Disclaimer: They belong to me. Yeah right, and if you believe that I have a
bridge in San Francisco that I'd like to sell you.
Title: The Interview part 8
Summary: AU - This takes place one month later at the Connecticut Estate.
Everyone is there, including Amy's family.
Feedback: Feedback rocks. My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Spoilers: Not that I know of. If there are let me know.
Rating: PG. Just to be on the safe side.
Author's note: It is time for a title change. This story has gone a lot
farther than I thought it would and the current title just doesn't work
anymore. I am considering several different titles but haven't chosen one
yet. If you have an idea for a title please let me know!
Thanks to Classic She for betaing this for me! I really appreciate the
Leo looked around the airport. At first, he didn't see anyone he recognized
but he finally spotted Josh walking toward him.
The two men shook hands as neither one of them were comfortable with
displaying any type of affection in public.
They walked to the baggage claim in silence. After gathering Leo's things,
they went to find Josh's car. It seemed as if he had had to park miles away
from the airport terminal.
"I'm the first to arrive?" Leo asked once they were in the car.
Josh smiled. "Yeah. The kids can't wait to see you. You'd think that it had
been months and not just a week."
Leo chuckled. "Is it me they are impatient to see or are they impatient for
Josh chuckled as well. "Probably the presents."
"I'm hurt." Leo always brought each of the twins their own present when he
saw them, especially after a trip. He had spent the last week with a friend
in San Diego, California.
"They behave the same way with everyone; Amy's parents, Mom, and Jed and
Abbey." Josh stated. "You guys spoil them."
Leo raised an eyebrow. "WE spoil them? We aren't the ones surprising them
with Shetland Ponies this week."
"That is for safety." Josh said softly. "Next time they want to ride
they'll be safe."
Leo nodded his understanding. "But it still qualifies as spoiling."
Josh shrugged. "They've been through more than most kids. They deserve to
be spoiled sometimes."
"Yeah. When will the others be here?"
"Mom will be flying in this evening. Amy's parents and siblings will be
here tomorrow morning. Jed, Abbey, and Toby are driving up tomorrow
morning. Mallory will be here tomorrow afternoon as will Sam. CJ and the
kids are flying in tomorrow evening. Zoey and Charlie are driving up
sometime tomorrow. Will is coming tomorrow afternoon. Noel's friends will
be coming for the party on Sunday." Josh answered.
"You remember all of that?" Leo asked in surprise.
Josh grinned. "How can I not? Donna has been quizzing me on it for several
days now. We both want this party to be perfect for Noel."
"How much of her sight has she regained?" Leo asked quietly.
"She can see shapes and colors really well. If a room is well lit, she can
distinguish between different people. She can't make out details or read
yet. She is still relying on Donna, Emma, Noah, myself, and Sheena quite a
bit. She can't see at all in the dark."
"How much more is she going to regain?"
Josh shrugged but kept his eyes on the road. "We really don't know. The
doctor is optimistic but he has no way of knowing exactly how much or when
her sight will return.
Leo nodded. "How are Noah and Donna?"
"Noah is doing very well. He is still getting used to Noel's sight
returning. He still tries to tell her every little thing. She is very
patient with him though. At his last parent teacher conference, his teacher
said that he is reading at a fourth grade level." Josh related proudly.
"That's great. And Donna?"
"Josh?" Leo prompted. He could tell that something was wrong.
"She wants another child."
"And is that a problem?" Leo asked carefully.
Josh sighed again. "That isn't the problem. We've discussed it and I want
another child too."
"So we conceived a child about five months ago."
Leo grinned. "That's great. Do you know if it is a boy or girl? Do Noah and
Noel know? Why didn't you tell any of us sooner?"
"Because?" Leo prompted. His smile faded at Josh's tone.
"She miscarried about two months before Noel's surgery." Josh said quietly.
Leo studied Josh's face. It was as if a mask was in place to hide his
emotions. "I'm sorry. How is she doing?"
"I'm worried about her." Josh admitted.
Josh struggled to find a way to describe his feelings. "She's withdrawn
from me. She doesn't want to be intimate. She withdraws from my touch if
the twins aren't around. No one can even say the word baby around her."
"Is this the first time?" Leo asked quietly.
Josh shook his head. "No. We lost our first about a month before the
wedding but she didn't take it as badly as this."
"Does anyone know?"
"Abbey knows." Josh answered.
"Yeah. I called Abbey for advice. I wasn't comfortable talking to a
stranger." He explained.
