All Hallow's Eve

by: spitzthecat

Pairing(s): Josh/Donna
Rating: MATURE
Disclaimer: Not mine, never gonna be mine. Anything you recognize from pop culture isn't mine either. If it was, would I still be this deep in debt? Really, if you want my crappy ass job, truck payment and two emotionally disturbed cats you're welcome to them.
Summary: The Joshua Monologues #043

“Hell?” CJ glares at me across her desk. “You and Sam want to decorate the West Wing as Hell for Halloween?”

Her disgust-filled look makes me squirm uncomfortably. I thought it was a neat idea when Sam presented it to me. “You know, Dante’s Inferno. Each room or section could be a different level of Hell with Leo’s office being the last one.”

“This is a charity event for cancer patients at the Children’s Hospitals, Josh. Do you really think these kids want to see a 14th century Italian’s version of Hell? Do you not think it would give the younger ones nightmares? Would you want your kid touring Hell on Halloween?” CJ rails.

Ouch. Good point.“Okay, okay. We’ll think up something else,” I surrender and duck out of her office before she can throw something at me. Sam is my best friend, but I’m not taking a paperweight to the head for him.

***

“Dante’s Inferno? Guys?” I shake my head at the pair of doofuses before me.

Josh and I invited Sam and CJ over tonight to help brainstorm the Halloween party theme. Sam, Josh and I are lounging around the living room trying to come up with something, well, not stupid. CJ told me about the Hell idea, and while I agree it’s on the neat side for adults, it’s too traumatic for 9-year-olds with cancer.“It sounded cool at the time?” Sam defends his idea meekly.

CJ must have really taken a piece out of his ass for even suggesting it. I almost feel bad for him.

“What about the Wizard of Oz? Kids love the Wizard of Oz. The President would make a great wizard and CJ could be Dorothy.” Josh offers distractedly. He’s preoccupied with helping David stand up on his lap. “Toby could be the Cowardly Lion.”

The buzzer sounds before either Sam or I can remind Josh of Toby’s vehement refusal to participate in the planning or execution of this event.

I pry myself off the couch to answer the door. God, I don’t remember being this ungainly with David at 17 weeks.

“They made you get the door?” CJ scowls, stepping into the apartment with three pizza cartons and a six-pack of beer perched precariously in her arms.

“Josh is busy.” I point to where my husband is hunched over, tickling the giggling baby.

“Who is that man and what has he done with Josh Lyman?” CJ rolls her eyes in disbelief at the sight of the President’s attack dog delighting in his infant son.

I take the pizzas from her. “Are there anchovies on any of these, by chance?”“Dead fish? Are you insane?” She makes a face at the mere suggestion.

“No. I’m pregnant and craving anchovies.”

“Josh, your wife wants dead fish on her pizza,” CJ calls as she follows me through the living room and into the kitchen.

“There’s anchovies in the fridge,” he yells back.

***

“You keep anchovies in the fridge?” Sam gapes in disgust.

I pick David up off the sofa cushion and help him stand on my thighs again, marveling at how fast he’s growing. “What? Donna is into the cravings phase. You’d be amazed at the crap we keep in the fridge.”

Sam shoots me incomprehensible look. “Who are you?”

“What?” I repeat, smiling at my son’s antics. David has discovered the joy of bouncing, but he’s not very coordinated yet.

“You. This.” Sam gestures at the living room filled with baby toys, swings and playmats. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think you’d be happy like this.”

“I don’t think I can explain it,” I answer, wondering how to help him understand how much my life as changed since I became a father. “You know what the most incredible thing I’ve done in my life is?”

“Get Jed Bartlet elected President?”

“Nope,” I nod my head at the child exploring his universe from the safety of my lap. “Bringing this little guy into the world. And I don’t just mean having a son, Sam. I mean when it happened, it was just… I don’t even think I can explain it, but it’s the thing I am most proud of in my life.”

***

“Is this normal?” CJ grimaces when I liberally coat several pieces of pepperoni pizza with small, herring-like fish.

“Cravings in general?” I chuckle. “Or craving anchovies?”“Either. Both.”

“I craved ice cream with David, in the weirdest combinations. The anchovy thing is new,” I admit. “It freaks Josh out a little. I’m craving salty stuff. I have to be careful with it though. To keep my blood pressure down.”We finish dividing up the pizza and head back to the livingroom.

I stop short when I hear Sam comment on Josh’s happiness. My husband’s response is not at all what I expected.

In the aftermath of David’s entrance into the world, we never had a chance to focus on the event itself. We were so wrapped up in worrying about our baby’s health that we never talked about his birth. Josh never told me how he felt and I never told him how much it meant to me.

***

“Here. It’s hamburger.” Donna sets a paper plate piled with pizza slices on the coffee table before sitting back down on the sofa.

