Lullaby


"I swear to God, Donna, if you don't get him to hunker down, I…" CJ threatens and throws an exasperated look at me.

"Sorry, CJ," I say and I look up at Josh who is standing in between the seat rows of the campaign bus. "Josh, sit down."

"Why?" Josh whines but sits down next to me. His shoulders are touching mine, and somehow it makes me feel good in my own skin. I hate this bus and I basically hate bus rides, but this is a campaign, and we have to take whatever it is there to get from Point A to Point B. In our case from Fort Worth, Texas to Little Rock, Arkansas. Currently we are nearing Texarkana, so we are approximately half way there. Which would explain Josh's whining and CJ's impatience. They hate bus drives too.

"You have to prepare for the event," I tell him and thrust a stack of papers into his hands. "Now, read this, and then we will talk about it."

"These are for the Little Rock thing?" he asks but he is already reading the first memo.

"Yeah," I whisper. "And keep your voice down, the Governor and Dr. Bartlet are trying to rest."

"Okay," he whispers back and then dips back into his memos. CJ shoots me a grateful look, and I smile at her reassuringly.

"What is it with you and Jodi Picoult?" Josh asks me half an hour later.

"Have you read all the memos?" I ask him.

"You want to quiz me?" he asks, making me smirk. He is so easy to distract.

"How many people live in Little Rock?" I quietly ask him.

"Circa 180,000," he tells me, smirking smugly.

"Okay. Racial makeup?"

"Little over 50 percent Whites and around 40 percent African-Americans," he lists off.

"Good. I like Jodi Picoult," I tell him and return to my book, trying to hide my amusement. I can see from the corner of my eye that he is baffled.

"But why?" Josh asks me.

"I don't know, and keep your voice down, please," I warn him again, seeing that CJ's attention is back to us.

"You don't know?" Josh asks back, not buying the 'I don't know'-answer. I knew he wouldn't.

"She is inspiring, and I always find something I can relate to," I tell him. "The characters are real people even if the situations are somewhat unusual."

"Unusual?" Josh asked back.

"Joshua, I'm not telling you the story. If you want to read a book by Jodi you can do it, and we can discuss it afterwards, but I'm not telling you the story," I state, and he returns to his memos.

"What do you think about Jamie?" Zoey, who is sitting behind us, asks me, leaning over so her face is actually between my and Josh's seat.

"He killed his wife out of mercy. She was terminally ill," I explain to Josh and then turn back to Zoey. "I can see why he did it, but I still can't say I'm comfortable with his decision. But I think it's his wife I don't like. I wouldn't ask my husband to do that for me."

Zoey nods and leans back again. Josh is still staring at me.

"What?" I ask him rather rudely.

"You don't believe in euthanasia?" he asks me. "I thought you would." Trust Josh Lyman to want it to make it simple. It's not. And he knows that. And he knows which buttons to push when he wants me to start a conversation. So I give in.

"I still didn't make up my mind," I tell him. The senior staff (and me) discussed this shortly before, but never really argued about it. "I mean, I believe in our right to decide about our own fate but who would do the actual act? A relative? A doctor? How could someone live with the fact that he killed another human being, someone he loved and cared about? How could a doctor live with the fact that he killed when he swore an oath that he would do anything to save people's lives? I think it's everybody's right to decline treatment or an operation or something like that but I don't think that it's right to ask people to kill another human being. If someone wants out, he should do it himself. Some argue that someone who commits suicide isn't allowed into heaven, I say if you force or ask someone to do it instead of you it's a greater sin."

"I see." Josh nods, and when I look up I can see that our little conversation (or rather my monologue) drew the others, namely CJ, Toby and Zoey closer. Sam is still sleeping, and in the front rows the Governor and his wife are relaxing. Leo is reading some memos, and Margaret is taking notes.

"What if they are so ill that they can't communicate?" Zoey asks. "Maybe they would decline treatment but can't."

