Contains spoilers for Posse Comitatus, 20 Hours in America (I and II), College Kids and implied spoilers for Red Mass. Written with full knowledge of all seasons so there may be others I haven't noticed.
Many thanks to Jayne Leigh for giving me her time and sharing her thoughts and suggestions on this story. It's much improved, and in with a good chance of being finished, thanks to her efforts.
AN: This is the story I intended to write before I realised it was easier to work base-8 into a plot than an East German cocktail waitress. This was only supposed to take a day or two to write, once I'd worked out how to do it. Oh, how wrong I was! I don't think its very good or original so I've been having trouble getting enthusiastic about it. Still here it is. Hope you enjoy.
From Guns not Butter (4.12)
"Josh has asked me to work Saturdays, work Sundays, and at least once a week he has me there after one a.m. He's asked me to transpose portions of the federal budget into base-8, go to North Dakota, and dress as an East German cocktail waitress. In five years of working for him, he's never asked me to hide him from something." - Donna.
Press Briefing Room
"Just a quick run through of the schedule, for you. We're leaving for the memorial service at KSU at 7.45, due to arrive in Iowa City at 9.20. The service begins at 10 am. Yes, Katie?"
"Is Governor Ritchie going?"
"Yes, Katie, he is. We were going to offer him a ride but he's meeting us there instead."
The gathered reporters smiled, enjoying CJ's sense of humour which had been missing in the months since Simon's death and was just beginning to surface again, much to everyone's relief.
"Is he going to meet with the President?" Steve asked the obvious follow up question.
"I honestly couldn't say. We've been told there are over 2,000 people attending the service, so I'm currently offering odds of 2,000 to 1 on them meeting. Any takers?" CJ took a moment to look around the room, checking the response to her joke and the level of interest in the opportunity for her to make some money.
She continued, "No? Okay, moving on. The Democratic Family's fund raiser begins at 2 pm in the East Room. The President and First Lady are due to arrive around 3 which will be when the fun really begins."
"Sorry, CJ, what time is the President scheduled to arrive?" Katie interrupted.
"The schedule says 2.45, but my guess is it will be more like 3.15."
"Can you give us more details on the event?" Mark asked.
CJ paused, looking for any indication of where this was going. Seeing nothing but sincere interest in the faces before her, she turned to the page Carol had prepared about the event. As she read, she missed the grins being exchanged around the room.
"Certainly!" She announced. "The event is for Democrats and their families. The theme is 'With an eye on the past, we move toward the future!'. There will be, among other things, a buffet and live music in the East Room, an inflatable castle on the South Lawn and a selection of cartoons showing in the Family Theatre. Tickets sold out several weeks ago so those of you that don't already have tickets are going to be stuck with covering the arrivals at the North Portico."
"Who's going, CJ?" Steve asked innocently as he made a note of the rest of the information.
"The full guest list is available from the Social Secretary..." CJ began, suspicious as to why there was so much interest from the serious political reporters in the room for an event that was likely to be 90 percent publicity and only 10 percent politics.
"No, I meant who from the senior staff?"
"That would be Toby, Sam and myself," CJ revealed as it dawned on her just what the White House press corps were getting at.
"And it isn't open to the press?" A voice from the back asked.
"Pool coverage only."
Groans broke out around the room, confirming CJ's suspicions.
"You're lucky you got that much. Toby wanted to ban the press altogether when he found out he was being punished."
CJ waited for the laughter to die down before she continued.
"I meant, invited. When he found out he was being invited." She clarified with a sly smile.
"CJ? Do you have any more details?" Katie enquired.
"No. Any other questions?"
There were several cries of "CJ!"
"Any thing about Stackhouse? The Sullivan decision? Governor Ritchie's latest quote? Anything at all?" She tried to deflect their attention by listing the week's other hot topics.
"CJ?" The reporters chorused with varying degrees of frustration, cajolery and pleading.
"Fine." CJ conceded defeat, "The event is, as you all appear to be aware, fancy dress so please feel free to leave your cameras at home that day."
"What are you going as, CJ?"
"Well, Katie, I thought about going as a member of the White House press corps. I was just going to ask irritating questions all night," CJ said with a smile to take the sting out of her words, "but then I found out it had to tie in with the theme."
