This story came about partially after I went through a truly hellacious experience getting a car, and also as a way to reveal myself for the J&J shipper I am. *wears Scarlet Js with pride* Anyways. I don't do a lot of romance writing, but I liked writing this one, so I hope folks like, well, reading it. Timeline wise, let's put it...some distance after What Kind of Day/Shadow of Two Gunmen.

Standard Disclaimer:

        I don't own them, I don't claim to own them, I'm not making money from this, please don't sue me, it's all in good fun and with the spirit of the show in mind, blah blah blah.

Author Disclaimer: 

        J&J shipper (somewhat), general sort of story. I apologize to all the non J&Js out there. ;> The interactions between them in the first season had way too much chemistry to pass up. My prejudices about cars are on full display. You have been warned. Rated G. No swearing, no smut, no nothing. How boring. ;) 

Summary: Josh needs a new car. Who better to help him get one?

Comments, criticisms, critiques, etc. should all go to suzanne@arizona.edu

Tallyho!

~*~

Joey's Guide to Car Purchasing

~*~

"No man with a good car needs to be justified."

--Flannery O'Connor, "Wise Blood"

~*~

 

        Josh eyed the building with a mixture of trepidation and determination that had Joey amused. She gave him a significant look.


        "What?" he asked, trying not to sound nervous. The effect was spoiled by how white his knuckles were as he gripped the steering wheel. Joey jerked her head at the car dealership that loomed in the distance.

        "Are we going in there?" she signed, her demeanor impatient. Josh made a movement in the driver's seat that could almost be called squirming. He still wouldn't relinquish his deathgrip on the old Corolla's steering wheel.


        "Yes, yes, just give me a second, I have to...gear up for this."
Joey frowned at him, and Josh gestured vaguely.


        "This isn't just buying a car, this is--this is war, okay? And you always have the prebattle speech, you always have to get geared up for it. Can't jump into battle cold turkey."


        Joey sighed in exasperation. "You did all the research, right?" she signed. Josh eyes the steering wheel.


        "Yes..."


        "You know what models you want to look at?"


        "Yes..."


        "You have the preapproved loan statement?"


        He appeared to panic for a second, then checked his jacket pocket and relaxed. "Yes."


        Joey made a face at him. "You'll do fine. You have me there to distract them."
        Josh bit his lip, swallowing a comment about Joey and distraction. She gave him a shove and made to exit the car. She gestured for him to follow.


        "Let's get going. I want you to take me somewhere nice for dinner."


        Josh grunted as they left the safety of his parked car and entered the hallowed grounds of Mellody's Subaru of DC. "That deal only comes into effect if I actually GET a car..." he muttered under his breath.

 

~*~*~

 

        Two days earlier, Josh had finally had it. He'd loved the Corolla ten years ago, but that was ten years ago. He'd been young(er) then, and so had the car. 


        Now, after 130000 miles of wear and tear by someone who was less than gentle, the engine and transmission were both making noises that were guaranteed to be costly in both the money and trouble categories. The breaks had a decidedly 'mooshy' feel to them, the AC wasn't what it used to be, and summer was approaching, slowly and inexorably.


        So, one Monday morning, as he waded through pedestrians (the battery was dead again), Josh snagged a paper and headed straight for the classifieds. A few cars had caught his eye over the last few weeks, and he decided that it was time to research. 


        The sheer number of car types was astounding. In a few minutes Josh felt incredibly overwhelmed, and he'd barely made it past the Audi section. This is going to be a major endeavor, he thought, somewhat distressed. 


        Once he was in the office, Josh decided that asking people about their cars would be a good idea. A good deal of input couldn't possibly hurt, and he might find out that what he thought was a good model was actually not. 


        As the morning progressed, Josh found he had a spare moment to look over the Kelly's Bluebook website and get some prices in mind. As he was intently navigating the fairly simple site, Donna came in to hand him a brief from Toby. 


        She peered over his shoulder curiously. "What's that?" 


        Josh quashed the instinct to minimize the webpage and instead kept clicking away. "Kelly's Bluebook website."


        Donna brightened. "You're car shopping?" she asked enthusiastically. A little too enthusiastically for Josh's tastes.


