Author's Note: I have no idea how to play the flute, so if the concert's too long, allow dramatic licence. Also allow it for acess tour of the west wing of the White House in Part 3.
Disclaimers: © 2002-2007 Daniella Harwood. All rights reserved. Distribution only by permission. The West Wing: All Images and Quotes © Warner Brothers, Wells Productions, Aaron Sorkin, John Wells, Thomas Schlamme. All rights reserved.
Badger & Nutmeg.
"Finally, the Wisconsin Flutist will be arriving tomorrow for the concert on Saturday, which some of you will be lucky enough to attend, as well as the photo shoot before, during rehearsals. The lid is now closed."
Admist the clamours of her name for further questions, CJ Cregg made her way down from the podium and out of the press briefing room. She crossed from the yellow hall through the lobby, then took a right at the end of short corridor, walking down to the end where her office lay.
As she neared it's heaven she could hear and see another commotion taking place. Immediately she let loose a quiet groan and pressed her fingers to her temple, closing her eyes. The temporary loss of sight did nothing to erase the scene before from reality, despite all her hopes.
How many was it now? Four? Five? CJ shook her head in tired frustration. She had lost count long ago. Quietly she stared at the scene, wondering both when it would end and if she could get close enough to use the entrance to the office of her staff and thereby gain access to her office through the internal doors of that room and her assistants.
Luckily for her, she did not have to make the decision. Instead a rescue arrived, in the form of her assistant, Carol. In her hands were two coats and two handbags.
"Thanks Carol," CJ uttered gratefully, taking her coat and handbag from her. She risked a glance at the commotion still taking place at the end of the bullpen. "How long have they been at it?"
"I think it started just after you began the final briefing," Carol answered as she put on her coat. "He's mentioned the two fateful words, but I don't think she's heard them yet."
"Does Leo know?"
"I'm sure I caught Margaret doubling back to his office on her way down here," Carol replied. "So I'd say it's safe to assume so."
"Let's leave them to it then," CJ decided, putting on her own outer garment and walking to the lobby.
After one final glance at the commotion which has caused a rapid exit of all west wing staffers, Carol followed her boss out.
The Take out the Trash day of the week dawned with it's usual hustle and bustle as most the staff of the President tried to avoid those members of the press not content with fluff pieces in an effort to get to their offices and carry out the work that the fourth estate was not allowed to know about yet.
Joshua Lyman, Deputy Chief of Staff, was avoiding the press for another reason. He was also avoiding two other offices as well. If it were possible he would have liked to avoid a third, but the architecture of the building prevented him from doing so. Thus he settled for quietly walking by its entrance and into his own next door.
As he passed the office, he happened to turn his head and gaze at the empty desk in the bullpen opposite. Such a sight was one he was fast becoming used to, in the wake of commotions similar to the one which had occurred the night before. He sighed before turning his head away. Lately the sight of a occupied desk there was becoming rarer than when it was empty. And a part of him was aware that he was coming to prefer the latter.
He reached the sanctuary of his office without further incident. Slowly he sat down and with another sigh made a move to attend to the rather large pile of paperwork composed on the middle of his desk. The majority of it served as a useful cover when he was hiding- for one rarely closed office doors in this place -but he knew that sooner or later, it would have to be sorted out and dealt with.
Today was as good as any day to start.
He had barely reached for the first sheet of paper on the pile, when the other entrance to his office opened. Rapidly he prepared to duck down behind the paperwork only to abandon the motion when the body of his best friend stepped into view.
Sam Seaborn closed the door. With a smile directed at his friend he crossed the floor and took a seat in one of the chairs opposite the desk. "So," he began, "when are you going to call the temp agency?"
Josh groaned as he leaned back in his chair to gain a view of his friend's grinning expression. "At the moment I'm thinking never." He replied.
"You need an assistant," his friend pointed out.
"No, I don't. I can cope perfectly well without one."
Sam's face dropped the grin and acquired a sceptical expression. "Judging by the amount of paperwork I see before me that would be a no."
"Considering what happened last night; I'm sticking with my original answer." Josh looked back down at the memo before him.
"You mean the commotion?" Sam asked in a tone which stated clearly that the question was more of a search for conformation rather than an actual inquiry.
