Title : A Christmas Surprise
Author : Sue C
Spoilers : None
Characters : Josh/Sam/Charlie/CJ/Donna/Toby/Leo/President Bartlett/Leo/a brand new character of my own invention.
Rating : G
Disclaimer : I know they belong to Aaron Sorkin, but I can't resist having a little creative fun with these boys. I'll give them
back when I'm done.
Summary : It's Christmas Eve in the White House.
Notes : This is not within my Carpe Diem series - it is, in essence, stand alone. It can be read either inside or outside the Carpe Dem universe - you choose. It hasn't been beta'd as Nomi is busy looking at another fic for me, so there may be times when it reads very "British". Any glaring mistakes are all mine.
Archive : Yes, just let me know where.
Feedback : Please, even if you hate it, as long as it's constructive. I'm at susan.clements4@btinternet.com

A Christmas Surprise by Sue C

There I was, lying there, minding my own business. I'd just enjoyed a light lunch of fish and a saucer of milk, and now I was stretched out before a roaring log fire in the living room. My mom had insisted on washing behind my ears, but had finally been sufficiently satisfied with my cleanliness to leave me alone and let me drift off into a comfortable snooze. There'd been a lot going on for the last few days, all to do with something the humans called Christmas. It seemed to entail a lot of rushing around, stocking up with enough food to feed an invading army, then brining a *tree* of all things into the house, which the humans then proceeded to cover with lights and coloured glass things (I think they call them baubles). Then it just sits there. I tried to climb up it a few times, but the woman called Karen told me in no uncertain terms that I wasn't allowed to do that. I ask you, what's the use of that, a tree a cat isn't allowed to climb? And here was I thinking they'd brought it in for my benefit.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes, sleeping in front of the fire, comfortable, warm and having a wonderful dream that involved me and an endless supply of catnip. Until my peace was rudely interrupted by a persistent ringing on the doorbell. And that's when Christmas for yours truly really started to kick in. I heard Karen open the door, and then I was aware of a deeper voice saying something about having read the advert that had been put up in the store. Pricking up my ears (because I was now wide-awake) I heard footsteps walking along the hallway. The door opened, and there stood Karen accompanied by a young guy I didn't recognise.

"This is Fudge," Karen said, walking over to me. She picked me up and began stroking me head.

"Hey, watch it, lady!" I protested.

"Fudge, stop that yowling. This is Charlie, and he might want to take you home with him. Have you always had a cat as a pet, Charlie?" she asked, walking over to him. He put his hand out and stroked me under the chin.

"Not since I was about ten," he said. " But my sister Deana has been pestering me for months now to get a cat, and when I saw your ad I thought it would be a nice surprise for Christmas."

"Is she your younger sister, Charlie?" she asked.

"Yeah."

"Well I think she's very lucky to have such a thoughtful big brother. And don't you think Fudge is a handsome fellow?"

I couldn't help thinking Karen was laying it on a bit thick. I was the last of the litter, and I know she was keen to find me a good home, but she needn't have been *quite* so persuasive. However, I couldn't help preening a little at her description. I like to think my ginger and white coat is fetching, and my mom tells me I have the same roguish good looks as my father. Not that I've ever seen him, of course - footloose and fancy-free is the phrase I heard the Siamese who lives next door use to describe him. I looked directly at the human called Charlie. We cats know there's no surer way of sizing up a human than to see their reaction to that inscrutable stare.

Charlie didn't flinch. He just smiled and continued stroking me under my chin.

"Mmm, you're a cool customer," I said.

"Hey, he must like you - listen to him purring," said Karen. "Well, what do you think - do you think Deana will like him?"

"Sure I do - I think he's great. You want to come with me, Fudge?" Charlie asked.

Well, it could be fun, I thought. Then I looked over Charlie's shoulder and saw my mom had come into the room. I suddenly felt sad, but she looked at me encouragingly.

"Cheer up," she said. "I'll still be your mom wherever you are, and you're going to make Deana very happy. You have a wonderful new family to go to."

At that, I jumped out of Karen's arms. I walked over to my mom and we rubbed the sides of our faces together.

"Charlie, that cat who's making all the noise is Zuleika, Fudge's mom," Karen told him. "Here, you hold Fudge while I take her into another room - I don't want her getting upset."

Charlie picked me up and I watched as my mom left with Karen.

