Author's Note: Sorry this last chapter has been so long in coming. I've had most of it done for a while, but I needed a good ending that just wouldn't seem to come. Hopefully I have finally hit upon something that will give this story closure. Thank you for all the reviews I've received thus far. This story has been one which I've enjoyed writing so I hope you have enjoyed reading it. Just a quick note, this chapter runs 30 pages in Word so you're probably going to need a little bit of time to get through it.
"We Only Just Begun"
Josh stood in a room buzzing with people getting their first glance inside the Bartlet Presidential Library. Following the speeches and the ribbon-cutting everyone rushed into the library to see the finished product. People scurried to and fro and he heard snippets of conversation, but there was only one person he was searching the crowd for. Through the sea of faceless people he finally found Donna coming his way, smiling.
"Hey there," she said as she approached him.
"Where have you been?" Josh asked.
"Mrs. Santos had a thing with one of the kids," Donna explained briefly with a sigh. "But, the good news is that I'm off the hook for the remainder of the day."
"How did the flower thing go?"
"Fine," Donna replied. "We're going with daisies instead of roses."
"Gerber, pink," Donna replied.
"That's good," Josh agreed. "I had some disturbing news that our red roses could, apparently, have been mistaken for supporting socialism."
"Socialism?" Donna asked.
"Another President Bartlet quick fact," he told her. "Although he did assure me that red roses were also perfectly suitable for symbolizing love."
"I'm glad to know we dodged a bullet," Donna smiled. She scanned the room for familiar faces and found none. "Where is everyone?"
"I don't know," Josh replied. "I saw Sam for a minute before a reporter pulled him away, but I haven't seen anyone else. I've been looking for Toby, but Andi and the kids are probably keeping him busy."
"It is kind of crazy in here," Donna replied surveying the crowd. "It was a good speech by the way."
"It was okay," Josh said.
"You shouldn't have been so worried about it. I thought it was nice."
"Not as nice as President Bartlet's speech," Josh replied.
"Well he is the honoree," Donna said. "His speech was really good though. There was something about it."
"It was spectacularly well-written?" Josh asked with a raised eyebrow.
"Yeah, but the tone," Donna said. "There was something..."
"Familiar, maybe?" Josh asked.
"It was vintage Toby," Sam said approaching them quietly.
"Sam!" Donna said happily as she gave him a hug.
"Hi Ainsley," Josh said to the southern Republican. She looked good. California agreed with her. Seeing Sam and Ainsley next to each other gave Josh visions of the Kennedys in the early days when everyone thought they were the picture of perfection. However, the difference was that you could honestly tell that Ainsley and Sam were unequivocally happy. Sam was definitely going to win his Senate seat, but maybe he was destined for something more.
"Hi Josh," Ainsley said with a smile. "Am I still in your good graces?"
"You've never been out," Josh said giving her a quick hug.
"Hey," Josh said in a very manly way to Sam.
"Hey," Sam replied as he gave Josh an equally manly hug.
"Don't let Josh fool you Sam, he missed you," Donna informed him.
"I didn't miss you," Josh dismissed her.
"You don't have to admit it," Sam absolved him. "I missed you. I had just gotten used to being around your manic personality."
"I like to think of it as effervescent," Josh corrected him. "What were you saying about Toby?"
"The speech," Sam said. "There were snippets that sounded exactly like Toby."
"You think he wrote it?"
"I'd recognized the cadence anywhere," Sam said.
"You really think President Bartlet let him write his remarks?" Josh asked skeptically, but intrigued nonetheless.
"I honestly can't say," Sam said. "What I can tell you is that passage about marking time and the history that links us all was most definitely Toby."
"You didn't write it?" Josh asked.
"I wish," Sam scoffed.
When it became clear that Josh and Sam were going to continue their debate about President Bartlet's remarks Ainsley turned to Donna. "How are the wedding plans coming?" she asked Donna.
"They're going well," Donna said a look of panic showing on her face. "It's soon. The date is coming soon."
"I'm sure it'll be fine," Ainsley assured her.
"I used to think that I wanted a big wedding," Donna said. "I had it all planned out. The dress, the hair, the doves that would be let go in honor of the day…now, I just kind of want it over with."
"I guess the planning more than anything," Donna said. "I think about CJ's wedding and how simple it was and I wonder if I really needed a big church wedding. I mean, CJ and Danny are both Catholic. I would have thought a big wedding was required or something, but they had a small, simple wedding and it was lovely and they didn't have to worry about roses and socialism or daisies or if the salmon would have too much mercury in it because your cousin is pregnant for fourth time or if your great Aunt Violet would make a scene because you're wearing white even though, after a certain age, everyone knows white is not the appropriate color to wear at your wedding-"
Donna was beginning to rant until she started to lose her breathe and Ainsley placed a reassuring hand on her arm. "Donna," she said snapping her out of her panic attack. "I'm sure your wedding will be beautiful."
"You really think so?"
"I do," Ainsley replied smiling. Somehow Donna felt very reassured by Ainsley's smile and her confidence. She always liked her, but now she could see how Sam had come to rely on her years ago and now.
"Are you kidding?" Josh's voice interrupted the talk the women were having.
"No," Sam said with a smile.
"Tell me you're kidding me," Josh said.
Ainsley turned and smiled at Sam and he returned her grin. "You told him?"
"How could you tell?" Sam asked.
"Told him what?" Donna asked.
"They got married!" Josh practically yelled. A few of the strangers in the crowd glanced over at him.
"You got married?" Donna asked looking at Sam.
"Last week," Sam replied.
