Josh entered the kitchen, shaking his wrists and trying to shrug off the unwelcome feeling that he was headed into a boxing match. As he wandered around, vaguely wondering how long nursing women napped, he took in the domesticity of the place and tried to reconcile what he knew about CJ's past life with her new reality. He fiddled with the drip tray on a fancy cappuccino machine, concluding it must have been a housewarming gift; rescued a tea towel from the back of a chair and reunited it with its cohort; turned the knobs on the range and, liking what he saw, took note of the brand for future reference; and finally he gravitated towards the photos on the fridge.

He smiled when his eyes fell on a photo from the first campaign, but his attention was drawn away from it by a piece of paper - made conspicuous by the fact that everything on it was crossed out, with the exception of the letters PRC. He was turning it over when it was plucked from his hand.

"What's PRC?" he quipped. "People's Republic of China?"

Immediately defensive, CJ was on the verge of telling him to mind his own business. But instead she took a deep breath and said, "Danny and I have .. unresolved issues. We made a list and are slowly working our way through it."

"Like the list you made that Christmas when he told you he had a crush on you?"

"How do you know about that?"

"Who doesn't know about that?" When she continued to stare at him he clarified with, "it wasn't Carol outside your office that night, and apparently the door was wide open. It made the rounds pretty quickly."

"Whatever .."

She tried to brush off the irritation as she secured the paper firmly back to the fridge.


"Did you know the British call this a pram?" Donna asked as she wheeled the baby carriage down the long winding drive.

"Yup. Short for perambulator. Rolls off the tongue quite nicely, don't you think?"

"Pe-ram-bu-lator. Yes, but pram is more fun. It makes me think of -"

"Crap!" Danny said as he placed a hand over hers and brought them all to a halt.

"What's the matter?" she asked as she watched him root in the diaper bag.

"I left the burping cloth on the bed."

"We wouldn't want to be without that, would we?" Donna said to Imogen as she bent over and tickled her tummy.

The baby rewarded her with a happy gurgle.

"I'll be right back," Danny said as headed back towards the house.

As he let himself in through the front door, the sound of voices drifted toward him from the kitchen. He paused briefly, and then took the stairs two at a time.


"So does it work?"

"Making a list and working through your issues?"

"Yeah."

"It works for us. We've been at it, on and off, since early 2008."

"How many issues did you have?"

"There are eight plus years of misunderstandings and hurt feelings to unpack, Josh."

A little bubble of anxiety welled up in the centre of her chest, and Josh's continued attempt at levity did nothing to dispel it.

"You're not going to tell me what it stands for, are you?"

"No," she said as she turned away.

"CJ .."

She paused by the table and swivelled on her heel to look at him.

"Would this be easier if we had a list?" he said, motioning between the two of them.

"And what would go at the top of the list? Donna?"

The words came out a lot more harshly than she intended, but to his credit Josh simply ran a hand through his hair and said, "I don't know. Maybe?"

He watched an emotional struggle play out across her features and tried to defuse the situation the only way he knew how.

"You're not going to cry, are you?" he teased.

The statement backfired immediately.

"Hell, I don't know, Josh. Give me a minute to consult the hormone tower and find out what's on tap for today. First, Donna tells me that something I said five years ago is still a thing, then Danny tells me ..

"Danny knows?"

For reasons which eluded them both, the acute surprise in his voice took the wind out of her sails.

"Apparently the only person who didn't know that conversation had a ripple effect was me."

Something inside of Josh reacted to the anguish in her tone, and for a moment he wanted to just sweep all of it under the rug. But then he remembered the hurt in Donna's voice, and the hours he'd lost analyzing a conversation he hadn't been present for but had been burned by regardless.

"You completely mischaracterized why I wanted her with me, CJ. I needed Donna. Even putting aside my personal interest, I was handling legislative affairs on top of being the only Deputy Chief of Staff."

"I wasn't aware of the way you felt about her, Josh," she began feebly.

"Were you also not aware that you crushed her spirit that night? "

"It was never my intention. That was a strange night to begin with, and it felt like, I don't know, it felt like tough love."

Danny was almost halfway back down the stairs when Josh's voice took an upward turn.

