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Chili with a side of The Jackal

by: Lisa and Pat

Character(s): All of the senior staff plus most of the First Family
Pairing(s): Josh/Donna, CJ/Toby
Category(s): Humor, Romance
Rating: YTEEN Summary: The second in the Bagel series. Follows: A Bagel and a Begining

CJ was home early that evening having left as soon as she briefed the press and she put on a gigantic pot of chili. Then she gathered six bags of fritos three bowls of grated cheese, and a whole table of chips and assorted dips.  After making sure there were plenty of drinks for everyone she changed into a comfortable yet flirty little black sleeveless, knee-length dress.  Turning on some salsa music she sat on the couch to unwind and wait for the others to arrive.

Toby was the first.  Living nearby, it did not take him long to swing by his place and change into casual shorts and a pull over tee shirt with Ocean City on the front.  "That smells wonderful" he smiled, "am I the only one here?"

"So far" CJ nodded.  "I'm glad actually.  I don't get much chance to have a social word with you alone."  She gave a short laugh.  "And now that I have you, I can only think of work related things."

"Well I've already told you of my weekend, no need to regale you with that again," Toby said.  He looked at her and took another sip of his bourbon, "I could tell you how beautiful you look in that black dress..." he paused a moment and smiled, "you should relax more CJ. You're doing fine, the administration is running well and we couldn't do it without you." "Yes me who gets a bagel on CNN," CJ returned with a laugh.  "You who holds up despite the tug-of-war you're in between the press and the president." Toby responded and he reached over and tucked away a stray strand of hair. "It's starting to smell good in here," he commented a moment later.

"I was about to say it's getting warm in here" she said nervously, feeling her face tingle where his hand had brushed.  "But thanks for the complement.  It's real important to me--what I do that is; but I couldn't do any of it without all of you.  The President--and Leo--put together the best staff in the history of the White House.  What is sad is that sometime it's all going to come apart and we'll all scatter.  I mean what if he decides not to run again."

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"Donna it's me" Josh knocked and called at the same time, not wanting to startle her. "Donna?"  There was no answer and he rattled the doorknob instinctively.  To his undying surprise the door opened and a bolt of fear went through him.  "Donna?" he called again, putting his head through the door.  "You in here?"  No response and he then shouted her name, hearing his own words about living in a bad neighborhood.

"Yeah, yeah I'm coming," she called and when she appeared a moment later Josh was speechless.  Normal, ordinary Donna didn't look so normal and ordinary.  She had on a red satin dress with an empire waist and spaghetti straps.  It stopped mid-thigh and made her legs seem even longer down to the red heels.  Her hair was in a dramatic updo with a cascade down the back and two pretty cubic zirconia pins accenting one side.  She was putting the last simple gold hoop in her left ear to match the one in her right.  "I know I went a little overboard but I thought I'd have some fun.  I left the door unlocked so you wouldn't have to wait in the hall.  I just undid it a minute ago when I knew you were getting close."

"Donna you look amazing; but you have no idea how you scared me when I found the door open" Josh sighed, taking her hand and twirling her around so he could get a full view.  "You know I'm a news junkie, and news includes the police blotter of rapes and murders and....."  "Stop" she ordered, "though I'm not upset that you were worried about me.  It makes me feel....well I don't know...all warm and tingly or something."  "Just promise me you'll be careful" Josh fretted, "this neighborhood....OK change of subject.  You've got your suit and change of clothes for CJ's pool?"

"Right here," Donna grabbed her bag and they hurried for Josh's car.  They were soon met with traffic on the way to CJ's. "Know any shortcuts?" Donna raised her eyebrows.

"OK yeah" Josh said with confidence he did not feel, "we can take the twelfth street underpass."  Fifteen minutes later the traffic was as bad as ever.  "Twelfth Street eh, good call Josh" Donna teased, not upset as she was enjoying the music from his CD collection, her head leaning back on the seat.  She closed her eyes during one soft selection and he was surprised to find her leaning toward him, her head coming to rest on his shoulder, not a far reach in the small car.  He looked down at her, trying to quell the overwhelming urge to kiss her forehead.

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Toby frowned a moment, "Let's just hope he does and in the meantime let's not think about it.  This is a party.  We're under orders to have fun aren't we?" Toby toggled the ice in his empty glass and CJ eagerly got up to fill it.  When she returned to sit it was slightly closer and she and Toby shared a smile before lapsing into suddenly companionable silence.

