Spandex and Go-Go Boots
Donna threaded her way through the organized chaos that was the new administration’s temporary HQ. She didn’t remember it being this bad eight years ago for the Bartlett administration, but that was probably due to the difference between Josh and Leo as chiefs of staff. Nobody had ever accused Josh of being neat or organized, and his new aide wasn’t broken in yet. Though Donna wasn’t sure the new girl would ever be able to keep Josh in line the way she had.
“So, what did they want?” Josh asked as she settled in to the corner set aside for the First Lady’s staff, which so far consisted only of herself. To an uncritical observer, he didn’t look any different than he had before they went on vacation, but nine years of experience had taught Donna the difference between normal obsessive Josh and overwhelmed, stressed out, about to snap Josh. And she was relieved to see the former, for a change.
“It was personal, actually,” Donna said. “And nothing to do with the switchover. I’ll tell you about it later, after they get back to me—the President wants some follow up on it before any decisions are made.”
“President Bartlett himself
was there? And it’s personal?” Josh seated himself on the edge of her desk.
“Yes,” Donna said. “You’ll hear about it sooner or later, but right now I have to get ready for my three o’clock with Mrs. Santos, which begins in less than half an hour.” She pulled out her file drawer and began pulling out what she needed. Josh stood up, but didn’t go away. “Oh,” she said. “There is one thing for you. Toby may be getting a pardon, and if he does President Bartlett will want to talk with the President-Elect about the details of something called the Initiative. You should probably be there.”
“What kind of Initiative?” Josh asked.
“You’ll find out if there’s something to tell.” Donna flipped open one of the folders. “Now, shoo. Some of us have actual work to do. And I know you’re the boss-man now, but I’m sure if you look hard you can find something to occupy you.”
“Right,” Josh said. He hesitated, then swooped in to kiss her on the cheek. “Dinner at six thirty?”
“Sound good,” Donna said, smiling up at him. She wasn’t really used to being a couple, yet, but she sure did like it.
“Donnatella Moss.” Donna cradled the phone against her shoulder while she flipped through a resume—she really needed to get her staff in place by the time they moved in to the White House.
“Please hold for the President,” said the voice on the other end of the line.
“Sure,” Donna said, setting the folder down. It only took a few seconds for President Bartlett to come on the line.
“Mister President,” she replied, glancing around. Everyone was too busy to pay attention to anyone else’s business. “What’s the word on the thing?”
“I’ve got a three-star general in my office right now. He’s trying to explain to me how the United States Army could set up a concealed base below a United States city, in conjunction with the National Intelligence Directorate, for the purposes of performing medical experiments on ‘hostile sub-terrestrials,’ otherwise known as demons, without notifying the President of the United States
. Even after
the project created a Frankenstein monster that nearly killed everyone there before a young lady, known as the Slayer, managed to take it out.”
Donna sagged back in her chair. “Oh.” She’d almost managed to make herself forget the meeting yesterday, or at least convince herself that nothing had come of it.
“I’ve got an Agent Riley Finn on the next plane to DC to give a more in-depth briefing on just what the Hell—literally—was going on there. He’ll be here tomorrow, as will Toby; you and President-Elect Santos should be here for it.”
“Josh, too,” Donna said.
There was a pause. “While I have significant disagreements with the way a lot of this has been handled, I do think the existence of demons should be kept as quiet as possible. The Initiative is shut down by now, aside from Captain Finn’s demon-fighting team which practically runs itself runs itself; Santos needs to know about it, but I doubt he’ll have any real interaction with it. He shouldn’t need his chief of staff in on it. You can come in to meet with Abby’s staff to prepare for the change, and then slip over to the Oval without much fanfare. If Santos comes by himself, it’s just a courtesy call. Josh comes over with him, it’s a strategy meeting of some importance. People will notice it.”
“It’s not just the chief of staff thing,” Donna said. “We’re living together. He’s going to need to know why Toby’s hanging around all of a sudden. And I don’t want him to think I’m crazy when I tell him.”
“Fair enough,” President Bartlett said. “I’ll get my staff to set it up. I will see you tomorrow, Donna.”
“Yes, sir,” she said, and hung up. She closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. Somehow, the day’s work just didn’t seem as important.
