Bring on the Banter

Assume Nothing
The West Wing


Donna cringed at the sound of Josh’s voice as it rang out across the bullpen. Not that it was a strange occurrence; in fact, thanks to Josh’s habit of shouting for her whenever he needed something, the entire employed staff of the West Wing knew her name.

Sighing she replied, “Yes Josh” while following the sound of his voice. Rounding the corner, her disheveled boss finally came into her line of sight.

Not even glancing up as she approached he asked, “What’s my two o’clock?”

“They’re waiting for you in the Mural room right now”

“But who…” Josh began, but Donna ignored him, instead pushing him in the direction of the Mural room.

Entering the room, Josh was surprised to see a well dressed woman sitting comfortably in a chair, her back facing him. He racked his brain trying to recall what this meeting could possibly be about, at the same time cursing his assistant for not preparing him. Opening his mouth to announce his presence, he paused as the woman turned around, revealing the universally known face of the First Lady, wife to the President of the United States, Abigail Bartlet. Josh felt his stomach plummet.

“Joshua” Abbey smiled at him with an unfriendly glint in her eyes, making Josh’s previously good mood disappear. Shit, he thought, quickly running through any possible explanation for avoiding this particular confrontation. Finally sighing in defeat, he took a seat alongside the First Lady.

“Josh,” Abbey began, a grin slowly spreading across her face as she spoke “I’ve volunteered for you to appear on a reality show”.

Josh blinked.

“Josh?” Abbey’s voice cut though the silence which had descended upon the room.

“Huh?” Josh blinked at her again, uncomprehending.

“Did you hear a word thing that I just said?”

“I,” Josh stood, running a hand through his unruly hair for what seemed like the millionth time that day. “Did you…?”

“Yes” Abbey nodded firmly, a declaration that the subject matter was not for negotiation. “A reality program, called ‘Big Brother’. Am I to understand that you have heard of it?”

Josh nodded, mumbling “Donna. She watches it, thinks it’s great”

“Well good then, she’ll be able to help you get prepared. Now, I realize that this may seem rather sudden, and yes, perhaps it is. But I must also acknowledge that you took money from the budget that I had been planning on using towards shelters for abused women, and it was rather sudden for the hundreds of women out there who believed me when I promised that we would protect them.”

Abbey’s voice began to rise slightly in volume and Josh unconsciously took a step back. “Those women depend on these shelters and now there isn’t any money left for them, which leads us,” her eyes flashed fire at him. “back to you.”

Abbey smiled coldly at him “You will be appearing on the program as yourself, you will not be appearing as the Deputy Chief of Staff, and so anything that you do in the house will not reflect on the White House. Soon after your arrival you will be locked in the house with the fourteen other housemates. Once in the house you will have practically no communication with the outside world.” Josh opened his mouth to speak, but Abbey raised her hand stopping him. “There will be prize money to win along the way, as well as a jackpot at the end. All of your winnings will be donated to help fund the building of the women’s shelter.”

Her smile brightening, Abbey continued, ignoring Josh’s growing looks of horror. “The maximum amount of time you will spend in the house is one month, as this series is a trial run, so is not running for as long as the show in previous years”

“On the plus side, it’s a ‘couples’ Big Brother. Everybody gets to go into the house as a pair; and being the generous woman I am, I am allowing you to choose your partner.”

Josh was still standing, mouth open in shock.

“Josh?” Abbey held back a smirk, and then watched the stunned Deputy Chief of Staff, for the first time since she had met him, completely and utterly at a loss for words.

“Who will you choose as your partner?”

Realising he was still being spoken to, Josh looked up. “Huh?”

“Who will you be bringing?”

“Oh, um, Donna” Josh spoke without thinking.

At this Abbey truly did smile, she didn’t know exactly what was situation between the Deputy Chief of Staff and his assistant, but she liked Donna and knew that the young woman had the unkempt man before her, wrapped around her finger. She was the perfect choice.

Abbey stood and walked to the door motioning for Josh to follow. Standing in the doorway she spoke: “Okay then. I think that concludes out meeting. Go and inform Donna what you have gotten her into. Have your bags packed and ready in two days; that’s when you’ll be entering the house.”

“But…” Josh began.

Abbey silenced him with a look “Remember to instruct Donna to bring an adequate amount of clothes. Although this is only a short program, there is still the possibility that you will remain in the house for the entire month.” Josh looked up quickly, finally absorbing the information which had been divulged to him earlier.

“A month! But, madam, I’m the Deputy Chief of ….”

Cutting him off Abbey spoke “I know your job title, Joshua. And don’t worry; I’ve cleared it with Leo and President. It seems you have a bit of vacation time worked up”

Josh’s eyes widened as the First Lady closed the door in his face. Groaning, he rested his head in the doorway. “What have I done!”

Shoulders slumped, Josh walked dejectedly into his office, ignoring the questioning looks he received along the way. Collapsing into his chair, he groaned the practically one sided conversation he had just had with the First Lady, running over and over again in his mind.