"And we weren't invited?" Donna asked.
"Not many people were," Ainsley said quickly trying to smooth over any hard feelings. "My mother, who always dreamed of a huge Southern wedding, was very unhappy."
"Though I think your Dad was more so," Sam said.
"Well you are a Democrat," Ainsley said as if she needed to remind him. "My parents love you personally. It's just your politics that get you into trouble."
"Wait a minute," Josh interrupted. "I'm still stuck on you two being married."
"I know it seems fast," Sam started to say.
"Not really," Donna interjected.
"You got married and you didn't even tell me," Josh said astounded.
"I'm telling you now," Sam defended himself shyly.
"So your parents were there, her parents were there, who else was there?" Josh asked.
"No one," Sam said.
"How long were you engaged?" Donna asked.
"A week and a half?" Ainsley asked looking at Sam.
"So let me get this straight," Josh sighed. "You two decided to get married and a week and a half later you walked down the aisle with no press, no friends and just family present?"
"Pretty much, yeah," Sam nodded.
"The no friends I can forgive, but no press? You could have had free coverage. I can't believe no one picked up on your marriage license," Josh said incredulous.
"I have a few friends in the clerk's office," Sam said.
"You kept it quiet? Are you insane?" Josh asked. "This was free, positive media!"
"Our wedding wasn't political," Sam said.
"Congratulations," Donna said hugging Ainsley. She wasn't as interested as Josh in the political aspects of their union.
"Who else knows?" Josh asked Sam.
"You two are the first actually," Sam replied.
"Toby is going to kill you," Josh said. "You realize that right?"
"He's not going to kill me," Sam dismissed him, though the look on his face betrayed that he wasn't so certain of that fact. "You heard him earlier. He asked me if I locked it down."
"He asked you if you locked what down?" Ainsley asked trying not to sound offended.
"Us," Sam replied quietly. "He was all for it actually."
Ainsley seemed fine with his answer. Josh just raised his eyebrow at Sam.
"So are you going to congratulate me or not?" Sam asked Josh.
"Of course," Josh said taking a breath. "I was getting there. Congratulations man. I'm really happy for you. You too Ainsley."
Josh gave them both a hug and smiled at them genuinely. "I still can't believe you just sort of eloped," Donna said.
"Well with two engagements under my belt Ainsley was anxious to get me to the altar," Sam replied with a smirk.
Ainsley swatted his shoulder good naturedly. "Okay, it wasn't just Ainsley," Sam admitted.
"Are you gonna tell everyone?" Josh asked.
"I'm just waiting for an appropriate time," Sam said. "I wanted Ainsley to be around when I let everyone know."
"Speaking of everyone," Donna said. "Have you seen anyone? CJ? Toby? Charlie? I haven't even seen Mrs. Bartlet today."
"She was on the stage during the ceremony," Ainsley said. "They have to be around here somewhere."
"Well I say we take a look around," Sam suggested.
So that was how it came to be that Sam, Ainsley, Josh and Donna started their own search party to find the friends they had lost along the way.
CJ stood in a corner of one of the smaller rooms which contained obscure artifacts from President Bartlet's tenure in office. While most of the crowd was gathered around the letter the that removed him from power, or the limo which carried him to GW following the shooting, CJ was holed up in a room that contained the first draft of his Nashua speech which, even when read silently, had flashes of Toby's brilliance and what he would become as a writer.
Danny walked into the room and saw her staring at some photos on the wall. She looked so enthralled. He shoved his hands deeper into his pockets and silently sidled up to her.
"Well you never cease to surprise me," he said. CJ turned to him and smiled. "I thought for sure I'd catch you on the phone checking on Faith."
"If you had come by ten minutes ago I might have been caught," she smiled at him and gripped his hand lightly with her own. "I'm glad they let you out."
"I was experiencing the beginnings of carpal tunnel, I figured it was time to move on," Danny explained. "So, how are things at home?"
"Absolutely fine," CJ replied. "Faith has forgotten all about us and your mother is going to have to take her home because she'll think you mother is her mother now."
"I'm sure that isn't true," Danny said.
"Not completely, but it might be slightly true, you never know," CJ said.
"So what are you up to?" Danny asked trying to get CJ's mind off the subject of Faith forgetting about her. "I figured you'd be with Toby or Donna or someone. How is it that you've managed to find the only empty room in this place?"
CJ looked around the room again and her eyes flashed with a slight sadness.
"CJ?" he asked.
"I was just reminiscing," she replied. "I didn't think it would be like this."
"I don't know," CJ said, not really answering his question. She took a seat on a bench in the center of the room and looked around again.
"You're surprised you miss it?" Danny asked as if he could read her mind.
"Yeah, is that weird?" she replied with a look of surprise that quickly passed because somehow Danny always had the ability to know what she was thinking. It was uncanny.
"You spent a lot of time in that house," Danny said taking a seat next to her. "You shouldn't feel guilty for feeling nostalgic."
"I honestly didn't think I'd feel this way," CJ admitted. "I'm over this portion of my life. I was waiting for it to be over seven years in, but somehow, seeing all this stuff…"
"You're remembering the good times," Danny said.
"You're not going to tell me that you approached Josh about a job with Santos are you?" Danny asked half-kidding, half-serious. "Because I don't think I could take it."
"No," CJ shook her head slightly and grinned. "I'm just taking a minute to wrap my head around all of this."
CJ gestured at the things on the wall and even she looked amazed at the amount of material that the library contained. It was one thing to live it. It was another thing entirely to see it all amassed in one location.
"I can't wait to bring Faith here one day," Danny offered.
