Title: In Need Of Assistance
Synopsis: Being caught between Leo and the president was soon to be the least of Josh's worries.
Spoilers: Anything up to season 5, Memorial Day, but set in an a/u.
Notes: Second in the Stone By Stone series. Starts 2 weeks after Can't Sleep, Won't Slpeep.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
CJ stood in the office doorway and watched Josh as he typed into his computer. There were times when she felt enormously protective towards him and there were times when she wanted to smack him across the back of head. The last few days had definitely fallen into the latter category."You know this is like the first campaign all over again," she said.
"What is?" Josh asked without looking away from his computer screen.
"Except then it was unpaid volunteers, now it's hardened White House assistants," CJ continued.
Josh stopped typing and glanced up at CJ. "I'm trying to work here," he sighed.
CJ walked into the office and stood in front of Josh's desk, waiting until she had his full attention. "You have to stop yelling at assistants."
"I don't ......"
"Even Donna wouldn't put up with the way you've been treating Ginger." CJ sat down. "I know you're missing her. I spoke to her yesterday, she's doing fine and she still plans to be back on the 5th."
"It's only two weeks."
"You really think she's going to want to come back and work for me, just like before?" Josh asked. "You think I've been holding her back for years. You told me as much over a year ago."
CJ couldn't argue with that, but she still believed what she'd told Donna, it was a two way street. "She hasn't said she wants to move, has she?"
"She told me she wanted to do more, which is why I sent her on the CODEL in the first place. If she wants to move I'm not going to stop her."
"I can think of at least four assistants who would," CJ smiled in an attempt to lighten the atmosphere. Seeing that she'd failed she said, "She might want to do more, but she doesn't want to move, Josh. She's looking forward to coming back."
"How the hell do you find anything?" Toby asked that afternoon as Josh hunted through a pile of papers.
"I know where everything is," Josh assured him.
"Okay." Toby watched for a couple more minutes before he sat in the visitor's chair and said, "Except the file we need for the thing in," he looked at his watch, "10 minutes."
"Yeah," Josh agreed.
"You want me to ask Bonnie to print the stuff off again?"
"It's here, I had it earlier," Josh insisted and continued to hunt around his desk. "Found it." He smiled triumphantly and handed the buff colored folder to Toby.
"You need an assistant," Toby told him.
"I have a bullpen full of people."
"Who aren't assistants. Call personnel."
"No. I'm doing fine."
"If you don't call personnel most of your bullpen are going to walk out."
"I don't need......"
"And they're going to take every assistant who's tried to help around here with them," Toby finished.
"It's only another two weeks."
"You really think Donna's going to be up to running around after you as soon as she gets back? She has a broken leg, Josh."
The following morning CJ walked through the bullpen and into Josh's office. "Are you ready?" she asked.
"Josh! We have a meeting in 5 minutes."
"What time is it?" Josh looked at his watch. "Shit," he muttered. "Just let me finish this."
"Did you call personnel?" CJ asked.
"Yes." Josh continued reading while CJ sat and waited.
"Joshua," a voice said from the office doorway. "As chaotic as ever I see."
Josh looked up irritably to see who was disturbing him now. His scowl turned to a smile though when he saw the woman stood before him. She was around 5 feet tall, with short graying hair and looked to be around fifty years old. "What are you doing here?" he asked.
"I was told you needed a temp," Janet replied.
"He does," CJ agreed.
"You don't work in the White House," Josh told Janet.
"No, I'm still on the Hill. But I was asked as a special favor to a friend in personnel." Janet smiled, "Seems no one else wanted to work for you."
CJ laughed. "I'm CJ Cregg," she introduced herself. "Are they paying you a lot for doing this?"
"I got to negotiate my own salary," Janet smiled. "Janet Quigley," she informed CJ. "I worked for him for 2 years in Congressman Brennan's office and then for a short while with Senator Hoynes."
"Why would you want to go through all that again?" CJ asked.
"I'm still sat here you know," Josh complained.
By the next day, Janet had settled in and had managed to get Josh's schedule and office back in order. "Josh, you have a meeting with Frank at 4.30," she reminded him when he walked past her desk with Leo.
"Can you cancel it?"
"No," Janet replied.
"I'm sorry?" he asked Janet.
"Donna's told me that appointments with your doctor, at GW or with Frank can only be cancelled in a national emergency."
"This is a...."
"A real national emergency, Josh, not one you invented."
"You've been talking to Donna?" Josh asked her.
"Yes," Janet replied. "She's been very helpful."
"Where are you going?" Josh asked when Janet stood up and collected her purse.
"Lunch with Margaret."
