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Absolutely! I love talking about The West Wing, sometimes even more than I love watching it. :D You can drop questions in my ask box or message me! I’m moving house this week Saturday so I’m a little busier than usual, but I’ll respond whenever I have a few moments. It’s easier when I’m asked about specific characters or events because honestly, I have about a million headcanons, only some of which I’ve had a chance to explore in my fics.

Let’s see, some very general ones…

Danny and Josh are college friends and that’s how he knows about the Fulbright letter (Danny was doing graduate work at Harvard when Josh was an undergrad, and political animals herd together.)

Liz Bartlet was 19 when Annie was born. That’s sort of less headcanon than sitting down and figuring out how the convoluted Bartlet family math might work, but I stand by it! Abbey was also very young when Liz was born, and waited a number of years before having Ellie and Zoey.

Andy Wyatt was the true culprit behind the shuttle leak, though she may have gotten the germ of the idea from Toby. Nobody likes to manipulate the press for the purposes of picking a political fight more than Andy, and if she got even a hint that there might be another shuttle (and she and Toby were apparently spending time together while coparenting) a sitting Congressperson has plenty of resources to tap to run down information. Toby knew she did it, but sat on that information until CJ’s neck was on the line, then, faced with the destruction of either of the two women most important to him, he fell on the sword instead. Watch Toby and Andy’s conversation in Here Today with that in mind and see what you think. (fight me!)

What else?

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Oooh, Santos administration! Well, let’s see. My headcanon is that both Josh and Donna make it all the way through the Santos administration (eight years, because this is fantasy politics and the Democrats can hold the White House for 16 straight years), though they both need some breaks in there.

The Santos White House is a little less breakneck than the Bartlet White House because Matt wants to spend time with his family and wants his staff to have personal lives as well. It takes Josh and Donna both a little while to get used to this. There are a lot of Presidential trips to Texas, which has Donna and Lou both scrambling for new types of powerful sunscreen.

Amy doesn’t stay very long in the administration, but it’s not because of any real acrimony. She finds she likes being the one speaking truth to power more than she likes being the one having to form the coalitions and make the sausage. She lasts a couple of years before going back to lobbying and writing a book on how to get more women into politics.

Donna snaps Otto up to work for her in the East Wing as Helen’s chief speechwriter. He’s got a lot of skills but not much confidence, and the mellower atmosphere in the East Wing is much better for his blood pressure. Sam winds up “polishing” (read: ghostwriting) a lot of the speeches that come through the Communications Office because he just can’t help himself. Santos gives some amazing speeches, and Josh eventually splits the DCOS job so that Sam can write and help Josh bully Congress while somebody else tends the 1100 White House staff members.

Donna and Helen become really good friends and also partners in crime, scheming against their husbands occasionally for their own good. Donna gets pregnant a couple years into the first term, then so does Annabeth, and then Helen gets pregnant again, unexpectedly. They decide to go Kennedy-style and open a creche in the East Wing so they can all have their kids nearby and still get stuff done. It becomes a minor talking point in Helen’s campaign for more support of mothers, both in and out of the workforce.

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Ah Josh, my favorite disaster human, lots of possibilities there. I’ve already put all kinds of Josh headcanons into my fics, so go read those too if you haven’t already. :D

Josh was young when his sister Joanie died, six or seven years old. Leo and Noah were already friends at that point, so Leo was around a little bit during that time period. It is painful enough that neither of them really wanted to talk about it once Josh was an adult.

Josh was just a leeettle bit insufferable to Sam when they first met, being the very experienced bottom-of-the-ladder paid political operative to Sam’s fresh-faced young intern. Sam was even more good-natured (and high strung) then than as a full-fledged grownup, so he rolled with it and eventually Josh was won over by that sincerity and the glimpses of brilliance and they became besties.

Zoey Bartlet developed a massive crush on Josh during the first BFA campaign, which lasted a couple of months until she realized what an adorable dumpster fire he truly was. After that she became more like his little sister, hanging around to bother him because she liked him and because she wanted to be part of what was happening and he didn’t ignore her. Josh didn’t even really notice the crush while it was happening, but he did get a kick out of showing her the ropes and also dumping her into hotel pools in three different states.

A great deal of Josh’s post-Rosslyn recovery took place offscreen and was never addressed. I have a fic in the works dealing with this so I won’t say too much, but given that Josh was likely opened up using a technique called bilateral anterior thoracotomy, he would not have had the vertical scar many fics give him, but rather a long scar crossing his torso laterally under the pectorals. Not quite as bad to recover from as emergency sternotomy, but suffice it to say that his moment with CJ and the psychics at CalTech was probably the best he felt that entire day.

Stanley Keyworth’s Josh intervention was a good start, but did not “cure” Josh or even eliminate his symptoms. Donna read up near-obsessively on the symptoms and coping strategies of PTSD and spent a lot of time in the next year or two keeping a subtle eye on him to make sure he got defused before he could have another full-blown episode. Josh also continued seeing a local psychologist, a habit he abandoned during the madness of the Santos campaign but picked up again with Donna’s encouragement afterwards. It did come out in the press eventually, but by that point it was less of a stigma and they were able to spin it into public education on the long-term effects of PTSD, as well as a reminder of that one time Josh nearly died while serving his country.

Josh’s relationship with Amy was somewhat accidental, sort of the culmination of an escalating series of dares that neither of them wanted to back down from, but it wasn’t as though he didn’t like her or enjoy her. He likes people who keep him sharp and keep him on his toes. The biggest problem was that he could never relax around her, never get out of his performative “Bartlet’s bulldog” mode and be something softer. She was the exact same way, which is why they eventually both ended up a lot happier with people who were much less combative.

And yes, there are more, but I am supposed to be doing things today, argh. I will come back to this later, maybe. :D

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I put Josh and Toby together in one of my favorite holiday fics during the 100 Day Fic-a-Day, We Kindle These Lights. I think it does a pretty good job describing my headcanons for Josh and Toby after the end of the series.

Obviously Toby can’t go back to the White House in any capacity during the Santos Administration, but I don’t think that would actually bother him that much. Toby was never truly happy in the White House, but he is super-good at being a guy with an axe to grind and influential people who will at least take his calls. Josh and Sam both get calls from him on the day after Inauguration, Sam with a detailed markup of the inaugural address (Sam protests this is not his job anymore but they both know he is lying), and Josh to complain about the mixed up priorities of the administration. Josh points out that as a man with two children to raise and educate, he should appreciate an education-heavy platform, and they argue companionably for twenty minutes. It is the most fun Josh has for the entire work day.

The first time Josh sees Toby after the pardon is at the reception following the unofficial state of the union in February. He is there with Andy, looking uncomfortable while Andy looks like she’s daring anybody to say anything about it. Josh goes over and gets shown a bunch of baby pictures, then another earful about the administration’s human rights priorities. He manages to distract Toby only by spilling all the dirt on his and Donna’s relationship. Toby thinks she is too good for him, but wishes him luck anyway.

Toby and Andy do not actually get back together, but they coparent fairly successfully. That means Toby gets sucked into a lot of birthday parties and holiday shindigs in Maryland that involve a lot of Andy’s family members. In self-defense, he begins inviting Josh and Donna to things, as well as Sam and his wife. Toby’s kids start calling him Uncle Josh sometimes, usually when they are trying to manipulate him. Born politicians, both of them.

When Josh and Donna finally get their act together enough to make official what everybody’s thought about them for a decade, he gets Sam to be his best man. Toby is right there next to him, though, and he is the one who helps Josh with the Ketubah he wanted. Despite his penchant for computers, Toby has a beautiful script hand when he wants to. Toby does not write Sam’s toast or Margaret’s toast for Donna, but he offers unsolicited script critique which has Margaret accidentally leaving his calls on hold for nearly six months.

It’s another couple of years before Josh and Donna have a kid of their own, but Toby and Andy graciously allow them to practice on Huck and Molly from time to time when they need a break. It takes Donna a little while to calm down and stop being desperate to get the children to like her, but Josh is surprisingly laid back and easygoing about babysitting. It probably helps that the kids are already in the stage where they can talk and use the bathroom on their own. When Josh and Donna do have one of their own, Josh grills Toby for six months straight on fatherhood’s rules and rituals, any possible pitfalls, and which books are going to be most useful in learning about the subject. (Josh does not have time to read any of them, but he gets an intern to do it and make detailed notes.) When their son is born, Josh asks Toby to be the sandak, because the little guy hasn’t got any Jewish grandfathers.

Wow, that got a lot longer than I thought it was going to, but now that I’ve pushed out two chapters of Ourselves and Immortality in a week, I can afford to goof off a little. Basically Toby and Josh are brothers, they have been blood brothers since that night in Rosslyn, they were still brothers when they got mad and beat the crap out of each other in that extremely weak slapfight, and they will always be brothers, the end. :D

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CJ, CJ, CJ, I love her so much.In the immortal words of Steel Magnolias, I love her more than my luggage. So let’s see, some headcanons for her…

I guess my favorite one is tangential, that there is more than one Gail. I wrote this one up in a fic already, Fish Story.

CJ and Carol are much better friends than we really get a chance to see on the show. Carol wants to be a press spokesperson one day and CJ mentors her throughout their time in the West Wing. Carol is also the person that CJ can vent to about what assholes the guys can be sometimes. CJ and Donna are friends, but CJ’s best friend among the staffers is Carol.

CJ’s awful style choices during Season 1 were deliberate on her part. Nobody took her seriously when they first took office because she looked too young and inexperienced and was also a woman in a traditionally male job. By getting into the kind of hair-helmet and stiff powersuits that made her look like an elementary school principal ten years her own elder, she got the press corps to start focusing on the news most of the time. After Rosslyn, she stopped caring what they thought because she knew and they knew that she could hang. (This headcanon made it into a story too, Crown and Glory. I like writing about CJ!)

CJ considered dating Greg Brock when she was Chief of Staff but didn’t. It would’ve been too complicated, both for their jobs and because he was going through a messy divorce and she didn’t need to be somebody’s rebound. He was a good listener, though, and she needed somebody to talk to who would actually listen. She was personally hurt that he didn’t give her a heads up about the shuttle leak, but everything she ever told him in confidence stayed off the record.

After CJ moves back to California, she doesn’t immediately start working for the Hollis Foundation. She is utterly fried after her time in the White House and needs to take at least a couple of months to decompress and start feeling like a human again. Danny is very good for this because he is happy to enable all the sleeping and eating regular meals that she wants to do, but gently makes fun of her whenever she starts feeling depressed or self-pitying. She participates in decorating a home for the first time since she left California the first time and starts taking yoga classes because everyone else is doing it. It’s surprisingly effective! By the time she starts work at the Hollis Foundation, she’s a well-rested redhead, ready to change the world with infrastructure projects.

CJ has the closest post-White House relationship with both Abbey and Jed. Jed has always thought of her as a daughter, even when they are fighting. Maybe especially when they are fighting, tbh. She and Abbey made friends all the way back in the first campaign when it was a huge sausage-fest and they were vastly outnumbered, but the White House had them all too frequently at odds, especially during CJ’s Chief of Staff days. They repair that relationship once they have time and energy to do so, and CJ and Danny come out to the Bartlet farm several times in the first few years of the Santos Administration just to visit. Danny is writing the story of the Bartlet presidency, of course, and he wants to get the interviews, but CJ just wants to spend time with the people who are closest to being her mom and dad.

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Sam and Donna! Hmmm, a lot of my Sam and Donna thoughts are wrapped up in my portrayal of them in my rather long and currently in progress series California Dreaming, which explores a lot of maybes in their mutual history. (And hey, if anybody wants to read a longfic that AUs the entire Santos campaign arc and ends in an OT3, have I got a story for you!)

