The Day Beforeby Astrid
Morning: Wednesday, November 21, 2001
Josh stands in the doorway for a few moments, listening, "Are you whistling 'It's Still Rock And Roll To Me?'"
Sam looks up, with a smile on his face, "Uh-huh!"
"Why in the world are you whistling a Billy Joel tune at seven in the morning?"
"It got stuck in my head last night when I was at Ainsley's."
"You went to her apartment? No wonder you've got that smug ass look on your face."
"Thanks, it makes me happy to know that you're glad that Ainsley and I have reconciled."
"Please, it wasn't even that big a thing!"
"It was to her."
"So what? You got nervous when she asked you to have dinner with her family. It's understandable, especially considering that they're Republicans. I mean, if you were to have dinner with them, especially for the holidays, that's like saying that you're in a real relationship and possibly even ready to make a serious committment."
"I *am* in a real relationship! We've had *four* dates in the last three weeks! And we've had lunch together nearly a dozen times."
"You're going to North Carolina with her, aren't you?"
"Yes I am."
"I swear, if the two of you come back here engaged or, god forbid, having eloped, I-I don't know. But, just promise me that neither of those things will occur."
"God, you're whipped."
"At least I'm in a situation to be whipped."
"You're going to have Thanksgiving dinner with Ainsley and her Republican Southern Baptist family."
"Ainsley's Southern Baptist?"
"I don't know! She's southern, she's a Republican, and from the Bible Belt and it sounded good."
"Anyway, it doesn't matter. I agreed to go with her and I'm not changing my mind. We're leaving at three," Sam says, walking out to the bullpen.
"You're leaving early," Josh asks in disbelief as he follows Sam.
A little while later in the corridor:
Josh and CJ walk back from their meeting with People For The Ethical Treatment of Turkeys.
"So, yeah, Sam's not coming tomorrow."
CJ perks up, "I know, isn't it great? I mean, you know, that he and Ainsley worked things out."
"What's with all this hostility towards Sam?"
"There's no hostility. It's just that I know how upset Ainsley was and I'm glad that they're back together."
"Plus more leftovers for you."
"Excuse me? I'll have you know that Donna and I are considering giving you boys a plate to take home."
"A plate with food, right?"
"Of course, with food. Don't forget the drinks," CJ says as they near her office.
"Don't play dumb with me, Josh. Remember? Sunday?"
***Flashback: Sunday, November 18***
Donna storms in, "I can't believe the nerve of that woman! Can you?"
Josh looks confused, "Uh, what woman?"
"My mother! How could he? How *dare* she? What the hell could have possibly possessed her to do such a thing and think that I'd be just peachy keen dandy with her decision and that things would be just...ducky, without even consulting with me first?"
"Do you *know* what she did?"
"Actually, no, I don't."
"Well, then, let me tell you. My mother, who is out of her damn mind, called me last night. And this is so not the time for any of your smart ass commentary. She called to inform me that she invited Preston to spend Thanksgiving with my family."
"Dr. Free Ride!"
"His name is *Preston*?"
"Sorry. So, wait, your mom invited him over for Thanksgiving?"
"Yes! But that's not all. He's going! The ungrateful, good-for-nothing, lazy, slug is going to have dinner with *my* family. Did you get that, Josh? *My* family! Who I was looking foward to seeing, goddammit! But now, I'm not going back there. Oh no, so he can try to sucker me back into a relationship. Turn me into the ever obedient housewife and mother. Do you know what I did this morning?"
"No but I have a pretty good idea that I'm about to find out."
"I had to call Margaret, who was planning to go home with me, and tell her about what happened. She was understanding enough to tell me that it was okay if we called it off. Then, I had to call and cancel the flight plans and hotel reservations and I have no plans. I'm spending the holidays alone," Donna says, on the verge of tears.
Josh sighs, "Donna, would you like to join CJ, Sam, Toby, and myself for a day of eating pizza and Chinese, drinking beer, and watching football?"
"I'd love--did you say pizza and Chinese?"
"Yeah, after what happened last year..."
"I'll be back," Donna says turning on her heels.
"Donna, where are you--Donna?"
About 30 minutes later in CJ's office:
Donna, Josh, Sam, and Toby have gathered in CJ's office. CJ leans against the front of her desk, "Donna's going to be joining us on Thursday and we've come up with a slightly different plan."
"Shut-up, Spanky, you're already in enough trouble with Ainsley, do you really want to add me to that list? Now, as I was about to say, Donna and I have decided that we will prepare dinner, on one condition."