        "Yeah," he replied as nonchalantly as possible. Donna was undeterred. 


        "What sort of car do you want?" 


        Josh sighed. "Well I'm sort of looking at a Subaru Legacy. One of those Outbacks."


        "Oh, the Paul Hogan car?" 


        "Er, right." Now THAT makes me feel secure about this.


        "Subarus are really good cars. My cousin has one, he just loves it to death," Donna informed him. Josh took the brief and absently leafed through it.


        "Really? How much did he pay for it?" he asked, distracted.


        Donna tapped her chin, thinking. "His monthlies are about four-fifty, so maybe twenty-seven thousand?"


        Josh looked up from the paperwork and winced. "Ouch."


        Donna shrugged lightly. "Yeah. Well he's a contractor, he makes good money."


        "Well, I'm NOT a contractor, I'm a poor government employee."


        "Maybe look for a used one?" she suggested.


        Josh shrugged slightly. "I was going to go down to the local dealership here after work and see what they have."


        Donna blinked and suddenly looked alarmed. "After work?" she asked hesitantly.


        "Yeah, why?" Josh responded. Donna bit her lip.


        "In work clothes?" she pressed, indicating his suit with a tilt of her head. 


        "Yes..."


        "Josh, I don't think that's a good idea," she warned him, her tone ominous. Josh felt himself getting defensive.


        "Why not?" he asked, a little sharply. 


        "Well Josh, if you look like you make a lot, they'll be tough to bargain with. You should dress down."


        Josh blinked. He'd honestly not thought of that. "Dress down?"
Donna nodded. 


        "How far down?" Josh asked after a moment. She grimaced.


        "Do you own a leather jacket? I mean biker-style or bomber-style, not a trench."


        "Yeah..."


        "Ratty old Denim pants? T-shirt?" 


        Josh looked at her inredulously. "Donna, I don't own 'ratty' pants of any kind."


        Donna sighed at him. "Fine, fine, do you own any denim at all?"


        Josh nodded slowly. She smiled trumphantly. "Good. Wear that."


        "Seriously?"


        Donna nodded. "And Josh, DON'T tell them you work for the President. Just, say you're a government employee. In..." Donna struggled. "Administration," she said finally.


        Josh watched her. "Uh. Okay," he said intelligently, getting up to retreat to Sam and Toby's office. Donna followed him closely.


        "You should also think about Hondas, they're really nice cars."


        "Uh-huh."


        "And don't write off American cars either!" she called as he turned the hall corner and vanished to her sight.

 

~*~*~

 

        Toby and Sam were both going over the brief Josh had just received when he arrived at Sam's office. Sam glanced up, but Toby kept reading aloud.


        "...Furthermore the Bartlet Administration has shown a complete disregard for the EPA's desire to address the pollution issues plaguing this country." He stopped and looked up at Josh expectantly.


        "I walked to work today, if that means anything..." he offered. Toby narrowed his eyes, while Sam smiled.


        "Car finally died?" Sam asked.


        Josh sighed. "Battery was dead. I'm probably going to do some looking tonight."


        "Looking?" Toby asked. "You mean like on a car lot?"


        "Yeah, probably."


        "What sort of car do you want?" Toby closed the brief for a moment, warming to the subject. Josh leaned against Sam's desk.


        "Well I was looking at that Subaru station-wagon sort of thing."


        Sam half-laughed, half-snorted in surprise. "You? A station wagon?"


        Josh straightened. "What's that supposed to mean?" he demanded. 


        Toby raised his eyebrows skeptically. "Josh I, never would have figured you for driving a...station wagon."


        "I've seen your current car, so let's not apply labels."


        Toby smiled ruefully. "Don't laugh too hard, mine's paid for."


        "Please, let's not go into that..." Josh muttered, flipping open the brief. "So what bone does the EPA have to pick with us?"


        "It's not the EPA, it's some Senators and Representatives that McCallum got all fired up," Sam informed him. 


        Josh grimaced. "Wonderful. What did he do now..."