“So, what’s this mysterious meeting about?” Josh asked as they drove over to the White House in her car the next day. He’d been trying to get it out of her since the meeting had been arranged.
“Demons, superheroes, and the mouth of hell,” Donna said.
“Fine. You don’t wanna tell me, I get that.” Josh paused. “It has to do with the Republican response to the new welfare reform thing, doesn’t it?”
“No, Josh, it has nothing to do with Welfare,” Donna said. Her fingers flexed on the steering wheel, and she heard a creak.
“What was that?” Josh asked.
“Nothing,” Donna said, forcing herself to relax as she turned in to the driveway for the West Wing parking lot. “Look,” she said, digging out her ID for the guard. “If you can wait another half hour, President Bartlett will tell us everything we need to know.”
“Does CJ know what this ‘Initiative’ thing is?” Josh asked as Donna took her ID back and drove in to the parking lot.
“I highly doubt it,” Donna said.
“So, what, the incoming President’s Chief of Staff needs to know, but the current Chief of Staff doesn’t?” Josh fumbled with his seatbelt as Donna pulled into a parking spot. “That makes no sense. CJ’s gotta know something.”
“You’re not here as the Chief of Staff,” Donna said. “And no, CJ doesn’t need to know. So don’t bug her about it, okay?”
“Okay, fine, be that way.” Josh waved it off as they walked towards the building. “You do realize that I’m going to go absolutely insane, wondering why all the cloak-and-dagger, right? I’m going to sit there through a pointless meeting with CJ, wondering what this is all about, and go stark raving mad.”
“Yes, but how would we tell the difference, Josh?” It was weak, and not up to their usual standards of banter, but Donna was too nervous to bring herself to care all that much. “I’m going to tell CJ you said that, by the way.”
“What, that I’m going to go nuts? She’d agree with you that I already am.”
“That you think today’s meeting with her is a waste of time,” Donna said, presenting her ID to the guards at the entrance to the West Wing and signing in.
“Hah, hah, very funny,” Josh said. “See you in half an hour.”
Donna spent the meeting with Mrs. Bartlett’s chief-of-staff alternating between wishing it were over already and wishing they had more time; she’d never worked much with the First Lady’s staff, and the differences between their job and the President’s staff were just big enough to get her into trouble. On the other hand, each administration basically made it up as they went along, figuring out what worked with the people involved; it wasn’t like there was a handbook anywhere, which meant there wasn’t anything that was absolutely wrong, besides getting in the way of the President’s staff. When the clock finally showed that the half-hour was up, it was a relief to get to it.
They weren’t meeting in the Oval or the situation room; that would have been too conspicuous. Donna wasn’t surprised to find that neither Josh nor the President had arrived in the conference room yet. Like the previous day, the blinds were closed. Josh was already there, as were FitzHugh, his aide, and three Army officers she didn’t know. One was a general, one looked like an aide, and one was a Major with the look of a combat soldier to him. Toby and Josh were on the side of the table closest to the door; the Council and Army guys were on the far side of the table, on opposite corners.
Josh was practically vibrating with anticipation. “Donna!” he said, as the door closed behind her. “You didn’t say Toby was involved!”
“I did, too,” Donna protested. “I told you he might be getting a pardon.”
“Right,” Josh said, “but you didn’t say he was involved with the military.”
“I’m not,” Toby said. “Though I wish I could say the same thing about the Council.” He shot a glare at FitzHugh which the older man met with equanimity.
“‘Council?’” Josh asked. “I thought you said the thing was called the Initiative?”
“No,” FitzHugh said. “That particular brand of idiocy belonged entirely to the US Army.”
“Like you in the Council haven’t done stupider things,” Toby shot back.
“Not under the present administration,” FitzHugh said coolly. “And are you including yourself in that condemnation, as you’ll be joining us?”
“British?” Josh said, glancing between them. He swung back to Donna. “And you said all this was personal. I can’t wait to hear this
story. Y’know, that line you gave me in the car about demons and superheroes is starting to sound more plausible all the time.”
Toby raised an eyebrow at Donna.
“Well, I had to tell him something
to shut him up,” she replied defensively.
