Witless: An Innocent Kiss Ryo Sen
Disclaimers, etc. in part one.
The next few days were surprisingly without conflict. Probably because I spent Christmas day in bed moaning and wishing for a quick, painless death. But still.
I think it's safe to say the storm had all but blown over. Sam was out of town. CJ was still subjecting me to the occasional lecture on my misogynist tendencies and what she termed my overwhelming ego, but that wasn't actually all that unusual.
And had my assistant been around instead of off gallivanting with her family, I'm sure the sticky situation would have disappeared around the same time as my hangover.
So I slept through my alarm on the 2nd. Which was really not my fault. Donna is supposed to call me if she gets in to work and I'm not there yet. But given that she was in Chicago... Let's just say I got to work a bit late.
And since he played such an integral role in the disaster, I should point out that Sam had arrived back in D.C. the night before.
Anyway, because I wasn't there on time, I missed the conversation CJ and Sam had in Sam's office. A conversation that, regrettably, widened to include Toby when he walked in looking for a draft of a speech. Neither CJ nor Sam realized that Toby hadn't even been at the White House on Christmas Eve to witness the... Well, he didn't know about the thing in my office.
Until they told him.
That's the part I'm not sad about missing; apparently Toby made many, many disparaging remarks about my "womanizing," and my "sleazy persona that is inexplicably charming to women." All the while praising Donna's virtue for resisting my evil clutches for so long.
Like I said, I'm quite glad I didn't have to sit through yet another scolding from Toby.
But, oh, how I wish I'd gotten to work before the three stooges headed for the staff meeting. These are three of the most brilliant people in the country. They're supposedly concerned about a possible P.R. nightmare, yet they discuss the situation while walking through the halls of the West Wing. How bright is that?
As a result, I arrived at the staff meeting with no clue that Leo had overheard CJ, Sam, and Toby discussing me and Donna. The meeting, needless to say, did not go well.
"Nice of you to join us, Josh," Leo sniped as soon as he saw me.
"Sorry," I said, fussing with my damp and quite unruly hair. "I had a thing."
CJ and Toby nodded their hellos, while Sam pursed his lips and tilted his head towards Leo. I got the feeling he was trying to tell me something, but my synapses weren't firing correctly.
"You had a thing?" Leo asked in the tone he gets just before he goes in for the kill.
"Yeah," I said.
"Who was it this time, Josh?" Leo crossed his arms and glared at me.
I was beginning to get the picture. "Leo--"
"No, really," he interrupted. "I'm curious, Josh. Are you going to work your way through your entire support staff, or have you started in on someone else's?"
I was starting to get pissed. "Leo, don't you think that's a little out of line?"
CJ, Toby, and Sam edged away from me.
Leo took a step forward. "Excuse me?"
"I just meant--"
"You and your assistant are playing tonsil hockey in your office in the White House and I'm out of line?"
CJ stepped in. "This is serious, Josh."
"I'm aware of that, CJ," I snapped.
"Then act like it," Leo commanded. "I don't know what I'm supposed to do with you, Josh."
"Nothing. You don't have to do anything. There was mistletoe, Leo," I said with what may have been a slightly inappropriate grin. "It was just a friendly, Christmas kiss."
"You're Jewish," Leo said flatly.
"Donna's Presbyterian," Sam offered.
Leo glared at him for a moment, "Thank you, Sam."
"No problem," Sam retreated behind a nearby chair.
"Leo," I said. "I don't see what the big deal is."
"Josh," Toby said. "This is serious. What if the press stumbled upon that... that prurient scene?"
"Prurient," I repeated. "It was just a simple kiss."
Leo glared at me. "It was completely inappropriate, Josh. And I've got to tell you, I'm not looking forward the conversation I'm going to have with Donna."
"Wait a second," I said, shaking my head. "What are you talking about?"
"You can't think this will go unpunished," Leo answered.
"Unpunished? You're going to punish us?" I sputtered. "For a holiday kiss behind closed doors?"
"This is serious, Joshua," CJ said.
"What about Danny and CJ?" My attempted misdirection earned me a frightening scowl from CJ.
"What about me and Danny?" CJ stepped right into the box and swung for it.
