Josh raised his hand and knocked on the door. Leo opened it within seconds.

"Have you got a minute?" Josh asked him.

"For you, I've got more than one." Leo smirked at him and opened the door wider.

Josh hesitated once he was inside Leo's room. This was going to be hard; almost
harder than talking to Donna. He'd known Leo since he was a child and Josh knew the
things he'd said and done to Leo had been terribly hurtful.

"I need to apologize; for how I've been treating you lately."

Leo just nodded. "You doing okay, kid?"

"Not quite, but I think I'm on the right road now." Josh told him.

"You talked to Donna?"

"And Stanley too." Josh added. "I'm really sorry, Leo."

"That's alright." Leo clapped him on the shoulder.

"You just…after all that I said…it's just alright?"

"You want me to give you a list of my personal screw ups Josh? I don't know that either
of us has that kind of time."

"Yeah, but-"

"No buts." Leo stopped him from going on. "We just start over from here."

"I do everything in my power to toss you and Donna out of my life and both of you just
smile and forgive me."

"Maybe it's because we both love you." Leo said uncharacteristically. "You've had to
endure a lot in your life, but everything you've been through made you who you are
today. Look what you've done with Matt Santos." Leo pointed out and Josh's eyes
misted. "I'm proud of you Josh."

"I learned it all from you, Leo." Now it was Leo's turn to mist up. "You've always been the
political mastermind; now you're running for Vice-President. I'm proud of you too."

"Okay, we're done now, got it?" Leo returned to his gruff demeanor.

"No, there's just one more thing…What are you doing December 20th?"

"Hopefully getting ready to move into my new office. Why?" Leo asked.

"I was hoping you'd be available to be my best man." Josh asked quickly, unsure of Leo'
s reaction. Leo didn't make him wait long.

"I'd be honored." Leo smiled. "Of course if Donna is walking down the aisle and there's
the two of us standing at the end, she might choose me."

"She might run, too, but I'll take my chances. Don't you have enough to keep you busy
with Annabeth?"

"How much longer are we staying dark, Josh?" Leo abruptly changed the subject and
had Josh grinning.

"The press uncovered Vinick's letter pushing the San Andreo nuclear facility about an
hour ago; that's going to keep things hopping for at least another day. I'm thinking we
stay dark tomorrow too, and let this be the story. What do you think?"

"I'd say it sounds like a plan." Leo agreed. There's a knock on Leo's door. "That must
be dinner. Have you eaten yet? Would you like to join us?"

"Yes, with Stanley. Wait a second, join 'us'? Who is 'us'?" Josh asked as Leo opened
the door to the room service waiter and Annabeth. Josh smiled. "Never mind. Enjoy your
dinner."

Chapter 23

"Josh wake up!" Donna said urgently.

"So help me God Donna if this isn't an emergency…"

"I guess it really isn't. I just thought you'd like to know we're tied with Vinick nationally."
Donna whispered. "Go back to sleep."

"Okay, thanks." Josh burrowed underneath his pillow again until his brain registered
what Donna had just told him.

"We're tied…nationally?"

"Uh-huh." She said gleefully, waving a paper at him that Josh assumed was a print out
of the national poll.

"Unbelievable." Josh sat up and took the paper from her, scanning it quickly. "We're
ahead in South Carolina? Tell me you didn't make this up, Donna."

"I didn't make this up." Donna beamed at him. In the three days since he'd met with
Stanley, things had gone much smoother between them. He was still having some
trouble sleeping, and seemed to be more anxious than usual, but it was getting
incrementally better.

Josh rolled her over on the bed until he was lying on top of her. "This calls for a
celebration, don't you think?" He asked as he moved his hands over her body.

"We don't have time for a 'celebration' Joshua. The rest of the team will be here any
second."

"Why?!" Josh complained while he continued to explore her with his hands and mouth.
"Because, as I mentioned previously, we are tied nationally with Vinick and everyone I
gathering to get new instructions with the campaign manager, which would be you."
Donna laughed.

"I don't want to be campaign manager anymore…give it to Lou or Otto or…somebody."
Josh went back to concentrating on Donna and elicited a moan from her before there
was a tremendous pounding on his door.

"Josh! Josh did you see these numbers?!" Matt Santos called from the hallway. "Open
the damn door!"

"Daddy, don't swear." They heard Miranda chastise her father. Reluctantly, Donna got
up and opened the door. She propped it open since she figured Matt and Miranda
would not be the last to come in even though it was very early in the morning still.

Her prediction proved accurate and Leo (with Annabeth) followed by Lou, Bram, and
Edie all gathered, talking excitedly about the new numbers. Josh busied himself making
some coffee while he listened in to the conversations around him. It didn't take long
before Miranda sidled up beside him.

"Did you have any bad dreams last night?" she whispered.

"Nope. You?" Josh responded. Miranda shook her head 'no' and had to jump up to
reach Josh's hand for a high five. Josh, after clearing it with Helen and Matt, had a
conversation with the young girl a couple days ago and been brutally honest about his
experiences. They'd been checking in with one another ever since.

"Miranda Maria Santos…I've been looking all over for you." Helen told the girl as she
entered Josh and Donna's rooms.

"We're celebrating, Mom."

"Oh, really? What are you celebrating exactly?" Helen tried to stump the girl.

"Josh got us tied in the national poll!" Miranda smiled at her savior and Josh tousled her
hair as he sipped his coffee.

"Josh did that, did he?" Matt asked all insulted.

"Uh-huh." Miranda confirmed.

"Boy have you got her snowed." Donna remarked.

"Miranda is an extremely bright and perceptive young woman." Josh buttered her up
further. "She knows what is what."

"It's a sad state of affairs for you that you have moved down to the 8-10 year old
demographic to find groupies." Lou added.

"Don't listen to them, Miranda. You and I are going to get your Dad to the White House.
We don't need the rest of these useless appendages." Josh sat on the couch and
Miranda parked right next to him.

"Well if any of us useless appendages were inclined to pitch in today, where would you
want our efforts focused?" Leo drawled.

Josh picked up the papers again. "We need to make another swing through the South.
Vinick has lost a lot of support there; we could pick it up if we bump up the media buys
and add a few more stops. Mrs. Santos, are you up to a swing through Southern
Florida?"