"Now would be the time to say 'uh-oh.'"
Donna glares at him, "What did I tell you about the commentary, Joshua. You each have to bring something."
CJ looks down at her notepad, "Toby, you're bringing a dessert. Sam, you're bringing a different dessert. Josh, you're bringing beverages."
"And we're inviting Margaret," Donna adds.
The guys are still just standing around when CJ says, "You can go now. And don't forget what you're supposed to bring!"
"Oh yeah. How could I have forgotten," Josh says, leaning against the door frame. He shakes away the memory, "I'll bring something. What time is dinner?"
"Whenever Donna and I finish cooking. Either show up before nine or during the National Anthem."
"The parade and the first game, genius."
"Oh." Josh heads off towards his own office, "DONNA!"
Margaret appears in the doorway, "Yes?"
"Could you--ACHOO!--please bring me a-a-ACHOO! box of tissues?"
"You should go home," she says, not moving.
"I'm fine, it's just the--*cough, cough, cough, cough*--flu."
"Which is why you nearly coughed up your spleen just then. Seriously, Leo, you look like shit."
"Did you just--"
"You've been sneezing and hacking all day and it sounds disgusting. I really don't enjoy sitting right outside your office and having to listen to you dying in here."
"Why thank you, Nurse Ratched. Now will you just bring me some goddamn tissues," Leo says before he's taken over by another coughing fit.
Margaret goes out to her desk and gets another box of tissues and stops just inside the office.
Leo looks at her, "What?"
"Your office is germ infested. I don't want your germs. Maybe I should get some disinfect--"
"Oh, for the love of god, Margaret, if you don't give me that box, I will cough all over--ACHOO! ACHOO! ACHOO!"
Margaret walks over to his desk and drops the box in front of him before quickly retreating back to the doorway, "Should I call your doctor, now?"
He looks up at her, "Margaret..."
The door from the Oval Office opens, "Leo, stop yelling at Margaret, you barely have a voice at all, and go home!"
"That's an order, Leo. Go home! Now! Get some rest, get better." Jed turns to Margaret, "I want you to make sure he gets home within the hour."
"And have a Happy Thanksgiving."
"You too, Mr. President," Margaret says with a smile. Jed closes the door and her smile disappears. "You heard the President, get up and get out. C'mon, I'm taking you home."
"Are you sure you want my germs in your car," Leo asks sarcastically, slipping into his coat.
"Like hell. We're taking your car and then I'm getting a cab. After I burn off a layer of skin and the clothes I'm wearing," she says as they head out.
"Have you decided about tomorrow?"
"About Deena and I spending the day with you and your family here in the White House?"
"Yes, sir, I have."
"Deena and I would be delighted. Should we bring anything?"
"No, just yourselves. And try to get here a bit before nine so that you don't miss any of the Macy's parade."
"And dress casually. Maybe a sweater and some slacks."
"I know you're excited about spending time with Zoey."
"Am I starting to bother you, Charlie?"
"Yes sir--I mean, no sir."
Jed chuckles, "That will be all, Charlie."
Sam pokes his head in, "I'm on my way out."
Toby glances up, "Okay. Have a good trip."
"I'm done here, right?"
"Okay, so, I'm leaving. About to head out on the road."
"Oh, for Pete's sake, Sam, stop stalling! You chose to subject yourself to spending the holidays in Hell! Six hours in a car with your Republican girlfriend followed by twelve hours with her entire Southern Republican family! Go stand before the Gates of Hell and be done with it already!"
Sam is taken aback, "Yeah, I think I'm just gonna leave now."
"Happy Thanksgiving, Toby."
"Happy Thanksgiving, Sam."
Evening in Ainsley's car:
"So, my cousin Louise...well, she's just not the type of girl any guy should be left alone with for any amount of time. She's the maneater of the family."
"Gotcha. What about your Uncle Paul?"
"He's got a glass eye, fought in Korea and Vietnam, so don't mention any of those things. Oh, and I told my parents that you're allergic to cranberries."
"But I'm not."
"Well, tomorrow you are. Grandma Hayes insists on making the cranberry sauce every year, using the old family recipe, which would be fine except that she seems to be getting a bit senile in her old age. She's now in the habit of occasionally putting beets in the sauce and using salt instead of sugar."
"I have a great aunt like that. Well, not really. She sends all of us homemade fruitcakes for Christmas."
"Oh, I haven't even started my Christmas shopping yet."
"Neither have I. I'll probably just do mine all online."