"I couldn't care less about CJ and Danny," Leo said. CJ looked shocked
"Why don't you care about CJ and Danny?" I asked.
"Danny doesn't work for me," Leo said. "I can't fire him."
"You can't fire Donna, either," I said.
"Oh, but I can."
I stood and stared at Leo, but couldn't seem to come up with anything to say to that. CJ, Sam, and Toby seemed similarly struck dumb.
Leo sighed, "Look, I don't want to fire Donna--"
"You can't fire Donna," I repeated. "Leo, you can't."
"What am I supposed to do, Josh?" Leo threw his hands up. "This is serious."
"Could we please pick a new phrase?" I asked.
"Would you prefer that I fire you?" Leo bellowed. "Because I'm really not in the mood for your 'wit,' Josh."
"Leo," Sam said. "No one needs to be fired--"
"Sam," Leo rounded on him.
Sam shut up.
Leo turned back to me. "I'm not sure what kind of options we have here, Josh."
"You can't fire Donna." I seemed to be stuck on that phrase.
Leo stared at me for a moment. "When does she get back?"
"Be in my office at 8a.m. Tuesday morning. Both of you."
"Enough, Josh." Leo turned to Sam. "What else?"
It's amazing what kissing someone can do to your awareness level.
I ducked out early on Monday--after hiding out in my office for the better part of two days--and headed for the airport. I hate the airport. I find the whole dropping-people-off and picking-people-up thing to be torturous and unnecessary. You get a car, they drop you off and pick you up curbside; no parking (for $5 per hour), no slogging through crowds of post-holiday bad cheer. No fuss.
But for reasons I didn't care to examine too closely, I felt some strange obligation to collect Donna and see her home. These occasional surges of protectiveness are a pain in the ass. (You'll notice that I have, as a result of the events of Christmas Eve, lopped off the descriptive "brotherly," as that would be... well, just wrong.)
I got to the airport early, for once, and tried to look casual. How this could be accomplished while awaiting the post-kiss arrival of my assistant, I'm not sure. But I settled on the Starbucks kiosk and spent an inordinate amount of time debating the pros and cons of a double espresso.
Good thing I decided to forego the caffeine rush, because the sight of Donna walking towards me set my nerves jangling. She looked appropriately wrinkled after her flight, but she was still luminous. I swallowed hard and said, "Donnatella Moss."
Donna started and looked my way. She gave me the once-over, "Josh, what are you doing?"
I grinned at her and grabbed her overnight bag. "Picking you up at the airport."
After dissuading her of the notion that I was there to kidnap her and take her to the office, Donna started to get the picture. She gave me her worried face.
"Promise you won't get upset?" I asked, stupidly.
"Josh, I've gone way past upset already."
And the thing was, she had. She had that little furrow between her eyes, and the corners of her mouth tilted down. I hate when she's upset.
"Well," I said, trying to figure out how to break it to her gently. "Sam was telling Toby about--about the thing that happened Christmas Eve. And you know how preoccupied they get. So I guess they weren't paying attention to where they were going or who was behind them and, well," I shrugged, "Leo sort of overheard."
She stopped walking abruptly and clutched my arm. "Leo knows?" she asked her voice oddly high and shrill.
"Yeah." I turned to her.
"Do you know another Leo?"
"Leo McGarry our boss?"
"Well, technically Leo's my boss," I smiled, amused in spite of myself. "You've got to get clear on this whole chain of command thing, Donna."
"We've established that. It's time to move on and develop a strategy."
"Josh, there is no strategy," she was using that 'don't mess with me' tone. "You kissed me-"
Why did she keep saying that? "You kissed me back," I pointed out.
"That is so not the issue. You kissed me. Leo knows. We're screwed."
I grinned down at her, "Now that's what Sam would call an unfortunate choice of words."
"This is serious, Joshua." Donna was definitely not seeing the amusement.
"Yeah, that's what Leo said," I answered, attempting to be more serious. "And Toby. CJ said it twice."
"Which is when you mentioned Danny."
"Yeah, I think she's kind of pissed."
"Josh," Donna said, "just tell me about the message on my answering machine."
"Oh, that's from Leo. He wants the two of us in his office at 8 a.m. tomorrow."
