I sink into the comfortable leather chair in the conference room of Air Force One. It‘s almost four in the morning and it has been a hell of a day. The President and the First Lady had a fundraiser in Los Angeles that seemed to never want to end. The entire staff with the exception of Leo and Margaret had been in attendance. Much to my irritation, the campaign staff and a few of their invited guests had also made the trip. Why Brenda invited her along was something I’ve asking myself for hours. At least I had Donna to run interference. She knows that Amy and I are on the outs. It’s been three weeks since the Welfare vote and we’ve only seen each other maybe twice. Both times ended in me leaving after I got tired of the never-ending debate. I think Mrs. B was even surprised to see Amy make the trip. What the hell was Brenda thinking? She doesn’t work for her anymore. I scrub my hands over my face and wait for everyone to get settled before we take off. Sam looks like he’s about to fall over at any moment. I think Toby actually has. He’s commandeered one of the couches. I should have gotten one for Donna and me. I know she’s tired. She doesn’t look that well, either. She’s paler than normal and she looks like she wants to vomit. Can’t say as I blame her. I could just vomit from the whole situation. She puts her tote bag down in the chair next to me and gives me a weary smile.
“I’m gonna go get a Sprite or something.”
“You feel okay?” She nods her head a little but I don’t believe her. She looks almost green.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine. I’m just gonna….” She points to the door and I nod. CJ walks through and drops her bag and a few files before heading down to the Press.
“I’m not sure. She doesn’t look so good.”
“Well, don’t piss her off and let her sleep on the way home.”
“I mean it. She’s probably exhausted. You need to take better care of her.” CJ gives me a pointed look and I know what she means. After Simon was killed CJ and I had a long talk. A talk, quite frankly, I never imagined having with the Press Secretary. I, of all people, know how your perspective changes after reality hits you in the face….or the chest for that matter.
Donna manages to rest a few minutes while the plane takes off, but I can tell she’s still not feeling well. Once we’ve leveled off she stands and rummages through her tote bag. She pops a few Tums in her mouth and excuses herself.
“I’m fine Josh.” She calls quietly over her shoulder before leaving the room. It’s quiet for a while. Toby is trying to finish up the speech the President is giving next week on Homeland Security and Sam is stretched out in one of the chairs. I have a feeling things won’t be quiet soon. As if on cue my cell phone rings. It’s Leo. He’s talking about the next vote on 465. I nudge Sam in the leg to get his attention.
“Who can we pull for support on 465?”
“Walters and McManus.”
“See what you can find out.” He rubs his hair back into place and grabs the nearest phone. Toby closes his laptop and starts to pull files from Sam’s briefcase. He hands one to me and I see the notes he and Sam have made on the bill.
“Yeah, Leo, we’re on it. I’ll have Donna pull some research and we’ll see you in the office around one.”
I hang up the phone and start to pull some information together. I guess that’s why none of us noticed when she came in. It’s not until I see Amy take Donna’s tote bag from the chair and drop it carelessly to the floor that I see the looks on Sam and Toby’s faces.
“What are you doing up here?”
“I thought I’d come sit with you.”
”What?” I don’t have time for this. I look to Toby for a little help because he knows I don’t do well with things like this.
“Amy, this area is for senior staff.”
“That’s okay. I’m sure J won’t mind.”
“Actually…..” My cell phone interrupts me again. “Yeah? Okay, I’ll have Donna fax that to you.”
I’ve really had about enough of this woman. Who does she think she is? How did she even get on the plane? Surely there’s at least one Agent on this plane that had the notion to shoot her on site. Josh is still on the phone and Amy has made herself comfortable in Donna’s chair. From the looks of it she’s listening to every word Josh is saying. I stand and take the folder from the table before Amy has a chance to read it. That’s the last thing we need is for Amy to go job hunting with White House ammunition. She gives me this weird smirk. Like it almost pains her to actually smile.
“Shouldn’t you be with Brenda?”
“Trying to get rid of me Toby?”
“Is it working?”
“Then maybe I’ll try harder.” Josh starts to pace and I can tell he’s forgotten all about his so-called girlfriend sitting in Donna’s chair. Sam covers the phone with his hand and shouts my name.
“Toby! We’ve got McManus, but he wants to meet with us as soon as we get back. He wants to talk about…….” I stop him with a look and then his gaze falls on Amy.
you supposed to be somewhere else?” For Sam, that’s about as rude as it
gets. She obviously doesn’t know that.