"When I took the job I never would have imagined I'd have someone to bring to the library," CJ said. "I hope she won't be too bored."
"Are you kidding? She loves looking at pictures now can you imagine when she's looking at your face on half these walls? She'll be saying 'mommy', 'mommy', 'mommy' on a constant loop."
"I don't know, I think they'll be a couple of 'daddies' thrown in there," CJ said. "Did you see the pictures of the inauguration?"
"Did I make the wall of fame?"
"You certainly did," CJ said standing and holding out her hand to pull Danny from the bench. He extended his hand and stood up. CJ started walking as a few people entered the room. She walked over to the far corner and pointed to a photograph taken at the first inaugural ball.
Danny looked at the photo and noted how beautiful CJ looked in her evening gown. It was red and long and even now he could recall how his breath caught in his throat when he saw her in it for the first time. He didn't pay much attention to the rest of the photo except to notice that he was in it.
"You were staring at me," CJ pointed out.
Danny glanced over at CJ and then back at the photograph. He'd never seen it before and he just now realized that she was right. CJ and Sam were at the center of the photograph just behind the newly sworn in President Bartlet. CJ's eyes were a bright as the sun and her smile, wider than ever. Sam was in his tuxedo looking as innocent and happy as he'd ever seen him. The whole room had their gaze fixed on Jed Bartlet. Danny then noticed how he was off to the left side of the picture. Everyone in the room had their eyes fixed firmly on the new commander-in-chief, everyone but Danny. His attention and focus were caught forever on film looking at CJ.
"What can I say," Danny said. "That red dress was something else."
"I never knew you were checking me out at the inaugural ball," CJ replied.
"I always knew you were beautiful, but that night, you took my breath away," Danny said seriously.
"Hmm, maybe I should have worn that red dress today," CJ said suggestively.
"I don't know, I already signed enough books to induce carpal tunnel, now you're itching to give me a heart attack too?" he teased her.
"Never," she smiled.
"Are you feeling better?" Danny asked.
"Yeah," CJ sighed. "I am."
"Good," Danny replied. "You did some amazing things."
"As I recall you were giving me grief about not doing enough our last year in office," CJ reminded him.
"Me?" Danny asked as if he couldn't recall.
"Yes you," CJ replied.
"It doesn't sound like me."
"I might have been giving you a hard time just to see you," Danny said.
"That sounds about right."
"There you two are," Abbey said as she rounded the corner and came across them.
"Abbey," CJ said smiling and hugging her. "We didn't get a chance to talk before the speeches."
"You look wonderful," Abbey complimented her before quickly changing subjects. "Did Jed ask you about the pictures?"
"We are under strict instructions to get you an actual Kodak print," Danny replied.
"One we can hang on the refrigerator," Abbey elaborated. "You can't hang a digital copy on the refrigerator. What do you think of the library?"
"I think it's amazing," CJ replied. "I still can't believe all this stuff."
"We had to pour over some of these things," Abbey said.
"I imagine that was a little hard in some cases," CJ said.
"Yes," Abbey sighed. "But mostly good memories."
"So the dedication is over, when do the plans for Zoey and Charlie's wedding begin?" Danny asked.
"When do they begin?" Abbey asked with a cocked eyebrow. "We've been collecting ideas for years now. Zoey is insistent that it not be too big, but Ellie has insisted that Zoey's wedding be just as large as hers."
"It's kind of tough to recreate a state wedding when you're out of office," CJ pointed out.
"Much to Eleanor's chagrin," Abbey chuckled.
"We should have known that she'd be by the pictures of her in her ball gowns," Josh said as he rounded the corner and caught CJ, Danny and Abbey. "Hi Mrs. Bartlet."
"Joshua," Abbey said happily as she greeted him. "Donna! Sam! Ainsley!"
Hugs and salutations commenced and the group was suddenly much larger than it was when Danny had caught CJ practically alone in the room minutes earlier.
"I'm so glad you're all in one place," Abbey said. "I was going to try to round you all up."
"Is it time for cake?" Josh asked hopefully.
"No, no cake," Abbey said. "Jed and I are getting ready to leave. He wanted to speak to you all before we left."
"You're leaving already?" Donna asked.
"He can only handle so many hours a day," Abbey said. "He used to be able to will himself to keep going, but now…"
"Is he okay, other than the fatigue?" CJ asked quietly.
"Yes," Abbey replied sadly. She quickly brightened and added, "He wanted to make sure he got to see you all before we left though. He was so happy that you all made it today. Speaking of which, where are Debbie, Will and Kate?"
"Where's Charlie?" Donna asked.
"And Toby?" Josh added.
"They're already with Jed," Abbey replied.
"They?" CJ asked. Abbey gave her a small head nod and conversation moved on.
"Was Kate still signing books?" CJ asked Danny.
"She was still autographing when I left," Danny reported.
"Well, I supposed we should all set out to find the missing," Abbey said.
"It might be faster if we split up," Sam suggested.
"You're probably right," Abbey agreed. "Jed is out at the back entrance, we can all meet back there once everyone has been rounded up?"
And now the search party had become even larger and with only three members missing, the crew set out to track everyone down again. It didn't take too long to find Will. He had been outside on the phone speaking to the majority whip about an upcoming vote. Danny was able to track Kate down fairly quickly as well. Debbie came upon them in usual Fiderer fashion as security was asking her to empty her purse when they found her. There was a misunderstanding about something on her record, which Abbey quickly cleared up before they were off.