"What did Abbey say?" Leo inquired.
Josh sighed. "She said to give Donna time. That this is very difficult for
Leo nodded. "I agree with Abbey."
"I know that this is hard for her." Josh said softly. "But why is she
reacting so much worse this time than she did last time?"
Leo though for a few moments. "I really don't know. You should ask her.
Maybe she is worried that she won't be able to have children. That this
will keep happening."
"I have asked her." Josh admitted.
Josh took a hand off of the steering wheel to run it through his hair. "She
won't talk about it."
"Will she say why she won't talk about it?"
"She just says that she can't and that if I love her I'll understand."
"This has been going on for months?"
"Yeah. She keeps pushing me farther and farther away." Josh sighed again.
"She won't let me touch her. We haven't made love since the miscarriage."
Leo hesitated. He wasn't sure what he should say. "Have you thought about
Josh turned to look at him in surprise before remembering that he was
driving and looking back at the road. "Why would I go to counseling?"
"Not you." Leo replied. "Donna. Maybe she needs to discuss this with
someone detached from the situation."
Josh though for a few minutes. "Do you think she'd talk to a stranger? She
hasn't talked to CJ, Mal, Zoey, or Abbey."
"Mal, CJ, and Zoey would all tell her how sorry they were. She'd probably
feel like they pitied her." Leo explained. "Abbey would know more how to
act but Donna would probably still feel uncomfortable because Abbey is a
friend. At some point she'll probably want to talk to them but right now
she should talk to someone completely uninvolved."
Josh nodded. Everything Leo had said made sense. "I'll suggest it but I
don't know how she'll react."
"Don't push her." Leo warned. "Just suggest it and let her make her own
Josh nodded again.
They were both silent for several minutes.
Josh finally spoke. "Amy had problems when she was pregnant with our
twins." It was said very quietly.
Leo didn't understand at first, he blinked several times. "Are you saying
you blame yourself?"
"Both of my wives had trouble with their pregnancy. The only thing that
they had in common was me." Josh stated.
"How could it be your fault?" Leo demanded. "Did you do something to cause
"Not that I know of."
"Then stop blaming yourself." Leo ordered then softened his tone. "Look
Josh, it isn't your fault. These things just happen."
"She really wants to have a baby, Leo."
"And you?" Leo prompted.
Josh hesitated. "Not as much as she does." With a shrug, he finally
admitted out loud what he had worried about for a long time. "Leo, I have
children. I want a child with her but it doesn't mean everything to me.
She wants her own child more than anything."
"You two can still have another child." Leo said softly.
Josh silently shook his head. After a few minutes, he answered. "A few days
after it happened she said she doesn't want to try again. That was the last
time she'd discuss it and even then it wasn't a discussion but more of a
"Give her time." Leo recommended.
The rest of the drive was made in silence.
The next afternoon Noel stepped into the dining room guided by Sheena. She
could barely make out the table and someone standing near it. "Hi?" She
Donna looked up from the utensils she was lying on the table. "Hi Sweetie."
Noel smiled, glad that she knew for sure who she was in the room with.
"What are you doing, honey?" Donna asked as she counted place settings once
more just to make sure that there were enough.
Noel shrugged. "Nothing. I'm kind of bored. Daddy is at the airport.
Grandpa Leo, Grandpa Jed, and Uncle Toby are watching CNN. Noah is cleaning
his room since James will be staying with him. Grandma Grace and Grandpa
Michel are taking a nap."
Donna smiled when Noel said the word nap. The word was filled with such
disgust. Noel thought that naps were for babies. Her smile faded. Naps were
for babies. Babies. The word echoed in her head several times like it
always did. She violently pushed it away and concentrated on Noel who was
"Uncle Mark and Aunt Kelly went for a walk. Grandma Clara is watching a
soap opera." She paused for a moment. "When are the others going to get
She sounded so much like her father right then, Donna thought. The question
was more of a whine. That was one of Josh's characteristics that she wished
Noel hadn't gotten. "They will be here soon." She answered patiently.
"When?" Noel demanded.
Donna sighed. "Soon." She repeated. "Why don't you have Emma read you a
"She is straightening my room up."
"You could go ask her if she needs help." She suggested, turning toward the
kitchen door. She needed to check on the dinner preparations.
"I don't want to." Noel sulked.
Donna opened the kitchen door. "What do you want to do?"
"I don't know. I want everyone else to get here."
