those ridiculous black socks, and an expression of utter horror."
"No," I say, laughing. "The one where Josh is trying to hide behind Sam because--because--"
"Because he wears boxer briefs," Donna shrieks, holding her stomach.
Eventually, we regain some semblance of sobriety. "It's not our fault they're so naive," I say, still snickering.
"Who would have thought three grown men would be so easily duped?"
"You," I say, "are an excellent ringer."
"Thank you, thank you," she grins. "The 'dumb blonde' assumption used to annoy me, but then I decided to use it to my advantage."
"Good," I say. "Maybe we can use it again."
Donna grins and leans towards me. "What did you have in mind?"
"Many, many things."
Donna passes me in the hallway, dried tear tracks on her face, and gives me a wicked grin.
I nod and head for Leo's office.
"Leo," I pop my head in. "I'm getting some questions about--What's wrong?" I take a couple steps into the room.
"What are you talking about?" Leo frowns.
"You just look," I give a calculated pause. "Never mind. I'm getting--"
"Has Josh seemed hostile to you lately?" Leo asks.
"Josh is always hostile."
"Yeah, but unusually so?"
I pretend to think about it for a moment. "Now that you mention it, he did snap at Carol the other day. He--" I pause, my brow furrowed as if I am considering saying more.
"CJ?" Leo prompts.
"It's just that his attack was rather, well, personal." Josh made fun of Carol's spelling--again--and offered to buy her a dictionary. Carol rolled her eyes--as always--and told him where he could stuff his dictionary. But my version works better for my vengeful purposes.
Leo looks concerned. "I just saw Donna crying in the hallway, but she wouldn't tell me why."
"You think--" I stop suddenly and put on my shocked face. "You think *Josh* made her cry?"
Leo shrugs. "When I asked her if it had anything to do with Josh, she shook her head and all but ran out of here."
You know, if these idiots weren't such suckers for the damsel in distress routine, they'd be a lot harder to play. I fight an inappropriate grin and manage a perfunctory nod. "Well, he is hostile."
Leo nods. "What did you need?"
"I'm getting some questions on--" I stop again, look uncertain, and wait for Leo to bite.
"I was just thinking," I say carefully. "Maybe some, you know, anger management classes wouldn't be a bad idea."
"Josh?" Leo asks, his eyebrows reaching for the sky. "In a feel-good, love-your-neighbor seminar?"
Must. Not. Laugh. These boys really should learn not to fuck with me.
"Maybe it would do him some good," I say innocently. "I worry about him."
"Yeah," Leo nods slowly. "I see your point." He shakes himself out of it. "What did you need?"
"It can wait," I say and beat a hasty retreat.
One down, two to go.
Revenge on Victim Number Two requires a bit more delicacy. Of course, the poor dear is so credulous that I doubt he'll realize he's been played for months.
"Sam?" I knock meekly on his door.
"CJ," he grins up at me. "I'm just finishing up with the Detroit speech."
"Yeah," he nods. "Did you know that Ford is considering--?"
"Does this story have anything to do with cars?"
"Save it for someone who cares," I suggest.
Sam's face falls. "Okay."
"Sam, I need some advice."
"Oh," he says, regaining some of his enthusiasm. "Advice?"
"Yes." As if.
"Okay," he grins. "What's the problem?"
"You've studied our sexual harassment policy, right?"
Sam's grin is replaced by that annoying White Knight Sam expression. "Who is it, CJ?"
"This is hypothetical, Sam," I say. "Someone else is asking for my advice."
"I can't say." I give him an innocent look. "She's not sure what to do about the situation and she's asked me for advice. But," I pause and shrug. "I'm not a lawyer."
Sam nods gravely. Egotistical ass.
"What's the question?"
I wait a long moment, ostensibly deciding how to phrase everything. Donna and I actually rehearsed this a couple of times; the pause is purely for Sam's benefit. "There's an employee who--hypothetically--is in a situation that is somewhat uncomfortable."
Sam nods. "Hostile work environment?"
"Not really," I say. "She likes the guy--" I stop and clap one hand over my mouth.
"Hypothetically?" he offers.
"Yes," I say gratefully. Why is he so willing to believe I'm an idiot? "She likes him as a person, but she has reason to believe he may..." I pause again, "have a crush on her."
"Okay," Sam says. "So what's the problem? Is he hitting on her? Unwanted sexual advances?"
"No, nothing like that. It's more like he's taken it upon himself to avenge any wrongs she encounters since she's--" I stop again and give Sam a panicked look.
"You don't have to finish that sentence, CJ."
Thank you, kind Sir. God, Sam can be irritating.
"I don't want to say any more," I tell him. "But she needs to know how to discourage him without threatening to, you know, bring charges."
Sam nods thoughtfully. "Well, she could just talk to him, tell him she's not interested."
"She's fairly new here," I say. "I don't think she's comfortable enough for that."
"Okay," he says. "Then I would suggest sending someone else, a neutral third party, to talk to this guy and tell him to back off."
I need to leave before I start laughing and ruin it all.