“Go ahead.” I relocate David to my shoulder from my lap so Donna can put her feet in it and indicate she should go first. I’m beginning to think Donna and I will never eat together again. It seems as if one of us is always occupied with the baby ­ something I think is going to get worse before it gets better.

“You should tell CJ about your Wizard of Oz idea,” Donna says, taking a huge bite of pepperoni and anchovies.CJ groans. “No. Absolutely not.”

“You haven’t even heard us out yet,” Sam protests.

“You know he’ll want to be the Wizard.” There’s no doubt to whom CJ is referring. “And I’d like to remind you the Wizard was a short little man who hid his true self behind a curtain so people would fear and respect him.”

Sam and I trade a pained look. She’s right. Bad connotation.

Sam gets a sudden gleam in his eye. “Arabian Nights?”

“NO!” CJ and Donna chorus.

“Come on, Donna!” I whine, turned on by the image of my wife in a skimpy belly dancer’s costume.“Absolutely not,” she reiterates in the voice I do not argue with.

***

Three pizzas, a six pack of beer and numerous bad ideas later, we’re still theme-less.

CJ and Sam are both yawning uncontrollably and David has long since been fed and put to bed.

“Let’s table this until the morning,” CJ suggests after a Grease theme is tossed out and shot down for the fifth time.

“I think that’s an idea we can agree on.” Sam stands to stretch.

Our friends help us clean up and then head out, leaving Josh and I alone.

“I’m going to check on the Baby Bear,” Josh says, brushing his lips against mine. “There’s a new bottle of mouthwash.”

“Is that a hint?” I laugh, knowing he despises the taste of anchovies.

“I’ve been a good boy all day,” he points out, waggling his eyebrows on his way out of our bathroom.He’s not back by the time I finish, so I wander into the nursery. We moved David in here once he started sleeping through the night. Josh is standing over the crib, bathed in the moonlight.

“Hey,” I whisper, slipping under his arm to watch him tenderly stroke David’s curly, brown hair.“Hey,” he replies with a kiss to my forehead.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” he answers softly. “I’m just thinking about something Sam said while you were in the kitchen. I love you. Do I tell you often enough?”

“I know you do and I love you, too, babe.” I wrap my arm around his waist and gaze down at our son’s sleeping form.“Let’s go to bed,” he whispers huskily.

***

Donna turns down the covers before she slips the tie on her robe. Her body is rounder with this cub. I know she’s already gained more weight than she did the entire time she was pregnant with David. Some of it, I’m sure, is she never had the chance to lose any during the brief four weeks she wasn’t pregnant.

I continue to be amazed at my own responses to the changes in my wife’s body. Just looking at her brings Spongebob to life. I never thought of pregnant women as a turn on until Donna started to show. Now, simply looking at her makes my jeans tight and uncomfortable.“You’re a goddess,” I whisper. Standing before her naked, I slide my hands under the flannel material and up her sides.

“You’re delusional,” she scoffs, but her eyes betray the words and I get a shy smile for my compliment.

My roving hands reach her shoulders and ease the robe off. “Come to bed with me.”

She takes my hand and guides me the few steps to our bed. I allow her to get comfortable first and then lie down next to her, supporting myself with one arm.

Our lips meet and she tastes of mint toothpaste. The kiss lasts an eternity, our tongues swirling playfully around one another. My hands reach out to touch her silky skin, caressing it. They wander over the swell of our second child growing inside her, down the stretch marks to her hips and thighs.

The weight she’s gained isn’t evident in the firm muscles that contract when my fingers slip between her folds and flicker over her clit.

“Josh…” she moans.

***

Josh pulls my lower lip between his teeth and tugs gently before recapturing our kiss.

My hands knead his chest in concert with the slow, tantalizing movements of his fingers deep within Squarepants.

I feel cheated when his shifts his attention. Those talented fingers traverse down my inner thigh with the barest of contact. I mimic the action on his arms, moving slowly down his biceps, accentuating every crease defining his musculature.

I love the dichotomy of his arms: so strong when they hold me and so gentle when they cradle David.

***Down the smooth skin of her inner thigh and back up the outside. Donna giggles when I hit a certain spot on her side. The beautiful sound of her laughter is swallowed by the kiss we’re intent upon maintaining.

My hand reaches the underside of her breast and I trace its curvature with my fingernail. Reaching the valley between the Wonder Twins, I rotate my hand and press my palm against the dark areola, squeezing my hand until I’m rolling the nipple between my fingers.***Josh’s scars are magical to me, proof of his triumph over hate. I press my thumb into the healed bullet wound while he trails his hand back down my body, pausing when the cub kicks, reminding us both of its presence.

His smile lights up those incredible brown eyes and I decide right then I want all of our children to inherit their father’s eyes.

From the scars on his chest, my hands wander of their own accord, searching out Spongebob’s warm, hard length.

“Nna,” Josh groans, pressing into my grasp.