"Save time and skip the hassel of going to malls and department stores?"
"Something like that. You know, I wast just surprised when you asked me if I wanted to come with you."
"I know this, Sam, you told me last night. There's no need for you to keep apologizing, I understand."
***Flashback: Tuesday, November 13***
Sam and Ainsley are having lunch. Ainsley's poking around at her salad with her fork, trying to figure out the best way to approach Sam. "So, are you going home next week?"
Sam looks at her, "Next week? Oh, Thanksgiving. No, I'm just gonna hang out with CJ and the guys. Eat some pizza or something and watch some football. Nothing special. You?"
"I'm driving down to North Carolina for a big Hayes family dinner. And I, uh, was wondering if you'd like to accompany me?"
"I want to drive down and it'll probably take six hours or so, depending on traffic, and I'd like to have some company. Preferably you."
Sam looks a bit dumbfounded, "You're asking me to spend Thanksgiving with you and your family?"
"Yes, I am."
"I've never met your family."
"Well, there's a first time for everything. Do you need time to think about it?"
"I mean, it's one thing to meet at a gathering of some sort or to just go over and have dinner, but-but this is big. It's Thanksgiving dinner, one of the major holidays. Very family oriented. With lots of love."
"And lots of animosity and ambivalence. It really doesn't have to be a big thing." Ainsley scoots forward a bit, "Haven't you ever had holiday dinner with a friend and their family? Or had a friend over to your place for the holidays?"
"Well, yeah, but I wasn't *dating* any of those friends. Except Lisa, but we were engaged... Your family doesn't think we're *that* serious, do they?"
"Good god, Sam, they don't even know we're dating! My mom said that I could bring a friend or two if I wanted to, but, you know what? Just forget it. Forget that I asked you, forget that I even brought it up. And while you at it, go ahead and forget about us all together," Ainsley says furiously, dropping her foodinto the floor as she gets up and starts to leave. She stops at the door and turns slightly, not facing him, "All you had to do was say no, Sam. You didn't have to make such a big deal about it."
***Flash Foward: Tuesday, November 20***
Late night at Ainsley's apartment:
The doorbell rings and Ainsley wonders who it could possibly be. She looks through the peep hole before opening the door, "Sam, what are you doing here?"
"Can we talk?"
"All right, but only for a few minutes," Ainsley says, letting him in.
Sam turns to face her, "Listen, about last week, when you asked me to go home with you, I got a bit freaked out."
"Really? I couldn't tell."
"Could you not do that, I'm trying to apologize."
"Yeah. I can't begin to tell you how sorry I am. I was being really stupid..."
"You were being a jerk."
"Okay, I was being a jerk. It's just that, well, my most recent relationships--I have a bad track record. I'm not good with relationships and then committments and I want this to work out between us."
"So do I."
"And I would *love*--actually, love's too strong a word. It would please me greatly if I could still join you and your family for dinner Thursday."
"Do you mean that?"
"Yes, I do."
"I'm sure we can squeeze in an extra place setting."
Sam looks over at Ainsley, "You're right, I'll stop."
"Do my ears deceive me? Did I just hear you, Samuel Seaborn, admit that I'm right?"
"You sound so shocked. Besides, it's not like I'm admitting such a thing to just anybody, I mean, you are my girlfriend."
Ainsley nearly swerves off the road, "What did you just say?"
"When? Just before you almost sent us to the emergency room?"
"That you're my girlfriend?"
"Yeah, that," she says, a smile lighting up her face.
"Oh, well, it's just that I thought--"
"Take it back and I'll kill you!"
"Okay then." Sam glances out the window, "Wasn't that our exit?"
Ainsley checks in the rearview mirror, "Damn."
Late evening in Margaret's office:
"Hey. Josh letting you go this early?"
"He wants to make sure I'm fully rested so that I can cook my best tomorrow. Are you sure you don't want to join us, Margaret?"
"Donna, I told you, I already promised my time to help at a homeless shelter."
"Only for a few hours, you could drop by when you finish."
"We'll have a plate waiting for you. And we'll fix one for you to take to Leo."
Margaret looks at Donna, "What makes you think that I'm going to see him tomorrow?"
"Aren't you? Going to check up on him?"
"You know, I'd do the same if Josh was sick."
"You took care of Josh when he was sick. Practically nursed him back to health yourself."
Donna smiles at the thought, "Yeah, I guess I did. Anyway, I'll see you tomorrow."
"Good night," Donna says before bouncing out of the west wing.