"Sitting here with you certainly beats sitting in front of my tv yelling at McLeher and Company" Toby said suddenly, leaning slightly so their shoulders were pressed together.  "CJ I'd really like it if some day you and I would go......"  His words were cut off by the doorbell.  And both shared a look of regret.  "That's a thought we're going to finish" Toby vowed.  "Please" CJ nodded, getting up to greet her guests.

CJ opened the door and admitted Sam and Charlie and Zoey. "Mmm...chips and dip," Zoey greeted walking straight to the food.  Of course Gina followed right in after Zoey.

"Relax Gina" CJ called, "all the armed lunatics in the neighborhood took the night off."  Both Charlie and Gina gave her a look of horror, but Zoey simply laughed.  The bulge at the side, under Gina's tee shirt, was reminder enough of the seriousness of her duties; along with the two men stationed at the front door.

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"Yes?" Donna asked looking up, "am I bothering you?" "No, no, that's fine," Josh answered.  They finally arrived at the party just after Leo. "Okay, the party has arrived," Josh teased as he entered CJ's apartment.

"You two could make your own party" Leo turned to them, seeing Josh's hand on Donna's arm where it had been since they left the car.  "Leo don't you have some chili to complain about that it's not hot enough" Josh grumbled, giving her arm a squeeze and letting her go.  "And Donna you look wonderful" Leo ignored Josh and put a light arm across her shoulders, "let me pour you a beer."  "Just coke thanks" Donna said quickly.  Josh gave Leo a long look, seeing his arm on Donna and found himself frowning uncomfortably, all the while reminding himself she could be his daughter.

Sam and Mallory were next, arguing about the route they should have used.  "You must have tried twelfth" Josh observed.

"Yeah so I made the wrong choice," Sam sighed.  Mallory just rolled her eyes.  Soon CJ and Toby were dishing out chili for everyone.  Some were having Frito chili pie and some were just enjoying the chili. Toby found himself feeding CJ and her enjoying his company.  Josh and Donna were alone in a corner. "Hey you, feeling a little jealous all of the sudden?" Donna teased.

"Of course.....ok yeah I'll admit then" Josh accepted the challenge.  "I was a little uncomfortable when Leo put his arm around you."  He kept his voice quiet.  "But I know there would never be...I mean there wouldn't be would there?"

Charlie and Zoey sat in the dining room, Gina a respectful distance away.  "Charlie, I think CJ and Toby could be getting kind of close there" Zoey said suddenly, making Charlie swallow a huge mouthfull of scalding fiery chili.  He knocked over her water glass reaching for his soda, drenching her immediately and her resultant scream as the icy water soaked her brought Gina running and the cessation of all conversation in the room.

"Between Leo and I or between you and I?" Donna asked wide-eyed, "between Leo and I there's nothing but friendship." she replied confidently before taking another bite of her chili with sour cream, the same way CJ ate hers.

"It's just water, everything's fine," Charlie immediately spoke up.  Gina sighed her relief but innerly rewarded herself that she had been ready.  Zoey apologized for startling Gina and for putting a temporary pause on the party and when everything resumed Charlie helped her clean up the mess. "Wow, Toby and CJ.  That could be kind of neat," Charlie remarked, "I mean I know they both deserve happiness." "I think it could be great," Zoey added her approval, fortunately the parties in question were too busy with each other to know they were being discussed.

"You were telling me something earlier" CJ said quietly, "something about what you wanted or would like for us.....OK help me out here I'm lost."  Toby could not resist a smile, "CJ you're never at a loss for words.  What I was wanting to ask was simply, if I asked you to a movie or a concert or to dinner, would you be interested."  He let out the breath he had suddenly realized he was holding.  "There good, I've asked--say no way in hell and get it over with."

"You and Leo of course" Josh scoffed.  "Maybe I'm getting terratorial in my middle aged years that are fast approaching.  Between you and I, well there's something there isn't there?"

"Yeah there is," Donna answered, "at first I thought we were just friends but well..." she shrugged. "I think that's why you took me to lunch and brought me here."

"No..." CJ contradicted, "No I'd love to go to a concert or movie or something with you."