What else? Let’s see. Donna had a crush on Sam before she ever fell in love with Josh. Sam was so pretty and so nice, and he was safely unavailable during the first part of the first campaign, so he was an ideal target for the occasional fantasy by a woman just getting out of a bad relationship. It was never a serious thing, but Donna would defy anybody to spend days and weeks with Sam Seaborne and not have at least a couple of idle notions!

Sam and Donna worked together very closely in the months after Rosslyn to get Josh back on his feet. Donna could put in the time required to actually look after Josh, make sure he was getting food and medicine and not doing too much work, but Sam was a vital part of the equation because Donna couldn’t really move Josh on her own and Josh unconditionally refused to let Donna help him shower. (Josh had a nurse for the really intensive period of recovery, but he was out of commission for three months, so there was a long transition to independence in there.) Sam was a great respecter of The Rules, even contributing a few himself, and in return he was granted special dispensation because Donna knew he was firmly on Team Get-Josh-Better-Faster. It was an exhausting season, and sometimes after Josh was safely in bed at night, they’d both wind up just slumping together on his couch like exhausted new parents.

It took Donna a little while to understand why Sam got so upset about her manipulating him to get him to help her friend Stephanie with her grandfather’s pardon. By this point she was so completely used to working with Josh, who required and expected a certain amount of manipulation, reverse psychology and ego massage from her, that she didn’t stop to consider that somebody else might find it insulting. She never quite figured out that it wasn’t the manipulation that bothered Sam so much as the fact that the tack Donna chose was flattering Sam’s power and influence rather than appealing directly to his sense of justice. And not even that so much as the fact that it worked, and that was not a kind of man Sam wanted to be.

Sam saw the news about the attack in Gaza almost as soon as it happened, and his first impulse was to call Josh. Later on he called Donna too, in the hospital in Germany and then at home, just to check in and make lame jokes about how she’d better be following her own rules or he’d have to come out there and enforce them.

Sam also called Donna for advice when Josh asked him to be DCOS in the Santos administration. It was a lot to think about, and Donna was always good at helping to organize piles of stray random thoughts, plus she had the latest intel on what was happening in Washington. Donna warned him right off the bat that she was biased because she and Josh were currently Doing A Thing, then proceeded to spend nearly an hour laying out every reason why it made complete sense for Sam to give up his whole life a second time to come work with them again.

Sam is Josh’s best man at the wedding, which is good because Donna trusts him to get Josh home from the bachelor party without panties wrapped around his neck or smelling like a dumpster. Instead she gets both of them poured out of a cab on her doorstep at 2am, mostly clean and very drunk, and they get to sleep it off on the couch after a call to Sam’s amused, only slightly aggrieved wife. He makes up for it with the wedding toast, which she keeps a framed copy of afterwards.

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Sam talked a good game about how he was going to take a gentleman’s defeat in California and come back to the White House, but in his heart of hearts, he expected to win. Yes it was going to be hard, nearly impossible, but hadn’t they said that about Bartlet’s bid for the Presidency? And President Bartlet believed in Sam’s future in national politics, a future that would have to start on the state level somewhere. Sam’s ideas were correct, they were timely, he would find the right words to deliver them, and people were going to listen. He would recapture the idealism he’d been steadily losing at the White House by reminding himself that the American people were indeed ready for progress.

And then… it didn’t happen. With Toby’s help and Sam’s own natural charisma, he didn’t lose as badly as another Democratic might have, but he still lost to a dyed-in-the-wool conservative who couldn’t win against a dead guy in the general election. Sam’s remaining idealism was shattered, and he couldn’t even let on that he felt that way because it was stupid, wasn’t it, to be so upset about a race you should’ve known you couldn’t win?

He couldn’t quite face the idea of going back to the White House right away and facing his friends in defeat. He didn’t want the condolences, he didn’t want the jokes. Honestly, he didn’t want the job anymore, a job he’d gotten more and more tired of as he’d gotten more and more dirtied by the mud of DC politics. So he leaned on his leave of absence a little longer and looked around his old home, and he noticed that there were a lot of people who needed a good lawyer. He started picking up a little pro bono work to sharpen up his old skills and give him something to do. Sam had always been a good lawyer. He won some cases, changed the lives of some people who really needed one good thing to happen to them. It was more immediately rewarding than almost anything he’d done in his last year at the White House.

After a couple months, a friend from law school got in touch with him. If Sam wasn’t going back to the White House, he could join the firm the guy was starting, one dedicated to helping underserved populations and fighting big opponents. Sam knew everyone expected him to go back to the White House, but this was too good an opportunity to pass up. Will was doing great in Sam’s old job, and honestly, nobody had listened to Sam very much when he was sitting right there next to the bullpen. Was that really going to get any better with him all the way in the OEOB? Sam turned in his resignation and took the job. He ducked Josh’s calls for two weeks just to make sure nobody would talk him out of it.

Turns out that fighting the good fight didn’t pay as well as defending oil tankers from liability, but on Sam’s level it still paid better than his White House job, especially once he started doing a little bit of lecturing on the side. He was home eight nights out of ten by six-thirty, and suddenly he had time for all the stuff he’d let slide in Washington. Exercise, culture, rest, romance. After a year, Sam started looking back at his time at the White House like a parolee looked back at his time in prison: something necessary that had to be endured, but much better left in the past. It lasted right up until the day Josh showed up at his office again, giving Sam the weirdest sense of deja vu…

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Helen grew up in a very nice liberal family in North Texas and never thought she was racist at all until well after she started dating Matt. She was dating Matt, for God’s sake! Then she wound up at his family gatherings where everyone was lovely and nice and she still found herself wishing they would all just speak English and eat normal food. Helen is also self-aware enough to notice thoughts like that, and she has been working on it. She’s getting quite good at Spanish, and can make extremely lumpy tortillas. (This seems to be related somehow to her inability to make pie crust either.) She’s got a mutual love affair going on with his mom and aunts now, so that makes up for most deficiencies.

Helen has a degree in business and worked for a number of years, but she planned to be a stay-at-home mom from day one. She’s a very good mom, probably the only reason the kids weren’t crazy little monsters by the end of the campaign, and the sort of involved mom who teachers love. One of her biggest regrets in the White House is that there is no practical way for her to take on Class Mom duties at the kids’ school the way she used to back home. She is personally not sure she wants to be a pet owner, but leads the charge on behalf of the kids when a trustworthy child psychologist suggests that pets can be very calming to children in transition. She didn’t really intend to end up with more than one pet, but as long as Matt takes the dog for walks, she’ll scoop a litterbox.

Things in the East Wing are difficult for the first six months or so of the Santos administration while Helen’s trying to get her head around what she’s supposed to be doing in the White House. She’s no Abbey Bartlet, for good or ill, she hasn’t got a set of baked in causes or an outside career of her own to give her a public identity. Donna and Annabeth have to gently steer her around to coming up with a platform they all can live with. In the process, the three become close friends.

During the second campaign, Helen comes up pregnant by surprise, thanks to some misadventures with forgotten pills and enthusiastic reunions. It’s funnier because Donna has a three month old son and Annabeth is almost as round as tall when Helen breaks the news. People start openly wondering if there’s something in the water in the East Wing.

Helen gets another tattoo after reelection, mostly to spite all the ninnies who got after her for the first one. It’s a clean, pretty design of all her children’s names in the shape of a stylized flower on the back of her shoulder. She deliberately wears a strappy top out on the lawn as soon as it’s healed up, then cackles with her team over the headlines. Five years has gotten her a lot more accustomed to the press.

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Josh and Donna as parents, huh? I have lots of different headcanons, some of which are directly contradictory to one another. Thank god for AUs, right? :D

Okay, so Josh and Donna get married sometime around the end of the second year of the administration, after midterms of course. They managed to overcome their own worser natures long enough to have several really good talks about expectations and life plans before getting married, so they’re pretty much on the same page kidwise. They want some, but they are both too busy to pay a lot of attention to the getting of them, something that might be necessary now that Donna is in her late thirties and Josh has had his medical issues. They decide to leave it up to fate until after reelection, and if nothing has happened by then, maybe they will visit some doctors. Donna gets pregnant the month after she stops taking birth control. Josh blames hyperfertile Scandihoovian genes from Wisconsin.

They play the pregnancy very close to the vest, partially because they both cling to what scraps of a private life are possible in the DC fishbowl, partially because Donna is just a little superstitious about telling anyone before the crucial first twelve weeks are over. Donna winds up telling Helen, Annabeth and Otto because they are starting to wonder why she’s throwing up all the time. Josh tells CJ because he feels it is important, for some obscure reason, that she know that they might possibly have conceived a baby on CJ’s old desk in what is now Josh’s office. CJ does not appreciate this knowledge, but she’s very happy for them anyway. Everyone else finds out in dribs and drabs after the three month mark is passed, though Margaret maintains she’s known it all along because Donna’s aura changed so decisively.

Donna researches pregnancy meticulously, choosing a birthing method and studying it carefully, dragging Josh along to classes and writing multiple drafts of her birth plan to account for every possible contingency. She finds a midwife who does not laugh at her and instead spends several hours going through the plan to figure out all the things Donna is worried about and what they might do about those things. Her main concern is that Josh isn’t going to make it there on time, so the midwife recommends a backup coach, just in case. Otto is honored to be chosen, though he does have to endure a grueling interview with Josh before being cleared for the position. In the end, in what is probably the last truly obliging act of his childhood, the baby arrives within two days of his due date, during the early morning hours when Josh is home, and everything goes almost according to plan. Donna is smug. They name the baby Garrett Noah, for Josh’s actual father and the man who stood in loco parentis for him at the White House.

Donna takes eight weeks of maternity leave and really enjoys it, but coming back to work is hard. She needs to come back because Annabeth is nearly ready to go on maternity leave herself unless she explodes first, but the idea of leaving Garrett with a nanny is almost impossible to bear. Josh takes what would’ve been an almost unfathomable step a few years ago and takes three weeks of family leave himself just to put it off that much longer. Right around that time, Helen Santos comes up pregnant as well, and the three ladies of the East Wing decide that the only thing to do is start a creche so they aren’t all simultaneously pregnant, pining, or losing their minds trying to multitask. It works out surprisingly well, and both Donna’s babies spend their first few years in the White House when they aren’t at home.

Their second child, a girl this time, comes very close on the heels of the first. After Evelyn is born, Donna stops relying on breastfeeding as a birth control method, because she absolutely cannot cope with any more babies right now. The Santos administration is more relaxed than the Bartlet administration in terms of making sure people are allowed to spend time at home and have lives outside the White House, which helps a lot, as does the fact that Josh turns out to be a much more involved parent than anybody would’ve guessed. He has insomnia many nights anyway, so he’s good about taking nighttime changing-and-singing shifts, and he develops the habit of taking the kids out for breakfast every Sunday morning so Mom can sleep in.

It’s still hard while they’re in the White House, there’s just no getting around it. Things happen, there are late nights and missed appointments and suppers that get cold, but they both knew that was coming. They never do hire a nanny, but they have several babysitters on call who can do all-nighters if necessary. During one particularly fraught week in the second term, Josh doesn’t get home for more than three hours for a solid week, and it’s always when the kids are asleep. The good thing about term limits, though, is that Garret is only five and Evie four when they leave the White House. There’s plenty of time to make it up to them.

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I got this request twice, cause it’s so nice. Also, my living room is full of boxes, and I’m debating whether I can possibly fit an entire frozen turkey in a standard size cooler. Moving is the worst. Anyway, I got this request, and also one specifically about CJ and Toby’s relationship history. Here goes!

CJ and Toby dated once upon a time, back in the days when they were both much younger and some of them had a lot more hair, while they were working on a doomed Senate campaign in New York. It was definitely the bright spot of that very depressing election season! CJ could chivvy Toby out of his dark moods by lipsyncing to the radio or just by tossing off her shirt, and CJ never felt too tall or too awkward when Toby whispered filthy poetry into her skin.

