Operation: Swagger v Insanity
A story for Danny
I groaned inwardly as the noise echoed down the corridor. Even though it's Friday, Josh is in a foul mood.
A part of me is rejoicing at that fact, after all it can't be a barrel of laughs dating someone as brilliantly neurotic as Margaret. Also, I really don't think that he's taking the news of Will and I as well as he says he is.
Speaking of Will, he's another one who has been acting strange all day. For starters, he is purposefully avoiding me. I said my usual 'good mornings' to the communications office, and he would not look me in the eye once. It was though he was afraid to. Maybe my emotional display last night had something to do with it. Some men can't deal with a woman's tears.
I walked into Josh's office and grinned at the sight before me. Josh isn't a technology nerd, and he has daily problems with his computer. Today, the thing looked like it was being dumped for scrap. The plugs attached to the back of the monitor were a tangled mess, some of them unplugged; the screen was flashing ominous colours of reds and greens. Josh himself was standing over the computer with a look of adorable confusion spread upon his face. He looked up at me with one hand placed on his hip, and the other pointing manically between me and the machine.
"I swear to god, I didn't do a thing." He told me immediately. "Fix it please."
I rolled my eyes. "Josh, I've told you time and time again to not change the settings of the computer so that you can play your Mp3's, the machine is just too old to handle that."
"Donna," Josh whined. "I didn't ask you in here to get lectured."
"Surely after five years, you should expect it by now?" I asked him, arching an eyebrow.
For the first time all day, Josh smiled at me. "You're not a very predictable person."
"And you are?" I shot back, fiddling with the wires. I wrinkled my nose. "What did you do here?"
"The thing crashed, so I tried to unplug all the wires and hook it back up again from scratch." Josh explained meekly.
"By yourself?" I asked, aghast.
Josh took on his typical defensive look and picked a thick book up off his untidy desk. "I had this to consult. It's the book's fault, not mine."
"An Idiot's Guide to building your own computer'?" I read incredulously.
"'Idiot' being a very loose term of course," Josh added helpfully.
"Not to you." I leafed through the book and skimmed the first page. "Um...Josh?"
"Yeah?" Josh looked at me in concern.
"When you unplugged the wires, you did turn the computer off at the mains first...didn't you?"
"It was already crashed Donna," Josh said smugly, as though he knew something I didn't.
"That doesn't mean it's turned off," I exclaimed. "Look at your screen!"
Josh paled at the little orange light on his monitor. It was flashing continuously. "Oh."
"Yes, 'oh'." I smiled wryly. It's hard to believe that a man who's so smart most times could be so dense at other times. "It blew a fuse while you were trying to connect the wires. That's why the computer won't switch back on."
"What am I supposed to do now?" Josh panicked. "I'm behind on my emails!"
I shrugged and placed the book back on his desk. "Nothing you can do right now. We'll call out the engineer; with a bit of luck he can get here before the end of the afternoon."
"Oh perfect. That caps off a brilliant day." Josh walked back round his desk and sat down heavily.
I furrowed a brow in concern. Josh did look really stressed and miserable today. "Has something happened Josh?" I asked softly.
Josh looked up at me with a strange look in his eyes. He looked like he was about to say something, but changed his mind at the last second. I wish he'd stop doing that.
"Nothing's happened," he said quietly, giving me his first warm smile in days. "But thanks anyway."
I nodded. Josh was lying through his teeth. Something happened on his date with Margaret last night… that much was obvious. It seemed to be causing him a lot of discomfort. I really hope I find out soon.
I watched the sun slowly set over the grounds. Its bright rays shone through my blinds, creating a pleasant glow on my dark office. I tried to concentrate on my work, but all I could think about was Donna. She knew I was lying to her earlier, but I couldn't tell her what happened last night. I just couldn't.
We had gone out to dinner. The evening had been pleasant, if a little weird, considering it was Margaret that I was eating with. She seemed to be 'allergic' to everything on the menu.
We talked about work at first, laughing at how well our plan seemed to be working. Donna definitely wasn't happy, in my opinion that worked a little too well. Then we started talking about our families. I was surprised to learn that Margaret has four sisters who she's very close to, and that Leo had been a family friend for many years. It's a wonder that we never met before the campaign. I told Margaret about Joanie, and how close I was to her in those precious short years of her life.
