AN: There's a prize if you spot the line I've stolen from The American President.
Deputy Chief of Staff's Office
Josh sat in his office pouring over a list of Senators and their voting records, looking for someone that Senator Stackhouse would listen to. No more names grabbed his attention, leaving him with just three names. He wondered if that would be enough.
He glanced at the clock.
The fund raiser had already started.
He'd asked Carol to let him know when Baxley and Jackson got there but she had yet to materialise with the announcement of their arrival. While this particular publicity stunt and the theme had been Bruno's idea, the actual organisation of the event had fallen to CJ's department. With the President staying longer than anticipated in Iowa, Carol was running the show until CJ got back. Which meant she had either forgotten or got tied up with looking after the press corps or the event itself.
Josh toyed with the idea of waiting. The motorcade was due back any minute, bringing with it Donna, returning her to his side. If he waited he could send her over to the East room to find the men in question.
They must be there by now.
He stood and rolled down his sleeves, taking the time to once again look at the lists in front of him. Hoping for inspiration to strike.
He picked up the costume that lay across the back of one of his visitor chairs and headed to the men's room to get changed.
North Entrance, west wing.
Donna waited for the car to come to a complete stop before undoing her seat belt. She hesitated before stepping out onto the drive. The off duty agent that she had, once again, shared a car with glanced back over his shoulder to see her sitting in the car grasping the bag on her lap tightly. He turned and smiled at her.
"It's not that bad," he tried to reassure her.
She shot daggers at him with her eyes.
"Look, I'm sorry. We knew it was yours. Aaron saw you put it under the chair." he explained for the fourth time. Seeing his explanation as to why the secret service hadn't destroyed an unattended bag left on Air Force One was cutting no more ice than it had the first three times, he changed tack. "If you really felt that strongly about it you should have said something. We would have been more than happy to take care of it for you."
"No, it okay, really. It's just...." Donna relented as she got out the car.
"Yeah, I know," Tom agreed with a grimace, having seen the outfit. They walked through the main doors and nodded to the security guard sat there. Tom hated seeing Donna look so miserable and tried to cheer her up a final time before he went and reported in.
"Next time you need an outfit at short notice, just let me or Aaron know. We'll fix you up with a mic and ear piece, you can go as a member of the Treasury Department."
Donna tucked her hair behind her ears, tilted her head to one side and considered the offer, "Are the suits standard issue? Can I get one of them too?"
Tom laughed, "I'll ask around."
"Thanks, Tom. I may take you up on that one day. But now I have to go and humiliate myself in front a hundred people, one of which will be the President."
Tom watched as she headed through the double doors into 'Tornado Alley' as the secret service had designated the operations bullpen. He turned and cut through the 'Bear Pit' on his way back to the office.
Donna looked around the bullpen, and then poked her head into Josh's office but found it as empty as the rest of the bullpen. Realising everyone had probably already made their way over to the East Room: she tightened her grip on the bag containing her costume and decided it was time to bite the bullet.
She pushed open the door and entered the women's washroom.
Josh peered through the glass panel in the door. He could see Toby looking miserable as he stood next to the buffet table and talked to a man wearing a Civil War uniform. Josh adjusted his black round-rimmed glasses and headed in Toby's direction. He acknowledged several people as he made his way across the room but failed to spot either Senator Jackson or Congressman Baxley before he arrived at Toby's side. Toby greeted him with a glance before returning to pick at the plates of food on the table.
"Hey, what's going on?" Josh greeted Toby before recognising the Civil War soldier, "Hey, Bruno."
"Nothing." Bruno confirmed, "It's a Saturday afternoon, we've dealt with the Crisis of the Day..."
"Don't say that!" Both Josh and Toby almost shouted at him.
Bruno held up his hands in apology as soon as he realised just what he had said.
Josh turned to Toby, "So you came up with a response to the Majority Leader's comment?"
"Sam and CJ did." Toby replied as he became aware that Josh was staring at him in a strange way.
"Umm...Toby?" Josh couldn't quite think how to phrase the question.