"They'll be here soon." Donna said, hoping that she was right. "Would you
like to help in the kitchen? I can help you frost cupcakes."
Noel smiled a bit. She loved to help cook or bake. "Okay." She walked
toward the kitchen door with Sheena's assistance.
Donna made sure that the cook wasn't having any trouble with dinner, then
grabbed a plate of cupcakes and a jar of frosting. She sat down next to
Noel and handed her a plastic knife. She watched the child in silence, only
having to guide the knife back to a cupcake a few times.
Noel was getting more of her sight back every day. At least it seemed that
way. She was getting better and better at certain tasks. She could dress
herself again. (Someone still had to pick the clothes out for her.) She
could find her way around the house without human help. She was learning to
do her own hair again.
Noah was doing well too. Now that Noel was regaining her sight, he wasn't
as protective. It was as if he felt that he could start to spend time away
from her again. He would go to his friend's houses for a few hours at a
time. When Noel was completely blind, he wouldn't do that.
Noah's teacher said that he was very advanced. He was reading at a fourth
grade level. Three grade levels higher than most first graders. The school
was suggesting moving him up a grade for the next school year. Josh and
Donna hadn't told Noah yet. They still hadn't decided how they felt about
Noel wasn't ready to be moved up so the twins would be in different grades.
It would probably be good for Noah to be in a higher grade as he would be
bored in school otherwise but it could be very bad for Noel's self
They had decided that they would talk to Mal while she was visiting. Find
out what she suggested.
She loved the twins so much. She was pretty sure that she couldn't love
them more if they were her natural children. But the more time she spent
with them or thinking about them, the more she wanted her own child. She
had missed so much with Noel and Noah; naming them, their first words,
their first steps, their first pictures. So many things that she wanted to
be a part of in a child's life. She wanted a baby so much.
She knew she would never get her wish. Two miscarriages had convinced her
of that. She would never carry a baby to term, so why put herself through
the emotional and physical pain of losing a baby?
It really wasn't fair. Amy had carried two beautiful, healthy, wonderful
babies that she hadn't even wanted. Donna desperately wanted a child and
couldn't have one. It made her wonder if this was someone's idea of a cruel
joke. A cruel irony.
Or if it was a punishment? A punishment for her relationship with Josh.
Maybe some higher power was angry with her for getting involved with Josh
so soon after Amy had died. Maybe the higher power was mad because she was
in love with a married man. But she couldn't help herself. She had already
been in love with Josh when he married Amy. She couldn't just instantly
change her feelings. She never acted on those feelings.
She couldn't share her feeling, fears, and concerns with Josh. Not on this
matter. He wouldn't understand. He wouldn't understand at all. There was no
way he could. He didn't have to deal with these feelings of guilt and
She heard the front door slam shut and winced. Why did Josh always have to
let the door slam behind him? It drove her crazy when he did that.
Noel's smiled brightly. "Who is with him?"
Donna couldn't help but smile at the child's enthusiasm. "I think Will,
Uncle Sam, and Aunt Mallory."
Noel jumped up, the cupcakes forgotten. Sheena snapped to attention, always
ready to help her beloved owner in any way she could. "I'm gonna go say
"Going to." Donna corrected as Noel left the room, guided by Sheena. She
took a moment to force her thoughts on happier things so that her facial
expressions wouldn't give anything away, before standing up to go greet
"This tastes really bad." James whispered.
CJ hid her smile. James absolutely didn't not like airplane food. In fact,
he couldn't stand it. But he thought that if he said it loud enough for
someone to hear him not only would he be being rude but he'd hurt the
flight attendants' feelings. Yes, he thought that the flight attendants
made the food. "You don't have to eat it Sweetie." She said softly. "We'll
be eating right after we get to Aunt Donna and Uncle Josh's house."
James smiled. "Good. Their cook makes good food." He pushed his tray
farther away from him.
CJ turned to her daughter. "Are you okay Abigail?"
Abigail nodded silently as she eyed the people around them apprehensively.
The little girl hated flying. It wasn't because of some fear of heights but
because there were so many strangers on the plane.
CJ shook her head in bemusement. No one would have guessed that her and
Danny's children would turn out like this. Neither she nor Danny were
quiet, shy, or timid. Actually James and Abigail were more what she would
have thought Sam's kids would be like; that is, if he ever had any. She
always though her children would be like Noah and Noel. The twins were
sweet and kindhearted but they were also incredibly outspoken and
James couldn't wait to get to Connecticut so he could play with Noah. It
was strange that the two boys got along. They were so different. James was
content to be a child. Noah wanted to be a part of adult conversations.
