Wise Men
by Jessie

Summary: A small piece from Donna's point of view.
Disclaimer: These characters aren't mine. Please don't sue or do anything too drastic.
Spoilers: There's a reference from "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen part 2" (Actually it's just one line)
Archive: Those who have any of my other stuff may take this. Otherwise, just ask.
Authors note: It's my shortest story so far. I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or not- but I figured I'd post this anyway. Please give feedback- I live for that stuff. I think the intensity of my urges to write increase exponentially with every positive comment I get. :)

***

"Have you ever thought about having children?"

I pause. "Well that came outa nowhere." He smirks- as if there was any other expression he could have possibly used.

"Sorry . . . never mind."

"No. What?" I take a seat and let the files I'm holding fall into my lap.

"I was just . . . thinking."

I nod, though I'm slightly uncertain about the conversation. He laughs a little and glances up at the wall. I follow his gaze to a photo of his grandfather.

"Never mind." He tries to amend yet again, but the look in his eyes doesn't go away.

"Come on- you got my attention. Wassup?" He raises his eyebrows at my word usage and I give him my best 'I-love-you-but-bite-me' smile. He just smiles back. Like he always does.

I love it that he always does this. No one else smiles back to this.

"My father . . ." He glances up again, at the picture of his grandfather. I look at him in confusion.

"That's your . . ." I point to the picture.

". . . my grandfather." He finishes for me. "No, I was just . . ."

"You were just trailing off again." I win another smirk from him. I turn my head to the side and stare at the picture. I listen to him take in a deep breath and then let it out with just a hint more exhaustion than usual.

"Okay." He says, and makes the word a part of his sigh. "You know- my grandfather died today. Eighteen years ago."

I turn my head back to look at him and frown softly. "I'm sorry." It's a simple declaration that, at this point, doesn't seem to be too emotional. I don't want to sound like I pity him. Cause I don't.

He shows no sign that he's even heard me, but I trust that he has.

"Yeah, well." He looks quite ready to snap out of this little reverie.

"What does this have to do with your earlier question?" I keep the tone light and watch him shift in his seat. As though my staring could bring out every answer that he wants to give but can't find the . . . the courage to.

I know he'd be upset with me for thinking him lacking in that department.

"It doesn't." He leans forward- his elbows against the desk- and glances up at me, then down again at the small area of papers that his lamp has illuminated. He looks nervous- only . . . normal. A normal nervous. If that makes sense.

He's not uncomfortable with his nervousness.

"Well then, what . . ." I trail off again and wonder how many times this has happened tonight. I'm usually so good with words.

"I was just thinking about him. My grandfather. Which made me think of my father."

"Oh." I'm not sure if I actually say this or not.

Josh is slightly more fidgety at the mention of his father, but there isn't anything that shouldn't be there. All the emotions that he's expressing are true to him, and I wonder if I would ever be able to do that. To be normal in the face of thoughts like those that he must have right now.

How can someone be normal like that?

He shakes his head as though this will make all of those thoughts that I mentioned go away. I wish that it would. I wish I could take them from him, if, for no other reason, than to see for myself how difficult it is to be normal with them roaming around in my head.

"Anyway . . . I was just thinking."

"About having children?" If there's one thing for certain, it's that you can always count on me to lighten the mood.

Well . . . almost always.

He chuckles at my question, and I have to as well. It sounds entirely too surreal for this office. It's not the kind of question that really . . . *fits* when it comes to me or Josh.

"I was thinking about how my father always wanted . . . I mean, he liked that I was in politics. He'd always brag about me to the neighbors. 'My son got accepted to Harvard. Yale.' 'My son's on the Bartlett campaign.' All that."

I smile instinctually at the smile Josh has on his face, and the distant look in his eyes as he recalls his father's voice.

"But . . ." He continues, and trails off again. Between the two of us we must be setting some sort of record.

"But, what?" I ask, not really regretting the question so much as immediately wondering if I could have phrased it better. There must have been a way to make it seem . . . I don't know- like it wasn't just curiosity that was driving me to listen to him. It was concern.

He clears his throat and glances at the photo of his grandfather again.

". . . but I think he would have preferred grandchildren." His tone is laughing. Light. It reminds me of my own.

"Really?" I somehow can't picture this. I've never met anyone from Josh's family, but . . . you get this idea in your head of how people are. It'd be easy to assume that Josh's father wouldn't expect grandchildren from Josh, 'cause Josh just doesn't seem like the kind of guy to settle down like that. Surely his father, if anyone, would have known that about him.