"Something on your mind, Josh?"
"Ummm.....Did your pants shrink in the wash?"
"What do you mean?"
"It's just they're...well...they're rather tight." Josh squeaked. He took a sip of his drink so he could regain control of his vocal cords, "There's not much being left to the imagination there, Toby."
"That's how we wore them in the Seventies." Toby informed him.
"You realise the seventies are over. And have been for a while."
"Yes, Josh. Although with you in a school uniform, it's easy to forget."
Josh looked down at what he was wearing. It was amazing how quickly he had forgotten about the school uniform under his robe. He looked back at Toby sheepishly only to see him and Bruno smirking at him. Bruno looked away as he heard his name being called from a short distance away. Obviously recognising the speaker, he excused himself and joined another group of men.
"Who have you come as then?" Josh tried to ask nonchalantly.
Josh was saved from having to explain who Harry Potter was, and just how he knew about him, by Donna's arrival.
"Hey, Donna." Toby said with barely a glance in her direction.
Josh just stared.
"Hi, Toby. Harry." She greeted the men.
"D-Donna." Josh finally managed to choke out.
Toby looked round to see what had flustered Josh. He followed the direction of Josh's stare and belatedly saw what Donna was wearing. Donna blushed under the direct gaze of the two men.
"Yeah, I know." She began to explain, "It was the best I could do at short notice."
"Short notice? We've had this planned for weeks." Toby spluttered.
"Josh only told me last night, that I had to come."
"So you decided to come as an East German cocktail waitress? Is that how you choose to punish me?" Josh squeaked.
"No," she told him, "I've come as Donna Reed. Well, that's who I'm supposed to be. I had to borrow Adrienne's Alice in Wonderland costume. I let the hem down as much as I could but she's a lot taller than me, Josh." She fidgeted with the slightly too short skirt, trying to make it at least appear longer.
"I don't remember Alice or Donna Reed ever wearing anything that low cut."
"Adrienne brought it for a frat party she got invited to. She gets to go to fun parties, Josh."
"Isn't she a bit old to be going to a frat party? Plus this is fun."
"You have a strange sense of fun." Toby muttered causing Donna to smile.
"Yeah." Josh agreed as he tore his attention away from Donna for the sake of his sanity. He noted the Bartlets' arrival and continued to search the room for Jackson or Baxley, attempting to focus on his work so he wouldn't spend the entire afternoon staring at Donna in a less than professional manner.
Other side of room.
Jed and Abbey entered the room to a barrage of camera flashes. They paused near the doorway and smiled for the photographers. Abbey gazed round the room smiling and waving at the people she recognised, making a note of those she had to talk to, those she wanted to talk to and those she wouldn't talk to if she could possibly help it.
Jed stole a glance at his wife, as she flicked open the 18th century decorative fan that completed her costume as Marie Antoinette. He adjusted his hat and swept his cloak back over his shoulder with a flourish. The cameras went crazy. Abbey rolled her eyes at him as he took her hand in his.
"Good afternoon, Mr. President." Carol said as she appeared at the President's side with a notepad in hand.
"Good afternoon, Ruth."
"Carol" Abbey, corrected, not really paying attention.
The President huffed, "I know that! I was referring to Ruth from Pirates of.....Never mind, woman."
"Whatever, Dick." Abbey smiled as she walked away to greet the first of many people she would spend time with this afternoon.
Jed watched her go, and then told Carol, "She means Turpin, she's not calling me..."
"I never thought otherwise, sir." Carol agreed hastily.
"Good. Now where is the rest of my staff?"
"Josh is here somewhere, CJ is still getting changed, I don't know where Sam or Leo are and Toby's over there." She pointed to the buffet table, where she could now make out Josh and Donna as well. What was Donna wearing?
"Ah...Yes, he was told it's supposed to be fancy dress, wasn't he?" The President asked, only spotting Toby in his suit.
"Yes, sir, he's come as Bob Woodward," Carol replied offhandedly, looking through notepad for the messages she'd been asked to relay, "Leo called earlier and asked me to remind you that Jack Horton is here and that he wants to talk to you about..."