Josh looked back up. "You heard?"
"Any louder and I think the President would hear it. I'm surprised the press didn't hear it either as your timing was with CJ's last briefing before the lid."
Josh glanced worriedly at his open office door as if expecting to see the Press Secretary coming to confront him. "I knew there was a good reason to avoid her office today."
His best friend shrugged. "Well, you're not going to be able to avoid her forever. Aside from this morning's briefing, in, oh, about five minutes time, Leo got to hear about your little commotion as well and wants to have a talk with you."
"Something tells me I should have called in sick today," Josh muttered before laying the memo back on the large pile in surrender. Obviously he would get no chance to lessen the pile this morning.
Sam looked at him in sympathy. "Seriously, when are you going to find what you're looking for?"
"I honestly don't know." Josh abruptly stood up and made his out from behind his desk. "Come on, let's get to the briefing."
Morning turned to afternoon which in turn changed to early evening, whose arrival was marked only by the exit of the main body of the fourth estate as CJ's 'Trash' briefing came to an end. Staffers paid scant attention to the slow setting of the sun as they continued to work, the usual nine to five office hours having no existence for them.
In the peculiar shaped room bordered by the Mural and the Roosevelt Rooms, POTUS was seated in one of the comfortable armchairs of the oval office. In his hands lay a briefing memo from some department or other, a thick pile of sheets which was gladly put aside as a knock sounded on his door.
"Come in," he called out. "Good evening Charlie," he added as his body man entered the room.
"Good evening Mr President." The young man paused before continuing. "Your final visitor of the day is waiting outside, and I have been advised by Ginger that Josh has been free for the past half hour or so."
"Excellent. See that he gets a summons to my office in about five minutes?"
"Sure," Charlie replied before opening the door to reveal the President's last appointment for the day.
"Good evening, I'm Jed Bartlet," he uttered in greeting, holding out his hand to the young woman who had entered.
"It's an honour to meet you, Mr President," she answered, shaking his hand. "I hope you don't mind my early arrival."
"Not at all. I understand you once had a desire to work in politics."
"Yes, but my music could only allow me to treat it as an interest, not as a lifestyle." She paused to glance around the room. "Do you think I could have a tour?"
"Of course," Jed answered as the door between his office and his Chief of Staff's opened to admit his best friend. "Leo, have you met..."
"Yes I have," Leo answered. "Is Josh coming to see you?"
"He should be receiving his summons right about now," Jed replied. "I gather you heard the exit of his latest
"I'm surprised few didn't. Margaret witnessed the beginning, then warned all to give the bullpen a wide berth."
Jed smiled, then turned to his guest to explain. "My deputy chief of staff has trouble keeping a permanent assistant."
"Is he impossible to work with?" His visitor asked.
"Not impossible, just very passionate about his work," Leo replied in his protégé's defence.
A knock on the door sounded at that moment, causing the President to summon inside the man in question. He looked at the man standing hesitantly on threshold. "Joshua."
"Good evening, Mr President," the man answered.
"How many is it now?" Jed asked with a knowing smile. "Five?"
"Six, sir. One in the campaigns and five during the terms."
"What on earth do you do with them?" Jed asked, shaking his head.
"It's not my fault, sir!" Josh replied innocently.
"Well, you're acquiring something of a reputation with the temp agency," Jed remarked. "When we contacted them today, they pretended they had no one available."
"I'm sure I could cope on my own for a while, sir."
"What about Lynne?" Leo asked suddenly.
"Lynne?" Jed queried.
"My old assistant from before the campaign," Josh explained, as he suddenly caught the gaze of the other occupant in the room. "I could try her, I suppose," he added distantly.
Jed Bartlet saw the direction of his gaze and smiled. "Joshua Lyman, this is the Wisconsin Flautist you've been hearing so much about. Donnatella Moss."
"Hello," Donna remarked, holding out her hand towards him.
"Hi," Josh replied as his hand hesitantly reached out to clasp hers. His eyes looked into her own, and suddenly he had the answer to his friend's question.
In eight hours and fifty-six minutes.
With a sigh of mild frustration, Josh pulled apart his half-attempted bow and went to start all over again.