But the election ended and they were both out of jobs and in transition again. CJ didn’t like New York, cold and oppressively tall when compared to the warm friendliness of Berkeley. When Emily’s List offered her a job crafting message for a few California Congressional races, it seemed like a godsend. The only trouble was that Toby wouldn’t come with her. He liked New York, his family was there, and he insisted that the sun and warm weather would dilute his unique personality. It was a hard choice, but CJ had promised herself years ago that she would never ignore her own needs in favor of what a man wanted. Her own father, for all she loved him dearly, was a prime example of the feckless nature of the male of the species. She’d rather love Toby and lose him than have that love change to bitterness. CJ went back to California alone.

As it turned out, CJ wouldn’t see Toby for six more years, but they still kept in touch. She didn’t like going too long without talking to Toby and would call him up every few months ,or get a call from him venting his ever-present frustrations. After two years, with the EMILY’s List job wrapping up, she thought about going back to New York. It had to mean something that she’d never gotten him out of her head. But when she talked to him about it, he admitted that he was about to get engaged to a woman he hadn’t even told CJ about. That hurt quite a bit, but she forgave him because he was Toby and he did weird things when he was trying to be good to people. She went to New York for a visit and for the wedding and found she liked Toby’s new wife, which was only a little bit annoying. After that, though, she found politics had lost some of their appeal, and decided to give public relations a try.

CJ and Toby never did anything in the White House, despite some moments of pretty serious temptation. They went home together a few times, after Rosslyn, after the MS disclosure, after Leo’s heart attack, but it was always for comfort rather than sex. Toby might have been game for more, but press secretary had seeped into CJ’s veins and she’d never have been able to relax. It was the same reason her relationship with Danny didn’t proceed past awkward dinners until the twilight of the administration. On the night that Toby admitted to be the shuttle leak, CJ found herself picking up the phone and dialing Toby’s extension because it was such a habit whenever she passed a certain threshold of stress and pain. Realizing she couldn’t do that anymore was just another blow.

Getting Toby’s tacit blessing to be with Danny helped heal some of the weird stress fractures in their relationship, but it isn’t until CJ and Danny get married that she and Toby start reaching out to one another again. After all this time and all the water under the bridge there’s no longer a romantic component to their relationship, but he’s still one of her oldest friends. Nobody who didn’t endure the Bartlet administration really understands what it was like, and it’s a crucible that will bond them forever. It is, perhaps, the strongest evidence of their friendship that when Toby comes to find her in Santa Monica and tells her he knows a good man who’s going to be running for president, she doesn’t knock him into the swimming pool.

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Do I have headcanons about Donna? Asking me if I have headcanons about Donna is like asking me if I have headcanons about (insert thing I have a large number of headcanons about). She appears in nearly every fic I’ve written, so there’s a lot of headcanon out there already. You can check out Home of the Badgers for my extended riff on Donna’s friendship with Stephanie Gault and her relationship with Dr. Freeride. If you’re so inclined, you can also check out my ideas on “What would it be like if Donna were a vampire slayer before she decided to join a political campaign?” in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer crossover story Ten Thousand Miles.

Relationshipwise, let’s see. I think I’ll go ahead and stick with early relationships, since if we do relationship progressions and future relationships we’ll be here all night and I still need to defrost the freezer.

(Oh, and for the record, if you want one on Donna’s relationship with President Bartlet, that’s the severely overgrown 5-things fic Abu il Banat.)

Donna was a little intimidated by CJ during the first few weeks of the campaign, after which point the hero worship started up. CJ was everything Donna aspired to be, a confident career woman making a place in politics who didn’t need no man to make her strong. CJ gave Donna the hairy eyeball at first because Donna was very young, very pretty, and was suddenly assisting Josh despite having no qualifications, but she warmed up pretty quickly when it became apparent that there was nothing going on except Donna’s baptism-by-fire into national politics. She also appreciated Donna’s willingness to take one for the team when it came to listening to Governor Bartlet’s lectures so everyone else could escape. Sometimes CJ and Donna and Carol and Margaret would all go out together just to escape from the overwhelming testosterone soaking the campaign HQ.

Toby was a much tougher nut for Donna to crack. She was never really scared of him the way some of the volunteers and staffers were, but his prickliness was still a little offputting and he seemed like he mostly wanted to be left alone. He was CJ’s old friend and Sam all but worshiped his abilities so Donna figured there had to be something good there, but Josh was mostly frustrated by him so Donna gave him a wide berth almost by default. That started to change once they were actually in office. It seemed like one day Toby decided Donna was actually in this for the long haul and therefore worthy of his time (or he figured out that Donna was the only way to get anything noncongressional out of Josh in an efficient and timely fashion. In any case, he started being more gruffly cordial and she responded with her usual cheerful friendliness, and they slid along just fine. It wasn’t until after Rosslyn that Toby really saw what Donna was made of, solid steel under the cheer and banter. The fact that he couldn’t bulldoze through her to get to Josh was frustrating, but he had to respect her mettle, if nothing else.

It took Donna some time to find her feet with the other assistants. They were wonderful people and it was great to have other women on the campaign trail to work with and share rooms with, but she wasn’t quite like them. Anybody could come in and be a campaign volunteer, but to be a top level aide on a national campaign, especially one that was picking up speed, you had to have a little more going for you. Margaret, of course, was ridiculously overqualified for her position, but her personal loyalty to Leo was unquestionable. Her master’s degree and years of political experience meant that things that stunned Donna were old hat to her. Carol and Bonnie had their master’s degrees as well, and Ginger and Cathy were college graduates with internships and previous campaign experience under their belts. Next to them Donna felt very green and just a little bit dumb. Nobody ever said anything aloud, of course, but it took awhile for her to shake the feeling that she didn’t belong. It was Margaret who unwittingly eased that fear one day by subbing in for Donna while she was at the dentist. As soon as Donna came back, Margaret launched into a litany of the many, many ways that Josh was totally impossible to work for and lauding Donna’s incredible grace under fire. Nobody else, Margaret was sure, could handle Josh for a single day, much less deal with him all the time. It wasn’t a college degree, but it did help Donna feel like an equal from that point on.

Also, Donna is a lot closer with the other assistants for most of the administration than she is with the senior staff. She has an in with them because of Josh, sure, but they still don’t move in exactly the same circles. If she needs somebody to gossip with or trade stories of relationship woes, she’s going to head for Carol’s alcove or Margaret’s office or the communications bullpen. The Sisterhood is an important organization, fueled almost entirely by gossip.

Chapter Text

Okay so it’s one in the morning and I’m trying to polish off a bottle of Irish Creme solely because I DO NOT WANT TO PACK IT and that seems sort of inappropriate to the headcanons at hand but my ability to care right now is extremely impaired. If these end up being incoherent I’ll come back later and fix it. Probably.

So here we go. Leo has known Josh basically Josh’s entire life. He was friends with Josh’s parents from small times and Leo, Jenny, Noah and Hannah would get together maybe once every couple months for dinner and euchre, even after the kids started arriving. Josh and Mallory were too little to stay up and Mallory would get put to bed in a cot on Josh’s floor, but Joanie got to stay up a little bit later than usual to sing and play the piano for the grownups. After the fire, Josh and his folks stayed with the McGarrys for a few days, while the adults were making plans for things. Mallory couldn’t understand why Josh didn’t want to play with her, or why his throat was so sore and scratchy that he could barely talk. They moved his sleeping bag out of Mallory’s room and into the den when his nightmares kept waking both of them up. Nobody ever really talked about it, but Leo bought Josh two new puzzles, a stuffed bear, and a biography of Abraham Lincoln to read. It helped a little bit.

Leo helped Josh to get his first job, because that’s what men do for the sons of their old friends. It was just an internship, but it was an internship in the Whip’s office, so he learned a whole lot very quickly. Josh was very grateful for the help, but it was a point of pride to him that he got all his subsequent jobs on his own merit and reputation. The next job Leo secured for him was bringing him onto the Bartlet campaign, and that was rather different!

Leo didn’t go with Josh after his father died because somebody had to keep the governor’s head on straight during the celebration after the Chicago primary. After the campaign was safely in California, though, he did fly out in time for the funeral and to comfort Josh and Hannah. He took Donna with him, ostensibly because he needed to be able to work from Connecticut and Margaret needed to be with the campaign, but mostly because he wanted Josh to have somebody taking care of him.

Leo was the one with the unfortunate task of telling Hannah when Josh was shot at Rosslyn, and of meeting her at the hospital when she was finally able to navigate around the closed down airports and transit hubs to get to DC. Thirty years may have passed, but Leo could see the way Hannah braced the same way she had in the long night when they hadn’t known if Joanie would live or die. The relief of tension was so potent when they found out Josh would live that Leo had to slip away from Hannah and the group and go call his sponsor for support in riding out all the feelings. Leo was also the one who made it so that Donna could stay with Josh basically as much as was necessary while he was recovering, and who never got on Sam’s back about the extra time he was taking over there as well. He was too busy to do much caring for Josh himself, but at least he could enable the people who could.

Bingo Bob grated on Josh even harder than he might have otherwise as VP because Josh had gotten the idea of VP Leo in his head and refused to let go of it. Leo was the smartest, most admirable politician that Josh knew, and it only made sense that Leo be the guy in the second chair. He wanted it so bad, and seeing Bob Russell there instead was absolutely galling. Two and a half years later when the opportunity arose again, Josh grabbed at it with both hands, barely bothering to ask permission. Things had changed in the intervening years with Leo’s health, yeah, and maybe it wasn’t the greatest ever idea, but this was one area where Josh was not prepared to listen to reason.

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Man, it has been a heck of a couple days here! Moving day was finally yesterday, which meant 13 hours of work getting stuff from one house to another, then trying to unpack enough of it to live with. The first couple nights are always like camping. Then this morning I got a Red Cross call at 7am to respond to an apartment fire. Typically I’d have begged off, but it was 18 apartments and pretty much every DAT responder in two counties was turned out for it. So that was my morning, then I came home to find the air conditioning in the house we moved out of has stopped working and it is 87 degrees in there. All this is to say that I have earned this moment to sit on my butt and tell you my future-Charlie headcanons.

Charlie goes to Georgetown Law School, and is already known by several of the professors there because word goes around when you get a letter of recommendation from the President of the United States. The 1L year is famously brutal at any top tier law school but after attending Georgetown U at night while serving the President during the day, then working as right-hand-man to the Chief of Staff, he finds it very nearly relaxing. It’s kind of nice to be able to sit in a quiet room and just do his homework for a change! Sam occasionally calls to see how he’s doing and ask how he likes his classes, while Josh occasionally calls to heckle him and apparently to remind him that he is, in fact, a lawyer. After so many years of pop quizzes from the President, Charlie finds the Socratic method of teaching is no sweat. The only real problem is being away from Zoey, who is dividing her time between New Hampshire and DC while her dad works through another MS flareup.

After his second year at law school, Charlie dug into his savings and bought a ring for Zoey. It wasn’t big or expensive, partly because his savings were much less than impressive, but also because that wasn’t what Zoey would want. He turned up the romance instead, candlelight dinner, wine, music, nice clothes, and utter privacy. That was really what Zoey wanted most after so many years in the public eye. She said yes and they pretty much forgot about dinner. After his 2L year he did an internship with DC Law Students in Court, doing pro bono work for indigent defendants to get trial experience, and in his 3L year he drilled down on international law and nonprofit law. He knew exactly where he wanted to go.

Four weeks after he graduated summa cum laude with his JD, he married Zoey at her folks’ church in Manchester. It wasn’t a small affair, Charlie figured there had to be at least 300 people there, but it was a lot less intimidating than a state wedding! Charlie made Josh be his best man because he’d introduced him to Zoey in the first place and because the bachelor party would undoubtedly be hilarious (it was), and had his “little brother” Anthony and a couple of his cousins as groomsmen. It wasn’t like he hadn’t made friends in law school, but schedules are tough when everyone is scrambling for that post-law school job!

