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A Calming Presence
by: Jennifer Wilson (Send Feedback)
mdrgrl1 (Send Feedback)
Chapters: 010 Word Count: 38126
Character(s): Josh Lyman, Donna Moss
Episode(s): 7-18 Requiem, 7-19 Transition
Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10
The coffin was heavy, the sun was too bright, and the twenty-one gun salute at the cemetery was jarring. And the monotone speaking at the funeral? More of a celebration, my ass. This day hasn’t been a celebration or anything close to what he would’ve wanted. It was too… proper. Even the President’s eulogy was restrained. I should’ve… I don’t know, helped Mallory plan it maybe. She shouldn’t have had to do it, her dad just died. If I’d helped, I maybe could’ve convinced her to get a pastor or something instead of a priest or whoever the freaky guy in the pointy hat was who felt the need to do part of the service in Latin so only the President would understand it. I’m busy, busier than I’ve ever been in my life, yes, but it was Leo. I should’ve made the time.
And I obviously should’ve been paying more attention to Barry Goodwin, who somewhere along the way has wormed his way into my campaign and my candidate. He’s leading the transition? I need to lead the transition. I need to staff the White House and meet with each of the incoming congressmen and senators. I need to help the congressman decide what to come out of the legislative gate with, not Barry Goodwin, riding the coattails of my win six weeks after trying to get me fired. He’ll probably subtly mention that he should be chief of staff instead of me, and then I’ll be out of a job.
I get to the White House late for the thing after arguing with the President-elect about the Speaker of the House. I need him to listen to me on this; he’s on the cusp of making a huge mistake. He and his new buddy want to push to get Fields named Speaker, but neither one has a grasp on the way people look at things the president does. I’ve been here, I’ve done this for years; I know how things look to the outside world. We made the mistakes, pissed off the wrong people, learned our boundaries the hard way. He needs to let me not let him make the same ones. Barry Goodwin might be huge in the democratic world, but hasn’t even for one day worked in the White House. He shouldn’t be advising the President-elect like this. And if he wants to, he should be going through me.
I walk around the reception looking for Donna with a half-smile on my face, pretending that I have time for this. It’s horrible, really, that this thing is for Leo and I can’t stop thinking that I need to be doing a hundred other things. I’ve got a thousand jobs to fill, including finding one for the woman I’m currently sleeping with, I’ve got to convince a man to be our Vice-President who turned us down five months ago for the same job, and I’ve got to find a Deputy Chief of Staff. Funny how my thoughts for that position go immediately to the woman I’m sleeping with. She’s not ready for it, I know, but it would be such a relief to have someone in that position that I trust with my life.
I don’t find Donna, but I do internally groan when I see Amy standing across the room staring at me with predatory eyes. She wants something, I have no doubt. It might be me now that I’m supposedly all-powerful, it might be Carol Gelsy, it might even be me so she can get Carol Gelsy, but I’d bet money Leo’s passing has little to do with why she’s here. Maybe I should re-introduce her to Barry Goodwin.
I agree to take her idea to the President-elect, mostly just so I can get away from her, and go back to the reception to look for Donna. Recently, she and I have been closer than ever while at the same time farther apart than ever and I’d be lying if I said I understood it. The pillar of strength she’s been recently simply blows me away. It feels like old times and although I knew I missed her when we were apart, until a few days ago I hadn’t grasped how much. But I have no idea what we’re doing, and I feel cheated, like I should be basking in something but don’t have time to figure out what it is I should be basking in. Between the transition, the mess Barry Goodwin’s making of it, the VP, the staffing, and Leo’s death, Donna has inadvertently become low on my list, and that’s not where I want her.
It feels a little easier to breathe when I see her. There was barely enough time for a hello this morning before the service, and other than that I haven’t seen her in two days. We managed three hours of sleep together, remaining well on our own sides of the bed, after the election results came in and the speeches were done, but I left Houston later that day with Ronna, Edie and Otto, to get the transition office up and running while Donna and Bram stayed to help the President-elect with post election press conferences and arrangements. And while I know that more sex with Donna with no accompanying discussion is not the smartest choice to make, to say I could use her calming presence with me once this horrible day ends would be an understatement.