"Hey, little guy, everything's going to be okay," said Charlie kindly. "I've got a nice new bed for you, a scratching post and some surprises for Christmas morning."

Well, maybe things weren't going to be so bad after all. We cats are nothing if not adaptable.

Karen came bustling back into the room. "Do you want to take Fudge home now?" she asked.

"Well, first I'll have to take him into work. I can't get the time off to take him home just yet - my boss needs me to be around all day."

"Where do you work?" she enquired.

"I work for the government," he replied.

"And is that interesting?" Karen asked. Jeez, if there were an Olympic event in nosiness, she would win it hands down.

"It has it's moments," he said. "In fact, I'd love to stay and chat, but I really must be getting back."

"Do you have a carrying basket? If not I can lend you one."

"Thanks, that would be great. I'll bring it back next week if that's okay," Charlie said gratefully.

"No problem. I'll get it now," said Karen. "Oh, by the way - my daughter named him Fudge but I suppose Deana might want to change it."

"I like Fudge just fine," said Charlie, "it would be a shame to change it if he's gotten used to it."

Well that suited me, because I liked the name Fudge just fine too.

After a fond farewell, I found myself sitting on the front seat of Charlie's car. This was the first time I'd travelled in a car. I couldn't see very much, and there was a lot of stopping and starting, so I started protesting loudly.

"Come on, Charlie, let me out of this dammed basket," I said, using the word I'd heard Karen's husband use when he lost his temper the other day when she insisted on him going Christmas shopping with her.

"Hey, hey, what's wrong?" Charlie asked.

"I want to get out of the basket - don't you understand English?" I said.

"Look, we're hear now." He stopped the car, got out, then opened the passenger door to lift out the basket. I blinked as we walked towards the building where Charlie worked. Wow, this is *so* much bigger than Karen's house. And where that house had been made of red brick, this one was white. I peered through the mesh in the front of the basket as we went into the building. For once, I was speechless. Charlie must be a *really* important human.

As Charlie walked with me through the long corridors, we passed lots of other humans walking, talking, carrying papers. They all seemed to know Charlie, and some of them gave me a curious look as they hurried past. What's wrong, haven't any of you seen a cat before? I thought. The tallest woman I've ever seen in my short life stopped and peered into the basket. She was wearing glasses and a friendly grin.

"Who's this, Charlie Chuckles?" she asked. That must be his full name, I thought, I like it!

"This is Fudge, I'm giving him to Deana for Christmas."

"He is so *beautiful*," the tall woman said.

"I think I love you," I said to her.

"Well, what's all the meowing about, Fudge? Do you want Charlie to get you a saucer of milk?" she asked. "I'll see you both later - I have a briefing to go to." She walked away.

"See you, CJ," said Charlie.

Finally he stopped walking. He opened a door into an office and put me on the desk.

"I'm going to leave you for a while, Fudge," he said. "I'm going to my car to get some food and a litter tray because you're going to have to stay here until tonight." I liked the way he explained things to me - I could tell we were going to be good friends.

When he left the office I studied as much as I could see of the room from my carrying basket. It wasn't particularly tidy - there were books and papers all over the place. There was a chalkboard on the wall with lots of stuff written on it. Suddenly the door opened. The human who came in had a file in his hand which he began reading so he didn't see me sitting there looking at him. He muttered something to himself, shut the file and moved over to the desk. That's when he saw me.

"What the fuck?"

Well I've never heard *that* word before, but I think it might be even worse than damn. I filed it away to try out at a later date.

The guy who'd come into the office put his face close to the basket and stared at me. I saw brown eyes, hair that looked as if it hadn't seen a comb for twenty-four hours (I am, of course, immaculately groomed) and a face that held an expression of disbelief.

"Donna!"

Wow, he's loud, I thought.

He yelled again and just when I thought he was about to explode, a woman with long blonde hair walked in.

"Josh, stop it, you'll frighten Fudge." So this vision of loveliness knows who I am.

"Excuse me?"

"Charlie's cat - you'll frighten him yelling like that."

"Oh, I'm so sorry," he said, "but the last time I looked this was the Deputy Chief of Staff's Office, not an animal sanctuary. What's it doing here?"

Hey there, mister, I thought, watch it! I realised that here was a human I didn't like very much : that was a new experience.

"He's not an "it". Fudge is going to stay here until Charlie takes him home tonight to give to Deana for Christmas."

"And he's staying here - why?" asked the human called Josh.