"You're not going to tell us, are you?"
"I wasn't planning to, no."
"Oh, come on CJ!" Steve added his voice to Katie's.
"No, you'll just have to wait 'til tomorrow."
"Will you be using the North Portico entrance?"
"Only if the West Colonnade and every other entrance have been obstructed for some reason and I can't find the tunnels." She closed her folder, preparing to leave the podium. Before she left she couldn't resist one last parting comment. She smirked as she added, "And I think you'll find I won't be alone in that. That's all for now, I'll be back later for an update."
Corridor outside Briefing room
CJ exited the briefing room into the corridor, with the laughter and chatter of the associated press ringing in her ears. Laughter, she was sure, that was at her expense. She saw Toby walking down the corridor and caught up with him as he headed into the yellow hallway, intending to commiserate with her friend.
"I swear, they are getting too much enjoyment out of this thing tomorrow."
"How did Josh manage to get out of it?"
"He's meeting with Stackhouse."
"Oh." CJ considered that for a moment, "And the President accepted that as an excuse?"
"Are you going to Iowa tomorrow?"
"Claire Thompson is going to be there."
"Josh wants her to...."
"Okay then." CJ nodded as she changed direction and headed back to her office. She called back over her shoulder, "Good talking to you."
Toby either ignored, didn't register or just didn't care enough to respond to CJ's sarcastic comment. "Yeah," he muttered as he continued down the corridor. He didn't get far before he heard Josh calling him. Hoping to avoid another pointless conversation he walked faster.
"Toby!" Josh called out as he hurried to catch up with the rapidly retreating figure of the Communications Director.
"Yeah." Toby finally acknowledged as he entered his office.
"Did you hear about Claire Thompson?" Josh asked as he paused for breath, leaning in the doorway.
"She's going to this thing tomorrow."
"In Iowa?" Josh felt the need to clarify.
"Yeah." Toby wondered what he had done in a past life to be stuck having the same irrelevant conversation again and again.
"So you know then?"
"Yeah." He was starting to get exasperated and it showed.
"What do you want to do about it?"
"Should we meet on this?"
"When do you want to meet? What?" Josh stopped as Toby's response registered.
Toby looked up from what he was writing, "Why am I....? What do you....? Why are you talking to me about this?"
"Good point. I'll get Sam and CJ. I want to keep this off Leo's desk for now."
"Why are you still talking to me?"
Press Secretary's Office
Later that evening. (About 8 pm)
"Well I can't go! I've got to meet with Stackhouse." Josh informed the other occupants of the room for the third time.
"But she likes you, for some unknown reason." CJ pointed out, just to irritate him.
"It's my irresistible charm. No woman can resist it." He smirked as he slung his arm across the back of the sofa.
"Hence the 'irresistible'." Sam pointed out from his position next to him.
CJ caught Josh's eye as she said, "Yet I seem to be immune." She challenged him with a raised eyebrow.
"I can switch it on and off." Josh replied, still maintaining eye contact while giving CJ the smile that he knew would break her eventually.
"Can we talk about Claire Thompson?" Toby interrupted.
"We were..." Josh sat back, still grinning at CJ who was shaking her head in amusement at Josh's attempt at flirting with her.
"Why do we call her Claire Thompson?" Sam looked up again from the speech we was proof-reading.
"That's her name," CJ reminded him.
"Yeah, but everyone else we call by their surname." Sam looked round the room at the puzzled faces. "Or their first name if we know them well," he continued, putting the speech down on the sofa between him and Josh, "And let me ask you this....How many Claires do we know? I can only think of Claire Thompson, so why do we specify?"
"Don't know. Don't care. Someone needs to meet with her. Someone that isn't me." Toby threw his hands up in frustration. Frustration at having been dragged into a meeting on a subject he really didn't care about and frustration at the fact the issue was never going to be resolved unless they actually discussed it.
"I'm staffing the President all day. I won't have time." CJ said before she could be volunteered for the task.
"Sam. It's down to you." Josh shifted so that he could look at Sam and rest his head on his hand at the same time.
Sam paused his reading once more and looked at the other members of the senior staff, all of whom were watching him expectantly. He suspected they had set him up for this and that ultimately he would have to take the meeting. Still, his self respect demanded he had to try to get out of it if even if was only a token effort.
