Title: For Valorous Conduct
Author: Michael Weyer
West Wing: Shortly after what would have been the episode "In the Shadow of Two Gunmen," my story "One Hell of a Night."
JAG: Shortly after my story "JAGate." Harm and Mac are Immortal and lovers.
A little ditty that hit me. Thanks to Tim Knight for assist with dialogue and Steve for okaying it.
The White House
June 6th, 1999
1513 Hours EST
"You shouldn't be in here!"
Josh Lyman glanced up from his desk to see the woman standing in his doorway. "Missed you too," the lanky curly-haired man said as he sat at his desk. He winced as he did so, still feeling the stitches from the bullet wound he had received nearly a month earlier. He was dressed casually in jeans and a light shirt and jogging jacket, far more casual wear than one would expect from the deputy Chief of Staff.
"Josh, you're not supposed to come in until tomorrow!" Donna Moss, Josh's assistant was dressed in her usual white blouse and dark skirt, her long blonde hair framing her pretty face, currently pouting at her boss. "You should be at home! Go home right now!"
"Donna, you really shouldn't be ordering around your superior."
"I almost never consider you my superior, Josh."
"I am your boss."
"I pay you decent wages."
"That's also debatable."
"I'm on a higher position in the government then you are."
"Should I bring in a debate club?"
Josh sighed and shook his head as looked at the stacks of papers covering his desk. He frowned and looked up at Donna. "Have you been in here?"
"Yes," Donna replied.
"Did I give you my permission to enter my office?"
"Did I ever give you the impression of caring for your permission?"
"Why are you so concerned?"
"There are state secrets here!"
"The only secret is the little packet of chocolate chips in your right hand drawer."
Josh stared at her. "You eat my chips?"
"Only when I'm angry at you."
"I can never find any..."
"Draw from that what you will."
Josh rose to his feet and began pacing around the room. "I need those files on the Brewster proposal."
"I'll fax them to you, you get home."
"You sure you can find them?"
Donna glared at him. "I can find things. I can file things. I'm capable, that's why you hired me."
"I never hired you, Donna. I walked into the cramped closet I was using as an office on the campaign trail and you were there answering phones and telling everyone you were my assistant, we never did anything approaching a standard interview and there are times when I find myself wondering if you actually exist or if you're simply a figment of my imagination my subconscious created to bounce ideas off of."
"And the fact that I come up with better ideas than you?"
"Allow me my fantasies."
"Which are illegal in forty-eight states."
Josh rolled his eyes as he headed toward the door. "Fine, fine, I'm heading home, fax me the file as soon as you get it."
"It'll have to wait," Donna informed him. "I have to do something for Toby during my lunch break."
Josh stopped and faced her, his face showing confusion. "You're helping Toby during lunch?"
"Well, note that I haven't had lunch yet despite the late hour and you can see why it's so important to me."
"You're helping Toby. He shouldn't be taking you away from your lunch hour."
"Why thank you, Josh."
"That's when I need you."
"My lunch hour is not your personal time, Josh."
"I need my loyal assistant!"
Donna looked around. "Can I get that notarized? I want to use that statement the next time we broach the subject of my long overdue raise."
"I don't have the money for a raise."
"We spend billions on jet fighters that don't work, why can't we pay our loyal workers more?"
"Because we're Democrats, we don't work that way."
"I thought Republicans didn't work that way."
"Well, they don't either."
"So, we're the same."
"No, we're not. They don't work that way because they're egotistic pricks. We don't work that way because we're smart enough to see what needs to be done."
"Is there anything Republicans and Democrats agree on?"
"'We Built This City' by Starship is the greatest rock and roll song ever written."
"That is true," Donna admitted. "Why can't you pay me more yourself?"
"Gee, I'd love to, Donna, but I've got a couple of extra bills coming in due to my *being shot!*" Seeing the way she was taken aback, he realized he had been shouting and quickly quieted down. "Okay, okay, I'll get going."
"Good. Go home and eat some Flintstones vitamins!"
Josh glanced at her. "First off, I'm not a vitamin guy and second, I don't understand the appeal of those. You let children eat the likeness of beloved cartoon characters?"
"I think they like eating Fred. He's plump and everything."
"Are we talking about children in general or just you?"
"Oh, and you're an expert on being a child?" As Josh opened his mouth, Donna quickly inserted. "Rhetorical. And does the President know you're here?"
"I doubt it," Josh shrugged as he headed toward the exit. "He's in a meeting."
"I don't know, it's secret, high-level stuff."
"They need the Cone of Silence," Donna suddenly announced.
"The Cone of Silence. From *Get Smart.* They need that in there."
Josh paused by the door, turned and looked at her. "Okay, this is going to be one of *those,* isn't it?" he finally said after a few seconds.
"Donna, let's put aside the fact that this was a TV show and one, I might add, that had no basis in reality and further put aside the fact that the entire point of the gag of the Cone of Silence was that you couldn't really hear anything under it, our boss, the President of the United States, the most powerful man in the world, conducts his affairs inside a room in the most secured mansion on Earth with several billion dollars worth of anti-bugging devices and an army of guards watching, do you really think he needs an overweight hair dryer to come down from the ceiling and trap him and whoever he's talking with and why did I leave my house to come here and talk about this with someone who's an excellent example of the inverse ratio between the size of the brain and the size of the mouth?"
Donna blinked twice. "Wow. That may well be the single most complex sentence I've ever heard in my life."
"Good night, Donna."
"I'm pacing myself."
Sam Seaborne was in a good mood as he walked down the hallway toward the bullpen office area. Dressed in an immaculate suit and tie, his glasses highlighting his handsome face, he resisted the urge to whistle as he entered the room and saw his first familiar face. "Hey, C.J."
C.J. Cregg, White House Press Secretary, was frowning as she glared down at a magazine in her hands. Dressed in a professional yet attractive tan suit that showed off her six-foot frame, her eyes were glaring behind her glasses as she looked at the article in her hands. "I don't believe this," she snarled.
"What?" Sam frowned as he came up next to her.
C.J. held up the magazine. "Look at this! This lesbian magazine has named me as a role model for lesbian women."
Every now and then, Sam found the only reaction he could muster for some news was to blink a few times while his brain made the correct procedures to process it. "Oh," he finally said.
C.J. looked over her glasses, glaring at him. "That's all you have to say? Oh?"
"You're a role model," Sam slowly stated.
"For lesbian women."
"Yes," C.J. repeated.
Sam bit his lip. "I'm busy right now but I think later on I'll get together with Josh so we can laugh at abandon at this."
C.J. threw up the magazine. "Look at this! They've put me between Ellen Degeneres and Melissa Ethridge."
"Thank you, C.J., the image of you between those two will keep me going all day."
C.J. sighed. "It's because I haven't had sex in six months."
"C.J., I believe we've gone as far up this cul-de-sac as possible," Sam calmly replied.
"Hey, what's up?" The two looked up to see Toby Ziegler coming toward them. The dark-suited bearded man was sipping at a cup of coffee.
"C.J.'s a lesbian because she hasn't had sex in six months," Sam offered.