"Si." Helen responded. Her last trip there had been a huge success. She'd made entire
speeches in Spanish, that she had written herself, and had sponsored several voter
registration drives in the State. She exchanged a grin with her husband since she had
been bragging that if he won this election it would all be due to her.

"Leo, we'll want you in South Carolina and Arkansas. That leaves our nominee free to
hit Texas and California. If we can force Vinick to waste time campaigning in his home
state that will be a win/win for us even if we don't take their electoral votes in 2 weeks."

"Where do I go?" Miranda piped up to ask.

Matt hunkered down in front of his daughter and stole a piece of her doughnut. "Who do
you want to go with; Mom or me?"

Miranda chose neither. "Josh." The man in question merely shrugged.

"The kids got good taste." He proclaimed.

"Your swelling head is taking up too much oxygen in the room." Donna told him. "Here,
talk to your mother. That should remedy the situation." Donna handed him the phone.

"Mom?"

"I have some wedding questions for you Joshua."

"I'm a little busy with a Presidential election right now, mom. We just tied Vinick in the
national polls."

"That's great, honey, but we need to make some decisions about who will be officiating
at the ceremony."

"I really don't care, mom. I trust you to make that call."

"Really?"

"Really."

"That means so much to me Joshua, that you would trust me to make all these personal
decisions for you wedding. And it will mean so much to President Bartlet, too."

"President Bartlet?"

"Yes, he asked if he could have the honor of officiating at your ceremony, and I told him
that of course I'd have to check with you, but if it's all up to me, then-"

"Wait a second, wait a second. President Bartlet would not be the ideal choice here. He
tends to go on and on, like, forever, when he has an audience. I was worried about him
proposing a toast. He can absolutely NOT officiate at our wedding. Do you understand?"

"So you do want SOME say in your wedding arrangements?"

"Of course I want some say, I just thought-"

"You just thought you could fob of all the detailed, grunt work on me, Abby, and Donna's
mother." His mom nailed him.

"I wouldn't say 'fob it off'." Josh hedged.

"Maybe you wouldn't, but I would."

"Mom, I'm-"

"Very busy with a Presidential election, yes, we all know, you're very important." His
mom continued. "What you need to remember, or have beaten into your over-inflated
ego, is that long after the next President retires, you will be married to Donna. I know a
lot of the details aren't important to you; they're not important to a lot of men, I get that.
However, I guarantee you that if you don't take SOME interest and be a party to making
this wedding personal for you, you will regret it for the rest of your life."

"Ah-kay." Josh took a deep breath. "What do you want me to do?"

"What do you want to do? And don't you dare give me a political answer."

"Well…Someone was talking about writing the vows... I think that's pretty important. I'd
like to do that."

"Excellent." His mom agreed. "I'd like you to make a list of guests you want to include.
Since they all have to be vetted, we should be able to cut out quite a few relatives on
our side." She joked. "You might also want to put some thought into a wedding gift for
Donna."

"A wedding gift? I have to choose a wedding gift?" Josh exclaimed. "I thought people just
gave us gifts."

"Yes, they do." His mom explained patiently. "But you need to give Donna a wedding gift
as well as give gifts to your Best Man and groomsmen."

"This is more complicated than politics."

"It certainly can be." His mom agreed. "Think about those things and get back to me
within the next two days."

"Mom…"

"Two days or I book President Bartlet for your wedding." She threatened.

"Got it." Josh capitulated and hung up into Donna's smug smile. "Did you know I'm
supposed to get you a wedding gift?"

"We get one another wedding gifts, yes."

"What am I supposed to get you?"

"Something from the heart…or in your case, you could fake something."

"Donna!"

"I'm kidding. Don't stress about it. You have weeks to decide."

"Me? What about you? You have to get me a gift too."

"I already got your gift." She replied smugly.

"Really? What is it?"

"Nice try." Donna smiled. "Miranda, come help me pick out a tie for Josh. They want him
on MSNBC in 30 minutes for comment on the new poll numbers." Donna looked
pointedly at Josh. Miranda went happily along with Donna.

"Okay, kiddo, here's the shirt and jacket he's going to wear, which tie do you think
should he wear with it?"

Miranda perused the selection carefully; like the fate of her father's campaign rested on
her choice. Finally, she selected a red striped tie.

"You like that one better than the blue one?" Donna held it up to double check.

"Josh doesn't like blue ties." Miranda told her simply. Donna blinked.

"I didn't know that." Donna replied. "Why doesn't Josh like blue ties."

"Cause of Joanie." Miranda straightened the jacket on the hanger.

"What do you mean, because of Joanie, Miranda?"

"I didn't want to wear my purple dress anymore, and Mom was mad because I wouldn't
wear it, but Josh said I shouldn't wear it if it made me sad." It took a moment for Donna
to remember Miranda had been wearing a new purple dress the day of the shooting at
the rally. "He said after his fire, he didn't have any clothes to wear for Joanie's funeral
and his Aunt took him shopping and made him get a blue tie. Now, he said, blue ties
always give him that icky feeling just like I get when I see that purple dress." Miranda
picked up the completed outfit. "I'll bring this to Josh, okay?"

Donna nodded her approval and waited until Miranda left the room before tossing every
single blue tie she could find into the trash.

Chapter 24

"…so I don't know what he's going to do with it, but I thought I should give you a heads up."
Matt told Josh without making eye contact with him. They were driving in the limo toward the
private jet that was taking them to their next destination.

"Okay." Josh responded.

"Okay?" Matt asked disbelievingly.

"What did you expect me to say?" Josh asked back.

"Don't you want to talk to her or get some kind of statement from my brother?"

"No. I really think we should leave as many innocent people alone as is humanly possible."
Josh smiled. "I doubt Vinick's going to use it, it only makes you look good at the end of the
day, but if he does, we can handle it."

"You're awfully calm all of a sudden." Matt noted.

Josh shrugged. "Frankly, I'm more concerned about what to get Donna for a wedding gift
than I am about Bruno losing his marbles long enough to use your brother's out of wedlock
child against you. What else have you got?"