Okay, little break there for another Red Cross fire call. Man, everything is just catching on fire today!

Anyway, back to Charlie. Charlie, of course, has his first job already lined up. He and Zoey He and Zoey head out to California so Charlie can work for the Hollis Foundation. Like any newly minted attorney he gets hired into the legal department to actually learn all the specific, practical stuff they don’t teach in law school, but it turns out that whenever CJ had a legal question, she prefers talking to somebody she trusts. As a result, whenever the head of the department isn’t available, she goes to Charlie, who then researches his fool head off and quizzes the other lawyers in the department until he is sure he has the right answer. It’s kind of exhausting, but extremely educational.

Zoey, meanwhile, is using her master’s in English to teach high school. This is surprising to her in many ways, given her nontraditional childhood, but the refusal of teenagers to be impressed is kind of nice after a lifetime of being set apart. Two years after moving to California she gets pregnant, which is wonderful until she’s about six months along and the tabloids get hold of it. Suddenly she’s getting hate mail again, suddenly there’s another couple of death threats and they’re back under Secret Service protection for awhile. It’s stressful enough that they both take a leave of absence and retreat to the Bartlet farm until after the baby is born. This is a decision met by huge acclaim from the elder Bartlets, who eagerly help welcome little Anita, named for the grandmother she will never meet.

Once the baby news dies down, the attention tapers and the Young family (Zoey had no wish to hyphenate) can return to their normal lives. Charlie makes a trip to Burundi with CJ, which is amazing, he makes a trip to Tanzania with CJ, Danny, Zoey, and all the kids, which is even more so. Zoey is a gracious goodwill ambassador despite her general disdain for the spotlight, and the bigger kids are fascinated by the safari tours. There are also a lot of meetings and looking at roads in all conditions, but that’s a small price to pay. After this, Charlie starts being assigned to fewer legal-research projects and more projects that require interfacing with other agencies around the world. His diplomatic skills get a workout, but again his time at the White House serves him well. He even recognizes some people, and a little judicious name-dropping smooths out a few rough patches. They have another baby, named Christopher because they like the name, and the furor is not quite as bad as before. With the Santos administration finished and another Republican in power, the Bartlets are old news.

By the time Charlie has worked at the Hollis Foundation for seven years, he is starting to wonder if it might be time for a new challenge. He’s thought about politics some himself, of course, it’s only natural given all the people he used to hang out with. He could try a run for Congress and be pretty much guaranteed support in any gettable district without a Democratic incumbent. He brings the idea up to Zoey and is dismayed when she starts crying and doesn’t want to talk about it. He gives her a day to cool off and they actually start communicating. Zoey does not want to go back into the political spotlight on any level, she is afraid for Charlie and for their family if people start hearing about them again. She also hated growing up in the shadow of her father the politician and doesn’t want to do that to their children. Charlie is dismayed, but in the end decides that he can be happy doing things that aren’t politics, but Zoey will never be happy in politics, so they will stay out of politics. He’s already helping to change the world.

Chapter Text

I don’t have a lot interesting to say about Josh and Amy in Season 5 or at any other time because I have compartmentalized the entire relationship and shelved it in my head as “That thing that happened with Josh and Amy.” It’s not because I ship J/D too hard or because I hate Amy, though I do not like the way she was written most of the time (Aaron Sorkin can’t write either side of the feminist debate worth beans). It’s more because Josh and Amy tended to bring out the worst in each other and I found the entire situation frustrating. I never really saw much evidence that they enjoyed being with each other outside of what had to have been some really competitive sex. My main headcanon for their relationship as a whole is that they were both playing chicken, each trying to goad the other one into backing off from the intensifying relationship-like behavior, and neither of them is constitutionally capable of realizing when they have Gone Too Far.

With that said, here’s what I’ve got. Josh was shattered by Zoey’s abduction, much more upset than he actually let on. The President was openly devastated, Leo was consumed with his friend’s pain, and that left Josh the one holding the bag on political decision-making. It wasn’t the situation he wanted to be in. He loved Zoey like a little sister and the idea that she could be hurting or dying was so big and horrible he could barely cope with it, but he also knew that they had a responsibility. He really did believe that it would be a violation of the trust placed in the president by the American people for him to step down and pass the reins to someone that the people who voted for Bartlet would not have voted for. In doing so, he alienated both Leo and the President, not irreparably, but noticeably, and that had to have bothered him a lot. He didn’t want to be the inhuman political machine with no feelings, just calculation.

Cue Zoey’s safe return, cue the return of the status quo, and hey look, here’s Amy, convenient, available and willing. Josh is in no position to start a new relationship with all its questions and tentative steps right now, but he sure would like to feel like a real person again. Sex with Amy was always the easiest, funnest part of the relationship and it’s a simple matter to slide back into that part. But the whole wanting to feel like a person with feelings means there has to be some, you know, feelings involved. He tries to get some of the relationship trappings going again, says they need a language plan, tries to work out exactly what they are to each other. He wants to have a relationship involving real emotions with somebody he cares about and who cares about him.

Unfortunately, as soon as they get back into some semblance of a relationship, Amy’s back doing what split them up in the first place, trading on his name and power to get what she wants. This is even more awkward now that they work together in the White House and are sort of on the same team. That 101st Senator piece she got into the newspaper just proved how little Amy understood what Josh was actually looking for, making him bigger than life, colder and harder, more political machine and less man. I think that’s what finally closed the door on their relationship, the fact that he realized they were never ever going to want the same things.

Chapter Text

Sam is the only reason that Josh survives his first year as chief of staff. Not because Sam is a particularly good DCOS, mind you. His skillset rests neither in personnel management nor in harassing Congress. Half the time he uses the assistant deputies to get most of his work done while he is busy harassing the speechwriting staff into doing better work. Josh relies on Sam because Sam is the only person in the West Wing who is almost as good as Donna at reading Josh’s stress levels and reacting accordingly. He heads off roughly four meltdowns a week in the first three months, after which point things start settling down naturally. And Sam is never overt about it, which is very important. People can’t thing the COS is about to fly off the handle all the time, after all! But sometimes Josh just needs a little space or a minute to breathe to put him back on an even keel, and Sam is very good at attracting attention onto himself when he wants to be.

It takes Josh a little while to warm up to the idea of Sam as an affianced man again, after living through all the trauma and tears of Lisa a decade ago. I don’t have a good name for Sam’s unnamed fiancee, so I’ll call her Erica (not with a K, just for any Night Vale fans out there.) He would rather dislike Erica in advance just in case, but she gets along really well with Donna and the three of them all conspire against him till he’s finally willing to make friends. It takes a little while, and a few too many reminders from Josh that he, too, is a real-life lawyer, but they settle down into a nice couples friendship. Those are important and awfully hard to find. Josh is the best man at Sam’s wedding and Sam is the best man and Josh’s wedding, and Sam’s speech is definitely better but Josh throws a more interesting bachelor party (just ask Charlie!)

After the first year of the administration, Josh caves in to the inevitable and promotes Edie Ortega to Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and retitles Sam Deputy Chief of Staff for Outreach and Planning, which basically means Edie will now take over the work Sam’s been pawning off on the assistants and Sam can officially bother the Communications staff all he likes .Everyone is happier, with the possible exception of Lou, who is hard to read. Sam winds up working closely with Amy for awhile in this capacity. She finds him deeply frustrating because he is almost impossible to wind up and instead absorbs all her best snide comments, thinks about them, and then lets them slide off instead of stepping up to the plate like Josh would. They still get a lot done together before she returns to the private sector.

In the third year of the administration, Josh and Sam overhear a couple of assistant deputies arguing over whether it would be possible to set a fire in the fireplace in the mural room, and realize that they’ve gotten old. It’s a bummer of a feeling, but at least they’ve also gotten a little bit smarter. When Donna gets pregnant that same year, Josh suddenly feels very callow and inexperienced again, it all balances out. Sam tries to volunteer as backup coach, but Donna points out that any crisis that would keep Josh away would keep Sam away too and that doesn’t make much sense. He proclaims himself honorary uncle instead, which works much better. A couple of years later, Sam and Erica wind up adopting her cousin’s two small children as the culmination of a long and complicated family story (all unhappy families are unhappy in their own way!) and Josh returns the favor.

After the Santos administration, Josh and Donna stay in DC while Sam and his family go back to California. With a bunch more years behind him and a new confidence, Sam runs for Congress and wins, then wins reelection. He finally persuades Josh to leave political retirement and help him run for the Senate. The whole Lyman family comes along for the ride, even the kids stuffing envelopes at HQ, and it pays off with a win. Sam is satisfied, for the moment, but someday the kids will be grown and the big office with the round walls will be open again. He and Josh will both be ready for that.

Chapter Text

Another day, another oh-my-god-I-spent-the-whole-morning-wrapping-cups-in-paper writing break! It’s like my long-dormant creative brain is suddenly scratching at the walls to get out, now that I have a ton of real work to do.

Anyway, Sam and Ainsley. Honestly, I do not ship it so I don’t have a lot of headcanon about it. I did write one Sam/Ainsley fic that I think turned out pretty cute, if you’d like to have a look at that! Baby It’s Cold Outside

I really don’t like a lot of what Sorkin did with the character of Ainsley, mainly because he has a habit of completely missing the point of arguments about feminism in a way that doesn’t help either side (he was just as bad with Amy, really.) So in my head I try to think of Ainsley as she could be, making the least disingenuous arguments she can at all times and never talking about how awesome the Second Amendment is in front of a guy who got shot in the chest. Best Ainsley is thoughtful, thorough, diplomatic, and guilty more of failures of imagination than failures of personal empathy. I am related to a lot of people like her.

In the long run, though, I feel like their deep ideological differences are eventually going to keep Ainsley and Sam from becoming a couple. Some people are really good at bridging political differences in their personal lives, but they almost always do this by declaring certain topics off limits, or at the very least areas where they agree to disagree permanently. Ainsley might be able to do this, she surely gets enough practice at work, but Sam is pretty much the very embodiment of Someone Is Wrong on The Internet (or anywhere else). He’s the guy who spends five minutes winding down an argument by agreeing to disagree, going away, then appearing in the doorway thirty seconds later to say “Just one more thing!” We see exactly what he’s like in a relationship where he’s not satisfied with the rectitude of his partner when he’s not-dating Laurie, and it’s pretty grim.

Honestly, my favorite headcanon for Ainsley is that trying to hook Donna up with Cliff Calley made her start thinking about the guy herself. I’m a little mad at Cliff about the diary thing but he did his best in a tough situation and acquitted himself all right in the end, so he’s still a good guy. And they are both adorable and just a little goofy, and they can swap war stories about the Bartlet White House. It would be nice!

Chapter Text

CJ and Josh don’t get along at the beginning of the first Bartlet campaign. She’s trying to find her feet as spokesman and he’s just running over everybody in his path in his inimitable Disaster-Josh way, and it’s not a great combination for harmonious living. For one thing, he never returns his damn phone calls, so how is she supposed to get vital information out of him? Things start getting better when he hires (for certain values of the word hires) Donna to organize his life. The flow of information smooths out, and by watching the way the two of them interact, CJ gradually realizes that Josh is not really an asshole at heart, he just has a hard time modulating his speed and rhythm to other people. She starts organizing get-togethers for the staff to go out to bars and unwind, and they all begin gelling as a unit and as friends. Josh is there at the unveiling of The Jackal, and the way he looks like he’s been hit between the eyes is gratifying, even though there’s no way she’d ever sleep with him.

Being Press Secretary puts CJ in the awkward position of needing to know everything everybody is doing and persuade them not to do things they shouldn’t be doing, all while being technically at the bottom of the Senior Staff totem pole. She navigates this by cultivating an air of authority such that it becomes automatic to listen to her, the way little boys in school listen to the teacher when she raises her voice. (It helps that she’s already had years to get this system up and running on Toby: if somebody can cow Toby, Josh and Sam are intimidated already.) Josh starts teasingly calling her Mom, she shoots back that she’s more like his angry big sister. It is a number of years before she understands why that sort of ended that conversation, but she’s not wrong. He acts very much like one of her brothers most of the time.