Without a word and without breaking stride, Toby turned and began walking in the opposite direction. C.J. watched him go and then shook her head. "It's because I'm an Amazon. I'm six feet tall, strong-willed, I'm an Amazon and they equate us with being lesbians. All Amazons feel that way."
"Met many for comparison, have you?" Sam needled as he walked toward his office. "Do you want me to beat up one of the editors of the magazine for you?"
"I don't need you getting into a fight, Sam."
"I wouldn't hurt her."
"I know. We can't afford your being put in the hospital."
Sam appeared insulted. "You don't think I could win in a fight against a lesbian?"
"Sam, the only thing I've ever seen you get into a fight with was a desk with a struck drawer and despite the fact that you had two good hands and a screwdriver and it was an inanimate object, you still lost."
Deciding that getting off this topic was a good thing, Sam moved toward his office. "I need to get finished on that speech for the economics summit," he stated. "Where's the President, by the way?"
"In his office," C.J. answered. "He's having a meeting."
"Should I disturb him?"
"It's with Senator Kinsey."
"Scratch that, then."
Leo McGarry's face was sour as he walked down the corridor leading the Oval Office. Of course, since Leo's face was always sour, it was hard to tell if he was upset at something or not. The aged White House Chief of Staff paused by one office and looked inside. "Charlie?"
Charlie Young, a black man who looked as old as his last name, glanced up at Leo. "Oh, hi, Leo. The President's still in his meeting."
"I know, I'm about to join him," Leo answered. He stepped into the office and looked at Charlie. "What are you doing?"
Charlie held up the book he had been reading at his desk. "Looking for cookie recipes."
Leo's frown deepened. "Shouldn't you be doing something more important with your time? Like something for the President?"
"This is for the President," Charlie answered.
"He wants you to look for cookie recipes?"
Charlie sighed as he looked up at Leo. "He and the First Lady had a fight."
Leo rolled his eyes. "What did he do?"
"What makes you think it was his fault?"
"Experience. What did he do?"
Charlie bit his lip. "He...sort of implied that...his thing was more important than her thing."
Leo visibly winced. "So," Charlie went on. "The President wants me to get a recipe so he can bake some cookies to make up for it."
"He's making them himself?" Leo asked. "Without any help from you?"
"Aside from my standing by with a fire extinguisher." Charlie looked at Leo carefully. "Does he know how to bake cookies?"
"Not that I'm aware of."
"He knows that it will be time-consuming."
"And he is most likely to burn his fingers."
"Why doesn't he simply have the kitchen staff do it?"
"Because we work for a demented, demented man," Leo answered as he stepped back from the desk. He turned just in time to see his assistant, Margaret, coming into the office.
"Oh, good, I caught up with you," she said. She held out a folder. "Here's that report you wanted." She held a folder out to Leo, who took it.
"Just what's in it?" Leo asked.
"It's on the header."
"All right, what does the report say?"
"I wasn't really paying attention to it."
Leo stared at her. "You weren't paying much attention to the report you just typed for me?"
"Not really," Margaret admitted.
"Well, I don't really pay that much attention to your reports."
Leo studied her. "Why do I keep you employed?"
"Desperation?" Margaret offered.
"Good as any." With that, Leo turned and headed toward the Oval Office.
Jed Bartlett, President of the United States, direct descendant of one of the original signers of the Declaration of Independence, Nobel Prize winner in economics, was beginning to wish he was still in the hospital recovering from a gunshot wound. Sitting at his desk and rubbing at his head, he did his best to try and not groan in agony from the tirade being given by Senator Kinsey.
The white-haired man in a suit that Bartlett suspected cost more than most other senators' wardrobes was seated in his chair and talking in a quite animated style. "Mr. President, I have been warning you and warning you about the dangers of the Stargate and this latest incident proves it. You know, if I'd had my way, I'd have shut the Gate down on my first visit there."
Bartlett nodded. "Yes. In which case, you would have been responsible for a Goa'Uld ship invading Earth, an attack SG-1 stopped by violating orders and risking their lives to save all our asses, including yours."
Kinsey was only taken aback by a moment before going right back on the attack. "Well, now we have SG-1 themselves under alien influence and smashing up bars. What if they'd killed someone? And the two JAG lawyers who got in to investigate were kidnaped themselves. That thing is a danger, Mr. President, it is a danger to all life on Earth and it should be shut down and locked up before it gets us into-----"
"Kinsey," Bartlett cut in with an impatient expression. "This harping of yours to shut down the Stargate is getting old. In fact, it got old a while ago, it's now approaching fossilization." Bartlett leaned forward and fixed Kinsey with a glare. "Let me make this clear for you, Kinsey. I am keeping the SGC going for as long as I'm in office and I'm pretty sure that my successor will do the same."
"Sir, it's a drain on our economy-----"
"Kinsey, do you want to imagine the effect on the economy if just one Goa'Uld ship invades Earth? We need the Gate to protect us against such threats."
"Threats that wouldn't bother with us if we didn't interfere," Kinsey stated. "We stop interfering with the Goa'Uld, they won't bother us."
"Stick our heads in the sand and hope the problem goes away?" Bartlett dryly said. "Because of course, that strategy worked out so well for Chamberlain. Do you want to play with these kinds of stakes, Kinsey?"
Kinsey's face darkened as he rose to his feet. "Mr. President, take the Gate out now! Give us back what God intended, control over our earth and only our----"
Bartlett rose to his feet, glowering at Kinsey as he tried to rein in his anger. "Kinsey," he bit out. "There are two things you do not do here. You do not dictate orders to me in this office. And you do not want to get into a discussion with me on scripture."
Kinsey was smart enough to know he had crossed a line and tried to backpedal. "Mr. President, with all due respect-----"
"I'm giving SG-1 the Medal of Honor."
Kinsey stopped, his jaw dropping open in shock as he stared at Bartlett.
"Gotcha," Bartlett smirked. "Ah, blessed silence."
It was at that moment that Leo entered the room, glancing over at the two men. "Sorry, Mr. President, I thought you were finished----"
"I am," Bartlett told him. "Senator, the next time you come in here and ask me to close down our best defense asset on Earth, do try to have something that makes it sound reasonable."
Kinsey opened his mouth to speak but saw the look on Bartlett's face and began to back away. He threw Leo a sour glare before leaving. "That man is an unspeakable ass," Bartlett sighed as he sat back in his chair. "The only good thing is that I know he can't be public about his dislike for my position because he can't admit the thing he's having a dislike against even exists."
"Thank God for bureaucracy," Leo dryly stated.
"I really don't like him."
"You don't like a lot of people who come here to see you," Leo pointed out as he walked toward the desk.
"I don't like a lot of people who work here," Bartlett returned. He glanced at a folder, then back up at Leo. "Has Charlie found any recipes yet?"
"Not that I'm aware of," Leo said. "You do know we have a kitchen staff capable of whipping up a state dinner, right?"
"I know," Bartlett said. "But I have to make them myself. It's a matter of pride."
"Something that you have been known to show from time to time," Leo admitted. He studied Bartlet closely. "Are you upset?"