Yet, the two boys were close friends.
Noel and Abigail weren't like that. The two girls weren't enemies or
anything, but they weren't really friends. Quiet, shy Abigail was
intimidated by bright and boisterous Noel. Noel didn't really have much
interest in spending time with Abigail either. Abigail was too young for
Noel's taste. CJ just hoped that Abigail wouldn't be excluded this weekend
by the other children.
Abigail peered out the window as the plane began to descend. This was her
favorite part of flying.
Finally, it was time to get off of the plane. CJ took one of Abigail and
one of James hands for the trek through the busy airport.
They walked through the crowd of strangers until they spotted Josh and Leo
walking toward them.
A bright smile lit Abigail's face. She absolutely adored Leo. He was one of
her favorite people. She broke away from her mother to run to the man.
CJ watched curiously. She still couldn't figure out why her daughter liked
Leo so much more than she liked Josh, Sam, or Toby.
CJ hugged both men but James hung back and refused to do more than shake
Neither child talked much during the car ride to the house. Leo was also
content to listen quietly as Josh and CJ did most of the talking.
Leo found his thoughts wandering. From his seat, he could see CJ's face.
She was smiling in humor as she jokingly answered whatever question Josh
had asked. He was glad to see her smiling. She had smiled so rarely during
these past couple of years. Danny's unexpected death had devastated her.
She was just starting to get past the pain enough to actually live her
life. He was glad to see that happening.
He smiled at Abigail. She was such a sweet little girl. She actually looked
a lot like Mal had at that age. Mal hadn't been that quiet or shy though.
In fact, as a young child Mal would talk to pretty much anyone about
anything. He and Jenny had been scared to death that Mal's fearlessness
would get her hurt or kidnapped. Thank God, it hadn't.
James was a lot like his sister. He hated to upset people, even strangers.
He was so concerned about other people. He wasn't as timid as his sister.
Groups of people didn't really scare him; he just didn't like them.
His thoughts continued along those lines until they reached the estate. He
didn't stop to wonder why he was thinking so much about CJ.
Will looked around the long dining table. He seriously doubted that they
could have fit more people at it if they had wanted to.
This group of people still surprised him in many ways and probably always
would. When he first accepted the job at the White House, he had expected a
somewhat stuffy work atmosphere with a definite hierarchy. What he had got
was a close working relationship where they were all more like family than
co-workers. They had all worked together as equals.
After the White House, they had all remained close. Sure, they hadn't seen
each other as often as they'd have liked but they all spoke on the phone
regularly. That too had surprised him. He had thought that after a year or
so none of them would have any idea where the others were. Or at least that
he wouldn't be included if they did continue to keep in touch.
Even now, they were all laughing and talking like they did this everyday.
It was like they had never been separated. It was always like that when
their group got together.
They were all being considerate toward Amy's family as well. They were all
trying hard to keep Grace, Michael, Kelly, and Mark involved in the
The children were all seated together near CJ and Zoey. The five youngsters
were carrying on a conversation all their own, completely oblivious to the
adult conversation going on around them. James, Noah, and Noel were talking
about something while Abigail and Little Jed spoke about something else
The meal ended and the adults adjourned to the living room while the
children went upstairs after a few minutes of arguing.
Josh and Donna sat on opposites sides of the room, Will noted in surprise.
They had barely spoken to each other since he arrived, but he thought that
it was just because they had both been so busy preparing for their guests.
But now, he was starting to wonder.
Jed and Abbey, he still had problems thinking of them like that, were
seated side by side. Unsurprisingly, Leo sat on Jed's other side.
CJ, who was in the armchair next to his, seemed to be perusing the others
like he was, he noted with amusement. It didn't really surprise him though.
For years, she had made her living by observing the White House Press
Corps. She had had to make judgements on exactly how much to tell them and
when. A wrong move and they would have devoured her.
Mallory perched on the arm of Sam's chair, her hand resting on his shoulder
casually. Leo was glowering at them from his spot but remained silent.
Donna, Josh, CJ, and Toby were all smiling at the two. They apparently
shared his own sentiments, it was about time that Sam and Mal gave their
relationship a chance.
Amy's family sat toward the edge of the group. They were obviously still at
least a little uncomfortable in this group.
