Title: Radiant, Chapter 1
Disclaimer: Not mine in any way.
Rating: This chapter is PG. Later parts will probably get to R.
Category: Angst, romance, AU.
Feedback: Always appreciated.
Archiving: Please ask.
Timeline: Shortly after the President announces that he's running for reelection.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Flyersun for encouragement and early reading.
A/N: I've played with the timeline a bit, but it goes AU very quickly so it really doesn't matter. This is still in progress, so it's possible that I will go back and edit minor things later.
As he strode through the corridors of the West Wing back to his office, Deputy Chief of Staff Josh Lyman tried his best not swagger even more than usual, but he couldn't keep the grin off his face. The President had just given him what was quite possibly the best news of his life, and now all he could think about was finding Donna.
He glanced at her desk in the bullpen, but she wasn't there, so he headed straight for his office. As he stepped into the room, he caught a glimpse of her sitting in a chair by the window, facing out. Perfect. Now he wouldn't have to go looking for her in order to tell her the news.
"Donnatella! It's a beautiful day! Isn't it a wonderful day?" The words died on his lips as she slowly turned around to face him. She was sobbing.
Josh's first thought was to slam his office door and shut the blinds. Donna didn't lose control like this often, and there was no reason for anyone else to see it. He ran to the window and fell to his knees beside her chair.
"Donna, what is it?" He put a hand on her arm. "What's wrong? What happened?"
She finally looked at him, but instead of speaking, she began to cry harder.
"Donnatella, please," he whispered, desperate now. "Tell me what's wrong and I'll fix it."
A hysterical laugh broke through her sobs.
"You can't fix it, Joshua. Not this."
Donna wordlessly held up the object she was holding, and Josh felt his world crash down around him. It was a pregnancy test. He briefly wondered whether she was crying because it was negative or because it was positive. He didn't know which would be worse.
Josh shook his head, trying to clear it. This wasn't about him. Donna was crying and he had to fix it. That was the important part. And maybe that thing in her hand wasn't even what he thought it was. He was a guy. What did he know?
"Is that . . ." He was clinging to any shred of uncertainty.
"A pregnancy test. Yes."
"And is it . . ." Why had he forgotten all his nouns?
"It's positive," Donna managed. She held it out to him, and sure enough, it said PREGNANT very clearly. None of that one or two line nonsense with this test.
"Congratulations?" he offered. He had no idea how she wanted him to respond to this.
Now there were definitely laughs mixed with her sobs.
"Do I look like I want to be congratulated?" she asked.
"No. I'm sorry."
"I don't know what to do."
For once in his life, Josh was at a loss for words, so he pulled her into his arms and slid down until they were both sitting on the floor.
"It'll be okay," he told her. It was all he could say. "You'll figure it out. I'm here."
She nodded, her face buried in his shoulder.
"I didn't even know you were seeing someone." The words spilled out before he thought about it, and he regretted it immediately.
"I mean . . . I didn't know you had been seeing someone . . . recently."
He nodded, trying to figure out what exactly she was saying.
"Donna . . . I'm sorry, but you know it's gonna be a thing."
She nodded. She had been in the White House long enough to know that.
"Josh, I'll tell you everything, I promise. Just not quite yet."
"Who else knows?" he asked, wondering how long something like this could stay a secret. Unless she was planning to . . . He didn't even want to think about that right now.
"You're the only person I've told, Josh."
"Did you just take that test this afternoon?" he asked.
"Yes. I mean, I had suspected, but yes, I just found out for sure. And no, I didn't tell anyone that I suspected."
"Okay." He thought for a minute. "Will you talk to me before you tell anyone else?"
"Yes, of course," she agreed.
"Unless you'd rather talk to a girl?" he offered. "That would have to be CJ, I guess."
"No, I'd rather talk to you."
"What about the father?" He hated how that sounded.
"What about him?" She looked suspicious.
"No, I know that's part of what you'll tell me later. I meant – were you planning to tell him immediately?"
She shook her head sadly.
"Honestly, Josh, I'd rather not tell him ever."
"Really?" For the first time in this conversation, Josh started to feel as though the world might not actually be ending.
"Okay." He looked up at the clock on his desk. "Why don't you head home?"
"Seriously? It's only five o'clock!" Donna looked shocked.
"You don't exactly look like you're in any condition to work right now," Josh pointed out.
"Condition?" Donna winced.
"I didn't mean . . ."
"I know. And thanks. Maybe I'll go home and sleep. I've been too worried to sleep much the past few days."
"Will you be able to sleep now?" Josh asked. "I mean, you still seem pretty worried."
"Well, at least now I know I'm definitely pregnant, instead of just wondering," she pointed out. "I can start dealing with it. And I told you. That makes me feel better already."
"It does?" Josh couldn't keep the smile off his face.
Donna rolled her eyes.
"I so shouldn't have admitted that. Your ego doesn't need any help."
"Can't take it back now," Josh teased.
"Don't I know it." Donna started to shrug out of his grip. "If you're actually sending me home early, you should really let me get up off this floor."
