Title: Radiant, Chapter 16
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: January of reelection year.
Acknowledgements: Thanks to Rick and Meg for all their help.
A/N: 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.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" Josh asked for the millionth time.
"No. I'm not sure I WANT to," Donna said. "But I feel like I should."
Josh nodded, struggling to understand her reasoning.
"Besides, you'll all be there," Donna pointed out. "I'll be fine."
"We need some sort of signal or something. For if you need us," Josh insisted.
Donna looked at him in surprise. "Oh, I assumed you would sit with me," she said softly. "Okay, we can come up with a signal."
"No, of course I'll sit with you," Josh said quickly. "You just hadn't said, and I didn't want to presume . . . I would understand if you wanted privacy."
"There's nothing he could possibly say to me that I wouldn't want you hearing," Donna said firmly.
"So who's coming?"
"Sam, CJ, Toby, Charlie, and Zoey."
"You just wanted Zoey's agents around to threaten him if necessary."
"Maybe," Josh conceded.
"You really are very sweet, even if you sometimes express it in alarming ways."
"I'm just trying to take care of you."
"I know." Donna hugged him quickly. "Thanks."
Josh glanced at his watch. "Okay, let's go find the others and get over there."
When they entered the bar a little while later, the others went to get a table as Donna scanned the room, Josh by her side. Suddenly she started walking toward a man sitting alone at a table.
"Don't call him Dr. Freeride," she hissed to Josh as they approached.
When they got to the table, Donna pasted a smile on her face. "Alex. Hi."
The man jumped to his feet, and Josh suppressed a groan. Dr. Freeride was exactly as tall and handsome as Josh had always feared.
"Donna." Alex tried to give her a hug, but Donna managed to turn it into an awkward handshake, and then quickly sat down.
"Alex, this is Josh Lyman. Josh, this is Alex Shaw."
Alex nodded curtly. "I was hoping to speak with you privately," he said to Donna.
Josh's eyebrows shot up. "I can go sit with our friends over there, if you'd like," he offered.
"No." Donna grabbed his arm, keeping him in his seat. "There's nothing you could say to me that I would keep from him," she told Alex.
"Just pretend I'm not here," Josh offered agreeably.
"Okay." Alex shrugged. "Is he the father?"
"What?" Whatever Donna had expected from her old boyfriend, it hadn't been this.
"No comment," Josh said automatically.
"And he's not even man enough to ADMIT it?" Alex continued.
"You have NO IDEA what you're talking about." Donna tightened her grip on Josh's arm.
"Ditch him," Alex said bluntly. "Come home with me where you belong."
"What?" Donna was stunned.
"You know the DC thing isn't really you," Alex said. "Come home to Madison and I'll forgive everything."
"YOU'LL forgive HER?" Josh managed.
"Josh," Donna said warningly. "Alex, you're the one who all but ignored me while I was supporting you. You're the one who took hours to get to the hospital when I was in an accident."
"You're still going on about that?" Alex turned to Josh. "I was hoping she'd gotten more reasonable in the past few years. I don't know what she's told you, but she was barely hurt, and I didn't take that long to get there."
"Did you stop somewhere on the way?"
Alex hesitated. "Yes."
"Then that's really all I need to know."
"Guys!" Donna interrupted. "Seriously, Alex, what are you talking about?"
"About the hospital?"
"No, about me – coming with you."
"Look, I know all the work you did to support me when I was in school. I'm a doctor now. I'm making plenty. I can take care of you the way I was supposed to. I'll even take care of your baby, and we can give it some siblings."
“And in return?” Donna said, sounding almost disinterested.
“Come on, Alex. I know you. What would you want in return?”
Alex shrugged. “Nothing in particular. You won't have to work or anything. You'll just take care of the house and the kids and all the entertaining I'll need to do to get in with the top doctors at the hospital, and I'll get to have you on my arm at functions.” He gave her an appraising look. “You're getting a little heavy, but when you lose the baby weight, you'll look just as good as the rest of the wives.”
“Getting a little heavy?” Josh exploded. “She's PREGNANT! She's supposed to be gaining weight! And you have no business criticizing a woman's weight for any reason, anyway."
“I'm a doctor.”
“You're not HER doctor.”