"Bingo" Josh said quietly.  "We were friends from the moment you walked in as far as I'm concerned."  He gently picked up her hand.  "I liked the way you just walked in and took over.  You keep me straight all day and without you the president would know what a blithering idiot I am.  And you don't take any of my crap--you give as good as you get and I admire that in you."  He toyed with her fingers and then brought her hand to his lips, kissing the back.  "Today I just felt like, with everything else happening, it was time for me to let you know.  Even if you didn't feel the same way I needed you to know."

"OK" Toby looked at her, meeting her gaze levelly.  "A week from Saturday, Kennedy Center, dinner at Jean Louis first.  You game?"

"Saturday sounds like a good day. I'll be there," CJ answered with a smile.  Then Toby couldn't help but tease, "Oh and please leave the bagel at home."  CJ swatted him with her napkin, "where did that bagel come from anyhow?" she asked the group.

"I claim no knowledge of the bagel" Sam spoke up.

"Of course I feel....." Donna began and then heard the bagel question being raised.  "Josh they're talking about your bagel."

"My bagel" Josh frowned, for the moment too absorbed in what he and Donna were talking of to understand.

"The bagel from this morning" Donna laughed and poked him.

"This would be the bagel on CNN CJ?" Zoey questioned, laughing.  "I saw it on MSNBC later too.  They had a great shot of your...er chest....and the bagel in front of it.  And then the guy suggested you should eat lunch first."

"I'm going to make a list" CJ warned, "and anyone who mentions that--be it staff or reporter--is going to be on it.  It won't be pleasant."

Zoey started the ensuing round of laughter.  "I briefed the press with a bagel," CJ sighed mortified.  "CJ it's not that bad," Toby tried to reassure her.  She fixed herself another drink and another bowl of chili and both seemed to soothe her.  "You know it might make CJ feel better if you fess up about the bagel," Donna suggested.  Josh scoffed, "you just want to see me get pounded."

"If anyone's going to pound you it's going to be me" Donna whispered, and then in a louder voice called to CJ.  "I know where the bagel came from.  What's it worth to you to find out?"  "A cup of mocha cinnamon coffee every morning from my private blend" CJ answered.  "Josh" Donna said at once.  "You...you traitor" Josh yelped.  "Sorry baby--but I'd kill for a cup of that" Donna laughed.  Josh gave her a long look and then took her chili bowl from her hands.  She stared back puzzled, until he grabbed her wrists and pinned her down flat on the sofa before him.  "Say sorry" he prompted.  "I'm...no" she finally got out and their eyes locked and held.  The room got quiet as the gathering watched them.  "Josh" Toby nodded, as if giving permission.  Josh thought for a second and then leaned down, just barely touching her lips with his.

CJ smiled as Donna continued the kiss. Zoey paused mid-bite in shock and then smiled at Charlie.  "It's about high time," Sam spoke up satisfied. "Josh, you're still in the dog house," CJ reminded him even though she was smiling.

"It's worth it" Josh smiled, helping Donna up and hugging her to him.  "But I didn't even want the stupid bagel.  I pushed the button for the cheese sandwich, or at least I thought I did."  "CJ I expect to see the bagel in the Washington Post in the morning" Leo laughed, "maybe in an editorial comment."  "Enough bagel talk" Charlie moaned and took Zoey's hand.  "We're ready to swim in that beautiful pool."

Gina rolled her eyes she hated open places like the college commons and CJ's rooftop pool. "Yes let's all hit the pool," Donna agreed.  Zoey jumped up racing to the spare room to be the first to change.  CJ emerged from her room in a tropical wrap and offered it next to Donna who emerged in the same fashion.  Sam wandered out in a blue speedo that had all of the women taking a glance.

"Yes I am, absolutely magnificent" Sam grinned.  "You wish" Josh retorted, coming behind him in a straight black suit, tight across the front and then looser in the legs.  "Move it children" Toby pushed his way through, his suit loose fitting in a Hawaiian print.  "Whoa sunglasses please" Leo demanded, still not changed.  "Leo not swimming?" CJ questioned, "you have great legs-what's the problem?"

"It's the rest of me that I'm worried about," Leo responded with a smile but after much coaxing he finally changed.  CJ had on a beautiful navy bikini and found herself wishing to stay close to Toby.  At least his spirits were improving.  Donna took off her wrap to reveal her purple velvet bikini and she cannonballed Josh.