CJ spends a lot more time than she’d like trying to pick her way around the minefield that is Josh and Donna’s relationship/non-relationship. They act like a married couple in public, flirt like lunatics, and only the fact that literally nothing has ever provably happened between them saves a scandal from breaking out. CJ has had to make contingency plans in case anything ever happens, and has had to remind Josh of public perception once or twice after long friendly nights at the bar. He is never happy to hear it, and CJ seriously hates having to be the relationship police, but Josh and Donna are both her friends and she is trying to save them. It might be easier in the second term after re-election, but by that point a lot of the spark seems to have gone out, so CJ figures that ship has sailed.

Things between Josh and CJ are awkward for awhile at the end of the administration and just afterwards. They both understand why Leo chose her for COS, but it’s still hard to see her in the big office, especially when she needs to freeze him out due to conflicts of interest. Josh taught CJ a lot of what she knows about federal government and dealing with Congress, for pity’s sake. And CJ doesn’t want to comment on the fact that Josh’s organizational skills and diplomatic talents are in no way up to the task of gatekeeping for the President right now. Even after the end of the Bartlet Administration things aren’t quite back to normal, mostly because CJ is just too tired to have the kind of long talk that puts a friendship back on course. It winds up being Danny who bridges the gap between his love and his old friend, getting them all together and just drunk enough for a heart-to-heart conversation that puts them all back on course.

Josh is crazy-busy working for the Santos administration and CJ is crazy-busy working for the Hollis Foundation, but they find time to get together at least once every couple of years. She keeps trying to get him to move to the West Coast, but he is too much of a politician to want to leave Washington. It’s a nice place to visit, though!

Chapter Text

The last fanfic I wrote for the 100-Day Fic-A-Day was Fortuna Audaces Iuvat, which answered the prompt of how Josh got Donna to go on vacation with him and what the plane ride was like. For purposes of all my further vacation headcanons, that is how it happened, which means they went to Hawaii for a week for their vacation together.

The first day or so they didn’t do much of anything. They were both exhausted, especially Josh, and they had a very large bed in a room with very good blackout curtains and one of those fans made of palm-front paddles that blew cool air around the room in the most relaxing way possible. They didn’t even wake up till well after lunchtime, and though they made it to a beach-side restaurant for supper, that was pretty much all either of them were up for before dipping their toes in the ocean at Donna’s insistence, then making lazy love and going back to bed.

The second day was an island tour specifically designed for people who were not in particularly good shape, one that involved several bus rides and lots of scenic views. It wasn’t Josh’s idea of a great time, but it was actually oddly relaxing to watch the ocean going in and out, plus seeing Donna having such a good time made him happy. He really does like to make Donna happy, it’s just difficult sometimes with the way their lives go. They wound up back at the beachside bar, having truly ridiculous drinks served in honest-to-god coconut shells and listening to a half-decent Jimmy Buffett cover artist, which was pretty much the essence of what Josh had expected Hawaii to be like. He’d thought Donna would want to talk that night, but instead they took a moonlit walk on the beach, barefoot and mostly quiet, hands interlaced except when Donna was darting off to collect shells.

It wasn’t till the third day, when they were both about as rested and relaxed as they were going to get without clearing the air that they started to talk. Josh began after breakfast, hesitantly, trying to work through some of his ideas about the future, about what the White House was going to be like, of how he was afraid of winding up like Leo’s bad days, of how he didn’t know if he could do the job or he’d be out of work in a year when Santos found somebody better. In return, Donna shared her worries about a job she wasn’t sure she was qualified for, about what people would say about her relationship with Josh and whether she got her job on her back, and her own worries about balancing job and family in a society and a specific situation where the bulk of responsibility would land on her. They didn’t really have firm answers for a lot of these questions, but it was nice to get them out in the air, nice to see that neither of them was more confident or more scared than the other, just worried in different ways.

It wasn’t until later in the day that the even harder stuff came up, the personal and painful bits of their history that needed to be laid out and explored before they could put it away. It didn’t happen in their hotel room or over a table when they were looking at each other, but on another beach walk while Josh was carrying both their shoes as Donna attempted to fill them with seashells.. It was easier that way, not necessarily having to look at one another, having something to do with the excess energy. Josh hadn’t really understood how angry and hurt he still was about Donna abandoning him, and he hadn’t understood how unhappy she’d been at the White House, how adrift, how much she’d still been hurting after Gaza. It was more than a little painful to have to unpack all that baggage, look it over, show it to each other, and try to deal with it, but if not here and now, then when? If it didn’t get done, how could they move on? In the end they wound up miles from their hotel and needed to get a taxi home, whereupon they just collapsed into bed, but at least they collapsed together.

After that, things were easier. There were still some sore places, but no more festering wounds that had to be avoided, and a general feeling that the hardest emotional work had already been done. They went swimming and snorkeling and on a dolphin cruise where Donna got very seasick, and at Josh’s insistence they spent an afternoon paying visits to the state’s Democratic party machinery who rarely got many in-person visits from the White House. They ate a vast quantity of seafood and drank alcohol in many bright colors and fruity flavors, and bought exceedingly stupid souvenirs for all their friends back home. Donna took four rolls of pictures. While they were doing all of that, they made plans, almost incidentally. Donna would move her things to Josh’s bigger apartment, they would set a night per week aside for one another, they would eat lunch together when they could. Their rhythm was different now that they walked side by side instead of her mostly trailing him around, but it was surprisingly easy to fall back into step.

Chapter Text

Okay, I assume we’re talking Santos-administration era here? I’ve got a couple fics that touch on the subject, especially Sing We Joyous All Together and The Sound of Your Voice but here’s a few more random bits and pieces.

It takes a little while after the Bartlet administration ends for Josh to reconnect with the Bartlet family. Part of it is just logistics; he barely has enough hours in the day to eat, sleep and see Donna outside of the work of keeping the government running. Part of it is also feeling just a little bit stung about being left on the outside through the end of the campaign and more than just a little bit guilty about his part in the President losing his best friend in the world. He is nervous about going up to Awesiwi Odanak for the first time after the election, but Donna is blase and excited and basically just drags him along in her wake. Then of course when he gets there, they treat him like part of the family and berate him for not visiting more often. Liz takes full personal credit for putting Santos in the White House, because she supported him way before it was cool.

He doesn’t really get a chance to visit again until Charlie and Zoey’s wedding, where Josh is suddenly the best man and having to figure out how to throw a bachelor party that includes an ex-president and make a toast in front of some of the world’s most persnickety speechwriters. He throws in the towel and lets Sam write most of the speech and doesn’t make a fool of himself and counts it as good. The next big wedding is his own, and that is actually considerably easier because it involves no extemporaneous speaking.

Once Josh and Donna start having kids, the relationship changes again because, like all adult children, they are abruptly relegated to the role of Vehicles for Transporting Grandchildren. Their kids have grandparents in Florida and Wisconsin, plus a dozen honorary aunts and uncles in the White House, but it’s still a treat to go up to New Hampshire to visit Grammy and Papoo. Josh has a little trouble reconciling the former leader of the free world with the guy who crawls around on the floor playing Peekaboo with his son, but it’s really pretty nice that they all made it this far.

Josh’s relationship with the Santos family takes awhile to develop, mainly because Helen is not 100% sure whether she likes Josh or hates him with the fire of a thousand suns. He did, after all, get them into this whole mess in the first place. It’s not until about six months into the administration, when she’s gotten used to the White House and she and Donna have become good friends, that Helen relaxes enough to let Josh into the family space at all. It mostly comes in the form of couples’ time, occasionally coming up to the Residence with Donna and relaxing for an hour or two, talking about anything but politics (that is an ironclad rule.) Josh really hasn’t ever spent a lot of time around children, but Peter and Miranda are generally well-behaved and pretty funny when they’re not being paraded around or stuck in hotel rooms for weeks on end, and it’s not hard to get along with them.

The relationship is congenial but a little distant right up until Donna gets pregnant, when suddenly she and Helen are practically sisters and Josh barely knows what’s going on. He and Matt are both dragged along into this familial sort of bonding, to the point where the Secret Service have to secure a portion of the Maternity Ward at Georgetown Hospital for an extended visit by the First Family. The family bonding only gets more intense when Helen comes up pregnant as well, of course, and they’re all raising babies together in the White House.

The Santos family returns to Texas after their years in the White House, while the Lymans stay in DC, but distance isn’t enough to separate family after eight years like the ones they’ve lived. Holiday trips and summer vacations mean the kids all remember each other from year to year, and between all their famous families, Garret and Evie always have the best show-n-tell for what they’ve done on their school breaks.

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Danny started following CJ around on the campaign trail for the first campaign, but she never gavve him the time of day. She was way, way too busy establishing her bona fides as somebody who could be respected as a mouthpiece for the campaign, and doing anything with even the most charming of reporters would've torpedoed that immediately (Also Danny was not exactly the most charming of reporters, tbh, though he did have a certain offbeat something about him.) Danny had more access than most to the campaign because he was writing Abbey's biography and he was willing to listen to large quantities of trivia from Governor Bartlet, but at the end of the day, he was still a reporter and still an opponent. But man, was he tenacious!

CJ came the closest she ever did to giving in and dating Danny when he came back at Christmastime in the Santa outfit. Things had been hard for such a long time, and though she wasn't actively grieving Simon anymore, she still spent a lot of time thinking about what might have been if she hadn't wasted time on wondering what other people would think. Old CJ would never have kissed even Santa-Danny on the press podium, but she'd had a lot of time to think about what she wanted. Unfortunately, Danny had ulterior motives in mind when he came back to the White House, and within hours they were more on opposite sides of a line than they had ever been before. (I actually wrote a fic about this particular moment, check out In Sin and Error Pining.) By the time the whole mess with Shareef was finished and aired out, CJ had put her reputation and her job on the line to preserve her own integrity and leak the story to Danny. By that point their relationship was hopelessly tangled between the personal and professional and there was just no way through it for either of them.

Danny did keep in touch with CJ sporadically during his time away from the White House. Sometimes it was useful work stuff, tipping her off to something she might want to keep an eye on that he'd noticed in his travels. Sometimes it was silly stuff, a video of baby flamingos or an article about how redheaded men make better lovers. And sometimes it was just a few lines of text about what he was doing lately, and that he was thinking of her. CJ rarely replied; she had good intentions but never knew what to say, and an email postponed is an email unsent in her busy inbox. Occasionally she did though, sending him a clipping of the reviews of his latest book or a picture of Gail, or a harmless story of something that had happened in the White House. It wasn't a lot, but it was something.

Danny emailed CJ during the MS scandal, after the debacle with "relieved" in the press room. He told her not to quit, and though she had no idea how he was so sure she was considering it, she took his words under advisement.

CJ didn't meet Danny's family in person until after the administration, but she got a deluge of phone calls and emails basically the moment Danny said he was dating somebody at Christmas that year. Nobody else in Danny's family had much interest in politics, so CJ being Chief of Staff was much less intimidating to them than it might have been to others. Margaret had to develop a very sophisticated call-screening process to avoid offending anybody while still letting CJ do her work and keep her sanity. By the time CJ actually met the whole family, it was no surprise at all to see how similar they all were to Danny in both looks and personality.

After the end of the administration, Danny doesn't pick up a steady gig for awhile. He's got a book contract and another couple of ideas kicking around, and he sends in columns from time to time to keep his hand in, but he's got other responsibilities to deal with. CJ is his full-time job for the first little while, until she finally breaks the surface of exhaustion and burnout enough to notice his subtle hovering and wave him off. Once she starts with the Hollis Foundation he devotes more of his time to writing again, something that isn't quite as exciting as political reporting, but is much better for his blood pressure and his relationship. As a side benefit, writing a Bartlet biography gives them plenty of reasons to visit New Hampshire and let CJ continue the slow process of rehabilitating herself after a decade in the most intense and painful levels of national politics.