~~Morning: Thursday, November 22, 2001~~
CJ and Donna maneuver around the kitchen, making sure that they have everything in order: ingredients, untensils, dishes, and recipes. As Donna begins rinsing the green beans, the doorbell rings.
"Coming," CJ yells, setting the down a casserole dish. She opens the front door, "Good morning, Josh. What'd you bring?"
He holds holds out two paper bags, "Egg nog and rum. Is Donna here?"
"She's in the kitchen," CJ says, taking the bags and heading back to the kitchen.
"Wow, it's pretty organized in here."
"Out of the kitchen, Joshua!"
"Good morning, Donnatella. You look lovely today."
"Don't try to butter me up."
"Get out of the kitchen. Go watch CNN or something for," CJ pauses as she checks her watch, "an hour and six minutes, then put it on NBC at 8:55."
Doorbell rings, this time Donna answers, "Hey, Toby, can't talk, gotta find the marshmellows."
Toby follows her into the kitchen, Josh tagging along after them, "I brought a pecan pie. And I *cough*made*cough* some banana nut bread."
CJ just about drops the turkey, "Did you say that you *made* banana nut bread?"
"You baked," Josh asks with a laugh.
"That's really sweet, Toby, we appreciate it," Donna says, giving him a quick peck on the cheek.
"Hey, I brought over egg nog. And rum!"
"Did you make either of them yourself," Donna asks, resuming her search.
"So? What d'you want, a cookie," CJ asks.
"No, but Toby got a kiss. I should get a kiss too," Josh whines as Donna nearly walks over him.
"Out of the kitchen!"
"How come Toby hasn't been kicked out yet?"
"Because he knows what it's like in a kitchen, he baked something, remember? Did you bake anything? No! I should be in my parents kitchen in Madison, damn you! This is your fault, if you had turned me away, I'd be married to that jackass but I'd be with my family! And now, I can't find the damned mini-marshmellows for the sweet potatoes, so get out of my way," Donna rants, waving a spatula at Josh. The kitchen is silent.
Josh clears his throat, "Donna?"
"The, uh, marshmellows, I think they're on the counter to your right."
Donna looks at the counter, "Oh. Thanks."
"I should get a kiss for that," Josh mumbles. "You should be happy Donna didn't kill you with the spatula. Now, both of you, out of the kitchen, we're trying to cook."
"No buts, Josh. You and Toby, stay out. I don't care if there's smoke bellowing into the living room and Donna and I are screaming bloody murder, you two are to stay out of the kitchen until we have finished cooking. Got that?"
"Good. Go ahead and switch the channel to NBC."
"Do it, Josh."
Josh scrambles for the remote and changes the channel, "There you go."
"Thanks," CJ smiles and stepping back into the kitchen.
"I'm never ever going into another kitchen again. Well, at least not one that Donna's in."
"Never mess with a woman who's in charge of a holiday dinner," Toby says as he sits on the sofa. "Do you suppose Sam is having as much fun as we are?"
Outside the Hayes House, Ainsley's car
"Ainsley, slow down."
"I should have been here ten minutes ago. We start preparing at seven and I'm late. I'm in charge of cooking the potato dishes this year: parslied potatoes, roasted parmesian potatoes..." Ainsley stops and looks at Sam, "Omigod, I think I have to cook the yams. Yams are preserved sweet potatoes."
"Are you okay? You're starting to scare me."
"I'm a bit nervous, I still haven't told my family that we're dating," she says as she knocks on the door.
"They don't know that we're--"
"Ainsley! I see you brought a guest."
"This is Sam Seaborn. He--"
"I know who he is. It's nice to know you've made a few friends at the White House."
"Did you know that it's twenty-nine degrees out?"
"You aren't cold, are you? Come here," Mr. Hayes says, pulling his daughter into a hug. "It's nice to meet you, Sam," he says, offering his hand.
"Likewise, Mr. Hayes."
"Well, I'll just leave you two to get acquianted and Daddy can introduce you to everyone else and I'll just go get started in the kitchen."
Mr. Hayes pats Sam on the back, "Don't ever get between my daughter and her food, whether she's cooking it or eating it."
"I didn't know she could cook."
"It's tradition in our family. Ever since she was ten, she's been part of the holiday dinners. All the women in our family have their own dish to cook. Yeah, it's old fashioned but it's tradition. If any of us ever tried to come into the kitchen, we'd get our hands cut off."
"That's a bit harsh."
"It's tradition. So, exactly what kind of relationship do you have with my daughter?"