"Whoa Shamu alert" Josh screeched, ducking away from the spash and then catching her still balled up in his arms.  "You're cute you know that" he smiled into her face, lifting some wet blonde strands from her forehead.  "CJ this is wonderful" Toby sighed, relaxing against the pool wall, his arms outstretched to either side.  She casually sidled to him and then leaned back, resting her head on one of his arms.  "I thought we could all use this.  I don't entertain enough.  I've got this big wonderful apartment, and all these facilities, and I'm either at work or in bed."  "And that would be alone I trust" Toby said, meaning to be joking but coming across more serious.

"Yes alone," CJ sighed, "who would understand my job?"

Meanwhile Donna was not struggling one bit to get free from Josh. "You know I ought to lose your schedule for a day for that Shamu remark," she teased.

"Wow, I always thought there were a few things going on between the staff," Zoey whispered to Charlie after she finished her laps.  Gina meanwhile was poolside, appearing to be lounging but no one suspected for a minute that that was the case.

"Well things are going on between us" Charlie whispered, meshing his fingers with hers and bringing her hand to his cheek as they rested together.  "I have this terrific urge for you and me to grab Gina and throw her in here" he added with a laugh.  "But then I remember she's armed."

"CJ I'm alone every evening too" Toby said softly, "and I do understand your job.  Who better?"

"And how would that be different from any other day?" Josh teased, in full knowledge that it was only by the grace of Donna that he managed to get through any day.

Donna stuck her tongue out and then squealed as he dunked her momentarily.  When he brought her back up still holding on to her she began pommeling his chest with her fists.

"Toby are you trying to, to tell me something because I think I'm hearing something and in my line of work I like to have the facts straight," CJ spoke up.  "Well I was saying that maybe, well maybe things could be closer between you and I.  We work together so it wouldn't be a problem about misunderstanding the hours." "but maybe we shouldn't get involved because we work together," CJ tried to object, but Toby could tell her heart wasn't in it.

Josh gave her a bemused look and without her being aware of it began to walk very slowly to the deep end as she concentrated on her pounding of him.  Finally when he could barely stand in the five foot depth, he tossed her into the seven foot area.  Thinking she could still stand she put her feet down and immediately went under.  "You know what they say about payback" Josh yelled to her.

"CJ shut up" Toby smiled, "you're stuttering more than you would if the President was having a medical problem we didn't want the press to know about.  You and I are both adults, not brother and sister, and if we want to have a relationship we most certainly can.  And relationship can be defined as two people having dinner, being engaged--or anything in between."

Suddenly CJ just grabbed Toby's face gingerly in her hands and kissed him lovingly. She gasped for air when she finally broke the kiss.

Donna fought her way to the surface and clawed her way out of the water and grabbing a towel curled up in a lounge chair.

"I think you two need to be alone" Leo smiled clapping both their shoulders.  "And as your supervisor, second only to the president, let me say that what goes on out of the office that doesn't affect what goes on in---does not concern me in the slightest."

By the time Josh wiped the water from his eyes from Donna's splash she was gone.  He looked around in momentary alarm and then found her in the chair, wrapped in the towel.  "Oopps" he said to no one in particular and immediately pulled himself from the water.  "I think I owe you an apology" he said softly as he dropped to the chair next to her, carefully quelling the urge to reach for her.  "I'm sure that scared you and I just didn't think."

"My sister drown when she was four and I was six," Donna gasped out. She was shivering fiercely.

CJ smiled, "That's nice...we just might take you up on it."

"Oh my god I'm so sorry" Josh's hand went to his mouth in horror as he realized what he had done.  Moving swiftly he picked up two towels from nearby and then slid his lounger to touch hers before dropping back onto it and then pulling her toward him, wrapping the two extra towels over her at the same time.  "Be upset with me all you want" he whispered, "I deserve it, but let me hold you until you warm up.  I don't want you sick."

"Please" Toby smiled, "now exactly when and where are we going to be treated to your Jackal performance.  You know I was offered a thousand dollars by CNN once for a tape of you doing it."

"After the bagel I think the public has lost enough faith in me.  They don't need any help." CJ responded, "but since you asked so nicely to see it..."

Meanwhile Donna curled up against Josh and soon her nerves calmed and she stopped her shaking.