"Tough love? Implying that she wasn't appreciated? That she was making bad choices based on some ridiculous crush she had on me? That everything she'd learned and done up to that point didn't have much value? God, CJ, she was serving the President of the United States. Working in the White House without a degree. I gave her more responsibilities than any other assistant in the West Wing even before she asked for more."

"And your idea of more was getting someone bumped from a codel?"

"She was disappointed I couldn't get her on the Brussels trip," he said with a frustrated shrug. "And you know as well as I do that she learned and did far more than Jack Sosa would have, even given the outcome."

"Did you ever wonder to what extent it was incumbent on you to advance her career and what was on her?"

"Did you seriously just ask me that question? " Josh's voice dropped dangerously by a couple of decibels, and out on the staircase Danny found himself gripping the handrail. "Because I could turn right around and ask what you did for Carol after all her years of loyalty to you."

"That's a low blow."

"Is it? Really, what did you do when you got promoted?"

"I ran the country, Josh. I took Charlie on .."

"I'm talking about Carol. Who looked out for you, and made sure you ate, and always went above and beyond what was required of an executive assistant. Just like Donna did for me. She looked up to you as a mentor. Couldn't you have let her try out for Press Secretary? She'd been watching you for years, you knew she was ready."

Danny gripped the handrail a little tighter; bile rising in his throat as he felt the gut punch of words he knew would have a devastating effect on CJ. The distaste he felt for Josh in that moment was profound, and every cell in his body bayed for blood. It took every ounce of willpower he had not to storm the kitchen and go to bat for her. He railed against the knowledge that this was not his fight; that inserting himself into it would help absolutely nobody. Not only that, but he needed to beat a hasty retreat before one of them walked out and found him inadvertently eavesdropping.

Almost on cue, the kitchen door was flung open.

"You know what, I need a break from this conversation," he heard CJ say.

The tears in her voice almost broke his resolve, but he was still frozen in place when he heard Josh say, "that was out of line. I shouldn't have brought it up."

Danny was very aware of the spike in his blood pressure as he pulled his palm from the railing and opened and closed it. When he heard the kitchen door close again he took a deep, steadying breath and forced himself to leave the house without a backward glance.

"Everything okay?" Donna asked when he met up with her at the end of the driveway.

He wondered whether to fill her in, and decided that there was little point in both of them being worried for the next hour or two.

"They're arguing .." he said with a wan smile.

"Then we should get out of here."

"Yeah."


"You're telling her this as Press Secretary or Chief of Staff?" Margaret asked.

"I think both," Carol replied.

"We'll have seven by the end of the day. Ask AP to wait."

"That was Press Secretary," Margaret qualified.

"Yes," she said as she turned away

"CDC," Margaret called after her.

She turned back with "call CDC, Immigration, DOH, give them what you have, set up a conference call for me?"

Margaret nodded and walked off.

"Great," Carol said. "CJ, do you want me in? I'm not sure where to sit."

She turned back again, feeling as discomfited as Carol looked.

"Oh God. Right. Toby's gonna need you."

"That's fine."

"Just for the next coupla days," was the last thing she said before walking away.

"That was completely out of line .." Josh repeated, pulling her out of her head.

"You think I haven't thought about it?" CJ said with a sigh as she made her way to the fridge and peered inside it. She looked longingly at the line of beer bottles, but ultimately only pulled one out. She handed it to him and opened the patio door. "It's one of the things I would do differently if I could go back in time, Josh. But I can't, so I made it up to her as best I could when I offered her a job at the foundation."

"I shouldn't have brought it up," Josh said as he cracked open the bottle and followed her out to the pool.

CJ lowered herself onto the outdoor seating, and turned to face him when he sat down beside her.

"When I had that conversation with Donna," she began tentatively, "I was in a really bad place with Ben. I felt trapped, frustrated. I felt I was .. leading him on. I'm not trying to make excuses, and you can believe me or not, but I wasn't deliberately trying to hurt Donna. It's certainly possible that I was trying to externalize my own problems, though. You know how it goes, there's an internal conflict and we're tempted - however unconsciously - to shift the troubling feeling elsewhere. I would do that differently, too, if I could."

"Donna's moved on from it."

"What about you?"

"I'll get there."

"We hold on to a lot, subconsiously."

She allowed herself a brief moment of gratitude for a partner who'd made sure she was ready for this conversation and asked, "what exactly are you holding on to? Tell me."