Walking side-by side and row-by-row the small posse made their way to the back entrance of the Josiah Bartlet Presidential Library. Abbey was the first one out the door and when the group assembled they were surprised to find President Bartlet outside with none other than their missing members, Toby and Charlie. They had been talking quietly and, to the casual observer, it looked like a pleasant conversation.
"Did you have to send out a search party to get them all together?" Jed asked Abbey.
"Something like that," Abbey said. "Hello Toby."
"Mrs. Bartlet," Toby said as Abbey enveloped him into a hug somewhat against his will.
"I'm so glad you came today," she whispered in his ear. "It was good for both of you."
"Thank you ma'am," he replied shyly as she pulled away.
"We need to talk about the speech later," Josh said quietly to Toby.
Toby didn't say anything to Josh, but he gave him a knowing smile.
"I wanted to thank you all for coming today," Jed said commanding the attention of the crowd. "It really means a lot to Abbey and especially to me that you all took time out of your lives to be here today. You were all a huge part of my administration and there aren't enough words to adequately express my gratitude to you.
"I'm not a young man anymore. Leo and I were so idealistic and energetic when we first started the campaign process. We rushed into it and got ourselves caught up in a few things that I'm sure you all remember, but we tried to hold the office up to a higher standard than those that went before us. I feel like the library is a chance to look back and be proud of a few things. I don't think they've decided my legacy just yet, have they Danny?"
"Not that I've heard sir," Danny smiled.
"Well, it's to be determined I suppose," Jed replied thinking about the MS, saving Social Security, Gaza and even putting three Supreme Court Justices on the bench. "What I guess I'm trying to say is that I know my time is over. Debbie tells me I'm an elder statesman now, whatever the hell that means. Much like my legacy, I'm not sure I've figured out what my role in the future is supposed to be. But, of this much I know, part of my legacy is you. I hope you don't find me patronizing, but I feel that, in a way, my legacy is that I left the country in good hands to continue to fight for the things that are right even when they may not be popular."
"You are all extraordinary people. We've been next to each in the very best and the very worst of circumstances. We've been through the times that changed us and the times that we remember fondly. I'm just an old man now, but I feel comfort in knowing that each and every one of you is affecting the world I live in. CJ, you're saving the world."
"One highway at a time sir," CJ grinned with scant tears gleaming in her eyes.
"Sam, you're on your way to becoming a U.S. Senator," Jed continued. "You remember what I told you once upon a time?"
"I do sir," Sam said recalling the moment that Jed Bartlet told him he thought he would be president one day.
"I still believe it," Jed said. "Josh, you're guiding an administration that's still finding its footing, but you're doing a hell of job. I know if Leo were still a part of it, he'd be so proud of everything you've accomplished."
"Thank you sir," Josh said with a bit of hoarseness in his voice.
"Toby," Jed said turning to him. "You're educating the future politicians of the world and you're telling them where I messed up and how I should have done better. I agree with that. We all could be better. We all have to learn from the decisions we make and the ones others make for us. Congressman Bailey can attest to that. You're changing things in the House. Kate, you're still working in defense looking at our past conflicts and writing to ensure that we're on the right path.
I suppose what I'm trying to say is that you're all remarkable people and I'm proud to call you all members of my family. If I didn't adequately express it before, I want you all to know how much I treasured our time together and how glad I am that there are talented people like yourselves out there working toward the ideals that we all share."
Abbey looked at Jed and had tears in her eyes. Jed looked tired and she knew that it was time to go home. She knew that he'd be sentimental, but she wasn't expecting him to give them such a heartfelt and somewhat final goodbye. It was just yesterday morning that the doctor had told him he needed to cut back his traveling. His time as an elder statesman was slipping away before it really started. Abbey's heart ached for her husband because while MS would eventually take his mind, right now it was attacking his body and thus holding him hostage to what he could physically do.
"Sir," Toby said breaking the silence. "I know it might seem odd, but I'd like to be the one to say that even though it may not have seemed like it to you, working in the West Wing was the single greatest accomplishment of life, aside from Huck and Molly of course. I was honored to work with you."
"Thank you Toby," Jed replied. "You and I had our ups and downs didn't we?"
"We did," Toby said quietly.
"I hope we're on an upward trajectory," Jed replied.
"Me too sir," Toby said.
Abbey wiped a tear that had slid down her cheek. "I hate to break this up," she said. "But we need to get back to the house."
"Yes, we do," Jed agreed, surprisingly. "It was wonderful seeing all of you. I hope we can get together with a little less pomp and circumstance next time."
Of course the quick departure became drawn out as everyone hugged and kissed and promised to e-mail and stay in touch. After Abbey and Jed had finally gotten into the car and driven off, the group stood silent for a moment. Danny put his hand on CJ's shoulder and rubbed it lightly. Only he knew that was exactly what she needed. For the very first time it seemed like the Bartlet administration was truly over. It didn't feel that way on the last day in office. She had been more than ready to leave. But more than that, she had no one to leave. On her last day in the White House she gave Margaret a hug, said goodbye to Charlie, gave Will and Kate a nod and she was gone. Now, surrounded by all the people who should have been with her on that last day-Josh, Sam, Toby, Donna-and hearing president Bartlet's words to them, now it felt like it was truly, honestly over.
The silence lasted for a few moments longer before Josh decided it was time to break it, albeit awkwardly in a way only Josh could. "Hey Sam has some news," he announced.
"Josh," Sam admonished him.
"What? You said you'd tell everyone when we were together," Josh replied.
"What news?" Toby asked.
"Well," Sam sighed gearing up to break his news to the crowd. "You guys know that Ainsley and I have been dating for a little while."