“Hmm?” I mumble back, our lips still locked together.

He doesn’t answer with words.

***

Her hand is so supple as she slides it up and down Spongebob. I fall back, pulling her over me to maintain this fabulous kiss.

Donna straddles my waist and Squarepants’ moist warmth replaces her hand. I swivel my hips, trying to tease her clit with Spongebob’s tip. Donna shifts a bit until I’m hitting just where she wants me.

***

I grind my clit on Spongebob, an intense pressure building inside me. The need to come overrides the desire to have Josh inside me.

***

Donna finally breaks our kiss, pulling away and supporting herself with her hands on my chest, her hips rotating rapidly. It’s highly erotic to watch her do this, her long blonde hair falling all around her face, her features cast with the glow of rapture.

I can no more stop my orgasm than I can stop the sun from rising in the morning.***

Every muscle in my lower body clenches and releases in a rush of fluid that mingles with Josh’s, creating a sticky mess where I sit, perched atop his groin. Looking down, Josh’s self-satisfied grin makes me laugh. His hands are covering mine, gripping them loosely.“That was fun,” he chortles, bucking his hips playfully. “But you get to sleep in the wet spot.”

***

“Can we talk about something?” I’m snuggled against Josh’s chest, absently tracing the surgical scars bisecting it.

“Hmm?”“I kind of overheard you talking to Sam tonight and I’ve been thinking about this for a little while, but wasn’t sure what you’d think about it.”

Josh continues toying with my hair. “About what?”“Having this baby at home, too,” I reply, self-consciously dropping my hand to my protruding stomach.“Can we do that?” he asks with uncertainty, ceasing his post-coital activities.

“Of course we can. If we want to.”

“How does that work? Does the doctor come here when it’s time or…”

“We’d have to find a midwife…” I’m thinking out loud now.

Josh starts playing with my hair again and even though I can’t see him, I know he’s biting his lower lip.

“It’s not to late, is it? I mean, you’ve been seeing Dr. Williams for over four months and wouldn’t they want you to have decided this earlier?”

“If you don’t want to, it’s okay,” I tell him, taking his questioning for disinclination.

“No, no. That’s not what I meant.” He lifts my chin with a finger so I’m looking into his eyes.***

“I…” God, how do I explain this to her? “I’d love nothing more than to have this baby at home. It just felt so right with David. I never thought I could do something like that and be there for you like I got to be.”

“You don’t think it’s weird or freaky?” Donna asks tentatively.

“Not really,” I yawn. It’s getting late and I’m tired.

She smiles up at me brightly. “I’ll start doing some research then and talk to Dr. Williams when I see her in a couple of weeks.”

***

“I’ve got it!” Sam voice filters through the partially closed door between my office and Josh’s.

“What?” I hear Josh snap.

He’s been finessing budget numbers all day trying come up with a revenue neutral approach to tightening border security in national parks. I’m sure the last thing he wants to hear about is the Halloween party, but he shouldn’t take it out on Sam.

I get up, silently cursing the fact my waist doesn’t bend like it did a year ago.“Harry Potter,” Sam announces proudly. “The kids will love it.”

“No.”

“Josh, hear him out,” I interrupt from the doorway.

Sam flashes me a grateful smile.

“Fine.” Josh returns his attention to the spreadsheet on his desk. “Float it by CJ.”

“Somebody’s in a mood,” I observe after Sam retreats.

“I just don’t understand how I got put in charge of this thing, yet whatever I decide has to be acceptable to CJ before we can do it. Halloween is in like three days,” he grumbles, tossing his pen onto already ink-soaked spreadsheet.I stare at him until he lifts his eyes to meet mine. “Halloween is in seven days. Stop being a jackass and get in the spirit.”

A boyish smile cracks Josh’s impassive face. “All right already. I’m in the spirit.”

“Then my work here is done,” I state, spinning on my heel.

Josh’s chuckling follows me as I return to my own desk.

***

Outside of Sam sticking his head in my office every hour with a new idea for the Halloween party, it’s been a pretty slow day. After the 7 o’clock briefing, I call a full lid and send Carol home.

Using all the stealth I can muster, I creep into Communications, looking for Toby while trying to avoid Sam.

Bonnie catches my eye and waves me off. Carol must have told her about Sam and from my position, I can see Toby’s light is off. I briefly wonder where he went; it’s unheard of for him to be gone this earlier.

My trek back to my office takes me through Operations, which is also unnervingly quiet, even for a Friday night. Josh’s office light is on, so I knock once and invade his space.

“Hey, mi amour!”

Except Josh isn’t in his office.

“CJ?” Donna calls quietly from her darkened office.I slip through the half-open door to find her relaxing on the couch with the baby.

Faced with this dilemma, I have to admit something. In the five months since Donna had David and we had the unfortunate baby shower incident, I’ve been avoiding being alone with her and the kid.