"I think you should go with jewelry." Matt opined and Josh laughed.

"It's not that she doesn't like jewelry; I just don't think that's the right gift for the occasion. I'll
figure it out."

"Have you heard from Helen and Donna yet?"

Josh checked his watch. "They're probably taking questions yet. Once we board, you
should try to get some sleep so you're fresh for Los Angeles."

"Right." Matt replied.

This last week before the election was going to be the death of him. He used to worry
about what he would do if he won; would he be up to the job? Now, he felt like he could
handle anything after this trip through electoral hell. Josh frequently referred to it as a
gauntlet. That was probably as accurate a term as he'd ever heard for a Presidential
campaign.

His blood had literally run cold when Vinick had confronted him about the checks he had
been sending to the mother of his niece. Matt couldn't deny part of it was anger that
anyone would use an innocent child that way. Part of it, though, was dreading having the
conversation about subject with Josh. Matt knew his campaign manager had been burned
badly by Hoynes…twice, on just such an issue. Matt was concerned that Josh wouldn't
believe him or would leave the campaign rather than be confronted with another sex
scandal with a candidate he was working for. But when the time came, Josh had merely
shrugged and asked what else he had for him.

Miranda, Peter, and their sitter Tracy, met him at the top of the stairs when he was
boarding the plane. Their big hugs and welcoming smiles went a long way to restoring his
flagging spirits. He knew he should follow Josh's advice and take a nap, but when Miranda
begged him to read with her, he couldn't say no. So he compromised and lay down with her
while they read.

Within a half hour, Miranda was tapping Josh on the shoulder. "Can we play 20 questions
now?"

"I thought you were reading with your dad?"

"He fell asleep. Can we?" Miranda repeated. "Play 20 questions?"

"I can't right now, kiddo. I'm planning out the last week of the Santos McGarry campaign."
"Can I help?" she asked sincerely.

Josh looked up at her thoughtfully. "Why not? Here. Take my highlighter. Color all the state
names that have numbers less than 5. Like this; see?" Josh demonstrated and Miranda
nodded her comprehension.

He watched her for a minute to make sure she was doing it right, then went back to the
campaign finances that were currently giving him a headache. How the hell had Leo done
this twice? He snuck another glance at Miranda who had her tongue caught between her
teeth while she struggled to keep the highlighter line straight on her page. It made him
smile. He NEVER would have figured he'd become attached to the either of the Santos
children; but particularly not the youngest one. Yet here he was totally smitten with her.

"Here Josh!" she nearly climbed over seat to give him the paper.

"Thanks kiddo."

"Now what do we do with them?" she asked.

"Now, WE, try to figure out how we can hit all the states where Vinick is leading by less than
5 points. We've got your dad, your mom, Leo, and this last week, we've got the President
and Dr. Bartlet all stumping for us. So how many people is that?'

"Five." Miranda answered. "But what about me and Peter. We can stump too."

"You're great stumpers, but you must be accompanied by a parent, so we're still at a total
of five groups. Now, we also have to see which of those five groups poll best in the areas
where we're trying to win votes. In Nevada, your dad is way more popular than, say, Leo,
so we'd want to send your dad there. In Montana, we're trying to energize more women to
vote for your dad, so sending your mom or Dr. Bartlet there would make the most sense."

"How do you remember all those numbers in your head?" Miranda asked.

"Practice." Josh replied as he spotted Tracy walking up the aisle toward them. "I think you'
re being paged, kiddo." Miranda turned around and spotted Tracy too.

"You could hide me." She suggested.

"Limited number of hiding places on a private plane. Besides, you need to get some sleep
so you're fresh to stump with your dad tomorrow."

"Come on Miranda, time for some sleep." Tracy chided. Miranda was a sweet girl, but she
was definitely high maintenance. Reluctantly, Miranda followed her.

"Goodnight, Miranda. Thanks for the help." Miranda turned back and gave him a gap
toothed grin before taking Tracy's hand. Just a few more days and they could all get some
sleep.

*******************************************
"You need to de-stress Josh."

"You just want more Election Day sex." Josh countered.

"I wouldn't object…but only if it would help you out." Donna teased. Josh's anxiety level was
reaching dangerous heights. "Okay, how about 20 questions?" Josh gave her another dirty
look. "Josh, I'm bored and you're stressed. Let's go back to our room until the next set of
exits come out."

"God, we're not even married and already you're just using me to relieve boredom?" Josh
objected but allowed Donna to take him into her arms while he rested his head on her
shoulder. "Something weird is going on, Donna. I can feel it in my gut. I don't like the
feeling."

"You have a bad feeling about the election?' Donna asked in a quiet voice. "You've been
the one confident voice all week."

"I don't know…something." Josh persisted.

"You need to get your mind off all this for awhile…What did you decide on for my wedding
present?"

Josh rolled his eyes at her obvious ploy. "President Bartlet helped me find it; it's a rare
edition of a book about Wedding traditions from the 18th century. You're going to love it."

Donna's lips twitched. "I'm sure."

"Would you stop staring at the map? You're making everyone edgy!" Lou proclaimed.

"When are the next set of exits out?" Josh asked in response.

"An hour or so." Lou replied.

"Great." Josh said sarcastically. Donna lifted her eyebrows in a silent question and
sauntered out of the room whistling. It took all of 20 seconds before Josh followed her.

Josh paced back and forth inside their war room. He couldn't erase the edgy feeling he had
in the pit of his stomach. Being with Donna distracted him, temporarily, but then it all came
rushing back. He pulled out his cell phone and called a familiar number.

"Hey, what do you think?"

"Could you be a little more specific?" Toby answered with a question. "Are you referring to
the election or something else?"

"There's something else going on today? Are you kidding me?" Josh pretends to be
stupefied.

"It's going to be close, but you already know that."

"Right. Hey, what did you get Andi for a wedding present?"

"That's personal."

"Come on Toby, I need some advice."

"You need lots of advice, nonetheless my gift to Andi was personal." Toby responded.

"Asshole. If you won't tell me what you got Andi, can you give me any ideas about what I
should get Donna?"

"That too, should be personal." Toby refused to help.

"Okay, you're just messing with me now right?"

"Pretty much." Toby admitted.

