Title: Radiant, Chapter 2
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 Rick for all his help.
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.
In the days after Donna's announcement, she and Josh fell into an uneasy pattern. Every morning, Josh would ask Donna how she was, and try his best to convey all his concern using the tone of his voice and the look in his eyes. Every morning, Donna would say she was fine, but her expression would tell a different story. So Josh would squeeze her arm, hoping that his gesture said "I want to help. Talk to me." And she would give him a sad smile to say "I will. But I can't yet."
Josh wasn't used to Donna not talking. Sure, she still talked about other things and kept up their usual banter. No one else would have been able to tell a difference. But Josh knew that there was something she wasn't talking about – something big – and it unnerved him. After a few days it started driving him totally crazy. He liked to think of himself as a man of action. He couldn't stand knowing that there was something important going on, something that mattered to him a lot, and at the moment there was absolutely nothing he could do to fix it.
Josh tried to redirect his worries and throw himself into his work, but for once, politics wasn't enough for him. He tried not to think too much about the implications of that. He finally decided that once Donna started talking to him, it would be useful if he knew as much about pregnancy as possible. Knowledge. Data. Research. It had to help. It always did.
Josh knew he couldn't be caught in a bookstore buying books about pregnancy, but he figured there had to be something on the Internet. And he was at least mostly convinced that no one was tracking the Web sites he visited from his home computer. More than once during his search process he abruptly remembered why he usually had Donna do the research stuff for him, but he persevered, and finally found a few sites that provided him with what seemed like relatively reliable information.
It became a routine: Josh would get home after leaving the White House at some ungodly hour, settle in front of his computer with a beer or a big mug of tea, and read pregnancy and childbirth sites for an hour or so to calm himself down. Some of the sites had message boards for fathers, and after resisting their lure for a few days, he began reading those too. He knew he shouldn't – he had no business envisioning himself in that sort of role – but he couldn't help it, and he told himself that he was just looking for a man's perspective; they soon became his favorites.
Josh also tried his best not to read too far ahead. He didn't know exactly when Donna was due, of course, so it was hard to follow the weekly and sometimes daily information that the sites gave, but he avoided reading much that dealt with happenings past the first trimester. He could barely bring himself to admit it, but he knew that Donna hadn't exactly said that she was planning to keep the baby. Every time this thought came to him, Josh pushed it away as quickly as he could. But it haunted him. Was that why she hadn't talked to him about it yet? As devastated as he had been when she showed him the pregnancy test, Josh had to admit that he was getting kind of attached to the idea of there being a baby around. If she got an abortion, would she even tell him? She'd have to, eventually. But would she wait and tell him afterward? Would she go through that by herself? He tried to reason with himself. She had promised she would talk to him before she told anyone else about the baby, and surely going to an abortion clinic would count as telling someone. Wouldn't it? He was sure that, even if she didn't particularly want or need his support, Donna would realize the likelihood that the press would get wind of any visits to Planned Parenthood, so she'd feel like she should warn him first. He hoped.
This fragile state of limbo lasted for two weeks as Josh felt himself slowly losing his mind. He was having a harder and harder time concentrating on his job, and his job was certainly one that demanded concentration. He was slipping, and Sam, at least, was giving him funny looks. Josh couldn't figure out how Donna was keeping everything going. He was completely preoccupied and he wasn't technically involved in her situation. He couldn't even begin to imagine how she was feeling.
Then came the afternoon of the toast. One of Toby's assistants announced his engagement, and the President called for a few bottles of champagne. Josh was in his office, working, barely aware of what was going on until he glanced up and saw trays of champagne flutes being passed around the bullpen. He hurried to the door of his office and scanned the crowd. Donna was out there, staring at the glass of champagne someone had handed her, seemingly paralyzed. Luckily, the President's toasts were never short. While his boss spoke, Josh grabbed a champagne flute from one of the trays and strode across the room as quickly as he could. He reached Donna's side just as the President was telling the group to drink to Matt and his new fiancee.
"Just take a little sip," Josh hissed at Donna. "It's fine. Trust me."
His words broke her paralysis and she sipped. As soon as the glass left her lips, Josh took her arm and turned them to face away from the group. He downed his own champagne in one gulp and quickly put the glass into Donna's free hand as he took her mostly-full glass and drank half of that too. He turned them back towards the group, casually sipping the champagne left in his new glass. He looked over at Donna. She was still shaky, but now that the moment of crisis was past, she was making small talk like everyone else. He doubted anyone but him would notice that there was something wrong. She might joke about being tuned to him, but he knew he was tuned to her, too. Josh waited a few minutes, just to be safe, and then told her, in a voice meant to carry, that they needed to get back to work. At least people would have no trouble believing that. He took her arm and steered her back to his office.
"We need to talk," he told her as soon as he had closed the door.
"Yeah," she said in a soft voice.
"I can't - I can't protect you if I don't know what's going on, damn it."
She smiled wanly.
"Thanks, Josh. And yes. It's time to talk. I think people are starting to notice that there's something weird about me," Donna admitted.
"Well, they're definitely noticing that there's something weird going on with me." Josh said it in a light tone, but he was serious. He had been completely distracted, and Toby and Sam, at least, knew it.
"Not here," Donna whispered.
"No," Josh agreed. "Tonight? After work?"
"Do you want me to come to your place?" he asked.
"No, can we . . ." she trailed off. "Can I come to yours?"
"Yeah, of course." Josh was a little surprised, but if she'd rather be at his apartment, that was more than all right with him.
"Thanks." Now Donna looked close to tears.
"Look, I - " Josh stepped over to open the door, and began speaking in a normal tone of voice again. "Donna, I have that meeting on the Hill. You stay here and read this so you can brief me later tonight, okay?" He handed her a briefing book; he did have to read it, but it wasn't exactly urgent. But Josh knew that someone had to have overheard those instructions, and it would provide the cover they needed - both for Donna to hide out in his office for the rest of the day and for her to be at his apartment later. Just in case someone saw her. Josh briefly wondered why they were worrying about the press right now, given what the whole world would be learning and assuming soon enough, but he swatted the thought away.
"Um, okay." Donna looked up at him, confused.
Josh gave her a quick hug and whispered "Just stay here."
"Oh. Thanks," Donna said yet again. "What time . . . ?"
"Let's say eight."
"You're meeting with Sandford at seven, and he likes to talk," Donna reminded him.
"Yeah," Josh conceded. "Nine. And if he tries to keep me any longer, I'll tell him I have an unbreakable family commitment."
"Everyone knows your only family is your mom and she's in Florida," Donna pointed out.
"Well, I'll let him think I have to call my mom at precisely nine, then," Josh said. "And I think at this point several people around her – including you – basically count as family."
"You're sweet sometimes, you know that?" Donna teased.
"Yeah, yeah," Josh grumbled. "Don't go spreading that around."
Previous | Next