CJ scrambled up out of the pool and as soon as the others spotted the boombox emerging they all gathered round.  CJ began her legendary performance of "The Jackal" with plenty of flair.  Even Donna got into it.  "We should do this more often," she commented to Josh, whose arms she was still curled up in.

"No argument from me" Josh told her, his arms tightly around her, and beginning to breath more easily that she was not upset with him, and she was physically doing better.  He rested his chin on her shoulder and they hooted and clapped while CJ did her act.  "She's totally incredible" Leo enthused.  Toby simply stared, gaining a new appreciation for the woman he wanted very much to know better, or at least more personally.

Zoey settled back into Charlie's arms as he relaxed behind her on the lounger, both of them clapping and laughing.  "You have no idea how wonderful it is to be out among just people like this" she smiled, leaning back and pressing her cheek to his.

"It is kind of a break isn't it?" Charlie commented, "I think even Gina doesn't mind your going out like this.  I know I'm enjoying it."

Finally the show finished up and CJ bowed quickly a couple of times laughing playfully at all of the applause.  She moved immediately to Toby's side.  "Hey you know we left the chips and dip inside," Sam spoke up, "I think I'm craving that French dip again."

"I've got everything I need right here" Donna sighed, snuggling deeper into Josh's arms.  Mallory laughed and pulled Sam to his feet.  "OK onion dip breath, let's go feed you.  Anyone else waterlogged and starving?"  "I think I'm pruning up" Leo decided "so I'll join you."  "We'll be along directly" Toby called, not in any hurry to leave CJ's side.  "I'm going to get wet again" Charlie announced, tugging Zoey's hand to join him, instantly alerting Gina.

"Oh jeez again," Zoey pleaded teasingly even as she was allowing herself to be drug to the pool.  CJ began toweling off to head in with Toby and the others. "That French onion dip is sounding good..." she spoke her spirits dramatically lightened from earlier.

"I'm down with that" Toby laughed.  "Excuse me?" she gave him an odd look.  "You know, down" he grinned, "one of the interns, Bobby, Benji, something--anyway, the other day I said to him, you want a soda here?  I have one I can't use and that's the answer I got."  "Well I'm down with you" she answered.

Despite the towel covering, the night air turned chilly and Donna began to shiver again shortly.  "I think we need to move this little tete a tete we're having inside" Josh told her softly, giving her a small shake, "as much as I hate to see you move from my arms, I don't want you catching pneumonia.  After all I nearly drowned you earlier especially."

Donna smiled, "I'm sure there are some blankets inside that would work just as well as these towels have outside."  They were the last two to make it back indoors. CJ and Toby were cozy as they finished another club soda.  Sam was singing to some song on the CD player of CJ's baby grand piano and Donna pulled Josh down onto the couch.  Meanwhile Zoey was fixing another glass of soda for herself and Charlie while she dug in the olive bowl.

Charlie frowned at Zoey.  "When my mom was pregnant with my baby sister, when I was about ten, she craved those things.  Used to make my dad run to the store at all hours of the night for a jar.  Please, your father has enough on his mind without thinking that."

"You warm enough now?" Josh was asking Donna just as Leo was bringing in a giant thermos of coffee.  "I think I could use a cup of that" she admitted and then slipped her hand into his.  "I'm not usually chilled like this.  Maybe it's the company giving me shivers."

Toby selected another beer from the cooler and CJ eyed him sharply.  "Hey you're driving remember" she pointed out, "in fact I think the bar is closing.  Last call guys.  I care too much about all of you to let you leave here if there's any question of drinking too close."  "Not to mention having to explain to the press" Leo teased and CJ flipped a lemon slice at him from her club soda.

"I just like olives," Zoey said giving Charlie an odd look.  "I wouldn't do that to my Dad now, think of what would happen in the press.  Besides I'm a one man woman remember." She laughed lightly and popped another olive in her mouth.

"Yeah you here that, you're giving her the creeps," Leo teased and Donna nudged him with her foot in return. "Not like that," she replied as she gratefully took a cup of the coffee. "I guess I just over reacted earlier and I haven't recovered yet."

CJ flopped down on the couch next to Toby while they all watched Sam make an idiot of himself, glad that Mallory was driving them back.  "Hey Josh what are you going to buy tomorrow for the president, Cranberry muffin?" CJ asked teasingly thinking of the fiasco they'd all been regailed with all day.

