Title: Radiant, Chapter 13
Disclaimer: Alas, these characters are not mine.
Rating: This chapter is PG-13. Later parts will probably get to R. This does deal with some adult themes, although it is not at all graphic.
Pairing: Josh/Donna
Category: Angst, romance, AU.
Feedback: Always appreciated.
Archiving: Please ask.
Timeline: Early December of the year before reelection.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Rick and Meg for all their help.

A/N: Warning: This chapter deals with discussions of abortion. May be triggering. I've played with the timeline a bit, but it goes AU very quickly so it really doesn't matter. In my universe, Donna is Catholic, and has no close family, because it was easier for me to work things out the way I wanted that way. Also, Charlie and Zoey are still together.

"Can I work in here for a little while?" Donna asked as she walked into Josh's office one afternoon carrying a briefing book and a stack of index cards.

"Yeah, of course." He glanced up at her. "Are you tired? Do you need a nap?"

"No, it's not that. I'm just trying not to yell at people."

"Yell at people? I thought that was my job."

"It is." She smiled a little falsely. "That's why I'm hiding in here."

"Who would you be yelling at?"

"I just overheard a couple of interns talking . . . It's not a big deal."

"It sounds like a big deal. Donna, you're shaking," Josh realized. He got up from behind his desk and sat next to her on the couch. "What were they saying?"

"They were talking about that op-ed," Donna finally admitted.

Josh frowned. "Which op-ed?"

"The one in the Union Leader."

"Donna, don't listen to them. The Union Leader doesn't matter. It's a conservative paper in New Hampshire, for crying out loud."

"Yes. New Hampshire. Manchester, New Hampshire, the President's home town. People pay attention to what New Hampshire thinks about him. And you're worried that New Hampshire could end up being a swing state this year. Don't tell me it doesn't matter."

"Okay." He decided to let that one go. "What were they saying about it?"

"They were saying that if the President loses it will be because op-eds like that got everyone distracted from the real issues, so it will be all my fault."

Josh stared at her. "That's crazy."

"They – they said I should be grateful for everything the administration has done for me – and I am, Josh, I am – and that repaying that by getting pregnant and causing a scandal shows that I really am just some airhead secretary with no degree and no right to be here." Now she was really crying.

Josh put his arms around her and tried not to explode. "How dare they - Which interns?"

"And then they said that they would have expected me to at least have the decency to get rid of the baby, and the fact that I wasn't meant I was trying to – to trap one of the senior staff into marrying me, and putting my need for a husband above the needs of the administration." She could barely get the words out.

"Who WAS it?" It was all Josh could do not to yell.

"I'm really not sure," Donna insisted. "I didn't get a good look. I mostly just heard them."

"Okay, I'm going to have a little meeting with the interns." Josh thought for a second. "No, it shouldn't come from me. Leo's going to have a little meeting with the interns."

"You don't have to do that," Donna protested weakly.

"Yes, we do. This sort of thing would be unacceptable no matter who they were talking about," he insisted. "And you know that no one who matters thinks any of that, right? You're way more than a secretary, and those interns are just jealous because they'll never be as good at this as you are even with all their fancy education."

"Thanks." She managed a slight smile through her tears.

"I guess it probably wouldn't help if I went and told them you refused to marry me, huh?"

"Probably not." She laughed shakily. "But, Josh, it's just what I was afraid of. Everyone thinks it would have been better for the administration if I had decided not to have the baby."

"No." Josh's hand flew to her belly and he covered the little mound protectively. "Don't listen to that, little one," he said, leaning down a little. "This is one of those rare times when I'm right and your mommy is wrong."

"Josh! Don't undermine my parental authority!"

"There are a lot of people here who love you a ton already, baby," he continued. "And we don't care what those mean people say. We're going to take care of you. I'm going to take care of you. That's more important than an election or any of that other stuff."


He finally looked back at Donna, who was looking at him in shock. "What?"

"What the hell is wrong with you?"


"You just referred to the President's reelection campaign as 'that other stuff' and all but said it didn't matter."

"I didn't say it didn't matter. I said it didn't matter as much. That's totally different," he insisted.

"The day I met you, you said there was nothing you took more seriously than a presidential campaign," she pointed out.

"Well, I was wrong."

"No, seriously."

"What do you want me to say, Donna? I was wrong."

"But . . . why?"

"Why what?"

"Why do you care so much?"

"Uh . . ." He tried to figure out how to stall, how to determine what exactly she was asking, and how much he had to admit.

"I mean, I get that you care about me," Donna continued. "I get that you're my friend. You're the best friend I've ever had. But sometimes I get the feeling that this doesn't have anything to do with me."

"What do you mean?" Josh asked carefully.

"It seems like in your head you've made some sort of pact with the baby, that you'll do anything to protect him. Even if it means throwing yourself into the middle of a scandal and risking everything you've worked for your whole life."

"Is that bad?"

"No, just odd. I just want to know what's going on."

"There's nothing going on." Even to his own ears, his denials sounded hollow.

"I think there is."

"What do you THINK is going on, then?"

She finally met his eyes. "Sometimes it feels like you're trying to make up for something, Joshua."

He leaned back against the couch, feeling utterly defeated. "Maybe I am."

"What is it? Can you tell me about it?" she asked softly.

"I will. I'll tell you whatever you want to know, Donna. But not here."

"Okay. Tonight?"

"Yeah. Come over after we get out of here. We'll get some food."

"Okay. Well, I'd better get back to work." She gathered her things and headed toward the door.


"Yes?" She turned and looked at him, her expression unreadable.

"I just – I don't think it's exactly what you think it is."

She nodded and left the room, and Josh buried his head in his hands.