"The President is allergic to cats, so he can't stay with Charlie. I said you weren't going to be in your office for most of the afternoon, and I didn't think you'd mind if Fudge used it." Donna pushed her finger into the basket and began stroking my nose. I blinked my eyes slowly at the pleasurable sensation, wondering what the hell a President was. Allergic to cats - wimp!

Suddenly another human came into the room.

"Josh, have you go that file from the Economic Sub-Committee? Hey, what's going on?"

I looked up and saw the bluest pair of eyes I'd ever seen looking at me.

"Josh, what are you doing with a cat?"

The guy called Josh took the file and slapped it against the other human's chest.

"There's the damn file, and the cat's nothing to do with me. He's Charlie's. I've got a meeting to go to."

He swept out of the office, leaving Donna and "Blue Eyes" staring open-mouthed at his retreating back.

"Is he okay?" asked "Blue Eyes". I'm a kitten - I'm only eight weeks old - but even I could sense what the look on his face meant. It was the look I saw on my mom's face the day she thought I'd run out of the house and got lost. It turned out I'd only hidden behind the couch and couldn't work out how to get out.

"I don't know, Sam," said Donna. "He was fine until he saw Fudge. And why would he get so mad at a kitten as gorgeous as this?"

Sam opened the front of the carrying basket and lifted me out.

"Hey, little one - how're you doing?" he asked. He held me up and looked right into my eyes. "What's wrong with Josh - how could he resist you?"

He turned to look at Donna. "Is he really Charlie's?

"Yes - he's giving him to Deana for Christmas."

"Cool - I love cats." I *knew* I was a good judge of character - I had such a good feeling when the human called Sam walked in.

He put me back into the basket.

"I'll catch Josh later - find out what's wrong. I hate it when he's upset."

"I know - it worries me too," said Donna.

I snorted to myself - worried about Josh? He looks like he can look after himself. If you want to worry about anyone, what about the helpless kitten sitting here? Get your priorities right! Anyway, just when I thought I'd been totally abandoned, Charlie walked back in, carrying a littler tray, a bowl and some cat food.

"Donna, can you get Fudge a saucer of milk?" he asked.

"You know, maybe you should just give him water - milk is sometimes a little rich for a cat's digestive system," interrupted Sam.

He is da man, I thought.

"You know this?" asked Charlie.

"Yeah , trust me."

So they settled me in Josh's office, setting out the litter tray, some food and a saucer of water. Charlie took me out of the basket, which they placed on the floor. The door was shut and I was left to my own devices. I mooched around a little, getting my bearings. There was a nice comfy chair to sit on; the carpet was plush enough for me to stretch out and dig my claws into; if I became too bored, there was a window sill where I could sit and look out onto the huge garden. But best of all there was a big box in the corner which had a few papers in the bottom of it. And cats just *love* sitting in boxes. So I ate a little food, drank some water, and peed in the litter tray. Then I climbed into the box, curled up and fell asleep.

A couple of hours later I woke up. It was getting dark outside but luckily my cat's eyes can compensate for this. I stood up, arching my back, then jumped out of the box. I stretched forward, digging my claws into the carpet - that felt so satisfying! There was still some food in my bowl, so I decided to have a little nibble at it before finding something interesting to do. But what? There was nothing here to play with, and I couldn't get out of the room because the door was still shut tight. I hoped Charlie hadn't forgotten about me. I was just contemplating one of the bookshelves, deciding whether there was enough space on it for me to jump onto, when I heard a voice outside the door.

"I don't care if it *is* the season to be jolly, I've got to get this strategy report finished before I can even *think* of going home!"

Uh-oh. I knew that voice. I'd already worked out that when it started to get loud and whiny, its owner was really mad at someone or something. I scurried back into the box just as the door opened and Josh entered. He positioned himself in front of the thing that looked the same as the one Karen's son played games on. Except that Josh didn't seem to know how to use it, because he began yelling again.

"Donna - I can't find the document I saved."