        The meeting with Toby and Sam turned out to be short, because they all wanted to convene with Leo on a few points before tackling another one of Senator McCallum's fanclubs. On his way to the Oval Office Josh stopped at Mrs. Landingham's desk to chat. A few minutes after going into the Office Charlie re-
emerged, and gestured for Josh to follow him.


        "So I hear you're shopping for a car," Charlie said as Josh walked past him. Josh blinked.


        "Who told you that?" he asked, surprised. 


        "I overheard Donna talking to Mrs. Landingham." Josh nodded, and Charlie continued. "I've got a Camry, myself. Nice little ride for how much it cost."


        "That's a sedan-kinda thing, right?" Josh asked. 


        The younger man nodded. "Yeah. Not half-bad either. My sister uses it mostly."


        Josh nodded. "Okay. Thanks."


        "Any time."


        Jeb turned to Josh and promptly gestured out the window with his glasses. 


        "Josh, do you realize that right outside that window this morning was a Stellar's Jay?"


        Josh stopped in his tracks. He could sense another one of the President's infamous nature talks coming.


        "Er, no Mr. President, I wasn't aware of that." 


        Jeb beamed. "Stellar's jays are rare out here, Josh. They always travel in pairs and have a black head and crest and a dark blue body."


        "I'll, take your word on that one, Mr. President."


        "So news is you're shopping for a new car."


        Josh favored the President with the same look he'd given Charlie. "How did you..."


        "Charlie told me."


        "Ah. Well my car's been looking a little green around the gills and I thought I was due for a change. Had the same one for almost ten years, now."


        Jeb nodded. "So what are you looking at?"


        "Subaru, mostly."


        "Subaru? That's a crime!" Bartlet exclaimed. Josh winced. "You should buy American. Try an S10 Blazer, they're great little cars. Zoey loves hers," he advised.  


        "I'll do that sir," he responded, feeling a little on the spot. Jeb smiled and put his glasses back on.


        "Now. About Senator McCallum..."

 

~*~*~

 

        That scene was to be repeated several more times throughout the day. Danny accosted Josh as he was coming back from lunch with CJ and Donna. 


        "Have you looked at a Ford yet, Josh?"


        "No, not really..."


        "Try a drive in an Explorer," Danny suggested happily. 


        Josh was taken back. "Wow, I wasn't really thinking anything that big..." he said distantly.


        Danny's smile was conspiratorial in a manner Josh didn't entirely understand. "They're not that big when you get used to them. But, they're gas hogs."


        "Well, it's just me so I don't need to seat my 5 nonexistent kids."


        "Hey, you never know..."


        "Uh, yeah, sure. Thanks."


        "Anytime!" Danny disappeared down another hall, and Josh headed for Leo's office, hoping for respite. He knocked on the door and opened it immediately, to see Leo at his desk. Margaret was standing at his elbow, a large stack of papers in front of him. As he worked through them, Josh was amused by Leo's growing irritation.


        "What the hell is this?" he demanded. 


        "This is one of the forms for Cynthia, the new--"


        "Oh, nevermind," Leo growled, signing the last five papers in hasty sequence. "There, there, please go."


        Margaret gathered the papers and quickly fled the room. Josh chuckled as he entered the office and shut the door.


        "Maybe you should have her, you know, learn your signature?" he suggested coyly.


        Leo glanced up at Josh and gave him a slight glare as he scribbled on something. "Don't tempt me." He finished and shut the small notebook. "Margaret mentioned you need a new car."


        "Man, is that like the biggest thing we have going on today?" Josh asked, running a hand through his hair. It was Leo's turn to be amused.


        "Well let's just say that between secretaries news travels and bad news travels quickly."


        Josh hmphed. "Well I've already been told to buy American, buy Ford, buy Subaru, buy Nissan, and buy Honda. Danny Concannon suggested I get a Ford Explorer, which sounded ludicrous since I have no use for a car that could double as part of the President's motorcade."


        "Don't want a Cadillac?" Leo asked with a grin.


        "No, you know, I need something small and personal, like a..." Josh gestured vaguely. "I don't know."


        "A Miata?" Leo suggested.


        Josh made a face at Leo. "I said small and personal, not 'likely to get me killed in a car accident'."