"Yeah." He didn't want to let her go.
"And what if someone came in and saw us like this?" she added.
"Donna . . ." He sighed. "I hate to say it, but pretty soon the idea of someone seeing us hug is going to be the least of our problems."
"I know," she whispered.
"Go home. Get some sleep." Josh kissed her forehead before he could stop himself. "And call me if you need anything at all, 'kay?"
"Okay." She tried to smile.
"I promise. Thanks." Donna got up and smoothed out her clothes. "How obvious is it that I've been crying?"
"Pretty obvious," Josh admitted.
"Oh well. I guess there's nothing I can do about that now." Donna turned and began to open the door.
"Wait! One more thing," Josh said.
"I knew I wasn't getting out of here early," Donna grumbled.
"No, just – get your planner."
"Do we have an early meeting tomorrow?"
"No, not that."
Donna raised an eyebrow at him and left the office, returning a moment later with her calendar.
"What do I need to schedule?"
"Nothing," Josh told her. "I want you to write down when you told me."
"What? Why? You don't want me writing that down!"
"Just write down 'Told Josh' and the time," he suggested.
Josh struggled to come up with an excuse that would seem believable.
"With all the MS stuff . . . who knows what they're going to end up asking us all eventually. If you have it written down, you'll be able to tell them exactly when you told me."
"Okay . . ." She looked unconvinced, but she did it, and that was enough for Josh.
"And you can go home now. Really. I promise."
"I am leaving right now before you think of anything else you need to me to do."
"Call me if you need anything," Josh reminded her.
"I will," Donna called over her shoulder as she walked out of the office.
Josh watched her go and then waited until he was sure she had left the West Wing before he headed to the Oval Office.
"Hey Charlie. I'm going to need another minute with him. Sorry." Josh hoped he was making it look like this was a normal request.
"He's free right now, actually," Charlie said. "I guess it's your lucky day."
"It really isn't," Josh mumbled.
"Okay." Charlie looked skeptical. "I'll tell him you're here."
After a moment, the President's voice came booming from the Oval Office.
"Josh! Get in here."
"Good evening, sir," Josh said as he entered the room. He was relieved to find it empty.
"Charlie said you needed something?" President Bartlet glanced up from the briefing book he was reading.
"Yes, sir." Josh cleared his throat. "It's about the issue we were discussing earlier, sir."
"Don't tell me you've messed that up already?"
"Uh, no, sir, not exactly."
"But . . ."
"But I was wondering if I could have what you told me in writing. With the date and time at which we had the discussion written on it."
"I suppose so, but why?" the President asked.
"Something has come up that will prevent me from acting on that right away," Josh hedged. "It may be important later to prove the time of the original discussion."
"So you did mess it up already."
"No!" Josh exclaimed. "I mean, no, sir. Something has come up in Donna's personal life that means I will have to postpone talking to her about the issue we discussed. That's all."
"Okay." The President's eyes narrowed. "Is Donna all right?"
"Yes, sir." Did this count as lying to the President? Josh certainly hoped not.
"What's going on?"
"Sir, I'm not going to tell you right now unless you order me to," Josh said. "It's a personal thing. It has nothing to do with her job." He hoped.
"All right. Sure. I'll write something up."
"And maybe we could get a witness?" Josh suggested.
"Charlie! Get in here!" The President looked amused.
Charlie appeared in the doorway a moment later.
"Josh wants you to witness something," the President explained.
"Something very very secret," Josh added. "You can't tell anyone."
"Josh," Charlie said slowly. "Do you seriously think that someone in my job doesn't find out about secret things all the time?"
"Oh. Good point."
"Okay, here we go." President Bartlet read from a sheet of paper. "I, Josiah Bartlet, hereby affirm that at approximately 4 pm today, I gave Joshua Lyman permission to pursue a romantic relationship with Ms. Donnatella Moss. Provided that both parties maintain their usual high level of job performance, they will be allowed to retain their positions in the White House regardless of this relationship."
As he listened, Charlie's eyes grew wide.
"Uh, congratulations?" he offered.
"Not yet!" Josh hissed. "Secret, Charlie. It's a secret. I can't talk to her about it yet."
"I just can't."
"Okay, whatever. Do you want me to sign the paper or not?" he asked.
"Here, I've written, signed, and dated two copies," the President interjected. "Josh, you take one and I'll keep the other. I want you both to sign both of them."
As he watched them sign, the President shook his head and smiled.
"Josh, you know that this is in no way legally binding, right?" he asked.
"I know," Josh said. "For once, it's not the lawyers I'm trying to convince."
"Well, don't screw this up, son. And if you hurt Donna, I'll beat you up myself."
"Wouldn't you rather I beat him up for you, sir?" Charlie asked.
"Oh, probably," the President conceded. "You know that Josh is one of about ten people who are going to beat you up if you ever hurt Zoey, right?"
"I kind of figured as much, sir."
Josh chuckled as he left the Oval. He was a long way from the jubilation that had followed his last conversation with the President, but at least the situation no longer seemed completely hopeless.