"Uh, well, I really think that Ainsley..."
"I'm asking you, Sam. Talk to me. Man to man."
"We're...we're seeing each other. Dating. She's my girlfriend. I mean, if that's okay with you, we are. She is."
Mr. Hayes smiles, "I like you, Sam, you're funny." He leads him into the living room, "Guys, meet Ainsley's boyfriend."
Ainsley's chopping an onion for her second batch of parslied potatoes.
"So, Ainsley, tell me about your guy friend. Is he seeing anyone?"
Ainsley pauses, mid-chop, and glares at her cousin, "Me. He's seeing me."
"Is it serious?"
"That's none of your business. Just don't go trying to get your claws into him."
"Girls," Mrs. Hayes warns for across the kitchen.
"Ooh, is there gonna be a fight," Ainsley's cousin, Claire, asks.
"Of course not, honey," Louise says.
Ainsley lowers her voice, "Stay away from my boyfriend, Louise. You're family and I love you but I swear to god, if I think for one second that you're about to hit on Sam, your parents are gonna find out how you really spent the summer of '93."
Louise's face falls, "You wouldn't..."
"Wanna bet? Finish deviling those eggs...*Honey*," Ainsley says with a satisfied grin.
White House Residence
Charlie and Deena walk into the living room where the President and the First Lady are seated.
"Charlie, Deena, make yourselves comfortable, the parade's about to start."
"Deena brought something," Charlie says, nudging her a bit.
"A sweet potato pie. My grandmother's recipe."
"You didn't have to make anything," Abbey says. She looks at Jed, "You didn't tell them to bring anything, did you?"
"No, I swear. Charlie, tell her."
"He only said for us to bring ourselves."
"See? Zoey's helping Liz and Annie out in the kitchen until Ellie gets here in an hour or so."
"I didn't..." Charlie starts.
"Ask about her, no, but you were wondering, were you not?"
"Jed, leave him alone, he's not working for you today."
"Ooh, the parade's starting!"
"So, Deena, how are you enjoying yourself so far," Abbey asks.
"Would the four of you excuse me for a moment, I'm going to go see how things are going," Jed says, getting up from the sofa.
"Leave the girls alone, they know what they're doing." Abbey looks at Zoey as she gets up, "Why do I even bother?"
Zoey gets up to follow her parents and motions for Charlie and Deena to follow her. Deena looks to Charlie and he just shrugs his shoulders.
Jed pushes the door open and inhales the aromas of the foods being prepared and notices something off, "Ellie, are you burning the turkey?"
"No, *Liz* is burning the turkey."
"I am not. You screwed up the gravy."
"No, mom, that was me. Aunt Ellie broke the gravy dish."
"It was an accident! Annie bumped into me, my elbow bumped into it, and it fell off the counter."
"You didn't break my mother's gravy dish, did you," Jed asks.
"Of course not. It was the one Zoey made in that class when she was nine," Ellie says.
"You broke my gravy dish," Zoey asks, pushing her way into the kitchen.
"It was an *accident*!"
"Are they always like this," Deena asks Charlie.
"Normally, no. But during the holidays, I have no idea."
"Oh, they're just getting warmed up," Abbey tells them. "Give them another hour or two."
"What will happen?"
"They'll be a few more pieces of broken china, at least one of my daughters, or my granddaughter, will have been reduced to tears, my husband will be officially banned from the kitchen, all of my girls will finally start to get along, and then it will be time to eat. And if we're lucky, this year we'll make it through dessert without any fights. C'mon, let's go back to the living room."
Josh and Toby are watching the football game.
CJ yells from the kitchen, twenty feet away, "Go wash your hands, dinner starts at two."
"But the game," Josh begins to protest.
CJ walks into the living room with attitude, "If you want to eat, you'll go wash your hands, right now. Do you know how long Donna and I have spent making this meal? While you two sat in here on your asses watching a parade and some stupid football game!"
"Can't you see the tv from the kitchen?"
"Yeah, but that's not the point. The point is that you boys could show a little more appreciation."
"Hey, I baked banana nut bread!"
"Your contribution is noted and greatly appreciated but that took all of what? Twenty, maybe thirty minutes?"
"We didn't ask you to cook, we were fine with pizza and beer. *You* decided to cook."
Josh watches CJ and Toby with sick fascination.
"Well it's not like you were all too opposed to the idea. You didn't tell us *not* to cook."
"Like it would have even mattered! You told us that the two of you were going to cook and that we had to bring dessert and drinks in such a manner that we couldn't have said no!"