"I'm staying away from that vending machine" Josh declared, adjusting the blanket around Donna and sitting up straighter to drink his coffee.  "The man already thinks I'm an idiot half the time.  I'd rather not confirm his suspicions."

"I know" Charlie said quietly, "as long as that one man is me I'm fine with that."

"Listen up now" Leo spoke up suddenly, "are we all straight about tomorrow?  We leave Andrews at five fifteen which gets us into Dallas at the same time.  The dinner and speech are at eight, overnight at the Plaza-Dallas and we're out of there at eight the next morning.  Let's all try to remember to pack an overnight bag SAM."  Sam looked up startled.  "I swear you make one trip and forget to pack underwear and you never hear the end of it."

"You forgot underwear?" Zoey cried out before bursting into laughter.  "Oh very funny, tell the kid."  Zoey glared at him before both smiled.  "Dinner is formal," CJ added and then under her breath, "my paycheck remembers that."  Donna smiled, "I can't wait to get to wear the dress I had made.  It's my favorite one yet."

Josh was immediately interested.  "I hope it's skimpy" he whispered, "something backless, low cut...and short."  "Josh she should be filing sexual harrassment charges right now" Toby pointed out.  "I don't care what she does as long as she stays in my life" Josh smiled and kissed her forehead.  She smiled up at him, totally comfortable within the confines of his arms.

CJ put on some softer music to set the tone for the evening winding down and held her hand to Toby, inviting him to dance.

Toby took CJ in his arms and began to move gracefully in the dancing space they had made.  "What color are you wearing?" Toby asked softly to make conversation.  "It's a surprise.  You'll see me when you come to escort me...unless you already had a date." CJ gasped hoping she wasn't being too presuming.

"I'm so excited that I'll get to come," Zoey enthused, "I've got this unbelieveably fabulous gown.  You're going to wear a tux like the rest of the guys right?" she bubbled.

"Soon as I rent one" Charlie grinned, "no I have one, courtesy of Josh helping me shop for one a few months back.  And I would love to escort you Miss Bartlett.  It would be my honor.  Will you promise me the first dance?"

"Of course I always take strange women on these trips" Toby scoffed. "Yes, consider me your escort.  Of course there's always Danny."  He added the last words mixed with hope and a bit of jealousy at the same time.  CJ had never actually admitted to a relationship with the reporter, and yet things were definitely cool between them just now.

Donna uncurled from Josh's arms.  "Dance with me please" she whispered.

"I'll promise you all the dances," Zoey grinned brightly, "well except the ones I have to give away..."

"I guess you missed the press release on that one," CJ replied cooly, "it would be a cold day in-- before he got a dance with me after he let me take all the heat. I like a little respect in my relationships.  I think I at least deserve that." she replied almost as if she was talking to herself aloud.

Josh smiled, "Okay, it will give me practice not having two left feet."  He escorted her onto the floor and began a flawless waltz, obviously he was rather accomplished at dancing.

"I'd forgotten what a good dancer you are" Donna teased, as if they had danced before like this.  "This feels very right you know, being here with you, being held like this by you.  I know I have to wake up and go back to work tomorrow, but right now I just want to enjoy this."

"You deserve far better" Toby agreed, and then added quickly, "not that I'm necessarily it of course."

"Charlie, I'm going to ask one of the agents at the door to dance if you don't ask me pretty quick" Zoey warned, "Gina is already looking at her watch here and fidgeting."

"I think you're worth a shot," CJ replied to Toby and then she looked at him realizing what she had just said.  "Hey I'm not going to push I'm just presenting the option," she explained softly, feeling that she had always come on too strong with people, being a woman playing hardball in a man's world.

"Would you like to dance?" Charlie asked with a smile and without waiting for her answer drew her out on the floor and began some form of slow dancing, not knowing how to waltz or anything proper.

"Yes but I do believe I asked to be your escort tomorrow night," Josh replied and then feeling the need to tease as always he added, "and beside you'll get to see my smiling face in the morning."

Charlie moved slowly, "OK, Fred Astaire I'm not, but just holding you is worthwhile."

"I believe it's an option I could easily consider" Toby said slowly.  "CJ lonliness is everything it's cracked up to be.  I don't want it for myself any longer."

"Joshua Lyman are you asking me to spend the night with you?" Donna screeched, her tiredness making her forget to censor her speech, and everyone turned to stare.