"What about Coleridge?" Josh tried to reassert some authority.
"On your desk," Janet smiled. "See you later."
Josh watched Janet walk away and then turned to Leo, who was smiling. "This isn't funny," Josh said.
"No," Leo agreed, but carried on smiling. "Nice card," he indicated the Good Luck card on Janet's desk.
"It's from Donna," Josh sighed. "Her idea of a joke."
"I spoke to her this morning, her doctor agrees she can come back on the 5th."
"So she says."
Leo followed Josh into his office. "She's doing well, stop worrying."
"I know. Leo, why am I staffing the budget meeting this afternoon?"
"You staff the president all the time," Leo pointed out.
"I've only ever staffed budget when you're away."
"Yeah," Leo agreed. "The president obviously wants a new perspective on things."
"I won't know what they're talking about."
"It's budget," Leo replied. "Nobody who isn't a economist knows what they're talking about."
Donna and CJ had finished their lunch and were drinking their coffees, neither wanting to leave the restaurant just yet. Donna didn't want to go back to her apartment and watch afternoon TV, while CJ was enjoying Donna's company and not relishing the thought of another senior staff meeting with Leo and the president acting like school boys and hardly speaking to each other.
"What's wrong?" Donna asked.
"Work, what else."
Donna nodded. "Josh told me about Leo and the president."
"You can cut the atmosphere in meetings with a knife," CJ told her. "I'm fairly sure the press must have noticed. What's Josh said?"
"I think he's trying to see both sides, but it's difficult for him."
"He's always going to side with Leo, even if it is unintentional," CJ agreed.
"CJ," Donna changed the subject. "Could you arrange a pass for someone to visit the White House?"
"You can do that yourself."
"Yeah, but he'd like to sit in a press briefing and see how it works."
"He?" CJ asked.
"Colin Ayres," Donna clarified. "He's in New York, he's going to make a flying visit here on Friday."
"To see the White House?" CJ gave Donna a knowing look.
"We may have dinner," Donna smiled. "He's very charming."
"I'll sort out passes for him for Friday then." CJ did wonder what Josh would think about that though.
At 8 that evening Josh arrived at Donna's apartment with dinner. "How's Janet?" Donna asked.
"You sent her a good luck card," Josh complained.
"I did," Donna agreed.
"That was unkind," Josh smiled.
"Yet she seemed to appreciate it. I figured she could use all the support she could get." Donna took a carton off Josh, but he took it straight back.
"Go and sit down," he instructed.
"I'm not incapable of looking after myself," Donna complained good naturedly.
"I know that. I just don't want you stealing my food," Josh smiled.
"Josh, I want to come back to work."
"Not until the doctor says you can," Josh carried the plates into the living room.
"I feel fine, I can walk okay, see." Donna demonstrated by following Josh into the next room.
Josh watched Donna walk unsteadily from the kitchen and shook his head. "The doctor said the 5th."
"You're a mean boss."
"I'm getting my own back for 'the rules'," Josh replied.
"You were a little iller than me, I've only got a broken leg."
Josh was tempted to point out that she'd almost died, but decided that she probably didn't need reminding. Instead he said, "You can't come back until the doctor says. Leo wouldn't let you, personnel wouldn't let and neither will I."
"Mean," Donna repeated as she sat down and took her plate off Josh. "How come Sam cancelled his visit last weekend?"
"It was Chloe's sister's wedding. He'd forgotten."
"He hasn't changed a bit has he?" Donna smiled. "I miss him."
"Me too," Josh agreed. "Says he'll come out in a few weeks."
"Good, we can all go out and I'll be back at work by then."
"You know, you moan about wanting to come back but trust me, once you're there you'll regret it."
"I'm not actually ill you know."
"I meant the atmosphere, and you are ill," Josh handed Donna a slice of his chicken.
"It's still bad then, Leo and the president I mean?" Donna asked as she put a few pieces of her crispy shredded beef onto his plate.
Josh had promised himself he wouldn't unburden his problems onto Donna, but he'd known it was a promise he had no chance of keeping. "I've started staffing budget meetings, it'll be defense next."
"What's Leo said?"
"Just to go along with it. He thinks that it'll blow over and as long as the president's listening to one member of his staff then he's fine with it. But I can see he's angry and hurt, I just wish it wasn't me in the middle." He shook his head. "I'm just waiting for my summons to the Situation Room."
"Do you have the clearance?" Donna asked.
"Yeah I do. Luckily I don't know anything about the military. Worse than that though, Margaret keeps glaring at me."
"Margaret doesn't blame you."
"And Leo certainly doesn't."