Sam reached down and grasped Ainsley's hand. "We all worked together and I know I was resistant to her working in the White House when she was first hired."
"Because she beat you up on Capitol Beat," Toby said with a smirk.
"She did not beat me up on Capitol Beat," Sam whined.
"She really did," CJ interjected.
"I really did," Ainsley smiled at him.
"Anyway," Sam said loudly in an effort to quiet the murmurs. "We've known each other for a while and while I did have objections to her being around at first, I came, in time, to enjoy her company and we had a nice rapport--"
"They got married," Josh suddenly burst out.
"What?" Toby asked.
"Josh," Donna said hitting him on the shoulder.
"You got married or you're engaged?" CJ asked.
"He wasn't getting to the point fast enough," Josh said to Donna. "You can't leave people in suspense."
"Is this a joke?" Toby asked seriously.
"No, we're married," Sam assured him.
"Congratulations," Danny said.
"Is she pregnant?" Toby asked.
"Toby," CJ said swatting him.
"What? That's the only thing that makes sense. Why would you get married and not make a big deal about it when you're running for Senate?"
"I'm not pregnant. We wanted a small, low-key wedding," Ainsley replied.
"Our wedding isn't political," Sam added.
"I beg to differ," Toby replied. "Have you forgotten she's a Republican and you are a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate?"
"No Toby I haven't forgotten," Sam replied slightly irritated. "For once in my life I wanted something for me okay? I love Ainsley and I didn't want to lose her over some long engagement or a wedding that was for show. I wanted to get married because I love her and we want to be together and if you can't understand it then that's just too bad!"
"Did you raise your voice to me?" Toby asked ironically. "Josh was he yelling at me?"
"I would classify that as yelling," Josh replied.
Sam suddenly looked nervous. He didn't have the urge to take back a thing that he had just said, but he somehow wished that he wouldn't have yelled it quite so loudly, though Ainsley looked pleased with his defense of their marriage.
"Sam," Toby sighed.
"Mazoltov," Toby said with a smile. He held his arms out as if to offer Sam a hug, which Sam eyed suspiciously.
"Are you smiling at me? Is he smiling at me?" Sam asked.
"It's been so long I'd forgotten he had teeth," CJ quipped.
"What's with the arms?" Sam asked.
"I feel compelled, against my better judgment, to congratulate you," Toby said. "Don't make it into a…thing."
Sam gave in and he and Toby shared a manly hug, while the others congratulated Ainsley.
"Just so you know," Toby said to Sam quietly. "A kid couldn't hurt your chances of getting elected."
"What? Its good advice and you know it," he replied.
"I'll keep that in mind."
As the well wishes and the discussion continued Josh shoved his hands into his pockets. He knew he should be getting back to President Santos. They were working the phones on an energy bill, a health care amendment and dealing with escalating tensions with Iran. Somehow though he didn't feel like going back to work. Work had always been where Josh felt at home. Lately though, work had become the place that Josh felt uncomfortable. Right now, in this moment, he felt the most relaxed he'd felt since his Hawaiian vacation with Donna before the inauguration.
"You okay?" Donna asked him quietly.
"You look like you're not here right now," she clarified.
"I was just thinking," he replied.
"About how this feels really good."
"It's moments like this that make me forget why I left in the first place."
"Left the White House?"
"Yeah," Josh said.
"You wanted to shape the next election," Donna said.
"Yeah," he said in a tone that made Donna think he didn't believe that was true.
"And you succeeded," Donna reminded him.
"Then what is it?" Donna prodded him.
"You're gonna think I'm crazy," he said.
"I already know you're crazy," Donna replied with a grin.
"Good point," he conceded returning her smile.
"Josh," she prodded him again.
"It's just today," he started. "It got me thinking. Seeing all the pictures and President Bartlet's speech, it made me realize something."
"Winning the election with President Santos was never going to be what I wanted. I forgot that Leo and the president were best friends. I was never Matt Santos' best friend. I hardly knew him. I'm still not his best friend."
"You don't have to be," Donna reminded him.
"I did," Josh said. "For this to be what I wanted it to be I did and I'm not and I can live with that. I just…seeing Sam and Ainsley I had this insane idea. After Sam wins his Senate race and after Matt Santos is out of office, I'm gonna get Sam to run for president."
"Yeah," Josh said getting a little more excited about the possibility. "He's gonna be a great senator and there's just something about him that makes me believe that he can be so much more."
"Shouldn't you talk this over with Sam first?" Donna asked.
"Nah," Josh said.
"You don't think he might have some thoughts on this?"
"He's not ready yet," Josh said. "There's a long way to go and we've only just begun."
"I don't think I've seen you look this excited in…I don't remember how long," Donna said.
"I was excited when we won the election."
"It was more of a manic excitement," Donna pointed out. "You're sure about this?"
"Just tell me you're with me and I'm sure," Josh said.
"I'm with you," Donna replied after thinking about it for a moment.
"Good," Josh said as he leaned forward and gave her a peck on the cheek.
"What are the two of you conspiring about over here?" Ainsley said as she walked over to Josh and Donna.
"Nothing," Josh evaded. "We were trying to decide between a blender or bar glasses for your wedding gift."
"We actually have both," Ainsley replied. "Sam could use a contribution to the campaign though."
"Ah-ha, so your wedding was political," Josh said with a smile. "Hitting up friends and family for donations in lieu of wedding gifts."
"You've figured us out," Ainsley agreed.
"I hate to break this up," Will said, "but I have to get back to the office."
"Now?" Kate asked.
"The work of the U.S. government is never done," Will replied.
"I hear that," Josh said.