"That depends on whether or not you're accepting," Josh replied astounded, "I was really talking about tomorrow morning at work but the other would be a nice bonus?" Josh tried to finish optomistically and hoping not to hurt Donna.  The more he thought about it the more he realized he wouldn't mind sleeping with her, after all he had deep feelings for her, that much he knew.

"Well then maybe we should get off the lonliness circuit," CJ suggested, "I know I've been there too long.  I'm not getting any younger."

Zoey smiled and laughed lightly at Charlie, "I like it too and I think you're doing just fine..."

"Of course you were talking about at the office" Donna sighed, her face beet red.  "OK guys, I knew what he was talking about.  I just wanted to see if you all were paying attention."  "Well if we weren't, we were after that outburst" Leo smiled.

"I think you're right" Toby nodded seriously, "and I'd like very much if we would un-lonely ourselves with each other.  And on the record, I'm very much looking forward to tomorrow night."

CJ smiled, "So am I, suddenly so am I."  "Speaking of tomorrow," Sam half slurred, "I think I'm going to call it night...need sleep." he said meandering towards the door.

"Don't you think it's time you did the same?" Gina asked Zoey, "after all you still haven't packed."

"You know if I wanted nagging I have a mother" Zoey teased.  "But yes it's time we got Charlie home and me back.  I've got classes and a lab and I will get back to the asylum, uh White House, in the afternoon in time to get my bag together. Charlie dropped his arm over Zoey's shoulders and watched Gina carefully for her signals as to their moving out.

Mallory collected Sam and Leo followed them out.  "Good night all" he called.

"Josh you be sure Donna gets home safe" CJ urged, seeing how tired the younger woman appeared.  "Count on it" Josh nodded.  "See you guys in the morning."

"Yes goodnight," Toby added and soon the apartment was cleared out save the two of them and Toby helped her clean up.  "You really don't have to do this," CJ smiled, "but thank-you anyhow. You know I wonder just how Josh is going to make out with Donna."

"Make out being the operative word?" Toby teased, loading glasses into the dishwasher.  "I'm happy for them.  They're good people.  Mandy broke Josh's heart a long time ago, and he threw himself into his work and I knew it would take someone like Donna to make him want to...well....love again."

Josh carefully buckled Donna into her side of the car and shortly they were driving back to her neighborhood.  "This was fun" he said after a few minutes.  "I hope we do this more often. And I don't mean party with the guys.  I mean you and I, being together."

They arrived on Donna's block and found it blocked off by police cars.  An officer appeared before them.  "Sorry but no one's going in there, this area is sealed off.  The street for the next four blocks is filled with rioters, four have been killed already." Donna merely gasped.  "I guess I'll have to find a hotel, preferrably with roomservice."

"Yeah I'm going to let you go to a hotel alone" Josh scoffed, at the same time turning on the news to see what was happening and getting a quick story about a person in custody being beaten by a  mob.  "Hopefully the president went to bed and they're not waking him" he muttered.  He looked off in the distance as he swung around, seeing a haze of smoke and the sound of fire engines.  "My place--it could be my place" Donna gasped.  "One could only hope" he muttered again, "except for your things of course" he added hastily.  "It might be the only thing that gets you out of that neighborhood, short of moving in with me--and that's what you're doing tonight."  He squeezed her hand.  "Now this is the part where you say yes sir, meekly."

Donna sighed,"fine Josh." They rode quietly to his very nice moderately upper-end apartment.  Donna tossed her shoes off as soon as she got in the door and began massaging her ankles every two or three steps as she tried to make it to the couch.

"How many drinks did you have?" Josh teased and lifted her up, laughing hard as he set her on the sofa.  "You want some coffee or are you ready for bed?"

Toby had put the tv on as they finished the cleaning and now he was looking at film of the riot.  "CJ look at this" he frowned, "I know that's over near Donna.  And I hope Sam and Mallory went around OK.  Leo should be OK, and of course the Service got Zoey back right through downtown.  You think Josh has Donna don't you?  I'd hate to think of her being in that alone."

"No coffee thanks but a glass of cold milk or juice would be great," Donna answered with a smile, "and I only had one glass of wine tonight for your information."