“What, is it true?” Josh glanced between them, face lit up like a Christmas tree. “I know you’re not a demon, Donna, does that make you a superhero? Will you start walking around in spandex and go-go boots and a cape?”
“In your dreams, Joshua.”
“Yeah, you said it, Donnatella.” Josh smirked. “Please tell me your superhero name won’t be something totally lame.”
Behind him, the major was watching the exchange with amusement and perhaps a touch of something like nostalgia, while the general and his aide consulted in low voices.
Donna raised an eyebrow. “I’m not going to have a superhero name, Josh.”
“No, but as I understand it you will have a superhero title
Donna turned. Bartlett stood in the doorway, Santos by his side.
“Everybody here?” Bartlett strode into the room, using a cane but treating it more like a prop than a necessity. A Secret Service agent shut the door behind the two men. “Good. You all know me, and I assume you’ve heard of President-Elect Santos. This is Josh Lyman, my former deputy chief of staff and the President-Elect’s current chief of staff. He was flirting with Donna, who was his assistant when he worked for me but moved on to bigger and brighter things and is now Mrs. Santos’ chief of staff, and from all accounts doing a fine job. Toby Ziegler used
to be the head of my communications department, before he leaked classified information to the press; I’ll be pardoning him at the request of the Watcher’s council.”
Bartlett stalked around to the head of the table. “Over here we have General Bauer, who among other things was one of the people in overall charge of a rather stupid and dangerous project called the ‘Initiative’ that was so dark even I
was kept out of the loop. Major Riley Finn is one of the tragically few soldiers involved to survive the predictable destruction of that project. Mister FitzHugh, behind them, is a member of the Watcher’s Council, an international Non-Governmental Organization that no one’s ever heard of except the Queen of Great Britain, and, apparently, Toby Ziegler. Now, let’s get this show on the road.” He took a seat, and the rest of the room followed. “Mister FitzHugh?”
The briefing that followed was a concise, well-organized summation of the history and current state of the supernatural world, and Donna’s place in it. Josh and the President-Elect were appropriately disbelieving. FitzHugh’s assistant brought out props and spells for evidence, and at one point handed Donna a two foot long four-by-four and asked her to break it in half with her bare hands, which she was able to do without too much effort, much to her surprise.
“Guess we know who’s going to be opening any sealed jars in our household,” Josh had muttered to her as he inspected one of the halves.
“Guess so,” Donna said, smiling at the ‘our household.’ Yes, she was a liberated woman of the twenty-first century and didn’t need a man to validate her, but that didn’t mean she didn’t appreciate the perks of having one at her disposal.
General Bauer followed the Council’s report with a briefing that was a bit drier and used a lot
more weasel-words. Donna spent much of it wincing as she decoded Army jargon to get a glimpse of the horrors behind it. The major—his name was Finn—followed with an addendum about current US involvement in demon-fighting, complete with a list of apocalypses averted with their help.
“I can see why you thought I should hear this immediately,” the President-Elect said to President Bartlett once Finn was done. “It’s a lot to swallow. I’m glad I’m not hearing it on my first day in office.”
“Be glad you’re not learning about it in your last month in office,” the President replied, frowning at General Bauer.
“Oh, absolutely.” Santos shook his head. He turned to FitzHugh. “Thank you for a most comprehensive—and entertaining—briefing, Mister FitzHugh.”
“Thank you for your attention, Mister President-Elect,” FitzHugh said. “May I enquire as to your intentions towards the supernatural world, once you take office?”
“I’ll need some time to think it over,” Santos replied. “It’s not something I want to make a snap judgment on, you understand. But at this point, I think it’s fairly clear that the current level and type of involvement works far better than the previous one; I certainly won’t be changing it without a lot of thought.”
“We appreciate any consideration you can bring to the subject,” FitzHugh replied. “If you’ve any questions or concerns regarding our work or anything supernatural, please don’t hesitate to call on us.” He handed over business cards to Santos, Bartlett, and Donna. “This is the direct line to the new council head, Doctor Rupert Giles, in London. The numbers on the back are the emergency lines for the London and Cleveland offices, respectively. They’re always manned. Miss Moss, while you’re more than welcome to use any of these lines if necessary, we would appreciate it if you would work through your Watcher if at all possible.”