"Good afternoon, sir." Toby interrupted.
Jed looked at him a long while before replying which slightly unnerved Toby.
"Jack Horton wants to talk about grazing rights," he told Carol as he continued to stare at Toby.
"Do you think that's funny?" The President finally asked him, indicating the costume.
"Ummm...no?" Toby tried to read the President's mood as he answered, "Sir." He added belatedly.
"No, you're right, it's not!" Jed said quiet seriously but with a twinkle in his eye that revealed his humour at the situation, "Just for that you can spend the afternoon keeping Jack Horton occupied."
Toby's shoulders slumped; he suddenly regretted having left the safety of the buffet table. He cast a longing look to where he could just make out, through the crowd, Donna's blond hair and blue dress before turning to search the room for the 92 year old ex-Senator he had been assigned to babysit.
Cut back to:
Donna stood next to the buffet table, pretending to admire the wide selection of food. In reality she was keeping watch of the door to see when Jackson or Baxley arrived. She didn't notice Bruno's arrival beside her.
"You're supposed to eat it, not look at it!"
She jumped slightly at his words then smiled and picked up a couple of sandwiches, putting them on her plate. She watched as Bruno moved along the table loading his plate to the brim.
He caught her looking at him.
"I never know when I'll have time to eat next," he said by way of explanation.
"I know what you mean," she agreed as she turned back to watching the door.
"And yet, you're still not eating. Is that a woman thing?"
Donna cocked an eyebrow at him, "A woman thing?"
"Yeah, you know, a diet, stemming from an irrational fear of putting on weight, or of being seen eating in public. Who knows what goes on in those heads of yours?"
"In our tiny minds, do you mean?" Donna asked with a sickly sweet smile.
"I never said that. I just meant that a woman's mind is a mystery to me. A dark and sometimes dangerous place. That's what makes women so alluring." Bruno slipped into his usual chat-up routine, using one of his many well crafted lines.
"That's why I like men," she shot him a grin, "they're pretty straight forward."
"That's true, give us a good meal and a good woman..." he hinted, desperately trying to impress this woman. Normally he had them eating out of his hands by now, but Donna just kept smiling at him politely and turning back to watch the door. Still, he enjoyed a challenge.
"Mmmm..." she said uninterested, not really hearing what he said.
Bruno continued to stare at her, a puzzled expression on his face, as he ate and considered his next move.
"So," he finally opted to try a more direct route, "what's with the outfit?"
"I'm sorry?" Donna now focused all her attention on him, preparing to defend her choice of costume at the slightest hint of criticism.
"I said, 'What's with the outfit?'"
"Don't you like it?" She smoothed the front down with her free hand.
"Very much," Bruno informed her, his drifting eyes down, unintentionally indicating just which part of it he liked, "I'm just not sure who or what you've come as..."
"I've come as Donna Reed."
"Ah. Every man's fantasy woman."
"I thought that was Carmen Electra."
"That's what we like to tell people. But deep down in our hearts we want someone like Donna, to look after us."
Donna knew he was talking about Donna Reed but couldn't help succumb to his charm a little as he said her name. He was looking at her rather intensely and she found herself starting to get flustered.
She blurted out the first thing that came to mind, "It's not actually my costume. It's my housemate's. It was originally an Alice in Wonderland costume, but I had to alter it to fit in with the theme..." She trailed off after realising she was rambling.
Bruno just stood there staring at her with a weird, half smile on his face.
"Does your house mate know Alice in Wonderland is a kid's book?"
Donna blushed bright red, "She got it for an adult party," she murmured while avoiding meeting Bruno's eye.
"Josh thinks I look like an East German cocktail waitress." Donna confided in him, stealing a glance at the Campaign Manager.
"Who's right?" Sam asked, appearing seemingly from nowhere, before Donna could form a response.
"Josh." Bruno informed him.
"Okay, but don't tell him that."
"Wouldn't dream of it." Bruno reassured him, "Nice work on the response to the Majority leader's quote by the way."