"Why should I be upset, Leo," Bartlett muttered. "The economy's always shaky, there's shootings every day, thousands of people go without meals every night, there's troubles in the middle East, right-wing groups are on us about a dozen different things, I have to live with the knowledge that there's a giant gate with an unorthodox military force that's all that stands between us and destruction from an alien race, my middle daughter is dropping hints about not wanting to go back to school and my wife isn't talking to me, why should I be upset?"
"No one asked you a lot of rhetorical questions growing up, did they?"
"No, they didn't. I want to give them a medal," Bartlett spoke up.
Leo frowned. "The kitchen staff?"
"No," Bartlett stated. "Those two JAG lawyers."
Leo's frown deepened. "For the Gate thing?"
"Privately, yes," Bartlett said. "Publicly, however..." He paused and hit a button on his desk. "Mrs. Landingham?"
"Finally figured out how to work the intercom, sir?"
"Could you get C.J. here, please?"
"Anything important, sir?"
"Tell her I'm scheduling an impromptu event tomorrow. That'll bring her here to screech about it."
"She screeches, sir?"
"It's in the tone. Send her here, please." He clicked off and looked back up at Leo, who was puzzled.
"You want to give them a medal for this?" Leo pressed.
"Actually, in public, it will be for their work in Hastings Bay, stopping that bombing," Bartlett told him.
Leo's brow furrowed. "That was them? Are you sure?"
Bartlett raised an eyebrow. "You doubt my mental processes?"
"I'm often terrified of your mental processes. Are you seriously going to give them medals?"
"Are you going to question everything I do?"
"Considering nearly everything you do is questionable..."
"I hired you, if I recall."
"Exception to the rule, sir."
The door opened and C.J. stepped in, appearing a bit rushed. "Sir, I just got a notice that you want to schedule a ceremony for tomorrow."
"Yes, that's correct."
"Now, sir, is this just a little announcement or do I need to tell the office staff to speed-print five thousand invitations?"
"Actually, as soon as I talk to the Pentagon, I'll be giving out some medals of valor to a pair of JAG officers."
"Oh," a surprised C.J. said. "For what?"
Bartlett sat back in his seat. "Tell me, just what was the public opinion of that mess up in Hastings Bay a while back?"
"Well, sir, first, I thank you for actually asking me a question that falls into my field of knowledge. Second, the revelation that a United States military officer was conspiring with a spy author and renegade Russians to bomb a peace conference and restart the Cold War did hurt us a bit in the public eye. We never got the chance to assess the full damage because of what happened the next week."
"I assume you're talking about my getting shot?" Bartlett said far more easily than one would think.
C.J. nodded. "Since then, your numbers have been higher than they've been since the election, sir. Public sympathy has been high."
"Maybe if I get killed next November, we'll be a sure fire for the election," Bartlett quipped. "So, you think putting a positive spin on what happened would be good?"
"Probably, sir," C.J. confirmed.
"Fine," Bartlett said. He plucked up a file and handed it to C.J. "That's the info on the officers. I need to call the Pentagon, get some medals whipped up. I want the ceremony to be in the Rose Garden, a few photographers, maybe a TV camera or two, shouldn't be more than an hour."
"Okay," C.J. stated. "What about the two officers? Should we expect some comments from them?"
"Probably," Bartlett stated. He frowned. "Of course, I'll have to tell them about it first."
C.J. stared at him. "You haven't told them yet, sir?"
"I work in mysterious ways, C.J., you should know that." He rose up from his desk. "Well, I suppose it's time I got going on some important matters of state."
The door opened and Charlie stuck his head in. "Sir, I think I have the right recipe."
"Excellent!" Bartlett grinned as he moved to where Charlie was, the two darting out of the room. C.J. watched them go, then turned toward Leo. "What was that about?"
Leo sighed. "How soon do you think you can come up with a cover story about why the President will be at this ceremony with bandages on his fingers?"
"Strange as it may seem, I have stuff like that in reserve."
Falls Church, VA
1942 Hours EST
"What do you think he wants?" Lt. Colonel Sarah MacKenzie asked as she walked down the hallway toward the main office.
"I don't know," Commander Harmon Rabb answered. Like Mac, his uniform was a tad less pressed than it would normally have been. The two had gotten back to Washington only two hours earlier and had been about to relax in Harm's apartment when he got a call ordering him to get Mac and get over to JAG Headquarters fast. Like dutiful officers, they obeyed.
"You don't think he knows, do you?" Mac whispered. "Could those Gate guys have told him after all?"
"I don't think so," Harm said. "He didn't sound angry, he sounded almost...happy."
Mac stared at him. "The Admiral, happy? Are you sure it wasn't a bad connection?"
Harm shrugged. "I can't explain it either. Maybe something actually good is about to happen to us."
"That would be a nice change of pace," Mac muttered. She watched as Harm knocked on the door. "Enter," a powerful voice called out. Harm opened the door and walked in, Mac behind him. The two paused and threw salutes at Admiral A.J. Chegwidden.
"Have a seat," Chegwidden stated. Harm and Mac did so and looked up. They were both thrown by the sight of Chegwidden smiling at them. "Well, I hope you two got the rest you needed," he stated.
"We...recovered well, sir," Harm said, images of the two days with Mac in a hotel suite flashing through his mind.
"Good to know," Chegwidden said. "Because you'll be in good shape when you go to the White House tomorrow."
Harm and Mac stared at him for a long moment. "The White House, sir?" Mac asked in disbelief. "As in, the President's home?"
"That's the one," Chegwidden confirmed. "It appears that the two of you have just been extended an invitation to be honored by the President for your actions in Hastings Bay last month."
Harm and Mac continued to stare in disbelief. "The President is giving us medals?" Harm said, obviously not believing it.
"It will be a short ceremony," Chegwidden said. "You don't have to talk, although I'm sure he will. You're expected at the White House tomorrow at 1030 hours, full dress uniform." He went back to his papers. "You two can go home now, get ready. You should be able to get some rest before your big day. Dismissed."
It took Harm and Mac a few minutes after leaving the office for it to fully impact them what was happening. "We're getting honored by the President," Mac said in disbelief. "Holy shit."
"Yeah," Harm said in the same disbelieving tone. He frowned and glanced at Mac. "Do you think I should not mention that whole e-mail business?"
"Probably," Mac told him as they made their way out.
The White House
June 7th, 1999
0921 Hours EST
"As you can see, we are making a slight and sudden change in today's schedule," CJ announced to the press corp. She was dressed in a gray version of the same suit she had been wearing the previous day, glancing from her notes to the assembled reporters, her eyes blinking a bit behind her glasses. "As many of you are aware, last month in Hastings Bay, Massachusetts, a major bombing was halted due in part to the efforts of two officers from the Judge Advocate General. Those officers will be honored today for their efforts by the President. This will be at 11 in the Rose Garden. It should be a swift ceremony unless the President decides to digress into a history of commendations for the Navy and Marines so bring a book. I highly recommend the new Clive Cussler novel." A reporter raised his hands. "Yes, Greg?"
"Why are these two being given medals?"