Public pronouncements to the contrary, babies terrify me. I always thought the sight of babies was supposed to make middle-aged, single women want one of their own. Not me, I see babies as something other women have. I’ve never even held one for very long, not even when my niece Hogan was born.

“I was looking for Toby, actually.” I gesture to the door, “I can go if you…”“CJ, sit down and talk to me. We haven’t talk talked since Josh and I got married,” she pleads.

I have to think about it, but she’s right. We haven’t had ‘girl time’ since before Josh went to London. I fold myself into one of her visitor chairs and take in the sight of my pregnant friend and her helpless infant.

“How many of more those are you and Josh going to have?” I blurt tactlessly, instantly appalled. “Can I try that sentence over again?” I’m blushing down to my toes. I didn’t mean to sound so crass.

“We agreed to have as many as we have,” Donna answers simply.

David is waving his arms around and squishing up his face, looking for all the world like he’s about to start screaming. Fortunately, Donna knows exactly what he wants.

I fidget uncomfortably, looking anywhere but at Donna when she unbuttons her blouse. This is the first time I’ve been faced with this dilemma. Last night, she left the room to feed him ­ out of deference to Sam, I think.

Now, I’ve always thought of myself as an open-minded individual and staunch defender of women’s rights, but the sight of another woman breastfeeding makes me want to crawl out of my own skin. Mostly because I don’t understand the etiquette involved. Can we still carry on a conversation? How do I look at the woman I’m talking to without staring?

I can’t help but do just that in fascination when Donna holds her son to her breast. David’s little hands press into her flesh as he suckles greedily, oblivious to everything but his own need, increasing his uncanny resemblance to his father.“My God, he really is a tiny version of Josh.”

“More and more so every single day,” Donna laughingly agrees. “CJ, you just can’t understand how much he grows and changes every day. Yesterday he wasn’t even trying to roll over and then this morning it’s his newest obsession.”

The way her eyes light up as she describes his accomplishments makes me start to understand why she would want another one. “How big is he now?”“Just over nine pounds. Give or take. He’s doubled his birth weight in four months. His feeding schedule is more regular now, which is nice, and he’s sleeping six hours at a stretch. If we put him down around eleven or so, we can actually sleep through the night.”

“I can barely comprehend what it’s like to have something growing inside you one minute and then all of a sudden it’s a tiny person.”“It changes your views on some things,” Donna admits, looking down at David with unconditional love. She’s using her free hand to gently stroke his brown curls.

“You’re talking about abortion?” I ask curiously.“Among many, many other things.” Donna tucks a loose strand of hair behind her ear. It’s longer than it used to be. It now hangs down to the middle of her back. “I’m not saying women shouldn’t have the right to determine what’s best for themselves, but I can’t say it’s something I’d consider anymore. You know?”

“I think so,” I whisper, sensing a widening gap in our life experiences. In the past year, Donna Moss has become what society historically decrees women should be: a wife and a mother. I am neither. I am a career-oriented feminist with little desire to marry and bear children. Not that I couldn’t have, but that’s neither here nor there.

***

“Where is he?” Matt Skinner demands, standing with his balled fists resting on his desk.I look at Josh in bewilderment. Where we supposed to bring someone else along? “Who?”“He’s four and a half months old and I have yet to see him,” Matt glowers at Josh.

Josh grins and digs into his back pocket. Pulling out his wallet, he produces pictures of David.

I swear I’m trapped in a Leave It To Beaver rerun.“You should come over for brunch on Sunday and see him. He’s gotten so big,” Josh gushes.

Big? If the kid were a fish, they’d have to throw him back.

“Can we do this?” I growl. The proud father thing Josh has going on gets tiresome the seventh or eighth time you’ve witnessed it. I have no desire to waste my time so he can brag about his kid.

Matt looks guilty and hands the pictures back to Josh.

“Yeah, sure. Sorry, Toby,” Josh tucks his wallet back into his pocket, his smile fading enough that his dimples disappear. He takes a deep breath and launches his spiel. “Prescription drug coverage. We want to work it into Medicare reform.”***

“Do you want to get something to eat?” Donna suggests. We’ve been sitting in her office chatting about the office gossip. Ginger has a new boyfriend and the President may or may not have finally decided to replace Mrs. Landingham ­ depending on who you ask.“There’s nothing good in the Mess,” I reply, having surveyed the options before my last briefing.“So? Let’s go out.”

“What about…” I nod at the infant in her arms. He’s been yawning and stretching like he wants to go to sleep but every time his eyes close, he jerks himself awake.

“We’ll go somewhere quiet,” Donna shrugs. “Can you take him for a second?”I take the squirming bundle, instinctively supporting his head, but holding him away from my Anne Taylor suit. He starts to cry almost instantly. Apparently, he hates me.

Donna smiles indulgently at my look of terror. “Hold him close to your body and move.”