Will left after saying quick goodbyes and Kate made a suspiciously hasty exit after. Josh ruminated on his thoughts for the quick exit for a moment before the group got quiet again.
"So, pretty soon we're all gonna be married types," Josh said. "You and Zoey set a date yet Charlie?"
"No," Charlie replied. "Nothing concrete. Zoey likes the snow so I'm thinking it'll be in winter."
"A New Englander to the end," CJ chuckled. "The press assigned to cover the wedding will be thrilled. Just make sure it's about five below the day of, will you Charlie?"
"I'll see what I can do about that," he replied. "I should actually be going though. I told Zoey I'd meet her back at the house."
"Whipped already," Josh smirked.
"And what color is your tie when you get married?" Charlie countered.
"Dusty rose," Josh said quietly under his breath.
"Pink?" Sam asked with a grin.
"It's not pink," Donna defended him. "It's more mauve."
"You're wearing mauve and you think Charlie's whipped?" Toby asked.
"My work here is done," Charlie announced as he hugged everyone goodbye.
"I'll give you a call about the job next week," CJ told Charlie.
"Thanks CJ," he replied before he turned to leave the party.
At that moment Sam's phone rang loudly and he glanced at the number before silencing it quickly. He exchanged a look with Ainsley that made it clear that it was almost time to leave.
"Okay, before we all go our separate ways," Josh said. "Favorite Bartlet White House memory. Donna, go."
"Why do I have to go first?"
"Because you're standing next to me," he replied.
"Favorite?" Donna asked.
"I know you have many to choose from, all featuring me of course," Josh grinned.
"Being serenaded by the Whiffenpoofs on Christmas Eve," Donna answered quickly.
"That is a good one," CJ recalled.
"Seriously?" Josh asked.
"It's the first one I thought of," Donna replied sheepishly.
"You favorite memory doesn't involve me at all? You worked for me for years."
"And yet," Donna replied with a grin.
"What does that say about you?" Sam teased him.
"Okay, wise-guy, what about you? Favorite Bartlet White House memory?"
"I think it would have to be Galileo," Sam said.
"That failed," Toby reminded him.
"But it was full of promise," Sam said. "President Bartlet was so excited and we were doing the live classroom. It was a time of hope."
"Thank you Dali Llama," Josh said. Toby snorted in solidarity.
"Well, what about you Toby?" Sam asked after hearing him snort.
Toby chuckled softly.
"You must have one," Sam pressed him.
"I have a few actually," he replied.
"A few? You?"
"Big Block of Cheese Day, when I got sent to baby-sit the protestors," Toby replied. "That was a pretty fun. I guess I'd have to go with Mendosa being confirmed though. That man made my life a living hell for too many weeks. When he finally got confirmed…that's my favorite."
"CJ?" Josh prompted her.
"I've got too many," she replied.
"Pick one," Toby pressed her.
"I can't," she said.
"Pick one," Josh egged her on.
"Fine. The poll numbers," she said simply.
"Poll numbers?" Josh asked.
"The poll we put into the field when everyone thought I was crazy for saying he'd get a bump in the polls," CJ clarified. "It was after Mandy's memo-gate and a lot people, maybe myself included, didn't think I was doing such a good job. After we got the results of that poll I just sort of felt like everything was real. I wasn't horrible at my job. Life was good. Josh?" she finished passing the invisible torch to indicate it was his turn.
"Evie Lang," Josh said. "That's gotta be it. Who would've thought we'd ever get that done."
"We paid a price for it," Toby reminded him of how they also had to place an extremely conservative justice on the bench.
"A small one," Josh said. "She's still on the bench, steering the court."
"Toby, if that's his favorite memory, it's his favorite memory," CJ interrupted him. "I think it's a good one."
"Me too," Sam agreed.
"Well of course you'd all turn on me," Toby said trying to sound put out, though everyone could tell he just happy to be part of the group again. The down and sour Toby was no longer. He still retained elements of that Toby, but now, there was almost optimism about him.
"Well," Sam said. "We really need to get going. I have a meeting with Jonah in a half hour."
"Jonah Morton?" Toby asked.
"He's a good guy," Toby said. "Listen to him."
"Call me if you need anything," Josh offered.
"Will do," Sam nodded.
Everyone said goodbye to Sam and Ainsley promising to stay in touch through the busy schedules. If e-mail and phone calls were difficult they knew they would see each other at Josh and Donna's upcoming wedding.
Toby pulled out his phone, which had vibrated in his pocket. He stepped away for a moment before coming back to the group.
"It appears my children are getting antsy," Toby informed the group.
"Presidential libraries aren't their thing?" Danny asked.
"That and Andi promised them we'd take them to the Orioles game tomorrow afternoon," Toby said. "We've got a drive ahead of us."
"I can't believe you're driving to an Orioles game," Josh commented.
"I can't believe you're okay with your kids being Orioles fans," CJ added.
"I can't believe you're driving to an Orioles game with Andi," Danny piped up.
"It's that unbelievable?" Toby asked.
"Yes," everyone answered in unison.
"Yeah, I guess it is," Toby sighed. He approached CJ and hugged her. "You take care of yourself. Say hi to Faith for me. Molly is already looking forward to babysitting."
"I will," CJ said. "You take care of yourself too."
"Always," Toby replied as he shook Danny's hand and hugged Donna.
"I still want to talk to you about that speech today," Josh reminded Toby.
"I didn't write all of it," Toby replied.
"Ah-ha, qualifying your response I see," Josh said. "You didn't write all of it, but you wrote some of it didn't you?"