"Thank you, Sam," I give him a benevolent smile. "I knew you would understand." I stand and head for the door.
"Understand?" Sam says. "Wait! CJ, why would I--?"
The nickel drops.
I can't even turn to look back at him or I'll lose it. "Hypothetically, Sam," I call over my shoulder.
Two down, one to go.
"CJ," Josh scowls at me from the doorway. "Have you stolen my assistant again?"
I glance up at him. "No." He looks upset. "What's wrong, mi amore?"
"Leo says I'm hostile," he says in a tone of incredulity. This is news to him?
"You are hostile, Josh."
"Only to Republicans," he shrugs.
"Well, conservative Christians," he admits. "But I'm hostile to their political goals, not their religious beliefs."
"Which are hopelessly intertwined," I point out with a grin.
"Not my fault," he shrugs. "And anyway, why is Leo worrying about this *now*?"
I feign ignorance. "Leo's worrying about this now?"
"Yeah," Josh answers. "He's threatening to send me to polishing school. Can you believe that?"
"Polishing school?" I am finding it so hard to keep a straight face.
"Anger management classes," he clarifies glumly. "Every morning for a *week*."
"You won't last an hour," I observe calmly.
"I have to," Josh answers. "Leo ordered it."
That's right, little man. Suck it up.
I give Josh a sympathetic nod.
He sighs, "If you see Donna?"
"Right," I say. "No problem."
Josh wanders back into his office and I snicker into my forearm to muffle the sound. This plan is truly inspired. If I do say so myself.
As planned, Donna and I wait to implement phase three of CJ's Revenge for a week.
One week of watching Sam awkwardly avoiding Ainsley Hayes--and shooting me pleading looks whenever she caught up with him. I never rescued him; I merely gave him a grin and a thumbs up.
Oddly, Sam started acting strangely around *all* of the women in the office. Considering his and Toby's support staff is about 80 percent female, this made for some damn fine entertainment.
On Tuesday, Sam smiled at Kathy and said, "You look nice today. Is that a new suit?"
Kathy, who had been briefed the day before, frowned and demanded, "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing," Sam yelped. "It was a neutral, platonic statement."
"Platonic?" Kathy repeated. "You wouldn't say that to a male coworker."
"Yes," Sam protested. "Yes, I would. I would say that to Josh, or to--to--" Toby chose that moment to wander in, and Sam pointed at his boss. "To Toby."
Toby gave Sam a pained look while Kathy crossed her arms and waited expectantly.
Sam swallowed hard. "Toby, that suit is very, you know, flattering."
Toby stared at Sam for a long moment. "What?"
"I heard you," Toby snapped. "Go away."
"Okay," Sam said, and retreated to his office.
If possible, Josh's tenure at Anger Management: Rechanneling Anger In To Happiness was even more amusing. Josh's class was 9-12 every day, which meant he arrived back at his office around 12:15, hissing and spitting and mad as hell.
He knew he couldn't flunk the class, since Leo ordered him to attend. Which means he had to play nice with the touchy-feely instructor. There's nothing Josh hates more than playing nice. So he of course remained in a foul mood for the entire week.
Every look at his glowering face sent me into paroxysms of laughter. I did feel bad for Donna, who had to deal with Angry Josh all week. But she assured me that it was worth it; something about a crack he made a couple of weeks back.
"Donna," Josh whined on Thursday. "We had to write *essays* today!"
"Sounds like fun, Josh," she answered. "I had to research U.S. policy regarding Central American dictatorships."
"Essays about our *Special Place*," he countered.
"Your Special Place?" Donna repeated. "You know, I think my Special Place is waiting for me somewhere in the Bahamas."
"Donna, we had to *share.*"
"You've never been good at sharing," she said solemnly. "Take your money, for example--"
"I'm saying I had to write an essay about my Special Place and then read it *aloud* to seven strangers. It was humiliating!"
Have I mentioned that I am a genius?
Phase Three requires some stealthiness on Donna's part, and for she and I to arrive at the White House by 6:00 a.m. on Monday. Toby usually gets to work between seven and seven-thirty, but we had to be sure to beat him.
I stay conspicuously in my office while Donna puts things in motion. So to speak.
Bonnie calls me at 7:08 to let me know Toby arrived and is checking the wires. I collect Donna and we head out.
Josh, ever curious, notices our departure and follows us. "Ladies," he says, "are we headed for a girls' day out."
"No," I answer. "We're going to catch the floor show."
We reach the Communications bullpen, and before Josh can inquire further, Toby comes flying out of his office and slams the door.
"What is that... that... creature doing in there?" Toby sputters, his attention fixed on Bonnie.
"Creature?" Bonnie asks. "What are you talking about?" Donna and I withheld the details so Bonnie could retain plausible deniability.
Toby takes a deep breath. "There is a four-legged, furry, you know, creature in my office."
I can feel Josh's suspicious look. "Wait a minute," he says slowly.
"Could you be more specific?" Bonnie asks her boss.
Sam arrives just in time, taking in the scene with a confused look. "What's going on?"
Toby glares at Sam. "There is a dog in my office."