Donna aggressively pushed her way through the doors and sucked in a breath at the cold air. "I can't believe this."
"Can't believe what?" I asked, pulling my jacket a bit tighter.
"This," she said, waving her hand around in the space between us. "To think we would... It's insane."
I paused for a moment, a little shocked by the niggling disappointment her words generated. "You're right." I gestured to my car. "I'm over there."
After I dropped Donna at her place, I didn't really want to go home. I conveniently remembered the VAWA2 bill sitting on my desk and headed for the office.
Two hours later, I was ready for bed, if not death. But the thought of heading out into the bitter cold and driving all the way to my apartment was too much. Instead, I slipped next door and bunked out on CJ's couch.
Which is where she found me the next morning.
I rolled my head sideways, but the abused muscles in my neck protested sharply. I moaned.
"Joshua, get up."
"CJ," I mumbled. "What time is it?"
"Yes," CJ poked me. "Get up."
I carefully levered myself upright and squinted in the bright light. "Is today Tuesday?"
CJ shook her head in exasperation. "Yes, Josh. And you'd better convince Leo to keep Donna here."
That woke me up. "He's still thinking of firing her?" I rolled my shoulders a bit to work out the kinks.
"Yes, you misogynistic jerk."
"Seriously, Josh, what did you think would happen?"
"Exactly," CJ interrupted. "You didn't think. The thing with Mandy was bad enough, but she wasn't your subordinate. I knew it would only be a matter of time until you compromised one of your staffers; I just didn't think it'd be Donna."
"I wasn't compromising anyone, CJ, and I think you're making too big a deal out of this."
"Oh, right," she glared down at me. "I must be overreacting. Maybe it's my time of the month."
"When, exactly, did this turn into the battle of the sexes?" I demanded, pushing myself up onto my feet.
"In case you hadn't noticed, Joshua, it's been a battle of the sexes since that punk Adam blamed everything on Eve."
"I thought you were Catholic, CJ."
"Yeah," she said with a small smile. "But I've always been partial to Lilith."
Finally, a truce. I hate fighting with CJ.
"Joshua," she warned soberly. "You're a man. This will work out fine for you. Donna is a woman, and your subordinate. She's going to get lambasted in the press."
"For the forty-eighth time, the press doesn't know about this. The press isn't going to know about this," I yelled. "No one will be lambasted in the press."
"The support staff knows, Josh," CJ said quietly. "How long do you think it'll take for the press to catch a tip?"
I stared at her. "The support staff?"
"I don't know, Josh. Just trust me on this."
I sank back down onto her couch. "Shit."
CJ let me sit and stew for a few minutes, then kicked me out so she could get to work. I headed for the coffee pot for some artificial enthusiasm.
"Josh," Sam called.
I poured a cup. "You want some?"
He shook his head. He was smiling.
"What's with you?" I growled. I think my grouchiness was understandable given the circumstances.
"It's a beautiful day, wouldn't you say?"
"The way the sun is sparkling off the snow, the unnerving lack of traffic on the Beltway, and all the little birds chirping-"
"There are no birds, Sam."
"There could be birds."
"It's 47 degrees outside," I said. "The birds are in Florida."
"But still," he said. "It's a beautiful day."
I glared at him for a moment and headed for my office.
"Seriously, Josh," he said, following me. "I am filled with glee."
"Why are you filled with glee?" I flopped into my chair.
"It's a beautiful day."
I glared at him. He grinned back, gave a little wave, and turned to leave. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and started whistling "Hello, Young Lovers."
"Sam," I yelled.
He turned back and gave me an innocent look. "Yes?"
"You're not at all amusing."
"Sure," he nodded. And began whistling again.
I dropped my head onto my desk and contemplated suicide. Problem is, I really dislike guns, blood makes me lightheaded, I'm not particularly fond of heights, and I'd probably be too altered after swallowing one valium to get the rest in my mouth.
"Joshua," said a familiar gruff voice.
Of course, a quick stab to the correct artery and I could... Oh, the room is spinning. I jerked upright and opened my eyes wide. "Toby, please, not you, too."
"What?" He frowned at me.
"Don't give me a lecture, or call me sexist, or whistle stupid songs at me."