Donna came in and stood behind Josh, leaving the door open as she entered. They were so intent on what they were doing that I decided now was a good time to begin exploring a little further. I jumped out of the box, walked to the doorway and peeked out. It was a lot quieter than it had been earlier in the day. I ventured out into the corridor and continued on my way. So far so good. I was wondering where Charlie worked, when I suddenly saw Sam with the blue eyes. I was just going to say hello when I noticed he was talking to a human with a lot of hair on his face but not much on his head. Well, I've never seen *that* before! I watched as he walked away from Sam and into another room. He sat down, picked up a ball and began bouncing it off the wall. Hey, that looked like fun! I would have gone and joined in, but he looked so grumpy I decided to give it a miss. After all, Charlie had said he had some surprises for me on Christmas morning, so maybe there was a ball or a toy mouse amongst them. So I wended my way through the corridors and found myself in a room with a lot of desks in it. It had been nicely decorated and there were colourful Christmas cards stuck up on the walls. It was lots nicer than Josh's office. I noticed another door leading into another room, and I could hear voices. Maybe Charlie's in there, I thought. so I decided to have a look. I walked over and stood in the doorway. The room was a different shape to the others I'd been in - it was kind of round but not quite. It was also very fancy. There was a man standing behind a desk talking to another man. Now as you've probably gathered, I'm fairly articulate for an eight-week-old kitten, but I couldn't understand any of it - he was using words like "economics" and "budget" and "Congress". I'll bet he's just trying to impress that other guy, I thought, because he looked a little pompous the way he was waving his glasses around, not letting the other guy get a word in edgeways. Then suddenly he began to sneeze.

"Leo," he said when he finally stopped, "if I didn't know better I'd say there's a cat in here somewhere."

"Mr. President, that's hardly likely, but if you like I'll get the Secret Service onto it." The way he said it, I think it's called irony - anyway, I hoped it was. I didn't like the sound of these Secret Service people. Just to be on the safe side I made myself scarce.

Where to now? I wondered. I sniffed the air a little to see if that could give me any clues, but it produced precisely zilch. Then, right in front of me, there it was. How did I miss it when I first came in with Charlie? The biggest Christmas tree I'd ever seen. Okay, I'll be honest, it was only the second Christmas tree I'd ever seen. But it *was* huge and there was nobody about. Oh, boy, this was too good a chance to miss. I crouched down and did that mental calculation that all cats can do as second nature. A few seconds to make sure I'd calculated correctly, then I was up into the lower branches of the tree, face to face with a smiling snowman dangling there. Okay, take it slowly. Past a bright pink bauble, up to the next branch. Around that glittering snowflake, making sure I didn't knock off the crystal star hanging in front of me. Wait a minute - the higher up I was going the narrower the tree was getting. This was becoming *way* too precarious. The branches started to bounce up and down and I didn't feel safe at all. I managed to maneuver myself around so that I was facing outwards. Maybe I could jump back to the floor. But I was scared. I couldn't go forward and I couldn't go backwards. Why did I start this, I thought, why didn't I just stay in the box until Charlie came to take me home?

All of a sudden a figure appeared in front of the tree. Oh, great, just my luck - it was Josh. If he saw I was stuck he'd just leave me here. I stayed quiet and watched what he would do next. Which was nothing. He just remained there, looking up at the tree, with the strangest expression on his face. Not the surprised face he was wearing when he first saw me in his office, nor the angry face which seemed to be his usual appearance. Believe it or not, he actually looked sad. He sighed, and made as if to move away. And that's when I nearly lost my balance. The tree decorations tinkled loudly and I shouted.

"Owwww - oh nooooo!"

Josh turned around and saw me.

"Hey, buddy - are you stuck?" he said.

Wait a minute - this is weird, I thought. He sounded almost friendly.

"You want me to get you down?" he asked.

Well, I didn't have much choice, but it's always a point of honour with cats that you don't look too needy when someone's getting you out of a tight spot. So when Josh put his hand underneath me to lift me out I pushed my ears back flat and cussed a little.

"Yes, I know you're frightened and you don't want to admit you need help," he said soothingly, "but you don't want to stay here all night, do you?"

Wow, quite the psychologist, aren't we, I thought. But because he was right and I didn't really have much choice, I let him gently pull me out of the tree and then hold me against his chest. Maybe he wasn't so bad after all. He stroked me and began talking, half to himself and half to me.

"Oh, you're cute as a button, aren't you? You know, we had a cat just like you when I was a kid, the same colour and everything. Well, he was really my sister Joanie's. Boy, she loved that cat. " Josh gave a small laugh. "She called him Jefferson, because she'd been learning about him at school. He used to follow her everywhere. The night of the fire we thought he'd died too, but the next day he appeared in the garden. He must have used up a few of his nine lives that night."

I lifted my head and looked up at Josh. He gazed down at me.

