Title: Radiant, Chapter 14
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.
Category: Angst, romance, AU.
Feedback: Always appreciated.
Archiving: Please ask.
Timeline: December of the year before reelection.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Rick and Meg for all their help.
A/N: This chapter is unbetaed. 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.
One late afternoon in mid-December, Zoey poked her head into Josh's office.
"Is Donna around?"
"No, but she'll be back in a minute if you want to wait."
"I actually wanted to talk to you without her around."
Josh looked up from his briefing book. "What's up?"
Zoey entered the room and closed the door behind her. "It's about Christmas," she started.
"Okay . . ."
"What would you think of Christmas in New Hampshire?"
Josh shrugged. "I'm staffing your dad, so I'll go wherever he says. It's not my holiday, so I honestly don't care that much. But . . ."
"But?" Zoey prompted.
"Well, I wouldn't be wild about the idea of leaving Donna on her own for the holiday."
Zoey laughed. "I meant for Donna to come too, you idiot."
"Oh." Josh looked up in surprise. "Okay."
"Mom and I were talking and we thought it might be nice for Donna to get out of DC for a few days. I thought she might feel weird about it if we just invited her, but if you're there because you're staffing my dad and she's there because she's helping you . . ."
"Yeah. That's a nice idea, Zoey. Thanks."
"Then I'll tell Mom it's a go. And Josh?"
"It's beautiful in New Hampshire this time of year. We'll get you in the Christmas spirit yet." Zoey grinned.
"I'm sure you will."
"What's the latest weather report, Charlie?" Josh called as he climbed aboard Air Force One carrying his backpack and Donna's tote bag.
"Light snow in Manchester, last I heard," Charlie told him. "Enough to make it look pretty but not enough to give us any trouble landing."
"Good." Josh was determined that Donna have a nice Christmas away from the city. "It'll be like that movie . . . White Christmas?"
"Josh, White Christmas takes place in Vermont, not New Hampshire," Donna corrected him as she joined them on board. "And the whole plot of the movie revolves around the fact that it ISN'T snowing."
Josh shrugged. "Okay."
"You haven't seen that one either, have you?" Donna asked.
"I wonder if the Bartlets have a copy . . ."
"I think Zoey has every Christmas movie known to man," Charlie put in. "And failing that, I'm pretty sure the President has the complete works of Bing Crosby, anyway."
"The President's into Bing Crosby?" Josh stared at the younger man.
"Yeah, I don't know." Charlie shrugged. "I think it's the Catholic thing."
"You really think we'd have time to watch a movie this weekend? We're here to work," Donna pointed out.
"We're only working if something comes up," Josh reminded her. "Otherwise we're here to have a nice Christmas."
"Josh, something will come up. Something always comes up."
"Well, since nothing has come up YET, I'm going to try to get some rest," Donna said as she headed for their usual seats.
"Hold on. Let me just get settled and you can sleep on my shoulder," Josh offered.
Donna looked like she was about to protest, but then just nodded and settled in next to him. She was asleep within minutes, and Josh absentmindedly stroked her hair as he read a briefing book. When he'd said they didn't have to work, he may have been overstating things a bit – there was always work that needed to be done. But for these few days, he was determined to keep as much of it away from Donna as possible.
About halfway through the flight, the President wandered into the senior staff area and began to speak to Josh, but fell silent when he saw that Donna was asleep. He sat down next to Josh.
"I'm sorry I couldn't stand, sir . . . Did you need something?"
"Don't worry about it, Josh," the Presient said softly. "I just wanted to escape from Abbey and Zoey discussing decorating plans."
"Decorating plans?" Josh asked, surprised. "It's the twenty-third. Isn't the decorating usually done before then?"
"Yes, and the staff will have done most of it," the President confirmed. "But Zoey likes to do some herself. I think we're going to decorate the main Christmas tree tonight."
"I've never done that," Josh confessed.
"What, decorate a Christmas tree? No, I suppose you wouldn't have. Well, I'm sure between Zoey and Donna you'll get quite a lesson."
"Donna will argue that that's a family activity and we shouldn't impose, sir."
"Well, tell Donna that it's Christmas and I have no patience for that sort of argument at Christmas. I'll tell her myself if necessary."