"Thanks but it was Donna who came up with the 'best form of defence being a tax' line."
"Really?" Bruno questioned, turning to Donna with raised eyebrows, challenging her to correct Sam.
She just smiled modestly, unaccustomed to her contributions being acknowledged.
Bruno placed both his hands over his heart and declared, "Be still my heart! Beautiful, intelligent, witty." He dropped down to one knee and took one of Donna's hands, asking, "Will you be my Donna Reed?"
"Huh?" Sam watched in amusement, along with several others nearby, as Donna laughed at the over-the-top display and swatted at Bruno in good humour.
"Bruno thinks that all men want a woman like Donna Reed to look after them." She told Sam as Bruno stood.
"I can't deny that there isn't something appea..." Sam clamped his mouth shut mid word as he realised he was heading into potentially hot water. He changed tack and said to Donna, "...You'd make a good....You know what? I'm gonna quit while I'm ahead on that one."
Donna laughed, "Well, neither of you should get your hopes up – I have enough to do running round after Josh, especially when he doesn't give me advance warning...."
Sam turned to Bruno, "Donna and I are united in our misery today," he informed him, "Neither of us have our first choice of costume. Donna was only told last night that she was coming and I didn't think there'd be such demand for costumes today. I mean it's not like it's Halloween or anything."
Donna coughed discretely.
Sam looked at her before adding, "Plus I forgot."
"Yet you still managed to get a decent outfit," Donna indicated the clichéd but respectable convict's costume that Sam was sporting.
"I would have said that a convicted felon was a rather bold choice for a political fund raiser." Bruno commented mildly, not really wanting to get into a discussion of the symbolism involved in Sam's choice.
"Yeah, well, it was either this or Dr. Frank-N-Furter from Rocky Horror. I thought this might be more appropriate." He explained with a shrug. "Plus it's always the guy in my position that ends up doing 18 months at Danbury Minimum Security."
Donna and Bruno laughed.
Sam noticed Josh looking in their direction at the sound and raised his glass to his friend in a silent salute.
Crowd near a wall, to the right of the stage.
Josh stood near the window overlooking the South Lawn. The crowd milled around him and he acknowledged several people as they wandered past him. The sound of laughter caught his attention and he turned toward the source, surprised when he saw that it was coming from a group that included Sam and Bruno. Bruno shifted his position, revealing Donna as the third member of the group. Josh stared at her until Sam caught his eye. He flushed slightly at being caught looking at his assistant but had to grin when Sam raised his glass to toast his friend.
He was about to return the motion when a pirate appeared next to him.
"Congressman Baxley's here," Carol informed him.
"Over there, by the shrimp."
Josh turned to look at the buffet table, hoping to spot the man he had been waiting to talk to.
"No, the giant shrimp." Carol pulled him round by his arm so that he was looking at a giant shrimp, next to whom, stood the Congressman dressed in a suit but with his face painted like a tiger. Josh smiled at Carol in thanks and made his way over.
"Josh, good to see you."
"How did you get away with half a costume?"
"What do you mean, half a costume? I'm Tony the Tiger at the Kellogg's Annual Meeting."
Josh smiled, halfheartedly, "Oh, I get it. Clever."
"So, what can I do for you, Josh?"
"Well, Congressman, I was wondering if you would be available to meet with Howard Stackhouse, sometime next week?"
"Is that old coot giving you problems?"
"Well, I wouldn't put it quite like that, but...yeah."
"And why do you want me to meet with him?"
"You're the Representative from his district. He'll listen to you."
"Howard Stackhouse has never listened to anyone that he didn't want to, in his life!"
"That may be true, but he sure as hell doesn't listen to me! He proved that this morning. Look, if he doesn't listen to you then we've lost nothing. But if he does...."
"Yeah, okay then. Call my office to arrange a time."
"Thank you, Congressman. The President won't forget this." Josh told him, making his standard promise before he made his escape to over to where CJ had just entered the room, wearing a Mets uniform that Josh hadn't seen since he was a kid. "If you ever need anythi..."