Although Danny basically proposed the night he told CJ they should think about jumping off a cliff together, it's nearly eighteen months into the Santos era before he coughs up a ring and pushes his courage to the sticking point. Even for him, maybe especially for him, it's hard to know how CJ will react to certain things. He keeps it private on their own veranda, just in case he's misread the situation, but as it turns out, her first question is "What the hell took you so long?" which of course starts another playful argument. Eventually they double back around to the part where she actually says yes and they get the long romantic kiss and glasses of champagne.

The talk about kids is a little weird because neither CJ or Danny are quite sure whether or not they actually want one, but it feels like a conversation that should be had quickly or never, given their ages. Danny puckishly suggests just leaving it up to chance like all the best Catholics do, and CJ laughs and agrees, figuring that at her age, nothing at all is likely to happen. She throws up for the first time in an early-morning board meeting three months later. They both decide that God is obviously some kind of comedian, but both find themselves warming to the idea of parenthood quickly. Neither of them would've ever been in the position to parent at any earlier time in their lives, but right now it actually seems doable. It's not a great pregnancy and it ends precipitously a couple of weeks early with an emergency C-section, but CJ and the baby both come out okay. The kid, a girl, is named Josephine because Josiah is a little weird for a girl's name.

CJ is absolutely done with politics after her stint in the White House (or so she claims) but Danny's fascination is lifelong. After the Bartlet biography he starts writing the story of the Bartlet presidency, using his wife as his best resource. Her friends are also quite helpful, especially after a few drinks. The Cregg-Concannon family settled on a spacious home just outside Santa Monica and often invite friends to visit from all over the country. This is especially easy during the winter months, because most of their friends still live in DC, which is terrible. CJ takes trips to various African countries and Danny goes on a couple of book tours, but for the most part they are homebodies, enjoying the chance to stay in one place most of the time. It's nice to be able to make that choice, very peaceful. When Josh and Donna get out of the White House, with Josh just about as burnt out as CJ ever was, their first stop is in California to get some advice on how to live like real people again. CJ and Danny are happy to give it.

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Well, I started to do this one but then it got all rambly and out of control, possibly due to the lateness of the hour when I started it, so instead you get pre-and-early seasons headcanons only. Whoops!

Josh and Abbey got off to a somewhat rocky start in their relationship, mostly due to Zoey’s enormous and rather awkward crush on Josh from the moment she laid eyes on him. Now Zoey was only sixteen at the time, so it was understandable that her head was easily turned by the dimples and the adorably curly hair and the excitable political genius of the guy, but he was still 34 years old and Abbey was more than willing to kill him if he tried anything. Luckily for all of them, Josh didn’t even seem to notice Zoey’s feelings until they petered out on their own (mostly after realizing how truly ridiculous he was most of the time) and they settled into a sort of big brother-little sister relationship. Abbey could accept that; the more people keeping an eye on Zoey on the campaign trail, the better!

The other reason for their rocky start was that when Josh came on board, Abbey started to worry that they might actually win. Before the Josh Lyman era of the campaign, it was mostly a lark with Jed and Leo and a dozen volunteers and that dour bald speechwriter all playing at running for President in a converted storefront in downtown Manchester. But when Josh came in, he came in from the frontrunner campaign, and that brought attention, and questions. What did Bartlet have that Hoynes didn’t? What did Josh Lyman know that nobody else did? And Josh brought along Sam Seaborne as well, and then Toby coaxed his friend CJ to join up, and suddenly there was a team of seasoned campaign operatives and a bus and paid campaign workers, and it was all becoming a Real Thing, which Abbey was not comfortable with at all. It wasn’t Josh’s fault, she understood, but it was hard not to toss him a little of the leftover blame she wasn’t busy heaping onto Jed.

Josh, in turn, was rather intimidated by Abbey during the campaign. He was hardly unused to strong women, but Abbey Bartlet was tough as nails, an entirely different breed than her affable-yet-truculent husband. She had a stronger grasp, many times, of political reality, but she seemed every bit as unwilling to put up with it. He was very glad it hadn’t been his job to convince her to start going by “Mrs. Bartlet,” since half the time he was kind of sure she wanted to kick him in the shins (or worse) already. He was surprised, therefore, when he came down with some kind of hell-virus just after Super Tuesday and she showed up in his room with her doctor bag and Donna in tow with a carafe of hot tea. Dr. Bartlet (and she was definitely all doctor right then) had matter of factly taken his temperature, looked in his ears and down his throat, and prescribed two full days of rest with lots of fluids and no talking. Then she’d patted him on the head, tucked him in, and left. Josh was still entirely intimidated and just a little bit smitten.

Once in the actual White House, the two didn’t see each other as often. Abbey didn’t like to come to the West Wing much after the first few weeks in office. She’d go to the oval, but she’d take the route that led through the portico and past the Outer Office rather than going through the warren of staff and being announced. It was her way of reminding herself, Jed and everyone around them that this was her house and she ought to enjoy a certain amount of autonomy here despite being constantly watched and babysat. The only times she would actually venture into the West Wing proper would be for occasional visits with CJ, who she’d made friends with on the campaign, or Josh, who was the most fun to heckle and who never took it personally. When there was actual work to do, like consulting the press secretary about the First Lady’s media image or speaking with the Deputy Chief of Staff about her agenda of interests, she made them come to the East Wing. It was simpler that way.

On the night Jed got shot, Abbey’s first, second and third thoughts were all for her family. Jed was hit and Zoey was afraid, Zoey’s adorable motherless boyfriend Charlie was traumatized, and their old family friend Leo had been inches from the line of fire. She had plenty to worry about without trying to take a census of where all the senior staffers had gotten off to, really. That didn’t stop the guilt from hitting her like a punch to the gut when she heard about Josh being brought in on a crash cart and realized she’d never even wondered if any of them were all right. Once Jed was out of the woods and sleeping, Abbey took it upon herself to be the medical liaison between the surgeons and the White House staff, translating the often-arcane terminology and answering what questions she could. She also took it upon herself to look after Donna once Mrs. Landingham headed back to the White House. The girl, and she really was just a girl, barely as old as her own Ellie, was holding herself together but only through sheer grit and more than a little desperation. Abbey was the one who arranged for Donna to watch a little of the surgery from outside, hoping it would give her some measure of peace or closure if Josh did not beat the 70-30 odds stacked against him. She watched too, from a few feet away, and wondered if it was worse or better to see it all and know exactly what each instrument did and what every twitch of a finger meant.

Josh had known he was in for a long recovery from the moment he was conscious enough to absorb thee words his doctor said about “bilateral anterior thoracotomy” and “resectioned pulmonary artery,” but he hadn’t expected it to be quite so long, or nearly so annoying as it turned out to be. It was almost all right for awhile, having people fussing over him while he was drowsy, bringing him things to do and listening as he rambled away on whatever topic had caught his drugged-up interest. Eventually, though, they started throttling back on the pain medication and once that stopped completely sucking, he started getting bored and impatient. It was midterms season and there was so much work to do if they wanted to remake the House in their own image! He needed to be out there shaking trees and striking fear into the hearts of men! The biggest obstacle to that plan was obviously Donna, who literally threw herself in front of the door on more than one occasion to keep him in his apartment, but she wasn’t the worst of it. He was a master politician and also Donna’s boss, he could’ve worked around her. No, the worst of it was that Donna had learned everything she knew about political maneuvering from Josh himself, and therefore he had no choice but to be reluctantly proud when the First Lady appeared at his door the night before he was absolutely determined to go back to work. She gave him a swift examination of eyes, gums and posture, then sent him reeling backwards onto his bed with one well-placed gentle poke to the sternum. Object lesson complete, she prescribed two more weeks of home rest, followed by half days. Josh was beaten once again, but Abbey was gracious in her defeat and left him a little bag of maple syrup candies. Even Donna couldn’t say no to candy straight from the First Lady.

Eventually Josh did get to go back to work, much later than he would’ve liked, and for many fewer hours at first. Maybe it was true that he got tired out pretty quickly, but he’d already missed twelve weeks, weeks where other people’d had to cover for him when by all rights they should’ve put somebody new in the job. He owed it to the President, to Leo, to all his colleagues to start picking up the slack no matter his nagging bodily weakness. He’d rather hoped that Donna would stop nagging once they were back at work and she wasn’t ordering him to do physical therapy in his baggy pajamas anymore, but that had been a vain and foolish dream. The intolerable woman had an actual stopwatch on her desk to measure the exact allowable minutes before he needed a break and until he needed to go home. He ignored her, of course, the first time she’d tried to make him take a break and also the first time she’d tried to stop him for lunch. By the afternoon break, Mrs. Bartlet was standing in his doorway, her arms folded, looking extremely unimpressed with him. Josh went to take his break. At the end of the day, Josh was ready to keep going until he really truly needed to quit, but then the President walked by his office and waved goodnight to him. Josh didn’t know if it was Abbey or Donna who’d arranged that, but he knew when he was beat.

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Let’s see, I covered some of these headcanons already in other Josh and Donna sections so I will try not to double back too hard. I have very little patience for most pregnancy tropes in popular fiction (I cringe at books and TV shows where a sudden water break announces the onset of labor and hard contractions minutes apart), but I do like seeing characters become parents.

Josh and Donna’s first kid is semi-planned, a “let’s dump the birth control and see what happens” baby who remains mostly secret for the entire first trimester because Donna is superstitious and Josh is secretly a little suspicious of anything too good happening in his personal life. It took him a year just to adjust to the idea of actually being married to the woman he loves, and this seems just a bit like tempting fate. They have to tell Ron Butterfield and the head physician of the White House Medical Unit, just in case there were to be some kind of emergency at work, but both those individuals are extremely circumspect and the news does not get out until they start telling people themselves. Josh’s mom is angry for approximately thirty seconds that she didn’t get to hear right away before letting herself be swept up in full-on grandparental bliss. Donna’s folks are even easier because Donna got most of her little superstitions straight from her mother.

Donna begins research immediately, of course, and gets herself a pile of pregnancy books to rival any stack of intelligence Josh has ever received on Kazakhstan. In a brief flashback to their old relationship, she highlights and sticky-notes several of them for Josh’s benefit, since he doesn’t have a lot of spare time for reading and she’s concerned that too much knowledge could be a dangerous thing in his case. She is fine with reading through lists of possible complications (well, mostly fine) and can keep a sense of perspective, while Josh would most likely start to dwell on the worst possible outcomes until he gives himself some kind of complex. So Josh gets to read about pregnancy nutrition and what fruit or vegetable the baby is the size of from week to week, plus a huge amount of information on nice things to do for one’s pregnant spouse. Despite being one of the busiest guys around, he makes a surprisingly strong effort to follow the recommendations. It turns out pretty well, too, with Donna not minding at all that most of her backrubs and footrubs and nice little notes happen when both of them are still at the office into the evening hours.

Even though Josh can’t make it to every doctor’s appointment (not that Donna would want him there every time), he shows up for every sonogram with great fascination. There was a time in Josh’s life when he rolled his eyes at the Congressmen who carried pictures of their kids around with them and showed them off, but he himself turns out to be the kind of guy who sticks ultrasound photos in his wallet as soon as he can reliably distinguish a head-shape in the pictures. When the technician tells them at 24 weeks that they’re having a boy, Josh can’t even talk until they’re out in the car, where he finally admits that he wishes his dad and Leo were here to see it. Donna suggests that maybe they can start thinking about names now, and he understands what she is saying.