I tentatively do what she says and rock on my heels. To my great surprise, he stops wailing and stuffs his hand in his mouth. Those brown eyes he got from Josh stare up at me, wide and curious. I’m not quite sure what to make of his scrutiny until he pulls his hand from his mouth and smiles at me. I return it reflexively and his grows wider, revealing little dimples.

“You really are pretty handsome. But you already know that, don’t you?” I inform him. Despite the string of drool from his mouth to his hand, he is a cute baby. The hardest thing to believe is he shares his genes with Josh Lyman.

Donna bustles around her office, getting her things together. I can sense her watching me, out of the corner of her eye. Not unlike a mama bear making sure no harm comes to her cub.

“Ready?” she asks, taking David from me and strapping him into the carrier.

***

I found a new little coffeehouse/bookstore called Politics and Prose a few weeks ago. We each get coffee and a pastry and settle ourselves into the children’s section. It’s deserted this time of night and if David wakes up cranky, nobody will care.The office gossip has petered out and CJ looks increasingly reflective as I sip my decaf cappuccino and flip distractedly through The Cat in the Hat.

“Donna?” CJ asks from her perch on a pint-sized couch. “Can I ask you something?”

“Hmm?” I close the book and set it aside.

“What you said earlier? About how having David changed your perspective on things like abortion? What did you mean?”Her question seems to be an attempt to bridge the gap I can sense growing between us. I’m just not sure I can explain how the experience of having a baby has changed me in a way she’ll understand.

“When I was younger, once in high school and a couple of times with Brian, I was late and I thought maybe I was pregnant. All I could think about was how I was going to make the decision about whether I was going to have the baby or not. Whether or not I could, even. Each time, I boiled it down to the fact that I wasn’t in any position to handle being pregnant, let alone having a baby. Thank God, I never actually was, so I never had to make the choice. But now, I can understand the other side of the argument, that life really begins at conception,” I rest my hand on the slight swell below my breasts, feeling the faint movements of my nocturnal cub. “I still think it’s an individual choice. I don’t have the right to tell a woman what she should or shouldn’t do. My position on legalization hasn’t changed, just my willingness to avail myself to that choice.”

“Sometimes I wonder if I should have gotten married and had kids,” CJ murmurs.

“It’s not too late,” I offer. “If you and Toby get started right away.”The faintest of smiles dances across her eyes and her cheeks redden imperceptibly. “Toby and I? I don’t think so. I mean…”“You mean what?” I tease.

“We’re friends is all,” she hedges, but I can see some disappointment in her expression. “Toby’s in love with Andi. I’m… I’m not sure I’m ever going to be in love. But I’m good in bed and so is Toby, so…”

“Best friends with bed privileges?” I surmise with a yawn. It’s nearly nine o’clock and Josh is probably home by now and starting to worry.

CJ nods. “Exactly. You ready to head out?”

“Yeah,” I get slowly to my feet and gather the Dr. Seuss books I’m buying this evening. I want our home to be filled with books for the kids and have started collecting now in anticipation of the future.

***

Donna paged me while I was at Matt’s office to let me know she and CJ were going out for a while. It’s almost 9:30, however, and she’s not home yet. I’m starting to get a little bit concerned. Okay, okay. I’m completely unable to concentrate on the report I’m trying to read.

The sound of a car door slamming summons me to the window again. I’ve watched all of our neighbors come home this evening. This time Donna’s blonde head ducks into the backseat of the SUV this time and I hustle down the stairs to help her.

“Shopping spree?” I take the bookstore bags and David’s diaper bag from her.“Books, Joshua. Children’s books,” she explains with exaggerated tolerance, lifting David from his car seat.

Donna has an obsession with buying books for our kids before they’re even old enough to be read to. She’s compiled quite the library over the past few months. Last week, it was Paddington Bear and Babar the Elephant. I’m slightly curious as to what she brought home tonight.

“Did you and CJ have a good time?” I ask, following her up the stairs.

“Yeah.” She smiles at me over her shoulder. “We really did. It was good to just gossip for a while. How was your meeting with Matt?”Closing the door behind us, I take the packages into the kitchen and set them on the table. “It went okay. Matt made some good points, but Toby didn’t want to listen to him. It was a wash, I guess. Matt’s coming over for brunch on Sunday.”

Donna lifts our slumbering son from his carrier. “Do you want to put David down?”

I rest his body against my shoulder, automatically swaying back and forth as I make my way to the nursery. A thin line of drool snakes from his open mouth and after I lay him down on his back, I wipe it away.

“Sleep tight, Bear,” I whisper, leaning down and pressing a kiss to his brown curls. “I love you.”

***I’m sorting through the bags when Josh returns to the kitchen. My literary purchases are stacked in the center of the table.

“One Fish, Two Fish?” He grabs the book eagerly.