After the meal, I walked Margaret back to her house and she invited me in for a drink. By this time, we were only making small talk. Margaret is nice enough, but I found I had little in common with her. It was a relief to me that we weren't really dating. She talked more about her 'spam email' problem, while getting drunker by the minute. It was 2a.m and I'd had enough. It wasn't fun being the sober one of the two of us. Margaret and I had made our point to Will and Donna by now. I'd stood up to leave but, to my great shock, she grabbed my arm.
"Don't leave yet," she'd pleaded, smiling at me genially.
I grinned at her. "I think if I stayed any longer, I won't want to wake up for work in four hours." I tried not to act uncomfortable around her, but it was hard. There was something about the way she was looking at me that seemed a little...off.
"That doesn't matter. Just stay a little longer. I have...coffee." She stood up then and ran a hand through my hair.
I blinked twice, eyebrows soaring. This couldn't be happening. Did Margaret have a THING for me?!
"Um...what are you doing?" I whispered in her very at-close-range face.
"Shh, just relax," she soothed, beginning to kiss me.
This was when I started to freak out. I mean, this was MARGARET! I stepped away from her, a real feeling of panic searing through my body. It wasn't everyday that women just grab and kiss me, even more shocking that it's a woman I have no romantic interest in whatsoever. "Um, Margaret. I think you've missed the point of what tonight was all about," I reminded her in a rush.
"Oh who cares? We're all alone, it's been a good night, no-one will ever know. Live a little Josh!" And with that Margaret pushed me onto the couch, fell on top of me and pinned me down.
"Ever since you came to visit me at my desk this morning, I've fantasised what it would be like to kiss you," she confessed, beginning to undo my shirt buttons.
"Margaret..." I began to shout before she silenced me with her mouth. I pushed her off and pinned her down under me. "Listen to me," I said sharply, holding down her wrists tightly. "We...THIS...can't happen."
"Why not?" She looked up at me miserably. I felt bad for her.
"Because it's crazy, you're drunk and I'm not attracted to you anymore than you're attracted to me…" I stopped and looked down at Margaret. "Ok, so maybe you're a little attracted to me..." I let go of Margaret's arms and stood up from the couch. My legs were shaking.
"Isn't that enough? Don't you want to be loved?"
I started to laugh then and shook my head in amazement. "Oh Margaret, you don't love me."
"I can learn to love you."
"No you can't." I'd said gently, sitting back down next to her. "I think you need to talk to Leo."
"Leo?" I saw a look of fear in Margaret's eyes then and I chuckled gently at her naivety.
"Yeah, Leo. There's a reason why he hasn't talked to either of us all day."
I left soon after that conversation. Margaret finally got the message about my lack of romantic feelings for her and she realised that maybe Leo's raging bull act has been a simple case of jealousy. I'd walked into work this morning with a feeling of total shock. Who would have thought that Margaret would have had a crush on me? I've avoided her all day and, thank god, she's kept her distance too. My bad mood has been pure frustration - there's no way that I can continue to pretend to date Margaret now. Thanks to the events of last night, my plan has been shot to pieces.
Or has it?
I haven't failed to notice that Will hasn't visited Donna all day. Maybe, just maybe, their little romance is coming to an end.
Abbey thinks that sometimes I get too involved in my staffer's private lives. In this situation, however, she is giving me her full support. Time and again she brings up that horrifying night when we all thought that Josh wasn't going to make it through his heart surgery. She reminisces a moment when she was in the waiting room with Mrs Landingham and Donna. They all knew by then that I was going to be fine; that my arm had suffered a minor wound which would soon be put to rights with lots of therapy and bed rest. Josh's condition though was much more serious. Abbey remembers watching Donna throughout the night, gripping the poor young woman's cold, shaking hands. Donna hadn't slept, ate or drank. Her face was pale; her eyes were red with emotion and tiredness. She was in turmoil over the man she loved. And it was love what she was feeling for that cocky, fiery young man who one day five years ago walked into my life and changed my whole perspective on the campaign. I regard him as more than just a staffer now - he's my son.
Donna didn't know she loved him back then, and he was too blind and insecure to notice himself.
They sure as hell know it now.
The events of the past few days have been crazy. It is turning this administration upside down. No-one is getting any work done!!
I'm sorry to spoil the show but break's over.