“Josh?” Josh glanced up to see his assistant standing hesitantly in the doorway; he raised his hand and motioned her inside the office. Entering the room, Donna closed the door behind her and took a seat in the visitors chair at Josh’s desk.

They sat in silence for a few minutes before Josh spoke.

“The First Lady has volunteered for me to go on ‘Big Brother’.” Donna looked up, a smile flitting across her face. “She doesn’t seem too pleased that the money she had wanted to go to help build women’s shelters, instead went towards the education bill I was working on.”

“The thing is, that it’s a couples’ ‘Big Brother’ and I need somebody to go into the house with me and,” Josh looked up giving her a small grin “You’re the privileged individual whom I have chosen to accompany me on this adventure.”

Donna stood knocking over her chair, outraged. “Joshua Lyman, if this is all some practical joke, so help me…” she threatened

“No Donna, unfortunately I’m not joking. But don’t worry, you’ll still get paid while we’re in the house – and it’s only for a month”

“A month! But that’s….”

“Much too long for a man with my responsibilities, to be away from his high ranking job at the White House. Yes, I agree, but the First Lady has been conspiring with Leo and the President, so we don’t have a choice”

“Why am I going? Wouldn’t it be better if I stayed to run the office? ” Donna narrowed her eyes at him “This isn’t because I don’t bring you coffee, is it? Because if it is, then I quit here and now.”

Josh looked down in guilt for a couple of seconds. “Look Donna, I’m sorry. She asked who I wanted to take, and yours was the first name I thought of. I mean, I wasn’t thinking and…” He trailed off as he noticed the smile which had formed on Donna’s face. “Donna?”

“You chose me?”

Holding back a sigh of relief, Josh nodded. Taking her seat opposite him once again, the two began to discuss how they would make the coming month work out.

2 Days later

Donna shifted her glance towards her boss who at that moment was bouncing nervously on the balls of him feet. The two of them were backstage at the Dreamworld studio, and were preparing to enter the stage in just a few moments - launching their journey in the Big Brother house.

The night before the entire West Wing had thrown a party in their honour. Donna who was excited at the prospect of being on television, had made all their work colleagues promise to watch the show faithfully each and every day and to vote in their favour. Everyone’s enthusiasm had pleased Donna greatly but Josh however had been displeased at the thought of his colleagues encouraging his participation in the reality program.

Although enjoying his night off, Josh had spent the entire party complaining to anybody who would listen, that he had been forced into participating in the show. Unlike Donna, he was not looking forward to the experience. This had resulted in most of the guests wishing Donna luck over the course of the evening; not because she was going to be on national television 24 hours a day for a month, but because she would be spending each and every day with one, Joshua Lyman.

Returning from her thoughts, she smiled at his nervous energy, hoping that the coming month wouldn’t be as bad as everybody seemed to believe. They just didn’t understand Josh like she did. Most people if they could see Josh as he was now would assume that he was just impatient to get onstage, but she knew, that just like every other time he appeared in public; on the inside he was terrified. The incident at Rosslyn had not just left him with physical scars, and though he was well on the way to recovering and hid his feelings well, Josh had gained a whole new assortment of insecurities from his brush with death.

Hearing their names called and the audiences’ cheers which followed, Donna smiled at Josh and squeezed his hand comfortingly. Josh relaxed at her touch and then, letting go of her hand, moved it to the small of her back, leading her onstage to the sound of screaming fans.

The pair greeted Gretel with a kiss on the cheek and took their seats opposite her on the lounge provided. Eyes adjusting to the harsh lights, they were finally able to acknowledge the audience. Thousands of people were seated in the studio and were standing up on their seats screaming, trying to get the attention of the cameras. About halfway up the audience, Donna noticed some people waving around posters, squinting slightly to read the writing, she had to cover a smirk, when she realised that they were members of Josh’s fan club. Nudging Josh, she pointed out the imaginative posters to him. To her amusement his turned red upon reading some of the things which the posters read.

Turning their attention back to the host, who had been talking to the viewers, they waited restlessly, seemingly for hours, yet in reality only seconds, for their interrogation to begin.

“…Deputy Chief of Staff and Senior Assistant to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Planning. Now this is the first time ever for Big Brother to be holding a ‘couples’ show, so in honour of the event, we asked all our housemates to dress appropriately for their titles.” Turning her attention to Donna she smiled. “Josh and Donna are the boss/assistant pairing for the show as you can probably tell from their attire. Donna, may I ask, where did you get that suit? It’s gorgeous!”

Blushing Donna replied “My friend picked it out for my, it’s Versace.” Self consciously Donna smoothed non-existent wrinkles from her skirt “Don’t bother asking Josh who made his suit – he wouldn’t have a clue”

“Hey!” Josh protested weakly, but then shrugged; knowing that what she said was true.

Laughing Gretel spoke again, this time to Josh. “So Josh, White House Deputy Chief of Staff… that’s pretty impressive”

“Yeah it is…” Josh trailed off hearing a groan leave Donna’s lips. “Don’t get him started” she suggested wisely.

