Thanks so much for your comments! This is the last part. I hope you enjoy it and please let me know what you thought afterwards. Thanks! ~Steph
Disclaimer: "The West Wing" and its characters do not belong to me. They belong to Aaron Sorkin, NBC, etc. This is just for fun out of a love for the show. No profit is made and no infringement is intended.
* * * At the Pleasure of the President: Part 3/3 * * *
Sam and Mallory were dancing on the wood floor at the center of the dining room, when Leo suddenly appeared at their side.
"May I cut in?" He asked.
Sam reluctantly stepped away and began to hand Mallory over to her father, when Leo shook his head. "Actually, it's you, Sam, that I'd like to spend a little quality time with."
Sam and Mallory's eyes widened in surprise at Leo. Sam spoke, "Me?...You want to dance with me?"
Mallory's eyes narrowed. "Dad, if this is some strange plan of yours to bully Sam into another Birthday message writing-..."
Leo stopped her sentence. "Mal, it's nothing like that. Can't a father talk to the man his daughter's dating without it being deemed sinister?"
Mallory nodded, her tone suspicious. "Talk, yes. But dance?"
Leo shrugged and gestured to his costume. "What can I say? The President has opened my mind to a variety of new ideas."
Mallory slowly relented and spoke sternly to her father, "Be nice, Dad." She then turned around and walked away.
Sam hesitantly took Leo's hand and they stood as far away from each other as possible. Sam swallowed hard and asked, "This is solely for the purpose of you threatening me and me not being able to run away, correct?"
Leo grinned and nodded, his grip tightening on Sam's hand. "Bingo."
Sam nodded his head and spoke nervously. "Well...I don't mind admitting that this is a most uncomfortable situation."
"It's no walk in the park for me either, Sam...For one, you keep stepping on my toes," Leo responded.
Sam took yet another step back. "Well...um...what did you want to talk to me about?"
"I would like to ask you some questions regarding Mallory," Leo replied.
"Do you care about my daughter, Sam?"
"Very much." Sam said.
"Would you ever consider hurting her?"
Sam spoke cautiously. "Not intentionally."
"Wrong answer," Leo declared.
"There are wrong answers?" Sam asked, his voice cracking.
Leo grinned at him. "There are when it comes to my daughter."
"Oh," Sam uttered softly.
"Listen to me, Sam."
"My daughter is the best thing in my life, the best thing to ever happen to me. When she's happy, I'm happy. When she's unhappy, I'm unhappy. If *you* make *her* unhappy, then *you* make *me* unhappy and then *I* make *you* unhappy...Got it?" Leo said, a grin upon his face.
Sam nodded slowly, as he lifted his hand with Leo's to wipe at his brow. "Yes, I think I do...Happy Mallory, good...Unhappy Mallory, bad."
"That's right," Leo said.
Sam nodded. "Okay, okay, good...I'm glad we had this talk, Leo."
Leo smiled. "So am I, Sam."
* * * * *
At the edge of the dance floor, sat Donna and Josh at their table. They were watching Sam and Leo.
Josh smiled. "I've always been rooting for those two crazy kids to get together."
Donna laughed and shook her head. "What are the chances that Sam is not being read the riot act by Leo about Mallory right now?"
"Slim to none," Josh replied, with a smile.
A comfortable silence had fallen between them, when Josh broke it with a nervous question. "Um...Donna, would you maybe possibly want to consider dancing with me?"
Donna smiled at the awkwardness with which Josh had phrased the question. "I'd love, too," she replied.
Josh smiled in relief and took her hand. They walked to where Leo and Sam still danced. Josh grinned at Leo. "You're one lucky guy, Leo...I hear Sam's one helluva kisser."
Leo scowled at him. Josh smiled slightly, "You're going to make *me* talk to every lunatic group that wants funding from now until the New Year for that comment, aren't you?"
Leo smiled and nodded, before he and Sam separated and walked away in different directions.
Josh shrugged and turned to Donna, who was smiling at him. He stepped closer to her and attempted to take one hand in his and place the other on his shoulder. Unfortunately, Josh's bulging costume was preventing him from reaching Donna's hands, as he could not get any closer to her than two feet.
Donna smiled and Josh ran a hand through his hair in embarrassment. "It seems I'm a little on the large side."
Donna nodded. "I see that."
"You could try and suck it in." Donna responded.
"Donna." Josh said, with a slight smile. "Never mind, let's just try this again."
Josh once again came closer to Donna and tried to take her hands in his. However, his efforts were only rewarded with his plush body bumping Donna's and sending her falling to the floor. Josh's eyes widened in horror and he quickly bent down to help her up the best he could. Donna smiled at him and then burst out laughing. Josh returned her laugh and then helped her up from the floor.