"That's why I didn't make up my mind. Maybe everybody over 18 should write down what she or he wants to spare this decision for their loved ones. I mean, I can't imagine myself making such a decision for my mother or father," I add, and Zoey nods. "I would like to spare them the pain, the humiliation, the pity but what if they could get better? What if there is a treatment I didn't hear of? Those 'what ifs' would drive me insane for the rest of my life."

"Yeah," Josh says, summing up, I think, everybody's thoughts. I squeeze his hand, I know that he is thinking about his father again.

"Where are we?" Apparently Sam woke up.

"We are at Hope," I inform him, slightly relieved that the conversation's topic changed.

"Birthplace of Bill Clinton," Zoey reads from the sign, and we all smile.

"It's my favorite word, you know," Sam tells us.

"What is your favorite word, Sparky?" CJ asks back.

"Hope. The word 'hope' is my favorite word," Sam explains. "What's yours, CJ?"

"I'm not telling you, you'd make fun of me," CJ says, and we all smile already. "Okay, but if I see one smirk, one twitching of mouth…" she threatens, and we all know that she would be an excellent blackmailer so we school our features into an expression of serenity and wait for her answer. "It's Massachusetts."

I try very hard, I really, really try but when Josh suppresses a chuckle I burst out laughing. And the others follow suit.

"I'm sorry, CJ," I manage to say out loud between my hiccups of giggles.

"Okay, okay," she gives in and smiles, too. "What is yours, Donna?" she asks then, and they all turn to me.

"I don't have one. I never thought about a favorite word," I tell them, hoping that they let me be.

"Donna, it's highly unlikely that a quirky person like you doesn't have a favorite word. I wouldn't be surprised if you had a bunch of favorite words," Josh says. What does he mean by quirky?

"I'm quirky?" I ask him, deliberately pouting, making him a bit embarrassed.

"Yes, you are," he says, making up his mind. His face is radiating his smugness. I cross my arms in front of my chest and turn away from him, still pouting.

"In a completely endearing way," he hurries to add in a whisper, and I turn back, giving him a huge smile. I could kiss the man right now. But unfortunately, we have an audience.

"Okay, but it's nothing interesting," I give in.

"Donna," Josh warns me.

"Okay, okay. It's 'firefly.'"

"I like that word, too," Zoey says.

"What's your word, Zoey?" I ask her, and she looks at me like I had three heads or something.

"Well, I really didn't think about it until now," she hesitates.

"But you have one," Sam inserts.

"Yes, I think my favorite word is 'tranquility'. I like the letter 'q.' What's your favorite word, Leo?" she asks then, turning to Leo who joined us, Margaret in his wake.

"Well, I think 'passion' is a beautiful word. I'm not sure I have favorite words, but if I had I'm sure 'passion' would be on top of my list," he says, making everybody smile. I like when Leo shares our little moments. He is very insightful and honest. "What is yours, Josh?" he asks then Josh who starts fidgeting at the question.

"I have two," he admits. "Can I have two favorite words?" he asks for my permission. He can be so sweet sometimes.

"Sure," I say and nod, he seems slightly relieved.

"I like 'bumblebee' because it's a funny word. It always makes me smile," he says, and we all smile with him until his face sobers. "The other one is serendipity," he says with a distant look in his eyes, and I sense something. Something in Josh's past that would explain this word. Later, I promise myself. Later, I will find out. "What's your favorite word, Mrs. Bartlet?" he turns to Zoey's mother then. I didn't even notice that the Governor and Dr. Bartlet joined us.

"My favorite word is 'bubble,'" she tells us, and we all smile again. "I guess for the same reason Josh likes bumblebee," she says and smiles at Josh. They don't really like each other, at least not always, and I'm glad that sometimes they see past their differences and share these little moments with each other. I don't know why this seems important but I have a feeling that it is. "Margaret, what's your favorite word?" she asks then Leo's assistant, and although I don't see her I know that she is flustered.

"Well, ma'am, I don't have a favorite word, but if I had to choose I would choose 'twinkle.'"