"Speaking from experience and many hours of expensive legal advice, I plead the Fifth," Toby replied. He and Josh shared an awkward hug. Toby leaned in and added, "If you want to talk about the Santos thing, give me a call."
"I will," Josh assured him.
"The Santos thing?" Danny asked when Toby had left.
"Big things happening?" CJ asked.
"I was thinking of taking some time off," Josh replied.
"Leaving?" CJ asked.
"Maybe," Josh replied.
"He was thinking of letting me be the breadwinner for a while," Donna quipped.
"Really?" Danny asked. "It's kind of a good deal."
CJ smiled at him. "Just remember, we're living on your book money in our twilight years."
"I'm just thinking about it," Josh clarified.
"Do you have anything else lined up?" Danny asked.
"Housefrau?" Josh replied.
"I was thinking more Cabana Boy," Donna said.
"No, I do have a few ideas, but my mother is really thinking that grandchildren would be nice, eventually," Josh said.
"That's great," CJ said.
"Yeah, well, I guess since I still work at the White House that I should get back," Josh said as they started to walk in a group toward the parking lot.
"Probably," Donna replied. "Today was nice though."
"It was really nice," CJ replied.
"Hey Danny, can I borrow your wife for a minute?" Josh asked.
"Uh-oh sounds serious," CJ quipped.
"I'm impressed you even asked if you could borrow her," Danny said.
"I don't need his permission you know?" CJ added with a smile.
CJ walked up ahead with Josh as Donna fell back to talk with Danny. They came to a curb, which had a large puddle of water in front of it. Josh stepped ahead and extended his hand to CJ as he helped her off the curb and into the street, which was blocked off for festivities.
"When did you get to be so gentlemanly?" CJ teased him.
"I'm recalling the puddle outside the Radisson in Minneapolis. I didn't want another incident," Josh said. CJ looped her arm through Josh's and the two looked like the best of friends as they walked the street.
"Oh no," CJ laughed. "That was horrible."
"I'm not sure what was better," Josh mused. "You, falling into a puddle three inches deep or Toby tripping over you."
"I came close to death that night. I was lucky I didn't break a hip and very lucky Toby didn't kill me."
"I never did get the pants he borrowed back," Josh replied.
"Maybe we should have taken that as a sign," CJ said. "That was, what, our third week on the campaign trail?"
"Things got better," Josh reminded her. "Look at us now."
"Yeah," CJ said her smile fading. "We had some great times didn't we?"
"We did," Josh said. "I was thinking they ended too soon."
CJ said nothing as they walked. Josh heard Donna laughing at something Danny had said, though he wasn't sure what.
"So I was thinking," Josh pushed ahead. "What are you doing in like five or six years?"
"Probably joining the PTA," CJ said happily. "Though I will make Danny frost the cupcakes for the bake sales. Why? What are you doing?"
"I was thinking about running Sam for president," he said.
CJ stopped walking and Josh followed suit. Danny and Donna, who weren't paying attention to them, almost ran into them.
"What's going on?" Danny asked.
"Seriously?" CJ asked Josh.
"Yeah," Josh said quietly.
"Does he know this?" CJ asked Josh.
"Does who know what?" Danny asked.
"It might be best if we continue toward the cars," Donna told Danny pulling him ahead. He was amiable enough that he followed her lead, knowing CJ would tell him all about the conversation later.
"Does Sam know?" CJ asked biting down on her bottom lip lightly.
"No," Josh shrugged. "Is this a crazy idea?"
CJ started walking again, slowly, but moving forward nonetheless. She thought for a moment.
"You realize he has to get elected to the Senate first," CJ said.
"And historically senators have a rough time winning a presidential election. It's usually all about governors."
"You might want to tell him your plans," CJ said.
"Yeah," Josh said more urgently. "But, what do you think?"
"I think as crazy as it sounds, that it might be the best idea you've ever had," CJ answered finally.
"Really?" Josh asked.
"Really," she confirmed.
"So you're in?" he asked.
"He'll need a press secretary," Josh said. "There's no one I know who'd be better."
CJ started laughing her long, loud laugh.
"Josh there is no way," CJ said seriously as she started walking toward the cars again.
"Come on CJ," Josh said following her.
"It's six years from now if everything goes according to plan," he said, his eyes pleading with her. "Don't answer now. Just know that six years from now I'm calling you."
"Okay," CJ conceded. "Just know that six years from now, I'm saying no."
"You're not," he said. "Special Counselors to the President aren't allowed to say no."
"Is that a promotion or a demotion?" she asked.
"It's whatever you want it to be," Josh replied. "I'll send Toby to convince you. It worked the last time around."
"We'll see about that," CJ replied. She caught up to Danny and Donna and changed the topic of conversation.
They had just about reached the cars and so the four of them walked on together laughing and teasing each other about a few of the items that were found in the library.
"So I guess this is it," Donna said.
"Yeah," CJ said. "The next time I see you two you'll be wearing a wedding dress and you'll be wearing pink."
"Dusty rose," Josh corrected her.
"You're bringing Faith next time right?" Donna asked.
"You're the only woman I know who wants a baby at her wedding," CJ answered. "But, yes, she will be with us. I think I'll feel better with her close by. If you need anything call."
"I will," Donna assured her.
"If this one gets cold feet," Danny said pointing at Josh, "give me a call."
"Danny is much more practiced at dealing with cold feet," CJ confirmed with a smile.
"So," Josh said.
"So," CJ said. "We'll see you in a few months."
They exchanged hugs and CJ and Danny waved goodbye to Josh and Donna as they drove away.