Josh didn't have chance to finish his sentence before the Congressman interrupted, "Actually Josh, there is something."
Josh sighed internally as he realised he had just lost his chance to escape.
Another corner of the room, within earshot of Josh.
CJ stood by herself, watching Josh talk to Congressman Baxley. She smiled as she recognised the quickly masked disappointment on Josh's face as he almost affected a clean getaway. She knew she should be mingling but couldn't tear her eyes away from the sight of a tiger in a suit discussing the concerns of iron miners with Harry Potter.
"Well, there's a sight you don't see every day." A familiar voice said.
CJ turned to see who it was and was surprised to find Steve next to her, also transfixed by the surreal tableau.
"How did you get in here? It's closed to the press." CJ asked.
"It's my turn to do the pool coverage."
"Your turn, huh?"
"Well, it seemed only fair that I take a turn, even if I'm in charge of the rota and don't actually have to."
"That's good of you, Steve. I never knew you were so considerate." Her words were sarcastic but her smile was that of a friend.
"What are they talking about?" Steve indicated the two men, deeply engrossed in conversation, that had caught his and CJ's attention initially.
"I believe that Josh is explaining why it's a bad idea to propose a raise in steel tariffs in the current international political climate."
"And why would that be?"
"No idea, that's why I'm Press Secretary, not Deputy Chief of Staff."
"Oh, is that why? I was wondering." Steve enjoyed these functions where CJ was less guarded about what she said and more receptive to a bit of friendly teasing.
He grabbed two Champaign flutes from a server's tray as she passed and handed one to CJ.
"So, I'm noticing a theme for the administration." He commented.
"A highway man, a pirate and a convicted felon - Is there something you're trying to tell us?"
CJ stared at each of the costumes as Steve pointed them out. They were being worn by the President and two senior members of staff who should know better, Carol and Sam. When pointed out, it didn't look good.
CJ could feel a headache beginning as she contemplated all the ways this could be spun, it would be spun and over-analysed for days, maybe weeks. Ever briefing would be about subtext and imagery.
"You're not seriously suggesting.....? Are you?" She asked, a hint of panic in her voice.
Steve grinned, enjoying the opportunity to yank CJ's chain. She swatted his arm playfully, her relief evident as she realised he was winding her up.
"Now that I think about it," she said after a moment of admiring the costumes, in particular the First Lady's, "wasn't Marie Antoinette convicted of treason?"
Steve followed her line of sight, "Yeah, I hadn't noticed that one."
While CJ knew that Steve had been joking, she remembered that he was also there on behalf of the rest of the press corps and as such, had to communicate any and all details of the party.
"Well, obviously, any theme you may or may not be noticing is completely unintentional and an oversight of the part of the Communications department." She told him just to be on the safe side.
"So, it's Toby's fault." He asked with a grin. He understood that she had given him the official line but he couldn't resist poking fun at the staff some more.
CJ sighed, "Basically, yes. I told him not to let the President choose his own costume..."
Buffet table, again.
Toby picked at the canapés, with a small, self satisfied smile on his face. He looked up from his plate to see Josh approach him.
"What are you so happy about?"
"That." Toby pointed over to where the President was stood in deep discussion with Bruno.
Bruno looked like he was considering whether murdering the President was a good idea or if he'd be better off killing himself.
"How long's he been talking to Bruno?"
"Really?" Josh asked, slightly disappointed by the reply. It was nowhere near the record. He picked over the remaining food, filling a plate of his own before joining Toby in watching Bruno's suffering.
"Key events in the civil war?" Josh guessed which topic he was watching the President expound on to his Campaign Manager.
Toby shook his head, "The history of the Highwayman, the men behind the myth."
"Oh, God." Josh whispered, while silently thanking every deity he could name that he wasn't in Bruno's position.
Toby smiled smugly at him. Josh though for a moment, then put the pieces together.
"Do you have something to do with that?"
"I may have mentioned to The President that Bruno has an interest in stagecoaches and the perils associated with travelling in them." Toby confided, smiling all the while.
Josh laughed, "Is this payback for that thing? That thing, when he went over your head?"