"Sorry about that, I'm not myself today...I think I'm retaining water, it's that time of month," Josh said, his humiliation laced tone betraying his grin.
Donna laughed. "It's okay."
Josh suddenly shook his head at her. "No, this is not okay. I would like to dance with you, Donnatella, and you would like to dance with me...I'll be right back."
With that, Josh hurriedly left the dance floor and dining room, leaving a puzzled Donna all alone.
* * * * * *
Toby stood at the punch bowl, scooping some punch into his crystal glass. He turned around at the sound of a child's voice. The boy was five years old, with blonde hair falling across his fair face and a Superman costume adorning his body. Toby had noticed him before, since he was the only child present at the party.
"Hi, Mr. Clown," the boy said with a smile.
Toby sighed and shook his head. "I am not a clown, my name is Toby."
"You look like a clown."
"I'm pretending, it's Halloween."
"Mr. Clown, can you make me some balloon animals, please?"
Toby clenched his fists, his patience already worn out from being in this costume for far too long. "I am not a clown! My name is Toby Ziegler and I am Director of Communications for the White House! I don't make balloon animals and I generally don't talk to children!"
"Do you have one of those small cars that twenty clowns can fit in?" The boy asked, unfazed.
Toby shook his head, speaking through gritted teeth. "No, I have a medium-size car, called a BMW, that five clowns, called politicians, can fit in."
"Can you juggle?"
"NO! No, I cannot juggle! Listen to me carefully, you glue-eating mongrel: I am NOT a real clown! I am pretending, it's Halloween! You're dressed like Superman, but you're not *really* Superman, right?"
"Yes, I am," the boy replied.
Toby ran a hand down his face. "Well, I am a fake clown, so you're just going to have to accept that, along with the fact that you'll probably need braces."
"My mom told me that all of the clowns at the circus are real, so you must be, too."
Toby shook his head, the last of his patience gone. He knelt down to the boy and spoke to him quickly. "Your mom lied to you. That's what parents do, they lie. You might as well learn this now, so you don't end up a disturbed, bitter teenager later. Your whole life, your mom's been lying to you. The Tooth Fairy? Nope, doesn't exist. Did you really think that a tiny fairy could lug around all of that money and still be willing to exchange it for teeth? Come on, if that were possible, I'd be knockin' out my own teeth right now. The Easter Bunny? Sorry, not real. I don't know about you, but I've never seen a 5 foot bunny before, never mind one carrying around a basket of eggs and, if I did, I'd run the other way. Then there's the beloved, revered Santa Claus...Hate to tell you, but there's no such thing. He's just a myth that fat, old guys made up to help themselves feel better and look good...Okay, so now you know...And trust me, you're better off for it...I'm not real and neither is any of this other stuff that your mom and society's been stuffing down your throat since you popped out of the womb."
The boy's eyes widened and Toby waited for the first tear to fall. He didn't want to make the kid cry, but he had just kind of exploded. Toby waited, but all the kid did was smile, laugh and then grab onto Toby's right leg.
"What are you doing?!" Toby screamed, "You should be crying right now, throwing a tantrum. I just shattered all of your childhood delusions in less than a minute!"
The kid smiled and tightened his grip on Toby's leg by wrapping his own legs around it. "I know you were just pretending...You just said all of that stuff to make me laugh. That's what clowns do!"
Toby threw his head back and closed his eyes, a long sigh following out of his mouth. He muttered grumpily. "If he wasn't the President, he'd be in serious danger for making me go through this."
Toby bent slightly and tried desperately to pull the kid off of his leg. He halted his futile attempts when he heard the First Lady's voice. "Oh, Toby, I see you've met my niece's son. He's staying with us for a few days."
Toby attempted a smile. "Yes, Abbey, I have. We've become very close."
Abbey smiled knowingly. "Yes, I can see that. He seems to be very attached to you."
Toby grinned, "I can have that kind of effect on children...But I really think he should run along and mingle with the other guests, don't you? I wouldn't want to have all of the fun."
Abbey tried her best to hide her grin. "Oh, I don't know. I think he seems very comfortable right where he is. Don't you, Bryan?"
Bryan smiled and nodded. Abbey continued, "See? He really likes you...I'm sure the other guests won't mind if you two spend a little more time together."
Toby managed a slight smile. "Thank you, Abbey."
The First Lady nodded and then turned around to walk away. Toby looked down at the child and spoke sternly. "Look, you little leech, if you don't get off of me right now, I'm going to get the jaws of life and make you get off!"
The boy smiled and only tightened his hold. Just then, Sam walked by and grinned at Toby. He gestured to the boy. "Ah, finally playing nice with the other kids, huh, Toby?"