"Why would you do that to me? On today of all days?"

"It's entertaining." Josh swore he could hear Toby's shrug over the phone.

"I'm done talking to you now." Josh said one second before he hung up on the White
House Communications Director.

He was approached by some members of the DNC who had concerns that wanted
addressed in the Congressman's speech were he to win tonight. Josh made a detour to
Donna before he left the room with them.

"Two minutes tops, with these jokers, then you come find me with some excuse to get out of
the meeting." He instructed. Donna rolled her eyes, but nodded.

********************************
Donna was convinced that Josh almost killed them on three separate occasions while he
drove like a bat out of hell to the hospital Leo had been taken to. He parked illegally, but
Donna wisely chose not to mention that.

They were directed to the right floor and Donna's heart sank the moment she saw
Annabeth sobbing in the waiting room. Those were not tears of relief.

"He..died Josh. Leo's dead." She told him before she buried herself in Josh's embrace.

Donna put her hand over her mouth to stifle the cry coming from her mouth. Josh looked
positively dumbstruck. Their eyes met over Annabeth's head. Donna read the abject
misery in Josh's eyes and recognized the panic at not knowing how to handle Annabeth.
Donna carefully disentangled Annabeth from Josh and led her over to the chairs where
Donna tried to console her. She could see Josh in her periphery, so she noticed the
moment he left the waiting area, but she couldn't leave Annabeth alone, and she was sure
Mallory must be here too.

What could she do about Josh? What should she do?

*********************************************
Chapter 25

He hadn't said a word to her, not a single word the entire drive back. He'd exchanged a few
quiet words with Mallory that Donna hadn't been able to hear standing several feet away
from them, still holding Annabeth. The drive back was much more sedate and took twice as
long as the trip to the hospital had taken earlier; a testament to how fast he'd been driving
on the way there. There was also the fact that Annabeth was in the backseat now.
Annabeth hadn't wanted to intrude while Mallory made plans with her family for Leo. Still,
not a single word.

When they got back to the war room, everyone became quiet and still. There was the half-
smile he gave Bram when Bram told him the media was playing Doug Westin's horrific loss
as a win for his Congressional district, but still not a word to Donna.

Everything seemed to move in fast motion from then on until the election was called for
Matt Santos. Cheers erupted from everywhere and hugs were exchanged while the corks
on champagne bottles were popped. In the pandemonium, it took Donna a bit to realize
Josh had slipped out of the room. She searched quickly and efficiently until she found him
in Leo's hotel room.

"Josh?" she called to him quietly.

"This should have been his night." He replied without turning around. "He worked so hard
for this and it would have been his night."

"It still is. Leo Thomas McGarry was elected Vice-President of the United Stated tonight."

"God Damnit!" Josh shouted as he threw the nearest object off the hotel room desk and it
shattered against the wall. Donna visibly flinched. "Why does everything…ANYTHING
positive I do come at such a terrible cost?"

Donna didn't know how to answer that so she remained quiet and watchful.

"If I'd known this was going to be the price for the win tonight, I'd have gladly thrown the
election. What the hell do you want from me?!" Josh shouted at the ceiling and Donna felt
her eyes fill with tears. "You took my sister, my father, my mentor; who's next?"

"Josh…."

"He almost got you too, didn't he Donna? In Gaza, he almost got you too."

"Josh, please." Donna moved into his line of sight hoping that making eye contact might
shake him out of this, whatever it was.

"President Bartlet and I escaped; it was just luck though." Josh finally looked at her. "This is
such bullshit."

"Please come downstairs with me. Everyone will be looking for you. The President-elect will
be making his speech soon."

"I'm done." Josh announced as he dropped down onto the couch. "I quit."

"Josh, you can't make a decision like that right now. You're not in a good place to make
ANY decisions right now. You're grieving."

"I really don't think the President-elect should be standing too close to me, Donnatella."
Josh smirked. "You might want to rethink shackling yourself to me for life too."

"Don't you dare say that, Joshua. Don't you dare!" Donna started to feel her panic rising.
This was getting out of hand. Even though she knew he was speaking from the darkest
place in his heart, it was breaking hers. "You are exhausted, emotionally spent, and
grieving. Please come with me and-"

"No." Josh sounded eerily calm all of a sudden. "I need a little time alone. You go back to
the ballroom. I'll come find you later."

"I can't leave you here like this." Donna told him.

"I'll be fine." He made eye contact with her now. "I'm fine. I'm just going to sit here awhile."

"Then I'll just stay here with you. I won't say a word. I'll just sit here and-"

"And what? Babysit me?" Josh shook his head. "I'm sorry I scared you, Donna. You're right;
I'm exhausted. Go back to the party."

"Everyone will be looking for you." She argued.

"I'm done there, Donna." He shook his head again. "I'm done." He sat down on the couch
and held his head in his hands. Donna walked over to him and kissed his bowed head.

"I'll give you an hour. Then I'm coming back to get you." Donna vowed but Josh made no
reply.

As soon as she left the room, he pulled out his blackberry and called the number he'd
reluctantly programmed into his phone.

"I know you said I could call at any time, but I'm guessing you weren't anticipating 4 a.m."

"Not generally, no, but once I heard about Leo, I was kind of waiting for your call. I'm glad
you didn't disappoint me. Talk to me."

"No, actually, I'd like to come there. I have to get out of here. Is that possible?"

"Yeah…when can you get here?"

"You're just a couple hours from Houston. I don't know when the next flight is, though."

"Call me when you get in."

"Thanks Stanley, I…just thanks."

Josh looked at his watch for the 20th time since he arrived at the airport. His flight should
be boarding at any moment. He left a short letter for Donna, so she would know where he
was going and that he was okay. He knew his display earlier had frightened her. Hell, it had
frightened him. He was so angry and tired that he really couldn't see straight.

He sat back in the boarding area chair, his ever present backpack on his lap with his arms
wrapped around it; his head resting on top of it.

"Is this what you looked like before you boarded the flight for Germany?" Josh's head shot
up when he heard Donna's voice next to him.

"Donna, what are you doing here?"

"I'm traveling to California with my fiancé." Donna answered. "Isn't that why you left me that
pithy, short note? So I would know where to join you?"