"Like hell I did!"
CJ snaps, "Stuff it, you...you...you turkey basted yam!"
Donna's now standing in hallway, "Table's all set."
CJ composes herself before going into the dining room, "Five minutes."
"What the hell is a turkey basted yam," Toby asks, getting over his initial shock.
"Apparently, you are."
CJ, Donna, Josh, and Toby are seated around the table. The meal is modest: turkey, rolls, macaroni and cheese, stuffing, yams, green beans, and banana nut bread.
"So, who's going to start," Donna aks.
"I will. I am the hostess after all," CJ says before clearing her throat. "I am thankful for my job and my co-workers, who also serve as friends. Including Toby."
Toby smiles a little, "Hm, I'm thankful to have a friend like CJ, who will gladly put me in my place whenever necessary; a friend like Donna, because of her, we're having an actual dinner; and a friend like Josh, who brought rum."
"Yeah, what he said but him and the banana nut bread instead of me and the rum--ow," Josh says, earning a slap on the arm from Donna. "Okay, okay. I'm thankful for my wonderful assistant, who is the one mainly responsible for this and reminding us that there's more to Thanksgiving than pizza, beer, and football. And a parade."
Donna sniffles slightly, "And I'm thankful that, even though I'm not with my family in Wisconsin, that I'm here, spending it with three of the most wonderful people I know, who have become like family to me..."
"Oh, Donna, don't cry."
"I'm not, it's just..."
"This just got way too emotional for me."
"You're so sweet, Pokey. Let's eat!"
"It's snowing," Donna says.
"Yeah, it started flurrying after one."
"'Flurrying?'" Didn't you get a 760 on--"
"Leave me alone, I'm full and the food is clogging my brain."
"So what's your excuse for the rest of the time," Toby asks.
"Weren't you and CJ yelling at each other earlier? So, shouldn't you two be making out now?"
"Why would we--"
"Uh, CJ, I *was* there when Leo called you two on it on Halloween. It was pretty obvious what you two had been up to in your office."
"I don't know *what* you're talking about."
"And I plead the fifth," Toby says.
"I'm staying out of this," Donna adds just before the doorbell rings. "That's probably Margaret."
Donna lets Margaret in. "Hi Donna. Happy Thanksgiving," Margaret says, brushing snowflakes out of her hair.
"Hey, come in. We're watching the game." Donna leads her to the living room,
"Look who dropped by."
"How'd it go at the shelter," CJ asks.
"Good. A lot of people showed up. God, it's gotten cold out."
"Yeah, the snow's starting to come down pretty good," Josh says.
"The temperature's dropped four degrees since noon. They don't know when it's gonna stop or if it's gonna get worse before it gets better. The snow just seems to have come out of nowhere."
"It's not sticking, is it," Toby asks.
"It is. There's already an inch of accumulation."
Donna returns from the kitchen holding two plates out to Margaret, "Here you go."
"You can stay if you want. We're about to bust out the second pitcher of egg nog and rum," CJ says.
"Thanks, but I want to check on Leo and get home in case it does get worse outside. Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving."
"Wow, look at all this food," Sam whispers to Ainsley.
"You haven't even seen dessert."
"Like anyone's gonna be able to eat after all this. So, what is for dessert?"
"We have chocolate glazed ice cream cake topped with whipped cream and fresh raspberries, cherry cheesecake, pumpkin pie, and sweet potato pie, which I made."
"Wow. And all the food on the table."
"Well, it's a big dinner for thirty people. Everyone's going to want a plate or two to take home."
"I see your point."
The dining room tables are set the same with identical spreads: turkey, ham, gravy, stuffing, rolls, corn bread, greens, yams, parslied potatoes, deviled eggs, glazed carrots, roasted parmesian potatoes, cranberry juice, red wine, and white wine.
"I'm thankful for my family, my magnificent potato dishes, and Sam's presence here today."
"I'm thankful for this opportunity to be here with Ainsley and her family."
"Jed, the game's on," Abbey calls from her seat on the sofa, paying less attention to the game than Charlie and Deena. Zoey has since rejoined her sisters and her niece in the kitchen and Jed is checking on things for the eighth time.
Instead of a response from her husband, Abbey hears a door opening, footsteps, and crying. She gets up and her crying granddaughter runs into her arms,
"Annie, honey, what's wrong?"
"He hates my gravy!"
He's there almost immediately, followed by Liz. "Yes, dear?"