"For doing something heroic, any worthwhile questions?" CJ remarked in her usual blunt manner. "No? Okay, send whatever you want to the ceremony and no, there will be no questions about Navy vs. Notre Dame, thank you." With a nod, C.J. left the podium and walked out of the pressroom and into the hallway. Her eyes lit up upon seeing a familiar figure. "Josh, good to have you back."
"Claudia Jean," Josh intoned, looking far more comfortable in his business suit.
"Since when have you been so formal?"
"Oh, thought you'd like a new introduction to a new lifestyle," Josh smirked. "When do you get to meet Chastity Bono?"
C.J. pursed her lips. "So, Josh, in all that time at home, did you ever finish formulating that secret plan to fight inflation?"
Josh's face fell. "Okay, getting shot should more than excuse me for that."
"Sorry, Josh, but it doesn't work for other people who get shot."
"Unless they die."
"Point," C.J. conceded as they crossed into a hallway where Sam was looking at a newspaper. He brightened upon seeing Josh. "Hey," he said.
"Ah, that's the welcome that formed my anchor to life," Josh observed.
"I'm sorry," Sam replied. "Should I have thrown petals at your feet?"
"It'd be nice."
"So would your finalizing that secret plan to fight inflation," Toby intoned as he walked up to the group. Despite his sour expression, Josh knew Toby was as happy to see him as anyone. He just didn't want to show it.
"Okay, as much as I love being mocked on my first day back to work..."
"We're just making up for lost time," C.J. told him.
"I've gotta get back to my office," Josh intoned. He held a folder out toward Toby. "Here. I just wanted to give you this."
Toby looked at the folder as if it was a dead animal. "What is it?"
"The numbers on the latest poll on the vouchers issue."
"What do they say?"
"It's inside the folder."
"That would require my caring enough to open it."
"You need the numbers, Toby."
"So you can talk to the committee on the vouchers issue."
"Why can't they just do what we want them to do."
"Apparently, they want to know all the facets of the issue before they decide upon it."
"Well, that's an unreasonable attitude."
"Come on, Toby," Sam stated. "We have to work fast on this-----"
"Sorry, that's not part of my strategy," Toby said as he sipped at his coffee.
"You have a strategy for this?" Sam frowned.
"Yes," Toby nodded. "I'm strategically ignoring you."
"Excuse me?" The four looked up to see Leo standing in the hallway before them. "We do have a busy day here so can we stop this high school meeting in the hallway?"
"Hey, just because you didn't like high school..." Josh started but a glare from Leo silenced him.
Leo nodded at the folder. "Is that the voucher numbers?"
"Yep," Josh nodded.
"Good, get cracking on them," Leo ordered. "You know education is our number one priority."
Josh frowned. "I thought the environment was our number one priority."
"Really?" Sam put in. "I thought crime was our number one priority."
"I was under the impression the economy was our number one priority," C.J. added.
"We have a number of number one priorities," Toby intoned.
"All right, enough!" Leo barked. "Just what makes you think anything besides education should be our number one priority?"
"Well, we could make determining our number one priority our number one priority," Josh observed. As everyone glared at him, he threw up his hands. "Oh, admit it, you were thinking the same thing!"
Leo shook his head. "Now I know education should be our number one priority," he muttered. "Josh, get moving on it."
"Boots are walking," Josh said as he marched off.
Leo turned to Toby. "Toby, take the numbers and run them through, Sam can help."
"He can?" Toby asked.
"I can?" Sam asked.
Leo ignored them, turning back to C.J. "Come on, we have to go meet those JAG guys for the ceremony. They need to be prepared for the President."
"Good idea," C.J. said. "I only wish someone had done that to me." She narrowed her eyes at Leo. "They're not weirdos, are they?"
"Well, they're military, so the answer would be partly yes," Toby replied.
C.J. sighed. "I just can't understand why I always get the weird people to meet."
"You don't," Leo said. "It's Charlie who gets to meet the weird people because they're the people the President wants to meet."
"Now, wait," Sam interjected. "They're lawyers, that makes them sensible."
"You always suck up for your own kind, don't you?" Toby observed.
Sam nodded before turning to C.J. "Speaking of own kinds. C.J., do we have to worry about you and that Marine?"
C.J. threw up her hands. "How long are you going to bring that up?"
"How long have we been driving Josh crazy with the secret plan to fight inflation?"
Groaning, C.J. turned and began to walk off. "Leo, come on, let's get this over with before the lead story becomes Sam gaining a broken arm."
As the two walked off, Sam turned to Toby. "So, what does this run through require?"
"It requires you doing all the studying and numbers crunching while I figure out whose heads to bite off," Toby grumbled back.
"Ah," Sam said. He paused and frowned. "Do you ever get the feeling you're extraneous?"
"Frequently, when I'm around you." Toby started to lead Sam away. "Let's get rolling, proud Mary."
Sam stopped and glared at him. "Toby," he said in a cool tone. "What is my one ultimate, non-violating rule regarding songs in this place?"
Toby looked back at him and frowned. "No 'Proud Mary' or anything from Snow White?"
Sam nodded. "You forgot, didn't you?"
Toby shook his head. "No." He turned and walked away, leaving Sam to catch up with him.
"Donna!" Despite herself, Donna couldn't help but feel a little happy to hear Josh's voice yelling for her, letting her know that things were getting back to normal. She rose from her desk and made her way into his office. Josh was behind his desk, his tie already loose around his neck, jacket hanging to one side as he ruffled through a stack of papers. "Where's the Stackhouse file?"
"It's there," Donna pressed.
"No, it's not."
"Yes, it is."
"I'm looking all around and I can't find it." He peered suspiciously at his assistant. "You hid it, didn't you? That's why I can't find it."
Donna sighed and looked down at her feet. "Yes, I did," she said with guilt in her voice. "It's all part of my dastardly plan."
Josh actually appeared interested. "You have a dastardly plan?"
Donna nodded. "Yes. I drive you insane looking for a hidden file, wait for you to have an aneurysm and then take over your job since I'm the only one who knows where all your stuff is."
Josh looked off and appeared thoughtful. "That's actually pretty good..." he mused. Shaking his head, he looked back at Donna. "How am I supposed to find this file?"
Donna raised an eyebrow. "Josh, I'm going to break my sacred oaths and tell you a deep dark secret that we assistants and secretaries have kept hidden for centuries. Files do not magically appear when you call them. We use an ancient process known as 'looking.'"
Grumbling, Josh looked back through his folders. "I've gotta find this thing. I need to see the President about it in about an hour."
"He'll be busy."
Josh looked up in surprise. "With what?"
"He's giving some medals to a couple of lawyers."
Josh blinked. "Okay, I think I must have taken the wrong medication this morning because I could have sworn you just said he was rewarding some lawyers."
"They're military lawyers," Donna answered.
"We're rewarding them for what, proper filing? Because that might be the incentive for you to find this for me."
Donna resisted sticking out her tongue at him and went on. "No, they were involved in stopping that bombing on the military base last month."
Josh frowned. "So, they stop a rogue military guy from bombing a base and they're getting honored for it? This isn't some sort of weird version of 'Wag the Dog' to get us to give them more money, is it?"
"I don't think so."
"Good, because I wanted to suggest that idea sometime. What branch?"
"One's a Marine, the other's from the Navy."