Donna finally found her voice. “Just out of curiosity, Alex, what if I wanted to work?”
“Well, we couldn't have that. You'll be too busy with the house and the kids.” Alex smiled at her indulgently. “Besides, what would you do? People will see you as just a secretary with no degree who got knocked up by her boss. Who would want to hire you? You know no one in DC will ever think of you any other way. But Wisconsin doesn't pay as much attention to political news. Sure, people are talking now, but in a year or two everyone there will have forgotten about that and they'll only think of you as Dr. Shaw's wife. I'm sure that will be much easier for you.”
“Easier than what?” Josh asked mildly.
“Easier than trying to make a career in a town where there's now proof that she just slept her way into her last job.” Alex turned to Donna. “Were you already sleeping with him when you came back to me? Is that why you left? Really, Donna, how long after we broke up did you wait to throw yourself at one of Bartlet's top guys? I'm surprised you didn't go after the campaign manager himself, but I guess he was married. Would that cross a line even for you?”
“That's PRESIDENT Bartlet to you,” Josh muttered. “And she never - ”
Donna stood up, cutting Josh off. “I have nothing else to say to you, Alex. Ever. Josh, do you mind if I . . .” She nodded toward the table where their friends were sitting.
“Please. Go sit with our FRIENDS,” Josh said, carefully enunciating the last word. “I'll be over in a minute.”
The two men watched Donna go, and then Josh turned back to Alex.
“What the hell do you think you're doing?” he asked.
Alex shrugged. “I was offering her a perfectly reasonable alternative. It's probably the best offer she'll get, so I don't know why she's being all high-and-mighty about it. She'll come around.”
“No, she won't,” Josh said automatically. “And no, it's not the best offer she'll get.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You can't offer her anything that I couldn't give her.” Josh knew he was probably saying too much, and that with his luck it would end up in the papers, but he was mad enough not to care.
Alex raised an eyebrow. “So you are man enough to take responsibility for your child.”
“I didn't say it was my child.”
“But I can offer her anonymity,” Alex continued. “I can get her away from DC.”
“So could I,” Josh said. “If she wanted to get out of DC, I'd move her anywhere in the world. Frankly, I could give her whatever she wanted without either of us ever having to work again, which is more than you can say. And I wouldn't make her pay for it by giving up her own dreams to cook and clean and keep my social calendar.” Josh felt a slight twinge of conscience as he said this – Donna already kept his social calendar – but that was her job; it was different. He hoped.
“Ah.” Alex studied him for a minute. “So perhaps you're thinking the same thing I'm thinking after all.”
“I hope not,” Josh said sincerely. “But what do you mean?”
“A girl in a situation like that – if you take care of a child that's not even yours, you're home free. She'd be grateful forever AND she'd never have any right to object to you . . . pursuing other interests.”
“No,” Josh said icily. “I can assure you that I was thinking no such thing. I think we're done here.” He gave a barely perceptible nod to the Secret Service agents who had quietly materialized at the next table. They were flanking Alex in an instant.
“I'm sorry, sir, but the First Daughter finds your presence threatening. We're going to have to ask you to leave,” one said. To an outsider, he would have looked serious and menacing, but Josh had spent enough time around the agents to be able to tell that the man was barely suppressing a smile.
“What? But I'm – I'm - ” Alex spluttered. “I didn't even know the First Daughter was here!”
“You were harassing her friend, and it made Miss Bartlet and her party feel unsafe. I'll see you out now, sir,” the other agent said.
As the agent walked Freeride to the door, Josh turned to the other agent. “Thanks. I know that's not exactly in your job description.”
The agent shrugged. “Just don't tell the President. Zoey and Donna ganged up on us – do you think YOU could turn them down?”
Josh grinned knowingly. “I sincerely doubt I could refuse either one of them anything, never mind both of them together.” He glanced over at the other table. It looked like CJ and Zoey were pulling Donna onto the dance floor. He started toward them, but was stopped by Sam.
“Let's take a walk,” Sam suggested.
“But Donna - ”
“I think she needs some girl time with CJ and Zoey right now,” Sam said. “You can take care of her later. Let's get you calmed down first. You can tell me what happened. Anything we can sue him for?”
“Probably not.” Josh had to grin as he followed his friend out of the bar.
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