"So, what was that all about?" Danny asked as he casually slung his arm over CJ's shoulder as they watched Josh and Donna pull away. CJ didn't have to think hard to know he was inquiring about the conversation Josh had pulled CJ into as they walked.
"It was just Josh being Josh," CJ said evasively as they started walking toward their own rental car.
"What's his angle?"
"Come on, we both know Josh always has an angle," Danny replied. "What's his next big idea?"
"You don't want to know," CJ said rolling her eyes good-naturedly. "How do you know he has a big idea anyway?"
"He had that look in his eyes," Danny said.
"Slightly maniacal, yet somehow invigorating?" CJ ventured a guess.
"Yeah, it was kind of like that," Danny said as they reached the car.
"I'm not ready to drive just yet," CJ said.
"We can stay here as long as you like," Danny assured her. He leaned against the side of the car and CJ stood in front of him. "So, what's his big plan?"
"There's no plan yet," CJ smiled. "Many, many things have to occur before he can implement his idea."
"He looked pretty fired up about it."
"You know how he gets."
"So, he," CJ chuckled in spite of herself and had to start again. "Josh has decided that he is going to get Sam elected President of the United States."
"Really?" Danny replied.
"Yeah, crazy huh?"
"It's not so crazy," Danny replied. "What's his timeline? Sam probably has to actually get elected to the Senate first."
"That is a mere speed bump in Josh's master plan," CJ said. "Apparently Josh would like Sam to be the heir apparent to President Santos."
"Santos? That's like, what? Five, six years? Assuming he gets re-elected," Danny said thoughtfully.
"Yeah," CJ said.
"Stranger things have happened," Danny said. "I think Sam would be a good president."
"Sam would be an excellent president," CJ corrected him.
Danny smiled. "What was Josh's pitch to you?" he asked.
"You can take the man out of reporting, but you can't take the reporter out of the man. What's the news? Break to me quick, like a band-aid coming off."
"Josh would like me to keep an open calendar as Sam will need a press secretary," CJ said smiling.
Danny broke out into a fit of laughter and CJ quickly joined in.
"That explains the yelling," Danny chuckled.
"Yes, it does," CJ replied as she nodded.
They both laughed for a few more seconds before Danny sobered and posed a question. "So, you've ruled it out completely?" he asked.
"I told him we'd be at PTA meetings around the timing of his master plan."
"That isn't a yes," Danny prodded her.
"I told him there is no way I would ever be a press secretary again," CJ assured him.
"And then?" Danny asked.
"Then I told him I was perfectly happy doing what I'm doing," CJ said reaching out and taking Danny's hand. She could tell that his face was tense. She knew his greatest fear was that she would one day decide that their life wasn't fast-paced enough. She didn't know how to make him see that her life was much more now than it had been before, though she tried as often as possible.
"I love our life, you know that, right?" she asked him.
"I know," Danny said.
CJ took a small step forward and took his face in her hands. "You never have to worry about me changing my mind," she told him. "I know there was a time when I didn't ask your opinion about my job, but when I said I'd marry you, that all changed. You're stuck with me. We're a team and I would never do anything that I didn't discuss with you first. Got it?"
She added the last sentence with a smirk as she squeezed his cheeks lightly.
"Got it," he said. "But you realize Josh doesn't give up that easily."
"No, he doesn't," CJ nodded. "That's why he tried to get me to say I'd be Special Senior Counselor to President Sam."
Danny chuckled. "What does that entail?"
"I don't know, but I hear there's long hours and the pay stinks," she replied grinning.
"Listen," Danny said resting his hands on CJ's waist. "I don't want you to feel like I'm holding you back from anything. If you want to be press secretary or secretary of state or special senior counselor to anybody, you should be."
"I know that."
"I'm saying you shouldn't tell him no until you've really thought about it. We can talk about it."
"Honestly, when he said Special Senior Counselor I thought about it for about a half a second."
"And I realized how much I don't miss getting up at 4am or getting a call in the middle of the night or the long plane flights around the world," CJ explained. "Maybe in five years it'll be different, but right now, at this moment there is only one place I was to be and that's at home with you and Faith and maybe building a few highways around the world."
"That's the whole truth?"
"And nothing but," CJ assured him.
"Did I tell you hot sexy you looked today?" Danny asked abruptly changing the subject.
"I believe you mentioned it briefly when you were ogling my picture," CJ said wrapping her arms around his neck as he pulled her close to him.
"You know this is the first time we've been away, just you and me in a very long time," Danny reminded her.
"That is very true."
Danny leaned forward and gave CJ a long lingering kiss that made it clear he had plans for their evening back at the hotel.
"We have an evening all to ourselves," he reminded her.
"You've come to that conclusion, huh?" CJ teased him as she played with his tie. "Did you ever think this is where we'd be three years later?"
"I knew once you were sprung from the White House that I could convince you there was more to life," Danny replied.
"I knew there was more to life. I just thought I missed out."
"I'm glad you didn't," Danny replied squeezing her hand.
"Me too," CJ said leaning forward to kiss Danny again. "So, a night all to ourselves?"
"Think you can handle it?" Danny asked.
"I think I can," CJ nodded. "I want to call and check on Faith first though."
"Of course," Danny said. "Are you ready to go now?"
CJ surveyed the outside of the Bartlet Presidential Library. She thought about all the things inside. The things she'd seen and done over the course of his presidency. She thought about all the good she was doing at Hollis. CJ thought about how different her life was now, how happy she was with Danny and how Faith had been the cherry on her proverbial sundae of life. It was then that she decided.
"Yeah," she said smiling. "My work here is done."