When I talk to her though, she’s already made prior arrangements for tonight. It seems strange to me that she didn’t want to stay with me, but I let her convince me that I’m the one who would find that weird, even though it was my idea in the first place and really doesn’t feel weird to me at all. Maybe it’s the sleeping over thing. We’re managing the sex amazingly well, but we’re still a little lost on what to do afterwards.
But that’s just another thing I don’t have the time or energy to think about. I have to find the President-elect and get him to listen to Amy so that even though we’re going to go with Baker, we don’t piss off the women voters. And then I have to go to the residence for a more intimate gathering to remember Leo, which will hopefully be ‘more of a celebration’ than the formality of the church, the moroseness of the cemetery or the political undercurrent of the reception.
I couldn’t sleep last night. Faces and names and positions raced through my mind all night long and I almost called Donna three separate times. The only thing that held me back was the fact that had she come over we would’ve had sex. And that would’ve been the third time we had sex, and the third time part of the reason for it was relaxation.
Amy and I used to do that. One of us would have a bad day, and since we were incapable of talking things out without fighting, the other one of us would offer up our body as some sort of relaxation method. I didn’t complain about it then; it suited my purposes just fine. But that’s not what I want with Donna.
Since I couldn’t sleep, I got up early this morning and came into the office where I’ve, and I can’t even believe I’ve done this, made note cards. Each card has a position I need to fill at the top of it and a list of possible names for the job underneath. I’ve put Donna’s name on well over half of the cards.
I still have her name on the Deputy Chief of Staff card, even though I can’t offer her that position. She’s not ready enough or pushy enough for it, and I know that, but her name represents what I’m looking for in that position. Someone I know and love and trust whole heartedly. Toby’s name would be on it if I could put it there. CJ’s would be there if it wouldn’t be a step down for her. Will’s name was on it, but I crossed him out because I don’t trust him, and Lou’s name is on it, although I’d rather have her as Communications Director.
I’ve also got Donna’s name on the Press Secretary card, the Legislative Director card, the Deputy Communications Director card, the card for possible Congressional Liaisons, and in my mind only, the Senior Assistant to the Chief of Staff card. Old habits die hard, I guess.
The President-elect comes in around eight o’clock, which is just as well, because I’ve got forty index cards and haven’t gotten anywhere with them. I give him a few minutes to get situated before going into his office. “Morning,” he says as I walk in.
“Good morning, Sir,” I say, closing the door behind me.
He looks up at the closed door. “Am I about to get a lecture?”
I look behind me at the door and then back at him. “No.”
“Because I’m not taking Barry Goodwin off transition.”
My jaw tightens and there’s a pause. “I have a few names for you to look at for Secretary of Defense,” I say, choosing to ignore his last statement.
“Instead of Swayne, you mean.”
“In addition to, yes.”
He looks at me for a second and then moves on. “I have a name for you as well.”
“For Secretary of Defense?” I ask in a hopeful voice.
“For Legislative Director.”
My eyes must widen here because he almost laughs at me. “Sir…”
“She’s highly respected.”
I shake my head. “Her legislative agenda consists of women’s issues only. Children, minorities, men, especially men…”
“I talked to her about it yesterday,” he says, cutting me off.
This can not be happening. “Sir, all due respect, but Amy has a one track mind when it comes to issues. We tried working with her once before, she’s not a team player. She should be working for a woman’s group. In fact she has worked for most of them.”
He nods. “I want you to talk to her. Make it clear what we’d be asking of her, find out some of her ideas. See if she’s ready.”
“Maybe we should consider her for Chief of Staff for the office of the First Lady,” I say slowly.
He half smirks at me. “Are you trying to pawn off Amy Gardner on my wife?”
Yes! “Sir, you don’t know her agenda the way I do. Trust me on this. She’s not who we need in that position. Working with your wife would allow her to work on women’s issues and not be a hindrance to our…”
He cuts me off again. “Helen has someone else in mind. Talk to Amy. No guarantees, just talk to her.”