"Isn't that petty?"
"Nope." Toby took a bite of cake and chewed thoughtfully. "He's playing with the big boys now, he has to learn to play by our rules."
"H'okay." Josh didn't really care as long as he wasn't the one the President was regaling with trivia and he didn't get on Toby's bad side.
Josh was just beginning to feel sorry for Bruno when he spotted Donna gesturing to him from the other side of the room. He reluctantly put his plate down and left Toby to his personal victory and headed over to join her.
As soon as he reached her, Donna grabbed his arm and dragged him toward a couple stood a few feet away.
"Josh, this is Senator Jackson and his wife Barbara," Donna told him.
"Afternoon Senator, are you enjoying the party?" Josh asked.
"Yes, thank you, Josh. It's not often we get to go out as a family to one of these things. It's a wonderful idea."
"And some of the costumes are amazing, especially the First Lady's," Barbara put in, before turning to Donna and asking with a barely perceivable sneer, "What have you come as, dear?"
"She's an East German cocktail waitress," Josh informed her with a grin and a shrug, before Donna even had chance to draw breath.
"Really, how original." Barbara replied, looking Donna up and down, causing her to blush red.
Josh noticed the thinly veiled contempt Barbara Jackson was showing Donna and took an instant dislike to her.
"Donna, why don't you introduce Mrs. Jackson to the First Lady?" Josh suggested, wanting to put the obnoxious woman in her place and get rid of her at the same time.
Donna sat on one of the antique chairs in the hallway, watching as kids in fancy dress ran up and down, oblivious to her presence and the even more discrete presence of the Secret Service. She heaved a sigh of regret as she considered how much fun she could have had this afternoon, if only she had been given enough time to find a suitable costume. As it was, she had spent the entire afternoon explaining to a range of important people that she was dressed as Donna Reed and not a cocktail waitress from Eastern Europe during the Cold War.
Several times she had heard comments being muttered behind her back about the inappropriateness of her costume, whether due to the short nature of the skirt or the political division and period of history she supposedly represented, she wasn't sure. Probably a bit of both, she reasoned.
She looked up as the door to the east room opened again, and stood as the President and First Lady walked towards her, laughing at Josh and Charlie, who were several paces ahead of them and talking loudly in appallingly fake British accents.
"Hey, Donna," Charlie called as he neared her, "Nice work on that attack – a tax thing."
"Wait, that was Donna's idea?" The president asked, stopping to glower at Josh as he did so.
"Don't sound so surprised, Jed." Abbey rebuked him gently.
"I'm not surprised, just misinformed," he said with another pointed look in Josh's direction.
Josh shrugged, unconcerned at being caught out once more trying to pass one of Donna's ideas off as his own.
"I must say, well..." The President began to praise Donna, until he caught sight of her dress, "...done...Donna, what are you wearing?"
Donna weighed her options, examining how long it would take her to fully explain and decided it was no longer worth the effort, "It's an East German cocktail waitress outfit, sir."
Josh tried hard to smother his laughter, but failed.
The President looked at his Deputy Chief of Staff, then back at Donna.
"That's not very politically correct now, is it?"
"No, Mr. President." She agreed, sounding like a schoolgirl caught doing something she shouldn't, all the while, silently vowing to kill Josh.
"Okay, then," The President said as he moved off down the hallway.
Josh remained behind, prepared to take his punishment from Donna like a man.
As the President reached the end of the hall, he turned back to the pair and said, "Oh, Josh, next time try to give Donna more than 24 hours notice, will you."
Josh looked hurt at the implied accusation but had no choice but to reply, "Yes, Mr. President."
AN#2: Wow, that turned out longer than I planned. Thanks again to Jayne Leigh for her beta skills. Oh, and I've just realised I included a recommendation in both my other stories, so here is my current favourite – it's lcf328's Political Capital which is still under construction, so to speak. If you want something that's complete try the oneshot Making the List by Kimnns. Also, I've just found TheRealMcCoy's take on this idea called Helga and the Republican. It's very good.