"Not exactly, no." Josh smiled despite himself. "So am I in trouble now?"

"No." she told him sincerely. "I was very glad to know you called Stanley. If this had
happened even a year ago, I don't think you'd have picked up the phone and called
anyone for help. However-"

"I knew there had to be a 'however' in there." Josh interjected.

"However," Donna continued, "I'd like you to learn that promising to spend your life with
someone means more than just sharing the triumphs. I'm afraid if you don't master that
lesson shortly, I may need to inflict bodily injury."

"You don't have to come with me, Donna. I can handle a flight to California and a cab ride
to Stanley's office."

"See! You're doing it again. You act like it's my job to take care of you and today is my day
off. When I was your assistant, I took care of you because I loved you, not because it was
part of my job description. Incidentally, loving you is the same reason you're not getting on
that plane alone today." She took his chin in her hand. "We are in this, all of this, together.
You think I'm getting the short end of the stick now, but just wait until you are subjected to
all my Republican relatives for every holiday from now until death do we part." She was
delighted to see a little twinkle in Josh's eyes.

The flight boarding was announced and Josh stood up and held his hand out for Donna.

"Come on then. At least now I'll have someone to bug on the flight when I get bored." Josh
noted as she took his hand. I'd better call the Congressman- I mean the President elect
and fill him in."

"I already did." Donna reported. "He's going to hold off making any major decision for the
next couple days; including naming his Chief of Staff. When I left, he was talking to Mallory
about funeral plans."

Josh nodded but didn't say a word about Leo or the funeral.

"There's something else we should discuss." Donna said as they took their seats on the
plane. "Helen offered me a position as her Chief of Staff."

"That's…perfect." He smiled. "I can't think of anyone who would do better for her."

"Really?" Donna looked at him closely. "It's an awfully big jump from senior assistant to the
Deputy Chief of Staff to the Chief of Staff to the First Lady."

"I think you're forgetting the jobs you've done for the campaign in between those two
steps." Josh reminded her. "And even if you hadn't done those jobs, all the work you did in
President Bartlet's administration has more than prepared you for this. You can do this
Donna. I know you can…IF that's what you want." He was quick to add.

"And you won't take it as one more person abandoning you if I decide to take it?"

"No." Josh smirked. "I can't even shake you off for a short trip to L.A." His face became
serious again. "I'm not sure what I'm going to do about a job right now. Are you okay with
that?"

"Yes, I am." She kissed him. "We'll figure all of it out together."

"Will you talk to Stanley with me?"

"Yes, I will. I love you Josh."

"Thank God." He answered and put his head on her shoulder. Within minutes he was
sound asleep.

Two days later, they were back in D.C, having made an additional pit stop in California.
When they entered the President elect's office they found a hive of activity and a brain
numbing noise level. Lou spotted them first.

"It's about time!" She exclaimed. "Will you please tell these idiots that we can not include
language about-"

"Lou, I hate to tell you this, but my job with the campaign ended at midnight two days ago.
As much as I'd enjoy telling these idiots all manner of things, I'm really not in any position to
do so." Josh told her, smiling. Lou threw her hands up and walked away from him.

"The President elect wanted to see you the moment you got in." Ronna told Josh.

"I'll be right there." Josh told her before turning to Donna. "You're going to see the First
Lady elect?" she nodded. "I'll call you when I'm done."

"Josh, I need you to get a read on what's happening in the Speaker's race in the house. I'
ve got a list of possible appointments I'd like you to give me some feedback on and I'm
supposed to make you, make Donna, take the job as Helen's Chief of Staff." Matt Santos
rattled off as Josh walked into his office.

"Surely, sir, you and the First Lady elect have spent enough time with Donna and I to know
I can't 'make' Donna do anything. I can tell you though, that she's on her way over to Blair
House right now to accept the job."

"That's a relief. Helen was afraid Donna might want to stay in the West Wing with you. Here'
s the list of appointments." Matt handed him two pages of notes. "As Chief of Staff you're
going to be working more intimately with some of them than I will."

"Due respect, sir, I haven't agreed to serve as your Chief of Staff. I haven't even been
OFFERED a position as Chief of Staff."

"I thought if we just skipped over that part, you wouldn't notice." Matt smiled. "I need you
here Josh."

"I'm not sure how much good I could do for you, sir." Josh admitted.

"I am." Matt confirmed. "I wouldn't be sitting here as President elect right now if it weren't for
you and Donna. I know what you've been through and I can only imagine how difficult it is
for you to be back here saying goodbye to Leo McGarry tomorrow. But I also saw that even
through your difficulties you took time to help my daughter through hers. Even while you
were worn out and struggling, you still managed to run a national campaign that captured
the White House. If you can do all that now, I can't wait to see what you can pull off when
you're rested and running on all cylinders."

"Sir, I brought Sam Seaborn back with me, he'd make an excellent Chief of Staff. You
should sit down with him." Josh suggested.

"I'd be happy to sit down with him, I've seen his work. He can be your Deputy." The
President elect stood to his full height and walked around his desk until he was face to face
with Josh. "The American people, obviously high on drugs, have elected me to be their
leader. I can't do that job without you in the COS job."

"You're going to be a great leader, sir; with or without me."

"Better with you. It's time to lead, Josh. Help me lead." Josh startled at the words that so
exactly echoed the words John Hoynes had written to him so long ago. It made him stop
and think about the similarities and differences between these two men. Josh still wasn't
sure how good he'd be as the Chief of Staff without Leo to guide him, but looking into the
face of Matt Santos, he knew he wanted to try. He and Donna had talked ad nauseam
about all the pros and cons and in the end Josh admitted he was afraid Matt Santos wouldn'
t want him in that spot anymore. This discussion left that fear in the dust.

"I'd be honored, sir." Josh shook the President elect's hand. "There is one condition,
though."

Matt Santos looked at him with raised eyebrows. "Do tell."

"I'm going to need the 20th through the 27th of December off. I promised Donna we'd go
away after the wedding."

"Believe me, if I tried to stop you Helen would have me killed in my sleep. She thinks the
world may very well revolve around Donna Moss."