”I decided to sit with J.”
“Did ‘J’ approve that?” Gee Sam, that was down right snotty. I’m so proud.
“I don’t need his approval.” Before he can say anything more, Donna comes back in the room. The look on her face is just about enough for me to throw Amy out the nearest emergency exit.
“What’s wrong?” She glances again at Amy and then gives me her full attention.
“We’re hitting a bump on 465. Josh is on the phone with Leo and…..Do you feel alright? You look pale.”
“I’m fine.” She’s not fine.
“Did you eat something?”
“Maybe. I’m fine. What do you need?”
“Josh needs for you to fax……” I look over at Amy again who is shamelessly eavesdropping on our conversation. “Where’s CJ?”
“She’s in with the Press. Do you want me to go get her?”
“No, not yet. Let’s do this first.”
I feel horrible. I think it was the shrimp salad. I wonder if CJ’s sick too. She ate just as much as I did. Well, okay, maybe not as much. I think I’m going to throw up. I swallow again to try to keep myself under control and take the folder from Toby. I look around the room for Josh’s backpack and see my tote bag tossed on the floor. What the hell? Then I see why. Amy. That’s enough to make anyone want to throw up.
“Excuse me.” I try for polite as I pull Josh’s bag from beneath his seat.
“Donna, when you get a chance, I’d like a bottle of water.” I know I just gave her a go-to-hell look. I’m sure of it. Once I glance around the room, I see that Josh is giving her the same one. Toby on the other hand looks like he could just send her there.
“I’m sure they have water in the area of the plane you were assigned.” Yeah, I can bring the bitch. I feel like shit and I really don’t have the patience for Amy right now.
“I asked for a water Donna.” She says it as if I should be bowing as I exit the room. Before I give in to the urge to slap some movement in her jaw, Josh tugs on my arm.
“I need you to fax this to Leo and then look up…….” He puts the phone back to his ear and I’m very aware that he’s slipped his hand into mine as he’s talking. It’s nothing new, we’re tactile people by nature, but I can see Amy glaring at me.
“Okay, Leo. Thanks.” Josh closes his cell phone and pulls me by the hand to the adjoining room where the fax machine and copier are. He pushes the door closed a little and sighs while rubbing his hands over his head.
“Can you get Brenda to get her the hell out of here?”
“Why don’t you just ask her to leave?”
“You really think that’ll work?”
“No. Maybe if we pour a circle of salt around us she won’t be able to hurt us.” Josh laughs a little and I can tell he’s almost to the end of his rope where Amy’s concerned.
“Maybe we can break a few chairs and fashion some stakes.” I manage a small smile for him because at the moment this room is very hot. I think I’m actually sweating.
“I’m okay.” I’m not really. I think I manage to mumble something about going to the bathroom before bolting out the door.
”Donna, can I get you anything?” Josh is about three steps from throwing Amy from the plane, we’ve got to nail down 465 and now Donna’s throwing up. This is bad on so many levels.
I tap lightly on the door and it pushes open. Donna is leaning against the small sink and looking like death.
“I just heard from Marshall. CJ’s in about the same boat you are.”
“Where’s Josh?” I give her a sympathetic look. She and Josh have always managed to deny so much, but this past year has changed them somehow. They’re not as afraid.
“He’s still talking to Leo and thinking of ways to get rid of Amy.”
“Why doesn’t he just tell her?” She asks as I run a cloth under the cool water.
“He’s trying not to be one of those guys.”
“He is one of those guys.” I drape the cloth over her forehead as she rests her head up against the wall.
“I know. I think he just wants to prove he…..”
“Donna?” Josh calls through the door. I turn the knob and step out to let him inside.
“She okay?” He looks so worried. It’s times like this that he can’t hide how he feels about her.
“Same as CJ?”
“I’m gonna go get Mrs. Bartlet.”
“I’m fine.” Yeah, sell it somewhere else.
“You are not fine, Donnatella. You’re puking.”
“Well, seemed better than fetching bottled water.”
“Okay, that’s it. I’ve had it. I can’t take this anymore. Come on. You need to lie down.” I slip my arm around her waist and walk her back to the conference room. Toby moves his laptop and pulls a pillow to the edge of the couch for Donna to rest her head on.
“But you need me to…..” I cut her off with a finger against her lips.
“Rest Donnatella.” Both of us hear the pained grunt from across the room. I turn a fix a glare at Amy. Out of the corner of my eye I can see Toby leveling the same disapproving look.