To Will's surprise Clara Lyman sat cross-legged on the floor near the
fireplace. He didn't know very many people her age that could still sit
like that but she seemed comfortable in that position.
Zoey and Charlie also sat on the floor. Charlie was propped up against the
wall with Zoey leaning against him. Her legs were tucked under her.
They were all silent for several minutes.
Everyone turned to stare at CJ in shock. After ten minutes of silence, no
one had been expecting that.
"Where?" Leo asked.
"Why?" Donna asked at the same time.
"When?" Was Sam's question.
CJ laughed. "One at a time." She turned to Leo. "I'm moving back to DC."
She looked over at Donna. "It is time for a change. I need to get out of
that house. There are too many memories of Danny there."
"You could move to a different house in California though." Josh told her.
She laughed again. "What? You don't want me back in DC?"
Josh blinked. "That's not what I meant."
She cut him off. "I know." She shrugged. "I got a better job offer. I'll
have more time to spend with James and Abigail and I'll be making more
Zoey raised an eyebrow. "So, are you going to tell us what this perfect job
CJ glanced around and decided to make them wait for a few minutes. "I got a
call a few months ago. I turned the job down at first but after I
considered it for a few days I called back and made an appointment to
discuss it in detail." She could see their exasperation.
"Who was the call from? Josh asked impatiently.
"MSNBC." CJ answered. She went on before anyone could ask questions. "They
want a new program to go up against Fox News Channel's top show."
"Political commentary?" Jed asked.
"Not entirely. There will be politics but other interesting stories too."
"And it is less hours for you?" Mallory asked in surprise.
"Yes. It will still be long hours but not as many as I'm currently putting
"I'm surprised it is not in New York or LA." Will commented.
CJ smiled. "I only agreed to take the job if I could work in DC."
"When are you moving?" Sam asked again.
"I'll be moving to DC in about two months." CJ answered, her smile faded.
"I haven't told the children yet."
"We won't say anything." Abbey assured her. She looked around the room
The others echoed their agreement.
"Have you found a house yet?" Mallory asked curiously.
CJ sighed. "I haven't even started looking."
"I can help." Donna offered.
"So can I." Mal put in.
"I could use the help if you're sure." CJ accepted.
Donna smiled. "It'll be fun. We can make a day of it. We haven't been
together without the guys since the wedding."
"It would be fun." CJ agreed.
Upstairs, same time
"Are you a baby?" Noah asked James.
"No." James answered adamantly but softly.
"Than you have to play with us." Noel informed James.
"We'll get in trouble." Abigail spoke softly.
All three of the older children automatically softened their tones when
they turned to Abigail. "We aren't going to get caught." Noah said
"If we do, we'll tell them it isn't your fault." James assured her. He
wasn't aware that he had just given in to Noah and Noel's scheme.
"Little Jed?" Noel asked.
Little Jed sighed. He knew that he really didn't have a choice. "Okay."
Noah quietly opened the playroom door and stepped out into the hall. He
motioned for the others to stay where they were. He took a few steps
forward and looked around to make sure that no adults were in the vicinity.
Then he turned back to the playroom and motioned the other four forward.
Noah started down the hall. He moved slowly, looking in all directions
before he took each step. James, Abigail, Little Jed, and Noel with
Sheena's assistance followed after him.
At the end of the hall, he turned right and speed up a bit. There was less
chance of being caught now. They'd hear the adults before they approached.
"Come on." He urged the others softly.
He finally stopped in front of a door. He pulled it open very slowly so
that no one would hear them. Stepping out of the way, he gestured for the
others to proceed him into the room.
James stepped closer to the door and peered past it in the gloom. He
hesitantly stepped onto the old, dusty, wooden steps. They creaked with his
weight and he jumped.
"Shh." Noah shot his friend a glare.
James nodded as he slowly took another step and then another. He looked
back. "Come on." He was not going any farther by himself.
Abigail and Little Jed stepped onto the first step together. Both were
obviously scared. Noel and Sheena followed them.
After Noel was half way up the stairs, Noah stepped in and closed the door.
"It is dark." Abigail immediately whimpered.
"Shh." Noah said again. "James, the light is close to you."
Noah, Noel, Abigail, and Little Jed all stayed where they were, unmoving,
while James searched for the light. After what seemed like hours to the two
youngest children but was really only about two minutes, dim light filled
They all walked the rest of the way up the stairs.
Abigail peered around the large space. "Wow." She whispered. They were
standing in a large, nearly empty room.