"A dog?" Sam repeats. "Why is there a dog in your office?"
"Yeah, CJ," Josh says. "Why is there a dog in Toby's office?"
Donna takes a step forward. "Maybe it crawled in one of the windows," she suggests. "Did you leave one of your windows open?"
Toby turns to us. "The windows on the ground floor don't actually open, Donna."
"Well, how would I know that?" Donna asks. "I don't *have* an office."
"Who put this--this dog in my office?" Toby demands.
I am grinning. I can't help it. "Is there a note?"
"I knew it," Josh says. "You--"
Donna kicks him.
Toby has already opened his office door. He hesitates on the threshold. "Here... Dog," he calls unenthusiastically. He shoots us a pained look. "It's not moving."
I give a nice, loud whistle and the dog appears in the doorway. She is a grey and white furball with big, innocent eyes. The entire bullpen lets out a collective "Awww."
Toby rolls his eyes and reaches down for the dog. "Here, Dog," he says again. Picking her up gently, he pulls a note from the purple ribbon tied around her neck.
"'Happy Thanksgiving,'" Toby reads in a monotone, "'Love, Eric and Troy.'"
I lose it. I start laughing and Donna joins me immediately. Bonnie, Kathy, and Ginger are not far behind.
"Her name," I manage, "is Dimples."
"Dimples?" Sam repeats. "Dogs don't really have dimples."
Toby gives him a sharp look and then turns on Donna and I. "You did this?" His angry tone is somewhat undermined by the way he's gently scratching Dimples' ears.
Josh shakes his head in disbelief, his arms crossed. "This is revenge for the turkeys, isn't it?"
I nod--I am laughing too hard to speak.
Dimples gives Toby a big wet kiss on the nose. Toby has that annoyed look in place, but he's still petting her gently with his free hand.
"And who does Dimples belong to?" Toby demands.
"To whom," Sam corrects. Toby glowers at him and Sam backs up a step. "Sorry."
"You," Donna snickers, pointing at Toby.
Toby's eyes go wide. "Excuse me?"
I sober up a bit. "We rescued her from a shelter. If you take her back, they'll put her to sleep."
Toby stares at me. "Excuse me?"
I grin at him. "Come on, Toby. Show everyone you have a heart under that gruff demeanor. Give Dimples a home."
"CJ," Ginger asks, "why a dog?"
Donna glances at me for permission, then explains, "We figured not even Toby could dislike a dog as adorable as Dimples. She's three years old and her last owner was a tiny old woman named Clarice."
"Right," I say. "Toby and a cat... well, let's just say the potential for mutual hate is far too strong with that scenario."
Josh gives an appreciative nod. "Look at him," he says, pointing at Toby. "He's already in love with that mutt."
"She is not a mutt," Donna protests.
"She looks like a mutt," Josh mutters. "Look at that fur sticking out in all directions."
Donna gives him a pointed look. "I wouldn't be so quick to judge."
"Hey--" he starts, one hand smoothing his unruly hair.
"CJ," Toby interrupts. "Why don't you take the dog--?"
"Toby, you've met Gloria, right?"
Toby rolls his eyes. "That cat?"
"Yes," I grin at him. "Gloria would eat Dimples for breakfast. She's all yours."
"Donna?" Toby offers with an interesting, almost plaintive tone of voice.
"Candi's still got her two cats, Toby," Donna shrugs. "Sorry."
"Ginger? Kathy? Bonnie?"
Ginger and Kathy shake their heads in unison, and Bonnie holds up a pre-emptive hand. "Don't even look at me, Toby. I've got two golden retrievers."
Silence falls as we all watch Toby watch Dimples. She appears quite comfortable in his arms, her little tail wagging against his suit jacket and her face turned up to his.
"CJ?" Sam raises a tentative hand. "So that conversation?"
I smirk at him. "I told you it was hypothetical."
He opens and closes his mouth a few times, but can't seem to find words.
I glance over a Josh, who is giving me a look of grudging respect. "This whole thing was underhanded, sneaky, and a stunt worthy of--"
"You?" I suggest.
"Yeah," he grins. "I should warn you, though, payback's a bitch."
I roll my eyes. "I'm scared, Anger-Boy."
He just nods. "Okay."
So I might be a *little* apprehensive. Donna and I exchange grins and turn back to Toby. Or, as I like to call him, Victim Number Three.
Toby is still glaring at us. "I have work," he says finally. "Dimples and I will be in my office."
I give his door a triumphant look.
Sam gestures oddly and says, "Me, too." He disappears into his office and slams the door behind him.
Donna and I turn to Josh with matching satisfied grins.
Josh gives a careless shrug, "So you won one skirmish."
I smirk at him. "Keep underestimating us and you'll end up at a whole month's worth of workplace training."
Josh rolls his eyes and departs the field, bloodied. You know, figuratively speaking.
I look at Donna. She looks at me. We grin at each other, then acknowledge the round of applause from Kathy, Bonnie, and Ginger. We thank them, of course, for their help in what I like to call CJ's Revenge.
Chalk one up for the women.
Feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org