I could strangle CJ and Toby - they seem to be the ringleaders in this ridiculous 'secret' society. Operation: Swagger v Insanity? Good grief, it's like something out of a bad soap opera.
I have a plan that will stop all the other plans. This one will work. I am the President of the United States and when I want something done, it will get done.
All these people need to do is sit down and talk about their feelings. Unfortunately, this is Leo, CJ, Will, Donna, Josh and Toby I'm talking about here and nothing is going to get them all to voluntarily sit down in a room and talk.
I get a little pull around here. The FBI agents hate it when I go out on a limb, but they will do whatever I tell them to.
For example: If I was to ask them to crash the White House at a specific time this week, they will obey my wishes. That's the easy part. The hard part is getting everyone where I want them to be at that time. When that works, my staffers won't get a choice on who they can talk to.
I think I need some help though.
As a white house reporter it's my job to keep an eye on things here and watch out for scandals. Over the years I have got a little soft on these people so it's getting increasingly harder to write about them. I should really have written a little article about the inauguration balls. Josh Lyman's fan-club would have loved some light-hearted banter about the knight in shining armour act outside Donna's apartment.
As I said though, it's getting harder. Josh is a friend, so going behind his back would almost be like a betrayal, and CJ would have my ass if she caught me publishing something anyway.
Ah, CJ. She is a complicated woman. I don't know where I stand with her half the time, but I'm convinced she's worth it to stick around and find out.
I know she has a crush on Will Bailey, the geeky 'new boy' in the communications office. It doesn't take a Harvard scholar to work that one out. I'm convinced it's just a phase though, and that her heart still belongs to me and our goldfish.
I know my return has made an impression. She knows how I feel about her and I can tell by the way her eyes soften when she speaks to me that I still can make her heart tug.
Anyway, enough about CJ and I. Back to Josh and Donna. I have a few sources in the West Wing and I've been hearing insane stories about the administration this week. Donna and Will are fake-dating. Josh and Margaret went out on a date last night so Leo isn't talking to Josh. Josh isn't talking to Will. Will isn't talking to Donna because he now likes her.
Toby isn't talking to anybody because he's sick of the whole thing. He is blaming CJ for everything, which I feel is a little unfair.
It's no wonder the President is getting a little crazy. I was sitting in the Oval office a little over an hour ago having a private meeting with him, arranged only by Debbie and Charlie. I don't see how I can help, but the President obviously thinks I can.
"I need you to be in the West Wing at 9pm tomorrow night," The President instructed.
"Tomorrow night? Sir, it will be Saturday!" Ok, so I'm only going to be watching re-runs of old comedies, but huh, it's my weekend I'd be giving up!
"Please Danny, I need you to distract CJ."
I smiled inwardly. Maybe this was going to be fun. "Ok, what did you have in mind?"
"Well, I'll leave that side of things to you," The President smiled almost cheekily at me, "but just make sure the two of you are in CJ's office by nine."
"Ok, I can do that. Anything else I can do?"
"Arrange a meeting with Josh and Will in Josh's office for the exact same time. You won't be meeting them in there, but I need the two of them in the same room as each other for a while."
"I don't know how I'm going to manage that." I stuttered. "Half the staffers are not in the West Wing at 9pm on a Saturday night."
The President smiled. "I'm sure you can think of something. Make up a potential 'Deputy Chief of Staff and Deputy Communications Director career-threatening scandal' for them."
I grinned. "I can do that."
"Next, arrange a meeting between you and Leo. Make sure that Margaret is there too."
"I think I can see where this is going."
"What about Toby and Donna?"
"Maybe you should put Toby in the scandal meeting too. Just in case Josh and Will end up trying to rip each other's arms off. I want Donna in her bullpen where she can hear everything that is going on in Josh's office."
I pondered on the President's plan. How was he going to keep these people in the same rooms as each other without everyone walking out?
"I can tell what you're thinking Danny," The President told me. "I'm afraid I can't tell you. It's classified."
He looked at me meaningfully. Then I understood. He was going to ask the FBI to crash the West Wing tomorrow night. No-one will be able to leave the rooms they're in. It was a perfect situation to create chats and revelations. Its times like these that make me realise why I voted for the guy twice. He is a genius.
This is a story that I know I'll be desperate to write by the end of the weekend.
End of Chapter 5