He knew reason why he was failing to tie the bow on his tux. Ever since he had first encountered her in the Oval Office, he had not been able to get the flautist out of his mind. Donnatella Moss. Just the sight of her was enough to render him speechless, a rare fear for someone of his Fulbright intellect. Even now the memory of her voice had the ability to render him breathless. Silently he wondered if her music would have the same effect.
Tonight was her concert. A 'white tie' affair, to which Josh had no objection, as he was confident enough of his appearance to know he carried the President's fondness for that particular formal wear off well. If he could tie his bow that is.
Surprisingly his next attempt worked and he was able to exit his office in time to meet Sam and his wife, who were waiting for him in the lobby. Absently he complimented Ainsley Hayes-Seaborn on her ballgown, as his thoughts took a wistful turn. Sam and Ainsley had met through a political debate on Capitol Beat, four years ago. No one had expected a republican and a democrat to fall in love and get married, but then no one had thought a republican would work in a democrat White House. Ainsley had done both, and Josh had never seen his friend so happy. The Deputy Communications Director had been the last to leave the ranks of bachelorhood; after Leo and Jordan Kendall- his lawyer during the MS congressional hearings -had married, followed by Toby and Congresswoman Andrea Wyatt renewing their marriage after the birth of their twins; then CJ and Danny Concannon became unofficial partners in the midst of the fight for the second term, just before Sam proposed to Ainsley.
As for himself, Josh mused, he had been a relative outsider to the relationships of his friends and colleagues. He had missed chances with Joey Lucas, while as for the six month stormy- putting it mildly -relationship with Amy Gardner, the less said about that the better. Since the latter he had avoided relationships, not wishing to bring back the scars Amy had incurred. The alternative was a loneliness that at times was almost painful.
He tried to ignore the latter emotion whenever he could, throwing himself into work and yelling at his assistants until they quit, leaving him a large pile of work which he should be delegating rather than using as a form of therapy whenever that pain was too much to bare. Recently however, he had been wondering how he would cope when the President's second term came to an end. Most likely he would try and find the next 'good man' for the Democratic campaign and work just as hard for him.
The trio turned the corner and entered the concert hall. Upon the stage stood a mike and a lectern full of sheet music, waiting for the young woman who was to play for the President and friends tonight.
Cameras of the few press invited flashed as they made their way over to POTUS and the First Lady. Josh ignored the inquisitive gaze of the Fourth Estate, his mind at peace with them, despite the painful episode nearly three years ago when the Post Traumatic Stress related to his gunshot wound one night in Rosslyn decided to attack him in the middle of A Yo Yo Ma concert, causing his rather public collapse during Bach, G Major. This was the first time the press had been allowed to attend since.
The lights flickered, silently announcing that the concert was due to start. The guests and press separated to their seats, POTUS and family taking the first row, followed by the staff, then invited guests and press.
Josh found himself next to Sam and Ainsley, conveniently near an exit and out of sight from the press just in case there was a repeat of Bach, G Major.
Then Donnatella Moss arrived upon the stage and all associations of music with sirens fled from Josh's mind. Except in terms of it's mythical relations.
J. S Bach's Sonata in A Major was a kin to hearing Ave Maria for the first time. Josh found himself mesmerised by the notes produced from the silver instrument Donna held to her lips. For him, the rest of the people in the concert hall faded into oblivion, as he imagined a private performance, all the songs especially chosen.
In the Woods at Evensong by Booth followed Bach, then Echos by Hotteterre, though Josh barely noticed the change from one song to the next. His eyes remain fixed upon her face, alternating between her eyes and her lips, bewitched by their gentle blows of air across the mouthpiece of the flute.
Odelette by Saint-Saens came next, then Gavotte in A Minor by Blavet, and finally La Traviata by Verdi finished off the performance before the break for intermission. Josh was surprised to find himself the first standing after the President to give applause, for he doubted that he had the strength to stand, the effect of her performance produced within him. He remembered how the President had raved about her before news of the concert in the White House was boardcast, and how he had ignored all the information, bored at the thought of another concert to attend. Now he frantically tried to remember every snippet of information he had been told, before the intermission ended.