"And that's why I was so mean to you, little buddy. Because you reminded me of Jefferson. And it's Christmas, and even though we didn't celebrate it, Joanie loved the idea of giving presents, and peace and goodwill and all that stuff." His voice broke slightly. So I did the only thing I could - I rubbed my face against Josh's, trying to comfort him. I was trying to tell him how I knew how he felt - after all, I'd just left my mom today. He rubbed the fur behind my ears which felt really nice. I began to purr contentedly to let him know I was enjoying this time we were having together.

"Oh, Joanie, I miss you so much," he said softly.

"But I'm still here Josh," said a quiet voice.

Josh and I looked around, and there was Sam.

"How long have you been standing g there?" asked Josh.

Sam came over and knelt next to where Josh and I were sitting.

"Long enough," he answered softly.

He put his arm around Josh and kissed him on the lips. They looked into each other's eyes and I guessed they were very special friends.

"So that's why you were so annoyed when Charlie brought the cat in?" Sam asked.

"More sad really," said Josh.

"Why did you never tell me Christmas made you feel like this?" Sam began absently stroking my head as he talked.

"Usually I can get over it, but seeing this little guy ... I just felt ... overwhelmed, I suppose. I didn't want to bother you with it."

"I wish you had," Sam said. "There's still so much you don't reveal about yourself - I just find out bit by bit. I mean obviously you'd told me a lot about Joanie, but the way it makes you feel at Christmas ... well, I just didn't realise."

"Well, that kiss just now made me feel a whole lot better - do I get another one?"

"Sure," Sam replied, and kissed him again. This one took longer, though, and I was starting to feel neglected.

"Hey, fellas - have you forgotten about me?" I looked at Sam. "And I was doing a pretty good job myself of making Josh feel better efore you came along!"

"Wow, he's one noisy cat!" exclaimed Josh, and suddenly his face broke into a huge grin. He looked different when he smiled - kind and a bit mischievous. It made me feel warm and special. I stood up with my front paws on his chest, and nipped his nose playfully, to show him that we were friends now.

"Well, I think he's pretty magnanimous, considering the welcome you gave him earlier," said Sam.

"We're buddies now, aren't we Fudge?" Josh said. "And you're a really good listener putting up with me and all my troubles!"

It was turning into quite a male bonding session when Charlie showed up.

"So *this* is where you are. I've been searching all over for you. I think he's even been in the Oval - the President's been sneezing all afternoon." I hoped Charlie wasn't mad at me, but when he picked me up he was grinning.

"I'll go and get his stuff," said Sam.

"Deana's going to love him, Charlie. He's quite a character," Josh said. He's such a perceptive guy!

"Here we are - carrying basket, food and litter tray," announced Sam.

So this is it, I thought, now I've got to leave all my new found friends. Still, if Deana's anything like Charlie, she'll be great.

"The President and First Lady want to see you both before they leave for New Hampshire," said Charlie to Sam and Josh.

I hope he's stopped sneezing, I smirked to myself.

"Not before we've seen Fudge safely off the premises," said Josh. "Knowing him he'll probably find his way into the Situation Room."

"Hey, that's hilarious, Josh, my sides are splitting," I said sarcastically.

So I sat in Charlie's arms while my two new friends said their goodbyes with lots of stroking and tickling me under the chin. Then it was into my carrying basket and we all went towards the door. As Sam opened it I could hear voices outside singing carols, and there was all this white stuff falling out of the sky.

"Hey," exclaimed Sam, "it's snowing!"

"There's nothing like stating the obvious," said Josh.

I sniffed the cold air as Charlie walked outside with me. He turned to wave at Sam and Josh who I could see framed in the doorway.

"Do you think we could have a cat sometime?" I heard Josh say to Sam.

I saw Sam take hold of Josh's hand as he turned his head and smiled at him.

"Sure, babe, why not? And let's go and visit Fudge soon, yeah? See how he's settling into his new home."

That'll be great, I thought.

A figure came and stood behind Sam and Josh. It was the grumpy guy with all the hair on his face.

"It's amazing how a *cat* can make two sophisticated political strategists revert to their childhood," he said.

"I don't think that's any bad thing," said Sam with a look at Josh.

And the human called Toby actually smiled.

And I *have* settled into my new home with Deana, the best and sweetest owner any cat could have. But whatever else happens, I'll never forget the Christmas Eve I spent in the White House.

THE END

Back to the Big Block of Cheese Main Page