DISCLAIMER: Not mine. I promise I'm only borrowing them and will return them to their rightful owners whenever they ask for them back. My imagination took a flight of fancy.....my bank account stayed empty. (Seriously, the cast of The West Wing belong to Warner Bros. and I'm only borrowing them for some free daydreaming that I wrote down).
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The sixth in a series of stories introducing Kate Harper and establishing her as 'one of the gang'. Mid ep missing scene for Episode s5 ep 20 'No Exit' (between CJ's call to Josh and his talk with Kate about a possible crash cause).
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To ncruuk[at]gmail.com
"I don't believe she's got nothing " muttered CJ, looking suspiciously at the phone on her desk.
"Excuse me?" Donna had been paying enough attention to her accidental host to realise she'd spoken, but not enough to actually know what she'd said, being too engrossed in her CoDel briefing bundle.
"Josh's roommate is Commander Harper," explained CJ, playing with her pen as she considered the situation some more.
"The new Deputy NSA," clarified Donna, recalling that Josh had asked her to get the person who dared edit out his Panama joke.
"The very same - why was she in his office when we crashed?" wondered CJ, trying not to start pondering how different this crash incarceration might be going if the four of them were paired off differently.
"She must have just arrived," mumbled Donna, fully absorbed in the bundle.
"What did he do?" questioned CJ, certain that it must have been Josh's fault that brought Kate up from the bowels (imagined bowels: CJ actually had no idea where Kate spent most of her time) of wherever into the communications bullpen).
"Wrote a Panama joke that wasn't funny."
"There wasn't a Panama joke in the President's speech tonight," said CJ, drumming her fingers as she tried to fathom the significance.
"You didn't miss much, it really wasn't funny," repeated Donna, looking up at CJ to see if her face shed any light on what she was thinking.
"She'd have only cut the joke if she knew something, if she knows something about " CJ trailed off as she considered what she knew of her old friend Josh and the significantly less she knew about the Deputy NSA and suddenly, a few things made rather more sense than they had done when she finished her phone call with Josh. "Do you think the pagers are still working?" asked CJ, confusing Donna who had no idea what was happening with CJ's thought processes.
"Sure, why wouldn't they be?" asked Donna, not seeing the need for the question the White House Switchboard never slept.
"This?" suggested CJ, gesturing towards the closed office door.
"So the switchboard operators are shut in the switchboard room you should get a fast pick-up. Anyway, who'd you want to page?" In lieu of a direct response to Donna's question, CJ snatched up her phone and dialled for the switchboard which not only answered her call but also answered excessively promptly.
"Can you please page Commander Harper for ring back to this extension?"
"You don't believe Josh," chided Donna, beginning to automatically defend her boss.
"She didn't cut his joke because it wasn't funny " began CJ, only to be interrupted by her phone ringing.
"You paged for Kate Harper?" came the immediate response, even before CJ could introduce herself.
"Kate, it's CJ."
"Ah, this is your office number?" asked Kate, making a note on a piece of paper she still had to learn all the West Wing key phone numbers.
"Yes you still in Josh's office?" asked CJ conversationally, turning in her chair so she could look out the window and cross her legs, enabling her to tune out Donna's presence.
"No, I walked out of the Bullpen twenty minutes ago," came the sarcastic retort.
"Point taken, but at least your sense of humour's getting out more," teased CJ, recalling their conversation from the night before.
"What did you want to talk to me about?" asked Kate, conscious Josh was starting to show just a little too much interest in her more relaxed conversation.
"He eavesdropping in a non-subtle manner?" guessed CJ, all too easily able to picture a sulky Josh whose earlier attempts to play the big man would have cut no ice with the ex-CIA NSA Deputy.
"Not now he's realised I might then have to kill him," suggested Kate conversationally, watching with some amusement as Josh's head snapped round to look at her in shock, completely giving himself away.
"You haven't got a gun," mocked Josh loudly, loud enough for CJ to hear.
"That wouldn't hold you back, would it?" asked CJ quietly, taking an unusual interest in such a morbid topic.
"Actually no; I think I have about seven available options, not including any requiring office supplies or different footwear," decided Kate, automatically scanning the office and making an assessment.
"That would be faintly disturbing if it wasn't extremely hot," said CJ before realising that, for whatever reason, her usual self filter wasn't in place.
"That's because the air ventilation system's been turned off," explained Kate, seemingly taking CJ's comment completely at face value.
"So that's why it's starting to feel stuffy? Good to know." CJ didn't know whether to be glad or disappointed that her inappropriate comment hadn't been called on.