"Why aren't you allowed here?" James asked curiously. He really didn't see
anything dangerous or bad here. His Mom only stopped him from playing in
places for those two reasons. Maybe his Uncle Josh was different, he
Wordlessly, Noah strutted across the room much like his father did. He
opened one of two doors on the far side of the attic.
The room was filled with boxes, trunks, and old furniture. A layer of dust
several inches thick coated every surface. Cobwebs hung from the low
Abigail backed away from the room. "I'm going to wait here." She whispered
before stepping back into the large room. Little Jed followed her silently.
Noel and Sheena stepped farther into the room. Noel felt around the top of
the first trunk she found until she could fling it open.
All three of them coughed as the dust entered the air.
Noah chose a box as his sister started feeling the items in the trunk.
"Should we be doing this?" James asked even as he opened a box curiously.
Noel shrugged. "No. But they don't know so we can't get in trouble."
"Why is this stuff up here?"
"We don't know." Noah answered as he pulled several articles of dusty
clothing out of his box.
They all went through several boxes in silence. Clothes, books, and makeup
littered the attic floor.
Noel finally lured Abigail back into the room and the two girls started
trying things on. They stumbled around the larger room in six-inch heels
and dresses that dragged along the ground.
The boys found a trunk of old bed linens and draped them over and around
pieces of furniture to create a sort of clubhouse. They used old books to
hold the edges down.
Noel, wearing a bright red dress that dragged on the ground, heels, and
messily applied makeup hobbled back into the storage room. Sheena, who had
a shawl draped over her, walked along with her.
Abigail followed slowly so that she didn't trip in the large shoes that
were dwarfing her feet. She kept grabbing the neckline of the dress she was
wearing and pulling it back in place so that the dress didn't slip from her
small frame. She too was wearing makeup.
Noel felt around in the dim light until she found the makeshift playhouse.
"Can we come in?"
The three boys looked at each other. "Okay." Noah finally answered from
inside as they started moving books off the sheet so they could lift the
sheet to let the girls in.
Downstairs, forty-minutes later
Laughter filled the room as Donna recounted Sam and Josh's latest exploit
in the senate. Those two were excellent politicians but they were never
going to grow up.
As the laughter died down, CJ stood up. "I'm going to go check on the
children." CJ explained when she received questioning looks. "They've been
She stepped out of the living room as laughter filled it once more. Mallory
was now telling a story about one of her students.
She quickly made her way up the stairs and down the hall toward the
playroom. The area surrounding the room was oddly quiet. She hastened her
steps and flung open the door to reveal a perfectly still room. There was
no laughter, no playing, no talking, no children at all.
Quickly, she scanned the room just to make sure that the children weren't
playing with her, hiding behind something while suppressing giggles.
CJ hurried back out into the hall and went to Noel's room and then Noah's
room. The children weren't in their bedrooms either.
Her heartbeat quickened as she carefully ran down the staircase.
Realistically, she knew that the children were probably playing somewhere
in the house but her mother's heart was still concerned and scared for her
Everyone looked up in surprise when CJ burst into the room, silently
followed by the agents who had been standing guard in the hallway.
"What is it?" Leo asked as he took in CJ's face.
"The children aren't in the playroom or either of the bedrooms."
Donna and Zoey were immediately on their feet followed quickly by Charlie
Jed turned to one of the agents. "Find out if the kids left the house." He
One of the men was immediately speaking into his sleeve. After a moment, he
looked up. "The agents outside haven't seen the children. They are going to
search the grounds for them but they are almost certain that the children
couldn't have gotten past them."
Jed nodded at the agent before turning to the others. "Let's look for
All of the others had stood up. Since Jed had taken control of the
situation, everyone waited for him to give each of them instructions on
where to look. With Josh's help, Jed quickly assigned each of them
somewhere to look.
As Jed, Abbey, Toby, Grace, Michael, Mark, and Kelly searched the first
floor, Zoey and Charlie went to the basement. Clara and CJ went to the gym.
Josh, Donna, Leo, Sam, Mallory, and Will scoured the second floor for signs
of the children.
After a half-hour, they still hadn't found the children. Everyone but Leo
had returned to the living room. Several agents, including the head of
Jed's detail, had joined them.
"They aren't in this house." Jed stated.
"We are still checking the grounds but we haven't found any signs of the
children." An agent informed them.
"We've called for more backup." The agent in charge stated.