Toby rewarded Sam with what can only be described as a growl. He then lifted his floppy shoe and brought it down on Sam's right foot. Sam yelped in pain, then proceeded to jump up and down on the uninjured foot, as his hands attempted to rub the other one.
Toby smiled and looked down at the little boy. "Now *that* guy is a clown. See how he makes us all laugh?" The boy nodded, his body still clinging to Toby's leg.
* * * * * *
Sam slowly limped to the table where Mallory sat. She stood up worriedly and helped him sit down. "What happened to you? My Dad didn't do this, did he?"
Sam shook his head, as he placed his foot up on the table and began to rub it. He winced in pain and then spoke in a bitter tone, "No, no, Leo didn't do this. This was the work of a disgruntled clown's floppy foot."
Mallory bit her lip to keep from laughing. She rubbed at his back and then watched as he lowered his foot back onto the floor. Sam then placed his head down on top of the table in dramatic fashion. Mallory smiled and touched his arm. "I'm sorry about your foot...But what did my father say to you?"
Sam lifted his head and shrugged. "I'm not entirely sure. He confused me with the frequent use of the word unhappy."
Mallory grinned. "I'm sorry, Sam. He does mean well."
Sam nodded and held his index finger up. "Although I will say this, your father is quite the dancer."
Mallory laughed, while linking her fingers with his. "Yeah, he's not bad...Did anything else happen between you two that I should know about?"
Sam smiled at her. "I can't be sure, but I *think* we may be engaged now."
Mallory laughed and wrapped her arms around his neck. "Well, just as long as he knows that I'm not letting you go without a fight."
Sam grinned and tried to speak dreamily, "You might not have a choice there, Mal. Your father's twinkle toes, coupled with the way he makes me feel as light as a feather while we dance, may be enough to send me running right into his arms."
Mallory chuckled, while lightly swatting his arm. "Just remember, my father doesn't have a nurse's costume."
Sam spoke with a well-hidden smile. "True, but that puppy costume does hold a certain amount of appeal."
Mallory laughed again, before pulling his face to hers in a kiss.
* * * * * *
Danny sat down next to C.J. at her table. "Would you mind if I call you 'Red' from now on?"
"Yes, I would mind, Danny."
"I'll let you call me 'Yellow'."
"No, thank you."
"How about if I only call you it during the press briefings when I ask you a question?"
"That's a definite no."
"Come on, C.J...It'll be my cute little nickname for you...It's catchy."
C.J. turned to face him for the first time. "No, Danny, I don't want you calling me Red or any other nickname for that matter."
"You know, I might just give up on you one day and then you'll be sorry."
"Can I get that in writing?"
"Luckily for you, I'm a glutton for punishment."
"Oh yes, Lucky me," C.J. responded with a smile.
"Can I get one of those kisses now?"
"Because I don't want to encourage begging."
"I've been begging you for a date for how long and you just now figured out that kissing me spontaneously encourages begging?" Danny asked.
"I can be extremely slow." C.J. replied.
"It's not because I ate the onion dip, is it?"
"Because I had a mint, you know."
"It's not the because of the dip, Danny."
"Okay." Danny paused and then asked. '"Is it because you want to come up to me and grab me by the crayon wrapper when I least expect it, like you usually do?"
C.J. responded dryly. "Yes, Danny, that's it...I relish the element of surprise."
"Will you go away now?"
"Yeah...You're sure it's not the dip, right."
"It's not the dip, Danny."
C.J. smiled and then shook her head at what she was about to do. For some reason, that 'nickname', coming out of his mouth, had just sent chills running up and down her spine. She got up, walked over to him and then pressed her lips to his in a kiss. Danny eagerly returned it and then smiled at her as they separated.
"I too relish the element of surprise," he said.
"Good, go away now," C.J replied.
"One more for the road?" Danny asked.
"Good-bye, Red," Danny responded.
C.J. smiled widely, as she watched his figure walk away.
* * * * * *
A few minutes later, Josh walked back into the room and grabbed Donna by the hand. Donna was surprised to see what he was wearing. She whispered to him. "Josh, what are you doing in here wearing only that?"
Josh smiled and shrugged. He was wearing nothing more than a tank top undershirt and a pair of plaid, wool boxers. "I promised you a dance."
Donna's eyes widened and she spoke through clenched teeth. "Yes, but I'd prefer it if you were fully clothed first, thank you...Why are you doing this? Aren't you afraid of being humiliated?"
Josh smiled and said softly, "I wanted to dance with you...That's the only thing I was thinking about."