"Your reaction to the Jack Reese quote, a little. Probably the Cliff situation .." he admitted begrudgingly.

"Cliff who? Cliff Calley?"

"I don't even know why. Maybe it's because you gave my office to a Republican who had a thing with Donna."

"Donna had a thing with Cliff?"

'Forget I even mentioned it."

"Josh .."

"I don't know, I just .. maybe it's not Cliff. Maybe it's Colin. The photojournalist guy in Gaza. I can't shake the feeling that she slept with him on your advice and that -"

"You would have told her how you felt in Germany if he hadn't been in the picture when you got there?"

"This is not a good time to be making puns," he said with a forced smile. "It led to the hardest year of my life, CJ, and that's saying something. It didn't need to be that way."

"Josh .."

"Look," he said as he rose from his seat and started to pace, "logically I know it helped Donna burgeon into the incredible political operative she is now. I know that. But it hurt to see someone else looking at her that way, and it hurt all over again when I found out that it started with a misunderstanding over something you said to her. God, I can't believe I'm still thinking about this," he ended in frustration. "It's ridiculous .."

"It's not ridiculous," she said as she reached for his hand. "We can't help the way we feel. I remember Toby lecturing me about the optics of my relationship with Danny back in the day. I remember Leo's veiled displeasure. My response was to ask Danny out to dinner."

"Toby was apoplectic when he found out about that," Josh said as she pulled him back onto the seat.

"Toby was apoplectic about a lot of things."

"He called Santos my garage sale find," he said after a while. "Thought I left the White House to shape the debate."

"He was dealing with a lot."

"Weren't we all? What was it you said to me once? Anyone who says these jobs don't come with a cost .."

"Something like that."

"Well we were all dealing with a lot. You had your dad .."

"Yeah."

"I'm sorry we couldn't make it out to the funeral, by the way."

"It's okay. I'm just glad we managed the church wedding before he went. He was lucid for the part of the day which mattered, and it was more than I had dared hope for. I wish he could have seen Imogen .."

She smiled sadly when Josh squeezed her hand, and they leaned their heads back against the seat almost in unison; enjoying a silence they both knew wouldn't last.

"Why did you leave the White House?" she asked after a while.

"Well there's a loaded question if ever there was one .."

"Got anything else you need to be doing right now?" CJ said, as she made a show of looking around

"As I told Toby, someone had to think about the ninth year."

"That's it?"

"Pick your dream candidate yet?"

"I don't know how this works."

"You pick the smartest, most capable, most honorable individual you can think of and you have a conversation. Ideally before the New Hampshire filing deadline."

"I can't pick up and leave to go run a campaign for some dark horse I pulled out of a cornfield."

"I did. Come on, who's on the wish list?"

"I don't know...uh... there's this one guy. No, it's a stupid idea."

"There are no stupid ideas. Well, there are. I don't know why people say that. But give it a whirl."

"The president can't move his legs. NASA's wondering if the next ice age starts on Tuesday. I gotta stay here, finish what I started."

"It doesn't finish, Josh. It keeps going."

"And that's really it?"

Josh shrugged.

"I really believed Leo wanted me out there looking for the next guy. But when I saw Donna's empty desk there was just .. there was nothing holding me there any more."

"I see."

Part of him registered that she had let go of his hand abruptly, but as much as he knew his words were hurting her, he was intent on seeing his thought through. "I was staying as much for her as she was staying for me, CJ."

"Okay."

"I'm not going to pretend it didn't sting when you were promoted over me .. if that's what you're asking. But you were the right choice. You were supportive and understanding, but you always knew how to stand up to Bartlet when necessary. I was always too much his .. bulldog. Or whatever they called me up on the Hill. You'd spent years proving over and over that you could digest and retain massive amounts of information; that you could strategize and think on your feet. And you were always the peacemaker in our motley crew. It took me a while to wrap my head around it, but I'm a much better Chief of Staff to Matt Santos than I could have ever been to Bartlet. First of all I don't worship Santos the way I did Bartlet. Second, there's been friction between us from the get go and it works better that way. Huh .."

"What?"

"I don't think I've ever said that out loud before. What I'm trying to say is .. you did good. You were the right person for the job and you nailed it."

"I appreciate you saying that."

"But? "

He'd been expecting a different type of response.

"But you left a gaping hole, Josh. And then you further depleted my staff when you won the nomination and you poached my mentor."