"Don't you 'yes, dear' me. What on earth did you do say to Annie?"
Liz cuts him off, "He said that the gravy needed a bit more pepper and not so much clove."
"What? I was just saying that I thought--"
"You made her cry!"
"Excuse me, I'm a bit confused and somewhat curious, are you talking about the same gravy from earlier," Deena asks.
"No, we threw that out. This was the third attempt," Liz says, hugging her daughter.
"I'd be crying too."
"I'm just gonna go say hey to Zoey," Charlie says.
"Annie, I don't hate your gravy. I *love* your gravy."
"No you don't. You said--"
"Annie, your grandfather's an idiot."
"An idiot who loves the gravy you made," Jed clarifies.
Annie looks at him, "Really?"
"Really. Now, why don't we go back in--"
"No, Dad, you are not allowed back in that kitchen for the rest of the day. If you come near that door, you can cook your own dinner."
"This happens *every* year," Deena asks the First Lady.
"Like clockwork, only the circumstances vary."
The table is set, everyone is seated, grace has been said.
"I am thankful for my lovely wife, my three beautiful daughters, my beautiful granddaughter, the fact that there has yet to be a national crisis today, my administration, my employees, and the good company of Charlie and Deena and the pumpkin pie she made. And all the food prepared by my girls."
"I'm thankful for my family and that the turkey *didn't* burn."
"I'm thankful for my family, my friends, and my good grades."
"My family, my perfectly braised chestnuts, and that I wasn't the one Dad made cry this year."
"Well, I'm thankful for my beautiful, intelligent girls. And my husband."
"I'm thankful for my family and Charlie, the best boyfriend a girl could have. And I'm thankful that Deena has the patience and reserve to have put up with us this long."
Charlie clears his throat, "I'm thankful to be here today, to have a job I enjoy, to like the people I work with, to have my sister, and to feel like I'm part of a family."
"I'm thankful for everyone and everything I have. Especially my brother and all that he's done for me and all that he is doing for me. And I'm thankful for President Bartlet's invitation and the kindness of him and his family."
"Okay, yeah, did you two practice those," Jed asks.
"Just carve the turkey."
Leo stumbles to the front door, rudely awakened by persistant knocking and the ringing doorbell. He opens the door, "Margaret, what are you doing here?"
"I came to check on you. I brought you some medicine and some chicken noodle soup. And CJ and Donna sent you a plate of food."
"They cooked? I appreciate the gesture but I don't think I can eat any--"
"Dammit, you'll eat the soup and you'll like it. Now, can I come in?"
"If you insist," he says, letting her in. "I am capable of taking care of myself, you know."
"That's yet to be seen. Where have you been sleeping?"
"Bed, sofa, floor?"
"When was the last time the sheets were changed?"
"I don't know. A week, maybe two weeks ago. Why?"
"Your sheets need to be burned. There are probably more germs in your sheets than there were drugs at Woodstock."
"Oh, good god..."
"Don't give me any lip, Leo. I swear, I will beat you into submission if I have to."
"Fine, just calm down. I thought you didn't want my germs."
"Lip! And I got my flu shot Monday, it takes a while for it to kick in. Now, first off, you're going to go take a shower and put on some clean clothes while I change your sheets. Then, you'll eat some soup, take some medicine, and you'll go back to bed. I'm gonna stick around to make sure you get in at least two dosages. Got it?"
"Yeah. I think you missed your true calling as a nurse."
Leo nervously stirs the soup, "How do I know that you didn't poison this?"
"I think I'll take my chances with starvation."
"Eat it!" Margaret takes a deep breath and relaxes, "You look better than you did yesterday."
"Yeah, well, sleeping for twenty hours or so straight has been known to do that for a person."
"You really should take better care of yourself. Oh, don't look at me like that."
"Like I just told something traumatizing from my past and you're about to start apologizing for what happened like you could have known or done anything about it. I should stop watching those movies on Lifetime."
"Donna went to get us a cab," Toby says.
"You didn't drive either?"
Donna walks through the door, covered in snow. "I don't think we're gonna get a cab tonight."
"Why not," Josh asks.
"Oh, I don't know. Maybe because visibility sucks and there's about a foot of snow on the ground."
"We're stuck here?"
"Looks like it. At least for the night."
"Oh goody, a slumber party," CJ says from her spot on the love seat.
"Well, at least there's some rum left," Toby says, dropping down next to CJ.
"Let's watch Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," Donna says, sitting on the sofa.
"I'm not watching that movie," Josh says, sitting on the opposite end of the sofa.