Josh stared at her. "The nation's biggest Irish fan is giving a medal to someone from Navy?"
Donna shrugged. "I guess he's feeling generous today."
Josh appeared wistful for a moment. "I sometimes wish I could have gone into the Navy."
"In no alternate universe could you ever be in the Navy, Josh."
"Why not?" a hurt Josh asked. "I have the rugged good looks, I watch WWII movies, I could wear a cap."
"Being in the Navy generally requires you don't get sick just watching a commercial for Carnival Cruises."
"Maybe I should meet them. They might be happy to see me."
"They probably won't know who you are, Josh."
Josh appeared shocked. "What do you mean? People know who I am!"
"Houston, the ego has landed."
"AHA!" Josh yelled as he saw a familiar piece of paper sticking out a drawer. Sliding it open, he pulled out a small file and flipped through it. "I've foiled your dastardly plan."
"Damn," Donna pouted. "I'll have to go to my sinister one, then."
Josh shut the folder and moved toward Donna. "I need you to break this twenty page paper down to a three page summary."
"Can I just photocopy it really, really small?"
"Do you have a problem with me going back to being your boss?"
"I have a problem with your use of the term 'going back.'"
"Donna. Look at my face. What does this tell you?"
"That you really, really, really want to make my life easier and do more things yourself?"
"I'll have this back to you in an hour." She turned and headed out but was stopped at the doorway. "Oh, Donna?"
Sighing, she turned to look back at Josh and was thrown by how, for just a moment, he looked serious. "Look, Donna," he began, settling back in his chair. "The doctors warned me that there's a slight chance I might slip into what's called post-traumatic stress disorder. So, in all seriousness, I need you to look for any signs."
Donna was silent for a moment, absorbing the fact that Josh really meant this. "What sort of signs?"
Josh took a breath. "Oh, short to people, arrogant, yelling, ill-tempered, paranoid, verbally abusive."
Donna slowly nodded. "In other words, I wouldn't know anything was wrong."
"That's the challenge."
"So, I'm now adding nurse to my list of duties in your servitude?"
"Okay, now, commentating on that would probably get me in line for a sexual harassment suit, so just get going."
"Phooey, there goes my underhanded scheme."
"I can't believe this," Mac whispered. "I cannot believe this!"
"Easy, Sarah, easy," Harm stated. "I'm just as nervous as you are but hyperventilating is not going to set the right image."
"Thank God we're Immortal or I'd be near heaving by now."
The two were at their most immaculate in full dress uniform, buttons polished, every line neatly pressed, caps on perfectly and had spent the better part of an hour trying to ensure there was no visible signs of lint on either of them. The two officers tried to calm themselves as they stepped out of the staff car and to the side entrance of the White House.
"Deja vu for you, huh?" Mac asked her partner. "I remember you being here once a few years back."
"I know," Harm said. "That's where I got the biggest reward I've ever gotten."
Mac frowned. "The medal was that big?"
"Who's talking about the medal?" Harm smiled. "That's when I first met you."
"Oh, you're getting it good tonight," Mac smiled, resisting the urge to plant one on Harm right then and there.
"Funny," Harm remarked as he and Mac headed toward the door. "I didn't even vote for the guy and now I'm hoping to make a good impression on him."
"Same here," Mac said. "Guess it's true what they say, you end up honoring the office more than the man when you're this close."
"Let's just hope he's not an Internet user," Harm muttered.
"From what I've heard, he prefers reading actual books," Mac smiled back. She shook her head. "God, meeting the President. I never thought I'd do that. What's next?"
"You becoming a judge?" Harm lightly teased.
Mac rolled her eyes. "I'll probably become pregnant before that happens." The two paused before the door where two dark-suited men waited, one holding up a portable metal detector. "Raise your hands please," he flatly intoned. Sharing a look of "here we go again" Harm and Mac obeyed, allowing the Secret Service agent to quickly sweep over them both. The other agent walked over and held out a hand. "Invitations," he rumbled in the same tone.
Harm handed him the card that he and Mac had received, the agent carefully perusing it as the other finished his sweep over both officers. The agent handed back the card and turned to the door. He gave a quick nod and stepped back to let Harm and Mac take a few steps forward. "Okay, this time, leaving the swords at home was smart," Mac muttered. Harm nodded, then frowned. "You know, I've been thinking that maybe we ought to try a couple of ceremonial ones that we could bring along. Just in case." "Now there's an idea," Mac said approvingly.
The door opened and a tired-looking, white-haired man in his fifties exited, followed by a tall woman in a very nice suit. "Commander Rabb, Lt. Colonel MacKenzie," the man intoned. "I'm Leo McGarry, Chief of Staff. Welcome to the White House."
Harm and Mac both threw out a crisp salute and Leo rolled his eyes. "You don't have to do that to me," he sighed.
"Not that I don't appreciate it," the woman said. "C.J. Cregg, Press Secretary."
"Good job?" Mac asked her.
"Well, I have to deal with inflated egos, reporters hungry for a scoop and not caring who gets hurt in the process, and little appreciation for my work." She shrugged. "Then again, I used to work in Hollywood, so aside from the vast decrease in my pay, there's no real difference."
"Sounds familiar," Harm muttered.
"The exception being you'll get raises if you ever go into the civilian law field," C.J. noted.
"I'll have to remember that."
Leo glanced at his watch. "All right, I did the meet and greet, now I have important stuff to handle. C.J., they're all yours." With that, he turned and walked back into the White House.
"Who was that?" Mac asked, staring after him.
"The second most powerful man in the country," C.J. told her.
"What about the Vice-President?" Harm asked.
"We like to pretend he doesn't exist in this building."
Harm raised an eyebrow. "That bad?"
"Been there," Harm and Mac stated with sympathy. They followed C.J. in the building, the Press Secretary leading them through the hallways.
"All right, this shouldn't be too big a deal," C.J. said as they walked. "There's really no reason to be nervous. We'll make sure the President doesn't embarrass you too badly."
"How?" Harm asked.
"Oh, I'll have Leo's assistant talk to the President's secretary and they'll make sure it's okay."
"The assistants can do that?" Mac asked, craning her head slightly and realizing she couldn't recall the last time she'd had to look up to see a woman in the face.
C.J.'s eyes twinkled. "Who do you think really runs things around here?"
"What do you need the senior staff for, then?" Harm questioned.
"Fall guys in case we go to jail for something."
"Good to know," Harm said.
C.J. glanced at him. "Navy, huh? That's interesting. I just talked to someone I used to work with in Hollywood. She was going on and on about how she just found out her Navy boyfriend was cheating on her with this Marine tramp."
"Well, that's funny, I----" Harm broke off and stopped. Mac did with him, the same thought come to her. C.J. stopped as well and looked at them quizzically. "Um..." Harm started. "This friend of yours...Her name wouldn't happen to be Renee Peterson, would it?"
C.J.'s eyes widened in surprise. "Yeah, how did you----" She stopped as the penny dropped and her eyes widened further. "You're..."
"The Navy boyfriend," Harm confirmed.
C.J.'s gaze went to Mac. "And that would make you..."
"The Marine tramp," Mac calmly answered.