        Leo laughed. "Well then you might be right to look at the Subaru. They're good cars, they've really got something going with that All Wheel Drive, and those flat-fours."


        "Flat...fours?" Josh said faintly.


        "Four cylinder engine."


        "Oh. Right."


        Leo examined Josh for a minute. "Are you taking someone with you?"


        "Well I hadn't really thought about that."


        "You probably should. Safety in numbers, Josh, safety in numbers. Make sure it's a woman, too."


        "A woman?" Josh asked, surprised. 


        "You can doubleteam a lot better," Leo advised, rearranging some of the papers on his desk. "Trust me. I took Jenny back when we got the Buick, saved quite a bundle. Although she's a helluva negotiator."


        "Right. And how do I dupe someone into spending an evening on a dealer's lot?" Josh asked, a little sarcastically. 


        Leo grinned. "Josh, you're a charming young man. You'll manage."


        "Mmmmf." 


        Leo gave him a narrow look and leaned close. "Bribe her with dinner," he suggested.


        Josh brightened at the suggestion. "Hey, that's a good idea. Thanks Leo."


        "Anytime," he responded. Josh left, a little more spring in his step.

        Leo sighed and put his hand to his forehead. "God help her."

 

~*~*~

 

        It took Josh the better part of an hour to work up the courage, the resolve, the determination to actually walk into her office with the intention of asking her out on what could loosely be construed as a date. Josh hadn't been nearly this worked up over Mandy, but that didn't in any way make him feel less nervous as he finally clamped down and walked into the small room she shared with Kenny. I need to find them something a little more roomy.


        Kenny spotted Josh walking in and waved at Joey, who looked up and smiled when she saw him. They exchanged a quick sign of hello, and Kenny tilted his head to the door.


        "Yeah, if you could give us a second..." Josh said, and Kenny left without another word.


        Joey didn't wait for Josh. "How are you doing?" she signed. 


        Josh set down a stack of papers he'd been carrying and very carefully signed to her while speaking. "Not too bad, but my car's been acting up. How's your day been?"


        "I've been going the rounds with the Vice President and his merry men."


        Josh winced. "That sounds like a lot of fun."


        Joey grinned. "You have no idea."


        Josh cleared his throat, and it only occurred to him after he'd done it that she wouldn't get the effect of such an action. "So, I was wondering, are you free tonight?"


        Joey's smile changed, from one of open curiosity to something else entirely. "Why do you ask?" she signed. Josh had the sudden feeling he was in way over his head.


        "Well, I was thinking we could, you know, go for a drive, go by a Subaru dealership, have dinner--"


        Joey stopped Josh with an upheld hand. He watched her sign, having some trouble following her when she went so fast.


        "Dealership? You need to buy a car?" she asked. 


        Josh's discomfort doubled and he shifted uneasily. "Well my Corolla isn't what it used to be and I've been told that there's safety in numbers on a car lot and I figured I could buy dinner assuming nothing disastrous occurs like they make me sign away my firstborn if you--"


        Joey smiled and stopped him again. "I've helped a lot of my friends by cars. I'd be glad to help," she signed. 


        Josh brightened. "Great! Great, that sounds just, great. Um, can I pick you up around, seven? I'll need to run home and change so I don't look like I make any money."


        Joey grinned. "Someone already told you, that's good. I'll want to change too. Seven sounds fine." She turned to leave when Josh tapped her shoulder.


        "What ah, what do you want for dinner?" he asked. Joey blinked and appeared to think.


        "I'm in the mood for something new," she signed after a moment. Josh thought about it for a moment.


        "Ever had thai?" he asked. Joey looked intrigued.


        "No."


        "Well, it's spicy stuff, but really good. There's this excellent place over in Georgetown."


        Joey nodded. "That sounds good."


        "Okay. Good. Great. I'll um, see you at seven."


        Joey smiled and left, Josh watching her leave. His legs felt weak.
Now why did that take every ounce of willpower and strength I possess, he wondered, as he returned to his office.

 

~*~*~

 

        A few hours later, Josh and Joey walked in through the glass doors of the Subaru dealership. It was a nice looking, if simple, building, with a new Outback and Forester on the show room floor. Josh glanced at both but, at Joey's suggestion, tried not to look too interested. 