"Thank you though," said Kate, resisting the urge to let her voice soften for fear that the change in tone would attract Josh's attention again.
"Thank you? For what?"
"Oh, no problem."
"Why did you page me?" repeated Kate, glad to be getting the conversation back to more familiar topics.
"So the Panama joke that isn't funny gets cut by you, presumably because you know something about something that we think we can keep quiet which is probably a submarine that's using the Canal sometime, probably right now how am I doing?" asked CJ, wondering if she'd overstepped the mark.
"That would be faintly disturbing if it wasn't, well, you know?" said Kate eventually, trying to fathom how the hell CJ had guessed correctly.
"Hot?" volunteered CJ, trying not to listen to the inner voice that was querying why she was starting to flirt with her newest female colleague only minutes after she was ending (or, more accurately, allowing her job to provide an excuse for the ending of) another attempted relationship with someone perfectly suitable.
"That would be air ventilation again?" suggested Kate, wondering when that phrase would stop being a code as that was a safer thought process than the more dangerous one in which she wondered when she'd actually started needing a code to enable the exchange of innuendo laden compliments with her newest, female colleague. Was this really what Dr McNally had meant when she encouraged her to talk to CJ?
"Go with that."
"I won't, but thank you for the option. How did you know?" asked Kate, knowing that whilst CJ's security clearance, like all those on the Senior Staff, was high enough to know about the Panama situation, she didn't think they'd been briefed on it: just because you could know something didn't automatically mean you needed to know it.
"I didn't I guessed," explained CJ succinctly before taking another swig of her beer.
"Hell of a good guess," complimented Kate, knowing that it required a few assumptions on CJ's part but being generally impressed with how she'd arrived at something plausible rather than fantastic.
"You mad?" asked CJ suddenly, concerned she'd overstepped the mark.
"You sure?" CJ wasn't sure why she was uncertain, but wanted more reassurance, "Would I even know if you were mad?"
"Absolutely not mad," declared Kate confidently before adding, "the CIA would hope not."
"I'm going to take that as a compliment, Commander Kate " teased CJ in a singsong voice that prompted Kate to smile.
"Why did you page me?" repeated Kate for the third time, confused as to why she wasn't rushing to attribute this sudden burst of patience to the lockdown it had so far only been about half an hour and would almost certainly not last more than another hour, if that.
"You know more than you told Josh about these lockdowns."
"No I don't." Used to using language instinctively and yet with an extreme awareness for subtle meanings and distinctions, CJ recognised where she'd gone wrong with her statement.
"You are able to infer far more about our current situation than you have currently told Josh."
"Maybe," agreed Kate cautiously, resisting the urge to glance up at Josh to see if he was eavesdropping, although she had seen him earlier grab a file in a rather pointed manner which he did sound like he was actually seriously reading if the muttered comments and page turning were to be believed.
"I won't ruin your fun with him, just answer yes and no for me?" asked CJ, glad Donna was once again fully engrossed in her briefing bundle, curled up on the couch.
"Yes." Kate couldn't stop the smile that appeared as she settled back in her chair, preparing to enjoy herself.
"Ok then the ventilation off means it's something in the air, right?"
"Wouldn't that also happen if it were a fire?"
"But we'd hopefully be locked out of the building not in it?"
"You know people usually add other words to their yes and no answers when they play this game?"
"Yes." CJ couldn't help but smile at Kate's ability to literally adhere to the rules of their game.
"So it's a gas type thing in the air most likely?"
"Yes " This time, Kate's yes was more hesitant, prompting CJ to think of an appropriate supplementary question.
"But it might be something else airborne?"
"No." Kate's response was quick and firm.
"No to the specific example of anthrax?" clarified CJ.
"But it could be that sort of particle?" asked CJ, recalling her briefing materials from previous lockdowns.
"Okay then, I'm not actually sure knowing that helps at all " pondered CJ thoughtfully, automatically taking a swig of her beer.
"Sorry I couldn't be more helpful," declared Kate genuinely.
"No problem damn it!" exclaimed CJ in mild frustration.
"Just finished my last beer."
"Ah." Deciding it wouldn't be helpful to mention that Josh's office was remarkably well hydrated, Kate wisely kept quiet.
"I'm going to hang up now," said CJ finally, realising she had ended up sitting in enjoyable and comfortable silence for about twenty seconds too long to ignore.
"Ok then," agreed Kate before she promptly returned the phone handset and returned to her laptop. She really wasn't going to think about how easy she had found it to talk to CJ
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