"Do you think." Abbey began but couldn't finish the sentence.
The agent turned to her. "Dr. Bartlet, we can't be sure at this time but
the grandson of the Former President as well as the children of a prominent
Senator are missing. That has to be taken very seriously."
"The police.?" Mallory asked hesitantly.
"We have to be sure that they aren't on the grounds first." Josh told her
absently. He was mentally going over a map of the estate just to make sure
that they checked everywhere.
Sam turned to Mal. "If we called the police the press would find out from
"Every television station in the country and many in other countries would
instantly interrupt programming to announce this story." CJ added.
The conversation continued without anyone noticing that Leo still had not
Leo did one last sweep of the second story. He stopped before the attic
door. Had anyone thought to check the attic? Probably not, as Noel and Noah
knew that that was the one area of the house that they weren't to go to.
Ever, for any reason.
But, they were children. Inquisitive, active children. Their curiosity
about mysterious, forbidden places could very easily have gotten the
better of them.
As he opened the door, a small smile lit his face. The sound of children's
giggles drifted down the stairs. He slowly and quietly walked up the steps.
He walked past the first room and into one of the two smaller rooms. The
door to the room was open.
He hadn't seen this room in years, since he had helped a haggard, silent
Josh pack up and stow away the vestiges of Amy's existence. The last time
he had been in here, boxes and trunks had been stacked neatly. All of the
boxes had been sealed and the trunks closed. The room had been cluttered
but neat. Not anymore. Clothing, books, purses, papers, and toiletry items
were strewn across the floor and many pieces of furniture. Sheets had been
draped across furniture to make a playhouse.
He took a step toward the temporary enclosure and his booted foot hit
something. It skidded a few inches but the sound apparently wasn't enough
to disturb the children. Leo bent to pick up the dusty tome. He wiped a
couple of inches of dust away but he still couldn't find a title. He opened
the book and caught his breath. It was a diary. Amy's diary. From the date
inscribed on the front page, she had started it about a month before her
marriage to Josh. It was a three-year diary so it would most likely have
entries up to her death.
He closed the book as he wondered what he should do now. Should he give the
diary to Josh? Should he just leave it here?
Finally, he tucked the small book into his pocket. He'd decide what to do
with it later. He took a couple more steps and grasped the edge of a sheet.
All five children shrieked as he yanked the sheet aside.
Noah glared at Leo. He wasn't going to admit it but Leo had scared him.
"You aren't supposed to be up here." Leo reminded the children.
James turned to Noah. "You said we weren't going to get caught." He
Abigail was the first to stand up. She ran to Leo. "I'm sorry." She told
Leo hid his smile. He had never taken Abigail for a manipulative child.
He'd have to tell CJ that her daughter was starting to come out of her
timid shell. "Let's go tell your parents that you are alright."
Noah took offence at that comment. "Of course we are alright." He said
indignantly as he stood up.
"Parents worry." Leo told him. "When they couldn't you anywhere it scared
Leo could tell from that one word that Noel felt guilty.
"We didn't mean to scare them." She said softly.
"I know that." Leo assured her. "But it did scare them. That is why you
have to follow their rules for you. They need to know that you are safe."
Noel just nodded as did Abigail and Little Jed. James hung his head. Noah
however still looked defiant.
Leo took Noel's hand to help lead her down the stairs.
Back in the living room Donna, CJ, and Zoey stood together. None of the
three were talking. It just made them feel better to stand together for
some reason. They quietly watched the commotion taking place around them.
A map of the estate lay on the coffee table. Josh and Clara were going over
it with several secret service agents, indicating the places where the
children loved to play and hide. They were marking off the areas that had
already been searched, which were most of the places on the map. Jed,
Abbey, Toby, Will, and Charlie stood behind them watching apprensivly.
Their fear growing with each spot marked off.
Amy's family stood apart from the group. They were obviously seething but
most of the others hadn't noticed. Sam and Mallory however, had. They stood
near the family ready to step in if they tried to start something with Josh
Agents outside had sealed off the property. No one could come or go. They
had started to comb the area surrounding the estate as well.
The White House and the current president had been alerted in case this was
a kidnapping. And the more time that passed without finding the children,
the more certain the secret service was that this indeed is a kidnapping.
No one noticed when Leo stepped into the room. No one noticed his six
shadows; the five children and Sheena.
After a moment, movement in the doorway caught Mallory's attention. She
turned and gasped. Sam immediately turned and he, too, gasped.