“Red Fish, Blue Fish,” I finish, watching unobtrusively while he flips through the pages with a wistful expression.

“Hey, Donna?” Josh drawls without looking up from the book.

“Joshua?” I reply warily. I know this tone of voice. This is Josh’s ‘I’ve got a plan’ voice and it usually means he’s got some half-baked scheme to fight inflation or something.

“What if we did Dr. Seuss themes for Halloween? Each departmentcould do a different book. Communications could do Green Eggs and Ham, the Oval Office could do Cat in the Hat…”

I decide to play along. “And what would Operations do?”

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish,” Josh states, matter-of-factly holding up the book in his hands, showing me the cover.

“I like it,” I say, smiling at his new enthusiasm. “But you have to run it past CJ. What if she doesn’t like it?”

***

I greet CJ with Starbucks the next morning and, contrary to my wife’s proclamations of doom, she gleefully agrees. We quickly cobble together a proposed list of which department will do which book and who gets what character before the Saturday morning Senior Staff meeting.

“How’s the Halloween party planning going?” President Bartlet asks after Leo wraps up the meeting. “We promised the Special Events office we’d have a theme to them by this afternoon.”

“Actually, I’m meeting with Ellen this morning.” I close my folder, determined to not give away any more information than I have to.

“What’s the theme?” Toby nearly growls.“It’s a surprise,” CJ jumps in. She wanted to pick out Toby’s character; I agreed on the condition she take the heat for it.Toby’s face darkens. “I hate surprises.”

“I know you do,” CJ replies cheekily.

“Enough,” Leo breaks in before the two of them can even get up a full head of steam. “It’s Saturday and I don’t want to listen to you four squabbling.”

President Bartlet looks vaguely disappointed, but stands up and ends the meeting. He ushers the others out, but grabs my elbow before I can escape into the outer office. “I trust it’s nothing to harrowing for small children?”

“No, sir.” I assume he heard about the Dante’s Inferno idea. “In fact, if it’s all right with you, Donna and I wondered if maybe David could spend the day in the West Wing, sir. Sort of his first Halloween and all…”

He releases my elbow and pats me on the shoulder. “Sounds like a grand idea!”

Sam is waiting for me. “You’re bringing David to work for the whole day on Friday?”“Yeah. He’ll be fine. My day is pretty light and so is Donna’s.”

“But… I mean, a few hours Saturdays is one thing, Josh, but this is the White House.” He clearly doesn’t think much of the idea. “It’s not a place for children during business hours. What if he starts bawling?”

“The President doesn’t seem to have a problem with it.” I point my thumb back toward the Oval Office. “David’s screamed his head off in the building before and it landed him in his very first policy meeting. It’s not like I’m going to ask you to watch him or anything.”We reach Communications to find Toby and CJ huddled together in Toby’s office.

“Josh and Donna are bringing David to work all day Friday,” Sam announces, dropping onto the couch.

“Is that really appropriate?” Toby growls.

“It’s his first Halloween, guys,” I say, willing them to get it.

Where did all this animosity come from all of a sudden? It wasn’t six weeks ago Toby was bringing me work to do while I was at home recovering from carbon monoxide poisoning. Now, he barely looks me in the eye. And Sam didn’t have any issues on Thursday night when he was over. What am I missing here?

“Don’t forget you’re doing Crossfire Monday afternoon,” Toby dismisses me.

“Yeah,” I sigh, leaving the three of them and heading back to my office.

“You don’t have to be an asshole to Josh about it. It’s not his fault,” I hear CJ say as I round the corner to Operations. I have no idea what ‘it’ is, but I’m sure it has something to do with my family.

***

Josh comes dragging back into our offices after Senior Staff.“What’s the matter?” I ask.

“I don’t know,” he shrugs, sitting on the edge of my desk.

“You look all pissed off. What is it now?” I lean back in my chair, looking up at him.“Toby and Sam,” he admits.“What?” I demand, not really in the mood to drag it out of him detail by detail.

“Sam overheard me talking to President Bartlet about bringing David in on Halloween. He thinks it’s a bad idea. That the White House is no place for a baby during business hours,” Josh recounts his conversation, his eyes never wavering from the portable crib in the corner.“What about Toby?” I take his hand and squeeze it, knowing how much those words must have hurt coming from Sam.

“Pretty much the same thing.”

“And CJ?” I ask, remembering our conversation from the previous evening.

“CJ didn’t say anything, but I heard her tell Toby not to be an ass after I left.”

Thank you, CJ! I don’t know what I would have done if she’d jumped on the bandwagon.

“It’s like they don’t understand how important my family is to me. Like they expected everything to go back to the way it was before David was born now that you’re back at work. Except…” he trails off.

“Have you talked to them about it?”Josh nods miserably. “I tried to explain it to Sam the other night, but I don’t think he gets it. They don’t want to hang out or go out or do anything after work anymore. Or if they do, they don’t ever ask us to go.”