“Amy, we’ve got work to do here. Go back to your seat.” Yeah, that sounded as harsh as I was hoping for.
“I’ll just sit here with you. You might need some help now that your secretary’s had too much to drink.” I place a hand on Donna’s arm to keep her from flying from the couch. The President preempts my profanity filled reply. We all stand, even Donna. God love her.
“Donnatella.” He says in that singsong way that always makes her smile. “I had a chance to go to this great book store and found a book that I knew you’d love. It’s full of all sorts of valuable information. I bought us both a copy.”
“Thank you, Mr. President.” He pats her on the arm and smiles as she hugs the book to her chest. Amy is still glowering in our direction.
“You and I can talk about it next week when we have to make the trip to……Donna, what’s wrong?” Before she can answer the First Lady and Sam enter the conference room.
“Donna, dear, please tell me you didn’t eat the shrimp salad.” Donna nods as the President takes her by the arm and has her sit back on the couch.
“She’s thrown up three times.” Sam offers.
“Four.” Donna adds weakly.
“You poor thing. Josh, take her back to our bedroom and put her to bed.” Amy makes a strangled sound and everyone turns to look at her.
“What are you doing up here?” Abbey asks. I guess there’s no love lost there now. That’s good to hear.
“I thought I’d offer to help J with the bill.” Amy smiles this drippy sweet smile that sends Donna fleeing to the bathroom again.
“Josh?” Abbey turns to me and waits for my confirmation. Nope, not happening.
“Amy’s been asked to leave ma’am. She just seems to have difficulty understanding the request.”
“Well, I’m sure I can remedy that. Amy, get out.”
“It’s pretty obvious what you’re trying to do. We didn’t get where we are by being stupid and unobservant. Go back to Brenda.” Amy looks positively livid. Boy, that’s good. Donna reclines slowly back on the couch and Amy glares at her again.
“I thought you said this area was for Senior Staff only. Shouldn’t Donna be with the other secretaries?”
“Donna’s different.” Abbey states a lot calmer than I would have.
“So that’s it J. You’re dating your assistant.” I open my mouth to answer but Abbey stops me with her hand in the air.
“No he’s not, although none of us can fathom why.” I look down at Donna and she’s got the same expression on her face that I’m sure I’m wearing right now.
“She’s that special?” Amy practically spits the words.
“Yes. You, not so much. I’m so sorry Josh. I had no idea what trouble this would be.” I can only nod as Amy stands there in total indignation.
“I can’t believe you’d choose a secretary over me! We could have been so good, J.”
“Are you learning impaired? She’s not my secretary!” Before I can continue, we hear the President clap his hands together.
“Alright, that’s it! You’ve crossed the line. In fact, you’ve gone about eight miles over the line as far as I’m concerned. Milo! Roy!” Two Secret Service Agents appear from outside the door and wait for instructions. “Escort Ms. Gardner to her seat and if she gets within twenty feet of the senior staff, tackle her to the ground and do whatever it is you do to people that get too close to the President.”
“Yes Sir.” Milo gestures with his hand for Amy to follow him. She does that annoying huffing thing and then stalks off to her seat.
“Well, that was unpleasant. What’s next?”
What a little bitch.
Josh knocks softly on the bathroom door before stepping inside. He offers me a small smile before handing me a damp cloth.
“You’re looking a little better.”
“I don’t feel better.”
“Abbey just put the smack down on Amy. That should make you feel better.”
“Oh yeah, I’m giddy.”
“I’m sorry.” I don’t think we’re talking about Mrs. Bartlet anymore. He rubs his hand down my back and holds my gaze for a moment.
been so stupid. I’m sorry.”
“Okay.” He smiles at me. I missed that smile. He pulls me closer to him and wraps his arms around me.
“Let’s put you to bed.”
“Sweet talker.” He laughs lightly and I can tell we’re back to us again.
“Come on.” He keeps his arm around my waist and leads me back to the conference room. Mrs. Bartlet checks for a fever by placing her hand on my forehead.
“You still look like shit.”
“Thank you ma’am.” She winks at me and grins.
“Anytime. Josh, put her to bed.”
“And make sure she’s comfortable for the rest of the flight. Call if you need anything. I’m going to go check on Claudia Jean.”
“Thank you, Ma’am. For everything.” Josh looks at her and smiles.
“Just don’t screw this up.” She’s got that look in her eye again. I look at Josh and he stares directly in my eyes as he answers.
“No ma’am. This is to important to me.”
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