"On that, sir, your wife and I are in perfect agreement." Josh smiled and started looking at
the list Santos had given him. "I figured you'd want Baker in the number 2 spot, it will take a
little finagling, but we can get it done….Sir? The name after Secretary of State?"

Matt smiled at Josh's reaction. It was just what he thought it would be. "I can get you his FBI
file if you need some more information about my nominee."

"I think I'm sufficiently familiar with Arnie Vinicks' record, but thanks for the offer. What have
you been smoking while I was gone?" Josh's voice rose in frustration.

"Ronna, can you send Sam Seaborn?" Matt asked through the intercom.

"Seriously, sir, I realize you want to extend the bi-partisan branch, but sweet Jesus,
Vincik?!"

"Ah, Sam Seaborn, I presume?" Matt Santos rose again and extended his hand when Sam
entered.

"It's an honor to meet you, sir. Josh and Donna have had nothing but great things to say
about you and Mrs. Santos."

"Thank you. I think you're going to be just what Josh needs in a Deputy Chief of Staff."

Sam looked first surprised at the President elect, then pissed at Josh.

"There must be some misunderstanding, sir. Josh asked me to come back to D.C. on a
temporary basis to help write the inauguration address." Sam said pointedly looking at Josh.

"You did an incredible job writing for President Bartlet and I'd be happy to have your help
on the address, but Josh says we need you in another capacity; as his DCOS."

"Sir, I'm honored to be considered, but I have a life in California; a job, a
fiancé…a…a…boat and everything." Sam was clearly getting discombobulated being
double teamed by Josh and the President elect. Wisely, Josh stayed silent and let the
President elect do the heavy lifting.

"I'm asking you to serve the President of the United States and you refuse based on the
fact that you have a boat?" Santos pushed.

"And, you know, a fiancé." Sam finished lamely.

"I assume she's portable?" Matt continued. "She's not on life support there or anything?"

"No, sir, she's quite healthy; which is more than I can say for me. I'm feeling a bit light
headed right now. See Josh got me here under false pretenses."

"He can be very sneaky that way." Matt agreed. "Remind me to tell you about how he
helped me get into the Democratic debate in New Hampshire sometime."

Sam turned to Josh expecting….something. He should have known better.

"I can ask Donna to talk to your fiancé, but you're on your own about the boat. Now tell
him," Josh indicated Santos with a jerk of his thumb, "what an incredibly bad idea it would
be to nominate Arnie Vinick as Secretary of State."

"Arnie Vinick?" Sam paused to consider the implications. "That could be brilliant."

"Sam, you and I are going to get along just fine. Come with me and I'll introduce you
around while Josh gets his blood pressure under control." The President Elect motioned for
Sam to follow him while Josh looked over the rest of the list.

****************************************
Chapter 26

At one time or another, Josh had worried that he'd become suicidal as a result of his PTSD.
Now he knew he had never been truly suicidal before; because now he knew what it was
like to truly want to take your own life.

"…Here's another thing you might now know, the early Christians had a wedding tradition
that involved-"

"Please, sir, I beg you; no more." Josh nearly shouted at President Bartlet. "Do you not
think you've punished me enough for one day?"

"I certainly hope you don't let him talk to you like this once you're sworn in, Matt." Jed
replied to Matt Santos, ignoring Josh completely.

"I've learned not to take it to personally, Jed." Josh watched the two of them knocking back
drinks like two old pals and shook his head. He was supposed to be relaxing in the
residence until the ceremony started. Josh thought that relaxing with the current and future
President's of the United States was more than a little oxymoronic.

A knock at the door brought Josh's salvation and Sam entered. "Are you ready to walk
down?"

"Yes!" Josh replied immediately and jumped up from his chair. Donna had spent the last
two days at CJ's and Josh was dying just to see her.

Jed and Matt exchanged amused glances and followed the anxious groom and his Best
Man down to the ceremony.

Josh knew Donna was beautiful. He'd known it since that day in February when he'd walked
into his office in Nashua and found her answering his phone. But walking down the aisle to
him, she simply took his breath away. He had a momentary twinge of grief when he
remembered Leo's comment about who Donna might choose when she finished her walk
down the aisle, but he tried to brush it off and concentrate on what he and Donna were
about to do.

Sam had to nudge him twice when it was time for him to speak the vows he'd written for
their wedding. Maybe the vows weren't as polished as they might have been if he'd let Sam
help him, but Josh wanted the vows to be his words, and judging by Donna's reaction, he
seemed to have done just fine.

In the blink of an eye, he was kissing his Bride and walking back up the aisle a married
man. He did manage to get a couple minutes alone with her in a dark closet, but she
insisted everyone was waiting for them and she didn't want to appear late and mussed.
Josh couldn't have cared less.

As soon as they entered the reception, Donna was swept away from him; he got a brief
dance with her after dinner, but that was too short lived for his taste. He sat at a table with
Sam, his fiancé Laura, Matt Skinner, C.J. and Danny watching as the Speaker of the House
waltzed his wife around the dance floor.

"I really don't think you should be glowering at your wife mere hours after your wedding." C.
J. hinted.

"I'm not glowering at Donna. I'm glowering at the Speaker. You wouldn't think he'd want to
piss off the incoming White House Chief of Staff, would you?"

"Maybe he's under the mistaken impression that the incoming Chief of Staff is a mature
adult who wouldn't begrudge him a dance with the Bride at the wedding reception." Matt
offered and earned a glare himself from the groom.

"Well that would be pretty stupid wouldn't it?" Sam teased. "If you're that unhappy sitting
here catching up with your friends, you could always go and cut in."

Josh blinked. Yes, yes he could cut it. He just got up from his chair with his eyes trained
and Donna and the Speaker when he felt a hand on his shoulder.

"Sit down, Joshua. It's only a dance. You'll have her for the rest of your life." His mother
assured him as she pushed him back into his chair. "Everything is so lovely, isn't it?"

"Yeah." Josh agreed. "You did a great job, mom. Donna was thrilled with all of this."

"I'm glad. We enjoyed making the arrangements." His mom told him. "And for what it is
worth, your vows were perfect. Aren't you glad you did that yourself?"