Donna smiled, his words touching her. She slowly accepted his hand and allowed herself to be led onto the floor. Josh drew her closer to him, until her head rested on his shoulder. Donna spoke again. "I still can't believe that you're not embarrassed."
Josh grinned. "Oh, I am...But I was already embarrassed anyway, so I figured why not go all out...Plus, like you said, I lost my dignity long ago."
Donna smiled and then pulled away slightly to look up at him. "This was really sweet...Strange, but sweet."
Josh smiled and then said softly. "I forgot to tell you something earlier...You look beautiful."
Donna's breath caught in her chest slightly and then she replied, "Thank you...First 'glisteny' and now beautiful...What more could a girl ask for?"
Josh smiled, before slowly lowering his lips to a surprised Donna. He gave her a quick, yet soft kiss and then said, "How about that?"
Donna nodded, speechless from what had just happened. She then simply smiled and placed her head back onto his shoulder. Josh grinned gratefully and then tilted his face so that his cheek touched her forehead.
* * * * * *
An hour or so later, the President was requesting the guests' attention. He gathered the Senior Staff close to him and began.
"As I am sure you are all aware, my staff was ordered to attend this party wearing these costumes. Now, I know many of you thought that was very selfish and arrogant of me. And you are partly right. I did do it for my own entertainment, but, as you can see, I've paid dearly for that."
The President glanced at his wife and smiled. He then turned back to the guests.
"However, I have reasons that go beyond personal amusement. I wanted to invite these people, these people who are like family, to a party where they could have fun...Where they could forget about all of the rules and standards that they must conform to everyday and just let loose. Of course, knowing them as I do, I was aware they'd need my help doing so. That's why I assigned the costumes. But I also assigned the costumes to each one of you for a specific reason."
The President was now addressing the Senior Staff specifically. "Now, this is probably going to get pretty corny and sentimental in parts, so you've been warned."
Soft chuckles spread throughout the crowd and then quieted as the President continued. "Sam, I picked Robin Hood for you because of your giving spirit. You're always willing to help those less fortunate, no matter how ill-advised, and you always look for the best in everyone...Of course, I also wanted to see you in tights, but I digress."
The crowd erupted in laughter, as Sam smiled and nodded a silent 'thank you' to the President. Mallory smiled proudly at Sam and placed her hand in his.
The President then continued. "C.J., I picked you to be a crayon because I think that you have an uncanny ability to brighten every situation and paint it in a better light. You have a very difficult job, but you handle it with a creativity and radiance that always shows and makes a world of difference."
C.J. placed her head down, blushing at the President's comments. When she raised her head again, their eyes met and she gave him a grateful nod. She caught Danny's eyes as she left the President's. He gave her a wink and a grin, causing C.J's cheeks to increase in redness and helping to solidify her new nickname.
The President when on, "Josh, I chose you to be an apple because I know you don't like them...And, more importantly, because I think it represents you perfectly. An apple has a tough skin and you have an attitude that can be brash and off-putting...And that's good, we need that in this business. But just like with an apple, once you peel away that skin, you find something sweet and worth the work it took to reveal it...You're a wonderful blend of both, Josh, never lose that."
Josh smiled, as he took Donna's hand in his. He mouthed a silent 'thank you' to the President.
The President continued, "Toby, I chose you to be a clown because, quite frankly, I knew it would piss you off."
The guests laughed out loud and Toby nodded with a caustic smirk. The President went on, "I also wanted you to know that your sense of humor, as pessimistic and cynical as it can be, makes me smile each and everyday...I hope that clown costume made you realize that your humor can get you through anything and that every once in a while it's okay to laugh at yourself."
Toby looked down at the child still attached to his leg and smiled. Then he met the President's eyes and no words needed to pass between them.
The President's gaze now fell upon Leo and he smiled at him, speaking in a gentle, caring tone.
"And, Leo, I chose you to be a puppy for a reason I knew you would not realize...A dog is said to be a man's best friend and you are mine. They are loyal and comforting, and I can think of no better way to describe you...You have been there for me when I needed you the most, always giving me what I required even when I didn't know what that was. You offer me words, when I think I need silence and silence, when I think I need words; you know me better than I know myself sometimes...You are always honest with me, you never tell me what to do, you let me figure it out on my own. You are the person whose words I will always heed and whose loyalty and friendship will always be an honor to have."
The guests broke into a long, thunderous round of applause.
Once they'd quieted, Leo met the President's eyes. Despite his attempts to stifle his emotions, his voice cracked as he spoke, "I think I speak for all of us, sir, when I say thank you and it will always be our honor to serve at the pleasure of the President."
The President nodded, as an appreciation shone in his eyes and played across his lips...The same could be seen in the eyes and on the lips of the people he considered family who surrounded him.
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