"Ah," C.J. stated. She bit her lip. "Um...Can we just pretend I never got started on this?"
"Thank you," C.J. sighed. "Now, if only I could do that more often with people."
"Well, we've got the whole attorney/client privilege," Mac told her. "Gives us open minds." *Which we often need.*
"Is this going to be...okay?" Harm said, waving a hand at himself and Mac. "You're not going to mention this to others, are you?"
"Don't worry," C.J. said, holding up a hand. "Mum's the word."
"Really?" Mac seemed surprised. "You're the Press Secretary, I thought you were supposed to inform people of these things."
C.J. threw her head back and let out a long and bright laugh. The two officers stared at her as she tried to compose herself, wiping at her eyes. "Oh, thank you, I needed that," she said. She looked back up at them and smiled. "Trust me, I am not about to reveal that the two people the President is honoring are having an affair. The last thing we need is some sort of sordid scandal."
"C.J.!" The woman turned to see Donna walking up, waving a paper in her hands. "I need Josh."
"Wow, that's something I almost never hear a woman say," C.J. remarked. "What do you need him for?"
"He needs to sign this report," Donna stated. "I didn't know it needed his signature but now it apparently does."
"Can't you just forge it?"
"I've tried but it just doesn't look right."
"Donna!" The women turned to see Josh coming down the hallway. "Donna, I need to get that report on the----"
Donna thrust the paper in his hands at him. Josh looked at it and then back at her. "Wow," he said. "That was good." He made a twirling motion with one finger. With a sigh and an expression that indicated this wasn't the first time this had happened, Donna turned around so Josh could place the paper onto her back and quickly affix his signature. C.J., Harm, and Mac watched as the relatively well-oiled machine that was the Josh/Donna partnership finished the task.
"Thanks," Josh said as he backed up, holding the paper.
"Do I get a treat?" Donna asked.
"You've already eaten my chips."
"I'll buy more."
"I thought you were so poor you needed a raise."
"I can get them out of the budget as necessities."
"Good plan." Josh looked over at Harm and Mac. "Oh, hi, I'm-----"
"Josh Lyman, right?" Harm interrupted.
Josh threw a triumphant look at Donna. "Yep."
"Yeah, we recognize you from the reports on the shooting," Mac stated.
Josh shrugged. "I'll take what I can get. So, you two are seeing the President? That'll be a fun meeting, I can assure you."
"Is he that bad?" Mac asked.
"Only if you don't mind the fact that we're being led by Encyclopedia Brown," Donna piped in.
"Okay, you're telling me girls read Encyclopedia Brown?" Josh asked her.
She shrugged. "It was a hobby. Everyone needs a hobby. Even the President needs a hobby."
"Well, yes, of course, because that whole leader of the free world thing leaves him with entirely too much time on his hands."
"Do you guys always talk about the President like this?" Harm said, a bit taken aback by the open candor.
"We kid because we love," Josh spoke up.
"Actually, we kid because we fear the random application of useless trivia," C.J. added. She gave Josh and Donna a quick nod. "Okay, I've got to take these two to see the President, you two get back to doing what you do."
"A foreign concept, I know, but take a shot at it."
"And this, as I'm sure you've already guessed, is the Oval Office," C.J. said as she led the two Immortals into the room. "Please do not touch anything, do not go near the desk, keep your hands inside the vehicle at all times." C.J. moved away and toward the office door. "Charlie? Charlie, you here?"
"Right here," Charlie spoke up as he entered the room. "The President should be here soon. He's coming from the kitchen."
"Should that concern me?"
"He didn't set the kitchen on fire."
"He didn't set himself on fire."
"Better news." C.J. glanced at her watch. "Okay, I've got to get the press settled in the garden. Can you keep an eye on them before the President gets here?"
Charlie glanced at Harm and Mac, who were looking around the office in awe before leaning in toward C.J. "You're worried they'll steal some pens?"
C.J. rolled her eyes. "Just keep an eye on them, please?"
Charlie looked up. "Let's see," he said in a light tone. "Me, the black guy, keeping an eye on two white people to make sure they don't steal anything. Okay, I'll do it."
"Thank you for that nod to equality," C.J. said as she exited. Charlie took a few steps forward, calmly looking at Harm and Mac, who looked right back at him. "I'm Charlie Young, the President's personal aide," he introduced himself.
"Good to meet you," Harm nodded. He glanced around the office. "I always thought it'd be..."
"Bigger," Charlie broke in. "I know, I did too. After a while, it just becomes another office."
"Really?" Mac asked.
Charlie chuckled. "Course not! This is the Oval Office. This is the place where the President comes up with decisions that effect the life of every person in this country."
"Charlie, I've got the cookies!" The door to the side opened and President Bartlett walked in. In his hands, he held a plate stacked with chocolate chip cookies and a wide smile on his face. Harm and Mac instantly brought themselves up straight and made the most perfect salutes they had ever made in their lives. It was an impressive display and it was too bad Bartlett completely ignored them and headed toward Charlie.
"Call my wife in here," Bartlett said as he placed the cookies on a nearby table. "I want her to see these right away!"
"She's not here, sir."
Bartlett looked up at him. "What?"
"She left this morning, sir," Charlie frowned. "She didn't tell you she was leaving early?"
"Damn!" Bartlett remarked.
"Sir, as long as we have the cookies..."
"Get a camera."
Bartlett gave him a glare. "Go get a camera and quick before these cool."
Charlie frowned. "Sir, unless Kodak has made a sudden and giant stride in technology, you can't tell from a photograph what the temperature of an item is."
"She will. Get a camera."
"Where do I----"
"Tell C.J. she has my permission to mug any reporter she wants. She'll think it's Christmas."
Bartlett nodded toward the still saluting Harm and Mac. "How long have they been like that?"
"Since you walked into the room, sir."
"Hmmm." Bartlett looked at the two officers, who stared straight ahead, frozen in place. "I assume they'll stay that way until I say so?"
"I think so, sir."
"Are you going to let them be at ease, sir?"
"In a minute," Bartlett smirked. "I could use a little respect now and then."
"I show respect to you, sir."
"That's why you're one of only two people here I wouldn't fire given half the chance."
"Who's the other one?"
"Leo. Without him, this place falls apart. Tell him that I said that and you're court-martialed. They can make it happen."
"I'm a civilian, sir."
"I can draft you very easily. Remember that on your next date with Zoey."
"Right along with the fact we're surrounded by men with guns, sir." With a smile, Charlie turned and marched out of the room. Bartlett turned and walked around the two saluting officers and to his desk. Exchanging a brief glance with their eyes, Harm and Mac shuffled around, hands still saluting as they faced their Commander-in-Chief.
Bartlett waited until he was seated at his desk, glasses on and perusing a file before off-handedly remarking "At ease." With more than a little relief, Harm and Mac obeyed. "Have a seat," Bartlett said, waving toward two chairs set in front of the desk. The two carefully sat, adjusting their uniforms as they waited for Bartlett to speak.
"You know," the President finally said. "I've always considered myself a shepherd of sorts, guiding people along to new ways to grow. I've always admired shepherds, their job, their place in life, their skill. I once dreamed about being a shepherd. I could have been a good shepherd if not for one thing."