Josh smiled. "Thank you, sir. I know she misses her family this time of year."
"What happened to them? I don't think I ever heard." President Bartlet frowned.
"Her parents were killed in a car accident when she was in college," Josh told him. "I think she has a grandmother in a nursing home in Wisconsin, and maybe some aunts or something around somewhere, but she's not really in touch with them. I get the impression that they never forgave her for not staying in Wisconsin and marrying a doctor when she had the chance."
"Because certainly no one ever found a wealthy husband in DC," the President commented wryly.
"Yeah. Well. I think it's the doctor mystique."
"Well, since we've dragged you up here on a holiday – and I know it's not your holiday, but still – we'd like both of you to be a part of whatever of our family activities you'd like."
"Thank you, sir. What's on the agenda, exactly?"
"Oh, I don't know. At Christmas, I've found it's easier for everyone if I just go along with whatever the kids tell me to do. Let that be a lesson to you."
Josh smiled down at Donna, sleeping on his shoulder. "I will, sir."
As the President had predicted, Zoey indeed took the lead over the next few days, and Josh found himself enjoying Christmas more than he had expected. He even decided to go with the family to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
"I really don't expect you to do that, Josh," the President had told him.
"I know," Josh said. "But Donna's Catholic . . . I mean, I have no intention of converting, but if everything goes the way I hope it will, I'd like us to be able to blend our traditions. So it seems like Mass at Christmas is something I should get used to."
The President studied him for a minute. "All right."
"I can't believe I'm actually inviting one of your lectures, sir," Josh started, "but can you tell me what I need to know to not make a fool of myself in church?"
President Bartlet, of course, had been only too delighted to oblige, and his explanation had been thorough. But now that Josh was actually standing in a pew between Zoey and Donna, he realized that the President had left out the most important thing: the complete wonder of the experience. Josh found himself caught up in the magic of the ancient story and ritual, made more poignant by the presence of the young pregnant woman next to him.
During one of the parts of the service when everyone had to stand, Donna looked tired, so Josh took the opportunity to put an arm around her. She looked surprised for a moment but then put her head on his shoulder, and Josh let himself imagine for a moment the Christmases to come. Someone a few rows up was holding a baby, trying to keep it quiet, and Josh imagined Donna holding her baby at Mass next year. He smiled quietly to himself at the thought.
Zoey woke everyone early on Christmas morning, and they gathered in the living room by the tree. Josh was pleased to see the stack of gifts addressed to "Baby Moss." Danny had planted the seed of the idea back in that baby boutique in DC when he said his mother was making him get presents for his sister's unborn child. What better way to make Donna feel supported than by including not only her but her baby in the holiday gift-giving? So he had spread the word and several of their friends had sent gifts.
Donna's eyes filled with tears when she realized what they'd done, but the tears turned to laughter as she opened the gifts and a theme emerged. Along with more practical gifts were more college-branded baby clothes than she'd ever seen before. It seemed that everyone was trying to claim the baby already. There were tiny Harvard and Yale outfits from Josh, a Princeton outfit from Sam, Notre Dame from the President, Georgetown from Zoey, and on and on.
"Well, I guess I won't have to buy many clothes for a while," Donna laughed. "But the baby might get a little confused about his loyalties."
"As long as he doesn't get confused about his baseball loyalties," Josh said as he handed her another package. She opened it to find a mini Mets uniform and soft toy bat and ball.
Donna grinned at Josh. "Of course."
"Maybe this will help the confusion," Charlie said quietly as he gave her his gift for the baby. It was a Wisconsin onesie and little sweatshirt.
"Oh, Charlie . . ." Donna felt her eyes filling with tears again.
Charlie shrugged. "I ordered it online. I thought with all this other stuff – well, the baby should have something from your school, too."
"Thanks." Donna gave him a big hug. "Thank you so much, everyone. Now someone else open something so I'm not just sitting here crying all morning."
"We need some hot chocolate," Zoey said, jumping up. "That makes everything better. Come help me get it, Donna."
"Okay. Thanks." Donna escaped to the kitchen for a moment to collect herself, and then allowed herself to be pulled back in to the bustle and joy of Christmas at the Bartlet house.
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