He’s got a point there. I overheard details of a pretty raucous staff gathering at The Hawk and Dove last month. A party to celebrate a sweet victory Josh engineered over Speaker of the House Glenallen Walken. A party we weren’t informed of, let alone invited to. When I heard about it, I assumed they figured Josh and I wouldn’t be able to go, not that they intentionally cut us out of the loop.

“You’re making something out of nothing, Josh. They’re probably talking about something else entirely and you know they’re all nervous around David anyway. None of them have any real experience with babies.” I’m sure he’s blowing this out of proportion ­ Toby and Sam wouldn’t do what Josh is describing. They’re his best friends, despite Toby’s frequent protestations to the contrary.

Josh just shrugs and lets go of my hand. “Are you ready to go?”

“I’ve just got to get these research notes together,” I gesture at the stack of printouts scattered all over my desk. “Another twenty minutes tops.”

“I’m just gonna… Go over some stuff,” he jerks his head toward his office and the mountain of work awaiting him.

***

“Hey, Donna.” Neville Higgins calls across the studio.

Neville is a line producer for Crossfire, which Josh is doing this afternoon. Opposite Mary Marsh.

“Hi, Neville,” I give him one-armed hug. “Don’t get him too wound up, tonight? Please? I’m trying to keep my blood pressure under control.”

Like Toby didn’t almost send it through the roof when he came storming into Josh’s office screaming about Communications getting stuck with Green Eggs and Ham for Halloween. He was even less pleased when Josh suggested if he didn’t want to do Green Eggs and Ham, they could do The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.Neville laughs. “No promises. You’re the ones who keep setting him up opposite Mary. It isn’t our fault Josh can’t control what comes out of his mouth around her. How’s this little guy, by the way?”

We brought David along because he has an appointment with the pediatrician when we’re done here. Doctors who keep late office hours are wonderful human beings.

“He’s good. He’s growing so fast.”

“Hey, Neville.” Josh appears from the make-up room looking appropriately orange.

“Cute kid you’ve got there. Are you sure it’s yours?”

“Funny, very funny,” Josh deadpans. “Everybody’s a comedian.”

“We’re on in about three minutes,” Neville advises, heading toward the stage.

“Do good and don’t let her bait you.” I try to be supportive.

***

“It’s a pagan ritual that teaches children to be Satanists. This liberal excuse for a holiday is not something the White House should be advocating!”

“Let’s not turn Halloween into something it isn’t. What it is, is an excuse to let little kids get dressed up in cute costumes and hopped up on sugar,” I return fire.

“Halloween is the most powerful day for the followers of Satan,” Mary nearly shouts.

“Only if you worship Satan,” I scoff. “If the President of the United States wants to take the time to interject a little levity into the lives of sick children then Halloween’s purpose is fun and frivolity.”

The next thing out of my mouth was going to be a suggestion to Mary Marsh could dress up as Satan’s minion by just showing up in her street clothes, but disaster is averted. The hosts end the show before I can launch that career-ending diatribe.I clean the make-up off and head out to find Donna. She’s holding David and talking to Mary Marsh. From twenty feet away, I can see she wants nothing more than to whack my nemesis in the head with the diaper bag. Striding up to them, Mary cuts off whatever she’s saying to Donna and turns to me.“Nice to see you’re as hypocritical as I always thought you were, Lyman,” she sneers. “Not only did you get your little blonde secretary pregnant and have to marry her ­ you’ve managed to keep her pregnant. I’m surprised you let her out of the house. I’d have thought you’d want her barefoot in the kitchen.”

“Nah,” I drawl, my sarcasm coming through in a pinch. “That’s your fantasy, Mary. I wouldn’t want to take it away from you and Al.”

Donna is biting her lip as Mary stalks off in a huff.

“Are you okay, honey?” Normally she’d just shrug Mary’s despicable comments off, but her hormones are all out of whack today. When Toby came to yell at me over the Dr. Seuss thing, she almost burst into tears.

“Well, I’ve got this image of Mary and Al Caldwell in my head now,” she replies, not answering my question.***I do not have the same visceral response to Mary Marsh my husband does. Where Josh gets all puffed up like a blowfish and starts being a smart-ass, I remain calm and know that since I don’t care about her opinion, nothing she says can bother me.

Except her rather cruel comments about my bearing ‘Lyman’s spawn’ and ‘dragging him to places an infant clearly doesn’t belong’ struck me the wrong way today. I doubt it would bother me if CJ hadn’t said something along the same lines the other night. Of course the difference between Mary Marsh and CJ is that Mary really meant what she said while CJ apologized in the next breath for being insensitive.

“What was she saying to you?” Josh picks up the empty baby carrier and tags along behind me on the way to the car.

“She was being her normal sweet self,” I reply when I get my emotions under control.