        He liked the lines of the Outback. It was a practical car but it was also a nice looking car, although the gas mileage wasn't what he'd been hoping for. Even at its worst the Corolla seldom got under twenty miles to the gallon, and the Outback wasn't rated over twenty except on the freeway.
That probably means open freeway, not traffic-laden freeway, Josh thought absently, surveying the room.


        It only took a minute for a salesman to spot them. He was a young man, perhaps only twenty-five, wearing plain black slacks and a crisp white t-shirt. Here we go, Josh thought grimly. Perhaps sensing his unease, Joey took his hand in hers and gripped it re-assuringly. Josh flashed her a nervous smile.


        The young man introduced himself as Daniel, and what were they interested in today? 


        "Nice to meet you Daniel, I'm Josh, and this is Joey." Joey signed to Josh, and Daniel immediately looked confused.


        "What's she saying?" he asked. Josh followed Joey's signing carefully.


        "I'm not going to talk, just sign, so we can keep him out of our conversations, okay?" Josh nodded to her, and Joey continued. "Tell him I'm your girlfriend. It'll give me more leverage."


        Josh blinked. He wasn't sure if Joey was simply using this as a strategy, but for him, it was terribly ironic. Josh turned to Daniel, and finished with, "Joey is my girlfriend, and we're here to take a look at some cars." He silently congratulated himself on sounding so casual.


        Daniel nodded, shaking Joey's hand. "Well that's what I'm here for, Josh. Looking to sign anything tonight?" the young man asked. Josh shrugged absently, as Joey had told him to. Don't let them know for sure, she'd insisted.


        "We'll see," he answered absently, looking around. The young man nodded.


        "Well first off. New or used?"


        "I think I'll be looking at used. New is a little out of my price range."


        Daniel furrowed his brow. "Okay, we have a few used Foresters and Outbacks, also some Legacy GTs and even a nice new Civic we just got in, so I think we'll pretty much have you covered. Anything in particular you're looking for?" He had begun to lead them out one of the side doors and onto the lot. The cars shown in the waning Autumn sunlight, and for a moment, Josh had no idea what to answer with.


        Joey saved him by signing, which forced him to keep on the subject at hand. "Tell him we want to start with the Outback. If you don't like it, we'll work our way down."


        Josh nodded at her, then looked at Daniel. There was no way the look on his face was fake; the young man clearly couldn't read sign. "An Outback would be a good start."

 

~*~*~

 

        Eventually Josh and Joey fell into a rhythm. For the first twenty minutes they test drove different cars, although after one spin in the Outback, Josh's mind was largely made up. He acted like he was still indecisive, and tolerated driving several other cars, even a Mazda Miata. While the sporty little roadster was fun, Josh preferred the flexibility the Outback offered him. And, he just liked the way the car looked.


        Once he'd made up his mind, he and Joey had a conversation that was made to look more like an argument.


        "He needs to think we're disagreeing. Look annoyed with me," Joey signed. Josh balked at the thought of being upset with her, but recalled all of the fun he had arguing with her over English as the national language and didn't find it too hard.


        "So which one do you like?" Joey signed. Josh chewed on his lip, trying to appear annoyed.


        "They're all okay, I mean as far as colors," Josh signed, slowly and carefully. Joey's demeanor became very sharp and agitated, and Josh admired her ability to do imply it with even the smallest gesture.


        "You should avoid the green one. The miles are too high. And the black one's engine sounds odd to me. The red and burgundy are the two best bets, and the white one's not bad if you want a 3 year old car."


        Josh tried to indicate that their argument had ended, seeing Daniel pacing a little out of the corner of his eye. "Okay. Here comes the fun part," Josh said softly, turning back to Daniel. 


        "So, what do you like?" Daniel asked brightly. Josh indicated the white Outback. 


        "That one was nice," he said nonchalantly. 


        Daniel's posture, everything about him indicated he was steeling himself for a battle. "Sure you don't want a newer car?" he asked, his eyebrow raised. Josh glanced sideways at Joey, who made a sharp gesture with her hand. Josh didn't really need to interpret. "Well let's talk numbers. What's that one running."