"Well they said it's been going on a while now right?" CJ asked, "unless it just started two minutes ago Josh has Donna, after the way he's been eyeing her all night he wouldn't let her anywhere near that.  I'm sure they're at his place." CJ sat down next to Toby, their legs touching as she curled up on the couch to watch the TV. "I hope she is all right.  I think that might be her building partially on fire back there."

"Two apple juices coming up" Josh smiled, "and then we can see about the sleeping arrangements.  I can easily curl up on the sofa, and the sheets are clean on the bed.  Plus I have plenty of long tee shirts for you to sleep in."

Donna nodded and located the remote to check the news.  Each local channel was full of the report, and the fire now sweeping that area because it wasn't safe for the fire department to get in.  Josh handed her her juice, which she barely noticed as she stared at the screen.  "I'm sorry" he said softly, setting down his glass and putting an arm across her back.

"I'm calling Josh" CJ announced.  "I'll never sleep until I know Donna's OK."

The phone rang then and Josh answered it, "CJ, CJ okay, calm down.  Yes, yes she's here with me.  She's may be here a while too.  Yes we're watching the news." Josh put his hand over the phone at Donna's quizical look. "It's CJ.  She wanted to make sure you were safe here with me."  Meanwhile CJ put her hand over the phone on her end, "Donna's staying with Josh.  Her building is one of the ones going up." CJ sighed to Toby.

"Tell Josh to tell her we love her and we'll be there for her to be sure she gets a new place and so forth" Toby said softly, relieved to know she was safe.  "Poor thing.  I picked her up there one morning when her car was in the shop and it wasn't much, but I'm sure it was home to her."

CJ relayed the message and dropped heavily next to Toby.  "Sometimes the world isn't a very happy place" she said, her voice tearful.

"They're just making sure you're safe and that I'm taking good care of you" Josh smiled, watching her drain her juice.  That she was silent worried him and he was wondering if she wasn't falling into mild shock.  "Honey what can I do for you?" he begged, "you're kind of scaring me here."

"Tell me everything's going to be okay," Donna begged softly.  The usually playful secretary was now quiet and reserved as she attempted to deal with what fate had handed her.  She snuggled against Josh and then she began to brush his cheek as she looked into his eyes. "Thank-you, for everything you've done for me today," she began, then she leaned up and began to kiss him lovingly and with deep lasting feeling.  Her arms came up to twine around his neck and she moved to curl into his lap.  When she finally broke the kiss she laid her head on his shoulder.

Toby wrapped his arm protectively around CJ and curled her against him, then in his wisely soft, comfortingly musical type voice he simply said, "I'm always here for you CJ."

"Everything's going to be OK because I'm not going to let it be anything less" Josh assured her, his fingers playing in her hair as he pressed her tightly to him.  "Whatever we need to do to take care of anything fire related is a given.   And it's I who thanks you for today, and for what I hope will be many days to follow.  Now that I have you sort of in my life here, I'm not sure I could ever willingly let you out."

"Thank you" CJ sighed and clicked off the TV.  "Enough of that.  Tomorrow is going to be a day of it and I don't want to have to handle it until then."  She adjusted herself so that she could rest her head in the crook of his neck, moving hesitantly at first and when he not only did not resist, but actually helped her to become comfortable, she relaxed.  "Think we could stay like this until morning" she whispered after several minutes of silence.

"If that's what you want to do," Toby replied softly.  He snuggled CJ's lithe form against him and gently stroked her hair and her cheek.  He leaned down and kissed her forehead. "Sleep well CJ.  I've got you."

"Are you trying to tell me you want me to stay here, with you?" Donna asked Josh, wide-eyed.

"Yes I am" Josh said in all seriousness.  "For tonight goes without saying, and until you get your situation settled at least.  I don't want you going to some hotel by yourself that's for damn sure."  He took a long deep breath, realizing his heart was about to open.  "Yes I want you to stay here.  I want you and I to have a life outside the White House.  Whatever that may be I guess we'll have to work into.  Right now, for the immediate future, this is your home if you want it as much as I do."

Donna stared at him and he watched as she slowly became teary-eyed before she hugged him tightly and kissed him.  "Yes Josh, I want a life with you, outside of work and outside of the White House." She kissed him again, "I think I just might be falling in love with you."

Meanwhile CJ fell fast asleep, comfortably against Toby and he smiled down at her, wondering when he would finally be able to tell her what was growing in his heart.

THE END

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