"Leo .."

"It was a lot to deal with all at once. And then with Toby's departure I got left behind. After all of those years together I was the last man standing. You want to talk about hurt, Josh? That hurt me."

He was debating how to respond when he realized she was still talking.

"And your guy certainly didn't make it any easier .."

"If you mean the call with China, he went rogue behind both our backs with that one."

"Well neither one of you helped when your mouths ran ahead of your sense of propriety, that's for sure. You gotta know I wasn't deliberately trying to sabotage your campaign, but you created a lot of problems for me, and for the administration. It was hard not to take it personally."

"We created problems for you? It was hard not to take it personally? Are you kidding me?"

He was on his feet again in an instant, enumerating his grievances on the fingers of his right hand.

"You totally bought into Haffley's bluff on education reform because you didn't believe we could win, you nearly gave away the whole thing with San Andreo, you botched the shuttle leak investigation .. and if that wasn't enough, you told me to my face that the president planned to endorse his party's nomination and that you assumed it would be the vice president. I'm sorry he's not prepared to back your candidate. Really? You think I didn't take that personally?"

"What the hell did you expect me to say?" she snapped. "Gee, Josh, I'll talk to the President under the radar and make sure he endorses your guy?"

"Some kind of a vote of confidence from you would have been nice."

"Vote of confidence? " she almost yelled as she stood from her seat as well. "What did you think I was running back there, a popularity contest? Didn't we have enough trouble making it seem as though the President wasn't playing favourites at the DNC gala after Liz's stunt with the donation? You want to bring up Haffley and San Andreo?! Do you want to know how many things I was dealing with while you were off running your campaign and later, when you got the nomination? In no particular order .. Doug couldn't-keep-it-in-his-pants Westin and all the trouble that caused when he wanted to run for congressional office. Steve Lawson of Human Rights Alliance breathing down my neck. Your people not even knowing who I was when I showed up to meet Matt Santos. That was something, lemme tell ya. And don't even get me started about Toby, or Andy trying to guilt me about not doing enough for Toby. Oh, and right there at the end, Matt Santos tossed institutional memory into the ring and did a real number on my head. I almost threw away what I had with Danny. Want me to continue?"

He had the good grace to look somewhat abashed.

"Did you get it all off your chest?" he asked after a while.

"Not quite. There's one more thing. Do you want another beer?"

"Uh .. sure."

It had been a while since she'd thought of the things she'd just broadcast - and she'd need to exorcise the feelings associated with them sooner rather than later - but his earlier mention of Cliff Calley had brought something hitherto nebulous into focus. Something she wanted to ponder before talking about.

"CJ .." came a voice from behind her.

"Cliff."

"I was summoned again. It's gotta stop."

"One gets drunk with the power. I'm hiring you to work in the White House. I looked into what you said about desalination and I think you've got a point. I'm still concerned you could be soulless, but we can work on that."

"Yeah. I turned you down."

"Nobody turns us down. We're like the mob, but less violent. Ultimately responsible for more death and destruction but still .."

"You don't think I'm an odd choice for this White House?"

"I think we've got a few months left and a lot of governing to do and I think you're a guy used to serving his country."

The walk to and from the kitchen gave her just enough time to simmer down, as well as think about what she wanted to say to shift gears. Josh squinted against the bright California sunshine as he accepted the bottle, and gave her a look that was half anticipation and half concern.

"Should I be scared about what's going to come out of your mouth?" he said with a wry smile.

"I've been thinking about what you said earlier."

"I said a lot of things earlier. Which part?"

"The part about serving the President."

"Okay .." he enunciated carefully, not really sure where this was going.

"I know that perhaps you can't fathom how anyone wouldn't want to serve, but I need to know you understand that when I turned you down I really couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't, Josh. Things were different for you than they were for me, right from the start. I gave the administration the prime years of my life. If I'd thought you needed me I would have stayed. But you truly didn't and .. I had to put myself first while I still had a shot at a normal life. There are still days when I feel guilty about walking away .."

She trailed off as she felt her emotions get the better of her.