"This is sooo good," Donna said as they ate pizza in Josh's living room several hours later.

"I have to say, you craving pizza is really working for me. It's way better than when you were craving cantaloupe."

"I had a feeling you'd say that." She looked at him. "So."

"So. Okay." Josh took a deep breath.

"Wait," Donna stopped him. "You don't have to tell me anything. Really."

"Thanks, but – I want to. I want you to understand."


"When I was in law school . . . Well, one of my roommates had this girlfriend, and they were pretty serious for a while, I guess. Anyway, she was around a lot, so I got to know her pretty well, and we were sort of friends."


"So one day she came to me and told me that she was pregnant and needed someone to go to the clinic with her."

"Oh. What about her boyfriend?"

"She didn't want him to know. She made me promise that I'd never tell him."

"Why? Did she think he would be mad that she'd gotten pregnant? But if she was already planning the abortion . . ."

Josh laughed sharply. "No, the opposite."

"The opposite?"

"He loved kids, and he was very big on honor and duty. She was afraid that he would try to talk her into marrying him and keeping the baby."

"Oh. And she didn't want that? Well, obviously."

"No. She was very ambitious, and said she didn't have time to be a mother. And I never thought she really liked him as much as he liked her, so she certainly didn't want to get married."

"So what did you do?"

Josh sighed. "Exactly what she asked. I went with her to the clinic – where I'm sure everyone THOUGHT I was the father, by the way – and made sure she was okay afterward, and never mentioned it to my roommate."

"Did she?"

"Did she what?"

"Ever tell him?"

"Oh. Not that I know of."

"You did the right thing, Josh."

"Did I?"

"Yes! Can't you see that?"

"I thought so at the time, but – I don't know. I guess worrying about it for fifteen years hasn't exactly clarified my thinking on the matter."

Donna frowned. "You've never shown any signs of being undecided on this issue."

"Good." Josh smiled wryly. "I'm not, really. Not on an intellectual level. But hiding something like that from my friend – I know it should have been entirely her choice, I really believe that, but I have a hard time feeling like it's fair or right that he wasn't even allowed to know what was going on."

Donna nodded. "But you would have done the same thing for me, right?"

"What do you mean?"

"Say I had decided not to have the baby, but Williams thought I should."

"Not that he ever would, the bastard."

"I know, but come on, Josh. Just go with me here."


"You would have thought he should have absolutely no say. You would have helped me get the abortion, and probably shot him on the spot, your position on gun control be damned."

"I still haven't entirely ruled that out," Josh quipped. "But it's different. He raped you."

"But we can't prove that."


"Don't you see? If guys like your roommate had a say, guys like Williams would too."

"I know. I'm not actually arguing for notification laws or anything. It's just – I feel like it's a lot less clear-cut than we usually make it sound."

"I know."

"Why did she have to come to me, anyway? She knew I was his friend long before I knew her. Why put me in that position?"

"Because she knew you'd do the right thing and help her. You're a good man, and anyone who has spent half an hour with you knows how strongly you feel about doing the right thing."

"Thanks." Josh stared off into the distance, lost in thought. "But he's a good man too, and it was his baby."

Donna put an arm around him and pulled him down so his head was resting on her shoulder. "Fifteen years is a long time to go around feeling guilty about this, Joshua."

"Well, I'm the master of feeling guilty, Donnatella."

"I know." They sat in silence for a few minutes. "So this is the secret behind why Josh Lyman has suddenly become champion of babies," Donna mused.

"No," Josh said quickly. "I mean, obviously it was in the back of my mind, but – no. It's not like I was just waiting for some baby to come along so I could do something to make myself feel better. Donna, I – you mean a lot to me. That's all this is about. I'm not the champion of babies. Just this one." He put his hand over hers where it was resting lightly on her belly.

"Okay. Josh, when you said it wasn't what I was thinking . . ."

"When did I say that?"

"Earlier, in your office. You said that you might be trying to make up for something but it wasn't what I was thinking. What did you think I was thinking?"

"Oh. I thought you were thinking that at some point I had had a child who was aborted."

"Well, the possibility had occurred to me," Donna admitted. "I mean, statistically, it's not all that unlikely."

"Yeah, but – yeah. I'd probably be a lot more messed up if that had happened."

"If that WAS your big secret, I wouldn't have been mad at you, you know. I mean, just because I wanted to keep this baby doesn't mean I'm suddenly a pro-life activist or anything."

"I know. I would have been mad at myself enough for both of us. God, after everything else that has happened to my family, I can't even imagine . . ."


"I mean, I need more family, not less."

"So . . . does that mean you want children someday?"

Josh sat up and looked at her in surprise. "Yes, of course."

"Okay. I was just curious. You'd never really said."

"I definitely want children." He wondered if she'd noticed that he'd left out the "someday."

Donna leaned against him and he gently stroked her hair.

"Sleepy?" he asked.

"Getting there." She paused. "You're still upset."

"Not upset, exactly. Just – a little down."

"Do you want me and the baby to stay tonight so you're not alone?"

"You don't have to do that." But he couldn't help smiling at her, and he was sure his expression was contradicting his words. "I'm supposed to be the one taking care of you, remember?"

"A very smart man once told me that it works better if the caring goes both ways."

Josh frowned. "I don't remember saying that."

"You're not the only smart man I know, you egomaniac!"

"Oh. The President?"



"Okay what?"

"Okay . . . yes. I'd like you to stay. Thank you."

"The only reason your ego isn't horribly bruised is because the man I referred to as very smart was the President, right? If it had been Sam or Toby, we would be arguing relative SAT scores right now."

Josh grinned at her. "You know me so well."

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