At the same time Zoey, Donna, and CJ all caught sight of the children. Each
of them hurried to their children to take them in their arms.
The commotion finally alerted the others to the children's reappearance.
Josh hugged each of his twins even though Noah obviously didn't think it
was cool for his parents to hug him. He then turned to Leo. "Where were
Josh turned back to his children, furious "What have I told you about going
into the attic?"
"Not to." Noah answered.
"So why did you go to the attic?" Donna asked.
"We wanted to know why we couldn't play there." Noel explained. "Daddy
never tells us why, he just says not to."
"Besides, it was fun to sneak." Noah added.
"We didn't want to go." Little Jed told his mother, who was holding him. He
turned to his grandmother and repeated the information. He was reasonably
sure that if they believed him, they'd keep his father and grandfather from
being too mad at him.
Abigail looked at her mother whose hand she was clutching. "No, we didn't."
James nodded emphatically.
Josh turned to his daughter. "Who's idea was it, Noel?" He asked sternly.
Noel hesitated. She didn't want to tell on her brother but she didn't want
to get into trouble either.
Noah sighed. "Mine." He sighed again. "James, Abigail, and Little Jed
didn't want to come along but I told them they had to or they were babies."
Donna looked at Zoey and CJ. "I'm sorry."
Her fright gone, Zoey managed a laugh. "Don't worry about it. Children do
this kind of thing."
The secret service asked a few questions before departing.
Zoey, CJ, and Donna took the children back upstairs to get ready for bed
after a stern lecture on obedience from Jed.
Amy's family was silent until the children were out of the room. Grace
turned on Josh. "That shouldn't have been able to happen. You should have
been watching them closer."
Josh stiffened as Sam and Leo both moved closer to him.
Jed smiled at the Gardner family. "I'm sure you were worried." He
sympathized. "But this wasn't Josh's or anyone else's fault. We all learned
from this situation and from now on we'll watch the children closer."
Grace's frown told them all that she wasn't appeased. "The fact that the
secret service was called so quickly and responded just as quickly tells me
that something else is going on here, there was concern that this was more
than the kids playing. They thought the children were kidnapped. You must
have had suspicions, had to have known that this was a possibility all
along." She accused Josh. "And yet you still let almost an hour go by
without checking on them."
"That was a mistake that I won't be making again." Josh said stiffly.
"This has been an exhausting day." Kelly said to her mother. "I think we
should turn in."
Josh didn't think Grace was going to go along with it but surprisingly she
nodded and followed her daughter and husband out of the room.
Mark shot one last glare at Josh before following his family.
Wordlessly, Toby stepped over to the bar and prepared drinks for each of
"This wasn't your fault." Mallory told Josh.
"I should have checked on them."
"We all should have." Abbey told him. "But none of us did."
"They are fine. And we all learned something from this." Sam added. "No
harm, no foul." He received a glare from Toby for the cliché.
Josh finally nodded his agreement. They finished their drinks before
retiring for the evening.
"I'm worried." Abbey said as she ran a brush through her hair.
"About?" Jed asked from the bed.
Abbey turned to face him. "Josh and Donna."
Jed sighed. "I am too."
She sat on the edge of the bed. "They were being so distant with each
other. They didn't exchange one word during dinner."
"And after dinner they sat on opposite ends of the room. They even avoided
each other while the children were missing." Jed mused. "Do you think they
are having marital problems?"
It was Abbey's turn to sigh. She hadn't told Jed about her conversation
with Josh. She realized that she should do that now. "She is withdrawing
"She had a miscarriage before Noel's surgery."
Jed gave her a surprised look.
"Josh told me." She answered his silent question. "He was very concerned
"Has this happened before?"
"He said she had one other miscarriage."
"Have you talked to her?" Jed asked.
She shook her head.
"Maybe you should." Jed suggested.
Abbey thought for a few minutes. "I was hoping that things would get better
after some timehad passed. Since they haven't, maybe I should talk to her.
Not with so many people around though. The last thing she needs is Grace
Gardner overhearing. Not with her so angry at Josh and Donna's parenting of
Jed smiled. "I'll talk to Josh. Arrange for us to stay a few extra days."
He though a few moments. "I'll talk to Leo too. He might know something."
"What about Sam?"
"He has been distancing himself from Sam. At least that is my impression."
She climbed into bed and flipped the light off.
She whispered her thoughts aloud, "Why has Josh changed so much? What is
wrong with him?"