He regarded me in silence for a long moment. "Commerce bill," he said. "I'm looking for the briefing memo."
It took me a moment to switch gears. I dug through a pile of crap on my desk and produced the memo. "Here."
"So here's an interesting idea," he began.
"Oh, come on, Toby," I propped my chin in my hand.
"No one around here wants to lose Donna."
"But I haven't seen anyone crying over the idea of your being fired."
"With her..." he paused, "charisma, I think Donna would make an excellent Deputy Chief of Staff."
"That's ridiculous, Toby. Donna would never stay here without me."
"You should really take a look at what you're paying her, Josh."
"Just a helpful suggestion," he said, backing out of my office.
I checked my watch and tapped my fingers on my desktop impatiently. Where the hell was Donna?
"You're wearing that to the meeting with Leo?"
I looked up to find Donnatella Moss, sleek blonde hair pulled back demurely and dressed to kill in a fitted black suit and heels with those little strappy things on them. With a glance down at my crumpled suit, I could see her point. Of course, the upshot of my disheveled appearance was that no one would ever believe a woman of her caliber would look twice at me.
She gave me some more shit about my appearance, and I filled her in on the morning's events. Specifically, that CJ, Toby, and Sam were getting varying amounts of enjoyment from our predicament.
Donna tried to joke with me, but she looked scared. Paler than usual, which I honestly hadn't thought possible before that morning. I walked over to her, and it didn't occur to me until I was standing in front of her that our position was eerily familiar. Luckily, the mistletoe was long gone.
Donna looked up at me, "Josh, how much trouble are we really in?"
I couldn't resist; I touched her cheek for a brief moment and smiled down at her. "I'm not worried," I said. "I figure nobody here is going to be stupid enough to let you go, and they know you won't stay without me."
"They do? Who told them that?"
"I may have suggested something along those lines yesterday."
"So what you're saying is that your fate is in my hands?" She gave me the beginnings of a smile.
"I wouldn't go that far," I said, relieved she seemed to be calming down; she kept arguing with me, which is always a good sign. I grinned and ushered her out of my office. "You're a hard woman to live with, Donna Moss."
Of course, the closer we got to Leo's office, the more nervous I became. Donna might have calmed down, but I was still worried about Leo's decision.
The staffers stopping mid-sentence to stare at us as we passed did nothing to quell my nerves. "Why do I get the feeling I'm about to face a firing squad here?"
Before Donna could answer, Margaret jumped up and gave her a bear hug. Margaret pulled back and seemed about ready to cry, "I blame myself."
"Now there's a strategy," I said. "Let's blame Margaret. Why are we blaming Margaret?"
"The mistletoe in Josh's office," Margaret said. "I was spreading holiday cheer."
I gaped at her for a moment. Margaret put up the mistletoe? Margaret? Donna didn't put up the mistletoe in my office, the implications of which are staggering.
I realized that both Donna and Margaret were staring at me, waiting for a response. "You couldn't have put up a wreath?" I asked weakly.
Donna punched me softly in the arm and reassured Margaret that the blame rests solely on me. "Because, you know, Josh has never needed any help being a jerk."
"Excuse me?" I said. "Can we just review events here? I think I've mentioned before that I was not acting alone."
"Josh," Donna said, looking stricken. "Shut up."
I shut up.
And fidgeted. I am not a patient man. Had I lived in the days of horses and carriages, I'd have hurled myself underneath a train to put an end to all of the waiting around. It's inefficient.
It's also a spectacular tactic to use against an opponent. I'd used it many times myself, and so had Leo. He'd just never used it on me before. It was surprisingly effective.
Once he finally deigned to admit us to his hallowed chambers, he made us stand in silence before him. Which is also surprisingly effective. And his glare is terrifying.
In fact, had he not spoken when he did, I might actually have exploded.
Finally, Leo cracked. "Just what the hell is going on with you two?"
"Nothing," I answered too quickly. "There is nothing going on between us."
"Are you sure?" Leo looked utterly unconvinced. "Because that's not the story I heard from Sam."
Damn Sam and his big, gleeful mouth.
"Sam just misunderstood something I said."
Leo raised an imperious eyebrow. "That's not the story I heard from Toby."