"Very glad." Josh's glance moved over to his wife again. "Are you sure I can't cut in?"

At that moment, the song ended and the Speaker began walking Donna back to the table.
Josh rose to take her hand and move her closer to him to steal another kiss. Danny and
Matt Skinner chorused 'get a room' together.

"I'd love to but Donna said to leave this early would be rude to you leeches and
sycophants."

Donna elbowed him. "That's the kind of comment I was explaining you should NOT say out
loud."

"I'm having a little difficulty concentrating on anything besides my wife right now." Josh
admitted and kissed her again. Donna blushed, delighted at his open affection with her in
front of everyone they knew and worked with.

"Donnatella." Came a new voice from behind them. "Leave this guy and come dance with
the leader of the free world." Jed Bartlet suggested.

"Sir, I haven't seen my wife in an hour-" Josh began

"A fact that I'm sure you'll be able to remedy very shortly. Come Donnatella." Donna
shrugged as if to say 'what else can I do?'. She took the President's free arm and
accompanied him back on the dance floor.

"To say that you're a beautiful bride is a bit of an understatement, but is true at least."

"Thank you, Mr. President. And thanks again for allowing us to be married here. It's such
an extraordinary honor."

"I know a way you can pay me back." Bartlet told her and had her looking at him strangely.

"And what would that be?" Donna asked cautiously.

"My wife and I have a little bet going. You could give me some inside information and tell
me whether or not I've won or lost."

Donna couldn't imagine what he was referring to.

"Serving as President for the last eight years, I've been entrusted with some pretty big
secrets." He assured her. "Some things that even the Chief of Staff is unaware of."
President Bartlet looked pointedly at Josh. Donna's lips twitched and she leaned in closely
to whisper into the President's ear.

"You've just cost me $50 you know." He complained good naturedly.

"Mr. President, I'd really have thought by now you'd have learned not to bet against your
wife." Donna teased.

"I guess I don't have to admit I've lost right away." He brightened at the thought while the
song they were dancing to came to an end. Donna turned back to the table Josh had been
occupied only to find him gone. Jed, knowing who she'd been looking for, turned her in the
opposite direction.

"There." He pointed out where Josh was completing a dance with his mother. Immediately
their eyes locked. Without another word, Josh walked over, with his mom in tow, and left
her in the hands of the current President while he reclaimed his wife.

"What are you doing?" Donna asked during their dance when Josh's hand kept moving up
and down the back her dress in a peculiar fashion.

"I'm trying to get a count on the number of buttons I'm going to have to pull off this thing to
get you naked."

"This thing, is a couture gown. You will not be pulling off any buttons."

"How about if I cut them off nice and neat? You could even save them and have them sewn
back on later."

"Josh!" Donna protested his plan. "You will not do anything to this dress except unbutton it;
unless you piss me off right now, and then you will not even get to do that."

"There's like 300 buttons on this thing- I mean this couture gown. Tell me the truth; this is
some evil joke your parents are playing on me, right?" Josh asked while he began kissing
all the available skin within range of his mouth. Donna literally felt her skin tingle and her
knees weaken.

"Let's go back to our suite now, Donnatella. These people will stay until dawn and I don't
want to wait to be alone with you anymore." Josh attempted to convince her, but then Sam
took the mic to offer a very sweet and very long toast. Josh just moaned.

"Be still. Your best friend is saying very nice things about you that you don't nearly
deserve." Donna admonished him.

"But I want to leave now. Can't we just videotape the rest of this and watch it later?"

"Shhh…" Donna scolded.

Josh was pacing restlessly while he waited for Donna to return from a private chat she was
having with her mother, when his own mother appeared at his side.

"Stop the pacing, Joshua. She'll be down in a few minutes."

"What can they be talking about all this time? They've spent the last week together!"

"Some children would want a moment to say goodbye to their parents before they embark
on a new part of their lives."

"Why?" Josh asked tongue in cheek until his mother smacked him on the head. "I was just
joking…You have been so great through everything. I'm really lucky to have you for a
mom. I really miss Dad today, you know?"

"And Joanie." His mom added. "They both would have just adored Donna. Of course Leo
already did. He was so happy for you both Josh. He called me after your big screen
appearance at the convention; I could hear him beaming over the phone."

"It's not going to be the same being in the White House without him."

"No, it won't. But his influence will be there, through you. I'm very proud of you Joshua."

"Thanks Mom." Josh enveloped her in a hug then looked over when his mother pointed
toward the staircase.

"There's your bride. You know, it's late enough now, that no one would mind if you snuck
off…" Josh grinned and approached Donna and Mrs. Moss.

"I've been given maternal permission to kidnap you now." He informed his wife. "With your
permission?" Josh turned belatedly to Mrs. Moss. Mrs. Moss laughed at the thought that
she could say anything that would stop Josh from leaving with her daughter at this point.

"Of course with my permission." She responded sardonically. She gave Josh a big hug and
gave him her last minute instructions. "Take good care of my baby."

"I will. I promise." He assured her before taking Donna's hand and leading her toward the
exit where their limo was waiting; stopping only briefly to kiss his mom goodbye.

The moment they were enclosed in the limo, Josh raised the privacy screen and attacked.
By the time they reached their hotel he had pulled out every pin in Donna's hair and was
working his way through the 300 buttons. Luckily, Donna had a silk wrap that hid most of
the damage while they checked in.

Donna was impressed by the sumptuous suite; canopied bed, Jacuzzi tub, and a fireplace
with a fire already blazing inside.

"This is perfect, Josh. I love it." Donna told him and hugged him to her.

"Well your husband, having extensive hotel experience, knew just what to look for on this
special occasion." Josh touted himself. "I think we should start with the Jacuzzi tub and work
our way over to the King bed before ending the evening asleep in front of the romantically
roaring fire."

"You have it all planned out do you?" Donna smiled while her husband continued working
on the buttons.

"If you have taught me anything, Donnatella, it has been the value of a good plan."

"Then we should get started on this plan of yours." She invited and walked toward the
Jacuzzi tub.

It wasn't until nearly 3 hours later that Josh remembered an important part of the plan. He
got up suddenly from where he and Donna were cuddling in front of the fire.