Romance in G Major by Beethoven opened the second act, followed by the Prelude to Afternoon of a Faun by Debussy. Josh caught himself blushing as at one point he thought he saw her eyes meet his own fixed ones, then inwardly lectured himself for imagining such a thing.
Album Leaf in E Minor by Busoni, Catherine's Arabesque and Daquin's Rigaudon followed, each continuing the hypnotic effect their precedents had incurred upon him, making Josh content to just listen to her play forever.
Air de la Naiade from Armide and Hymn from Iphigenie by Gluck ended the concert, causing another standing ovation as Donna took her bow before exiting the stage. As the guests began to congregate with the President and his family, Josh sank gratefully back into his seat, and let his mind imprint the concert forever into his memory. It would now be his solace in times of loneliness.
Some people are lucky enough to know what they want to do very early in their life, even before they grow up and fully understand what that particular vocation means.
For Donnatella Moss, the knowledge of that she would become a flautist entered her mind at the age of seven. Then, years later, her mind acquired another passion; politics. Though the former was her first love, the latter had caused her many difficult decisions as occasions in her life often found her torn between the two conflicting careers.
Now she had the rare opportunity to join both of them, thanks to the President. He had invited her back to the White House the day after her concert, in order that she might experience what life was like for a west wing staffer, something she had once contemplated doing. How the President had got to hear about this she did not know, but she was more than willing to grasp the opportunity.
She entered the lobby through the North Lawn entrance, and submitted her name to the security officer. He asked her to wait, then spoke on the phone to someone who would come to get her in a moment.
A minute later a man who she remembered being introduced to the night before the concert, the President's Chief of Staff, came through one of the doors and motioned to the security guard to let her through.
"Miss Moss, I'm Leo McGarry," he began, shaking her hand.
"It's nice to meet you again sir," she answered. "And it's just Donna, if you please," she added.
"Donna, then," he consented, "and you can call me Leo. Please, come this way." he led her through the left exit door, into a corridor bordered by the Roosevelt Room. "I thought I'd start off with showing you a typical morning briefing, hosted by me, for the Senior staff, then you can decide which one you wish to spend the morning with. That okay?"
"That sounds wonderful, thank you," Donna replied as he led her through an open door, into his office. She took the seat he silently gestured to, then watched as by degrees the Senior Staffers came into the room.
First came the Communications directors; Toby Ziegler and Sam Seaborn, who both smiled and said hello to her before sitting down to wait for the others. Then came the Press secretary CJ Cregg.
Last to arrive was Leo's deputy; Josh Lyman, who rushed in just past the hour, a clipboard in one hand and a pen in the other. He seemed startled to see her there, greeting her with a slight embarrassed and distracted gaze, before sitting down.
"Now, that everyone," Leo emphasised the last word, "is here, we can begin. First of all, let me start with reminding you that Miss Moss has asked that she may experience a typical day in the White House, hence her presence here. During the day each of you will have the honour of spending time with her, showing her what it is that you do for the President. Please make sure she doesn't get the chance to regret asking the President for this." He paused to look at them all, before turning to the memo before him. "Now, what's the latest regarding the rider to the budget; banning gay marriage?"
Toby and CJ replied to Leo's question, as a full-blown discussion got underway. Donna sat back in her chair, content to watch. Her eyes drifted to the last arrival, wondering what was on the paper before him, that required such concentration. He seemed to be a solitary soul, when she was introduced to him again at the concert, he had been the only person to attend without a date, something which she remembered the First Lady gently teasing him about. Donna felt a great desire to know why she had seen a look of deep sadness come into his eyes as he rebutted the First Lady's attempts at matchmaking.
"Josh, how is the search going for another 'good man?'" Leo asked at that moment, causing his deputy to look up from his paper.
"Slowly, sir," Josh replied. "No one wants to endorse the Vice President particularly, and those who do, are only doing it out of party loyalty. I have a few names, though."
"Any you have a preference for?"
"Santos might be willing to run, I think he'd be a good candidate," Josh answered.
"And the Republican Party? Do you know if they have a name yet?"
"Arnold Vinick," Josh replied.
"Really?" Leo mused. "Interesting choice. We'll need a strong candidate to topple him."