Donna’s cravings start as soon as the morning sickness wears off, right around the four month mark. She has read up on cravings already and is prepared to address whatever nutritional deficiency might be suggested by whatever it is she wants, but winds up kind of stumped when all she wants to eat for three weeks straight is spaghetti carbonara from the Italian place near her old apartment that is now halfway across the city. Josh suggests that her actual craving is to be extremely difficult to please, but he dutifully goes out to get it for her, or arranges for it to be brought to her, no less than eleven times before the craving subsides enough for her to start worrying about her sodium intake again. Compared to that, it’s a relief when the next food she can’t live without is strawberry yogurt. She threatens a couple of times to name the kid Dannon, and one time throws a spoon at Josh when he starts building little pyramids out of yogurt cups, but overall it’s far more manageable.

The federal government is exempt from many of its own workplace laws, but in this particular case it doesn’t matter because parental leave policies suck everywhere in the US anyway. Donna could take extra unpaid leave if she wants to because Helen Santos is basically her sister-from-a-Texan-mister these days, but she keeps coming to work nearly until her due date anyway. She is healthy and feeling good still and she has a ton of work to do in order to make sure she can take two months off without worrying too much. Her friends throw her a baby shower after hours in the Mess that nets them a ton of really weird childrens’ books and a lot of novelty onesies. This is all right because Donna also got baby shower goodies from Wisconsin and Florida and they honestly have enough diapers and accessories for two babies. She starts her leave three days before her due date, on the well-researched theory that first babies are usually late, and goes into labor the next day. She’s just a little bit smug about that.

Like most other things about her pregnancy, Donna’s birth experience is a well-orchestrated affair. She has a midwife she really likes and a birth plan that has been winnowed down from “slightly obsessively detailed” to “personalized but flexible” over the course of a number of drafts. After a great deal of consideration she chose Otto as her backup coach (strong enough to lift her up if necessary, good at taking direction, not essential personnel in the case of national emergency, willing to endure several intrusive interviews with Josh for the position) but in the end there is no competing national interest at stake and Josh is right there to take her to the hospital and try to remind her how to breathe properly. (The exercises wind up being as much for his sake as for hers, as they prevent him from hyperventilating or just starting to scream incoherently when the tension ratchets up.) Garret Noah Lyman is born just before eight on a Sunday morning, named for Josh’s dad, and more obliquely for Leo, since it was easier to convince Donna to riff on McGarry than to name a child Leopold. He is entirely perfect in every way and nobody mentions the fact that his nose is squashed so flat he barely seems to have nostrils for the first couple of hours. Babies are all like that, and by the time Helen shows up with the White House photographer in tow, it’s all straightened out anyway.

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Josh and Donna’s wedding is something I’ve never written because I’m kinda terrible at writing weddings and avoid it when I can. That said, I did do one pre-wedding fic, Personnel Matters. that deals with the apportionment of maidly and manly wedding duties. I think it turned out pretty funny, but I will be ignoring it for the purposes of this headcanon.

Once Josh and Donna get going on the whole romance train, they move along at a reasonable clip. Not super-fast, they are trying to run a country after all, but once they get things talked out in Hawaii, there’s a certain feeling that they know the endgame that they are heading for. This is very helpful for Josh, especially, who freaks out over the engagement only about 60% as much as he might have otherwise (which is still a fair amount). They get engaged about six months into the Santos administration, once the first and second hundred days are behind them, then have the wedding six months later, just before things really rev up for midterms. Some might see that sort of political calculus as unromantic, but Donna and Josh have both lived their lives to the rhythms of politics for many years and it never even occurs to either of them to do otherwise.

Donna hires a wedding planner to take care of all the actual details. Given their respective positions and the sort of people they’ll be inviting, certain standards need to be met and she is way too busy to do it herself, despite formidable organizational skills. Between her salary, Josh’s salary, and her parents wanting to chip in, they can afford to do things up properly. The whole “His and hers” matching Chiefs of Staff thing has gotten a lot of traction in some of the news outlets, but they limit press access to a few friendly reporters and one photography team from Vanity Fair, who have been quite favorable to the new administration and have earned Josh’s grudging appreciation. There’s not quite as much protocol as at, say, Ellie Bartlet’s wedding, but with two presidents and a bunch of other VIPs attending, security is going to be tight. They settle on the Hay Adams Hotel in DC for both ceremony and reception, even though it invites teasing about neither of them being able to get away from work (it’s in eyesight of the White House!), because it’s a gorgeous event space that understands how to handle this sort of function.

The ceremony itself is a bit of a cultural mix. Neither Josh nor Donna are particularly observant in their religious lives, but both of them have deep cultural roots and families they want to honor. Toby helps Josh create a beautifully lettered ketubah, and it turns out Margaret has a friend who does manuscript illumination in their spare time because of course she does. So that’s taken care of, and the chuppah cannot be open to the sky because of security concerns but it’s still gorgeous (thank you, wedding planner!) and decorated with many, many flowers. They smash the glass as well, a specially-designed smashing-glass, much to the delight of the youngest members of the crowd. Most of the rest of the ceremony is pretty standard Midwestern Protestant, rings and a unity candle and a big procession with the wedding march playing.

Toby’s twins serving as ring-bearer and flower girl and Peter and Miranda as junior attendants because Miranda idolizes Donna and was absolutely desperate to be in the wedding. Donna’s sister is her maid of honor because friendship doesn’t count as much as blood when it comes to who stands where on one’s wedding day, but she gets Stephanie Gault too, plus Annabeth and Margaret and CJ, once she works up the nerve to ask. Josh isn’t sure he knows five guys who’ll stand up for him, but he recruits Sam for his best man, of course, then gets Toby, Charlie, Danny Concannon and, because my poor little fanficcer’s brain has it as quasi-canon that these guys are old friends, Matt Skinner. (This was a huge thing in a lot of early-season fanfic I’ve read, and I just sort of absorbed it as true despite a lack of real textual evidence. I like it anyway!) Donna teases that if Josh got Will Bailey as well, he could reenact the time when they all got drunk and threw snowballs at her apartment, but Josh points out both that Will was merely substituting in for Sam anyway and that wedding parties have a strict one-congressman limit and he’d hate to jinx Will’s run. Donna does allow that, Congressman limit or no, that might be entirely too many speechwriters for one wedding party as she does hope to have a chance to do things like dance and eat at the reception.

Josh’s mom doesn’t meet Donna’s parents until just a few days before the ceremony, but the two moms have been conversing by phone for months and they all get along like gangbusters. It is apparently very easy to bond over children who do not call or visit enough and who need to be a lot more proactive on the whole grandchildren issue. Before the end of the wedding week, the Mosses are making plans to vacation in West Palm Beach during the winter when nobody wants to be in Wisconsin anyway. Donna’s younger sister is more than happy to be paired up with Sam during the wedding party activities, enough that Donna has to warn her off with threats of brutal lawyer retaliation from Sam’s fiance (who is in reality a sweetheart and slightly socially awkward but Little Sis doesn’t need to know that.) To stave off any fights, she blithely foists her sister off onto Bram instead, who turns out to be a perfectly adequate substitute. There are many, many other Moss relatives as well, far more than Josh can keep track of. It’s a little weird when his side of the family has a photo with just him, Donna, his mom and a couple of cousins, but then he and his mom both get folded into the dozens of people cramming together for the Moss family photo and it’s actually kind of nice.

As Donna had feared, the reception involves a whole lot of speeches and toasts. Turns out when you invite a president to your wedding you have to let him speak, and when you invite two presidents they both get to speak, and when two of your groomsmen have written speeches for the president they are going to have surreptitious little slapfights over grammar while one of them is trying to talk. By the time all those speeches are done, Donna’s sister is too intimidated to speak at all, and has also finished a glass and a half of champagne. CJ gracefully steps in and delivers the maid of honor toast with all the poise of a press secretary and the wit of Josh’s honorary big sister, and the extemporaneous speech is probably the best received of the whole night. After that, everybody finally gets to eat.

The Secret Service will not allow the use of the rooftop balcony for dancing, but from inside the ballroom they can still see the White House in the distace, which is kind of nice, all things considered. It seems fitting. Josh and Donna disappear after a couple hours of dancing and the compulsory throwing-of-Donna’s-accessories (she puts the garter around her ankle just before the toss and makes Josh take it off with his hands, thank you!), both of which are scored by Donna’s speedy and highly competitive extended family. They head off for a Hawaiian honeymoon to do all the stuff Donna picked out of the guidebook on the first trip but they didn’t have a chance to do, while the rest of the guests close the place down, dancing and celebrating till late. It’s really quite something!

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Ryan Pierce was a funny guy, he is a little bit like I imagine Josh would've been if he'd grown up in a more famous family and with less early tragedy. Ryan was a little eccentric and a lot egocentric, but he also loved being the guy who got the thing done for his guy. At the end of the day, Ryan didn't need the pat on the back so long as he knew he'd done a good job and that his influence network was working properly, and doesn't that remind you of somebody? His time in the White House was definitely good for him, he seemed like he was used to being a big man on campus, so getting cut down to size a little probably helped him out in the long run. When even the assistants are relentlessly bagging on you, it's hard to keep a big head. He also learned about his affinity for tall, commanding women of nearly-impeccable competence. So where did Ryan end up, anyway? Well, he moved to Sunnydale and got et by vampires. Whoops, nope, despite my affinity for Buffy the Vampire Slayer/The West Wing crossover stories.

Ryan ended his career at the White House with a jump to an actual paying gig as legislative director for Congressman McKenna, a Democrat out of Pennsylvania. His family got the job for him, obviously, what with his lack of age, experience and resume to speak of. This was a turning point in Ryan's life. He could easily have continued to coast on his family's name and connections and worked this sort of job for the rest of his career. It would've been easy and comfortable and he'd never have gone beyond regional politics. Or he could buckle down, rise above being a Pierce-Yes-That-Pierce, and use his drive and his smarts to make something of himself. Ryan's time in the White House had let him get a pretty good look at how the legislative sausage gets made, plus make connections with a bunch of the career folks who stay in the government from administration to administration. He actually did a very good job for Congressman McKenna. 

Ryan doesn't show up much for the next couple years, at least not on the national political level. It's important while making one's bones in any field to show a little loyalty and not jump ship too often. He's hired midway through one Congressional term, stays on through it and through the entire following term as well. This puts him back into the field in 2006, just in time to angle for a job in the Santos White House. He starts as a legislative liaison (think Ed and/or Larry) but works his way up quickly to Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff, a position that must not be confused with Deputy Deputy Chief of Staff. Being an assistant DCOS is a much bigger deal in the Santos White House because of Sam's relative lack of congressional experience when compared to Josh. He's got some, of course, but it's not exactly his giftedness, plus he spends about half his time down in the Communications bullpen, hassling the staff their over their speeches. When the administration needs somebody to actually go over to the Hill and shmooze/berate some people into playing nice, they often wind up sending Ryan. It's a really good way for him to make a name for himself, rather than riding on the coattails of the name he was born with. 

During this time, Ryan also takes a little bit of time to finish growing into an adult, and also to find a tall and terrifyingly competent girlfriend, possibly a Secret Service agent or somebody like that. Making babies of moderate height can wait until after 2014, since there's no way a Democrat will be elected in that year and Ryan wouldn't keep working for them even if they did. Once Santos is out of office, Ryan gets a couple of years to teach and write his first book (well-received in his home state, not exactly a bestseller) before he hooks up with a new presidential campaign just getting off the ground. President Seaborn might need a good Deputy Chief of Staff, after all! 

 

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I have a lot of feelings about this time period for Josh and Donna, as I'm sure pretty much anybody who ships them does. I've visited the subject a couple times before, most notably in Closure and Sirens, so if you've read those, you already know a lot of my headcanons for all the things that went unsaid during that time. But let's see what else I can lay on the table here. 