"Do not tell me your pager just went off." Donna warned.

"I do not even have possession of my pager, or my cell phone. I promise. I am in
possession, however, of a wedding gift for you." Josh bragged and set two boxes in front of
his wife.

She opened the first box and pulled out a coffee cup. Her eyebrows shot up.

Alarmed by her reaction, he quickly instructed her to take it out of the box. The cup was
emblazoned by the word 'The Boss' and their was a typed up coupon promising free re-fills
for the rest of their married life. Josh waited anxiously for her reaction.

"I give you my heart, and you give me a coffee cup?" she querried.

"And the coffee…plus look inside." Donna pulled out a small piece of paper and read what
was printed on it.

"It's our reservation for the Maui Hyatt." Donna noted unsurprised; they'd chosen their
destination together.

"Yes, but look at the dates." Josh implored and Donna took another look.

"14 days!" she looked up shocked. "How can we be gone for 14 days?"

"The President elect pointed out that we'd spend two full days traveling which would leave
us only 5 days there. Then the First Lady elect noted that nothing really gets done
between Christmas and New Years, and before I knew it the President was okaying a 14
day trip."

"So what you're saying is this is really a gift from Matt and Helen."

"I agreed to it and changed the reservation all by myself."

"Very nice." Donna smiled facetiously. She noticed Josh fingering the second box which
was considerably larger and the curiosity got to her. "Do I get to open that one?"

"I guess, but if you didn't like that one, I don't have much hope for this one." He groused.

Donna took the package from him but pause before she opened it. "I do like this one, Josh.
14 days will be heaven and I'm going to insist you fill my coffee cup several times a day."
She teased and saw a ghost of a smile come back onto his face. "In fact I'm sure there's a
Starbucks on Maui, I'll just have you-" she broke off when she saw the contents of the
larger box. She doubted Josh knew it was called a shadow box, but she did. Inside were two
objects with Josh's familiar scrawl written beneath each of them.

The first object was the campaign badge from "Bartlet for America"; he must have pinched
it from her memory box. Underneath it, he'd written 'The first day of our lives together.".
The second item was the security badge from the convention dated the night Matt Santos
had won the nomination; the night Josh had proposed. Underneath that he had written
"The first day of the rest of our lives together."

Tears spilled over her face. "Josh, you buried the lead."

"I did?"

"You did; but that's okay." Donna kissed him tenderly. "This is perfect." Josh's smile
bloomed when he realized he'd inadvertently done just fine on the gifts.

"Of course it is." Josh said brazenly. "Let's see what you've got that can top that." He
challenged her.

"Well it's a tough gig, but I think I can do it." She smirked and retrieved a small package
from her suitcase. Josh tore it open like a kid on Christmas morning. He opened the box,
rolling his eyes when he had to cut through several pieces of tape to accomplish that.

He pulled out the book inside and opened the cover. He look puzzled for a minute while his
brain processed what he was reading.

"It's a baby book." He stated.

"Yes, it is." Donna confirmed.

"But we don't have a baby, Donna." Josh told her certainly.

"We kind of do." Donna countered.

Josh's eyes went wide. When they'd agreed she would go off her birth control a few months
ago, it was primarily because her doctor said it might take 6-9 months to conceive after she
stopped taking the medication. They wanted to start a family right away so…

"We kind of have a baby?" He questioned.

"Well, we will in another 6 months." Donna stipulated. Donna got a bit nervous when Josh
didn't say anything. He just continued to page through the book. He suddenly got up and
got a pen.

"I don't think you can guess about any of the information they ask for in that book Joshua."

"I'm not guessing. It says, 'When we found out about the baby_'." Donna
watched while Josh filled in the blank with words that described his joy at becoming a
father. Donna then added her own thoughts.

"I guess you could top my gifts after all." Josh admitted.

" Technically, this was a gift from you too." Donna noted.

"Hey, that's right!" Josh exclaimed. "You really should find a way to thank me sufficiently
Donnatella."

"I'll work on it, Josh." Donna replied somberly. "Maybe I can think about it while you go get
me some decaf." She handed him the cup and smirked.

"I'm going to indulge you Donna, because you're carrying my child."

"Very wise of you Josh." Donna agreed. "14 days in Hawaii…"

She laid back down on the bed awaiting her coffee. She quietly turned on CNN to see if
there was an coverage of the wedding. She got caight when Josh returned with her coffee.

"I thought we agreed no news on the honeymoon." Josh was delighted to have caught her
first.

"This isn't the honeymoon, this is the wedding night. The honeymoon doesn't begin until we
leave on our trip to Maui." Now Josh didn't really buy this exception but since he too wanted
to see what they were covering, he let it go. The president elect was answering a question
about his discussion with President Bartlet at the wedding.

"The President generously shared many suggestions and advice with me about what he's
learned about leading the American people. It's a daunting job, but I have been blessed
with experts on my teams that will help me lead once President Bartlet steps down."

"He's talking about you, you know." Donna risks puffing his ego.

"No he's talking about us, Donnatella. We're the team; and since we have a lot of leading
to do, we're going to hit the ground running once we return from Maui."

"I'm ready. Are you?' Donna pressed.

"Yes, I am, but since we don't have a lot of time before we have to be back to help lead, we
should take advantage of the time we do have." Josh suggested and pulled her down to
the blanket in front of the fireplace. They fell asleep, naked, in one anthers arms; Josh's
arm splayed across Donna's stomach. The Fatherly instinct kicking in already as he
covered his growing child inside his wife's body.

He would have to lead the way for this tiny baby, too. This child no bigger than his pinky
finger, would be reaping the rewards of their hard work.

It was an awesome thought to entertain. His child…their child...(he mentally corrected
himself stealing a glance at his wife's closed eyes like she could read his mind) their child
was counting on them to make things different in this world. For the first time in a long time,
Josh thought it might be exactly the right motivation with which to begin his new job with a
new administration and his new wife.

"Stop thinking about the policy implications of our new baby, and go to sleep." Donna
instructed and made Josh chuckle.

Josh snuggled in closer to his wife and child; Donna wrapping his arms more securely
around her. Yes, the next few years were going to be very interesting; and he was ready to
lead.

The End.