There’s another long pause and I nod. “Yes, Sir.”
“And leave that list of names for Secretary of Defense. I’ll go over them with Barry.”
I nod and leave, going into my office and dropping into my chair. Now I’ve got the Swayne problem, the Goodwin problem and the Gardner disaster. And I still don’t have a Deputy Chief of Staff. This is going to be a horrible Saturday.
I feel like I’m ready to drop, literally. I was here at the office until two o’clock this morning and then came back in at six. It’s now almost ten o’clock Sunday night, and I have too much to do to even consider going home. When Donna was my assistant, this was about the time she’d come into my office with a sandwich and some aspirin, telling me I had one more hour before I had to leave. I could usually push it to two, but before I knew it she’d be shrugging me into my coat and handing me the book bag she’d conveniently emptied so I couldn’t do any work at home.
She brought me lunch this afternoon and when she walked in I had the urge to kiss her. But we don’t seem to be at a place where I can do that, so I just left the door open and we ate while we talked about cabinet names she could give to the press. In the last two days, we’ve started to make a little progress in that area. We have a Secretary of Education, Health & Human Services, Commerce, and Transportation.
But the thing with Donna is, she still takes care of me. It’s different now; she doesn’t make sure I’m wearing clean clothes, but she does make sure I’m eating fairly healthy. She doesn’t help me find things I’ve lost, but she’s there when I’m lost. We’ve spoken a few times on the phone this weekend, and she seems to know exactly what I need to talk about and exactly what I don’t have time to talk about. I need to make time for her, want to make time for her, want to feel her skin and taste her lips again, but another glance at the clock tells me it won’t be tonight. I make a mental note to call her in the morning.
I still don’t have a Chief of Staff, and if I don’t come up with another name soon, I’m going to have to offer it to Lou and find a different Communications Director. And Lou isn’t a sure thing. She’s been pretty scarce since the election and I fear that she’s not interested in a West Wing job. She’s told me as much about a hundred times.
My cell phone rings and Bob comes up on the caller ID. I stand up and close the door before answering. “Hey.”
“I heard you got Benson for Secretary of Education,” Toby says instead of hello.
I sit back down and lean back in my chair, closing my eyes. “Yeah.”
“That’s a good call.”
“The President-elect wants Swayne for Defense.”
“Push Miller. He hasn’t had as much exposure as Swayne, but he served in the Air Force and was a Senator for twelve years. He’s been on the Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees and leans moderate if that’s what the he wants.”
I sigh. I know all of this. I’ve been over it a thousand times, with and without the President-elect. “I’ve told him Miller’s a better choice. He’s not listening.”
“You have to make him listen. You can’t have a republican for Defense. Agriculture, yes. Defense, no.”
I hang my head. I wish I could be doing this with Toby. I thought I’d be doing it with Leo, but if I had Toby at least, this would be manageable. Without either of them… “I know.”
There’s a pause before he speaks again. “How’s the inaugural speech going?”
“Otto’s…” I swipe my hand over my face and through my hair. “Young.”
“The victory speech was too repetitive, jumped around too much. He’s not bad, but he needs to tighten it and stay focused.”
“What if…” I lean forward and rest my elbows on my desk. “Maybe you could…”
He cuts me off. “Someone will recognize my writing style, my vocabulary. You don’t want that to be the story.”
I sigh and pick up the note cards on my desk, flipping to Deputy Chief of Staff and wishing Toby’s name was on it.
“You could call Will,” he says after a minute.
“We’ll manage,” I state dryly.
“What about Sam?”
“Sam?” I ask, still looking at the card in my hand. I look up at the title. Deputy Chief of Staff.
“Call Sam. He’ll help if you ask.”
I stare at the card for another few seconds. “You think?”
“For you, yes. Call him.”
I pick up a pen and write Sam’s name in big letters across the card. That’s the name I’ve been looking for. “I will.”
Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10