Josh looked off into the distance. He wanted to argue; to tell her that he hadn't felt like he could do it, that Barry Goodwin had stabbed him in the back, that he'd reeled harder than he'd let on from Leo's death, that he hadn't been sure Sam would come on board, that he'd been on the verge of a nervous breakdown and would likely have had one if Sam hadn't forced him to take a vacation. But as the rawness of her forthrightness settled on him, he reminded himself that she was at a remove from DC politics now - and he couldn't bring himself to burden her with things that were far behind them and that she'd had no control over to begin with.

It was time to let it all go, and look to whatever the future held after this reset.

CJ pulled his wrist towards her and took a look at his watch.

"We've been at this for .. a while."

"I wonder where Donna and Danny got to. I'm starting to get hungry."

"They're probably lurking in the drive wondering if it's safe to come back in."

"Nah, they're probably sipping Negronis on the beach somewhere."

"Negronis? It's lunchtime, not dinnertime."

"Donna's been on an Italian kick recently."

"Really?"

"Yeah. Someone in her office introduced her to red vermouth."

CJ laughed, and then stifled a yawn.

"Oh my God, forget food. I may need another nap. That was -"

"Intense?"

"That's one way of putting it."

"It was like a highlights reel of all our worst moments."

"Just as well we have a few good things to remember."

"Yeah. Like you threatening to shove a motherboard up my ass."

CJ exhaled. "I feel like a weight I wasn't even aware I was carrying has been lifted off my shoulders."

She watched as he nodded absently.

"Are we good?" When he didn't reply immediately she looked quizzically at him. "Josh? There's something else on your mind, isn't there?"

"Yes."

"We've gotten this far without bloodshed. What is it?"

He deliberated before reaching for her hand again.

"Are you happy?"

"What?"

"Are you happy?" he repeated slowly.

"Where did that come from?"

When Donna had asked him about CJ and Danny a few weeks earlier, he'd been confident in his response. Now he found himself wanting to be doubly sure.

"Answer the question."

"Are you asking whether I'm happy with Danny?"

"You didn't .. settle?"

"No Josh, I didn't settle." She sounded almost horrified.

"Would you tell me if you did?"

"I can't decide whether to laugh or feel insulted. Have you seen anything around here which gives you the impression that I settled?"

"No, but .."

"Is this about the list?" She shook her head affectionately at him when he shrugged. "You really are sweet sometimes. Com'ere .." she said as she reached for him. "Danny and I jumped into this on a leap of faith, but we're in this for the long haul and we'll work through our issues. We're doing great."

When the emotional moment had run its course, she held him at shoulder length and asked, "so let me ask you this. Are you happy?"

Josh gave her a boyish smile which reminded her so much of their first years in office it almost hurt.

"I think if I were any happier I'd be delirious."

"I'm glad," she said as she scooted closer to him and lowered her head onto his shoulder "It was a long time coming for you, too."

"Yeah."

"So we're definitely good?"

"Yeah."

"Okay, then there's something I'd like to ask you."

"You want me to be Imogen's godfather .."

"We haven't quite decided whether we're going that route."

"Wow."

"Yeah, that's another whole ball of wax .. which we're putting off for while."

"So what'd you want to ask me?"

"We've been talking about a second wedding."

"You're having a second wedding?"

"The church wedding was mostly for my dad. We never got to exchange vows in front of friends. Or celebrate with them, for that matter. Danny's kinda stuck on the idea of a wedding on the yacht."

"The Hollis yacht? The one you had Donna's bachelorette party on?"

"Yes."

"Sold. What do you need me to do?"

"Give me away?"

"How can I give you away if you're already married?"

"You'd be surprised how many people don't actually know Danny and I are married. We kept it off the radar."

"You're sure you don't want one of your brothers to do it? Or President Bartlet?"

"My brothers gave me away at the church .."

"And President Bartlet?"

CJ threw her head back and laughed.

"Wait for it. He's taken an online course to become a Justice of the Peace. He'll be conducting the ceremony."

"So the whole nine yards .."

"Pretty much. I can walk myself up to Danny if you don't want to do it -"

"And miss the look on his face when I remind him that he wouldn't be standing there if it weren't for me? I'm in. Donna's going to lose her mind."

"Donna's going to lose her mind about what?" came a familiar voice from his left.

"I'll let CJ tell you," he said as he relinquished his seat to her with a kiss and a smile. He patted Danny on the back as he fell into step with him, en route to the house. "So .. I hear you want to get married again on the Hollis yacht, mi compadre. Who do you think you are - Aristotle Onassis?"