Donna glanced over at Toby. “Right, she said,” taking it gingerly. Wow. It wasn’t just an “in theory,” now; she had the hotline to HQ. Guess she really was a slayer.
President Bartlett glanced at his card. “Well, if we need you, we know how to get in touch.”
FitzHugh took the hint. “Thank you for your time, Mister President,” he said as his assistant gathered their things.
“General Bauer, you are dismissed,” President Bartlett said. “Major Finn, thank you for your time.”
Once they were out of the room and the door closed again, Santos turned to President Bartlett. “While it undoubtedly would have been better if you’d been informed of the project as it was happening, I’m glad it’s out in the open where we can keep our eye on it, now.”
“And on everyone who was involved,” Bartlett agreed. “If I’d known about that ‘Initiative’ of theirs, I’d never have allowed it—which is a damn good reason for them not to tell me. Still, it’s good you know going into this that you need to keep the NID on a short
leash. It took me too long to learn that one, and it looks like I didn’t do a good enough job of it even so.”
“I thought the NID was supposed to be a civilian oversight group to keep the military
from playing fast-and-loose, not the other way around,” Josh said. “That’s what they’re always saying, anyway.”
“Gee, Josh, lying in Washington,” Toby replied. “Say it ain’t so.”
“I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on the situation,” Santos said.
Josh checked his watch. “You should probably be heading back for that meeting with Johansen that got bumped, sir.”
“Right,” Santos replied. “You and Donna and Toby probably have a lot to discuss, but I’ll need you back at the office for the thing with Vinnick.” He stood up. “Mister President.” He nodded his head to Bartlett and left.
“Donna, you have my congratulations,” President Bartlett said. “And my condolences. If there’s anything you need to help you with your new calling, don’t hesitate to ask. You can use this room as long as you need, today.”
“Thank you, Mister President, that’s very thoughtful of you,” Donna said with a smile. She, Josh, and Toby stood as he followed Santos out of the room.
“So, Donnatella the Vampire Slayer,” Josh said. “Nice ring to it. And Toby gets a pardon to be her Watcher. But, you know, obviously it’s not gonna be a full-time gig, as she already has
a life. So how’s all this going to work?”
“There’s a lot of other Slayers out there who can take care of hunting down the big threats and preventing apocalypses,” Toby said, perching on the edge of the table. “I don’t think there’s any need to go looking for trouble. All I’m worried about is honing Donna’s natural abilities and giving her enough training that she can survive anything that comes looking for a fight. I’m getting a training facility set up, and I expect we’ll be working for an hour a day for the foreseeable future. I’d like more, but I know how crazy things get around here; we’ll be lucky to get that, some days.”
“Don’t I know it,” Donna said, wincing internally as she took an hour out of her daily routine. Fortunately, Josh’s condo was closer to the White House than her old apartment was. “If we try and schedule it for after work, we’ll end up having to cancel more often than not, at least for the immediate future. How about 7:30 in the morning?”
Josh winced. “The First Lady’s staff doesn’t need to work late that
often, does it? Mrs. Bartlett’s chief of staff kept far better hours than Leo or I did.”
“Yes, I don’t like how it cuts into our mornings, either, Josh,” Donna said. They were just beginning to settle into a routine, and the mornings were her favorite parts of the day; the two of them curled up in bed or on Josh’s couch, C-SPAN in the background, getting a head start on the day’s work. “And you may be right about my schedule being more regular once I get settled in
. But right now, I am trying to be Mrs. Santos’ entire staff—well, with Annabeth’s help—and
trying to get to know Mrs. Santos and what she needs me and her staff to be doing, and
trying to hire the rest of the staff. Right now, I’m working almost as many hours as you are.”
“Seven-thirty works for me,” Toby said. “We can change it later, if we need to. I’ve looked over the warehouse they found; it’s actually not that bad. But I found something that’s closer, and we don’t need quite that much space. Top floor of a mechanic shop. With the cars and things down below, they won’t hear us thumping around, and if they do they won’t care. It’ll be set up by Monday.”
“Monday it is,” Donna said.
“Great,” Josh said with a grin. “We just scheduled your first superhero lessons. No chance of spandex and go-go boots?”
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