Harm and Mac exchanged a glance before Harm spoke up. "What's that, sir?"
"I'm allergic to sheep." Bartlett glanced over his glasses and smiled at the two. "I believe you have some questions?"
"Just one, sir," Harm said. "Why did you ask to talk to us personally first? And why here?"
"And do we really deserve medals for what was really a group effort?" Mac added.
Bartlett raised an eyebrow. "That was one question?"
"Well, one question with subsections, sir," Harm replied.
"I know this must not be easy for you, Commander."
"How so, sir?"
"Well, considering all the shellings Notre Dame has given the Navy over the years..."
"All flukes, sir."
"Yes, whatever gets you through the day." Bartlett sat back in his chair. "Well, I'll be honest with you, Commander. You two are getting two medals. This is the public one, for the Hastings Bay incident. The other is for that little...incident you two had last week."
Harm and Mac stared at each other in surprise. "You...you know about that?" Mac said.
Bartlett stared back at her. "You do know where you're sitting, right? You saw the big seal in the carpet? It tends to let me know about such things. Such as the reason I'm rewarding you."
"You're rewarding us for being kidnaped by aliens?" Mac asked.
"No, because anyone who can show up Jack O'Neill more than deserves it."
"Well, sir, it wasn't easy..."
Bartlett wagged a finger at her. "Don't be modest, MacKenzie. I know a good Irishwoman will always find a way to get one over on an Irishman, even one from Chicago."
Harm tried very hard not to laugh as Mac coughed. "Actually, sir, the name's Scottish."
Bartlett's face fell. "Thank you for ruining my moment of pleasure, Colonel."
Harm shook his head. "Sir, you mean that Hammond personally told you about what happened? He sent you a report on it?"
"No, we communicated through emissaries who met on park benches and spoke in hushed tones because we live in a Len Deighton novel."
"Well, better him than the author we got involved with..." Harm muttered
Bartlett glanced over at Harm and squinted. "Commander, didn't I hear something about you writing a nasty e-mail about me?"
Harm coughed before replying. "Actually, no, sir, I didn't. A conservative group did it and made it look like me to send a message. I...ran into a bit of trouble because of it but I recovered quickly."
"I see," Bartlett slowly said. "And what did you tell this group when you found out what they did?"
Harm brought himself up. "I told them that it doesn't matter what my personal feelings about the man in the office are. You are my Commander in Chief so I have to follow you."
A wide grin broke over Bartlett's face. "Isn't it wonderful when people realize that?" The smile faded as he spoke in a more sympathetic tone. "In all seriousness, I read the reports. While O'Neill can be..." He paused, searching for the right word. "Florid...He does an excellent job summing things up. You two were put through hell on that trip and I thought something should be done to recognize that."
"It was...an experience, sir," Harm sighed. "And it gets even crazier when you realize that there's still more risk of being killed riding the subway."
"Yes, O'Neill said much the same," Bartlett stated. "You know, I didn't like him when we first met. He was arrogant, opinionated, spoke his mind without a second thought and came off as very smarmy."
"We know that, sir," Mac nodded.
"Then, I realized the reason I didn't like him was because he reminded me so much of myself," Bartlett went on. "At which point, I started to like him immensely."
"You only read O'Neill's report, sir?" Mac asked.
"Actually, I did read the report of Dr. Fraiser," Bartlett answered. "Which convinced me of two things. One, that the two of you went above and beyond the call of duty to rescue fellow military officers and defeat a major threat to our security."
"And the other, sir?"
"That Fraiser is about the only one of that bunch with a modicum of sanity."
"Maybe you should give her the medal, sir," Mac suggested.
"Actually, she's the only one I haven't honored," Bartlett replied. "Private ceremonies of course but if she keeps this up, she'll get a Silver Star in no time." The smile returned to his face. "The look on O'Neill's face would be more than worth it." He sat back and regarded the two. "May I share something, Commander, Lt. Colonel?"
"What, sir?" the two asked together.
"If I had thought, at any point during the campaign, that I would be in this office discussing aliens matter of factly with two military lawyers, I would have dropped out of the race on the spot."
"Good to know, sir," Mac replied.
"I do have to assure you that you are being recognized justly for the Hastings Bay incident," Bartlett told the duo. "You did damn good work there. You definitely showed that there are some lawyers who can do the right thing."
The two took on pained expressions. "I hate people who say we lack convictions," Mac groaned.
"Actually, I would think lawyers would welcome a lack of convictions for their clients," Bartlett observed.
"Well, we don't have that problem, sir. We work both sides."
Bartlett raised an eyebrow. "Multi talented, huh?"
"Oh, you could say that, sir," Harm said, sharing a quick glance with Mac.
"I actually wanted to bring in that Hawkthorne fellow who actually defused the bomb but he couldn't make it," Bartlett said.
Harm and Mac exchanged a glance. "Well, sir," Harm started. "If I may suggest. When you do see him, make sure you bring a translator with you."
"What kind of translator?"
"All of them," Harm and Mac said together.
The door knocked and C.J. popped her head in. "Mr. President? They're ready."
"He's trying to get a camera, sir."
"I can order the immediate launch of our entire armed forces into Iran in an eye blink but I can't get one person here who has a camera to spare?"
"Think of it as the universe's way to keep you humble, sir."
"The universe can screw itself."
"I'll mention that to it, sir. Five minutes." C.J. quickly stepped back out as Bartlett rose to his feet. Instantly, Harm and Mac were back on theirs, trying to keep themselves ramrod straight.
"Sir," Harm piped in. "I want to thank you for the honor and for keeping quiet about the...um, the other stuff."
"I do have a sensitive side, Commander," Bartlett intoned as he adjusted his coat. "I can keep a secret."
Mac studied him carefully. "You have no idea what he's talking about, do you, sir?"
"No, but I was doing an excellent job faking it until you called me on it," Bartlett replied. "Oh, one last thing, before we leave." He leaned forward and smiled. "When's the wedding?"
Harm and Mac stared at him in shock, their jaws open, decorum momentarily forgotten. "How...How did..." Mac started.
"O'Neill..." Harm hissed.
"No, he didn't tell me," Bartlett denied.
"Never doubt my powers of deduction." Bartlett paused before shrugging. "My power to find a camera is absolutely laughable but my powers of deduction are not to be mocked."
Harm and Mac were still taken aback by the realization that the Commander-in-Chief knew about their relationship. "Um, sir...." Harm started.
"Relax, Commander," Bartlett cut him off. "I'm not going to have you two split apart or anything. As far as I'm concerned, this is between the two of you and as long as it doesn't interfere with your duties, I don't see why anyone else has to know. And if you do have any problems, just let me know."
"Sir..." Harm swallowed. "I...I don't know what to say."
"Why?" Mac asked. "Why are you so...."
"Two reasons," Bartlett answered. "One is because you saved a lot of lives in Hastings Bay and that deserves a little leeway. And secondly, at heart, I'm an incurable romantic and if you tell anyone that, you're going to find yourselves assigned to Antarctica."