Ignoring her Josh continued, “it’s a pretty amazing job. It’s still sometimes hard to believe I work in THE White House.”

“You didn’t originally begin on working President Bartlet’s campaign; in fact you worked on the presidential campaign for Vice-President Hoynes.”

“Yeah, I was working for Senator Hoynes, but an old friend of my father's, Leo McGarry, asked me to go to New Hampshire to see Jed Bartlet speak. Hearing him speak, I knew at once that President Bartlet was the “real thing” and so I left Hoynes's campaign to work for Bartlet.

“Having a job such as yours must mean having to make a lot of sacrifices – both personally and professionally.”

“Yeah, it’s been difficult. On the night that we won the Illinois Primary - which was the key to winning the Democratic nomination, my father died. Then there was the shooting at Rosslyn, when white supremacists tried to assassinate Presidential aide Charlie Young for his relationship with Zoey Bartlet, the President's daughter. I spent a substantial amount of time in the hospital, and let me tell you, I hope that I never have to eat that hospital food again.” Laughter erupted from the audience.

“So yeah. It’s been difficult. But I think that it’s all been worth it” Josh turned his head smiling at Donna.

Gretel turned to Donna. “So have you been working with Josh in the White House, since Bartlet was elected President?”

Donna nodded “Yes. But I actually worked with him before we were elected. I was also his assistant on the Bartlet for America campaign.”

Turning his head to look her in the eye, Josh asked her “Why don’t you tell everybody exactly how you got your job?”

Josh, being Josh had placed emphasis on the ‘exactly’ forgetting that it wasn’t just Donna, and that they were on national television. A wolf whistle was heard from audience and Josh blushed a fiery red, before trying to bumble his way and out of the mess he had caused.

“No… it wasn’t… Gah!” Exasperated at himself and the audience’s laughter, Josh groaned, putting his head down, resting it on his hands.

Donna patted him on the head, much like one would a dog, to the amusement of the audience. He looked up at her with a mock wounded look, which she shrugged off.

“It‘s for reasons such as this display, that we do not usually allow Josh to speak in public. He really does have a way with words” Donna smirked at him “What he meant was that i sort of hired myself.” Off Gretel’s inquisitive loom she continued “I had decided to join the campaign and I wasn’t sure where to go, so I just walked into the messiest office and started cleaning up and answering the phone. When Josh came in I tried to convince him that I was his assistant.”

Having gotten over his earlier embarrassment Josh remarked “She actually believed that I wouldn’t recall I never hired an assistant” he stopped talking on Donna’s glare.

“And so I finally convinced Josh to let me work as a volunteer, until I was finally put on salary, and I’ve been working with him ever since.”

Laughing, Gretel continued her questioning. “So Donna, what are your plans while you are in the house – will you be playing the game?”

“I guess.” Donna responded “It depends on how long we are actually in the house for. Since Josh and I are putting any of our winnings towards building a shelter for abused women” she paused blushing as the audience cheered “we should be playing the game at least a little bit, but I think that we should just try to make friends at first.”

“Is there anything you are looking forward to?”

“Oh, definitely. I noticed the spa and sauna on the last Big Brother.” Donna smile dreamily, shaking herself quickly out of her daydream when Josh nudged her ribs sharply. “It will be nice to have a little R&R. I don’t usually have time with the hours I work at the White House, thanks to my slave driving boss! And Government salary” She grinned widely as the audience laughed at Josh’s frown of indignation.

Quickly putting in before he was able to get a word in, Gretel spoke again: “And just one last question before you enter the house. Josh, do you have a plan while you’re in the house?”

“Yes” He spoke surely “to make everyone hate me so that we can be evicted the first week”

The audience laughed at his disinterest, and then again when Donna smacked him.


CJ’s office - the West Wing

Abbey glared at the screen furiously, hoping to somehow hit Josh with her anger y “he wouldn’t…” she threatened.

Placing a hand on her arm, CJ placated the First Lady stating “Don’t worry, Donna won’t let him do anything to hinder their chances of winning. He’s on her team”

Big Brother Stage – Dreamworld Studios

The Lemon-Lyman fans in the audience were shouting like crazy, trying to get Josh’s attention as he and Donna exited the stage, leaving to finally, enter into the house. Avoiding looking directly at them Josh quickened his pace, to Donna’s amusement, hoping to get away from the freak show as quickly as possible.

Josh passed Donna the one of the wrist bands he had been handed as he left the stage. They had been instructed to wear them at all times in the house, as they held their official “titles”. Donna quickly fitted hers to her wrist then looked at it properly to see how it looked. She smiled as she noticed that it read “Boss”. Josh really did know who was had the real power in their relationship.

Coming to the end of the hall, Donna looked up. They had suddenly found themselves in front of a large looming door. Taking a deep breath Josh asked her “Are you ready?” Donna nodded and as the door opened, the two took their first steps into the Big Brother house hand in hand.

Day One

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