Josh swallowed half of his too-hot cup of coffee in one gulp and turned to face Leo, who was leaning through the doorway of the break room/coffee room/doughnut haven. "Yeah, Leo. What's up?"
Leo came a little further in, leaning casually against the door frame. Josh instantly went on full alert. "Are you aware that there's an extremely young blonde girl sleeping on the floor of your office?"
Josh blinked and sipped. He hoped whoever was in charge of coffee at the Charleston office was as good as the office manager here in New Hampshire. "I wouldn't classify her as 'extremely' young," he objected. "Young, I'll go with, but not 'extremely'. Twenty-four isn't 'extremely'."
"Fine, I withdraw the 'extremely'," Leo acknowledged, his irritation beginning to seep through the calm routine. "Want to explain the 'sleeping on your floor' part?"
"It beat letting her sleep in her car?" Josh hazarded. Leo's glare told him to cut the cute comebacks. "I'm serious, Leo, she was going to sleep in the back seat of a Honda Civic, which I don't even know if that's possible. She doesn't have the money for a hotel room and it seemed like a good idea until, you know, she gives up or I can think of something better."
"So you're just dragging people in off the streets, now?" Leo demanded. "For some reason I was under the impression this was a campaign, not a homeless shelter! Do you even know--"
"Josh, did you know there's someone sleeping in your office?" Sam asked, unintentionally cutting Leo off mid-rant as he came through the door and headed for the coffee pot.
"Yeah, I heard something about that." Josh rolled his eyes, snagging the pot before Sam could replace it. He topped off his cup and poured some for Leo, who accepted the offering without losing his scowl.
"Is she supposed to be there?" Sam inquired curiously, adding way too much sugar to his cup before taking a sip. "Because I didn't think that was the image we were going for."
"Really?" Josh raised his eyebrows at his friend. "I was thinking it might actually look good. 'Bartlet for America', 'The Candidate with a Heart,' and all that."
"Josh." Leo had given up on glaring and started growling. "You were explaining?"
"Explaining what?" The break room, already crowded, groaned at the seams as CJ slid past Leo in search of her first caffeine fix of the day. "I hope he's explaining the blonde girl sleeping in his office, 'cause that's something that should probably be explained."
"You think?" Josh took pity on her, opened the creamer packet she was mutilating, and handed it back. She poured it into her coffee, took a sip, and patted him on the cheek. He accepted the gesture as an offering of thanks and tried to slip out.
Yeah, right. Leo blocked him before he got two feet. "Josh. Blonde. Explain."
Josh sighed. "She's my new assistant. At least, she thinks she is and I gave up arguing with her after the second lap." Leo stared. Josh shrugged. "For some reason it seemed like a good idea. She was already answering my phone anyway."
"Someone wanders into the headquarters of a presidential campaign out of the blue, and you hire them as an assistant?" Leo rubbed his forehead like he was getting a headache. "Putting aside the many reasons that's stupid, we can't afford to hire any assistants, Josh. I'm paying Margaret peanuts as it is; god knows why she's still sticking around."
"You're paying all of us peanuts," Josh pointed out. Sam and CJ made noises of agreement, then quickly returned their attention to their coffee when Leo's glare widened to encompass them.
His staffers sufficiently cowed, Leo refocused on Josh. "The point is, how do you intend to pay this girl? So she can eat and, I don't know, get a hotel room and stop sleeping on your floor?"
"He's right, Josh," CJ said, looking slightly more wide-awake and a lot more serious. Josh regarded this as bad. "We really don't have the money in the budget. I'm typing my own press releases here. On recycled paper."
"And what are you going to do with her when we move on to South Carolina?" Sam put his two cents worth in.
"I'm not going to do anything with her!" Josh gestured broadly with the hand holding the coffee mug. "Number one, she's a volunteer, so paying her isn't a thing, and it won't be a thing unless I decide to put her on salary. Which, number two, I'm not gonna do unless she can, you know, type and do assistant things, which has yet to be proven. And number three--"
He had to stop because he was losing track of his arguments, which was never a good sign. Oh, right. "And number three, she probably won't even be around long enough for it to be an issue! She says she wants to come to Charleston, but she drove in to volunteer from Wisconsin on some kind of whim, for God's sake. She's a college dropout who had like, five majors for the two years she was there.... I'm thinking that sticking to things is not her strong point. "
Even as he said it, he saw the determined face that had chased him around the office the day before -- 'I think I can be good at this. I think you might find me valuable.' He had a sinking feeling that not only was she going to stick, she was actually, god help him, going to be useful. What the hell he was going to do about that?
"And if she does stick? If she can do the job?" Leo asked, playing that damn mind-reading trick again. "What then?"
Josh groped for an answer, his mug making small circles in the air. "Then I'll.... put her on salary or something. Out of my own pocket," he added when CJ and Leo both started to object. "I was making pretty good money with Hoynes, I can cover both of us for a while."
"Your own pocket," Leo repeated, expressionlessly. "For someone who just walked in yesterday and started answering your phone."
"Yeah." He rubbed the back of his neck with his free hand; Leo's headache had decided to find a new home. "If she stays, which, you know, I bet she won't. Did I tell you about the freeloading med school boyfriend?"
Nobody responded to the (admittedly rhetorical) question, and he squirmed under three united, thoughtful stares. Sam looked away first, shaking his head and grinning into his coffee mug in an extremely irritating way. "Well, it would be nice to have someone else around for you to yell at. It might keep you from driving the rest of us insane."
"Thanks a lot," Josh said sourly.
CJ laughed. "Tell her to come see me and I'll introduce her around. And Josh... try to play nice."
"Don't I always?" CJ and Sam didn't bother to hide their snorts as they wandered off to do whatever it was they had to do to get a guy elected president. Josh scowled at their backs as he topped off his coffee; judging from how his morning was starting, he was going to need all the crutches he could get.
After a moment of thought, he found another mug and filled it, too.
When he turned for the door, carefully balancing the cups, he found Leo still there, giving him one of those piercing looks he specialized in. "What?"
Leo started to say something, then stopped and shook his head. "Nothing. Just... does this girl have a name?"
Josh was pretty sure that hadn't been what Leo was going to ask, but he wasn't going to argue. This was an easy question, one he could actually answer. "Donna. Donnatella Moss."
Leo nodded as if that meant something. "Drove up from Wisconsin?"
"She tell you why?"
Josh tried, but found he couldn't shrug holding two full cups of coffee. "Something about... wanting to be valuable, I think. She kind of talks a lot."
"Okay." Leo studied Josh long enough to make him squirm again, then nodded as if coming to a conclusion. "Tell, ah...."
"...Donna to come see me after she talks to CJ. If she's going to clean up after you, she'll need her own desk space."
"Yeah, whatever." Josh edged past Leo into the main room.
"Yeah?" Turning was kind of tricky with two mugs, too.
"I'll talk to Margaret, see if she minds sharing her room for a few nights. That floor can't be comfortable."
Josh blinked at his boss several times. "Okay."
"Staff meeting in fifteen."
"Right." He made his way across the office carefully, dodging the rising tide of volunteers and staffers and acutely aware of Leo smirking at his back the whole way.
Christ, you'd think no one had ever gotten a new assistant before.