Harm and Mac smiled at the statement as Bartlett turned toward the door. "All right, we might as well get this over with..." He broke off as Charlie entered the room, a small camera in his hand. "Ah, Mr. Raleigh, how is the New World?"
"Got the camera, Mr. President," Charlie informed him.
"Take it the photo, get it developed, have it faxed to my wife ASAP," Bartlett intoned with the same voice he'd use to order a bombing run. Charlie was quick to obey, snapping a trio of pictures of the plate of cookies. "Good job," Bartlett said.
"Do I get a cookie for it, sir?"
"Maybe later. Get going." With a smile, Charlie was quick to do so, darting out of the room. Bartlett reached over, picked up the tray and held it before Harm and Mac. "Have a cookie before we go."
Harm and Mac stared at him for a long moment and Bartlett sighed. "Commander, Lt. Colonel, I have had to do a lot of odd things in my time in this office. But if you actually make me order you to have a cookie, I'm revoking the medals."
Immediately, Harm and Mac reached out and took a cookie. Figuring that they ran little risk of being poisoned, they each took a bite and chewed. "Wow," Harm said. "Really good, sir."
"Yeah, they are," Mac chimed in.
"Excellent," Bartlett said, placing the tray down on the table. "Make sure you don't have any chocolate on your mouths and we're all set."
Harm looked Bartlett over carefully. "You're...not what I expected, sir."
"Wish now that you'd voted for me?"
"Well, let's not get carried away..."
Bartlett laughed as he walked toward the door, Harm and Mac following him with a little more enthusiasm than they might have a few days before.
C.J.'s heels clicked on the floor as she marched through the bullpen, looking for one office in particular. As she expected, Sam, Toby and Josh were inside, all three looking tired as they flipped through the mountain of files covering the table. "Hey," she announced. "What's up?"
"We're planning the upcoming meeting with the vouchers committee," Toby said.
"Or planning the synopsis for a multi-million dollar summer hit," Sam added.
C.J. shook her head, knowing she didn't want details. "All right, I just needed to drop in quick for a copy of the speech. Sam?"
Sam looked up at her. "Yes?"
"The one he's about to give for the ceremony. I never got a copy of it."
"Neither did I," Sam shrugged.
Toby and Josh both stopped what they were doing and looked up with growing expressions of dismay as C.J. stared at Josh. "You didn't write the speech?" she whispered.
Sam was quite alarmed by this point. "No, I thought Toby did."
Toby shook his head. "I thought you did. Josh, did Donna-----"
"What, I let Donna write my speeches now?"
"Josh," C.J. hissed. "If she didn't, that means the President is winging it."
Josh paused then bellowed. "DONNA!"
C.J.'s face fell. "Are you telling me that the President is about to inflict a garden full of reporters with an improvised speech involving the Navy, Marines and lawyers?"
"Someone get a whole new stack of medals made," Toby solemnly intoned.
Harmon Rabb's apartment
2301 Hours EST
"You really love that TV, don't you?" Mac asked as she lay next to Harm. They were in bed together, having "celebrated" their commendations in their own fashion. The TV was the only glow in the room as a satisfied Mac snuggled next to her lover.
"Considering how long I went without being able to use one, I'm making up," Harm replied. "I just wanted to check the end of the news."
"What?" Mac teased. "You want to see if we got more than two minutes worth of coverage?"
"Considering the President talked for nearly half an hour straight before even getting to us, I think we deserve something," Harm shot back.
"God, don't remind me," Mac groaned. "That secretary was wrong. It's not Encyclopedia Brown, we're being led by Dennis Miller."
"At least Bartlett doesn't try commentary for Notre Dame games," Harm muttered.
"Come on, Harm, turn the TV off," Mac cooed. She moved up and kissed his cheek. "You're not getting a swelled head, are you?"
"Move your hand down a little more and I might..." Harm laughed as he turned toward Mac. Just as he was about to kiss her, something on the screen caught his eye. "Let me just check this out..." he said as he turned up the volume.
*I know Renee didn't have this problem* Mac found herself thinking as she glanced at the screen. She was rather surprised to see that it was showing a head shot of her and laughing to boot. The voice of the female announcer filled the room. "...Efforts last month. However, this afternoon, we at 'Inside Edition' received some photos that show a very different side to this heroic Marine."
Exactly three seconds later, Harm and Mac were sitting bolt upright in bed, jaws open, staring in shock as the TV showed a set of photos of Mac on a beach in a very small blue bikini that was showing off more skin than Mac wanted anyone besides Harm to ever see.
"Oh, shit," Harm muttered.
Mac's jaw fluttered as she tried to understand. "How...how did...Where did they..." Her eyes widened as a thought struck her. The same thought came to Harm as the two exploded at the top of their lungs with one word.
2333 Hours EST
The room was dark, only a few lamps providing dim illumination. It seemed to serve the dark mood the three men inside found themselves in. One sat in a large leather chair, his jacket off, his face tight with anger. Across from him sat a heavyset man with thinning gray hair and a dark green uniform. The four stars on his shoulder showed his rank with the Army insignia only one of many marks of honor on his jacket. The third man stood with his back to them, staring out the room's sole window.
"He's going too far," Kinsey said, his face starting to color a bit as he talked. "The Stargate is a danger and he refuses to see it, he just keeps pouring more and more into it and won't shut it down."
"It's not just that," General Horace Greenwould rumbled. The thirty-year veteran sipped at his brandy before continuing. "He's putting too much of our resources into that and not enough in areas where we're needed. He keeps vetoing our special projects and he won't give us the forces needed to adequately defend in Europe and Asia. Russia could roll right across their borders and be in Berlin before we could even mobilize. He's cutting down on our power, our influence, what we need."
"I know," Kinsey agreed. "And so do the people I've been in touch with. They're willing to deal with us. Whatever we need, they agree to help. They want Bartlett out of the White House as much as we do."
"I'm still not sure about what's needed," the man at the window said. "It could backfire on us. Badly."
"Doubtful," Kinsey smirked. "He won't know a thing until it's too late, we've arranged for that."
"My people are ready to move whenever yours are," Greenwood emphasized. "All we need to make it work is one thing." He and Kinsey both looked toward the third man.
"It has to be done," Kinsey said. "If we don't get rid of Bartlett and make it look as legal as possible, he'll flush this damn country down the toilet. I'm proposing a change of leadership."
"You're proposing a coup d'etat," the man said. "I don't know if I want------"
"Oh, don't bullshit someone who's worked in Washington as long as I have," Kinsey blasted. "I know you're interested. If you weren't, you wouldn't be here. You want this as much as we do. It should have been you in there from the start, you know that. You didn't have to settle for where you are. We can give you what should have been yours, the big seat."
"Yes, it requires sacrifices," Greenwood stated. "But that's nothing compared to the damage we'll suffer if he keeps gutting our armed forces like this. For the good of this nation, we have to do this."
"It's necessary," Kinsey added. "For the good of the United States, Jed Bartlett has to go. We can do that. But we need you. So, in or out."
There was a long silence before the man turned to face them. He looked at Kinsey, then Greenwood, then brought himself up, took a deep breath and nodded.
"I'm in," Vice-President of the United States John Hoynes said.