"Yeah." He laughs again with a thoughtful look on his face. "Oh, he was subtle about it. He never, straight out, told me to go get myself a wife and settle down. But he sort of implied it. Always told me that I was wasting my charming self on the political world." He grins good-naturedly and I laugh.

"Your charming self?" I have to ask, just to keep his ego in check.

"Hey- I'll have you know most women find me incredibly charming."

"'Most women' being those who haven't met you." He let's his laughter subside and absently shakes his head. A silence passes between us and I can't decide whether it's the comfortable kind or not. But, from somewhere, the words come to break it. And they seem right.

"I'm sure he was proud." I say, without thinking about it. Somehow I know that this man would have to be proud of Josh. How could he not be?

"Yeah. That he was." He looks thoughtful again. Contemplative.

"So- that's where the question came from?" He looks up at me, startled, and smiles.

"Yeah."

"Yes."

"I'm sorry?"

"Yes. In answer to your question. Yes, I have thought about having children."

He stares at me for a moment. "I can see you as the motherly type." He half-yawns and half-smirks as he leans back in his chair.

"At least one of us can."

"Now don't go around with that negative attitude. You'll start to bring Toby down." I laugh unexpectedly, and glance back at the photo on the wall, not needing a reason to.

"And what's your answer?" I ask absently.

"What?"

"Have you thought about it? Somehow I can't picture you as dad-of-the-year."

"I resent that. I'll have you know I've got great parental instincts." I look at him disbelievingly, knowing full well what that expression on his face means. "So kids aren't exactly my thing." He shrugs, then grins and leans forward again.

"But you've thought about it?" I persist.

"Yeah." The seriousness of his answer startles me for a moment, and I try to blink away the feeling.

"My father wanted grandchildren." He says in a voice that he rarely uses. That one sentence is supposed to explain everything, and I can almost see the worry pass through his mind- the worry that I *won't* understand.

But I do. And I nod to reassure him of it.

His father wanted grandchildren.

"So what's next?" He sits up a little straighter and his voice is reminiscent of President Bartlet's, as is the question itself.

I sit up a little straighter as well and smile encouragingly at him. I don't know why, but I feel the need to encourage him. I feel the need to . . . to tell him that his intentions are sincere. And that it's all right. He's a good man. And his father really would be proud.

I don't tell him these things though. Of course I don't. I do smile encouragingly at him. And I think he sees, in that smile, what I don't say.

I can't resist the urge to glance, one more time, at the photograph on the wall.

That man wanted grandchildren too I'll bet. And he got his wish before he died. I wonder if Josh blames himself for not giving his father what he had wanted before the Illinois Primary.

I sit there and I imagine one generation of Josh's family cajoling the next into carrying on the Lyman name. I imagine each, good-hearted man, filled with pride at their son's accomplishments, but wishing they would settle down. Find something besides the entire world that's worth fighting for.

But this is information for another time and place. Like one of those locked boxes with 'in case of emergency' labels. I'll just store it away for that unimagined situation that I know we're headed towards.

I smile again, my voice, only now, reaching my ears. I do that sometimes. I talk without actually spending time to think over my words. It's a helpful skill.

But now I have to focus. I've filed away the earlier information- the children, the fathers and the grandfathers, the wishes of wise, old men- and now I have to get back to business.

My eyes stray, again, to the image on the wall.

That man was a father. A grandfather even.

And after all the pain he had suffered through- the hardships and the trials of just being human and standing up for what he believed in- he must have still wanted grandchildren.

He must have still had that spark in him that kept his wife up-in-arms, and his son respectful enough to give into demands of grandchildren and 'settling down', not understanding why until he had.

And that picture doesn't completely do him justice.

Not that I've ever met the man. But I can tell. He must have had a life and a son to be proud of. He must have passed down that joy for living- even when not only joy, but life itself, seemed like such a foreign thing.

And he must have been wise. Wise even before the experience that age brings had set in.

He was a great man. I can tell from his picture. The one that doesn't do him justice, though it still gives everything away. It still shows his life through the glass of the frame, like some movie playing across the image of his face.

I can see that spark in his eyes that made sure he was a grandfather. That spark that made him take on every evil of the world until, at last, he could give in to the demands of his own father by becoming one himself.

He looks like a man who was proud of his life. Proud of his son.

He looks like Josh.


The End