“Oh God. Are you sure you’re okay?” He hustles in front of me and walks backward so he can look at me.

“I’m fine,” I assure him.

“It’s just…” he starts, but trips over the curb and nearly falls on his butt trying to get the back door of the Trailblazer open.

I strap David into his car seat and stow the carrier, ignoring whatever Josh is rambling on about.

“I’m fine!” I snap after climbing in the passenger seat and slamming my door shut.

He pursues his lips in frustration and starts the car, but true to form, Josh refuses to let it go. He keeps looking at me out of the corner of his eye as he pulls into traffic. After a few miles of fearing for my life, I cave in.

“You know what you said on Saturday, about how they were all upset about David being in the office on Friday?” I know I blew him off at the time, but Mary Marsh’s comments brought it home for me.

“Yeah. You said I was imagining things. Making something out of nothing were your exact words, if I’m not mistaken,” he replies, pulling into the parking lot of our doctor’s office.

“Some of the stuff Mary said wasn’t all that far from some of the things our friends have said recently. I mean, CJ apologized right away, but still…”“I know,” Josh sighs, shoving the car into park. “I just don’t know what say to them to make them understand.”***

Four days later, I still don’t know what to say and it’s getting worse. Toby scheduled three meetings requiring my presence this week after seven o’clock ­ when he knows I’m supposed to be gone ­ and Sam hasn’t poked his head into my office since Monday. Conversations with both of them have been increasingly stilted as the week has progressed.

Donna and CJ are blaming their behavior on the upcoming full moon and Halloween. I’d buy into the theory if the next full moon weren’t until November 9th.

I’m almost to the point where I just don’t care anymore. I’m up to my ass in a never-ending pile of work and my son is growing faster than I thought was possible. I also think I might be going insane. There’s one voice inside my head telling me that watching David grow up is far more important than anything I’ll do in the White House. It’s balanced by another voice telling me I’m making a better future for him by what I’m doing.

Halloween dawns as a crisp, golden fall day. The kind of day poets dream of painting in prose. Or the kind of day that has me trying to keep a knit hat on top of my kid’s head. He keeps pulling it off and sticking it in his mouth. The embroidered Mets logo is covered in slobber.President Bartlet insisted I bring David to the Senior Staff meeting since, and I quote here, “I haven’t seen him in months.” Even though it’s actually only been a couple of weeks.Toby is seething because the President’s ignoring the meeting agenda and playing with my son instead, marveling at how big he is now ­ 10 pounds Monday at the pediatrician’s. Sam, sitting next to his boss, is actively trying to worm his way into the loveseat cushion, in a futile attempt to hide.“I like the Dr. Seuss idea, Josh. Very non-threatening.” Bartlet already has a rather ridiculous looking red and white felt stove-pipe hat perched on his head.

In the end, outside of assigning Green Eggs and Ham to the Communications bullpen ­ because CJ and I couldn’t resist subjecting Toby to Sam-I-am following him around with a plastic green ham all day ­ everyone was allowed to pick the Dr. Seuss character they wanted to be. Leo even got into the swing of it, choosing Marvin K. Mooney as his character. Donna and I stuck with One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. She and I are ‘two fish’ with matching green outfits and a little ‘new fish’ one for David. Ellen, from Event Planning, even scrounged up a rickety old buggy like the one from the drawing in the book.

Toby aside, the entire staff is excited about the kids coming to trick or treat this afternoon and the chance to dress up and act juvenile. I heard Ed and Larry have recruited a brigade of junior assistants ­ including Donna’s and mine ­ to TP the South Lawn.

Or maybe it was the Press Room, my source wasn’t sure.

“Can we get started, please?” Toby suggests snidely.

“You should spend more time around children, Toby,” President Bartlet puts David in his lap with no warning.

Mystified by what to do with a 19-week-old baby, Toby stares down at David blankly. My son is unaccustomed to being ignored by the person holding him and starts to babble in an attempt to get Toby’s attention.

“What, precisely, am I supposed to do with him?” Toby asks the room at large.

“You could try cuddling him,” Leo offers, incapable of containing his mirth.“I do not cuddle,” Toby states, still staring down at David.“Here.” David giggles with delight when I scoop him off Toby’s lap.

The rest of the meeting is uncomfortable, due in large part to Toby’s annoyance. He bolts out of the room with Sam on his heels as soon as we’re dismissed. CJ lingers long enough to make sure I don’t need anything and then departs to prep for her morning briefing.

I gather my files with one hand and almost make it out the door before I hear my name.

“Josh,” President Bartlet calls, causing me to turn around. “They’ll come around. It’s just now hitting them that your priorities shifted while they weren’t looking. They don’t know where they fit in your life anymore. You’re not the same person you were before David was born. You know you’ve changed. Leo and I knew you would, because we’ve been there, but this is new ground for those three. Just give them some time.”

| << back | send feedback | The National Library |