Josh was thrown really badly by Colin Ayers showing up at the hospital in Germany. For a few brief hours, he thought he had everything figured out. The threat of losing Donna brought a lot of things abruptly into focus for him, like how completely lost he would be without her, how much she really meant to him. He was ready to call it love, right up until the point that he realized that Donna might possibly not be feeling the same way as he was, a possibility personified by a suave and handsome photographer who seemed to be more than just a friend. Josh is super-duper bad at talking about his feelings with anybody, including himself.  He generally deals with them by either stuffing them into the backmost corners of his mind or channeling them into whatever sort of aggression is handy, whether that's dragging half of Congress to death to get his agenda through or going outside and yelling at the sky. Sniping at Colin passed the time but was ultimately unsatisfying, and he wasn't about to have a go at Donna herself, so he went the stuffing-down-his-feelings route. He got way up into his own head, where it's hard to see what's actually going on.

By the time Donna was awake enough to be having coherent conversations, Josh had convinced himself that what he felt for Donna was the same thing anybody might feel for a really good friend who'd been put into danger as a direct result of his actions. (Guilt is one emotion Josh is pretty much never able to stuff down.) Donna is adept at reading Josh, so she saw that guilt right away, hiding whatever might have been suppressed underneath it. The trouble with guilt is that it is a very needy emotion. It needs absolution, it needs forgiveness, and for the really stubborn flavors, it might need those things again and again and again. It didn't matter that Donna never blamed Josh; because Josh blamed himself, he needed absolution that at the same time he was convinced he did not deserve. There were only so many times Donna could tell him it wasn't his fault, only so many times she could watch him look miserable because she was hurt. She got stuck in the position where she needed comfort, but showing that she needed comfort just seemed to make Josh feel worse because he was so absorbed in the idea that it (like pretty much everything in the world) was his fault. She quickly started easing away from his efforts to help her because that was preferable to watching him go to pieces every time she couldn't bite back a moan of pain. They talked, sure, they talked everyday, but it was banter, patter, never anything too real or too deep even after Colin left. Josh didn't stay too long after that anyway, since he needed to head back for the peace talks. 

There's a very squishy amount of time that passes before, during and after the peace talks before Donna comes back to work. A complex open femur fracture can take between 12 weeks and 12 months to heal, but the most intense period of physical therapy tends to be within the first four weeks after surgery. There is no possible way that Donna would be in a wheelchair and putting in full days at the office a week after surgery, but then again, there's also no way they put those peace talks together so quickly, so obviously there were several weeks encompassed in the montage that ends with Debbie straightening the place settings at Camp David. During that time, Donna completed initial recovery at Landstuhl, then flew home with her mom to Wisconsin and the really excellent orthopedic surgeons at the University of Wisconsin hospital in Madison. Josh pulled some strings to get her transport back to DC during Third Day Story so she wouldn't have to fly commercial with her leg the way it was, which is why she arrived at Andrews that day in pretty decent shape and not needing a lot of personal nursing care that would mean she couldn't live on her own. (Just go with me here, I know it's complicated but this timeline is all jacked up and I'm doing the best I can!) 

In any case, by the time Donna got back to work she was getting better, but she was nowhere near better. Sitting or standing for a long time was very painful, and she'd still be spending a considerable amount of time each week in physical therapy. Add to that the incredible stress the entire White House was under during the transition between Chiefs of Staff, and it was not an environment conducive to mental health or healing. Donna understood that, she'd done enough research on stress and PTSD to recognize it in herself, though. Kate didn't have to lay it out for her for Donna to understand what she was getting at, or to be able to name her own list of symptoms. She didn't make Josh's mistake, she did get therapy when and where she could, but federal insurance isn't that great and there was never any time. As long as the symptoms weren't disrupting her life she could get by. As for the "get angry over everything, cry over nothing," well, nobody was responsible for making her feel better but herself, even though when the situation had been reversed, she'd put her life on hold to fix Josh. She tried not to be resentful about that, and tried to ignore the way that her resisting the offers he did make to help were pretty textbook symptoms as well. 

Donna had wanted a change in her job even before everything had happened. She was a great assistant, but she was ready to be more than that. She had the brain to be anything she wanted, but she'd thrown away her college opportunities to stay with Dr. Freeride, and now she found herself seemingly in the same position, albeit a slightly more lofty one. She knew Josh needed her support, but so had her old boyfriend and look how that had turned out. Seeing Charlie graduate and get a "real" job with advancement potential was just salt in the wound. Yes he'd had to work hard, but the President had supported him, made room in his work schedule to make education happen, and was now encouraging Charlie to bigger and better things. There wasn't much opportunity for Donna to take classes in the fifteen hours a week she wasn't working or sleeping, and the one time she'd floated the test balloon of a new job or new position, Josh had shot her down so dismissively that it was pretty obvious he couldn't even conceive of her moving on. It hadn't been so bad back then, almost an extension of their endless banter about her wanting a raise, but in retrospect it rankled. By the time she started scheduling lunches with him she was feeling overworked, underappreciated, unheard, and like somebody who'd once been her best friend and more was a huge contributing factor to a lot of her problems. 

Josh, for his part, wasn't totally unaware of Donna's problems, but they were nowhere close to being on the same page. Josh had more than enough troubles of his own to be dealing with during this time, reversals and disappointments both professional and personal, and a lot of weight coming down on his head. He understood, mostly, why Leo hadn't chosen him for COS but it still bothered him some, especially when he wound up picking up a lot of slack for CJ while she was getting up to speed on policy. He'd meant to help Donna with her transition back to work, but he found her hard to deal with when she was being prickly, and she didn't seem to want a lot of help getting around or carrying things. He figured she didn't like people thinking she was weak, a major concern he himself had felt after Rosslyn, and tried to back off to let her feel stronger. That was apparently not the right thing to do either, but damned if he knew what he was supposed to do, besides all the things that were very inappropriate for work and absolutely not right for people who were just good friends. 

In the ever-shifting landscape of his priorities, Josh wound up doing what he'd been doing for years, shifting what he couldn't deal with to Donna and trusting that she would backstop him on whatever might fall through the cracks. Unfortunately in this case, one of the things he couldn't deal with was Donna herself, and shifting that burden was a mistake. Like the guy who doesn't check or rotate his tires as long as they're working because they've always been fine before, it wasn't until there was serious danger that he started taking notice at all. And like that guy, he made himself a promise that he'd fix things later and just hoped that if he ignored the problem, things would ride along okay for just a little while longer. A blowout was basically inevitable. 

Chapter Text

Jed and Abbey don't do much just after the administration ends. (It is my belief that anybody running the country needs at least half a year to decompress from that, which is why CJ, who was running the country on timeshare with Jed by the end, needed just as much slack time afterwards.) They spend the first little while just resting up, learning how to be private citizens with their own lives again. This is especially difficult for Jed, who hasn't enjoyed the long vacations to reality that Abbey has taken throughout the past eight years. She helps him out by heckling him mercilessly any time he slips and expects to be waited on in the fashion to which he's become accustomed. She also takes a lot of pictures the first time he decides he's going to mow the lawn ("I'm a man of the people, Abigail, tending my own acreage with the honest sweat of my brow) after fifteen years in the governor's mansion or the White House. They decide to keep the landscape company on the payroll.

The first six months also involve a lot of doctors' appointments, all the specialist visits they hadn't been able to get in the White House without frantic speculation about "the president's waning health." Abbey finally makes good on her threat to get Jed a regular physical therapist, and Jed refuses to admit when it helps him walk better. They also commit the cardinal New Hampshire sin of getting central air installed, keeping the place cool year-round and avoiding any exacerbations resulting from simple overheat. Jed goes surprisingly quickly from frequent small relapses he did his best to ignore to the occasional rough patch amidst long stretches of feeling normal. Abbey makes a couple of self-satisfied noises about the wisdom of listening to one's doctor when she tells you to reduce stress and get more sleep, but mercifully refrains from too many "I told you so"s.

They settle into a routine at the farm as Jed's health begins to improve. After a couple of months they start going out into town more often, rejoining the community they left behind in the quest for public service. They are highly visible figures, of course, and they still make news when they go places, but these days it's local affiliates who might get a video picked up by the national news, rather than every press outlet scrambling for a place on the press line. Jed secretly enjoys the opportunity to offer his opinions to a world that has, in a sense, begun to pass him by, but he is savvy enough to be careful of undermining Matt Santos and his administration. He got enough of that from the old guy in his own first year in the White House, and they weren't even on the same team.

By the time six months have passed, they are ready to begin entertaining visitors again. CJ and Danny visit first and most often, while Danny writes the definitive chronicle of the Bartlet years, taking advantage of his unparalleled access. Abbey invites CJ to help her put up the year's cider acquisitions, perhaps a silent apology for less congenial visits in years past. Christmas that first year brings most of the visitors, as Jed summons his staff for one last office Christmas party in the last year of his presidency (he was president for more than two weeks of this year, it definitely counts.) Despite the fact that a bunch of them are still running the country, they come when he calls, and a good time is had by all. (For a detailed version of this story, see Sing We Joyous All Together.) Surrounded by friends and family, with their lives once again their own, Jed and Abbey settle down into a retirement of happy bickering broken by the occasional medical goodwill trip or whistle-stop political campaign. It's not a bad way to spend tomorrow.

Chapter Text

Okay, we're gonna do the speed run on this one since I am playing hooky both from studying about conflict of laws and preparing for my son's birthday party tomorrow, yikes! Let's see what I can cough up in fifteen minutes.

Donna sublet her apartment to a nervous woman from Treasury while she was out on the campaign trail, but she knew she'd be back in town after the election, one way or another, so I'm assuming the sublessee moved out somewhere around that time. By this time Donna no longer had a roommate, but rent in DC is stupidly expensive, so her place wasn't very big or in the nicest neighborhood. Josh worried about that throughout their relationship, but despite her teasing demands, he was literally not capable of giving her a raise. They'd done a lot of talking on that vacation about their pasts and their present, but not much talking about the future. The future was a scary and exciting place that they both wanted to escape for a few days, so they didn't wind up talking about logistics much.

So they got back from their trip and Donna moved back into her apartment, but she did spend a lot of nights at Josh's place, because it was closer and the bed was bigger and the water pressure was much better. This wasn't entirely unfamiliar, Donna had spent some nights at Josh's place while he was recovering from being shot, but it was way more fun when he was feeling good and they both got to sleep in the bed. Spending nights at Josh's meant leaving clothes at Josh's, and toiletries, and setting up a little place to do her work when necessary, and getting space in the fridge for the water she liked that tasted like the faint memory of fruit. Josh saw all of it happening and wondered if it was weird that it didn't feel weird, but after all, Donna had been making space for herself in his life since the day they met.

The end of transition and the first six weeks or so in office were crazy, so much so that there'd have been no time for moving homes if they'd wanted to. Sometimes they barely saw each other until the end of the day, which could be seven or eight but almost never later. President Santos was a family man with young children, and he wanted personal time for himself and for his staff unless actual emergency prevented it. Josh scored a romantic coup on Valentines Day (with Margaret's help but it was his idea) of a fancy dinner and dancing date where he didn't get called or paged even once. Because Josh is a political mastermind, he waited until the end of the evening when they were both in a very good mood before he suggested she move in. She agreed immediately, so that was a big strategic victory.

Progress in their relationship from there was really tied to the pace of politics and their own unique style of conversation. They didn't so much sit down and hash out their futures as they bantered their future plans into submission, a matter of teasing, joking, and kidding on the square all around the issue until they both had a really solid tacit understanding of what they were doing without ever coming out and saying it. It was a strategy that tended to work well for them. Donna would not, however, allow herself to be bantered into marriage without a proposal, because she does have standards!

Josh tried to call on Sam's expertise, as both a speechwriter and someone who'd proposed successfully on several occasions, but Sam's best advice was to be himself, because that was the guy Donna loved. So Josh got a ring and carried it around and tried to think of the best possible time and way and place, and then eventually wound up getting on one knee in her office at three in the morning on a night when they'd just gone through ten crises and were both completely punchy and exhausted. She thought it was perfect.