"That's a cute word," Sam says, and Margaret is blushing. I think she has a secret crush on Sam, but I'm not sure. She is very good at hiding her feelings.

"Thank you, Sam," she says coolly and turns to the Governor. "What is your favorite word, sir?"

"Well, Margaret, I'm glad you asked…" he begins, and we all suppress a groan.

"Jed, spare us the lecture and spill the beans," Mrs. Bartlet steps in, and we all let out a sigh of relief.

"Okay, I'll tell you but the next person who asks me something must endure the etymology of this word," he says. We all nod. There will be hell to pay for one, but the others have a 'Get out of Jail' card. "My favorite word is 'mellifluous.' Who is on?"

"Toby, sir," Josh supplies.

"Okay, Toby, what's your favorite word?" Governor Bartlet asks, and I wouldn't bet on it but I think Toby is actually flustered. I've never seen Toby Ziegler flustered before, so that's why I'm not sure. I file away his 'flustered' face and then look at him expectantly. I mean, he is a writer, it must be something good, something poetic, something with pathos maybe. That would be fitting. The words the others chose were pretty good indicators for their personalities. I mean like 'hope' for Sam, he is such a sweet person, so full of dreams, expectations and ideals; 'hope' is a perfect word for him.

'Massachusetts' made me laugh, but really, I didn't find it that surprising. I mean, CJ has a great sense of humor, and I think 'Massachusetts' is a funny word in a special kind of way.

Zoey's 'tranquility' is fitting too, she is such a deep person, even if she likes to chat and bounce. A lot. Deep inside, she is shy and craves the calming presence of her father. I have seen them together, they can sit for hours next to each other without even making a sound. Sure, the Governor has a temper, and Zoey is a teenager full of energy, but at those times they are at ease, at peace, really.

I saw that Leo's 'passion' was a surprise for Sam and Zoey but it really isn't. I mean Leo is a passionate man, no one could deny that.

And Josh? The 'bumblebee' was so obvious and so typically Josh. The other word… I will investigate that later.

Dr. Bartlet's 'bubble' surprised me, I think she didn't tell us her favorite word. I don't know why, but I think 'bubble' is only her second favorite. I can see why, though. Dr. Bartlet has a good sense of humor and she can make us laugh. She likes joking around, especially when she can mock her husband.

Margaret's word wasn't a surprise at all. I'm sure she didn't have a favorite word before, but 'twinkle' is so Margaret. I mean she looks like she is cold and distant like the 'tw' letter combination but when you add her character, wit and humor to her mannerism you get one hell of a woman. Just like when you add those five letters to 'tw'; they make a completely cute, fun word which means such a beautiful thing. I like when Josh's eyes twinkle with a smile. Since his father's death we didn't see that often, but I think he is getting better now.

'Mellifluous' is a very sophisticated but nonetheless sweet-sounding word. Guess, because it means that. I mean, sweet-sounding.

Casting a look at Toby, I'm almost sure that his answer will baffle me. Maybe there won't be pathos, just something sweet-sounding. Something elementary. I wait for it, holding back my breath.

"It's 'lullaby,'" Toby says finally, and I let out a sigh. My second favorite word. I should have known.

"Well, Toby is definitely the winner for me," CJ says and then looks at Josh. "Though serendipity was right at the top of my list until now."

"Okay, we should all rest a bit," Leo says then, and the others disperse.

"Sir?" I ask the Governor.

"Yes, Donna?" He turns back.

"May I ask you something?" I offer and know that he will understand. I had to ask the question. I love these people so much and I think they all deserve a 'Get out of Jail' card right now.

"Right, Donna, come forward," he says with a chuckle and beckons me closer.

"Sir, I wanted to ask you something, too" Josh says.

"Sure, Josh. And since you just wanted to put it off until someone else walks into it, you should join us," the Governor says, and I look back at Josh. He doesn't seem so devastated. And I have a hunch that he only wanted to help me or keep me company in my misery. I tell you, the guy is so sweet sometimes, and right now I could kiss him. Again. But unfortunately, we still have an audience.

THE END