"Toby wasn't even there," I waved off his comment and looked to Donna for help. She remained mute beside me.
"You do understand that this is the White House, don't you?" Leo asked. "We are supposed to be held to a higher standard of conduct here. You can't be consorting with every pretty girl who works for you, no matter what the circumstances. If the two of you can't work together professionally, you're not going to be working together at all."
"You know," I said with irritation, "I'm not completely sure that's fair. I mean, we're two consenting adults. Suppose we wanted to--to--" I made a strange gesture with my hand. "Well, just suppose. What gives the federal government the right to tell us we can't?"
"This is about political perceptions, Josh," Leo answered. "You of all people should understand that."
"Yeah, well, I don't," I said. "Cause if you want to talk about perceptions, what's it going to look like when you fire Donna because we're having an affair?"
Leo eyes widened and he yelled, "You're having an affair with Donna?"
"Hypothetically, Leo," I clarified. "Hypothetically." I was suddenly wondering how far I could push him before he fired one or both of us. Unfairness in all its forms makes me crazy. When I have a personal stake in the outcome, it drives me right around the bend.
"Because I thought this was about you kissing her. If I'd known things had gone that far--"
"Hypothetically," I repeated. Donna remained silent. I was beginning to worry about her; why wasn't she speaking up for herself?
"I'm not sleeping with Josh," Donna said, a bit too emphatically, if you ask me. "I have never slept with Josh. I don't want to sleep with Josh. I never will sleep with Josh."
I was momentarily taken aback with her bluntness. I expect nothing less from her under normal circumstances, but when her honesty is aimed at me, it's slightly disconcerting.
Leo jumped right in. "So there's nothing going on here, Donna?" he asked. "Josh isn't taking advantage of you?"
"Well, sure, but that's what he does."
"That was certainly helpful," I said, sounding bitter even to myself.
"I don't mean sexually." Donna ignored me, using her earnest face on Leo. "There's nothing going on sexually. I don't even like him half the time."
First the Margaret thing, and now Donna telling my boss what an ass I am. This meeting is not good for my ego.
"You're sure about this?" Leo asked. "Because I gotta tell you, I've wondered about you two myself."
I could feel my face scrunch up in shock. "You have?"
"Yeah, sometimes you two act like you're already married."
"We do?" Donna asked. She looked about as dumbfounded as I felt.
"Sometimes," Leo said. "And if that's where things are headed, you can't work together. Not in this administration. We could always find another job for Donna, but not as your assistant."
"That is not fair," I said, about to list several relevant facts to back up my claim. I made the mistake of pausing for breath.
Donna jumped in. "It's also not an issue."
I chose to ignore her statement. "Donna is the only assistant I've ever had who can keep me on track. I'd fall apart without her. I couldn't function. I--"
Leo shook his head. "I'm getting very mixed signals here."
"No," Donna said. "No mixed signals. Josh is just being Josh; you know how hostile he gets. There's nothing going on."
"You're sure?" Leo looked at me. "Cause I keep hearing subtext."
"There's no subtext," I said quietly. Damnit. "Leo, you can't split us up."
Leo stared at me for a moment, then nodded. "All right," he said. "For now. But consider yourselves on probation."
After a disjointed conversation with Margaret about CJ's magic work with the staff rumor mill, we were dismissed. We fled Leo's office before he could change his mind.
"Probation," I scowled. "I feel like I'm in junior high."
"It's not a big deal," Donna said. She appeared to believe it, too, which did little to improve my mood.
"I think it could be unconstitutional," I said. "Get me everything you've got on--"
"Josh, forget it," Donna interrupted me. "It's not like we're--"
"I know, but if we were--"
"But we're not," she said again.
"I know, Donna," I said, ignoring my sudden shortness of breath. "But if we were, it would be unfair."
"But we aren't." She gave me a determined look. "And we won't."
I know what that look means. It means Donnatella Moss has decided on a course of action, and come hell or high water, she'll stick to it.
I let the subject drop. But that night, after Donna left for the evening, I started to do a little bit of research on the White House code of conduct. There are some interesting facts in there. Facts I tucked away for later.
You know, just in case.
THE END (2/2)
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