"Okay, but she kinda hates me."
CJ put the pen she had been toying with down, "Sam, what did you do?"
"I mistook her for a man," he admitted
"She's a very masculine figure from the back." Sam attempted to explain.
"Still...." Josh tried to look stern and failed.
"I just don't think I'm the best choice for the job."
"Yes but you're our last choice." Josh sat up, thinking that the matter was resolved.
"What about Ed or Larry?" Sam tried a new approach.
Josh slumped back in the sofa.
Toby thought about Sam's suggestion. "Would they have time to get briefed?" he eventually asked.
"They'd have more time than I would. That's another reason it shouldn't be me."
"What about Donna? She gets on well with Claire Thompson. She's almost up to speed and I could brief her on the rest tonight." Josh suggested.
"That's not a bad idea." CJ agreed. She looked at each person to see if there were any objections. The three men seemed happy enough with the idea, which left only one person who could object, "Is she free this weekend?"
Josh, suddenly motivated, jumped up off the sofa and began to roll his sleeves down, "There's only one way to find out!" he said with a grin as he left the office.
Oval Office, about 20 minutes later.
"What's going on?" Jed asked of Leo as he entered the room.
"Not much. Josh is gearing up for his meeting with Stackhouse tomorrow."
"He's going alone?"
"Yeah, I considered sending Toby with him but..."
"As long as Josh knows to keep his head."
"I've told him."
"Yeah. Okay. What else?"
"CJ's getting questions about whether you're gonna meet Ritchie tomorrow,"
Jed looked up and shook his head, clearly indicating his feelings on the matter.
"Yeah, I didn't think so. We'll get something sorted out. Oh and Donna's going with you in the morning."
"Yeah, she's going to meet with Claire Thompson."
"Leo..." The President almost growled.
"Hey, don't shoot the messenger! It's Josh's idea."
"What's Josh's idea? Using Claire Thompson again? Or sending Donna to get her?"
"Both, I think. You think Claire's a …" Leo paused, searching for the right words, "...bold choice?"
"Bold choice? I think she's down right certifiable!" Jed slammed his hand down on the desk.
"She's not that bad." Leo smiled at his friend's overreaction, "She certainly knows her stuff."
"You don't have any doubts about her?" Jed asked seriously.
"Fine! But if we have a repeat of last time, I'm holding you personally responsible!"
"Don't you always?"
"Even so.....Claire Thompson." The President muttered, shaking his head in disbelief.
"Claire Thompson," Leo confirmed, "Sam did raise an interesting point about her....She's the only Claire we know yet we always call her by her full name. Why is that?"
"For the same reason we always say Charles Manson – they're both nuts!"
Leo chuckled as he retreated to his office.
Some time after 9 pm.
Donna stood in her kitchen, watching her roommate chop up a pepper. She held a mug of coffee in her hands, enjoying the warmth it gave her.
"Did you see Mark today?" Donna asked as Adrienne added the pepper to the wok before heading over to the fridge to retrieve some mushrooms.
"No. I didn't get chance to go up and see him."
"So we still don't know if he's coming tomorrow?" Donna hoped he would, she had met Adrienne's colleague several times. She liked Mark, not least because he flirted with her and Adrienne shamelessly whenever they all got together. Both the girls knew nothing would ever come of it, and neither of them really wanted it to, but it was fun and Donna didn't get much opportunity to practice her flirting skills any more.
"No, but he said yesterday that he may come over tonight."
"Is he going to collect his phone?" Donna put her mug down as the wok began to emit a sizzling noise. She poked at the contents with a spoon to prevent it from burning. It was the least she could do when Adrienne was cooking dinner for them both.
"I hope so. It's been ringing all evening."
"Did you answer it?"
"I was tempted but it was his girlfriend. I thought it best if I didn't; he's in enough trouble with her as it is."
"Are they still fighting?" Donna paused her half hearted stirring as the door bell rung. She and Adrienne stared at each other, each of them willing the other to answer it.
Adrienne cracked first. She always did, but then she didn't have an overbearing boss to practice on.
"He apologised but..." Adrienne called over her shoulder, resuming the conversation as she went to answer the door.
Donna added the mushrooms and continued stirring, until she heard Adrienne yell, "It's Josh," from other room.
