Stone By Stone - Chp 14 - Earth & Sky
Charlie decides that it's time he got a new apartment. The staff take a trip to New Mexico.
Spoilers/Episode: Set in an a/u that leaves cannon after season 5, Memorial Day. This chapter takes place a week after chapter 13.
Characters: Ensemble
Rating: PG
First Published: February 2006

Part I

Monday Evening, April 18th

"You are joking?" Zoey asked her father angrily.


"Charlie can't go on the trip because I'm going? That's hardly fair on Charlie."

"I don't think he's going to mind missing one trip."

"But it's not just one trip is it? This is just the start. Next will be, he can't come whenever I'm at Manchester, he can't go to State Of The Union if I'm there. Pretty soon we won't be allowed in the same building as each other."

"Now you're just being ridiculous. You know the rules the Secret Service agreed with us."

"They're only thinking of your safety," Abbey added.

"The only time anything has happened to me, I wasn't dating Charlie," Zoey needlessly reminded them.

"And while you are dating him you'll both follow Secret Service rules," Jed snapped.

"Who are giving in to mindless morons," Zoey replied.

"The last time those 'mindless morons' threatened you and Charlie, your father and Josh ended up being shot," Abbey reminded her.

Her mother's words took the wind out of Zoey's argument."I'm not likely to forget," she said sadly. "Okay. Does Charlie know?"

"I'll tell him tomorrow."



When Zoey entered the outer office from the portico, she found Charlie on his own. "Hey," she smiled.

"Hey, no college?"

"This afternoon. Have you spoken to my father?"

Charlie nodded. "He told me first thing."

"It sucks!"

"Yes, but it's not his fault, or Treasury's for that matter."

"It still sucks."

"They just don't want us leaving places together, especially not with your father. I have to say I kind of agree with them. I don't want to put anyone in that position again."

Zoey was suddenly sure this wasn't just the Secret Service being over protective. "Have you been getting threats?"

"Nothing out of the ordinary," Charlie replied.

"There shouldn't be an ordinary," Zoey told him. "I know you're right. You and my parents and Treasury. It just sucks."

"It does. Josh, Sam and Toby think it sucks as well, so you're not alone."

"Doesn't make me feel an better."

"It's only a day. We'll still have the night."

Zoey smiled, "You going to wait for me to get back?"

"Of course. And I expect a gift."

"It's a day trip."

"I want my gift," Charlie grinned.


Wednesday Morning, Air Force One

Jed found he had a spare five minutes between briefings so he went in search of a member of his staff to torment. When he entered the staff cabin, he found the perfect candidate. "Josh," he smiled. "I hear you have a friend working at NASA."

"She's more of an acquaintance, Sir."

"Does that mean you know nothing about astronomy?"

"Is this going to involve a quiz?" Josh asked cautiously.

"You don't like quizzes?"

"This is going to be a long flight," Josh sighed.

"Not all," Jed smiled. "CJ, Sam, join us."

Josh grinned at CJ and Sam as they reluctantly sat down.

"As we're going to be opening an observatory, I've been honing up on my astronomy," Jed told them.

"That's good, Sir," CJ sighed. "You do know the Dow opened 2 points down."

"It'll rally," Jed assured her. "It's a shame this is a day flight, but it couldn't be helped, although we are returning at night. So, do any of you know anything about astronomy?"

"Josh knows a woman..." CJ began.

"We've done that," Josh told her. "She did tell me that Jupiter has 61 moons."

"Would that mean 122 equinoxes?" Sam wondered.

"That'd be plenty of opportunities to try that egg balancing thing, CJ," Josh grinned.

Jed smiled, "See, astronomy is fun. Why's the sky blue?" Jed asked.

"Gas molecules in the atmosphere scatter the different colors of the spectrum depending on their wavelength." Josh smiled at their surprised looks and carried on. "The effect is strongest on blue, which has the shortest wavelength, so blue is the color we see in the sky."

"I'm impressed," CJ replied.

"I can tell you why it's red at sunset if you're really interested," Josh offered with a grin.

"If you must," CJ told him.

"Actually, I'm not sure if I remember," he admitted. "I think it's that the sun's closer to the horizon so light passes along a longer path. More of the blue light is scattered and red is left as the more dominant."

"You learnt a lot from the NASA woman," CJ teased.

"Actually I read a lot of physics books, when I was in the hospital," Josh reminded her.

"We remember," Sam sighed.

"Yes, let's not go there again," CJ agreed.

"You read about physics?" Jed asked.

"Please don't," CJ pleaded.

Josh grinned at CJ and Sam, "It's your own faults. If you'd let me tune the TV into CNN or C-SPAN instead of Discovery," he told them. "Anyway, it was interesting."

"You were only doing it to annoy us," CJ said.

"You mean you weren't fascinated by the Super String Theory?" Josh tried to sound offended.

"Not nearly as much as by the Model For The Unified Theory," CJ told him.

Josh smiled at her, "Made you look it up though."

"Because your friend Danny kept quizzing me on it."

Jed smiled to himself as he listened to their banter. This was why he liked long plane rides, it gave the staff chance to relax for a while, to enjoy each others company.

"Why's the plane descending?" Sam asked as Colonel Myers came on the intercom.

"Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen, we're passing through some bad weather and are descending to 27,000 feet. There may be some turbulence for the next few minutes."

"What causes turbulence?" Jed asked and smiled at their groans.


White House - Four Hours Later

Margaret and Leo were watching the president's trip on television in Leo's office. It all appeared to be going as planned, or at least it had.

"What's he doing?" Leo sighed as he watched Jed start to answer a question from the crowd. They watched for a minute while Jed fielded questions on education and road building. Leo started to relax, until someone asked about The Minute Men. "Don't answer," Leo told the television.

"I don't think he can hear you," Margaret pointed out.

"Where the hell's CJ? Get me Josh," Leo told Margaret, but picked up the phone and dialled it himself. "Josh, what's he doing and where's CJ?"

"She's with the governor, he wanted to know about..."

"Yeah. Stop him before we end up spending the next week fighting about the Minute Men and border security."


Governor's Reception - Three Hours Later

"Enough," Josh sighed as CJ berated him about Jed's impromptu Q & A.

"No, Josh. What the hell where you thinking? I'm the one Leo's going to yell at."

"It went fine," Josh argued.

"Only because Leo phoned you. I should know better than leave you alone with the president and the press."

"Okay, I'm really sorry. Can I enjoy the reception now?" Josh asked. "We need to mingle."

"Don't think I'm done with this," CJ warned.

"Not for a minute," Josh sighed. As CJ walked away, he caught sight of Toby and Sam grinning at him. "Oh she's going to find a way to blame you two as well," he told them.

"We weren't there," Sam pointed out.

"Not going to matter."


An Hour Later

"How was the governor?" Donna asked Josh.


"And Senator Ross?"

"Unhappy as ever."

"Congressman Fuller?"

Josh handed her a drink. "Haven't seen him."

"Ah well." Donna took Josh's drink from him and put it next to hers on a table. "Dance with me," she told him.

"We shouldn't, people'll notice."

"Don't be an idiot. People will notice if we suddenly start avoiding each other." Donna smiled mischievously, "I have a new dress and a tan. You've finished mingling with the invited guests. Now I want to dance. Course, if you're chicken, Mark looks a little lonely, I may ask him."

"Who the... the intern, your admirer?" Josh asked. "In that case," he led her out onto the dance floor.

Across the room, Danny smiled to himself as he watched Josh and Donna dancing. There was something different about them, nothing he could put his finger on, just something.

Part 2...