"I'm looking into it," Josh assured him.
The briefing soon finished after this conversation, and Donna quietly asked Leo if she could join his deputy for the morning.
Josh was startled to receive the woman he had been hypnotised by the night before, and was not his usual voluble self after Leo left them alone in his office.
"So," Donna began after she had sat down in the chair before his desk, "How do you find the next President?"
"Usually you just try and get recruited by the most ambitious congressman or senator or governor, steer them through the minefield that is a typical campaign, then persuade enough people to vote them into office," Josh answered.
"How did you join this President's campaign?" Donna asked him.
"I was working for John Hoynes," Josh began, "when Leo came to the capitol and asked me to attend a conference in Nashua. When I asked why, he remarked that it was what sons of old friends of their father's did. I had known Leo long enough to know that he must have found someone good, so I went to Nashua and listened. By the end of the conference, I was ready to leave Hoynes and join the Bartlet campaign." Josh smiled as he remembered that time. Suddenly he found himself telling her everything about it; from the moment they had announced his desire for the democratic nomination, to the joy they had felt on the night of the election. He surprised himself by telling her how that joy had been marred by the news of the death of his father, causing him to break from the staff and attend his funeral. She was easy to talk to, and very understanding. Already he realised he was lost.
Eventually they moved on to the real reason of her visit, and he spent what proved to be one of the best mornings he had experienced in years as they debated over suitable candidates for the Presidency. Josh soon discovered that everything from bantering to arguing with Donna was a joy and he wanted the morning to never end.
Reluctantly he prepared himself to hand her over to the care of Sam, who was to spend sometime after lunch with her, before CJ and then Toby. Slowly he guided her to the office of his best friend.
"Thank you, Josh," Donna remarked as they came to halt outside the office of the deputy communications director. "I really enjoyed this morning."
"Me too," Josh answered.
"I almost joined the first campaign, you know," she suddenly said, surprising him. "I was watching the President speak, and I remember wanting to drop everything and join his campaign. But then there was a knock on my door and I had to go and record this album," she reached into her bag and took out a cd. Grabbing the pen that was in his hand, she took out the record sleeve and wrote a little message inside, before signing her name. Smiling, she handed both the pen and the album to him. "For you."
"Thank you," Josh remarked, just before his best friend opened the door of his office and let Donna enter.
He walked back in silence to his office, closing both doors when he had entered. Without realising what he was doing, he took out the cd and put it into the stereo that rested on one of his filing cabinets in a corner of the room, and pressed play.
Then he sank into his seat and read the message she had written, his fingers tracing her writing, over and over again.
Somehow, it had started from there. During the afternoon as the rumours flew around the west wing concerning the music which was playing all the time in the Deputy Chief of Staff's office, Josh manage to screw up the courage and send a small bouquet of Violets and Mountain Laurel flowers to her hotel room, along with a note asking her for a date.
The CDs and flowers exchange soon became a regular thing, as she left Washington to tour the country, and he began his new job as campaign manager for the Santos/McGarry ticket for Presidency. At odd times, if they were lucky, they would be in the same part of a state at the same time, and manage to have a romantic dinner conversation in one or the other's hotel room.
By degrees their relationship developed and deepened, until one day before the inauguration balls to usher in President Santos, Josh went down before Donna on one knee and presented her with an engagement ring. She accepted him and they announced their impending nuptials in style during the balls.
They married by the time of the first State of the Union, with wedding bands containing coloured gemstones in the style of Violets and Mountain Laurels, and lived, as the story goes, happily ever after.
Notes: Mountain Laurels are the state flower of Connecticut, and Violets are the state flower of Wisconsin.
Wisconsin is also known as the Badger state, while Connecticut is also referred to as the Nutmeg state, hence my choice of words for the title.
The episodes referenced in this story are; The Portland Trip, concerning Donna's alternative career; Faith Based Initiative concerning Leo's morning briefing, The State Dinner concerning choice of white tie; though it is also used in other epsiodes; and Noel concerning the infamous Yo Yo Ma concert. This story ignores most of the cannon of the show, particularly Leo's heart attack, and the immediate consequences, along with various other matters.