"Is he drunk?" She yelled back, after stealing a quick glance at her watch. It was that time of night.
There was a brief pause.
"No." Came the answer. Donna thought she could detect a hint of disappointment in her friend's tone. Josh showing up on her doorstep drunk meant there was no major emergency to deal with, the week was over and they could convince him to stay for dinner. A sober Josh meant there he was still in work mode.
Donna sighed, "Let him up."
"I already did." Adrienne appeared in the doorway, surprising Donna, "He said he needs to talk to you about work." Her grinned implied she doubted his motives and her wink implied a whole lot more.
"Would you stop that?! Josh wanting to talk to me about work isn't code for anything other than he wants me to work this weekend."
Adrienne mood fell, "Again?" she asked.
"Do you mind if we take over the den? Again."
"Sure, I'll just clear some space." Adrienne said as she headed back out of the kitchen.
"Hello?" Josh called from the hallway, having found that Adrienne had left the door open for him.
"Fuhrer." Adrienne greeted him as she walked past into the den.
"Recreant." Josh acknowledged.
"What do you want, Josh?" Donna stood in the entrance to the kitchen, spoon in hand as she glared down the hallway at him.
"I need you to go to Iowa tomorrow."
"But we're going shopping and to Anacostia Park to see the Nizzan Jazz Band." Adrienne poked her head out of the other room.
Josh looked sheepishly at the two women.
"You're meeting with Stackhouse in the morning. You can't go to Iowa." Donna informed him.
"That's why I need you to go."
"Me? Why? What's in Iowa?" She asked suspiciously.
"Claire Thompson's going to be there. Someone needs to meet with her."
"You want me to meet with Claire Thompson? From the Iowa Campaign Office?"
"Yeah," he said as Adrienne reappeared in the hallway. She moved past him and reclaimed the spoon from Donna before heading into the kitchen. Donna indicated Josh should move into the den then followed him.
"Why?" She asked as Josh made himself comfortable at the table. She sat opposite him.
"We want her to organise the volunteers for the exits polls in November."
"But she doesn't want to." Donna considered the problem for a moment, "I can't say I blame her, after what happened at the midterms!"
"Yeah, she needs convincing." Josh admitted.
Donna snorted with amusement at Josh's ability to downplay things when it suited him, "Why?"
"So that we'll have polling data come November 5th."
"No, why her? It's bound to be the first thing she asks."
"Will that be enough?"
"It's enough for me. Like I said, she'll need to be convinced and then briefed on the new regulations."
"What if I can't convince her?"
"Then you'll have studied the new regulations for no reason."
Donna glared as Josh grinned and opened his backpack. He placed a manilla folder in front of her. She eyed it suspiciously and ran her thumb down the side, measuring the thickness of it before pulling it toward her.
"You expect me to read and understand all this? By tomorrow?"
"Air Force One is leaving at 7.45. You'll have a couple of hours on the plane. Sam can help you if you need it." He stood, getting ready to leave. "I'll meet you at the fund raiser when you get back."
Donna sat contemplating the folder while Josh made his way out of the room. He'd almost managed to escape when his words registered with her.
"The Democratic Family fund raiser," he clarified.
"I thought you weren't going to that," Donna had paid no attention to the fund raiser once Josh had announced that he had no intention of going.
Josh shrugged, "Baxley and Jackson are going. They're plan B. The ticket's in the folder. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Yeah. Okay." Donna agreed as something on the first page in the folder caught her attention and she started reading. Josh regarded her a moment before turning to leave.
She read to the end of the page then turned to the back to check the ticket was actually in there. She found the ticket easily enough and was just checking it was for the right event when something else caught her notice. Her eyes widened as she read it. She flung the folder on the desk and rushed to the window, hoping to stop Josh before he got away.
"Damn it!" She cursed her luck as she got the window open just in time to see Josh pull away. She shut the window. "Adrienne!" she yelled.
"What's up?" Adrienne asked as she entered the room to find a depressed looking Donna.
"I have to go to a fund raiser tomorrow." Donna informed her as she sunk into the nearest chair.
"I've got nothing to wear." She muttered, head in hands.
"You're kidding right? You go to these things all the time. You must have something to wear!"
Donna looked up, "It's fancy dress."
"Come and look through my wardrobe."