        Daniel seemed to waffle a little. "Well if you'd like to do a lease--"


        Josh bit his tongue on a yelp as he felt Joey elbow him sharply. "Um, no, a lease would not be preferable."


        Daniel frowned. "It'll keep your monthlies down..."


        "No, no, outright purchase is definitely for me. Us. For us." The correction went unnoticed, as did the deathgrip Joey had on one of Josh's hands.


        "Okay, well then that car runs about sixteen thousand, although we can probably work something out for you...you said you have a Corolla to trade in?" 


        Daniel had begun leading them into the building, and the sun was long gone. Joey companionably took Josh by the arm and walked by him placidly. Once Daniel's back was turned, she signed to Josh that the monetary situation was more likely to be something he could handle. Josh smiled a little.


        "Hey, yeah, I bet I can handle that," he said to her softly as they walked back inside.

 

~*~*~

 

        Not only could Josh handle it, it became readily apparent to not only Daniel but the general sales manager that despite his casual attire and previously relaxed attitude, Josh was a man with an agenda. He talked them round and round the table in circles about taxes for the vehicle, emissions, monthlies, his pre-approved loan, and any number of other things. Joey sat back, only offering a comment here or there. It was rather fun for her to watch Josh ply his trade on unknowing car salesmen.


        It took them almost an hour, but finally, Josh managed to lower the price of the car to the range the bluebook had suggested, and he'd even managed to get a the first year's registration covered, and a full tank of gas. As they began working out the paperwork, he was finally required, for the first time, to reveal his last name.


        The financial manager looked up, surprised. "Lyman?" she asked. Josh nodded.


        "Yeah that's L-Y-M-A-N. Lyman."


        The young woman shook her head. "No, I know how it's spelled, I just--
you're not *the* Josh Lyman, are you?"


        Josh couldn't help but be slightly pleased with himself for not mentioning his last name until now. "Well if you mean the Josh Lyman that works on at the White House..." he said carefully. The woman smiled brightly and reached her hand across the half-finished paperwork, almost beaming. 


        "I'm so glad to meet you! I've never met anyone, well, politically famous," she said, a little demurely. Josh shook her hand, feeling strange.


        "It's good to meet you too," he responded. The financial manager wriggled in her seat as Josh signed the papers. He asked carefully about each one, making sure to look out for that 'firstborn son' clause. Whenever she had the chance, the young woman asked about working in the White House, working for the President, the campaign trail, and life as a political person in general. Josh got the general feeling she was borderline flirting with him, and with Joey in the next room, it almost made him nervous and annoyed.


        He was glad when the signing-session was over, and he was finally released from the small office. Joey joined him from the one of the displays, where she'd been flipping through some information on the various Subaru models.
"Well you seem to have a new fan," Joey signed, her smile teasing. Josh blushed a little.


        "She saw my last name and it was like being Al Pacino or something. Really bizarre," Josh replied in a low voice. Joey laughed, but they were interrupted when Daniel approached, with the keys Josh and Joey had spent almost two hours working for.


        "Josh, it's been great serving you," Daniel said, handing him the keys. 


        Josh saw the financial manager emerging from her office, so he decided it was time to leave. 


        "Thanks, Daniel, it was great working with you too," he said, shaking the young man's hand. Gripping the keys, Josh and Joey made for the door. Josh barely caught a snippet of conversation between the young woman and Daniel.


        "Do you know who that was?" she asked excitedly.


        "Who? That? He said his name was Josh..."


        "Josh Lyman! He's--he's someone at the White House! Chief-of-Staff maybe, or something..."


        The door slid shut behind them, and Josh couldn't help but grin. Victory! he thought.


        They checked to make sure they'd gotten everything from the Corolla, and when they were positive Josh started up the smooth, white Outback and smiled at the sound of the engine.


        "Not bad," Joey signed to him. Josh looked over at her and smiled. 


        "Not bad yourself," he said. "So. Thai?"


        "Dinner sounds wonderful. I believe I have well earned it."


        Josh grinned, and navigated the station wagon out of the parking lot.


        "That you have, Joey. That you have."


-Fin-

No. I bought a Honda Civic. ;>

 

 

 

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