"Why not, Josh?"
"Those oompa loompas freak me out."
"You're scared of the oompa loompas," Toby asks.
"They're freaky! And that song, the song is creepy."
"Do you need Donna to protect you during the oompa loompa song," CJ asks.
"You mock me now, but just wait until the nightmares start."
"You've had nightmares about the oompa loompas," Donna asks. "Wait until I tell Margaret."
"Gotta tell Sam," Toby says.
"We can try Ainsley's cell phone," CJ says.
"You guys are mean," Josh pouts.
"I love this movie."
"Everyone loves this movie, it's a holiday classic."
"See, even Toby loves this movie."
"Would you two be quiet before I send you out into the snow?"
The living room is quiet except for the sounds from the television. Donna and Josh have fallen asleep on the sofa. Her head lays on his chest and his arms are around her, anchoring the blanket that covers them. CJ is sound asleep, curled up in a ball, on the love seat next to Toby, her head resting comfortably on his shoulder. Toby is dozing off, his head resting slightly against CJ's, and he pulls the blanket tighter around them before sleep completely take over.
"Thank god we left when we did. Can you imagine if we'd been stranded at my parents'?"
"I'd rather not. They're nice people but..."
"Daddy give you the third degree?"
"Your dad, brother, uncles, grandfather, cousins, and I think even your mailman gave me the third degree."
"Do you regret coming?"
"No. Do you regret inviting me?"
"No. We can catch a little bit of the Cowboys game."
"How the hell did he fumble that? Get a grip on the ball and stop oogling the cheerleaders!"
Sam looks at Ainsley, speechless.
"What? My high school was big on football."
"So, do you wanna watch the movie?"
"Do you want to watch the movie?"
"I love this movie."
"That doesn't surprise me."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing, it's just that, it's a classic. You're a classic kinda girl."
"I think you had too much to drink."
"Just a little."
Ainsley and Sam lie in bed asleep, tv still on. Warm under the sheets and the comforter, they're oblivious to the weather outside and the movie ending.
Charlie looks out the window, "Maybe Deena and I should get going. It's coming down pretty hard out there."
"There wasn't snow in the forecast," Jed says.
"Well, there is now. You two should stay, there's plenty of room."
"Yes, stay! We can finish watching the game and then check out some of the holiday programs."
"Are you sure it wouldn't be any problem..."
"Come now, Charlie, you know me. Would I invite you to spend the night if you weren't welcome?"
"Just keep clear of Zoey's room. I'm telling the agents to ensure that neither one of you goes within a hundred feet of the other's room."
"My house, my rules. And we're all going to watch the movie tonight."
"Ellie, we watch it every year, it's a tradition."
"It's useless to argue with your father over this one."
"This is a great movie."
"If it's so great, then why are you talking during it?"
"Because I can. Why are you?"
"Because *I* can."
Everyone looks at Deena.
"Sorry, I meant 'please shh!'"
Jed, Abbey, and Charlie are asleep, sitting in armchairs. Zoey, Ellie, and Liz have fallen asleep on one of the sofas. Annie and Deena are asleep on the other.
"Oh, god, I'm gonna be stuck here. Leo's not gonna like this."
Margaret hears the faint sounds of the tv coming from Leo's room, "You're awake."
"Yeah. I thought you would've gone home by now."
"I would have but we're snowed in until morning."
"I didn't even know it was snowing."
"What are you doing?"
"Watching tv. It's not like sitting in bed and watching a movie is going to kill me. Besides, fever broke."
"Oh. Do you mind if I sleep on your sofa?"
"Go ahead but you're gonna miss the movie."
"What is it?"
"I'm not telling, you'll know when it comes on."
"Fine," Margaret says, walking into the room. She stops, "I'll go get a chair."
"Don't be silly, you can sit on the bed. It's no longer germ infested."
"How many pills did you take?"
"Are you sure?"
"Sit down and watch the movie."
As "Miracle On 34th Street" goes off, Leo looks over at Margaret. She's out like a light. He gets out of bed and turns the tv off before covering her up. He takes a moment to brush her hair out of her face, "Happy Thanksgiving,
"Happy Thanksgiving, Leo," she mumbles in her sleep.
Leo grabs a blanket and retires to the sofa.
The snow is no longer falling on the east coast. A white blanket covers the land from Maine to South Carolina, bringing peace and harmony with it, if only for the moment.
Families and friends are one with each other and love is spread all around.
No one knows what tomorrow will bring and for the moment, no one cares.